Quieting My Mind

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I started blogging again because I need to write. It clears my head to get my words on a page and helps me feel a little bit more sane. But because I chose to start writing again in a public space, I feel like I backed myself into a corner. The pressure is on to write posts that revolve around specific topics and have clearly defined content with a solid conclusion. The problem is that those self imposed limitations are now keeping me away from the blog, rather than helping me process my life the way I had hoped to by writing more. So I guess this is a warning to anybody who actually reads these – it’s not all going to be clear and concise. Some days I really need to just empty my brain of everything that’s been going on, no matter how random or irrelevant it may be. I need the freedom to write what I want, even if it doesn’t follow the direction of most other blogs. This is for me and I’m going to do what what feels best.

That being said – it’s been kind of a weird week. I’ve had to let go of a lot of my expectations for myself. Mainly sewing. This happened last year too, though I was totally okay with giving myself a pass from Heartstring Annie sewing for the entire month of December. This year I thought I was going to be able to do so much more. I guess in terms of quantity of dolls made, I did far exceed my output from last year only because I made a gigantic batch of ornament sized dolls. But I continue to feel so behind and constantly disappointed in myself. I want to make my customers happy. I want to always have a fully stocked shop. And I’d also really like to make some money! But I’m learning that for me, December is really about focusing on the rest of my life. I want to be present with my family and not acting like a mad woman behind schedule. I want to make sure my Christmas shopping is done early so I don’t have to frantically be fighting the crowds in the stores and panicking over those hard to buy for people on my list. I want to have time and energy to plan a party or gathering with friends and family during the month, before Christmas week is upon us. I want those gatherings to be a source of joy instead of stress. And I also want to simply take care of myself this month. Winter illnesses in Wisconsin are pretty terrible. My family is notorious for getting awful sicknesses right around Christmas – Shepard especially. I want to schedule in quieter afternoons for myself to catch up on rest if I need it. I also want to keep the pace as a whole this month a lot slower and quieter to try and help everyone else from getting run down as well.

This week I let go of most of my expectations, as hard as it sometimes was. But I also feel like it was really for the best. I had a lot of quality time with a lot of people. I feel closer to many of my friends, I feel closer to Greg, and I feel like I enjoyed and truly paid attention to my kids more than I have in quite awhile. I also focused on quieting my mind. As much as I love my podcasts, I chose to listen to Christmas music more often than not. The podcasts I did listen to were chosen with great intention, mostly episodes centering around Christmas themes that were uplifting and peaceful. The music, the added quiet for my mind, the good conversations and quality time I spent with people – it really added up to a nice week. Not what I expected for the week, but it was worth it.

Looking ahead at this next week I feel a bit of rising panic. Despite the quieter mind space, my to do list has not shrunken! I’m throwing two parties in the next four days. My house is nowhere near the party clean level I like it to be. I desperately need a large solid chunk of time to unearth all the presents I’ve stashed away for the boys, divide up which day they’re getting each gift and trying to make it all look even before wrapping and re-hiding them all. It’s also a very weird week with Greg being gone three nights and a fourth night me kicking him out so I can have my Favorite Things party. It appears we’ll have one family dinner together in the entire week, which is extremely unusual for us. I also need to finish up a couple strands of Christmas bunting for my shop and probably convince myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t make any more Annies this year.

There’s a lot to do. There’s always a lot to do. But I’m learning that December is not about perfection. It’s not about spotless houses and the fanciest foods I can create to impress my guests. It’s about forgiving myself. Taking shortcuts on things that truly don’t matter. And spending time with the people I love because they are what is most important in my life. I’m not going to look back on this month of my life and regret how few sales I made. I’m going to look back and be proud of myself for letting go of a lot of the stress that I didn’t need to carry. I know that chasing perfectionism makes me a crazy person that nobody wants to be around. I don’t want to be that mom/wife/friend. At least not this month. 🙂

I guess what I thought would be a bunch of rambling about my week turned into kind of a cohesive blog post anyway. That’s the power of writing it all out!

Sunday Intentions

It’s Sunday again! I think writing out my intentions last Sunday really helped me focus this past week. It was also slightly discouraging because as always, I assumed I could do more than reality allowed. Caden was home sick on Tuesday which threw everything off. Then I was feeling run down enough on Friday that I wasn’t up to doing much of anything. But overall I’d call it a successful week. I did finish Christmas shopping. That definitely took a load off my mind. I also met my walking goal Monday-Thursday. I loosened up a bit over the weekend and spent more time just enjoying my family and relaxing. And I made four Christmas Annies. Now it’s time to plan out the week ahead!

Biggest Goal (again) – CHRISTMAS PREP

I’m really hoping that with each week closer to Christmas I’ll have less and less to do. By the weekend of the 17th I want to declare it my official vacation from sewing and from to do list craziness. I want to spend a lot of those days before Christmas break just relaxing and mentally preparing my introverted self for a couple of extremely social packed days in a row.

Anyway! In order to reach that final goal, this week I need to work on wrapping presents. I split up all the immediate family and extended family gifts and want to wrap at least half of them in the early part of this week. I also need to get Christmas cards addressed and mailed in the next couple of days. I’m also making a food related type of gift to give to teachers and friends and want to go shopping for and start working on that.

Christmas Sewing

I gave myself a pass on hand sewn gifts this year. I love to do it, but I always think of so many people I want to make things for and then I get run down. But I still need to try and keep up with my Heartstring Annie projects. This week I’m hoping to make another smaller batch of dolls and possibly a few strands of bunting. I love how mine turned out and think they might be a good seller!

Relationship Focused

I guess this week I’d like to really have more of a mindset focus for myself. I want to remember the relationships in my life and make them a priority, even if it means not getting as much done as I feel like I should. I’m getting together with a friend Monday night to work on projects together, having brunch with my mom another day, and throwing my dad a birthday party on Sunday. Lots of time for connecting!

Meal Plans

Monday – Steak Stir Fry of some sort… I rarely make steak, but everyone (except me) loves it. I think after three or four weeks of turkey and chicken, they’re probably ready for some red meat!

Tuesday – Baked Popcorn Chicken – I’m going to make these with crispy fried onions instead of potato chips. I bought a huge bag of them during a hungry Costco trip a few weeks ago. 🙂

Wednesday – Grilled Cheese

Thursday – Spaghetti

Friday – Buffalo Bacon Pizza

Good luck with your intentions for the week!

 

On Worth

For the last few months I’ve been going through a mental rollercoaster, really struggling with how to spend my time every day and how those decisions determine my worth. I think it must be linked the start of school and this new chapter in my life of still being home every day, but not having any kids to take care of between 7:30am and 3:15pm. Trust me, nobody is challenging this decision, least of all Greg. But I feel like I need to justify to myself day in and day out that the only way this lifestyle makes sense is if I stay busy, busy, busy. And it’s not like I’m searching out new things to do! Just simple household maintenance seems to take up almost all of my time. And when I finally feel like I’m caught up enough, then I actually work on Heartstring Annie stuff. Funny how I thought I’d be able to work at least a solid six hours every single day once my kids were in school. I think in the last three months I’ve put in less time than ever toward my business. It’s disheartening.

While my weekdays fly by in a flurry of grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, and cleaning, I really struggle with nights and weekends. I find myself lately feeling very envious of the rest of my family who are truly on break during those times. They have their solid work/school hours of the week and the rest of their time is for fun and relaxation. They have no problem spending an entire Saturday playing video games and watching movies together. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. The problem arises because I feel like I can’t afford to take those breaks. Ever. Meals always need to be made, laundry always needs to be done, dishes are always next to the sink, groceries always need to be bought, the kitchen table always needs to be cleaned off, the floors always need to be swept, the litter boxes always need to be cleaned. And at this time of the year, everything Christmas related falls entirely on me. The planning, the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the executing of each and every tiny detail. It’s so completely overwhelming.

I know I sound like I’m complaining. But honestly the problem is where I stand in my head. I’m so jealous of the fact that the other members of my family have a very clear cut balance in their lives. I feel like I’m surrounded by work ALL THE TIME and I don’t know how to not see it. I’ve always been a perfectionist and I’ve always had a really good work ethic. I hate to see things undone and I seriously cannot turn off my brain to stop thinking about my to do list. Ever, at any point, day or night. I have a problem!

When school started this year I was so excited about my plans. I would sew a lot – and only during the day. I’d set it aside at 3:00 and not think about it again until the following morning. I’d have my nights completely free to make dinner, help with homework, and just be with my kids and not be stressed about the half finished dolls all over the place. I also fully intended on having friend dates. Clearly nobody will be inviting me for playdates anymore, but I didn’t want to lose my friends because of it. I wanted to go to coffee or lunch or just hang out at a park with at least one friend every week. I wanted to better plan and condense my grocery shopping to only one morning a week so I’m not constantly running out for things I forgot. I wanted weekends to be centered on family time. Finding fun things we could do all together, since doing special activities during the week was no longer an option. You know what happened to all those plans? By about the third week of September when I was crazily working on Caden’s birthday and parties, all my best intentions just went out the window. And with one big event after another I haven’t been able to get on track since. I’m so tired, stressed out, and still constantly feel guilty and inadequate.

I’ve read a lot of books, heard a lot of speakers, and know on an intellectual level that my worth is not determined by what I DO. If I measure myself by how much I accomplish every day, I’m basically never going to be enough. I realize that one day my kids are going to grown and gone. My list of chores will shrink significantly. And I’ll probably look back on this time in my life and hate myself for how much time I wasted worrying about things that truly didn’t matter. I want to be the kind of person that puts people first, no matter what. I want it to be blatantly obvious that my husband and kids are my first priority in life. I want them to realize that. Right now I just feel like this invisible person that does all the behind the scenes work to make sure their lives run smoothly, but I’m not really an active participant in their lives. And it’s been this way for so long that they don’t even notice or care. It makes me really sad. But I also – still – do not know how to change things. Who is going to make meals and do laundry if I don’t? Who is going to make birthday parties and holidays happen if I’m not constantly working on them? I can’t figure out how to let things go. I really can’t figure out how to properly balance my life. And I can’t stop linking check marks off the to do list with my worth at the end of a day.

I have no solutions for myself or anybody else that feels this way too. Other than to just keep trying. Look at those little faces and realize they don’t care about clean houses. They probably don’t even care about clean clothes! They just want ME. And that is where I should feel my worth. In what I can be to them, not what I do. If I can remember that, then maybe things will be better.

Preparing for Christmas

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Happy December! I’ve been really busy this last week trying to get all the Christmas decorations set up and ready. It’s so much more fun this year playing around with bigger spaces and spreading everything out. The last few years I’ve barely even put any decorations out because there simply wasn’t any room. I love having a house! Here is our main Christmas tree fully loaded with most of our many, many ornaments. This nook of the house was finished last night after I sewed up a Christmas bunting I’ve been slowly working on for awhile. I love how it turned out!

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Here’s the other half of the living room! I found that gold vintage metal tree at a holiday barn sale a couple of weeks ago. The stockings are a little bit oversized. 🙂 Normally I hang them on the wall for decoration. I have smaller stockings we usually use, but they don’t have any loops on them. I might sew some on and switch them so we can see the candle fireplace a little better.

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I was so excited to have a mantle where I could finally display my Nativity this year. My grandma painted a set of these for all the grandchildren when we were little and gave them to our parents to give to us when we got married. I love having this beautiful token to get out every year and remember her by. I also love seeing evidence of creativity and artistic talent in an older generation of my family.

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As always, Twinkle the Elf showed up this morning. I almost hesitate to even post anything about him anymore because there are such elf haters out there! I don’t understand the passionate hatred so many people hold for Elf on the Shelf. I figure it’s a choice every family decides if they want to take part in or not and to each his own! We don’t use Twinkle as a threatening tool, telling the boys he’s always watching and reporting back to Santa. It’s just a really fun tradition that my kids absolutely love and look forward to every day before Christmas. I don’t see the harm in that!

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Twinkle always brings powdered sugar donuts the first day he shows up. Shepard is guessing that it will take him four hours to eat his own donut because he has such a tiny mouth.

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Of course today is the day Caden slept in. Shepard and I were waiting at least half an hour for him to wake up. Surprisingly he was quite patient about waiting for his donuts while he was musing over why Twinkle wears red, how often he goes back to the North Pole, how he can hold a paint brush to make toys, and why he doesn’t want to stay at our house all year.

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I finally had to wake Caden up. He hasn’t been sleeping that well lately while fighting a bad cough. He’s on an antibiotic slowly getting better. It seems to be a really bad year for coughs all over the place.

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They finally could open the Advent calendar! Shepard’s been yelling at me for days to fill it up with candy. When he realized last night that I finally did then he yelled at me because he wanted it early and I shouldn’t have put candy in it until today!

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Back to decorations! My in-laws gave us another big, but skinny tree to put in our family room. I didn’t think I’d ever be one of those multi-tree households, but it’s kind of great! I love where our main tree is because I spend the most time in there. But it’s really fun having a tree in the room where we eat and play legos and watch tv too. So festive!

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The Advent calendar Greg gave me our first married Christmas, the snow globe he gave me our first Christmas together, and a musical tree egg.

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My Christmas Annie nook. One made by me, the rest by some other makers.

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Christmas pillows. The patchwork one was my project for myself last year. I love patchwork things, but HATE making them. I’m the worst at lining things up!

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My favorite giant Annie and new elf addition this year.

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My favorite vintage decorations.

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Small “tree” and delightful smelling cinnamon candles that don’t even need to be lit to blast scent in our bedroom.

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Caden’s tree in his room. He went for the minimalist look.

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And finally, Shepard’s tree. He claimed all the ornaments with snow on them or family pictures. He took great care in his ornament placements too and has a story to tell about why each one is where it is. Love that kid.

That’s about it! I’m so excited to truly enjoy all the festive rooms while we make new Christmas memories the first year at our house!

My Favorite Podcasts

I’m relatively new to the podcast game. Whenever I heard mention of them, usually in conversations between Greg and his sister, I didn’t really get what they were. I just kept thinking about the talk radio sports programs my dad listened to in the car and being SO BORED. Why would you ever want to waste your time just listening to strangers talk? One time my sister-in-law said that she loved to listen to podcasts in the shower and I thought that was the most funny and ridiculous thing. Now, I am also one of those people! Full volume, phone balancing on a tiny ledge above the bathroom window, I am also listening to podcasts while I’m showering. And walking. And cleaning. And folding laundry. And making dinner. And sewing. It’s totally an addiction. An awesome one.

My first podcast experience was listening to Greg’s favorite, How Did This Get Made? on our 32 hour road trip to Charleston in June. Between radio stations that were always fading in an out, an audio book that continued to put me to sleep, and the podcast; the podcast definitely won out. It was pretty funny and kept me engaged. It was interesting enough that it sparked my interest in searching out other podcasts. After that my world was pretty much blown wide open. There are sooooo many podcasts out there. It’s amazing. But it’s also hard to find one that you really connect with. So I thought I’d share my absolute favorites. If you have a chance, be sure to check them out!

Front Porch With the Fitzes

I started my search for podcasts doing google and pinterest searches for other people’s favorites. This one popped up and it was the first one I tried. I loved it! It’s the first podcast I started at the beginning and caught all the way up with in about three months. The show is about Christian author and speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick and her adult kids Joel and Jessica. They often share funny stories, talk about current events and family life, and end each episode with a devotion. This podcast continues to crack me up every week. I can’t wait for Tuesday mornings when a new episode appears on my PocketCast app. I recommend starting this one at the beginning because past episodes are referred to often.

Spilled Milk

This is my favorite podcast for when I want something light and funny. I usually listen to it while I’m making dinner and it’s often my shower podcast of choice. 🙂 Each episode is about 10-15 minutes long and they center around a single food topic. They discuss how they remember interacting with the food growing up and then talk about different ways they prepare or use the food today. Sometimes they compare a couple brands of things and occasionally they evaluate junk food boxes that people send them from around the world. A lot of it is pretty comedic, but I’ve also gotten many really good ideas for simple food preparations I never would have thought of before. There are 256 episodes right now, so plenty to listen to! I started at the beginning (not necessary for this one) and am in the low 200’s. Soon I’ll be caught up! 🙁

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Don’t judge me. But this podcast is HILARIOUS. It’s about a guy, Jamie, whose dad wrote a pretty terrible erotic novel called Belinda Blinked. On the podcast he gets with his friends James and Alice and reads one chapter of the book each episode. Their reactions to everything are so outrageously funny. The podcast definitely isn’t about listening to porn (believe me, it’s NOT sexy!!)- it’s about laughing so hard at the reactions they continue to have. The first book/season is funny, but I really loved when they got to the second. They had a lot more interaction just between the three friends, which is definitely what I was most interested in listening to. In the second season they also have “footnote” episodes between each chapter where they get a celebrity to join them to discuss the books. My favorite guests were Elijah Wood, Rachel Bloom, and Michael Sheen. If you just want to listen to something funny and a little bit smutty, this one is for you.

Sorta Awesome

I go through phases with this one. To be honest, the main host’s accent kind of grates on me. Which is a very shallow thing to say! Her personality is slightly grating at times too. But I still think it’s worth a listen. Each episode she switches between three other co-hosts. They talk about various topics, most of which are really interesting. My favorite portion of the show is where they share their awesome of the week. I’ve learned about a lot of new books, podcasts, and beauty products from this segment. My favorite part about this podcast is that it has an accompanying facebook group with a lot of really active and interesting discussions always going on. I started this one at the beginning (I think it’s an OCD thing – it’s impossible to pick up in the middle!), but more recently have just been focusing on seasonal episodes. I listen to the most current episode and then go back and listen to the fall and holiday episodes of last year.

The Popcast

I heard so many good things about this podcast, but was too overwhelmed to start it until recently. I really like to start listening at the beginning, but when it comes to pop culture and current topics, it didn’t make sense going back to episodes from three years ago. Finally I just started jumping around to the topics that sounded most interesting to me. Each episode has a clearly defined topic, so it’s easy to pick something that will be good. My favorite episodes are about holidays and seasons, so I strongly suggest starting with those as well. The hosts Knox and Jamie have great friend chemistry and I love listening to their funny and oftentimes clashing opinions on everything. Like Sorta Awesome they have a segment where they talk about red lights and green lights – their worst and best picks for the week. I love getting more validated recommendations on things for people, so this type of episode really appeals to me. Now that I’ve given myself the okay not to listen in order, I’m just as excited about the new episodes for this one as I am Front Porch.

Beautiful Anonymous

For about a month this was my all time favorite podcast. It’s a pretty simple premise – the comedian Chris Gethard takes a one hour phone call with an anonymous person on each episode. They talk about whatever happens to come up, though most episodes center around a main theme. I adored this podcast at the beginning, listening to the stories of anonymous people. The more I listened and the heavier the topics sometimes got, I decided I needed to actually space them out to about once a week intervals. I still really like the podcast, but I need to be in the mood for the longer chats.

The Girl Next Door Podcast

I’m pretty new to this one, and yes, I did start it at the beginning. But I’m really enjoying it. Two next door neighbors, Kelsey and Erica, get together each week to create a cocktail and then just sit and chat about whatever is on their minds. I love their friendship and wish I had a next door neighbor relationship like that too! They laugh a lot and always support each other. It’s just a fun podcast that makes me happy! The only downfall is that the episodes are very long, usually over an hour.

What Should I Read Next?

When I realized that not only are there podcast about tv shows (Greg’s favorite ones to listen to), but also BOOKS, I was thrilled! I tried out a bunch, but this has been my favorite. I’m always on the lookout for great book recommendation and Anne Bogel, aka Modern Mrs. Darcy, is a recommending genius. She has a guest each week and they talk about what books they like and dislike and then Anne gives a couple of new recommendations. I just love hearing about books and why people are passionate about them. This podcast is a must for every bookworm out there!

Well, I think I’ll stick with that list for now! 🙂 I subscribe to about 80 podcasts right now, always adding new ones based on recommendations from other podcasts. I occasionally dabble in an episode or two in a new podcast, but for the most part I stick with my favorites. But within a few months I’m going to be caught up with most of those, so I’ll be experimenting with the others on my list. I’m sure I’ll have many more to recommend in the future!

 

 

Sunday Intentions

Now that I’m back to blogging I’ve been thinking about doing a weekly post on my intentions for the coming week. It’s purely for my own benefit in hopes that if I actually sit down for ten minutes and think about what I want to make happen over the next seven days, I’m more likely to follow through. Ever since school started this year I’ve been such a disorganized and scatterbrained mess. I have way too many things I want to accomplish and no organized plan to help me reach all my goals. This is not the way life was supposed to be once my kids were in school full time! Maybe if I strive to start living my life with real intention I’ll actually get more done and be happier with my accomplishments, instead of always feeling like I’m not doing enough, not being enough.

This Week’s Biggest Goal: CHRISTMAS PREP

I’ve been reading a lot about the importance of doing Christmas prep throughout November so your time and mind are freed up to actually relax and enjoy the holiday season. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that great of a job preparing. But it’s not too late! I’ve been madly planning out Christmas gifts and online shopping. I fully intended on cutting back on gifts this year. There are just so many people we need to get presents for and after buying a house and going on two major vacations, things are a little tight this year. But gift giving is my main love language and it’s really hard to eliminate people from my gift list! So instead I’ve been trying really hard to focus on purchasing quality, unique, and special treasures for the people in my life. My goal was to be done Christmas shopping by December 1st. I THINK it might actually happen! I’m planning two shopping days this week at stores I don’t usually get a chance to go to to finalize my shopping lists.

Besides gifts, I want to take a good look at our December calendar and try to plan out special family times. A night to go look at lights, movie nights, maybe a concert or something. Oftentimes our nights and weekends are great bonding time for Greg and the boys while I’m always off in another room getting things done. Why are to do lists always never-ending?! I’m hoping I can force myself to slow down and make family memories that I’m actually included in this coming month.

I’m also hoping to organize a fun party or two. Last year I held a Favorite Things party with my friends that turned out to be a lot of fun. I’d like to do it again if I can get organized! I’m also contemplating a bigger open house style party. Our Christmas decorations look so nice in the new house that it’s starting to feel a little sad that all of our main Christmas gatherings are done elsewhere!

Second Priority: Christmas Annies

Once again I had the best of intentions for sewing up tons of Christmas dolls and here it is the end of November and I’ve barely begun. I hate that you always need to be well into the next holiday or season if you want to keep up with shopping demand. By mid December nobody will want Christmas Annies and I should be started on Valentine’s Day! I suppose I did do better this year than last with a batch of Christmas elves and a huge batch of ornaments. But I need to make other sized Christmas dolls before it’s too late. I’m hoping by the middle of the week I can get a good start on that. I’m also hoping this month I can start to really think of sewing as my DAY job. Do as much as I can while the boys are at school and then be done for the night. Way too often I fall into the habit of sewing for hours at night while I work on everything else during the day. But then, as mentioned earlier, I miss out on a lot of family time. I want to get a lot better about treating Heartstring Annie as my job and not my life.

Other Intentions

December 1st marks the start of our true Christmas season! Twinkle the Elf will be back with his usual bowl of powdered sugar donuts and hot chocolate. I also need to have the Advent calendar filled with treats by Thursday. We got it out the other day and Shepard asked me at least twenty times if I put the candy in yet.

I need to get back on track for my walking goal each day. This last week I’ve really fallen off the wagon. It’s hard to make time for long walks when there’s so much to do, places to be, and family members at home. But I want it to continue to be a priority in my life. Thursday night is also the start of another Drumfit session. I’m looking forward to another six weeks of drumming!

Meal Plans

Just for fun! Meal ideas for the week.

Sunday – Snack night. I bought a lot of fun snacky foods for when we set up the tree Friday, but we ended up just having leftovers and popcorn throughout the day.

Monday – Thai Pomegranate Enchiladas. If we have enough turkey leftover I’m going to use that in place of chicken. I love this recipe and don’t make it nearly enough. It’s just such an interesting and different flavor compared to the kinds of foods I usually make.

Tuesday – Pickle Chicken. I’ve never tried this recipe. But we all like chicken and we all like pickles, so might as well give it a go!

Wednesday – Pepperoni Calzones. I almost never make pepperoni pizza anymore because Shepard always wants buffalo pizza. But I have pepperoni and sauce that need to be used, so why not calzones?

Thursday – Easy night. Greg is going to be gone, so we’ll probably just have chicken nuggets or leftovers.

Friday – BBQ Pizza. With my Aunt Rhonda’s Sweet & Heat BBQ Sauce. Guys, this is like the most amazing bbq sauce to combine with cheese. It’s completely addicting. It’s the only one I use for bbq pizza. I also love it on quesadillas or nachos. Amazing.

And that’s about it! It’ll be a busy week. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to come up with your own Sunday intentions! 🙂

Thanksgiving Recap

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Well, Thanksgiving is done and Christmas season is upon us! But I wanted to do a quick recap in photos of the day!

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Normally we do a family picture on or around my birthday, generally at a park so we can have a slightly nicer background. This year I just wasn’t on top of things. I was also hoping we’d get a really nice family picture when we were super dressed up at my sister-in-law’s wedding, but the only time we had a chance for somebody else to snap a picture, Shepard wasn’t cooperating. Big surprise! So anyway, Thanksgiving was the day. I didn’t want to give up on a family picture and I wanted to order Christmas cards with some Black Friday deals.

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It just kills me how Shepard has the most amazing smile in the world and then he looks like this in posed photos!

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Real smiles, but most awkward children placement ever!! We did get two pictures that were slightly better, but you’ll have to wait for the Christmas card to see them. 🙂

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After our rapid fire photo session we headed to my in-law’s house for the rest of the day. It was a very relaxing day. Lots of talking, phone playing, ball throwing, and tv watching.

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I love how they share chairs. 🙂

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The turkey was amazing, as always! My mother-in-law Cindy makes turkey roasting look completely effortless.

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The boys wanted to break the wishbone.

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Shepard wished for all the soda he could drink. He got his wish! Just like last year he picked out his very own Dr. Pepper 10.

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On Monday Shepard brought something home from school and immediately taped up a homemade envelope and had me write “Thanksgiving” on it. All week he repeatedly asked me where it was and reminded me that he was waiting to open it until everybody was together at the table. It was pretty adorable. His big reveal was a turkey picture that he drew. He was quite proud of himself!

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My yummy plate. I really like the new tradition we started with my parents and brother joining in on this Thanksgiving meal. It’s really nice just eating one meal and really enjoying everything instead of trying to cram our stomachs full of two gigantic meals!

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Shepard provided dinner entertainment when he remembered how much he loves crossing his eyes.

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Caden trying his hardest to copy him.

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My desserts this year. Pumpkin fudge bars with brown butter glaze, salted caramel peanut butter truffles, and crunch top apple pie.

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I was determined to get a couple pictures of people at the party other than just my kids. I always tend to forget to do that, or I just feel weird taking pictures of people for no valid reason. But I always regret it! So – my parents.

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It was a wonderful day and I’m so glad I got to spend it with the most important people in my life! Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Thankful

Like most people this week, I’ve been trying to get in the spirit of Thanksgiving by thinking about what I’m most thankful for. My list doesn’t vary much from year to year, though the specific reasons for my gratitude might. This year I really want to focus on each individual aspect of a person or thing that brings me joy and thanksgiving.

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Greg

  • We celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this past May. It felt like a pretty big milestone, though getting married at 21, I barely remember life before marriage! The last ten years have held a lot of joys and a lot of challenges. We’ve stuck together and always will. I greatly look forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
  • He supports me. In the most basic ways, like allowing me to continue staying home to pursue my creative dreams while we live off of his income. But also in every other meaning of the word support. He fully supports me emotionally in everything that I want to do. He encourages me to better my life and do whatever makes me happy.
  • He is an awesome dad. The best I’ve ever met! He selflessly gives all of his nights and weekends to the boys, helping them with things, playing with them, loving them in the language that matters most to them. He’s so much better than me at setting aside everything else to just focus on our children.
  • I’m also very thankful that he takes care of most of the “man stuff” around the house. He’s been learning all the important home owning stuff, he takes care of all the car maintenance, he does the lawn work, takes out the garbage, etc. He’s also a technology genius and I don’t know how I – or any of our family members – would get by without him!

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Caden

  • Since this school year started, Caden has continued to impress me in how he looks after Shepard. He knew how worried Shepard was about going to kindergarten and he got permission from his teacher many times a day the first few weeks of school to drop in and check on Shepard. He sat by him at lunch, he sat by him on their first joint field trip which Shepard was terrified about going on, and he asked Shepard to join him and his friends at recess playing kickball every day. Even though he’s older, I don’t think it’s even occurred to him yet to want to get away from Shepard. Instead he always includes him in everything. He protects him and shelters him as well. Two days ago Shepard had a bathroom accident after he left the school building. We started to walk home and I stopped to talk to a friend for a minute. Caden continued to walk with Shepard, shielding him from the other kids so they wouldn’t see his wet pants or his tears. They definitely have their fair share of fights, but they’re also inseparable. Caden takes his big brother duties very seriously and I love that about him!
  • He’s a reader! Greg and I were talking about it the other day and admitted that we both thought he wouldn’t be. He’s very, very addicted to video games. Even though he has them taken away more often than not! But sometime in the last few months it finally clicked with him that reading is pretty awesome! He reads in the mornings when he wakes up, in the afternoons when he’s bored, and at night by lamplight. We set him up with my old kindle and he loves having that option available to him as well. Reading has always been a HUGE aspect of my life, and I’m thrilled that he’s started to love it as well.
  • He works hard. He’s still in speech therapy, though I think if people didn’t know that about him they would no longer be able to hear why he needed it. Just three years ago I felt like things were never going to change. People would never be able to understand him. And now he’s just a teeny fraction away from speaking at his age level. I’m proud of how far he’s come. I’m also proud of how well he does in school in general. He’s a pretty smart kid.

Shepard

  • Shepard is the comic relief we so often need in our family. Unless he’s throwing a tantrum over food, he’s pretty much always a joy to be around. He’s silly and funny. And he’s always thinking and sharing his newest ideas with people. I love listening to all the crazy things he comes up with every day.
  • He’s always up for learning or doing new things. He loves to help people with everything they’re doing. He’s constantly asking to help me in the kitchen. He loves pitching in when Greg is working on things around the house. He just wants to be where the action is and throw himself in the middle of it. He begs to do homework every night, even though he rarely has any. He’s optimistic and up for adventure pretty much all of the time. It’s refreshing to be around someone with that kind of perspective on life.
  • He’s growing too. I was so, so worried about how he’d handle kindergarten. He cried basically every morning that he had preschool and 4K. School gave him a lot of anxiety and he never wanted to be away from me. Summer school in June was even worse. The teacher literally had to tear him away from me every single day for three weeks. But he’s been doing really well. (Besides the potty issue!) He still drags his feet a couple times a week, but for the most party I think he’s starting to really acclimate. I kind of fear the day he becomes totally comfortable at school and his true personality starts to show! 🙂 I think he might be the kid that everybody wants to be friends with, but might also be a bit of a troublemaker and class clown! I love seeing how much more confident he’s become in just a few short months, though.

Our House

  • I waited a long time for this! I think that most people take owning a home for granted. I hope that the last six years of not owning will help me to always appreciate how awesome it is to truly have our own space. I do feel that your home is where your people are. But having an actual house with a yard and room to run is something to be pretty grateful for.
  • I LOVE my living room and sewing room. I spend basically the entire day in these two rooms. And because nobody else has much reason to be in them I can actually keep them clean and pretty, entirely for my own enjoyment. When we were house hunting, having a room or at least a solid space for my sewing room was a must have. I wasn’t sure that the dining room I claimed in this house would work out, but it turned out great. I have room for all my stuff with space to spare and it’s amazing. My living room, where my computer is, is also just the best. Hard wood floors, bay window, candle filled fireplace, pretty mantle, my favorite colors – I love it.
  • I’m so thankful that we have enough room for our family of four. Apartment life was fine for us for a long time. But the older the boys got the more desperately we started to feel the need for change. This house has been such a blessing. The boys have their own rooms, something that Caden at least really needed. Shepard has the biggest room, so ALL of the toys are stored in there. That alone is pretty huge! Besides the legos taking over our family room, the main living spaces of the house are usually pretty clutter free. I feel like I can breathe here. We all can.
  • Possibly the best thing about this house – the neighborhood. Our yard isn’t spectacularly large or exciting, but the boys have so many friends within our small block. They want to be outside all the time. That definitely wasn’t the case before we moved. I love that they’re finally having the childhood that I grew up with – outside with friends having adventures as often as possible. And we do have a yard! I didn’t have much chance to spend time in it this year since I was so focused on setting up inside. But I’m looking forward to planting a big garden next year, spending more time outside, having get togethers, etc. We plan to be here a very long time. I also love the area of town we live in. Country living has always been my dream, but living in town has some amazing advantages. I love that I can walk the boys to and from school every day. I can walk basically anywhere in Columbus if I want! It’s the perfect location.

Friends

  • Friendships have always been hard for me. Mainly because I’m not very satisfied with casual acquaintances. I want friendships to be deep, honest, comfortable, and stand the test of time. The problem is that those kind of friendships take a whole lot of effort between both people, a vulnerability that does not come easily, and a lot of time spent together. Something that only gets harder the older you get and the more family obligations you have. Anyway, I could go on with this topic for awhile, but I should probably just say that I’ve reached a point, finally, where I feel like I do have a couple of really good friends. REAL friends. I hope in the next few years, now that I have more time to devote to it, I can develop some other friendships and make them stronger. Maybe try and meet new friends. But I’m infinitely grateful for the couple of women who have shown me the meaning of true friendship in its best form. You know who you are.

Family

  • I am exceedingly grateful that my children have grandparents that live 20 minutes away and are a part of their lives. My grandpas both died when I was too young to remember them. My grandmas were a huge part of my childhood and I lost them both between Caden and Shepard being born. I miss them. I want my own kids to realize how important those relationships are and treasure the fact that they have them.
  • I’m also thankful for our siblings. I have a brother I see fairly regularly and the boys love talking video games with him. As I mentioned the other day, I’m really excited that my other brother and sister-in-law moved back to Wisconsin this year. Greg is very close with his sisters and we gained a new brother-in-law last month. My kids don’t have any cousins yet, but they’ve had the advantage of having many aunts and uncles doting on them for all of their lives. When we’re all together they fully enjoy having so much attention!
  • Beyond our more immediate family, we also have a lot of extended family in the area. We don’t see them that often, but it’s a comfort to know that they’re there.

That’s about it for my list. This year I’m celebrating the people in my life and the roof over my head. That’s all I need to be fulfilled. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The problem I can’t fix

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I wish I knew what to do with this kid. I wish I knew what was truly going through his mind when it comes time to go to the bathroom. Potty training him is the biggest parenting struggle we’ve had in the last eight years. Every single tiny step in the process has turned into a monumental challenge that takes months to years to overcome. Sitting on the potty chair when he turned three was terrifying. He stayed in diapers all through preschool, despite not technically being allowed to be there while not potty trained. A solid year after we started the potty chair we spent an entire summer desperately trying to get him to sit on the real toilet so he’d be ready for 4K. It didn’t work. After many, many tears from everybody, he finally sat on the toilet IF he was sitting on a portable potty seat. With the seat he’d only use one of our bathrooms, and one bathroom at each grandma’s house. For two years we couldn’t leave the house for more than a couple of hours in case he’d need to go to the bathroom. Every extended trip, I’d take the regular potty chair along and he’d use it in the car or parking lot. Finally after his fifth birthday he used the toilet in one of our bathrooms. And only that toilet. He made it through an entire year of 4K never using the bathroom. I lived in fear that he’d start having accidents. One of my friends kept insisting it was a very real possibility that he would not be allowed to go to kindergarten if anybody knew about his problem, so we had to keep the struggle under wraps. Maybe if we had tried harder to get him more professional help last year we wouldn’t still be fighting this today, when he’s three months shy of turning six.

This last April things finally seemed to be moving forward. We took a trip to Great America and he went to the bathroom twice while we were there – on a real toilet with very little hesitation. A week or so after that we went to an out of town birthday party and he used the bathroom there. Both times with Greg or I, but he finally seemed to be getting more comfortable. And then in May we moved into our house. And everything went downhill. He was scared of the bathrooms here, he started having daily accidents, to the point where he didn’t even seem to care anymore. By the end of summer he was okay with going in our downstairs bathroom, he was okay with toilets at three grandma’s houses. I was purposely taking day trips as often as possible, not reminding him to go to the bathroom before we left, in hopes that he’d eventually give in and use toilets in other places. It never happened. He became an expert at holding it. His record is 11 hours while we were at a wedding. By the end of the night he desperately needed to go and we spent over an hour going back and forth sitting with him in public bathrooms and he just wouldn’t go. That was the most miserable two hour car ride home in all of our lives.

By the end of summer we were all feeling pretty hopeless. I guess we just assumed after all this time once school started full time for him he’d realize going to the bathroom there was just part of the deal and he’d do it. We put him in therapy right before school started. We talked to his teacher, we talked to the school nurse. We came up with many plans of action. We toured the school bathrooms with him multiple times. We had Caden check on him several times a day the first week of school to try and convince him to use the bathroom. Greg has gone to school a couple of times during the day to try and get him to go. His teacher has given him the option to use a private bathroom. We’ve tried bribing him with basically anything he could possibly want. Nothing works. Nothing.

For the longest time our end goal was for him to successfully use bathrooms on our trip to San Francisco in October. We assumed if he could do that it would break him of this problem and he’d finally be a successfully potty trained child.  We spent way too much time worrying that we were going to get there, he was going to hold it too long, and we’d spend the week sitting in a hospital with him. But amazingly, he did awesome. He used five different bathrooms. He told us when he had to go, we brought him to the closest bathroom, and he went. We rejoiced, thinking that we were finally, FINALLY in the clear. Got back home and nope. Still no going at school. Or upstairs at our house. Or anywhere else.

I think the most frustrating aspect of everything is that none of us understand WHY this has been so difficult for him. He will never talk about it or explain why he doesn’t want to go in different places. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling compassionate toward him, probably not pushing as hard as I could have because he was clearly miserable or terrified. But I’ve also had times, especially in recent months, being absolutely infuriated that we are still dealing with this after THREE YEARS. Who potty trains for three years?! Caden was potty trained right after he turned three with zero issues, zero accidents. I know every child is different. I know many people in the world struggle with much more difficult challenges. But what drives me crazy is that this is so easy to change! He can do it. But he won’t. It’s this overwhelming massive problem in our family’s lives that I have no control over. I can keep taking him to therapy, I can try to bring him into the school building every day after school when he so clearly needs to go, I can bribe him, take things away, offer incentives, anything and everything I can think of. But ultimately it’s up to him. I feel completely helpless and so, so frustrated.

Milwaukee Wave Date Night

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Last night we met my brother and sister-in-law in Milwaukee for a double date night. Timmy and Brittany moved back to Wisconsin this fall after a couple of years in California. We’re really excited to to get to spend more time with them, both in family gatherings and as “couple friends,” something we’re sorely lacking! All of our siblings were still in high school when Greg and I got married and moved to Minnesota. They were all in college when we became parents. We’ve had very little opportunity to really form adult friendships with our siblings outside of also being in mom and dad mode. It’s seriously awesome when we get a chance to just be US for a night and not worry about needy and emotionally demanding kids. It’s also really awesome that Timmy and Brittany are only a little over an hour away and getting together with them more than once or twice a year is actually our new reality!

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We met for dinner at Milwaukee Brat House because it was near the stadium. The restaurant was packed and loud, but the food was good! We shared this gigantic pretzel. We were getting pressed for time by the time the rest of the food came out, so I forgot to take a picture. My chicken wrap and cheese curds were delicious, though!

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This was mine and Greg’s first Wave game, so we didn’t know what to expect. We’re obviously not giant soccer fans, but we’re always up for a reason to go on a date night! And surprisingly, I actually really loved the game! It was fast paced and intense and honestly a lot of fun. I’d say the majority of the spectators were children, so the boys probably would have enjoyed it too. Next time!

Anyway, it was a great little date night. I wish we had more of them because it always does wonders for our relationship to get out of the house and interact as a couple instead of just a parental unit. We’re so fortunate to have grandparents around to watch the boys when we need a night out. Thanks, Timmy and Brittany for coming up with the idea and giving us an excuse to go out!