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What to Accomplish in Your 20’s

What to accomplish in your 20s

I was challenged recently to write  a post about navigating your 20’s. And since I’m a 20’s graduate, working on my 30’s masters, I do have some thoughts on what I would advise someone to accomplish in their twenties. (There’s a fun conversation going on about this. Check out this and this blog for more inspiring 20s life posts.)

First, let me give you a quick idea of the major accomplishments of my 20s:

 

 

  • Graduated college Magna cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in English.
  • Got married and bought my first house at 23
  • Got my first post-grad job and then my first actual writing job.
  • Had my first baby at 25
  • Ran a half marathon–my first ever race!

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Our First House

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All monumental things summed up in a quick matter-of-fact bulleted list, right? Ha!

Now, if I were to tell anyone in their 20’s what their 20’s bucket list should look like, I’d tell them this:

Start working toward your dream job: You might not land your dream gig right out of the gate, but there are always things you can do to MAKE It Happen right now! Start by volunteering in your desired niche, do some things for free. I created my own PR type writing volunteer job at a local museum. I didn’t just look for this opportunity, I quite literally made it happen by creating the volunteer spot itself. Doing so got me valid experience and portfolio pieces that opened me up to my dream job. You could always start your own business on the side too to transition into. I didn’t have any entrepreneurial people in my family willing to teach me about self-employment, and I wish I did because today’s digital business landscape is Fertile! (If you’re an English major, I’d love to be that person for you. Check this out).

Learn and master a few key recipes: Yes, this is one of those adulting self-reliance things, but it’s also about being healthy and budget-conscious. It will serve you well when you have a family, when you want to entertain, when you want to demonstrate your affection to a love interest;) You should learn how to cook more than a Pop-Tart and Easy Mac in your twenties. It’s good for your health, your bank account and your relationships. A few of the ONLY cookbooks on my bookshelf are listed on my Fave Resources page.

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Start replacing hand-me-down furniture with quality: one of the rites of passages into adulthood is changing out your secondhand furniture for new, good quality pieces. Start with where you spend the most time: invest in a good bed, a nice couch, and a treadmill, for example. Furnishing your homes with quality lifetime pieces will really elevate you into adulthood. And your environment can have a strong influence on your wellbeing, so make a home for yourself that feels like you.

 

Contribute to your 401k: when I took my first post-grad job, I was amazed when the HR guy showed me the chart about what retirement looks like if you start investing in your twenties versus your thirties. It’s like exponentially different! Start now! Even if you think you don’t need to start thinking about it yet. Plus, your employer’s matching program? That’s free money, people! Just do it! You’ll thank me later. And if you have kids, do the same with their college fund. Start when they’re born, not when they’re 5.

Build up good credit: you think being in debt is just the norm because everyone around you is in debt. Well, it’s not going to serve you, ever. So, starting now, make sure you don’t spend more than you make, always pay your credit card balance off every month, and make payments on time. When you go to buy a house or a new car, you’ll be in the position to get the best rates possible. I had college paid off before my loans ever even became due. And by the time we went to buy our first house, I had near-perfect credit scores.


Spend money where it counts:
The best things to spend money on? Experiences, education and other people. No material thing will ever come close! Travel as much as you can while it’s still feasible. Get your next degree right away while it’s easier for you to do so. And start creating space in your budget for giving back. You maybe did this a little as a kid, but it’s really an adult, humanitarian thing to do.

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Try to value your Time: When my son was born, I said to a friend “when I used to say ‘I just don’t have the time’ before, what the heck was I talking about?” Because seriously? Kids knock your time down by about 1000%. I’m not saying that to complain, I’m just saying it will be a big shock and adjustment. Even if you don’t anticipate having children, the more responsibilities you take on in your career, the less time you’ll have. You don’t know it now, but you actually have the most time available to you as you ever will. Do something wise with it.


Start taking care of your body.
You’ve likely stopped playing team sports and might even dwell in cubicle-land, so you need something new to challenge your body. Even though you don’t feel it yet, your body will become different in your 30s. Things will hurt that never did. And food will affect your body in ways it never did before. I know that makes me sound suuuuper old, but I’m not. And you’ll thank your 20s self if you start feeding it the best fuel and keeping it active now. Things will feel better as you grow older.

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Read self-development every day: become a better human. It’s amazing how your life transforms when you fill your head with all these empowering things. Try it, you’ll see!

 

Shed the judgement and cattiness of your school days and embrace compassion and love instead. It will get you everywhere. Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel better, just thinking about it?

Listen to your mom: as I’m going through motherhood myself, I’ve noticed we go from adoring our moms when we’re little, to becoming angst-ridden parent-hating teens to adoring our moms again as adults. Especially after having your own child. Moms, amiright? The first thing I did after having a baby was contemplate in amazement my own mother. And when you start repeating phrases your mom always used, you realize that you really should’ve just listened to your mom this whole time.

 

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Keep in touch with your friends: it takes a lot more work to get together with friends nowadays. Sometimes it takes great feats of effort to get together. You can’t just go and hang out on a whim like you used to. You have to make sure you make an intentional effort to connect and don’t leave it up to the other person. It’s too easy to become a hermit. And there’s a time for hermit-ness. But your friends are your heart, so don’t let them bleed away.

Find ways to give back: your twenties are one of the most selfish decades in your life. And I’m not saying that to be harsh, I’m just stating it matter-of-factly. It just is. Start taking time to find random acts of kindness, volunteer work, a cause to put your heart into. It will make you a better person.

DO NOT CONFORM: there are waaaaay to many people running on the normal, autopilot life. Don’t be one of those people. You have way too much beauty and rarity to offer this life. Figure out what and whom you love and run with it!

 

I know these are super fortune-cookie-simple pieces of advice, but they seriously sum up THE most important things about life in your 20s. I could go on and on about each one. They’re not simple at all. But given the context of this post, they’re straightforward as possible.

What about you?

If you’re past your 20s, what would you add to this list?

If you’re in your 20s, are any of these values ringing a bell?

 

~This blog was inspired by the fun minds over at Casper. Their Pillow Talk blog (love the name!) is really entertaining, check it out.

What Summer Weekends Are Made Of!

This weekend was a weekend full of everything that summer weekends should be made of: outdoor picnics, live music, festivals, rides, sweet corn and fun houses.

Saturday, after getting the house cleaning done, our little family went to a benefit for our favorite long-time mechanic who just learned he is facing stage IV lung cancer. Though the circumstances are dire, the event itself was an amazing tribute to this talented man!

They had a really great cookout, a live band, lots of drinks, and a motorcycle rally. It was really quite fun! We tried to spend as much as we could on raffles and face painting and more raffles.

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Hey look, we spotted a church friend doing the face painting!

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After that, we snuck in our grocery shopping for the week. I am having the most delicious mother-of-a-wrap sandwich for my lunches this week. I haven’t even taken a picture of it yet because of its get-in-my-mouth urgency.

Sunday, we ran away to the county fair. We did all the summer things. Kayne and I went on all the rides. He’s 8 and tall now, so it’s so much fun to be able to ride all the big rides with him. And even some of the kiddie ones too, like the Fun House.

 

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IMG_1312.JPGAnother passing kid said “look, he’s a cowboy” and Kayne gave me the most “nailed it” smile. Exactly the look he was going for!

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We had to stick around and watch the demolition derby at the fair too, of course. Even the baby loves stuff like this! She said “uh oh” about 1,535,654 times. Haha! Yes my dear daughter, uh oh.

Then, my most favorite summer festival thing, the sweeeeeet corn! I looooove me some sweet corn. Best part about summer! I buy it at fairs, I buy it at roadside stands, I buy it at the farmer’s markets and there’s some in my fridge right now.

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We finished off Sunday evening with a good pool scrubbing and refill so we can enjoy this other novelty of summer. Meanwhile, kittens!

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They’re kid-friendly

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They can climb trees.

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 And they’re just too stinkin’ cute!

Anyone want one–or three? For real, we have probably 3 that aren’t spoken for yet.

What do your summer weekends typically look like?

Personal Thoughts on Weaning

Rayna is my last baby. Everything she learns is the last “first” I’ll get. Her first steps, her first word, her first wave bye-bye are the last firsts our family will get to experience, making them absolutely delightful and incredibly bittersweet at the same time. It’s a weird feeling knowing the next baby we’ll have in our family will be our grandchildren, so many years from now. I try not to think about that.

This month, Rayna completely weaned. We have only been doing nighttime feedings since she turned one because I wasn’t ready to let go completely, but these past few weeks, Rayna was ready to let me go completely. The last few times I nursed her were a little more forced than I would’ve liked, so it was time. She doesn’t reach for a drink or eagerly cuddle up anymore. My good ole pump that saw me through two kids is long gone. I’ve gone through the last of our storage bags. I feel a little like I’m deserted on the side of the road…

At the same time, I am very proud that we made it this long, that we had a relatively successful journey that many women aren’t able to or don’t get to experience. But this letting go is hard…

See, nursing is a war. It takes profound persistence and pain, extensive google searches and middle-of-the night questions in mommy nursing groups. It takes complete unwavering dedication from just one partner. It takes excruciating pain going into it for the first couple weeks. It takes tons of reading and preparation and research. It takes working around pumping schedules at work and disappointment when someone steals your time slot in the pumping room. It takes memorizing dozens of rules about the where’s, when’s and how long’s of milk storage. It takes constant worry about how much baby is getting, if we have enough stored, if she’s drinking enough while I’m gone, if she’ll even take bottles, and on and on. It takes being the only one getting up in the night for feedings. It takes puddled shirts and let-downs in the middle of Walmart. It takes shopping for a new upper body wardrobe to suit the endowment. It takes nights of getting soaked and more pain. It takes not going away from home for more than two hours at a time for awhile. Rayna and I, we fought like bandits with bloody knuckles to get to this point, so it makes my heart bleed again to have to let it go.

Nursing offers the opportunity to stare into that beautiful face every few hours, every single day. It offers healing touch and the beautiful companionship of unconditional love. It offers nurturing and relationship building. It creates indestructible bonds of trust. It fine tunes a mother’s instinct and intuition. If offers wisdom about and complete immersion in the life of another person. It gives you those sweet moments of sleeping babies in your arms. Not to mention reveling in all the wonderful benefits of that milky medicine. (I was even able to contribute 278 ounces to the nourishment of another baby when my freezer got too full!)

If you study the science of breast milk, it truly is one of life’s miracles. The content of milk alone is enough evidence for me of God’s existence. It changes as baby’s needs change. It pumps out antibodies when it senses baby getting sick. It produces more fat when baby needs to grow. It just automatically produces exactly what baby needs with complete and utter perfection. And I won’t get to experience or appreciate this again.

This week, right now even, there have been tears. There have been heavy-laden sighs. There has been one incremental move away from my daughter’s dependency on me. It’s been much harder than it was with my son since I know this time I won’t get to do this again. I wasn’t ready for this…

The phrase “they get big so fast” is so overused and yet no one can stop saying it or ever will because of the heavy truth and continual astonishment behind it. They really do grow so fast…

New Family Tradition: Jesse Tree

So, in years past, I have put together a fun Advent calendar for Kayne to make the countdown to Christmas meaningful and intentional. You can see some of our activities HERE and HERE. This year, I didn’t know if I’d be able to maintain that level of involvement with our big move and everything. We’ll still do a lot of those activities anyway, calendar or not. I was also thinking about how to make the countdown a bit more meaningful to the reason for the season.

So, I hopped on Etsy and typed in “Jesse Tree.” My final decision came down to this set of ornaments. I just LOVE them. They came all wrapped up in a burlap sack with a printed scripture guide.

We’ve been sitting down every night, reading the verses in the guide and discussing the themes. Then, my son will place the ornament on the tree wherever he wants.

I can’t wait to keep this tradition going. I’m thinking of buying the kids each their own set and tucking them away for when they move out of the house. I’m hoping that this is one of those traditions that they take with them for their own families and find comfort in the familiarity of the “back home” tradition.

Does your family do any sort of countdown to Christmas traditions? I love hearing stories about them!

An Alice in Wonderland Tea First Birthday Party

I love Alice in Wonderland. I’ve loved Alice in Wonderland since before loving it was cool, haha. That was one of the only kids’ movies we owned growing up (we would rather have rented), so I saw it upwards of 50 times, no joke. So, when I was trying to decide on a theme for my daughter’s first birthday, it was only natural that an Alice themed tea party would strike me as appropriate.

The cutest, most appropriate, invitations ever!
I added little AIW details like the party time: 3pm, don’t be late for this very important date.
And the event: a very merry unbirthday to you and a happy first birthday to Rayna.

I tried not to go all out though and stress myself out. I wanted it to be about celebrating my little girl, not an over-the-top obligation. Kayne’s first birthday party didn’t even have a theme, and I’m not sure they’re completely necessary. But I guess I was strung along by all the other mommas in my mommy groups that had set themes and picture-worthy decorations. You know how that goes… We wanted to keep it simple. Hubster and I definitely committed to easy food. The crockpot, some veggie trays and grape skewers were very easy food choices that took the pressure off.

Idea from here
I found some “drink me” labels to try
We really did serve tea too and set out a beautiful teacup collection from my mom.

Clean cup, clean cup, move dooooown!

For some reason, my mom also had some tea party themed balloons in her party stash which couldn’t have been more perfect. This pic isn’t the greatest, but we used the balloons, a doily bunting banner and a few hand-drawn (by my sister) Alice pictures for decorations. I forgot to get a picture of it up close, but I made a sign at the center bottom there that had arrows pointing “this way,” “that way,” “wrong way,” “tea party” inspired by this Pinterest post.

I found the most adorable Alice dress from an Etsy shop for the pretty lady, although I’m not sure the 12 month size was accurate. She sure made an adorable Alice. And the most adorable card from the seller certainly made up for it.

We couldn’t find a tea party or Alice in Wonderland cake at the grocery stores we tried, so we settled on a generic princess cake, that even came with a complimentary smash cake.
And smash it she did!
This kid was totally asking for it, lol. Like literally, “throw cake in my face, momma” asking for it.

All in all, Rayna did pretty well for all the noise and ruckus in our house. I loved it! Our house was filled with our closest family and friends. Especially ones I hadn’t seen in a long time. I love having a full house! It had to be overstimulating for the baby, but she hung in there and begged us to open her new toys in her own baby way: by bringing them to us and whine-crying to get her point across. So darling!

We had a fabulous time ringing in this milestone day with our pretty little daughter (it’s still weird for me to say “daughter.” I have a daughter!). She’s finally one! She finally has a number!
I’d like to thank all my friends and family that were able to make it. You know who you are! We couldn’t have made Rayna’s day so special without you. These precious moments will be captured in her memory book forever and we’re so glad you were a part of it!

Happy birthday Rayna!

Lavender Earache Compress

Kayne complained one day when he had a cold that he had an earache. Unsure whether we needed to call the pediatrician for antibiotics yet, I thought I’d give a home remedy with essential oils a shot.
First, I consulted my book about essential oils for children. Did you know many essential oils that are safe for adults are not safe for children and especially babies? Do a little extra research before you use them with abandon. I also consulted the book for advice about earaches.
Out of the essential oils I already had in my cabinet, what I found was that lavender and tea tree (melaluca) are great for children’s ears. So, here’s what I did:
Supplies:
Sweet almond oil (or other carrier oil)
Lavender essential oil
Tea tree oil (optional)
Washcloth
Warm water
Directions:
  1. Pour a small pool of oil in the palm of your hand. Drop in one drop of lavender oil. Add one drop of tea tree oil if you wish, too. Use your finger to stir the mixture in your hand.
  2. Rub the mixture around the outside of the child’s ear. DO NOT put any inside the ear.
  3. Dip a washcloth in a bowl warm water (you can add a drop of lavender to the water too) and have your child rest their affected ear on the washcloth for about 10 minutes. You may want to put a plastic bag underneath so the wetness doesn’t get on your furniture. Re-warm the washcloth if necessary. Alternately, you can have the child rest their head on a low-heat heating pad.

My son said his ear didn’t hurt anymore after using the heating pad method. So, it worked! Some of the cure might have just been the coziness and tender loving care from his momma, but that just comes with the recipe:)
Any other home remedies for earaches that you’ve tried with success?

Baby’s First Birthday

Oh my goodness, I know no other mother has said this before, but how did an entire year go by already?

This girl has brought more joy to our lives than I could ever have imagined. I never felt the desire to be a stay-at-home mom until she came along. I cried almost every day thinking about returning to work and begged Hubster to take a different position so that I could stay home, but it just isn’t in the cards for us. I just had such enjoyment spending those first 9 weeks of her life with her. I so enjoyed reading her books, cuddling up with her for naps, taking her for walks, and letting her watch me sew and work on projects from her bouncy seat. I was at a different place in my life when her brother was born and I didn’t have those same desires, although it cut me deep to leave him every day.

This girl was a champion sleeper right from the beginning (she’s regressed a bit recently, which is odd), and for that we have been so blessed. She has been such an easy baby. She only cried when she was tired or hungry, never for no reason.

She surprised us with her shocks of bright red hair when she was born. I didn’t think she would be born with any hair at all. And the fact that she did and it was RED just blew me away.

She is a very active, curious, smart child. Forget toys! She wants to investigate nooks, crannies, books and…well…everything. She is also a huge garbage picker. I mean, I know babies like to stick everything in their mouths, but this girl will find the tiniest hair on the carpet or piece of dust on a windowsill and try to taste it. And she literally loves to pick out of every garbage can in the house.

This girl also skipped right over pureed baby food and went straight to table food. She would literally have NOTHING to do with purees or baby cereal. I even made some pea and squash purees from scratch for her that may never be used. She wants what we’re eating. So, we started her on soft things, but she pretty much eats what we eat already.

She is a water baby, loving baths and sticking her own head underwater. She’s super funny, like the times she puts clothes on her head and crawls around laughing. Or when she clunks heads on purpose or blows raspberries on momma’s belly. She is a huge daddy’s girl and she especially loves her Auntie Jenny and her daddy’s friend David.

She beat her brother with not only hair and birth weight, but also teeth. She has had four for months where her brother cut his first on his first birthday.

I love the place she is at now. She understands many things and she rushes to meet me when I get home. She waves and gives hugs. She’s easy to make laugh. She has quite a personality, even though she can’t really talk yet. And she always gets her way. If baby ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

Her nicknames have been Raynaliscious, Rayna Pants, Dolly, Miss Thing and currently, Booga. She is also the prettiest girl in the world:)

Her brother made me a mother. And she is the one who completed our family. They both have such a special place in our family and lives. I am so elated that I get to have both a boy and a girl. I can’t wait until she’s a little older and we can do girl stuff together. We’ll probably get our nails done together by the time she’s 3, haha. I just looooooooove this little girl and thank God for sending her to me.

Happy Birthday Booga!

Baby’s First Pumpkin Patch

Seeing as Rayna was fresh out of the baby factory last year, we never made it to any of our normal pumpkin patches. It somehow seemed like an unfinished fall without a hay ride and a glass of cider. This year, it was perfect because she was so interactive with the animals. Her face lights up and she has this high-pitched screech sound she makes when she sees animals. She tried to pet the baby chicks like she pets our big moose of a dog.

My workplace is amazing. They sponsor a day for their employees every year to check out Mulberry Lanes Farm. Rayna’s due date was the exact date that the trip fell on last year, so we obviously didn’t RSVP.

Mulberry Lanes offers hay rides, horse rides, and a bunch of petting zoo stuff. You can try to catch a chicken or a turkey. You can feed the goats and hang out in the pig pen. We always spend way too much time in the little cage where they keep the kittens.

Momma, you didn’t save me any coffee!
Dunkin Donuts has the best.
Our favorite spot
No, you can’t bring one home
After you’re done petting all the animals, each person gets to choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home. 

My cabbage patch kid

And my cool kid

The weather was absolutely perfect for this trip. The kids were wearing flannel and I was in long sleeves and we got a bit hot, but it was a perfect day. See you next year Mulberry Lanes!

Milwaukee Zoo Trip 2015

Every year Hubster’s work sponsors a picnic at the Milwaukee zoo and we always try to make it. One year Hubster was in a wheelchair due to an injury to his knee. Last year he insisted I stay in a wheelchair because I was only a few days away from my due date.
That yellow sign behind me says “Baby on Board”
They always do such a great job providing lunch, drinks and attraction tickets. One of the attractions we went to was the dinosaur exhibit. We tried that about 3 years ago, and Kayne was just as scared this year as he was then. 
Our first stop was the petting zoo. Rayna gave the goats hugs as is normal for her with animals. She has this high-pitched squeal she makes when she sees an animal and she pats them really nicely. She’s already an animal lover.
My boys tried out the ropes course this year, which was so cool to see too. Rayna and I hit the air conditioned shops for some souvenirs while they were doing that. Kayne got a necklace with an encapsulated scorpion. Just up his alley.

Then, we walked through all the requisite exhibits.

At one point, Kayne excitedly pointed out a momma peacock walking across the path with her babies. After the video, the momma peacock decided to fly over one of the motes around one of the bear exhibits. Everyone stood around and watched to see if she was really just going to abandon her babies. But actually, after hesitation, unsure of themselves, they each flew, one by one, to momma.
A video posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on

After that, we headed back to the petting zoo and had one last run through the ice cream shop and headed home. Another amazing summer day!

Monarch Butterfly Migration

We had a magical day last weekend at the Butterfly Gardens in Appleton, WI. A friend suggested that place after I told her that we missed the big beautiful migration that happened in Stephen’s Point.

Baby caterpillar

It just so happened on that weekend, they were also participating in the Monarch Migration. Each family was given a monarch. We got to tag our own monarch and release it outside. They check each butterfly for OE and identify it as male or female. We got a female. The cool thing about tagging is that if any other nature centers that participate on their way to Mexico find your butterfly, they will give you a personal call or email. 

My mom and sister also came along, so we both had butterflies to release.
We took our envelope with our butterfly outside to their butterfly gardens. They have an amazing field of butterfly-attracting flowers with a mowed path in the shape of a butterfly. There’s a lookout tower over the field, which is where we bade farewell to our flying beauties. It was a neat moment.
Next, we explored the trails and looked at more butterflies in the wild. It was about 95 degrees and humid, but we didn’t care.

After the trails, we headed inside to the butterfly house. They have a greenhouse-like house where you can go inside with hundreds of butterflies. They give you a Q-tip dipped in Gatorade so you can try to catch them. It was so cool to have the butterflies right in your hands. We spent a lot of time out in that house.
My nephew Amadeus was complaining about not being able to catch anything. When he finally did get one on his Q-tip, he actually caught two of them! They were “cuddling.”
There was also a little pond with turtles and frogs. 
We happened to find a few butterfly wings from some dead monarchs (they only live about 6 weeks). I’m hoping to figure out how to make something neat out of them. The boys want something too, so I’m trying to figure out what to make with them that won’t be too girly.

Turns out Kayne’s first science unit in school will be about butterflies. I have a feeling he might be ahead of the game:)
I really loved our day with the butterflies. It’s such an amazing memory.