He’s an Armchair Expert!

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Have you guys heard of Dax Shephard’s podcast, Armchair Expert?  Well, in case you haven’t, I’m here to tell you how awesome it is.  Dax Shephard is half of the amazing combo with Kristen Bell (this Kristen Bell).  And they’re just so stinkin’ cute.   I just played that video for the boys (Jake LOVES giraffes and elephants, so I thought they’d get a kick out of it – also, it helped pull Jake out of a grumpy mood, haha), and I just fell in love with them all over again.  I also realized that Jake needs to go to Africa someday to chase giraffes.

Since I started listening to AE, I like them even more.  And now there’s also Monica Padman to love.  Although Dax and Monica chat with mostly fellow artists of various mediums (actors, producers, writers, etc.), they also have “expert on expert” podcasts where they talk to someone that has expertise in any given area.

I love that the premise of the podcast is just to have open and frank conversations with people.  It’s to increase communication and dialogue, and it really allows you to get to know people you’ve seen on screen for years in a different way.  They become almost like you and me: I realize that Mila Kunis has some of the same challenges in motherhood that I have, so by extension, Mila and I could easily be BFF’s.

The last part of the podcast is the “fact check” with Monica – and it’s one of my favorite parts of the podcast.  This part is done in post-production, and Monica and Dax go through and fact-check some of the stuff that came up in the interview portion of the podcast.  It’s really great to hear Monica and Dax work through disagreements – it’s always a very civilized conversation and they both try really hard to understand where the other person is coming from.  I think this is also one of their ultimate goals in doing this podcast: showing by example how to work through differences of opinion but with love and understanding.  I also have found myself laughing out loud more than once during the fact check.

Speaking of laughing out loud: the commercials.  I’ve never laughed so much at commercials (and probably never at audio only ones).  Although  most of the stuff they advertise is way out of my price range (I’ve checked almost everything, they sell it all pretty well!).

Just a heads up that these are definitely not kid friendly – so don’t go listening to them in the car with children present.

I haven’t caught up on all of them, but here are some of my favorites so far and why:

  • Ted Danson (“TD”): TD talked about his parents a little, and I loved hearing about how exceptional his parents where and how that made his childhood that much more interesting.  I’ve seen that with a couple guests who speak so admiringly of their parents, and it really makes me want to do something extraordinary with my life, just so my kids can say “my mom was amazing..she was/did blah blah blah and accomplished x/y/z.”  Also, Ted Danson just sounds like an amazing human being.
  • Rob McElhenney: the actor and show runner for Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  They have some pretty hilarious conversations about the male physique (watch this video from the finale of Always Sunny if you want to see what Rob’s physique can do), but I love where Rob says that his favorite thing ever is when his son says “hey dad, I have a question.”  I find this to be so true.  Jake, at 5 years old, is so inquisitive about the way things work and why things are the way they are, and I absolutely love his curiosity.  And I love when Jeff or I get to explain something to him.  Or when we get to do an experiment to figure something out.  Rob follows that up by saying how kids ruin your life, haha.  The point he makes, and I would agree, is that they ruin the life you had before them.  Life after children is so completely different than the life you had before.  To balance things out, Dax spends a lot of time in other episodes talking about why having kids is so great.
  • Mike Schur (“MS”):  There were a couple things that really spoke to me on this episode.  One, MS talks about how his dad became an attorney because there was no money in the field he has then studying (linguistics).  His dad was never happy being an attorney but practiced it his whole life anyway.  The one thing his dad told him not to become was an attorney.  It makes me think a lot about where I am in life and the situation I find myself in because I did go to law school.  This will be a separate blog because Jeff and I recently had a really good conversation about this topic and how we don’t want to be sixty looking back and regretting the things we didn’t do because of the things we did do.  The other thing MS talks about is people that have won the “genetic lottery” by being born as a white male in a middle/upper class home, with two parents (or whatever the case is).  When I was working at Starbucks after college (right before going to law school), I worked with someone who I would say was a tad racist.  When he found out I was half-Guatemalan, he told me I won the genetic lottery because I look white and not Hispanic.  At the time, my friends and I were outraged that he would say such a thing.  As years have gone by, however, that phrase has popped up in my mind more than once and I’ve realized that in a lot of ways, he was right.  Although I don’t view it in the positive light that he probably did,  I do often wonder how my life might be different if my name was Alejandra instead of Alexandra (as my mom had intended), or if my skin resembled my mom’s olive tone rather than my dad’s.  I feel, sadly, that my job opportunities would have been different, and that my social circles would have been different as well.  And I would probably be a totally different person.
  • Jason Bateman: Maybe the funniest one for me so far.  Plus, Jason mentions Arrested Development a lot – which I LOVE!  And generally…I might have fallen a little in love with him.  Is that too weird of a note to end on?

Just in case it is, here’s something random to end on.  A couple years ago we started planning meals for the week – and it was such a game changer for our week nights.  If I can plan meals on the weekend, and buy all my groceries by Sunday, we’re guaranteed to eat better and to not spend as much eating out.  But, you know me…I need something to keep me organized…and to make lists upon lists.  I found this great meal planner on Rifle Paper Co. (I’m also really into all things floral lately, so that helps).  I used my handy hot glue gun to attach a giant magnet to the back of it, and keep it on my fridge.  The left side lists my meals for the week, and on the right side I can add things throughout the week that I need to get on my following run.

I hope you’ll start listening to AE – then I won’t be the only one I know singing “He’s an armchair expert….” to myself all the time…

Happy listening!

Gift Guide for Boys!

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Back in the day, before children, and for only two years, I put together a Charity Gift Guide for the holidays.

As much as my heart is still very passionate about giving and volunteering, my available time and energy to dedicate to those causes has decreased significantly.  So this year I’m sharing a gift guide about a new area of expertise of mine: gifts for boys!

For those that aren’t intimately familiar with our family, our boys are 2.5 (Josh) and 5 (Jake), so my selections are tailored around those ages.

While attempting to potty train Josh, we read My Very First Space Book a lot, and Josh kept pointing to the telescopes and saying “me want.”  And how cool would it be for us to go in the backyard with the boys and learn about constellations?!  I found this starter one on Amazon that I’m hoping Santa will bring the boys (links are on the images!).

Kidcia Telescope for Kids 

Josh has already been really into Play-dough lately.  We had to get rid of it for a while because he would just eat it.  Now, he mostly plays with it, and just occasionally eats it, so it’s still a semi-supervised activity, but it’s the most I’ve seen him entertained by anything.  Thanks to random and creepy YouTube videos, these are the top contenders:Another YouTube find: instant ice cream!  The one featured in the video that the boys watch (over and over and over again) has terrible reviews on Amazon.  I found the one below that has better views, but also costs a lot more.  Not sure if this will actually make it under the tree this year, but if it did, I think it would make for good entertainment…for a few minutes.

Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker I remember bath times with Jake when it was all about him, and we would play and practice letters with his bathtub letters.  Bath time now is this thing to check off the list and get to bed.  We have some toys in the tub but it’s mostly stuff that the boys play with on their own.  I came across these cool bath toys that are STEM related and I think both boys would enjoy playing with:

Jake and Josh are also really into their play kitchen set lately.  I’m so glad because that was their big gift from Santa last year, and at first I thought it was going to be a waste of money (not that Santa cares about those kinds of things..).  Now I think I want to eliminate some of the other toys in the toy room and build up their kitchen ware:

Speaking of pretend play, I love this firefighter costume and that it comes with a hose!

I also should probably just stock up on hundreds of Nerf bullets for Josh, haha.

Jake is definitely going through a dinosaur phase (we listen to a dinosaur podcast every morning on our way to school – Dinosaur FUN FACT OF THE DAY! and Age of the Dinosaurs, on repeat – he carries his dinosaur fact cards everywhere he goes, and loves his dino action figures), so I thought we’d feed into that a bit.

This fossil dig looks pretty awesome:

These dino eggs also looked pretty cool.  We recently got one from Michael’s and the anticipation on Jake’s face was just priceless…for over 24 hours, haha. Jake also loves to read, so I thought these Bernstein books would be a good cross over:

Speaking of reading, Grandma Linda got Jake some e-readers a while back, and he loves them.  They come with different books that he can select on the e-reader and then click on the color that matches the color coded page.  We have the Paw Patrol one, and the Marvel Super Hero one, but I think this one would be a good addition:Another gift giving idea that Grandma Linda started with Jeff and I is a Barnes & Noble gift card in our stocking.  I’m starting to do this with the boys also, and let them pick a book.  I love the idea of the boys enjoying books as much as we do.  Maybe going to Barnes & Noble after Christmas to pick out our new books will become part of our Christmas traditions!

Once we’re done shopping for the boys, we’ll have just enough for a bottle of wine for mom (hopefully top shelf!), and socks and underwear for dad, ha!

What are your kids into these days?  What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Summer Roundup 2018

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Well, this could possibly be my last Summer Roundup since I won’t have Summer’s off anymore, so brace yourselves for a long (and very delayed) recount of our Summer.

We started off strong washing the car and using our imaginations with a cardboard box.  The boys loved using their tools to make holes everywhere.  Jake kept telling me he was making a window, which I thought he was playing pretend, only to turn around and realize that he had actually used his toy saw to LITERALLY cut through the cardboard and make a window, ha!

On week 2 of my vacation, we went on a nice little trail walk with some friends.  I had found these awesome trail/hike checklists in the dollar section at Target, so I used some rubber bands to attach them to books, stuck a crayon through the rubber band, and each kid got to have one to check things off they saw along the way.  It was also during this walk that I got the call from the District about interviewing for my current position, so my mind was already freaking out about my time with the boys.

Another adventure we went on that I’ve been wanting to check off the list for a while was the Newport Beach Back Bay.

I didn’t really have a clue where we were going, so I started at what I’m sure is a random point of the trail, at the foot of a canyon road.  The view was great and we got to look for pretty cool stuff.  There were also a couple people working in the wetlands, and Jake asked me what they were doing.  I told him he should ask them to find out, which he did, in the most adorable way possible, and found out they were doing research on some snails, which wouldn’t you know, was one of the items on our checklist!

We walked more than was comfortable in the heat to a building that ended up being a closed science facility, and after some phone research realized the exciting building was all the way around the trail, so….we walked all the way to the car and drove around to the other side of the loop ;)  The Muth Interpretive Center was pretty cool, and provided a nice little break from the sun.  It also had a whole room of children’s activities, which was great until mommy started getting hangry and neither boy wanted to leave.

Towards the beginning of my break we also went on an excursion with Gran Gran to San Juan Capistrano.  I always forget how nice it is to just walk around over there – even if you have nothing planned.  The kids loved the playground, and grandma and I loved lunch at Sundried Tomato – yum!  We ate on their outside patio and it was just a perfect day for it!  We ended the day by walking around Mission San Juan Capistrano– the boys loved looking for the koi fish.

Another thing I got to check off my list was going to Balboa Island.  I’ve always wanted to go and just walk around.  It was a little harder going solo with two kids, but it was a nice morning out.  The kids enjoyed a nice donut from one of the local shops, and absolutely LOVED the ferry ride to Newport.  I’m so glad it was worth it, because the line to cross was LONG.

You see that first picture?  That’s Jake not being impressed by anything that we’re doing.  Which…when I’m exhausted from packing up the car, piling them in, taking them out, and trying to find something cool for them to do, just rubs me raw.  Thankfully the attitude didn’t last too long….After the ferry crossing, we went to the beach and the boys got to play in some sand dunes, and I have no idea why Josh decided to start walking his bike that day instead of riding it, haha.

We also hit up the Discovery Cube – I’ve been wanting to go for a while since that cube is so iconic on the 5 freeway, and…they had a dinosaur exhibit!  Jake just started getting into dinosaurs, so I really wanted to take him before the exhibit was over.

I will say…I think our visit was a little premature.  For what it cost to get in (plus parking and a mediocre lunch in their cafeteria since I didn’t time things right and was STARVING and didn’t think I had the patience to walk to the car, load ’em up, and go somewhere else), it wasn’t worth taking them at these ages, or at least taking them by myself.  Josh was Josh, so he was all over the place and not Mr. Safety about staying near me.  This meant I couldn’t really spend time showing Jake all the stuff they had or explaining what the cool stuff did, or reading to him what everything meant.  I was just constantly trying to make sure I didn’t lose either kid, haha.

I’m not saying they didn’t have cool things for the kids to do and see – but I think the money will be more worth it once Josh gets a little older and we can actually do some of the stuff they have, rather than walking around like crazy people.

We did our annual trip to Adventure Playground in Irvine, and the boys had a blast.  I really wish I/we took them here more often – they have so much fun!

Jake never left the Legos – he made some friends and helped build a giant house that quickly became a safety hazard, haha.  Josh went straight for the mud and had a blast! I did plan ahead on this one and we had a nice picnic on the lawn outside of the playground.

We also enjoyed a trip to the library, our annual visit to see Nina and have lunch at The Proud Bird while we watched the plans land and take off, visits from AZ family, and some pool time at Joy’s house.

We also enjoyed just being home.  We hung out in the backyard and front yard when it wasn’t too hot.  Painted rocks for our garden, and enjoyed our little pool.

The first picture above is Jake holding Josh while they watch a lizard.  Because, you know…lizards are scary!  The picture with the tricycle…they’re both using their tools to fix it – love it!  The boys also got to look for June bugs at night with daddy – one of my favorite Summer moments but not pictured because there was too much naked butt from Josh.  Speaking of Josh’s naked butt…

He spent a lot of time in just a shirt this Summer.  I have some pretty great pictures but realized it’s not appropriate to publish pictures of my son’s naked butt.  But trust me: they’re adorable!  We tried unsuccessfully to potty train him this Summer…I think we were a little premature but I’m gonna give it another shot when I’m home for Thanksgiving.  It was a lot of laundry and pee everywhere and sitting with him in the bathroom a lot reading A Potty for Me...and it’s frustrating that it was for naught, but I also didn’t want to push it too much and make him hate the bathroom.  Jeff and I are so sick of changing those big boy poopy diapers…not to mention still having to buy diapers all the time.

Finally – I think I had a big breakthrough this Summer on letting things go.  As much as we did in our shortened Summer, I had a lot more on our calendar, haha.  From day one I told myself that just because something was on the calendar, it didn’t mean we had to do it, and I had to realize that not doing something didn’t count as a failure and that I should feel disappointed in myself for not doing it.  It just meant I enjoyed doing other things with the boys that I didn’t need to plan or stress for.  I think Jeff is the only one that might realize how huge that was for me to let go of, haha.

I was crazy enough to take on painting the toy room with the boys on my own.  It was as stressful as I imagined it would be, but Jeff helped me finish it off and the boys enjoyed being a part of it.  I sorted and organized more LEGO’s this Summer than I probably every will again, haha.  Not sure if I already blogged about our toy room upgrades, but we bought this toy organizer for our LEGO’s and it worked out really great.  Not that you could tell now, haha.

My goal now that I won’t have Summer’s off with the boys anymore is to incorporate the things we did then, during our weekends.  Which is such a huge challenge.  Weekends are already packed with laundry, groceries, home projects, now soccer for Josh on Saturday’s, and of course all the other things I commit ourselves to.  But I really need to start making time to just DO stuff with the boys on a regular basis – rather than waiting until I have time off.

How do you make quality family time a reality on your weekends?  What are you favorite Summer adventures?

 

Dinner!

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I’ve never been a lover of cooking, I’ll start there.  My grandma cooked some great meals when I was little, but I never helped enough in the kitchen to actually learn what she was doing.  My mom is a cook of specialty dishes: she makes amazing tamales, potato salad for EVERY family function (the family is not usually happy if there’s no Achi potato salad at any given event, ha!), and amazing traditional Guatemalan dishes, like pepian.  But being just the two of us when I was little, I also wasn’t in the kitchen much for the day to day cooking.

When Jeff and I first moved in together to our little apartment in Irvine, I’d venture to say he was the main cook.  Or he’d make the main dish and I’d make the sides.

I’m not exactly sure when the shift happened, but I’d say it was after we had Jake – when going out to dinner became less and less of an option, haha.  And having to buckle down on finances.  When we moved into our Lake Forest apartment, we’d been living with Jeff’s parents for a couple years, and I got to observe my mother-in-law cooking some really great meals – when I wasn’t busy sleeping on the couch…

I think all of those things combined forced me to start cooking more at home.  I’m by no means a natural chef…I’m a cook-by-the-recipe “chef” (not sure you can call someone that follows a recipe a chef…but I’ll give myself that title for now).  I think I’m just recently getting comfortable enough to improvise here and there – but only in small ways.  Jeff and I joke around about me messing with recipes – my experiments rarely work for the best, haha.  But I’ve come up with some good recipes for veggies and such small plates.

Anywho, a little over a year ago I was at Costco waiting on a cake order, and I gravitated to the book section to kill some time (everyone gravitates to the book section, right?!), and found this cook book:

I’ll admit, I’ve become quite a skeptic of cook books because I end up buying them and then realizing I don’t like any of the recipes in them (we’re not adventurous eaters…).  [How am I a recipe chef without cookbooks?  Most of my tried and true recipes come from allrecipes.com, but I digress again.]  But I kept skimming this one and finding several recipes that caught my eye, and after a good five-minute hesitation I decided to buy it.

I’m not exaggerating: this book has changed our life, haha.  The harissa chicken recipe is seriously our favorite dinner, and it’s my go-to when I want to impress family/friends.  It’s also easy to double and make for larger crowds.  A couple things I’ve learned from making it several times:

  • I use skinless chicken thighs rather than skin on
  • I add lemon rind to the yogurt sauce (I did it by accident the first time, as the lemon rind is also used for something else, but now we love it)
  • I cut the harissa in half since it can be pretty spicy.  Trader Joe’s used to carry an amazing harissa sauce but has discontinued it (we were heartbroken).  We’ve found a different version at a local Persian store – it’s not the same but it will do.
  • Harissa sauce spoils quickly, so it was a bummer to buy a jar and have it mold in my refrigerator before I had a chance to make it again.  A coworker who I shared the recipe with came up with a brilliant idea that has worked great for me: freeze a couple tablespoons in snack-size ziplock bags and freeze!  I can take it out just before using and unfreeze pretty quickly.

I also love the pizza chicken recipe.  This one I’ve paired up with angel hair spaghetti and it goes great.  I also freeze extra sauce and use it for a second spaghetti night – it’s a perfect spaghetti sauce!

The other recipe I make regularly is the chicken salad – with crispy skin!  It’s such a light and refreshing meal, but I do cut the sauce out (I made it the first time and realized it’s just not our taste).

What are your favorite recipes or cook books?

Life Updates

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Well, I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting for a life update from us.  WAIT NO LONGER! Ha!

Between the boys getting older and being more and more independent, and me stepping down from a couple volunteer positions, I see more and more pockets of time opening up for me to get back to some of the things I really enjoyed doing in the past.  Blogging being one of them.  I do feel a certain lack of inspiration on WHAT to write about – maybe because it’s been so long since I blogged regularly, or maybe because the topics that do come to mind are ones that I should be sharing with a therapist instead of the whole world – HA!

So, I thought I would just start with a little recap of our year so far.  As I predicted, 2018 has been good.  Nay, GREAT.  We rented a cabin in Arrowhead in January with my cousins, and had a wonderful family weekend.  We even got some surprise snow – it was the perfect amount too: enough for a snowball fight and a mini-snowman, not enough to trap us in or hinder us in any way.  Jake still talks about that cabin and the snow, and his nina.

arrowhead group picture

We haven’t made a lot of progress on our family goals, but we did go apple picking, and damn have we worked on some home projects.  We FINALLY finished painting most of the interior of our house, which had been on a hiatus for a good 1.5+ years.  It felt SO GOOD to finally get that done, and I think it’s motivated us to work on other projects around the house.  Every little section of our house that we add an element to, I feel like it instantly makes that section of our house our home.  We’ve added frames to our hallway, a border to our planter box, many many indoor plants, a couple new pieces of furniture to our little living area, homework baskets and backpack hooks, and just this weekend we added a new plant to our bedroom.

 

 

It’s also been a pretty big year on getting to know my dad and his family a little more.  My dad flew me out to Arizona in May so I could be at my sister’s graduation party, and I got to meet the extended family during that party.  All the aunts and uncles and cousins.  I also went without the kids, so it was nice to have some “alone” time with everyone.

sisters

I went shopping with my three sisters and I just kept thinking of how many times my mom has mentioned going shopping with her sisters.  I’m usually a solo-shopper, and I don’t go shopping just to shop.  I need something, I go out and buy it.  But I have to say, it was nice.  It was nice to just walk around with the three of them, look and compare, and buy shit you don’t need (although in this case, the two pairs of shorts I bought got me through the Summer, and the dinosaur jammies I got the boys are their favorite ones – because the dinosaurs on their knees end up biting daddy every time he puts them to sleep in those jammies).  It made me a little jealous of how often my sisters get to do those things together, of how often my mom has had those moments with her sisters, and of how often my cousins have those moments with their siblings.  Looks like I’m blogging anyway instead of talking to a therapist, ha!

For mothers day we finally made it to Carlsbad to see the flower fields.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while now, and Mother’s Day was the perfect reason to make it happen!  We went with both of our mom’s and papa, and had a great day.

 

 

This summer we also spent a long weekend with my dad and his family at a lake house in Show Low.  Jake and Josh got to go fishing for the first time – and Jake was a pro!  It was also great to not have to DO anything – just hang out!

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The last couple of weeks I’ve been waking up extra early and going on walks around the neighborhood.  I gained most of my pregnancy wait after Josh stopped nursing, and I’m finally feeling like I really need to do something about it.  Work also has a health incentive all year and if you walk 50,000 steps a week you get entered into a raffle for one of the grand prizes – so now I have a defined goal and I’m shooting for it this week!

After all that…I thought I would start doing what all bloggers seem to do: just share links of stuff that I want, haha.

  • I’m ready to jump on the booties bandwagon with these beauties.
  • I finally found the style of handbag I like, and bought one at Target that is already falling apart.  This one would be just a liiiiiiiiiittle step up.
  • I’ve had this Obama photo book on my Amazon list for a while.  Not sure why I never pull the trigger and just get it!
  • Reese Witherspoon also recently came out with a book/cookbook.  I’m a sucker for cookbooks and all things southern.  I’m afraid that if I buy and read this book though, I’ll just be depressed that Reese isn’t my BFF.  That’s kind of how I felt after getting The Magnolia Table – why doesn’t Joanna love me?!?

Does anyone have a number for a good therapist?  :)

 

All the great photos are thanks to Jeff Armstrong.  The non-great ones…are most likely thanks to me.

Literate Lushes (August 2017 to July 2018)

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This seems to be an annual post…here we go.

August: The Song of Achilles, A Novel, by Madeline Miller.  As I mentioned in my last Literate Lushes post, I couldn’t put this book down.  I started reading it was I waited to board the plane to Florida for one of my best friend’s weddings, and finished it in the uber on the way to the hotel (in between getting pulled over and telling the office my name so he didn’t think I was the female that had a restraining order against my uber driver).  It is a heartbreaking rendition of a Greek classic.

September: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.  This past year has been the year of some pretty heavy books.  This book was recommended by a dear friend of mine, and I’m so glad I chose it as my book club pick.  The title is self-describing, but it goes into heartbreaking detail on the tragedies suffered by people in slavery.  I still can’t wrap my head around how cruel people can be to one another.  I feel like we all learned a lot from this historical fiction book, and our discussion was great.

October: Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King.  A nice and easy vampire read for the Halloween month!  Slavery followed by vampires wasn’t exactly what the doctor called for, but it was a nice change of pace and a good read.

December: The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey.  So slavery followed by vampires followed by zombies!  Another book that I would have never picked to read on my own, but once I started it I couldn’t put it down.  An interesting spin on the zombie story line, with an ending that I couldn’t stop thinking about for days.  I heard that’s a second book to this series that I have yet to get back to.

January: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  A non-fiction story on the first immortal strand of cultured DNA (I’m not a science person, so possibly the worst science lack of terminology there, but…maybe 80% correct), and how it was obtained without consent from an African American woman in 1951.  A truly amazing story, and the conflict between morality, medicine, and racism (and so many other things).  The science-y parts bogged me down a bit, but an enthralling story nonetheless.

February: Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green.  This one really took me a while to get into.  It’s a young adult novel written in the first person, so sometimes the thought dialogue was a bit hard for me to keep reading/listening to.  I did up the speed on my audible on this one which made it more bearable.  But once I got a third of the way in or so, it made me realize how hard it must be to have some form of OCD or depression or anxiety.  It was good to be in someone else’s shoes to try to understand the difficulties that face others-we just never know how hard something can be for someone else.

March: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.  After all the intense books we’d read in the months prior, this was such a pleasant and nice read.  Just a love story full of magic and time travel (story lines, not actual time travel).  This book totally had me hooked and I loved the ending.

April: The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.  Another emotionally difficult book, this one about the holocaust and work/extermination camps.  This book started a little slow, but the storyline picked up a little bit, and then it was just astounding, once again, to read about how horrible people can be to each other.

May: Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman.  This book was a collection of short stories, which is not my most favorite, but it was cool to read some new and some familiar about Norse mythology.  Jake is starting to get into the Avengers, so reading stories about Thor and Loki were pretty cool.  The audible version is narrated by Neil Gaiman, and he did a great job.

July, White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht. Have I mentioned heart breaking?  I almost didn’t continue reading this book-it starts with a pretty heavy amount of rape and sexual abuse, and it’s the first book I’ve considered not finishing because it was just hard to listen to.  This book is about the Japanese occupation of Korea, and the only reason I continued reading it was because I thought it was important for me to read about what happened.  I’ve never studied anything about this chapter of history, and my goodness, how awful.  How a human being can endure so much pain is just beyond me.  But, a great read and a wonderfully told story.

Bonus reads:

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, by ZZ Packer.  This was a pretty quick read.  I saw it highly recommended somewhere online and thought I would give it a try.  Like I mentioned above, I’m not a fan of short stories, so this book was a little disappointing in that respect.  Each individual story had a little heart break, but kind of like Small Great Things, helps to put me in someone else’s shoes, shoes that I’m thankful I haven’t had to walk in.

Capital Gaines, by Chip Gaines.  A fun, quick read.  We’re obsessed with Chip and Joanna over here, so it was nice to learn a little more about them and gain some insight on how they’ve become so successful.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman.  Another great read from Fredrik Backman.  I really do love his style of writing, and the characters in his stories.  Britt Marie comes back in this one, and she’s hilarious and heartbreaking yet again.  And again, I laughed, and I cried.

The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan.  This was a great light read, that got me through some of the heavier books listed above.  Just a light hearted story that follows two different story lines, that end up intertwining at the end (in a way that I think was very obvious if I had read more carefully, but thankfully caught me by surprise).

What have you been reading lately?  Or in the last year? :-P

 

To New Beginnings

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This summer break has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and a tad stressful.  On day two of being home with the boys, I received an email asking me to apply for another position within the district, but at the district office, and then hours later received an email from our local community college inviting me to interview for an office manager position that I had applied to months ago (and figured they had already filled).  I ended up not getting the job at the community college, but was offered the position at the district office.

I’m SUPER GRATEFUL for these opportunities, as they both meant a huge step towards achieving our family goal of financial stability-and no longer having to live paycheck to paycheck (what does that even feel like??!).  BUT, I absolutely LOVE where I work, and all of the people I work with-all 60+ of them.  It’s so hard to consciously leave a working environment that has been nothing but great to me (and my family), and take a chance on something completely unknown.  I’ve been spoiled rotten with amazing co-workers, supportive supervisors, and doing work that I truly enjoy.

On the other hand, the reason I was initially looking for another job is 1) needing to make more money, and 2) needing a little more of a challenge in what I do.  My current position as office manager was stressful at times, and at the beginning truly hard to get a grasp on, but after a few months it seemed like I was just pushing papers around.  Granted, those papers were important and made big things happen that mattered to our staff, teachers, and students, buuuuuuuut, not necessarily a job where I felt I was working to my full potential.

The other stressful thing about this change is that the new position is year-round.  I know, I KNOW-that’s what most adults in the real world have, haha.  But, I’ve been spoiled and gotten used to spending 5-6 weeks home with Jake, and now Josh also, during the summer.  It means that August and September are super stressful financially, since those are unpaid weeks off, but the time I’ve gotten to spend at home has been truly wonderful.  By no means are my summers at home all rainbows and butterflies-I find motherhood to be a much more challenging job than any professional job I’ve had elsewhere.  My first summer home, when Jake was just under a year old, was HARD.  My second summer we were in the middle of moving so I spent most of our summer packing our apartment and unpacking into our new home.  My third summer home as a bit of a shit show-I was on an extended maternity leave so Josh was just three months old, and I was trying to potty train Jake, move him to his own bed, and take his binkie away.  It wasn’t fun.  Did I mention Josh was three months old?

Last summer was magical.  I feel like Jake and Josh are finally at an age where summer’s can be so much fun, and it’s so hard to let that opportunity go, even if it means a life-changing financial opportunity.  My heart breaks a little to think that these are my last summer days home with the boys-but I guess I should just be thankful that I’ve had them at all.  I know we’ll get vacations and holidays-but it won’t be the same.  I won’t get to plan random activities just because, or spend our days doing whatever we want.

But I guess change is good, right?  I’m nervous and excited and terrified and slightly heartbroken.  To all of my La Paz family-it’s things like these that make me so thankful for Facebook!  Please don’t be strangers!

Life Goals.

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Jeff and I have been talking and brainstorming a lot lately.  About our future.  About what makes each of us happy.  About what we need to do so we don’t look back at our lives when we’re 60/70/80 and think we settled for the easy road, just to coast through our lives.

We’ve started talking about Jeff taking his skills in carpentry seriously, and going out on his own.  Designing and building stuff. Creating.  It’s exciting, and it’s scary.  We also go around and around trying to figure out our first steps: he needs to start building and making stuff to get to a point where he can quit his job and let go of a steady income for our family.  But he needs time to build and create things.  Time is a tricky devil.

So that’s one thing we’ve been talking about.

The other thing we’ve been talking about is a life goal for both of us, and our little family.  Jeff and I have loved the opportunities we’ve had to work together-and how awesome it would be to work towards a goal that would lead us to both work together and have more flexible time for our family.  Given our various talents (him: carpentry, building, creating, photography; her: officiating, coordinating), we’re thinking it would be awesome to build a wedding/event venue that we can run.  We can offer package deals that include all our services, or people can chose a package that gives them flexibility in choosing their own vendors.  We’d build something with all of our favorite things we’ve seen from various places, we’d build a photographer’s dream location, taking lighting and backgrounds into consideration.

Going from the conceptual to the realistic is where I start freaking out.  Permits.  Loans.  Risk.  Licenses.  Taxes.  Instability.  Moving?! Location, location, location.  There aren’t too many areas local to us that offer property, and definitely not at reasonable prices.  The idea of moving somewhere, even if it’s just an hour away, is daunting.  We’ve put so much into our little home, and I’m really loving it.  I love our neighbors.  I love having our parents so close.

There’s also this thing called “student loans.”  I know it was my decision to go to law school, and my decision not to work in a career that allows me to pay off those loans.  So I’ll start by saying that I know it’s on me.  Without going into a career that makes six figures, one option is to work at a non-profit or government institution for 10 years to have the remainder of my loans forgiven.  I’ve always wanted to do non-profit work, so it always seemed like a perfect option for me.  But here I am, only four years in, and I’m starting to feel a little trapped by my lack of options if I want to stay on this loan forgiveness plan.

I feel like things have usually been easy for me.  And it’s all relative, of course, but I don’t feel like I’ve every had to work HARD for stuff.  Studying was easy for me, so I coasted through school-I never REALLY tried.  If I applied myself in college, I could have gotten better grades and graduated with honors, but I was happy to just do “well” with my minimal effort.  I know I’ve been fortunate and blessed with everything in my life: I happened to meet an amazing human being at work, that became my husband and father to my children.  I didn’t have to go on endless dates.  He just showed up!  We were able to purchase a home because of an incredibly generous family member; there is NO WAY we would have been able to buy a home in Orange County (or in most places, actually) without help.  Our home was the first and only home we looked at.  I have two beautiful children-each of them with healthy and as-easy-as-they-get pregnancies and deliveries.  I don’t take these things for granted.

I don’t say this to gloat or ask for a streak of bad luck-only to say that I’m not used to working hard for things (that sounds like such a douchey thing to say-so my apologies).  Diving into something that I know will require a ton of work, dedication, and sacrifice, is scary.  It’s taken so long for Jeff and I to get to a point where we’re financially stable: we can pay our bills every month and even splurge a little on family pizza nights.  It’s terrifying to consciously put us in a situation where we can go back to not knowing if our ATM card will get declined when we’re buying groceries.

But as Jeff and I talk…it’s obvious that this shouldn’t keep us from trying.  We’ll never know if we don’t try.  And I DON’T want to look back on my life and realize that I settled for an easy life.  I came across a blog yesterday that seemed oddly well timed: “The big break is the moment you decide to take your dream seriously.”

So.  We’re putting our dream out into the universe.  We are going to take it seriously, and work towards it knowing that it can be our reality.  It won’t happen over night, but hopefully we’ll figure out a plan to get to where we’re going!

 

 

It was a good day.

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I must say, 2018 is off to a good start!  2017 wasn’t bad to us, but it had a very rough start with all of us being sick, then me having pneumonia, then Jeff having hernia surgery…I feel like we didn’t really “start” our year until late April!  This year, thanks to Josh being on antibiotics since last week, we’re all healthy and ready to start 2018 with a fresh start!

A high school friend and fellow blogger said it best on her blog yesterday: “I feel like life hit the reset button.”  Yep.  I know the shimmer and hope of the new year will fade away quickly once the daily routine sets back in, but for now: hello sunshine!  Hello plans to be a more patient and understanding mother!  Hello home projects!  Hello plans to be more adventurous!  Hello goal setting (more date nights, more family quality time, more, more more..)!  And maybe most importantly…hello new planner! :-P

And I must say…2018 started off great.  I accepted a last minute job for a New Year’s Eve wedding (I actually had a ceremony on Saturday, a ceremony on Sunday morning, and coordinated this wedding on Sunday night-yeah!), so I didn’t get to ring in the New Year with Jeff, and wasn’t in bed until 2:00 a.m.  Which….for me…is REALLY late.  However, my internal clock is awful to me, so I was still awake by 6:30 a.m….but refused to let myself get out of bed.  Jake came to our bed and after I wished him a happy new year he said “Happy New Year to you too!” which just sounded so adorable.  Jeff has always been great about taking care of the boys in the morning after I work a late wedding, so he took Josh to the kitchen once Josh started yelling at us: “Eat!  Eat!  EAT!!!”

Jake had fallen back asleep, and when he woke up he said “Wake up mommy, it’s a beautiful day!” *swoon*  I heard Jeff making coffee, which: OMG.  I’m the daily coffee maker in the house, and it’s always SO GREAT when someone else makes it.  I was a little surprised he didn’t bring me a cup of coffee once it was done (I know I’m spoiled, he’s amazing), but figured Josh was keeping him busy.  A few minutes later I hear Josh coming down the hallway, and then Jeff walked in with a breakfast tray.  Yes ladies and gentlemen (gentleman?), there were happy tears.  I love breakfast.  I love when I don’t have to make breakfast (which isn’t often since I’m always up before everyone else).  This was huge.  Of course, I had to share with a certain someone who wouldn’t keep his grubby hands off my food…

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He’s cute enough that I shared.

We then started cleaning up all our Christmas decor, and taking the ornaments off our tree was the perfect family “teamwork” scenario that is now starting to happen a little more frequently as Joshy gets older.  Jeff was in charge of getting the ornaments off the tree, then he’d had them to Josh (unless they were super fragile…c’mon, we’re not idiots), who would hand them to Jake, who would hand them to me for packing and storage.  We were done in record time and my heart was so happy.  Josh wasn’t happy about me putting this guy in a box though:

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As a side note: I’ve had that reindeer since I was nine years old, when my mom sent it to me when I was spending a Christmas in Guatemala with my grandmother.

We then grabbed lunch, then Home Depot for some home project supplies and way too many plants.

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Jake has been SO EXCITED to have his cousin in town <3.

We went back home and got to work.  Jake was helping me with some plants, and I don’t know if it was the lighting, or the solace of this moment alone with him, but he just looked so perfect and beautiful and I wanted to capture that moment forever.  He had mentioned earlier to me that one day he was going to get bigger and have to leave me and go on his own (we’ve had these conversations before), and we both said how we would miss each other, so maybe having that at the forefront of my mind made me extra emotional: my little guy is growing up so fast!  So I had to capture the moment.

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Jake also helped daddy take down the Christmas lights, which has become a tradition of theirs:

 

 

The older boys went and got ice cream while Joshy and I took a nap.  Then Jake come home super upset because daddy didn’t pick the flowers Jake wanted for grandma, so we talked it out and he decided to buy her the flowers he wanted with this own money.  We opened up his piggy bank (which is actually a Chase Paw Patrol bank…) and went back to Ralphs so he could pick his flowers.  I then took him to Starbucks and we had some nice quality time together, which I’ve been wanting for so long.

We rounded up the evening having dinner with grandma Linda, grandpa, and Brayden, to celebrate grandma’s birthday.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect first day.

We’re ready for you, 2018!

Summer Roundup

It’s hard to believe, but my Summer vacation is coming to an end and I’m heading back to work on Monday.  I’m by no means complaining of HAVING a summer vacation, I know how lucky I am to get this time off with my boys while still having a great job.  I will say that this has been my best summer since I started working at the district a little over three years ago.  The first summer I had off, Jake was just under one, and I was struggling with being a new mom that had to realize she couldn’t do all the things she wanted to do, while squeezing in two naps and changing a billion diapers.

Summer #2 was spent packing up our little apartment, dealing with the stress of escrow and not knowing if we’d be moving into our new home or back with my in-laws, and then trying to get everything unpacked and settled into our new home before going back to work.

Summer #3.  Oh boy.  One toddler who we were potty training, trying to wean off the binkie, and move into his own room, while also still adjusting to being a mommy of 2, which meant also nursing and changing diapers constantly.  Last summer was rough.

But summer #4.  It’s been glorious.  It still had the hints of my frustrations of not being quite so good at being a stay-at-home mom (huge props to you full time stay at home mommies, you’re my heroes), but I also had some super mom moments and I think I really prepared myself as much as I could to enjoy this time as much as I could.

One thing I learned from past summers is that I need to do stuff: staying home all day with two kiddos was going to drive me insane.  When a fellow mommy-wedding planner told me that she had already planned out her summer calendar, a huge light bulb lit up: THAT IS WHAT I NEED: I NEED A PLAN (I can see Jeff laughing right now…his over-planning and too-many lists wife, hehe).  So that’s what I did.  I tried to follow a general structure: planning in advance for hot days, I tried to plan outdoor activities in the mornings (walks/hikes, etc.), and some kind of in-home activity for the afternoons.  I also spread out all the home projects I wanted to do (cleaning baseboards, organizing the pantry, closets, and bathroom drawers, etc.).  I initially had planned these for the mornings that Jake was in preschool two days a week for the first three weeks, then realized that having a one year old still with me made those projects impossible to achieve.  BUT, keeping the kids up all day meant that nap time was GLORIOUS–if I played my cards right I could get both kids down at the same time for at least two hours.  Helloooooo productivity.

So, a few things that came in useful in planning my summer: my google calendar, the OC library events website, Plan A Day Out (this website is great, tons of events listed that you can search for by date/age/price, etc.), and having awesome neighbors and friends to meet up with.  Oh and obviously Pinterest.  I’ve been pinning a bunch of random “things to do with a toddler” so I finally went through those and picked a few.

So, for those that are still reading, ha, here’s a photo montage recap of our Summer:

Morning Stuff


On the Plan a Day Out website they had John Wayne Airport as an activity for kids to see planes land and take off.  This is something that I had thought of on my own before, but just didn’t really know the best spot to do this.  Apparently the top floor of the terminal 1 parking lot!  Unfortunately for us, that parking lot wasn’t open for parking when we went, and all the floors in between were full, which means we had to park on the bottom floor, and go up about three levels while carrying a backpack, a toddler, two toddler chairs, and making sure the older child made it up the stairs without stopping to stare at the stale gum on the walls and asking what that was.  Phew.  It was fun for about five minutes.  It was already HOT, and due to a wall that I had not counted on being there (but totally made sense), we couldn’t sit and see the airplanes, but instead had to stand on a column.  Overall a good outing, but things that would make it better next time: take the truck and hope the lot is open so we can put the chairs in the back of the truck and relax and watch the planes take off, and also plan something else to do in that area as well.  Like I said, it was entertaining for a little bit, but it took me longer to pack up and drive back and forth than the time we spent watching airplanes.  Irvine has tons to do, so next time I’ll piggy back with something else.  Also a heads up that there is a parking fee involved.

Day walks: I drive past a bunch of different trails all the time and I’m always curious about them, so one of my goals this summer was to try out some of those random trails.  I didn’t get to many of them….I’ll be honest, we checked out two of maybe five I had planned, but we did explore some!

Jake was at first very hesitant about going through this tunnel at the Oso Creek Trail, but he was SO PROUD of himself for doing it, it was pretty awesome.  I took water and snacks and we had a little picnic before we walked back to the car.  Sidenote: packing for a day out can be exhausting.  After I got back from my trip to Florida I just couldn’t get back into it.  It’s mentally exhausting to try and think of all the things you might need.  But essentially every time we went out to adventure I took water, snacks, extra clothes, binkies for the tired drive home, wipies, etc., etc., etc.

The OC Public Library had quite a few things going on at the different libraries, so I planned ahead for one at the Dana Point library: Dina Days!  To be honest it was way more academic than most of the little kids cared for, but I think Jake semi enjoyed it.  I invited some neighbors to come along and we did a hike by the beach before the event, and I packed a good picnic to have with the boys after it was over.  From the Dana Point library it was a super short drive to Lantern Bay Park which has a great view of the ocean, and plenty of shady areas to set out a blanket.

This was another library event: dance time story time!  A neighbor of our said they do the same dance moves every time, haha, so we only did this once.  I was so grateful my mom was with us so she could take care of Josh, who was less than amused by the book reading and dance moves.  We made pretty regular trips to the library to check out new books, and I just LOVE that Jake loves to read them all.  Josh on the other hand…prefers to eat them still.

Another random trip I planned was going to see the construction going on at the Laguna Hills Mall.  Or shall I say, Five Lagunas, formerly known as the Laguna Hills Mall?  For those that don’t know, Jake is a huge construction fan, so I thought this would be something easy that he’d enjoy.  I think Josh got a kick out of it too, and I was pretty grateful that the whole site had these little windows you could see through (although I had to carry Josh AND hold up Jake on my knee since he couldn’t quite reach the window).

Um, hellllllooooo Adventure Playground in Irvine!  I’ve heard a lot about this place and finally put it on the calendar.  We also invited the neighbors (and one of my awesome co-workers!) and most of them were able to join.  It’s big and muddy and CONTAINED.  I lost sight of Jake for a few minutes (rarely were Jake and Josh enjoying the same areas…) and my friend reminded me that the area was closed off and it was just a matter of locating the right construction truck to find him.  I think this place will be even more awesome for me when I can let both of the boys run off on their own and I don’t have to be looking after them constantly.  On this trip we again planned ahead and I packed a picnic lunch which we enjoyed with some friends on the lawn just outside the park.  Did I mention it’s free?  Just make sure to bring extra clothes for the ones that like the mud.

Afternoon, in-home Activities

Who doesn’t like paint time?  Once you realize they’re going to get paint everywhere anyway and just let them be, it’s not too bad :)  Obviously Josh was not a fan of painting on paper, and Jake just thought painting on oneself was way better too.


Thanks to those Pinterest boards, we tried a few different science experiments, like using food coloring on flowers.   This one took days and days and days for the dye to kinda sorta make it’s way through, but Jake seemed pretty excited to check the progress every day and would not let me throw the flowers away until they were REALLY dead.

What kid doesn’t love dinosaur fossils?!  This idea I copied from a friend who did a dinosaur theme for her daughter’s birthday, and had buckets with sand and fossils for the kids to dig through.  I decided to replicate this and try it at home.  I even found some mini-magnifying glasses to complete the look.  Um, I have a ton of those still if anyone wants them.  Disclaimer: many of these projects were fun and gave the boys (mostly Jake) something to do, but I’ll be honest: the time and effort to prepare for some of these was way more than the time it kept him entertained.  I think they were all still worth it since it gave us something to do and I do think he enjoyed them, but just wanted to give the full disclosure that these aren’t activities that took up a whole afternoon (or even a whole hour).

Another Pinterest find with mediocre execution: a home made obstacle course!  I used my phone and timed Jake so he could try to improve it, which got him to do it at least 2-3 more times, haha.  I will say, he got pretty good at going over and under the hallway obstacles, so practice DOES make perfect!

Milk, food dye, q-tips, and hand soap! Eventually this will be good to learn how mixing some colors makes new colors, but for now it was just fun to mix them all together and make reeeeeeeally green soapy milk…

Spending Time with Friends

One of my co-workers, that is also a great friend, just moved in to a new home with a pool and had us over quite a few times.  Jake hasn’t learned to swim yet, but he’s warming up to the idea!

Weekend exploring with daddy: The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach has a great trail (part of which is pretty tropical and awesome), a great butterfly area, and some cool interactive features for kids.  We also hit up the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Modjeska Canyon, and I highly recommend checking out the Nature Center across the street from it: they have all sorts of little hands on activities for kids.  Most of them were a little too grown up for Jake, but I’d like to take him back in a year or two.

We got to walk around Laguna Beach with my mom on a Monday, and she treated them to a super over-priced ice cream which we all fully enjoyed.  Did I mention packing wipies for the day?  I know that’s a no-brainer for most mommies, but sooooo glad I had them that day.

We planned a lunch date to see my sister-cousin and Jake’s godmother (“Nina” is short for “madrina” which is godmother in Spanish), who works in LA by the airport.  Jake was missing her a lot, and I figured we had the time to make the drive on a week day.  Man did Nina go all out.  She took us to a place called The Proud Bird for lunch, and I can’t recommend this place enough.  The food was good (it’s almost like a food court so you can pick whatever you like), and the views of the planes landing and starting to take off were awesome, not to mention being able to see planes up close that were on display.

After lunch, Nina had a surprise for Jake:  Bruder has a location right down the street from her work, so we went there and Jake was beyond himself.  Bruder makes these awesome trucks that are pretty “real,” and Jake already had a couple of them, so he was in heaven.  They have a play room area where you can “check out” whatever car/truck you want, then return it and check out another one.  They obviously have a bunch of cars/trucks for sale, and some of them are discounted if they’re out of the box.  Nina couldn’t help herself and bought one toy for each boy.  Jake has taken ownership of both of them.  And Josh could care less, as long as he’s fed snacks constantly.


Our last week was spent with family and friends.  Above: we went to San Diego to welcome my cousin back, who had been at sea for the last four months.  The boys enjoyed being spoiled by everyone and seeing some big ships.  Jake got to see all sorts of trucks and fork lifts on base too, so he was pretty happy.

My friend Dana, who I went to college with, is a teacher so she’s off for the summer as well.  We met at Kidseum in Santa Ana, which is part of the Bowers Museum but is located in a separate building a couple blocks away.  It was $7 a person I think, which in my opinion was a little high for the size of the place, but the kids ran around and got to do a few crafty activities (supplies are included in the admission price), and then we went to the 4th Street food area and enjoyed some pizza and ice cream sandwiches from Chunk n Chip.  Yum.

Mommies, let’s be honest…this is the best part of our day.  See those sleeping angels?  That’s what kept mommy sane all summer.  I got to clean and organize, and blog, and watch The Hand Maids Tale, and even get a little work out in!  Speaking of which, I need to go get these boys up or they’ll sleep all day!

What was your favorite part of your Summer so far?  What activities do you love to do with your kids or friends?