Friday, May 12, 2017

Living Update

So, we have reached a verdict (at least a very high probability)--we are moving next year.

This year we did the preventative measures to "get through" the long winters for me. We went to SC in November, and Miami in February. It helped, but it didn't. February is when it starts kicking in for me. I think because in Greenville, February is when the weather starts changing and getting nicer again. Mentally and physically, I am still in the mode of readiness for change. But here, February tends to be the worst month of cold and snowstorms, and then you have at least 2 more months until it starts getting (what I consider to be) nice. Even now, it's May 12th, and we are still wearing sweatshirts everyday because the "high" is low 60s. Boo.
Going to Miami and experiencing the warmth, the flowers, the palm trees just made me crave and desire it even more. There is this Disney movie called Moana. Moana lives on her island, and they are to stay put there and never leave. She is told to love this island, and to be happy where she is with what she has. But deep inside of her, she has this inner longing and voice for wanting more, wanting to venture out. That is how I feel. I try to make the most of thing, embrace the good where I am, but deep inside of me I long for somewhere else. When we were down there taking it all in, I kept hearing Moana music in the back of my head.
Also, seeing his grandfather made me see something. Mike lived in Philadelphia for years and years. He and Dena bought the place in Miami as a vacation place to do the snowbird thing, and he eventually moved down there year round. Unfortunately, since he raised his family up north, they got rooted there. They met their spouses there, they had children and raised there families there, and now here he is living in a place he loves without any of his family. Matt and I have said that if we did stay up north, we would want to move south as soon as the girls were done in high school. No way are we staying up north after that. And I got to thinking about how we'd probably be in the same boat as Mike....the girls will have their friends, their life here, they will be rooted here. I don't want to leave my kids behind and go live miles and miles away from them. If I had to pick someone to miss, it'd be parents and siblings over my own children. We live in a transient world. People don't always stay in the area they grew up near their families anymore...but I'd at least like to live someplace that I'd be happy staying in in order to possibly be rooted near my kids...then they can make the decision to stay or leave after that.
I also had a good talk with someone who tells it how it is without any fluff. She gave me a good dose of reality, and was like "so what are you going to do, live your life as a martyr forever? You're staying there for everyone else while you're miserable". And she's right.
For the last few years I have been living here out of fear and guilt. Both have been wearing off. We have been asking grandparents to consider going down south with us (at least for part of the year) to be in our lives. They have options and choices. I also worked through fear scenarios.
I returned from Florida and was straight up bummed for weeks. Not happy to be back here with the exception of my comfy bed. Lol.
Thankfully, I have been blessed to have met some nice friends. And after 4 years, I can finally count the amount of nice people (other than good friends) on 2 hands. It's progress. I'm not as angry and depressed as I had been...but still don't love it...still don't see it being a forever place...still has the issues and problems I've mentioned....I've just learned to tolerate it better (and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing?)

So, I think we found "the place". We are looking at Wilmington/Hampstead NC. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't singing the Moana song there like I did in Florida. Lookwise and weather wise, I like parts of Florida more. However, we have more reservations about Florida. Florida seems much more volatile. The housing market is always up and then taking plunges, nicer areas get crime and riff raf when the housing market plunges. Our good friends Jim and Jen had lived in Orange Park, Florida. Now, based on looks alone, that would be my #1 choice of places to live. Picturesque looking neighborhoods, gorgeous homes that we could afford, a nice "community" feel to it. I'd move there in a heartbeat. However, with one of the housing crashes, a lot of homes went into foreclosure and sat empty. People were breaking in and living in these empty homes, which brought crime in. Jim was even followed home and held up at gunpoint. Florida is also very mixed, which isn't a bad thing since diversity can be nice, but not sure how if feel if English is the second language, eh....Also, in Jacksonville there are a lot of navy families which means lots of people in and out. We also aren't sure if it has the same "southern hospitality" like you have in the Carolinas. It's also just really far away. You'd basically have to fly up every time, and the closest person we know would be an hour and a half away.
Wilmington is still very nice. I was comparing it to Greenville since I loved it so much. To me, Greenville is still nicer looking but Wilmington is similar. Greenville really took off in the last 15 years, so everything is new and crisp and nice curb appeal. When we visited the downtown area, Ashley had said "it's so magical here". And it was/is. Wilmington also has a nice downtown area very similar to Greenville, just not as "fresh looking". When you move outside of the downtown, you have nice suburbs similar to Greenville, and then you move further out and you have an area that reminded me a lot of upstate NY--more rural, a mix of gorgeous nice neighborhoods and some lower income trailers mixed throughout (although not bad like it was in that part of Florida we visited).  But unlike Greenville, it also has 3 very nice beaches within very close proximity to you.
I also like Wilmington because it's great on paper. It's a 9/11 hour drive up north vs 11/14 hour if we needed to drive. It's an hour/hour and a half to Myrtle Beach which I love. My cousin Michelle also just bought a house there, so it's comforting knowing she's not too far away. My other cousin April and Matt's aunt Anita also have a vacation place in Myrtle, so we'd be able to see them. And Matt's friend Mike and his family live right in Wilmington, so we know someone in case of emergency. That to me is very comforting. Also, after visiting, it has all the "perks" that I loved about Greenville--the southern hospitality and friendliness, the mixture of true southerns mixed with people moving in from all over, the exact same weather, lower cost of living, similar feel, etc. Ideally, I'd love to take Greenville and plop it in Wilmington's location so I could have my friends and look, but oh well. The other great news is that it's an 4 hours and 15 minutes to Greenville. Not close-close, but close enough where we could take some weekend trips throughout the year and see our friends there more often than we do now. And it's only an hour extra than it took to Greenville for Jen and Jim's. So I really think it's great. And who knows, from what Matt's friends were telling us (they've lived there about 10 years now), the area is really booming and taking off, so in another few years it could potentially be as nice as Greenville or better. Also, I asked Matt's friends to "give it to me straight" and give me the list of pros and cons to the area. They said there haven't been any cons.
So, I think we're going to take the plunge and try it. Matt and I are both ready to go now, but we are going to give it a year. First, one good thing that has come out of living here is that our house has gone up quite a bit in value since we moved here. It's expected to keep going up, so we would like to give it another year so that it can keep going up in value, and we can use that money to pay off a good chunk of student loan and vehicle debts. Secondly, we plan to get on a very strict budget this year so that we can also pay off a good chunk of debt beforehand while Matt is making a higher salary. Third, it gives us one more year to really be sure (although honestly, we both are). Four, by next year Emily will be done with preschool, so when they both start at a new school, they can go in together which will be comforting for them. Fifth, it gets both sets of grandparents closer to retirement. Unfortunately, mom will still have one more year...but it's only a year. And she is a teacher which means she will have breaks and summers off. Lisa and Bruce are finally warming up to the idea of coming down with us, if at least part of the year. Instead of buying a beach house in Wildwood like they were thinking, they will probably buy a beach house in Wilmington.
Matt and I had recently talked about the movie The Butterfly Effect, and if there were things you could go back and change, what would you. I told him sometimes leaving Greenville is one, especially since I can't go back. I mean, we could, but I know Matt would be settling for me. And I want a place we are both happy. But sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I never left.
But, coming here has had some major benefits. It has given me a lot of confirmation. First, I am and always will be so incredibly thankful for the time we have had with grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and cousins while the girls were so little. I'm glad that they have had the fun times together. However, even being here it's changing. Now that Ashley is in real school, I can't go up to visit NY for more than just the weekends. Cheryl works weekends now, and her "good times" are weekdays, which is impossible for me to come up, and she has a difficult time coming here without mom (who also can't come unless it's weekends). Also, as they are getting older, they have birthday parties, activities that they're in. We are busy. We see both sides/Aunts/uncles/cousins once every 3 months or so, and I have a feeling it'd become even less as they got older. It's not like we are with them all the time.  I can't make it to my nieces preschool graduation, because it's a weekday when my kids have school and vice versa. We aren't "in each others lives" the way I had hoped.
When we lived far away, we'd see extended family once a year. Now it's twice, MAYBE 3 times due to the reasons I listed above. And even though they're closer, they're still just a little too far away to be convenient to see.
With old friends, I LOVE LOVE LOVE all the great times we had in college, but I've changed. I often feel like I'm expected to fit back into a mold that I don't fit in anymore. That I have no desire to fit in anymore.
I've seen the differences in lifestyle, people, etc. from south to (North Jersey). I know it's not what I want. I see how HARD life is here. Life was never ever this hard down south. Matt has worked like a dog since we got here, even with me working extra to help compensate. And yes, we have gone on trips and do activities sometimes that cost money, but most have been trips to try to deal with horrible weather, and we do need to live a little sometimes, especially to balance out the stressors that come with being here. It's been hard.
But I have had great family time. And I've made some nice friends. And I've helped others, both with friendships and with my job, doing what I feel God uses me to do. But I'm ready for the next chapter. I think coming back here has confirmed to me that we aren't "missing out" on as much as we were worried we were. Being here has just further clarified what I know about myself, and want/need/expect out of life.
I want a nice life with good kind people for my kids to be exposed to, where life isn't so cold (both literally and figuratively), or so hard. I want Matt and I to be happy, so we can be the best mom and dad we can be. I want my husband to be able to work less so he can actually see his kids. And I want warm weather!!!!! A beach sounds pretty awesome too!!!! ;)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, it's Christmas season again! I have to say, this year has been my favorite. I think I wrote that last year too...but this year is even greater. Last year we had the excitement, joy, and magic of Christmas which made it so special. This year we still have that, PLUS a new maturity of understanding that it's not just about getting things, but the real meaning of Christmas and also about giving to others.
I had a really proud mom moment when we went to see Santa. All on her own, Ashley decided that since Santa is always generous and giving to others, that she wanted to give back to him and make him a gift. So she worked hard and cut out paper snowflakes, and put them in a pretty bag to give him. Santa was so taken aback by her thoughtfulness that he said he wanted to cry, and that he would hang them up on his walls at the North Pole.
Emily's teacher also informed me that, when asked what she wanted for Christmas this year, the only thing that Emily said she wanted was a doll for her sister Ashley so she could have the same as her. She cared more about getting something for her than for herself.
Chippy, our Elf on the Shelf, is also quite the hit again this year. Ashley just LOVES Chippy. Our elf has really strong powers so we can touch and hold him. She would carry him around everywhere and would want to take him places. He helped us get our Christmas tree again this year. Ashley loves Chippy so much that her #1 Christmas gift request was a matching Elf outfit so that she could match Chippy. Because Santa was so pleased with her kind gesture, and because he wanted the girls to enjoy their elf clothing for the whole holiday season, Santa sent Chippy back with them early (as well as nightgowns with Chippy all over it).
We also had Emily's Christmas concert yesterday. I just love watching all the kids singing. Emily always does such a nice job. We still have Christmas parties coming up too!
I will definitely look back on this time with such warm, fond memories. Trying to capture and enjoy it all while I can.

Now for a quick update.
I'll start with Ashley. All I can say is wow. I am not going to lie, ages 3 and 4 (and even a little of 5) had some very challenging moments with her. There was a lot of strong willed behavior, and even arguing and opposition at times. She definitely gave me a run for my money. I don't know what happened, but recently it's like a switch went off with her. Maybe it's her age, or maybe it's starting kindergarten and having such a nice teacher and more responsibilities...but I have noticed some really incredible changes with her within the past few months. She still has her moments, like all children/humans do, but I have watched her really mature and blossom. She has really become very kind, thoughtful/considerate, more respectful to myself and to others, polite and helpful. She's at an age where you can now discuss things and reason with her. I have been so incredibly proud of her.
She has already received two notices about "being caught being respectful" at school. And just the other day she was nominated for the Pillar of Character: Responsibility. This is a special honor, where a few children are chosen from throughout the whole school to be recognized for their great character/behaviors. Their name is called over the loudspeaker, they hang her picture up in the hallway, and send home a small gift. Very proud mom (parents) here!
Ashley really has loved and thrived in kindergarten, just as I knew she would. She has a passion for learning, and school channels this for her. She is the most advanced reading level, to the point where her teacher said she doesn't want to put her too far ahead, because she doesn't want her to feel left out. She is very bright and a hard worker, although she does have a tendency to have some perfectionism at times. So both at school and at home, we encourage "good enough is good enough"--appreciating her hard work and efforts, but allowing for human error and mistakes too. And trying anyway, even if we may not be the best at something.
The only con side to kindergarten has been the adjustment to the long days. Their schedule is jam packed, with little breaks. And going from a few half days of preschool to a long, full week has been hard. Sometimes around Thursday or Friday, we tend to have a "crash"/meltdown time. So we have refrained from after school activities for now (other than Daisies girl scouts which is only 1x/month) and playdates (which I am now trying to avoid at the end of the week).
Ashley has really gotten into art. She has always enjoyed her coloring, painting and crafts. But she continues to have a passion for it. At the end of her school day, there are different stations that the kids can pick. Ashley almost always chooses painting, and comes home with these big beautiful paintings that she's made. She also enjoys beading now. In addition to art, she has enjoyed practicing writing and spelling. When the weather is decent, she also enjoys the playground and playing with friends after school as well.
Now onto Emily. She is officially 4 now! Time, please slow down! I remember when Ashley was four, and now my last "baby" is 4. We had a nice celebration--we do a family celebration on Thanksgiving, then we went to a Hibachi restaurant on her actual birthday, then we had a joint birthday celebration for her and Ashley over the weekend. Because of Emily's maturity, she and Ashley really do have the same friends. Emily keeps up and plays well with kids Ashley's age (moreso than when she plays with kids her age or younger). So the joint party works, because we'd be inviting the same set of friends twice if we kept seperate. (Plus they both get two other seperate/individual celebrations for just them). This year we stuck to the YMCA party, but we did a cupcake decorating theme. The girls loved it. They got to color their own apron and chef hat (which they got to keep), and then decorate 3 different cupcakes to take home. We had pizza, and a fun dance party. It was a good time. Our amount of friends has practically doubled since last year. We had 25 kids there (and 2 more were supposed to come).
Emily has really grown--literally. She is really tall. Last year when she turned 3, I remember needing to switch her to 4t pants because the 3s were too short. Same for this year, she turned 4 but is in 5t pants--only one pant size different from Ashley despite the 2 year age different. They are also only 1 shoe size apart. Even though I am the oldest, I am the shortest. I have a feeling this may be the case for Ashley and Emily someday. I sometimes have people ask me if they are twins even, between them being so close in size, looking similar, and again Emily keeps up/acts much older at times.
Ashley and Emily definitely have their own unique interests and personalities. For instance, Ashley loves all the art activities. Emily wants nothing to do with it. Her teacher even said she had a hard time having Emily sit down to color at first. Emily would rather be up moving and bouncing off of things (sometimes literally, haha).
Emily really enjoys dressing up (Ashley too). Emily goes back and forth from things like Spiderman, to this year wanting to be a Ninja turtle, to supeheroes, to the opposite extreme of frilly fancy dresses. She's a good balance ;)  . She loves the dresses, and heels, etc. They love to put on 6 diffent costumes at once.
Emily is also into dressing up as a ballerina and dancing. So much so that I'd like to sign her up for a dance class sometime in near future, just waiting until we acclimate to the schedule a little more. Emily enjoys physical, likes to play on scooter, play outside when weather cooperates. Although she will sit and play play-doh.
Emily also got a great report from school. She is right where she should be academically, socially, she gets along well with others and is very sweet with the teachers. She loves going to school, and always loves to give her teacher extra hugs before we leave. She also greets me by running into my arms and giving me a big hug every day which is so sweet.
She is still a momma's girl, but is also becoming a daddy's girl, always saying that she misses daddy when he's working.
My only complaint, although totally normal and probably lifelong (at least until teenage years), is the bickering between the girls at times. Half the time they are SOOOO sweet together. They think of each other when not together. The look out of each other--for instance, one time they were watching a kid show with a "scary" part. They were sitting together, and Ashley had her arm around Emily and said "don't worry mommy, I'm going to cover Emily's heart so that I can protect her heart so she won't be scared". So sweet. Then they next minute they can be fighting. Typically it's Emily istigating with Ashley, because she knows that she can get a reaction from her (Ashley goes from zero to 100 in seconds and always overreacts). But like I said, typical siblign stuff.

But life contiunes to be wonderful...and exhausting...and maddening at times...but really great and wouldn't-change-it-for-the-world kinda stuff....

Monday, September 12, 2016

1st Day of School

So I am a few days behind in posting, but wanted to share the first day of school pics and updates.

Ashley has started KINDERGARTEN!!! Her first day went very well. Due to being jet lagged and readjusting to the time change after being in Italy, I woke up very early for a few days (I.e. 3:30 am, 4:30 a.m, etc.) The one perk to that was that everything was done and ready with PLENTY of time, so there was no rushing around. It was a nice relaxed morning. We even had time to play duck duck goose a few times before leaving. Daddy started work a little later so that he could bring Ashley to school as well for her first day of kindergarten.
When we dropped her off, there were no tears for anyone (as I expected). Ashley had been slightly nervous beforehand, but the day of she reported that she was "just excited". We ran into several of her friends--some from preschool, and a couple who were already at Manito Elementary School. Her friend Amanda had Ashley's teacher (Mrs. Woodward) last year, so she came up and reassured Ashley that her teacher was so nice. Her other older friend, Morgan, gave her a big hug. Lots of smiles and excitement the morning of. Ashley's friend, Gianna (our neighbor) is in Ashley's class. She struggles with anxiety and was crying, and Ashley was actually talking to her and trying to comfort her. It was sweet. Anyway, we did our hugs and kisses goodbye, packed her a special note for her first day, and left.
I didn't cry or get emotional either. There is a little intimidation about her entering the "real school" with bigger kids, more exposure to hearing and seeing things. Having to let go of that protection and innocence bubble she's been in. But I think that is where the God piece comes in, and knowing God's got this. And I also one who believes in having open and honest conversations with kids (in an age-appropriate way), and I already told Ashley that if she hears or sees anything that she's not sure about, that I'm always here to talk about it with her. I also encouraged her to listen to her intuition, that God connection, and listen to that wise voice within that tells her right from wrong. So I feel pretty ok with the letting go piece.
Also, Ashley is just plain ready. She has been ready for a long time. She is very bright. She loves and thrives on learning new things. She's ready for more--longer days and more information. She is ready for a little distance from her mom and sister so much. So I was excited for this new chapter for her.

Emily had a great first day of preschool at OLPH (3's class) too. I was a little more nervous for her, only because we had been away for 10 days on our Italy trip, and only saw her the day before school started. The day before, I took her to the meet and greet visit at school where she could meet her new teachers (Mrs. Pfeiffer and aid) and see her new classroom. Due to me being away, Emily was pretty clingy to me and didn't even want to say hello to the teacher. She was also really sad because she wanted her old teachers Mrs. Ham and Mrs. Kant back.
However, Emily had a great first day. Her teacher said she was happy, followed directions and played nicely. She even said that her friend Sammy was having a sad first day, and Emily cheered him up. Emily was also giving her teacher a hug by the end, and told me that she was nice and liked her.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Girls

Wow! I just looked back and saw that I haven't had a "girls" update post since Christmas!!! It's now July!!! Yikes. So much has obviously happened over the past several months. I'll try to write about the latest happenings and then try to play catch up....

We'll start with Ashley. Well, she has officially "graduated" preschool at OLPH! She is moving on to KINDERGARTEN! That is crazy. She had a great year. Her teacher, Mrs. Connolly, had nothing but nice things to say about Ashley--from how sweet she is, to how well she plays with others, to how bright she is and such a hard worker, etc. Ashley can officially read, and has been able to for a while now. She started off earlier in the school year reading site word books, where the teacher would send home books that connected stories to the pictures and used site words. Now, she can basically read any beginning reader's book. She still needs help sounding out some words, but can get most. She can also count well beyond 100, she can do sequential adding (5's, 10's, etc). She is a smart cookie!

OLPH had a nice graduation for the kids, including a real cap and gown, and diplomas. It was really sweet to watch. It'll be her HS graduation before we know it, sniff sniff!  In May we visited Manito Elementary School (where she will be going), toured the classrooms and met the potential teachers. She is excited (and a little nervous) to start....but she will do great, she is so ready for full time school and learning.

On April 7th, Ashley lost her very first tooth! It was her middle bottom left (if looking at her). Within three or four weeks, she lost her second one, the middle bottom right. For the first tooth, the tooth fairy brought her a Silver dollar.

Hmm...what else? She has totally mastered riding on her scooter. She whips and zips all around, does circles around you (literally). She's getting pretty good with her bike too, and will probably be riding a two wheeler soon.

Ashley has gotten much braver with age too. She used to be more cautious like me, but now she takes more risks. I.e. we went to the beach recently, and she was letting Matt lift her up into big crashing waves.

She has also learned how to do the monkey bars. She swims pretty good too.

Ashley loves rainbow everything. All her pictures and drawings always include rainbows.  She and Emily still love to play dress up, and dress up almost every day.  Or make believe, setting up tea parties or restaurants for her dolls or us.

Cousin Robby was born a few months ago. Ashley is so sweet with him, as well as other friends babies. She can be very loud and has a strong personality, yet around babies she is very sweet, gentle and loving. It almost makes me sad that we won't be having any more kids, since she would be real sweet with them. But at least she has cousins ;)

In addition to lots of go go go summer fun with small trips, playdates, etc, Ashley has also been having fun with some camps. Her elementary school offered and encouraged the kids to go to a 2 week program, Safety Town. Now she is signed up for Oakland Rec camp for a few weeks, which goes from 9-3 in order to prepare her for longer days of school hours since she has been used to just a few half days. It's been a blast.

Now onto Emily. Emily has gotten so big. My friend (who has known her for a while) just commented the other day on how big she was, a real big girl and no trace of baby left in her. I have friends whose kids are 3--granted, they are on the younger end of 3, while Emily is 3 1/2 now--but Emily seems so much older than they do. I think because she and Ashley are so close, Emily tries so hard to be a big girl like her, and they have the same mutual (sometimes older) friends, it really has made Emily seem so much older too. She really doesn't have a hard time keeping up with the big kids at all. In fact, she even surpasses them in some activities!

She talks quite well and has an extensive vocabulary for her age. She does still make some slips, which happen to be adorable, like saying "her is _____", vs. "she is _____". (She mixes up he/she for him/her). I've corrected it more than I can count, but she still says is. One day I'll miss it.

Emily continues to be very athletic. She doesn't play soccer, but she could...she's got great eye/hand or foot/hand coordination. We also like to play kickball in our yard, and she's great at that too. She loves to be moving and doing. For the summer, we attached our large kiddie pool to our swings slide, and turned it into a water slide which she absolutely loves.

Emily is also a smart cookie. Had everything checked off on her list for preschool expectations. Can count, do ABCs, can spell her name, etc.

Both she and Ashley love to help. We have a morning/night routine, and a couple little chores throughout the day. In addition to that, they love to help cook or bake, they like to help with dishwasher, etc.

As big as Emily has gotten, and as independent as she is most of the time, she continues to be a momma's girl, and still asks me to hold her a good bit. Sometimes I get discouraged because she begs me, saying "hold me momma" when I'm in the middle of stuff and super busy....but most times I love it, and try to savor it since I know I won't be holding her much longer. I love that we still rock together in her rocking chair at night, and I will continue to do so as long as she asks and wants to.

I don't know if I ever mentioned it in a previous post, but Emily is absolutely OBSESSED with SpiderMan. It all started last Halloween. She randomly picked SpiderMan out on a website of kids costumes and has been obsessed ever since. It's calmed down a bit recently, but she was wearing her SpiderMan costume every single day, in addition to Spider Man pajamas and clothes, and bath towels, and toys, etc. It was so cute. I think I will forever associate anything SpiderMan to her, even long after the phase has ended.

As active as a kid as she is, Emily is also a TV fanatic, and would watch it for hours if I let her (which I don't). Ashley will be coloring (she LOVES to), and Emily will be begging to watch TV.

Unfortunately, Emily had to miss out on camp this year. I had signed her up for VBS again since she LOVED it so much last year...She went the first day, but ended up getting sick that night. She was throwing up, followed by a high fever that lasted for like 5 days. Poor thing. I hated seeing her that sick. I also hated that she had to miss VBS. Hopefully next year will work out. But, we have been having nice bonding time while Ashley is at camp.

We have also been having an incredibly fun, fun, busy, exhausting summer. Back in May, before school was even out, we took a weekend trip to the Poconos with Matt's parents to do some biking, pedal boating, beach and pool. June was busy with Emily's school concert, end of the year party, trips to the YMCA lake, Ashley's graduation, trip to movie theater, Oakland carnival with friends, 2 trips to NY to see Grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandpa (Aunt Kristyn and Uncle Brian were in town from Italy so we jam packed fun activities in), extended family. We took a trip down to South Jersey one weekend to visit Jayne, Ed and fav cousin Ethan, another trip down to LBI/beach to visit our neighbors and friends, Becky, Seth, Tyler and Colin while they were staying with Seth's parents. We did a trip to the Bronx Zoo (Emily stayed with Grandmom and Grandpop and went to the movie theaters with them since she was just over her sickness), then they took a trip to the Pocono house with Grandmom and Grandpop since our friends Matt and Christi Wagner came to visit from SC, and we were showing them around NYC and going to a Coldplay concert.

It's really been a whirlwind. In addition to all of those trips, we've been doing the day to day playdates with friends, day trips, etc.

Lastly, Matt and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary while we were up in NY visiting. We had an awesome time. I totally surprised him. A while back, I had seen this video where a wife totally surprised her husband for their anniversary by wearing her wedding gown, being all dressed up, and had their wedding song playing. He came in and almost started crying, then they danced together. I thought it was so sweet, and stored it in the back of my memory for special occasion. When we first decided to go up to NY during our anniversary date, I was bummed because I didn't think I could swing it. But then Kristyn and Brian said that they wanted to treat Matt to a round of golf for a belated birthday gift, so it was perfect. I informed them of my plan, and got them in on it by having Brian text us when they were about a half hour from home so I could be all ready. I'm a horrible liar usually, but I managed to be convincing and told Matt that the extra big suitcase (which had my wedding gown in it) had special surprise things that mom asked me to bring up for Kristyn's 30th (we were celebrating our anniv, Kristyn's early 30th, and bon voyage party all at once).

It was great. When the got back, I was in my gown, all dressed up. We had it decorated, had fake rose petals that my "flower girls" put down for us, and had our wedding songs playing (the one I walked down the aisle to followed by our 1st dance). Matt was totally surprised and loved it. We danced together. Ashley even got in on it. Great moment.
The girls loved it too, especially Ashley. A while back she had watched our wedding video with me and was bummed that she couldn't be there. So when I told her what I was doing, she said "I'm so happy and excited that I could cry". She was also excited that they were my new "flower girls". It made it extra special.

Anyway, that is all for now. Hope I got everything!

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Delayed Verdict

I wanted to update on our visit to Florida, and the decision Matt and I made....

Matt and I went down to visit Florida and saw the new office location and area. Although I love Florida, this location is not for us. Amelia Island was beautiful and everything my friend Jen said it was, however it did still seem more like a touristy beach vacation place vs. a real place to live. And although some people are starting to move there year round, it appeared to be mostly very wealthy (and probably retired) people living there. There also wasn't a whole lot going on directly outside of that area.
The other area that was within close proximity of the office and had better school ratings was very rural. They are working on growing, putting in new restaurants and stores, and I'm sure in another 10-20 years from now it will be a great place to live. But in the meantime, it's very rural with lots of run down trailers and/or low income housing, with pockets of these beautiful developments with picturesque homes and neighborhoods throughout. The schools, although rated well, were actually kind of scary looking with barbed wire all around them. Matt and I both agreed that this was not a place we'd want to uproot our lives to move to.
We did find a really nice area, Julington Creek/Ponte Vedra area which was on the Southside of Jacksonville. This was perfect--beautiful, picturesque neighborhoods with nice "happy medium" lifestyle--not super rich like our current surrounding towns, but also not the other extreme like the other area of Florida either. Much more established neighborhoods, safe/nice looking schools that are actually top rated for the entire state, and is even following the curriculum that they follow here. It looks like a town that I could totally see us enjoying. However, this area is about 50 minutes away from the new office location (without traffic) which isn't ideal, and even if Matt were to commute, I don't see him being happy with the mixed clientele he would be working with. I don't think it would work if he wasn't happy in his job setting. Another really big drawback is that this area is an additional half hour from Jen and Jim, which is a big draw back for me. They hoped to get a vacation place in Amelia Island, which would mean we would be seeing them frequently in that area. Here, although they do visit often as well, is not an area they plan to frequent as much. Half the point was to see them and have them in our lives regularly. Also, even though it's only an extra half hour, they are also our "safety net"/comfort in case of emergencies, and an hour and a half just feels a lot further and makes me more nervous being all alone down there.

So, although there is rumor of something opening in that area as well, we told the bosses no thank you to the new office location, didn't push on the other area, and told them we're going to stick it out in NJ for another year or two. Then, as they continue to grow and expand throughout the state of Florida, we can revisit the idea in another year or two. In the meantime, our plan is to stay here and keep tackling some of our challenges we are currently facing.

First, come the fall, once Ashley is in Kindergarten and Emily is back to preschool, I plan to pick up another full day at work, or find something part time elsewhere so Matt doesn't have to work as much. As upsetting as this idea is to me, and not the "plan" we had had, this way is currently not working for any of us. Matt is working like a dog at work, I'm working like a dog at home and working pt. He really misses us, and we really miss him. Hopefully this plan will balance things out a little more, while still tackling the financial hardship we are in.

Although I'm still not particularly fond of this area as a whole, in the last few months I have been establishing more friendships and have met several nice people in that church group. So that has given me a lot of hope about making it work here. The counselor also reassured me that my kids will tend to gravitate toward the types of people we surround them with and promote throughout these early years, so I don't have to worry too much about the hard/bad influences.

Also, I know I've complained a lot about how much I hate the cold. Our plan is to take a trip someplace warm during the winter to get a break from the awful weather, as well as visit Greenville more often than we have and see if these things help in the next winter or two. However, if I continue to go through depression for months and months at a time despite these efforts, we will be moving at the end of that time. It is not good for me, my marriage, or my children to have a miserable and depressed person for 6 months out of the year.

So, we are going to give it our best shot to work on things here since we do love having our family around and in our lives on a regular basis. We will see how things go, then revisit the possibility of moving down south in a couple years. IF we did end up moving down south at that time, we'd now be 2 years closer to retirement for grandparents (mom may even be retired by then), we will be more caught up financially (and have more equity on our home for reselling purposes). Just a better time overall.

Matt and I are both completely on the same page about everything, and I do feel 100% ok with this decision. As I mentioned in a previous post, the possibility of moving made me see things through the eyes of potential loss and has given me a deeper appreciate for some of the good things/people here, I'm more hopeful with newfound friendships, and I have an "I can always change my mind later" in the back of my head if I need to. In the meantime, we will take things one day at a time, enjoy the good things here, leave it up to God and see what happens....

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Quick Florida Update

So....I don't have a lot of time, but wanted to throw out a quick update.

Matt and I leave to go to Florida for the weekend to check out the area in order to help us make a decision about whether to stay or leave. Matt was told the official site of the new office, so now we know the exact location and can narrow down potential areas and search. We are meeting with someone who works for his company (and lives down there), and she will take us around certain areas. Then we get to visit with Jen and Jim again (yay!!!) and they will show us around as well.

I'm excited and also nervous. Part of me feels like it'll just further complicate things because I KNOW that look wise and weather wise it'll totally be up my alley. But part of me feels conflicted about leaving still.

At first everything was happening so fast like a whirlwind, then we've had a good month of nothing to really think about the pros and cons. There is a part of me that wants to get the heck out of here. I hate hate hate the weather as you know. I'm not a huge fan of the people here as a whole, their mentality or their values. However, I have met some more nice people over the last couple of months, and am developing nice friendships in addition to a couple really nice ones I've developed. So that has really given me hope about if we stayed here. The thought of leaving has had me/us see things through the eyes of loss, and what we'd be leaving behind. There are people I'd really miss, both for myself, Matt, and our girls.
Part of me is still really sad about the idea of leaving our families. Cousin Robby was born, so now there's another cousin to leave. Matt's mom has also made it clear that she has no intention of living down in Florida, even part time. This really was upsetting to hear because they'd be a great loss to us and the girls. I didn't expect them to move--they've had their lives up here. They have their other son, grandchildren, family and friends. I would never ask them to leave all of that behind. But I did really hope that they'd be open to at least coming down for a few months throughout the year once they retire.
Spring is finally here, things are blooming, flowering and looking alive again, which makes me enjoy it here. For instance, my backyard is a love-hate thing. I HATE the winter here, however I LOVE our backyard in the spring and summer--it's absolutely beautiful and so peaceful to sit out there when it's warm enough.

So, needless to say, Matt and I are both conflicted. The thing is, the weather is never going to change. I probably will never adjust to the months of cold, dark, dreary months and months. I've tried everything I could to curb the depressed feelings I've had to no avail. But again, now that I've been making additional friendships, maybe that will help alleviate the negatives? Not sure...
I have made nice friends with more budding. However, I still worry that even if we surround ourselves and kids with nice, kind people, we are still going to be exposed to the larger population of negative, harder, cynical and materialistic people in the area and school. And even if I surround us with that, there will come a day when my influence will become less and less, and the girls peers will become more and more. And that still worries me.
The financial issue and stress is getting worked out. Next year Ashley will be in Kindergarten which will cut the preschool cost in half. We're on track to get out of some debts, so Matt will be able to cut back on extra work. Once girls are both in school I'll bring in more income if we hang on that will get better too...but it's still the "in between time" of hanging on that's long and hard and taxing on both the girls and on us.

But...we have family. We have more time together than we would. It's a tough decision....I'm sad and scared to leave, but I'm also sad and scared not to.....

Hopefully the Florida trip will help bring us some clarity. Will keep you posted on our decision.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bittersweet Moment

Had a bittersweet moment. We got rid of all of our baby clothes and most of our baby items this week. I had held onto EVERYTHING we owned JUST IN CASE we decided to have another baby. We were pretty set on 2 children from the get go, but I wanted to hold onto the stuff just in case we had a change of heart over time. But, we have officially closed that door. We decided that our hearts are full and our family is complete. So now that it's official, we decided to do some purging since the baby items were taking up 70% of our basement storage.
In one way, clearing out all the space felt great! A daunting chore was finally done. On the other hand, very sad to give up our things. Although they are just things, and we can't take any of it with us when we die, these things connected me to their babyhood, and wonderful memories. Given the sentimental person that I am, I did allow myself to keep one big bin of combined baby clothes from newborn up to almost 2T. That way I can reminisce over them, let the girls see some of their stuff and how little they once were, and if by any chance they want any of it for their own children someday, they can have it or turn into a quilt or something.
I gave a ton of clothes to my good friend Jodi. (I checked with siblings first with items). I've known her since the 5th grade. She has twins, one boy and one girl. I gave her 12 month-2T. The nice part about her having them is that I can see her little girl wearing them, and again reflect back on when my babies were in those outfits, which is really nice. I donated the other half to Good Will. I was blessed to have wonderful friends who happily shared/passed down or loaned me tons of baby clothes, so I thought it would be nice to return the good gestures, to help out a friend and others in need. Then I sold some items such as strollers, pack and plays, etc.

On to the next chapter of our lives.... Florida updates because there hasn't been any yet....Matt is meeting with his bosses on Monday to discuss all details, and we'll know a lot more after we've had questions answered. Will keep posted.