Irie Mon

Last year we were bitten by the travel bug when we went on our delayed honeymoon to Costa Rica. After that trip we vowed to go somewhere new at least once a year.

As the winter months drug on & on we decided there was no better time and booked a trip to Jamaica. Our previous trip was 7 days which was too long to be away from the kids, so we settled on 4 nights/5days. We left early Friday morning and after a chain of comical events, landed in Jamaica a little before 1:00 p.m. We stayed in a town called Runaway Bay which allowed us to take in the local scenery during our hour long drive to the resort.

Up until now, I had never experienced blue-green water and it definitely did not disappoint. The weather was a beautiful 80 degrees, a vast difference from the below zero temps we left behind. Our room at Gran Bahia Principe wasn’t ready for check-in so we walked down to the beach. At the very end of our walk we were delighted to find a full bar overlooking the waves. Just as we sat the clouds rolled in and the rain poured down. Our last trip started with rain and that ended well so we weren’t overly discouraged.

Since we were in Jamaica, it only seemed fitting that we went bobsledding while there, so the next day we set out on our first excursion to Mystic Mountain. We didn’t really know what to expect other than we were going to fly down the mountain in bobsleds connected to a metal track. We made our way up via a sky car overlooking the forest and ocean, which was absolutely stunning! Once we got to the top we were met with even more activities than we expected. There was a hummingbird garden, a museum, an infinity pool complete with water slide and a restaurant perched at the very top. As expected we did fly down the mountain in the bobsleds, rounding the tight corners at speeds faster than recommended. After partaking in all that was offered we made our way back down the sky car in the pouring rain.

Mystic Mountain Jamaica

While we had a great time, I was really looking forward to our Day 3 activities. Dunn’s River Falls is a popular tourist attraction that lets you walk from the bottom of the falls all the way to the top by climbing the rocks through the water. After an hour & a half of frigid cold, crystal clear water we hiked all the way to the top and we were off to the main event-swimming with the dolphins!

I have always wanted to swim with the graceful animals and could barely contain my excitement. With the sun hiding behind the clouds, we entered Dolphin Cove where we got up close & personal with sharks, iguanas, parrots, & stingrays. After meeting all the other animals it was our turn to enter the water with the dolphins. We swam with two different dolphins and got to touch them, ride on their bellies and ended with a kiss. They were amazing and felt like rubber to the touch.

Picture 9Since Tuesday was spent traveling, Monday was our last day on the island. We hadn’t seen much sun and were looking forward to relaxing so we spent the majority of the day next to the ocean on the beach. We found the kids plenty of seashells and got more than enough sun (ouch)!

What a great vacation! I’m so glad we took the time to get away and discover more of the world together. I’m happy to get back home with our kiddos and can’t wait until they are big enough to go along and experience some of their firsts!

(Please ignore the photo quality, I didn’t take the time to scan them)

Picture 8

Luck

Good or bad, everyone believes they have one or the other and some people strongly believe the mantra that you make your own! Personally I’ve always said that I have bad luck, but a few years back I met someone who told me that I should stop saying & believing that. She felt that attitude was what was causing the bad luck to follow me.

So I listened to her and whenever anything bad happened I resisted the urge to say, “I have the worst luck!” That was almost 5 years ago and while I’d like to say that my changed perception of luck has in turn changed the outcome of all situations since then, that’s sadly not the case.

Let’s discuss the most recent example. The morning started with a bright & early wakeup call at our hotel. There was a fire in the kitchen at 3:30 a.m. forcing all the guests to evacuate the building. Luckily we were already up & moving for our 4 a.m. departure.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time and boarded our plane. We found our seats located right behind two men, who were meeting for the first time & both baptist. Let’s be clear – I was raised in a Catholic family and have no problem with religion, but I’m also not interested in listening to an entire conversation about, “if you pray to God to find the Christians, he will!” Luckily my earbuds were readily available and able to drown out the early morning gospel.

With a tight connection to catch, we prayed (see what I did there) to depart on time. Just as we were set to lift off, a fellow passenger had a seizure, causing us to sit tight. Luckily there was an EMT on board and the man will be okay.

I’m currently mid-air on our way to Jamaica and I know most of you (especially those still battling the never-ending Midwest winter) will say, “well, that’s pretty damn lucky.” You are right, I am fortunate to be sitting here – happy & healthy, next to my loving husband, with our kids in the care of their generous grandparents.

The difference though is that it has nothing to do with luck. We’ve worked hard to be able to enjoy a vacation. Lucky things do happen to me and I will continue my pledge to not talk about bad luck, but more than that I like to focus on the bright-side!

Everything that has happened today could have been worse. The hotel could have burnt down, I could have forgot my headphones, the man could have experienced a more serious medical issue. We’ll likely catch our connecting flight & be sipping rum punch in a few short hours!

There’s always a bright side! That’s my mantra – things can always be worse and someone else is handling more. Things WILL work out & I know that for a matter of fact because the two gentleman just prayed for that mid-flight. If not, I’ll just drink more rum. Jamaican Me Crazy!

20140307-074055.jpg

Adventure’s

Will – Will has experienced a couple of “firsts” in the last month and loved them both. We took him to his first Badger basketball game and he was thrilled with every second. He cheered the entire time and pointed out Bucky whenever we spotted him! We also took him to the circus and he loved all the bright lights & music, but was jealous of Ella riding the camel.

8211_10100661404003466_1433647811_nEveryone knows that Will is a smiley, happy man – but I feel like I have neglected to mention that he is also sensitive, has a terrible temper and HATES to be told no. Actually, you don’t even have to verbalize the word no – just think it in your head and he’s upset. You can say something like, “hey buddy, let’s not do that” as he’s throwing & breaking things and he reacts by hanging his head, sticking his lip out and throwing himself to the ground.

Some of it may be due to the fact that he’s basically had an ear infection since last October. You’re probably thinking we’re terrible parents but I have taken him in plenty of times. Unfortunately all of the meds they try to treat it with, just don’t work. The poor guy just had to keep enduring infection after infection before we were finally able to be referred to an ENT to discuss tube surgery. We have that appointment this week and while I don’t want to go through yet another surgery, this one is a breeze (in our books) and it will make him so much happier & healthier in the long run. Bring on the tubes!

Ella - Joe & I both grew up with team sports playing a huge role in our lives. We want our kids to experience the same thing so we signed Ella up for soccer! Our small towns didn’t offer soccer as an option so neither of us have played but jumped on the opportunity for her to meet new kids and run some of that energy off! She’s only had three practices, but seems to love it so far.

999961_10100660353468746_1610047634_n

I don’t know how it’s possible, but I also registered her for kindergarten in the fall. It’s crazy to think that she is 5 years old already! She is so clever & funny that I wish I could just keep her exactly as she is forever. Yesterday we played a memory game where each person takes a turn laying a card with one word on it, with the goal of crafting a story. With each card laid the story adds up.

I have always said that she has a fantastic memory but this game is a perfect example. The level of detail she has in everything she does is impressive. As the cards spread across our entire dining table, I was beginning to wonder how she would be able to remember all of the details and was trying to wrap it up. As I drew the next card with a clock on it I said, “then the clock struck 9:00 p.m.” Her face quickly grimaced and she said, “awww man, that’s bedtime!” She then drew her next card which was a hammer. As she laid it down and told her story I almost died at just how smart she is! Ella’s story:

Once upon a time there was a “owl” who lived in the woods when a “fish” swam by. It started to rain so he grabbed an “umbrella” and tied a “bow” on top. The bow belonged to a “teddy bear” who wanted to go on a “boat ride.” On the boat there was a “bike” and on the bike there was a “violin” with an “apple” stuck to the very top. They got hungry so they ate some delicious “pizza” but it was cold outside so they had to put their “socks” on. Then an “astronaut” came by so they watched the man putting the flag on the moon. Then the “clock” struck 9:00 p.m. ….so the bear grabbed the “hammer” and smashed the clock to pieces so they could go on their next adventure!

Speaking of adventures… This winter has been painful to say the least and with more negative temps upon us, there seems to be no end in sight! Obviously the only solution is to pack up and head towards warmer land, so next week we’re traveling to Jamaica! Our life is so busy that I haven’t even had time to get excited but I know it’s going to be a blast. At this point almost anything would be a welcomed change.

We spent a week in Costa Rica last year for our honeymoon, which was a bit too long to be away from the kiddo’s so we’ll be going for 4 nights/5 days.

cat013852_150_01

The Fruits of Our Labor, Minus the Fruit

As I’ve mentioned many times before, the project list in this house is never-ending. So when we had the chance to send the kiddo’s off to Grandma & Grandpa’s for the weekend – we jumped at it, in hopes that we’d be able to knock some things off the list. We worked very hard, I swear, but there’s not a whole lot to show for it!

We started Friday night by moving our island in the kitchen. It was an easy decision to make since it wasted a lot of space before. It’s a small change, but it made a major difference when it comes to functionality. We now have way more space at the kitchen table and the flow through the house is so much better. It’s hard to show just how much of an impact it makes in a photo (especially with furniture in the way), but here’s an idea. On the left is the before and the right is the after.

Picture 10

This photo also shows a few other projects in the works. We replaced & centered the light over the table a few weeks back with a modern drum pendant. We absolutely love the embroidered pattern and while the old one was nice quality, it just wasn’t our style.

In the next few weeks, we plan to paint our kitchen cabinets white. Quite a few people have asked us why we chose white or didn’t want to keep the wood. Trust me, I love natural wood and it was hard for me to paint over it, but it’s just so orange looking that I couldn’t handle keeping it that way. I believe it’s technically called Golden Oak and while I love me some gold, it does not work in our space – plus, we just prefer white.

1743531_10100656449961406_405049524_n

We decided that we’d like a more customized look so we decided to frame out all of the cabinets and island. You can see the unfinished oak in the picture above. I’m sort of a perfectionist so living with it looking like that for a few weeks might kill me, but I’ll try to cope. Here’s a close up shot of the island. It still needs to be wrapped on the bottom & baseboard added, but it’s going to look GREAT once it’s painted a greige color to match the backsplash.

Speaking of backsplash…once we’re done with the cabinets we plan to add an ice subway tile backsplash. I love the look of those tiles, but I don’t necessarily love that they typically have to be installed individually and they are a little hard on the wallet. However, I hit the jackpot at Menards and was able to find a special purchase that was the exact color I was hoping for, sold in sheets and super cheap! They even had enough in-stock for our fireplace.

You might have also noticed that we’ve started the transition of our old desk area into a bar area to make it a more usable space. Don’t worry, we’re not alcoholics, but who uses those desks anymore? It’s hard to see in the photo, but we plan to remove the drawer (and my pretty blue chair) and insert a beverage fridge in that space. We measured the opening and started by trying to find a fridge that was the perfect size, but those were all too expensive. We then turned our brains on and realized that instead of trying to make the fridge fit the space, we’d make the space fit the fridge! You will see that we built platforms to raise the entire desk 3″. The chair is still there because we have yet to purchase the fridge and I want to get to use it as long as I can.

1555466_10100656447820696_1228323577_n

If you look closely at the photo above, you might see a few spots on our ceiling as well as a hole with a blue electrical box. I have wanted pendant lights over our island since we bought the house, but since we moved it’s location – we also had to cut open our ceiling to reposition the lights. I wish I could show you a photo of that project completed, but it needs a bit more time for the mud to dry before we can hang the lights. Here’s what I’m planning to hang, but it depends on how they look once they’re up.

We also took down a LARGE shelf in hopes that it opens up the space even more. It’s probably good that we took it down, as it wasn’t screwed into anything and it was pretty big! That project is also not complete because even though it wasn’t attached to any studs, it left behind some pretty big holes that needed to some mud.

In addition to painting all of our cabinets white, we’re painting almost all of the rest of the woodwork too. That means I’ve been spending a lot of time painting doorway trim. If you look at the picture above you will see that I was able to finish all the trim (7 closets/doors) in the hallway. I’m happy to say that one more “room” is complete, but there are so many more that require taping, 1 coat of primer & 2-4 coats of paint. Boo!

Fruit people! Where is the fruit? While I wish there was more that we could actually cross off, there are two projects that we actually started & finished. Our electrician friend was nice enough to volunteer some time to help us get our lighting needs in order. Our living room has NO (yes, zero) overhead lighting. We have 3 lamps in that room and every day I have to walk around to turn them all on and then again to turn them all off.  After some electrical magic, they are now ALL controlled on a switch. That’s right, now each day I can walk over and flip the switch and illuminate the world. Okay, maybe that was too strong – but trust me, this is a game changer!

Finally, the only real fruit worth showing…my brother & sister-in-law kindly bought us a housewarming gift card to CB2, which was coincidentally where we found the light we wanted for our dining room. Since our electrician friend was over, we decided to replace the old and put up our new gem. So, what do you think of our one and only grape?

1058464_10100655948516306_1372043737_n

 

Oh Hey, 2014!

I have no idea how it happened, but a new year is upon us. That’s right, goodbye 2013 and hello 2014. Not only is it a new year, but we’re already more than halfway through January!

I haven’t wrote in a while, for a lot of reasons really. A lot of it has been due to writer’s block, some of it has been a lack of time, but it’s definitely not because I have nothing to say (cue the sarcastic comments). I could write a 2013 review or a positive, goal-filled outlook for 2014. I could share the story of Ella opening her Christmas gifts early or her amazing opportunity to be on television for Cleft Awareness. I could write about the fact that Will is no longer a baby and has an insane ability to repeat everything we say – I’m telling you, the kid’s a parrot! Let’s not forget our annual Packer outing, New Years Eve festivities and of course there are always a lot of home improvement projects happening.

For the sake of keeping it interesting, I’m going to talk about the most important things – our kids. We’ll start with Will first. For some reason from the time he was born, Will was nicknamed by everyone as “Baby Will.” Although the nickname has held, sadly he is no longer a baby. Almost 18 months already, he is doing new things daily. As I mentioned above, he talks all the time – it’s crazy. His vocabulary probably consists of 40 words and while it’s not always clear, he really has no limits. He says the usual things like, momma, dadda, ball, puppy, no-no, etc. He also says things less typical like, football, touchdown, cheese, adios, etc. The more impressive thing is that he says things in context – “thank you” when he’s given something he’s asked for, or “get down” as he’s climbing on all the furniture in the house.

1512597_10100634258613046_1604147836_nHis actions are no longer by chance, but definitely intentional. He’s a lot like Ella, but even more devious. He knows the difference from right and wrong, but that doesn’t mean he makes the right choice. I might be biased, but he’s extremely talented. It’s made me think a lot about gender differences, but he somehow has this natural ability to pick up a ball and accurately whip it at your head. He is still a picky little eater and definitely needs to work on his short temper!

Now onto Ella. I already spoiled the end of the story, but it’s still a worthy of documenting (to share with her when she has kids of her own someday)! We always set up our tree in early December and place the wrapped presents underneath as they are purchased. We’ve never had a problem in the past and it shouldn’t be all that tempting since we don’t even wait until Christmas to open (due to traveling to our families). This year should have been even easier since I didn’t wrap and place the presents until later than normal. Almost everyday after daycare she would ask to open, “just one” gift from the under the tree. Each time she got the same answer, “absolutely not” or “don’t even think about it!”

Regardless of all of those things, the temptation was far too much for her and she caved. On December 14th, we woke to find that not only had she had opened EVERY.SINGLE.GIFT from under the tree, she also found the stocking stuffers I had hidden in our spare bedroom. The scene was shocking and surreal! I was honestly surprised because behavior-wise, she was on a good run, she had been a really good girl. Just a few days prior during our bedtime conversations she said, “it’s ok if Santa can’t bring me what I asked for, maybe he’ll just bring me something small. I just cannot believe I’m on the nice list!”

Thank goodness she can read, that at least prevented her from unwrapping all of Will’s gift too. Her actions required a punishment that would hopefully set the tone for years to come. I thought about re-wrapping the gifts, but she was excited to help with that task and I didn’t want to do it again. We ended up settling on her gifts sitting under the tree, unwrapped to see everyday, but she wasn’t allowed to play with them. I also took her to Build-a-Bear to make an animal that we then donated to Toys for Tots. She did a pretty good job with both of those punishments, but the hardest part was when Will opened his gifts. She had to sit patiently and not help or touch a thing the entire time he opened. It took him about 30 minutes and drove her (and us) a little insane! The final punishment was in her stocking, which we opened after we returned home from the holiday travel. Will’s was full of gifts from Santa, he even had a gift under the tree. Ella’s stocking was empty – except for a note in the shape of a heart. It read, “Dear Ella, try harder next year and remember, don’t open your gifts until Christmas! Love, Santa.” She was sad, but I think the point was made. If she opens her gifts ahead of time again, she’s moving in with grandma & grandpa.

Now onto better things from Ella. Our friend Emmy Fink presented us with an amazing opportunity to share Ella’s story of Cleft Awareness on the CW Network here in Madison. When I first asked Ella if she was interested she was a bit hesitant, but then quickly turned into a diva – “I don’t want you to go on t.v. with me, I want to go myself – just like my last surgery!” I had to explain that it was important for a parent to tell their story too, so she said, “okay mom, just the girls will go this time. The next time I’m on t.v. I’ll pick dad!” That kid.

When people started to hear about it, I think they expected her performance to be loud and full of personality, just like her. In reality she was a little nervous and pretty reserved, but I couldn’t be prouder of her and the outcome! Hopefully as she gets older she realize what an opportunity it was.