Valentine’s Day’s New Meaning

“Since we’re throwing a party on Valentine’s Day weekend, we don’t need to actually do anything for Valentine’s Days, do we?”

I stared at Jason and blinked. Was he kidding?? I blinked some more and then snarkily retorted, “Just read my blog post from last year!” He seemed taken back.

“What did it say?”

“Just read it….” I huffily ended the conversation, annoyed that he didn’t remember how hard I had worked to make last year’s Valentine’s Day special. After my knee jerk reaction of anger had cooled down a bit, I stopped to consider what Jason was asking me.

I considered where we were a year ago versus now. Last year, we were struggling so hard to make ANY time for each other between Jason’s switch shift job, my busy work schedule, and the schedules of three kids, one of them being a wonderful, yet demanding baby. Everything was a high priority except “us”.

Flashing forward to this Valentine’s Day, our lives had changed. Every day, we have been working to keep our relationship alive with texts saying “I love you” and small romantic gestures. Date nights have become a weekly event with dinners after the kids go down to sleep or sneaking out early for a movie. We’ve grown to understand that the firm foundation of our relationship was important for the happiness of the entire family.

20120214-210828.jpgSuddenly, pressuring my husband to come up with something for Valentine’s Day just didn’t seem as important. After all, it’s not just a holiday for us, but for the entire family.

When Jason sheepishly returned to me with his Valentine’s Day plans, throwing out dinner restaurants, movie ideas, back rubs or anything that would make me feel special, I smiled, grateful for the effort. “Why don’t we have a special dinner with the kids at home?”

Jason jumped with the idea, planning a lovely dinner of fondue for all of us. In between the rush of Mom’s work schedule and running to the gym, Dad’s writing projects and the boys sports schedule, we hadn’t had a nice family dinner in weeks. Finally, we got a chance to slow 20120214-210843.jpgdown and remind each other of all the reasons we love and care about each other. Ethan got to dance in his chair as he proudly cooked his fondue, Anthony talked endlessly about how awesome steak was (and did you know steak is made from beef?) while Keira exclaimed proudly to her family “big girl fork!” and “Look! Flowers for Mama!”

A noisy, bustling, family dinner over fancy food with the four people in the world I love most. What more could I ask for as a Valentine’s Day present?

You Smell!

Yes our boys have reached that age. It is now uncool for Mom and Dad to say “I love you” in a public setting. They might be shunned at school if one of their friends were to hear us express our love for them. Now as they get out the car for baseball, school, or a sleep over they no longer give me a hug from the back seat and say those three words. I’m lucky if I get a “Bye dad” or the male head nod (guys you know what I’m talking about.) They slam the car door, no longer looking back at me as I watch them disappear.

This kind of stung at first, knowing they were reaching that stage where their parents are seen as “uncool,” listen to weird music, hugs are unwanted and Kisses from mom are nearly toxic while in public.

After a little thought I came up with an idea, a code that I could say to them that would express my love for them while maintaining their sense of parental separation. Only they would know what I meant, none of their friends would get it.  “You smell!” I yelled as they left they car. They only turned for a moment shook their head and smiled.  “It means I love you,” and now I can yell it as loud as I want to and only they understand. “You smell too dad.” they laugh back, and I smile. I win this round of the war of coolness.

The Deeds Family Take on the Total Money Makeover

At the end of 2010, Jason and I had come to a place where we were in need of some much needed stability. When we had originally planned out our lives together 8 years ago, we had envisioned me working into management, Jason getting his degree in teaching and then us having kids. By the time babies were in the picture, we expected we’d be in a position for Jason to stay home until all the kids were in school.

However, when two wonderful little boys walked into our lives, this entire plan fell by the wayside. As the adoption process started, our clocks started ticking to have our third child closer in age to Anthony and Ethan. Two years later, Keira was born. While we were grateful to have all three of these wonderful children in our lives, we weren’t financial prepared for what it took to raise 3 kids. We had a large house with large bills, large student loans still sitting out there, and a car loan for a car that would fit the five of us.

In December of 2010, with the Christmas bills fresh on my mind, I sat on a plane to a work trip in Europe, reading the entire Total Money Makeover from cover to cover, making notes as I went along. I finally felt like we could get our plan back on track. When I got home, I shared everything I learned with Jason and we both eagerly agreed that 2011 would be the year we got things under control.

As of December 30, 2011, we may not have completely succeeded. While we were on track for most of the year, we ended up falling into old habits by the end of the year. Budgeting seemed to take up too much time so we threw that to the side. Envelopes were difficult with bank runs, so we threw that to the side.

But this post isn’t about what we didn’t do. This post is about what we were able to accomplish.

In the first five months of the year, we hit it hard. We budgeted every dollar. We had envelopes of cash for each budget line and didn’t overspend. We rolled any extra cash into the first debt, then the second, then the third…. until finally, we had paid off five of our credit cards and taken a huge chunk out of our last one.

We finally got to the point where Jason could stay home with the kids, slashing out childcare expenses and severely cutting the amount of money we spent eating out now that Jason was home to cook. Not to mention the amount of stress that was cut out of our lives worrying over debt.

When my brother announced his engagement in early summer, we were able to purchase plane tickets for all five of us and go to California with cash – something we never could have done before. And when finally in October, a month before our vacation to California, my car broke down (of course, a month after the warranty ran out), we had our emergency savings to save the day without having to put a dollar on a credit card.

It’s easy to feel discouraged at this time of the year, when the Christmas presents were small, the wallet feels completely pinched and our overall plan has been thrown by the wayside. But remembering everything we accomplished in 2011 has me eager to start 2012 with renew vigor to take down the remaining debt on our plates.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves, again. 2012 is going to be a great year.

Wordless Wednesday (Christmas Edition)

Almost Wordless Wednesday: 5 Year Anniversary

Today marks five years that Jason and I have been a part of raising the boys. At the time, we had no idea that we would eventually be called “Mom” and “Dad” by these two little boys. But one thing was for sure, we were willing to do anything, include move 3,000 miles, to bring these boys happiness.

Today, I can’t even imagine life without them. We love you, Anthony & Ethan.

 

Finding Community

Since the moment that Jason and I started living together, we’ve been in constant go-mode, moving around the county, the country, and even a short stint for me living abroad. The boys have experienced their own upheavels, moving no less than 7 times before the age of 8. By the time that they had made friends in their current neighborhood or school, they’d be packed off to moved to another one.

So, when we settled into our current house 3 years ago, both of the boys proclaimed adamantly that we were NEVER MOVING! At first, the thought of not moving was difficult for me. Wanderlust strikes Jason and I frequently. When I changed jobs or the thought of living in Europe starts to entice us, we stop and remember the promise we made the boys. They need stability. No moving.

It took my recent work out craze to get me to finally appreciate what not moving would mean for us. As I ran into the gym for a new zumba class at the gym, I looked around at all the women getting their kicks and wiggles down. Some of them were moms I knew from the boys’ baseball team. Some were women closer to my age, trying to also work off their baby weight. I’d be seeing them at kindergarten as I walked Keira into her first day of school.

As we danced around the gym, I heard the women motivating each other, praising and laughing, smiling at me when we both knew the work out was insane. It was a community of people who were all supporting each other.

As I drove home from the gym, with a smile on my face, I began to realize the community I had been missing from all my years of moving about. I finally felt somethingI haven’t felt since I left for college at the age of 17:

Home.

Finally I appreciated the feeling of belonging. At last, we had stayed in one place long enough to create stability. I knew other moms and dads at school by their first name. We have formed friendships close enough that the kids call our friends “aunts” and “uncles”. I have walked through trying to conceive, pregnancy, infancy and now into toddlerhood with friends who have a daughter the same age as Keira. And when going for a walk, neighbors now come out to remark how big the boys are getting and how great they play with Keira.

I never had a chance to even stop and see what I was missing. In the throes of wanderlust, I’ve had amazing experiences. But it was the boys who gave me the present of slowing down and staying still long enough to realize what amazing experiences were awaiting me in my own backyard.

Toddler Communication

We are stepping into a brave new land where many parents’ hair have gone white with stress: The Toddler Years. Nothing is more apparent that we are in this new land than the constant chatter of a certain princess. Since we mostly skipped through the toddler years with the boys, this new stage first had us beaming with pride as Keira tried out her first words with “mama” and “dada”. Then along came a string of new words “banana”, “meow”, “Titus”…

Until finally one of the most feared words entered her vocabulary: “No.” On came the continual battles of Keira asserting her opinions on the world.

Daddy pulls her off the stairs:  “Daddy! No!”

New food that looks questionable: “No, no, no, no, no!!”

Papa decides to walk out of the room: “No! Papa! STOP!”

Uh oh…. “Stop??” And so our dearest Keira learned how to get her way by communicating her desires and leaving us in a fit of giggles. A monster was born. An exceptionally cute, talkative, opinionated and disaster toddler monster.

Just when I had myself questioning my sanity of trying to teach my daughter how to speak in the first place, Keira showed her exceptionally cute disastrous toddler monster powers could be used for good.

As I took a breath between lullabies as I sang her to sleep, Keira chimed in. Taking both my cheeks into her tiny little hands, she looked me in the eyes and began singing.

“Maaamma… baby, baby,… Maammma… awwweesoommmme…..”

I don’t need the toddler-parent decoder ring to know that this is love.

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