Life Updates


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Well, I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting for a life update from us.  WAIT NO LONGER! Ha!

Between the boys getting older and being more and more independent, and me stepping down from a couple volunteer positions, I see more and more pockets of time opening up for me to get back to some of the things I really enjoyed doing in the past.  Blogging being one of them.  I do feel a certain lack of inspiration on WHAT to write about – maybe because it’s been so long since I blogged regularly, or maybe because the topics that do come to mind are ones that I should be sharing with a therapist instead of the whole world – HA!

So, I thought I would just start with a little recap of our year so far.  As I predicted, 2018 has been good.  Nay, GREAT.  We rented a cabin in Arrowhead in January with my cousins, and had a wonderful family weekend.  We even got some surprise snow – it was the perfect amount too: enough for a snowball fight and a mini-snowman, not enough to trap us in or hinder us in any way.  Jake still talks about that cabin and the snow, and his nina.

arrowhead group picture

We haven’t made a lot of progress on our family goals, but we did go apple picking, and damn have we worked on some home projects.  We FINALLY finished painting most of the interior of our house, which had been on a hiatus for a good 1.5+ years.  It felt SO GOOD to finally get that done, and I think it’s motivated us to work on other projects around the house.  Every little section of our house that we add an element to, I feel like it instantly makes that section of our house our home.  We’ve added frames to our hallway, a border to our planter box, many many indoor plants, a couple new pieces of furniture to our little living area, homework baskets and backpack hooks, and just this weekend we added a new plant to our bedroom.


It’s also been a pretty big year on getting to know my dad and his family a little more.  My dad flew me out to Arizona in May so I could be at my sister’s graduation party, and I got to meet the extended family during that party.  All the aunts and uncles and cousins.  I also went without the kids, so it was nice to have some “alone” time with everyone.


I went shopping with my three sisters and I just kept thinking of how many times my mom has mentioned going shopping with her sisters.  I’m usually a solo-shopper, and I don’t go shopping just to shop.  I need something, I go out and buy it.  But I have to say, it was nice.  It was nice to just walk around with the three of them, look and compare, and buy shit you don’t need (although in this case, the two pairs of shorts I bought got me through the Summer, and the dinosaur jammies I got the boys are their favorite ones – because the dinosaurs on their knees end up biting daddy every time he puts them to sleep in those jammies).  It made me a little jealous of how often my sisters get to do those things together, of how often my mom has had those moments with her sisters, and of how often my cousins have those moments with their siblings.  Looks like I’m blogging anyway instead of talking to a therapist, ha!

For mothers day we finally made it to Carlsbad to see the flower fields.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while now, and Mother’s Day was the perfect reason to make it happen!  We went with both of our mom’s and papa, and had a great day.


This summer we also spent a long weekend with my dad and his family at a lake house in Show Low.  Jake and Josh got to go fishing for the first time – and Jake was a pro!  It was also great to not have to DO anything – just hang out!


The last couple of weeks I’ve been waking up extra early and going on walks around the neighborhood.  I gained most of my pregnancy wait after Josh stopped nursing, and I’m finally feeling like I really need to do something about it.  Work also has a health incentive all year and if you walk 50,000 steps a week you get entered into a raffle for one of the grand prizes – so now I have a defined goal and I’m shooting for it this week!

After all that…I thought I would start doing what all bloggers seem to do: just share links of stuff that I want, haha.

  • I’m ready to jump on the booties bandwagon with these beauties.
  • I finally found the style of handbag I like, and bought one at Target that is already falling apart.  This one would be just a liiiiiiiiiittle step up.
  • I’ve had this Obama photo book on my Amazon list for a while.  Not sure why I never pull the trigger and just get it!
  • Reese Witherspoon also recently came out with a book/cookbook.  I’m a sucker for cookbooks and all things southern.  I’m afraid that if I buy and read this book though, I’ll just be depressed that Reese isn’t my BFF.  That’s kind of how I felt after getting The Magnolia Table – why doesn’t Joanna love me?!?

Does anyone have a number for a good therapist?  :)


All the great photos are thanks to Jeff Armstrong.  The non-great ones…are most likely thanks to me.


Literate Lushes (August 2017 to July 2018)


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This seems to be an annual post…here we go.

August: The Song of Achilles, A Novel, by Madeline Miller.  As I mentioned in my last Literate Lushes post, I couldn’t put this book down.  I started reading it was I waited to board the plane to Florida for one of my best friend’s weddings, and finished it in the uber on the way to the hotel (in between getting pulled over and telling the office my name so he didn’t think I was the female that had a restraining order against my uber driver).  It is a heartbreaking rendition of a Greek classic.

September: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.  This past year has been the year of some pretty heavy books.  This book was recommended by a dear friend of mine, and I’m so glad I chose it as my book club pick.  The title is self-describing, but it goes into heartbreaking detail on the tragedies suffered by people in slavery.  I still can’t wrap my head around how cruel people can be to one another.  I feel like we all learned a lot from this historical fiction book, and our discussion was great.

October: Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King.  A nice and easy vampire read for the Halloween month!  Slavery followed by vampires wasn’t exactly what the doctor called for, but it was a nice change of pace and a good read.

December: The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey.  So slavery followed by vampires followed by zombies!  Another book that I would have never picked to read on my own, but once I started it I couldn’t put it down.  An interesting spin on the zombie story line, with an ending that I couldn’t stop thinking about for days.  I heard that’s a second book to this series that I have yet to get back to.

January: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  A non-fiction story on the first immortal strand of cultured DNA (I’m not a science person, so possibly the worst science lack of terminology there, but…maybe 80% correct), and how it was obtained without consent from an African American woman in 1951.  A truly amazing story, and the conflict between morality, medicine, and racism (and so many other things).  The science-y parts bogged me down a bit, but an enthralling story nonetheless.

February: Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green.  This one really took me a while to get into.  It’s a young adult novel written in the first person, so sometimes the thought dialogue was a bit hard for me to keep reading/listening to.  I did up the speed on my audible on this one which made it more bearable.  But once I got a third of the way in or so, it made me realize how hard it must be to have some form of OCD or depression or anxiety.  It was good to be in someone else’s shoes to try to understand the difficulties that face others-we just never know how hard something can be for someone else.

March: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.  After all the intense books we’d read in the months prior, this was such a pleasant and nice read.  Just a love story full of magic and time travel (story lines, not actual time travel).  This book totally had me hooked and I loved the ending.

April: The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.  Another emotionally difficult book, this one about the holocaust and work/extermination camps.  This book started a little slow, but the storyline picked up a little bit, and then it was just astounding, once again, to read about how horrible people can be to each other.

May: Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman.  This book was a collection of short stories, which is not my most favorite, but it was cool to read some new and some familiar about Norse mythology.  Jake is starting to get into the Avengers, so reading stories about Thor and Loki were pretty cool.  The audible version is narrated by Neil Gaiman, and he did a great job.

July, White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht. Have I mentioned heart breaking?  I almost didn’t continue reading this book-it starts with a pretty heavy amount of rape and sexual abuse, and it’s the first book I’ve considered not finishing because it was just hard to listen to.  This book is about the Japanese occupation of Korea, and the only reason I continued reading it was because I thought it was important for me to read about what happened.  I’ve never studied anything about this chapter of history, and my goodness, how awful.  How a human being can endure so much pain is just beyond me.  But, a great read and a wonderfully told story.

Bonus reads:

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, by ZZ Packer.  This was a pretty quick read.  I saw it highly recommended somewhere online and thought I would give it a try.  Like I mentioned above, I’m not a fan of short stories, so this book was a little disappointing in that respect.  Each individual story had a little heart break, but kind of like Small Great Things, helps to put me in someone else’s shoes, shoes that I’m thankful I haven’t had to walk in.

Capital Gaines, by Chip Gaines.  A fun, quick read.  We’re obsessed with Chip and Joanna over here, so it was nice to learn a little more about them and gain some insight on how they’ve become so successful.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman.  Another great read from Fredrik Backman.  I really do love his style of writing, and the characters in his stories.  Britt Marie comes back in this one, and she’s hilarious and heartbreaking yet again.  And again, I laughed, and I cried.

The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan.  This was a great light read, that got me through some of the heavier books listed above.  Just a light hearted story that follows two different story lines, that end up intertwining at the end (in a way that I think was very obvious if I had read more carefully, but thankfully caught me by surprise).

What have you been reading lately?  Or in the last year? :-P


To New Beginnings

Sweet Summer Days.jpg

This summer break has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and a tad stressful.  On day two of being home with the boys, I received an email asking me to apply for another position within the district, but at the district office, and then hours later received an email from our local community college inviting me to interview for an office manager position that I had applied to months ago (and figured they had already filled).  I ended up not getting the job at the community college, but was offered the position at the district office.

I’m SUPER GRATEFUL for these opportunities, as they both meant a huge step towards achieving our family goal of financial stability-and no longer having to live paycheck to paycheck (what does that even feel like??!).  BUT, I absolutely LOVE where I work, and all of the people I work with-all 60+ of them.  It’s so hard to consciously leave a working environment that has been nothing but great to me (and my family), and take a chance on something completely unknown.  I’ve been spoiled rotten with amazing co-workers, supportive supervisors, and doing work that I truly enjoy.

On the other hand, the reason I was initially looking for another job is 1) needing to make more money, and 2) needing a little more of a challenge in what I do.  My current position as office manager was stressful at times, and at the beginning truly hard to get a grasp on, but after a few months it seemed like I was just pushing papers around.  Granted, those papers were important and made big things happen that mattered to our staff, teachers, and students, buuuuuuuut, not necessarily a job where I felt I was working to my full potential.

The other stressful thing about this change is that the new position is year-round.  I know, I KNOW-that’s what most adults in the real world have, haha.  But, I’ve been spoiled and gotten used to spending 5-6 weeks home with Jake, and now Josh also, during the summer.  It means that August and September are super stressful financially, since those are unpaid weeks off, but the time I’ve gotten to spend at home has been truly wonderful.  By no means are my summers at home all rainbows and butterflies-I find motherhood to be a much more challenging job than any professional job I’ve had elsewhere.  My first summer home, when Jake was just under a year old, was HARD.  My second summer we were in the middle of moving so I spent most of our summer packing our apartment and unpacking into our new home.  My third summer home as a bit of a shit show-I was on an extended maternity leave so Josh was just three months old, and I was trying to potty train Jake, move him to his own bed, and take his binkie away.  It wasn’t fun.  Did I mention Josh was three months old?

Last summer was magical.  I feel like Jake and Josh are finally at an age where summer’s can be so much fun, and it’s so hard to let that opportunity go, even if it means a life-changing financial opportunity.  My heart breaks a little to think that these are my last summer days home with the boys-but I guess I should just be thankful that I’ve had them at all.  I know we’ll get vacations and holidays-but it won’t be the same.  I won’t get to plan random activities just because, or spend our days doing whatever we want.

But I guess change is good, right?  I’m nervous and excited and terrified and slightly heartbroken.  To all of my La Paz family-it’s things like these that make me so thankful for Facebook!  Please don’t be strangers!

Life Goals.


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Jeff and I have been talking and brainstorming a lot lately.  About our future.  About what makes each of us happy.  About what we need to do so we don’t look back at our lives when we’re 60/70/80 and think we settled for the easy road, just to coast through our lives.

We’ve started talking about Jeff taking his skills in carpentry seriously, and going out on his own.  Designing and building stuff. Creating.  It’s exciting, and it’s scary.  We also go around and around trying to figure out our first steps: he needs to start building and making stuff to get to a point where he can quit his job and let go of a steady income for our family.  But he needs time to build and create things.  Time is a tricky devil.

So that’s one thing we’ve been talking about.

The other thing we’ve been talking about is a life goal for both of us, and our little family.  Jeff and I have loved the opportunities we’ve had to work together-and how awesome it would be to work towards a goal that would lead us to both work together and have more flexible time for our family.  Given our various talents (him: carpentry, building, creating, photography; her: officiating, coordinating), we’re thinking it would be awesome to build a wedding/event venue that we can run.  We can offer package deals that include all our services, or people can chose a package that gives them flexibility in choosing their own vendors.  We’d build something with all of our favorite things we’ve seen from various places, we’d build a photographer’s dream location, taking lighting and backgrounds into consideration.

Going from the conceptual to the realistic is where I start freaking out.  Permits.  Loans.  Risk.  Licenses.  Taxes.  Instability.  Moving?! Location, location, location.  There aren’t too many areas local to us that offer property, and definitely not at reasonable prices.  The idea of moving somewhere, even if it’s just an hour away, is daunting.  We’ve put so much into our little home, and I’m really loving it.  I love our neighbors.  I love having our parents so close.

There’s also this thing called “student loans.”  I know it was my decision to go to law school, and my decision not to work in a career that allows me to pay off those loans.  So I’ll start by saying that I know it’s on me.  Without going into a career that makes six figures, one option is to work at a non-profit or government institution for 10 years to have the remainder of my loans forgiven.  I’ve always wanted to do non-profit work, so it always seemed like a perfect option for me.  But here I am, only four years in, and I’m starting to feel a little trapped by my lack of options if I want to stay on this loan forgiveness plan.

I feel like things have usually been easy for me.  And it’s all relative, of course, but I don’t feel like I’ve every had to work HARD for stuff.  Studying was easy for me, so I coasted through school-I never REALLY tried.  If I applied myself in college, I could have gotten better grades and graduated with honors, but I was happy to just do “well” with my minimal effort.  I know I’ve been fortunate and blessed with everything in my life: I happened to meet an amazing human being at work, that became my husband and father to my children.  I didn’t have to go on endless dates.  He just showed up!  We were able to purchase a home because of an incredibly generous family member; there is NO WAY we would have been able to buy a home in Orange County (or in most places, actually) without help.  Our home was the first and only home we looked at.  I have two beautiful children-each of them with healthy and as-easy-as-they-get pregnancies and deliveries.  I don’t take these things for granted.

I don’t say this to gloat or ask for a streak of bad luck-only to say that I’m not used to working hard for things (that sounds like such a douchey thing to say-so my apologies).  Diving into something that I know will require a ton of work, dedication, and sacrifice, is scary.  It’s taken so long for Jeff and I to get to a point where we’re financially stable: we can pay our bills every month and even splurge a little on family pizza nights.  It’s terrifying to consciously put us in a situation where we can go back to not knowing if our ATM card will get declined when we’re buying groceries.

But as Jeff and I talk…it’s obvious that this shouldn’t keep us from trying.  We’ll never know if we don’t try.  And I DON’T want to look back on my life and realize that I settled for an easy life.  I came across a blog yesterday that seemed oddly well timed: “The big break is the moment you decide to take your dream seriously.”

So.  We’re putting our dream out into the universe.  We are going to take it seriously, and work towards it knowing that it can be our reality.  It won’t happen over night, but hopefully we’ll figure out a plan to get to where we’re going!



It was a good day.


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I must say, 2018 is off to a good start!  2017 wasn’t bad to us, but it had a very rough start with all of us being sick, then me having pneumonia, then Jeff having hernia surgery…I feel like we didn’t really “start” our year until late April!  This year, thanks to Josh being on antibiotics since last week, we’re all healthy and ready to start 2018 with a fresh start!

A high school friend and fellow blogger said it best on her blog yesterday: “I feel like life hit the reset button.”  Yep.  I know the shimmer and hope of the new year will fade away quickly once the daily routine sets back in, but for now: hello sunshine!  Hello plans to be a more patient and understanding mother!  Hello home projects!  Hello plans to be more adventurous!  Hello goal setting (more date nights, more family quality time, more, more more..)!  And maybe most importantly…hello new planner! :-P

And I must say…2018 started off great.  I accepted a last minute job for a New Year’s Eve wedding (I actually had a ceremony on Saturday, a ceremony on Sunday morning, and coordinated this wedding on Sunday night-yeah!), so I didn’t get to ring in the New Year with Jeff, and wasn’t in bed until 2:00 a.m.  Which….for me…is REALLY late.  However, my internal clock is awful to me, so I was still awake by 6:30 a.m….but refused to let myself get out of bed.  Jake came to our bed and after I wished him a happy new year he said “Happy New Year to you too!” which just sounded so adorable.  Jeff has always been great about taking care of the boys in the morning after I work a late wedding, so he took Josh to the kitchen once Josh started yelling at us: “Eat!  Eat!  EAT!!!”

Jake had fallen back asleep, and when he woke up he said “Wake up mommy, it’s a beautiful day!” *swoon*  I heard Jeff making coffee, which: OMG.  I’m the daily coffee maker in the house, and it’s always SO GREAT when someone else makes it.  I was a little surprised he didn’t bring me a cup of coffee once it was done (I know I’m spoiled, he’s amazing), but figured Josh was keeping him busy.  A few minutes later I hear Josh coming down the hallway, and then Jeff walked in with a breakfast tray.  Yes ladies and gentlemen (gentleman?), there were happy tears.  I love breakfast.  I love when I don’t have to make breakfast (which isn’t often since I’m always up before everyone else).  This was huge.  Of course, I had to share with a certain someone who wouldn’t keep his grubby hands off my food…


He’s cute enough that I shared.

We then started cleaning up all our Christmas decor, and taking the ornaments off our tree was the perfect family “teamwork” scenario that is now starting to happen a little more frequently as Joshy gets older.  Jeff was in charge of getting the ornaments off the tree, then he’d had them to Josh (unless they were super fragile…c’mon, we’re not idiots), who would hand them to Jake, who would hand them to me for packing and storage.  We were done in record time and my heart was so happy.  Josh wasn’t happy about me putting this guy in a box though:


As a side note: I’ve had that reindeer since I was nine years old, when my mom sent it to me when I was spending a Christmas in Guatemala with my grandmother.

We then grabbed lunch, then Home Depot for some home project supplies and way too many plants.


Jake has been SO EXCITED to have his cousin in town <3.

We went back home and got to work.  Jake was helping me with some plants, and I don’t know if it was the lighting, or the solace of this moment alone with him, but he just looked so perfect and beautiful and I wanted to capture that moment forever.  He had mentioned earlier to me that one day he was going to get bigger and have to leave me and go on his own (we’ve had these conversations before), and we both said how we would miss each other, so maybe having that at the forefront of my mind made me extra emotional: my little guy is growing up so fast!  So I had to capture the moment.


Jake also helped daddy take down the Christmas lights, which has become a tradition of theirs:



The older boys went and got ice cream while Joshy and I took a nap.  Then Jake come home super upset because daddy didn’t pick the flowers Jake wanted for grandma, so we talked it out and he decided to buy her the flowers he wanted with this own money.  We opened up his piggy bank (which is actually a Chase Paw Patrol bank…) and went back to Ralphs so he could pick his flowers.  I then took him to Starbucks and we had some nice quality time together, which I’ve been wanting for so long.

We rounded up the evening having dinner with grandma Linda, grandpa, and Brayden, to celebrate grandma’s birthday.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect first day.

We’re ready for you, 2018!

Summer Roundup

It’s hard to believe, but my Summer vacation is coming to an end and I’m heading back to work on Monday.  I’m by no means complaining of HAVING a summer vacation, I know how lucky I am to get this time off with my boys while still having a great job.  I will say that this has been my best summer since I started working at the district a little over three years ago.  The first summer I had off, Jake was just under one, and I was struggling with being a new mom that had to realize she couldn’t do all the things she wanted to do, while squeezing in two naps and changing a billion diapers.

Summer #2 was spent packing up our little apartment, dealing with the stress of escrow and not knowing if we’d be moving into our new home or back with my in-laws, and then trying to get everything unpacked and settled into our new home before going back to work.

Summer #3.  Oh boy.  One toddler who we were potty training, trying to wean off the binkie, and move into his own room, while also still adjusting to being a mommy of 2, which meant also nursing and changing diapers constantly.  Last summer was rough.

But summer #4.  It’s been glorious.  It still had the hints of my frustrations of not being quite so good at being a stay-at-home mom (huge props to you full time stay at home mommies, you’re my heroes), but I also had some super mom moments and I think I really prepared myself as much as I could to enjoy this time as much as I could.

One thing I learned from past summers is that I need to do stuff: staying home all day with two kiddos was going to drive me insane.  When a fellow mommy-wedding planner told me that she had already planned out her summer calendar, a huge light bulb lit up: THAT IS WHAT I NEED: I NEED A PLAN (I can see Jeff laughing right now…his over-planning and too-many lists wife, hehe).  So that’s what I did.  I tried to follow a general structure: planning in advance for hot days, I tried to plan outdoor activities in the mornings (walks/hikes, etc.), and some kind of in-home activity for the afternoons.  I also spread out all the home projects I wanted to do (cleaning baseboards, organizing the pantry, closets, and bathroom drawers, etc.).  I initially had planned these for the mornings that Jake was in preschool two days a week for the first three weeks, then realized that having a one year old still with me made those projects impossible to achieve.  BUT, keeping the kids up all day meant that nap time was GLORIOUS–if I played my cards right I could get both kids down at the same time for at least two hours.  Helloooooo productivity.

So, a few things that came in useful in planning my summer: my google calendar, the OC library events website, Plan A Day Out (this website is great, tons of events listed that you can search for by date/age/price, etc.), and having awesome neighbors and friends to meet up with.  Oh and obviously Pinterest.  I’ve been pinning a bunch of random “things to do with a toddler” so I finally went through those and picked a few.

So, for those that are still reading, ha, here’s a photo montage recap of our Summer:

Morning Stuff

On the Plan a Day Out website they had John Wayne Airport as an activity for kids to see planes land and take off.  This is something that I had thought of on my own before, but just didn’t really know the best spot to do this.  Apparently the top floor of the terminal 1 parking lot!  Unfortunately for us, that parking lot wasn’t open for parking when we went, and all the floors in between were full, which means we had to park on the bottom floor, and go up about three levels while carrying a backpack, a toddler, two toddler chairs, and making sure the older child made it up the stairs without stopping to stare at the stale gum on the walls and asking what that was.  Phew.  It was fun for about five minutes.  It was already HOT, and due to a wall that I had not counted on being there (but totally made sense), we couldn’t sit and see the airplanes, but instead had to stand on a column.  Overall a good outing, but things that would make it better next time: take the truck and hope the lot is open so we can put the chairs in the back of the truck and relax and watch the planes take off, and also plan something else to do in that area as well.  Like I said, it was entertaining for a little bit, but it took me longer to pack up and drive back and forth than the time we spent watching airplanes.  Irvine has tons to do, so next time I’ll piggy back with something else.  Also a heads up that there is a parking fee involved.

Day walks: I drive past a bunch of different trails all the time and I’m always curious about them, so one of my goals this summer was to try out some of those random trails.  I didn’t get to many of them….I’ll be honest, we checked out two of maybe five I had planned, but we did explore some!

Jake was at first very hesitant about going through this tunnel at the Oso Creek Trail, but he was SO PROUD of himself for doing it, it was pretty awesome.  I took water and snacks and we had a little picnic before we walked back to the car.  Sidenote: packing for a day out can be exhausting.  After I got back from my trip to Florida I just couldn’t get back into it.  It’s mentally exhausting to try and think of all the things you might need.  But essentially every time we went out to adventure I took water, snacks, extra clothes, binkies for the tired drive home, wipies, etc., etc., etc.

The OC Public Library had quite a few things going on at the different libraries, so I planned ahead for one at the Dana Point library: Dina Days!  To be honest it was way more academic than most of the little kids cared for, but I think Jake semi enjoyed it.  I invited some neighbors to come along and we did a hike by the beach before the event, and I packed a good picnic to have with the boys after it was over.  From the Dana Point library it was a super short drive to Lantern Bay Park which has a great view of the ocean, and plenty of shady areas to set out a blanket.

This was another library event: dance time story time!  A neighbor of our said they do the same dance moves every time, haha, so we only did this once.  I was so grateful my mom was with us so she could take care of Josh, who was less than amused by the book reading and dance moves.  We made pretty regular trips to the library to check out new books, and I just LOVE that Jake loves to read them all.  Josh on the other hand…prefers to eat them still.

Another random trip I planned was going to see the construction going on at the Laguna Hills Mall.  Or shall I say, Five Lagunas, formerly known as the Laguna Hills Mall?  For those that don’t know, Jake is a huge construction fan, so I thought this would be something easy that he’d enjoy.  I think Josh got a kick out of it too, and I was pretty grateful that the whole site had these little windows you could see through (although I had to carry Josh AND hold up Jake on my knee since he couldn’t quite reach the window).

Um, hellllllooooo Adventure Playground in Irvine!  I’ve heard a lot about this place and finally put it on the calendar.  We also invited the neighbors (and one of my awesome co-workers!) and most of them were able to join.  It’s big and muddy and CONTAINED.  I lost sight of Jake for a few minutes (rarely were Jake and Josh enjoying the same areas…) and my friend reminded me that the area was closed off and it was just a matter of locating the right construction truck to find him.  I think this place will be even more awesome for me when I can let both of the boys run off on their own and I don’t have to be looking after them constantly.  On this trip we again planned ahead and I packed a picnic lunch which we enjoyed with some friends on the lawn just outside the park.  Did I mention it’s free?  Just make sure to bring extra clothes for the ones that like the mud.

Afternoon, in-home Activities

Who doesn’t like paint time?  Once you realize they’re going to get paint everywhere anyway and just let them be, it’s not too bad :)  Obviously Josh was not a fan of painting on paper, and Jake just thought painting on oneself was way better too.

Thanks to those Pinterest boards, we tried a few different science experiments, like using food coloring on flowers.   This one took days and days and days for the dye to kinda sorta make it’s way through, but Jake seemed pretty excited to check the progress every day and would not let me throw the flowers away until they were REALLY dead.

What kid doesn’t love dinosaur fossils?!  This idea I copied from a friend who did a dinosaur theme for her daughter’s birthday, and had buckets with sand and fossils for the kids to dig through.  I decided to replicate this and try it at home.  I even found some mini-magnifying glasses to complete the look.  Um, I have a ton of those still if anyone wants them.  Disclaimer: many of these projects were fun and gave the boys (mostly Jake) something to do, but I’ll be honest: the time and effort to prepare for some of these was way more than the time it kept him entertained.  I think they were all still worth it since it gave us something to do and I do think he enjoyed them, but just wanted to give the full disclosure that these aren’t activities that took up a whole afternoon (or even a whole hour).

Another Pinterest find with mediocre execution: a home made obstacle course!  I used my phone and timed Jake so he could try to improve it, which got him to do it at least 2-3 more times, haha.  I will say, he got pretty good at going over and under the hallway obstacles, so practice DOES make perfect!

Milk, food dye, q-tips, and hand soap! Eventually this will be good to learn how mixing some colors makes new colors, but for now it was just fun to mix them all together and make reeeeeeeally green soapy milk…

Spending Time with Friends

One of my co-workers, that is also a great friend, just moved in to a new home with a pool and had us over quite a few times.  Jake hasn’t learned to swim yet, but he’s warming up to the idea!

Weekend exploring with daddy: The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach has a great trail (part of which is pretty tropical and awesome), a great butterfly area, and some cool interactive features for kids.  We also hit up the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Modjeska Canyon, and I highly recommend checking out the Nature Center across the street from it: they have all sorts of little hands on activities for kids.  Most of them were a little too grown up for Jake, but I’d like to take him back in a year or two.

We got to walk around Laguna Beach with my mom on a Monday, and she treated them to a super over-priced ice cream which we all fully enjoyed.  Did I mention packing wipies for the day?  I know that’s a no-brainer for most mommies, but sooooo glad I had them that day.

We planned a lunch date to see my sister-cousin and Jake’s godmother (“Nina” is short for “madrina” which is godmother in Spanish), who works in LA by the airport.  Jake was missing her a lot, and I figured we had the time to make the drive on a week day.  Man did Nina go all out.  She took us to a place called The Proud Bird for lunch, and I can’t recommend this place enough.  The food was good (it’s almost like a food court so you can pick whatever you like), and the views of the planes landing and starting to take off were awesome, not to mention being able to see planes up close that were on display.

After lunch, Nina had a surprise for Jake:  Bruder has a location right down the street from her work, so we went there and Jake was beyond himself.  Bruder makes these awesome trucks that are pretty “real,” and Jake already had a couple of them, so he was in heaven.  They have a play room area where you can “check out” whatever car/truck you want, then return it and check out another one.  They obviously have a bunch of cars/trucks for sale, and some of them are discounted if they’re out of the box.  Nina couldn’t help herself and bought one toy for each boy.  Jake has taken ownership of both of them.  And Josh could care less, as long as he’s fed snacks constantly.

Our last week was spent with family and friends.  Above: we went to San Diego to welcome my cousin back, who had been at sea for the last four months.  The boys enjoyed being spoiled by everyone and seeing some big ships.  Jake got to see all sorts of trucks and fork lifts on base too, so he was pretty happy.

My friend Dana, who I went to college with, is a teacher so she’s off for the summer as well.  We met at Kidseum in Santa Ana, which is part of the Bowers Museum but is located in a separate building a couple blocks away.  It was $7 a person I think, which in my opinion was a little high for the size of the place, but the kids ran around and got to do a few crafty activities (supplies are included in the admission price), and then we went to the 4th Street food area and enjoyed some pizza and ice cream sandwiches from Chunk n Chip.  Yum.

Mommies, let’s be honest…this is the best part of our day.  See those sleeping angels?  That’s what kept mommy sane all summer.  I got to clean and organize, and blog, and watch The Hand Maids Tale, and even get a little work out in!  Speaking of which, I need to go get these boys up or they’ll sleep all day!

What was your favorite part of your Summer so far?  What activities do you love to do with your kids or friends?

Mommy Vacation


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I recently got back from an almost one-week, kid-free, trip to Florida. I was fortunate enough to be in the bridal party for one of my best friend’s weddings, and it was amazing.

A few observations from my trip:

  • Flying as a mom, and without your children, is now terrifying. I hadn’t been on a plane since our trip to Germany in 2012, so it’s obviously been a while. I’ve never been afraid of flying, but I was pretty close to panicking on that first take off. I kept thinking “I have kids…what will they do without me if something happens? How does this thing even stay in the air?! so many things can go wrong!!!” In talking to fellow mommies that I was rooming with I realized I wasn’t alone. It still amazes me how much motherhood/parenting can change you.


  • Uber can be strange. I’m a married mother of two living on Orange County, so I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise that I’ve never used uber before. I took my first uber from the airport in Tampa to our resort. The driver was asking me for relationship advice before I buckled in, and shared how his ex had just filed a restraining order against him just as he was getting pulled over. Thankfully the rest of our uber drivers for the week were much less….blog-worthy?


  • Alone time is great. I’m not gonna lie, one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip (other than obviously celebrating my amazing friend and her husband!) was being alone on a plane and reading, ha! I’ve been doing audible lately but I’ve really missed reading reading (that’s not a typo).  I finished my Literate Lushes book on my two flights to Florida, plus the end of my awkward uber trip (“uhhh…is it ok if I finish reading my book real quick?”).  I had a second book for the way home, but it wasn’t as exciting so I still have quite a bit to go on that one.  I also really enjoyed some solo time on the balcony of our suite, just looking out at the golf course, drinking my coffee, and thinking thoughts.  The one day that we didn’t have much planned, I decided to go exploring on my own and was so proud of myself for doing so.  I ended my adventure by drinking a solo-beer next to the water, and it was amazing.  I forget how much we/I need this time…which is so hard to come by in the madness and routine of home and kids.

solo beer

  • True Friends are Awesome, and so are their Friends. And life stuff.  I met Sheena in college, and from the moment I met her, I’ve admired and respected her to no end.  She’s an amazing human being with so many professional accomplishments that I couldn’t even begin to list them.  I’ve sometimes wondered why she’s kept me around, haha.  Since graduating, we’ve never lived in the same place, not even the same state, really, so our friendship is one of those that has survived the test of time and distance.  We both make the effort whenever she is in LA visiting family, and I think that’s a huge part of it: we both recognize each other’s importance enough to make the extra effort when we can.  It’s no surprise that her friends are equally as amazing.  I know Sheena has high standards for who she keeps around (I imagine all her friendships are equally as difficult to maintain since everyone lives all over the place-so she truly values those she keeps around), and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of them through the course of my friendship with Sheena.  I was truly honored to be among such great women: not only professionally (from a state senator, a diplomat, to an OB, to a college professor, etc.), but also just a human beings–they were all super kind and considerate, and every single one of them was willing to lend a hand when needed.  It is times like these where I feel slightly insecure and wish I could honestly say I’m still an attorney.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job for where I am in life right now–the flexibility and time off with the kids is so great–but I know it’s not my end point.  My major flaw is that I’ve never had the drive or sacrifice to “reach for the stars.”  That shit takes work and I’ve never been able to fully commit.  I’m hoping life gives me lots of years to keep exploring and get to the point where I feel like I’ve reached my full potential.


  • Coming back ain’t easy.  I thought I would come back home from this trip feeling refreshed and invigorated and ready to be super mom again.  I don’t think it took more than five minutes on Monday morning for me to see how wrong I was.  I got way too used to not having to feed kids and change diapers and force an almost four year old to brush his teeth.  I know: my kids are adorable and awesome.  Yes, you’re right.  BUT, they’re also normal, haha.  So Jake is pushing boundaries and I have to say his name 5 times, with the final “JACOB. WYATT. ARMSTRONG!” before he even cares to glance up, and everything is “I can’t” or “why” or “but just a liiiiiiiittle bit longer?”  And Josh is my Josh.  He never stops.  Never stops moving.  Never stops putting shit in his mouth.  Never stops opening drawers he shouldn’t be opening (oh child proofing you say?  Yeah, I should try that!).  I also came back to several scheduled doctor’s appointments which meant I had to get them ready and out the door early.  Today I decided to cancel my original summer plan for the day, and just take it easy, and it was amazing.  Maybe some times I can just be mom, and not super mom, and we’ll all be a little more sane because of it.


  • It takes a village…and a really great husband.  If you’re wondering who was watching the kids that whole time…it was Jeff.  He took time off from work and stayed home with them, and ROCKED the stay-at-home dad gig.  I also came home to a clean home, and to a husband who appreciates all the little things I do for our family.  *swoon*

See, this is the problem with not blogging often…every blog turns into a novel.  Sorry.  As a reward for making it this far:

  1. Read this if you want to cry happy tears.  Someone I know is being a surrogate for one of her best friends, and it’s just happy heart emojies and googly eyes everywhere.
  2. The book I couldn’t put down on the plane is The Song of Achilles, by Madelline Miller.  It’s such a great book!  Love, war, and obviously Greek tragedy.  Woof.


Literate Lushes (February to July, 2017) and more!


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I recently moved on to Audible.  I still would MUCH prefer the actual book, but realized I just am not able to read as much as I’d like when it requires having a book in my hand.  I come home for lunch every day, so decided to try the audio route and I’m averaging almost two books a month now, rather than just scraping by one.  I know, WOW right?  TWO WHOLE BOOKS, haha.  I’m pretty impressed with myself though, haha.  So, here we go.

February: Catch 22, by Joseph Heller.  I think this was before my transition to Audible, so I did not get around to reading this one.  I remember reading it in high school though and fairly liking it…

March: Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, by Joe Bageant.  This was my pick.  I was really trying to look for something to explain the Trump phenomena and how he got elected: I really do want to understand why so many people voted for him (I know, not a majority of our country, but still…a lot of people thought he was a good option) and what they’re feeling.  After I picked and started reading this book I realized that it’s actually quite old, which made Trump’s election even more frustrating: we’ve known what’s been wrong for a long time and have done nothing to address those issues.  The book wasn’t everything I was looking for, but it did provide some good insight and a different point a view to certain arguments (like the right to bear arms).  All in all, I thought it was worth reading, although I’d love suggestions on anything along this topic that is more recent.

April: The Storied Life of A.J. Fickryby Gabrielle Zevin & Scott Brick.  This was a nice read.  Mostly light, with some twists and turns, but above all the story of the love you can have for a child (even if not biologically yours).  There were a couple small points that bothered me but I think they would give too much away, so I’ll keep them to myself.  I do believe I cried a little towards the end.

June: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I., by David Grann.  This book was GREAT.  I did read it through Audible and the first voice was difficult to handle, but it was still a great book (I don’t understand why readers have to use different voices for the different characters-it’s quite annoying).  The story is told from three different perspectives, and tells the true story of a plot to murder Native American’s for their “head rights” to oil and mineral reserves in Oklahoma (I think it’s Oklahoma…).  It’s a sad story but great to finally learn about it, and this book has inspired me to read more historical books.

July: Defending Jacob: A Novel, by William Landay.  I’m still reading this one, but I’m not enjoying it too much, unfortunately.  There’s A LOT of dialogue which I’m not enjoying, and I think this is one of the few times that I just don’t like how the author writes.  The plot seems to drag a bit for me too, but I’m hoping the end will have a good twist that will make it worth it to keep listening, haha.

EXTRAS (thanks Audible!)

Small Great Things: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult.  I can’t rave enough about this book.  I think it should be required reading.  It touches on so many issues that we have on race relations in the United States, and definitely gave me another perspective to see and analyze things through.  It made me cry, cringe, cry some more, and smile a little.  Did I mention already how great I think this book is?  You should read it now.

Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman.  One quick side bar observation: I’ve apparently been reading a lot of novels!  This is from the same author as A Man Called Ove.  As great as A Man Called Ove was, I really, truly, think this book is so much BETTER.  Another book that I can’t recommend enough.  This book made me laugh out loud, smile, and cry.  It has the full range of emotions.  It’s so well written and tells such a great story of human interaction and compassion, and the inevitability of some things in life.  Oh, and the power of soccer!  Warms my heart just thinking about it again.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.  This is the real life story of a man who gets diagnosed with lung cancer at a very young age, and he decided to write this book.  I thought it was good, but not great.  I don’t think I ever quite found what I was looking for in this book…it seemed like he was building up to something but just never got there.  I do think my favorite part of the book was the end that his wife ended up writing.  It’s still a good read to appreciate the life we have, and to understand just how quickly things can change for any of us, so embrace the now, life your life to the fullest and do the things you want to do.

I will give the disclaimer that this post is NOT sponsored by Audible…but it should be.

Books I’d like to read in the near future:

  • Who am I kidding.  I just looked at my Amazon and Audible wish lists and there’s too many to list, and this post has already taken me the span of four days to write, so I’m just gonna hit the publish button now before one of the boys wakes up from their nap.

What have you been reading lately?

Parenting Hack: The Chore Chart


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Recently it’s been harder and  harder to get Jake to do the things we have to do everyday: brush your teeth, let’s get dressed, it’s time for a bath.  “I don’t want to!”  He’s 3.  I get it.  But still…someone give this kid a chill pill before I lose it.

We bribe Jake all the time.  I’m not gonna deny it, and I won’t dance around the subject.  We’ve done it ever since he started [not] eating regular food.  He’s a terrible eater, to the point that I worry about his health and growth (we actually have an appointment with a specialist in a couple weeks), so yeah, if I have to bribe him with a cookie to take two bites of chicken, I’ll do it.  It works well…until he decides he doesn’t want the cookie and my leverage disappears into thin air.

But I digress.  One morning as I’m trying to figure out how to bribe him to brush his teeth so it doesn’t turn into a crying and screaming affair, I bribed him with some stickers I remembered I had in my craft desk.  Here’s the funny thing about Jake: most of the time…if I don’t remind him about the prize he’s earned after his task, he forgets about the prize and just does whatever I ask him to do.  But I feel shitty cheating him that way, so 99% of the time, if I remember, I give him the reward anyway.

So yeah, I offered him stickers and then forgot to give them to him, and the next day when I wanted to bribe him with stickers again to brush his teeth, I realized I had forgotten to give him his sticker yesterday, then I had to double down and offer him TWO stickers, one for yesterday, and for today.

But a lightbulb went off…what if I had stickers every day to bribe him with for all the things I want him to do?  Like….A CHORE CHART!  TA-DA!  Totally unique, never been done before. So I started brainstorming and looking around online.  I found a couple on Etsy that I liked, but weren’t EXACTLY what I wanted.

Here’s what I wanted:

  • Something that showed the days of the week, with images so he can associate the day of the week with a routine that happens that day (like a trash truck on trash day)

  • A way to track completed chores for the week, in a way that I can re-use the same chart every week (VELCRO!)

  • “Markers” that would be attractive to Jake

I couldn’t quite find something on Etsy that met all my requirements, especially since I wanted the days of the week to be pretty customized anyway.  So I decided to design one myself.  For each day of the week I put a picture to associate with that day of the week: for Mondays,  a picture of my mom since she watches the boys on Mondays, and a picture of my in-laws on Tuesday since that’s when they start watching them.  Wednesday has  a trash can because that’s the day we take out the trash.  Thursday has a garbage truck because that’s trash day.  Friday has a street sweeper and a picture of Sarah, who watches the boys on Fridays.  And Saturday and Sunday has a picture of Jeff and I, since we’re home those days.

For the markers, I knew they would have to be construction trucks.  It was almost by accident, but Jake helped me google images and picked out most of the markers himself, which is great because he’s that much more invested and excited about them.  I will say, I printed a couple pages of black and white ones because I wasn’t sure I’d have enough to fill the chart if things went well, but had to just get rid of them because he refused to pick the black and white ones, ha!

I also did a google image searches for each of the chores so there would be a visual for each chore.  At one point I googled “cereal clipart” and then I went to google “bath clipart” but instead I googled “cereal bath.”  That’s a thing.  Most of the images are NOT pretty.

Anyhow…I’m not gonna lie, printing, cutting, laminating, and cutting all those tiny markers was a lot a work.  But we’re a few weeks in now and it’s been helping A LOT.  Brushing his teeth has become much more bearable now that he knows he’ll get a sticker once he’s done, not to mention getting dressed.  I also included all three meal times, which it just struck me that this is not a “chore” and not something most people would include on a chore chart, but for Jake, it IS a chore and although not 100% successful in these areas, I do think using the stickers as a reward has helped a little bit.  It’s also helping us teach him the value of saving: he get’s a quarter a day if he gets enough stickers, and he knows that if he gets enough quarters, he can buy himself a toy.  It’s hard for him to understand why he can’t have that toy NOW, but we’re getting there :)

A Birthday Outing


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My birthday was on Saturday.  We had some plans with family later in the day, so I figured we would spend the morning doing mundane house stuff (picking up, doing laundry, etc.), but Jeff had the great idea of just heading out.  So we did.  And it was awesome.  We drove through Trabuco Canyon which is so green and beautiful right now, and into Modjeska Canyon and the bird sanctuary they have there.

It was a little cold and drizzly, which made it quite beautiful.  We hid under a tree for a little bit when it got a heavier, but I’m glad we stuck around and explored a little longer.

Ended the day with a little help blowing out my birthday candles.

The good pictures are thanks to my husband :)