Monday, January 26, 2015

Busy Life in the Hull House

As the kids get older, life inevitably gets busier.  I am actually pretty happy with this progress in life. I like our lives to be pleasantly busy.  I'm not super excited to be running at break neck speed or anything, but I appreciate a little pressure to do stuff.

Preschool both adds to the pressure and takes away.  Clara mostly enjoys her classes, although I can see her introverted personality shine through regularly where she says, "Mommy, I want to just stay home."  Once we get there, though, she enjoys herself and has fun.  I love her teacher, Miss Jaimee, and I love her fun and laid back approach to preschool.  I also started Clara in gymnastics at an awesome gym right by our house.  I love it, it's so good for Clara.  She's always been a mover (not a talker) and while her academic pursuits make her feel insecure, she has always been been confident taking on new physical challenges.  I really wanted to find something where she could feel like she excelled, and I think gymnastics might be the ticket.

Clara at gymnastics

Lucy does not lack for confidence, and I have been positively shocked at her love of preschool. She really loves her class and her friends, begging to go every single morning.  I have been a big part of that preschool, which keeps me busy.  I teach 4 times and help 4 times between now and May.  I have really enjoyed teaching, more than I thought I would!  I also feel like this preschool has given me the opportunity to really get to know some other moms in my area, which has been something I have missed since moving to Phoenix.  The friendship and support I have gained since being apart of the preschool co/op has been a huge blessing for me.

Lucy at preschool.  I would never be creative enough to come up with something this cool.  We also did a field trip to the first station.

One of the things that brings me the most joy is watching Clara and Lucy be best friends.  I did not anticipate this.  Or rather, I didn't dare get my hopes up that they would get along well enough to be friends.  But they really love to play together and look to each other every morning and after every nap.  We finally got them moved into the same room, and no one is happier about than Clara and Lucy (I, however, have had many second thoughts as they seem to get up earlier and earlier to play!).
We've spent time at the park nearly everyday this last week.  This time of year is what makes it tolerable to live in Phoenix and we're getting out  One of our most brilliant purchases of the year was a little playground in the back yard, but they still enjoy getting to the neighborhood park.  I also really, really love this phase where I do not have to shadow either of my children.  We get to the park, I say, "Go play" and off they go!

Oh, come on.  It does not get more adorable than this.

Other quick rundowns of what's happened the last few weeks:
-Our ward got moved to a different stake.  Totally shocked us all. We hear back next week if we get to stay a ward or we'll be further diced up.  That makes for a ward split and a move to a new stake all within a year.
-Lucy finally figured out how to peddle her bike.

Lucy got the whole peddling thing down!

-Jordan's working crazy hours again.  And thus begins busy season.  This is made much more tolerable by the fact that I now have a car to get around.  Minivan <3 forever.="" p="">-It felt like it took forever to feel this baby move around, but now that I can I wish that maybe she wouldn't wiggle so much on my bladder...
-Clara and Lucy are obsessed with the new baby and my baby belly.
-We went to the firestation as a field trip for Lucy's preschool.  Clara tagged along because she didn't have preschool that day.  It was a fire station at an airport, so it was pretty much toddler heaven.  Fire engines + planes + helicopters.

Fire station fun

Overheard in our House:

Clara: "Hey, wait a minute, I want to..."
Daddy: "Come on, Clara, we need to get going!"
Clara: "Oh, forget it, I'm coming"

Clara: (while standing in front of a mirror) "Daddy!  Look at my feet! I'm getting bigger!"

Clara: (while talking about reading the scriptures): "And it came to pass."

(I got some lovely sharp Cutco knives for Christmas this year.  I love them but I keep cutting my fingers.  After the 4th time in a four week period, this is the conversation I had with Clara)
Clara: Oh no, Mommy, what happened to your finger?
Me: Oh, I just cut it.
Clara: Again, Mommy? (you could practically hear the exasperation in her voice...)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Days are Long, but the Years are Short

I love this picture so much.  I caught it while we were walking home from a short little walk.  The girls were so excited to be out on a walk (it's hot here and I never do it) that they were holding hands and playing together.  You can see our house in the background.  It represents so much of what life is to me right now.

I feel like I am finally understanding what it means to enjoy parenthood.  Don't get me wrong, I've always loved my kids, and there have always been wonderful moments that are fun and sweet, but now I feel like I get it.  There are hard days.  Very hard days.  Days where I go and lock myself in my room and then lock myself in a closet to get a moments peace (or maybe just a chance to eat a sandwich) (and yes, that's two locked doors between me and my darling girls), but there are also days when Lucy climbs into my lap and points at my fingers and says "Fingernails!"  Or when Clara snuggles in next to me and says, "I love you, Mommy."  Or when the first thing Lucy says when she wakes up from her nap is, "Where Cwara?"  Or when Clara, upon witnessing Lucy having a meldown in the car, says "Lucy!  Lucy!  Lucy!  It's ok, see?  We can have fun!  Look at this big hill we're going down!  Wee!"  And then they both proceed to giggle to each other in the car.  Having two toddler girls is so trying at times, but so perfectly pristine in other moments.  Truly, there is nothing more meaningful as a parent than watching your children become best friends.

The days are long, but the years are short.

Preschool for All!

My mom bugged me this weekend and told me I needed to update my blog.  She's probably right... we're so busy these days!  I have missed being busy.  It feels good to wake up each day and to have places to go and things to accomplish!

This year we're doing preschool in a big way.  I haven't done it before, but this year Clara has been dying to go to school I decided to dig in and make it happen.  I found this little preschool run out of a home that was relatively inexpensive (side note: the price of preschool in North Phoenix is ASTRONOMICAL) and close to our house.  Two days a week, 9am-11:30am.  Perfect!

At about the same time, I got an email from a friend who wanted to do a little co/op for her 2 year old, and was wondering if Lucy would join.  I wouldn't have ever considered preschool for Lucy (who won't be two until September 19th) (also, see "astronomical price of preschool"), but it was free AND it was happening at the exact same time as Clara's preschool.  Tuesday/Thursday from 9:15-11:15.  Hello, who am I to turn down such a lovely opportunity?  So, we went from no preschool, to everyone is in preschool!  Including mom about 1/3 of the time as a teacher/helper in the school for Lucy.

This was our first full week and it went so well!  Both girls enjoy their preschools, and not only do they have corresponding preschool days/times, we also have a friend who lives around the corner who's girls are the same ages and are both doing the same preschool!  This means one of us drops the older kids off and the other drops the younger kids off.  Really, I couldn't have coordinated this better if I planned it, it's clearly just meant to be.  Because of my schedule and a couple of ladies having babies this month, I'm doing most of my helping/teaching days for Lucy's preschool this month.  So no free time for me quite yet, but after this month the rest of the year should be lovely!

This year is the first time since I've had Clara that I haven't been "in charge" of our schedule.  In the past, I have been able to choose what we do and when, because we almost never had any commitments.  I have mixed feeling on the changes.  It took me a couple of years to adjust to being a free agent all the time with the kids, but over the last year it's been so nice to basically do whatever we want.  I will miss that freedom.  But I'm excited for the purpose and structure that school will give our weeks.  I love that we're starting out slow, we still have Monday/Wednesdays/Fridays entirely to ourselves to do as we please.  I really love our new schedule!

Lucy at Preschool the first day I was a helper

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Things-Have-Been-Going-Really-Well Blog Post

So I've wanted to write this post for a couple of months now, but I have been afraid it would come off as bragging.  But I have written about the challenging times our family has faced, and I feel I would be ungrateful (and a little bit of a liar) if I didn't mention when things seem to be going really well for us.  It's times like these that I actually start to almost worry, because things are TOO good.  I start to realize my time is at hand for a big trial and I make it a point to say extra prayers of gratitude, hoping maybe being super, extra grateful will mean difficult times will never come our way.  Of course, that's not how it works, and life has an ebb of flow of good times and more difficult times, and I just want to be sure I'm on record of appreciating when life is really great.

Jordan has been doing extremely well at work.  He recently took his career to the next level and is a certified ASA, which basically means he's a credentialed actuary.  He still has a couple more exams and some classes to take before he's a fully credentialed FSA, but we've been working towards the ASA for a long time, and it's very satisfying to have reached it.  He put in long hours of study (in addition to long hours at work) and just really worked his tail off, and I couldn't be prouder of him.  In terms of his career, we are in a very advantageous position.  If we wanted, we could get  a different job fairly easily.  His skills are highly marketable and we have excellent job security.  He has also made a great impression on his currently boss and they have made it clear that they value the good work Jordan does.  Even though Phoenix isn't my favorite place in the whole world, we find that we are comfortable staying a few more years.

Speaking of Phoenix, we are feeling more and more comfortable here.  I still don't love the heat or the landscape, but there are a whole bunch of different reasons to love it here.  I love all the things there are to do with little kids.  Having a second vehicle and Lucy dropping her morning nap have finally created great conditions for us to explore all the cool stuff for kids. I also feel like I'm making good friends and it's starting to feel more like home.

The kids ARE a challenge.  As my father in law said, they are at ages where they are "sucking vortexes of need." Ha.  I'm actually really happy he said it, because it makes me feel less crazy.  There's a reason I hit burnout!  Anyway, I have two toddlers and they are a lot of work.  But they are a lot of fun.  Clara is talking so well and keeps us well informed with what's going on.  Lucy is starting to talk, and she's so cute I could die.  They play reasonably well together and they seem to really like each other.  Every day is a new challenge, but it's kind of exciting.

When life is going well, I really feel it's important to acknowledge it and appreciate it.  I feel like I've been tasting the sweetness of life, and I really am beyond grateful.

A Grownup Vacation

Jordan and I went to Mexico last week, and it was amazing.  The trip itself was fun and beautiful and relaxing, all really important components to an excellent vacation.  We took a 7 day cruise out of Long Beach (we chose this specific cruise because it ports out of Long Beach and we can just drive over there from Phoenix), with two days in Puerto Vallarta and one day in Cabo.  We decided to get a room with a balcony and it was worth every single extra penny.  We would open our balcony at night and listen to the ocean, or we'd go out there and watch for whales as the sun set.

It was a really nice mix of "doing" and "not doing."  We went to the family friendly comedy shows, the love and marriage game, and a couple of other shows that were entertaining (especially from the perspective of a couple of people who do not really go to shows very often), or we'd sit in our room and read or watch TV.  We were both nervous not to be able to log onto the internet for the whole week (because the internet costs a freakin' arm and a leg!), but it was really a relief.  Jordan couldn't check into work.

Our big excursion was to go whale watching and snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.  It was so so cool.  We did see a whale, and we watched a baby whale jump up and breach over and over and over again.  The baby whale (who was probably playing) jumped out of the water again and again for at least 15 minutes, and was still going when we left the scene.  The mother whale would come up for air close by, keeping close tabs on the little one.  It was so amazing.  We saw tons of fish while snorkeling, although we didn't stay in the water as long as we would have wanted.  After that, we were able to kayak a bit and see some cool birds.

While our vacation was really spectacular, what has been most amazing to me is how much better I feel now that I'm home.  I knew I was starting to wear thin and that my levels of patience were dropping dramatically, but I didn't realize how taking a week long break would really just totally rejuvenate me.  I have now learned my lesson.  Sometimes mom's need breaks, and that's ok.  Jordan and I aren't going to be able to take week long vacations every single year, but we might be able to go away for a weekend annually.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Summer Rundown

Our life has been busy!   I'll try to do a quick rundown of things that have happened in our lives the last few months:

-We went to Alaska in May!  It was so so fun, and we got to experience a late winter, which wounds weird to be excited about, but it was amazing.  Clara loved seeing snow and I loved wearing sweaters.  We all loved spending time with family.  Jordan worked over 300 hours in May while we were in Alaska, so I was super grateful to be there, and not stuck at home alone with two small kids in Phoenix while Jordan worked insane (INSANE!) hours.  In early June, Jordan and his parents surprised me when they flew Jordan up to visit for the weekend and then fly home with me and the kid's.  It was so cool to be in Alaska with Jordan.

Snowing, in May, in Alaska

It was a cold morning in Alaska, so we cuddled

-After getting back from Alaska, I had two weeks before turning around and flying to Missouri for a couple of weeks with Jordan's sisters.  It was two weeks of recuperating and... we bought a minivan.  Jordan and I have been discussing getting a second car for ages, and we finally just bit the bullet and did it!  It's a 2006 Toyota Sienna, and we L-O-V-E it.  It has totally changed my life.  We were a one car family for a long time, and it was starting to wear on me.  Have a second car (especially one with so much room) has given me an immense amount of freedom, and the kids and I gleefully go from one fun activity to the next in this baby.

I love the color.  I love this van.

Lucy playing in the pool in Phoenix

-At the end of June, the kids and I boarded a plane once again and headed off to Missouri.  Missouri is amazing.  Jordan's sisters live literally right next door to each other, and the kids basically wander the farm between the two houses.  I love being able to give Clara so much space and freedom, and so so so many playmates.  I love being able to talk to family whenever I want.  Jordan joined us for reunion about 2 weeks after the kids and I got there, and then he stayed for a week and a half.

Clara and cousin Katy
-Jordan and I had our 5 year anniversary while we were in Missouri!  The day of our anniversary, the Hull family reunion had planned an awesome trip to a Missouri lake where we rented two boats.  Jordan and I aren't particularly picky about our anniversary, we don't' feel like we need to do something special every single year (ok, confession: about half our anniversaries I'm usually in Alaska by myself), so we just had a great time on the boat with family.  That being said, to commemorate 5 years of marriage, we jumped off of the top of the boat together, and got this picture:
The couple that breaks rules and jumps off the tops of boats together, stays together.  That's a thing, right?
-Our last day there, we went to this little carnival that had rides perfectly sized for toddlers.  Really, it looked like all the rides were miniature, including a miniature Ferris wheel.  It was so fun, Clara loved it.

At a toddler carnival in Missouri.  Yes, a toddler carnival.

-When we finally got back to Phoenix at the end of July, we just had August and September left of summer, so we went to splash pads!  We ended up trying one all the over in Fountain Hills (about a 30 minute drive from our house) that was less busy and had super cool water features.

Clara thinks she's being super brave getting her hair wet.  You can imagine how difficult bath time is.

And there you have it.  A basic rundown of our summer!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Long Distance (Part III)

Much of our early relationship was spent in "long distance" mode.  Which sometimes seems so ironic to me because we grew up near each other, our parents (still, to this day) live 10 minutes apart from one another, and there were so many years where we were so close... but not together.  The most annoying was the very early days of our budding romance, right after we decided we were "together."  We had tip-toed around each other all summer, not sure what the other was feeling.  It wasn't until 5 days (FIVE DAYS!) before I had to fly back to Texas for college that we got our crap together and figured out that we loved each other.  And we had five days to enjoy it before the long periods of separation began.

Jordan stayed in Fairbanks to work and prepare for his mission.  I went back for my sophomore year at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, TX.  And here's the crazy thing: I think the fact that our early years were spent in separation made the whole experience that much more romantic.  There were declarations of love, written down for me to go and read latter.  There were long. drawn out phone conversations that lasted until 4 am, even though I had class at 8.  There were those thrilling moments when we were finally reunited, if only briefly, and they were out-of-this-world exciting.

A curious thing happened for us that I think foreshadowed the fact that we were going to make it, despite being mired in long-distance.  Rather than drifting apart, we drifted together.  When I first went to Texas, we'd email daily, and talk every 3 or 4 days on the phone.  Then Jordan came to visit me at school in November.  After that, we talked on the phone daily, and emailed several times a day.  When I returned to school after spending Christmas with Jordan (where we literally spent every waking second together), we proceeded to talk on the phone nearly every break we had in the day, and then we were too busy talking on the phone to send emails more than once a day.

Looking back, I can see how the long distance deepened our relationship.  Built on more than mutual attraction, more than convinence, more than even friendship, the very foundation of our romantic relationship was built upon sincere commitment, a very real desire we had to be together.  That sense of commitment, due to the nature of long distance relationships, has solidified in our marriage.  We feel deeply loyal to each other because we had years of practice of being loyal to each other.