Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Working Hard Or...

This summer we are headed to Florida with Jaymi and Cody + their boys! We didn't get enough crazy last summer when we vacationed together at Lost Pines because we decided to DRIVE to Florida this summer with three kids under the age of five, plus Everett. (Everett is worthy of his own category, trust me.) It seemed like such a good idea when we booked the trip... but now, I'm questioning our sanity. Or our sanity after the trip is over anyway! The upside is that we are also bringing two of our favorite baby-sitters who live down the street from us and happen to be sisters. 

In college Casey and I had the opportunity to go on vacation as nannies together two different summers. The first summer we went with several families to Colorado. My main memory of that trip is how great the families were and how much fun Casey and I had. I also seem to remember there being a bunch of kids and it being understandably, quite a bit of work. I probably would have told you these trips were one of the things that prepared me to have kids of my own. 

Clearly, I was mistaken. SORELY MISTAKEN.

 I was looking through an old album recently and stumbled upon pictures from that trip. There were six pictures from our trip and here are three of them:
Casey and I drinking wine on the balcony (No kids in sight)
Casey and I about to take off on bikes (Still, no kids in sight)

And the most absurd of all...
Me in a BATH ROBE (!!!!) with all the kids

I don't even know where to begin with that last picture, but if I had to guess, maybe Casey and I had just rolled out of the hot tub?? WHAT ON EARTH?!?!

The next summer Casey and I each stayed with a family in beach houses. (As in, the people still wanted to hire us after we drank their wine and rode their bikes and baby-sat in bath robes!!) The beach was actually the same spot we're about to head off to with our baby-sitters! I can't even handle the irony or the amount of time that has passed to make this a reality.
I keep worrying we are going to ruin our relationships with our beloved baby-sitters after this little adventure is complete and them being in the car with us for that long, but if history is any indicator I guess I should tell them, "Hey ladies, get ready for some paid r&r. Pack some wine coolers and bikinis, and maybe even a robe for the hot tub. You have some hard work coming your way." 

Today was Everett's 15 month well check. I could just die over the fact that his hair is getting so light!
He has grown so much in the last couple of months. He is 32.3 inches (91%) and 20.4 lbs (18%) He is our little string bean! Since his last visit he's grown almost 2.5 inches and put on 4 pounds! He is big and healthy, and Dr. Hunt didn't seem concerned that he's still not walking. Logan didn't walk until 14 months, so she said we just have early talkers and late walkers. 

He threw an absolute fit when they took his vitals. Threw his head back and wailed. Dr. Hunt tried giving him a flavored stick to suck on, and he took it from her and threw it on the floor. He is such a mess!! He is definitely our one with a temper.

Logan's been going to camp at his school this week. It's almost like a mini vacation bible school. He seems to be having a good time and cracks me up with the tidbits he tells me about his day.
He is obsessed with tape measures and counting things right now. He can actually count really well, but of course the tape measure is a total joke. 
Some things are "8 and 4 inches," other things are "$22 dollars long" and others are "3 years and 25 cents." But to be fair, that's about how I do math too, so it's all good.

He was outside measuring all kinds of things yesterday and I said something like, "Wow, Logan, you're working really hard to measure all that stuff."
He looked up at me, completely dead pan, and said, "I know! And I'm not even sweaty!!"

I don't know where he gets this stuff!!

Here are three short Everett videos, mostly for the grandparents and greatgrands. He is getting to SUCH a fun age! I love, love, love when they start talking and repeating things!

If you watch, do me a favor and kindly turn a blind eye to my scraggly voice and haggard appearance on the last one. I have had a horrific sinus infection this week that I can't seem to shake.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

8 Years & 8 Lessons

Today is Nick's and my eighth wedding anniversary!! At first I was tempted to title this post something catchy and cliché like Eight Is Great!, but decided to go a different route instead. What I want to blog about today is the truth about marriage. Not a posed picture and a cute caption and a list of reasons I'm grateful for my husband on our anniversary, but a post that comes from a more honest place. Sometimes I think about the fact that my kids or my grandkids may even read these posts eventually, and so these are the things I would want them to know.

In our society it seems like the word good is often equated with easy. So far, I haven't found that to be the case. Some of the very best things I have done in my adult life have also been the most challenging; paying off credit card debt, breastfeeding two babies for a year, having a VBAC delivery, every single day of parenting and also, marriage.

For me marriage is not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it. The reward that comes from sticking together and working through our issues is a deeper love, a stronger commitment and pride unlike anything else. Being married to Nick has refined me in countless positive ways, but change does not always come easily. I feel like I have grown as a person more in the last eight years than I did in the 24 that came before it combined. Nick and I have a great marriage and a strong marriage, but not because we just got lucky. Our marriage is that way because we chose to work at it every single day.

My parents divorced when I was five, so growing up I never really had a model of what marriage should look like. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and aunts & uncles, and also the families I baby-sat for on a regular basis, but that's still not the same thing as watching a relationship day in and day out. What I have learned is that I had somewhat of a fairy tale image of marriage in my mind. I thought you sat around having soulful conversations and playing board games at night, or laughing together while cooking dinner and drinking wine, popping one another with the dish towel. 

And sometimes (albeit rarely, but sometimes) you do, do those things. But mostly it's a lot more boring than that. 

You fight and argue and you each have your junk, because you are two imperfect people just trying to figure out life and weather the occasional storms. And then you have kids and it's a whole new ball game, sometimes even like being trapped in a high pressure vice together. So all that to say, it's not easy.

But you're in it together. And the commitment and the overcoming obstacles together is where the beauty and the richness lie that I never understood before. There is a pride that grows not because something is easy, but because it was hard and you did it together anyway.

For me, there is no joy bigger than building a life alongside your person. That's what Nick and I always say to one another, no matter how angry we may get, you are my person. There is nothing like knowing someone always has your back, no matter what wrenches get thrown your way. 

There will be happy times- the happy, happiest of times! And so much fun and celebrating and so many things to laugh about. But sometimes there won't be too. And I really think if both people are truly committed, it's worth doing the work to learn how to compromise or bite your tongue or not say the thing that you can't take back and just focus on what really matters. 

I look at my boys and think about how one day they will be husbands and fathers, and I know the kind of marriage Nick and I create matters so very, very much. It's going to be imperfect, but it's SO worth it.

Here are eight things I have learned about building a strong, healthy marriage in the last eight years:

1) One person can't be your everything.
I think it is so important to nurture friendships outside of your marriage. When I force Nick to watch Real Housewives with me and press pause to dissect the scene that just unfolded, he likes to remind me, "I'm not one of your girlfriends." Thank goodness for that!

We both try and make it a priority to spend time with our own friends when we can. Nick goes and plays softball once a week and spends time with his guy friends, and I would be lost without my best girlfriends.

Personally, we find it important to have a spiritual foundation as well. When I think of marriage one of the verses that always comes to mind is Matthew 7:25.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

2) Make quality time for one another
 This is something we both have to work hard to keep in balance since having kids. If we don't stay on top of it, a few weeks will slip by and we haven't spent quality time together or talked about much more than mundane day to day, surface level happenings. When we really focus on our marriage and planning date nights or setting aside time to have real conversations or go do the things we love together, it makes all the difference in the world. 

3) Get help if you need it
This is where I'm going to be brutally honest. After Nick finished chemo and we had trouble getting pregnant, we began seeing a marriage counselor. The first one we saw wasn't a great fit, mostly he just patted my knee and agreed with me and softly scolded Nick. He was way too passive for our personality types. 

But then we found another one who is a great fit for us. She calls us both on our crap and says it like it is. We still see her from time to time as things come up and we find ourselves butting heads over the same issue or in a bit of a rough patch. I was so hesitant to seek out a marriage counselor early on because I thought it meant we were on the brink of divorce. I thought marriage counseling was for people with really bad problems. Well guess what? That has turned out to be one of the best things we've ever done. 

I also like to go to marriage workshops and classes at church because I'm all about improving and making things even better than they already are, but Nick doesn't like this as much. He will begrudgingly go with me even though he thinks it's total overkill. Reading books about marriage seems to be our best common ground in this area. Five Love Languages is the best one we've read that comes to mind. 

4) Work to find a long term solution for areas of tension
Nick and I are polar opposites when it comes to money. He is a planner and a saver and definitely the more financially responsible one. In fact, he likes to BRAG about the fact that he hasn't bought himself a single piece of clothing (except for work clothes) in two years. "TWO YEARS, OMG!! This is NOT something to brag about!!" I tell him.

I'm more of a throw caution to the wind and enjoy life, the money will work itself out type of person. This type and a saving type do not jive well in case you couldn't guess.

So what we eventually found that works wonders for us is separate bank accounts. Nick knows exactly how much is allotted for bills and savings every month, and if I want to spend $28 on shampoo and ride it out for three days with $6 in my bank account until the next pay day, so be it. (I don't actually mean to do that, by the way. Target gets me EVERY time. I have literally started praying for self control when I walk through the doors.) 

We have found this system eliminates the tension and works for us and for the greater good of our family.

5) Focus on what's good
Make a list if you have to.

6) Men's primary need is respect, women's is love.
I'm no psychologist, but for us this mind set was a game changer. We are both very similar in personality (outspoken, bossy, like to be in charge) and ultimately it does come down to the too many chiefs, not enough indians adage. I have had to learn to step back and go with the flow a lot more and make sure I am making Nick feel respected. The payoff for our relationship and our connection has been ten-fold. 

7) Give each other permission to be who you are
See #4 and Nick's clothes. I've given up. He is who he is, and I love him for that. I know he thinks I'm a complete weirdo half the time with my essential oils and crunchy stuff and my impulsiveness drives him nuts. But we both are who we are. The other part of this, I think, is giving each other space and permission to change and grow and figure out who you want to be.

8) View your marriage as a chance to offer grace and practice forgiveness
Every single day. And I think this is one of the biggest gifts we can give our boys. It's like that quote, "Marriage is supposed to make you happy AND make you holy." 

A couple of years ago, or maybe it was even last year, Nick gave me the best anniversary card. On the inside he wrote something like, I know things haven't been great for us lately, but I want you to know how much I love you and how committed I am to you.

At first I was kind of stunned because I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to say actual true things like that inside of anniversary cards. Maybe he should have just signed his name and I love you and left it at that. But the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated his sincerity. I would rather my kids look at the two of us, happily rocking beside each other on the porch one day and find an old anniversary card like that in a box, rather than one where we just signed our name or only wrote about how wonderful things were. To me, that is the true testimony of a solid marriage. It wasn't always easy, but we always chose each other and it was ALWAYS worth it.

I love you so much, Nick! Thanks for always being my person and for eight years of fun, laughter and two perfect little boys. Happy anniversary!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Kitchen Before & After

A couple of weeks ago we had our kitchen cabinets painted, and I finally took some after pictures to post. I have wanted a house with white kitchen cabinets since approximately 2003, so I can't tell you how excited I was to get this project done! I am very happy with how it turned out!

Our kitchen is somewhat small, and it's always felt a little bit dark to me. When we moved in the crown molding on the walls was cream, but the kitchen cabinets were brown with black trim on top. (I guess to match the island?) We had all of the black trim changed out right away, but other than that and switching out all of the light fixtures we haven't done anything to the kitchen. 

Here are some before pictures:


I ordered a new pantry door and this was before it came in.
Here it is now.

I have to admit, when we first got the pantry door painted and hung I wasn't a fan. I don't know if my eyes were just used to seeing something totally different in that spot or what, but it looked so plain and like so much white to me. I looked into having the glass changed out in the original one, but it really would be so expensive. Instead I moved the wreath from our front door onto the pantry, and I think I'm starting like how this looks now. What do you think? Door A (painted) or Door B?

Phase II of kitchen update will be to get our backsplash and granite replaced, although since the cabinets are white the dark granite doesn't bother me at all anymore. But I would like to have distressed wood put on top of the island at some point down the road! Also, we have the prettiest wood floors in our entry way and dining room, I would love to carry those into the kitchen some day as well. If only I had one of those handy dandy money trees!

While Carlos was here and already painting, I went ahead and had him do a couple of things to our hall bath as well. This was a last minute decision, but the bid was so cheap I really couldn't say no. (Nick says this is debatable. $0 is always cheaper than dollars spent.) 

So here it was before:

And here is the after:

Walls painted blue, cabinets painted cream and a new light fixture. I'm loving this change as well!

We also had the outside of the house painted- all of the trim, shutters, doors and wood paneling but I haven't taken any pictures. It looks nice and fresh, but that definitely falls into the category of things that are not fun to spend money on. I am so glad we had everything painted and freshened up, but I'm even happier it's over, the painters & the fumes are gone, and our house is back in order with a fresh coat of paint.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Friends & Fathers: All the Feels

Yesterday a group of us got together to celebrate Natalie's birthday! We spent the afternoon sitting out by the pool at a local hotel. I can't even tell you how amazing it was not to be rubbing in sunscreen and putting on floaties and chasing kids the entire time. I look forward to the day going to the pool is once again relaxing instead of a sport!
Several of the girls were staying overnight at the hotel, so we went upstairs and got dressed for dinner after the pool. Getting dressed to go out with a big group of girls is always so much fun! My take away tip was, "there is no such thing as too much hairspray." They told me I am way under hairspraying, so I am committed to righting that wrong going forward. 
Nat's sister Laura, Natalie & me
Nat's high school friend Laura, me & Bethany + Kim
Sisters & Sisters-in-law-- love these girls so much! They are always so sweet to include me in their "sister" events, like if they are going to out dinner or going to get pedicures or something. I can't imagine not having a brother, I love JG with all my heart, but seeing the bond between Laura and Natalie is so special. I think it must be pretty amazing to have a sister! I'm so glad my boys will have one another.

We had dinner at Tru Fire in Southlake Town Square, and then part of the group relocated to the next destination and the other half of us went home. I hated to miss the late night fun, but it was definitely a wise call so I could be ship shape for Father's Day today. 

We had a really low key day. I had bought a bunch of stuff to fix breakfast, and we just played with the boys and lounged around all morning. Al & Teri are on vacation and with my dad in Colorado, we spent the day just the four of us. We all took long naps after lunch (glorious!!) and had dinner at Gino's East in Arlington. Nick lived in Chicago one summer, and since I've known him he's been telling me about the deep dish pizzas at Gino's. He has been so excited to go try the new one in Arlington so today seemed like a great day. It did not disappoint! The only downside was there was a 45 minute wait and then it takes an hour to make your pizza. It could have definitely gone either way with two small kids, but by a sheer stroke of luck + videos on YouTube and lots of snacks to distract, the boys were so well behaved. We were shocked and relieved, I won't lie. 

Last night Kim was telling me a story I had totally forgotten about. When Everett was only a few weeks old she and Audrey came over to watch Logan so I could go to my follow up appointment with Dr. Snead. (So maybe Everett was two weeks?) Well, on the way to my appointment he started screaming. Not just crying newborn, I mean hysterically, Everett eating dairy level, off the charts screaming. Then, the road I take to get to the doctor's office was shut down and I sat in stand still traffic for almost an hour. I couldn't get to the doctor and I couldn't turn back to get home. I clearly remember pulling off into a neighborhood, pulling Everett out of his car seat and trying to feed him and he just screamed more. I had no idea what to do so I held him in my lap and circled around that neighborhood like a zombie. (Don't tell CPS- I was CLEARLY not thinking rationally.) Kim said I called her, crying my eyes out and just told her I wasn't going to the doctor and I couldn't get back home and I couldn't handle having two kids. Meanwhile, she was like six months pregnant and just like, "Oh crap. This is NOT good." 

Now it's a funny story, but at the time it was soooooo hard. I blogged about those days, but I think I also tried to downplay it and stay positive a lot, but Everett was SUCH a difficult baby. If you've had a baby who cries and cries non stop and is very needy, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I think at the time I was just trying to get through it, and now looking back when I remember stories like the one Kim told me, I realize how hard that was. It makes me SO, SO thankful to be where we are today and honestly, it gives me a huge pause when I think about ever having a third child. I don't know if I have it in me.

The boys have gotten so much easier, and Nick & I have gotten a whole lot better at being parents. Things that used to throw us for a loop when Logan was a baby or seem really overwhelming when Everett was tiny don't even cause us pause now. Thinking back to dinner tonight, Everett needed his diaper changed and I took both boys to run outside at one point and we were throwing snacks at them left and right and walking from the car in the rain and cutting up bites of dinner, and it was all just no big deal. Nick and I are doing this! I feel like, we've got this (some days)! 
I couldn't imagine a better partner to raise my kids with. Nick is really and truly a great dad! He is so involved with our boys and puts our family first with his work schedule, etc. When he gets home he steps right in to help however he can. He works so hard for our family and is such a dedicated dad. My favorite part is, he loves talking about the boys as much as I do. I bet five nights a week we lay in bed just talking about their antics and laughing about different things they did that day. There is no one else in the world who loves Logan and Everett the way their dad does. When it comes to parenting, he is my better half for sure! Happy Father's Day!! We ADORE you, Nick Salomone!!!

And Happy Father's Day to my amazing dad- I love him with all my heart!
And my wonderful father-in-law Al. It's all because of him that Nick learned how to be a great dad.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Swim Lessons & Updates

Another year of swim lessons with Mr. Kaleb is in the books! Logan took lessons with Hudson and Hayden and Hattie again, but this year we wised up and scheduled lessons early in the summer. This year it was much easier on me to drop Logan off, and he never once complained or didn't want to go which surprised me.
Friday evening was their "show off" class. It is amazing what Kaleb is able to do with the kids! He is a bald, tatted up dude with a no-nonsense approach that works! After only four lessons all the kids could dive to the deep end for rings and swim across the pool! 

 Next year these two will join the ranks.
The cheering section, including Aunt Aundrea and Mimi! Here are two short videos of Logan swimming and diving for rings. 

Besides swimming lessons, Logan is full of something new and funny or something new and ridiculous every single day. One thing's for sure, he always has me laughing or gritting my teeth in frustration. Tonight he pulled a pit out of a cherry and exclaimed, "That's incredible!!" The other day he dropped his shirt down the stairs and told me it "fluttered down." He really is such a smart kid, but he is also quite a handful right now. As Kimba says, three year olds are bipolar. One minute he will look at me and say, "Mommy, you're so beautiful! Your hair is so pretty! I love you!" and be incredibly helpful and compliant. The next, he's calling me "an old bag of bones" (yep, that happened) and pitching a fit or refusing to do what we say.

Half the time, he will be in the process of doing exactly what I ask while at the same time telling me "NO! I won't do it!" or whining "Whyyyyy? Why do I have to? What's the reason?" It defies all logic. For us, age three has been a little bit like the newborn stage. It's great in many ways and in other ways, you just want to get through it. Some days I wonder if I couldn't hire Mr. Kaleb to come shake him down in other areas besides swimming. The good news is, all of my friends who have three year olds are dealing with the exact same issues so at least I know I'm not alone.

This is super lame of me, but tonight I totally pulled out a worksheet for him to do. It must be awful being a teacher's kid! (Note of irony: my mom, grandma, grandpa, Nick's mom... all teachers)
Anyway, Logan was so excited and kept telling me what a fun game this worksheet was."Do you have any more of these fun games, mom?" he said when we were done. I honestly couldn't believe he could do this all by himself! I explained what to do and helped him a tiny bit with the cutting, but otherwise he did the entire thing alone; counting, gluing the correct numbers, all of it! The teacher in me was ridiculously proud.

Mr. Everett is still not walking, but he is incredibly close. I kept thinking he would never walk because he really hasn't even shown much interest in it until the last two or three days. He happily crawled wherever he wanted to go.
By tonight he was walking all around, just holding onto two fingers on one of my hands. He is SO, SO close now! It's just a matter of time!

He quit taking a bottle pretty much cold turkey a couple of weeks ago, which was the total opposite of how Logan did it. He still doesn't do well with dairy, but otherwise he's a good eater. I said this in the last post, but he talks and talks and talks. It's so fun! He can repeat just about anything we say, and Logan thinks Everett is his personal little show pony. Logan will go through all the animal sounds with him and think of the most obscure words for him to repeat, and Everett does it.

Everett has the attention span of a gnat and is still such a wild little man, but he loves to sit and look at books ("boops") or be read to, and he likes cars just like Logan does. He sleeps well, he's SOOO sweet, and we can really communicate back and forth now. He just confirms how much I adore this age!! He also goes up and down the stairs all by himself now, which is a pretty neat and also a handy little trick. He is going through a pretty major stranger/separation anxiety phase, which is the WORST when you have to leave him, but I remember this passing pretty quickly around this age with Logan, so I'm hoping for the same.
That's what's new with the Salomone boys!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

First Week of Summer

Here is how we spent the first official week of summer!

The boys and I went to check out the new Rec Center in Grapevine. It has a nice workout area and an indoor playground and splash pad! I have a feeling we will be regulars there this summer. 
Logan also started swim lessons Monday evening. This is how Everett and I killed the time. 

Tuesday we went to the Dallas Zoo to see the dinosaur exhibit with Kimba and Lindsay's crew. The Dallas Zoo was great, but it was HOT! We can now check zoo off the list for the rest of summer. 

That evening Kimba and Dillon had plans so I took Nora and Hattie home with us from swim lessons. On the way home we stopped and had dinner at Chic Fila. I like a good challenge, and that certainly was one. Corralling two 3 year olds (who hadn't napped) and two 1 year olds, buckling all those car seats and getting everybody's food ready, it was a lot.
It was quite a scene as I piled them all out of my car one by one. I ended up pushing Nora in the stroller, carrying Everett and making Hattie and Logan hold hands. 

And this is how we rode home, because the stroller wouldn't collapse and at least three of the four were crying or whining. If someone would have caught the whole Chic Fila trip on video I bet it would be quite comical to watch. 

On Wednesday Emilee kept the boys so I could get my hair done and have lunch with Mandy. Afterwards we did some shopping and I found a few things for our beach trip coming up.

Thursday Everett had Little Gym, and Logan was mesmerized by Mr. Nick's ukulele. 

After Little Gym we picked up a few things we needed at the store and came home to play and lay low for the rest of the morning.

The boys and I went to The Grapevine Farmer's Market on Friday! 

Afterwards we went over to Kimba's to play.
When in Rome... (Or a house full of girls, as the case may be)

Logan has always been pretty ambivalent to Hattie's charms until recently. Now they play together and chase one other and laugh but also, they argue and boss one another around. They are first borns to a T and are pretty equally matched on bossiness. I got the biggest kick out of Hattie pointing her finger at Logan's chest saying, "Logan, You listen to ME and you listen to YOUR MOMMY." My kind of girl!
We took the kids to have lunch at F+G Eats in Keller Town Center where Kimba and I had a pretty big double mom fail. As we finished up lunch, Logan and Hattie were rough housing and just being silly three year olds. After a lot of reminders to be nice, we decided to take a hands off, "you'll learn your lesson when somebody starts crying" approach. It the blink of an eye it turned to pulling hair and slapping and pinching and somebody might have pushed somebody else into a sign. It was a full on domestic situation. Thankfully, we were the only people on the patio, and Kimba and I definitely learned our lesson about how to handle a situation like that next time. Yikes!!

And on a lighter note- here is my favorite video from the week. We adore this little guy so much!!! He is talking up a storm these days!