Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

This year started out with us being more focused on getting ready for Baby B2. New Years weekend was Potty Training weekend for William and we put the cloth diapers away for good. He was ready and the transition went really well! We haven't tackled nap or night time yet, so we still have disposables for that. Maybe that will be a goal for 2017. He transitioned to his big-boy bed in February and did really great with that too! He was a big boy and ready to be a Big Brother! He grew 4 inches and gained 8 pounds this year . . . slowing down finally!

We spent nearly every weekend this year looking at houses and condos, only taking a small break when baby arrived. But we continue to wait for the right home. We made a lot of changes to our apartment to accommodate another family member. There will be many more to make as he is on the verge of crawling. Maybe 2017 will be the "Year of the Move!"

In April, Chris went to Europe to visit friends (I had after all, gone to Australia six months prior). His mom came to help me out. He traveled to The Netherlands, Belgium, and London.

In May, my friends threw me a Baby "Sprinkle" (instead of a shower). It was so fun to get together with a group of women I rarely get to see. I felt so blessed! Little did I know, Baby B2 would arrive just eleven days later!

Stephen Christopher joined our family on Wednesday, May 18 at 10:23 p.m. This was by far the most exciting day of 2016 for our family. After that, the challenges started. We dealt with all sorts of weight-gaining issues and ended up needing to use a dairy/soy free formula while I went on the same type of diet and nursed as much I could. Now, at age 7 months, he prefers to drink a bottle so I pump several times a day. Thankfully, weight is no longer an issue. He has gained a little over 10 pounds and grew around 8 inches! We haven't attempted to get him to sleep through the night just yet as it is one of the few chances I have to get him to nurse successfully. My goals for 2017? Sleep!

We had several people come and visit after Stephen's birth and I'm so grateful for each and every one of them! Chris's mom came right away and stayed for two weeks, his sister came in late June and helped us out for a week. Chris's older sister brought her family for a weekend visit over July 4th and my college roommate stayed for a long weekend in mid-July. My mom wasn't able to come out until September as she had surgery in April and wasn't cleared for travel when Stephen was born. I'm so glad she healed well and is doing just fine now!

The second most exciting event of 2016 was my brother's wedding! We traveled to Minot, North Dakota at the end of July for his outdoor wedding, everything was beautiful and everyone had a great time. Chris was a groomsmen and William was the ring bearer. Afterward we spent a few days in Bismarck with my sisters and parents. I didn't end up making it "home" this year.

I returned to work in September, working part-time (20 hours) from home. We enrolled William in preschool; half-days everyday. He loves it. I love having a little more time to get my work done and focus some attention on Stephen. Transitioning back to work was really hard. I found myself struggling to find a routine that worked and was completely exhausted most of the fall. I know it was this hard (or harder) when I went back to work after William was born as I was trying to work 30 hours then. I think I was a little shocked at how hard it still was. I am not superwoman. I know this now.

We celebrated William's third birthday in October with a little party after his swimming lessons and a morning near Santa Cruz riding Thomas the Train. Chris and I enjoyed the actual train ride more than he did!

The fall was filled with activity. We enjoyed trick-or-treating and the pumpkin patch with great friends. Thanksgiving was a wonderful day with great food and friends. The season providing the prompting for me to remember how blessed I am.

We spent Christmas in Texas visiting Chris's family. We had a lot of fun together and even got to go on a date!

They say the days go slowly when you have a newborn but the year goes fast and that is true again. 2016 was filled with good moments and I have great memories of family, friends, and even some fun. But it was challenging to say the least. I'm looking forward to 2017 and the changes that are coming -- I'm hoping for many!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Christmas was at least two days ago so I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and were able to spend the special day with someone special -- or remember someone special if they are no longer with you.

We celebrated a true Texas Christmas with 75 degree weather and a perfectly cooked prime rib. We had arrived in San Antonio on Thursday afternoon and spent a couple of nights at Chris's parents home before going to Chris's brother's home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They also have two boys the same age as ours so it was fun to let them have a couple of days to play together.

On Saturday, we headed to church with the whole family for Christmas Eve service. The church was beautiful as were our nieces in the choir. William did amazingly well sitting through the service and loved the music. He was even a little cuddly! Stephen on the other hand should have fallen asleep in the car but didn't . . . and then was quite a squirmy handful the whole evening. After the service we headed back to Brad's home where Christmas Eve dinner (tamales) was serviced and presents were opened.

So many presents! William opened a back-hoe first and showed little interest in anything else for the rest of the evening. I had to force him to open his other gifts, which I probably should have just kept wrapped until the following day. Stephen was finally sleeping so I got to open his as well as my own. Baby presents are so fun! (Mine were more practical, but much needed!)

Christmas morning was nice and quiet. The boys played, I slept in (after feeding Stephen three times during the night). Family came over again in the afternoon for dinner. I've been really tired lately and have a terrible time taking naps. It had caught up with me a bit that day and I was having a hard time staying engaged. Hopefully the rest of this week will be restful and I'll feel more like myself!

I don't have many reflections of Christmas to share with you this year. Between the nightly feedings, lack of sleep, and fierce mom-brain, I'm just trying to stay focused on Jesus and all he did for me. My imperfect self needs his constant grace and cleansing. I'm so very thankful God took care of my salvation through his Son and didn't require anything of me, for I know I would have failed. His birth (and death) is the most wonderful gift ever given.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Baby B2: Seven Months Old

Stephen is a funny little guy. He really doesn't like being on his tummy at all so to get around he lays on his back and pushes with his feet. Inch by inch, he ends up all over the place, often going in circles. He loves reaching for his toys and is showing more interest in pushing buttons, pulling on strings and making noise. He is quite content to lay on his side holding a toy or looking around. Crawling seems very far away!

He can sit with some help, not really interested in doing it by himself yet. Food is a good motivator though! He sits quite well when we borrow William's booster chair/high chair. (Can you tell William isn't up for sharing yet? It is still very much his chair.)

He has become quite a babbler and bubble blower in the past few weeks. He also has new sounds to share with everyone! Stephen loves being around people and will often greet everyone with a smile and a coo. 

I feel like we took a break from developmental stuff and focused hard on health. At least I did! In the past two weeks Stephen has had surgery and a lip tie clipped. This involved so many appointments, special instructions, special care and more cuddles. More tears, more wake-ups, and a lot less sleep. Now that it is all said and done, he is doing great! I am exhausted.

We had started to work on sleep training around Thanksgiving and it was going well but now after the past two weeks, we are basically starting over. And we'll start over again next month after our Christmas traveling. Our goals are to have this little guy fall asleep on his own with only two feedings at night. Hopefully in January we can aim a little higher!

Stephen is still loving his pureed foods, not quite ready for chunky stuff yet (trust me, I accidentally tried it!) He loves everything -- pumpkin, green beans, banana, broccoli, avocado. This month we've also added oatmeal to the mix. I had thought I'd wait a little longer for grains but his pediatrician was adamant we start now. Starting solids is such a funny topic; every book recommends different ages for nearly every food. I've decided to use my best judgment . . . and don't judge.

We're looking forward to flying to Texas later this week -- especially since he loves to bounce in our arms and refuses to sit still! He really isn't into looking at books yet like William was at this age. I'm really hoping he takes at least one good nap on the plane.

It's Stephen's first Christmas we are reminded once again of the humble state in which our Lord and Savior came to us! A baby born in a manger with an audience of animals and shepherds was to be the one to take away our sins and reign over all the earth! How strange it all seems as I look at this little guy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why We Stay

It's really difficult for me to explain the reasons why we want to stay in San Francisco. It's complicated and it feels like there are layers and things unseen (and unknown). Let me try!

We have lived here for over 6 years and it has become home for us. What once seemed scary and uncomfortable has become familiar and enjoyable (biking, public transportation, busy city life, etc). We have a really wonderful community that has gone through so many seasons together and provide love, support, encouragement to us - like family. So when we think of moving, we think of leaving them and that's just too hard to ponder.

But there is more to it than that. Its a strange and new season for us spiritually. When we first moved here we were very mission-minded. We've desired to do ministry here but felt stuck and uncertain for so long and finally, just this year have felt like we're ready for it. We still don't know what this looks like but we've both felt like something is stirring. Finally! I think for me it's a fresh involvement with my church through MOPS. For Chris, it might mean volunteering with youth somehow. Like I said, it's all uncertain. But our church just found a new pastor and with that comes excitement for steps of faith, growth and changes.

Then there is the logistical arguments. When we first moved here, our friends claimed that living on the western side of the city felt like a whole different city all together. No one visited you out there and it took such a long time to get from one side of the city to the other and required a lot of effort to stay connected. We laughed because we came from places that were super spread out and SF is just 7 miles wide. But it is true. If you leave your little pocket-community, it changes life and effects relationships. And even more so when you consider moving outside the city and staying within the Bay Area. People don't make time to cross bridges for play dates or hanging out! Life goes by too quickly and soon you are distant friends living 10 miles apart. When we consider moving we've often said "If we're going to leave the city we may as well leave the state. It would be starting over either way."

There is also a potential increase in commute times if we moved elsewhere. Chris already drives 45 minutes to work each morning. If we move east or south it would be even longer. And moving north means smaller towns, when we really love the urban city.

And then the financial points. My least favorite. Bay Area housing is expensive. I was told this even before I moved here. And it has increased so much more I can't even believe it. We do need to move to a larger space. That much is certain. If we decide to rent a two bedroom space, our monthly rent would at least double if not triple what we pay now (because of rent control, we pay basically the same amount as when we signed our lease). We're looking at buying a house here for two reasons 1) the mortgage could be less than paying rent if we found the right space and stick to our budget and 2) the city provides a really great loan for city residence to buy their first home here if you meet all their requirements. If we leave the city limits, this loan is no longer available to us.

So, we love the urban city. We can walk to a lot, bike, take the bus. There is a lot going on here -socially, professionally and with potential ministry. The city is full of people of all walks of life and that is really amazing. We are part of a wonderful community and don't want to start over. And if the housing stuff lines up as we're praying it will, it could work out and we could buy a house! We've been discussing the pros and cons for nearly two years and although there isn't anything really making us stay, we honestly don't feel ready to leave. So we're doing whatever we can to stay for however long that might be.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Open Houses that Opened our Eyes

Before Stephen was born we toured a number of houses. I remember seeing one that we both really liked. They were closer to the beach which is typically known as the foggy part of the city (but it is sunny every time we end up there) and is much quieter than where we live now.

I have no photos to share or even many details to point out as it seems so long ago now, but what I do remember is that it had space for our family to grow, was cute/clean enough to move into, and felt comfortable to be in. It even had an in-law unit on the lower level next to the garage. This was really nice -- we could have people stay with us! Right?! Well, not quite. This is when we discovered that whatever home we wanted to put an offer in had to be completely vacant. (This is a requirement for the loan we were approved for, not for everyone.) This home had a renter in the in-law and would come with the purchase of the home. It sounds so strange, right. I purchase a house and it comes with someone living in it! And evicting him/her isn't a pleasant thing as there are many laws attached to doing such a thing. (I realize this is common for apartments but this was a house . . .  the in-law is operated under the same guidelines.)

I also remember that the price being a bit high for what we were hoping to pay. So, we decided to pass on putting an offer in and not hassle with the in-law issue. It was early in our search and thought we'd find something better. Now, looking back this house tends to be the one that we keep thinking of and wondering all the "if" questions. Would it have hurt to study up on all the tenant laws and put in an offer anyway? Find a work-around with our loan? Who knows!

A few weeks after seeing that house, we met our realtor to look at three other houses in a part of the city I had never really been in. The houses were priced lower than what we had seen before so we were hopeful that we might actually be able to be competitive when it came to putting in an offer.

I've forgotten the order in which we saw them but they were all interesting. One of the houses was huge, I believe they said it was four bedrooms. Walking through it was a bit of a maze. It seemed like every room led to another room and another and soon you forgot where you were. Each room had some sort of funky red carpet and clashing paint on the wall. There was an area that looked like it had been added on to at a later time which slanted severely downhill and had a bar area and sleazy chairs. I can't even describe how bizarre this place really was. Someone mentioned it looked like several families lived in this home together and tried to make separate spaces as much as possible. They may have been right!

Another home was a two bedroom with a huge basement. An elderly woman lived there and some of her things were still present (which we rarely see in all of these super-staged places) so this one stood out. The kitchen was nice and spacious (also rare) as was the bathroom. But the really interesting thing was the basement. There was a room in the back with at least a dozen sewing machines! And then another area full of sewing supplies. At first, I was like, "this is so cool! I'd have my own built in craft room!" But then I looked at Chris to get his reaction and he mouthed "sweat shop" and that was the end of that. And then on the way back to our cars we noticed all of the vulture like birds hovering over the trash in the street and realized upon further observations that this was "the projects." Let's move on!

And now I've written this much and cannot for the life of me remember that third house! Bummer. Well, you get the idea of the variety of things we've seen!

The other stipulation that we've discovered about the loan we want to get is that it cannot have any "Section 1" repairs required. This includes things like mold, dry rot, or anything "dangerous/safety concerns" There have been three homes we've wanted to put offers on but were not able to because of these types of things being reported at the inspection.

I often even wonder if there are any homes in this city that would qualify for this loan! It's hard to stay positive and hopeful when every home we see has "something" that stops us from pursing it. We have our list of things we want in our home and then we have a list of "no's" from our mortgage broker. The combination of the two leaves us waiting.

Our eyes have seen a lot in this search and have been opened wide to see all the tiny details that might be red flags, they've also opened wide in search and expectation for the one that will be our home. We continue to have faith that we will find it!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Apartment Transformations

As you know (because I tell everyone), we live in a one bedroom apartment on a really busy street. We didn't realize just how busy it was until we had our first child and I was home all day. We've been in this same space since June 2010, so we just passed the 6 year mark. It's about 650 square feet and on most days it actually feels quite big.

Our living room has been through a lot of changes in 6 years. It started off of course as a typical living room complete with couches, coffee table, TV, desk and more. Then when William was born, we consolidated a bit and created a baby corner. We updated some shelving and our kitchen storage. And up until Winter of 2015, this is what our place looked like. After those photos were taken, we moved the bed into the living room and gave William the bedroom. This way we all slept better.

This worked out just fine; we still had room for a couch but had to get rid of the love seat and coffee table. We still had people over, although much less than before. And amazingly we still felt like we had space.

Once Stephen joined our family 6 months ago, we had to reorganize again! We didn't want to put the baby in with William quite yet so he joined us in the living room. Our "living room" is now a bedroom/nursery -- with a TV in the corner. I found a really comfortable reclining-rocking nursing chair on craigslist, which meant we had to get rid of our couch. We moved our other rocking chair from William's room so now we have two places to sit. The changing table/dresser I originally wanted to get for William was finally purchased and the pack'n play is set up again next to our bed.

And our newest update has been black-out curtains. I'm not sure why we didn't do this 2 years ago because it makes such a difference for our sleep, but it is great now and baby approves too! Chris also added a curtain as a separator between the dining room and living area, which gives us a lot more freedom to stay up past 6 p.m. and cook dinner without disturbing the baby. We've even had a few people over for dinner with this new improvement!

This one space is so used. The floor space we do have is often covered with toys for both boys. I fixed that issue a little by packing away our DVDs (which we haven't watched in two years) and making space on the shelf for toys instead of stuff we never use.

William's room now houses a twin bed on the floor, three dressers and a cradle for Stephen to use for naps when William isn't sleeping (otherwise we have to tip-toe around the rest of the apartment to do anything!)

On most days it still feels spacious . . . until it doesn't and then I feel a little depressed/sad/angry. We've been looking for a larger home for nearly two years, more aggressively since last fall when we learned Stephen was coming! I find myself getting more easily agitated with the noise level of our neighborhood and less patient with our hunt. But I'm always reminded of God's perfect timing in his provision and usually find a way to be grateful with what I have and where we are.

I am entirely thankful that we have a space in which we can shift and grow into. Even if it's a little unconventional. I'm thankful that our one bedroom apartment has provided for our needs for over 6 years. This is the longest I've lived anywhere since moving away from home!

If we do end up staying here past Stephen's first birthday William's room will have to get a make over. I'm not at all sure how to fit a crib and a changing table/dresser in there yet!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 2016 was a wonderful day. It started out a bit rocky as I woke up feeling sick and nauseous (but not morning sickness like last year). I had planned to go on a hike with William and my friend Kate, but was not feeling up for it. When I told her, she didn't even skip a beat she just said, "Well, I'll come get William and take him with us and you can rest." What a gift. So, William and Kate (and Kate's daughter Eleanore, sister Kristin, and their dogs) went on a hike without me. Stephen napped, so I rested. 

When William came back we got to work making our dinner rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. We were all going to Kate's home later that day for an early dinner. My job: the dinner rolls. Kate's job: host, cook, and hold my baby. Seriously, she's a gift.

Last week at our MOPS meeting, one of our "mentor moms" showed us how to make these adorable pumpkin yeast rolls. So, that's what we made! She made it look so easy. It took me nearly all day and then most of them looked too funny to photograph! But they all tasted so yummy.

Naps were perfectly timed so that we arrived with plenty of time for play before dinner. As usual Kate's house was decorated and looked amazing. Her friend Amy has a gift for this and does it for her/us every year! (Tip for the future: when everyone is bringing a dish, have one friend bring the decorations instead of food! The host doesn't have to worry about everything!)

Dinner was grand. There was everything you could ever want! Except turkey -- this year we had cornish hens. I loved trying something new! The table was covered with food. Our plates were heaped high and at the end of the evening our stomachs were full-full-full. Dinner was quite pleasant as the three older children (2-4 years old) were old enough to play by themselves for the most part and left us to our conversations. The two infants were passed around the table for everyone to share. Until Stephen got fussy, then we put him to down for a nap (that continued when we got home) in the back room. It seemed that everyone had a really enjoyable evening together!

I'm so thankful William has such great friends to play with and did so well occupying himself. He didn't eat a whole lot but he rarely does if there are toys around! And this little peanut is more and more fun every day. So thankful for my little boys.

For more thankfulness - see this post.

Thankful Days

At the beginning of November I had every intention of doing another 30-days of Thankfulness series. But before I realized it, November 10th had passed and then it just seemed silly to start. But I still think it's important to cultivate and practice being thankful. I've learned that it does indeed take practice and doesn't come naturally to me.

So, on this day after Thanksgiving, I'm pausing to share my 30-thankful-things with you!

1. My family! I just love my family.
     2. My husband is one of the most incredible men and I love how much he helps raise our two boys. We are totally in this together and I wouldn't have it any other way.
     3. My boys! I love them dearly. I'm so thankful they are healthy and growing well (except right now they both have colds).
     4. My parents and siblings. I miss them so much. So very thankful for our relationships.
     5. My in-laws are fantastic. So godly. I'm so thankful for their wisdom and love and all of their prayers.

6. My apartment/home. It's big "enough" and shelters us from this chilly season and has provided well for us for over six years.
    7. I'm thankful that we have a dishwasher, a kitchen I can cook in and a table to eat on.
    8. I'm thankful that for the most part we haven't had any big issues with our landlord/neighbors.
    9. I'm thankful we have laundry in our building. Someday we might have laundry in our home, but for now I will be grateful for it just down the stairs.
   10. I'm thankful for my nursing chair. It's the newest addition of furniture and I wish I had gotten in years ago.

11. My car. It's silly, yes, but my car is now 11 years old and still does what it needs to do. I'm also thankful that my fear of driving in the city has almost diminished. I can drive my boys around this city and do okay. I'd do even better if I had more than 6 hours of sleep!
    12. I'm thankful for free street parking. We don't have a garage so it's the next best thing. (I'm not thankful it's parked two blocks away, but I'm trying to be!)

13. My community. My friends give me life and joy. They also support me in this season of life and I rely on them for so much --physical rest, emotional health and spiritual growth. Yesterday, my friend took William on a hike so I could rest before thanksgiving dinner ... and she was the one cooking!
      14. So thankful for Thanksgiving dinner with friends last night. Our kids played together and we sat through most of the meal in peace. Also loved that everyone wanted to hold the baby. So helpful!
      15. MOPS. For the past two years, I've been a part of a moms-group! This has been so important to me and I have loved getting to meet more moms in this city.
      16. My friends with children and new babies. I'm thankful I'm not in this phase of life alone! So grateful! I get their exhaustion and they get mine and yet we try to be in each other's lives anyway!
      17. I'm thankful my son has friends! He's making even more friends through pre-school too!

18. My church. It's been a rough season but I'm so very thankful that we've stuck together and I'm looking forward to a new season ahead as we just found our new pastor!
     19. For all the volunteers for children's church! They are teaching my son about Jesus!

20. My job. I've had a good and really flexible job for nearly 7 years. Very thankful for the stability and the experience I've gained! I'm so thankful I can work from home.
     21. Co-workers. They love me and continue to make working with kids "easier" by loving them as well. Don't tell their boss, but when I come in, everyone just sort of takes a little break! I don't take this for granted.

22.  Pintrest/the internet. Yes, I'm thankful for even this. Hear me out! It does provide a little escape sometimes, but I'm thankful for how it helps me be/feel creative. I can find cute things to make or find out just about anything in a few minutes of spare time. I don't actually have to do anything (because I don't have the energy these days!) It also inspires me to be creative when I do have the energy! I need the motivation!
      23. Thankful for facebook/skype/snapchat. They allow me to see my nephew and nieces more often. And they are the cutest little people ever. I miss them. Grateful I can "see" them often.

24. I'm thankful that my mother buys all my son's clothes so I don't have to worry about it. Seriously, I can buy the fun things I really want him to have, but Grandma has so far done all the rest!
     25. I'm thankful we have storage space to save all the clothes for Stephen to grow into!

26. I'm trying to be grateful that my son's dairy sensitivity isn't extreme. He's paying for my cheating yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, but he's handling it like a champ.
     27. I'm grateful I get to nurse my baby. And I'm grateful there are good formulas that he can have since I can't produce enough. I'm grateful he gets to start solid foods now too!

28. Thankful for a friend who is willing to meet with me to pray. Even with littles running/crying at your ankles we can come before our King and find rest. I've needed to be more intentional to find time to pray so this month I decided to do it with someone to make sure it happens.

29. I'm thankful for the preschool we found for William. Other than being a breeding zone for colds and illness, it's been great. He has learned so much and changed in so many ways already. It really was a good move for him and me, even though I didn't want to do it.

30. I'm so thankful for this season of Fall. The season of celebration. I love this time of year as it usually means gathering with people I love and doing fun things together. It means pausing and focusing on your loved ones. And I need more of that!

Thanks for reading! I hope you can pause this season and give thanks. 
I hope to do it over and over again!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Baby B2: Six Months Old

Stephen Christopher is on the cusp of so many changes right now! We're dabbling in some pureed foods, he's starting to get the idea of rolling on to his tummy, and he loves sitting up with help.  He's a pro at scooting around on his back, reaching for his toys and chewing on everything. And he's babbling and making more sounds all of the time. At his 6-month check up this morning he weighed in at 14 lbs 15.5 oz -- just half an ounce shy of 15 pounds! He is 26.5 inches tall.

Stephen loves joining William and I for a story, but loves playing with the paper even more than listening. William has been very concerned for the safety of his books and rightly so!

Foods he has tasted so far: bananas, pear, sweet potato, squash, avocado, and green beans. He has loved it all! Secretly, I think he just likes having the spoon in his mouth so he'll deal with whatever is on it as a means to get it!

I attempted to use my blocks to spell out "six months" but within one second he had knocked them down and I didn't have the energy to put up with that! This will have to do! (William did the same thing!)

Nursing is improving some. Day time feeds are hit or miss. Sometimes he is just too interested in everything else around me to eat . .  . the light, the shadows on the wall, big brother, etc. . We enjoy our night time feeds the best. We're warm and cozy and very sleepy so he stays put a little longer. (I haven't mentioned nursing much; it's been a struggle and we've had a hard road so far. Most of it is similar to how it went with William. We supplement with formula.) I get up with him twice a night to feed him, if he wakes more often he is pretty good to fall back asleep on his own (Praise the Lord!). We're so thankful for the 4-6 hour stretches of sleep he gives us!

He's growing out of his swaddle sleep sacks and showing interest in rolling over so we're exploring the arms-out sleeping now. The first night was a success!

William has been sick a lot this last month and Stephen caught a bit of it too. He handled it like a champ and I'm thankful most of it seems to have passed. He had a terrible cough for 2 weeks; I thought it would never leave!

We had a visit from Nana & Papa a few weeks ago and had some fun outings for Halloween last month. Other than that, we're enjoying our routines around the house. (It's a little challenging to get out of the house when baby should be taking three naps!)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

House Hunting: The beginning

Our hunt for a larger apartment started when William was nearly one. That was two years ago. We weren't all that serious about it at that time and it was hard to find something we liked that we could afford. It was actually quite depressing. Shortly after that, rent in the city increased even more and a mortgage was actually looking like a good idea.

Over a year ago, a friend told us about a city program that provides interest-free loans and down payment assistance to families within certain income brackets. They also have "below market-rate" or BMR condos and homes they make available to these families. We took the class and it sounded like we might actually qualify.

The BMR program is quite complicated and I won't go into the details, but the important thing to note is that if you do actually qualify and meet the requirements to purchase a home, it's a lottery. So your number has to be drawn . . . imagine a bunny being pulled from a hat because that's what it seems like to me!

But our God is big and can pull houses out of a hat so we gave it a try! (I'll try to write more another time on why we refuse to leave the city when housing is expensive!) We went through all the steps and filled out the application for the BMR lottery on a three bedroom condo. It wasn't our favorite location but it was a brand new building and the program made it completely affordable! We couldn't pass it up. Well, when our application got into the hands of the bank to give us our pre-approval it all came to a screeching halt. We made $1000 too much to qualify for the program. I was heart-broken. My husband stood firm that everything would work out for the best.

So, then we had to wait. Wait for another condo to open up with a higher income bracket. And as we waited, and waited we started to see the silver lining of not moving to that new condo. It was on a busy street (the same busy street we currently live on), parking was an additional $100,000 for purchase, and the neighborhood left something to be desired . . . the list goes on.

Chris started looking into the down payment assistance program that was available for market-rate homes. We were drawn to the idea of a home because they typically come with a yard, a garage and laundry. The condos rarely come with all of those! He did a lot of leg work to figure it all out and it looked like something that could work for our family if we stuck to a budget!

When we found out I was pregnant with Stephen, we started looking more aggressively for our future home. Now we had a pre-approval from a mortgage broker and a realtor. This was feeling very "adult" for us. Every weekend we would go to one, two or even three open houses. We had a "tiny" budget compared to what houses sell for in this area so we got to see some really interesting places. And if the answer wasn't "no" for obvious reasons (the house was falling apart or was in the projects), then it was "no" because we really felt like that wasn't the right place for our family. We are a praying bunch and the Lord has proven to hear our requests over and over again. We believed we could be prayerful about our desires for our family's future. We did see some really great houses too but in the end we would have had to go over our budget and decided not to pursue them. Bidding wars are a real thing here and it is scary how much a home can cost!

And then Stephen was born and we took a break because naps trump all outside activities with a newborn. And when we heard that the city raised it's loan amount we leapt with joy and were given a new hope. This could actually happen. Right?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Kitchen Help

After my meal train ran it's course and people stopped bringing my family delicious meals after Stephen's birth, I had a real struggle finding time and energy to plan my grocery list, go shopping, and prepare food. Our city has made it so easy for all of that to be unnecessary. You can have your pick of any restaurant, or use a company that prepares the food and you just microwave it like Munchery or Freshly, or you can pay a company to deliver the ingredients for meals that you cook yourself like Blue Apron. Or you can pay for a service to prepare a meal plan and you still do the shopping and cooking.

I had been curious about the last option for a while. Would it really save me time? Would I like the meals? What about my budget, would it cost more in the long run?

I tried two meal plan services this fall. The first was an introductory offer from emeals. I think they gave me three weeks worth of meals, lists and recipes. You can select which type of meals you want such as vegetarian, budget friendly, 30-minute meals, etc. It wasn't as time saving as I would have liked, but that could have been because they didn't have a dairy free option and that's what I needed. So, I couldn't make everything they recommended and had to edit my list/plan after I printed it all out. They also didn't sync up to my grocery store so it wasn't very budget friendly. The meals I did make were tasty and usually something I hadn't made before.

The second service was cooksmarts. They also gave me three weeks of meal plans to test out. This is more tech savvy site, you don't have to print out anything if you don't want to. And you can customize everything. Choose between original, gluten free, or paleo options for each recipe and they automatically change the grocery list and preparation instructions. Each week they send you four meal options of which you can choose as many as you need. They didn't have a dairy-free option so I usually stick with the paleo version unless it's an easy topping to omit myself.

After trying them both, I decided to sign up with cooksmarts. It was reasonable, only $7 a month. That's worth the time I would save preparing my own meal plan and the stress. Now each week, I login to the site, check 3 to 4 meals I want to make, edit the grocery list for things I already have, print and send Chris to the store! (He is amazing, let me tell you!)

The only real downside I've experienced so far is that it isn't budget friendly and doesn't sync up to grocery store sales at all. This would be an amazing perk. The other thing worth noting is that while they are very good at giving you videos to explain cooking methods, the meals take time. But they are delicious. And I've learned a thing or two in making them!

I'm grateful that I tried these services. I've learned a lot. And while I won't be using them for life, they have been great to get me through this season. And no, I wasn't paid to give a review. I just wanted to share what I'm using to keep me inspired to cook meals for my family. Sometimes you just need a change. And some help!

Monday, November 7, 2016

More than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting

More than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting
by Serena Miller

It's been a while since I've done a book review on my blog. It's been a while since I've actually finished a book! I stumbled across this book while doing some new product research for work. I wasn't really looking for parenting books or Amish books at all, but it intrigued me.

I checked it out from the library and read a bit each evening before bed. Within the first few chapters I was hooked. I had a few laughs too as early on in the book the author talks about Amish donuts as well as other businesses they have. My dad was recently raving about these Amish donuts he buys, while my mom rolls her eyes and says she thinks they are just marketing things as Amish to be able to charge more, they aren't really better than other donuts. (Everyone has an opinion right!?)

And then later on in the book she mentions how the Amish are really intentional about spending time with their kids and not trying to do things for themselves while their children demand their attention . . . which is exactly what I was doing while reading this book yesterday!

The author digs deep into an Amish community to try and find out what makes Amish children seem so much happier, more content, and better behaved than a typical American child. She interviews several families and finds that they don't have methods or actual advice to share. Much of their parenting "tricks" are actually just part of their way of life and well behaved, content children are often the result.

For example, they usually live in close proximity to their entire extended family and are used to large family potlucks and gatherings. They learn to let the adults have their meal and conversations in peace and they find ways to amuse themselves quietly. They are also raised with a greater sense of security because of this close bond to family and rarely feel lonely. They also learn to sit through their 3 hour long church services without complaint. Patience is taught young! They are also taught that the child is not more important than anyone else!

It seemed like after each chapter, I would put down the book and think "That is how I want to raise my kids. . . how can I do that?" or in the middle of a chapter I would think "That doesn't seem too off from how I was raised." or "I bet my dad would actually like the Amish culture . . .  and not just the donuts."

Since the parenting style of the Amish people is so heavily based off of who they are, the book also describes a lot of the Amish beliefs and culture other than parenting, but always brought it back to that in the end. I found that really fascinating as I didn't really understand much of that before.

It's broken up into parts: Family, Community, Discipline, Amish Work Ethic, Technology, and Faith. I learned at least one thing from each section (and now I wish I had taken notes!). I think the best way to sum it up is that the Amish place a high value on children and parenting those children to be people of integrity and values. Technology is often seen as hindering the family unit, or taking time away from each other (which is totally true . . . television, facebook, etc.) and all of their decisions are based on how the family will be impacted.

I enjoyed the book and found it helpful in identifying trouble spots in my own parenting as well as giving some ideas to incorporate for a more content, happier family.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Love Fall!

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. And this year, some days are actually feeling like fall in San Francisco! There are even crisp colorful leaves falling from the trees. And rain! I think my favorite part of the season is the change of color . . . and the food!

Last week we met up with some friends at the pumpkin patch in the city. William was quick to claim a wheelbarrow to hall around our one pumpkin. And I was quick to photograph (and pose) everything!

Monday of course was Halloween! Stephen had two costumes in his size and so did William. So we dressed up as super heroes in the morning and wild animals in the afternoon. I took Stephen into the office that morning and flew him around my co-workers. They loved it. I think he did too!

After naps and work we headed out with some friends to Cortland Ave to take advantage of the neighborhood festivities. All the businesses stay open and hand out candy to the kids. It's easy and a lot of fun. And the rain held off until the very end! William came out with at least a pound of candy. . . and ran laps around our apartment for 20 minutes when we got home! (The sugar high is real people!)

I was a cat last year and the costume worked gain with our theme of wild animals. I said I was a panther this year! And our friends, a giraffe and rhinoceros (and cut off in the photo below a monkey and a lion) made the outing extra fun. William and Eleanore even had a impromptu "Ring around the Rosie" on the sidewalk! I love their friendship!

Happy Fall everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grandparents in Town!

Chris's parents made a pitstop to see us on their way home from their vacation in Hawaii last weekend. People traveling from Australia, Alaska and Hawaii say they find stopping in California helpful in readjusting to the time change. Something to keep in mind if you travel! We'd love to see you!

We had two days to spend together and I think we did a good job of making the most of it. For starters, it was the first time Papa had met Stephen so he spent the first 30 minutes holding the baby while I tried to convince William not to be scared or shy of seeing his grandparents! He had been so excited to see them and then when I let them in he ran to his room crying. (I remember doing this when I was a kid too . . .) But soon enough, he let Nana play with him and then shortly after that he was happy to show Papa his toys too. And then he was up on his lap reading books!

We had dinner together on Friday night and on Saturday they joined me at the picnic after the Walk for Life. I had planned to go shopping with Sheryl after the walk, but I was pretty wiped out so I took a nap instead. Chris took his mom on a hike up Bernal Hill.

On Sunday we met at church and then Sheryl came home with me to help get the boys down for naps and Bob stayed behind with Chris who had to attend a congregational meeting. That afternoon we all went to the park to play (but really just so I could get some photos!).

I absolutely love that they come and visit us twice (at least!) a year! I love that we get to share meals together and have really great conversations. I love that they can see our boys grow (Stephen had more than doubled his weight since Sheryl last held him!) and speak into their lives. I appreciate their speaking into our lives as well. They have so much wisdom to share and I just eat it up! I was really encouraged by their visit.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 Walk For Life: Goals Met, Friends Made

Thanks to everyone who helped me reach my fundraising goal this year! We raised $550 for Alpha Pregnancy Center. And all participants combined raised over $12,000!

The walk was great. My team was small, just four of us and a little boy. (I didn't bring William and Stephen because it gets to be a long morning and I wanted to focus on leading the team and being a photographer). We walked a little over two miles total delivering a couple of packages to one family who has been blessed by Alpha this year.

The whole family was home. A little 7 year-old girl and a boy nearly 18 months. They were getting ready to go to a harvest festival at a nearby school so the boy was dressed up as spiderman and the girl a princess. They entire family was all smiles. I could tell they loved Alpha and they loved this special delivery. We prayed with them and asked the Lord of Heaven and Earth to provide stable employment for the father and health and provision for all four of them.

I had signed up to be a team leader which means I was suppose to recruit five walkers to join me. I asked a lot of mom friends, at least the ones I thought might be interested but all were out of town or busy that weekend. Only one said she'd come. I was so thankful! She was a new friend and I didn't know her well so when she came I was thrilled. We had nearly two hours to talk and get to know each other (and the other two members of my team who had signed up without a team).

After delivering the gifts, we hiked up a hill to a park where everyone was gathering for a picnic. At the park, our families joined us and our boys played really well together! I'm hoping we can arrange for us all to play again soon!

Thanks again for partnering with me in this year's walk! Looking forward to doing it again next year!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Baby B2: Five Months Old

This month really snuck up on me. It wasn't until I had to write the date for work that I realized Stephen had become a five month old. Time keeps on going and life keeps on being lived.

He didn't have a check-up this month so I don't have any new stats for you but he is growing I can tell you that! This weekend I unpacked all of the 6-month clothing and packed away the 3-month wardrobe. Between the hand-me downs from William and my nephew Alexander and the gifts we received, he has enough clothes in this size to last a year! Seriously! So many cute and adorable clothes!

We brought out the bumbo seat the other day and Stephen is a pro. I didn't even realize he was ready for sitting but he totally is. It's great to give him another angle to see the world from - instead of just laying on the floor. Tummy time still means "roll over time." He doesn't like being left alone for too long. He will play with his toys much longer if you are near him or he can see you. He loves his Sofie giraffe teething toy and his mobile which he can actually reach and dismantle and stick in his mouth!

Sleep is still a struggle. A real struggle. His naps are way too short to be restorative, lasting 20 - 40 minutes. Sometimes we can get him to fall back asleep but not often. I should say Chris can get him back to sleep, I can't. And you would think that if he doesn't nap well during the day that he surely would sleep well at night --but nope. Babies don't work that way. He is still waking up 4 times a night. We've talked about sleep training but I'm honestly too tired to put up with it. I don't have the energy to be consistent.

Feedings are interesting. He seems to prefer the bottle most of the time, although I still offer to nurse several times a day. And then sometimes he really just wants to nurse and will refuse the bottle all together. I cannot win. I end up pumping a lot even though I'm home with him.

This month we went on a little adventure to Roaring Railroad in Felton CA for William's birthday. It was a special Day Out with Thomas event. Stephen did really great most of the day. I was really thankful. I'm so glad he enjoys being in a carrier now!

Chris and I tried something new this month for our date. (Yes, we only get one a month.) Instead of going out at night when we are both so tired and miss out on the opportunity to sleep, we hired a sitter for a Saturday morning date. I was a little nervous because this meant both kids would be awake which is something I still have a hard time managing. But the boys did fantastic and the sitter survived just fine. It worked out well for us too because we had a break from the kids and got to go to bed early! (the downside was that the previous night was terrible so we were exhausted on our date, but you can't win at everything . . . )

Stephen loves his big brother and smiles nearly every time William walks into his line of sight. The other day I overheard sweet giggles as William played with him. It's really great to see them interact already! I can't wait for more!