One Milestone Down
So I’ve been meaning to do a blog about this amazing place for quite some time. Truth is, when I go, the only thing I’m thinking about is tacos. #foodieproblems So finally, here it is.
Starting out, this place was firstly a food truck. You can see their truck parked right behind the restaurant. Apparently it was such a hit, no surprise there, that the owner decided to try a standing spot. Best.Decision.Ever.
Now it’s not a big space and it’s connected to some sort of tiny sandwich shop, but it is every part of the word amazing. On this particular visit, Easter day at 4pmish which is when they open, we were able to get right in and get a table. This never happens. Of course by 4:45 there was already a wait for a table, so today we were the lucky ones. Every other time we have ever come to Mission Cantina, there is nothing short of a 45 minute to an hour wait. And as crazy as this is going to sound, Carlos and I have actually waited 2 hours to get a table. Sorry people, it’s just that darn good.
It’s a dark little place packed with candy skull decor. Because they open later in the day the staff is the same and they’re just as awesome. The menu is small, which I love, there’s nothing more aggravating than going somewhere to eat and trying to decide between 3 pages of options. All the options are fresh and you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose.
My recommendation would be to start out with the queso fundido appetizer. It’s packed with cheese, onions, peppers, chorizo (the best part), and other veggies. It comes with chips and is so delicious! I generally could eat one of these myself. Safe to say I don’t hold back when it’s Mission Cantina night.
For my meal I usually get 3-4 loaded tacos with chorizo, I love chorizo. Their tacos come with chopped onions, tomatoes, and what seems to be pickled cucumbers along with your usual lettuce and crema. You don’t need the beans and rice to fill yourself up, this will do the trick. The flavors are fantastic, you can taste the freshness of everything.
Their drinks are great as well. I typically stick to a bottled beer but Carlos really enjoys their margaritas. There’s never anything left to take home and you leave feeling super satisfied with life. I could gloat about this place all day. We typically go to eat here just about once a week. I love mexican food and I have never found a place more delicious than this. There’s even a happy dance that occurs once my tacos have arrived - you would have to eat here to understand. This is hands down a must try if you are in the Amherst, MA area.
For a blended family, holidays require a little more effort if you want to make memories and keep traditions. This year, the boys were set to spend Easter with their bio mom. For us this means they will stay the evening before Easter with her and we will get them back the evening of Easter. We wanted to have a family get together so to accommodate the schedule we chose to have a brunch Saturday morning with Easter festivities to follow. Keep in mind we had just gotten home from the Hospital Friday afternoon for Carlos’ neck surgery and had to pick the kids up the same evening along with a grocery store run for Saturday’s brunch menu - so the house was a little hectic.
I chose to make a super yummy breakfast crescent ring that I’ve made only once before and something new I hadn’t tried, a french toast bake that everyone loved. The adults indulged in tequila sunrise mimosas and the kids enjoyed fresh fruit cut into bunny and egg shapes. The brunch was an all around success - which is crucial to my southern roots of perfectionism and hospitality. Plus we got to use our newly built table that comfortably fit everyone including the food.
After stuffing ourselves with tequila and breakfast we retired to the backyard for the traditional easter egg hunt. This year was a lot more fun because Dex, who is almost 3, was able to run around on his own and find his egg colors without too much help.
Once everyone had found all their eggs and the adults did a walk through of the yard for stragglers (which turned up hours later when the kids went to play outside) we went inside to unveil the goodies.
As the kids emptied the eggs, we blew up all the balloons which kept the kids entertained for a couple hours popping them, hiding them, and trying to see who can keep their balloon up the longest. It was also Carlos’ mom’s birthday so we did cake and candles. We got blessed with some beautiful spring weather so of course we went back outside to take advantage of that. Around here you never know when another snow storm will pop up. It was so nice being out in the sun while the kids played in the yard.
We finished up our early Easter by dying eggs. Dex really enjoyed this, he was so fascinated by his eggs I could barely get him to look into the camera with the others. Before the kids left to go to their moms, their aunt and grandma surprised them with easter baskets. What a day!
My heart was so full. We couldn’t believe all the stuff we were able to accomplish in a few short hours but everyone had such a great time. These are the things I look forward to and hope that the kids always remember and cherish. Happy Easter!
Carlos has been a proud member of the United States Air Force for approximately 12 years. However, as with most military jobs, the wear and tear of required gear and the job tasks in general can result in many physical problems. For Carlos, 2-3 of the vertebrae in his neck had worn down and begun to rub and squish against his spinal cord. After months of physical therapy and shopping around for a good doctor that actually cares, we chose a neurosurgeon at Mass General Hospital in Boston (Best.Decision.Ever)
You never know exactly what to expect when you’re planning your stay at a hospital. We knew we would be staying at least 2 days but of course it could always be more. I packed for simplicity about as possible as a female can. Same pair of jeans, 3 different sweatshirts, one pair of sweats and shirt to sleep in, and of course the hygienic necessities.
The night before we couldn’t sleep and in no time 4am was upon us. It took about an hour and a half to get to Boston and we shuffled into the quiet empty hospital expecting to be the only ones there for surgery. We immediately burst into laughter, we turned the corner to the room and standing in a long line were about 30-40 other people apparently also having surgery that morning. Thankfully the line was moving along pretty quick. We were checked in with a little hand held pager that was something out of Texas Roadhouse and found a little spot in the massive waiting room to sit.
Before long he was taken back to change and prep for surgery and I was left to the adventures of exploring the ginormous maze that is Mass General. There’s a surgical family waiting room set a part for those who want to wait comfortably and stay up to date on their loved ones status. This quickly became my home for the next 8-9 hours. The room is ran by a nurse and two volunteers. Once you check in, they let you know when your loved one’s surgery has begun, when it ends, and when you can request to see them. I picked a space on a long desk with a privacy window and plenty of outlets so I could do some of my work. I am definitely blessed to have a job I can literally take with me anywhere. I also brought a book for any work downtime and I made a couple trips to the cafe down the hall for coffee, water, and a muffin. The cafe was uber cheap which is great when you’re stuck waiting for so long. Plus you’re in the middle of downtown Boston, you don’t want to have to go anywhere.
Carlos was in surgery for a little over 2 1/2 hours. His doctor came down to tell me everything went great, which was awesome. A couple hours after that I was told I could finally go see him. I followed a volunteer through winding halls and about two elevators until we had finally arrived at his recovery spot. I say spot because that’s just what it was. The teeniest of spaces with just enough room to fit a stretcher. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I would see him so my nerves were a little wrecked right before I walked up to him. He was obviously very tired and in a lot of pain. All in all, his incision looked great and I squeezed into the space, popped open my book and let him rest until we could get into an actual room. There was no phone signal in the recovery area and I had been updating friends and family for the past 8 hours, but it was nice to know he was ok and enjoy the quiet alone time we had for a couple hours.
He finally got a room and so began the treck through more halls and only one elevator this time. The room was amazing. Because we were in Boston and in such a huge hospital, we assumed he would be in a shared room and that was if he got a room initially at all. That wasn’t the case, he was given a beautiful private room with plenty of space and not too bad of a view. Not like that mattered since the only direction Carlos could see was straight.
The next three days was spent trying to get back to a new normal. Carlos would take little walks that felt like refreshing 5 minute escapes and we experimented with what he could actually swallow. So far it’s been yogurt, broth, and lots of ice water. It’s taking him a bit to get used to help. He and I are very independent people and so needing help with shoes, pants, and anything that requires bending down can be frustrating. He’s stuck with a very fashionable neck collar for the next two months and will begin physical therapy after that to learn new posture and movement techniques.
The nurses and staff at Mass General were beyond more than we could ever have asked for. They are genuinely dedicated to their profession and really love what they do. Since we’ve come home, Carlos has posted up in the basement recliner that we moved into the living room and I’ve taken up on the couch. Things like this sometimes make you do an inventory of your relationship and how far we’ve come. Things could have been worse or gone badly, but they didn’t and for that I’m very thankful. For now we’re looking forward to less pain and some rest and relaxation at home.
Having to get up at 5:30 in the morning on a non working day is not my idea of excitement unless I’m going on vacation. Carlos had a doctor appointment in Boston for his neck, and being the supportive team member I am, I gladly accompanied him on the 2 hour road trip to the big city. After leaving the appointment and running on what fumes we had left from our coffee stop we were ready to eat - one of my favorite things to do.
Since we don’t typically find ourselves in the Boston area very often, we wanted to eat somewhere super yummy that we can’t get close to home. I did a quick search on my Google maps to see what was nearby and saw Cheesy Street Grill. The reviews were great, almost 5 stars and everyone had something awesome to say about the food and staff. I was sold. I mean c’mon, gourmet grilled cheese that’s amazing…who just passes that up?
I plug it in and we end up at a gas station stop off the pike. First I was thinking no way this is right. Carlos even suggests we go somewhere else because this wasn’t what he had in mind. If you’re not aware, the pike offers rest stops that are less than appetizing. It’s usually overcrowded, semi dirty and your food choices are generally Mc Donalds, some sort of pizza place and a sandwich shop. It’s not your ideal place to stop and get a bite unless you’ve been trapped in the car for 8 hours, have to pee, and going to start eating your fingers if you don’t see a drive thru stat. But, at 4 . 8 stars and awesome reviews I was more curious than anything to find out what was really going on inside this rest stop.
We walked in to find the Cheesy Street Grill right next to a pizza place and a Mc Donalds. The menu is simple but amazing, which I love. Carlos ordered an Italian sandwich which was a delicious mixture of cheese, prosciutto and red peppers with some other yummy ingredients and I had the chipotle chicken, which was recommended by Lisa the owner. The food was nothing short of everything you could ever hope a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich would be. I have to say that given the location I was happily surprised at how delicious these sandwiches were.
Lisa was awesome. She started her yummy sandwiches out on a food truck and then moved into a solid location. She has two other places in the eastern part of Massachusetts but was looking to put her next location into the soon to be opened Springfield Casino. This excites me, that casino will be 15 minutes from me and I can’t wait to add another local place to my picky list of places you just have to eat at! I’m so glad we found this little gem, and Lisa is just the sweetest. I’m looking forward to checking her spot out in Springfield soon. - Check them out at https://www.cheesystreetgrill.com
So my younger brother saw a place in Brooklyn, NY on Facebook that had an axe throwing bar. We all thought this could turn into a really cool trip out to New York, but as it turns out, we have an axe throwing bar right here in Massachusetts called Agawam Axe. Well it’s not a bar, more like axe throwing with a snack bar. Either way, the thought of throwing around axes as a method of fun sounds…well….fun!
We gathered a few friends and off we were to throw some axes. Honestly we had no idea what to actually expect. We pulled up to a small warehouse and walked in to be greeted by some really awesome staff. I believe they were all from Canada and were more than stoked to get us in and show us their stuff.
I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve had in a bit. Probably due to the fact that I was somehow a complete natural at throwing axes (who knew!) and was kicking everyone’s butt! There were 4 throwing lanes with 2 wooden axe boards in each lane so you could compete against your friends. Everyone had so much fun trying to get a bullseye and trying out small and large axes to see which one was better.
You get an hour of play and it seems to pass by perfectly. By the time we were all axed out we had about 3 minutes left before we were done. The price wasn’t bad at $20 a person. If you compared this to doing an escape room, which is also $20 a person, I would say your money is far better spent axe throwing. I am totally looking forward to going back. I personally think this place would be spectacular if they had a sports bar type of place connected to it, but it seems to be just enough on its own. It’s a totally fun idea for girls night, date night or hell, even if you want to go alone and let out some frustration. It’s plain good, clean fun and has Carlos and I considering something of the like in our backyard for the summer.
I could go miles on this subject but to spare you the 300 pages I’ll keep it as simple as I can. :)
Getting a divorce these days is seemingly just as easy as getting married, and sometimes can cost just as much. It’s nothing I think that any person is proud of doing and certainly not anticipated in the beginning of the marriage. Divorce is a very emotionally and mentally tough thing to do no matter what the circumstances. It is a public declaration to everyone around you that your marriage didn’t work, you were wrong about her or him and now you have to start all over again. In so many cases it leaves a person feeling used up and broken. You now have this metaphorical baggage that you have to carry with you everywhere. You have this “thing” you have to break to every new relationship which can be a deal breaker in some cases.
Then let’s say you’ve been divorced more than once. Well, hang up your shoes and put in your cat lady application because you’ve officially ruined your relationship future. Now every time someone asks, it becomes a long drawn out story to rectify that you’re not actually crazy.The thing is, this is so far from the reality of your actual life. This is what society makes you feel, how they see you. Now you have to settle for someone half as good or someone else who is divorced because you’ve already bought your train ticket. Then the second or third marriage becomes a teeny tiny ceremony that no one knew anything about because well it’s not the first so no need to send out those second round of wedding invitations. It’s like divorce strips you of the rights and happiness you actually deserve.
I know there are plenty of people out there who can agree with me when I say that some of the most awesome couples I’ve ever met were divorced. Now, that doesn’t mean I think you have to get divorced to have a great marriage. It is possible to get it right the first time. But, if you don’t, all hope is not lost. I could offer you some amazing relationship insight based on my relationships that didn’t work out. You see, when you got a divorce you got this second chance to be more picky. You experienced something you didn’t like or maybe you did something terrible and your own actions ruined your marriage. Now you’ve learned a valuable lesson for the next relationship. A good relationship becomes so much more to you than it was the first time.
I will share something that I for sure never imagined I would let the world see. After my second marriage failed, I asked myself what I really wanted. What was I actually looking for? I needed to know what I wanted so that I wouldn’t settle for anything. This is important. Below is the actual message I wrote on August 1, 2015. I met Carlos (friends first) 11 days after I wrote this.
Since Carlos and I have been together it has been nothing short of amazing. Yes we have our rough times but it’s easy to work it out when you have someone who is reaching for the same goals you are.
Divorce does not ruin you. It gives you a chance to have a do-over. I would rather be the person that takes my second chance than to be the person who dies miserable in a marriage they hated that held them back from a good life all in the name of morals. Do not allow others to make you feel less than you are. You are still a person, you will still be happy and you deserve a good life.
One thing that I love so much about Carlos is his ability to just make it happen. We work perfectly together, I’m the one that says “I really want to do this” and he is the one who actually makes it happen. I jump in and help where I can but the credit is due to my love.
Because our dining room is small, square, and right in the middle of the home, we needed a table that could fit more than 5 people if needed and not take up as much space. Initially I wanted to build the coveted generic rectangle farm table that everyone loves. But honestly it would have been a pain for anyone sitting on the ends or trying to walk through one room to get to another. So I settled for a round table design that would fit the room perfectly.
Carlos found some plans on Pinterest and used these plans to create the round top and a portion of the legs. Once he got the basic layout for the legs, we used spare pieces of wood to create the bottom design. The table top per the plans was set to be at 70 inches, which to me felt far to big. However, when the table top was finished it came out to about 68 inches, which was still too big to me. Carlos ensured me it wouldn’t be too big, but mostly because it was a lot of work to get that far and he wasn’t about to re-do it. :0) After the table was put together we sanded and stained it with a gray stain from Home Depot. I was looking for an old finish so gray felt perfect to me. I believe we only did two coats of stain and then four coats of lacquer to seal everything in.
During the lacquer portion I was getting antsy, you know how you get when you just want something to be done so you can move on to the next thing!? This is always how I am, I don’t know how Carlos deals with it. The time finally came, we could officially move the table into the dining room. I was super nervous, feeling that the table genuinely was still going to be too big despite what Carlos was telling me. Once it was in, it was big, it was really big! But in fairness we had been sitting at a table that barely fit four people for a long time, so I guess it would be dramatic to suddenly have a 6-8 person table sitting in your dining area. After a trip to hobby lobby for some table decor I realized that the table and its size were perfect. I guess you could say it grew on me.
We plan to put some protectors on the bottom to keep the table from scratching the floors and potentially a rug underneath for both added protection and decorative reasons but we will see. We also plan to sand down and stain the chairs in the future. Our next project will be a buffet table that will sit in the same room. But for now, I am enjoying the fruits of Carlos’ labor and my idea. *Cheers*
If you’ve been granted the blessing of being in a blended family where the ex wife/husband is a mature adult capable of maintaining a healthy and functional co-parenting relationship - well then this post ain’t for you.
I and my love haven’t been so lucky. But looking for the positive we’ve learned a lot about the power of patience and being the bigger person. Now that the boys are getting older, it is starting to reflect in their ways toward us.
But let’s get to the point here. We were supposed to pick up the boys last night, as we do every other week and we were merely 20 minutes away from the pick up time when Carlos receives a phone call from the ex. Then comes a message through the text app stating that the youngest had fallen off of a chair he was standing on and she was waiting to hear back from the pediatrician. < insert Jen’s response yelled out from the other room, "tell her to get him to the ER - and what the H - E - double hockey stick was he doing standing on a chair!" > Of course Carlos calls back immediately and to our shock - but not surprise - the littlest one had indeed fallen from a chair that he should’t have been standing on in the first place had he been supervised, but that’s not where this story peaks. No see, it’s when she informs Carlos that once he had fallen he passed out and apparently was out for quite a bit. It never occurred to her that she should call 911 or rush him to a hospital. She proceeded to try to wake him up, which included her smacking him on the face until he came to. Again, it never occurs to her to do much else other than call the pediatrician and wait for a response, which of course who knows how long that could have taken. In a controlled rage Carlos tells her to get him to a hospital immediately and he will meet her there. Very long story short, he is ok and thankfully it wasn’t bad. Of course once the night is over and Carlos is back home, he receives another app messages from the ex. She is thanking him for meeting her at the emergency room along with a bunch of other bogus things that didn’t happen. So now she attempts to back pedal through the app to clear her reputation. Not to mention she never uses the terms “thank you” or “I appreciate” in any way towards Carlos for anything and is everything but cordial when they communicate. I know I’m not alone in this absolutely bogus behavior. All I can do is sigh and roll my eyes here….
I can’t begin to explain the urge I had inside to run into that emergency room and shake her senseless. There are so many questions that ran through my mind, what if he hadn’t woken up or what if this had happened on a weekday, maybe she would have never told us anything. But of course, as this game goes, we must sit back and be patient. All we can do is document and wait….document and wait. I feel so bad for the kids. I feel bad for other couples who have to go through these same fiascos. It feels like you’re fighting a constant battle of good just waiting for the day of redemption. This is one small pebble in the sea of chaos we’ve put up with over the past two years. It’s draining, it’s frustrating and sometimes it's hopeless. Thankfully they are here with us this week and we know they’ll be safe. I hold on to the hope that one of these days they’ll be with us full time and we won’t have to worry about them so much.
We wanted to give up, even though that wasn’t remotely an option to us. We started doing research, watching YouTube videos and reading blogs to figure out what the best way to get rid of this backing was. I wish that I could offer a grand idea that we came across or discovered ourselves - but the truth is - there is no such easy way. Our only option was to scrape it up by hand.
We bought a floor scraper and went to work. Between the two of us it took a total of 18 hours of scraping to get the backing off the floor. This was a very painful process, I went to bed the first night so exhausted and woke up the next morning in so much pain. Long story short it sucked, but we got it up. We were left with the glue residue and we had to rent a buffer from Home Depot and use a wood tool to scrape up the remaining glue. Again, this too was not a fun or easy process but definitely made a huge difference and of course didn’t take 18 hours to complete.
Once we scraped up the remaining glue we had to sand the floors. Seeing the black gunk finagling disappear to reveal a beautiful fresh floor was the greatest feeling in the world! After finishing the main floors we had to hand sand underneath the baseboards for an all over even finish.
I had to travel for a couple weeks for work, so while I was gone Carlos took on the job of staining the floors. They came out beautifully! I still can’t believe all the work and time it took just to do floors but it was so worth it. It’s a complete feeling to me when you have a vision and then your vision comes to life. We still have a lot more projects to do on the house, but for now we’re soaking up the fruits of our labor! :0)
When Carlos and I finished redoing our bedroom, it instantly became our most favorite room in the house. Every time we would walk in we would feel as though we were staying somewhere else, it was like a tiny vacation spot every night. Of course for me, it didn’t take long before I became anxious to get started on the living room and dining room. I couldn’t even sit in the living room without thinking about all the things I wanted to change. So in the beginning of July we finally decided to start taking down wall paper. We used the same process for this project as we did our bedroom. Honestly I feel that the steamer is just the best way to go, but of course that’s my personal opinion.
We quickly realized that the living room and dining room were going to be a much bigger project than we had expected. Taking down the wallpaper was a breeze, but then we needed to tackle the popcorn ceilings in the living room. Carlos had previously scraped the popcorn ceiling in the dining room years before and insisted that it was not something he ever wanted to have to go through again. That being said, we put up drywall with the intention of creating a smooth ceiling. If I could go back in time, I would have scraped the ceilings myself! Drywall is very heavy to begin with and putting up about 8 sheets of it was not an experience I will ever wish to have again.
The heaviness is not even the worst of it! We had to tape the edges and the seams where the sheets connected and then joint compound and sand them down to make the smooth appearance. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say it probably took us a month alone just to “smooth” out the ceiling. No matter how many times we sanded , joint compounded, sanded, joint compounded and sanded, you could still see where the seams had been connected with the tape. It was miserable! We had to come up with an alternative to what we had originally wanted. Carlos had read up about a textured paint that has sand in it. This paint would allow us to add a slight texture to the ceiling and essentially get rid of the lines you could see.
We purchased a small bucket of Homax Roll-On Texture white paint. We were able to roll it on using the paint rollers we had purchased and it worked like a charm. It was very easy to use and allows you to control the amount of texture you want with the roller. The spots where the seams were an issue are more textured than the rest of the ceiling. It came out great and unless you’ve read this blog or we’ve personally told you about it, you would have no idea it had been an issue. We painted over the textured paint with a basic white paint we had used in the bedroom and finally the ceiling was finished!
After the ceiling fiasco we still needed to paint the walls. At this point I was outwardly expressing quite frequently that I just wanted to see paint on the walls by the end of the week. haha It can be quite frustrating when you see the finished project in your head everyday and yet you just don’t seem to be getting anywhere close to that. It took us every bit of 3 months to decide on a living room color but it turned out to be worth the long search. We chose a color by BEHR called “Mountain Falls” and it is every bit of perfect. Our dining room color was chosen in less than 48 hours! :) I already had a color in my head, closely described in my own words as dirty white, and Carlos was able to pick one out that fit just right called “Toasted Gray” by BEHR.
Seeing the paint on the walls began to spark a lot of excitement again and we felt like we were finally to the finish line. All we had left to do was tear up our carpets and we would be sipping wine by the pellet stove within days. Then, we began to tear up the carpet. First to go was the 60 year old ugly, old, stained, smelly, shaggy orange carpet that I had despised over the past year. The smells alone that came out of moving that carpet would be enough to put you off your dinner for a few days. Underneath that was an ugly, thin, almost completely untouched green carpet that had obviously been laid down when the house was built. “This is it!”, we started getting so pumped, the moment of truth was upon us. We began the attempt to pull up the carpet which quickly turned out to be nearly impossible. We were literally using all our strength to rip this carpet up from the backing that was clearly cemented to the floor. And there it was, underneath the carpet was a rubber-like backing that seriously had no intention of coming up. Our hearts completely sank and we realized we had just opened up a whole new can of worms.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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 about 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. :)