Reading makes her sleepy

Avery has reached a dreaded two-year-old milestone: climbing out of her crib. We converted it into a toddler bed last week, but she still wouldn’t stay in her room. Clay never escaped at night, just at naptime. I held his door shut for a few minutes for three days and he decided to stay in his bed. Avery is a bit more stubborn, so I had to order a lock for her door from diapers.com. I like the lock because you don’t have to drill it into the door, and she can still peek out, so she doesn’t get scared. She cried the first night, but now has a new strategy. She turns the light back on, grabs a bunch of books and reads to her stuffed animals. As long as she’s in her bed and not crying, I’m happy. Fortunately it also makes her very, very sleepy…

Reading is hard work!

I’ll take 90 percent

My little brother and his wife often say they’re not going to have kids. They are still young, so we can harrass gently encourage them to change their minds. They love our kids, and the kids are equally smitten. But nearly two years into their marriage, they also enjoy doing what they want, when they want, which is understandable. I miss that sometimes too, but the joy I get from my kids far outweighs my desire to head to happy hour after work or go for a run on a whim. On most days anyway.

We spent a week at their house over the holidays. That is a long time for two adults, a 19-month-old and a three-year-old to invade the living space of a childless couple. Fortunately they have a bar in their house (no, I’m not kidding) and my mom lives nearby. And our kids were on their best behavior the entire week. We flew across the country with no meltdowns and had a great Christmas. The only rough patch I recall was one day when Clay didn’t want to nap and in an effort to escape from the guest room, smacked his head so hard on the door jamb that it looked like he had a third eye. Luckily we’d already taken the Christmas photos!

During their New Year’s Eve party I was talking to my sister-in-law and her friend, who was trying to get pregnant. My sister-in-law kindly (drunkenly?) said that we had the best behaved kids she’d ever been around. While I am grateful for the compliment, I replied that they had been great that week, but they’re not always perfect. Who is, really? I’m certainly not.

But despite their good behavior, they still see kids as a lot of work. And they are right. For years, you have to bathe and feed them. Then they learn to do it themselves, but not all that well, so you still have to monitor them to make sure they really wash their hair and don’t live on peanut M & M’s. Not only do you have to buy the cute kids’ clothes (that’s the fun part!), but you have to wash, fold and put them away. Same with food. Don’t even get me started on diapers or potty training!

But you know what? It’s all worth it. One smile, one laugh, one “I love you.” And the memories of the crappy parts of parenting fade away, and you just smile and thank God for the unconditional love that the mess-making, sleep-depriving, financially-draining little munchkins give you every day.

On one of our last days there we were talking about kids again and my belief that 90 percent of parenting is great, 5 percent is tiring and 5 percent is just plain hard. Although in my high school district, 90 percent wasn’t even an A (fortunately at Florida State it was), there aren’t many things in life that you enjoy 90 percent of the time. I’ll take that 90 percent any day.

Horseshoe champ

Horseshoe tournaments are pretty common at Chase’s parents’ house in Big Bear Lake. This weekend all Clay wanted to do was play…and win!

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Clay threw the first ringer in the sibling horseshoe tournament

DIY house projects

I am certain this will not be my last post about DIY house projects, but I read a post today on one of my favorite sites, Daily Worth, that sparked my interest. The post discussed projects I haven’t (and probably wouldn’t )attempted such as making your own laundry detergent. Sometimes it is hard to tell if doing things yourself really saves you money, if you account for the time and effort spent. 

I struggle with this question a lot. Our house is a cookie-cutter suburban tract home. Complete with the postage stamp lot and high homeowners’ fees. The kind of house I naively said (pre-kids) I would never buy. But it has good schools and parks and our friends live nearby. So here we are. The house was built in 2003 and the previous owner was a single woman. She had occasional roommates (which explains the scuffed up baseboards), but living alone makes it hard to keep up on home maintenance. She did some landscaping, then never tended to the plants or grass again. She painted two bathrooms in very odd colors, then presumably decided painting was too much work and left the rest of the walls in the house the icky builder’s white color. She paid to have the floors upgraded and the appliances are nice stainless steel, but she elected for the cheap-looking light maple kitchen cabinets. So there was work to be done when we moved in.

The problem arose when I realized how much simple things like painting cost. $600 to paint one room? $2,500 to paint the kitchen cabinets? I could buy a gallon of Benjamin Moore “Ben” paint for $38 at Ace Hardware. Throw in some brushes and other materials and I am still saving a ton of money if I do it myself. So I did. I painted all three bedrooms one weekend. I painted one bathroom per night the following week. And then I was tired. I was staying up late painting like a crazy person. I do my projects when my kids are in bed, so starting at 7:30 p.m. makes it pretty easy for the clock to hit midnight before I’m done. And waking up at 5:00 a.m. for work, it wasn’t enough sleep. So I took a break. And said I would hire someone to do the rest of it. Then a few months later I did the loft, hallway and bathroom cabinets, saying I would pay someone to do the kitchen cabinets and downstairs. Then I did pay someone, but that was to install new carpet upstairs, not to paint. After this I really wanted the kitchen/dining/family room done. I didn’t have the money to do it right then, and I am not patient. So back I went to Ace Hardware and Home Depot. It took about a  month between the cabinets and the walls. It drove my husband crazy. But I saved around $3,000.

Before cabinets

After cabinets, but before the walls were painted.

In the 22 months we’ve lived in our house, I’ve repainted all 1,700 square feet. Plus some ceilings and trim; bathroom, hall and kitchen cabinets. It took a while, but didn’t take time away from my kids. It took time away from relaxing at night with my husband, but he forgave me. It looks like a whole new house. I am happy I took the time to do it, rather than waiting a year or putting it on a credit card. That being said, I am not painting again for a while. Or at least until I decide how to decorate Avery’s toddler room. I’m thinking purple instead of pink…

Future Hollywood starlet?

I really hope this is not a sign of things to come. Clay finally let Avery drive the Escalade Uncle Mikey got them for Christmas. She proceeded to crash into the bushes, and he hightailed it out of there like he was running from the cops. I really hope she never knows who Linsday Lohan is, because her behavior here is resembling her a bit too much for my liking.

Lunch break errands

I’m about to head out on one of my infamous lunch break errands. Before kids, I rarely took a lunch break, and if I did I would actually go out to eat or maybe for a walk. Now it is not for eating or relaxing. I can eat at my desk, and relax….well, on a girl’s weekend…in a few months. Sometimes I will pick up food while I’m out to take a break from the monotony of turkey sandwiches, leftovers and Lean Cuisines. But only if the task at hand has been accomplished and I have a few minutes to spare.

I am lucky to have the nicest Marshall’s in San Diego (maybe even in Southern California?) near my office. I used to hate Marshall’s and stores like it. I didn’t want to take the time to sort through them to find something good and the disorganization stressed me out. But I’ve learned a trick: go there with one thing in mind. Realize that one hour over your lunch break is enough time to search through the shoes or workout clothes or home decor, but not all three. I have made some great purchases there over the past year, including dresses for weddings, Cole Haan pumps for work meetings, a wall clock for our loft, etc. Today I’m going looking for place mats or other decor for my newly painted dining room table and the shelving unit behind it.

Most of the time my lunch errands are for things I need, not things I want (like cheap house decor). I run to the bank, post office and even the grocery store. I drop clothes off at Goodwill. I remember being annoyed with my old boss, who would go to Trader Joe’s at lunch and take up the entire office fridge with her dinner ingredients. I didn’t get it. How hard is it to just run into the store when you pick up the kids from school? And now I understand! Sorry, Kim, for doubting you. Her kids are close in age like mine, so getting two little people in and out of car seats and into the store takes longer than it does to get the five things you forgot when you did your weekly shopping on Sunday. So problem solved: lunch break grocery run! So what if my assistant thinks I’ve lost my mind when I stock the fridge with mini Eggos, milk and cilantro?

The obvious advantage to lunch time shopping is you can use the time you’d otherwise use surfing the Internet for a break, doing something productive. And you are already (presumably) paying someone to watch your kids. They are safe and happy and you aren’t missing quality time with them, or dragging them along on boring errands.

One possible disadvantage is impulse buying. This is not a huge issue when grocery shopping. You are not going to regret buying apples. But when shopping for clothes or home items (even if it is something you “need”)  you may be in a rush and in a moment of indecision, move forward with a purchase that you wouldn’t have if you had more time to think about it. Or you buy a shirt that makes your boobs look like torpedoes, because you didn’t try it on. I will admit I return about 15 percent of my lunch time purchases, but I do it on another lunch break. So while I lose some time, it’s not time with my family, so overall it’s still worth it.

15 days

I’ve noticed that a lot of mommy bloggers began their blogs as a fun way to chronicle their lives, then faced a personal struggle, and they wrote to get through hard times. I am fortunate that my children are healthy and I have (mostly) maintained my mental health as well. But there are 15 days of the year that just plain suck for me and right now I’m on day eight of those 15.

My dad died when Avery was 15 days old. He was 56 and seemingly healthy. He was watching TV and eating ice cream with his wife, suddenly felt sick, and then he died.

The first few weeks of every baby’s life are a blur. But Avery being my second child, I had things figured out. I tried to go to bed early so I would feel less exhausted from the middle of the night feedings. I went to bed before 10:00 p.m. and she woke up to eat again around midnight. Since she loved/loves to eat, she was done nursing quickly and I was going back to sleep when I heard what sounded like banging on our door. Then some smaller noises on our bedroom window. I was freaked out, but thought this would  be a very strange way for someone to break in. Maybe something was going on with one of our neighbors and they needed help. I woke Chase, who grabbed a baseball bat and headed downstairs to check it out. I stayed upstairs with the baby and hovered near Clay’s room. I heard Chase talking to someone so I figured it was safe for me to venture downstairs. I saw my friend Amber at the door. She was eight months pregnant and in her pajamas. My first thought was something happened with her unborn baby. But that didn’t make sense, why would she be here and not at the hospital? I think she was crying. Amber told Chase to take Avery. And told me to call my brother. I picked up my phone and noticed missed calls from my brother and my stepmom. I didn’t have time to speculate. When my brother Michael answered I was sitting next to the baby glider on my bedroom floor. I don’t remember much of the conversation, except the very clear words, “Dad died, Keri. He died.”

In 15 days, I went from celebrating the new life of my daughter, to the mourning the loss of my father. The 15 days between her birthday and the day he died now seem to go on forever. I just want it to be April 26, so I can go on with my life and pretend I’m okay, which I’ve been doing for a good two years now.

Disney princess dresses, yellow is his color

I am sure this is not the last time I’ll write about Disney princess paraphenalia. They’ve marketed the heck out of these toys/clothes/shoes/food (i.e. anything they can slap a princess on) and since Christmas Avery has been the proud owner of a princess backpack and a few other toys.

My brother Mikey and his wife, Felice, very kindly bought Avery a trunk of Disney princess dresses for her birthday. I have to give them credit because not only would Avery like this gift, it came in a relatively small box, allowing me to hide the 43 pieces of fun when she goes to bed, rather than having cheap fabric strewn across my living room. Easily stored is a priority in toy selection for me.

Anyway, after grabbing the iPad and Googling the princesses to confirm that the blonde one with a pink dress is Sleeping Beauty (I didn’t recognize her with her eyes open!), I let the kids get into it. Chase wasn’t too excited about the results. I, however, think yellow may be Clay’s color.

Toddler birthday parties

I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little guilty for not having a big party for Avery’s birthday. I went back and forth about it, but realizing we had our good friend’s 40th birthday celebration and Easter the weekend before her birthday, it was tough to find a good time for it. We celebrated her birthday a week earlier when my mom was visiting, I sent cookies to school for them to celebrate there and Chase’s parents were coming over for cake and presents on her actual birthday. So, shouldn’t that be enough? When I was a kid, sure. Now in the days of $500 birthday parties, sometimes it feels like I’m depriving my child of a true celebration.

I had big parties for both kids’ first birthdays. I did them at my house, and baked cupcakes and bought pre-made food at Costco to feed our friends and family. I bought decorations and invitations. And beer (that may have been a bulk of our bill). I didn’t even do favors (I hate them, who needs more crap in their house?) and it probably cost $350. It just adds up. Not to mention the time buying supplies, but for a first birthday it was worth it. Since Avery was born less than a month before Clay’s birthday, I decided that we would alternate years for who gets to have a big party.

Our friends with older kids have hosted parties all over town: gymnastics places, Chuck E. Cheese (my worst nightmare), ice skating rink, etc. at a cost hovering around $500. There is a definite advantage to this, as you don’t have to pick up the mess or let weird kids (or their equally odd parents) in your house. But for small kids, whose friends are basically your friends’ kids, is there a point? Avery is two and a fancy party would be lost on her anyway. She loves sweets and girly clothes/toys. That’s all she needs to be happy. She was so excited every time we even said happy birthday to her. We had quality family time and I saved $300+ and countless hours of planning.

I gave Clay the option of a party since he’ll be four in May and he didn’t get the big party last year. He’d rather go to Legoland. A kid after my own heart. It won’t be cheap, but it’s money spent on time with my family. Worth every penny.

Baby girl is two!

Avery 2nd birthdayI joke all the time that Avery is going to be a nightmare teenager because no one can be perfect forever. But at this point I’m thankful that we’ve had two years. She’s shown a little bit of a feisty side lately, but I’m hopeful that just means she’ll be a strong woman. She knows what she wants. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if she always wants more food or to wear leggings every day or to sit in the driver’s seat of my car pretending she’s driving when we really need her to get in her car seat so we can go somewhere. She makes us laugh and is like a little cartoon character. She also adores her dad and brother and even me. Or at least she pretends with me so I’ll give her my makeup brushes and shoes. I’ll take it.

I have the family I always wanted. And our littlest member, our baby girl, is two years old today! As my dad would always say on our brithdays, “who would have thunk it?”