Friday, April 25, 2014

The Moment You Get Cocky: Bedtime Blues

People have asked me how Lucan’s been doing in his big boy bed. And of course I nonchalantly say “oh, it’s going great. Lucan’s always been a good sleeper. He may not do a ton of the other things we ask him, but he’s always been a great sleeper.” 

Someone should have slapped me right then and there. DON’T GET COCKY KARA.

The last couple of weeks have been a little rocky. Lucan has gotten into the habit of getting out of bed and wanting to read by himself after we put him to bed. This was okay for a little while because he was just reading a couple of books. But then he shredded one of his favorite books for no apparent reason. A couple of books has grown into Lucan staying up reading/playing FOR AN HOUR past his bedtime. At first I thought it was kind of precious and sweet (insert: “awww … my kid loves reading just like me! That’s so cute!”) but the late nights of Lucan reading in his rocking chair have translated into ROUGH mornings. Because if Lucan is anything, he’s like me. Which means he likes late nights and is a bear of a person in the mornings. We’ve had morning after morning where Lucan has cried inconsolably because he’s too tired, he doesn’t want lights on (me), he doesn’t want to change out of his jammies (also me) and just wants to lay in bed and go back to sleep (all of us). I’ve tried employing some of the same techniques I use to ease myself into mornings (turning off the white noise machine, gently introducing some light and noise and having as little to do as possible in the mornings) but apparently toddler reasoning doesn’t work as well as adult reasoning. 

By the time I get Lucan and Lance out the door, I can barely release a sigh of relief I’m so tired by all the drama. It sets the tone of my entire day and it’s not good. My child is not a morning person and neither am I. 

So when you ask me how the big boy bed is going, I’ll say … Lucan is consistently getting out of bed at night, but staying in his room to read books. Our mornings are harried and most of the time awful because of this. 

This is me. Not being cocky.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Be Money Smart.

I have people in my life who are younger than I am and are just embarking on “adulthood.” I hear more and more foolish things come out of their mouths that remind me so much of myself at that age. And most of it has to do with money. There are so many conversations where people are not managing their money wisely and are making some very bad decisions because of it. I just want to jump in and yell “stop! This is what you are doing wrong and this is how you should fix it!” but that kind of unsolicited advice is not always welcome or appreciated. :) Besides they already think I'm "old" which I am totally NOT.

“We’re wasting so much money on renting a place. For the money we spend on rent, we should buy a house.” My response: have you really calculated what home ownership costs? Not only is there the base price of buying your house, but there are property taxes, home insurance, mortgage insurance, house repairs and just maintenance things like lawn mowers. How much of a down payment do you have saved? Did you also factor in heat, gas, water and electricity? Not free. My guess is you probably want furniture too, so there’s another cost. And I can tell you that I have more friends that I can count on one hand that have had sewer and septic tank problems. There’s a good way to see $15,000 go down the drain (literally!). Lance and I are some of the foolish ones who bought a house the first year into marriage. Looking back, it was not our best decision. We were smart (mostly Lance) and purchased a house within a decent price range that hasn’t robbed us blind. We’ve also been lucky that we haven’t had to replace appliances. Knock on wood because that’s an expense too. But what I’m trying to say is this: you should have ZERO debt before you take on the major debt of home ownership. You should have a full emergency fund. You should have saved up a decent down payment. If you can’t afford a decent down payment, that’s a sign that you can’t afford home ownership.  

”I’m not contributing up to my employer’s match on my 401K.” Dumb, dumb, dumb. It’s free money. Free. As in it didn’t cost you anything to obtain it. No brainer. Start contributing the bare minimum to get your employer match.
“I just picked the most expensive health insurance because it seemed like the best.” Argh people! Health insurance is not cheap, not by any stretch of the imagination. Depending on your situation, a high deductible health plan or an HMO plan are really good choices and can save you so much money over the course of one year. The only thing I ask is this: if you are given a choice, weigh your options. Calculate what comes out of your paycheck each pay period. See if your regular doctors are still covered. Determine if you have any major upcoming medical expenses for the year. 

“I just want to go on a trip somewhere.” Yeah, we all do. After spending a really long, cold winter in Iowa, we all want to go somewhere tropical for a week. I get it, I do. It’s been four years since we’ve taken a “real” vacation – meaning somewhere not within driving distance of our house. But right now it’s not in our budget plan. Our budget plan meaning: paying off Kara’s school loans now before we get locked into any other financial burdens. It’s so much easier for us to buckle down and get things paid off now, before it has any further ramifications on our family – like not being able to enroll Lucan in activities because we don’t have the extra cash. Trust me, I feel like I deserve a vacation too. I can’t wait until we’re able to take Lucan to Disney World for weeks upon weeks and make those memories as a family. So in hopes of making those memories, I’ll table my personal vacation dreams temporarily. 

“I just have a few credit cards. There’s no interest on them right now, so it’s like free money.” Omigosh, this statement just makes me want to shake you hard. Really, really hard. Even if you pay them off every month, there is always that lag time in between where you’ve bought the item and they have yet to bill you. Interest rates are astronomical. And most people find they exhibit less self-control when they aren’t handing over the physical money right then and there. What happens if you suddenly lose your income and can’t make the payment? You’re still stuck with owing the credit card company money. Bad, bad, bad. 

Okay, I’m done harping on you. I’ve made most of the mistakes I’ve talked about, so I can’t be too condescending. I still make plenty of money mistakes on my own. I still like shopping. I have a tendency to be able to justify everything (Lance keeps me honest and accountable. He’s so mature like that.) I can never remember when I get paid (is in the first and third Friday every month? Or do I get paid the 15th and the 30th?) and it’s ridiculous. All I know is that we’ve made plenty of money mistakes with our money and it would be irresponsible to not try and keep people from repeating them. Learn from me! I’m trying to teach you how to fish!

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Half-Asian Boy.

My Half-Asian Baby Boy.

Truthfully, I’m not allowed to call Lucan “my baby.” If I call him a “baby” within hearing distance, he balks. “No mommy, I’m big boy. I’ve got my big boys on (aka: underwear). I’m not a baby.” But in my head, he’s my beautiful baby boy with my same dark brown, Asian eyes. He has my nose and ears. He’s half me, half Asian. 

Lance and I discuss what box Lucan will check when he’s filling out forms and applications – Caucasian? Asian/Pacific Islander? Other? If you ask Jessie the teacher to weigh in, Lu’s going to be better off circling Asian. Especially if he’s inherited his dad’s math skills (not my non-Asian, non-extraordinary math skills. Subtracting 15-8 causes me to pause for a moment.)

I recently finished reading the YA book “Eleanor and Park.” It was precious, angsty and really reflective of teenage love.  As much as I enjoyed the book for all of its ability to hit the nail exactly on the head of unrequited teenage love, it made me a little sad too. 

Park is half-Korean, his parents met when his dad was fighting in the Korean War and brought his mom back to Omaha. Being half-Asian depresses Park. In his mind, he’s not cute, he’s not the average white American kid who is good-looking and popular. 

“Nobody thinks Asian guys are hot, “Park said finally. He had to look away from her when he said it – way away, he had to turn his head completely. “Not here, anyway. I assume Asian guys do okay in Asia.”  
“That’s not true,” Eleanor argued. “Look at your mom and dad …”
“Asian girls are different. White guys think they’re exotic.”
“But …”
“Are you trying to come up with a super-hot Asian guy, so you can prove me wrong? Because there aren’t any. I’ve had my whole life to think about this.” 

This book is set in 1984, so maybe at that time there were no hot Asian guys. It breaks my heart that Park feels un-lovely because he's half-Korean. It is my hope that Lucan never feels the same way as Park does. That he sees how gorgeous he is and never feels inferior because he’s half- Asian.

Lucan is pretending he's a robot. Because robots scoot around on the floor with a wooden stool, right?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Maintaining Friendships after Kiddos

I look back at the pre-kiddo days and chuckle a bit. I used to have a co-worker who would really irritate me when he would say “You think you’re busy now? Just wait until you have kids!” And while he was absolutely right, life is busier with a toddler and will only get busier once we start having activities, my co-worker was wrong too. Because when were childless I spent more of my time deciding what “I wanted” to do. I was busy, just in a different way. Friendships were easier to maintain because we all had more free time. My girlfriends used to go out for dinner for every single one of our birthdays. I saw a lot more movies at theaters. There were more parties. But now there are children involved and we are even busier, I need my girlfriends even more. There is a lot of isolation in parenting and being a mom and that’s where I find I need my friends, their encouragement and their sage wisdom. So how we do stay sane by adding “one more thing” to our schedules and still keep in touch? 

See the rest of my post here at Des Moines Parent.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

31 Things in March

  1. Lincoln finding health and I quote his loquacious (good vocab word Jessie!) mommy “no detectable disease here!”
  2. Having five good friends with birthdays in March (Josh, Katie, Gina, Rachael and Nicole)
  3. Finally spring weather. Seriously thankful for that.
  4. After a 14 month search and A LOT of money spent on a search firm, finding the perfect fit for a new senior pastor for our church. I’m so excited about our future.
  5. There were nine little boys in church nursery one Sunday. And nary a girlie in sight. They’re going to have to fight each other for girls to date :)
  6. Trivia night at church. Our team, with three doctors, three masters’ degrees and two folks who are super smart with just their bachelors’ degrees, came in second place. By three stinkin’ points. There’s always next year.
  7. Scratch cupcakes for birthdays.
  8. National cereal day coinciding with my birthday this year.
  9. Target dates with friends.
  10. Birthday love in the form of cards, texts, phone calls and FB messages
  11. Reconnecting with a friend over frozen yogurt and crazy kiddos.
  12. Evening story time at the library. Lucan asks every other day if we can go to the library. If there’s one thing I do miss about working, it’s being able to take Lucan to more daytime outings.
  13. Paying off my grad school loans!! HOLLA! Now it’s time to pay off that study abroad semester in London.
  14. Seeing Lance’s Kansas relatives, even though it was for a sad occasion.
  15. Birthday coffee at Caribou.
  16. New Hunter rain boots. I’ve gotten so many compliments on them!
  17. Cheering on the ISU Men’s basketball team
  18. Beating Lance’s bracket.
  19. Park playtime
  20. Maxi skirts
  21. Potty training. We are close people. So close I can feel it.
  22. And in the same breath, I’m thankful for having a little boy who has zero reservations about peeing behind a tree.
  23. Walk-in clinics with evening hours. Lucan told us over supper one night that his “ear was angry” meaning it hurt. Lu doesn’t complain about his ears until they’re full-blown, full-on inflamed. We were able to go to a Doctor’s Now clinic and be seen immediately and get him started on meds.
  24. Lu’s favorite books from the library: “Daisy Gets Lost”, “A Ball for Daisy” and “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.” As they are library books, I’m going to have to buy copies for our family because we read them every single day and Lu’s going to be devastated when they have to be returned.
  25. One year work anniversary for me
  26. Finishing the books: “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,” “Still Life with Breadcrumbs,” “The Aviator’s Wife,” and “The Rosie Project.”
  27. Haircuts for the boys.
  28. A fabulous new Pioneer Woman recipe – Thai Chicken Pizza!
  29. Having my parents visit for a weekend.
  30. Learning to love God for God and not his gifts (small group lesson).
  31. Lance’s cousin’s lost their baby son to a heart defect. While it ranks up there on saddest funerals I’ve ever been to, his beautiful cousin reminded me to love on Lu. Each day is a gift and we aren’t promised a certain number. It’s a hard reminder that God, in all of his goodness, still is sovereign.

One Thing I’m NOT Thankful For:
1. The return of daylight savings time. Sheesh. I’m not sure if it feels harder each year because I’m old or because of the toddler in the next room who stays up an hour past his bedtime sitting in his bed “reading.” As Lance likes to remind me, this is all the doing of my genes.