30th Birthday Trip to NoLa!

As my 30th birthday got closer, I started thinking back on the past decade. I actually turned 20 while I was in LA competing for Miss USA. All of the contestants were in LA for about 2 weeks leading up to the competition and my birthday fell on one of those days. (Side note: During those two weeks I also met our now President Trump… Very briefly but all of us had to meet him.)

But thinking through the whole decade:
20: Competed for Miss USA. Graduated from Wofford.
21: Moved to Washington DC. Started working at the McCain Campaign. Met Michael. Started dating.
22: Worked at DAC. Got engaged.
23: Got married. Moved to San Francisco. Worked at FM.
24: Finished time in San Francisco. Moved to São Paulo.
25: Worked at WINGS. Got pregnant with Colt.
26: Had Colt. Stopped working outside the home.
27: Got pregnant with Finn.
28: Had Finn. Moved back to the US. Bought a house!
29: Our first year in the US. Michael worked at Jones Day DC then started for the DOJ.
30: Just getting started…!

It’s been a busy decade full of love, learning, adventures, babies, working, travels and moves. The greatest blessing has been marrying Michael and being beside him on this journey so I was thrilled to get a weekend away with him, celebrating together.

My birthday is March 12 so that weekend, Michael and I headed off to New Orleans. Michael had been to New Orleans once (in college…for Mardi Gras…so…totally different experience) and I had never been at all. A few years ago we watched the Top Chef season that was filmed in New Orleans and that peaked my interest so it was on my list. And from Virginia it was accessible for a weekend trip. My parents drove up to babysit the kids while we were away so Colt and Finn felt like they received a huge present as well. 🙂

On our flight to New Orleans, someone sitting beside us said that, “If Las Vegas and Charleston had a baby, it would be New Orleans.” I found this to be a great summary. The city has lots of charm, character and a thriving food scene but at the same time it has a healthy amount of grit, grime and all the bachelor/bachelorette parties your heart could ever hope for. I swear that I saw no fewer than 100 girls walking the streets in cutoff jeans, halter tops, veils and sashes. And beads.

At any rate, it was the perfect place to ring in 30. The food (Commanders Palace, Mother’s, ALL THE BEIGNETS!!) and the music were the highlights for me. And did I mention a weekend away with just my husband? Yes, that too. We had a blast.


Friday evening in NoLa.


Intro drinks at the very interesting, very cool Carousel Bar.


There is definitely a charm to New Orleans.


But also…hurricanes at Pat O’ Briens, dueling piano bar!


Bourbon St.


After dinner drinks and music at The Maison.


Nursing slight headaches via Saturday brunch at Mother’s. The perfect cure.


Saturday touring.




Art. Trees. Beads.

Saturday night we did a birthday dinner at Commander’s Palace. Cannot say enough about how great everything was! The turtle soup and strawberry shortcake were my very favs.


Birthday dinner!


So great!


Birthday beignets at Café Du Monde whilst being serenaded by a very talented street saxophone player. Also, beignets are my new favorite food.


My birthday gift — this NoLa painting that I fell in love with at the outdoor art fair. Looks awesome in our room now.


We did a walking tour through the garden district and stopped to admire the Manning household.


Shopping and drinks before heading back to VA!

Thank you to my parents for watching the kids and to Michael for planning the perfect weekend to celebrate 30. So happy to be doing it with you by my side.

July 2016 in Vail, Colorado

Just days after we returned from our beach week in South Carolina, we repacked our bags and headed to Vail to spend the week with Michael’s family. His family has gone to Vail for the past 4 summers and although we’ve only made it to the latest 2, it’s a sweet tradition and a beautiful place to gather. And Vail temperatures definitely beat the heat that we were feeling in DC and they were going through in Arizona!


Airplane Part 1.


Airplane Part 2.


Airplane Part 3.


Going with Dad to get the rental car.


Finn sticking with Mom and all the bags.

One 4 hour flight to Denver + 2 hours in the car + one Colt puke in the car RIGHT before we pulled up… AND WE MADE IT!!!!


Cousin Soren leading Colt around!

One highlight of our trip was an amazing outdoor Symphony performance of Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Preempted by the instrument “petting zoo” where the kids could touch and play the instruments.


Colt desperately trying to play the euphonium.


Harder than it looks but he got it.


Soren, Shannon, Lise, Nana, Colt & Mom.


Colorado pool time! We brought Finn’s float with us.


Family photo in Vail village.


Finn! Almost 11 months.


Vail Village.


Colt and Papa.


Patriotic Colt and Bear.


Colt wearing his new light-up Sketchers from Nana and his Camelbak from Lise!


Lise on the Berry Picker Hike.


Beautiful hike.


Hiking Mikey.


Fun at the top of the hike! Although if memory serves Colt screamed through most of this.


Some hike, others gondola. Either way, Colt is ready with his Camelbak!


Gondola pals! Colt and Nana!


Evening out with the crew.


Park day!


Swinging baby.


Hat bros.


Playground with a view.


Nana and her boys!


Splash park fun!


Bright eyes.


Love this face.


Colt and Papa checking out the hot tub.


Off for a ride!


Such a handsome little love.


Colt getting all up in his face.

We also had a mini party to celebrate the July 7 birthday boys!


73 and 3! Looking good!




Another day another airport.


These two.


January 2016 Weekend Trips!

We were among the last of our São Paulo crew to make the move back from Brazil. This certainly made it much easier to move, as what we most loved about our time there no longer existed. When our group left Brazil we spread out far and wide. Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, New York, DC, Philly, even Singapore and Johannesburg! It’s fun to have friends in so many cities but we also miss each other a lot so we try to get together whenever possible. Our first big reunion was a girls’ weekend in January. Suzanna Jones had just had her sweet baby girl so those of us who could, hopped on a plane to Denver to get together and see her little one. All of us who came had kids as well, but we did our best to leave them with husbands or family so that we could just enjoy each other, although Paige & I did bring our babies with us since they were still pretty young and were nursing so regularly but I was very thankful that my mom was able to watch Colt for me.

We don’t have too many pictures from the weekend 1) because we didn’t do a ton of photo-worthy things! and 2) we were too focused on long conversations and snuggling babies to remember to pull out our cameras. But at any rate, here is what I have!


Paige with Coralie, Jana (sorry girl!), Finn in my lap, Brett, April, Suzanna & Addy Jayne!


Breakfast table convos.


April & Finn.


Brett & Addy Jayne.


Jana & Amy!


Suzanna had these sweet bracelets made for us! São Paulo love.


Cozy coffee & convos.


Adventuring out into Denver.


My traveling companion.


Coralie showing off her moves.

The pictures obviously don’t do the weekend justice but it was SO good to get together with these special girlfriends to connect about life, motherhood, transitioning away from Brazil into our new chapters… We were missing Michelle, Colby & Paula this trip but next time, girls!

While I was in Denver for the weekend, Michael took the train from DC to New York to visit his brother Joe and hang out with friends in the city.


Cheering on the Cardinals with Joe & friends!


Hanging out with BWad.


Snowy NYC.

Then, as I was getting to hang out with Brett in Denver, Michael visited Brad who was dutifully watching their two adorable kiddos back in NY.


Michael with Luke Man!


Campbell! Sweetest little girl ever!

A great MLK weekend for all!!

October 2015 – Paraty Beach Week!

So… it’s been a while since I was in the habit of blogging regularly. Last October to be exact. That’s when we started shifting our focus towards surviving a transcontinental move with 2 kids, 2 & under. Now that things are finally settling down, I’m HOPING that I can get back in the swing of it. There are a lot of current happenings that I want to write about but I also feel the need to catch up on some of the events that I missed, so I’ll probably do a mix of both as I’m able. Hopefully more pictures, more posts, less detail.

But picking up where I left off, at the end of October (October 29 – November 2) we did a beach week with two other families – the Hudsons and the Parkers. We rented an amazing, full-service house, brought along Paige Hudson’s sister Hannah, 2 babas (nannies), and had one of the best trips EVER.

The house was right on the beach and was conveniently next door to a casual beachfront bar/restaurant. They would deliver food & drinks to our house and let us have a running tab throughout the week. The house rental included a full staff who kept the place in tip-top shape despite lots of little feet tracking sand all over the place. We decided to have the staff at the house prepare dinner for us 3 of the nights and the other night we went out into town for dinner while the babas watched the kiddos.

The weather was mostly beautiful. We got rain one day but it was still warm and the water felt great so we all just played in the rain!

Looking back through the photos is bittersweet. It’s a wonderful memory but a clear reminder to me just why my transition to life back in the states is taking some time. We were surrounded by incredible friends who have become our family. We partied together, had our kids together, had our 2nd kids together… We lived in such a gorgeous country and loved having adventures together. We had HELP! Amazing nannies & maids who we adored, who loved our kids and helped to fill the void that assistance from close family often provides. Anyway, I absolutely love these memories but when I look through the pictures of our kids playing in the sand together for hours, it tugs at my heart. But enough talk, more pictures!


Finn not exactly enjoying his first dip in the ocean. 2.5 months old!  

(Bonus if you remember seeing a VERY similar picture of Colt taking his first dip in 2013.)


Room with a view!


House fun.



Jamie Parker on bedtime story duty.



Michael & Colt out on the water with Trent & Jack.


Jack, Mailey & Colt. Besties from birth! All within 4 weeks of each other.



Mailey, Colt & Jack making a run for it!


Standup paddle-boarding with Paige!


Colt with Rosy – our “empra-baba” (maid/nanny). She was like family. We all loved her dearly and miss her tremendously!



Auntie Hans!



Michael & Finn, Michelle & Finley, Hannah & Coralie!


Paige taking Colt out on the water.


Beach beauty!


Kiddo dinner time!


These boys are just 2 weeks apart.




Finn + Rosy.


Breakfast spread.


Breakfast views.


Rosy has the kids covered.


Lounging in front of our house. House on the right, restaurant on the left. Pretty good setup.



The 1 photo I have from our night out. Great food & live music in the streets. 


Finn & Finley – 4 days apart!



This series is absolutely going in the wedding slide-show. #semiarrangedmarriage


Naked in the rain!






Dinner at the house.

The one minor hiccup of the trip was the drive home…
For reference, our drive TO the beach took us about 4 hours. However, we were driving home at the end of a holiday weekend so we knew that we would hit traffic there. We trusted Waze and unfortunately it steered us wrong this time and we ended up with an 11 HOUR DRIVE! 9:30 am – 8:30 pm. With a 2 year old and a 2 month old. It was like an overnight flight back to the states only far worse because a) it was during the day so we were all awake, b) we all needed to eat & go to the bathroom, c) you can’t go for walks or generally move much at all, d) we were crammed into our tiny little car, etc. etc. etc.  At this point I was nursing Finn 5x/day which is also difficult to do while on the road. Basically it was a total disaster. We hated having to stop for bathroom breaks so I hardly ate or drank anything all day and from this, 2 things resulted: 1) I only took 1 bathroom break the whole ride home and it was in a gross, wet bathroom with a toilet that had no seat and 2) It took me a full week for my milk supply to pick up again. After starving myself and feeding Finn all day I was so depleted. Also fun – Colt puked twice on the drive home – the second time when we were just about 10 minutes from home. The blessing is that we had a beach bucket easily accessible in the back and were able to catch/contain them both times. Anyway, it was truly a harrowing event but the boys were AMAZING. Colt literally never cried – even with the sickness – and we timed a grand total of 4 minutes of crying for Finn. Truly a miracle. Ultimately though, São Paulo & Brazil is known for horrendous traffic so we just count it all part of the experience. 😉


Snoozing with his crew.



(Unsuccessfully) Trying to walk off some car-sickness. Also, twinning. 


Finn having a little photo-shoot after a feed.


Such a champ!



Two years ago, in celebration of Michael’s dad’s 70th birthday, his whole family gathered in Vail to celebrate. Well, everyone except for Michael and me, and thank goodness because Ollie’s birthday turned out to be the day that Colt arrived! Anyway, his family loved their time in Vail and has continued the tradition since, but this was our first year to be able to join.

On Saturday, June 27, the Joneses drove us up to Vail to join Sharon and Ollie. We were the first of the “kids” to arrive so we were able to enjoy a couple of days with Michael’s parents on our own. The Harpers were incredibly generous and put everyone up at the Ritz Residences in Vail so our little family had our own two bedroom “condo” for the week which was great for Colt to have his own room and for us to have a full, functioning kitchen for him. During our week in Vail we took advantage of relaxing, exploring, hiking and most importantly, spending time with family.

Walking around with Nana and Papa.

Walking around with Nana and Papa.

Little Sherif at the Farmers Market.

The little Sheriff at the Farmers Market.

Downtown Vail!

Downtown Vail!

Out before dinner.

Out before dinner.

Family of 4.

Family of 4.

Heading to the fountains and the playground.

Heading to the fountains and the playground.

You never know which one is going to shoot!

You never know which one is going to shoot!


Fun with Dad!



Love this sweet boy.

Love this sweet boy.

Colt LOVED riding the gondolas.

Colt LOVED riding the gondolas. In fact, gondola became his new favorite word.

Beautiful scenery.

Beautiful scenery.

Colt with his grandparents.

Colt with his grandparents.

Colt loved the fresh air and open space.

Colt loved the fresh air and open space.

Another family picture!

Another family picture!

King of the world!

King of the world!

Could not be prettier!

Could not be more beautiful!

More time on the gondolas!

More time on the gondolas!

Michael, Lise & Joe hiked to the top of the mountain (the Berry Picker trail) and the rest of us took the gondolas up to meet them for lunch at the top.

Michael, Lise and Joe on their hike.

Michael, Lise and Joe on their hike.

The "Berry Picker."

The “Berry Picker.”

Jumping for joy!

Jumping for joy!

Celebrating with Superman after the hike.

Celebrating with Superman after the hike.

While we were in Vail we were lucky to celebrate a few occasions. The fist was Sharon & Ollie’s 47th wedding anniversary and next up was Christy’s 39th birthday. For her birthday we had a party by the pool and the family cooked up a delicious meal.

Dads and boys, swimming in the pool.

Dads and boys, swimming in the pool.

Christys birthday dinner!

Christy’s birthday dinner!

Nana and her boys.

Nana and her boys.

The whole family - just missing Meg Kopp.

The whole family celebrating Christy – just missing Meg Kopp.

Baby Harper #2 also got celebrated! Sharon took all of the girls to the salon for mani/pedis and the girls surprised me with gifts for the baby! So fun, kind and thoughtful.

Surprise shower at the spa!

Surprise shower at the spa!

While the girls were at the spa, the big boys took the little boys to the park. The idea was to bike and for Colt and JJ to ride together in the trailer but JJ was not having it so Colt ended up riding solo. I just thought this first picture was too funny.

JJ did not enjoy sharing the space. Colt isnt sure what the problem is.

Their faces….

Colt riding solo.

Colt riding solo.

Swinging at the park!

Swinging at the park!

Another highlight for everyone – especially the kids – was the 4th of July parade!

Colt and JJ captivated by the 4th of July parade.

Colt and JJ captivated by the 4th of July parade.

Colt cant take his eyes off the parade.

Colt cant take his eyes off the parade.

Colts favorite bubble-blowing park.

Colt’s favorite bubble-blowing park.

With his favorite bubble-blowing partner!

With his favorite bubble-blowing partner!

Vail Village behind.


But the celebrations didn’t stop there! We also went out to dinner and then had cake back at the Ritz to celebrate (a few days early) Colt’s 2nd and Ollie’s 72nd birthdays!

Our sweet nephew JJ! Just 3.5 months younger than Colt.

Our sweet nephew JJ! Just 3.5 months younger than Colt.

The July 7 birthday boys!

The July 7 birthday boys celebrating turning 2 and 72!

Blowing out their candles.

Blowing out their candles.

With the whole Harper family together, we also hired a photographer to capture a few moments including the awesome cowboy shirts that Uncle Joe got for Colt and JJ.



Sharon & Ollie with their grandboys.

Sharon & Ollie with their grandboys.

Harp family! TJ, JJ and Christy.

Harp family! TJ, JJ and Christy.

Kopp family! Ethan, Allie, Mike, Shannon, Soren and Meghan.

Kopp family! Ethan, Allie, Mike, Shannon, Soren and Meghan.

The Harper men.

The Harper men.

Our little family.

Our little family.

Baby #2 showing off (33 weeks!).

Baby #2 showing off (photo at 33 weeks).

Happy family.

Happy family.

We were all sad to leave family and our time in the US but it did feel good to get home and start getting ready for our new addition, coming soon…!

Heading home again!

Heading home again!

A Day in Denver

After a wonderful stay in South Carolina, our next stop was Denver, CO. There were no direct flights from SC so Colt and I flew through DC so that we could pick Michael up en-route. This was great since I was 32 weeks pregnant which makes holding a toddler in your lap for a long flight less than ideal. Colt and I got lucky on our flight to DC and he was able to have his own seat in which he promptly made himself right at home.

Right at home on the plane. And yes, he put a diaper on his bunny.

Right at home on the plane. And yes, he put a diaper on his bunny.

I was very thankful to have Michael with us on the next leg since we were delayed and there were no extra seats on the plane for Colt. After a long day of traveling, we were SO happy to be greeted in Denver by our dear friends, Jeff and Suzanna Jones! The Joneses were some of our first and dearest friends in São Paulo and we were devastated when they moved from SP to CO in January so it was wonderful to get to see them, hang out and see their life in Denver. Which is awesome.

We arrived late on Thursday and were heading to Vail Saturday morning so our only day in Denver was Friday. We spent Friday morning trying to recover from the previous day’s travels and from the 2 hour time-change as the Joneses worked. That afternoon Suzanna took us to visit Jeff’s office which is, hands down, the coolest work space I have ever seen. He works for a company that developed the space so it was really fun to get to see it. We went from there to a nearby Mexican restaurant which was delicious and perfect because as the Joneses know, good Mexican food is basically impossible to find in SP! Denver is a very dog-friendly city so they brought their adorable dog, Canela, and we all sat outside in the sunshine for the afternoon. Later that day we all met up for happy hour with more former São Paulo friends, Amy and Anand – and their adorable new addition Khush. Even more fun, Suzanna’s sister, brother in law and their dog Piper came as well!

All former São Paulo friends!

All former São Paulo friends!

Colt knew Aunty Z would always play with him!

Colt knew Aunty Z would always play with him!

Hugs for Piper!

Hugs for Piper!

Colt approved of the restaurant that we chose.

Colt approved of the restaurant that we chose.

Walking back.

Walking back.

The next morning the Joneses generously agreed to drive us to Vail where we were meeting up with Michael’s family, but first we had one important stop on the way: brunch with the Kopps! Michael’s cousin Shannon and her family live in the Denver area so on our way to Vail we went by their home where they hosted us all for a fabulous brunch outside on the front lawn under a tree. It was perfect weather and such a beautiful setting.

Soren and his buddies - both welcoming and profitable!

Soren and his buddies – both welcoming and profitable!

Enjoying a beautiful morning.

Enjoying a beautiful morning.

Kopps and Harpers!

Kopps and Harpers!

We were sad to part ways from the Joneses but before they headed back to Denver, they left Colt with the coolest gifts – a sweet Colorado Rockies hat and an awesome world puzzle! Colt loved it.

Loving the hat. Very eager to tear into the puzzle.

Loving the hat. Very eager to tear into the puzzle.

Proud as punch!

Proud as punch!

BIG thank you to Jeff & Suzanna for being the most fun and gracious hosts. It was quick but we loved our time with you!!

**Up Next: Vail!**

Wedding in the Poconos

Last week we returned home from a whirlwind trip all over the US and it all started with a wedding in the Poconos. A cousin on my dad’s side got married on June 13 (check out the awesome NYT coverage on the wedding here – they have such a cute story!) and in addition to it being a fun, beautiful weekend, it was also a bonafide family reunion which was extra special since we don’t get to see my dad’s side of the family very often.

Colt making himself comfortable as we get set up on the plane.

Colt making himself comfortable as we get set up on the plane.

The wedding was held at the Pocono Lake Preserve, a private camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The camp totally has the feel of Dirty Dancing since when it’s “in season” families come stay for the summer and there are daily activities for kids, adults, etc. I think there are around 105 properties or “camps” on the preserve and each “camp” generally has 1-3 houses on it. Since the wedding took place before “season” starts (July 4), many property owners opened up their camps (or houses) for wedding guests to stay. We shared a house with my parents and my brother’s family and then some of my cousins who also have young kids stayed in another house on the same camp. Even more fun was that in between the two houses was a huge “playground” area for the kids! So basically a beautiful, natural setting, lots of space to run and play, lots of kids to play with and lots of family to help watch the kids — it was parent kid heaven! And honestly, I don’t know if it was just the timing or being with family or the open space or what but from our first day there, Colt seemed to come alive in a new way. He was so much more animated, less timid, more talkative and playful (although he still gives the MOST serious looks for all photos) than we had ever seen him before, and he’s truly been different ever since. I love it.

Colt, Augusta Clare (my brother's daughter) and Gavin (my 1st cousin's son) playing on the swings.

Colt swinging with cousins Augusta Clare and Gavin.

Colt running through the ferns (aka the Enchanted Forest) with Augusta Clare and Delaney.

Colt being chased through the ferns (aka the Enchanted Forest) by cousins Augusta Clare and Delaney.

Bubbles with Gigi!

Bubbles with Gigi and Delaney!

While we were there, Colt had his first boat ride!

Despite the look on his face, he actually loved it.

Despite the look on his face, he actually loved it.

Loved getting time with this sweet girl!

Loved getting time with this sweet girl!

The weekend also included hiking, a kick-ball tournament and general fun for the kids as they explored the preserve.

Gavin, Michael and my dad.

Gavin, Michael and my dad.

My dad, Michael, Gavin and Mark.

My dad, Gavin, Mark and Michael.

Morning breakfast by the lake.

Morning coffee by the lake.

Kiddos in the childrens library.

Madeline, Colt, Augusta Clare and Gavin in the children’s library.

The wedding itself was held outside in a beautiful clearing beneath a canopy of trees.



Walking to the ceremony.

Walking to the ceremony.

Love this face.

Love this face.

Happy boy.

Happy boy.

Augusta Clare with her momma Suzanne.

Augusta Clare with her momma Suzanne.

Post wedding photo-shoot by the lake.

Gigi and Colt.

Gigi and Colt.

My brother and his beautiful family: Augusta Clare, Suzanne, Brad and May.

My brother and his beautiful family: Augusta Clare, Suzanne, Brad and May.

Gigi and Pasha with their 3 grandkids. Outfits courtesy of Gigi.

Gigi and Pasha with their 3 grandkids. Outfits courtesy of Gigi.

Family pic!

Family pic!

This was at exactly 32 weeks.

Take 2!

Zais families!

My dad and his brother with their spouses, kids and grandkids!

Love these two boys.

Love these two boys.

So cute.

So cute.

Emert family photo. All decendents of my dads maternal grandparents, the Emerts.

Emert family photo. All decendents of my dad’s maternal grandparents, the Emerts. The bride is lucky she was included in the picture – at our wedding Michael got booted for the Emert family photo. They take it pretty seriously.

At the reception.

At the reception.

Beautiful setting.

Exactly 32 weeks!

The day after the wedding, Michael had to fly back to Brazil for work so I flew home to SC with my parents. Colt threw up in the car when we were about 5 minutes away from the airport (thankfully we had an oops-outfit ready!) and our flight was delayed, but he was with Gigi and Pasha so he was happy, and as soon as we took off he passed out in my mom’s arms.

Sleeping in Gigi's arms on the flight to SC!

Sleeping in Gigi’s arms on the flight to SC!

All in all an amazing weekend!

**Up Next: South Carolina!**