Good talk

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Last night Mike and I had a really good talk about money.  We talk about money on pretty regular basis, have worked out numerous budgets over the last couple of years living together, and often the conversations end with me frustrated and stressed.  But last night, the conversation went differently.

We created a budget a few months ago and have been trying to live within the parameters of it since. But we spent too much in November and then with the bedbugs and Christmas presents in December we’re kind of feeling like we’re not in control.  We’d like to get on the same page and really be on top of things going forward. So in preparation for a larger conversation about money, both of us have been thinking a lot about it.

When Mike picked me up for dinner last night, we started chatting about what we’d both been thinking so far: how we should allocate our money, the logistics of paying bills, budgeting, planning to attend friends’ weddings, go on vacation, save, buy Christmas gifts, pay down debt, etc. And we were on the same page.  Mike would say something and I’d say “Yeah, I agree, that’s a good idea.” And I’d say something and he’d say “I was thinking the same thing” or “You’re right.”

I think the difference between that conversation and some of our prior conversations is that we were both on board, both thinking about the issues separately before we came together. In the past we’d sat down to chat about money and we’d ask each other questions we didn’t have the answers for. Then I’d get combative and frustrated when Mike didn’t know exactly when the cable bill is due. But this time we’re both brainstorming, both thinking about potential budgets and different ways to allocate our money. We’re thinking about where we’ve gotten stuck in the past and how we can prepare for those types of things going forward.

We’ll have a more detailed conversation this weekend where we lay out real numbers, come up with a plan to manage our money and communicate about our money on a monthly basis, and decide on long term goals. I hope that by preparing individually for this longer conversation ahead of time, it will be more productive and substantive.

From our conversation last night, I’m thinking it will be.  We were very much on the same page and talking to each other as partners and teammates.  It’s exciting to plan our life together.

Christmas before Mike

Before I started dating Mike, Christmas wasn’t a happy time for me. No holidays were.

In my family, holidays were occasions that magnified the underlying unhappiness of our family. Holidays were a reminder that our family was irreparably broken. That we were not as happy or perfect as we pretended to be.

They were days that we were forced to spend together because everyone else was spending the day with their family.  And we couldn’t go outside because it was too cold.  So we were trapped inside with a mother and father that didn’t get along. And that tension permeated everything. Even if there wasn’t an outburst or blatant fighting, I could feel the tension.  I knew something was wrong.

I got sick almost every Christmas. And almost everything Thanksgiving.  I’m sure it was all the stress built up in my body.  I remember being sick for a lot of holidays–fever, vomiting. Ironic for the girl that didn’t miss a day of school from 4th grade through high school graduation.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got sick when I had to stay home for extended periods of time.

It wasn’t a happy occasion.  We didn’t really have traditions. Activities that are typically fun holiday traditions like decorating the tree were just chores for me because they were painful.

Of course there were good moments: when I got Barbie roller-skates, extended family Christmas parties where the boys got Hess trucks and the girls got China dolls. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I all slept in the same room and read Christmas stories. We busted through stockings and presents within a half hour and spent the rest of the day playing with new toys and watching a new movie.

But overall I’d say I felt trapped.

I’m not sure how my siblings would describe Christmas at our house.  I wonder if their memories are as painful as mine.  If they have vivid memories. I really don’t remember the holidays.  I really don’t remember a lot from my childhood.

Christmas at Mike’s house was a very different experience. Starting with Thanksgiving, his dad’s favorite holiday, the Christmas season is Mike’s favorite time of the year. They’d all decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies. It was definitely the most wonderful time of the year, a time of family, and joy.

So when Mike and I started dating, he shared his child-like awe and wonder and excitement about Christmas with me.  And over the years, Christmas has slowly become a happy time. A time to enjoy the company of family and friends, to slow down and take it all in. I know that in the years to come it’s only going to get better.

The Little Things: Christmas 2011 edition

Back in DC after a very busy but great holiday weekend with our families in PA.  Here’s a list of the little things that made this weekend great:

  • pulling up and seeing Christmas lights on my Dad’s house after years without them
  • the smell of a real tree
  • seeing It’s a Wonderful Life at the old Newtown Theater on Christmas Eve
  • waking up with my husband on Christmas morning
  • giving a great gift and the smiles that follow when it’s opened
  • sitting in front of the fire
  • Mike and I putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner with perfect timing for serving
  • coffee in a Christmas mug
  • laughing with Mike’s parents
  • the huge smiles on my siblings’ and Dad’s faces while iceskating on Christmas day

  • seeing a picture of my mom and me from my wedding day hanging above her desk at work
  • holding hands while iceskating
  • seeing Mike back on skates after 3 years
  • good conversations with Mike’s cousins
  • the decision to bring cheesesteaks and hoagies to Dad’s to eat a chill dinner with everyone at home
  • seeing old friends at the annual Christmas and little hot-dog party, especially one I haven’t seen in a while

Christmas song debate

Last night Mike and I were discussing Christmas songs with his dad, specifically songs we dislike. One song I  shared was “Last Christmas,”  saying that it’s not even a Christmas song.  And an argument began.

Me: “Last Christmas” isn’t even a Christmas song.  Just because it has the word Christmas in it doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas song.  It’s a breakup song set around Christmas.

Mike: It is too a Christmas song. If your argument is that simply being set around Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas song then there are countless other songs and movies that would also not be Christmas songs or movies.

Me: You could replace the word Christmas with Thanksgiving or any other day. Like Labor Day. And it would be the same exact song.  It’s not a Christmas song.

Mike: Well then you could make it “Have Yourself a Merry Little Thanksgiving” and it wouldn’t be a Christmas song but that is a classic Christmas song.

Me: That’s because it’s actually about Christmas. “Have yourself a merry little Christmas make the yuletide gay, from now on our troubles will be miles away…”  [ok, as I type this and look up the lyrics I realize that this could be an any holiday song…doh!…]

Mike: It’s a Christmas song because it takes place around Christmas.  Like Christmas Vacation is a Christmas movie because it’s about a family get-together around Christmas. If it was a family get-together around Thanksgiving or Fourth of July it wouldn’t be a Christmas movie.

Me: Christmas Vacation is a Christmas movie because it’s about Christmas and the craziness of families at the holidays.  Of course it wouldn’t be a Christmas movie if it was about another holiday.

[I realize this is getting long so I’ll cut to the point I had that made me win]

Mike: Like, I’ll Be Home for Christmas wouldn’t be a Christmas song if it was I’ll be home for Thanksgiving.

Me: Uh, no.  That song talks about Christmas. “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me. Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents under the tree.” Christmas song.

Mike: Bad example.

After re-playing this whole thing this morning for this post, I realize that we’re really tied since “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has no other mention of Christmas than the first lyric.  But this was super fun and funny at the time, because it was a pretty heated debate and we don’t have those often. And probably because I thought I was 100% right.

I’d love to know:

What Christmas songs do you hate?  

Thoughts on the song “Last Christmas?”

Any “Christmas” songs that shouldn’t be deemed such?

These days

Today’s post is a list of random things I’m doing/thinking about/loving right now.  Thanks to Heather and Clare for the inspiration!

1. I can be found mouthing the lyrics to these songs at the gym.  Though they make me want to sing out loud, I reign in my excitement at the gym.

      It’s My Turn Now, Keke Palmer

Favorite lines: “I’m strong, yeah I’m steady” and “In my heart I’m believing that I can see how I can live what I’m dreaming” Perfect mantras for the gym, and for life.

      Somebody to Love, Glee Cast

(I love the Justin Beiber version too.)

Favorite lines: “Step to the beat of my heart” and “Smile for me.” Make my heart melt. And great for the gym.

2. I’m loving smoothies right now.  In November one of my goals was to eat one fruit and one veggie per day. Check off that fruit!

Favorite recipes:

  • Mixed berry–1 cup low fat plain yogurt, 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/2 tbsp sugar (though add to your taste) in the blender.
  • Strawberry Peach–1 cup low fat plain yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen peaches, 1/4 cup milk, and honey to taste (my taste is 1 tbsp) in the blender. Each of these makes one.

3. Inspired by Jess‘ post about writing a letter to herself, I’m working on my intentions for 2012, thinking about where I want to be come January 1, 2013, and what I want my life to look like.  I’m really enjoying this exercise; it makes me hopeful for what 2012 will bring.

4. I’m looking forward to driving home with Mike today and belting singing Christmas songs.

5. I really want to make this pomegranate vanilla sangria.  I’m brainstorming events I could make this for. Any ideas?

6. One of your intentions for 2012 should be to make some of Jessica’s recipes.  I’m not kidding.

7. I’m about halfway through The Hunger Games and I’m really enjoying it so far. I just got to the part where the games begin.

8. This tea is my go-to when I feel like I’m getting sick.  It’s like a miracle worker. Knocks a cold right out.

9. I’m loving all of my readers.  Thank you for reading and commenting!

10. Speaking of my readers: Before we knew that our bites were coming from bed bugs, I wanted to post a picture of the bites and see if any of you knew what they might be. Mike said that was gross and unless I could prove there were some doctors in my readership, he wouldn’t let me post pictures of his bites. So, who are you? What do you do? Any doctors out there?

I’d love to know:

What are you up to? What are you excited about these days?

 

Overwhelmed with stuff

This is what our apartment looked like when we got home from work on Monday:

No we weren’t robbed. This is how our apartment looked when we prepped for the bed bug treatment. That’s our dining area filled with stuff from our closets, under the bed, other miscellaneous things.

Yep, that’s our bath tub full of trash bags filled with bedding, clothes and shoes. And that’s our bed standing up (there’s nothing else in our bedroom aside from furniture).  And that’s our entry way filled with more trash bags filled with more clothes.

And that’s not even the half of it.  We’re using the vacant studio apartment next door to store most of our clothes.

This process totally sucked before the first treatment when we had to spend an entire day prepping our apartment by cleaning out our entire bedroom and all of our closets and washing pretty much every fabric we own. But then we went to Florida and got a break for the weekend. And it hasn’t been that bad.

But at this point we’re starting to get overwhelmed by the clutter, by the amount of laundry that keeps piling up, at the fact that we can’t find things.  A lot of my pants are snug because they had to go through the dryer and I usually don’t put a lot things in the dryer, and definitely not on high heat (recommended to kill bed bugs). And we’re only halfway through!

A bottle of shampoo spilled in the tub (unbeknownst to us) so when we pulled the bags of bedding out to wash so we could go to bed on Monday night, we ending up getting shampoo on our floor and then we stepped in it and almost slipped. Then when we got back from the laundry room, I got some shampoo on my sock which then got on my leg when I sat cross-legged on the couch.

Packing to go home for Christmas is going to be such a treat. At this point I don’t even remember what clothes I own.  We’ll spend most of the night tonight doing laundry. And at $2 per wash and $2 per dry, this isn’t a cheap process either.  (Though I really can’t complain because our building has been wonderful and is paying 100% of the exterminator’s fees.)

But there is one source of joy in our apartment:

It’s not our best Christmas effort but it’s doing the job. There are four presents under the tree: two for Mike and two for me!  I’m excited to open them at Mike’s parents house on Christmas morning.

What’s for Dinner? Butternut squash stuffed shells

I just finished my last bite and had to share this meal with you immediately.

Butternut squash stuffed shells.

We made Jessica‘s Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Whole Wheat Lasagna a month or so ago and absolutely loved it.  So I was excited to try the stuffed shell version and it didn’t disappoint. You take a bite and the squash is creamy and buttery and garlicky. Delicious. If you’re more of a penne person, try the penne version.

I think this is going to be a go-to recipe in our house.

6 great wedding gifts

While most brides would say they want cash or something off their registry, I know some people feel uncomfortable giving money or towels.  They want to give something more special and personal.  Here’s a list of gifts we received that were not on our registry and that I loved/appreciated.

Painting of the church we were married in

My aunt and uncle gave us this water color painting of the church we were married in.  In my thank you note, I wrote “we’ll hang it in our new apartment and be reminded of the joy of our day when we walk by it.”  And sure enough when Mike put it up, it made me smile with delight and joy and gratitude for my new husband.  In addition, it helped make our new apartment feel like home.

Wine rack and bottles of wine

We registered for wine glasses and my creative and thoughtful friends Leslie and Bridget gave the gift a personal touch.  With the wine glasses, they gave us a wine rack and two bottles of wine.  They selected bottles of wine that relate to newlywed issues: Clean Slate and Tempra Tantrum and attached notes to them explaining when to open them.

Love and wine grow better with time

Open your home to entertain and eat, 

catch up with old friends and new ones to meet.

When the night is over share this bottle of wine, 

but don’t sit down yet–it’s clean up time!

~

Love and wine grow better with time

When fights occur as they sometimes will

and tempers are steaming hot,

pour a glass, take a sip, and be thankful for what you’ve got.

For in a marriage if everyone agreed life would be a bore,

and by asking for Joanna’s hand, Mike is surely in for more!

We haven’t opened the bottles of wine yet, we haven’t had a massive fight (woohoo) or entertained much (goal for December?) but I’m looking forward to it. Edit: when I originally drafted this post we hadn’t opened either bottle.  After the bed bug incident we broke into one.

Flowers

This sweet, colorful set of seeds and pots came from my best friend and bridesmaid Amanda via Red Envelope. I haven’t planted them but I’m looking forward to it. (Note: until midnight tonight get 10% off using the discount code KANE (courtesy of my favorite radio show)).

Mr. and Mrs. Aprons with Newlywed Cookbook

This set also came from Amanda via Red Envelope. This was the perfect gift for us.  We love to cook together, it’s one of the things that keeps us connected, and we always cook from a recipe.

Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook Set

Still love this gift from my friend Jordan.

Night at Bed and Breakfast

My girlfriends from college got us a night at a B&B in Virginia, about an hour from the city.  We spent the night at Stone Manor B&B in October and enjoyed relaxing together.  It was so nice to get a break and some quality time out in the country.

Thanks, everyone!

I’d love to know:

Did you get any gifts that weren’t on your registry? Were they good or bad?

What’s your favorite gift to give a newlywed couple?

Advice on moving in

My sister and her boyfriend are moving in together for the first time next semester.  After talking to some different people and hearing horror stories about couples that move into together and then break up, they asked me for my advice on moving in together. Here’s what I came up with (in no particular order):

  • Make sure you have quality time.  Whether it’s a date night, cooking dinner together, or watching a show once a week, make sure you spend quality time together.  It’s easy to be together but not really be present with one another.
  • Make sure you have alone time.  While it’s important to do things together, it’s also important to do your own thing.
  • Figure out how you’ll pay the bills, both where the money will come from and how the bill will logistically be paid (online, check, who will do it). When I lived with roommates in college, we’d leave the bill in the return envelope with a stamp in front of the door with a post-it of how much each person owed and the due date.  Last person to put their check in dropped it in the mail.
  • Pick your battles. Most likely there will be a bunch of habits that randomly irk you when you move in with someone new.  Whether they leave dishes in the sink, leave the bath mat soaking wet, or leave their dirty socks wherever they take them off, figure out which one drives you the most crazy and choose that one. Then communicate that preference to your partner in a polite way.
  • Be patient. It takes time to merge living experiences. Heck, we’ve been living together for 3+ years and we’re still working things out.

I’d love to know (and so would my sister):

What advice would give to a couple moving in together?

Work Talk Wednesday: Having it all

Work Talk Wednesday is back this week.

Here’s what we’ve talked about in the past:

This week we’re talking about work-life balance and having it all.

I saw this video posted on Facebook last week and thought it was really interesting and wanted to share it with you all and get your thoughts. Click the link below to watch the video and then share your response in the comments.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, shares her thoughts on work life balance.

I’d love to know:

Can we have it all? 

Do you agree with the statement that “one of the most important career decisions you’ll make is who your life partner is?”

Other comments, thoughts, responses?

Let’s get a discussion going!  Share your thoughts in the comments.