A Holiday Reminder

As we sit here in the midst of the holidays, I wanted to give you a little reminder...Smile!

I've been reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's one of those "must read" business books that was published decades ago, and it is speaking to me!

One of the chapters is about smiling. It ends with a poem that fit this time of year so well, I had to share it:

The Value of a Smile at Christmas

It costs nothing, but creates so much.
It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.
It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature's best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.
And if in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?
For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!

There are so many good messages about a smile in this poem...

It costs nothing.

The memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

No earthly good to anybody till it is given away.

Giving a smile to some, or to many, this holiday season, is the easiest, most inexpensive gift you can give. And there are a lot of people who need one.

So when you're "in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying" and your salespeople "should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you leave one of yours?" We all know that the holidays are stressful. If you've ever worked in retail, you know it especially well.

You don't need one in return, and what a difference a simple smile can make. You never know when you may need one yourself...

Our Next Great Adventure: Parenthood

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...

Baby Novak! ...ETA May 15.

As you may recall, Brandon propped the question last Christmas, and we were married in Mexico in November.

We knew we wanted to have kids right away, so a few months before our wedding, we met with the doctor to talk about trying to conceive. Shortly after....BAM! We're pregnant!

Finding Out

Finding out was the most exciting day of my life.

We found out very early, at four weeks. The amount of happiness and relief I felt was incredible. My husband was also over-the-moon.

As we started to learn more about what it meant to be pregnant, we decided to keep the surprise to ourselves. For one, the risk of miscarriage is so high in the first trimester. But in addition to that, our families were busy focusing on the last-minute details that went into planning and traveling to our upcoming wedding in Mexico.

Breaking the News

We finally told our families and close friends at 13 weeks. We had already had two doctor's appointments confirming that all was well and it seemed appropriate.

Many people were shocked, but for the most part, happy. And it felt really good to finally talk openly about it.

We slowly began telling other friends and family and the more people we told, the more relaxed I felt.

I was most nervous to tell my employer. Many women report being treated different at work, that their employers don't think they're as dedicated to the job, etc. I was also concerned for what it meant for my coworkers who would have to cover my work while I was out on leave after having the child.

I wanted to get ahead of telling at least my boss and close teammates before I started to show and it became obvious.

It's still scary putting it out there. I hear a lot of pregnancy horror stories. I am also constantly in fear of something being wrong at my next doctor's appointment. The other mothers I know tell me that fear never goes away, even after the baby is born.

But I also hear a lot of great advice. And it's really wonderful to be able to talk about some of the weird symptoms I experience and learn that they're normal. The amount of love and support we have in our network is remarkable.

Where We Are Now

I am happy to report that we are at 16 weeks. Another successful doctor's appointment is in the books and while it provides some temporary relief, I'm sure my anxiety will rebuild before the next doctor's appointment.

We're going through the mental planning that every new parent does....how much money do we need to be making? How much is childcare? How long does the baby sleep in our room? What is Butt Paste? Will the child look like me or you?

It's a lot of fun. Scary, yes. Crazy, yes. And fun.

Maya Ruins: Coba

After our wedding in Mexico, my husband and I spent some time away from the resort and took advantage of the opportunity to visit some Maya ruins.

Going into the trip, I really had my heart set on Tulum. I had heard so many wonderful things about it, and the photos looked beautiful! Chichen Itza was another option I had considered.

After doing some research, we landed on Coba instead. The primary reason being that Coba, unlike the other ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, still has a temple that you can climb.

You used to be able to climb Tulum, but the option to do that was discontinued years ago, and likely will be with Coba as well. In fact, Coba was closed off for climbing for a period of time.

The experience was truly incredible. Not just for the climb, which is a bit unsafe (and because of that, a bit of a thrill), but because of the rich history.

For example, a road that is over 62 miles long leading to a location near Chichen Itza. A completely flat, wide road made of limestone and used for trade between different areas.
Or the ancient Maya's use of the wheel. Old artifacts show that they knew about the functionality of the wheel, as demonstrated in some children's toys. But it doesn't appear that the wheel was used as a tool or means to transport items. The Mayas found value in hard work and manual labor.

What was most fascinating to me was how much of these large cities are still hidden by jungle. I couldn't quite wrap my head around how that was possible until I stepped foot into Coba. We'd be walking through some ruins and some large hills covered in trees and moss and our tour guide pointed out that the land was flat. If we saw anything that looked like a hill, it was an old structure that hadn't been uncovered.

I was blown away. I was walking right through these uncovered structures and would never have known they were anything but jungle.

Interesting fact: National Geographic wrote an article just this year on a Maya "megapolis" just discovered in Guatemala.

Sometimes they're not uncovered because of the lack of funding that goes towards it. But other times the structures aren't full uncovered because it would mean sacrificing the integrity of the structure. They're so old and trees and other plants have gotten so deeply rooted in them, that taking away those plants would cause the buildings to crumble to the ground.

It was so wonderful to see and experience such a rich culture. The local Mayas run and work the site, so you will see a cooperative where you can buy souvenirs, restaurants, or some of the locals driving petty cabs to take tourists around the site.

The experience was worthwhile, and here are some tips:

  • Hire a tour guide

    • The experience won't be the same if you don't have somebody to talk you through the significance of each building and give you some basic Mayan history.

  • Bring sunblock and bug spray

    • Most of the tour is through jungle, so you're mostly protected from the sun, but maybe not the bugs. When you get to the main temple, Nohoch Mul, you will be directly in the sun, especially if you decide to climb it.

  • Bring lots of water

    • It's hot and humid. And it gets hot FAST as you get to climbing that big temple.

  • If you're scared to climb the temple, don't do it

    • As I mentioned before, it's not the safest endeavor. The rocks are worn down from so many climbers and aside from a large rope in the middle, there are no safety measures there to protect you if you fall.
    • The top is a long way up, so if you're afraid you will experience vertigo, you probably will.
    • The experience is still wonderful, even if you don't make the climb.

  • Not all of the locals speak Spanish (or English)
    • Mayas are raised and educated in their own language, Mayan. So while many of the locals speak Spanish, it is not their first language, and some of them never learned Spanish at all. With a little creativity and patience, though, you will have no problem communicating.

Our Wedding Video

Adventure Photos was there not only to take our wedding photos, but also to put together a video of special moments at our wedding.

The wedding was at Now Jade Riviera Cancun in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.

The videographer was there to capture the ceremony as well as some moments during the photo session with our photographer after.

I was blown away by the video. Our videographer added music, including the song we danced our first dance to, Etta James' "At Last." Instead of putting the entire ceremony in the video, he included the most special parts.

I didn't know what to expect from a video and going into the wedding, I wasn't sure we needed one. But after seeing the video, I am so happy we had a videographer there. If you weren't already planning on it, I would recommend hiring one for your special day as well.

So here it is, our wedding video...

We’re Married!

I have just returned from the best trip of my life...our wedding trip.

Brandon and I planned this day for almost a year since Our Engagement and it was more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.

We were married at Now Jade in Puerto Morelos, Mexico and 29 of our close friends and family were there to celebrate with us.

A beautiful location, warm weather, handsome groom and even a FLASH MOB. Yes, that’s right! My mom and aunt put together a dance and sent it to our guests to learn. We were completely blown away!

We are so blessed to have so many special people be a part of our day and our lives. And beyond that we are so blessed to have found each other.

Our dream wedding was just the first day in the next chapter of our lifetime we get to spend together.

Urban Chickens: The Coop

It has been a crazy couple of months with these chickens.

Once they were fully-feathered (around 5 weeks) and the weather started to get nicer, we introduced them to their coop and put them outside.

Building the Coop

Being the newbies that we are, we bought a coop online, opting for a chicken tractor, a smaller coop that has wheels so it can move around the yard. Chicken poop is especially great fertilizer for your grass and garden, but chickens themselves are also great because they love to eat the weeks and bugs.

While building the coop, we noticed that it was a little weak and there were things we didn't like about it. For example, it had no bottom. That wouldn't be a problem, except that not having a bottom makes it easier for predators to get in.

Brandon took some wire fencing and stapled it to the bottom, the idea being that nothing could dig its way in. As I had mentioned before, the coop materials were pretty weak, so it took a lot of creativity and repairing in order to get that fencing to stay without the staples breaking the wood.

And then there were the latches: they were kind of like this:

At the time that we were installing them, both Brandon and I commented on how they were pretty weak and made mental notes to replace them at a later time.

The wheels were another issue. The chicken tractor model that we bought came with wheels that were too small to make moving the tractor around easy...which was the whole point.

One feature that I absolutely loved was the removable tray. It's metal and just pulls right out, which makes cleaning the coop a breeze. The nesting boxes (which is where they lay their eggs) also had their own little roof that opened up, making accessing the eggs easier.

Please note: They haven't actually laid any yet since they're so young.

The Coop in Action

Once we got the chickens in the coop at had it outside, it was great. They were pretty self-sustaining at that point. Just making sure their food and water was always full was just about the only job I had, aside from cleaning the coop.

They seemed happy and healthy, pecking around during the day and as soon as it was dusk, would go right back into their coop for bedtime, like clockwork.

Moving the coop around the yard was initially more difficult than we would have liked. This was primarily because the structure of the coop was too weak for us to hang their waterer, so we had to keep in on the ground, which meant getting it out and moving it every time we wanted to move the coop.

Other than that, no major issues.

Then, Disaster Struck

Reflecting back on this, it's one of those moments where I blame myself for being lazy and not just doing the right thing the first time.

Brandon and I, when we first got chickens, had planned on building our own coop. Since time is always an issue, we did the lazy thing and bought one online that we would just assemble ourselves.

I talked earlier about some of the concerns we had with the coop (it was weak, the wheels, no floor, the latches) and how we made mental notes to fix those issues later.

You never think anything bad is going to happen, until it does...

One Sunday morning at about 5:45 (the sun was up already), Brandon and I heard this frantic squawking from our chickens. I ran over to our bedroom window and looked outside to see a fox chasing my poor chickens all over the yard. The door to the coop was wide open....fox figured out the latch.

Not only did the fox kill 2 of my 5 chickens (we thought it was 3, but I'll explain that later), but it wouldn't leave the yard. For hours after it kept coming back. And I've continued to see it in our yard several times since.

We have a 6 foot fence and I had read online that foxes can't usually jump such tall fences. Let me tell you, they can. Easily.

Short Rant

I had seen these foxes in the neighborhood a few weeks before, living in the backyard of a house across the street. Now, living in Colorado, animal control really isn't going to do anything about it. Living in this state means living with the wildlife. Fine. Here's where I need to rant:

The foxes den up and live in our neighborhood because people allow them to. Animal Control and the Division of Wildlife HIGHLY discourage allowing foxes to den up at your house. Even worse than that, the animal control officer I spoke to said people around the neighborhood have been feeding them, rendering them unafraid of people and with no incentive to leave.

So these foxes never really have to learn to hunt for themselves, and they're running around the street, where they sometimes get hit by cars.

I had posted about the foxes on Nextdoor.com and MANY of my neighbors talked about how cute they are, how they're harmless, how they'll just walk right up to their doors and it's adorable.

I am here to tell you: FOXES ARE WILD ANIMALS AND THEY'RE SNEAKY AND CONNIVING AND OH BY THE WAY....THEY'RE CARNIVORES. So yes, they ate some of my chickens, fine. But I would have been devastated had it been one of my dogs. But they're not cute. And they're not pets. And they shouldn't feel comfortable living in a suburban neighborhood.

Last part of my rant...

Please spare me the lecture about how we took away their home and need to accommodate them...which one of my neighbors told me.

These foxes were a year old. My neighborhood was built 60 years ago. If they want to live in the field 1/4 mile from my house, that's fine! But not in someone's backyard while being fed roast beef by the neighbors.

Next Steps

Having learned our lesson at the expense of two of our chickens, Brandon built a custom coop like we planned on doing from the beginning. He took extra precautions to ensure it is predator-proof, the most important of which was burying wire 36 inches out from the coop's run in every direction to prevent digging. Stronger latches, more stable structure.

So now our survivors are back to living their happy chicken lives.

Stitch Fix: Fix #3

She has done it, ladies and gentlemen. My stylist, Michelle, has put together the perfect Fix.

Here is what myApril box brought me:

CECE Sportswear Havart Off The Shoulder Blouse

If your read about my last fix, you know there was an off-the-shoulder shirt that I loved, but kept fussing with, so decided to return.

This month, Michelle sent another off-the-shoulder, but one that stays on a little better. I still fuss with it a little, but not nearly as much as the last one.

This shirt is so fun and cute, but the sleeves are by far the best.

Lila Ryan Liza Distressed Skinny Jean

Oh, so you noticed the white pants in that previous photo? Those also came in my box. I love them.

I've always wanted white pants, but never been brave enough to buy them for myself. They need to fit just right and I just don't think they can always be pulled off.

Down side: They kind of see-through, which really just means that I need to be sure to avoid bright-colored underwear when I wear them...a precautionary measure I'm willing to take.

Collective Concepts Edaline Back Detail Top

This top is so versatile. I can wear it with a pair of jeans, or with a pair of dress pants and heels. The back is so cute it's almost a shame to cover it with a blazer for work!

Kensie Dresses Deena Lace Knit Dress

This dress is classy and was picked with my upcoming nuptials in mind. It fits well and would be great for a bridal shower, brunch on the beach during our honeymoon, or even our rehearsal dinner.


Bay To Baubles Park Floral Drop Earrings

To match the dress, my fix also came with these drop earrings. They're too heavy for every day wear, but they really look great when they're on.