Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coastal adventures

The salty air, the cool breeze, I felt it as we drove 30 min past the scent of garlic in Gilroy, leaving the heat of the Valley, Los Banos and Gilroy behind us. The coast was calling. It was perfect, the temperature dipped to the 60s in Castroville and up to 70 back in Seaside, just outside Monterey. When the sun broke through later in the afternoon, I think we hit 82. Ideal summer weather! We found parking and made our way to the aquarium. We saved a lot of money buying the membership. Instead of costing us $90 for one day admission, we purchased the year long membership for $120, which is fully tax deductible. Parking is on average $10 (or less depending on where you park), and we enjoyed the heck out of the stroll to and from the aquarium. We're going to go again, there's a lot of fun family activities nearby, some that we have not yet experienced. I'm also going to see about planning a trip w/ some other moms/kids out that way. I love knowing we have a full year, so we can see the aquarium during the changing seasons, and take advantage of special events. I'm interested in the family sleepover-but given that cost, I think we'll hold off for another time. R and I may do one of the other events, depending on if we can arrange for family to watch the kids for the day. We'll see what happens over the year. Here are some shots of the day, check out Facebook for more :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monterey here we come!

I am totally looking forward to this weekend. R and I have worked hard to save our money, and we've saved $120 to purchase our 12 month family pass to the Monterey Aquarium. We had been on the fence for awhile about this purchase, but given how we've commited ourselves to eating at home and our progress on cutting our debt, we decided it was time to make this wise investment.

I love how the aquarium has educational programs, and will really give us a chance to learn about our environment, in so many ways. They have a beautiful children's area (Splash Zone) which we went to when Matthew was a baby, and with my recent research, I learned they have more for school age children. We'll make both day trips and overnight trips (staying w/ family) of this. There's plenty of free activities in Monterey too (the beach, Dennis the Menace park, to name a few), and the weather is always much cooler than in the Valley or in the Bay Area. This I love hanging out near my family in San Jose, but even during the summer, I rather be cooler than warmer!

So bring on the heat Central Valley! We won't be here, lol!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The days of summer

This week is flying by. Monday we had playtime in V town, checked out a fun attraction that will probably do well when its blazing hot. Not too sure we'll go there again, since it adds up in cost over time, but its nice to know what options exist. Yesterday was swim day at summer camp, followed by swim time at home. Pure bliss! Today was a day trip at a brand new park, with three shaded play areas, bathrooms, and a nice areas for toddlers. Love it! In between all this, we've had playdates with friends, and relaxing dinners at home. I love all the vegetables we've purchased at the farmer's market. We've had pasta primavera, sauteed veggies and chicken, tri-tip and salad, more salads for lunch. Sometimes I feel like a rabbit-we're eating so much healthy items, I love it. I seriously need to figure out how we'll continue this through the winter-when the farmer's markets are at a standstill. Hmmmm....until then, we'll enjoy the fruits and veggies, slow days and fun outings, and each other.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The lives of parents

It was a great weekend, and hubby and I had fun with the kids-along with some rough spots. My dad says that's to be expected, nothing is perfect, so we get up and keep moving. I went to a mom's night out on Friday, and was sworn in as the new treasurer of mom's club. Yay! The night didn't end after dinner, I went to visit a friend who recently had her fourth baby. She's one of the most down to earth moms I know, balances full time motherhood with taking time to care for herself. She had some other moms over, and despite the late hour, we hung out, with gin and tonics (not my favorite, but I neve had one before either), and talked. Talked about family, and marriage, and kids. Meanwhile her older boys (and the other women's sons) were getting rid of the sugar rush from the smores they roasted out back, and it was so relaxed. Husbands were around too, getting ready for fishing bonding the next day. This is what I strive for-not to be stressed out about clean clothes, money, or who is doing what sport at what time, and who's going to which school. Its all a wash-it boils down to how children are raised at home, with friends, the community as a whole, spending time with friends on a warm summer night.

Father's Day was low key. We let the kids play outside a lot this weekend. We ventured out to a couple of parks, including the free water attraction in V-town. E town did not work out, thank goodness for back up plans! The boys loved it, and R and I enjoyed the long nap that happened afterwards. The boys and I made R a homemade chocolate cake as his gift, yummy!

Except for a free lunch at a burger place, we ate at home/brought food with us all weekend. We hit up the farmer's market, and were delighted by all the fresh produce. Apparently we underbought, since the salad greens I thought would last nearly a week, lasted two meals. At least we're eating more salad, and now I know we can go there on Wed night and Saturday morning. I bought walnuts and squash, berries and sweet potatos. Beets to roast (a chef was doing a cooking demonstration and recommended this) and zuchinni to stir fry. It was pure heaven, and we spent so little in comparison to how much all of it would have cost at Costco or Winco (and 100% tastier too!).

This week is mellow too. Playgroup today in V town, playgroup on Wednesday, and free water park on Friday. Not sure about the rest of the week, but I'm sure we'll find fun stuff to do. The library is having a bunch of fun stuff for the summer, so I'm sure we'll take a walk/drive over, and check it out. The nights are open for mommy time, so we'll see what fun I can round up. A couple new books, fruity margaritas perhaps? Endless possibilities....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Glimpses of us, summer adventures

R and I are noticing more and more, the boys are developing their likes, dislikes, how they interact with each other and their peers. We notice this in the day to day stuff we do with them. Last night was one of those nights, we took the boys for a swim after dinner, and it was one of the first times where it didn't seem like a chore or a major ordeal to get us out back. It was great, and the kids mellowed out, cooled down after running around inside the house while dinner was cooked. Then R ran the sprinklers, which equaled more fun. It cracks me up to see how one kid is timid about getting wet, where another wants to hop immediately in. E just wanted to walk and get involved, it gives way to seeing how active he's going to be as we let him loose from the safety of our arms.

Today is the start of a fun weekend. We're meeting a mom's group at a wading pool this morning. I haven't been there before, so I'm excited to check out another place to go. We'll come home to cool off, and tonight, I have a mom's night out, thanking past board members and welcoming the new ones-yay! We're unsure about this weekend-R's aunt is home from Hawaii and she's offered us free babysitting, so we're not sure if we're going to take her up on that. R want to go to the farmer's market tomorrow, followed by berry picking. I had planned on going out w/ the boys for breakfast w/ a mom's group, but R is excited to get healthy food vs eat out, so we'll see what happens. Finally, on Father's Day, we're making R brunch and a special dinner. Homemade treats will suprise him throughout the day. Its a mellow weekend, but a fun one!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Full circle

Some days pass by in a blink of an eye, only to remain in my memory for a long time. Yesterday was one of those days. We had our annual train trip to H town, and it was a great day from start to end. Our group from our F town playgroup dwindled once more, this time it was down to me and three other moms from my playgroup (we used to be the youngest of all the groups) and a former member who came back for the train trip (love seeing her, and learning how life is with older kids!)Besides that, it was two other parent groups, and wow, what a turn out they had! It was great that everyone was able to come.

One of my friends has done it every year along with me and going through pictures, it has been sweet to see pictures of when our oldest were one, and sitting on the blankets, and how they've grown over the years. Now our crew has grown. The babies, well the babies are now five, and the youngest are now toddlers (who were in our bellies the first time), so instead of massive rounds of diaper changes, we were able to do potty runs and kick back and watch them play. The children loved the firetruck and carasoul, and were well behaved throughout the trip. We made a stop at the ice cream shop, and my family shared one massize triple scoop of chocolate chip and rocky road ice cream. Yummy!

We met new friends from two other parent groups, one of which I'm already part of, the other which I'll join this week. I know some moms that used to participate with F town's playgroup are interested in the other groups that showed up, so I'm glad I connected the groups together. It doesn't matter how old your kids are, sometimes Mom (or Dad) needs a connection for their own sanity-that's where parent groups come in.

R had a great time with the boys. After seeing how the day went, he was blown away at how I have gone every year with the boys, throughout being pregnant, and with different people, not to mention hotter weather. He met some other dads, and made connections himself.

It was a great day, the weather was phenomenol-it wasn't hot, barely warm, nice breeze throughout the day. It was a wonderful way to wrap up one part of our life, our baby group (no longer babies) are now five, entering kindergarten/homeschooling now. We're not alone though, we met new friends, made new connections, and now have an outlet as we enter the next phase of parenthood. It was a day where I felt we came full circle.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Around town

This weekend was a nice, mellow weekend at home. We took advantage of the good weather, and ventured to local parks. Its a change of scenery from home, and I love seeing the boys explore familiar sights. I did notice though how M associates a park with certain playmates, and was sad when they weren't there to greet us. Its amazing how his mind works, because soon he was off exploring something new. I did have a talk with him later on, and reassured him that he would see his friends later this summer. We're getting more active in group activities, more involved in playgroups and structured activities. That will do us a lot of good, especially since I prefer for us to go out and about vs staying at home (especially when the weather is as beautiful as it has been!)

This week we'll be out quite a bit. We have playgroup at the park in V town this morning, and our train trip on Wednesday. On Friday we have a playdate at a local wading pool. It's at a nearby town we have never really explored, so I'm looking forward to that too. Finally Friday night is a MNO for me, I get to join the board for Mom's Club for this next year. I'm excited, its a good transition as one thing ends, another begins. I knew things would have a way of working out, and in its own way, it has.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weekend travels

We survived-the first week of summer school! It started rough, but ended on a high note. I enjoyed my chocolate cake and red wine while the kids slept last night (after a fun night out of Bunco) and R finished his homework. We have a mellow weekend planned. I have a few retail shops in V and T town, and a free lunch down there too. We"ll hit up the farmer's market as well, I'm hungry for some fresh tomatoes and squash. We also have a lunch shop in F town, we'll either do tomorrow before we hit the water park with the kids, after list shopping at Vons, or next week after R gets out of school. I always enjoy our paid lunches, the reports are easy (multiple choice) and I get paid a few weeks later. Who can resist a treat like that? That's our weekend in a nutshell, hope everyone has a great one!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Downsizing and living well

Well, the computer finally ended its run. R and I are talked about getting another one, and we decided not to get one. There's no logical reason to add to our expenses, when having a second computer available is a luxury, a want, not a need. We're too close to ending another segment of our debt, to add this expense, it would set us back, and I rather get ahead, not stay where we're at, with a new computer by my side. We'll make do, using the laptop, backing up our items on the external hard drive. I feel fortunate to have saved our pictures on CDs, and the external hard drive-those are priceless.

We also downsized our shopping list. We went to Costco and bought diapers and bananas. We bought our weekly produce at tonight's local farmer's market, and will get our fruit when we go berry picking this weekend. I love how we've been having fresh produce every night. R found out today at his physical that he lost weight, and considering my slacks were loose, I know our food habits are definitely changing us for the better.

Last, we've decided to explore more places close to home with our friends. Someone told me about letterboxing (similar to geocaching) and there are places within a 20 minute drive for us to explore. I hope to do one of those sites next week with the boys, and put our own box out for someone to find. I'm also hoping to go to the beach next week with some moms and kids. It should make for a fun adventure.

We maybe downsizing some aspects of our lives, but its not taking away from the blessings we have.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Today I went on my first interview in months. I ran out yesterday and had my suit dry cleaned-I wasn't even sure it would fit, goes to show I wasn't sure if I gained or lost weight in recent months. The suit was loose, yay, so that relieved me to some degree. Then there was the interview. Ask me about childrearing, I can answer almost any question. Having been away from social work, and my thoughts about anything related to my field-well, sometimes I feel like my brain has gone to mush. Maybe these types of interviews are good, if anything to keep me on my toes and to keep me abreast of issues in our community. I answered the questions with ease, and then found out why. I was completely over qualified for this job. It was 30 hours a week, $12.50 an hour, and required a bachelor's degree. The skills it required were ones I attained in college, through my internships, and now in various roles through moms activities. It was less money than I made before I had my bachelor's degree. I doubt I'll take it, it requires me to drive a lot in my car, and frankly, gas is going up, I don't want the stress of using a lot of my pay for gas every week. R says to just keep applying, we'll find something that works. I'm going to enjoy the summer with the boys and see what happens.

I cannot wait for the farmer's market this weekend. I say that every weekend, but now I'm hooked. I can't buy produce at Costco now, except for bananas. Everything is overpriced, underripe, and basically unappealing. I love seeing where my food comes from, and not paying extra to have it shipped to the store. So our Costco bill has gone way down, $25 a week is average now. Much better than the $80 we were at before. I'll see how that holds out. Meanwhile I'll put the money aside, we have repairs I know that are coming up sooner than later.

This weekend I'm going to take the boys berry picking. I found a place near home, 88 cents a pound for berries! Yummy! I see lots of freezing berries in my future ;)

Next week I may head to the beach for a day with a few moms. This is besides my trip to H town with the boys. I'm looking forward to it, and will enjoy the cool breezes (and bring pants this time too!)

Tomorrow is a board meeting at a breakfast place in V town. Since we're up so early taking R to school, I'll probably eat here, but treat myself to a cup of coffee and ableskivers. After trying on my suit today, I know I can stand to gain a few pounds.

Friday is Bunco-yay! Next Friday night is the installation of the new mom's club board, so another mom's night out! I'm looking forward to it, its been a while since I've hung out w/ these women (w/o our kids attached to our hips). I'm just glad E is such an easy baby Z(or should I say toddler, he's seems less and less like a baby these days).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer camp

Today is M's first day of summer camp. He is so thrilled to have fun with his friend, and I have to admit I'm thrilled too. I know about the fun activities the teachers have planned, trips to the high school pool, local field trips around town, lots of arts and crafts. While I love doing this stuff alone with my boys,I remember how I loved summer camp when I was M's age. M's friends are also going to camp, so he already has some familiar faces to greet him, as well as meet others that will join him next year in kindergarten.

Today also happens to be summer camp's first field trip-the high school pool. While part of me has a healthy dose of concern over how he'll do by himself with his peers and the teachers at the pool, I also know the child:staff ratio, have previously observed the teachers/pool staff at the pool (last year), and know I can drop by the pool when they're swimming to see how everything is going. I'm going to make unannounced visits, but do it from a safe distance as to not upset M (who sometimes wanted to leave preschool if he caught sight of me, but was otherwise enjoying himself). In the meantime, I labeled his belongings, and set money aside to give to his teacher for the snack bar (I'm curious to see if and what M spends money on when I'm not right next to him). Mentally I feel like this is a trial run for next fall-where I'll have to have everything labeled, M will have more responsibility with his stuff, and making choices (such as what to buy with snack money).

Its these little things that by themselves aren't noteworthy, but together indicate little by little my baby boy is growing up.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The week ahead

Our plans for the week are up in the air-Robert starts summer school this morning, and his first class is at 7am (the one he's on the wait list for), the other class starting at 9am. This morning I let him take the car instead of me dropping him off. I hope that his class runs on time, he gets the class he wants, and he's back home sooner than later. Otherwise we'll have to rethink his taking the car each morning, and I really will have to get up at the crack of dawn so we can take him to school and then head out to our events.

On the agenda this week is my first mom's club board meeting. Yay! We're meeting for coffee/breakfast to discuss the family picnic at the end of this month, and to go over ideas for the coming year. It's neat to think of how of the five board members, four of us have kindergarteners, and of those four, three of us met years ago when we were all members of the baby playgroup! Its going to be a fun group :) Another fun activity for me is Bunco at the end of the week. I'm looking forward to it. Otherwise this week is mellow. A trip to the library for a summer activity is in store, as well as playgroup later this week. In a few weeks we have our trip to H town, and our play class is next month. Lots of fun stuff ahead, I can't wait to do it all!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A day surrounded by friends

The birthday party was a success and didn't cost a fortune! I spent $25 total-pizza-taking up $20 of that total, with bubbles as party favors and homemade cupcakes and cake. The playground provided free entertainment. The best part-M was surrounded by his friends, children he has grown up with, and is part of his daily life. It was great for the younger boys too-their friends are the siblings of M's friends, so they were off doing their own thing most the time too.

R and I also enjoyed it-we spent most the time conversing with our friends-our extended family. Its surreal to me how we have grown our circle of friends-we're consistently there for one another, birthday parties aside, and help each other in good times and bad. It was evident when one of our friends wasn't there because she was in labor (and I told her that I understood if she declined because she was due on the 10th, but she told me she'd be there anyways-turns out I was right about the baby coming!)-the grandparents brought the kids-and our circle was all about letting the family know we can help watch the boys, bring over a meal, do anything to help the grandparents out while the parents are busy with the new baby.

My brother drove up for the party too, M loved his surprise visit :) The weather was great, we had a cool breeze as the weather warmed-but it never became uncomfortably hot. Cleanup was a breeze, and we came home when all the guests had left the park.

We hung out at home, the two older boys played with a toy that M got as a gift. I spent time w/ my brother before he had to drive home a few hours later. He tired the boys out some more, entertained E with horsey rides, and gave me insight into all that's developing w/ my parents.

Before the night was through, we went to Zoobilation. The park was uncrowded, the animals were very active, and the weather was great. The boys loved the behind the scenes exhibits of the animal hospital and elephant exhibit, as well as seeing multiple animals up close. I think the older ones loved petting the llamas, while E was keen on the baby porcupine. My favorite was the owl.

We came home, tired but not overwhelmed, filled with the memories of the day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Birthday plans

I'm estatic about tomorrow! I can't wait to see M's face tomorrow when he's at the party tomorrow. I decided to go with a bug/insect theme, so we're having a spider cake and (gummi) worms on dirt (crumbled cookie) cupcakes. I'm assembling it out of his sight tonight so he'll get the full suprise tomorrow. My friend has a 50% discount from a pizza place, so we're getting some yummy pizza for lunch. Complete with drinks, we're good to go. Today is about assembling the party favors, bubbles and an outdoor toy for summer play.

M's looking forward to his party too, his best friends from preschool are coming, along with a few kids that no longer go to his school. Its a family affair, so G and E will see their friends too. We have close to the same group as last time, so when we look at pictures it'll be interesting to see how everyone has gotten older and taller this year (but us parents won't age a bit, ha!) I only bring this up since as one of my friends and I scrapbooked the other day, I loved seeing in our group pictures how all our boys have changed over the years. I wonder how time will go, considering they're all going to the same school in the fall. Time will tell, the boys may grow closer over the years (us parents can hope) or they can go their own way.

The weather forecasts a 20% chance of rain, but I figure it could be scorching hot (like it was for M's birthday when he was 3) or cold and windy (like G and E's last year). It won't dampen our spirits, it'll be a morning to remember :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In the end

no matter what path we all take to get there, life remains truly impossible to predict and wonderfully, perfectly imperfect- Lee Woodruff.
This speaks volumes to me. I have been thinking about my value system, what I want to teach my children. I want to show them there is a woman who takes care of herself and does her best to juggle what we call life. At the same time I want to show them I can be spontaneous. I love my 'to heck w/ dinner- let's have ice cream for all!' or 'let's just see where we end up.' kind of days.

There is no perfect time for anything, not for R to go to school, me to go to work, the boys to try something new. I love the unexpected. Yet I love to preplan, What a conundrum that is. So I can hope for a balance of the two, but remain open to changing course. In that respect, I plan to once again go out of my comfort zone. I hope to be a soccer mom this fall, one that works part time outside the home, w/ R manning the fort when necessary. We'll see if this approach pans out. I want to be a woman that's a board member of a mom's group, but also one that sticks out her neck in the social work world, hoping to improve my networking skills. I want to set up a plan for myself, while this financial crisis is going on, so I don't follow in my mom's footsteps. I also want to improve how to take better care of myself so I don't have health problems like my MIL. These are my goals as I get ready to enter my 30s. Life was chaotically imperfect in my 20s, and made for some great blessings, lots of silver linings, and one hellva adventure. My 30s is a new chapter,a blank slate of sorts, ready for the scribblings of a full of life woman. Now I need to finalize how I want to end my 20s. Vegas is to welcome my 30s. Ideas?

M's preschool graduation

Life with M has flown by. I remember that long drive from San Jose to F town, me and an 8 week old baby in the car, packed with a few treasured belongings, following a moving van and R, wondering how we were going to raise this tiny baby without any family support nearby. I never envisioned (but am so glad I found) a place that would help support me so I could go to graduate school and know my child was cared for while I was in class. As time went on, M went to the preschool and blossomed. He formed friendships with the children, and learned more than just the basics of preschool. I learned alongside him, gaining friendships with parents and staff, learning how to advocate for my child, and prepare for the world of parent helpers and chaperones. Preschoo graduation was the end of one chapter, and the start of another. Here are some pictures from that day, some of my favorites I did not post, only because I keep my post public and don't want to upset any parents. However, I will be using those pictures in M's scrapbook. On with the pictures...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Month in review

As I was reviewing my posts, I realized I never wrote down our monthly goal, which was to find inexpensive (or preferably free) community and neighboorhood activities. That goal was a complete success! We had fun on a (free) trolley ride, how a picnic at a water attraction, even walked downtown and went to the library. Its the simple things that were the most fun, and gave my wallet much needed breathing room.

This month will be a buzz of inexpensive activities too. We have M's birthday party next week, and the cost was kept low this year. It won't take away from the fun, M's just looking forward to a morning playdate with his friends. We'll hit up a free attraction at the zoo that evening, it's become a family tradition. We also have plans to go berry picking at a local farm, something I found out at the farmer's market. We're going on our annual H town train trip. Finally, I obtained the summer program list from the library. There's so much free stuff to do, magicians, reptile shows, musicians, and arts and crafts. There is something to do everyday, and nothing is too far away to go! Yay for the library! All these events are inexpensive (if not free) and it'll make our dollars stretch further in these uncertain times.

The month of May brought with it longer days and warmer weather. We took advantage of both-playing outside more, cooking with fresh produce every night. We're conserving our energy usage, only running appliances after 7pm (if not in the middle of the night) and keeping the a/c turned off. We've opened windows and used our celing fans, but the cost of running those is nothing compared to the $300 bill we may have later this summer when the heat turns brutal and the a/c needs to go on.

That wraps up May-I can't wait to see what June brings!