School’s Back

Summer is officially over.  I know, not because school is back, but because we have already been struck with the flu.  Reece went back to school a few weeks ago, and Kat moved up to Toddler 2 in daycare.  Then, the next week Kat had a 103 fever for four days.  All her activities and daycare had to be suspended for most of the week.

I had been really excited for September so I could have two full days of both kids in daycare for work and errands.  It was a little bit of a setback having Kat homebound, but I got a ton of cuddles and we watched movies all day.  Watching movies and TV with the kids is usually my husbands domain.  It was nice to have a (almost) guilt free excuse to hang on the couch and Netflix for days.  Sick baby Kat

Everyone, for now, is healthy and back into the normal school year routines.  We even got a few cute back to school pictures, including a couple with Mom, Dad and Kat thanks to miniphotographer, Reece.

Reece and Kat 1st day school

Back to school
Reece’s photography skills, taking a family picture

Back in the Routine

It always take a week or two to get back in the swing of things.  School starting up again is no exception.  It’s been about a month now and we are back into a groove with our new routine.  Reece and Kat are gone all day Mondays and Fridays giving me an opportunity to get productive with my clients, blog, and house projects.  I even picked up a new client since school started!

The kid’s schedule during the week is pretty packed with only one “free” day.  We hardly ever stay at home all day.  During summer our schedule is more relaxed.  We can avoid going stir crazy by turning on the sprinkler and frolicking in the backyard.  Once winter hits it’s tough to be active without obligations.  This means I’m, probably, one of those over-scheduling moms, but, for our family, this is what works best.

Dance Class

I’ve been working on making a better effort on classes just for Kat.  Reece has other plans when we go to dance class.  The result is either big brother crashing the class of tiny ballerinas like a giant beast or both of them sulking on my lap when I try to keep Reece from participating.  Not the desired outcome.

Kat at Dance
Kat having a solitary moment at dance class.
Panda dance
Reece joining while the class does a teddybear dance

Gymnastics

When Kat has gymnastics, Reece is a preschool and is forced to be “on her own” even though it’s a mommy and me class.  Most of the time she does not want to do what the class is doing.  I never know what the “right” thing to do is.  Let her wonder around to explore?  Or, stay with the class, follow instructions and wait turns?  Half the time I’m reigning her in, the other half I let her do as she pleases.  This means she’s at the balance beam, unless that’s what the class is doing.  She’s a woman who knows what she wants.  Sort of.

Art Class

After dance is art class.  We have a time gap too small to stop at home but makes us crazy early for class.  Try as I might to delay our arrival we always end up a half hour early.  Sorry Miss Emily!

We have been going to this studio for two years, the teacher knows us well and doesn’t (seem) to mind our early arrival.  She even made an exception for Kat to be in the drop-off class even though she isn’t 3.  Since Reece and Kat are so happy to be together Miss Emily knew she could handle adding Kat in.

Other Ways We Kept Busy

When we aren’t rushing to our classes and school (or napping, whew!) we have still been able to keep busy.  It’s been an unseasonably warm fall, hitting 80F some days in October!  We’ve had stroller walks, scooter walks, fun in the backyard, and trips to the playground and apple picking.

Reece big smiles apple picking
I asked Reece if I could get a picture of him, this is what he gave me.

Kat and Reece apple picking

We even managed to have fun indoor activities with art and sensory projects, baking, and laundry.  Yes, my kids help with the laundry!  It’s not always perfect, sometimes the kids rush to do it excitedly, “Yayyyy time to put the washer clothes in the dryer! Woohoo!!” Other times there’s fighting, yelling, tears and frustration – on both sides.  After a little distraction they calm down, I ask again, and happily help out.  Ohhhh, to be a tiny human.  I’ll miss my little helpers!  Please stop growing!!

Reeces person draweing
Love seeing the evolution of Reece’s people pictures!
Sensory play organizing poms.
Kat and Reece organizing poms for some sensory play. It’s not Pinterest, but they work hard doing this for 20 minutes!

Goodbye September

Before we knew it, September ended.  Not that we can tell, with the 80 degrees weather, which I’m not complaining about!  I think I’m the only one who isn’t.  I love the heat.  I suspect New Englanders have reoccurring winter-amnesia.

September closed out with Dad going away for a week on a work trip and we finally found a lunch Reece would eat while at school (jelly and jelly sandwich).  When Dad got back, leaves were starting to turn and it was time to start thinking about Halloween.  Now, if we can just find our Halloween stuff that we moved during the renovation….

The Mommy Friendship Hustle

Far away, are the easy breezy days of meeting people and making friends in high school or college.  Graduating can bring a sense of starting over, but you work at it and while finding your way in the world, you meet some cool people.  Then you become a mom.  The new life phase can wash away at the momentum you gained growing friendships.  Your priorities, lifestyle, schedule, availability all shift.

I’ve been a mom for four years now, and it wasn’t until recently I started to remotely feel like I’ve gotten into a groove with other moms.  Motherhood is awesome and fulfills me in a way I never realized was missing.  What also comes with it are innumerable responsibilities and a rollercoaster of feelings that can be overwhelming.  I swear, half of the burden of motherhood can be the mental load, thinking about everything you need to be doing, what everyone needs.  Finding a peer you can trust, to talk freely with and unload with, is cathartic.  But how do you find your people?

If you manage to find a prospective mom you think you might click with, you still have to contend with so many factors that go against making friends.  To make new friends you need consistency, the confidence to make plans, availability, and commonality.  Other things as well to be sure, but these are some main building blocks.  Kids throw a major wrench into the mix.

Is it me?

It can feel like you’re the only one struggling to make friendships.  Not so!  There have been so many times I’ve cried or been in a funk over not having close friends nearby or false start friendships.  When we are viewing our friends, acquaintances, bloggers, etc., through the lens of Instagram and Facebook, we have to remember, that is NOT real life.  It’s a projected life that is cropped using only one perfect picture out of fifty crappy pictures or moments.

The Mommy Dating Game

Motherhood is a friendship HUSTLE!  You’ve gotta work it!  When you do meet someone you mesh with, you have to actually meet up a second time to get the ball rolling.  Sounds easy, but damn!

Moms (I mean, kids) are signed up for some many activities and obligations.  Trying to plan a playdate with another Mama is like playing the most complicated game of Tetris Scheduling there ever was.  On the one hand, all those classes, activities, and other obligations are helping moms to get out there and meet new people.  On the flip side, they can get in the way of making plans sometimes.

First Base, and Beyond

While you are meeting people at these cool kid things, you typically don’t have a lot of down time to talk and connect.  This is where it gets awkward.  You think someone seems could be cool and you want to “take it to the next level” by doing something outside of class.  You’re basically back in the dating scene.  Only instead of guys, you’re trying to catch a mom friend.  Remember when you thought dating was soooo hard?  Mom dating, is a whole other level.

Then, say you do find that miracle day where the stars align and you can meet up.  Congratulations!  You’ve made it to second base!  There is a 1000% chance a kid will get sick, have a poopsplosion all over the car seat making it impossible to drive anywhere, some family emergency, or some other crazy issue will arise for one of you.  Boo!

The Setbacks Can Be Killer

If it’s not you that had to cancel/reschedule, then you’re thinking, “Did I do something wrong? What if they just aren’t that into me? Maybe I came off too strong?  Or not strong enough?!?!”  Stop the downward spiral.  Avert! Avert!  Your logical self understands.  After all, it could have just as easily been you that had to cancel for all the crazy reasons that happen when you have kids.  Still, it’s hard to not feel insecure or slighted sometimes.  And this can happen multiple times before actually succeeding in both of moms showing up for a date, I mean, play date.

Get Out There, Then Be Ready to Repeat

You must put yourself out there.  Way out there.  I think I’ve had more play dates or mom nights out that have been rejected or cancelled, than have happened.  It can get a person down.  I know how easy it is to get discouraged, just keep at it. I swear, took FOUR YEARS for me to find and connecting with new people.  While I’ve gotten to 4th base with some moms, I would still say we are in the honeymoon phase of our dating.  I do think the outlook is promising!

Mom besties
This is one of my mom besties. She lives across the country, but we make it work. My motivation to get out there and connect with other Moms near me.

Haste is Waste

It’s not to say it won’t happen next week, or tomorrow even.  Remember though, any friendship needs time.  Sometimes in our haste to connect with other people we overlook the fact that maybe there isn’t much substance.  Sure, you both have kids the same age, and that can go a long way, but similar parenting philosophies, love of gardening, or whatever, other real interests are needed in any friendship.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome!

Remember when you were out there in the dating field?  Didn’t you think you had a ‘type?’  You still must look around and be selective.  As a Mom, you don’t have time (I mean literally, the schedule is packed) to date moms that you don’t even care to hang out with.  I know it seems like you can’t be, but you need to!  This isn’t high school.  A core group to keep you grounded, save you from your kids, show up for plans.  This will only happen if it’s the real thing.

Keep perspective by knowing motherhood is perfect for no one.  Again, don’t get sucked into the social media projection.  Successes and setbacks are all part of finding cool moms.

If you can relate to this, please, please share!  Better yet, let me know how you work through the mom dating scene or how you persevered and found a mom bestie!

Missing Items or Missing Brain?

Parent or not, there are always items you misplace, daily even.  Things you might routinely lose: your keys, phone, TV remote, or wallet.  These are items pretty much everyone can relate to misplacing regularly.  After kids, the list seems to increase exponentially.  Pillows from your couch can go missing for days.  I don’t even know how that can even happen, but it can.  We have packed everything up, moved, gone through everything while unpacking and still been unable to find outfits, books, or tools.

I’m not sure if it’s mom brain, or sneaky kids, or just complete loss of your bearings, but items just seem to disappear into a black hole, never to return when you become a parent.  

The list is endless, but these are my top missing items offenders:

  1. Nail clippers
  2. Thermometers
  3. Butt cream
  4. Shoes/socks
  5. Lovies
  6. Half eaten food
  7. Fridge magnets (Especially the ABC’s magnets)
  8. Toothbrushes
  9. Sunscreen
  10. Shoes

There are even multiples of most of these items (I’m talking about you most of all nail clippers!) and still we are unable to unearth it when we need it.  Below are just a few found (or half found) items over my past four years of motherhood.

Missing socks
Socks with no pairs
Shoes in dishwasher
Just… Why?
Moms shoes in play kitchen
Oh yes, right where I left them…
Shoes on play kitchen
The kids kitchen is a popular place for shoes
Unmatched socks
More solo socks
Kale in the play kitchen
Found this real kale cooking in the play kitchen

If you are in the same boat as me, always check the play kitchen first!  Did I hit the mark, or miss something in your top 10?  I would love to know.  Please tell me I’m not alone!

Mom and Son Date In The City

The entire summer there has been no overlap in daycare for Kat and Reece.  As a result, Mondays and Fridays, Reece has been getting 100% mom time while Kat’s in daycare, and Tuesday through Thursday the mornings are all about Kat, while Reece is at camp.  Once school starts in September, Reece’s mom only days will be few and far between.  This will be great for my productivity, but will be a little sad.  We will still have plenty of time together, but the dynamic is just a little different with little sister or dad around.  Since our Reece and Mom only days are numbered once school starts, I took advantage and planned a special day for both of us.  A Mommy/Reece date!!

I got an invitation to go to the Trunk Club Boston’s Clubhouse and decided it was the perfect excuse to make the drive into Boston.  I don’t venture into Boston often because I don’t like risking a car nap happening at the wrong time.  But, caution to the wind, it’s our special day!  My Trunk Club appointment motivated me to follow through.  I kept the plan flexible, with just an itinerary of my Trunk Club appointment, swan boats, ice cream, and explore the Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods.

Mom and son sitting by fountain
Reece and I sitting by the fountain, taking in the city.

We arrived a little early and sat by the fountain outside Trinity Church.  I pointed out the John Hancock Building, Boston Public Library, and Copley Place Mall to him.  I also pointed out a Wendy’s that used to be Poppy’s pizza shop.  Reece was only interested in the Hancock Building.  Now I have some homework to do finding toddler facts about Boston’s tallest building.  Our Trunk club appointment took about an  hour, I got two cute shirts.  The focus for the rest of the day was whatever Reece wanted to do!  We drove down to the Boston Public Garden and only had to circle once for a spot.  I was so relieved, there are parking lots nearby but street parking is so much cheaper!  We would have walked, but I forgot the stroller and the parking meter time was a factor.

 

Reece really wanted to explore and inspect every acorn.  He’s a dawdler, I rushed a little bit to make our way to the swan boats.  I didn’t want to risk lots of aimless wandering, then scratching the main event to haul it home ASAP for a nap.  Don’t worry, I didn’t rush too much.  It still took us about 20 minutes from the car to the docks – it’s about a 3 minute walk for a normal person.

Reece exploring Boston Public Garden
Reece exploring The Boston Public Garden

We spent about 10 minutes on the footbridge talking about how we were going to go on the swan boats.  I have to mention, Reece dressed himself, which explains the backwards shirt.  I asked him several times if he wanted to fix his shirt to no avail.  Nope, very proud, he did it himself, doesn’t need help.  At least his shorts were on right.  I think it’s 50/50 that any article of clothing is on the right way.

Reece on Boston Garden footbridge
Reece on the footbridge checking out the Swan Boats

Once we had soaked up the idea of what the swan boats were, we made our way into the line, applied more sunscreen, and hopped onboard.  If you don’t know the history of the swan boats, you should read about it here.  It’s not a long read, and the sweetest story.

 

Back at the dock we decided it was ice cream time, so off Reece and I ventured to some of the pushcarts nearby.  I did not have any cash so that was a fail.  We explored the Commons and Gardens a little more and headed down to Charles Street to find lunch.  A few of the places I wanted to check out had crazy, long lines and weren’t the most toddler friendly, and most importantly, NO ice cream.  After three or four restaurant fails we decided on Caffe Bella Vita.  I told my father later, and his response was, “That place is still open?”  Apparently, he used to go as a kid for gelato.  We ordered gelati for lunch with a PBJ dessert.

Reece eating strawberry ice cream
Reece nomming on some strawberry ice cream. Yum Yum!

We still had time left in the meter for one more thing.  It would be tight, but just enough time to go to the Boston Common Carousel.  I found $3 after rummaging through my diaper bag, hurrah!  Reece picked a bench instead of a horse and was in toddler heaven.  I even let him have a slush on the walk back to the car.  Which was sort of a bad idea because at this point we were pushing the limit of our parking meter time.  I tried to carry the slush to pick up the pace but no dice.  We got to the car and while I was buckling him in our time expired.  Whew!

Mom and Reece on carousel
Best picture we could get on the carousel. Just too exciting for selfies!

Boston Common Carousel

When we saw Dada that night, he asked Reece, “What did you do today?”  Reece told him, “I went shopping with Mama.”  Glad the swan boats, ice cream, carousel, and exploring the city and BPG made an impression!  When pressed he did also mention he had ice cream for lunch, haha.

Reece’s Dr. Seuss Birthday

First I had to say goodbye officially to the infant phase of my life when Kat turned two, and now Reece is four?  His last birthday before he is ‘school aged.’  Stop growing babies!!  Pity party aside… This year Reece could, somewhat, help pick out what he wanted to do for his birthday party.  I gave him a couple options he picked a backyard Dr. Seuss party.  The past few months he’s fallen back in love with his Dr. Seuss books and his birthday party countdown commenced.

We invited our family and Reece’s preschool class, which is pretty wild for us.  I took the gamble that most people wouldn’t be able to make it since it would be summer vacation.  As I had thought, only a handful of classmates RSVPed yes, a couple no, but the majority we didn’t hear from.  We planned food for more than we expected, since we weren’t 100% sure how many to expect.  Best to have too much food than not enough.

I later found out during our play group, pretty close to the party, several people didn’t even get the invitation and just assumed we only invited close friends when other play group moms mentioned it.  The problem with distributing cards to the class AT school I suppose.  Oops.  Hopefully we didn’t offend our classmates.  I learned, three and four year olds aren’t the best messengers.  Who knew?

As with Kat’s party I whipped up a Pinterest board for ideas on what little touches of Dr. Seuss I could bring to the party.

Decor

We only bought a couple things, a Dr. Seuss party banner from my favorite store, Target, of course, and a few red and blue plates and cups.  The only other decor were signs I drew myself.  Since it was a backyard party, we didn’t need to go crazy on decorations.

 

Food

To go with the Dr. Seuss theme that was preschool friendly we did pasta salad (noodle eating poodle), gold fish (the fish from The Cat In The Hat) and of course (Truffula) fruit salad.  Not theme related, but other food included: hotdogs, popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, and mini Oreo. The kids spent about half the party crowded around the food table helping themselves to Oreo and popcorn so good thing we didn’t stick to only theme food.

 

Activity

We were going to do water activities, but nixed it since not all the kiddos had suits.  Didn’t matter, the kids played on the swing set, a crawling tunnel, balls, and all the other outdoor toys we have and had a blast.  By candle time pretty much all the kids were ready for naps.  Not very Pinteresty, but at this age running around outside is much more fun than adults trying to tell them what to do and when to do it.

Dessert

Reece requested cupcakes.  The most important part of these cupcakes (for me) were the Dr. Seuss colors.  So I picked up a food coloring kit.

 

I picked a couple different story books: The Lorax, One Fish Two fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and Oh, The Places You’ll Go!  For the truffula trees I used this super easy tutorial to make yarn flowers which actually make a cool truffula trees, then stuck the pipe cleaner into straws that I cut down a little to fit the cupcakes.

Truffula trees
Truffula tree tops

For the One Fish Two Fish cupcakes I piped yellow frosting, then put gummy sharks or Swedish fish on top.  Oh, The Places You’ll Go cupcakes, simply piped a layer in few different colors with the round frosting tip.

Dr Seuss Cupcakes

Since I made more than enough, my husband brought the leftovers to his office and he reported back that his coworkers knew it was Dr. Seuss cupcakes!  I was pretty jazzed. For any allergy kiddos we made some Cat In The Hat parfait.

If you are thinking of a birthday party that isn’t a typical character theme that you can find at Party City, don’t feel overwhelmed!  There are ways to get creative and not spend all your budget on Etsy.  And, don’t forget the most important goal, a fun party for the birthday boy/girl.  All that’s needed for a successful birthday party, really, is playing and toddler friendly food.

Kat Turns Two! – Art Birthday Theme

Another year, another year older for Kat.  Wahhh!!  I officially no longer have a 1 and 3 year old.  After lots of self pity wondering where the time went, I got to planning on how to celebrate my despair… Umm.. Happiness…  Time to get cracking on the birthday party planning.

I’m not one to go all out with huge, fancy blowout birthday parties, but I do like to do a couple special touches.  We typically have smallish backyard parties since we have April and June babies.  We invited our family and a couple friends who have toddlers the same age as Reece and Kat, keeps it somewhat manageable for us.

Since Reece and Kat are still pretty little, I have a good amount of control on all birthday party aspects.  At this age, let’s be real, it’s basically the parents party.  Regardless, I wanted to make it Kat’s party as much as I could.  She’s a pretty sunny baby and loves her unicorn costume, trains, gymnastics, baby dolls, legos…  So many interests and cool things, what to pick?!  After some brainstorming, and a lot of flip flopping, I settled on an art theme.  We do art class every week along with big brother and this was a chance to show off her artistic chops!  

I created a pinterest board to help inspire me.  Then I tried to figure out what could be done with minimal work and on the cheap.  

Decor

I hung up Kat and Reece’s art work around the house to showcase their beautiful work (read: scribbles).  Then I bought a unicorn table cloth and a couple little strings that had colorful mini poms on them and strung them up on a window and the front door. Kats Art themed birthday party decor 

Food

I tried to keep things colorful since it was an art theme.  I did a veggie rainbow platter and a bowl with all different colored fruit.  I stumbled upon some Chewies that had rainbow sprinkles on them.   Then we got lazy and bought some chicken bites, plus mac and cheese bites and baked them up. Hey, it’s a toddler party, right?

Kat nomming on strawberries
Kat nomming on strawberries

rainbow of fruit, birthday art food

Activity

Of course we have to have some painting at our Art Birthday party! So I bought a pack of board canvas, one for each toddler friend and restocked our paint.  Then I moved the craft table into the main room so the kids weren’t squished in the playroom. They spent about 5 minutes painting and crafting, the rest of the time they were either eating (80% of Kat’s time at least) or going to town with whatever toys they could find in the playroom.  Somehow, the house wasn’t a huge mess after the party, woohoo!Kat drawing in a coloring bookKat and friends painting

Cake

This is typically the ‘big’ thing I do for my children’s birthdays.  To create this cool looking cake, I baked SIX layers of cake then frosted it with vanilla frosting.  I melted white chocolate in several bowls and mixed each one with a different food coloring color.  Using a spoon, I dribbled the chocolate over the cake edge.  I let Reece help by letting him go to town with some dot rainbow sprinkles, covering the entire top.  To top it all off, I got a pack of paper poms.  A pretty big show stopper.  I thought with all the white chocolate it would be disgusting since I’m not really a fan, but paired with the cake it was yummy.Kat's rainbow art birthday cake

If you are planning an Art themed birthday party, I hope this gave you some ideas of what you could do.  Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks if you are interested in a Dr. Seuss theme, I’ll be posting Reece’s Dr. Seuss party!

What To Consider If You Want To Become A SAHM

“Should I leave the workforce and be a stay at home parent?”  I believe, ultimately, you already know the answer to this question.  BUT, there are some things you may not have considered as part of the equation.  A lot of parents focus on finances when trying to decide whether one parent will be staying at home.  Then there are a lot of hidden considerations that can go overlooked.  While I can’t give you the answer, I can give a little insight to some factors to be considered if a parent should ditch the 9-5 to become a stay at home parent. It’s a big decision and should be heavily weighed before handing over your resignation letter.  Where do you start?  

Resentment

Will there be resentment from the working parent towards the non-working parent?  Will the stay at home parent resent that the working parent gets “a break” from the kids, adult interaction, a further identity than just Mom or Dad?  Will there be resentment because of how long the working parent is gone for the day?  It might seem sweet and sunshiny to be with the baby all day long, but the sleepy newborn days end and by 4:45 you could be at your END.  When Dad is 10 minutes later than normal, he is almost guaranteed to walk into a shit show.  The working parent has to be able to take on kid duty as soon as they walk through the door.  

Loneliness

How will you connect with others? How will it feel to be without adult interaction day after day? Unless you have a lot of friends that live nearby who have kids that are at least somewhat close in age to yours, you might be pretty lonely only talking to someone who can’t communicate all day every day.  Signing up for multiple activities does not guarantee a Best Mom Friend, at least not immediately.  All mom’s are very busy and their babies/kids have their own schedules so trying to make the leap from acquaintances to friends outside of a class/activity can be a hurdle since the best way to make a friendship grow is constant interaction.  Gaining mom friends is a constant hustle.     

Loss of Identity

Leaving the workforce, even if it’s only for a couple years, can leave you feeling like your identity slipping away from you.  Being at home all day with the kids turns into an identity as Mom.  I can’t even recall how many parents I know simply as ‘so and so’s’ mom.  You remember the children’s names but it’s always so hectic so mom and dad’s name gets lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes it’s hard to separate from mom duty in order to attend to your own hobbies and interests. 

How will you “refresh?”

Getting space away parenting to attend to your own hobbies and interests is vital not only for your identity.  Don’t feel guilty about this one!  Treat yourself to some self care.  Wether it is once a week, month or few times a year, make it a priority to have some time away from your baby/babies.  Everyone needs a break from Mom Mode. Being burnt out constantly means the entire family suffers.  Schedule a date night or a Mom’s Nite Out or just go for a run.

Think beyond newborn phase

Try to think beyond the sleepy newborn phase where you’re cuddling, napping, or walking in the stroller all day.  At some point your baby is going to start to sit up and roll.  Then comes the crawling, the walking, and the talk talk talking!  Beyond that, there’s regressions, behavior issues, power struggles and boundary pushing.  As a parent you have to roll with this no matter what, but when you’re home ALL day, every day, it’s a whole other animal!

What will you be doing all day?  

Being home all day can make you stir crazy fast.  Draw out a tentative schedule of activities.  Maybe it’s lunch with a friend or family once a week or a mommy and me class.  The eat, sleep, play cycle gets boring fast.  Look up what’s available in your community.

Budget For Activities

There are free and cheap things to do with baby besides going for walks and the playground, but there are so many cool things to do, even the less expensive activities will add up.

Consider what you experiences you might want to have with your baby and price it out with a liberal guess at how much and  how often you will go.  Will you want to do dance or art classes? How much is the indoor playground? If you live somewhere with tough winters take into account that you might want to go frequently in the winter when you’re unable to play outside.

Finances

Think beyond income vs. daycare costs.  Additional costs of working would be commute (time/gas), health insurance costs, take out food costs.  Keep the income loss amount in perspective.  Take home salary is usually about a third less than your actual salary (in the US at least).

When and how and/or if you will reenter the workforce?

I have probably edited my plan several dozen times, but even if it changes, there should be a plan.  Think about when you would go back, after the youngest is in elementary school?  Only a year?  Then, think about how to reenter the workforce.  Keep your resume updated, if possible, do volunteer or part time work in your field, and keep up with networking connections.

Mom working on laptop
Me trying to work with my ‘napping’ newborn.

After all these different factors have been thought out, which are you leaning towards?  If you are leaning even slightly towards one or the other, you know your answer.  It’s never easy, but often times the decision is simple after working it out.  What will it be for you?

Our Renovation: Week 1 & 2

Living through a renovation is hard for any family.  Doing it with two toddlers it has it’s own set of unique challenges.  The construction part isn’t even close to the most difficult part.  Toddler meals and trying to keep the kids out of the crews way have been the hard part.   

Breakfast hasn’t been too challenging since there are several options where no heating is involved or just a toaster which is all we have.  The kids have been getting a lot of waffles and yogurt and cut up fruit.  A few mornings when eggs were all Reece wanted there were tears but for the most part we’ve skated by easily.  Lunch hasn’t been too bad either since Reece eats PBJ every day now if we are home.  Kat gets cut up cold cuts, cheese, fruit, a slice of bread and I’ll eat a salad or sandwich.  Dinner has been the big question mark each day.

cluttered dining room
Our temporary kitchen

We waited for summer to start our renovation because of the nice weather, but of course the first 3 nights we had no kitchen it rained.  Cross off my idea for grilling!  I ordered pizza since my fridge was pretty much cheese and milk.  I’m trying to not make a habit out of ordering out too often since it gets expensive fast and there’s another month of no kitchen in our future.

The first night we were able to grill I invited a friend over so I could figure out what I was doing and someone could keep an eye on all tiny beasts.  It was also my first time grilling. Ever!  So it was nice to not be working on how to figure out a coal grill and making sure my two tiny beasts weren’t getting into trouble. I didn’t burn anything, hurrah!  I also didn’t add enough coals, so there was barely enough heat to finish our meal. Oops, lesson not learned, did this most of the following nights as well.

My second night grilling I was solo with the two tiny beasts.  All things considered it went well, nothing burnt or uncooked and no casualties.  If you have been following me on my Instagram Stories you might have witnessed my triumph of multitasking when my husband is overwhelmed with grilling while I’m with him helping out.

grilled chicken strawberries carrots
First of many uneaten meals since the kitchen renovation started

Since our dinners have become mostly BBQ I’ve learned my toddlers do not like chicken on the grill, even if it’s in the most yummy marinade and the only option is hot dogs and NEVER forget to grill up some corn on the cob.

baby eating corn on the cob
Nom nom nom, corn on the cob for days

The start day was a Monday which is good because Kat has daycare all day and Reece was still in school so he was out of the house the first morning during the majority of the demolition.  Which led to a false sense that maybe things will go according to the timeline.  Hahahahaha.

kitchen renovation no walls
End of Day 1 in the kitchen renovation

For four days the plumber was held up on the project before ours, plagued with issues of faulty parts then the warehouse sending incorrect replacement parts before he could start work on our kitchen.  Thursday evening he came by the house and did an inventory so he could shop the next day morning and get to work.  Friday he showed up and moved some pipes and was done after about 3.5 hours of work.  Then realized, based on where cabinets were being installed, additional pipes would need to be moved as well.  Monday the plumber was sick and couldn’t make it. Tuesday he came and finished what he needed to do.  After that things started moving along better.

renovation pipes
One of several problem areas where plumbing needed to be relocated

The electricians came by Wednesday and by the time they were done we could see dramatic results.  Just kidding.  They did a lot of work but Rich and I could not tell you to save our lives what they had done and what was different about the kitchen.  After the plumber and electrician were pretty much wrapped up with any prep work they had do to the crew got to work.

The biggest challenge for the crew is probably Kat and Reece.  They are SO curious and fascinated by the crew and their work.  We try to be out of the house for most of the day, but sometimes activities don’t get started or the kids drag the their feet getting ready for the day and pester the crew before we can head out the door.  A small hole about 4 inches big in the tarp covering the doorway very quickly grew to 4 feet.  Reece and Kat love to stick their entire bodies in and check what’s happening.

Kitchen reno giant hole
This is the wonderful “viewing” hole

The crew keeps it pretty clean in the kitchen so it’s not a death trap in the kitchen and they sweep up the floor from the kitchen to the front door.  The house has been slipping slowly into a pit or despair since kitchen stuff is in the bathroom and dining room but it hasn’t impeded too much on our lives.  The timing (summer) is a big help.  Another big help is that Kat and Reece are able to still nap even with our house being a construction zone.  Thank you sound machines!!!  If we were still using bottles, I think I’d be asking if there’s such a thing as disposable bottles.  Our bottle days are behind us and at meals we can give the kids plastic cups.  Maybe we set realistic expectations of what to expect.  All and all, so far, living through a renovation hasn’t been as terrible as HGTV would have you think it is.

toddler siblings kissing
Kitchen renovations are a great reason for even more fun in the sun and naked backyard time

Stay tuned to see if this is still true week 3 and beyond!

Living Through a Renovation… With 2 Toddlers

We recently took on the endeavor of a bathroom and kitchen renovation. Which, now that it’s happening, feels a little insane, but this is our forever home and we felt it’s time to start making it our home with more than just fresh paint in the bedrooms.  

At first glance, the kitchen seems fine.  Cooking in it daily though, helps to pull back some of the layers of this crazy onion of a kitchen.  The seller had painted very old cabinets, replaced some of the hinges, added a new countertop and bought mid range stainless steel appliances that were dented floor models.  Ultimately, besides the counter, it was all an awesome kitchen facade.  

The worst part about the kitchen was the layout. With only about 20” of prep space it was my own home kitchen nightmare.  I make at least 3 meals a day that involve cutting boards and several food items sprawled about.  The daily use was a pain, holidays a shit show.

With our new layout plan there will be several feet of counter space to prep and shelving in the cabinets that pull out so nothing can get lost in the back like a Bermuda Triangle of kitchen space.  Plus a second oven!  We found a contractor we trusted, a parent at Reece’s preschool.  Now the “fun” would begin.  

You might think the stress of a renovation would start once demolition of the kitchen starts. No, no… Nope… No… You would be wrong.  Especially if you have children.  You have to make many decisions, and if you’re organized, you’ll want to have everything picked out (and in some cases ordered) in advance.  

Which leads me to stresses prior to demo day.  Trying to shop with young children running around the store is hectic at best.  When we went to the appliance store the kids were running in different directions, touching everything, Kat wanted to use the potty then wouldn’t go, then ask to go again, and to top it off Reece had a pee accident even though he had tried to potty minutes before.

We still needed to figure out the counters and tile and didn’t feel like having an appliance store repeat.  Our monthly date night was coming up so we ended up using the time to go to the granite showroom and tile store.  The glamour!  We picked three quartz samples we liked and requested a quote and brought home some tile samples so we could pick based off the finalized counter choice.  Our hope was that one of the three quartz prices would be much cheaper therefore making the decision for us.  Turned out the difference was within $200 so cost wasn’t really a huge factor. 

Quartz Choices
Our top 3 picks

After much flip flopping I made a decision.  It may seem so simple to simply call and let the granite place know what our pick is, but for some reason when you have kids phone calls and emails are such a pain.  After about a week of Rich or I promising to order the counter “today” I finally sent an email.  On to picking a sink and order the tile as well!  We obviously waited another 2 or 3 weeks before I could finally bring the tile samples back to the store and order the backsplash.  

During the procrastination period of tile ordering, we checked with the contractor that the sink we wanted would fit the space.  It was then that we, sadly, realized maybe we should have picked an apron sink prior to the cabinets being delivered since they would have needed to know that beforehand.  Scratch the apron sink, boo!  We checked out a showroom with tons of faucets and sink options, but they never sent us quotes. Only extremely annoying since we had to bring the kids this time and it was pretty close to our appliance store experience.  

After checking online we found their prices were about twice as much for the same sink at Home Depot or Amazon sooo… Off to Home Depot we went, with the kids.  After a few pictures and lots of screaming and crying we made a hasty exit.  Luckily, we could take what we found from the Depot and check reviews on Amazon in the quiet of our home after bedtime.  The sink was delivered the very next day!

Kat and Reece try to cramp into the cart
Fun at Home Depot

Once most of the decisions had come together we got a start date and the days leading up to it were spent packing our kitchen.  Luckily I had a day where Reece was at preschool while Kat was at daycare, so I got 2 hours of packing started.  And by started I mean, I moved all the crap in our attic that was in the way, blocking the stairs, out of the way.  Our attic is huge.  The small amount of things we do have up there my husband had “organized.”  Which means, it was a hot mess.  Baby clothes tossed on top of boxes, holiday decorations lying across the stairs.  Good thing I had all this kid free time to clear up the kitchen! Oh wait…

Kitchen dining room renovation
Our makeshift Kitchen in the dining room during the renovation.

After I picked up Reece from his long 3 hour day at preschool, we had lunch, and he napped for 3 hours, so I actually did get a lot accomplished then.  The rest of the packing happened the Saturday night and Sunday before the demo.  Saturday we stayed up until 11 packing up, then the next day my brother came by and took the kids to lunch for 2 hours so we could wrap up packing.  Uncle Matt got lucky and Kat had a huge blowout so they didn’t get to go to the park together, but at least we finished what we needed to do.

We were, ready for demo day!!!  Ha… Not really…  Stay tuned for Week One!

When Three Became Four

We were so focused on the first meet of our newborn and toddler that we overlooked researching the time leading up to it.  If you know toddlers, you know, in order to get them to do anything you have to plant a seed and give it time to grow.  Luckily, we were doing this all along since it’s a pretty important step and shouldn’t be overlooked!  Our now 2 and 3 year old are each other’s best friends.  Part of it is their personalities I don’t doubt, but preparation before the new baby arrives goes a long way.  Please know, not every family is the same and you need to adjust for your child’s personality.  Hopefully, our family’s experience can be used as a guide or to get ideas to help you smooth the transition from a family of 3 to 4.

During Pregnancy – Get Ready to Talk – A Lot!

It might not seem like it, but your soon to be “big” sister/brother is taking in a lot more than you realize.  Setting the groundwork leading up to when they first meet is a big part of the process.  We started preparing Reece several months before the new baby arrived.  We started talking about the baby in mama’s belly at about 10 weeks.  Some people wait until after the 12 week mark so their toddler doesn’t spill the beans.  Reece wasn’t the most chatty so we weren’t concerned.  Once friends and family know, start talking on the regular!  When we talked to Reece about the baby, we always referred to her as “his baby” so he felt as though he was a part of what we happening.

We also read several books to reinforce the idea of a new baby.  I was on bedrest for a lot of my second pregnancy so I also took advantage of my son’s love for Daniel Tiger.  We watched The Baby is Here episode about 200 times from my 28th week on.

Before, after, and during watching  Daniel Tiger we would talk about the baby and “kiss” her.  Then we would talk about how excited we were to meet her in the coming days.  Don’t forget that! It’s one thing to talk about the baby in the belly, it’s another to make sure you drill it into your toddler’s head that this baby will be coming home to stay in the near future.  Again, even if it doesn’t feel like they are getting it, that idea seed is growing.  

Mom Reece and belly ice cream
Mom Reece and baby bump eating ice cream

The Big Day, for your toddler, not L&D day

We decided to have the new siblings meet in the hospital since it’s a neutral location.  We had my two brothers and sister watch Reece during Kat’s labor and delivery.  Yes, it took three adults to watch one 22 month old.  When they all came to see us at the hospital there was a lot of talk about how tired they were. Ha!  We left a daily Reece schedule on the fridge.  We let them know it’s flexible.  They don’t have kids and had no idea how much food at each meal, when naps/bedtime happen, and other small things that as a parent you just know.  We wanted to try to keep home life as normal as possible.

After we had rested a little from the delivery we told my siblings any time they wanted to stop by we were ready.  They texted us when they had parked and we rolled our new baby, Kat, into the bathroom.  Yes, it sounds crazy, but we wanted to give Reece the time he needed for a mini reunion and some solo time.  We made sure not to put any pressure on Reece.  If he wanted to say hello he could, if not, that was fine as well.  We did take a few pictures but didn’t make them do force posed pictures together.  We simply followed Reece’s lead. 

Reece and Kat’s Meet Cute

When Reece arrived we said our hello’s and checked in with him.  Then we rolled Kat in and let him look at her.  Dad picked her up and we introduced big brother to little sister then we had them exchange gifts.  Little sister was given a Sophie and big brother got a truck.  We let them observe each other and talked about how it was so exciting she would be coming home to stay with us soon.

Reece enjoyed pointing out all of Kat’s features, eyes, ears, head, nose.  He accidentally scratched Kat’s face kissing her and she cried out.  Since Reece is a very empathetic toddler he cried for about 10 minutes, which was 9 minutes and 50 seconds longer than Kat.  We decided Reece was at his limit and said goodbye to Kat.  Off she rolled, into bathroom again.  We had a few minutes of solo time with our toddler then said our goodbyes, letting him know we would see him the following day.  

The visit short. I didn’t time it, but probably less than a half an hour.  Crying fit and all.  I never held the baby during the visit, but Reece did get to climb into bed with me for a cuddle.

 

big brother kissing little sister

Toddlers are not always the most delicate.  Add to that, they might not be thrilled to meet their new sibling.  Feelings of jealousy, confusion, sadness are all normal.  Be prepared for things to not go smoothly.  There might be hitting or crying involved.  Don’t be afraid of their first introduction, but keep it in your mind that it might not be love at first sight.  Sometimes it’s not love at first sight between parents and babies (completely normal also).  We shouldn’t expect instant love from our new big brother/sister.

Freaking out over a toddler hitting our being to rough with the newborn is most likely only going to scare your child.  Try to remain as calm as possible, even when you are on the verge of melting into a puddle.

Think back to when you became a first time mom/dad.  This is very similar for your toddler.  Your oldest will need YOU to help navigate this new transition. As second/third/etc. time parents you need to help set the tone and nurture their relationship.

Even if things are tough at first, down the road the new baby will be more child and less blob and they will be able to play together. Big siblings can be younger siblings best teachers and role models!  If it’s awesome from the start, great! If it’s rocky, hang in there! It gets better, it just takes some time.

Big brother and little sis cuddling
A very proud big brother cuddling with sister.