The End of an Addition

Standard

When the Hubs and I moved to our current town back in 2002, we were *thrilled* that we could afford a house. We knew it would be a starter home – it didn’t have to be perfect, but it would be ours. We looked at a lot of homes – one of which we totally fell in love with. The bank said we could afford it, but we were a tad nervous because we didn’t want to be “house poor.” House poor was a term I heard a lot growing up – simply put it means that you have an awesome house, but because you spent so much on it, you couldn’t afford to do anything else. I didn’t want that- I wanted to travel and be able to save for our future family, not pinch every penny on a house too big for two people. So, we passed on the house we loved and moved into an apartment while we kept looking.

The gravel pit that is where our addition is now. August 2020.

We saw what is now our home a few months after moving to our town. It is my *least* favorite style of home – the very common split-entry home that you find everywhere around here. But it was on a gorgeous 2 acres of land, in a great elementary school district, with enough privacy to make the Hubs happy. So we put in an offer, got into a bidding war, wrote a heart-rending letter and finally got the house. Even if it wasn’t my favorite, it was our home and we’d only be in it 5-7 years so I could deal with the style.

Shocking no one, fast-forward 15 years, 2 kids, 4 cats and 1 dog later and we were still in our starter home and the house was feeling more than a little cramped. 3 bedrooms (2 of which were oddly shaped and quite small) and 1 postage-stamp sized full bath with a tween, a teen, the Hubs, and me was starting to grate especially as we approached the the kid’s middle/high school years and all 4 of us needing to be ready to leave the house at the same time every morning.

My poor, naked house.


After a bunch of false starts and the help of a VERY patient architect (thank you, Dave!) we finally found a builder to work with. We had gone through a bunch of drawings with a previous builder, trying to narrow down what we wanted to do and while we hadn’t nailed it down exactly, we had a rough idea of what we wanted:

  • an extra full bathroom
  • laundry inside the house (it was in the garage and the pipes froze every damn year)
  • bigger living space in our family room
  • bigger bedrooms for the kids

We had also worked with the bank and knew exactly how much they would loan us to ensure that 1) we could afford the monthly payment (see: my aversion to being house poor) and 2) we didn’t out-price our neighborhood and get stuck with a house we’d lose money on when we eventually moved. So when I called the builder we ended up working with (at 7 pm on a Friday night, in tears, while diving in a blizzard – all no joke), I could tell him very concretely what our budget was. (Hi Ian- aren’t you so glad you called me back that night?!)

Hawk, wondering what we did and why we’re doing it.

The pandemic hit roughly a month later – so this project didn’t start exactly on time, it didn’t go exactly as planned and there is still exterior work to do in the Spring – but the interior of our 900+ sq foot addition is DONE! And for that, I couldn’t be more thankful. Especially since we had to isolate in different corners of the house when we caught Covid.

I’m standing where our bathroom vanity is now.

Living through a major home renovation that affects every room in our house during a global pandemic – which meant that 3 out of the 4 of us were home during most of this, the supply chains were screwed and materials could quickly disappear – was something I hope to never, ever do again, but I’m so freaking pleased at how things turned out.

Family room mid-build

I am not anyone who has interest in interior design, color palettes, home plans or anything of the like. Hell, my living room / dining room hadn’t changed once in 18 years until this past December. This whole process scared the SHIT out of me, but if I survived, so will you. Here is what I learned*:

  • If you have a set budget, awesome! It made making decisions so much easier for both the builder and us. It allowed us to take what we hoped were our final designs and whittle them down to something that fit what we could afford. It took A LOT of wiggle room out which was annoying, but also really helpful when it came to making decisions.
  • That said, plan on spending more than you anticipated. We ended up going over budget by roughly 12% as we realized we didn’t take certain things into account. For example, we didn’t plan on redoing our front deck- but we quickly realized that 1) the house would look like garbage with the old porch and 2) it was a hell of a lot cheaper to replace the porch during construction than trying to do it after the fact. Same for our back patio – trying to do it after the fact would have cost us thousands more after the fact.
  • Don’t skimp on the important things, like your fixtures or your heating system. Tankless water heaters and a new HVAC system aren’t sexy, but we love them both!
  • Think looooong term. We put in a new entertainment systems in our family room and made sure it was wired – while the walls were stripped down to the studs – for any future enhancements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends, ask people who’s house you love, ask your internet friends what they love about their house, what they are glad they have, what features they love / hate and learn from them.
  • Shop local. It’s not the folks at the big-box store that are going to pour over paints with you, it’s the owner of the mom & pop store. Lowes isn’t going to sweat over botched deliveries with you, but the owner of the local flooring store will move heaven and earth to ensure you’re happy, on budget and on time.
  • Find a contractor / construction crew you trust. You’ll be making adjustments on the fly, dealing with delays and having to pivot and if you don’t trust the team you’re working with, it’ll be 1000% more frustrating. I cannot say enough thank you’s to Ian, Jeremy, Annie, Jason, Jefferson, Adam, Eric, Mike and countless others that were in and out of house over the past 6 months.
  • Be nice to the people coming in and out of your house daily. Since August we’ve had various crews at our house just about every day – since October, there have been anywhere from 3 to 11 people inside the house as I’ve been working, the kids have been doing school and the cats have been underfoot. You don’t have to be BFFs, but life is a lot more fun for everyone if you can at least be friendly. I treated the crew here to lunch a few times, got them Christmas gifts and learned about their families. They are here 8+ hours a day and liking each and every one of them made this entire process so much more bearable.
  • Speak up if you don’t like something. I trust this team immensely, but sometimes shit happens. It’s a 1000 times easier to deal with things as they crop up than waiting until it’s too late.
  • Don’t rush, but know ordering items is going to take forever. I ordered new furniture the first week of September and it was delivered at the end of December. That was the shortest delivery time I could find – some stores were 6+ months out on special orders. Now that the furniture is here, I’m taking my time picking out the accent pieces. Does my house look a little blah now? Yes. But I want to get it right since it may be another 18 years before I do this again. 😉
  • Realize that the only way out is through. Once construction starts, you can change details and colors, but the only way to the house you want is to deal with the ups and downs. Is it annoying? Yes. Did we have a few times where both the Hubs and I lost our shit? Yes. Did it make a damn bit of difference? Emotionally, yes – but at the end of the day no matter how much I hated all the dust in my house, there was no turning around. So I took up stock in dust wipes, sucked it up and got through it.
My bathroom vanity that I love more than my children some days. 😉

I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about our construction crew and the vendors we worked with! They were all kind to me, my kids and my cats so they are solid gold in my mind. I cannot overstate how much liking and trusting the people we worked with made all the difference.

Hit me up with any questions you have on the building process- I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

When Covid Hits Your Home

Standard

Well, 300+ days after the lockdown in NY started, the Heat family got Covid in early January.

The Hub had been battling bronchitis since early December, so when he started coughing again (not a dry cough- a very bronchitis-like cough) on a Sunday night, we didn’t think anything of it because the 5 day pack of antibiotics he was on is never enough and we thought he needed more meds. The next day, Monday, he was tested as part of his pre-surgery workup for an outpatient procedure he was having later in the week. He also met with his PCP that same day to evaluate his cough and everyone agreed his bronchitis was back.

So when his Covid test came back positive the next day, we were all shocked. But then he got sicker. Bronchitis or Covid, I don’t know- but he spiked a temp up to 102 and sequestered himself in our basement.

Wednesday evening, Scorch started coughing just enough for my radar to ping. I started having some congestion at roughly the same time. So Thursday we both went to get tested and BOOM positive for both of us.  *sigh* Somehow, the Bean stayed healthy throughout this whole thing. It would have almost been easier if she got it in terms of the logistics in our house, but she stayed safe.

We were super lucky that overall, we all had a mild case. The Hubs had it the worst of all, but for Scorch and I we never felt like we had anything worse than a cold. We all did lose our senses of taste and smell which is just as odd and disorienting as you’d think it would be. Thankfully within 10 days of losing those senses, we started to regain them. They are still muted for all of us 20+ days since we were first diagnosed, but it’s getting better.

There is a TON of information online about how to manage Covid, but I figured I’d share our experience with 1 sick person, 2 people with mild cold-like symptoms and 1 healthy person in the hopes it helps you plan.

1) Stay away from each other. Even though 3 of us were sick, we still tried to avoid each other because the Hubs was being released from isolation before us and we didn’t want to mess with things and get him sicker. Obviously we all avoided the Bean unless we were masked up. The kids camped out in their rooms, I camped out in my room and the Hubs took over the family room. We all wore masks when we were outside our zones.

2) Have a plan in place to stock up on what you need. I don’t know about y’all, but I did NOT have 2 full weeks worth of food and pet supplies at home. Thanks to Instacart and our friends, I was able to get what I need. Please, please have a plan in place because once you get that call, you’re not going *anywhere*.

3) Make sure you have the meds and medical supplies you need too- thermometers, pulse oximeter, etc. We were told to up our Zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C intake. I can’t say for sure that it helped, but it didn’t hurt!

4) Paper towels and laundry detergent were key too. Essentially we were told that we should not be using our normal hand towels to prevent the spread – we should use paper towels and throw them all away immediately after. We also were told to wash our bath towels daily. That’s A LOT of laundry, y’all.

5) We were told to put our toothbrushes in bags and to keep them away from each other. We obviously threw them out as soon as we were deemed non-contagious.

6) I can’t speak for other states, but here in NY there were a lot of phone calls to field. The day we tested positive, I spent a little over 3 hours total talking to the state and county so they could try to do contact tracing, talk protocols with me, review symptoms, etc. After that first day, there are daily calls to check in. I was super impressed with the resources available and the kindness of each person from the county calling. I would imagine if you’re fighting this by yourself with no close family and friends around these people are literal life savers.

I’m happy to answer any question any one has in the hopes of helping others! I’m hoping this is our one and only brush with Covid and that we avoid any long-term issues.

Favorite Books of 2020

Standard

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to read a lot. Like, all the time. As a kid, I never went anywhere without a book. Nothing has changed as, as an adult, my purse has to be big enough for my Kindle and I always have an audio book queued up on my phone. While I try to vary what I read, 99% of what I devour is contemporary romance books and I have zero apologies for that- they bring me joy, especially during such a dark year like the one we’ve had.

11 year old me, my grandmother, my mullet and my book at a family party.

My Facebook feed has been full of memories of my yearly book reviews from years past and I wanted to share my *most* favorite books of 2020. There is a quiet romance in this book, but it’s really a book about hope and acceptance and learning to love yourself. 

 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is pure, complete joyous, hopeful perfection. This is the story of a man who lives a lonely life, following all the rules, just trying to get through each day. He has his cat and his job and very little else. His employer knows he’s a rule follower who never deviates from the manual, so they send him to inspect a home for magical children to evaluate how well the rules are being adhered to. The house is run by a man who cares for his charges with his whole soul; someone who has been deeply hurt by the world. The children in the house are extraordinary in their own way and these two men have to come together to figure out how to keep them safe from a world that doesn’t allow for differences.

I read this book in June, on the way home from a vacation we booked before the world stopped. The vacation was wonderful, but coming home was a stark reminder that nothing was the same. No sports. No camps. No hugging. Nothing really to do and so much fear. We had been in our “2 week” lockdown for 3 months at that point. The world seemed to be teeming with hate and anger as Covid was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. To read a book about a group of misfits who found each other – who found acceptance in each other – was a balm for my heart and exactly what I needed to read at the moment of time. I simply cannot recommend this sweet, funny, poignant, gorgeous book enough.

~*~*~

When I listen to audiobooks, I typically like to listen to books I wouldn’t normally read. This usually includes non-fiction books and memoirs. The biggest standout for me this year was Michael J. Fox’s No Time Like the Future. This man has been dealing with Parkinson’s for 20+ years, raising his family and living his best life. This book was an introspective look at how freaking hard that has been – and how to still find the joy even when things suck. I adored it.

The other standout for me was Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Anything by Reid is a one-click buy for me, but I purposely bought this one as an audiobook because it had a hell of an ensemble cast reading it. I hadn’t listened to a book like this with so many different narrators before so I figured I’d give it a whirl and I wasn’t disappointed. It read like an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music in the best way!

So tell me, what was your must-read of the past year?

Turning the Page on 2020

Standard

The end of what will be one of the strangest years in my lifetime seems like a good enough time to start blogging again, no?

The odd thing is, now that 2020 is coming to a close, I’m not sure what to say.

Green and grey text on a white background saying: what a long strange trip it's been.

2020 started on such a hopeful note- we had an amazing holiday season and surprised the kids at Christmas with a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We took that trip in February with our best friends and it was *the* best trip of our lives. When we got back in mid-February, we heard rumblings of an illness across the globe, but we had no idea how badly the world was going to go side-wise within a month of our return.

Heather holding a heart-shaped shell in front of the ocean.

I don’t need to list all the things that went off the rails this year – y’all lived it too. The abrupt closure of schools, distance learning, everyone becoming a remote worker (unless you were deemed essential) overnight, the lack of contact with family and friends, the constant worry of getting sick, of someone you know getting sick, of losing a loved one while mourning with the world for all those lost. My kids went from social creatures with crazy schedules to…nothing. They retreated to their rooms as we figured out this freaking “new normal” that was anything but.

In the middle of all this came racial unrest, protests, politics and a lot of hard discussions.

We desperately missed our family and friends. I cried- a lot. I took more anti-anxiety meds then ever before. Some of us started therapy. All of us tried to find the motivation to stay healthy with our garage gym with mixed results. There were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of small breakdowns and a lot of reassuring the kids (and each other) that this can’t last forever. Right?

But there were also a lot of laughs, a lot of pivoting and improvisation, and a lot of being really thankful for what we have. We hiked – a lot. We Zoomed – a lot. We cooked and baked – a lot. I have watched more TV this year than I have since the summer I was on a maternity leave with Scorch and had nothing else to do with a nursing baby. I read hundreds of books and expanded my group of online reader friends. I reconnected with my high school girlfriends with regular Zoom calls and got teary eyed when I ran into my aunt at Target before Christmas since we hadn’t seen each other since July.

Most of all, I’ve learned to appreciate the hell out of what we have. Our friends, our family and each other. This year would have been 100x bleaker without the support, hysterical memes and the “what the fuck is going on” phone calls and Facetimes. I was reminded again the importance of giving locally – to food banks, to clothing drop offs and to local artists – because while my little family was relatively secure during 2020, a lot of people weren’t and I don’t ever want our good fortune for granted.

We were some of the lucky ones. We have family and friends who got Covid, but they all bounced back. We had a few scares, but never tested positive. Our jobs were as stable as any jobs could be in 2020 and the kids, despite all the challenges, remained remarkably composed 95% of the time.

We added a 900+ sq foot addition to the house and remodeled, in some way shape or form, all but 1 room in our house. I…do not recommend doing this during a pandemic, but the end is in sight and we’re all still speaking to each other and our fantastic contractors.

Picture of a bulldozer sitting in my front lawn, with a pile of construction materials, covered by a blue tarp, in front of it.

We adopted a cat whom we adore beyond all reason even though for the first few days of having him home, I thought it was a terrible mistake.

Hawk, our latest addition, is a tabby cat with grey, black and white markings.

Nothing has gone 100% right since March, but for my little family, nothing has gone horribly, irrevocably wrong either. And that seems like a huge win right now.

I’m not sad to see 2020 go, that’s for sure. I’m hoping that 2021 brings good health to the world as a whole, that our lives start resembling what they once were and that the great things we discovered during this crazy, mixed-up year stay with us regardless of what’s in store.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Standard

(You’re welcome for that ear worm!)

How can this be one of the best summers, while still being one of the worst? How can it have gone by so fast, while draggggggging?

Mixed emotions is 100% the mood of 2020.

The good.
We had a great summer, all things considered. We managed to take two vacations – one to the Outer Banks and one to a semi-local camp ground. 3 days before we were set to go to the OBX, our governor put NC on the do-not-travel list. But, we had already sunk our money into a beach house (reserved pre-Corona) and we were ready to go with my parents, siblings and their families. We weren’t going to be refunded our money if we didn’t go- so we went.

And it was perfect – we split out time between the house, the pool at the house and the beach. There was next to no one at the beach, so we never felt crowded or unsafe. Our only outings were to the grocery store wearing masks, with Lysol wipes in hand. We had zero problems and zero regrets going.

A month later, we went camping for a week. It was us and a tent during one of the hottest weeks of the year and we survived. It was laid back, quiet and lovely to spend time with family even if it did come with a side of mosquito bites and the smell of bug spray on every article of clothing.

Scorch got to play a lot of baseball this summer, the addition on the house is officially under way and really, we just enjoyed the hell of each other this summer.

The Bad
Do I really need to talk about the bad? Thankfully my family haven’t had to deal with the reality of Covid outside of the ramification on our day to day life. We’ve been healthy, something I’m extraordinarily thankful for. We mask up in public spaces where we can’t socially distance, we kept to our quarantine squads and I carry a never-ending supply of wipes and hand sanitizer.

Given the Hub’s job, avoiding the social unrest and protests were impossible, heartbreaking and maddening. That weighed incredibly heavy on all of us this summer, but especially him.

The Reality
But, as of today, summer is officially over. The kiddos started back to school 5 days a week in person. There is mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and an abundance of hand sanitizer every where. I’m confident in our school, our administrators and our teachers that things are as ready for school as possible.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t a basketcase today though. Y’all – Bean started 7th grade. She graduated her small Catholic school and is now at the public school. When we talked about this is year in years past it was with the reassurance that her person, her best friend L would be there with her. But L is doing her work fully remote this year, so Bean is on her own. She met up with another friend to go into school today- but, my heart, y’all my heart.

Bean and her friends didn’t get their orientation, they didn’t get an organized tour, they didn’t get to meet their teachers or scope the school out ahead of time like Scorch did. Luckily, a friend gave a few kids a tour- but still. I felt like I was kicking my baby off the deep end of the dock without knowing if she fully knew how to swim today.

Don’t mind the porch- it’s being REPLACED with the addition!!!

Don’t even get me started on Scorch starting 9th grade. HOW is that possible?! Technically the junior high and the high school are the same building- but the kids from each don’t mingle much or go into each other’s areas. So while it’s not really a new school, it felt like it. Thankfully he’s pretty good with winging it and we know enough staff and teachers in the high school that I know he’ll do OK.

I hope. I pray. Please, kiddos, do OK.

These past 6 months at home with the kids have been everything good and bad all at once. I hate to say it was a gift because I don’t want to minimize the suffering, sacrifice and loss faced by so many- but for my little family, it was a pause we learned to appreciate. It was a chance to learn more about each other, a time to soak in each other’s company and a time to be thankful for all we do have.

While I’m not sad the kids are back to school, I am a little melancholy this week, missing my sidekicks and constant company. I’m wishing all our kids, teachers, staff and administrators dealing with school this year the best of luck!

12.

Standard
My baby turned 12 and, like with every birthday my kids hit, I have to take a minute to wrap my head around it.
The Bean as a newborn, wearing a pale pink knit hat and sucking on a pink flowered paci.
Finding out I was pregnant with the Bean was a huge surprise. My struggles with infertility are not a secret to anyone who’s been reading my blog for any length of time – so despite my ob/gyn talking to me about birth control, the thought that I could get pregnant without assistance while nursing was so laughable I never gave it a second thought. But I vividly remember laying on the couch, feeling off and taking my pulse. I had acupuncture regularly before and during my pregnancy with Scorch and my practitioner told me how much more robust my pulse would feel while pregnant because of the increased blood flow. That night while taking my pulse, things just felt more…and I knew a test was in order.
I went to the gym that next morning and ducked out early to pick up a pregnancy test on my way home. I got home and the Hubs and Scorch were still sleeping, so I took the test before showering, never imagining it would be positive. But there it was – two distinct lines on the stick. Not going to lie- I pretty much hyperventilated, freaking out over what we were going to do. I woke the Hubs up by thrusting the test in his face, firmly inviting him to join me on the freakout train. Much to my surprise, he didn’t – he just looked at me, smiled and told me it was going to be awesome.

 

Fast forward 9 month later, and after being in labor most of the day and not knowing it, my water broke that night. Assuming the birth would progress like Scorch’s, we took our time leaving (read: the Hubs did his last minute freakout cleaning) and stopped for snacks on our way out of town to the hospital 45 minutes away that I was to give birth at. Everything went well until we got on the highway and then labor *hit* with  painful contractions super close together. I should have told him to take me to the local hospital, but we kept going. Long story made very short, the Bean came roaring into the world an hour after we arrived, screaming her lungs off.

 

As the Hubs is one of 3 boys, we only had nephews and Scorch was obviously a boy, we were all shocked to have a little girl.

 

A little girl with a set of lungs so big and so loud that the doctor took her to the NICU to make sure she wasn’t injured or ill. After a short period of time, the doctor brought her back to us, declared her perfectly healthy and told me that our baby girl was just really pissed off at being born. He wished us lucked and walked away, shrugging.

 

And that was our introduction to our Bean – making herself known to all from the minute she was born.

 

The Bean, aged 1 year old, wearig a grey zip up hoodie, staring up with big brown eyes and a small smile on a
Fast forward 12 years now and we have this long legged, tanned, gorgeous girl in our house. She’s quieter now- the Bean does not scream (much) anymore, but she makes herself known very clearly. She comes off as reserved – sometimes even as meek – but that’s hardly the case. This child can dig her heels in deeper than any other kid I know and knows what she wants, when she wants it. That doesn’t mean she always gets it- but it’s not for lack of trying.

 

The Bean is on the cusp of starting 7th grade at our local public school. After attending Catholic school since age 3, this will be an adjustment under ideal circumstances. Throw Corona in there, and who the heck knows what her introduction to public school will be like. All I know is that I have complete confidence that she’ll rock it!

 

The Bean is fiercely funny – she’s got this quick wit about her that takes me by surprise and makes me laugh every day. She’s smart as hell and is willing to put in the work to do well – something I deeply admire about her. Beaner keeps her crew small – it takes a long time to break her down and get in her inner circle. But once you’re in, you will be loved beyond measure. She keeps us on our toes daily because, well, she’s a tween and her moods and likes change daily if not hourly.

 

The Bean standing at the edge of the ocean, wearing a grey jumpsuit, at dusk. The waves are ca

 

Bean and Scorch’s relationship is a marvel to watch. He can get under her skin with a look, a touch or a single word. All will be quiet until he looks at her just right and she loses her mind and launches herself on him.  It’s completely maddening – she doesn’t seem to know yet that if she just ignores him, he’ll go away. But within seconds of them being locked in a death match, they will be laughing like loons together. Each of my children are a blessing- but witnessing their relationship grow and evolve is the biggest blessing of them all.

 

So, Beaners,  I have no idea what your 12th year will bring, but here’s what I hope for you:

 

1. I hope you continue to sink into your own skin. Middle school is the time to start to figure you out – what you like, what you don’t like, what you want in your friends and your romantic relationships (although, you can’t date until 9th grade – I know, I know, Word’s Worst Mom).  I want you to know that, with a few exceptions like illegal drugs or self-harm, we’ll support you in whatever direction you go. Dad and I are here to help you become the best version of you – and sometimes that may mean pushing you – but we’ll always listen too.

 

2. I hope you keep your friends close and let others in. After being the same class with the same 12 kids forever- your world is going to explode in 7th grade. Keep Lilly close (we love her!), but not at the expense of others – put yourself out there and befriend who ever catches your eye. Labels are only good for laundry – throw your expectations out the door and realize that getting to meet and know so many different people is a gift.

 

3. I hope you are kind and that people are kind to you. Tween girls aren’t known for their empathy and compassion, so I hope you buck that stereotype and extend kindness to others and yourself. Punch up, not down and remember that your ability to lead puts you in a position of power – use it wisely, be nice and reach out to others who may be struggling.

 

4. I hope you stretch yourself. You, Bean, like to live in the comfort zone. That’s well and good, but nothing exciting or unexpected happens there. So try a new class, try out for a team, befriend a new person, pick up a new hobby- do something that feels uncomfortable and scary. You just may love it.

 

5. I hope you know we’ll always love you. Girl, let’s face it- our relationship isn’t always easy. You and I are both stubborn and can plant our feet hard – that sometimes leads to tears and yelling. But no matter what, know that you’re loved wildly and without exception. We are here to support you, hold you up and be your soft spot to land when things get tough. Life isn’t easy all the time, but our love and support is constant.

 

Kiddo, I hope you *adore* being 12. I hope you grow and stretch and learn so much your head hurts. I hope you open your heart to new possibilities and keep your old friends safe. I hope you laugh so hard you cry, I hope you work so hard your muscles hurt and I hope you love so hard your heart cracks.

 

Parenting you in a joy and a blessing and watching you grow until the amazing person you’ll be is a privilege I never take for granted.

 

Things I Say A Lot. Like, A LOT, a lot.

Standard

Yesterday on Facebook, I complained about the sameness of life right now. I realize this is a very first world problem- we are healthy, we are employed, kids are thriving (bored, but thriving). But it’s like Groundhog’s Day.

giphy

I get up, I work out, I shower, I dress. The kids stumble awake by 9ish and start their school work. We all work until noon-ish and I make lunch.  The kids do their thing, I work. I get done working and we go for a walk. I make dinner. We eat, the kids go in their rooms, the Hubs and I watch whatever we’re watching on TV.  We go to bed by 10, the kids go to bed by 10:30 and we do it allllllll over again the next day.

Because of this, I find myself saying the same things over and over again. Here’s a small sample of what gets said at least 3x a week:

  • Ask Google. No, seriously, ask Google.
  • Google it. It’s super simple, just put your equation in and Google will solve it AND give you the steps.
  • If one of you a-holes hurts yourselves, this is NOT the time to go to the ER.
  • Honestly, I don’t care what you watch as long as it’s not rated R.
  • Oh, THAT’s rated R? What does Common Sense Media say? Ok, sure, watch it.
  • Nope, I don’t know where your AirPod case/phone/paper is.
  • Your room is a hellhole, clean it up and I promise you’ll find what you’re looking for.
  • I never TOOK Spanish, how can I help you with that? Ask Google.
  • Don’t ask me what’s for dinner- it’s on the calendar. It’s the ONLY thing on the calendar.
  • I swear to GOD – if I find a wet towel on your bedroom floor…
  • Did you brush your teeth today?
  • YES, you need to brush your teeth every day. Multiple times a day are best- no, I’m not kidding.
  • You’ve been wearing that shirt for HOW long?
  • Dude, your mustache is creepy, not cool. Shave, for the love of God.
  • You are not a freaking TROLL, turn on a light and stop sitting in the dark.
  • No, you can’t sleep with your phone in your room.
  • Just go outside- I don’t care what you do. Just get some sunlight on your body.
  • Yes, we’re going on another hike. There is literally nothing else to do.
  • Read a book. Yes, a real one. Read a book and I’ll pay you $10.
  • This is NOT social distancing. You don’t need on my lap every time we watch TV.
  • Jesus Christ – both of you, stop tackling me, you can’t delay bedtime forever.
  • Holy shit, we’re almost 10 weeks in, how do you NOT know how to print something?!
  • The dishwasher isn’t a decorative piece – put your dishes IN THERE.

LostMind

How are your days going? What phrases could you repeat in your sleep?

14.

Standard

Dear Scorch-

You’re 14. Four-freaking-teen- I’m still shaking my head over this, honestly. I say this every year (I know, I know), but I have no idea how that is possible.

Your feet have been bigger than mine for some time now, and you are officially are taller than me as well. I have to look up at you when I’m forcing you to go to bed every night, or when I’m wrestling you off your sister, or hustling you somewhere…back when we used to have to hustle places. Now we just kind of mosey as all the urgency in our lives has been gone for the last 2 months.

DannyBirth

When you look back at the end of your 13th year and the start of your 14th, I wonder what you’re going to remember. Quarantine life is an odd one and you’ve rolled with it with a ton of grace, good humor and sense of fun. You’ve achieved your life-long goal of getting a TV in your room during this nutty time which has saved our sanity because you can be glued to your PS4, chatting with your friends to your heart’s content (or until 10 pm, which ever comes first, because I’m lame and make you go to bed at a decent hour) while your father and I can watch what we want on TV.

Scorch, you are, hand’s down, one of my favorite people on this earth. One of my greatest joys is that not only do I love you, but I like you. I enjoy your company – you make me laugh, you give the best hugs and you’re one of the nicest people I know.  I’ve seen your amazing sense of kindness this year as you’ve navigated a crush from a sweet girl and spent time on the PS4 with your favorite 7 years old. I am thankful for you every single day.

I adore watching you get older – it’s like a present that I get to keep unwrapping every day. I marvel sometimes over the fact that you weren’t supposed to be here. The month before you were conceived (I know, GROSS), we had our 3rd miscarriage after a long, drawn out IUI cycle. 3 losses in 2.5 years was enough. I was tired. We were broke. But mostly we were heartsore.  We had long conversations on whether or not we wanted to spend more time and money on getting pregnant or building our family in other ways and, ultimately, family won. I was going to be a mom whether or not I gave birth to a child so we were looking into adoption and saying goodbye to Dr. Kiltz and CNY Fertility.

Your dad was working at the UN Summit as he did every September while in the Secret Service and I had a friend staying with me that weekend.  We planned a day of shopping and a night of drinking – but I was having pregnancy symptoms so, while at Target before dinner, I decided to buy and take a test so I could enjoy my wine without worry.  Yes, dear son, it was in the Target restroom that your super classy mom found out about you. I called Dr. Kiltz, crying, and he told me that even though we weren’t undergoing fertility treatments to conceive, things must have just clicked and I better start blood thinners ASAP to help try to prevent another loss. I was scared and nervous and resigned, never thinking you’d stick.

BabyScorch_2006

But you did and 14 years ago today, on Mother’s Day, you came into the world. Billy Joel was giving the commencement speech at Syracuse University across the street from the hospital on the same day, so my doctor couldn’t get to us. Our family was stuck in crazy traffic trying to meet you. You were the first baby born in that county – so we were on the news. It was insane and funny and chaotic and pretty much the perfect representation of what life with you is like.

You are firmly a teen – with a voice that cracks, a strong need to cuddle with your mom and an equally strong need for independence. You can make me absolutely batshit crazy one minute and the next make me marvel at how amazing you are. You are smart and dedicated, but you’re also lazy and easily distracted. You’re warm and forgiving, but you blaze up fast when you feel that we’re not treating you like the “adult” you are. You love nothing more than playing a team sport – you thrive on camaraderie and team dynamics, but you’re also rolling with this lockdown much better than I would have ever thought. In short, you’re AMAZING.

IMG_20200513_162418

So, 14 is going to be a big year. You start high school. You’re finally allowed – to some degree- to date. I have so many expectations and hopes for you, kiddo.

  • I hope you continue to love school. Hell, I hope you can go back to school. You’re not built for this much solitude. Continue to be curious, ask questions and speak your mind.
  • I hope you continue to be kind. Please keep standing up for the underdog, please keep picking the kid no one wants for your team and please keep making sure that no one takes advantage of those weaker than you.
  • I hope you continue to not suffer fools – but I also hope you realize that sometimes *you* are the fool and listening to others isn’t always bad. You have a lot to learn about the world, my son.
  • I hope you continue watch out for your sister. Next year is a big one for her and I hope you respect her enough to let her spread her wings, but are there to catch her if she falls.
  • I hope that should you date, you choose your partner carefully. Don’t date someone because your friends “ship” you- date them because you like their heart. Date them because they challenge you. Date them because they inspire you to be better. It’s Ok to date someone based on attraction – but I hope you realize pretty quick that beauty is only skin deep and don’t get sucked into petty drama.
  • I hope you fail spectacularly at something so learn how to dig deep, try harder and pick yourself. We’ll be here to support you- but learning to fail and move on is one of the best lessons you’ll ever learn and I’d love for you to learn it while the stakes are small.
  • I hope you remember the power of friendship- I hope you keep your BFFs from when you were 3 but don’t cut yourself off from new friends. Befriend everyone – they all have a lot to teach you, and you them.
  • I hope you know that our home is always your safe space. You can be yourself, talk about what makes you happy, sad or worried. You can ask allll your questions here and you can be damn sure we’ll always be honest with you.

I love you more than chocolate milk, kid. Being your mom is one my greatest gifts and I’m so glad we have you. Happy birthday, kiddo- enjoy every minute of it!

Love,
Mom

My Semi-Isolated Life

Standard

I started doing daily dispatches on Facebook when the Corona virus started to really impact our day to day life.  They are just my musing as we adjusted to distance learning, working remotely, the inability to go most places and everything around us shutting down.

Social distancing started in earnest for us on Saturday, 3/14.  The kids were sick with bad colds, schools shut down that following week but distance learning wasn’t up and running yet and we had no idea what was coming.

March 18th.

Alright, Day 5 of our extended stay-cation at home and I woke up without the huge ball of anxiety in my stomach. It was only medium sized (think basketball vs beachball) and the band around my lungs was a little looser.

Denial? Acceptance? A complete breakdown looming? Who knows – any of the above are possible.

The good news is my kids are being rock stars. I never thought I’d be so very thankful for technology- but there you have it. They are keeping in touch via PS4 games, facetime and messaging and I’m not complaining.

I wish I could tell you we have some die-hard color coded schedule, but we don’t. Scorch will have his school work tomorrow and Bean will on Monday. Once we evaluate how much work they have, we’ll set something up – most likely 1.5 hours of work / reading in the morning and 1.5 hours of work / reading in the afternoon once I’m done with work. I’ll be throwing their butts outside as often as possible. Their new basketball hoop gets installed tomorrow, so that will help A LOT.

PurpleFlowers

 

March 19th

Day 6 finds me counting my blessings, which includes the prompt delivery and assembly of a basketball hoop.

This sucker keeps the kids busy, gets them outside and gives us all something to do after dinner- which isn’t something we had time for before this slowdown.

Basketballhoop

 

March 20th

Day 7: Yesterday my teeth ached. I was a bit freaked out- was it a low key sinus infection? Are my teeth rotting out? Do I need to see the dentist? CAN I see the dentist?

Then I realized – nope, I must be grinding the shit out of my teeth at night due to this stress. So, that’s fun…or, you know, the opposite of fun.

Not going to lie- today we started home school with Scorch and I’m a little worried how I can be a full time employee and helpful mom (on top of being the cook, part of the cleaning crew, social coordinator, and sanity saver during the day because the Hubs is still having to report to work).

Bean starts school work on Monday. *sigh* I’m very thankful for having a community of teachers around me who can virtually help, but the stress of needing a schedule, being available and answering questions all day long is daunting af.

So tonight we’re disconnecting and watching Jumanji 2 (we love these movies).

I’m very glad tomorrow is the weekend so we can re-calibrate and figure out how to make this work.

March 21

Day 8: I can’t remember the last Saturday where we didn’t have to wake up 8 am at the latest. Practice, game, gym- whatever, we’re usually up and out. So it was super weird not to *have* to get up for anything. We had no place to go today – just a house to clean, a workout to do….and that was it. So today was the day that the weirdness really hit me.

It was also the day that my kids – who have been *wonderful* thus far- were DONE with each other. Squabbling, arguing, nitpicking – they made each other (and me and the Hubs) NUTS. I made Scorch run my errands with me (Redbox return, book drop off our Little Libraries) just to get her out of the house and get her away from her brother.

On the upside, the house is clean and we watched a super fun family move- Spies in Disguise. Yes, it’s about a spy who turns into a pigeon but it’s adorable and funny- I dare you not to love it!

Here’s hoping tomorrow brings renewed patience, Scorch’s cough to subside and more sunshine.

Emmie_2020

 

March 22

Day 9: Another odd day with *nothing* to rush off to do. Decided I could get behind this whole, do-nothing-on-the-weekends vibe as I was laying in bed at 9 am. Then by 11 the boredom hit and we cleaned the bathroom cabinets out and rearranged Bean’s room, doing some spring cleaning as we went along.

Today was the literal calm before the (snow) storm, so I took advantage of the sunshine to practice some socially responsible socializing with my BFF (a walk with 6 feet between us at all times) and some basketball with the kiddos (who wouldn’t know what social distancing from me meant if you offered them $1M).

After 20 years of living together, we also bought a second TV today to save *all* our sanity when the weather gets too crappy to go outside and the Hubs is eventually told to work from home. Am I ashamed of having an electronic babysitter for my kids? No, no I’m not. #survivalmode

 

March 23

Day 10. Alright folks, shit got real today as home schooling started at Heat Academy of (Maybe) Learning, the Hubs left the house at 4 am to go arrest bad guys and I had to work. Do you want to know how well things went? It was not pretty and I was texting my family group chat by 10 am in ALL CAPS. That’s never a good sign.

Things I learned today: my kids, bless them, are terrible at self-motivators when it comes to school work but not PS4 games, math is something I will never, ever be able to help them with, they could get their work done in half the time if they stopped complaining and their teachers are *amazing* with all the prep work they did to help ease us into this. #godblessteachers

By 11ish, I was feeling pretty good about things and then I heard that VA cancelled school for the rest of the year…so I had a small panic attack thinking that NY may do that. #deargodno

I realize how very, very lucky we are that both the Hubs and I are employed right now when so many are struggling and I know we’ll find our groove. But today the thought of working + ensuring my kids get their work done + helping them with new concepts seems daunting as hell. So, if you need me, Imma going to be hiding in the paper bag with Emmie. #tomorrowisanewday

Emmie_Bag

 

March 24

Day 11. I wallowed in my anxiety and fear yesterday, wrote it out and then got a good night’s sleep and woke up this morning knowing it was time to put my big girl pants on. So, that’s what I did.

Day 2 of home school at the Heat Academy of (Maybe) Learning went a lot smoother than yesterday. One of my kids was thrilled to Zoom with their class and do the online work….and one bitched and moaned the whole time, but got it done.

I started putting into practice the advice I’ve been giving others. I exercised, set up breaks during my day and then took a nice 30 minute solo drive with my audio book to get out of the house. I managed to find that balance between being an employee and a mom today with some success. Will tomorrow go just as well? Who the hell knows, but I’m taking my victories where I can find them.

March 25

Day 12. We all (except the Hubs, which is weird since he’s the only one leaving the house daily) have colds with coughs. The kids were tested for Corona last week – they came back negative on Sunday (thank GOD). But, my house sounds like a TB ward, so that’s a fun soundtrack to this new normal.

Day 3 of the Heat Academy of (Maybe) Learning went off really well! Scorch is fully my child – he sits down and immediately is distracted. “How can I hook up my airpods to the Mac?” “There are too many tabs open on this computer – what is on each of these?” and on and on. But he buckled down and got the work done between bouts of yelling at the computer, throwing his beanie and randomly breaking out in dance. #13yearoldboysareweird

Yesterday, Bean read my daily FB posts and was *shocked* that I wasn’t happy about being forced to stay home. “Mom, this is pretty much my dream come true” said my sweet little homebody who does her school work everyday with zero complaints. I had to reassure her that no, I was not depressed. Yes, I am worried. Yes, I do miss our old life. But no, I wouldn’t pick anyone else to be stuck at home with – even if she made her 5th batch of brownies in 12 days yesterday. #corona15

Temps above 40 with blue skies meant that PE was at the Nature Center with miles of walking. Does this mean the kids will be tired enough to go to bed without bitching? Most likely not, but a girl can dream. #momjokesfordays

March 26

Day 13.

Patience is the name of the game today as I (still) try to adjust to this new normal. I don’t do well with uncertainty – not just the horrible uncertainty of the spread of the illness and who will get sick (and how sick they’ll get) but when this will end. I realize that none of us are God and no one knows- but I’d be willing to throw good money at an accurate soothsayer right about now.

Day 4 of the Heat School of (Maybe) Learning had both kids on Zoom calls with various class. Emmie, our cat who can’t stand most people, cannot stop showing off and walking on our keyboards during said Zoom calls which leads to both kids hiss-yelling while trying not to move their mouths or show their panic for me to GET THE CAT while I’m in the middle of my own work day.

All in all, today was a good day despite the uncertainty and my cough that makes me worried that I’ll be beaten if I go out in public.

 

March 27

Day 14. We survived 5 days of the Heat Academy of (Maybe) Learning! A huge kudos to all the teachers who have worked so freaking hard to transition to 100% online learning. Nothing about this has been easy – but we lived through the first week and I’m calling that a huge win! I’m so proud of how adaptable the kids have been, they make this look easy.

And now we’re staring down another weekend. Weekends are the weirdest time for me- there is no schedule, there is nothing we have to do – it’s just 2 days of freedom. Not going to lie, it freaks me out. I love having places to go, I love seeing our sports family on Saturdays, I love being able to go out to dinner or to the movies and I take great comfort in the tradition of Mass on Sundays. And now, none of that is possible which is unsettling and odd.

Instead, we’ll be cleaning out bedrooms and researching local hiking trails if the weather is nice enough. If it’s not, I foresee lots of movies, PS4 gaming, reading and game playing. Maybe I’ll learn to like naps?

To ease the weirdness, we ordered a sundae making kit and ice cream from a local restaurant. Ice cream makes everything better.

IceCreamKit

 

March 28

Day 15. I saw someone on FB chastising someone else today for complaining about this self-isolation. You’re healthy, they said. You’re safe, you have a roof over your head, a family to love and savings in the banks. Stop complaining, they said – enjoy the family time, the time to reconnect and play and catch up on TV. This isn’t so bad, they said.

And they are right, this isn’t so bad. I *am* blessed beyond measure and complaining seems petty – it really does.

But I can acknowledge all that and also mourn my normal life. I can be sad and scared and worried while realizing that my worries are so first world, it’s not even funny. But it doesn’t make them invalid and it doesn’t make me not feel them.

I can enjoy the heck out of my family’s company….and still want them to go back to school / work. I can enjoy playing games at home…and still wish we could get out of the house. I can know my worries are insignificant in the grand scheme of things…but still fret nonetheless.

But I can also choose to count my blessing to keep me grounded in the here and now. So today, I’m thankful:

> That the Hubs came home safe and sound this morning after working all night after a local police officer was shot.

> That the officer will recover from him injuries.

> That an dear friend got married last week an ocean away and I was able to virtually share my joy over his news.

CaronoCation

How to Work from Home Successfully

Standard

Well, it’s been a week, huh? I live in NY and while my particular community has yet to be hit by the Coronovirus, our government has issued guidelines and rules for handling (and hopefully slowing) the spread of the virus. As of about an hour ago, my kids schools are closed through mid-April, as are our local colleges and universities. The impact this is having on our economy both locally, nationally and internationally is staggering.

If your job allows, there is a good chance you’ve been asked to work from home if not out right ordered to do so. I’ve been working from home for almost 18 years now, basically for all but 2 of my professional years. Working from home can be a dream come true – but it can also be a nightmare. You have to set yourself up for success and that means discipline, utilizing the tools and resources you have and communicating with your employer, coworkers and family about your needs.

Here are a few things I’ve learned to be successful over the years:

1) Set a schedule. Get up at the same time every day- whether it’s 5:30 am or 8 am, pick a wake up time and stick with it. Once you’re up, set your new routine. When life is normal, I feed the kids and make lunches while Scorch is in the shower, then I shower and we’re all out the door within an hour. I drop the kids off and have roughly an hour until I have to go to work. I either hit up the gym or I run errands, but once 8:30 comes around, my day starts. Now, I’m guessing I’ll be up by 6:30, exercise, shower and get dressed before the kids roll out of bed at 8. Then I’ll help them with breakfast and try to start my normal day at 8:30 am.

2) Get dressed. When I started working from home, the Hubs made me promise to get dressed every day. I thought he was silly – but he was spot on. Even pre-kids when I didn’t have to actually leave the house every morning, I would still get up, eat, shower and get dressed. I don’t put on dress clothes, but I damn well get out of my PJs and put on clothes I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in on a video call. Jeans or legging, bra, decent shirt. I do my hair and throw on a bit of makeup in the winter. I’m on 1-4 hours of video calls a day, sometimes with a minutes notice, so looking like a professional keeps me in that mindset.

Chris Farley meme - Chris is wearing a suit and tie with his hair all messed up.

3) Have an office.  Or something akin to it. I don’t have an office- I haven’t had a separate space just for me since the Bean was born. But I do have my corner of the couch and the kitchen table. During the day, that’s my domain. God willing, when our addition is done, I’ll have my own space but until then, my mind knows when I sit down at either of those designated spaces, it’s time to work. When I work with my headphones on in the common areas, my kids know they can get my attention and chat with me. When I move into my bedroom and close they door, they know I’m in a meeting / working on something important and it’s time to leave me alone. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we’ve got for now.

4) Be transparent. If you’re going to step away from your desk longer than it takes to make lunch, run to the bathroom or change out the laundry, put a notice up and/or tell your boss. I have a weekly chiropractor appointment- that’s on my calendar for all to see. If I need to run to the store or take a kid to a last minute appointment, I ping my boss. Last Thursday, the Bean got sick and I had to take her to the doctor’s at 9 am, then I had to pick Scorch up at school at 11:30 because he had a half day. All those things happened before my coworkers, most of whom are on the west coast, started their day so chances are, they’d never know. But I know working from home is, most of the time, a privilege and I’m not going to abuse that.

5) Be in contact. Use allllllll the tools at your fingertips, especially if you’re used to being in an office. Slack, Zoom, Hangouts, Jabber – there are a ton of tools that allow you to stay in contact through chats and video meetings. If you’re used to seeing your coworker for a 5 minute debrief every morning over coffee, schedule that meeting to catch up! Set up a Slack channel to share what you’ve been working on so your team knows what you’re doing- then set up a channel to share funny memes to help keep you sane.

 

6) Cut out the distractions. As awesome as all those chat tools can be and as awesome as the freedom of working from home brings – sometimes it’s too much and it cuts into your productivity. You’ll find you can most likely get more work done at home once you’re in the groove- but you have to find that groove first. For me, that means making sure my living / work area is neat, and any chores (like putting food in the crock pot, starting laundry) are done. It’s putting up a 2 hour block per day (if I can) to just work- which means silencing my notifications and, in some cases, turning off the wifi.

 

7) Set limits. Just because you can work at all hours of the day, doesn’t mean you should. Your work hours may have to change (more on that next), but that doesn’t mean that you should regularly be putting in 12+ hour days if you normally don’t. If your usual hours were 8 – 5:30 in the office, that’s still your work day. Unless your job requires it, there is no need to be answering emails at 1 am or responding to chats. Set limits so you can still have a work day and a personal life – when the two bleed too closely together, your house can feel suffocating.
Maurey Povich meme that states: You said that working at home will give you lots of free time. The face that I haven't got up from this chair in 7 hours determined that it was a lie.
 

8) Ask for flexibility. So all these tips and tricks are AWESOME – but there is a big wrinkle if you’re a parent. Honestly y’all, I don’t know what in the world to tell you if your kids are little. I know we’re practicing social distancing, but for the sake of your employment you may need to reach out to another family and see about trading childcare. I’m not talking about a gaggle of kids and families- I’m talking 2 – 3 families max when everyone is healthy and precautions are taken. My kids are older, so they don’t need someone to watch them, but they still need meals made, time outdoors and some nudging to do their school work. I’ll be working with my boss (who is home with her kids in CO) and her boss (also home with her kids in CA) to figure this out. My work day may go an hour longer so I can take small breaks during the day to check in on the kids. Or on days Spring is really shining here, I may knock off early and then work in the evening to take advantage of the sunshine.  We’re all in this together, so ask your employer, see what you can work out and be frank about your needs.

9) Talk to your family. A lot of the time, when you’re home, your kids think it’s free time. It’s not. This is still your work day and you are expected to get your job done. Have age-appropriate talks with your kids about what you expect from them and how you’re all going to have to pitch in to make this work.  Set up a sign, have a signal- something that tells your kids when it’s time for them to leave you alone and when you’re open to breaks. I try to talk to my kids every morning to give them an idea of what my day looks like – for example, if there is time for outdoor play, it’s got to happen before 11 am or that I’m in meetings from 1-3, so if they need help cooking, it has to be before or after that time.

That’s what I have so far. Working from home can be more than doable- but make sure you put the parameters in place to help you be successful. Be flexible, be kind to yourself and your family and settle in- we’ll get through this.

Please reach out if you have any other great tips – I’m happy to add them to this list!