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!

 

 

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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…

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

ladies

  • 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 :)

Those first two months…

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Two kids.  Woof.  Am I right?

I’ve been simultaneously wanting to write this blog and also putting it off for quite some time now.  I want to write it because I want other moms to know that it’s ok to feel like shit, or feel like you’re not doing a good job, or feel like you’re gonna lose your shit.  Hormones are a bitch.  Ok, enough foul language. I’ve also been putting it off because I feel like this one’s going to be a long one, and I’m not sure how well I can put into words what that experience was like.  Also, I’m sure about five thousand other moms have written similar blogs.  But I’m too lazy to do a quick Google search to corroborate; and I don’t want to see that my blog post is completely unnecessary, haha.

I noticed from the very beginning of my pregnancy that things weren’t going to be as rose-colored and full of excitement as they were when we were pregnant with Jake.  I was apprehensive during most of my pregnancy: how will this new baby change our wonderful dynamic?  How will this affect Jake and all the love and time I’m able to give him?  I was almost jealous of the baby FOR Jake, which is crazy, right?

Then there were the challenges of being pregnant but not having the down time or comforts I had when I was pregnant with Jake.  Back then, we were living with my in-laws, and at the beginning of my pregnancy I was self employed, so lots of down time, and no need to cook or clean or anything other than keeping myself and this growing baby alive and healthy.  My pregnancy was a piece of cake!  When I did start working, I would come home after work and fall asleep on the couch while my amazing mother-in-law cooked dinner for all of us.  Are you jealous yet?  I don’t blame you….

This time, I had a house to look after, a toddler to run after, and a full time job that required a lot more energy.  I just didn’t have the time or energy to really take it all in and enjoy it.  The things I loved about my pregnancy with Jake were almost a hindrance with my pregnancy with Josh – feeling Josh move around constantly was at times just uncomfortable and got in the way of getting things done at work.  Not to say there weren’t also times when that happened that I also LOVED-usually at the end of the day when I was sitting on the couch next to Jeff and we could both just live in the moment for a sec.

I remember so clearly and vividly the moment when I was saying good bye to Jake right before we went to the hospital to have Josh.  I started crying immediately.  I’m getting teary eyed right now just remembering that moment.  He was so clueless about what was going to happen, but I was so, so, SO aware of how different things would be the next time I saw him.  I knew it wouldn’t be all about him anymore, I knew I would never have that kind of undivided attention for him anymore, and it broke my heart.

And I was right.  When Jeff brought Jake to the hospital to meet Josh, I was a nervous wreck.  Granted, I had just gone through some pretty crazy shit giving birth to Josh (sans epidural, without choice, haha), and I had this tiny little baby in my arms that I was trying to connect with and bond with, while also trying to keep a 2.5 year old from squishing him to death.  I was painfully relieved when Jeff took Jake home.  We had to stay in the hospital under observation for an extra day, and although that felt like eternity, in retrospect it was great because it was the only true quality time I had to spend with Josh, ALONE. I got to stare at his face and hold him and squeeze him and stare at his face some more.

Then we got home.  The hormones.  Geez, the hormones.  So the hormones made me feel like a crazy woman, I thought Josh hated me–I would spend all day feeding him and changing his diaper (and Jake’s, we were in the middle of potty training, which let me tell you…NOT good timing, haha), and get nothing, then dad would get home and get the biggest smiles.  Let’s just say, that didn’t go over very well with me, haha.  I found that with all the distractions of toddler and home, it was really hard for me to connect with Josh those first few months.  It makes you feel like a terrible mother, honestly.

And man, the guilt.  THE GUILT.  It’s awful.  I felt just awful that Jake had to wait, and hold on, and I have to do this first, and Josh needs, and I have to change Josh’s diaper, and “Jake, why are you so whiny?!” (in retrospect, it was pretty obvious why he was so whiny).

I remember having to go on nap drives for Jake–he wouldn’t fall asleep for his nap any other way.  So I would have to drive around and around, which, you know, was inconvenient and a waste of gas, but doable.  But with a newborn, it was madness.  Josh wasn’t quite used to the car seat, and wasn’t as fond of it as Jake was when Jake was a baby.  So from the moment I got them in the car to the moment I got them out, my back was so tense from stressing out and trying to keep Josh calm long enough for Jake to fall asleep.  Once Jake was asleep, then I had to get them both out of the car.  I would unload Josh first and leave him in the living room while I got Jake out and put him in his bed, at which point Josh would already be screaming for me to get him out of his car seat, and how, oh how could I leave him there for two minutes?!  Oh man.  Come to find out after I went back to work, that all I had to do was ask Jake to take his nap in his bed, and apparently that would have resolved that issue, ha!

Bed time was tricky and extremely difficult for me for the first two weeks, at least.  I used to put Jake to sleep, but it was so hard to do when it was also the winding down time of the witching hour and Josh was super needy for me.  I remember laying in bed with one baby crying and the other clinging to me and trying to get on me, and looking at Jeff who just didn’t know how to help (there was really nothing he could do), and I remember looking at him and silently crying and saying “I can’t do this.”  God bless that man for keeping me sane.

Bed time was also the culmination of a long day of being sleep deprived, and looking forward to another night of waking up every two hours (that part hasn’t changed much, nine months later).  I had never experienced that kind of sleep deprivation before, and how it just messes with your mind, not to mention erodes your patience.  With the first kid, you can usually sneak in some naps with him or at least take it easy during the day.  But when there’s a toddler running around, that’s not quite an option anymore.  So you just keep going and going and not sleeping and not sleeping.  It’s no fun for your body!

In October we went camping around Lake Arrowhead for a night, and I don’t know if it was just being away from the house and chores and not having so many distractions, but I remember coming home and realizing that I finally felt a good connection with Josh.  I had spent a lot of time with him in a ring sling or the carrier, so maybe we just had some good bonding time, but I definitely see that as the turning point of things.  We definitely have a routine now that helps keep us all sane, although it’s also a little INsane to do the same routine day in and day out, but I can honestly say that I can’t imagine my life without both of these boys.  Josh is full of smiles and giggles and rolls, and Jake is the sweetest and kindest big brother, even if he’s not fond of sharing his toys.

It still breaks my heart a little bit when Jake goes to Jeff for something that he normally would have asked me for, but I can’t blame him for it-I’ve had to turn him away so many times because there are still things that I have to do for and with Josh, that just don’t allow me the time with Jake.  I do miss Jake terribly at times, and although I’m in love with Josh and love my moments with him, I’m looking forward to the day when Josh is old enough that I can split my time with them a little more evenly.

So this was the bad and the ugly, just so everyone doesn’t think it’s all roses and butterflies, BUT, the bad and the ugly don’t last forever.  One great thing about this being our second child was that we KNEW, with absolute certainty, that that stage wouldn’t last forever.  The witching hour evenings wouldn’t last forever.  The up all night feedings won’t last forever (although that’s gone on way longer that it should have).  The hormones won’t make you feel crazy forever.  And as long as you can keep your eye on that faint light at the end of the tunnel….you’ll be rewarded with sunshines and butterflies for days on end.

Organizational Tools

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I love lists.  I love planning things.  I love organizing things, putting them into corresponding groups.  To that effect, I’ve created a couple templates that I can use for these purposes, rather than constantly starting from scratch or just using a notepad.

HUGE DISCLAIMER: I made these myself.  I’m not a perfectionist.  If you’re a perfectionist or OCD about line spacing or things being centered…DON’T USE THESE-they will drive you crazy.

1). Work to-do list.  I love this one because it helps me prioritize things: there’s a “Top 3” section with the things I HAVE to get done, no matter how much I don’t want to do them.  Then there are the other must do items, which maybe I just should have named “to-do,” and them my “long term” column.  Here I put all the projects that I would LIKE to do, but I know they’re not a priority so they don’t have to overwhelm me by being in my general to-do list. Click here to download.

to-do-checklist

2). Event planning list.  This should absolutely NOT be used for wedding planning.  I have a five page excel document for that.  This is for..your kids birthday party, or Friendsgiving, or the staff ice cream social.  I haven’t had a chance to actually USE this one yet, so I’m not sure there is enough room for everything, but I’ll adjust if I realize it’s impractical.  I have used this layout to help me plan several events, just not this document per se, and I love it.  I usually use an 8.5×14 sheet for this, but it seemed more practical to format to 8.5×11 for easy printing.  Feedback is welcome :) Click here to download.

event-planning-template

Happy planning.  Happy organizing.

Literate Lushes: June 2015-January 2017

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Wow, I have over a year and a half to update, so I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum and just catch everyone up on our reading list…

June: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

July: A Wild Ride Through the Night, by Walter Moers

September: A Good and Happy Child, by Justin Evans

November: Broken Monstersby Lauren Beukes

December: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

January: Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon

February: Me Talk Pretty One Day, by Dave Sedaris

April: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

This one generated a lot of discussion…

May: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

June: The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith

I really liked this book and I hope I get around to reading the sequels someday.

July: Many Lives Many Masters, by Brian L. Weiss

August: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

I absolutely LOVED this book.

October: Mothers Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy, by Sue Klebold 

November: Voices in the Night, by Steven Millhauser

I wasn’t a huge fan. But I did discover the use of audio books with this book, and it’s been a game changer.

January: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Loved, loved, loved.

Bonus: because thanks to audio books, I listen to them while I pump at work and on my way to work and home.  It’s not quite the same as reading them myself, but it’s better than not reading at all.  I do think this is pretty life changing for me…so, I finished our January book with time to spare and decided to start reading Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.  An enjoyable “read” so far!

I also missed reading quite a few of these books…with having a toddler, then being pregnant, then adjusting to life with two kids…time was harder to find and I was much pickier about what books I chose to read.  I’ll usually give anything a try, and I’m really looking forward to Literate Lushes in 2017 and hopefully reading all the books that we pick, and MORE!  I have so many books written down in the Notes section of my phone and it would be nice to scratch some off instead of just continuously adding more books I want to read.