Thursday, August 25, 2016

A week in the heartland

The kiddos and I enjoyed a 9-day visit in Ohio at the beginning of the month. The last time I was back for such a long visit was before Victor and I were dating, nearly 8 years ago! Victor didn't join us for this trip; he was in Portugal for his brother's wedding. We were so sad to miss the wedding, but with Louisa being so young, we weren't comfortable with taking her on such a long flight, so the kids and I stayed stateside. I decided to take the kids to Ohio while Victor (and pretty much everyone else we knew in this area) was in Portugal so I could have some help with the kids and spend some quality time with my family.

My sister flew out to Maryland the morning of Thursday, August 4, and we all hit the road shortly after she arrived at around 11 AM. I've done the drive to Ohio alone with Max before, but it was before he could walk/he wasn't a flight risk. An 8-hour drive with both kids by myself made me super nervous at this point, so I'm incredibly grateful for my sister to fly out here to help me make the drive. We made the trip in about nine and a half hours with a couple of stops, one of which was to clean up Louisa's projectile vomit. Poor girl's cold decided to kick into high gear and her phlegmy cough made her throw up some feedings. On a happier note, my sister and I had lots of fun eating Froot Loops and Twizzlers (our road trip snacks from when we'd drive to visit our dad), and we talked/had the radio off the entire time. Such fun!

After arriving at my mom's house at around 8:30 PM, we enjoyed some Donatos pizza (a fave of mine) and some TV in the basement before I got the three of us settled in our room. I had fed Louisa and put her down for bed, and I was working on getting Max to sleep when all of a sudden Louisa started coughing and then vomited up her entire feeding. It was so scary to see her just lying there and throwing up. After getting her changed into different PJs and changing the bedding in her Pack 'n Play, I enjoyed a sleepless night of jumping out of bed every time she coughed. So scary when your bitty baby is sick like that. I was even more thankful that we weren't on a plane to Europe after all that. It's one thing to inherit your big brother's germs, but it's another thing entirely to potentially catch a stranger's more serious germs.

Max loves sitting in Gaga's stadium seats

On Friday morning, I was alone with the kids at my mom's while my mom was at work and my sister was in Indianapolis getting the keys to her new apartment. It was a bit challenging and nerve-racking since I was out of my routine and I wasn't feeling settled yet, but we survived!

Wearing their Grandma gear in preparation for an afternoon with Gaga

My mom took a half day off of work to watch the kids while I enjoyed a Cousins' Day with my cousins. We went canoeing on the Little Miami River and had so much fun! We had 3 canoes (my cousin Lauren and I in one; my sister Holly, and Lauren's sister, Courtney, in another; our cousins, brother and sister Isaac and Addie in another; and Isaac and Addie's brother, Grant, in a kayak). The river was pretty stagnant that day, so we had to do a lot of paddling, especially at the end when we were running the risk of being charged extra for returning late. There were some rapid-y areas, though, and the Holly/Courtney canoe had a rough go of it at one point. They got stuck on a rock and Holly got out to dislodge them, but then Courtney drifted away in the canoe with the current and Holly had to navigate the slippery rocks and fast-flowing water to get back to her. It was pretty comical and thankfully no one got hurt. We had so much fun laughing and being silly and enjoying each other's company. Can't wait to do it again!

After canoeing, we went to Courtney and Lauren's house to swim, eat dinner, and spend time with my kiddos and the aunts and uncles. Max has become obsessed with Courtney and Lauren (he calls them "Co" and "Woo Woo"), so he loved playing with them. It's definitely surreal to see the kiddos that I used to babysit (seriously, I babysat all of them) playing and interacting with my own kids.

Lovin' on Co and Woo Woo

On Saturday morning, I went to an adult hip-hop class at Lucid Dance Company (where Lauren works) with Holly, Courtney, and my Aunt Rose while my mom watched the kids. Oh my goodness, did we have fun! I started taking dance lessons shortly before my sister was born in 1988, and I took hip-hop in high school, so this was right up my alley and made me realize how much I miss dancing. I'm definitely a little rusty, but even just doing it for exercise would give me the fix I need. Lauren was on the dance team for her high school, and the studio's owner is her old dance coach. This woman comes up with the most creative routines and concepts; it's very theatrical and so amazing! Her competitive dance team is performing at the Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade this year and we got to see the group practice for their performance after our class. I can't wait to see it all come together!

After dance class, I had lunch and ran errands with Mom and the kids while Holly and her friends moved her into her new apartment. She was able to get an apartment in the same complex in Indianapolis that she was in for her first travel nursing assignment there, but she's working at a different hospital. She and her friends got her pretty much all moved in and unpacked over the weekend. While she was getting settled, we ran more errands and enjoyed the pool at my mom's house for the rest of the weekend.

Cruisin' Kroger in style
Meanwhile, in Estoi, Portugal, my brother-in-law married his perfect match, Amanda, on Saturday, August 6. We hated to miss the wedding but loved seeing all the photos Victor sent us throughout the day and ones posted by cousins on social media.

From their photographer, Pete Redel. Can't wait to see what other amazing images he captured!

Max went on an "adventure" with my sister on Monday morning and Louisa and I met them for lunch. Then I made the spinach lasagna rolls I mentioned in yesterday's post for dinner, and my Aunt Rose, Aunt Sue, and cousin Courtney joined us. My Aunt Sue made this adorable dress for Louisa (with a matching hat!), as well as this beautiful quilt.

On Tuesday, we all went to downtown Cincinnati to explore, shop, and eat lunch at Lachey's (I was a big 98 degrees fan growing up...was hoping I'd spot a Lachey brother there. Sadly, no such luck). We walked around Over the Rhine and did some shopping, and each time we entered a store it would POUR DOWN RAIN! Thankfully we never needed to go out in it!

Love the murals around the city

These cracked me up. If you need some passive-aggressive dishes, head to Elm & Iron in OTR

Wednesday, August 10 would have been our cousin, Christopher's 27th birthday (he passed away in 2004 at age 14). We cousins all vowed to do something fun in his memory that day, so the ol' dance crew headed back to Lucid Dance Company for another hip-hop class. My mom joined us this time, and Louisa slept while we boogied (Max stayed home with my sister's boyfriend, Stan; Max calls him "Man Man" and thinks he's the coolest).

Stan teaching Max about driving

On Thursday, we met my sister and her friend for breakfast, then we headed down to northern KY to visit my grandparents' gravesite. It would have been my grandma's 88th birthday that day; she passed away in September 2013. Later that day, I got my hair cut and highlighted (first time ever having highlights), met a friend for an early dinner, and grabbed some DQ with Mom, Holly, and the kids in grandma's honor.

Max gave me the first flower he's ever independently picked for me at the cemetery

On Friday evening, I took the kids to visit with two of my college besties and their families. Laura and Amanda were randomly assigned as roommates our freshman year of college, and their room was our "hangout central" that year and the following year. We lived together in a house off campus with 3 of our other college besties our junior and senior years. We've celebrated each other's weddings together (they were both bridesmaids in mine), and we finally got our families together so our FIVE kids could play together! Laura' boys are almost 4 and 2.5 years old, Max is 2.25 years old, and Amanda's little girl is 1.5 years old. It was so heartwarming to see them playing together, and it was great to catch up with my gals and their hubbies (also good friends from college) over the din of toddlers shouting and playing. Below is the only photo I took that night.

On Saturday morning, my mom, the kids and I loaded in the car and headed back to Maryland. We made record time driving with two kids; it took us only 7 hours and 45 minutes! We grabbed lunch before we even got on the road, and we only needed to stop once. Traffic was also a dream. My mom flew back to Ohio Sunday morning. Again, so grateful to my mom for making the trip back to MD with me so I could have an extra pair of hands with the kids. She unloaded the car by herself while I nursed a very hungry Louisa when we got home!

We had such a wonderful time in Ohio! I hope to spend a week there every summer so the kids can spend more time with my side of the family and get to know where I come from. It's also so fun for me to visit and explore the area as an adult since I moved away right after college. Thanks to everyone who made our visit so special! We miss you all already!

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