<3

Well well well. It has been a while, hasn’t it?!

As you can imagine, a lot can happen in 4 months, so I have no intention of fully filling in all the blanks. That would basically take writing a novel, and I’m not up to it. Plus, who would want to read that?! Ha!

I’m here writing today, because my birthday is tomorrow, and that felt like as good a reason as any to reflect on where life is at right now.

Ellen will be 18 months old in 5 days. She is a fully formed little person now, and as she has settled into herself, separation anxiety has all but disappeared. With that struggle behind us, it’s now a matter of learning who she is and learning to be who she needs me to be.

First off, she’s amazing. She is just the most spirited, hilarious little person. She makes me laugh harder than anyone else, but she also makes me scratch my head. She does everything at full speed, full volume, and with her whole heart. She feels things “bigly”.

I don’t want to change a thing about her, but I do find myself quite challenged. I haven’t felt that my mothering style has naturally worked for who she is, now that it is clear who she is.

I’m working on figuring out why I’m struggling to be the mom she needs, but some of the theories are 1) she’s not similar to me, so I don’t understand her, 2) she’s not similar to Lewis, so I have experience working against me, or 3) I have some other personal issues going on that are hampering my abilities to improvise.

Anyway, she’s pretty grown up now. She has quit the highchair (sigh), she has been talking in sentences for months (wow!), and she sleeps through the night as long as I remember to dress her super, duper warmly. (there was a loooong stretch where I forgot how hot she likes to sleep, and no one got much sleep. Doh!) She has even started to figure out how to put on her own pants, AND she went pee on the potty for the first time!

Lewis is a little nearly-four-year-old hero. He loves to help, he is patient and kind with his wild little sister. He sleeps (most nights), and he has been eating well. He has also been testing boundaries, so we’ve had more discipline with him lately than in the past, but he is starting to understand consequences, so if you warn him that a punishment is coming, it is usually enough to curb bad behavior.

Lewis is recognizing more and more letters and numbers, which is so thrilling. He is a sponge that soaks up everything you say. I marvel daily at his ability to retain information, and boy… he is always listening!

I’ve been working out regularly since October 1st of last year, and my body has been reacting. I definitely feel better, and the visible changes are really lovely to see too. I wish there was a way to measure how much thinner my face looks!

Last month I also started counting calories to see if I might finally get the scale to move, and I’ve been rewarded by losing 5 lbs in 3 weeks. I’m now 3.5 lbs away from pre-Ellen weight, and 13.5 lbs away from pre-Lewis weight, which feels really fabulous!

My goal is to hit pre-Lewis weight by Ellen’s 2nd birthday in August. It is a goal I think I can hit with continued calorie-monitoring and regular workouts. And because my workout schedule (4 days per week) and eating are now pretty routine for me, I don’t think I’ll find myself struggling to make progress.

I’ve been working hard on my outside, but I mentioned above that I have some personal issues, so I’m also working on my inside! Namely, I have begun to see a therapist!

As part of a new year’s resolution, I decided to focus on finding more joy in 2019. I had found myself with a short temper and no patience, and I had this horrible feeling that my family was getting in the way of my to-do list, which is a terrible reversal of priorities! My to-do list should be “getting in the way” of my family time, not the opposite!

Additionally, I need some help putting my childbearing chapter behind me so I can be comfortable with the fact that there will be no more pregnancies/children in my future.

I realized that, despite a clear picture of how I wanted to feel, I couldn’t see the path to get there. So I am excited to be getting some help finding that path. I know the destination, I just don’t know if I should take a plane, train, boat, car, or walk to get there. So I’m looking at my therapist as my “travel agent” on my journey to a more joyful life.

The last four months since my last post have been quite the ride. Friendships have been cultivated and feel really solid, my relationship with Kyle had some lows but now feels like it is brand new and we’ve fallen in love all over again, my kids have grown and learned and changed, and I’d like to think I have too.

As I head into my birthday tomorrow, I realize that I have a lot of people who show up for me regularly. I feel tremendously cared for from external sources, and I also feel like I’m caring for myself internally in a way that I haven’t in a long time. I’m proud of myself for feeling more secure in the relationships I have with friends, family, my kids, and my husband, and also for feeling confident enough to say that I am having a hard time without feeling embarrassed. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling more confident than I have in years, in spite of the difficult times I’ve been having emotionally.

2019 is going to be a great year. I’m determined to love being 32, and to have no shame in being where I am or being who I am. I am awesome, even if I am flawed (which I most definitely am). And I will learn to be the mother both of my children need, even though that person is different for each of them.

I’m sorting it all out. And I feel really, really happy. Here’s to a happy birthday, and a happy every day. There’s so much joy in my life, and I’m determined to hold on tight to it.

I don’t know why, but I feel like I need to say thank you. So… whoever is reading this… Thank you! You know what for, I’m sure of it. ❤

Whoa! It’s been a minute!

Well hello there! I haven’t written in ages! So much has been happening, and I’ve thought about posting a million times, but I haven’t made it happen!

But it’s been good, people. That’s the overarching theme of my “time away” from this blog.

The biggest thing I can report is that I think I’ve entered a new chapter. In this chapter, I am less anxious and overwhelmed, and finally able to put myself back on my to-do list.

It all clicked in the last month. After 13 months of having things under control (mostly) but never trusting that it would stay under control… after over a year of teetering on the edge of panic, wondering what was going to happen next to send life into an unmanageable tailspin, I finally feel steadier.

It’s a feeling of “I’ve got this”, instead of “I’ve got this right now“.

See the difference?

It’s subtle, but it is a complete paradigm shift for me as a mother/human. I now believe that the handle I have on things is not fleeting, but lasting. And because of this, I’ve been able to enjoy my life more, and make some big changes.

For example, I’ve started a workout program. I’m 2 weeks in and committed and seeing results. After trying several times to exercise and lose weight since Ellen was born, quitting or falling short each time, I think I’ve finally got the mindset I needed. I feel ready.

I also started a face and hair routine which is making me feel amazing. It is all very woo-woo/natural, and it makes me sound like a crazy person when I tell people about it. But it is really making me look and feel better!

In addition to the physical stuff, I’ve been able to be more social in the last 1.5 months. Kyle and I went away for a whole day (not overnight) for our anniversary, I’ve been out with friends a couple times, and I even went out of town with my book club for an entire weekend (got back yesterday), and it went great. I stressed less this weekend being gone for 2 whole days than I have on some evenings where I was only gone a few hours.

There were a couple hours while I was away this weekend when it wasn’t awesome (Ellen screaming “mama” on repeat), and I lost my marbles with worry. But Kyle got things back under control! And in the end, he said 80% of the time everything was easy and pleasant, which I’d say is no different than when both of us are there!

Summary: Ellen is growing out of her separation anxiety! She’s still only 13 months old, so she is going to lose her sh*t at some point every single day, and when she and I are apart, that might be a little more dramatic than normal, but it is normal. And before, her extreme separation anxiety wasn’t normal at all!

Even though it is now normal, it still rips my heart in half when she is so distressed by being away from me. But we are at a place where I can leave and it is mostly pleasant for me because I know that most of the time I’m away, she’s just fine!

As for generic family news, Ellen has been going through a million changes, sprouting teeth (she has 8 now!), climbing everything, walking all over the place, learning all kinds of words (and sentences!), sleeping (mostly) consistently, starting to follow simple commands/instructions, and charming the pants off of anyone she meets.

Lewis has fewer changes to report, but his behavior has been excellent! He’s been sleeping great, having fewer tantrums, trying new foods, learning new skills, and also charming the pants off of anyone he meets. I can’t believe how polite, helpful, and kind he has been. Such a contrast to earlier this year when everything was so off due to lack of sleep. Hallelujah, melatonin!

Kyle and I are working our tails off, planning for the future, continuing work on our financial health, contemplating next moves, planning our first trip abroad together, and more. When some of that stuff turns into actual headlines, I’ll write again.

Hopefully the whole family can keep the good momentum up! But particularly me… I feel like I’m the engine keeping the whole family going. So I gotta keep it up!

Big day!

Wow. Ellen has had a huge day. It warrants a second post.

Not only did she have her checkup, complete with shots, she also…

  1. Sized up in her clothes. She hasn’t hit the weight for the new clothes (supposedly 3-4 lbs away??), but her big thighs and long torso that she inherited from mama mean that she needs bigger clothes anyway!
  2. She put herself to sleep in her crib at bedtime.
  3. She stopped napping in her swing at daycare and put herself to sleep in the pack and play there too.
  4. SHE TOOK HER FIRST STEPS.

12 month checkup

We had Ellen’s 12 month checkup today, and it went great! Ellen’s growth has slowed down to a more normal pace, and she’s now at the 92nd percentile for weight and 69th percentile for height. Doctor said she’s perfect!

The only negative thing, physically, is that Ellen’s iron levels are a bit low. Nothing concerning, but they’ll want to check her again at her 15 month appointment and we’re supposed to try to feed her more iron rich foods in the meantime. Not a problem!

Ellen got three shots, and kicked so hard during one of them that she escaped our grasp and the needle came out, squirting the vaccine everywhere. Yikes! The medical assistant cussed and then said she didn’t know many 12 month olds who were that strong. So… cool? I guess? Girl power?

We also met with the behavioral therapist during the checkup, and I’m so glad we did. We got some really useful, easy things to try that might help us ease through this phase a little faster and a little less painfully.

  1. Get Ellen a “lovey” that she can bond to for comfort so she isn’t so reliant on me for comfort.
  2. Play games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek and slowly increase the time I’m “hiding” or even just in another room. This should be a fun way to teach her that it isn’t traumatizing when I leave, and that I always come back.
  3. Have Kyle do some of the normal day-to-day stuff with me there too. Me being there is apparently the key. So she’ll feel comfortable that I’m there, but she gets used to being comforted or having comforting acts performed by someone else. Eventually, I’ll be able to leave. We hope…

We’ve already ordered two identical purple stuffed hippos. I hear it is good to have a duplicate lovey, just in case one gets damaged or dirty or lost. And as soon as they arrive, we’re supposed to do everything with it. It especially has to be there when comforting acts are being performed so she begins to associate it with comfort.

The rest of it we can start right away too. I feel really hopeful for some relief in the next few weeks after these techniques have started to work their magic. They’re all so simple, but it really helped to have an expert list them out. It’s very “step by step”, which computes with my brain well.

The therapist said we should expect Ellen to be emotional while she adjusts and learns. That’s going to be the hardest part, being patient. It is so easy to just default back to our old ways where I’m everything for Ellen because that makes the screaming stop right away. But we’re playing the long game now.

Wish us luck!

Kids eating

Two major updates about the kiddos and their eating:

  1. I haven’t breastfed Ellen since Saturday morning (over 2 days ago). We went out Saturday evening and I didn’t feel like pumping when we got back… so I just figured I might as well stop completely. So far, only some minor discomfort starting this afternoon. And Ellen hasn’t really complained, other than trying to pull on my shirt once.
  2. Lewis has been eating a lot more, both in quantity and in frequency. After beginning the melatonin before bed, he has been better behaved and a much more willing eater. Bedtime now takes about 30-45 mins instead of 2-3 hours. It looks like the lack of sleep was impacting everything in his life! Go figure. 🙂

Ellen’s Party

Ellen’s birthday party was yesterday, and it was great!

Cake made by my brother’s girlfriend

We kept the guest list minimal – just family and one friend(‘s family) that feels like family – to keep all of us from feeling too overwhelmed. I’m so, so glad we did, because Ellen was totally overwhelmed anyway! Her normal clingy tendencies were magnified by a million, and she clung to me the entire time.

Me = exhausted. Ellen = doesn’t care! Ha!

So, I threw a party one-handed. But other than that small glitch, it was perfect. Exactly what I had envisioned. Just family drinking wine, kids running around playing, Kyle BBQ-ing, people enjoying our new deck… it was wonderful. Mayhem, absolutely. But wonderful.

Oh, did I mention Kyle finished our deck in time for the party? I wish I could squeal in writing, because that’s all I can think to do to express how giddy having this deck makes me.

I can’t remember how much of this process was documented here. So I’ll do a brief summary – We hired Kyle’s employer to convert the window in our kitchen-dining space into a slider door with access to the backyard. Previously, access to the backyard was through the backdoor, down the stairs and then through the fence. And once you were there, it was just weeds/grass. It was a weird setup, and we can’t figure out why they didn’t put in direct access + a deck from the start!

After the construction team was done with their part (about 4-5 full days of work), Kyle took over. He did some of the finish work inside (paint, patching nail holes, etc), and then he got to work on building the deck from the materials his company had had delivered. It took him several weeks, but Kyle worked away diligently and built us a beautiful deck, literally all on his own, with the exception of two screws that Lewis helped drive.

The direct access to our backyard + the deck/table/BBQ setup has improved the function of our home 10 times over. Best $5k we’ve ever spent. Kyle worked so hard on it, and it paid off! I want to use it every single day!

All-in-all, Kyle and I are completely exhausted, but totally happy. The house is still a mess, but it was worth it because it felt so good to celebrate our sweet girl with our wonderful families. And the exhaustion and the mess are temporary – we’ll get to enjoy the deck and the memories from the party forever.

12 months/1 year

Look at my toddler. Waaaaaah!!! She’s not a baby anymore! I can’t believe how grown up and perfect my sweet girl is. She’s just a wonder!

It’s Ellen’s birthday today, and I’m feeling so many things. I am trying hard to focus on the joy and excitement of Ellen’s first birthday, but it is clouded by a lot of sadness.

Ellen is, in all likelihood, our last baby. And the arrival of her birthday is a reminder that there are so many “last firsts” already behind us. I’ll never get to feel my baby’s first kick or hear my baby’s first cry again. I’ll never get to experience first smiles, first laughs, first words, first rolling over, first sitting up…

Granted, I’ll also never have to deal with swaddles, and newborn sleep, and projectile newborn poops, and spitting up… So there’s always a silver lining!

Anyway, I’ve spent the last 2 days crying my eyes out. I’ve relived the memories of her due date through the day we met her. All the pain, all the joy, all the fear, all the excitement and anticipation… it’s like I was really transported back and I was there all over again.

But enough… I’ll probably cry more today and on Sunday when we have her party, but I don’t need to dwell on that in this post anymore. You get the point! Let’s look at Ellen and all her wonderful accomplishments!

Ellen’s vocabulary is growing constantly. She can say mama, dada, book, woohoo, whoa, uh-oh, duck, bottle, milk, cat, meow.. and today I thought I heard her say “Leah” when she was asking for the daycare teacher to pick her up. I’ll admit that only a mother’s ear would understand some of those words. But they totally count!

Ellen has begun standing unsupported, and is now making efforts to take her first step. She falls instantly every time she lifts a foot, but she is thrilled with herself and does not let the falling stop her from trying again.

As a matter of fact, Ellen will stand up over and over, giggling and shrieking with delight, as long as someone is watching and cheering her on. She’s a total ham, and loves the attention and the spotlight.

Her need for attention has escalated into desperate, unmanageable separation anxiety. She’s had some issues with it for a long time, but it has gotten out of control lately. Recent developments have included me having to abandon a night out with friends shortly after leaving home because of Ellen’s shenanigans, as well as her demanding to be held all day at daycare to the point where the teacher couldn’t do anything with the other kids. Ellen got one of the teachers, and the other 10 kids got the remaining teacher. The teacher’s muscles are literally sore today after Ellen pulled that particular shenanigan yesterday.

Definition of separation anxiety shenanigans: refusal to eat or sleep, and screaming endlessly (literally hours), sometimes so hard she vomits.

Ellen’s dramatics have led us to contact the behavioral health team at the pediatrician’s office. We will be meeting with them next week in conjunction with her 12 month checkup. We are hoping to get some coping strategies from them – either to help her cope, or to help us cope (or both!). Lewis was never this extreme with his separation anxiety. So we’re out of our depth and definitely need some help.

Other than that (major) hiccup, things are so, so good. As long as I’m home (ugh… the pressure!) everyone is happy! Ellen sleeps very well at night, usually 10-12 hours straight. Sometimes one wakeup. She has 5 teeth, working on a 6th. And her favorite foods are cheese, strawberries and pasta. She loves cow milk (I let her try a little bit before her birthday.. heh… don’t tell anyone!), and she’s adjusted to formula at naptimes really well. We are still breastfeeding when she wakes up and before bed, so we officially made it to a year! Hooray!

My body is making progress towards normal. Despite dropping to minimal breastfeeding, the scale has continued to inch down. I have been extra conscious of what I’ve been putting in my body and adjusting my eating to accommodate for fewer breastfeeding calories. I remember gaining weight back after stopping breastfeeding Lewis, and I don’t need to do that again this time!

As a result, I’ve been feeling pretty good physically. I can see a difference in my face shape and in the mama-pooch where my big old babies lived. I know I’ll never look exactly the same as I did before babies again, but I feel so optimistic that I’ll soon be able to recognize myself in the mirror and feel comfortable in my skin.

Life is pretty great, overall. We’re so proud of Ellen and the goofy, fun-filled, wonderful little person she is. She challenges us, she makes us feel every emotion under the sun, but her existence makes our lives better.

I can’t wait to update about her checkup next week, and about her party on Sunday. Happy birthday, Ellen! We love you!

Haze

I’ve been experiencing an odd phenomenon lately. The past week or so, I feel like I’ve been walking around in a haze.

I feel… tired? I think? My body feels heavy and things don’t feel real. It is sort of a detached lack of energy, where I feel like I’m witnessing my life from the outside, and I have to force myself back into my body to participate.

I have anxiety for unpredictable events, not feeling equipped to adapt in the moment while I’m this hazy. Big outings or activities feel like climbing Mt. Everest, but even basic things like cooking dinner, doing dishes, or climbing the stairs to change a diaper make me feel totally pooped. The anticipation of the work is just as exhausting as the actual carrying-out of the duties.

I just want someone else to step in and do it all for a minute so I can… sit.

This feeling has made me feel less capable as a mother, and less comfortable being on my own with the kids. Not because I feel they are in any danger in my care, but because I have to work so much harder to stay on top of things while I’m in this fog.

I do it, but it is often the bare minimum, and it tires me out a little more than usual. I want to give my life (and my kids/husband!) more than the bare minimum, and not being able to feels pretty rotten.

It’s an unpleasant feeling, being somewhat detached from my life. It feels like symptoms of burnout, and I’ve gone into a kind of self-preservation mode.

I think an honest break would do the trick, but lately, even my “breaks” have felt taxing because of Ellen’s separation anxiety. It’s not that I haven’t gotten away (I have! Lots!), it’s that the anxiety button is constantly in the “on” position because I have so much going on in general. But specifically, I know that Ellen is in misery when I’m not there.

The breaks almost make me feel worse. The combined pressure of the never-ending to-do list and being Ellen’s everything is so heavy. I need the time away to get my mind right, but all the time away I’ve been getting has been guilt-ridden and excruciating. The breaks haven’t had the desired effect.

I don’t feel depressed. Not even sad, really. Just… foggy. Burnt out. Exhausted.

Maybe Ellen will get over her separation issues soon so one of my should-be-rejuvenating breaks will actually help me reset my mind and clear the haze.

Until then? I will keep it up. Because that’s what you do when the tiny people depend on you.

Bye, pump!

I’m done! Done pumping!

Last week, I cut the morning pump/feeding. Ellen still got breastmilk bottles at daycare and a bottle of formula at home prior to her morning nap, but my boobs were not directly involved anymore.

Cutting that out went great, no discomfort.

Over the weekend, I cut the feeding prior to afternoon nap, too. Again, Ellen got a bottle of formula. I hadn’t planned to cut that feeding yet, necessarily, but when it came time to put Ellen down for her nap, I just didn’t want to.

It was as simple as that. I was starting down the barrel of nap time, and I didn’t want to lift my shirt. For some reason, that idea seemed more exhausting to me than mixing/heating up a bottle. So I just didn’t do it.

Again, no discomfort. And Ellen didn’t care at all.

The only difference I’ve noticed from her with the reduction of direct breastfeeding to is that she is more clingy during the day. She doesn’t seem to mind that her food source has changed, but she does seem to miss the physical contact.

It is very sweet. If I sit on the floor, she’ll just crawl over to me, sprawl across my legs, and just lay there while I rub her back. Then she’ll get up, climb into my lap, and pull herself up so she can hug my neck. I welcome the extra snuggles, since I’ll miss that part of breastfeeding, too.

The AM wakeup and PM bedtime feedings will probably disappear soon, too. I still only do one breast at a time, resulting in each breast only being emptied once per day. That’s not a lot of stimulation, so I imagine they’ll dry up pretty quickly.

I have also added sudafed to my morning supplement/vitamin cocktail for the next few days, since that has a reputation for drying up milk.

I’m just done. I’m so happy that my body cooperated to produce milk for Ellen as long as I wanted it to, but I feel absolutely no obligation to continue now that I’m emotionally finished.

This is what that mythical “you’ll know when you’re done” feeling feels like. It is an indescribable, undeniable, guilt-free end of an era.

However long the AM and PM feedings remain, I am so happy to be free of my pump. I will not miss it. Go me! Go my body!

Little Lewis

It’s time for a long overdue update about Lewis!

Our sweet little dude has been mostly trucking along with his 3-year-old ‘tude in tow. He’s a volatile, unpredictable, pretty awesome little guy. Most of the time, we’re enjoying the heck out of him. But there are a lot of moments where we…. um… don’t enjoy him. At all.

The screaming/tantrums over every single thing, the defiance, and the hours-long bedtimes are just the pits. And on top of those things, Lewis has been having a hard time with his appetite and his energy levels lately.

That last issue actually brought us to the doctor last week. He’s been so fatigued that he wouldn’t even participate in things that he loves. He will decline going to the park, riding his bike, doing puzzles, playing soccer, etc., saying he is “too tired” and needs to lay down. This is concerning behavior for a 3-year-old, and we weren’t sure if there was a physical explanation (like low iron, something I’ve suffered from in the past), or if he just needed to quit his bedtime shenanigans and get some rest.

Poor buddy ended up having to get a blood draw after the doctor’s visit escalated from a quick consult/finger prick to check iron levels to a full-blown blood panel. The doctor was immediately more concerned about what might be going on due to Lewis’ fatigue combined with his weight loss.

Dammit, he’s losing weight again. The doc said that combo could be an indication of some more serious explanations, and that it was best to test for those serious things and rule them out instead of just assuming it’s lifestyle/behavioral. Fine. Ok. Makes sense.

The blood draw was terrible. Lewis was amazing and stayed super still, but he screamed bloody murder (pun intended), and I felt horrible. Although it was a little funny that what he screamed was, “IT HURTS! I NEED A BANDAID! I NEED A BANDAID!” Such a 3-year-old kid’s response… something hurts, get a bandaid and it will be fine.

BUT! The blood panel results were good. Low vitamin D levels, which are not an explanation for his issues, but good to know. We’re going to put him on a multivitamin with the recommended 600 IU’s of D3. Problem solved.

The downside to a good blood panel is that without the physical explanation for his symptoms, we’re down to lifestyle/behavioral explanations. AKA we’re back to trying to force Lewis to eat and sleep.

Sigh… we all know how well that has been going. If we knew how to get him to eat and sleep, we wouldn’t be in this boat in the first place!

The doctor did have a serious talk with Lewis about eating, and I think he understood. For example, I asked him what he wanted to do the other evening, and he said, “Here’s my plan. We’ll go home, we’ll play, and then I’ll eat a looooooootttttt of dinner, and then we’ll play again. Is that a good plan?”

In that scenario, he did not, of course, eat a lot of dinner. But he did remember that the doctor wanted him to, so that’s a start. We’re using that, and I think we’re getting a few more bites in him by reminding him what the doctor said. Time will tell if it makes an impact on the scale…

As for sleep, I ordered him some kids’ melatonin. It’s really low dose, but he’s old enough to take it, and I think getting him to sleep faster in the evenings will really make a difference in how he feels during the day. Crossing fingers that works!

That’s it. Sweet Lewis, always challenging us! Gotta love him!

Sweet memories

Today I went to a monthly meetup with some friends. It happens every month from 3-6 PM on a Sunday. This means that I leave during nap time and come home before bedtime.

Normally, lately, Ellen screams the entire time I am gone. Actually… correction, I don’t even have to leave the house for this to happen. She loses it even if I just leave the room for 2 minutes. Or turn my back on her. Or if she turns her back on me… you get it. Maintain constant, connected sightlines, or there will be screaming.

But today’s excursion was a vast improvement because

  1. Ellen only screamed part of the time
  2. Lewis didn’t scream (he usually feeds off Ellen’s drama)
  3. Kyle got Ellen to eat some dinner (she’s normally screaming too hard to eat)

Best part though? Hands down: coming home.

When I walked through the door, Ellen stopped what she was doing and started crawling as fast as she could towards me, giggling uncontrollably and babbling on about something that sounded like a baby’s version of, “hey mom! Guess what I did while you were gone!”

And then I scooped her up and she wouldn’t let me put her down. She just kept babbling on and on, catching me up on the afternoon.

Later, Lewis lost his mind over something stupid (3 year olds… sigh), and he came to sit on my lap for comfort. Ellen was already there and was NOT interested in sharing me. So she literally pushed Lewis off my lap while yelling at him, as if to say, “oh hell no, brother. Mom is mine. I MISSED HER.”

Hilarious.

Also, I love my friends and they’re the best. Whenever I see them, I can’t wait to get away, have a break, and catch up. But no matter how amazing they are, I love even more that my favorite part is coming home.

“food” for thought

I read something interesting about breastfeeding today. From my understanding, it comes from comedienne Ali Wong, who has a lot of spot-on things to say about early motherhood.

Being seen as a food source is a quick way to feel like your existence matters, but at the same time an easy way to feel like that’s all you’re good for.

This isn’t how I feel anymore, now that Ellen and I have made it nearly a year, she eats solid foods, and we have a much more give-and-take relationship. But in the early days of give, give, give, when my babies were demanding lumps, seemingly always attached at the breast? Yea, that quote pretty much sums it up.

Reading that quote took me back to when I felt so overwhelmingly important to my brand new babies, but got nothing in return from them. Once they started smiling, it felt a little better. Babbling, a little better still. Grabbing/touching, even better. Laughing, more improvement. Eating solids, sitting up, crawling, cruising, first words… each milestone, each step towards independence, the feeling faded and I felt like my children saw me as more than a set of boobs.

But wow, that short quote… it captures the feeling of early motherhood perfectly.

I’m glad I was taken back to that memory, so I can appreciate where I am today with my kids. I miss the early days frequently, but I also love each new stage. What a journey!

11 Months

Shit. Guys. Only one month left of Ellen being a baby. Shit.

I was about to write that I have “so many feelings” about being thisclose to having a toddler and (probably) never having a baby again. But that’s not actually true. I don’t have so many feelings. I have one feeling: Sad.

I’m destroyed! Ellen isn’t going to be a baby much longer, and I can’t cope! I know it is a cliche, but it is just going too fast. I want to lay on the ground and throw a fit, screaming, “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

Enough of my despair about Ellen getting older. Let’s push that aside and look at the baby herself… because I also only have one feeling about her – PROUD.

My god! I’m so proud of Ellen! She’s my favorite little girl and she has all kinds of new tricks this month.

She has a small handful of words (dada, book, mama, whoa, and I swear she tried to say “cheese” the other day). If you give her a cell phone, she’ll hold it up to her ear and say something that sounds like “hello”. SO CUTE!

She is crawling, cruising, walking around with a walker toy, getting into everything, and eating anything she can get her hands on, except blueberries (favorites = cheese and pasta).

We’ve been introducing a variety of sippy cups with water or formula in them, getting ready for her big girl transition away from bottles and boobs. She thinks they’re so fun, and I can’t wait until I can give her cow milk. I think she’s going to love it!

Sleep has been mostly good! What a lovely thing to be able to say! A “bad” night with Ellen now is one where she wakes up 1 time. I remember how recently that was considered a “good” night, so you won’t catch me complaining!

We are having a stretch of “bad” nights right now, I suspect due to teeth. She just popped her 4th tooth the other day, and I can’t see where the next one is coming, but she is definitely acting like she did with her left top front tooth, so I am keeping an eye on the right top front…

I did an unofficial weigh-in for Ellen the other day at home, and she was 23.6 lbs. Still a big girl, but very little weight gain in recent months. She has lost a lot of her arm rolls as she just gets longer. I can’t wait to see where she comes in at her next doctor’s appointment in a month. My prediction? A huge drop on the weight percentile, but still in the upper 90’s for height. We’ll see!

I haven’t written recently about my own body. Mostly because there isn’t a lot to say! I finally dropped into the 170’s, which means I have less than 10lbs to go to pre-Ellen weight. That was a really satisfying accomplishment, but it hasn’t changed much since then. I’m putting in a little effort, but not a lot, and the progress is proportionate to that effort.

With only 1 month to go until Ellen’s birthday, I don’t think I’ll be hitting my goal of getting to pre-Ellen weight by the time she’s 1. But I’m going to be pretty close! On bad days, I beat myself up over my lack of self-control and excessive laziness. But on good days, I’m able to choose to celebrate the fact that I have already lost 53+ lbs in the last 11 months. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

I also had a realization the other day when I was feeling panicked about not meeting my goal – there isn’t an expiration date on when I can lose the weight. The goal I set was made up by me. There’s no penalty for not meeting the goal. And just because I don’t quite get there by a specific date, it doesn’t mean I’m done and it doesn’t mean I failed. The challenge for that time period is over, but life goes on!

Plus, I’m not gaining weight. The little effort I’m putting in is still easing the scale the right direction, it’s just slow! So I’m going to lose it, and I just need to stop my relentless mental beat-down!

So, ultimate goal is to get to pre-Lewis weight. 19 lbs to go. When do I want to accomplish that? Tomorrow! When will I do it? In my own time. As long as I’m trending the right direction and not backsliding, I’m going to cut myself some slack. Wow… what freedom.

Tooth #4

Ellen has her 4th tooth! The top left side of her mouth is now fully loaded, while the top right side of her mouth has no signs of teeth.

Funny lopsided girl!

Best thing? She didn’t even fuss about this tooth.

Worst thing? That top center tooth has been out for a while, but it is still working its way down, and it made her gums bleed last night!

Winding Down

Ellen and I seem to be winding down our breastfeeding relationship.

My milk supply has been dropping pretty drastically, subsequently decreasing my freezer supply of breastmilk to take to daycare as I struggle to keep up with what Ellen has been drinking from her bottles while we’re apart.

This has been happening because Ellen has been shortening her feeds universally (yay solid foods!), as well as sleeping the whole night (11 hrs at a time!) most nights. The decreased demand has taken a toll on my milk production, as expected. Adjustments to daycare bottles are also being made to reflect her at-home habits.

The post-afternoon-nap feed has been cut entirely, and we are down to only 4 feeds a day (morning, before both naps, and bedtime). I realized that the time had come to cut the late-afternoon feed over the past weekend when she would eat for a mere two minutes before biting me and refusing to latch back on. Ellen does not have any issues with gaining weight at a healthy pace, so I do not feel obligated to force her to continue a feed if she doesn’t want it.

I recall forcing breastfeeding for Lewis (at the doctor’s request) when he was disinterested (and I was too!) because of his weight issues. I managed to stretch out nursing him for two extra months with great effort. It is difficult to continue nursing a baby who doesn’t want it, especially when you, yourself, also feel done.

I am sinking into this familiar feeling of being finished. It’s comfortable. I think we’ll hang onto a few more feedings at least until her birthday, but I don’t mourn the loss of the feedings we’re cutting, feel bad for supplementing a bit with formula, or worry about the loss of my milk supply anymore. It’s a nice feeling.

Ellen has taken to solid foods like a pig to mud (so different than Lewis!), so I have no concerns at all about her still getting the calories she needs. Stopping breastfeeding whenever just feels… fine. And I’m thrilled that Ellen and I are on the same page.

The only negative feeling I have is the nerves regarding possible physical discomfort as I scale back. I know that it will be fine, because I’ve done this before and – you guessed it! – it was fine! But for some reason I can’t help but worry about throwing off my body’s hard-won equilibrium.

I go through this every time I adjust breastfeeding schedules, and every time it is (literally) painless. I wish I could turn off the anxiety, but boy… something about breastfeeding always causes such emotional reactions in me!

Anywho… I’m two days into cutting the afternoon feed (AKA pumping at work), and there’s no turning back now! I’m looking forward to normal bras, dresses, freedom to be away from Ellen without worrying about a pump, ownership over my body again, the pump disappearing from my desk… and perhaps the cessation of our breastfeeding relationship will also help Ellen to accept other caregivers at bedtimes and naptimes a little more willingly! Who knows!

Ellen said mama for the first time today and then grinned and slobbered all over my face (aka gave me a kiss).

I died the death of happiness.

Current status at our house:

Lewis must be fed constantly. If he is not fed, the risk for uncontrollable screaming is through the roof. Tantrums run rampant, but they stop as soon as we get the kid’s blood sugar up.

Complication- he is still difficult to convince to eat (although improved).

Meanwhile, in Ellen-town, sweet girl is working on her 4th tooth. According to predictable “norms”, the second top center tooth is on-deck. According to Ellen, the top left side tooth is next up!

Hilariously, it appears that Ellen will end up with two bottom center teeth and the top left center and side teeth for a short duration.

In grown up news – our home improvement project starts a week from Monday, and I am SO EXCITED.

Remember

As I go into my second hour of rocking Ellen tonigh, who is very obviously awake due to teething pain, my mind is wandering.

I have been reflecting on things I don’t want to forget about my kids. I’ve got two memories in particular that need to be jotted down – one per kid.

Ellen

Today Ellen was sitting in her high chair having some dinner when Kyle walked in the back door, having just arrived home from work.

She turned her head at the sound, saw Kyle, broke out in a grin, and yelled, “Dada!!!!!”

*melt*

Lewis

Ever since he could talk, Lewis has had trouble with the name of the song “The Wheels on the Bus”.

His name for it?

“Down Down Round on the Bus”

So cute!

Top tooth

Ellen’s 3rd tooth came in today! It is the top left, and it is going to be a whopper.

Just a tiny little corner of it is out, and I’m glad to see it. Her gums have been very swollen – more so than Lewis’s ever were, and her sleep has been disrupted (less than Lewis’s ever was! Hooray!).

We got through the weekend with ibuprofen and tylenol, and here we are! 3 days later, a big, fat tooth.

P.S. next month Ellen turns 1 and I cry every time I think about it. 💔

Lasik

I did it! I got lasik eye surgery! It happened back in June 20th, and I waited this long to write about it because I wanted to give myself some time to heal before reporting on the results.

I thought I would be blown away by crystal clear eyesight the next morning, as advertised by many people I spoke with. That wasn’t the case for me, and it had me worried.

However, the doctors reported 20/20 vision the next morning, which surprised me. Everything was hazy, but they assured me that was normal due to swelling and that I actually had clear vision under that.

For a couple days after the surgery, it felt like I was seeing the world through a window that someone had breathed on – it was all just a bit foggy.

That went away, but I still didn’t see great when looking at a computer screen for a few more days after that. Every time I blinked, my quality of vision changed. I think that was due to dryness.

The dryness was arguably the toughest part. The day of the surgery my eyes felt like sandpaper, and all I did all day was lay on the couch with my eyes closed listening to podcasts.

I survived that, and although my eyes felt dry and scratchy for about a week, they were only insufferable that first day.

After 9 days (AKA this last Friday), I finally felt like I could see and my eyes were comfortable. The only lingering effects I notice are dry eyes first thing when I wake up in the morning.

So, final verdict, I can see and I’m so happy!!!!

10 months old

Ellen is 10 months old today. Holy smokes! I can’t help but focus on how close that is to 1 year old.

It feels like so much changes when they turn 1, and on the one hand I’m ready. Ready to have a toddler, ready for cow milk full meals and less pressure on breastfeeding, ready for walking instead of crawling (less need for squeaky clean floors with a walker!).

On the other hand, what the hell just happened!? If Ellen isn’t a baby anymore, that means no more babies for me. I can’t even write any more about this because I just don’t feel like crying right now.

So let’s go back to the present instead of panicking about two months from now. We have a 10 month old, and she has changed so much in the last month. (Side note – my phone just autocorrected “month” to “minute” and I feel like that was possibly even more accurate.)

Ellen crawls, can kind of pull herself up to stand if the conditions are right, she’s learning to feed herself with a fork and drink from a sippy cup, she can rawwwr like a dinosaur, loves to peekaboo and wave and clap, and eats solid foods like a champ.

She still breastfeeds too, although I’ve noticed a steep drop in my supply. I’m enjoying that relationship still, but anticipating it coming to an end in the next couple months, whether we are ready or not (I’m leaving towards “ready”).

Ellen has been sleeping wonderfully since 8 months old, a full 14 months before Lewis figured that out. I thank my lucky stars that she was earlier than him. I didn’t have a lot of gas left in the sleep deprivation tank.

We graduated Ellen out of her infant car seat this month, and now she is in Lewis’s old toddler seat while he has moved into a harness booster. I don’t miss hauling around the infant seat, but it is a strange milestone to get emotional over.

I guess I’m just emotional over all of the milestones. Can’t stop this mama from getting weepy… so why even try!

There is nothing like a sick kiddo to push reset on the love-o-meter.

Yup, the 3 year old has a raging fever and vomited this evening. All of a sudden, the shenanigans are a distant memory, and he’s just my tiny little helpless baby, for whom my heart aches.

He is sleeping now, and has been for hours. Ellen has also been asleep for hours. Yet I am lying here in bed oozing love and concern for poor Lewis instead of sleeping.

It doesn’t help anyone that I’m awake. In fact, it would be better for everyone if I slept so I’m recharged for tomorrow. But Lewis is so sick and miserable that I can’t seem to shut off the flow of adrenaline. I’m just so worried.

He can be a little butthead as much as he wants and I will still love him with all I have. I just want him to be well, and to not spew and roast!

P.S. he barfed in a proper receptacle earlier! His first ever barf that didn’t go everywhere, uncontrolled. How is that for a milestone, eh? Aimed vomiting – Every parent’s dream come true!

3 Year Olds – I Quit!

TGIM – Thank Goodness It’s Monday

I have never, ever been as glad to leave my children at daycare as I was this morning. This weekend was rough. It was a perfect storm of sick parents, sick baby, nursing strike, bad weather, messy house, and a 3 year old.

Let’s take it one at a time, shall we?

Sick parents – There are a lot of things people don’t tell you about parenthood before you create your own evil spawn children. One of the glaring omissions? Sick days! Never again will you get to lay on the couch with a TV remote, drifting in and out of consciousness with tissues shoved in your nostrils. Nope, sick days with kids should be called, “normal days, but harder”.

Sick baby – Newsflash, sick babies don’t sleep. And they scream a lot.

Nursing strike – Ok, “nursing strike” is, perhaps, not the right term for what happened this weekend. I think “vampire baby attack” is more accurate. Let me clarify…

Ellen bit me. Multiple times. AKA at every feeding, all day Saturday. In case you’re not totally up-to-speed, she also has two shiny new teeth.

F@#%ING OUCH!

(Sorry, Granny. I didn’t know how to express that any other way.)

Each time Ellen bit me, I yanked her off my breast and yelled very, very loudly. This scared Ellen to death, and then she would scream very, very loudly. In the end, she was terrified of my breasts and would start to scream very, very loudly every single time I brought her towards my nipple to feed her.

So, 1) I could not have felt worse about scaring her, 2) How is it that I got bitten by razor sharp teeth and somehow I’m the one who felt bad?, and 3) I had to pump and give Ellen bottles all day Saturday, which is extra work/energy, and remember – I was sick and hadn’t slept. Extra work/energy was not well received.

Bad weather – This wouldn’t have been so terrible, because we live in Portland and we’re, theoretically, used to bad weather. But I refer you to the section of this post entitled “A 3 Year Old” to help you understand why being cooped up in the house wasn’t any fun at all.

Messy house – Our house is so damn cluttered it raises my stress level about 2 notches all on its own. On top of the fact that it is super cluttered, our cleaning lady cancelled on us last week. So our home has not been cleaned in ages, making it cluttered and actually dirty. These are things I could have done something about, but I would like to refer you to, well, the rest of this post for all of the reasons I did not have the energy or the time to deal with my home. Instead, I just let it sit there, messy and grubby, making me feel even worse.

A 3 year old – I think it has happened, people. I think I have finally reached the place where I don’t want any more kids. Because, at some point, kids have to be three. Apparently for a whole year. And three year olds SUCK. I can’t believe I have to do this twice. No way I’m signing up for a third round…

My once sweet, thoughtful, rule following child has turned into, for lack of a better word, an asshole (sorry again, Granny).

My darling asshole will listen to you tell him not to do something, and then look you in the eye and laugh as he immediately proceeds to do the thing you told him not to do.

My adorable turd-bucket explained to his grandmother yesterday that he has decided he won’t eat anything mommy cooks for him. (He means it too. He won’t eat a damn thing I give him. Not even a cookie.)

My beautiful jerkface hates to hear “no” so much that he acts like he is in physical pain when you dare deny him. (Imagine – thrashing around flat on the floor, screaming like a banshee. De-light-ful.)

My special little disaster likes to say “no” so much that he’ll say it before you even finish asking a question. Sometimes he’ll even start crying (actual, real crocodile tears) and saying “no”, only to realize that he really meant “yes”.

Did Kyle and I change anything to bring about this new era of Lewis-behavior? Nope! He turned into a demon seemingly overnight, all on his own. And I, personally, am at the end of my rope. It makes me feel like I must be doing something wrong.

I basically feel awful all the time now, either because I can’t figure out how to improve the situation, because I can’t figure out how the situation started in the first place, because I lose my temper and yell, or because I actually look forward to being away from my child (and I feel like I shouldn’t feel that way).

Moral of the story – 3 year olds are the pits, and I haven’t figured out how to mother mine yet. Send help. I’m dying.

Summary – The whole family did a lot of screaming/yelling this weekend, and no one felt good about it. So, I’ll end this the same way I began it:

TGIM – Thank Goodness It’s Monday

New Friends

A while back, my friend group dissipated. I remember writing about it a little bit here. There was a lot of pain for me while experiencing that loss.

I lost my confidence along with my friends, wondering – in the absence of an actual, complete explanation from the lost friends – what fundamental personality flaw I had that had caused the end of multiple friendships simultaneously, and if that flaw would strike again and ruin any new friendships I tried to create.

On top of being a new mom, which is lonely, painful, and confusing all on its own, I was lonely, hurt and confused because several of my most important friendships had ended.

It was rough.

Time passed, and I got tired of feeling so isolated. I finally decided I had to try to make new friends. To shove aside my insecurity and anxiety about the same thing happening again, and seek friendship.

So I joined a facebook group for working moms, which sprouted into a mama’s night out group. I joined the shoot-off, and decided to attend the first meeting.

I was terrified, but also desperate enough to be brave. I thought to myself, “If I can just find one friend, I’ll be ok.”

I was so scared of not being liked that at first I was a toned-down version of myself – unsure how much to reveal, how “me” I could be without ruining friendships before they started. Toned-down me wasn’t rejected immediately, so as the meet-ups continued, the real me started to seep through more and more.

I found that one friend at the first meet-up, and she and I have never looked back. But, much to my surprise, it didn’t stop there! The mama’s night out group sprouted into a bunco group, which sprouted into a book club. And all three groups have brought new, wonderful friends into my life!

I don’t have the same confidence in myself and my friendships that I once had. I will often leave a social engagement with my new friends and dissect everything I said and wonder if I have blown it forever, if I dominated the conversation too much, didn’t listen enough, was too over-the-top, was insensitive. I frequently wonder if people wish I didn’t attend, and rejoice when I RSVP “no” to the next event.

I wish I could turn that part off, but even with that anxiety in tow, I feel connected to these women. I now have a minimum of two events with friends each month, plus a few friends whose husbands and kids get along with my husband and kids. I feel like I have a support system and social outlet outside of family again!

These new friends are who I needed in this phase of my life. The friendships may be new, but they’re powerful. The grief and pain I felt from losing my old friends is weak now, and I don’t often think about it anymore. That loss left its mark, but I think I needed exactly these women at exactly this time. We laugh, we cry, we open up, we dance, we sing, we lose at trivia (badly), we care for each other, we accept each other. It’s a pretty special thing.

I wouldn’t have sought these people out if I hadn’t lost my group of friends. So, in a way, I’m pretty grateful that happened. These women are worth it.

Selling

I’m selling off some baby stuff and, while it is good for the overwhelming clutter situation at our house, my mama-heart is really suffering.

Saying goodbye to some baby stuff means I’m starting to admit that I’m not going to have any more babies. Ouch.

I’m starting slow, getting rid of things that I hardly used or that I would be OK to live without if we had another baby. All of the vital gear is staying put.

This grief-management system is kind of working. I haven’t shed any tears, for example. But it does hurt.

It’s a big step, though, and I’m trying to be proud of myself. I’m sure Kyle will be thrilled, partly because it means I’m finally admitting that we’re done having kids, but mostly because all of the stuff has been stored in his video game area and he’ll be happy to have his space back! Ha!

Tooth number 2 broke through today! Now those two tiny teeth are working their way up, and my sweet girl’s smile will change forever!

The first tooth popped through today! That was quick! I was finally sure I was seeing a tooth yesterday, and it was through within 24 hrs. Amazing!

I bet the second bottom tooth will be right behind it. They seem to be coming in as a pair.

I can even say it is fun and exciting because Ellen has been sleeping well despite the teething (yay tylenol!).

So in the end, Ellen got her first tooth almost exactly 3 months later than Lewis got his. So interesting how different they are!

Teeth!

I see teeth!

They look like they’re about to break through. Maybe in the next couple days!

…speaking of, Ellen just woke up only an hour after putting her down. Literally as I was writing this. Pesky teeth!

9 months!

First of all, look how cute Ellen is! Second of all, oh noooo! We’re here! Nine months old! This is one of the more heartbreaking milestones for me… sweet Baby Girl belongs more to the world than to my body now. From here on out, she’s been outside longer than she was inside, and the earth is her home.

This hurt the first time around, with Lewis, but it is soul-crushing this time, considering that Ellen is in all likelihood my very last baby. Never again will another tiny human “belong” to my body, inside or out.

(Side note – I just watched a video of someone’s gender reveal and bawled because I’ll never get to experience that for myself again.)

Heartbreak aside, this has been a great month. We didn’t charge through as many milestones as I expected this month – still no teeth, no crawling. But we have a generally happy girl who is a ton of fun!

Ellen’s sleep has been pretty consistent(ly good), and for that I am grateful. The last week or two she has needed Tylenol or Ibuprofen to get good sleep, which means either 1) she’s a little sick, or 2) she’s getting teeth. Hard to say which since they can look so similar, but I’m very glad that there is a solution to help her through it so we can both get some zzz’s. Life has been a whole lot more enjoyable all around now that I’m better rested.

I do think crawling is going to come quickly now. I would be very surprised if Ellen didn’t start crawling by 10 months, given what she’s doing now. She rolls everywhere, and from sitting she can get to her tummy. She even does it somewhat gracefully (sometimes). And in the transition from butt to belly, she pauses on her hands and knees, rocking, before going splat. Before we know it, she’ll stop going splat and will just launch!

I also suspect that pulling herself to standing (on her own) is coming anytime. She tries to do it at this point, but isn’t quite coordinated/strong enough to heft her body up. She can, however, do it with help holding onto your hands, and she is very motivated, as standing is her absolute favorite thing… so any day now! (Note to self: lower the crib mattress!!!)

Ellen’s eating has started a big swing this past month – less breastmilk, more food. She has become much less finicky about solid foods, and is enjoying both purees and bite-sized food. She hasn’t shown many preferences for one or the other lately, other than preferring spoon-fed purees over sucking them straight out of a pouch. My favorite thing to feed her is chunks of cheese or beans – it may be my imagination, but she seems to open her mouth extra eagerly for those!

We are still breastfeeding, much to my delight. I remember what it feels like to feel “done” from when Lewis was little, and I am far from “done” with nursing Ellen. With her migrating more in the direction of solid foods, my milk supply has been dropping proportionately, and that drop in supply has me feeling anxious and panicked. It’s hard for me to frame the drop correctly emotionally, even though I know it is proportionate logically. That emotional reaction is a pretty clear sign I’m not “done”!

However, I can see that I am on my way to “done”, as I find myself starting to be a bit bothered by pumping at work and daydreaming about not having to carve out quiet time away from everything to nurse her. I also daydream about not feeling anxious about my supply!

Ellen almost seems ready to drop her late afternoon feeding – she just isn’t interested in it! Doesn’t matter if it is from a bottle at daycare or straight from the tap at home – she doesn’t want more than a couple ounces, and would just as soon skip it all together.

So we’re still going strong, but Ellen and I both seem to be starting the weaning process – Her through eating more solids, sleeping more at night, and dropping another daytime feed, and me through adjusting supply and mentally starting to anticipate being “done”.

It’s such an interesting time of rapid change. Not just with breastfeeding, but with everything. I’ve always found that times of rapid change with my children cause me to question myself and whether I’m making the right choices, doing the right things, and providing for my children’s needs appropriately. It’s hard to keep up! As soon as you figure it out, they’ve changed again and you’re back to square one! It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work, and very taxing!

Happy 9 monthday, Ellen. You make me feel so happy!

Investment

Hi! Long time, no write!

Lots has been going on at our house this last month! Today’s post is to update about a big financial move we made. Namely, we took out a home equity loan! Our home value increased to the point where this was possible, and we decided to pursue it to solve a few problems.

The money is intended for a combination of financially responsible items as well as lifestyle improvements that we deemed worth the financial risk of taking money out of our home’s equity.

Financially Responsible

1. Pay off credit card debt (again). And dammit, this time we’re going to keep it down. Seriously. I mean it!

We’ve paid it off and let it creep back so many times that it’s embarrassing. But I think we’re in a better place financially overall now, so maybe (no, definitely!!) this will be the time it sticks. We’re keeping the cards open since they’re a good safety net for emergencies, but seriously… just for emergencies!

Ok… and for cash back points too. We’re going to keep using them regularly, but only for things we can pay off immediately after purchase with money we already have in the bank!

2. Pay for a home appraisal to remove the mortgage insurance from our main mortgage. It is a small fee, but it will pay for itself through the saved money within about a year. We elected to do this to get rid of the mortgage insurance instead of getting a cash-out refinance because of our exceptionally low interest rate on our main mortgage, which we don’t want to lose! Better to pay the higher interest rate only on the equity loan rather than the whole mortgage, and we can get rid of the PMI anyway!

3. Home improvement project – This is a combo item – financial investment and lifestyle improvement.

The plan is to blow out the big window between our kitchen table and our backyard so we can actually access our outdoor space, and then build a deck. We had originally planned a quite elaborate deck, french doors, and plumbing natural gas to the BBQ. But we’ve revised to a more realistically sized deck, a slider, and no natural gas line. It’ll still be wonderful, and it should improve our enjoyment of the house as well as add some value to the home.

4. We paid off my car! Together with paying off the credit card, our monthly bills are significantly lower, theoretically enabling us to more successfully live within our means.

Lifestyle Improvements

These were tricky to pull the trigger on, as they needed to be impactful enough that they would be worth borrowing money from ourselves (plus interest!) to do them. But we feel we created a good list of things that will really make a difference in our lives.

1. Lasik eye surgery for me! No more glasses! I could write a novel about why I am looking forward to tossing my glasses in the trash, but I think you could probably guess my reasons!

2. Purchasing another car. This new car will be Kyle’s “daily driver” so his fancy, gas-guzzling racecar can sit in the garage (sigh… I knew this was coming from the moment I met car-loving Kyle).

I took some convincing, and I still wish Kyle’s gear-head tendencies didn’t require this, but the thought here is that 1) we will save money on gas, and 2) Kyle can stop putting 17k miles a year on his “future collector’s item”, therefore avoiding expensive repairs and declining value, in favor of putting those miles on a very simple car, mechanically speaking, so future maintenance should be straightforward and (hopefully) easy on the wallet.

This, of course, predicts that the racecar will actually increase in value someday due to its rarity. Time will tell, but either way, Kyle loves that car and this plan preserves it.

He already has a deposit down on his new-to-him car, and he will be flying to LA this coming weekend to purchase it and drive it home. It is (I kid you not) our third Ford Focus! We already own two (Kyle’s RS and my Titanium), and now Kyle is purchasing a 2004 Focus SVT. It has only 48k miles on it (only 3.5k miles a year! wow!) and seems to have been well maintained. Plus it fits the requirement of being a “nuts and bolts” car, hopefully inexpensive to maintain.

3. New wardrobe for Kyle. He recently expressed that his closet seemed to be full of things that didn’t fit, referring both to physical fit and style fit. It has been many, many years since Kyle did a huge overhaul, and a lot has changed since the last time. So he’s overdue!

Overall, we’re super excited about the plans, but also hoping that we’ve been thoughtful and careful enough so as not to cause ourselves any issues.