November 2018 Goals

Happy November! I can’t believe with the flip of the calendar we are now a mere THREE WEEKS away from Thanksgiving and then it’s basically Christmas! This month is going to fly by. Typically one of our slowest months of the year (thanks goodness!) I’m looking forward to a hopefully somewhat slower schedule and maybe actually getting some things done this month before the pace picks back up again in December. I’ve landed on five specific goals to try and get me to where I want to be at the end of the month.

1. Write EVERY DAY

I’ve been toying with the idea of joining National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for over a year. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a program where people all over the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. I love how given the short time span it can really drive people to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing – with the support of thousands of others. The problem, for me, is that fiction does not call to me. I feel like I only have words inside of me that are true to ME. Not stories about made up people and plots. So, I’m not going to write a novel this month. But I AM going to write. Every single day. I’m a little bit tempted to still try and hit that word count, but I don’t think I need the additional pressure. My daily writing will instead come in the form of extra blog posts (be prepared for a bit more creativity than just recapping my weeks!), journal entries that I just write for myself, and maybe, possibly, a short story or two. I’m still feeling pretty apprehensive about it, but I’m also going to a creative writing workshop tonight, and that will maybe help boost me along on this journey. I’m very nervous about opening myself up to a group of strangers IN PERSON about what I’m writing, but I keep reminding myself how the creative writing class I took in high school was my all time favorite class of my entire schooling career, so maybe it’s worth going to this single one hour class!

2. Stop eating fast food for the sake of having a fast meal

As I’ve shared in abundance these last few weeks, I am on an official mission to lose some weight to better my health. I next see my doctor at the end of January and I need to prove to her, and myself, that I’m giving my full effort to this weight loss journey. I was toying with a bunch of different goals for this month. Eat a specific number of fruits and vegetables a day. Walk 10,000 steps every single day. Stay within a certain calorie limit every day. Instead, I decided to go with something that I can take full and complete control over and succeed with by the end of the month.

I’ve fallen into the really bad habit of going through drive thrus basically any day that I’m out running errands, which can be 2-3 times a week. I’m always starving and know I’m going to be way too tired to make myself a meal by the time I get back home and unload all my groceries. Grabbing a chicken sandwich at Wendy’s to eat on my drive back home feels harmless. And I think it is – in extreme moderation. It really adds up and contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle when it’s happening multiple times a week. Anyway, I am committing to planning out my errand days to avoid this desperate need to get a fast lunch. I’ll eat a better breakfast. I’ll have a quick lunch already half made for me in the fridge. I’ll bring along a water bottle and a healthy snack to tide me over. And if I know it’s going to be a really long day of errands? Eating out is okay. If that was my choice all along and I picked a place that I will go inside and sit down and make it worth my time and calories because I planned it into my day that way. I’m also not saying NO fast food, because I know there will be a few instances this month where I might be out with the boys and it’s a big treat for them to go out, so it might happen. But I’m going to really, really limit it and stop eating it just for convenience sake.

3. Finish 75% of my Christmas shopping

This might be a hard one to calculate, but I’m going to do my best! This year we’re planning to have a leaner Christmas and I’m hoping gift buying will be a bit more manageable and affordable than it’s been in the past. It’s been a very expensive year with all my medical bills and hopefully everyone understands our need to start being more frugal. Which is really hard for this woman whose primary love language is gift giving! But I’m hoping to really double down this month to research out the perfect gifts for everyone and get most of our shopping done. I think the hardest to buy for will be the boys! They don’t play with toys anymore, they don’t play with legos anymore, they already own every outdoor sporty play equipment imaginable, they have more video games than they’re ever allowed to play, and Caden still has a massive pile of books he got last Christmas and refuses to read because he prefers to keep rereading all of his favorites. What does that leave!? Plus needing gifts for St. Nick’s, from us, and from Santa. I’m CLUELESS this year. I need to get that creative brain working and come up with some solid ideas!

4. Writing a Book Bonanza reading list

As you can see, I was trying to write really tangible goals this month that are measurable and obtainable! This will be a fun one! But it’s also been something I’ve had on my to do list every day for the last month and still haven’t set aside time to work on. I’m going to Book Bonanza next August and it’s filled with tons of authors – most of which I’ve never even heard of. So I want to go through the list and then research all of their books, and choose one from each author to try and read by then. I know Book Bonanza will be a much more enriching experience if I at least have some knowledge of as many authors as possible.

5. Have a meaningful date with Caden

I mentioned in my October recap how I continue to leave the least amount of quality time with Caden. He is 100% a daddy’s boy and really has zero interest in ever doing anything with me. Usually I just tell myself that if he doesn’t want to do anything, I’m definitely not going to force him. But this weekend I’m going to make him sit down with me for two minutes to figure out something we can do together in the coming weeks that we would both enjoy. I know it’ll still be ridiculously hard to get him to actually GO on that date with me when it means knowing Shepard is at home getting all the Daddy attention. But we are going to do it!

And that’s it! Have a great November!

October 2018 Reflections

I made it through October! Usually one of my favorite months of the year, this one was a bit more tough. I talked about it a lot in some of my posts last week, so I’m going to try and keep this relatively brief. I had five main goals this month and didn’t do the greatest job at most of them. But – I’m okay with it. I believe I needed the breaks I was taking from a lot of things this month and that was ultimately more important than following through on my original goals.

1. Stick to three!

I had the full intention of prioritizing my long daily to do lists into a section of three I absolutely thought I could accomplish each day, and the rest of the list would just be a bonus. I thought if I finished those top three things every day, I would feel good about myself and my accomplishments, even if I didn’t touch the rest of the list. I do still like this idea. The problem is that it felt pretty rare to get all three of those things done. I often chose the biggest and most day changing things to be a priority, and sometimes you just don’t have enough time in the day to do three major things. At the end of the month I tried to make it more manageable, so I could check those items off. I still like this system and will probably continue to write my to do lists this way, I’ll just alter the priorities a bit to give myself some grace.

2. Implement Writing Wednesdays

I continue to battle internally between wanting to write and wanting to sew. Well, this month I didn’t really want to do either. I don’t always feel like I have enough time in my life for both, which I know is ridiculous. Plenty of people are MUCH busier than me with jobs outside the home, running kids all over the place in the evenings, and they still have time for hobbies. I really have no excuse. Needless to say, I failed at this Wednesday thing. On the weeks I was sewing, and even the weeks I wasn’t, there was something going on every Wednesday that was ultimately more important. I love this idea in theory, but I have a new thing I’m going to try in November to get a healthy mix of both. But more on that tomorrow!

3. Work 20+ hours a week during the day

Well, we all know I totally failed at this one! I needed the break to do some soul searching. I worked 20 hours in the first 11 days of the month and then I took 17 days completely off. And then I got back to work this week. I’m not sure that hourly goals are going to work for me in the future. I’ve been wanting to see Heartstring Annie as my full time career and I honestly think that’s been my downfall. After all my reflecting this month I decided that I want to stick with it and keep making dolls. But I want to do it on a smaller scale than I’ve been trying to force myself to keep up with these last two years. I’m going to make the dolls on my time table, on my terms, and my customers will just have to be okay with that.

4. Finish at least 3 nonfiction books

I started so many nonfiction books this month! I have stacks of books in every room and I want to read all of them all the time. It’s just so hard to fit in! Especially when I’m always deep into a fiction book that almost always takes precedence. But I have TONS of nonfiction unread books in my house that I need and want to start working through. I did finish three this month. I’m almost done with another. So check this box off as one goal completed in October!

5. Have a lot of fun!

Even though October felt pretty tough overall, I definitely had fun too. I went on tasty birthday restaurant adventures with a few friends, family, Greg. I had my vacation in DC. We had a lot of great Halloween memories. Overall, I think I did let loose a little and enjoyed myself more than I have in the past. Probably because I took all the work pressure off myself for most of the month! Ideally it’d be nice to have fun AND work, but it’s okay.

And a few random facts from my tracking this month, just because it’s fun…

  • Annie got to go to the dog park 9 times this month.
  • I ate at restaurants 15 times in October. Mostly between birthday and vacation, but that’s a lot. Really, way too many! But it was so delicious.
  • I felt I had some sort of quality time with Greg all but one day that I was home this month. I had quality time with Shepard almost every day. And Caden continues to be the one with a lot of gaps because he simply never wants to do anything with me. But I’ll work on it.
  • I had some sort of quality time with friends eight times this month – half those days because of DC, but still. It’s more than usual, which is great!
  • I felt I gave myself a span of self care time during the day 19 days of the month. Often this means I took an extra break, usually in the evening, to read for awhile. Sometimes it means a special shopping trip or walk or adventure out of the house.
  • I always rate my day on a scale of 1-10. My average this month was 6.45. I had a few pretty low days, but I also had a lot of really high days.

And that’s it for October! See you tomorrow with my November goals!

What I Read October 2018

Time for book talk! So this month I fully intended on only reading thrillers, mysteries, and anything else that sounded a little bit spooky and in theme with being close to Halloween. I usually only read Christmasy books in December and often try to read romances in February around Valentine’s Day, so I figured I might as well start picking scary reads in October. However, the way my personal life has shaped up this month, I just couldn’t get into many of those seasonal choices. I started many books. I’m in the middle of many books. Books I was desperately hoping I could finish by today so I could add them to my October list and not have to wait another whole month to write about them because they’re just so fantastic! But, you’ll just have to get what I have. 🙂 It actually ended up being a month of very eclectic book choices, going back and forth between something heavier followed by a couple of much lighter topics. And with the exception of one book that I just wasn’t thrilled by, everything else was rated 4, 4.5, or 5 stars! Check them out!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
Rating: 4 stars

Doris is a somewhat quirky and independent teenage girl that doesn’t quite fit in with her smalltown Alabama family. Nell is uprooted from her home in Chicago and is forced to leave her boyfriend when her mom takes a new job in Alabama. Grant is the high school football star who is also an alcoholic that is riddled with pain over his mistakes. Together the three of them find their way to Unclaimed Baggage, a store that is responsible for going through lost luggage and reselling anything worthwhile. As they work together they build a beautiful and endearing friendship that helps hold the trio together through everything they must endure that summer. I really enjoyed the friendship aspect of this book. It touched on racism, religion, feminism, and more, but the heart of the story was in the friendship. It made me greatly jealous for the ease and simplicity yet total loyalty that comes with a teenage friendship. I also enjoyed hearing about the things that were found – I wish there was a bit more on that! Overall, a solid YA novel.

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak
Rating: 5 stars

I got this book as a birthday gift from my friend who understands how crazy I (and most people probably!) feel sometimes. It was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for the 10-15 minutes it took to read the entire thing. Each page was just a little note on how to be more mindful accompanied by adorable black and white illustrations of a chubby sloth. I don’t usually pay much attention to gift books like this, but I’m so glad it came to me and I read it right away because it was exactly what I needed. I know I’ll need to read it again many times in the future too!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ve been in the mood to read some darker books this Halloween season and this was what I picked to start me off. Emma was a 13 year old camper at an affluent summer camp when her three older roommates disappeared and were never found. She was haunted by this experience for 15 years until the camp owners decided to reopen and asked her sign on as the art instructor. Reluctantly, she agrees to go to try and find some closure. Secretly, she is on a mission to figure out what really happened that summer so she can get on with her life. Overall, the pace of this book was pretty slow. There isn’t really a whole lot that happens. But it was interesting and I was always eager to jump back into the story. I loved the ending.

Best Served Cold by Emma Hart
Rating: 4 stars

Raelynn and her ex-boyfriend Chase have competing ice cream stores right next to each other in Key West. Raelynn is furious with Chase for stealing all of her ideas and has retaliated by giving him the silent treatment for 2 straight years. At risk of losing her own shop, she decides to shut down for two weeks and do some renovations and come up with fresh ideas. Chase becomes intrigued and enters back into her life, as much as she despises it. I really enjoyed this fast and fun story. I admit that Raelynn was more than a little obnoxious at the beginning, but all of their conversations and fights felt pretty true to what would happen in real life. I loved Chase and how he was such a genuinely good guy, despite making a really stupid mistake. I always enjoy books where the main character has her own bakery/restaurant/shop and this was a really cute take on owning an ice cream parlor. My only complaint is that once again SO MUCH swearing. It’s not necessary! It drives me nuts. It’s a pretty big turn off. But overall, this was a nice book to read after my last one.

You by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

Joe is a stalker, psychopath, murderer. He has his sights set on Beck, a self-centered hypersexual grad student/writer. That’s basically all you need to know! I’m kind of disturbed by how much I liked this book. It’s entirely from Joe’s first person narrative, going over all of his thoughts about Beck and everyone else he interacts with. His control and ability to be both wonderful and terrible, while justifying the most horrific actions, is fascinating. Beck, though. I hated her. I couldn’t believe how much Joe loved her when I could not stand her! Overall, this made for a pretty good October/creepy read.

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
Rating: 5 stars

I wanted to read this book from the first time I heard about it (green lit on The Popcast). I was, however, under the impression it was all about marriage – the heating and cooling cycle of a lifelong relationship. (Perhaps Jamie didn’t actually read it and SHE is the one who put that idea into my head!) I’m not sure if I was misinformed or I drew that conclusion on my own. So I was surprised to dive into the book and realize very little of it was about marriage – just so you know that going in! But overall, a really fast and unique book. I’ve never heard of a micro-memoir before and really enjoyed the 52 entries that ranged from one sentence to four pages each. Some of the essays were laugh out loud hilarious. Some of them were shocking. Some were sad, some were more informational. I loved the range and thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings I spent reading this book.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 4 stars

This book alternates between 31 year old Andrea who is trying to uncover some crazy mysteries about her mother’s past, and her mother 32 years earlier and what her life was like and ultimately landed her in witness protection. I was a little put off by the first chunk of the book and didn’t like any of the flashback chapters. But it definitely grew on me by the end and I really liked it how it all came together. It was a bit heavy, but a good October read.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Rating: 3 stars

Charlie is the youngest of five siblings and has always been enamored by her family. In one of the last weeks of living in their huge house, the Grant family is holding older sister Linnie’s wedding. This entire book takes place on the day before, day of, and day after that wedding. Basically, it’s just an insanely improbable story that felt a lot like slapstick comedy. Every single tiny thing that could go wrong for a wedding will and does. It’s slightly humorous. But it also started to really bug me after awhile. It was just pretty ridiculous. And maybe this is a weird thing to judge a book on, but it seemed like it would just be too easy to write. Give everyone crazy personalities and quirks and just have them interact under high pressure stakes with every possible thing that could go wrong. While I definitely liked the characters and did enjoy how it ended, the whole book just felt kind of meh to me. I needed something light after the last book and this fit the bill. It just wasn’t that amazing.

Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pippa is an amazing 17 year old cellist with very high hopes for her future. All of that is instantly threatened when a competing cellist, Declan, joins her school in the middle of their senior year. She is immediately threatened by him, but determined to remain kind and civilized toward Declan while she starts to get cozy with her long time crush and twin brother’s best friend, Noah. As I’m sure you can imagine, things get sticky between this little love triangle. I definitely could have done without a lot of the stressful teenage angst between everyone and their friends. But overall, I really loved Pippa and Declan was a fantastic swoony character. I also just enjoy reading anything that centers around orchestra! If this book didn’t have all the annoying friendship drama, it would have definitely been a 5 star book for its sweet and touching YA romance.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Rating: 4 stars

I have a love hate relationship with poetry. I really, really want to love it. I adored poetry in high school and then it started feeling too obnoxious. More recently, I started following Rupi Kaur on instagram and have been really drawn to the short poems she posts pretty regularly. I received this book last Christmas and finally made myself pull it off the shelf and start it! I was able to read the entire book in two short sittings because almost all of the poems are less than a page long – most of them a single sentence. Part of me wonders how that really constitutes an entire collection of poetry. And yet – they really pack a punch! I’m really looking forward to reading Kaur’s second book and will definitely be on the lookout for future publications.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Rating: 4 stars

Maya is a 23 year old speech therapist who works in the same psychiatric care facility where she was a patient at age 16. Lucas is a 19 year old whose father took him to live off the grid ten years earlier after being tangled up in a questionable murder case. Presumed dead, Lucas causes quite the media stir when he’s found raiding a sports supply store which results in the death of one of the owners. Uncooperative, violent, and unresponsive with anyone else, Maya ends up being the one who takes his case, despite not actually being a psychologist. The two of them turn out to be quite the team despite the twists and professional objections that continue to separate them. Overall, I actually really enjoyed this book. The reviews were mixed, which I should never really take into account, but I hate wasting my time on something that doesn’t have a lot of solid recommendation behind it. It was the perfect slightly dark book to finish off my month of attempted spooky reads!

What I Watched and Listened To October 2018

My tv and movie watching this month has been packed! Most of my favorites are back on the air and I’ve started a few new shows as well. I love having so many options after the long summer months of desperately scanning netflix for something intriguing to watch.

TV – Alone

The Resident

I think this remains my current favorite. It’s so dang emotional, but I absolutely love it. I adore the entire cast and am so excited every week when I can sit down and watch this one – with no distractions! Literally the only show I watch by myself when I’m not multitasking with something else.

The Good Doctor

I’m really liking the new season of this one too. I guess I just have a weakness for medical dramas. Though I’ve never watched any of the iconic ones like Grey’s Anatomy or E.R. Maybe I should add those to my binge lists for next summer! (I did, however, LOVE House!)

Shameless

I go back and forth on Shameless. I think it’s a really good show. It just gets so depressing sometimes! Come on, people, DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIVES. I’m a few episodes behind because I just haven’t been in the mood to watch my more depressing shows this month.

Modern Family

Always good for a few laughs! Never one of my favorites, but I’m not going to give up on it either.

Making It

Shepard and I finally finished this six episode show that took us like four months to watch lol. I really liked the finale when everyone talked about how important it is to be able to create and that its an artform that will never grow old. It’s nice to have some validation for my own line of work.

The Great British Baking Show

Now that Shepard also insists on watching this with me, we don’t get to it very often. But I still love it! We just have three or four episodes left in the current netflix season.

A Million Little Things

I’ve only watched the first two or three episodes so far, but I think I like it! I at least like the actors! As Psych and Grimm were two of my all time favorite tv shows, I’m thrilled to see those main actors in something again.

God Friended Me

I’m pretty excited about this show too! I like it because it’s all about doing good in the world. I also really like that actor and was so sad when The Mayor was cancelled mid season with him last year. This one isn’t as funny, but it’s enjoyable.

You

Well, more on the book this show is based off of in tomorrow’s book post. But the show…it’s creepy and it’s good. The characters are much more likeable on screen than on the page. But that kind of makes it even creepier.

Splitting Up Together

Lots of mixed feelings on this show. I was so happy at the end of the first season when it seemed like they were going to get back together. And then they were together, and now they’re not. Will this show entirely consist of the back and forth between ex-husband and ex-wife?

TV – Together

Maniac

What a WEIRD tv show. Probably the most bizarre thing I’ve ever watched. I stuck with it because it was limited and we heard good things about it, but yeah – SO weird. All I could think about when I was watching it was how much I wanted to see Jonah Hill and Emma Stone back in the types of roles they’re usually cast in.

Better Call Saul

Finished up this latest season. I’m pretty disappointed in how much Jimmy has changed. I guess that’s the whole point of the show. But still hard to watch at times.

Superstore

Jonah and Amy are together, hooray! I don’t really love this as much as I used to, but I still like having something funny to break up the more serious shows Greg and I mostly seem to watch together.

The Flash

I’m right on the line of giving this up. We gave up Arrow a long time ago because it got so dark and grim. Flash used to at least have a lot of humor with it, but even that has fallen to the wayside these last few seasons. I’m just not sure if I care enough to watch anymore.

American Vandal

We binged all of the first season last week and it was just so hilarious. Ridiculous, but hilarious. We’re a few episodes into the second season now which is pretty gross, but still so funny.

Movies

A Star is Born

I treated myself to this in the theater right after it opened and I’m so glad I went! I loved it so much! I’ve always been a huge Bradley Cooper fan, but this movie really made me a Lady Gaga fan as well. Though I wish she were more like Ally in real life. At any rate, it was a fantastic movie.

Ocean’s 8

Okay, this movie was pretty dumb. No real value in checking it out if you haven’t yet.

8th Grade

Whew, this was painful to watch. It was interesting, in an artsy way. But…painful. Middle school is the worst.

The Hate U Give

I saw this opening weekend in DC, which was really interesting as the majority of the audience was African-American and provided a lot of extra commentary throughout the movie. It followed the book pretty accurately (except for a gut wrenching cinematic twist at the end) and I think one or both things should be required reading or viewing to people all over the country. Very eye-opening.

The Kindergarten Teacher

I’m just not really sure what to make of this movie. It was so creepy! And strange. I kind of liked it, but still…so creepy.

Batman Begins

I’d love to be the kind of family that has regular movie nights, but both of our kids have an extreme aversion to watching movies entirely (except for Caden and Harry Potter movies). Greg wanted to have a Halloween movie night where we watched Ghostbusters, but after fifteen minutes of the boys non stop whining and complaining we switched over to Batman Begins. Which they weren’t thrilled about either, but we got through it over two nights. I haven’t seen it in so long. Still love me some Christian Bale. Though I think Greg loves him even more than I do.

Podcasts

I haven’t listened to anything new this month. I’ve been trying to keep up with my favorites, but just haven’t had a lot of extra time or eagerness to search out new podcasts this month. But in case you haven’t read any of my other podcast posts, I will always recommend these as my absolute favorites: The Popcast, The Popcast Patreon, Penpals, Spilled Milk, Front Porch with the Fitzes, My Dad Wrote a Porno, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Rise Together, The Lazy Genius, The Bible Binge, Currently Reading, What Should I Read Next, and The Next Right Thing.

Music

JJ Heller’s “Bridge over Troubled Water”

I usually only listen to JJ Heller at Christmastime – her album is one of my favorites. But she just released this single from her upcoming album and I LOVE her rendition. It’s so beautiful. I’ve listened to it at least ten times today, blasting through my speakers while I work.

Lauren Daigle: Look Up Child

This new album is so fantastic. This has been my top choice every time I decide to put music on lately.

Anthem Lights “You Say” (by Lauren Daigle)

I happened to stumble across Anthem Lights singing this on youtube and I loved it, which of course led me to searching all kinds of Anthem Lights renditions. They’re such great singers! I especially like their brand new album: WorshipThis is a beautiful playlist to have on in the background.

2Cellos Let There Be Cello

I just realized this morning that 2Cellos released a new album recently. They are so amazing, but I highly recommend watching them play on one of their many youtube videos for the full effect. I LOVE cello music. They have a concert at the end of February in Milwaukee I’d like to go see. I went to their last local concert, but had a massive ear infection and had a hard time enjoying it. But it was pretty awesome – if you aren’t on the verge of already losing your hearing!

A Star is Born Soundtrack

I liked the music via the movie better than listening to the soundtrack, but I have turned it on a couple of times since seeing the movie. Good stuff.

And that’s it! Please hit me up with your tv, movie, podcast, and music recommendations! I’m always on the lookout for more great content to put into my eyes and ears!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 10.28.2018

My final update for the day! I don’t have a whole lot to say since I just recapped my DC trip and all of our Halloween festivities. But in between all the fun of the last few weeks, there’s also been a lot of sadness and worry and stress. All in all, I’m having a pretty rough October.

On the day before my DC trip, I had my first follow up with my new internal doctor to discuss how things are going after a month on the new blood pressure medication. We discussed all the original tests and bloodwork she had done in September and all the possible things that could be wrong with me and why, and honestly, I just left the office feeling very fat shamed. I realize I am very overweight. But I also try to just love myself as I am and be okay with it. I don’t WANT to be unhealthy, but I also don’t want to focus my entire life around it. At my first appointment this doctor let me feel like I was okay if I felt okay with myself. This time she wasn’t exactly mean or demeaning, but I still left feeling terrible about myself AND scared about my internal health. I had more blood tests to see if anything had changed in that month.

Later in the day I got my results back that a few of the wacky numbers had righted themself – like my thyroid potential issues were suddenly a lot better, which seemed like an odd one. But the scary thing is that my liver panels were not looking good and I’d need to have an ultrasound done to see what’s going on. She sent the actual lab work, which of course I started googling and all the potential problems – cirrhosis, hepatitis, CANCER – were pretty terrifying. I spent that Wednesday night and Thursday night in DC awake more often than sleeping just worrying nonstop about what could be wrong with me.

On top of all that – I just felt very alone in it because Greg was highly distracted by the fact that he thought he found a bedbug on Caden’s ceiling. So he was tearing the entire house apart and freaking out about that, while I was silently freaking out that I might find out in a week that I’m dying. It was a bad few days. Long, long story short on the bedbug stuff – it was actually a soft tick that had come down from the attic, somehow. No bedbug. No bedbugs at our house in August after that hotel fiasco. No bedbugs at our house after the boys’ Kalahari fiasco a few weeks ago. We even had an exterminator search the entire house a few days ago and not a single bug to be found. We ARE bedbug free and always have been, and I just never, ever want to think about or talk about bedbugs again.

Anyway, my vacation proved to be a worthy distraction from the health stuff for a couple of days while I enjoyed friend time, delicious yet not overly fattening food, and got a ton of exercise. But by the time I got on that flight back home Monday morning it all came crashing back to me. I had to get through a very stressful, sad for reasons I’m not going to get into, and really rough few days with Caden before I had my ultrasound on Friday morning. I was almost in full blown panic attack mode by the time Friday rolled around, worrying about what the results were going to be.

The ultrasound was relatively painless. It was just stressful because I had to keep holding my breath for long periods of time and after awhile I started getting pretty panicky about it. I left the office with the tech telling me the doctor would get back to me within a week. I was determined to push it from my mind and have fun over the weekend, assuming it would be at the earliest Monday before I heard anything. But then, less than an hour later, the doctor messaged me that my result was mild fatty liver. Which of course isn’t great news, but it’s probably the least threatening news I could have gotten. I don’t think there’s a way to completely reverse having a fatty liver, but with some diet changes and weight loss, it should get better. She left me with the advice to lose weight and get checked again in three months.

So. It was a relief. And it was also a solid hit to the head that I NEED to make a huge part of my life about losing weight, whether I want to or not. And that scares me to death. A couple of years back I did a three month trial of Weight Watchers. I did lose 18 lbs in those three months. And I HATED every minute of it. I constantly felt deprived and hungry and seriously angry at how much time I was forced to think about what I was eating. Despite how much weight I gained in the last few years after going off birth control pills (post vasectomy), I’ve never wanted to do a weight loss program again. But now, I think I have to. And I just don’t feel strong enough to do it. I’ve had enough crazy life changing thoughts in the last few months already between work stuff and family stuff and friend stuff – how can I handle changing the entire way I eat on top of it all?! Especially when how I eat also affects how the rest of my family eats and they all have their own thoughts and opinions that they are none too happy to complain to me about. It’s so much pressure to change such a massive chunk of my life and I don’t feel like I can handle it.

In an attempt to take a step in the right direction, I signed up for a two week trial with the weight loss program Noom. I think I originally heard about it through a facebook ad and I’ve been mulling the option around for a couple of months now. After some encouragement from my friend Laura at a dinner the other night, I decided to follow through and sign up. So, it’s only my fourth day. And I’m not really sure it’s for me. Part of it is just the stress of suddenly being accountable to a program, especially in the midst of like a Halloween party filled with amazing food and today with all those leftovers sitting around. But part of it just really doesn’t seem doable. I have to track all of my food and stay in an extremely limited calorie amount. Foods are divided into three categories – green, yellow, and red. You’re supposed to eat 30% green (fresh produce and whole grains), 45% yellow (lean meats and non-fat dairy are the only examples I got), and 25% red (sugars, carbs, fats, etc.). In four days, NOTHING I have eaten has fallen into the yellow category. 90% of it is red. I mean, I do generally only eat chicken as a protein, but we also had pizza at Spookfest, pizza on Friday, cheese based food at the party, and cheese food leftovers today. My healthy cereal I’ve been eating every day for breakfast is also a red food. And I only get 300 calories of red a day. Anyway, all that to say, it’s hard. And their food database is very limited. You can’t scan in food labels, import recipes, or build recipes. You have to input each ingredient and assign full nutritional facts to everything that’s not already in their system – which is a lot of things based on my 3.5 days of using it. Trying to keep up with this feels obnoxiously annoying. I would much rather just log my eating and limit my calorie intake using a free app like myfitnesstracker. I’d almost rather do Weight Watchers again when food has a point system instead and fruits and vegetables are almost all 0 points.

The other major immediate downfall I’m seeing on Noom is that they want to track your steps – but they will only track through your phone. Do you know what percentage of the day my phone is actually on my body?? Maybe 10%? Often less, I’d guess. I carry it from room to room, but I’m rarely even wearing pants that have pockets, so it’s definitely not on my person! Why can it not let me sync my fitbit? Yesterday I had ten times more steps on my fitbit than I did on my phone. It’s kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, the reason I picked Noom in the first place is that they provide one on one and group support through the journey. They focus on the psychological triggers between food and health choices, which felt like it might work well for me. But after a couple of days I’m seriously doubting my ability to follow through with this. It’s supposed to be a 16 week program, but they make you pay for six months after the two week trial and it isn’t cheap. At the moment I’m thinking I’ll give it my best effort for two weeks and then use what I learn to try and launch myself into my own monitoring system. Obviously I’d like to lose a lot of weight in the long run. At least to get back to where I was before I rapidly started gaining post birth control pills. But my initial goal is to lose 10 lbs by my next appointment, three months from now. That feels doable. Then I’d like to work on losing 10%. And go from there. I’m not happy about any of this, but I know it’ll be so much better for my health in the long run. There’s just such a huge psychological component to it that’s really making things hard for me at this exact moment. But hopefully, I will get over it.

I didn’t mean to go so in depth about all that, but well…I like to write and I like to share when I’m in a space where I don’t feel judged because very few people are probably even reading this in the first place! Writing about this more often might make it easier for me to follow through. So expect more on this topic!

SUNDAY INTENTIONS

So! It’s Sunday! It is also my self declared lazy day after two very packed and stressful weeks. All I have done today is alternate between writing blog posts, reading a couple of different books, and taking a nap. I’m still in my pajamas, at 4pm. Caden’s friends have been here all day, but I don’t think they noticed. 🙂 I’m too worn out to care.

I’m hoping that this week life might start going back to normal. October has been such a weird month. So many random errands and appointments and school functions that I’ve just been so busy and all over the place. I’ve been having all these mixed feelings about sewing, which have resulted in me just plain not doing it. There are certainly enough other things to keep me busy, but I think after like three to four weeks off, I’m ready to get back to work. If I want some money rolling back in, I NEED to get back to work. So messed up focus or not, I want to work this week. At least make one batch of dolls. Say, three dolls. I can do that. I WILL do that. Despite having things going on every night this week, my days are open, with the exception of a day to run errands. I can work.

Nighttime, though! That’s busy. We have our usual piano lessons and lego league on Monday, Shepard starts art club on Tuesday, the boys have dentist appointments on Wednesday, I’m considering going to a creative writing workshop that’s starting in town on Thursday (I’ll probably chicken out), and Friday there is an early release and Caden has his well child check up. And one of those nights the boys will be with the grandparents, as usual. Busy busy! I really can’t get over how chaotic our fall has been. I suppose it will only get worse as the boys get older and join more activities. It’s been kind of hard to adjust to, though. I’m hoping our winter will be a lot quieter.

Anyway, that’s about it for updates! I’m all caught up! It’s also the end of the month, so I guess you’ll be hearing from me a lot in the next few days with my tv and book posts. Happy Halloween week!

Halloween Festivities

Happy Halloween! Okay, I know Halloween is still a couple of days away, but the past few days have been packed full of festive activities and my kids don’t have any more public opportunities to wear their costumes, so it’s basically over around here! It’s been a lot of fun, though.

I wasn’t in the mood to buy costumes this year. On one hand, I’m totally all for buying costumes if it makes your life easier. We’ve gone the store bought route for the last four or five years. But this year it just felt like a waste of money, plus the boys never even care what they dress up as. Why spend the money if it means nothing to them? So I basically put it on Greg to figure out what kind of handmade thing they could come up with while I was on my trip. I think his mom is the one who really put it all together with some of their old costumes, but it turned out great! Shepard was originally going to be a Minecraft youtuber that nobody would have recognized or heard of. But when shown a PURPLE wizard costume that Greg wore in sixth grade, he went that route instead. Of course second grade Shepard is drastically smaller than sixth grade Greg was, so I had to alter it quite a bit. Hopefully nobody bigger ever wants to wear this costume again!! Caden wore part of some Star Wars costume one of his aunts wore at some point – turned into a Harry Potter type of cloak with his sorting hat and some black glasses. It worked, it didn’t cost any money, and they thought they looked pretty cool! Greg liked it so much he decided we need to do handmade costumes every year now…

Anyway, we went to SpookFest on Thursday night, something the schools put on for grades K-5 every year. Caden had no interest in going (shocker), but we lasted about half an hour. Shepard had a good time running around with his friends, until he decided he wanted a soda, we said no, and massive seven year old on the floor kicking and crying tantrums ensued. Oh well.

After dinner on Friday we carved our pumpkins. Greg and I did most of the work, but Shepard was very excited about it. I washed all the seeds and made my three usual flavor combinations. I was pretty exhausted, but also had a fairly rough day (more on that in my next post today!), so I decided to try and gather everyone to go to the community bonfire for some cheer. The boys didn’t want to go – until their friend Leverett got permission to come with us. Then we ran into Greg and Annie who were already on a pokewalk and all of us walked over to the park for the fire.

It was a lot of fun! It was just cold enough to enjoy the fire, but not so cold we were miserable, like last year. There weren’t a ton of people there, but enough that it felt special and fun. There was a group of kids that the boys joined with and had a BLAST dancing by the DJ. Some of my friends were there, so it was fun to chat with everyone. And Annie just loved being out and about.

We stayed for an hour and a half and then had to drag the boys home because I was just so exhausted. It was a really great night, though! It’s so rare to have Caden raving about how excited he is to be somewhere. It was like the best night of his life running around with friends in the dark with good dance music on!

I spent all of Saturday getting ready for our annual Halloween party. It was extra special this year because Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were coming, plus all the parents/grandparents, and my brother Tyler – for a full celebration. We were also sort of celebrating fall birthdays for me, Brittany, and Tyler. I tried to keep the food festive and easy to prepare with a good mix of healthy and treats. I love the simplicity of these clementine and celery pumpkins!

Monster mouths! I only had teeny apples, so not quite as effective, but definitely yummy.

White cheddar cheeto bones.

Flamin’ hot cheeto bones.

Our pumpkin seeds – dill, salt, and chex mix flavors.

These were all supposed to be different kinds of bugs.

The flourless chocolate cake Brittany requested for her birthday dessert. With a spiderweb on top to go with the theme. My mom also brought her famous kit kat bars for my birthday dessert, but I never got a picture of them.

Jalapeno popper mummies. I usually do hot dog mummies, but nobody really eats them, so I gave this a shot this year. I didn’t like them much because they were missing that salty component I’m so used to when I make jalapeno popper dip and eat it with chips. But they looked cute!

The famous pizza snake that makes an appearance every Halloween party. I thought this year’s tasted especially good because I made the effort to cut all the inside toppings into the tiniest possible pieces so it all blended together better.

I never decided if this is supposed to look like blood and guts, or brains. Maybe it looks more brainy with the raspberry seeds. With mini candied pecan brains?

And “monster fingers.” Basically just enormous beef sticks I got at Costco that nobody in my family liked, so I needed to set them out to get rid of them!

Cindy and Shepard put together a veggie skeleton for the centerpiece of it all. Very cool! Shepard loved his broccoli hair.

Hudson was getting over a bunch of illness, but he was in high spirits! It was so cute how proud of himself he looked every time anyone would laugh at something he did. In this instance he was hitting Shepard with a hammer because he kept whining. Probably shouldn’t encourage that, but it was pretty hilarious.

A tricky selfie snuck in only because we were standing at the window and he was smiling at Daddy.

The only picture I got of our finished pumpkins. Sometimes Shepard seems so big and sometimes he still seems so tiny.

I was hoping for a nice trick or treating picture of the cousins all together, but my boys couldn’t be bothered to even be in our yard at the same time and Hudson just wanted to be cuddled with Mom because he didn’t like wearing his costume very much. But we tried!

Steve stayed home to hand out candy and the rest of us set off to trick or treat. Caden and Shepard immediately ran to Leverett’s house right as he was coming outside, so they just rushed ahead with him. The rest of us stayed back with Hudson, but he was just very confused about what was happening. We only lasted about two blocks before it started sprinkling and we realized we’d never keep up with the older boys, so we all went back home. I’m kind of annoyed my kids couldn’t even stay with our group for five minutes. Or even a single house. But…they’re getting older, I guess. This is what happens. Caden’s almost never happy anymore unless a friend is involved in whatever he’s doing.

But back at the house we still had some fun with Hudson and Annie. He realized how exciting it was to hand Annie all of his food. Everyone stayed for awhile longer and then Greg took over handing out candy the last half an hour. I probably bought at least 500 pieces of candy and we went through all of it. Plus a big bowl of goldfish crackers for little kids and a bowl of dog treats. We live on quite the popular street!

Overall – great party! It was a lot of fun! Now all that’s left is actual Halloween, but the boys have dentist appointments after school that day, so really not the best of days! But maybe I can throw together one more festive meal. We shall see.

Happy Halloween!

My DC Vacation and Trying to Catch Up!

Good morning! It’s been awhile! I’m continuing to be in a pretty weird headspace this month and haven’t had a lot of time or drive to write any blog posts. But now I’m starting to feel very behind on what’s been happening and I need to get back to my recaps! I’m going to break these last two weeks up, to make for more manageable reading content. 🙂

Last Thursday I was finally able to take my trip to DC. I’ve visited my best friend Dianne there multiple times in the last few years, but always in September or October. This year was going to be different and we had an extensive trip planned out for April, centering around seeing the famous cherry blossoms. And then I broke my ankle. Stupidly (seriously), the PA at the doctor’s office told me I’d definitely still be able to take that April trip, I’d just be slower. Well, at the beginning of April I still couldn’t put any weight on my ankle, I could barely move around on my scooter, and there was NO WAY I would have survived solo travel across the country where I’d have to depend on public transportation to get me around for five days. Craziness. Anyway, we rescheduled for October and I think it was the perfect timing for me physically and weather-wise. I’m really glad it all worked out!

I left on Thursday afternoon and stopped at the huge Marshall’s on the way to the airport. (I’m obsessed.) Then I had just enough time to get through security, enjoy a salad at the airport Chili’s, and read a few minutes before boarding. I was nervous about my metal ankle plate setting off the metal detectors, but it either didn’t register, or the security people could see what it was on the x-ray machine thingy. I’ve yet to go through a regular metal detector, so I’m curious to see if I’ll set off alarms on those. Anyway, travel to DC was fast and easy. It’s amazing how far you can travel on just an hour and fifteen minute smooth flight! Dianne met me at the airport and we took the metro back to her apartment. It was getting late by that point so we just went to bed.

I wasn’t feeling the greatest on Friday, mostly from a couple nights of not great sleep and just travel in general. Dianne went to work, so I had the day to take at my own pace. I read for awhile in the morning and then just ventured out to the next metro stop to shop at Marshall’s (ha!) and Target. I wasn’t feeling very adventurous. But then I had lunch at Cava, my all time favorite DC quick food option. I guess it doesn’t look particularly appealing in the photo, but it is sooooo good. The apple cinnamon vanilla iced tea was amazing too. After lunch I went back to the apartment to take a nap and felt a lot better after that.

After my nap I took a little stroll through the neighborhood shops. There was a bookstore and a few little gift places. I had coffee at this tiny little shop, sitting on the porch while I watched a ton of squirrels playing together. Then I took the metro to Chinatown and mostly just wandered around. There is shopping in that area, but I didn’t do any research ahead of time and ended up just wandering down quieter streets and looking for benches to rest for awhile. It was supposed to be my resting day to gear up for more walking over the weekend, but I still ended up with over 15,000 steps all three days.

I met up with Dianne at a place called Dirty Habit for cocktails Friday evening. It was kind of like a hotel’s rooftop/courtyard bar area and also the place where her husband Jack proposed to her. It was a really cool place! We had some sort of orange and champagne cocktails.

Next we went to a couple of shops (I bought a super cute pair of earrings) and then had dinner at a place called Oyamel. We had reservations so we were able to get in right away, but we were seated next to the bar which was SO LOUD. But the food was good! I ordered chicken verde enchiladas and mango agua fresca, which was so tasty. Dianne had tacos, but everything was served small plate style, so we were still hungry and ended up ordering a second round of crispy brussel sprouts and mole french fries, which weren’t as yummy. But it was a cool restaurant!

On the way back we stopped at a cider place near her apartment to get another drink.

I only had the tasting size, but whew! That was enough! We asked the bartender for the sweetest one, but I guess that in turn meant it had the highest alcohol content. I drank it, but don’t think cider is really my drink! We played a few rounds of bananagrams while we were there, which was really fun!

On Saturday morning, Dianne rented a zipcar and we drove to the National Arboretum. I only knew this even existed through a post Anne Bogel wrote earlier this year about her visit there, so I was excited to check it out too! There were a lot of different gardens and walking trails and these columns from the original (I think…) White House. The woodsy trails just looked a lot like Wisconsin woodsy trails, but it was really fun, peaceful, and pretty to walk through everything.

The best part, though, was seeing all the bonsai trees! I took a picture of basically every tree. I don’t think it made this collage, but it was really cool to see the oldest bonsai in the US, which started growing in the 1600’s!! My favorites were the ones that looked like itty bitty forests. I also liked the ones that were more unique plant varieties. It was so awesome just seeing all of them in one area like that.

Next on our agenda was DC’s Union Market, which was a big building filled with unique little restaurant booths. It wasn’t too crowded yet, so we had time to walk through and check everything out. We both decided on Korean chicken tacos from Takorean, a place Dianne has eaten at before and always sounded delicious to me. They were great!

We took a walk around the outside of the building to check out all the instagrammable spots.

And then back inside because I wanted to get one of these amazing looking donuts for dessert. It was so light and fluffy. Really good meal!

On the way back to the apartment we stopped at the farmer’s market right across the street. I didn’t get anything, but it’s always fun to check out the markets in different areas of the country. Back inside I took a little reading break while Dianne went for a run and then we headed back out to do some shopping. I got an amazing iced mocha from Pret and at Loft I picked out a great black and gray polka dot scarf. Then we went to the theater to watch The Hate U Give. I’ve been anxious to see it after reading the book and it didn’t disappoint! It was heavy, though! As expected.

For dinner we went to a place called Timber. Dianne had given me a gift certificate to go there as a birthday present and I intended to go Friday for lunch, but it wasn’t open – which was fine because I got some awesome Cava instead. Timber was pretty packed, so we ended up getting it to go and eating back at the apartment. Then we settled in for the night with our food and a movie. I was definitely ready to relax by then!

On Sunday morning, Dianne reserved a car to rent so we could drive to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a cute little city she’d been to a couple of times and thought I’d enjoy seeing. We had a few hiccups with our car rental and ended up with a huge van. It was fun driving there because I got to be in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia all in about a three minute span. My first time in WV! We were able to grab the last parking spot in the town’s very limited lot and had a fast breakfast at a little cafe. This blueberry scone was SO good. The plain coffee, not so much. But it was hot and that was all that really mattered. It was SO COLD on Sunday.

Next we walked a bit of the Appalachian Trail! The picture makes it look like it was rainy, but really it was just gloomy and freezing cold and super windy. But the trail and the town itself were beautiful!

We walked up a big hill to see a rock that Jefferson once stood on. The city was built on a hill, so I did a more stair climbing and hill walking than I have in basically forever (31 flights according to my fitbit!). It was rough on my ankle, but I survived!! When the sun came out Harpers Ferry looked so quaint and lovely.

There weren’t a ton of things to see, but we did go into all the little shops. I liked the bookstore and a candy shop that sold “candy” that people would have eaten from biblical times through today. It was really interesting to see the progression. Overall, I loved getting out of DC and seeing something unique and special! It was so awesome how Dianne had the whole trip planned out so well.

Before leaving we got lunch at a small cafe. It was simple, but really hit the spot after all the walking and climbing.

Next on our agenda was a stop in the city of Frederick, Maryland. They have a big downtown filled with unique shops. I bought Greg and the boys some fun candy and I got myself some tea and spices. Then we headed back to the apartment and finished the night at their local taqueria. This might have been the tastiest meal of the trip. If I had a taqueria in my neighborhood with those prices I’d be there every day!! The fried chicken taco with the habanero salsa was so good. I also had some Mexican creamy rice that didn’t make the photo, but was really good. It was a great end the day!

On Monday morning we just got ready and headed out. Everything was timed pretty well so I had plenty of time for every mode of transportation, but was never just sitting around and bored for long stretches. The day still seemed to last forever, but it was good to be home. Vacations are great, but it’s always nice to settle back in at home. But yes – overall, a great little getaway that took my mind off of a lot of stressful things for a few days. I really needed it and had a lot of fun!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 10.14.2018

I am in such a rebel mode this week. Really, this entire month. If it’s something I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, or something someone else expects of me – I just don’t want to do it. Plain and simple, I am avoiding basically all responsibilities and obligations and going into hiding. I just don’t want to DO anything. I’m sick of sewing and I want to step away from it for awhile. I’m tired of being the organizer of all plans and am refusing to keep stepping into that role. I haven’t been in the mood to write, so I haven’t been, even though it’s supposed to be one of my main focuses these days. I’m so tired of clutter and mess and somehow letting my kids get away with basically doing nothing for the last 10 and 7.5 years of their lives. I need a break. And some clarity would be nice! I’m sick of all this mental flailing that is pretty much leaving me a useless shell right now.

Anyway, here’s a recap of the week. It was pretty good overall. I’m just having some mental challenges that are really messing up my productivity.

Monday I was feeling pretty sick. Probably a combination of the antibiotics I was on, too many days in a row of restaurant food, and not getting enough quality sleep. I ran a few errands around town and did some general housekeeping and laundry, but I just felt so icky. I took Shepard to piano lessons in the afternoon and the school turtle crossed the whole cage so he could sit right there and stare at me while I read. It was a little bit creepy.

Tuesday was more of the same. I tried to work, but spent most of the day lazing around because I just felt like crap.

I took Annie to the dog park after dinner. Even though nobody was around to play with, she was just SO HAPPY to have the space and freedom to run around. I really need to get back into the habit of taking her as often as possible before it gets icy. I still took her quite frequently on the ice last winter, but I don’t think that’ll be happening this year. I never want to break a bone again.

Wednesday night Shepard and I watched a Great British Baking Show. We watched the last few episodes of Making It a few other nights this week. It’s so fun to sit down and watch a show with him that we both equally enjoy! I realize this is quite normal for most families, but it’s pretty much a foreign concept around here. We very rarely watch tv together – or at all for the boys – and when we do, there’s always at least one person who is really not that interested.

Wednesday was a scheduled late start and I was bound and determined to get some work done in the morning. I finished up this custom Anne of Green Gables doll for a friend. I LOVE how it turned out! It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the bodice fabric has images of Green Gables and Anne’s silhouette and the skirt fabric is a bunch of Anne’s most famous quotes. The friend who I made it for is opening it on her birthday tomorrow, so I can’t wait to hear if she likes it or not!

I spent the rest of the day running errands and working on the rest of my doll batch. We were having some issues with Caden in the evening – a pretty common occurrence these days. And always? We were all going to go to his first archery meeting, but Greg ended up taking the boys so I could keep working and have an hour of quiet.

I finished up the rest of my dolls on Thursday morning. It’s so hard to figure out if doll making is really what I want to do for the rest of my life. Or…the next five years, or whatever. The monotony of just doing the same cycle of creating over and over and over again with every batch has gotten so old. I obviously do have creative freedom in what I choose to make, but…they’re all still dolls. I’ve been venturing out from strictly making red striped Raggedy Anns these last few months, but I’m not sure it’s enough to satisfy whatever it is inside of me that’s crying out for MORE. Or less?? I really don’t know anymore. I decided to take a small break from it for the next week and a half, at least, in hopes that I might get some fresh perspective on how to proceed, or not, in this particular career path.

Late morning, my mom came over and we went to Waunakee to celebrate my birthday – my last celebration. There are a few really cute stores we stopped in at and then had lunch at The Lone Girl Brewing Company. The restaurant was really cute, but I’m not sure the food was intriguing enough to go back. It was a fun time, though!

It got really cold this week! Actually, it was in the 80’s on Monday and in the 30’s on Friday. Just a typical Wisconsin fall week! The boys flat out refuse to wear coats yet, but they were digging out all the extra winter accessories.

I finally finished up my book corner with my remaining birthday presents – a new lamp from Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson, and a fun book themed pillow from my mom. The top shelf is books that I really like and want to own a copy of. The lower shelf is my all time favorite fiction that I most definitely want to read again and again in my lifetime (and a short stack of currently reading). I actually have a few more bookish art prints to hang up around the area, once I find frames for them. Then it’ll really be complete!

On Friday morning I had a coffee date with my friend Laura. It was great to catch up! Then I took an extremely long nap/lazy lay in bed reading afternoon. Still so tired and both mentally and physically exhausted. Right after school Greg’s dad picked up the boys and took them to the Kalahari and Greg and I went on a date night to Sake House. I just could not make another restaurant decision, so this was Greg’s choice. It was good. We came back home and watched a movie. Not the most exciting night, but it was nice to spend time together and have some good conversations.

I got up early on Saturday to hit the farmer’s market. There are only a few weeks left and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go again. I didn’t buy much, but it’s always fun to be there! I stopped at Trader Joe’s and Target on the way back home and then spent the rest of the day being pretty lazy! Theme of my week, apparently.

Today has been mostly lazy too. I didn’t feel very well this morning and just wanted to read. Then I worked on finishing up my new birthday shelf organization. It took me so long because I wanted to go through my eleven binders of printed recipes, plus three year’s worth of printouts I never put IN binders, to take out the ones I never use and combine them down into just five binders. All of my tried and true recipes are in there and there are just so many great options that I really don’t need to ever look online or in a cookbook for inspiration again. I just need to remember they exist when I’m desperate for ideas! The top two shelves of the bookcase are books I haven’t read yet. Yikes! They’re almost all nonfiction too. I need to get on that! The bottom two shelves are my most used cookbooks. I love this shelf!

Besides all that, I’ve also been making cookies for conferences tomorrow, baking some breakfasts for the week, and doing a bit of cleaning. We also got the very unfortunate news that the boys had bedbugs in their hotel room Friday night. AGAIN. So we, though mostly Greg because I’ve been otherwise occupied, is a bit in crisis mode again, doing massive amounts of laundry of everything the boys have touched in the last 24 hours. He’s decided none of us are ever going to a hotel again. Not fun times, you guys.

Sunday Intentions

The week ahead is looking good! It’s conference day tomorrow, so no school. The boys don’t have conferences until late afternoon, so it should be a pretty laid back day. Hopefully some friends are around to play and I can work on going through my closets. I desperately need to figure out my winter clothing situation. I’m never prepared for the drastic temperature drops every year. I’m also not quite sure if I have any jeans that fit and I need to know that asap so I can go buy some on Tuesday if I need to. But yeah, then conferences, then Shepard’s Culver’s night fundraiser for school, and then he and I get to WORK at the fundraiser. At Culver’s, cleaning tables and stuff. Can’t wait. 😛 He is SO excited, though.

Tuesday will probably be a general errands day, plus packing day. Trying to get everything organized for Greg and the boys being on their own for five days. Wednesday I have a follow up appointment with my internal doctor to talk about how the BP meds are working. I thought they were making me really sick, but now I think it was actually the antibiotics. They’re working, because my BP is within range pretty much every day. But we still need to talk in person, I guess.

And on Thursday I’m flying to DC! My long last postponed vacation from April. I’m super excited to get away for a few days! Dianne has so many great things planned for us. We’re even heading to the town of Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia for a day. I’m slightly worried about how my ankle will hold up to extra walking, but I think it’ll be fine. At any rate – it’ll be so worth any pain that might occur! A real vacation, sharing fun times with my best friend. It’s EXACTLY what I need right now. I’ll be there until I fly back Monday afternoon.

And that’s my week! Like I said earlier, I’m taking a break from work. Not a whole lot of time this week to start new dolls anyway. I just want to focus on getting the rest of my life more organized and in order. Maybe by the end of the month I’ll feel a lot more clear on what I should be doing with myself!

Have a good week!

Birthday Week Reflections 10.07.2018

Hello! Well, today is my 34th birthday and I’m at the end of celebrating my birthday week. I feel like I’ve kind of been getting some passive aggressive flak for all of my mini celebration pictures I’ve been posting online the last few days. I’m not going to apologize for it, guys. If you want a birthday week, YOU CAN HAVE ONE. The only person stopping you is yourself. 🙂 I like to think of my birthday as a weeklong celebration because it really takes the pressure off of having one really special and perfect day. Because let’s face it – if you have kids, a job, a life of any sort – it’s pretty hard to pull off a perfect day. So to try and stave off that disappointment, I spread things out so I have something little to look forward to every day. Plus, the only way you can really celebrate with everyone is to have a big party. And maybe it’s just me, but it feels a bit more embarrassing to throw yourself a huge party every year, as an adult. 🙂 I had a hard enough time just asking a couple of friends to give up a night to come out with me. Anyway, little daily celebrations it is!

So! Monday started off with Caden waking us up super early because he was sick. Already interrupting my plans. But after a lot of extra sleep he was feeling a lot better, so I left him with a package of saltines, video games, and his open chromebook so he could keep in constant messaging contact with me, and ran out to do the errands I desperately needed to do as fast as possible. And then I squeezed in a fast lunch at Qdoba. I was dying to try their Chicken Diablo nachos. They were so tasty, but crazy messy!

The rest of Monday was packed with cleaning out the pantry and fridge, doing a lot of housework and laundry, and making a big batch of chicken noodle soup for dinner. After school Shepard had his first piano lesson. He was SO excited about it!

I was super excited on Monday night because the announcement came through that Book Bonanza 2019 tickets were on sale! They had their first book bonanza this last August, in Denver, at the same time we were in LaCrosse. I found out about it way too late to have gone, but I was so jealous of everyone there! It is organized by Colleen Hoover (my favorite), but features a ton of authors. Rachel Hollis was even one of the keynote speakers at that conference. Anyway, I was anxiously awaiting to hear when and where next year’s bonanza would be and at the beginning of September they announced it would be in Dallas. In August. Blech. It was also more expensive than I was expecting and just kind of wrote it off and not going to happen, even though I was super disappointed. ANYWAY, come Monday, I was telling Greg that tickets finally went on sale and he told me I should buy my ticket! I couldn’t believe he was serious, but that’s the kind of guy he is. 🙂 So even though it feels like a totally self indulgent and expensive solo vacation, I am going to Book Bonanza next year!!!! 48 hours of author panels and signings and keynote speeches and yummy food all in an amazing looking hotel filled with fellow book lovers just outside of Dallas. I’ve never been to Texas, so that’ll be exciting too, even though I don’t think I’ll see anything besides Grapevine, the city where the hotel is. But still! Even though it’s 10 months away, I am so psyched. I have my room booked too because it’s all at the same place. So I just need to find a flight, sometime.

On Tuesday morning I had to go back to Fitchburg to get some quick lab work done. I had originally planned to stop at World Market afterward and then spend an hour or two at the big Barnes and Noble before getting back home in early afternoon. Instead I overbooked myself, AGAIN, and went to like ten stores. By the time I got to Barnes and Noble I was so exhausted that I left after five minutes. It was still a nice day, but I was kind of mad at myself for not just sticking to the thing I was really looking forward to.

Tuesday after school we lost Shepard again. This time it was a mixup because the boys had a new meetup plan, but Shepard forgot about it during the day and never found Caden. Caden ran to school, talked to all of Shepard’s friends who hadn’t seen him, and ran all the way back home to get me. Once again, it was pretty scary, but only lasted a few minutes before we found him. It made me realize that we just need to be a lot more consistent. It’s unfair to expect a 7 year old to remember all the different plans every single day.

Wednesday was the only day I took Annie on a longer walk and then I had my first Writing Wednesday, writing a few blog posts. Annie had a grooming appointment in the afternoon. While she was gone my birthday present from Steve and Cindy arrived – a new bookcase!!!

The guys spent the night building it for me while I read on the chair.

Annie found the most awkward spot to sleep while it was being built! 🙂 It took me until Saturday to get my books set up, but I’m not quite happy with my arrangement yet. I’ll get a picture up when I figure out the rest!

On Thursday morning Shepard lost a tooth that’s been barely hanging on for the last six weeks. He HATES losing teeth. But I think he was really relieved that it came out with little fanfare this time around. He just woke up and it fell out of his mouth!

Thursday was mostly a workday, pretty uneventful. Then I went out to one of my favorite restaurants, Monk’s, with two of my friends.

I really appreciate that they made time to come out with me. I was in kind of a depressed mood earlier in the day, thinking about how drastically my friend situation has changed in the last few years. On my 30th birthday I had about 14 awesome friends go out to Chili’s with me and it was amazing. And now every year I have fewer and fewer of those friendships left. Everyone is so busy. It’s just a whole issue I’m having a really hard time reconciling with. But it’s also not really something I can talk openly about without probably hurting or ruining the friendships I have left. At any rate, it was nice to go out. It hasn’t happened in a long time!

On Friday I worked for a couple more hours and then went to see A Star is Born by myself. It was so good!! I wasn’t really prepared for the ending which left me in a pretty somber mood, but I thought Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper had amazing chemistry. I really enjoyed it. It’s also been so long since I’ve been to a movie! It’s one of my favorite things, going by myself during the day. I hope I can make it a more regular thing now that better movies are going to start popping up again! After the movie I FINALLY spent some more time at Barnes and Noble. 🙂

Then for dinner I met Greg and the boys and my in-law’s at Willie Ty’s. I really just wanted to go there for all their flavored aiolis! I wasn’t feeling super hungry, so I just picked a regular grilled cheese and savored my sweet potato fries with habanero aioli.

We came back to our house for birthday cupcakes and a couple more gifts. It was a really nice night!

Birthday flowers, from Cindy.

I had a pretty lazy Saturday. I contemplated going to the farmer’s market, but I’ve been running around so much the last few weeks it just wasn’t appealing to me. So I spent a few hours working and a few hours reading and resting. We made a pizza for lunch that turned into a monster.

Mid afternoon we went to my favorite place to get pumpkins in Horicon. Shepard and I had a great time picking out a big variety to decorate the porch with. (Caden was having a fit and Greg was dealing with that.)

Then we went to my parents’ to celebrate with them. They made an amazing meal, like always! As much as I love eating in restaurants, it was great having a more wholesome homemade meal!

We just hung out and laughed at all of Annie and Gracie’s doggy antics. I opened my presents and got this awesome stack of books, among other things. Can’t wait to dig into them! I think I’ll start with It’s All Under Control as one of the nonfiction books I’d like to read this month.

We had chocolate chip cheesecake for dessert. I had a really nice evening!

And that brings me to today, my actual birthday! I didn’t want to commit to any plans specifically until I knew what I felt like doing today. Weekend birthdays aren’t really my favorite because kids are just around and not making life so easy. But they were actually great all day! We had Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants for an easy breakfast and then I spent most of the morning finishing up a good book.

My big reading chair was my main birthday present, but they also gave me a few treats they picked out at Walgreens and some spices I had asked for.

I set up the pumpkins and we got this nice picture!

One of the things I kind of wanted to do today was check out this craft fair in Sun Prairie. I rallied everyone to go and then it started raining. You had to pay to get in and it just didn’t seem worth it. So we continued on to Madison and had lunch at BelAir Cantina. It’s where I really wanted to eat today, but didn’t really want to bring it up because it was such a long drive. I was also worried the boys wouldn’t really like it because SHOCKER, no chicken tenders on the menu! But it actually turned out to be an awesome lunch. The boys kept shouting that it was the best restaurant EVER. They loved all the different salsas. It’s pretty rare that the four of us go out to dinner by ourselves ever, and when it does happen there’s usually a lot of complaining about something or other. But no complaints today! It was really great! And the food was fantastic. I actually ate here last year on my birthday too, with just Greg. The atmosphere is so much nicer on a Sunday at lunch than later on a Saturday night!

I stopped at Starbucks for my free birthday drink on the way home. I just got the Starbucks app a few weeks ago – I’m glad I didn’t miss out on that reward! 🙂

Back at home I took a long nap with Rory, my favorite nap buddy.

I didn’t really have any dinner plans and wasn’t super hungry, but Greg wanted to figure something out so he took the boys to Subway to pick up something easy.

I decided to make myself a caramel apple pie for my official birthday dessert, but I stupidly decided not to use a recipe. I totally forgot to use some sort of thickening agent and the store bought caramel I added to it must have been more of a dip than an actual caramel because the whole pie was totally liquified! The crust was good! I did use a recipe for that!! At least I got a picture with my boys giving real smiles!

And that was my birthday week! I think 34 will be a good year. The last year before I have to start checking the next age bracket in every survey people put out. 🙂 I still have a couple more minor celebrations coming up, but I’ll try not to be obnoxious about it. Many thanks to the family and friends that gave me a great week!

What I Read September 2018

September turned out to be kind of a mediocre month for reading. Only one five star hit and the rest were middle of the road. Here are the reviews!

The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Rating: 4.5 stars

I was greatly privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of this book’s launch team and had a chance to read it two months before it’s release date. I was interested in reading it from the day it was announced because I’m OBSESSED with Knox’s podcast, The Popcast. I jumped at the chance to pre-order the book and was thrilled to be accepted on the launch team. Anyway – the book was fantastic! I think I might have laughed out loud at this book more than any other I have ever read. Knox has an innate talent at relating pop culture references to everyday faith and life. Each chapter has a unique look at different pop culture ideals and how they connected to his own life and helped shape his faith. What struck me most about this book was simply how much I could relate to it! I’m knocking it down half a star rating because I think if you are not in your 30’s, or you didn’t pay any attention to pop culture in the last 30 years, you probably won’t get as much out of this book. There were quite a few sports references that went over my head because I care nothing about sports, though the names of many were at least recognizable to me. But the tv and movie references? SO on point. And absolutely hilarious. Knox’s church experience was also so similar to my own growing up that it made for a supremely entertaining book and I would recommend it to anyone!

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars

(Contains spoilers if you haven’t read the first book!) Feyre has defeated Amarantha and been given new life by all seven High Lords, remaking her body into that of a High Fae. She is taken back to the Spring Court with Tamlin, whose freedom she fought valiantly for. She struggles deeply with what she had to do to gain his freedom and becomes increasingly depressed and distraught with this new immortal life. Desperate to keep her safe at all cost, Tamlin basically keeps her locked in the house and refuses to help her learn her new gifts, insisting all she needs is his protection. Feyre begins to waste away and Tamlin is so obsessed with keeping her protected that he doesn’t SEE her anymore. On the day of their wedding, Feyre desperately cries out internally for someone to do something and stop this from happening. And surprise, surprise, SOMEONE just happens to show up. I had a hard time reconciling with this new turn of events, even though it was fairly obvious by the end of the first book that Rhysand was going to play a much more important role in Feyre’s life. I wanted to remember all the good in Tamlin and all the bad in Rhys. But as the story goes on and Feyre realizes how much more she can be, how much bigger of a role she can play in saving their people, it gets SO GOOD. And the epic romance that verrrry slowly burns through the book? Wow, just wow! I honestly don’t care much about all the battles and political stuff, which is why I rarely read fantasy like this. But the characterization is so fabulous I was melting by the end. I loved this book just about as much as the first.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4 stars

(Spoilers) It took me a really, really long time to get through this book. As much as I ADORED the first two books in the series, I felt like there was something left to be desired now that Rhysand and Feyre are together and most of the new love sexual tension has been dissolved. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a pretty sexy book – in between all the war talk and war planning and war fighting. This book is really mostly just about the war and getting all the high lords and their courts to gather and cooperate to try and defeat the horrible Hybern. I continued to love this entire cast of characters and was particularly happy to see how Tamlin played into the final chapters. I never would have given up on this book, but I think I did hit my fill of this series overall for awhile. Maas is such an incredible author to have woven this extensive and unique series together, though. One of my favorites!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rating: 3.5 stars

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this long and incredibly detailed graphic memoir. I was under the impression that it was a great love story, but was surprised to realize how much of it was really about the author questioning and ultimately denying his faith after growing up in an extreme Christian household. I appreciate how well done it was, but found the entire book to just be very sad with little redemptive qualities. It was memoir, so I know it couldn’t exactly be changed. But I wish there had been more of a conclusion between Craig and his brother and Craig and Raina and her family. It is a remarkable book, but maybe not exactly for me.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Rating: 4 stars

This is a fun little book that shines a light on all the joys of being a reader. It’s filled with essays on book love, reading problems, and funny book related stories. I enjoyed the book because I could relate to so many of Anne’s feelings on the reading life. There’s nothing particularly deep about the book, and there were a couple of chapters that were so specific to particular books she had read that I just wasn’t interested in, that led me to skim through. But most of the chapters were sweet, happy, and made me nostalgic for all of my own reading and book related memories.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really sweet and simple palette cleanser type of a book. Likeable characters that treat each other with kindness and respect. A pretty straight forward love story without a ton of obstacles to weigh it down. Fast paced with lots of laughter. I liked it a lot. (And I obviously don’t have a ton to say about it!)

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 3.5 stars

This very short story popped up as being free for Prime members one day. Between books I decided to read it that night. It was an interesting little story that takes place entirely between the spouses of a man and woman who had an affair with each other. The woman finds the letters her husband was writing to the woman he was having an affair with and she decides to write letters to the woman’s husband so he knows what is going on. They have a unique six months or so of writing to each other while they work out their feelings and decide what to do with the affair taking place, without their spouses knowing they know about it. It sounds very convoluted to describe it! Anyway, as a short story, which I tend to never read because they don’t give me a enough satisfaction, I really liked it. But I also wonder what the point of publishing this was, other than as a quick money maker for the author. That’s what leaves me a bit confused and knocking off a star and a half. I would have loved to have read this as a full novel.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Rating: 3 stars

I was looking for books for Caden’s birthday and happened upon this one by Sharon Creech, author of my favorite childhood book, Walk Two Moons. I basically had to buy it because it’s about a donkey. Actually, a MINI donkey. (My favorite animal!) It’s a very sweet and fast paced story about a boy who offers to take care of a very sickly newborn donkey whose mother couldn’t take care of it. It was pretty simplistic for an adult reader, but it was sweet. I liked it.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 3 stars

I have to start by saying that I really dislike books that bring up some sort of secret the narrator has and constantly makes references to, but takes forever to let the reader in on. That was this book. You don’t find out the big bad secret until 80% into the book. 80%! I thought the book was okay besides that. I enjoyed the fact that they were traveling through Ireland because I’m all about Ireland. I liked the character of Rowan. But the annoying fighting between Addie and Ian that never let up over the secret were not so enjoyable to read about. The whole thing was just okay.

Purple Orchids by Samantha Christy
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the story of Gavin and Baylor and their intense yet brief college romance that was torn apart by a pretty spectacularly stupid misunderstanding, to be reunited eight years later and have to deal with the repercussions of that distance. For the most part, I liked the book. I felt like the author added a few too many crazy elements near the end that were attempting to make the story bigger than it should have been. I also really didn’t like how many times the words “my dick” were referenced. Probably hundreds of times. Men can feel with their minds too, maybe?? Anyway, I did enjoy the characters and the story, but this also wasn’t one of my favorites. I’m not sure I’ll get around to reading the other books in the series.

That’s it for September! I’m hoping to read some more creepy/mystery/thriller type seasonal books in October, so hit me up if you have any great recommendations!