Destination: Seattle/Portland

It’s been awhile since we flew with the kids.  The last time we did an extended vacation with them was a little over two years ago when Jaren was 3 months (!!!), and Noelle was 28 months to Cancun, Mexico.  This time around, it was Jaren who was 28 months (purely coincidental), and Noelle was nearly 4.5 years.  We weren’t worried at all about Noelle, but were pretty nervous about how Jaren would do, especially since he is so ACTIVE and LOUD.  Sitting still is not his forte.  Thankfully, 2.5-3 hours was right before his breaking point.  Any longer and we definitely would’ve had a meltdown on our hands.

We started and ended our trip in Seattle (or as Noelle called it – “Scattle”), with Portland sandwiched in-between.

Day 1 Seattle – Friday 6.5.15

This was mostly a traveling day, so we took it easy.  We got to SNA two hours early, so had a lot of time to kill.  Luckily, the kids each packed their Skip Hop backpacks filled with little toys, and I had bought new coloring books and markers just for the trip.  We parked ourselves in a corner, watched/counted planes, bought them lunch, and before we knew it, it was time to board.

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At the airport (top); N reading to J while waiting for take off (bottom).

Ideally, the kids would’ve napped on the plane… but of course they didn’t.  Luckily it was only a 2.5 hour flight, so we made it without any hiccups.  The kids were occupied with their toys and iPad.  Jaren doesn’t last long with the iPad at his age, but loves playing pretend with his toys, so thank goodness we brought those toys!

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Napping (left); Plane entertainment (right)

We landed in Seattle around 3:30 pm, and as we were strolling the kids through the airport they completely knocked out.  Now that the excitement of the plane ride was over, I guess it hit them how tired they really were!  This worked out because the kids got a good 40 minute nap in during the car rental process, which was enough to rejuvenate them.

Once we got settled into our hotel, we headed out to dinner nearby.  After dinner, we let the kids play at The Seattle Center (walking distance from our hotel) before calling it a night.

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Day 2 Seattle – Saturday 6.6.15

We arranged a playdate with some Seattle friends, and met up with them at Seattle Center that morning.  The playground was a little overwhelming for the little ones, so we quickly took it indoors to the Children’s Museum (also at the Seattle Center).  The kids had so much fun there, and time really flew.  Before we knew it, it was lunchtime.  We ate at Mod Pizza, and said our goodbyes.

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Right after lunch, we headed over to Dave’s place.  He was going to show us his hood and the surrounding suburbs of Seattle (thank you so much, Dave!).  Our main purpose for visiting Seattle was to see if we could see ourselves living there.  We hung out at Dave’s for a bit, and Noelle fell hard for Dave’s dog, Chewie – they had an instant connection.

Seattle is so lush and green and beautiful.  There are trees and foliage everywhere.

Dave drove us through Mill Creek, Bothell, Woodinville, and we ended up in Kirkland, where we had dinner near the waterfront.  It was interesting taking in a city through different eyes.  The whole time we wondered, “could we see ourselves living here”, “could we make this our home”?

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Washington Lake in Kirkland, WA

In the end we decided, no.  At least, not right now.  Seattle is a great place to visit, but our hearts are elsewhere.

Day 3 Portland – Sunday 6.7.15

We must’ve tired out the kids a lot on this trip (and the thick, hotel blackout curtains must’ve had something to do with it too) because we slept in practically every day!  Anyway, we woke up and got ourselves packed and ready to go for our drive into Portland.  We had lunch plans with The Chu’s, so wanted to make it there by noon!

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These drives to and from Portland were what I was most nervous about on the trip because not only are they 3 hours long, but history has shown that Jaren gets super restless after an hour in the car.  I braced myself.  45 minutes into the drive, Jaren was frustrated about something, so we decided to make a pitstop for gas and to stretch our legs.  Turns out, Jaren had simply dropped a toy.  We continued on, and while the drive wasn’t horrible… the iPad definitely came to our rescue in that last hour!

I should call this our day with the Chu’s because we spent the entire day with them!!  It was so good to see old and new friends on this trip.

We had lunch with The Chu’s at Hopworks BikeBar, which was a brewery/restaurant that not only had great yelp reviews, but was also highly praised for being kid friendly!  They had a small kids section with toys and books for the kids to hangout in.  After lunch, we grabbed ice cream the next block over, and made our way over to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).  Of course, in that 5 minute drive from the ice cream shop to OMSI, the kids fell asleep in the car.  So I napped in the car with them for about 40 minutes while Sam, Nev, and Est hungout at a nearby brewery.

OMSI OMSI OMSI – We spent a good 3 hours there, and still didn’t get to everything!!  Definitely one of my favorite children’s museums now.

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So many hands-on things to do at OMSI!

After OMSI, we ate dinner at this amazing (but NOT kid-friendly – unless your kid likes to sit through two hour dinners) charcuterie place.  If you’re a meat-eater, Olympic Provisions is calling your name!

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I love that they have each other

Day 4 Portland – Monday 6.8.15

Our first full day to ourselves!  We had plans to eat at Salt n Straw for brunch, but the wait was 40 minutes (even on a Monday!).  Since we wanted to get to Multnomah Falls, we improvised and grabbed some coffee and toast down the street.  Portland is just full of cute little coffee shops and eateries everywhere.  It has a special character all its own.  The goatees and bearded hairy folk riding bikes everywhere didn’t escape our notice either.  We’re just glad there were no naked people sightings.

Anyway, the drive into Multnomah is byooo-tiful… and it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a first time visitor to Portland!  It’s a great place to take the kids too because you can park your car, walk a bit, and see the waterfall.  If you want to hike, the hike is only about 1 mile long… so we did that with the kids.  They loved it.

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The kids, once again, fell asleep on the car ride back.  We had already checked out of the hotel, so ate at Nong’s for a late lunch (our cheapest but favorite meal there!).  It was 90+ degrees that day, so instead of going with our original plan of checking out the Portland Zoo, we took the kids indoors to another children’s museum until it was time to meet The Chu’s for dinner.

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We ate at the infamous Screen Door (known for their fried chicken!), and stuffed ourselves silly before we had to drive back to Seattle to catch our flight the next day.

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We had decided to drive back the night before our flight so that we wouldn’t be stuck with a full day of travel (3 hour car ride + 3 hour plane ride?  No thanks!).  Driving home at night was wonderful and turned out to be a great idea on Sam’s part.  Noelle knocked out for most of it (and it still didn’t interfere with bedtime), but Jaren held strong and stayed up the whole ride.  I don’t know if it was because it was night or if he had a full belly or what, but he hardly made a fuss and just enjoyed the sights as we drove.  I gotta say, I was pretty amazed at the stamina on that kid because he made it to 10 pm with only a 40 minute nap that day!  Once we got to our hotel, it was easy to get them to sleep though.

Day 5 Seattle – Tuesday 6.9.15

Finally, it was time to go home.  We ate free breakfast at the hotel, and took the kids to a gorgeous local park to kill time before our flight that afternoon.

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* * * * *

When I first made our itinerary, I wished we had one extra day because almost every single day involved either flying or driving.  I was worried the kids would be overtired with all the schlepping around, but they were troopers!  In retrospect, this was the perfect amount of time away.  We kept our itinerary pretty open-ended with the exception of meeting up with people – we didn’t even have restaurants planned or specific places we needed to go – because that’s just how it is with kids.  Just take things as they come, and adjust if we must.  Our traveling style is different now… but there was still so much we appreciated about this trip.  If anything, it made us realize how much we loved traveling with our kids, and we can’t wait to do more of it with them as they get older and older.  This is what we’ve been waiting for.

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Family Fun at Legoland!

We went to Legoland for the first time today, and the kids had a blast!  Even I’ve never been to Legoland, and I was born and bred in SoCal.  It seems so much better for the younger kid set (I’d say from ages 2-7) than Disneyland.  We are debating whether we should get an annual pass or not.  We know for sure Disneyland would not be worth it for us right now, but Legoland seems more reasonable and Jaren is still free for the next year.

This is what our day looked like:

We got there around 9:45 am (they opened at 9 am), rode a couple rides, let the kids play at the playground, then left around noon to pick up some beer (wild guess who it’s for!).

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I waited in the play area with the kids, while Sam stood in line

Legoland is so smart to have a side play area for the kids while the parents wait in line.  Not all rides have this option, but a lot of them do.  The wait for rides were about 30-40 minutes on average on a Saturday.

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Noelle sat with Sam for all the rides, while I sat with Jaren.  Divide and conquer!

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All the decorations there were made out of Legos!  Wish I had that kind of Lego talent.

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It was so sweet how the kids wanted to hold hands everywhere.  They really do make such a great pair.

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While waiting in line, Noelle said, “Let’s hug each other, Jaren!”

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The only family pic we took!  A selfie stick would’ve come in handy for sure~

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More lego art

Then, there is also a huge separate Lego-themed playground called “Duplo Playtown” that my kids spent a couple hours in before going on more rides.  There are just toys and play areas and playgrounds all over the park to give parents and kids a break from the monotonous line-waiting.

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It was nice to have a playground cuz we were able to just sit back and watch the kids play.  No stressing over long lines or wrangling restless kids.  They were able to burn off some energy too.

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Letting loose with some water fun – bring an extra change of clothes for all the water play!

After the playground, we left Legoland for a bit.  This was perfect because the brewery we needed to go to was about 40 minutes out, so we thought it would be a good time for the kids to take a car nap.  Good thing our plan worked!  Both kids took about an hour nap, which was enough to carry them through til bedtime.  When they woke up, we stopped by McDonald’s for a late lunch.

We got back to Legoland around 2:30 pm, and stayed until 5 pm (it closed at 6 pm that day)!  Of course the first place they wanted to go back to was the playground…

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Whee!  Too much fun at the playground!

There was even a mini train ride in the playground, so of course Jaren wanted to ride it!  He’s in love with all things that move these days… so interesting how he’s naturally gravitated towards trucks, trains, and cars whereas Noelle naturally loves pink, glitter, and princesses.

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Jaren and I on the train!  He kept waving hi and bye to everybody he passed.

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Pics with each of my babies

We eventually managed to convince them to leave the playground, and ride some more rides!…

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Sam trying to keep Jaren entertained on his shoulders.  This lil fella was SOO restless in line.

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Leaving on a jetplane – this ride is like the Dumbo ride at Disneyland.  There’s a lever you can use to go up and down.

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These types of lego stations were everywhere!  Such a great idea – wish Disneyland had something like this!

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Our final ride of the night!  Noelle is saying, “When I go like this (stick out hands) you have to go AHHHH! – Ok Mommy?” – she’s such a silly billy.

We had such a great time at Legoland, and didn’t even get through a lot of the rides.  As long as your child is at least 54″ there is plenty for them to do there, and even more if they are 56″!  Luckily for us, Jaren just managed to hit the 54″ height limit.  The upside of having kids in the upper percentiles~

~THE END~

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Ever since I became a mom (I probably sound like a broken record by now), Mother’s Day has easily become one of the most important holidays to me.  Even though we should be appreciating our mothers every day, the truth of it is… we probably don’t.  Or don’t do it enough.  This one day out of the year gives us the opportunity to intentionally let our mothers know how much we cherish them.  To give voice to the thoughts we often think, but don’t say enough – to let them know that we see their sacrifice.  That they are needed.  And we are grateful.

My mom is the most hardworking, passionate, spirited, and hopeful person I know.  She is so full of life and radiates joy everywhere she goes.  She has never made me feel less than, but constantly praises me even when I don’t deserve it.  Even when I let her down, she tells me how proud she is of me.  She loves freely, forgives easily, and gives generously with no strings attached (I have to emphasize this last point because first generation Asian parents be crazy when it comes to this).

with mom at the airport we took those kitties ever

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I need to find more pics of me and my mom!

This Mother’s Day, I definitely felt the love from Sam and the kids.  The kids woke up around 6:45 am, but Sam let me sleep in so I got to sleep until 9 am (can’t remember the last time this happened!).  When I got there, the kids were independently playing and Sam reheated some homemade breakfast for me.  He always makes his specialty cauliflower/bacon/cheese cauliflower casserole that is DE-LISh, along with a breakfast sausage, and toast with an almond butter and jam spread.

I actually got some pics with both kids today in one picture!!  This NEVER happens.  I’m usually the photographer so I’m always behind the camera, and my husband is so not a picture taker so I don’t get many candid moments with the kids either.  I’m glad we got some good ones today.

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Shortly after, we headed out to Mother’s Day lunch with my mom, her boyfriend, his entire family, and my sister.  We ate at Parker’s Lighthouse in Long Beach.  The views were spectacular, and it was located right next to the Queen Mary…

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It wouldn’t be my mom if she didn’t have a phone in hand (and purple streaks).

The kids took a car nap since we didn’t get home until 4 pm… then it was almost time for our next meal!  Dinner was spent celebrating my MIL over take out sushi at home.  I didn’t get any pictures (gah!), but I did learn how to French Braid (finally!!).  My MIL taught me, and I practiced on my SIL’s thick, beautiful hair.

The older I get, the more I realize relationships are everything.  Hold on tight to the people who matter most.  Let them know how much you love them at every opportunity.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

That One Time When… Sam Left for Seattle

My son is turning ONE in about a week, and last weekend was the first time I ever had to solo parent both my kids alone for longer than a few hours.  I know I am extremely blessed that I have such an involved husband, available in-laws, and sweet sister (who also happens to be excellent with kids).

Sam went to Seattle last weekend for Dave’s wedding, while I stayed behind to hold down the fort.  I was admittedly nervous for this weekend because I’ve never really had to be outnumbered for too long… but once again, reality turned out to be SO much better than I imagined.

Saturday – Noelle climbs into our bed in the early mornings now, so I wake to Jaren’s morning noises via the monitor, and a sleeping Noelle cozied up next to me.  I told Noelle that I’d be back after I fed Jaren.  I fed and changed Jaren, and Noelle followed us downstairs.  The kiddos played for a bit while I got breakfast ready.  Playing involved Noelle putting stickers all over Jaren.  They got eggs, a pancake, and some apple slices.  Noelle requested cereal so she got that too.

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Right after breakfast, I changed them out of their PJ’s and got them ready to go to the park.  We went to the park where I’ll be hosting Jaren’s 1st birthday.  It killed two birds with one stone because they got to burn off some energy while I scoped out the area in preparation for his party.

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When it got close to Jaren’s nap time, I put them both back in the double stroller, strapped them in the car, and headed home.  Noelle played with some Legos while I put Jaren in his sleep sack and down for a nap.  Putting him down for a nap takes less than 5 minutes, so Noelle didn’t have to wait long.  My sister and her boyfriend then came over to babysit Jaren from 11 – 2 pm so that I could take Noelle to watch Frozen.  As soon as they came, we left to catch the movie.  Noelle was so excited (mostly because I told her she could have popcorn!).

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Since we got to the theaters a little early, I let Noelle play outside for a bit around this huge water fountain until it got closer to showtime.  10 minutes before the movie started, we headed into the theater, got our popcorn, and got seated.  Still… the previews seemed to take forever.  I was worried Noelle would get antsy.  She was pretty good for the first 10 minutes, but the previews started boring her so she kept saying she wanted to leave.  I told her the movie didn’t even start yet and to wait a little bit, so she did.

Once the movie started she was pretty captivated.  She was quiet and still for most of it… but we never made it to the end because an hour into the movie she wanted to leave again, and this time, there was no convincing her… so I got a refund on our tickets and went home.  Frozen (at least, what I saw of it…) was really good!!  I got teary within the first 10 minutes!  The only other movie that’s ever made me do that was Up!  They say that it is Disney’s most popular movie since the renaissance movies of the 80s and 90s (Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Pocahontas, Little Mermaid, etc.).  I definitely need to get it on Redbox and watch the whole thing!  Anyway, I don’t think I’ll take Noelle to another movie until she turns 4 even though she did a pretty good job this time around.

When we got home, Jaren was awake from his nap.  I made Noelle and Jaren lunch while I chatted with my sister and her boyfriend.  After the kids had lunch, I put them down for their naps, and lounged too.  Noelle woke up after only an hour, so I brought her down to hangout with me.  She watched a cartoon on Netflix while we waited for Jaren to wake up.  He woke up 30 minutes later.  We hung out at home, I made dinner, then after dinner I strapped both of them into the stroller and took them for an after-dinner walk.  It was pretty dark, but the kids enjoyed the fresh air.  Once I got home, I bathed them and got them both to bed.

Sunday – The kids woke up like clockwork at 7 am.  I made them breakfast then got them ready so we could head out to church.  Took them both to church and dropped them off in their respective Sunday school classes.  Church ended around noon.  I took them home, fed them lunch, let them play for another 30 minutes… then put them down for naps.  Noelle didn’t nap at first, so I told her she doesn’t have to nap, but if she wants to play she can only play in her bed.  She played for a bit then knocked out!  I had a long stretch of the afternoon to myself.  They both woke up around 4 pm, so I got them ready and took them to a local indoor playground.  They had so much fun there, but it was so crowded because someone was also hosting a birthday party there.  Got home, fed and bathed them, then put them to bed.

That bath was THE highlight of my whole weekend.. they were squealing and laughing and playing so well with each other the whole time.  There was no fighting over bath toys, or Noelle getting at Jaren for getting into her personal space, etc.  They were mimicking each other, splashing water everywhere, and just having the time of their lives.  All I did was sit back and enjoy the scene.  It made my heart swell a thousand times over, and I thought, “this is the life…”.

It was a really great weekend!  I’m actually really glad I got to experience this because it gave me more confidence as a mother.  The kids interacted really well this weekend even though they were together 24/7.  Noelle is pretty understanding towards her baby brother, and falls into the doting big sister role so naturally.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have our moments (many moments), but they went easy on me this weekend.

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My everythings.  ❤

This is My Mom – Flawed and Perfect.

Becoming a mom changed me in a significant way.  It gave me a greater understanding for my own mom, the trials she went through to raise us, and helped me see how she justified her choices in order to provide us with what she felt was the best life possible.  Every choice we make, comes with a cost — hers certainly did.  That is the struggle we all have to make as parents.

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At 2 years old, I don’t think I was familiar with her

I recently asked my mom this question: “If you could turn back time, what would you have done differently in raising us?”.  This was her heartfelt response:

Ok, I would have had different way of parenting, it’s very conditional, subject to your dad and me to have more solid financial status, and subject to the maturity of our mental states then I would keep both of you by my side by help of Housekeeper for baby sitting. Or tried to do the same as you are doing. I think you are a much greater Mom, I could never have achieved the same. I really feel sorry to you and Jule, I missed a lot and you grew without me, I didn’t do potty train neither guiding you learning to talk, u both like angels to me and had gone through a lot of my absence. Of course, we still had some good time together, but not enough compare to other families. I had to contribute time in business and still loving you all with my heart, it’s really tough. But if I could start one more time, I would follow you to all activities, like your color guard performance and Jule’s cheer leading activities…also involved your academic activities…

Too many things in my mind I can’t describe, just loving my family is always the same, never changed.

Dear Ange, I don’t think I have second chance to re do or change anything, but I really appreciate God and your dad, they turned both of you into the best rewards I could ever have. No other rewards or achievement can replace.

Mom

A little background to help you understand the context a bit more – My parents sent me back to Taiwan when I was 9 months old to be raised by my extended family (grandparents, aunts & uncles).  My sister was also sent to Taiwan at the age of 2 months.  My parents were struggling immigrants and did not have the financial ability to raise us, so my extended family raised us until we were 4 years old (not sure how they convinced them to take on such a task!).

In those years from infancy through toddlerhood, we never saw our parents.  During that time, my parents worked hard to establish a life for themselves (and us) in the states.  This is where her response comes from.  She missed the opportunity to raise us and didn’t see us again until we were about to enter kindergarten.  She said when I first came back, I had no idea who she was and didn’t even recognize her.  I know it broke her heart.

I can’t imagine missing out on my children’s early years the way she did.  She also worked a TON when I was growing up, and for the longest time I resented her for it.  Thinking back on it now, this shaped me in a significant way — I’ve never been one to put much stock in possessions and this is the reason why… I always had plenty of stuff growing up, but never enough of what I truly needed — attention and time.  What I value can’t be bought – they are free, but not always freely given.

We’re really close now and I think the world of her, but reading what she wrote in response to my question made my heart ache.  She is flawed, she is perfect.  This is my mom.  So thankful to be able to have conversations like this with her now.

Noelle Meets Jaren

We got home from the hospital at 11:45 am on Sunday 2/24/13.

I walked in first.  Noelle was playing on the floor with her fake food and alphabet puzzle.  Then Sam walked in, holding Jaren and the plush panda bear “Jaren bought her”.  At first she paid Jaren no mind, but happily took the bear and gave it lots of snuggles and kisses.  A little while later she became more interested in the baby and started patting him and rocking him in his rock ‘n play.  At one point she even tried to feed him some crackers and grapes.

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Seems like a good start!

The rest of the day flew by and Noelle seemed completely fine sharing her space with her new baby brother.  She watched me nurse him, and wanted to “try” too.  She looked on while we changed a poopy diaper, and was very concerned when he was screaming bloody murder.  She noticed the band-aids on his feet (from his shots) and wanted to kiss his “boo boo”.  When it was time for Noelle to go to bed she even said, “I want to kiss baby” and gave him a peck on the forehead before we whisked her away to her room.

We’ll see how things go in the coming days, but for now, life feels complete.

The Way We Were Raised: Like Night + Day

This is my husband

He grew up with a SAHM, who diligently woke up at the crack of dawn every day his entire life to prepare him a healthy, gourmet breakfast.

This is me

I was raised by wolves.  Just kidding.  More like I was raised by grandparents, aunts, and a whole slew of nannies (all of Hispanic origin).  I can’t remember a day (ever!) when my mom woke up before me.  I almost always ate cold cereal for breakfast, that I prepared myself.  And it wasn’t the healthy kind either.

Breakfast is just a glimpse into the contrasting ways in which my husband and I were raised.  From our economic backgrounds to our parents’ child-rearing philosophies – it all couldn’t have been more different…

Even though we both grew up in areas with great public schools, his dad insisted that all his kids go to private Christian schools from preschool through high school.  His mom supported every decision his dad made without question.  I, on the other hand, went to public schools all my life (with the exception of preschool).  And my mom was a strong-minded career-woman who never even changed her maiden name.  She was also the primary breadwinner of the family (though my dad worked too).  He grew up in a deeply religious, Christian home.  I grew up in a non-religious home and my parents did not actively practice any faith.

His parents are both extremely introverted and tend to keep to themselves.  My mom is the biggest social butterfly you will ever meet (though I am not).  My dad was a little more balanced, an introvert with extroverted tendencies.  His parents attended every sporting event and award ceremony.  Mine were too busy with work, but I was thrown into every activity possible from girl scouts to swimming lessons, gymnastics lessons, horseback riding lessons, and more.  I was certainly provided for in that way.  However, what his parents gave in time, they lacked in words.  In contrast – mine were always incredibly verbally expressive and affectionate.  Even though I often dreamed for more of their time, I never doubted their love for me because I was told every day how proud they were of me and how I was so so loved, even when I felt I didn’t deserve their praise.

His mom was very cautious and protective of her kids.  From what my husband tells me, she constantly worried about them.  The moment they got sick, she’d have a whole batch of made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup ready the next day.  I’ve been able to reap the benefits of this type of nurture.  🙂  My mom was not very nurturing – at least not in that way.  When I got sick, she would scold me, saying “I told you so!”.  Usually it’s, “I told you not to sleep with your hair wet”, or “I told you to always wear socks”.  On the one hand, I was never babied and learned independence at a very young age; I quickly became self-sufficient.  But on the other hand, it became ingrained in me not to rely too much on people and not to expect too much from them.

I grew up pretty spoiled when it came to money.  He did not.  My parents never gave me reason to worry about money, and I was raised believing that paying for convenience is just as valuable as finding a good deal (essentially, I was taught that time is money).  In my previous life, if you asked me how much I spent on a particular item, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I never thought twice before purchasing something (this has since changed!!).  My husband’s family lived on a one-income painter’s salary.  Granted, his dad did pretty well during the real estate boom days… but when the economy went to hell, they really struggled to make ends meet.  My husband started working in high school, and also worked his way through college in order to pay his tuition and daily living expenses.

Despite the extremely different households we grew up in, my husband and I are actually more along the lines of “birds of a feather flock together” rather than “differences attract”.  Our likes/dislikes, habits, and perspectives are similar more often than not, but I believe the one factor that really binds us together is our faith.  In a future post, I will share how our childhoods have helped shape our parenting tendencies and philosophies.

Were you and your spouse raised like night and day, or do you guys have a pretty similar background?