Buckling Down

22 Jul

Mike and I are exploring buying a new house, which means we’ve been talking about money a lot lately. We’re lucky that we don’t worry much about it, but the flip side to that is that we don’t pay super close attention to it. So when Mike asked me, the keeper of our finances, to give him a report on our spending, I sat down and started tallying things up. I tallied, and tallied, and tallied… and realized we’re spending an insane amount of money each month on food.

We eat out A LOT. Michaela has probably eaten in more restaurants in her seven years on this planet that I did in my first 20. And of course that adds up, even though it’s not like we usually dine at five start places.

We buy a lot of our food at Costco– mostly meat, fruits, and vegetables. We don’t eat a lot of processed food — not canned veggies, not boxed cake mix, not dehydrated potatoes — so we buy groceries that too often don’t get eaten because it’s easier to go out to dinner, after a long day of work and school.

Looking at the amount of money we spent on groceries, restaurants, and Costco last month, I just about died. So today is the first day of buckling down and getting back to basics. I’m hoping we’ll get back to meal planning, packing lunches, and eating at home more. That will be better for my wallet and also for my waistline.

That’s how I found myself making a giant batch of breakfast sandwiches this afternoon. Now I have two dozen baked eggs + cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin sandwiches. I popped them in the freezer and each morning, I can grab one to heat up for breakfast. We’re having tacos tonight and will use some of the leftover ingredients for taco salad later this week. I also went into our chest freezer to defrost some bratwurst to go with grilled veggies for a mid-week dinner.

Wish us luck as we try to tame our food budget!

Reading Up a Storm

20 Jul

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of reading 12 books in 2017. In many ways, it was a ridiculous goal– I LOVE to read and read rather quickly. On the other hand, my life is pretty busy and I spend (too) many nights watching TV or surfing the Internet. One book a month seemed like a good trial balloon.

In February, Michaela and I went to New Orleans, meaning I got in lots of reading time. In March, we went to Japan, and those long flights meant I got in a lot of reading. We’ve been to Oklahoma, where I got to read to my heart’s content. Plus, I’ve made a concerted effort to pick up my Kindle instead of my phone at night when I’m at home.

All told, I just finished my 24th book of the year (“Dryland: One owman’s Swim to Sobriety,” a memoir). I am so happy to be reading again! It really is one of my favorite things to do. Recent favorites are “A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel” and “A Partial History of Lost Causes: A Novel” (which also takes place in Russia, funnily enough). Next up on my list are “The Girl With All the Gifts,” “The German Girl: A Novel,” and “Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad” (you know… light reading).

Have you read anything good lately?

Long Time, No Write

9 Jul

I can’t believe nearly a month has gone by since I’ve posted! Here’s a quick overview of the last three or so weeks:

  • We had a block party! Mike had the idea and made it happen, getting the permits, renting the traffic signs, coordinating neighbors to make food, etc. It was awesome! We talk a lot about moving (our house if fine, but it’s on a busy street and I wouldn’t mind having more useable yard), but stuff like this reminds me how hard it would be to leave our awesome neighbors.
  • Mike’s mom came to visit for a week. It’s always nice to have her with us, and this time was no different. She spoiled Michaela– and us! She watched Michaela one night so Mike and I could have a quick overnight getaway. We got a room at a downtown hotel, had dinner and drinks, slept in, and had nice together time. It was great!
  • While Laura was here, she took Michaela and me to high tea. We got dressed up, ate fancy (yummy) sandwiches and desserts, drank out of beautiful china, and enjoyed being girly for the afternoon.
  • We also took a day trip to Mexico, walking across the boarder and then meandering our way around Tijuana. I love living 20 miles from another country!
  • Michaela did a week-long, half-day art camp at the home studio of a local artist. She really liked it and came home with some cool art.
  • A couple of mom friends and I went to dinner at the Melting Pot. It was soooo nice to be out with friends! We had cocktails and stuffed ourselves full of decadent cheese and chocolate while talking about our kids, husbands, and families. I hope we’ll do it again soon!
  • Michaela got five inches cut off her hair. It had gotten really long. Now it’s just passed her shoulders, but it’s much easier to manage and cooler for her. She got really nervous before the haircut, in spite of the fact that she wanted it, so I encourages her to speak up with the hairdresser (my stylist), and she did great. In the end, Michaela loved her cut and I was proud of her independence and articulate way of expressing her needs and wants.
  • We went to Oklahoma for our annual 4th of July trip. There’s a lot to say about that, but the short version is, we had a lot of fun with Mike’s dad, stepmom, brothers, sisters-in-laws, and all the kids.

Those are the highlights!

Moving On

15 Jun

Michaela finished first grade yesterday. It’s been a year of learning and growing and thriving. She’s gotten much, much better at reading, she’s shown a knack for math, and she’s made good friends. She’s just generally a really good kid. I’m super proud of the person she is, and look forward to watching her continue to evolve.

Today we went to the doctor for her long-delayed (six months!) 7-year check up. My darling Michaela is 4 ft., 4.4 inches tall and weighs 73 pounds. She’s in the 92nd percentile for height and 94th for weight (Michaela is very solidly built. She doesn’t have any fat on her, but she’s heavy!).

Now we have 10 weeks of summer to enjoy before she starts second grade!

Camp Out!

4 Jun

Michela’s Girl Scout troop had a backyard campout last night. It was a complete and total success!

The 11 girls and 6 chaperone moms gathered at 5 p.m. We started with some unstructured playtime, then a fun make-your-own-dreamcatcher craft, then pizza dinner. Once it was dark out, we put a movie on an outdoor screen (thanks, Mike, for the projector and technical assistance in getting it set up) and had s’mores and popcorn. When the movie finally ended — at 11 p.m.! — the girls started bedtime.

The big question among the moms was, would the girls (who were all sharing one giant tent) all go to sleep? Would there be a lot of crying for moms not there? Would kids end up getting up in the middle of the night and getting into our (shared, large) grown up tent? I’m happy to report that it was actually pretty smooth! All the girls were asleep by midnight, they stayed in their tent all night, and no one pitched a fit.

This was only my second time camping (the first time being the campout last year at Michaela’s school), and I’m battling a cold, so I wasn’t sure how it’d go for me, either. Outside of some snoring (sorry, tent mates!), it wasn’t too bad. I had a little pad that made sleeping on the ground much more comfortable. Our sleeping bags are really warm, so I wasn’t cold, and the weather was good.

At 6 this morning,  giant crow started squawking outside the tent. I thought for a minute it was one of the girls, until I opened my eyes. The girls were waking up, too, and we were off to the races. The kids worked on another craft (coloring bandanas, which was brilliant) while the moms got breakfast set up. Then the kids ate and cleaned up their stuff. We were all to be done at 8 a.m., and Michaela and I, and her friend who lives a couple of doors down from us, rolled out the door at 8:05.

It was a really wonderful experience and I’m glad we did it!

Wrapping Up 1st Grade

4 Jun

The end of the school year is upon us and I for one am thrilled. We’ve hit that point in the year where I wake up dreading the process of making lunch (what to pack? We have no food!)… where it isn’t dark out until after 8, so bedtime is hard… and where, therefore, Michaela is tired and grumpy in the morning and not excited to get up for school each morning.

That being said, there are also lots of fun things about the end of the school year, like open house! Michaela’s was last Friday and she was very proud as she took us around her classroom and showed us what he’d been working on this semester. They did “me poems,” where each kid narrated their likes and dislikes, and some autobiographical facts. I, of course, and tickled by Michaela’s

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Her school also does a full on art show, where at least one piece or art from each kid is matted and displayed, gallery, style. Here’s the artist with her piece, a great example of composition in art.

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She’s made a lot of good friends and grown and matured a lot. First grade is almost in the books!

 

Home improvement

21 May

It’s been just over four years since we moved into our house. It was move in-ready– the people who sold it did a bunch of smart improvements to help it sell, like removing the popcorn ceiling, putting in new doors, and refinishing the hardwood floors. The only major project we’ve done was the kitchen remodel, which is now two years in the rearview mirror.

That being said, it’s time to do some updates. I’d like to redo both bathrooms, and the front yard needs a major update. I am hopeful we can get the master bath and front yard done this summer, but it’ll take focused effort… and probably mean no big trips, since we’ll do much of the work ourselves and can’t do it if we’re not here.

Or maybe we should buy a new house? That’s always an option, too. We went open housing again today. It’s crazy how much property values have climbed in our neighborhood since we bought! Of course, that means if we wanted to buy something around here, we’d be paying a lot more for it than before…

So yeah. Maybe a remodel it is.

Disneyland Adventure

9 May

Mike has been out of town a lot this month (today’s the 9th and he’s already spent two days in Sacramento, two days in Los Angeles, and four days in Orlando), so Michaela and I have had plenty of together time. I’d been wanting to take a quick trip to Disneyland and decided the two of us would go while Mike is out of town.

Sunday afternoon, I told Michaela we needed to go to Target to get some snacks. Then I hopped on the 5 North and we were off. After about an hour in the car, Michaela still hadn’t asked why we’d been in the car for so long or where we were going (maybe because I got her a cool Lisa Frank coloring and tracing book, plus some new markers). I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked her if she’d noticed we weren’t heading towards home.

Michaela: Where are we going, Mom?

Me: To Orange County.

Michaela: What’s in Orange County?

Me: Well, Pretend City is in Orange County.

Michaela, excited: Are we going to Pretend City?!?!?

Me: No.

Me again: The Discovery Cube is in Orange County.

Michaela, excited: Are we going to the Cube?!?!

Me: No.

Michaela started to cry at that point!

Michaela: Why do you keep telling me places we’re not going?

Me, feeling sorry for her: You know what else is in Orange County? Disneyland.

Michaela: Are we going to Disneyland?!?!

Me: YES!

And so we did. We dropped our stuff off at a hotel near the resort and then grabbed some dinner before going back to the hotel to play in the pool and hot tub. There was a lovely Mormon family in the pool area with us; when I didn’t want to go back into the pool because it was too cold, the father told his two teenagers to play with Michaela in the pool. She was thrilled, because she loves people who are older than her, and Michaela had them cracking up. The father told his wife that Michaela is “brilliant”and “is going to go far in life.” Smart man!

The next morning, we got up early to go to Disneyland. We hit a few things there before hopping over to California Adventure. We hung out there (and even ran into another kid from Michaela’s class who was playing hooky with his parents) and then went back to Disneyland at dusk. We got a table at the Corner Cafe on Main Street and had dinner while waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade, which Michaela LOVED.

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At 9:30 p.m., we made our way back to the car, where Michaela immediately fell asleep. We were home by 11 and went straight to bed, tired after a fun girls’ getaway.

This morning, I asked Michaela what was her favorite part of our time at Disneyland. Her answer? “I liked when we were on the Little Mermaid Ride [at California Adventure] and the special light made my shoes and socks look cool!”

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Turns out, I could have saved myself a lot of cash by skipping Disneyland and just investing in a blacklight.

Three Nights A Week

6 May

Michaela and I went to Souplantation tonight with a friend of hers. It’s always an interesting experience, to see what other kids eat. I’ve been with kids who skipped all the veggies and got only bread and macaroni and cheese, and I’ve been with kids who had a pretty balanced palate.

Tonight’s friend was telling us how she’s the one of her family’s three kids who likes to eat vegetables and other healthy foods. She said she’d eat pretty much anything. I told her Michaela had eaten some interesting foods, because of our travels, and this was the resulting conversation…

Me: Well, like she’s had frog legs and chicken hearts…

C: Frog legs? Chicken hearts?!?! GROSS.

Michaela: Frog legs are GOOD. I could eat frog legs three nights a week. AT LEAST three nights a week! And chicken hearts are DELICIOUS!

Mind you, I don’t eat either of those things, but it tickles me that she’s an adventurous eater who is willing to try new things.

What Magic is This?

30 Apr

We’ve been at a point for a long time where Michaela can wake up on a weekend morning and entertain herself so Mike and I can sleep in a bit. Something new has happened lately, though, where now Michaela is sleeping even later (she was a pretty solid 7:30 a.m. waker) on weekends, meaning we are all sleeping in even later. The last several weeks, Mike and I have slept until 9 or even 10 a.m.! It’s heavenly. Michaela wakes up at 8 or 8:30, makes herself a light snack, and entertains herself by watching her tablet or PBS Kids, or playing with her dolls or doing art or videochatting with her Nana. Meanwhile, I’m catching Zs. It’s amazing.