A Letter Before Your First Birthday

Dear little R,
This time last year we were living with Bubbie because we had sold our house, and the house we were moving into fell through.  Labor came in the middle of the night, and when I tried waking up Bubbie to tell her we were on our way to the hospital she just groaned and rolled over. After your brother took so long to come, I think we all expected a long wait. But you were ready to be here with us! You came quickly, and soooo much easier than your big brother!

Watching RT come in and meet you was one of the best experiences of my life. His face was wide eyed and full of excitement. You brought joy to our family after what had been the worst years of our lives.
When you were only a few weeks old we moved into our (not the original) new house. Trying to demolish the kitchen, paint, and have a newborn at Bubbies was so hard on your dad and I. The new house has allowed us to spread out and all have our own spaces, but getting the house ready was a lot of work. Not to mention, everything I needed for a newborn was in storage for the first few weeks of your life! In this first year you have managed to crawl, walk, and climb all over the house. 
Juggling two kids at two different places while working full time added a whole new complexity to our lives and I'm forever thankful to everyone who helped take care of you and your brother. Covid hit and changed our whole dynamic. Because I was home I was able to see you take your first steps, and I was able to spend more time with you and your brother... but working from home while having you both was hard. Luckily my students were always been fine with seeing you guys in the background of our Zoom classes. The extra time that I've had with you guys have been amazing and irreplaceable and it's going to be even harder for me next year to go back to school in the fall. Working full time is important for our family and I try to be a good role model for you and RT, but It's really hard sometimes to leave you guys. I had thought that this year you'd be in school with your brother, but at this time we don't know what the next school year will bring. 
I'm so glad that you've come to join our family. I couldn't be any happier watching you and your brother play together. You love to eat all foods. You fight to find your way to splash in the toilet. You hate swim lessons. You open mouth kiss the dogs and mama. Your laugh can change my whole mood. I can't wait to continue you to see you change and grow. I love you! 

11 Months

11 months has been running, getting into literally everything, and the start of swim lessons! Four more teeth are coming in and the gradual nap time change seems to be happening. I'm not looking forward to the fight over dropping the bottle, but with a first birthday just around the corner, I know it's coming!

Summer fun is in full swing, and things are starting to open up! Woohoo! 

Hampton History Museum

Whenever rain is in the forecast, I find myself on the hunt for new indoor places to go. The Hampton History Museum is actually open! The museum has a major focus on education and starts with the history of Hampton from Native Americans and spans until about World War II. There were several things that I didn't know about the city of Hampton. The museum is small, but I liked that they made an effort to turn their space into Native American villages or a city on fire. Because of Covid, all of the flaps kids can lift to read or touch screens they can touch were taken out, so it was mostly reading signs, which is a bummer, but I understand.
The museum also has trunks with hands on items that family can investigate. For example, the Powhatan Indians trunk includes examples of the materials, tools, and clothes the natives had. The Revolutionary and Civil War trunks both have kid sized clothing. The Revolutionary War is the most kid friendly one, so ask for that one if you go! Another option is History On The Road, which has tour traveling versions of their exhibits that community centers, churches, schools, and libraries can borrow to display. The options are "1619: Virginia's First Africans," "When the Computer Wore a Skirt: NASA's Human Computers," Give Me Liberty: Fugitive Slaves and the Long Revolution Against Slavery" and "Toward Freedom: Hampton and the Contraband."
Before Covid, the museum had started on the path of hosting more family friends activities, so be on the lookout for that down the road! The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,, Saturday 9-4 and Sunday and Wednesday 1-4.
Next door to the museum is the Grey Goose bakery, which has huge cupcakes in several flavors. They had vegan cookies and they also offer vegan and gluten free cakes and cupcakes if you preorder. We love finding local shops like this, and the woman at the counter was so kind to a hands- all-over-the-glass-couldn't-make-up-his-mind four year old.

Kroger: Home Chef

Kroger has teamed up with Home Chef to create new delivery meals. This is awesome, because since Covid, I have tried to stay out of the store and now I'm realizing that I don't miss carrying two kids in with me. I was lucky enough to snag two meals to review for our family. The meals came in a recyclable box with recyclable packaging. The box held ice packs which I kept to reuse later.
The ingredients are all pre-portioned and come with color, detailed directions. I picked the Vegetarian meals, but they have a way to add a meat protein which is great because Neil eats meat. Each meal can be chosen for 2,4, or 6 people.
The first night we ate Cashew Tofu which was delicious, and I totally want to do this one again. One of the things that I like about Home Chef is that they include ingredients that you might not have at home. For me, that's ginger. Whenever I buy it, I can't seem to use it up before it goes bad. Having just enough for a recipe prevents that from happening.

The second meal was Mushroom and Spinach Flautas. Easy to follow, and the chipotle took the dish up a notch.
Some things you can't tell from the pictures:

  • Three adults ate the meal from the first night, so the portions were big. 
  • I thought I'd be bummed about not having rice the second night but we were both stuffed. There was another whole portion of the filling and the steak that we saved for the next day. 
  • I added onions to both meals. I just love onions on everything. It was great. 
  • These can be bought in store in addition to having them delivered.
In the store, there are a good variety of choices. You can choose meals that are already "put together" and all you do is warm them up or you can choose meals that you can cook. I prefer these because I love to cook and I can save the recipes and use them again if they are a hit with the family.
You also have a choice of meals for one person or for a family.

At first glance, these meals might look expensive. I saw meals ranging from 7.99 to 30.00. There are many different companies offering these types of meals, and when you compare them, you will find that these are a bargain. And they are right there in the store. In our store, they were in a case near the Deli. Now when those babies ask "what's for dinner?" you can have an exciting answer for them!

Top 8 Nature Trails in Hampton Roads

Hampton Roads is full of beautiful places. We are lucky to have woods, beaches, lakes, and some great gardens. While this list certainly doesn't include everywhere, it does hit several of our favorite spots to get out and get some fresh air. 
01. Sandy Bottom Nature Park- Sandy Bottom has a ton of space to run around, boats to rent, a dog park, picnic shelters, a playground and more. This is an awesome place to get into nature and get some energy out, see some animals, and clear your head.
02. First Landing State Park- Although you have to pay for this park, we love it for the beach on site, the trails, playground, little museum, and all of the wildlife that they have. (Check here on how to get in free!)
03. Norfolk Pagoda- Although part of the Elizabeth River Trail, The Pagoda doesn't stick out as a nature trail. I included it because we love walking around it and looking at the ponds and the beautiful garden. Watch the fish pop out of the water.
04. The Chesapeake Arboretum- A little over three miles of trails through these old trees will have you forgetting that it's in the city of Chesapeake.
05. Lake Lawson- Grab the bug spray if you're going on a summer evening and walk these trails with the view of the lake. Take some pictures on the bridges and then play on the playground.
06. Oak Grove Park- Head around these trails and stop on the docks to search for fish or  head to the playground to run around.
07. The Brock Center-  We love that the Brock Center has both sandy trails and shady woods.
08. Botanical Gardens- No nature list would be complete without the gem that is the Botanical Gardens. We have done several posts on gardens including the butterfly garden, the sand pit, bike nights, and the little houses. There are so many little spots in here that we love.

First Birthday List

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I can't believe it's already time to start thinking about my little guy's first birthday. It literally seems like the year flew by. But here we are with this list! Here's my picks for first birthday lists.

Mom's Want Justice

Today, I'm letting the photos do the talking. Hold steady mamas. <3

Chesapeake Arboretum

The Chesapeake Arboretum, referred to as "Nature's Classroom", is hidden back behind a shopping mall and in the middle of a neighborhood. A designated Virginia Treasure, the 48-acres are covered with mature hardwood forests, plants, bridges, hiking trails, a farm house, gazebos, picnic areas, and a garden.
The arboretum is mostly run by volunteers. Be on the lookout for the spray paint markers on the trees. White is the central loop, yellow takes you North, and Orange travels south. Inside of those the blue markers will take you to the lake, red through the native trees, green to the Camellia side trail, and purple to Native Woodland Gardens. There are about 3.5 miles of trails in all. Check out the plant markers to identify different species.
In the fall, grab some fruit from a Fig or Paw-Paw tree. In the Spring, be sure to see the Camellia Cove. This is one of only three sites in Virginia that it grows. There are lots of benches and shady places to sit.  There is no cost to visit and the trails were great for little legs. I'd ditch the stroller and wear the baby next time. Check it out!