House to Home - Pt. 1

When I first moved in with Carlos, and even when we were dating, the house was nothing to write home about. Initially it was very crowded, Carlos was going through a divorce and it was no secret that the ex had quite a hoarding problem. The place always felt very cold and generic to me. And while the house had a lot of potential it was lacking someone who had the time and the vision to love it. That’s where I come in! When it comes to my home I have quite the abundance of vision. I’ve always felt that your home should be the one place you want to go to, the place you just can’t wait to get to. This house was a whole new canvass of possibilities to me. 

I started first with just cleaning the place out. I can not begin to tell you the amount of junk I tossed out and the months or so it took just to reorganize every room. Once I was able to get the clutter under control I begin rearranging the set up of the rooms. I started with the boys’ room, which at the time had zero play space. Outside toys went back outside to the shed, toys they weren’t playing with and things they don’t use got tossed and before you knew it the room was a whole new place. Since then we ditched the crib and changing table and invested in a bunkbed which created twice as much space for them to be boys. 

I went through the same process with the other rooms in the house, but our bedroom was the first room to get the real Jen makeover. I like to think of the master bedroom as one of the most important rooms in the house to a couple, your sexy hideaway if you may. I wanted to create a romantic and clean feel with a little bit of masculinity. We started with clearing out the room and tossing out the sad curtains and plastic ceiling to floor blinds that were broken and just plain dated. Next to go was the terrible green and white striped wallpaper. Taking this down was certainly no walk in the park. Carlos had a wall steamer so we used that to get the paper off. The first issue we ran into with that was the first layer of paper coming off by itself, only to the leave the actual paper part behind it stuck to the wall. It was easy to just tear the first layer off and then steam the backing. It took a lot of time but after trying other methods that people had suggested, it turned out to be the quicker and less annoying method.

 

 

After getting off all the wallpaper, we had to joint compound any divots and holes in the wall that may have been created by things hung up on the wall or from our scrapers. After sanding down the joint compound we could finally move forward to my favorite part - painting! Now, I say it’s my favorite part only because seeing the color on the wall is visual progress and starts to bring the room together in my mind, it does not at all imply that I physically enjoy painting. In fact, this having been my first real painting experience, I quickly learned that not only do I dislike painting I am also very bad at it. Carlos has this born talent to just slap paint on a wall like a professional and he actually finds it relaxing. So it’s fair to say Carlos painted the walls. 

Once the painting was done we ripped up the orange shag carpet, pulled out the nails and tacks and cleaned the floors. A project that had taken us quite a few months due to time constraints was now finished. Since then we have greatly enjoyed our bedroom and it quickly became one of our favorite rooms in the house.

 

Potty Trained @ 2 (whoop whoop!)

  Call it my pursuit of imparting independence into the children or my vile hatred of changing poopy diapers. Whichever it is, I have been working hard at potty training the two year old. Mind you we only have him every other week and at least one day that week is spent at his grandma’s…where no effort to aide the training seems to be taking place. Not to mention his bio mom has admitted that she’s not around him enough to make much effort in his potty practices. So the job has been tough trying to teach a consistent habit to a child who currently lives an unfortunately inconsistent life (#stepparentproblems). But, have no fear, for I have had great success this past week! Dex turned 2 in May and I believe we began introducing the idea of using the potty the beginning of June. Of course some people have made comments that it’s too early for him, we’re expecting to much out of him. I totally disagree. Although every child is different, I believe parents have a common tendency to hold back from challenging a young child because they’re just not ready for their baby to grow up yet. Add this to the busy lives we all lead and the many people in a child’s life (family members, teachers, daycare providers) and it can be difficult to stay on top of something when everyone else has their own way. 


One thing that has been helpful in the process is that Dex has an older brother to mimic. Of course Vince is completely potty trained and wearing regular underwear so Dex has a role model of sorts to look up to. Outside of his older brother’s help it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been blessed to be home so I can put Dex on the toilet literally every 45 minutes to an hour. Carlos and I keep a jar of treats for Dex that he gets every time he uses the potty. We started out with Reese’s Pieces and have moved to Gummy Bears, he really enjoys those. He’s also in pull-ups which of course makes the process a lot easier than having to take a diaper on and off. We’ve also found that Dex aims to please, so when he has an accident all it takes is a simple look and statement of disappointment and he’s utterly heartbroken (which is pretty hard because he’s so stinking cute). Of course we have to consider whether his accidents were our doing if we waited to long to check in with him or if we didn’t let him finish using the bathroom while he was on the potty. All in all it’s been going very well. We’re now working on his efforts to tell us he has to go. Right now we simply ask him or just put him on the potty. 

Pretty Much The Coolest 2 Year Old! 

Pretty Much The Coolest 2 Year Old! 

I think it’s amazing the things a child can do and accomplish in such a short time when given a little nudge and some opportunity. I always tell Carlos that one benefit the kids have of me is that I’m not their bio mom, so I’m not swayed by the cuteness or the baby feelings mom’s go through with their kids. If I see they need direction I can give it to them straight without getting all emotional about it. I’m proud of that, because I have a two year old who goes to sleep with no fuss every night in a full size bunk bed, who can dress and undress himself and who is on his way to being fully potty trained long before he’s three - I may not be their real mom, but I’d say I’m doing a damn good job at something! High-fives to all the step parents out there, you’re doing great! :0) 

Maine Again - feat. Kids


So for the second time this year, soon to be third, we have made another trip out to our favorite place in America - Greenville, Maine. Typically we stay in a small cabin that overlooks the beautiful Moosehead Lake but this trip we decided to rent a camper and camp it out. We were also going to be bringing along Carlos’ two boys for the first time as well. A lot of new things with this trip! 

 

Our adventure started off sort of rocky, the boys’ mother was being very difficult about pick up time and ended up waiting until the last minute (literally 30 seconds away from contempt) to drop them off to us. Not to have our adventurous spirits squashed we decided that we would leave town that night anyway. It’s a six hour drive from where we are and we had made arrangements to stop at a Walmart on the way for some sleep. Both the boys were super stoked about going camping but were fast asleep within the first few minutes of being on our way. We made it to our Walmart location, wicked tired (it was about 2am) and piled into the camper for a quick sleep. 

 

The next morning after a quick Dunkin Donuts stop, in pure New England fashion, we were once again on our way to our favorite place. The campground was perfectly positioned right outside of the town but literally less than a mile from the town grocery store, which by the way is pretty much the most amazing place to go if you need anything, it’s like a small town Walmart with a sporting goods store attached to it. We got our camper all settled in and then released the children into the wilderness that was our little camp site. At first I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to take. They’re both pretty young (2 & 4) and this was essentially their first camping trip. To my surprise the oldest, Vince, took to the camp life almost immediately. He was running around gathering sticks, poking at worms and throwing around this little frisbee disc I got from the dollar store. He was in outdoor heaven. The littlest one not so much, I think it’s fair to say it took him about a whole day to warm up to the idea of having to be outside and do things. 

 

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When I look through our pictures from the trip I just laugh at how many things we were able to accomplish in one whole day. We played with the kids outside, we cooked turkey burgers and hotdogs on the fire, we explored the town and stopped at a few bodies of water to let the kids play around and so much more. Nighttime was my favorite part. All of us all snuggled up in the small space, the kids slept on the table bed and Carlos and I were on the actual bed but everything was pretty much right on top of each other. I turned on a random radio station that played through the camper, turned out to be soft christian music, it was perfection. 

 

Leaving of course was the hardest part, and always is when we visit here. But it was a very successful trip and one we plan to make with the kids again sometime next spring. As of now, Carlos and I are planning our new year’s in our favorite Greenville cabin! <3

 

<3 One of my Favs <3

<3 One of my Favs <3

 

Prior to leaving for our trip I did some searching on ideas to keep the kids occupied and involved without resorting to cellphone entertainment, which honestly you lose all cellphone service as soon as you get there - another reason we love the place! I also checked up on what the weather was going to be like while we were there so I could pack accordingly. Here are some tips on what worked for us on our camping trip.

 


1. Kids Activity Bag - This bag was honestly a life saver! I wanted the kids to have things to play with but I wasn’t about to pack their whole toy box. Staying in a small camper, you need to pack super light and easy to avoid clutter (I super hate clutter!). I also wanted the kids to use their imagination and explore a little, so I didn’t want to bring all sorts of toys. I brought them 2 digger trucks that they could use to put dirt, leaves and rocks in and a couple matchbox cars to roll around in the dirt with. I bought a bug catching kit and a frisbee disc from the dollar store, again, things that keep them moving around outside. Since we were going to have at least one day of rain while we were there I packed and planned some things the kids could do inside the camper (coloring books, puzzles, books to read and a “leaf people” craft) and held off on letting them use any of those things until the rainy day. Kids get bored easy so I didn’t want to give them everything I had brought all at once risking the chance that they would have colored/puzzled/playdoh'd themselves before rainy day. Everything fit perfectly into one medium sized backpack. This made it easy to carry, everything had a place and it took up hardly any space. 

 


2. Bring Extra Clothes - Essentially we were only at the campsite about 2 nights, not including the overnight at the Walmart. However, I packed for abo ut 5 whole days and I was so glad I did. Camping is super dirty when you’re having fun! Vince basically soaked himself at every place we stopped with water, this kid was walking through a stream almost waist deep just because he thought it was so fun. I was super thankful for extra shoes and lots of extra underwear! 

 


3. Keep Meals Simple - I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating Pinterest is when it comes to camping meals. I like to keep things cheap, simple and clean and I can’t justify lugging around a crockpot or spending a whole day wrapping foods up in foil - not to mention all the groceries you have to buy. Only camping for a few days just made those ideas seem like overkill. We visited the grocery store by the campsite and bought just enough to feed us. A couple packages of ground turkey, hamburger buns, loaf of bread we could use for peanut butter sandwiches and as hotdog buns, hotdogs, chips, poptarts and a couple little oven pizzas for the rainy day. We brought some of our own stuff we already had from home like peanut butter, crackers and ketchup. I brought along leftover plates, cups, napkins and silverware from a birthday party we had earlier this year for one of the kids. We were more than fed, we didn’t have a camper fridge full of food to empty at the end and everything worked out well. :)

Father of the Year

When I first met Carlos I knew right from the beginning that his two boys were a very important and permanent part of his life. He always amazed me at how well he could care for them and they love him so much. I’ve picked up over the past year that, as a woman, caring for kids is almost built into us naturally, but for men I believe it takes extra effort to be a good father. 

 

Carlos went through a divorce which left him in the throws of a custody battle. People around him would tell him that he wasn’t going to win, the mother always wins and he would be stuck never seeing his kids and paying thousands in child support. It was a very long stressful and sometimes frightening experience for him, being faced with the chance that the two most important people in his life may be taken away from him.

 

Carlos is pretty much one of the best fathers I know. He knows how to cook, he cleans, he’s very smart, can fix or build pretty much anything, a hard worker and above anything else his family always comes first. I’m done bragging, ladies he’s not for sale. :)  So many fathers are not given the recognition they deserve and due to tradition the mother is automatically seen as the primary care giver. In some case this may be true but not all families are built this way. 

 

Despite what others would tell him, he fought for his kids. Through the tears, the stress, the frustration and the thousands in court fees he fought and he won! Not only did he win 50/50 custody but contingent on a circumstance or two in the next year he is looking at full custody of his kids. 

 

We both believe in doing the right thing and there were many times Carlos would have to bite the bullet and take the high road or just be patient and trust time. Times are changing and there are many fathers out there who want and deserve to be a part of their children’s lives. I am just so proud of Carlos for going through the hard battle which is such a small price to pay so he can be around his kids forever. #Blessed

 

 

 

The Hiatus

I started this blog back a few years ago when I was going through a very rough transition in my life. Many new things were happening - new job, new apartment, new state, new hurdles - and I needed an outlet to share. Things quickly changed for me when I met this super awesome guy who was beyond anyone I would have ever seen myself with. That is when my world shifted and my hurdles changed once again. 

In the last year I have moved to a new town, I took a very big pay cut, I became a step mom by what almost seems overnight, I fell totally in love with this special guy and my outlook on life and what’s important has since shifted entirely. So far I’ve learned that life IS chaos completely and that embracing it is what makes it fun. 

I found it hard to write. Either because it felt like the time was never available to me or the desire was dead. I was learning how to take care of kids when I’ve only been a dog mom. I moved into a house that had been neglected for so long and needed some serious TLC. I started living paycheck to paycheck which made me self-conscious about who I was and my capabilities. I had adjusted to a mainly friendless life given that I live too far away from them all and my job schedule, at the time, made it impossible to maintain any sort of friendships. If I could describe the last 365 days of my life in one word I believe it would be something like “AAAAHHHH” or more formally - “pandemonium”. 

But I’m back! I have so much I want to share about everything - failed marriages, raising someone else’s kids, being so far from family and friends, trying to be everything for everyone including yourself - the list goes on. I’m literally running scared at this point in my life, but since I keep waking up every morning I might as well do something with all this crazy. :0) (Stay Tuned) 

Maine - I Love You!

  Carlos and I have made our second trip to Greenville, ME and of course it was nothing short of amazing. The drive there is beautiful and relaxing and as soon as you arrive you instantly understand why people love this place. We stayed in the same cabin that we stayed in our first time and it was like we had finally come home. The cellphone service usually cuts out within the first few hours, which we only care because we enjoy streaming our music while we relax on the deck. Otherwise, you wouldn’t care that you are, in a sense, unreachable to anyone else you know.

 

  For Carlos and I, we like to reflect on the past year, future plans, and present issues. We talked a bunch about buying land up there one day and putting a small vacation home there. Maybe one day we will even live there. We had dinner at a local restaurant right on the lake; even with the rain it was still such a romantic and peaceful meal. We made a friend at a local café store and spent time in the antique shop where I purchased our moose skull last year for $25.  I even brought my old pup, Hope, to enjoy some rest and relaxation as well. I know the new puppy is wearing her out and she enjoys lying out on the deck and enjoying the fresh air.

 

  We’ve already made plans to spend New Year’s there but we’re thinking we may sneak up there in the fall as well. There is just no place like it. I think Carlos might have said he loved the place about a million times while we were there. As soon as we got back he started looking at cabins to build and land – this man is seriously in love. :)

 

  I can’t wait to go back, I could seriously spend every single weekend up there and not think twice about it. Thank you Moosehead Hills for sharing you small piece of heaven with us! <3 

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We Went to Vermont

Waturbury Vermont to be exact. With our new busy schedules getting seemingly out of control I had decided we needed a small getaway to regain our energy and some sanity. Additionally, my love turned 30 on Christmas Eve and since that’s not exactly the perfect time to celebrate, we pushed the celebration back on a weekend we would have to ourselves. 

 

I booked a B&B (Moose Meadow Lodge), which I figured should be interesting since neither myself nor my love had ever stayed at a B&B before. And in all my investigative ways I studied everything about the place and checked the reservation calendar obsessively until the day we left. As luck would have it, we had the entire place to ourselves for the weekend and it was nothing short of amazing. We actually relaxed! We spent both nights in the hot tub, enjoyed a cigar on the front deck, took a steam shower, baked a cake in the beautiful kitchen, and enjoyed beer and late night pizza. We did venture out to the Ben & Jerry’s factory but found we enjoyed the area much better from the comfort of the B&B. It snowed almost the entire time we were there and it was just wonderful. 

 

Now we’re home and it’s back to business as usual. After all the sleep I’ve acquired over the past 3 days, I have found the time and energy to get all the ornaments off the tree. Our poor tree has been staring at us since New Year and every weekend I say I’m going to take it town….and somehow the time gets filled up with other priorities. Hopefully this weekend will be different. :) 

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When Work Isn't Working Out

January has just arrived and already it is the year of solid decisions. Many had a rather enjoyable 2016 and even more had a rather terrible 2016. Previously I had made a tough decision to go down to part time at my job and within weeks this quickly turned into me deciding to leave altogether. It’s common, especially for me, to hold onto to things that are not helping me if it’s helping someone else in the long run. Needless to say the job was turning me into a terrible person. I even had to admit to myself that I was becoming a monster. I decided to leave and informed my boss of all the whys and that I was currently looking for another job.

 

The decision actually sucked quite a lot. I felt that I had been brought through here for a reason but I didn’t understand why everything just fell a part right there in front of me. I’m always looking for the underlying message in everything. I question whether I rushed things or whether I was ever really supposed to be there. Maybe it was a sign that the world of dancing, as much as I loved it, just wasn’t for me and this was my attempt to say I tried.

 

Within a couple days my boss turned to me and said the greatest thing ever. “I’m willing to compromise, I need you and I don’t want you to leave”. We sat behind the desk for about an hour and crunched numbers and ran scenarios until we came up with a plan to get me where I need to be. This had me thinking about how important it is to value yourself.

 

We generally hold a lot of value in our jobs because it pays our bills and we don’t want to upset the people we work with or for. But how does our jobs value us? In this society we are beat down to nothing everyday. Everywhere we look there is the perfect body you will never achieve, the unrealistic lifestyles that only exists on television, and the constant judgment of the world on our heads for everything we do, think, or say. If you’re looking to wallow in self-pity, you’re no more than a power button away from all the torture you could want.

 

I deal with fear and failure on a daily basis. All of my new students start out by telling me how terrible they are. They’re preparing me for their failure, they’re preparing themselves for their failure, and they haven’t even stepped out on the dance floor yet. This very thing happens to us everywhere else. We don’t go to the gym because we think we will look stupid or we’re too fat and people will stare at us. We accept a minimal raise and allow supervisors or others to mistreat us and run our lives because we feel that is what we deserve and somehow their status confirms that they are better or smarter than us.

 

These are all lies. Take an inventory of the things you value most and put them in order. Maybe you have family that you don’t see or spend any time with because you’re always working. Your health is very important and maybe that is lacking because you’re depressed, stressed out, or don’t have the time for yourself.

 

Here was my scenario: I have this job that is very rewarding and fun. I get to make people laugh, face their fears, and become amazing dancers. I really enjoy my job. But, financially it wasn’t happening for me. I couldn’t pay my bills with what I was making there and this began to put a lot of stress on me. I am a very independent person and when I have to start leaning on others for help I start to have a lot of issues. My relationships were beginning to suffer. I wasn’t seeing my better half hardly at all due to our schedules and when his kids were here it was the same thing. He felt like they were living their own life and I was always working. I felt that way too. Easily I could have said that I have a job and this is just life, but I would be wrong. I had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. On top of never seeing anyone at home, I was becoming a mean and angry person. So when people did see me I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. I didn’t want to leave my job but I had to think about the damage that was being done in the long run. I was sacrificing time, I didn’t have any money, I was sacrificing relationships and my sanity all because I enjoyed parts of my job and I didn’t want to disappoint my boss who I know really needed me there.

 

Don’t be afraid to value yourself. I stepped out on a limb to leave and actually got a better result than I could have expected. If my boss had not stopped me and offered an alternative I still would have been fine in the long run. With a new year comes a new beginning for a lot of people. Don’t be afraid to step out and make the changes and sacrifices you need to so you can be happy where it truly counts.