An Adventurous Life for the Budgeting Family

Why I Love Being a Fire Wife

Why I Love Being a Fire Wife

I’ve read many a blog post and article, and even one self-help book (ain’t no shame in it!) about the struggles of being in a relationship with a firefighter. After all, firefighting is consistently in the top careers with highest stress, and stress can really affect a marriage. I’m even part of a Facebook group about helping fire families with all the struggles they face.

Despite all this, there are many positive aspects to loving a firefighter. I am going to keep it on the positive and share with you why I love being married to mine. Here are some of the struggles on fire marriages, flipped around to see the positive side.

The Alternative Schedule

Different cities have different schedules for their fire department. In New Orleans, they work 24 hours and then are off for 48 hours. When I worked full time on a regular 9 to 5 schedule, this could be very frustrating. He would be off during the week when I had to be in the office, and then we would barely have time together on the weekend while we were both off. And a lot of times, he would get overtime to work an extra weekend day, so we’d go weeks without a full day and night together. But there is a flipside. Now that I also have an alternative work schedule, we can enjoy weekdays together when we are both off. If we decide to go on a two day trip or do some outing in our city, the prices are lower to stay overnight and restaurants and downtown areas are less crowded.

The best part about the fire family schedule is mutuals. Mutuals are, in my simple way of understanding them, when firefighters trade work days with each other so they can take off on days that are more convenient for them and then make up for it later. This means that if an important event is coming up, it’s possible that my firefighter can get the day off for it (and then work an extra day sometime later).

Time Apart

Although I treasure our time together, every couple needs some time apart. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved my alone time. I loved to pretend and play alone for hours in my bedroom. As I got older, I continued loving my alone time to recharge, work on creative personal projects, or just veg out watching my guilty pleasure shows or taking long baths. Most married couples have their usual routine of coming home after work and spending the evening and night together. I actually like that every third night I can have my “me” time after I put the baby to bed. I open up my coconut La Croix and watch some old episodes of Dance Moms. Party time.

The Firefighter 

The best piece of relationship advice I ever received was this: Remember what made you fall in love with your spouse in the first place. Those same qualities will end up driving you crazy, so you need to remind yourself that you love them. Okay, I did not put that eloquently at all. But let’s say, for example, you love that your boyfriend is always on time and very responsible. Years go by, you get married, and he freaks out on you when you are getting ready for a social gathering because he fears you might be two minutes late. You get frustrated. But guess what? This is what you loved about him, so remind yourself of that and see the greatness of it again.

I say all that because most firemen have a wonderful innate quality of wanting to help others. It’s easy to fall in love with that personality trait. It’s so noble and romantic and brave. Until you are deep in love and can’t sleep at night while your significant other is on shift because you fear he/she is putting their life in danger for complete strangers. You need them to come home to you the next day, can’t they see that?

Of course they do. And your family is their number one priority. If your firefighter will put their life on the line for strangers, imagine what they would do for you and your children. And if your firefighter is like mine, he’ll help people without a second thought outside of work as well. Any time someone looks distressed on the side of the road, we are the first car to pull over. My husband is so selfless that he will take time out of whatever he has going on to help someone who is hurt or in need in any way. He doesn’t expect anything in return and has no ulterior motives behind helping. He’s just a good person. And that makes me incredibly proud. It also pushes me to try to be more like him in that way.

The All-Encompassing Lifestyle

Firefighting is more than a career. It often is the major part of a firefighter’s identity and also social life. Although my husband and I are homebodies and not big on night-life, others spend all their work time and then their social time with their coworkers. It might feel limiting and closed off, but it’s also a really wonderful thing. Your fire department compatriots truly become like a family. Even as uninvolved as we can be in the fire social scene, we still call many other firefighters and their wives our good friends. I feel very blessed that some of the fire wives I know became pregnant around the same time as me. Our friendships have blossomed a lot more from the shared experience of becoming mothers. I feel comforted, especially since I live far from any other family, to know that my kid(s) will have these built-in family friends to spend time with and feel safe around as they grow up. I also know my husband needs his coworkers as friends. Who else could understand what they see and go through day in and day out at work? It’s hard for him to openly talk about his job with people outside of the profession, and I’m sure it’s good for him to have people to vent to and joke around with that “get” it.

I imagine the lifestyles of military and police families are somewhat similar to the firefighter one. I pray that all of these families will stay strong, stay close, and see the positives through all the stress.

 

Free Fun: Food Truck Thursdays in Mount Pleasant, SC

Free Fun: Food Truck Thursdays in Mount Pleasant, SC

Free fun alert!

Last week, while visiting my parents in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, I went to the first Food Truck Thursday of the summer in the lovely I’on neighborhood.

This idyllic – almost freakishly so – neighborhood has gorgeous houses, a town center with restaurants and shops, and plenty of green space. There is a wonderful tennis and swim club in the planned community, and you see kids on bikes and families in golf carts driving to it and the shops all day long.

We hopped on the golf cart bandwagon and drove a borrowed one to the big lawn where the event was held.

Baby A in golf cart

There were already lots of chairs, umbrellas, and blankets set up when we arrived. A band of youngsters, probably in the early years of college, were playing rock and alternative cover music. I was pretty excited to hear some 311 and Sublime. Baby A totally loved that music, too, as he could not stop bouncing and doing his cute little baby dances!

There were a lot of families out here for this chill night. Now, I stay positive on this blog, but I just have to say that one thing I don’t like about this amazing neighborhood is the lack of diversity. It was very striking to my husband and I. It really seemed like him and our baby were the only non-white people around. But that’s some social commentary and issues for another blog.

Food Trucks Thursday

Anyhow, we set up our blanket and chairs and popped open some bottles of wine. We didn’t realize that you need to get on the food truck lines early, however. I suggest you get there right on time and hop on that line if you want to eat anything from the trucks. Of course, you can bring your own food, too, but the food trucks had really interesting options. One was a lobster truck with a ton of variations of ways to eat lobster, and the other was the same but with pork. By the time we got on the long line towards the end of the event, most of the food items were sold out and we were so hungry that we had already called to order a pizza to bring home.

Lawn Chairs in I'on

The lovely spring weather and being outside with loved ones and new friends made the night really special though. And the band was really good! It was nice to have some fun live music without being cramped in a bar with no kids allowed, or at a music festival that’s overrun with scantily clad youth on Molly. Oh gosh I am such an old fogey!

Uncle Taylor's Hat

Baby A in big hat

So if you’re in Mount Pleasant or Charleston on a Thursday this summer, get some fresh air and chill tunes and head out to the I’on Food Truck Night!

First Birthday Doljanchi and Doljabi

First Birthday Doljanchi and Doljabi

As you read about in my last post, we recently threw our baby’s first birthday party at the beach. While it was tons of fun to plan all of the beach-themed food, decor, and entertainment, the most special part of his celebration was the injection of Korean traditions. The photos below are by my talented sister-in-law. You can find her photography and early childhood education work at www.brightonandbeacon.com.

Bobby’s mother is from Korea, so she advised me on all of the first birthday traditions. She also generously bought Baby A’s first hanbok and all of its accessories. Towards the latter half of the party, Bobby, our mothers, and I brought the baby into a bedroom to ceremoniously change him into his hanbok.

Getting Dressed in a Hanbok

Getting Dressed in a Hanbok

Hanbok socks

The traditional Korean outfit is stunning. There are exquisite details and ornate patterns and fabrics. Although the pink was a bit feminine, Baby A rocked it!

After our guests oohed and aahed over the cuteness of the outfit change, we began the doljabi game. I had done a lot of preparation for this game. The Doljabi is a tradition where the child is placed in front of various items or objects (Usually 6 – 8 items). Then, the child grabs an item from the set of objects where each choice represents a certain future of the child with respect to his or her career or a lifestyle. Bobby and I thought long and hard about what objects to choose to represent different career paths. At one point, he joked that we should just buy 6 different colored stethoscopes to ensure he will become a doctor. Ha! Of course, we would never push our boy like that, but it was a funny idea.

After hours poring over Doljanchi blogs and toys on Amazon, we finally came up with six items. Next, I designed Raffle tickets and labels to make the Doljabi into a game for all the party guests to partake in. I laid out jars labeled with each of the career paths, and gave everyone two raffle tickets to place their bets. I chose two raffle tickets from the winning career jar and those two people won fun prizes! I love graphic design and using my handy dandy Photoshop, so I had a lot of fun matching the raffle tickets to the party’s overall beach theme.

Doljabi Jar Setup

Doljabi Raffle Tickets

Doljabi Votes are in!

Before presenting Baby A in his hanbok, I announced for people to finish making their votes. Then, we laid the six objects out on a big beach towel and placed him down in the center. Because he loves Pout Pout Fish, I thought for sure he’d crawl to the Pout Pout Fish stuffed animal, which represented Biology. Instead, he made a beeline for the Melissa & Doug paintbrush set! The Doljabi had spoken – our little guy might grow up to be an artist of some sort! Pretty cool.

Doljabi game action shot

Korean doljabi game

I love this photo of everyone getting excited over the game outcome.

Doljanchi guests

Baby A’s halmeoni (grandma) then proceeded to dress him in more variations of the hanbok. She even had a third outfit, but we decided to do a separate photo shoot since it was too hot for him to be in all these layers of clothing for long.

Halmeoni Hanbok Baby Our Half Korean Family

A First Birthday Beach Party

A First Birthday Beach Party

Since my family was already gathering for our annual beach trip to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, we decided to celebrate Baby A’s Birthday a few weeks early so everyone could attend. It also turned out that my best friends from NY could come as could Bobby’s family. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to this first birthday party for a long time. My mom helped a ton with the planning and we came up with the cutest games and decorations and food for this beach themed first birthday!

The Birthday had a second theme, which was the traditional Korean doljanchi. You can read all about the Korean traditions we injected on this post. These elements were definitely the most special and my favorite part to plan.

Feel free to pin these images as inspiration for any beach party and a child’s party in particular! Most of the following photos were taken by my extremely talented sister-in-law. You can commission her for photography and early childhood education consulting at www.brightonandbeacon.com. She also has a great early readers blog at www.readingeveryday.com

Beach Ball Baby

alex_beach_ball

No beach party would be complete without beach balls and beach rafts all over the place. We even used a blow-up baby pool as our drink cooler. La Croix galore Yesssssss!

Baby Pool Drink Cooler

We had a couple of activities that involved prizes for the kids. Sunglasses, toy fish, and this cool watermelon cup were just a few of the fun prizes.

I still can’t believe my friends came from afar to celebrate A’s first year. He is a loved child!

kristina michele_jonny

patticake

Although first birthday parties are more of a party for the parents to celebrate their child’s first year than they are for the actual child, we still wanted to make this a very child-oriented party. So, we had to have some games! We DIY’ed a super cute deep sea fishing game for the kiddos, who ranged from 6 months to 8 years old.

During our beach vacation, my family colored these cute sea animals to use at the party for the deep sea fishing game. We decorated a big piece of craft paper, hung it across a doorway, and had the children “fish” for prizes. I sat on the floor behind the sheet and attached prizes to the DIY fishing pole. When they felt me tug on the fishing pole string, it meant they got a bite and could reel it in. The little boys and girls were giddy with delight every time they caught a new toy!

To make the DIY fishing pole:

  • buy a cheap butterfly net from a toy store or a dollar store (we found ours at Dollar General)
  • cut the tape holding the net onto the stick and remove the net and metal pieces
  • slide a thick, metallic cording/yarn through the holes that were holding the net in place. You can tie the cording off or tape it to the pole with cute Washi tape
  • cut your cording so that it is the proper height for a child to hold and throw over the other side of your paper seascape
  • on the dangling end of the fishing line, tie a large clothespin. This is how you will attach toys to their fishing pole!

 

Baby A Fishing

Little Boy Fishing

We printed out some extra coloring pages of sea creatures and left out markers and crayons so any guests could do their own decorating and coloring.

Coloring Sea Creatures

 

The guest of honor was a little confused by the birthday song, but he was totally into his smash cake. He went for it face first. I could not stop laughing.

Bringing out the smash cake

smash_cake_family

By the way, how cute was my parrot t-shirt? I got it from a local surf shop on Isle of Palms, and it was made by Billabong. I paired it with high-waisted shorts and colorful sandals for the casual party. The pom pom shoes were from Target.

Party Pom Pom Shoes

For the rest of the guests, my mom and I made a sandcastle cake. It was 3 layers – 2 small and 1 large – of pound cake with cream cheese frosting, marshmallow castle turrets, gummy starfish, and crushed graham crackers and Nilla wafers for the sand. It was cute and delicious.

Sandcastle Pound Cake
We also served Chick-Fil-A nuggets, gummy sharks, Swedish fish, goldfish, fruit, and “sand dollar” ice cream sandwiches. We used snickerdoodle cookies for the sandwiches as they already feel sandy.

ash_sand_dollar_ice_cream
Another little detail was leaving cute children’s books about the beach out on the low tables.

beach_books


cousin_hugs crab_toss

We also had a bubble machine blowing on the screened-in porch and had fun beach-themed toys to pick up and play with, like the crab catch mitts my nieces posed with.

The food was served out of beach pails and we finished the look with a fishing net, sand dollars, seashells, and tiny drink umbrellas dispersed on the table. To serve the food, we found super cute matching whale and goldfish paper plates and napkins from a local party supply store. It all came together beautifully.

fruit_umbrella_picks

goldfish


seashell_tablescape

swedish_fish

table_blur_overhead

Man oh man I love the beach and I’m so happy our littlest family member does too! It was a first birthday for the books!

A Rainy Day in New York City

A Rainy Day in New York City

We went to New York City recently so I could go to my BFF’s bachelorette party. Whoa, I’m such a party girl! The party was fun and I was grateful that Bobby came along to take care of Baby A while I had a night out with the bridesmaid gals and guy.

Even better, our family had an excuse to spend a long weekend together in Manhattan. The bummer? It rained and poured pretty much the whole time we were there. My view of the city was pretty much what you see below.

Luckily, I had planned ahead and researched an indoor play area to take Baby A in case of bad weather. We ended up going to City Treehouse (http://www.citytreehouse.com/) for a few hours on Saturday. It had a nice playroom for crawling babies, and a huge water table and pretend Treehouse to climb in the older kids room. 

Baby A dressed appropriately, knowing it was a bachelorette weekend with the theme of “Send Nudes.” 

Bobby played a lot with us, but I caught him being a naughty parent and playing on his phone. There were a lot of nannies with children, and I believe some of them thought I was a nanny also. It was very eye-opening to hear about their experience and see how they interacted with the children under their care.

As with most places in NYC, our hotel room was tiny so we didn’t want to be stuck there too much. We let Baby A play a little bit in there while we settled in and after his naps. He was interested in the land line telephone and in the interesting city sky views.

We quickly realized that we would need baby rain gear in order to get anywhere for meals or touring. We found a nearby Bye Bye Baby to get a universal stroller rain shield and baby raincoat. It was so nice to get out of the rain that I think we stayed in the superstore for close to four hours. Oops! The Mother’s Room was a nice place to feed the baby and take a much-needed body rest for the whole family. Nice and quiet. Thank you baby stores for providing these havens.
  

After gearing up and resting up, we had a great Korean lunch near our hotel. I found that people watching was the best baby lunch activity to occupy him while we enjoyed our bi bim bap and bulgogi. When Baby A finished eating, we let him face the street in his high chair and he was highly entertained by the scurrying pedestrians of midtown Manhattan. 


On our first night, we had a special dinner with just the bride-to-be and her fiancé. It was fun letting them get to know our boy better and having one on one time with the couple. We even let little man stay up late so we could continue the fun back at our hotel lobby, catching up and telling stories while playing with the baby.


The bachelorette party was great. It’s the first time I had a night out since having a baby. It felt good to just be silly with my best friends. My favorite part of the evening was getting our Karaoke on in Koreatown. Our private room was so much fun. 


The next day was coincidentally Mother’s Day. I considered my gift from Bobby to be him taking A the night before so I could go out. I never really give him the opportunity to do that for me because I love being home with my family so don’t seek out night outings ever. But this was an exception. Anyway, on Sunday we finally had sunny skies. My only non-damp clothes were a hodgepodge mixture of patterns and I looked like a homeless lunatic – my husbands’ description of my outfit. But I didn’t care. It was nice to get some outdoors time! 


Soon after, it was time to head out of the city for a couple of nights on Long Island. Thanks for the fun night out to my gal pals! See you again soon NYC, my old stomping grounds!

Colorful Gender Neutral Baby Nursery

Colorful Gender Neutral Baby Nursery

Gender Neutral Nursery Gender Neutral Nursery Gender Neutral Nursery Gender Neutral Nursery Gender Neutral Nursery - Putting the Crib TogetherWhen I was pregnant, I spent tons of timing looking on Pinterest for gender neutral baby bedroom/nursery ideas. My favorites tended to be black-and-white themed rooms with pops of bright color. I also found some very cute Woodland themed nurseries, though those tended to look more boyish. My instincts told me I was having a boy, but we chose not to find out with any tests or imaging.

In the end, I went my own way with Baby A’s nursery design. I used my late great grandmother’s orange sitting chair and a Land of Nod colorful jellybean-esquire wool rug as my starting point and built a colorful play room from there. Another great grandmother left me a needlepoint work of owls that I hung on the wall along with my own needlepoint work I made in high school. My mom and I DIY’d a fun art piece on the wall next to the crib with colorful fabrics in sewing hoops. I’ll add a post about how we made this craft in one day and link to it eventually! I also bought a really cool faux stuffed shark head from Target. Baby A loves that thing.

With all that color, I left the walls white. But something still felt missing. The last and greatest touch was adding chalkboard paint to two of the doors in the room. We started off with our own drawings, but as Baby A grows up it will be fun for him to have free reign on the chalk artwork for the room.


Above is a video room tour I made, just being silly, pre-baby and pre-chalk paint.

And here are some current photos of how the room looks now, lived in and played in!

Free Fun: Tot Time in Atlanta

Free Fun: Tot Time in Atlanta

Our family recently traveled to Atlanta to meet our new baby nephew. After arriving at Hartsfield International Airport, we decided to waste some of our free time in Atlanta. We ended up in Atlantic Station, where fate should have it that there was a free toddler playground set up.

Tot Time Atlanta

We saw the turf of the square in Atlantic Station was speckled with little play houses and fun toy ride-on cars. Bubbles were blowing from machines on each corner and about 50 children and their parents were having fun playing and talking. The children were toddler age, so Baby A was on the young side. But seeing the other kids walking and crawling seemed to encourage him. He popped right up and cruised along the side of a playhouse filled with little boys. It was like a cute little frat house with all their babbling and laughing.

Tot Time in Atlanta

If I lived in Atlanta, I would definitely come to this free Tot Time every Tuesday morning to let my son interact with other children, have free reign over a much bigger space than we have in any room in our house, and to meet other moms. It’s not always easy to have a social life when you’re a new mother, so I would love to have this kind of weekly activity to get to know other moms with kids the same age as mine.

pinterestTotTimeAtlantaFamilyFree

After our fun playtime, we ate at Rosa Mexicana on one side of the park’s perimeter. They have delicious tableside made guacamole. It was a splurge for us, but we were on vacation after all!

Tot Time in Atlanta

And finally, to continue vacation mode, we treated ourselves to Starbucks down the road. Happy day! We did not order Unicorn Frappucino’s.

coffee with Dad in Atlanta

A Pleasant Week in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

A Pleasant Week in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

This week, we are staying with my family in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This town lies halfway between downtown Charleston and the local beaches. It is an idyllic location with beautiful homes, sunshine, gardens, and lots of fun to be had.

 

Since my husband had to work, Baby A and I came here alone this time. Luckily, we have kept busy busy busy to keep our minds off missing Bobby for another holiday thanks to his career as a firefighter.

 

Most mornings, we’ve walked to Collective Coffee, outside of the I’on subdivision, for lattes. One day we tried their avocado toast and banana bread. Both were excellent. The baby even tried the avocado toast and give it two very chubby thumbs up.
avocado Toast Baby Hands

While waiting on a very long line at Jestine’s – the famous fried chicken joint – my little man and I visited the beautiful Charleston Fire Department Engine 3 firehouse. It would be pretty great if firefighters could transfer their time on the job to other departments. I would vote that we move here! Judging by Baby A’s smile, he would like that too.

Charleston Fire Department

Charleston Firetruck

We attempted to go on an Easter egg hunt, but missed the fun due to naptime. Luckily, my mother had the most beautiful plastic eggs at her house that we played with instead.

funky Easter eggs

My favorite thing, no matter where I am, is to go for long walks. Baby A and I took a lot through the I’on neighborhood. There are lakes and a beautiful path around the creek, plus the eye candy of Charleston homes to look at. And we passed a lot of dogs going for walks, something we both get excited over.

I'on Fountain

We were able to go out to dinner a few times over the week. I have been craving sushi badly, so I begged my family to help a girl out and bring us to a sushi restaurant. We chose Locals, based on locals’ recommendations. This restaurant has such a fun atmosphere and cool party vibe. We sat in the lounge area. The guys said the seats weren’t comfortable, but I couldn’t help imagining my girlfriends and I having cocktails and sushi and laughing away in this laid back section. Baby A enjoyed crawling around on the couch seating and checking out the ducks in the water behind the outdoor area of the restaurant. And dogs are allowed in the outdoor part of the bar, so we got some good petting time in.

Locals Restaurant Menu Locals Sushi

Another day, we grabbed lunch on Sullivan’s Island. This beach town is one of my favorite places ever. We had a tasty meal at Home Team BBQ. They have a great chalkboard fence around the side that was perfect for photo opp’s.

Home Team BBQ

During one of our many walks, we came across a swingset and playground. It’s so fun to swing and feel like a kid again. I recommend you try it the next time you see a playground.
Swinging in Mt Pleasant

I found a path that winds around the low country marsh that the Ravenel Bridge crosses. That’s the bridge that connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston. And the bridge that is named after the family of the guy from Southern Charm. So that’s cool. Right? Maybe not. Anyway, I jogged on the 2.5 mile path and loved smelling all the honeysuckle and seeing cute little sitting areas like the one below.

Two Chairs on the Creek Path

At the end of the path, you are in a new neighborhood suddenly. I wandered around trying to navigate my way back to my parents’ house and came across this great Bible quote on a park entryway. The sign read, “Enter through the narrow gates for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Mat. 7:13-14“.

Bible Quote Archway

We still have a few days left here before we head to Atlanta for even more family time. Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!
Mt. Pleasant week

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

14 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids on Vacation in New Orleans

14 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids on Vacation in New Orleans

When you think of New Orleans, the term “child-friendly” probably does not come to mind. In fact, NOLA is probably right below Las Vegas on the list of places that you wouldn’t bring your kids to. Alas, I am here to tell you that you […]

Easy DIY Photo Birthday Banner

Easy DIY Photo Birthday Banner

We have been on a tight budget so far this year since I left my job to stay home with our baby. I really wanted to do something special for my hubby’s birthday, but I had to be creative due to said budget. Instead of […]