Friday, January 31, 2014

Thankful in January

    1. Friends who are kind to watch Lucan on their snow days off
    2. 2. New Year’s Day friend brunches
    3. Downton Abbey returns!
    4. Friendly chats with the librarian at Target – because I’m the cool kid.
    5. Engagement announcements
    6. Friends who are super-moms who will watch Lucan in daycare pinches
    7. A clean house = guests are coming
    8. 90’s music stations at work. Oh the memories!
    9. Spending MLK day off and cleaning up the “dumping ground” in our house.
    10. A husband who will make multiple trips to the grocery store in one day to pick up ingredients I’ve forgotten.
    11. Cooking club’s theme of New Year’s Resolutions and lots of pasta. Our resolutions must have something to do with carb loading :)
    12. Crazy hot yoga classes and sweating out of my shins. But I'm more thankful that Lance encourages me to go to yoga classes. It's one of those things that energize me. I don't think that I'll ever be a runner, but I've fallen in love with yoga.
    13. Discovering that Hy-Vee carries their own generic brand of almond milk.
    14. Fabulous decaf chai lattes at Smokey Row with friends for a birthday celebration.
    15. Friends who affirm that I’m not crazy.
    16. Generous parents who watch Lucan during date night.
    17. A handy husband (I think this is a reoccurring blessing as we live in a 20 year-old house with the original appliances and drive cars with old age “twinges.”
    18. Having the opportunity to go to a friend’s house for supper instead of being the one hosting for a change. I won’t turn down the chance to NOT cook!
    19. My new camelbak water bottle and spending 2 cents on it - bargain win.
    20. The opportunity to exam why I write. Look for a future post on this.
    21. Finally figuring out how to facetime. I know - I’m so “with it.”
    22. New daycare opportunities.
    23. Making new blog friends.
    24. Letting myself say "no" and not beating myself up over it.
    25. But saying "yes" to something and being really blessed by it even though I was dragging my feet. 
    26.  Having a kissing contest with Lucan. So sweet.
    27. Emails from friends who keep me grounded. 
    28. Checking out and watching Person of Interest Seasons 1 and 2 from our local library. Again, I'm such a library nerd. 
    29. The bonding of our small group. I'm reminded on Thursday nights how much these people mean to me.
    30. Finally getting to read some of the book recommendations off of - "The Orphan Train," "Looking for Alaska" and "The Fault in Our Stars."
    31. A lot of my friends have birthdays in January and I'm thankful and hopeful that on that day each year they feel special and loved.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Choice to Add

I failed to plan just how stubborn my toddler would be. I mean, I’m stubborn, Lance is stubborn, so shouldn’t genetics take a leap and produce a mild-mannered little man instead of a small-ish toddler terrorist?

Boy was I wrong. Parenting Lucan is HARD. It’s tiring and exhilarating all at the same time. I love my little man and I love seeing the world through his eyes. The world a child is pure and imaginative. Lucan has taken recently to imagining there are sharks and alligators just outside of his crib that are trying to bite his fingers. It's hilarious. But he’s a ball of opinions and ideas, none of which seem to match mine. The only time I can convince him to do what I want him to do is if he thinks it was his idea in the first place or it’s something he wants to do. Otherwise I’m bodily shoving him into non-Elmo and non-Thomas the Train socks which is akin to torture. And that’s just before 7:30 AM. 

The thought of adding another le bebe to our brood is terrifying. I barely have the energy enough to be a good mom to one, let alone another child (part of my worries could also stem from being an only child and having no experience in raising a duet). But the heart of the matter is this: there is hardly ever a perfect time to add a child to the mix. The excuses are endless; the reasons are both plausible and real. 

I think that adding a second child is harder than deciding to have a first child. Really you say?!? Absolutely. With the second child you can fully grasp the stress and anxiety of being responsible for a little one because you’ve been there, done that. (Yes, I have a tendency to over-think things. If you are of the mindset "the more the merrier" good for you. I wish I could have some of that!) You know that things rarely go as planned and that your child may only require miniscule levels of sleep is quite likely. Or on the flip side, perhaps your first child was great and you think that things could only go downhill from here – also a very real possibility. Or if you are me, you worry about the germs = double the sickness = double the number of sick days I’m going to get in trouble for taking. At the end of the day, you could end up with a very hefty list of cons as to why “now is not the right time to add.” But the moral of the story is this: Let go and let God. You have to stop getting so caught up in worrying about the future and all the things you can’t control. Just stop. 

No, this isn’t a pregnancy announcement. But as Lance and I talk about family expansion plans, these are some very real things that come up. And I love Lucan with every bit of my being, he gives the best hugs! 

PS: the “Let go and let God” mantra can apply to all areas of life. Just sayin’. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Fiver.

Most of my breakfasts this week have been brown in color. Smoothies with a teaspoon of cocoa powder or almond butter, burnt toast and Trader Joe's cookie butter. Yum … cookie butter. If you haven't tried it, get moving.

Lance adjusted something on the wheels of the Traverse and asked me how it had been driving. 
Apparently my response was less than satisfactory “I dunno … better?” My basic take on vehicles is that I don’t think too much about them. I expect them to get me from point a to point b without too much bother. If I notice that something has become a problem then it’s time to be concerned. Because truthfully it was an issue a month ago and now two months have passed and it’s on the verge of becoming a calamity so you better do something about it NOW. Case in point: the Traverse had been wobbling for a while and had been steadily getting worse. Lance and my dad adjusted something last weekend and now it’s much better. I vaguely recall Lance saying something about “bad alignment” and “uneven wearing in the treads” and maybe something about a “bad tire rod.” As long as the tire doesn’t fall off while I’m cruising down the interstate, I’m happy.

I love power yoga. It’s one of the highlights of my week. Last week I attended a free and massively full class at Kris' Hot Yoga in Ankeny and discovered that it is indeed possible to sweat out of your shins. That was a new discovery for me. 

Why is it impossible to just replace something with exactly the same thing? Lucan, in a really awful tantrum, knocked my glass lamp on the floor and it shattered into a million pieces. I.WAS.PISSED. In fact, I’m still upset about it and am contemplating taking the money out of his piggy bank to replace it (Lance is vetoing this idea). I really liked the lamp and just wanted to get the same one from Target. I’ve been to three different Targets and looked online and it’s nowhere to be found. I’ve bought two different bases and each one just looks foolish with the unharmed lamp shade I already own.

Lastly, my favorite snack of choice has been Trader Joe’s Simply Almonds, Cashews and Chocolate Trek Mix. Almonds are brain food, cashews are delicious and chocolate – well, whoever goes wrong with chocolate? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Scenes from Christmas time

I title this scenes from Christmas "time" because the pictures date back to the beginning of December to the end of the month. I like to celebrate Christmas the same way I like to celebrate my birthday: all month long!
One of the local churches has this great Christmas celebration every year - pancakes, photos with Santa, story time and crafts! This is the second time we've went and sitting on Santa's lap went much like it has previous years - not well. The only way we could convince Lucan to get even CLOSE to Santa was to have Lance sit on Santa's lap too. They also wanted me to sit on Santa's lap. I declined.

Lucan sitting very patiently for story time. It helped that the same person who does story time at our local library, Janet, also did this story time. She does a phenomenal job and is great with the kids.

Craft time. Lucan is coloring the bag used to transport the craft back home. And in a moment of truth time, Lance and I were the ones to complete Lucan's craft for him. I promise not to be one of those mom's who does their child's homework for them. At least I'm going to try really hard not to be one of those moms.

We got Lucan a Little People Nativity set as a pre-Christmas gift. Lucan had fun setting the angel on top of the stable. He also thought it was fun to try and balance the donkeys up there too. Two other things to note in this picture: our Halloween pumpkin. Two holidays had gone by before I finally got the gumption to put the pumpkin out to pasture on our back deck. In previous years the squirrels had eaten the pumpkin off our front step so I figured they'd do the same on our deck. I was wrong. The other thing to note is that Lucan has on his beloved Thomas the Train socks on in this picture. This is probably the last time both of them were seen together. As a result he has two pairs of Thomas socks - both missing a sock so he wears two unmatched socks to make a set. Where do little kid socks keep disappearing?

Lucan did really well with the Christmas tree - if he wasn't running into it or trying to slide under it to get Fire. Or throwing all of the Christmas ornament balls as hard as he could - because they were balls and what else do you do with balls? It doesn't help that Lance is convinced Lucan has the beginnings of a career as a lefthanded pitcher and encourages Lucan to chuck ball-shaped objects whenever he wants.

We go to this fun Christmas celebration in Lance's hometown - they have yummy chili and chicken noodle soup. And if you ask Lucan, really yummy chocolate cupcakes.

Lucan had a bit of a meltdown. After inhaling his chocolate cupcake we went to the bathroom to wash his hands and face. He proceeded to get water all over him and wanted to take off his clothes. I told him no so he laid down in the middle of the floor and cried. A little girl saw him laying there and made a game of jumping over him. Lucan shouted at her "NO JUMPIN!" It was funny. That's when I scooped him up off the floor.

Despite the aforementioned toddler tantrum, Lucan actually did very well on Santa's lap this time. I suppose it helped that he had some time to run around and burn off some energy. Lu is sitting with his newest cousin, Ean, here. We tried to get one of his other cousin's, Easton, to sit too. But Easton just kept backing up further and further from Santa. It was comical :)

I had a coworker whose son believed that only naughty boys got clothes for Christmas. Lucan shared this sentiment as one of the first things he opened were clothes. He was slightly appalled.

Lucan started unwrapping ALL of the presents. In this picture he's getting scolded by Lance for taking off bows to presents that didn't belong to him. Fortunately it was one of my presents so it wasn't that big of a deal.

Lance and Lu intent on adding batteries to Lu's new bath alligator. Side note: Lucan told me last night that he was afraid of the alligators under his bed - that he's afraid that they're going to bite his toes. Where do kiddos come up with this stuff?

Three boys with birthdays within six months of each other = TROUBLE. Lucan is two and a half, Easton is two and two thirds and Wyatt is three. We were attempting to get all three boys to sit nicely together in their Christmas jammies. We ended up bribing them with tractors and Wyatt - a cookie. And they still aren't really sitting "nicely" (Lucan peed through his pj bottoms, Easton isn't looking at the camera and Wyatt is half-standing). But this is life and the best we get!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Choice to be Real.

New Year's Resolutions. I don't have any. But instead I'm going to spend this year trying to be real and less of the person society dictates I should be.

I hope that no one ever reads my blog and comes away with some idealized version of what my life looks like. There are times I read blogs and am left with a huge sense of disappointment with who I am, what my spiritual life looks life, what my house looks like and what Pintrest projects I’m NOT completing. I am flawed with cracks that run deep and wide. So in an effort to be real, here are a few “real” things that I’m going to share with you today. 

We have a lot of debt from my student loans. I choose private schools for both undergrad and graduate degrees and spent a semester abroad in London. People will try and tell you that this type of debt is “good” debt (and I was once one of these people) but I’m going to be real with you and tell you this debt is what’s keeping me from staying-home with Lucan. Debt is debt. If you pour chocolate on it and cover it with sprinkles, it’s still debt. 

I’ve went through two bouts of lost jobs. Both times sucked. But I’ve learned major lessons each time. One: the company I was with at the time was a sinking ship. Better to get out before the thing went down like the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. Two: the department I was with was toxic and backhanded. It probably would have made me crazy. Three: I needed more time home with Lucan to enjoy being his mom. Four: God’s plan. Shut the door and start looking for that window. 

Third reveal. I don’t really need a Master’s Degree. It just helps me feel “smart” on the days when I’m really just an idiot pretending to be intelligent. An idiot with a lot of debt.

Next item. I’m kind of a crap driver. I blame a lot of my mishaps on a small garage and a large SUV, but truth be told I’m a bit careless, usually in a hurry and not wearing the glasses I had prescribed specifically for driving purposes.

I like reading. I like reading for entertainment purposes and not really hard books about theology and the crisis in Mozambique. What can I say – I’m a little superficial. But I subscribe to an email service called "The Skimm" that gives me an overview of what's going on in the world. It's helpful.

I haven’t had a regular workout routine since after Lucan was born. I take occasional Zumba and power yoga classes, but I dislike working out by myself and it’s really hard to do in the evenings. Excuses, excuses. 

We don’t eat fish. I know it’s good for you, but we don’t eat fish. I’m not gluten-free, vegetarian or particularly again corn syrup. I happen to have a particular affinity towards Swedish Fish if that counts for eating fish. 

I’m a little lonely. I’ve been blessed throughout my life with some really great girlfriends, but I’m at a point where I don’t have a reciprocal best friend that I connect with on a regular basis.

I like bad Top 40 radio music. Taylor Swift, “Cups” by Anna Kendrick, Katy Perry’s “Roar” – they all speak to my heart. 

My kitchen is ALWAYS a mess. The only time it isn’t a mess is when we have company coming over and Lance has stuffed everything away and then I can’t find anything for a good two months afterwards. Our beds are never made. I only dust when my parents are going to be in town. Potty training means there is more urine splashed in places I care to think about. 

I’ve lost my temper from time to time with Lucan and spanked him. Hard.

Last week I spazzed out on Lance when he built a massive tower of blocks for Lucan before bedtime and then I couldn’t get Lu to settle down again for bedtime. 

I usually do my Bible study during lunchtime the day of Bible study. If I’m feeling particularly “together” I do it the night before. 

I went to Gap yesterday to return a sweater and ended up buying a sweatshirt and a pair of shoes. Until I went to checkout and discovered I had no cash, no credit cards or checkbook. I had to put everything back. 

I do not have my life together and the occasional times where it looks like I do, it’s a fa├žade. I hope that you realize I’m just doing my best to make it through life, just like the rest of you.  If you don’t believe me just check under the beds and in the closets.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Spend Money On ....

Sometimes when I'm reading blogs that talk about budgeting or frugality, I am left with the feeling that the author is obnoxious and self-righteous. Wohoo, look at me and all of the ways I save money and am totally awesome. I make my own crackers and purchased a new car from saving box tops. Blah blah blah. I hope that's not the feeling you get here - at least from reading about some of the things we do to try and cut down our expenses. If you think from some of my other posts that I'm obnoxious, well, it's probably because I am a little obnoxious. Sorry! But please love me in spite of that, okay? Let's just be friends :) 

Lance would tell you that I spend too much money. But he is bargain barrel frugal and I am, well, not. But the thing that about being frugal in some areas means that we do spend money in other areas. Frugal, for us, is about prioritizing what we're doling out our precious pennies towards. Here are some of things I'm spending my pennies on:

For example, I buy salon hair products - mostly Aveda. They are expensive so I buy them only once or twice a year when my local salon has their annual holiday open house and all products are 20% off. One year my mom bought Aveda AirSpray hair spray for me as a stocking stuffer. She said that was the most expensive hair spray she had ever purchased. Sorry mom. But I also try and take advantage of Beauty Brands Liter Sale in August and purchase mega bottles of shampoo and conditioner for cheap. Currently I'm using Sexy Healthy Hair Color Safe Soy Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner. I got told last fall by an Aveda student that I had the healthiest hair she had ever seen. So are pricey salon hair products worth it? Maybe ...

Two. I have expensive makeup. A long time ago I fell in love with a store called Sephora and the rest was history. Yes, I buy makeup at Sephora, no, I don't buy Chanel or Dior makeup. While it's not Covergirl, it's not the top end of the spectrum either. I mostly buy Clinique, but here's my trick. I save my credit card points and will redeem them for a gift card to Sephora or I buy what I need during Clinique Bonus Time. I also use expensive nail polish. I don't really have a good reason for that one, I think that I've just fallen for marketing ploys over the years.

Three. Oreos. Fake oreos are just that - fake. And gross. There goes any preconceived notion of you (Jessie) thinking I don't buy processed foods. I also think that generic Wheat Thins are gross.

Household/consumer appliances. Yep, we bought a monster expensive Vitamix blender. I have really nice Cuisinart food processor and a professional grade Kitchenaid mixer. I love my Pampered Chef kitchen tools. And my Tupperware modular mates. But the mixer and food processor were momma gifts (my mom loves me A LOT) and the Vitamix is a forever gift. Much of the Pampered Chef and Tupperware were bought at a discount or secondhand. Have you ever looked into someone's pantry who has everything labeled and organized into containers that fit together exactly? It's a sight that makes me weep :)

In fact I have no issue buying stuff secondhand. Stuff that either has no visible signs of wear and can be washed/sanitized or lasts forever (like my baking storage containers - they'll last forever). I regularly surf around facebook groups, craigslist and ebay for namebrand clothing for the whole family.

Car seats. We own two Britax car seats (a Marathon and a 70-G3) both of which were well over $200 a piece. We bought one on Black Friday and the other I bought using promo money. I hate doing event promos, but safety is safety. (For the second car seat I demoed Justin Beiber perfume. I had to remind myself why. CONTINUALLY.) One of the things I love about these particular car seats is that you can remove the liners and throw them in the washing machine. Poop-explosions anyone?

We have an iPad and I love it. Do we need it? No.

I have a nice DSLR Nikon camera. It was purchased with my congratulations-you-finished-grad-school money. It was also purchased pre-budget and pre-Dave.

I spend money. Being on a budget doesn't mean that I'm cheap. We track where our money goes, but we still spend money. I am a big believer in quality over quantity. Although if you ask Lance, my closet says something entirely different. My closet says I'm a big believer in sale shopping :)