Happy Four Year Anniversary to Us!

In true Samantha Style, I realized I only wrote a blog post for our first anniversary. I’m not sure what my excuse was on our second anniversary, but last year my excuse was definitely the pregnancy + pandemic combo (totally valid). As cool as it would be to have a blog post for every single anniversary, I can’t go back now and re-write them so here we are!

Happy anniversary to us, we’ve made it through four years of marriage! Next year is the big 5! Every five years seems like a big milestone to me, and we’re almost to that first milestone, but we can’t let this one pass us by because what an unbelievably amazing and also kind of super shitty year we just went through!

To just quickly recap the highlights from our third year of marriage:

  • Bye bye birth control, hello getting pregnant right away! (what a tremendous blessing, we expected it to take anywhere from 6 months to a year to get pregnant, so the “plans” I had — ha ha! — were totally thrown out the window)
  • A fun trip to Europe! London, Paris, Dublin!
  • Welcome home — there’s a pandemic, we’re shutting everything down, and you just got home from a trip so you have no toilet paper or groceries!
  • Have fun being pregnant during a pandemic!
  • My brother Alex moved in with us! ❤
  • We bought a house!

So right around the time I was supposed to be writing my 3 year anniversary blog post, I was pregnant and miserable and terrified to go out into society and was not in a good blogging place. Mainly because I felt so shitty for being miserable while pregnant when so many people try so hard to conceive!

But we were about to have the most eventful year of marriage yet! Starting with the birth of our baby girl!

What a journey it is to become a parent! And Kevin was thrown into parenthood a few days before his birthday! Birthdays are a big deal for him. He loves to be the center of attention and get lots of gifts and he wants everything to be surprise. The big surprise was that we had to kick Sophie out of my belly because she did not want to vacate the premises, otherwise she would have been born a few weeks before his birthday instead of a few days. He adapted quite well to spending his birthday figuring out how to entertain a newborn.

Oh and in the midst of all of this, we’re trying to start some home renovations. Which we should have started before Sophie was born but we foolishly wanted to be lazy and do nothing productive for like a full month before the baby arrived. Kevin finished the shed (aka home gym) and bought a lot of materials for the basement but didn’t really get started until Sophie was a few months old.

Also in the midst of all this (“all this” meaning “becoming parents, keeping a tiny human alive”), we have both been in school. Kevin finishing his Bachelor’s degree and me starting my MBA program. So that’s been mostly an annoyance for the both of us as it’s probably fourth or fifth on our priority list, but we’re happy to be getting it done and mostly doing it for the career advancement opportunities.

This post is now reminding me of my mom’s Christmas letters, essentially a recap of the year, which is a plus because after posting this I will only have to do a recap of like the last two months of 2021 for my Christmas letter/year in review post!

Naturally our lives now revolve around Sophie and we have to find time for each other in our busy schedules. It’s not that we don’t spend time together, just that it looks different than it used to and of course there have been some changes to our relationship since Sophie was born. But for the most part, those have been positive changes. I think the absolute exhaustion of the newborn days really puts a lot of silly fights into perspective and it’s so much easier to just move on when you are too tired to fight or too tired to care.

It has been a learning curve figuring out how to communicate our needs effectively to one another, particularly now that Sophie’s needs come first. And there are times when we definitely have a shorter fuse with one another than we used to, but it takes so much time and energy to be a parent and if I did not have someone by my side who supported me fully in my parenting decisions, I don’t know how I would do that. We are doing a lot of things that I think may be considered atypical. Sophie co-sleeps with us, and it really works for us and we both prefer it, and I just could not imagine having a husband who said, “No, the baby can’t sleep in our bed, go figure out how to get her to sleep in her crib.”

Most things haven’t changed. We still argue and fight about such petty things like Kevin carrying 7 cans of soda and dropping two of them on the floor and waking the baby up. Or sneezing and waking the baby up. Many things involving waking the baby up currently. And I think we’re just the kind of people who will always have these fights where I yell at Kevin for eating all the popcorn or Kevin yells at me because I say I don’t know where I want to eat but I don’t want to eat at any of the places he suggests. But usually these fights are so funny in retrospect and we laugh about them, and we have started laughing mid-fight because if we yell or raise our voices Sophie thinks it’s super funny.

We just don’t have a whole lot of real shit to fight about. We worked through a ton of stuff in the beginning of our relationship and I’m glad we put in that time because when things come up that we need to deal with, it’s rare that one or both of us needs years of therapy to work through it. It’s been such a learning curve becoming parents, but it already feels ten times easier than it did in the newborn days.

I know it’s been especially hard for Kevin to kind of get bumped to second place when Sophie was born. He tells me Sophie and I are tied for his #1 spot, but he knows Sophie is my #1 and he’s my #2 and I don’t try and deny it! But I would not want to create a family with anyone else. It has been a crazy year, and things are still crazy and totally not normal in the world, but I am so in love with our little family and I am so grateful that seven-ish years ago I got drunk and told Kevin I loved him (we weren’t even in a relationship), and four years ago we got married in my parents’ backyard!

This blog post is mainly “for” Kevin because I know he is a bit jealous that Sophie gets monthly Instagram posts. You’re the best, babe! There’s no one else I’d rather carry 20 pieces of sheet rock down the stairs with!

Basement Renovations

Trying out this “writing a blog post from my phone” thing again. I have been dealing with some back pain and headaches that seem to be exacerbated by sitting at the computer so unless I’m working, I have no desire to sit at the computer.

As I’ve mentioned, we have been working on finishing our basement before my parents move in with us in less than a month! When we bought the house last August, we knew we were taking on this project but I don’t think we fully understood the scope or how difficult it would be to work on it when our baby arrived a few months later!

We threw ourselves into the project right when we moved in and we bought all the lumber we would need to finish framing. This was the first unexpected expense (for me — not realizing how expensive this stuff is!) but it worked out because the lumber prices skyrocketed and although we didn’t actually start working on the basement until several months later, we saved a lot of money buying the lumber early.

Before tackling the basement, Kevin decided to practice his skills by finishing the inside of the shed in our backyard. I hate the term she-shed but it is my workout space now and it looks fantastic!

Kevin finished the shed before our daughter was born and then took a long break as we figured out how to be parents to a newborn! Finally, maybe two months into new parent life, he started framing and figuring out electrical. Unfortunately I don’t think we took a picture when the framing was done, I can’t find one!

Drywall was next and this was probably the longest part of the process because Kevin needed help but I couldn’t really help because the pieces were too heavy for me to lift, and we couldn’t work while the baby was sleeping because it was too loud! Kevin had a lot of friends come help him out thankfully — thanks Trent, Jake and Devin!

Finally the dreaded drywall was finished and we got to move on to mud + tape which I was able to help with, much to Kevin’s delight. This went considerably faster, mainly because we could work on it while the baby slept and also because I told Kevin to work on it every day after work until it was done rather than take a day off. He wasn’t thrilled about this but I think he is thankful now that I pushed him to get it done.

He borrowed a paint sprayer and was able to get the basement painted all in one day, and now is ready to put the flooring in which will be our next adventure! The paint is called “Vanilla Chai” but we had a good laugh after he finished painting because it looks very pink! My mom will be happy about that because she hates boring beige paint and I think was already planning to repaint it in rainbow as soon as she arrived!

If this were one of those inspirational DIY advice posts, I would have to say:

Throw the budget out the window because your husband will frequently call you on his way home from work saying he needs to “pick up a few things” from Home Depot or Lowe’s that he “forgot about” and these random trips will be upwards of $200 each time.

That being said, putting some money aside for a generic “Home Expenses” fund has been super helpful for us to stay ahead of these purchases and not drown in debt.

Kevin still wants to flip houses together but I said only if we can agree on the budget ahead of time and have money saved for the things he “forgets” AND not be living in the house we’re trying to renovate!!

Kevin was also recently injured working on this project although when I asked him for a quote for this blog post he said: “I’m not telling you what happened, it’s too embarrassing!!” So we will never know.

Late night (for me) check-in!

After an exciting return to the blog, the Saturday posts lasted two weeks! Typing this from my phone as I have no desire to get on my computer on the weekend after a long week at work. Anyone else get tension headaches from being on a laptop all day? I used to blame screens in general but I just don’t get the same headaches from staring at my phone! I think they’ve gotten worse now with breastfeeding and constantly having terrible posture/looking down at baby.

We’ve been hard at work this summer finishing our basement (Kevin has been the hardest worker but keeping the baby entertained while he works is a full time job as well!). My parents will be moving in with us in about a month! I haven’t talked about it much because they had been keeping it on the down low until it was really 100% decided and they had for sure plans to rent out their house. We are SO EXCITED to have them move in with us, especially after this crazy covid year (that is still ongoing).

When I moved to Utah five years ago it was no big deal because I could come back home anytime and I did make many trips, usually at least 2 per year, back to Oregon! Now, with the pandemic and a baby, it just does not seem worth it to risk the travel so I am really looking forward to having my parents and youngest brother here with us. If things get worse and we have to quarantine again, we will all be together!

Kevin finished painting the basement today so all we have left is flooring, baseboards and doors! And all the details here and there – outlet covers and blinds and light fixtures, but the big things are almost done! It’s been a stressful project and as first time homebuyers with a baby, it was a bit much to take on but we can finally see the finish line!

Hope to have my Saturdays freed up again soon, stay tuned!

Hugely Pregnant in the Hot Desert

We’ll add this to the list of trips I never posted about because I was too pregnant to care and didn’t want to upset people by promoting travel during a global pandemic. I wish I could just stay in an underground bunker or at least some remote area far, far away from the nearest person until things are “normal” again, but we embarked on this quest to get out of our house before my pregnancy hormones drove me insane and I murdered Kevin.

Really nothing I’ve done since the beginning of the pandemic has felt like a “worthwhile” risk, but at least on this trip we had our own trailer, didn’t have to use any public restrooms, and were outside anytime we were around people. Also, I’m glad I have some photos of us traveling and hiking with masks on so that many years from now we can look back and be like, “Damn we really made it through a pandemic.”

My brother moved in with us for the second half of 2020 and we really wanted to take him to Moab because it’s one of our favorite places and we knew he would love it! We took advantage of the long holiday weekend and also hit up Goblin Valley on the way! Quite possibly one of the worst places to be in the middle of summer in your third trimester of pregnancy. By this point my feet were swollen, I had carpal tunnel in both wrists and had to sleep with wrist braces on, and I had to pee all the time. But yes, let’s definitely go hiking in the hot desert and climb on things.

I was determined not to let this whole pregnancy thing get in the way of having fun, but unfortunately my belly was literally getting in my way as I was trying to climb on things. Even on a previous Goblin Valley trip when I was not pregnant, I got stuck climbing a few times and Kevin had to help me get back down. If you’ve never been to Goblin Valley, there are not really “hiking trails”. You just start wandering around and you can stay down in the valley or climb up onto the mesas.

At first I was trying to take it easy but I really wanted to climb up to the mesa with Kevin and Alex, so I said “screw it” and decided my body could still be as athletic as it was pre-pregnancy. It’s harder to climb back down than it is to climb up though, so we were really stuck trying to find an easy way for me to get down until I got frustrated and decided to just pick a way and stick with it. Kevin swears that the way I chose involved jumping six feet down from a ledge and says that he was afraid to jump off of it and couldn’t believe I had done it pregnant. I don’t think it was that high, but everything turned out fine and they love telling that story now!

By the time we finished climbing around and had to head back because we didn’t bring enough water, it had to be a hundred degrees. We were hot and tired so we were like, let’s just get to Moab and set up the trailer. We get to our RV park in Moab and set everything up and the poor AC in the trailer is working its ass off trying to keep it cool, but it’s the middle of the day and there’s no shade. Kevin’s outside trying to put the awning up and Alex and I are laying in the trailer sweating and drinking two or three Gatorade Zeros. It was so miserably hot that I wanted to just drive back home. I also wanted to return the trailer because it was not getting cool in there and I was so pissed about how expensive it was and yet it couldn’t withstand the desert heat. Finally Kevin was like, let’s just go to the river, which was a whole adventure trying to find a secluded river spot but we finally found one (and ended up coming back to it the next two days)!

Looking back we should have just gone straight to the river instead of being miserable in the trailer, but we were so tired! The river time was so nice, even though we didn’t have chairs or inner tubes or anything. The one problem was that I hate going into rivers and lakes in bare feet. I don’t want my feet to touch the slimy rocks and sand, but my sandals were too tight for my swollen feet so as Kevin’s driving around looking for a spot to park and walk down, I am holding my swollen feet up to the AC vents trying to get them to un-swell enough to force them into my sandals. I wish someone would’ve just told me it was worth the money to buy new sandals and shoes to get through the last few months of pregnancy. At one point I was nearly sobbing over the fact that I couldn’t get my sandals on.

Aside from our afternoons spent at the river, we also went into Canyonlands and Arches and did some hiking! Thankfully, most of the people we encountered were wearing masks, but there were still way too many people especially inside Arches. We didn’t even hike to Delicate Arch because there was literally a line of people all the way around the bowl, waiting to get their photos taken by the arch. We could see even from far away all these tiny little dots and we were so shocked to realize they were all people. It’s one of the really popular hikes — the arch that’s on the Utah license plates — but that is the most crowded I have ever seen it.

We took a lot of really fun photos though and it was so fun to take Alex for his first time to these Utah national parks. The landscape is just so cool and we knew he probably wouldn’t get the chance to come back after he moved out, so I’m really glad we went. We didn’t go into any restaurants or shops, just got coffee outside one day and ordered takeout from a couple of our favorite restaurants. Also another moment where I was in tears, finding out the restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed when all I wanted was some weird jalapeño burger I had seen on the menu and had been craving.

We had to make a grocery store run to buy more Gatorade Zeros because it was so hot out and we were so thirsty. Still had to sleep with the AC on full blast to get through the hot desert nights. As much as we love to travel, we really have to stop doing it in the middle of summer. Hopefully we can get to a point where Kevin has enough time off that we don’t have to travel during holiday weekends like we usually end up doing. It’s nice to take advantage of the holiday but it’s always so crowded and we’ve started to realize that it’s nicer to travel to a lot of these places in the offseason!

One thing that made this whole trip worth it was taking these photos of Kevin and I because we have taken photos in the same spot before and didn’t realize that I am wearing the shorts Kevin was wearing in the first photo:

The next time we go to Arches, we’re going to recreate this photo again — this time with Sophie!

All in all, Moab & vicinity is always a 10/10 for us. It’s such a cool place and even when we’re miserably hot we find ways to have a good time and we always make hilarious memories that we end up laughing about later. So glad we got to share one of our favorite places with my brother and give him lots of awesome pics for his Instagram feed!

If you enjoyed this post and want to support my work, you can buy me a coffee!

Meet Clemson!

Not only did we have a baby last year, we also added Clemson the Airstream to our family! It started with a very expensive panic/impulse purchase in April or May of last year. We both kind of freaked out at the thought of being trapped at home, unable to travel at all during the pandemic, especially when it seemed like the safest place would be out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by no one.

Of course, Airstream of Utah was conveniently having a virtual sale right around this time! With nothing better to do, we thought we might as well look at some Airstreams. We had always talked about eventually buying one and had been faithfully tent-camping for years, but using public restrooms while pregnant during the scary pandemic times was a no-go for me.

There is a bit of a twist in this story in that Clemson is not actually the Airstream we purchased originally. We ended up buying a bigger one because we were worried the 16 foot Bambi was too small. We went with the 22 foot Bambi and ended up really not liking the layout of the trailer. The extra space seemed wasted on the bathroom and the layout didn’t really work for us, but I’m glad we started off with the larger one because if we hadn’t I think we would’ve always wondered if Clemson was too small for us.

Because it was a big investment for us and we just really didn’t love it, we ended up trading it in and getting Clemson in February of 2021! Clemson is a very small 16 foot Airstream Bambi and is absolutely perfect for our family (and will be perfect when we add a second baby, but we’ll probably have to upgrade when we have a third baby but we will keep you posted)!

We’ve been on a few trips with Clemson this year and it’s been so fantastic to be able to stop and not have to use public restrooms, have a space to lay down and breastfeed or let Sophie play for a bit, and we’ve even spent the night at a rest area instead of a hotel! As an added bonus, Sophie and I have taken many naps in the trailer while Kevin works on finishing our basement.

We are looking forward to many more adventures with Clemson and even though we are already thinking we’ll have to upgrade as our family grows, we are planning on keeping Clemson for life! It will be perfect for us to travel in once we are empty-nesters. One reason we wanted to invest in an Airstream is because they really do last forever. I really wanted to buy an old one and completely renovate it, but Kevin (as the person who would have had to do 99% of the work) did not want to do that with a baby on the way, so maybe we will do that in the future.

Full disclosure, we did not pay cash for Clemson, we have a loan and a monthly payment and although we’ll pay it off early, it’s still a loan. Airstreams are not cheap! It was an impulse purchase that we were thinking would happen five or ten years down the road. We’re really happy about it, but will be even happier once it is completely paid for! Some of our best memories are from trips where we tent camped, so I definitely don’t want to give off the vibe that this was necessary for us to buy for travel.

One thing that factored in to my decision is I actually really hate hotels! Even if I pay good money for a really nice hotel, I always feel like it’s not as clean as it could be and it’s still not my bed/not my sheets. I have to bring my own blanket and pillow. With Sophie, it’s really nice to have a space that she feels comfortable in that we know is baby-proofed and safe for her. Also, it’s much easier to pack when you have all that space to just throw last minute things in!

The gas mileage towing the trailer is not great, not cheap, but it’s worth it for me to be essentially towing my home with me. And yes, I did want to buy the Airstream and live in it full-time but Kevin is not entirely ready to be a full-time nomad, so we’ll try again in a few years. Maybe once we’re done having kids and they are a bit older I can convince him!

I told Kevin he should make a Youtube channel so he can talk about all things Airstream and traveling with a baby, because really I am just along for the ride and I’m taking care of Sophie while he does all of the driving, setting up camp, etc. Comment on this post if you want him to start a Youtube channel — maybe we can get him to do it!

You can check out the Clemson The Airstream section of the blog for new travel posts and also follow Clemson on Instagram at @clemsontheairstream! If you enjoyed this post and want to support my work, you can buy me a coffee!

Welcome Back!

I don’t know if I am welcoming myself back or welcoming you back as a reader, but either way – we are back!

2020 was an inconsistent year for Life After Oregon. My favorite thing to blog about is travel and after our trip to Europe in February, the pandemic hit, lockdown happened, and we got pregnant! We spent the rest of the year mostly not going anywhere — and if we did travel, I didn’t want to blog about it and give the wrong vibe that I was encouraging travel during such a scary time.

Now here we are with an eight month old baby and things are still not back to normal for us travel-wise, but Kevin has been trying to get me to take time for myself! I am at home with our daughter, Sophie, during the week while Kevin works. I still have some maternity leave time left so I am still working part-time, but it’s just the two of us alone all day until Kevin gets home in the evening. And the truth is that I really don’t want to be away from Sophie because I love her so damn much and I just sit around and watch videos of her when I am not with her.

But, I have been feeling burnt out and I need time alone to recharge and eat a sandwich in peace and do something for me. Unfortunately, Kevin also reminded me that I don’t have any hobbies and my idea of a nice afternoon to myself probably involves deep cleaning a bathroom. I was quick to remind him that while I do love to organize a space, no one really loves deep cleaning a bathroom.

One of my hobbies that I really used to enjoy was this blog! Until we had this whole pandemic and I was pregnant and I was either too tired to write about anything or I was afraid I was writing the wrong things and people were going to judge me horribly for it. Pregnancy was not a fun time for me, mainly due to the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a name for myself by complaining about pregnancy.

I need a hobby and a reason to sip my coffee alone in my office, undisturbed, so the blog is back!

The one thing you can always count on here is chaos and unpredictability. I will likely not conform to any one, two, or three topics even though I will try to talk about traveling, being a mom, and traveling while being a mom (or something like that). I will also change the blog theme constantly and you will never know what this place is going to look like when you click on a link to a new blog post!

Just ask Kevin how many times I have rearranged the furniture in our living room this year.

I know this will be a “welcome back” to my loyal fans (aka dear friends and family, I love you all so much!) but if you are new here I did write a little about me blurb and I will tell you a bit about my current self here as well:

My name is Sami or Sam or Samantha depending on who you are and which name you’ve decided to call me! I really like all the names and I really don’t have a preference. But if you were to see me in public (unlikely) or try to find me in a crowd (highly unlikely) then your best bet is “Samantha” because I think everyone remembers their mom yelling their full name from the front porch when it was time to come inside for the night.

Kevin is my husband. We’ve been married for almost four years now, but we have known each other for literally my entire life (a story for another time). We both grew up in Oregon but have lived in Utah for five years now (hence this is now our Life After Oregon). Our daughter Sophie was born last November!

I have kept most of my old blog posts up if you have any interest in reading them. The travel ones are the best, but there are a lot of other fun ramblings! I will be posting something new every Saturday, hopefully, unless I have to rearrange all the furniture in my house again.

Feel free to check out the new (and old) posts and if you enjoy what you read, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee!

2020: A Year in Review

Well I had high hopes to write a Christmas letter and send a cute Christmas card this year, but then I had a baby and time became a construct that I no longer understand and the days all blur together and seem to both drag on and fly by simultaneously. Maybe next year. Or maybe I’ll send out a Christmas card in June to stay ahead of the game.

This is not an overview of my 2020 goals and what I accomplished, and I have no 2021 goals. I have a laundry list of things I’d like to do but they are not confined to the year 2021. I’m not really sure what a laundry list is but if it’s a metaphor for a list that’s never-ending because once you have a newborn the laundry is never-ending, then it is an on-point phrase and I love it.

I’m not sure how all of these phrases came to be anyway. An announcer on the basketball game we were watching the other night said something about “having your p’s and q’s” and I asked Kevin what it meant (assuming it related somehow to basketball) and we went down the google rabbit hole and it turns out no one knows for sure what it means.

Back to 2020, the year started out with a few winter trips. Kevin and I drove hundreds of miles around Arizona in a single weekend. We both thought that we had MLK day off so we’d have a three day weekend but it turned out neither of us had the day off so we ended up having about 2 and a half days to drive from Utah to Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon and back.

I also went off birth control in January. We decided to “start trying” and I thought maybe we’d be pregnant by June.

In February, we went on our first trip to Europe! On a whirlwind two week trip, we flew to London, Paris and Dublin and by the time we flew home, covid was almost in full swing and we were slightly worried we weren’t going to get to fly home. Thankfully we did not get stranded in London, although that might have been fun!

In March, right before everyone was officially quarantined, my mom and youngest brother came to visit us and we made a trip to Moab and took them to a few of our favorite national and state parks. We also found out in March that we were pregnant! A complete surprise, we didn’t expect it to happen in the first try.

In April, we quarantined, started working from home, and ate a lot of takeout. I didn’t have morning sickness really, just a general lack of appetite, so we ate whatever sounded good to me at the moment — a lot of Panda Express. I got to see our baby for the first time on an ultrasound and Kevin didn’t get to come to the appointment due to covid restrictions.

Sometime in either April or May (I honestly can’t remember), we bought an Airstream. The Utah dealership was having a big sale, and I kind of panicked about the idea of not being able to travel due to covid. Being stuck in the apartment was not appealing to me and Kevin and I had been talking for a few years about buying a camping trailer. So, we thought why the fuck not and that seemed to become the theme of the year. Shortly after we bought the Airstream, Kevin took our truck (a Toyota Tacoma) in for a “routine maintenance appointment” and came back with a Toyota Tundra (quite the upgrade). Yes, there were some brief conversations about it but that’s basically how it happened. Not a planned upgrade but it does tow the airstream better and there’s a lot more room. It’s Kevin’s thing.

We took the airstream and tundra on their maiden voyage to Capitol Reef for Memorial Day weekend, thinking it would be quiet and we’d be able to effectively get outside while social distancing. It was not quiet and we had to get up super early in order to hike on trails without tons of other people around. But I’m glad we went because we were starting to go crazy in the apartment.

Oh, and somewhere in here Kevin started school at UVU to finish his degree!

In June, we surprised my mom for her birthday by driving to Oregon to celebrate with her. It was her 50th birthday and birthdays are kind of her thing, so we got all of her friends and family to send us happy birthday videos and we played them all for her since we couldn’t do a big birthday party. My brother came home with us to Utah and moved in for the summer (and is still here!).

In July, I told Kevin that maybe we should start looking at houses so maybe we could buy one next year. Well, it so happens that Kevin has wanted to buy a house for a very long time and apparently I was the only thing standing in the way. So once he got me on board, we ended up buying a house within 30 days! We went on a family camping trip to Glacier national park (in retrospect, a terribly anxiety-inducing experience in light of covid but we were able to be relatively safe) and announced to them the news of our house purchase and the fact that we were having a baby girl!

In August, we moved out of our apartment and into our new home! Which was a fantastic choice with a baby in the way and three people working from home. I felt bored thought and decided to start an MBA program at UVU. See, the why the fuck not theme continues.

In September, we went on our last trip of the year to take my brother Alex to see Moab and all of our favorite places. With the airstream, we didn’t have to use a public restroom the entire trip! We were able to eat some takeout food and still support the local restaurants while staying away from town and the crowds. It was a super stressful trip as many people were not wearing masks, but I’m glad we went and spent most of our days lounging by the river completely isolated.

In October, I spent almost the entire month trying to get this baby out of me. My due date was November 6th so by mid-October it was like okay any day now. Kevin went elk hunting in a unit super close to home and saw a ton of elk, but didn’t get anything because he had a spike-only tag. We celebrated Alex’s birthday and waited for the baby to come.

In November, we really tried everything to induce labor. But Sophie was not ready to come out and I ended up getting induced on November 13th (which I’d you know my mom, she really wanted her to be born on the 13th because it’s her favorite number) and she was born on the 14th after 18 hours of labor (but only 30 minutes of pushing, thank the sweet baby Jesus). Both Kevin and Alex were able to be in the delivery room and the nurses said it was a rare thing to see two men in the delivery room!

And of course we can’t forget Kevin’s birthday (except I did when I first posted this and I’m surprised he didn’t notice when he read it, but I’m posting an edit just for him — he loves his birthday)! Just five days after Sophie’s. I got the whole family to help chip in to buy him a brand new set of golf clubs, which I had repeatedly told him I would not be buying for him because he’d have no time to play golf with a newborn baby so he was very surprised!

We spent the rest of November and December figuring out how to live with a newborn! My friend Stephanie told me the first few weeks are a mix of euphoria and panic and that description could not have been more accurate. We had a few people come help us — my dearest friend Katie, my parents and youngest brother — and I am so grateful they were able to be here to help us survive those first few weeks and meet Sophie!

I am still on new parent leave with Sophie and will be for a few more weeks before going back to work (remotely). I have some additional leave that I will take later (because I hear there are fun things like teething and sleep regressions coming!). Sophie is by far the best thing to happen to us in 2020 (and really ever) and we could not be happier and we’re so in love with her.

Kevin will read this post and tell me about all of the important things I missed but that was the gist of it, at least the important and interesting things! Thanks for following our adventures! I will try and post more frequently in 2021 to keep you all updated as we navigate life as new parents and have adventures with Sophie!

Why Am I Scrolling? An Inner Monologue on Social Media

I just had a baby about six weeks ago, and I am breastfeeding — which means I now spend a large portion of my day sitting on my couch with only one hand free. In fact, I am currently typing this with only one hand, really one thumb. When you only have one hand free, you’re very limited in what you can hold: your phone, the tv remote, a cup of coffee, a water bottle, or the baby’s hand (pick one).

So you can see where this post is going. Naturally I started spending more time on my phone because I literally had nothing else to do. Sophie usually falls asleep after she finishes nursing and she is so precious and cute that I have no desire to get up and move her, so I commit to 2-3 hour shifts on the couch. I’ve always spent a lot of time on my phone. I don’t check the screen time tracker but my weekly screen time notification is usually upwards of 3-4 hours per day (of mostly social media — and mostly Instagram since I deleted my Facebook a year ago).

Suddenly I had all this time to spend scrolling mindlessly through social media and really not feel bad about it, but that’s not what happened.

First, I immediately started getting headaches from looking down so much (not even at my phone, at the baby) and from so much screen time (phone and tv). And probably also from dehydration. I stopped watching tv and turned on Pandora music instead. I set a one hour time limit for Instagram and Twitter (combined) per day. I figured that would be tough to stick to but the first day that I hit my one-hour limit (at about 2pm) I felt such a huge sense of relief.

Sidebar: I have managed to shift my left arm enough without bothering Sophie (who is asleep) that I can now use both hands to type so maybe this won’t take ten hours now.

Anyway, the one hour limit was a piece of cake and it actually made me feel better! I have only hit the limit and/or received the 5 minute warning about three times total. And it is plenty of time! I am still scrolling aimlessly through tons of content and sending hilarious tweets to my ten followers while I’m going to the bathroom.

Another sidebar: Since imposing (is this even the right word?) the social media limit I have read five books on my kindle app on my phone.

So because I was still on the couch with all this time I started thinking deeply about a lot of things. Staring at Sophie’s cute face and thinking about the future and what I want for her and what I want for myself and all of those important things that new parents start kind of panicking about. And what happened was that I started thinking how weird it is that we scroll mindlessly on social media or post our own stuff. I got a MySpace when I was in middle school and I probably had a hundred friends and they were all kids I went to school with and I hung out with about five of them. The other 95 were kids I knew and wanted them to think I was super cool (also it was just the thing to do — friend request everyone who you knew within yours or the neighboring school districts). But geographically and age-wise these were kids who were also in middle school who lived in my town.

Now the majority of people I follow, I don’t even know personally. Which is fine of course, because I want to expand my network and be exposed to a more diverse set of people. Particularly now that I have realized that my hometown is very very white. I also probably follow too many people to even read every single thing they post. I have tried to keep it at 400 or less (people I follow) but even that is too many.

And I salute the people who are making a career out of social media because I could not do it. I think it’s a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs and I think influencers are pretty awesome for the most part. But isn’t it weird that the rest of us are doing it for free? Especially if you’re putting in a lot of hours sharing your life on a daily basis. And why do we feel the need to share the things we do?

I’m not even going to get into the activism and politics side of social media. It is great especially if you have a large platform and a lot of followers but it is not for me. I do not have many people following me and most of them share the same political beliefs so we’re all reading and circulating the same material. I’m better off focusing my activist efforts outside of social media.

Even this blog, I haven’t hardly posted this year because I wonder why I am posting or why I want to post. What makes us want to voice every inner thought publicly? Is social media a public-facing journal of sorts? And now that I have a baby, I think about her as a teenager stumbling upon my social media accounts and reading all this garbage. At the very least, I’m going to only post authentic garbage and not perfectly curated Instagram photos and captions in case someday I achieve social media fame.

I have no advice. I have no suggestions. I put a limit on my social media and it has made me really dive into my history of social media use and question what it is doing for me and what I am gaining from it. I have gained a lot and I know there are many benefits and I know it’s not going away anytime soon so I might as well use it — but maybe use it my way.

I’ll be showing up as myself on Instagram, Twitter and my blog. Unedited. Probably not even proofread. I no longer have time. I’ll be following people and pages that interest me and unfollowing them when they don’t anymore. I’ll probably keep wondering why we spend so much time on social media and I will probably never figure out why we keep doing it even though it’s bizarre.

Maybe I will make a new blog series called the breastfeeding journals that I will likely forget about in a week. Stay tuned.

To summarize: social media is weird and it’s weird how much time we spend publicly journaling about our lives instead of living them, and it’s even weirder how much time we spend watching other people live their lives. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either.

Family Trip: Canyonlands & Goblin Valley!

Two of our favorite places with two of our favorite people!

Once upon a time, my mom and youngest brother planned a trip to see us in March 2020 — not knowing that the COVID pandemic would hit right about then. All of our plans were up in the air right up until the week they were scheduled to fly out. They ended up being able to fly here and we proceeded with our trip as planned.

Everything ended up being shut down the very next week, so in retrospect we probably should have cancelled this trip — but we had no idea how everything was going to go down and how serious the pandemic was at this point. However, I avoided posting anything on social media about this trip until much later because I felt guilty that we had traveled when we should have started quarantining, and I did not want to seem like I was encouraging people to continue traveling during this time.

I am really glad they ended up being able to come. We had a great trip! It was the first time we got to spend some 1×1 time with just my mom and Christopher — probably ever! My family is a big group — often referred to as the Kemper Party of 8, or however many people are there at the time — and it is really fun to do things together as a group, but I really enjoyed this trip with just the two of them!

We booked a bougie hotel in Moab — the brand new Hyatt Place — as a surprise. It was supposed to be a low-budget weekend but at the last minute we decided to splurge a bit on the hotel so that everyone would have some more room to spread out. We drove to Moab in the late afternoon/evening and took them to Pasta Jay’s for dinner. It was amazing, as always, but we ordered way too much food. I had just found out that I was pregnant a week before, and didn’t realize it yet but I would have some issues eating for the first trimester. Not morning sickness really, just a general lack of appetite and an aversion to food. So this became a theme for the weekend — me being super hungry and ordering a shit ton of food and then feeling full a few bites in.

Our hotel lived up to the expectations. It was brand new, really beautiful, and even had a hotel bar (a rarity for Utah). Kevin and my mom kept the drinking to a minimum that weekend since I could not partake. We tried several times to go in the hot tub and pool but it was way too crowded — and in retrospect, I am glad we didn’t, because COVID. We had some shenanigans the first night. Christopher normally sleeps with an industrial fan in his bedroom (no joke) so he was using some sort of noise machine app on his phone that was driving me insane. I threatened to get my own hotel room, and then told my mom that she had ten minutes left to read her book because we were waking up early the next day. These are now stories that I will never hear the end of anytime we are together.

The next morning we got up — not quite as early as we had hoped — and there were some additional shenanigans involving Christopher not being able to wake from his deep sleep, my mom spilling her tea several times, and the discovery that our hotel room did not have a microwave. I thought for some reason there was a hot pot in the room, and I thought Kevin agreed with me because he said, “It’s for rice” (he had actually said “it’s for ice”) so I said, “I know it’s for rice, it’s a hot pot” and then my mom spit the rest of her tea on Kevin’s shoes. Another story we will be telling each other for the next five years, and if it doesn’t seem that funny to you, I apologize — I’m really just putting it in here for the people that were there.

We headed to Burger King to grab breakfast and opted to go inside to order to avoid the dreaded drive-thru experience (wherein usually my mom is trying to keep everything organized by ordering for everyone from the backseat of the car, and then inevitably someone’s order is wrong anyway). Canyonlands (Island in the Sky) is about a 30 minute drive from Moab but it’s a very beautiful drive. It was not very crowded but we decided to avoid the visitor’s center since it’s very small and there’s not much to look at. We took them to all of the viewpoints and did a couple of short hikes, including our favorite Mesa Arch.

I convinced everyone that we should drive back to Moab the back way — on the windy dirt road that goes down into the Canyon and follows the river. I said it would only take like 45 minutes but it turned out to take much more time than that. Apparently my concept of time on these kinds of drives is completely unreliable and incorrect, but everyone had a good time and we stopped at a few places to take some pictures of the river.

Back in town, everyone was ready for a nap/some down time so we headed back to the hotel. I think we considered doing another hike but we were all pretty worn out by that point. When it was time to get up for dinner, we drove into town and walked around and went to a few of the shops first. There are a couple of shops there that I love and I stocked up on some homemade soap and artist-made cards.

We decided to eat dinner at a new place that was recommended to us — The Broken Oar. We waited outside for our table to be ready and while we were waiting, we befriended a neighborhood cat. I must have zoned out during part of the conversation because apparently Christopher said, “We should name this cat Georgie”, and then a few minutes later I said, “You know what would be a great name for this cat? Georgie!”

There really was too much comedic family material on this trip for any of us to handle.

I am so glad it was recommended that we go to The Broken Oar because it was absolutely fantastic! They had these sweet potato fries that were like a dessert fry — covered in sugar and honey and who knows what else. Christopher surprised all of us by ordering some sort of pork sandwich with extra sausage on the side (this was the kid who used to order a cheeseburger “plain” with nothing but the burger patty, cheese, ketchup and a bun). Once again I overestimated my level of hunger and Kevin had to eat 3/4 of my meal as well as his, but the fries were so delicious. We agreed that this might be our new favorite Moab restaurant.

Once again our evening hot tub plans were thwarted (thankfully) and we went to bed with minimal shenanigans. The next day we were packing everything up and heading to Goblin Valley on the way home. Somehow we ended up not eating breakfast before leaving town but by the time we got to the Burger King in Green River, it was like 11:02am and breakfast was over for the day. For those who don’t know me, I prefer fast food breakfast over anything else on the menu and this sent me into a brief tailspin where I debated eating gas station snacks instead of ordering anything, but begrudgingly decided to order a burger. To make matters worse, this is also a very podunk Burger King. There are some nice ones and this is not one of them, but Christopher got a BK Crown so he was set for the day.

We arrived at Goblin Valley around noon and set off on our adventure of the day. What I love about Goblin Valley is the fact that there are no trails, you’re just wandering around this giant natural playground. As Kevin and I predicted, Christopher absolutely loved it and was in heaven. My mom also had a great time and definitely leaped out of her comfort zone and was climbing on things and doing her own version of parkour about 30 minutes in to the adventure. Christopher ran off on his own and we had to keep track of him as he climbed higher and higher and eventually ended up on top of one of the mesas.

He also got a bloody nose right in the middle of our excursion — thank you, dry desert — and my mom had limited supplies in her fanny pack so that was an adventure in and of itself, but we made it without having to walk all the way back to the car. We stayed out there exploring for several hours before heading back for some lunch/snacks. Kevin and I really wanted to show them Little Wild Horse Canyon so we drove there, but everyone was pretty exhausted by that point and we all knew there was a 3 hour drive back home, so we ended up opting out of the canyon hike. I am excited for them to come back though so we can do it next time!

They flew back home the next morning and I think about two days later, everything started shutting down and quarantines went into effect statewide and there was a mad scramble for all toilet paper and canned foods at the grocery stores. It’s crazy to think that everything had seemed “normal” and we were able to take this trip right before we ended up being quarantined for several months. It was lucky that none of us got sick while on the trip, but I am so glad we were able to go before being stuck at home, especially since we didn’t know when we would be able to get together next!

Europe Adventures Part 3: Dublin!

**This is part three of our Europe trip, which happened in February, but I am just now getting around to writing about it!**

The view from our hotel room!

We landed in Dublin mid-afternoon, figured out which bus we needed to take to get to our hotel, and set off in the middle of a rain storm (it actually snowed for a few minutes too!). This was the last leg of our trip and I had purposefully booked a bougie-ass hotel by the sea, away from the city, thinking (rightfully so) that we might be tired of all the city life and ready to take a few days to relax by this point in the trip. We stayed at the Haddington House, with a view of the sea from our hotel room, and it could not have been more perfect.

The hotel had a restaurant in it so that’s where we ate the first evening and the food was absolutely delicious. My throat had started to hurt earlier in the day, which I was in denial about and would not accept the fact that I might have been getting Kevin’s cold, so I had a few hot toddy’s with dinner and those seemed to help.

Unfortunately, by the middle of the night, I could no longer be in denial about it and was forced to miserably accept that I was now the sick one. Thankfully, we still had some medicine that we’d gotten from my aunt before leaving Exeter. The next day, Kevin was forced to spend the day alone as I slept for most of the day and neither of us felt like going into Dublin to go sightseeing. He left on several errands throughout the day — in search of food, a pharmacy, and a walk on the pier. We had some burgers for dinner that weren’t great but weren’t terrible, and we should have gone back to the hotel restaurant instead. Kevin still wasn’t feeling 100% and I was at square one of the sickness, so we laid low for the entire day. I wish that I would have felt better but if there was ever a place to spend the day in bed and still have an amazing view out your window, this was the place to be. It didn’t feel like an entirely wasted trip, more like a lot more unplanned rest than we imagined.

The next day, I felt well enough to take a walk on the pier. It was cold and windy but the sea was really beautiful. Kevin also made us some espresso and we had a little breakfast coffee and cookies in our hotel room. There was a Nespresso machine in the room and Kevin fell absolutely in love with it and is still begging me to buy one for our house, along with the Nutella cookies that we found at the grocery store in Paris.

We opted out of Dublin but were going to visit a museum that was right next to our hotel, but unfortunately it was not open early enough and we had to get to the airport for our last flight(s) of the trip. We were flying from Dublin back to London and then flying from London back to the U.S. the next morning — early. Due to some weather issues, our flight in Dublin was delayed for several hours and we ended up not getting back to London until much later in the evening than we expected. At this point, the COVID situation was worsening and people in the airport were wearing masks. We were starting to feel some mild anxiety and concern over whether we would be able to leave the country and get back home.

We stayed in a hotel right by the London airport, ordered room service for dinner, and watched one of the Back to the Future movies on tv, which would have been a great night except for the fact that I was in the my nose is so stuffy I can’t breathe point of my cold. At this point, I was on the 4 hour cold medicine cycle and was certain that I was overdosing on the Sudafed nasal spray. I prayed for a miracle to happen and that I would feel better the next morning, but unfortunately I felt about the same. We visited the pharmacy at the airport before we left to stock up on all the drugs that had been keeping me sane for the last 48 hours. We bought a few more pastries from the coffee shop, and boarded our plane home.

The flight was 12 and a half hours instead of 8 and a half hours and leaving for a long flight in the early morning did not work as well for us as leaving in the evening did. We didn’t eat enough for breakfast and the meal served on the plane did not quite cut it. Kevin went and grabbed extra snacks from the flight attendants several times. I spent half of the flight with tissues plugging my nose because I got tired of constantly blowing it, and the woman behind us had a deathly sounding cough so I was certain I was going to recover from this cold only to get her germs. The flight felt like it took several days and we were ecstatic when we finally landed. Our ears were so plugged from being on the plane and being sick that we couldn’t hear properly for a couple of days after getting home. We ended up both being very sick for a couple of weeks but I can’t say it surprised me since we took so many flights during the trip.

We learned so much on this trip about what works for us and what doesn’t when it comes to international travel. This was our first experience so we really didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad that we packed so many places into such a short trip because although it was nice to check off so many things on the to-do list, we realized that we prefer a much slower pace when traveling. Visiting Exeter was the highlight of our trip because we got to spend time with family, which made us realize that we are probably much better suited to traveling in a group instead of traveling alone just the two of us. We didn’t love Paris, but really all we were there for was the Eiffel Tower, and now that we’ve checked that off our bucket list I don’t think we will go back — though there are other parts of France that I think we’d love to visit. We’d like to go back and actually see Dublin, but we loved the countryside and the hotel we stayed in.

The biggest learning experience for us on this trip was that neither of us are really into the traditional touristy things — which also usually take place in the city — and we’d much prefer to have a more leisurely trip in the countryside or less crowded places. The next time we travel internationally, we plan on visiting only one place and not flying to three different countries in a week and a half, and we also plan on traveling with other people — most likely my brother and his girlfriend on our next trip.

We also found that many of the ways we tried to make our trip cheaper actually made it more stressful and knowing that, we will pay more to have less anxiety and stress next time. For example, in London it was very easy to use the tube and the public transit system so we had no issues taking trains and buses everywhere. In Paris, the system was more complicated and there was a language barrier for us, so we would have been better off booking a more expensive hotel in a more central location so that we could have walked to more places easily. In Dublin, because we stayed so far outside of the city, it would have been easier for us and we might have actually made it into the city had we rented a car. Ultimately we weren’t doing an incredibly frugal “backpacking through Europe/staying in hostels” experience, so spending a little bit more money would have been fine.

Overall, we had a great experience and although it was fairly stressful being on so many planes during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I am glad we got to take this trip as it seems that we will not be traveling internationally for awhile now. The good news is that we have plenty of time to research and plan for our next trip…we are thinking Germany!