Saturday, January 20, 2018

Villa la Angostura, Argentina

January 16th

Some thoughts

  1. If you are lucky enough to find an IPA at a bar, it takes some translation to figure out that the correct pronunciation is “Eepa”, else they have no idea what you’re talking about
  2. We still have yet to find any other native English speakers. So much so that, in a restaurant the other day, I had a server ask me, approximately, “what on earth are you doing here? We never get Americans here.”
  3. I wish we had travelled internationally in the Obama era.  I feel like we are ambassadors for the US, and can’t bring myself to leave a bad tip for bad service, because I’m convinced it only makes our country look bad.  Anything I can do to convince foreigners that Americans aren’t all bad seems worth doing, even when I feel taken advantage of.
  4. Greta has taken to very inappropriate “your face” jokes.  Such as, “do you know why your joke’s not funny? Because your face isn’t funny!” I don’t know where these jokes came from.  But (see above) I feel self conscious that people around us understand these rude jokes and just assume that’s the American way.
  5. Have I mentioned I miss having people to talk to? My family is lovely.  But I miss talking to strangers.  Passing pleasantries.  This is the first place I’ve travelled, as a non-native speaker, that is so far off the beaten path that locals are shocked when someone doesn’t speak Spanish.  I’m practicing, but I have so far to go.
  6. We leave here tomorrow.  Villa la Angostura, and Argentina in general, has been amazing.  This is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  The houses and businesses have a beautiful, almost Swiss, look. Redwood beams with steeply sloped roofs, yards full of roses.  Every direction has snow capped peaks and crystal clear, blue lakes.   The Main Street is paved, but every other road in town is gravel.  A testament to what a remote outpost this is.  (Though one of my unexpected appreciations is paved roads: the dust is endless.)
  7. Our Air B&B hosts invited us on their boat today.  I expected a tiny fishing boat with a tiny motor.  Instead, it was a beautiful boat, all hard wood, a restored 1934 yacht.  The kind of boat that tourists take photos of when you pull into port.  They brought along their three kids, ages 16, 15 and 13.  Girl, girl, boy, just like our brood.  We motored to a remote beach and chatted for 4 hours in Spanglish. As per earlier conversations, they asked how on earth we stumbled on this place.  I think they invited us because  they NEVER get Americans here and were curious.    Their kids were lovely, and MJ is completely in love with the teenage girls.  I am so thankful I don’t yet have to deal with teenage girls.  
  8. Thong bikinis are all the rage here.  I am thankful I am too old, too motherly, and too foreign to feel the need to indulge the trend.
  9. Also: Mate.  It is everywhere.  We have yet to try it.  My understanding is that it is like a highly caffeinated kind of gross tea (other people’s words, not mine).  But the method of drinking it is unique, in a gourd with a silver straw.  Everywhere we go, on the beach, on the street, people are wandering around with a gourd and silver straw.  The grocery store had half an aisle full of Yerba mate, in bags the size of flour bags.  It is a big deal. 
  10. Also a big deal: dulce du Leche.  The portion of the grocery store dedicated to this is equivalent to the peanut butter section.  
  11. Last thought.  I’m having a tough time adjusting to the local schedule.  Stores and restaurants tend to be open from about 9 or 10 until about noon or 1.  Then they close until about 6 (or sometimes as late as 8).   Restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8.  Because were traveling, we often eat out, but planning for an 8 pm dinner (in a restaurant) has been tricky.  I know this is siesta culture, but it is taking me some getting used to.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Onward to Argentina

January 12

We arrived in villa la angostura, Argentina, today.  The trip took about 6.5 hrs, with 1.5 of that spent crossing the border.  First Chile had to allow us to leave, making sure our rental car was properly sorted.  Then Argentina had to allow us in, with all sorts of documents and stamps at each step (both customs and immigration on each side of the border.)

The drive into the Andes was stunning.  The wilderness was incredibly remote, craggy peaks and giant trees with very few signs of human life.  Almost as soon as we crossed the border and descended on the other side, the landscape changed.  The trees disappeared, the grass turned brown, the vegetation shrank.  Classic rain shadow desert, but the phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.  Such a clear place to put an international border, at the top of a mountain range at the boundary between two ecologies.  (I’m pretty sure I’m not using “ecologies” incorrect.  Apologies to my ecologist readers.)

We drove through the desert for about 2 hrs on the Argentina side before heading back into the Andes, on winding mountain roads to this village.  If I understand the exchange rate correctly (a true if, since we have so little internet access) it is much cheaper than in Chile.  I bought a huge bag of fruit here for $8, which would have cost twice that in Chile.  Beer seems markedly cheaper (maybe 30% less?). Perhaps that’s how I calculate money, based on beer and fruit.  We figured out this morning that gas in Chile is about $4.50 a gallon; not yet sure on this side.

We nearly left Chile one day too early.  We were almost all packed up; we saw our Air B&B host drive by (their house was directly next to ours) and said goodbye, and she asked why we were leaving early.  After checking our itinerary, we realized our mistake.  We spent the extra day in Pucon napping and fighting with our kids, approximately in that order.  I love my husband and his need for constant activity.  Back home it’s okay, because it can never last more than a few days before he has to go back to works Here, it is wearing me out a bit, because he just wants to DO so much and sometimes I just want to sit and stare at the trees.  A day to veg was lovely.

For the first time today I’m feeling a bit homesick.  We have now been here for 2 weeks.  We arrived at our 4th location.  I just want to settle in a bit.  Stop moving around.  I’d like to focus on school for the kids a bit more.  We are doing 1-2 hrs a day, and I just don’t know if that’s enough.  We’ve been trying to incorporate lessons into more of what we do, but MJ, in particular, is resistant, unless we call it formal school.   Her lack of desire to learn things is troubling to me.  I dare say she has always had this.  Though she is deeply interested in geography and history.  For example, I had a very long conversation with her attempting to explain Russia’s relationship with the US.    It’s like a more mature form of gossip, which is certainly part of her interest; wanting to understand the adult world.  

I miss my sewing machine.  I miss reliable internet.  I miss being able to talk easily with strangers.  We have encountered almost NO one who is a native English speaker; the only two were at our first stop.  We have encountered maybe 5 people, in our whole trip, who hear us speaking English and engage us in conversation.  Everywhere we are surrounded by Spanish.  Most of the time I love it, and I love being in this new and foreign place.  But sometimes I long for the comfort of our own language. 

Monday, January 8, 2018


January 7

We have now been in Pucón for a few days.  We are staying in a beautiful house with vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling windows in the middle of the woods.  The house is halfway up volcan villarica, which, I did not realize until we hiked it, is the most active volcano in South America.  It last erupted in 2015 but currently shows no signs of activity.  The area is just beautiful, with a snow capped peak we couldn’t even see  the top of until our 3rd day here, when the clouds finally cleared.  At the bottom of the mountain sits Pucón along the shores of a cold, clear lake.

We “hiked” around the volcano (as much as one can hike with an 8, 5 and 4 yr old).  They actually did well and we got some good exploring in, then we went to a lava tube which they loved.  Trying to understand geology in Spanish was interesting, and I think our guide did pretty well, other than claiming that the friction of one tectonic plate subducting beneath another is what causes melting, and thus, volcanoes.  I don’t have the Spanish to clarify that.  It was also unclear to me why there was pahoehoe lava.  

Yesterday we went on a “family float” with a local river tour group.  Hubs and I have done a fair amount of canoeing and rafting, but this was the first time we brought the whole crew along.  Going with a guide was so lovely and relaxing, we had no responsibilities for  arranging the shuttle, inflating the raft (a lengthy ordeal) or anything else.  We just had to keep an eye on our kids, a full time endeavor, and not add to that stress with river planning.

Today we visited a hot spring.  MJ was very concerned it  would be a “naked hot spring, like Oregon” and was relieved to find it was not.   Reminiscent of Oregon hot springs, if they were slightly more organized and commercialized (I say this not in a bad way, because it means restrooms and a parking lot, in exchange for a marginal fee.). I think the name was something like Parcival... which I know isn’t correct because that’s the name from Ready Player One.

All in all, Pucon is not like the other places we’ve visited. It doesn’t feel like “real” Chile.  I think any place with a Marmot store cannot be “real”.  It’s hip and trendy, which is kind of fun, but our efforts to find “kid friendly” activities are met with blank stares.  We have encountered a few people who speak English, which is certainly helpful, and everyone is very friendly to our kids, but this is definitely a 20-something Aspen-ish type place.

Mostly, our kids want to hang out at the house and play with the Air B&B host’s dogs and daughter.   Not a bad life, certainly.  

A few thoughts on Chile so far.  It is about the same prices as the US, all in all.  Food, lodging and supplies are about the same.  Services, a term I use loosely, tend to be cheaper.  Such things as horse back riding, rafting, etc, are maybe 25% - 50% the price of the US.  Many places accept only cash, and we have a hard time finding an ATM without an $8 fee, so that obviously adds up.  

They LOVE mayonnaise here.  Any sauce is likely heavily mayo based.  Hotdogs are ubiquitous. The bread is delicious, even that which you find at a gas station.  There is a particular kind of cheese, I’m not sure what it’s called, though it’s widespread, that tastes like fondue. It makes my tummy happy.  Avocados are cheap but tortilla chips are VERY hard to find, which seems like a great societal tragedy.  The ones I have found are not very good, and I’m tempted to find the ingredients to make my own.  Unlikely I will follow through, though.  

Although I haven’t experienced this as much, in Pucon, I experienced extensive unease our first few stops.  Everywhere we went it seemed people were staring at us.  Once you hear our poor Spanish it’s pretty clear why people are staring, but it was happening everywhere, regardless of whether we spoke.  I came to realize it was because our kids are so blond, and no one around us is.  Our whole family stands out, physically, from the locals, especially the kids.  Especially MJ (Though the grandmas seem particularly drawn to Teddy.)  MJ has had her head patted a few times (much better than the hair pulling I experienced in Korea at 5.). She could not understand what was going on until we chatted about it.  We’ll see if the head patting returns at our next stop (Argentina!!)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 4 update

January 4

(We currently have no internet wher we are staying, so posts will have some lag time between writing and posting.)

We have arrived at our third stop.  After Santa Cruz (wine country), we hit up Salto de Lajo, the “Niagara Falls of Chile”, then on to Pucón, our current locale.  

We finished our stay in Santa Cruz with another round of stomach illness (minor, mine).  We also spent half our trip negotiating furnace repairs from afar, for one of our two rentals.  With a low in the neighborhood of -20, we were frantically trying to get SOMEONE to respond on New Years Eve weekend.  Took two days of international negotiation to finally get it repaired.

We spent our last morning visiting a fascinating museum in Santa Cruz about the Colchagua.  I can’t say the kids absorbed a ton, other than, as Greta put it “you mean there were creatures here before people lived here?”  Yes, dear Greta.  Though I guess you learned that earlier than many people do.

We drove 4 hours south, with lots of back seat fighting, to Salto del Laja.  Our tourist book played down this location, but I honestly loved it.  It was kitschy and charming, and genuinely a Chilean tourist destination.  Understanding the place you visit seems like it necessitates a trip to where that place vacations.  A visit to the Wisconsin Dells, for example, gives you some pretty good insight into Wisconsin and surrounding areas.  I mention the Dells because this place truly felt like a version of it.  Far less intense, but in the same vein.  Lots of kitschy souvenirs, many of them locally carved (I nearly bought Teddy a locally made ninja sword, but logic prevailed.). There was a lovely waterfall, and a short boat trip up a ravine that reminded me of Robert Tremain state park in New York (for those of you reading from that locale).  

There were abundant campgrounds, horse back riding, zip lines, etc.  we only stayed two nights, but did go horse back riding, and I thought MJs head would explode with joy.  It was a brief trip, and the staff led the horses, but regardless it was mj’s dream come true.  

Both nights at the campground were interrupted, somewhere in the 1 am range, with hours of a barking dog.  Shockingly, while I conjured the most evil treatment for the poor dog in my half sleep, the kids slept soundly through both nights.  I think the dog was keeping foxes at bay, or something similar, likely hunting the abundant chickens roaming around.   But it  was awful to try to sleep through.  It seems like the campground hosts should have put the chickens in a coop at night, for the sake of everyone’s sleep, but clearly I know little about  chickens.

Anyway.  We drove another 4 hours today, mostly down the Pan American highway (as with the other days).  The terrain has changed so drastically.  Santa Cruz was hot, with highs in the upper 80s (Fahrenheit).  We swam often just to cool off.  The fields were dry unless they were irrigated, and overall it reminded me of wine country in Northern California.  Salto del Laja was heavily forested and nearly 20 degrees cooler; we needed to bust out sweaters and comforters at night.  Here, in Pucón, it is probably another 15 degrees cooler, and we have the wood stove going.  Granted, we are in the mountains above Pucón, which explains some of the chill.

Today hubs realized he threw out his tourist card, given to him as we passed through immigration.  Inexplicably, we apparently need it in order to leave the country, which we plan to do next week when we cross into Argentina.  We all received one, and I held onto the kids and mine, though more so because I tend to not get rid of things than because I knew we needed it.  They just look like receipts, nothing worth holding onto (though I have a vague memory of being warned, time and again in Russia, that if I didn’t have the card given to me when I entered the country I could NOT leave; I think that memory guided my hand).  

More soon.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Some early breakages

1)  The windshield of our rental car.  Not 5 minutes after leaving the airport a rock hit the windshield, and the crack has been spreading since.  At least this is the one we have for 1.5 months, so we shall get value out of that crack.

2) The back of my iPhone.  I blame it on tile floors that even otter boxes can’t protect against.  And my own clumsiness.  I think if Steve jobs was still alive he would not be on board with glass backed phones.

3) A bottle of viognier. One of the two whites in our wine 6-pack from today’s vineyard.  At the cafe, which we promised to children after, I set it down too abruptly and broke it all over the (tile) floor.  Made a scene trying to ask for a mop to mop it up in my insufficient Spanish.

That’s all for now.  Many more to come.

A long, long trip

We have arrived.

After 23.5 hrs of non-stop travel.

It was difficult to close up the house for three months.  To decide what is worth keeping going (chest freezer) and what is worth unplugging (fridge).  Turns out we have the sort of fridge with a bottom freezer that is impossible to clean while it is plugged in.  So, while not specifically related to our travel, it was a rare opportunity to clean a very, very gross appliance.  It is unlikely to be cleaned again in a decade, so, ya know, worth writing home about. But, I digress, into household mundanities (I dont think this is a word, but it should be).

Anyway.  I had dreams of leaving behind a very clean house.  But between a broken alarm system we had to scramble to fix the morning of our departure, a completely clogged utility sink I had to dredge by hand (so gross.  Reflected on all the poopy cloth diapers that have contributed to that clog.  U,gh.). Anyway: House, not terribly clean.

Everything about the final process of departure went well. The roads to the airport we re awful, but we got through security with hours to spare.  We brought two checked bags, a carry on per person, and my purse.  Limited to 4 changes of clothes per person, as well as some English language teaching materials, husbands medecial kit, a few toys and games.

Greta started melting down almost as soon as we boarded the first plane.  I assumed it was typical travel Greta, frustrated by things that are impossible to change, but shortly there after she passed I out   on  me.

The rest of flight one was smooth.  I sat next to G &T, which means I had to bow to their every whim, a necessary evil when flying with small children, so as to keep their volume from escalating and bothering other passengers.  I don’t think they have figured out, yet, the power they hold over us on airplanes.  I think their older sister definitely has.  Teddy inhaled his birthday cupcake like a dog.  (Video on Instagram).

Flight 2 started pretty great.  The kids were psyched to each have their own seat back video console. I get it, I was too.  I got to watch an entire period piece, “the Beguiled”.  I forgot, of course, that even though the littles were entertained, they still needed my constant involvement.  Someday I know I’ll miss them needing me.  I tell myself that many times a day.  (Also, underwhelmed by the movie.  Probably was a great book, though.). Of course, as soon as the lights on the plane were turned down
for “bedtime”, Greta jumped up from her seat because she “needed to puke”.   Which, indeed, she did.  I know I’ve lived a charmed life, but that really was my first onboard puke incident.  We robbed a handful of puke bags from the bathroom and went back to our seats.

That proved to be the first of countless pukes throughout the night.  Poor hubs was sitting with G & T for the red-eye, so I didn’t realize how many (sleep-interrupting) events there had been.  Payback for an overnight puke-a-thon I held with teddy last week.  But hubs certainly endured more.

MJ, meanwhile, kept cuddling up (in her sleep), with her seat neighbor.  I woke up several times with her legs draped over the stranger next to her.

We landed, got luggage, went through customs.  I apparently forgot (confession: couldn’t be bothered) to declare the few oranges I shoved in my bag for snacks. Hubs was not impressed by my stunt, when the dogs tagged me and I had extra screenings. Never mind that I’m certain he brought some snacks through, too.

We got our rental car.  And then the vomiting started again.  So.   Much.  Vomit.  The whole 2 hr ride south.  We did stop at a roadside gas station/McDonalds (surprise! Mickey D’s is just as gross here.  Was hoping for some cultural difference, such as the wine you can buy in an Italian McDonalds, but the only cultural difference was that our meal came with a side of 20 mayonnaise packets).  Greta had to pause to vomit into a trash can, and we stopped at the pharmacy to ask, in our broken Spanish, if they sell Zoloft.  Nope.  No Zoloft.  But he  decided to give her a dose of meclazine, Which, over the next 2 he’s, slowly kicked in.

We arrived at our Air B&B, near Santa Cruz, and Greta showered before swimming.

We are now on day 2.  Today was a wine tour, which the kids endured fine (horse and buggy!)

Some takeaways so far.

1) our Spanish is very, very rusty.  In part because it’s been so long (kids!) since we’ve travelled off grid and needed it.  And in part because the pronunciation here is so different.  MJ tried to say “buenos Dias” to a cashier and he clarified that is “Buon dia”.  A lot of endings are cut off words.  I think most of our struggles have to do with our lack of practice, but the accent doesn’t help.

2) the kids are adorably enthusiastic about learning to speak Spanish.  They will speak to whoever, whenever, with the few phrases they know.  They also want us to translate things that we just don’t understand.

3) I have heard such great things about google translate, but it has proven nearly useless for us.  Wish we had  brought along an Old School English/Spanish dictionary.  Most of the things I try to translate f rom Spanish google does not know.  Again, I think this is largely an accent thing,

4) Mayonnaise.  On everything.  ::shudder::

5) Internet is spotty.  Blogger is much worse (or not updated) than it used to be, and I can’t even go back and edit this post.  Fingers crossed it mostly makes sense!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

S. America bound

I aim to resurrect this little blog for the next few months.  Our family heads to S. America tomorrow, and it seems like a good place to record a few of our (my) thoughts.

We fly to Santiago, Chile, first, then quickly escape town.  I'm sure it's a lovely town, but with three littles (8, 5 and 4) I think we'll all be happier someplace further from cars.

The kids are pretty unfazed by this whole thing, so far.  A few misconceptions we've had to clear up to achieve this unfazed status:

1.  There will be no lions attacking our village.
2.  Although everyone around us will be speaking Spanish, we (hubs and I) will still be speaking english.  I.e., they still get to speak English to us.
3. We are not moving.  We are, in fact, coming back.

We depart tomorrow at ~3 pm on a a 15 hr. journey south.  A red eye, which  I expect will be terrible.

My own misconception, discovered yesterday:
Santiago is, in fact, 3 hrs AHEAD of us.  In my mind, the west coast of S. America and the west coast of N. America were at the same longitude.  In fact, totally not.  Despite looking at many maps in my day, this key fact escaped me.  I argued with MJ about this, not extensively but enough that I am embarrassed.

We have packed 2 suitcases and our individual carry-ons for the trip.  I spent 2 hrs tonight looking for my misplaced prescription medication.  I am (sort-of, kind-of, at a totally healthy level) panicking about our departure.  Today it dawned on me, that, although I have travelled a lot, I have not travelled for very long.  My longest trip was Bosnia, deployment, for 4 months.  EVERY other trip has been shorter than this.  Which is epic, in my mind, because they were all so monumental in my memory.

Additionally, although I have travelled to places where I barely speak the language, I have not done so when I have little people depending on my abilities.

That being said, I did not have the technology that I now have during previous trips.  Should make life easier?  I hope.

I have the slightest hesitation posting about all our travels on social media.  But have decided that between a house sitter and an alarm system, we are probably fine.  But, y'know, please spare us the stress of break-ins?

Alrighty.  Farewell.  See y'all soon.

Monday, October 24, 2016

I can finally breathe

I hadn't even realized it had been so long.  I hadn't even realized I wasn't doing it.

Of course, I mean this figuratively.  I've been breathing.  What I haven't been doing is thinking about myself, or my future, or the things that I want.  I've only been thinking about the things that I need.   To get through this moment, this day, this week.  Usually not further ahead than that.

Being a stay at home mom is very, very hard.  I've now been doing it for a little over 4 years.  I've had a couple other gigs mixed in here and there; I've taught a few classes, I've done some landlording.  But for a little over 4 years, my primary job has been taking care of 3 little people.

My kids are now 7, 4 and 2.  The youngest two are 15 months apart.  That was hard.  I have one in 1st grade, one in half-day Pre-Kindergarten and one in half-day preschool 3 days a week.  I'm finally at a point where they can play upstairs, out of sight, for an hour.  And not kill themselves or burn the house down.

Over the past 9 months we've slowly been getting to this point.  Emerging from the fog.  I've gradually started to take care of myself again.  I've started looking in the mirror and putting effort into my appearance.  I've started to be more conscious about what I eat in order to realize why I've gained 30 pounds since Teddy was born (30 pounds!! Ugh.)  At least I've finally stopped gaining.  I've started to exercise, and ran a 10 mile race a few weeks ago.  I was awfully slow, but I did it and it was a blast.

Now.  Now I'm starting to think about what I want next.  I have zero regrets about staying home with my kids.  I was so torn about that decision before I made it, but since I started to stay home I have not regretted it a single day.  But I am within sight of having the kids in full day school.  And even now, if I found something I was really interested in, I could put them in their programs for full days.  The idea of a regular, full-time job is a bit daunting, because of the hubs work schedule.  There would be weeks we just wouldn't see each other, and the kids wouldn't see him.  Unless I found something I was really passionate about, I can't imagine taking that on.

So I've started to ponder.  What's next.  Maybe another rental?  More classes?  I'm just not sure.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015: A recap

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?  I became a working mom with three small children.  I became president of a volunteer organization (a local Mom's group).  I went on a girls weekend away.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?   I mostly kept last year's resolution.  I didn't really make any this year.  Some of my goals, generally, though: exercise more and eat more consciously.  Write on this blog more.  Establish more responsible sleep habits.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?   A friend of mine, who we used to be neighbors with, had her third child. I was SHOCKED when she announced she was pregnant, totally did not see that one coming.  One of DH's old high school friends and one of my old high school friends each had their first baby; I intended to make some quilts but still have not.  I don't turn them out as fast as I'd like.

4. Did anyone close to you die?  I really thought this would be the year our faithful old dog, Vito, said goodbye.  He seemed to be very sickly last spring, and I prepared the girls for this possibility.  But he's still kicking, laying here next to me as I write.  Thankfully, no one died.  I dread the day I have to say more on this bullet.

5. What countries did you visit and/or where did you travel?  Still haven't taken the kiddos out of the country, so I modified this question to recap travel in general.

Last February I went to Camp Du Nord, near Ely, for a Women's Ski and snowshoe retreat.  It was GLORIOUS.  Three days with no children or responsibilities of any kind.  What a release that was for me.  I will be going again this year and can hardly wait.

Last spring, during MJ's spring break, we stayed put for the first time ever.  DH's mom came to visit and it was lovely.

In May, the family went to West Virginia.  We spent a week in the mountains at a VRBO with some old friends.  It was beautiful and I would love to return.  The week was a bit rough, though, because we were the only ones with mobile children (one other couple had a young infant).  We were in a very different place from the rest of our friends.  They were all very understanding and seemed to enjoy our children, but I think DH in particular had a tough time balancing being a father when he just wanted to hang out with old friends.

Also in May we went camping nearby with some good friends, the Firedales.   Teddy and I ditched a day early, he was a hot mess and I couldn't deal.  The next month we went to a cabin with some other friends, and it went quite a bit better.  Much of last year, the theme was "Teddy sleeps a little better, but still pretty much sucks at it".  Survival.  So the cabin was awesome, but a bit of a struggle.

In July, hubs and I were supposed to go to Vegas for a 3-day-weekend to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  It would have been our first time away from the kids in 5 years.  My MIL was in town and planning to watch the kids, but she got horribly sick and we had to cancel the trip.  We were bummed, but there was a blessing in disguise.  Hubs uncle had planned a trip to visit, not knowing we would be out of town, and we would have missed his entire trip.  Instead, we went to a baseball game and all-in-all had a lovely time.  I still dream of time away with my husband.  For the most part, I've wrapped my head around that never happening, at least not until the kids leave the house, but I'm not sure that hubs has.

Lots of travel... continuing on....

In July we went to visit my family in Oregon.  Lovely.  Perfect.  I love it there, hubs loves it there, the kiddos love it there.  Teddster did break his leg on this sisters third b-day, but otherwise it was wonderful.

In September, we went to Alexandria, MN, tagging along on hubs work trip, as we do every year.  This year, though, was actually really fun.  I look forward to next year; this is the first time I can say that.  The housing was better, there were other folks with kids nearby, and I could actually participate in things.

In October, we again went to Du Nord, this time as a family, with some other friends.  It was DH's first time there, and he fell in love with it just as passionately as I did.  We are already trying to plan our next trip.

Lastly.... in December, we went back to upstate New York to visit DH's family.  The trip was long, and Christmas is a tough time to travel with three small kids.  On the way there, we were not sure we would do it again, but it was such a wonderful trip that we completely reversed that opinion.  So good to see extended family, friends we haven't seen in forever.  Lots of DH's family that had never met the kids, or barely met them, got to spend quality time together.  It was awesome.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I would like to feel put together.  In house.  In personal appearance.  In life.  Last spring, Teddy was still sleeping pretty poorly, MJ was only in school half days.  Over the summer, all three were home.  In the fall, I started working part-time (my position ended in December, though).  Which is to say: I felt frazzled all the time.

But now, finally, a week into January 2016, I actually feel things coming together.  MJ is in school full days, G is in school three mornings a week.  Just the ease of grocery shopping with one (fairly well behaved) child is magical.  My house is cleaner (about as clean as it is realistically likely to get.... past a point, I just don't care enough.)  It's almost overwhelming.  I'm rediscovering what one can accomplish when one has time.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don't remember particular dates.  But the Paris Terrorist attack stuck in my memory, unfortunately.  This is the first year I've actually read this as more than just personal events.... probably says something about my life.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Being a working mother of three.  The logistical challenges were many.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't want to say "I didn't have any", but I don't think anything I consider major.  The things that have plagued me in the past, such as patience with the children, were markedly improved this year.  I established some strong routines and things got better.

The thing that nags me, though, is my inability to lose weight.  It has actually gone UP this year.  It mostly perplexes me.  I feel like I am more active and eat better than I used to, so I really don't understand where it's coming from.  Age?  I guess.  I refuse to "diet", other than to just try to eat healthy.  I don't eat many processed foods, and when I've tried to actively lose weight in the past it just robbed me of energy to deal with the littles.  Doesn't seem worth it.  Furthermore, I refuse to introduce my children to this concept.  Body image is so, so fragile for young girls.  I will focus my energy, for me, and for them, on eating healthy and staying active, and let the chips fall where they may.  Now I just need to accept that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not particularly.  We had a lot of stomach viruses this past fall, it felt like one after another.  Teddster broke his leg (a buckle fracture of his tibia) when I went down a slide with him and G (I should have known better.... this will be something that our children will be horrified we ever did).  Hubs came down with anaplasmosis last summer (from a tick bite while camping); it was terrifying to see him so ill.  Last thing that comes to mind was some dental work at the end of December.  I experienced real-deal PTSD, flashbacks to having my wisdom teeth removed.  Perhaps a story for another time.  But I almost passed out at the Dentist having a filling.  It was awful, but it went fine in the end.

11. What was the best thing you bought?  

This one is easy.  Two things.
1) my sewing machine.  I am in love with it.  I don't use the free motion foot as much as I thought I would, but love it nonetheless.  I didn't realize how bad my old one was until I got this one.
2)  a cordless dyson.  Even hubs agrees on this one.  It is so phenomenal how much dirt this thing picks up.  I now vacuum almost every day, because it is so easy to do.  It has made such a difference in the cleanliness of our house.  I only wish I had it before the littles started crawling.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
In the past, I've read other peoples surveys, and they often say "their husband".  I haven't felt that impulse in the past.  Not that he was bad, but not above and beyond.  Maybe working too much, or tired and grumpy, etc.  This year, though, I feel it.  Wholeheartedly.  He stepped it up and it made a huge difference.  It started last summer.  He had been particularly grumpy, and we had a very heart felt conversation after his anaplasmosis bout.  He turned it around.  He vowed to be a better husband, and it happened.  Then, in the fall, when I started working again, I just couldn't keep up with the amount of child rearing.  I needed him to step in, even though I knew he was super busy, and he did, gracefully and cheerfully most of the time.  I feel like this was the year he vowed to be a better husband, and it was wonderful.  I feel like it has strengthened our marriage a ton.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?  Donald Trump.

14. Where did most of your money go?   Our mortgage and savings.  But, apart from that, travel.  It is always travel.  I am okay with that.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Sewing.  And quilting.  I know that makes me a geek, but I love it.  I love creating things.  I love that I can do it easily when the kids are around.    I didn't sew much over the summer, and I worried I had fallen out of love with it, but when the weather turned cold it came flooding back.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
I am so removed from popular culture.  I can't think of any new songs, at all.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– Happier or sadder?
Happier.  Probably because I'm getting better sleep.  I continue to nap when the kids nap and stay up way too late, but I will never adjust to 5:00 am wake ups, and it's how I stay sane.  It's worked for well over a year now, and I don't see it ever ending.  I was worried, when I working, that it would be a problem.  It wasn't.  The kids wear me out to such an extent that I NEED a nap when I'm with them.  I can get by without one when they're not around.

– Thinner or fatter?
Fatter, as mentioned above.  But fat and happy is not so bad.

– Richer or poorer?
Richer.  Thanks to hubs choosing a great career, and some added bonus from me working.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Playing with the kids.  Valuing these fleeting moments.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?


20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Binghamton.  With my MIL and BIL, and some lovely extended family.  It was so warm we comfortably grilled (spiedies) outside.  Greta dragged her presents into the other room to open them by herself.  Teddy didn't quite understand the point of it all, but loved it.  MJ was fully in the throes of Santa questioning.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
With my husband.  I feel like we are more of a team than we've ever been.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I watched Game of Thrones this year (still haven't finished it).  I love the series that hubs and I watch together, which are few.  We just finished Fargo Season 2, and earlier we watched House of Cards.   Still love Downton.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Donald Trump.

24. What was the best book you read?
Trying to remember what I read this year.  Not a lot, a lot of spare time spent sewing.  Magical art of tidying up was impactful.   Also Defending Jacob.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? MJ and I listened to the Nutcracker a lot.

26. What did you want and get?

A sewing machine.

27. What did you want and not get?
I am blessed.  Nothing of significance.  Except a 10th anniversary celebration, I suppose.

28. What was your favorite film this year?
Umm... didn't watch many.  James Bond, it was fine.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Met up with friends at a couple bars.  I LOVE spending time with adults on date nights.  Real conversations, not interrupted by children.  It was amazing and lovely.

30. What is one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A housekeeper.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Wear what I feel good in.  Inspired by Kon Marie.  I cleansed my closet (didn't get a lot further than that).  I bought a few more pieces, and have given myself permission to get rid of things I don't feel good in.  It has been good.  I have also discovered I like neutral colored clothing; I love bright colors on other people, and as accent pieces, but have come to realize I never actually wear them if I buy them.  This has gone a long way towards insuring that I don't buy things I don't wear.

32. What kept you sane? Sewing.  Wine.  My husband.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  Umm.... I don't know.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?  Gun violence.  And Black Lives Matter.  I'm not a fan of things that disrupt people just trying to live their lives.

35. Who did you miss?  My Mom.

36. Who was the best new person you met?  Anastasia.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015
Parenting efforts in the early years pay dividends years later.  But they're worth it.  I'm starting to see our efforts in teaching MJ politeness and helpfulness fully come to fruition.

Loyalty in a life partner is far more important than I ever realized.

It boggles my mind that my 20-yr-old clueless self was so astute at picking a life partner.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Welcome to 2015.

Because that's how long it's been since I posted.

In fact, I never even wrote about Teddy's birthday.  Mostly because it was a non-event and I felt guilty about that.  His Dad was working.  His Baba was sick in bed.  One of his sisters was at a movie.  So it was G, T-rex and me.  I labored all morning to make strawberry cupcakes from scratch (which is very difficult with two toddlers around) and he didn't even like them.

On the upside, though, I get to tuck him in every night with the quilt I made for him.  He seems to like it, so I count that as a win. On my birthday last year, I decided I wanted to start quilting.  I have also loved crafts, and my most recent crafty interest was mosaicing.  But I had to do it in the basement (flying shards of glass belong in the basement) and I never enjoyed being in the basement.  Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, no where comfortable to sit, no windows, etc.  So I decided I needed a craft I could do upstairs, with children milling about (because it seems there are always children milling about).  Furthermore, I wanted it to be something not fragile.  So after thinking about it for a while, quilting was the decision.

I went to a fabric store on my b-day, T-rex in tow, for the one hour a week I have only one kid with me.  I bought everything I needed to get started, as well as the fabric for my first project, which I decided would be T-rex's birthday gift. With a birthday right after Christmas I knew a party wasn't really in the cards, so opted for something else special.

The thing is, I grew totally hooked.  So that's what I've been doing in my free time.  Not blogging.  Not playing Candy Crush.  Not cleaning the house (not that I ever was).  Not reading.  I'm still totally hooked.  I have since finished Greta's quilt and have several other works in progress.

Tonight, though, I feel a little under the weather.  So I finally dusted off the old keyboard to catch up a bit.

Catching up on everything is unrealistic.  But I can mention a few things.

We just returned from our first camping trip of the year, Teddster's third camping trip ever. This occurred only one week after returning from a week in West Virginia.  It turns out, he is not much for sleeping anywhere other than his bed, and it is making travel hard.  To be fair, he wasn't much for sleeping there for a long time either, so at least he finally figured that out (not until about 13 months... the toughest sleeper by far).  T-rex and I only camped for one night, because he wouldn't sleep anywhere other than on top of us, fitfully, even with the aid of Benadryl (taken under physician supervision).  I was just done with poor sleeping, so he and I came home a day early, and he slept wonderfully and I got some rare one-on-one time with my boy.

Teddy is a wild man these days.  He is constantly climbing everything. He was climbing before he was walking (the walking happened within days of turning 1).  He loves to climb on top of the table then yelp at me until he gets my attention and shout "Get down"!  He does it primarily because he knows he's not supposed to.  I tried to stop the behavior and it only made it worse because it became a game for him.  He's had 4 or so concussions already, none of which actually occurred while doing anything that looked particularly terrifying.  He was born to be the child of an ER doc.

Greta is now fully potty trained.  She basically potty trained herself.  We tried to encourage her but the more I pushed her the more she resisted.  I finally told her if she pooped in the potty she would get a treat, and that was the motivation she needed.  She started pooping regularly in the potty and has had only one poop accident since.  Next step was that I told her if she went a day without any accidents we would go to the store and pick out a baby doll.  She worked hard and has done amazing.  If I push her to go potty she will usually refuse, but if I let her do it on her own she does great.  Certain times are a requirement (you must pee before we leave the house, before nap, etc.)  Still a pull-up to bed, which is a-okay by me. This girl is so absurdly stubborn.  She is definitely a challenge to parent, as I usually have to think of how to get her to do something without being seen as "making" her do it.  I know this is a more effective way to parent, but sometimes you need to be able to just make them do it, and it never, ever goes well.

And the big girl.  She's a pretty amazing kid.  Fearless as ever.  But also creative and imaginative.  She entertains herself for two hours a day while her brother and sister nap.  Today she made a tea party for her dolls.  The other day she decorated the house with geese she made.  Sometimes she makes a boat out of bottles in the recycling.  Or cards for her friend.  She now has a best friend, and I'm so happy for her.  Our neighbor has become her besty, and they are such nice kids.  I couldn't have picked a better friend for her.  They imagine constantly, seem to get along well and generally lift each other up.  I feel so blessed that the kid my kid plays the most with is such a positive influence in her life.  She is also the most talkative person I know, which drives my quiet loving self batty.  Though I missed it when she was gone for a day.  I know this is the reason she is so eloquent, a comment we get again and again from strangers.  She has an amazing vocabulary, is friendly and outgoing with strangers, inquisitive about everything....  She has been working hard to learn to read, and I have to work hard not to push her too hard.  It's hard for me to be as patient as I need to be, and I constantly have expectations that are clearly too high.  Not doing anyone any good.

Alrighty.  That's enough for now.  Maybe I'll try to keep this old blog up on a more regular basis....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: A recap

I didn't quite get around to this survey last year.  I had a 3 day old, and for the whole month of January I tried to find the time.  I eventually let it go. I let many things go this year, out of necessity for my mental health.  That was one thing I learned this year: how many things I have to let go in order to stay sane.
1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?  I stayed home with three small children.  I learned how to quilt and made my first quilt for Teddy's 1st birthday.  

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?   I have a tendency to make very vague New Years Resolutions and not tell them to anyone, so that if I fail no one knows.  :)  So, I don't take them too seriously. Last year I wanted to read more and watch less TV.  I 100% succeeded.  I read a ton and watched very little TV.  It felt awesome.

 This year I have decided to not drink any alcohol in January.  A cleanse, of sorts.  Not entirely a resolution, but sort of a start.  I want to get more done around the house.  Fix some things that have been nagging me, like painting the kitchen and possibly redoing the countertops.  

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A few good friends had babies.  No relatives.  Not me!!!

4. Did anyone close to you die? My grandmother died in June.  I wasn't terribly close to her but was sad nonetheless.  Teddy and I flew to Oregon for the funeral, and it was nice to see some of my extended family.

Additionally, an acquaintance of mine, and good friend to several of my good friends, died this fall.  He was 36 with two young kids.  Very sad.  Tragic.  Heart wrenching.  

5. What countries did you visit? No countries.  We have yet to take the kids out of the country, it sounds like lots of stress with very little gain.  We travelled to the pan handle of Florida and to Orlando, as well as Oregon (twice) and a few cabin trips in Minnesota.  

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Sleep.  Calm.  Less stress.  Teddy basically sucked at sleeping for the entire year.  He's starting to get better, and the girls are now pretty consistent sleepers after settling into their bunk bed routine.  But I have not adjusted to the third kid all that well.  I have been stressed, exhausted and yelling much more than I'd like to admit.  I have taken steps to improve that in the past few months, and I'm starting to see the results of that.  I'd like the less stressed, better rested and calmer version of me to become the norm.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  I'm not sure there were any dates.  The first time in a couple years I haven't given birth, so no new birthdays to add.  No new houses, new cars, or the like.  

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I'm starting to feel so boring.  No major accomplishments, other than keeping three littles fed, clothed and loved.  I oversee two rental properties, one of which I found a new tenant for.  

9. What was your biggest failure? I was not a great parent for much of the year.  I yelled a lot. I did not have grace under pressure.  

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing major.  I did have a round of mastitis last winter, which knocked me to the floor, but some antibiotics knocked that down quickly.  Also followed by a UTI which also went away with meds quickly. Other than that, our family has stayed pretty healthy.  Yes, illnesses hear and there but nothing crazy.  (Not including my mother-in-law's terrible bout with the flu while visiting over Christmas.  Fingers crossed we don't get that one.)

11. What was the best thing you bought?  
No major purchases.  A small TV for the living room, a purse from Keen I'm in love with, and bought some new clothes since I'm finally not pregnant.  The best place my money went, though, has been a gym membership at Lifetime Fitness.  Although I don't make it quite as much as I would like, I make it pretty often and the kids have loved it.  There have definitely been days where that is my only bit of sanity in the day.  I drop them at childcare, and sit quietly in the locker room for 5 minutes.  Then exercise at my own pace and take a quiet shower.  Total bliss.  Also, the kids love it so much it serves as strong motivation to get me out the door.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My Mother and Mother-in-law.  None of our family live close, but it is so nice that they have stayed so involved despite being so far away.  My Mom came for a month when Teddy was born and put up with my cranky, hormonal, crazy self.  She has been a couple times since and I am so lucky she puts up with our crazy family.  My Mother-in-law doesn't make it out quite as much because she isn't retired, but she, again, is so patient with our crazy family.  I am blessed by some awesome moms.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? The riots in Ferguson, MO, and the violence that has erupted elsewhere, has made me sad.  Yes, the initial shooting was sad and terrible.  But the idea that people then riot and destroy property, or shoot police officers, is so appalling to me.  How do people expect more respect if that's their reaction?  I know this is a contentious topic.  But that's my $0.02.

14. Where did most of your money go? Travel and savings.  We travel quite a lot, and now that we're buying 4 plane tickets (soon to be 5) it adds up quick.  But with all our family living far away it helps us stay close.  And we also love it.  It's our biggest luxury, by far.

Other big expenses were a pop-up trailer my husband bought and which he adores, and date nights.  We do like our date nights.  It is usually the hubs that insists on date nights, but I'm always glad when he does.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Hmmm.....  I was pretty darn excited about going to Disney World in December.  I was also excited for our Florida trip with friends last March, and our Oregon trip in August.  So travel, I guess, was exciting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?  "Take me to Church" by Hozier, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams and  Ed Sheeran "Don't".

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– Happier or sadder? 
This shouldn't be a tough one, but it is.  I was pretty excited about our 3rd kid, but the reality has been really, really tough.  Not that I thought it wouldn't be, but I was hopeful that within a few months it would get easier.  If you had told me a year ago that I would still be sleeping so poorly I would have cried.  Hope that things would get better got me through much of this year.  They are starting to get better, but they're still pretty darn tough.  Greta is still only 2 1/2, so of course she's no angel.  Teddy is just now becoming a toddler.  This spacing has been tough.  Our kids are just intense.  Which makes them all so interesting, but so exhausting.  There are a lot of issues I thought we would get past this year that are still real issues, such as Greta's violence to her brother.  So, I am happy.  So happy.  But now that I have a more realistic outlook on our next couple years I'm not sure that I'm happier.  I'll leave it at that.

– Thinner or fatter? Thinner, but not by as much as I had hoped.  I am still 10 pounds up from my pre-pregnancy weight.  With both of the last kids the weight came off by now, so I'm frustrated.  Hoping my alcohol free January will help with this a bit.

– Richer or poorer? Richer.  We do pretty well at saving.  And now that we are home all the time, we don't eat out as much as we used to.  Not as much time to spend money. ;)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I really think I did an awful lot considering how crazy our year was.  So I'll leave this at nothing.  

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 Stressing.  I wish I could take things in stride more easily.  Stress doesn't help much when dealing with small children.  Only patience does.

20. How did you spend Christmas?  My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were in town for Christmas and it was lovely.  Although it would be nice to be near family for Christmas, it also looks incredibly stressful to run all over for everyone's various Christmases.  I love staying home with our family, cooking and feasting for days and opening presents on Christmas morning.  

We also have a number of good friends with no family around, and we always have a few Christmas parties with them in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  They are really like family, without the drama that comes of your blood relatives.  

This year we took the kids to church on Christmas Eve.  Greta and Teddy lasted for all of 15 minutes before I had to walk home with them.  I also may have overdone the number of presents I got them this year.  I vow not to do that next year.  They were officially spoiled, no need for that.  

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?  I can honestly say I fell in love with Teddy.  It wasn't immediate, because I just didn't have the time to focus on him and stare lovingly in his eyes that I did with the other two.  And since I was exclusively pumping for the first several months, I didn't have that bond either.  But now that he's sleeping a bit more, and interacting more, and I can focus my attention on him, I adore him.  I think it really started when he started crawling and would crawl over to me and tug on my leg to be picked up.  It was so endearing, how he viewed me as his protector from the world.  He's on track to be the craziest one of the three, which is truly saying a lot, but I love seeing his personality emerge.  

22. What was your favorite TV program? I am totally addicted to Downton Abbey.  I look forward to a new episode with longing.  Other shows I liked this year were Girls and House of Cards.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I can't think of anyone I hate.

24. What was the best book you read? I loved Gone Girl, could barely put it down.  I also really loved My Notorious Life and The Fault in Our Stars.  I'm not original in my fiction taste.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I'm not sure I had one.  Spotify, perhaps.

26. What did you want and get?
  Some awesome vacations.  A night away.  I feel like there was something else I can't remember, which makes me feel ungrateful.  Patio furniture!  

27. What did you want and not get?  A stand mixer.  A sewing machine.  More time.  More quiet.  A tenant for our second rental, hope to resolve that soon.

28. What was your favorite film this year?  The ones that have stuck in my mind are Gone Girl, Grand Budapest Hotel, Begin Again and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
34!  I had an awesome birthday.  As a birthday gift, I had a night in a nearby hotel.  We had a date night on the town, then husband tucked me in and went home and I slept as late as I wanted with no one waking me up.  I woke up to quiet.  I ate a leisurely breakfast and read the paper.  It was awesome.

Also, a group of friends went to the Mall of America.  Sounds lame, I know, but I loved it.  They have a ropes course and zip line we went on, and some others went on some of the roller coasters.  Then we all ate at Benihana.  It was just great to have all these friends out without kids and actually get to talk to them.  We are always around each with our kids and real conversations are tough.  It was a blast.

30. What is one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?  More time to myself and meaningful work outside the home.  

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? "Oops!  Forgot to look in the mirror! I have no idea what I'm wearing."

That statement isn't even a joke.  The number of times I walked out of the house covered in puke, wearing a tiara my daughter put there or with food in my teeth were many.  I have always tried to maintain some effort towards my appearance, but this year it went to shit.  It took all my effort to get everyone out the door, and if I paused to look in the mirror or give any thought to my appearance I would never have made it anywhere.  
I am starting to change that a bit.  So now it's often dresses with leggings or t-shirt and jeans.  A scarf instead of a necklace since Teddy pulls on all my necklaces.  I am told I wear too much black, so I have tried to branch out.  I have come to realize if I stick to neutral colors with bright accessories I can handle that.  I still like black, though, because it's easy and looks good.

32. What kept you sane? Sertraline.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Hmm... no one, really.  I'm not much for movie stars, can't think of any crushes.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Ebola.  I spent an insane amount of time thinking about it, and donated quite a bit to the cause.  It's a major part of the hubs job, which certainly contributes too.

35. Who did you miss?  Some of our friends that have moved away, especially Elissa.  

36. Who was the best new person you met?  I became more involved in a local moms group and met some awesome women through there.  It has been such a wonderful source of sanity for me, and Greta has really started to bond with some of the kids.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
  Oh gosh.  Nothing I didn't know, exactly.  Exercise makes me happy.  Sometimes to make things easier on yourself, first you have to do some significant work (finding a babysitter, an outlet, etc.)