Conversations with Dashiell & Cedric


Cedric is officially joining these posts! Mostly everything he says is cute right now but he's had a couple zingers that I've been able to write down and remember. He seems to have good comedic timing already and loves doing little "bits" once he sees that he's making us laugh. Right now there's a lot of poo humor. :)

We haven't quite hit the stage where the boys are having long conversations together although I think it's super close. Ah, can't wait to hear what they'll have to say to each other.

Here's what Dashiell and Cedric have been saying lately...

A few Dash-isms that we love so much
This day = today 
Last day = yesterday, or last week
Next day = tomorrow

How Dashiell spelled his name out loud for a long time

Me: Good night.
Dash: Be careful in your bed...

Me: Do you know any facts about dinosaurs?
Dash: Dinosaurs have fossils in their belly!

Dash: I'm fast like emergency!

Dash: I'm not 3. I'm 61.

Dash: I want you to have another popsicle so your belly can get big like mine.

Chris has trained both boys to respond with "the bomb!" when he starts, "Daddy is the..." On a recent morning Chris made Dashiell hot chocolate at his request. But he made a pretty big mug, which Dash drank quickly and then complained of a stomach ache...
Dash: Daddy's not the bomb anymore...

Dash: We don't say poopy butt. (He's told me this several times. Ahem)

Me: How did you sleep?
Dash: Five.

Dash: There's a thousand dollars of sand in the bathtub!

Dash: After I turn 3 - you're not going to like this - I'm going to turn 4. And you're never going to see me because I'm going to be taller than you.

Me: Dash, what do you call your blanket?
Dash: Judy.
(have never heard him call it that before or since)

Dash: I'm sweaty. I need a snack. Sweaty means I'm hungry.

Dash: Don't put up your windows Daddy, or you can fall out of the car.

After bedtime one night Dash, looking very sad, walked into the front room where we were. He had one arm pulled into his shirt (a new trick)...
Dash: I'm sad because I don't have an arm.

Dash: I have chemicals in my office
(no idea on this one)

Me: What woke you up?
Dash: Well, my brain!

Dash: When I grow up, I'm going to be a T. Rex.

Dash: I have million. I'm giving away dollars.

We were playing hide and seek from Chris. I was hiding in a closet with the boys and we were pretending to be scared of Chris finding us.
As he pushes Cedric out of the closet...
Dash: Go Cedric, be brave. 

Me: Cedric, what do we have for Thanksgiving?
Cedric: Horses!

When we turned on the windshield wipers...
Dash: That's the car's tears!

Me: Dash, what's the biggest number you can think of?
Dash: ...38!

Dash: Where ever you are, you are with me.

Me: Dash, what's the most important thing.
Dash: To love your family.

Cedric: Toots, guys!

More conversations with Dashiell & Cedric

Home style Photo Streams to collect ideas and save money

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

I love making our home cozy and functional. It's essentially a project I'm always working on. And finally, after eight years, I'm starting to feel confident in how I want to decorate and style our home. I have a lot of ideas about the yard, too. But all these ideas often lead me to want things for the house, which can quickly translate to spending money.

This year, Chris and I have an aggressive savings goal of $20,000. We chatted our our 2017 budget and savings goals in a recent Matrimoney episode if you'd like all the details. Our savings goal is possible but it requires sticking to our budget. Lots of spending for this and that around the house won't help us get there. 

Even though I can't spend a lot I still love collecting ideas for our house and yard. It helps me learn how to get the look I want, or to figure out a cheaper solution than buying new. Sometimes just capturing an idea and sitting on it lets me let go of the desire to change something or get something new entirely; I realize that what we've got is just fine.

Pinterest is great for collecting ideas, and I love to use it, but it doesn't help me when I'm browsing Target, an antique store or a plant nursery. Me at all of these places: "I want EVERYthing!"

So I figured out something to help: take a picture!

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

Apparently I'm REALLY into giant pinecones. So if you're looking for a gift for me...

I had this idea while using iPhone Photo Stream, the shared photo album option in your Photos app if you're rocking an iPhone. If not, a shared Google Photos album is the same idea. And you know I love organizing photos with Google Photos

I already use Photo Streams for sharing pictures of the boys with friends and family, and for sharing podcast photos with Erica. I realized that I could create home style Photo Stream albums that were just for me, and that they would be a great way to "park" things that I want to buy. It's a similar idea to Pinterest except with my own photos.

So I created two home style Photo Streams for myself: DECOR and PLANTS. Essentially it's for inside the house and for our yard. I'm happy to report that these are helping me so much!

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

Now I take photos to avoid buying impulsively or when I see something that inspires me. Recently I've been leafing through old issues of Sunset magazine to get ideas for our yard. When I see something I like I just snap a photo and add it to the PLANTS album. And when I visited a friend in Tucson we walked around a cute neighborhood and I snapped lots of pictures of desert-scaled yards.

Taking a photo is strangely satisfying and removes the back and forth worrying over "should I get this?" Now the answer is, "Not right now."

The impulse to buy is so crazy. In the moment acquiring something new feels so important. But for me, making the decision not to buy and walking away without spending extra money is much more satisfying.


For the love of grocery lists and spreadsheets


What you see above is my new and improved grocery list. It makes me ridiculously happy. So does talking about grocery list habits (totally serious). So let's talk about it. 

Let me answer a few questions. Yes, the columns are arranged by aisle content at my Trader Joe's. And yes, our most frequently purchased items are listed according to where they are in the store. And yes! there is a spot for listing meals and items to purchase elsewhere (Target/other grocery store) at the bottom. I KNOW. 

Designing a grocery list template like this is something I had on my mental to-do list forever. Finally I made the time to do it. And like many things that I put off, it ended up taking maybe 30 minutes and I wondered why it had taken me so long to do it.

To make the template I created a spreadsheet in Excel and organized the columns to reflect the aisles at our Trader Joe's (where we shop each week). Since I had the room, I have most columns reflect just one side of one aisle. So if I were a tiny shopper in this spreadsheet I'd be walking down the line dividing the columns, grabbing jam from the right and vitamins and toilet paper on the left.

Then I added our frequently bought items on the correct "aisle." I was able to do this mostly from memory but as I find a frequent item that I missed I just update the template. I'm also finding that our frequently bought items change over time, so I'll update the template accordingly.

To make a grocery list I indicate an item that we need by circling it. If we need something that's not already on the template I'll write it on the correct "aisle" and then circle it. I prefer to take a highlighter to the grocery store and cross items off that way. Because I'm adventurous that way.

The best part about this layout is that it's exactly how my mom made our grocery list when I was growing up. So now you know where I get it.

I printed about 10 of these and have them clipped to the side of the fridge. Also on the side of the fridge is a small white board where we jot down items we run out of or need throughout the week. So when I sit down to make a grocery list I grab a grocery list template and first circle or write in any items from the whiteboard.

At the bottom I write out dinner ideas or anything special we are going to make (like if we are hosting friends for dinner).  Then I circle or write in and circle items that we'll need for those meals/recipes and round out the grocery list with anything else we need. Such as BOURBON for maple bourbon ciders on my big Christmas Eve/Christmas shopping list above. 

And if you are not already convinced to give this a whirl, have I mentioned that one day at Trader Joe's a 60s-ish man stopped to admire my grocery list and proceed to ask if he could take me home with him? Still got it, guys. But honestly, it was not creepy and he kept exclaiming to his wife throughout his shopping trip about my organized list. This is the kind of first impression you want to make on people! 

I'd love to hear how you make your grocery list! I've tried an app but I hate having to take my phone out a million times at the store and keep waking it up. For now old fashioned paper is working for me. Grocery list-making is one of those weird topics that seems mundane but that completely fascinates me. So do tell!

Goals - January 2017


And just like that, 2017 is coming at us!

I'm back at work this week but to be honest I'm feeling a bit eager to get back to routine. We had a great holiday but it felt demanding. We had full days with seeing family and friends, and the boys needed a lot from us these two weeks - in the completely normal way that a two year old and a three year old need their parents. Even though I'd say we had a good, fun holiday I wouldn't say we had a restful, easy holiday.

January marks a change for Team Wharton since Chris's glorious sabbatical is over. He'll be back at his campus office with meetings and commitments. And we'll no longer have a parent working from home and attending to home tasks (prepping lunches, laundry, keeping the house tidy. Chris is amazing at all of this!). But I do get my carpool partner back so maybe we can find a new podcast to look forward to and fit in some coffee dates.

For the past two years I've shared monthly goals along with big things happening that month and recurring monthly goals, usually exercise, blogging and podcasting. I'm realizing that those need updating. Exercise and podcasting are now solidly habit so I won't include them as recurring goals, but I am adding a couple new ones. This year, as I make my monthly goals, I want to be mindful of my intention of CHOOSE and will frame my goals that way. Excited to kick off my first monthly goals of 2017!

Big things happening in January:

+ Chris returns to work. Sad face!

In January I choose to:

+ Go with the new flow. We're returning to having two parents working full time outside of the house and I'm sure this will make life feel busier. We'll need to find our new routines for prepping for the next day and maintaining the house. I'm hoping we can also find ways to make getting home and dinner time not feel completely hectic (please tell me it's possible?!). Probably simple meals and Sunday meal prepping. 

+ Write and send all birthday and Christmas thank you notes. I still believe in the hand written thank you note! Also, a little sung perk of the birthday near Christmas is being able to send a combined thank you note.

+ Make a baby shower gift for a friend. We are going to try to buy locally or make as many gifts as possible this year. I have a couple simple sewing projects that I've been wanting to try and I think one would be perfect for a new baby.

+ Discretionary spending freeze. To kick off our savings Chris and I have a goal of no extra spending this month. There were a couple things we already had planned before coming up with this goal (out with dear friends visiting for the holidays, an art museum date with a friend) and we do have some gifts to buy. But everything else that isn't necessary can wait. I don't like to think of myself as a materialistic person but it does seem there is always something I feel that I need or want to buy. It's already been an exercise in restraint and patient just these few days of January!

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Spend 15 minutes each day on creative writing. This is any writing that's just for me. It could be blogging, writing in the boys' memory journal or working on an essay.

+ Make Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings for work and leave Thursday and Friday open. As part of CHOOSING family and writing I want to get my work done for my podcasts and Copper Quail Style early in the week so that evenings later in the week are free. It's easy to put this work off to another night since timing is flexible but getting it done earlier will mean I can relax sooner.

+ Check Mint at least once each week. To CHOOSE savings I need to be mindful of every transaction and stick to my monthly personal allowance budget.

Happy January!

2017: CHOOSE


In October, even when it was still hot, my thoughts were pulled towards the new year and what goals I would set. My day to day was feeling too busy and I was craving reflection and focus. In six years of developing a practice of goal setting I've found that a few quiet moments, a blank piece of paper and a pen (or even a fresh note on my phone) can be incredibly calming and powerful.

By my own design and doing my life is full. In 2016 I filled my plate more than I ever have. I got a sense of where the edge is for how much I can handle without sacrificing (too much) from what matters - taking care of myself and being healthy, being the best parent I can be, and being a supportive, present partner to Chris. 

A new year is an opportunity to reflect and focus, or refocus. Recently I came across a quote from Nikki McClure, the artist of the beautiful calendars I buy every year. She says:

"'What should I do differently?'  sounds much better than 'What should I have done differently?'" What a perfect sentiment for starting a new year.

All this was on my mind when deciding on my word and intention for 2017: CHOOSE. 

Here's how I want to practice CHOOSE in 2017 the goals that will support my intentions...

CHOOSE family and writing

When I ask myself what truly matters to me, what brings me fulfillment above all else, the answer is so clear to me: family and writing. When I'm faced with a new opportunity or a request for my time I want to choose family and writing above all else. For new commitments that would take away from time with family or writing I want to be ready to say "no," unless they return significant fulfillment (or are required of course).  Ultimately how I spend my days is how I spend my life and I want my days to reflect family and writing.

In addition, I want to lean in to my writing craft. I'm hoping to blog consistently at least once a week, or more, and to explore submitting essays or ideas for publication. This inspired a daily writing goal:

+ Practice creative writing for at least 15 minutes each day. Any writing for work doesn't count for this. My creative writing includes blogging and writing in the memory journal that I keep for the boys. I plan to use the same daily goal tracker that I did last year to establish a daily sunscreen habit.  

CHOOSE gratitude

Gratitude, like goal-setting, is a powerful practice and one that can be done anywhere without anything. I've written before about cultivating gratitude, like appreciating our house as it is, and while I do feel that I've cultivated a practice of gratitude, it's one that can always be strengthened.

For example, even though I've come to really love our home I'm always seeing things I'd love to change. It's a fun ongoing project for me, and especially so as I'm starting to feel more confident in expressing my taste and style in our home. But it's a fine line of being excited to make changes reflective of our style versus falling into the "want, want, want" and comparison mentality or to see every single thing that needs a fix or update.

Parenting two little boys can certainly bring frustration. Especially when I feel as if I can't complete a task or the house is a wreck. I want to choose gratitude in those moments as well. I can be thankful for my boys and being their mother, and remember that the house being clean isn't what matters. I know these years, while so demanding, will be what I look back on with nostalgia and longing, and I'm grateful to be living them now.

+ Be cognizant of thoughts of comparison or frustration and actively choose gratitude. 

CHOOSE action

I'm anxious and at times overwhelmed by the events in our country and around the world. I have mostly disconnected from the news for this reason although I do want to be aware. As we head into a new year I'm anxious about the new administration and president of this country and about the atrocities taking place abroad. Instead of dwelling in worry or sadness I want to CHOOSE action towards creating the world I want to see. This will include:

+ Creating a contact sheet for my local and national representatives. I want to make my voice heard and to pay more attention to how my representatives are voting. I learned from Pantsuit Politics that a phone call can be more impactful than an email. 

+ Make a list of nonprofit organizations to support. I can make a donation in a matter of minutes and support the people doing good and heroic work around the world.

CHOOSE savings

In 2015, Chris and I laid out an aggressive savings plan for ourselves. We want to save close to $100,000 in five years so that we can pay off our mortgage or achieve some kind of significant financial flexibility. In 2015 we saved $20,000, in 2016 we saved $16,000 and we have a goal of saving $20,000 in 2017. 

We had a little breakfast goals meeting recently and went over our budget and savings goals. We both need to commit to sticking to our personal allowance/entertainment spending each month, and to be better about tracking spending on gifts and the house. I want to be very intentional about spending and tracking my money. I want to CHOOSE savings over buying, knowing that saving will get us closer to our big goal. To CHOOSE savings I want to:

+ Check Mint at least once per week, categorize transactions, and assess monthly budget spending.

+ Have twice-monthly budget review meetings with Chris. We talk about finances all the time but have gotten away from sitting down with our computer, looking at Mint and the budget, and having more in-depth conversations. These budget meetings always make me feel more committed to our budget and saving so I think it would be a great tool as we work towards our big goal.


And that's it! I'm excited about these CHOOSE goals but also curious how my intention will manifest in other ways this year. 

Wishing you light and love as we start a new year together! Happy 2017!

2016 (ha! Dash is wearing the same sweater!)