Thursday, November 14, 2019

LIfe Lately(ish)

You know what takes forever? Writing about all of the things we've been up to over...oh...just the past year or so (somehow the last installment of "Life Lately" was in September 2018). 

You know what's totally worth it? Spending the time to catch up on writing about all of the things we've been up for the past year or so.'s worth it to me, anyway. I'm fully aware these novellas of "-ings" are really by me, for me. And I'm fine with it. It can be a pain to feel like I have to keep up with things like this (a burden 100% of my own making), but I really really think future me will be grateful to current me for the effort (as I try to be forgiving of past me for neglecting things like this so much).

(And full disclosure- it took me about 2 weeks- in fits and starts- to pull this post together and the only thing more daunting than getting the words out was choosing pictures to accompany it. So guess what- I didn't bother. You're getting one photo of our fam- post-pool, half-dressed, no filters...But honestly- this single messy selfie might be the most accurate portrait I could imagine of us- and our life- right now.)

Making: new friends, but keeping the old, one is silver and the other gold. (anyone else remember that song from girl scouts? A circle's round, it has no end, that's how long I'm going to be your friend!) Annnnnyway...With the girls starting a new school year, they've been getting to know new kids in their classes. Fin's new best friend actually lives on our street and we never knew it! We also met a family at the elementary school picnic who have become neighborhood friends- taking turns hosting hosting bounce house parties, and fire pit nights. And for the "old"- some of our very best friends from Pittsburgh moved here over the Summer! It's been fun to be reunited after years apart...and even better that our kids are big enough to actually play together! 

Cooking: sheet pans of veggies. A couple months ago, Dustin and I tried a 28 day eating challenge through his gym. That was actually the second time he did it (not sure how watching him eat cauliflower rice and ground turkey every night for a month enticed me to join in) but my first attempt at any sort of "diet" outside of a few Whole 30's. I had been doing a loose version of intermittent fasting most of this year- but that's basically a trendy way to say I was skipping breakfast. I hadn't noticed any real difference in how I looked or felt with that- so while it was nice to not have to worry about food until noon everyday, it wasn't really a regimen I believed in. So when the gym opened up the eating challenge for another round, I figured I'd give it a shot. There weren't really strict rules- the intent was just to rein in all the senseless snacking, and overindulging we (I) tend to do. The basic premise involved tracking macros (protein, carbs, fat). Nothing was off limits exactly- it was just a framework to keep calorie count someone consistent, and the focus on eating whole, healthy foods. We ended up sticking with it maybe....75%. There were quite a few "cheat meals/days" mixed in there...So I personally ended up seeing 0 results. But I did learn a few things about how to be more mindful, and taught myself (again) that I don't need to eat queso every night. We're in a tough season with meal prep- trying to feed 4 little ones plus ourselves EVERY SINGLE DAY feels utterly exhausting, so it's a little difficult to feel like we'll ever have a consistent healthy routine. But we'll keep trying... 

Drinking: Grapefruit beer. That sounds a little bad coming right off of the whole "healthy eating" rant...but...the heart wants what it wants. Also- sometimes the heart wants Grapefruit vodka mixed with Lime LaCroix. 

Reading: nothing, unless I'm on vacation. I did get through a few novels during our trip to the beach, but again...still...I'm coming to terms with the idea that I'm just not a big reader right now. Maybe I could be if I REALLY prioritized it. But I'm not. So there you have it. As for the kids- we're struggling through "baggie books" (the early readers the 1st graders bring home every night) with Fin. She's convinced that reading is "too haaaaaaaard" and "borrrrrrring" which really just means: she's not perfect at it yet, so she doesn't want to bother. We do have at least two baskets of library books out at any given time though, so in the evenings we do try to balance out all of the morning screentime my early risers pack in before I wake up. Some favs these days: The Day the Crayons Came Home (they love this sequel as much as the original!), Books That Drive Kids Crazy (these remind me of the BJ Novak book I swear I read every night for a year) and literally anything about Superheros (Dustin got Miller this encyclopedia for his birthday which I thought was utterly ridiculous...but Miller fell in love with it instantly).Wanting: to plan a vacation for next year. 2018 ended up having a ton of fun trips- a couple biggies with Disney in January, and our annual Seaside FL trip in August- and a few smaller Summer jaunts to Philly, Bethany Beach, and Idlewild (#thebowdensvacay). Traveling is one of those things that I know I love, but the more I do it the more I remember that I REALLY love it. I usually spend the whole trip back dreaming about our next trip! We don't have anything on the books right now, so I'd like to start putting something together to look forward to. Maybe it's time for us to really make "Spring Break" a thing with the kids... 

Playing: Uno Flip. I picked this up on a whim and it's SO FUN. It's pretty much identical to Uno, but the opposite side of the cards has other colors and the "actions" are more intense. Fun little twist on one of our family's favs.  

Wasting: money on eating out. (But is it a waste if you love it?!) Fin begs to go out to lunch every Sunday, which we oblige most times, rationalizing that it's part of our routine to spend time with friends after church. I'm also a big proponent of at least one meal out over the weekend, because by Friday or Saturday I just can't even anymore. It's probably not our most sensible spending (even fast food adds up quickly with a family of six!) but I justify it because I very rarely eat out for lunch. The kids' current favorite spots are: Noodles + Company, Panda Express, Bibibop, Panera, Swenson's, Chick-Fil-A and Wendy's. 

Wishing: there was a magic way to catch up on all the documenting I want to do. I still haven't made a photobook of our Disney trip (9 months ago..) I'm way behind on the kids' birthday journals (and my One Line a Day Journal) and I haven't bothered to blog in any real way...well...basically all year. And I've never even started the yearly family photobooks I've been meaning to do. I know this is all self-imposed pressure, and my kids would be lucky to have a shoebox with a few snapshot thrown in (that's what most people from my generation got, and we turned out ok...ish...)- but self-imposed pressure is still pressure nonetheless (it might even be more intense) so I just live with a constant low-grade nagging hum of guilt and stress. (I'm genuinely grateful for "set it and forget it" solution for printing my Instagram posts.)  

Enjoying: fair season! (Some people call it "Summer"...) We hit up all the goodies this year- The Westerville Arts Festival, The Good Guys Car Show, The Ohio State Fair (took the day off for this one for the second year in a row...priorities), The Food Truck Festival, The Coshocton Sunflower Festival, and of course, The Delaware County Fair (twice). I want to say silly/catchy things like "I didn't choose the fair life, the fair life chose me" but I 100% chose the fair life, and will choose it again every time I get the chance. #bowdenfest 

Trading: Fantasy Football for a "Pick 'Em" league. This is the first time in over a decade that Dustin and I have bailed on FFB, and while I thought I would miss it (I do love the nonsense of it all!) it's been really nice to take a break. I really just don't have the bandwidth to devote energy to setting a lineup every week. But I didn't want to totally abandon petty competition, so a quick weekly log in to pick game winners, along with occasional GIF-driven smacktalk is proving to be the right balance for now.   

Liking: @eholmes's instastories: So Many Thoughts. I don't really get into the Royals much (I mean, I watched both the royal weddings, but that's just called being human) but her comments on fashion and events etc. are addicting even for the non royal-savvy.  

Wondering: where our careers are headed. Whoa. That was a little dramatic. But it's true. I don't really share about the details of work (it's one of a very few topics I tend to keep private) forgive the "vague-blogging"...just suffice it to say, that while we're both very happy in our jobs, we also have the very typical worries that most middle-aged people have: Are we doing the right thing? Are we in a secure spot? Are we saving enough? Is my job fulfilling enough? Should I try something new? Should we start our own thing? Will I look back with pride? Regrets? How many more years can I do this?.... 

Learning: how to style my new hair extensions. After years of thinking about it, I finally took the plunge and got tape-in hair extensions and I'm pretty much in love with them. They're definitely more work than I'm used to (it takes longer to dry, and I have to actually style my hair if I want it to look good...imagine that) but I love the way they look. They're the same length as my real hair,  I just got them for fullness, so they look really natural (if I do say so myself). They were a splurge, but I'm happy I gave it a shot, and I'll probably keep them for another round or two (they last about 6-8 weeks before you have to get them re-taped...and the same extensions can be used 2-3 times).

Loving: Dustin Bowden for 14 years. (well...actually 16 years in total, but 14 married years). Our anniversary was a rather unceremonious day- I took two kids to the doctor for their regular check-ups, and both Dustin and I had (separate) church meetings that night. Perhaps for our 15th anniversary we'll get real wild and schedule some dentist appointments!  

Hoping: Fin will finally get adjusted to school and we can skip the morning meltdowns. She actually loves school (once she gets there), but is still struggling with drop off. She cries most mornings when we try to leave for work, and the times that I drop her off, it often entails me prying her off of my leg and literally shoving her towards an administrator and running away yelling HAVE A GREAT DAY, I LOVE YOU!! I know she's fine once she gets in there...I just wish we could skip the theatrics. 

Wearing: a lot of headbands, bralets, and The Jones Market necklaces. That was my Summer uniform...and it's showing signs of continuing through Fall...and maybe forever. As for the others: Fin has gotten really into JoJo Siwa bows, Piper had to get a whole new wardrobe because she refuses to stop growing, and Miller shows preference for shorts and socks+crocs (no matter the weather). (Dustin is still doing his part to keep the grey hoodie industry afloat.)

Following: The Peach Truck. I wasn't sure what to think of all the hype...but I'm a sucker for good branding- and delicious fruit- so we picked up a couple of boxes (to share!) and made allllllllll the peach things. 

Repeating: The100 Day Project for the third year in a row! My theme this time around was: View Through Hue, where I documented life through color. It was such a fun was delightfully simple (all the fun of pretty pictures, without the agony of coming up with the perfect caption) and the kids got into the spirit, helping find "my color" each day. I love that it opened us all up to seeing life differently, and in more detail. Plus it resulted in a super fun rainbow instagram feed (and a photobook to match). 

Knowing: that the kids aren't always going to want to do themed family costumes for Halloween (and probably won't always let me dress them in matching skeleton shirts). So for now we lean hard into  #costumeweekspooktacular and enjoy the spooky magic while it lasts.  

Exploring: different activities for the kids. Fin and Miller took gymnastics last year (and Fin followed up with a backhandspring class in the Summer). The girls did a week long tennis clinic this Summer, they tried a cheerleading clinic this Fall, and they're both taking piano this year (Piper's second year, Fin's first). So far we have avoided the more intense organized sports (and the cold rainy sideline spectating that goes along with some of them!). I want to expose them to different things to see what they fall in love with (and have an aptitude for) but I don't want to get them over scheduled too soon (or ever?). For now one thing per kid feels like about our max each season, but I know more (sports, practices, games, money) is on the horizon. 

Thinking: about buying a new house. With four kids (at the moment anyway) we could really use a bit more space. And with three cars, we could literally use one more (parking) space. We're trying to stick pretty close to the budget and location of our current house, so the options aren't super plentiful. But we don't have to move any time soon, so we have the luxury of being picky and waiting for the perfect thing to come along. 

Looking: like dorks wearing matching t-shirts on road trips. I don't exactly know how the tradition started for us to wear OSU shirts, but it happened and now (as always) I'm committed. Traveling as a matched set does make it slightly less likely that we'll accidentally leave a kid or two at a rest stop by accident, so that's a win. (Our other newly-created road trip tradition: blowing kisses to each other every time we cross over a state border. Sweet dorky love!) 

Marveling: at our new foster daughter. It feels a little wrong to just stick this as a bullet point in the middle of all of our life updates....but in a way, that's how her time with us has gone. She showed up in the middle of the night...and just fit right in the mix from the beginning. She's been with us for six months now and we truly do marvel at her every day. How cute she is. How well she fits with our family. How much she's learning. How much we love her. We don't know much about how long she'll be with us...but we're loving her as long as we've got her.  

Needing: quality childcare. Over the years we've had different arrangements, with a mix of daycare, help from my mom, and before/after care at preschool, but last Summer we got a nanny and it's been a great fit for our family. My mom still watches them a day or two a week, but having a consistent solution for the other days (and not having to do a bunch of different drop offs/pick ups) has been a lifesaver. We've had a couple college girls (who we love!) watch them in the Summers, and an old daycare teacher of Miller's last school year (who we also love!) but this year was a bit of a struggle. We tapped into all of our friends and family for recommendations but didn't find anyone who was available when/how we needed them. We eventually found someone, and then had a BIT of a she's no longer working for us. I'm (intentionally) skipping over the details there, but let's just say that I was an emotional mess while we tried to ensure our kids were well cared for (while still juggling all the demands of know...the reason we need childcare in the first place!). Thankfully we found someone wonderful who's been with us since early in the school year.

Bookmarking: the schedule for The Box Hop (just about the cutest little shipping container turned Air BNB ever). I started following them on Instagram forever ago, and when spots opened up for the Summer I booked it immediately. We invited some friends to join us, and spent THE BEST weekend in Hocking Hills hiking, snacking and hot tubbing. They're finishing up their second property, which as of this very second has openings on my maybe we're due for another visit!

Opening: myself up to new things. This Summer I auditioned for TedX Columbus. I didn't end up being chosen to speak at the event, but it was a really good opportunity to stretch myself, try something sort of scary, and learn from people I might not have met otherwise.

Giggling: about "belly sticking out ones" (the name my kids made up for "bikinis"). They've never had bikinis before (I still make them wear rashguard shirts most of the time) but we picked up a couple of clearance suits before our beach trip and they were obsessed with them (and with sassy posing, and doing "belly bumps" to each other.) My kids are always coming up with goofy quips, but this one was one for the books.  

Trying: to get in a rhythm with "mama days". I've been trying to flex my schedule at work to clear one day a week to be with my kids a bit more. I still work full time, but I try to protect one day from getting overloaded with meetings, so I can be available for them. Previously I was trying to manage childcare on my own those days (while checking into to work as needed) but it was getting wild, and ended up with me frantically trying to get coverage, or crying overwhelmed tears about feeling like I was failing at everything at once. Now we have our nanny come so I have the help if/when I need it. I typically end up having to work at least a portion (sometimes a BIG portion) of the day, but I'm thankful for the flex when it happens. Walking the "big kids" to school, having lunch with my littlest ones, hitting up a playground's been just the best. I honestly love to work, but also know that these babies don't keep, so the chance to have it all (even when "it all" is a bit of a precarious mess sometimes) is something I'm tremendously grateful for. 

Listening: to the magical musical mystery tour. I've documented this quite a bit so I'll save you the whole song (and dance) but it's been SO SO FUN. I'm starting to think about what we'll do next year, because I'd like to keep it going somehow. Honestly, we could just repeat it exactly how we did this time- there's still a ton to learn about all the artists who are on our current list. But I'm open to expanding it somehow too...I think I'll use December to jam to holiday songs and think it over. 

Watching: This is Us, The Office (we're about 5 episodes from completing the full series on Netflix), and Million Little Things are our weekly go-to's. We had a Hulu membership for just long enough to watch Handmaid's Tale, and very occasionally take advantage of a friend's HBO subscription (plus we can technically watch things on via Amazon Prime, but does anyone actually do that?) And now Dustin is making a case for becoming Disney Plus subscribers (the Marvel movies were a particular selling point for him). So as always: all my real life responsibilities aside, this is the real reason I don't read anymore.

Obsessing: over the passage of time. I can't possibly think of a new way to complain about how quickly the good stuff flies by...but it does! This Summer I had anxiety before the season even started, because I was already anticipating it coming to an end (crazy! I know!) One of my solutions (besides tough loving myself with the occasional internal "Calm the F down, Courtney" pep talk) was to create a Summer Fun List- a running list of all the fun things we did together. This was a way for me to practice gratefulness, and to keep myself in a mindset of abundance. And unlike a bucket list- it didn't give me more things to do or strive was just a visual reminder of all the goodness already in our lives. We brought the idea back for the Fall (but honestly didn't keep up with it as well) and now as we head into Thanksgiving, our giant banner is now a spot to jot down our "Grateful For" notes. It's a simple little practice, but it's such a helpful way for me to exit the frantic rush I can so often get caught up in. 

Experimenting: with how to do Fin's hair. This Summer was especially hard on her locks...too much sun, sand, chlorine (and not nearly enough conditioning, brushing, or haircuts) left it dry and constantly tangled. Our first step to repairing some of that damage was chopping off a few inches. Then, after many recommendations from curly haired friends (and much googling) we tried out a few products. We started with the cheap stuff (you know me) and have been really pleased with the results (we use this leave in conditioner, detangler, and styling cream) But the BEST addition to our routine has to be this satin bonnet. I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing if Fin would tolerate it, or if it would make a difference, but she actually loves it (anything that's special to just her is always a win) and it seems to keep her from waking up with untameable bedhead. We're also still learning how to care for our foster daughter's hair. We're mostly waiting it for it to grow- just trying to keep it healthy and moisturized. We can use a lot of the same products that we use for Fin, but our mainstay is this leave-in conditioner. We use it constantly, which means she always smells like mangoes. As if she wasn't delicious enough already 

Missing: our old church. It's a much longer and more nuanced story than I'll tell here (that's kinda the theme when I'm trying to cram a year of life into bullet points) but the short and sweet version is this: the church we've attended since we moved here (so...five and a half years) merged with another nearby church. They're lovely, and welcoming, and have tremendous hearts for God. just doesn't feel like our home yet. We've jumped into serving, and are really really trying to give this transition our all, but it is hard. We're realizing that while we're so hopeful about the future, we still need to grieve what we've lost. And what we personally lost is a lot...I miss my friends (many of whom have moved on to other churches) my worship team, my small group...and less important (but still true) my routines and familiarity. I'm not sure what God has in store for us but we're in the middle of things right now...that kind of middle where nothing makes sense, and it's hard to understand the whys that might be behind all the mess whats. 

Suffering: through the monotony of life with little kids. Or maybe just the monotony of being a grown up? Either way, it can be hard to feel like life is an endless loop of cooking, cleaning, lunch packing, working, bathing, reading, homework, more cooking, more cleaning, more work....repeat, repeat, repeat until I DIE. Dramatic? Yes. But that grind is indeed a grind. 

Celebrating: birthdays. The bigger the family, the more plentiful the birthdays, which is fine by me! I haven't done a good old fashioned birthday party blog in YEARS (snippets through #bowdenbdays have sort of replaced the long-form recaps)...but we've had quite a few bashes since then. I love love love going all out for a party theme, but the practical side of me has actually embraced my kids' simple requests for party alternatives. Last year Piper just wanted a day filled with her favorite things (we went bowling, had lunch at Ikea, went swimming and watched movies!) and this year Fin chose to go to Build-a-Bear instead of having a party for her school friends. Miller somehow got a liiiiiiitle lost in the shuffle this time around (his birthday was a few days after we returned from vacation, and the day after the girls started school) but he was perfectly content with his super hero cake at Family Dinner Night, and all the legos he can build. For her 8th birthday Piper really wanted a party with her friends- sloth themed, specifically- so I jumped back into my role as party planner/cake decorator, and we had a blast.  

Pretending: we have a pool. And by that I mean- letting our baby play in a Rubbermaid bin full of water, while the kids spray each other with squirt guns, and Dustin and I drink frozen daiquiris. We spent a ton of time at the real pool this Summer, but for the times when getting out of the house was just too much, we did backyard parties for 6. Lots of popsicles, lots of cheap pool toys, lots of squealing, lots of fun. 

Buying: a million clear bins. I'm on an organizational warpath, and if matching bins help corral the chaos, then bring it on. (Related note: I've also been on a rather impressive selling spree- clearing out old clothes, toys and costumes. I've still got about 29 metric tons of "treasures" I can't seem to part with...but I like to think I'm making progress.  

Visiting: Franklin Park Conservatory. This is one of my fav spots in Columbus...the children's garden in particular is just the best. We got a membership early last year, and have tried to take advantage of it as much as we can. It's beautiful no matter what season it is, but they really go all out for the holidays (including Halloween!) so I'm getting pumped for this year's festivities. 

Eating: so many s'mores. After investigating the cost to redo our deck and add a patio (and nearly dying over the numbers we were quoted) we made a bit of a budget-concious compromise and opted for a new firepit instead. It's been the perfect companion to our (free from the neighbor's trash) Adirondack chairs and we've enjoyed many sticky sugary nights roasting marshmallows. 

Committing: to walking every day. Early this year I decided I wanted to get a bit more active, so I challenged myself to walk for 15 minutes every day. And for at least six months I was flawless. Like a postal worker- neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night (nor the lure of Netflix and queso) could keep me from my daily trek. Honestly, I really impressed myself with my commitment, I've never stuck with something that long. Since school started back up I've been a bit looser (lazier?) with things, but I've still managed to get in at least a few walks each week. I'm hoping to get back in a groove and finish the year strong.

Losing: teeth. Ok...well Fin is at least. The tooth fairy had a busy run with at least 3 teeth lost in the span of a few days. The missing two front teeth stage is my fav- so I'm documenting her gummy grin as much as possible before those grown up chompers come in and wreck the place (orthodontia is in our very near future).

Embracing: this "watch me! watch me! watch me!" stage of childhood. We spent a ton of time at the pool this Summer, and the kids always wanted to show off their new tricks (jumping off the side, doing an underwater somersault...) Someday there will be something really lovely about sitting by the pool with a book while my kids splash on their own, but for now I'm waist-deep, hands outstretched, watching, catching, watching, throwing, watching, clapping, watching.... 

Anticipating: a slow holiday season. Well...hoping for that anyway. I know that my tendency is to pack in more, more MORE festive fun, and as happy as that makes me (sometimes), I also know that sometimes too much of a good thing isn't actually the best for our family. I love the holiday time period so much, but I don't want to get in too deep and bury the joy under the busyness. I'm hoping to spend less time and energy trying to do it all, and focus more on savoring the pieces of it that we really value. I'm thinking about having each of us choose an activity or two that are really important to us and plan our season around those traditions...letting the rest of it go.  

Feeling: Stressed and blessed. And cliche. But mostly blessed.  

P.s. If that wasn't enough...then you're probably my mom. But- if you're just a real Bowdenisms enthusiast- feel free to check out all of our Life Lately posts


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