Cancun 2015

We’ve been back for a mere 3 days and I’m already nostalgic about our trip. I want to go back; just for the weather.


We spent a full week at the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort in Cancun Mexico, but thanks to drawn out travel days we only really had 5 days of time to play around.  The arrival in Cancun was *brutal*…we sat on the plane for 30 mins before they took us to a gate, then there was a 30 mins deplane/bus/loading handicapped people delay, and then….then we waited 2+ hours in line at customs/immigration (were all 4 of us almost had temper-tantrums at the same time!). After the 30 min drive to the hotel our 1:30 pm landing ended up bringing us to the resort by 6 pm; all there was time to do was grab supper and a stiff drink.

Morning.I’m not a fibber and I don’t sugar coat; vacation with kids is HARD. Especially when you don’t have a kids camp, babysitter, family or other friends to lean on to take a break.


Day 1 started off pretty hard after Ingrid fell in the baby pool and sliced open her chin and bit a decent gash into her tongue. There was lots of blood and crying and then she just passed out.  Royce was able to locate some super glue later in the day and we glued her back up. All seems to be healing nicely.


We had 7 days of 24/7 family which is a lot when one of your kids is crying at any one moment. One is sick and they are sharing the same bed for the first time.  6 AM wakes ups were early and every day.


People have asked how Cancun was; I say it was warm. Same *hit, better climate.  And its the truth. We did laundry, washed dishes, bathed the kids, wiped snotty noses, cooked meals, picked up the apartment. The only difference really was that school and work was replaced with pool and beach; not a bad substitution, but I’m not relaxed or rested…I just have more freckles.


We did create lots of memories. We went to the pool, we dug holes at the beach, we took long naps. Syd miraculously figured out how to hold her breath and swim underwater so she dove in the pool for her My Little Pony’s over and over again.  It was so cool to go underwater with her and see her big blue eyes behind her goggles.


We took a total dud of a day trip to Isla Mujeres where Ingrid fell asleep on two occasions and Syd complained and pouted so much she made ME cry out of frustration.


The kids likely had too much time with their iPads (or ‘pooter’ as Ingrid likes to call it) but I’m proud to say that most of what Syd did on her computer was read book after book on her MeeGenius app which reads books to her (while I read my own!).


Its all good though; the warmth and sun are enough for me to float on til our next ‘vacation’.  The silver lining is that vacations will keep getting easier as the kids get older (or we will just learn to do a better job of picking locations with a bonafide kids-camp).  More pictures are up on Flickr!


Thanksgiving 2014

Apologies for being so behind in posting…

Our Thanksgiving here was fantastic; a joyous holiday with full bellies as always. We spent it among our friends Ashley and Greg and their kids Stella Jane, Peter and Elliot.  We had fabulous conversation, food and drink and the kids played by themselves for once!

I’d love to post some pictures of the event but all I have is this photo of my pecan pie taken from my cell phone.

Greenbean casserole isn't very photogenic, so here are my next two holiday favorites...pie and wine!  Happy Thanksgiving!!

and a picture of me sitting down (for a few minutes) to knit before the party started.

I always try to find some time for calm. Cause the storm is on the way amiright @ashleysiers 😁🙌

We did take other photos of course…on my real camera.  The photo of me with my turkey which has become tradition to take each year and the crazy prop photo that Greg has introduced us to from his family Thanksgiving tradition…

but they were all deleted 😦

accidentally of course, off my camera in a moment of rushed thoughtlessness by no one other than myself.

So 2014 will have a void of a turkey picture and our other memories from that day, but they stay within ourselves and we can only hope to be surrounded by the same friends and festive spirit the coming years ahead!

Syndey :: 5


Syd turned 5 waaayyy back in November when life was chaos.  I had grand plans of throwing her requested “fall princess” party, complete with a fully yellow and orange tu-tu for her and leaf crowns for her guests.


then Mama got a new job and was in NJ for a week, and the day of her birthday Mom was at an all day conference in DC…and then time just got away from everyone and stress levels were high so the party was cancelled.  Instead my dear friend Andrea invited us over for supper and she made Syd cupcakes and we sang “Happy Birthday” among our group of close friends.

#5. Hosted and attended by my #sisterwives who keep me afloat when chaos cancels a birthday party. @thehickman5 @ashleysiers

Since her party was cancelled Royce and I made it up to her by letting her chose where to go OUT for a birthday supper on Saturday night. She chose spaghetti, so we all got dressed up and went to our local Italian place down the road.  Of course a busy over stressed mom is also likely to forget to cancel the birthday cake order at the local bakery so we still had a cake to eat on Sunday but I couldn’t find candles except the numbers I’ve been saving to use for Ingrid so she turned 23 instead (2+3=5 right??).

When Mom forgets to cancel your birthday cake order and doesn't have a #5 candle on suddenly turn 23. (2+3=5 you are with me right?)

Even though there was no ‘official party’, I’m hopeful she still felt special over her weekend of celebration cause she deserves it.

Syd is a genuine little thing. No faking comes from her, if you ask her something it is likely you will get an honest to the core answer. She can be a very needy, pouty and sensitive and we are both still figuring out how to navigate her emotions.


When she is in a good mood and all is aligned though she can be sweet as sugar. She loves her swim class and is doing well at kicking and jumping in without assistance. Its nice to see how she has grown and progressed over the year. Ballet started up this past summer and she also enjoys that activity and is learning a lot. We’ve tried other team organized activities but Syd is shy and doesn’t do well in that environment yet not to mention its still a bit young to expect a kid to play soccer with any meaningfulness.  At least the ballet classes are teaching her to listen and other things about balance, movement, use of space, slow vs. fast, etc.  You really notice the value between educated teachers (her swim class and ballet teachers) vs parent led activities (soccer) at moments like this so for now we will stick with the programs that have a solid instructional base to them.

Although I'm away I have amazing friends who take my Syd to #ballet and send me photos #sisterwives @thehickman5.

Sydney enjoys her pre-K class, writing her name and coloring. Our house is covered in paper with princesses and her name. She confesses she loves ‘math’ (sorting, counting). Dressing up (e.g., making capes from old swaddle blankets) and playing with her princesses, building towers for them and overall general imaginative play is also a common activity here.

Princess swaddle blanket watches a movie.

Over time she has gotten better with independent play but she still needs assistance or attention a lot of the time. And if you don’t give it to her she pouts…ahhh the balance of parenting. Often her pouting is her way to get attention so we are working on how her words can hurt others and she should only say negative things if she *truly* means them, not to just get attention. Mind games at 5…who knew?

Why you save an entire childhood loot of crayons and colored pencils. #berolprismacolor

She can sit down and watch a movie now though so when I need to get things done that is sometimes my go-to move on the weekends in the afternoon. Her and Ingrid play together pretty well too, mostly it is Syd bossing Ingrid around but generally it is actually eaiser to have them both at home because they entertain each other.

Proof that they watch intently and catch on quickly.

This next year will be a big year for her as she starts school!  It will be interesting to see how she does with the transition!

I’d post updated stats for her now but to be honest we haven’t even scheduled her appointment…right now its a race to see if she or Charlie gets in for their annual well-visit first.  Such is life!

UPDATE:  Syd had her 5-year visit on Jan 27th (a mere 2 months late but who is counting?).  Syd was 38 lbs (32%) and 43.5 inches (62%). Since her 3-year stats update she has gained 5 lbs and grew 3.5 inches. She is a been pole…good thing she still likes dresses b/c pants have never fit her well!


The past few months have been busy in ways I’m glad are over.  I started thinking of a career change over a year ago but the process didn’t start to get real until this summer when an old mentor contacted me with an opportunity to join his company. A small company. A young company. But one with an important mission and vision.

Call it serendipity that my 10-year (eligible for partial pension — hooray!) anniversary happened to coincide with one of the most brutal years of my career.  It didn’t take much convincing to get me to leave.  Although discussions started in July I didn’t interview til the end of August when the Australia partners were in NJ. The interview went as good as I could have expected. Very engaging, open minded, genuinely nice people. I could be myself 100%; no bullshit.  Was outstandingly refreshing.

They are being incredibly adaptable by letting me work from my home-office with ‘field trips’ to NJ. I think having me here locally will help with business too since this area is the center of drug approvals which everything orbits around.  Hopefully I can stay locally, but moving to NJ (or heck — Australia!) isn’t out of the question and is something we will revisit in time.

I am grateful of my time spent at the agency. I learned great things, and worked with great people. Deciding to leave was *hard*. I joked with my friends that I felt like a battered wife; lacking confidence in her ability to break free and go but desperately needing to in order to survive. There were days that made my decision easy and days that made it hard. The vicious cycle was draining on me, and Royce (and my friends who had to listen to me bitch!).  I think its a good thing when your job is hard to leave, it means you were engaged to the very last day.


On Halloween, with mixed emotions, I turned in my federal worker costume. I handed over my badge, computer, blackberry (which I do not miss!) and key.  10-years was a good run for a first job. I started with the agency right out of my fellowship and its crazy to think I’m going back to work with the mentor that trained me.

I officially started the new gig this week although its a slow ramp up since the person I report to is on vacation.  I’ll be in NJ next week getting up to speed on the projects as well as obtaining my computer.  Change is never easy, but I’m ready to be challenged in different ways and am excited to be with such an engaging small nimble company that’s focused on creativity in drug development.

I don’t want to directly link from the blog to their website (cause then they can link back to here) but you can find their web address on my business card photo. They issued a very nice press release announcing my position and my picture and bio are also up on the website if you click around you may see them!




This year for Halloween the girls were bats. Well Syd said was ‘bat girl’ but basically she was a bat since I didn’t go so far as to put the bat-girl emblem on her shirt. I found the inspiration from this post a long while back.


They had a ton of fun trick-o-treating and enjoyed running around with their bat wings out.


I couldn’t find kid sized black mask, so I drew a bat on Syd’s face which she thought was pretty cool.


The hoods are the cozy winter hood from the Oliver + S book Little Things to Sew. This hood is turning into Halloween staple at our house.  Syd and Ingrid STILL wear their cat and mouse hoods on cold days from last years Halloween.  I’m not sure how much repeat wear the bat hats will get, but we will see.  I modified the pattern by creating a widows peak and making the ears pointy instead of round.


The wings I self drafted using each girls ‘wing span’ and neck to knee measurement. I drew out the bat wings onto Swedish tracing paper using my french curve to connect the two measurements and then held them up to the girls to size fit.  To keep their hands free for candy grabbing I sewed elastic loops at the end of each wing so they could slip their hand through and the wing would be anchored to their wrist.  The wings were secured on their shoulders by more black elastic.  I wish I had purchased the sequins black elastic trim to do these details but time kept me from returning to JoAnn to perfect finishing touches.


All and all I figured the wings were made special by making them out of super soft rich Velvet (found on a remnant sale pile at JoAnn) and shiny black taffeta.  The hoods were also made of the Velvet and lined with black knit from my stash.


Another successful hand-made Halloween is in the books.  More pictures of our evening are up on Flickr.

Some updated pictures


Oh dear…this poor neglected space. Please do find solace in the fact that I’m not neglecting other things as well. I’m just busy juggling life, work, mom, wife and self.


The summer is now behind us and we are moving towards fall, albeit slowly thanks to mother nature who still is lost in summer.


I started a new temporary job on Monday and I was culling through photos to see if I had any updated pictures of the girls to take with me to my temporary new office. I realized that it has been a while since I got good photos of them…so last weekend while we were outside grilling up supper I brought out my Nikon to get some updated photos of the girls.


We didn’t spend a lot of time. I didn’t change their outfits or comb their hair (I did make effort to wipe Ingrids face which seems to be constantly presented with a runny nose).


Nothing fancy, nothing planed, nothing posed. Just two silly girls. Growing.


Birthdays :: #36


I won’t lie. I freaked out a bit at 35. A lot had to do with the overwhelming summer we were in the midst of surviving and the fact that I worked that day and was alone that night.  On my 35th birthday I had no special plans, no cake, no husband around. It was an ordinary day. I woke up that morning to Royce who promptly said “you are old” and went to work quietly under the birthday radar, no one noticed, no one cared.  As Royce was leaving for work that night he told the kids it was my birthday so they had to be nice to me — radar broken, now my 3 year old knew it was my birthday which in hindsight was worse than any other person knowing it was my birthday.  While eating a supper of cereal and fruit with the kids I was barraged by statements and questions from Syd…”where is your party?”, “do we have a cake?”, “where are your friends?”, “where are the balloons?”.  The poor girl nearly had me in tears by the end of the night… but her questions and statements were valid.

Why wasn’t I celebrating?

Why can’t I take a day to make a fuss about me?

Is our lack of celebration our punishment for aging?

Do we imply “don’t celebrate me; I’m OLD, I’m not important” to our children? our friends? if so…why?

I don’t want my girls to think that getting old is this negative progression.  There are major benefits to being 36 versus say 26.  For example, I have way more money now at 36; so, I spent some. I went out with my friends for a lavish dinner at Marcel’s where we indulged in impeccable food, drank great wine.


We went to see Jerry Seinfield at the Kennedy center and we laughed, big belly laughs for over an hour.


I then spent some $$ on myself…I took Monday off work and had an 80 minute massage — at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.


I also have two cute little kitchen helpers (which I didn’t have when I was 26!) who love to make cake and lick icing bowls; so this year on my birthday, we made some cupcakes. They were delicious.

And I even had an adorable 2-year old sing Happy Birthday to me…all by her self.

Even though I’m ‘older’ there is so much more to celebrate in life as we age…it makes the number almost silly.

#36 was a good day indeed.

I’m looking forward to celebrating many many more.

Vacation :: Kansas City

We got back last week from visiting family and friends in Kansas City. Was a productive, fun and busy trip. The impetus for the trip was to attended a Stuber (Royce’s mother’s side) family reunion in St. Joseph, MO. Since traveling with kids is not a fly-by-night task we made a week out of it and stayed with my parents in Kansas City.


familiarizing herself with the safety features of our aircraft

The girls did really well on both flights. Now that Ingrid is 2 she has her own seat so she sat next to Syd and watched a show on the iPad. They also colored, stared out the window, read some books, and were easily distracted by the snack/drink routine. I can see the light at the end of the traveling with kid stress tunnel, and am very much looking forward to exploring new places and blowing out-of-town more often when the time allows.

The family reunion and trip and to St Joe was also a lot of fun. The best parts were the time spent at Dan and Stan’s farm riding four-wheelers (my first time!) and catching up with family over supper at a German restaurant which served no beer (shake my head at small-town Midwest).

City girl goes country. For 10 mins.

City girl goes country. For 10 mins.

The rest of our time was spent with family and friends back in Kansas City. We went to a ball game, strolled among the zoo, went to the pool, and spent a day with Albert, Katie and their 3 kids. We even had time for a fun date night with Albert and Katie at Rye. Add in Ingrid’s first hair cut, a trip to Dairy Queen, and throwing rocks into the pond by our house and when I think about it…no wonder we are exhausted!


zoo tram and a busted up face

The summer is ticking by quickly. With Royce’s new contract he’s been working a lot which means I’ve been alone a lot which is taxing…although looking back at last summers post there seems to be a summer trend of Julie losing her sanity over Royce’s work schedule in August.  Glad I’m predictable.

It was nice to be together (and go to bed at the same time) for WHOLE 6 days. I can’t say we’ve seen much of each other since we got back….actually the last time we went to bed together was the night we returned! We are both looking forward to spending some time just the 4 of us at the beach in mid-August. Hopefully, even though we have no help, we can find some time to relax and slow down…be lazy. Something neither of us are very good at.

More pictures of our KC escapades are up on Flickr click the twirling girl below.


baseball and ballet collide

Ingrid talking :: 4

each day Ingrid gets more and more words and starts stringing them together to form thoughts or (most often) demands.

“moh pee-h” (more peach)

“mo  rye” (more rice)

“mie ie-keh-kay”  (my ice-cream-cake)

She is still pretty apprehensive about talking and mumbles strings of nonsensical sounds in an attempt to appear that she is ‘talking’.

Her use of made-up words for things like “eee-oh” for help and “Ni-Ni” for Sydney are starting to dissipate. She can now say “help mama” even though I respond with “do you need eee-oh?”.  Each day I miss those mis-spoken words like “lar-lee” instead of Charlie.

Anytime she is in the car its Ingrid as a solo artist serenading us with her very lively (and loud) version of Baa Baa Black Sheep which she knows about 30% of the words and the rest she makes up. She also likes to rattle off her ABC’s (again gets about 25% of the letters right) and Twinkle Twinkle.  She sings more than I remember Syd singing and often takes her toy piano and drops it on my lap and demands I sing something.  She does have decent tone though and can carry a tune pretty well so I’m holding out that she will be my musical one.

Travel :: Iowa and the beach

Homeland #iowa

Royce and I had the pleasure of flying to Iowa City without kids a few weekends ago to attend a wedding for a friend. It was a quick trip (Friday-Monday) but we crammed in some great time with friends along with lots of good food and drink.

Each time I fly back there I get nostalgic for the Midwest, the food, the people, the inherent genuine niceness of everyone. It takes me a few days to realize they want me to look them in the eye and smile when interacting. I get so used to the silent, head down, keep-to-yourself, efficiency of the east-coast.

#iowa meat. Happy husband.

Friday night I did the 1.5 hour drive to Manchester solo so that I could have some more time with my friend while Royce stayed back in Iowa City to enjoy time with his. The rolling farmland, the sinusoidal speed rhythm as you drive through small towns miles apart, the bug splattered windshield, passing cars on 2-lane highways — all things to me that are quintessential Midwestern memories that remind me of my childhood trips through western Kansas.

It took some grace to get out of the plane in this #kellyskirt @megannielsenpatterns

Since we didn’t have the girls with us we were less restricted with our time. We went on long runs, hit up the local DQ, drank coffee at Java House and wandered around downtown Iowa City. We even got to go up with Jeremy in his plane on Sunday night and see Iowa City from a new perspective. It’s always nice to go back, and each time we do we try to figure out ways to get there permanently but then I return home and remember how much I enjoy working for the agency and my tiny house in the city and all the city perks that come along with the city struggle and then I settle down and forget about having a large house in the open prairie land.

As if to prove my point for why I love living here we arrived back from Iowa on Monday and after a 3-hour drive on Thursday night — I was on the beach.

Happy to report my mental health is vastly improved. #mhic2014

This past weekend was my annual girls “Mental Health Improvement Conference” trip and we headed again to Fenwick Island, DE for a few days of kid and husband-free relaxation. We did absolutely NOTHING unless you consider drinking, reading and eating doing something. It was perfect. Most of us were so relaxed we were rendered speechless; conversation was at a minimum during the days as we all lounged pool or beach side reading.

Working on some #freckles. #mhic2014

Because I had just returned from Iowa I didn’t have my sewing gear organized to bring Betty or any sewing projects with me like I did last year. It was OK though because I didn’t have the time to sew like I did last year since I had to hang back and work all day on Thursday and even had to put in two remote working hours on Friday. I always travel with something that can occupy my hands so my knitting traveled with me this time.

Conference attendees #mhic2014

It is back to reality now though. Our next trip isn’t until the end of July when we head to KC with the girls for a family reunion. We will head to the beach sometime this summer as a family too.  I’m looking forward to heading out to the Midwest (hopefully!) this fall to meet up with the girlfriend-wives and am tossing around visiting my girlfriend in Dubai this fall to help lend a helpful hand after her baby is born.

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