Monday, March 31, 2014

March in review

This month we set lots of goals. Read a lot of books, and went on several adventures...
so here's a review of our month

Les Miserables: I'm not even close to finishing this book, but I'm loving it (I wasn't expecting that). There are so many beautiful quotes and I find his writing style quite interesting. Unlike the novels of today that do extremely quick character development, Victor Hugo spends his sweet time building up his characters. It's a refreshing change, and his word choice is stunning. I have several favorite quotes, but the one that I've been thinking about the most is "...the word which God's finger writes on the brow of every man, the word Hope."

The World is Flat: I read this as a freshman in college. Matt and I are currently listening to it on cd.

Baby Knows Best: A parenting book that is completely different than attachment parenting. It's an interesting parenting style. I hated somethings in it and loved others.

The Alchemist: One of my favorite books of all time. Matt and I are reading it in spanish...very, very slowly.

Mayim's Vegan Table: A quick overview on veganism for the family. I liked the gentle approach the others take. I didn't feel like they were judging me for being a carnivore. 

Vegan for Her: I didn't like this one as much, but it was okay.

Spark: How creativity works: This book has a lot of interviews of different artist. Since I'm not very pop culture savvy, I needed google as a companion.

Archer's Goon: I don't know anything about this book, since Matt is reading this one to Madeleine right now. Apparently he loves it, and Tiny will sit through him reading it, despite the fact there are no pictures.

Frozen: I hated it. At the end of the movie, I didn't really care about any of the characters. was a sister movie that I had zero desire to take my sister too. Their relationship didn't make sense at all to me. The movie also felt like they were trying to cram way too many plots into one movie. The one thing I did love about it was the clothes. I'm sure the dolls will be beautiful.
Austinland: I loved every bit of this movie. It made me laugh. I should probably read this book at one point, since I love the author.


Unclutter house some more: We did this one! We got rid of so much of our stuff!
Spring Cleaning!: Winter came back for a I only got half of it done
Eat more vegetarian food: Kind of did this. We've been eating more healthy, but mainly I just read about it.

Lambing at Howell's

 We love our little friends in our neighborhood so much.
We play with them almost every single day, and this week we planned a field trip together to Howell's Living History farm. I'm not really sure what a living history farm is. All I know is that it's free and there's animals. This weekend was "lambing" weekend, meaning that they were introducing everyone to the new baby animals. So we put the kids in the cars and off we went.

As an adult, it wasn't that exciting, but for the Tiny people the sheep were the best things ever. Even Eleanora liked the sheep (the other animals were a bit scary.) So we spent probably close to a half hour just looking and sometimes petting the sheep.

The lambs did not disappoint. They were adorable! They jumped and bleated and were just too cute. 
Madeleine had a melt down every time we tried to go see another animal.

We finally were able to tear Madeleine away from sheep. We saw baby chicks, cows, chickens, geese, and horses. Both Madeleine and her little friend Beatrice loved the horses. I was a bit nervous though because these were giant work horses and all that was separating Madeleine and the horse was a small rope that she could walk under.

It was raining for a lot of our trip, but it was beautiful.

The kids lasted a hour and half to our surprise, so we grabbed a bit to eat before heading home.
...just so we could all play outside together after nap.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Grad School Family Series: Moving

When we graduated college, we had a summer with no income in front of us.
We decided the best thing for us to do was to move twice, the first move was a practice move to Matt's parent's empty house in Logan and the second was to graduate school in Princeton, NJ.

The first move was a wonderful break for us financially. Since we only had a two and half month break between graduation and moving to Princeton, Matt and I both knew finding short term work would be difficult.Despite the fact we lived pretty cheaply, our expenses were about $1250 a month with rent, food, etc. in Provo. (We were thankfully on a month to month contract at this point.) It was only $400 to move up to Logan ~ 2 hours, and we kept our normal food budget of $50 a week.

So $1250 x 2.5 months = $3,125
$400 + ($50*10 weeks) = $900

Matt also donated plasma once a week while we were up there - which basically just ended up being our gas and spending money.

Then for our second move, we moved from Logan, Ut to Princeton, NJ.
We bounced around so many different ways to do this much longer move.

1) Flying Goobie and me out and have Matt drive across the country with his dad driving our car.
2) Matt and me driving across the country in our car and then Matt flying back and driving the truck.
3) Having Matt's dad drive the truck out and Matt and me drive the car.

We ended up choosing a variant of three. We had my mom drive out with me, and Matt and his dad drive the truck. (I could not drive alone with Madeleine.) This was wonderful for so many reasons: parent bonding time, went way faster, and more discounts on the moving truck.

We went with a Penske moving truck for both moves. They gave us the most discounts and they don't charge by the mile. We started with the 20% discount that our bank gave us. My mom had a AAA card so we got a 10% discount for that, and we got an additional 10% student discount! (You have to ask for it. It's not one that is done online.) I also asked the lady to waive the extra drivers fees and she did, saving us about $70. The total was around $900 with the damage insurance for the truck. With the gas for our car and the truck, our total for the move was around $2100. $1900 under what we had budgeted! 
(Sadly almost all of that savings went into our deposit...which we had forgot about.)

Another thing that really helped was not driving straight to Princeton. We actually drove to DC first where Matt's parents were living and stayed there for three days to visit. DC is only three hours from Princeton. By stopping, we were able to drive and unload the truck in Princeton after a full night of sleep. It was also nice because it gave us flex time in case Madeleine or us needed more breaks than we expected. We were pretty sure we could do the drive in two days, but if our six month old baby screamed the whole time, we had three extra days to drive a bit slower.

Visiting great-grandparents was just another perk of stopping in DC
So to summarize...

Our tips for moving across the country...

1) Find as many discounts as you can for the truck
2) Ask family for help
3) Come up with a plan way ahead of time
4) Travel mainly at night if you have a baby
5) Find a place that you can stay before you have to move in
6) Avoid tolls...trucks are really expensive to pay for on toll roads
7) Look on craigslist or freecycle for free boxes and paper
8) Get rid of as much stuff as you can
9) Watch videos on youtube if you don't know how to pack something
(Nothing broke during either move!)

All of this was pretty straight forward compared to heath insurance, which is going to be the next part of this series. :)

Our budget
Buying furniture and clothes
Menu planning and food management
Shopping for food
Affording a baby
Making friends
Family Time

Friday, March 28, 2014

15 meses

Coming in at 2'6" and around 21 lbs 9 oz, our Goobie is 15 months old!

She walks, runs, climbs, and even jumps on a trampoline.
She has discovered the silverware drawer and the joy of standing on the coffee table.
She can also reach some things on the counter and loves helping me with the dishes.

She loves her dolls, cars, and musical instruments.

Her big thing right now is organizing.
I was in the kitchen the other night and she bent over and opened her oven.
She pulled out three of my tupperware that were full of magnets.
Apparently they were done cooking.

She can climb onto our bed...which has surprised us 
She loves playing peekaboo in the curtains and making sure the fire and carbon monoxide detectors work.

Unlike me, she has a sense of directions.
She knows where her little friends live in the neighborhood, and when we go outside, she runs straight to their houses. She also knows where our neighborhood playground is, and more importantly the swings.

She sleeps twelve hours a night with a solid nap at noon.

She loves food.
Spicy, bitter, sour, sweet, she doesn't care.
She eats curry and peppers, along with many other things that most babies stay away from.
Her favorites are olives, dark chocolate, and sourdough bread.

She doesn't talk much, but boy does she know how to communicate.
If she wants to read, she'll grab and book, climb onto the couch, and sit on your lap with the book. If she wants to eat, she'll bring you either the food or her plate and spoon. Bathtime, she'll sit in the bathtub, and my favorite is nap time, she'll bring me her blanket and doll.

She does say a few words though, "mama", "dada", "daw" (dog), "duck", "woof", and lately "uh oh". Her favorite word by far is "Hi" followed closely by "bye".

She's man shy right now. She prefers females to males at the moment.
When we go somewhere, she'll always greet any woman, but hides behind my legs if it's a man.
She also only likes being held by women, the only exception is Matt who she absolutely still adores.

She's friendly and headstrong. She walks around holding my hand, when she doesn't want to be held. She gives hugs and smiles to strangers and loves being with other people.

Matt and I absolutely adore this stage.
She's adorable, sweet, and sleeps.
She also doesn't cry much anymore unless she's tired or hungry.
We spend most of our time watching her be crazy or soaking up her kisses.
She's wonderful, and we are so grateful that she's our goobie.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Grad School Family Series: Choosing a School

I wanted to write this series for a two years, and just now I'm getting around to it.

I'm actually really excited for this. I was reading a blog a few weeks ago about how mommy blogs only write about what their kids are doing and not about their lives. Well, this was a huge chunk of my life for the last two years. I'm really proud of it, and I've learned so much, and I really want to put something on the internet that says, being married in grad school can be awesome.

I just want to start and say Matt and I are so happy - like legitimately content and at peace with our lives. 
That is such a relief to us because, according to the internet, 
happiness + graduate school + family = misery and impending doom. 

There are so many articles about divorce rates, cheating, eternal debt, and insurmountable stress during graduate school, and very few about families enjoying those years.

This was awful for me to read right after we got married. I swore if this whole grad school thing worked out, that I would write something positive on the internet about families and grad school. So here's me carrying our what I promised myself a year ago.

So here we go...

I started to look into graduate schools a year before Matt's applications were due.
As I said, the whole idea of grad school stressed me out, and around this time, I was debating if I wanted to go to grad school, work, or have an offspring, so I started looking into the process of choosing a grad school.

The first thing we did was make a list of things that were important to us.

List of things that are important for grad school
A good education
A livable stipend
Cheap housing
Reasonable health insurance
Doable work expectations
A few potential advisers
Trader Joe's, Cheesecake factory, and mall within 10 miles
Private school that was not in California

After we did that, I spent 4 months screening the top 50 schools for our requirements, while Matt studied for the GRE and subject GRE. I had found a timeline for him to follow kind of like this. (We used MIT's chemistry one, but apparently they took it down.) This actually didn't take much time. Many of the schools, I could cross off within a minute or two.

By May, we had his chem GRE score and he was just about to take the general GRE.
At this point, I knew he had a good shot of getting in almost anywhere.
(Gradcafe was so much help for this. We used their results page to figure this out.)

I submitted to him 15 schools that we could afford and had a TJ, Cheesecake factory and mall near by.
From those, he picked 9 of these.

Harvard, MIT, Yale, University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Scripps were our final 9.

While Matt slaved over his personal statements, school, and research, I hammered out detailed budgets for each of these schools. I found each school's stipend, along with reasonable housing options, health insurance, standard cost of food according to local grocery ads, and car and renters insurance. I also started to see what it would be like to live in these places the best I could without actually going there.

We wrote the mock budgets on the white board in our room, debating pros and cons of each school.
In the end, Matt only applied to six of these, and he got into all six.

At this point, I stopped caring about which one he picked. I knew I could be happy at each of these places and that we would be fine as a family (Here's the blog post about how I saw myself living at Princeton). The final choice was completely up to Matt, which of course in the end he chose Princeton. 

The reason I tell this story is all of this pre-work of choosing a school has greatly reduced the stress of living here. The mock budget we had made up over a year ago, we now follow almost to a t. When we found out our housing prices were going up, we were pretty prepared for it, and with a slight tweaking of our projected budget, we're going to be fine.

 On top of that, all those places that I mentioned in this blog post, I have been to dozens of times. I was sure that even if I didn't make a single friend here, I would at least have good food to eat and lots of free places to go. That has been a lifesaver on many occasions when Goobie and I get bored. We mall walked many times during the winter and many of our family dates are to local free events that I had looked into before we came. People made fun of me for my superficial list of stores, but I knew Matt was going to live in a lab no matter what school he went to. I was the one that would have to live with the city or town we were going to live in, so I made sure that at least my favorite stores would be around. :)

So here is what I'm thinking for this series
Choosing a school
Our budget
Buying furniture and clothes
Menu planning and food management
Shopping for food
Affording a baby
Making friends
Family Time

I hope you all find something to take from this. I've learned so much through this process.

Magic trick

This is Madeleine, and she's going to show you a magic trick.
It's called "watch me disappear".


Here's Daddy trying the magic trick. He's not a good magician.

Monday, March 24, 2014

3 years ago

3 years ago yesterday we got engaged.
We didn't do anything special for the occasion, but we did go on a walk as a family before church.

There is this wildlife preserve near our church building with a trail next to the canal that we walked down. It was cold and muddy, but Madeleine was thrilled for some reason. Matt and I were just happy that we got out of the house for a bit. One of our new goals as a family is to play outside more together.

The trail was pretty in a dead way. It was really quiet with the occasional hard core runner panting by every so often. Apparently it is over 10 miles long. We got maybe half a mile before turning back to get ready for church. Part of it loops right by our current apartment, so maybe next time we'll explore that part.

Matt and I were content watched our offspring run on all over the trail. It took a good five minutes for her to realize that the water was only a few feet away. She then held our hands for a bit but it didn't take long for her to get tired of that. At that point, Matt just threw her on his shoulders.

Matt and I were talking about our engage-aversary later. When he asked me to marry him, neither of us had any idea what our lives would be like even in the next year. We just knew that whatever the future was that we wanted to do it together. We are both happy and content now three years later. We love each other and our cute offspring. Both Matt and I have been working hard at our faults and problem areas of our marriage, and right now future is looking pretty wonderful. 

(We tried to take a few family photos. We were only able to take four before we got too cold...and this was sadly the best one)

Part of me feels silly for celebrating all of these random milestones. But I think it's good to have random dates to do a check up on our marriage. It's nice to think back to when it all started, and right now it's even nicer to see where we are.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Butler Hero

 Never fear people of Butler.
There's a new hero in town.

Duh, duh, duuuuuh.

Presenting...uh...we don't actually haven't identified her yet. Since all the heroes went into hiding, it's been a bit harder to keep track of which hero is which (for more information watch the documentary The Incredibles.) This inconvenience is not however hampering the rumors surrounding her awesomeness.

She strides the neighborhood looking for previously ignored trouble.

Like this stick...who knows what danger it might have caused if she didn't pick it up. Same goes for the crushed bottle, bent hand shovel, and various other waste that she has found that others previously had disregarded. We are so grateful to have such a small hero to come and gather all the crap that we have blissfully ignored.

So residents of Butler, don't you worry...our little hero seems to always be on the lookout for trash that you would never want your baby to touch or lick.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thought Bubble Thursday

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first (and quite possibly the last) installment of Thought Bubble Thursday! It's fun... and it's easy! Take a look at the photo below. You'll see our tiny human Madeleine trotting around her dominion while giving the camera an inscrutable expression. What in the world is she thinking!?! That's where you come in! Join millions of viewers and leave a comment with your best guess as to what's going on in that crazy child's head. We'll select our favorite and feature it in next week's Thought Bubble Thursday.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Einstein! (And pi day)

I love living in Princeton, and the fact that there is a three day festival about pi just makes it more awesome. Princeton celebrates Mr. Albert Einstein's birthday at the same time, because he was actually born on pi day! That man was destined to be a genius from the start. ;)

We sadly missed most of the festivities, but on the last day, we had a family date to the pi social hour at our lovely library. It was amazing activity and we had so much fun.

The pi day basket at the front desk of the library
When we got there the party was already in full swing. The band PiFight was rocking out, and people were enjoying themselves inside and outside of the library. 

Madeleine immediately found other tiny minions to dance, sing, and climb on fences with, so while Matt was busy watching her, I went to the cupcake shop across the street for pi cupcakes.

Madeleine rocking out

Princeton colors never looked so good. We sat outside, loving the beautiful weather and our community. Other parents and dog owners chatted with us and their dog pets and small humans played with each other. After an hour of that, it was time to sing happy birthday and eat cake!

The cake was tiger striped inside, which was a cute nod to Princeton.

On our way out of the library, I asked if I could have their's now framed and hanging in our bathroom.

When the sun started going down, we headed out to grab some pizza pie, before Matt went back up to work.

It was a fabulous family outing. Hopefully next year we can go to a few more celebrations.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Institute of Contemporary Art

So on our day at UPenn, we stopped by the Institute of Contemporary Art.
When I was looking for things to at UPenn, (this was before I found out how huge the campus is) I found out that this place was free to visit thanks to a grant that someone donated. I was really grateful for whoever gave that grant. Contemporary art is something that I'm trying really hard to learn to appreciate, but I'm not quite to the point that I'm okay with spending money on to see it. I usually end up not understanding or disliking 75% of it, so it's a bit harder for me to rationalize the money.

The other thing that I was immensely grateful for was the kind staff. They didn't say one thing about me bring Madeleine and our stroller in with all the stuff dangling off it. I overheard the man at the front desk give someone a long list of what was expected out of visitors. There were a lot of rules, and they didn't tell me any of them. It was sweet of them to not stress me out and just let me enjoy the museum. 

They do let people take pictures though, so I actually get to share some of the things I liked in the museum. :)

This was the beginning of the 2nd floor exhibit. I loved the big 50 for some reason. The typewriter was working, and they encouraged people to write something and leave it for the museum. Madeleine loves pressing buttons, so she left them her own message in gibberish. 

Right around the corner was this beautiful room.

I loved the balance of color to white space. The whole wall on the left was covered in the big bold paintings and to the left of them (not pictured) were two framed quilts and this statue titled "Pyramid Pumpkin."

This is the kind of contemporary art I don't really understand. It was cute though? So I took a picture.

This notebook was also in the room. Everyday of the exhibit, they turn the page. This was actually one of my two favorite art pieces in the museum. I love the ugly scribble, contrasting the beautiful art piece on the other page. It made me think that every artist starts somewhere and practice of any type is valuable. It motivated me to keep drawing, with the hope that my own ugly scribbles can one day be more like the beautiful picture on the right.

Around the corner were a few old tvs. I'm not sure what was on them, but it was part of a film exhibit.(Madeleine was being good and I figured I shouldn't test her by making her sit.) 

There was another movie half way down this hall way with a little nook for people to sit in and watch. Madeleine loved looking out the window at all the people below, giving me a chance to rearrange the stroller so I could carry her and the stroller down the stairs.

The hallway

In the nook
These stairs are just decorative, but I thought they were pretty cool.

The first floor...well...I didn't like almost anything on it. While it looked a little bit interesting, I didn't get the point. The funny thing was several of the artist had little essays explaining the art, and it just made me more confused.

I kept walking around trying to find something to connect with and of all things it was the carpet.

The piece is titled Carpet (Office and Ollie's Room) by Rodney McMillian.
When I read the title of the piece, my heart softened a bit at the ugly piece of carpet on the wall. I have no clue who Ollie is, but let me tell you, if Madeleine's floor could speak, it would have a lot to say. It would probably complain about all the food she throws under her little table. It would probably talk about how Matt fell asleep on it last night when he was trying to comfort her after she woke up screaming from teething pain. It might say that her running her cars all over it tickled, or that her dancing made it laugh. 

This hideous carpet does have a story to tell. Maybe even an important one, but I would have never thought about any of it, except for the fact that some guy named Rodney decided to see if he could make people think about it.

It's kind of weird to me to think about the carpet. Matt and I are currently working on minimizing our lives. While I'm pretty sure we'll never become true minimalist, we are drastically editing down our possessions. We don't own much compared to many people, and we had already gone through lots of our stuff when we moved to Princeton. At this point, most of the things we are getting rid of are sentimental. This ugly carpet made me realize that it's okay to stop and pause and think about the items that we are getting rid of, but in the end, I don't need to hold on to them. They all have to leave our home at sometime, otherwise they just sit there in our home museum with no purpose but to remind us of the past. 

When I got home, I was able to let go of a lot more of our things. Even if I didn't understand or even like 90% of the stuff at the Institute of Contemporary Art, I did leave learning something new, and it did change my perspective in a way that helping me achieve one of my dreams. 

Which I guess is really what contemporary art is all about.