Pasta Pasta

Let me give you an idea of what our dinners are like lately. During dinner one night, maybe a month ago, George grabbed the lid from the top of a water bottle and laid it on its side. He put his finger on the top/ridged part of it and pushed down on it, so it rolled across the table. He thought it was the best thing ever, and he declared it his new favorite game. So now, this is what happens almost every night at dinner:

George runs around collecting bottle tops from anywhere he can find them. Vitamin containers, bottles of water, anything goes. Everyone gets a bottle top and we count down – 3- 2- 1…and everyone flicks their bottle lid across the table as fast as we can. Depending on how far your lid goes and where it ends up, you win.

The best part? He calls the bottle top racing game “Pasta Pasta.” I’m not sure what his logic was for naming it, but it is the cutest thing in the world when he runs up to the table with his bottle tops: “Okay now, let’s play Pasta Pasta!”

I hope I never forget how to play Pasta Pasta. When I’m on my deathbed, I want to play Pasta Pasta. ♥

Goodbye Turbo Tax…hello new baby girl!

Hey yo, about 6 weeks ago we had a baby girl and I celebrated this Mother’s Day as mom to a daughter! Her name is Jonna and she’s unbelievably beautiful and clever (moms aren’t biased at all). That means I’m busy updating wills, insurance, documentation, changing out baby clothes, changing vehicles… basically updating everything in our entire lives. We love it though… and I know someday we’ll look back on these days with fond memories!

Our new baby girl!

So of course, for everyone in the US, tax season came and Ross and I both started stressing about taxes. We always buy TurboTax software and do it ourselves, but the closer we got to selling the rental/fixer (this year!), the more we worried we’re not set up to snag all the savings we can from the government. What if we missed a deduction on which we could have saved hundreds of dollars? We just weren’t sure we were capturing everything within TurboTax. Ross may also have been sick of me sending him Forbes articles about deductions. Maybe. Possibly.

Our situation is unique, because we’ve changed our model from rental to resale since starting the LLC, which changes how you can recognize revenue. Because we won’t have a stream of income, we will recognize a one-time injection of capital at sale, we need to pay close attention to how we’re claiming it on our taxes and how we’re claiming associated expenses.

Long story short, we received a referral from a friend to a tax accountant and she is amazing! Not only did she find crazy HSA over-contributions from years ago that we would be financially penalized for (what the what?!) but she advised we change the structure of our LLC for even more savings come next tax season. She also helped us more accurately and appropriately deduct our current expenses. In other words, she told us things we would never have known, and will continue to advise us through the sale to get the most savings possible.

Yes, paying for a personal tax accountant is about 10x more expensive than TurboTax, but you’re paying for the consulting that Turbo Tax can’t possibly give you. This includes advice like which LLC will be the best vehicle for your business, when exactly it would be most beneficial to claim expenses and revenue and even looking over past years’ filings to find anything you may be penalized for in the future. Well worth it to have confidence in your filing of income taxes if you’ve made a large investment.

It’s kind of like insurance– and I love this analogy. When I was 19 and only looked at cost, I bought car insurance online from Progressive. When in a blizzard (#minnesnowta) my car was hit from behind and I didn’t know how to recover the cost of the damages, I called Progressive (naturally, right?). I think they even told me to call them first if I was ever in an accident. They proceeded to hang up on me and do virtually everything possible to avoid talking to me– to avoid ADVISING me.

It was a total shitshow; it was like being told to fuck off without someone actually saying fuck off. It made me hate the world and I really can’t over-emphasize how horrible they were. Therefore, when they should have just asked about the police report and told me to chase down the idiot who hit me, to force his insurance to pay, I was aggressively told by Progressive that I wouldn’t have any way to fix my vehicle, ever, and that I should just stop calling. The opposite of what I’d call advice, assistance, or even low-level helpfulness. So I drove a wrecked Celica for 5 years and ate my losses. I refused to lose any more money replacing my vehicle.

During the wrecked Celica days. Do I look like I understood insurance? I didn’t even understand how to wear eye makeup.

That was a sweet ride–my wrecked Toyota Celica, urgh. Today I have an actual insurance agent from State Farm (and a non-wrecked car woohoo!) and when me, my husband or my kids (someday) get in a car accident, the first call I make will be to our agent, and instead of telling us to fuck off we’ll get some actual ADVICE! In this world, you really have to pay extra for advocacy, service and helpfulness, and that’s a lesson learned the hard way. Otherwise, the general approach is to take the money and run, don’t look back, and sure as hell don’t answer the phone.

Duluth trip to the North Shore

We had planned a trip to our favorite vacation spot Isla Mujures but with the [insane] overall lack of knowledge about the level of risk of Zika virus there (I called around for all the medical and statistical details I could get my hands on!) we had to cancel as soon as we found out I was pregnant. #sadface We were sooooo looking forward to some island time! But, that had to wait until I was no longer splitting cells.

That’s not Mexico! 🙂

Luckily, it’s shockingly easy to be refunded for flights to regions affected by Zika when you have a doctor’s note indicating you are with-child. I mean, no cancellation fees, no waiting period, like IMMEDIATE REFUND. Where does that even happen…immediate refunds?! I can’t think of one instance. Actually the refund came in quicker than the actual credit card charge came due, which confused me for awhile because it threw off everything by a few thousand that month and the following! We hadn’t even been charged for the flights and already had a plus on our Amex. I think that’s one of the only by-product-good-things I’ve ran into during pregnancy. We were loaned a large credit on our credit card for one month – woohoo.

The long view of Two Harbors from our cabin

So instead of beachfront, we swung the pendulum over to the North Shore beachfront. It was local and there were no mosquitoes in sight, ha! We stayed at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors. This was no ordinary “lodge” however– we stayed in their beachhouse. The beachhouse was an amazing cottage that was perched direction on the shore. I mean directly. You could hear the waves all night long, it was amazing. Super romantic, unless you have kids in tow! But seriously, we had an awesome time. Ross was less than confident we were all going to fit comfortably in the beach house but I called ahead and they assured us a pack-and-play would fit fine. He thought the boys would get bored in the small space, but the exact opposite happened. They piled up next to the window and watched the waves come in – they never got tired of it! There was a red rock in the waves they named Lightning McQueen – kids are so creative aren’t they!?

We used the pool in the lodge one day and luckily the hot tub wasn’t boiling hot so Georgie and Julius were able to dip their toes in with us for a minute. We took turns getting massages and ate at the restaurant one night. All in all, it was the perfect vacation for us at that time. But we are going back to Mexico next winter –sorry Two Harbors! We need to warm our old bones. But oh, how we love #Minnesnowta

View of the shoreline from our window

Lake Superior’s biggest fans

George slept in a sleeping bag and Julius slept in his pack-and-play

Our little cottage was so cozy and comfortable!

Football-themed baby shower

We threw a baby shower for a gal in our book club and she loves the Minnesota Vikings so we chose a football slash Vikings theme. Everything was purple pride! It was more fun and creative than any other shower we’ve done, including a robot-theme baby shower which was super cute too. At first, it was tough to find football theme stuff, but after a few google searches and some trips around town, everyone found what they were looking for. Personally, I was frustrated trying to find Vikings-theme stuff for decor and food. I thought it would be relatively easy to find Vikings food flags but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find anything! Eventually, I just bought purple and gold glitter tape from Target and made my own. What a pain in the ass. But everything turned out beautifully. Have a look!

We set up a concession table with food and drinks…we had non-alcoholic (and alcohol) mimosas

We had a watermelon football helmet full of fruit (I got all the fruit at Aldi!)

I cut up my cinnamon coffee cake and used cupcake holders so they were easy to grab. These were my Vikings food flags that took way too long.

Glitter tape food flags…in theory, a great idea. Until you start cutting and assembling.

Football-shaped Chinese paper lanterns

Football vase centerpieces made out of beer bottles

Game prize bags made with craft paper – aren’t these the cutest?

The gift table. I made a diaper cake too, in record time (the night before!)

Diaper cake making in progress

Diaper cake almost complete

The guest of honor. We all wore Vikings jerseys or purple, of course!

 

Blue fish

I’ve been wanting to share this video because it is probably my favorite video of Julius to date. At his 18 month appointment, his pediatrician thought he wasn’t saying as many words as she would expect, and she suggested we might have him evaluated by a speech therapist. We were totally on board because neither of us even remember how many words George was saying at 18 months or how clear his speech was…turns out, Julius was speaking at about a one year-old level. His cognition is very high, above average for his age, actually, but he has expressive disorder or trouble expressing himself verbally.

I’m extremely happy with the results of speech therapy so far. I bring him twice per week for half hour sessions with a speech therapist. We are hoping he is caught up by my delivery date – he has made great progress so far. One of the things I didn’t realize was children who have trouble communicating have more tantrums. This was certainly the case with Julius…but we just thought that was his personality. He has given himself bloody noses from throwing himself around his crib, for example. Kind of a nutball, he is. But now that he can use his words, he does less flailing around and physical outbursts and whenever he is upset, instead of falling back on crying and screaming, we push him to use his words to explain what is wrong.

We’ve also had a few laughs as he’s learning. He’s starting to add ending sounds onto his words when before it was just one syllable. This week it was him learning the word “spider” but the best he can do is “spy-spy,” which is still better than previously, when he wouldn’t have even attempted the second syllable. Our favorite is his pronunciation of the phrase “blue fish,” which refers to Dori, of course.

So now whenever Ross and I are annoyed by something we say it’s a bunch of blue fish. This is why I love my kids…for bringing this kind of blue fish into our lives!

George’s 4th Birthday Party

I’m way overdue posting about George’s 4th Birthday, but it was great weather and we went to the greenhouse again like last year. The greenhouse is quickly becoming a tradition because they have so many fun things for kids to do and it’s a beautiful time of year to be outside.

George and his girlfriends

George and his girlfriends in the gazebo at the greenhouse

I love the boy George is becoming. He loves being around other kids – boys and girls equally. When we were trick-or-treating, he ran up to a little girl dressed like a princess and said “Wow – I really love your costume; it’s so pretty!” My heart just melted because of the sweetness…!

George and his friends riding on the train

George and his friends riding on the train (Julius didn’t want to go!)

We bought a PJ Masks birthday cake edible frosting top on Amazon for like $9 but it ended up being kind of a fail because it needed to chill overnight even though the directions said 3 hours. It was still kind of sticky and tacky so I was pissed. I’d totally try it again but it’s going in the freezer for an entire day and night before the party next time. I managed to salvage the characters off it and the cake still looked decent – just not as nice as if the entire cake top was intact. Ross laughs at me because I always try crazy shit to save money and it usually bites me in the ass. It either takes more time than is worth the savings or it’s just a total fail. It makes for good stories though. One time we bought a shower curtain at a dollar store and put it up and it was as thin as saran wrap…no lie. It wrapped around your legs instead of actually staying put because it was so thin!

We invited George's friends from preschool

We invited George’s friends from preschool

I know George enjoyed his party, and that’s all that matters. He didn’t know the difference with the cake and I think as parents we put too much pressure on ourselves. All he cared about was the fact everyone was there to celebrate with him. ♥

When the kids went stir-crazy they could go on the playground equipment

When the kids went stir-crazy they could go on the playground equipment

Pumpkin carving ’16

We had a blast last night carving pumpkins. To put Ross in a chipper mood, I turned on Pandora “Hello I Love You (Doors)” Mix – that’s actually our song ♥ and it brought back a lot of memories! It got me feeling pretty good too. George picked out a pumpkin bigger than himself (of course) and Dad agreed to carve it, so we went with it, and even carved a spooky face on it.

We had a little more fun with Julius’ pumpkin because we got to decide the design for him, so we did Lady Liberty! Because #landofthefreehomeofthebrave. We even showed George pictures of the Statue of Liberty and did a brief history lesson because he wasn’t sure what it was. We had way more fun than previous years – George still doesn’t like to get his hands gooey but we hope that will change soon. Julius is all about the goo – but he was absolutely terrified of George’s spooky pumpkin – mommy had to hold him to calm him down because he was not sure what we were up to exactly. Also, the pics are really dark but it was actually dark when we took the photos, so yeah. Happy Halloween from our fam….!

Daddy and Georgie carving his monster pumpkin

Daddy and Georgie carving his monster pumpkin

Gooey hands and silly faces!

Gooey hands and silly faces!

George and Daddy with the masterpiece

George and Daddy with the masterpiece

Calming down baby Julius (yes, I'm wearing Ross's boxers because 'dat baby belly)

Calming down baby Julius (yes, I’m wearing Ross’s boxers because ‘dat baby belly)

Our boys with their pumpkins

Our boys with their pumpkins

Julius finally warmed up to the spooky pumpkin

Julius finally warmed up to the spooky pumpkin

Spooky pumpkin and Lady Liberty!

Spooky pumpkin and Lady Liberty!

 

 

Our trip to Ely

We went with my brother and his fiance to a cabin at Elbow Lake Lodge outside of Ely. It was perfect weather and the weekend went way too fast. We had a lot of fun without the kids but of course we missed them the whole time, too!

Elbow Lake Lodge from the huge dock

Elbow Lake Lodge from the huge dock

My favorite part was mini-golf. They had the most insane, coolest, most creative mini-golf course I’ve ever seen. We were going to do a few rounds of golf, but it was so challenging we ended up running out of time!

Taking a break from mini-golf

Taking a break from mini-golf

I was secretly hoping my brother would propose at the lighthouse. After encouraging them to go out there, I was hoping he would suddenly pull out a ring and just do it, already. But of course he had his own plans for a proposal that we weren’t witness to at all. I’m sure we’ll hear all about it soon!

My brother and his now-fiance walked out to the little lighthouse

My brother and his now-fiance walked out to the little lighthouse

We brought Ross’ boat so we took that out a few times. It was fun to drive around and check out all of the neat properties on Elbow Lake. Some were perched right on the rocky shoreline, and we all loved the fact that they were literally on the water.

The shoreline from the boat

The shoreline from the boat

Apparently I was the only one who didn’t know how to play 500, so they taught me how to play and I started winning pretty quickly! It was a lot more fun than I expected, and we played that pretty much every evening.

The beach at Elbow Lake

The beach at Elbow Lake

We had a great time at Elbow Lake Lodge and hope to go back soon.

Science Camp

I enrolled George in Science Camp at the Science Museum of Minnesota. He’s only three so he was one of the youngest ones there, but he had a blast and it made me really excited for him to go to preschool this fall. He loves other children and most kids (and adults) seem to really enjoy his character. It’s hard to define him, but he’s very wary, intelligent, joyful but thoughtful. He gets excited easily, and can be emotional, but some of that may be his age. He’s very genuinely interested in other kids – he wants to play with everyone. I also think he “brushes it off” well when other kids don’t share or take toys away from him.

First day of camp - he was a little nervous I think!

First day of camp – he was a little nervous I think!

He had many questions about dinosaurs

He had many questions about dinosaurs

I’m a little disappointed in the number of girls registered for Science Camp. There was like 1 – maybe 2 girls and the rest were all boys. Is it any wonder there are fewer women in medical, science and technology fields? We don’t send our girls to science camps, we send them to ballet camps on the rare chance they move to Paris and become a ballerina.

Listening to his teacher

Listening to his teacher

George's teacher seemed to really enjoy him

George’s teacher seemed to really enjoy him

He plays really well with his seven year-old cousin so I think he keeps up with older, faster kids well. He plays pretty well with Julius too, so I think that makes him well-rounded and amiable. He really enjoyed Science Camp and I’ll definitely enroll him in more summer camps as long as I am able. It’s so worth it to see the change in him from only a few days of new people, surroundings and knowledge. He’s definitely ready for preschool! But, am I ready for him to be in school?? Not hardly. EEEEK!

He was afraid to go by the polar bear until I went over and growled, then he acted tough and broke out his big guns ;)

He was afraid to go by the polar bear until I went over and growled, then he acted tough and broke out his big guns 😉

 

Antique stores haul

As I mentioned in our camping trip post, we had two straight days of rain so we had to find indoor stuff to do. Luckily I have the best husband in the world who let me  drag him around to a bunch of stores. Buuuuuuut, there wasn’t anything else to do….as far as alternatives so there’s that. Okay, he could have went and sat in a bar. I’m happy to say he didn’t do that….

Since I really don’t have much time to do Christmas shopping or birthday shopping or similar spur-of-the-moment shopping trips, I ran through a mental list of people I needed to buy gifts for, for a few different occasions. We also ran to a few consignment stores because everything was $1 and I found a handful of things for myself and the kids (slim pickin’s). But all in all, I was pretty happy with our sudden shopping trip and the deals I found…hopefully everyone loves their gifts as much as I liked them…

My best friend is having a girl and although we didn't know it was a girl at the time of purchase I had my hunches (timing of ovulation and all that) - Google it.

My best friend is having a girl and although we didn’t know it was a girl at the time of purchase I had my hunches (timing of ovulation and all that) – Google it.

I bought these from a tiny attic store where a mom and her five (5!) kids sold homemade soaps. Glad to help. Here, take my money.

I bought these from a tiny attic store where a mom and her five (5!) kids sold homemade soaps. Glad to help. Here, take my money.

I had to dig, dig, dig, to find these Banana Republic shorts for $1. They are super worn and a bit big but who cares...it's $1 and I've already worn them once!

I had to dig, dig, dig, to find these Banana Republic shorts for $1. They are super worn and a bit big but who cares…it’s $1 and I’ve already worn them once!

This hobo bag was $1 and I can never have too many large purses/satchels, because KIDS!

This hobo bag was $1 and I can never have too many large purses/satchels, because KIDS and their CRAP!

Again with the $1 clothing items. This is a large but oversized can be cute. I promise I'll wear it soon....

Again with the $1 clothing items. This is a large but oversized can be cute. I promise I’ll wear it soon….

George wanted yet ANOTHER stuffed animal, and we couldn't say no because it was so cheap. Consignment stores are like stuffed animal graveyards.

George wanted yet ANOTHER stuffed animal, and we couldn’t say no because it was so cheap. Consignment stores are like stuffed animal graveyards.

The antique store wanted a bit too much money for the gold purse I wanted so I settled for this coin purse (it's a gift).

The antique store wanted a bit too much money for the gold beaded purse I wanted so I settled for this beaded coin purse which was practically free at a whole $1.

How cutesy and feminine are these vintage dish towels! LOVE.

How cutesy and feminine are these vintage dish towels?! LOVE.

Vintage flour sack - this could be used for so many things. It's huge too!

Vintage flour sack – this could be used for so many things. It’s huge too!

Vintage flower-print apron

Vintage flower-print apron

This vintage apron is a gift but for a split second I thought about wearing it for Ross. Naked. Bahaha I KID I KID!!!

This vintage apron is a gift but for a split second I thought about wearing it for Ross. Naked. Bahaha I KID!!!

Vintage scarf with fur ends. I know people are generally opposed to fur...but I liked this scarf {covers eyes}

Vintage scarf with fur ends. I know people are generally opposed to fur…but I liked this scarf {covers face}

This was not cheap. It's a pristine vintage wool coat and I LOVED it. But it's a gift.

This was not cheap. It’s a pristine vintage wool coat and I LOVED it. But it’s a gift.

I feel like we made the best use of our rain days. We got a ton of gifts purchased and fun stuff for the kids too. We found an old Operation game from 1964 in perfect working order (George loves it) and a somewhat recent version of Guess Who. Yep, those were $1 each. They almost are paying us to take it off their hands at that price.