Saturday, May 27, 2017

Clutterfree with Kids

Did you grow up hearing "Put that back where it belongs." Or have the idea that everything you owned should have a place it belonged when not in use? I did, but totally failed to follow through. My room was always a disaster. Even after it was clean!

I don't know about you, but often times I look at my apartment and think "What am I supposed to do with this stuff?" I can't call it junk, but most of it isn't essential or even used on a regular bases. My problem is that I can't put it away because it just doesn't have a place to belong. My dining room table gets to act as table, office, landing pad, and sometimes even kitchen counter. I have too much stuff. And I honestly don't know how to not have it.

I picked up this book as part of a bundled online ebook sale and it came at just the right time. With our never ending hopes of moving (more on that later!!) and the cumulation of toys for two boys (and their clothes) I needed help!

Clutterfree with Kids is written by Joshua Becker who is known for his minimalist approach to life and happiness. He has written several books on the topic and speaks on it often. How do you make a living by not collecting stuff -- this is how I guess!

I liked his style. He opened the book with the theory and reasons behind his choice for not giving in to materialism and filling his home with possessions. This helped get me excited for actually getting rid of stuff. One main point I want to share is that when you buy something, it costs more than just the price you paid. It requires maintenance, organization, your time and energy to keep it in nice condition - that goes for so many things - clothes came to mind first! So much laundry and my closet looks terrible so I organize it at least 3 times a year. If I had less, I'd spend less time organizing and could spend more time doing something fun. This goes for so much more too.

The second half of the book (which is not even 200 pages) is practical steps you can take to declutter your spaces and how to get your kids involved and how to teach them to have healthy boundaries with stuff. I liked the section on photographs because at this same time, our backup hard drive crashed and the normal hard drive stopped working properly. Thankfully nothing was lost, but it gave me reason to pause and look at how I'm storing my photos (I don't delete any of them... and that makes photo editing take forever and finding one particular photo nearly impossible!).

If you want to understand this mentality of living with less, give this book a go. You don't even need to have kids for it to make an impact. And if you need motivation to do some spring summer cleaning, I bet this would do it!

**I'm not getting paid to write this review, but I think many people could benefit like I did (or hope to!)

Book Club: 1906

The ladies in the book club chose to go with my recommendation this month and read 1906 by James Dalessandro. A friend of mine had recommended it to me and I couldn't pass it up. The novel is a fictional account of the 1906 earthquake that happened in San Francisco (and up and down the California coast).

I was surprised to find that the first half of the book took place three days before the earthquake; the story built up around the mysterious murder of a police detective who was about to put an end to the corruption of a handful of men who seemed to own the city -- elected officials included. I found all of this really fascinating, especially since most of the story was based on actual people. Then the earthquake hits and everything is a disaster. The way the author describes the earthquake's movements and the fire that followed are very accurate to the actual event. I was so intrigued I wanted to learn more! And for about a week I looked up and read so many articles about it, but this book was by far the most interesting read.

There was of course a romance that probably didn't need to be there, but it added another storyline and gave more attachment to the characters. There were a lot of characters in this novel, sometimes I found it hard to keep track of who was who and questioned why someone was mentioned at all, but over all it was an excellent read.

It was interesting to read a historical fiction piece about a place I currently live and find that other than newer buildings and more people, it is very much the same city it was over 100 years ago. There is still corruption, still human trafficking (yep, that started long ago too) and greed. Our city so very badly needs influential people to step up and care for humans. If people in control back then had done so, I'm fairly certain lives would have been spared. There is always a need to fight for justice.

Read it if you are at all interested in SF, earthquakes or just want to read a good mystery with lots of characters.

Book Club: Emma

Last month, the book club I joined read Emma, by Jane Austen. The only Austen book I had ever read was Pride and Prejudice and that was over a decade ago so I was excited to give her another chance (because if I'm honest, I had a hard time following her writing back then).

And I actually really enjoyed the book! I have seen the movies so I sort of knew where the story was going, but enjoyed reading it much more than watching the movie. Sure, some parts got a little long, but I found quite a bit of it to be funny--even if it was in an odd-silly-girl sort of way. And I loved the ending. My eye was on Mr. Knightly early on, but I loved how it all played out for Emma.

I was excited to discuss it with the other girls in the club but I was rear ended the day before and never got the chance.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Cake Smash and a Party

On Friday we had a little cake-smash party at home for Stephen. I had found a delicious dairy-free, sugar free cake recipe and discovered you can actually whip coconut milk into a frosting! I baked it on Thursday, frosted it on Friday during nap time and as soon as Stephen woke up, I said, "Okay, baby! Time for some cake!"

He wasn't too happy about it, but he didn't cry at all. He very calmly touched it and played with the candle for few moments before moving on to the frosting.

He very seriously got his fingers messy, never even attempting to put them in his mouth. (He puts everything in his mouth, I thought this would be a little more exciting!)

Then he sort of tipped the cake over and got a little more messy! And then this little guy started to have some fun.

And he finally tasted it! And then he loved it and ate a large piece of it for his snack. It was seriously yummy!

On Saturday, the birthday festivities continued with a little play-date style party in the park. It was really hot so we nabbed the only 5 foot piece of shade there was, set out blankets, bubbles and balloons for all the littles to play with while the adults enjoyed donuts and coffee. It was a really great morning and I enjoyed all of our friends who were able to make it out.

We all sang "Happy Birthday" and gave Stephen a second cake, he put his hand on top making a perfect hand print and then was ready to play again. 

I love the innocents of one year olds! By the time they are two, they already know what sweets are and presents and they adore all the attention. 

Happy First Birthday Little Man! We love you!

Friday, May 19, 2017

MOPS: Crafts I've Made

One of my roles in MOPS is to come up with creative projects or crafts for us to do in our meetings. It's a little tricky because we only have a couple of hours together and most of that time isn't spent on the craft, and we have a budget. Buying crafts for a possible 24 women adds up fast--I really had no idea!

For Valentine's day, we painted on white ceramic mugs. I used this tutorial and it worked out pretty well. The girls all seemed to really enjoy doing it! I love my mug -- but I've noticed the oil-based marker starting to come off where my fingers usually hold the mug. That makes me a little sad.

For Easter, we made nest necklaces. I used this tutorial as closely as I could. I had great luck with the first one I made and thought it would be easy enough, but the second and third ones I did were trickier for whatever reason. The women took on the challenge and they all turned out really great -- each one unique -- just like we are. It was fun to see what they did and how they turned out. This was a great one to do and keep conversation going!

We had a friend speak about hospitality and had the moms put together cake stands. My other mom-in-charge friend and I went to several thrift stores in hopes of finding what we needed on the cheap. It was a challenge to find all the candle holders and plates but we did get enough! And I think they had fun with it. It was a super quick craft - just needed to allow more time for the glue to dry. I used this tutorial. I think if we do this again in a group setting, I would ask each mom to bring a plate they like and I'd buy the candlesticks -- that way everyone has a plate they love (everyone has such different style preferences)!

It was super fun to be crafty again! And most of the other moms thought so too!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Baby B2: Twelve Months

Stephen can't really tell the difference between 11 months and 12 months and I'll be honest, the changes have been a little slower. But this mom can feel the difference--and needs to celebrate! Stephen is one! We made it! We survived and we are all still alive and learning to thrive as a family of four. Yes, it has taken a long time to find our routine. And I'm so grateful we finally did! I love us.

Stephen has been cruising around for a couple of months now, still not too steady on his feet so he isn't standing on his own quite yet. I have seen him do it for a couple of seconds so far. He loves walking when we hold his hands, he grins so big and his little legs go every which way! It's quite fun.

Stephen loves to eat. He does really well with finger foods: roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, soft green beans, crackers, bread, puffs, bananas and berries. We still offer pureed foods but he is less and less interested in them. Actually, he is just more and more interested in serving himself which is just too messy for me to allow. He does get the spoon in his mouth about 10% of the time, you can guess where it goes the other 90%! He drinks water out of a straw cup, he loves mom's 32 oz water bottle.

This little guy is a big explorer. At the park he loves to crawl everywhere, go up and down the slides, climb stairs, rope ladders and is doing much better playing in the with sand. He also loves the swing. At home he crawls under everything he can - like our rocking chair, table, and sometimes the bed. He loves opening and closing doors and putting toys in containers.

He loves basketball. William has a hoop on the back of his bedroom door that we adjusted so that Stephen can dunk it. This is his favorite past time and does it every chance he gets, usually first thing every morning. We have a couple of balls but his favorite is the real men's basketball. The only downside is that it doesn't fit in the hoop; but that doesn't stop Stephen from "shooting" it. My little baby can shoot a basket before he can stand up on his own!

There aren't any words coming out of his mouth yet, but he loves to scream and make loud noises. He understands us a lot better and can follow short directions. We are trying to use sign language but he hasn't really caught on to anything yet. So far, if he needs something he waves his arms, shakes his head and screams. It works.

He has been sleeping through the night much more consistently this month with a morning wake up around 5. We will give him a bottle and put him back down and sometimes he sleeps until 6 . . . one time he slept until 7! The boys now share a room for both nap time and night time sleep, which has really allowed us to feel like we have our space back (our living room turned bedroom space that is).

This has been a hard year, but we've turned a corner; my heart is so full of love for this little boy.
More about his Birthday here.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Message for Moms

I had the privilege of speaking to my MOPS group again this year. And I felt that the things I shared might be worth sharing with my readers as well. This message is specifically for moms because well, it's Mother's Day. May it bless you.

A Mother's Legacy

Who do your kids see when they look at you?
What do they hear when they listen to you?
What do your children feel when they touch you?

Even if your kids aren't old enough to voice their memories/experiences of you, they are taking note. When they look at you, they see your eyes and your smile, they see love in your face. They see their value reflected.

When they hear your voice, they hear a sound they heard even before they were born! They hear love in your voice and in your words.

When your child touches your hand or wraps their arms around your neck, they feel your skin, your strength. They feel your love holding them, protecting them.

As your children grow up they will start to remember more and more about you. They will be old enough one day to say “I remember when...” or “Remember how mom used to ...” They might even say “I'm turning into my mother!” Or “Am I becoming my mom!?”

You are one of the most important people in their lives right now. They watch your every move and chances are they learn almost everything from you! Of course there are others in their lives too – dads, siblings, teachers and friends. But the influence you have over your children is huge.

I don't really have to say that “You Matter” – but you do, and I want to say it. I want to say it so passionately and purposefully that it reaches deep down into your heart today and you believe it. You Matter.

Who you are matters. Your personality, passions, your goals, and your talents –everything that makes you uniquely you – matters. Who you are is shaping who your kids will be. The character they see in you on a day to day basis, the values they see you living out, your strengths and weaknesses for better or worse will be imprinted in their memories. I don't want to scare you by any means. I only want to encourage you to know your value. You matter. And your role as Mother is a big deal.

Have you ever given it a thought that what you believe, do, think and say might be passed down to your kids? My oldest is only three and I can bear witness to this fact.

I have a very honest example for you:
Late in my second pregnancy and a few months after Stephen was born, I was not the mom I wanted to be—not by a long shot. I was tired, and uncomfortable, I was angry when my 3 year old wouldn't listen to me, I was angry when I couldn't just sit still for a moment by myself. And I showed him. I got angry at him. I yelled at him. And he saw it. He learned it. And now, when he gets upset he is my mirror image. He sounds just like me and he points at me just like he saw me point at him. I hate remembering this period of my motherhood journey.  And I can't forget it because he still does this. He still models it back in my face.

He is only three, so he may not remember it. I pray he doesn't. I really don't want one of his first memories to be of my anger...I don't want him to remember my angry face and think that is a reflection of how I see him; how I value him.

But another more heart-warming example is when I sit back and watch William, my three year old hug and kiss his baby brother and use our terms of endearment for him. “Oh, baby Stephen, you are so cute! I love you so much.” He knew that love from watching us. And I hope he feels that love from being with us.

What about your belief system? Your family values and traditions? Your priorities? Your kids will take note of these too! Sure, they might not follow in your footsteps all the time or agree every step of the way, but they are noticing it none the less.

Have you ever thought about what kind of characteristics or traits you hope your child has? Let's take a moment and name a few right now –


And how will our children learn to have these qualities? Who will model them?

We will! Or we will have to put people in their lives who can if we cant.

If I want my son to voice his frustration without loosing his temper – he needs to see that in action.
If I want my son to be a man of integrity when he is 20 – he needs to see his mom and dad following through with their word now.
If I want my son to value and respect people no matter who they are – then I have to show respect and value people in front of him. He has to witness it.

A legacy is something passed down from one generation to another. Often times we speak in terms of property or wealth when we talk about legacy, but it can be anything. Today, I want us to think about the legacy of a mother. What are you giving your children by being you?

We will all leave behind a legacy for our children—memories, a belief system, family values, characteristics or traits. A reminder of who we are. A reminder of where they came from.

The time you have now with your children is so important. You are so important. You matter.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

1) What are the values/beliefs/traditions you would like to pass down to your child(ren)?

2) What is one trait you hope your child does get from you? What do you hope he/she doesn't inherit?

3) Have you ever said “I'm turning into my mother!”? If so, share the story.

4) What do you want your children to remember about you?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Car Accident and a Birthday

On Monday, I was driving the boys to a friend's house to play, stopped at a stop light and was rear-ended. Instantly my head hurt as it had slammed against the head rest. Not ever having been rear-ended before, I looked in the rear view mirror because I didn't actually believe that we had been hit. Honestly, my mind went to earthquake first (but I realize that is probably because I'm in the middle of reading 1906 right now). Sure enough, the car was right there, too close to doubt.

After exchanging information with the 87 year old lady, I continued on my way, my car seemingly unharmed. I figured my headache would go away soon enough. I was wrong. I started to feel strange -- my vision wasn't fuzzy but my mind sure was. It was hard to keep up with the kids and I really just wanted to crawl on the couch and sleep for days. After the playdate, my friend urged me to go to urgent care while she watched the boys for me. I hesitated but then realized there would be no easier time to go... and it was only two blocks away. I could walk! (because driving didn't seem wise at the time).

They said I had symptoms of a concussion and gave me a muscle relaxer to help with the whiplash pain in my neck and shoulder. My friend drove us all home since I wasn't alert enough to drive. Chris met us at home and stayed home the rest of the week to care for the boys so I could rest. Thankfully the boys seemed unharmed!

Chris's birthday was on Friday but I had purchased a ticket to the Monet exhibit at the Legion of Honor for Thursday afternoon prior to this eventful week. So on Thursday I put on my brave hat and managed the kids by myself--with the help of my neighbor! Thankfully I felt alright most of the day and Chris enjoyed his day out.

On Friday morning, we woke up and celebrated Chris's birthday with presents and cards after breakfast. Then he took the car in to get an estimate of the damages. The car seriously looks like nothing happened, but of course it's $1000 to have the bumper repaired. Just like my head I suppose . . . I looked just fine, but I felt worse.

I was nauseous in the morning but really wanted to go to MOPS because we were having a special guest speaker and I didn't want to miss it. Chris drove me and the boys to the meeting and I'm glad I went! But afterwards I felt miserable. Shortly after we got the boys down for their naps, I started making phone calls to my primary care provider and the urgent care. I needed to be seen again. My headache had gone from manageable to this-might-be-killing-me pain. I was routed to the ER and since the boys were napping, I opted to go to the ER I could get to by bus. Not the highest rated ER, but the most convenient and I trusted they could get the job done.

After waiting in the waiting room, and again in the triage room, I was finally seen by the doctor who wasn't really concerned at all with my symptoms but agreed to give me a CT scan to make sure. After being there -- in the none air conditioned room on a hot day, with the flickering florescent lights, and random humming sounds from the equipment with the worse head ache ever --for three hours, I was told I was going to be fine. The CT scan was clean; the pain I felt was symptoms of the concussion sticking around. I should be fine in another week. I was relieved nothing else was going on in my brain but a little perturbed that I would have to wait to feel better and there wasn't anything I could really do.

So I went home. My superman husband had wrangled the kids together and went grocery shopping -- something I still have not tried with both kids! And took care of them when I returned to so I could make dinner. Not once complaining that this was his birthday.

And today, Saturday, the end of this weird week, I celebrated my husband's birthday by taking him to his favorite brunch place and filling him up with chicken fried steak and eggs and praying over his year and all the things on his shoulders. My headache subsiding long enough to enjoy the outing and my man.

Friday, April 21, 2017

He is Risen! And Other Easter Chaos

Sunday morning was one of those mornings where everything seemed to make me a little too uptight. The boys were up early, breakfast was had before 7 a.m. It was cloudy and raining. The baby wouldn't fall asleep at nap time. Which was super stressful because if he napped perfectly, we'd make it to church in time, which was important because William was going to be singing in the service.

And then our bathroom flooded when our neighbor took a shower. Yep. At 8:00 a.m. Easter morning Chris was using the bathroom (TMI?) and whipped open the door yelling, "Honey, get some towels!" But before I could even respond, he had gotten the towels himself and was literally catching water as it pooled over our bathroom sink. The water was coming up through the pipes of our sink! I freaked out. Panicked. Chris told me what to do - find a hose. Right. I found it with his exact instructions and he was able to move the water from the sink to the bathtub and it eventually stopped --when the shower upstairs ended. The contents of our under-the-sink-cabinent were cleared out, the water wiped up and the plumber on his way. Thank the Lord a plumber was able to come on Easter morning!

Stephen eventually fell asleep, the plumber came and he even slept through the noise. Chris stayed behind for the baby to nap and I took William to church, we got there just in time. The whole way there, I could not stop thinking "Jesus is Risen, He is alive. Nothing else matters. Today or any day. Thank you Jesus." The burden of the morning lifted from my shoulders and I felt a renewed freedom.

We met Nana at church and sat near the front so we could see the kids best. The service was wonderful. The kids all got up in front and sang two songs. They had been practicing for weeks and were awesome! This was the first time in several years they have performed for the congregation and William's first time. I loved it. William wasn't into any hand motions other than the air guitar but he sang loud and well.

I worked in the nursery during the second half of the service. It was the busiest Sunday our nursery and children's church has had in two years! Seven calm and fun babies! Thankfully lots of moms stayed in the room. I'm so thankful for families who have started coming to our church recently! I love having full classrooms and more families to connect with! It's something we've prayed for for a long time.

Chris and Stephen made it to church for the last 20 minutes or so (unreliable public transportation in the rain was not fun for either of them). After church we did a quick family photo in the rain and headed home for nap time.

After much better naps, and making rolls and brussels sprouts for Easter dinner we headed to our friend's home for amazing food, fellowship and sharing in the joy of the Risen Lord.

William and I colored eggs on Saturday and we brought them to our Easter dinner, not really to eat but to hide during dinner so William was occupied long enough for us to finish the meal without too many distractions. It worked great!

Although the morning was chaos and hard -- exhausting to be honest, the day was actually very enjoyable and fun. And my heart was centered on the very person it should have been: Jesus.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Baby B2: Eleven Months Old

I don't have any new measurements for this little guy this month, but if he hasn't grown in length and weight, he has grown in personality.  He yells and screams to get our attention or to end a meal and seems to be expressing his opinion more and more. He is talking most of the time these days. No real words, just baby talk. He does say "mama" but not really in reference to me. Both my mother-in-law and I, on separate occasions, heard him say "light" while pointing to a light. So perhaps "light" really is his first word?! Pointing is also a new skill.

He loves to play with balls and has already shown interest in basketball, just like his brother. A ball will keep him quite occupied for an afternoon. I've watched him hold the ball above his head and let it go behind him, turn around and find it, and do it over and over again. He has also thrown the ball forward a few times. (He has also bitten pieces out of two balls so far. Really shouldn't leave this baby unattended!)

He has started "vrooming" cars across the floor already. He loves watching the traffic out the window, even though he has to stand on his tip-toes to see anything. He clucks his tongue like I do and he thinks it is so very funny. He laughs with his mouth wide open showing off the mouth that is still only filled with six teeth.

Stephen does really well at playing on his own. I hate thinking this is a necessity for his survival instead of just something he enjoys, but he is the second child so my attention isn't as focused as it probably should be. But he is awesome at finding ways to entertain himself for extended periods of time. (He didn't learn that from William!) I am so grateful.

He really likes getting to the park. Crawling around the equipment, up the slides, and cruising around the stuff he can reach keep him busy. Gone are my relaxing days at the park. This guy loves adventure . . . and eating dirt.

Stephen has been very easy to transport thus far. His hate-the-carseat phase didn't last as long as William's and he really likes the stroller. I'm so thankful for this because we are often on the go! In a typical week, we have two preschool pick-ups, trips to the library and the parks, and if I'm lucky, two mornings at the gym and a playdate thrown in.

Stephen typically takes two solid naps during the day. Usually 90 minutes each. When one doesn't happen it makes for a long day, but we survive. Bedtime has returned to normal after our trip to Las Vegas, but we can't seem to stop the 5 a.m. wake-up/feed from happening. I'm thankful that more often than not, he does go back to sleep!

(This picture isn't the greatest, but I had to share it because he is stacking blocks for the first time ever!)

Last weekend, Chris's mom joined us for Easter weekend. And while Stephen probably didn't understand all of the festivities involved in his first Easter, it was still a fun time and so glad we got to share it with Nana.

He's on the move all the time, which made this photo shoot a real challenge. He loves being with me, even if it means clinging to my legs while I work in the kitchen or sit on my lap while I type. He's a cute sidekick!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Friendship Matters

You may have seen my previous post about the book Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships. I was a part of the launch team and was given an advanced copy to review.

The book couldn't have come at a better time. It seemed like everything around me and everything I read was screaming "Friendships matter-- focus on other people!" I wanted to share more about what I learned through this book.

Lisa-Jo Baker, author of Never Unfriended shares there are three things that hinder us in committing to friendships.

  • We have a fear of being hurt -- because we've been hurt by people before (we all have!). She talks a lot about the importance of forgiveness, whether we move forward with that specific relationship or not. Past hurts have away of hindering future friendships."Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is opportunity for relationship in the future."
  • We fear missing out. No one wants to be lonely; we want connection, deep friendships and a feeling of belonging. This was a big one for me. I have very distinct memories of being left out or at least feeling left out in elementary school; if people were whispering it was about me (it wasn't), when girls got together and laughed, they laughed at me (they didn't), when they played a game they didn't ask me to join, and on and on. Lisa-Jo talks about the lie we believe: that we aren't important, we don't matter and we were left out on purpose. And this is big. I think it's the same lie that Eve believed in the garden. That God was leaving her out of something. Lisa-Jo describes the kind of heart healing we need that can only come from focusing our eyes on God -- the one who always invites us into his arms, the one of loves us no matter what.
  • The third, is the fear of being (or including) the new girl. I have been the new girl numerous times and I bet you have too! One of my favorite quotes from the whole book is: "I'm so done assuming that all women know all the other women in my social circles. The thing is, there's always room for one more friend and room to know each other more." Haven't you thought the same thing? Sue knows Beth better so I shouldn't include myself . . . or I can't invite her into our group, we just won't fit as well. I am so done! 
So what can we do? How can we have lasting friendships?
Well, for starters, we can be that type of friend first! Go first! Share your story first, get awkward first, give someone your number, invite someone over, be vulnerable. Be "un-fine" as Lisa-Jo says. Next time you respond to "How are you?" with "I'm fine," ask yourself if you are purposefully trying to end the conversation?!

"I am convinced that the shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared story about our broken places"

Lisa-Jo Baker gives six more ways to build lasting friendship but that first one - Go first and be un-fine - got me. I wait for the invitation to feel safe to be myself instead of being myself so others feel safe to be themselves. I'm always fine -- except honestly, I'm not.

After reading this book, I felt so encouraged full of courage that I wanted to go out and be a better friend to all my friends. I wanted to stop chickening out when it came time to meet new friends. I wanted to be the type of woman she described in her book -- a woman that others count on to be present, honest and real with each other.

I'm so glad I got to read this book and was able to be a part of her launch team. While reading it, I often felt that the church -- and the world -- would be a different place if we all walked this talk.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lisa-Jo Baker has been the community manager for www., an online home for women all over the world for nearly a decade. She is also the author of Surprised by Motherhood, and her writings have been syndicated from New Zealand to New York. She lives just outside of Washington D.C., with her husband and three very loud kids where she connects, encourages, and champions women in person and through her popular blog, 
I first heard about Lisa through MOPS International, but have actually been following the website for nearly five years!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Toddler Boy: Three and a Half Years Old

William is now three and a half years old and hardly a toddler. Calling him a pre-schooler seems so strange, yet much more accurate. He's in a pre-school program twice a week now, which sadly we aren't able to continue through the summer.

He is a very active boy with an imagination I can't quite keep up with. One any given day he might come out of his room being a dinosaur, a bear, or other animal. The bed might be a ship, an airplane or a pool.

He loves having playdates with friends and we've added a few new friends from preschool to the mix. He loves going to the playground and he is more recently getting into riding his balance bike! He knows his ABC's and can count to 20 without a problem. If I help him out and say 30, he can count to 39. If I say 40, he can count to 49, etc.

He is showing more interest in drawing and coloring, still not within the lines but now filling in the character quite well. I have less capacity to help him with Stephen being as mobile as he is, so often William ends up doing these activities by himself.

Since his birthday, we have started allowing him to watch Sesame Street. It has become quite the routine and he requests it every day. We have him watch it while Stephen naps which gives me some extra time in the morning to prepare for the day.

I fear he is starting to give up his nap. We are still preparing for it each day but half the time he comes out of his room after 20 minutes and says he isn't tired. On the days he does nap, he naps for 2.5 to 3 hours. It's hard to believe he can go without it some days. (I can't!)

William still obsesses over airplanes and the flights we've taken this past year. He knows the airlines and the colors of the planes that have taken us to different places -- Las Vegas (Southwest), Texas (Virgin America), and North Dakota (Frontier). He often begs to go on another airplane to which we say they are expensive and we're saving up the money. He is a great traveler and makes it quite exciting.

Construction play is still important to him as are his books. We continue to make weekly trips to the library and we read several each day. He likes to spoil the ending of the stories he knows well too.

William talks all of the time. He tells stories, talks about his friends, and asks a lot of questions.
Some favorite sayings he has:
 - "You can do ____ if you want to." or "I can do ____ if you want me to."
 - "Sure it is!" (Ex: W:"Is this rock round?" Me: "No, it's not." W: "Sure it is!")

He is 36 pounds 11 ounces and still 39 pounds. His favorite foods are snacks: meat stick and cheese, crackers, and kid friendly lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, banana with peanut butter wrapped in a tortilla (banana sushi) and milk. Dinner is always a challenge. He is less enthusiastic about apples and broccoli now (the only produce he really ever eats).

William is typically a happy and very friendly kid. He loves sitting on my lap or being with me or Chris. He likes being helpful except when it interrupts his play. He loves being a big brother and showing Stephen how to do things. I can't believe how big he has gotten and how much love I have for him. The day-to-day discipline and constant reminders of how to behave are exhausting but my heart swells with joy and love for this boy who is so absolutely wonderful.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Club: A Man Called Ove

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to join a book club. In my new quest to get out of the house and be with other people more, I said yes. I've never been part of a book club before. I love reading but don't often talk about what I'm reading. I was excited (I love when others tell me what books to read!) and a little nervous (because this was a new group and a new thing for me). My first time meeting with these women was last night and it was a lot of fun.

The book we read was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bakman. I probably wouldn't have picked this up on my own, so I'm glad they chose it to read. I really enjoyed the story. It takes place in Sweden and and shares Ove's story as he nears the end of us life . . . by his own choosing.

The author does an excellent job of connecting his past experiences to his present state and develops the character very well. He is a "curmudgeonly" man who can't seem to find joy in anything anymore -- you know the type -- the person who grumbles under his breath that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, and everyone is an idiot, and everything is always wrong.

I don't want to give anything away because it is written in a somewhat suspenseful way, but it had a very pleasing ending and gave me much to think about. The relationships he develops near the end of his life are interesting and gave me pause in how I cultivate my own relationships (or don't) and how I treat people that are different than myself. I also couldn't help but wonder how often I let a relationship slip by me because I'm often too in my head to notice the other person. I may need to write more on that topic later. Relationships in general have been on my heart lately.

If you read the book, I hope you'll tell me what you think! (Leave a comment!)

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Never Unfriended"

I was given an opportunity to get an advanced copy of Lisa-Jo Baker's newest book Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships. I've reached the half-way mark but couldn't wait to tell you about it for two reasons.

The first is that it is a heart-hitting book, one I needed during this season of Lent (and one I had time for since I'm not on Facebook everyday). I needed the reminder to focus my attention on the people right in front of me and not on the screen. And how to do it! And this book did both. If you want to deepen your friendships and learn how to be a better friend, then this book is for you!

The second reason I couldn't wait to tell you about it is because the author, Lisa-Jo is offering a really fun gift to those that pre-order before the release date (April 4). And Amazon has the book on sale right now! So for $10 you can get a hardcopy of the book as well as the cutest little note cards and a hanger to display them! So don't wait!

Find out more here:
And order the book here.

**I did receive the book for free but do not receive any rewards/money for any books sold.
Just sharing my thoughts on a great book I had the privilege to read early!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Some Days

Yesterday was one of those days. So crazy you have to write it down so you remember the chaos you survived.

It was 4:30 when I received a text that Chris was coming home (early, which made my day!) and I wanted to get the house picked up and dinner started. Stephen had been occupying himself with his favorite baby farm animal book and William was in the bathroom. I picked up some dirty clothes and made my way to the bathroom just in time to hear William squeal/cry "Mommy! I tipped the potty over! Ah!"

I opened the door to find him sprawled on the floor with his training potty emptied of it's contents and my rug soaking wet and covered in . . . well, poop. Yuck. The screams had attracted Stephen's attention so he happily crawled right into the chaos and I quickly scooped him up and put him in another room. Then proceeded to clean up William and the rest of the mess. By far one of the biggest to date.

I had to do the laundry right then and there. I couldn't have the rug just laying around, even if I did try to wash it in the sink. So, I put the boys in the bedroom and hauled the load downstairs to the laundry area. From there, I could hear that William had come out of the apartment and was calling for me. This scared me because Stephen is crawling and could follow him--down the stairs. So, I ran back up and told him to close the door, I'd be back in two minutes.

Well, he didn't listen and came out again. So I finished up as fast as I could and ran back upstairs to hear him crying. He had torn a page in his pop-up Train book. He was devastated. I said I would try to fix it. As I said this, I looked up and saw Stephen putting something in his mouth. Ah! He found the Light-Bright I had left on the floor earlier. I dug six pieces out of his mouth and cleaned up the other 30 he had spilled on the floor, praying he hadn't actually swallowed any.

Okay, kids are safe. Now, I can start dinner. And then Stephen got stuck underneath the chair William was standing on and I just had to call it a day. It was only 5 o'clock.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two Boys, One Room and a Quiet Night

Last month, we started sleep training our baby who was nine months at the time. He made the decision easy for me because a) after not sleeping well for nine months I was exhausted and b) he had stopped nursing. This was enough motivation for me to think that he was ready. At this point he had been waking up once or twice a night for a feed.

But how do we do this when we have a three year old in the room? I didn't want to interrupt his sleep with a screaming baby. I also didn't want to disrupt his routine. I had asked others and was told they get used to it and not to worry so much about it. We found a balance and decided to move Stephen to the bedroom and William along with his bed to the living room for a week.

At first, William hated this idea. He cried and fussed and refused to drop the subject. His current phrase is "I don't like that idea." But Chris, who knows his son so well, made a game out of it and made it a fun adventure and then there were magically no more tears. In their place were bright excited eyes and an eager little boy who from that moment on looked forward to sleeping in this new spot.

Stephen adjusted fairly well too. He did wake up a number of times the first couple of nights and cried for a while, but not nearly as long as we were expecting. Maybe 20 minuets at the most (if I remember correctly). And by the end of the week if he woke up, we only heard him cry for a few seconds before he went back to sleep.

Then came the tricky part. Putting William back in the room! Again William "didn't like that idea." But after some discussion and a game of making signs of where the boys were going to sleep and putting a sign on the wall that said "The Brothers' Room." He seemed okay with it. (I had suggested the sign say "The Boys Room" but William came up with "The Brothers' Room" and so it was). We put Stephen down first and then about 30 minutes later ushered William into the room "quiet, quiet" like and basically hoped for the best. William usually sings and talks to himself for a while so we knew this would be weird. He still did his usual self-calming but Stephen didn't really seem to respond. I sitting to the baby monitor so stressed and angry that William wasn't being quiet but in the end, Stephen didn't care. Only I did.

There have been a handful (maybe two handfuls?) of frustrating moments where the boys wake each other up; especially with these never-ending coughs. Stephen doesn't sleep as late as we'd like, but that took a while for William to get used to. But overall, it seems to be working out okay.  Chris and I are enjoying having our living space back and even watched a TV show together to celebrate! (oh the life!)

Coming back from Vegas has brought some bad habits back into play, such as a 4 a.m. feed and needing to be rocked to sleep more often, but I know we'll get over this hurdle soon enough. At least I hope we do!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Baby B2: Ten Months Old

Ten months down and only two more to go until we get to party! I can't believe my little guy is ten months old already. He is measuring 28.5 inches tall and weighs 17 pounds 14 ounces. It seems like yesterday he was five months old--not nursing, not sleeping and crying all the time. And now?

He's moving all the time. Seriously, after a week spent in Las Vegas with a few older cousins he came home cruising like no body's business. And he loves reaching for things above his head. Drawers and cupboards are to be opened and contents studied. We look around and wonder how things got so un-baby proofed in the last three years! He is seriously into everything.

He makes a lot of happy sounds these days. Sometimes he tries to tell us stories or sing along with our songs and he loves giggling. He is very ticklish!

About a month ago we started sleep training at night. I'll write more on that later since it is it's own process, but I will tell you that for the most part, it has been successful. Prior to our Vegas trip, he was sleeping through the night without a feed for about a week. During our trip however, we ended up giving him a bottle between 2 and 4 a.m. and now back at home we're re-training to get him back to waking up between 5:30-6 without a feed. Just like his brother, he is an early riser.

(Bha. Look at that face!)

 He loves to eat. I feel like if I offered food all day long he would eat it. He loves feeding himself finger foods: baked, diced sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, green beans, bananas, avocado and baby friendly pancakes. We continue with some purees too and try to offer what we are eating if we can. I'm a bit nervous to offer dairy yet. I've been told he is old enough to give it another try, but I'm hesitant. I just hate the pain he goes through when it doesn't agree with him.

He has six teeth now. I can't tell if there is another one coming in or not. The drool would indicate it's on the way!

I've stopped giving him breastmilk. My supply has always been too low, but it got to the point where what I pumped just didn't add up to enough to warrant the time spent pumping. Every mom needs to make that decision on her own. For me, it was getting less than 5 ounces a day. He drinks 5 ounces per feeding of formula and it was taking me 3+ sessions to pump that much. That was one bottle a day and then it decreased even more. And I just had to stop. I didn't reach my goal of nursing
him for a year, but we had a rough road and I'm glad I could do what I did for as long as I did.

I've really enjoyed this little guy these last few months. He seems to be a very curious and friendly boy and from what I can tell will be full of adventures in the future.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Could this be it?!

Our application is in. We have a number. The lottery is a week from today. Could this really happen?!

I've mentioned before that we were hoping to get some help from the city for housing, by way of down payment assistance or a below-market rate condo. I also mentioned that funds were no longer available for the down payment assistance option a few months ago.

But, after I left my job in January we realized that our income now fit within the bracket for the below-market rate housing! Chris got busy applying and after submitting a three-inch stack of paperwork (that could not be filed electronically) we were given our number and told to wait until March 23.

The waiting is the hardest part and I'm getting a little stir crazy! I'm trying to keep my hopes high (but not too high, you know?). My heart beats faster when I think that this could really happen! Chris reminds me that if God wants to provide a home for us via a lottery, he can do that, even if it sounds crazy. If he has another way, he'll show us that when the time comes. We need to keep our trust in Him. There are only six two-bedrooms open and most likely hundreds of applicants. But God doesn't really concern himself with the odds does he?

I want to have faith and hope that our number will be drawn, that our family will be provided for (blessed, really). Will you pray with us? Will you pray for the lottery next Thursday? That the numbers drawn would be for the right families. And maybe that would include us?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fifth Trip to Vegas

Last week all four of us flew to Las Vegas, NV to spend a week with my parents who were there for a convention. My sister and her two children also joined us! We rented a townhouse through AirBnB which in my opinion was the way to go with kids. Staying in a hotel near the strip just didn't appeal to me with young kids (even though it would have been much more convenient for my dad who had convention activities at Mandalay Bay each day). The place we rented had space for everyone, a great kitchen to cook in, and even toys for the kids! There was also a park just a few blocks away.

Our flights were fairly uneventful. It was only 90 minutes long! Chris came with us but could only stay the weekend so I returned with the kids on my own which went well as could be expected. It was easier than I originally anticipated because my parents were also flying out at the same time and were able to help me with my luggage, carseats, stroller and kids. And a sweet lady sat next to me who has three kids of her own. She loved babies and was super chill about Stephen's flailing in my lap. William refused to drink water when we were descending so his ears were giving him trouble for the last 15 minutes or so. Thankfully our neighbors were friendly and tried to help me tell him how to pop them.

So, what did we do in Vegas for a week? How about a photo-dump?
Most importantly we soaked up as much time with family as we could. Cousin's played together, babies napped (sometimes), and the moms attempted to do normal things like shower, eat and relax a bit.

Grandpa and Stephen!

three of the four kids in one spot!

We went to the park and played.

One morning we did venture out to the strip with all the kids. We hit up the Circus at Circus Circus and the kids got to see a clown, an acrobat and a unicycle show. They also got to play carnival games. Preschoolers and carnival games are pretty entertaining (but a total waste of money). 

Then we went to the Bellagio to see the water show, but misread the website and got there three hours early. We had to head home for naps. We still enjoyed the scenery and the warm weather.

Later in the week we headed back there with my mom and got to see the show (because I was sure William would love it... he didn't) and meet Mickey & Minnie Mouse (he loved that). 

We drove to the Las Vegas Historical Museum to take in their affordable and family friendly entertainment. They had an aquarium with small sharks (and new baby sharks), sting rays, turtles and a few others; and a kids interactive area which was awesome. They had a few exhibits that were lost on the kids - Egyptians and the Rain Forest and then this huge prehistoric dinosaur exhibit with animatronic T-Rex and Triceratops. This really scared William. He wouldn't even walk into the room without me carrying him and he nearly strangled me as he clung to my neck. I thought he would have especially loved this (and it's why we came!) but he was fearful that they would eat him. Maybe we can try again when he's a little older?

William loves playing dinosaur and after every nap comes of out of his room stomping as hard as he can and roaring saying "I'm a Dinosaur!" But these looked a little too real.

He loved all the other animals they had on display and actually stood still for a second when I said "Let me take your photo by the buffalo!" My big guy doesn't look so big anymore!

My sister and her two children had to leave mid-week so I took them to the airport and helped her get through security. She totally could have rocked that by herself, but I was glad for the one-on-one time with her and a chance to help. I rarely feel like I get to be an Aunt - I'm usually too busy with my own kids but that afternoon I felt like I could love on them a little extra!

On our last night we picked up my dad from the convention and drove to the Silverton Hotel where they had a "mermaid" in their aquarium. Again, I thought William would have loved this but he seemed indifferent and refused to go near her. Later, in retelling our adventures he exclaimed "We got to see the little mermaid!" So apparently he didn't mind it that much! Stephen seemed very entertained!

The Bass Pro Shop also provided an aquarium and animals to admire!

It was a full week. I'm so glad William and Stephen were able to play with their cousins. Stephen seemed much more active while with them. He started cruising and even climbed a flight of stairs! I wasn't at all prepared for that. And now that we are home he is always on the go exploring everything with even more ambition. 

My time was also spent driving my dad to and from the convention. The kids made sure I was awake plenty early for his 7:00 a.m. breakfast meetings and it gave me an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my dad. 

We had a fun week and are so thankful we got to go! Before we arrived I was a little nervous about what we would do with all the kids but it turned out just fine! There was plenty to do -- but being together was the best part.