Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall Weekend Fun

This past weekend my mom came to town to visit. Chris played in a member/guest golf tournament all weekend so I made a special request for my mom to come to town for some extra help with the little man and to have some fun too!

We had picture perfect weather and enjoyed our time together. On Friday I took my mom to Carter's school so she could see where he spends his days. We were able to go to his classroom and watch him finish his lunch before settling down for quiet time. After school let out she got to meet his teacher which meant a lot to her. The rest of the afternoon we just laid low and Brandon came over to join us for dinner that evening.

On Saturday we got up and went to a Touch-a-Truck event at a local elementary school. Many schools host these types of events throughout the year and they're a lot of fun, especially for little boys who are obsessed with trucks, cars and buses! This particular one had a fire truck, ambulance, city bus, tow truck and a Dominion Power truck. The kids were allowed to climb all over the trucks, honk the horn, and run around until their hearts were content. Carter's favorites were the ambulance and the city bus. One of his favorite things to do these says is sit in the driver's seat of one of our cars and pretend to drive. He likes to change the radio, honk the horn, pull the visor down and look at himself in the mirror, all the things he sees his mom do on a regular basis, ha! So as you can imagine how much fun he had.
Taking the Traverse out for a spin

Touch-a-Truck at Belle View Elementary School

Afterwards we headed to the Del Ray neighborhood for Art on the Avenue. It's a large art festival that that is held annually the first Saturday of October. They close Mt. Vernon Avenue and line the streets with over 300 artists (jewelers – silversmith & beaders, woodworkers, pottery makers, soap crafters, glass makers, unique painters, sculptures, fabric artists), musicians, a petting zoo, face painting, games for kids and food vendors. We had a great time strolling up and down the avenue and taking in all the sights.

A visit from mom isn't complete without a trip to Guapo's so we headed there for dinner Saturday night. We learned upon our arrival that Oktoberfest was taking place in Shirlington that day and not only were the restaurants slammed but there were drunk people stumbling around everywhere! Luckily we got a table quickly and Carter was provided with quite the entertainment.
Yay for Guapo's! 

On Sunday we got up early and hit the road to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD. It's about a 45 minute gorgeous drive from DC. I love to drive along the GW Parkway this time of year. The leaves are starting to change colors and you feel like you're in the mountains. The majority of the drive is down back roads in MD and it was really beautiful. Upon our arrival we took a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to pick the perfect pumpkin. Carter wasn't a big fan of the hayride. It was very bumpy so he was very hesitant the entire ride. I also decided to put him in a cute vest; however, he absolutely hated it. I can't figure it out because he'll wear a jacket without any problem but the second I put him in his puffy vest he unzips it and pulls it off. So of course it was a battle of the vest half of the time we were in the pumpkin patch.
Searching for the perfect pumpkin!
After our hayride we put Carter in one of the wheel barrows and off we went into the apple orchards. They still had a lot of apples to choose from and it was a lot of fun. Carter enjoyed running around and sampling an apple or two while mom and I did all of the work. Who wouldn't want to go apple picking when they get pulled around like this?
Nothing better than a sweet, crisp apple!

Gigi got her workout for the day
Cutest little apple picker I've ever seen!

I highly recommend visiting Homestead Farm if you live in the area. My advice is to go first thing in the morning because it gets very crowded. When you arrive immediately grab a wheel barrow because they only have about 40 in stock and they go very quickly! People will stalk you for one when they realize you're headed to your car. Hayrides are offered on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30a.m.- 4:30p.m. and tickets are $3 per person. They currently have Aztec, Fuji and Enterprise apples to pick.They also have a market with the following items for sale: pumpkins, fall squash, apples, tomatoes, vegetables, local honey and preserves.

We were sad to see mom leave Sunday afternoon but we had a great visit while she was here. As I've said before, as much as I love the spring and summer there is something about this time of year that is the best!

Happy Fall ya'll!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Carter Starts Preschool!

Carter started preschool yesterday at Claremont Elementary School. This is a huge adjustment for our entire family considering the fact that I never dreamed of putting Carter in a preschool program until he was three years old. Don't get me wrong, there is a TON of pressure in this area to get your child into some kind of program as early as possible but I didn't feel like it was necessary at this time, especially considering our wonderful nanny share.

It was going to be hard for Carter not to be with his best buddy every morning.

Since Carter was 10 months old he has received physical and speech therapy services through the Arlington PIE (Parent Infant Education) program. Carter has had physical therapy (PT) weekly and speech therapy (ST) every two weeks for 17 months in our home. Every child enrolled in the PIE program is eligible to be evaluated for services through the Child Find program within Arlington County schools as they approach their second birthday. Within the PIE program you receive therapy in your child's natural environment whether that be at home or their daycare center and you pay for those services. Child Find is a program for children between the ages of two and five years old where children receive their designated services through the school system and you do not pay additionally. We were warned that the evaluation process was very lengthy; however, in the end felt that it would be worth our time given Carter's current situation. We knew that Carter would qualify for some level of services but we weren't sure if it would be enough for him to attend the preschool program. Considering Carter has had delays in multiple areas and still remained about 6 months behind at his annual review we decided it was worth our time to go through the evaluation process.

The evaluation is basically a six step process. We began the process in May and completed it on Thursday, September 11th! Our first meeting was basically an introductory one where we went through Carter's social history. We discussed my pregnancy, delivery, his medical history, behavior and the services he has received through the PIE program. This meeting took place with a study committee which consisted of a Special Education Coordinator, a Social Worker, a Psychologist and our PIE Service Coordinator. At the end of the meeting the committee recommended a referral for an official evaluation. Basically it was a meeting to state that we can officially begin the evaluation process.

The first evaluation was physical therapy and the second one was for speech and developmental therapy. Each session lasted about an hour and the therapists spent their time playing with Carter and asking Chris and me questions about his development. The only bad thing about our timing was that it fell in the middle of the summer. Most teachers and therapists were out of school; therefore, there were only limited days we could meet. Our physical therapy evaluation was at the beginning of June and our speech evaluation wasn't until the end of July. If your child were to be evaluated during the school year I believe this process would move a lot faster.

Technically after your evaluations have been completed a social worker is supposed to come to your home to go through your child's detailed social history. However, our social worker called me the day before we were leaving for the beach and Carter's eligibility meeting was scheduled the day we returned so we skipped this step.

On August 20th we had Carter's eligibility meeting with the study committee. They walked us through each of the therapists evaluations and came to an agreement that Carter did qualify and would benefit from services. Unfortunately it was still going to take another meeting to determine what those services would be. Carter has delays in five out of six categories and the pre-k teacher that participated in the meeting said that he would qualify for the preschool program; however, they couldn't officially confirm that until the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting. The good news is that they try to place your child at your home school, which for us is Claremont Elementary School. If they don't have room for your child at your home school then you'll be assigned to the next closest school. One of our neighbor's daughter was in the two year old program at Claremont and couldn't have said better things about the program and the teacher. So we were very excited to hear that if he was accepted in to the program they would have room for him at Claremont. 

After waiting patiently for two weeks I decided to call the teacher at Claremont. I was surprisingly connected directly to her and we scheduled Carter's IEP meeting for September 11th. At this meeting we walked through the eligibility meeting notes and met with Carter's teacher, each of the school's therapists and the Assistant Principal. They were in all in agreement that Carter would benefit from attending the preschool program Monday-Friday for five hours each day. He'll receive 30 minutes of PT each week and an hour of ST. Once he starts school the occupational therapist will complete an evaluation and it's possible that he may receive some therapies from her too.

Do I want Carter to go to school five days a week for 5 hours each day? No, not at all. Do I think that this is the best thing for him and his development? Yes, absolutely. Part of me is a little upset that Carter has enough delays to qualify him for this program yet there is another part of me that is grateful that he qualifies. As of right now there are three little boys in Carter's class, one teacher and two assistants. The class maxes out at eight students and it could take until the end of the year to get there. That's how hard it is to get in and that's how wonderful the teacher to student ratio is! You won't find that anywhere else!


I'm not sure where my baby boy went!

He's off!
Even though Carter will receive his therapies during designated times throughout the week the teacher and assistants are fully aware of the exercises he should be working on and they continue that throughout the day. The kids are taught to be very independent. Each student is asked to bring in a family photo that they hang in the room so they can talk about their families throughout the day. They walk to the cafeteria to get their lunch. They unpack and pack their book bags on their own. They set up their cot for nap time and put it away when they're finished. They go on field trips. The school brings in animals from the nature center to learn about. They go to the library. They have music class. They have PE class. They have reading buddies from the local high school come over to read with them. And his teacher sends home a personal notebook at the end of each day with detailed notes about Carter's day. What more could you ask for? 

So far things have gone well. Carter has cried when we've dropped him off each morning but his teacher has assured me that it didn't last long. When I've pulled up each afternoon to pick him up he has been sitting patiently on the bench in front of the school with his little backpack on his shoulders with the biggest grin you've ever seen. 


They have about an hour of "quiet time" at school so we're going to have to work on his nap schedule once he gets home. The poor little guy's world has been completely flipped upside down! Carter has been used to very lazy mornings and typically eats breakfast around 8:30a.m, so you can imagine the struggle we have on our hands to get him up, dressed, fed and out the door by 7:45a.m.! Mom and Dad are going to need some time to adjust too- ha! It will take some time but I'm confident that he'll quickly adapt and thrive with his new routine. 



I should note that technically Claremont Elementary is Claremont Immersion School. It opened in September 2003 as Arlington's second dual language immersion elementary school. Their program allows kids to learn a second language through curriculum, art, music and every day interactions. We were blessed to learn that this was going to be Carter's home school because our nanny speaks fluent Spanish to the boys during the day. Carter has several Spanish words and understands it just as well as he does English. My two year old son knows more Spanish than I do! Our first nanny spoke Spanish to the boys since they were three months old and our second nanny speaks even more to them on a daily basis. It is very important to us that Carter keep it up so the fact that his teacher uses it with him throughout the school day is an added bonus!

Thank you to everyone for all the phone calls, texts and emails! The little man has done great so far and we're so proud of the little student we have on our hands. Now and for the next 18 years......






Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Carter's Second Birthday Party

This past Saturday we gathered together with our family and friends to celebrate Carter's 2nd birthday. Even though a number of our family members couldn't be there with us we enjoyed our time with the ones that made the trip up to DC and our close friends.

This year I decided to go with a circus theme for the party. It was an easy theme to pull off thanks to Pinterest and Oriental Trading Company. I decided to have the party mid-afternoon so we wouldn't have to worry with serving a full meal. We enjoyed corn dogs, soft pretzels, popcorn, animal crackers and fruit to go along with our circus theme. And of course we had birthday cupcakes for the birthday boy!

Courtesy of a local mom. They were amazing! Let me know if you want her contact info.



We decided to have the party at our house. We did the same last year and it turned out great. We have a nice patio that opens up into a large backyard so there is plenty of room for the kids to run around. My only worry with an outdoor afternoon party is the weather. Fortunately we were blessed with picture perfect weather, as we were last year. We couldn't have asked for a better day! It wasn't too hot and there was a nice breeze to keep everyone cool. The kids enjoyed playing with the water table, bubbles, tattoos, stickers and going on wagon rides. The kids are still young enough that you don't have to have a lot of organized activities to keep them entertained. I know that day will soon come to an end so it was nice to just let them run free! 









As I mentioned above, I got most of my party ideas from Pinterest. I ordered all of my party supplies from the Oriental Trading Company and they were great. Everything was reasonably priced and great quality. I even got the cute cupcake stand, banner and popcorn boxes from them! I received their catalog in the mail about a month before Carter's birthday and they had categorized all their party supplies by theme and just so happened to have a circus theme! It couldn't have worked out any better. I found the idea for the balloon banner from Parenting Magazine. It was really easy to make and the key was definitely the balloon clips. You can find them at any party supply store.


Carter had such a good time at his party and we appreciate everyone that shared his special day with him! We capped off the weekend with a pool day on Sunday. It took Carter about 30 minutes to get accustomed to his puddle jumper and then before we knew it he was a little fish.





Friday, June 20, 2014

Father's Day

We had a fairly low-key Father's Day weekend, although if you were to ask Chris it may not have been low-key enough! Chris played golf on Saturday so Carter and I went to music class and then ventured to the Virginia Highlands Park for the rest of the morning. For the past few months Carter has participated in a weekly music class hosted by Music Together Alexandria.When you register for their classes you can choose from various locations throughout Alexandria. We're fortunate enough that one of the locations is less than a mile from our house.Typically there are 4-5 other kids in the class each week and Carter has really enjoyed it. They give you 2 CDs and a music book at the beginning of the session which allows you to learn the songs so you can sing-a-long with the teacher during class. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not because inevitably I find myself singing the songs on a regular basis.


Saturday evening we drove up to Solomon's Island to join the Murphy clan at Stoney's for dinner. This has become a favorite semi-getaway dinner spot for us. You can sit right by the Chesapeake Bay, enjoy fresh seafood and most importantly their orange crushes! Since it was Father's Day weekend we left the guys there after dinner to enjoy some downtime and Jana and I piled all the kiddos in our car and headed back home. I've never had so many car-seats in my car before!

On Sunday we went to Ted's Bulletin for breakfast where Carter enjoyed eating their homemade pop-tarts, yum! After breakfast we took a little stroll around Eastern Market before it got too hot. The rest of afternoon was spent playing outside and watching the US Open. Even though I didn't get to spend Father's Day with my dad, it was nice to have had some time with him the week before. I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful dad and such a wonderful grandfather to Carter. I'm also very grateful that Carter has such a wonderful father in Chris. He is Carter's biggest cheerleader and loves his family unconditionally. There is no doubt that he puts our family first and always puts other people's feelings ahead of his own. He is our rock and always manages to keep us sailing on smooth waters. Carter is a lucky little guy to have such a great daddy and I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful guys in my life!



Courtesy of an app called Waterlogue



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Welcome Summer!

Even though the heat and humidity have arrived in full force it's nice to welcome summer. Even though I work full time it's a nice change of pace especially once August arrives.

Carter and I kicked off the summer with a trip to Charlotte a few weeks ago. My boss' daughter got married in Charlotte so I decided to head down there for the week and work out of our district office while my parents spent some quality time with Carter. A win for everyone! It was really nice  to be back home for a couple of days. My parents still live in the house that I grew up in so there is something very comforting about going home. I still get to sleep in my old bedroom, we still have the same neighbors and I just seem to fall right into place. It's also nice to have four extra sets of hands to help with Carter!

Carter started walking in April and he has been on the go since then. He has lost his desire to sit on the floor and play with toys and read books. I guess he had to do that for so long compared to other kids his age so he's making up for lost time. He loves to walk around, open and close doors and drawers and just explore. My parents live in a ranch style house so there was a lot to be discovered! I told Chris that I have a new appreciation for our little townhouse after chasing him around my parent's house. It took me twice as long to get ready in the mornings because I always had to check on what he was getting into around the house.

We spent a lot of time with my parents and brother, Justin. We visited with my both of my grandmothers and my great aunt Vi. A dear childhood friend and her son even paid us a visit which was nice. It was fun to see the boys playing together and to compare mom notes. We took Carter to Discovery Place which I hadn't been to since I was a child. It was pretty much just like I remembered and Carter had a blast! On Saturday my mom and I packed a picnic lunch and took Carter to their neighborhood pool. This is the pool that we grew up going to and I have a lot of fond memories of my summers there as a kid. It was fun to see Carter have so much fun in their kiddie pool area.

Visiting with my grandmother in Statesville. Carter especially loved the Cheetos she gave him!

Discovery Place 

Play date with Mason and a little fun at the pool 

Thursday night, while I was in town, Justin and I went to the Whitewater Center for Riverjam. Thursday evenings throughout the summer they have live music from 7:00p.m.- 10:00p.m. You can bring chairs or a blanket, stretch out, enjoy dinner and a frosty beverage in a great atmosphere. If you haven't been out there before it is definitely worth the trip. You're free to walk the grounds during the concert and will most likely catch some whitewater rafters and/or kayakers.


So far we've spent a lot of lazy weekends at the pool this summer and look forward to many more. I just ordered Carter a puddle-jumper so we'll see how he does with it this weekend. He's in the process of cutting two of his two year old molars so he hasn't been the most pleasant person this week, ha! Hopefully he'll be in a little better mood this weekend so we can give it a try. We've visited a few local splash grounds in the area that have been a lot fun. Since Carter wears orthotics in his shoes I was on the hunt to find him a good water sandal that provided some decent support. I ended up buying him some Keens from Zappos and they work great. They give him enough stability so that he doesn't have to wear his orthotics and they dry easily.


Keen Kids Newport H2 Sandal
Penrose Square Splash Ground


It's hard to believe but we're quickly approaching Carter's second birthday! He turns two years old on Tuesday so we're having  a little party for him next weekend. We look forward to celebrating his special day with our family and friends. The week of the Fourth of July we're headed to the beach for a little R&R.

Cheers to a wonderful summer!

Friday, February 7, 2014

MLK Weekend

As I mentioned in my earlier post, MLK weekend turned out to be a four day weekend thanks to an unexpected snow day. We got around six inches on snow on Tuesday, January 21st and all the lingering snow melted just a few days ago! It has been freezing cold lately and I am beyond ready for spring. It's fun to get a snow day here and there, but when you have to work twice as hard from home than  you would at work it just isn't worth it. I'll take temps in the 70's and playtime outdoors any day.
Cartoons in bed. Not a bad way to start your day.
Since it has been so cold we've been looking for fun activities to do over the weekends with Carter. We're all on the verge of going stir crazy so it's nice to get out even if we do have to bundle up. Chris had to work on MLK Day (farmers don't take vaca) so Carter and I decided to venture out to the National Building Museum and meet Chris for lunch. The National Building Museum has two open play areas for kids. One area is called the Building Zone which is basically a large play area designed to introduce kids to the art of building. They have large blocks, toy construction vehicles, books, tool hats, and tool sets. Kids can play until their heart is content and parents can take a break. It really is the perfect place to go on frigid days like we've had or in the miserable days of summer. They have timed entries so it's best to arrive early. Admission is $3.00 for 45 minutes of play. Admission is free for member so if you plan on visiting frequently it may be well worth joining. Tickets are available every hour, starting at 15 minutes after the hour and the last entry is 3:15p.m. Membership information can be found here.

If you're like Carter and me and you don't arrive in time to play in the Building Zone, they currently have another great exhibit for kids called Play, Work, Build. It combines a hands-on block play area where your little one's imaginations can run wild, a huge play area full of over-sized building blocks, and an original digital interactive wall that allows kids to build a wall with virtual blocks and then knock them down. There is also an area where kids can play with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. This exhibit is scheduled to run through November 2014.



If you don't want to pay admission or the play areas are full you can always let the kids run wild in The Great Hall. It's an atrium where kids can run around, you can grab coffee from Firehook Bakery, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy sightseeing. The National Building Museum is definitely a must see for those with kids. We enjoyed our morning there even though it was packed. Of course weekends and holidays are their busiest time but if you can manage to sneak into work late one morning definitely plan a trip with your kids.

After our play date we headed to the Senate side to meet Chris for lunch. We opted for Mexican food since we knew we'd get quick service and we didn't have to worry about keeping Carter quiet. After we got in the car Carter absolutely crashed. He was worn out from our morning out!



Little did we know that we'd get to stay home the next day with our little man, but thanks to about six inches of snow we enjoyed a snow day! Honestly it was more work than it was worth. The House was in recess that week but of course my boss was scheduled to fly in that afternoon for several meetings. Really? The one recess week he decides to come to town and we get a snow storm!! So I spent the majority of my day on the phone with the airlines and car service companies while Carter had meltdowns because I wouldn't give him my iPhone or Blackberry. My snow day was way too much work! It looked pretty while falling but I'm so sick of it now. Our five day weather outlook currently shows snow showers every day. When will spring arrive?!





Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Make Your Own Pizza Night!

The weekend before last was a long one for us thanks to MLK Day and an even longer one thanks to a snow day on Tuesday. On Sunday I thought it would be fun to have a make your pizza night. I've always noticed that Trader Joe's sells their own pizza dough and I've always wanted to give it a try so this was our perfect opportunity. We have had a hard time finding a good pizza delivery place near us. We've tried every pizza place you can think of and none of them are that great. No one does pizza better than Mellow Mushroom and until recently we didn't even have one in our area. They opened one in DC but it isn't convenient to our house- bummer! So we settle every few weeks and order so-so pizza and move on with our lives.

For my pizza I decided to use pesto as my base and loaded it up with roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese. Trader Joe's also sells pizza sauce so Chris used it for his base and mixed in a little pesto for extra flavor. He topped his with sauteed mushrooms, Kalamata olives, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.

To get started remove the dough from the package and let is rest on a floured work surface for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your pizza stone into the oven to heat, or spray a large baking sheet pan with cooking spray. Add more flour to your work surface, then roll the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough onto the pizza stone or a well-floured peel and then place your toppings. If you top your pizza beforehand the pizza will get heavy and has a tendency to stick when transferring it.

We baked them in the oven, one at a time, on our pizza stone for about 10-12 minutes and they turned out great! We drizzled each one of them with some high quality olive oil once they came out of the oven and they tasted better than any pizza we've ever had delivered. We also decided that my pizza was the tastiest of the two! The process was a little messy but all in all, well worth it.
Chris's pizza

Erin's pizza

Our little helper for the evening. This is what you get when you let a 19 month old play with a container of feta cheese!
In the summer I love to make dessert pizzas and grill them. Talk about a tasty dessert! If you want to take the easy route buy a pre-made pizza crust, like Boboli, slather it with mascarpone cheese and top it with mixed berries. Place it on a hot grill and let it grill until the crust toasts nicely and the cheese begins to melt. Once you remove it from the grill drizzle it with melted chocolate. You could also use Nutella as your base, top it with berries and drizzle with white chocolate. Yum!!
Berry Dessert Pizza