Beach Fun and Happy Memories

IMG_7182

After more than a decade of living in Philly, I’ve grown accustomed to spending some time at the New Jersey shore every year. This is thanks mostly to my in-laws, who have been dedicated shore-goers for years. Both of them are generous to share their vacations with us, and we sure do enjoy having some time to soak in the sun and play in the sand. It’s also a great way to escape the dog days of summer and the unbearable hot and humid Philly weather.

IMG_7173

We still have one more beach trip to enjoy this year with my father-in-law, but we just returned from a relaxing getaway in Avalon, New Jersey, thanks to my mother-in-law. We all loved it: Steve and Nora loved the ocean, Carson built sandcastles, and I avoided sunburn successfully (that’s a win for me!).

IMG_7174

We’ve packed the final stretch of summer with trips, which are all due to having awesome places to visit thanks to our parents. I love “grandparent camp” excursions. It’s awesome to have other adults engage with the kids and break up the long summer. It’s also fun to channel our own childhoods through these getaways. On this trip, it was magical to watch Steve share his shore memories with the kids. During our jaunt to Ocean City, both Steve and his mom reminisced about the good old days and the time spent with generations of people who are now gone.

IMG_7157

These moments are exactly why I love to travel so much. Rather than spending money on fleeting trends and material objects that will dull with time, visiting new places and spending time with loved ones on adventures stay with us forever. Steve and I are dedicated to taking our kids to as many places as we can, and the beach is an important setting to keep coming back to — both for our kids to make memories and for Steve to reconnect with his own.

IMG_7161

We still have many adventures awaiting in August, which is very exciting considering that there are still six weeks until preschool starts (but who’s counting?!).

Being My Own Boss: Recent Developments

55af8e4097828e8e0f5f7fc7

As I have chronicled here, I decided to leave my full-time job in publishing two years ago to pursue a more balanced life that prioritized the needs of my family. While I walked away from the 9 to 5 and a steady paycheck, that in no way diminished my desires to stay in the publishing game. Last year, my freelancing work took off and exceeded my expectations. After stepping back a few times and asking myself if I was really ready to be back to work with two preschool-aged kids at home, I decided that I was 100 percent committed to continuing my career, but on my own terms.

In the last six months or so, I’ve changed my mindset from freelancer to entrepreneur. I’ve also started owning an identity of “writer” in addition to “editor.” These mental adjustments have opened doors for me as I decide how to grow and sustain my business. As a freelancer, life runs in cycles of feast or famine. However, I think by adopting the “entrepreneur” hat, I’ve given myself permission to be more proactive in controlling my workload (or so I hope!). In the last few months I’ve taken several steps in growing my business, all of which have kept me on my toes. Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Created a loose business plan outlining how I’d like to grow in the next few years. Ideally, I’d like a certain mix of individual and publisher clients to keep both my extrovert and “antisocial-extrovert” sides happy. Putting my thoughts to paper and monetizing my dreams in a spreadsheet has been eye opening and inspiring.
  • Opened a small business checking account. Things were getting too complicated to manage within our checking account, so I opened a business account. This will help me “pay” myself in regular increments by transferring sums to our personal checking account from this new account. It also helps me keep funds for taxes and business expenses, which are painful to note in a personal account. This step has been a little bit logistically annoying, but in the long run I’ll be glad I did it. I’ve also just taken steps to accept credit cards from clients. Boy, does that feel good to put in place!
  • Started accepting a wider variety of work. I’ve taken on writing jobs, ghost writing gigs, and hybrid writing-editing jobs in the last few months. I love to edit (and there is a weird side of me that enjoys digging through reference lists), but I need to diversify my work to keep my sanity. Writing is a passion, and I am feeling confident enough in myself to do it professionally. I did a lot of writing in my full-time job, but it took me some time to believe I could charge for it (even though some of you’ve been dedicated enough to read my musings here for almost seven years!).
  • Become an official business. I hadn’t taken the time or effort to review the necessary paperwork to operate under my business name because I’d just been freelancing under my personal name. However, once work started flowing in under my business name, I knew it was time to get myself organized. I registered my business with the state, started paying necessary sales tax (I have to in PA for editing services!), and adopted the identity of small business owner.

Now, while all of these developments are super exciting, I have had to compromise in other areas of my life. I work a lot of nights and weekends, so Steve and I tag team hanging with the kids and sometimes have little time together. I don’t get to read for pleasure as much anymore and sometimes pine for the “simpler” days that I had a few summers ago when I was on professional hiatus and hanging out with my two (very) littles. And home-cooked meals and sticking to our budget have become more complicated. There’s only so much I can control at any given period of time.

This is certainly an exhilarating professional adventure that I hope to continue, so I’ll keep you updated now and then on how things are going. I always appreciate outside perspective and support, so drop me a line if you have anything to add to my thoughts on growing a small business while raising young kids.

Summer’s Midpoint

IMG_7061
Post-swim snack.

I am in disbelief that today is July 14. A few weeks ago I felt that mother’s twinge that summer would never end, likely due to exhaustion following a fun vacation and our house projects. However, now that my little guy’s birthday has passed and we’re moving on to the second phase of summer, I am a bit surprised by feeling that the season is fleeting. How could I feel this way with a four-month preschool break?

Carson’s July 12 birthday is a good midway point to the summer. It’s the second week of July and the first time “back to school” seems like a possibility. Though we have about eight (or maybe even nine) weeks of freedom from the school schedule to go, here’s why we’re at a turning point:

  • The kids will be in lots of YMCA classes and camps for the second half of summer to get a little more structure in our schedule. Gone are the empty weeks where I have to plan lots of fun outings. In effect, “Mama Camp” is over, not including the final two weeks before school begins.
  • Our weekends seem filled to the brim until September with beach getaways, a Boise trip, and birthday parties.
  • The football season affects our lives the first week of August when Steve’s schedule ramps up in preparation for kickoff.
  • The mosquitoes have invaded, forcing us to apply bug spray far more than I would like to.
  • Night will begin to arrive sooner in the evenings, which I hope will get my kids to bed a little earlier by the end of August (but boy I’ve loved their sleeping in this summer!).
  • Nora’s birthday and Halloween have become talking points. Two fall events that require some advance planning (I have to build in room for mind-changing!).
  • Potty training has evolved. We’ve been working on getting our littlest into underwear full time, but I’ve changed my approach to it. Though Carson needs to be potty trained for school in September, I realized that he’ll be more than potty trained for the preschool hours even if he’s not potty trained all day.

I have to say that this is easily the best summer I’ve had in years, in part because of planning and also because of my awesome kids. We’ve been on so many adventures together and enjoyed some of my favorite activities — like swimming and movie-going — on the same level. It’s been fun to have my night owls hang with friends and family until 10 p.m. some nights and delight them with their antics. The summer reading program has borne fruit too, as Nora’s interests at the library have expanded (my little thrill is that she’s enjoying books on pioneers — one of my favorite topics as a kid!). And Carson willingly submitted to my swim lesson plans yesterday, taking his first class without a parent present. He rocked it too!

Here’s to the second act of summer and the fun it will bring!

Rediscovering Color

IMG_6981

Last week Steve and I painted several rooms, giving our century-old Tudor some new life. After rolling on several coats and finishing a few other projects, we were amazed by how awesome and how “us” the house looks now. Why didn’t we do this sooner?!

IMG_6985

For some reason, it took me a long time to choose paint colors for our house. I got wrapped up in the current trends, feeling compelled to experiment with grays, even though I really love yellow, blue, and green walls. One day I realized I should just follow the colors I used in my old house — what a thought! This aha moment resulted in quick action that took our house form “eh” to “wow.”

IMG_6971

I stuck with the Sherwin Williams line of paints and chose from their HGTV color palates. When we sold our house last year and I cleaned the walls for our showings, I couldn’t believe how nice the Sherwin Williams paint still looked. It came through for me again, requiring just two coats for each room.

IMG_6961

I chose White Raisin in our kitchen to complement our wood cabinets and painted the trim Alabaster. I even painted the doors to the bathroom and basement white, which really brightened up the whole room. We added some new hardware to the cabinets and I scrubbed them with Murphy’s Wood Oil to give them a nice, clean feel.

IMG_6980

Once we assembled everything back in the room, I couldn’t believe how warm the room felt, even with very little sunlight. I also loved how well the yellow coordinated with our newly renovated powder room, which we painted blue back in April.IMG_6976

For the dining room, I swapped out the dated Raisin Torte color for a more contemporary one, Retreat. The color is so calming and makes the room feel larger. I love it with my gold curtains from West Elm and the new bamboo roman shades I bought through JcPenney.

We updated some other rooms during this project week, but I’ll get to those later. I hope you had a great Fourth of July!

Family Vacation: Williamsburg, VA, and Washington, DC

Forgive me if this post is not exhaustive in detail about our five-day family vacation. We returned Sunday evening after an action-packed string of days, and I am still recovering! I did want to highlight favorite moments of the trip before I forget about them. I hope Nora and I can compile a photo album this summer capturing the family fun. She took many of the pictures, which was an exciting new interest for her.

P1060344

We began our journey at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. We decided staying in a kid-friendly, swim-oriented hotel would balance the more adult portion of the trip — Colonial Williamsburg. We ventured to the colonial section of town on two separate occasions, dining at the King’s Arms Tavern, scoping out the trade shops and historical replicas, and even training to be in the local militia (circa 1780 or so).

P1060361

Nora and Carson both got hats and accessories during our visits to Colonial Williamsburg, which made for adorable photos. As a generous mother to a boy, I even allowed Carson to buy a wooden sword.

P1060352

Our time at Great Wolf Lodge brought us closer together as a family. Nora went on most of the water slides and Carson was a good sport about just about every pool — even the wave pool! We enjoyed being active with our little ones as well as having entertainment for the kids. Both Nora and Carson enjoyed the nightly good-night show in the lobby.

IMG_6895

After three nights in Williamsburg, we began our trek up north, stopping in Washington, DC, for a night to catch up with beloved friends and see some sites. The friends we stayed with have kids too, so Nora and Carson were in heaven playing with their toys and running around the house. The weather was a bit of a monsoon that day, so we were happy to have some rambunctious company!

IMG_6912

Our last day of vacation involved visiting two Smithsonian museums. The crappy weather the day before cleared and we had a gorgeous, non-humid day in the nation’s capital. We took the kids to the Natural History and Air and Space museums. Both kids enjoyed the displays as well as the souvenir machines that smash pennies. That was probably the highlight of their trip.

IMG_6921

The final stop on this epic vacation included a visit with college besties, who live in the city limits. We dined on a wonderful meal and caught up with them. I was grateful the kids were well behaved and still hanging in there despite the time away from home.

A few vacation notes:

  • It was so fun to drive to our vacation destination. While I love plane travel for visiting my family out West, it was enjoyable to pop in and out of the car as needed to reassemble.
  • We divided our drive back home in half by stopping in DC. That was a fantastic idea.
  • I am exhausted from our trip. The kids’ schedules are the same as ours right now, so there’s not a lot of “down” time. Everyone is struggling with tiredness this week as we recover from the vacation and re-enter our daily routine.
  • I am not sure how to mix the right amount of formal and informal meals on vacations. The kids will either eat nothing or eat everything, so we tried to limit the number of sit-down meals while away and stocked up on lots of snacks to eat throughout the day. Some days this worked and on others it didn’t. I miss frequent restaurant meals because that’s what a vacation is to me, but I don’t want to spend that kind of money to feed four people three times a day. The good news is that we all love Chipotle, so I should just consider eating there for every meal.
  • I love traveling with my kids. They are cool people and absorb so much of what we do. While they don’t know much about U.S. history at this stage in their lives, I felt confident that we created a base layer for their knowledge. I loved watching them touch the rocks in the geology section of the Smithsonian’s Natural History museum and pointing out some of the beautiful landmarks of Washington, DC. It was a super-cool feeling as a parent to be giving my kids the gift of travel and curiosity.

Lots of Summer Stuff

IMG_6750

Last week was a busy one. The kids and I trekked to the dinosaur museum, the movies, the zoo, and a friend’s pool. We’re staying active and giving the kids lots of ideas for role play during quieter moments. To be honest, I am a little tired at the end of each full day!

Overall, summer’s humming along, and we’re headed for a very exciting few weeks. I am breaking out of my “boring” phase for some travel, projects, and parties. I appreciate summer’s lightheartedness.

Our family vacation will take us to Williamsburg, Virginia. I can’t wait to explore our country’s history with the kids as well as enjoy the water park at our hotel. Steve and I haven’t taken a trip with just the kids in a long while (maybe since Disney World more than two years ago?), so this is a welcome retreat. My mind is racing related to packing and tying up loose ends before we leave. I know how much I need this getaway though, so I am not anxious in the least about hitting the pause button for a bit.

We’ve settled on a few more home projects when we return from our trip. I’ve decided that I need to add some of my favorite colors in the house, so we’ll tackle painting the kitchen, dining room, and bathroom in the next few weeks. I’ve selected favorite swatches that I used in our previous house. I am so excited to see the results of our painting endeavors.

July is a month full of parties. We’ve got a big Fourth of July celebration ahead and will celebrate our little guy turning three. There are a few more shindigs thrown in throughout the month, too. I want to maximize the warm weather and festive feeling that this middle-of-the-year month brings.

I hope that all of the above-mentioned things will make fun blog posts soon. Even though I am busy with my business and kids, I still enjoy popping on here and documenting life in progress. Glad I pulled through the blog slump and kept it going, even if I am not quite as dedicated as I used to be.

Summer Reading

IMG_6690
Recent library fun.

I’ve been following my heart lately and doing what I love: reading. While I’ve been flipping through fewer adult novels and creative nonfiction (my favorites), I’ve been editing like mad and reading tons of picture books to the kids. My happy place is with the written word, and summer is a spectacular time to re-engage with what I love and make some ambitious reading goals.

We are counting down to the start of the library’s summer reading program, and I hope to enter some reviews of adult books in addition to tracking the minutes the kids and I spend reading together each week. I love our library’s program. The kids just have to read 100 minutes a week and do an activity (such as story time or the weekly craft) to receive a prize during our library trips. These days, both Nora and Carson enjoy a variety of books. We read classics like Babar and those by Dr. Seuss as well as contemporary staples like Pinkalicious and ones by Mo Willems. I just bought the kids collections of phonics and sight word readers with Superman and Disney Princess themes, which add some fun and simpler reading to our queue.

Now that I am devoting significant hours to paid writing and editing, pleasure reading has become a precious commodity. My mom gave me several books recently that I hope to finish by summer’s end. The Rosie Project, The Girl on the Train, and Wild top the list. I can read on the treadmill at the YMCA, which should give me some time to knock these out as well as days at the beach with grandparents enlisted to watch the kids.

What’s on your summer reading list?

Worshipping Summer

IMG_6700

We’re in the middle of a glorious summer week, complete with a heat wave at the conclusion of it. Though I’ll groan about these 90-degree-plus days by August, I welcome this hot and sunny season with open arms.

Last week Mother Nature presented several days of cold and dreary. While I didn’t mind it at first, by day five I was ready to feel rays of sunshine on my face. It’s time to leave rain jackets behind and venture forth into this fun and relaxed season.

Today we traveled to a nearby farm to pick strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. While out in the field sweltering in the sun, I soaked in the beauty and abundance of summer. Sweet berries ripe on the bush being plucked by small children who put more of them in their mouths than in the basket. Peaches nearing ripeness, the fruit still small and green but showing signs of splendor. Two-feet-tall corn stalks reaching for the horizon, promising deliciousness by August.

As I squatted to reach for strawberries, I remembered other fruit-picking experiences in my life. Harvesting peaches, cherries, blackberries, and huckleberries with my grandparents, parents, and siblings as a child. Enjoying a blueberry-picking day with best friends in college. Plucking apples from the tree with my babies just a few years ago. No matter my age or those who surround me, summer will bring sweet fruits and savory vegetables each and every year.

The time spent in the orchards paired with our biweekly delivery of fresh produce fill me with gratitude for these warm, sunny, and bountiful months. While winter is long, summer is too, and I plan to make the most of it.

Camping 2015

IMG_6669

Last weekend we ventured to the Delaware coast for our summer camping adventure. After a successful one-night trip last year, we embarked on a two-night adventure this time. We lucked out with weather in the 80s, a far cry from the cold rainy week we’re having now.

IMG_6627

Having grown up in Idaho, I had never experienced beach camping. We stayed at Cape Henlopen State Park and could view the ocean with just a short walk. We explored the bay on Saturday, and the kids got to see horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, snails, and a lot of other sea life.

IMG_6652

Carson and Nora loved getting dirty, camping treats, and sleeping in nature. We actually managed to sleep during the trip, which still astounds me!

IMG_6639

Did I mention the beautiful view?

Check off the first adventure of summer 2015. More to come!

Life and Pie

We’re celebrating Memorial Day by attending a local parade and gathering with friends this afternoon. After working like an editing dog this weekend, I look forward to getting away from the computer screen!

Oh, and this pie is nearly baked:

IMG_6612

With summer upon us, we’re already checking things off our to-do list. I suggested to Nora that she learn how to ride her bike without training wheels and swim on her own. Well she’s nailed the first goal, not even a week into her summer vacation. Intensive swim lessons begin in mid-July so we’ll see if she can master the second task!

IMG_6573

Nora’s newfound bike-riding ability is not the only thing giving me pause about these kids growing up. I posted this pic of the kids on my social media accounts earlier this week and could not believe the difference in their mugs from the beginning to the end of the school year.

Hope you have a great day and kick off summer right!