Monday, December 28, 2015

Maternity Shoot

Rewind back to October again, when I was about 6 months pregnant (now I'm nearly full term and feel like a house).  My friend Lissette had loaned me some maternity clothes and when I tried on one of the dresses I just felt like it was such a Greek Goddess dress that it needed to be featured in some photos.  So with the help of my friend Hayley who does hair and makeup, and with local photographer Sarah Gilreath, we tried to capture the vision I had seen in my mind's eye.  

The morning of the scheduled photo shoot I almost called Sarah to cancel, because skimming through maternity photography on the internet for ideas had reminded me how absolutely horrifying and ridiculous maternity photography can be...  but this is my last baby (or at least my last time being pregnant) and so we plugged on.  All in all, I'm really glad that I pursued this vision.  Pregnancy can be really uncomfortable and especially as late in the term as I am now, so miserable at moments, but it is definitely participation in a miracle and one of the times I feel most beautiful in all of this abundant womanhood.  

M&M Birthdays

Rewind back to the beginning of October.  This year we turned 31 and 34, and we celebrated in usual M&M style, meaning very little fanfare and a lot of eating good food with friends.  Maybe it's because I am hopelessly untalented at gift-giving, but celebrating birthdays has never really been my "thing".  Despite my extroversion, I just don't love being the center of a party.  So, on Marcos' birthday (the 4th) we had a nice family breakfast, my mom made a yummy dinner for us and and we had friends over for dessert, and on my birthday (the 8th) we went out to sushi at our favorite place.  Top that off with the annual birthday celebration spaghetti night at the Hill Casa, and we called it a great roll over into a new age.

At our favorite place, Shiki Sushi, if you order enough you get it delivered to the table on a huge wooden boat.  We are so glad that the kids love sushi just as much as we do!  We polished this off and then ended up ordering more (and then rolling out of the restaurant...).  YUM.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nancee's Molasses Sugar Cookies

Our neighbor Nancee has a few recipes that she has collected over the years that are to die for.  I'm still figuring out how to wheedle her chocolate mousse recipe out of her, but until then, we can happily feed our sorrows on her Molasses Sugar Cookies.  I don't consider myself much of a cookie baker, and somehow manage to ruin cookies very frequently, but these are my fall and winter go to cookies and they are nearly Metta-proof.  These are also, notably, the only cookies sans chocolate that I will even bother making.  They are just that good.

Nancee's Molasses Sugar Cookies


3/4 cup butter, melted (hey, I never said it was healthy)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat butter with molasses, egg and sugar.

Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add them to wet mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate until firm.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in additional sugar.  Place dough balls on cookie sheet a few inches apart, and bake 8-10 minutes.  Tops of cookies will start to crack when done.  Don't overbake, unless you want a crispier cookie (also delicious, but not quite as satisfying as the soft molasses approach).  Let cool on pan 1 to 2 minutes before removing to finish cooling on rack.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sweet Potato Casserole

I really like the holidays.  One of the things that I love are the potlucks - not only do we get to enjoy the company of friends, but we also have the opportunity to try out some new recipes.  When I am making a full meal for my family, I have to streamline because I am balancing a variety of different dishes, but when I am only contributing one dish to a meal, I can pour in more time and energy than usual.  Tonight I made something worth recording for the generations to come: this delicious Sweet Potato Casserole.

Sweet Potato Casserole


4 or 5 large sweet potatoes
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place potatoes on a cookie sheet and slide onto the middle rack.  Bake the sweet potatoes for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are fork tender.  Pull out the potatoes, turn down the oven to 350 degrees F and allow potatoes to cool.  

2. Being very careful with the warm potatoes, slice them down the middle length-wise and scrape the soft insides into a large bowl.  If they are cooked well, they will fall right out of the skins.  Mash potatoes and then mash in the sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish, or a casserole dish.

3. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour.  Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse.  Stir in the pecans.  Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

* Note: The casserole can be made the night before, put in the fridge, and then baked prior to eating.  Just let it sit for a few minutes to bring the dish closer to room temperature before placing in the oven, and add a few minutes extra onto the cooking time.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Family Comes to Visit

In September my Auntie Katy, Uncle Don and my cousin Sam came from the West Coast to the East Coast for a Virginia wedding and decided to make a stop in Chapel Hill for a few days and pay a visit.  It was so nice to see them, and strange to think that they had never met Orion before, since it had been over three years since we had been together.   

We had cold, rainy days when they visited, but it didn't stop us from planning a really crazy trip out to Wrightsville Beach.  I had checked for rain that day but forgot that at the beach, wind speed can also be a deterrent.  After driving two hours out to the coast, we spent about twenty minutes on the beach, dodging the stinging flying sand, and then escaped to Wilmington for thrift store shopping, some walking along the river and a delicious dinner and ice cream.  The salt air is always therapeutic, but next time I'll check for wind speed before I make the 4 hour round trip to the coast.

The nice thing about having family visit is that even when there are not frenetic plans, being together is enough.  We cooked hot soups together, played a new card called Square 9 (almost every night), we gardened together in our community garden, picked scuppernong grapes at a friend's house, and went to the Emerson Waldorf School Contra Dance, which was so much fun.

All in all, a really nice time to catch up and enjoy time with our family!  Thanks for visiting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cookie Stand

Back in September, Gigi and our neighbor Michael finally had their big opportunity to live out their dream of running a joint venture.  Tutu was helping to organize a yard sale, and although there was already another kid lined up to do a lemonade stand, we decided to jump on board with a cookie stand so that the kids could experience a little piece of running a business together.

First up was cleaning the stand.  Michael's dad James had painted a cute stand yellow and blue but it was filthy so we put the kids to work.  

And then after baking and cleaning up the stand, the big day rolled around.  Michael and Gigi wrote the name of their bakery on the chalkboard on the front of the stand, and opened shop.  Unfortunately, business was slow and they found that running a joint venture was more complicated than they thought it would be.  Within the first hour, the partners were split and mad at each other, and Michael wanted to go home.  It was awesome teaching Gigi about welcoming customers and how to do sales though!

Oh well, first time for everything!

Peanut Gallery

The latest from the Peanut Gallery:

Gigi talking with Marcos about the time machine she is building with her friend Michael.

Gigi: I'm not really sure if I want to get that time machine working.
Marcos: Why not?
Gigi: Because I'm not used to all that success.


Gigi at the age of 5, talking about her future husband...
Gigi: I hope he'll be a democrat!


Gigi: At church it's always calm, quiet, calm, reverent.  My thing is fast, fun, loud!  That's why I don't like church.


I had read something sad and was having a sad moment, laying on the bed.  Marcos came out of the shower and lay next to me and put his arm around me.  Gigi and Orion walk in...

Gigi: Are you guys mating again?
Metta: (Stifling a laugh).
Marcos: What does that mean?
Gigi: It's when moms and dads get naked and smooch each other.
Marcos: Well, I'm the only one naked so I guess not.

Orion: You're a nice mama.  But you spank us sometimes and that's being a bad sport!


Orion: When I grow up, and I'm an adult, I can be a wonderful dad.


Orion: Mama, if you want to be a better Mama you need to fix yourself.


Metta: Orion, everything about you is just reminding me what a big boy you are!  You're holding your shi shi through the night, starting to brush your teeth and you can even take off your clothes and get dressed all by yourself!
Orion: Yeah, then I can drive a car!


Orion: Gigi, you're the best world in the girl!

First Day of School!

Maybe I'll change my mind someday, but I am definitely a mom who prefers the rhythm of the school year to the freedom of summer time.  I'm late, of course, in posting about the first days of school, but I'm glad that I waited because these two have really come into their own over the past few months and I am loving watching them in their school element - so happy and well plugged in socially!

Gigi is in her final year of Kindergarten at the Emerson Waldorf School, and although she started off the school year a little hesitantly, she is now fully in the middle of things.  She has a new little best friend named Donna Marie, and she loves some of the new boys in her class, especially Alex from Poland and Johann from Germany.  There were very few boys in her class last year and they were very high energy, and while she loved them, she couldn't match paces with them and they just didn't have much in common.  Now she has more of a spectrum of boy personalities to choose from and she has found a few very good boy friends.  

As a human being she is so different from the girl that she was last year - she is now more in her head and more thoughtful and more even-keeled socially, whereas last year she was the youngest and was such a class clown, trying to figure out social dynamics with a class of mainly older girls.  Gigi is definitely an artist with her head in the clouds, and sometimes she frustrates me because she can't follow through with two or three simple commands.  I tell her to go upstairs, get dressed and brush her hair, and I follow five minutes behind her to find herself in her pajamas, making faces at herself in the mirror, nothing accomplished.  But at other moments she directs her feet and her will, and I'll find that not only has she done what I asked, but she has prepared the toothbrushes and folded all of the blankets for both her and Orion's beds.  Her teacher Miss Robin says that at school she is no longer the little ray of sunshine that she was last year, but I'm getting used to the thoughtful, smart, powerful, joyous, and loyal friend that she is becoming.

And then there is Orion.  I was so happy that this year panned out exactly how I was hoping it would - We found a small yet lovely group of friends to do coop preschool with, so he has his "preschool" every Wednesday morning.  We rotate homes, and so every four or so weeks I teach all of the little guys at our home.  They are all boys, and there are only four, which has made life dreamy.  I remember my first year of doing coop with Gigi, there were 7 kids in the group and it was stressful.  Four is perfect.  This year my friend who is heading up the coop preschool insisted on also doing field trips, which has been such a treat.  Every month we go somewhere fun with our friends, such as the Observation Deck park at the airport to watch airplanes, the Fire Station for a tour, and in December, a care home for the elderly, to bring them some holiday music.  

I was worried that Orion would take a little while to warm up to me leaving while he is at preschool, but he didn't.  He used to be really clingy but he is growing into his independent self, and I love having a few hours each Wednesday to do something by myself in the morning.  Being a stay at home mom, it is a rarity to have those hours when my hands are liberated from having to tend to a child.  

And that is where we are!  In school, and very happy about it.  Yay!

Gigi and the ITP Episode

At the beginning of September some weird things started happening to Gigi's body - a bloody nose that wouldn't heal, big dark bruises that we couldn't explain, tiny reddish dots on her legs, and finally, sores in her mouth when I went in one night to brush her teeth.  And that was when it all came together for me - these symptoms weren't separate from one another, they were all related, and I realized that the inside of her body was bleeding.

After putting the kids to bed, I went straight to the computer and typed out her symptoms in a google search bar.  This can be a dangerous idea because being an internet MD has the power to make you certifiably crazy, but I actually found exactly what I needed, immediately.  Something called ITP ("Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura"), or... leukemia.  Fortunately, after climbing the mountain of fear, I was able to rule out leukemia because kids with cancer are extremely sick, pale and listless and in contrast, my Gigi was still bouncing off the walls.  So, it looked like the culprit was ITP.  ITP is an autoimmune disease that occurs when some type of virus goes through the body and offsets the immune system, causing it to identify platelets as enemies and then destroy them.  Luckily, the prognosis for kids is fairly good - although it can be dangerous, many kids heal without any intervention and the immune system is able to reset all on its own.  

So the following morning I made an appointment at our pediatrician's office, and then I went off to lead the Parent Organization meeting that had been planned weeks before.  Marcos took Gigi to the doctor's office and when I arrived, Dr. Goldbach had just finished making his diagnosis - it looked like ITP.  I actually was glad that Marcos was there for most of the appointment without me because he's better at stroking the male ego - he just listened patiently to Dr. Goldbach describe the symptoms and then quietly beat him to the punch - "So, you think it looks like ITP....?"  Dr. Goldbach laughed and asked, "Have you been doing your research?"  Marcos responded, "Metta has".  Good man.

After they took Gigi's blood at the pediatric office so that they could look at it under a microscope, we went out for milkshakes as a family and then headed home for a quiet afternoon.  Marcos was feeling under the weather himself, and it was relieving to have him home from work for a few days.
A few minutes into my rare afternoon nap, the phone rang and it was Dr. Goldbach.  He said that Gigi's platelet count was 5,000 and that we needed to head to the Emergency Room at UNC hospitals, where they would be expecting us.  A healthy person has a platelet count of 150,000 to 440,000 and our daughter had 5,000 with sores already in her mouth.  Since bleeding in the brain is the worst thing that could happen in this case, and she already had open sores, there was no other option but to take her in immediately to be treated.

After some rather dull hours in the Emergency Room, where I retold our story multiple times at differing levels of detail to every health care provider who came in, we were transported to our room in the Children's Hospital.  Gigi's blood had been drawn again in the ER, to confirm her platelet levels, and the result was 8,000 - definitely low enough that she needed treatment.  The treatment was called IVIG and it's basically the antibodies of thousands of healthy plasma donors.  For whatever reason, it helps to kick the immune system back into normal mode and it will often do the trick permanently, without any need for further treatment or thought about ITP.  Gigi was in good spirits in the hospital once we got to the children's floor - there was a play area, access to TV, and there was a pantry full of juice, cereals, Italian Ice and ice cream.  Walking around the floor to explore made it very clear that we were in the hospital with a jackpot emergency health crisis - although Gigi needed to be there for treatment, she was literally skipping down the halls, while very sick children lay still in their beds in the rooms we passed along the way.  We were really thankful that we weren't there for something worse.

That night we ate sushi for dinner, and Gigi received a very slow drip of the IGIV through an IV in her hand all through the night.  Marcos insisted on staying with her so that I could sleep in our comfortable bed, and I went back in the morning after a good night's rest at home.  Gigi had slept comfortably all night long, and was in good spirits, although she was mortified by having to pee in the "hat" catch in the toilet, so that the nurses could measure her output.  Around noon we were given the okay and were discharged from the hospital.  All in all, not a shabby experience.  I was slightly frustrated by the seeming lack of communication among the doctors and nurses - they all had different things to say about when we could leave, for example - but when I texted my friend Amber about my frustration, she told me to ask for the Attending Doctor if I wanted clear answers.  She spent many years as a nurse and I was grateful for the tip.  I hated to "I want to talk to your manager" the place, but when I asked for the Attending to come speak with us, he is the one who really gave us our answers.

The week after Gigi's treatment we went back to the Pediatric Hematology clinic at the Cancer Hospital (again, seeing the other kids there made me very thankful that Gigi was so healthy) and her blood was drawn again to see the treatment had made a lasting change.  From a platelet count of 5,000 one week before, she was up to 337,000 - well within the range of normal, and it was such a miracle!  I had seen her symptoms clearing over the past week and was hopeful that her platelets were back in action, but the confirmation was so relieving.  She was back on track!

So, now what?  I have been watching her body in case the platelets improved for a time but not permanently, but we are at the point where we are now in the clear.  It is very possible that we will never have to deal with this again.  We are thankful for competent health care and for this darling girl Gigi in our lives!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

It's a Boy! The Gender Reveal Party

Back in August, Marcos and I went in for the 18-week ultrasound appointment to look at our baby's anatomy and discover whether we were having a boy or girl.  When Marcos' friend and coworker Jamie found out that we were going to find out our baby's gender, she insisted on throwing us a small Gender Reveal Party at the Carolina Alehouse after work on the day following the ultrasound appointment.  She and Jeremy, Marcos' really close friend at work, are dating, and they stayed up late the night before creating a truly amazing gender reveal cake.  Since this is our third child and we already have a boy and a girl, we didn't expect anything special for this little one, and so we were tickled that they were so into the idea of a little gathering for baby #3!

Above are Jeremy and Jamie and their masterpiece.  Below is the true reason that Marcos' coworkers choose the Carolina Alehouse after work for drinks and get-togethers - the foosball table.  Yes, it's kind of a thing and there is a lot of talking smack around this "sport".  Hey, for some guys it's football, and for a bunch of computer nerds, it's... you know, foosball.  Below, Jeremy and Brantley take the game very seriously as Orion and Gigi learn from the big guys.

And then for the moment of truth.  The party was mainly for Gigi and Orion, who didn't know what we were having - we cut open the cake and inside it was....  blue!  A boy!  Blue cake and in the middle, a carved out cave stuffed with blue m&ms.  And then Gigi did the most horrifying thing - she immediately stuck her hand into the cake to grab fistfulls of the candy!  At the time I was mortified, but recently a friend was telling me about how she made a similar cake at her son's birthday party, and when the first slice was taken out two kids at the birthday party did the exact same thing.  So maybe it's a primordial kid reaction to finding themselves in front of a cake filled with m&ms...

It was so incredibly thoughtful of Jamie and Jeremy to throw us a little party in honor of our baby.  Not everyone who came made it into these photos that I included, but it was a nice group of Marcos' close friends.  Always a joy to hang out with these quality people!

Back from Sabbatical

I'm back from sabbatical.  Or, I like to think that I'm back.  My goal is to catch up on the past few months of life in Mettaland.

As I mentioned in my last post, this summer was long for me.  I am pregnant with our 3rd Prieto baby, and being sick, having low energy and managing the two kids outside of my belly was a lot of work.  Now school is back in session so Gigi is with her friends and teachers every day, Orion is in his one-day a week coop preschool, I am feeling much better physically, and I have a LOT on my plate this year.  I was invited to be on the Board of Directors of the Emerson Waldorf School this summer, so I started as a Board member in July at the turn of the fiscal year, and I am also one of the two-coordinators of the Parent Organization at the school.  Neither of these leadership roles stress me out beyond capacity, but the workload involved in each of the positions ebbs and flows.  Heading up the Parent Organization can be really demanding at times.  Luckily, we have a powerful leadership team this year (by my careful design) and my vision is that each of us end the year feeling like our commitments were worth our while, enjoyable, and that we will not feel burned out, resentful, or mad.  The group in general seems really dedicated to making leadership this year sustainable and collaborative, and they are buying into my mantra of "many hands make light work".  I have great feelings about this year!

As far as things are going on the pregnancy side, this time around has been identical to my pregnancy with Orion - low energy the first trimester, but not the nausea that I had with Gigi.  We were really hoping for a girl, but it's another boy.  Orion has totally sold us to the idea of boyhood, but this little one will be our last and I was hoping to end on a girl note.  Oh well, I'm over the mourning already.  Things unique to this pregnancy were my complete lack of interest in sweets during my first trimester (it returned when I was feeling better during my second trimester - darn!) and of course having already had two babies, my body is nice and achy in the lower back and nether regions after a long day of being on my feet.  Another unique thing about this pregnancy is that it is the first time I have gone into the pregnancy in shape (I've been steadily working out at the gym for almost 2.5 years now, which is HUGE for me) and I am continuing to exercise each week, although I'm no longer in the bootcamp classes, of course.  I feel like I look and feel better than I have during any of my other pregnancies, and I credit part of that with being in shape and being healthy.  I am due in mid-January, and I am very thankful that I can get through the holidays with my family of four before welcoming our baby boy after the New Year.  This past year I had a hard time with the long cold winter, and so I'm glad to have a sweet little person to take my attention from the depressing weather outside of my door.  Now, we just need to find a good name for him...

In other news, we have a little family garden bed now at the Emerson Waldorf School community garden.  It is only about 4 feet x 8 feet, but it was a good amount of space to do some experimenting since I have zero faith in my ability to really excel in gardening.  Gigi had been begging for months for a garden, even if it meant moving to a new house (!), so finding out that the school had family garden beds available for a menial price was very exciting.  They provide the garden bed (which was completely overgrown when we got it), the biodynamic compost, the irrigation that drips two hours a day, and a huge fence around the entire garden that keeps out the deer, etc.  My entire investment in the garden was $12.50 for the organic seeds, plus the few hours of volunteer work that I am doing in order to "pay" for the garden bed for the year.  Incredible, right?  We planted a few weeks before school started and so had to focus on late summer and fall plants, but we've already harvested beautiful lettuces, snap peas, and some turnips.  Our kale is also getting big as are the beets.  We also have carrots and some flowers.  I'm excited to put in garlic when it gets colder, and especially bulb flowers in a special place, so that we can have tulips in the spring!  We go to the garden about once a week to weed, harvest and tend the garden, and Orion is a pretty awesome gardener.  He gets out the little red kid wheelbarrow, and wheels it around taking the turnip tops to the chickens and the weeds to the composting pile.  It helps that my mom is very excited about the garden as well, and she's always up for helping and working with us to cultivate our spot of earth.

In Marcos' work life he is crushing it, as usual.  It sounds like out and out bragging to go into too much detail, but he is truly amazing.  He is providing some leadership for a small virtual device lab at work that is getting a huge amount of attention within the company, and everyone loves him.  No surprise there.  We still feel like we're playing catch up in the career path since he was a non-traditional (read: "old") student at UNC and therefore had to come into Fidelity through a training program for recent grads, but he's been told from many people that he's on the fast track to leadership, which is where he wants to be.  Not everyone in his field has the interest in managing other people and projects, but Marcos does and he will.  He's been doing technical interviews for potential employees since the beginning of the year, he has assisted in keeping his main projects moving forward with his small team, and he recently attended a conference in Boston, and presented at a NC Development conference.  He also heard about the StarWest development conference in Anaheim, CA, a few months ago and got Fidelity to send him and five other guys to attend the week-long conference in California.  So last week, as we got our first real week of cold, gray, rainy fall weather, he was doing facetime with us from SoCal and walking us around Disneyland where the conference was held.  The kids ate up every second of getting to watch him walk around sunny, warm, dazzling kid paradise.  But truthfully, in everything at work, I think what makes him stand out is that he is an extremely loyal and supportive co-worker, and from the very beginning, he decided that his MO at the office was going to be to give credit where it was due, allow others to shine, and work collaboratively with everyone.  This is in contrast to what he heard about corporate America going into the job, but his unique take has really endeared him to everyone and given him allies in the funniest places (he was out sick for a few days and the cafeteria workers kept asking his co-workers about him).  He works really hard, but often says that he feels like he is playing, and he can't believe he gets to work with such great people.  One of his best buds and co-workers, Jeremy, says that Marcos has made working fun and inspiring again.  I totally believe it.  I'm married to him.

And that's kind of where we are!  I'm going to wrap up this missive and find some cute photos to post from the past few months.  Thanks!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Summer of the Tired Mom

I wrote this over a month ago, and am just publishing it now.  This was a loooong summer for me.


This is a gross generalization, but I feel like I've talked to enough people recently to have a loose theory that parents of young children generally do not love summer vacation, and parents of older kids really do.

Well, I have young children, and I definitely do not love summer vacation.  I decided last spring that 5 years old was really young to farm Gigi out to summer camps.  Plus, we're paying for a private school tuition which includes a payment through the summer months, so the idea of paying even more for expensive camps was painful.  However, a few weeks into the summer break I was wishing that I had at least lined up a few weeks of camp.  Now I know better, and already have my plans in the works for next year.

You see, I have a 5 year old, and a 2.5 year old, and for some reason it didn't occur to me that they would fight.  All the time.  And it started approximately when my energy fell apart and disappeared, which was basically all summer until recently.  I'm 19 weeks pregnant, which meant that I was right in the middle of an exhausting first trimester when school let out and suddenly there was a need for sibling mediation approximately 400 times per day.  Gigi and Orion love each other fiercely, but they are siblings and now how to irritate each other like nobody's business.

And then recently I've been feeling better, and we've gotten into a groove that really works.  Right before school starts again, of course.  My main strategy is to have somewhere to go every morning of the week.  Park day?  Play date?  Exercise and Pool time at Tutu's house?  Gardening at our community garden?  Story time at the library?  Sure!  Just get. us. out. of. the. house...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quotable Mr. Orion

There is a lot I don't do.  One of my favorite things that I DO do is keep a word for word account of the really memorable things my kids say.  Especially when they are young.  This is a collection of recent quotes from 2-year old Orion, which I quickly scribble onto notepads I have hanging in the kitchen for this very purpose.


Metta: Come here, Bubbuh.
Orion: I'm not a bubbuh anymore.  I'm a big boy.


Marcos teaching our kids about promises...

Marcos: ...For example, kids, when I married your mom I promised that she would be the one I love and a very special wife.
Orion: I have a wife.
Marcos: You do?
Orion: Yeah, she lives in California.
Marcos: What's her name?
Orion: Josh.  She lives in California.


Gigi comes in the house crying...

Gigi: Orion pushed me into a bush and said that I could never, ever, go to California!

(Yes, Orion is a little obsessed with California.  When Gigi was little and we saw an airplane and I asked her where she thought the airplane was going, she always said Africa.  Orion always says California).


Orion stomps his foot dramatically...

Orion: I'm getting upset at you because you said my blankie is a TOWEL!


Orion: Gigi can't take her gnome into the bathroom.  That's out-appropriate.
Metta: Do you mean inappropriate?
Orion: No, OUT-appropriate!

In Utah this summer, very offended that after he splashed someone, they had the nerve to splash him back.  Did I mention that he is 2 years old?  Love, love, love this boy...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Utah in the Summer

At the beginning of July we took a family vacation to Utah to visit Marcos' family.  When we left in the dead of winter after visiting for Christmas a year and a half earlier, I feel like it took us a while to be on speaking terms with the state again.  We loved our family time, but the state was just...  too cold, too sick, blah.  This time, I was determined to be positive and look for the things I really enjoy about Utah.  A step in the right direction was deciding to kick off our vacation with a day down in Moab and Arches National Park.  We just thought, if we're going to Utah, we're going to do this the right way and see some of the beauty that place has to offer.

If you've never been there before, Arches is definitely worth putting on your bucket list!  Imagine a thin winding road snaking through miles and miles of untouched desert and crazy rock formations.  We arrived in the late afternoon and we hiked to Sand Dune Arch, which was really more of a short stroll than a hike - perfect, since we were squeezing out some of the last hours of the day.  The red sand around the arch was so fine that the kids immediately took off their shoes and ran their fingers and toes through the soft powder.  

Somewhere in my identity I have this idea of myself as being very adventuresome (perhaps I haven't updated my self-image since before I had children...), but in our day to day reality, I am quite good at being a fairly boring person.  So getting out and doing this crazy thing with the kids in tow was really energizing.  I think that we really impressed ourselves, like, wow, we are DOING it!  I know this kind of thing comes so naturally to families who live and breathe The Great Outdoors, but it was a little bit out of our comfort zones which made it a very satisfying journey.

Marcos and the kids watched a magical sunset from the top of this huge rock.  I prayed that Orion would make it down safely, and he did.  That night we enjoyed the childhood magic of staying in a hotel room in Moab.  We paid extra for a hotel with a pool, but with our hiking schedule of coming back late and leaving early, we didn't end up having the time to so much as put our toe in the water.  Oh well.

The next morning we woke up early, ate a generous continental breakfast in the hotel lobby with a biker gang, and headed back to the National Park to tackle the hike to the biggest and best arch in the park - the Delicate Arch.  About three minutes in, Gigi was asking to be carried and said that she was tired.  After a quick pep talk, we set off again and she was a trooper for the rest of the 3 mile hike.  It was a challenge!  Marcos was in charge of the morale of the group, and kept the kids distracted by hunting for the rock piles that marked the path.  Gigi was in charge of rest breaks, Orion was in charge of water breaks, and I was in charge of snacks.  Here is Orion adding his smallest rock to the top of the pile while Gigi takes her assignment as the rest-boss very seriously. 

The final bend before the Delicate Arch was very "exposed", which is the hiker's way of saying that you can easily fall to a sudden death.  The pathway was wide enough to fit hikers going either direction, but Gigi preferred to run her hand along the inner wall as we hiked.  Sometimes I really appreciate my cautious child.

And those little specks are us at the Delicate Arch!  WE MADE IT!  I was so incredibly proud of our little team, especially Gigi who hiked 3 miles that day, and was a really good sport about it.  It was very helpful that with the cloud cover we had during the entire hike, it was 88 degrees instead of the 106 that had been forecasted a few days earlier when I was packing up for the trip.  Such a gift.

And that was our adventure to Arches National Park.  We were really only there for one day, but it was just what we needed as a family, to see some of the beauty of this country and stomp around in the big outdoors.  

The rest of the trip was highlighted with 4th of July celebrations and lots of fabulous family time.  On the morning of the 4th we got up early to watch the Provo Parade on a prime spot of blanket with our great friends the Mudricks, who were also in town visiting.

Maybe this is a small town thing, but it seemed like every bump of a village within 50 miles of Provo had a float in the parade representing the township and adorned with the Jr. Miss and her attendants from their local pageant.  As a non-pageant oriented person, I couldn't even make sense of the phenomena enough to explain it in empowering terms to Gigi.  When I finally out of curiosity asked her what she thought those girls were doing up there waving on those floats, she said casually, "I don't know.  Maybe they're the welcoming committee?" 

We rather preferred Darth Vader and the storm troopers ("are we really cheering on the bad guys?"), and the local LDS missionaries marching by.

And the rest of the weekend was family time.  Marcos' brother Danny, his wife Marie and their daughters Kaitlyn and Grace spent the weekend with us at our favorite ever airbnb rental spot in Mapleton, Utah.  We watched fireworks together on the night of the 4th at Rock Canyon Park with friends, we went to church together on Sunday, ate dinners together with Marcos' mom and Tom, stayed up late playing Ticket to Ride, and had a really dreamy weekend watching the cousins play in cousin paradise.

Danny and Marie and the gals!  And the Cousins Slumber Party.  

Here are the cousins doing a bit of early morning dance party.  "And you're gunna hear me ROO-O-O-O-OAAAR".  

Monday morning was a very special day to be a Prieto cousin.  Marcos' mom is a wonderful grandmother and had been planning for months to do a Cousins Birthday Party to celebrate all of her (local) grandkids at once.  It wasn't any of their birthdays, but she had the great idea to make a cake for each of them and we celebrated in style.  We chose the splashpad park in downtown Springville, UT for the festivities, and it was the perfect location.

In the splashpad department, the score is definitely Utah = 48, North Carolina = 0.  I can't figure out why we're so far behind in this awesome trend of parks with some sort of amazing water function.  Check this place out!  A winding "river" in the park, with all kinds of fountains, sprays, a flowing creek of water down the middle...  splashpads are the perfect marriage of kids getting soaking wet and keeping cool and having a blast, while parents don't have to so much as don their swimming suits or worry about their kids drowning.  I can't think of anything more perfect for a summer day.

The kids had so much fun, and I enjoyed kicking off my shoes and walking through the little creek to keep cool.  

Our new(ish) step-dad Tom, Marcos' mom Vitoria, and four of the six grandchildren (two live in Brazil).  Vicky and Tom did so much to put together a beautiful lunch potluck and cakes to celebrate our children, and we really appreciate their thoughtfulness.  For some reason we didn't get a photo of all of the family together, so you'll just have to mentally merge all of our heads from the various photos we did take that day.

Danny and Tom, Marie and Danny.  It's a super family that I married into.  

And cake time!  Pure goodness covered with M&Ms?  Yes, please.

These brothers...  I found 42 photos of them on my camera, in various states of flexing their muscles.  Some things don't change!  I swear we have a similar photo taken 20 years ago.  (Oh, found it!  Heh heh...)

And here she is, the Master Planner of all things fun for Grandkiddos!  Thank you so much Mamãe for having the grand idea to celebrate all of the cousins and their birthdays.  It was a real highlight of our trip to Utah and I hope that we can keep the tradition of the un-birthday party as an important part of all of our reunions.

And if that day weren't great enough, that afternoon we drove up to Salt Lake City with Danny and Marie and the kiddos, to tour the Conference Center, wander around Temple Square, explore City Creek, have dinner together out and just really enjoy each other's company.  

I guess that with all of the kiddos finally old enough to look and smile, taking family photos just didn't get old.  Sorry in advance...

Cousins photos!

Although I don't have any siblings, I was lucky to have chapters of my childhood that involved a lot of time playing with my cousins, and so it felt like a real gift for the kids to have that quality time together.  Thank you Danny and Marie for making the time to be with us in July - what a highlight of our summer to have family time together!

And then there was one more day.  We spent a few hours with our friends the Thaynes, who recently moved to Provo from North Carolina.  We did great things like watch the kids play at the neighborhood pond, the kids jumped on the trampoline, and I got to do what I love to do - help my sweet friend Becca fold clothes, organize and move into her new living quarters.  Seeing them again has made every departure easier, because we can just say, "See you later!" instead of the farewell feeling too permanent.

And so on that note, we will say See You Later, Utah!  Thank you for providing us with family time, your perfectly cool and bug-less summer nights, and all of the beauty you have to offer!