Grocery Store Zen


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Well, if finally happened. On a perfectly sunny afternoon in February (the 6th day of February of the year 2021, aka yesterday, to be exact and for posterity), I finally reached my Grocery Store Zen. I had stopped by Starbucks for a little pick me up, then strolled in to Stater Brothers, pulled back my cart, pulled over by the avocados, put on my sweater (because I get COLD in the store, even if it’s 100 degrees outside), put in my AirPods, got my music going, pulled out my list, pen, and reusable produce bags to place on the kid seat portion of the cart, placed all other reusable bags on the bottom of the cart, and I just knew it: this, this is my Grocery Store Zen.

Quick aside: why is it always avocados, or tangerines, that they place at the entrance of the grocery store? I mean, they ALSO have them in the produce section…is it because they spoil quickly? I’d imagine almost all produce spoils fairly quickly…I’d say it’s because they don’t need those little water sprayer things…but neither do apples, and they NEVER have apples there! The INJUSTICE is all I’m saying….

[Insert Nacho Libre “Anyways” GIFF that I couldn’t find]

Cart. Avocados. We’re back.

After having kids, probably shortly after the second kid (of three), Jeff and I realized meal planning was our game changer. We hated having to figure out what we were going to have for dinner every day, then stopping by the store or whatever. And after thirteen years, we finally realized that meal planning our lunches is also necessary for us.

So on weekends I use my meal planner to lay out our dinners for the week, and make my grocery list, then I go shopping on either Saturday or Sunday. I go during the boys nap time – which I sometimes hate because I lose that down time for myself, but it’s what works for our little fam. It’s a strange thing: it’s such a pain to sit down and think of meals for the week, and go to the store, but also…I do get a little thrill in pulling down my meal planner and setting about this habitual task.

So buying groceries is definitely a part of my weekend routine, and I’ve gotten my system down pretty well, starting on the right with produce, then working my way across and ending with dairy/refrigerated stuff (it’s also the order of my grocery list, hellooooooo A-type personality!). Sometimes I would take my headphones and either listen to a book on Audible, or music, but the headphones usually got stuck on something, which would then make my phone fall out of my purse, or a headphone fall out…and then I had to add a mask to it, and well, it was a pain.

Then: Christmas. My in-laws bought me AirPods, and they’re also a game changer. No getting stuck on anything, no problem with my mask…the only difficulty is adjusting the volume when I get to the meat counter: I liked the ease if the pause button my the headphones, instead of having to take my phone out now. But you know…first world problems and all.

So, yeah, that brought my Grocery Store Zen to the ultimate level of bliss (if you can use “bliss” to describe shopping for groceries). I guess that and finding good music/playlists to keep me awkwardly singing out loud while I pick my groceries.

What about you? What’s your dinner/grocery buying routine? What makes it easier?

Literate Lushes: August 2018 to April 2020


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Wow. I couldn’t even keep it within a year! Let’s get to work.

August 2018: The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay.  It’s obviously been a while since I read this one.  It’s an apocalyptic scenario, and I gotta say, not my preferred scenario to read about, haha.

September 2018: Circe, by Madeline Miller.  This book has the same author as The Song of Achilles, which I LOVED.  I also really enjoyed this book.  It’s an engrossing story, and I loved learning a little more about Greek mythology through it.

October 2018: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn.  We’ve read a couple books by this author before.  Also not my favorite category of books, but an easy and entertaining read.  Definitely had some good twists and turns.

December 2018: Still Alice, by Lisa Genova.  This book was heartbreaking and heart warming.  I loved the “insider’s” perspective of someone going down the path of Alzheimer’s.

January 2019: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, by Robert K. Wittman.  This was an interesting, historical book.  The writing wasn’t as enthralling as some other books, but the topic was interesting.

February 2019: Tin Man, by Sarah Winman.  Another book that was entertaining, and an easy read.

March 2019: What Dreams May Come, by Richard Matheson.  I skipped this one, and can’t really remember the movie, haha.

May 2019: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  This book has made it to some pretty popular book clubs, including the Literate Lushes!  A good read – although I have to agree with some critics that some of it was unbelievable to the detriment of the story.  But intriguing and definitely kept me hooked to the end, which I kiiiiiiinda saw coming.

June 2019: Eva Luna, a Novel, by Isabel Allende.  I’m a huge fan of Isabel Allende, but not a fan of this book.  It was sometimes fiction, sometimes surreal, and the mix was just confusing (not sure I’m using the right literary terms…).  It also seemed at times like a collection of vignettes rather than a novel.

July: Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult.  I had read this book a while back and chose it as my pick for the month.  It was a big hit, and provided for some great conversations.

September: The Power, by Naomi Alderman.  This book was giving me the major creeps until I realized what the author was doing, and then it was genius.  I thought it was a very clever way to show the challenges and disadvantages some women have in our world.

October: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson.  I’m not big on criminal/murder mysteries, and I was pretty pregnant at this point, haha, so I skipped this one as well.

December: The Vine Witch, by Luanne G. Smith.  I felt like the wine metaphors and descriptions were a little over done, but I guess to be expected from the title!  A nice, easy read.

January 2020: Educated: a Memoir, by Tara Westover.  With the holidays and a baby in the house, I didn’t have a chance to finish reading this one, but enjoyed what I did read.  The challenges some humans overcome amazes me, and makes me so thankful that my life is not book-worthy.  A really good read from what I read, and from the discussions at book club, very relatable for many people on the front of domestic violence and family relationships/dynamics.

February 2020: Less, by Andrew Sean Greer.  Not gonna lie, it was hard to believe this is a Pulitzer Prize winning book, ha!  An easy enough read, but I didn’t think the writing was that great, nor the story super entertaining.  I never grew to like the main character, which makes it hard to stay engaged.

March 2020: A Murmur of Bees, by Sofia Segovia.  One of my new favorite books!  I read this book in the original Spanish version, but heard that the English version translates just as well.  This book was heart wrenching and also, oddly relatable to our times since some chapters talk about the original Spanish influenza.  We actually had to cancel our book club meeting for this book because of the COVID-19 developments, and ended up eventually doing it via Zoom once we realized we wouldn’t be able to do it in person for a while.  The writing was spectacular, I loved so many of the characters, and loved the surrealism that was woven into the story.

April 2020: The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides.  This felt like a super quick read, but maybe that’s just because I’ve had a lot of down time while nursing all the time at home!  I enjoyed this book and definitely was surprised by the ending.

Extra reads:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: A Novel, by Gail Honeyman.  I think I’m coming to realize that I really like European novels.  This was a great read!  Funny and sad, light and heavy.

The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson.  I loooooved this book!  So quirky and silly, and adorable.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel, by Robin Sloan.  Another fun read!  This one involves book stores, mystery solving, and secret societies – what’s not to like?

Beartown, A Novel, by Frederik Backman. How have I not written about this book yet?!  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love everything this author has written.  This book is heartbreaking, and beautiful. “We are the bears, we are the bears, we are the bears of Beartown!”

Us against You, by Frederik Backman.  A sequel to Beartown.  My review is the same as above.

Things my Son Needs to Know about the World, by Frederik Backman.  Super short and adorable read, with little “life lessons” on parenting.  Super relatable for me.

The Century Trilogy, by Ken Follett.  I read book 1 (Fall of Giants) and 2 (Winter of the World).  I love historical fiction, and really enjoyed reading these books and the historical moments surrounding them.  I loved that the characters spanned generations.  I read some pretty terrible reviews about book 3, and given how long they are, I just couldn’t invest the time based on the reviews.

Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis.  I had mixed feelings about this book.  Part of it was motivational, another part felt like high school peer-pressure to be a cool kid.  It didn’t change my life, haha.

Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story, by Clint Harp.  En enjoyable read.  My take-away: sometimes you just have to be in the right place, at the right time.  It does give me some hope that maybe someday Jeff and/or I will strike out on our own to do whatever it is that we find our passion for.

Currently reading/listening to: The Education of an Idealist, a Memoir, by Samantha Power. As someone who dreamed of being an ambassador as a child, I’ve been avoiding reading this book.  I’m afraid it will point out how I’ve fallen short in my professional achievements.  Which leads me back to “letting go of expectations,” and it becomes a vicious circle, haha.

What are you reading these days?  What’s been your favorite?

Quarantine Diary: April 13, 2020


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Today was a month since all this madness started (hard to forget when it happens on a Friday the 13th!). Wow.

We took a family portrait to commemorate the occasion. I saw someone else do something similar on Facebook, and thought it was a great idea to memorialize this time of our lives. When I first saw the idea, I thought Jake would have my phone since he’s always using it to play Pokémon Go. Josh would have a basketball since he was really enjoying shooting hoops in the back yard. And I would be holding our daily schedule.

Since the inception of the plan, it’s been raining non-stop, the boys found their tablets and I’ve lost some of my will to argue. And the schedule has gone to shit. So, this has been our reality:

Jeff’s artsy version:

The boys and I were walking around the neighborhood last week during a rain break. It was the day after trash day, and a neighbor’s bin had fallen back and was partially blocking the sidewalk. The boys were ahead of me on their razors, and I was catching up while I pushed Jon in the stroller. I debated going onto the street to avoid the blockade, then decided to just pick up the bin. The boys had stopped to see what I would do, since they had gone around it but realized I wouldn’t be able to get by with the stroller. After I picked up the bin, Josh came up to me and said “you get five kisses from me right now, and five hugs from me and Jake when we get home.” He gave me five kisses on the spot. “Is this all because I picked up the trash bin?” “Yeah, because that was really nice!” he said, as he sped ahead on his razor again. I hope I never doubt doing the right thing again. Although they didn’t pay up on those hugs when we got home…

I’m one of those people that likes an organized pantry. There’s a place for everything, and it irks me when things are not in there place. But these days….

Just throw that shit anywhere. Yeah, leave the pasta on the cereal shelf. Who cares if the boxed pasta is in the canned section. And that box of cereal? IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER ANYMOOOOOOORE!!!

Sorry. Emotions are high these days.

We had sunshine on Saturday. It was glorious. Jeff and I were full of smiles, being silly, and generally just giddy. We realized we were just happy to see the sun, ha! We can never leave California…we would not survive actual weather.

Josh’s 4th birthday is on Friday, and he’s super bummed we had to cancel his party. He wants all his friends to come over. We’ve had to tell him multiple times over the last month why they can’t. Today I was asking him what he would like me to fix him for dinner on his birthday (pizza), and he followed up with a question of his own: can my friends come over when the corona virus is over?

It crushes me that my not even four year old has to use “corona virus” in a sentence. And yes buddy, you absolutely can. Once this is over, we’re re-doing Easter, and his birthday, and probably Mother’s Day, and everything else that we’re missing out on. We’re celebrating big time. Because look at these faces!

Easter was obviously very different this year. I was missing family, and the tradition of going to church. And the weather sucked. I dragged my feet through most of the day; I couldn’t even fight the boys to get dressed, so they stayed in pajamas all day. Until right before dinner when Jeff told them he needed their help and disappeared. The three of them came back out all dressed up and ready for our Easter dinner. My heart was so full. My eyes were pretty full of tears as well…

Quarantine Diary: April 1, 2020


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I tried something different today. Monday and Tuesday were not my best days. I found myself with a super short fuse, filled with anxiety about Jake’s school work, house work, my work, keeping Josh entertained, and the baby alive. You know – the basics.

Today I woke up and decided I needed to take it easy. I said screw the schedule, and enjoy the day. I basically took a mental health day, haha. I started the day in a much better mood, and was way more patient and graceful about the boys going through their morning. I told Jeff I was switching things up, and that I’d need him to watch the baby during Josh’s nap so I could dedicate some time to Jake’s school work after lunch. Jeff is working from home also, so we’re trying to be good about communicating our needs to each other-when he has meetings and can’t help, when I need to respond to work emails and need him to take over, etc. It ain’t easy, folks. There’s guilt on all sides….I feel guilty for asking for his help when I know he has work to do, I feel guilty for not dedicating more time to a job that I’m so fortunate to have during these times (and all times), guilty that we let the boys watch MORE tv last night while we had our first zoom “happy hour” with some of our dear friends, etc., etc. But I digress….

During breakfast I talked to the boys about using a safe word when mommy gets frustrated or upset. Sounds ridiculous, but I think the boys holding me accountable for my mood, in a kind way, could be helpful for me. I decided on “spaghetti.” Ha! Jake thought we should also say a rhyme or joke, which I thought was overkill, but he put it in practice later that morning: the boys were brushing their teeth and started to argue about who was using what stool (a frequent argument in this house) and I told them to use their words. Jake said “spaghetti…what do you call a three humped camel?” Josh and him started talking, and Jake said “wow, that worked really well.” I had to laugh. The joke helped diffuse the situation, which was pretty genius! I also had to explain that he couldn’t call spaghetti on me for everything, like asking him to flush the toilet.

Instead of jumping into our schedule and doing school work (which has become a loosing battle with Josh), we went to a neighbors house and decorated her sidewalk with chalk to wish her a happy birthday.

We did some art work in the front yard. I got supplies for a couple different ideas I saw in Pinterest…neither of which interested the boys in the least. They just did their thing, which I’m learning to accept and embrace.

We had to pick up some materials at Josh’s school, and his teacher was wearing a mask. On the way home, Josh asked me why she was wearing a mask. I explained that people wore it so they wouldn’t get sick or get other people sick. He then told me he needed a mask. My heart broke. I told him we don’t really go out anywhere, and the people that need them are people that are sick or work in hospitals. “But I need one so I don’t get everyone sick.” Oh my baby. I tried explaining that he wasn’t sick, that there aren’t really many available, that we really just need to wash our hands all the time, etc. He wouldn’t let it go until I told him I could try to make him one. As soon as we got home, he went and washed his hands without me asking him too. My heart aches for his worry.

The boys played together in the backyard for a bit, they played while they ate their lunch (which I usually fight), and have them each a warning about what we had to do next: nap time for Josh, school work for Jake. Neither was super excited, but it worked out. Jeff took the baby so I could put Josh down for a nap, then I helped Jake get through his work. It was a lot faster when I could sit with him and get through it, then when I’m trying to do multiple things and push him along, and get frustrated that he isn’t do it quicker on his own.

I’m glad that we tried a different schedule and a different pace. I’m not looking forward to the rainy and gloomy weather we have coming up-it makes such a difference to be able to enjoy the outdoor spaces in our house. But, hopefully changing up our routine every now and then will help out.

What’s working for you and your family? How are you trying to keep it all together?

My favorite cleaning hack, and randoms


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For all the blogs and Facebook posts out there about lifestyle hacks, I’m proud to say I came up with this one on my own.  I’m not saying it’s original or I’m the first to conceive of the idea, but it came to my mind on my own volition, haha.

I’m gonna be honest…we never have time to deep clean our house.  I wish we did.  The amount of times Jeff and I say to each other “we have to clean this house,” is pretty ridiculous.  But you know…life.  But bathrooms are a special beast…they HAVE to get cleaned every now and then, or things just get really, really gross.

We use Clorox wipes in our house a lot.  I wish they were paying me to say this, but they’re just super convenient and efficient for our little home.  I found myself always going to the kitchen to get them so I could at least wipe down the bathroom sink or toilet.  Then it dawned on me: thanks to our Costco size purchase of Clorox wipes, I always have like a bajillion of these in our garage.  So I put one under each bathroom sink.  And not gonna lie, it makes all the difference.

I can wipe down our toilet while I brush my teeth (gross, but true, and…life), or give the boys sink a wipe down while they’re in the bath.  It allows me to multi-task.  Part of me knows it’s lame…our house isn’t a mansion…so walking to the kitchen for wipes shouldn’t be a deal breaker for a clean bathroom…but in the mayhem of life, I’m learning to take any shortcuts I can to keep some sections of our home at least modestly presentable!


I also wanted to share a little gadget that’s been making my life a little easier recently.  Now with Josh in pre-school two days a week, and Jake in school full time as a first grader, lunches and snacks have become a big thing.  I found myself packing stuff in tiny zip lock bags (which I’m trying to avoid as much as possible), and tupperware…and it was just annoying.  I finally pulled the trigger and got one of these little bento boxes for Jake.

bento box

It’s worked out so well that I bought a blue one for Josh, and a second one for Jake so we can alternate on having to wash it every day (the struggle is real, people).


Finally, Jake and I love listening to podcasts on the way to school when we’re not practicing our math or talking about dragons.  I stumbled upon Wow in the World, and it’s great!  I’ve learned more than I’d like to know about cockroaches (they can survive over a week without a head!!), the deal with bees dying, corroborated what Jeff told me a long time ago about brain freezes, and all sorts of random interesting stuff.  The characters are actually quite funny, and I love how they explain big science ideas in ways our little people can understand them.


What “hack” or household items/products make your life easier?

Family Motto


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I’ve been wanting to make this sign for our living room for a couple years now (no joke).  With the impending arrival of Baby Boy #3, I found an extra sense of urgency and finally got it done.

I started by writing out adjectives and interests for individual family members, and things we value/appreciate as a whole.  I grouped the ones for each individual together, and the generic family ones together, and alternated them on each line.  I had to do some rearranging when it came time to print so I could fit have the “individualist” lines two to a line, and the family ones in larger print.

I did this so long ago that I’ve had to make several adjustments due to the boys growing out of stages…

Family Motto 1

Jake used to be into cars and trucks.  Like, a lot.  He would line them up in a straight line and just have them going all over that place.  After he turned three, his interests have just shifted with time, from cars to legos to dinosaurs to dragons, and now: tanks.  He’s probably drawn hundreds of tanks at this point, haha.

And Josh picked up an interest in play-dough, which I thought should be added to his list instead of just “farts and crumbs and bruises” haha.

I feel like this sign will be a little time capsule for our family.  I know the interests for the boys will be keep changing, and these will be obsolete any day now.  But I really wanted to capture this stage of our lives.  I know it’s unique and special, and maybe when the boys are all grown up and gone, I can look back at this sign and truly appreciate how wonderful (and crazy) this stage was.

As for the making…I couldn’t quite find the right size of pre-made wood, so I bought two pieces from Michaels and Jeff put them together for me, to make the perfect size.

I then designed our fonts and lines on our Silhouette machine.  I tried finding a little bit of a pattern on the fonts, so it wasn’t TOO overwhelming, but I do like the changes in size and fonts on signs like these.   Then it was time to cut and transfer!

Family Motto 2Family Motto 3

I’m not a perfectionist by any means…so some lines aren’t quite straight…but I’m pretty happy with the end result:

Family Motto 4

The only bummer is that we have different holiday signs for that part of our living room for Halloween and Christmas, so I only got to enjoy it up on our wall for a couple days, haha.  ‘Til January, my work of art!

Anniversary Shenanigans


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TEN YEARS!!  Holy cow.  Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that all of our friends were dancing their butts off at our wedding.  But apparently….it’s been a decade!

A couple years after Jake was born, and most importantly: after we started making enough money to be able to splurge a little bit, Jeff and I decided to make our anniversary weekend a priority for the two of us.  I feel like it was a really smart decision for ourselves and our marriage.  We don’t have regular date nights or a ton of opportunities to travel or go off on our own, so setting this one weekend a year where we really just focus on each other has been really great.  Every year we end the weekend realizing we still love spending time with each other, which is pretty huge after being with someone for so long.

I’m also feeling pretty good about us reaching ten years (thirteen together!)…apparently the average first marriage that ends in divorce lasts eight we’ve made it past that point.  Side note: a kinda funny statistic from that same website: the five professions with the highest divorce rates are bartenders, dancers, massage therapists, gaming cage workers, and gaming service workers – I’m sensing a pattern, haha. 

We’ve also passed the “high risk” years of years 5-8 – woohoo!  Now we just have to get through the “low risk” of divorce through years 15, and then apparently a spike to “average” risk in years 15-20.

So – with all of those positive statistics on marriage, I’m glad we make it a priority to focus on our relationship and our marriage, at least once a year.

Here’s a recap of our past anniversary escapades:

Solvang 2015

2015 in Solvang

San Diego - 2016

Heading to San Diego in 2016

San Diego 2016-1

Palm Springs 2017

Palm Springs in 2017

Palm Springs 2017-1

Laguna Beach 2018-3

Laguna Beach in 2018

Laguna Beach 2018-4

Laguna Beach 2018-1

Laguna Beach 2018-2

This year we decided to cut the weekend back to a day, unfortunately.  We couldn’t decide WHERE we wanted to go, and the cost of hotels in the areas we were considering was a little much considering we now have preschool payments for Josh AND childcare payments for Jake.  So instead we decided to have a local day date – and it was great.

We started with breakfast at Le Peep (Jeff indulges me on our anniversary weekends with breakfast…it’s not his favorite meal…but I LOVE breakfast).

Laguna Beach 2019 -3

Then we had planned to do some shopping for US.  We went to the Irvine Spectrum first just because it was such a beautiful day, and an outdoor walking mall sounded better than an indoor one, but all we found was stuff for the boys, haha.  We did have a delicious and refreshing lunch at the Cheesecake Factory though, so I’m glad we started there (we both had salads, and although we were hungry later, it was the perfect warm day meal).  We headed to the Shops at Mission Viejo after to continue our quest to find something for US, and we both lucked out with new shoes!  Jeff found some great shirts as well.  I can’t really shop for clothes at this point, so I was really happy to find some shoes that were comfortable and to get me ready for Fall.

At this point we were starving…so what’s better than an ice cream break?  We headed down the street to Handels Homemade Ice Cream, and were not disappointed.  The only disappointing part of this visit is that they only have a couple tables outside, and it was HOT.  So we ate our ice cream in the car, haha.

ice cream

Jeff is a purist when it comes to ice cream…I’m a rabid animal.

After this treat, we headed to Laguna Beach to walk the shops and check out some of the artsy places that are too risky to enter with the boys, haha.

Laguna Beach 2019 -2

At this point, Jeff knew it was time to feed me, so we walked around a bit and lucked out finding Brussels Bistro.  And we REALLY lucked out, because apparently for most places in Laguna Beach on Saturday night, you should really have a reservation.  The food was delicious, and the ambiance was really great too.

Laguna Beach 2019 - 1

We headed home after this.  The boys were staying with grandma, so it was nice to head to a quiet home and watch a move that isn’t Hotel Transylvania or Woody Woodpecker.  We actually watched a great movie called Long Shot (the romantic comedy one with Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron, not the true crime one on Netflix, haha).  I was surprised with how much we enjoyed a movie we’d never heard of before!  It was REALLY funny, and equally endearing.  Plus, I’ve always been a Charlize fan

We also got a quiet, mellow morning on Sunday!  No kids needing to pee, or needing to be fed…just lounging in bed, catching up on Facebook and all those lame things we like to do when we’re not tending to children.  Although by 8am we were ready to see our boys again, haha.  We decided to get them donuts before we picked them up at grandma’s…just in case they had too much fun without us!

What’s your secret to a happy marriage?  What’s your favorite romantic destination?

Letting Go of Expectations


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I was maybe eight or nine when my grandma told me I could be an ambassador when I grew up.  I was living with her in Guatemala at the time, and it seemed like a perfect crossover for a U.S. citizen, passionate about Guatemala or other countries.  Good grades came easily to me – I almost always got A’s and some B’s, and in Guatemala was always in the “cuadro de honor” for my class (top 4 of my classroom).  I embraced leadership positions at an early age, and loved being involved in activities (just not the sports ones, ha!).

The combination of all of this, I think, set me up for the idea that I would become someone extraordinary as an adult: a leader, a presenter, a change maker, and I’ll admit that at eight or nine, sure, I thought I could save the world.  I recently talked to a friend of mine who is absolutely KILLING IT in her career.  She said: “Alex, I know this sounds cheesy, but I know this is what I was born to do.”  Who doesn’t want to have the feeling?

Fast forward a few decades (gah!), and I work as an administrative secretary in my local school district.  It’s a great job by many standards: we’re finally experiencing some sort of financial stability, benefits are great, I have a pension plan and accidental death insurance (those are big adult things!), paid vacation, it’s down the street from home, and most importantly: it’s flexible and understanding with our family schedule (SO huge).

Up until a year or so ago, I kept having this feeling that I was underperforming in my professional life, not reaching my full potential.  I still get jealous when I see acquaintances on Facebook attending big important conferences, or being presenters in their field.  I want to be doing a TEDx presentation!  Although when I stop and think about it, I have NO IDEA what I would talk about.  I sometimes think: I want to be the person in the meeting making the decisions, not the person taking the minutes for the meeting.  But five minutes later I’ve booked that person’s calendar for five meetings and see that they have a gazillion “important” unread emails in their inbox, and realize, eh, I prefer being able to clock out on time every day!

What I’ve been trying to come to terms with lately is that it’s ok not to be the over achiever.  So many more people around me (not in the Facebook universe) live completely “normal” lives, doing the standard Life thing of working and raising children.  And why isn’t that enough?  Maybe if it’s not enough, it should be enough for now while our kiddos are small and I should embrace what’s right in front of me.  I’ve seen moms re-join the workforce after being stay at home moms for ten plus years….this isn’t all of it, but it’s a stage of our lives that I want to embrace and live fully.

I dread looking back at these years and realizing that I was always looking for something else, wanting to be doing something different, be somewhere else.  And in the meantime, our boys grew up with a mom that was never fully present.

So for now…I’m trying to shift my perspective and make my family and our home my priority.  I’ve let go of several leadership positions and extracurricular involvements in the past two years, and I will admit it’s been great to be able to focus on our home, and be around more for the boys (although I do miss being involved in those activities and the difference I was able to make in them).  I love not being torn in five directions constantly.

And I do think I can still be a change maker where I am, just in smaller ways.  I do think I make a difference at work with those around me, whether it’s by doing my job well and making theirs easier, or by asking how their weekend was and giving them an opportunity to share something non-work related, or by re-doing our bulletin board and giving everyone something pretty to look at while they make copies.

I recently received an email from a co-worker that said: “Thank you for all you do for me!…I so appreciate your support and tolerance.  I really enjoy working with you!  Your sense of humor keeps me going.  Thanks for being you!”

It honestly made my day.  Maybe I don’t have the conviction that my friend has that what I’m “working”on is what I was born to do, but I do think I was born to help those around me, and I have to remind myself that sometimes that can come in the smallest, every day actions.

What about you?  Is where you are today different then where you’d thought you’d be?

Finding the Right Planner


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Although I use my Google calendar for most of my scheduling and reminders, I’ve always liked having a physical, tangible planner to keep me company.  The last couple of years I’ve used a Happy yearly planner, and I loved the fantastic graphics, motivational quotes, fancy tabs, and beautiful covers.  Before that I really enjoyed the coolness of the Moleskin planner as well.  But I realized last year that I just don’t use it often enough to justify the cost, and the weight of carrying it around in my bag.  I don’t use it consistently every week, so I end up with a bunch of empty pre-dated pages at the end of the year, and then end up buying one for the next year, only to end up with a bunch of empty pages as well.

I’m not sure how or when it hit me, but when it did, it was like a giant light bulb went off: AN UNDATED PLANNER!  Brilliant!  I needed a planner that I could fill in whenever I needed it.  And so my search began for the perfect undated planner.  I can’t remember how many I looked into, but suffice it to say that planner ads are still coming up on my social media feeds (and yes, I clicked on almost every one at first to see if it was “the one”).  Although I guess all it takes to get ads on your social media is one Google search, so that’s not saying much.  Let’s just say, I looked at A LOT of different planners.

And not a single one was quite hitting the spot.  I wanted something I could customize and add my own templates to, something small-ish, in a format that I could switch pages in and out of.  I kept hearing Jeff telling me “don’t buy something just to buy something,” which I often do just to not have to keep shopping for stuff, haha.  And so another light bulb lit up: I’M GOING TO DESIGN MY OWN PLANNER.  And maybe become a millionaire.  This is it.  This is my idea that makes me a self-made millionaire.

While I was trying to figure out what the first step is in designing and producing something on your own, I went back to going through my Bloglovin feed (I’ve kind of just switched out two social medias for another one), and I randomly stumbled across this blog post.  My internal reaction was a combination of internal hysterical laughter and ugly crying.  Of course someone created basically the thing I was thinking about.  And of course, it’s free.

So, aside from crushing my dreams of being a self-made millionaire (because I definitely would have pursued this idea and gotten it into production somehow…I would never just let this project slide down on my priority list and be forgotten for all eternity…) I was pretty excited to discover all the free planner printables from The Handmade Home.

I downloaded some of their designs (I went with the A5 size to keep it compact), then had to find how I was going to put them all together, along with my own templates that I wanted to use.

I ended up finding this Martha Stewart Discbound Journal at Staples, but the tan version:

I also purchased tabs like these (I got the 8-tab one because I love tabs)…

And these bookmark checklists…because I love bookmarks and checklists…(these come in such a high quantity that I’m happy to share some with you if you send me your address, haha):

I was pretty excited once I found a notebook style that would work for what I had in mind.  The size was right, and the discbound format meant that I could move pages around easily.  My next hiccup though was getting the right hole punch so I could print out the free printables and my templates, and put them into this journal.  After some Google searches and watching a few YouTube videos, I decided on this one:

I know…I know…at this point, you and my husband are probably saying “isn’t it cheaper to just buy the dated planner and throw away the left over sheets?!”  THAT’S NOT THE POINT, GUYS!  The point is: I want something that’s more functional for me.  Plus…you know…I can reuse this stuff all the time…I’ll basically never have to buy anything again!  Except for…paper.

I didn’t want to use regular 20 lb white paper, because…well… for one, boring, and for two, you can see through it, and for threes, it just doesn’t feel like a planner.  But 60 lb card stock felt like over kill…by the time I added in all my pages I would still be carrying around a five pound planner.

I found the perfect compromise with the Staples Premium Ivory 32 lb Laser Paper.  I couldn’t find a link, but if you love planners…odds are you also love an excuse to walk through an office supply store…(lucky for you: the paper stash is all the way in the back!).

After that, I just had to print and hole punch!  Which…always easier said than done.  To fit the size I needed, I had to use the “two pages per sheet” setting on my printer, and flip the page around and back and forth to get what I wanted on each side.  Not the end of the world, but not as simple as hitting “print” and being done.

To make the most of the sheets, I tried to combine different templates together so I wasn’t leaving too many “blank” pages.  So I combined my to do list template (which is a combination of my own preferences and a to-do book I found at Michaels) with a grid page template on one side, and an upcoming schedule template on the other.  So when you’re flipping through the pages you’ll see: grid page on the right, flip and have centerfold with my two page to-do template, flip and have an upcoming weekly schedule where I can break down some of my to-do’s by day.

I left the outsides of my meal planner template blank, since I plan on pinning those to my fridge every week and therefore won’t be seeing the back side of those anyway.  But I like the convenience of having these in my planner where I can brainstorm future meals whenever I want to.  I’ve previously used this meal planner (just hot glued a giant magnet to the back of it) and have loved it (and it’s so pretty!), but I also love the idea of having a grocery list that already includes the stuff that I know I buy every week – and broken up by sections (if anyone wants an editable version, just let me know).

Finally, I really wanted to include some blank versions of my event planning template, so I modified it a bit to fit the format and size of my planner.  I like that I’ll have these in one place instead of loose leaf sheets in my bag.

Disclaimer on my templates: they’re not pretty, and they’re not perfect (I couldn’t get them to print without giant margins, which made the font a bit smaller that I would have liked).  But I’ll slowly improve them and make them nice with colors and fonts and borders.  Someday they will wow me!  But for now: they are functional!

Now…to find the right pen…I did find these, but if I had it in me to exchange them again I would go with a .5mm retractable pen, so I don’t have to deal with the hassle of taking the cap off.

Do you use a planner?  What features do you look for?



amazon - vday

2019: what’s it gonna be?


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This blog suddenly combined about five separate blog ideas that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while – so…get comfy!


I’m a lover of the holidays and the excitement of a new year.  This year, however, I was feeling a little lost and overwhelmed.

Recently I’ve been debating whether I should even have any goals: aside from better financial stability, our life is pretty darn great.   Sometimes, however, I look at other people’s lives as they are jet-setting around the world with their children, or buying things I could only dream of affording,

The social media induced jealousy kicks in, and I have to remind myself that their life is not my life.  Maybe they’ve worked their asses off more than I’ve ever been willing to work my ass off.  Maybe they’re dealing with some really difficult situations that I hope I never have to deal with.  Maybe they come from affluent families so their lifestyle is just their normal.  This is where my super jealousy kicks in: why wasn’t I born into a family with inside connections at Yale or Harvard to land me in a six figure job?  Or with a summer cottage on Cape Cod?  Or hey, maybe just a trust fund from grandpa?!  But then I bring myself back to what I WAS born into: a family with no lack of love/compassion/affection, a roof over my head and food on the table at all times, no trauma, I grew up in a country of freedoms and possibilities, etc., etc.

So how much more can I ask for?  I have an incredibly amazing husband, two healthy, smart, and beautiful boys, a cozy home that I’m in love with, and amazing and supportive family.  Is it fair to ask more of life?  Should I really be trying to get MORE out of life?  Or should I just be happy and content with where I am, instead of always looking for something else to achieve or accomplish?

In talking to Jeff about these thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should still strive for success.  People didn’t become successful in life by being complacent with what they had, right?  I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face, and  Handcrafted  Both books have the overarching theme of setting a big life goal/dream, and how they achieved it.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out what my big goal in life is.  WHAT DO I WANT?  One of my biggest fears right now is to think I’ll look back on my life when I’m 60/70/80, and realize I lived my life passively – never going for the big ticket items, staying in my comfort zone, never taking risks, never doing the things I really wanted to do.  But…WHAT DO I WANT?

I can’t decide if I want to be self-employed so I can spend more time at home with the boys (but how will those student loans get paid off?  What could I possibly do to make enough money on my own?  What about our benefits? What about that pension plan?), find a job that pays more so we’re not stressing every month (but what kind of stress and hours will that come with?  Will I hate what I’m doing?  I’ll surely have to commute!  How can anything that I love/enjoy doing possibly pay me more than I’m making now?), think long term and stick with the security of my benefits and that pension plan (am I settling?  Was I made to do more?  Am I making a difference?), or move somewhere where we can buy property and live like Chip and Jo (how could we possibly move away from our family?  We love our neighbors! How will I learn to milk a cow?!).

On the other end of the big life goals, are the little (but really, the big ones) life goals: our kids are growing up so fast: how do I make the most of this time?  How can I be a more patient mother that doesn’t lose it after asking (and being asked) the same question five times? (Mom.  Mommy.  Mommy.  MOMMY. MOOOOOOOMMYYYYYYY).

Let’s rewind a little to the holidays and the lead up to Christmas.  I love Christmas.  I look forward to nights on our couch with the Christmas lights on and all our decorations, garlands, and nacimientos, basically from the moment we clean them up from the year before.  But this year it seemed like a lot of WORK.  Getting all the decorations down from our rafters in the garage.  Sorting through them and figuring out what to put where.  Storing all the year-round decor.  And finally trying to put some of those boxes back up in the rafters so I’m not cursing them each time I go do our laundry in the garage for the whole month of December.

But, once it was done, I loved it.  We had amazing nights cuddling on the couch with our lights on, fireplace going, watching Christmas classics (Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and a new one we’ve watched about five times: Christmas Chronicles).  My heart was so full and happy!


Watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve


Both boys joining me at 6am on the couch

I also had a little more anxiety about gifts for everyone this year.  We’re usually broke enough that it’s not a concern (ha!), but the last couple of years Jeff’s holiday photo shoots has given us the luxury of a well gifted Christmas.  We really wanted to spoil our parents this year, so we tried to buy them several things each.  And the boys?  Well, it’s hard as a parent to not want to buy them EVERYTHING.  Even knowing that it will end up in a pile in the toy room.  And the living room.  And our bedroom.  And the dinning room table.


But all of those gifts require thought and time.

So this Christmas was my first big exercise in letting go.  Letting go of all the Christmas events I wanted us to go to but just couldn’t make it work.  Letting go of not being able to do all of the things.  Letting go of the DIY gift idea for our parents that on Christmas eve I just didn’t have the energy to pull off (but hey, maybe next year!).  And as hard as it was for me to make those decisions and move on, once each of those decisions was made, so much weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I didn’t have to stress about the million little logistics to make that event or thing happen.

And you know what?  Christmas didn’t suck because I let all of those things go.  We had a wonderful Christmas eve with our parents, a great Christmas morning at home with the boys, and then we headed off to Arizona to see family.


My in-laws rented us hotel rooms, and it was a great experience with the boys: it was like the four of us having a sleepover in one big room!  Our first morning waking up in the hotel, Jake asked if we would hide his bajillion dinosaurs so he could go on a dino hunt.  I found myself starting my usual response of “right after I do the dishes/laundry/pick up/fix breakfast/feed Gogo Dojo (our awesome beta)/etc.” and realized: I’m not home, I have nothing to do.  And it was the greatest feeling in the world to say “sure!” to him with no reservations, no feelings of “I should be doing this instead.”  I did have a stark realization that my constant “I have to do this first” is not going unnoticed when I used one of those responses with Jake before, and he replied, not happily, “you ALWAYS have to do [x, y, z].”  How much mommy guilt can a mommy take?!

All of this to say that I’m trying to figure out what I want to focus on this year, and what I want my goals to be, and I feel like letting go of things and focusing on quality family time are big ones this year.

I also think I’ve been overthinking things: I’ve been trying to nail down these very specific goals – but maybe setting generic goals is my first step.  I’ve been trying to take advice I keep hearing: give yourself grace.  So in giving myself grace, I’ll settle for some big picture goals that I’ll have to break down further:

  • Be present: let things go so I can focus on the moment with my family, and give myself grace in moments of exasperation (I need to be better about admitting that I can’t do all things at one time).  I also decided to limit my social media time, so I deleted Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone – it was actually a huge relief to not “have” to check them every time I picked up my phone.  This has also helped with my social media lifestyle jealousy.
  • Financial stability and comfort: something to strive for, but honestly no idea how to get there.  I did recently come across this book, so maybe I’ll give that a read.
  • Figure out what makes me happy and feeling fulfilled at work: I think this will take a while, and I’ve decided not to make it a priority for now.  I think with the kids being so young and this season of our life being so fleeting, I want to focus on my first goal, and maybe figure this one out along the way.

So, my word for the year? Passionate.  I want to be passionate about my family, my work, my home.  I want to be excited about what I’m doing.

What are your goals?  Do you like setting goals, or do you think they’re a waste of effort?  Any advice on how to achieve my goals? :-P