Tuesday, May 31, 2016

From the weekend

This weekend was all about relaxing.  And there's not much to say beyond that.  It was three days I was very thankful for.  I'll let these iPhone pictures with slightly crazy lighting to tell the rest of our 3 day weekend story.

About to head out on a family date night!  This picture brought to you by my streaky mirror.

We started our Saturday with a big trip to Goodwill.  Anything that doesn't get frequent use went to the thrift shop.  This cradle was one of the things to go, and it was surprisingly difficult to see this cradle go.  The first big purchase we made for Ella and the one we had to most save for, it brought back a flood of memories.  Neither of our kids slept well in it, so we decided it was time to part ways.

Our weekend coffee pit stop.  Ella was off with the toys, of course.

Ella's new favorite thing - being outside as much as she can playing as much as she can.  She loves kicking the ball, playing catch, and blowing bubbles.  Perfect summertime fun!

Babies rolling around on the carpet.  Is there anything cuter?

These two are so funny together.  I've never heard Ella laugh so much more than when she's with her cousin Owen.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why this selfie is everything


Wednesday // Thursday 

This past weekend, I had, I guess, what you could call a breakdown of sorts.  On Saturday, I found myself succumbing to built up pressure and pain and it spiraled into 3 days of not getting ready, no appetite, a lot of crying, and the general overall feeling of being sick.

In an effort to continue to candidly document my journey with anxiety and depression, I plan to write a post on all this soon, but for now I'm celebrating my win for the week.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up in pain, both physical and mental.  The physical symptoms of depression always amaze me.  My body ached and it was an effort to move.  With my initial first few minutes out of bed already against me, I didn't want to attempt the already full and growing to-do list that awaited for me when I got downstairs.

But with any sort of mental battle, sometimes the mindset of taking it day-by-day turns into taking it hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.  I ended up eating a bit and fell into the couch.  Just like in recent days, Tim stepped in and got the kids ready.  And, while on the couch, I thought what if I just go upstairs and wash my face.  Upon completing that, I thought what If i just put on some concealer? That turned into putting on lipstick and then going out for coffee and then doing the dishes and then making the healthy lunch I'd been putting off making for 4 days.  By the end of the day, I thought what if I workout?  Realizing the time, I thought, no.  I'll wait until tomorrow morning.  And then I thought, well, what if it's just a short workout?  Kids in bed, I got my workout clothes and ended up doing a long, hard workout.

Post workout shower, post workout snack, I sat with Tim and told him I couldn't believe the place I had been in 72 short hours ago and where I ended up.  And it all started with a what if, a just if I can do this. 

I'm a big believer in recognizing the baby steps.  And this is why.  Success, of any kind, starts with a push to get up the stairs, wash your face, and just keep moving.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A's 6 month update

Photo credit:  Francis & Louise.  Check out more of the beautiful work here
The cutest out of focus picture there ever was.
Archer is...6 months old.

One word to describe Archer is...sweet.

He's eating...all the time!  He's tried avocado, sweet potatoes, and pears.

He loves...shirts being pulled over his head, Thadius (his bear), food, jumping, watching his big sister jump, and babbling.

He has...two bottom front teeth and a lot of hair.

He's in...9-12 month clothing.

He sleeps...really well.  Two good naps during the day and 9-10 hours at night.

Our favorite thing about him is...his huge smiles.  When he smiles, it consumes his entire face, his two bottom teeth show and all hearts melt immediately.

(Check out Ella's 6 month update here.  Hilariously enough, she's in a tutu today.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Discovering Portland: The Grotto


On Sunday, we ventured outside of Vancouver and headed into Portland.  This was after I 'Googled' places to see in Portland.  We're not done being tourists in our own city yet!  The Grotto popped up on the must-see list, and it seemed like the perfect place to spend our leisurely Sunday before closing out our weekend with Mass.  We piled in the car, grabbed a latte, and drove down to one of the most beautiful places.  We walked around the massive outdoor shrine, and it was breathtaking.  It's 62 acres full of greenery and the tallest trees.  We took some time on the grounds, took some pictures (obviously) and set aside time to pray.  After, we discovered that there was an elevator that took you about 100 feet or so up to a whole other part of The Grotto.  So up we went.  Pictured directly above is the view right as you step out of the elevator.  Gorgeous, right?

Since we were outside, Ella was totally in love with her surroundings.  Her jumping in every little puddle along the path slowed us down a bit but served as a reminder of the grand beauty that lies in the simple joys.  Living in this part of the country is such a gift.  It seems like there's only a 10 minute drive that separates you from a hidden gem.  Everything is beautiful.  I'm beyond happy the PNW has its own chapter in our lives, and I can't wait to make this a regular vacation spot for our family!  But until then, while we're still here, we'll keep trying to unlock all the hidden treasures we can find.

(Vlog coming soon!)

Monday, May 23, 2016

From the weekend

Introducing A to solids!  He's been having the rice cereal for a while now, so I wanted to try my hand at homemade baby food.  I gotta say, the process of making it by myself is no where near as demanding as I thought it would be.  The avocado?  Cut it up, smashed, and served.  The sweet potato?  Peeled, cut, cooked (while I worked out), cooled, blended, and served.  He's been devouring it!  Next up?  Pear!

I give the you vanilla cinnamon latte.  The best kind of latte I've had, my new favorite, and the very reason why cheat day exists.  Back to black coffee for the week!

Her current favorite treat is this banana bread from our favorite coffee shop.

On Sunday, we went out and discovered a beautiful place!  A post on that tomorrow.  It was the perfect place to spend a Sunday.

Happy Weekend! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

A week in pictures

I was getting situated after getting home from a doctor appointment when Ella came downstairs, her prayer book in hand saying "pra."  It was the perfect pause to a full, hectic morning.

To the left?  Outside all day every day with this girl.  It's her new thing.  And to the right?  Explains why she hasn't been able to be outside much this week.  Good ole PNW rain.

Leave it to this girl to make sure little A's never alone.  While I was making dinner, she grabbed her chair, played, and kept him company.

To the left?  Ella/Mama baking session.  And to the right?  Yeah, that's her wearing my purse.  "Ready!"

My absolute favorite thing about Washington -- the purple mountain skyline.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Goodbye, Student loans: Finding balance

Jar o change.  While on the cash system, we save any leftover change.  It's proven to be a fairly effective method of saving -- bought us a date or 2!
When I took on the finances and researched how to best crush debt, I quickly found myself treading in a sea of advice, success stories, and tried and true methods.  It was overwhelming.  Up until getting married, I had practiced the Save 20% of Everything You Earn method (thanks to my Gramps).  It was simple, and I liked it.  But finances became complex and responsibilities broadened when Tim and I got married.  My simple method needed tweaking, as we couldn't afford to save 20% of what we earned.  The entirety of each paycheck went to bills, cost of living, and baby.

After nearly three years of our marathon, I think I've finally reached a healthy mindset.  It's one of balance and feeling okay about the occasional treat yourself moment. Paying off debt is a marathon, not a sprint.  It takes persistence and goal setting.  And it's a marathon that can be is tiring.  It can make you question every little purchase, and if you're looking at a large number to pay down, questioning regularly needed purchases gets unhealthy.

When we were first starting out, we weren't able to put anymore money toward debt than the minimum payments.  After no longer needing to save for hospital bills, moving to a place with lower rent, and Tim picking up a second job we were slowly able to begin to snowball.  And with 6 paid off debts, 2 paid off ahead of schedule, we're at the point where we've begun to see our hard work paying off in goals reached.

Typically, with the snowball method, once you've paid down one debt all the money from your previous debt payments goes to the next debt in line, but in our recent finance talk we discussed the idea of taking a minor break to allow ourselves some breathing room - an award for reaching our goals ahead of schedule.  We talked about how we didn't know if we'd ever live on the West Coast again and how we'd like to experience it as best we can as a family while we are here.  So we decided to relocate the snowball money and put some toward two mini weekend getaways.

Some financial experts may disagree with this move, but the sole problem I've found in doing any sort of research on paying down debt, is these plans never account for a "Sunday" - a time for a breather, a treat, a time to reflect on the hard work that's been accomplished and what's ahead, a break for a boost in morale.  Of course, nothing irresponsible.  With a break sticking to budgets and having a plan is key.  Know exactly when you're going to pick up on your snowball and proceed.  The brief hiatus will no doubt give you that pep in your step to keep plugging along.

What I've learned most in paying down debt and sticking to a budget is you have to be realistic.  To keep our heads down for six straight years, putting all resources toward student loans so we can pay them off three years early is an ideal plan but can be a little too ambitious.  We could get burned out which would result in falling off off our plan entirely.  It's best to approach the big picture with a level head and allow yourself time for a Sunday.

(Find Where We've Been, here.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ella as a two-year-old

Photo credit: Francis and Louise 
I have gone back and forth a hundred different times debating if I want to consistently write about Ella in the update-sort-of-way.  Do I want to publicly document milestones, first words, favorite things she does?  When she's 16, will she be indignant that I chose to share she pronounced "cup" as "pah" or "duck toy" as "doe-doe"?  Or since she will undoubtedly grow up in a technologically entrenched (and social sharing) world, will she be indignant...that I didn't?  I already have my guidelines, parameters by which I determine what's okay and what's not okay to post.  But I can't help but to keep coming back to wanting to share the cuteness that is Ella James.  Her joy radiates and her light shines brighter than I could have ever hoped, so for now, I'm going to revisit sharing some regular updates (if you will) on our sweet girl.

Ella's seemed to totally come into her toddler self over the past few months.  Always a bit reserved as a baby, she's left a little of that shyness behind and has grown into a cheery little thing who runs over and plays with little kids in the toy area at our favorite coffee shop.  She'll share toys and want to jump and run and do anything that involves saying "peace out mom and dad!"  And it's been awesome to witness.  For me, age 3 can't come soon enough, because I think she will love and totally benefit from pre-school!

Ella is...2 (Check out her second birthday here!)

Her favorite food is...applesauce

Some words in her vocabulary are...mama, dada, Archie, home, off, outside, ball, shoes, hat, treats, applesauce, cat, dog.

Some of her favorite activities are...jumping, playing outside, coloring, playing with puzzles, reading.

The sweetest thing she does is...(do I have to choose?)  1) Folds her hands for prayers before mealtime, nap time and bedtime, 2) she gives her little brother a hug and kiss after he wakes up and before she goes to bed, 3) she brings me things I use in the morning (like my slippers).

My favorite thing she does is...what I call 'the headcount.'  She'll sometimes, before we're about to go out or something, say mama, dada, Archie, Ella.  That's it.  It's the freaking cutest and it's in those moments I feel most like a family.

I'm most proud of her when...she kneels and folds her hands in church and says thank you when she's given something.

She makes me feel most like a mom when...she runs to me or brings me a book saying 'mama.'

She's learning...to draw lines, say 1-2-3, animals & their sounds, and a few colors.

Her favorite stuffed animal...is still Lamby.

My favorite recent moment of her...was while at the beginning of Mass, the priest started to say In the name of the Father...and she did the Sign of the Cross.

(What was Ella up to at 1-year-old? Last update, here)

Monday, May 16, 2016

From the weekend

Well, I fell asleep on the couch watching a documentary on the Mackinac Bridge on Sunday.  This is in no way reflective of the productivity from this weekend.  But it is reflective of the weather.  This weekend was full of raindrops and sweatshirts, so inside we were.  This week is all about getting back into the swing of things.  We finally have a routine that involves rested parents.  Over the past month, things have...fallen to the wayside.  Laundry, deep cleans, workouts, etc.  Thankfully eating healthy was not one of those things.  So that's where you'll find me today - rag in hand, drowning in mismatched toddler socks and clean bedding.

Happy Monday.  May your coffee be strong and your weather be bright.

That moment when you take a picture with your kid not realizing there's spit up on their face.  But, it was cute anyway.

What I like to call chaos in the kitchen.  Making our favorite protein pancakes.   

Flowers that taught me a little lesson.  Tim ran out to the store to pick something up for me, came home, and asked me three times in ten minutes to run out to the car 'cause he forgot something.  Not going to lie, I was a liiiittle annoyed.  Gimme a sec!  I thought.  I went out and found these sitting in the front seat.  Yeah.  Oops.  I was so grateful.  I couldn't shake feeling totally bummed out that day, but leave it to my husband to make it better.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Celebrating the wins

The Lochner Household is rolling into the weekend a changed household.  For the past few weeks, we've been transitioning Ella from her crib into her toddler bed.  And it has not been easy.  Ella's been an easy sleeper basically since she exited the womb, so this was an adjustment for all of us.  After many nights of it taking hours to put her down, her waking up in the middle of the night not wanting to go back to sleep, and resorting to putting her in our bed, we needed to learn what worked best for her in terms of "sleep training."  There are a handful of techniques and tips out there explaining to you, the exhausted parent, how to get your toddler to stay in bed and get a good night's rest.  It wasn't until we were in midst of this transition that I began to understand the phrases "all kids are different" and "do what works best for your family."  Many of these techniques didn't work for Ella.  A commonly mentioned technique was every time the toddler runs to the gate, walk them back to their bed without acknowledgement or frustration.  After so many times, the toddler is supposed to understand not to get out of his/her bed.  This just freaked Ella out.  It did not work at all.  We finally ended up adding a part to our nap time and nighttime routines where we explained to her "it's time to sleep" and tell her we're excited to see her when she wakes up and after a good rest we can play with our toys.  (Kids understand way more than they're given credit for.)  We said our goodnights, blew our kisses, and in her bed she stayed.  And it was life-changing.  She hasn't been sleeping well for over 3 weeks.  And if you have a toddler, you know sleep, schedules, and staying fed is everything to to them.  She got to the point where she broke down over nearly everything and didn't want to walk when we went out.  After our new routines, she woke up from her nap earlier this week back to her old self -- happy and dancing.  We decided to celebrate the win and rewarded her with a family trip out for her ice cream.  And the same night she slept a full 9 hours in her bed.  No fuss, no running to the gate.  And for the first time in long while, Tim and I got solid sleep, too.  The biggest cherry on top is I'm writing this as she's laying in her bed quietly for nap time - awake but content.

So we are literally dancing into this weekend totally well-rested.  Since we now have two fast-growing kids, I'm beginning to understand more of the parenting cliché every day.  And why debates on parenting styles are so emotionally fueled.  What works for one kid truly may not work for another.  It's up to us to do our part in being informed about what's good for our kids, but it's also on us to put the books down and understand our own kids and cater to their specific needs.

Monday, May 9, 2016

From the weekend

We here in the Lochner Household are in the process of finding a new routine.  Over the past couple weeks, both kids have been reaching milestones.  Ella's made the transition out of her crib into a toddler bed, which has been a learning process for both her and Tim and I.  While in her crib, her sleeping schedule was near flawless (and we definitely took that for granted).  We did our nighttime routine, put her in her crib, and she slept for a good 10-12 solid hours.  Making the transition from crib to bed has made the nighttime routine more demanding.  She may get out of her bed, she often wakes up in the middle of the night, and wakes up far earlier than she used to.  Napping has also become a hit or miss. And as for Little A?  He is teething like it is his job.  Now having 2 kids, it's interesting to notice the differences between the two and to learn and understand how all kids really are different.  Teething didn't phase Ella.  But Archer started teething far earlier than Ella did.  And it's been difficult for him. His sheer screams of pain have dominated evenings and we've given Tylenol, teethers, cold rags, etc. And because of all this, Tim's and my individual routines have fallen off the rails.  But we're learning and accommodating, trying to gather ourselves and get into a new rhythm.  Mother's Day was made all the sweeter by this, too.  It was especially relaxing to put all aside and spend the day as a family.  Tim and the kids spoiled me, and I appreciated every second.

Our teething bud.

I managed to slip away for an hour on Saturday for confession and quiet time.  Even an hour away is totally rejuvenating.  

We spent part of Mother's Day finalizing plans for our upcoming trip to San Diego and LA.  Pretty stoked for that.

Always keep my hometown near and dear to my heart, but on Mother's Day especially I think about my loved ones back home.  There are so many people that have helped to mold my heart into a mother's.  Since becoming a mom, I'm in awe of them more than ever.


My squad.  Part crazy, totally sweet, and completely lovable.  Thanks so these munchskins for giving me the title of "mom."  Who knew sleep deprivation could be so enjoyable?