Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Old House

It has been far too long friends since I checked in here. The reason being is the source of much happiness and also much exhaustion…we bought a house! After months of searching and then months of dealing with a bank owned property, we finally made it to close on Halloween. Since then, I have come to realize that this house has become our temporary second child. It needed some things done; it still does let’s be honest. The to-do list is a mile long and every time we cross one thing off I seem to add two more things to it. I also now feel responsible for keeping every inch clean at all times which, let’s face it, with a new 45 (really closed to 60 with traffic) minute commute, three dogs and a kid, that’s just never going to happen. I’m hoping to share more details about our new life soon but for this post, I wanted to look back with gratitude on our old home, the house that gave us shelter and many memories for 8 years.
I will never forget the old house, the first time I set foot inside it was to enjoy a “home cooked” meal by a guy I was dating at the time *wink wink* (which turned out to be carry out Chinese food – a place we would order from many times for years to come.) I moved into the house back in 2008 during the end of a transitional period in my life. I lived there with my husband (then boyfriend), Stanley and Bella, our dogs, for several years.
I was going through my “interior designer” phase at that point and made it my mission to paint/ transition every room in the house since I knew we were going to be there a while. The best transformation was in the little kitchen. We put in new floors and counters and painted. The space was so small that it didn’t take much to spiff it up a bit. I ended up redoing every room in the house (the living room twice) with the exception of our bedroom which maintained its light brown, dusty wall color to the very end.
As much as I am grateful for the years of shelter and memories the house provided, let me take a moment to comment on the shortcomings of the house (because you really didn’t think you would make it through this post without a rant). I will tell you the tiny kitchen annoyed me to no end. The lack of counter space, no dish washer, and the ant infestation of 2014 were not things I ever want to have to deal with again. The basement was literally like something out of a nightmare (I really won’t comment much more beyond that). The bathroom did not have a vent so keeping it dry was nearly impossible not to mention there was only one bathroom. Between the three of us needing to share one bathroom, there were never any major disasters but there were some very close calls! Sometime back in 2010 or maybe even earlier than that, the ceiling fan/ light broke in our bedroom. It remained broken for the next 6 years. The other real problem was the lack of parking in the neighborhood and really, the neighborhood in general. We lucked out and had amazing neighbors directly next to us and across from us but that type of neighborliness ended as soon as you moved beyond our little bubble. And that was the major deciding factor in the move. The area, while centrally located was in a not so friendly community. We did talk about staying at the old house, fixing it up, and living there forever from time to time but it could never be the place for us long term.
Having gone back to the old house several times since we moved, it seems so small, so odd, like this quiet, cold space, devoid of all life. It’s almost hard for me to believe that the unfinished floors and the dusty walls once held our most precious belongings and most cherished memories. We were (almost) always so happy there. Since it was so small and there was only one bathroom, we rarely had anyone over, so the experience of the house itself is something that Thomas, Emma, and I will always have to ourselves. The first time Thomas told me he loved me was in that house. I found out I was pregnant with Emma there. I brought her home from the hospital to that house. She took her first steps, smashed food into all the floor boards, and spent countless hours creating imaginary worlds in every corner of the place. It was the last place I saw Stanley. It was the only home Charlie and Reese knew. We took the dogs on countless walks around the neighborhood and spent hours at the local park that was always empty, like it was there just for us. Thomas and his dad built the deck and the shed in the back yard. We spent days snowed in there playing games and doing whatever we could to prevent cabin fever. Thomas and I both cooked hundreds of meals there. I recovered from three different surgeries in that house. We had some of the best neighbors I’ve ever had in my life at that house; Ed, George, and Sherise. I still get that wave of peace and relief whenever I pull up to the old house, my body and mind telling me, I have arrived at my sanctuary. (I hope that feeling eventually transfers to our new home.)  And then, as if it could not have given us anything else, that house eventually gave us the financial freedom to move out of it.
The location and size of the old house had not worked for us for years so we finally moved on, but we will never forget it, and we move on with the hope that we can find the same happiness in our new home, Emma can recreate her imaginary worlds, we can be a family for more dogs, and we can live happily together.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Vacation Recap

It's still technically summer so I'm good to post about our vacation from over a month ago right? Great! I also want to post on our random summer adventures too so I have them to look back on. Before I get into it, a side note, that things are still difficult around here but looking up. I guess I just needed to be reminded about how to see the positive through the not so great events of late. Our lives are filled with wonder and happiness still. We have an amazing little family and we are moving forward, more resilient than ever. That being said, here is a recap of our summer vacation 2016!

We started our journey on Saturday waaaaaaay back in July. Emma, the hubs, and my brother rode in one car with my mom, Bella, and myself in the other. We actually hit less traffic this year than last on the way in. We stayed at the same amazing house as last year. We met up with my sister, her husband, and their 2 year old daughter there. It is so amazing to see Emma and her cousin grow up together. They are both at the age where they can run and play (read: get into mischief) together.

There is this little park around the block which made for a perfect walk for the girls to get out of the house when we weren't really into going to the beach.

It was the week of a super heat wave but we braved the beach every day except for Friday when I think everyone had had enough. But of course on the first day we had to do our traditional walk into the main part of town to get ice cream!

Followed by a bath in the most obnoxiously luxurious bath tub ever which took like 20 minutes to fill.

I feel like every time we go to the beach house we all run around the place like little kids exploring our new environment, like how Macaulay Culkin freaks out when he first gets to the Plaza hotel with its space and grandeur. I know I get giddy over the fact that there is more than one bathroom and the kitchen is like a palace from my dreams. It's the kind of house we will never be able to afford but we are fortunate to play pretend in for a week, and that's fine by me!

The first couple of days at the beach, Emma was not interested in the water at all. She was scared and unsure. She gets like this in a lot of new situations. It takes her a while to warm up and then by the time she does, usually the activity is over. It's the same for situations she has been in many times before as well. Every time she got in a pool this summer it was like she forgot she ever swam before and had to take a good 30 minutes (right until it was adult swim) to figure out that she loved it. I finally figured out how to describe it to my friend. Emma is like Drew Barrymore from 50 first dates. It's like she has short term memory loss where she can't remember how awesome something is until she experiences it again, like it was the first time.

Needless to say, she finally remembered loving the ocean and swimming it in, and once she did, there was no stopping her.

 See those two tiny dots in the distance, yeah that's my crew. And zoomed in...

It was great to see Emma get so much joy from something simple, like swimming in the ocean.

The rest of the time, when we weren't at the beach, we did the usual boardwalk games and rides...

We also get the added bonus of bringing Bella, our beloved yellow lab with us. We always make sure we take time out to go to the dog beach with her. Emma loves running and playing with Bella and Bella loves her time in the water. Our Bella girl is getting older and with the passing of our old boy Stanley in Feburary, we are making sure to make the most of our time with our pup!

And that sums up our trip for the most part. It was relaxing and too short as always. I'm glad I was able to look back on these memories and that I'm able to look forward to many more.

"Hold tight you're slowly coming back to life..."

Sunday, September 4, 2016

So Here I Am

Hello All

Sorry I have been MIA all summer. This summer has not really felt like summer in the sense that summer is supposed to be a magical time of fireflies, long warm nights, and endless activities. I always look forward to the lazy hum of the crickets and the occasional thunder storm. Everything seems to slow down and time doesn't matter as much except this summer, when it did.

Don't get me wrong, we had some wonderful times as a family; a vacation to the beach I hope to finally post about soon, a bunch of trips to the pool, swim class (Emma is so close to swimming by herself!), lots of books read (Emma is adding more and more sight words as the weeks go by!), and lots of ice cream, treats, birthday parties and the usual events. Sadly, we spent the majority of our summer in the car driving around looking at houses which was no fun for any of us after a while.

We finally made it to the end of summer and I thought we could make the last few weeks really special but that was taken away from us when a drunk driver hit Thomas' parked car on our street in the middle of the night. Here we are weeks away from moving and now we only have one car. It has been difficult to say the least. Not to mention the whole house buying process has been extra stressful with several curve balls thrown in because we needed more stress : /  At this point we have spent the whole summer stressing about finding a house and moving and now that might not happen. That story possibly for another time. Right now our house is half boxed up and half cluttered with things that were in the process of getting boxed up and I just want to hide in a box at this point.

I feel terrible I could not give Emma more of my time and attention without being paralyzed from stress. She is still at that magical age where she wants to do things with me and I only embarrass her when I dance at inopportune times (aka any time). I don't want to lose out on this stage with her. The guilt has been so thick. I feel like I'm in this never ending cycle of fighting for what my family needs and getting to the point of almost giving up and then remembering who and what I am fighting for and finding just enough new strength to keep going. I hate not having enough in me to fight and also maintain a sense of normalcy around the house. I am finally at the point where I am going to let the cards fall where they may and fight when I can but I am refocusing on my family's needs in the present.

I have also started a new position at work that is challenging in a wonderful way and in a terrible, sense of dread every day way. I was given an amazing opportunity and I want to succeed and I have been fortunate enough to have pulled off many successes in my career through hard work but this time I might not succeed and that is taking a toll on me as well. I know my personal stress is spilling over into my work and I am trying my darnedest to kept one exclusive of the other.

I'm not sure where to go from here but moving forward happens whether I like it or not whether I like the circumstances or not. So here I am, battling to take the smallest of steps to get the biggest of end results. That's all I can do for now. That, and admire the reflection of my car windshield as it sits...parked in the middle of our lawn, never to grace the asphalt in front of our current house ever again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sith Lords and Turning Four

Well it happened again, another wonderful (short) year has gone by and my little is a little less little. She has done so much growing this year and I know that in the years to come, there will be a flood of intelligence and curiosity and I just hope I can keep up with it all. We are getting ready to go through some big changes as a family including a move in the very near future and a new school for Emma the year after next. I’m trying oh so hard to hang on to these amazing, simple times together before life gets even more crazy. I started my new work schedule so I’m no longer able to enjoy afternoons with Emma. It was a loss I still morn (although hopefully temporary). I’m not a fan of getting home and heading straight into the kitchen to make dinner every night but there it is. The change was inevitable since Thomas’ job location moved he could no longer take Emma to school in the mornings. Her school does not open until 7:30 which meant I had to push back my work start time to 8 in order to take her. Once we move and Emma goes into Kindergarten I can see about changing it back but for now this is how it stands. 

In other news…someone finally got her big girl bed and never were more excited bounces ever had! She pretty much plays on her bed with her toys as much as she can and it is wonderful to see her feel a sense of pride as she grows and her world brings new adventures. I started doing a mini-room makeover (I took down all of the Winnie the Pooh d├ęcor *sniff*) and put up picture frames Emma crafted. I’m not doing a full blown room redo since we are moving sometime between now and August (posts to come on this later I’m sure.)

Now that we’ve caught up on all of that, it’s time to deconstruct a four year old birthday party. We thankfully only received a manageable number of RSVPs from her class (4 to be exact instead of the 13 it could have been). The day of the party went pretty well thanks in part to scheduling it later in the day! I had the whole morning to run around getting last minute items and didn’t end up forgetting anything! It was so refreshing to just bring some fruit, veggies, and light snacks with the cake. Not having to lug a meat tray and 100 pizza boxes was great! So liberating! 

We were lucky enough to have Emma’s Grandma Carole (Thomas’ step mom) there to help with set-up. I was prepared to bring the stuff in and sit with it in the lobby until 2:45 as scheduled and then hustle my sciatica having self to throw everything together but low and behold, there were no other parties before or after us! The party coordinator was sweet enough to let us set up early! So by the time folks arrived, the place looked great! “Dark” Vader and Star Wars everywhere! 

 Went for the good old figurines stuck into the cake again for the win! 

 This is a craft DADDY came up with/ executed! Glow sticks that came with thread to become necklaces he turned into lightsabers!

The kids had fun in the pool (sadly I was setting up so I did not get any pictures) and then came up for cake and snacks. It was actually not too stressful. It was a bit awkward when I started packing everything up as folks were still eating but I knew it would take a while so I’m glad I started when I did. I guess people are used to having parties at their own house so they don’t have a set time frame to “close up shop” but I wanted to be as accommodating as possible since the party coordinator was very nice about letting me setup early.  Besides the early clean up raised eyebrows, nothing too crazy happened to report and I was only briefly overwhelmed. I even managed to talk to folks at the party so it all turned out fine. I know, a relatively ho hum event for our chaotic family! I'll take the peace.
And now, I have a super terrific four year old…


Friday, June 17, 2016

California Vacation and Disneyland

I’m not sure if it was Mercury being in retrograde or the fact that I have had a wicked sciatica flare up, but this post needed to be written and my aching body was just not having it. I finally worked up the energy to put it together because the memories need to be preserved in case we don’t ever get to go back to Disney (although I REALLY hope we do). I’m sure we will make it back to California someday too since I love it so. Anyways…It’s finally here! The recap of our vacation/ trip to Disneyland! Just a warning before you proceed that this post is a long one. Ok so jumping right into it…

We left early on Wednesday morning. Well, maybe I should back up a few days. I had been going back and forth trying to figure out when to surprise Emma with the news that we were going to Disneyland. Initially, I thought I would do it the day of to ensure excitement and good behavior on the plane ride (the plane ride from Florida two years ago is forever horrifyingly cemented in my mind). After thinking about it some more, I wanted to let her be excited for a few days because what is it they say, “the excitement is sometimes better than the actual thing itself” (except the experience in this case was just as exciting!) So we told her that Monday by wrapping up a Mickey Mouse shirt and some pictures of Disneyland so she would hopefully understand where we were going. And it worked…

This was the first of many wonderful, excited faces to come during the week!
So flash back (forward?) to Wednesday morning. I was worried about having to get Emma up so early to make our flight but as I slid my way out of bed and into the hallway that morning, I saw a glow from the living room. Emma was already up and ready to go! Apparently, my kid loves the idea of traveling. We ran around for a bit and got everything together and headed out the door. I feel like we had a lot of stuff in our carry-ons but I used almost all of it. Snacks, crayons, movies, blankets, stuffed animals, I was glad to have it all. Emma was really great on the flight. I mean total turnaround from flying with an almost two year old. She sat and watched movies quietly most of the time. In fact, I got to take a short nap on the flight out! She did shout a few times because I guess she didn’t realize her ears had not popped so she could not hear very well. I tried to explain the sensation to her in hopes to prepare her for it but she seemed ok. She only got antsy around the last hour of the flight (both there and back) which is understandable after 5 hours or so everyone is ready to get up and move around.

When we got there, I was a little bit nervous about our accommodations since we were using AirBnB for the first time ever. I figured there were enough of us that if something went wrong we could handle the situation. Luckily, our hosts were very sweet and accommodating. The only thing I would do differently next time is to ask if the listing is a shared space. I originally thought we would be in a separate apartment from the house but it turned out we were in a shared space with the family who owned the house. It was a bit challenging being on East Coast time for the most part and having an energetic 3 year old who was up yelling at 5am Pacific every morning but we managed. I would just chose an arrangement were we were not in danger of disturbing someone early in the morning next time around. 

We pretty much just settled in and went to the beach to get some food that first day. I should have known better and brought beach stuff for Emma to play in the water but I figured since it was 6pm (9pm Eastern) that she would be ready to crash, especially after an almost 6 hour flight. I guess if the sun is out and there is sand and water toddlers are ready to party. She ended up getting knocked over by a wave and getting wet but still loving every second of being at the beach. We all crashed pretty hard that night knowing what was in store for us the following day…

Thursday was Disneyland Day!!! I was actually really excited because we were on East Coast time which meant we were able to get up and to get some breakfast and still make it to the gates before they opened! At first I thought we might make it through the entire day to see the parade at 8pm but we were all pretty much toast by 7pm. literally I don’t think any of us could have made it another hour. (Emma’s face says it all in our last picture of the day.)

But backing up…we did get there first thing and waited in a car line for the gates to open. Someone was of course blasting Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast music from their car which was perfect. After parking and catching the tram to the park…

We ended up waiting in the wrong line to enter the park…mom fail. I guess I read the website wrong and thought the park was open for general admission (aka the peasants who did not stay at the resorts) at 8am but that was actually for the folks who forked out the dough to stay at the luxury resorts instead of bunking with Jen and George at their AirBnB house. The regular folk’s admission time was 9am. Don’t get me wrong, someday I would love to stand in the resort stayers line but for now, I was just excited to be in any line! We finally figured out our line situation and it ended up working out well because the line for those less fortunate just so happened to be right next to the stroller rental area. Let me tell you, I am SO GLAD we did not lug a stroller with us on the plane. I happily forked over the money to rent one and it was one of the most magical parts of the day! Although Emma did end up walking quite a bit, I knew she would not make it walking through the whole park for a 10 hour day and of course it doubled as a stuff holder which was amazing. 

To be fair, they did let us into the main street area at 8:30am which was nice because we got to grab a coffee and see the Disney swag. I had my game plan for suvineers strategized from the get-go. Emma could pick out one thing, whatever she wanted, but she had to wait until right before we left to pick it out. This allowed for a “good behavior” incentive and made sure she did not yell gimme gimme gimme all day long. To be honest, she was actually really good about the whole thing because there was so much to see and do anyway that she was not paying attention to the stuff all around. I figured since we were at Disney for just one day that I would let her eat whatever she wanted and choose whatever rides/ activities she wanted to do so giving her the lead for the day also took away from any need to want every stuffed animal and doll in sight. 

It was actually pretty cool getting their right as they opened the gates. They made the announcement that the gates were opening and everyone cheered! Great way to start the day! We took our time at first, taking photos at all the landmarks…

We then made our way into the main park area. Emma immediately made a b-line for the carosole. The line was short so we hopped right on!
There were only two things I wanted to do…meet Mickey obviously, and ride with Emma on Dumbo! And we Dumboed so hard! I will pause to say that this was also Emma’s first time waiting in long lines for rides and she did pretty well with it. She was antsy but they beauty of it was…we were in lines with TONS of other little kids. Meltdowns were happening at the drop of Mad Hatter’s hats, so it felt good to be in a place where we completely fit in.

After Dumbo, I wanted to get the Mickey Mouse meet and greet out of the way while we were all still fresh at the start of the day, plus Mickey’s toon town, where he hangs all day, is of course at the far end of the park. So, off we went! I remember now reading this before we went but of course forgetting that Mickey’s toon town doesn’t open until 10am. Well once again, we somehow lucked out and made it right as they were opening the gates! Hubby had Emma on his shoulders to see the charaters as they greeted the kids at the gates. He walked a little bit ahead of myself and Emma’s godmother at one point and I lost sight of him. The next thing I know, I look up and I see Emma standing next to Minnie Mouse going into her “house.” As I ran to catch up, they blocked off the other kids from going in just as Emma and one other little girl went in the house with Minnie. I politely informed the lady at the rope that my child was inside the house already and luckily she believed me because she let me in and I got to see a sweet moment with Emma and Minnie. Emma got to hang out with Minnie for a bit walking around her house. It was the sweetest thing ever! And we didn’t have to wait in line! Score!

Next up was finding Mickey. By the time we got to his house, the line was pretty long so we had to wait a while…but boy was it worth it…

I can’t even remember when I’ve seen Emma smile that hard. She was totally happy in that moment.
We walked around toon town for a bit after that looking for Donald and Daisy but of course it was their day off. We ended up going on a bunch of rides, one of which was Emma’s first roller coaster! Let me just say, Emma is an adrenilan junkie like hard core. The kid loves it all. We went on the rocket ships, the Buzzlight year ride (awesome), Pirates of the Caribiean (scary for Emma and the girl who was running the ride said we would not get wet – spoiler alert…we did), The Wind in the Willows ride was really cute, the Star Wars ride, and maybe one or two other rides I can’t remember. We honestly did not go on too many rides because we did have some down time eating lunch and watching the Star Wars show. 

 Emma's first roller coaster!

I read up on it prior to going but I knew they did charater meal met and greets but it sounded like they would take a long time and be pricey so we stuck with the easy to access food on mainstreet which was fine. If we ever went again, I would definitely do a character meet and greet at a meal. I actually kind of wanted to go see a Princess show but we never seemed to make it over there in time. We did end up going all the way back to Mickey’s toon town to see Goofy and Pluto. I wised up about halfway through the day and downloaded the app that tells you where the characters are. We did see the Mad Hatter and Alice as well as Captin Hook meandering around but I was a little upset they did not have more characters out and about. Mary Poppins was there but Emma hasn’t seen that movie yet so she was like um who is this lady (I know sad we have not watched it yet.) 

So somewhere in between the rides and the multiple trips to toon town, we made our way into Tomorrowland to get fast passes for the Star Wars ride. I knew there was a ride, but I had no idea there was a live show every half hour….or that Emma would be SOOOOO into it. It was the craziest thing…we were walking around to find the fast pass machine and all of a sudden, Emma ducked behind a pillar. I was like what is going on and she said “mom, it’s DARK VADER! And he can see me! And he will get me!” I looked up to see that Dark Vader was indeed running around on a stage in front of us. We had entered mid-show and Emma thought the real Dark Vader was coming to get her! After I calmed her down and told her he could not see us, we watched the rest of the show then decided to stick around to get good seats and watch it from the beginning.

 check out her eyes popping out of her head when she sees "Dark Vader"
 The man himself!

I saw that there was a group of kids in the show “battling” Dark Vader and I knew I had to get Emma in on the action! I walked up to one of the ladies who ran the show and she said that kids have to sign up in the morning to be in the show. I was crushed. That’s when I decided to ask Thomas to get Emma a lightsaber and meet us at a table. I told Emma that we needed to sit back a bit just in case Dark Vader tried to run away, then we would get him. Yay for quick mom thinking because she bought it! While we were waiting for the show to start, the mom sitting next to me, whose son was going to be in the next show, told me he got in line to be in the show right when the gates opened at 9am and stood in line for TWO HOURS to be in the show. I know Emma would love it but I’m not sure I would spend two of my precious hours at Disney waiting in line to be a Jedi for 20 minutes.
The show started and Emma had a great time “using the force” from the audience. She still felt like she was part of the show and that was amazing to see. By the time we got on the Star Wars ride it was 6:30pm and we were all super tired running around main street at the end to find a souvenirs for Emma. She ended up picking out a small, plastic Mickey Mouse that was super affordable for which I was grateful. I told her she could pick one more little thing and she picked a plush Donald since we have all the other plush characters but him. 

It really was the happiest day on Earth at the happiest place on Earth. I'm already mentally planning our next trip. Needless to say we went back to Jen and George's and crashed hard. The next day, we went to the dog beach in Huntington for the first part of the day and then we drove out to my old home in Pasadena which I miss so dearly. I was so busy when I lived there trying to experience all of LA and surrounding areas that I still feel like I missed out on so much in just my little hometown area. The trees are amazing, there is so much to do in such a small place, which can be said for all of the LA area. I wish we had longer than just a few hours there. It's tough being out there because everything is a far drive from everything else so just getting from place to place ate up a bunch of our time but it was still so worth it. And that's it....finally I posted something before the summer was over! Emma's bday recap post to follow!