Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Saving Money

Welcome to my simple guide for making money work for you without much work. I'm glad you're here.  Now, before we start, I have a couple disclaimers....

1st - In no way at all am I providing best practices. What I am offering are the things that realistically work for me & my family.  Every one of these tips truly integrate my description of being lazy. These tips offer a way to save money with the least amount of work in a way that is enjoyable & profitable.  I don't know how to triple up coupons at Dillons or buy ten pounds of meat for $5. I just don't.

2nd - In no way does this post mean that I think of myself as exceptionally good at saving money or being a superior steward of our finances.  Paul and I have made a lifetime of financial mistakes & will humbly and honestly admit that.  We try our best, work hard, and have found a great love of providing for our family with some peace in how we spend & save our money. I didn't write any of these words for any other reason than this: I love you guys. If there is even one simple tid-bit I can share with you that can help....well, that will just make me enormously, immensely happy. 

I meant it. I love you guys. Now please don't throw Internet stones at me if you read on and don't like some things that you see. It's okay to disagree & nice things are nice to hear. It takes all kinds... Okay, I'll stop and leave you to it...



1. Filter emails so that solicitations are hidden

+  Solicitation emails are annoying, but they are also a necessary evil that save me so much money. I sign up for sales emails for every store I shop at & then I filter them to be pre-read & dropped in a folder, so they’re out of sight, out of mind.

+  When there is time in my schedule for a shopping trip, particularly for clothes or household items, I open up my Solicitations folder in Gmail and I look through for the best deals & match those to any additional coupons or points I already have. I’ll even do this as I’m in a checkout lane if I’m in a situation that wasn’t planned. So, if a store doesn’t have anything significant to offer [I typically only shop there if I can match an in-store sale w/ an email coupon or discount], then I wait a couple weeks until my next chance to pick up a few things.

+  I reverse my reason to go buy. I’m not prompted by sales [there’s always a sale--I would be running out all the time]. Instead, I decide when I have a need & then I find the best bet for buying it.


2. Don’t stress too much about the coupons

+  Coupons are wonderful! They can be a great asset. I have fond memories of my mom putting coupons to work to stretch the dollar, and I am also proud when I see that final price get slashed by my stack of coupons. However, it’s important to remember that the discount for a box of cereal means you’re still buying a box of cereal…

+  Don’t cut coupons for things your family doesn't already buy. Most grocery store coupons from the newspaper are for items that are processed, boxed, or a flashy version of some new item. If you are in need of stocking up on those helpful quick solutions, by all means enjoy the savings. If, however, you already make those things advertised by means of homemade, from scratch, solutions, understand that you are already making great savings both in price & health.

+  With that said, here’s how I utilize coupons for Wal-mart for my best deal:
          I “clip” coupons from the free coupon app on my phone, email them to myself & print them out, keeping my items to beauty, hygiene, medicinal, & staple items. 
          I take those coupons to Wal-mart about once every month or every other month [that's how often I go to Walmart] and only buy the items that are already also on a sale. Whatever doesn’t make the cut is not urgent anyway and will its coupon will probably not expire before my next trip when I will check them again to see if they're on sale.  

3. Pay savings account first
[Just an example of how we do it--every person/couple should develop their own realistic & stress-reducing system]

+  We split our paycheck, so that 10% is automatically deposited into savings and never touched. We never have to discuss it, argue about it, or even think about it. No one touches it. That’s just how it is.

+  We keep an additional savings account for big purchases that we know are up ahead [ready downpayment for a car when our current car fails, inevitable large house repairs that occur each year, a couple upgrades to the house we’ve decided on] and build it up and use it accordingly, but we don’t play around with our standard savings account which is there for 2 reasons: 1. loss of job & 2. an epic emergency

+  I keep cash on hand for surprise expenses I wasn’t able to account for but don’t want to take from our savings account or put on a credit card. Cash is an interesting tool. I’m not on board with Ramsey’s advice to use rolling cash envelopes for several categories, but I do think cash can be a incisive tool in making us think twice about paying for things we don’t need or could do without.

4. Maintain an Amazon wish list

+  Setting up an Amazon wish list, scouring reviews, and coming back later to thin the list & add to is an exercise of enlightenment. No, really. You will realize how many things we first feel we need & want & just gotta have because so-and-so says is just so awesome only to find that two months later, it isn’t all that important

+  And yet, the reviews are incredibly helpful. Reviewers will tell you how to get the best deal, explain best uses for the item, what it the item is comparable to, and so forth. Amazon reviews are by far one of my very, very favorite things to read through when I have free time.

+  Don’t think of it as a list of things you are definitely going to buy on Amazon. It is just as much a tool to weed out things you now know not to buy as well as products that are so great you will know to snag them as a secondhand item at a thrift store or consignment sale or even borrow from someone or the library.

+  Last year we only bought Christmas presents for our kids on Amazon. We never shopped ads, checked out Black Friday sales, tried to double up sales at Toys R Us. We skipped all of that. Instead, we curated a list of things we discussed & debated & revisited during a two month span & then spent two minutes dropping into a cart & buying. That’s it. No stores or rushing or stress. Time is incredibly precious in our home. Paul travels a lot. And I find little to no joy in rushing in with the masses for a toy on mega sale that we probably wouldn't have bought anyway. We stuck to a small amount of items & felt very happy Christmas morning that the kids were getting thoughtful, quality items that were well-worth their bang.

+  BONUS: Lazy tip if you are also pressed for time & like avoiding stores: Sign up for Amazon’s subscribe & save and never run out for toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes & coffee ever again. ;)

5. Show leftovers a lot of love [they deserve it!]

+  Keep an eye on what leftovers get the cold shoulder and what leftovers people are happy to eat. In our house leftover spaghetti gets the death sentence the second I start boiling water. I know to never make big batches of it. Cut blackened chicken, skillet meal, and paninis are big wins & help stave off that urge to eat junk or eat out throughout the week.

+  Dedicate a section of your fridge to leftovers & boot out anything out of that area that is not clearly a leftover. Give them some space & place them at eye level if possible, so they would be very hard to miss. Keep food in clear containers & if you want to really rock it, label containers with the date it was made. Lost, forgotten, and uneaten leftovers are the difference between decent savings {by cooking at home rather than eating out} and huge savings.  

+  Dress up the leftovers into something new. Throw little bits of veggies & protein into mini burritos, tacos, or quesadillas (the kids are clueless to the things I’ve fed them in quesadillas), pair them with an egg, or find a creative way to put them in or next to a quick soup or salad.

6. Live by this promise: “We won’t buy things the 1st time we see them.”

+ Formula to avoid superfluous grocery buys: 1. clean fridge 2. take stock of what’s on hand 3. check ads 4. meal plan 5. write list & add to it the running list of requests & empties 6. stick to it

+ Gently remind salesmen, spouse or self “Well, we don’t buy anything the first time we see it, so we’ll get back to this soon.” [Then walk away, keep the conversation going & research, research, research.]

+ When ads come in the mail ask yourself if it is for something that was already discussed as a need. If not, immediately rip it up.

7. Track bottom prices

+  Keep either a mental or physical list of grocery store prices for things you always have on hand: cheese, eggs, black beans, bread, tortillas, etc. Your grocery store will go in cycles of sales & eventually hit “bottom price”. You can stock up on staples when you see the 4 to 6 week cycle hit bottom price. [Yes, it takes a bit to memorize or keep track of these, but it can be fun & very rewarding]

+  Ask lots of questions at your favorite stores. Ask what kinds of coupons (1 or 2) you can put on top of sales. Ask if you can get a discount for damaged items or packaging. Ask about upcoming sales. Just don’t hesitate to ask questions.

+  Stalk big purchase store rhythms. Know when semi-annual sales occur & what highest percentage off you can get with a little patience, especially for things like cars, furniture, etc.

+  Also check out online shopping lists for best times to buy things due to sales [anything from bikes to patio furniture]. Pick up coats at end of season. Buy things when other people aren’t in the mood to buy those things. That’s when you’ll walk away amazed at the deal.

BONUS tip:  Get excited! 

Be mindful of that energy you feel when your finances are in check and everything is being directed where it should be. When things feel off or you’ve got the urge to run out and buy all the things, turn to one of my five fail-proof ways to get back in the game:

+  Start or update a goal tracker: Maybe it’s a goal you’ve set up on Mint.com or a faux-thermometer taped inside your closet door of how much debt you want to pay off this year. Have & update, corny as it might sound, some visual tracker to make you feel good about your progress, sacrifices, and hard work.

+  Do the laundry. You have more clothes than you think. 

+  Listen to Suze Orman’s podcast. Nothing gets you in the mood to tighten the financial belt like Suze’s decisive assessments. Plus, she’ll inevitably tell a caller to go walk in their truth & you’ll remember to walk in your own. [Not a fan of Orman? Fine go feast on Ramsey or a trusty financial book. Point is--free education!]

+  Pay for something you have to pay for. Go out and license the car, pay a bill, buy that non-negotiable item you need to for a house repair. Sometimes our desire to spend comes from wanting to escape that thing we need to do but is miraculously quenched when we take care of our seemingly mundane priorities

+  Clean & organize a neglected area of your home. Tidy up your make-up drawer and play around with a lipstick you haven’t tried out in a while. Organize your kitchen tools & uncover the waffle maker; set it up & make waffles for the kids tomorrow morning. Organize the tool shed & remember the hydrangea bush needs to be trimmed. My point is that the energy to shop or fill our homes with more things can often be cooled when we remember how many resources, obligations, and gifts we already have at our fingertips.


        :::::

Well, that's it. That's all the lazy girl wrote. Except for this one last thing that I'm even more nervous to write.  
There's one thing that I don't think it's okay to be lazy about and that's having heart-to-heart talks about money. 

I've heard finances is one of the things that people fight about most. That and in-laws and I can't remember what else. For me, I get that. I do. Financial decisions can be made on a whim or drag around for years or can just feel so not fun to make and commit to.  But I swear to you this.  Money is one of the sexiest things you can talk about. Saying no to your spouse & accepting their gentle no to your wants is sexy too.  It takes a great deal of intimacy & vulnerability to sit down, pour over a yearly budget or the retirement, savings, and investment numbers and ask tough questions. But I assure you 100%, and if I had some money-back guarantee I'd put that up for grabs too, that if you sit down to ask those tough, crummy, awful questions that you haven't asked but have been wondering about or sitting down to see if you and your spouse can come together to bump up the financial sacrifices up a notch .... you won't regret it. "Fun times" guaranteed. There. Now I can't write anything more awkward on my blog. :) 

Leave me a comment. Don't throw stones.

Love you guys! 

xoxox,
Ash

Friday, October 17, 2014

Anderson Academy & Twin Care Role Call

Yes, this IS the only thing I have to write about right now. My brain is so on kid mode, you don't even know. I'm going to start twitching to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle in no time. I know there will be a season when my brain sails away to other places beyond our island of teaching little people words, but today is not that day, my friend.

I'm watching Luke & Logan along with my three full time now unless you don't count the collective hours I tell Thomas to go play in the dirt outside, and then I'm on this almost full-time. Most of my mental, physical, and emotional energy is spent taking care of and loving on all these people, so I have a few notes to share about each boy with you. They are all amazing and bring so much joy to my day when I'm not furiously finishing dishes or gasping at choking hazards I've found in the boys' room.

          Luke: Generous with the smiles. Eats like a beast. Likes to poop and fart on me when I am holding him like a nice aunt should. Fascinated by hands. Amused by Thomas. Developing interest in that guy who looks *just* like him.


          Logan: Tolerates my singing. Sleeps like a beast. Likes to spit up on me when I am holding him like a nice aunt should.  Fascinated by hands. Amused by Thomas. Developing interest in that guy who looks *just* like him and especially seeks contact when "those other people over there are acting crazy and I think we should find a way out right now".


          Alistair: Thinks props for hats are hilarious. Says wow & woo [look] about everything. And points at things like it is his ordained job. Oh the wonder of the world, my little friend. Finds dinosaurs and says roar in a funny, raspy, deep voice.  Sniffs out ninja turtle figurines like they're crack. Can you sniff out crack...like as a human? My knowledge of drugs is super limited. Thinks he knows how to read books. Shh, don't tell him he doesn't. Loves to dance. Signature move: the bend and bob.


I know this is the worst picture. I had no recent photos of him by himself. Mom fail. 
          Emerick: Gives hugs by coming close and bowing his head. Thinks any food he hasn't tasted or seen before has been delivered by Satan and should be eliminated without question.  Takes items and puts said item away or inside some other item. All day: book back on shelf, toy for momma, potato head inside these jeans. Peacekeeper: Alistair wants to fight--he walks away. Thinks momma's purpose in life is to read to him. Cuddliest kid that ever was. Loves to dance. Signature move: attempted gang sign and bob.


          Thomas: Fills up his days doing these main activities: 1. reading 2. "visiting his loves" (Luke & Logan) 3. playing with his brothers (aka escalating chaos until I tell everyone they need to separate before a vein explodes in my neck) 4. watching t.v. because mom said she is not in this to be a super hero and we will survive by watching more Barney. Current hobby: making "juice" in the backyard. Best friend: next door neighbor whom he visits for long conversations at the fence. Has grown one thousand inches in the past two months. Writes from right to left sometimes just because he can. Thinks the word "poop" is the best thing to happen to the face of comedy. Will dance if mom really wants him to. Signature move: something he calls "the brain" where he moves around methodically in a circle, and then when he gets back to the front acts as if someone has funneled a week's worth of mom's caffeine into his body and his limbs are reacting accordingly.



           And then there's me: And because I'm not suppose to whither up and die as an individual with nothing left of me but the smiling exterior of a mommy... what I've been up to lately: getting weird (counting calories) to lose weight, watching YouTube videos about organizing and beauty regimes and wondering where I've been all my life, drinking water like it's my job, trying my best to not text Paul dramatic things when he's away in D.C. (=all the time), marking days off the calendar toward the next time I can depart from the house by myself [hand clap emoticon x 1000], freelance work, drinking lots of coffee, watching Parenthood (much crying), and as of this week: reading Gone Girl and stocking my house for possible emergencies (what I told Thomas when we loaded his cart with 1000 gallons of water and bleach) but pretending like it's for me to emerge as a bad A for Walking Dead version 2.0 (and that is meant with 100% no offense at all--I literally mean I fantasize all the time about how I would fare and protect my family and be awesome in a zombie apocolypse). Wow. Longest role call write-up for myself. That's ok. I deserve it. But no, really. I deserve it. <Hard wink>. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Perpetual Pregnancy (Momma to Twins)


I want to make a note of something on this ye blog about being a twin mom.  I'll say it just in case another twin mom can assure me she feels it too or maybe so I can look back on things later and see that things were "challenging" enough that I felt compelled to say this.

For me, being a mom to twins feels like perpetual pregnancy.  Women will tell their pregnant friend about all the things up ahead: Just you wait. You think you're tired now? Hahaha....Oh my gosh, just wait. You are going to just be so crazy about your baby. You are going to fall in love.....You'll figure it out. It will all work itself out. Just wait.... 

In a lot of ways, pregnancy is a long exercise in patience. As much as a pregnant momma wants to be a mom to a baby in her arms, most of the time she is just focusing on getting through the day, not throwing up, and generally eating and drinking things that won't hurt baby.  Sometimes she doesn't want to think or read or talk of what's ahead because honestly pregnancy is enough and C'mon people, I'm doing a freaking amazing job just carrying this little person around, OKAY???!!!


Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel since I heard that I was carrying twins--that sense of being laser focused on the present so much that the future was far from my thoughts.  I prayed that I would carry one more week and then one more week and then one more week.  Then I eeked my way through the newborn phase, and I refused to think of crawling twins.  Then they crawled and I was okay with that, but I couldn't imagine walking. Then they were walking, but I couldn't imagine climbing..... You get the point.

Last night at the park, I walked past a pair of moms as Thomas pushed the twins' stroller up the hill.  She spilled out with enthusiasm that just a few years ago she had the exact same set up (welcoming twin boys with a 3 year old boy at home already) and encouraged and encouraged me that things would just get easier and easier. And that was without me saying one word about things being tough unless my eyes were doing the speaking for me--or the state of the stroller--or that it was taking us a month to walk up a hill I could jog up in 30 seconds--or....


As a mom of twins (or maybe it's because I have 3?), I'm so focused on what we're all doing right now, that I can't see ten feet in front of us (and in kid time translation, that's about 3 months).  It feels very intense to me a lot of the time. It's like this-- I feel immense joy watching my kids, like crazy, my heart is going to turn into sun beams and shoot out of my skin joy, but I rarely, rarely have fun thoughts about the twins at 3 or the twins at 5 or the twins at 10.  When I'm out in public and I see a set of twins (and especially identical boys), my brain short circuits and shuts down because it can't connect the dots from point A (which at this point is toddlers who I can sorta kinda take out in public if I strategically plan things) to point B (civil human beings).

If it takes having twins (or once again, maybe that mini-herd of kids) to be shocked and awed by simple things unfolding before my eyes, things I didn't have the time or energy to think much about happening because I am so intensely focused on the present, then I'll embrace it. Last week I was all like, "Holy cow, you guys are using forks, like really using them...you are actually using those forks...HOW DID YOU GUYS LEARN HOW TO USE FORKS?!"  And Alistair & Emerick were all, yeah, mom. C'mon, we're almost one and half. 

And then I probably went right back to wiping someone's butt or telling Thomas I liked his artwork.

Maybe things are getting a teensy, teensy, tiny bit easier here. Yes, I think that's what it is. Maybe. Whatever the cause, I can finally share something along the lines of twin mom guilt: I'm super excited in the moment, but not so much for the future.  I figure the future will take care of itself if I take care of today.  "Today" looks like disciplining not to bite & teaching how to talk & reading, reading, reading & feeding & diapering & so forth. "Today" is also watching & observing & noting little, simple things to consider maybe not for 3 months from now but for tonight or tomorrow or maybe next week.  That just has to be how things are right now for me & at almost a year and half into being a mom to twins/three kids, I'm finally okay with that truth.

Good times. Good times. :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Year Before / The Year Ahead


My sister, Amanda, babysat for us on Saturday, and later that day we had some time to visit and I loved it because life is busy and visiting doesn't happen as often as it should. 

With the sudden swath of cold this weekend along with the welcome arrival of fall treats, pumpkin beverages advertised and gourds on display, I felt sentimental about the way a year can sneak up on us and flash us memories of the springs, summers, falls, and winters of past.

Every once in a while I will take a moment to think about all my hopes, fears, struggles, plans, and joys that I was walking with in that season a year previous. I'm always truly amazed at how much time had in store for me that I couldn't have imagined no matter how much effort I put forth in planning or anticipation.

So, I asked Amanda, "Where were you a year ago?"

Amanda and I swapped our perspectives for where we were at last September: what we were feeling at the time, what lay ahead on our path we didn't know about, and maybe that "thing" at the time that felt heavy like it would always would be clinging, dragging. And of course, a year later we know better. As the story usually goes, all of us are stronger, smarter, and more adaptable than we give ourselves credit, and God showers us with enough grace to ruin so many heavy things in the most beautiful way.

Amanda took the question and added a bonus: "What advice would you give yourself a year ago?" 

I could think of very specific things for myself about not feeling pressure to meet up with moms for play dates or the importance of carving out time differently for myself and for time with Paul, but mostly I thought about one word: gentle.  I wish I would have been gentle with myself and others especially when things were difficult. When I felt lonely through Paul's absence or when I was really, really having a tough time with adjusting to life with 3 kids and being at home all the time. I see that I pushed myself & that was great and so helpful because through a lot of work, I've taught myself so many things this past year. However, I wish that in the process I would have been more kind to myself and others. Just a thought. Hopefully, that bent of being harsh wears down like a rock embedded in rushing water and I learn as I age to love lightly even when I'm doing hard things.

With the perspective of "one year since ___________", I can remember difficult things (like taking two babies without bucket seats and a four year old in this awful cold and snow on the ground and insane wind to Chic-Fil-A because Paul had been gone what felt like forever and I was desperate to do anything away from the house and how I cursed the crazy long winter and then Thomas got food poisoning and was losing things out both ends at 4 in the morning and wow, that was just a blast), but it's all the little daily joys that really shine and sparkle the most.


I feel like I've lived a whole life at home in just a year and a half of terribly unpredictable joys that I can't begin to describe or relay but I lived them. I lived them & that matters. I showed up & was present & I felt joy pierce my heaviness over and over and over again. Every naked toddler butt walking away from me. Every kooky question Thomas asks. Every little smile and bit of love these kids showered over me. Every single time Thomas and I snuggled under my covers and read. Especially that time he laughed so crazy over The BFG and asked me to reread parts over and over again and I thought he might just wet himself on the couch.  Those are the things that, if I had known them, I would have realized I was working toward and striving for much more than solving my problems, that I'm waking up to bust my butt, so I can make space for enjoying all the people I know and love and so we can dance in the margins.

This morning I woke to write a post about the twins being 15 months old. I was looking through my old posts and found this photo of Alistair & Emerick's baptism a little more than just a year ago:


And just how crazy is this for perspective? Here Andrea and Josh hold our boys but with their own narratives at the time, their own lives very much separate and foreign to being parents and now they hold their own boys in their arms and probably find themselves very much in tune with how much their lives have changed in the most unexpected and beautiful way in just one simple year.

Ah, just too much awesome for me to grasp.

All this is just to say, with September often referred to as the other new year and fall pressing itself on us, I'm ready and my heart is happy for another year of a lot more of all kinds of things-- a full, rich life where the surprises and the triumphs and the joys far outweigh and outshine and outstretch any measure of heavy we feel temporarily.

To another year!



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gushing about Caring for 5 Little Guys


I just want to pop in really quickly this morning and share my 4 favorite things about this small season of watching 5 little boys under 5.

My list might shed happy light for those of my sweet friends who have asked me if this is a good idea in their voice that says this is a bad idea...

My 4 Favorite Things About Watching My Sister's Twins Right Now:

1. Bonding time:

Thomas is so incredibly caring with Luke & Logan. He comforts them when they're crying with an "it's okay" or "I know, I know" or "don't be sad" and talks with them when they are awake and cooing at him.  I'm a little biased about Andrea's kids, but they "talk" a great deal. They are very responsive and it's so much fun to talk with them because they're generous with the smiles.  Thomas fills in for what he imagines them saying and that's also fun to listen to: "Oh, you had a good nap. That's great"; "Your mommy is at work right now, but she'll come back"; "Oh, I've been to the video store too!" Thomas rocks car seats, sets up blankets, arranges toys, and can even change a diaper (with a great deal of assistance).


This photo is so true of Thomas. He is always doing something to help. Sometimes I have to say "no, thank you" to that help, but it is sweet all the same. 

Now, about those other twins. Alistair & Emerick are like loaded guns. Even though their bright, smiling faces seem full of good intentions, I give them very, very limited visiting rights to Luke & Logan (and only when one of the sets is in my arms). I'm not sure what kind of bonding is going on there and/or if my twins are capable of swiping at the fresh set. In fact, I'm not really sure of what's ever going on with Alistair & Emerick.  Thomas and I tried to get Emerick to pick up a diaper (which was within his arm's reach) for over 5 minutes yesterday and the entire time he vacillated between a look of "I've not a clue" and "so you think I'm cute?"

2. Heavy / Light

I can be a whiny person. Okay, really whiny. [Paul, don't say a word about all those texts you get when you're travelling]. There's something about taking on the care of two more every other day to make me realize that my job of homemaker and kid raiser is a joy and not a burden. Switching between heavy and light feels like a mental exercise to embrace both because the seasons in our life are just that and they don't last forever.

I've just really slipped into the habit of thinking "LIFE IS SO HARD!" lately. This is almost exactly what I'll be thinking in an hour when I go to the library with the boys because I refuse to surrender to the drive through. I'll be in between choosing a book about Mars or Mercury and I'll look over to see one toddler bringing books to his mouth and one toddler walking his self out the building as if he has an appointment with anyone not us and just then a 4 year old I will pretend not to know will yell over his computer headphones  "CAN SOMEONE SHOW ME HOW THIS GAME WORKS??" And right then, I'll remember that motherhood can always be easier by lowering expectations.  Drop 'em low, let it go, take it slow-- It's a recipe for happy peoples I seem only to remember when I have breached disaster. Anyway, having Luke & Logan over here is helping me to enjoy my relatively light load on days off & not to sabotage myself by making things unnecessarily difficult.

3. Being Seen

I have wanted to write about the invisibility of being a SAHM a million times but can't find the words without sounding incredibly negative. Let me try to sum it by saying this:

If there's one thing I miss about working it was this: being seen. There is something so wonderful about your work being seen, acknowledged, and then challenged or complimented. People saw what I wore. They saw what I wrote. They saw that I failed. They saw that I cared / tried / solved / changed / grew / and simply just did. I love verbal affirmation. To hear "I saw that thing you did & I thought it was great" is enough fuel for me to do ALL THE THINGS. Truly. That's how I operate. I thought I would miss the money immensely. I don't. I thought not teaching would kill me. It didn't. (Let me introduce you to my 4 yo. Endless material there. ;). But not being seen? I don't know. It's just the really, really difficult part about not working that, for my personality, is a constant struggle. (A little dose of raw honesty for you.)


Anyway, this is all to say that I feel seen a little bit again. Andrea & Josh don't have to say much, or even anything at all, to make me know they feel what I do matters and this matters to me & makes me happy.

Weird? That's ok. I own it.

4.  The adventure of caring for kids


I love a good adventure. Who doesn't? The more time I spend with kids, the richer life feels. I've learned to laugh things off, roll with their whims, and not take life so seriously. Kids are unpredictable & always changing. I use to find this infuriating and on a bad day, I still do. But mostly, I just really enjoy being with little kids. And how is it that this is happening to me? I didn't own a single maternal instinct until I was pregnant with Thomas. Maybe after so many hours and experiences, you just cave in and join in on the crazy. Being fully immersed in a house of coos & "ba ba" & little dancing feet and this guy:



...it's like I've hit the nail on the head for that thing that makes me come alive.

Now if I could find a really, really good concealer for the tire marks under my eyes. :)

Bonus: Seeing my sister walk out the door in a cute dress & head to work, to be doing what's right for her right now with maybe, possibly a little bit more peace than another temporary care situation would have offered. It's a win-win situation, but mostly just a win because all our boys are very much loved and that's my very, very favorite.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Our 1st Family Vacation [Tennessee Bound with Lots of Little People]

Get to work, Thomas! You've got a family to pack!

Paul and I took a late, late, very late honeymoon-ish trip to California last March. Our 1st trip, of any scale, away together in 5 years.  It was so much fun to get away before the twins arrived and before I started staying at home, but mainly it was just so absolutely wonderful to eat meals uninterrupted, to finish conversations, and to stroll along the beach hand in hand. Bonus: stepping off the romantic beach at Santa Barbara into "tar grass" and using every last bar of soap & bit of cloth in the hotel to scrub black bits of grass and dirt and sticky death tar and nearly the skin off our feet also.

Ah, the twins were so easy to manage back then.

One thing we decided, an aha! epiphany if you will, while on our CA tour trip was that we wouldn't wait until vacation seemed an easy or timely fit for our family. Instead, we would be on the lookout for adventure & seize up opportunities to travel with our littles even if that meant it came with the tagline: "damn, that was a lot of work."

And now, a year and a half later and an iPhone completely maxed out on storage, I get to say that we did just that. We went. We saw. We did all the things with the little people. Enter me in an obstacle course competition of navigating public places with hungry, tired, and disoriented children, and I will not finish last!!!

We thought about renting a nice, luxurious SUV for our travels but then worried we wouldn't hit on that quintessential vacation experience of driving each other to the zone of insanity marked by twitching, snapping, or yelling things at people that don't make sense, so we stuck with our COZY Saturn Vue. This is the car we've patted our backs for keeping even with 3 kids and car seats so thisclosetogether it takes a Boy Scout badge to conquer correct buckling practices. A vacation with this vehicle? This was not part of the plan or dream or whatever we were thinking while gazing at each other in CA.  But there's that Anderson spirit, so after some trial run packing and coaching Thomas on how to carefully, carefully, carefully roll his clothes into tiny shapes, I decided to give myself more gray hairs it a green light!

We carefully navigated the storage issues for the trip. I asked for my mom's packing list, printed it off and then ruthlessly struck things off the list that we just couldn't space-wise afford to cram into the car if we also wanted to not strap Thomas to the roof. Books? Who reads! Not me! Umbrellas? Nope, that's where we're keeping the mini-med kit! Jackets? Forget it. We'll have little people hanging on us all day. We hardly need clothes.

Photographed below you can see naive children who have yet to venture into the wild, wild world of hotel accommodations (broken sliding mirrors! t.v.s at toddler reach! beautiful framed artwork for Thomas to behold!) and gas station food just perfect for little people to eat neatly & safely in a car so tight that we had to put their pack & plays at their feet & pretend it was a faux floor also just perfect for little people! So many things just perfect, I can't even tell you. <wink>


Maybe I'll tell you more about our trip soon. I'll have to think about it. I don't want to make anyone jealous by the abundant spread of benefits we seized in traveling with a set of one year old twins and a four year old, so it may take me awhile to cull my words. <more winking> <maybe some twitching>

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5 under 5

A lot of you know about what's been going on at my house. Some exciting stuff. Well, here it is:


I'll be watching my sister's twins for the next few months before they join in the day care at her workplace. (First part-time & then full-time) That's five boys under the age of five. 1 four year old I'm kinda sorta homeschooling right now. 2 toddlers that I'm transitioning to mostly free roaming the house and its goods. And 2 adorable babies for me to sleep train and make smile.

Andrea & I are both navigating new routines & challenges and sending sisterly check-up texts to each other.  When she was pumping earlier she wanted to know how things were going, so I went right over to her boys and snapped this



right as one of them let out a long, slow fart. (If I was talking to my kids, I would say toot. But, c'mon, I'm gonna give these Mueller boys some credit. It was a fart if I ever heard one.)

Then I located Alistair & Emerick and snapped this


right as Alistair (on the left) was filling his pants with what can only be described as liquid poop because it made a sound which struck that exact chord & Emerick was 3 hot seconds away from a time-out for touching the forbidden light (a lamp of irresistible toddler magnetism).

Then I found Thomas who had just two minutes earlier found a pb & j and exclaimed, "Is this pb & j for ME?!!!" like it was a gold bar to solidify his fortune... and so I caved and gave him the very expensive, very amazing treat (his 2nd for the day).

Yes, you're right. At this point in the day, 3 out of 3 of my kids aren't clothed.
His look here seems to suggest pondering his former life of fond memories and/or how all the noise in the background is quickly making for negative ones.

No, really. He loves Luke & Logan. Adores. He sings to them & even showed his brothers how to very, very carefully touch them --- which just tripped me out & back to when they were that size and I was praying he didn't jump on their faces. Not really, but yeah...pretty much.

Alistair & Emerick definitely LOVE the transition. I've let them loose in the house & haven't had the time or energy to have a series of mini heart attacks about it. I found them at the fireplace perched and swinging their legs like it was just the. coolest. place. ever. It reminded me of teenagers smoking in some covert place and loving their put-on intrigue. Yeah, you cool boys. You real cool.


Today was my 2nd go round as headmistress of the Anderson House of Boys and it went pretty well. However, it wasn't a walk in the park as evidenced by the following:

a. my trash can is nothing but a mound of diapers. I seriously mean it. It's the perfect setting to play "I Spy a Dozen Diapers Without Even Digging!!"

b. a half hour before pick-up (babies asleep) I stuck in ear buds and displayed my dancing interpretation of "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" and "drop it, drop it low girl" and many other songs to my twins who looked both delighted and disturbed.

c. right before writing this post I shouted into the void sun room, "I NEED CHOCOLATE!" and the universe answered back dressed as a 4 year old pushing his brothers around in plastic tubs, "Mom, you can't have chocolate until you've cleaned. Chocolate is a treat.... Your room is a mess. We do work first before treating ourselves."

Exactly.
They look like they would escape if they had the muscle control.  Smile, boys!