Book Review: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Rating: 2.5 stars

This is the story of two teenage step-siblings (although not legally) who are each dealing with their own bundle of issues. Lion, the older brother, has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is struggling with coming to terms with who he is with or without his medication. Little, the sister a year younger, sees herself as Lion’s greatest confidante which sometimes causes problems in her own world. In order to keep her away from Lion’s downward spiral, their parents send Little to a boarding school across the country where she realizes she might be in love with her roommate. The book picks up the summer after Little’s first year away when the siblings are trying to find their way back to the relationship they used to have, with a whole variety of factors and people that begin to come between them. The entire book is a very realistic portrayal of what it feels like to come of age while also struggling with mental illness and confusing sexuality.

I heard a lot of great things about this book before it was released, but I have to admit I found it rather dull and uninteresting. Little’s obsession around Lion felt uncomfortable to me. The fact that the author made their parents not legally married felt like an opening for the two kids to eventually fall in love with each other. It didn’t happen, but Little was so entirely immersed in Lion’s every move that it felt unavoidable. Throughout the book, Little is constantly referring back to vague things that happened with her roommate Iris, fighting deep attraction to her new co-worker who Lion also is attracted to, and starting a relationship with her long term buddy Emil. There was a lot of emotion going in too many different directions. Which is perhaps why it felt realistic. But maybe also why I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Overall, this book was just okay. I probably wouldn’t recommend it. It won’t have any lasting value in my mind. The subject matter was interesting, but none of the storylines really gripped me the way I had hoped.

Sunday Intentions

We’ve made it through the first (almost) full week of school! It was surprisingly easy to jump back into the routine this year. I never have a problem waking up early, but it’s nice to have more purpose to my mornings. When things like packing lunches and signing off on homework absolutely need to be done, procrastination cannot enter my mind. I love starting my day with a lot more focus and drive. Lazy summer or weekend mornings have their place, but I really like getting up and moving first thing in the day. It helps the rest of the day go so much more smoothly.

I think I was right in assuming this might be the best school year yet. Caden hasn’t had a single complaint! After school on Friday he told multiple people that the day was “AWESOME!” That kind of enthusiasm from him is extremely rare. Shepard seems to have eased right back into how he left off school last year. Very comfortable and a little bit naughty! He’s wracked up quite a few “take a breaks” during class this week. Not that I’m proud of that fact, but I am really happy he’s not the shy and terrified kid he was at the beginning of last year. He’s even gone to the bathroom in school (albeit after school) four of the first five days. First day with Greg inside with him. Second day with Caden. Third day with Caden in the hallway. Fourth day with Greg in the hallway. I think there’s maybe actually a really good chance that within a few weeks he’ll be going on his own. During the day. Okay, weeks might be pushing it. But THIS YEAR. Which will be so awesome.

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To recap the week – on Monday, Memorial Day, we closed out the pool, which has been our yearly tradition since getting regular passes. It was pretty chilly, but the boys and Leverett still swam quite a bit and had two popsicle breaks.

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Besides that, I spent most of the day finishing up all these teeny dolls. It was also the last day of Etsy’s first huge site wide sale and I celebrated having a record breaking number of dolls sold in such a short time frame. It was pretty awesome.

On Tuesday I got my haircut. I went back to Trends in Beaver Dam with a new girl and I really like how it turned out! I pretty much never like how my hair looks, but this was a nice cut. Afterward I ran a few errands and then rested in the afternoon. Before I knew it, it was time to get the boys. That’s the one major downfall of the school year. I feel time so differently. During summer, 2:00 still feels like early afternoon. During the school year, it’s basically like the day is over. Those seven hours without kids speed by WAY too quickly.

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On Wednesday I had big plans to work all day and make myself a big pot of labor intensive, but oh so yummy, mango chicken curry. And then I realized I didn’t have any curry paste. And there isn’t a single store in Columbus that sells it. So I had to go all the way to Sun Prairie, and since I was already there, I ran more errands. Couldn’t waste the drive just on curry paste. But in the end, I was too tired and hungry to make the curry that day anyway.

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We had an at home date night on Wednesday and I made monstrously sized calzones. I think one of the best parts of fall is that I suddenly care about cooking again.

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Thursday must have been uneventful, I remember nothing. And Friday was an exciting day. Caden’s class had their first trip to the community garden! It sounds like they go once a week during harvest and planting times. This time he was assigned to picking tomatoes. Then in the afternoon we went to Noe’s because both of my sisters-in-law were visiting. We all spent a long time out in their garden picking raspberries and more tomatoes. It was a fun little family get together around a big taco fiesta. Despite being the end of the week, everyone was in very good spirits.

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Caden opened some early birthday presents from Aunt Sarah.

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And birthday cupcakes for Cindy and Caden. Shepard was very jealous of Caden’s new light up Harry Potter wand.

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Saturday was a big day! Caden and Greg and the rest of his family went to the Badger game (Caden’s first). So Shepard and I had an all day date. We started by getting to the farmer’s market right at 7. He was in a great mood and we had a ton of fun looking at all the booths. He gets so into finding the samples, though he doesn’t understand yet what a “sample” of something actually means. He couldn’t make up his mind on what to get for breakfast, so on our second time around he finally settled on a giant apple fritter. At first he liked it, and then decided it was too appley. So I ate the other half.

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Then we waited in a huge and crazy slow line at Gotham Bagels. I needed my fix. Afterward we went to Barnes and Noble because Shepard wanted to look at Lego Ninjago books. Instead he found a Hermione light up wand and we negotiated each of us paying for half. I knew it’d save a whole lot of fights in the coming weeks over Caden’s wand. Next, we went to Hobby Lobby to try and find some things for Caden’s birthday parties and Target for a couple things we needed. Then back home for about a twenty minute break before heading back out to the library’s Fall Festival. Our main goal was getting hot dogs at the brat fry for lunch. Except they didn’t have hot dogs. 🙁 So after a walk through the vendors and crafts, checking out the book sale again, and getting a balloon sword, we headed back home for sandwiches. And soon headed out again with Annie for the dog park. Half hour there, back home for a short reprieve, and then back to Beaver Dam for another family night. It was a super busy day. But Shepard was so great during all of it! He’s such a joy to be around when he’s not overly tired and whiny.

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Our haul from the market. Lots of produce this time! I feel like in the spring markets I just buy pastries and cheeses. I love the fall ones so much more. Lots of color and variety!

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Everyone was pretty tired after our respective eventful days, so it was a lazy evening. But we managed to get one Badger family picture before the night was out.

Overall, it was a pretty fun week as a family. But personally? I definitely struggled getting back in my own swing of things. It’s so hard to focus and stay on task when I’m also joyously reveling in having the house to myself. I actually spent most of the week out and about running errands. I’m hoping in the weeks that come I can start streamlining that better into a once a week thing. Though the next few weeks are super busy, so it might be tough. I also still really struggle with hitting a wall around noon every day. If I’m not absolutely loving whatever task I’m doing, I need to break for a nap. Or at least some reading time. I hate that I need this so often, but I also can’t really seem to survive without it. Especially since every day this week I woke up around 4am. 😛

THIS WEEK

It’s an odd week ahead! But also very exciting!! 🙂 On Wednesday, as early as I can get out the door, I’m heading to Door County for my solo vacation!!! I can’t wait. Though I’m also a little bit sad because I feel like I’ll miss out on something important happening at home. But seriously, I need this. After summer, I desperately need to get away from everything and regroup. I’m really just looking forward to nobody NEEDING anything from me for three whole days. No kids whining about being hungry and not knowing what to do with themselves, no family to cook for, no pets that never leave me alone anymore since they started getting fed soft food again, no Annie that needs to be taken outside ten times a day and thorough exercising every single day or she becomes a hyper maniac. It’s only three days away. Which might not be enough to really rejuvenate. But it’s a start! And it’ll be awesome.

I don’t have any major plans for that trip, other than to just enjoy myself! I’ve been saving up my sewing money from the last month so I can go to all the fun Door County shops. I think the last two or three times I was there was with kids. And kids (and husbands) don’t cooperate with going to all kinds of unique shopping destinations. So I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also bringing a stack of books that I’ve most been looking forward to reading, but never can find the time. I’m hoping to get a lot of hotel time to just relax and read. It’s a really nice hotel too, so I’ll get a great breakfast and free appetizers in the afternoons. I also have a couple of good restaurants scouted out for lunches and carry out dinners I can eat while I read. If the weather’s nice I’d like to visit a few of the more scenic parts of Door County too. I’m sure the time will just fly by, but it’ll be so great.

But before Wednesday comes along, I still need to get everything prepped and ready on Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully finish up some dolls tonight and get them listed right away tomorrow morning. Pick up a few more groceries for easy meals Greg can make while I’m gone. Write a list of all the school related things that he’s not accustomed to doing. Do a little more research so I don’t miss out on the best shops and places to go. And pack! It’ll be a really busy two days.

So with all that in mind, my only priority for the week is to have fun! Relax! Enjoy myself! And DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. About anything. I need this, I deserve this. And it’ll be fantastic!

 

Book Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Rating: 2.5 stars

This is a book about Ted, a single gay man in his early forties whose partner in life is his 12 year old dachshund, Lily. He struggles with forming and keeping relationships without just about everybody except for Lily and his best friend. As the years went on he became so close to Lily that he would hold constant conversations with her and was fairly certain that she spoke back. He didn’t need anyone else in his life. Until the day he realized Lily had an “octopus” on her head. He knew that her days were coming to an end which sparked the downward spiral of Ted discovering how isolated and alone he truly is and how he’ll ever manage to cope without Lily in his life.

This book felt, to me, like a creative writing assignment that went too far. At the beginning I found the conversations Ted and Lily had, observing their weekly routines, to be endearing. Sweet almost. If I were living alone with a dog I’d have a fairly similar lifestyle, I bet. But after awhile, I just got so angry with Ted for insisting Lily’s tumor was an octopus to anybody and everybody he came into contact with. The octopus’s ability to talk and taunt Ted was absurdly annoying. At one point you lose sight of what’s reality and what was just fantasy in Ted’s head. I’m still not sure if their “last journey” was entirely a figment of Ted’s imagination or not. It just got to be way too over the top for me.

That being said, it was still a sweet ode to a life well lived with the companionship of a good dog. And even though you know the entire time that the octopus will eventually get the best of Lily, it still wrecked me when it happened. Overall, I liked parts of the story, simply because it was about a dog and I happen to love dogs. But all the creativity and assigning a tumor the evil identity of an octopus was beyond what I could really enjoy in a book. I will, however, never think of octopuses the same way again.

Fall Goals and Intentions

Fall is here! The school year has started! I think this is the first year that besides a tiny bit of reluctance on the first day, I am SO READY to get back into the swing of things. I know I should miss my kids. But I also know that I’m a whole lot better of a person when I have time to myself every day. I’m happier, more focused, and a much better mom. Summer just sucks the life out of me. Yes, there are tons of fun opportunities and ways to spend time with each other and I’ll never, ever regret being able to stay at home with them when they are little. But summer also brings SO MUCH NEEDINESS that pretty much destroys my soul. So I’m thrilled that September is here and I’m not going to apologize for it!

That being said, I’ve had a lot of goals and plans and intentions rolling around in my mind for the last few weeks that I really need to organize and write out so I’ll remember them and hopefully live by them! I thought about encompassing my goals for the entire school year, but I think it’ll be better to focus by season. My September looks a whole lot different from my April. December deserves a list all of its own! So here’s the plan. September, October, and November.

Work Goals

  • Work only during the day.

I think this will be the hardest goal to accomplish. Four and a half years in, I’m still used to doing the majority of my sewing in the evenings and weekends when the boys are spending time with Greg. I want to shift my focus and start to truly see Heartstring Annie as my job and not my life. I know that realistically, I’m not going to be able to stick with this every single day. But I’m going to try my best. More mundane household tasks like laundry and cleaning can wait until evening. When that’s all done, or even if it’s not, I can spend the night WITH MY FAMILY. Or reading. Or seeing friends. Or going on a long walk. I think if I can follow this rule, I will suddenly feel a lot more free. The weight of guilt that constantly flows through me will be eliminated because work no longer exists in my evening schedule. As for weekends? That’s probably still fair game. Greg and the boys do a lot of gaming and things on weekends, so I think I’m free to sew. IF I want to. But weekday nights? No more sewing.

  • Work at least three full days a week.

To actual working moms, this probably sounds like a ridiculous goal. But last year for a few weeks I started keeping track of my hours and most days I only worked 1-3 hours a day, usually at night. This year I’d like to work for almost the entire time my kids are at school. With time for exercise and eating lunch. Ideally, I’ll do this four days a week. The fifth day reserved for running errands. Also, I’m hoping to schedule this all out in advance every week so I know what my workdays are and keep them highly prioritized as such.

  • Stick with what I know, and stay on task.

From my first two goals, it appears that I’ll either be severely limiting how much time I have to sew each week, or with the added focus I’ll actually get more done. Only time will tell! This goal is mostly seasonal, reminding me that fall and early winter are the biggest shopping months and not the time to mess around with new patterns, new ideas, or trying out new products. People want dolls. And they want dolls that match the season and upcoming holidays. So I need to stick with what I know and do it the best that I can. Spring and summer afford me more time to be extra creative and try new things. In fall I need to stay on task.

Family Goals

  • BE PRESENT

This is something I am terrible at. My mind is constantly running over my neverending to do list. ALWAYS. I resent the fact that the rest of my family just goes to work and school and then they get to play and have fun every night and weekend. Without the guilt! It’s mind blowing that they have such carefree thought lives! Why can’t I have that?? Why can’t I enjoy my life and my time with them? I need an attitude shift, for sure. I need to ask for their help with more chores. They’re certainly old enough. I also need to just let go and laugh and have fun with them too. I need to be a much bigger participant in my own family. More than the meal maker and laundry doer and errand runner that I’ve reduced myself to in the last couple of years.

  • Schedule regular time with Greg.

Greg and I see a lot of each other. He pretty much never goes anywhere but work. He works at home on Fridays. He’s flexible enough to leave early or stay home whenever necessary. But I feel like so little of our time together is actually quality time. We’re just existing in the same space. Parenting the same children. I want to change that. We do have weekly “date nights” when the boys go to Grandma’s house for a few hours. I usually make a dinner that I know the two of us would like to eat more than the kids would. But at least once a month, I really want to have a real date night. Out of the house. I’d also like to change up our nightly tv schedule to maybe include a once a week movie night. Something different and special to look forward to.

  • Monthly kid date nights. 

I talked about this a few weeks ago. I always have the best of intentions to take my kids on a monthly date, usually the date of their birthday so it’s easy to remember. But I never follow through. This is the year to change that! I’m hoping it becomes something that they look forward to and get excited about helping me plan every month. So far, at least with Caden, it’s something he’s very apprehensive about. He’d much rather be home with Daddy than out with me. But I’m hoping to turn that around!

Food Goals (Yes, food goals.)

  • Care about meals.

This past summer, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with meal planning. After a full day of the boys begging for food, telling me they’re starving, never liking what I gave them, never being full – I just could. not. deal. with caring about dinner. But I want to get back on track. I want to CARE.

  • Make lunch special.

One of my biggest school year stumbling blocks is that I can eat when I want, what I want, where I want, with nobody to answer to and nobody I need to share with. Which is a surefire way to gain more weight! This year I’d like to have a lot more intention about what I feed myself. The best way I can think to do that is to make lunch more special. Actively search for recipes that I know I will love and actually cook something! Have something amazing to look forward to, so I’m not just stuffing my face with crap because I’m starving and I waited to long to do anything healthy for myself. This won’t be possible every day because I do have to work! But I need to plan out my lunches in the same way I plan out dinners. It will be so worthwhile.

  • Make use of cookbooks and record everything.

I have so many cookbooks. I love cookbooks! But I almost never look at them. I’m usually desperate for a recipe at the last minute and 99% of the time turn to pinterest. I don’t have time to flip through random cookbooks to find something that looks good. Or to try and find something I liked in the past, but have no clue where it might be! So in the next few months I’d like to look through more of my cookbooks on a regular basis, record what I want to make, and MAKE IT. I also want to start keeping a nightly dinner log of what I made and where I got the recipe and how everyone liked it. Then I’ll have a single resource I can always look back on for inspiration.

Exercise Goals

  • 10,000+ steps a day. No matter what. 

On days that we walk to school, there’s really no excuse not to get this many steps in a day. On weekends or rainy or snowy days I’ll have to try a little harder, but it’ll be worth it.

  • At least three long walks a week with Annie.

Long meaning over 2.5 miles. It won’t always fit into the schedule, but it’ll be really good for both of us. Even if we have to break it up into two walks in a day. On alternate days we’ll go to the dog park for her socializing time.

  • Take a class or actively do exercise videos at home.

Walking is awesome and definitely my favorite form of exercise. But I realize I should be doing more. I’m really hoping some sort of fun class will randomly start up in Columbus this fall, the way cardio drumming did last year. (MAJOR boo to them leaving Columbus.) And if not, I want to actively do exercise videos on days I’m not going on long walks. I need it. It’s good for me. It has to happen.

Personal Goals

  • Self care, self care, self care.

I read a facebook post someone wrote yesterday reminding everyone that self care it not something you need to earn. You can do it any time you need it, any time you want it, without guilt. I want to remember this too. No matter how many goals and plans I had for myself, if I’m not feeling it and I know that I desperately need a break, I’m going to take it. Hopefully I’m going to take it before I’m desperate!! Last year I tried to instill Self Care Wednesdays into my week. Usually that meant going to a fun vintage of thrift store, taking half a day to read, or spending time with a friend. I’m not sure I’ll relegate it to the same day each week this time around, but I need to make it happen. Shopping is always very fun to me, but maybe I can be more creative this year. $5 movie nights at the theater are always a great idea. Entire days to catch up on some of my books? I need to take care of myself. And I don’t have to earn it.

  • Friendships matter!

I want my friendships to take higher priority in my life. I’m busy, everyone’s busy, but it’s SO worth the effort. I hate putting myself out there and risking rejection. I hate feeling like asking someone to do something with me is taking them away from something else, which is why I rarely do it. But I need to change. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of friendships in the last few years and haven’t gained any new ones. Making time, showing I care – it NEEDS to be a much higher priority in my life.

  • Never stop reading. 

Never! Okay, obviously this is the easiest goal for me. I will never go a day of my life without reading. I’m pretty sure I never have. But I want to read more. Spend less time sitting at my computer or staring at my phone when I know there are fifty awesome unread books sitting in the same room as me. Reading is the better choice! Make it happen!

September Specific Goals

  • Regroup, repair, rejuvenate.

Summer has left me pretty haggard. I’m exhausted and stressed and just plain weary. Despite this very long list of goals I want to start working on, I also just plain need to get a grip on my life. Which is probably going to mean a whole lot of self care this month. One thing that I’m looking forward to SOOOO much, is a solo vacation next week! I’m going to Door County for three days all by myself. It’s going to amazing. It’s not going to be long enough. But it’ll be so worthwhile. I can’t wait to not have any person or pet need anything from me for three entire days. It will be the height of luxury! So awesome.

  • Good birthday month for Caden.

September starts birthday season around here! Caden’s birthday, Cindy’s birthday, Alex’s birthday, a couple of Caden’s best friends’ birthdays. Busy busy. And sometimes the stress of it all really gets to me. It’s so many fun things, but it’s also a lot of work and a lot of things we need to do and places we need to be, on top of adjusting to the new school year. Which is a lot. But I want to remember to make Caden a top priority and help him to feel extra special and loved during all the festivities.

October Specific Goals

  • My birthday month!

In the last few years, with my birthday being on the end of the string of birthdays, it feels like everyone is really birthdayed out. It doesn’t feel as special as it used to be. This year might be even harder because Caden isn’t having his parties until days before my birthday. But for myself, I want to keep a positive attitude. Even if everyone else is sick of birthdays, it’s still important to me and I’m going to make it special.

November Specific Goals

  • Sew like crazy!

So far there hasn’t been a year where I actually feel like I can keep up with holiday demand. Or even come close to it. Most years I don’t even sew anything in December. Which is a good thing! But I also lose a whole lot of potential sales. This year I’m hoping to just work my butt off in November sewing up Christmas dolls. And then I can afford to take December off, without the guilt! Which will be amazing.

Well, this looks like quite the list now that I’ve written it all out. But it will give me focus to know where my priorities are at. I’m really hoping this school year goes so much better than last, now that I’ve had some practice. I know what I need to do, now I just need to do it!!

Sunday Intentions

This past week has been about all the feels. So many emotions, all over the spectrum. I’m glad to have it over with! It was a fun week, for the most part, but also the end of a season and a fresh beginning. Change always brings so much anxiety, and my kids especially, don’t deal with it very well.

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On Sunday, we made somewhat spontaneous plans to go to Curd Fest in Madison. Seemed like a very Wisconsin thing to do with our last weekend of summer. Caden ate at home first (because he doesn’t eat cheese), but Shepard was “STARVING.” Never a good thing for him to be when we go somewhere and it happens way too often. Anyway, it was fun! Just a big football field filled with various kinds and styles of cheese curds! I bought some right when we walked in. Fried curds with spicy ranch, bacon bits, chives, and shoestring potatoes. They were okay. Then Caden got a lemon sno cone. We bought a bag of buffalo flavored fresh curds from my favorite Farmer’s Market vendor. Shepard got a hot dog. And then we finished up with some freshly made giant Cajun Munster curds that I kept seeing people walk around with. Those paired with their homemade ranch were incredible. If we ever go again I’m just walking straight to them! We were probably only there about thirty minutes, consumed way too much cheese, but it was memorable!

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Since we were already in Madison, Greg suggested we go to Tenney Park. Despite going to Madison a million times in my life, plus going to college there, I somehow never stepped foot in this huge park. We walked through it, the boys played on the playground, and then we walked along the lake for awhile. Caden was being difficult, to say the least. Because we weren’t at home. And we should ALWAYS be at home, according to him. But the weather was gorgeous and it actually turned out to be a fun weekend family outing.

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After one or both of them being pretty upset about all the fun things I had done for them in the last few weeks, I wanted to keep it all pretty low key for the last days of summer. I did a lot of sewing and they had Leverett over to play basically every waking minute.

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Tuesday night was my last obedience class with Annie! I was so nervous about it all week. We did a trial run of the final Canine Good Citizen test the week before and Annie passed everything, to my amazement. But I figured it was a fluke and was so nervous. Then we got there and they said “Surprise! Everything you tested out of last week in the practice, is actually going to count toward the test.” Which was AWESOME, but also, why did they have to make me stress so much for no reason!? The only thing left for Annie to do was pass the anxiety test, where I leave her with the trainers for three minutes without me. She did fine and we got our award! It was a really tough eight weeks. I’m glad I did it and I’m proud of what we learned. But I’m so glad to be done. The boys were at Noe’s for the night, so after the test I picked them up and we went to McDonalds to get Annie her first ice cream cone. She loved it!

Wednesday was another quiet day at home and then we had school orientation in the afternoon. All went well, no surprises. I finished the night meeting a friend for drinks. It was good to catch up. Again, I really need to make more time for my friends this year. It’s so worth it.

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Thursday – the last day of summer! – I decided we needed to keep busy so we weren’t all just sitting at home stressing about Friday. We went to Sun Prairie to pick up some groceries and some donuts for a final donut picnic. It was SO COLD.

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They played at the park for about 45 minutes and were having so much fun! Afterward, we had a quick Costco run and then went to Ulta. Which had no purpose, except that I really wanted to try out some perfumes I’ve been reading about. Despite how much they HATE running errands, apparently they love going perfume shopping. They were having the greatest time smelling everything. I didn’t end up getting any (though I did pick up some seasonal apple cider donut body wash that smells amazing), but they each walked out with their own body mists (after I refused to buy them rollerballs of actual woman’s perfume).

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I wanted to go out to lunch to celebrate the last day. But, (what a shock) Caden didn’t want to. He finally said that he’d only go to a restaurant if it was a sub restaurant. It just so happened we were across the parking lot from Potbelly – with Mod Pizza next door. So we picked up Caden a sub and then Shepard and I had some pizza. It was delish, as always!!

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And it was finally Friday. September 1st. The first day of school. Everyone was up on time, had a good breakfast, and was ready for the annual photo shoot with plenty of time to spare. I’m sure at some point they’ll really resist these first day of school pictures, but so far every year it really seems to alleviate their worries when they can be distracted with making silly faces and poses for pictures.

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IMG_2839 laughing steps

IMG_2841 sly smiles

IMG_2852 sweet arm hug

This is a sweet one!

IMG_2858 weirdest pose

“Ninja pose.”

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IMG_2874 ninja

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IMG_2933 mom and boys

We walked them to school. Shepard held my hand most of the way. He was a little apprehensive and kept saying “scary!” but didn’t put up any resistance about going. On the first day everyone meets in the gym and they both walked straight to their class lines, without a backward glance! We followed to give out hugs and then left! Probably our easiest first day of school yet.

Back at home for the day, it felt so quiet!! Greg was working at home so I still haven’t been alone yet, but the house just felt so somber and silent. But it was kind of awesome. We went back to pick them up and it seemed like everything went well! Greg took Shepard back into the school to try and get him to use the bathroom. AND HE DID!! For the first time ever. Greg’s probably been with him to try and get him to go at least ten times in the last year. Never happened. So MAYBE he’s nearing the end of this phase. I’m hoping!! Obviously the real goal is for him to go by himself during the school day. But we’re one step closer!

Shepard started getting mopey soon after and said it was because he only got two chicken nuggets at lunch. This happened to Caden all the time last year and when we tried to talk to his teacher about it, she accused him of lying. I’m SO hoping we’re not in for another year of one of my kids not receiving enough food just because he’s one of the last classes in the lunch room. So Greg took him home to get a snack and I stayed at the playground because Caden was having fun catching up with his friends. We talked about his day on the way home and he seemed really happy about how it all went! I think he’s going to really have a great year.

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At the book fair on Wednesday, Caden saw a lego book about making stop animation movies. Greg didn’t want to pay $25 for the book, but he did charge up my old phones and find an app they could use to make their own movies. It was fascinating for them! They spent all of Friday night and most of Saturday making movies. In between meltdowns. That’s definitely the absolute worst part about the beginning of the school year. Reigning in their emotions at home after needing to keep a tight lid on them at school. It was a ROUGH day.

This Week

New week ahead! I’m really excited about getting back in the swing of things. I’m a bit worried about Tuesday’s drop off when we’re back to just leaving the boys at the playground. Shepard doesn’t always do so well with that. I need to remember to tell Caden ahead of time to include him and maybe it’ll go smoothly. There’s sure to still be some anxiety in the first few weeks. But it’ll be good. Especially for me!!

I’m really looking forward to WORKING. All day. In a quiet house. I want the first few weeks of the month to solely because focused on that because the last few weeks get crazy with my trip to Door County, Cranberry Fest, and all of Caden’s birthday festivities. I also want to get up my fall decorations and do some cleaning around the house that I’ve been avoiding forever because it’s useless when so many people are home all day.

There’s nothing major on the calendar except a haircut for me Tuesday morning! Greg and Caden are going to a Badger game on Saturday. Shepard and I will have a date of some sort. He wants to go to Barnes and Noble because he thinks they will have more lego Ninjago books that Caden and I didn’t see on our last trip. We might go to the farmer’s market too. Overall, a pretty quiet week! Which is exactly what we need.

Happy fall, everyone!

What I Read and Watched and Listened To August 2017

It was another big reading month! A little bit slower on the tv and podcast front, though I did fit in some interesting choices. But as always, I’m very excited to share it all with you! I’ve been looking forward to writing it today, specifically, because it’s the first day of school and I need something happy to distract myself from worrying about my kids!

BOOKS

flat out love

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Rating: 4 stars

I had really high hopes for this series after reading Park’s 180 Seconds last month. And while I definitely liked this one, it didn’t bring the same emotional intensity and character maturity. This is the story of a girl who moves across the country for college and finds herself without a place to live. She ends up moving in with her mom’s old friend’s family, including a boy a few years older than her and a younger girl. While she’s there, she starts an email relationship with their older sibling who is off touring the world. What really bothers me about this book, and any book that does something similar, is how the family is dancing around a secret until the very end. It’s SO frustrating. I figured it out, but I couldn’t stand how many references there were to this big top secret piece of information. But I still loved the second half of this book when things got a little more heated up and interesting.

the gentleman's guide

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

Since my new interest in audiobooks, I really, really wanted to listen to this one because it was rated on many sites as being fantastic in audio quality. I definitely appreciated the accents and different character voices throughout the book, but I also found it distracting. I’m beginning to think that audiobooks in fiction are just not for me. I have such a hard time paying attention for some reason. I feel like I’m missing too much. I’m very tempted to actually read this book and see if I like it more. Anyway, it’s a book about a rich young man, Monty, who has a year long tour around the continent with his best friend, whom he’s secretly in love with, and his younger sister, whom he can’t stand. The plot is pretty twisted and crazy. You want to love Monty, but you also kind of hate him. But he’ll grow on you, for sure. It was a fun and interesting listen.

flat out matt

Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park
Rating: 3 stars

Books that are re-written from a different character’s point of view feel like such a shameless way for the author to try and bring in more money. For that fact alone, I didn’t want to like this book. Most of the chapters were literally word for word almost the same as in the previous book. It did give Matt a little more depth, but it also felt very redundant. Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn’t read it immediately after the first book.

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Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
Rating: 4 stars

This book takes place a couple of years later and follows the very quirky and unique Celeste in her final year of high school when she finally learns the importance of friendship and doing what’s best for her in terms of her future. She forms an interesting relationship with a boy, Justin, who is equally awkward, quirky, and still so adorable. I loved Justin’s character and found his relationship with Celeste to be much more entertaining than Matt and Julie’s in the previous books.

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Fierce Kingdom  by Gin Phillips
Rating: 3 stars

This is a thriller that revolves around a couple crazed gunman that are determined to shoot up everybody left at the zoo during closing hours. The main character is with her four year old son and they need to find ways to hide, keep quiet, and stay alive. While parts of this book felt highly suspenseful, it also seemed like very little happened. So much of the book were written observations of the mom about her son and it felt very personal, like the author just wanted an excuse to maybe say all that about her own child. As a whole the book was well written and easy to get into, but I didn’t feel especially attached to it. I also hated the ending. Hated it.

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Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 4 stars

I bought this short novella because it supported a charity drive and I love Rainbow Rowell. It’s a quick tale of a girl who stands in line four days early to see the newest Star Wars movie. She makes intriguing friendships with the two boys in line before her. It’s a cute story with fun characters that I definitely enjoyed reading.

hillbilly elegy

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars

Now this is an audiobook I will highly recommend! It’s a bit surprising to me now that I’m realizing how much I love memoirs. They’re so intriguing! In his book, Vance tells so many stories of his childhood and particularly his relationship with his Mamaw. The entire book was fascinating and kept me captivated enough to listen to the whole thing in a single day. It will make you think a lot about your own childhood stories and how deeply they influence who you become in life.

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Textrovert  by Lindsey Summers
Rating: 4 stars

In this book the main character ends up losing her phone and going back and accidentally grabbing the phone of another boy. They begin a texting relationship while waiting for an opportunity to exchange their phones back. The entire book is very YA – light, cute, and with a happy ending. They definitely go through some struggles, but I enjoyed the book as a whole. It’s a fast read.

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The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 5 stars

This book is about a girl who loves drawing anatomy. While trying to secretly secure a position at a college drawing cadavers against her mother’s wishes, she meets a boy who has secretly been creating amazing graffiti all over the city. They strike up a friendship which of course turns into more. I thought this book had a lot of heart (excuse the pun), and was really sweet. I genuinely adored every character in the story and didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend this one.

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Lucky in Love by Kasie West
Rating: 3.5 stars

I was greatly anticipating this new release by Kasie West and found it to be fairly disappointing compared to her other books. In it, the main character wins the lottery and is immediately surrounded by people all over the place asking her for money and trying to guilt her into spending it in ways she doesn’t necessarily want to. In theory it’s a good concept for a book, but it ended up feeling so stressful. The love interest, Seth, did not have a lot of depth, therefore I wasn’t very attached to their “romance.” I really only truly enjoyed the last 20% of the book.

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Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
Rating: 3 stars

In this book the shy and super smart main character is paired with the school heartthrob for a quick school assignment where they need to dialog for the class about their summer. They end up riffing out a purely fictional story about how much time they spent together because they’ve been best friends for most of their lives. Everyone believes it, and they seemed to have such good friendly chemistry that they decided to go ahead and just become best friends. What’s unbelievable to me is that all of their other friends just accept the fact they’ve always been friends even though they’ve never once even talked to each other in all the years they’ve known each person. What irritated me to no end about this book is how many times each character would say “my best friend.” Okay, we get it! It was SO annoying. Overall the book was pretty predictable, though the characters went on quite a frustrating journey to reach the conclusion that they might just be more than best friends.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (audiobook)
Rating: 2 stars

When I started looking for audiobooks through the Libby app, I realized that wait lists for all the books I want to read are like 5-6 months away. So in the meantime I was trying to find something I might be slightly interested in reading now and ended up with this. It was…bleh. Especially after listening to Hillbilly Elegy, this felt so fluffy and unimportant. Some parts of the book were vaguely interesting, but most of it just felt pointless. I was hoping for a deeper memoir and this was not it. I’m not sure I particularly like Mindy Kaling in the first place (other than The Mindy Project, which I love!), but this book didn’t do anything to help my opinion of her.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Rating: 4 stars

I think by this point, I’ve read way too much YA for the month. Normally I love this genre, but nothing was really doing it for me. This was the same. It was a solid story about a nerdy girl who goes to a coding camp and meets the boy her parents want to arrange for her to marry. But they fail to mention that to her and when she finds out she is vehemently against it. I love Rishi’s character and how he sticks around to still provide her with friendship and support, despite how uninviting Dimple is to him. I liked this book plenty, but I didn’t adore it the way I hope to with every YA I read. And one thing that just bugs me a little, though I’m probably being way too nitpicky this month… In the book, Dimple states many times that she wears glasses and she never wears makeup or makes an effort with what she wears. But the picture of the girl on the cover? Clearly wearing makeup, no glasses, and gorgeous!

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Final Girls by Riley Sager
Rating: 4.5 stars

In this book, you learn about a very small number of women who are “final girls” – those that got away from a mass murdering psychopath. At the beginning you learn that one of the three final girls commits suicide, in a suspicious manner. Slowly you learn more about the massacres as the remaining final girls band together, even though they don’t particularly like or trust each other. Overall, it was a really good thriller with a lot of unexpected twists. It kept me interested and enthralled to the end.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

This is the story of Paul and his life and how he learned to deal with a terminal cancer diagnosis at the end of his residency to become a neurosurgeon. My interest in the book definitely waxed and waned. I loved the stories of his relationships, childhood, thought processes about what to do with his life. But there were also chapters that got very gory and descriptive about surgeries that I just didn’t want to hear. But it was beautifully written and ultimately had a message that every life matters and is worth living, no matter how short it may be. Knowing your life will end sooner than other’s is no reason not to live it to the fullest. Even though I knew ahead of time that Paul died before he could finish the book himself, it still was devastating to hear the final chapters written by his wife about his final days. As far as audiobooks go, this was another worthwhile listen.

TV- Alone

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I finished up the first season and watched about half of the second. I really like it, but got a little old watching so many in a row.

the crown

I only watched two episodes of this. Despite all the rave reviews it got, I don’t think it’s for me. It’s just sooooo slow. I don’t think I’ll pick it up again.

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Love this show! Despite the fact it’s looking like Liza and Charles will never get together, even though Charles has repeatedly said this season how much he likes her. FRUSTRATING.

broadchurch

I watched the third (and final 🙁 ) season of Broadchurch in about a day and a half. It was so good. This show is amazing. The characters and acting are so fantastic. The topics are serious, but honestly, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’m so sad they won’t be making any more.

atypical

I’m to the point where I’m just randomly picking shows on netflix now, biding my time before all my favorites come back in fall. I liked Atypical a lot, though. It was sweet and funny and a little bit sad.

the goldbergs

I just started season one of The Goldbergs. It’s been on for a few years now. I really like it! There is a lot of yelling which was hard to get used to, but it’s getting so much funnier and more endearing as it goes on. I’m glad I have lots of seasons to catch up on!

TV – Together

the fall

Greg and I were running out of things to watch too, so I convinced him to watch this with me. I watched it when it came out a few years ago and loved it. I recommended it to everyone. With the re-watch I’m realizing this show is really slow. Fascinating, in my opinion, but maybe not the best show to watch when all you’re doing is sitting and watching! It made a better sewing show for me. But still – good tv!

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We made it through! We almost gave up so many times when this show had bizarre and hard to follow twists and turns. But it came back together at the end and had a very sweet resolution.

wet hot

So I hated this when it was a movie. And when they made the tv show a year or two ago, I thought it was just as ridiculously stupid. But the newest season? It was suddenly funny to me. Still pretty stupid, but I laughed quite a bit. It was a nice thing to watch in between super serious Fall episodes.

MOVIES

No theater movies this month. 🙁 No movies with Greg either. I watched all these while sewing this month when I ran out of tv options.

butter

This movie was pretty weird. I liked the part about the little girl, but everything else was pretty terrible.

the incredible jessica james

Vaguely funny, a little bit anxiety inducing, I still liked it.

man up

This movie felt like it was 20 minutes long. Very little happened! It had a nice final scene, but otherwise kind of pointless.

everything everything

I liked this, for the most part. I read the book and wasn’t crazy enthused about it either. One thing that bugged me is that it seemed like the boy – the actor – couldn’t stand the girl. Like he had to try really hard to show interest in her. It didn’t really come off as him just being shy or unsure of how to act around her. But I was probably reading way too much into it. 🙂

PODCASTS

Front Porch With the Fitzes – Still a favorite! So funny and happy.

The Popcast – Also a huge favorite. I LOVE listening to the new episode each week!

My Dad Wrote a Porno – Another funny one. I think there’s only one episode left. 🙁 🙁 🙁

Side Hustle School – I trailed off on this one. Instead of encouraging me the way it was supposed to, it was just making me feel like I wasn’t doing nearly enough with my life.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin – I probably listen to this one most often because I’m still catching up with it. It’s always positive and interesting and gives you lots of life hacks to make yourself happier.

Happier in Hollywood – A new one with Liz Craft, co-host of Happier. This time partnering with her writing partner in Hollywood. I’m not super interested in the parts of the show that actually have to do with working in Hollywood. But it’s interesting and worth listening to.

Note to Self – Tapered off on these too. I really haven’t listened to a whole lot this month since I’ve been switching over to more audiobooks. Despite my very long list of podcasts.

The Lazy Genius – I go back and forth on this. I LOVE The Lazy Genius’s instagram stories. And I loved the podcast she did with her sister, The Lazy Sisters Podcast. Which they don’t do anymore. But when she’s just talking by herself and it’s not always that interesting.

The Simple Show – And because of above, I’m now listening to this because she’s become a bit of a co-host. An unadvertised co-host of the show. I think I’ve only heard one episode so far, but it was fun.

For the Love with Jen Hatmaker – I just started this one and it’s not that far in so I’ll catch up soon. She’s doing like six episode series on different topics. The first is about friendship. Which I love hearing about and also makes me insanely jealous and sad that I don’t have friendships on that same level. But…it’s worth listening to, for sure.

Sorta Awesome – I still have lots of mixed feelings on this one. Mostly because the hosts annoy me and I feel like there’s a lot of thinly veiled hostility toward each other in passive aggressive comments that we’re supposed to think are funny. But…sometimes the show is funny. I listened to their Sorry Not Sorry episode the other day and it was hilarious.

And that’s about it for the month!! I’m not sure if my media consumption will get bigger or smaller now that the boys are back in school. Probably more tv and podcasts, less books. But we shall see. Hit me up with your recommendations too! So far I’ve only had two people recommend books to me. I haven’t read either yet, but I have them!

Summer’s End

It is officially here – the last day of summer. I’m pretty excited about this upcoming school year. Mostly because it means reclaiming my own life and priorities for seven hours a day. But I’m also filled with melancholy that my kids are getting older and when I’m suddenly no longer with them for most of their waking hours, our relationship might suffer. It also might get better as our time together has a lot higher quality that it does in the summer. At any rate, there’s nothing I can do about it and change is on the horizon!

I’m very excited about third grade for Caden. His teacher is so passionate about their charter school’s mission to be immersed in science, technology, and nature. Basically the exact opposite of second grade. This year he has so many amazing field experiences and special projects to work on. Plus he gets to do ipad work ALL DAY LONG. It’s basically his dream come true.

While I’m not quite as worried as last year, I’m still worried about Shepard. He doesn’t deal with change and the start of new things well. I’d feel a whole lot better if his bathroom problems had resolved since last year. Nope. Still not going to go in a public bathroom without one of us with him. Still not going to go at school, no matter how uncomfortable he is. I can pretty much guarantee it. I’m hoping that at least after the first few days he’ll remember how much he loves being with his friends and stop being anxious about school itself. It will definitely be a little harder on him this year as Caden will no longer have lunch or recess with him. That was a huge help in the transition last year and without that constant for him this time around, there is potential for problem. But he also might flourish and finally work on his own friendships instead of always tagging along with Caden’s. I really don’t know what to expect from him in the coming weeks. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised at how easily he transitions back.

Anyway! This post is supposed to be about summer. An evaluation of sorts. I just re-read my Summer Intentions post to see what my priorities were and if I lived up to them.

1. Read More

I read a lot this summer. Thirty-seven books, to be exact. But my specific goal was to work on my piles of nonfiction books that I have in every room of the house. I did not do so well with that! Summer mom-ing makes me just want to escape and fiction is my outlet. It was really hard to pick up the books that were designed to make me think more and actively change my life and attitude. I was having a hard enough time just staying afloat these last few months. But I still think I made reading a higher priority, so I’d say it was a successful goal! I also started listening to audiobooks, which has really helped me fit in a couple more books each month.

2. Keep Working, but No Pressure

I was all over the place with work this summer. I just looked back and see that I made 77 new dolls and had 45 sales. Which isn’t bad! But I had a super difficult time staying focused and motivated and prioritizing work over the millions of other chaotic things that were going on around the house. I didn’t want the need to work ruling over my life and making me crazy. And for the most part, I didn’t get to that point. But I was also really frustrated with how little time I did manage to put in. June and July were tough, but I really did get into more of a grove during August. I’m hoping I can carry that through into September. One of our busiest months of the year.

3. Have Fun!

For the first summer in ages, I feel like we actually did enough. I wasn’t feeling that way a month ago, but if I look back on our days, we really did have fun. We made a lot of memories. We didn’t do as many huge and exciting things as we have in past summers, but it was still enjoyable.

Summer Highlights!

June was all about summer school and fitting in smaller summer experiences. We celebrated Grandpa’s birthday and went to a Mallard’s Game. We celebrated Father’s Day and had a party, though my dad ended up not being able to come. We went to the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. Lots of trips to the library and pool. Many walks with Annie. Overall, a pretty low key month, but still a lot of fun.

July was a big month! We started it in New Jersey (actually, we left in June). This was our big trip of the summer, visiting family for Uncle Mike’s 60th birthday. We made all kinds of memories on that trip and came home to another week of family fun. The boys and I had a special 4th of July celebration by ourselves. We got to see my aunt and uncle from Arizona for the first time in years. We saw a lot of my other extended family which rarely happens. Sarah was visiting so we had sister/aunt time. And we had a different family get together on Greg’s side.

Also in that week – BABY HUDSON WAS BORN. Best highlight of the summer! My brother and sister-in-law had their baby boy on the morning of their 5th anniversary. We were able to go and see him right away the day he was born. Super exciting!! We were all so very happy!

July also brought us to another Mallard’s game, and lots of walks and trips to parks. Picnics and good old cheap summer fun! We were pretty exhausted after that first week of insanity, so we were more about taking it easy the rest of the month. When we could!

August brought the most balance – at least in my opinion. I felt like I really had a healthy mix of work and life. The boys and I went camping in our yard. We tried out Sky Zone. We went to the State Fair with my family. We went to the Dodge County Fair with Greg’s parents. We took a trip to Cedar Lake. Went to Curd Fest. Celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday in Milwaukee. Went to the Milwaukee Zoo on another day. Shepard and I went to the farmer’s market. Caden and I had a date night. It was both busy and lazy. In between all our day trips and excitement, we had days that were filled with video games and tv and playing with the neighbor. I need to remember to try and live this way all of next summer. It worked out well. I didn’t have guilt about not doing enough because 2-3 days a week we did a lot. And the other days were down time for them and work time for me. It really worked out well.

The one thing I regret about this summer, though it was kind of unavoidable, is that I felt really busy at night. I don’t like being busy at night. I don’t like weekly commitments. Annie and I spent eight Tuesday nights at obedience class and while I guess it was technically a good and much needed experience – I hated going. Hated it. We also seemed to have an unusual amount of family things that happened on nights. On nights we didn’t have anything specific planned, I often went out running errands. I had a few nights out with friends (which I definitely didn’t regret!). It just felt like a lot. Way more than normal. And it exhausted me.

I also regret not spending much time alone with Greg. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go on any dates all summer long, with the exception of a wedding, and we were with Greg’s whole family, so I’m not sure that really counts. We did have our weekly night together while the boys were at Grandma’s, but those nights often fell on dates I had other things going on. And on all the other nights, the boys were always up late, we were doing our separate things, we just didn’t have much time together.

And I regret not keeping up with my friends. I met with a couple of them once a month, but I basically did nothing with anybody during the day all three months. I felt so busy and couldn’t handle anything extra in my schedule. But I wish I had made time for it anyway. Friendships are important.

Anyway, I started this post early this morning when my brain was still working. After a full day of running around and trying to keep everyone happy and free of anxiety, I’m pretty much useless right now. So there it is – my summer evaluation! Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. And I’m really looking forward to this school year!

 

Sunday Intentions

With only a handful of days left of summer, I feel like I should be soaking up these hours with my kids, wanting to spend every possible moment with them because I know I’ll regret not having done enough of it once school starts. But honestly? I’m so ready to move into fall. SO, so ready. This past week I’ve found myself wanting to just hide away. Desperate for silence and nobody needing things from me. Every morning when Caden is either awake before me or follows me down the stairs, I just want to cry. It’s good he’s on schedule for school mornings already. But I just want time for myself!! The boys have also had their friend over basically every waking moment for the past two weeks. Which feels really overwhelming after having no friends over all summer long. And nothing against the friend at all – it really helps the boys get along to have a third playmate. But just the fact that there’s a non-family member running around my house all day long, every single day, is just really getting to me.

Anyway! Overall, I’d say it’s been a pretty good week. I’ve let go of my need to go out and do things to try and enjoy time together. We still did go out a bit, but I also spent a lot of the week working while they played. Which was fine too. We did enough this summer and I’m okay with these last few weeks being less eventful than originally intended.

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On Sunday, we went to my brother Timmy’s 30th birthday party. There were lots of people to pass Hudson around to, but I definitely had a few turns! 🙂

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Caden made sure he had a few turns too! He sure loves babies.

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The party was lots of fun! We had some delicious Ian’s Pizza and salads for lunch. Cake pops for pre-dessert. Timmy’s favorite ice cream cake for real dessert. We all walked down to a big park in the middle of desserts for the kids to play on the playground and for most of the group to play a soccer game.

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Hudson needed some cooling off after being packed tightly in his black stroller.

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Birthday boy.

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Shepard actually cooperated for a cousin picture this time! Still refused to hold him, though.

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Another cute family pic!

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A few last snuggles before we left. This is his favorite way to snuggle with me. I’m very cushy lol.

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On Monday, Greg worked from home so he could watch the solar eclipse with the boys. He was pretty cranky that the weather wasn’t cooperating and it was super cloudy. We watched the live Nasa coverage online, which was pretty cool. And when the time came, we actually saw the eclipse pretty well with our glasses.

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Trying to get a selfie when you can’t see a single thing through the glasses to know where to look! It was a fun memory for everyone.

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Afterward, I had to take the cats for their annual checkup. Rory went first and we found out he lost 1.2 pounds. The vet was so excited and wanted to know what we were doing to help them lose weight. I said um…got a dog? Then we found out Jack lost 3.3 pounds. Jack, who has gained weight every single year of his life. So the vet was pretty concerned about that. She did a full blood work panel to see if he had any diseases. I can’t believe how much hair they had to shave off of him to get the blood draw. And apparently it wasn’t working in his neck, so they also shaved one of his legs. Poor baby! Fortunately, we got the results right away Tuesday morning. While his kidney levels are pretty high (though technically still in normal range), he otherwise looks really good. I’ve just been instructed to start feeding them soft food to increase their fluids. Jack will be retested in six months to see if anything has drastically changed.

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Tuesday must have been pretty uneventful, because I recall nothing. Same with Wednesday during the day. But Wednesday night, Caden and I had a date! A monthly date night is something I’ve been wanting to do for years with each of the boys, but Caden especially because I spend the least amount of time with him. The problem is that he never actually wants to go out with me – or go out AT ALL – so I’ve given up on making it a regular thing. I’d like to start trying again, though. Preferably on the 23rd of every month, so it’s easier to remember (his birth date).

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We went to Five Guys for dinner. Caden loved the peanuts ahead of time. He’s a big burger eater, so this seemed like a good place for him. He didn’t think they were any better than other places, though. I had the cheese dog, which was good. We had way too many friends to even make a dent in. And some shakes. I don’t think I’d go back to that particular restaurant, but it was a fun experience!

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Afterward, we went to the mall. Caden wanted to try the demo games at Gamestop. Unfortunately, the only game he was interested in had a man playing at it the entire half hour we were in the store. Caden was pretty disappointed, but he handled it well.

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We finished the night at Barnes and Noble. Now that he’s done with all the Harry Potter books, he’s having a hard time getting super interested in anything else. I thought if we looked through the bookshelves he might find some new ideas. Of course then he wanted to look at the actual Harry Potter things. Overall, it was a really great date! He’s such a different person when you get him one on one. So much better behaved and much more interested in having actual conversations about things. I definitely need to make this happen more often.

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Thursday was a work day. I thought I’d be able to finish up these dolls right away in the morning, but it took me until 4:15 in the afternoon. Which was pretty frustrating! Everything always takes so much longer than I want it to. But within two hours, I sold five of the nine dolls, which always makes my hard work worth it!

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Friday was supposed to be our last big hoorah of the summer. A day at the Milwaukee Zoo with Grandma, Uncle Timmy, Aunt Brittany, and Hudson.

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Hudson looking pretty sleepy.

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We haven’t been to this zoo in a couple of years and the last time we went it was spring break and half the animals weren’t out yet. It was fun to see everything this time. And the weather was so perfect! Sunny and 70 degrees. We also waited long enough into the summer that I think many schools have started already. Crowds were definitely pretty low, which was awesome.

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The baby gorilla beating his chest was the funniest thing!

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They looked so sad! But I liked how he used his tail as a pillow.

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Smiling here, but he was being pretty obnoxious all day long. He kept getting fixated on things he wanted to do ($15 super high rope obstacle course) or things he wanted to eat (Dippin’ Dots) and he WOULD NOT shut up about it. He couldn’t let himself (or us) enjoy anything because he was so obsessed about whatever he couldn’t have in that moment. Meanwhile, Shepard was pouting and kicking me because I made him stop eating all of my mom’s snacks. We brought plenty of snacks too, but of course it wasn’t what he wanted.

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Spent lots of time staring at the giraffes. I love giraffes.

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Hudson didn’t see many animals! 🙂 We’ll have to try again next summer.

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After we saw most of the animals (with the exception of the Australian exhibits, which possibly exist, yet we’ve never been able to find them-  they’re not on the map or signs, BUT you can see them from the train…), we went on a train ride and Tim, Brit, and Hudson went home. The boys had some Dippin’ Dots to finish it off. I loved the weather and lack of crowds and it was fun to hang with extra family for the day. But the boys were also very exasperating. I don’t feel like it was very much fun for any of us.

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We had a late snack/lunch at a restaurant called World of Beer that I scoped out online. First the boys through fits because they wanted to sit on the soft chairs and I said we needed to be at a real table. Then Caden kept crying because he didn’t like their soup selection. When has he ever ordered soup at a restaurant?! It was just one thing after another. But, my chicken sliders and tots were good. The giant pretzel and beer cheese were delicious. I’m still glad we went, just because restaurant food is almost always worth it!

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On the way home we stopped at a giant Marshall’s and that was our big day. I’m disappointed in how it all worked out. I was so frustrated with the boys. Then I wanted to go home and make something that was quick and easy for Saturday’s plans. I saw a recipe for churro popcorn, which ended up being way more trouble than it was worth. First I couldn’t find the regular popcorn kernels and ended up throwing pretty much everything out of our super messy pantry. Finally found some in the basement and then proceeded to spill them everywhere. Then the first batch didn’t pop enough. Then the recipe wasn’t coating the way it should. And then I assumed it would be too mushy to even bring, so I had to make something else after all. It was just a day that needed to end.

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Shoveling churro popcorn in as fast as he can.

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And finally Saturday. We had plans to go to Cedar Lake because we somehow haven’t gotten there all summer. The boys went Memorial weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, but we haven’t been since. Of course just our luck the weather turned out crappy! It wasn’t pouring at least, but it was definitely chilly and raining off and on. We spent most of the time by the fire! But it was still nice. The lake was pretty quiet!

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Caden still swam and Shepard did a lot of paddle boating.

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The boys were insistent that they get to put their own hot dogs over the fire.

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After lunch we went out on the boat. It was definitely raining at that point, but seemed like it was only going to get worse. Caden really wanted to tube.

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We went around the lake twice and he never fell off! I think he was probably freezing and the water kept spraying right in his face. But when it wasn’t, he had a huge grin. It was really great to see him having so much fun!

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We went home soon after that. Despite the weather, it was a nice and relaxing end of summer day out at the lake. I spent the rest of the night hanging out with Annie for National Dog Day. And hiding from everyone else because I needed a break. That’s about it!

THIS WEEK

The big week is here! Our last few days of summer. I don’t have plans. I don’t think I’m going to make plans. I feel like everything I’ve tried to make special and fun lately just gets thrown back in my face by one or both of my children. So I give up! They can do whatever they want and if they don’t want to be with me, then I’ll work!

We were talking about going to Curd Fest as a family this afternoon, but it’s been raining all night and morning and supposed to continue throughout the day. So I’m thinking that’s not really in the plans anymore. Maybe we can have a movie afternoon or something.

Tomorrow night I was supposed to have dinner out with my friends, but I’m not sure that’s happening anymore either.

Tuesday is our last obedience class. Oh yeah – that’s what happened last Tuesday! It was the most stressful and long night of class because we did trial runs of what we’ll be officially tested on this week. Annie passed everything, but I feel like it was a bit of a fluke. I’m really worried about this week. Do dogs ever fail?? She usually does really great at all the exercises, but one of them requires her to sit and stay while I walk back and forth across the room twice before calling her. I couldn’t believe she did it last week. I’ll be amazed if she does it again. But either way, I will be SO HAPPY that it’s over.

Wednesday afternoon is school orientation. I’m anxious to get all the info and have a better idea of how this school year will play out. I think Caden is going to have a lot of really fun things to look forward to. And while I really like the teacher Shepard will have, I’m not sure she’ll be as understanding about his bathroom issues as his kindergarten teacher was. I can’t even believe we’re still dealing with this. SIGH.

Thursday – last day of summer!

And finally Friday, first day of school. It seems a bit ridiculous to start school on a Friday before a three day holiday weekend. But maybe it eases kids’ anxiety over that long weekend? Who knows. Hopefully it’ll go well. I’ll write more on that another day!

Enjoy your last days of August!

 

 

 

Sunday Intentions

Whew, it has been a busy week! With something going on every night this past week, I’m feeling pretty wiped out this weekend. It was a fun week, though. I’m slightly irritated that I’ve finally found a good rhythm for balancing kid time and work time, only to have it all change again in two weeks! But at least I know now and can hopefully remember for next summer so I don’t spend two months flailing around and being upset with myself again!

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On Monday morning, we went to the Pope Farm Conservancy Sunflower Days in Middleton. I found out about this last year, but too late to go. I’ve had it in mind all summer that we definitely needed to make it a priority this year. My mom came with us. The giant sunflower field was pretty cool to look at! But the boys were not cooperating at all. SO MUCH WHINING. They’ve been whining and moaning and ugh-ing about everything we do these days. School needs to start!

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We didn’t spend a huge amount of time here, but enough to slowly walk around the whole field. It looks like a really cool place to check out any time of the year. Maybe I’ll go back in fall to walk the regular trails.

After the sunflowers, we had a picnic lunch in a nearby park. And we finished our outing with froyo at Orange Leaf. Pretty simple day trip, but it was fun!

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Late Monday evening, I met up with my best friend Dianne and her husband Jack for ice cream at Dairy Queen (despite getting it twice in one day, these are the only times all summer I’ve gone out for ice cream!). They were visiting from DC for just a couple days and we were trying to squeeze in any pockets of time together we could. We only get to see each other once or twice a year and try to make the most of it. The whole family was originally going to go, but it got to be too late.

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Early Tuesday morning I dropped the boys off with my mom and Annie and I met Dianne for a walk. (Her dad still lives right by my parents’ house.) We walked down to the lake. It was really nice! As much as I enjoy walking around Columbus, I really miss walking in quieter and more rural areas. It’s so peaceful. And pretty, despite the green water!

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I worked during the day on Tuesday and then in the afternoon, Dianne and Jack came back over to our house for a bit. We went to the dog park so they could see Annie in action! And then I drove them back to Beaver Dam. I’m really glad we were able to fit in three separate get togethers in such a short time frame!

Tuesday night I had obedience class. Just two more left. As always, Annie did pretty good for the exercises, but was so antsy and hard to control while we were sitting down. And there’s so much sitting down while each person and dog has to individually work on their exercises for the class. She wants to play with the other dogs so badly.

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Wednesday was a work day. I finished my first batch of Halloween dolls! And I sold all six of them within 24 hours, which was really awesome. Except that it really put the pressure on me to get going on more fall themed dolls as well. I started another batch, but didn’t get very far. Having sales is always so exciting – especially when I’m trying to store up money for Door County and Cranberry Fest next month. But then it’s always a let down to sell all my newest dolls right away and go back to days in a row without sales!

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Wednesday afternoon we went to the Dodge County Fair with Steve and Cindy. It was a pretty hot day, but with a breeze cooled off considerably once we got to the fair.

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All the boys cared about were sitting on tractors! They could have done it for the entire night, I think. We didn’t really get to much else because they wanted to keep going back to the tractors.

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We walked the food aisles a couple of times trying to decide on what to get. Greg ended up with buffalo chicken fries and I had haystack onions, for lack of any more exciting options. Everyone else had hamburgers and hot dogs and slushies and ice cream. We walked through the amusement park section and Grandpa paid for the boys to play a few prize wining games. They LOVED their plastic swords. We were there only about two hours until the rain started rolling in. It was a fun night, though!

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Thursday we stuck around home. It was one of those days where I really didn’t want to do anything and was mad at myself all day for it. There are so many things I should be doing that it just overwhelms me and I do nothing.

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Caden had therapy in the afternoon. I thought it was going to be our last session, but Greg wants to continue. So I guess we are, maybe on a monthly basis. Afterward we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up Shepard’s half birthday breakfast.

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I spent the evening at the dog park with Annie, desperately needing some quiet. It was raining, so we were the only people there.

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Friday was Shepard’s half birthday! Greg had to leave for work in Chicago at 5am. We were in for a long day. After breakfast the boys played video games and watched tv for a few hours while I read and took a nap.

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Shepard picked lunch at Culver’s and then we ran some errands. Sometimes I wonder how people ever survive errand running with kids and keep their sanity in check. Surely my kids aren’t the only ones to drive their parents INSANE when shopping! It’s so stressful. I think I’m going to try to avoid it in these last two weeks. My blood pressure can’t handle it!

On Friday afternoon, the boys had their first friend sleepover with Leverett. He came to our house, so Shepard could partake in the festivities. We had bbq bacon pizza for dinner. The boys played all night and went to bed a little bit later than normal. Shepard slept in his own room and the other two slept in Caden’s. He thought they fell asleep around 9:45. Overall, a pretty successful first sleepover, I think. I’m still not super gung-ho about it happening too often, but it’s survivable.

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Sleepover breakfast food.

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On Saturday morning there was supposed to be this Dog Days Paddle Swim event in Beaver Dam. It was announced as the final event in a summer full of dog related things (like the parade a few weeks ago). But other than the original article about it back in June, no other information was ever given. A location wasn’t given either, other than “the beach.” Beaver Dam only has one “beach” that I know of, so that’s where we went. Nobody else was there. We drove away to get gas and came back, but still nobody. So we went in anyway, even though it was probably technically against the rules. Nobody else ever showed up, but we had a good time anyway. It was super fun watching Annie actually learn how to swim. Once she finally figured it out she seemed to love it! I wish we could have taken her off the leash so she could go further. Maybe someday… (Doubtful). (Speaking of – she ran away on Monday when Shepard just stood in the doorway holding it open and expecting she wouldn’t charge past him. That was NOT a fun afternoon.) Nobody brought swimsuits, but the boys finally swam out in their shorts. It was a really fun family morning! How often do I say that about weekends?!

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We babysat Eva for a little bit when we got back home. The boys adore her!

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At least somebody is getting some use out of our sandbox!

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The rest of the day was spent making cake pops for Timmy’s birthday party today. I ended up not actually fully coating any of the pops because the chocolate melts never really got thin enough, to my great frustration! I thought they turned out really cute looking, but I’m not so sure they’ll survive travel time, plus hot temperatures today.

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The boys also had complaints about how they tasted, so maybe it was just a total waste of half my day! At least they look cute. 🙂

This Week

Well, we don’t have quite as much planned for this week, but that’s a good thing. Summer is winding down. The boys have been so whiny lately that I think they just need more rest. I’m not sure how to make that happen when they refuse to sleep any extra. But if we’re at least not running all over the place, maybe they’ll somehow get it!

Today we’re going to Timmy’s 30th birthday family bash. Should be fun! Tomorrow is the solar eclipse and the cats have their annual checkup. I’m hoping to have a date night with Caden at some point this week. I always want to make this a monthly thing and it basically never happens. Mostly because he never wants to leave Greg. Or the house. But I’d like to make it happen before school starts. We might either go on a “hike” or roller skating sometime mid-week. Friday we’re going to the Milwaukee Zoo with Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson. The boys think Hudson loves animals because he woke up during the pig races at the fair. 🙂 Saturday we’re going to Cedar Lake.

My highest priority this week is to just ENJOY the last days of summer. As much as I feel that constant pressure to work every spare minute I have, I want to try and push those feelings aside. Working hardcore will be my top priority once school starts. This is my last opportunity to be lazy, laugh with my kids, make memories, read a lot. I want to enjoy them and not have any regrets about how I spent August.

That’s about it! Have a great week!

 

 

 

Sunday Intentions

Well, it’s Sunday again. I know I’m in the vast minority here, but I kind of hate weekends. Especially super unstructured ones. On one hand, I definitely enjoy not needing to go anywhere and do anything on the weekend. But when we don’t have plans, our weekends are filled with stress and negativity. The four of us just can’t seem to handle full days together without something going wrong. Usually, almost always, it’s because one particular child just can’t handle something and starts throwing fits which lead into more fits and everyone being upset for one reason or another.

I usually do a lot of work on weekends, not exactly because I want to, but it’s just the best time to put in the hours with fewer interruptions. But while I’m working I feel constant guilt since Greg is usually doing some weekly housecleaning and just dealing with all things parenting. Yes, I get those duties the five other days of the week, but it still doesn’t stop me from being flooded with guilt for not helping out. At any rate, the only weekends I really enjoy are the ones where I have plans to go off and do something on my own. Which still brings other forms of guilt. There’s no escaping.

Anyway, weekend vent over. It’s been a pretty full week. I think I’m happy with how I spent it. A good mix of fun activities, down time at home, and enough sewing hours to feel satisfied. I’m definitely still feeling the melancholy of summer coming to an end and not having done enough. But I’m also starting to really look forward to structure and schedules and TIME ALONE. The first few days are sure to be hard for all of us, but fall will be great. I’m really looking forward to it.

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On Monday, we went to the State Fair. The weather was cloudy and cool, which was amazing! We were basically the first people in the park.

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After biding our time and looking through the animal barns, we met up with the rest of the family and headed to the WI Products building to find some breakfast. We usually get a big bag of apple cider donuts to share, but this year everyone was hungry for a little more! Caden insisted on a giant hamburger, my dad had a ribeye sandwich, Timmy and I had grilled cheese, my mom had a baked potato, and we all had donuts.

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My favorite part of the fair is having an excuse to eat all kinds of crazy and fun foods. Not that grilled cheese is crazy or fun, but it was a good start to the day!

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The boys had a chance to try out these trampoline bungee thingys that they always admire. Caden was having a great time doing backwards flips!

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Shepard was too hesitant to try a flip without the girl specifically telling him he could. But he had a great time bouncing around!

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Hudson slept through most of his first fair visit!

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Next, we watched the pig races and then hunted down our next food mission: The Pickle Barrel for a cone of pickles and bag of Vienna beef sticks. Why do they not sell Vienna beef sticks in the store?? They are so good! This building with all the little booths of things for sale used to be my favorite place as a kid. I’ve given up on looking through it with kids in tow. But I did do a quick run through to try and find some dip and salsa samples!

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Greg and the boys got stuck in the kite and drone booth and ended up buying microdrones. I’m pretty sure they lasted maybe three days before they both broke completely… But I guess fun while it lasted!

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The milk drinkers. Actually, Caden doesn’t normally drink milk at all, but he wanted to try it.

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Next mission was a buffalo mac and cheese quesadilla for Timmy, a triple stack slider Sporkie winner for Brittany, and we got some basic chicken tenders for the boys to try and fill them up with “good” food before moving on to all the desserts they wanted.

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I went in search of Ranch-o Tots for my lunch. It’s just tater tots with ranch, bacon, and chives. They were good, but also filled me up too much to try any of the other things I was hoping for!

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Hudson woke up!

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Wondering what’s going on.

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Grandma time. Though I think I held him even longer. Little babies are the best! At least when they’re not crying and hungry. 🙂

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They told me they were reading breaking Packer news.

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Cream puff time. I’m not really a huge fan, but my parents pre-order them for a cheaper price and I usually get one to split with Greg. Except Greg was putting up some sort of silent protest and not eating anything, so I shared with Shepard.

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The happy little family! I’m glad we got to spend the day with them. And that we’ll probably get to spend the day with them every year at the fair! Timmy definitely shares my food enthusiasm for the day. He had a ton! It’s much more fun when everyone is so excited about it.

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He loves these things.

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There was a whole category of pigs made out of food. I couldn’t believe this one didn’t win, it was so cute!

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This was Greg pretty much the whole day. I’m not really sure why he even came. He doesn’t get fair day. Or the excitement of doing pretty much anything outside of the house.

Anyway, it was overall a pretty good day. The weather was intermittently hot in the sun and then cooled off with a fresh breeze. Shepard was a little whiny and obnoxious, but he did better than he’s done in the past. We left around 3:30. Each year we last a little tiny bit longer.

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Tuesday was a work day/recovery day. I’m pretty sure we went for a walk, or possibly the dog park. And that’s about all I remember of it!

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Wednesday we had a lot of errands to run. I wish the boys understood how many errands I’ve been cutting out of my life this summer to make it easier on them. They still complain like it’s the end of the world when I say we have to go to a store. Especially a store allllll the way in Madison! So we had to keep the day filled with treats to keep them behaved and moving. We had to start with cake pops at Target.

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We managed Target, Costco, Stanton Optical, Chipotle, Hobby Lobby, and Woodman’s! It was exhausting, for sure!! But we made it. They’re still not quite sold on Chipotle because they like their particular meat sauces, neither of which a taco/burrito restaurant carries. But Caden discovered he loves Tabasco (I hate it, so never buy it) and Shepard loved their hot salsa and chips.

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Thursday was another down day. I spent most of my day researching hotels in Door County. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and finally brought it up with Greg. I asked for two nights away, by myself, for my birthday this year. Summer just sucks the life out of me sometimes and I wanted something to look forward to. September is also just insane and really draining on me. So after hours of research, I finally booked a hotel for myself right in the middle of September. Still a few weeks before my birthday, but I think it’ll be perfect timing. I am SO EXCITED about this little getaway!!

Thursday night I had dinner out with two of my friends. It was short and sweet, but still nice to get out of the house with friends. I fear I’ve neglected most of my friendships to the point of losing them this summer. It’s so hard to keep in touch without solid reasons to see each other every day. At least a few of us have made the effort to get together every month.

Friday was our long day because Greg had a work event in Chicago. I wanted to fit in something extra special to try and break up the day and make it more enjoyable.

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I asked the boys what they wanted to do before school started. They said go on a hike, go to Rockin’ Jump, and go to the Milwaukee Zoo with Hudson. So we looked at Groupon deals and decided to check out Sky Zone, which opened earlier this year. They looked like they had a few extra things that Rockin’ Jump didn’t have, including a warrior skills course. Looked like the perfect place to go.

While it was a pretty cool place, I think the boys had a lot more frustrations than fun. Everything was geared toward kids maybe middle and high school age. And there were a lot of those aged kids there. Shepard has amazing arm strength and body control and was able to complete a lot more of the challenges than Caden, which really upset him. Caden really wanted to play dodgeball, but older kids were pummelling him with balls every time he got on the court, before he even had a chance to position himself. Then they’d yell for him to get off, so he was understandably upset about that too. The one guy manning the warrior course let tons of kids just go whenever they felt like it, but EVERY TIME one of my kids started to cross he’d yell at them that they couldn’t go yet. Then he’d turn his attention elsewhere and a kid would butt in front of the boys and go. I never saw a single other kid get yelled at. After one particular kid butted in front of them for the third time, with his dad just happily watching on, I went over and got in his face and yelled at him. My Mama Bear side doesn’t often come out – not like that – but I was getting pretty frustrated and upset with the whole situation too. Shepard really wanted to do the stick fighting thing (top left picture), but every time he tried to climb up an older kid would shove him down before he could even get to the top. He never had a fair chance to even begin the challenge, and this other mom kept yelling at him to let her son have a turn, while the other boys on the stands had been there practically the entire time we were there! The boys were genuinely trying their hardest and behaving really well, but they kept getting taken advantage of, or just weren’t strong enough/skilled enough/old enough to complete most of the things there. It was hard to watch them try to deal with it all. 🙁

Anyway, they did have some fun! After our first hour, a huge chunk of the kids left on a bus. Once it was a lot less crowded they were able to do more things. Or at least try more things without the pressure of 13 year old kids trying to shove past them. I’m not sure we’d go here again. But at least we tried it. Afterward we had lunch and came back home where they spent a few hours playing with Leverett. Who has gotten over his fear of Annie and has spent many, many hours over here in the last three days.

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We went to the pool’s beach party Friday night. It was pretty chilly out! There weren’t a ton of people there, but the boys had fun swimming for an hour and a half. Then insisted on getting ice cream treats. I couldn’t bring myself to swim. Way too cold!

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And finally, trying to get ready for bed. The boys and Annie were SO HYPER. But they were also cute, so I had to take some pictures. 🙂

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Caden read a book to Shepard to end the night. I was pretty dang exhausted after all of that! I planned on working that night, but just watched half of a movie instead. Single parenting is a lot of work! It was a fun day, though.

And Saturday I worked! Twelve hours. We went on a short walk to play at the new school playground. And that was my day!

THIS WEEK

This upcoming week is our busiest of August. Lots of things going on! My best friend Dianne and her husband Jack are going to be in WI visiting her dad. So we’re hoping to squeeze in 2-3 little meetups on Monday and Tuesday. I’m thinking on Monday we might also visit the Pope Farms Conservatory to see the sunflower fields. Tuesday night is obedience class. (Just three left!) Wednesday night we’re going to the Dodge County Fair with Steve and Cindy. Thursday we have Caden’s last therapy session and then I’m getting drinks with a friend. And Friday Greg is back in Chicago, so we’ll have to plan another fun day. It’s also Shepard’s half birthday, which we try to always make extra special. Saturday we’re going to a dog swimming event with Annie. And Sunday is my brother’s 30th birthday party. Busy busy!

I want to get some work done this week, but I want to put everything else first. The clock is ticking! Hopefully we can make a lot of good memories this week.

That’s it for my weekly recap!