Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Just in from Hawaii (2008)

I'm somewhere out on the open seas today traveling from Ketchikan, AK to Victoria, B.C. So here's a post from way back when I was a newlywed. Michael and I vacationed on Oahu that first summer of our marriage. It was lovely.

We had a WONDERFUL time in Hawaii. The picture above is at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on our first full day there. We sat out by the pool for several hours refreshing ourselves in the pool and soaking up the rays. I had never done the resort thing in Hawaii before, and so it was good to spend a couple days at this amazing property and feel like we were living in style.

Being in Hawaii with Michael was totally different than the previous times I've been there before. He has spent enough time in the islands (he was born there and has returned many times since) to know about all the local delicacies and favorite places. I was introduced to many foods I had never tried before as Michael hunted down some of his favorites like malasadas and manapuas - yum!!! I also tried shave ice with ice cream and azuki beans. It didn't sound good to me at first, but it is - it is! We treated ourselves to a shared shave ice every day.

Once we left Waikiki, we spent the remainder (and most of) our vacation in the town of Kailua. Kailua has one of the best beaches in Hawaii, but no resorts. It's a bedroom community. Lots of people live there and commute to Honolulu for work. We were within a short walk's distance from the beach and the downtown shopping area. The property at which we stayed was waterfront, but not beachfront, however we could see the beach from the backyard (which was just beautiful), and we had full use of their saltwater pool. The unit we stayed in was so charming and comfortable, and the owners were gracious hosts. In fact, they discussed having us return next summer to housesit for them while they travel! We would be delighted to do so, of course!

On a side note, I really enjoyed waking to the sounds of the birds in the morning. They kept birds at their home, and together with the native birdies we were treated to quite a chorus each morning.

We drove around the island one day - up to the famous North Shore, through the fields of sugar cane and pineapple, along the stunningly beautiful coastline. Of the three islands I have now visited, I have to say that Oahu is my favorite. There is so much to do there if you like, and yet when we were at "home" in Kailua it was so quiet and and life moved very slowly. I was trying to figure out how we could relocate to Kailua, but alas I cannot think of a reasonable way to do so. So, we will return as visitors one day instead.

I hope to put together a little slideshow of some of our photos, but I've got other things that need my attention first. Perhaps I'll get to that over the weekend instead.

Aloha, for now!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Today I will be in Skagway, Alaska. While my parents take a 3.5 hour train ride, Michaela and I will be panning for gold, seeing some sled dog puppies, and experiencing what it's like to be in 40 degrees below zero temps - like the mushers and their dogs. Don't worry! From what I could tell when I booked the excursion we'll wear heavy parkas and walk through a big freezer. Ha!

However, next week I'll report back to work and then we'll be on that treadmill called "real life" for another ten months. I'll be learning the ropes as a middle school teacher, and Michaela will start a five-day-a-week preschool program. There will be new challenges and opportunities for us both.

Sometimes at this point in the summer, I start to feel a little apprehensive about the start of the school year. Maybe I'll be having too much fun on our cruise to have those back-to-school nightmares I've had for the last twenty years. I sure hope so!

One of my coping strategies for this hectic time of the year is to think about and plan for some of the fun things we like to do in the fall together. It's good to have some things to look forward to as summer fades away to fall.

Here's what we've got planned so far:

We started going to the Greek Festival when Michaela was just a baby. The food is incredible, and I love the music and watching the dancers. The parishioners at the church where this is held outdo themselves and show great hospitality. I don't feel like it's really Labor Day weekend, unless we've spent an evening at the Greek Festival.

The last two years we have gone out to Irvine Park for their pumpkin patch event. I usually get a Friday afternoon off after a long week of parent conferences, and we use that time to visit the pumpkin patch. We always ride the train, run through the maze, and take lots of pictures. But Mommy buys her pumpkins at Trader Joe's. . .

In November, we usually take advantage of the Veteran's Day holiday to make a three or four day weekend and get away somewhere. However, this year the holiday falls on a Wednesday, and so we will not be going away overnight. That's a big bummer because it's my wedding anniversary, and I like to get away and do something fun with Michaela instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for myself. We'll just have to figure something out to make the day a happy one. Suggestions are welcome. 

How do you cope with the beginning of the school year and all it's demands? 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Kauai 2013

Today we are embarking on our Alaskan cruise, and looking back at our vacation two years ago in paradise.

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We had the best time in Kauai with my parents. Like all trips to Hawaii, it was over much too soon. Some of the highlights were:

  • Flying first class to Lihue (thanks, Dad!).
  • Our oceanfront view.
  • Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau.
  • The train ride around the Kilohana Plantation.
  • A boat ride up the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto.
  • Dinner at Oasis on the Beach and Duke's Kauai - amazing views.

And, of course, there is the lovely scenery, the chickens that are everywhere, the roar of the ocean, gentle rain showers, tropical flora, shave ice, and that aloha spirit.

Michaela was a great traveler (she gets that from her daddy). She called our condo "Grammy's House in Kauai". So cute! She loved making sandcastles on the beach with Grammy, but wasn't too excited about getting into the ocean water.

Mommy had a great time, and I'm trying to figure out how we can go back next summer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I'm Reading - Blogs

I discovered blogs about ten years ago when I decided to start the China adoption process. Personal blogs about China adoption experiences were a great resource for me, and I developed some good friendships (to this day!) as a result of reading and commenting on others' blogs. Somewhere along the line, we all seemed to migrate over to Facebook, and very few of us continued to blog as life became more demanding (kids!).

More recently, I have been in search of new blogs to read. I got on a kick of running Google searches looking for Stitch Fix reviews last year, and in doing so have discovered some new blogs that are worth reading beyond the monthly SF review.

Here are some of my favorites:

I think I found Edie's blog on Pinterest a while back. Seems like I was looking for either Stitch Fix reviews or fashion for forty-somethings. I will have to say that her blog is no lightweight, though. Edie has a lot of poignant reflections about life and faith, and her blog is uniquely and beautifully presented.

I'm not even sure that Cassie from hi sugarplum does Stitch Fix reviews, or not. So I'm not sure how I found her. Nevertheless, I love her sense of style. (Stripes and florals really do look cute together. Who knew?!) She also did a series on the Alaskan cruise she and her hubby took a few months ago, and of course I loved that. In addition to fashion and travel, you'll find home decor and DIY posts.

I stumbled across Dorothy's blog when she guest posted last week on another blog I've been visiting. I can relate to her journey as a single woman, and as someone coming to grips with a terrible loss. I am always drawn to people who don't have a picture perfect life, but who strive to live life gracefully.

Cyndi's blog was definitely a Stitch Fix related find. I love that she's over forty, fashionable, and that she points to the Lord as the source of all beauty. As someone who enjoys clothes, but struggles with putting it all together with accessories and such, Cyndi's blog gives me daily ideas for the contents in my own wardrobe.

I came across Sarah's blog this summer, and I've been inspired by her tips for frugal living and generating additional sources of income. I changed out many of my lightbulbs on her advice, and looked into simple ways I could monetize this blog. Her posts seem to make me take action!

These are just a few I enjoy reading throughout the week. The thing I need to work on (that I used to enjoy so much!), is commenting. I know how much I enjoy reading comments on my own blog posts, and so I need to be generous with my comments on the blogs I read. That's how relationships between bloggers are established.

So, what are you reading? Who is your favorite blogger?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cosleeping - Our Experience

Long ago, before I had children, I was one of those people who thought cosleeping was for hippies. Seriously! I could not understand why anyone would share their bed with their baby or their little children. It seemed weird and inconvenient to me.

Then I had a child.

A wonderful child whose love language seems to be touch.

But it took me a while to realize that cosleeping would be the best thing for her - for us.

When Michaela was a newborn, she slept next to my side of the bed in her bassinet. Aside from waking in the night for a feeding, she was a good sleeper.

Then I had to go back to work.

I think I started transitioning her to her crib at least couple of weeks before school started that year, but she did not like the change at all. She awakened in the night more than once, and resisted going back to sleep. It was really hard having my sleep interrupted like that, and especially when the alarm clock was going to go off at 5 AM. The first two months of the school year were brutal in that regard.

If it weren't for a trip to Las Vegas that November, I don't know that I would have figured it out as soon as I did. Although I had brought the portable crib, that first night in the hotel room I had an idea that changed everything. The bed was close to a short wall, and I decided to fill the gap between the bed and that wall with the extra pillows - that way she wouldn't fall off the bed. Then I put her in the bed with the pillow barrier on one side, and I was on the other. Lights out, and voila! She slept the entire night. She didn't even wake up for a feeding. It was amazing!

So that was the beginning of our cosleeping.

Almost four years later, we still cosleep most of the time. During last summer and this summer, I expected her to sleep in her own bed most nights because we have a lot of time together every day. But when I go back to work in a few weeks, she will sleep in my bed again most likely. A Facebook friend who also cosleeps with her school-aged daughter, said that it seems like it fills her daughter's bucket (so to speak) of that close time with mom. I have to agree with that.

It's a sacrifice to share your bed with your baby or young child, for sure. If I were married still, I'm not sure it would have been an ongoing sacrifice we would have been willing to make. But being that it's just Michaela and Mommy, there really is no downside to letting her sleep in my bed. I'm sure there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when she would rather be in her own bed. Until then, this is what works.

Do you, or did you, cosleep with your child(ren)? If so, was it the result of a change of heart (like me), or had you always intended to cosleep?

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Week's Highs & Lows

Summer days have a way of blurring into one another. It's actually kind of hard to recall each on distinctly. Ha!

This week's highs:

Spending time with my brother-in-law Ben and his daughter Kiana. On Monday, we met up over at my parents' house for a little time in the pool. Michaela loved that!

Other highs were noting that Michaela is now coloring in the lines in her coloring books. . .

. . . and attempting to spell! I love seeing her try new things.

This week's lows:

Sadly, I learned that the father of two of my former students had passed away. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor last fall after suffering from a seizure. They are the sweetest, most gracious people, and I just hate that this has happened to them. Please pray for Mrs. C, Stacy and Tim as they grieve for their husband and father.

In light of their loss, anything else that has been less than perfect in my life this week seems insignificant. I'm blessed. God is good.

Have a restful weekend, friends!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Three Little Embryos

I am reposting from August 2010 when I was in the two-week wait after my second IVF. I had been widowed for just five months. I thought this was my last chance at motherhood, and I really struggled with the uncertainty of the outcome.

Now if I remember correctly, the embryo on the top left is the star student. It had so many cells that it's beginning to compact and the embryologist said that was very good.

The embryo on the right was also considered to be a goody with six to eight cells.

The embryo on the bottom was the late bloomer. It started as one of the immature eggs and was fertilized a day later than it's siblings.

They are all precious to me.

I have a new friend my same age who is just a few weeks ahead of me in the IVF process. She only had one embryo to transfer, but she is pregnant with great beta numbers. Her outcome has given me great hope for these little guys.

Thank you for all the comments and emails, and for surrounding me with your loving thoughts and prayers. From our lips to God's ear, as they say.

Want to know how things turned out? Click here!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

For the New Widow

I am heavy-hearted this week. I received a text yesterday afternoon informing me that the father of two former students had lost his battle and went home to be with the Lord. He leaves behind a lovely wife and two great kids. I am heartbroken for them.

He is free, he is well, but they are in the valley of the shadow of death. I have been there before. It is a terrible place to be.

After the horrible shock of the permanence of the loss, and the busyness of the funeral, and all the people go home, they will have to rebuild their lives. And it will be hard work because they are so broken.

But it can be done. It must be done. Life goes on whether we want it to, or not. It's best to embrace what you still have and move forward little by little. No one should expect you to be fine in a couple of weeks or months. That is unrealistic!

I'm going to share what my grief journey looked like in this post, but I have to say that everyone is different. What worked for me may not work for everyone.

I was blessed to be able to take a significant amount of time off work. I had endured a lot of stress in the ten months that Michael was ill, and I knew I was incapable of dealing with any work-related stress. I spent that time off well. I spent it intentionally.

During my leave of absence, I took three short trips to see dear friends in different parts of the country. I let them care for me and listen to me. Their kindness and compassion was so appreciated and helpful.

I attended weekly sessions with a therapist who specialized in grief. I had a lot on my chest, and it was very helpful to have someone listen to me. Honestly, I can't remember much of what she advised me, but I do remember talking a lot. Ha! I also joined a GriefShare group at a church in the neighborhood (at our new church, actually). I talked less in that group setting than I did in my one-on-one sessions, and I learned a lot from the other people in the group.

I was actually afraid of becoming stuck in my grief, and letting bitterness take hold. So I spent a lot of time with the Lord in prayer, reading my Bible, and going to church several times a week. In James 4:8 it says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." That is the truth! As awful as those first six months were without Michael, God showed up and I grew a lot in my faith. Honestly, I wouldn't trade that for anything. To know God more and to experience His peace and provision is priceless.

I read a lot. (A lotta lotta as Michaela would say.) There are some really good books about grief and Heaven, and I have to share them here because if you, or someone you know is grieving these are very encouraging:

There were several others, but these books were my favorites, and they are the ones I give to friends and family as new losses are experienced.

Here are some other recommendations based on my experience:

Be very careful about what sorts of entertainment you consume. Avoid dark and depressing themes. You are already trying to get out of "the valley of the shadow of death" so why retreat into a dark cave? Even now I choose to listen to mostly Christian music, and I make sure that the shows and movies that I watch have an uplifting message. A broken heart needs to be encouraged and edified, not further bogged down by everything that's wrong in the world. So guard your heart!

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Don't drink alcohol - especially don't drink alcohol by yourself. Alcohol is a depressant. It's not going to help you one bit, and you may actually develop a dependency on it. Just avoid it for several months. I only drank lightly when I was in the company of friends or family, and never by myself.

Exercise! I walked the neighborhood with my dog regularly. God designed our bodies so that we release positive endorphins when we exert ourselves. You will get a natural high when you get moving. A great resource for grieving widows is One Fit Widow. I follow her on Facebook, too. We lost our husbands about the same time, and I love her take on life after loss.

Connect with others who are going through, or who have gone through similar losses I can recommend my friend Ferre's blog, Widow's Christian Place. She's got a sweet ministry to widows, and she runs a private group on Facebook. You can contact Ferre through her blog and get an invitation to her FB group.

Write about your feelings and your experience. Keep a journal, or start a blog. Don't keep your feelings locked up inside. Find a healthy outlet for them.

Let people help you. If your family, friends, and neighbors have offered to do something for you, take them up on it. You don't have to do it all on your own. Let them be God's hands and feet in your season of grief.

I could probably write more, but I think those are the main things that come to mind when I think about my grief journey. It's been five and a half years, and I'm still on that journey. Michael is never far from my thoughts. He's always missed. There is a huge void in my life, and I struggle with loneliness. But the heavy part of grief is behind me, and I know that I don't have to grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). I know that I will see my beloved Michael again one day. In the meantime, I need to do my best to live my life in a way that honors Michael's memory and pleases the Lord - one day at a time.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Upscale Resale: Moxie Jean

We are soon to embark on our Alaskan cruise, and the excitement is building. Just today Michaela asked me when we are getting on the big boat. Soon, baby! Soon!

When these plans were made in March, I quickly realized that I was going to need to put a wardrobe together for Michaela that would be appropriate for the types of weather we might encounter in Alaska. It's very likely that we will experience rain and cooler temperatures - much like the type of weather we can have here in the wintertime.

However, Michaela has outgrown all her winter clothing and I've long since disposed of it. That is the thing with little ones. They outgrow their clothes so quickly! In the last four years I have given away hundreds of pieces of clothing. I actually enjoy passing on gently used clothing to family, friends, and coworkers when I can. But I've recently discovered another option - reselling.

In the last few months, instead of giving everything away, I've been sorting things into three categories - things to resell, things to give to friends or family, and things that can go to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. The determining factors are usually based on the overall wear of the items and the items' makers. Like I mentioned in a recent post, Gymboree is a brand with a very good resell value, and it's one that I like for Michaela.

Selling on "the big auction site" works for a lot of people, but it's not the best place for me. As a full-time teacher, I'm not sure I really have the time to be managing that process.

What works best for me is Moxie Jean which is an online resale shop for children's clothes and maternity clothing (I wish I'd known about them back in the day!). After I've sorted out Michaela's clothes, I order a bag (for free) from Moxie Jean and put the best items in it. Then I drop it off at the post office or UPS Store, and Moxie Jean covers the shipping charges. Easy peasy! Right? In a few days or so, they email me to acknowledge receipt of my bag, and a few days after that I am given an amount for the items they accept. I can cash out, or retain store credit. My most recent bag earned me about $30 which I used as store credit. Hey, thirty bucks can go a long way when you're shopping consignment!

I discovered Moxie Jean when I began looking for long pants, long-sleeved shirts, dresses for dinner, and outerwear for our cruise. I'd already discovered the pleasure of shopping online consignment for myself on another site, and I was excited about the possibility of finding what we needed for Michaela at Moxie Jean.

Gently used kids clothing

In order for this wardrobe to mix and match, I decided to choose pieces that were black, grey, and pink. Here are some of the pieces I was able to find - some of these were even new with tags!

And here's Michaela modeling a warm hat by Gap that I found for her:

I was also able to find jeans and long sleeved tees from Gymboree and Gap to complete the trip wardrobe. I think the coat was the most expensive item at around $22, but most items I purchased were between $5 and $12. The convenience of finding out-of-season clothing was a big plus for me in this instance, but throughout the site there was plenty of on-trend and seasonal offerings. When we received our box from Moxie Jean, everything was packaged so nicely I would have thought they had come from a mail order boutique.

After the trip, these items will make up her winter wardrobe - so, Mommy doesn't have to do anymore shopping for quite a while. Whew!

Anyway, I have been pleased with both my selling and buying experiences with Moxie Jean. It's a great way to send off the clothes your kiddo has outgrown, make some spending money or credit, and restock your children's drawers with stylish pieces at super discounted prices. I hope you'll check out Moxie Jean!

Adorable clothes at 75% off retail every day

{This post contains affiliate links. That doesn't mean that you pay more when you purchase something through my link, but it does mean that I receive a small commission when you do. Thank you for supporting my little blog!}

UPDATE: Well, wouldn't you know it?! Moxie Jean is becoming a part of another online reseller service. From the email I received today, August 17, 2015:

"We have tremendously exciting news to share with all of you: As of today, Moxie Jean is joining forces with resale industry leader Schoola to create one united community that offers the same great deals on secondhand clothing – but extends the impact of your purchases...
Starting today, we will be transitioning our site & inventory to merge with Our product catalog will be unavailable temporarily while we make the transition, but we expect it to be available at in early September. "

I have not shopped, but will check out the site soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Potty Talk

I recently received a comment from Brittany on an older post of mine in which I mentioned that there were some books that helped Michaela get excited about using the toilet when I was potty training her. I had only mentioned the books in passing and never said what they actually were, but Brittany asked me to share them with her. Seems like I might as well share them here so that other readers can find them for their kiddos.

First, I will say that potty training is not for the faint of heart. There will be accidents and messes. My sofa took a beating, friends. Thank goodness it is old and I can look forward to replacing it in the near future. At times I was really frustrated. I read blog posts and watched Youtube videos by moms who had successful methods, and I gleaned bits of wisdom from them. It seems that at least one of them mentioned using children's books, and that was an idea I really liked.

Here are a couple that Michaela really enjoyed:

This one was probably her favorite - mine, too! I realize that it's written for girls, and so it won't work for everyone. 

This one is more boyish, but we enjoyed it a lot:

Reading these books really got Michaela excited about using the potty just like the kids in the stories. I think it was the most motivating factor I introduced during that time. For a list of more books like this, you can click here.

These days we're working on table manners, and I'm frustrated. Maybe there are books for that?!

(This post does not include affiliate links.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wednesday Night Ramble

Last Sunday I had a great idea for a meaningful post, but as the week has progressed I lost my focus. So tonight I offer you some rambling thoughts instead.

Michaela had a dental appointment today, and she got a good report on the health of her teeth. I was a little worried because we have been battling each other about teeth brushing, and she developed a bit of an aversion to tooth paste recently.

The dentist did ask if she was sucking her thumb, or anything like that, and so I did have to confess that she has "Chewy" that she puts in her mouth when she sleeps. Chewies are just baby burp cloths, but you'd think they are an animate object because she loves them so. She started chewing and sucking on them when she was a baby and she was teething. I have been trying since last year to get her to ditch Chewy because it grosses me out, but with no luck! However when her dentist learned of Chewy he explained why it wasn't good for her, and that it would be better to just hold Chewy and rub it on her cheek instead.

Well, nap time was a complete failure today because she was mourning the change in her relationship with Chewy, but thankfully tonight she fell asleep quickly. I went in to check on her just a few minutes ago, and she's sleeping peacefully and Chewy is not in her mouth. This is a big deal, people!

Three paragraphs about Chewy. Sheesh...

Okay, this is sort of sweet bittersweet. A couple of weeks ago, I gave Michaela a copy of my CD and a copy of her daddy's CD. She has a CD player in her bedroom, and she was eager to listen to our music. My CD is country music, and she puts it on and sings and dances along to the music. She keeps asking me if it's really me singing. 

Michael's CD is mostly instrumental, and so she listens to that while she sleeps. She has always listened to music while she sleeps. She's like her dad that way. He always listened to something while he slept, too. The first song is Michael singing Mel Torme's The Christmas Song. She will start it over and over again until she settles down - she loves to hear his voice. I do too. It's nice hearing his music in the house again. I don't know why I waited so long to get that CD out.

We leave in two weeks for our Alaska cruise. I think we have acquired everything we need for the trip, and I can't wait to actually pack it all up and hit the road. We will embark in San Francisco. I am really looking forward to exploring the ship, seeing the beauty of Alaska, our excursions, and the food. Oh, and ten days of not having to cook, clean, or do laundry is also very appealing! It's going to be a great way to cap off our summer break.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Good night!