Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Runners Who Spin

Alternatively Titled: We bought a spinning bike.

I'm not a runner who trains. I could be, but that sounds daunting and time consuming and I just like doing my own thing. That's probably why I run average 8:30 miles with my fastest mile ever being a 7:42. That's slower than some runners average for full marathons. I run for health, me time and because I just love being outside in the fresh air and nature. Plus, my regular hobby of eating ice cream has to be met with a generous love for cardio.

We recently bought a spin bike on Amazon. It currently has 1,764 reviews and has now dropped in price by $32 (don't you hate that?). It averages 4.5 stars and with that many reviews and at the super steal price of $199, it's basically two months of a gym membership and it's paid off. Spin instructors reviewed it and mentioned they bought multiple for their homes to have mini class sessions. I figured it was worth the gamble since I'm definitely no expert. Plus, a 100lb item SHIPPED to my door for about $250 (at the time), um... total deal.
Reasons We Bought a Spin Bike:

(I mean me. Because the husband wasn't in on the purchase. Insert meme about hoping the husband is away when the Amazon Prime order arrives...)

- Spinning is the only workout I've ever done that I get WHOOPED by 80-year-old women. It's hard, people. If you've never taken a spin class, you are quickly humbled by the difficulty.
- It's a different workout than running. I love running, but I'm injury-prone and wanted other options. Plus, I didn't want to drive to the gym or pay another $100/month membership.
- I can do it when the kids are home. We're approaching a THREE WEEK winter break for the kids. That means I either run with them in the stroller (but I've misplaced my BOB Duallie rain cover for cold weather and they can be super frustrating with their bickering), or I have to run at night. I can spin when Elliot is away on business and while the kids are in bed or watching a video. It gives me more flexibility when I just need to sweat it out.
- The husband can get more exercise in after super long days at work. His job has him working crazy hours. The bike is setup in our tiny guest room, it has wheels to transport, or he can close the door and bother no one, even if he feels the need to spin at midnight.
- I don't have to run in the dark. It's winter and the sun sets in the 4 o' clock hour, well before the husband arrives home. I either have to run during school hours for exercise, or I'm stuck in the dark. While we have lots of reflective gear and blinking arm bands, new stories of missing runners still haunt me. Plus, who really wants to run in the dark during winter? Currently our wind is howling outside.
- I'm thinking ahead to next year. I'm planning to return to teaching and it's unlikely that I will have loads of time to run outside as often as I currently do. But a quick 20-minute spin session is totally do-able.
- It was a $200 gamble with great reviews. Why not?

So far, I'm digging it. I've done two workouts on it and I'm loving the ability to get in some cardio in our small rental home. The bike has a small footprint. It's in our 10x10 guest bedroom with a queen bed and comes on wheels, so we can easily move it to our master bedroom when guests are here.

I bought an iPad Holder, a bicycle computer to measure RPM and mileage and a seat cushion for the up and down and out-of-the-saddle comfort. These were all recommended items I read about through reviews. I think I paid $20 for all the extras.

It's fairly quiet, though not a perfect as those gym-grade ones, but pretty darn sturdy and smooth with a 40-lb flywheel front. It doesn't even move a millimeter when I'm spinning fast or changing the resistance.
I run. Not very fast. I spin, Probably even slower. Now I just need to improve my yogi form and I'll be doing all three of my favorite workouts on a regular basis. That third one is going to take some serious patience and guidance. #sendhippies

Monday, December 5, 2016

Another Year Around the Sun. Six.

Each year Thanksgiving comes around and then it ends and then it's December 5th. It's almost like the days in between aren't even there, because they are a rush of time.

This morning I spent my time running six miles for my firstborn on his birthday. At each mile, I wrote one of these wherever my feet landed. In six different places around my neighborhood, I left a mark for him.
I also spent the morning registering my rainbow baby for Kindergarten. Irony sure does enjoy smacking me right in the face. My would-be Kindergartner and my upcoming Kindergartner with worlds colliding. It's rare this happens, so I guess it's a sweet wink. (It would be even sweeter if the school wasn't going to a year-round calendar. Which likely means we're moving to another school zone.)

Tonight we will enjoy dinner out and quite a bit of dessert-eating and present opening, all to remember that boy who first made us parents. I miss him with everything in me. To think of how he would've shaped who is younger brother is and how happy it would make his little sister to have a great big brother to love and play with.

What I miss most, though, is knowing who he would be. How our lives would be different with him here and what he would grow to become. I really miss everything.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kids Are Mean

A couple weeks ago, Benjamin mentioned to me that some of his friends at school weren't playing with him and even went so far to say that he didn't want to go to school one day because he had no one to play with.

I didn't believe it. Until I saw it.

I assumed he was exaggerating and placing all of these remarks on one isolated incident he didn't fully understand, like the allowance of only two kids in a center area or one kid really intent on his creation that he didn't react well when Benjamin went grabbing for that special project. Or that the one kid he wanted to play with at that exact time was unavailable.

Benjamin isn't an easy kid to understand and I think he struggles to understand others. He's not very social. He clams up and holds his emotions inside until he bursts. He gets hurt feelings, despite his tough exterior or appearance to disregard anyone and everything. But if you touch on something sensitive, he goes into defense mode and says and does things that he can't control because he lacks that full ability to express himself well.

But, like any mom, I felt horrible that he felt underappreciated and devalued. I want the kids to love him, but he's an introvert loner who doesn't seem to have the whole social awareness thing down. And it does bother him. So I wanted him to know that it does bother me, too. I want him to know I take his concerns seriously because I want him to love school and I love him. This whole social confusion is most of what preschool is about, right?

We were at storytime yesterday and in walks a girl from his class. He sits beside her, smitten that someone from his class was at our storytime. He's met other classmates there before and they've always been nice. This girl, wasn't. When the story ended or the librarian read a funny joke, he'd turn to look and see her reaction, as to connect with her. She turned her whole body against him and at one point actually moved herself away from him. Of course her mom was either oblivious (or a jerk) and didn't react.

I grabbed him up and told him she wasn't interested in being friendly and immediately he welled up with tears and started saying unkind things ("I don't love you", etc.). This is how he reacts when he feels threatened. I felt terrible and honestly had some ugly words in my head rolling around about that little brat of a four-year-old.

He has to know that life isn't fair. It's not. People are going to disappoint you. They will. Friends will come and go. Also true. It's just... really hard being Mama and seeing your little bird take flight, only to fall and gain those bruises. This is only the beginning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving Fun + Tree Adventures

About a month ago, my husband got word that you could cut down your own tree in the wild with the purchase of a $10 permit. That's it. You hand over $10 to the National Forest Service and they give you an official sticker and map of places you're allowed to cut.

We had a full weekend of fun, starting with a 10k Turkey Trot with our little turkeys in the stroller followed by dinner at some friends' house and asleep in a hotel bed at a cute little Inn in Incline Village, Nevada (it's on Lake Tahoe). Night one, we all take a swim in the amazingly heated (like spa-temps!) pool and find ourselves in bed late and then quickly awoken to the sound of vomit coming from the kids' bed. Mmmhmm. The shared bed. Benjamin didn't wake at all.
We grab Claire up and clean her up, manage the bed as best we could and put her back. She promptly vomits again. We clean her up again and the rest of the night was quiet, except I never slept much because I anticipated that terrible sound again... #momlife also, #vomitistheworstpartofparenting

She was good for the following day, so we explored three different ski resorts and I got a massage in Squaw Valley from my birthday gift stash. We explored South Tahoe and eventually made our way back for another warm swim and some Christmas shows on television before a good night of sleep.
Saturday was a day for more swimming, sledding and more exploration before heading back down the mountain and grabbing our tree permit for the following day.

We trekked about an hour south of our home into the Northern California Toiyabe Forest and promptly found ourselves in a winter wonderland that also made for some fun adventures trying to get our new Subie out of the deeper-than-we-estimated snow. We finally found a suitable spot and trekked about 1/3 mile into the snowy woods and crossing a stream to find our tree. There are just so many great memories from this, but probably not from Claire's perspective since she refused the gloves we tried to put on her. Instead she spent the better half of the adventure screaming, as you can see from the quintessential family picture here.
We'd been tree cutting at farms in the past, but nothing compares to trekking through the wilderness with just a map and your senses to find the tree! it's a wild tree, so it's not the perfect spruce trees you expect when spending $ at the tree lots, but it's perfectly ours and we love it. Benjamin was 100% into this adventure and wanted to be a part of everything. He complained nil and it was so awesome to share that adventure with him.
We typically wait until after Andrew's birthday for the tree presentation in our home, but our kids were excited and it's getting harder to hold them back as they get older. Plus, our weekends are getting more and more booked as the holidays approach and we had a free afternoon. Still feels foreign, but being from nature and in the mountains where I feel closest to him (and God), it almost felt like he was with us, exploring, adventuring and indulging in this excitement. Plus, an added bonus is having his ornaments up for the whole month of his birth.
It was quite the weekend and nothing short of memorable. Seriously, how have more people not found out about Reno? Most people give  me the confused look or question when I mention it, but I honestly bet you would be amazed... as amazed as we are. It's like a best-kept secret of the West and we're in love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shameless Chatbooks Post. Do You Get Them? + Giveaway Winner

I feel like digital images have made life both awesomely convenient and impossible to organize. I'm grateful that we don't have to just guess if we got the perfect shot or worry about wasting each image, but goodness. I spend hours on photos each month!

Sorting through the pictures and videos. Organizing them into folders. Deleting the 397 duplicates of each photo. Are you with me?

One of the only things that is made easy is ordering my Instagram pics through Chatbooks. (I'm brandywilson in case you want to follow.) My Instagram photos have made it so easy to share grandkids with their far away grandparents. I used to go to great lengths to share pictures. And even better, once I post 60 pictures, I can automatically print little booklets of pictures and give them as gifts. I can go in and de-select some pictures (like ones where I talk about running) and change captions if they are too long. You can select a cover image or have them do it automatically.

It's $8 a book, shipped to my door. I collect them as they come in and gift the printed volumes at Christmas to a very lucky set of grandparents who have those to flip through between visits.

Gives date, location (if provided in Instagram) and caption.

If you're interested, I'm totally up for earning free books if friends use my link. Not only do I earn free Chatbooks if I have 5 friends sign up by November 20 (so far, two have!), but you also get your first book totally free to check it out. I'm pretty sure you'll love it. I only shamelessly plug stuff I actually think is cool. I'm not being paid for the plug, but I'm down for some perks where I can get them and free books is totally a perk.

Here is my link if this is something you've been considering:

Christmas is coming up...and they can even print all the pictures you've had on Instagram up until this point, too! So you're not late to the game at all.

That is all. #chatbooksarerad


P.S. Random selection for the National Geographic Books... Kristi! I'll send an email to get the ball rolling and get those books to your kiddos. Endless perfect winter entertainment. :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gun-Loving Blue State

Our community has communal mailboxes. Each person has to go retrieve their mail from a large (actually 3) box holding the mail for everyone in the subdivision. I hate it. But, it's not a total dealbreaker and really, we don't even own the place. I guess it allows them to cover more ground and cuts down on the number of mail carriers they have to pay.

We teeter between wanting to own because we love this area and loving our stress-free lifestyle of having no obligation to repair, fix or cover the cost of home ownership. It's been a glorious (almost) 3 months of home-free living. Plus, two years ago, we could've owned a home here for about 30% less than they are currently selling for and before Tesla and all of the other factories moved to town. I don't want to pay 30% more than all my friends did just two years ago!

So back to the mailbox. We were scooting the .1 mile to get our mail and look to the left to see a big rack animal on a trailer in one of those 4x4 vehicles. Just chilling on the street. {insert wide-eyed emoji}

Vegetarians don't do hunting. And I'm an anti-gun kinda gal, who will never tolerate one of those in our home. No thanks.

I would've never thought that in this dismal Presidential election we all just witnessed (with our jaws on the floor as we stared at the television) that this gun-loving state would've gone blue. I was a contributor, mostly because I found our new President Elect to be the greater of the two evils, but never did I assume my fellow neighbors would be in agreement. In the end that didn't matter, but I'd like to think we are one with the rest of the western states on this one. And Canada. My friend on Instagram tagged me in this, saying they fixed the map so it makes better sense.

And for fun, this is a "Judgemental" map of the Reno area. We are in South Reno in the Democrats and Baby-Makers area (though we're swing voters and all done making babies). And yes, there are exactly two highways in Reno, making a "t" shape. That area where they intersect is known locally as the spaghetti bowl. #nowyouknow
This post is nothing more than jibber-jabber because I had to get the feelings of despair about this recent election out of my conscience and because I can't get the visual of that dead animal carcass out of my head either. It's almost perfectly fitting that the sight of our new President and this animal would come haunt my mind in the same week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Young Kids DO Like Nonfiction : National Geographic Hero Series Book Review + GIVEAWAY!

Reading is a huge part of what I spend my time doing with my kids. Our local library has a program to promote early literacy in children under the age of 5. It's called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. I'm fairly certain I've read over 20,000 to Benjamin and at least 10,000 to Claire at their young ages of 2 and 4. I've read so much that Benjamin hands me book after book, inhaling each word, curious about everything he is seeing and hearing. He's a sight word champion and well on his way to devouring books all on his own.

At such a young age, kids don't actually need us to force them into reading. They are inherently curious. We're participating in that library program to encourage others and because bubbling in those little bubbles for each book on the chart is great fine motor practice for my littles.

Around Halloween, kids who showed up at our doorstep were dressed as every kind of character. My kids had lots of questions as we dropped candy into baskets of kids dressed up as warriors, superheroes and people of history (though I'd like to see more of the latter). Yesterday at the library, Benjamin stopped at the biographies section and commented about those books being "for big kids" instead. I disagreed. He grabbed up a book about Davy Crockett and off we were exploring the pictures and facts about the folk hero. Nonfiction isn't just for the big kids. Some nonfiction books are a good bridge between the two, featuring stories of historical characters in their nonfiction stories, like one of our favorites, Rosie Revere, Engineer.

If I can get my hands on new and exciting books with cool pictures and awesome facts about important people in world history that are both interesting and will catch my kids' attentions, I'm all about it. We were sent a couple great National Geographic books to check out. The Book of Heroes and The Book of Heroines were quickly ripped from their boxes by my little bookworms. Not only was Rosie the Riveter in there (activating prior knowledge + connecting literature!), but so were a handful of stories about flight crew who made quick moves to save their aircraft... one of those being Benjamin's obsession: the Goodyear blimp. In short snippet paragraphs, kids of all ages are captivated by real, actual history. Even cooler, he's seen one and can immediately relate to the real-life story that happened well before his birth.
As for Claire, she's not as much of a reader, and yet the cool factor of these shiny books with bright pictures totally pulled her in. There's so much to see and learn. And they make killer coffee table books (or potty room books, just saying). For my littles, they enjoy these Nat Geo nonfiction books about Heroes and Heroines for the super cool pictures and short stories to keep their fleeting attention spans. For older kids, they can read the pages on their own, devouring the rich (and seriously exciting) world of doers and game changers. Ages 2 and beyond as long as they can sit and listen and have a little explanation from parents (since some of those words are as big as the characters themselves), these books are good for everyone.

As for independent reading, it's around the 5th grade level of reading and seriously a super item to add to a classroom library as a gift (teachers LOVE this) or as a birthday present for the kid who has too many toys (just our problem? probably not).

It's hard to imagine anyone not finding stories of awe inspiring history makers interesting. We sure did. These will be part of our book library for many years to come. Because I'm also a book hoarder, natch.

Wanna win a set of these great nonfiction stunners for your kids? Shoot me a comment below about your favorite hero or heroine and I'll select a winner on Wednesday 11/16! Open to U.S. only. Sorry my beloved Canadian friends! xo

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amazon Cart Full. Christmas is TWO Months Away. For Reals

I'm always so curious what people store in their Amazon cart. If you're like me, you keep a healthy supply of things saved there to watch the prices fluctuate and until you feel totally ready to press that final submit button. Oftentimes, the things get removed as I change my mind and move on.

I've made a list of things I'm considering purchasing for the kids for Christmas and their birthdays (that happen 1-2 months post Christmas) and now I ponder, reconsider, wait for prices to drop and for deals to be had.

This year the kids are getting all share gifts. I don't see a reason for gender-specific toys and really, they share everything anyway, whether it has one name on it or the other. Aside from stocking stuffers that aren't so much share-friendly (socks, toothbrushes, undies), gifts will be unwrapped together and played with together. I also wanted to center around gifts that can be played with by them both at the same time. They are each others' best friend, so I want to continue to foster this special relationship.

The Biggie: This HAPE Wooden Doll House + Furniture

I teetered between the Melissa & Doug Hi Rise one and this, but the elevator on the M&D one made me nervous that they'd break it, plus this one just seems a tad cuter to me. Though, I do like that garage on the M&D one. And confirmed, my local friend has that one with the elevator and she's confirmed it's no longer functional.

There are some accompanying things I might get for birthdays to follow like the baby nursery set and the bunkbed kid furniture set, but we'll see. They are just so stinking cute being so little. Melissa and Doug also has this cute wooden car with people that would work pretty well paired with this dollhouse stuff.
The kids love those little choking hazards called marbles, so thinking a Marble Genius Marble Runner to build would be fun. Benjamin plays with one at his preschool and they have some wooden ones we play with at the Discovery Museum.

Benjamin totally fixated on a Playdough creation set at Target the other day. And since then, his Gawbee went ahead and treated him to it. I might get one he hasn't seen before since it looks like it would be less painful to watch the color-mixing. The wheels are stamps on this Cinderella carriage and it can also probably be used in conjunction with the dollhouse for crossover play. Or maybe that one can just be eliminated from the list, because #playdough. Every parent knows how SUPER FUN it is to clean.

And finally, I was thinking about LEGO. The kids have Duplo we still play with quite a bit and I have a big bag of LEGO Friends pieces to introduce that I scored for a ridiculously amazing price of $3 at a thrift store. (I miss you, Salvation Army on 75th and Lemont in Darien, IL.) The big bag I scored also has LEGO people that can also be used in the dollhouse. See where I'm going with the imaginative play? Finally, we can have small pieces because Claire is almost three and they aren't babies anymore. (Plus, she's never been much of an oral kid.) I want to buy this LEGO Advent calendar for them to share. They would trade off days and then help one another construct. Perhaps it's too advanced, but the creations are really simple and festive. This one might turn into an annual tradition. Update: It's on the way in the mail. I'm so excited to stick it in our hanging Advent Calendar to construct each winter day. I don't know which one we're getting, because I won it in a giveaway! But I think any of the three will be a blast, though I'm partial to the original because I like all of the creations better than the other two.

I'm really curious what the rest of you are buying for Christmas for your kids! Have you even thought about it, or are you totally just buried to your elbows in figuring out Halloween? I've sort of skipped right over the stress of that and moved onto the easy stuff-- things I can put in my Amazon cart that magically appear on my doorstep thanks to my new Prime account my parents gifted me with for my birthday earlier this month.

And honestly, while all the stuff above is nice, my kids have so many toys and so many I weed through regularly that are either junky, not played with, or below their level. Christmas isn't all about the stuff. We're just so, so lucky as Americans to have all that we do that we can casually think about Christmas in terms of a full Amazon cart. It's so easy to become jaded. Hashtag #firstworldchristmas.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Potty Training Uhhhh-gain

Back on the train for the second installment of potty training my children. I'll admit that Claire has probably been ready for eons. And, well, I just wasn't. Because I remember how SUPER FUN it was to potty train Benjamin and how I waited forever because he was so noncommittal (or was that me?) and then when we did it, he was potty trained fully without any need for any sort of pee pad, alarm, pull-up or anything in a matter of like 5 days. He just did it all the time, by himself, without me even bothering. I never had to pull the nagging "Do you have to go potty" before we left for somewhere and I still don't. The kid has an uncanny ability to hold his urine for ridiculously long periods of time. I literally took back all the Pull-Ups I bought in anticipation of using them for years because he never used a single one.

For Claire, I just kind of assumed that if I pushed it off until she was almost three like Benjamin was when he trained, it'd all be roses and easy. Whenever we asked her if she wanted to, she'd always say, "tomorrow" and was happily bringing me diapers and wipes for changings for many months. So it's time.

Someone said something about girls being easier.

WRONG. Double. Triple. Wrong. Liars.

For one, boys can go standing up and somehow it is socially acceptable for them to pee on nature anytime, anywhere. They don't require wiping for that business and you don't have to deal with the fears of them falling into the toilet or those stupid automatic flushers sucking them into oblivion. Real fears from little people, seriously. Girls require lifting onto and/or holding them on the potty or bringing in a potty topper (which I do often) that was virtually unused with Benjamin (he was also good about holding the poop until we were good and home).

Girls require running to the potty, making sure said potty is clean, covering the top, holding there, wiping, flushing, washing... LORD HAVE MERCY.

Boys just piss on a tree and you squirt them with a little hand sani and head on your way.

Claire has been peeing in the potty solidly for 2.5 weeks now. For the last 1.5 weeks, she's done it without accident. I was going to keep her home from school a week ago to continue bootcamp, but then picture day put a snag in my plans. Still, she managed dry diapers at school and using the potty. But this week, she must've eaten something awful because when I picked her up from school on Monday, the teacher handed me a dark bag of super fun, totally diarrhea-filled clothing. And then she proceeded to expel the same fun into her underwear and accompanying pants for the next two days. Finally, the following day, she walked her naked self into the bathroom, sat down and did her business without me accompanying her. Finally. A solid in the potty. Her first one. Pee was a snap, but poop was absolutely not. Benjamin was pooping on the potty before he ever peed, so this was something new for me. What a blast it has been cleaning those clothes. Ick.

We celebrated big with mint Oreos (imperative that you find these at your local market and buy them. They are my fave of all time). She's done it a few times more now with no accidents of any kind now for 4 days or so.

I'm not saying we're out of the dark on this potty situation, but we're headed on the right track. Fruit snacks ready and happy face potty chart taped to the bathroom mirror, we're not turning back. She's not interested in diapers at bedtime (but mommies who don't want to be woken up to wet mattresses sure are) and is requesting underwear like brother, so I've committed to November 1 as diaper-free Wilson household IF she manages dry diapers for the next two weeks solid.

Send us your potty pixie dust and well wishes. Please and thank you. Also, OMG, it's possible I'm done changing diapers forever? Wow.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halloween Costume Idea Squashed. Help.

I could have the kids just dress in their costumes from last year, because it's not like anyone locally has any clue we're reusing (and so what if they did anyway?).

BUT... they were putting chairs together from the dining table the other days and hauling every single pillow and blanket we own to construct a hot air balloon the other day and I sort of thought, why not that? 

I think Halloween should be fun and creative, but I don't play either of those things well. I'm sort of fun, but not at all creative when it comes to costumes. I just can't handle anymore Elsa costumes (no offense to the millions of children who will be dressed in shimmery light blue with blond braids). 

I took to Pinterest because that's what people my age do in a crisis of absentee creativity in oneself.

I fell in love. Like, head over heels. 



I mean, it's relatively easy and super adorable. I mostly wanted to replicate the yellow balloon one to a T.

Then I visited the party supply store. FIFTEEN DOLLARS for just one balloon filled with helium. Maybe that's not a lot for some people, but this is a DIY project and also, I am literally paying for air in a rubber receptacle that will either deflate or be popped possibly immediately. And if you've ever raised small children, you know that a popped balloon basically means you have ruined their lives. Thirty dollars and the thought of all that stress...

Right then and there, my brilliant idea of creative costumes the kids could help with was immediately squashed. Deflated, if you will. (I know, I'm hilarious sometimes.) I've searched ebay and Amazon for some 36" balloons, but where do I find helium at an affordable price? Maybe I can convince my local dollar store to fill them for a couple bucks each. Hmmph. Totally open to accepting your brilliant ideas, but I'm probably just going to sit on the couch sulking about my brilliant failure of an idea that probably won't come to fruition. 

And so, you'll probably expect to see some re-used costumes this year. At least we have our decorations out and I'm fully stocked on Halloween candy. Snickers anyone?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blurry Eyes, Clean Teeth and Dead Car Batteries

A couple weeks ago, I ran in some serious winds. After 7.5 miles, I was so done with fighting the insane 30-60mph wind gusts, that I went home and ended it a bit early. Ever since then, my right eye has been really dry and slightly blurred. I met with an ophthalmologist Monday and he checked me thoroughly and dilated my eyes (which totally sucked parenting two kids after that!). I had Lasik 7.5 years ago and my left eye is just under perfect and my right is -.25. Neither should be the reason I'm feeling uncomfortable in my right eye and too low of a change to require a prescription. I left with no real answers after all the tests, but definitely still bothered by this right eye sitch. I'm using artificial tears but it's not helping.

I had a dental appointment last month. This month, I get to endure the first of two fillings that were uncovered during that appointment. (They won't do both on the same day, as they deem it dangerous. I should be clear on my history with them and how coming back is actually more dangerous for them because I will be way more cranky the second go around). Mind you, I brush with 1.1% $20/tube special fluoride toothpaste, with a Sonicare, floss daily with two devices and use fluoride rinse. And still, cavities. #unlucky. I'm also dealing with some adult acne, and I've never had a bad breakout What the crap, dude. I'm turning 34 next week and I don't know what gives! Broken teeth, broken eyes, broken face. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. (Side note: Benzoyl Peroxide seems to be taming the beast, so at least something is partially fixed.)

Yesterday the kids had their dental appointments. I was already marginally flipping out inside because Dad is out of town (mentally that makes things more stressful even thought he'd be working at the time anyway) and because Benjamin's last experience at the dentist's office was one that has been forever burned into my memory. It wasn't the cavity filling, but the aftermath. OH MAN, that was rough. So I'm already clawing my chair in fear that the x-rays will reveal more, despite brushing them both myself with fluoride, flossing and using flouride rinse daily. I'm really anal about the whole process because that cavity filling was traumatic for us all.

I get the kids buckled and realized my keys were still in the ignition. NBD, I've done that before. The garage was closed. Except, they were in the ON position. Like, the radio setting. Which meant, dead battery. I should've assumed all along, because my phone kept trying to connect to my car bluetooth from inside the house, but it still wasn't enough to alarm me. I'd already waited over a month to schedule the kids with this dentist I read about on Yelp (Hollywood themed? Disney posters everywhere? Like you're entering a theatre? SIGN ME UP.). I wasn't about to cancel and reschedule. Shoot, I would run the 3 miles there with them in the jogger if I had to! I immediately started knocking on doors of neighbors I'd never met. On my fourth house, this guy answers, grabs his keys and drives into the garage and jumps my car. Easy as pie. We were actually ON TIME for that dental appointment.

The kids loved the place. Both had x-rays (controversial for some, I know, but our dental history is dismal. Some lady in there was so vehemently against the fluoride paste that she said she would be taking her kids elsewhere if he tried.). They were almost excited for their exams! The cleanings happened side-by-side concurrently and the dentist was awesome and super positive. They left with stickers, toothbrushes, paste, floss and a token to be used at the toy machine (think grocery store quarter machines) before we left. They both got 3-cent bouncy balls and were smitten with the experience. But no one was more smitten than this mama. No cavities for either kid and away we went to storytime.

Kids healthy, mama broken (and apparently losing her mind). Pretty accurate, I guess.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall of Remembrance :: Footprints Blog Tour

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This post is dedicated to Share's Walk of Remembrance and the Wave of Light, shattering the stigma of infertility and child loss. Fifteen of us bloggers are participating in spreading the word with our own words about our personal losses.


As soon as September hits, the weather changes ever-so-slightly, even here in the desert. I quickly transition my mood as it changes. I'm feeling it. It's another step closer to his birthday and the cooler months, with plentiful tears as December returns.

I feel closer to Andrew here than I did in Illinois. You'd think living three miles from the hospital and driving past the funeral home where we picked up his ashes nearly 6 years ago would have provided obvious closeness, as those are the only places his body visited outside of mine. But really, it's out here in nature and on our trail walks and explorations in the mountains that feels like my home and where I believe Andrew is now-- in beauty and glory. It's the calmness, peacefulness and lack of negative feels. While that same hospital Andrew was born into also brought us Benjamin and Claire, I still felt a pit in my stomach every time I would drive by. I couldn't shake it. I'd sort of avert my eyes every time I found myself on Washington Street in Naperville. Nevada is a clean slate and clean state.

On frequent nature walks with the kids and trail runs alone sometimes, I plant little A's out there for Andrew. We construct them of sticks and branches, pine cones and flower petals. We walk and run and explore, always remembering the first of our babies, leaving behind a little bit of the love he brought to our family.

Benjamin is attending a Christian preschool here and the daily line leader gets to pray before lunch. He's had the opportunity to be line leader now and carries these practices to our home life. His prayers are the most adorable I've heard, complete with thanking God for his family, including Andrew almost always. It makes me feel like we're doing the right things with them in displaying their brother's beautiful sketch drawing in our living space and talking about death and love and their brother in heaven. It shouldn't be out of fear or sadness, but out of love always.


In the fall, we come together with families across the world and light a candle as a Wave of Light to remember all of our children. We walk in unison, together, in a Walk of Remembrance as an act of love for our children and those children we love in other families that have impacted our lives.

If you're walking to REMEMBER and shatter that stigma, we'd love to see those photos posted using hashtag #ShareWalk2016 on Social Media from wherever you are around the world. In addition, light up those candles on Oct. 15th for the Wave of Light at 7 pm (#WaveOfLight and #PregnancyAndInfantLossAwareness) and post those photos. Spreading love and awareness and light in the unfortunate lonely and dark reality of Infertility and Loss will shatter the barriers and bring to light the importance of support and love for so many families across the world. Infertility and Loss affect people from all walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders and races. No one is safe. Chances are, someone close to you has fallen victim. You do not have to be victim to support and create awareness.

Check out Lisa's post from yesterday and tomorrow Lindsay is sharing about her own journey of loss.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Month Out

Our house sold a month ago yesterday. ::Insert choir of angels singing.::

Seriously, we might rent forever. Okay, probably not, but right now it's awesome. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders and we're free again. Relating to owning a home, the proximity from the mountains and also E's former job, we just felt like Chicago was always so heavy. Grief aside, the home projects list and E's job were more than enough to make things feel heavy. We like the idea of being free to go. Wherever, whenever.

SO boring here. And ugly.
We're feeling so light! We officially have all the money from our home sale in our possession and I'm selling even more of the stuff we brought with us. Over the last 8 months, I've probably sold off 20% of our possessions. Less is definitely more. Six years in a large home means an accumulation of things. So gone be the excess!

In fact, yesterday we did a 3-mile Diabetes walk at University of Nevada at Reno with work colleagues and then went on to summit Mt. Rose at another 10.6 miles. We followed that up with dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants that has THE BEST happy hour and a bike ride for the kids. While they were bike riding at sunset with Dad and Gramie, I was selling the playhouse I bought for them just two months ago. 

Why? They never play with it! Every time they go near it, they complain of a cobweb that appeared overnight. I bought it because we finally had an enclosed backyard and the kids were still waiting on their stuff from Illinois. I was feeling weak and guilty because they were living off sticks and rocks as their sole toys. So I caved. And instantly regretted it! Now that their stuff is here and they won another fun play thing from the local library summer reading program, we're kind of bursting at the seams with toys here. Seriously, two indoor climb-in play house things, two tunnels and a bounce house. That playhouse was a wee-bit impulsive.

I made back 75% of my money and now I don't have to watch the thing get old and dirty anymore. And the kids didn't care at all. In fact, it took them over a day to realize it was missing, after playing outside in the very place it once stood! It's maybe getting a little bad, though, because Benjamin is starting to ask me if I sold his creations and things when he has misplaced them. Never! Those just go straight to the trash. I kid. They get saved for a year, photographed, made into a booklet and then tossed in the recycling.

The kids took a bike ride in their jammies tonight and we watched the last of the glorious sunshine dip over the mountaintops until tomorrow. Reno probably won't be forever, but it's sure great for right now. So now... which mountain should we hike next weekend? Just kidding, we don't have a babysitter. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

That Reno Life

With moving comes that long list of things to accomplish.

Immunizations, updating credentials, listing crap you don't need for sale and all. the. freaking. doctor. appointments.

"I'll book that dermatology, well visit and dental appointment when we get settled in our new place." And so here we are. Settling and booking appointments. Adulting at its worst.

Lemme tell you. Seven hours of kid-free time goes by very quickly. I manage to get in a little exercise and like a phonecall before having to pick up the kids. 

This week resulted in adulting of the dental appointment nature. My own. I picked this place because of proximity to home and because the Yelp reviews told me they give complimentary lavender paraffin hand wax treatments, warm neck pillows and soothing eye cucumbers at each cleaning. The place even smelled like a spa. (That wax treatment was freaking incredible.)

Somehow it made the news of two more stupid freaking cavities and one more forming a little easier to handle. There go two more hours of kid-free time during preschool and a few hundred more not-covered-by-insurance dollars. Which then also resulted in me buying another Sonicare because the one I have is old and ancient and each replacement brush head costs the equivalent to taking my whole family out to lunch. No matter how insane the routine (brush, floss, pic floss, flouride rinse), I still manage to receive bad news from the dentist.

And somehow I left the office buying a tube of extra flouride toothpaste to the tune of $20 that I later found online for $15.

I'm starting to recognize the locals here in Reno, because I ran into a mom at the dentist that I've seen at the library before. She's one of those moms with three perfect kids who are totally smart and agreeable and she herself wears a perma-smile that just screams we can't be friends because she probably doesn't have a dead baby. It's not that I think these thoughts always, but it's sometimes clear as day. She probably didn't have any cavities either.

The weather is starting to chill just a wee bit here and the nights are down into the 40s. Pools are closed and I'm actually breaking out some long sleeves on occasion. We bought ski passes for the boys up at the coolest little co-op near Mt. Rose that we plan to spend every weekend in the winter. We'll cross our fingers about the cooperation level of our kiddo, but hoping for the best. I'm thinking the chair lift will be the incentive he might need to participate, at least for the first few lessons. And perhaps knowing he has the power to glide at top speed down a hill without his parents being his second piece of motivation. 

I'm attempting to sell on Craigslist to clear out the garage junk that didn't make the cut being stuffed into every crevice of this (half the size of our IL) house. Andrew, Benjamin and Claire's crib sold today. I'd say it was bittersweet, but it wasn't. I was ready for it to leave. I had a ton of time to think about it because it sat on Craigslist for like 10 days before anyone bothered to actually come buy it. And to top it off, I'm sitting on some currency that I'll have to verify authenticity because I fear we have some counterfeit on our hands. Seriously, selling used goods in Reno is turning out to be a crazy ordeal. Whether you're buying or selling, communication is shockingly slow and almost impossible.

I had a dream last night that we went back to our IL home and just went to stay for a night while the new owners were living there. We didn't really communicate or acknowledge one another, but I vividly remember our awesome former neighbors having a pool with a slide and about 30 teenagers (and us) enjoying it in their backyard. The new owners were tearing up all kinds of stuff to change and exposing brick (that didn't exist). Then we left without tidying up or anything. Just poof. I'm happy to be free of home ownership, at least for now. We're busy as can be, but none of that is related to caring for an enormous yard, painting, or replacing something broken. Maybe we'll own someday again. Not ready yet.

Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to the Nevada Museum of Art, followed by waking up at like 3 a.m. Sunday for the Great Reno Balloon Race. September is turning out to be one heck of an awesome month living here. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Write Blog Post

It was on the list for today. I'm barely squeaking by with this one, so I'm sure it's gonna be a real winner. Don't mind me... between dental appointments and enduring rigorous Nevada immunization updates for Benjamin (5! At once! And they were combined! Note: Nevada is cray and Illinois is lax, but that's the only time those two qualities are switched).

We're just a little busy around here.

After day 1 of terrible Pre-K, I cried. After day 2 of terrible Pre-K, Benjamin literally refused to go and I cried even more. Like, kicked and screamed and full-blown tantrumed on the exact day and time the movers were to be arriving at the house. So while the movers were there and Benjamin was condemned to his carseat (because I was pissed and to keep him out of the way while 2937 boxes and furniture pieces were being moved in), I was feverishly calling preschools to check for availability and setup tours to get him out of terrible Pre-K #1.

We visited one that was actually pretty fantastic. I had to drive past the fabulous "sorry, we're full" montessori school on the way, but this new place just felt RIGHT. They even have a sight word wall, which are things we're working on at home because this kid has an uncanny memory and is totally well on his way to reading success. He's obsessing over words lately, so we're running with it and making sight word flashcards based on words he already knows (so, go, I, no, ice cream, pizza, pink, the, they, yes, stop, bump, Reno, etc.). He's now getting sassy about the words and only wants to tell me words that are also on his school word wall, but anyway. He's learning. Just don't make him color in the lines. #rebelwithoutacause

Today was day 1 of new preschool and when I arrived for pickup, Benjamin was smiling and happy and told me, "This one is a good fit, Mom." Now, if only little sister wasn't totally jelly about him getting a new school because she wants all. the. same. things. In her defense, his preschool is pretty bomb and hers is kind of dismal. But she needs a routine-based program to prepare her for potential full-day preschool next year and Mama possibly going back to teaching. I toured a school I'm hoping she attends next year and it's super cool. So big. So many resources.


Little sister is zero percent potty trained. Like, we ask her daily and she says, "not yet. Tomorrow." We've had a WHOLE lot of tomorrows. Bootcamp coming soon. Stay tuned.


In other news, my kids don't sleep anymore. Like, Benjamin was awake at 2 a.m. last night telling me about some random ailment I can no longer remember that is clearly no longer an issue. And Claire was completely awake between 3-5 a.m. absolutely refusing to sleep in her room. She no longer crib sleeps and there are no locks on the doors. It's just really... unfortunate. And so after literally seeing the clock every single hour from 2-5 a.m., we relented and she slept on my side of the king bed and I happily headed to the guest bedroom for a catnap before my alarm chimed to get the kids off to school.

And because it was the only morning I had kid-free this week, I knocked out a 5.5 miler on like 4 broken hours of sleep and I'm practically falling asleep at the keyboard here. And since Claire is currently sleeping in the hallway and screams bloody murder if you dare wake to move her to bed, she will definitely be in our room tonight and I will find my way to the guest bedroom once again. I do not co-sleep. I can barely co-sleep with my husband in a king bed. I'm a light sleeper even with earplugs. Tomorrow pack'n'play whether the little tyrant likes it or not because #mamacannotdeal with this no sleep business anymore. Send coffee. And a nanny perhaps.


The house in IL is sold and that's at least a burden off our shoulders. We're officially Nevada license holders and visiting the mountains on weekends and currently planning a gondola ride, swim and skating at the top of the mountain in Squaw Valley this weekend. I'm joining the children's museum this week with the kids and we're looking forward to a huge hot air balloon festival next weekend and a couple date nights this weekend when my mom comes into town.

It's not all roses with all the tears about preschool and husband working long hours and #teamnosleep and ZERO people wanting to buy any of my stuff on Craigslist (seriously, people in Chicago would've been clawing down my door for a crib, mattress and AngelCare for $50), but we're definitely enjoying the mountain life with a side of mullet and huge side of leg tattoo that Reno proudly sports as a culture.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Day Recap

I sent my little petunias off to preschool/pre-k this morning and then did a happy dance. Well, in the form of a 4.5 mile run, but yeah. It was glorious(ly hot). But the rest was...weird.

The whole day was a little off, to be honest. The morning with the kids was great. After a full day of 4yo tantrums Monday, this morning was a breeze. Special toaster waffles with chocolate almond milk for breakfast, dressed in cute clothes, teeth brushed and even a cute picture in front of the house before hopping in the car for school.

Benjamin's drop-off was first. Apparently his school director sent out an email about an open house last week, but only some of the parents received it. I wasn't one of them and missed the open house. I was pretty bummed about that because I like to be informed. Plus, I want to know what the standard procedures/instructions are for the school. When I expressed my disappointment to the director, she told me I couldn't "do preschool wrong" (but seriously, couldn't you have called if you were concerned about email issues? Or text? I did sign up for text messages!).

We show up at 8:25 (for an 8:30 start) and not another parent is in the parking lot. Were we late? Early? I didn't know. We rang the doorbell and then rang it again. No answer. I knew people were inside, because I saw a teacher walk in a few minutes prior. I looked inside to see the director in her office with the light off. I picked up the phone and started calling. Just then, she opens the door. We were the first ones. Apparently drop off begins at 8:30 and they are really flexible about times. Weird. Benjamin's first two preschools were very prompt and had a set procedure that is necessary, IMO (and also the bonus of car drop-off and pickup).

We walk in and were then informed that they received his medical records and we weren't up-to-date on his shot records. Huh? We switched to a new doctor for insurance reasons at the beginning of his 4th year and apparently they didn't administer the shots he needed. I remember him having none, so it looks like we have to shell out a co-pay for shots. Ridiculous. Not her fault, but the delivery was off. I was just not getting the SUPER SUGARY SWEET INVITE you'd expect from an early school experience we are choosing and paying for. Anyway. I mean, you knew I missed the open house because your email system didn't send to half of the parents. And so at the very least, open the stupid door a couple minutes early on the very first day, you know? Turns out I could "do preschool wrong" at this point.

Pickup was just as odd. I walk in (after waiting for other parents to arrive... I learned), sign him out and then head to his room to pick him up. He's standing next to his teacher, washing his hands. His teacher is digging in a cabinet for changes of clothes and informed me that Benjamin did not have to use the bathroom at the designated time (stupid) and she thinks he "may have had an accident" but said she could be wrong. I look, I feel. I do the crotch grab mom move. Not a drop of water or pee or any type of excrement on him. So exactly what kind of accident? I told her it didn't appear so and then she told me I can bring a change of clothes to leave at school (which is when I told her that change of clothes she requested was in his backpack). Perhaps she could do a little checking.

I'm sure it's a good school. I'm not over the moon just yet. His school in Chicago was just really great. Other than the short hours, it was perfectly ideal for Benjamin. So we'll see. He was his usual self of not telling me anything, but that's not school specific; he never does.


Claire was through the moon about going off to her school. We dropped Benjamin off and then were early for her school, which I'm convinced might be run more like a daycare (some kids dropped off hours earlier) than a preschool. But our goal was social time and getting her into a structured environment. I'm not really counting on much more than that. And for $53/week for 7 hours, I doubt we'll be getting more than that. I think I'll just let her binge watch LeapFrog videos and practice her fine motor skills cutting things she isn't supposed to (because she does anyway) to fill in the gaps. At this age, Benjamin was definitely legit spelling his name and knew most of his letters.

We arrived early but Claire couldn't contain her excitement any longer, so we headed inside so I could learn where to put her things, etc. We put her stuff in the designated cubbies and it was off to play outside with her classmates. I signed her in 5 minutes early, hoping they don't charge me by the minute extra for first day excitement. When I arrived to pick her up, my iPhone read 2 minutes early. Their clock read 2 minutes late. The director sat nearby and didn't really acknowledge me. I stood there for some moments before asking if I was to go back and get her myself. I headed back to find her in the middle of about 15 cots (with hardly sleeping kids) just reading a book. I think that's what happens after lunch is over. Rest time or book time before pickup. All was fine, but I was expecting more of a verbal update on how things went and perhaps some parent coddling for first day dropoff and pickup.

Neither kid appeared to be phased by the transition to their new school environments and headed home like usual. The afternoon brought a short nap for Claire and lots of book reading with Benjamin before heading to the park. Claire cried her eyes out as we left because she was leaving behind new "friends" at the park she had just met. The usual evening routine and the day is over. From here on out, I will never have a kid who won't be in "school" of some kind.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reno 10 Miler

I'm a runner. I've always been decent, but never really competitive or award winning fast. I spent many years living at the beach running along the strand in Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan. Often, I ran all three and clocked decent miles. This was before the popularity of running watches and fancy running gear and really before color runs and 5k races became the "cool" thing to do. (Which I think is great that something so healthy can become trendy, btw. That's my same take on Pokemon Go.)

I'm not much a morning person, so running as the sun rises doesn't appeal. Competitive races are almost always in the morning and now that I'm a mother (runner), evening races don't work for kiddo bedtime.

I spent some years grumbling at my husband when he mentioned we go for a skunk run when we were first married. (So many skunks at night in Redondo Beach, CA!) I wasn't into it then. I didn't have the drive.

But then I had kids. I spend all day with them and hear the word MOM all day long (so grateful and yet, so exhausting to hear!). I recently read a meme that said, "My nickname is Mom. My full name is Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom." That's definitely the life I currently live with our 2 and 4 year old kids. It's lovely, but it's loud. Kids have a higher decibel tolerance than adults. Or maybe just me. I need silence. And some fresh air. And a little space. I'm huge on personal space and as a parent, it does. not. exist. I'm not really a cuddler, and it's kind of a job performance expectation when it comes to the parenting gig.

So once the kiddos were somewhat self sufficient and I knew I wasn't having any more, I took back to running. It helped that breastfeeding ended and they were sleeping through the night, too. Before that, just existing was the day's goal. I loved the free space, the free head space, the quiet. I don't run with music (though I did totally jam out to some old 90's tunes at the race today). I don't get enough quiet and I crave the outlet of being free and among the trees and birds and mountains. Plus, gotta get some exercise if you put down the amount of donuts we do each week. I feel like this shirt was made for me.

It helps that some of my closest friends and my SIL have taken up running in the past few years and I've watched their progress (and races!). They were killing it out there and enjoying themselves, so why not join the fun? After months of running treadmills at the YMCA everyday, I ran a 10k in April (not my longest distance, but longest timed race). I started to notice my clothes weren't fitting, but it took awhile to figure that out because I'd only been wearing workout clothes for so long (ah, the mom life). I'm lighter than I've been in 10 years and enjoying the sweat, but mostly enjoying the scenery and calm of being alone and out in the wide open. I'm also enjoying Claire announce, "Mom, you smell" post run.

Those ladies in pink were wearing shirts that said the 5:20 Running Group. As in, 5:20 a.m. Not the club for me.
Today I got up just as the sun was creeping to run my first race in Reno and my first medal race ever, actually.  I don't like paying for races, but they are so motivating and actually really fun. The beer at the end doesn't hurt (I try to seek those races out, natch).

It was a warm one running into that desert sun. The first three miles were a bit hillier than I was used to and once I was seeing my watch in the 10:00 zone up those hills, I gave up my goal of a sub 1hr 30 minute and overall sub 9:00 mile a kiss goodbye. But then came some downhills and I made up some ground. It wasn't the most beautiful run ever, but it was well organized and nice to run the distance through our new city, under the iconic sign and past the casinos with mountain views. Once I hit the 9 mile mark, I checked my time and knew I could beat my goal time, so I booked it, clocking an 8:28 during my final mile into Wingfield Park and a 1:29:40 finish.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Caution, the moving walkway is ending

I spent the night at Chicago Midway Airport. That played on repeat, a solid thousand times. My flight was super early and would've required I get up extremely early anyway. Since my brain is now on PDT zone, early would've been something like 2 a.m., and at that point, do you even bother going to sleep? I opted for a late night drop off at the airport. After all, I'm up for an adventure and without kids, even snoozing in the airport seemed okay. What I didn't expect was for them to water clean the carpets, so I was chair bound after experiencing wet butt. #gross I finally found a suitable chair sometime after my 2-hour snoozefest and binge on Nutter Butters and Wheat Thins, but that was about 1.5 hours before the flight boarded. A front window seat on the plane was a sweet location for a couple more hours of broken sleep.

I made sure to grab a mini throw pillow and a couple of my kids' Aden and Anais blankets out of the house before the movers shoved our entire life of belongings into a truck yesterday morning. I lamented not having socks, because as it turns out, the temperature in empty airports is quite chilly during night hours. Which really only last about 3 hours between the final flight of the night and the incoming people waiting to board the early flights. As for the movers, all we own took just shy of 3 hours to break down beds and pad furniture and stuff it all into a big United truck. And not a minute more. 

I then proceeded to patch holes and gashes in the walls from movers, paint said holes, pull weeds, and sweep the entire house before settling on a quick bath because the shower curtain was already on the truck. I air dried post shower and even used a bottle of water and vinegar to spray dust particles I swept up because I didn't even have a dust pan left with me.

Obscure, random pieces of our lives are stuffed in my backpack and carry-on. Diapers, a couple favorite toys, a half-used roll of paper towels, mini foam paint roller (I cannot speak enough praises. It's washable! I washed and reused and touched up four rooms of different color paint using the same paint roller that is still good!).

I wrote a note to the new owners along with leaving a couple trash and yard waste stickers for goodwill, along with our spendy unused backup sump pump and other goodies. I stuffed the note into the junk drawer. Will they use it as a junk drawer, too? My curiosity is peaked.

In our garage, the names of the two kids before us were painted on the wall by the previous owners. I added our kids' initials, but in chalk. I wish I had painted them, keeping Andrew permanently there too. But it's just chalk. There is a handwritten journal in a hall closet that was left by the previous owners that we discovered years into living there. I left that as a sort of time capsule of the home. It just seemed fitting.

I had a gift card to a restaurant that I received in the mail the week after we left for Reno. It was for a restaurant with only two Chicago locations. Knowing I was coming back for this, I offered to treat a friend to dinner and we showed up to a closed sign. Instead we ate a not-so-free dinner at my favorite restaurant in the 'burbs. My friends took me on trips to the hardware store and brought over Diet Cokes and took me to a new restaurant and brought me Popsicles and dropped me off at the airport. I managed 5 visits with girlfriends weaved into those 52 hours that all were last minute arrangements and it just all seemed to flow perfectly. The spending money part wasn't the highlight, but it was an inevitable necessity. I didn't imagine attic work would be a few thousand dollars, but alas. Such is life. We are feeling the bleed.

I said my goodbyes and definitely had some real moments of shed tears over the home we bought for the long term. We expected 30 years there and made it 6+. I can't say I'm sad, because we chose to move, but it certainly was bittersweet. Our intentions were pure and out of love and naivety and we left more heartbroken and more full of love than when the journey in that home began. There was a lot of growth there. 

My goodbyes didn't last long, as I announced to my friend after our dinner at this awesome new downtown Naperville place that I had to return to grab my bagel out of the fridge of my empty house. And then it was out for good. It's ours for 24 more days. Closing can't come soon enough.

Fifty-two total hours in Chicago from plane touchdown to takeoff. The kids, the husband and I were separated in three states for those hours. What a way to go out. I'm ready for my bed. In my bedroom in Reno. And that sign to be switched to SOLD. And a great big smoocher from the husband.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dusting Off the Credential

Every time we move, I update my teaching credential and transfer it to the new state. I earned my BA, credential and MA in California where I then taught. Then moved to Illinois where I had to pay the man more money to test out of their silly state history, math and Science and also prove my knowledge of best teaching practices. Not to boast, but I received nearly a perfect score in every single category (which means either it is really easy to pass Illinois teaching tests or I was a lucky guess on the state history and state capitol stuff because I seriously know nothing about Springfield. I've never even been to Springfield other than driving through to get to St. Louis.)

Now moving to Nevada, I've quickly learned that the state is hurting for teachers. They hold teacher hiring fairs, which is something I've never heard of in my professional life. Other than being approached by a teaching recruiter (those exist?!) in the Denver airport once and being asked if I would ever consider working in Dallas because positions were flying from schools, I'd never imagined the possibility of acquiring a teaching job so easily. I visited the Nevada DOE site to see just how many hundreds of available jobs there really are for the taking.

In Illinois, teaching jobs were hard to come by, just as difficult as they are were California. I was super lucky to be hired just off the boat of earning my credential at the ripe age of 23. But now, I've been a stay-at-home-mom with some teaching experience at college level and some specialist teaching assignments in random schools of Illinois, but mostly I've just taught my own kids about life.

Which doesn't exactly translate into updating resume experience.

With both kids in preschool (part time) this year, I'm using that time to get my credential and resumes updated and in good working order for a potential entrance back into classroom life next fall. If the jobs are to be had and we are staying put in Reno for the time being, it would be the perfect opportunity to jump back in where they actually could use me. And, it would be an easy way to bump that resume back up to working order. There's something appealing about not having to fight out the newbie college grads and knowing that because of their desperation for teachers, they might be willing to look past my advanced degree (translation: must be paid more) so they can fill the job.

There are real logistics to work out, like how we'd manage Benjamin's care before and after kindergarten (!) during the transition time and what full-day preschool/daycare combo we would work out for Claire. That would likely start in the winter when preschools begin to accept students for the following year. With a potential extra income coming in, we might even consider the super expensive college tuition type montessori school for Claire, because I'd like to know that if I'm headed back into the classroom that I'm giving her the best alternative to mom, at least according to their tuition cost. One would hope they are striving for the highest heights with the quote I received over the phone that sent my jaw dropping. And the crazy part is, their student capacity is maxed out this year. South Reno can be kinda fancy.

Chatting with two of my CA teacher friends today, it putting teaching back on my mind. With the house (hopefully) closing next month and therefore providing us with closure on our exit from Illinois, it just seems natural to start looking ahead to our next steps. It's a bit sooner than I pictured going back, but one I think might actually work well for us as a family in the upcoming year. Exciting things have already happened and exciting things are yet to come.

I'm just happy I'm not headed back this year, as the possibility of teaching kindergarten would just about knock the wind out of me. Andrew, this would be your year, buddy. I hate that it's not.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ben the Book Worm

Ever since he was a tiny nugget, he's been a book lover. He's been bringing me books from the moment he could walk, without end. I actually have to deny him book reading just so I can get meals prepared and us out of the house for fresh air. He would honestly be perfectly content sitting at home reading books all day long.

I know I shouldn't, but I totally revoke book reading before bed as a consequence for being difficult during the bedtime routine. Almost always, he complies. Because seriously, somehow he loses all ability to dress himself and be cooperative as soon as we mention it's bedtime.

A promised trip down the street to the Little Free Library was enough to get Benjamin out of his near hour-long tantrum today and his mood immediately changed upon the procurement of another book (and trading in one of sister's to get it). We've even started a word wall of words he knows by sight. He's stubborn as can be, so hopefully his love for books will translate into easy reading in the next couple years.

We have 39 books checked out from the library right now with more on hold. It's kind of an obsession (and it helps we have no toys at our house while we transition our stuff to Reno... which will happen mid-August). The new library is on a county system, so it's totally awesome that books can be checked out from any of the libraries and magically appear, ready and waiting in the hold section at our convenience. I think about the book transfer people and how that has to be a full time job for someone in a county system, especially in a county with 11 libraries (not all created equal though).

We're partaking in the summer reading program and each kid gets to choose a free book every two weeks, just for participating. This week, Benjamin chose a book on sharks and I chose Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems for Claire. (She's not as book hungry, but brother is encouraging her interest.) It's one of the Elephant and Piggie books. Benjamin immediately wanted to read it in the middle of the kid's section at the library, then realizing it was written by the same author as his favorite, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Families were all around the library, waiting for storytime (which was also awesome except the "surprise visitor" being Wolfie from the Nevada Wolf Pack who scared the daylights out of Claire). I started reading the book to Benjamin and we were literally both in tears, it was so funny. Maybe I'm easy to humor these days, but I was crying. People all around were staring and other kids were coming over, interested.

So I went ahead and put more of those Elephant and Piggie books on hold. The 50th read of the now deemed "funny book" isn't nearly as funny to Mama anymore, but Benjamin is still rolling.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Algae Pools + Tough Month Ahead

We were so spoiled in IL with the posh pool life. We paid a hefty tax bill for great schools and a killer water park just 3 miles from home, but dang, was it nice.

Our closest pool (outside of condominium complexes or gyms) is 12 miles away. That's a 24-mile round trip to let Benjamin work his mad skillz in the water! And... they don't have memberships. It's pay-per-use. I'm considering making very good friends with someone in that HOA facility I run by at night. Because I never see anyone in that pool and it's so stinking close to home.

We went to one public pool and Benjamin killed it with the double flume slides. The kid is a maniac. So much, that the second pool we went to, the lifeguard yelled at us (among other reasons), for Benjamin being "too wild" in the pool. She said he needed to be in the shallow end if he was going to act crazy. And then we got yelled at for like 3 other things at different times and I about asked for my money back.

So we went back to pool #1. The double flume. It's in a totally sketch area of Reno, attached to this questionable middle school and behind one of the county libraries that is the size of a modular classroom (low taxes affect everything, it turns out). The first time we pulled up, the school alarm was blaring because God knows why, and no one seemed to be alarmed (see what I did there? Hardy Har Har). It's only open from 1-4pm, so the kids were warned that we would be spending a lot of time there because we were paying and skipped Claire's nap for this.

We stayed an hour. The kids got their fill apparently, but I obliged because I noticed this slimy green algae lining the entire pool interior. And of course, Claire pooped in her swim diaper. Thank God for these reusables for the environment and my pocketbook, dude, but tossing those Little Swimmers is way the heck easier to clean when the kid has el accidente. I told her she could have a Starburst today if she just told me before she pooped so I didn't have to clean her butt today. She pooped three times. None of which earned her a Starburst. Don't sign us up for the potty training bus yet. I'll pass.
sludge pool. be warned.
As we exited, I brought the POOL SLUDGE to the manager's attention who explained to me that while they chlorinate everyday and "regularly" clean, the "dead algae" just returns because they never have a chance to drain the pool, even in winter. I threw up some big eyes right then, because all places that experience winter weather, drain their pools. The reason they don't? Vandalism. So I left, vowing that pool was forever off the list and made sure to scrub the kiddies down well with soap after that incident (and well, Claire needed it anyway, because, code brown). One lady I met there with her kids (who randomly approached me to show me a HUGE splinter under her nail) told me about some of the casino pools and how it's possible I can just walk in and that she's never had a problem. So that's how things are done in Reno! Hah. I guess people just keep their swimming to the Truckee River, which is spectacular in every way, honestly. And free.

Hello Truckee River. Fresh Tahoe water... ahhhh.
Switching gears, the house update. It's exhausting, honestly. We have an offer we've accepted and it's a good one. And we're happy for the most part. About as happy as two people can be who are paying basically two mortgages, two times utilities, a lawn service and still without any of their actual furniture in their empty rental (paying top dollar for) in Reno. We knew this was the option we'd choose in order to stay together, but moving and selling a house, in particular, is pricey. And so is the list of inspection not-so-related expensive garage doors they want us to provide. But that's neither here nor there. It's just, we're feeling stretched thin and also in the process of buying a new car because moving requires new tags and our almost 15 year old car is on its last leg and very well will fail their emissions test anyway. And that cursed premium gas is going to do us in with this 40+ mile commute and my 24-mile round trip adventures to find another, hopefully algae-free pool.

It's a car we're really excited about and one that is very popular in Northern Nevada (seriously, ever other car), Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Northern California, Maine and some of the upper Eastern states. Any guesses? But new cars also come with a heavy price tag and of course the costs are feeling extra heavy these days.

We'll get through it, but as super sensible people who really thrive on saving money, it pains us to see the money we're spending and will continue to spend until our house closes at the end of next month.

Tomorrow though, you'll find us back hiking trails and engaging in a nature program along with lunch out in the Galena Creek Regional Park, because if there is one thing Reno has that totally trumps anything our high-tax state of Illinois didn't, it's free and plentiful nature escapes in real woods with real trails and real elevation gain into the {real, not trash hill} mountains. Benjamin has placed his request for a hike with a stream. It's the real deal so, challenge accepted.