Category Archives: My crazy life

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.

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.

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?

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!

Not Me

Standard

The Bean found my blog.

I mean, I knew the day would come- my kids are the reason I started this blog, after all. My kiddos don’t have baby books and most of their childhood pictures are stored in Shutterfly, not in physical albums. I didn’t keep many of their childhood mementos outside of a few blankets, some books and a few stuffed animals. But I have been chronicling their childhood for almost 10 years now- since the kids were 4 and 2.

Since she’s been going back and reading my old entries, I got nostalgic and started to do the same.  One of the things I used to on Monday’s was “Not Me Monday” back when widely used blog themes were a thing.  “Not Me Monday” was a way to confess your sins and since the old entries made me laugh, I figured I’d share a few of my gems lately:

  • While in Mexico, the Bean got M&Ms and immediately told Scorch he couldn’t have any. He didn’t want any – but he *always* wants to torment her, so for 30 minutes straight, he followed her around making comments like “Yummm…those M&Ms look amazing!” or “You know what I’m craving, M&Ms!” or “Mom, the minute Bean puts those M&Ms down, Imma going to snagging them.”  I was not too busy laughing hysterically at him to make him knock it off when the Bean pleaded with me to do so.
  • Later that same day, I was blessedly at the pool sans any kids, reading my Kindle. 4 chairs down from me was a mom, trying in vain to read her magazine while her son and daughter squabbled in the pool over things just as dumb as M&Ms. The mom finally LOSES it and goes “This is supposed to be FUN. We are flipping on vacation in MEXICO and you’re making me crazy.”
    I did not want to high-five her in solidarity or at least find some of the Bean’s M&Ms to share with her.
  • Earlier this week, Scorch was in class and accidentally drew on his face with his pencil. When one of his friends told him they could see the mark, my son absolutely did not proceed to draw a penis on his forehead and then have to walk around alllll day with his bangs pulled down to hide it when he couldn’t erase it. (“Mom- it was the only thing I could think of to draw!” #teens)
  • I did not laugh stupidly hard at a “69” reference in an Instagram video because Scorch and his buddies are obsessed with certain numbers (69, 420, etc) which evidently has dropped my sense of humor down to a middle-school level.* I also certainly did not save the video to show him when he got home from school.
  • Within seconds of picking the Bean up from school, it was clear she was in a mood. After 2 minutes of grumpiness and a snotty tone, I told her she wasn’t allowed to speak to me again until she could do so with a civil tongue. We did not not speak for over an hour. #tweens

Hot Mess Express graphic with a purple background and pink words

So, spill – what haven’t YOU done lately?!

 

*Please note: I DID (and do, frequently) absolutely talk to my kid about these numbers, what they mean, how they are not appropriate in a lot of places/context, etc – but he’s 13 and he’s in middle school and kids laugh about dumb stuff no matter how mature and enlightened you try to make them. I can either freak out over it every time or embrace my inner 13 year when something is legitimately funny. This video was NOT sexual in any way shape or form, it was just simply a bunch of idiot teens freaking out when that number was called out in public – and it was really, really funny.

 

Life’s a Beach

Standard

We are a family that loves our vacations. But we are, usually, a family who road trips (with mixed results, tbh). We drive to the NC beaches or Florida or up to one of the Great Lakes. In fact, the kids have only flown once prior to this month only because 1) I got a great deal on airfare and 2) I pretty much bribed the Hubs – he hates to fly.  But 2 years ago, I was out with my girlfriends – my friends whose husbands are the Hub’s friends and whose kids are my kid’s friends – and we decided that February 2020 was the year we were all going on vacation. 10 adults, 11 kids – we were going on vacation together, damn it.

And that sounded all well and good until it actually came time to plan said vacation. Then things got a little dicey as we tried to figure out where to go and I tried to figure out how in the hell to get the Hubs to agree to this vacation. My Hubs is a creature of habit and, as mentioned before, hates to fly – let’s not even mention the cost of this.  All of our vacation options would require us to fly outside of the US and I knew this was going to be a hard sell.

So this past summer, our friends booked their vacation. The February 2020 trip that was dreamed about in 2018 turned into a trip to Cancun and everyone was committed – except for us. The Hubs was still holding out for some very legit reasons (the cost) and some more interesting ones (not wanting to fly, being convinced we’d be kidnapped in Mexico).  Turns out, going to a friend’s 40th birthday party with all our friends taking the trip, getting a few beers in him and begging worked – I got a very begrudging “I’ll leave it up to you – if you want to go, we’ll go” from him.

For those of you who haven’t been in a relationship long enough, that was his passive-aggressive way of agreeing to go on vacation while making sure I knew that if things went badly, it wasn’t his fault, it was allllll mine.  Was it an enthusiastic yes? Not even close! Did I care? Not at all- I booked that trip the minute the travel agency opened Monday (pro tip: traveling with 20+ people? Use a travel agent).

Of course, after we booked the trip everything we read and watched on TV had to focus on terrible things happening in Mexico.  Seal Team on CBS? Multi-episode arch about the horrors in Mexico due to the drug cartels. Hell, even the new <horrible> Rambo movie dealt with Mexico. Every time something came up, I got the side-eye and a quick muttering about how Mexico was a fantastic choice for vacation from the Hubs. It was a fun few months, let me tell you.

~*~*~*~
But – miracle of miracles – we still managed to go to Cancun if February with our friends! I’m very happy to report that we all survived the short plane ride (~3.5 hours, direct flight), no one got kidnapped and no one got sick (although two of the travelers- Scorch included – got the flu the day we got home). It was perfect.

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

We stayed at a resort that was a great fit for our 11 kids. There was so much for them to do and the resort was small enough that we could let them roam in packs by themselves all day. Would I recommend it for adults only? Hell no – again, so. many. kids. – but it worked great for us. The food was great, the staff friendly and kind, and the ocean. Oh you guys- the ocean.

IMG_20200217_132318-EFFECTS

We had to put our beloved 18 year old cat, Reese, down two days before we left. I’ve lost two other pets in the past 3 years, but Reese’s death gutted me. She was the last of the animals we adopted before having the kids – she was our constant companion since I was 24 years old. I cried into her fur when Pete was in training for months in Georgia, while we battled infertility and miscarriages, when I felt like a terrible mother, when our marriage hit rough spots. Losing her was horrible enough- but it also felt like saying goodbye to a huge chapter in my life.  I was a zombie in the days leading up to her death and the day we put her down.  By the time we hit Cancun, I needed this vacation – and the ocean didn’t disappoint. It didn’t bring my cat back, but it soothed my soul.

I honestly have no idea if we’ll ever take a trip like this again. Getting everyone’s schedules to align took an act of God, committing to savings for 2 years wasn’t easy and who knows if we can make the magic happen again. But I’m so glad we had this experience- this moment. It was worth all the back and forth, heartache and annoyances to get us there.

 

Time To Give It Up

Standard

A warning: if you have little kids, don’t let them read this, please. Holiday tradition talks ahead.

.

.

.

Our Christmas tree- covered in multi-colored lights and a mix of homemade and store-bought ornaments.

Ok, true confession time. I am *not* a sentimental mom. I don’t miss the kid’s younger years. Yes, they were adorable. Yes, their squeaky voices were beyond sweet. Yes, things were simpler then.  But, nope, older kids FTW all day, every day.

When the kids were little, they were alllll about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Buddy, our Elf on the Shelf, was the perfect tool to keep my monsters in check in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I loved their excitement over the holidays – their pure joy in seeing that Santa was coming. Christmas morning was 100% magic through the eyes of kids who really believe.

But being Santa? Holy shit, that’s hard work. That’s making sure the kids get equal gifts, that’s making sure Santa has his own wrapping paper (note to new parents: don’t wrap gifts from Santa. Elves don’t have time to wrap. Thank me later), that’s making up a new handwriting for Santa and making sure you leave out cookies and milk.  Is that fun- of course it is? And it’s what a lot of parents do to bring that bit of Christmas magic to their kid.

After roughly 11 years though, I was done. I was tired. I was over it. Scrooge, thy name is Heather.

But I’ll be damned if I’d tell my kids the truth about any of this. Kiddos – want to talk about drugs? I’m your girl. Relationships and sex? Pull up a chair! What’s going on with our government? Let me tell you a story.  The truth about Santa et al? Hard no.

I always thought I’d know when the time was right and I’d take the kids (Scorch first since he’s older, obviously) out for hot chocolate and we’d have a long talk about the magic of Christmas, the spirit of giving and what Santa really means. Then I’d threaten him within an inch of his life to make sure he didn’t tell his sister. But did I do that? No, I did not. Neither did the Hubs. We just literally did nothing. Seemed like a legit parenting choice.

Then last Spring, Scorch and I were home and he told me he needed something and I informed him that the Easter Bunny had brought him that same thing a few weeks earlier for Easter. He promptly yelled back from his room – “do you mean, that *you* bought that for me for Easter?”

Awwwww, shit. The gig is up. I played stupid and told him that the Easter Bunny was the bringer of gifts. (Me- the mom who couldn’t WAIT for the truth to be out!!) Scorch looked at me like I was dumb, and said, “Mom, just give it up. I’ve known since 5th grade. I’m 13, it’s time.”

And guys- I cried. I legit teared up, standing in his bedroom because this day that 1) I wanted to come and 2) was really well past time had arrived and I was not ready. I was not OK. Scorch, continuing to look at me like I was an idiot, told me he had known since 5th grade and was just waiting for me to say something. *sigh* The only thing that went according to my previous plans was me telling Scorch if he told Bean, I’d castrate him. (don’t hesitate to ask me for parenting advice- I’m KILLING it).

Fast forward to this week when the Bean lost a tooth.  She came into the kitchen and asked me what she should do with it. I told her to put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy and it was her time to look at me like I was an idiot. “Mom, the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.” and she THREW her tooth in the garbage.

Ouch.

I did what I do best, and deflected and didn’t say another word because I was NOT READY again.  But the next day in the car, my child confessed that she knew that none of the big 3 were real and hadn’t believed in a long while. Cue the tears again.

So, here we are. A family with kids officially too old to believe. On one hand, I’m not mad about that. On the other, I know I’m still going to get the kids gifts from Santa, pick out a special wrapping paper and sign his name in his special signature. After all, I’ve had 13 years to perfect it.

 

A Grateful Heart

Standard

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – a lowkey chance to reconnect with family and friends before the hustle and bustle of December comes crashing in. There are no gifts, no running around- just a good meal, lots of laughs and time to reflect.

So today, and every day, I thankful to all of you.

Thank you to the Hubs and my kids. Hubs- you have walked by my side for almost 22 years now and built a life with me that I’m so proud of. Does it look like we thought it would? Nope- it’s a 1000x better, Can you believe we made these two fantastic people and get to have all these adventures with them?! Kiddos- you makes me laugh, every day. You make me want to be better, every day. You fill my heart and our home with laughter and hugs and so much joy, it’s hard to contain.

Thank you to my family – the one I was born to, the one I married into and the one we’ve made together. You made me into who I am today, lift me up when I’m down and fill my life with love and loyalty.

Thank you to my friends. The old friends that I’ve known since I was a child whom I still hold dear and adore spending time with – the ones who know all my bad hair styles, crappy boyfriends and crazy escapades. I adore you all and I’m still halfway convinced we’ll always be 17 at heart.

A white heart ornament is on a wooden surface. On the heart, it has a small pink heart and the words "I am grateful".

Thank you my new friends- the ones who have helped me raise my babies into the amazing kids they are, talked me through the ups and down of my marriage and have become my chosen family. You are my sanity, my coaches and my favorite people – we are so lucky to be surrounded by your infection spirit, generous hearts and disgusting, immature sense of humor.

Thank you to my friends who, as the Hubs says, live in my computer. 20 years ago, I made my first set of online friends (the Hubs thought you were all 50 year old murders, btw) and my online crew has only grown since then. Thank you for your friendship and your knowledge – for pushing me and expanding my world that much more.

I wish you all joy, friendship and love this Thanksgiving.  Thank you for reading, laughing and loving- I can’t imagine my life without you.