34 questions for a 34th birthday, part two

26 February 2021

Today’s questions feel a little like 17 itsy-bitsy blog posts – I hope you enjoy! (Part one is here if you missed it!)

Photo by Christen Smith

18. Dream trip destination? Switzerland or Austria! The mountains look unreal.

19. Favorite fun perks of working at Cultivate? Ooh, so many! Getting as much product for personal use as I’d like is obviously great, and we get $500 a year worth of product to gift to our friends and family. We also have a monthly allowance to spend on the “personal growth” book of our choice, which for an avid reader like me is gold! (And has helped me grow a fun lending library over the years.)

20. What are the attributes you’re striving to cultivate in your kids? In no particular order – integrity, personal responsibility, generosity, gratitude, thoughtfulness, optimism, confidence, faithfulness, and a capacity for wonder.

21. Do you still Irish dance? Are you teaching your children? I’m not dancing in any formal way, though I have been known to throw out a high kick under the right circumstances. (For those who didn’t know, I was a competitive Irish step dancer from about 5th through 12th grade!) As for whether I’ll introduce June, I am undecided. I feel like the competition world has gotten even CRAZIER since my exit in terms of the appearance expected (exhibits A, B, C, Dthis was the look when I performed) and I do not like that. However, it is an amazing art form and I loved dancing it!

For now, June has taken parks and rec ballet since about age 3, and we’re both excited for her to continue once it’s safer to do so.

22. Are your kids messy? I find it hard to buy investment clothes or furniture because I’m worried they’ll get stained or broken. I try to set us all up for success by eating snacks or doing crafts that might be messy at the kitchen table or outside, or finding another workaround. For example, this winter, they’ve been really into eating our after-school snack on the carpet by the fire, so I just make sure we eat something that won’t stain (cheese and crackers, grapes). Our Eufy vacuum sucks up the crumbs every night :)

The only furniture I worry about are our cream club chairs, but Jenny Komenda recommended this spray a few years ago and in my experience it’s never met a stain it can’t get out – AMAZING.

I wouldn’t say I buy investment clothes at this stage of my life!

23. What is something you think brides forget to think about or is underrated about weddings? I LOVE THIS QUESTION! So much so that I think it deserves its own post. In the meantime, I would say a lot of aspects of the wedding morning tend to get overlooked – where you’ll be getting ready, what the space looks and feels like (in the moment and in pictures), who will be with you, what you’ll listen to, what you’ll eat — and how that all adds up to the vibe that will carry you into the rest of your day.

24. What would you never give up in order to save money? Assuming my life-preserving basics are accounted for, I would cut back but never completely cut out money for travel (or adventure of some sort). We have reduced our travel deliberately some years, but even if it was just a day trip for fancy ice cream on the coast, I’ll always preserve some money in our budget for that category if at all possible. We also tithe to our church, and I would never eliminate charitable giving.

25. What is one change you made to your routine during COVID that you hope to continue? Several times a week, John and I are able to have lunch and take a quick walk together, and it is a JOY! We both will continue to work from home at least a few times a week even after the pandemic “ends,” and we definitely plan to keep this up.

26. How do you and John show each other intentional love in the little things? I get asked versions of this question often, and I find it a hard one to answer – I guess because the things we do repeatedly (which probably are the things that matter most) have become so ingrained we don’t realize they’re notable. A few things that come to mind: we are in tune with each other’s moods, and are quick to check in if the other seems off. We try to take an evening walk together as often as we can. Though we could be better about this, we’ll take on a chore or parenting duty for the other without being asked (or sometimes after being asked, ha!) if we’ve had a hard day.

27. What do you usually eat for breakfast? On weekdays, almost always a very unglamorous Nature Valley granola bar and water, sometimes with a banana. On the weekends, we usually make pancakes with a blackberry jam syrup on either Saturday or Sunday. I also make award-winning cheesy scrambled eggs, and I love a good everything bagel sandwich with bacon, eggs, and cheese :)

28. Do you hope to retire early? John and I joke about how parents should be able to retire between the ages of 30 and 40 and then go back to work… BUT IT’S TRUE. Barring that disruption in our work culture, yes, we do hope to retire earlier than the average (which apparently is 61-ish). We’re not willing to make the trade-offs necessary to be FIRE people, but John has loosely targeted 55 for himself. I don’t have a clear vision for me! I think there are a LOT of factors that could affect this over the next few decades, and for now, we just feel really grateful to both have jobs we don’t want to escape from.

29. Favorite childhood memory? The biggest (and truest) answer would have to be the summer stays on our island in Maine. On a smaller scale, I have very fond memories of “mystery rides.” A parent would announce one as dinner ended, we’d rush to get our shoes on and pile into the van, and then we’d invariably drive down the hill for ice cream – but because it was a mystery ride, we could have been going anywhere! :)

30. What’s your favorite part about being a mom? That’s like choosing your favorite child! I love teaching them things and sharing new experiences with them, especially ones I loved as a child. I love building a family culture with John and seeing them adopt and uphold it. I love one-on-one time and conversations where I get a glimpse into their thought processes and those rare but very special moments where you see some aspect of parenting pay off in a big way (like when they display one of those attributes from above we’re trying to cultivate).

I also think it’s a very unique responsibility to have someone depend on you so deeply, and I’m proud that they seem completely assured I will continue to fulfill it.

31. What’s the silliest show you and John watch together? That would have to be The Bachelor. We watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but no other franchise spin-offs.

32. Top 5 go-to dinner meals? It depends on the season, but I’ll go with chickpea kale pasta, chicken shawarma, grilled quesadillas and guacamole, chicken tikka masala, and taco soup.

33. How do you celebrate friends’ birthdays? My very favorite way to celebrate a local friend’s birthday is to make an unexpected porch drop-off on the big day – flowers, a sweet treat, a little gift, a note. The item doesn’t really matter, but, having been on the receiving end of such a surprise, the idea that someone took the time and cared enough to drive all the way to my house (usually 15-30 minutes away) bowls me over every time.

34. What are you most excited about for the next decade? Watching our family grow! I have heard the ages of 6-12 described as the “golden” years – the sweet range where kids are more capable and able to communicate, but still just love being around you and are up for anything. I see lots of big and little adventures and many game nights in our future :)

Thank you again for playing along, friends! I loved, loved, loved hearing from you on yesterday’s post, so please feel free to chime in again! Did anything stick out to you, or do we have anything in common? Is there an itsy-bitsy blog post here you’d like to see turned into a full-blown blog post? :)

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Abigail Gray
February 26, 2021 10:02 am

I LOVE your answer to the question about underrated moments/forgotten logistics at weddings – and maybe only a little bit because I was the one who asked it! :) I would love to read a full post about it, too! Soon after we got engaged, my mom suggested that my fiance and I write down what matters most to us about our wedding day. One thing the exercise solidified was how we want to feel on the day, how we want our families to feel, and how we want our guests to feel. It has guided the big decisions so far, like choosing to get married somewhere that is important to both of our families, but I hope as we get closer (we’ve got time – we are getting married in June 2022!), it will guide the smaller choices that you mentioned above, too. Thank you for your answer, and also THANK YOU for the thoughtful blog posts you shared about your own wedding! I read through the archive many years before my engagement when I discovered your blog, but I find myself revisiting them in this season of life and I am grateful :)

Last edited 3 years ago by Abigail Gray
February 26, 2021 1:13 pm

“Mystery rides” are GENIUS! Saving that one, especially for long winter weekends!
Would love a post about establishing your family culture. Is this something you and John did through casual, organic conversations, translated into your actions? Or, have you had sessions where you discuss and align on specific family values? We started doing the later but then life happened and haven’t finished :) How do you see your family culture in your day-to-day? In your routines? A weekly tradition? Would love to know more!
These were very fun to read, and loved the range of topics discussed. Thank you for sharing!

February 26, 2021 1:37 pm

Happy Birthday!! I loved these 34 questions, such good ones! One thing from yesterday’s post about personality types: I strongly dislike personality tests and I always end up being 50/50 on everything (does that mean I have a weak personality or that I’m hard to pin down?). But this funny article https://thoughtcatalog.com/heidi-priebe/2015/05/the-definition-of-hell-for-each-myers-briggs-personality-type/ convinced me that I am 100% an ESTJ.

February 26, 2021 2:25 pm
Reply to  Ana

Ana – I love personality tests but I too often end up with multiple categories at the top and if I take them multiple times, I can get different answers. I was doing some reading into enneagram types and one of the aspects of a type 9 (one of my top possibilities) is difficulty typing oneself! Basically by seeing well all sides of an issue or seeing yourself in many areas, you have difficulty decisively typing yourself. So when answering questions, you can reasonably see yourself applying to many of the possibilities! This explains so much in my life. I wish I could remember where I read it. Anyway, I too thought there was something “wrong” with me that I didn’t reliably fall into a neat category, but it might just be an aspect of my personality! Also, I love those articles where someone applies a concept across a framework’s possibilities. It’s so fulfilling to see others just like me (even if it’s multiple categories, ha!) There are several instagram accounts that do these. So fun!

Victoria B
February 27, 2021 12:56 pm

Happy birthday!!! Travel has been on my mind a lot lately, as I am sure it has for others too. I really want to go everywhere in Europe but top of my list right now is Ireland! I also have plans to go back to my childhood in Alaska for my 40th birthday! My husband and son have both never been and I would love to go hiking and breath in that fresh air again. Another place I am dying to go is Thailand. I just love Thai food so much!

March 9, 2021 10:50 am

(Clearly I am catching up on my EFM comments :)) SMT!
Dave and I will gladly share all our Austria favorites when that day comes!
OMG to those Irish dance photos–I had no idea it was so over-the-top!
Always love when you address something wedding-related, of course :)
In regards to travel budgeting, I would be interested in an update on your approach to which trips to take! I remember you used to have an international/national/Michigan rotation in mind–is that still the thought in non-covid times?