Seven Things: The Rough Start to Summer Edition

1. The children got out of school June 6.

Jump for Joy!

I think they were pretty excited.

2. Flora got a follow-up vaccine the morning of June 7. Yes, I had to wake Flora up early on her first official day of summer vacation.

For a shot.

I was not very popular that morning.

3. On Thursday, I was working from home because our nanny Kim had to go out of town for the day. I also had to get the children ready for a memorial service for my husband’s uncle and godfather — one of his father’s brothers.

I was not popular that morning either.

4. Friday, the children spent the weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s, with their four boys. My SIL is a *saint*. They were staying until Sunday.

Dan and I had the house to ourselves.

I’m sure you can guess what we did.

Cleaned the office!* Exactly right.

Dan was a TROOPER. He tore up that room, in a good way. We got rid of five bags of trash, a trunkful of donations, and cleaned out drawers and the closet. I have a couple things to mail; Dan has some stuff to take to his office or storage. The office is once more usable. The challenge will be keeping it that way, and then reclaim other spaces in our house to make them usable as well.

*not a euphemism

Before.
the office after we cleaned it
After

5. Then our nanny went on vacation for a week. That has not gone well. We scrambled for childcare. With Dan busier than ever at work, it’s hard for him to have them at his office. He took them two and a half days; my MIL took them for one; I worked from home one and a half days. It’s been a little stressful.

6. Flora went to Kennywood all day Monday. Then Flora got sick. She was supposed to be at soccer clinic this week, but she has not been well enough to attend. I think between the sleepovers and all-day Kennywood, she was run down.

7. It hasn’t all been *bad*, just non-stop. Dan and I went to the Wilco show last week; I took the children to the Arts Fest; Michael has been enjoying the soccer “camp” very much. June is flying right on by!

Dan and Dawn Show, Wilco edition
I married this guy. Pregaming Wilco at Southern Tier.
Arts Fest Umbrellas
Successful summer outing the first, Three Rivers Arts Fest.
Cool.
Cooling off at the fountain at Point State Park.

How’s your summer going?

ETA: The nanny got home from her vacation early, and was able to watch the children today. HALLELUJAH! It’s mostly great for Dan, who is booked from 8 a.m. today through 7 p.m. Whew!

Mother’s Day Musings from a WOTHM*

When Flora was born, I was freelancing.

When Kate was born, I was working full time for a former freelance client. I was let go from that job when she came along. The agency didn’t have more than 50 employees, it was exempt from the Family and Medical Leave Act.

I was an accidental stay-home mom for awhile, and went back to full-time work when Kate was a year old.

When Michael was born, I was working full time for a global corporation based in Pittsburgh. I took my maternity leave (six weeks of disability plus six weeks of FMLA). Before I went back to the office, I asked to move to part-time hours because I had a new baby, a preschooler, and a first grader. My request was flatly denied. We needed the income from my job, so into daycare he went.

It was fine, although not ideal. With different policies in place, I probably would have made different choices.

The year off after Kate’s birth was the most illuminating for me. I didn’t like being a stay-at-home parent full time. Other parents feel differently, and that’s fine! I was bored and restless, wanting an intellectual challenge beyond figuring out what I was going to do with my children that day. I was trying to freelance again, but chasing down projects, pitching stories, and then actually writing were more challenging with a toddler and baby. Putting them in daycare meant raising my rates, and my clients didn’t appreciate that.

Why Working Outside the Home Makes Me a Good Mom

1. I’m more patient. I have found depths of patience in myself I didn’t know existed. I think this goes hand-in-hand with becoming a parent in general. But coming home from work, and switching into mom-mode reminds me that my children aren’t my coworkers. They aren’t going to leap into action with an email. So I slow down.

2. My children are independent. My children don’t need me to do every little thing for them. They dress themselves, pack their lunches, get their own snacks, entertain themselves, clean up after themselves, and even cook their own dinners. (Okay, they haven’t gotten much past ramen noodles or fried eggs, but they will!) They shower themselves, and go to bed on their own, with hugs and kisses from me and their father instead of the labor intensive bedtime routines they needed as babies.

3. I’m 100 percent mom with them. Between their school schedules and my work schedule, I value the time I have with my children in the evenings and on the weekends. I like being silly with my children, playing games, coaching my son’s soccer team, and reading books aloud. My children like making me laugh, and they trust me with their thoughts and feelings. I have two tween girls, and more than anything, I want them to come to me any time they need to.

4. I know the value of a healthy workplace.
Changing jobs made me realize that perks like flex time, work-from-home days, and PTO weren’t optional. Having an employer who recognizes that all workers, not just parents, have lives away from the office is vital. It is especially valuable for parents who have to take care of sick children or need to leave a little early one day a week to get little Timmy to soccer.

5. I’m setting an example.
My children seem to recognize the value of having a mother with goals outside of raising children. They understand I’m a person, too, with my own life and wants and needs. They ask me how my day was and what I did at work. They ask about my writing and thoughts on the world. They trust me as their mom, and respect me as a person. I can’t ask for more than that from them.

I’m not here to tell you how to achieve work-life balance (I don’t believe it exists). What I do believe, after nearly 25 years in the workplace and twelve years as a parent, is this: I have value as an employee and as a mother. Finding a job that was a good fit for me as a career-oriented person and for my family has meant the world to me. I can’t promise that working when you have children is rainbows and unicorns; it’s not. And if you are a happy stay-at-home parent, I’m certainly not questioning your choice! I know that I’ve found what works best for me, my husband, and our children. And so will you!

*WOTHM = Work Outside the Home Mom. All parents are working parents – some of us just have a different job, for which we earn a paycheck, in addition to our unpaid role as caregivers.

Gotta Get a Gecko

If I may take a break from politics to mommy blog for a moment, I have to tell you something.

Getting Kate a gecko was a fantastic decision.

If Flora and I were not allergic to cats, we would have a cat by now. As much as we all would like to have a dog (well, me not so much), we’re just not ready for one.

But a gecko is great. Here are 10 reasons.

1. A gecko is quiet.
2. A gecko is small.
3. But not too small.

Gecko!
This is what happens while Katie cleans the cage.

4. A gecko is interactive.
5. A gecko needs very little. Water, light, food*, heat, something to sleep under. We line Baby’s terrarium with paper towels. That’s it.
6. No fur, therefore, no shedding…. er, no shedding fur, actually.
7. As with any pet, a gecko teaches responsibility.
8. A gecko is fun.
9. A gecko can be left alone for hours at a time.
10. A gecko also teaches biology, mostly, the circle of life and all of that.

*Geckos eat crickets and mealworms. Since geckos are hunters, the goal is to keep the crickets alive. It’s like having more than one pet, and a little tricky. We’ve tried buying one dozen — not enough for a week. Two dozen — too many die before they get eaten. So we’re sticking with a dozen, and rounding out Baby’s diet with mealworms.

Kate bought a small terrarium for the crickets. We feed them a special food and a gel water product. The goal is to gut-load the crickets with calcium, which is something else a gecko needs.

Crickets are not necessarily quiet, but they aren’t keeping anyone awake either.

So, if you are thinking of a pet, a gecko is a good starter pet. Small, quiet, and easy to care for. I would recommend.

Fruit and veggie rainbow

Family Dinner is Overrated

By Wednesday, I am burned out on dinner as a family. Well, as a foursome, because Dan usually only joins us for family dinner Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday.

Flora has super sonic hearing, and it is attuned to Kate. She can probably hear Kate’s heart beating. And it probably bugs her.

Kate squirms, she hums, she sings songs. I don’t even notice the majority of the time.

But Flora notices. “Kate, please stop.” “Kate, please stop.” “Kate! Stop!” “KAAAATTTEEEE!”

In all honesty, I find Flora more annoying than Kate.

Sometimes, to prevent Kate’s aimless humming and singing, I actually play music at dinner. This backfires, too, though. No one can agree on a song or a genre. Classical — of which I’m not a fan either — earns me whines and eye rolls. Rock and roll gets Kate bouncing off the walls, which is the opposite of what I’m going for.

Kate is unable to sit like a regular person at the dinner table (or anywhere, really): butt in chair, knees down, feet on floor, back straight. She eats with her fingers, which drives me right around the bend as well.

And Michael emulates Kate.

Family dinners are chaotic! People jumping up and down to get water and silverware (because whoever forgot to set the table forgot it) and seconds — usually before I’ve even had firsts. Kate and Flora do riffs from YouTube and Vine; I am left utterly clueless as they go on. “Have you seen the one where…?” And they break up into girlish giggles.

And trying to get some assistance in the kitchen unless Dan is home is fruitless. Flora has to be reminded to put away ALL the clean dishes, not just from the dishwasher, but from the drying pad as well. Kate is supposed to set the table; half the time she forgets I’m actually going to eat too, and the table is set for three not four. Michael is supposed to put away the clean silverware and clear his plate from the table.

And once they’ve finished, rinsed their dishes, and put them in the dishwasher — poof. Off to read and play and watch more Vines. I’ve started calling them back to finish clearing the table, put food away, and, since we are in the kitchen anyway, pack their lunches.

To say mileage varies would be putting it mildly.

And half the time — literally, almost half, between soccer practices and gymnastics, and date night (for Dan and me, not the children) — half the time, we don’t actually sit down together for dinner; we bolt it down our gullets and run right back out the door. (I need to figure this out a little better; suggestions welcome.)

family yukking it up at dinner
Ha ha ha! Family dinners are SO delightful! Pass the carrots, please! Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Not one dinner I have had with my family looks like this.

And yet. I keep doing it. I cook nearly every night, and sit down with my children almost every night. Experts insist it’s important, and I believe them. Because every now and again, we get it right. We manage to have an actual conversation about school, or playing, or the books that are being read. We remember to do our Q&A journals. Dinner time is usually better when Dan is there; the children are better behaved, and I can sit while he directs after dinner clean up.

So while yes, I get tired of the acting up, the bickering, the cleaning cycle, I do love feeding my children, and seeing what is up with them, and just *being there*, all in the same room. I may get exasperated from time to time, but I probably won’t change the routine.

Although it would be nice if the children would start to *cook* the dinners. How do I make that happen?

Do you get to eat dinner as a family?

Random Thoughts: Mother's Day Edition

1. After the incredible high of LTYM, I came back to reality Saturday morning, wrangling three children and one dog off to a 10 a.m. soccer game. Already, the day was steaming up, our central air wasn’t working, I had a headache, and was running on an adrenaline high and only about 5 hours of sleep.

Additionally, my parents and my sister were in town; they had come in for the show and for Mother’s Day. My sister had brought her dog with her.

Oscar, our foster dog for a week, it turns out, does not play well with other dogs. Oy, the barking.

2. Kate acted up, which is never good, but when she mouthed off to my parents — well, this was unacceptable. She lost Minecraft for the weekend.

3. Thank goodness for naps. I crashed for about an hour on Saturday. Which was good, because we had to go to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and Dr. Sis. We had a delightful and delicious dinner at Serafina’s in Crafton. Turns out Kate and Michael really like polenta, and all three of the children enjoy gnocchi. Who knew?

4. Dr. Sis is pregnant for the first time (due in September; please keep her and baby G in prayers — healthy pregnancy, good labor, healthy baby). At the soccer game as we were wrangling children and dogs, chatting about LTYM, and watching the soccer game, Dr. Sis observed that when I was a teenager, I said I was never having children.

While I do not recall declaring this, it certainly seems that it is possible that there was some point that I did not want children. I didn’t like to babysit, like, at all. I wasn’t fond of children in general — although are teenagers fond of children? I suppose some must be.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that I said I would never have children.

Having them now, though? Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Family portrait
I mean, c’mon. Not only do we have a good time together, we’re a pretty good-looking family!

5. Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post, and my FB and Twitter, about LTYM. I cannot wait to share the video with those of you who missed it.

6. Chicago vacation is OFFICIALLY BOOKED. That is the next thing that I have to look forward to! It’s good to always have something.

What are you looking forward to?

Lone Wolf

If I were to measure day-to-day parenting between Dan and me on a balancing scale, it would probably dip lower on my side. I don’t know how much lower — after all, three days a week, the girls are at his office after school, and he’s always there at night, in the morning, and on the weekends. I do more meal-making, to be sure, and run the children around more. I guess I do more of the logistical legwork than he does.

And that’s okay. It’s how it works in our two-working-parents household. And he is always there to step up when his schedule allows. He doesn’t shirk in his duties. Although, he does like to let the girls stay up with him a little bit. He really misses them during the week.

But now he’s going to Memphis with one of his uncles for four days.

He won’t be there tonight. Or tomorrow morning. Or the next two nights and mornings after that.

I will be 100% parent-on-duty until sometime on Sunday evening.

And we’re dog sitting.

++

I think I would feel a little better about lone wolfing if I were not so very stressed at work. Dan’s the one I can cry with on the phone in the parking lot (yesterday’s joyful moment!) telling him how much I hate this job.

I would never compare myself to a single parent. I have my husband’s full financial, physical, and emotional support. He is there, and he is an active participant in our household, from parenting to housework.

So: pray for me and the children. The in-laws are close by, although I don’t have very ambitious plans for the weekend. Putz around; clean what I can when I can; make sure everyone eats; maybe a little food shopping. Make sure the dog is fed, watered, and walked (this is the girls’ job — dollars are on the line!). I’ve gotten Flora a ride to her soccer game Sunday; M, Kate, and I will be attending a communion lunch for Kate’s BFF.

And, of course, plenty of this and SOA to get me through my lonely evenings!

20150428_221254

How do you survive lone wolfing?

Why I Think It's Important to Hire a Babysitter (or Nanny)

When Flora was about four months old, Dan and I went out to dinner for my birthday. We left Flora at home with her godparents.

Yes, four months into active motherhood, and I left my baby. For all of two hours.

And yes, it was a little anxiety-provoking. Flora at four months was not the easiest baby. I worried about her crying. I had left a bottle of pumped milk for the sitters. She wasn’t a good sleeper, but she like to be held.

But I also knew I needed to celebrate my birthday and spend time alone with my husband out of the house.

I know some parents don’t leave their children with sitters. Or don’t leave their children over night. I can’t say I understand those choices. Growing up, my parents always had date nights and hired sitters. I don’t recall my grandparents babysitting us, although later when my mother was back at work full-time, her father would occasionally come stay with Dr. Sis when she was sick and couldn’t go to school. We even had a (gasp!) boy sitter occasionally! (Gosh, he was a cutie. He was the brother of one of our regular sitters. Anyhoo, I digress.)

While we still lived in the South Side, we probably mostly asked friends to babysit for us. I worked from home. About once a week, my MIL drove into the South Side so I could run around to work or do errands as needed.

And then we moved to the suburbs. Although we moved to a house next door to my in-laws, I knew that finding babysitters that weren’t my in-laws was important. Dan and I figured that it would be better to “save” his parents for emergency situations (like having a sick child and no PTO at work) and hire unrelated help.

When we first moved into the area where we live now, we relied on word-of-mouth. Dan had close friends who also had young children. They suggested a couple of sitters, a daycare, and an in-home daycare. The sitter they had suggested was a lovely young woman, and she *loved* our kids, but eventually left for college, so we needed to find a new one.

We decided to see if the teenage girl who lived across from us was interested in babysitting. She was, and we paid $40 for her to take the Red Cross babysitting course, and then employed her. She was our regular sitter for a couple of years, when she was 14 to 16. She was pretty okay; she did well with the children; Flora and Kate liked her; when it was time for her to go home, we watched her walk across the yard. Our only misgiving about her was that she texted all the damn time. But it wasn’t a deal breaker.

But she eventually got a “real” job (at an ice cream shop), and, of course, now she’s in college. Plus, after I had Michael, I had misgivings about leaving three children with a teenager. I found two children and an infant to be challenging. I didn’t think our neighbor was up for it.

However, I still needed a sitter. So I turned to the Internet.

I used SitterCity.com, and I would recommend it. They usually have free trials; I’ve also used their paid subscription services, though not for more than three months at any time. [SitterCity has not compensated me in any way for mentioning them in this post.]

Sooner or later, I’ll probably have to return to SitterCity. One of my sitters is earning her Masters degree, and my nanny is looking for year-round, full-time employment as a teacher.

Staying connected with Dan is important to me. Date nights mean a lot to us and our marriage. After all, we were married before we were parents. Additionally, because of Dan’s schedule, sometimes I need that Saturday morning sitter so I can go get a pedicure or bikini wax. Being able to leave my children with people who care well for them means peace of mind for mom (and dad). We have to put it in our budget, and we can’t be all that spontaneous — sitters need to be asked in advance — but the investment in good help is invaluable.

While parenthood is a life-long commitment, the actual direct care of children eventually fades away. Some day, our children will be old enough to be left to their own devices when Dan and I go out. Some day, we won’t need sitters at all, because the children will have flown the nest. While I am sure I will miss them, by employing sitters regularly now, I get to stay intimate with my husband, participate in social outings (with or without my husband), and take “me time” when needed. I’m lucky to have the option to employ babysitters and nannies now.

Related post: The Great Nanny Experiment of 2012

Who’s your babysitter? How did you find her (or him)?

Ten Things to Consider When Hiring a Sitter or Nanny

1. When do you want your baby sitter to be available? If you need a reliable sitter for Friday and Saturday nights, be explicit about that. If you need the occasional weeknight sitter, you don’t want to hire one that has nighttime classes during the week. Same thing with weekends; if you need a sitter during the day on a Saturday or Sunday, you need to know if the person you are hiring is going to regularly have a conflict.

[Of course, you can hire more than one sitter. We have two reliable sitters, one of whom has also been our summer time nanny the past two years.]

2. How old is the sitter? A high-school age sitter can’t be beat for enthusiasm (or one would hope) and availability. However, a college-age sitter may be more experienced and more responsible — and will probably want more money.

3. How much are you willing to pay? As with anything involving childcare, nannies and sitters can be expensive. We pay from $10 to $15 an hour, depending on experience. Let’s face it, we have three kids, and someone not blood related to them should be well compensated for containing the chaos.

4. What do you want the sitter to do? Aside from make sure the children don’t kill each other or set the house on fire? This ranges from basics (change diapers, feed, give baths, put to bed) to more detailed responsibilities. I ask my baby sitters to help the children clean up the house; if they feed the children, I ask that the kitchen be cleaned. Our nanny helps the children do all the chores I request of them: change sheets, vacuum, put laundry away. I honestly think they listen to her better than they do to me.

So, when I interview a sitter, I always ask about what I call light housekeeping, and give them an idea of what I mean. This is another area that a college age person is better than a teen, generally speaking.

5. Does the sitter have a car, and if so, is she comfortable driving the children? This, again, can be an invaluable asset. If you have date night scheduled, and a classmate’s birthday party invite comes in, can the sitter take the child? During the summer, our nanny took the children to swim lessons, drove them to the park, did all kinds of things. I prefer a sitter that has her own transportation.

6. Ask them what they will do with the children. One of my sitters loves doing arts and crafts with the children. My nanny loves taking them outside, or to places like Fun Fore All. Sure, sometimes they are going to sit and watch a movie. But if you have strict rules about screen time, you want to know what a sitter has up her sleeve to keep the kids occupied.

7. Make your discipline guidelines clear. Make sure the sitter has the backbone to back up her requests for compliance. What will she do when the 3-year-old throws a tantrum? How about when the 9-year-old says she wants to stay up and wait for you to get home? Sitters should be able to be firm. We believe in timeouts and a system of rewards/loss of privileges, and we make sure our sitters have the tools they need to keep the children in line if needed.

8. One of the things I asked my potential nannies was, “Think of a time you had an emergency. What did you do?” That was instructive for me. It’s good to know if a caregiver is going to have a cool head.

9. This seems obvious, but ask about experience. Some sitters only have experience with infants. Some only sit for older children. What are they in school for? Our nanny has a degree in education, and a Masters degree in mathematics. Our other sitter is in college for early education with an emphasis in arts. It’s good to know that they are so interested in children that they want to participate in teaching.

10. This also seems obvious, but ask for references, and then call them. I find calling people I barely know to talk about a person I also barely know (yet) to be nerve-racking, but you have to do it. What ages were the kids when she (or he, rare but possible) babysat? What kinds of things did she do with them? What was she good at? Did she have any weak points? People I talked to about our nanny could not say nice enough things about her, all of which I have found to be true, too. She really likes children, and for some reason, she really likes my children too!

The easiest ways to find sitters are through word of mouth and the Internet. We’ve gotten good baby sitters both ways, and our current regular sitters I found at SitterCity.com (I am not being compensated by SitterCity in any way for this post). They have guidelines there, too, about what to ask, and the people who post there to be employed provide a lot of appropriate information.

I find having sitters to be important for a variety of reasons. And I’ll get into that in my next post!

How about it, parents? Or baby sitters? Did I leave anything out?

Kate!

I started this post on Monday — which was your seventh birthday. Here it is Wednesday, and I am just getting around to posting it.

And this pretty much probably justifies a lot of the way you are afflicted with “middle child” syndrome. Yes, I can give you all the reasons (excuses) why it’s taken so long to finish and post this letter to you. Work is ON FIRE; the weather is not, and has disrupted the routine we are trying to get back to. Plus, although your birthday is the first one of the year, because of its timing, it falls at the tail end of a lot activity. By the time we get to January, we are running on fumes. This seems patently unfair to you, and I hope by giving you birthday activities — just like we do for all our other children — we gloss over that fact.

Anyway, here’s your letter, my January star:

Dear Kate,

Every where we go, people know your name.

Usually because I have to exclaim it a few times. Your behavior is not always ideal when we are out in public.

And you know what? I am starting to not mind so much. You know why? Because you’re not hurting anyone. You’re not causing a general uproar. You’re not being bad. You’re being spirited, enthusiastic, and, yes, loud.

Now, do I let you behave that way in the library or in church? No, I do not. Do I let you run around screaming in restaurants? Absolutely not. However, you are 7 now, and you are starting to learn appropriate behavior. (You still want to hug everyone, though.)

You are well-liked. You are funny and smart. You are the best big sister that a little boy (who is also funny, smart, and spirited) could have. (With apologies to Flora, but let’s face it. She likes her quiet time.)

I still worry about you and have my parenting challenges with you. You ricochet and vibrate; you plunge into frustration and sadness. You hate to be alone — it crushes you, it makes you sad. You sob. Sleeping through the night has become a challenge, for all of us. Separation anxiety is wearing us all out.

But, you know, we saw Frozen this past weekend, and I look at the way Elsa was instructed to hide herself, and I just can’t do that to you, my Kate. You’re a little more likely to set things on fire than build an ice palace to be alone, but the theory is the same. You don’t have to be a “good girl”. You are a good girl — but “good” doesn’t in your case mean meek, quiet, and instantly compliant. Your dad and I are making our peace with that.

Anyway, this birthday letter is two days late. Just consider it payback for how long you made me wait the week you were born.

I love you, my spirited, fiery second daughter, my demanding middle. I gave you lots of happy birthday wishes this year, and consider this my last one for now. Don’t change, don’t hide. Be the person you are.

All my heart,
Mommy

The Weekend Belonged to The Duck

Once a month, we have a down weekend. No social plans, no dinner guests, no birthday parties. I schedule it, and put in on Dan’s calendar too.

And then we play the weekend by ear. Usually it means a goodly amount of cleaning, shopping, and/or cooking.

This weekend, though, due to good planning and dinner guests *last* weekend, which meant the house was pretty clean already, we had some freedom to play around. And the weather! My goodness, I would order this weather for every weekend from now until Thanksgiving if I could. It’s perfect.

Anyhoo.

The only thing on the schedule was Flora’s 1 p.m. soccer game on Saturday, which was at a field about five minutes from the house. Plenty of siblings show up, and there’s a playground there. Dan and I took turns rooting for Flora and making sure Kate and M didn’t wander away from the playground.

Saturday, we had “Yes Day”. This is the day that, given a reasonable request, I say yes to the kids. They played by the rules. So: they did not have to clean their room (Flora: Can I clean my room tomorrow?); we went out to dinner; and we went to the toy store. They didn’t get too crazy, asking to watch TV all day or eat only candy. They also stayed up late, although I sent the girls to their room at 10 p.m., and I went to bed at 11 p.m. I told them they had to turn in no later than midnight — Yes Day would officially be over. Flora confessed they didn’t make it much past 11:30. It had been a busy day!

Sunday, we bummed around a little bit. Flora and I went to Mass and ran a couple of errands, which somehow included a red velvet cupcake.

And then we went to see The Duck.

I, for one welcome, our new duck overlord.

Flora is the girl kneeling in pink in the middle down there. She was amazed by The Duck, but was also fascinated by the Canada geese and mallards paddling around. M was intrigued by the boats.

The kids bounced around, checking out the duck, the fountains, and the boats. Dan and I revisited our engagement spot (the confluence — is this a Pittsburgh cliche? I don’t care if it is, just curious).

And the weather was just fantastic. Did I mention that yet?

I love that the duck is in Pittsburgh because it’s such a joyful symbol of childhood juxtaposed with the city of my adulthood.

Or, you know, a giant zombie Trojan duck that will suck out your soul.

You choose.