Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My how things change

When you have small children or babies, I felt like I sometimes got caught up in the mindset of "There's no end to this" ... referring to changing diapers, baby food, formula, big bulky double strollers, heavy over-packed diaper bags, our super over-crowded 780 square foot house in NJ, and the list goes on. Oh and let's not forget what seemed like hundreds of cardiologist visits in the first year of Tyler's life. But the good news is, things change. For the better. Life keeps evolving and so should we. Hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it?

Fast forward to now. I attended a parent function recently in library at Grand Oak Elementary school, the A+ school I am proud to call ours. It's the school that will educate both of my kids all the way through 5th grade. I was there for the "Parent coffee chat" with the principal, to hear about everything going on at our school in the first month of school. I promised myself I would get more involved this year and even got pulled into the yearbook committee a few weeks back (eek!). This is the school where Julianna attends 2nd grade and Tyler will be in next year for Kindergarten.

My kids are growing up and I am lucky enough to be involved with the PTA & school, walking into school every morning with my kids, and getting involved with their education. I guess I have evolved as a parent too. We've come a long way from the days of formula and diapers. Now my kids are older and in school. Instead of baby talk, I can now discuss the books we have read, talk about friends and life, have 'mature' conversations, and we also have many new friendships in our still relatively new world of North Carolina.

I love that I am lucky enough to still be involved with school even though I work. Working from home affords me this luxury. I get to walk the kids to school, pop in for lunch when I can, pick Julianna up from the bus stop and pick Tyler up from preschool.

EDIT 10/24 - I was just recently laid off from my job after 14 years. Looks like I will be getting even more involved in school stuff for a few months or until I find new employment! 

I've had some of my own personal milestones this year. I started running, which was something I always deep down wanted to do but never had the guts to try. I registered for my first 5k race, another dream I've always wanted to do but shot myself down immediately in thinking, "I'll never be able to do that". I am also working out 5 days a week, early in the morning before the kids get up, on top of running and eating very healthy. I am healthier in my mid (er uh, almost upper) 40's than I was throughout my entire extremely overweight (50+ lbs ago) and unhealthy 30's. It's a daily battle - I have bad days and good days like everyone else. But lately I've had a whole lot of good days! The bad thing is we are about to enter fall and holiday baking. My downfall! haha!

EDIT 10/24 - I started writing this post over 3 weeks ago, and my life got put on hold for a bit - so I ran my 5k this past weekend! I ran the entire time and it was such an accomplishment for me! I am signed up for another 5k in December and possibly a family run on Thanksgiving day! 

It's amazing when you set goals and do small things that make you happy, and how it overflows into other areas of your life and it plays into your overall happiness. A big part of being happy with me is 'acceptance of me'. I have learned to finally accept me, and stop comparing to everyone else and thinking I need to be a supermodel to be happy. I am what I am and will strive each day to be healthier and work towards my goals. Every day is a new day and even if I had a bad day yesterday, I wake up saying I will make today better.

I chopped a foot of my hair off as well recently and love it. 10 years ago, I wouldn't have had the guts to do that either. For a long time, I hid behind my long hair, big clothes and very overweight pre and post-baby body. Now, I feel like I'm climbing a mountain but I still have so much more to explore! I also feel like this year, my marriage has sort of matured to a new level as well.

Another awareness I've had lately is that these 2 little people we have been raising are actually turning out to be pretty OK kids! They are happy and respectful. I try to back off and let them do their own thing, and be themselves. It's empowering to me to be able to let them have their own little lives and grow up right in front of my eyes. I try not to be that helicopter parent as often as I used to, I try to give them their space, something else I've been making a conscience effort to change lately as well.

Walking to school on a typical day

New short cut for me! 

After the finish line at my first 5k this past weekend. 
My family (including Pepper) was there to meet me!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What's new in our world?

My goal is to blog at least once a month with updates. I used to do it every few days when the kids were younger in order to document our life for them, in hopes they would one day go back and read everything and appreciate us capturing our lives for them to later enjoy. Funny thing is I think I had less free time then, and yet somehow I got it done. Most of my new North Carolina friends probably aren't aware that I have been doing this for the last 7 years (wow!).

Here is the status-quo on things. I'll do a separate update on myself next time.

Tyler's health has been nothing short of stellar. He is now down to one cardiologist appointment a year, and we really like the Pediatric Cardiology group he goes to, which is affiliated with Levine Children's hospital in Charlotte. Regardless of this current health, there is still that looming 'what if' for the future. That feeling is always in the back of my mind.
He's in Pre-K this year and loves school. Apparently he behaves and listens to the rules (Bahahahaaaa!). I really thought he would be THAT kid in school. So far, he hasn't been, with the exception of the toy hitting incident, which was isolated to one day. I talked to him and he promised not to do it again... If only! Next year will be the big test, when he enters Kindergarten. The good news is, he will be in the same school as Julianna and I know she will check in on him during the day. He keeps saying that he can't wait to be in the big school with sissy.
Tyler is really the epitome of a Mama's boy. This kid just adores his Mama and I love every minute of it. Everyone always told me how different boys are, and there couldn't be any truer statement. At night, he asks me to snuggle with him and puts his arm around me, and tells me he loves me. My heart almost bursts into a million pieces when he says that. Don't get me wrong, Julianna is the love of my life too, but she has a much more special relationship with Brian. She is definitely Daddy's girl.

School is treating Julianna good. She is happy in school, happy when she gets off the bus and loves all of her friends. Our school does not give out homework, however all kids do need to read for 20 minutes each night. Some nights are a struggle trying to get her to read. She would much rather be playing with her American dolls or Barbies, or with her neighborhood friends, or on the iPad (like most kids!).
She is making so many new friends, and hopefully some will remain life long friends. This is something I never really had as a child since we moved around often, and I switched schools very often bouncing between public & private until I was in 10th grade.
Me and the kids walk to school every day unless it's raining or unless it's too cold once Winter hits. The good things is, even during Winter, you don't get that long lasting frigid cold like we got in New Jersey, so we should still be able to walk some mornings during those few months.

We still own our house in NJ and rent it out. Right now we are in between renters and the house needed some cosmetic work, including interior paint and some other work (like dig up & cover/seed the firepit our renters thought it would be fine to put in the ground the backyard - WTH!). Brian went back to New Jersey a few weekends ago to do work on the house, along with my In Laws who helped him out as well. They did a lot of work in that little amount of time and the new listing is out there now. Crossing our fingers we get renters soon.
We also needed to part ways with our old Property Manager and hire a new one. The old property manager did not work out and we needed to go with someone new. Our new manager has been wonderful to work with and he is local to Hopatcong. We feel that he and the property management company will do a great job.

End of summer
Summer came to an end, and while we've had some abnormally hot weather, we are finally coming into some cooler days. It should start to feel more like fall any day now. The Macaulay pool closed up mid-September and with that, came the End of the Year "Dog pool party". Everyone brings their dogs and lets them loose to swim and run around. It's controlled doggy chaos, but lots of fun. We brought Pepper and she was a trooper... we put her in the water and then she ran for the gate!
When we were in NJ, the end of the summer meant it was time to winterize the boat, and put it on the trailer in the driveway for 6 long cold months. Not here. No winterizing. We will be going out on the lake as weather allows all fall/winter. One of the many perks of our beautiful North Carolina weather.

Adjusting to our new life in North Carolina
This is our forever home. After 2 years, I still have no hesitation in saying this. We love living here and have zero regrets about making the plunge to move out of New Jersey. I love our house, and I love our neighborhood. Not everyone gets lucky like we do with such terrific neighbors. I am never leaving our house. Not to mention, I am never moving again. This last move was taxing - I am not doing that again. As far as where we live, again I feel we really lucked out, this has turned out to be the best possible scenario for us as far as where we live and all the amenities & quality of life. It's fun to still explore all that this area has to offer. We can drive up to the Mountains for a day or go to a food truck festival in Charlotte or explore Lake Norman (which we will never get tired of).

I am still missing my friends from NJ - I don't think that ever goes away. There is a certain familiarity that comes with long time friends. It's that comfort level of just being able to send a text or calling any time of the day or night, and picking up where you left off, having that quick intimate conversation with your friend that only she can understand, because she knows EVERYTHING there is to know about you, and there's no judgements. It's that person who has a special place in your heart forever, even though you don't talk to them every day or even every week. It takes a long time to find people in your life like that again. This is a process still for me. I still feel like an outsider sometimes and miss those special friendships. For me, I would say this is still the hardest part about relocating and everyone who has done it says it takes a long time to get adjusted with that aspect of your life. Don't get me wrong, we have met some fabulous people and made some amazing new friends, but true deep down friendships take time to develop much like a marriage does.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Some tips (from my own experience) for keeping my family healthy

Several years ago, my family made the choice to eat healthier whole foods. Real food. Food without chemicals or fake sugar. Real ingredients. I didn't realize what an incredible life-long change this would actually become for us. My husband and I lost about 40 pounds and managed to keep most of it off. My kids actually eat healthier when given the choice (most of the time, unless french fries are in front of them). Unfortunately, due to my frail will power, my weight has always fluctuated, especially around the holidays. Homemade cookies are my downfall. And ice cream. It's a constant battle between eating and weight, and now more recently, exercise too.

Here are some things I have learned over the past few years:

  • Small changes - replace the unhealthy food items with healthy choices slowly - this takes time and patience as you are trying new things. Not everything you try will be a home run for you. 
  • Research ingredients and what you are feeding your family. For years, I was obsessed with calorie content, fat, carbs, etc... But now the most important thing to me is that ingredient list. Learn to read labels. Learn where your food comes from. If it contains chemicals, GMO's or is highly processed, it doesn't make into my shopping cart. I shoot for mostly organic when possible.
  • If you don't like what the store has to offer, make it yourself. One of the things I decided to make at home a couple years back is bread. I make all of our bread now from scratch weekly. It doesn't take long and I can control what ingredients are in it. I also make my own salad dressings and other items that are usually highly processed or loaded with chemicals in the store. I will occasionally buy bread (when crunched for time) from the Great Harvest Bread company, who makes the most delicious organic whole wheat, white and cinnamon bread (they post their ingredients online and in the store). 
  • Plan your week! I plan our meals out a week ahead of time, usually on a Thursday night, and do my shopping list (and online order) at the same time. Then it's done - no wondering what's for dinner every night. 
  • Where do I shop for food? I will start by saying I am not a 'couponing' type person - I just don't have that time. I break up my shopping between 2 or 3 stores mostly. I do my online food order (for pickup) from Harris Teeter, and buy my basics there - mostly organic basics and lunch essentials, paper goods, etc. Then, first thing on Saturday morning, I drive to Whole Foods for produce, meats, organics and other specialty items I can't buy elsewhere. I also love their bulk bins there.  This is my favorite food store in the entire world, hands down. The Whole Foods '365' brand, by the way, is extremely budget friendly. We will also go to the Farmers Market every so often as time permits. Sometimes I will hit Earthfare as well if they have good sales - Earthfare is sort of like a Whole Foods-Lite. (Both stores are within 2 miles of my house). I just recently started going to Aldi for some items - and while I just don't love Aldi like everyone else does, I still have found a few things there at a very good price like our sparkling water that we go through by the case, and the kids school snacks. I am cautious with Aldi because I am skeptical where some of the food actually comes from and they have a lot of processed packaged food which I do not buy anyway. I also recently tried some coupon apps like Ibotta and Favano... the jury is still out on those ... I will let you know how much I like them once I have had enough time to use them thoroughly, 
  • The easiest way to keep things in check is write down and record what you are eating daily. It's an eye opener to say the least.
  • You can, unfortunately, only control what's eaten under your roof. Not all situations are ideal. You can't control everything outside of your home when it comes to food or the choices that will be given to your children. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I can't control every scenario. I feel like our lifestyle at home rubs off on my kids and I hope it will benefit them long term without them even knowing it.
  • Get the entire family involved with making food. Julianna loves to help me put recipes together and now Tyler loves to help as well, even if it's just pouring in the measured ingredients. When I get the stand mixer out, they ask "Oh are you making bread?". This is the stuff I hope will stay with them down the road. Learning to cook and the ability feed yourself (other than 'take out' food) is an important life skill and requirement for kids as they get older. 
  • Move. It doesn't matter what you do, but just make sure you move. Get off your butt and go! Go for a walk, jog, take a burn bootcamp class, go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, or dance around. Whatever works for you. It has taken me a couple years to finally realize that eating 'healthy' by itself will no longer keep the weight off or keep me as healthy as I should be. Up until a few months ago, I haven't done any sort of exercise in 10 years other than walking a few times a week. Just under 3 months ago, I started working out at home before the kids get up in the morning 5 days a week doing Beachbody on Demand. It's super awesome! I feel like I hit the ground running to start my day. In addition to my morning workout, I try to walk daily and lately have started jogging, which is something I have always wanted to do but was too scared to try. I manage to somehow squeeze it all in and I feel better than I have in years at 46 years old! I would love to run a 5k - maybe I will work up to that. I'm far from perfect but I'm learned to be happy in my own skin and I'm owning each day making the conscience choice to live fit & healthy.
  • Don't 'ram' the 'good food/bad food' down your kids throats. Lead by example. For instance, we use certain terms in the house like 'this is healthy for our bodies' and "I feel good when I eat this because it gives me energy", and phrases like that. Salad is good for your body! We don't ever say anything like "french fries will make you fat' because I feel it is not something the kids need to hear or put preconceived notions in their heads. We try to word it like ' lets try something different today other than french fries' or if they insist on them when we go out to eat, we will say "Let's have something healthy with it like fruit!" and they go for it... most times. Their favorite thing to eat before bedtime is strawberries while we read books. Don't tell them "If you eat that, you will get fat" and surely don't let them hear you saying how fat you are feeling today - save that for when you are out of earshot and go ahead and curse yourself out then! haha. And we do buy ice cream - I just buy the kind with real ingredients and without carrageenan and other nasty ingredients in it (Yuck!). 
  • Believe in what you practice. There is more than one right way to live a healthy lifestyle. Don't preach friends or family about how they should be doing things since it's a touchy subject. I talk to people about what we eat and our beliefs but I don't force it on anyone. Everyone else has their own way of doing things. You can only control your own. Do what you think is best for your family. Stand by your values. I pack my kids lunch every day before school, and I personally do not mind doing it because I do not care for the food served in school. But I play it up as mommy likes to pack lunches and surprise them daily - they love it too.
  • Find something that inspires you, no matter how little it may be. For me, I like to read the Fitbit Community posts on my Fitbit app - they motivate me because I see that I am not the only one out there struggling some times. Find your inspiration and let it motivate you. 
  • Does junk food make it into our house? You betchya! Once in a while it does. I would like to blame my husband but he's not always the culprit. My kids go to school and sometimes bring things home like candy given to them in school. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and say we'll do better next time. 
  • Weight loss or being healthy is a journey. Don't beat yourself up. Everyone has bad days (OK, bad weeks even!) and good days. Sadly, I had 10 bad years! Ha! It's a journey and a marathon - not a 50 yard sprint. There is no miracle pill or magic diet. Being healthy takes thought, mindfulness, willpower, want, and longevity. You have to do it for yourself because no one is going to do it for you. I have learned to accept the fact (recently) that no matter how hard I try, I may only lose a half a pound every 2 weeks, or none at all. And I am finally OK with that. My goal is to wear a bikini by next summer... Let's see if I can make that happen! :) 

And finally, here are some pictures from this summer...

Tyler, me and Julianna gem mining by Chimney Rock, NC 

My husband, the captain

Tapas & Drinks in Charlotte  

Pepper doing what she does best 

Rock hopping 

Flying a kite on a windy day on an island in one of our favorite spots on Lake Norman

The kids playing in the water - they spend all summer in the water!

Morningstar marina - one of the most beautiful places to be during sunset - It's our happy place

Daddy - daughter walk 

Tyler loves to sit in Brian's lap while driving the boat

Loving our pool in the summer 

Visiting Chimney Rock in the mountains of NC - about 2 hours from our house. 

A rare moment this summer - the kids smiled and snuggled together 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Catching up - Part 2

The most common question I am asked since moving to the south is, "How do you like living in North Carolina?"

Here's my answer;
I love it. I love how friendly the people are and the how our neighborhood is such a tight-knit community. There is just a completely different feel here and different way of life. Best thing we ever did. You only live once; you have to decide what's best for you and figure out a way to do it.
We also have some pretty great pizza places - all owned by northerners!
Babysitters are shared by neighbors and there are plenty to go around. Neighbors take care of each other and everyone watches out for you.

One of our biggest motivators for leaving NJ, was the cost of living. The housing costs plus the property taxes are among the highest in the country. It was time to get out. It's amazing the size house you can get for your money compared to up north. Our property taxes are ridiculously low as well. Our old house would fit in our new house 4x over! There's just no comparison.

The weather ..... oh the weather. Short winters where the average temp is 50 degrees, then a long spring, longer summer, and long colorful fall. Everything starts to bloom in March and flowers come up so early. I love seeing all the green when up north, we did not see that until early May if we were lucky. I also love that the kids can play outside almost every day.

I also think, much of how I feel is based on why we decided to relocate. For us, it was just the right time in our lives and this was the right place. Some people relocate to a new place because of a job, family, or other reasons, and my not like it. We did it for us and made the 100% right choice.

There so many parks in every town - big parks where the kids can play, we can walk, picnic, do NFL obstacle courses, and they all have real bathrooms. You laugh, but most of the kids parks where we used to live had port-a-potties (yuck!) or no bathrooms. Super inconvenience.
We can walk to Julianna's school from our house- a major perk. Many of the kids walk or bike to school.

Things here are just so different, but in a good way. I love exploring all new places and there is so much to do. I also love how everything is geared towards outdoors. We are only an hour or so from the Mountains if we want to get away for the day or the weekend. We live right down the road from an outdoor shopping and restaurant area called Birkdale Village. Truthfully, it's one of the things that persuaded us to live where we live. We go there at least once a week to shop or eat out. All the restaurants offer outdoor seating because the weather is so nice here. You can bring your dog everywhere, they can even sit with you when you eat dinner or lunch (outside), if that's your thing.
We live within a few minutes of every major convenience known to man kind. In NJ, I've always had to drive far to go anywhere, but here I barely have to drive far ever. I love living so close to everything! I fill the tank of my SUV maybe once every 2 weeks.

Everything is clean, landscaped, and kept up wherever you go.
Charlotte is the cleanest city you will ever step foot in. There is so much new construction and so many new buildings going up all over the city. I love living outside of a major city but not having the cost like we used to when we lived outside of New York City. We don't have to pay a $15 toll to cross over a bridge or go through a tunnel, and then we don't have to pay $30 to park ... and we don't have to sit in 2 hours of traffic just to get into the city. We can cruise in and out in 15 minutes time from our house, a very nice convenience. Charlotte is such a foodie town - we have discovered some really great restaurants as well.

I was nervous before moving here that we would feel like outsiders or have a hard time fitting in. I don't feel like we've encountered that much really. There are a lot less working moms here, so I do find I don't fit in with some of the mom groups who don't work, but there's not much I can do about that.  The part that I knew would be hard was making new friends. It's been a big adjustment, but I sure didn't expect to miss my lifelong friends from NJ so much. Luckily with technology, we can keep in touch easily and my best friend has already come to visit as well as some others that expect to visit soon. I miss my friends from NJ terribly and they can never be replaced (you know who you are).

We have, however, met some wonderful people since moving here, but it's hard to make close friends and make that connection with everyone right away.  Good friendships take time and need time to cultivate, so I am just learning to being patient. I feel like we are finally headed down that path as we have met some exceptional neighbors, and also have developed friendships with some of the parents through the Julianna and Tyler's school.

One nice surprise is, two of my high school friends live here in the Charlotte area, they moved here long before us. I found out they were here and was in touch before we moved. Once we moved here, we have met up and out to dinner, on the boat, kids activities, etc. It was so nice to have some familiar faces from home.

I feel like we are 'trailblazers' for the rest of our family. Brian's parents decided they will be moving down here in a couple years when his step-father retires. They fly down every few months to visit because of the weather and we have plenty of room for visitors. My mother ended up moving here a year ago (shortly after we moved), and she loves the senior community she lives in. My Aunt and Uncle may end up here in a couple years as well. Oh and Brian's aunt will be moving here soon as well. We also just heard from a cousin that wants to visit and move here! Brian's father and step-mom live in Charleston, South Carolina, which is only 3 hours away. It's nice to have them close by.

In closing, I will say that of course nothing is 100% and I would be foolish if I said this has all been perfect. There have been a few inconsequential things that I do not like (to be expected), but overall I have zero regrets about moving, and we will never go back.

As promised, Here are some more pictures from the last year...

I just love our neighborhood. 

This is Birkdale Village (my happy place). 

Monday, March 6, 2017

How do I get this thing going again?

I have sat here several times, in front of my laptop, staring at the empty blog draft, trying to think of something to write. And then nothing happens. Nothing at all. I think about great things to write during the day while I am driving the car, or in the shower, or when the kids are screaming, or as I'm falling asleep, but never as I sit in front of the laptop. I feel like the more time has gone by, the more overwhelming the task 'to write something' becomes. I have so much to catch everyone up on. I started this blog in order to keep a 'diary' for my children to read and enjoy later in life, so I feel like I need to get back to this now. It's time.

Two years has gone by. (WOAH!) Julianna is 6 and a half. Tyler is 3 and a half. I guess that means I am ... 2 years older as well. During this two year time period, a lot has gone on.

About two years ago, we decided to make a big change in our life and move out of NJ. We kept our house in NJ and rented it out to tenants, and then we packed up and relocated to Huntersville, North Carolina. We did it and it is, by far, the best decision we have ever made.

A lot of planning, research, discussion, thought, sweat & tears went into this big change, and was not easily decided. Brian and I visited the Charlotte, North Carolina area for a long weekend in April 2015. We spent a couple days with our realtor, and looked at too many houses to remember. We fell in love with this area, specifically the town of Huntersville, instantly. The first house we looked at that weekend, ultimately, ended up being the house we bought. We decided right then and there, that weekend, that the Fillmores were moving to North Carolina. Brian was able to find a job here relatively fast, and since my job can move with me anywhere (I work from home), we put an offer on a house in June of 2015, moved in and closed on August 1st. It all happened very fast, and everything fell into place very quickly. When you really want something bad enough, you can make anything happen with hard work, planning, and determination (and sometimes a little bit of luck).

A little backstory on our move; In early 2015, Brian and I were at a crossroad in our life. We knew we needed to move out of our house in NJ that we had completely outgrown after Tyler was born, but weren't really sure where we should end up. We asked ourselves, "Do we stay comfortably in NJ and just buy a bigger house, but keep paying ridiculous property taxes and other high cost of living, and continue to suffer through awfully cold and long winters?" We had been wanting to move out of NJ for a while, due to the extremely high cost of living. We wanted a different lifestyle and quality of life for our family. We talked about leaving NJ and decided if we were going to do it, now was the time in our lives to do it. It was now or never.

The kids were young enough where they wouldn't be ripped away from all of their friends and lives like they would be if it was 10 years later in life. Bottom line is, it was the right time to make a leap. We love our new home, our neighborhood, our town, the kid's schools, and the community. Oh and the weather - it's pretty freaking awesome. It's always sunny here. Did I mention that we can boat for 9 months, on Lake Norman, a lake that makes our old lake look like a pond. Every person here is from the "North". When you meet someone, everyone asks you "Where are you from?" ... because it's a rarity to meet anyone that is actually from Charlotte or North Carolina for that matter. Most of the people we have met are from NY, NJ, PA, Ohio. It's a  nice commonality. Crazy, huh?

Here is a summary of our lives in pictures, since we moved to North Carolina. I'll post a part 2 with more pictures in a few days.


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