2014 Recap: Merry Christmas Letter

IMG_1882As I sat down to write this annual letter, January 2014 seemed so long ago that I found myself rechecking notes on calendars and photos on my camera to make sure I was remembering things that actually happened THIS year.  Many memories seemed so long ago, yet this year whizzed by so quickly. For the record, I have no idea how other Moms find the time to take professional holiday photos, order them on Christmas cards, and mail them out.  I’m thankful to receive them in the mail but it always increases that feeling that I’m really failing at the bare minimum of Mom holiday duties.  Furthermore, I should be able to get a year-end letter sent out by December 31… but obviously not.

We began 2014 somewhat mellow.  As I headed into my 2nd semester in Graduate school, Charlie and I decided it would be a good idea to attempt Operation reconnect for the coming year, you can read about that here.  Charlie took a Fly Fishing trip with my Dad at the end of January in the San Juan. Tee-ball started in March and Charlie coached Gentry’s team again.

In April during Gentry’s two week Spring Break, we took a trip with the children and Charlies Mom to Kauai (Hawaii) for a celebration of many things in our lives, including my birthday.  The children had a great time playing on the beach, checking out huge sea turtles, and catching geckos.  We were also able to catch up with Charlies friends, Chris & Laura and their boys.  It was hard to come back to reality.

In May, my youngest brother, Cody, graduated from highschool.  Congrats to him on all the hard work but that made me feel old.  LOL! Gentry’s first year of Kindergarten also came to an end in May and immediately, the children and I took a road trip to Phoenix to visit my brother Aaron’s family and our friends, the Cepeda Family.  It was a wonderful trip with lots of play time with the cousins, lots of sun time, and water play.   The children didn’t want to leave.  Two days later we flew to San Antonio, Texas to meet up with Charlie where he was for work.  We stayed with our friends The Holland family and had dinner on the Riverwalk.  The children loved their visit with little Sophia and Jack jr.  The next day my twin sister drove in from Austin and we all floated the river in New Braunfels, TX.  We then stayed with her in Austin for a few nights and she showed us the sights/sounds/food/comedy scene there.  It was fun catching up with her and finally seeing where she was living since last August.  I’ve missed my sister.  On our last day in Austin, the children and I drove to La Grange, TX to visit with Charlies brother Matt’s family.  The children had a blast with their cousins playing in the mud pond and on the 4-wheelers chasing cows.  It was short but very sweet.

Trying to make the summer a fun and unique experience for the children since it was likely going to be my only summer off work EVER, I embarked on what I called “Camp Tomlin” for the summer.  We invited their friends over for water play days, went to the zoo, went bowling, botanical gardens, library, aquarium, parks, visits to old friends, roller skating, hiking at the top of the Sandias, 4th of July in Ruidoso (Indian Maiden parade, the Flying J Ranch, and the outdoor swimming pool), and the children seemed to love all the adventures.  I also sent them to three different 1/2 day week long Vacation Bible Schools over the summer, just so that they would stay somewhat socialized and not get too bored with my lame attempts at keeping them entertained & educated.  They raved about all of their VBS experiences.

In June, we weren’t expecting to find our forever home but a series of events led us to find it 6 days into being put on the market.  We put in an offer and closed on it on July 29th.  It’s in the east mountains, about 15 minutes from our current city house but feels like a world away.  I have never seen Charlie so happy before.  He is just in love with it, I call it his “mistress” because he’s always sneaking away to spend every spare minute with “her”, fixing her up, making her his own, and creating his own barn “man cave”/workshop.  We plan on making a full-time commitment to living there in May 2015 when I don’t have late night classes/drives 4 nights a week and Haven isn’t in preschool across town.  We decided stirring up our routine wouldn’t be good thing for the children while I’m out of the picture on most evenings due to school.

Also in June, my Dad had a “Celebration of Life” party, it was full of family and friends (old and new) and it was great to see my brother Marcus who drove down from Beaver Creek, Colorado and my sister Yvonne who came in from Austin. In mid-August we celebrated Gentry & Haven’s 6th & 4th birthdays with a Jemez camping sleepover that turned into a home backyard movie night/sleepover.  They had a great time with their friends. We wrapped up the summer fun in September when Charlies Mom Margaret came to visit and we did the State Fair with her and the children really enjoyed having Grandma around.

In September, I began my 2nd required internship at Children, Youth, & Families Department (CYFD) in the Child protective services department where I will be working till May 2015 when I graduate (& beyond).  It has been an eye-opening experience to say the least.  I could have never imagined the degree to which people neglect and abuse their own children.  I’m trying to make sense of this, finding mental balance is definitely something that I have yet to master.  However, I have to say that I’ve loved the job so far. It’s challenging but actually feels like good worthwhile work which is exactly what I’ve been longing for.

In December, Charlie took a trip to Las Vegas for a few nights to decompress and have some adult fun (nightclubbing, gambling, relaxing) with his friends.  They had too much fun.  I also took a trip at the end of December with my girlfriend Julia. We roadtripped to the West coast, visiting friends in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, and finishing in Las Vegas.  It was a great way to end the year, to celebrate and release 2014.

As we begin 2015, I will begin my last semester of Graduate school (yippee!!!).  Charlie continues to be blessed and fulfilled at his job and his many home projects keep him happy.  The children are doing wonderful, and they are excited to attend the same elementary school in August (I can’t believe Haven will be starting Kindergarten!!).  They are really enjoying the new home as often as we are there and they cannot wait to make the move up there.

We hope this letter finds you and your family happy and healthy going into 2015.  Many blessings!

Love,

The Tomlins

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2014 Operation Reconnect

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As a New Years resolution in 2014, Charlie and I vowed to re-ignite the spark of solo couple time at least once a month in the form of unique date nights.  Like in 2012, the rules were to alternate months of who planned and executed each date night and to not repeat previous date nights within the 12 months.  Our hopes were high to be able to get more creative with each date but due to hectic schedules we quickly defaulted to the path of least effort.  Here is what we ended up with by the end of 2014:

January:  Dinner and drinks at Vintage 423 with NMSU friends
February:  Dinner and ‘Lone Survivor’ movie (so original right?)
March:  Bailed on the Glow Run for dinner and drinks at the Stumbling Steer
April:  Future Fund “Mad Men Party”
May:  FAIL (Sold tix for comedian Jim Gaffigan due to multiple conflicting travels)
June: Game Night at Christi’s House with NMSU friends (Cards Against Humanity)
July: Old Town Creative Studios painting and vino night / Future Fund Lagers on the Links
August:  Bathtub datenight in the east mountain house
September: FAIL
October: Gas Balloon Race awards dinner & Ghattas Halloween party
November: A Red Carpet Affair at Gertrude Zachary mansion / Geeks Who Drink NMSU event
December: Dirty Bourbon Dancing for Mireyas Birthday

In addition to planning our unique couples time each month, we also wanted to make sure the children had unique and fun experiences each month too.  This is what we planned or rather, what fell into our lap:

January:  Birthday Sleepover at Sophia’s house
February: Stars Soccer Clinic
March:  evening at Explora with Gentry’s school
April: Hawaii/Kauai vacation
May: Road trip to Phoenix / Trip to San Antonio/Austin
June: Zoo Music with The Nagyvary family
July:: Bowling with The Cambara’s / Flying J Ranch in Ruidoso
August: Backyard birthday sleepover / Jemez camping with Grandpa
September: Sandia Labs Family Day / State fair
October:  Madi’s birthday at Monkey Mania
November: Reed’s birthday at Hinkle Family Fun Center
December:  Olivia’s birthday at Gravity Park

2013 Recap: Merry Christmas Letter

Nothing could really live up to 2012.  That year was so full of extraordinary experiences and memories for us that 2013 didn’t have a chance.  But it tried….

In February, we spent Superbowl weekend in Taos for some R&R and winter play with the kids.  We also took a mini-getaway to Canon Del Rio in Jemez Springs for Valentines weekend without the kids.

In March, Charlie & I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary.  I planned the day of romance for my love.  We started with breakfast, then a horseback riding romance package, lunch, massages for two, a movie, and dinner/drinks.  Charlie said he felt like a contestant on “The Bachelor”. LOL!  Mission accomplished, it was a milestone anniversary.

Also in March, we enrolled Gentry in Tee Ball.  I secretly signed Charlie up to be one of the coaches.  It was something he moaned about but eventually embraced and was really good at.  He was a natural at it (boy, did it take a lot of patience looking from the outside in LOL!).  Gentry had always seemed to enjoy playing baseball in our backyard but doing it in an organized real team setting posed to be a challenge and he struggled with performance anxiety & shyness for a few weeks.  He eventually got over it, and proved to be one of the most powerful batters on our team.  Go Gentry!!

In April, I celebrated my 35th birthday in style (for once).  I did a spa theme and had some girlfriends join me for some R&R, massages, food, & people watching (Zombie watching on Central Ave LOL!) from a loft that I rented downtown for the night.  Ironically, it ended up being an actors condo from Breaking Bad (Jeremiah Bitsui)!!  What a neat birthday surprise!  We girls had a lot of fun!

Also in April I began months of training as a CASA (a Court Appointed Special Advocate) to give foster children a voice in the system.  I also continued my volunteering with the Make-a-Wish Foundation of NM, the Junior League of Albuquerque, and the Childrens Grief Center of NM.  These were all continued signs of what was to come later in the year….

In May, we drove up to Pueblo, Colorado to watch Charlies 18 year old son Aaron graduate from Highschool.  It was a great road trip with the kids, a nice graduation seeing Aaron, and great mini-vacation of swimming at the hotel, going to the Pueblo Zoo, and visiting Charlies friends.

In June, we went to Houston to visit with Charlies family.  We had a blast with his brother Matt & his girlfriend Misty and her wonderful children who are so great with ours.  We went to Splashway water park, and had many enjoyable nights cooking and catching up with his family.

In June, my twin sister Yvonne, moved in with us for a few months after her home sold before moving to Austin, Texas in August.  It was  big move for her and a big change for us, living in different cities for the first time.  But change is good and absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?  She’s loving Austin, except for the traffic.

In July, I  quit my job at Ernest Health after nearly 6 years (Mid-thirties crisis or destiny?) and in August, I started at NMSU in the Social Work Masters degree program.  As part of my degree requirements, I also began working as an unpaid intern at Albuquerque Public Schools shadowing a Social Worker at 3 different schools for 16 hours per week.  Getting back into school was definitely an adjustment.  Last minute “procrastination motivation” is very risky with two small unpredictable children in the wings.  My classes are every evening Monday thru Thursday from 6 to 8:30pm.  I couldn’t have done this without Charlie, he has been such a help.

In July, we took a week long vacation to Breckenridge to stay with Charlies friend Daniel Tobin.  The kids had a blast doing all kinds of outdoorsy stuff (fishing, boating, hot tubbing, 4-wheeling, jeeping, and hiking on the ski slopes) and I also enjoyed catching up on my trashy cable TV.  We had a great time, didn’t want to leave.

At the end of July, Gentry started Kindergarten at the public Elementary school in our district.  He got off to a very rough start, getting into trouble with his teachers on a weekly basis.  He was 4 when school started (year round school) so we think he’s maybe a little socially immature in comparison to his peers.  He continues to struggle with behavior at school (not academics) so we are somewhat stressed out trying to figure out what to do for him and how to help him.

In early August, we went to Amarillo, Texas for a Tomlin Family Reunion.  We celebrated all things Tomlin at the Palo Duro Canyon park.  We took in the Texas show there and had a blast catching up with family.  Gentry even learned to swim all by himself in the hotel pool.  Also in August, we celebrated Gentry & Haven’s birthdays by having a dual party in our backyard.  It was a milestone birthday for Gentry, turning 5, and moving on to Kindergarten.  It was one last fun celebration with his pre-K friends before they all moved on to their own school districts.

In October, Charlie and his Mom went to Washington, D.C. because she had never been and he wanted to show her all the Capital sights.  Well, thanks to the government shutdown, all of the monuments and museums were closed.  They made the most of it though and got creative with their itinerary.  They really enjoyed their mother-son trip.

Also in October, we celebrated my Moms 60 birthday while she was in town from Guam for a few weeks.  A few weeks turned into a few months due to the VA postponing a minor surgery several times.  I enjoyed her staying with us and the kids definitely enjoyed her company, especially in the evenings when I was in class.  Also, in October, my brother Aaron and his family came to visit from Phoenix.  The cousins got to visit each other (and grandma), and we got to meet baby boy Strydem for the first time.  Such a sweetie pie.

In November, we celebrated Thanksgiving at the Ruidoso, NM cabin.  It had been remodeled and rebuilt mostly by my Dad, Charlie, & many others throughout the year since January when it was almost completely ruined due to a burst water pipe.  We had a great time.

We hope 2014 is less chaotic and more balanced for us.  Charlie and I definitely need to start up our Operation Reconnect again in 2014 because we didn’t do it in 2013 and we definitely felt really disconnected from each other throughout the year.  But then again, it was a year of many changes for us, a different household routine, a new job for me, and elementary school for Gentry.   Life is still good.  We’re still happy & healthy and in the grand scheme of things, that’s really all that matters.

Much love & blessings to you in 2014.

The Tomlins

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Adventures in trying to make some Christmas spending money ~ the dog

Being in Grad School and unable to get paid for working for the next two years, I decided to sign up on a national dog sitting service that matches people to watch other peoples dogs in their homes instead of having to take the dog to a nasty kennel.  Brilliant.  I’m an animal lover.  We have a mini-farm already.  It will be like having a fun sleepover for my own dogs.   So, I signed up on the site and reservations poured in.

Yesterday, the first dog was dropped off for a 10 day “vacation” with us.  For the sake of privacy, we’ll call him “Rover“.  He is a 70 pound German Shepperd, Leonberger mix. He is excellent with my children because he comes from a family with 2 small children too.  He does awesome with my two little dogs too, Milo & Kisa, because the owner says she takes him to the dog park regularly to socialize.  He sleeps in his crate inside at night and all goes well…. but it’s only the first night.

This morning I let Rover outside to do his business and after a few minutes I went out into the larger yard to lock the chickens up in their coop area (though they were already there, scared to death of Rover already) because Charlie had warned me that most dogs are “bird dogs” and like to chase/eat birds (aka: our chickens)….

Rover followed me out into the larger yard (the mini-farm side).  He & the goats sniffed each other a little and then Rover went about his business sniffing the rest of the yard.   I go to the barn to do the feeding rounds and Rover follows me, sniffs around more and all of a sudden, he starts chasing the goats….

After about five laps around the outside of the barn, Pecos gets smart and comes inside the barn with me, but the baby goat (Hondo jr.) is still running in circles around the barn being chased by Rover…. Finally Rover catches him right in front of the barn and he has Hondo Jr.’s entire rear neck area enclosed in his jaws, and Rover is trying to pull him down to the ground.  He hangs there for a while and won’t let his jaw grip budge…. and poor Hondo jr. is loudly crying in his sweet little goat cry/panic….

Meanwhile, I’m standing there in horror, having flashbacks of those super sad Saturday morning PBS animal shows when the Lions catch those poor baby deer (or whatever they are) and hold them until they’ve stopped twitching and then tear apart their lifeless bodies…. So I thought, ‘I may get torn to shreds here but I have to save my poor baby Hondo jr., I’ve been waiting my whole life to be in the middle of those PBS shows to save the poor underdog, slowest runner of the pack’ (it’s the social worker in me!!).

So I spring to action and pry Rover’s jaws/teeth apart with my hands and Hondo Jr. runs right into the barn and I follow, slamming the door to lock Rover out.  Both goats were shaking like a leaf, Pecos because he’d nearly witnessed the death of his BFF and Hondo jr because he almost met his maker in the jaws of a mother-approved house guest.  Ugh.  I feel so bad!!

So I definitely think Rover is some kind of wolf/lion mix LOL!  And I’m definitely learning some important lessons like, don’t create a potential farm animal massacre in your backyard just for some Christmas spending money.  Geez.  (I hate not being an independent woman & not bringing in a paycheck). T minus 9 days until his reservation is over… then I will have $162 to buy new farm animals and get some PTSD therapy…..  OMG!  Traumatic morning.

P.S.  My husband said “I told you so”…..

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Habits, Pick up lines, & Saturday nights

I was able to sit down and catch up on some magazines this 3 day Labor Day weekend.  It was a miracle because I have piles of magazines in my “to read someday” pile since the day I gave birth to my first child… 5 years ago.

Today, I chose to breeze through the August 2013 edition of Albuquerque The Magazine.  It was the “Hot Singles” issue where they spotlight a few dozen of the cities hottest single & available people.  I was just curious as to what all these “hot singles” were like now that I’ve been missing from the singles scene for over half a decade.  It was interesting to see how all the singletons answered all of the poignant get-to-know-you questions poised by the editors.  So I decided to answer how I would respond to the same questions, being a married mother of 2 young children….

It’s a Saturday Night.  What are you doing?
Watching the same kids movie for the 200th time.  Then, rushing the kids to bed for my husband & I to watch a grown-up movie, then falling asleep 10 minutes into it…. at 9:30pm

Best habit:
Not relying on an alarm clock (thanks kids)

Habit you really should break:
Being late EVERYWHERE, all the time, no matter what… & blaming my kids, even when they aren’t with me.

Best pick up line you’ve ever used:
Wanna just get take-out & go to bed (early)?

Which Celebrity do people say you look like?
Pretty much every day people tell me I look like the mug shot of Nick Nolte

Favorite Word:
Vacation

Least Favorite Word:
Poop

If you were a New Mexican Dish, What would you be & why?
Whatever dish is served best half eaten, cold, & in a doggie bag headed home

What is the last text message you sent?
“Sorry, the kids [ruined, hid, lost, got] my phone again.”

Bleh.  Happy Monday on a Tuesday tomorrow.  “But at least it’s a short week”  Short for who? Singletons without kids, I guess.  LOL!

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Mid-thirties crisis or destiny?

Today is my last day at my current job. This day has been pre-meditated and stressed out about for months now, five months to be exact. Five months ago, I was standing in front of a closed door of lost opportunity, staring at it, crying, pounding on the door to open, but it never did. I cursed that door for a week or two until I finally turned around to see the blinding light of another door opening.

I walked through this new door of opportunity into what had actually been whispering to me for close to a decade. Back in 2006, I had read a book called Now Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham. The book was a required read for employees where I worked at the Federal Courts as part of a monthly staff meeting book club for professional development. The results of discovering my top 5 strengths (Empathy, Fairness, Developer, Harmony and Restoration) is what started all the whispering. The book told me what I had already been feeling for years, that Information Technology wasn’t the right career path for me.  My natural “strengths” weren’t being utilized to their fullest capacity.  I wasn’t a high-powered IT executive, I was a “people nurturer/repairer”…. or something like that.

I wasn’t quite sure how to pursue my new path with only having experience and a Bachelors Degree in Information Technology but I quit my job after being there for 5 years.  I ended up taking a Business Analyst job at Ernest Health, it was a little more “touchy-feely” than the usual IT jobs.  In hindsight, I realize that God or the Universe (or whatever people like to call it these days) put me at Ernest Health for a reason because a month later, I discovered that I was pregnant. God wanted to make sure I was working in a stress free laid back environment and that I had a wonderful boss who would be understanding and flexible with my new role as a mother. God gave me that blessing and put me right where I needed to be for these past 6 years.

But throughout the last 6 years, I had still been hearing that whisper. The whisper of God reminding me of my destiny. I know that sounds like silly spiritual hippie talk.  But I was still sort-of unconsciously searching for how to align with my true path.  I was drawn to many volunteer opportunities and anytime I was supporting others, I felt at peace. I lost track of time. I felt fulfilled. I would job search for unemployed friends for hours. I would listen to hurting friends & strangers till 2am. I would want to figure out their problems, take their emotional pain away, mediate, and support them until I was blue in the face. I wanted to be out helping people more than I wanted to be at my paid job or even at home with my own family. It was a very strange conundrum.

While I was filling up my extra time with all of this extra stuff. I realized that it was because I simply wasn’t fulfilled at work for 8 hours a day so I was trying to fill the void in other ways. I did alot of soul searching and it all went back to those whispers, Myers Briggs tests, and my natural “strengths”…. the answer to the question that had been eluding me was finally revealed. I needed to take the leap, make a change.

Since opening that new door of opportunity five months ago, I’ve been preparing to embark on a new career path. A career in Social Work. I go back to school on August 22.  I will be doing clinicals or practicum (i.e. working for free) as a Social worker at Albuquerque Public Schools for my first year of school, and then at Children Youth & Families (CYFD) for the 2nd year of school.  I also was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from CYFD for the Child Welfare Scholar program.  Thank you to Michele Tigelaar & Bobbie Burkdoll for the obviously amazing letters of reference for all of these applications over the past few months.

I know I’m not going to change the world.  I know I’m going to get burned out by all the sadness and wrongs at some point, but I’d rather get burned out doing something that I’m meant to be doing rather than something I’m not.  I know it’s somewhat late in the game (i.e. going back to school for a Masters degree and a career change at age 35) but I just couldn’t imagine myself working in Information Technology for the next 30 years, till I’m 65.  Part of me feels really selfish, quitting my job and doing this now while my kids are young but I felt like it would actually make me a better Mom to be able to do something that I’m hopefully good at and will thrive at for 8 hours a day.  It’d be a disservice to my family to continue to do something that my heart isn’t really “in”.

So cheers to closing one chapter and opening a new one!!  This has been a long time coming.  I’m nervous but excited!  I finally get to channel my natural strengths into a tangible career path, some people never figure out what they’re truly meant to be doing with their life, and I feel lucky that I have.  And with that I leave with a Steve Jobs quote:
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Baby Brain, Mommy Brain, now Daddy Brain

Last night was a typical busy Tuesday night in our household.  We had just fed the kids dinner and were loading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen.  The kids were screaming and chasing each other in circles around the kitchen & down the hallway.   It was irresistible chaos as usual.

8pm came too soon (or not soon enough depending on who you ask) so I rounded the kids up for teeth brushing  and story time.  I was reading the bedtime story to them in their room when I saw my husband rush by with a sense of urgency.  I heard him slam the linen closet doors and rush back by with a stack of towels in hand and a panicked look on his face.  This couldn’t be good.

Not able to curb my curiosity (and sudden worry), I scooted the kids off my lap and rushed off in his direction.  When I rounded the corner to the kitchen, all I saw was a sea of white foam across the floor.  My husband was standing in the middle of it, frantically spreading out the stack of towels.

I gasped and covered my mouth in amazement.  Just then, the kids rounded the corner too.  They  were mesmerized by the scene.  “Daddy, what happened” they said.   My husband just looked over in a defeated stance, socks soaked, and exclaimed “ Note to self: never mistake the big Costco jug of dishsoap under the sink for the big Costco jug of dishWASHER soap under the sink.” 

I glanced at the dishwasher and the sudsy stuff was still pouring out from the bottom of it.  The kids and I all broke out in to laughter.  Charlie shook his head, threw his hand up in the air and smiled.    The kids squealed with delight because this looked like ‘loads’ of fun to them (pun intended).

I’m so glad this one was my husbands doing because I had previously worried that parenthood was singling ME out and trying to make ME look like an incompetent MORON.  Who else accidentally leaves their car still running while they shop at Costco for 45 minutes??.  Woooohoooo, not only me apparently.   But I’m sensing a Costco conspiracy. LOL!
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