It’s that time of year again, where I struggle to grasp how my kids are as old as they are. Nolan is EIGHT-what?! I will always picture him as a chubby cheeked, messy faced, sweaty blur of blonde hair. In some ways Nolan has always been Nolan. A mix of exuberance, energy, and silliness. He has always been anxious in new situations and is his most comfortable self when competing to “win” something. In other ways, Nolan has grown and changed so much into his new big boy self. He is more confident, more independent, and more mature than I could have pictured him just a few years ago. He is learning to take his time with tasks (speed does not always equate to being the best) and is working so hard to accept that making mistakes is okay. He comes by that last struggle honestly! Nolan’s quick wit, attention to specific details, and sensitive heart make him a complete dreamboat to his mommy. The way he always asks to snuggle and adores “cozy town” (aka blankets, towels or pajamas that are fresh from the dryer), makes me swoon. His love for competing and anything sports related makes him his daddy’s total mini me. Time is passing too quickly with our little man, but we are savoring every minute. We love you lots, Nolie!
Gosh it’s been a while since I’ve written about our lives. I think 2020 did a real number on the creative/writing side of my brain. Perhaps it was the worldwide pandemic survival mode taking over, yes? Or maybe it was the new job, planning to move, raising 2 kids, country in turmoil and overall mental health hanging on by a thread that got in the way of my blogging? We may never know. Either way, seeing as how it is the end of February 2021 and I haven’t written anything since June of 2020, it’s fair to say I have some things to catch my dear reader up on. (Can you tell I just binged Bridgerton?)
So, we ended our extended 2020 Spring Break in September with both the boys and I going back to in person learning. We were nervous for several reasons. A) The raging out of control Covid-19 cases. B)School was going to look WAY different with Covid-19 safety protocols in place. And, C) New school years always freak us out! But, mostly we were excited to get back to the comfort and familiarity of our peers and classrooms. Brady is now in 4th grade and Nolan is in 2nd. I started a new gig at my work this year as the Transitional Kindergarten teacher. It is a new program at our school and I got to create my own curriculum, schedule, and have a limited class size. Pinch me! Dream teacher job, right there. But lots of nerves about starting something new, nonetheless.
Much to our surprise and relief, despite the pain in the butt of constant cleaning and mask wearing, it felt really good to be back to in person learning. The boys have both thrived this year and I am loving my new role at my job. I have total freedom of what and how I teach and have loved coming up with fun new ideas each week. (So maybe my creative brain hasn’t been turned off, it’s just been consumed with work related projects.) Since everything was going so swimmingly, it would make sense that we’d start considering a big change in the Fall of 2020, right? Why are we like this, Chris?!
Throughout the past year, Chris and I, while overall happy in our little corner of Florida, and lucky to be so near family, have felt an itch. And no, this itch was not a Covid-19 symptom; it was the itch for something different. We’ve felt this itch before. As we rounded the 4 year mark of living back in Florida, we just knew we were in need of a change. We thought about just changing houses. But, the more we looked in our current area, the more we knew we wanted a more drastic lifestyle change. We began to dream up ideas about moving someplace far away- New England, Canada, New Zealand. I mean, we were literally on the Canadian immigration website trying to figure out if teachers were considered an essential profession that they’d allow citizenship for. You guys, we had big plans for poutine and maple syrup.
While the itch never went away, we did start to walk ourselves off the Canadian refugee ledge a bit and try to think practically. We gave ourselves all the reasons why we should just stay put:
1.The kids seemed content here. (Although we counter argued that they’d love a new adventure.)
2. We had good jobs here. (But surely we could find jobs somewhere else? Although Chris knew he’d never get on with a company as good as the one he currently works for.)
3. We had so much family close by. (But surely if we lived somewhere cool they’d be visiting often and isn’t one of the perks of a teacher schedule that you can spend your summers back down South with family?)
Around the time that we had almost convinced ourselves that our dreams of adventures in a new place were completely absurd, Chris got wind of a new territory in his company that was opening up…in New England. What were the odds that one of the exact places we had just been scheming of ways to move to, would have an amazing job opportunity with the current company that Chris has loved being a part of?! Surely, this was a sign that we were to fully embrace our absurd idea of making a big move. If you’ve been following the Smith journey for any amount of time, you know we are big believers in waiting for a sign and then making an enormous decision. We went back and forth about the idea of going for the New England position for a few weeks before we decided that we absolutely had to. We knew people would think we were crazy, but we couldn’t not do it. Again, why are we like this, Chris?
Just before the holidays we found out that Chris got the position. The weeks and months since then have been a bit of a whirlwind. Telling our friends and family and co-workers, arranging to sell our house, scoping out areas to live in and hyping up our kids for their new lives. For the record, they are amped for the chance to live in a place that gets snow. We spent a few days in a snowy cabin in North Carolina over Christmas break and it quickly became obvious that our boys are going to thrive in a cold climate. It also became obvious that this mama is going to live on hot coffee and Cuddle Duds up north.
While it might not make sense to some (or most) people to agree to move to a place you’ve never been before, that’s exactly what we did. After going under contract to sell our Florida house, Chris and I made a trip up to Maine to scope out potential areas to live in and see in person just exactly we had signed up for. Just as many people had felt the need to remind us of when we announced our plans to move up north, turns out Maine does get cold. It’s also full of unspoiled nature, cute lighthouses, rocky cliffs, quaint small towns, endless breweries, amazing seafood, great schools, open-minded friendly people, and is just a days trip away from Boston, Canada and NYC. Ya know, if you like those sort of things. We do.
After a quick trip of exploring, we definitively knew where we wanted to live. A cute little area called Scarborough, which is about 6 miles south of Portland and full of charm and beaches. We met with a few realtors to get a feel for what inventory was like, and wouldn’t you know it, we fell in love with the first house we went to. She is an old farmhouse, circa 1900, that is 4 minutes from the beach. She is quirky and awkward and full of potential- my favorite combo. I mean, I love a new construction fancy build as much as the next person, but there is something about a house that has a ton of history and unique features, that I just completely fan girl over. This old gal has some stories. And no doubt she will give us some headaches. More to come on our Marla Hooch coastal farmhouse…
So as of April, Chris will be moving up to Maine to start working in his new territory. The boys and I will follow him after the school year is over. We are already making our Florida bucket list as we count down the weekends we have left down South, but are simultaneously planning out our first visits from family and friends up north. Chris’s honey do list is going to be long, and there are sure to be ups and downs as we make this huge transition, but I am going into it with a hopeful heart and feeling blessed to have yet another new adventure with our little family on the horizon.
Brady-boo is officially in his last year of single digits. We’ve made it to the halfway point of his childhood. What the what? How is that possible?
We sure did luck out with this kid. He is the coolest, quirkiest, funniest 9 year old you could ever imagine. He loves to create, build, and daydream. He loves to talk anyone’s ear off and is a friend to all. This year he has found a love for Tae-kwon-do, Harry Potter, and adventure seeking. He is always learning, and often gets in trouble for staying up too late reading. He is one of a kind and makes the world a better place.
Happy birthday, sweet boy! We love you!
Well, it wasn’t the birthday Nolan had planned for, but it was still pretty special. Our littlest man turned 7 right in the middle of a world wide pandemic. He had great dreams of celebrating this day with friends and family at Top Golf and showing off his driving skills to everyone. Instead, he had a virtual Zoom birthday party with family singing and watching him open presents. The whole neighborhood got together and did a drive by parade in his honor. He even got to pick his favorite foods to eat all day- tacos, grilled cheese and pancakes, of course.
It is so hard for me to believe it has been 7 years since that Spring day that Nolan was born in the middle of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In some ways it seems like just yesterday, and in other ways, it seems life 2 different lifetimes ago. Afterall, he has now lived in 3 states, 4 homes and gone to 3 different schools.
Nolan has always brought us so much laughter and “OMG, imagine what he’ll be like in college” moments. He pushes us to our breaking points on most days, but totally redeems himself with his quick wit and tender heart. His favorite thing in the world is to play any kind of ball with his daddy. He loves to compete, win, and is still working on being a good sport. He cannot wait for this Coronavirus to be over so he can get back to playing soccer and having sports on T.V.
He melts his mommy with his perfectly timed “do you want to snuggle?” moments. His bed is full of his “puppets” and blankies and he is very particular about which ones go where. He is a perfectionist and overachiever. He strives to the be the best at school, sports, and anything we can turn into a competition. If he can put that drive to good use, he’ll go very far in life.
He is such a good boy and stinker all at once. This one is full of charm. We love you SO much Bubba! Our lives are more fun with you in it.
Welp. Spring Break wasn’t exactly as planned. Nothing, anywhere, is as planned these days. We had planned to tag along with Chris, for his work trip to Hilton Head, like we’ve done the past two years. We had a cute Airbnb rented with a hot tub and fenced in yard for the kids and dog. We planned on bringing our bikes and riding to the beach every day and eating She Crab Soup at our favorite restaurants. Instead…we sheltered in place! Once the news of the Coronavirus became more and more serious, Chris’s company halted all travel. We canceled our trip and made the most of our time together at home. In fact, we are still trying to make the most of our time together at home and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Here’s how we passed the time…keep in mind this was technically “Spring Break” so no homeschooling of any kind took place! Also, this was before we all really got serious about staying away from all other people so at the beginning of break we still had some normalcy of seeing friends, family and going to regular activities. That quickly changed, didn’t it? Ah, the good old days!
The first Sunday of break we went to Daytona to see my cousin’s band play and have lunch with my family. We were shocked how packed the beach was.
I love how nature is still doing it’s thing. Things are blooming and growing and carrying on as usual. I love Spring.
After watching many episodes of Lego Masters the boys were inspired to create Lego building competitions of their own.
We busted out the kinetic sand for more building activities.
Before everything got too crazy, we got in a visit to the new Duck Donuts by us. Definitely a highlight of Spring Break for me!
Before his Dojo shut down, Brady got to test for his first yellow stripe in Taekwondo. He did awesome and was so proud to finally go up a level. I’m glad he got the chance to do that before the studio shut down for COVID-19.
We also got one chilly visit to the neighborhood pool before it was shut down.
One trip to the beach before they shut down public parking…
One of the most exciting parts of break was throwing Nolan’s stuffed animal, Fin, a birthday party. It was random, but a welcomed distraction.
Lots of arts and crafts these days…
And lots of time outside…
Overall, we feel very lucky to be healthy and together during these weird times. Hopefully by this time next year, we can look back on this Spring Break as a distant, strange memory and we are able to head back to Hilton Head like we had planned.
Last summer, Chris and I were given the opportunity to plan an epic kid-free vacation. My dad and step-mom offered to take our boys for a week where they would go to a Summer Camp and spend some time with their grandparents. We decided to use this week to go on an adventure to someplace new.
After weeks of Pinterest research and Googling fun destinations, we finally decided to book a trip to Nova Scotia. Neither of us had ever even dreamed of going there, and we didn’t know anyone else who had gone, but everything we saw online looked like a dream. My impression from what I gathered online was that it was going to be like Maine, on steroids. And since we had always talked about a New England trip, but wanted something even more unique, we settled upon Nova Scotia- otherwise known as Canada’s Ocean Playground.
We quickly realized that we could easily spend a month exploring all that Nova Scotia has to offer. We had to be choosy and try to fit in as much as possible in our one week. We decided to focus on the capital city of Halifax (and nearby day trips surrounding Halifax) and then a road trip up to Cape Breton to explore the world famous Cabot Trail.
We started our trip by spending two nights in Halifax. We stayed at the Hilton Double Tree Halifax hotel and loved being right in the heart of downtown. We explored Irish pubs and yummy coffee shops. Cabin Coffee was the most adorable/delicious place to start our first day.
On day one we drove 50 minutes from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove. Every blog I read before planning our trip, said Peggy’s Cove was a must see. Yes, it is a very popular tourist attraction, but this small town was everything I hoped it would be. From fresh lobster rolls, to a local bagpiper greeting us with music, it was more quaint and colorful than I could have dreamed up.
After Peggy’s Cove and all the amazingness, we set out on the hour and 15 minute drive to Lunenburg. The drive itself was gorgeous, but the destination was well worth the trip!
The next day we left for the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island. There is much debate online whether you should do the trail clockwise or counterclock wise. We decided to do it clockwise with our first stop being in Cheticamp, NS. Again, even the drive there (about 4 hours) was entertaining and beautiful.
We stayed at Air BnB’s while visiting Cape Breton. Our first one was a log cabin in Cheticamp. Our hosts were so sweet and we had our own private space. They cooked an amazing breakfast for us and filled us in on all sorts of Canadian/Nova Scotia info.
After checking in we set out to explore the Gypsum Mines. This was another spot that I had seen so many gorgeous pictures of on Instagram and knew we needed to check out. It was a fairly easy hike, but I had to conquer a fear of heights to get the best view. In the summer this is a popular swimming hole and in the winter it is often used for ice skating. When we were there (late June), temperatures were in the 40’s and people were swimming!
It happened to be our anniversary, so we decided to splurge for a nice dinner out. The Harbour Restaurant in Cheticamp harbor was the perfect place to celebrate 13 years of marriage.
The next day we hit the Cabot Trail. We parked and hiked the Skyline Trail in Cabot Trail HIghlands National park. We took in spectacular views and even saw a moose!
As we continued our journey clockwise around the Cabot Trail, we discovered waterfalls and beautiful scenery.
Our trip took us to our next Air Bnb in Ingonish Beach. We had a wonderful host who was a professional chef and made us the most delicious breakfast of our lives! The beach at the Air BnB was full of sea glass.
The next day we set out to finish the Cabot Trail. We stopped for more hiking at the Smokey Trail and saw some whales in the distance. I chickened out halfway through one of our hikes thanks to all of the danger/warning signs! We also stopped at the most delicious restaurant, Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery. The blueberry pie…omg!
Our 3rd night in Cape Breton was supposed to be at another Air Bnb that was described as a cute farmhouse. The reviews of the property and host were great. We…were not impressed. Picture driving to the middle of no where, down a dirt road, and being greeted by this horror show. Thankfully no one came out to greet us and so we peaced out without ever checking in. We made a quick decision to cut our losses on this reservation and head back to the city of Halifax- where our chances of being murdered were less. If you are interested in nightmares, I can give you the deets for this place!
I was more than happy to return to Halifax. There is so much to explore there! From the amazing food/brewery scene, to their commitment to eco friendly causes, to their rich history and architecture…I was smitten. Here are some of the highlights of the end of our trip in Halifax.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention two of my favorite things about Canada… Tim Horton’s and a healthy sense of humor about their neighbor to the south’s president!
We love love loved Nova Scotia! It was more beautiful than we could have dreamed and the people were the kindest I have ever encountered. I would go back in a heartbeat because there is still so much more to explore. Thanks for the memories, Canada! Can’t wait to see you again.
We started our Christmas season early by buying our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving this year! We almost lost our tree on the way home, but thankfully Chris held on tight- LOL!
Our Elf, Pixie came back and was sillier than ever!
We love how our house looks at Christmas time. The kids are more into helping decorate now.
We had lots of fun at our annual family Christmas party!
The kids are at a fun age for celebrating Christmas and we are savoring these years where they believe in magic and love everything about the holiday season.
We had a memorable Christmas for sure!
Here’s a recap of all our Halloween activities this year!
Picking out the perfect pumpkin in downtown St. Augustine…
Decorating a haunted house…
Nolan’s class Halloween Party…
Halloween night…the Super Smiths!
We had a heck of a summer break this year. One of the best perks of my job as a teacher is getting to have summers off to spend with our boys. The school year is so structured and busy, so the lazy days of summer are so refreshing. This summer we had a nice balance of days spent relaxing and playing around the house and travel days on the go.
We started the summer with a Memorial Day weekend in Georgia. The boys got to visit with their great-grandparents and see their new baby horse. Brady was beyond smitten!
We then headed to Savannah for a quick visit on our way home.
We are always busy celebrating birthdays every summer. This year we celebrated Brady’s with a trip to Disney to live out his Star Wars dreams. We also had a family party at Aunt Claudia’s.
Chris and I both celebrated birthdays this summer as well. We never have a shortage of food on our birthdays!
We had lots of days that consisted of making giant messes in the house or going to the pool/beach/splash park/movies.
In July we had our annual Christmas in July day. We didn’t tell the kids we were planning it, so it was fun to see their reaction in the morning when they woke up to a Christmas tree in the dining room in the middle of summer!
The boys got to do a few camp weeks during summer as well. They did Vacation Bible School, an Art STEM class, and sports camp when they were staying with Grandpa and Nana.
They had a nice visit with Grandpa and Nana while Chris and I went to Nova Scotia (blog post on that soon!)
We did our yearly trip to Aunt Claudia’s in Daytona while Chris was at his sales meeting in Seattle. We always have fun at the beach and visiting the Marine Science center.
One of our other fun trips was a stay in Merritt Island with our college friends. The boys had a blast visiting with the other kids and Brady checked off one of his bucket list items by going to Kennedy Space Center.
While I am usually happy to get back to the structure of work and school, it is always sad to see summer end. I so love this time with my boys…until next summer!
Today we celebrate 8 awesome years of having Brady in the world. He is truly one of a kind and brings happiness and curiosity wherever he goes. Brady is always looking up and studying the world around him. He is fascinated with the way things work and questions everything. His go-to phrases are “I have an idea!” and “I wonder…” His gears are always turning and his creativity blows us away. Every teacher he’s ever had has remarked on his positive outlook and joyful heart. He is quick to forgive and quicker to apologize if he feels he’s done something wrong. He marches to the beat of his own drum and never goes out of his way to “fit in” or be like anyone else. He’s the kind of kid who could entertain himself for hours with a piece of paper or a stick. In fact he loves searching for the perfect stick, rock or leaf! He’s smart in a way that can’t be measured by standardized tests. He loves to please and is harder on himself than we ever could be. He challenges us with his one track mind that often has a hard time turning off. He is your stereotypical gifted kid who is desperately lacking in the common sense department. He will find life on Mars before he will figure out whether you’re supposed to push or pull a door to open it. We love his quirky personality but we love his enthusiasm for life even more. He is as special as they come.
Happy birthday Brady-boo! We love you to the deepest part of space and back!