Thursday, May 28, 2015

20 Month Update

Let's be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this age. I love how active and vocal the tot is becoming, but I do not love the tantrums that occur every five minutes. Simple tasks like running to the grocery store have gotten much easier, but when she comes unglued because she can't eat the blueberries, hold the raw chicken, or throw things out of the cart I start to reconsider just how "easy" this phase really is. She's testing her boundaries (and my patience) with every move she makes, constantly deciding whether to follow my instruction or do the opposite. Usually the latter occurs followed by some sort of punishment. Not to say that she's a bad egg, but when she puts herself in the time out corner without any direction from us, it's time to start considering other disciplining options. But seriously, how can you be mad at this face? Things would be a lot easier if she wasn't so darn adorable. And covering my face in smooches two seconds after I punish her.

One fun hurdle this month has been Taylor generously sharing every meal and snack with her pal, Charlie. Sometimes she's sly about it and waits until we're not looking, but most of the time she does it right in front of our faces then denies it when we ask her about it. Thankfully, Charlie's stomach is pretty iron-clad, but, unfortunately, there have been a few night-time vomiting sessions to report. Nothing is worse than waking up at 2 a.m. to find your room covered in dog vomit (except maybe waking up to find it covered in dog shit). The silver lining is that I rarely have to sweep the kitchen floor anymore and Charlie is becoming much more tolerant of Taylor wallering all over him.

Favorite activities this month include picking up rocks and twirling in circles, which proves she is as much a tomboy as she is a girly-girl. This chick developed a serious love of rocks out of nowhere. She will spend an hour sitting under our deck picking up as many rocks as she can fit in her hands only to throw them down and start all over. It's all fun and games until it's time to go inside and she is forced to leave her rocks outside. Now, I know what you're thinking, just let her bring them inside. Well, I did at first until I found them hidden in the kitchen drawers and tucked between our bed sheets. Her love of hiding those precious stones randomly throughout the house quickly led to the end of her indoor rock collection. Now we leave them on the patio furniture or inside the cup holders in her car seat. Aside from her love of solidified calcium, her newest fascination is twirling, a personal childhood favorite of mine. The tot absolutely loves it when I hold her in my arms and we spin in circles until we fall over. The faster I go, the tighter she squeezes my neck and the louder we giggle. It's totally worth the dizzying headache and is a great stress reliever. I highly recommend it.

My personal favorite this month has to be her overly-dramatic answers to everything. No matter what question we ask, she responds with a loud gasp followed with a giant smile as if I just said she could bring all of her rocks inside, which would make her the happiest kid on the planet. Her communication skills are improving daily, and I love that she's starting to learn more words. Her versions of please (peeeeeea) and thank you (dat yoo) are the sweetest sounds. When she's not being a hellion, she is such a sweetheart.

The hair situation is still a hot mess, but we're beginning to learn how to maneuver through it. Tay's hair is getting too long to leave down all the time, especially with summer just around the corner. In the mornings, she's entirely too focused on chugging her milk to even notice me putting in her pig tails, but when we need to brush her hair after bath time our new go-to is distracting her with things outside our bedroom window. I ask her to locate different objects, like "her" tree (the October maple we planted for her before she as born), weeds flowers, Charlie, or Jake (if he's mowing the lawn), which usually takes just enough time for her to locate as it does for me to complete my task. Distraction for the win!

Other fun things this month include a new play kitchen gifted to us by my Great Aunt, a Taylor-size plastic slide and ride-on airplane courtesy of my sister cleaning out her basement, a gazillion wagon/stroller/tricycle rides up and down every hill in the neighborhood, and lots of trips to the park to play. This girl loves to be outside, and I'm already looking forward to many trips to the pool with her this summer.

While this age seems to be testing every ounce of my patience, it has also been the most fun to date. She drives me crazy yet fills my day with joy and laughter. Her personality resembles mine more and more each day, which is probably why we butt heads so often. While she is a mama's girl at heart, no one can make her laugh like her daddy. Watching the two of them play is the absolute best, but holding her in my arms as she lays her head on my shoulder at the end of each day is my favorite thing in the entire world. I wouldn't trade her love or her tantrums or anything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things I Want My Daughter (and the General Public) to Learn

With graduation season upon us, I thought it would be fitting for me to talk about my own life experiences after leaving high school. I was ready to pack up my car and move to college the day after graduation but, unfortunately, I was stuck working a summer job and counting down the days until mid-August rolled around. When the time finally came for me to start the next chapter of my life, I was beyond excited. While I was overly eager to leave the small town that I called home and head out into the world to do BIG things, it turned out that I was vastly unprepared to live on my own.

In high school, I had taken all the necessary college prep courses and passed with flying colors, but none of those classes prepared me for life in the real world. My parents attempted to teach me about managing money and the importance of financial responsibility, but aside from those topics there remained a whole slew of things that I knew nothing about. I realize that growing up in a small school with limited course section probably didn't help, but those were my circumstances and there wasn't much I could do about it. I was a young, naive kid coasting through life without a care in the world, but all of that changed as soon as I was out on my own. Shortly after my next chapter began, life slapped me in the face with a reality check. Wake up, Dorothy, you're not in Kansas any more.

Lucky for me, my first year of college was the easiest. My housing, utilities, and food were all provided and conveniently paid for by my tuition...or my parents...or someone. Herein lies problem #1, I honestly had no idea what was going on or who was paying for anything. I lived in that tiny, concrete dorm room (along with the complete stranger selected to be my roommate) and went to class as I was told. There weren't many things to worry about other than studying and being extremely homesick. Throughout that first year, I made a whole bunch of new friends, adjusted to dorm life, and began to settle into a new normal.

My sophomore year, my roommate and I decided to leave dorm life behind and venture out in search of living quarters off campus. We settled on a three bedroom duplex in a safe neighborhood that primarily housed college students. For the first time in my life, I was able to make my own rules and do as I pleased. Little did I know then that "making your own rules" goes hand in hand with being able to provide for yourself. After all, that duplex wasn't cheap and neither were the stacks of bills we received every month. It blew my mind when I discovered that you actually had to pay for things like water and trash service, both things that no one had ever told me before. 

That first year living on my own was a complete eye opener for me. I was working a part-time job, going to school full time, and struggling to pay my bills every month. I lived on ramen noodles and cereal and called my parents begging for rent money on more than one occasion. Eventually, my parents had enough and told me it was time to grow up and figure things out on my own, just as they should have. Once there wasn't anyone to hold my hand or do everything for me any more, I learned how to be resourceful, manage my money better, and, basically, become a productive member of society. I was done relying on others for help and it felt great.

Now that I'm a mother to a daughter of my own, I know that one day I'll be forced to say goodbye and watch as my daughter leaves to embarks on a journey of her own. Before that day comes, I want to ensure that I inform her of all the things that I was blindly unaware of when I moved away from home. So, being my Type A self, I've made a list of some of the traits and life lessons I want to instill in Taylor before she spreads her wings and flies off on her own. Thank goodness that time is far off in the distant future because it makes me teary-eyed just thinking about it.

1.  The Importance of RESPECT and Proper Manners - If Taylor learns nothing else on this list, I hope she learns how to treat others with respect, because I am constantly amazed at how rude people can be. When I was younger, I was taught to listen to adults and to say "please" and "thank you" when asking for something. I am almost disgusted at how self-righteous and entitled children are today, rarely using any manners and treating adults without an ounce of respect. My child will never act like that (at least not when I am present). Respect your elders and be kind to others, because even the smallest amount of kindness goes a long way.

2. Financial Responsibility - Ah, yes, the one thing that my parents taught me that I actually listened to. Growing up, we lived on my father's minimal salary while my mom went to college and raised two young girls. While we didn't always get everything we wanted, we always had more than enough. I never knew just how little we lived on until I was older and my mom informed me of the specifics. It's crazy how some people can have all the money in the world and never be as happy as we were living on such little. You don't have to make a ton of money to be happy, but you need to manage your money well enough so that you have what you need when you need it. A little planning and a solid budget can go a long way.

3. Responsible Ownership -  I want Taylor to learn the importance of buying and owning a home, vehicle, and anything else she may wish to acquire. During college (and even long after), I rented one crappy apartment after another until Jake and I were financially stable enough to buy our first home. Honestly, there are so many things to consider when buying a home that we didn't really even know where to start. We knew what we liked and disliked, but we knew that our dollars weren't going to stretch far enough to get us everything. We researched loan options and interest rates, but we also should have been thinking about all of the money we would need in order to maintain a home once it was ours. Unexpected costs like replacing a broken lawnmower or fixing a broken air conditioner never even crossed our minds, yet both happened the first summer we bought our house. Home maintenance is expensive but also very important. 

4. Creating Value  -  This one goes hand-in-hand with #4. I'm anal by nature, so keeping my belongings in pristine condition is key, but I want Taylor to learn the importance of value and the importance of taking care of her things. This was a lesson that was instilled in me early on in life. Growing up, we weren't well off by any means, so my sister and I learned to take care of the things we did have. While things are just things, it's important to treat your property just like you'd treat yourself, with love and respect. Maintaining your belongings will extend their life and increase your resale value on major purchases, like a home or a vehicle. Be smart with your money but also learn to take care of the things you've worked hard to purchase.

5. Credit (and why it's necessary) - Unfortunately, credit is a necessary evil in this world. I won't go into specifics on this, because it's always a hot topic for people (and yes, I've read Dave Ramsey's book and know his philosophy), but my take on credit is be smart and use it wisely. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of credit card perks as long as you pay down your balance every month. You're not gaining anything if you're paying the credit card company interest. However, things like cash back and frequent flier miles come in handy at times so why not use the system to your benefit? Plus, unless you have a sack full of cash, you're going to need a solid credit rating in order to purchase a home or vehicle. My advise is: "Don't buy more than you can afford." Again, this is where a monthly budget comes in handy.

6. How to Balance a Check Book (and why it's important to track your spending) - I have this magical ability to spend money without even realizing it. I can run to Target and spend hundreds of dollars in no time (it's funny how I always need a new tumbler or Taylor needs a new pair of shoes). I can log on to check my e-mail and before I know it I've got 10 items in my Gap shopping cart, but I'm able to do this because I'm financially sound. I have a detailed budget which includes what bills come out of which paychecks, and as soon as my paycheck comes in I pay those bills, put money into savings, and the rest is mine to do with as I please. Jake has his own budget and own system for his potion of our household expenses. I cannot state enough how much I love having separate finances.

7. Common (and Costly!) Household Expenses - Again with the water bill. Blew my mind. And trash, and electricity, and gas, and the list goes on and on. I was super sad when I got my first paycheck from my first full-time grown up job and nearly all of it was spent on rent and household bills. Say what? You mean I don't just get to blow all of this on clothes and dining out? It's expensive being an adult, but being independent sure beats mooching off your parents your entire life.

8. No Summer in the Real World - Let's face it, the day you sign up for your first full-time, big kid job you are kissing summer vacations goodbye. Teachers are the only people I know that get more than a couple of weeks off in the summer, but not everyone has the patience to deal with 20 screaming kids all day which means they probably deserve it. My husband gets 12 days off a year and I get about 15 (that's vacation, sick, and personal time combined). Between taking time off for daycare closures and sick days, we're maxed out, which means our summer adventures have to happen just like everyone else's - on the weekends. So if you're wondering why every place is completely packed on Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, it's because we're all too busy working during the week to do things like go to the grocery store or pick up our dry cleaning. 

9. Taxes & Insurance (or as I like to call it The Dwindling Paycheck Effect) - When you're extended a job offer and you see your salary on paper, it's an awesome feeling. However, when you receive your first pay check and the amount is about half of what you were expecting, do not be surprised. Taxes suck, but you have to pay them (or go to jail). There's no getting around it, so don't even try. Insurance is expensive but necessary. Be conscious of the benefits offered by an employer when looking at job offers. Sometimes a less paying job with better benefits is more beneficial in the long run, because trust me you're going to want good health insurance when it comes down to it. Life is always throwing curve balls so it's best to be prepared for anything.

10. The Difference Between Winners and Losers (and why both are important) - School systems and athletic programs today like to emphasize that "there are no winners and losers." Well, let me tell you, that's crap. There most definitely are winners (the ones that come in first) and there are losers (the ones that come in last). And in the real world, both are acknowledged as such. Do you think that if I'm not doing my job correctly my boss is going to say, "It's okay, you tried your best?" No, she's going to fire me and hire someone who can do the job right. By telling our kids that winners and losers don't exist, we are setting them up for failure.  I'm not saying we should push them past their limits or go to extremes to ensure they are the best at everything, but we should prepare them for the future, a future that does, in fact, consist of winners (they guy who gets the promotion, the girl, etc.) and losers (the guy who doesn't). It's also important to acknowledge that there are some things that they're just not going to be good at, but with a positive attitude and a great deal of effort they can get better. There have been many days when I'd much rather walk out the door than deal with another aggravated customer, but I stick it out because there are other days when I absolutely love my job. We need to teach our kids to take the good with the bad and learn how to overcome obstacles rather than letting them quit at the first hard thing that presents itself. After all, life isn't easy - the struggles are real - and kids should be made aware of these things before being subjected to life in the real world.

And for being such good sports and reading this extremely long post, here are some photos of my sister and I when we were little. She's going to hate me for this, but oh well. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day

To say that I have been a blog slacker lately would be putting it nicely. The last couple of weeks we've been recovering from vacation as well as a viral infection that turned our sweet little girl completely upside down. She's finally better and I'm on the mend (because you know I had to catch whatever it was that she had), but now we're dealing with a serious case of biting. While the tot has attempted to bite a couple of kids at daycare, she prefers to bite me...on the shoulder....while giving me a hug. This chick has turned into a total sour patch kid - and just in time for Mother's Day!

My Mother's Day weekend kicked off with the hubby taking me out to lunch and delivering flowers to my office on Friday. That evening, he showered me with gifts just before we hit the road to visit my parents for the weekend. Jake may be a hard ass at times, but he really goes above and beyond to make me feel special when it matters most. The guy is way better at surprises than I am and totally gets what it means to be a husband. I'm extremely lucky to have him in my life.

Taylor, on the other hand, decided to show her love for me by kicking me in the face and biting me three times this weekend. Three. Twice during church on Sunday and once more at home last night, just for good measure. Seriously, what is with this child? Clearly, she didn't get the memo that you're supposed to be nice to your mom on Mother's Day.

We spent the weekend with my family and celebrated Mother's Day Saturday night. All 12 of us ventured out to one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate, and what a delight that turned out to be! Due to the holiday (and no one wanting to cook), the place was completely packed. Since our party was so large, we were forced to sit at two different tables, which meant Riley, Reagan & Taylor each took turns screaming/crying since they couldn't be right next to each other. Top that with half of our party not getting their food, Taylor climbing out of her highchair every 5 minutes, and you get a glimpse of why we prefer to stay at home for family gatherings. After dinner, we headed back to my parents' house for desert and to let the kids run wild play. Their house looked like a tornado had gone through it with toys trailing down the hall and empty dishes strewn about, a clear indication that we all had a great evening. I absolutely adore my family no matter how crazy or chaotic they may be, and I'm always grateful when we get to spend quality time together.

Aside from being battered and bruised, the weekend overall was a success. I was able to spend some much-needed time with the ladies in my life that matter most, my sister, my mom, and my grandmother. Not only are these ladies hard-working, strong, and intelligent women, but they are also kind, generous, and extraordinary mothers. I'm lucky to have such wonderful role models in my life to look up to, and I'm thankful every day for their guidance and wisdom as I fumble through motherhood on my own. I hope each of you had a wonderful Mother's Day celebrating all of the amazing women in your life!

Friday, May 1, 2015


Last week we took a couple days off work and headed south for a mini vacation with a bunch of our friends and their families. We rented a beautiful 6 bedroom log cabin in Branson, Missouri and braced ourselves for a fun and eventful weekend. With 10 adults, 3 kids, 2 toddlers, and 3 babies inhabiting one house for four days, things were bound to get interesting. I think all of us were so excited at the thought of actually spending four entire days together that we didn't care what kind of shenanigans the kids we would possibly get into.


We stayed in Lazy Bear Lodge, one of four animal-themed chalets that sat right on the edge of Table Rock Lake, which meant that every detail of our cabin (down to the light switch covers) was decorated with bears and other wild life. The decor included a giant stuffed bear that hung over the main fireplace, a stuffed wild cat over the entry table, and other stuffed critters scattered throughout the house. This little guy in particular was our favorite.

We left Thursday morning and traveled caravan style, which makes everything more fun. Previously, we would've driven fast and reckless to get to our destination as soon as possible, but with kids in tow we made plenty of pit stops for feedings, diaper changes, and to let the little ones run off some energy. We stopped for lunch at the infamous Lambert's Cafe just outside of Springfield. The thrown rolls and laid back atmosphere were the perfect way to kick off our vacation.

Upon arrival, Taylor made sure to give all of her friends big hugs. The only thing better than having a child of your own has to be watching your child play with your friends' children. Watching them play together throughout the course of the weekend was surreal, but seeing the happiness on their faces and the love they have for each other was absolutely priceless. My photo taking skills were less than fair (as I was having too much fun to remember to get my camera out most of the time), so I didn't get pics of all the kids, but how sweet are these little faces?

By the time we arrived at the cabin and got settled in, it was time for a quick dinner and baths for the little ones. It had been a long and tiring day of travel for all of us, and the adults were ready for some kid-free time and a few cold ones. Once the kids were asleep, we built a fire on the screened in porch and laughed and reminisced all night. No amount of money in the world could ever buy that kind of therapy. Sometimes you just need to be with your friends, remember the old days, and be thankful for where they have brought you.

We spent the next day hanging out at the cabin. It was rainy and windy and none of us were in the mood (nor had the energy) to do much more than cook three meals and clean up after the kids. After nap time, we headed outside to explore the grounds which included a mini golf course, sand box and play area for the kids, and (the adult's favorite) a zip line. We're all just big kids ourselves, so it was no surprise when we each took turns flying across the property on (what was supposed to be) the children's zip line. Even my husband put the 150 pound weight limit to the test when he flew past me, his butt grazing the grass below.

That evening, we made a taco bar complete with Coronas and beer-ritas for the adults. This vacation was definitely family-centered but, let's face it, we were incredibly excited when bedtime rolled around each night. Thanks to a three story cabin, we were able to put the sleeping children mostly upstairs and use the downstairs for own own. We attempted to relive our college days but quickly realized that babies wake up at 6 a.m. where you like it or not. Hangovers and early mornings do not mix, my friends.

Saturday morning we were up and out the door early, hopeful that the kids would nap in the car on our lengthy drive into Branson. After a light lunch and some shopping on the Landing, we decided that riding the Ducks would be an activity that everyone would (probably) enjoy. And let me just say, it turned out to be GREAT choice. The kids and adults had a blast riding around Branson in an old military vehicle, but the real fun began when we drove into Table Rock Lake and the kids were able to take turns being captain of the boat! The fresh air combined with loud music, non-stop quacks (thanks, Arnolds!), and a sense of adventure had smiles on all of our faces.

That evening, we grilled burgers and hot dogs and had a big family-style dinner, the perfect way to end our last night together.

Unfortunately, sometime in the early a.m., three of the adults woke up with a terrible stomach bug and were downright miserable as they juggled being sick while still performing their mommy duties: one nursing her 3 month old baby, the other a mom to 6 month old twins, and the last with two kids as well. Needless to say, their illnesses made packing and cleaning Sunday morning an even more arduous task than it already was. Once the cars were loaded, we said our goodbyes (with waves instead of hugs) and were on the road by 9:30. Our awesome friendcation was quickly sabotaged by either food poisoning or the flu bug, although we're still undecided as to which one.

We arrived home Sunday afternoon, quickly unpacked the car, and laid the tot down for a nap. The early morning must've gotten the best of us, because our entire family napped until nearly 6:00 that night. What we weren't aware of at the time was that Taylor's poor body was beginning to fight off an illness of its own. Things were fine all day Monday but the next morning her fever spike to 102.7 and we knew something wasn't right. She stayed out of daycare the majority of the week, alternating time at home with Jake and I, and had been a sad sight the last couple of days, whining about everything and just wanting to be held. Yesterday morning her fever finally broke and we were beginning to see glimpses of her happy, playful self.

It has been a looooong week for all of us, but I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say we had a great time regardless. Our goal is to continue this vacation every year so that our kids will have wonderful memories together, just as the adults do. Traveling is never easy with kids in tow, but I think they all handled themselves pretty well considering how young they are. Now that the trip is over and everyone is back in good health, it's time to start planning for next year!