Portland Trip Pt. 1

About a month ago, we visited my sister and brother in law in Portland, OR. We went for 8 days and made use of all of our precious minutes there.
We got to do so much fun stuff and the weather was unusually warm and sunny for the area, so it was very pleasant.

We did have Maggie along, as we always do, because I believe traveling with kids is one of the best gifts to give them. My sister hadn’t seen Maggie since she was four months old, so it was also a bonding experience. Every time I see my family members loving on my daughter, my heart feels like it’s going to burst from happiness.

Anyways, here is a little bit about our trip, what we did, where we went, and what I’d do differently. I split the info into two posts, so the next post will focus on activities to do with a toddler and where we ate.

Places we went: 

  • Cannon Beach
    • Rented recumbent bikes at low tide from Family FUNCycles – they were wonderfully accommodating and we had a FANTASTIC experience with these bikes. A trailer was an extra like $5, I think, but well worth it because Maggie had a great time too.
    • It was really windy and cold and even though we were warned, not at all like any beach day I’ve ever had before. It was extremely foggy and made for a great view.
    • Ate at the Pelican Brewery – everyone else enjoyed flights of local brews.

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  • Waterfall Tour
    • Drive down the Historic Columbia River Highway starting at the Vista House
    • A great FREE activity (besides gas)
    • Go over toll bride to WA side if you have time
    • We did a bit of exploring (all Ryan’s idea) and ended up in the mountains with incredible views and high blood pressure.

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  • Mt. Hood & Trillium Lake
    • My sister called an audible from our plans and we drove to Mt. Hood on the clearest day of our visit. The view was just amazing and the weather was perfect.
    • We went at about 10am on a Saturday and the park area was pretty empty still. We were able to claim a picnic table with probably the best view in the place. By the time we left (around 1pm), there were tons of people around and it would’ve been more difficult to find a good spot.
    • They don’t open the road to the lake until Memorial Day, so we had to hike about 2 miles, but it was so worth it.

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  • Council Crest
    • A little park high on a hill with a great view of the city and mountains.
    • It was always busy when we were there so it must be a popular spot! I did see a hiking path, but we didn’t explore it
    • A quaint space to hang out near my sister’s place with area for play and picnics

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  • YoYo Yogi
    • My sister and I went on a date for an intimate prenatal yoga session (we ended up being the only ones at class on the holiday weekend).
    • They had an awesome deal where new members get a free class, so I got to enjoy some me time for nothing!

 

  • Brewcades (Ground Kontrol)
    • It’s really strange to be in a city that caters to the young generation.
    • Bear and my brother in law explored a brewcade one night with unlimited play on vintage arcade games for a $5 cover fee.

 

We stayed downtown at the Hotel DeLuxe which ended up being within walking distance of my sister’s apartment. We liked to pretend that we actually lived that close for the week. It was so sweet to see them so often during out trip. We loved being able to just run over for breakfast or dinner.

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We also were able to nab a high quality used double stroller off Craigslist and fly it home for free, so we had lots of success on the trip!

 

 

 

Stay tuned for another post on Portland with kids activities!

 

 

Thanks to my sister and brother in law for taking pictures and also sharing their camera so I didn’t have to pack mine. Be sure to check out their pictures of adventures in the PNW on houseoffigs.co 

Maggie Grace at 18 Months

We’ve finally hit it. The last of the monthly ages. 18 months is generally where people stop referring to their child’s age by months. Next she will be 2 years old and I don’t even want to think about that.

This stage has been the most challenging, fun, amazing age yet. Her development from a year old to now is jaw-dropping when I think about it. She definitely is more developed in the physical area than the language area. She walked just before her first birthday, spins, dances, goes down slides by herself, jumps, barrel rolls, and climbs on EVERYTHING. Seriously, I’m pretty sure her purpose in life is to get a broken leg before she hits 2. She is very tactile and has to touch whatever she sees. She also has some stellar fine motor skills like screwing bottle caps on. We’re just starting to get past the stage where everything goes in the mouth, which means bring on the play-doh and more crafts!

Her language has sped up like crazy in the past two weeks, however, and she is signing and speaking words I didn’t know she knew. So far, she signs for: more, please, thank you, all done, love you, and help. She says “mama, dada, baba, banana, go, car, cracker, up, cheese”, and of course her own versions of “leia” and “jackson”. She knows about four animal sounds and every time we ask her what a cow says, she says Leia. I think we mixed her up somewhere on that one.

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She enjoys music, playing with other kids, snuggling, doing what mom says “no” to, swimming, and her baby dolls. She has now been on eight plane rides and has been to both coasts. She takes a 2-3 hour nap everyday and used to sleep fairly well for her (waking up only once a night) until we hit the 18 month regression.

I don’t usually write monthly posts like this, exclaiming over where my kid is developmentally and such, but it’s been six months since we’ve seen extended family, so I figure this would catch everyone up on what she’s like now. She just got to see her aunt and uncle again (it had been over a year!) and I know she loved showing them what she can do.

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I know we’re a bit late on her 18 month birthday, but we were in Portland and I honestly didn’t even care to think about blogging while enjoying vacation with my family. Anyways, that’s Maggie for now!

Girl’s Best Friend

If you don’t know already from my posts and Instagram feed, we’re a bit dog obsessed around here. We have two fur babies of our own and regularly have a neighbor dog that spends hours a day here.

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Since they’re such a big part of our family, I’ll give you some of their backstory!

Jackson Jorge:

Named for a white “J” mark on the back of his head from when he was a puppy. My sister named his middle name and was in the depths of high school Spanish.

Born Nov. 4, 2005 – we adopted him from a nearby hobby farm just before Christmas.

He was a gift from my friends after my childhood dog passed away that summer.

He has moved with me four times, once including crossing state lines. He was a package deal when my husband married me.

He’s part-Australian Shepherd, part-terrier. He is super smart and also crazy. He is high anxiety and freaks out at fireworks, guns, and the air compressor. He takes doggy Xanax.

He’s been with me through everything and is still my puppy. He’s the lucky one that gets to sleep on the bed by me.

 

Leia Jade:

Born April 20, 2015 – we adopted her from a family breeder in late June after a concert. She was my project because I was very pregnant and bored after I quit working.

She is a purebred red Labrador and is the laziest, goofiest mutt ever.  We kid around that her name is really “Lay-a” because of how lazy she is. We aren’t big Star Wars fans or anything, we just liked the name for her.

She is the best dog for our toddler. I’d say she loves Maggie, but she really loves everyone. She’s everybody’s best friend.

She knows about three tricks and that’s it. She’s dumb, but pretty!

 

After we got Leia, we realized that several things were necessary for a comfortable life with both our dogs and kids. We put in a dog door and made sure we had a completely fenced in yard. This enables me to not have to worry about the dogs and to focus more on my daughter without constantly having to get up and let the dogs in and out (anyone with a newborn understands the frustration).

We’ve made it almost two years with two dogs and a baby without any incident! We have, however, realized that we get easily annoyed at some very small things. Our biggest complaint right now, is noisy dog tags! Our dogs have an ID tag and a rabies tag on their collars and they are constantly jingling. When your dog scratches and his tags wake your sleeping baby, you get angry!

We’ve tried silicone tag covers, but they didn’t fit the tags well and ended up ripping within a couple weeks. Sometimes the rings on the tags would get bent and the tags would come off. Super safe for our dogs and kid, right? Well, I finally found the solution!

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Engraved leather dog collars! It eliminates the need for the ID tag, so it’s instantly quieter. I tried one from Custom Catch for Leia and we love it! There were several options and we chose a simple one – her name and my phone number.

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We’ve had it on her for a couple weeks now and are extremely happy with it. It is a high quality product and the engraving is very well done. Just search Custom Catch on Amazon and see what they have to offer!

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—–This is a sponsored post and I received a discounted product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.—–

 

 

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Encouragement on Mothers’ Day

This is for all the mamas out there. Mamas of all kinds…the ones who are just surviving, the ones who feel more like a feeding trough than a human being, the ones who haven’t slept through the night in years, the ones who reheat their coffee five times, the ones who hope no one notices that she hasn’t showered in a week. This is also for the mamas who are longing to hold a baby. The ones who have grieved, prayed, and even lost hope. This is for the mamas who are loving a baby that doesn’t share their last name, the ones who are raising someone else’s baby, the ones whose love goes deeper than blood. This is for the mamas who are raising someone else’s child, knowing full well that the child will never stay with her. The ones who are giving a temporary home but a forever love. This is also for the mamas who already raised their own children and are now raising their grandchildren. The ones who are even more tired and worn out than us young moms ever could imagine, but still chasing little ones.

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You are loved. You are honored. You are important. Your love is eternal and your care leaves an impression on all you meet.

You are a teacher, a provider, a chef, a personal shopper, a housemaid, a secretary, a chauffeur, a contractor, a nurse, and a counselor (among many other roles).

You are in the most demanding job in the world with the least preparation. You are amazing and have filled your role with grace.

This Mother’s Day, be encouraged. Know that you are respected and loved. Reflect on your past year and be open to what struggles and blessings the next year will bring.

 

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  Psalm 31:10-31

Transitioning My 15 Month Old to a Floor Bed

We finally did it. We had planned on waiting until the baby was almost here or when she was closer to two year old, but we’ve never been the types to hold to a plan, I guess.

We splurged on ourselves and upgraded to a king-size mattress (co-sleeping parents, rejoice), but knew we wanted to save our queen for Maggie’s room so guests could still have a place to stay over after the baby comes. A way to keep a guest room, but not really considering we host someone maybe every two months for a weekend.

So we jumped the gun and moved Maggie’s crib to the new baby’s room and moved our old mattress on her floor. This all happened in one day and needless to say, this pregnant lady was emotional about her baby moving out of her crib so suddenly.

Maggie played in her room and watched as we set up and organized her room to accommodate  the new bed. She was excited about the change and loved being able to get up and down from it. Her first time sleeping in it was a naptime. I did a similar routine as we always had – rocked her while she drank her milk, read a story, and then laid her down. For the first week, I tried this, but she kept waking up at her normal times at night (12-1, 4-5) and I would give in and sleep in her bed.

Finally, one night Bear said that I would have to get strict about her sleeping alone soon. He was right; she would have to learn to sleep in her own bed for the whole night eventually. So I changed things up…

I moved the rocking chair into the new baby’s room and instituted a snuggle time instead of rocking her. I put on her sound machine, gave her the milk, snuggled her while she drank (usually reading as well)…and something miraculous happened…she handed me the bottle, grabbed a couple pacifiers, and turned over. It was like she was ready for sleeping and wanted me to leave. That may be heartbreaking to some parents, but to a mom who struggled with her daughter’s sleeping patterns for almost a year and a half, I celebrated. And even more miraculous, she slept through the night (well, woke up once but i just found her pacifier for her and she went right back to sleep).

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I honestly believe that switching Maggie out of the crib at this age was the key to her sleeping well. She goes to sleep well every night (even if she cries a bit, I tell her “it’s bedtime, go to sleep” and that does it), she sleeps through the night almost every night (HALLELUJAH), and sleeps til around 8-8:30 (a full HOUR longer than she normally slept). We haven’t had any issue yet with her playing with her toys at 3 am, but I have had to tell her to stop playing and get back in bed at the beginning of naptime once or twice. Overall, I think it helped her not feel so confined and alone.

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I do have some work to do to finish my plans for her room, but turning it into a toddler-friendly free space (Google Montessori bedroom, if you can’t picture it) didn’t actually take that much work.

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Switching your 15 month old to a floor bed may not be for everyone, but it certainly worked for us. And we take whatever works.

My Parents’ Visit

I live 434 miles away from my parents. I moved away 3 years ago and I don’t know if we will ever live any closer to each other.

My daughter has seen my parents about five times in her life.

For me, this in unreal, because I lived almost my whole life with both sides of my entire family in the same town. In fact, of all my uncles, aunts, and cousins, there are two that lived on the West Coast and the rest of my entire family grew up together. Not only that, but I grew up seeing my second and third cousins every year. We would get together for every holiday and family event.

I dream of a time where Maggie can be as well-acquainted with my entire family, but I don’t know if it will ever come. Thankfully, social media has made the distance seem smaller, but we cherish the times that we are all together.

My parents were able to come visit us as soon as we moved into our new home and helped us clean our apartment and finish up some projects. Mostly, they just loved on Maggie and we delighted in their presence.

Looking forward to our next visit with them…

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Ridiculously Easy Ways to Save Money on Everyday Purchases

If you are a member of this newly college-graduated, just married, young parents generation, then you’re like me. And if you’re like me, you’re realizing that life costs a lot more than it used to a couple years ago. No more paying for your meal plan upfront and swiping that i.d. for an extra helping without another thought. College loans want to be paid back and your home has utility costs, repairs and has to be heated in the five month long winter. Now add on the cost of raising kids: diapers, food, gear, daycare…life has all of a sudden become VERY expensive.

Now most of these costs are necessities. Of course there are always ways to pare down and save money, but if you aren’t a minimalist and ready to harvest your own food and recycle your toilet paper, there are just some things that you’re going to have to spend money on.

My husband and I are always looking for ways to save money and cut down on our spending (we just bought a home this past fall, so our budget has shifted quite a bit from our renting days). Bear reads about a lot of financial tips on Reddit, I’m always checking Pinterest and Facebook groups for hot deals or info on giveaways. We’ve developed quite a few methods of ways that we save money in our home and I thought I’d jot them down so you can see how easy it is to save a few bucks every week (it adds up!)

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The biggest idea to keep in mind is that every little bit helps. Also, the sacrifices are worth it. Now, our family definitely splurges on things sometimes, but that is very rare compared to our normal living. This post is in regard to everyday spending.

First, we do not follow a Dave Ramsey budget. My parents and sister are totally on board with his method and I am so proud of them. However, we have discovered that our time of life can be easily supplemented by credit card rewards. WARNING!!! This can be a dangerous path if you are a big shopper or have little self control with credit cards. We never carry a balance and use our cards as if they are debit cards. We simply take advantage of the rewards that our cards offer. For instance, if a credit card is offering free airline miles with a minimum purchase amount and we know that we will be taking a trip this year, we may use that card for our major purchases and everyday purchases to meet the requirements for free miles. We do NOT, however, go on a shopping spree to meet the minimum purchase requirement. There is so much more to this topic that I probably should not have included it, but some companies offer ridiculously good rewards and it can be very worthwhile if you manage your finances well. This is an area of finance that my husband has spent many hours researching and we feel comfortable with it. Please, please, please do your research and be confident of your financial situation before your pursue this.

Second, we use apps such as Ibotta and Checkout51 for rebates on grocery purchases. I also coupon and my shopping planning involves clipping coupons, looking at the ads for the store discounts, and checking the apps for rebates on items I plan to buy. As with anything, you aren’t saving money if you buy what you don’t need. Use the coupons and rebates on things you already buy and you will be shocked at how much you can save. There are also online “apps” such as eBates and Swagbucks that will help you save money or earn money for online purchases.

Third, I shop for clothes almost exclusively at thrift stores, but sometimes I splurge on clearance items. I cannot tell you the last time I bought something full price. I’m especially proud of my purchase last spring of my winter coat for this year: a Levi’s faux fur hooded parka that was originally over $150 at JCP, but was marked down in their end of season sale and then I used a coupon for $10 off $25. I got that coat for $12! The smartest thing you can do when clothes shopping (especially for kids) is shop for the next year during the end of season sales.

Fourth, sell what you aren’t using. My husband just recently went through his stuff and sold a ton of it on eBay. He didn’t make lots of money, but he recouped some of what he had spent on that stuff that was just sitting around for years. My latest desire has been to turn my love of thrifting into a profitable business by flipping things I find. You wouldn’t believe how many brand name items I find with tags still on! My problem is that I like the clothes I find too much and keep them for myself.

Fifth, when we do know that we will be eating out or need to do some extra shopping, we buy discounted gift cards through Raise.com or Cardpool.com We do it often and seem to always find good deals. Remember that when you use coupons and store discounts as well, you can come out with some great deals!

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These are a few ways that we have found to save us money on daily purchases. What are some ways you have found to help your financial situation? I’m curious to know what helps others!