Friday, January 29, 2016

Blizzard 2016

We had a blizzard one week ago!  It was really quite fun considering nothing went wrong regarding health emergencies, power or water outages.  We were also fully stocked with food so we stayed quite snug at home for several days.

We can now say we've lived through a category 3 Hurricane in 2005 and now a 40" blizzard!

The kids have had no school ALL WEEK and we've really only left the house for church Wednesday night and husband went out for food on Tuesday.  It's an impromptu winter break!

Overall the roads are passable with at least one lane open on all major roads and since we've had temperatures in the 40's and I think even a few 50's the snow has actually melted down by at least half.  I was worried it would stay cold and snowy for much longer but apparently this crazy El Nino is not done with the higher winter temps.

I was definitely not prepared with the right snow gear for this depth of snow.  First of all, kids snow boots tend to be rather short, maybe half way up their leg if they are lucky.

On the first day of snow, while the blizzard was still coming down, they were dying to go outside.  I managed to get the oldest and 3 year old out the door and while I was still getting my boots on the 3 year old started screaming like she was dying until I managed to scramble to the porch where she had lost her boot in the snow and was stuck standing with one snow covered sock.  I simply grabbed her and put her back in the house.  I kept her inside after that because how do you get snow out of an already wet boot?!?

The older kids went charging through the yard and made many tunnels for which the young dog was very happy.  They also lost our favorite shovel and no one can tell us how or where it was thrown, dropped or lost.

Upon coming into the house I realized we needed a better strategy for de-snow gearing kids because the entrance comes through the dogs sleep mat area which gets snow and water everywhere.  One kid threw his snowy gloves right on the old dog who was also suffering from the chilly winds coming through the door, I felt so bad for him.  There was snow everywhere so I had to mop the entrance and kitchen after taking snow gear downstairs to dry.

On Saturday, after the snow had stopped, we had around 40 inches of snow.  My husband spent a few hours clearing one vehicle while the kids played again.  This time Sam kept losing one boot in the snow and for some reason he'd throw it and then go tromping through the snow to get it - in his sock snow covered foot!  I still don't get that.

Charlotte had the best snow gear with her hand-me-down snow suit so I finally went online and bought snowsuits for the other 2 kids but even with prime, the snow has shipments coming slower than usual so they still haven't arrived!  I'm afraid the snow will be gone before they even get here!  That's what spontaneous shopping will do for you.

Charlotte's hand-me-down boots still got a ton of snow inside so even with the snowsuit she as struggling.  I was about to get her tighter bigger boots when I stumbled across Gaiters.  These things wrap around boots or shoes with a buckle and keep snow out!  I don't think boots can fall off with the buckle around the base so I thought this was particularly brilliant and promptly bought 3.

Here's our snow pics!











Travel Anxiety

When I haven't traveled alone in awhile I get quite a bit of anxiety.  It usually hits me about 3 days before the trip as the list of things I want to accomplish before leaving start to pile up and I get this sudden overwhelming need to cry and blank out at the same time.  It's hard to explain panic and anxiety but it's basically like someone just took a beater to your brain and you're left with scrambled eggs.

I've stopped beating myself up for not having more control over this sudden unwelcome onslaught of anxiety.  When it rears it's ugly head I make a long list of what I want to do, then I prioritize it and remove things that are not absolutely necessary.

Yoga would probably help, but it's just another thing to add to a long list of things I need to get done so it will most likely be pushed aside for other priorities.

Next week I'm going to Fort Lauderdale on Monday, then driving to Orlando for the rest of the week with my co-workers.  I think the only beach I'll see is from the sky but at least I'll be warm!

This is my first trip away from baby in over 6 months and since I'm still breastfeeding it's compounded by needing to bring equipment and find time to pump.  I'm really so over it since she's now 14 months old today but considering she's still so small and we're dealing with continued doctor's appointments, it seems prudent to continue breastfeeding until she's ready to stop.  Just one more thing to throw into the mix but I also tell myself it's probably my last trip to travel with this equipment so that's good!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

To The Family Considering a 4th Child

So, you've managed three and you're now considering a fourth?  People will look at you in shock and confusion in this society where three is already considered a large brood.

In 2011, I went to a conference with a really fun person I'd met in the blogging world.  She had three and I was pregnant with my 3rd.  At the first dinner, I looked at the women to my left who's name was Rachel, accompanied with a small child in a high chair and I asked brightly, so is she your first?  After all, this lovely women looked really young.  She said, oh no, she's my 7th!  I quite nearly fell off my chair in shock.  Then a missionary visited our table who had 6 kids and another popular blogger who did most of the evening studies had 6 and by the end my friend and I were like, wow, I guess we have small broods!

The following year, I found three to be completely overwhelming.  We lived in Florida at the time with no family support so when my oldest, who was 4 at the time, broke her arm, we had to ask my husband's mom to fly in to help for 2 weeks while we managed her care along with our two year old and our baby who was only 4 months old at the time.  We had many things go wrong that year, the baby was diagnosed with failure to thrive, our 4 year old had trouble adjusting to pre-school, my husband broke his hand, our 2 year old fell off a bench and split his chin open, my anxiety felt off the charts - it was a crazy year!

So how did we manage to go from 3 to 4?

Well, for us family support was important, so in 2014 we moved our small brood to Hagerstown, MD where I'd grown up.  We then attended the church I grew up in which had a number of families with 4 and 5 kids so it started to feel normal to add just one more.  We also waited until the youngest had just turned 2 to get pregnant so while she still wasn't potty trained, she was at least walking, talking, able to dress herself and communicate on many levels.  This helped us feel like we only had one baby to care for and I wasn't trying to hold the two year old in stores like I had with my prior three pregnancies where the  kids were only 2 years apart at birth.  By the time we had Evie, our Violette was about to turn 3 years old.  This made a huge difference in the babies first year because it really felt like we only had one baby.  The three older kids were in a solid routine of meals, baths, school for the two oldest and we had a good schedule that kept us sane.  We also thankfully had no family emergencies that year.

So my only advise is to go for #4 when you feel good and ready.  Don't let anyone talk you out of a child if you really want one and have the means to care for that child.  Children are such a wonderful blessing and the joy we see while watching the older ones care for the baby is priceless.  They cheer over her every accomplishment, every dance, every smile.  Yes they still trip over her and make her cry but they also learn from their mistakes and take more care around her.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

My Most Brilliant Coup

was convincing my boss to let me move to Maryland and work from home.  At 5pm, I assume baby care so husband can make dinner.  However, if I'm not done working, she plays in my office until such point I can't take the mess/ruckus.  At this point she is removing everything from my purse, a time honored tradition that all babies must attempt.



After quickly scooping up anything too small for her to put in her mouth I continue working.  She looks around for other things to bang on, crawls under my desk and stands at the paper shredder (which is off) and bangs on that for awhile until she finally gets tired and yells at me to stop what I'm doing and pick her up.  Some days I get a good 30 minutes left to work, some days it's 15 and sometimes I'm just better off waiting until 8pm to return to work and get it done in peace.  But there's no commute and we generally have dinner on the table by 6:30 so I really can't complain.  

This Cold is Wrecking my Schedule

I had plans to work 8-5 every day but they were wreaked with this cold that came on mid-day on Monday.  It's a horrible head cold, one of those foggy types that has one starring into space for unknown amounts of time.  Both Tuesday and Wednesday I went back to bed after husband left to take kids to school and slept for 2 more hours.

Mom called and says I'm doing too much and need to rest.  She always tells me to rest but I can't remember her ever resting when she was sick.  Maybe she wants me to do what she could never do.  So here I am, resting, doing as much work as is necessary which is hard since my brain feels like scrambled eggs so I've switched to default mode which is internet browsing.  I came across Liz Bohannon of Sseko Designs, a company in Uganda that makes some truly lovely sandals and footwear in Uganda with the goal of sending employees to college to do more with their lives.  This had me wondering about my favorite Uganda blogger, Katie Davis so I went to her blog to get caught up.  And now I'm thinking of my Compassion child in Uganda and how it's been more than a year since I've written.  I guess now would be a good time to get caught up on letters to our Compassion children.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Failure to Thrive - Part 7

Evie had her one year check up and she made it to 15lbs but the doctor is still not happy so she's scheduled to come back in 6 weeks.  To say I'm done with this hyper vigilance of her weight gain is an understatement.

Her chart shows a nice spike in weight gain but she's still clearly under the norm:

I hope we don't have to go every 6 weeks for the entire year!  She's eating much better now and eats with us at every meal with an additional snack time.  I continue to breastfeed her 5-6 times per day.  We're looking to high calorie foods like Sweet Potato Casserole and Whole Milk Yogurt to pack on the weight.  More in six weeks!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

What To Do When You've Been Scammed

I am so embarrassed to admit I got scammed but I feel it's my duty to report on the specifics just in case someone else falls for this.

Here's the scam email:

The reason this one got me is because it's a receipt for purchases.  In the past year I got a similar email from Amazon where someone had gotten into my account and bought about $100 of digital games before I managed to call Amazon and straighten everything out.  

The first thing I did with this scam was click on the button circled in red above because it said "you will be billed each month unless you cancel now".  This took me to the following screen which looked very similar to Apple's website:


I was asked to put in my user name and password.  My password didn't work because it's not an Apple website so I was then given the following screen.  It was way past my bedtime and I was tired so I should not have been doing this without a clear head.


I don't log into my Apple page very often so I thought this was a reset password page.  I was confused as to why they needed all this information and even though it felt wrong I still put in my full name, address, birthday, Visa info and social security number.  No where did it even ask for a password so I really don't know what I was thinking in filling this out and as soon as I hit send I panicked.

Then I did damage control.

Here are some things you can do if you've given away your personal information, or had it stolen through a credit breach (which seems to be all to frequent these days):

1.  I called my Visa card to cancel the card and said my information had been stolen.
2.  I changed my Apple email and password just in case they were able to grab that information when I initially tried to log in on the first page.
3.  Set up Fraud Protection on my credit reports.  Fraud alert messages notify potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name in case someone is using your information without your consent.  I set up an account with ProtectMyID.com which is a part of Experian and signed up for their service to get my credit report and set up fraud protection.  I could not find a way to set up fraud protection without signing up for their service.  Once you have an account it still takes some effort to get to the correct page.  They have a section called ID Theft Protection that has 6 steps that the website will help you with but when you want an immediate resolution at 10pm at night it's best to find the page where you can sign up for Fraud protection.  There is no search function in this website so I went back to Google and looked up "Experian Fraud Protection" and eventually got to this page.  At this point you might even think you are signing up for Experian but I was taken to ProtectMyID.com which isn't exactly a bad thing since I was able to achieve my two goals of getting fraud protection set up and seeing my credit report.

If step 3 sounds crazy then I have to agree, it seems like alot of hoops to jump through just to get fraud protection and I guess it's because they are trying really hard to get you to sign up for a monthly plan.  I've not figured out how to sign up for Fraud protection without signing up for service.

I read in this Consumer Reports that ID protection companies are NOT very helpful in protecting your ID and this page gives some great tips on do-it-yourself safeguards.

Fraud protection will last for 90 days and the credit website you report to first, will report to the other two credit report websites.  The Consumer Reports page I referred to above, recommends staggering requests for credit reports to every 4 months, that way you can cycle through the 3 companies 3 times per year.  

I do realize that there is a website where you can get Free Credit Reports but you have to mail a request form with ID and wait for them to mail your reports so I'll do this in the next 3-4 months as Consumer Reports has recommended.

Finally, step 4 is to eliminate the email used in the scam.  It's over 10 years old and gets a ton of scam emails.  I think it's time to wind this email account down and use new ones that are not as infected with junk mail.

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year's Resolution

I haven't done this for several years because there was nothing big I wanted to change.  Last night my husband started talking big about all the changes he wants to do this year.  He was excited and motivated.  I realized I was comfortable and satisfied with just about everything and didn't want to change anything.  Then it occurred to me that for husband to achieve his dreams I might need to support him by making time available...

Husband has been supporting my dreams for 18 years, maybe I should make my New Year's resolution to support him and his ideas 100%.

In the summer of 1997 my future husband and I moved to Fort Lauderdale with the sole purpose of my going back to school full time and getting a Bachelor's.  He had an associate's degree in special effects make up that was not usable in that area so he got a full time job at Smoothie King.  We got engaged in 1999, got married in the summer of 2000 and I graduated at the end of 2000.

I got a job in the toy industry in January 2001, which required us to move to Miami, FL, not a far move since it was only an hour away.  This was our first career inspired move.

Our 2nd career move came 11 months later when my boss decided to move the company to California and I was enjoying my job so much I couldn't see why not.  Husband had been working as a security officer and he quit to support our move to CA.

We first lived in Valley Village, CA for 6 months, it's a tiny area in the San Fernando Valley north of Studio City and east of Sherman Oaks.  It's bordered by the Ventura Freeway and very close to Hollywood.  We thought with all the retail that it would be no problem for him to get a job.  He went 4 months with no work.  We finally realized it was due to out of work industry people who sucked up all the jobs when they weren't actively supporting a movie.  My job was in Thousand Oaks, CA, about 30-40 minutes west so he eventually tried at Petsmart in that area and got a job so we promptly moved there.  The only reason we didn't move there originally was because people we had met told us we'd hate living in that area but we ended up loving it.

After two years my boss missed South Florida and announced we were moving back, right after my husband started considering local colleges for degree in computer technology.  So we put that on hold and moved back to S. Florida where husband transferred to a local Petsmart and moved into dog training.

We moved back at the very end of 2003 and the next year and a half were spent in a very small crowded apartment.  I was doing very well with Snap and with my boss and other director were buying homes so I was itching to buy something.  It was 2005 and I was desperate to buy anything because the prices rising rapidly.  We ended up getting a condo in the fall and I believe the following year my husband started taking part-time classes at a local community college.

In the next 3 years my career surged with 3 trips to Asia per year, some were 3-4 weeks long.  We didn't have kids so I was very free to travel and it helped me cement my position at Snap by becoming valuable in production knowledge and ability to get things done.  I worked 10-12 hour days on a daily basis with little thought for anything but getting the job done.  Meanwhile husband seemed to be making slow progress with his studies but he was conflicted because Petsmart wanted to move him into management and he was having trouble balancing college with the hours they wanted him to perform and the flexibility that was required so eventually the classes stopped.

By 2007 I came home from an Asia trip and realized I was exhausted.  I looked around and realized everyone was having kids and had great excuses to not travel as much.  I was 32 and it dawned on me with extreme urgency that we must have kids - immediately!  I got pregnant on the first try, which really shocked me.

Charlotte was born five weeks early on June 19, 2008 and I think it was due to my penchant for working in a state of high anxiety plus the long hours.  We had not given any thought to child care and had no savings for a normal maternity leave due to our high mortgage.  The most we could afford was 5 weeks which included sick days and vacation time.  We looked into day care but they would only start at 6 weeks and cost over one thousand per month, which after looking at what husband made per month made it almost completely pointless.  I'm sure he made at least 2 grand per month but what's the point of giving away 50% of your paycheck and she was so small.  We didn't want to give her to strangers.  So husband decided to work Friday, Sat and Sunday shifts while staying home all week.  As a result we had almost no free time together until 2012 when our 3rd was born and my salary had finally escalated to where I felt we could live without his salary and I begged him to quit and be a stay at home dad.

My husband hasn't worked since April 2012 and for the past 3 years and 8 months he has been a full time dad.  With the recent purchase of a major fixer-upper he is ITCHING to get back to work.  I see it in his eyes and body language every single day.  I on the other hand just want to work my work hours and spend time with the kids, at home or supporting church activities.  I let go of the Women In Toys board position last year and I have almost no travel plans this year except for what is absolutely required of me.  So I think it's his turn!  He's gotten me to where I am today which is a very comfortable director position that I enjoy and seems to finally fit comfortably into an 8 hour work day!

Where I need to challenge myself is to cut out the lag time.  I stay up late, wake up late, get to work by 9am and off by 6pm.  He leaves at 8am to take the kids to school so if I could start work then and work until 6pm I could cut 4 hours off Friday and finish by noon, thus giving him half a day Friday and all day Saturday.

So there, my New Year's Resolution is two:
1.  Hour control - cut out lag time
2.  Support husband in his new job - house rehab!


Monday, December 28, 2015

Multitude Monday

Here it is, the last Monday of the year.  I spent the past hour consolidating an old blog that I had written from 2008 - 20013.  It was more private than this blog, not advertised, a place to write quietly about faith.  I found a long series about Multitude Monday with lists of things I was thankful for and it seems that I stopped in 2012 at 285 gifts so I thought today might be a good time to resume a list of things I'm thankful for:

286.  Evie, who has been sleeping for the past hour in such a way that has allowed me the time and space to update my blog!
287.  Evie's first birthday is tomorrow, that means we made it through the difficult nights and all the feeding challenges!  She's almost a year old and so spunky!!
288.  This blog, a history of my toughest challenges from the past 8 years, a space to learn from my mistakes and smile at the good times we've had as a family
289.  My children, each and everyone is a blessing.  I could never say I love you enough to my lovely children.
290.  My younger brother, who came over on Christmas day and played games with the kids ALL DAY LONG even though he only had 3 hours of sleep the night before AND made us homemade Apple Cider Donuts before coming!!!

Christmas and Staying on a Budget

This is the first year I've actually tried to stick to a budget with Christmas.  It's not that I ever went crazy or anything but I just didn't keep track of expenses in prior years.  This year I set an arbitrary budget of $500 for all family and that was meant to include shipping expenses.  We went over budget by $55.61 and quite frankly I could have stayed on budget because I was tracking all the way through Christmas Eve but for some reason I panicked that we didn't have enough presents for the kids and so I overspent at Target AND went to Big Lots and bought 3 more 10 dollar toys.  It was unnecessary because they were more than happy with their other presents. 

Advice to myself for next year:
  • Start earlier with a plan and stick to it!
  • Husband and I have agreed to one big present for each child, it might be something we suggest family go in on but it will be one toy item that they can get excited about.
  • All other items should be stocking stuffers or family presents.  I had the idea to pack one box with family style gifts that could include board games, movies, family calendar from Shutterfly, etc. 
Gifts for extended family:
This year we did plan early and made Peppermint bark and Apple Cinnamon Jelly for our extended family.  It was an awesome way to quickly pack a box and ship to family who are not local.  The part that put me way behind was photos.  I love to pack and send out photos to my Texas family but it takes some serious planning to make sure every family gets the right photos, one of each child, etc.  I spent extra time scanning photos and ordering them from Shutterfly.  It was disappointing when the wallets never even showed up - still need to call Shuttefly about that.  If I can plan this part earlier then I can ship earlier and avoid the more expensive fees that happened this year from shipping right on the deadline!