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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day Times Two

I always loved the first day of school. I loved shopping for school clothes/supplies. I loved setting out all of my new things, organizing my backpack, binder, and my first week's worth of outfits. Every year, it felt like a new, fresh start. A chance to start over, make new friends, make a new, first impression, reinvent myself. When I became a teacher, the first day feeling still remained. It was a bit different, but it was still there. I still pick out my clothes for the first week or two, I go school supply shopping (this time for my students), and I get that renewed and fresh start feeling every year.

This year, it felt even more familiar, even more like when I was a kid preparing for the third grade. Today was not only the first day of school with my new set of students, but it was also Liam's first day of preschool. Last night, as I helped him pick out his clothes, pack his backpack, and discussed what our morning would be like; I saw the excitement in his face, heard the nerves in his voice, and felt the happy anxiety that I felt in my school days.

This morning I think I was more anxious than he was. I kept pacing, running around frazzled, and couldn't help but feel as though we were going to run out of time. Figuring out how to get all of us ready, drop Liam off at preschool, Nolan at daycare, and get myself to work, seemed almost impossible. Thankfully, Joe stayed home today to drop Liam off with me, and to help with the transition. I don't know how I would have done it without him!

When we finally made it to the preschool, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Liam went right into his room, introduced himself to his teacher, said a quick, "Hello!" to all of his peers, and then began exploring the classroom. When it was time for Joe and I to go, Liam was less than interested in us. He said goodbye, gave us hugs and kisses, and was on his way to a new basket of blocks or cars. I, however, was on the verge of tears.

After the emotional roller coaster that was preschool drop off, I still had to maneuver dropping off Nolan, getting to work, preparing for students, and teaching three classes of kiddos for the first time. After an amazing day meeting my new students, I was more than a little excited to pick Liam up and hear about his day. He and his teacher, had nothing but wonderful things to say about his day. He has not stopped talking about all of the new things he did, the friends that he met, the teachers that taught him new things, and the fun he had on the playground.

I think it's safe to say, that Liam and I have both transitioned into our new educational setting quite well.

Excited for his first day of preschool!