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 :-)

**********

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!

Post to Twitter

“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 :-)

2014-11-14 13.40.21

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.

2014-11-14 13.42.10

2014-11-14 13.42.31

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.

Post to Twitter

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.

Post to Twitter

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.

Post to Twitter

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!

Post to Twitter

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.

2014-10-08 09.59.20-2

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.

2014-10-08 10.00.00-2

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.

2014-10-08 10.17.07

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!

2014-10-08 10.45.23-1

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 :-)

Post to Twitter

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 :-)

Post to Twitter

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).

2014-09-28 10.26.10

Post to Twitter

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!

Post to Twitter

An Overabundance of Energy!

Today was Joe’s second day of preschool and, since I was feeling pretty sick on his first day, it was almost like my “first day” of having a child in preschool.  And you know something?  It’s nice.  Not gonna lie!

Joe is full of energy.  He is busy, inquisitive, a talker, a question-asker, and non-stop.  When we went to the preschool open-house and they had their first “circle time”, Joe was the one child with ants in his pants.  I quietly and secretly smiled about this, because it was almost like a vindication.  Yes!  Joe is a busy kid!  When I felt overwhelmed at times and like maybe I wasn’t keeping up with him enough, like maybe I wasn’t a good mother for feeling a bit tired from all of his chatter, it was because I assumed that all kids his age were like this.  Nope.  Out of the 14 there in the circle, only one little guy was acting like he was seated on hot coals, getting up and pulling stuff out of bins, interrupting the teacher (“We had birthday cake today!” – not true, but he just had to add something to the conversation), and looking around him to see what was up.

2014-04-05 10.05.05-2

Burning energy at the Children’s Museum of Richmond

There are times when I feel a little overwhelmed by how active Joe is, but almost every time I’ve felt that way I immediately call to mind the families who have children that can’t run, whether it’s for health reasons or a death or something they were born with.  I’m so thankful that my son is healthy and that we aren’t facing a struggle like that at this point in our lives.  I love Joe’s energy, and I know that it’s going to be something that will drive him to success throughout his life. I have strong suspicions that it may also be something that proves a challenge, but we’ll face it like we do any challenge in life.  I’m so glad that he’s able to expend some of his energy in class and that he’s around other kiddos his age.  I’m also looking forward to getting some insight from the teacher and attending a few of the parenting classes that the school offers.  Maybe they can tell me how to re-direct some of that intensity that flows through him in a way that doesn’t drive me bonkers, ha ha!  I’m thinking Joe may have to start soccer here pretty soon just so he can RUN.

But today, well, today I just enjoyed being a parent-of-one for a few hours.  Jack is a quieter guy than Joe.  He’s still busy, but not quite to the same level as his big brother and I love his more studied approach to exploring and learning about the world.

**********

What about you?  Anything that you noticed or learned about your child once they started formal schooling?

Post to Twitter

First Days

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated the old blog.  Those weeks have been full of activity – trips to Philadelphia, Joe starting school, William & Mary starting back up again – and illness, too, unfortunately.  All 4 of us have been hit by a GI bug, one by one.  First Chris, then Joe, then Jack, and finally me with a swing back to Jack again :-(  Not fun!

Hopefully we are all over it by now and can settle into the start of Fall here in the USA.  Joe absolutely loves his school.  When we dropped him off, he was almost too absorbed in playing to say good-bye!  And when I picked him up, he burst into tears over not wanting to leave.  I’ll take that as a good sign.

2014-09-09 07.29.42-1

I was feeling pretty ill the day that this photo was taken, but I was bound and determined to get that “first day of school” picture.  I was supposed to attend our first MOPS meeting as well but ended up having to bow out.  I didn’t think people wanted me to spread my germs.  I dropped off the banana bread that I’d made for the social portion of MOPS, then dropped off Joe.  I returned to pick him up a few hours later and, alas, managed to lock my keys in the car!

Thankfully I didn’t lock Jack in the car, too, but it wasn’t my most favorite moment.  I was already feeling queasy and it wasn’t till after I’d returned to the car with a crying, sand-covered Joe (he had been playing on the playground) that I realized my mistake.  Thankfully, a friend’s husband was there and was able to give us a ride home.  We don’t live too far from the school, so it was a short trip.

I’m doing “Body and Soul” again this Fall, though instead of working out 3 days a week, I’ve cut back to 1 day.  A big change, but necessary.  I’m also hoping to attend Bible Study Fellowship this year, which meets on Wednesdays.  I figured that doing Body and Soul on Monday mornings, preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (which has a parent-volunteer requirement that averages to about 1 x month in the classroom), MOPS on Tuesday mornings, and BSF on Wednesday mornings, that I needed to leave at least 1 day open.  So, Fridays are that day and instead of working out at Body and Soul, I’ve re-started working out at the campus gym in the early morning hours before the rest of the family wakes up.  I’m not a morning person and I’ve never enjoyed exercising before the crack of dawn, but it’s the only time that I can fit it in.  Besides, it gives me a chance to see the sun rise :-)

I hope that all of you are enjoying the start of September!

Post to Twitter

Farm Fresh “Back-to-School Challenge” Food Drive + Gift Card Giveaway

One of our favorite Williamsburg grocery stores is Farm FreshFarm Fresh consistently offers quality products at prices within our family’s budget, and we shop there nearly every week.  As a result, I was so excited to hear about their food drive in support of local food banks and thrilled that they ask me to share more about it.

image credit

From now through September, all Virginia and North Carolina Farm Fresh stores will be running the “Back-to-School Challenge”.  Summer is a historically meager time for food bank donations while simultaneously being a high-demand season for those in need.  The “Back-to-School” challenge is a direct response to this and will help increase local food bank provisions.  The challenge gives Farm Fresh shoppers the opportunity to donate a grocery bag stocked with items from the “10 greatest needs” list to local food banks, and all for only $5 at the checkout register.  By donating, you’ll help food banks bulk up their supplies for local families.

In an effort to increase awareness for the challenge, Farm Fresh has provided me with five $10 store gift cards to give away to some of my lovely readers*.  To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below.  Please note that this giveaway is open only to residents of Virginia and North Carolina.  Winners will be contacted via email and the gift card will be sent to the winner’s mailing address.

Win or lose, I hope that you strongly consider visiting your local Farm Fresh to donate to the “Back-to-School Challenge”.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*I was not compensated in any way for this blog post.

Post to Twitter

After all.

I’ve been hearing this song several times a week for the last 6 weeks.  It’s part of the cool-down routine at my Body + Soul workout classes (love these – click the link to find out if there’s one near you!), and I wanted to share it with you.  I love the lyrics and love the reminder of God’s constant presence in our lives, even when we can’t see Him.  This move back to the States has been hard for me and there have been moments when I felt like God was 1,000 miles away, if He was even there at all.  Hearing these lyrics week after week has gently, but firmly, pushed me to remember that even in darkness or when it seems that God is silent, that “at every step, every breath” He is there, “in my hurt, at my worst”.  After all.

Post to Twitter

Little Projects

I finished a few little projects this weekend and wanted to share them with you, my lovely readers.

Weekend Project #1: Painting and installing an above-the-commode cabinet in hallway bath

2014-07-29 13.06.36

I found the cabinet at World Market the weekend before.  It was originally a dark brown with “whitewash” splotches.  In other words, it was a new cabinet trying to look old.  I didn’t care for the paint, but I did like the cabinet itself.  I bought it, took it apart, sanded it, primed it, and painted it yellow to match a small slate wall-hanging that I have in this bathroom.  I took off it’s dingy wooden knob and replaced it with one of the original bathroom cabinet knobs (which I’d recently replaced with new glass knobs).  I’d kept the old knobs to give to ReStore or turn into a coat rack or some other such thing.  When I bought the cabinet, I thought it was fitting to use one of the original pieces of bathroom hardware for the new cabinet.

Before this, there was nothing above the toilet.  Just a blank, white wall.  I wasn’t sure about a yellow cabinet in a blue bathroom, but it works.  It matches the slate wall-hanging (something I’ve had since Chris and I were married) and it matches the other picture hanging in there, the one that I bought on our honeymoon in Spain.  And it had an unexpected bonus: it helped me finally decide on a color for the bathroom vanity.  I’ve been trying in vain to find a shade of blue that would work with both the wall and floor tiles, but nothing did the trick.  Seeing this yellow, however, made me settle on painting the vanity yellow, too.  I know it sounds a bit weird – yellow in a blue-tile bathroom – but I think it will work, especially if I add in some fluffy yellow towels to match.  I’ll take a photo of the finished project whenever I get around to painting in there again.

Weekend project #2: Painting trim and hanging shades in dining room windows

This photo is terrible, but hopefully it’ll give you an idea of what the windows look like now.  The trim has been painted with 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Super White, and I’ve installed the new shades.

2014-07-29 12.52.14

This lighting in this picture is awful, very dim and dark.  Then again, this room is dim, so maybe it’s more accurate than I’d like to think.  But the paint is definitely, definitely not this orange.  Oh well, moving on.

The roller shades are installed. They’re more sheer than I thought they’d be, but perhaps that’s best given how dark this room can feel. From the dining room, you look out onto our deck and the back yard ravine (or wooded slope, whatever you want to call it) so privacy isn’t a concern.  Wouldn’t want these shades for a bedroom, though!  I still need something “else” for these windows, but what?  A single valance?  Curtains?  I don’t like the idea of curtains right now because Jack is a food-flingin’ fool at the table.  I’ve already had to wipe down the new paint job to clean up after him, and I don’t want to get panel curtains only to have to wash them each week.  So, I’m leaning toward a simple valance for the moment, something to cover up the tops of the shades.

Weekend project #3: finally cleaning up Joe’s 2-step shelf.

2014-07-29 13.04.11

This little thing was a side-of-the-road freebie that I picked up on W&M’s campus. It was banged up and beat-up and, to be honest, still looks kind of rough.  But it was free, and all it took was some sandpaper, primer, and leftover blue paint to freshen it up.  Joe loves this step stool and carries it into the kitchen whenever he wants to assist me in my cooking or baking.  Another bonus: one less item in the landfill!

Speaking of freshening stuff up, here’s a photo of the storage bench that I got at the ReStore a few weeks ago.  It was $42.50 and when I saw it, I knew it would be great in the toy room.  I went out the next day to buy some MDF board, high-density foam, and used some outdoor fabric to make a cushion.  Here’s the end result.

2014-07-29 13.05.05

OK, it still needs some TLC.  I also realized that I don’t care for the fabric color – you can’t tell in the photo, but it’s actually more “seagreen” than “blue” and doesn’t work with the blue-gray walls.  Also, I want to paint the wood but haven’t settled on a color.  Not white.  There’s too much white in that room.  White trim, white baseboards, white crown molding.  Maybe a darker version of the blue gray with a different fabric on the cushion, but this will do for now.  Or maybe I’ll find a fabric that works and paint it a totally different color, something that ties the room and the fabric together.  Who knows.  I love that it provides even more storage for the toys that seem to overrun this room, as well as some much-needed seating.

Other weekend projects were less about home DIY and more about homemaker stuff!  I made some banana bread for the freezer along with banana bread mini muffins for snacks.  I also put together over 6 dozen meatballs, also for the freezer.  Oh, and hung out with these 3 goofballs.

2014-07-28 18.00.55-1

Definitely a full but fun weekend :-)

Post to Twitter

Clotheslined, but in a good way

I think my clothesline is amazing.  Yes, that probably sounds silly, but I do.  In the photo below, it’s holding 2 “super plus” sizes of laundry (per my washing machine’s measurements) as well as a day’s worth of Jack’s cloth diapers.

2014-07-28 12.26.20

Another way of looking at it: I hadn’t washed any clothing since Friday, and this was taken on Monday.With 2 little boys, a husband who generally speaking does 2 outfit changes a day, plus me with all of my painting clothes… that’s a lotta laundry.  This clothesline is big enough that I can hang our king-size bedsheets on it (you have to fold the top sheet in half, but it still dries without any trouble) + a load of laundry.

2014-07-28 12.27.25

I got so used to hanging clothes to dry whilst living in NZ that when we moved back to the USA, it was only natural to keep up the habit.  My mom also hung out laundry as often as she could (and that was for 10 children) so I wanted to continue the tradition.  And of course there’s the benefits: energy saving, money saving, environmentally friendly, and so on and so forth.

I keep the clothesline outdoors all summer and haven’t seen any rust (and I’ve been using it since last summer).  It folds flat so that, in winter, I can lean it against the screen porch wall (or slide it under a bed, tuck it in between the wall and washer, etc.).  I have the large model, and I’m glad that I spent the extra $$$ for it.

The key thing to maximizing the clothesline is to use hangers.  I make the most of every inch of this line by using kid’s hangers, adult hangers, and pants hangers.  I hang kiddie clothes on the lower bar between the legs (or in other words, the middle line in a capital “A”) and hang other stuff on the end bars in between the cables.

It costs more than your run-of-the-mill clothes rack, but worth it.  I’m sure that it’s paid for itself in terms of lower energy bills.  If you live in a place where you need to hang clothes to dry inside or if you love to hang out your clothes or if you can’t find the space for a traditional clothes line, then this is the one for you.  Way, way better than anything I’ve used before.

I bought mine from the US website, but the company, Mrs. Pegg’s Handy Line, also has an AU and an NZ site.  Only thing is that when I checked the US and NZ sites today, they weren’t loading.  Hmm.  Hopefully the still ship here and to NZ!  If you want to order one and can’t get the site to load, then I’d email them from the AU site to ask what’s up, because it’s that good.  They’ve also got a Facebook fan page (and yes, I am a fan).

I realize that it’s just a clothesline, but when we lived overseas I felt like I was always waiting on clothes to dry or trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of my small clothes racks, and I really wish I’d had something like this.  Love it!

Post to Twitter

Phase Two Window Treatments

Now that the toy room/den is mostly complete, I’m moving onto the dining room.  I primed the walls and trim yesterday and have my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to apply the first coats of paint tomorrow.

But before doing anything, there was first the issue of the old curtains hanging in there.

Now, I’ve learned the value of making-over old things so that they can be used like new.  These curtains had their place in our home… and now they have their place in our garbage.

I was grateful for the fact that the house came with the window treatments.  For starters, it meant that I wasn’t hanging bed sheets over the windows on the first night of our arrival.  For seconds, it meant that we could live in the house for awhile and get used to it, figuring out over time what kind of shades/blinds/curtains we wanted to put up.  But over time, all of the former window treatments have come down, one by one.  The only treatments remaining are the curtains hanging over the massive 5 panel picture window in the front.  They’re still up, but not for long.

I’m still not ready to plunk down money for custom window treatments.  Everything that I’ve bought thus far has been “off the rack”, usually from Overstock.com.  No different with the dining room.  I’m continuing on with “phase two” options, and because I’ve spent a lot of money on paint, roof repair, an electrician, and hardware this month, I went for something quite basic: roller shades.

Cordless, naturally.  Safety first!  I opted against the uber-economical shades (because they had cords) and got the next most economical option, which was cordless.  Factoring in their prices with the whopping $0.80 remaining in my rewards balance for Overstock.com + a slightly more hefty 15% off discount code, and I ended up buying both blinds for $80 (and that included shipping).  So roughly $40 apiece.

Contrast the price of these to a couple of hundred dollars on custom window treatments, or $200 each for the tension Roman blinds that I liked from Pottery Barn.  My heart constricts just thinking about the first time Joe would get into his head to use them as a modified bungee rope or swing.  A fast $200 down the drain!  Thanks, Pottery Barn, but no thanks.

Added bonus: when (not if) Jack flings food from his highchair tray and some lands on my phase two shades, I can just wipe them down and not be too bothered.  I’ll probably get a valance of some sort to go up top (again as a phase two interim thing) but hopefully they’ll do the job until I can save up/figure out what I want to go there permanently!

Now, I just have to finish painting :-/

Post to Twitter

Broken Bone and a Trip to Urgent Care

Poor Joe.

This past weekend, he learned the hard way that gravity works :-/

Joe was riding his bicycle – a favorite gift of his from the grandparents – with his daddy running/walking close behind.  As Joe put it, his feet stopped but the bicycle didn’t, and the end result was him and the bike landing in a heap on the side of the road.  Apparently, it landed in just the wrong way and fractured his elbow.

You don’t always know right off the bat if your kids are hurt, or if they’re really hurt.  I examined his arm but didn’t see any broken skin, no dislocation, no swelling.  He was pretty teary but, then again, it was late afternoon and he’s been skipping his naps.  I figured he was probably already tired and the bike accident was making him even more tearful.

After 30 minutes had gone by and he was still fussing, I decided to try some Tylenol.  He fell asleep within 15 minutes, which was a bit weird but not entirely unexpected.  He was probably tired.  But after another 15 minutes I decided to wake him up, see how his arm felt, and that’s when we noticed the giant lump.

“That doesn’t look good,” said Chris.

Nope, it didn’t look good at all.  I felt around, asked Joe to try to extend his arm, but all he did was cry whenever I touched it.  Definitely not his normal response to an injury.  In the past, anytime he’s hurt himself he brushes it off within a few minutes.  The swelling + guarding + tears made me decide to bring him into urgent care.  I wanted an x-ray.

We got to urgent care, where Joe and I waited in the waiting room for an hour and a half.  Another sign that something was off: Joe sat in my lap the entire time, content to listen to me tell stories or look at “Reader’s Digest”.  Odd, indeed!  Each time I shifted, he would cry out, “You moved it!” and start to whimper.

They called us back.  The nurse listened to what happened and said, “Tsk, it’s probably not broken.”  The PA came in and told me that it most likely wasn’t broken.  The doctor came in and said, “He fell?  It’s swollen? We need to do an x-ray.”

Thank you.

I could tell that the nurse and the PA didn’t want an X-ray, but I let them know that I felt one was required.  When the doctor came in and agreed with me, I felt a boost of confidence.  Like I could agree with my inner voice and say, “See – we’re not the only one who thinks this is abnormal!”  I knew that Joe was hurt more than a bad sprain or bump.  My 3 year old does not sit perfectly still for an hour and a half, then cry each time I brush against his arm.

It was broken, he got a temporary cast + sling, and we’re going to see the pediatric ortho doctor today.  Joe has been bearing it all as well as a tired 3 year old can, especially a tired 3 year old who’s only pain management is ice, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen.  I stopped to get him a chocolate milkshake on the way home and that seemed to do almost as much good as the Tylenol :-)

Hopefully the news from the ortho doc will be good.  I’m praying for (a) a simple, easy prognosis and (b) a short healing time with minimal pain.  Apparently, this type of fracture accounts for 60% of all fractures in children under the age of 10, and most often occurs when they outstretch their arm to brace themselves from a fall.  Definitely fits the bill for Joe’s accident.  I’m thankful that it’s a non-displaced fracture (i.e., the bones are basically in alignment, there’s no chipped bone, etc.) and that we were able to get it diagnosed so quickly.  I’m also glad that I didn’t second guess myself and went straight into urgent care.  A good reminder that, even if you think it might be “nothing”, if there’s something in your gut that tells you it could be “something”, then get it checked out.

Post to Twitter

Jam Ma’am

I’ve gotten into a jam-making, water-bath canning, blueberry and strawberry and blackberry craze.

2014-07-12 13.07.37

I grew up with a great big garden in our backyard.  I will be honest with you – gardening and yard work are not my first loves.  However, I grew (ha ha, “grew”, get it? bad pun, I know) to appreciate it and hoped that someday I would have a garden of my own.  Fast forward to our new house in Williamsburg.  We live in a neighborhood that is OVERRUN with deer and rabbits.  The deer meander down the street like they own the place, for cryin’ out loud.  The researchers at William & Mary are all in a tizzy over native plant and bird life being driven out of the area because of too many deer.  People walk down the trails and have deer run into them.  Growing a garden in this part of the world, especially in our neighborhood full of large, beautiful, shade-providing trees?  Not going to happen.

So, my gardening dreams suffered a small setback, but I got over it.  Instead of me planting the seeds and toiling between the rows of tomatoes and berries, I let someone else do the work.  Then, I go pick the berries myself (and by “pick”, I either mean I literally pick them off the bushes or I pick some up from the store, ha ha!).  I picked 12 pounds of blueberries (with some help from Chris and Joe) and then picked up 4 pints of strawberries at the local Fresh Market.  I made 32 jars of blueberry jam and I’m still not done with the strawberries.

Are we going to eat 32 jars of blueberry jam?  No, not likely.  At least not this year.  The majority of those jars are the small gift-giving variety.  I can recall my mom handing out jars of jam at church around Christmastime.  They’re perfect little gifts for pre-school teachers, the neighbors on your street, your husband’s work colleagues (or your work colleagues!), friends, and family.  Just cut out some pretty Christmas fabric to put over the tops, tie a red ribbon around them, et voila!  A gift of summer that’s gluten free, egg free, soy free, dairy free, and so on and so forth.

I was intimidated by the thought of making jam at first.  Thoughts of botulism and everyone we gave them to coming down with food poisoning would fill my mind, but it’s surprisingly easy.  I bought the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Blue Book Guide to Preserving from Amazon, got a large water bath pot + rack at our ACE Hardware Store (side note: I looked in our local Target and Walmart and neither had one, though Target did have a “kit” that cost over $80 that included one).  I also bought some jars, lids, rings, and pectin.  My mom had given me a jar lifter and I bought a wide-mouth funnel, a foley food mill to crush/smash the berries, and a magnetic lid wand (this one really isn’t necessary, but it is so handy and for only $2.00, I recommend it).  So yes, there is some financial investment but when you add it all up and divide it amongst the many jars of jam you make, you still come out saving money, especially if you do it year after year.

The jam turned out perfectly.  A little hint that I learned from my mom: add a dab of butter at the beginning of the jam-making process to cut down on foam (if you make jam, you’ll know what I’m talking about).  Chris tasted all of the varieties that I’ve made thus far and given them a thumbs up.  A neighbor has already eaten a jar or the blueberry jam and didn’t die of food poisoning, so that’s certainly a good sign.  Chris even told me that he’s never cared for strawberry jam, but he’s only ever had store-bought.  When he tried my homemade variety, he said that it tastes so good that it makes you wonder what’s in the stuff at the store.  Again, a good sign :-)

I’ve already shoved some of the small jars to the back of the cabinet to keep for Christmas/teacher appreciation gifts.  Joe will start preschool this year, and there’s also the nursery staff at MOPS who will take care of Jack every other week.  And if you’re a family member and reading this, odds are that you’ll get to sample some of it, too!

Post to Twitter

This entry was posted in Food and tagged .

Leaky Roof Update and the Benefits of Lists

This morning dawned bright and beautiful without any rain clouds in sight.  I know that the farmers need the rain and I’m very glad we’ve gotten some, but I was hoping for a dry day today so that the roof leak could be repaired.  Prayers answered.

The roof repairman arrived on time (hooray!) and surveyed the damage.  The good news is that our roof is in great shape.  The bad news is that the skylight had developed a leak.  I was worried about that.  Skylights are nice, but they eventually leak no matter what you do and we have two of them.  The “repair” that was done pre-purchase of the home wasn’t done correctly.  Whoever fixed it basically climbed up there with a caulk gun and put a bead of caulk around the edge.  They might as well have stuck a bunch of chewed-up bubble gum in there.  Not only was it the incorrect type of caulk, but it wasn’t applied correctly.  You need to use a trowel and spread the caulk out in all directions, both onto the roof and onto the glass.  Simply plugging in the leak will delay the need for a full repair, but it’s nothing more than a cheap, quick fix.  In other words, nothing more than the bare minimum to hold over for a couple of months.

No surprise here, but the warranty company excludes skylights.  What a shocker!  Oh well, moving on.

I’ve made up a list of 10 tasks for our home DIY updates and put them in a semi-prioritized order.  Lists help me stay on track and know where to go from there.  I’m limiting it to 10 because if I put up any more than that at this moment, then it will overwhelm me!

1. Finish the laundry room side of trim around play room door.

2. Finish baseboards in play room.

3. Finish crown molding in play room.

4. Remove broken guest room ceiling light.

5. Install dry wall patch around light opening and install ceiling fan.

6. Paint guest room walls.

7. Paint guest room baseboards and trim.

8. Replace guest room closet doors.

9. Paint interior of above-the-commode cabinet that I purchased at World Market (naturally I see it, think “Yes, that’s perfect – I just need to change almost everything about it.” and take it home to add to my work load).

10. Find an above-the-sink mirror for the hall bathroom.

So there you have it.  Ten items that I would like to cross off by the end of August.  Anyone who wants to fly out to Williamsburg and help me is more than welcome (though you’ll have to stay in a guest room with a broken ceiling light!).

 

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Post to Twitter