Thursday, March 8, 2018

It's Been a While

It's funny, back in the day when the girls were babies and toddlers and home full time, somehow I had more time to stop and write than I do now that they are both in school (at least part time for Emily). I remember naively thinking that once September rolled around and both girls were in school, I'd have some me time to do things like this--write, work on my photo albums, etc. Haha. I was wrong.
Now that they are both older, we are busy with activities (currently gymnastics (for both girls at separate times) and Girl Scouts( for Ashley), playdates (we now have a bunch of friends as compared to when we first moved here), homework, etc. So my "time off" on some days are spent running errands that are easier to do without kids, grocery shopping, and cooking ahead of time since we are always out. I've also made it my full time job to get my business thriving again so that Matt can cut down on working like a dog (while still trying to maintain a busy part time so I can still be mom first and make it to class events, activities, etc).
So..this is why I am behind...

Anyway, I thought I would take the few minutes that I have to update you on the girls.

I'll start with Emily this time. I tend to usually write about Ashley first since she's oldest. Anyway, Emily is doing GREAT in her last year of preschool. Her teacher has told me twice recently how she uses Emily as an example. She reports that she is just such a great kid--so happy, so friendly. She always jumps in feet first with school activities, she's outgoing and kind with all. She even said she wishes she was more like Emily as a kid.
People always tell me that they feel like Emily is older than she actually is. Perhaps it's her height (she is around 80th percentile), but it is also her personality. I do think she even tries to keep up with Ashley, I think she just does. They have the same friends, and Emily tends to socialize with Ashley's friends more than younger kids her age.
She really is a great kids. She's the perfect combination of friendly and kind, mixed with a big dose of sportiness and even a little sass/ mischievous side. For a very long time she was always active--almost literally bouncing off the walls, running, jumping, etc. Now thanks to her advanced gymnastics class it's mostly flips and cartwheels. She has "slowed down" a little and now enjoys writing (she's figuring out the whole reading thing, and always asking how to spell things since she loves to write, and can point out some words in a book). She also likes to color now sometimes, which she never used to.
She greets the world with a smile on her face. Here's an example: when I bring her to preschool, she will always call out and say hello to friends on our way in. Then (every day) we stop by her old classroom from last year, to say hello and hug her old teachers. Next we stop at her friend Anthony's class (one of her best friends and who she claims she's going to marry someday). His teachers call him and tell him Emily is here. He runs over, and they just hug. Usually there aren't any words exchanged, just a sweet hug. Sometimes half the class comes over now too. It's cute.

Ashley is doing GREAT too! Her school gives out Pillars of Character awards, and Ashley earned one for kindness. She also has gotten home three additional notices, saying that she's been "caught" being kind. She is also doing great in school academically. Her most recent report card had mostly Excellents, which is the highest level of mastery. The only complaint that her teacher has is that she said Ashley is VERY bright (which we all know), but she wants to hear more of it. Sometimes she holds back in front of the class. I sometimes see little glimpses of perfectionism, and I think sometimes she's afraid of speaking up if she's not totally confident about the answer (I used to be the same way as a kid).
She is also having a good time in her after school activities. She also loves to read. She and Matt are reading Harry Potter (way above her reading level)--she can read 90% of the words. She is still quite an artist, with writing, reading, coloring/drawing, etc. Gymnastics isn't her highest skill level, but I am glad she is doing something she's not the "best" at and letting herself enjoy it anyway. She may do running next for a brief time, and THAT she is GTEAT at.
Anyway, I feel like I am kind of cutting it short but the kids were out playing in the snow with Matt (they have a snow day because we are getting over 2 feet of snow....ugh), but I hear them coming in.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Finally At Peace

Well, after almost 5 years living here in NJ, I am finally at peace with being here. 

So, to give you an update. We came VERY close to moving. Last month we visited Greenville SC and Wilmington NC to compare both places back to back and to decide if we were going to move to one of the places, or if we were going to stay put.

First we visited Wilmington/Hampstead NC. Matt went for a couple of job interviews. Initially there were meant to be "feeler" type interviews, to see what is available and what kind of salary he would be offered. He ended up really liking one of the jobs a lot. It sounded like a great company, great hours, great benefits, and clientele that he would like. He said that if he were offered the job, he'd move in a heartbeat. I also did a lot of looking around the area, checked out neighborhoods, homes, etc. I ended up liking it a lot. It had all of the things that Greenville offered (although Greenville still has nicer curb appeal), plus 3 beaches, and a quieter country feel further out similar to upstate NY. I could really seeing us liking and enjoying it there.

Then we visited Greenville. When I went there, at first it was like "ahh, I'm home". Still had our old home/neighborhood, our friends, familiarity. However, going back there showed me that God has shut that door once and for all. Although Matt still says he'd go back for me, I noticed a total switch in his mood when there. He was very apprehensive/resistant to exploring new job opportunities, and being back in the area. I wouldn't enjoy it there if I knew he didn't.
Also, after being away for so long and having less emotional detachment, I was able to see things differently for the first time. I tried looking at the place with "new eyes", and saw things that I hadn't before. Parts of Greenville, even including our old zip code, are rated F for crime--robberies, violent attacks, etc. When I looked beyond the beautiful neighborhoods, and really just started observing things/people, I did notice that this time. For instance, I was driving on Woodruff road with Christi one day, and there was a bank roped off with caution tape. She was like "I wonder if it was robbed". That sentence would never come out of my mouth here. Also, I did notice a mixture of people, some looking potentially unsafe. 
Also, because Greenville is one of the top places to live now, the area keeps growing and growing at such a rapid pace. It's causing major traffic problems all over. Matt compared it to a busy area here called Paramus. What used to be a 15 minute commute to downtown now takes our friend almost an hour to get home from work due to traffic. Also, people are moving in from all over the place, and it's losing some of it's old southern charm which I once liked. I can almost see it becoming another NJ. I'm not sure I'd be returning to what I once loved anyway.

So we had a long talk on the trip home and basically ruled Greenville out. We were leaning toward moving to Wilmington. Well, last week he was offered the job. He was even offered close to what he was hoping to make. As Matt said, the opportunity was "being handed to us on a platter". But as we were being offered this opportunity, we started looking at the realities of it. First, I thought that with the sale of our home, we'd be able to pay off most of our debts and have financial freedom. Although that would happen, we would also be losing about 60,000+ in salary between my job and Matt's extra jobs which income we live off of. So money would still (initially) be very tight unless/until my job picked up. This meant that we would need to rent first. Unfortunately all the good rentals were NOT in the area/school district that we ultimately wanted to be in, which meant girls would have to move schools twice. I felt awful about the idea of taking them away from all their friends, and having them start all over, just to have to do that all over again a year later.
Also, I started to feel panicked about leaving and being all alone down there (or anywhere) until we started making friends (very similar to that panicky feeling I had during my post pardum with Emily). I started worrying about emergency situations for us down there or our families up here with us far away and not having a lot of money to come up whenever we wanted.
Mostly, I started really second guessing whether or not I wanted to leave our family. Although I hate the cold and some aspects of here in NJ, I love our family. I know my mom would come down and stay for a few months at a time, but the reality is I would never see my sister or her kids, or Andrew's kids. She just doesn't have that kind of money to travel, and we really wouldn't be able to afford to come up more than once, MAYBE twice a year if lucky. I didn't know if I was ok from walking away from that, and the frequent grandparent/cousin visits/involvement. 
On the day that we needed to give an answer, I just couldn't make a decision. I've been dreaming about leaving for so long, but when the opportunity was right in front of me, I just couldn't pull the trigger. I ended up asking Matt to please ask for a few more days to think things over. 

Well, after we were given the extra time to think about things, I ended up reading something that gave me the definite answer of NO. I had joined a couple of moms groups on Facebook down in the area so that I could learn more about the place, local happenings, etc. Initially I had heard a lot of great things from a lot of people. Well, there was a post I read that stopped me in my tracks. Someone wrote that they saw a bunch of cop cars, and started asking if anyone knew what was going on. Someone else wrote that a man was in a park, and was attacked by 5 men with baseball bats and it was really bad. Someone else wrote that it was probably drug and gang related. They started saying how the drug issue was so bad down there (apparently #1 place in US for heroin), and as a result it's creating gangs and crime and there have been a string of recent robberies. Another person commented on how an elderly woman was also attacked in a nice neighborhood/part of town. Another mentioned some sex trafficking going on. NO THANK YOU. 
I had done research and had read that some parts of Wilmington wasn't the safest (also rated an F), but at first Matt's friend said it was mostly college kids with petty stuff, and Hampstead was rated an A for safety. I also thought it was isolated to certain areas but that is not the case. These beatings happened in one of the good areas, which means it's not isolated to one section. It's actually the town we were planning to rent in first, and only 5-7 minutes away from the "A" area. Here, my biggest worry at night is about bears. I NEVER have to think or worry about safety. I thought about it and said I'd rather deal with a few jerk New Jersey people over gangs and worrying for our safety.

So, we are going to stay put. I think all of this potential moving stuff has helped me finally find peace. I'm glad we visited Greenville, because it gave me closure. I think part of my problem was that when we moved, we had said that we would try it up north, and if it didn't work out we could always come back. So I think all of these years, I've had that in the back of my head, with the hope and wish to return. I think I've been living half invested up here, and half invested down there. Never fully "in" here. I need to let that dream die...I will still keep in touch with my friends, as they are some of my nearest and dearest friends, and we will still visit, but I can let go of the hope of returning.

When ruling out Greenville, every single other place that would be my dream place to live just isn't good for raising a family. A lot of my dream type places (look wise/weather wise/larger-nicer homes) are down in Florida/ south/near the ocean...and unfortunately lots of the south seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. Some places look AMAZING based on looks, appears perfect and safe...but then you look at the details (which I have done a TON of researching at this point), and it either has horrible school ratings (and we can't afford private school) and/or the crime is really bad. I do not expect my kids to be rocket scientists but I do value education, and I especially value safety. 

So for this chapter/season in our lives, I am going to let the southern dream fizzle out. We will stay put and make the most of it. I did tell Matt that once the girls are out of school, there is NO WAY I'm spending the rest of my life doing these long winters. He totally agreed. My fear is that if we stay here, our kids may very well get rooted here with their friends and lives, and we may get stuck here. But who knows, I'm not God. If that is the case, I will spend the nicer months here, and do winter months down south. One day at a time to figure life out.....

But, I am at peace. I will make the most of it and pursue the best life I can here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Already in August

Well, we have already hit August. Summer is just zipping right by. It's been going really great so far. Before school let out, I was a little nervous about what we would do during our "off weeks". I don't know what I was worried about. It's been busier and more chaotic than during the school year, but in a good way.
Since I last wrote, the girls had a fun week at VBS. Mom came down for their last day so she could see their show that they put on, singing and dancing to fun God songs. Before the show, she and I got some one on one time and got pedicures and a bite to eat. We had friends Karen and Kim Belfer down for a day, then had some fun Grandma time.
We took a day trip down to Point Pleasant Beach and met my cousin Nicole and her daughter, Chanelle. We had a fun day chasing the waves, building sandcastles, talking, followed by hitting up the boardwalk rides, pizza and ice cream.
We did another movie theater visit, lots of fun pool parties and playdates. Both girls are now swimming pretty well on their own. Even Emily was swimming alone in the deep end. We've taken trips to Chuck-e-Cheese, Ikea kids, our WMCA lake, etc.
I took Ashley for a mommy-daughter date. We went to paint ceramics and "chit chat". It was very fun.
Last weekend we did a long weekend in Upstate NY. We saw Grandma and Grandpa, and we were even able to see my extended family with Aunts, cousins and cousins kids. It was really nice since I hadn't seen anyone in a while. I got to see my friend Jodi and her kids. We did playground and splash water park, swam in my cousins pool followed by BBQ. We did the Saratoga Racetrack and Lake George.
We came back and did our last week of soccer camp. Then playdates, and pool dates, etc. We did a truck building project at Home Depot, and today Daddy took the girls with Grandpop, Uncle Andrew and Ben to see the Eagles pregame down in Philadelphia, while I take a much needed day of rest. It's been go-go-go! But lots of fun memories made.
In a couple weeks we will be going with Grandmom and Grandpop to our annual Wildwood beach trip to finish up the summer. Looking forward to that too!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

School's out for the summer

I'm a little late on the notice, but school is out for the summer. Ashley has completed her first year of "real school"in kindergarten, and Emily finished up the 3's preschool class. Both got very good reports.

So far summer has been good. We've had lots of fun times with friends--trip to the movie theater, pool swimming or YMCA lake, playdates at playgrounds, library trips, animal farms, 4th of July pool/fireworks, graduation parties, gender reveal/baby shower, and visiting with friends we don't get to see very often. They have also done a week long soccer camp, and now they are about to start a week of Vacation Bible School. It's been a nice balance of a week of some structured activity for a few hours, and some open time to do the things listed above or just have free fun playtime. I have to say, one thing I pride myself in is having some good old fashioned outside fun. We live in a world of technology, social media, tv, etc. It's a huge struggle for everyone. You hardly see kids outside playing anymore. Despite that, the girls have a lot of time just being kids--playing on swing set, riding bikes or scooters, playing soccer, playing in the pool or in the sprinkler, swinging on our new tree swing, doing sidewalk chalk, climbing trees, catching lightening bugs, etc. It's been fun. I will keep you posted as more comes up.