Thursday, August 07, 2014

The final post

After almost 9 years writing here almost every Monday through Friday, I've decided to shut down this blog.

The reasons are numerous. When I first started in 2005 (!!), there was really no other way to easily keep connected to family far away. Now there's Facebook, Instagram, iMessage, and FaceTime. When the boys were babies, it was a time saver to post here rather than update all our family and friends. Over the years, I made so many friends and got so much support by writing here. Now it's like shouting into the void, very little feedback and interaction in this space, because there are so many other ways we are all connected.

However the biggest reason is the boys' privacy. It's time to let their lives be their own. I never wanted to be a blogger to blog about my life... I wanted to keep my family connected to my kids. And they're at the age that it's time to stop writing about them, their lives, and their thoughts.

It's bittersweet because this blog has meant so much to me these last 9 years and there are so many memories. It started when we thought we were having one baby, and has seen the boys all the way to third grade. It's seen us through births and deaths and illnesses and dreams coming true and everything in between. 

This is not good bye. It's "see you in a different place." If you've been reading here, I still want to be connected. Find me on Instagram as LauraCase (almost daily photos of the boys!!). Find me on Facebook (mai*den name Verhoff). Email me. Call me. If you leave a way to find you in the comments, I'll find you too.

Thank you for reading, being part of my support network, and being a place for me to share the unique joy of parenting these two.


Engineering minds

I signed up to coach an Odyssey of the Mind team this year. This week the information guide for coaches came out and I went into a mini-panic thinking about how much time it will be. As I read on, the mini-panic subsided because this program teaches a lot of important critical thinking skills.

We recently listened to the first Harry Potter (the narrator is amazing!) and we are waiting for the second one to come in from the library. Nate and Alex have asked constantly about it, so I explained we are on two waitlists - home library waitlist and beach library waitlist. I said we were number 10 at home but there are 4 copies, and with a lending time of one week, we would expect to get it in about 3 weeks.

They asked about the beach library waitlist. I explained we were number 6! But they only had two copies. They asked which one would come first, and we asked them what they thought. Nate immediately jumped in with 3 weeks, but Alex said "Well it depends on how long the lending time is for that library."  Nate then chimed in, "It also depends on when the person checked it out and when it is due back."

My brain was like WOW! This Odyssey of the Mind thing is going to be very interesting if the boys are already s

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Maria again???

Hey remember when I saw Maria in March for my birthday, then again in April for her birthday? Well she road tripped from Maine to NC with her kids and came to visit again last week (July and August)!


I've got many more photos and many more stories to tell about the trip. BUT FIRST! A little flashback. I first met Maria and her kids in person four years ago. Here were her kids then:


And here they are now:


Time is such a jerk. It really feels like it's been a short time that we've known each other and then I look at how those little faces have grown and it kills me. Oh yeah, and there's also two more kids in there. Two more awesome kids.

I'll share more tomorrow but Maria is also a talented photographer. No problem handing my camera over to her and knowing she will capture something for me that I will love. I'm pretty lucky to have a life full of awesome awesome friends.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Italy trip, part 3

Day 8 we said goodbye to our Tuscan villa...


and hit the road for Rome. These were neither hot nor spicy, btw.


Jon had booked a centrally located hotel room so we were able to walk to a lot of sights. Trevi Fountain was really close to our hotel so we went straight there. What a sight!


We had a good laugh about this over dinner. With no water in the fountain, does that mean we will never go back to Rome?? Next on our walking tour was the Pantheon, which was again, amazing. The only source of light is the hole in the top.


The engineering involved to provide light for an entire building with this design... my nerd heart was impressed. The inside was not too shabby either.


Jon and I ate a LOT in Italy, but when in Rome, we decided we would finally order two courses like you are supposed to do. It was painful but oh so delicious and by this point, we were able to finish an entire bottle of wine with no problem.


Feeling super stuffed, we decided to check out the evening action at Piazza Navona. It was packed with people milling about, tons of vendors.... oh it was great to be in a real city!


On the walk back to the hotel, we took a wrong turn. Jon apologized for leading us the wrong way and I was like HELLO LOOK AT ST. PETER'S AND THE TIBER! My Catholic heart was so happy that this was my first look at St. Peter's in person. Totally worth lugging the big camera everywhere in Italy.


Day 9 Jon indulged me to visit Vatican City. I felt like I couldn't leave Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel. We made 9AM reservations and the line was already 3 hours long at that time. The Sistine Chapel is part of the much larger Vatican Museums which hold the art the Vatican owns.


You could literally spend an entire day in the museums.


The details were just spectacular. There were multiple rooms with tiled floors and it made me think about how many years and how many visitors must have worn down these tiles.


As we walked through the museums, we came to a few rooms that were air conditioned. This vast painting took my breath away as soon as I saw it. Then we realized we were in the Matisse room. We didn't do a lot of reading about the Vatican Museums before we came... I had no idea there was so much artwork from famous artists over the years. There was even a Salvador Dali room.


We made it to the Sistine Chapel where no talking and NO PHOTOS are allowed. We sat and marveled in the chapel, it is truly the most impressive piece of art I've ever seen. Fortunately I have a very nice camera that takes great photos in dark light and I'm realllly good at pointing it a general direction and taking a photo (called: shooting from the hip). TA-DA!


After this we went to St. Peter's square and I asked some super nice people with a really nice camera to take our photo.


I always hoped to one day go to Vatican City and it was everything I expected and more.


It was hot that day and crowded so we cooled off with AC back at our hotel and obviously some more gelato. My favorite of the trip was this tiramisu flavor.


In the afternoon I had booked tickets to the Colosseum. Again we bypassed a 3 hour line with reservations.


Again our engineer nerd hearts were blown away. IMPRESSIVE.


We ran into a couple taking photos of themselves with a nice camera and I asked if I could take a photo for them. The woman saw my camera and immediately started talking full frame so I knew we would be in good hands getting a photo of us.


We walked through the Forum as well. One thing Jon and I kept saying was that the scale of Rome is just so hard to convey. Everything is big and historic with so many simply amazing feats of engineering and design.


That night we walked around more and at dinner had our final lost in translation moments. We ordered 1/2 liter of wine and they brought a full liter. We tried but we simply could not finish it.


Day 10 we headed to the airport where we took four separate buses to get to our plane. Despite feeling we could have stayed in Italy forever, it was a good experience to make us want to get back home to our kids and our regular life.


I can't really imagine a better trip. Jon and I talked for hours. We listened to podcasts while driving. We laughed over some of the more ludicrous parts of travel. We played a daily game of "American or European" with most people we saw. It was a great way to celebrate the life we've lived together since we committed to spend our lives together 10 years ago. I wouldn't want to live this life with anyone else.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Italy trip, part 2

DAY 4: It was time to start road tripping in our little rented Fiat and see all that Tuscany had to offer.


We could not go to Tuscany without going to Montalcino.


We visited an old castle there.


And experienced yet another lack of Jon-sized things.


Jon is scared of heights so I climbed solo to the very top and met a very nice French family who took my photo (and also ended up getting great family photos).


Many of the Tuscan hill towns look similar and we loved them.


We also did not get tired of the super delicious food. This stands out as the best pasta I had in Italy, handmade noodles with a brunello, parmesan, and beef sauce.


We decided if we were going to Tuscany we had to taste brunello and we felt like we should do that at Banfi, the largest of the brunello producers. Their grounds were amazing.


We had no idea of the scale of their production until the tour!


The underground cellar had some really interesting areas that would make the most incredible private parties.


Each brunello cask held 15,000 bottles (starting at $50 and up each..... )!


It rained and rained again that day so we headed back for pizza in Radda made by this little old italian grandpa. BEST EVER.


Day 5 we hit the road again to SIENA!




Siena had so much charm. I could spend a long time taking photos there.


Seriously so much charm.


(Jon was such a trooper with my photo opps.)


The scale of Siena's plaza is really hard to get across in photos, just a wide expanse with lots of people and lots to see.


Here is where we hit the first of 4 or 5 stops at Grom, our favorite gelato place. I ordered coffee gelato then Jon repeated my order and ordered lemon gelato. So they gave him a scoop of coffee and a scoop of lemon. And he ate it because GELATO.


After a packed day of sightseeing in Siena, we went back to the villa. For a 5 course dinner dinner. On our terrace. Overlooking vineyards. Cooked by a private chef.

Pretty much no anniversary dinner in Raleigh can top this. We've got 10 years to plan for the 20th dinner.


Day 6 we were up early to hit Florence. Tickets to the Duomo and Uffizi book a month in advance and we were able to get 9AM tickets (or wait 3 hours in person) for the Duomo.


It was.... amazing. AMAZING.


We thought you could walk inside and look at stuff.... instead you walk inside and immediately start the climb. The climb from the ground to the top of the dome goes IN BETWEEN the walls, including physically climbing the outside of the dome.

It was NOT Jon sized. Shortly after I took this, Jon headed back down due to claustrophobia.


At one point I texted Jon saying he made the right call. It was SO HOT inside the walls of that building and the higher we went, the shorter and narrower the passages were. And it was steep and dark.

The reward however... getting to see inside the dome. WOWZERS.


And then the view from the top, just breathtaking.


Fortunately once I was back down, we got a photo with the Duomo in the background. I will ask just about anyone for a photo.


After lunch, we had tickets to the Uffizi, which is supposed to be the best museum in Italy (best is subjective).


It was seriously impressive, but Jon and I decided we like art slightly more modern. More to come on this!


Florence was much bigger than the other cities we had visited so far.


There were quaint pottery shops.


And we may or may not have ended up on Florence Street View on Google Maps!!


After two days in crowds and increasing heat, we decided to pick up some homemade cured meats and cheeses at the local butchery and rest at "home."


DAY 7 we had not made any plans. We decided to spend a relaxing day at our villa because it was vacation.

We hung by the pool, had mimosas, read books, walked around the vineyards.


It was really what we needed after a lot of very busy days.


And OF COURSE we had to head back for more prosciutto and mushroom pizza because YUMMMMMM.(Side note: where did Alex get those eyes? From his dad.)


It was the perfect end to our days in Tuscany. The next day we were headed into Rome in busy season and knew it would be jam packed with people and hot hot hot.