Monday, September 29, 2014

A New Routine

The last time I can remember consistently working out was about the time I started dating my husband Blake.  I ran a 4 mile road race in May 2009 and about a month later I went to Nicaragua for two weeks and got some sort of intestinal bug that took at least a month or two to go away.  Since I got sick every time I ate, I finally quit exercising, and by the time the bug ended I was thinner than usual (lost muscle) and spending the time I'd previously spent at the gym or running with Blake.  I didn't mind the trade and loved spending my evenings with him.  Over the past few years I've walked a lot, gone to the gym some, but between two pregnancies, the related recovery, and a torn meniscus/surgery, I've not consistently really worked out--meaning the sweaty, fast heartbeat kind of workout that gives me the rush of energy I craved in the past.

Now that I'm most likely finished birthing babies I've decided it's time to attempt to develop an exercise routine of sorts.  So for step one we joined a gym with excellent childcare.  Step two is getting my daughter Ella Kate to stay with the strangers in the childcare.  Today I ran a mile in 9:40 on the treadmill, which is the furthest I've run since I had part of my meniscus removed in April. And Ella Kate made it 20 minutes with only a few minutes of crying.  We gotta start somewhere!

I'm super motivated by numbers and goals, so I think I'll work up to running a 5k and work on my one mile time.  I think a 9 minute mile is a good short term goal.  My weight is where I want it to be, and I can wear all of my clothes; but I'm guessing my body fat is not in a healthy range. And I could definitely use some toning.  So I've asked a trainer at the gym to test my body fat. Interestingly she said she didn't think numbers mattered and wanted to know why I needed to know my body fat percentage. I explained that I think body fat percentage is much more of a health indicator than weight and that numbers motivate me.  

p.s. I'm thankful for our new gym and the kind childcare workers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Since the beginning of August I've been trying to get a written explanation of the PMI removal process from our current mortgage holder (I won't bore you with the details of why).  After speaking with several customer representatives with a poor command of the English language who clearly did not understand the basics of a mortgage, I sent several emails and made several more phone calls.

Over a month passes with no response to my requests.  So I send a final email and just happen to end my email with "Gratefully, Ally R., Esquire."  And BOOM! I receive a certified letter, signature required from an assistant vice president on card stock with a real blue ink signature.  It never ceases to amaze me how people treat me differently when they learn that I am/was an attorney.

Before we bought our home, I lived in a loft that had occasional maintenance issues.  If I sent an email from my gmail account, I often never received any response whatsoever.  I found that if I sent the exact same e-mail from my work email account (a law firm), I would received a response within minutes.  This was over the course of years with the same building manager; it's like he didn't remember I was an attorney unless I used the work account, and I guess only attorney tenants deserve responses?

Oh well, at least my continuing ed and paying dues has some upsides while I don't work.

p.s. I'm thankful Jackson and I will be able to see my oldest niece play softball tomorrow evening.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Official

I've lost my mind.  On Saturday we met our friends and their three boys at Touch A Truck, which is an annual event here at the Riverpark that includes an array of vehicles (dump trucks, ambulance, bus, street sweeper, etc.) that children are allowed to "drive" and touch.  I was holding Ella Kate and realized I didn't see Jackson anywhere.  I glanced around and got that anxious feeling I occasionally get at the park when I realize I can't quickly find him.  I asked my husband if he saw Jackson, and he and my friend Kate look at me in amazement...and inform me that I'm holding his hand.

p.s. I'm thankful for fun and relaxing weekends.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Friday Five

1. This week I had a quick (and rare) lunch at Panera alone.  As I placed my order I repeatedly thought I could hear Elmo giggling and talking.  As a parent of two young children, I'm familiar enough with Elmo and definitely familiar with phantom cries/sounds (like I imagine I hear a child crying over the fan in our room, but when I check the monitor Jackson is asleep), but I've never quite imagined cartoon sounds.  After a few minutes I finally realize a mother has her iPhone in a stand with what must be an Elmo video loudly playing for her child as he eats his lunch.  I guess I see how it can help keep your child quiet and to each their own, I suppose, but I was pretty surprised someone would think it was socially acceptable to play a cartoon so loudly that I could hear it across the restaurant.  

2. I've had two girls nights (really just dinner) out in the last two weeks.  Tonight the discussion included homeschooling, breastfeeding, prayer requests, and similar topics.  Last week was a totally different group of women, and I drank hunch punch for the first time since college and ended up talking about sex.  A rare topic of conversation at my age and season of life.

3. My new goal is to have a date night every other week.  We have two dates in the last month under our belt now, so I hope this will become our routine.  I believe our marriage needs to be our priority (before our children), but practically I have a hard time actually doing that.

4. My children had sweet time with their grandparents this week.  Jackson would probably live with my mom if he could.

5. I'm on a real reading kick.  A lot of what I'm reading is easy fiction (the Divergent series, for example), but I've got some non-fiction in the line-up too.  One of my favorites of the summer was To The End of June by Cris Beam, a non-fiction book about the foster care system.  It read easily and opened my eyes to how poorly we're caring for so many children as a society.  

p.s. I'm thankful that I started my day with a walk with my friend Chasie. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

These Are The Days

With the exception of last week when we were in the throes of a very nasty case of Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease, in the last month I've often thought "these are the days."  Our children love and cherish their dad and me, and they love and enjoy each other so much.  They want to hold hands and make each other smile. They delight in the smallest things. I just can't imagine a sweeter time.  My son seriously believes that when I kiss his head (after he runs into the corner of the counter) it makes it all better.  My daughter lights up when she sees me.

I'm trying to soak up these moments and revel in them instead of some of the challenges of this season.  It's incredible how my days currently hold such high highs yet also include such exasperating moments.  At the end of the day I often find myself so weary yet reflecting on the goodness of our days together. I just can't imagine a more rewarding way to spend my time.

When I was in high school people often said "these are the best days of your life" and that prospect made me really sad.  And it certainly hasn't been true for me.  Falling in love with my husband and our year of dating was one of the happiest seasons of my life.  And seven years ago, I traveled alone in Europe for six weeks and lounged on beaches in Spain, Greece, Malta, and Portugal.  I visited places I had wanted to see for years (parts of Switzerland, Sevilla, Cadiz, Granada) and set my own leisurely pace each day. And now again, I'm somewhat setting my own pace each day, although a needy one year old often sets the tone too. On days like today (when no one is sick
and the sun is shining:) and we take a neighborhood stroll, read books, I teach Ella Kate to kiss Jackson's boo boo and he stops crying, she grins because I give her mandarin oranges, and he's ecstatic because he gets to wear his $5 Old Navy train tee shirt, I think surely these are some of the best days of my life.

p.s. I am so thankful Ella Kate's rash and blisters are healing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ella Kate: One Year

Dear Ella Kate,

You'll be a year old soon, and I wanted to write this to give you a snap shot of your life and personality at this age.  We often describe you as fearless and a live-wire. You have so much energy! You've busted your lip four times in the last few weeks as you run around like a bull in a china shop.  Speaking of running, you took your first steps on Mother's Day (when you were just 9 months old) and by the time you were 11 months old you were walking 95% of the time.  You also say "bird," "dada," "ball," and "bye bye."  Today you said "dirt" for the first time, which is fitting because you love playing in the dirt and outside in general.

When you were 9 months old you also began refusing to let us feed you with a spoon.  You like to do it yourself and enjoy almost every food, especially green beans and mandarin oranges.  Despite being a good eater, you're a peanut which makes your early walking even cuter.  You've consistently been 25% for weight and 75% for height at our well visits, and I'd guess you weigh about 18-19 pounds now.

You rarely sit still unless you're in your high chair or stroller or if we're reading you a book, giving you a bottle, or holding you while standing.  You really like being held and walked around and when you're fussy that is usually the solution.  You won't sit still for a television program or to cuddle.  You love balls and enjoy playing with cars and things you can put in your mouth.

Most mornings you wake up around 6:30 or 7:00 (if I'm very lucky:) and after a bottle, you and I (or the whole family) often go on a walk to beat the heat.  You enjoy our walks, and I love your company.  You're so pleasant early in the morning.  We eat breakfast around 8:00, and you usually have fruit and eggs/waffles/zucchini bread/Organic Os.  Then you and Jackson play until your nap around 9:30.  You usually sleep really deeply, and I wake you at 11:00.  After nap we either play, read, sing songs, have a play date, or go to the Discovery Museum or zoo.  You love the Discovery Museum, especially all of the climbing things.  Your next nap is around 2:30 and lasts until almost 4:00.  Sometimes we fit in a quick trip to the museum after nap, run errands, or just play around here. Today we went to the pool, and you liked every minute of it.  

You adore our plastic kiddie pool and will almost dive into it.  You love the bath tub too but refuse to sit still because you like to plop down repeatedly and make splashes.  Needless to say you regularly have bruises on your bottom, and we generally bathe you in the kitchen sink.  Bedtime is at 7:30 or 8:00 depending on how you've napped, and you always go down easily.  You sleep with a paci and would probably keep a paci in your mouth most of the time if I would let you.

You and your brother enjoy each other so much. This morning when you and I got home from our walk Jackson met us at the door, squealing with excitement and you practically jumped out of the stroller to be with him.  Like Jackson, you have the best smile and are often so happy and grinning, especially when your dad, brother, or I come in the room or pay attention to you.  Your grin when when we tap your finger with ours and say "ding" is priceless.  And you immediately start clapping when I begin singing "If You're Happy and You Know It."  Jackson often tries to tickle you, and you giggle the entire time.  You're so full of life little girl!

Oh, how I love having you as my daughter.  I've wanted a daughter for so long, and you're an answer to many prayers.  I look forward to seeing who you become and doing life with you; our family feels so much more complete with you in it.  We're excited to celebrate you & your first year of life next month.

your mommy

p.s. I'm thankful you're mine.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


My sophomore year of college I shared an apartment with three girls.  It was a hard year for lots of reasons, but after I took the Myers Briggs test during my spring semester I discovered one of the reasons I was pretty unhappy.  The test said I was an INTP with pretty strong introversion.  My immediate reaction was that I couldn't be an introvert because I was so outgoing and social. Then I learned that introversion was more about how you get energy and that I was likely drained (rather than energized) by social interaction.  And it totally clicked why living with three girls was exhausting me.  After that year I mainly lived alone (until I got married) and absolutely loved it.

My husband Blake and I are both energized by alone time, which is definitely challenging now that we have children.  As I've reflected on parenting choices over the last two and a half years, I've thought a lot about what I want to teach my children.  One thing I emphasized a lot with Jackson was learning to enjoy his own company.  While I could care less if he's an introvert (and actually think life is easier in some ways an extrovert), I want him to be able to entertain himself and not need constant companionship--plus I knew we'd have another child, and he would need to be able to function without my constant attention.  And wow, whether it's what I've emphasized, genetic, or just by chance, Jackson loves being alone.  After two hours at the Discovery Museum yesterday, Jackson played outside by himself for almost 30 minutes--mainly sitting in a chair and surveying our yard.  He loves to "read" alone and work on his projects (moving dirt, cutting the grass, organizing various things, etc.).  This picture is what I saw when I looked out the window yesterday; Jackson just sitting in a chair.

With a second child, it's been much more challenging to give her opportunities to be alone.  I've started putting her in her crib with toys for 5-15 minutes stretches, but her brother usually ends up wanting to be with her or giving her toys and interacting with her.  When her brother isn't home she'll play alone for a few minutes but is definitely accustomed to having him around to help entertain her.  Now that she's walking 99% of  the time she's seeming more independent and exploring more on her own.  Of course, different personalities are what makes the world go round, and we love seeing their individual personalities emerge.

p.s. I'm thankful for our new family routine of taking walks in the morning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Life: Shark Tank

In November of 2012 my husband and his employer decided to part ways, and Blake decided to start his own company.  That same month we found out (unexpectedly) that I was pregnant (with Ella Kate).  Blake's initial plans were with a partner (a former coworker who lives in Australia), but over the first 6 months of the company's life, the partner's wife became very ill.  Needless to say, his partner couldn't focus on their company and was consumed with helping his now almost completely blind wife relearn a lot of life's tasks. He eventually decided that a business venture wasn't possible, and Blake began moving forward completely alone.

And now over a year later, Blake has developed a website, catalog, extensive quality program, sample kits, manufacturing relationships, and 50 page plus business plan.  He had a little help with the website, and his father worked on the quality plan; but he did all the rest unassisted.  It's really been incredible to see how varied and developed his skill set is and how willing he is to learn new things.  The idea of doing what's he done makes me feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but Blake had an entrepreneurial spirit and a confidence in his ability in his industry that energizes him.

As a family it's been really weird (and sometimes very stressful) to not have income for over 18 months, but it's also been a reminder of God's goodness, grace, and provision.  We've been thankful to have so much equity in a home we've only owned 3 years as well as savings to make this process possible.  And now that we're reaching the end of those financial ropes and realizing that a capital investment is essential for Blake's company to succeed, Blake has been meeting with potential investors.  As we discuss evaluations, equity, and other common investment terms, I frequently think of the television program Shark Tank that we have watched. The financial sacrifices we've made and the sweat equity Blake has invested in his company are routinely portrayed on Shark Tank and remind me that we're not totally crazy to make some of these (calculated) risks.

And even if the investment doesn't happen, we have been so blessed to have Blake around so much more than when he had a traditional job. He's only had to travel for work a few times in the last year and has been able to spend so much time with our children, helping neighbors/friends, and developing relationships that he wouldn't have otherwise had the time/flexibility to pursue.  With that said, I'm praying and hoping that a capital investment will happen, and Blake has the opportunity to take his company to the next level. I have so much confidence in him and this venture and would love to see what happens with proper funding.

p.s. I'm thankful my husband is braver than I am!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day!

Sweet Ella Kate took her first steps on Mother's Day--such a wonderful gift and one day before she turned 10 months old.  I've been so ready for her to start walking, so she can keep up better with her brother (and not eat everything on the ground).  She took more steps numerous times today, so here's hoping this isn't just a fluke.

My in-laws ended up going out of town on Saturday, so Blake sent me to their house that evening so I could sleep late and have a leisurely Mother's Day morning.  Alone time and rest is how I recharge, so that was the best gift he could have given me.  I think I could have spent the entire day in bed, but I managed to get up at 10 so I could swing by Starbucks and Target before heading home to join the family for a trip to the Market.  Both kids were thrilled to see me and extra sweet. I called my mom and had given her a card (painted by Jackson) and gift earlier in the week.  We spent the evening with Blake's dad and step-mother, and it was a great day.  
I thought a lot about the moms in my life as well as my friends who long to me mothers but aren't yet and those who have lost their moms.  I prayed a lot for a woman who recently lost both of her children and her mother in a tragic accident; I cannot imagine her day.  Or my friend who had a double mastectomy today and has 2 young children to care for as well.  I have much to be thankful for and am so privileged to be a mother.

p.s. I'm grateful for fresh strawberries, and Jackson being able to eat some out of a neighbor's garden.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Five Years Ago Today....

my husband Blake and I were on our 2nd date, celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some of our neighbors. Tonight we took our 2 year old and 9 month old to a Chinese buffet in hopes of satisfying my husband's craving.  While a buffet is almost always a bad idea, it's an especially bad idea with 2 children 2 and under.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say it was a waste of money and time and we learned our lesson.  The only upside was watching our baby girl devour vegetable fried rice, fruit, and noodles and seeing Jackson try new things like egg rolls and fortune cookies.

It's fun to look back and think about how carefree and easy life was just 4 years ago.  Blake and I were just getting to know each other, and now here we are in a pretty labor intensive stage of life with 2 babies, a house, a dog, and a new business.  Love how life works out and how quickly things can change.  Oh how I used to love coming home to an empty, quiet loft and going to the gym at 10 p.m., and now I'm kicking myself because I'm not in bed yet (and it's 10:40) and my sweet little girl will wake me up before I know it wanting her morning bottle and her brother will wake soon after ready to play.  I'm feeling so blessed to have enjoyed a season of singleness and now to be immersed in a season with my little family.

p.s. I'm thankful for this incredible weather and time outside.  Picnic in the park tomorrow for lunch!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jackson is Two!

Dear Jackson,

I guess these letters are going to be our tradition, and since tomorrow is your second birthday I'm finally writing another one.  Almost every night after you go to bed your father and I talk about how you are an absolute joy.  There's just no better word to describe you, and I thank God for you daily.  You're so quick to smile, laugh, and give out kisses and hugs, and we feel immeasurably blessed to have you in our lives.

Most mornings I wake around 7:30 or so and turn on the video monitor to see if you're awake.  Often you're awake and just sitting in your crib quietly, playing with puppy and octopus (blanket also goes to bed with you:).  Daddy usually gets you out of the crib, and you do a roll call: "Mommy, Daddy, Sissy, doggy?"  On the two mornings of the week that your Daddy is gone to Bible study when you wake, you look for him (even calling under the bathroom door) and have even cried.  If Ella Kate isn't awake, we wake her up, and you're always so glad to see her.  You usually call her "Sis" but have also started saying "Ellie," which is very similar to what you call elephants.  While I feed your sister, you either play or watch Daniel Tiger.  Breakfast begins a little later--or sooner if you get in your highchair.  You've started doing that when you're hungry. Breakfast always begins with a banana, and then you usually have some combination of the following: eggs, toast, muffins, blueberry waffles, fruit, or Organic Os.  Milk follows later, and when you're finished you throw your cup in the sink.  A lot of days you insist on putting on shoes, so we have to take your footie pajamas off and get you dressed for day.

Our mornings are almost always at home since your sister naps, so we sing songs ("Wheels on the Bus," "Old MacDonald" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" are favorites), have dance parties (the Jackson Five Pandora station is our usual), read books, and you play on your own or with your sister a lot while I do chores. We have play dates with Betsy a lot, and you're always quick to hug and kiss her.

I am often floored by how sweet you are to your sister.  One day we were dancing, and Ella Kate was in her exersaucer and you went and danced beside the exersaucer so you could hold her hands and help her dance. You frequently bring her toys to her as well as her pacis, teething rings, and anything else you think she may need or want.  When you see that I'm getting things ready for her nap you tell her "bye."   She takes up a lot of my time lately, and you're so patient about it all.

We eat an early lunch, and you're still a really good eater.  You love smoothies, and when I turn the Vitamix on you bring me your cup so I can fill it up.  You love snacks and call them "soap-ies."  You grin so big when you get milk twice a day.  Your nap is around 1:00 (or whenever your sister's second nap begins so I can get a break), and lately you've been napping about 2 hours.  After your nap we may go to the aquarium, park, store, or the Children's Discovery Museum (a membership was part of your gift from Grandma).

In the last month or so, your learning and vocabulary have exploded.  It's been so fun to see.  It all began when you started wanting to look at books and have us identify things.  Some days we would spend hours going through these books.  Then we started having your identify the different items, and all of sudden you just started adding about 5 words a day to your vocabulary.

Two of your favorite people are Holdey (Holden) and Mallie.  Any time you hear a child outside you look to see if Holdey is in his yard and you cry out his name.  You love our trips to Calhoun and talk about Mallie during the entire one hour drive to her house.  You love playing in the kitchen in her room and can be so focused on a task at hand.  It's not unusual for you to go straight to her room and play for hours.

Sadly I'm just finishing this letter about 2 months after your 2nd birthday because I got a terrible stomach bug mid-writing and had to cancel your family party.  You ended up getting sick too.  Thankfully we had already celebrated with Kate, Holden, Charlie, and Tucker with a little birthday lunch and cupcakes, and of course, you didn't know the difference.  You loved opening your presents and have especially enjoyed a play lawn-mower that your Aunt Kristyl gave you.  You love spending time outside and will play in the yard by yourself--exploring, reading, or talking to the neighbor's German Shepherd Caesar.

Most nights your daddy puts you to bed.  The two of you pray together, and you often lay down on your big boy bed while holding his hand as if you're too tired to sit up to pray.  I often see you lounging, kicking your feet, and otherwise enjoying your alone time in your crib before you eventually fall asleep.  We are so enjoying getting to know you Jackson and look forward to this next year.

Much love,


Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow Day!

We ended up with the best of the Snowpocalypse: one afternoon of fun in the snow and easily drive-able roads the next day.  Of course it's been really cold and too cold to get out with my babies, but Blake and I had a date night and our family has dinner plans out tonight too.  We also had some friends over for sledding down our driveway on our slope sliders.  We bought them four years ago and were delighted to finally use them.