So Many Reflections: Nebraska, Valentine’s Day, Shepard’s 8th Birthday, and Florida!

I am SO behind, you guys! I’m behind on blog posts for sure. No weekly reflections or intentions in the last three weeks! And so much has happened! I’m also crazy behind on doll making and keeping my customers happy. It’s been a great month, but I’m just about ready to drop, when I feel like I should be rip roaring ready to get back to regular life now that all the travel and parties are behind me. I’m hoping maybe I’ll feel a little bit better if I can get out some quick reflections on everything that’s happened this month. I’ll try to keep it relatively concise! We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

Omaha, Nebraska

One of the things I gave Greg for Christmas were tickets to see his favorite band, Guster, play with the Omaha Symphony. I figured we could make it a fun date night with the added bonus of staying with my brother and his family and seeing their new digs. The entire trip was weather dependent and we didn’t even decide if we were officially going and if the boys were coming with us until a few days before.

Hudson was napping when we got there and was super shy when he woke up, but he warmed up quickly. He LOVED pushing around our suitcase!

Timmy made us some burgers and chicken for dinner and then Greg and I headed over to the symphony hall for the concert. I was amazed to see that Omaha has $3 event parking directly across the street! $3! We weren’t allowed to take photos during the concert, so no pics, but it was really great. Probably the most subdued Guster concert I’ve been to since we actually had to sit down (hooray!). But it was fantastic.

We spent Saturday morning playing with Hudson. Such a cutie!

We went to the Omaha Zoo for our Saturday outing. It was so amazing! We didn’t even look to see if there were animals outside (it was FREEZING), but there were so many unique indoor exhibits that we had plenty to keep us busy.

Grandma wanted a good picture of her grandsons. My boys loved hanging out with their cousin!

We went to this place called Charred for dinner. It was seriously one of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever had. Everything was amazing. I want to go back.

Back at the house we had a mini birthday celebration for Shepard since they wouldn’t be able to come for the party this year. The nerf gun ended up being a lot more powerful than anyone expected!

Finished the night with an awesome ice cream birthday cake. It was such a fun day!

Sunday? NOT fun. We woke up to unexpected snowfalls for our drive back home. We wanted to make a pretty early start out and even though the roads out the window weren’t plowed, I just assumed the highways would have been fine. Um, not true. It was HORRIBLE. Probably the worst driving conditions Greg has ever been in. Our seven to eight hour drive was closer to twelve, in total completely tense silence. I did the last two hours of the trip in freezing rain with a windshield that kept freezing solid. Maybe one of the worst days ever. But, I’m still glad we went and made some fun memories with Hudson!

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day was pretty low key this year, stuck between two big vacations and a lot of birthday festivities for Shepard. I was feeling pretty frazzled by everything and determined to try and focus on just resting and having a good day. We started the morning with some good old canned cinnamon rolls.

Trying to get the boys to wear non-character shirts with red in them was like pulling teeth! I had to threaten Shepard with taking away his birthday presents to get him to cooperate. But hey, I got three mostly real smiles!

Annie’s Valentine gift was going to the dog park for the first time in almost two weeks. She was SO excited!

I gifted myself this beautiful Pyrrha necklace. I’ve been in love with their wax seal stamped talisman necklaces for years. I don’t remember seeing the writer one in the past and it immediately jumped out as being the one I needed.

I spent the rest of the morning reading and then I met Laura for coffee in the afternoon to catch up on some friend time. After school I made Valentine hot cocoa for the kids. I really just wanted to get some extra use out of my Valentine mugs!

We had a very easy dinner of heart shaped pastas and garlic bread and candy for dessert.

Shepard and I finished the night by making edible brownie batter cookie dough for his school birthday treat. I was so exhausted by this point and thrilled that one batch made exactly how much we needed. I don’t think I could have handled another batch!

On Friday after school we celebrated Shepard’s birthday with just the four of us. Still three days early, but I didn’t want to lug anything extra to Florida or make him wait until a few days afterward to open.

We had lava cakes for his dessert. He technically wanted them for Valentine’s Day, but then I would have had to think of another dessert for this night! It all worked out fine.


On Saturday we went to Florida! Fortunately the weather cooperated on this trip and we had no problems getting to the airport with enough time to each lunch and get on the plane.

We took an uber to the hotel and spent Saturday night hanging out in our huge courtyard. It felt so great to get out of Wisconsin winter! The boys LOVED the outdoor hot tub. We got the easiest meal we could for dinner – a pizza and chicken tenders from the on site Italian restaurant.

We were up early and raring to go on Sunday morning! The hotel had a shuttle service to Universal every day, but you had to sign up for it the night before and spots were limited. We managed to get on it the same time every morning, though. On the first day, the guys were hyped up and ready for Harry Potter World!

First stop was Ollivanders to pick out their wands. We watched a little presentation with a smaller group of people and then we were released into the massively packed shop to find the wands they wanted.

Caden picked out Dumbledore’s wand and Shepard picked Ivy’s. The cool thing about the wands is that they’re interactive with a lot of various spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. It was too busy the second and third day, but they loved casting spells around that first morning!

Sunday was really just a lot of waiting around. After wands our main objective was going on the Escape to Gringotts virtual rollercoaster ride. It ended up being a two hour long wait, which is really just way too long. And then it ended up being a lot scarier than we expected. Caden was basically traumatized by it. We also tried all the types of butterbeer they offered. I think my favorite was the regular cold, but not frozen variety. Afterward we stood in another long line to ride the Hogwarts Express which was pretty cool. We had lunch at a diner in Universal – mostly because it was the first indoor air conditioned place we could find. Funny how quickly you adapt to the new climate and suddenly can’t wait for the opposite kind of relief you’ve been wanting all winter!

The one downside to our hotel is that it was basically surrounded by highways and without a car and six people requiring larger ubers, it was pretty difficult to do anything except go between the parks and the hotel. But Greg remembered services like UberEats exist (oh, to have something like that in Columbus!), so we ordered some easy Mexican food and ate it next to the fire for a late dinner. Simple, easy, delicious.

Monday was officially Shepard’s 8th birthday! The night before we happened to see these giant donuts at a gift shop, so we picked up two of them for his birthday breakfast. And of course we ate out in the courtyard! That courtyard really was amazing. We also had a Starbucks on site and made between one and four stops in there a day!

We started in Hogsmeade on Monday, which I think was even more cool than Diagon Alley, but it filled up with people faster. Shepard convinced Grandma to buy him a Gryffindor necklace for his birthday present.

Hogwarts! It looked so awesome from the outside, but unfortunately, you could only see the inside if you stood in line for the Forbidden Journey virtual roller coaster. Caden and I had no interest in riding, but we wanted to see inside the castle, so we stood in line with them. It was a pretty fast wait this time.

Then we had some more butterbeer inside Three Broomsticks, the location Caden really wanted to visit. And then a family picture (I think our only one) with Hogwarts as we crossed the bridge into the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure.

Most of the Jurassic Park things were inside of a building. We got to watch a baby dinosaur hatch and the boys had their DNA tested to make their own species of dinosaurs on a machine. Afterward we stopped to watch one of the water rides and the boys (on purpose) and Greg (on accident) proceeded to get completely soaked from the splashes. They thought it was so much fun until they realized it meant being wet for the rest of the day! This is the point I stopped taking pictures because Shepard flipped a switch and was being pretty terrible for the next few hours. A very entitled, demanding, and selfish birthday boy! Though to be fair, he also had caught a cold by this point which definitely wasn’t helping how he felt. Plus not enough sleep and absolutely no healthy food in his body.

The plan for his birthday lunch was to take an uber to a restaurant outside of Disney called Chicken Guy. It was the ONE THING I really wanted to do on this trip, but nobody seemed to understand why. Alas, it did not happen, even though I still think it would have been awesome. Shepard kept refusing to go to a restaurant at all, demanding we just go back to the hotel and order food, because isn’t that the most logical solution, even though we were literally walking past hundreds of amazing restaurants?! Greg and Cindy finally settled him down with more Starbucks and eventually we ate at like a food court in the City Walk area where we could all get our own meals. Shepard had Burger King chicken fries. Then we went back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

There was a TGIFriday’s across the street from the hotel (I originally ruled out eating there because I don’t like eating at places we could just as easily have at home when I’m on vacation). But Shepard was very excited to eat somewhere we could walk to, so that is what we did! It was a really nice end to his special day.

Tuesday – another breakfast from Starbucks. That definitely got expensive! 🙂 Though by Tuesday I was also buying bananas for everybody, so at least we were getting a bit of healthy stuff into our bodies. I was also only drinking teas or cold brews, so I didn’t feel like total crap!

We realized with a constant supply of gum from Grandpa, Caden was actually really well behaved on this trip. He definitely had some times when he purposely was getting on Shepard’s nerves, but for the most part – he was great. SO much better than I was expecting from him.

I think Tuesday was my favorite day because we had already seen the things we really wanted to see, so we had more time to check out the quieter areas of the parks. Greg really wanted to go on the Spiderman ride, so he went in that direction and the rest of us went into Seussland. We had opportunity to go on a few more rides there, walked through Jurassic Park again, and finished at a Men in Black ride, which turned out to be my favorite one because it was just FUN – no scariness.

One last ride on Hogwarts Express – and the only time it was just the six of us in the car. Shepard was pretty cranky again because his feet hurt.

He just refused to walk at one point. Even though it started out the coldest, I think Tuesday was the hottest day. We were all dragging by lunchtime. We ended up just going into the first large restaurant we could find. It was delicious! And Shepard said that of his nine chicken tender meals of the trip, that was his favorite.

This is the view from our hotel room. The pool was huge and the boys practically had it to themselves the whole time! They loved the splash pad in the middle and we all enjoyed the big hot tub. The hotel itself (Double Tree Hilton Entrance to Universal) was perfect for us.

One more cold brew! We realized way too late into the trip that on the other side of our hotel there was actually a string of restaurants and a Walgreen’s, so our final dinner was at a local place called Miller’s Ale House. Then we stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up some snacks and Benadryl for Shepard. He perked up a lot after giving him meds. I wish we had found some days earlier.

On Wednesday we headed back. We had a few hours in the morning to enjoy the last warm Florida morning. Then we had a lot of time at the airport to grab lunch and wander around. Despite there being storms all across the country, we somehow managed to get to Atlanta for our layover, and back home, without a single delay. We finished the trip with a quick stop at Burger King for Shepard to have his final chicken tenders meal. Overall, it was a really great trip! It definitely went better than I expected it to. Kids make things so unpredictable, but they handled everything like champs. I’m so glad we were able to make these memories with them and their grandparents!

Family Birthday Party

And that brings me to today! We were able to skip a friend birthday party this year with everything else going on, but still wanted to have a small family party for those that were able to come. I caught Shepard’s cold a few days ago and have not been feeling the greatest, but we kept everything very low key and it turned out great.

Shepard became OBSESSED with GoPros in Florida and forced someone to look at them with him every time we crossed a technology store. There were a lot of technology stores in the airports. Anyway, with a last minute heads up, my parents gave him an (unofficial) GoPro of his own. He’s in love with it and has been using it ever since he opened it.

We had hot sandwich sliders, Chinese salad, chips and salsa and guacamole, and fruit for lunch with peanut butter bars for dessert. He had to videotape us while we sang to him.

I think Annie really missed Grandma, even though it had only been a few days since she came back home! They’re best friends now, I guess!! We got some final pictures and then everyone went home. It was a good day!

And that’s it!! I will try to never wait so long to write again and never write such a huge wordy photo heavy post. If you made it to the end – congrats and thank you. 🙂

10 Things to Tell You Prompt: Are you lonely?

This feels like a very risky topic. It’s a topic I’d like to be entirely transparent about, at the expense of revealing just how pathetic I might look. Not the most entertaining or positive of topics. But, I’m all about honesty in my writing, so here goes.

Am I lonely? Yes. Emphatically yes. It’s definitely ebbed and flowed over the years, but I’d probably say I’ve felt lonely for most of my adult life. Transitional periods have always been really hard, though I think this current season I’m in just might be the worst.

I was very lonely in college. I had both Greg and my best friend Dianne at a different college a mile or two away, which was enough of a cushion for me mentally that I had very little drive to give dorm life my all. I had a single room, which I loved, but also allowed me to hide away. I had no interest in partying or drinking or doing any of the things that young women fresh in a world of freedom felt like doing. I was always surrounded by people, but felt almost no point of connection with any of them. I did have Greg and Dianne in my life, but they were plenty busy with their own lives and classes and friends and jobs. I remember calling my dad up on Friday nights begging him to bring me back home for the weekend because I couldn’t bear two full days of trying – and failing – to fit in.

I was desperately lonely right after we got married. I was supposed to transfer to an elite and amazing design school, but quickly realized we simply could not afford it. I was suddenly a college dropout in a new state with no friends, no job, all while trying to navigate the new world of married life. I did eventually get a job I enjoyed and made a few friends at the same time Greg was making some good friends too. This was a brief 2-3 year time in our lives when friendships were a high priority. We had game nights, we got together for cookouts, friendship was worth the investment to all of us. I miss those years, and those friends. Ten years later, we still haven’t developed any mutual couple friendships, and it kind of sucks.

Another lonely period of my life was when we became pregnant with Shepard and decided to move back to Wisconsin. That was one of the most stressful years of our marriage as we were trying to sell a house we weren’t even living in during a terrible fall in the market, while jumping back and forth into multiple temporary living situations, while pregnant and later with a newborn, while also trying to figure out why our 2.5 year old was displaying such destructive behavioral issues AND not speaking any actual words. Greg was busy learning the ins and outs of his new job with a really long commute and so stressed about our housing situation. I had no friends, no time to recharge, no way to connect with anyone going through the same things that I was.

After we moved to Columbus and Caden started preschool, everything began to look up. Those were probably the least lonely years of my life. I met other women that I had things in common with. I met women that were also desperate for connection. We had playdates often. I met a friend whose son shared a speech therapy time with Caden once a week and we had no choice but to get to know each other. When Shepard entered preschool I joined the board and met new friends and got to develop my current friendships even further. I went to an exercise class with a friend at night and got to know her better. Groups of women had coffee dates. We met at night for drinks and so many people always showed up. I had two friends I went out to new restaurants with every month. Everyone I knew seemed to love and value our friendships and it was a wonderful few years of deep connection and being known and realizing that even though we were in the trenches of motherhood, we were in it together. I wish I could figure out why all of that changed just a few years later.

Enter my life now. When both of my kids started school full time I began feeling like an actual human again. I love my children, but I’m not a very good full time mom. I was thrilled to suddenly have days to myself to work and get stuff done. Though I was jumping for joy at the freedom, a huge majority of my friends decided to have another baby, prolonging their years of playdates and connections to each other, while I unfortunately had fallen out of the loop because you don’t get called for playdates when you don’t have any kids at home! You don’t even really have play dates at all once your kids are in elementary school – at least not ones where parents tag along at. My main form of getting together with people became eliminated as we aged out of the system. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just took away the easiest method I had for staying in constant communication with my friends. Friendships are easy and natural when you connect with each other in person a couple times a week when you inevitably always have to be at the same places at the same times. When you don’t have that anymore, it gets so much harder.

The loneliness has gotten particularly hard this past year. It’s been about a year since I broke my ankle and lost my freedom to leave the house for about four or five months. I feel like that’s when isolation really set in for me. I stopped picking my kids up at school, the one remaining place I still had opportunity to see people on a regular basis. Though to be fair, almost all of the friends I connected with after school had either switched schools, moved away, or stopped picking up their own kids too by this point. But that took away a huge every day chance I had to form connections and deepen friendships with people. It’s hard to get close to someone when you never, ever see them. And I never really see anyone! I work at home alone. I don’t belong to any boards or regularly meeting groups of people. I’m very, very isolated. Especially in these neverending winter months that basically suck the life out of you.

I think the hardest part of loneliness for me at this point in my life is that I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way. I try often to get together with people and it almost never works out. Everyone is so busy. Everyone (except us) has kids involved in multiple activities that take them out of their houses a couple of nights a week. Some friends have moved away and while not that far, far enough to make getting together a hurdle we can’t seem to successfully jump. Most people are completely devoted to their family time and simply say no to friendships during this season. And it’s hard. So hard. I’m constantly being rejected. As I’m writing this, I am once again sitting at my house wondering if anyone will show up for a craft night I have scheduled for right now, starting an hour and a half ago. Nobody came. And I get it, we’re all busy. But it hurts nonetheless, especially when nobody even acknowledges I put the invite out there. I am so incredibly close to just giving up entirely. I’m sick of being rejected or ignored or shamed because I’m apparently the only one around who still wants to make female friendships important in my life.

I’d love to say that at least I have my family and they will be enough for me. But that would be lie. I feel lonely in my family as well. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m the only girl, or if it’s just because the three of them have such strong aligning interests and I’m not part of it. I don’t care about video games. I never have and I never will. On occasion I try to muster up some excitement for other activities, but it’s always met with complaints and resistance. The boys crave every minute of Greg’s attention and they usually get it. I’m so glad he’s such a great dad and that the three of them have so many things in common. But I’m always the odd (wo)man out. And none of them ever have much time or attention for me. Unless someone needs food or clean clothes, I feel invisible to them most of the time.

Okay, this feels like the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. I’ll try to perk up a bit. While I am lonely and this is depressing to talk about, I don’t think I’m depressed. Or…not all the time. I love to be alone. And honestly, maybe people just don’t like me anymore. I kind of live in my head and have very set ideas of how I want my days and my life to go and can sometimes be very uncompromising. I’m also very easily hurt, even if it wasn’t intentional, and I have an enormously hard time forgiving and forgetting those hurts. I’m shy, painfully shy with new people. I hate small talk, but I don’t know how to get to know someone without starting at that step. But if you only spend a minimal amount of time together, you’re stuck on the small talk indefinitely. I long for the days of old when friendship was treasured above all else. I have hope that maybe someday when everyone’s kids are grown and gone, friendship will be important again. I just hope I can survive the years until then. And keep trying in the meantime.

I’ve been very lucky to have met my best friend Dianne when we were only five. Even though we haven’t lived near each other in 15 years, we talk through email every single day. I don’t know how I would stay sane without that outlet. It’s not the same as getting together and chatting in person, but at least I can talk to her about anything, anytime. It fulfils a desperate need I have to connect with someone who knows literally everything about me. I don’t have that with anyone else. I usually feel like I’m annoying people when I text them and I’m a burden when I ask for their time. Which is maybe on me. If I wasn’t so overly sensitive and probably imagining more negative perceptions than might be true, I wouldn’t feel so rejected all the time.

All I can say is that the times I felt least lonely in my life were the times I was involved. When I had a job outside the home I made friends easily. When I had Caden I joined a moms group that didn’t result in any lasting friendships, but it helped me get out of the house and realize I wasn’t alone. When the boys were just starting school I met other people in similar situations and made seeing them a priority. And while it’s far from easy, I still have so much flexibility both in the day and at night and I try to never say no when someone asks me to get together, no matter how busy I am. It’s easy for me to put the blame on other people for not having the same desperate need to connect that I do. But the truth is that they’re all already out connecting at the things they’re involved in. I’m the one who stopped volunteering for things because it brings me way too much stress. I had to stop going to exercise classes after I broke my ankle. I did make an attempt to join a creative writing class, but there was only one session three months ago with no sign of a second one. I think it’s high time that I stop expecting my circumstances to suddenly change without making the extra effort required to put myself out there – to strangers – and pursue something more. Living in a small town sometimes feel so limiting when it comes to opportunities that interest me. But I think it’s time to try. I’ve had enough of being lonely.

Saturday Reflections 02.02.2019

What a weird week! It started with a snow day on Monday. I’m not sure exactly how much snow we ended up getting, but maybe 8-10 inches. Enough that it was a pain to clean up! I was still feeling pretty weak from my sickness, so I didn’t do much to help. I didn’t really do much of anything that day.

Our new neighbor was also snowed in, so she invited the boys and I to come over and see her new kittens. They were adorable!

Tuesday was our one normal day this week. Or, mostly normal. I dropped the boys off at school and then spent most of the day running errands. Shepard was supposed to have his first art club of the semester, but they ended up calling off after school activities because of the impending polar vortex temperatures. It turned out to be one of those days where I REALLY wish I had some way to communicate with the boys since plans had changed. I had told Caden to walk home on his own because Shepard would be at art, but then with it cancelled I wasn’t sure if Shepard would know to come home on his own and I worried that Caden would be too smart and hear the announcement and then go to pick Shepard up the way he usually does since it turned into a normal day. So I went to school half an hour early to try and get a coveted parking lot spot where I could stay in my car as long as possible, but it was already full! I had to park so far away and my feet were totally frozen by the time they let us into the elementary school to get our kids. I grabbed Shepard, we ran to the car (yes, RAN – he was amazed I could “run”), and I brought him home hoping we’d see Caden and pick him up on the way. Never saw him. So I dropped Shepard off and went back to the schools driving up and down the streets until I finally found Caden standing in a three foot snowbank crying. He DID think he had to pick Shepard up and somehow in the chaos we missed each other. I felt really terrible for not parking in a spot that would have made me walk in his direction, instead of the opposite way, just in case.

So no school again Wednesday. Shepard and I went back to hang with the kittens again because he loves them so much.

While we were there, still really early in the day, school called and called for Thursday too.

We were getting pretty squirrely by Thursday. Overall the week went pretty well, but mostly because we’ve lifted pretty much all screen time rules. They get too obnoxious when Greg’s trying to work all day and I’m trying to get other things done.

On Friday everyone went back to school and work! I spent the morning crazily cleaning the house and then I took myself out to lunch at Monk’s. For me one of the hardest things about having everyone home is being the one still expected to make meal after meal after meal for everyone. It really drains me. So Friday’s lunch was a celebration for surviving.

It was kind of last minute, but on Thursday night I put out an open invitation on facebook for literally anyone to come over and join the boys and I for dinner on Friday while Greg was off on his first of three days in a row of social engagements. I was really hoping that other people were feeling the same way as me. Sick of being stuck at home, excited that the cold weather finally broke, and anxious for some friend time with the added bonus of a full and delicious meal they didn’t have to make. I said kids were welcome too and probably made enough food for at least thirty people. I madly cleaned the entire house. I put not only the first, but also a second AND third invitation on facebook trying to get people to come. Then I sat and waited. And nobody came.

I know it was a long shot and I was trying to tell myself all day long I’d be okay if no one showed up. This is the kind of thing I WANT to do all the time. But I always chicken out because feeling rejected KILLS ME. And explaining the whole story again shows you how pathetic my social situation really is. It frustrates me so much that online, in my virtual communities, everyone has these struggles and everyone wants more friends and ways to connect. But in my real life? I seem to be the only one and I don’t get it.

Anyway. It was still nice to have a delicious meal with the boys and mango salsa is basically my favorite food in the entire world, so it was a great treat. And added bonus – my house is now spic and span. And I have enough frozen leftovers for like six meals, so I’m still glad I made the effort, even though it didn’t pan out.

This morning we all went to the dog park! Annie was SO happy. 🙂 The snow is really deep and she was having a hard time running, but she did her best! Then she kept trying to bury herself while eating the snow. I’m going to try and take her back every day possible in the next few weeks.

And finally, only 12 hours after I set the goal, I made the boys get haircuts. They were NOT happy. But I’m glad they’re cleaned up for once!

So cute!

The rest of the day I’m hoping to get some work done. I think I’m so busy next week I won’t have any time to sew. I started a batch of spring dolls the other day and I’d love to get them done this weekend. Greg and Shepard are off on a boys’ day with some friends in an hour, so it’ll be pretty quiet around the house.

Congratulations on surviving this week with me!

February 2019 Goals

It’s time for a new month and a fresh set of goals. I hoping February will be a lot more upbeat and enjoyable than January. When I sat down to write out my goals I had a hard time coming up with much because our calendar is so full. It’s the shortest month of the year and we seem to always have a million things going on, this year even more so than in the past. So I’m going to try and keep my goals pretty light and obtainable this month!

1 – Don’t give up on the life I want

Okay, so that’s not exactly “light.” I’m just feeling pretty frustrated and down tonight. I’m honestly just ready to throw in the towel when it comes to maintaining friendships or making new ones. It doesn’t seem important to anyone else, and I’m tired of fighting this battle on my own. But as much as I want to give up, I don’t want to give in to that feeling. I want to muster up some hope that adult friendships really can come out ahead. I also want to believe that marriage can be consistent and parenting doesn’t always have to be a challenge. I want to dig deep this month to bring whatever it is I need to carry me into spring when surely the future will start looking brighter.

2 – Have two wonderful family vacations

We have two vacations this month! Weather permitting, we’re going to Nebraska next weekend to visit my brother and his family (Hudson!) and go to the Guster concert I bought Greg tickets for at Christmas. The following weekend we’re headed to Florida for Universal and Harry Potter World! Greg’s parents are taking us and we’re going to be there for five days, with Shepard’s birthday falling right in the middle of that. Experience says that our family vacations almost always turn into disasters. I’m hoping with the level of excitement the boys have over these trips, though, it’ll really work out and we’ll all have a great time!

3 – Celebrate Shepard

For some reason I always feel like Shepard’s birthday is somewhat overlooked. In September for Caden I’m always full of fresh energy and give him these awesome parties. In February, even though it’s almost two full months later, I still feel like I’m dragging from Christmas and can’t gather enough motivation to give it my all. This year is even weirder with being in Florida on his actual birthday. I’m thinking that maybe we’ll celebrate at home the night before we leave, giving him his presents then. In Florida we’ll be sure to make the day awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced him that we can go a year without a friend party because I don’t know when we’d fit it in. And I’ll throw a low key family party after we get back. He’s a pretty happy kid already, which is maybe why I don’t feel like I need to try as hard as I do for Caden. But I want to make sure he still feels special, even though it’s going to be such an odd  year.

4 – Get the boys haircuts

Greg has been giving the boys buzz cuts for maybe about five years now. It’s fine, it works, they just put up huge fights about it. But now Caden insists that he wants his hair longer and it seriously looks AWFUL right now. His hair grows so fast and it sticks up in a million directions and does not look cute AT ALL. So I’ve convinced Greg that this month – because I want them looking their best in all the Florida photos – they can go to a real salon to get real haircuts. They’re both already fighting this idea too, but I’m going to insist.

5 – Don’t forget about Valentine’s Day

I always like to make Valentine’s Day (and all minor holidays) special. But when I look at my totally full calendar I already know it’s probably going to pass by pretty quietly as we’re madly getting ready for Florida two days later. I’m not sure if Greg and I can swing a date night in those days between the two vacations, but I want to for sure make the actual holiday sweet and fun at home.

6 – Re-read 2 favorite books

I always want to re-read my books, but never give myself the chance. This month I have full permission to read some of my all time favorites again. I’ll definitely be reading The Hating Game and there are a few others I’m debating over.

7 – Have a romance filled reading month

I’ve recently started reading for the season and February is all about romance! If I get sick of it then I’ll obviously change to something new – I’m always a mood reader. But I’d like to mostly read love stories and upbeat happy things in this month.

8 – Prioritize at least a few minutes of self care every day

This year is off to a pretty bad start as a whole. But when it comes to my day to day stuff, I think I’ve been pretty balanced so far. I want to keep that up! I don’t have any lofty ambitions about kick starting a big exercise routine or anything, but I want to start taking better care of myself this month – physically and mentally. Go for walks when the weather is mild. Beg a friend to spend an hour with me here or there. Read when I need a break. Connect more with my kids. Eat healthier snacks. All the good stuff.

I guess I actually did come up with a lot of goals, but I think they’re achievable. February is going to be a great month!

What I Read January 2019

Book time! It was another huge reading month for me. Eighteen books! And two that I read a big chunk of, but decided not to finish. It’s been a good escape from life and my selections are all over the board, genre-wise. There were some great ones, though!

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this book about a group of 30ish year old friends who decide to join a dating app to try and find dates for a big event at the college where they work. There are four men and one woman and they’ve been the best of platonic friends for years. But slightly drunk night on a whim, Millie decides to seduce the one she’s closest to, Reid. They have a “half-night stand” and then go back to being friends. Of course, they end up matching on the dating app, though Millie has her profile set to her middle name with an abstract photo and Reid doesn’t know it’s her. This book then follows their friendship with occasional benefits as they learn to become more emotionally available to each other. I thought that Reid was a fantastic character and I understood his frustration at how closed off Millie is emotionally, despite being a great person. Their group of friends made the story funny and enjoyable. It was a fun book to get my reading year off to a great start!

Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner
Rating: 4 stars

This was a great book about being stretched too thin as a working mom. While I’m not the traditional working mom that needs to leave the house every day, I still got a lot of great insight out of it as I struggle just as much to find balance in every area of my life. I like that Turner is straightforward, approachable, and relatable in her chapters. The book is easy to read and provides many helpful tips. While I didn’t find anything to be mind blowingly unique, it was really nice to have so many ideas collected in one space. I’m glad I read it.

Delish by Joanna Saltz & The Editors of Delish
Rating: 3 stars

I’ve decided to start adding cookbooks to my book lists because I do usually read them cover to cover before deciding what to make from them. It IS a book, so it should count, right? This was an impulsive add to my Christmas wish list that I received as a gift. The general feeling throughout the cookbook is that cooking should be fun and food should be delicious. The pages are silly and fun with a lot of input from the editors of Delish, as well as tidbits about unique restaurant foods. I did mark quite a few recipes to try out in the future, but there were so many that I knew I’d never even consider. So many casserole type dishes – and a ton of pasta – which I don’t like at all, in any form. I’ll definitely give it a few months, but I’m not sure this is a cookbook that’ll stay on my shelf for long. It just didn’t feel that memorable to me and there was nothing that I saw that I’m dying to make.

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
Rating: 5 stars

I loved this step by step approach to redesigning your home to rooms filled with cozy minimalism. Even though I don’t exactly love all of Myquillyn’s personal style, I can surely appreciate how she goes about decorating and found a lot of inspiration for my own home. I’m not yet ready to fully commit to so many changes, but the book has given me so much to think about and convinced me I should seriously stop buying any more decor – EVER. I’m very tempted to want to start over, but it does feel overwhelming. But overall – a great and approachable book I plan to keep around for future decorating needs.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Rating: 4.5 stars

This book was such a change of pace from the style of books I tend to prefer (fast paced, contemporary, character and dialog driven). I admit that it took me a solid 25% to really get into the story and what felt like way too many days wasted that I could have spent reading something else. BUT, it was such a beautiful book. It takes the approach of a slowly told folk tale of a drowned girl found in the Thames who later comes back to life. Three families come to claim her and after a very, very lengthy introduction to all of the characters, the story finally unravels. The writing was slow, but so colorful and descriptive. By the end I was enraptured and so glad I spent my time on it. A lovely book that I truly recommend.

Fail Until You Don’t by Bobby Bones
Rating: 5* stars

I once saw this on a list of great audiobooks to listen to and added it to my library list. It took until the second extremely long wait for it to come up before I finally listened. And I’m so glad I did! This is the best and most straight forward self help book I’ve ever come across. Granted I haven’t read a ton of them, but this one really made an impact. I loved it as an audio version because Bobby Bones is a radio show host and talks for a living, so he makes it fun and entertaining. But I loved this book so much that I am absolutely going to buy the book so I can read it again, armed with a handful of highlighters. Most of what he has to say is geared toward furthering your career, but all of the advice can be taken for any area of your life you’d like to succeed in. Knowing more about the enneagram these days, I can tell you that Bobby is most definitely a 3 and basically a male Rachel Hollis. He did have a chapter about how hard he continues to work even if he’s violently ill – which is kind of the point where I can no longer agree with him. But for the most part, so much of what he had to say was so worthwhile and easy to understand and easy to put into practice. I highly, highly recommend.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was an interesting psychological thriller about a girl with very few ties in NYC who sneaks into a psychology study in order to earn a little extra money. The psychologist in charge of the study takes a keen interest in her and abandons the study in order to follow up with Jessica, giving her plenty of moral dilemmas and situations while observing how she reacts to them. I was definitely intrigued by the book, but found it a bit disappointing by the end. I kept expecting some major twists and they never happened. Though I also saw a review beforehand that talked about the final twist you’ll never see coming. If there was a final twist I was too dumb to see what it was!! I still enjoyed the book, but I liked their previous book a lot more.

Romeo & What’s Her Name by Shani Petroff
Rating: 4 stars

This was a lighthearted and sweet little YA romance about a girl who tries to win the heart of her long time crush by performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet with him – and flubs it horribly. After the first few chapters I wasn’t sure this was really for me – it felt a bit too juvenile with sqealing girls and clandestine spying on the boys they liked. Though in reality that’s probably closer to how teenagers actually act compared to how most YA books portray them. But I stuck with it because I desperately needed a lighter read and it got SO FUNNY. I was laughing hysterically from some of the scenes. I adored Emily, the main character, and her ability to always laugh at herself and her craziness instead of letting it get her too down. Overall, a fast and really fun read.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
Rating: 4 stars

I had really, really, probably unobtainably high expectations for this book after LOVING Thorne’s first book, The Hating Game, and declaring it my favorite book of last year. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite live up to my hopes and dreams. I DID like it. Quite a bit, actually. The main character, Darcy, was so much fun. She seemed to have zero filter and masked all of her deepest feelings for her best and oldest friend Tom by just saying them the second they’d flit through her mind. What bothered me most is that both main characters couldn’t seem to make up their minds on what they wanted. The same with Darcy’s twin, Jamie. Everyone had such conflicting thoughts and words and actions. I get that life is messy and not everything is always straightforward. But it felt so all over the place at times that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Obviously these are different characters and if they had the exact same character traits that made me love The Hating Game so much, it wouldn’t be a new book. But I was expecting that amazingly snappy dialog and chemistry and it fell a little bit flat. I still enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite a favorite.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the only nonfiction books I’ve actually finished AND read in a timely manner! I love the entire message of this book so much. It’s about stepping outside your comfort and security and loving the people around you. She makes it so clear that it’s not about trying to convert people to your faith or trying to get them to come to your church. It’s about BEING THERE for them. Showing up time and time again. Loving them. Getting dirty and helping them. Being a friend. Being a confidant. Helping to mother their children. It’s about truly stepping out of your house and loving your neighbors. Your actual neighbors. It was quite the inspirational message. I had a hard time hearing some of it as a pretty intense introvert. But I’m trying to be open to being more like Shannan in my own life. Imagine how rich the world would be if we all could love like her? This is a fantastic book that I highly, highly recommend.

The One by John Marrs

Okay, I know this is going to mess with my statistics a bit, but in my more comprehensive reading log I’m trying out this year, we are supposed to include our DNF’s (did not finish). I keep hearing how if you want to have the best reading life, you really need to be okay with putting down books that aren’t right for you. Or aren’t right for you at this moment. I got 130 pages into this book and I was just so bored by it. It alternates between five main characters with 2-3 pages per chapter. Every chapter ends with a mini cliffhanger, but you don’t see what happens next until you cycle through all the other characters. This kind of thing really annoys me because I can’t concentrate on the next mini cliffhanger when I’m still wondering about the last. The only thing that interested me were the chapters about the serial killer, but he also got way too descriptive about his method of killing and how long he waited before revealing the bodies – it just wasn’t something I needed to know about in the midst of everything going on in my personal life this month. Anyway, I might enjoy reading this at another time, but I doubt I’ll pick it back up. It just felt too one dimensional with characters I didn’t care about and couldn’t see finding a happy ending.

Bibliophile by Jane Mount
Rating: 5 stars

I feel a bit weird giving this one a rating because I didn’t really read it word for word. Mostly because I looked through this book in one sitting and it was A LOT of information. This is basically an enormous collection of books organized by genre, info about bookstores, and a crazy fount of information about all bookish related things. All of it made so much more fun and interesting with illustrations galore. My favorite part of the book was seeing all the ideal bookshelf drawings for each genre. I also really loved the couple of books she showed with all their versions and covers. With my graphic design background (and intense interest), I really loved those aspects of the book best. I did skim through the things that didn’t interest me and marked the pages I plan on going back to read more deeply. This book is sure to increase your TBR piles tenfold! It’s an amazing collection that must have taken so much time and research to put together. I’m going to love having this on my shelf to go reach for again and again!

Bright Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 4.5 stars

I went into this book mistakenly thinking it was going to be a delightful romance. Something to lift some of the gloom that January brought. Small spoiler alert – this book is about dying. And living the time you have left to the absolute fullest with no regrets. I was not prepared for this book to basically ruin me by the end. It really wasn’t what I needed this month. But I don’t regret reading it either. Kate was such an amazing person. Her ability to focus on other people, always find the bright side of them, and LOVE so deeply was incredible. Especially after her rough childhood and dealing with so much of her own loss. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was how long it took to reveal certain things, which is why I’m kind of spoiling it a little bit. Just so you know what you’re getting into, if you don’t want to be blindsided by a book about death when you’re dealing with your own family death at the same time. But ultimately, it was a very uplifting book.

The Happy Cookbook by Steve and Kathy Doocy
Rating: 3.5 stars

I picked up this cookbook because it looked cute and HAPPY (good branding lol). I’m not sure who Steve Doocy is, though I think I probably should? I’m not sure, I haven’t had real tv in over ten years, so I’ve never watched a single Fox tv type of show. At any rate, I still really enjoyed reading the cookbook. Every chapter has a large introduction filled with stories related to that section of food. Then every single recipe has a full story of where the recipe came from and what it means to their family. I love this approach to cookbook – explaining how tried and true each of the recipes are. They’re not recipes they created simply for the sake of filling a cookbook. Reading their stories made me think about my own tried and true recipes that have been passed down to me and ones that I’ve loved so much I feel like I’ve made a thousand times. There aren’t that many that have stood the test of time, so it impresses me how many the Doocy’s have in their repertoire! So far I’ve only made the pimento cheese recipe and it was incredible. I never told the rest of my family I made it – just ate it myself every day for breakfast and lunch until it was gone. I really liked all the family photos that were also included throughout the book, especially when they were of the family eating the exact recipe. I’d say overall maybe 30% of the recipes were ones I’d be interested in making myself, which makes it iffy on whether I’ll keep it forever on my limited space cookbook shelf. But so far I’ve been very intrigued and would definitely recommend checking it out.

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Rating: 3 stars

Okay, so if you don’t know – Christina Lauren is actually a team of two writers. I’ve read many of their books and really liked most of them. I’m not sure exactly how they split up the writing, but this is the first book I read where it really felt like the characters were being given mixed traits depending on if the chapters were taking place in the past or the present. It bothered me. So much of this book is about the main character who shuts down emotionally and runs from any sort of deep emotional connections. It’s probably more a personal pet peeve than anything wrong with the book, but I just can’t stand people who are always shutting down and refusing to talk. It ticks me off. Which made me not like this book very much. Elliot seemed like such a great character at times, but his flaws – especially in the past – seemed kind of irredeemable to me. Anyway, the book was fine, I just didn’t like it nearly as much as their other books.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Rating: 4 stars

This book has been at the top of my TBR pile for awhile. I really wanted to read it in December before I gave it as a gift, but I ran out of time. I finally got around to it and it did not disappoint. It’s the story of a poor girl in the marshlands of North Carolina whose family walks out of her life, one by one. By age 10 she is completely on her own and somehow manages to survive. The story follows along with her life and alternates with a murder that takes places in the present (1969). To be fair, I thought about the first quarter of the book was really slow and not that interesting. The writing is beautiful and the marshlands of North Carolina were given such a fantastic sense of place and wonder. I just thought the book became a lot more interesting once Kya was a teenager and started forming relationships with a select few boys her age. The book felt a lot longer than it actually was with all the sweeping descriptions and slow moving plot. But the writing was gorgeous and I’m glad I finally made the time to read it.

Maybe Now by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars

Somehow yet another Colleen Hoover novel escaped my attention! I only started obsessively keeping up with new releases and my favorite authors in the last two years, so I missed out on this one! It’s the second (but technically the third?) book in the Maybe Someday series. (I also just realized I missed another book too that I’m going to have to read STAT.) Colleen has always been pretty unconventional about her publishing methods, so you never know when a book might pop up. Though I just noticed this was only released TWO MONTHS AGO. So I don’t know how in the world I missed it. Anyway, I think after such a long gap between the first book (four years), I probably should have re-read it, though a lot of the story easily came back to me because her books are so memorable. It was great revisiting all the wonderful characters and seeing how their relationships continued to grow. While it’s definitely missing that intense excitement of a central new romance, it was equally as fun watching a young romance grow deeper. At the book signing I went to last year, Colleen said that Sydney was her favorite character to date. After reading this book I have to say that she really is amazing. There’s nothing not to like about her. Anyway, definitely read Maybe Someday before you read this one. You’ll love them both!

Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff
Rating: 4 stars

I cannot tell you how much these three companion books by Helene Hanff have meant to me (84, Charing Cross Road, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, and Q’s Legacy). They’re the ugliest covered old books with terrible titles, but they have my whole heart as being some of the most endearing and funny books I have ever read. Helene Hanff is an absolute treasure. She writes with such subtle yet incredible humor that had me laughing out loud throughout the entire book(s). This third installment was kind of a mixed memoir of Helene’s life with a heavy middle section of journal entries during her second trip to London. I found that section to be less intriguing, but I adored the chapters before and after. These books brought me such joy and if you love books about the love of books, I HIGHLY recommend reading these. But definitely start 84, as it’s the best!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Rating: DNF

I listened to about half of this book on audio. For awhile I thought it was fun and light and I enjoyed it because I like Amy Poehler. But the further I got into the book the more it seemed like she was writing just to fill space, not to actually SAY anything. I feel like if you’re going to write a memoir, you really need to be vulnerable, otherwise what’s the point? This felt so surface level that at about the five or six hour mark I just didn’t care anymore.

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 5 stars

Be forewarned that I’m going to be reading a lot of romance in the coming months as I start to work through Book Bonanza authors, who are almost all romance writers. I have mixed feelings about the romance genre. I don’t want to be the kind of person that dismisses a genre as being beneath me. I’m totally fine with romance if it feels genuine and authentic and not just smut for the sake of smut. That being said, this was a really great example of a true love story between two flawed and hurting characters. Archer is a man who lost his family and his voice as a child and has lived a completely secluded life with no other human connection. Bree is a woman who decided to flee her life after her father was brutally murdered in front of her. They find each other and slowly grow closer through simple measures of trust. With the exception of a few cliff hangers that felt very out of place (including one that almost made me throw my kindle across the room and abandon the book), this was a beautiful journey of a love between two people.

January 2019 Reflections

WHEW. We did it, guys. We survived January. Did January feel like twenty weeks long to you too? I seriously can’t believe how long this month has been. Especially these last two weeks! SO MUCH FORCED FAMILY TIME. I’m supposed to have 4 days a week home to myself to work and get stuff done and breathe and not go insane. Both last week and this I’ve only had one day and both of those days were spent out the entire time running errands. I am about to completely lose my mind. I’ve been doing pretty good – better than I thought I would have. But I’ve really hit my limit tonight. I don’t want to make three meals a day for four people anymore. I don’t want someone in the room with me every minute of every day. I don’t want to not listen to my podcasts or watch my shows because of the sensitivity of those in the house around me. I don’t want to be stuck at home because I literally have no freedom to leave with such horrific weather. It’s also killing me that even though everyone will go back to school and work tomorrow, it will be followed by THREE MORE DAYS of everyone home. I’m losing it.

Anyway. January was a pretty rough month. My uncle’s body was found in his apartment and I think the circumstances surrounding his death are going to haunt me for a long time. I helped my mom and other uncle and some cousins clean out his apartment for a couple of days and I can’t get those images out of my mind, especially at night when I’m trying to fall to sleep. It was a devastatingly sad situation that I’ve had a lot of unexpected grief over. I wish things could have been different. And wishing won’t change anything, which really just sucks.

The weather this month also forced my hand and I had to cancel a lot of plans between everything going on. We also all (except Caden) had a short but horrific case of a norovirus last week which felt like it was going to kill me. Except for my one lunch out with my friend Laura and our one little anniversary night getaway, I had to cancel every single fun thing I had planned for January. A coffee date with another friend, a craft night, a dinner with a couple of friends, a shopping day with my mom, a D&D day for Greg, a birthday party for Shepard’s friend. Even the not so fun, yet necessary things got cancelled and are now moved to February which is seriously too busy already. I couldn’t get to my doctor’s appointment this week and my dentist appointment for tomorrow has also been cancelled for non-weather reasons. I really wanted to take the boys to get real haircuts for the first time in years this week, but everything ended up closing and we couldn’t leave the house. It’s just been day after day after day of being stuck at home with either not having a lot to do, or not wanting to actually do anything, or feeling too sick to actually be productive, or feeling guilty for not having done enough. I’ve been in quite a funk and I don’t like it. I’m hoping with the flip of the calendar and the promised warmer temperatures this weekend, I can shake it off and be happy again.

Looking back at my goals for the month, I think I’ve done okay under the circumstances.

1 – No excess spending

I did GREAT with this for about three weeks. And then I desperately needed some hits of retail therapy. I haven’t gone crazy, but I was definitely inspired to collect some more fun things to spruce up the house. I ordered some new pillows and blankets and a large ottoman to go with my reading chair. I bought some Valentine gifts and birthday gifts and added some mugs to my collection. In a desperate need to bring more green and life into my house, I also placed an order for some new and unique houseplants that are going to come in a few days. For those first few weeks, though, I think it did me a lot of good to say no, especially after the crazy Christmas rush in November and December. This is something I’d like to do maybe every other month or so, just to get in the habit of clearly thinking about what I truly want and need before spending my money on it.

2 – Lose 3 or more pounds by the 30th

Oof. Well. I did. But only because I was violently sick and lost 6 pounds in two days. Otherwise, my healthy eating habits have basically been thrown out the window this month. It’s been so hard to think about that on top of everything else. January has felt like being in pure survival mode. Not motivational be my best self mode. I definitely need to find that awesome drive I had in November and early December before Christmas time parties ruined me.

3 – No fast food

I only gave in and got Culver’s one time, one of the days after I helped clean out my uncle’s apartment and I knew that Greg and the boys were gone because they had gone out to Culver’s too. I just couldn’t deal with coming home and making myself a meal and I was starving and I had limited options. But otherwise – I’ve been good. I’ve also just frequented restaurants a lot less often in general this month. Mostly because I’ve been stuck here and haven’t had a choice! 🙂

4 – Make 20+ Valentine dolls

This I did! I actually made 33 Valentine dolls. And until this week (post illness plus everyone home every day due to cancelled school), I’ve been great at keeping consistent work hours too. Almost no nights or weekends and still plenty of time left over for living my regular life and not being overly stressed out about it.

5 – Read 4 books from my shelves

I actually read 9 books from my shelves this month! Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself!

6 – Have a great anniversary getaway

Well, I wrote about this last weekend. I really enjoyed our afternoon and night in Cedarburg. I’m disappointed that we didn’t make more of our second day, just rushing back to get the boys the way we always do. I also don’t think we had any of our regularly weekday at home date nights this whole month because of the weather and a sick kid and busy schedules. So that’s kind of a bummer. Not that we’re not getting a massive amount of time in the same house these days. But getting OUT of the house is always better for us.

7 – Spend time with friends

I explained this one already. I’m really glad I had one lunch out. And twice this week we sort of invited ourselves over to our new neighbor’s house to see her little kittens. I’m hoping it’s the start of a very good friendship. Better friends than enemies when you share a driveway and are forced to work together outside every time it snows!

So, overall…I’m just glad January is over. It wasn’t the worst it could have been. But it was far from great. But, it’s over. On to February and a whole lot of fun things happening!

10 Things to Tell You Prompt: When do you read?

I’m really excited to be joining in on another new social media project designed by the awesome Laura Tremaine. I’ve taken part in some of her challenges over the last few years and it’s one of my favorite things. I love sharing things that are important to me AND learning a lot more about other people who also answer the prompts or take part in the #ONEDAYHH project. This time Laura has started a new podcast called 10 Things to Tell You. Each episode revolves around a topic and what she has to say about it, including a prompt to share our own ideas on that topic. This is only the first episode, so I’m not sure what kind of twists and turns it’ll take, but I’m hoping to use each prompt as a launch point for a blog post beyond my typical diary-like posts I’ve mostly been doing the last few months. So here goes!

When do I read?

All day? 🙂

To be more specific, I usually get up in the morning anytime between 5 and 6. If I have something going on in the morning (or it’s any season besides winter when a hat and giant coat will not cover the fact that I haven’t showered) I try to get a shower in first thing, but then I head down to my “writing desk” (no distracting computer) and usually sit there until 6:30 when I switch into mom mode. My morning reading comes from a wide variety of devotionals I have lined up by my bullet journal. I usually look over my plan for the day and then pick a book or two to read an entry from. Occasionally I’ll read a chapter or two from a longer book. I try not to overwhelm my brain by reading too many inspirational things because I’d like it to actually sink in and mean something. If I am up particularly early (there was about a two month span recently where I was waking up by 4 every day for no apparent reason), I might move over to the couch with Annie and read whatever fiction book I’m in the middle of.

My next big reading chunk comes in the early afternoon after I’ve put in a solid block of working hours, ate lunch, and am ready for a break. I usually read for 10 minutes to an hour and then take a nap. If it’s a short nap, I might read again when I wake up.

As my kids get older, especially in winter when there’s basically NOTHING else to do, I often spend at least an hour or two every night after dinner reading some more. The rest of my family is often playing video games or watching a guy movie and I’m on my own for tv-less entertainment. I’ve been trying not to work in the evenings anymore, so that pretty much just leaves more reading time!

My final daily reading chunk happens at night after I’ve watched a show with Greg. Depending on how tired I am and how good the book is, I’ll usually read 20-60 minutes before falling asleep. So overall, on a normal weekday, I’d say I get 2-4 hours of reading in each day.

On weekends, if we’re not expected to be anywhere, reading is also my go to. We only have the one big tv and the boys are always on it. I’m also trying not to work so much on weekends, so again – books! During the winter months I’d say it’s not unusual for me to read 4-6 hours a day.

How do I read?

For a long time I’ve been a full fledged kindle enthusiast. They’re light, they’re convenient, and they can be stocked full of every book imaginable. I still love my kindle, but I also ADORE real books. I have an obsession with them that seems to be growing stronger by the day. I love to look at them, feel them, and even though they’re more obnoxious and uncomfortable to hold when lounging around – even read from them. Especially nonfiction. I like to keep fiction purely on my kindle and have almost all nonfiction in paper form. I know if I get a nonfiction book on my kindle there’s basically zero chance I’ll ever read it because I’m ALWAYS going to have a fiction book going and switching back and forth just isn’t going to happen. I also have stacks of books in basically every room, so I can always pick something up the minute I start feeling bored. I’ve been dabbling in audiobooks over the last year, but have found I can only handle listening to nonfiction. But even then I usually regret not having read it because I know I would have gotten more out of it. But for the sake of having something to listen to besides podcasts all the time, I’m trying to do at least one audiobook a month.

What do I read?

Generally, I’d say I read 90% fiction, 10% nonfiction. But I’m making a big effort this year to make a dent in my physical books – which are almost all nonfiction. This month I’m about half and half, which is pretty incredible! I really adore fiction and escaping into the life of a character. But nonfiction is truly what makes me grow and become a better person and I’d like to spend more time on that this year. I usually do my nonfiction reading first thing in the morning and it’s the first thing I read in my evening hours. Fiction is always for afternoons and later at night when I’m reading in bed.

Reading has always been and always will be my biggest hobby and the one thing I will never, ever, EVER go a day without doing. Seriously, ever. It’s an enormous part of my life and makes me who I am. I cannot imagine life without books!

Double Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.27.2019

It’s been awhile! I haven’t really been up to writing lately. Mostly because it’s been a pretty crappy month and it seemed like if I didn’t have anything remotely positive to say, I probably shouldn’t be saying anything at all. This whole month has really just been the pits. Between the unexpected death of my uncle and all the fallout, a lot of snow, and way too much cold weather – basically every single fun thing I had planned for this month had to be cancelled. All very good excuses, but it doesn’t change the fact that it sucked. Especially since February is an insanely busy month and I don’t expect to be able to reschedule any of the things I cancelled this month until at least March when life settles down again. It frustrates me. It’s been a hard month, to say the least.

On a happy note, Greg and I celebrated 19 years of being together on January 17th. We always like to celebrate this anniversary because it was so important to us the six years we were together before we got married, and on our fifth anniversary, Greg proposed. Plus it’s fun to have something special to look forward to in the doldrums of winter. We normally go out for a nice date, but this year we took advantage of a Groupon deal and went to a little inn in Cedarburg for the night.

We were actually just in Cedarburg last May for our 12th real anniversary, but I was just getting back to walking at that point and I was in so much pain that I didn’t enjoy it at all. I also thought we missed out on a lot of the shops, so it would be worth going back to. Greg, though, never made the connection that it was the same city and was kind of disappointed once we got there and he realized we weren’t somewhere new. We picked the first restaurant we saw for lunch, Anvil Pub. I loved the unique ambiance, but the food was just okay.

It turns out that we did actually see all the shops on our last trip and not much had changed! So it was a very long afternoon of slowly strolling down the street, stopping in at a few shops, and enjoying some fresh baked bread and coffee before we could check into the hotel.

The inn was really nice. It was a great Groupon deal! Every room was different and I had the choice of about ten different options.

We took part in the evening wine and social hour and then walked a block down to eat dinner at a Chinese place. Cedarburg has a lot of amazing looking restaurants, but most of them all serve the same types of food and Greg wanted something different.

Their hot continental breakfast was pretty nice!

We checked out of the hotel mid morning and went to Lime Kiln Park to check out the lime kilns. It was pretty dang cold out!

I liked seeing the cool icicles that formed above the river from the trees and rocks. After the park we stopped so I could try another coffee place and then because we’re the lamest people in the world and never know how to take advantage of our time away from kids, we just went back to Beaver Dam to get the boys and Annie by 11:00. Which ended up being good in the long run because a big snowstorm blew in that afternoon.

Fortunately, we have awesome in-law’s who decided to get a new snowblower and gave us the old one this year. With the amount of snow we got it was still pretty labor intensive and because of so much driveway is sandwiched between the two houses there was still a lot to shovel because there’s nowhere to blow the snow. But we got through it! I look forward to in a few years when the boys’ help is a bit more useful. They do pretty well with smaller areas, though!

This past Monday I was about at my breaking point emotionally. I knew I just needed to get out of the house and do something for ME. So I went around Madison and Middleton to all of my favorite shops. I found Annie this nice dog pillow so she’ll be more comfy when she watches out the bay window. It’s even the right colors to match the room!

Shepard got hit with a migraine on Monday night. He hasn’t had one in awhile. I’m just so glad that he’s finally old enough to recognize AND VERBALIZE when it happens. We can usually catch it fast enough now that if we immediately get him some medicine and put him to bed, he recovers by morning.

And by Tuesday morning he was good as new.

Wednesday was our first real snow day. We got another huge dumping and everyone stayed home. I had an extremely hard to plan special dinner scheduled for Wednesday night that we had to cancel. Just kind of the icing on the cake at this point. I don’t know why adult friendship has to be so hard. Even when weather doesn’t get in the way, it’s just nearly impossible to find time to gather. I hate it.

On Wednesday night Shepard got real sick. He insisted it wasn’t his head this time, so we just sent him up to bed with his bucket. He stayed home Thursday and Friday. I started to feel kind of queasy midday Thursday, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually sick or just reacting to a questionable lunch. I decided to just not eat for awhile in hopes that it would go away.

Greg woke up sick on Friday morning, so then we knew this was a real deal. I was working on these tiny Cupid Annies with desperate determination to finish them before I started feeling worse. By early afternoon it hit me too. HARD.

The good news is that the bulk of actual sickness seemed to only last for 12 hours for both Greg and I. But not counting that week I broke my ankle and had surgery, it was probably the worst 12 hours of my life. I was SO SICK. Fortunately, Greg had a bit of a head start and bounced back pretty quickly and was still able to take care of our children while I totally checked out.

I spent all day yesterday in bed. I’m definitely better today, but still so weak and exhausted. I’m really surprised Caden didn’t get sick. Maybe it’s still coming. I hope not.

Sunday Intentions

So I’m hoping things get better this week. Though I’m honestly dreading this whole week. We’re supposed to get another boatload of snow tonight, which feels like another inevitable snow day tomorrow. LOTS of family time this month!! It’s also supposed to be insanely cold all week. Like -50 degree wind chills. And on top of the weather stuff, I have that long dreaded check up with my doctor on Wednesday (the coldest predicted day this week) to see if my liver levels are back on track. And on Friday I have to get two fillings. Basically, nothing fun is going to happen this week.

The good news is that AFTER this week, it’s February and there are so many awesome things on the calendar! So if I can just survive the next five days, it’ll all be worth it. 🙂

I really have no intentions for the week other than to get better and get through it all. I’d like to start my last batch of Valentine’s Day dolls, but no huge rush to get through them. I’m more concerned about everything else this week. And resting up.

That’s about it! Have a good week!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.13.2019

Despite my highest hopes, this last week went nowhere near as smoothly and joyfully as the week before. Mostly due to circumstances beyond my control, but…nonetheless, it’s been a pretty crappy week.

On Monday it was pouring, but I also really, really needed to run errands. I did them as quickly as possible in the midst of a horrible headache. Then I spent most of the day doing various food prep and trying to get a bit of work done. I felt so disjointed and frustrated for once again expecting too much of  myself and not living up to my own ridiculously high standards.

Monday night brought the terrible news that my uncle had been found dead in his apartment. I won’t divulge all the details, but cause of death is still unknown. He was very reserved and had really isolated himself from the rest of the family for over a year. We’ve all been in varying degrees of shock and grief as we try to deal with everything. My uncle didn’t have a significant other or any kids, so the bulk of taking care of everything he left behind has fallen on my mom and my remaining uncle and a few cousins. It’s an undertaking that nobody was prepared to deal with. But, it needs to be done.

That clearly set the tone for the rest of my week. I wasn’t sure if my help would be needed for anything, so I cancelled my Tuesday morning friend date and my Thursday craft night. I kind of went into a shell and just didn’t really want to interact with anybody. I barely knew my uncle, but it’s still so hard to realize he’s gone, and with it any opportunity TO know him.

Despite being in such a little pit of sadness, I tried to keep busy working and taking time to read and rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like I desperately needed to get out of the house and do something – anything – so I went to Walmart and just wandered around for over an hour and then stopped at a new coffee shop for a treat before heading back home to work some more.

Adding a bit to Thursday’s sadness, I was getting instagram bombardment of the start of that craft retreat I was supposed to be at. The AMAZING craft retreat at The Whatever Craft House in Kansas. The one I had my ticket to and then had to beg to be let out of once I realized my maker friend bailed on me and I didn’t want to do the 12 hour drives there and back by myself in unpredictable winter weather. I know in the end it was probably best I didn’t go. But it was pretty hard seeing everyone’s awesome photos and everything I was missing. I wish it could have worked out for me.

Friday morning brought a spark of joy when I got the email that my 23andme results were ready! I’ll maybe do a full post on this at a later date, but it was really exciting to see everything they could find out from my vial of spit! The ancestry reports were not much of a surprise since my mom’s side of the family has always kept extremely detailed records going back hundreds of years. But I loved that I could look even further in depth to see exactly which areas of the countries my ancestors were from. My Irish ancestors were from all over, but most heavily in the areas that I’ve visited myself AND were my favorite part of the country. My English ancestors are only from London, so I think I definitely need to add that to my travel bucket list. My German ancestors were from the northernmost regions. I didn’t get that far north in my high school trip to Germany, so I’ll have to go back there too. 🙂 Anyway, it was just really cool to see. And since my sister-in-law took the test last summer, I was able to combine my ancestry reports with hers so I can now give the boys definitive numbers on their own ethnicities. It has definitely gotten pretty muddy by their generation, but they are still predominantly 40% Irish/English, which is cool.

Knowing I really just needed to get out of the house, I kept my plans to go to lunch with my friend Laura. I worked in the morning and then she picked me up and we tried this new place called Full Mile in Sun Prairie. It was such a nice place! And really great to just have a chance to hang out with a friend. I desperately needed it. We prolonged our outing by getting Starbucks afterward and then shopping through Menard’s (lol).

I spent Saturday helping my parents, uncle, and two cousins start the work of clearing out my uncle’s apartment and looking for important paperwork that will help everything from now on go more smoothly. Honestly, it’s a task that’s probably going to take weeks. SO MUCH WORK. We all put in a full day and then went back again this morning. I bowed out after a couple of hours today. It’s overwhelming. My mom and uncle will continue to work all week while everyone else chips in between their jobs and families. I have another cousin flying in on Wednesday to help too. I hope for everyone’s sakes it starts picking up speed and can be completed earlier than expected. I think we made a lot of progress this weekend, but there is still a lot to go.

Sunday Intentions

Moving ahead to this week. I really need to get some work done. January is just flying by and I’ve not been as productive as I had hoped to be! I have eight dolls that are half done, so I’m hoping I can complete them by Tuesday afternoon. I also need to run a few errands tomorrow, but I was apparently very overzealous in my shopping last week as we still have a pretty full fridge! I should try and get some walks in with Annie too. I’ve been neglecting her (and my whole family). Actually, we did walk to school last Wednesday and Thursday since there wasn’t any ice and it felt SO GOOD. I think I’d be pretty happy if we just continue on with this almost snowless winter. It sure makes my life easier!

It sounds like Wednesday night as much family as available will be gathering for a dinner somewhere. The one good thing about a death in the family is that it brings everyone else closer. I’m kind of ashamed of how rarely I see my cousins that only live half an hour away from me. Not counting this weekend, it’s been an entire year and a half since we’ve been together. We’re all so busy. But maybe from now on we’ll try harder?

On Thursday, Greg and I are celebrating 19 years of being together. (We keep celebrating this since we were together 6.5 years before we got married, so this original anniversary still feels very significant!) We usually go on a fancy date every January, but this year I happened to see an awesome groupon deal, so we’re going on a little one night getaway. I do feel a bit bad going in the middle of everything that’s happening. But…it’s already paid for and everything and I think Greg and I need the little break from reality. The boys and Annie will have a sleepover that night at Grandma’s and then hang out at her house until we come back Friday, as there’s no school.

And I expect next weekend might be more family or apartment cleaning stuff. I’m leaving it open if I’m needed.

Anyway, that’s about it! A lot of unexpected emotions swirling around these last few days. But I’m trying to keep busy if that’s what it seems like I need or take breaks if that’s what I seem to need. I’m trying to keep my schedule pretty loose and flexible. It feels much better to help out when I’m needed, than to stick to some pre planned agenda. I think I need to work on being better about that in general.

Have a good week!

Sunday Intentions 01.06.2019

I have felt like quite the slug today. Desperate to finish a novel that has been taking me six days to read (too many! so many books waiting!!), I thought I could sit down this morning and knock it out in an hour. Well, I finally finished that book around 1pm, even though I spent almost the entire morning in my chair trying to read. So. Many. Distractions.

Anyway, then I went to take a nap, even though I didn’t really need one. And finally I forced myself to hook up Annie and go for a real walk. I missed out on yesterday’s nicer weather completely. I went out once at 6am and once at 9pm. What a shame! It’s colder today, but I needed that fresh air and movement. I also assumed after yesterday’s warmth, all the sidewalks would be free and clear of lingering ice. Well, they weren’t. There were just enough people that left their snow from earlier this week and their sidewalks are now thick slush/hard puddles of what is surely mostly ice. So that’s my little PSA for the day – SHOVEL YOUR SIDEWALKS. Seriously, just do it. And if you have a neighbor that hasn’t shoveled theirs, just assume that they have a very good reason and do it for them. It doesn’t take that long and it assures the walking safety of so many people. I can’t even tell you how much walking outside stresses me out when I come across even the tiniest sight of slick ground ahead. I don’t want to be a total hermit for the entire long winter either. Just shovel!

Moving on! This upcoming week life is picking up its pace again, though mostly just for my own schedule. I have a coffee date with a friend on Tuesday, a craft night scheduled for Thursday, and a lunch date with a different friend on Friday. I’m giving the renewed friendship thing my best effort this week! I probably can’t have three friend meet ups every week and still expect to actually get any work done. But I deemed it a very high priority for this week.

So my main intention for the week, social engagements aside, is to try and live the same way I did for those three normal days last week. I’ll have to run errands tomorrow morning, but the rest of the week I want to keep focusing on balance. Get Annie to the dog park and exercised in the morning. Or walked, if it doesn’t snow anymore, though I think it might be coming again. Then put in a solid few hours of work. Have a leisurely afternoon to take care of myself with sleep and books. Make a full and complete meal for my family and spend time with them if they’re interested. And then finish out the evening with something that brings joy to my soul. It’s a pretty simple plan, but I think it’s exactly the kind of life I’ve been striving for all these years. I just didn’t realize how easy it was to get, once I let go of most of my neurotic need to constantly be DOING.

I’m hoping to start adding meal plans back into these Sunday posts, mostly to keep myself more organized, but also to provide some easy ideas for you guys. But…I’m not yet prepared. I still have a stack of new cookbooks I bought myself for Christmas that I’d love to look through before committing to anything. I CAN tell you that I’m planning to throw together a bunch of leftovers and create a chicken tortellini soup for dinner tonight. I also have some steak in the freezer that I’ll probably take out for an easy dinner tomorrow. And I’ll probably have another week of spicy chicken and rice bowls for my lunches. Last week I decided to splurge on a package of Kroger Chicken Verde at Pick ‘n Save for myself. I expected it to be like most pre-cooked meals – kind of gross, but edible if you’re desperate. But, it was surprisingly delicious! The chicken was grilled and the sauce was plentiful and tasty. I think the $6 price is worth it for at least three delicious and incredibly easy lunches for myself!

Well, that’s it for now. Have a great week!