Saturday, June 27, 2015

Epic Summer Road Trip 2015: Georgia!

On Tuesday, we embarked on another Epic Summer Road Trip. These month-long journeys to see family and friends began back in 2010. We stayed home in 2011 (newborn Lauren) and 2013 (my surgery). In the other years--2010, 2012, 2014--our expeditions have covered many states and roughly 4000 miles each summer. This is our first year to travel in consecutive summers.

Our travels are made possible by Matt's and my work situations. He is off about 9 weeks as a teacher. I left the paid workforce back in the fall of 2008, when my two-year judicial clerkship ended, to be home full-time with then-two-year-old Tobin. We added Evan the next summer and Lauren, two summers later. Lauren will join her big brothers and start full-time school this fall. That transition will have me looking to work some outside the home. I don't have a concrete sense of how that will evolve, but I will be looking for opportunities that fit our family situation. These changes in our family life make me think that there's a good chance trips like this won't be quite the same in future summers. I'm sure we'll still travel quite a bit but maybe not as far or as long. That makes me especially appreciative of this particular trip. In the past, I haven't done a great job recording our travels apart from posting pictures. I'm going to try to share a little more as we go this year.

We were playing in Aunt Ashley's yard when a snow cone truck rolled by! Pretty perfect first night of vacay. #smithsummer

The first leg of our trip was 400 miles to my sister's house outside in Acworth (northwest suburban Atlanta), Georgia. Ashley and Donnie are always fun, gracious hosts. We missed Donnie this time though, because he was traveling for work. Their home is lovely and spacious. Their yard is great for wiffle ball and their neighborhood, for evening walks and morning runs. Our stay at Ashley and Donnie's was short this time--just two nights--but we packed in a whole lot of fun. We arrived in the late afternoon on Tuesday and waited for Ashley to get home from work. We closed out the evening walking the kids' canine cousin Caesar around the neighborhood, playing wiffle ball and enjoying snow cones, courtesy of a truck rolling through at just the right time.

Aunt Ashley and her fishies! #smithsummer

On Wednesday, we swam in the neighborhood pool in the morning, picked my mom (Mimi!) up at the airport midday and visited the Georgia Aquarium in the afternoon. Tobin was quite impressed that we managed to visit the world's busiest airport and the western hemisphere's largest aquarium in the same day. We had been to the aquarium three years before when the kids were 6, 3 and 1, and it was fun then. But this time was even more so. One of the great things about the kids getting older is that outings like this are just easier. We didn't have to bring a diaper bag or stroller. We kept it super simple and didn't even bring water or snacks. The kids loved the exhibits, especially the otters, beluga whales and dolphins. Tobin is old enough to read every sign in the building to his siblings. And with the intense summer heat and humidity, plus afternoon thunderstorms, it ended up being the perfect way to spend the day.

making friends.

They swam like fish this morning and this afternoon, they're watching big fish--now, with Mimi in tow! #smithsummer


My three best girls nearing the end of a fun day. 💞😍🐠🐬🐋

The five of us. (Lala is done.) #smithsummer

Thursday morning, we were in the van around 6:15am ready to beat Atlanta morning traffic and get an early start on the 700-mile trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana. We were sad to say goodbye to Ashley (Lauren asked for me to set a timer so she could stay in Georgia just a little longer.) but heartened because we would see her just a few days later when she flew to join us in Louisiana. Also, Mimi joined us for the long car ride, which was a special treat.

Next up: visiting extended family, including lots of first and second cousins, in Louisiana!

400 miles into a 700-mile ride, THIS is a good thing. 😴😍 #smithsummer

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lauren is FOUR.

birthday girl birthdayin' on her birthday.

The youngest among us turned four on Tuesday. It's pretty hard to wrap my head and heart around my baby being so grown up that she's headed off to school with her brothers this fall. But she still likes to suck her thumb and prefers me to almost anyone else, so I take solace in just a little bit of baby still being there.

This is Lauren about 10 days ago at her early birthday party, hair wind-blown & sweaty, face silly, new unicorn (named Aretha!) in her lap. Today is her actual birthday, so here's to four years of THIS GIRL. Happy birthday, Lala! You are everything.

The other night we were on a walk after dinner. It was hot and Lauren was content to ride in the stroller, blowing bubbles. It was a peaceful sweet scene all around, when she screeched suddenly, "Mom, stop! Hold my bubbles! I need to go yell and scare those birds over there!" And after almost throwing the bubbles at me, she ran after those birds, giggling and yelling. That scene sums up a lot about my girl. She is happy and engaged and excited and headstrong. The big feelings that come with baby- and toddlerhood seem not to have diminished with her transition into girlhood. Her preschool teachers often remarked about how happy she was ALL THE TIME, and inquired whether she was that way at home. And I said yes mostly, except when she's not happy, she's really NOT.

Earlier, enjoying Ev's graduation w/a Hello Kitty face.

The flow of our family life is still channeled by Lauren's temperament and need for sleep. Incredibly, she still takes an afternoon nap most days. With the recent busyness of her brothers' baseball season, there were quite a few skipped naps. She handled it well for the most part but would get confused in the late afternoon and come up to me and ask, "Mom, when are you gonna make my lunch?" When I'd try to remind her that we'd already had lunch, sometimes she would disagree passionately and other times she'd just kinda look at me funny, stick her thumb in her mouth and wander off.

having a soak

Lauren's school year ended in May, a couple weeks before her brothers'. I can't overstate how much she loved school. Almost everyday, she skipped into class, saying a hearty hello to whoever she saw, whether teacher, friend or parent. She was happy on the rides home from school but sometimes a little more contemplative. When I would ask about what she made or who she played with, she might tell me something like, "I wanted to play with [one friend] but she didn't want me to be her kitty, and that made me sad. But then Ms. Jean told me there were LOTS of friends to play with, so I played with [another friend] and I was her kitty all day long!" She experiences such a range of emotions, and yes, she really likes to pretend she's a cat.

Lala lovin' it too.

Speaking of cats, she's the first of the kids to really ask for a pet. For a while, she was asking for "a little cute doggie with bows in her hair!" I said that I wasn't sure Daddy and I wanted a pet right now, but maybe she could get a pet when she was a grown up and could take care of it. She quipped, "But Mom, YOU'RE a grown up! YOU can take care of my doggie!"

Standing on the plate in her church shoes. But she crushed it.

Lauren kinda has it all figured out, and I am loving it. Her boldness can sometimes be stubbornness, but I feel like she's teaching me a lot about acknowledging her (and by extension, her brothers') feelings better. It's often better just to ride the tide of feelings with her than to try to redirect them. Today, she insisted she didn't want to go to sleep at naptime, but a napless yesterday plus a busy morning made me think otherwise. I offered to lie down with her, thinking I wouldn't mind midday snooze myself. I tried to close my eyes but she kept insisting that she was scared of the dark, even though it wasn't particularly dark. I didn't argue but reminded her that she was growing so big and she needed to eat and sleep to grow even bigger. She added, "And I need exercise!" I was afraid she was going to start doing jumping jacks on the bed--as she often needs to show you exactly what she's talking about--but instead, she said rather thoughtfully, "Mom, do you know what I like to do when I sleep? I like to hug something soft. You can go now, I'm just going to hug my unicorn Aretha and go to sleep now." And just like that, our battle of the wills was over . . . exactly when she wanted it to be.

Perfect Carolina spring morning: seventy degrees & breezy, plus STRAWBERRIES!