7.12.2017

His Name

Well, before I share that, let's back up to the day of our twenty-week ultrasound. My dear friend Michelle offered to watch the girls so that Adam and I could both go to the appointment. Then, since our appointment was at 2:30 in the afternoon, she kindly invited us all to stay for dinner. We agreed, as long as she would let us pick up Chick-fil-A for everyone on the way back! Claire and Maggie remembered how we ordered a little gender reveal cake from a bakery back when I was expecting Betsy and wanted to find out the gender of their newest sibling the same way. But since we wanted to do the gender reveal that night with Michelle's family, we didn't have time to order from a bakery. Instead, Claire and Maggie helped me bake two little cakes the day before - one with pink batter, one with blue. We used the Smitten Kitchen "best birthday cake" recipe, which worked perfectly for two six-inch layer cakes. When I frosted the cakes that evening, I put extra sprinkles in the middle of one cake so I could tell them apart. Extra sprinkles = extra exciting = boy! The pink and blue food coloring in the batter faded so much once they were cooked. Next time I need to add way, way more food coloring or do a layer of colored icing in between cake layers instead. Thankfully you could still barely tell what we were going for.  

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Here we are cutting into the cake after dinner! Michelle was so sweet and bought some decorations, like napkins and balloons, to make things even more festive. That's her daughter, Theresa (she's Maggie's age) asking for a little brother too in the video.



Adam and I spent that afternoon discussing baby boy names and quickly agreed on using the same name we'd decided on if Betsy had been a boy. This baby's name will be...

George Warren. 

Unless the ultrasound tech was wrong, of course. He had the most hesitant way of talking, ending almost every sentence as if it was a question. Not a great quality for an ultrasound tech! But we triple-checked with him, so I guess this is as confident as we can be for now. 

We like our kids' first names to be after their patron saint and their middle name to be after a relative. We've got Claire Camille (St. Clare of Assisi), Margaret Joyce (St. Margaret of Scotland) and Beatrice Jacqueline (St. Beatrice of Portugal).

Warren and Camille Burch
Warren and his wife, Camille.

So far, we've used our grandparents' names for middle names. (I hope we get to use the last grandmother's name one day!) Warren is Adam's paternal grandfather. Adam is actually named for him too - Warren is his middle name as well. That's why we decided to use his name first, especially since we've already used my middle name (Margaret). He passed away shortly after Maggie was born, so right around George's due date four years ago.

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Adam's the little boy in the wagon! 

All of our kids' first names also get bonus points for being family names. Claire is the name of my childhood neighbor/honorary grandmother. As I just mentioned, Margaret is my middle name. And Beatrice is one of my great-aunts. George is one of Adam's great-uncles. Warren's oldest brother, in fact. He was actually a very renowned cardiologist - there's a pretty lengthy article about him on Wikipedia. 

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Claire got to meet him twice, the last time when she was about Betsy's age. 

We wanted a name to kind of balance out Claire, because Maggie and Betsy have similar styles going on their longer first names and both always going by a nickname with an 'ie/y' ending. We wanted a name with a different ending and with no nickname. 

Claire and Maggie remembered the name George from Betsy's pregnancy and were eager to use it for their baby brother. They love reading the story of St. George and the Dragon. Our paperback copy is in tatters, we've read it so many times! George will have to get a nice new hardcover edition for his first Christmas.

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St. George icon found here.

 St. George is the most ancient saint we've chosen as a patron thus far. We have this very unrealistic pipe dream of somehow taking our children to visit the shrines of their patron saints one day, so we had to check that there's a shrine somewhere where one can pray with St. George's remains. (Like St. Clare's Basilica in Assisi, Italy, St. Margaret's castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, and St. Beatrice's convent in Toledo, Spain.) Well, turns out St. George is buried in a Greek Orthodox church in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel.

 Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
Photo of Frassati found here. Great article too!

  Of course, we also really love Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and hope that he is officially canonized a saint one day. When we finalized the name George, I immediately ordered this print (of Frassati's motto, "To the Heights") for the nursery. Basically, I've been having way too much fun ordering a couple new things for the nursery, along with some baby boy clothes. I definitely need to restrain myself!

7.06.2017

Preschool Graduation + Kindergarten Decisions

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About this time last year, I wrote a post about the six different schooling options we were considering for our kids and how we'd decided to send Claire to a year of play-based, cooperative preschool.

Well, she finished up preschool about a month ago and had the best time. She loved her teacher, the friends she made there, the daily art projects, and playing outside. Maggie and Betsy really loved being able to join in occasionally for field trips and holiday parties. Adam and I took turns doing the weekly volunteer shift. We enjoyed our time there - our favorite job was being the story person (it was fun to find books that went with the week's theme) and our least favorite was being the snack person (although I had a tendency to overthink things and spend too much time on themed snacks). It definitely added a bit of stress to our week because Adam had to take time off work for one of us to volunteer - he would stay late that evening to make up for it. Most of the other parents either had an only child or this was their youngest or they had family in town to watch their other children. A couple moms, who each had one younger child, did a babysitting swap with each other. I think that would be the ideal set-up for us if we could ever arrange it. 

On their last day in their classroom, they symbolically released some butterflies, had a little graduation ceremony, and watched a slideshow that brought all the parents to tears. On the very last day of school, they had a picnic in the park. Both Claire and I were pretty sad about preschool coming to an end. It's the end of this little five-year era of not having to worry about a school schedule. After all, Adam was still in school when Claire was born! 

For elementary school, the only option we really crossed off our list was the public charter school. You have to drive your kids and it's just a bit too far for that to be a good option for us. I don't see us ever moving to that neighborhood, since it's more expensive and farther from Adam's work. We also determined the neighborhood public school and the traditional coop at a nearby parish weren't options we needed to eliminate entirely, but weren't what we wanted to try right off the bat. 

So, that left our parish school and two homeschool enrichment programs. We toured all three of these and honestly, they all sounded really great. Ultimately, we went with our parish school because it's the only option that might not easily be on the table down the road. They have one class of thirty students for each grade. If we tried homeschooling and wanted to quit a few years from now, it would be very, very unlikely that the school would have openings in fifth, third, and first grades, for example. Especially when we found out we'd be welcoming another baby sooner than we'd originally planned, it just made sense to start with the parish school and try homeschooling at some point down the line if we need to. 

We don't have a projected budget of how we're going to pay for 4+ children to attend Catholic school. We know we can afford Claire's tuition right now. We will certainly have to seriously reevaluate everything when Maggie enters kindergarten in two years - whether we can afford the tuition increase, if the school is a good fit for our family, and if we feel like the school is worth the financial sacrifices. But the only way we can really know these things is by giving it a try!

Kindergarten is from 8:30 to 1:30, with the choice to stay for "optional time" (games, centers, etc) until 3:15. I am hoping we can pick up Claire up from school at 1:30, although most kids stay so I have to prepare for the possibility that she'll really want to stay too. I just think it will be good for her to have more time at home to play with Maggie and it will be easier for me to wait until 1:45 to get the little kids down for their naps, rather than having to wake them at 3:00 for pick up. I'm hoping at the very least we can have her come home early on the days she has afternoon activities. 

She will still do Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, even though she'll also have religious instruction at school. It's such a great program and I don't want her to miss out on the benefits. She doesn't have to keep going all the way to age twelve if she really doesn't want to, but for now I don't think she'll have a problem with it. She's not old enough to know that it's not required and she'll be happy that Maggie will be in class with her. 

In the fall, she will do CYO soccer, which thankfully is just in September and October, so it will be finished by the time our new baby arrives. She'll also be in the programs Adam and I already volunteer with, American Heritage Girls and the children's choir. Those are pretty low-key once a month commitments, so I don't think it will be too much. 

During the spring semester, I would like to put Claire and Maggie both in swim lessons, more intensive than what we've usually done in the summer. I think at almost 6 and 4.5, they are old enough to really get it. Those will have to be either once Adam gets home from work in the evening or on the weekend, because the prospect of bringing a two-year-old and a newborn to the pool as well doesn't sound very appealing. 

Maggie will not be doing preschool this year. I know she would absolutely love it and I wish there was some way to make it work, but we've determined that we will only be able to give our children one year of preschool, at least as long as our older kids are going to the parish school. The coop preschool is too big of a time commitment for us to do for two years for everyone and the next cheapest preschool we've found is double the cost. We need to save our money for elementary tuition! We are planning to have Maggie do the coop preschool the following year, when she's four, and we're hoping that by the time Betsy's four maybe we'll be able to afford a year of traditional preschool.

As I mentioned above, she will do the afternoon session of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with Claire. I would like her to have one more class of some sort - after all, she will be four in October. When Claire was three, she did CGS, music class, and one more little activity - cooking class in the fall and dance/gymnastics in the spring. Unfortunately, I think our time in music class has to come to an end. I would need to enroll both Maggie and Betsy, which is now just too expensive, and I know from past experience that it's too hard to juggle a little baby, a toddler, and a preschooler in class. (I only had to do that for two months after Betsy was born, but this time it would be for a whole semester.) We will all miss their lovely music teacher, but music class will have to be fondly remembered as part of this sweet five-years-with-only-little-kids era. We've moved past the time for paid activities for under-preschool-age children.

One of the kindergarten instructional assistants also runs a preschool art class out of her home one morning a week. I'd love to get Maggie in that if possible, especially because I'm not great at doing that kind of stuff at home with multiple smaller children underfoot. If that doesn't work out, I've thought about putting her in some sort of soccer class of her own in the fall, because she loves to be just like Claire, and then as I already mentioned, having them do swimming together in the spring. But after going to the pool with them this weekend, my mom made the excellent point that maybe Maggie needs a full year of swimming, and Claire should just join in for the spring semester. (Claire, being eighteen months older, has much less fear and much more desire to figure it out.)

 Adam and I are looking forward to school imposing more of a schedule on our days. His work is very flexible and he's definitely a night owl, so for the past five years it's been all too easy to get into the habit of not getting to work quite as early as he should and then finishing up a few things in the evening. Since we only have one car, I will be taking the kids to drop Claire off at school and we'll all be leaving the house at 8:15, which is a solid hour before Adam usually leaves! I have grand visions of going to daily Mass every day (it starts right after the school bell rings) and then heading to the gym. I'm clearly not thinking past October, ha ha, but for those two months at least it should work out quite nicely.

The school had a used uniform sale at the beginning of June, so I got Claire stocked up on plaid jumpers and red cardigans for less than $25. Is there anything cuter than a kindergartner in a Catholic school uniform?!

7.01.2017

Pregnancy Q&A

Because I like to think everyone is as nosy as I am!

8 Week Ultrasound

Eight Week Ultrasound.

How far along are you? When are you due?

I'm twenty-one weeks along and due on November 5th.

How far apart in age will this little one be from your other girls?

Betsy and this baby will be twenty-one months apart. Maggie will have just turned four (her birthday is two weeks before my due date). Betsy and Maggie are twenty-seven months apart. Claire will be five years and eight months old. Claire and Maggie are nineteen months apart, so we've done closer in age before. They'll all be two grades apart in school.

How did you know you were ready to try again? 

We weren't! Three children has definitely been a bit overwhelming for us. Betsy really keeps us on our toes - she's always been our scream-y-est baby and she's also the most active. She was walking at ten months, can now climb onto the kitchen table, etc. Plus, it's just hard to juggle your preschooler's activities and your baby's nap schedule, all while trying to make sure your middle child gets some attention in there. I was pretty attached to the idea of making it through Claire's first year of kindergarten before having a fourth, because I thought adjusting to a school schedule would be a big enough transition for us. So, we thought about aiming to have another baby right when school ended for the summer. Waiting until first grade started the next fall sounded pretty appealing too, because summer activities are just easier without a newborn around.

Isn't NFP super confusing after having a baby?

Well, you do have to take it pretty seriously, that's for sure. We use the Marquette Method, but this time around we didn't worry about the postpartum protocol and started using the monitor when I got my cycles back. A very important rule is that for your first three months using the monitor, you can't trust anything it says because it's just learning your cycle. You have to be extra, extra conservative. There was one time that we decided to put our faith in the monitor when we really shouldn't have yet. And one time can be all it takes to create a new person you have to take care of forever. 

When did you find out? 

It was our last snow day of the year at the end of February. I woke up feeling like I should take a pregnancy test - Adam was convinced otherwise. He stayed home in the morning because of all the snow, but it had cleared up enough to drive to work in the afternoon. After I got Betsy down for a nap I took the test and texted him a picture of the results. So, we're trying to talk on the phone about this life-changing news while Claire and Maggie keep loudly interrupting me because I'd promised to watch the live action Cinderella movie with them. A quite accurate snapshot of our life with all these little kids! Later the evening, we got Claire's acceptance letter to the parish school. Coincidence?

12 Week Ultrasound
Twelve Week Ultrasound.

Did it take you guys a while to process to the news? 

No, not really. Honestly, my first thought was about some trips we had tentatively discussed for next spring. My sister will be returning from her missionary work in Honduras in December. She and I had talked quite a bit about going on a girls' trip to New York. Adam and I also thought she might be amenable (at least more amenable than any other relative!) to watching the girls while we jetted off to Vegas for two nights. But those trips can still happen, they'll just be delayed by a year. And if you're your greatest worry is having to postpone a couple vacations, well, that seems to be pretty much the epitome of first world problems. Children are always a blessing and we always wanted to have a fourth. My second thought was how thankful I am to have had a VBAC with Betsy, because a not-exactly-planned pregnancy after three c-sections would certainly have me worrying about health risks, even if things would most likely turn out fine. We pretty quickly transitioned to thinking, "well, maybe we can have a little more of a break after this baby." Our new goal is to both be thirty before welcoming another child (I will be 28.5 and Adam will be 27.5 when this baby arrives). 

Will you have another VBAC? 

I hope so! Because I had two c-sections before my successful VBAC with Betsy, I can't receive any Pitocin. So, if I needed to be induced for some reason or if my labor stalled (both situations in which a normal pregnant lady would likely receive Pitocin to help things along) I might be out of luck. But because I went into labor on my own with Betsy and had a pretty quick six-hour delivery, I am very hopeful everything will work out just fine. I will be delivering at the same university hospital again, but unfortunately my OB with Betsy moved away, so I have my fourth new doctor for my fourth pregnancy. At least this is my first time going back to the same hospital. I had a great experience there last time though and my new doctor seems really great too.

Will you do anything differently with this pregnancy or delivery? 

Last time, I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure a successful VBAC, so I did a lot of somewhat crazy things so I could feel like I had tried it all. I was particularly worried about going into labor on my own, because that's what held me back from having a VBAC with Maggie. I went to acupuncture, the chiropractor, and prenatal yoga. I walked two miles a day. I took all the weird supplements. All of this added a fair bit of stress to my last months of pregnancy and didn't seem to help at all. What really helped was just having more time - with Maggie my OB scheduled a c-section on my due date and wouldn't talk about any induction methods, because he thought she might have some health complications. With Betsy, my OB never scheduled a c-section. She was fine with me going past my due date and was planning to try a more natural induction first if necessary. Prenatal yoga was actually very fun and of course walking is a great thing to do all the time, but no unnecessary chiropractor and acupuncture appointments! I do want to look into the Spinning Babies exercises more though, because Betsy was posterior and the chiropractor didn't really seem to help me personally with that. In regards to the actual birth, even though I didn't end up getting an epidural placed until I was ten centimeters with Betsy, I don't have any specific goals to go naturally this time. I only had it for the last forty-five minutes, but the moment the epidural started working may have been the greatest moment of my life.  

 How was the first trimester? 

It was my roughest so far. Maybe because I'm having a different gender (see below!) or maybe because I'm more rundown. I was nursing Betsy the whole time (we quit soon after returning from Texas, when I was sixteen weeks pregnant and she was fifteen months old). I wonder if weaning her sooner would have helped. Somehow that didn't occur to me at all until after the fact. Thankfully, I am feeling much, much better now. The last few months already feel far behind me.

20 Week Ultrasound
Twenty Week Ultrasound.

Are you planning to find out the gender this time?

Yes, we actually found out last week. It's a boy! We were quite surprised - we didn't really have a feeling either way, but of course it was much easier to picture another baby girl joining our family. We are very excited and a little nervous to be shaking things up. I've had so many thoughts running through my head: redecorating the nursery, getting to shop for boys clothes, circumcision, the more active/more physical toddler boy stereotype, hope that we can give him a brother one day, worry about raising a teenage boy (porn, the fact that it seems to be harder to raise a strong Catholic young man - based on the ratio of girls to boys at youth group and young adult events).

Are you worried about fitting everyone into your small house? 

No, not at all. We live in a twelve hundred square foot, three bedroom rental home. We love our house, it's location, and our landlords. They plan to keep this place as a long-term rental property and we plan to stay here until we've really outgrown it or until we can afford to buy a home of our own in the same location. We live in a very expensive area that is increasing in price all the time, so even though we're on track with our savings goals, the goal post just keeps moving farther away. But we really don't feel like things will be too crowded with four kids. We have six rooms in our house, so everyone could still spread out into their own space. We think six kids would be pretty much the max for this house, mostly because the dining area is not very large. For now, the plan is to put all three girls together in one bedroom (bunk beds for Claire and Maggie and a crib/toddler bed for Betsy) with the baby in the nursery. That set up could last us until Betsy is five - Claire didn't move into a twin until right before her fifth birthday.

Are you worried about transitioning to four kids? 

Well, we're certainly not expecting life to slow down anytime soon. We've heard often that once you've made it to three kids, adding another one gets relatively easier, so we're clinging to that hope. Since my sister is planning to move to Seattle once her missionary work wraps up in December, this will be our first time having family in town and I'm thinking that will be a game changer. Adam will also be on paternity leave until after Christmas - we feel extremely fortunate to have that time together.

So how many kids are you planning to have anyway?

This is the question we've really been asked most often! Adam was recounting one of his coworkers asking him that this week at dinner and Claire said, "Uh, we don't know yet!" The perfect response.

6.20.2017

Scott's Vist, My Birthday, and Adam's Camping Trip

A few days after we got back from our trip, my younger brother, Scott, came to visit for a long weekend. He is doing an internship back east this summer and will be going straight back to school afterward, so we wanted to see him while he was still in Washington. The girls and I picked him up from the airport right after Claire's catechesis class on Thursday afternoon. We had lunch and then went to IKEA, where he helped me buy a new dresser for the nursery. He generously helped me to assemble the dresser that evening because Adam was busy with work.  

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On Friday, we had lunch at Pike Place Market, which is always a delicious idea. 

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Scott's first baby-wearing experience. Betsy actually napped on his back for a while!

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On Saturday, we spent the day on Bainbridge Island. 

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I took this picture on the ferry ride there, but then my camera suddenly stopped working. Our of nowhere, all of the pictures I took were black. Scott had just gotten a new Pixel phone, which is supposed to take really nice pictures, and he kindly let me use it the rest of the day. 

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A trip to Bainbridge isn't complete without a stop at our very favorite Italian place! 

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And some time at the beach - this is Fay Bainbridge Park. We usually stop at Mora Creamery in downtown Winslow for ice cream, but we didn't have time to wait in line before our ferry, so we picked up treats at Blackbird Bakery instead.

We spent Friday and Saturday evenings after the girls were in bed playing board games. Scott taught us how to play a new cooperative game, Hanabi, which was a lot of fun. We sadly had to take him to the airport after church on Sunday afternoon. We had a great time and wish him the best of luck at his internship this summer!

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The following Friday was my 28th birthday. Honestly, it wasn't my best birthday ever. I was recovering from bronchitis, Maggie from a stomach bug, and Betsy from pink eye. Adam's big deadline at work was the afternoon of my birthday and he left for a camping trip with friends the next day. But he did a grill steak for dinner and order a pretty cake from a bakery. My mom gave me a tea set a few months ago that she'd had for years - cups, saucers, creamer, and sugar bowl. Adam found the missing tea pot on eBay as my birthday gift. We put the birthday money we both received from our parents towards a new camera. (Strangely, it was $50 cheaper when we bought it.)

I am very glad Adam got to go camping with his friends though. It was a bachelor weekend thing for Betsy's godfather, Steven, and this was the only date that would work for everyone. They climbed Mount Pilchuck - Adam got some really great shots on the hike!

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Watching the girls on my own for forty-eight hours was totally fine. We were even on time to Mass and no one misbehaved quite badly enough to have to leave the pew. The next weekend we went on a really fun date and the weekend after that I snuck out for a haircut and pedicure. Most excitingly, I am going on a girls' trip of my own later this summer. So, really, nothing at all to complain about!

6.09.2017

2017 Vacation: Road Trip From Denver to Houston

For our big vacation this year, we flew to Denver, drove to Tulsa for Adam's sister's college graduation, and continued onto Houston to spend more time with his family. Previously, the most we'd ever driven with our kids was five hours, so we were a little apprehensive, but it actually went really, really well. 

The one thing we weren't worried about at all was our flight from Seattle to Denver. It's just over two hours and up to that point we'd only flown much longer distances with three kids (to Montreal and Orlando) so we figured this would be a piece of cake. Well, we made the rookie parenting mistake of switching Betsy to a new pacifier the night before (the ones she had previously were for babies 6-12 months). She decided she hated the new one about halfway through the flight and screamed the rest of the time. We switched back as soon as we got our luggage from baggage claim! 

We were in Denver to visit our good friends from college, Matt and Kelly. (They visited us in Seattle two years ago.) Their three kids are each a couple months younger than ours, almost to the day. They were such gracious hosts! They served the most delicious food the whole time and even had two guest rooms in their basement for us. We arrived on Saturday evening and went to Latin Mass with them on Sunday morning. 

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It was snowing when we arrived on Saturday, but it was in the high 60s on Sunday so the snow melted very quickly. Claire and Jude had a great time playing in their backyard that afternoon while the little kids napped. All the kids played together incredibly well the whole visit. At one point, I said to Claire, "Jude is a pretty nice friend, huh?" and she replied, "Yep. I think I want to get married to him when I grow up." (Which means Kelly's and my plan is working out quite nicely so far, ha ha!) 

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After dinner that evening, we went to a park in their neighborhood for an awe-inspiring view of the Rockies. Wow!

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On Monday, we drove up into the mountains to have lunch at Beaux Joe's Pizza (apparently a Colorado institution) and walk around Evergreen Lake. Aren't Betsy and Mary Catherine the cutest baby friends?

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On Tuesday, we drove up to Mount Genesee for another little hike and picnic lunch. Because a couple baby girls took very short naps, we had some extra time that afternoon, which we spent at the Littleton Museum. It's right next to the library about a mile from their house and it's basically a way better farm park than the ones by us here in Seattle. Many more animals, like peacocks and donkeys, a log cabin, and a historic farm house.

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 We got an early start on Wednesday for our longest drive - about eight hours to Wichita, Kansas. We rented a minivan because it was just a smidge more expensive than a sedan. We were driving a Kia Sedona, which must have a large middle row middle seat than our Toyota Sienna, because we were able to fit Claire's car seat there. It helped so much with her carsickness, plus she was great at entertaining Betsy. We stayed with my friend Abigail's parents in Wichita that evening. They were such generous hosts, even when we got there an hour later than we'd hoped because we forgot to factor in the change to central time. With two guest rooms in their basement and many awesome toys, it was much, more nicer than staying in a hotel and we were very grateful.

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Before leaving Wichita on Thursday morning, we stopped at Eighth Day Books, an independent Christian bookstore we'd read about on Rod Dreher's blog. Adam and I could have spent all day browsing there! But, since we had three small children with us, we had to settle for taking turns making a quick lap around the store while the other parent watched the kids in the basement children's section. It was a pretty great children's section though - we picked out two more chapter books to get us through the rest of the trip (The Moffats and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.) Adam also got a beautiful little icon for his desk at work.

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The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is about halfway between Wichita and Tulsa (it's a three hour drive total) so we had to stop there for lunch, of course! We didn't arrive until about 1:30, but there was still a line to be seated, even on a weekday. Handily, there's also a deli counter where you can pick up ready made sandwiches. We shared two turkey clubs, which came with pasta salad, grapes, a cookie, and strawberry lemonade. After lunch, we browsed in the mercantile, where I picked out a vintage jadeite platter, and then picked up some croissants for breakfast the next day at the bakery upstairs.

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 We arrived in Tulsa late Thursday afternoon and checked into our very nice two-bedroom Airbnb. Adam's parents and two of his brothers also came for the graduation, so almost the whole family was together. We had planned to go to the Clear Creek Abbey on Friday morning, but ultimately we decided that we all just needed a morning to rest. There's pretty much all we did in Tulsa between graduation events - take our kids to parks, let them nap/play at the Airbnb, and enjoy a few favorite restaurants we don't have in Seattle (Pei Wei and Jason's Deli).

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Our kids weren't perfect, but overall I think they did really well at the graduation, various festivities, and baccalaureate Mass at the Newman Center. It was nice to see where Katie went to school and to celebrate her accomplishment!

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We left Tulsa on Monday morning and opted to split the drive to Houston into four-hour chunks, spending the night in Dallas in between. We got to stay with our dear friends from Seattle, Bruce and Leslie, who moved to back to Texas last year - they are originally from the Houston area too. We had such a great time catching up with them and are very grateful for their hospitality. We had tentatively thought if we had extra time in the Dallas it would be nice to check out the George W. Bush presidential library at SMU or the Magnolia Market in Waco. And we have a couple wonderful friends from high school we would have loved to see in Dallas too. Unfortunately, we were feeling a bit rundown by this point on a two-week trip with three small children (I was also in the first trimester of pregnancy and still feeling a bit crummy) so we had to keep things as simple as possible. We did at least squeeze in a stop at Buc-ee's on the drive to Houston!

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We arrived at Adam's parents' house late Tuesday afternoon. The big highlight of Wednesday for the girls was experiencing Build A Bear for the first time. They are still talking about how much fun they had. Aren't grandparents they best? For the grownups, the highlight was dinner at the Cajun fish place Adam's parents are always raving about - it definitely lived up to their very high praise.

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On Thursday, we met Aunt Jenn and their cousin, Estelle, for lunch at Torchy's Tacos in Rice Village and an afternoon at the Houston Children's Museum. It was really fun to take my kids to the children's museum I fondly remember visiting as a child. Although, of course, they've remodeled the entire thing since then and replaced all the exhibits I remembered.

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On Friday, we went swimming at the home of one of Adam's mom's (and my mom's too!) great friends. I think the theme of this trip was wonderful hospitality - Linda was so nice to open her home to us and even provide frozen pizza and fresh fruit for lunch. After a particularly rainy winter and spring in Seattle, it was really great to experience all the sunshine and warm temperatures in Oklahoma and Texas. Swimming outside in early May was the icing on the cake.

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We crossed one more favorite restaurant off the list on Friday evening (a local barbecue spot), spent Saturday morning packing, and flew back to Seattle that afternoon. Equipped with the right pacifier this time, Betsy did much, much better, although I am very glad that was her last flight as a lap baby. Adam's parents will be married for forty years next summer, so obviously a family reunion is in order to celebrate. We spent a lot of our time in Houston discussing where we should go and the location that was decided on will be seriously amazing! The only downside is that we have to wait a whole year to go. Of course, we hope we get to see everyone in Seattle before then. After all, we will have a new baby to snuggle with pretty soon...