Late Summer Vacations in Minnesota and La Crosse

This has been a whirlwind of a week, finishing our three mini vacations of the summer – all right in a row. We had our Fox Lake cottage vacation last weekend with Greg’s parents. Monday was the one normal day of packing and laundry and getting everything organized. And then first thing Tuesday I was off on a solo trip to Minnesota. On Thursday I drove down to La Crosse and met up with Greg and the boys for two nights of family vacation. Overall, I had a lot of fun, did a lot of shopping, looked at a lot of books, and ate a ton of delicious food. But there were also a ton of internet related frustrations in Minnesota and bug related stress in La Crosse. A trip can never just be perfect, right?

I started my journey with a stop at Great Harvest Bread Co. in the Dells. I’ve never been there before and was hoping to find some kind of bread to have on hand for the rest of the week in case the hotel breakfasts were disappointing (and they were). They didn’t really have much bread, but the entire store was filled with bags of these mocha chocolate chip biscotti, so I picked one up. They were delicious!

I planned on eating lunch in Eau Claire, but got to town too early. I drove around, expecting there’d be a shopping area off the main highway I could just hang out at for a little while, but I didn’t have any luck. I eventually found my way to a Festival grocery store so I could go to the bathroom. I made it to Milwaukee Burger Co. right when it opened. Their menu looked fantastic and I chose just a simple fried chicken, pickle, and special sauce sandwich with a side of their enormous cheese curds. Very tasty, but very filling.

My next stop was at Bibelot in St. Paul. It’s a really fun gift type store that I always enjoyed going to when I lived there. I also grabbed a cold brew from Starbucks because I was already dragging and my day had hardly begun!

My main reason for picking Minnesota as a vacation destination was to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing in Edina. I’ve never been to a book signing and when I realized there was one within driving distance it seemed like the perfect reason to plan a solo vacation. Anyway, it became really annoying when I realized to actually get a seat at the signing and guarantee of her actually signing my book, I had to purchase a book AT their location. They had 100 wristbands that they gave out between when the latest book came out (July 17) and the signing (August 7). 100 isn’t very many for a very popular author in a huge metropolitan area! So I ordered a book to be picked up that day, and then called to ask about the wristband. He told me that because I asked, and he still had 5 or 6 left, he’d put a wristband in my book. And then he realized they only have a 5 day hold and I ordered the book 6 days early. So I had to order a second book (technically a third because I already owned one from amazon to read on release day) the next day and just hoped I’d have a wristband when I got there. I noticed on the book signing schedule that all the other cities simply had you purchase tickets for the signing online. That would have been SO much easier for me!! And much less stressful.

Anyway! I drove over to the Barnes and Noble as soon as I could get there to see if I had a wristband waiting for me. I got lucky because the wristband was still there in the first book I ordered, despite it being expired. They made a big to do about it and decided I could still have the wristband, even though it wasn’t with the book that was still in the system… It wouldn’t have been the end of the world not to have the wristband. I still could have stood in the back and I probably still could have had my book signed. But after revolving a whole vacation around this thing, I really wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy it!

I went back to check into my hotel next and spent awhile just reading and relaxing. I put on a nice outfit, did my hair, and headed back to Barnes and Noble about an hour and a half before the signing started. Apparently this is one of five new concept stores in the country, and the setup was a lot more unique than any other BN I’ve been to. I was really excited to spend some time browsing the shelves. But everyone was already there and sitting! I forgot to bring my kindle with me, I wasn’t particularly interested in re-reading this newest book (it was great – just not her typical tingly delicious romance type book), and my internet wasn’t working at all on my phone. Eventually I decided to risk it and left my stuff on a chair so I could walk around a bit. 🙂 You can’t stick me in an awesome bookstore and not let me browse!

I guess because most people were just getting this book that day, Colleen didn’t do any readings or want to answer questions about it. But she did spend about an hour taking any other questions that people had. So many of the questions had to do with her writing process and where she gets ideas. It was so interesting! I really enjoyed the entire thing. And at the end, we went row by row to get our books signed. I watched everyone before me gushing to her about how great her books are and when I got to the front of the line I had no idea what to say! I was probably her fastest sign because I felt so tongue tied and dumb! Oh well. It was a really great experience and I hope to go to more book signings in my future!

It was pretty late, but I was getting hungry after not eating since 11 in Eau Claire. My plan was to go to Cheesecake Factory and just pick up a slice for the hotel, but then I decided I’d rather get real food instead. So I walked into this Rojo Mexican Grill and had my food about five minutes after I sat down! A huge basket of chips and salsa and three chicken tacos. I’m not normally a huge rice fan, but whatever they did to this rice was also amazing. Since I was parked right in front of it (thanks, handicap parking pass), I still got a slice of chocolate cherry cheesecake to bring back to the hotel and eat over the next few days.

I finished my night back at the hotel with a bit of a pampering spa hour. I had brought a bunch of bath bombs and oils and sheet masks. I was really too exhausted to fully enjoy it, but it was still worth doing. Overall, my first day of vacation was awesome!

Wednesday is much less exciting to write about. I checked out the hotel breakfast that just consisted in individually boxed cereals and plain bagels and went back to my room to read for awhile. I had a fully researched plan in place to start at Ikea and Mall of America and then work my way through all my favorite stores in the other cities. But on my way back to the hotel Tuesday night I saw there was a Container Store in the opposite direction. I’ve never been to one and always wanted to, so I switched up my whole itinerary. Of course in doing so, I really needed to do a bit more research, and the wifi in the hotel didn’t work at all, and my phone was roaming the entire time so almost nothing was working. I wasted a ridiculous amount of time in those 48 hours just trying to get something to load. Things that should have taken ten seconds took half an hour. Yes, I could have just used the time to unplug and made the day a true adventure. But I didn’t want to miss anything! And I wanted to make sure I had the best restaurant plan for the day. It was infuriating how hard it was to find answers or options EVERY SINGLE TIME I tried to search something out. My gps even stopped working half the time. I was trying to just go with the flow and not let it bother me. But…it bothered me. A lot.

Anyway, Wednesday was my shopping day. I went to Trader Joe’s, World Market, Marshall’s, The Container Store, and Whole Foods in Edina. I love unique grocery stores. And I love discount stores. And I love containers. My biggest mistake on this trip was not bringing along a cooler and some ice packs. So many things I wanted to buy at the first few stores I went to were meltable, so I had to pass. 🙁

I had lunch at Naf Naf Grill in Eagan. There were so many great choices all right in a row! I contemplated Punch Pizza because that was our all time favorite MN pizza chain (though there wasn’t one in Eagan when we lived there!). There was also a taco place called RTacos that looked tasty. But I was trying to get myself a wide variety of foods, so I went Mediterranean. My pita was good, but SO spicy. Too spicy. And I LOVE spicy food.

Next I went to Marshall’s and Home Goods and then temporarily got lost. Eagan has changed a lot in the 10 years since we lived there! And my gps stopped working. But I eventually found my way back to the part of town I recognized and drove past the Panera where I worked for the first year we lived there. Then I went into that Barnes and Noble to browse books some more. And of course got a frappuccino. To try and wake up, but also to try and combat the fire still raging in my mouth.

I finished up my shopping at my favorite TJMaxx in Burnsville, where I used to shop all the time (before apparently every city in MN got their own discount stores!). I also stopped in at Abdallah Candies, but I just wasn’t in the mood to buy anything else sweet after my coffees and cheesecake. After that I was totally exhausted and needed a break so I went back to the hotel to read and take a nap.

The rest of my night was kind of crappy. I kept thinking about still going to Ikea and MoA, but my ankle was killing me and I knew there weren’t really any stores I was dying to go to in the mall. I like Ikea as an experience, but it has so many steps and I still suck at going down stairs because my ankle won’t bend enough. Originally there was a restaurant that looked really good at the mall, but since I had fancy tacos the night before it really wasn’t such a priority to get that kind of meal again. I was trying to think really hard about what kind of things I’d find most memorable and of course the answer was BOOKS. On other trips the answer probably would have been to find some cool outdoor things to visit. But between the extremely hot temperatures and my stupid ankle, I just wasn’t up for that kind of adventuring on that leg of the trip.

Anyway, I ended up going to a really cool used bookstore called The Paperback Exchange. I wish I had come across it in my research ahead of time, because if you brought in any paperback to exchange, you would only have to pay 25% of the cover price on any book in the store. Without an exchange, it was 50%. Which was still a pretty great deal because they had SO MANY books, and thousands of them were in almost perfect condition. I had a lot of fun browsing the floor to ceiling shelving and came out with four new books that I actually knew about before and really wanted to read.

After that the night was pretty awful. I couldn’t make up my mind on where to eat. My problem on vacations is that I want every meal to be this perfect experience filled with types of food I could never find at home. I want every meal to be memorable and delight my senses. And sometimes that’s just a lot of pressure to put on food. I couldn’t decide on a restaurant, so instead I headed to another bookstore. But there was so much construction, closed roads, heavy traffic, and NO places to park. I just wasn’t up for walking blocks and blocks to get anywhere, so I gave up on the bookstore and headed to another restaurant choice. Came across more roadblocks and lack of parking. Finally went back to the hotel to regroup and see if there was something I could order in. Decided on something, only to see you needed to download an app in order to place an order and gave up. It was getting so late, but I didn’t want to skip eating entirely. But the internet wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do, and I was getting so stressed out.

I finally made a choice on a place that was supposedly just 1.2 miles away from the hotel. Except when I got in my car the gps then said 3.6 miles. Which was a good fifteen minute drive. When I finally got there, through more construction and closed roads, I couldn’t get to the restaurant because it was in the middle of a construction site and all the doors were barricaded, even though the open sign was on. It was so confusing and frustrating that I left and just got Popeye’s on my drive back to the hotel. Except even that was a fail because all the food was cold and limp and I didn’t even eat it. SUCH a waste of a night. I should have just walked to the Walmart next to the hotel and gotten some cheese and bread or something. I was so mad at myself for wasting sooooo many hours of that super rare solo vacation on things that didn’t even work out. Oh, and then the final straw – I figured I would end the night finding something to watch on tv while eating popcorn that I had brought. BUT you needed a code to get the tv to work, which was not provided. Stupid! I just went to bed after that.

Needless to say, I was not in the mood to linger on Thursday morning. I didn’t even look at the hotel breakfast. Just packed up and stopped at a bakery I had driven by the morning before. They had so many tasty options! I got a French donut and a cherry fritter, and two bags of salty crunchy cheese breadsticks and a loaf of cinnamon bread to share with the family.

On my way out of the area, I drove by our old house in Farmington. It looked pretty much the same, except they changed the shutters to white. I liked the black ones I painted myself so much better. I was also really happy to see that the flowers, lilac bushes, and tree I planted on my first Mother’s Day were all still alive and well. I can’t believe how much that tree has grown in nine years!

As I headed south, I came to the conclusion that memory lane vacations are not much fun. I really enjoyed our four years living in Minnesota and have a lot of great memories there. But I’ve never regretted our decision to move back to Wisconsin. Driving around on this trip, though, kind of made me feel wistful and sad for the path we did not choose. Maybe because that blog post I wrote on Monday was still fresh on my mind – regret over not staying the college course. I definitely enjoyed seeing Colleen Hoover and I always like being by myself and shopping at all my favorite stores. But I also just felt really kind of sad the entire time. I also felt ANGRY at all the traffic and lack of parking options and poor internet, so yeah. I was ready to get out of there.

I’ll spare you all the other frustrating driving related problems I had that morning and just tell you that I finally got to La Crosse around noon and stopped at the coffee shop I had picked out ahead of time. I wanted some meal food since I didn’t know our plan for the rest of the day, but also didn’t want a ton of food, so I got a mini BLT. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for it, the whole reason I picked Cabin Coffee Co. was for their huge frappe menu, so I couldn’t leave without getting one. This was the Mississippi Mud frappe. It was good, just a ton bigger than I expected it to be.

After that, I met up with my family! It was still too early to check into the hotel, so they decided to go to the Holmen Aquatic Center, a little north of Onalaska. It was really hot again, so we all had a good time swimming. But then some kid pooped in the pool and we were all kicked out. The boys were really antsy to just get to the hotel. We checked in about as early as we could and immediately went swimming there since we all still had our suits on.

For dinner we went to Buzzard Billy’s. It was the one restaurant I researched that I didn’t want to miss. Unfortunately, we had an extremely long wait on the food and Shepard was SO cranky about it, kind of ruining the experience. But it was delicious once it came!

We ended the night at Grandad Bluff. So pretty!

We were so color coordinated, without even trying!

I spent most of the time watching these people that kept walking around, laying and relaying blankets down, standing backwards, and cuddling right at the edge of the cliff.

Anyway, it was a good evening. We went back to the hotel and got the boys to bed and then we watched an episode of Better Call Saul on Greg’s laptop, with one earbud in each. The joys of hotel life with such different sleep schedules!

Friday morning is when things got tough. Long story short, while I was with the boys getting breakfast, Greg woke up to a bug biting him. It was a bedbug. He took photos and immediately went to the front desk and talked to the manager. They handled the entire thing like it was a national emergency. They wanted us to leave so they could inspect every inch of the room. While we were gone they must have found more because they moved us to a different room, gave us the hotel stay for free, AND insisted that we go on a shopping spree to replace all of the clothes and luggage we had with us, in case it was contaminated. They also told Greg if we ever want to come again to let them know we’d get another night free. They handled everything in about the best possible way, which is why I’m not going to out them to the world as a bedbug hotel. These things happen, and everything else about our stay both this time and a few years ago was fantastic. The bad thing, though…we were still exposed to bedbugs. And spent every single minute of the rest of the vacation worrying about that. And still worrying about it now.

Anyway, when we first left the hotel that morning, we didn’t have much of a plan other than to check out some river viewing spots before it got too hot. We went over into Minnesota and walked around, drove to a higher viewing point, and stopped to watch the lock and dam. The guys were mostly looking for new Pokemon.

We ate lunch at a place called Burger Fusion where you can design your own burgers from a huge list of possibilities. I don’t eat hamburgers, but chicken sandwiches were also an option.

After lunch we went to The Pearl ice cream shop where the boys split a cookie dough ice cream and I got a toasted marshmallow latte.

We went back to the hotel after that and went through the process of going through all of our items and then moving them to the new room. Greg and the boys went swimming while I figured out what the heck to do with all of our clothes. I had all of my best clothes with me. Almost all of which had to be ordered online because I can never find anything in stores that fit properly. I had three of my brand new Third Love bras with me and those are not cheap!! I also had my only three pairs of shorts, six brand new and awesome shirts, my favorite dress, and my only swimming suit and cover up. I couldn’t just ditch them all on the very tiny possibility they were contaminated. Yes, the bedbugs did exist in our room. But Greg is the only one who got bit. They couldn’t have been horrible. And all of our clothes were clear on the other side of the room from where our bed was. It just seemed so unlikely that after all the proper precautions, including extremely careful inspection and heat treatment, my clothes still needed to just get thrown away. Trust me, it has caused MANY arguments in the last three days, but I kept my things. All of Greg and the boys’ clothes they had with them – gone. My suitcase and their duffel bag too. And all the tote bags we had our food and electronics in. It sucked.

After swimming we headed over to Kohls with a long list of everything that needed replacing. Full blown shopping for every article of clothing for three people, plus a few extra things, is exhausting. Greg didn’t even know what size he wore in anything, but because all of his clothes are from Kohls anyway, we were able to find a lot of exact replacements. The boys were a lot harder because most of their summer clothes were either no longer in stock or hidden among clearance racks. Shepard definitely had opinions on what we picked out for him, but Caden started crying every time we asked him which color or style he liked better. Shopping to him is like the ULTIMATE worst thing in the entire world. I got new pajamas, the only thing I agreed to leave behind, even though they were my favorite. 🙁 And I also got to pick out a new carry on bag, which I guess is the silver lining because my other one was pretty old. We managed to get all of that done in about an hour. I felt bad it was over $500, but that was even without replacing my things! The hotel reimbursed us without a bit of hesitation, though.

We headed to the farmer’s market next, which is the one thing in La Crosse I really wanted to do. It was still so hot, though, and crowded, and the rest of my family had no interest in being there. I bought a kohlrabi, the boys each had a glass of fresh pressed apple cider, and I had a glass of delicious sweet mint iced tea. I was so sore at that point, and stressed out. We needed to think of something else to do, but I was just done. Cranky and tired and overwhelmed by everything. I wasn’t super hungry, but we still needed to eat, so we finally decided to just go where everyone wanted to go – even if it’s the same food we could buy at home. Shepard picked Culver’s. Chicken tenders for literally the eighth meal in a row.

Caden wanted a “sub” (turkey and mustard) and chips. Greg and I ended at Burracho’s because it was across the street from the hotel and I didn’t want to drive back into La Crosse for something more unique.

We ended Friday night with more swimming. I enjoyed more hot tub time. It was a long day! Honestly, the boys were great. The whole bedbug ordeal, though. Not fun.

On Saturday morning I took the boys down to the pool while Greg packed everything up. They love the pool and hot tub there so much!

Their favorite part is the indoor/outdoor aspect of the pool. They were just having the greatest time in the world swimming between the barrier and alternating between the pool and the hot tub. It made me realize if we just have very low expectations and actually listen to what THEY want to do, family vacations can be really fun. It’s been so long since we’ve been on one just the four of us. Probably about three years! They were always so disastrous in the past that we switched to just Greg and I going on mini trips, or me going by myself because I’m the one who loves traveling the most. But this was fun! And it was good for us.

We parted ways around ten on Saturday. Greg and the boys went back home to do some Pokemon hunting and pick up Annie. I had to check out the La Crosse TJMaxx (after my two day detox), a gift shop I always like seeing in town, and the craft mall in the Dells. I got back home mid afternoon and snuggled with my pup!

And that was our trip! Overall, a success. If the bedbug incident hadn’t happened, it would have been great. Alas, Greg is still mad at me for keeping my clothes and annoyed that I refused to let them sit in bags in the sun for two weeks (because I had a WET swimsuit in one of the bags, plus ALL OF MY SHORTS AND BRAS). It was pretty dang hot when they sat out yesterday, plus I washed and dried them on heavy duty loads on the hottest settings today. I think they’re fine. And if they turn out not to be, I will take full responsibility on de-infesting our house. 😛

So, no Sunday Intention post this week. I’m still so tired. Trying to get caught up after being gone a week. Trying to prepare for babysitting Hudson for three days when no part of our house is baby proofed and he is very much on the move! Trying to figure out when the in the world I can get back to work in the next few weeks. And feeling both sad that summer is coming to an end and our calendar is filled with so many things, yet still not enough of the fun things I had wanted to do. And feeling excited that FALL IS COMING and my life will finally get back to normal. It’s a confusing time, the middle of August. 🙂 But we power on!

Book Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars

Jordan Sun is a first generation Asian-American girl on full scholarship at a performing arts centered boarding school. She is tall, broad bodied, and has a deep singing voice. Her concentration is in theater, but she never gets any parts because she doesn’t fit in the stereotypical female roles and her voice is too deep for even the ensemble parts. When the most prestigious of the campus male acapella groups sends out an email with word that they need to fill an open spot that just happens to fit her range, she comes up with the crazy idea to dress up as a boy and audition. And of course, she gets in. Which leads to an entire semester of desperately trying to hide her femininity, while also realizing how much more herself she feels when acting like a boy.

I expected this to be a very light-hearted and pretty straight forward YA novel. Girl dresses as boy, falls for another boy in the group, has some sort of embarrassing moment that leads to boy discovering girl is actually girl, and they eventually end up together. And in a way, that is what happens. But Jordan really has a lot of introspective moments as she starts becoming Julian, her male counterpart. She feels more comfortable in her skin, confident in who she truly is. She begins to question her own sexuality through a lot of confusing encounters. It’s interesting and heartfelt and a journey I loved being taken on.

Overall, I really loved this book. Jordan was a great character, but I really fell for all of the supporting roles – the seven other boys in the a capella group. They had such distinct and delightful personalities. And while you can assume that Jordan will eventually fall for one of them, I was really kept guessing on which one it would be because they were all so wonderful. The only thing that really bothered me is that Jordan is a female, in high school, in a boarding school. She is dressed as a boy more than half of her day. And yet nobody ever sees her going in and out of her female dorm room. We’re given an explanation why she never mixes with the guys during the day – she’s in the theater area and they’re in the music or visual arts areas. It was a minor thing, but it did seem a bit unbelievable. But besides that – I loved it! It might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not super into YA. But I highly recommend Noteworthy. It was one of my favorites of the year!

My Biggest Regret

Last night I found myself thinking a lot about my biggest regret. I’m not really sure why, other than that it’s on the list of blog post prompts I accumulated for this month. It’s not something I dwell on often, but it’s definitely where my mind jumps when the topic of regrets pops up somewhere. My biggest regret is pretty simple: not finishing my college experience and getting the degrees I wanted at Edgewood College, where I started. (Photo of my freshman dorm because I apparently never took a picture of any other part of campus.)

In high school I worked really hard and got fantastic grades. That’s such a weird time in your life where your academic achievements really define who you are. And those definitions stick with you, like it or not. It’s probably the reason I still feel so much regret, 13 years later. When I started looking for colleges, I knew I wanted to go private. I wanted something small and personal that wouldn’t be overwhelming to me. I also didn’t want to stray too far because Greg was a year older than me and at UW Madison. We had already been together for 3.5 years at that point and had no desire to risk losing our relationship. So I landed on Edgewood. It was close to Greg, it was close to home, and it had everything I wanted. I knew right from the start that I was going to double major in English Writing and Graphic Design and I formed the perfect plan getting all my general studies and most of my English classes done in the first two years and saving up the best and most exciting Graphic Design classes for my final year. I took a few summer classes and would have definitely graduated a semester early. Maybe even a year if I had pushed it a tiny bit more.

Unfortunately, my lack of patience and desperation got in the way of me following through on the plan. Halfway through my sophomore year, on our 5th anniversary together, Greg proposed. We were young, for sure. But also, five years together without a permanent promise was hard for me to swallow. So at the age of 20, we were engaged. That summer, Greg took an internship in Minnesota that was sure to guarantee him a full time job right after he graduated the following year. Graduation that would have happened eight months earlier than mine in December. I didn’t want to wait that long to get married. I didn’t want to get married and then live apart for eight months. We were so stupid. I was stupid for not seeing the ways we could have worked around this extremely brief period of time in the grand scheme of our lives.

To be fair, I didn’t just up and drop out of college after all I had worked for. I researched Minnesota colleges that I could transfer to. I took the steps for transfer and was accepted into the very prestigious Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with plans to complete my Graphic Design degree, which was sure to land me a myriad of career opportunities, especially in such a large city. I remember being SO proud of myself for getting into MCAD. When I told my friends and teachers that I was transferring they were proud of me too. It was a big deal.

So with the transfer set in place for the following fall, I finished up at Edgewood in the middle of my junior year and went back home for the next six months to work, save money, and plan out all the wedding details. That was Greg’s last semester of college and we got married two weeks after he graduated and immediately moved to Minnesota.

That summer is when all my hopes and dreams fell apart. We got my financial aid package for MCAD and finally realized that wow, this is an EXTREMELY expensive school. I already had a massive amount of loans from Edgewood and I didn’t have anyone to cosign on any more. Greg just started his job and didn’t have the solid employment history they needed to guarantee that we’d pay. With many, many tears, I had to drop out before I even began.

What should have been the happiest time of my life – newly married and finally with the man I waited six and a half years for – ended up being so hard. I was in a new state with no friends, no way to graduate with the degrees I identified so strongly with, no career options or even a job. In hindsight, I was such an idiot! We could have still gotten married when we did in May. We could have spent the summer together and I could have lived with my parents that one final semester, one of us driving every weekend so we could still be together. It would have been a whopping three and a half months of inconvenience and I would have graduated, gotten a real career, and probably had a drastically different life than I do now. And it’s not that I hate my life now, but there’s always that niggling wonder at the back of my mind how it could have been different if I had just stayed the course. I’m definitely sad that I wasn’t able to finish at MCAD either, but Edgewood would have clearly been the simplest and easiest option! I loved it there. And I loved both of my intended degrees equally. I will always, always regret my haste to jump into wedded bliss, thinking there was no viable option for finishing what I had started. It didn’t have to be one or the other. But I couldn’t see that then.

Anyway. In the Rachel Hollis movie last week, she pointed out that you should always give yourself credit for how far you have come. I’m happy to say that I do not regret never getting a degree, because I did. I never gave up completely, it just didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. Later that summer I enrolled at an online art school and graduated with a certificate in Graphic Design. I’m not sure a certificate would have ever landed me a life changing career, but it did give me more experience. I also had to take a lot of self-employed type business courses, which maybe trickled down and are helping me now. I was still so discouraged that I didn’t have a degree to show for all my work – and money! – so when I finished my certificate I was able to enroll with an online degree completion course through UMass Boston. For two years I worked so hard in all my extra time and finally graduated with a real bachelor’s degree in Community Studies. And that last semester I had a newborn to boot, so it felt like quite an accomplishment.

I’m proud of myself for never giving up. I’m glad that I have a degree, even though I’m not using it. But I will always regret not finishing at Edgewood with the degrees I dreamed about my entire life.

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 08.05.2018

As you can see, I’m already completely failing at my daily writing goal. I promised that on August 1st and haven’t written since. Though in my defense, I have barely been home the last four days, and when I have been home, the internet wasn’t working! When I’m home and the internet IS working, I’ve been being plagued by pretty frequent headaches that leave me not wanting to do a single dang thing. But I’m powering through and WILL write today because a lot happened in this past week that is worth recording!

On Sunday, Dianne and I managed to fit in a little time together before I dropped her off at the airport. We talk every day, but it sure is nice when we can see each other in person! I was supposed to visit her last April, but had to postpone because of my broken ankle. But bearing any other accidents, I am booked to go again in October!

We ate at Bel Air Cantina in Madison. Greg and I went there last year, I think around my birthday. The food was great, but it was so crowded with college students we couldn’t hear each other talk. But a Sunday in the middle of a summer afternoon was perfect timing! They have some delicious taco combinations. I picked a salsa verde chicken taco, Korean beef, and Ninja pig, which was like pork with hoisin sauce and slaw. So tasty.

After I dropped Dianne at the airport I did my grocery shopping while I was in the area and without kids! I spent the rest of the night working, desperately trying to make major progress.

Monday another headache hit me. They seem to be happening so often lately. Dehydration? Not enough sleep? I’m actually getting more sleep than I get during the school year, but I’m also rarely getting my daily nap. Whatever the reasoning behind it, it sucks. And I take enough ibuprofen for ankle related pain that I try really hard not to take any extras for things like headaches. Sometimes, like today, I just need to give in.

On Monday night, I had another dinner date with some of my craft night ladies. We tried out a restaurant in Lake Mills called El Mariachi. I was shocked at how busy it was for a tiny town later on a Monday night, but I guess that’s a testament to how good it is!

I had taquitos on a bed of salsa verde topped with regular taco toppings. Maybe not much to look at, but it was really delicious! And fun to have a night out with friends. They’re SO hard to organize that I’ve mostly given up in the last year. But it’s worth it when it does work out.

In the meantime, Greg and the boys were at my parents’ house having dinner with them and my brothers and Hudson. I would have gone, but it was planned after my friend dinner and I didn’t want to back out.

On Tuesday I was bound and determined to get my dolls done. But I also wanted to make sure I had some quality time with the boys. We went on a longer walk along the cemetery in the morning. After lunch we walked to Sharrow’s, a coffee/ice cream/gift shop just a few blocks away that I always forget to go to. The boys had ice cream and I had coffee. It was a fun break in the day. I even found a delightful bonfire scented candle to carry me through August before I can start burning apple and cinnamon scents in September!

On Wednesday morning we went school supply shopping. Wisconsin had five days of tax free school supplies, clothes, etc. This is normally when we’d go anyway, so it seemed like good timing. Everything gets so picked over into August anyway. It was crazy as usual, but we got everything we needed.

I had big plans to FINALLY research vacation things in the afternoon, BUT the internet was down! No reason why, just hours without it working. It magically came back on later in the day, so I spent the whole night planning out my Minnesota trip in a few days. It was so much fun puzzling together everywhere I wanted to go and eat for the perfect itinerary.

It was kind of a spur of the moment decision, but on Thursday I ended up taking the boys to the State Fair. We fully intended on going on Monday with my parents, but I kept looking at the weather and Thursday’s forecast looked SO much better. If it ended up being too hot or stormy on Monday we wouldn’t have gone anyway, so it made more sense just to head over on Thursday. Plus Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were going to be there that day, so we got to have a few hours with them which the boys were super pumped about.

We spent the first hour just sitting in this spot waiting for them, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea. I didn’t want to get too far ahead of them in looking at stuff, but the idleness was pushing Shepard into a pretty cranky mood that lasted the entire day. I should have learned from last year when the fair was also off to a bad start because we spent way too much time trying to meet up with everyone. Though that was hard because everyone kept moving! Which is why we decided to stay put this year. At any rate, it was fine once we found each other!

We went to the WI Products building for our yearly bag of apple cider donuts. As usual Hudson has no idea who I am or why I’m taking a picture with him!

Shepard and I had grilled cheeses for our late morning breakfast. That’s all he ended up eating for the day. He was so cranky because he wanted me to buy him a Pikachu stuffed animal at one of their crappy toy booths and I refused because he doesn’t play with ANY toys, least of all stuffed animals! Plus Annie would have taken it and destroyed it in five seconds. Later he was throwing a fit because he wanted to go on the trampolines. And the last few hours he wouldn’t stop whining and crying because he wanted an expandable ball. He didn’t think he could live without any of those things.

Checking out the hot tubs! Hudson likes this one.

Normally the building with all the little booths is one of my favorite parts, but I knew it would just make Shepard want sooooo many more things. So we cut down the middle, which just happened to be the perfect spot because we got to try dip samples at like five different booths! Then we ended at the beef sticks. These were my favorite thing to get growing up and they’re Caden’s favorite now. I’ve never seen this Vienna beef stick in a store, though I did just figure out where to buy them online! Might be a birthday present this year. I’ll buy it the week between Caden’s and my birthday. 🙂

I let them do the trampolines. They did outdoor jumping last year, so I guess this needs to be an annual thing.

We stopped in a little park area for awhile so Hudson could move around. He loved it!

One of the new fair foods Caden really wanted to try was flamin’ hot corn on the cob. I thought I did a very good job describing it to him ahead of time so he knew what he was getting into, but he didn’t even want to touch it when I put it in front of him. He eventually took a tiny bite, spit it all over the table, and cried for awhile. I spent $5 on it, so I took a bite – gross. Timmy reluctantly finished it off.

Trying to get Hudson to settle down for a nap because he was up early.

The new food I wanted to try were WI Hot Chicken Bombs. It was a combination of mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and corn rolled into a ball and deep fried. Then it was injected with gravy and coated with Nashville hot sauce. Unfortunately, I was not really a fan. I mostly ate one and gave the other to Timmy (he took over my dad’s job of eating everyone’s leftover food this year). I’m kind of bummed that this is the second or third year in a row of not finding any super delicious things to eat. I had other things on my list, but by the time I got this I was just tired of spending so much money on junky food and just plain wasn’t in the mood to hunt anything else out. Next year…

Normally we do animal buildings first, but it was our last stop this year. We all loved this super sweet and gentle goat that LOVED getting his face and neck scratched!

Around noon I hit 10,000 steps and my ankle was DONE. Four straight hours of walking was quite the accomplishment. Despite the cool weather forecast, it was also pretty hot in the blasting sun and crowds. I think it was a successful trip overall, though. Shepard was difficult, but he could have been worse. Caden was FANTASTIC. How often can I say that?! And it was fun to spend the morning with Hudson.

Fortunately, I was able to fit in an afternoon nap because I had more plans Thursday night. I went to see the Rachel Hollis documentary Made for More. It was playing as a special event movie in theaters all around the country. It was really great! Very motivational and empowering for women to watch. They added an additional showing on August 13th, and I highly recommend seeing it! Or at the very least, reading her book!!

I planned to spend Friday morning packing for the weekend, baking a bunch of things, and doing more research for our LaCrosse vacation. BUT the internet was down again. Greg was still home so he called Charter and it took the entire morning to fix. And because our modem and router are in the kitchen, I couldn’t do my internet stuff OR my kitchen stuff. It was obviously nobody’s fault, but it was a very stressful and frustrating half a day of not doing anything I planned on doing. I hate when that happens.

On Friday evening, we headed to Hayes Resort in Fox Lake, where Greg’s parents rented a cottage for the weekend.

The boys were a little anxious and not fans of the concept of RELAXATION, but it was a pretty perfect night of sitting out by the lake. Not too hot, very few bugs, and a nice peaceful breeze.

The property definitely could have used some upgrades. For example, this was “the beach.” Kind of hilarious. But it didn’t stop the kids from loving a big pile of sand either!

I had some problems walking around because the entire resort is on a steep hill. My ankle does not like hills! I was pretty sore Friday night, but I wore my brace on Saturday and it was a lot better. I just kept having visions of myself falling and re-hurting myself all over again, so I had to walk at a snail’s pace.

We had tacos for dinner and ate at a picnic table next to the cottage. Then Steve and Shepard built a fire next to the water and we had s’mores for dessert. It was really nice!

Despite how gross the water looked, they realllly wanted to go in. It’s always so funny when they wade into water and hold their shorts up.

I stayed until about 7:45 and then went home to be with Annie. I was hoping to just chillax having the house to myself – which NEVER EVER happens at night. But I ended up cleaning the bathroom, doing a bunch of dishes, sweeping all the floors, make peanut butter fudge, and then finally settled in to have a snack, read, do a sheet mask, and go to sleep about 10:45.

I was hoping to sleep in a bit, but that never happens. I did, however, lounge in bed and read for an hour which was great! Then I was running around trying to make scones and get everything prepped to head back to the cottage.

I dropped Annie off at my mom’s for the day so she could have some fun and then joined everyone. Greg’s aunt and uncle and cousin and her family were there too. Sometime overnight they managed to find a boat they could use. The boys loved it, but it was a lot of work for Greg!

It was a pretty hot day, but also very windy which balanced everything out – a bit. All the kids had a blast running around and playing. The adults had a little more chance to relax! We had a big lunch of brats and hot dogs, which the guys expertly cooked over the fire, corn on the cob, fruit and veggies, chips, and a variety of desserts.

Shepard and Trevor were kind of off in their own worlds, but Caden and Melody were having so much fun playing together! Caden is always so good with younger kids and babies.

Sitting on the docks while Shepard “fished,” Caden swam, and Melody kept running back and forth between them. It was making me too nervous so I didn’t stay long. 🙂

No qualms about the green water after he got in the first time. Ick.

It was a really nice day! I’m wildly impressed with how organized Steve and Cindy were with so many full meals all prepped and ready, plus all the towels and toys and chairs and accessories. I’m sure it was super exhausting, but they never let it show! We all had a really good time. Greg and I went back home for the night, but the boys stayed with them last night too.

That’s it for the week! It was packed! But really fun too. The way summer is supposed to be, right?!

Sunday Intentions

This week I just intend to have more fun! Tomorrow is our only normal day of the week with Greg at work and me madly trying to make sure everything is ready to go. Because early Tuesday morning I’m heading out on my solo Minnesota vacation! I revolved the trip around going to a Colleen Hoover signing/presentation. But I’m planning on checking in at all my favorite stores, eating a lot of delicious food, driving by our old house and apartment, possibly stopping in at Panera to see if anyone I know still works there 10 years later, and basically just enjoying 2.5 days of being entirely by myself! It will be AMAZING.

On Thursday I’m driving back and meeting up with Greg and the boys in LaCrosse for two more nights of family vacation. I have yet to plan that one out, other than noting a few restaurants that looked good. So that’s on the agenda for this afternoon. There’s A LOT on today’s agenda and I still have this terrible headache. We’ll see how much gets done!

Have a good week!

August Goals and Intentions

At the end of June I posted an update on all my summer goals that I set for myself. It was a pretty lofty list of admirable intentions and attitudes I hoped to possess over these three crazy months. Instead of revisiting that list for a third time, I decided to write something entirely new for the month of August. I have just under 5 weeks left before school starts and I want to make them count. But I also want to keep them simple and achievable and full of fun. So here we go!

1. Make memories!

We usually save up all of the most exciting summer activities for August. This year has been no different. I put in a lot of hours of work in between the chaos the last two months, and I’d like to take this final month to prioritize family time. I’m taking the boys to the State Fair tomorrow, we have a weekend mini vacation planned with Greg’s parents, we have a two night family vacation next week, and we have a bunch of day trips already booked in those last couple of weeks. There will definitely still be days here and there where we just stay home, but I want to make those count too. Continue morning walks with the boys, maybe check out some more local restaurants for afternoon treats, and just go to the pool. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have only taken them to the pool during the day ONCE this entire summer so far. Greg definitely makes up for it with evening trips, but I should try a little harder. I’ve lived my life extremely agenda driven in June and July, and I want to let loose and be okay with letting things slide in August.

2. Read 12 or more books!

I was looking back and saw that I read 9 books each in July, June, and May. Which isn’t terrible. I know many people read a lot less than that, which is fine. But I’m in this facebook book club group and at the end of every month people post what they read and so many people have more like 15-20! Which seems insane to me! But if I’m already going to be easing up on work this month, I might as well spend more time reading! Or add in a few more audiobooks in place of podcasts. My TBR piles and lists are GIGANTIC. It would be awesome to make a big dent in it this month. And if I don’t read that many? No big deal. I’m just hoping to challenge myself a bit. And give me an excuse TO just sit down and read.

3. Make and start an end of summer/fall doll schedule. 

Sales were booming in June and greatly dropped by the end of July. Which is kind of frustrating. The only thing I can attribute to the decline is that people just really like holiday themed dolls, and I don’t make many of those in summer! I actually love summer doll making because I get to express more creativity and the sky is basically the limit in what types of dolls I make. I’ve been having a lot of fun really pushing the boundaries on what a “prim doll” really might look like. Lots of color, lots of new hair textures, a lot of new stamp discoveries. I’ve had fun and lost customers because of it! Anyway, Halloween dolls are usually my best sellers, so I guess I will reluctantly start moving into that season. I’d really love to finish off the summer with some sort of big boom of dolls, though. I’m considering a large batch of ornament sized dolls, which I’ve avoided for months (so much work for so little profit). But they’re fast, and people LOVE them, so it would garner more interest in my shop again. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an alphabet themed set of dolls. I bought the cutest set of vintage mini alphabet playing cards at a store last summer and have been thinking about this idea ever since. It’s just a really big thing to take on. Maybe August is the month for it? My third option is to just jump right into fall/harvest themed dolls and maybe save them up for a unique facebook sale on the first day of school or something. Lots to consider.

4. Write every possible day.

I’ve done a really crappy job of writing more often this summer as planned. I basically just write my journal-like weekend posts and book and tv posts at the end of the month. I really want this blog to be more than that. But I struggle so much with how to go about doing that! So I did a little research on random blog prompts and want to challenge myself to write a whole lot more this month. I think my biggest hangup is that people really don’t care about what I have to say. But…so what? It’s not like I’m forcing anyone to read this. I’m already only posting it to a facebook page that a whopping 22 people follow! I don’t have to feel bad about being annoying. I can write what I want, when I want, and if nobody reads it I really don’t care! I’d love to have a whole lot more interaction that I do now, but maybe writing more would push that forward. Anyway, I was strongly considering a blog post for every day of the month. But I think that’s a bit too hard to achieve considering I already know there at least 12 days this month I either won’t be home at all, or only briefly in the mornings and evenings. So I won’t put on the pressure for a daily post, no matter what. But I’m going to do more! I PROMISE this time. 🙂

And that’s it! Just four broad intentions and goals for the month of August. I think I can do it!

What I Read July 2018

It’s book time! This is my favorite post to write! I have a lot of great recommendations this month and can’t wait to share!

Beard Science by Penny Reid
Rating: 5 stars

I really love this fun Winston Brothers series of books. Of the six brothers, Cletus has been my favorite from the very beginning, so I was looking forward to reading his story. It didn’t disappoint! I loved seeing how his mind worked and the reasons behind all his antics. I also really liked Jennifer the Banana Cake Queen as she was given so much more depth as a main character. I found her parents and her submission to them for 22 years of her life to be slightly unbelievable, but I liked how she learned to stand up for herself and finally come into her own. This has definitely been my favorite book of the series so far.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is a middle grade book I’ve heard so many great things about. It lived up to the praise! This book follows the life of ten year old Ada and her six year old brother Jamie. Ada has a club foot and lives with a mother who hates her and treats her cruelly. During WWII, they join a group of other children being sent to the countryside to avoid the bombings in London. They are forced to live with Susan, someone who did not volunteer or want the kids, but didn’t have the heart to turn them away. Ada realizes how little she knows about the world and is suspicious of everything and filled with anger with little buds of hope. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and how the three of them banded together to form such a strong little family. I was highly anticipating the second book!

The Good House by Ann Leary (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

I listened to this on audiobook, at the recommendation of Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. I have a really hard time paying attention to fiction on audio, but I’ve been on a bit of a podcast slump and decided to give it another go. And guess what? I paid attention every single minute! It was a very well done audiobook with such strong character shining through. The narrator was fantastic and gave such life to a book that I probably never would have picked up otherwise and I’m guessing I might have had a hard time completing if I were reading it. It’s the story of Hildy Good, a realtor in a wealthy New England coastal town. I love the first part of the book when she talks about the houses, the people living in them, and all the insight she’s learned as a realtor. I was less interested when the story turned inward to her alcoholism and the daily convincing she did of herself to keep picking up the wine. Overall, a very well done book that I’d highly recommend listening to. (Hit me up if you have any other amazing fictional audiobooks – it’s nice to have a podcast break every once in awhile!)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
Rating: 3 stars

I had the hardest time getting into this book. I’m guessing it was partially because I was listening to The Good House on audio at the same time, and the narrators felt too similar in their background history. But once I was devoting all my fiction reading attention on just this book, I still had a hard time getting into it. I couldn’t figure out if it was a mystery, a thriller, or a romance, the way it was marketed to be. I felt like the author jerked me around in ways that I did not like. Suspense is great at the end of the chapter when it can be resolved in the coming few pages. When I have to wait ten more chapters to get an answer on something major, that’s all I can think about and I miss everything in between. Overall, pretty disappointed in this one, though I did like how it came together in the end.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Rating: 4 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel, revisiting Ada, Jamie, Susan and the family they’ve created. I think one of the things I liked most about this book is that Ada is not the easiest character to love – something that is pointed out to her in the book. I so admired Susan for being so patient and always aware of what Ada needed in any challenging or confusing situation. The addition of Ruth, filling the role of older sister was nice. Like always, I really enjoy books about people that form their own families and this was a great one.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Rating: 5* stars

I adored this delightful book told entirely in letter form between an author, Juliet, her dear friends and editors, and the wonderful people of Guernsey. I’m ashamed to admit that I avoided reading it for a long time because I thought the title of the book was too long and ridiculous sounding and held no interest to me. But I saw the trailer for the netflix adaptation coming out soon and was suddenly MUCH more interested in reading the book. It did not disappoint! It’s hard to pull off a well written book without any actual narration or direct character interaction, but this was about the best you could ever expect. All the characters had so much personality! I loved them all and I loved how they loved each other. It made me so nostalgic for a time when people deeply cared about each other and wanted to KNOW each other. Perhaps that’s still true, but we hide behind our busyness and families and responsibilities. Anyway, the book takes place right after WWII and does not gloss over many of the tragedies that took place during the German occupation of Guernsey. But the story as a whole is hopeful and joyous and I loved it all!

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5 stars

I have been long awaiting this book and extra excited about it because I’m going to get it signed by Colleen at an event in Minnesota next week. But much like her last book (Without Merit), it felt very different from the typical romance style that most of her books take. Which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s maybe a tiny bit of a letdown when her romance books are so deliciously fantastic! To be honest, this was kind of a hard one to read. It’s about a couple whose marriage is hanging on by a thread after seven years of infertility. Chapters alternated between their current lives and when they first met and fell in love. At the start of the book I was so much happier reading all the Then chapters. About halfway through I just wanted to know what was happening in the Now! I can’t pretend to understand how devastating infertility must be, but I could definitely relate to the dance of marriage and all the unspoken pushes and pulls that happen after you’ve been together for awhile. I love that Graham and Quinn never gave up on each other and knew that it was never their love that was lost. Like all of Colleen’s books, I was definitely in tears by the end. Just know it’s a long and sad road to reach those final beautiful pages!

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Rating: 2.5 stars

I had a really hard time getting into this book. It was fine. But it wasn’t particularly appealing or suspenseful or interesting to read. I understood that there must be some sort of big twist coming, but I never felt that deep desire to rush through the book to figure out what it was. I thought Finn was such a frustrating character, keeping literally everything to himself. Ellen was just a vague idea of a character with really no characteristics to make her unique or worth paying attention to. Honestly, it was fairly disappointing after the last BA Paris I read. You won’t miss anything by skipping this one.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Rating: 4 stars

To be honest, this book really didn’t appeal to me when I first heard about it. But it was getting so much hype that I decided to give it a shot. Overall, it was a very well done and intriguing story. But it was also very violent and honestly depressing. I went through spurts of not really being into it to suddenly not being able to put it down. It’s probably unfair to knock it a star for this, but I just don’t like fantasy. So many things to remember in every fantasy series, I’ve honestly just had enough of it. If I had known from the start this is the first of a trilogy, I probably wouldn’t have read it yet. But – I think it was worth the hype, especially if you’re into fantasy books. I definitely care enough to read the other books when they come out, it’s just going to be a long wait!

What I Watched and Listened To July 2018

It’s time to recap everything I’ve watched this month! I’m adding a few podcasts too. I originally planned to write podcast posts every month, but for awhile there I was really just listening to the same handful of shows over and over again and how much can I really say about them? But I found a few new good ones this month I want to share. But first, tv!

TV – Alone (spoilers probable!)

Quantico

I’m not sure what it is about this show, but I still really like it. Even though it feels super cliche with the main characters constantly falling for each other and just switching it up in different seasons. I don’t buy the whole Ryan/Shelby marriage, but of course Alex conveniently just falls for the new guy! Though I do have to say he’s a much hotter choice. 🙂

Young & Hungry

This is really the most ridiculous show. And Gabby might possibly be one of the most annoying tv characters I have ever seen. And yet, I’m still rooting for her. Josh is pretty dumb too, but he’s cute and the show is mildly funny overall. I wish they didn’t have the live studio audience laughter to make it feel a bit more authentic. But hey, it’s something light to watch in between the heavier things.

The Bachelorette

I started watching this so I could follow along better with The Popcast’s Patreon recaps of each episode. I never expected to actually feel so invested in it! Especially now that Becca is down to the final two guys – and they’re the two guys I liked the most from the very beginning! I almost don’t even want to watch the finale because it’s going to be so heartbreaking. I wanted her to be with Blake from the beginning, but he’s been freaking out so much lately – which feels like a valid response in this whole crazy plan to find love. But it does make me like him a little less. And Garrett has really grown on me, despite how much The Popcast hates him. Who will she choose?! Why is she so happy to have narrowed it down to two? Why isn’t she totally flipping out yet that she has to choose JUST ONE? What a show.

Lovesick

I binged this in a couple of days at the recommendation of my sister-in-law. It was a fun and cute little British show. I have to say that I didn’t much care for Dylan. I liked the other guy much more. So much more interesting. And it was weird seeing Evvie as her British self (I had no idea!). I love her in The Good Doctor, though, so it was cool seeing her in something else.

Younger

I still love this show so, so, so much. Much like The Bachelorette, both Josh and Charles have always seemed so perfect! I’ve always been team Charles, but Josh is just adorable and sweet and just so lovely. I was happy he was kind of out of the picture, except now he’s back. And maybe still wants Liza? I just don’t understand how they can work around the kid issue, though, when he wants them so badly. But Charles! HE KNOWS!!! And if you saw the most recent episode, he finally got over his big whiny fit about Liza’s whole secret and HE DOESN’T CARE ANYMORE. I was so happy!!!!!! I just don’t know where this show could go, though, at this point. Almost everyone knows Liza’s real age now. Does that mean it’s almost over?

Anne with An E

I’ve heard a lot of criticism about this rendition of Anne of Green Gables. I rather like it, though. It’s uplifting, nostalgic, and full of positive messages. I do have to say that Anne cried WAY too much in the second season. It got a bit old by the end.

Sugar Rush

Out of regular shows to watch, I gave this one a shot and binged it in the last few days while working. It was good! I don’t like the whole rush to beat the clock aspect in the first two rounds, but I always love a good baking show. It’s very much like Cupcake Wars, which I was a huge fan of. I’m definitely going to be checking out some more Netflix baking shows in the next few weeks!

TV- Together

Better Call Saul

I’m still really enjoying this one. We just watched the episode where Jimmy finally calls himself Saul Goodman. It was really intriguing to obviously see that Saul is just a persona he plays, not who he really is, like you only saw in Breaking Bad. I really like Jimmy. I’m curious to see where this goes. I see the newest season starts in just a few days!

Prison Break

We heard a long time ago that they were going to do a reboot of Prison Break, a show we loved way back when it was on. And then we never heard anything about it again – never a good sign! I realized we had just plain missed it, so now we’re checking out this newer season. It’s kind of stupid and ridiculous that Michael is yet again in a prison he needs to break out of. But it’s kind of nostalgic watching Lincoln and Michael together again (and not in their weird Legends of Tomorrow characters). Even if the entire premise is super unbelievable. You DIED, Michael. You were terminally ill and you died. But – never addressed.

Sharp Objects

I generally prefer to read the book before I see a tv or movie adaptation, but I didn’t have a chance for this one. It’s…interesting. Slow. Amy Adams is so mumbly it kind of drives me nuts. I also only ever want to see Chris Messina as Danny in The Mindy Project. He will always only ever be Danny. But, I’m intrigued by the show, curious to see who the killer is. I definitely have my suspect in mind!

Movies

Father Figures

This was pretty dumb. I watched it on a night I was alone, hoping to just have a lighthearted comedy to entertain me. I don’t really recommend wasting your time on it.

Buddymoon

Another odd one. It was especially weird because David Giuntoli and Flula Borg where kind of playing themselves, but not really? I like both the actors, but all they do is walk through the forest in the entire movie. It was okay.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

We saw this in the theater right when it came out, with the boys. It was kind of hard to concentrate because Shepard was bored and kept demanding that we leave. I liked it, but not as much as the first one. I’m always up for a Paul Rudd film, though!

Ready Player One

I think if you go into this movie expecting it to be just like the book, you’ll be very disappointed. If you think of it as a standalone movie, it’s entertaining enough. They really missed major portions of the book, speeding character relationships along so quickly. I actually fell asleep during the biggest battle scene and we had to finish it on a different day. I didn’t hate, but not my favorite, for sure.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

I saw this in the theater a few days ago with a friend and I loved it! I had no expectations going into it, other than musicals are fun and I just wanted a night out. But Lily James was so delightful in it! The music was super entertaining. I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack all week. I highly recommend this one!

I Feel Pretty

I really wanted to like this movie. The trailers made it look so hilarious I actually really wanted to see it in the theater, but never had the chance. Probably a good thing because it was NOT worth it. There were a few funny parts, but most of it was just every single person looking at Amy Schumer and thinking or saying bad things about her because she’s too fat to be that confident. She’s not fat!! I don’t know, I think the whole movie was sending very mixed signals. It was okay.

Cinderella

I really wanted some more Lily James in my life, so I watched this the other day. It was so boring!! Almost no singing, which seemed odd. And Cinderella was just so dull. Quite a disappointment.

Mamma Mia!

I wish I had watched this before seeing the second one, just to get a refresher on all the characters. I spent the entire second movie wondering who the actual dad was and I just finished watching the first one only to realize they never did figure it out. (My bet’s on Harry.) Anyway, after seeing them both this week I like the second one SO much more.

PODCASTS

Well, I’m still listening to my old standbys every week – The Popcast, The Popcast Friend of the Show patreon feed, Front Porch with the Fitzes, Spilled Milk, and Happier with Gretchen Rubin. When the mood strikes I also like to listen to The Lazy Genius, The Bible Binge, What Should I Read Next, and The Next Right Thing. I’m constantly looking for new podcasts, but have a hard time committing to them if they’ve been on the air for a long time. I’m really preferring the experience of starting with a show as its born – or recently birthed – so I can decide from the start if it’s for me. Which maybe doesn’t make sense. But it’s a lot less overwhelming than seeing a podcast that has 100+ episodes and trying to figure out where to jump in. Anyway! I found three new ones this month that I really liked and want to recommend.

Rise Together Podcast with Rachel and Dave Hollis

Guys, I am obsessed with Rachel Hollis right now. Actually, I really like Dave too because he’s just as active on social media – maybe even more so than Rachel. I read her book last month and loved it and now I stalk all of their instagram posts and stories and live streams that they do every single morning. Rachel has her own podcast called Rise (up until recently it was called Dias), and I’ve listened to two or three episodes. But they just started this couples podcast together and I’m really enjoying it. They definitely have an extremely admirable marriage and they’re not shy about explaining how hard they work to keep that relationship a priority and the steps they take to make it happen. The podcast is really just them having conversations about what works for them. It’s interesting. And worthwhile.

Sandra

I’m not sure what to call this type of podcast – a drama? It’s a story format, I believe just six or eight episodes. It’s about an artificial intelligence machine, similar to amazon’s Alexa, called Sandra. Except you find out that the intelligence behind Sandra is actually a company of people that will answer everyone’s questions, based on the key words they use. Anyway, it was very entertaining and a little bit creepy. I liked it a lot.

Penpals with Rory Scovel and Daniel Van Kirk

I just discovered this a few days ago and I already know it’s going to be one of my favorites. I was delighted to realize that Rory Scovel is actually the love interest from I Feel Pretty. I had no idea that was his name, but of course immediately recognized his voice. He used to be in a short lived show called Ground Floor that I loved. Anyway, both men are comedians and all they do is answer questions from their “penpals” – anybody who wants to send them a message. There are only a few episodes, but they’re willing to talk about anything. I laughed out loud in those few episodes more than I have in ages from some sort of media. I’m actually saving up the last few episodes I have for my long drives next week and it’s killing me not to just jump right in. I love it!

And that’s it for July! Any good recommendations for me?? I could really use some more binge-worthy shows to watch while I’m working. I’m much more apt to sit down and work when I have something I’m desperate to watch at the same time!

Saturday Reflections 07.28.2018

What a whirlwind of a week! With extra family in town, it ended up feeling like a vacation week for us as well. Greg even spontaneously took a few days off to join in the vacationesque mood of everyone else. We were so busy every day, and it was actually kind of awesome! I didn’t get any work done, but…it’s summer. I really don’t care anymore.

Anyway, I normally take a few notes every day on what happens so I’ll remember everything I want to write about on Saturday. But I managed to forget every single day this week. So I’ll just give a more brief overview this time around!

While I was writing last weekend’s post, Greg went to pick up his sister Sarah where she was being dropped off by a friend in Madison. We hung out at our house for awhile and then went to the in-law’s and had a little birthday celebration for her.

Greg’s sisters are twins, but we celebrated them separately this year since their arrivals were staggered. It was such a beautiful night and we had a really nice dinner out on the deck.

Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were sleeping over at my mom’s house Sunday night, so the boys and I rushed over early Monday morning with a giant box of donuts to spend a little time with them.

Hudson’s not really up for our selfie game anymore these days. I’m never around him long enough for him to get comfortable snuggling up for a picture. Though he’s going to sleep over in a few weeks on one of his last days in Wisconsin, so maybe I can finally get a smile then. Or not.

It was kind of a melancholy morning over there. We all went on a walk around the block and then hung outside. The weather has been so great this week. I wish these temperatures and cool breezes lasted all summer long! But yeah, I’m still sad. That’s all I’ll say about it.

On Monday evening, I went to see the new Mamma Mia movie with Dana. We left early to get some food at the movie theater. I really liked the movie! I had zero expectations going into it, and then spent the entire time wishing I had re-watched the first movie before seeing the second. It was really good, though. And it was fun to do something with a friend who actually likes going out and doing things!

On Tuesday, everyone had their screens taken away and were “soooooo bored” so we ended up running errands in Madison, even though I wasn’t at all prepared with a list or meal plans. Probably should have just stayed home or shopped in town in hindsight! In the evening we met Greg’s family at the Amtrak station to pick up his other sister, Melissa. The plan was to go eat at this restaurant in Columbus called Cercis. I was SO excited about it. I thought it was the perfect place to have a nice family night out. And it’s basically one of the only open restaurants in Columbus right now. BUT, I failed to see that it’s closed on Tuesdays. So, we ended up at Culver’s. Where we eat alllllllll the time. Then came back to our house for cake and gifts.

The boys went back home with them to have a sleepover and Sarah brought them back on Wednesday and met me at the pool. It ended up being the hottest day this week, so it turned out perfectly. The water even felt great. Shepard was feeling a boost of confidence and even tried for his swim test – and passed!! He took it twice right at the beginning of summer and failed, so he hasn’t had any interest in trying again the last two months. But he did awesome this time! He spent the rest of the time fearlessly doing flips off the diving board. I’m so proud of him! It was a really fun time at the pool and I’m glad Sarah was able to come with us.

Greg went with his family to Oshkosh to visit some extended family Wednesday evening, while I stayed home with the boys. They played with their friends and I had a few hours to work. After they went to bed I had a movie and popcorn night with myself, watching I Feel Pretty.

Greg decided to take vacation days on Thursday and Friday, just because he has a lot of them left to use, apparently. We all went to the peach truck to stand in line to get blueberries. He got a taste of all the super exciting things we do in summer while he’s at work. 😛 He took the boys to the pool in the afternoon and I headed to Madison to do a bit of shopping at Kohls and Marshalls. Then I met back up with them, Cindy, and Sarah at this event called The Summer Bodega. It was like an artisan craft fair mixed with food trucks and live music and a few kids’ activities. The only thing I bought were a few flavored sea salts, but it was fun to see all the unique offerings. Mostly we just enjoyed the food! Greg and Shepard shared a pepperoni pizza, Caden had kettle corn samples and egg rolls, I had a chicken taco with mango habanero salsa.

It was probably about an hour’s worth of entertainment, but Steve and Melissa decided to come join us after all, so we were waiting about another hour for them. The boys got big bowls of cookie dough and I had chips and guacamole, which were not very good at all. The boys had definitely had enough after two hours, so we said our goodbyes and headed out. It was kind of a rough end to what felt like a really successful week of family time. It’s disappointing how something like that always happens, casting a cloud over all the good times.

And then Friday. Oh, Friday. I was super excited about it because my best friend Dianne was flying in around 4:30 and I was going to pick her up and we were going to get dinner, then ice cream and a park, and then I’d bring her to her dad’s. And because Greg had a vacation day, I could leave a lot earlier. I headed out after she boarded her two-ish hour flight and went to Barnes and Noble to browse for awhile – my favorite thing to do. But then her flight ended up getting delayed, then unloaded, then delayed some more. After four hours of walking around B&N and Target, we concluded that I should just go home and her dad would get her and we’d adjust plans so we can spend time together before she leaves on Sunday instead. Anyway, totally not anyone’s but the weather’s fault, and I had a great time looking at books and just BEING ALONE for awhile. But it really sucks all our great plans had to be cancelled. We wanted to at least go to the same planned restaurant on Sunday, but JUST MY LUCK, that restaurant is closed on Sundays. Of course it is!

That’s been the week! I originally wanted to go to the farmers market this morning, but my ankle needed a break. (And I thought maybe driving to Madison 6 of 7 days this week was a bit much.) Thursday marked the five month anniversary of my ankle breaking (five months since surgery today). I’m feeling pretty discouraged because while I definitely believe I’m better than I was two months ago, I don’t think I’m better than I was one month ago. If anything, I feel worse. Maybe because I’m doing more? But if I do less, it hurts even more! I just find myself parking in the handicap places at every store I go to, when in June I actively tried to avoid it. I don’t know what’s going on and it’s frustrating. I want to get better. ALL better. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having to constantly be thinking about how much my ankle can handle before making any kinds of plans. It sucks! I’m starting to get really worried about my all my upcoming mini vacations, and Cranberry Fest, and DC in October. Will I be better in September than I am now??

Anyway. In other reflections on the week – I didn’t make dinner a single time. Yikes!! I didn’t even make lunch since we ate at my mom’s on Monday, a drive thru on Tuesday, the boys were gone on Wednesday and I left it up to Greg Thursday, Friday,and today! Well, I must have fed the boys on Wednesday night, but I think we had sandwiches. Anyway, it was kind of awesome. But kind of terrible too (lol). I need to get back on that this next week because the week after I’m/we’re on vacation the whole week.

More tomorrow!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 07.22.2018

One more week of summer behind us. One week closer to school starting again. While this week wasn’t as emotionally destroying as last week, it was still very busy and kind of rough. My kids sure know how to push my buttons to wear me down. Overall, they’ve actually been behaving pretty well. But they need SO MUCH direction and corralling and negotiating and it just sucks the life right out of me. Especially since the worst of it happens before seven in the morning. I am DESPERATELY missing my alone time, missing my quiet mornings, missing having any semblance of control over my life without having to argue and plead and beg to make things happen. It’s EXHAUSTING. I don’t want to wish away the rest of summer because I feel like we haven’t even done any of the things I wanted to do yet. But I’m also pretty dang tired and the appeal of fall and new starts and having seven blessed hours to myself again is getting stronger every day.

Anyway, I will start my reflections with last Saturday, since I last wrote on Friday. It was a good day! My mom took the boys and brought them to Shepard’s friend’s birthday party at the pool. Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson met them there and they swam together. Meanwhile, Greg and I went to Milwaukee for his cousin Corrin’s wedding.

The wedding was at the Milwaukee Public Museum. It was really hot out, so they advised that we stay inside the lobby until right before the ceremony started. All the chairs were set out in a little tree filled courtyard that was really cute. The ceremony lasted about five minutes – or less, but hey, I’ll take it!!

There was a lot of down time in between the ceremony and dinner, so Greg’s uncle brought us over to the hotel where most of them were spending the night. We hung out with a lot of the family in their room and then went back to the reception at the museum. It was pretty cool because we had the whole museum to ourselves! There were tables set up in the old Milwaukee portion of the museum and food stations with a variety of unique dining options. It was definitely the most unique weddings I’ve ever been to.

I especially enjoyed the mini desserts! Overall, it was just a really great night. Possibly one of the only drama free weddings I’ve ever attended. 🙂 I was originally bummed that kids were not allowed because the boys LOVE wedding receptions, but it ended up being great to have an adults only evening. We don’t get many of those!

On Sunday I decided to check out the Columbus farmers market and bought a giant pretzel and a package of bacon. Greg wasn’t feeling the greatest, which was unfortunate. We had our annual CDW paid for Mallard’s tickets, the game each summer where we get to sit in the TDS seats which include unlimited food. We take my parents every year as a Father’s Day present. Sadly, it was just SO HOT, nobody could enjoy it at all. Greg didn’t even watch any part of the game. He was walking around with the boys. I think we left in the third inning. It was disappointing because I usually have so much fun at this game each year. The weather just made it miserable, though.

Back at home we had a very low key afternoon, trying to cool off. I heated up and added salt and butter to the pretzel I bought in the morning. It was delicious! And it came with four different dips, which was awesome. I really wanted to go to this Ping Pong Float thing that was happening at the pool at 6:00. I planned on just bringing the boys because Greg still wasn’t feeling the best. But of course, 5:30 rolls around and the boys say they don’t want to go. I tried to explain how fun it would be and all the prizes they could win. Nope, didn’t want to go. My theory is that they didn’t want to go because I’M the one that did. I decided not to push it and just went about my work. At 6:20 they came running up to me begging to go to the pool. No! I was so angry! They just want the power and control over everything and I’m so tired of it.

On Monday morning I had that appointment with the podiatrist to check on my toe. She looked at it and said that it no longer looked infected, but if I want a better chance of it never happening again, she’d be happy to cut off half my toenail. I was like uh…no? It really felt like at this point it would be making the problem so much worse. The whole appointment was pretty bizarre and we left it with me saying I’d call her if I change my mind. I don’t think I’m going to change my mind, especially after googling exactly what a toenail procedure might look like…

Anyway, I’ve been trying to come up with healthier things to feed everyone during the day. So we stopped at the store for a few ingredients and I made my first green smoothies for lunch. I used spinach, pineapple, banana, and cantaloupe. They weren’t terrible! But I probably should have used some ice since none of those ingredients were particularly cold to begin with. I prepped a bunch of other smoothie bags for the freezer that I fully intended on using every day. I have yet to make a second batch.

Of course I counteracted my smoothies by making a twix pie to go with dinner. Anyway, most of Monday just turned out to be pretty stressful. I’m worn down by kids always around and ALWAYS needing things from me. I’m stressed out that I’m not getting any of my actual work done because other things constantly need my attention. I was also angry because when I told the boys about the plans for Tuesday morning – which were written very clearly on my big weekly calendar on the fridge to avoid these things happening – they both FREAKED OUT because they had a Minecraft date set up with their friends. I’m glad they’re having so much fun with their friends this summer, I really am. It does make my life easier, overall. But I feel like I’ve lost all control. I can’t plan anything without them feeling like it’s a huge conflict with their own plans. This kind of stuff wasn’t supposed to be happening yet when they’re only 9 and 7! We can’t even go on our morning walk with Annie without them constantly telling me we have to be back at a certain time. THEY ARE NOT IN CONTROL. And yet, they are.

Despite the freaking out, Tuesday morning went pretty smoothly. We left very early and went to Yahara Heights Dog Park in Waunakee. It was so beautiful! All the Dane County dog parks seem to be amazing! I so wish we didn’t have to drive 30-60 minutes to get to all of them. It’s basically a full morning commitment anytime we want to go to one.

We picked this out because it had water access, but it ended up being pretty scary for Annie. Up until now she’s only been in water twice and that was when it had a beach type opening. This one had huge rocks along the edges with a dock going into the water. Most of the dogs were just jumping off the dock. There was a ramp at the edge of the dock going into the water and Annie eventually walked on it and started swimming. And then she realized she didn’t know how to get back to shore or back to the ramp. She was pretty much drowning and flopping around going underwater while she was trying to figure out how to get back up to the dock. I had to reach down into the water and pull her in. The whole thing only lasted a few seconds, but it was pretty traumatic!

She got over it pretty quickly and started doing her crazy mode running through the long prairie fields and then started rolling around like crazy in the long wet grass. It was hilarious!

Tuesday was also Prime Day, so I spent most of the afternoon just wasting time online looking for details. It was also release day for the latest Colleen Hoover book. She’s my favorite author – the reason I’m going to MN next month so I can see her at a book signing for this book.

Caden had another therapy session on Tuesday afternoon. I’d say it went pretty well this time. Well, he spent the majority of the time talking to Caden at least. I like when that happens.

The only big event on Wednesday is that we took Annie to a new groomer that just opened up in Fall River. This is only Annie’s second grooming experience, but she desperately needed it. Her long hair gets SO matted around her legs and ears. She won’t let me cut them out myself, so grooming is necessary. I think it went really well! She looks all cleaned up now.

Thursday was just a busy day of doing all kinds of odds and ends. It was our at home date night, but also my craft night, so the date portion was pretty short! I made this BLT salad for dinner which was pretty delish. Then three of my friends came over for the night and we worked on our crafts!

Friday, more work. I had a custom order for a dark brown skinned Annie. I posted this picture on my Heartstring Annie page and people went nuts over her. I made two others to list on etsy, but so far no takers. Sales have really been down the last few weeks, which is frustrating. Especially after how well I did last month.

On Saturday we decided to go on another dog park adventure since the weather was beautiful and we didn’t have any other plans for the day. Annie spent most of the drive on a kids’ lap. Our next vehicle really needs to be a bit bigger! 🙂

This sitting position was really funny until she opened the window with her paw and almost fell out the window on the beltline, which she surely would not have survived!! Fortunately I happened to be looking behind me and was able to grab her and shove her back in the vehicle! Annie is sure having a death-defying week!

This time we went to Lake Farm County Dog Park in Madison. Again – beautiful!

I really liked this one with its rolling hills, fields of wildflowers, and sand paved walking trails. It was a pretty quick and easy drive compared to some of the other parks we’ve been to, so I’ll definitely be back. I can’t wait until fall when I can take Annie on my own and we can stay as long as we want without any child whining! Plus the cooler weather and colored leaves – it’ll be amazing.

I spent the rest of the day working. I’m not doing so well on my no working on nights or weekend rule. It’s just so hard to get things done during the weekdays. So…whatever. I’ll do what I need to do, when I need to do it! I loved how these rainbow girls turned out. It’s another new pattern I made myself. So far no buyers either, though. 🙁

Anyway, that was the week! Still a lot of emotions over the whole Hudson moving away thing. But…it’s happening and there’s nothing I can do about it and I’m sick of rehashing it over and over. I’m still very sad about the entire thing, especially with how everything happened. But, probably not appropriate to go too much into it on this public space, so I’ll leave it at that! We’re very sad.

This Week

Well, I thought the last few weeks were busy, but this next week is insane! This whole month just blows my mind. I realize MANY people are a whole lot busier than we are and that’s just their life and it’s fine. But we actively try to basically never have things on the calendar, committing to nothing lol. So to have something going on almost every day of the month feels crazy. I’m actually quite proud of how well I’m handling it! It’s good to stay busy right now, otherwise the days feel way too long.

Starting with today, my sister-in-law Sarah is in town and we’re having dinner with her and Greg’s parents in a bit. On Monday morning we’re going to hang out with my mom, Timmy, and Hudson for maybe our last time before they move. 🙁 On Monday night I’m going to see the new Mamma Mia movie with an acquaintance I’ve never hung out with before. She always seems open to doing girls night type things, so maybe this is the start of a friendship. On Tuesday night we’re picking Greg’s other sister Melissa up at the Amtrak and going to dinner somewhere. On Wednesday I’m planning to run errands in the morning and in the evening Greg is doing something with his family and I’ll be on my own with the boys. On Thursday the peach/blueberry truck comes again and I’m stocking up on blueberries. In the evening, if the weather is good, we’re going to this Summer Bodega festival in Madison. And on Friday, my best friend Dianne is flying in, so I’m picking her up at the airport and we’re having a night out before I bring her to her dad’s. Busy busy!! But it should be a lot of fun too. No annoying appointments this week! Just fun stuff, day after day.

My only intention for the week is to enjoy everything and not lose my cool, thinking about all the stuff I’m not getting done while I’m enjoying family and friend time. I hope to get a little bit of work done, but I’m not going to stress about it. I even let my customers know today that I’m no longer taking custom orders. It’s frustrating and insulting that after every time I list new dolls, I have a handful of people messaging me, asking me to make something very similar to what I just made, but smaller, cheaper, or very slightly different. It makes me angry and I’m refusing to deal with it anymore. At least in the next few months. I feel much lighter because of it!

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. Have a good week!

Friday Reflections 07.13.2018

It’s been an emotionally devastating week. Every single day brought bad news and I’m feeling a bit shredded at the moment, which is why I decided to write a day early.

The worst of it is that Hudson, our only nephew and the boys’ only cousin, and Timmy and Brittany, are moving out of the state. This news came as an absolute shock that none of us were prepared for. It’s heartbreaking. We’ve had one amazing year with Hudson in our lives and we assumed we’d be able to consistently be in his life – for the rest of his life. Doing every holiday and birthday and special event and random thing – together, at every possible opportunity, because it was so incredible to finally have that nephew/cousin/grandson in our family. That one year was so awesome for us, but it’s a year he’ll never remember. I have a whole lot to say about this, but it’ll surely get me in trouble. So I’ll just leave it that we’re incredibly sad, and hurt. It’s a loss I’m not sure we, as the collective rest of the family, will ever fully recover from. (Which sounds really dramatic. But, that’s how we’re feeling about everything that was said/ignored and is happening this week.)

Anyway. I guess I’ll get to the rest of the distressing news as I reflect on everything else that happened this week!

We started Sunday morning at the Swan Park Craft Fair in Beaver Dam. I go with my parents every year and we usually make a day of it, but timing got a little off once Hudson’s birthday party was scheduled the same day. So Greg and the boys came along with me and spent the time walking around the park looking for Pokemon while I browsed the booths. Everyone seemed late to set up this year, and a lot fewer booths than last. Every year it gets smaller and less enticing, which is disappointing! I walked through most of it three times and didn’t buy anything. Also, I realized that craft fairs are not places I like to be at by myself. It’s much more fun going with my mom who likes all of the same things as me.

Next, we headed to Milwaukee for Hudson’s first birthday party. He doesn’t want to be held for our selfies anymore, so I had to get on the floor with him.

He really liked the car we gave him!

So cute. I’m going to miss him so much. 🙁 🙁 🙁 I didn’t know about the moving yet on Sunday, otherwise I would have taken a zillion pictures.

It was a really beautiful day and they have a huge front porch in the shade with a lake breeze. We all spent most of the party outside. All of their friends – who also have babies! – were there too. I was thinking how amazingly blessed they are to have the same friends in their lives for so many years, plus the incredible benefit of raising kids at the same stages. It just got me thinking about the friends Greg and I lost when we lived in Minnesota and we had Caden years and years before those couples even considered having kids. And how we honestly never really got it back. I made mom friends once Caden started school, but we’ve never made couple friends. And without that pre-kid friendship foundation, it’s so much harder to stay in touch with people, even friends that lives in the same town. I don’t know. Summer is a very lonely and stressful time for me. I wish things were different and I don’t know how to change them, not when other people aren’t feeling the same way. Anyway. It was a very nice party. Hudson is so loved.

Monday was the start of a very, very busy week. We started our daily morning walks with Annie, which I’m hoping to keep up every single day. I let the boys play Pokemon Go on my phone to distract them, and Annie and I get some exercise before it gets too hot. After the walk I had an appointment to get my toe looked at. She agreed that yes, it looked like an infection. She put me on an antibiotic and I have a follow up appointment with a podiatrist next Monday. I made the mistake of not letting the boys bring tablets to that appointment and they were being so ridiculously obnoxious. It could be argued that they should just be able to behave without a screen in front of them, but yeah – I’m never doing it again without the screens.

The rest of the day was me trying to work, trying to do food prep, trying to listen to an audiobook and failing. The boys and their friends were running through the house nonstop and I had to keep pulling the phone out of my pocket to push pause every two minutes. I know this is just summer life and I have to get used to it. But it’s so frustrating sometimes!! I also spent two hours that afternoon making jalapeno popper chicken and a peach crumble that pretty much took up all my food making energy for the entire week. I just don’t have it in me to make real meals by 5 every day. Sooo much work.

I finished the night at the dog park while Greg took the boys to the pool. All in all, it felt like the day lasted a hundred hours. It wasn’t a bad day, but it zapped me. It also made me really scared about the next 50 plus days of summer that are bound to be exactly the same.

On Tuesday I was trying to get the boys registered for school, but there were all kinds of glitches in the system. I finally gave up for awhile, but not after much frustration! I was trying to catch up with a lot of things online. I feel like those kinds of mornings are necessary, but I also think I’m going to need to stop banning myself from having them so often because I’m not getting any work done!

In the afternoon I had a haircut. I brought the boys and Annie to my mom’s for an hour and a half so I didn’t have to deal with them sitting there watching me. My hair looks pretty much the same. I don’t usually get haircuts in summer because I just wear it up all the time in the heat, but it wasn’t curling any more when I wanted it to, so I figured a trim was in order. I did a fast grocery run before getting them and dropping them off at Greg’s parents’ and then rushed back home for our at home date night. Greg picked up a pizza from Salvatore’s in Sun Prairie. They have (had…) a $12 take out special every Tuesday that we’ve been trying to take advantage of for like six months. It FINALLY worked out that we could do it. So delicious.

About an hour or two after Greg was walking around waiting for the pizza, about a block away there was a horrific gas leak and explosion in Sun Prairie. It was devastating for the community, especially because a man died in the fire. Parts of the city – including Salvatore’s – are still deemed unsafe to return to, four days later. The whole thing was so crazy and sad.

After the boys got back home I quickly repotted some hens and chicks Cindy gave me from her abundant plants. I found the perfect planter at Hobby Lobby last week. I’ve actually moved all my indoor plants outside for the summer. I think the lemon tree is much happier! I finally have some new leaves growing and the lemons seem to be growing faster than they did in the house. My tall jade plant from Cedarburg is not so happy. I need to stake it, I think.

On Wednesday morning I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon about my ankle. It ended up being a very long morning of just waiting around. Waiting to get checked into the hospital, waiting for the x-ray, waiting to go back for my appointment, and then a full 45 minutes of waiting in the room. Thank goodness for tablets that day! Even with them, Caden started demanding we just leave after half an hour. It was definitely stressful, especially since I was staring at my x-ray the entire time, worrying about how it looked worse than it did the last time two months ago.

After a very brief visit, the surgeon said that I’m healing at the pace he would expect. My range of motion is just about back to normal in three directions. Turning my foot outward is still hard because of the sprain recovery, which is still there four months later. Since the hardware is not bothering me, it should be able to stay in. Many people get it removed by choice, but it’s not what the doctors would prefer. I’m totally fine keeping mine in! He said that my lower breaks look really good, but the top one still has a gap. He wants to see me at the one year mark and if it’s still open like that, I’ll need to have another surgery to take bone from somewhere else to fill it in, and probably switch to a shorter plate (and have all those screw sized holes up and down my bone?!). This was NOT news I was expecting to hear. The more I thought about it, the more upset I was getting. I was scheduled for that appointment at the desk in January, but Greg told me I really better call back and see if I could get it scheduled in December instead. Because we definitely hit our deductible for the year in February and if I have to have another surgery it sure would be nice if it were free!! Not happening in January when we’d start the year over again with massive hospital bills. It was fine to reschedule, but the appointment is now only nine months after the injury, not really even close to the one year mark! Three months left to prove it’s filling in.

Anyway, I don’t want this to ruin my life, but I greatly dislike the possibility of another surgery happening in six months. Right before Christmas, no less. Presumably the recovery would be a lot shorter, but there would still be recovery! It’s just hard to wrap my mind around right now and be okay with it. But…it is what it is. I need to get better. Fully better. I’m so tired of feeling like half a person, never feeling comfortable or confident in even the simplest of daily activities. I want to go back to a life where I don’t have to factor my potential ankle pain into every decision I make. It SUCKS.

Anyway, on Wednesday evening I met Cindy at one of our favorite stores, Twisted Sister, for a “Sip and Savor” event. They were offering samples of weight loss coffees and drinks to try out while you shopped. I actually thought the coffee tasted pretty good, but it gave me the most horrible aftertaste that I still couldn’t get rid of a day later. So, not for me, unfortunately! We weren’t there too long, but it was fun to do something for me. Afterward I got some quick tacos for dinner and then spent like two hours wandering around Walmart, savoring my kid-free shopping time!

Thursday was more of the same. We actually went on a much longer walk that legitimately felt like a workout to me. I was proud of myself for powering through, even though it meant being pretty sore the rest of the day. I don’t think I could handle those longer walks every morning, but maybe twice a week for now. It helped we left at 6:30, before it got hot.

I tried to work some more in the morning. It’s been hard with the whole Hudson moving away thing hanging over everything I’ve done this week. It’s been so sad and confusing and heartbreaking. It’s hard to get motivated for anything when you’re crying half the day and just feeling emotionally wrecked. I tried to cheer myself up with a big java chip frappuccino. The mix made so much that I shared with the boys. Now they think they love coffee and Caden keeps asking me if he can use my k-cups. I suppose I should just let him and maybe he’ll realize actual coffee tastes a whole lot different than a powdered mix whipped up with mocha flavored cold brew!

Soon after I started working, I got some news that made me realize I needed to do a mega house cleaning and basically launder every item in our house. It was fine, not a big deal, but definitely not how I planned on spending my day, madly cleaning every room and doing fifty loads of laundry.

Caden had a playdate in the afternoon, so even though I was dead tired and not really in the mood, Shepard and I went to Madison for a few errands. It’s apparently custom order season because I’ve gotten a lot this week. Which often means needing to hunt down new fabrics or accessories. So we went to Joann’s and then stopped at Target. It really was an unnecessary trip that didn’t need to happen as immediately as I made it out to be. But Caden is the one who often makes shopping miserable and I had to take advantage of a daytime trip without him!

I worked late and finally finished up a batch of dolls. This morning I did all the photographing and listing. I’ve been trying all day to actually accomplish something more than that and it’s just not happening. Shepard ended up going to a friend’s for the bulk of the day and Caden was outside with his friend Willow all day, so I really have no excuse. I just haven’t been able to focus at all. It turned out to be a mistake, but for a brief time this morning I thought I was being blacklisted by a major prim pattern maker that I ADORE. She’s extremely popular and often has problems with copying, reselling, or not giving credit for her designs. When I realized I had been removed from her many facebook groups I started freaking out that I inadvertently did something to offend her and I just could not afford to have some sort of professional disaster on top of everything else that’s happened this week. But – it’s been resolved. WHEW.

So that’s been my week. I’m feeling pretty discouraged by everything. Summer is just so hard. I’m not my best mom self when my kids are around me 24/7. I’ve had ZERO motivation for making dinner in the evenings. And work! I can’t work! I can’t stand being interrupted every five minutes and I constantly feel flustered and stressed out, with my attention going in twenty different directions at once. I miss my friends and I kind of wonder if I really even have friends anymore. Nobody’s exactly asking ME to hang out with them either. I feel so disorganized and exhausted and alone. I want to enjoy summer and the freedom we all have together, but this week was just so busy with all those random appointments. Next week is completely filled up too. I’ve never had so many things on the calendar so many days in a row! EVER! It’s overwhelming.

Anyway. Just to actually reflect on what I wanted to do this week – make lists – it hasn’t happened yet. I DID make the “What can I do to earn a check?” list. But still no go on the dog park list or the summer bucket list list. I haven’t written out a list of things I want to do for myself either, but I have been looking around. I did buy a ticket for the one time Rise documentary about Rachel Hollis that I really wanted to go to. I was hoping to find someone to go with me, but had no idea who to ask, so I just went ahead and bought a single ticket. I also wrote a few other nighttime possibilities for things I might do.

Okay, time to sign off on this super long and depressing post! We’re about to go out to dinner with Greg’s parents and cousin who is town for the wedding we’re going to tomorrow. We have a very busy weekend ahead!