Saturday Reflections 07.20.2019

If I haven’t written in awhile it’s usually an indicator of one of two things – either I’ve been genuinely too busy or I’m struggling. Last week I was busy. This week I am struggling. Summer is really starting to weigh on me. I feel like I’m not allowed to say that because in many ways it feels like summer has barely begun. They’ve been off of school for six weeks, but they’ve only been off of summer school for just over two, and most of those two weeks were taken up with 4th of July festivities and a spontaneous mini vacation. This past week is really the first one that has been “normal.” And it’s been a tough one.

My biggest struggle is the most obvious – lack of alone time. I’ve been a stay at home mom from day one, but it’s never felt particularly easy on me mentally. These last three years once both boys were in school full time have been AMAZING. I have days to myself to work and get things done, but still have the benefit of flexibility and being around when they need me. It’s the perfect mix for nine months of the year. Then summer comes around and the lack of routine and predictable hours to myself to recharge basically do me in. It’s not even that the boys really need me that much anymore at 10 and 8. But the weight of responsibility for them doesn’t go away! They still need to be fed and monitored to make sure they’re not sneaking too many snacks. They still expect to be entertained or constantly given things to do or ideas of ways to spend their time. I still need to constantly be breaking up fights and trying to enforce punishments when things get out of hand. And on top of it all – they’re staying up later at night AND waking up earlier than they ever did during the school year! Meanwhile I’m still going to bed at the same time and waking up a tad bit later than I used to, so I almost never have any break from them. Or at least a break from the responsibility and need to be ON all the time.

While I am desperately needing more time to myself, I’m also struggling with friendships. Again. (As always?) Or lack thereof. I don’t know how to stay in touch with people. And if we’re not in touch I feel like we’re not really friends. I’ve been fairly busy this summer – much busier than in years past. It’s making me a lot more compassionate and understanding when my friends are also busy. At the same time – can’t we all make getting together a higher priority? And then when I do see people just by running into them by accident, I am so horribly awkward. I want to just be close to people without all the embarrassing and stilted small talk. And you don’t reach that level of familiarity with someone unless you actually do the work and spend time with them. And NOBODY has the time! It’s an endless cycle of craving connection with other women so desperately, putting myself out there to try and schedule something, almost always getting rejected – or at least feeling rejected – and then I crawl back into my shell and give up until the loneliness gets so strong that I try again. I somehow thought it would be easier as my kids got older. It’s not. Everyone is busier than ever. The mom guilt is strong in not wanting to miss anything our kids are doing. And then we’re all too tired after work and family time to muster up any remaining energy for each other. The hardest part for me to make peace with is that I feel like I’m alone in this loneliness.

And of course in summer with kids home there’s also just the lack of freedom to really do the things I want to do when I want to do them. During the school year I’d usually go out and run errands twice a week. I love errands! Now, I have to bring them with me and they’re HORRIFIC in stores. So we just don’t go. I’ve been needing to go to Costco for two weeks now and I just can’t bring myself to go when it means bringing them with me. I’ve actually managed to avoid shopping with them this entire summer – until we stopped at Target the other day. All I needed was dog food! And they spent the whole time in the store wrestling with each other, Caden taking Shepard’s hat and throwing it around, fighting over the cart, running into people and knocking stuff from the shelves. It’s absolutely ridiculous how they act in a store when they’re “bored.” And that was one store for one item!

And finally – work. I’m still trying to work a mostly full time job while also keeping my kids happy and filled with fun memories of time spent together. Which means I need to do the bulk of my sewing at night and on weekends. And that’s a lifestyle I don’t like to maintain. It’s leaving very little room for reading or resting or walking Annie or just having any kind of fun. I’ve become the kind of person that feels like an utter failure if I’m not doing something productive every minute of every day. And I don’t want to be that kind of person! Especially not in summer. But work isn’t going away and I need to fit it in when I can. I’m just getting really burned out from it all.

Anyway! Vent portion of this post over. Time for reflections.

I spent last week with the boys on a spontaneous vacation to Three Bears Resort in Warrens. It was a really fun time! But I’ll write more on that in a separate post.

Last Friday we spent the afternoon and evening with the in-laws, visiting with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who were just there together for the evening. Unfortunately, after three days of vacation – and even more strongly – four days without significant Daddy time – Caden was an absolute nightmare. So once again I got to just be the bad/mad mom – the only persona I’m allowed to have at family gatherings because the pressure to behave is always too dang much for Caden to handle. I had to take him home and he lost all screens for a week, which definitely contributed to this week being especially hard. When Caden has lost the only thing he cares about he has zero incentive to even try to be good.

On Saturday morning I got up super early to go grocery shopping before it got busy. I also went to the farmers market for the second week in a row and didn’t actually get out of the car and go in. The week before was because of storms. This time it was in a different location with a terrible parking situation and I couldn’t find anywhere to go. The crowds going in were so big that I eventually gave up. But it’s really frustrating to keep going to something I really love and not being able to actually do it! I didn’t even try to go today.

On Sunday I met my mom and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair in Beaver Dam. I didn’t buy anything, but it was still fun to walk around. Then we did some grocery shopping together and had an early lunch at Cousin’s. In the afternoon Greg took the boys back to his parents’ house so I could take a nap and then Caden ended up sleeping over while the rest of us went to a friend’s birthday party at the pool. It was so oppressively hot that I left early. The terrible heat wave this week is definitely not helping my mood!

On Monday morning I had to go pick up Caden, so Shepard and I stopped at the dog park on the way, but it was way too buggy. We got Caden and then checked out the Beaver Dam dog park. I told my mom we were in town so she invited us over there for awhile where we sat outside with coffee and cinnamon rolls while the dogs enjoyed the fresh air. And then in the afternoon we went back to BD again for my sister-in-law’s early birthday celebration.

On Tuesday the boys decided they wanted to have a “rock and junk sale.” Willow was having a three day long lemonade stand in her yard, so they thought it would be fun to join in with their own table of goodies. I just let them go ahead and do whatever they wanted as long as I could keep working and didn’t need to help. I felt a little bad that nobody actually wanted to stop and shop, but they seemed to have a good time. Until they came in and Caden went totally ballistic again over something. Meltdown worse than Friday’s, but without the audience. Then they both left to a sprinkler/water activity thing at the library. Greg took them to BD again for dinner and I went to my friend’s house late at night for a bonfire. THAT was a nice end to a very rough day.

Wednesday was our big fun day of the week. My mom joined us and we went to Madison for a “foodie day.” We started at Manna Cafe to get some fancy iced lattes. I fell in love with their coffee back in December and January and haven’t had a chance to get back since! I’d still like to eat there someday, but it’s always so crazy busy. That’s a big turn off for me.

Next we stopped at the Wednesday farmers market. It was SO HOT. I didn’t take any pictures. But the produce variety has really gotten a lot bigger since the last market I’ve been to! We bought a lot of things. Then headed to Hurt’s Donuts in Middleton. This is the second time we’ve been there and the second time we thought the donuts weren’t that great. Though they have tons of crazy flavors and the boys just pick the most boring ones! I had a salted caramel with chocolate drizzle which was great – I just should have waited to eat it… I didn’t because it was so hot I knew it would melt. Maybe not the best place to have gone, but at least after trying it twice I know we’re not really missing anything!

We went to the Mustard Museum next. We usually go every summer because the boys LOVE trying out all the mustards. Caden eats mustard every day, so he loves having a chance to find unique kinds he’ll love. This year we went with a dill mustard and an extra extra extra hot horseradish mustard.

Despite eating and drinking all morning, we were hungry for some real food so we tried out this new restaurant called Bartaco. They serve everything family style/ala carte and it was really fun to pick a bunch of random things off the menu. Shepard’s meal was the chips and salsa and some plain corn. Caden picked chicken soup and Mexican corn, but they got my instructions wrong and just gave him a plain corn too. I was hoping to try the Mexican one! My mom had an Asian slaw and fresh pineapple. And I had the carne asada and mojo pork tacos. I honestly think they were the best tacos I’ve ever eaten. They really only had meat and sauce on freshly made tortillas, but the flavor was outstanding. I can’t wait to go back again! I did buy a bottle of their habanero sauce because it was so amazing.

We finished our day out with the stop at Target. I was planning to go to Costco too, but I knew we couldn’t handle it. I wanted to stop at the Columbus farmers market too, but it was just too hot. It was a busy, but really great day!

The only interesting thing we did on Thursday was go stand in the rain for the peach truck to come so we could buy boxes of blueberries. I spent the rest of the day sewing.

On Friday there were some extra relatives in town so we went over for a quick lunch and Jenga game. I was kind of reaching emotional breakdown status in the afternoon, so Greg took the boys to hang out with my brother for the night. If you’ve read this whole thing you’ve noticed that he really does take the boys out fairly often and I DO have some time to myself. But it’s always at night and it’s never predictable. I mean, it’s better than nothing for sure!! But my brain is pretty much shot by night and that’s when I’m madly sewing anyway. I miss having daytime hours alone. Productive brain awake hours.

And today I was supposed to go to a craft day, but it was cancelled so it’s turned out to be pretty free and open. I’m trying really hard to force myself to just relax and not worry about doing anything unless I absolutely feel like I want to. That being said, I think I’m going to go read!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 07.07.2019

It’s been quite a week! Every day seems to last about five days long, yet summer is also flying by. Officially, our summer only started on Wednesday because Tuesday was the last day of summer school. We’ve fit in so many things already!

I spent most of Monday stressfully trying to figure out what to do with all of my overripe peaches. The 25 pound box was hard as a rock on Thursday, I force ripened some to make peach crumble on Saturday morning, and then they were all ripe to overripe by Sunday. If your life doesn’t match up with the ripeness schedule of your box of peaches you’re in big trouble! I think next year I seriously need to find someone to just flat out split a box with me. Then it’ll be less stressful. I was feeling pretty lazy this year and used most of my remaining peaches for salsa. Unfortunately, it was only good for a day and one of the people I made a bowl for wasn’t home to give it to that night.

It was a really hot week! While we did get a new air conditioner this spring, it only cools the lower half of our house. We have a window unit in our room, so Shepard fell asleep in our bed every night and then Greg moved him to his room when he came up.

On Tuesday I tried to just relax and soak up my last day home alone for the next two months!

Determined to jump right into my goal list for the month, we left early Wednesday morning to go to Token Creek Dog Park. We’ve only been to it twice before and that was before I broke my ankle. It’s a really nice enormous field with a hilltop in the middle and woods around the edges. Despite the early hour it was already SO hot, but the bugs were a lot less annoying than at the dog park in town. I’m really hoping I decide on a few solid favorites this summer and continue taking Annie to dog parks in fall when things cool off and the trees start changing. It’s probably the most exciting way for both of us to get some fresh air and exercise. This one is definitely a contender because it’s one of the closest – about 25 minutes away.

Because it’s on the way home, we stopped in at Mounds for Annie to pick out some treats. I’ve always wanted to bring her into a pet store like that! I think she was having some sensory overload. The boys thought it was really cool, though!

We were back home by 9:30 and it was a VERY long first morning of the no screens before noon rule. They were at least pretty good natured in their complaining, but they also wouldn’t leave me alone. We’ve really only had two days of the rule being in place, but I’m still optimistic that it was the right choice.

Greg was home early and came with us to the farmers market. Annie came too, though it was crazy hot by then. I bought a loaf of bread and some cheese. They were doing a brat fry fundraiser and Caden had a hamburger. Shepard bought a ceramic pot that he was able to paint and will be able to pick up this week after it’s been fired.

The 4th was a good day! The weather seemed so iffy all week. Actually, we were getting random short storms almost every day. Fortunately, they held off until afternoon so we were able to go ahead with our plans to visit Cedar Lake.

Because it was just going to be us and Greg’s parents and grandparents (there are usually many more extra relatives and kids at these parties), we decided to bring Annie along. She loved it. And it made the day a little too chaotic. Within ten minutes she somehow managed to break apart her pinch collar and took off. I was screaming and chasing her and she never even looked back. I literally had just told the boys the day before at the dog park that I bet she wouldn’t be a runner anymore because she always stays so close to me at dog parks. She decided to prove me wrong. Luckily, Greg caught her. It could have been a much worse outcome.

The three of them were having the time of their lives playing in the water. Annie never left the depth where she could still touch the ground. Maybe if she hadn’t been on a leash she would have tried swimming, but she already proved she can never be trusted! We also managed to break her retractable leash by submerging it into the water, which meant I had to hold her on her four foot standard leash the rest of the day. She was so hyped up about being there, but also wanted me to be right next to her and kept getting fully wet and then running back and shaking it all over me. It was fun to see her happy, but stressful to maintain that for the entire day.

I was switching back and forth between the beach and further up the hill under the shady trees where it was a bit cooler. The weather really was great for the first few hours before the heat overtook it!

The boys were having the time of their lives just swimming and playing on the tubes. They were getting along so well and having so much fun! Another reminder that the simplest of plans are what make them happiest. They did some tubing out with the boat too. I don’t go on the boat rides anymore because I can’t stand the blasting sun.

Annie and I spent the last few hours trying to cool off in the shade. It was a really nice time! Worth missing my beloved once a year fire station fundraiser cheese fries.

The rest of the day didn’t turn out as well, thanks to Mother Nature. We stopped in Beaver Dam to get some fireworks to do at the in-law’s house right when the first storm rolled in. We waited it out and the guys went to pick up some Culver’s for an easy dinner. We tried to do a few at their house, but the post-rain humidity was deathly! I had to continue holding Annie on her leash for another three hours because she kept terrorizing the cat. We went back home with half hearted plans to go watch the fireworks, even though Greg and I didn’t really want to. But, how can you say no when they’ve been so good all day? Unfortunately, more storms hit right when the show was about to start. There was a ton of confusion on if they would be postponed or not. I think most people at the actual park eventually assumed with pouring rain and nonstop lightning that it wouldn’t happen. We gave up and went to bed. And then we HEARD the whole show as we were trying to fall asleep. Oh well. It was terrible timing, but still overall a really good day.

I thought everyone would sleep in on Friday, but no deal! They LOOK tired, but they were wrestling and attacking each other all morning.

Shepard and I decided to make some beignets. He’s been wanting to do it since we saw them make beignets on The Chef Show. That show is seriously just a wealth of food making inspiration. I think we’ve created something from almost every episode! I was watching one of the last episodes this morning when they were making and eating breakfast tacos – I was so insanely jealous. I think I’m going to watch the season all over again and actually write down all the ingredients they use for the more complicated recipes.

This is how many we had left after we already ate our fill! I thought they turned out okay. Not really as good as I had imagined. I’d like to try the famous ones in New Orleans someday.

I’m not sure what I did the rest of the day other than make pizza!

Saturday was another fun family day. I woke up really early and decided to go to the farmers market because it’s been a long time since my last visit. Unfortunately, storms struck AGAIN and I never even got out of the car. I waited out the thunder and lightning at a grocery store, but it was still raining too hard to stop at the market. If I was just heading home afterward I probably would have risked it, but I didn’t want to be wet the next few hours.

I met Greg and the boys at the theater and we watched the new Spiderman movie. It was really good! We had lunch at Portillo’s before coming home and spending the rest of the day just relaxing.

Today, amazingly, it was in the low 60’s when I got up! So we packed up the cats in their stroller and took the pets on a long walk around town. It was so nice! I wish every morning was like that. The boys were being extra cooperative, even cleaning out my car the first time I suggested it, in hopes of me not enforcing the noon rule on weekends. The rest of the day has just been very chill. Overall – a pretty great week!

Sunday Intentions

Oh, I just remembered what I did on Friday – spent THE ENTIRE DAY doing research, trying to plan a spontaneous vacation for the boys and I when I realized this upcoming week is basically the only one until the end of August that we don’t have some random plan on a Tuesday or Wednesday that would interfere with having a midweek trip. This is something I really wanted to do with them this summer, and just hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the logistics yet. After entertaining a ton of different options, I ended up going with the hotel that started my search in the first place – two nights at Three Bears Resort in Warrens. I’m really excited about it! We’re leaving on Tuesday morning and coming home on Thursday night. I think it’ll be a lot of fun and great opportunity for long lasting memories together. Most of the time I’m totally fine with being the unfavored parent, but sometimes it feels good to be the one that can do something spontaneous and special with them. Plus it gives Greg a few nights to himself, which NEVER happens. Annie’s even going to go on her own mini vacation to Grandma’s, so Greg won’t have to deal with her.

Since that trip is basically our whole week, there’s not much time for anything else. I started some dolls last night, which I intended to finish today, but I’m not making much progress. Hopefully I can get them done by morning since I won’t have time to work the rest of the week. I also need to do a bit more research and figure out something we can do on Tuesday before our 4pm check in time. Despite only living an hour away, we don’t spend much time in the Dells, so surely there is something unique we can check out before heading further north.

So my intentions for this upcoming week? Have fun, be patient, make memories. I want to totally go with the flow and let the boys dictate how we spend our time on the trip. I realize I’m very lucky to have the option of doing things like this and I want to make the most of it.

Have a good week!

July 2019 Goals


Time for July goals. I’ve been struggling with this – mostly because I have so many abstract ideas of how I’d like this month to play out, but feel like putting them all out there is just going to set myself up for failure. I’m fortunate in that July and August are almost always completely open to whatever I want to do. It seems like I should really take advantage of that and not force myself to buckle down and feel like I NEED to do anything. I’m very good at staying on task the rest of the year, why not live it up a little in summer? At the same time, I like having goals. I like working toward accomplishments that I can be proud of. The more unstructured I am over a stretch of time, the more stressed out and frustrated I get with everything. So, goals need to be made. And if they’re not met? It’ll be okay.

1 – Live by the mantra “No Extras”

So I’m going to Book Bonanza in just over a month. It’s going to be a really expensive solo vacation. I need to seriously cut out ALL extra spending this month to save up and prepare and allow myself to go on this trip without any guilt or worry. I need to muster up some discipline and say no to all the random things I pick up for myself at my favorite stores and online shops. I want to cut out business purchases too, unless it’s something I genuinely need in my day to day operations – not like an order of new fabric just because it’s pretty. It helps that the boys will have to come with me any time I want to go somewhere starting tomorrow, so that’ll definitely cut back on actual trips to stores. I’ve been thinking it’d be a great time to start doing online grocery shopping too – where we won’t even have to step foot into the stores and avoid spontaneous purchases. (Kids want A LOT of things!) And online things…better to not even look. Delete those sale emails before they ever get opened!

2 – Work as much as possible to earn a break in August

Same as #1 – the more money I can make this month, the better. If the boys are outside playing with friends and we don’t have any other plans for the day, I want to be working. Sewing IS my job and I can’t be so laid back about it. Not this month. My goal is to really try my hardest and feel like I earned at least a solid two weeks of vacation time in August.

3- ENFORCE the No Screens Before Noon rule

I wrote up all the components of this new rule last night and hung it on the fridge. Shockingly, the boys seemed totally fine with it. They thought it was hilarious that one of the suggestions for things to do in the morning was “Do something fun with Mom.” Their response? “You’re not fun! You don’t even know how to run!” So apparently running is the epitome of a fun time. My goal is to really stay strong with this and hopefully after the first few days they won’t even think to ask me to change my mind. I’m considering forcing myself to stay away from screens in the morning too… It would certainly encourage me to get a whole lot more done.

4 – Go to at least 3 Madison dog parks

I’m sure it’s probably the same everywhere, but the Columbus dog park is SO ridiculously overrun with mosquitoes right now that it’s miserable being there. And if last year is any indication, the mosquitoes will still be there and even worse, well into October. That’s not the reason I want to go to Madison, it’s just a good nudge to try someplace new. I’ve been wanting to take Annie to new dog parks all year and could never find the time. At least with the boys along it’s more of an adventure for all of us. Plus we can pack picnics and make a whole morning of it.

5 – Read my shelves, including at least 2 nonfiction books

My TBR shelves are really full. I want to start working through them and weeding out the ones I don’t want to keep around forever (and make room for more new ones!). I’d also really like to finish the two nonfiction books I started last month, Introverted Mom and Burnout. Maybe if I set a goal of reading at least a chapter a day from either of them? Before my fiction?

6 – Make a wish list of things to do with the boys this summer

Hopefully this will happen tomorrow! I don’t want to be super ambitious, but I do want to get a solid list of things we can do before school starts. It’d be nice to get the boys’ input so there are things on the list they’re actually looking forward to and not just things that I think sound fun.

7 – Be intuitive to what I need – emotionally, physically, mentally

So this is pretty abstract. But I usually know what I actually need to be happy and healthy and more often than not, I ignore it to power through with whatever feels most pressing on my to do list. While I DO want to keep making a lot of dolls this summer, I also want to rest and read and enjoy my kids. I’d like to learn to be more in tune to my needs AND feed them.

What I Read June 2019

My goal for June was to only read books that delighted me. I wanted stories that would bring me joy and laughter, without having to think too hard. Interestingly, I ended up reading about a lot of mental health struggles. But for the most part, I really enjoyed most of the books I picked up.

Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a delicious rom com of a book that I read in a single evening. College student Anna finally gets into a Russian Lit class she’s been dying to take for the last two years, only to find out her hot professor is actually the mysterious man she ran away from in a restaurant months earlier. Luca, the professor, is enamored with Anna but determined to ignore and push her away as both a student and a woman. From what I can understand, this book was written in weekly installments for fans through Penny Reid’s newsletter. With that in mind, I think it could have used a bit more editing and some clarification behind the handful of Luca chapters and what kinds of things he was going through. But the Anna chapters – most of the book – were an absolute delight! The story was funny and smart and the perfect tingly escape from reality. Loved it!

The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 5* stars

This is another delightful book that I read in a single day. I’m so bummed it’s only on kindle because I really want the paperback to add to my shelf of books I’ll re-read again and again. Honestly, this book was definitely predictable, but it was also so much fun. 17 year old Sadie is known for being the ultimate good girl. At the retirement home where she likes to hang out, she made a Carpe Diem list of things she’d like to do to be more of a bad girl. Her best friend and life long secret crush finds the list and together they enroll the help of his twin brother – her arch nemesis and well known bad boy – to coach her on breaking rules and branching out a little. While the title of this book is quite literal in terms of the story, I really wish it had a sweeter name instead of implying Sadie is really going to be a “bad girl.” This is a totally PG rated YA romance that made me swoon.

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rating: DNF

I really wanted to love this book. I made it 45% in and I just couldn’t read a page more. There was nothing wrong with it, per se. I just wasn’t connecting with it. Something about the very quirky characters, yet told in third person point of view, made it feel oddly impersonal. The internet tells me third person POV is the most common in all storytelling, but I don’t think that’s true in like 90% of the books I read. It felt very off to me. Anyway, I might consider picking it up again in the future, but I’m determined to only read books this month that absolutely delight me and as adorable as the two main characters seemed, it just was not hitting the spot.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rating: 3.5 stars

I was so excited about the premise of this book – you know how much I love a good epistolary novel. While I definitely enjoyed it overall, it took me a really long time to get into. There was a lot of build up for what turned into a very slow and gentle romance. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It just wasn’t what I was expecting, or necessarily wanting in this month of only reading delightful things. As a whole, it’s still pretty weird to think that any man and woman would agree to a living arrangement where they share a bed and flat, but only for their half of the day. But the supporting characters are all skeptical enough about the arrangement, that you end up being okay with it. I really liked Tiffy and Leon and how they were both so genuinely kind and supportive of each other.

Pen & Ink: Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald
Rating: 4 stars

I randomly saw this book somewhere online and was highly intrigued so I immediately got it from the library. It’s a look at some of the interesting tattoos people have gotten and a brief story behind them. I love the glimpses into the lives of strangers and what made them decide to get sometimes completely random and sometimes filled with meaning permanent inking on their body. The foreword explains why they decided to do the tattoo drawings in ink (art is art), but I think this book could have been SO much more compelling with photographs. Then again, I LOVE photography as my favorite artistic medium, so maybe I’m just bias. The drawings of the tattoos kind of left a lot to be desired, but the brief stories – written by the people with the tattoos – were incredibly interesting. It was a fun book to just sit down and read in an hour as something totally different from the types of things I usually read.

Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 5 stars

This was a beautiful story about finding hope and love in the midst of grief and sorrow. Trigger warnings for sure with loss of a parent and loss of a spouse. The first thirty or so percent of the book is the sweet and budding friendship between high schoolers Eleanor and Greyson as Ellie is about to lose her mother to cancer. The story picks up again sixteen years later when she is hired as a nanny to Grey’s two daughters after the loss of his wife. I guess, presumptuously, I assumed this book was mostly going to be a steamy romance. It was recommended highly in my Book Bonanza group which is almost all romance authors. I grabbed the book and started reading without even knowing the synopsis. A steamy romance book this was not! Which was fine. It was beautiful and paced in a way that made sense and gave the characters a chance to truly discover their feelings for each other. I really enjoyed it.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Rating: 3 stars

I have many mixed thoughts on this book. It was slow. It took me forever to read. I almost DNF’d it multiple times. The writing style was somewhat detached and skipped over so many details of the characters’ lives that I felt like I was missing out on so much. But the writing itself was beautiful and poignant. There was a chunk of the book that I really loved. And then it got dark. Ultimately, (sort of a spoiler) despite what was written on the very last page, the message I took from this book is that if you have a family history of mental illness, you are doomed and any offspring you create are also doomed to a life of hardship and pain. The second half of this book was so depressing. I wanted to finish it and I’m glad I did, but it never reached that uplifting turn I was so sure would come. This book really didn’t fit in with my June theme of books that delight me, but I also don’t think it’s one I’ll forget anytime soon.

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
Rating: 3 stars

Hockey player Caleb has a bit of a PR nightmare on his hands and is forced by his coach and the team’s publicist to join a dating app where his mom will pick his match. Zara is a miniatures artist who spends every waking minute working. Her best friend convinces her to join the app because it’ll help out her dad with his new dream of becoming an actor while also improving her sex life. Overall, I thought the premise of this book could have used a lot of work. It was so obviously just a half hearted attempt at something original, but the consistency with everything related to the the app/company, the improving of image, the parental involvement, etc. was really weak. That being said, it was still a cute and fun book with very likeable main characters.

Kissing Galileo by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

After reading Kissing Tolstoy earlier this month, I was very excited to learn that Penny Reid was right about to release her next weekly newsletter installment written book. I really enjoy the falling for your teacher trope, though it’s not forbidden in this series – I have no idea if that’s true in real colleges or not. At any rate, this was another fun and genuinely enjoyable book that I wanted to drop everything for to keep reading. I loved Emily’s character, I liked Victor. I liked the additional storyline surrounding Victor’s huge weight loss and body image frustrations. I do think there’s an obvious downside to releasing a book chapter by chapter – there are things brought up early in the book that are never referenced again, which is a little irritating to me. If it had been released as a book only it might have flowed a little better. But other than that, I really liked this one.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars

Re-reading a favorite book is like a sweet visit with an old friend. I’m so glad I decided that re-reading books was definitely worth my time this year. I was really craving an escape that was guaranteed to give me all the feels. This one takes place during the summer and felt like the perfect fit for this month. And I loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around. I think Porter might be one of my favorite book boys ever. At least in YA. He is kind and sweet and funny and so very attentive, remembering everything about Bailey and using the knowledge to demonstrate how much he likes her. As always, I adore a book that begins in an anonymous online/written friendship, though it plays a pretty small role in this story. This book makes me so happy and I highly recommend it if YA is your genre.

The Peach Truck Cookbook by Jessica and Stephen Rose
Rating: 4 stars

I pre-ordered this cookbook the minute I heard the owners of Tree Ripe Fruit were releasing it. It conveniently coincided with being delivered two days before the peach truck made its stop in Columbus. I read through it right away and was interested to hear the story behind the truck and see how passionately the owners feel about peaches and connecting people with fresh, ripe fruit. There were a large variety of recipes, but I honestly felt a little too overwhelmed to actually make any of them. Not that they were hard or anything. I just wanted to stick with all the usual things I do with my 25 pound box. I’m not really sure how often I’ll reach for this cookbook – probably only once every summer before the truck comes. But it was nicely written with a lot of great photographs and ideas.

The Other Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 2.5 stars

It was really hard to decide a rating for this book. Honestly, it is SO depressing. It’s about depression and the point of the book is to bring more awareness to what it’s like to be depressed and suicidal. With that in mind, it certainly achieved its purpose. But it was a tough read. It was definitely tied up nicely in the end, which I wasn’t so sure was going to happen. But it was a slog to get there. I was so angry at all the characters and the decisions they made to not let simple truths be told – things that could have helped Toby SO MUCH if he just knew. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, I just did not like this book very much.

Beauty and the Professor by Skye Warren
Rating: DNF

I really hesitate to add this DNF book to my monthly recap. I made it about 40% in and just couldn’t take it anymore. I was drawn to this book because it had great reviews and because the author is going to be at Book Bonanza and I’m madly trying to read as many authors as I can before I go. I was intrigued by this one because I love Beauty and the Beast retellings and the next day it happened to be free on amazon, so why not? But first of all – this is straight up erotica. Which is fine, sometimes I might be in the mood for that. But most of the time I want a whole lot more emotional connection and substantial plot building before you jump right into things on the first page. It was pretty ridiculous. After reading a lot of fluffier books this month, I was ready to set it down and move on.

June 2019 Reflections

We’ve officially survived 1/3 of summer! I think overall, June went pretty well. It definitely helps to have the boys in summer school, giving all of us the structure we really need. I definitely felt guilty when I saw so many people I know going on trips and taking their kids to do really exciting things every day. We were more in survival mode over here. I’m sure I’ll do my best to give us some grand adventures in July and August, but for June I really liked the simplicity of every day being pretty much the same, with a weekly walk to the farmers market and lots of nighttime swimming at the pool. My kids really thrive on simplicity. I’ve learned my lesson time and time again in past summers that when I think taking them somewhere is going to be amazing, they usually end up hating it. It doesn’t stop me from trying, but it does help me not feel so guilty when we go weeks without anything “special.”

I only had four goals for June and I’m not sure I really did that great at accomplishing them. But…it’s summer. Here’s a quick recap.

1- Read like it’s my job!

I only managed to read 11 books. I gave up on two. One of the 11 was a cookbook and one was a pretty short book I read in an hour or less. I really did try to only pick out books that brought me joy, however. It was just hard to find the time and the justification to read a lot. The garage sale took a massive amount of my time the first half of the month and work swallowed up the second. I really wanted to read two amazing nonfiction books that I felt would set me up for some better mental health this summer, but I rarely sat down with them. They will probably be added to my July goals.

2 – Have one awesome fresh start clutter clearing garage sale

We did it! I think it was actually really successful too! We priced everything so cheaply because we truly just wanted to get rid of it. The last day we did fill a bag for $1, which cleared out probably 2/3 of what we had left after the first two days. The only downside is that it’s now been over two weeks and we still haven’t finished cleaning up from the sale. Greg took all the remaining clothes to Goodwill immediately that day. And he’s slowly been cleaning out the piles and piles of empty tubs. But some of the tables are still set up, all of the books, most of the random household stuff. We’re maybe going to donate it to the preschool garage sale in town, but it’s still a matter of packing it up and bringing it over there. It feels like too much work.

3 – Embrace the chaos

I feel like I did well at this. Though I might only feel that way because I’m having a relatively good day TODAY. I know I’ve had my share of emotional meltdowns too. It’s hard having everyone home almost all the time. It’s harder having all of them home and feeling like I have to spend my entire day making food and cleaning up after them because nobody can be bothered to help me no matter how many times I ask. Clearer rules and more emotional fortitude on my part need to be woven into our days to make the rest of summer a success.

4 – Designate Writing Wednesdays to work on my Hope*Writers course

Ugh. Fail. AGAIN. I think I did one video lesson earlier in the month. And I wrote one blog post beyond my usual weekly/monthly posts. Not great!! Wednesdays ended up being really busy out of the house days. But that’s not really an excuse. I just decided to devote most of my time to other pursuits. I’m not sure assuming I’ll find any real writing time during the summer is a good idea. Obviously I hope to! But I think forcing myself to have a solid day devoted to it is something I should wait until fall for.

I’m not as concerned about sticking with my goals in summertime, but it’s still nice to have them to try and guide my time and energy. June felt like kind of a bust, but I have some good ideas stewing for July!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 06.30.2019

So much for writing four blog posts in one day, huh? It ended up taking me almost the entire day to finish up the batch of dolls I was working on. Reminding me once again, that as awesome as it is to finish them up and make some immediate sales, I NEED to stop working so much on weekends and nights. I’d really prefer to use this time for more enjoyable and relaxing pursuits. It’d also be nice not to have my usual weekend meltdown because – gasp – my children actually want to be fed real meals and I need to force myself to stop what I’m doing, no matter how important it feels TO ME AND ME ALONE, and take care of other things. But at the same time, it feels great to set myself up to start fresh on a Monday morning. Or in the case of this week, give myself maybe a few days off to enjoy the upcoming holiday festivities. Balance is so hard.

Anyway! I’m honestly so tired right now that I barely remember what happened this week. I know it rained a lot! Many storms, with increasingly hot temperatures and sluggish humidity. It really feels like summer now. I still haven’t made it to the pool myself, but Greg takes the boys and a slew of neighborhood kids almost every night. I’ll get there someday… In the meantime, I’m really appreciating our new air conditioner!

We went to the farmers market, as always, on Wednesday afternoon. Annie was the lucky one this week with a new fresh bone and some treats. I stocked up on mascarpone to eat with peaches. And the boys each got baked treats that they ate up right away.

Shepard and I have been watching The Chef Show and getting a lot of fresh cooking ideas, so we made some garlic pasta, cheese bread, and berry bowls for dinner on Wednesday. The pasta was a little too overpowering, but it was a good experiment.

The berry bowls were, in the words of Shepard, “the best dessert we’ve had in a long time!” I just bought a bunch of fresh berries and very slightly macerated them with turbinado sugar about half an hour before we planned on eating them. Then we stirred them up with a mix of the three mint leaves we’re growing (peppermint, sweet mint, and chocolate mint). I made a fresh whipped cream and added a big spoonful of the mascarpone to give it some added depth. With more sugar and a mint garnish on top! Fancy words for something super simple and SO delicious. If it weren’t so expensive to buy that many berries I’d make it every day!

On Thursday morning I went out to the annual peach truck arrive to buy my 25 pound box of peaches. It was SO hot, but I got there early and only had to wait in line about ten minutes.

My mom came over to baby/dog sit while Greg and I went on a long date. Annie was so excited to see her!

We had an spontaneously picked dinner at a place called Right Bauer that I’ve been wanting to go to. I didn’t like my chicken sandwich very much, but the fries were good and Greg liked the pork. It was a really cute place, just with a very limited menu. More of a beer lovers destination. It’s funny how many unique breweries we go to, but I don’t drink beer at all. I’m probably missing out.

Our main destination for the date night was a comedy show featuring Daniel Van Kirk (from one of my favorite podcasts, Penpals). But the time listed on the tickets was 8:00 and we found out just that evening that the show was actually at 10. So late!! With more storms happening, and not much energy (Greg’s been mildly sickish all week), we decided to go see the movie Yesterday in between dinner and the show. It was really good! We also really enjoyed the comedians. It was a very late night, though. Too late for me.

On Friday I had a dentist appointment and ran some errands. Then we joined in the little fireworks and sparkler celebration happening next door. Annie loved taking some dips in and drinks from the kiddie pool!

Saturday was a fun day! Finally some socialization! Shepard and I went to the neighbor’s house for a crafting day. I came home to take a nap after four hours, but Shepard stayed another three or four he was having so much fun. He loved having adults indulge all of his unique crafting ideas that I’m usually too tired or busy to try to figure out for him.

In the evening, Annie and I walked over to my friend Angela’s house for a bonfire. Annie had the greatest time playing with her new friend Ally! It was a really nice night out for me. It’s been forever since I’ve spent time with friends.

And today I worked! And did laundry, which turned into an all day project because the dryer did not want to dry my comforter and blanket. And made food. And took a nap! And now I’m ready for bed.

Sunday Intentions

I’m feeling a little apprehensive about this week. There are only two days left of summer school. I’m still not ready to have my kids home all the time. Caden gets SO “bored” ALL THE TIME. He’s going to make my life very, very difficult for the next two months. I’m strongly contemplating making a no screens before noon rule (I think I mentioned this last week!) to try and eliminate some of the whininess. And the waking up super early because he thinks he can play the minute he gets out of bed. It’ll hopefully help him be more cooperative for running errands and doing some fun activities as well if he doesn’t think he’s missing out on valuable game time. The problem, however, is with this new plan I don’t know when I’m going to work. I’m too tired in the afternoons. I might have to switch to ONLY working at night. Which I don’t like either. But mornings are for being out and about, afternoons are for reading and resting, and nights are for working? I don’t know. Normally I really cut back in summer, but I’m desperately trying to bulk up my vacation funds with two big trips coming up really soon. I don’t feel like I can afford to take time off this summer. Plus I have so many ideas for new dolls that I want to fit in before mid August when I need to start on fall themes.

My tentative plan for the week is to spend tomorrow running errands and then trying to figure out what the heck to do with the 15 or so pounds of peaches I have left. Yesterday I made a peach crumble to bring next door. I gave a bunch away to my mom and mother-in-law. The boys ate a ton of them right off the counter today. I made roasted peaches for lunch. I’m planning to make some peach salsa to go with dinner tomorrow. And maybe a peach sorbet. And maybe a peach pie (they made one on the last episode I watched of The Chef Show – more inspiration!). But there are still going to be so many left. And they’re all ripe and need to be used NOW.

Tuesday will be my last day with any time to myself, so I’m hoping to spend it just chilling. I’ve been accepting a few more custom doll orders, so I’d like to work on those this week, but probably nothing else new. A little lower pressure on myself.

Wednesday I’d really like to do something fun to celebrate the first “real” day of our summer. Maybe take Annie to a new dog park or something. Or just go to the pool during the day. We’ll see. The weather is looking very iffy all week, so I don’t want to get too set in any plans. Maybe we could check out the carnival in the evening.

Thursday is the 4th! We decided to go to Cedar Lake this year, IF the weather looks good. We’ll miss out on the parade (and my beloved once a year amazing cheese fries from the fire station fundraiser), but the boys will like going to the lake more. And depending on moods and timing and weather, maybe we’ll walk down to see the fireworks in town at night.

Friday will be a recovery day! And Saturday we’re going to see the new Spiderman movie. It will hopefully be a really fun week making lots of good memories!

What I Watched June 2019

It’s the last day of June and I have four blog posts to write today! Yikes! So much for spreading everything out this week. Busy, busy days. It didn’t feel like I watched as much as usual this month, but I guess the list is still pretty lengthy.

TV – Alone

iZombie

I’m so over this show. I think it’s the last season? I hope so anyway. I really miss the days when nobody knew Liv was a zombie and every week was just a procedural episode with her taking on the personality of whatever brain she needed to eat to solve the case. Now that it’s so political with zombies vs humans in the closed off Seattle, I really couldn’t care less.

A.P. Bio

I was devastated to hear this was cancelled! It may have never gotten much buzz, but I thought it was such an entertaining sitcom. I loved that classroom of nerdy misfits. I’m glad it at least was given a pretty great ending!

Dirty John

Ick. So I watched this because I listened to the podcast. Both based off of the true story. I do have to say that the tv show was really fantastically done. I thought Connie Britton did such a great job portraying Deborah. But John? SO CREEPY. Just thinking about the few days I binged this makes my skin crawl. They did a good job with it. I’m just so glad it was a single season and over.

The Bachelorette

Oh my goodness, Luke, GET OUT OF HERE. How can they devote so many episodes in a row to him?! This past week wasn’t quite as bad, but I still don’t understand why Hannah keeps him around when he’s so clearly the rotten egg of the bunch. I’m assuming it’s a producer decision because (Bachelor Nation experts) Knox and Jamie say the bachelor or bachelorette is only allowed to choose four to keep every week and producers get to make the rest of the choices. I’d say that Tyler is my top choice right now. He’s so cute and sweet and stays out of the drama. I really like Peter too because he’s just plain adorable. And I like Jed because he seems like a genuinely good guy. I really liked Garrett after the naked bungee jumping date and how he didn’t make any lewd comments or anything about the naked stuff. Which, by the way, I LOVE how Tyler defended Hannah’s honor to Luke by saying that he was happy she was able to have an experience that was important to her. All the heart eyes for Tyler. I liked how Garrett handled it, but I did not like how obnoxious he continues to be with Luke. Just get up and walk away and stay out of it.

Life in Pieces

This is turning into a Modern Family role in my life. I still enjoy it, but it lost some of its endearment to me. Though I think this was also unexpectedly cancelled and I only have two episodes left to watch.

Bless This Mess

This is an appropriate to show to watch while doing something else. I know it’ll never be a favorite, but I have enjoyed it!

The Chef Show

Shepard and I found this on netflix the other day and have watched a handful of episodes. It’s not exactly kid friendly in terms of language content, but he loves to watch the cooking aspects. I’ve always really enjoyed Jon Favreau, so I like seeing him in this totally random cooking show he put together.

Jane the Virgin

Not much to say about this. It’s okay. It’s almost over for good.

Younger

Is it just me, or did Liza and Charles suddenly become super awkward now that they’re together?? And is it also just me, or does it feel like they’re shooting the show with less camera filters or something and all the actresses seem so old and tired and wrinkled? I’m really hoping this season gets better than the first few episodes. I feel like Josh is still being dangled as an option, which is annoying. I was always Team Charles (though I love Josh! I just think he deserves better than Liza), but I don’t like them now that they’re an official couple. It feels so weird.

TV – Together

Umbrella Academy

I went from pretty meh to totally loving this show. The characters were all so unlikeable at the beginning. But I adore how they banded together at the end. I’m also so very happy that Klaus got his act together and became a much more interesting character once he stopped being doped up all the time. I’m excited there will be a second season.

You’re the Worst

This is pretty much what we watch every single day. I really love it. And they really are THE WORST. But the show is so good at throwing in punches of vulnerability and goodness, so you’ll never actually give up on the characters. I really like how they portrayed Gretchen’s depression in the second season. And I’m enjoying Edgar’s PTSD issues in season three. Jimmy is always highly entertaining. And I really like Paul. It’s a good show. I still can’t believe it was on for so long and I never once heard of it.

Good Omens

I was so excited about this show. I adore David Tennant and Michael Sheen. Together, it felt like such a fabulous pairing. And then we started watching and it was just SO not my thing. We made it through three episodes. I couldn’t stand watching the three others. So disappointed. I mean, I think it’s a very nicely put together show. But it’s not for me.

Derry Girls

We finally watched season two. So good! Everyone is so hilarious, I just love it. I really loved the finale when James was finally shown some love!

MOVIES

Always Be My Maybe

I’m not sure I can count this when I didn’t finish it. I think I got to the final 25 minutes and I just could not watch any more. To be fair, I watched this on my own when I felt like I SHOULD take advantage of having the tv to myself, but I also had a really amazing book waiting for me, so I was very distracted wanting to keep reading when I thought I should be watching. The movie was okay. So many people raved about it online, but it fell pretty flat for me.

Rocketman

Oh man. I am in love with Taron Egerton after seeing this. I didn’t even know who he was beforehand. He just did such an awesome, amazing, beautiful job portraying Elton John in his younger years. Those eyes! That jaw! His voice! Just to compare it to Bohemian Rhapsody since the movies are similar, I liked this one SO much more. Though it might mostly be because Taron Egerton is a lot hotter than Rami Malek (lol). I highly recommend it!

Yesterday

We just watched this a few days ago and both really enjoyed it. How can a movie filled with Beatles songs not be good?! I liked the main actor and his singing was nice. It was also a breath of fresh air to watch/see a music story that does not center around them doing drugs, having endless roadie sex, and basically ruining their lives. This had none of that, which made it so much more fun to watch. It was really good!

A Full Complete Happy Person

This afternoon I listened to the latest episode of a podcast called Empower Her that my friend Lexi recommended to me. This is the first time I’ve listened to this particular podcast and it was basically a 20 minute blast of hard truths, but things I (and probably many women!) needed to hear. The episode topic was on boundaries, which is definitely something I struggle with. But the thing that really jumped out at me is how many times the host, Kacia, said the words “what I need to do to be a FULL COMPLETE HAPPY PERSON.” That description really got me thinking about what I need in my own life to be a full complete happy person. I decided I definitely needed to make a list to help me remember these things when life starts feeling tough. I challenge you to write one as well!

Time to Myself

This is probably the biggest one. The biggest truth for all introverts, right? We need time alone to recharge. Not enough time to ourselves and we basically implode. This is the number one reason why summer is so hard on me. Even though my kids aren’t in my face and needing my attention every minute of the day, they’re still HERE. I crave quiet and solitude like I can’t live without it. I think the most important time of day for me is right when I wake up. I’ve always been a very early riser and I revel in that 30-90 minutes I often have before anyone else comes downstairs. But there are also days where a kid gets up early and follows me down the stairs. Those days my heart immediately sinks because most of the time it’s the kid that wants to talk talk talk and is doing his own reveling in some one on one attention. The one little extrovert of the family. Don’t think I’m terrible because I’m glad to have the bonding time with him too. But it sets me up for emotional exhaustion from the get go and it’s so hard to recover from that. I also really need time to myself in the afternoons to read and rest. It works out perfectly during the school year. It’s much harder in summer. And I always end my day alone, reading in bed. I essentially need a good chunk of time all three points in the day to feel the best. If I’m not getting those regularly, then I need to get out of the house and find it elsewhere – usually at a bookstore or movie or dog park or walk.

Daily Connection with Greg

Greg and I don’t have a ton of things in common. And we don’t honestly spend a whole lot of time together because he’s usually doing something with the boys whenever they’re all home (which is basically all the time). But I still feel like most of the time we have a pretty strong connection because we make a point of talking to each other throughout the day. He’s at a computer programming and is usually able to message with me throughout the day. I can tell him any random thing that comes to mind without feeling like I’m bothering him too much. Though I try not to be TOO annoying. We also end almost every single night watching a tv show together while he rubs my foot and ankle. It’s not a lot of time, it’s nothing extravagant, but it’s a routine that I think we both depend on to be in touch with each other despite all the distractions of family life. And we usually have one night a week where the grandparents take the boys, and we can spend more together. Once or twice a month we usually have a date night out of the house, which I think is our best way to connect.

Books

I don’t think I could survive without my books. I’m pretty sure a day has never gone by in my life without at least a few minutes to read. I NEED THEM. Reading is my greatest escape from reality and my all time favorite way to spend any available down time. Even when I’m not actually reading, I’m always on the hunt for more books, researching new authors, checking the weekly new releases, following bookstagrammers, meandering through bookstores, contributing to bookish conversations on facebook, tracking all of my own reading habits. It brings me such unadulterated joy. A day with little time to read is never a very good day.

Creative Outlets

Fortunately for me, being creative is my job. I love the thrill of creating something new. It’s how making ragdolls became such an obsession that turned into a pretty lucrative part time job. I hold that creativity so tight that I often struggle with accepting custom orders or remaking dolls that I’ve already done because it so strongly stifles my desire to always be thinking of something different and unique. Most of my creative energy is funnelled into doll making these days, but I used to direct it toward baking. Which I also still really enjoy, I just don’t have as many people or places to share the finished products with, so I try not to bake as often as the urge might strike. I also love being creative with decorating my house and putting together gifts for people.

Writing

Writing really is the greatest fuel for my emotional well being. It’s so cathartic as I gather my thoughts and spit them out into the world. Most of my writing is actually in the form of daily emails to my best friend. Which certainly helps maintain our almost 30 year friendship. But I do wish I could put more of that energy toward other writing projects. It’s just nice to have a response! I also go through spurts of writing journal entries, I just find it hard to get in the habit of that because there are always so many other calls on my time. I went through something really tough last fall, though, and writing extremely long journal entries is the only way that got me through it.

Female Friendships

This is the biggest hole in my life because it’s the hardest thing to accomplish on my own – I really need another person to have a fulfilling friendship! I think if I could design my perfect friendship life, it would be to have a standing weekly night out with maybe 1-3 other moms. Not enough of a demand on my time that it feels overwhelming, but often enough to really connect with a few people and truly feel like we care about each other. It feels so tricky for me because during the school year, the moms that are still available during the day almost all have young children and are only interested in getting together for play dates. I have no kids at home anymore, so of course I’m not asked out. I’m almost always available at night because Greg is a super parenting partner and our kids are rarely involved in things, but everyone else is SO BUSY. It’s nearly impossible to schedule something, especially once you get more than two people involved in the planning. Spontaneity is nonexistent and when it takes over a month, sometimes more, to actually get something on the calendar it ends up feeling pretty depressing. The last time I tried to get together with two of my closest friends it took us five months to find a time that worked. FIVE MONTHS. Even when I do get things scheduled, someone almost always cancels. And then I feel rejected. Honestly, I think of all my attempts to gather people together in the last year, I’ve been fully rejected at least 75% of the time. And maybe people just don’t like me! So I need to find the people that do. Female friendships, even in the busiest season of life, are so important. I truly believe that.

Close Extended Family

I think this is pretty important for general family happiness. We’re so lucky that our kids are growing up with grandparents so supportive and immersed in their lives. I’m so happy to have my mom, who I text totally ridiculous pet pictures to all day long because she’s the only one who would appreciate them. She’s probably the only person in the world I actually have a ton of things in common with, so I’m glad we have that bond. I do wish I were closer and relationships were easier with all our siblings. There sometimes feels like a lot of strain in those relationships and I honestly don’t think it’ll ever go away unless we spend a lot of time together just living life. And…that’s not going to happen. But it would be nice!

Good Food and Lots of Variety

I spend way too much time thinking about food. I honestly wish I didn’t. But…it’s also a great avenue for creativity and personal pride. I love finding that perfect cookbook that is going to provide me with a plethora of incredibly flavorful meals. I am obsessed with walking through every grocery store I ever come across, searching for unique chip flavors or spice blends or ethnic sauces or hearty breads or smoked cheeses. Whenever we go on vacation I spend so much more time searching for restaurants with delicious food than looking for things to actually do. I’m also constantly on the hunt for great new coffee companies and flavors, and most recently – hard candy companies (because hard candy helps me eat less!). I really love food, especially spicy food. And I love new and special treats. It adds a lot of joy to my life.

Exercise and Dogs

These go together because I basically don’t exercise without Annie at my side. (More accurately – pulling me down the sidewalk.) In those few months after I broke my ankle last year, I was LOSING MY MIND not being able to go on walks with her. In part because I know she didn’t understand it and was overly hyper and it was so frustrating not being able to do anything about it. But also because walking really is a great way to get fresh air, burn some calories, and just generally be healthier and happier. I’m struggling this month because my allergies are just so terrible I’m avoiding long walks at all cost. It sucks to know that as summer goes on the mosquitoes are also going to get even worse. But I’m definitely happiest getting a really long walk in first thing in the morning. I just need to be a whole lot better about actually doing it, even when it’s tough.

Space of My Own

Much like needing time to myself, I also need space to call my own. I’ve honestly been pretty selfish about it since we moved into our house three years ago. I have the entire dining room as my sewing room. Which I genuinely do need the space for because it is my real job and I spend every day there. But I’ve also basically claimed the living room as my own as well. It’s definitely the best room in the house. And everyone else is welcome to be in here, but there are no electronics in this room (except my computer). They like electronics more than an awesome room, so it’s mostly mine. Last year Greg bought me an amazing huge and cozy chair, and I really went all out making it into the best book reading corner of all time. I love it there. I can’t say this for my sewing room, but I do put a huge amount of effort into always keeping the living room clean. It’s a sacred space I can always count on to offer peace and quiet, even if the entire rest of the house is in disarray.

Solo Vacations

This is something I started maybe four years ago, when I decided to take a winter weekend trip to Galena on my own. Since then I’ve gone to Door County, Chicago, and Minnesota for solo vacations. Coming up in August I’m going to Texas on my own for six days! In November I’m going to North Carolina for five days. Honestly, even if it’s just a single night in a hotel room an hour away – it is SO WORTH IT. I see it as an absolutely necessary retreat for my soul, to get away from my life and to do lists and constant stress, just to spoil myself with great food, awesome shopping, beautiful nature spots, and endless time to read and relax. It might feel hard to justify the expense of a vacation by yourself. But it’s honestly about my favorite thing in the world. I can guarantee you it’s really helping me get through these harder days of summer, knowing I have an amazing trip coming up in less than two months. It’s going to be the perfect reset that’ll leave me refreshed and ready to tackle those final weeks of summer and the crazy pace of September.

Lots of Treats

Okay, so maybe I sometimes go overboard on this. But I try to keep myself motivated to get through the hard times with plenty of treats to bring me up. One of my favorite things is to get lunch at Qdoba or Chipotle almost every week after I’ve run all my errands. I also like to take special shopping days to my favorite stores when I know I need a break from life. I enjoy treating myself to a new book if something comes to my attention that sounds amazing. I sometimes splurge and order myself some special chocolate or candy that I won’t have to share with anyone. I am obsessive about taking an afternoon break every single day to read, at least try to nap, and then make myself an amazing cup of coffee when I wake up before I get back to work. I enjoy looking for little things that I know will make me happy – my most recent discovery is Maybelline Baby Lips. They’re so cheap and every single color makes your lips look amazing! I mentioned this a month or two ago, but gifts are my love language, and I’m not getting many gifts from other people (Greg got annoyed with me for saying this, but it’s the truth!). Which is fine! But it’s also why I gift myself things. It may sound super selfish if this is not your thing. But it’s a form of self love that truly keeps me happy and motivated and better equipped to deal with life when things are hard.

Well, this turned out to be quite the list! If you made it to the end – congrats! (lol) Now write your own list and refer back to it when you need a reminder of how to reset your life to become your own full complete happy person.

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 06.23.2019

I’ve been in such a writing rut lately. Not necessarily because I don’t have anything to say, but because I’m struggling with how honest to be. I’ve really been feeling the weight of judgment , or at least potential judgement, from my small audience base. I truly value vulnerability and authenticity when I listen or read things from others and hope to always let my own shine through, even if it’s not a shared opinion. But. I don’t like to be judged. Or rejected. Or seen as a bad parent or person, particularly in these three hardest months of the year for me. Every time someone tells me that summer is their favorite time of the year because they get to spend so much time with their kids it feels like a slap in the face of backhandedly telling me that there’s something wrong with me for hating it so much. I try to make the most of it. I really do. I chose to be a stay at home parent and I chose to continue being one, probably for the entire length of my kids’ childhoods. But I’m also not a stay at home mom at this point in our lives FOR THEM, the way I was when they were babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Now I’m home FOR ME. For my own career aspirations, for my introverted sanity, and for my general contentment with life. And having kids around me all day, with the added pressure of parenting them correctly with the perfect amounts of active time and reading time and limited screen time and proper meal eating – all while I’m TRYING TO WORK – it’s exhausting. And overwhelming. And sets me up to constantly feel like a failure at everything. But I don’t want to be seen as the parent who can’t stand her kids because that’s not the case either. It’s just so very hard. And I don’t often feel like I can be very honest about that anymore. Which stops me from sharing all together.

I’ve also been feeling the weight of loneliness. It continues to amaze me how much almost all of my friendships have fizzled out in the last year or two. Sometimes I’m busy, just like most people, and it’s easy to get distracted from the fact I almost never see my friends anymore. But sometimes it becomes jarringly obvious how empty my life has become without the awesome joy of getting together and sharing life with other women. What’s even more frustrating is that I sometimes meet new people and think that we could be the greatest of friends, IF friendship worked the way it used to when you were younger. If it WERE EASY. I don’t know how to make and keep real and lasting friends anymore. I’m so shy and then maybe I’m too honest and a major oversharer. I never know how to say the right things or just jump into an uncertain situation because I am so completely terrified of being rejected. I’ve become so awkward that I’ve decided it’s really just best to hide away and not even try anymore. But that doesn’t make the loneliness go away. It just makes it more of my own fault.

Anyway. Life slowed down a lot this past week. Which makes me think and dwell in my own emotions a lot more. Which maybe isn’t a very good thing and I should actually hope for the busier weeks? It WAS great to have almost nothing on the calendar. I think we all needed the reprieve after how crazy the week before was.

Because I’m only capable of handling one major project in my life at a time, I realized on Monday that I still really wanted to make a go of a garden, now that the garage sale was over. It felt too late to try and convert the sandbox the way we originally intended – maybe it can be a project for this fall and we’ll have it ready right away next spring. Instead I went the container garden route, putting all the pots right on my back steps where it will be literally impossible to ignore taking care of them. I went a bit crazy at the stores because all the plants were already on clearance. I ended up with EIGHTEEN different types of pepper plants. No doubles! And there were still a bunch of varieties I passed up. I also bought three kinds of mint to hopefully remember to add to iced tea. And Caden has his huge pot of chives that grows back every year that he just eats whenever he’s outside. Because I waited so long to buy the plants most of them already have mini peppers on them, so I think we will have a very successful crop in a few weeks!

On Tuesday I convinced the boys to go to an astronaut ice cream making event at the library. Shepard and Willow went to a slime making event a few weeks ago and loved it, so I hoped this would be similar. I didn’t take into account how busy it was going to be! We were in line for almost a whole hour with the boys touching and irritating each other the entire time. We finally made the ice cream and took it outside to eat, but I didn’t realize the heavy door was going to slam shut behind me and it knocked Shepard’s right out of his hands. Of course he immediately burst into tears, so we rushed home and made some pretty extravagants malts ot make up for it!

Wednesday was a big work day and a big food prep day. My one big labor intensive meal of the week was this huge bowl of corn salsa and some spicy pork tenderloin tacos. Pork is something we almost never, ever eat (except bacon!), but it turned out fantastic! You could barely tell it wasn’t chicken. 🙂

I ran my Monday errands in Beaver Dam, but realized by Thursday I really needed to make a few Madison stops, so I spent another day out and about. I only had time to get to about half the stores I wanted to (darn those short summer school hours!), but I did make it to Joann’s where they were having some incredible sales on things I use all the time and rarely drop in price. So worth it. Then Caden had a friend unexpectedly come over for rest of the day. Another thing I’m trying to adjust to this summer since I guess it’s now going to be a thing – extra kids here that I’m not used to. Extra kids that sometimes make me realize how amazing the kids I AM used to really are. To all the neighborhood kids – you are great and we are so lucky.

Friday was just a big work day. I also spent a lot of time on food prep making individual pretzel crust pizzas. And I took Annie to the dog park in the evening. Poor girl is not getting nearly enough exercise lately. I hope to make it up to her once the grass allergies settle down. Which will hopefully happen ASAP.

Saturday was a huge day! It started bright and early at the park for a kids mini triathlon. I was obsessively checking the weather all week because storms were forecast, but it ended up being a beautiful day! Shepard’s youngest age group went first biking one mile, running 1/4 mile, and swimming 24 yards. He did it all in about 7 minutes! Caden’s group which ended up being kids 9-15, had to bike two miles, run one mile, and swim 100 yards. He finished in 19 minutes. I was very impressed and proud of both of them! It was a really nice event that ended with t-shirts and medals and free hot dogs and chips and popsicles.

I took Annie to the dog park again afterward for awhile. Then Shepard went to a birthday party for the afternoon, Greg went to play Dungeons & Dragons, Caden played games, and I took a nap.

We finished the night at the Mallard’s baseball game. It was Greg’s work’s annual outing, though this year was a little different because they had us in the backyard section – almost ground level with the far outfield. We had to bring our own chairs, but we still got unlimited food from what they provided. I wasn’t too sure at first, but it ended up being really relaxed and fun. I was worried about mosquitoes with a night game, but I didn’t even notice them!

After being outside all day, my eyes were in pretty bad shape. Downfall of this whole weekend. I’m still trying to recover and I’ve barely gone outside at all today.

There was a free balloon station, so Shepard spent most of his time there getting additions put on his giant rocket pack. He was also making new friends with kids in line. It was pretty much one of the best days of his life!

We always take my parents to this game for my dad’s father’s day present.

Caden was surprisingly really into the game, watching the whole thing and keeping track of all the outs. Maynard the Mallard came through blasting out t-shirts and he got one! His third new shirt of the day. He was really excited! Overall, it was really a perfect night. We stayed till the very end to watch the fireworks show too. I wish every day went as well as yesterday!

And then there’s today. Would you like to know how my day started and swing back around to how this post started? Caden spent about two hours sitting on a chair next to me while I worked whining and crying and begging and yelling and poking me and tapping his chair, all in attempts to convince me he should be able to play games. Greg wants me to buckle down on limiting his screen time more, so I had to keep saying no. But let me tell you, that was a REALLY FUN TIME while I was desperately trying to finish up these mermaids as early as possible so I wouldn’t have to spend the whole day on them. But I finally got them done around noon, about four hours longer than I expected to have to work on them. I’ve sold six of the eight already, so they were a good idea, I think! Not my favorite of creations, but I do really love their mixed yarn hair. It was fun to do something different.

Sunday Intentions

Ahead we have a medium busy week. The last full week of summer school, and maybe my last week to reserve a little bit of sanity and alone time? I’m hoping to put off errand running until Wednesday, trying to get another batch of dolls done in the next two days. I want to hit up the farmers market on Wednesday, though I’m also contemplating getting to the Madison one as well. And on Thursday night Greg and I are going to see the comedian Daniel Van Kirk at a show he’s doing with Andrew Young (I don’t know who Andrew is, but LOVE Daniel Van Kirk). I think it’ll be a really fun date night and extra nice that it’s actually in Madison so we don’t have to deal with going to Milwaukee! And then on Friday I have a dentist appointment. Not so fun.

My intentions for the week are to pace myself with basically everything. It’s the end of the month so I have all my usual posts to write. Which I absolutely love doing! But it’s time consuming. I definitely want to make at least one, hopefully two, more batches of dolls. They are all selling out so quickly (which is great!), but it’s so hard to keep my shop stocked with enough to bring in new customers. I’d also like to start working on a plan for the rest of summer. I feel like such a slacker when I see all the non-summer school taking moms doing all these day trips and fun things every day, when I can barely even keep my eyes open by the time my kids get home. We always plan our summers this way with fun activities saved for July and August, but we also usually have those activities written down by now. I’m considering implementing an overarching rule of no screens before noon. Perhaps that’ll eliminate most of the fights that always arise when we need to run errands or I want to do something that sounds really fun, but they (“they” being Caden) think sounds like torture. I’m assuming the first few days of that kind of rule will be horrendous, but maybe they’ll get used to it??

Well, that’s about it for now. I have lots of mermaids to pack up and more dolls to start. Hopefully this week won’t be filled with quite so much emotional angst.

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 06.16.2019

Today I’m celebrating the fact that the hardest week of summer is already behind me! Well, I’m assuming it will have been the hardest week. The dreaded garage sale week. I have a huge sense of relief that it’s now behind me, though I’m not exactly jumping for joy because it was a pretty tough week. Again. Mostly because I somehow thought having a garage sale that would require me to be outside every possible minute for a week straight smack dab in the worst of allergy season would be a good idea. Um, no. It was a TERRIBLE idea. No wonder I’ve thought I had my allergies mostly under control the last few years – I was just being smart and going outside as little as possible! This year I was STUPID. Ugh, these last four days have been terrible. Can June just be over??

Ignoring the fact I was pretty sure I was going to either go blind or flat out die multiple times a day, the week went pretty smoothly. We were all too busy to have time to be in bad moods. (Trust me, it caught up to us this weekend, though!) The boys both started summer school on Monday and found enough friends in their classes that they’re pretty content with going every day. Caden also had a basketball camp immediately after school Monday through Thursday. He was disappointed he didn’t know anyone there and I think it was a hard pill for him to swallow that he wasn’t instantly a basketball star. But he didn’t complain about it and I’m proud of him for actually wanting to try something. Three of his summer school classes are basically gym classes, so after six hours of being fully active every day, we really just let him play video games all evening. Shepard alternated between games and friends and helping us set up the sale.

On Tuesday my mom came over and we worked all day to get just about everything set up that we could in the garage. But my greatest accomplishment was making this Chile con Carne from my Tex Mex cookbook I raved about a few months back. I’m not really a fan of chili in general because I don’t eat beans, I don’t like beef (only in tacos!), and big chunks of tomato are a turn off. (I don’t like noodles either, though we’re not noodle in chili people where I grew up!) But I was intrigued by this recipe with no beans, no tomatoes, WITH BACON, and a cacophony of amazing spices with a homemade chili paste. I made it in the crockpot in the morning and the smell all day long was driving me wild. It didn’t disappoint either! SO delicious. But also crazy spicy. Greg seemed irritated with the spice level and Caden kept smacking his head it was so hot. Shepard, who usually tends toward milder eating habits, actually loved it as much as me, though. I was just so excited to find a new beef recipe that we’d all at least eat!

I spent Wednesday morning running errands and afternoon making a couple batches of chex mix and cookies. Then we went out to dinner with Greg’s parents to celebrate Steve’s birthday a few days late and Father’s Day a few days early.

Shepard just really loves trying to take over every holiday and celebration and make it about him!

Thursday was go time! I made a couple more batches of cookies in the morning, just to be safe. In hindsight, I really should have made the cookies smaller, but I wanted them to be big and soft and extra appealing, so I used the muffin scoop for all of these. I’m pretty certain we didn’t even come close to making a profit since each batch only made about 10 cookies! I got smarter when I was making cookies late Thursday night and used the next size scoop down.

I somehow thought it was going to be pretty leisurely getting everything set up, but my mom and I were practically running to get everything up and going by noon like I had wanted. We had SO MUCH STUFF. And I wanted as much out on the driveway as possible for all the people that just slowly drive by to see if it’s worth stopping. Our garage is so far from the road that we need a good driveway draw!

We stayed open until 7pm on Thursday and sales were pretty steady. It might have been busier if I had had more time to strategize my advertising tactics. I just ran out of time. We had our prices super cheap because we were really just desperate to get rid of everything, not trying to make a lot of money. It was fun how excited all the customers were about the prices. I think almost every single person told us what they were going to use the things for and how happy they were to find such great deals. That part of the sale was really fun! I have so few interactions with people in my daily life that it felt really good to have so many positive ones in such a short span of time.

I let the boys stay home from summer school on Friday with the agreement that they had to help me run the sale and could not play games. You can see in the photo that Caden went against that from the start. Then they came up with some sort of rule that whoever was at the stand when a customer came was the one who would get the money and only one of them could be there at a time. So they were at each other’s throats fighting all morning about who got the customer and the money. We kept saying that they should just split the money evenly, but they were way too competitive to make that happen. Just dealing with them fighting and crying and screaming at each other made Friday much more stressful. Annie was also a lot more antsy and was sitting at the window behind our heads whimpering and whining ALL EIGHT HOURS.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault, though I also don’t think it would have happened if one of them had actually been sitting at the stand, but it was super windy on Friday and it knocked the umbrella over that was next to the lemonade stand and everything crashed to the ground. We got it all cleaned up and remade some more lemonade in a pitcher, but they were both just totally over it by then.

We had a lull in customers in the afternoon and I was so tired and itchy and sneezy that I was ready to just lay on the ground and take a nap. Instead Shepard and I ran to Kwik Trip to get some “fancy” coffee drinks to try and perk us all up.

I woke up early on Saturday with renewed vigor and made three more batches of cookies – making that 14 total batches almost entirely sold in the 2.5 days we were open!

Caden was at a sleepover birthday party, so the three of us stayed open until noon and ran a $1 fill a bag special. I was enormously entertained at how full people were stuffing their bags! Overall, I think the sale was a huge success. No, we didn’t make a ton of money, but we made enough that I think it was worth the effort. Our main objective was to just get rid of everything and we did pretty good! I basically had an emotional meltdown by the time it ended, I was just so wiped out and sick of trying to shred my eyes out of my head they were so itchy. Greg sent me in to take a nap and by the time I woke up he already had most of the stuff packed for Goodwill and had taken all the borrowed tables back to their owners! I just couldn’t really deal with anything anymore, so Greg took the boys to his parents for the evening and I stayed home to clean the house, trying to bring some sort of normalcy back to our lives for this week!

And that brings us to today, Father’s Day. For perhaps the first year ever, we decided to stay home and have a chill day to ourselves. We all needed the break after how exhausting the week was. Though it’s honestly turned out to be kind of a bummer of a day. Even with low expectations, things never work out the way I think they’re going to. The boys are cranky and full of attitude. I’m cranky because I’m so dang tired. Greg’s cranky because we’re cranky and ruining his day. Instead of just relaxing, he’s spent hours sanding our kitchen table so I could restain it, he worked more in the garage, he mowed and trimmed the lawn. Our meal schedule was thrown off because he sleeps in and eats breakfast around the time we’re all ready for lunch. So we had a “lunchish snack” at 11, but the boys and I were pretty hungry a few hours later. I ended up ordering pizza, Greg’s meal of choice, but then he wasn’t very hungry so it was a waste of the good meal he picked. This is a regular weekend problem we have, but I thought I had it figured out, but…I was wrong. So now we’re all just doing our own thing and maybe by tonight we can be happy and eat the special dessert I made him. Hopefully? I’m really just over holidays. There are too many of them. And they’re always a let down.

Sunday Intentions

So that was probably all WAY more than you needed or wanted to know about our garage sale! But hey – it’s over! I don’t have to talk about it ever again! 🙂 I am now blissfully looking forward to our week ahead. Life is going to SLOW DOWN. For real. I’m going to make it.

The only thing on the agenda for the next few days is summer school! There’s a fun looking library program Tuesday afternoon we might stop in at. And I want to go to the farmers market on Wednesday if it isn’t raining this week. Otherwise…nothing. I am planning to WORK. I am so excited to start sewing again. It always feels amazing after a little break. And it feels reassuring to notice how much I missed it! Plus the end of June and most of July are a rare time of year when I don’t NEED to be sewing for a specific holiday. So many months of the year are dedicated to that, but in summer I finally have a bit of freedom to be more creative.

Our only big day this week is Saturday. The boys are both going to do mini triathlons in the morning! I really hope the weather holds out because I think it’ll be so fun for them! Then Shepard is going to a birthday party. And then we’re all going to the Mallard’s Game for Greg’s work appreciation day. It should be a really fun day if we get good weather!

Well, that’s about it. I think I’m going to head out to the dog park with Annie and finally let her get out some of her pent up energy. And, you know, start up the allergy attacks again. 🙂