Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hide nothing when it comes to my love of Christmas and each year as Maddie gets a little older and a little more into it the magic of the season just overwhelms me. This has been a really fun year with her, not to mention we get to have Annabel experiencing her first Christmas (wrapping paper is the BEST!).

Even though we have been super busy this year, we have spent a lot of time looking at lights, reading books, doing crafts, baking cookies, watching movies and enjoying everything that Christmas is about. Maddie has been all about it, and not all about the presents, which makes my mama heart so very happy. Even if it isn't always the case, I hope we can keep the focus on the real core of the holiday and make sure that we are also giving back as much as possible to those don't have a basement full of toys waiting for Santa to deliver them tonight (all from our friends and family who spoil my sweet girls so!). I hear it time and time again that these are the years; the magic, sweet, innocent years and I try to enjoy each and every second of it.

I am looking forward to tomorrow morning, watching the girls with their presents, snuggling with that wonderful husband of mine and maybe even getting a nap in before Chinese food dinner with Kate (because traditions are made, not inherited!).

Merry Christmas to  you and yours! And if you are thinking of something you can get me, perhaps a donation to my Marathon fundraiser? Hundreds of Boston Cares volunteers have been active this month making meals, toys and fun a part of people's lives who may not have had it without them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Stefanie runs BOSTON!

Can't wait to be one of those Boston Marathoners!
On April 18, 2016 I will join thousands of runners to make the famous trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, a feat that is probably one of the harder things I have chosen to do in the past few years (aside from that whole childbirth thing, but even that is negotiable).

The Boston Marathon is the marathon; whenever I tell people that I have run marathons the first question  is always "have you run Boston?", to which I always let them down by telling them I have only been a decades long spectator. This year though, I get to change that, and I get to do it by running for an organization who is dear to my heart and helped solidify my identity as a Bostonian.

Let me take you back to the beginning.

I moved to Boston in 2005 for two main reasons: a new adventure far away from my hometown of Reno, Nevada and to attend school at Suffolk University and pursue some sort of career where I could help people. At the time, the goal was people who had been incarcerated, perhaps in the prison system, but I was open to anything. I moved into an apartment I had only seen pictures of online with a significant other who would last less time than the year lease. To say things were difficult that first twelve months in Boston is an understatement. I was three thousand miles away from my family, my friends and most everything I knew about life and was completely on my own in life. So, I had to make a new one, and I got to choose the way I wanted it to look. The world was my oyster, so they say.

That year was my hardest ever. A broken heart, a full time job, my first year in grad school and trying to navigate myself around a new city, so when someone at work told me about a trip they were taking to New Orleans to help the ongoing cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina, I jumped on it. I knew I needed a break from my life and what better time than spring break before my first round of finals. That trip changed my life in a lot of ways; it made me fall in love with New Orleans, which I have blogged about extensively, but it also made me realize the importance in my own life of giving back and the sense of purpose that helping others provides. It also introduced me to a little organization called Boston Cares, who had already been to the volunteer house and left a shirt on the wall of fame. If ever there was a sign, it was in that paint splattered shirt that had me signing up for a volunteer orientation as soon as I got home.

I have distributed  hundreds of meals at the Red Cross Food Pantry, served dinners at the New England Center for Homeless Vets and The Boston Living Center, helped socialize kittens preparing  for adoption at the MSPCA and read to kids awaiting doctors appointments at the Mattapan Community Health Center. But for as much as I have given of my time  I have gotten back tenfold.
I have made lifelong friends, got to know more of the city than the neighborhood I lived in and witnessed the joy that one person can create by being an active part of their community.

It is for all of these reasons  that I am honored to run  the 2016 Boston Marathon to raise money for Boston Cares to directly support their program and staff and continue to make sure that the organizations they provide  volunteers to (my own included!) can keep benefiting from people like me who feel a call to volunteer.

Oh, and about running that 26.2 mile course....

I will never forget pouring out of Fenway Park my first Marathon Monday watching the runners go by and thinking to myself "well, that's the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen someone choose to do". A lot has changed in ten years, folks. I myself have run two marathons, six half marathons and hundreds and hundreds of miles "just for fun". It has given me discipline, confidence and the ability to manage this crazy life of mine and now, I get to do it for a cause!

Please consider making a donation, however big or small, to this awesome organization that truly helps Bostonians to be the change you wish to see in the world. And be sure to follow along here as I I blog about my journey across that famed finish line.

Thank you, from the bottom of my Boston loving heart!
Spectating one of my husband's years doing Boston with a new baby.
After the BAA 5k with Mrs. Mallard.

Crossing my first marathon finish line with my BFF and coach.

With my favorite cheerleader after the BAA 10k.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Politics and dead birds aside, I am a fan of Thanksgiving if only because it involves two of my favorite things: warm fuzzy feelings and food.

I could list a lot of things I am not thankful for at this very second, because I am definitely having one of those days BUT there is a heck of a lot more that I am thankful for, and that is much more fun to share, right?

This year I am thankful for not one but TWO happy, healthy daughters. I am lucky to get to be their mama and that Annabel has been a relatively easy baby compared to a certain someone else...

I am thankful that I have an awesome husband to raise those two kiddos with and that even though this season in our life is more falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 than sunset strolls, there is no one in the world I would rather have by my side.

I am thankful for my mom and the renewed commitment we have made to our relationship; the mother/daughter relationship is a special one and I am thankful to have such a loving mom who is also nailing the Gramma role.

I am thankful for a job that challenges me, that makes me feel a sense of purpose when I leave the house each morning and that lets me work with some pretty great people.

I am thankful that I get to lace up my shoes and run any day that I want because I am healthy and able to; I am thankful that I have an amazing group of people to run with every week and that all those miles have led to me Boston 2016.

I am thankful that tonight and tomorrow I will spend time with my friends and family and have a warm home that we own to come home to.

I may be busy, exhausted, stretched thin and more quick to think about the have-nots than the haves, but tomorrow I am going to try extra hard to focus on the latter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday, Maddie Jane!

Last night after I tucked Maddie in and whispered "goodnight, my three year old" she told me "and tomorrow I am four and it is going to be awesome" and I don't doubt it for one second.

Our Maddie is a lover of life, of friends, of fun and EXCITEMENT. She is the least shy person I have ever met and makes friends wherever she goes. Everyone knows her - at school, at church, at the local breakfast diner - because she is quite unforgettable with her big smile and need to talk to and hug anyone she meets.

She is kind and funny and smart beyond what I could have imagined and although raising a big personality doesn't come without some big exhaustion I would not have it any other way.

Maddie Jane, you light up our family's life like a meteor storm. You get the biggest smile out of Annabel and have taken this year of change and chaos and run with it (quite literally). We love managing your busy social calendar just as much as we love snuggling with you over three (no less!) books every night.

Your Daddy loves his football and popcorn buddy and taking you for games of soccer at the park; I love our walks to school where we talk about everything from your love of unicorns and what color we should paint your room (someday, you will make up your mind!),

When you woke up to the balloons Daddy and I snuck into your bedroom this morning in true Maddie fashion you said "thank you for my birthday" but really we are the ones who thank God every day for you.

Happy fourth birthday, kiddo, we can't wait to celebrate you all weekend long.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Halloween

I am thrilled to report that Maddie may be just as excited about holidays as her mama; from decorating the house to arts and crafts projects about the big day, not to mention the actual day when it finally, finally came, she was INTO Halloween this year.

We spent the weeks before watching movies (The Great Pumpkin being a family fave), carving pumpkins and attending as many Halloween festivities as we could fit into our schedule.

And talk about getting some mileage out of a costume! We got a lot of use out of that unicorn and little Annie had three that she rotated based on the party (and ability to crawl as fast as she could in it). We had a school Halloween party, a trip to the Castle Island Halloween Party with their new nanny, the annual Pumpkin Float, pumpkin carving with our awesome neighbors and a little costume parade around the neighborhood with Maddie's school; she even got to wear her costume at dance class! I was really glad she loved the costume so much and didn't try and change her mind. Unicorn FOR LIFE (or at least a month).

I managed to convince some friends to come over and sit on the porch (it was so nice out!) to hand out candy and drink festive libations while Maddie and her Daddy went out and scored a ton of candy. Our neighborhood was filled with kids and Maddie came back with a ton of candy and a smile from ear to ear from having spent her night chatting with all her friends and making friends with anyone she didn't yet know.

Now we are fully into 4th birthday planning and Thanksgiving pie dreams....even if Maddie still insists on watching Halloween movies and not "thanks be giving" movies every night still.

My little owl/skeleton.

At the Pumpkin Float.

Cutest unicorn ever!

School Halloween Party!

Bat baby!

At the Castle Island Halloween party (photo cred: awesome nanny).

Dino baby!
Very proud that this was not a Pintrest fail.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall is here!

My last blog was about the end of summer and now here we are in the thick of fall and man oh man have I missed this blog of mine. I love coming here and sharing our life, spewing random things and making a little piece of Internet memory for myself. Note to self, schedule some blog time in at least once a week.

So what's new? 

My Mom recently made a super spontaneous trip to see us (read: bought tickets less than a seek before flying) and it was absolutely magical. We decided not to tell Maddie and when she woke up and wandered into the kitchen to see her Gramma standing there it was just the cutest situation ever. She was beyond confused, surprised and elated and spent the next 5 days in Gramma heaven. 
It was also really awesome for me to spend time with my Mom and get to work on our own relationship. It's interesting how things change when daughters become mothers and start relating to their own mothers and WOW things can get messy but I feel so close and at a great spot with my Mom now. This visit couldn't have come at a better time for all of us and we made some awesome memories together. 

Maddie is loving school and we are loving the way she is flourishing in her new environment. We knew that she was going to enjoy being busy and having new things to learn and explore, and she is definitely thriving. It has been interesting to watch as she tries to navigate her new friendships. This is the first time in her life that she sees the same kids on a regular basis and she's definitely learning the ins and outs of friendship; we are trying to be as positive and supportive as possible while letting her grow in her role as a friend. She's got most everyone smitten with that amazing personality of hers, of course, so we are hopeful for the next 14 years of school :)

Busy remains the word of the season but I think we are hitting some sort of stride. I am learning to let us have time that isn't booked on the weekends and to take advantage of leftovers and slow cooked meals to help us slow down on the weeknights. Is it chaos? Absolutely, but we are able to keep doing all the things we want and need to get done and still have quality time together in some way every day, so I'll take it.

Now that Annabel is mixing up her nursing with solids I am able to get away a little more than I used to so I took an after work spin class with Kate Friday and feel ready to start training for Boston 2016 (fingers crossed one of the charity bib apps takes me!). This also means that I am cherishing our cosleeping and having her snuggled up close to me all night, especially since the little angel actually sleeps (I am looking at you, Madeleine Jane no sleeper!).

So that is that; nothing too exciting to report over here but a real promise to be back sooner!

And, of course, come pics! The weekend before last we carved pumpkins with our awesome neighbors and snapped a bunch of cute pics I figured I needed to share. Bonus, some pictures from our amazing time with Gramma!

On her first boat ride!

Whale watchin'. 
My sassy Maddie.

It doesn't get much more fall than this.

So proud of her decorating. 

A family pic with all of us! 

The cutest pumpkin in the patch!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Farewell to (tanned) Arms

Yesterday was September 1st, and even though we are no longer having cocktail hour on Tuesdays (more on that later) I asked Matt to pop the bottle of Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin so we could welcome in the new month and the inevitable and terribly sad truth that summer is on the way out. It is not, however, completely gone and so I will not say my official goodbye until I have spent the entire weekend on the beach, which will be my third weekend in a row because I never say no to a Cape Cod weekend invite.

The end of summer hasn't felt this tangible since I was in grad school, with two of the four O'Sheas going back to school...or one going for her very first time and one already having started this week. You read that right, folks, our sweet baby girl is starting Pre-K on the 14th and we are all as excited as can be. I spent this morning getting her uniforms organized and am on day two of attempting to follow our new family schedule with hopes that two weeks is enough practice before we go live and actually have to get this kiddo to school every day.

We have to keep a crazy specific schedule in order to complete everything we all need to do in a day (running, work, drop off, pick up, dinner, family time, church, swim lessons, date nights, friend hang outs, play dates) so we keep our day by day spreadsheet hung up on the fridge for all to see and follow, which has worked really well for us. Just this week we decided to try and really stick to it, which includes waking Maddie up at 6:00 to have her ready to walk to school with one of us at 7:00. We were both worried about how well this would go over with our little sleepyhead but it turns out that I AM THE WEAK LINK. Yep, Maddie totally gets it from me because I have yet to be able to drag my ass out of bed at 5:00 on the dot but, in my defense, it has been pretty close and I have gotten out the door to run both scheduled days despite wanting nothing more than to keep hitting snooze.

The struggle is real, y'all.

So hopefully we make it through this test period and are good to go in a couple of weeks, but until then I'm going to soak in the last drops of summer and this time in our lives. This is definitely a season in life we will be looking back on and patting ourselves on the back for, but I am trying to be as present in the moments as I can, even if they are a little exhausting. Two littles, two careers and now two students is no joke but it'll be over before we know it and I don't want to wish the good times away. I am soaking in this cuddly baby and enjoying this hilarious little preschooler just as I am relishing these last few days before the air gets crisp and the leaves get crunchy. 

Until then, one more weekend on the Cape (and don't judge me for bringing the fall Vogue to the beach).

Hammock lyfe.

Maddie requested the matching and it was too cute not to take a hundred pictures. 
Maddie helping Dada build a sand stegosaurus. 
These two are going to be besties, methinks. 
Annie has perfected the art of the beach nap. 
Maddie ran her first race this summer too!
She also fed a baby goat.
We sure will miss you, summer evenings on the porch!