Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Coldest Christmas

A few days before we flew to Minnesota for Christmas, my mom told me to pack all the warm things. This was going to be a cold one . . . the coldest Christmas in 20 years. Part of me wants to remember that Christmas when I was 13, but most of them seem cold to me now! Mom was right. It was cold.

We arrived in Minneapolis on Friday, December 22 to see brown grass and very little snow. But walking through the parking garage and seeing your breath and feeling the air chill your cheeks in an instant was enough to remind me where I was. The rental car showed it was 20 degrees -- not bad!

Our first night was spent in Richfield visiting my 95 year old Great-Aunt, Sylvia. The last time we saw her, Stephen was 10 weeks old at my brother's wedding -- that was really the last time we saw most people in my family. I think she was a bit surprised to see how active and aggressive he was around all her lovely, fragile Christmas decorations! Thankfully he was unsuccessful in breaking the glass door of her display cabinet! Chris ordered take-out and picked up my Aunt Carol for dinner. It was lovely to see these women again. I have missed them.

The next morning, we packed up and drove to Fargo where I would spend an evening with my friend Katie. My brother and his wife Ellen met up with us too and we hung out all together at the hotel before Chris took the boys "up north." Katie and I hadn't seen each other in two years, when I was in Australia. Which meant she hadn't even met Stephen! He promptly showed off to her and Ellen by throwing an ornament at the coffee table and shattering it into millions of tiny pieces. William sat quietly and watched a basketball game on TV. (What great first impressions!)

After the goodbyes (and reassuring William that both Uncle John and I would see him the very next day), Katie and I settled in for our long awaited girls night. We braved the cold and walked to a nail salon not far away and had pedicures. Then we walked a little further to get dinner. The hot tub that awaited our return was a welcomed retreat from the cold air and crunching snow. Fargo had much more snow that Minneapolis. And I soon realized that the sound of crunching snow beneath my shoes would be constant for the remainder of my trip!

The next morning, after a relaxed morning of breakfast and a photo-op, we said our goodbyes once more. Our friendship has been filled with brief sightings, frequent goodbyes and long phone conversations in between. Getting to spend uninterrupted one-on-one time with this woman was an incredible gift and one of my highlights this year.

My brother John picked me up and took me back to his home. I hadn't seen the tri-plex he purchased nearly two years ago so I enjoyed getting the full tour. He and his wife are doing a lot to fix it up and I have no doubt that it will be beautiful when it's finished . . . I also have no doubt that they will, eventually finish! Having to drive two more hours home was not something I was looking forward to, but getting to spend that time with my brother and Ellen was really good for me. It was the only time during the whole week that it was just us!

And once we settled in at home with everyone there -- that's 5 kids ages 4, 4, 2, 2, and 18 months and 10 adults, we had a lot of fun! It was Christmas Eve and we had plans for a big dinner and gift opening that evening, but thankfully we broke it up a bit and had the kids all go to bed after dinner and the adults stayed up and opened gifts together! It wasn't chaotic or stressful and it wasn't midnight either! (One of my family's traditions in the past has been to wait until dad finishes all the work and chores before opening gifts which is often very late for his early-to-bed-oldest-daughter.) I enjoyed the evening and I got some pretty excellent gifts!

Christmas morning was a lot of fun with that many kids running around and begging to open presents! They loved seeing that Santa had indeed come "in the night" (actually it was after they woke up because Santa was too tired to do it the night before.) Grandma had purchased matching pajamas for the kids so they were super cute in all the photos. They really seem to like matching each other at this age too.

On the airplane a few days prior, I had William open a gift I had wrapped - it was a book for the airplane. He flipped through it and said, "I don't like this book very much," and handed it back to me. I had told him that was okay, but to remember that when you open gifts on Christmas day to look at the person who gave it to you and say "thank you." You don't have to tell them right then that you don't like it. He replied, "Well, I'll just say, thank you but I don't want this." I tried not to laugh. He is just so cheeky sometimes. As far as I know, he liked all his gifts and did a good job being grateful. Stephen enjoyed unwrapping presents too, although still a little uncertain of the whole thing.

Later that morning we loaded up three cars and drove to my Aunt Marions house. She had a full out herself with all her kids and grandkids but extended an invitation for us to come on Christmas day anyway. There were 15 of us and at least 15 of them! And she made it look effortless and lovely all at the same time. One of my favorite things about my Aunt Marion and spending Christmas at her house was her Christmas Trees. Yes, plural. She had a tree in nearly every room and they were sometimes themed and always gorgeous. This year was no exception. It was stunning.

Erin & Mary. So thankful for close cousins.

The rest of the week was spent playing with the nieces and nephews, staying up too late with my family playing games or just talking and eating a lot of great food (way too many desserts and sweets). I think William ended up going outside three or four times to play in the snow. It was below zero the whole week, but he didn't seem to mind. He made snow angles, and stopped around making tracks but his favorite thing was shoveling snow (without a purpose) with Uncle John. It was really powdery snow, so the snowball fight we had been planning didn't happen and our snow man didn't get made either.

Grandpa was home in the mornings and later at night, he got as many snuggles as the boys would allow. Grandma played board games with William and had him help in the kitchen a few times.

Would you believe that we didn't even try to coordinate our
clothes for our family photo? True story!

Stephen did really well with my mom's tree! I was so worried that he would try to tackle it like he did ours. He wasn't always gentle and a few ornaments were sacrificed but he was also in awe of all the lights and "toys" hanging up, it was quite magical to watch him explore it.

After a week in Plummer we packed up and drove to Superior, Wisconsin to spend two nights with my sister Molly and her family. I really appreciated getting to spend one-on-one time with her family too. I loved seeing her place and hearing about her day-to-day life and the kids loved playing with all of the toys. It also helped that she lived closer to the airport! Our drive to MSP wasn't nearly as long or rushed coming from her house.

It was a very magical Christmas with all my family together.  I do not take that for granted! I hope you all had a lovely holiday as well -- where ever your travels took you.

2017 In Review

I'm a little late posting my year in review blog post, but what else is new?! I feel like I had so many things to write about this year and just never had the energy or the time to do it. I would have thought quitting my job in January would have allowed for a little more time for my hobbies, right?! Maybe time management can be my goal for 2018 . . .

It was a goal for several years for us to be a one-income family, specifically a Chris-earning-income family and that finally happened this year. January 13 was my last day working for Jews for Jesus, making my run there just shy of 7 years. I'm so thankful for my years there and experiences and friendships gained, but I'm also so grateful for this time to be at home with my boys.  The timing seemed right to us so we made the jump but two weeks after my last paycheck, Chris also looked like he would be unemployed again. The company didn't exactly let him go, but they didn't have funding to pay his salary (or anyone else's) . . . ever again. We thought it would be another short term stint of not getting paid. It happens in the start-up world (it seemed to happen to Chris's employer more often). So we waited. After a few months Chris started looking for other work and in June he started his new job!

Chris works for Rhumbix which is a software company developing programs and apps for the construction industry. His new office is in SOMA (South of Market -- in the city) so he now has a 20 minute bike ride instead of a 45 minute truck drive commute! So, not only is he home a lot earlier, he is also getting some exercise! Not biking for three years was really starting to bother him and his health. He likes his new job a lot and is trying to see the positive side of being challenged more often.

In March we took a trip to Las Vegas to see my parents who were there for a Vet conference. My sister Molly and her kids also made the trek out there to see us. It was a great week with the family and getting to know my nephew and niece a bit more.

In April, I joined a bookclub. Reading a new book and getting together with a handful of women every month has been a really great self-investment this year. I love reading but have never really discussed books with a group before.  And I am really enjoying the new community! Other self-improvement projects have included going to the YMCA when we are healthy, and I am part of the MOPS leadership team that meets at my church . . . that's actually how I got into the bookclub (a mom from MOPS invited me!).

Stephen turned one in May and since then has grown and changed and become a true joy. Even his angry face makes me laugh. He's not a baby anymore and works hard to keep up with William all day long.

Our family had three trips to the ER this year. The first happened in April when I was rear-ended. The boys were just fine thankfully but I suffered a concussion that lasted over 8 weeks. Chris took off a couple of weeks from work to help me with the boys because I couldn't be out of bed for an hour at time and after that we stayed indoors and tried to rest as much as I could while the boys learned to play more independently. I had no idea a concussion could be so terrible and I now have more grace for anyone who suffers a head injury. Thankfully I haven't experienced any long-term effects other than feeling dizzy by airport and hotel carpet! The other driver's car insurance covered the expenses of the accident but because I'm a stay-at-home mom I missed out on any of the "loss-of-income" benefits others might receive. This made me fairly angry and I wanted to fight it but in the end didn't. I know what I'm worth.

The second ER visit was due to Chris's bike accident. I really wanted him to get checked out since he had wrecked the bike pretty bad and cracked his helmet. Thankfully, the helmet saved his head like it was made to do and he didn't have any injuries other than road-burn on his face and shoulder. His wound-care expert father helped him patch that up and he healed very quickly.

The final ER visit was for our precious toddler who fell down the flight of stairs in our apartment complex. He was trying to follow dad and walk like a man but his short legs just couldn't do it. We aren't sure how far he fell since neither of us saw it happen but he landed on his head at the bottom. Thank God he makes babies so resilient! Other than a bruise he checked out clear but we were terrified for 75 minutes that something was very wrong -- he was just not acting normal at all.

So you can imagine, with our 4 months of no income and three ER visits that our savings account is basically empty. We had a big goal of buying a house this year and I think if we had, these bills would have been a financial crisis. Its not hard to imagine how so many families have been in actual crisis when they hit medical problems or job loss. It's so stressful!

Our housing search has been a roller coaster again this year, but in the end we are still in our little apartment. I've gone from being very bitter and angry to content and peaceful at least a dozen times. Right now, I'm sitting in the peaceful seat. Maybe 2018 has something else in store for us . . . maybe not. It's hard to get my hopes up on this subject. I'm purging a lot and moving things around in hopes of making our 650 square feet work better for us.

William turned 4 in October. He has shown more interest in learning how to read in the past few weeks which has been really exciting. He is attending a preschool program through our Parks & Recreation city program which is two hours, three days a week. He seems to do really well there. He did get in trouble for laughing about the word "poop" but since then has learned where that language belongs . . . at home, with mom. (lucky me!)

We just returned from a week in Minnesota for Christmas. It has been a long time since I've stepped foot in snow. There wasn't a lot of snow yet, but it was so very cold. I think out of the 9 days we were there, only one was above zero. We had a great time staying in doors with the whole family. This may be one of my favorite things about this year.

It hasn't been an easy year at all, but it has been a good year. There has been a lot of opportunity for new relationships to form and old ones to grow deeper. For our hearts to learn contentment and to depend on Jesus for peace. I'm so proud of my husband for taking on a new career (software engineer). It's been a joy to be home with my boys and watch them grow and learn . . . and fight.

And now on to another year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Festivities: Successes and Failures

I expected this December to be as busy as ever, but surprisingly our calendar has not been too full at all. There was one less Christmas party to attend because I'm not working anymore and a few things got canceled because the boys have been sick most of the month. It's been a lot slower than I anticipated and I think that's okay!

We spent the first weekend of the month in Petaluma. Chris had a programing conference to attend for two days so we tagged along. Another friend of ours was attending the same conference so his wife and kids also came along. Beth and I spent the days with our friend Leah (and her daughter) who bought a house there this year. We never get to spend that much time together so two days of just hanging out was awesome. The kids were there too and did really well for the most part. The guys stayed with the kids in the evenings so we had two girls nights too -- no kids! Honestly, it felt like a friend-vacation in the best way. Petaluma was having their Christmas festivities around town so we enjoyed a horse and carriage ride, fake snow, classic Christmas music and a fire so delightful.

(when mom gets in the picture)

 On December 1, we started our advent calendar. I had stayed up late the night before finishing it . . . well actually I only finished the first 10 days! The rest of it got done on December 10. I made envelopes out of Christmas scrapbook paper and put slips of paper inside with a daily reading out of the Jesus Storybook Bible and then an activity to do together. Some of the activities were regular things like "go to the library" but I added "and get 3 books about Christmas" and others were special outings or projects like "see the Zoolights" which got canceled because we had a scheduling conflict. We made peanut butter cups to give to friends, we sang songs, we colored a Christmas tree cutout on the wall. Decorating sugar cookies with a friend got canceled because we were sick and so did another outing.

William actually loves our little calendar. And asks every morning if we can read our Bible story! I'm glad he's getting it this year. Last year we read the entire Bible multiple times in the month of December because he didn't understand the "one story a day" idea. (Not complaining, really!) He also likes the little activities we've done so far. Stephen doesn't really notice what's going on yet.

We debated for a while whether we should get a tree or not. We knew it would be challenging with our limited space and our over-active toddler. And we're traveling this year for Christmas so was it worth it? We decided not to. I unpacked a few decorations and hung up the Christmas stockings. And it just wasn't good enough. It felt weird. We went a few more days without a tree and then we decided it was worth it. We didn't get a 6 ft tree as we are used to doing. Instead we got a little 4 foot one and it was perfect! It fit in our space and changed the whole feeling of our home. And then after we put our ornaments on it, Stephen ran straight into it and knocked it down. He was really scared and cried while Chris patiently put it all back together again. Then he reconfigured our baby gate around it. (Not exactly the holiday feel I was hoping for, but I still love it.)

William's preschool had a Christmas program on December 6. He was really excited and kept telling me about the songs they were practicing to sing to the parents. We got all dressed up and brought homemade cookies for the potluck. As the program started I could tell I had missed something. All the kids were wearing Santa hats or reindeer hats . . . except William. The teacher handed him an extra one and all was well. They sang "Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with such cheer and happiness, it was really fun to watch! Somehow William always gets a kid to stand in front of him so we never actually get to see him sing, but I know he was there!

And then Santa appeared with a huge bag full of gifts. The kids sat down and waited patiently for Santa to call their name and get their presents. Again, I felt like I missed something. All the packages were different shapes and sizes so this wasn't a "teacher-funded" gift . . . oh no. Santa's bag emptied and said "That's everyone! Merry Christmas." A teacher looked at me and said "Didn't you bring something?" I shook my head and mouthed "nope." Another mom had brought an extra present so Santa quickly grabbed it and declared it to be Williams! (Whew! Thank you Super-Mom!) The teacher later came up to me and said, "Didn't you receive a note from us last week?" I said "No . . . but let me guess, I was supposed to bring a hat and a present!" She looked at me very apologetically and said, "Yeah, I thought we got the notes to everyone!" William loved his toy car from Santa and I don't think realized anything was amiss. The program really did go well and all was fine in the end. But I could not stop thinking about it. How could I screw this up!! (And I didn't even know about it . . .  so clearly I don't blame myself . . . except I do.)

A friend of mine heard me share this story and said, "You know, this will not be the only time you miss something." And has hard as that is to accept, I know it will be true. And I need to be okay with that. I can't have everything all together all the time . . . cause even when I think I do, apparently there were a few things I didn't know about!

Last Friday we all went to Chris's work Christmas party. I was told families and kids were invited but we were the only ones that showed up. So, we didn't get to meet wives/kids as I had hoped. It was still a great party and the kids did really well through the whole evening.

On Sunday, the kids sang during the church service. "Go Tell it on the Mountain" and "Jesus is Born." William does really well singing. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed singing in Sunday School and church!

That about does it for the month-long celebration leading up to Christmas! We fly out to MN on Friday and I'm just praying the boys get healthy and stay that way for the rest of the year!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Club: Before the Fall

This past month, our book club read Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. It's a novel about a mysterious plane crash and lives of those who were on the plane. The timeline is a little tricky to follow as there is the present (day of the crash) and then the past, but then the novel continues with the story of the two survivors and the investigation of how the plane crashed. I loved the beginning of the book. The author shares some details of one survivor's childhood and one event that I just loved -- watching Jack LaLanne swim from Alcatraz to the shore of San Francisco pulling a boat behind him while handcuffed--and how watching one man do something to impossible made him realize he could do anything if he really went for it. This idea became a theme of sorts in the book and I really liked how it was told.

Hawley works a lot in the TV/film industry and this book read like a movie (which will be a movie some day I'm told). As you read the book, each chapter focuses on one person's story although you soon find out that they are all intertwined someone and it soon gets a little muddy whose story you are actually reading.

One of the characters is a news anchor who comes off as a "bad guy" of sorts --a newsman who creates news from nothing really; creates leads from innocent comments, makes a lot of little things seem like really big things and everything is urgent and important (and stressful). I could see parallels to our current news industry and wondered if this was a core part of the book?

All in all, it was an entertaining read and fairly fast paced. The characters seemed "normal" and nothing seemed too out of the ordinary -- just a really horrific event, what led up to it and how people moved on.

Middle School Advice

I was at a school tour this evening (in San Francisco, every family tours 7-20 schools before their child turns 5 . . . ). At the end of the tour, they had a panel of teachers, parents and the principal available to answer questions. A question arose about the transition from elementary school to middle school (when you have to start touring schools again . . .) and one of the teacher's responses is something I thought was genius and just so wonderful I wanted to write it down in hopes I won't forget it when William is 11.

I'm paraphrasing of course, but she said:
Middle school is hard. The kids are at the age where they don't want to talk to their parents, their slamming doors and then a second later they are crying and telling you everything. You'll need to find a school that fits well with the interests of your own child (her son played the sax and really wanted to be in a jazz band so they found a school that had one). But the most important thing to your child at that age is her/his friends. The best thing you can do get to know the parents of those friends and aim to get them into the same school together. Your kids will start to hold back in what they share with you, so you'll want to be on talking-terms with their friend's parents. 
I had never really considered that before. I mean, community is totally one of my top priorities for my own life but I hadn't really thought about it for my boys as they get older. And if we do stay in the city where the population ebbs and flows but mostly goes up and up, having a core group of friends to walk through life with (walk through the valley of the shadows of death middle school with) should also be a value I have for my children.

So, note to self, build up some quality parent-parent and kid-kid relationships in these next 6 years so that we want to go to the same school and then pray we both get in (because it's a lottery).

Unrelated to middle school, I ran into a mom on this tour who was in my birthing class! I haven't seen her since our babies were itty-bitty and now they are getting ready for transitional kindergarten! So crazy.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Big Little Lies

I picked up Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty last week and read it in 3-4 days. I enjoyed it a lot and didn't want to put it down (it is common for me to ignore all house work and lists while reading a book). I had enjoyed "What Alice Forgot" by the same author years ago and enjoyed this novel just as much.

Its a murder mystery at its core but the drama that unfolds seems to have little to do with the actual murder. The characters, mostly mothers of school aged children, have worries of their own and in the end . . . well you have to read it. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the mom-drama that comes with school, although I hope most of it is just fiction! It takes place in Australia so there are a few differences you might notice.

There are some heavy topics involved, just so you are aware -- domestic violence, divorce, and murder.

HBO did a mini series based on the book but it takes place in Silicon Valley so that gets a little closer to home. I watched a few episodes but enjoyed the book so much better.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Toddler B2: 18 Months

When I look at my little boy, I can't quite get over the fact that he isn't a baby anymore. I look at him and I stand in awe that we survived his first year -- a little shocked that it doesn't feel so hard anymore, shocked that that phase actually did pass, shocked that he is actually so handsome, so sweet, and silly and great. I love noticing these things about him now, but also feel a sadness that I didn't see all of those things at the beginning. (I don't talk about my depression much at all, but that is really how it felt... letting the difficult things block my vision of who my baby is.)

Once he learned to walk (and even before that) around 4 months ago, he became a super-active baby. Walking, climbing, falling, sliding, swinging. He tried to jump now but hasn't made it off the ground yet. He is all about exploring and fitting in with the big kids, especially William. The things he plays are so much more involved than what William was doing at this stage and it has everything to do with watching his older brother play. Of course, William doesn't really enjoy having his toys taken or played with when he wants them so the sibling fights have already begun!

Beach day. He loves the sand but took a break to go exploring.

Playground fun = risk taking

 Stephen loves to watching the garbage trucks drive by (every day), play "garbage truck" with William and even helps Chris take out the trash. In fact, I am fairly certain that his first word was "trsh." He also loves to play with trucks and blocks. There was one morning that it was just me and Stephen and I just watched him build block towers over and over again and knock them down or try to sit on them. It was a really sweet thing to sit back and see. And just like his older brother, he loves basketball. He has been shooting hoops on our little basket for months. And if he is in a bad mood, you can almost always turn it around with a little "game."

"Big Truck Day" was a blast. They sat in a garbage truck, fire truck, digger, street sweeper and a mobile crane. 

A few other activities he seems to enjoy are: drawing, painting (paper and his body), water play/baths and sandboxes.

He isn't very verbal yet, but makes plenty of sounds for us to see he really wants to communicate. He has gotten pretty good at using sign language to indicate: eat, milk, more, all done, please and thank you. He does say a few words that we can make out: Mama, juice (oosh), and shoes (soos).

Playing at the zoo. yes, we got to wear shorts and short sleeves to the zoo this fall!

And shortly after his birthday, he finally started to show an interest in books! That was a big relief because William loves reading and it was hard to keep Stephen entertained during stories. But now, both boys will join me on the recliner and we'll read book after book after book. His favorites are currently:
Opposites (by Sandra Boynton)
The Going to Bed Book (by Sandra Boynton
Moo, Baa, La, La, La (by Sandra Boynton)
 . . . all Sandra Boynton Books
Giraffes Can't Dance (by Giles Andreae)
My First Trucks (DK books)
San Francisco ABC's (by Gus D'Angelo)
Olivia (Falconer)
Global Babies
123 to the Zoo by Eric Carle
and Biscuit Wins a Prize (by Alyssa Satin Capucilli) 
He will probably love all Biscuit books because they are about a dog and he just loves dogs.

He has also started to make a few animal sounds: 
 - dogs were the first one but that sounded more like a monkey (ooh, ooh!)
 - monkeys came next (ooh-ooh)
 - Lions (RRR)
 - Elephant (Bluuuu or Euuuuuu)
 - Cow (MMMM)

He dropped his morning nap a lot earlier than I would have liked, but now he naps one good afternoon nap at the same time as William. This usually goes alright and we all feel better afterwards. Stephen is an early riser often getting up before the sun which means we have plenty of time to play, eat and get dressed before Dad goes to work. 

Last month he got his first haircut. It took a few days to get 
used to his new look. Thankfully, it looks like some curls are coming back!

Stephen is dairy-intolerant but handles everything else pretty well. His favorites are grapes, green beans, pasta, hummus and goat milk. He will usually eat most vegetables offered to him at least once . . the rest might end up on the floor unless it's sweet potato. If he doesn't seem to want to eat his dinner I will sometimes make him a green smoothy which he will gulp down with excitement. I've also started making green popsicles because he favors frozen foods right now (I do spy some teeth coming!) This is awesome because then William wants one too (and we all know William doesn't eat produce much at all!)

I love my darling little boy and love watching him develop and grow. He brings me so much joy right now and I'm so grateful I get to stay home and don't have to juggle a job anymore. These days are precious.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Style Story

A few months ago, our MOPS group had a stylist come in and share some tips on how to find your own style. It got me thinking a lot because I've always struggled with finding a style I like and I could claim as my own. If I think through my past and how my clothes have changed over the years I've come to realize that I never really claimed anything my own since the 5th grade. I found a few memories especially humorous so I thought would share!

I have a vivid memory of my cousin Mary showing me how to roll my jeans. I must have been 6-7 years old at the time. We were sitting on the stairs and she showed me and her sister and then helped us do our own. I rolled my jeans every day after that. (I just found out this is actually called "pegging.") And then stirrup pants came into my closet and I hated the straight leg look after having my jeans so tight/tapered and I really didn't like the elastic being under my foot so I started wrapping the stirrup around my ankle and covering it up with my socks. I really don't remember seeing anyone else do this and if I get my hands on my old photographs I am pretty sure I am the only one who did this. And then in 4th and 5th grade I started pinning my jeans. I don't remember if my cousins showed this to me or not. I know one of my classmates did this too and I remember him being teased later for it. Thankfully they had forgotten that I did it too. I don't remember seeing this anywhere else . . . I even tried googling it and got nothing! I have vivid memories of being overly frustrated that I couldn't get the pin into my jeans so my mom had to help me; she couldn't get them tight enough so I cried until we got it right. Geez. 

So, in my younger years, I definitely had my own taste and "style" even if it was just me. I was comfortable and liked the way I dressed. It was the early 90s and I think that was basically the point of the "styles" at that time. Anything goes!

In junior high, I really started paying attention to what everyone else was wearing. I remember going to a birthday party the summer before 7th grade (it could have been 6th) and my friend showing me all of her new school clothes. I didn't have any of the brands she had! I left thinking I needed to spend more money on my clothes and begged my mom to take me shopping. She did and I spent a lot of birthday money on a pair of Girbaud jeans (size 5/6 short - special ordered). And the next year I bought some Z. Cavaricci jeans and a shirt. Remember when your clothes were just advertisements for the brand!? The Girbauds didn't fit anymore.

I tried so many different styles in high school. There were the long sweaters with belts and the pleather pants (mine were red!). I wore what the stores sold and tried to fit in. My mom bought me a pair of JNCO khakis which I wore but were honestly a little too wide for my taste! My junior year, me and my best friend had accidentally bought three shirts that were the same style and color! And twice at school we matched . . . not cool when you are 17.

In college I can't even remember what I wore . . . jeans and shirts probably. I wore a lot of turtle neck sweaters. I loved those. I also really loved flare jeans.

My wardrobe changed dramatically the year I was in Gambia and then again when I worked for Focus on the Family. Skirts were mandatory in both places! And I found myself really enjoying the dressing up part of my day . . . even if I found skirts that worked really well with polo shirts and t-shirts! I did a lot of polo-style shirts in my early twenties.

When I became a mom, I seriously only wore jeans and a solid color t-shirt or yoga pants and t-shirt. I worked from home and played on the floor with my baby. After 6 months all of my jeans had holes in them and my shirts were covered in milk and spit-up. I tried to go shopping and hated everything I tried on. I bought more jeans and more t-shirts . . . and one fun sweater. I also had foot issues so I had to wear athletic tennis shoes with special inserts. You know the saying, "shoes make the outfit?" Well, I automatically failed every single time I tried to wear anything else. Running shoes only go with running (which I can't do).

After Stephen was born, I had every hope of getting to nurse in public (William did bottles so I never had to). I went shopping for some new tops. They were colorful and blouse-like. I loved them. My mom also got me some cute dress pants and shoes so I could dress up for church/dates again! I ended up not nursing Stephen in public either (but I still had nice tops!)

And last month, I went out and did something I told myself I would never do. I bought skinny jeans. Why did I tell myself I would never buy them? Because they look like the pinned jeans I used to wear! I was so scared of going back to a look I had when I was 10. And I didn't think it would be around as long as it has been. I've had the same hesitation about big, round plastic framed glasses as well. As I reflected on this hesitation/fear, I wondered why . . . back when I was 8-10, I really loved that look, let's face it, I was a 80s/90s child and I rocked it back then. Why can't I rock it now?

I still don't know what my "style" is at the moment but I'm experimenting with a few things that are at least "in style" (or maybe they were in style last year. . .). I wear more than just jeans and a t-shirt now and that make me feel more put together. At this point, that might be enough!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fall Festivities with the Boys

I am more than a little behind when it comes to blogging. And I feel bad about it because Fall is one of my favorite seasons and the activities I do with my kids are cute and precious I really wanted to document them here and in "real time" for everyone's enjoyment (and my own archives). So my deep apologies for keeping you from seeing my kiddos dressed up for Halloween until now!

We visited the pumpkin patch during a lovely late afternoon as the sun was setting. We met up with a friend there (who we've been to this pumpkin patch with every single year!) The kids had fun picking out pumpkins, pushing the wagon and playing in the hay maze. I had fun taking one million hundred photos.

Two weeks before Halloween, William and Chris carved his pumpkin. He had been talking for days about how he was going to put stickers on it to make it look like Frankenstein, just like he did last year but then he saw his friend's pumpkin which had been carved and that immediately changed his mind. Chris was so patient and efficient in this project, I was really impressed and William loved watching (he felt the inside of the pumpkin exactly one time). I had all these ideas of pumpkin carving taking hours or a whole afternoon but I'm pretty sure Chris made it last all of 20 minutes. Ta-da! William proudly displayed this pumpkin in our hallway for exactly 8 days before I discovered that the bottom had rotten out and flies had found a new home. Eww! After surviving the biggest tantrum ever, we bought a second pumpkin. Whew! Seriously, now I know not to carve a pumpkin until the week of Halloween! We all learned something.

And finally, the day of Halloween arrived! William's little preschool did a parade of costumes and had a yummy potluck which we all dressed up for. Later after naps we went to our church where they had a Harvest Festival ---fun games and great prizes for all the little kids! And then we met up with friends for some actual trick-or-treating on Valencia street. (We just zipped in all the businesses and asked if they had any treats for the kids.) It was a fun filled day and William had a full bag of candy which we are trying to limit his access to.

William is Super Grover from Sesame Street!

Stephen is the cutest little, cuddly bunny I have ever seen. 

And I was Elmo (or at least my shirt was) 

It was a great month and I haven't even mentioned the trip to the beach, the decorations we made for our door or the finger face painting fiasco!

Book Club: The Nightingale

This month, the book for my book club was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I knew very little about it before reading it and it captured me right away. The setting is Paris, France during WWII. The story is centered on one family and how two sisters deal with the coming of the war and live through it.

The story was quite thrilling as each sister took dangerous steps to make sure they survived. I love reading historical fiction because I was just never very good at studying History in school and feel like I should know more than I do . . . having a captivating story about real events is so great. And from this story, I just felt so much heartbreak for what families went through during and after the war. I felt like my eyes were opened to a portion of history that I never contemplated before.

I would highly recommend this book to all of my book-loving friends. It didn't disappoint. I hear there may be a movie made based on this book in a few years and I will be watching it!

Monday, October 30, 2017

April & Oliver

I recently read a book called April & Oliver by Tess Callahan. It came recommended on a blog listing for 6 books every woman should read . . . well after reading this one, I don't think I'll be keeping that list. It was written well enough (with flashbacks thrown in at random times which was a little hard to follow) and the story was compelling but honestly, I didn't need to read it and probably shouldn't have.

The premise of it, in case you are interested, is about a boy and a girl who grew up together avoiding an obvious attraction. They grew apart and lived very different lives and then one day were reunited --but Oliver is engaged to be married and April is a disaster (dating abusers, drinks too much, doesn't take care of herself, etc). I don't want to give the rest away. But I will caution you that the childhood April had was hard and included things like verbal abuse and molestation and a lot of family issues. It's detailed. It troubled me. I kept reading it because I wanted to see how she ended up and trying to broaden my scope of what some people's lives might actually be like. But it was a bit too much.

The reviews on GoodReads are very mixed and I would probably have given it 2 stars. My advise? Read something else.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 Walk for Life: Success!

We wrapped up the Walk for Life this afternoon and ended in celebration for raising $14,000 for Alpha Pregnancy Center! There were around 100 walkers and a lot of volunteers who made the event a huge success. This was my sixth year walking and I surpassed my fundraising goal and raised $775! Not my "highest score" yet but very, very close!

My team was made up of my good friends Kate, Nettie and Daniel and their son L, and Brittany a woman we met for the first time today. Brittany also has a 4 year old son and an almost two year old who passed away not too long ago. Hearing her story was so sad and hard but I'm so glad she came today and was open to sharing her loss with us. Life is precious . . . at every age.

It it is a little ironic that I had intended to form a group of moms from my MOPS group to do this walk together but regretfully no one was able to join me (I haven't forgotten my friend Beth who was totally up for coming until she broke her foot two days before the event!) And then my friend Kate and Nettie are both moms and Brittany is actually part of another MOPS group! How fun is that! We had such a great time together.

I was very grateful for Nettie and Daniel coming along as they both speak Spanish and were able to converse with the two families we visited along our walk. The stroller was packed with presents to deliver to these families (Nettie carried baby L). With their language skills we were able to find out so much more about the families and pray more specifically for their needs -- and in their language!! 

At our last stop we realized that baby L had a poop-explosion and didn't have a spare diaper so we walked three blocks over to a grocery store where we found diapers. We had walked almost 2.5 miles and couldn't imagine walking another mile and a half to the park where we were to meet the rest of the walkers . . . so we called for a ride from an Alpha volunteer who graciously picked us up! I'm not going to feel guilty about it one bit . . . and I made up for it by walking the 1.2 miles home after the picnic.

The Walk for Life is always an adventure and the day turned out great! We had fun walking together, got to meet two incredible families who have been blessed by Alpha's services. We prayed for them and delivered fun packages and raised awareness and funds for a really great organization!

To everyone who prayed, walked and gave -- Thank you so much! I'm thrilled with how much money we raised and glad I got to be a part of the event again!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Dinosaur Birthday Party

Last weekend we celebrated William turning four by inviting a few friends over to someone else's backyard for cake. Originally it was going to be a play-date in the park but our good friends Shawna and Scott called us up a few days before and suggested we just do it in their backyard. We agreed for obvious reasons: a) it's closer to almost everyone we invited b) it's fenced in so the kids can't escape and the parents can relax and c) there could be beer.

The party was a lot of fun and went off without a hitch, except that we were the ones to arrive late! I had wanted to get special balloons for William this year and had no idea that it would take over 20 minutes to pay for . . . so yeah, we were late. But our friends were gracious to us so I let it roll off my back.

 We offered a few snacks as it was late in the afternoon. I tried to keep everything fairly tied to the dinosaur theme.

The cake was a recipe I had gotten from a friend and I just added crushed Oreos on top and a few dinosaurs. William requested we add dinosaur sprinkles. It looked just like I pictured! And it tasted really good too! Recipe here.

I had a few ideas of how to entertain the kids (again, so the adults could actually sit down). I had a "reading corner" which was just a blanket and a pile of dinosaur books. This was probably the least used space, which was okay. It was better than my worst-case scenario being that the kids demanding to be read to the entire time! haha. I also borrowed a bucket of dinosaurs from a friend so the kids could do imagination play if they wanted. William does this every single morning -- but didn't touch them at the party. Go figure. And the third game was the hit. I had frozen tiny dinosaurs in ice cube trays and provided plastic syringes, hammers and a bucket of warm water. Their job was to free the dinosaurs! That kept 3-4 kids busy for a while!

And we sang happy birthday to my boy and his dad cut the cake into giant pieces for everyone. Dinners were spoiled and everyone had a great time. I love our community and the friends my son has!