Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Housing Update: When God Answers

It's been six weeks since I've given you a housing update and it's not because I didn't want to share. I did. But the things I would have written would have been speculation and hope and a whirlwind of emotions, not a sure thing. Until today. Now I know what to say.

Back in March, our lottery number was drawn for a brand new condo I mentioned here. It was drawn! Out of hundreds of numbers, ours was picked! There were 11 total units and ours was the third one. We were stoked and a little bit scared. This was a huge answer to our prayers! And then all the "buts" and "what ifs" started. And the lack of understanding the process would hit us day after day.

Even though we were third on the list, there were several other applicants ahead of us due to a couple of laws in our city government. Those that live in the same neighborhood as the available condo are given first priority and those that were evicted under the Ellis Act are also given priority. And then us -- the ones who just want to stay in the city. So after weeks of waiting for it to be "our turn" and doubting that there would be a 2-bedroom even available we continued trusting (and trying to wait) that God would indeed work this whole thing out.

And the waiting was a blessing too. In that six weeks, Chris went to several interviews (remember his employer ran out of funding? So we've been living on savings since February) and today he starts a new job! We couldn't very well get a mortgage if we didn't have an income. This is another answer to our prayers! But let me back up.

"Our turn" came up last Thursday. We received an email that our application was approved and we could move forward with the process. The process being, viewing and selecting our condo out of the available units and then working with our bank to get our loan. There were four 2-bedrooms available when we went to the viewing on Sunday afternoon. Another answer to prayer! After looking at them (some more than once) we made our selection and drove home, not at all excited. What?!

You read that right. We just didn't feel comfortable with the space. It is a brand new condo in a really great neighborhood with beautiful parks and a library all in walking distance. But that two bedroom, two bathroom condo felt so tiny. The bathrooms and designer kitchen were stunning and made me a little giddy, there was even a fitness center on site. And having in-unit washer/dryer and garage parking were things I've had high on my priority list for years. But the bedrooms were tiny and picturing our two boys sharing one tiny room (where two twin beds may or may not even fit) was just depressing. And the living room/dining room was fairly small too. There wouldn't have been space for a couch and a dining room table. Hosting has been something Chris and I love doing and the thought of having to get a small table for the four of us in order to have space for a couch was hard to consider. None of our current furniture would fit well here. And where would the toys go?

We currently live in 600 square feet and we have a lot of open floor space for the boys to play. We wouldn't have any floor space in this new home even if it was 850 square feet. The layout left us wanting more. We can get rid of a lot of stuff and go all-out-minimalist and even go broke buying fancy "tiny-house" friendly furniture . . . I've come up with a few ideas so far.

Was it worth going into debt to live in a space we would most likely outgrow in a few years? (Even with the below-market rate price it is still expensive.) And then there is the HOA which just sounded snooty. I understand they want the building to look and stay a certain way but telling me which curtains I can hang made me want to scream.

The weight of this decision sucked the air out of me and left me even more sleepless than the previous weeks of insomnia I've suffered. Chris and I talked it out over and over and kept coming to the same conclusion. It just isn't for us. And that stinks. We've seen God answer all of these prayer requests in the past six weeks and then to come to this conclusion? Are we crazy? Can beggars be choosers? Shouldn't we be grateful for this opportunity and just take it?

Over and over again we said "no." We don't have to take this. God is still in control and can still provide for our needs. And wouldn't you know it! There is an older 3 bedroom/2 bath below-market-rate condo available for resale. The lottery for this unit (there is only one) is next month. Please pray that somehow our number be drawn again! 

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?