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.

The First Year of Marriage

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived.

Kevin and I actually survived our first year of marriage.

Originally, I had different plans for this blog post. I was going to talk about all the problems we encountered over the past year and how we worked through them as a married couple. But I had this realization (thank you, family book club — stay tuned for that blog post) about the general view on marriage and married life, and I think it’s pretty cynical.

Sure, there is talk about how great it is to be married but mostly what you hear are things like:

“Marriage is hard.”

“You think married life is great now? Wait until you’re married for 25 years.”

“Marriage is easy until you have kids.”

“Oh, you had a fight about who ate the last piece of chocolate? Wait till you have a real fight.”

The point is, who woke up one day and decided that marriage had to be hard? What if it’s the easiest thing in the world but we expect it to be hard and so it is. What if, rather than seeing growth opportunities and challenges, we see problems and struggles?

What if we change our perspective? What if we wake up every morning and think, “Being married is so easy.”

For those of you who don’t know Kevin that well, this is exactly how he lives his life.

I will be on some rant about political and social issues and how the world is in the toilet and why are there so many horrible people commenting horribly rude things on social media and did you even see what fecking Susan just posted and I’ll say something like, “Doesn’t this make you so angry, babe? I’m so unhappy right now. I hate the world.”

And he’ll say something like, “I’m completely happy and I love my life and I love you.”

Or we’ll be arguing and I’ll say something like, “This is such a fundamental issue in our marriage that you won’t admit you ate the last piece of chocolate.”

And he’ll say something like, “All that matters is I love you and you love me and we’re happy.”

It drives me crazy sometimes, because I’m like, “Come on, Kevin, get riled up about all the injustice in the world with me and we’ll set things on fire and be angry together”, but this really is the way we should all be thinking about marriage (and life in general). Marriage doesn’t have to be hard, ever.

So, with that perspective in mind, here is our year in review:

We both experienced a tremendous amount of individual growth in our first year of marriage, and we worked through a few shared challenges. I think it’s important to separate those because, although we are now married, we are going to continue to grow and change as individual people. We are not always going through everything together, as one shared experience. In fact, with our six-year age difference I have been going through a lot of things that Kevin has already gone through.

It has been challenging for me to grasp the idea that I am the less-experienced (and occasionally less mature) person in this relationship. But the fact is that Kevin was in a 9-year relationship before we got together, while I had never really had a lengthy or super serious relationship ever. As a natural leader and very intelligent woman (and slight perfectionist), I am used to being really good at pretty much everything, and I did not want to admit to myself (or to Kevin) that Kevin was probably better at being in a relationship than me.

Oh, and you want to know why?

Because then I would be admitting that he was better at being married than me!

Can you imagine? The horror.

Luckily, a big area of personal growth for me this year was starting therapy. I have always, always avoided therapy because I felt like it was for weak people who couldn’t fix their own problems and had to pay someone else to help them. I also felt like it would make things very real if a therapist actually diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. When you self-diagnose, you can always tell yourself that you may be wrong. If it’s been clinically diagnosed, there’s no going back. But I hit a wall earlier this year and my anxiety was through the roof, I was having crazy mood swings, and I felt like I was living life under this dark cloud.

My lovely therapist helped me to realize that I could benefit from letting Kevin take the lead on certain things in our marriage, since he was more experienced, and that it didn’t mean I was a failure or that I wasn’t as good at being married as Kevin. She also recommended immediately that I change my birth control, and that turned out to be the major cause of the extreme anxiety, mood swings, and depressed feeling. I’m not even lying, I feel like a completely different person now that my hormones aren’t on some crazy rollercoaster. I am planning to continue going to therapy and I highly recommend it for everyone — let’s break the stigma!

I was going to write about Kevin’s areas of personal growth too, but that just doesn’t seem fair. I’m really trying to get him to do a guest post on my blog and write his version of The First Year of Marriage, what do you think of that?

Maybe I’ll get him to write something. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, we had a few shared challenges this first year that we’d love to reflect on and share:

Finances

Everyone’s favorite word. We had a bit of a rough start to managing our finances together, but we’ve finally figured it out. Kevin moved to Utah before finding a job, and then had a pretty hard time finding a stable job for the first year we lived together. We didn’t want to cancel our wedding (and we didn’t have the greatest spending habits), so we forged ahead and racked up about $10,000 in credit card debt the first year we lived together. We started paying off that debt in January 2018 and I am happy to say that we now have $1,500 left on our credit card, which we are expecting to pay off next week. We are then going to tackle the rest of my student loan debt (about $10,000) and will be debt free by January 2019!

I manage the money, mainly because I like doing it, but Kevin and I try and have a monthly budgeting date where we go to Starbucks and plan out the month’s budget over coffee and pastries. We committed to a pretty aggressive debt payoff strategy for this year, which is working great but we slip every so often and we’re still trying to get the hang of not going out to eat as often. We have a shared bank account and it works great for us.

Cooking

As most of you already know if you’ve read my previous blog posts, Kevin does all of the cooking. There’s nothing I really love about cooking and it mostly stresses me out. Kevin does get tired of doing all the cooking, though, so we’ve had to switch things up. I am now Kevin’s sous chef so he tells me what he needs help with when he cooks dinner, usually chopping vegetables or making dressing or cutting up meat. I am slowly doing more and getting more comfortable in the kitchen and one of my goals for next year is to be cooking a few meals per week on my own. It sounds silly but I really never cooked growing up. I can even manage to burn bagel bites in the oven and mess up the recipe for Kraft Mac n Cheese.

It works great because I can usually get most of the dishes done while we’re cooking dinner, and we’re in the kitchen together as opposed to Kevin slaving away in the kitchen and me laying on the couch napping. I do the dishes after dinner, usually, as well as most of the other household cleaning so I think it works out to be pretty fair. We go out to eat a fair amount (okay, too much) but we’re trying a new thing where we have a planned date night and it’s either pizza night, Chinese takeout night, or dinner at an actual restaurant, so we’re minimizing the amount of shitty fast food we consume.

Carpooling

As part of our aggressive debt-payoff strategy, we sold Kevin’s truck (a heartbreaking day) and now have only one car. The only reason why this works so well is because Kevin’s work is literally a mile a way. I can drop him off on my way to work and he can either walk or get a ride home or I can pick him up on my way home. It would not work if we had jobs on opposite sides of the city.

It’s only been inconvenient a few times, but it has saved us money in gas and car insurance (plus the $$ we got from selling Kevin’s truck). And my favorite thing about Kevin is that he hates going anywhere by himself. This weekend, I was really sick, and I told him to go to Starbucks and get himself a coffee and some breakfast and I think that’s the first time he’s been to Starbucks without me since we moved in together. He adamantly refuses to go grocery shopping himself, and it really is way more fun to do all of that stuff together so we don’t mind sharing the car.

Driving the Corolla up in hunting country was a bit challenging/interesting. I think we gave quite a few people some good laughs. A new vehicle may be in the plans for next year, stay tuned 🙂

Marriage is easy…

All in all, it has been an amazing first year of marriage. It’s a little less weird now to say “my husband”, but sometimes I wake up on a Saturday morning and say to Kevin, “Can you believe we’re married?” Yes, he drives me absolutely crazy sometimes, but there’s no one I would rather go on road trips from Utah to Oregon with. He’s also really great at killing spiders, so that’s a plus. This morning, in the midst of both of us being sick, our kitchen flooded (we live in a basement apartment). I did not expect to be laying towels down on my kitchen floor at 7am and moving my stove out to get to the water pooled underneath it, suffice to say there really never is a dull moment!

We are looking forward to the next 50+ easy years of marriage! Stay tuned for more crazy adventures! ❤

An Open Letter to my Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

I started to write a blog post about the wedding, intending to give advice about what I learned from the experience and what I would do differently if I could go back and do it all over again, and I started over-analyzing everything I was writing. I couldn’t figure out which direction I wanted to go with it or what my message was. So I took a step back and really thought about it, and I realized that the message I wanted to write was to you.

So here I am, writing this letter. Don’t worry, mom, I’ll still send your thank you note in the mail. I’m trying not to overthink anything and just write what comes to me, but it’s so much harder than it sounds because I am such a perfectionist when it comes to my parents. I want to be absolutely perfect for you guys, all the time. And it is so hard for me to express how I feel, because I feel like no matter how many times I say it or how many different ways I express it, I won’t ever be able to fully express to you how much I love you.

If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that Kevin and I are going to have to try so damn hard to even come close to being as good of parents as you. Seriously, I know everyone probably says this about their parents, but you guys are hands-down the most amazing parents in the entire universe. You are supportive, honest, transparent, loving, kind, funny…I could go on and on about you guys. You will always have my back. Not that I had any doubts before, but I could never doubt that after this year.
I know I asked a lot of you this year and I want you to know how appreciative I am. I feel like I will never be able to repay you for everything you’ve done for me this year, and that’s just this year! Don’t even get me started on the rest of my life! There are not many parents who are able to be both 100% honest with and 100% supportive of their children, at least not that I’ve seen.

You were worried about my relationship with Kevin. You were worried that it was moving far too fast, that we were taking these great leaps and bounds and skipping steps without really thinking about what we were getting into. You were worried we were rushing into it too fast and that we’d end up realizing it was a mistake when we were already in too deep. And you expressed those concerns to both of us, multiple times. And I want you to know that we both really took those concerns to heart. It is truly amazing to be so loved by your family that they will be completely honest with you, even when they know it’s something you probably don’t want to hear.

It felt like the first time I had pushed onward with something that felt explicitly against your wishes, so to speak, even though there have probably been times in the past where I’ve gone ahead with something against your advice. But you also taught me to follow my heart and always think for myself, so I forged on.
What really amazes me to this day is that despite the advice you gave Kevin and I, when we told you that we were still set on getting married this year, you supported us fully in that decision. And really, supported isn’t even the right word, doesn’t even do it justice. There’s no word that describes taking over an entire wedding planning process and painting your house in preparation for the big day. Seriously, you guys painted the house. And painted the grass (it’s true). Our bar was set pretty low; you could have just attended the wedding and we would have been happy, but you went ABOVE and BEYOND, as per usual.

And yes, you were right. It probably would have been a lot easier and a lot less stressful to wait until 2018 to get married, but we had our hearts set on it and it was an absolutely beautiful wedding. Perfect in every way. It exceeded my expectations. And you’re right, I loved the centerpieces on the tables despite saying that they were “unnecessary”. It was the most perfect day, the most perfect wedding, and we could not have done it without you. We appreciate your unconditional love and support so much more than you will ever know, and we hope that you’ll continue to give us all of the blunt, honest, sage advice you’ve got as we start our life together and begin this crazy journey called marriage.

I love you both so freaking much!

Love,
Your Daughter