2016, I’ll miss seeing your smiling face around here!

Hello 2017!  The holiday season is over and here we are on the first night of a brand new year.

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Good byes can be hard!

It’s a fresh slate.  It’s the brink of opportunity for more happiness, more experiences & more fun.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to say farewell to 2016.

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We kicked off the 2016 year with a little boy who turned ONE!

January 2016 – my baby is ONE!

There were balloons and cake and a sweet little baby who was barely a baby.  In the past twelve months, our not-so-baby Mitchell gained courage to walk and took off on a journey of fun & exploration.  He’s had highs & lows.  Trips to the park, trips around the block, and a trip to the Cleveland Clinic.   Twenty sixteen shed more light on his syncope and we’ve moved forward with confidence and a bright diagnosis knowing that he will simply outgrow these darn episodes.  He’s moved from the freshman room to the sophomore room at school, and he’s moved from a crawler to an energetic boy who loves Elmo, chocolate & lots of affection (but only of course when he’s not busy playing).  He adds laughter to our lives every single day!

Love!

In 2016, Makenzie Ruth turned FOUR and reminded us just how fast time flies (honestly, wasn’t she just born?).   The year brought her second dance recital, her first exposure to soccer and her continued love of all things related to the summertime!

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June 2016 – Dance recital song was Bushel & a Peck!

She fell in love with gymnastics during the Olympics and she fell in love with the thought of reading & writing during her days as a Senior at her school.   She’s sweet and lovable and someday wants to grow up and be a teacher.  Makenzie is an awesome big sister and 2017 might just be the year that she gets on the big yellow school bus and heads to kindergarten (insert sobs here).

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July 2016 – Being silly in Lake George

Twenty sixteen brought about fun & happiness, and frustration & challenges.  Twelve months with two toddlers included fevers, and urgent care trips and the unanswerable question of how do we balance it all?   Two careers and too little time.  There were late nights and early mornings.  There were wet beds and scary dreams.  There were many, many coffee cups and an occasional glass of wine.  Denny and I fought against never-ending laundry, cranky mealtimes and the expense of two in daycare.  But we also teamed up to ensure a really great vacation to Lake George, outings to every kid place in town, and a ride on the Polar Express.   There were cuddles and giggles and plenty of dance parties.  For me, 2016 brought me to a place of clarity after twelve months of postpartum emotions (more about that someday in another blog post).

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As an extended family, we said good-bye to my wonderful grandfather.  We said Hello to a beautiful foster baby girl.  And we said Thank You, God! when my sweet teenage cousin was given a new chance of life from a heart transplant.  All those involved were humbled by the beauty and wonderment of this journey called Life.

Another passing year made us aware of the struggles and heartaches in the world near and far, but it made us even more aware of the need to embrace the good that will always ultimately outweigh it.

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The good!

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A wise person once told me that if you went into a room with all strangers and everyone dropped their problems into a buckets, you would realize just how much you want your own problems back.  This thought has stuck with me ever since and I hope that we can all keep this in mind as we move forward and try to make 2017 our best year yet.   Imagine how much better our world would be if we could each be more compassionate and more understanding of those around us?

So I wish you and your families health & happiness & fun in 2017!  Cheers to the good and cheers to the bad for making us appreciate the good ever more.  Cheers to the memories of 2016 and the possibilities of 2017!

With Love,

Erin

Lake George Love!

::  The McGee Family vacation 2016 is officially in the books!  It was the perfect blend of fun, giggles, new experiences, antibiotics, meltdowns (toddler meltdowns don’t take vacations people!) and even a few cold Blue Moons.  ::

lake george love

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We only get 18 summers with the kids before they head to college (insert sobs here!) so Denny and I are big believers in taking time each year to get away from the stress and chaos of everyday life.  This year we picked Lake George, NY!  It is less than 5 hours away (a huge requirement when you have a squirmy little boy who despises his car seat) and it offered all types of toddler-friendly activities.

The days leading up to the trip started out a little bumpy with 2 trips to the pediatrician, a round of croup, a 104 fever and an ear infection (who knew this could happen after getting tubes?) BUT we still managed to head to Lake George within 14 hours of our originally planned departure time.  Yes!!

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Here are the highlights for each of us:

::  MITCHELL’S VACATION FAVES  ::

  • Steps that do NOT have a baby gate
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He spent hours going up & down these steps.  It’s ultimate freedom for a toddler!

  • The washing station that people use to get the sand off their feet.
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He couldn’t get enough of this.

  • The hotel water slide!
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He cried for 25 minutes after we went back to the room. This little boy loves to swim!

  • Morning explorations – Mitchell is still an early bird so Denny and I took turns taking him outside each morning.  He loved checking out the property every morning at 6 am   (and once I grabbed my coffee I didn’t mind the cute company either.)   🙂
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“Stay close Mom, we’re heading into the woods!”

 

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No line for the slide at this hour!

  • And oddles of fun on all the kiddie rides!
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These two had a blast at the Magic Forest, which was perfect for the kiddos!

 

 

::  MAKENZIE’S VACATION FAVES  ::

  • The beach!   She loved playing in the clear waters of Lake George and playing in the sand.  She made a giant castle for “Punzel” aka Rapunzel.
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Beach baby 🙂

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After the castle came the creation of Lake Daddy, appropriately named after the lead digger on the project.  Mitchell even left the steps and the foot washer to get in on the fun.

  • Visiting Santa at North Pole, NY!   We realized that Lake George was within a short drive of where Santa lives so we had to stop by and say Hello to our favorite jolly old guy.
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Asking Santa for a balance beam

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Here’s a shot of Santa’s house in case you were wondering.  It’s a 1 bed, 1 bath little home with great curb appeal and solid schools.

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The flying bobsleds!

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Who doesn’t love a holiday moose?!?

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Christmas carousel with Daddy!

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Blitzen was hungry!

  • More rides at the Magic Forest and the giant 4-story slide that she bravely went down about 20 times.
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She flew down this slide then got up and ran back up the stairs for more!

  • And a giant lollipop, yum!
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She requested that the lollipop also be in the picture with her. 🙂

 

Admittedly, Denny and I are exhausted from chasing these kiddos around a non-baby-proofed hotel room but we had a really fun vacation too.  Here are our highlights of the trip.

::  OUR VACATION FAVES  ::

  • Housekeeping and no cooking for a week!   Be still my heart.
  • Beautiful scenery.  Lake George is undoubtedly a gorgeous area to visit.
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Picture taken in Lake Placid (in full disclosure the picture was taken from a moving car with two squirmy kiddos in the backseat en route to Santaland – site seeing didn’t exactly occur on this trip)

  • One-on-one time with the kiddos.  We each had an individual “date” with the kids.  Kenzie played her first round of mini golf on her night with Denny, and I took her to see the boats in the lake.   Mitchell and I had a chance to dip our toes in the water and dance on the beach to some live music!

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  • A few days away from the normal stresses of life – no work, no bills to pay, no dishwashers to unload.  Talk about bliss!
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Family time rocks!

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We are super grateful to have had the chance to get away to Lake George and we can’t wait to go back again soon!

Vacation love,

Erin

Life in the slow lane, and that’s okay with me

Sweet, sweet summertime.

A little thing in life that I have come to adore is the smell of my babies covered in sunscreen.  It usually means that we are on the brink of leaving for a fun day – swimming, riding beep beeps at the kiddie park, or running through the splash pad.   Some of the best memories that we have made with the kiddos involved the use of sunscreen.

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This summer has been a little bit different than we expected and we haven’t quite used as much sunscreen.  Mitchell’s episodes have gotten worse (more about those here) – more frequent, worse in duration and still plain scary to see – so we have toned it down and shifted to the slow lane.  It’s hard to say what will trigger an episode, but we know that they are exacerbated when he is overtired, overwhelmed, or overheated.   Although they have no consequences on him in the no-long term, they are exhausting on him in the short-term and often lead to an immediate nap.   In general they are something we strive to avoid at all costs.

But in a weird way, there is a silver lining to this whole situation.  His breath-holding spells (which fortunately will subside in the coming years, hooray!) have helped us find fun things to do close to home and within our normal routine.  Rather than spending hours chasing down fun or pushing the limits with schedules and activities, we have been able to savor the little parts of life.

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These two! 🙂

We have been living up summer with two toddlers in small ways.  Water balloons, hide n seek, walks around the neighborhood, indoor Olympics, tunnel races, short (yet sweet) trips to the kiddie park and extra story times.

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Sweetest & happiest boy ever!

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Water balloons!

 

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Imitating Big Sis during the indoor Olympics

Kenz had her dance recital in June and is now loving “nastics” class so she hasn’t noticed the slow pace.   In a few weeks we’re even hitting the road to enjoy the slow pace in Lake George, which I’m pretty sure will be good for all of us.  And it may include sunscreen, but if it doesn’t that’s okay too.

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Such a proud night

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Loving “nastics!” and getting excited for the Olympics!

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So here’s to a great summer!   Here’s to enjoying life, being silly and making memories in unexpected moments.  Here’s to getting out and wearing sunscreen, and here’s to staying in and having just as much fun.  Here’s to trips near and far, and loved ones on our street and on our minds.  Here’s to life in the slow lane and here’s to appreciating it.

And here’s to all of us taking a deep breath and just focusing on the really good stuff in life.

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slow down

Cheers & love,

Erin

 

It takes a village (with coffee)

Hello… is this thing on?

I have been MIA from pretty much everything lately because 2016 has been sickity-sick-sick.  These poor kiddos can’t seem to catch a break… strep, croup, viral infections, colds, 5 infected ears, flu and many more Mitchell pass-out episodes.

There have been many nights where Denny and I looked at each other with the what the heck are we going to do look that all you parents out there know so well.  The look that asks, “How high is too high for a fever?… “Who’s going to miss work again this week?”… “How can we possibly go another night without sleep?”   This year has included lots of looks.  Looks of concern, looks of frustration, looks of exhaustion.

 

The look of an ear infection 🙁

The look of a tired boy (dino jammies rock!)

The look of a little girl with strep.

 

But just when we thought we couldn’t juggle one more schedule, or squeeze in one more trip to the doctor’s office, we realized all the support around us.  And we realized we are incredibly lucky!
Our pediatricians have squeezed us in over a dozen times, our parents have driven hundreds of miles, our bosses have understood, our co-workers have done favors, our favorite Timmy’s drive-thru employees have kept the coffee hot, our neighbors have kept the thoughts positive, and the EMT’s have kept us calm in the most unexpected of situations.

And now that spring is getting closer, we’re hoping the season of sick is getting further away.  We’re ready for healthy kids & happy outings.   But before we get back to normal we owe a few Thank you’s to some of our favorite people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to our awesome village!!  Thanks for all the good thoughts & thanks for all the hot coffee!

xoxo

Erin

PS  Does springtime = blog time?  Let’s hope!

The look of Better days! 🙂

 

I get it. I get the Disney magic!

For the first time in forever… we get it.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened but somewhere between our first positive pregnancy test and our first seven-passenger car…  Somewhere between Makenzie’s first steps and the kid’s first steps into the Happiest Place on Earth… somewhere between “Honey, let’s take a small vacation this fall,” and “Honey, we’re going to Disney” (I’m still not sure how that even happened), we get it.

Denny and I are just back (well, about 4 weeks ago but that’s how long it has taken me to finish this post) from Disney and we understand why people love it soooo much.

We get why people go year after year.

We get the magic.

We get it all.

i believe in the magic

We had an awesome, short & sweet trip to the Happiest Place on Earth and we were blown away by how fun it is.  It was no doubt stressful at times to travel with 2 kiddos, but both Makenzie and Mitchell did great!   We’ll give the trip two thumbs up and we will be back soon.

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::  McGees Go To Disney!  ::

Mamaw and Makenzie’s 1st plane ride

 

We’re here! This is when I was first hit with a wave of amazement and the tears started.

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::  Chef Mickey’s  ::

Meeting this Big Man on campus.

Smitten. Makenzie had no words.

A Minnie kiss for Makenzie. Mitchell Man was reaching out to see if she was really real.

More amazement. More happy tears from me.  Denny’s tears came when we got the Chef Mickey’s bill.

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::  Art of Animation  ::

We really loved the Art of Animation Resort.  Good food, great suite set-up and ahhh-mazing pools (plural).  Two thumbs up!

The Big Blue Pool. And each day there was a Disney Jr. pool party perfect for Kenz with games & songs!

Get in there, little buddy!

 

Hanging out with some of the Cars characters. We walked down Route 66 each day to get to our room.

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Crawling through Radiator Springs.

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A bonus visit with Aunt Margie & Uncle Mike!

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::  Magic Kingdom Day  ::

Whoa, bring on the tears.  I had no idea how this place would impact me as a Mom.

7am and on our way!! Kenz thought it was awesome that she did not need a car seat. It’s the little things. 🙂

We hit up the carousel, Flying Dumbos, Little Mermaid ride, Teacups, and then it was time to meet the princesses.   Makenzie told me she was nervous and wasn’t sure what she would say to them.  Mitchell Man wasn’t as impressed but he did get a big kiss from Rapunzel, which made him very happy.

She was so sweet and Kenz didn’t want to let go of her.

And then came Cinderella. Wow! It was undoubtedly the best part of our entire trip. I’ve never seen Makenzie look so happy.

 

Ariel was super sweet too. She read Makenzie part of her book.

We took a long mid-day nap, and then when we came back we walked directly towards the Dream Along With Mickey show taking place at the castle. Such a cute show!

“Daddy, looooook!!!!!”

Minnie, Snow White & Cinderella dancing & singing… talk about the happiest three-year-old on the planet!

 

Going strong late into the night with Mamaw at MK!

Carousel ride as we waited for the Electrical Parade to start.

Hey, there’s that handsome husband of mine! Remember when we used to fill up the digital camera with pictures of just the two of us during pre-kid trips?! This is as good as it gets now, but we’ll take it. 🙂

 

And just when we thought it couldn’t get better, a last minute FastPass opened to sneak in and meet the Frozen gals.

Eeeeeek!!!!!

 

Seriously magical!

::  We’ll Miss you Disney!  ::

Like all good things, our trip had to come to an end.  We had such an awesome visit & we’ll be back.

All smiles watching for our plane to pull up.

 

See ya!

 

 

The (really) Great Pumpkin Farm

It turns out that life with 2 kids is definitely not a fairy tale…

Denny and I are incredibly grateful for 2 healthy kids, but I would be lying if I said that it isn’t hard work every single day.  Some days we just lack the energy and motivation to pack the bags, make the picnic lunches, find the matching shoes, wrestle the kids into the car seats… the list goes on and on.  And on those days we just scrap the plans, toss the kids some Tim Bits, and settle in at home.

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But Saturday was different.  I’m not sure why, but Saturday we hit our stride.  Saturday we got it together and we headed to the awesome Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, NY.  (No fairy godmother assistance required)  And I’m so glad that we did!

 The cutest little pumpkins in the patch!

The cutest little pumpkins in the patch!

It was one of those rare meltdown-free days.  Makenzie loved all of it… the singing chickens, the magic show, the rides, the jumping pillows, and of course, all of the pumpkins.  She had endless energy, and she even had a pumpkin themed shirt.  Score, two bonus points for this mom!

Mitchell loved it all too.  He was mellow while we watched the entertainers.  He was sleeping when we explored the kiddie coaster and swings.  And he was perfectly adorable when we finally ventured over to the pumpkins.  Way to go, little buddy!

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By midnight the spell was over.   The mellow, happy, Normall Rockwell-esque kids returned to our crazy muchkins who fight naps and wake up at all hours of the night.  My clean mom attire turned back into spit-up covered sweats.  And our carriage was really just a family-sized SUV all along.  But we were left with lots of great memories and of course, a pumpkin or two.

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I don’t have a glass slipper to prove any of this, but I do have a few pictures…

 

 

Baby’s 1st autumn!  Checking out these big orange things

 

Cheese!

 

I actually made it in a picture.

 

She’s such a big girl on the swings!

 

Pumpkin farm express

 

Testing out the new pumpkin farm jumping pillows. Two thumbs up from this girl!

 

All tired out.

 

Petting the bunny, Abby Cadabara! This little furry guy was her favorite part of the magic show.

 

<3 these two.

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And they lived (mostly) happily ever after…

thanks to bribes, wine & a good sense of humor.

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xoxo

The 52 best gifts

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon and guess where my kids are… right here, in our own home, hanging with me, the luckiest mama on the planet!

Shortly before maternity leave ended, it started… that awful feeling deep in my gut about my role in life.  I was starting to question everything.  Was I a bad mom to work?  Would it hurt my family to stay home?  Would I be happy at home?  Would I be happy at work?

So I did the most logical thing.  I cried and stressed out about it.  Clearly the right thing to do.  After a few weeks and some encouragement from a dear friend (thank you Emily), I asked the question… is it possible, might I be able, is it even an option… to not come back to work full time?  And quicker than I asked it, I had my answer.  Yes!  Wow.  Who knew?

Yes, I can work four days!  Yes, I can still keep the career I love yet still keep some special Mommy time with the kids I adore!  Yes, it is possible to make it work.  AMAZING!!   There’s no doubt that this adjustment means some extra time on the laptop at nights, and some occasional extra stressing that comes with reduced time in the office, but being with Makenzie and Mitchell greatly outweighs all of the downsides.

Now I spend my Fridays with my favorite little M&M’s.  These days are undoubtedly the 52 best gifts I’ve ever received in my life.  I’m incredibly grateful for a workplace that gives this option, a supportive boss who authorized it to happen, a team of great people around me who understand why it is allowed, and a husband who works hard so we don’t have to stress about the financial implications.

Our babies turn from newborns to kindergarteners in about 250 Fridays, and now I am thrilled to know that I won’t be missing these.  Instead I’m filling our Fridays with dance parties, waffle breakfasts, play dates, trips to the splash pad and visits to story time.  I could not imagine it any other way.  I’m appreciative, grateful & incredibly lucky to have this extra time with my little love and my littlest love.  Here’s to my favorite day of the week!

xoxo

Erin

Such a good big sis (although she did ask me if she could push the stroller into a mud puddle).

 

Hanging out in the splash pad on a beautiful sunny Friday!

 

More splash pad fun.

 

Enjoy the ride. Life is short but sweet for certain.

Just because

In the midst of the two-kids, two-careers, too-little-sleep chaos I do not want to forget the little goodness that happens every single day.   John Lennon said it best, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

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Here are a few little snippets of life

::  Blue eyes  ::

So handsome.

 

::  “Freezies” with the awesome neighbor kids.  ::

Have I mentioned how cool our neighbor kids are… many of them are in high school yet they still take time to hang out with our kiddos.  They make Kenzie feel like she is the bees knees.

Kenz in all her glory with Will, Rachel & Emma!

::  Bumble bee rides at the playground with friends  ::

These two are such buddies. 🙂

::  Sunnies during bubba time  ::

Because you would too if you were this cool.

His future’s so bright he needs shades.

::  And last but not least, Friday Story time!  ::

Check out this cute duo!

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On that note, sweet dreams!

Xoxo

Tonight I looked down…

I can’t exactly say that the past four months and 7 days have been easy.  Raising two kids is tough.  It’s a crazy, wonderful thing that we have two healthy kids.  And they are an awesome blessing, but it doesn’t make it easy.  Every single day is hard.  And honestly, I’m just not good at it yet.  I’m navigating through the foggy land of lingering hormones and uncertain expectations and working mom demands and mom of two status, and in trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people I often feel like I’m failing at all of them.

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But tonight I looked down.  Rather then thinking ahead about packing the diaper bag, or thinking back to how I should have handled a situation at work, I simply looked down.  And I was surprised at the beautiful view…

I looked down when I was on a walk with Makenzie and I saw so much.  I saw a sweet daughter’s messy, end-of-day-hair blowing in the breeze.   I saw her pink wagon filled with treasures of golf balls and dirt.  I saw a spunky toddler quickly growing into a little girl trying to navigate her way through the neighborhood and life.  And I saw five little fingers wrapped around mine because the sound of the train whistle frightened her just enough that she needed to feel an extra sense of security.  I saw pure happiness.

 

Later on tonight I looked down again…

Once again I was taken aback by the view.  I saw the soft skin of a four-month-old fresh out of the bath.  I saw perfect little eyelids covering the bright blue eyes of my son.  I saw the subtle breathing movements of a tired boy.  I saw a snugly baby finding a nightly sense of security in a fleecy swaddle.  I saw what will likely be my final baby drifting off to sleep.  I saw love in its purest form resting comfortably in my arms.

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Today was a good day.  One of the best.  I finally opened up my eyes enough to see the beautiful view I have on this part of the journey.  I know there will come a point when the scenery will change and I’m definitely not ready for that.  I guess I better hold on tight and keep my eyes open.

 

Much love,

The monsters under my working mom bed

Tomorrow.  Ugh.  Tomorrow is the day I leave my babies to go back to work.  Maternity leave is over.  Really?  How did that happen?  My baby boy was just coming home from the hospital and now I’m leaving him to go to work.  My heart is aching and I’m terrified for the adjustment.  The what ifs are daunting… What if we can’t get out the door on time?  What if I can’t handle it all?  What if I miss the kid’s bedtime?  What if I miss a deadline?  What if the kids miss me?  What if they don’t?  What if I disappoint my co-workers and my boss?  What if I disappoint Denny?  What if I disappoint the kids?

These ‘what ifs’ have been haunting me and causing me anxiety for weeks, but the reality is that they are nothing more than monsters under my working mom bed.  Just like a kiddo I’m creating a world of fears that in reality don’t exist.  Right now the monsters seem big, hairy and scary but there is much reality that can make my mom monster fears go away.

The reality is that I’m going back to a job I love.  The reality is that I have great co-workers, a super awesome boss and a job that makes me feel like I’m making a difference in the world.  The reality is that I have a pretty flexible schedule.  The reality is that I have an incredibly supportive husband who does drop-offs and pick-ups, who makes dinner, and who does laundry.  The reality is that we have the most wonderful childcare provider that we could imagine, and Makenzie and Mitchell get to be together all day.  The reality is that by the end of the day tomorrow I’ll probably feel good about returning to the adult world.

So tonight I’ll keep my flashlight next to my bed and do the best I can to scare away the monsters.  I’m sure they won’t go away but hopefully they won’t keep me up too late.  And tomorrow I’ll squeeze (literally) into my work pants, I’ll use some waterproof mascara, I’ll fill my desk with pictures of the kiddos, and I’ll head back to the workplace I love.  It may not be my most productive day but I’ll make it through and hopefully prove to myself that we can do it.

So go away monsters!  I’ve got real fears to deal with like how I will ever fit into my work pants…

…to be continued.

monsters under the bed