Saturday, August 27, 2016

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

Well our time in Daybreak has come to an end. We sadly said our goodbyes to friends and family and Thursday morning the movers came and packed us up and loaded all our belongings onto the moving truck.  It took all day and we were able to spend our very last night next door at my mother-in-laws apartment.  It was a perfect way to spend our last night and get in some extra time with her, Ted, and their dog Gibbs.
Lauren with her 2 best friends, Paula and Bella

Katelyn's apartment friend, Emma

Had dinner with Greg & TerriAnne and Carolynn & Ted

Friday morning we hopped in the car and made the 10 hour drive into Folsom so we could get to our apartment complex and pick up the keys before the office closed.  We got our keys and took our first look at our new home.   James and I had found this apartment online and then when he got to Folsom 3 weeks ago he was able to walk through the model. We weren't able to see the actual apartment until right as we were moving in since they were replacing the carpet.  We are very pleased with our new home.  (The new carpet was worth the wait.)

Our daybreak apartment had a very open floor plan and you could see almost the whole thing when you walked in the door.  Our new apartment actually has hallways and feels more like a home.  Looking at an empty apartment, it always seems a little bit smaller than it actually is and we were anxious to see if all of our furniture would fit. We did our walk-through and signed our paperwork then headed off to dinner.  (not before taking the girls' hamsters out of the car and leaving them at the apartment so we didn't have to keep them at the hotel) James had already found a really yummy Chinese place right next to his hotel so we were excited to have dinner their.  Then we crashed back at the hotel.  James said it was great to have us their with him and didn't feel lonely anymore.

Driving through the Salt Flats


Lots of factories and trains 

Of course all that driving makes a person tired

Sleeping is a great way to make the trip go by faster

Loved driving through the Sierra Nevadas


Saturday morning we had a nice continental breakfast and then drove over to our apartment.   The girls were anxious to see their hamsters and when they got to their room the hamsters were missing.  The cages were there, but no hamsters. The girls were so upset and crying their little hearts out. We walked all through the apartment looking in every nook and cranny.  Behind the dryer we found a little nest of fluff with food.  So we tried pulling the drying out, but no luck, no hamsters. We kept looking and a little while later I went back to the dryer and pulled it out a little further, while I stood there thinking where I should look next, I looked down at my feet and there was Lauren's hamster.  You've never seen a happier girl when I returned her precious hamster to her.  Unfortunately, that only made Katelyn cry harder.  The movers came and started unloading and it was a whirlwind of moving activity all day.  It took about 4 hours for them to unload the truck and put all of our furniture back together.   Then we took a quick break to go to lunch and see a little bit more of Folsom.  It is such a pretty town with rolling hills and lots of trees.

Then it was back to the apartment to finish putting everything away.  By about 8 p.m. we were finally finishing up everything we could do for the night.  The only room we weren't able to put together was the master bedroom.  Unfortunately when the movers were taking our bed apart, several of the beams broke so we didn't bring it with us, just the mattress which we just made up on the floor.   We were too tired to go get dinner, so we just ordered in. After dinner all of us went outside, except Lauren, and when we came back in, there was Lauren holding the missing hamster.  Apparently the house was dark and quiet and when she went into her bedroom, there was the hamster running across the room. She was so excited to catch him and hold him safe until Katelyn could come and see her missing hamster had been found.  Now we have the two happiest girls ever.   And now that our stomachs were full, the missing hamsters had been found, and the apartment was nearly all put together we were all very happy.  We all sat down, turned on a movie, and enjoyed our first night in our new apartment.          

The girls' room looks almost identical to their daybreak room. Only the window is different

The girls/guest bathroom across the hallway from their room
The front room and balcony  

The kitchen and dining room 

Our unpacked bedroom complete with mattress on the floor
                                                                                                         

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong”

“We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong”

Our adventures here in Daybreak have been fun.  We’ve simplified our lives and had some great times, but I don’t think we truly belong here.  So we are off on another adventure.  This one however, is taking us to Sacramento California. Or more exactly the smaller suburb of Folsom, California.
James has worked at Dental Select for the past 11 years.  During those years we had some good times and co-workers became friends with whom we had some great times with outside of work. However, the past few years James’s job has become increasingly more stressful. Just over a year ago, when we decided to simplify our life it was in an effort to help James reduce the stress in his life.  He had been experiencing some anxiety attacks as well as tremors in his left (dominant) hand, leaving him unable to grip things for a few minutes until he could relax and then with focus and deep concentration he could pick things up again.
About 3 weeks ago, we were on vacation, and James was still emailing back and forth with work about a project and he had another tremor episode in his left hand.  It was then that we realized that we needed to do something drastic.  We needed to remove the final stressor in James’s life. . . .his job.   So James turned in his letter of resignation and gave his 2 weeks notice. Unfortunately, some people are prone to drama and love power and position more than friends, and James’s exit wasn’t the peaceful transition we had hoped for.  Unfortunately, we were basically tossed out and lost any friendships we thought we had. I was completely devastated.
But things have a way of working out.  James now has a job with some great guys he has worked with for several years.  In fact, James moved to Sacramento last week and had a fantastic first week at his new job.  We are excited for all the adventures and success we know are in James’ career future.
We have an apartment all picked out, and mover’s all lined up and we are set to move into our new apartment in Folsom on August 24th. We picked Folsom because it has an excellent school system, a cute historic downtown, a lake with nature trails, and lots of fun restaurants.  It has a Mediterranean-like climate and James is most excited about the fact that it doesn’t snow there.  We will be close to San Francisco, Napa, Lake Tahoe, and lots of other exciting and fun places.  (Not to mention that flights out of San Francisco are much cheaper than Salt Lake so we can explore the world for cheaper now).
We are really excited for this new adventure.  We think we are at least one step closer to finding that place where we truly belong.  We hope you’ll keep checking back to follow us on this new and exciting next chapter in our lives.

“Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living”

“Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living”

Preface: Having worked at my children’ s school for the past few years, I am not that accostumed to receiving phone calls from their school, until moving here to Daybreak.  Now it seems that I often receive phone calls from Lauren asking me to bring forgotten items to her, or saying that she is not feeling well and asking me to please check her out for the day.  So yesterday when the phone rang and the caller ID displayed her school’s name, I inwardly groaned and thought to myself, “it’s only the second week of school how could Lauren possibly be calling to ask me to check her out?”
I never imagined it would be the school secretary stating that during PE. Lauren and another boy had collided into each other, then collided into a wall, when Lauren promptly fell to ground and blacked out.  She had been out for a few minutes before an employee was able to get to her and get Lauren to wake up.  She said that it had been recommended that an ambulance be called and for me to come to the school right away.  Thankfully I was at home and only 2 minutes away. I think I arrived in record time.
I entered into the school gym where a few adults surrounded Lauren, who was still lying completely still in a heap on the ground.  I carefully knelt down and picked up her very wet and clamy hand. I gently asked her how she was feeling.  The first thing I noticed was that not only was she still pretty white but her pupils were still dilated. She said that she was okay, that nothing really hurt other than some fogginess in her head.
After talking to the adults and Lauren we pieced together the following story.  Lauren was playing Capture the flag and she and the biggest boy in her class were both going full speed for the flag, in his attempt to get the flag he basically body checked Lauren into the glass wall.  Lauren only remembers putting out her arms to keep her from hitting into the wall then spinning and landing on the floor then looking up to see all of her class and some adults standing over her asking her if she was okay.  Thankfully, she hit the one small section of the gym with a glass wall rather than the brick wall, because there was a staff member who was sitting near the glass wall and heard the thud of someone  hitting the wall, she looked up to see Lauren against the wall and then her falling onto the floor.  This lady came running to help.  The door was locked and it took a bit for the students to realize she needed in and to unlock the door where this lady was able to wake Lauren up.  She was the one who recommended we call for an ambulance.
Because I am not trained at all in what to do in that kind of a situation, and with Lauren being a bit of a hypochondriac, I agreed and asked for them to call the paramedics. While we waited, I continued to hold Lauren’s hand and ask her question as to what did or did not hurt and how she was feeling, with eyes glistening, she whispered, “I’m scared” and it has hard not to cry myself as I reassured her that with a head and possible neck injury we just needed to make sure she was okay. We all talked to her and joked a little to keep her entertained while she waited. Lauren’s eyes went wide when she saw the 4 paramedics walking in with their backboards and stretcher but she remained calm as they started asking her questions.  She, however, HATES having her blood pressure taken and always whimpers when the cuff inflates and this time was no different, but the paramedics were so kind and gently talked to her and reassured her that everything would be okay.
They recommended putting her in a collar, getting her on the backboard and taking her by ambulance to the ER to get checked out and poor Lauren’s eyes got wide again.  I declined because by that point she was sitting up and turning her head and moving around.  She even asked the paramedic that took her vitals if she could give him a hug.  He grinned and said “of course, nobody’s ever asked me that before” and he gave her a great big hug.  (it was really sweet and I wished I would have gotten a picture of that). I signed some paperwork stating that I had declined to use the ambulance and put Lauren in my car and drove her to the ER.
By that time, Lauren seemed to be back to her usual self. She was talking and laughing with the admitting nurse who smiled and told me Lauren’s brain was definitely working fine. After getting all our info, we went back into the room to wait for the doctor.  When he came he gave Lauren a thorough exam and made her move her muscles all sorts of ways, including touching her nose and walking a straight line.  When Lauren was retelling her story, she told him “you know what they say: the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and since I’m so small I just bounced right off like rubber.” The doctor laughed and asked how old she was because she sure seemed wiser and older than a regular 11 year old. Yup,  she was just fine and the doctor said he didn’t think there needed to be any further testing, so he sent us home with a paper on what to watch for and we were on our way back home.
Once home, Lauren was quick to pick up the phone and call her friends, she reassured them she was fine. One friend told her that the entire class was so mad at the boy who had run into her and Lauren felt bad for him.  So even though, she would have liked to have stayed home the next day, she wanted to go to school and let this boy know that she was okay and that it wasn’t his fault.  She was tired but was a little worried about going to sleep.  I laid next to her at night until she fell asleep before going to my own bed. I checked on her a few times and she was just fine.
This morning, Lauren is feeling a little stiff and tired, but otherwise just fine.  She was moving pretty slow and since her class is on the 2nd floor, I asked if she wanted me to help her walk up the stairs to class and she agreed.  As she walked up the stairs a boy from her class was coming down and he was excited to see she was back and asked if she was okay.  By the time she was near her classroom  her best friend saw her and came running out to hug her, and then pretty soon I could hear the class all excitedly saying her name as she walked in the door.  It was so nice to see everyone so happy to see her and concerned about her well being.  I’m sure Lauren is relishing all of the attention and that today will be a pretty great day.

Our One Year Anniversary

Our One Year Anniversary

It was just over a year ago that I created this blog with the purpose of documenting our changing world, a world that was being simplified. It’s funny how you make plans to go in a particular direction then sit back and watch as your path meandors and twists and turns and the path you thought you had marked out and followed so well is not the path you actually ended up following. Ralph Waldo Emerson captured it correctly when he said “Life is a journey, not a destination”.
When we started this grand adventure last year, we thought we would be moving downtown and that we would homeschool our children. We never did end up downtown but in a charming planned community instead.  We felt that our girls really needed to be in a neighborhood filled with kids their ages. As for homeschooling, I really didn’t feel qualified and capable of teaching them everything I felt they needed.  And after completing an entire school year, I am very happy with my decision to send them to school.
Katelyn had a fantastic school year. She loved her teacher and had many friends. But her greatest accomplishment in my mind was her constantly working hard and improving in everything that she did. Lauren had a rougher year, she did well academically but she felt her teacher didn’t like her.  I am most proud of Lauren this year for doing her best and for making great friends and getting out of her shell and getting involved in new things.  She was part of her school’s safety patrol, she joined a tap dance class, and continued on with learning the violin.
So even though we didn’t end up where we originally planned, we did end up simplifying our life and enjoying the simple things.  We enjoyed our smaller apartment (less time cleaning for me, and no yard work or to-do lists), we enjoyed our community swimming pool, hot tub and movie theater.  We enjoyed the small shops nearby and for me especially the nearby lake. I enjoyed many mornings watching the sun rise as I ran around the lake with Stephanie, as well as my times with Katelyn biking around the lake, or taking the girls out on the lake in the kayaks. It has been a wonderful place for us.  We have had many incredible times here and we have accomplished the goals we set out for ourselves.  I think one of our favorite things ended up being year-round school.  We had 3 weeks off after every 6 weeks of school allowing us to have some amazing vacations. I am grateful for those trips and know I will always look back on them with fondness.Yes, I couldn’t agree more, life is a journey and not a destination.

Take vacations-go as many places as you can you can always make money you can’t always make memories.

Take vacations-go as many places as you can you can always make money you can’t always make memories.

I’ve been asked a few times for tips on traveling, so while I’m on a trip and thinking about it, I thought I would share my favorite tips and tricks.
1–Use a credit card to get started.  We opened up an American Express Sky Miles card because if we spent so much money within a certain time, we would earn a free domestic ticket.  (I am NOT endorsing getting into debt.  James and I have had a credit card since we got married and have never carried a balance. In our minds, it’s a debit card that gives us points for using.). Then use your free domestic trip to get miles. Of course, you need to set-up an account with whichever airline you choose to travel with. We actually have two, Delta and United. We have now switched to a Master Card because it lets us redeem our points as a travel credit.  We use our card for almost every purchase we make so that every dollar we spend is earning us points to use for our travels. There is a bit of researching to do to find what you are looking for, but it will pay off.
2-When deciding where to go it works better if you are flexible.  Sometimes it works best to fly to the cheapest place overseas, then from there fly to your destination of choice.  For example, two years ago we wanted to go to Jerusalem, but it was $2300 from Salt Lake to Jerusalem (way too expensive).  However, if we flew to Istanbul it was only $700 and from Istanbul to Jerusalem it was $200. Much cheaper, so that’s what we did.  There is such a thing as “Hidden City” This is where your destination is a piece of a longer flight. You would have to book 2 1-way tickets.  For instance, if you want to fly Salt Lake to Paris non-stop and it’s $1500, looking around you might find that there is a flight from Salt Lake city to Amsterdam and the first flight is a non-stop from Salt Lake City to Paris and the whole flight is only  $900, you can book that flight, pack only carry-on and get off in Paris. On the return trip, maybe you can find a trip from Paris to Los Angeles with a stop-over in Salt Lake City that is cheaper than directly flying from Paris to Salt Lake.   (As in all things worthwhile, there is generally a lot of planning, researching, and waiting to accomplish your desired goal.  Just be patient, it will pay off).  Also,  If there is a destination that you really have to visit, use a website such as Kayak, and set up a “fare-alert” to let you know when your destination gets into your price range. There are many different websites to use, when looking for airfare, our favorite just happens to be Kayak.com
3–Now that you have a place to go, how do you know what to do while you’re there?  Our favorite website is Viator.com  You tell it where you are going, and it tells you the top things to see and do in different categories.  You can book trips right off the website, or it can just give you ideas of things to do on your own.  In addition, we usually purchase an Eyewitness travel book for our destination, because we love all of the walking tours, maps, and information these books contain. TripAdvisor also has a great wealth of knowledge on things to see and do, (with advice from people who have used it) and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER underestimate the advice of locals.  Once you get to your destination, I highly recommend you ask, the hotel clerk, taxi/shuttle driver what the top things to see, do, or places to eat are.  (We have had some of our greatest travel experiences by following the advice of the locals.) Sometimes there are also local guides and tour companies that you can bargain with for a good deal on a tour while there at your destination.
4–Where to stay? We have found that traveling overseas the hotel rates become exponentially expensive. Stateside you can usually cram as many people into a room as you wish, overseas you have to book a room based on the number of occupants with the most people in one room being 4 (but usually only 2)  If you have more, you must book more than one room.    Thus, staying in hotels is more expensive.  We have opted to stay in apartments, not only is it cheaper, but it is fun living like a local. We feel it is just one more way to truly feel like a local. Plus, we like how it teaches our kids to be responsible and clean up after themselves. (No maid service)  Our favorite website for apartments is airbnb.com.  (Also when looking for an apartment, sometimes reading through the reviews you will find that the apartment owner is also a travel guide.  That is how we were able to book our travel guide in Beijing, he was the owner of the apartment we stayed in. We were able to book his services for the entire week we were there. We let him decide what things we should see and do and we had a fantastic trip!)
5–Food.  We LOVE eating street food. Not only is it cheaper, but it is the food of the  locals.  We do however, like to eat at a nicer restaurant at least once.  Most restaurants overseas add a service fee when dining in.  (The cost comparison between eating street food versus restaurant food  is about the difference between Chic-fil-A and Olive Garden).    Apartments also help save money on food costs. We enjoy being able to go to the local markets and buy our own food.  We can store water/ drinks in our fridge, cook our own meals, and have plenty of space to store snacks.   We always travel with our camelback backpack. Ours holds 1.5Liters of water and is fantastic to have all that water available without having to hold bottles in our hands. The camelback also has plenty of room for kleenex/wet wipes, hand sanitizer, travel books, maps, bandaids, medicines, and snacks.  (You really will want to carry it with you everyday. Especially for the kleenex and hand sanitizer as lots of bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap.  The camelback is great on the airplane as a carry-on for keeping headphones, treats, and coloring books/games for entertainment.) We also use water bottles in our camelback as well as our flavored water packages to add to the water.  This saves on having to buy drinks with our meals.  You can get 10 flavored drink packets for just $1 (each packet can flavor a 16 oz water bottle) and a can of Coke or Fanta (12 oz)  overseas can easily cost $2.
6–Saving.  As much work as it is in finding airfare, a place to stay, things to see and do, and food to eat; it’s probably just as much work if not more in actually creating a budget and sticking with it to pay for this amazing travel experience.  If you are serious about traveling, then it takes some serious time going through your finances to decide what is most important and where you want to spend your hard-earned money. (I must admit that my having a job has given us greater flexibility and a slightly better budget to work with but I know that’s not always possible for Mom’s to work as well).  We have decided what our travel budget is for the year, then we have automatic payments coming out with every paycheck into our travel fund. We use a cash-based system for our food and household items. When the money is gone-it’s gone.  Using cash has really helped determine if something is a need or a want and whether we need it now or if we can wait until the next paycheck. Sometimes it just about going to the most basic and simple way of doing things.
I hope this has been an interesting read and gets you thinking about how and where you are going to travel.  I promise you all the work is truly worth it.   I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and I hope once you start, you will be bitten as well.  This world of ours is one amazing and fantastic place, so go out and discover!

To recap here are some of our favorite websites:
Http://kayak.com– for finding airfare and setting fare alerts
http://airbnb–apartment and perhaps tour guide
and don’t forget to sign-up for a credit card to start earning point/miles and set-up an account with your favorite airline (or 2) to start collecting those miles.

Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.

Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.

I really always enjoy looking back over the previous year and seeing all that has happened in just one year.  I always feel so incredibly grateful for the life I have.
I am so proud of James and how amazing he is.  I truly appreciate how hard he works for our family, how incredibly smart he is, and what an amazing dad he is. I am so grateful that my girls have such a great Dad who takes such great care of them and puts so much time into teaching them, playing with them, and loving them. I am so grateful James puts up with me and loves me despite and in spite all of my quirks and flaws.  He truly is my very best friend, my rock, and my world.
I love seeing how much Lauren and Katelyn have learned and achieved over this past year. Most of this learning isn’t represented on a report card  but rather in life lessons.  I have really enjoyed watching them learn how to deal with moving, how to deal with an entirely different and new school,  how to make new friends, and learning new talents like tap and jazz dance.
I have enjoyed my new job and making new friends as well as enjoying time spent with old friends. I have enjoyed conquering new goals this past year and am looking forward to another year of stretching myself and trying new things.
Speaking of trying new things, I am so excited for our upcoming trip to Jerusalem.  But even more exciting to me will be our stop-over in Petra, Jordan.  I am excited to see the famous mountain carvings and in doing so, we will get to stay in a Bedouin Camp.  That is certainly a very new and exciting thing to me.
When I look back over the last 10 or so years of traveling I have been able to do some really amazing things like: walk the path to the Acropolis in Athens that Paul, Socrates, Aristotle, and Pythagoras have walked; I’ve seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy (and been in the church next door where  Galileo realized the Earth was in motion);  I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower sparkling at midnight and seen Da Vinci’s the Mona Lisa (and the works of many famous artists) while in Paris; I’ve seen the tomb where Christ’s body was wrapped and laid to rest for 3 days before rising from the dead while I was in Jerusalem; I’ve stood in the Blue Mosque where Constantine  worshiped when I was in Istanbul; I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China in Beijing; and I’ve done some really fun stuff like parasailing in the Cayman Islands; gone snorkeling in Hawaii; played with Sting Rays, swam with sharks, and hula danced with the locals in Tahiti;  I’ve taken a dune buggy through the banana groves in Jamaica; and floated in the Dead Sea—–and as amazing as all of these things are—my greatest accomplishments in life are the 3 people who I experience life with every.single.day.  The happiest moments of my life are the times when the 4 of us are sitting around the dinner table talking, or sitting down watching a movie while all snuggled up together. I feel the most complete joy when I see my daughters talking and laughing together as sisters, and more importantly to me, as friends. I feel completely fulfilled when James looks at me with complete love ands says, “I love you.” These are the times that I would never trade.   And lucky me, I have experienced these most truly wonderful times several times a week.  I am so incredibly grateful for my wonderful life.  I really don’t take it for granted because each day is filled with moments, and it’s those moments that truly matter most and make up my incredibly wonderful life.  I hope you have a wonderful life, filled with all those moments that truly make you happy too.   Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year!
Just a few of my favorite memories from this past year: