Hello from the other side of a two-week fall break for the boys and from the downhill side of October! Just this week we can open the doors in the morning to let the cool air in and I pulled my favorite golden yellow cardigan from the closet.
Instead of trying to catch up on October goals I thought I'd write a post in the style of the coffee date posts that Lindsay on Pinch of Yum shares occasionally and which I always enjoy.
A coffee date is best started with coffee. Currently I'm brewing about 6 cups of coffee made with 3-4 tablespoons of the Black and Tan roast from the local Roastery of Cave Creek plus 2-3 tablespoons of Peet's decaf Major Dickason blend, depending on whether I'm feeling like I want half-caf or slightly more caf. I've been drinking half-caf coffee maybe since pregnancy with Maeve and have enjoyed sticking with it. I'm taking my coffee with a healthy pour of half and half plus some Nutpods creamer if we have it. I especially like the cinnamon roll flavor. There's a lot of coffee alchemy to create my perfect cup and it's a ritual I enjoy.
On my work days, and after my two cups of coffee, I'm getting back into a tea habit for the season. I'm still loving the Tazo glazed lemon loaf tea and bought a box of the Trader Joe's harvest tea, otherwise known as fox tea for the cute tea-drinking fox.
Fall break + a day date
We sent the boys back to school on Monday after their first two-week fall break. What I really liked about the two week break was being able to travel for a week (to Austin) and to not feel rush between the last day of school and leaving town. And we had several days after returning home so didn't have to make a sharp turn back into school routines. What was hard was keeping one kiddo in particular entertained. It's easy on days when Maeve is in daycare and I just have the big boys. But it's becoming noticeably harder to find good activities that are fun for a 2, 7, and 9 year old. So I'm making a mental note for winter and spring breaks.
On Saturday Chris and I went out for a day date and it was so lovely. I love my three wild kiddos so fiercely but gosh it's nice to have uninterrupted conversations and no whining. We've developed a few favorite date routines which include scheduling dates from 2 - 8 p.m. on Saturdays. This gives us lots of time together and time to do a few things which I love. Plus, we aren't exhausted since we start in the afternoon, we get to enjoy dinner together, and we miss bedtime shenanigans but don't have to stay out late. Win, win, win...all the date wins.
In parenting lately we have been challenged with some big meltdowns from Maeve and some other bigger kid attitude stuff. Whew, parenting is not for the faint of heart! Recently I read and loved Catherine Newman's Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years and it spoke to me. (Thank you, thank you, Catherine.) I highly recommend it for anyone currently living with a toddler. They are so sweet and so cute and yet can be such tiny tyrants.
But in parenting wins lately Maeve is expressing more complex thoughts and complete sentences. She's using words like "because" to connect two thoughts. I'm often blown away by her memory of details and specific places like where she's left toys or her water bottle. Once we get past Maeve's first-thing-in-the-morning-meltdown (coffee, please) she switches to her easy-going self and is a delight. I call her my strawberry lemonade girl. She's mostly strawberry but sometimes a tart lemonade. She loves art, building with Duplo blocks, and cooking in her play kitchen. We had a neighbor friend over for a playdate last week, Maeve's very first playdate, and Maeve was over the moon showing her friend her toys. It must have been so novel and exciting for her to have someone her own size to play with at her house! There are two little girls on our street who are just Maeve's age and I'm looking forward to more playdates.
Parenting the boys right now is not without challenges but overall I'm enjoying their ages so much. I was nodding my head along with this Cup of Jo post about parenting tweens. We can have thoughtful conversations with the boys and do things like have a reading date at a coffee shop (!!!). They get themselves ready for school in the morning without a lot of herding from us (our Chore Pad app and reward system is still working!). I love getting to see their personalities and think about how I can best show up as a parent for them. Dash is so social and loves having a good time. He's a great host to his friends, offering water and snacks, and I've been impressed at how in tune with Maeve he can be. Cedric loves to play with a group but loves one on one time with us too. He's very attentive to rules and is really creative. He writes his own stories, loves to have art time, and can take an idea and run with it (like our fall bucket list if you listened to Fall Extravaganza this year). It's so different to parent the boys now compared to during the constantly demanding physical work of their toddlerhood and I'm appreciating being where we are. Plus I still have that demanding work of toddlerhood as a very near reminder of how much they've grown haha.
Maeve and Annabelle
Maeve, our human daughter, and Annabelle, the life-sized creepy plastic zombie girl that Chris bought last year, have become fast friends. I've come to feel a distant affection for our creepy October companion because of how attached Maeve is to her. Whether it's because Maeve is a pandemic baby and didn't have enough exposure to real children outside of her family in her formative months or perhaps just because her heart is big enough to include the undead, Maeve is undeterred by Annabelle's haunting eyes and gray skin. So undeterred in fact that she asks for Annabelle to join us inside for waffles and smuggles her inside to play kitchen when we aren't looking. It is creepy and adorable and seems to bring the internet delight whenever I share the latest update on their friendship on Instagram.
Budget + inflation
While grocery shopping this week, I reached for the Earth Balance spread that is a grocery staple for us and gasped outloud because it was $8.49!!! I know it used to be about $4.49 for a tub. I haven't been following the news very closely lately because it overwhelms me quickly but I did note with great surprise the resignation of the British Prime minister after only six weeks. Reading about the financial situation and soaring inflation in the UK has us wondering what that foreshadows for our country. Compared to the average American household we are very wealthy and so are very, very privileged that the inflation squeeze has not yet forced us to make hard financial decisions. But we are starting to feel it in our household finances. On top of that we're in a stretch of a few very spendy years. This includes building a backyard studio, buying a second home, buying a new car, sending Maeve to daycare three days/week, and installing new floors and painting the interior of our house. All of it was done with careful consideration and financial planning (i.e. using many years of savings and plus a very well-timed cash-out refinance) but has us feeling eager to move back towards more savings. At the same time we are supporting three tiny humans who outgrow shoes and clothes every time I turn around and they are hungry all the time.
Our weekly-ish budget meetings have been essential for keeping an eye on where our money is going and to look at the big picture. We still feel really good about all the investments, purchases, and decisions that we've made. The biggest impacts to our budget right now are: needing to save up to furnish our Eau Claire house so that we can rent it out short-term (this will cost $20,000 - $30,000), our purchase of our new car which has a four-year loan (cars aren't an investment but in terms of quality of life ours does bring me joy every time I drive it), and paying for Maeve's daycare which is an absolutely worthwhile investment for me and for her. Essentially for the next two-ish years while Maeve is in daycare at her current school and we have a car payment our finances will feel a bit tight. We probably won't be getting back to aggressive savings in the near future. But! When Maeve goes to pre-K at the boy's school which is our plan her daycare costs should go down. And the year after that we'll be done paying for daycare! Soon after that we'll have paid off our car and I think we'll be in a new financial chapter.
Letting people in
As in literally having people into my house, is probably the advice from Kendra that I find the most challenging to practice. I do really enjoy having people over but with Thursday house sometimes lasting from Tuesday through the weekend, and thinking about how rambunctious the kids will be while trying to have a conversation...well, letting people in can feel daunting before I even start. But then I actually do it, like I did this week when two school-mom friends came over for coffee, and I'm reminded of how good it feels to talk to people face to face in my perfectly imperfect home. So I'd like to do more of that. A coffee chat was easy to host and Maeve played independently nearly the entire time which was amazing. Sometimes I think that letting people in has to look like having another family over for dinner. With kiddos preferences, bedtimes, and energetic kids that just doesn't feel super fun to me right now. But a coffee hangout on a weekday morning is totally doable. So is a casual weekend breakfast with another family. I'm taking note.
Sabbatical possibilities and Eau Claire
Chris has submitted his application to take a sabbatical for the entire academic year next year! It would be a period of professional recharge that would be very beneficial and that I think he very much deserves. If approved it would also give our family the opportunity to live in Eau Claire for a semester. During that time the boys would attend a local school, we'd furnish our house, and get to know the city even better. Technically we could stay for an entire year but that felt like a long time to be away from our house that we just finished updating and from our community that we love here. Unfortunately we won't know until December whether Chris's sabbatical is approved.
In the meantime we continue to feel so thankful and excited to have been able to buy our home in Eau Claire when we did. Given rising interest rates, we would not be able to afford to buy a home there now in the area we want. Currently our Eau Claire home is being rented out for the year by tenants and the rent covers the mortgage which is a great financial situation. Being landlords, and especially from afar (we aren't using a property management company), has not been without a few hiccups but I told myself that there were sure to be a few stressful things. We're just getting the experience we need to know what we're doing!
Recently we had family pictures taken in our home with a photographer we'd never met. When she mentioned she wasn't from Arizona we asked where she was from. "Wisconsin," she said. "Oh really? Where?" we asked. "Eau Claire," she said. !!!! Of course we spent the rest of our photo session talking about Eau Claire and how awesome it is. She shared that she has similar concerns about water in Arizona which is one of the reasons she hopes to move back to Eau Claire. It was an incredible moment of serendipity that felt like a high five from the universe.
On that note...
At this point in our coffee date I think I would have taken up more than my fair share of the conversation so I'll leave it there. I hope you are enjoying October, and to my friends in the southwest and the south I hope that fall, however mild, is finding you and bringing you joy.