a general update.

[Photos from Jake's first time swinging on a Saturday last month, and a little time spent in the sand before a storm rolled in.]

When I last spoke about our plans for the future, TJ was going to be starting the training program for Edward Jones in February 2014, and I would be leaving my full-time job. We would be moving to Tempe/Chandler. Well, a few things have changed and some things haven't.

This summer, one of TJ's good friends interned for a company called AXA. They are a financial advising company similar to Edward Jones, but with a few fundamental differences in their business plan and approach. Well, Brooks gave TJ's name and number to his boss around August, and TJ got a call inviting him to come interview. At first, we were a little resistant to the idea. We had been set with a plan, and we didn't see any reason to change that. Then, TJ thought, "Why not?" It couldn't hurt to just interview and see what AXA had to offer.

As it turns out, they had a lot more to offer for us. Although I took some convincing, we eventually made the decision to accept a job from AXA and not go with Edward Jones. They are much more flexible and have a few key differences that we felt would be a better fit for TJ and for our family. TJ's "boss" will be his mentor for his first three years, and he's a really great guy. Although it wasn't the deciding factor, the fact that Ryan is LDS is a comfort because we know he has the same values that we do. Everyone that we've interacted with has been so personable and helpful, which is another comfort to us.

So where does that leave us? Well, our original plan only changes a little. TJ will be (and already is) studying for his licensing tests. As soon as two of those are taken care of, he will start with AXA. Our goal for now is the end of January. That will give him some time after graduation to really study and get the exam done. We will be moving in with his parents for about a month until we move to Phoenix. His office is in North Scottsdale, and we are trying to find housing within a reasonable distance without paying the Scottsdale housing prices. I will continue to work at my job and transition in my replacement(s) for a while, and possibly move down to part-time so that TJ has more time to study rather than taking care of Jake.

Another blessing to come of this is that I won't have to work. With Edward Jones, we were expecting that I might have to find part-time employment since the salary during training wasn't quite enough. However, Ryan is confident that TJ will do well enough that I won't have to work. I'm always willing to do my part, but this came as a great relief to both of us.

We are excited for this new path and new possibilities. With the flexibility of this company, we don't have to decide now where we will live forever (ha), and might find ourselves back in Flagstaff someday. For now, we are excited for the changes in many aspects of our lives. We feel very blessed to have had both of these opportunities presented to us, and grateful that we were able to choose the best fit for us. I know many don't have such options or opportunities, and it is humbling and exciting to see our hard work come to fruition.

Jake's First Haircut

When he was about 13 months old (so last month), I texted my friend and stylist Verity to see about a bang trim for me and a hair-trim for Jake. We had family pictures the next week, and although his baby curls were adorable, it was very much a mullet and the hair over his ears was driving me bonkers. We decided to keep it a little longer, but he cleaned up looking like a little boy more than a baby! I had TJ pick up a sucker to keep him occupied, and the whole thing went much more smoothly than I expected. The most tears came after we got home and I took the sucker away (after he'd reached the tootsie roll center, what!). Verity gave me his little locks in a baggy to put in his book, but with my record that will be lucky to be done by his second birthday.

Jake's First Birthday Party.

The time leading up to this party was kinda tough. Love them as I do, but family functions on TJ's side can sometimes be stressful (not that they aren't on my side...they just get together more often). We wanted to keep this party as small as possible since we were on a budget and didn't want to overwhelm Jake, who tends to do better with less people crowding him. TJ's extended family is much closer/smaller than mine, so we invited his aunt and uncles who live in town, his grandparents on both sides, his immediate family (of course), and my immediate family. We had invited my grandparents as well, but they were unable to attend due to another family function. 

Anyway, it was stressful for me. I tend to plan these things for months, but my elaborate plans never come to fruition. It's probably for the best anyway. I kept things fairly simple to try to minimize the amount of labor-intensive tasks. I chose a color scheme and I made a simple garland with scrapbook paper and decorated with balloons (Jake loves balloons). I made Jake's mini smash cake in a 28 oz tin can and it was the perfect size. We had the party mid-afternoon so as to avoid serving a meal, and instead had chips and salsa, fruit, crackers and dips, and served donuts instead of cake to the guests. Our families helped contribute with the food, and we served ice water for drinks, in regular plastic cups (no paper straws or mason jars for us) (though I did consider it).

We held the party at TJ's aunt's home in Anthem. She has a nice big space, a pool, and is as close to halfway between our families as we could get. She is such a gracious host, and kept her cool through a couple of unfortunate incidents (that nobody confessed to, though we have our suspicions). She didn't even get mad that we rushed off after the party to spend some time with our good friends who moved away from Flagstaff in the spring. I didn't realize this until the next morning and felt terrible, though I tried to make up for it by vacuuming her whole main floor and straightening things up as much as I could, and I sent a thank you note after. I mean, sometimes I surprise myself with how thoughtless I can be. Note to self: I owe Auntie Apryl, big time. Apryl, if you're reading this,  your wish is my command. 

Sometimes I wish I could be a better host, but I think I'll just have to face the fact that party-planning is not my forte. It is something I would like to become better at, however. Not necessarily throwing the most elaborate party, but being a thoughtful host and paying better attention to people and maybe a little less attention to the things that don't matter as much.

I am constantly learning the lesson that things will rarely go as planned. TJ had put together a video with pictures and video from Jake's first year, but as luck would have it, we forgot to show it. We plan to put it on YouTube or something (with a private link) so that our family and friends can view it that way. I felt terrible that it didn't get shown. As mentioned in the previous post, I left the poster that I made at home. And then, after fighting to get him to sleep for an hour, Jake slept through the first half of his party, so he was a little groggy for it, but seemed to have fun.

At the end of the day, we got to spend time with family and let family enjoy showering our little one with love. When he's not being crowded, he sure loves to be the center of attention. Our little ham, 100%.