So Long Summer!

I basically blinked and found September was almost over. It will be Tyler’s birthday in only 3 days, which typically signals the start of fall for me.

August and September were challenging months personally but also marked with wonderful times.

Family:

Tyler’s father, brother and my future sister-in-law came to visit in August for a beach weekend. It was great to have the time together, although the highlight was watching Haines interact with everyone and learn to love the beach!

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My mom moved to town! Unfortunately she only got to spend one night in her new house before we evacuated for Hurricane Florence but her house is still whole as are all of us. I have never lived in the same town as either of my parents as an adult and I’m excited for this new adventure!

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Step 1: Convince your mom to move to Wilmington. Step 2: Let her spend one night in her home before evacuating. 

Haines:

Baby boy has freaking blossomed over the past month or so. Today we played “night night” for probably 30 minutes. This is a great game where I laid down and got tucked in with a blanket and Elmo over and over again. It wasn’t my idea! I hope we get to play it again.

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Regardless Haines is talking and singing nonstop. He is imitating everything we say and do- a very scary prospect- between total fits of rage. We have entered the time of tantrums, which I am not pumped about but recognize as a necessary evil in his growing up. One day they’ll stop. Just like one day he’ll go to college, right?

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Baby #2:

Baby boy is growing away! I had actually lost a little bit of weight in early September, only to gain 11 pounds in the last two weeks. 11 pounds!!

Apparently we only have 5 weeks left until his arrival (assuming he’s as punctual as his brother) which completely freaks me out but I also spent WAY too long looking at baby Haines photos today which made me very glad we’re doing this again.

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On the flip side, our community of Wilmington, NC is deeply suffering right now from Hurricane Florence. There is so much destruction but our house survived intact, as did my mom’s. We have a lot of yard clean up to do but that is a small price to pay. We are incredibly lucky. Flooding and downed trees have devastated homes and our neighboring communities. It is hard to believe this is our town.

If you are interested in providing support to those in southeastern North Carolina, Nourish NC, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Red Cross are good options.

 

 

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So long spring, hello summer!

I’m sad to say May is gone. It’s an annual tragedy. May begins quietly, sweet with budding flowers and not too hot. The humidity waiting in the wings but not yet present. By Memorial Day June is not just knocking at the door but full force body slamming it. Humidity has taken over. The heat has picked up and I’ve given in and turned on the AC. Damn you southern summer. I am not strong enough to keep the windows open.

May, as always, proved to be the best month of the year so far.

We went to the aquarium not once, but twice! (Thank you year long membership!) We finally checked out the Children’s Museum which proved to be a huge hit (more on that tiny adventure later).

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Tiny crab

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Standard post-aquarium position

The family trekked to Winston to see my mom, a trip that included a lot of nostalgia cleaning out her attic, walks in my favorite places and the best fried chicken.

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I got another year older, which is one of my favorite activities. I’m glad it doesn’t happen more than once a year but I’m very grateful to continue on this journey!

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Our garden is starting to show life. Our yard is in bloom. We’ve already been to the pool twice, which is proving popular with Haines.

My dad came for a visit, a long overdue trip! As he lives overseas, he hadn’t gotten to see Haines since he was still new to the world. Not surprisingly he immediately took to his Granddaddy.

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Haines is talking more and more each day, imitating all the words we say to him. Baby #2 is growing away (as am I) and I’ve started to feel him kick and roll around. The summer is off to an incredible start.

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Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

2018: New Year’s Resolutions

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I know I said I was sticking to a theme for the new year but let’s get real, I have a lot of goals for 2018. I’ve been reading all over the place that I shouldn’t have a lot of unattainable goals. Stick to goals you can truly impact and accomplish. These are a mix of goals I’d define as both stretch and within reach (maybe).

Personal Finances: For 2018 I hope to save $5,000. I had similar goals for 2017 but it turned out to be a much more expensive year than I anticipated. Guess what guys, paying for daycare- pricey. Also, if you’ve never had a baby before you probably don’t know how much babies cost. This is totally fair and I probably should have factored this in to my goals. Once someone told me that babies are cheap when they’re very little. Um… clearly you didn’t pay for formula, daycare or diapers.

And in reality, like most people we’re still learning how to be financially savvy. Tyler calls 2018 “The Year of Smart” and this definitely applies to our money. We want to make smart decisions. That’s pretty much all you can ask for. (Dang, this should really be my goal. But I want to save $5k!)

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Home: In the land of new baby, the first priority to drop is cleaning the house. This creates a constant cycle where we don’t pick up after ourselves and every 2-3 weeks I freak out because I can no longer tolerate the state of our home. Surely, there’s a better way to live.

So this year I just want to do some pretty basic picking up after myself. Tyler and I have starting washing our dishes and fully wiping down the kitchen after each meal. This may seem like adulting 101 but I feel like we’re relearning every aspect of life right now. We’re putting the laundry away the same day it got washed  and cleaning the bathroom on a regular basis.

Basically, it’ll take nothing short of a miracle to maintain this but I’m still holding out hope!

Professional Life: I wear several different hats in my role at work, because it is a role that constantly evolves. This is awesome as it allows me to be challenged but I often feel pulled in several directions and constantly worry about dropping one of the many priorities I am juggling. I think this is a pretty common experience for individuals who have just reached the point in their career where they’re truly challenged.

Now it’s just about being able to balance my priorities, learn some project management skills and advocate for myself. Sometimes you have to say- TOO MUCH! This is a goal I don’t expect to reach, just aim for. I’m growing, y’all.

Mama Life: The number one thing I want to do as a mom is be present. Yes, I want to be present as a friend, a daughter or a wife but being present as a mama is my number one. This is harder than I would have thought. Haines can be…boring. It’s not his fault- he’s a baby! He’s adorable to watch and he just started to ask me to read him books which makes my heart explode but sometimes I’d like to have a conversation that isn’t, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” or “What a big boy you are!”

So being present  is equally about being present when we’re together and taking breaks that allow me to focus on him. This weekend Tyler was off work. We took Haines to a party on Saturday where Tyler was primary baby watcher and Sunday I got to go to a coffee shop for two hours with Better Than Never Blogger, Chrissy. This little moments are what excites me to run back to my baby bubba.

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Haines after a run. 

Health: Almost everyone looks to the new year with a health goal. Tyler has started running which naturally has amped up my own fitness routine. We RAN 3.2 miles on Saturday (with breaks). Although I do have periods where fitness falls down the list of priorities, most of the time I feel pretty good about that area of my life.

Right now, it’s caffeine. Every since this baby entered my life, my soda intake has skyrocketed. I don’t drink coffee so this is my main fuel for life. No matter what I tell myself at the beginning of the week, by Sunday I’ve drank 3-4 Dr. Peppers. Pre-pregnancy I had one a week. I need to get back to that.

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Little Ol’ Me: There’s one last goal I want to keep in motion for 2018. For a long time, this has been in the forefront of my interactions but I’m not yet where I want to be. The goal is simple- communicate honestly, openly and regularly.

Don’t let things build up. Don’t sugarcoat unless absolutely necessary. Give of my authentic self whenever possible.

Goals:

  • Save $5k
  • Clean the house
  • Learn balance at work
  • Be present
  • Drink less soda
  • Communicate regularly and honestly.

When I lay it all out, it seems like a lot. I probably should have stuck with Tiny Adventures. Here we come 2018!!

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Pass the Gratitude

I normally anticipate Thanksgiving with a bit of caution. These last few years it has come with a sudden tsunami size wave of homesickness for Austin. Every year our friends hosted a huge annual Friendsgiving and while many people would drop by before or after (or both) their family celebrations this was always my main event. I haven’t celebrated the holiday with family in so long I only really associate it with friends. It modern times it has become simply a celebration of gratitude…and gluttony. I am so grateful to have found good friends I would venture to call family. Imagine, people who treat you well even though they’re not related to you!

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This year November did not bring homesickness (well, just a twinge maybe). The negative in me attributes this to having been sick all week when I was due to feel the biggest surge of Austin love but it’s obviously little bubba.

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I’m worried about a thousand things…

  • Is Haines choking on a leaf from our floor?
  • How will we have light if he keeps trying to unplug all our appliances?
  • How much longer can I keep him out of the bathroom trash?

…but Thanksgiving hasn’t occurred to me yet. We’re going to a friend’s house where I don’t care what they’re cooking. I’m sure it’s tasty and warm and feels like the holidays. Normally I would spend all day cooking my favorite foods but today I made a dish that I could live without. I feel well for the first time in four days and I spent the day playing with Haines.

Now I’m surrounded by napping boys and a sweet pup. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Also, pretty dang thankful for this guy. 

Schedules, Defining Success and the Internet Doesn’t Always Suck

This past week has been a crazy mess. I had to leave week early twice and work from home once because little HEB couldn’t keep his lunch down and has a double ear infection. Also, teething. Oh, and there was an eclipse. I didn’t really get to watch it because again, teething and ear infection, but I have glasses that prove it happened.

I’m between books right now so I’ve been spending a little more time surfing the web (for like 15 minutes before I fall asleep at 9). I don’t normally post what I’ve been reading but sometimes things come into your life at the right time.

How to Stop New Parent Attrition: I subscribe to a lot of HR sites but rarely read the articles. It’s hard to stop in the middle of the day and read about why everyone hates HR or OFCCP audit assistance. (You’re jealous of my job now, right?) To be honest, I skipped the part of this that offers helpful tips for your business. The author’s description of returning to work just hit me hard. So many working moms describe how difficult it is to go back to work but no one really talks about the insecurities they feel around their performance. Sometimes the internet makes me want to unplug my life and move to the woods, but this gave me just what I needed.

My friend Chrissy recently wrote a blog post about Learning to Live with Intention recently which has been on my mind quite a bit. Specifically, it was her focus on schedules and how structure gives us freedom. I’ve struggled with how pregnancy and parenthood has drastically changed my schedule, but now that our nights are mostly uninterrupted I’m starting to see the beginnings of scheduling time for myself regularly. I don’t want to get my hopes up but the fog seems to be clearing.

One of the key ways I want to free up my schedule is stop wasting so much time on my phone. It’s gotten better little by little but I still find myself on autopilot checking my Instagram or Twitter. I don’t need the news as it comes out. I listen to NPR on my commute and inevitably someone will tell me all the terrible things going on regardless. I don’t need to see it in real time. In this age of anger, it feels as though people are staying on their phones just to keep that level of fury going. Maybe that empowers some, but it disengages me. Just a bunch of things I’ve been doing to be more creative/focused/productive (and to spend less time screaming into the abyss) pretty much summed it up for me.

I spent years discovering the simple tactics gurus like Oprah, Einstein, and Buffett used to become successful—here they are: This is a stupid name for an article. You can feel how quickly it might insult your intelligence if bother to read it. And yet I did. My boss shared it with me knowing me both needed a bit of a pick me up. These tactics are really reminders that the way to success, in whatever way you define it, is about thinking, reading and communicating. It’s not about busting your hump in a dead-end job or even a good job. It’s about the things you care about. I come from the kind of family where you are encouraged to go to college to learn to think, not facilitate a career. This article was a reminder to get back to that attitude. Life is about learning to think, learning to communicate and sharing with those nearest or dearest. How easy it is for us to forget.

 

Saving Money the Hard Way: 6 Things That Are Worth the Extra Cash

I’m notoriously cheap. I will save money wherever possible. My family regularly tries to convince me I’m extreme (which could be accurate). My mother has kicked me out of her dressing room before for scoffing at a price tag. I come by it honestly though! My PopPop signed all his cards from “Cheapo J” which was no exaggeration. At his recent memorial service, someone mentioned how he would take the rubber bands from the newspaper and put them on his wrist to save for later. He would save them until they fell apart. (I’m not nearly this bad. I keep my rubber bands in a drawer.)

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My handsome PopPop!

There are times in your life when the cheapest option is the only option. You just deal with it. You stay in the 16 (or 32) bed dorm when you travel. You eat Oodles of Noodles every night and you sleep on the world’s oldest mattress…possibly on the floor. Then there are times when you get to choose. You choose where to spend and where to save. Sometimes you have a lot of choice and sometimes only a little, but still the choice is yours.

For  my life, saving is key. Having a focus on saving is what allows us to create an emergency fund, pay off our credit card and put a few dollars in to HEB’s college fund every month. Despite that, there are things that are typically worth the extra money.  All of this I’ve learned the hard way:

Flights:

Flights can get expensive fast BUT purchasing the cheapest flight can often mean driving to a bigger airport, leaving or arriving obscenely early or having multiple layovers. It’s not always worth it. I’ve slept in airports, arrived in my destination (or home) at all hours of the night and taken flights with 3 layovers. Sometimes I’ve done this to save just a few dollars. If the difference is the only the price of a dinner out or less, just cheapen up somewhere else. It’s not worth it on travel.

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I’ve slept in many dorms and airports with my ultimate travel companion, Anita. 

Clothing:

I am not in favor of purchasing name brand or designer clothes. I don’t see the point, but then again it’s not my thing. It is; however, worth it to buy clothes that will last. Time and time again I’ve skimped on clothes just to have the hem immediately unravel, the cloth start to pill, or a hole develop. I always mend what I can but I will also either continue to wear it way past appropriate or put it away without replacing it. I can’t buy it again! (Also, I rarely return anything but that’s just a personal flaw I’m working on.) Now, I’m trying to focus on buying higher quality clothing during sales or at outlets so I can get more bang for my buck. I have unreasonable expectations on the number of years clothes should last which means I have to invest!

Dining Out:

I love eating but often times when I go out to eat I start to nickel and dime things. $2 extra for shrimp? Nope. $1 more for the wine I want? Nope. This is often the biggest problem when I travel. The airport isn’t a great place to find good eats but you can feel satisfied (most of the time) if you spend an extra few bucks. Since everything is ridiculously priced, this like physically hurts me. Regardless I always regret buying the crappy sandwich instead of a decent salad or whatnot. I end up pissed off and still hungry. Just pay up!

Pet Care:

There are several times we’ve had to reevaluate being cheap on dog costs. The cheap dog food gave her the itchies. The cheap flea collar gave her… fleas! Deciding not to do dog training classes made me want to lose my mind. In the end we bought better dog food, bought new flea medicine and invested in dog training. All good decisions. Never again will we go the cheap route on these (just kidding, I learn these lessons over and over again).

Home & Garden:

Our somewhat trained dog is a digger. She digs holes in various shady areas to take cool, dirt naps. Then sometimes she also digs in nice soft dirt to bathe in the sunlight. You know where there is nice, soft dirt? My garden’s raised beds. Quickly we determined our garden needed a fence. Despite knowing that Clara is really good at getting into everything we put a welded wire fence with rebar “fence posts”. We used bungee-cords to close our garden fence which Clara has gotten through time and time again. I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson but we still haven’t fixed it.

I also refuse to let Tyler buy a weed whacker so there’s 3-foot grass surrounding my beds. It makes me not want to go into the garden and weed. Will I never learn?

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Before the weeds took over. 

Budgeting Help:

I’ve tried to manage our budget a couple ways. The simplest is using Excel spreadsheets. Tyler and I kept all receipts for several months and once a week I entered them manually. It was hard to keep up with and I ended up dreading money management time. I also used Mint for a while but it wasn’t user friendly. It always read my purchases incorrectly and put them into the wrong categories. I also had trouble figuring out my budget history. Better Than Never blogger Chrissy talked me into trying YNAB, even though it isn’t free, and I’ve been using it for over a year now. I feel like I have more control over my spending and that I know what’s going on without a pocketbook full of paper receipts. It’s worth doing their 34 day free trial. Use my referral link to give us both a free month!

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Sometimes it takes money to save money!

Some things are just worth the extra money, when and if you can. Good food and good booze are hard to give up so my spending is always high in both of those arenas. WE primarily eat at home which helps balance that out. Location is also key so I’ve always been willing to spend more and/or live with less to live where I want. In Austin my apartments were older but never farther than 5 miles from work. Who needs fancy appliances? For a year I lived within walking distance. This is perfection in my eyes. Forget driving. Screw bike riding. Walking for your commute is by far the most cathartic. Road rage be gone! In Wilmington I maintained the same rule. I wanted to live within bike riding distance from work. Of course, now that we have a baby we don’t ride to work. (Bicycle, I miss you so.)

One day I’ll learn to invest where it’s worth it without wasting money on cheap options ahead of time…