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!