Enough for a start

One is faced with several issues when a blog has been dormant for awhile.  The first issue, for me, is how to explain what I’ve been doing and why I went silent.

I really don’t know how to solve that issue without some lengthy – and frankly boring – post.  So I’m going to ignore it 🙂  Yes, I’ve been absent.  Yes, there’s a lot of explanations behind that absence.  No, I’m not going to go into it.  It’s nothing exciting or dramatic.  Just life taking over and leaving little room for hobbies.

Lets move on.

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Thanksgiving is approaching.  I have a few more things to wrap up for school, but I’m already finding myself drawn to my favorite holiday.  All of the family, the celebration, the lovely crisp weather… and none of the materialism.  Just a day to sit, enjoy everyone’s company, and be thankful.

I try to be deliberate in not growing stressed about Thanksgiving.  We keep it simple – turkey, side dishes, dessert.  No one enjoys a meal when the hostess is frazzled.  I say “hostess” as though we were having guests over, but it’s just the 4 of us.  None of our family lives close enough to visit, so we keep things low-key.

I feel a lot of pressure to visit my side of the family more frequently, especially around the holidays.  It’s over 11 hours of driving to get to them.  I think I’ve moved through a few different stages of emotion about that – expectation, frustration, annoyance, sadness, irritation – before coming to accept that this is how it is.  We have no plans to move closer to my family in the Midwest, and I doubt that any of my family will come visit us more than once a year, if that.  Still, as stated at the start of this paragraph, I feel a lot of pressure to visit my side of the family more frequently.

This Thanksgiving we’ll have turkey, pumpkin and chocolate pecan pie, and stuffing.  I’ve left the remaining side dishes for Chris to manage.  Afterward, I’m going to the local hospice house for a few hours in the evening, and the next day (Black Friday) we’ll spend time not in a shopping frenzy but in a decorating tizzy 🙂  I like to get all of the Christmas decorating done on the day after Thanksgiving – everyone’s home and can help share the workload!

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I think that’s enough for a start, don’t you?

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Simple and Decadent Banana Pudding

One of my earliest memories of dating Chris is of the two of us making a meal together.  During the process, I set out some fish and asked him to “smother” them in butter.  We were just getting to know one another (12 1/2 years later and there’s still a lot to learn!) and I quickly found that my Midwestern idea of smothering something in butter was quite different to his Southern definition.  By the time he was finished, those fish looked like they’d been covered in an inch of thick buttercream frosting – they were definitely smothered!

Chris’ appreciation for Southern foods and Southern cooking comes from – where else? – his mother.  My mother-in-law, Janice, is a wonderful cook.  She has the ability to create delicious dishes without needing to follow a recipe, adding in what experience and intuition tell her will net an amazing result.  Two of my favorite recipes of hers are her squash casserole and banana pudding.  Her banana pudding is so good that it will convert a confirmed anti-banana-pudding person (me!) into a wannabe banana pudding aficionado.

I think part of what makes me love her banana pudding is the use of heavy cream and half ‘n half.  Many banana pudding recipes that I’ve read instruct the cook to “make the pudding as directed” on the back of the box, using regular milk or water, in some cases.  Janice’s version is the fully-loaded, fully-leaded one: no skim milk or water here.  The use of cream and half ‘n half amps up the smooth, rich taste (and probably increases the calories by about 4,000 percent), making your savor every bite.  She also makes an “adult” version, which calls for a drizzle of banana liqueur on each layer – this is optional and we usually don’t add this since our boys love banana pudding, but it’s a fun twist to your traditional banana pudding recipe 🙂

Janice’s Banana Pudding

Janice’s Banana Pudding

  • 1 small box each of banana, cheesecake, and french vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 container of thawed Cool Whip, creamy version (regular version if unable to find creamy)
  • 2 boxes Nilla wafers (you may not need the 2nd box, but I tend to need a few more than 1 box)
  • 2 – 3 bananas, sliced roughly the same thickness as the Nilla wafers
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 quart half & half
  • Banana liqueur (if using), such as Firefly Southern Accents Banana Pudding
  • 1 container (I’ve used a trifle bowl, a round glass Pyrex container, and a square Ziploc tub depending on the circumstances – use whatever you choose)

Pour pudding mixes into medium-sized bowl.  Add all of the cream and half & half (should be roughly 6 cups of liquid).  Whisk on high with mixer till pudding begins to thicken.

Note: At this point, you can set the pudding in the fridge to store overnight – I usually do this to speed up the process and then assemble the pudding the following morning.

Gently fold thawed Cool Whip into pudding.  Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of pudding on bottom of container. Place wafers with round tops facing inward along the wall of your container.  Add more pudding, enough to reach halfway up the wafer wall.  Place a layer of wafers on top of pudding and then a layer of banana slices.  Drizzle a small amount of liqueur on top of bananas (you don’t want to overdo it), then cover with another thin layer of pudding to form the foundation for your next wafer “wall”.  Repeat the layers of wafers, bananas, liqueur, and pudding, ending with a layer of pudding.  I usually have enough for 2 full layers, as pictured above.

Top pudding with the crumbs of 2 – 3 crushed wafers.  Alternatively, you can leave the pudding without any topping or, just before serving, make a wheel of Nilla wafers standing upright in the center of the pudding.  Don’t top with banana slices – these will brown and look unappealing.

Store in refrigerator for at least 4 hours to give the Nilla wafers time to soften.  Can be made up to 24 hours in advance.  I find that 6 hours of refrigeration is just about the perfect length of time for this dessert.

Depending on the size of container you use, you may have some pudding remaining.  It’ll probably be too little for another complete layer but just enough for your own personal mini pudding, as seen below.  Consider this your reward for having made such a delicious dessert – something to be enjoyed once your guests or family have devoured the dish.  Or you can savor it while writing a blog post about banana pudding 🙂

Personal Banana Pudding

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Nurse Practitioner School – Making the Decision

Making the decision to go back to school for my nurse practitioner (NP) degree wasn’t an easy one.  My plan had always been to work as a nurse for a year or two, then go to grad school part-time while working full- or part-time and having my employer pay for part or all of the cost of tuition.  Fast forward to 8 years post-BSN and I was now a mother of 3 and 5 year old boys and employed full-time as a nurse case manager.  It was rewarding to help patients, but I was far from being entirely satisfied in my then-role.  I faced a choice that boiled down to two options: continue in my current path as a BSN trained nurse, or pursue an advanced degree.

Many things crossed my mind in the months leading up to my decision.  If I did decide to pursue an advanced degree, which one?  The main tracks were management, education, or clinical.  I rather quickly ruled out an advanced degree in nursing education.  I like teaching patients, their family members, and other staff or co-workers, but couldn’t see myself doing it full-time for nursing students.  I have friends with their MSN in Education and they are passionate about it.  I was not.  Scratch out the education track.

Management?  I considered this one rather seriously.  I could see myself enjoying an administrative role, but I wasn’t ready to give up clinical practice just yet.  Additionally, many of the nurse managers and nurse executives that I’ve met worked long, long hours.  I had 2 small children and didn’t want to spend precious time away from them – this was one of the reasons why I was considering leaving my then-job as it was requiring more and more overtime.  Scratch out the management track.

So, clinical practice.  This appealed to me the most then and still does.  A degree as an NP would be hard work, but it would allow me to do many of the things that I wanted to be able to do as a case manager.  I also liked that a return to primary care was a return to my healthcare roots, having started as a medical assistant in family practice.  It was also appealing to focus more on “fire prevention” as compared with “fire fighting”, which I frequently did while working as an ER nurse.  Lastly, I liked the options that would be available to me.  As an NP, I felt that the time that I spent away from my family in either a full- or part-time capacity would net a larger return on investment than as a BSN trained nurse.  Having the option to work part-time was particularly appealing and I felt that working part-time as an NP would be more financially rewarding than working part-time as a BSN-trained nurse.  I liked the thought of having more control and say-so regarding my schedule, something that I was sorely lacking during those few months leading up to my decision.  Another appeal was the opportunity to advance my own knowledge regarding health and medicine.  I’d always felt that my BSN-training was more than adequate, but the longer I worked as a nurse the more aware I became of my limitations and shortcoming with that degree.  I wanted to know more and I wanted to do more, and I wanted it to be worth both my and my family’s while.  So, NP degree it was.

I don’t think I was too naive about getting my NP degree, emphasis on the “too” in that statement.  There was absolutely some naivete.  I’d spoken with my personal NP and some of her first words to me about becoming an NP were, “It’s not what you think it is.”  She described a high-stress, demanding job where NPs were required to care for a panel of patients the same as an MD but without an MD’s training.  She spoke of hours spent away from her family, weekends on email about patients, and last-minute calls to her husband about coming home late once again.  She stated that there had been times where she wished she could go back to being “just a nurse”, even though she had no plans to leave her current position.  She also mentioned that many NPs hit a wall and burn out after about 4 or 5 years, choosing to go into a different role because they can’t manage the stress.  My personal NP knew that I struggled at times with being anxious and taking on too much, so she was careful to point out that these were things that could easily lead to feeling overwhelmed as an NP.

It took the wind out of my sails to be sure, but it was a good wake-up call.  If I was going to be an NP, I needed to have someone give me a firm shake and make sure I knew what I was in for.

I went ahead with my plans and enrolled in school full-time (that decision is another blog post).  It’s been a tough 3 semesters and I’m about to embark on semester 4 (with only one more semester remaining after that – time has flown).  Following that, it’ll be taking the national certification exam, securing a job, and keeping my head above water while learning the many things that graduate school can’t and doesn’t teach you about being an NP.  I have been told that the first 2 years as a new NP are some of the hardest.  Bearing that in mind, I’ve decided to hold off on any decisions regarding a DNP until after those first 2 years are done and dusted.

So, this is an outline of my thought processes leading up to my grad school decision.  We all come here from different places and I’ve left out many other things that were part of my decision – the time invested in school, financial costs and benefits, what I’d be giving up, what I’d be gaining – but hopefully this will give you an idea of things to think about.  Or if you’re already on your NP journey then hopefully it is something to which you can relate.

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August 2018

August has been a full month.  It was rewarding for me to have some time between semesters to relax, see family, spend time with friends, and do nothing.  Joe has enjoyed going to summer camp and we’ve taken a family trip to Washington, DC as well as a trip with me and the boys to Indiana.

George Washington University

Joe & Jack at the GWU Lucky Hippo

Jack was disappointed that the lucky hippo statue on GWU’s campus was not, in fact, a living breathing hippo.

We went to the National Air & Space Museum as well as the Museum of Natural History.

Jack at The National Air & Space Museum

A bit of New Zealand at the museum…

Graduation backdrop for next May

A few days after DC, the 2 boys and I drove to Indiana.  I got up at 3 in the morning and we were on the road by 3:45am.  It was much easier to drive those first few hours in the dark when the boys were dozy and quiet.  I didn’t mind driving in the dark and silence, getting up early.  I had a big thermos with tea + coconut milk that I sipped on till about 7:30am.  We made it all the way to WV before having to stop for the first time.  Absolutely worth getting up early to have nearly 4 hours of uninterrupted drive time.  We made it to my parents’ place by 2:30pm.  All in all, a good drive.

Virginia to Indiana

A normally 10 hour drive without stops being made in just under 11 hours with 3 stops and 2 little boys is pretty good, in my opinion.

Boys and kitty cats

My parents were happy to see us and the boys loved playing at their house.  My parents have a dog and 2 very friendly kitties, which was heaven on earth for these 2 boys who don’t have any pets.

New shoes

Part of the grandparent gifts included a new pair of shoes for both boys.  Here they are sitting on the steps of the shoe store where my mom used to take me to buy shoes.

We got home safely to VA a few days later, following a similar departure pattern.  I was up by 3am and we were on the road by about 3:45am.  We had to make a few more stops on that return trip but still made good time, arriving in VA by about 2:30pm.  It was good to see my family but that drive is not fun!  When family hints that we should move closer to Indiana, I tell them that we already did – we moved from NZ back to the US and that brought us over 7,500 miles closer 🙂

The rest of August will be spent eking out a few more relaxing days before my semester starts (August 28th) and before Chris’ teaching starts back up (August 30th).  I’m both looking forward to but also worried about this 4th semester of my program.  I have class for the entire semester but also clinical hours – some weeks, I’ll be putting in 4 full-time days of clinic in addition to still doing the necessary classwork, all while trying to maintain a semi-happy, semi-organized home life.  As usual, it’ll require a great deal of effective time management, quite a lot of tea, and planning ahead.

 

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Happy Birthday, Joe

Two weeks ago, our oldest child turned 6 years old.  I know that everyone says “time flies”, but I truly didn’t realize how swiftly time zooms by until I had children.  Suddenly, I found myself measuring the days and years based on my child and how he’s grown.  And children grow fast. They acquire language at a rapid pace and learn new things quicker than a hound dog chasing a rabbit.  Given that I grew up with hound dogs, I know what I’m talking about 🙂

Joe has finished kindergarten.  His birthday took place on the last full day of school (the following day was a 1/2 day).  He was relieved and pleased that he was able to bring in birthday treats for his friends and celebrate on the day.  I was happy for him – my birthday is December 23rd, and I often felt sad that I couldn’t celebrate my birthday at school.  I can’t remember bringing in treats for my birthday, but I’m sure that I did.  My mom tells the story of how my preschool teacher asked her how she was planning to make pancakes at the school.  My mom, in confusion, asked what she was talking about.  Apparently, I’d been telling everyone that my mom would be bringing in pancakes for my birthday.  My mom laughed and explained that she was bringing in cupcakes, not pancakes.  Cupcakes are pretty amazing, but I still think pancakes would be a cool birthday treat to have at school.

We went back and forth about how to celebrate Joe’s birthday.  We had a big party at a local park last year complete with lots of food and friends.  At Jack’s birthday back in April, we joined forces with another family and had the party at the local Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport.  That was also a big event with lots of food (pizza, Chick-fil-A, cake, snacks, etc.).  Birthdays in Williamsburg are a big deal.  There are lots of venues around here that advertise party packages: The Bounce House, the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex, Great Wolf Lodge, Go-Karts Plus, and on and on.  Just down the road are many more, with the Virginia Living Museum and the Hampton Air & Space Museum both offering packages.  We’ve been able to experience some amazing parties and have grown closer to our children’s friend’s parents and to our community as a result.

Big parties can be a lot of fun, but we were getting concerned that, for our children, the birthday party was turning into a very “me” focused time.  Statements along the lines of, “It’s my birthday, so I get to do whatever I want” or “I get to choose whatever I want to do on my birthday” were starting to pop up in our house.  This year, we decided to tone the party back a little and it went so well that we’re considering having on and off years, where we have a bigger party one year and then a smaller, more sedate party the next.

This year, we celebrated by letting Joe choose what he wanted for breakfast and for dinner, then bringing in treats to his school at lunch.  He opened presents from us and both sets of grandparents on his actual birth day, and 2 days later (Saturday) we went to Busch Gardens here in Williamsburg.  We spent several hours there and bought lunch at the park (something we usually don’t do).  Later that evening, Chris took Joe back to Busch Gardens again for some special father-son time and they ended the day with a massive cookie skillet sundae topped with 3 scoops of Joe’s choice of ice cream and smothered with a layer of melted Godiva chocolate ganache.

We talked frequently about how grateful we were that Joe was a part of our family and reminisced about when he was born, telling stories about how much he has grown.  We also talked about birthdays and hospitality and spending time with family and all of those good things.  I think he had a lot of fun.  I don’t know that we’re set on doing an “every other year” pattern of parties, but it was nice to do something different.

I’m so thankful for our Joe 🙂

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It’s hard to grow up.

My mother used to say “it’s hard to grow up”.  This was typically after one of her children had bonked their head or fallen down or had experienced a consequence for some undesirable behavior.  I’ve found myself saying it to our boys, too, and usually under similar circumstances: learning how to ride a bicycle and suffering a skinned knee; having to share a favorite toy with a sibling or cousin; tripping in the Harris Teeter parking lot and dropping the free sugar cookie that you worked so hard to earn, then bursting into tears when your mother helps you up but takes the broken cookie all while saying that this one can’t be brushed off 🙁

It’s hard to grow up.  It’s hard to learn some lessons.

Lately, one of our guys has been learning the lesson of honesty versus dishonesty.  I can remember telling a whopper of a lie when I was in the second grade, and I still remember the punishment for it.  I also remember that I was my own worst disciplinarian – I suffered for days with the knowledge that I was lying to my mom and to my teacher about something.  When the truth came out, it was more a relief than anything else.  The truth does set you free.

That memory has been in the forefront of my mind lately and I have a lot of sympathy for my little boy.  But I also have a lot of gratitude for my parents and their teaching me the importance of truth-telling.  It’s much, much better to face the consequences that may accompany being honest than to be dishonest and suffer the guilt of knowing that you lied.

Plus, when your parents do find out that you lied, there’s that punishment on top of already having punished yourself.  Double whammy.

So, we’re trying to pass on some of what Chris and I learned from our parents about the importance of honesty to our two little boys.  And I’m gaining perspective on what that feels like as a parent.  I find myself filled with love and sympathy and admiration for my son as I watch him learn.  It’s hard to grow up.

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2 Years

I’ve thought about updating this blog several times over the last 2 years.  Obviously, I didn’t.  When, after several months of thinking I put thought to action and attempted to log in, I found that I couldn’t.  After several sessions with the hosting service’s support desk, we finally ironed out the problem, and access was granted once more.

Rather than a lengthy post updating all the changes that have occurred, I think it makes more sense and is more succinct to simply share a few photos.  Hopefully these will convey some of the changes that have occurred.

Visiting Shenandoah in September 2015

Visiting Shenandoah in September 2015

Christmas Card 2015

Christmas Card 2015

 

Jack having a picnic with his daycare

 

Joe graduated from Pre-K

Joe turns 5 years old

Summer 2016

Family Reunion 2016

Busch Gardens 2016

Mom starts graduate school

Joe starts kindy

Trick or Treat on the Row 2016

Christmas 2016

January 2017

February 2017

Time for preschool photos

Gearing up for the Tot Trot in Colonial Williamsburg (2017)

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Pollen

I’ve come to have a real appreciation for pollen since moving to Virginia.  Or perhaps more of a grudging respect.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the beautiful trees and flowers and plants we have here.  We live in the woods and I couldn’t be happier.  But I had no idea that pollen is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Right around the beginning of summer – that time when you’re stretching your pale arms and legs and rummaging through your wardrobe to find shorts and t-shirts – you begin to notice a change.  When it rains, streams of green-yellow water run down the street to the storm drains.  A fine, yellow haze settles on your car windshield if it’s parked outside.  You head to the porch to take in the sounds of summer, and notice that your outdoor furniture is awfully dusty.

Yeah, that’s not dust.  It’s pollen.

Lots and lots of pollen.

As I sit and type this, I’m enjoying the sunshine and birdsong and the view from my window.  All trees and greenery.  I’m also noticing the pollen coating the grill and porch railing, and it makes me grimace.

Chris has problems with allergies.  He bucks up under the onslaught each summer and (mostly) maintains a certain level of homeostasis by supplementing his usual daily vitamin with a dose or two of Singulair, occasional migraine meds, and a decent supply of tissues.  Thus far, Joe doesn’t seem to be bothered by allergies.  I’ve never had a problem with them, either (and I hope that doesn’t change – I know that it can).

Jack’s another story.  With his bouts of RSV, he’s already prone to asthma.  And this week, the faint wheeze started.  Not audible unless you’re using a stethoscope (another benefit of being a nurse: ready supply of those in this house), but certainly pronounced whenever he’s crying.  Sigh.  Guess we’ll need to see the nurse practitioner and get him started on something.

He’ll join the many other Virginians that learn to live with pollen’s unpleasant side effects.

Pollen.  Scourge of clean cars everywhere in VA.  An indelible part of the ecosystem and, for as much trouble as it can cause with my family’s lungs, something for which I’m thankful.  I can’t say how much peace I get when I look out of our house windows and I see leaves and flowers and GREEN.  I love that, for a big chunk of my commute and drive to daycare, I see woods and grass, not steel and chrome.  I’m thankful that we live in a place where our biggest hassle with air quality is pollen, not pollution.  I can deal with that.

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Giving Yourself Permission to Stop, and to Start Again

Wow – it’s been awhile since I’ve had the energy or time or creative inclination to sit down and write.  This is the first post I’ve put up in months and, truth is, I’m a little worried about it.  I lay in bed the other night, trying to get to sleep, but thoughts of this blog kept popping into my head.

“I should start writing again,” I thought.  This was immediately followed with, “But what if I stop writing again?”

I thought on it for awhile and realize, it doesn’t matter.  I got swept up (or bogged down) in the idea of blogging as a responsibility, that I had to post a certain number of times each week, each month.  And I got sick of doing it.

So, I stopped.

Time is a great healer, and I needed some time to heal.  Now that some of my wounds are gone and some are getting better, I can come back to this blog and share again about my life.

If you’re still checking this blog every now and again, thanks 🙂

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December 2014

It’s been such a great month, this past December.

I turned 34 years old.

Chris and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

We had Christmas in our own home for the first time.  Such fun!

It’s been a busy month, too.

I’ve been back to work now for a little over 5 weeks, and I’m loving my new job.  I have good co-workers, a supportive employer, and a great supervisor.  I’m loving the freedom that comes with working from home.  While my job is not entirely home-based (I do have medical practice visits that I’ll begin making here soon), it still gives me the freedom of a Monday – Friday job that I didn’t enjoy as a staff nurse.

My returning to work has brought about changes, naturally.  The boys are both in daycare.  We bought a second car.  I don’t have as much time to devote to from-scratch cooking as I did before and my involvement with MOPS has changed.  I’m still the volunteer registration coordinator, but I’ll be transitioning to an evening group next month, one geared toward working moms.

I’ve also withdrawn from Bible Study Fellowship.  Returning to work was one reason, yes, but I quickly realized that, even without working again, doing BSF combined with MOPS, volunteering at hospice, and the other responsibilities on my plate was adding up to too much.  I felt harried, Chris felt overlooked, and the boys were busy-busy-busy what with MOPPETS, the BSF program, and Joe’s preschool.

I’m glad that I’ve gone back to work.  I was worried that I’d feel like I was compromising my children’s quality of life, but that hasn’t been the case (aside from one trip to Target when I saw a mom pushing her 2-seater cart with little ones… I missed my guys at that moment!).  Instead, I feel happier and, overall, am confident that this was the right choice, both for me and for my family.  The boys love daycare and are always excited to go there.  I feel like I’m contributing in a meaningful way (not that being a stay-at-home-mom isn’t meaningful – something that my husband reminded me of nearly daily – but there’s something about being paid for my efforts that boosts my self-confidence).  Our family routine has shifted around and it’s working well.  Granted, it’s only been 5 weeks, but I think that things are OK and that we’ll be able to weather this change.

I’m also excited at new possibilities.  I’m looking forward to being able to apply for my certification in my new field of nursing (something that I should be able to do after 12 months).  I’m also thinking about master’s degree programs again, something that I thought I’d have to give up on.  My new employer will reimburse part of my tuition, and with the variety of good, quality online MSN programs that have traditional brick-and-mortar locations nearby to where we live (where I could go in for classes or practicums, if needed) I feel as though it’s more feasible than if I were doing shift-work at a hospital.

All in all, I’m excited about the new year and the opportunities that it will bring 🙂

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Starting Daycare, New Wheels, and Hearing Truth

We went out this weekend and bought ourselves a 2nd vehicle.  It was pretty clear that, with me starting full-time employment, we needed another car.  After doing a lot of research regarding the best small, fuel-efficient vehicles, we went with a 2013 Kia Soul.

2014-11-16 11.33.31

A few months ago, I never would have considered a Kia Soul.  I thought they were odd-looking, boxy things.  I started out thinking that we would go with a Prius or a Honda Fit, but after having test driven the Prius, Chris and I both agreed that it wasn’t the car for us.  Not to mention that in order to get a used Prius with low mileage in good condition, we would have to spend the maximum of our car budget.  And that was to get an “OK”, slightly dinged-up Prius.  There were other factor – neither of us liked the split rear window, the back seat was very cramped – but the biggest consideration was price.

I test drove the Honda Fit and, while it does get great gas mileage, I felt like I was stuffed into a too-full sardine can.  It’s a very small car, which is exactly what it was designed to be, but for the price we weren’t too impressed.

I had been seeing the Kia Soul pop up in various reviews, ratings, etc., and decided to give it another look.  I love that it has the 60/40 split rear seat, as well as the fact that the rear seats can lay completely flat for lots of storage.  The rear seat is roomier than you would expect with space for 3 people and enough room for 3 car seats (no, I don’t have an announcement to make, but I do think about the fact that we may want to have another child in a few years and if that’s the case, there would be 3 car seats, or 2 car seats + a booster seat, in the back).  It also sits a bit higher off the road, which I like, and feels a bit like an SUV with a lot more storage space than the Prius or Fit.

So, we bought one!  Green wasn’t my first color choice, but it was the right price and now I don’t ever have to worry about losing my car in the parking lot 🙂

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We dropped the boys off at daycare on Monday.  It was their first, full day away from us and I was worried about how it would go.  Both boys went into it as happy as could be and barely had time to say good-bye to me as I left.  When we picked them up, they were both still playing and had big smiles on their faces.  All good signs.

Still….

When I was running errands during the day, my eyes immediately went to the two-seater shopping carts.  I quickly noticed the moms pushing their children around the store.  I was acutely aware of the lack of little voices in the back seat as I was driving down the road.  The house was still and silent, and I was lonely.

But then this morning, as I was walking Joe and Jack out to the car for their Dad to drop them off, Joe said something so sweet.  He asked me if I would be lonely today, and I said “Yes, I’ll be lonely without you, but don’t worry!  I’ll see you soon.”  And he said to me, “You don’t need to be lonely, Mama, because God is with you!”

I tell you, the way He uses my children to speak truth to me is simply amazing.  Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through my precious children!

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“A Fresh Take: New Zealand” Calender and 20% Off Discount Code

A few weeks back, I was contacted by David Hammond from FreshTake Publishers.  Turns out, we had a couple of things in common.  For one, we both have lived/live in New Zealand.  David’s wife is an American (like me), named Jennifer (like me) and has spent time living in Virginia (like me).  Easy to see how I’d be curious to know more 🙂

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I headed over to their website to see the calendar, and loved the photos.  I decided to purchase a calendar for myself, and had so much fun looking at the pictures and reading the accompanying stories.  Brought back many memories.  Two of my favorites are January and April.

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January’s photo brought back memories of our trip via ferry and train to Christchurch.  We’d flown from Auckland to Wellington, then took the InterIslander ferry to Picton, and from there caught the Coastal Pacific train down to Christchurch.  I was 35 weeks pregnant at that time and it was an adventure I’ll never forget.  I found the train ride to be breathtaking, and Jennifer’s photo took me right back to those hours we spent gazing out the windows at New Zealand’s beautiful eastern coast along the South Island.

April’s photo reminded me of our time spent traveling around the very tip top of the North Island, when Chris, Joe, and I drove up to Cape Reinga.  Yes, such beautiful vistas do exist and they are something to behold.

The photos above are a small taste of what’s in the calendar.  I strongly encourage you to head over to FreshTake’s website and view the rest of the images for yourself.  The calendar is $15.99 USD, free shipping, and if you enter the code “20% Off”, you’ll get 20% off the total.  Perfect for a Christmas/New Year’s gift (or a gift for yourself)!

Disclaimer: While FreshTake Publishers did contact me and provide me with the 20% off discount code, the opinions above are my own.  I purchased the calendar myself and was not reimbursed or in any way compensated.

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Monday Post

I see articles like this and I’m reminded once again of one of the reasons why we moved back to the USA.

NZ Housing

We definitely got a little flak from people, both in-person and online, for choosing to move out of New Zealand, in part, because of the high cost of living.  Phrases such as, “You get what you pay for” were spoken our way, implying that yes, cost of living is high in NZ, but so is the quality of living.  I’ve even used this phrase a few times myself, often in emails to others seeking advice about moving there.  I want to let them know upfront that they can expect to pay higher rates, but there are benefits associated with this.  Of course, “paying higher rates” is different for everyone.  If you’re coming from a housing market where cost of living is already high, then it probably doesn’t seem like as big of a deal to you to move to NZ.

NZ does have a high quality of living, make no mistake.  But so does Williamsburg, Virginia.  The USA as a whole?  It’s lower than many other countries, but living where we are, we’re happy.  Affordable housing (for us), great community, family-friendly, child-friendly (both at parks, in restaurants, entertainment options, etc.), low crime stats, and close(r) to our loved ones.

I suppose that when I see articles like the one that I linked to above, I remember that while I do miss living in NZ, I don’t miss the high costs, the difficulty in furthering my own education (I’ve been contacting universities here in the USA about going back for my MSN in a strictly online format, something that would have been impossible in NZ… even the in-person format would have been outrageously expensive for me), or the distance from loved ones and the high costs involved to visit them.  Or rather, the high price we pay for not being able to visit them and have them in the boys’ lives.

In the end, you have to decide what makes the most sense for you and for your family.

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Thankful

I’m so thankful – I was offered (and I accepted) a new job last Thursday evening.  I’m excited about this job for so many reasons – the opportunity to focus on prevention and primary medicine, being able to help and serve my patients, and working for a good company – but mostly, I’m in awe of how things have worked out.

What do I mean?  Well, it’s hit me that life experiences that were frustrating for me at the time have worked together to build and mold me into what ended up being a great candidate for this position.  One of the requirements of this job was the ability to build trust, quickly form relationships with others, and “go with the flow”.  And over the last 8 – 9 years, I’ve often wondered what was going on with my career and what would happen with all of the the moves we’ve made.  I’ve felt like my jobs were always horizontal moves whereas Chris’ were vertical moves.  His career was improving…. mine was just staying still, but in different locations.

However, little did I know that all of those “horizontal moves” and shifting from hospital to hospital, country to country, was in fact a way to prepare me for this job.  When the interviewers asked me how I was with making relationships, adapting quickly to new environments, and working under stress, I was able to give great examples, both personally and professionally, of how I’ve had to learn to integrate myself into new departments, new cultures, etc., and how this would make me a great employee for the position.

It made me realize how there have been times in my life where I’ve wondered why God was working things out the way that He was, why things weren’t going according to my plans of what a successful career path looked like.  I’m humbled to realize that He had his hand on this all along.  That while I couldn’t see how He was preparing me for this job, He could see it and had a purpose.

And in line with returning to work, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the childcare center we’ve chosen for Joe and Jack now offers a 10% discount for Chris’ employer.  This is a brand new incentive and we’ll be the first family to take advantage of it.  Yet again, a small sign (at least in my opinion!) that we’re moving in the right direction.

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Giving Your Children 5 Minutes

It’s a cool-ish morning here in Williamsburg.  The sky is overcast and they’re predicting rain later this afternoon.  I’m home with Joe and Jack and all 3 of us have some variation of a cold.  Jack is – amazingly – taking a morning nap, a surefire sign that he’s not feeling 100% normal.  Joe is curled up watching “Daniel Tiger” while sniffing and coughing and occasionally asking for a “tiss-you” (tissue) for his runny nose.  I’ve got a cup of tea and it seemed like a good moment to sit down and update my blog.

Thank you to those of you who have prayed and sent well wishes regarding my job search and, ultimately, my struggle with whether or not to return to work.  I’m feeling more and more peace and confirmation that getting a job, either full- or part-time, is the right move at this point.  I’m waiting to hear back from some interviews and, in the meantime, continue to set up additional interviews for other interesting prospects.

It’s been a challenge for me to consider putting the boys in daycare, I’m not going to lie.  And I’ve also faced some less-than-attractive features of my personality when it comes to my relationship with Chris and the role that our frequent moves have played in our situation, both from a financial viewpoint as well as a professional, career-minded viewpoint for me.  I struggle with it daily, and Chris and I have definitely gotten upset, each with the other, about it.  We’ve both had to practice grace and forgiveness and remember that we’re on the same team 🙂

I was attending a MOPS meeting yesterday and the speaker that morning was a local pediatrician.  I’ve heard her speak before and really appreciated her insight into child development.  And as it just so happened, she touched on the topic of her returning to full-time work after having done part-time for several years.  She said that she would get home and, after facing an office of crying children, would face a home of crying children, all almost attacking her in their desire to have a piece of her attention.  She said that she felt overwhelmed and conflicted – she wondered if she was making the right choice in working full-time, but also realized that she had to work full-time (her boss was out of commission and she’d had to pick up the slack).  She was thinking about it on her way to work the following morning and popped in a medical CD about child development.  And, as it “just so happened”, the speaker was talking about a child’s desire for attention, their desire to feel special, and their desire to feel important.  The speaker said that giving a child “just 5 minutes” of undivided, uninterrupted attention where you let them choose what they talk about or what they do is enough to make that child feel wanted and loved.

The pediatrician shared with us that she thought this was baloney.  Only 5 minutes?  Yeah, right!  But she decided to try it because she was at a loss as to what else to do.  So, when she got home that evening she told each child that they were all going to have 5 minutes of Mommy’s attention but that they needed to take turns.  She started with her youngest (4 years old) and worked her way up to her 8 year old and 9 year old boys.  Her 4 year old wanted to talk to her non-stop about preschool.  Her 8 year old wanted to talk about Pokemon (and she admitted that 5 minutes of undivided attention to Pokemon was about all she could stand!), and her 9 year old wanted to draw with her.  She shared that those 5 minutes needed to be truly undivided – no TV screen on, no checking the phone, no talking while cooking dinner, and so on and so forth.

She shared that she kept up this practice, and her children learned that every day when Mom got home, they would have 5 undivided minutes of her attention.  They learned that they didn’t need to climb all over each other to get a piece of her focus.  And after awhile, one of her children told her that he didn’t need the 5 minutes.  She said that she simply told him, “OK – and if you ever do need 5 minutes, just let me know.”

One mom asked what she did when her children didn’t want to end their 5 minutes of Mommy’s time.  Good question, and one that I was thinking of myself.  She said that, while she didn’t advocate a lot of screen time for children, she felt like this was an appropriate moment to tell that child that they could pick out a movie or TV show to watch for themselves.

As I said, I really enjoyed her talk.  She touched on other issues (sleep routines, children waking in the night, children taking forever to get stuff done or needing their parents to follow them around the house to make sure that things were picked up, and so on and so forth) but what really stood out to me was the 5 minutes of undivided attention.  I often feel so busy during the day and I know that if I return to work it will introduce a whole new dimension to my multitasking abilities.  I confess, having enough time and focus for my children (and for Chris) has worried me.  I appreciated hearing her experience and also getting some tips, and it made me want to start putting it into practice now, to give Joe and Jack their own bare-minimum 5 minutes undivided attention from me.  I already do this on an informal basis (often when reading them a story) but for me to look at Joe and say, “What do you want to talk about?  What do you want to do?” and then not be tempted to do this while washing dishes, chopping vegetable for dinner, or folding laundry is tough!

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this Wednesday.  I hope that you’re all doing well and loving this beautiful October!

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Baking with Kiddos

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy baking with my kids.  It’s such a great activity for us to do together – perfect for days when we can’t get outdoors for one reason or another.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I’ve had a nasty cold since Saturday and it seems quite content to hang out with me for the time being.  It comes with the added bonus of a hoarse voice and sore throat, meaning that doing other quiet activities, like reading stories to Joe and Jack, are out.

But baking?  Baking is totally in.

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My little mad scientist!

I love to bake with the boys for a variety of reasons.  For starters, it fascinates them.  Adding different ingredients into a bowl, stirring them, measuring things… it keeps them focused and tuned in to the moment.  They learn about hygiene and food safety (“We need to wash hands before handling ingredients”, “We don’t cough into the bowl!”, “We can’t lick raw eggs!”… oh my!).  For another, it’s a great way to teach them things.  Things like counting, listening to instructions, taking turns (“It’s Jack’s turn to stir… now it’s Mommy’s turn.”), and patience.  Patience in waiting for whatever we made to bake, to cool, and then waiting for afternoon snack time or after-dinner dessert.

It’s also such fun for me as a mother to see my sweet boys interacting and enjoying themselves.

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Licking up some spilled ingredients and observing their reflections in the metal bowl!

As you can probably guess from the photo above, I make sure that our baking projects are for the family only – we are very hands on and it’s not uncommon for Jack or Joe to randomly decide to stick their entire hand into the bowl.  Or sneeze.  Definitely don’t want to share those germs with anyone else!  I’ve also started allowing Joe to crack the eggs.  This sometimes means that I have to take the bowl scraper and scoop the egg into a saucer, fish out the egg shells, and then put it into the batter all while saying, “Don’t worry – it’s still good!” :-p

I’ve learned some things, too, such as how little of a deal it is to clean up a mess in the kitchen.  I used to be worried about flour getting everywhere, batter spilling, and so on and so forth.  I certainly don’t let the boys toss sugar around the room or intentionally waste ingredients, but I no longer sweat the small stuff.  Like an entire egg ending up on the floor.

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That little accident happened during the roughly 15 seconds it took me to carry the bowl of batter from one counter to another.  Jack apparently really, really wanted to crack an egg!  I’m surprised he didn’t drop the entire carton, honestly.  And no, my floor isn’t dirty.  That’s the state of our oh-so-lovely vinyl.  Yet another reason why I don’t care too much about scuffs or spills on the kitchen floor!  And that rug?  It’s reversible and machine washable and I am so glad that I made the decision to buy a rug like that.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just picked the whole thing up and shoved it in the washer!

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Thankful for oven locks – this one by Munchkin is my favorite(and the only one Joe can’t figure out)!

Last but not least, it teaches them to take pride in their accomplishments.  I can’t communicate to you how happy and proud Joe is when I tell his daddy, “Guess what – Joe helped make these brownies!  Aren’t they delicious?  Didn’t he do such a wonderful job?”  Joe listens and quietly beams, waiting for his father to praise him, which Chris immediately does.  We praise Jack, too, but he’s more interested in cramming brownie in his mouth!

I’m thankful for my boys, for my kitchen, for ingredients with which to make fun treats like brownies, and for moments such as this 🙂

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Giving In to Internal Alarm Clocks and a Job Search Update

It’s 5:15am and I’m up at the computer on a Tuesday.  I’ve been awake since just after 4am and, rather than fight it, decided to get out of bed and make a cup of tea.  I’ve been waking up just after 4 o’clock for the last 2 – 3 weeks off and on and my usual M.O. has been to toss and turn, eventually falling asleep and then waking up feeling groggy and annoyed.

So this morning, when my internal alarm clock went off at 4:18am, I decided to just get up rather than fight it.  Perhaps this is my body’s way of saying, “You need to wake up earlier and get to bed earlier!”  And the truth is, I have been telling Chris that I wish I could wake up earlier in the day.  There’s something rather irritating about being woken up by someone else (ahem, my sweet but oh-so-much-of-an-earlybird 3 year old!) as opposed to waking up by yourself.  Waking up by myself and realizing, “Hey – I’ve got some time to do stuff! Like have an uninterrupted cup of tea, or blog, or answer an email!” feels luxurious, even if it’s at 4:30 in the morning 🙂  I never, ever though that I’d feel like that!

The job hunt continues.  I’ve had 2 interviews for the same position and have a 3rd interview (also for the same position) set up in about a week.  I’ve toured 4 daycare facilities, liked 2 of them, disliked 2 of them, filled out wait-list paperwork for my #1 choice and have the registration papers for my #2 choice (which doesn’t have a wait list, Praise the Lord!).  I’m feeling more comfortable now that I’ve seen those places, met potential future teachers, and been able to form an idea of what the boys’ days would look like should we enroll them somewhere.  Yes, I can honestly say that I’m feeling a sense of peace about putting them in daycare full-time, which is another thing that I never thought I would feel!

Even with these interviews set up and really liking the position that I’m interviewing for, I’m still keeping my options open in the case that this current job doesn’t pan out.  I can get worried if I think about it: what if I interview and they don’t like me?  What if I get emotionally invested in the thought of working at this place, and then they decide to hire someone else?  But then I remember that God is in control of all things, even my job interviews, and if I don’t get this position it’s because it’s not the right one.  So, I remember that and feel just fine.

I’ve applied for other positions and I keep my eye on the job postings as they come up, putting in an application when I feel like a position would be a good fit for me and our family.  I’ve grown picky.  I don’t want to work night-shifts anymore.  Could I work them?  Yes – absolutely, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take a night-shift job if I needed to.  But the fact is that I don’t need to at this point, so I’m allowing myself to be choosy.  Hence, only applying for day-shift opportunities.  I’m indulging myself, and for all I know this waking up at 4:15am is one more way that God is preparing me to go back to work… hmm…  I’ll dwell on that thought later when I’ve had a bit more caffeine…!

I can’t believe that Fall is here.  We went to a local pumpkin patch, had Joe pick out a pumpkin, I bought some gorgeous mums (I was glad to find some that looked healthy – all I had seen lately were the grocery-store variety and our grocery store’s variety looked like it had come down with the flu!), and a sweet little decorative pumpkin to go on top of our mailbox stand.  I told Joe that I wanted to put the mums by the mailbox, and he replied, “Which moms?!  You?”  Apparently the mum/mom difference wasn’t pronounced enough.  That, or he still recalls me and other moms being referred to as “mum” whilst in New Zealand.  Either way, I got a giggle out of the mental image of a bunch of “moms” standing around our mailbox for decoration!

OK, my real alarm clock just went off and I had to rush into the bedroom to turn it off before it woke up Chris.  It’s 5:30am and I’d better get a move on.  I’ve been heading to the campus gym at 6am (yuck – not about the gym… it’s lovely… more about the thought of working out at 6am!) to get my exercise over with.  Yes, I say “get it over with” because working out this early in the morning isn’t my cup of tea!  Have a great day 🙂

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You know it’s Fall…

The official start to Autum was several days ago.  It was cold, even here in Williamsburg, and I had to dig out some long pants for the boys and a sweatshirt for myself.

But it didn’t feel like the true start to Fall.

No, that day came a little bit later with the arrival of a package from Upton Tea Imports.  Ahh, Irish Breakfast Blend with a little bit of milk.  Now it’s Fall 🙂

I know that most people consider drinking Pumpkin Spice stuff to be the standard-bearer of turning leaves and chilly temps.  For me, it’s good old breakfast tea.  I’d gotten out of the habit of drinking it in summer – too hot for that – but am glad that I can once again enjoy a cup (or two).

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Making the transition… in more ways than one

It’s been tricky to make the transition from a “New Zealand” blog to being a US-based blog once again.  For starters, I still get Twitter mentions and am nominated for being a “top international blog”.  I have to gently remind people that, alas, I am no longer in NZ and haven’t been for over a year.  I wonder if these people are even bothering to read my blog before mentioning me or awarding me.  Apparently not!

Life in Williamsburg is great.  It’s a fun, cute little town that is very family friendly.  I love that nearly every time I go out, I see someone I know.  Yes, this might sound weird for some but it makes me feel welcomed and connected.  I’ve made some great friends and have gotten involved in volunteering.  Right now, I’m volunteering at a hospice house in the area and am also the registration and financial coordinator for a mother’s group.  The mother’s group has around 100 members and it’s time consuming, but I love doing it.  It’s allowed me to meet a lot of people very quickly and even people that I haven’t officially met face-to-face, I now know their names.  I’ve had a few moments of being out and being introduced to someone, only to say, “Hey!  I’ve been emailing you!”  That’s a nice feeling 🙂

Being a stay-at-home mom has been a lot of work.  If it weren’t for groups like MOPS and some of the FB forums that I subscribe too, I don’t know if I could keep it up.  Even with a lot of friends, it can be isolating.  It also makes me question whether or not I ought to return to paid work.  I told Chris that with all of the time that I spend volunteering, I might as well go back to work and at least get paid for it!  He laughed and agreed, but also told me that he supported me either way.  I appreciate this, but I’ve had some hard, long looks at our finances and I’m beginning to wonder.  Between the down payment for this house, buying our minivan, and home repairs, we’ve spent a little over $70,000 in cash.  In one year.  Gulp.

We’ve been able to do afford that because of living frugally, something we’ve done for years.  I’ve mentioned before that we’ve always tried to live on 1 income, even when I was making more than Chris.  Doing that enabled us to buy this house, buy the car, etc., but it also wiped out a big chunk of our financial buffer.  Things are getting lean and I’m starting to question myself: would it be more valuable to return to work, or should I remain at home?

I’ve started attending a Bible Study Fellowship class once a week and I loved the speaker’s lecture this past Wednesday.  She reminded us that our primary ministry as a mom is to our children, and to remember that whenever we think about putting more on our plate.  Our first ministry, before any other volunteer or outside commitment, is to our kids.  Do I think that moms who return to work are forsaking that first ministry?  Absolutely not!  But for me, it made me think, “Am I wanting to return to work to satisfy myself, as a means of alleviating fear/concern (rather than relying on God first), or because I feel like I’m not measuring up?  Or am I wanting to return to work because there’s a real need in our household and by going back to work, I am ministering to my children?”

The truth is, I really just don’t know.  So, I’ve been praying about it a lot and asking other people to pray about it, that I would have some discernment in this situation.  Because like I said – I really just don’t know what to do about it.  In the meantime, I’m taking some steps on faith.  I’m continuing with my volunteer commitments.  I’m enrolled in MOPS, in a weekday workout class, in a BSF bible study, and am continuing with Joe’s preschool.  I’m also applying for jobs and seeing what’s out there.  I’m brushing up my resume, contacting references, working on cover letters, and thinking about what it would mean for our family if I work outside the home again.  I’m researching daycare facilities and preschools with extended hours for working parents.  And I’m reminding myself that applying for a job, and even interviewing for a job, doesn’t mean you have to accept that job if it’s not a good fit.  But I’m doing what I can to be prepared for either scenario and praying.  And praying.  And, oh, did I mention praying? 😉

So, there’s my life in a tiny nutshell.  Well, a part of my life in a tiny nutshell.  There’s still a lot of other stuff going on but that’s the main thing on my plate for the moment!

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