On The Road Again

Our time in CA is starting to wind down and we are officially in the single digit countdown. We recently received our next assignment and the Roland’s will be packing up and heading to Kansas City, Missouri for a year. (Hold your applause and excitement, I know it’s thrilling.)

With Jamari’s job we move every 2-3 years and the moves can be domestically or international. Jamari and I have moved multiple times together but this will be the first time with kiddos. We arrived in California with our oversized furbaby, Kingston, and will be leaving with our oversized furbaby and a toddler and a baby. Jamari was accepted into a military university to get another degree, so we jumped at the opportunity for a year with him not traveling or being pulled for temporary assignments. Although Kansas City doesn’t seem alluring to many, we are thrilled at the opportunity for a bit of a respite and to nosh on some of the best BBQ in the country.

Neither Jamari nor I have ever been to Kansas City, but that is part of the mystery in the Foreign Service. You normally don’t get to vet prospective assignments before you bid on them so this is no different. This will likely be a situation like CA was for us; we’ll look online for housing, agree to move there sight unseen, and arrive with suitcases. This time we’ll have two kids and the dog in tow because chaos creates better memories.

So consider this your final countdown to come visit us in CA, we plan to sell our home before we make the trek to Missouri early next summer.

7.17.19

The Roland family was blessed with a healthy baby boy on 7/17/19. We proudly introduce to you, Maxwell Jameson.

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He entered into the world after 15 hours of labor and instantly filled our hearts with love. Our family is now complete and we couldn’t be happier. The stats are important to any Mom out there; he was 6lb 11oz, 19 inches long, and yes, I got an epidural at the 9th hour of labor.

We didn’t have a name for the longest time, and officially had no middle name until after he was born. We had a list of names we liked but it was a challenge to narrow it down. I have no intention to call him Max and will likely correct people for the rest of my life that his name is Maxwell. And despite what my Mom thinks, we didn’t name him after her two favorite drinks, Maxwell House Coffee and Jameson; we have no cool story behind his name other than it was regal and flowed with our desire for a classic name that was easily pronounced with a Jersey accent.

Jamari was a fantastic support during labor and delivery. It’s hard to imagine him being any calmer than his norm, but in situations like labor and delivery he is the calm in the storm. Even the nurses were making jokes that he was so chill and relaxed. While the anesthesiologist couldn’t place the epidural properly and kept making deep sighs (not the sound you want to hear your anesthesiologist making while inserting a large needle into your back) he kept me relaxed and even engaged in small talk. Those are the moments that I know marrying him was the best decision of my life.

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Maxwell is the chillest baby you’d ever meet. Pretty much Jamari, but only 7lbs and less bicep. We prepped ourselves for the newborn phase we experienced with our cherub, Audrey, and were a bit confused when we didn’t have the “second night syndrome” scream fest in the hospital. Jamari and I even joked that we didn’t want to discuss it because we didn’t want to jinx it. We heard of this phenomenon where kids could be totally different, but didn’t believe it. Even now, I hesitate typing about him being so calm because I think what if tonight (night 19) he might choose to cry all night? For the most part, if you change his diaper, feed him, and swaddle him; he’s happy as can be and super quiet. We have to wake him up for his feedings through the day and he only wakes up twice a night. I feel like the universe said, “these two deserve a break after the first year they had with Audrey” and threw us a unicorn baby.

It’s true when people say that when you have another child your heart and love grow in a way you didn’t realize was possible. In the days leading up to Maxwell’s birth I found myself feeling very anxious and worried that Audrey would struggle to understand the new addition, or would feel unloved. Being an only child, I wasn’t familiar with how to adjust to siblings and struggled to make the transition easier for her. But I was shocked when we entered the house with Maxwell and she shrieked, “my baby!” with excitement. We purposely asked for no visitors at the hospital so that we could allow Audrey to be the first to “meet” Maxwell. We know that she won’t remember it, but we will, and it was special for our family. Maxwell brought her some gifts from the hospital, but she was instantly in love with him and in awe that there was a smaller human than she was that she could have cared less about the presents. I don’t want to jinx it, but we are 2.5 weeks in and she is still equally as interested.

I knew that with Audrey I struggled from the beginning with PPD, but it wasn’t until Maxwell’s birth that I realize how severe PPD impacted my bonding experience and first few months of her life. I now can appreciate when other Moms talk about love at first sight. I felt a bit disconnected during the pregnancy with Maxwell; mostly because I was running around after a toddler, but also because I was afraid of not being able to share the love I had established for Audrey. However, the moment he was placed onto my chest after delivery I felt all the anxiety and stress melt away and it was an instant rush of emotion. I was in love with him instantly. I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t experience that with Audrey and struggled for weeks/months with her to grow a bond. But I remind myself swiftly that the connection I have with Audrey is equally as special, and all that we went through brought us to where we are now and makes our story special.

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So, now the Roland’s are officially a party of 4. We are complete and embracing this new season of life. I fell off the blog wagon for a bit while pregnant because let’s be honest, I was falling asleep at 7:05 each night 5 minutes after Audrey’s bedtime. But, in my delirious, sleep deprived, and freshly postpartum state, I am saying I am back on the wagon and plan to blog more often. I should also note that this post took me 4 days to finally publish because, mom life. I suppose like everything else in this adjustment period, I need to give a bit of grace and accept that this, and leaky boobs are my new norm.










Happy’ish Valentine's Day

It’s been 22 Valentine’s Day holidays that have been spent without my dad. Losing someone on a holiday is an anomaly because once the initial grief and mourning have passed, life inevitably continues, and when the holiday rolls around you struggle with celebration or remembrance.

For years I didn’t acknowledge Valentine’s Day, I felt like it was a day that I couldn’t celebrate or it would be offensive to my father’s memory. After having Audrey, I decided that I wasn’t going to carry that on to her. Although it has been 22 years, when the anniversary of his death comes up, it’s always melancholic. But I’m determined to lose the sadness and manifest it into a day (albeit commercialized) to celebrate love and memories. Audrey deserves all the bells and whistles that comes with the commercialized holiday. Children have a beautiful innocence that transforms even the hardest days.

This year, I celebrated a day early with Audrey by taking her to a Sweetheart Party at Gymboree. She made adorable Valentine’s crafts for her Daddy and got dressed up in a cute red dress. I bought her a few Valentine’s day books and have been explaining to her that Valentine’s Day is about love and how much we love her. I am determined for our little family to make new traditions and celebrate any and every holiday we can. My celebration doesn’t mean that I no longer mourn my dad’s passing or wish that he was here to celebrate with us; it means life has evolved and so have I. I’ve grown to know that I don’t need to call off work, lay in bed, and look through old pictures crying. I don’t need to watch the clock for 3:00 to roll around, and relive the memory from the dreaded phone call we received. I don’t need to avoid being out on Valentine’s day and ugly crying at all the happiness around me. I can be grateful and happy for the gorgeous daughter I have, the baby I am currently carrying, and the most loving and devoted husband I could ask for. We can celebrate our family, our love, my dad’s memory, and the cheesy heart shaped cupcakes and candies we eat all at the same time. Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!!!



We Had a Little (BIG) Secret!

I learned I was pregnant with Audrey on my 30th birthday, so the ongoing joke is that Jamari gave me a baby for my 30th. I guess he gave me a baby for my 32nd too? Yep! The Roland’s are expanding and will now be a party of 4, we are expecting another baby in July 2019!

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We learned we were pregnant in early December but have anxiously been waiting out our first trimester to announce to the world, although if you have seen me in the last 4/5 weeks you realized I was pregnant or are concerned about my burrito consumption. A huge part of my absence from blogging was because I was couch bound during the first weeks of pregnancy. The first trimester hit me like a ton of bricks and I had no energy to come up with thoughtful content.

I shared the news with Jamari the day I tested, after he had spent 15 hours at work, over jambalaya, and written on a letter board in our kitchen…magical. We were able to share the news with my Mom the next day when she flew in for a visit and we shared the news with Jamari’s family on Christmas with an adorable shirt my talented friend, Chelsi made me that declared, “Merry Christmas, also I’m pregnant”.

We are thrilled to be expecting again and can’t wait to learn the gender. This pregnancy is completely different than with Audrey. For starters, I am in America this time. That equates to a lot of pregnancy cravings that can actually be met. (Thank you Jesus for Chik-Fil-A drive thru and Mexican food). I also have a 16 month old who has no idea what is going on and doesn’t slow down for anything. She has become really good at mimicking my morning sickness and walks around fake vomiting in garbage cans though. I’m also not spending hours Googling what is happening, what if’s, and what to expect. I feel more confident in myself and my body this time around.

I look forward to sharing our pregnancy journey.


While We've Been Gone...

We’ve been MIA for awhile; 8.5 weeks to be exact, but who is counting? I thought a recap of our recent 2.5 months would be better than individual posts. Keep reading, you’ll read about the plague that struck our house, Disney on Ice, and Christmas at the Roland Ranch.

Our New Roommate

We had a new roommate living in our home during November/December; a nasty, offensive, stage five clinger, lingering virus. Jamari is affectionately calling me “patient zero” because I may have been the first one to have symptoms. We all took trips to the doctor at various times, took antibiotics at multiple times, can successfully review every single OTC cold medication if asked, and have over a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer strategically placed around the house. We kindly evicted our roommate shortly before Christmas and won’t be sad if we never see each other again.

Thanksgiving

I blinked and it was over. I can’t even remember Thanksgiving under the haze of medication we were all on from our nasty virus. I do remember feeling like life wasn’t fair because I couldn’t even taste the food, which is what Thanksgiving is all about. We went to Jamari’s grandparent’s house to celebrate which was glorious because that meant no cooking or cleaning. I managed to take a single picture that day…and here it is.

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My Mom Came to Visit

Grammy (My Mom) came to visit the first week of December and that is always my favorite! Although we talk at least a dozen times a day (FB, phone, text, video chat) having her under the same roof is so comforting. It was especially awesome that she was here during the thick of our illness and was able to nurse us ALL back to health. We didn’t leave the house much since we were all under the weather but lounging on the couch, watching Christmas movies, and playing with Audrey is the perfect trip to her.

Disney on Ice

We ventured to our first official “kids” event with Audrey, which was Disney on Ice. We weren’t sure if we were setting ourselves up for failure or if this would be an enjoyable experience, so we bought tickets with seats close to an exit and higher up so no one would hear the screams if she started showing her true colors. Nana, (Jamari’s Mom) came with us for moral support, extra hands, and the show. We were all surprised how much everyone enjoyed the show. We agreed we would go back next year and buy tickets closer to the ice so we can see the skaters without zooming in on our phones. Audrey did great! She danced her way through the songs she knew and ate her chicken tenders through the ones that she never heard before. It was really fun to have that experience with her because I can remember going to Disney on Ice with my Mom and it being a special memory. While we live in the States, I plan to make as many “normal” childhood memories for her as I can create.

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My Birthday

I’m 32. Enough said.

Christmas

Jamari is equivalent to Clark Griswold in, “A Christmas Vacation” when it comes to holiday decorations. The day after Thanksgiving, the tree goes up, the garlands come out, and the wreath goes on the door. Are there ever enough lights? NO! Not to Jamari. Although, this year between being sick and our first attempt at the lights not “being bright enough” we never put up outdoor lights. (You’re welcome neighbors.) Christmas is becoming increasingly fun as Audrey gets older. Sure, it’s a challenge to have any form of decoration in the house because toddlers are savages, but watching her eyes light up each night when we put on the Christmas tree was special. We dressed in obligatory matching family jammies for Christmas morning and opened gifts. My Mom sent tons of presents for Audrey and we Face-timed her so she could watch Audrey’s excitement. Jamari and I hosted Christmas dinner at our home and had a great spread of food and desserts. Audrey received so many gifts she didn’t know what to do with herself and every single one HAD to be opened the second she ripped the paper off.

Note to self: space out gifts next year to avoid major meltdowns and have toys already assembled with batteries.

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We have had a busy few weeks and LOT of quality family time. Tomorrow we hop back into our routine of Jamari going to work and Audrey and I doing hood-rat stuff that stay at home mom’s do during the day. Don’t worry friends, my New Years resolution is to continue blogging so you never have to wonder what we are doing.

5 Tips to Travel on a Budget

We love to travel, but that means we need to do it budget friendly in order to keep our wanderlust habit in full effect. Sure, we could drop a few mortgage payments on a once in a lifetime trip, but then we will be living in our Jeep and that is a tight squeeze with Audrey, and Kingston. While we have been known to splurge (coughKabulcashcough) here are a few of our favorite trip tips to keep costs down.

Booking your Flight

  • There are dozens of internet sites you can search to find and buy flights but I have a few favorites that have always been successful. I read once that flights are cheaper to buy on a Tuesday and that always sticks with me when I am searching for flights.

  • Do your research. I use the Hopper app on my phone for flights I take frequently (LAX to EWR) it tells me when flight prices dip so I can ‘hop’ on over and buy a ticket.

  • Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Kayak are my favorite sites to buy from. I have heard horror stories from people getting booted from flights using all of the above because they are considered “discounted” tickets, but I haven’t had any issues and quite frankly I am too cheap to buy a ticket from the airline.

  • Price out a one way ticket, then price a round trip. Sometimes booking two separate flights is cheaper. Layovers are cheaper as well, but I always try to avoid stopping if at all possible.

  • Red eye flights (overnight flights) are your bestie (unless you are traveling with Audrey, then they are your enemy).

    Pack in a Carry-On

  • You don’t need to pack as many clothes as you think you do. Think of your last trip. Did you return home with at least three outfits you didn’t wear? Everyone does, so learn to pack less.

  • Baggage fees are ridiculous, avoid them by packing a carry-on.

  • You don’t have to worry about losing your luggage or something being stolen if it is with you the entire time

  • Buy essentials at your destination. You don’t need to lug around shampoo, soap, and lotion. Most likely it will be free at your lodging and if it isn’t then buy it upon arrival.

  • After flying for 10 hours the last thing you want to do is stand at the baggage carousel and wait for your luggage, am I right? Skip that step and wave to all the over-packers as your skip out the door and into your Uber.

    Stay in Airbnb

    Now hear me out on this one. We love five star hotels with all the amenities, if they deliver a fruity drink to me poolside that is even better but, economically it doesn’t always make sense. We’ve learned that Airbnb is a great site to use for lodging in places that hotels cost an arm and a leg. Europe is a fantastic place to utilize Airbnb. You can book an entire apartment, get a feel of how the locals live, and often have use of a washer/dryer and kitchen. They also come in handy if you are traveling with kiddos, more space and privacy. If you are going to a destination to explore more than relax then staying in an Airbnb might be up your alley. If you are going to a beachy destination, sans children, and plan to eat and drink your problems away then go the all inclusive route.

    Eat Local

  • Pet peeve #47 of mine is when people travel and eat at chain restaurants. I bet they are the same people who microwave chicken nuggets instead of putting them in the oven. You didn’t travel to eat the same combo meal you order from Chik-Fil-A at home.

  • Local food is normally cheaper and tastes so much better.

  • You can’t beat the authenticity. Pad Thai in Thailand is magical. Ribs in Nashville are divine. Falafel in Jerusalem, yes please! If you scrimped and saved to get to your destination, why would you want to eat the palate of back home?

  • Yelp works pretty much everywhere so check reviews and get feel for where the locals go.

  • Check out local markets and street food. You can grab lunch on the go to maximize your time and dime.

Prioritize What You Do

  • After picking your destination start researching on what that particular destination has to offer. What are your top 3-4 things you want to do there? Check out TripAdvisor for unbiased reviews.

  • Check local Facebook/ Instagram pages for coupons and discounts

  • Weekday prices are cheaper and less crowded than the weekend. Pick your number 1 attraction and try to go there during the week when it will be cheaper.

  • We love Lonely Planet books which often give walking tours of the city you’re visiting. Put on your walking shoes and get out and explore!

  • Many large cities offer hop on hop off buses, which are a great way to navigate a city at a low cost.

  • Convert money to local currency at the airport upon arrival. We normally hit an ATM in the airport and get out cash. Chances are things will be cheaper if you use cash and use local currency.