Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Highlights of 2013

When I woke up this morning, it hit me just how awesome 2013 has been for our family. We have had so many amazing people enter our lives, created wonderful memories, met tremendous goals, and have overcome huge changes. All of these experiences have made 2013 a fantastic year! To celebrate, and take a trip down memory lane, I made a list of the top 25 things that happened over the past year.
Nolan's Birthday

1. First and foremost, our Teddy Bear was born!
2. We paid off a car and part of a student loan.
3. I passed my Reading Endorsement test.
4. I was the Matron of Honor in Staci's wedding.
5. I was asked to be the Matron of Honor for a childhood friend-Emily.
6. I ran my first 10k and 5k.
7. We had our first Big Brother Date night.
8. Emily came to visit.
9. We went on our first vacation as a whole family: Cannon Beach.
10. We sold our house.
Our last photo in our old house
Rum Run 2013-1st 10k

Visit w/Emily

11. Desi and Mikey got engaged! Welcome to the family Mikey!
12. I realized a new career goal, and took steps to reach it.
13. Walking/running/raising money for several worthy charities.
14. Liam started preschool.
15. Having months of memories with Joe's Grandma Ida, before her passing.
16. Completed the Color Run with my sisters and mama.
17. Seeing a love of reading develop in our boys.
Cannon Beach Trip
Big Brother Date Night
Color Run 2013
18. Threw a fantastic surprise party for  Joe's 30th birthday.
19. Watching Liam run/complete his first race.
20. Celebrating the holidays with family that we don't get to see often enough.
21. Joe got a raise and recognition for his hard work.
22. Liam's first Christmas program.
23. Reaching our down payment goal, and beginning the search for our forever home.
24. Enjoying rare snuggles and open-mouth kisses with Nolan Theodore.
25. Sharing experiences with all of our amazing family and friends!!
First day of Preschool

Here's to an awesome 2013, and an even better 2014!
March for Babies 2013
Preschool Christmas Party 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dreaming of a Kid Christmas

Remember the days when Christmas was nothing but presents, family, parties, and sleigh bells? I do. Vividly. This year, I realized just how different the holiday season is for adults. Although I still absolutely love this season, it's just not the same. Some parts are even better: like seeing our boys get excited about every little thing that the season has to offer. But other parts are so very different. This is the first time in my life, that I'm not particularly excited about Christmas day. I am for the boys, but not personally excited.

Since Liam was born, Joe and I have made every Christmas about him. The focus of the holiday has changed from gifts and parties, to visits with Santa, letter writing, baking, and decorating as a family. These are the new parts that I adore. This is Nolan's first Christmas, and I was raring to go, to make this year as special for him, as it has been for his brother. Then life happened.

We are still working to make this the best Christmas we can. We are trying to keep our stress under-wraps, so that the boys will have similar memories to mine. I don't know how my parents pulled it off every year. Making us think that everything came together perfectly without effort or frustration, and filling our home with the Christmas spirit, even when I'm sure there were moments of craziness. Joe and I are trying.

Hopefully, a magical Christmas memory
In the past few days things have gone off the deep end. We finished all of our shopping early, and had all the supplies needed for the gifts we would be making, but actually making the gifts, and wrapping other packages has proven to be much more work than we seem to have the energy for. It didn't help that we put everything off until Friday. Now we are overwhelmed. Saturday, things got more complicated, when Joe noticed a huge gash on one of our cat's back. When he rushed her to the emergency vet, they said that she was dehydrated, her levels were far from normal, and that the gash would require surgery. Awesome!

He picked her up from the emergency vet late last night, then took her to our regular vet today, who told us that there isn't enough skin left to surgically repair the gash, so we have to let it heal naturally. Not a horrible thing, except she has to stay away from kids and other pets, and be calm for 2-3 weeks for it to heal correctly. Double awesome! I'm not even going to get into the amount of money we had to shell out (of course, well worth it).......perfect timing.

On top of our cat-astrophy, the stress of scheduling Christmas with three families, while trying to keep Christmas day low-key for the boys, wrapping, baking, cleaning, shopping (the usual holiday chores), Liam is now sick. He has been coughing non-stop since yesterday afternoon. All he wants to do is lay around and snuggle, and for anyone who knows him, they know that's not abnormal. I hope that Liam and Nolan don't see our frustration; I hope that they will remember a magical Christmas full of love and fun. I hope that we are as good at shielding them from our adult-issues, as my parents were for me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A November of Blessings

Every November, people on Facebook and Twitter post what they are thankful for daily. Although I love the thought that goes into these posts, and the fact that it reminds the writer of how wonderful their life truly is, I find it a bit.....ah.......redundant. So, I have decided that, to get the same reflection and reminders, I will do this on my blog instead of making people read what I am thankful for each and every day. Instead, each day of the month, I'll take a quick second to add to this post, then I will post the whole list, just once. I hope I remember!

Day 1: I am thankful for my amazingly sweet, smart, adorable, hilarious, baby boys. They have created my most cherished of memories, make each day, the best of my life (so far), and make my future something to strive and look to with great excitement. I have always been driven, but they give me even more motivation to be and do everything I can to make my life, and theirs, as wonderful as possible. I love them more than anything!

Day 2: I am thankful for the wonderful friends we have gained throughout the years. Everyone says, "It's better to have a few great friends, than many." As I have gotten older, I have realized that it is actually better to have many people to lean on and share memories with. Since my boys entered my life, I have gained many amazing friends, who love and support me and my family. Without them, I would lose my mind!

Day 3: I am grateful for my ability to be home with my boys, as well as continue to nurture my passion for educating young minds. I love that I have never felt like I have to choose between the two, letting my lifelong dreams go when my boys entered my life, or feel as though I was leaving my children to be parented by others. I get the best of both worlds, and for that I will always be thankful.

Day 4: My husband. He has, not only, been my best friend for 13 years, my husband for 7, and the father of my two babies, but he has always done an amazing job of supporting me. He bends over backwards to help me reach my goals, he runs himself ragged trying to make the most of our situation, squeezing every drop out of his and my paychecks to help us reach our goals. And even though, as we get older, our views on some topics no longer are in line with one another, we still know how to see eye-to-eye when it comes to our kids, our goals, and our future. I love you Loaf of Bread Head!

Day 5: Today, I am VERY thankful for my career, and the amazing people that I teach alongside. Sometimes it's hard to be thankful for the extra work and stress that comes with my job, but today, I was reminded (as I am periodically), that what I do everyday is worth the time, stress, and effort. One of the best parts of my career path, is the little reminders that pop up now and then. I was in serious need of one, and I got it!

Day 6: My mom. I can call her for any reason, at any time, day or night. She has always supported me and my boys. I love you Mom!

Day 7: On the same note, my Dad. He has taught me to be responsible, money-smart, forgiving, driven, and happy with what I have, when I have it. I love you Dad!

Day 8: Second chances. Everyone deserves them, if they put the effort into earning them. I'm so appreciative that I have received them, and that I am in a position to give them.

Day 9: Lazy days. Our family tends to have a very busy schedule. Most of the time, we love it. We fill our days with love, friends, family, memories, and experiences. However, today is one of those rare days, where we get to sleep in, snuggle on the couch, enjoy our morning cup of joe, watch a movie as a family, and play together. It sure is nice, once and in awhile.

Day 10: I am thankful that we are able to fill our home with things passed down from the family that we love and have lost. Our living room is now home to a chair from my Grandma Darlene and Grandpa Bill (with another to be upholstered in our garage) and a table from Joe's Great Grandma, in our dinning room sits a table from Joe's Grandma Ida, and in our garage are several items from Joe's Grandpa Ted that bring back wonderful childhood memories. We are so lucky to have these wonderful items to remember them by.

Day 11: On Veteran's Day, I'm thankful for veterans. Specifically, my Grandpa Vince and Joe's Grandpa Ted (both of our boys received their middle names from these wonderful men). They fought for our country in WWII, on either end of the battle. My Grandpa in Normandy and other European countries, Joe's Grandpa in Japan. Both came home, but were never the same. Their families saw first hand, how war can affect someone, even if they are not killed in battle. Today, I am thankful for men and women who fight for our country, and come home, never to be the same. These are heroes that tend to be overlooked, because people believe that they did not give the "ultimate sacrifice". To these people I say, of course they did!

Day 12: I'm thankful for Assessment days. They give me a chance to catch up on all the little things that get forgotten while teaching 99 kiddos. On the other hand, I loath the day after assessment days......grading 99 assessments. Arg!

Day 13: Preschool Art Projects. Every week or two, Liam brings home a stack of adorable, educational art projects that he creates while at school. I love to see what it is he does all day, and I love seeing/hearing his excitement, as he shows me his creations and explains what each squiggly line and every paint blotch represents. Not to mention, the feet and feet of blank wall space that these projects will fill.

Day 14: I'm thankful for wine. That is all.

Day 15: Apologies. Without them, hurt feelings would last forever, and wonderful relationships would crash and burn.

Day 16: Having ten amazing months (so far) with our little Teddy Bear. Time is going so fast, and right now, I'm thankful that he isn't a year old yet. I can still call him my baby, and have it be true. Happy 10 month B-day baby boy!

Day 17:  I know that I have already said that I'm thankful for my hubby, but I'll be more specific. Today I'm thankful that he not only deals with my horrible moods, but does everything in his power to make my day better. Ex. He helped me do the dishes, laundry, and give the boys their baths, then poured me a big glass of wine, and is now working on a yummy dessert. I'm so stinkin' lucky!

Day 18: Tissues. When there are two fountains of snot running around your house, tissues are not a luxury, they are a necessity.....and I'm thankful I have a stockpile.

Day 19: Coffee creamer. After nights like last night, wake ups like the one I had this morning, and a stack of assessments to grade, the deliciousness that is white chocolate peppermint, is the only thing that gets me going.

Day 20: Our comfortable (yet temporary) home. I know that we are extremely lucky to live in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood, where safety is not a concern, and our neighbors are friendly. On that note, we are missing our old neighbors from Lynnly way. I think a visit may be in order!

Day 21: "Adult Time". After a super long, very stressful day, I'm very thankful for the hour or two (or three), that Joe and I get to ourselves at night. Although I should spend some of this time sleeping, on days like today, staying up way past my usual bedtime, is far more relaxing.

Day 22: 10 day weekends! That's right folks! I get all of Thanksgiving week off. I can't wait to spend every morning, relaxing and enjoying my adorable little guys.

Day 23: Good listening days. Liam was A-MAZ-ING today! We had playdates, went to a Christmas bazaar, and went to a restaurant for dinner (which are usual crabby-pants triggers), and he was awesome! He even took a nap......alone......on the couch!

Day 24: Catch-up Sundays. Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, picking up, couponing, naps, vacuuming, sweeping.......None used to warrant getting excited about (and really, they still don't), but when you have neglected these chores for a whole week, it feels mighty good to get them done!

Day 25: Watching my oldest boy and his daddy, play catch with his new football (a gift from self-proclaimed "Papa Mark"-one of Joe's co-workers). One of the most heartwarming things I have ever seen!

Day 26: 4 am nursing sessions. I NEVER thought I would say that, but at this point, less than two months from Nolan's first birthday, I have realized that they won't be happening soon. I'm so lucky that I have been able to nurse two beautiful boys, and I appreciate that I had that time to bound with them, now more than ever. It has it's moments of frustration (using my lunch to pump), uncomfortable moments (Mastitis), and times where you wish that you weren't "just the food source", but overall, I wouldn't give it up for anything! I will miss it when it's gone, so today I'm thankful that Nolan dragged me out of bed at 4:45.

Day 27: History lessons with Grandpa. My Grandpa Dale loves genealogy, and has worked very hard to find out all he can about his family's background. Every time we visit, he tries to share more information with me, but having two small boys in tow, tends to make it difficult to sit and listen, read, explore the articles/pictures/family trees, that he has collected. Today, I was able to sit and do these things for quite a while. I was able to hear stories about Grandpa's hometown, his schooling, friends, and family. It was so wonderful to hear about his life, and my background.

Day 28: Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for several things today. Seeing family that live both near and far, turkey, my dad dating an awesome cook, silly smiles from my boys, Grandma's deviled eggs, being woke up to "Happy Turkey Day Mom and Dad!", bonding with Lissy over $3 movie bins, my warm bed, and by default (because I the one I purchased was not yummy), Dutch Bros. coffee. A random bunch of stuff, I know, but all thanks-worthy today.

Day 29: The smell of Christmas trees, beautiful lights, holiday music, festive drinks, my boys' smiley faces as we decorate for the best time of the year, yet another, of Nolan's "firsts", and family love.

Day 30: On this last day of Thanks, I'm thankful for the life I live. My family, friends, career, pets, blessings, and trials. Everything I have been through has brought me to this exact place in my life, and I couldn't ask for anything more. I love my life, and the people in it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Home Dangers

Yet another aspect of moving, that my husband and I did not consider before the move, was all of the hidden dangers that would pop up for our kiddos. When your babies grow into big kids, you tend to baby, toddler, and big kid proof as you go. Each stage brings new chores that will help your little ones stay safe in their home. When done this way, you don't notice just how many adjustments you make. When you move, those dangers start popping up again, but this time, it's usually when something dangerous has already happened. For this reason, I felt that I needed to share some scary stories, to help other parents who are on the move, to think ahead, and not deal with the high blood pressure and grey hairs (figuratively of course) that I have acquired.

When we were settling in, we did all of the obvious preparations to keep our boys out of dangerous situations. We installed a gate at the top of the stairs, anchored the hutch and the stove to the wall, put a lock on the cupboards housing chemicals, and plugged every outlet with a cover. However, it is quite obvious that we missed a few horribly vital things. Here are my horror stories.

About two weeks after moving into our new house, Liam almost feel from the top of our stairs. He has been more than capable of walking up and down the stairs alone for quite some time, so we didn't give the issue a second thought when moving in. However, after I caught him tumbling down, Joe and I took a second look. We realized that these stairs are steeper, and more narrow than our last ones. I know kids fall, and his little trip may be nothing more than that, but it's also good to be aware of these minor changes.

Also, in our last home, we had door nobs. Liam tried with all of his might, but was unable to open our doors. The new house has door handles. I'm glad that the house came equipped with out of reach locks, because Liam can open any door in this house. This was apparent a couple of days after moving in, when we found him skipping up and down the stairs leading to our front door, alone.

I have saved the scariest, and most horrifying tale for last. Just the other night, I was getting dressed after a shower, when I heard a huge crash. I ran to Liam's room (Joe and Nolan were playing in Nolan's bedroom). When his doorway came into view, all I could see was his tall six-drawer dresser laying on the floor. I have heard several horror stories about babies/toddlers being crushed by furniture falling on them. Of course, that's all I was thinking in the seconds it took to reach his room. This horrible feeling was made worse, when I entered his room, and Liam was no where in sight. I was sure that he was laying under it, critically hurt, or worse.

Then I heard him whimper, and he stepped out of his closet. All I could do was cry and hold him. All he could do was sob. It was the most terrifying moment of my life, and as it seems, his too. In our last home, we had anchored his dresser to the wall the second he started moving, but when we moved, this task was lost in the shuffle. We are lucky.

Don't make these mistakes! Check, and double check the safety of your new home (rental or not). I'm sure that there are even more precautions that we have forgotten, and I'm also sure that our active three year old, and our newly mobile ten month old, will be happy to show us the error of our ways in due time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Working on Positivity

I have a very blessed and happy life. I have a wonderful husband, who has been my best friend for more than thirteen years; two sweet, smart boys, who make me laugh every day; I have a career that I love, and which supports our family; I have family and friends that support me and my boys; we live in a safe neighborhood, and in a comfortable home. I have a lot to be thankful for. However, the past few months have been stressful, and difficult for me to adjust to. There have been so many changes, and unlike my boys, I've been a bit down about some of them.
My attitude lately, has been a not so great one. Over the weekend I realized, that the way I react, and the way that I perceive my situation, is not helping me to be happy. In fact, it is doing the opposite. My feelings have been adding to my frustration. Most of my stress has, once again, been associated with my work. I LOVE my job! I love my students! I love the curriculum that I teach! So why am I so down on my work-life?
Being part-time has been the best family decision that Joe and I have ever made. It has allowed me to really parent my boys the way we want them to be parented. I have spent countless hours having quality time with them, making memories that would have never existed, if I were to work full time. I still get to fulfill my need to be an educator, and have some "mommy-time". I know that not everyone has this option, and for that I am truly grateful.
But there are downsides. Every year, my schedule changes. Every year, the boys and I have to adjust to a new "normal". Every year, our family, just barley gets by. For the past three years, these are sacrifices that Joe and I were, more than willing, to make. This year has been rougher than past years. My schedule is not a good one for our family: my hours are longer (which has been an adjustment for all), I don't get a full prep, so I tend to work much later than I should, and I bring a lot of work home.
Since having Liam, I have always been home before Joe. This year, I get home at least an hour later than him. My mornings (although long) are busy, hectic, and stressful. Although my boys were the main point of being part-time, avoiding work drama was an added bonus. This schedule seems to cater to the drama, not help to avoid it. For all of these reasons, I have been blue about the coming eight months. I have found myself wishing them away, several times.
I don't want to do this anymore. I still love my job, I still love my students, I still get to be home with my boys more than most working parents, I am able to spend this school year adding to our bank account, and reducing our debt, I get to teach three classes of my favorite subject, and we still have all the same supportive people around us. I need to focus on these things, and not the ones that have been filling my mind. Next year, can only be better (right?!), and until then, I will be happy about the blessings I do have, because, as a very wise person once said, "Someone, somewhere, is wishing that they were lucky enough to have the things that you complain about."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homemade Halloween

All Dressed Up!
This year, we went all out making our Halloween fun, and homemade. We started out the day, by making Liam's favorite pumpkin muffins. He loves helping in kitchen, and he loves it when we take the time to make something special on a school day. After eating our yummy breakfast, we headed out to his preschool Halloween party, where he got to wear is costume all day! When the work day was finally over, we all headed home to get into our costumes, and head to the Great Grandparent's house to visit.

Homemade Juice Box Costume

Liam decided that he would be "black Iron Man", also known as War Machine. I ended up in an old man costume- an old sweater of Joe's, a golfing hat, and glasses that came equipped with a big nose and a mustache (all found in Liam's dress up stockpile). Nolan was, thanks to his brother's awesome suggestion, a juice box. I spent the past few days trying to make his costume just right. I wasn't 100% happy with the finished product, but I will always love it, as I made it, and it was his first Halloween costume.

Hot Dog Mummies!
When we returned from our visit, we had a yummy, festive dinner of hot dog mummies! Liam LOVED them!! They were the perfect Halloween dinner, in that it was super quick, easy, required only two ingredients, and a kid favorite. Liam's favorite part was adding the "blood" (ketchup), and biting off the appendages.

After eating, we were finally ready for Trick or Treating! This was the first year Liam really seemed to be into it. He was leading the pack yelling, "Come on guys!" the whole way. We got a ton of wonderful comments/compliments on Nolan's costume, which made Liam quite proud. But it didn't take long for my little man's legs to get tired, and we headed home to answer the door for other Trick or Treaters. Joe was super excited that he was actually able to use his strobe light and fog machine. We had a wonderful day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Crepes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

Every year, our family tries to find more yummy recipes that include pumpkin as a main ingredient. We all love it, and it brings Fall into our home. This year, I was determined to add to our Fall breakfast menu, and was on a hunt for something that the whole family would enjoy. Boy, did I find it! This recipe is quick, easy, and made (mostly) from things you will have in your pantry on a daily basis. Here it is!

Pumpkin Crepes:

1 Cup Pumpkin
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Warm Water
4 eggs
4 Tbs. Melted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt

Use a whisk, and mix all the ingredients together, until smooth. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then cook in hot pan just as you cook pancakes. Crepes are ready to flip when the edges set, and lighten in color. To get the best flipping results, spray both the pan and the spatula EACH time you make a new crepe.

6 oz Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
A sprinkle of Cinnamon
A squirt or two of canned Whipped Cream

Whip cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until well mixed and creamy. Add whipped cream until the filling fluffs up a bit. *When I made the filling, it didn't look like there was enough, but I ended up with way more filling than we would eat. We put a very small amount on each crepe, so if you like yours packed, this should be a good amount. If making ahead, store in the fridge until ready to assemble.

Once the crepes and the filling are done, lay the crepe flat, add as much filling as you like, then roll up like a burrito. I added a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and a squirt of whipped cream to the top of the finished product. They are even delicious as left-overs, straight out of the refrigerator!

These are a new Fall Family Favorite!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tips for Packing and Moving with a Toddler and/or Infant

The past few months have been a stressful struggle for our little family. In July we decided to put our beloved first home on the market. We knew that it would be difficult, but it was the right decision for our family and our future. My biggest concern about the move, was keeping life as stable and normal for our three year old and our 8 month old. By the time it was time to start packing up the house, we had devised some plans to help make the transition a bit smoother for the both of them. Some of them worked out, some didn't.

Liam and His First Home
I want to share our experiences with other parents, because moving is a huge change for adults, but it is life-altering for little ones, and if we can help others make it easier for their kiddos, at least our struggles were not for nothing. Here is a list of things that helped our boys with the transition, as well as some information about the things that did not work out so well. I have also come up with some "next time" tips that we are hoping to implement when we move from our rental into our forever home.

What Worked for Packing/Preparing for the Move:

*Talk About the Move as Far in Advance as Possible: As soon as we had an offer on our home, we started talking to both boys (even the 8 month old) about the move. We were careful that every comment about the move be a positive one, even when we were not talking to the kids. If we were stressed out about it, we had that talk when the boys were in bed.

*Pack up Kids Stuff in Waves: We started packing about a month before the move, but we packed in waves, meaning the first time we packed up kids supplies, it was just the things that we didn't think they would miss or use. The next wave, we packed a few more toys, but still made sure to leave out their favorites. We packed clothes and blankets, but once again, not the ones they used the most. The third, and final wave, was done just a couple of days before the move, but we made sure to leave one box with the favorites of the favorites, open in the living room. That way they were "packed" and easy to grab when it was time to go, but the boys still felt like they could access them.

*Store Packed Boxes Out of Sight: Out of sight out of mind. If there are boxes all over the house, it will be a constant reminder that their life is changing. We kept all of our packed boxes in the garage, so that the boys wouldn't see them constantly, and they wouldn't get into them over and over again.

Helping Mommy and Daddy Pack
*Involve the Kids in the Packing: We gave Liam a box to pack every time we packed. He had so much fun choosing what to put into the box. He packed and re-packed the same box several times. It made him feel like he had some control over the packing process, and he felt as though he was helping mommy and daddy. I think that this was one of the best things we tried!

*Try to Help Them Understand: As the move got closer, our discussions about it got more serious. We made sure to keep it positive, but we were also very factual about what would happen when we moved, so that there were no surprises when the time came.

*Include Them in the House-Hunting Process: Every time we went to look at a possible rental property, we took the boys along. We asked Liam's opinion on each of the houses, let him roam the homes on his own, and talked with him afterwards about what he would like about living there and what he wouldn't.

*Reading on the Subject: We made many trips to the library to find books about moving. Liam loved ready the special moving books before bed and in the mornings. It was also a great way to start conversations about what moving would be like.

What Didn't:

*Taking Pictures of Liam's Old Room: We knew that leaving his beautiful, special dinosaur bedroom would be the hardest for all of us. We thought that taking pictures of the room and giving them to Liam may help him to remember his old room, however, so far looking at them just makes him sad. He doesn't seem to have a difficult time with the move, except when he looks at these pictures. So although, every kiddo is different, this would not be suggestion I would give.

*Bringing up the Move All the Time: We tried very hard to prepare the boys for the move by being honest and discussing it a great deal before moving day, however, there were times where it felt like that made it worse. My suggestion for this would be, talk about it often, but if your son/daughter is having a particularly sensitive day, don't bring it up. If they do, great, talk away, but don't push the subject on them.

Moving Day Tips:

*Farm Out the Kiddos: Although you definitely want the kids to be there for part of the moving process, it is stressful, and it may be better that they are not there when you are anxious. We were lucky enough to have great friends who took Liam to a birthday party for most of moving day. We still made absolutely sure that he was there for some of it, so that he wouldn't leave, then come home to a brand new, very strange situation. But it was wonderful to be able to move without the added distraction of a toddler, and I'm positive it was good for him to not see mommy and daddy stress about the move.

Saying Goodbye to His Room
*Make Sure that They are a Part of the Move: This goes along with the last tip. We had Liam help us load the truck until he was on his way to the party, and when he returned he helped once again. This made the transition a fluid one, not an abrupt change from the familiar.

*Say Goodbye to the Old House: The day after we moved most of our stuff, we went back to our old house, just the four of us, and took some time to wander the house, talk about our memories, and say goodbye. I think that this was key in helping Liam with the transition.

*Have Snacks at the Ready: Make sure that you know where some choice snacks are located at all times!

What Didn't:

*Expecting it to go Smoothly: Moving never goes as planned. We were extremely organized before the day of, but once we got going all crap hit the fan, and we all went into survival mode, including the kids. There were temper tantrums and meltdowns.

*Moving During Other Transitions: We made this mistake....big time! I'm a teacher, so I went back to work after months at home with my boys, just weeks before the big move. We also decided to put Liam into preschool the same month. I know that at this point, Liam has adjusted to being a big brother, but that's still pretty new too. This was the biggest mistake we could have made. Liam focused a lot of his transitional frustration on preschool, which resulted in almost a month pf daily tears, but once we moved and were settled in our new home, it was like a light was flipped. Every day has been fantastic since! Do your best not to make this mistake, cause it's a doozy!

Tips for Next Time:

*Bedroom Set Up: This is one we fully planned to do, but it got lost in the chaos of the day. Pack up the kiddos rooms last, preferably the day of when they are off doing something fun. Then make it first priority in the new house. Our goal was to have Liam's room completely unpacked and set up before he returned from the birthday party. Most of the big things were in place, but we lost some boxes in the shuffle, so next time, we'll be far more conscience of where things are going.

*Family Camp-Out: For the first night in our new home, we plan to have a camp-out in the living room. We'll make it as fun as possible to help make the new house feel like home as quickly as possible. As many ways as you can find to make it a positive experience for the kids, the easier the transition will be.

*Plan a Busy Weekend Outside of the Home: Plan for the kids to do fun things outside of the home for most of the first weekend. That way the house is set up and "normal" as quickly as possible, and you won't feel quite as stressed about unpacking. Once again, the less stress the kiddos see about the move, the better!

Our Last Family Photo in Our 1st Home
I hope that these tips help you in your moving, packing, and unpacking situations!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love sweaters, pumpkin patch trips, brisk walks, football, comfort food, decorating, and the family memories that come with the season. But one of the biggest reasons for this is that, I love the taste of pumpkins! All year, I stockpile recipes that have pumpkin as a main ingredient in preparation for the season. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins is one of my family's absolute favorites. Here is the super simple recipe:

1 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt, and oil. Beat well with a whisk.
2. Stir in chocolate chips, and set aside.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, making a well in the center.
4. Pour in pumpkin mixture.
5. Spoon into a greased muffin pan, 2/3 of the way full.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

These are so yummy, that I make them several times throughout the season. Enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie Cupcakes

My husband is not a huge cake-fan, but he LOVES banana cream pie. When planning a big surprise birthday party, I thought it would be much easier to supply everyone with cupcakes rather than make enough pies for everyone, so I created a recipe that I thought would be easy for guests, and still satisfy my hubby's picky sweet tooth. Here is my quick, easy recipe for banana cream cupcakes:
Cupcake with Banana Filling

1 box of vanilla cake mix (and the ingredients listed on mix)
2 tsp of banana extract
1 box of instant banana pudding mix (and the ingredients listed to make)
whipped topping
graham crackers

Ingredients for the Topping
How to Make Them:
1. Make the cupcake batter per the directions on the box.
2. Add the banana extract to the batter before baking.
3. Bake per the instructions on the box.
4. While the cupcakes are baking, make the pudding.
5. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, fill them with pudding using a icing bag.
6. Frost the cupcakes with a small squirt of whipped topping, sprinkle with graham cracker dust, and top with a banana slice.
7. Refrigerate right away, and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

*The whipped topping melted a bit, and the banana slices turned a little brown, but there are ways to prevent this, and I will try a couple of them next time.
The Finished Product!
These cupcakes were a hit with all the party guests, but my toughest critic, loved them most of all!

Beer-Tasting Birthday Bash

Snack Buffet
Surprising my husband is never easy. I have only been successful once before, years ago. Surprising him is even more complicated when a big birthday milestone, like 30, is looming. I knew that to have a big celebration, it would have to be unknown to him, as he isn't someone who likes the limelight, and doesn't like to spend a lot of money on things like this.

Knowing that shocking him was my only option, I worked very hard and utilized every sneaky skill I have. The complication of the situation was multiplied by the fact that we moved two weeks ago, and our house is just getting organized. Luckily for me, our friends and family are wonderful accomplices, who are also very good at keeping big secrets, because the plan went off without a hitch!

Easy Beer-Themed Decoration
The theme of the party was Beer Tasting, which I knew my hubby would love, as he loves to try new brews. I asked that each guest bring a favorite beer, which helped us to have WAY more than enough to go around, several options for everyone to try, and cut the cost a bit for me. It was a hit! Everyone enjoyed the evening, loved the tasting aspect, and it was super laid-back (just like Joe). I added to the theme, by having quite a few pub-like snacks: pretzels, peanuts, beef jerky, chicken wings, and little smokies.

Joe is not a huge cake fan, he usually requests banana cream pie, so when we tasted a cupcake version at one of the many summer festivals we attended. I kept the contact information for several months with every intention of ordering several dozen for the party. I wrench was thrown into that plan, when I contacted the baker a week before the party, and she informed me that her business had moved several hundred miles away, and she would be unable to supply the treats.

Banana Cream Pie Cupcakes
I scoured  my cookbooks, Pinterest, and several other recipe websites, hoping to find something that would have a similar affect. After days of looking, I bagged the idea of using someone else's recipe, and created my own version. I have to say, they turned out pretty tasty, and looked pretty awesome (until the whipped cream started to weep). My picky, cake-hater, loved them! Unfortunately for me, over-estimated the appetites of our guests, and make about 30 too many. At least they were mini-cupcakes, so really that isn't too bad. Joe isn't complaining though! Both he and Liam, have already had a few for breakfast. If you would like the recipe, check out Banana Cream Pie Cupcakes.

It turned out to be one of the best parties I have planned, and Joe was not only completely surprised, but we are so happy and thankful to have such wonderful people to share such a big milestone with.
The Big Surprise!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Goodbye Letter to Our First Home

Dear Our First Home,

Tonight is the last that I will be relaxing in front of your fireplace, looking out the big window that faces the big Oak tree. I have such mixed feelings about leaving you. I know that eventually, our little family will be too big to fit within your walls, and we would end up resenting your cozy charm. I never want that, which is why we're leaving while we are all on good terms. Although your size, and lack of shared space is why we feel the need to move on, there are so many things that I will miss about living here.

I will miss taking a bath under the skylight, watching the clouds, rain, stars, etc. I have such wonderful memories of talking to my unborn babies, while the warm water comforted my achy back. I will miss the beautiful bedroom that Joe and I designed for our first born. New paint throughout, colorful dinosaurs on the walls, chair rail surrounding the room, a huge walk-in closet complete with built-in drawers and shelves for all of my boys' clothes. The kitchen with it's wide, open space, refinished cabinets, and lovely grey paint. Our newly enlarged backyard, where my sons played in their pool and water table, enjoyed pancake picnics, and hosted countless BBQs with friends and family.

I will never forget the first week Joe and I spent in this house. A stormy evening, when the power went out. We cuddled by the fire and discussed our wonderful future here. That first winter, when we had a huge snowstorm. Walking to the store in feet of snow to get ingredients to make molasses cookies and eggnog as a surprise for Joe. Then the next spring, bringing baby Liam home from the hospital. His first Christmas, first, second, and third birthday, and his first day of preschool. Just this past winter, welcoming our gummy bear. There are so many amazing memories here, and I hope they stay with us forever.

As we told Liam, we'll make new memories in our new house, but we'll always love our first home! We will miss you.

The Brooks Family

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tough Parental Choice

Since going back to work, my body has had a difficult time adjusting to it's new schedule. Of course, having two young boys hasn't helped. Over the summer, my body settled into it's natural schedule of being night-owlish. For months, that was fine. Yes, Nolan woke me up several times a night, and yes, Liam yanked me out of bed at the crack of dawn, but I could relax and wake up slowly. Not anymore. Now, I still want to stay up late, but my body doesn't get to wake up slowly, I don't get to pick and choose what I want to do, I can't put things off until I get a better night's sleep. How do you choose between a couple of hours of adult time, and your body's need for sleep??

We have a lot going on right now. A great deal of stressful situations are adding to the dilemma. In the last month we have sold our home, I went back to work, Liam started preschool (not the easiest transition), Nolan started daycare, we found a rental property, my husband's grandmother passed away, and we have been packing up the house frantically to be ready for our September 27th close date. None of these things are easy to do, but put them together, add a toddler, and an infant, and it's the perfect (more like, perfectly awful) storm.

All of this means, that I'm even more exhausted than a three year old and an eight month old (who refuses to sleep through the night) would warrant. And that's pretty exhausted! But it's so hard to give up my quiet evenings alone with my husband. It's the only time that I can check e-mail without interruption, pick what's on the tv, go to the bathroom alone, eat something without having to spoon-feed a munchkin most of it, and my husband and I can actually have a conversation without the normal: "mom!", "dad!", "Mama!", "Daddy!" that usually takes part. I love my evenings. The problem is, they turn into late nights without me noticing. Then I have a horrible time getting out of bed, when the boys are yelling to go downstairs. I have an even harder time getting to work and being my best while there.

What do I do? Sleep, or continue to have a few hours to recoup my sanity each night? I think I will try the sleep option tonight, as we had a LONG, busy weekend of packing, cleaning, long walks, grocery shopping, and a super-fun birthday party at a trampoline park. Also, I think I'll need all the rest I can get this week, since we move in five days! I'm hoping that I can get those quiet night-time hours back after we are settled into our new home, but I have a feeling that this will be a tough choice for years to come.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Life Lessons in Disney Movies: For Boys

Originally, I thought that finding lessons for little girls was going to be tough, but as I set out to find morals that focus on boys, I realized, that it was going to be much more of a challenge. Men/boys in Disney movies tend to be a canned version of a "man's man". They tend to have minuscule roles, they are in a few fight scenes where they vanquish the horrible villain, and/or kiss the girl. However, their characters don't seen to possess much brain power, they are unable to control themselves once they meet the pretty lady in the story, and in some movies, they don't even speak!

How in the world are little boys supposed to learn anything from these one dimensional lug heads? Lucky for you, I have compiled a list of Disney movies that consist of great lessons for the little men in your life. Just as with my first list in Life Lessons in Disney Movies, these lessons are wonderful talking points to share with your little ones. Use the movies to start the conversations that will lead to smart, caring, driven kiddos. Here goes!

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) Poster#1- Swiss Family Robinson: A family is stranded on a desert island when their ship gets caught in a storm. They built an awesome tree house, fought burly pirates, and survived some scary situations. Lesson: Make the best of the situation you are in. Anything can be a positive experience, if you make the best of it. Also, focus on the people you love, not the things that you have.

#2- Hercules: As a baby, Hercules is stolen from his parents (Zeus and Hera), and made into a mortal. He spends many years believing that he is nothing more than a clumsy human, who doesn't fit in anywhere. Lesson: When you embrace your true self, the people who will love you, for you, will show themselves. Don't give your downfalls more power than the things that make you amazing!

Image of A Bug's Life#3- A Bug's Life: A group of misfit bugs, led by the biggest outcast of all, battles the big, strong grasshoppers when they threaten their community. Lesson: #1- Being "nerdy", smart, and imaginative pays off. #2- When you work together, you can accomplish much more than you could ever image.

#4- Toy Story: A cowboy doll is jealous of a shiny new spaceman, because he believes that the toy space ranger will ruin his relationship with his owner. Lesson: #1- Don't judge others before you get to know them. #2- Jealousy only hurts you. Trust that your friends love and care for you, no matter who else they spend their time with.

Image of Up#5- The Lion King: A young lion cub runs away from home after his father dies. He misses out on the opportunity to be king, and separates himself from the ones who love him most. Lesson: #1- Don't run away from your problems. #2- Don't let your past mistakes, stop you from your future.

#6- Up: An elderly man, who has just lost his wife, sets out to fulfill a life long dream, when he meets a wilderness explorer who joins him on his journey. Lesson: It is never too late to make your dreams/goals a reality. Just give it a shot! Who knows, the journey there, could end up being the best part.

Image of The Emperor's New Groove#7- Peter Pan: Three siblings are whisked to Neverland to live with Peter Pan and his gang of misfit boys. On this island, no one grows up, and parents are no where to be found. Lesson: #1- Growing up doesn't mean you can't have fun. There are amazing things that come with getting older. #2- Appreciate your parents. No matter how unlikely it seems, you will miss them when they're gone.

#8- The Emperor's New Groove: A selfish emperor, is turned into a llama, which forces him to trust and work with some one who he sees as "beneath him". Lesson: Don't put people down, or belittle them for what you perceive, are downfalls. Everyone has the right to be who they are, and follow their own path. Respect them for that.
Image of The Fox and the Hound
#9- Tarzan: A human boy is raised by a family of gorillas, but has to decide what to do when he meets a woman and her father. Lesson: Families may look different, but what matters is that they love and support one another.

#10- The Fox and the Hound: A fox and a puppy become great friends, until the people around them tell them that they should be enemies and need to stay away from one another. Lesson: Good friends are worth fighting for. Nothing should stop you from sharing your life with people who treat you well, and make you feel good about yourself.

Although boys could learn a lot from the movies and lessons on the list above, of course, girls could hear these messages as well. By picking gender-neutral/male focused plots, boys may be more likely to see themselves in the roles being portrayed in these movies. Boys can enjoy and learn lessons from fairy tales too!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding a Rental

One of the most difficult parts of selling your home, is timing it/finding the right place to go when it is no longer yours. Our situation required finding a rental property to live in for a bit between selling our home, and finding the perfect house to buy. This is not an easy task when you are used to living in a nice home, in a good neighborhood, with a yard, have a lot to store, two kiddos, a dog, and two cats.

Although we knew it was going to be hard to find something that would make us happy, we thought that we had pretty reasonable/easy to find requirements. The only things that a rental property needed to have was a garage (we have a '52 Chevy pick-up, which we need to store), at least two bedrooms, be pet friendly, and a small yard for our dog to do her business.

We thought our budget was pretty reasonable for our "needs" as well. We were willing to go as high as our mortgage payment, but were hoping to get something a bit cheaper to help us save for a down payment. Other than that, we were pretty flexible. We were hoping to stay in the town we live in, since I work here, Liam's preschool is here, Nolan's daycare is here, and it's convenient for Joe work-wise. But even that was negotiable for the right place.

Because a house sale can fall through all the way up to the closing date, our Realtor suggested that we wait as long as possible to sign any paperwork on a rental and/or pay any fees. If the sale were to fall through at the last minute, we would not only be out of any money we had already put down, but also the cancellation of the lease fees, and (of course) any money we had put into packing/moving. Because of her advice, we didn't really start looking until we hit the three week until closing mark (we're super happy we took her advise, because we did hit a snag or two, but that's another post...).

Unfortunately for us, the three week mark hit right about the same time as school starting, so people stopped listing rentals-apparently, everyone wants to be settled by the time the school year begins- so our list of options were dwindling fast. Also, finding pet-friendly housing is much harder than we thought. Everything within our price range and desired locations, was opposed to doggies and kitties.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to yesterday, a week and a half before closing, and we still hadn't found anything that would work. Joe and I decided that we would just have to make whatever met our requirements work, no matter what the downsides. We needed to have a place to go, and the decision needed to be made by the end of the day.

We reviewed our list, and had two possible options: a small townhouse in a town a few miles away from our current home, which would save us a lot of money monthly, or a house with more than enough space, in the same town, that was near the top of our budget. After a lot of discussion, running the numbers several ways, and a pro/con list for each, we decided to go with the bigger home. We don't know how long it will take to find the perfect house, and we don't want to feel rushed into it because we're so uncomfortable in the home we're living in.

We are so happy to finally know where we are going, and be able to plan our near future. Being a mommy with no plan for your babies, is a tough place to be, and I'm so so glad we won't deal with that situation again!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boxes, Wine, and Tears

Today has been a tough day for me. Joe and I spent our morning walk talking about our limited rental prospects. With thirteen (now twelve) days until our closing date, I'm feeling the pressure to find an acceptable place for our boys to live, within our budget, and with a couple basic needs met. Although we have been looking for a rental for weeks, we have been holding off on signing anything until our home sale was as sure as can be. Now that we're ready to go, the rental pool has dried up. We're still searching. With the stress of finding a new, yet temporary, home for our family, my afternoon was filled with frantic and frequent craigslist checks.

I decided to try to take my mind off of our possible homelessness, and decided to to tackle the boxes, and boxes, of packing that we still have to do. When I began, I was fine. It was a good distraction, and everything was going well. Then I started packing the pictures on our walls. Smiles from family and friends, baby and wedding pictures that have hung within view, making our house, our home. A tear or two may have fallen as this point in the process. However, the river began to flow when I walked into Liam's room to pack round two or three. Bad idea!

An emotionally exhausted and fragile mommy, should never assume that they are able to pack up her first baby's first bedroom. I tried to make the situation easier, by adding a glass of wine to the mix. Also, a horrible idea. Now, I'm curled up on the couch with, yet another glass of wine, my eyes are red and puffy, and a Bones marathon is the only thing keeping me from laying in the fetal position while sobbing uncontrollably.

Selling our house, renting/saving money for a bit, then buying our forever home is the best thing for our family. I have never once doubted that. But there are feeling and stressors involved that I never imagined would be so strong. I will miss this house (especially while we are renting). I will miss the dinosaurs, that two wonderful friends and I, painted on Liam's bedroom walls. I will miss the fireplace where Joe and I cuddled, just days after moving in, when the power went out. I will miss our kitchen with so many wonderful memories of cooking, baking, and eating with friends and family. I will miss our backyard, where Liam first felt grass (and was terrified). I will even miss the vent in our dinning room, where poor Mr. Frog met his end.

I will miss so much about this house, but I have to believe we will be just as happy, and make just as many memories (hopefully, even more) in our next home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Inspection: A Nail Biting Experience

After we accepted the offer, the next step in the process was to have an inspection done. Joe, our Realtor Marie, and I were a bit nervous about this step. From the beginning, we were concerned about the roof as well as the furnace, not because either were causing us problems, but the fact that (as far was we know) they are original with house. When most roofs are considered to have a twenty year lifetime, and your house is nineteen years old, it make you worry a bit.

The inspection day came and went. Joe and I felt on the verge of panic waiting to hear the news. We were sure that there would have to be some negotiations, and we were worried that something would make the deal fall through. A couple of days, and several glasses of wine later, we heard the news. There was a small list of repairs to be done, but nothing too difficult, too expensive, and (happily) no deal-breakers.

We were able to do quite a few of the projects ourselves, and we hired my Dad and his good friend (who is also a contractor) to finish it up. It took some time, a bit of money, and about a week, but we are done! We are one step closer to our close date, and eventually, our forever home.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Color Run 2013

I will admit that I have fallen off the running bandwagon a bit. I have only run a handful of times this summer (usually with the help of a dear friend, who encouraged me through running playdates with our kiddos). Today was one of the few. Way back, when I first started running, I put out feelers for friends/family who would want to join me in running the Color Run. At the time, it was 6 months-ish away, and I wanted to sign up to make sure I would stick with it through the summer. Although it didn't keep me running all summer long, it did help motivate me today!

The "Before" shot.

My mom, three of my sisters, and I got up bright and early this morning, pumped and ready for some fun! When we got there, it was a zoo. Hundreds of cars lined the freeway off-ramp, and every street there after. The parking lot was also filling fast, and we were almost an hour early for the first wave of runners. As we walked to the starting line, I began to get excited (as I always do before races). I couldn't contain it, so I bounced, sang, and danced to the music while we waited.

Since I was the only one in the group with any race experience, we decided to take it as it came. Run as much as possible, but take breaks along the way. They all did awesome!! Every single one of us ran across the finish line, and we did it with multicolored bodies and big toothy smiles.

If you are interested in participating in this run in the future, I have a couple of things to share.

#1- It's a blast!
#2- Wear glasses and possibly something over your mouth, the powder goes everywhere.
#3- Don't sign up for this one, if you're looking for a race to be timed and seriously run. Each of the color check points really slows you down, and because there are SO MANY people, it's very difficult to run at full speed.
#4- Bring the kiddos! If I would have known how kid-friendly this race is, Liam would have been running along side his mama. You can avoid the powder check-ins, if you're worried about the kids getting blasted (because they will!).
#5- Plan to stay awhile, or take the MAX. Next year, we plan to bring a bbq and have an after-race tailgate party afterwards. It took us almost an hour and a half to get out of the parking lot.
#6- Bring a change of clothes, towels, plastic bags, etc. The powder gets EVERYWHERE, and unless you want a multicolored car, you need to plan ahead.
#7- No matter how much you plan ahead, no matter how much you try, you will not be clean when you leave the track. I've taken a shower, a bath, spot scrubbed, and washed my hands several times throughout the day, and I still keep finding patches of neon green.

The Color Run is a blast, it was an experience I'll never forget, and it was a wonderful way for my mom, my sisters, and I to have fun and be active together.