Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Most Expensive Summer of Our Lives (and why it was totally worth it!)

Alex brought the idea of New Mexico to me back in the fall of 2017. I wasn't thrilled about it. New Mexico did not sound appealing, we didn't know anyone there, and moving is always a ton of work. In December, he accepted an internship position after I finally agreed, deciding that if it made the end goal of graduation and a career more possible we might as well.

It was the beginning of 2018 when I got really settled in to the job of being a stay at home mom to two kids. We had an iron clad routine that kept everyone happy. We were out and about every morning either with friends or at the library or Nathan's gym class. Nathan was thriving, Mia was a chill baby, and I was getting around to things I wanted to do. When May came around, it honestly felt like the worst time to leave. I did NOT want to go. True to my own motto of making anywhere I am my own happiest place on Earth, I decided to buck up, get the house packed, and enjoy a three day road trip across the country to spend the summer in a brand new place.

We had all sorts of goals for the summer. Alex would potentially be getting paid twice as much as normal, so we had tons of financial goals, he was excited about his new job and ready to consider it as a permanent place after graduation. I was going to go to the pool with the kids and find the library and make new friends.

We planned on taking both our cars to New Mexico, thinking our Honda Pilot would tow our Jeep Cherokee. We rented out our house for the summer, so we only packed up the bare essentials that could fit in our car. We planned to sleep on an air mattress and use camp chairs - possibly purchasing some old furniture from Goodwill or something when we got to New Mexico. Before long, we realized there was no way the Pilot could tow the Jeep. Suddenly we were down to one car. It's ok, we thought, we'll just pay to have someone bring it to New Mexico for us. We loaded up our car and headed on the open road.

When we got to New Mexico, I'll be honest, I wanted to stay in the car. I wanted to turn the car around and go back to my old life. Instead, I got out and unloaded the little stuff we brought and sat on the floor imagining what life would be like if we ended up living in New Mexico forever. Alex had mentioned if the job went well we could stay there and he could finish his PhD work. There was a good spot for a Christmas tree.

On Monday Alex headed to work, and I faced the week head on trying to figure out how to entertain both kids without a vehicle to get us anywhere. Going from having somewhere to go every day to not being able to go anywhere even if I could was a big blow for me. I decided that in order to make it work I would have to get creative with the kids, but in order to do that I'd need to wait for Alex to come home and take us to the store so I could get supplies. At the end of the week, we decided that paying for someone to bring the Jeep was not financially responsible. I told Alex to cancel the request. We found out Alex would not be getting paid double like we thought, so that turned out to be the right choice. We also found out that our pool was freezing cold, so it never sounded appealing, even in 100 degree heat!

The summer had a rocky start. I wanted to be home in Indiana more than I ever thought I would. I would often think about how I never wanted to go to New Mexico in the first place. I tried to keep a positive attitude for the family. Alex didn't like his work as much as he thought he would and was feeling a lot of burnout from school, causing questions about how he should proceed.

We got passes to the BioPark (zoo, aquarium, botanical gardens, farm) and on our way out of the aquarium one day, we saw a stand full of brochures on things to do in New Mexico. Alex grabbed all of them that looked interesting, and when we got home that night we poured over them, deciding if we wanted to make them a priority or not. At the end of the night we had our weekends planned for the next month, and a stack of places we wanted to go for the rest of the summer. We were determined to make the most of our life in New Mexico!

We spent weekends exploring hidden treasures, national parks, and local family friendly spots. We tried new restaurants and Alex went on the hunt to find the best breakfast burrito (apparently New Mexico invented breakfast burritos! Alex liked this one and this one.) We got good at long drives with kids, and we used those drives to discuss life and future goals. The stresses of the week were put on hold as we focused on our family, figuring out what type of family we want to be and traditions we want to have. We had hard discussions and fun discussions and our marriage grew stronger. We learned a lot - about us, about our family, about our likes and dislikes, about what we want from our future, about our priorities - and despite not wanting to be there, and all the things that didn't work out, the summer in New Mexico was totally 100% worth it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New Mexico: Nambe Falls

Somewhere near the beginning of the summer, we found a whole bunch of brochures about things to do in New Mexico and we took them all home. Alex and I poured over them trying to decide which places we should put on our calendar to visit. We mapped out a good chunk of our summer, and then we threw all the brochures away. Well, almost all. One day I was cleaning our kitchen and I happened upon one brochure that had survived the purge. It was a brochure for a waterfall advertised as "only 20 minutes north of Santa Fe!" I asked Alex if he had saved this one for a reason, and he had no recollection of it, so we decided to go! (It was a longer conversation than that, but in the end, we figured why not?) Abi was visiting with us, and she was up for it, so we drove up there. Full disclosure - the advertisements were totally made up. This waterfall was AT LEAST 40 minutes north of Santa Fe haha. It's on a reservation, and I guess they kind of embellish their advertisements to get you to come.

Storm clouds were rolling in (monsoon season!!) so we were getting nervous about the weather holding up. The waterfall is one you can swim and play in, so we were hoping for good weather! We were also hoping that the beauty of the waterfall wasn't exaggerated in the brochure as well haha.

The first thing we did was hike up the overlook trail. It overlooks the waterfall from kind of a distance, so the waterfall looked a little small, but it was absolutely gorgeous. The water had created this pool that was the most beautiful blue green color! In the brochure it makes it look like there is just one big waterfall, but in reality, there are three smaller waterfalls. They are all really pretty though!

After going to the overlook, we went back down to go on the lower waterfalls trail. It started sprinkling a little bit of rain, and we got nervous, but it didn't keep up!

Nathan and Amelia were in heaven once we got to the lower waterfall! They happily splashed and played in the water. It was cold water, but not so cold that I was worried about them playing in it. They were both really happy, and it was really refreshing! 

This was as far as we went with the kids, because the next part of the trail you have to climb up this smaller waterfall to get to. Alex climbed up to go see what the rest of it looked like, and then he came back and took me up with him while Abi stayed behind to watch the kids! If you know me at all, you  know I'm not the biggest fan of water related things - I don't know why. I should probably go to therapy about it or something - but I had a good attitude and was ready for adventure! The water came up to my waist, so this is a trail where you will definitely get wet! Like I said, it was refreshing though. The next waterfall was so pretty!!

I got brave and even waded all the way in to the waterfall! It was very cold, and was nervous, so Alex has an embarrassing video of me waving my arms around and acting crazy. But I'm glad I did it! It was a fun little adventure. After that we walked back down, and Alex took Abi up so she could see it all too while I stayed with the kids.

When it was time to leave, we went back to the car and ate our lunch we had packed, and we saw a cute little bat just hanging on to one of the shelters! It must have been injured or something, poor little thing.

 On our way home it finally started raining, so we ended up going to the falls at the exact right time! All of us were really happy we went, and I would recommend it if you want a family friendly hike where you can get wet! Just be prepared to drive longer than you think, and know that it's three (very pretty) waterfalls and not just one big one!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Mexico: Sandia Peak with Abi

Our last real weekend in New Mexico was spent with my sister Abi who decided to come visit! We were happy to see her, especially Nathan. One of the things we had planned on doing since the beginning of the summer was taking the tram ride to the top of Sandia Peak. We had heard though, that it could sometimes be really crowded and busy, and I wasn't interested in standing in the middle of a tram, not able to see the view, completely surrounded by other humans. In the end, we decided to save our money and just drive back to the top. The first thing we did in New Mexico was drive to the top of the peak, and one of the last things we did was drive up there. It seemed fitting. 

Nathan loved this rock at the viewpoint, and requested that we all take turns sitting on it. "Okay mama, it's your turn." I sat down for mayyyyybe 5 seconds when it was, "Mama, your turn is over! Abi, sit down please!" hahaha, I love him so much.

It was so hazy because of the fires in California! It's also weird to see us all wearing jackets. The weather was cooling significantly when we were about to leave New Mexico, so the peak definitely had jacket weather!

When we drove to the top in May, we walked down the trail a little bit, but Nathan wasn't having it, so we just looked around at the views and then drove back down. This time we decided to do the hike, and it was so beautiful! We loved getting up in to the mountains. They definitely don't have anything like that here in Indiana!

This structure was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which was started by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 for unemployed, unmarried men. Almost every national park we have been to (and some state parks as well!) has had trails and structures made from the CCC. The program ran from 1933-1942 so that means most of this stuff is pretty old, but all of it is really well done. Alex is obsessed with the CCC, and it's very easy to picture that he would have been one of those young men building trails and structures for the parks. This particular structure was a cabin that they could stay in and enjoy the views!

It's weird to look at these pictures and think, wow! We did that! It already feels like a dream.
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Off the Shelf pt. 2

I just want to interrupt the life updates to share that I am still keeping up with my reading goal for the year which was to read one book a month! That might seem like nothing, but I was literally reading like two books a year, and that is just sad to me. I used to inhale books, so I wanted to rekindle my love of reading, and it turns out this goal has really helped! Here are the books I read in May, June, July, and August. I really stepped up my game in August because I downloaded the kindle app to my phone, and it was a GAME CHANGER. Instead of surfing the interwebs while nursing Mia, I started reading! Hello! Genius.

My little sister told me to snag this book on Amazon because it was on sale for two dollars so that we could do a little book club. It's a quick read and pretty thought provoking actually. It's about an old woman who is living in a retirement community after her husband has passed away and she gets told that he won an Alaskan cruise and she only has one more chance to cash in on the cruise before she loses it. So she decides to go! The chapters bounce around to different time periods in her life, it's like her life is flashing before her eyes, so you get to see how she became who she is. It's kind of depressing honestly, because you see all these chances she had that she didn't take... anyway, it was a fun read!

I always enjoy Liane Moriarty's novels. They are a little formulaic in that she follows the same pattern in each book, but the characters are usually fun, and the story is always intriguing. The Last Anniversary was actually the only book of hers I hadn't read, so I was excited! It follows a few people who are all connected through a mystery that happened years and years ago. As usual it was lighthearted and humorous, while also tackling more serious issues. I enjoyed it!

I had heard a ton about this book, so I was really excited to pick it up! (Figuratively. I read on my kindle.) Memoirs are my favorite genre. I absolutely love learning about people and their lives. It's just fascinating to me! This book was no exception. Tara Westover's experiences were honestly mind blowing. I still cannot comprehend the way she grew up. Tara grew up in a survivalist family in Idaho, and the book is about her experiences in her childhood and how she got "educated" and was able to start her own life away from it all. It was so hard to put it down! Definitely a must read.

I've had this book on my kindle for a while and finally I got around to reading it! This story is about an Asian American family whose favorite daughter goes missing and is found dead at the bottom of a lake. That sounds really morbid, but all of that happens in the first chapter. It follows the aftermath, and also delves back in to everything that happened before the incident. The writing was really interesting because the author would switch narrators quickly and so smoothly you didn't even realize it had happened, but you always knew who was talking! Basically each family member leaves a lot of things unsaid, so you find yourself getting annoyed wishing they would just talk to each other already! But isn't that life? I must admit I found the book a little strange and slow in the beginning, but a little ways in I truly enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.

I honestly feel like crying just thinking about this book. This was another book I've had on my list for a really long time and finally got around to reading. I thought it might not interest me, I'm not sure why? Just because it's an older book, I guess? But honestly, this book hooked me from the first page and has completely sunk in to my soul. I don't know how to explain it except that it is everything you could want in a book! It follows several mothers who came to America from China and their daughters. You get a look at the past and the present, and there was just something truly truly special about the whole story. 10/10 would recommend to everyone. Definitely on my list of favorite books of all time!

So there you have it! You can see I picked up speed near the end once I downloaded the kindle app on my phone haha, because I read five books instead of four. That was two books in August! (I actually kind of read three, but I finished on like the first day of September, so I'll save it for the next post!)

You can check out what I read for the first four months of the year in this post. What books should I add to my list? Please leave recommendations! Have you read any of the books in my post? What did you think?
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