Thursday, November 26, 2015

field trip fun

The kids both went on fun field trips recently, and I was lucky enough to get to go along! Despite the fact that I sprained my foot the week before (the day after getting back from New York) and walking was pretty painful, I was glad I got to be there and wouldn't have missed it.

Two weeks ago, Hannah's kindergarten class went to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. Several parents went as well, to help chaperone. One drawback from living in a small town: you often have to travel to go fun places.

It took almost three hours to get there, the school buses having to drive slower on the interstate and stopping at the rest stop for all the kids to go to the bathroom. {To put this into perspective, it took just over two hours for Hannah and I to get home. School rules state that the kids have to ride the school bus to the destination, but can ride home with their parents.}

But once we were there, it was all fun for this little Monkey and her classmates.

I was responsible for Hannah and Janay. They are BFFs and had a ball together, posing and asking me to take pictures of them on all the little animal statues.

We checked out all the animals. The reptile exhibit was "kinda yuck and scary...there were beetles and big snakes did they catch all of them?...The flamingos were cool, too, but I thought they stinked."

The huge tortoises and baboons were among the favorites, but the best were the giraffes. Hannah got to feed one! {They like lettuce, just like she does!}

Joseph loves giraffes, so we took a video for him. While I was recording, one giraffe took off on a sprint across the exhibit. Never seen that before and it was quite entertaining! We watched it over and over again.

Little brother went on his own out-of-town field trip with his pre-K class the following Monday. His was to Sunny Day Farms in Louisville, GA. That is the best field trip either of the kids have ever been on. Hannah loved going last year when she was in pre-K. I enjoy it about as much as they do!

The fun started with feeding the goats. New this year was the "Goatel" where the goats love to play and climb. 

And the coolest part was the little tin-can contraption where you could fill the can with food and use a crank to send the can up the conveyer belt. As soon as the goats hear the food going up they make their way across the "Golden Goat Bridge" to eat. And they can eat, eat, eat, those goats.

We checked out the chickens and saw where the hens lay their eggs... 

There is a "Corn Pit" where all kinds of products made from corn (corn starch, corn syrup, etc.) are buried. The kids get to dig and try to find things. Joseph was so funny and had a ball in there. 

Then we climbed on a trailer hooked to the back of a tractor and rode up to the big corn maze. Our tour guide walked us through the maze, reading a little story along the way from little signs posted along the route. Joseph kept trying to pick the leftover corn off the stalks the whole time. That kid loves any kind of corn!

We hit the playground, had lunch at the picnic tables, and then went to the huge jumping pillow, trampoline thing. This place is seriously so fun. I have a picture of Hannah on this yellow tire, too:

Joseph's favorite part? "Playing in the corn!...and riding the tractor to the corn maze!!...and I wanted to eat that corn 'cause I was so hungry!!...and riding on the bus!!!" He also loved running onto that big jumping pillow yelling "cannonball!" every time. He had a great time, can you tell?

What a fun day! The weather was amazing and not near as cold as last year. I know I will be not included in many field trips as the kids get older, so I'm taking full advantage now!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

nyc 2015

Our family had such a great time in New York City a few weeks ago. It was packed full - fun, exciting, and absolutely thrilling for Hannah and Joseph. In addition to the marathon, New York was also hosting the World Series. There was a lot going on!

The last time we were in NYC was for my 30th birthday, December five years ago. Joe wore Hannah in the Bjorn the whole time and I carried Joseph in my tummy. That was a great time, too. As we like to say in our family, New York is a trip, not a vacation. Both trips were exhausting. You go, go, go. There is so much to see and do and we manage to pack in as much as possible.

This time we were there for four nights. We flew in on Saturday early afternoon, checked into the hotel and went to the NYC marathon expo. While it wasn't their first, the plane ride was a highlight for sure. When we got to Laguardia, Hannah and Joseph changed into Pocahontas and Captain America. It was Halloween after all.

...Captain America was flat out exhausted and fell asleep at the expo. It was a long day, coming right after an emotional day with Chloe. Joe's mom and sister met up with us at the hotel, and we found a classic New York pizza place for dinner not far from our hotel, near Madison Square Garden, and then hit the sack.

Sunday was the marathon. Joe was up and out super early (5:30!), taking the Subway to the ferry to get to the start of the race. We had a much more leisurely morning, having breakfast and then taking the Subway and finding a spot along the race route. It was crazy crowded and I questioned our slower pace, but we ended up not only getting to see Joe as he ran down the Queensboro Bridge ramp, but he saw us!!

I loved having the race app on my phone; we knew exactly where Joe was along the route, his pace, projected finish, etc. Very convenient for a large city and a huge race. The NYC marathon is the largest in the world with about 60,000 runners. Imagine that plus all the spectators and police, and you've got quite a crowd to maneuver around.

As is the case with all of the big races, there is a lot of waiting. We wait and wait and then, if we're lucky, we get to see Daddy for a few seconds. It's still exciting and we make the best of the waiting part. Here we are in Central Park, with the Plaza Hotel in the background:

We made our way inside the park, found a great place around mile 25 to watch him pass. We then followed on the app as he crossed the finish line.

Then came the difficult (and frustrating!) part: finding him after the race. There is usually a family reunion spot which is great, but getting to this one was almost impossible. It took us an hour and a half to get to Joe after we saw him run by. There were so many people, barricades, and detours. But we made it and got our family pictures!

Joe finished the race with a time of 3:15:03. He would have liked to go a little faster, but still he did great. He said it was the hardest of all the races he's done. There are five bridges (they go into all five boroughs), numerous ups and downs, and the pavement is very uneven. There are potholes, repairs, and all the road issues you'd expect in a big, northern city. Runners like to settle into a rhythm and put their focus forward, but in this race you have to watch where you step most of the way. We were amazed at how many runners we saw stop with cramps. It's a tough one! We were proud of #5067 and now he has another major under his belt.

After a little relaxation (and a bloody mary) at the hotel, we dressed and headed to Little Italy, always one of our favorite stops in NYC. Again, the Subway and escalators were exciting enough on their own for these two littles:

After the yummiest dinner at Angelo's on Mulberry Street, we walked to Ferrara's for dessert!

Day two down. On Monday morning, we toured the September 11th memorial and museum. It was incredible and such an awesome experience, a must-do if you are planning a trip to New York.

We walked down to Battery Park and along the Harbor, catching views of the Statue of Liberty.

Hannah jumped along the rocks and Joseph tested out his new FDNY fire truck. It was quite a bit of walking, so we are glad (as we were several times on this trip) that we brought the convenience stroller. The kids took turns riding, I gave piggy-back rides, and we also made a pit stop at Starbucks.

As afternoon turned into evening, we walked/ran to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. The skyline was beautiful as the sun set behind it. I didn't want to miss the view from the top of the bridge, so I ran while pushing Joseph in the stroller. When I got to the top, out of breath and sweating, I realized he fell asleep. Classic. The others hurried too, not far behind me. We stayed for a bit, and even got to witness some unplanned excitement. The President flew in on an Osprey, landing not too far from us, and traveled right underneath the bridge in his motorcade. Very cool.

The day ended with a visit to Grand Central Station, where we ate dinner in the dining concourse and Hannah twirled around the terminal.

Tuesday was another gorgeous day. Seriously, we had incredible weather the whole time. Only needed a jacket at times, and not a heavy one at that. It was perfect New York fall weather and playing around Central Park was the perfect start to the day.

We went to the Museum of Natural History right at opening and toured all four floors. That place is so neat, halls designated for mammals, ocean life, ancient peoples, and space science exhibits to name a few. The kids loved it (as did the grown-ups)!

Next up was The Empire State Building. Joseph was very impressed with all the buttons on the elevator. The adults were impressed at how short (non-existent) the line was to get to the top. We walked around the observation deck for a while and tried to locate things down below. {I even got a kiss from my little boy.}

Tuesday night we went to Times Square, had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, and visited the Hershey store. Joe was in chocolate heaven.

The day ended with Aladdin. The Genie stole the show; he was hilarious. We all loved it!!

Wednesday was our last day. Before heading to the airport, we said hello to Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions outside the NY Public Library, stopped by Rockefeller Center (and gawked in the window of the Lego store - it wasn't open yet), and strolled down 5th Avenue, posing in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Oh yeah, we also had to stop and pick up a few things from the American Girl store. Joseph was thrilled to pick out something of his own: an AG Dalmatian puppy he named Chloe. Happy ending. :)

When the captain on the airplane let him check out the cockpit, Joseph was beside himself.

It was a really good trip, filled with memories we will not soon forget. So thankful for the opportunity to go, for Joe getting to race in the NYC Marathon, for the kids loving every minute, and for Meme and Gran Gran (and for a part, Aunt Sarah) being there with us.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


In the midst of that fun Halloween week was deep sadness for our family. Our sweet Chloe, my college dog, died.

Her little body was just getting sicker and her organs failing. She developed a cough a couple of years ago, and was initially diagnosed with congestive heart failure, but recently we found her kidneys were failing, too. She's been on medicine for her heart/cough for a long time and the vet (our good friend, Stephen) kept having to increase the dosage.

She coughed all the time. Incessantly. Her cough had become a background noise in our home. It was annoying to us, but most certainly more annoying to her. At first it was just inconvenient, a nuisance. But overtime it worsened. Her heart was enlarged, pressing her trachea against her spine, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to breathe.

Joe and I ended up having to make the decision. I so didn't want this to be the case! We were preparing for our trip to New York. Chloe was not eating, losing strength, and having issues due to her kidneys. I was really worried that something would happen to her while we were gone. I did not want that. I wanted her to be at home when she breathed her last. Or at least for me to be with her.

Hannah and Joseph have been so sweet. They were very aware of how sick she was and we had talked a lot recently about her not living much longer. When I picked them up from school that Friday, they asked how she was doing, and when I said she was not good, Hannah asked if she had died while they were at school. Sad!

Joe really wanted the kids to see her and hold her one more time. They had grown very attached to her the last few months and he didn't think it was fair for her to just be gone. (That morning was rushed and Chloe didn't leave her crate.) Since the timing was up to us, I understood.

So after school, we were in the backyard and I captured this:

And just like that one I took of Joseph (above) with her earlier in the month, I know those are pictures they will cherish.

The decision was very difficult, as you know if you've had to go through this with a beloved pet (my family has before, twice). I hated the idea of cutting her life shorter than it would be if she passed on her own, but I also was well aware that she wasn't going to get any better. In fact, she was going to get worse. We did not want her to suffer any more. So, Joe and I took her to "Dr. Stephen" that Friday afternoon before our New York trip, October 30th. We asked our babysitter to come over while we went to the vet. We told the kids we were taking Chloe to Dr. Stephen;  We did not tell them that we were making the decision.

Joe and I both cried as the exam room went quiet - from the sound of her coughing, to nothing at all. But peace.

Finally, peace for her. Heavy hearts for us.

We brought her home. Joe let our babysitter go while I sat holding her, wrapped in her polka dot name blanket, on the back porch. Then the kids came outside. It was very simple: they asked if she had died, and we said yes. They asked what happened, and we told them her heart stopped beating. They were ok with that answer, and since it was the truth, I was ok with it, too.

It was also interesting how things unfolded with the kids. They did not cry at first, even when they saw Momma and Daddy cry. But a little while later, Hannah disappeared. Joe found her in the driveway and when he got to her, she was crying. So sweet and so sad.

Her little heart was broken.

Joseph helped Daddy dig a deep hole in the backyard. He was very "helpful" as always. Meme had just arrived in town and took Hannah to the store to buy some flowers for Chloe's grave. It wasn't until Joe took Chloe from my arms and wrapping her in the blanket, laid her down in the ground, that Joseph lost it.

His little heart was broken.

It was so sad. There were a lot of tears. The boys arranged bricks over the dirt and Hannah put flowers in the bricks' holes. We said a prayer and later that night went out again to the tree line where she was buried and said goodnight.

It was very disappointing (and infuriating!) the next morning to find the deer had eaten all the flowers. There were more tears.

Chloe had a great life, a long life. My mom gave her to me for Christmas in 2001. As a puppy, she lived in an apartment with me while I was at Georgia Tech. She moved around Atlanta with me, eventually ending up in Savannah while I was in graduate school. She was my "package deal" when I married Joe. She gained a sister, Mollie, and became Chloe Brooks-Buck.

She moved from Savannah, to Jesup, then to Sandersville. She welcomed two babies into the family - babies that loved her...and drove her crazy. She went to live with Meme for a couple of years in Savannah. She's flown in several airplanes and sat on my lap for countless car rides. She's worn many cute outfits...and Halloween costumes.

Yes, she was slightly spoiled as a pup. She didn't get the same level of attention once children were in the picture, or even Joe for that matter. (She slept in my bed with me through her early years.) But, she was our Chlo-bo, our little moaning furbaby. For fourteen years. {The moaning was her trademark sound whenever she heard anything that made her nervous...even a strong wind outside. It only got better as she started to lose her hearing.}

We loved her and miss her. We will see her again this side of the Rainbow Bridge. I love that idea. That has brought comfort, especially to two precious children.

Rest in peace sweet girl.