Sunday, July 31, 2011

July kitchen windowsill

This month, on my kitchen windowsill there is…

A clipping from my basil plant.     My first attempt at growing something edible and I have to say there is nothing quite as good as eating what you just picked, even if it is only an herb.  I am quite tempted to grow something more substantial next year (Tomatoes?  Lettuce?  Berries of some kind?) but until then I happily chomp down on my basil with nearly every meal.  Except breakfast—I can’t quite figure out how to make it work in my yogurt/oatmeal/fruit combo.

My good ol’ Carmex.  This small tube of liquid gold has become even more crucial during these hot days.

A black matchbox car.            George’ favorite.  Unfortunately he expresses his adoration by chewing on it giving his mother an uncomfortable knot in her stomach and voices in her head screaming, “LEAD POISONING!  LEAD POISONING!”  I can’t imagine the toy does have lead paint, but I am not taking any chances.  It may become a permanent fixture on our windowsill or at least until George stops doing things just because I asked him not to.  Yes, as I said, permanent.

Our lucky penny.  Hasn’t let us down yet!

A tiny ceramic souvenir frog from Puerto Rico.  I’m sure you’re wondering who the lucky recipient of this trinket is.  Will and his law school friend, Brian Glass, have a nearly 10-year tradition of buying each other souvenirs from their trips.  Will can’t remember when this odd custom began, but the rule is (yes, there are rules…I know, I’ve just stopped asking “why” sometimes) it has to be less than $3.00.  Don’t worry, Brian – Will spared no expense this trip with this $.30 beauty.  It’s still sitting on our windowsill because the second unofficial rule (I suppose that would make the first rule official?) is that you must wait at least six months after the trip to remember to send the gift to the other person.

Our thermometer reading 105.8 degrees!  As if anyone needs reminding, it has been HOT this past week.  Frances, George and I have either been at the pool or in an air-conditioned building running off some excess energy (so far, Costco seems to be the coldest store east of the Mississippi).

The temperature actually rose .2 of a degree between pictures.  Ugh.

PS – it seems like last week that I was writing “where in the world did June go?” and now I find myself wondering the same thing about July.  Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s my new life, but this summer seems to be flying by even quicker than most.  And can someone please tell Target and K-Mart to stop sending those lovely “Back to School” catalogs our way??  Even though no one in my house currently attends school (except Frances, I suppose) seeing those fall colors sends my brain instantly back to my ten-year-old self mourning the end of summer.  And it’s still July.  For the next 10 hours anyway.

Have a great week everyone! 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One week

A week ago today, we were here:

Today, we are here:

I’ll give you three guesses which one we like better.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Missing a mentor

I haven’t written much about my former lawyer life since leaving the firm back in March.  When I first stopped working, I thought a fair amount of my posts would be focused on the transition from attorney to full-time mother primarily because I was panicked that I would miss the mental stimulation of my former life and I would need to vent to whoever would listen.  In truth, at this point there is very little I miss about the law or at least my life in the law and I am validated nearly every day that I made the absolute right decision for me and my family.

But rarely a day goes by that I don’t miss one thing about my old life—or I should say one person.

I met Bill Wood a week or so before I started practicing with the firm (about 5 ½ years ago now).  He is the self-described senior member of the firm and while my career was just eking out of the starting gate his was well on its way to winding down (or as he likes to say, “putting out on the 18th hole.”)  But despite our age difference, Bill and I clicked immediately.  He had been asked by some of the other attorneys at the firm to mentor me (poor guy) through the incredibly complex world of family law.  Little did I know that our mentorship would very quickly turn into a deep and special friendship (for me anyway; I like to think that Bill would see it that way).

Bill Wood is legendary in the Virginia legal community and I have never heard anyone speak a negative word about the man.  He is scary smart, as ethical as they come, humble yet confident, exceedingly giving with his time and energy, and has a wicked sense of humor.  Bill knew everything (everything) about the law (in some cases, he even helped to craft legislation), but he worked harder than anyone in preparing for a trial, mediation or even a client meeting.  He had a passion for discussing issues and brainstorming solutions, which in my experience has become a dying art among attorneys who tend to work more isolated than ever.  He never discriminated against his clients, working just as hard for those people who would likely be financially indebted to him for many years to come.  He was tough when he needed to be but never seemed to lose his perspective or become jaded (a miracle in itself after practicing for some 45+ years).

But to me, Bill was a soft place to fall when I needed help with the law (or even with life).  He never made me feel stupid or misinformed although he had plenty of opportunities to do so.  I was never afraid to ask questions, bounce an idea off of him, or even just go to him with an “I have no idea what to do here” scenario—he had a way of simplifying the impossible.

I miss Bill.  Every day.  I miss his legal mind, I miss his (sometimes inappropriate) jokes, I miss the way he asked me how I was doing and seemed to genuinely care about my response. 

When I made my decision to stop working, Bill was the one person I couldn’t face.  I knew the second I opened my mouth, I would start to cry.  Instead, I told his partner (another very special mentor of mine) and asked that he share my news with Bill.  Less than five minutes later, Bill came in my office, shut the door and gave me a tremendous hug.  I have never been so touched in all of my many careers.  All he said was, “you’re doing the right thing.”  And that was all I needed to hear.

Bill is a true Virginia gentleman in every sense of the word and I am so afraid that he doesn’t know how much I appreciated working under him.  I know that there is a part of him that is disappointed by my decision and I am okay with that.  I suppose I would be more worried if he let me go easily.  When (or if) I do decide to return to the law, I would want nothing more than to work with Bill.  Sadly, I assume that when that day comes Bill will be happily retired, enjoying a Grey Goose (neat) and playing a round of golf—finally being able to putt out on that elusive 18th hole.

Thank you, Mr. Wood.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Me Encanta Puerto Rico!

Hola!  Gracias.  Solo Salida.  Velocidad maxima.  Pare.  El San Juan Hotel.

For those of you amateur Spanish speakers, these seven phrases comprised my entire Spanish vocabulary during our long weekend in Puerto Rico.  Impressed, yes?  (I mean, si?)  And for those of you who speak Spanish better than I do (i.e. everyone reading this blog - and please forgive me if I am completely butchering this beautiful language), you will notice that most of our Spanish-speaking opportunities came in the form of the service industry (“Gracias!”) and driving around San Juan (“Solo Salida?  What in the heck does that mean?…”), an adventure in and of itself.

Needless to say, Will and I had a fantastic time in Puerto Rico and even though we had only two full days (with the other two left for traveling to and from), we packed in as much as we could into those forty-eight hours.

When we finally arrived at our hotel on Thursday afternoon, we still had a couple of hours before check-in, so we wasted no time completing full relaxation mode:

One of us had more trouble than the other letting go of the real world...

Our hotel was located in Isla Verde, a community immediately outside San Juan, PR where most of the touristy hotels are found.  It was beautiful, well-equipped and right on the beach:

Friday we were up with the sun (which was not bad since we had both crashed by 9pm Thursday night – we are wild, eh?).  The day started with a beachfront breakfast to fuel up for our day in the El Yunque rainforest, the only rainforest in the US National park system:

View from breakfast (our first attempt at the "panoramic" function on our camera; a work-in-progress)

Once we made it to the rainforest (and for those of you who don’t know this, Puerto Rico has some of the worst street signs and even worse direction-givers…not one of our five maps we had gave accurate directions to the rainforest.  Thank goodness for the National Forest signs!), we found our way to the visitor’s center:

And then on to tour the park.

Our first hike, Mt. Britton observation tower:

If you look very closely at the bottom picture you can see the observation tower on top of the mountain in the background.  I have no idea how to do one of those fancy-dancy arrows or circles around one of my pictures, so I am using the very subtle "WE WERE HERE!" as an indication.

 Our second hike, La Mina falls:

I just realized I used the same snail picture in both collages.  We only saw one snail, but I my brain must still be on island time; or I'm still in shock from returning back to reality.  Hopefully either way you will forgive me!

Because the trails were slippery and wet (yes folks, it does rain a lot in the rainforest), this was my primary view for most of the hikes...

Will and I tend to do more active vacations, so the rainforest was perfect.  The hikes were challenging, but not impossible and we both felt like we had earned another mojito (or three) by the time we got back to the hotel.

On Saturday we awoke to the sound of rain and thought our morning plans to tour Old San Juan might be spoiled.  But thankfully by the time we got to old town, the sun was shining and the clouds lifted.  It was a perfect day save the soaring temperatures and humidity…but we didn’t care with sights like these:

Incredible historic sights

The colors were mesmerizing!

The fort!  Very hot, but very worth it.

My absolute favorite - the cemetery immediately outside the fort's walls.  Stunning.  (Oops, used the same picture again.  But as Will says, that puts him on par with the snail.  Not bad.)

And of course, the entire reason we went to Puerto Rico – the wedding!

Mr. and Mrs. Keith Lorenze

Amazing reception.  Yes, we were bathed in blue and red lighting - incredible.

We were sad to leave the island (and our freedom), but so happy to return to Frances, George and our own bed. 

I am not the world’s easiest traveler —I hate (HATE) to fly and I go into slight culture shock when I am forced out of my comfort zone (the low point of this attribute was when I started crying in our rental car after seeing a stray dog on the side of the road.  Please feel free to laugh at me - Will did!).  I’m not a girly-girl and I love a good adventure, but I am admittedly (and ashamedly) wary about traveling in different societies.  Truthfully though, Puerto Rico is about as “American” as you can get for a primarily Spanish-speaking island, so my adjustment period was very minimal and exceptionally easy.  I hope to get better as Will and I travel more, if he’s up for the challenge!  I desperately want to see as much of this amazing world as I can (a complete contradiction from my last few sentences, I know).

The next post will surely be less picturesque and a tad more mundane; although the photographer will be much more exhausted and in greater need of a good mojito recipe.  If anyone has any recommendations I’m all ears!

Adiós amigos! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

We're back!

Will and I are back from our much too quick but much needed and appreciated four-day excursion to Puerto Rico…and we had a blast!  I want to write a more detailed post about our adventures once I have gotten used to parenting again (wait, you mean I can’t have a mojito while strolling the beach tonight?  What else is there to do?).  In the meantime, below are just a few pictures from our trip:

And I can’t say goodnight without a very special “Thank You!” to my own personal dream team of volunteers -  my parents, Will’s parents and Elinor and Tom Pyles for helping us with Frances, George, Marshall and Max these past four days.  Whoever said it takes a village to raise a family was 100% correct—and I have the best village around.  We could not have done it without these six people and I can’t thank them enough.  You made these two people very, VERY happy!


Have a great week everyone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A good kind of busy

We have had a very busy few days at the Homiller house and Will and I are still scrambling to get ready for our Thursday departure to Puerto Rico.  As you may imagine, the two of us have very different “scramblings” – one by a commercial real estate attorney who has a closing on Thursday (yes, I said the same thing…aren’t we going to be in Puerto Rico on Thursday?…the nerve!) and one from a frantic stay-at-home mother whose own mother has requested a novel (I kid you not) outlining a daily schedule, foods, activities, etc. for her four-day babysitting adventure with Frances and George.

But please don’t fret; I refuse to complain about the preparations involved in leaving for a tropical island with my husband and only my husband…alone…did I mention that I was excited?!  I will say, however, that after 3 ½ years of packing for vacations with children I am fairly certain I could pack for just myself in about 15 minutes—no diapers, wipes, diaper cream, pack ‘n play, two to three outfits a day, at least two PJ’s, snacks, books, toys, pacis, special shampoo, special toothpaste, “friends” (heaven forbid you pack the wrong one!), combs, brushes, teeny-tiny rubber bands, matching hair bows for each outfit… you get the picture.  Will and I have decided to pack only carry-on luggage (no bag checking) and I am 100% sure I can do that.  I am not sure I could have said that pre-Frances, but I now realize how much I can live without on a vacation when I don’t have the children to worry about (an unexpected life lesson found behind the platitude “children give your life such perspective”).

This may very likely be one of my last (if not the last) post before we leave for Puerto Rico and I couldn’t go a week or more without mentioning my recent visit with one of my favorite people in the entire world—Julie!  Julie and I met when we were 14 years old at the Virginia School of the Arts (recently closed down—and I know I promised to write about this!) and she has been my best friend to this day (along with the other Three Musketeer, Brooke).  I have known Julie and Brooke longer than I have not known them – 20 years.  Isn’t that an incredible feeling?  We are rarely able to see each other with Julie living in Chicago and Brooke living in Miami, but when we do meet up we pick up exactly where we left off and don’t miss a beat. 

Me, Brooke and Julie in 1994 (don't worry, we are in costume)

At Julie's wedding, 2006

At Benji's wedding, 2008

Julie and me at Brooke's wedding, 2009

Brooke and me at Julie's wedding, 2006

Julie and Brooke know everything about me—even more than my husband (gulp!).  They have been there during my most dark moments and my greatest successes and they have never once judged me.  They are like daughters to my parents and I feel like a member of each of their families.  When I started dating Will, they (quite literally) accepted him with open arms, hugging him the first time they laid eyes on him.  To me, that was just who Julie and Brooke are—to Will, he couldn’t stop talking about their unconditional acceptance of him from day one.  And to be fair, all of my high school friends are on par with these traits—Sarah, Nic, Benji, Steve (both!), Chrissy, Jaelyn, and Mary.  To be friends with this group is to be the richest person alive.

Brooke, Benji, Chrissy, Steve S, me, Nic, Mary and Sarah (at my wedding, 2004)

Jaelyn, Julie, Chrissy, Brooke, me and Sarah at Brooke's wedding (2009)

Joe, (Julie's) Steve, Benji, Nic, Steve S. and Ron (Brooke's husband) at Benji's wedding, 2008

Sarah, me, Julie and Brooke at Julie's wedding 2006

Julie, Brooke and I have all recently become parents and it is unfathomable to me that our children don’t play together every day (or ever for that matter).  But Julie and I cooked up some plans for next year during our recent visit and with the hope that our kids will all meet and play together in the somewhat distant future.

Julie and Steve with Frances, April 2008 (ugh - I look so very tired here)

Julie met her husband, Steve, when we were all in high school—he was a local Lynchburg-er and we were all bunhead dancers trying to make a career out of the impossible.  As cliché as it sounds, Julie and Steve were simply made to be together…forever.  To me, they always had a very old-world romance; even though we were 15, 16, 17 years old, Julie and Steve were not your typical high school couple.  There was no drama, no fighting, no hurting each other for the sake of attention—they simply loved each other.  And though a decade (or more) passed between high school and reunification, they found each other again and married shortly thereafter.  Needless to say, we were all thinking “FINALLY!”

And now Julie and Steve have an adorable little boy, Byron.  I loved this little man even before I met him the first time last May and this trip again he did not disappoint:

It was wonderful to catch up with Julie and her brood, even if it was MUCH shorter than I would have liked.
My beautiful friend and her beautiful boy

Steve, the ideal father

Julie, Steve and Byron with Steve's mother and step-father

The happy family!

But I know that the next time I see my Julie, Brooke, or anyone else in the gang we will reconnect in an instant and begin making new memories to cherish for years to come.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Pool daze

First, thank you so much to those of you who gave me such great advice on an e-reader.  My deliberation has turned from whether I should get one to which one I should get.   Kindle seems to be the clear winner thus far (as in everyone has said to get a Kindle rather than a Nook), so I am off to Best Buy tomorrow to check out my options.  And I’m very excited!

But until then…

If you ever wonder where Frances, George and I are during these hot, sunny days, chances are you can find us here:

This is our neighborhood pool, although it’s much more than that.  We are very fortunate to have an ACAC gym within walking distance from our home.  For my fellow UVa alumn-ers, ACAC is the same company that runs the UVa system – yes, they are awesome.  The gym itself is huge, but the pool is our summer highlight with two slides, a splash pool with a gradual entry, fountains, buckets that drop water, and lots of shade (a blessing for our fair family).

There is a playground:

A huge chess set:

And great private swim lessons:

Frances with Mr. Eric, her swim teacher.  Can you tell how much she loved her lessons?

And there's my little fish in action.

As much as Frances loves to swim, she resisted swim lessons.  In the end, she did great and I am so proud of her for sticking with something that wasn’t her favorite.

Next year – George.  Poor Mr. Eric.

Have a great weekend everyone!