Failing at Everything

I’m having a hard week. I feel like I’m basically failing at everything right now. I used to be so good at everything. Where did that person go? Why did my motivation and perfectionism and energy leave me? How can I be SO tired ALL the time and still feel like I’m never getting anything done or succeeding at any aspect of my life?!

I think Heartstring Annie is my biggest struggle right now. I just don’t know how to make it work during the summer when I am CONSTANTLY being interrupted and called to do other things. But this last school year proved that I didn’t really know how to make it work when I’m home alone all day either. Some batches dolls I feel super passionate about and can’t wait to finish them up and show them off. And sell them! But more often than not it’s just another thing on my neverending to do list and unless I have a huge focused block of time to sit down and work on them, I just can’t make myself do it at all. It is endlessly frustrating when I like to watch a show or listen to a podcast while I’m working and I have to pause it every one or two minutes, usually because Shepard comes in and wants to tell me something. It’s so completely unproductive! I’m getting back in the habit of only working at night when the boys are preoccupied with Greg. But I don’t want that to be the way I work anymore. And yet…

I’m definitely failing at taking care of myself. I had so many lofty exercise goals to start up again this summer. And I did okay during June when the boys were in summer school. But now? Nope! Not when it’s 90+ degrees every day. Not when I have to beg and bribe my too young to stay home alone kids to come with me. Not when I have a dog that also needs exercise and I want to have walk with me, but can’t take her because it’s always too dang hot.

And food! Oh, how I fail with eating these days. Meal planning has been a joke. Every night I’ve been scrambling to create some sort of cohesive meal out of whatever I can find in the fridge. The boys have some kind of frozen breakfast each day, while I usually forget to eat because I’m trying to get too many things done at once before I’ve lost all my energy and sanity for the day. Lunch is always a hodgepodge of what I can gather on the table before somebody freaks out because they’re “starving.” For about two weeks I was counting my calories. It was definitely enlightening, but also soooo depressing. I found myself only eating quick packaged “healthy snacks” because I was so hungry and didn’t want to take the time to calculate what a homemade meal would come out to. Then I gave that up and spent a week making the most delicious meals I could think of because I figured I might as well eat something I could savor, instead of just eating for the sake of fitting it into my calorie structure for the day. And this week I’m back to scrambling. I’m so inconsistent. I basically hate vegetables. I love carbs and cheese. I either want a gourmet meal or I don’t want to be bothered with spending twenty minutes in the afternoon putting a meal together. I’m all over the place and I hate it.

I’m for sure failing at marriage. I don’t know why I ever thought marriage would be easier as your kids got older. That’s definitely not the way it’s worked in our family. Kids getting older meant sharing more and more of Daddy’s hobbies and interests and me getting completely pushed out of the circle. The only time Greg and I have together is late at night when we watch one episode of a tv show together. And lately that tv time has been getting pushed back later and later. The boys stay up later. I’m either working on something or trying to get Annie on a late evening walk once the temperatures cooled down. Greg seems about at his breaking point and desperately needs time to himself before he can be with me. Neither of us have anything to give the other anymore. Not at the end of the day. Not when I can barely keep my eyes open and know that I still NEED my reading time afterward. I’ve been staying up way too late and still getting up as early as always. I don’t know how to create the balance we need to keep us strong. We’re very fortunate that once a week the boys go to Grandma’s house so we get a date night alone. But many times it starts the way it did tonight – with a ridiculous fight and both of us doing our own things in separate rooms and not saying a word to each other for hours. So many wasted nights.

I don’t exactly feel like I’m failing at parenting, but I’m not feeling especially successful with it either. When the three of us are at home during the day I am way too generous with letting them have screen time. Usually because I have my own work to do and I don’t know how else to make them give me the space to do it. I always make them earn that time, but I’m really bad at limiting it once they have it. I try to plan fun things for us to do out of the house, but even getting out of the house is harder and harder the older Caden gets and the more he rebels. So often it just doesn’t feel worth the hassle. We did have some fun little adventures this week and I hope we’ll have many more in the remaining weeks of summer. But I wish I were better with connecting with them individually too. Caden especially. Shepard makes it pretty easy. Caden is a lot harder to truly connect with.

So those are the biggest issues, but I’m definitely failing as a friend. As a housekeeper. As a daughter/sister/aunt. Pretty much the only part of my life I’ve got down pat these days is dog owning. I’m good with Annie! But that’s clearly not enough. I wish there was a very easy fix to make all the puzzle pieces of my life finally come together in a way that made more sense. I wish I had a magic pill that would stop making me feel so dead tired every afternoon. If I had those afternoon hours back, life would be so much better. But I’ve already seen so many doctors about it and they always brush it off as just the life of a mom. So somehow I just need to power on and try to be the best I can be, day after day. It has to be enough.

Sunday Intentions

Another week has flown by. I’m starting to feel a little weary about it all. It’s not like we haven’t been busy doing a lot of fun things. But we’ve been just plain too busy. Summer is officially half over. And in many ways it still feels like it’s barely begun. Summer around here is supposed to be a lot of boredom, long days, pool trips, and a few sprinklings of exciting day trips that I fully plan out in advance. We’ve had maybe two full days of that this entire summer so far. There’s always been something we need to do. And it’s kind of making me sad. The last few years at the beginning of summer the boys and I make a list of things we want to do over the next three months. We never made that list and I don’t want to do it now because I feel like it’ll be impossible to fit anything else in. The boys got a big tent for Christmas with the assumption we’d go on at least a couple of camping trips this summer. Now I think we’ll be lucky to even set it up in our yard once! We’ve had so many outings and commitments already, I don’t feel like planning anything else. It bums me out a little.

Anyway, recap time. I’m pretty sure Monday was a catch up day for everything I didn’t get to the week before. Tuesday I had my first obedience class with Annie. It was stressful. I don’t like being put on the spot in front of strangers, I don’t like being reprimanded for things I’m doing wrong with her, especially in front of other people, and I definitely don’t like standing in front of a big group of people doing dog exercises that Annie may or may not cooperate with. Yes, we’re all in the same boat and probably all feel mostly the same way. But I wasn’t really expecting the class format to be that way. I thought we’d all work with our own dogs simultaneously. That feels a lot more efficient. That first class felt very overwhelming. These next seven weeks of training are going to be a lot of work. But hopefully worth it in the end. I’d say it’s probably already worth it because the instructor at the free class (same lady for both) told me about “pinch collars.” While they look horrendous, they’re the only thing that has actually kept Annie from pulling when we go on walks. It’s pretty much the magic fix. She walks so well that I only need to loop the end of the leash around my wrist instead of my hand because she never, ever pulls when it’s on her. Incredible.

On Wednesday afternoon we met Greg at the theater and saw Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was good! I like that more often these days all four of us can go to movies together. While not entirely appropriate for their age, they’ve already seen all the other Marvel movies at home, so it seems okay to take them to the theater when new ones come out. I love going to the theater, so it’s really a treat now that can all go together without the hassle of burdening someone else with babysitting.

Thursday I had a night out with my friend Laura. It was friend time I most definitely needed! We went to Mod Pizza and sat and talked for a long time. I wish I could see my friends more often. You’d think in summer it would be easier, but we’re all so busy in our own worlds. Or maybe that’s just me and everyone else is still seeing each other!

Friday was a long and stressful day of Greg working at home, but being super frustrated that we were all around. I had a ton of stuff to do and couldn’t afford to take the boys out of the house for more than a long walk with Annie. I’m definitely not looking forward to the rest of summer’s Fridays being a repeat of this last Friday. At night the boys went to Grandma’s for a sleepover and we had a date night at Chili’s. It was nice to have an evening together.

Saturday I went to the farmer’s market early in the morning, picked up some groceries, worked in the kitchen until it was time to take Shepard to a birthday party, stayed at the party, madly worked in the kitchen again until Steve, Cindy, and Melissa came over for a pizza party. I made spinach strawberry salad, two kinds of pizza, and three kinds of homemade ice cream. It was a fun night!

And finally today, we’re getting ready to head out to see Trolls for its replay in the theater for their summer kids series. And later today we’re going to the Mallard’s game with my parents. Busy busy! Lots of night stuff. We’re really not used to being so busy at night. But this has been week three of something going on basically every single night.

The Week Ahead

Once again, the week ahead is looking pretty busy. Not AS busy, but still busy. We have three not so fun appointments later in the week, but since we’ll already be out of town I’m hoping to add in a few fun stops for the boys. New parks or picnics or restaurants. We’ll see. The beginning of the week is a little quieter.

Top Goal: WORK

I am so, so behind with sewing. I haven’t had a sale in weeks. I mean, I’ve been busy! I’m also a full time stay at home mom in summer and realize I need to cut myself some slack. It’s definitely not like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing. There’s ALWAYS something to do. But work has once again fallen to the wayside. I’d like to at least make some strides in making up for lost time this week. It’s so hard reaching the balance I want with this. I need to do better.

Well, that’s about it. I’m feeling too lazy to add pictures to the post this week. Hope your week ahead is great!

New Jersey Vacation, Week of Craziness, and Baby Hudson

WHEW. These last 12 days have been a whirlwind of craziness. We’ve been so busy! It’s been fun, we’ve spent time with a lot of different people, and we’re exhausted. 🙂 I have lots to report on! I decided to combine everything that’s happened into just one blog post, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Tuesday, June 27th

Tuesday was a day of packing and organizing for me. But it signified the start of vacation because Greg and his dad, Steve, left in a van to drive to New Jersey. They were bringing out a large piece of furniture and decided to make a little road trip out of it. They took all of our luggage, so I had to be fully packed by Tuesday afternoon, even though we weren’t leaving for another 24 hours.

Wednesday, June 28th

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The boys had their last day of summer school. I thought they’d be upset about missing the real last day on Thursday, but I don’t think they cared at all. In the afternoon we got picked up by Cindy (Greg’s mom) and drove to the Milwaukee airport. Traffic was a pain and it was pouring rain, which didn’t help! But we made it with plenty of time to spare.

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We ordered them new, smaller backpacks to be more manageable. The boys waited on the porch for the mail lady and they were delivered at 2:50. We left at 3:00. Close call! They didn’t have any anxiety about flying this time around. Old pros!

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We went on a couple walks around the airport and had Auntie Anne’s pretzels for dinner. On the plane, Shepard and Cindy sat together and Caden sat by me. It was a smooth and uneventful flight! We arrived in New Jersey at about 9:45 and were picked up by Greg and his Uncle Mike.

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We arrived at Uncle Mike and Aunt Zab’s house around midnight. The boys wanted to jump right in the pool! Fortunately, we were able to get them settled into bed pretty quickly because we had an early morning planned.

Thursday, June 29th

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Thursday was Uncle Mike’s 60th birthday. Kind of the reason why we were visiting. Also because we (the three/four of us) haven’t been out there since Caden was eight months old.

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The boys were quick to check out the pool while everyone was getting ready for the day at the beach. Caden halfway “fell in” multiple times.

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We drove to Long Beach Island, where Mike and Zab have friends with a house on the beach. They let us park there, use their bathroom, and use their beach passes. The boys were so excited to run in the ocean. I don’t think they were expecting it to be so cold! It was also super windy that day, so down by the water was pretty chilly in general. I spent the whole time completely covered in towels. Partly because I was cold and partly because I hate the sun.

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I brought my real camera on the trip, but ended up taking a lot more phone photos. I feel so guilty because I have a pretty nice camera. And I only really use it these days to take doll pictures to put up on etsy. Instagram is my joy, though. This picture is so happy! Caden had a blast.

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Shepard was a little more hesitant about actually going in the water, but he had a really good time too.

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Beach people, for a day. Greg and I kind of can’t stand beaches. They’re fun to be at for like half an hour to see the water and take pretty pictures. But the sun, the sand, the inescapable heat – not our cup of tea! But I’m glad the boys, especially Caden, got to start the trip doing something he really wanted to do.

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Recruiting people to help with sandcastles, and then sitting in a chair while they do all the work.

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Sno-cones from the ice cream truck. Caden’s fell in the sand right after the picture.

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We went back to their house sometime in the late afternoon. The boys immediately went in the pool for almost the rest of the day!

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We had a birthday dinner for Mike and cousin Liz brought fancy cupcakes.

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I had half of this concoction, which was delish. And that was it for our first very full day in New Jersey!

Friday, June 30th

Friday was our scheduled day for New York. Originally we were going to take the boys around to some of the bigger sites in NYC, but I strongly argued that Caden probably wouldn’t be very cooperative. Just like in San Francisco last fall when we tried to bring him to all kinds of cool places, all he wanted to do was sit in the hotel. I’m not sure what it is, but if he doesn’t want to go somewhere or do something he’s going to try his hardest to ruin it for everyone. I really hope this is something he grows out of, or we’re just never going to be able to take him on vacation with us. Anyway, we compromised the plans with a ferry ride from New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty. Before the trip, it’s something both boys were very excited about seeing.

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At the New Jersey September 11th Memorial.

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On the ferry. It was hot out!

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Ellis Island. I went here on a high school trip to NYC. It was pretty cool!

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Lovely family picture. 😛

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After extensive security measures, we made it into the statue. We only had pedastal tickets because the crown tickets have been sold out for months in advance. Plus Shepard would have been too short to go to the top anyway. Caden’s foot was hurting, so we took the elevator up. He was feeling pretty emotional at this point. I chalked it up to being very, very tired. I let it fly for this particular outing. It really sucked how much he tried to ruin the rest of the trip, though.

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Finally found everyone else. Even with Steve holding onto Shepard, this picture terrifies me. Shepard is SO CLUMSY.

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In the museum area, trying to stay cool a few minutes longer.

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On the ferry back to NJ. I just have to say that I’m super impressed with how well Shepard did on the trip, despite a lot of missed sleep too. He was so cheerful and up for everything!

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Back at the house. Caden was happy again because he could swim.

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Shepard was in love with their dog, Piper. I’m not sure Piper quite reciprocated the feelings at first, but by the last day she was following him around.

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We spent the afternoon just relaxing. I read a ton and drank the mojito Liz made me.

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And finished the night with another birthday celebration!

Saturday, July 1st

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I gave the boys each a trip journal. Caden seemed to enjoy writing in one in San Francisco, so I thought they might like it. Shepard only wrote the first two days, but I loved what he had to say. So adorable!!

Saturday was supposed to be our down day. Just swimming and hanging out at home. I did a lot more reading while everyone was swimming. It was nice and relaxing.

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In the afternoon, Mike arranged for us to go to Keansburg Amusement Park with Zab’s sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. We (not me!) did the bumper cars first and were the only cars on the track!

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The adults (again, not me!) kept dishing out money for the kids to play all the carnival games. Caden got super angry that his second prize wasn’t big enough so that was it for him. Ruined the rest of the day for himself and Greg. But the other kids had a blast! I love Shepard’s rainbow donkey.

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We got Dip’n Dots to cool off. It was SO HUMID there. Right after we got the ice cream there was a total downpour. Fortunately we were standing right next to the arcade, so we had a place to stay dry.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Jakeabob’s. (Greg and Caden stayed home since someone’s attitude had not yet improved.) The restaurant was outside on a pier over the ocean. The food was delicious! I had Tinga Tacos that were so spicy and perfect. We managed to finish our food and get out of there just seconds before another downpour.

Sunday, July 2nd

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Another lazy morning as everyone got ready for a 4th of July party.

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The party started around noon. I spent most of the day inside because I started getting a heat rash on my arms on Saturday and every time the sun touched my skin it would flare up again. So I’m sure I looked super anti-social since everyone was outside, but I just couldn’t deal with another day in the sun. Summer is NOT my season.

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But, the party was lovely! Just a couple extra families, lots of pool time, delicious food. Caden was having the time of his life entertaining and playing with people in the pool. For a kid who seems to have so many introverted tendencies, he sure comes across as an extrovert if a pool party is involved!

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In the evening, Uncle Mike brought out tons of sparklers for the kids and a couple of big fireworks.

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It was a very nice final full day to our trip!

Monday, July 3rd

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Our last day! Greg and Steve left with the van around 8am. They were driving to Pittsburgh where Greg had plans to stay with his good internet friend for two nights. Steve continued back on his own, staying at a hotel, and picking up Sarah on the way back, who was in Chicago visiting Melissa. We definitely had some complicated traveling plans between all of us these last two weeks, but it somehow all worked out flawlessly.

We spent our last morning just swimming and relaxing. The boys were pretty sad to leave Piper. It was a good incentive knowing they’d get to see Annie, Jack, and Rory that night, though!

Anyway, our stay in New Jersey was really nice! Mike and Zab were such good hosts. We had so much space too, which was awesome. The boys loved playing video games with cousin Adam and going on walks with Liz and Piper. We’ll definitely have to visit again someday.

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Back on the airplane, going home. This flight felt like forever to me. But, uneventful. We made it back to Wisconsin, to Cindy’s car, and on our way back home.

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About fifteen minutes into the drive Shepard finally stopped talking and I looked behind me and he was bent over with his head in his hands. NEVER a good sign with him. He gets migraines that come on in a split second and if you don’t get him medicine and in bed immediately, he WILL throw up. Which is very, very unfortunate if we’re not at home! I was ripping through Caden’s backpack trying to get the bag at the bottom that was carrying his wet swimsuit. But I wasn’t fast enough. Shepard had already thrown up everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We drove until we could stop and spent quite awhile cleaning him and the car up enough to get back home. It was a pretty crappy end to the trip.

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Finally, we were home! My mom came over earlier with the cats and went to pick up Annie so she’d be at home waiting for us. Which considering Shepard’s explosion, I’m super glad we had arranged ahead of time! It was awesome to get back home to her! I’m not really sure how I feel about the place we boarded her. Their website said that they’d send photos and updates, but they never did. On Thursday night I emailed to ask how she was doing. They said great and that she had fun playing with all her new friends. I figured since I asked once they’d send me more updates, but never heard a word. I assume she had a good time because she loves playing with other dogs more than anything in the world. But the lack of promised updates was very disappointing. Anyway, she’s been unusually tired this week too, so I think she really had a great time while we were away!

Tuesday, July 4th

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I was able to reserve a spot the night before for the parade. I thought it would be too late, but we got the same spot as last year. Right around noon we wandered down there and I got some cheese fries from the fire station fundraiser.

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We watched the parade for about 15 minutes, but were all just SO hot and SO tired. Shepard started bawling the first time another kid beat him to a piece of candy and I just didn’t want to be there for two more hours. So we went back home and had some quiet time instead. Much needed!

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In the afternoon we went over to my mom’s house to spend some time with my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Toni who were visiting from Arizona. We had a delicious meal and hung out in the yard with the dogs. Unfortunately, when we weren’t looking, Annie managed to get over my mom’s fence. Now that she knows she can do that, it might make visiting with her a lot more stressful. 🙁

After a few hours we swung by Noe’s to pick up all our luggage, that Steve had brought back in the van. Then back home again to do more laundry and more resting. I wanted to go to bed early SO badly. But the boys were so well behaved all day, they really wanted to see the fireworks, so we powered through.

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At 9:00 we left to walk to Fireman’s Park. Last year we only walked about halfway and could only see about half the fireworks over the trees. So this year we wanted to get the full experience. I was expecting it to be jam packed because of the carnival and band, but there was plenty of space to sit.

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We ended up having perfect timing! I’m really glad we stayed up for it. The boys cuddled on up on my lap and we enjoyed the show. The walk home was very long and exhausting, but overall, a really good holiday!

Wednesday, July 5th

Late Wednesday morning, I brought the boys over to my mom’s house and headed to Milwaukee to pick Greg up from the airport. Then we went to my cousin Jenny’s house where there was another family gathering with the aunt and uncle from AZ.

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The boys had such a great time playing with their (second?) cousins. Even though we all live relatively close to each other, we never seem to have time to get together anymore. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

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I was pretty dead tired at this point. We headed back home and planned to go right to bed. BUT, we got word that Timmy and Brittany were in the hospital. The baby was coming! When it seemed like things were progressing, I wasn’t able to fall asleep I was so excited. So…I didn’t really sleep that night.

Thursday, July 6th

BABY HUDSON IS BORN!

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My very first nephew was born at 2:03am on Timmy and Brittany’s 5th wedding anniversary. Hudson Taylor Braatz was 6 lbs, 1 oz and 18.5 inches long. It sounds like everything went pretty smoothly. I was so excited!! I’m an aunt! The boys have their first first cousin! We have a baby in the family again! Super exciting. 🙂 🙂 🙂

So Thursday morning we spent working in the garden a bit and pulling out all our failed radishes. Then we had to go to Caden’s therapy session. And then we headed to Milwaukee to meet Hudson!

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I got lots of time to hold him first while Greg, Timmy, and the boys went to get some Ian’s Pizza for dinner. He was SO tiny!!

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Caden loves babies and toddlers so much. He’s going to have a lot of fun with Hudson in the coming years!

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Shepard was not ready to hold him yet. But he was very curious!

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Super congrats to the new family of three! I hope we can go visit him again in the next week or two. Such a cutie!

Friday, July 7th

We all had a much needed fairly quiet day at home. Greg was working, but at home.

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The boys had their first bath in forever. They showered a few times in New Jersey, but really needed a soak!

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On Friday afternoon we went over to Noe’s. Sarah was still visiting and we gave her her birthday presents a little early. Then we headed out to Oshkosh for a visit/dinner with Steve’s side of the family.

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More cousin time! Even though they’ve just gotten their first real cousin this week, I’m so thankful we have all these other branches of our own cousins’ kids for the boys to play with. It seems like especially in the last year or two, they’re really enjoying the benefits of cousin time whenever it can happen.

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We’re so tired.

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Caden reading Trevor a book to stop all the wrestling and running. That lasted about ten seconds.

Anyway, we had pizza and dessert, stayed a few hours to hang out. It was fun! I look forward to our next gathering when I’m not about to pass out from exhaustion.

Saturday, July 8th

Almost done, almost done. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much social interaction in such a short period of time. It was fun, truly. But…it was a lot. By Saturday I was SO ready to just be done and have life go back to normal. But we had one more big event – a wedding for a Noe family friend that they grew up with.

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Back to Milwaukee for the fourth time this week! My mom came over to watch the boys and Annie because it was a no kid wedding. Which kind of irritated me at first, but it ended up working out really well. Greg and I really needed a day away from them! And they really needed a low key day of just being at home.

The ceremony was short and sweet. And then with a big gap before the cocktail hour and dinner, on a whim Greg suggested we book it across Menomonee Falls to make a showing of Baby Driver. We NEVER do spontaneous things. But it was perfect! It was exactly what we needed. Chill out time together. No talking necessary. It made me so happy that we did something fun FOR OURSELVES after basically two full weeks of focusing all our attention outward. I’m glad we went. 🙂

The reception was a bit crazy. The wedding couple had so many friends!! 250 people crammed into a room where almost nobody could move! The dinner lasted 2.5 hours. It was a lot. Lovely wedding and I’m glad we could be there to celebrate with them. But by the time the dancing started, we were ready to head out!

Sunday, July 9th

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And finally, the last of our daily commitments! I met my parents in the morning and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair. Usually a huge craft fair, it really seemed to be lacking this year. Kind of disappointing, but still fun. I bought three dip mixes, sour cherry balls for Greg, and a pair of vintagey crystal earrings. Afterward we had our annual lunch tradition at Cousins. And a trip to Twisted Sister. Then my parents left to go visit Hudson and I went to Sun Prairie to do all my grocery shopping while I could do it alone. Then I went home and crashed!

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While I was gone, Greg was working on odds and ends. He got some chicken wire to wrap around the fence I put up originally. I was trying to keep the bunnies out because last year they ate all our peppers. But apparently the bunnies here are very skinny because they could jump right through the holes. Hopefully it’s well protected now. I want those peppers!

Looking Ahead

And that’s it! Our two weeks of insanity are over! They were really a lot of fun, but I am so tired now. I want normal back. It makes me so sad that summer is basically half over and I feel like it hasn’t even truly begun yet. Those lazy days of chilling at home, playing with friends, going to the pool – they haven’t even started yet. We have a lot of things to fit into these next eight weeks before school begins again.

This week, though, is about recovering. Getting the house in order, resting, making dinner for the first time in two weeks! I’m also hoping to get back to work in the next day or two. Hopefully some pool days. Maybe going to see the new Spiderman movie. And catching up with some friends. I’m excited about having a boring life again. I can only handle so much excitement! 🙂

What I Read and Watched AND Listened To June 2017

It’s my favorite end of the month activity! Actually, I’m a few days early this month because we’re getting ready to head out of town on vacation and I want to make sure I get this post written. I decided to make my recommendation lists even longer each month by adding a podcast segment after my consumed books, movies, and tv shows. Might as well just let you know what I’m feeding my brain in every area of entertainment!

BOOKS

girl online

Girl Online: Going Solo by Zoe Sugg
Rating: 3 Stars

This is the third and final book in this series. I rated the first book (Girl Online) 5 stars. I gave the second book (Girl Online: On Tour) 4 stars. And this one gets a measly 3 star rating. The third book is about, you guessed it – going solo. It’s about the main character, Penny, getting back to her regular life post-famous musician boyfriend. The storyline focuses mainly around Penny’s regular friends and the drama in their lives. It’s a little bit boring and slow with a neat and tidy ending that I didn’t particularly love. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise fairly good series.

alex approximately

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Rating: 5 Stars

Once again, a book has proven how much I absolutely adore a relationship that begins over the written word. Especially when it involves a little mystery in who is writing those words. This book is about a teenage girl, Bailey, who has a deep connection with an anonymous online friend, “Alex.” Without telling him, she decides to move cross country to live with her dad in the same town Alex lives and hopes to sleuth her way into figuring out who he is without the risk of an actual meet up. In the meantime, she gets a summer job and develops an interesting relationship with her co-worker, Porter. I’m sure you can guess who Porter ends up being. While it’s very much a given in books like these, I still completely delight in seeing two characters fall for each other not only through letters/emails/chats, but in person at the same time – without knowing who the other really is. I loved the deep character development of both Bailey and Porter and the things they had to overcome to trust each other with who they were. Read this book, seriously. I loved it.

the glittering court

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead}
Rating: 3.5 Stars

This is the story of a very poor Countess who is desperately trying to get out of a love-less arranged marriage. She pretends to be her maid and joins the The Glittering Court, where she is trained in what it’s like to be high bred, with the end goal of a finding a well to do husband in a newly pioneered land. She has to pretend not to know anything, while also competing with fellow women to earn the highest jewel rating and therefore getting the best husband. Of course Adelaide doesn’t want to follow the rules and ends up falling for the forbidden man who recruited her and knew of her true identity from the start. This book almost feels like a combination of four or five shorter books. A lot happens. Very little of the book is actually about The Glittering Court, so petty as it may seem, the title bothers me. But overall it was a mildly intriguing read. I didn’t love it, but it did keep my interest.

present over perfect

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Rating: 4 Stars

It took me six months to read this book. If you look back on a post in January or February, you’ll see that it was one of my main goals to finish this book. Well, it finally happened. I’m always pretty slow with nonfiction because fiction just calls to me so much more strongly! But I LOVED Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, so I was hoping this would hold my attention in the same way. And it did – at first. The first few chapters felt SO MUCH like my life. I felt so connected and extremely eager to read this book and learn how to be more present in my life. But the middle of this book just lost all of its magic for me. The chapter topics were all over the place and felt so unimportant. But she pulled it all back together at the end, enough for me to still give it a 4 star rating overall. It didn’t change my life, but it did make me think.

dear thing

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
Rating: 3.5 Stars

This was an interesting read about a long term married couple that was childless despite so, so many attempts. The husband Ben, had a best friend Romily, who was a huge part of his and his wife Claire’s life. Secretly in love with Ben, Romily decided to offer herself as a surrogate to Ben and Claire. With a whole lot of mixed emotions, you see how Romily and Claire build a friendship that eventually is destroyed with Claire finally realized how in love Romily is with Ben. And how much Romily loves the baby growing inside of her because it’s part her and part the man she’s loved forever. Despite her best efforts not to. There’s a lot of packed feeling and difficult decisions that are made in this book. I enjoyed how much each character grew and how the story ended.

the upside of unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Rating: 3 Stars

This is the story of overweight, introverted, crafty Molly and her seemingly perfect twin sister Cassie. Despite what you would assume, Molly and Cassie are best friends, even though they’re so different. Cassie ends up meeting the girl of her dreams and wants to set Molly up with her best friend, Will. A lot of this book focuses on how Molly wants to fit in, but also really struggles with finding her own identity and accepting that she likes herself, despite what other people might think. In the middle of all her friend drama, she forms an easy friendship with her new co-worker Reid. I loved watching their story unfold and really could have done without all the extra sister/friend mess.

always and forever lara jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Rating: 4 Stars

Another third and final book in a series. I love reading series, though I definitely prefer when they’re already out when I find them! Waiting is the worst. I thought this was a fitting end to this particular trilogy. It’s always a little less exciting when the guy and the girl are already together. But their relationship is fun and true and I enjoy reading about that too! This story focuses pretty heavily on Lara Jean’s dad and his soon-to-be wife’s upcoming wedding. I liked the book because it was like returning to an old friend. Nothing epically grand about it, but good nonetheless.

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Flower by Elizabeth Craft
Rating: 4 Stars

I’ve been waiting quite awhile to read this book by one of my favorite podcasters, Elizabeth Craft. Craft is a tv writer and producer and I kept thinking while I read Flower that it was really reading more like a screenplay than a well developed novel, just hitting a lot of the dialog and interactions between characters. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was noticeable. This story is about Charlotte – smart, driven, and focused on staying away from boys and not repeating the mistakes of every other woman in her family. She meets Tate, a famous musician and is immediately attracted. She doesn’t know who he is and is pretty upset when she finds out. This book is all about the constant give and take the characters have. It’s messy and a bit frustrating. Charlotte is willing to give up everything for Tate after barely knowing him, which feels so against her character from the beginning of the book. I liked the book, it was a fast read. But it definitely had a few flaws that kept it from being a 5 star rating for me.

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Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
Rating: 4 Stars

I have to say that Amazon Prime’s Kindle First program is pretty awesome. I love getting that email at the beginning of each month with my list of free books to pick from. I usually wait until later in the month to read reviews before making my choice. This month’s was a winner! Stillhouse Lake is about a family of a serial killer that is constantly on the run from the victim’s families and internet trolls that are determined to destroy them because they were associated with the murderer. I did get a little sick of reading about how paranoid and on guard they had to be. I got it, I didn’t need it repeated a thousand times in the course of the book. But the story was fast paced and thrilling, with a little bit of mystery. I’m excited to see that there will eventually be a second book and better conclusion to the family’s story.

MOVIES

allied

I’m feeling pretty indifferent about Allied. It was entertaining enough, I suppose. I don’t regret watching it. But nothing special either.

captain fantastic

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie when I made Greg watch it with me. Judging from the photo above, I just assumed it was going to be some sort of hilarious comedy. Well…it wasn’t. I guess small parts of it made me laugh, but overall it was pretty serious and mildly disturbing. Like all those kids digging up their mother’s grave, mourning her open casket on the bus, and then lighting her body on fire to cremate her the way that she wanted to be… But the story was definitely original and I was pretty captivated by the characters.

wonder woman

We went as a family to see this Father’s Day weekend. I really liked Wonder Woman was a character. She was so innately good and it would be hard not to adore her. But the movie as a whole was kind of long and bland for me.

lion

Big, big WOW to this movie. Lion was amazing. They cast the most perfectly adorable and intensely sad looking little boy for the first half of the movie. What a tear jerking true story!! I really loved everything about this movie. It was so intensely good.

TV – Together

legion

We watched the first two episodes of Legion. It was a lot for my tired mind to handle. Very much a sensory overload kind of show. Which was the point. I’m not sure if the craziness eventually settles down. I’m not sure if we’ll continue watching or not. And side note, Dan Steven’s American accent feels very, very strange to me. Not loving it.

atlanta

We watched this entire season in the last few weeks. I’m still not really sure what to think about it. I think it’s kind of supposed to be a comedy? It felt a lot like Master of None, in which each episode was kind of its own entity. There wasn’t a huge overlap in what was happening from one episode to the next. But Master of None did it WAY better. Overall, though, Atlanta got some pretty big unexpected laughs from me.

orphan black

The new season started up and we only watched the first episode. Orphan Black was so incredible in the first season and just got so muddled up after that. I still watch because it fascinates me how Tatiana Maslany can play so many different characters SO perfectly. But I think Greg has basically no interest in it anymore.

good behavior

We just started this the other day. Again, not sure what to think of it! We’re clearly running very low on tv shows to watch together. I think this show will maybe be good? But maybe more the kind of show I’d watch on my own.

TV – Alone

Okay, another quick reminder before you think I watch way too much tv. I do watch too much tv, BUT I only watch while I’m sewing. And as I was trying to get back on track with work during summer school this month, I watched a lot of tv!

royal pains

I binged Royal Pains about two years ago and somehow missed that they had a final season. So I picked that up again and loved how they tied up everything so sweetly. This is such a lighthearted and happy show that was always interesting and funny to watch. I’m going to miss it.

this is us

I got pretty sick of this show near the end. I don’t know, everyone just kept talking about how amazing it was and I didn’t really feel that way. I liked it, but it wasn’t worth all the hype it was getting. But I was running out of things to watch, so finally finished up the season. Those were a couple of very emotionally packed episodes! I’m glad I went back to it and now I’m looking forward to next season.

izombie

Still love it! Such a good show. I couldn’t believe that tomorrow is already the season finale. It just started back up at the end of April! I’m sad. 🙁

scandal

I watched the entire last season in two days last week. This show is so utterly ridiculous. And yet I can’t stop watching. (Greg gave up like three seasons ago.) It’s just insane how many crazy life threatening things happen in Scandal. But…I like it.

the arrangement

Another two day one season binge. I was hoping I’d like this as much as E’s The Royals. It was good, but not amazing. I wasn’t expecting all the crazy cult stuff that most of the show focused on. I also didn’t really buy any authenticity from the male lead, Kyle. But I really loved Megan’s character!

the 100

As I run out of more exciting things to watch, I’ve been trying to catch up with things I gave up on in the last year or two. I watched three episodes of The 100 yesterday and I just can’t do it anymore. I’m giving it up for good. I loved it at the beginning and now I literally cannot stand to see another minute of it. Bleh.

Podcasts!

Okay, I’ll try and keep this segment relatively brief, mostly because I just listen to the same couple of podcasts every week. I’m mostly caught up on them, so appreciate the excitement of looking forward to a new one downloading each week. I’m not listening as much as I used to, but I still don’t go a day without at least one podcast in my ear.

Spilled Milk

Still one of my absolute favorites. The proof is that I’ve listened to almost 300 episodes of it. 🙂 Funny, food related topics are covered in each episodes. They’re pretty short, they’re entertaining. I love it.

Front Porch with the Fitzes

Another favorite. I anxiously await listening to the new one each Tuesday morning. Just a family sitting around talking every week. It’s so funny. I wish I was part of their family!

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

I listen to this one the most because I’m not yet caught up with it. Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth (Craft) talk each week about happiness hacks, try this at home tips, personality types, and more. It’s such a positive focused podcast and they always have so many fun things to talk about. I highly recommend.

That Sounds Fun

This is a new one I started recently. Actually, she had a month long Christmas special that I listened to in December. The host, Annie, just talks to a different person each week about their lives. She’s entertaining and positive.

The Popcast

Okay, this is maybe my favorite podcast of all. I LOVE Wednesdays when I get a new Popcast episode. Knox and Jamie are just so funny together! I’m not caught up on their almost 200 episodes, though I’ve been listening to recent ones for months now. It’s good. Especially if you’re highly immersed in pop culture already.

The Girl Next Door

I still try to keep up with the newest episodes of this. Just two neighbors (no longer neighbors) chatting about a topic or two every two weeks. I envy their friendship and enjoy listening about their lives.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

They’re back with season three! Oh so funny, you guys. I couldn’t care less about the erotic novel they’re reading. I just love, love, love the three people behind the podcast. I always listen to this one while I’m walking so I can focus on it more than other multi-tasking things I usually do while listening. So if you see me walking down the street laughing hysterically and looking like an idiot, I’m surely listening to the latest episode.

And that’s it for June! Nobody ever takes me up on this, but I’d love to hear what you’re reading, watching, or listening to and can recommend to me!!

Catching Up and Belated Father’s Day

Whew, it has been a busy couple of weeks! So much busier than I expected them to be. Life is definitely full. I’ve barely had time to even sit down at my computer, much less write out a blog post. But I miss it! So I thought I’d try and recap everything that’s happened since my last post.

Summer School

Summer school is in full swing. The boys go there from 8:30-1:00 every day. They took the same sports class and dance class. They both also have an engineering class, but different levels. And Caden is in coding – his favorite class and Shepard has art – his favorite. They find each other at lunch so they can always eat together. It’s kind of adorable. Even though they fight so much at home, they really do have such a close relationship. I hope it’s always that way. Overall, summer school has been going pretty well. We had one pretty tough day last week when Shepard claimed he was sick, so I let him come home and he clearly was fine. Trying to get him back to school was a nightmare. Deja vu of last summer when every single day of class was about the worst day of my life. Though worse this year because he knows better! I’m not sure what that was all about last Tuesday, but he’s been fine again ever since.

Walking

Every year since Caden first started speech therapy summer school when he was three, I’ve used that time to go on long walks. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer. This year has been no different, except that I have a dog accompanying me. Last week was really hot, so it was hard to walk for too long, but we still got a bit of time in. This week with the temperatures much cooler, Annie and I have been going for two, three, four mile walks every morning. It’s definitely more of a challenge with her in tow, but I love to have the companionship. It’s one of the reasons I really wanted a dog and I’m glad I’m sticking with it and making this happen. Plus it’s just really good exercise! For the last week and a half I re-devoted myself to reaching a step goal every day. I’ve also started counting calories. Which some days has really sucked. But overall I’ve been feeling better and have a lot more energy. So I’m going to try and stick with it.

Therapy

Last week Greg and I met with a child psychologist to talk about our struggles with Caden. Or…Caden’s struggles with us. It was more of an introductory session and we’re going back today with him. I liked this psychologist much better than the one we tried a few years ago. I hope it goes well. For all of our sakes. But I think Caden could really use the help and I’m hoping he’s old enough now to understand why he’s there.

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Wonder Woman

Last Friday we went to see Wonder Woman. We went as a whole family because Greg really wanted to see it and it’s just so much easier to not find a babysitter! It’s kind of exciting that the boys are getting older and we can do more things like this, though.

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The boys spent the whole moving basically crawling all over Greg trying to find the best cuddling positions. It was a little long and slow for Shepard’s attention span. And he kept asking questions at normal volume. But as Greg pointed out, he bought tickets first and the only other people there picked seats right next to us, so it was their own fault they had to listen to Shepard’s talking during the movie! 🙂

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Early Father’s Day

We had sort of an early Father’s Day celebration with Greg’s family on Saturday night. His sister Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew were in town, so we wanted to spend some time with them. We had a nice dinner, gave Grandpa his presents, and played Codenames. After another outrageously hard day with Caden, it was a nice way to end the night. Look at that smile above. There’s definitely a happy kid inside of him. I just wish it came out more often.

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Father’s Day

Sunday was Father’s Day. Greg decided to have a relatively low key day at home. We let him sleep in as late as he wanted, made him his favorite cherry coffee cake for breakfast, and gave him his presents.

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Such happy smiles. 🙂

IMG_2242 sweet shepard

Oh how I wish Shepard could stay so small and adorable forever. All his smiles and giggles make me so happy.

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They are always so highly amused by the cards that they make.

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Very funny. 🙂 We gave Greg a video game he’s been wanting, two pairs of shorts, a Guardians of the Galaxy Mad Libs, and a book about the 1700 best pizza restaurants in the world.

IMG_2267 dips

So the plan for most of Father’s Day was to have my family over for a party. But my mom got sick, so neither of my parents came. And since they didn’t come one of my brothers didn’t have a way to get here. So it ended up just being my other brother and sister-in-law. It did kind of feel like a lot of work for just having two extra people here for our “party.” But all that work was already put in on Saturday, so the party was on! I made Greg jalapeno popper dip and my dad a hot Maui onion and bacon dip.

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Can’t have a party without punch!

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Pulled pork and bbq chicken sandwiches.

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And a “cake” with a brownie base and then peanut butter mousse, chocolate mousse, and chocolate whipped cream frosting. It was definitely a labor intensive dessert and I was just happy the mousse layers stabilized and didn’t fall apart!

It was a pretty relaxed little party. The weather was incredible. We had every single window in the house open because there was such a wonderful breeze. It felt like my perfect kind of early summer day. Everyone spent some time outside, the boys showed Uncle Timmy the video games they’ve been working on, we talked about the quickly approaching baby’s birth (!!!). It was a nice day! Kind of disappointing it didn’t go as planned, but what can you do? After Timmy and Brittany left I was pretty beat and still had cleanup to do. So Greg took the boys to drop some food off for my dad and then spend a little more time with his parents.

As a side note to this recap blog post, I just want to say that I am so, so thankful for Greg as a father to our boys. He’s the best dad I could have ever imagined he’d be. He’s so selfless and giving and always, always there for them. They will never doubt his love for them and he will probably always be their biggest supporter. I’m not good at saying it out loud, but I think it all the time. We are SO blessed to have him in our lives.

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Work

Ah, work. This has been a real struggle, you guys. Will working at home ever not be a struggle? I do have to say that this week I was determined to make sewing my main focus. And I’ve done well. It’s hard to make that my daily lifestyle, though. There’s always so much else going on. Especially in summer. But this week, the last three days, I finally buckled down and made these cute little mohair animals. They almost never sell because they’re too expensive, but I like making them. They’re entirely hand sewn and it just feels so awesome to start with so few supplies and just my hand and end up with an adorable little teddy bear or monkey! Yesterday I started on a big batch of dolls since that’s what my customers actually want. I’m hoping I can get them done by the weekend, but that’s probably very ambitious thinking.

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Obedience Class

I can’t believe we haven’t even had Annie for three months yet. She’s basically half of my life. So much of my day is centered around what she needs to be a happy and well cared for dog. For the most part, things are going really well. But we’re definitely still struggling with her over-excitement, jumping on every single person she sees, and pulling so hard on our walks. I heard about a free obedience class last night, so I signed us up to check it out. When we arrived, there wasn’t another dog in sight. I was frustrated to think that it must have been cancelled and nobody let me know, so we went on a little lakeside adventure. Annie kept diving in the water trying to go after ducks. She’d walk as far she could with just her head above water and then turn around, run back, and do it all over again. So even though dogs supposedly all know how to swim, Annie definitely doesn’t know she knows how to swim!

Anyway, I got a call back that the class was only moved back an hour and I wasn’t on their list, even though I did sign up. So we went back to the other park and tried out our first class. It was challenging. And stressful because Annie just wants to play with other dogs SO MUCH. But it was also very helpful. I learned a few tricks to try with our problem areas. And I also think I’m going to sign up for their next eight week session of classes. It feels like a worthy investment. I want to have better control over her. And I want people to stop giving me unsolicited advice on the streets about what I’m doing wrong. 😛

Moving Ahead

Well, I think that’s about it for the last week and a half! It’s been busy. As a bit of a Sunday Intention vibe to end this post… For the next few days I’m still focusing on work. But I’m also hoping for a little down time. I’ve had very little of that lately. I need to remember my goal of doing lots of reading this summer! It might be a good afternoon for a book!

Sunday Intentions

Well, one week of summer down, twelve to go. This week has had a lot of really fun days and one absolutely horrible, going down in the books as one of the worst days EVER, day. I wanted to try and fit in some adventures this week as summer school already starts tomorrow. There won’t be a lot of opportunity to get out of town between that and afternoon pool trips, which are basically a requirement in summer. (At least for my kids – I could happily live without ever needing to be at the pool!) So we tried to make the most of the week!

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Monday 

On Monday we went over to my mom’s – with Annie – to see how she did with all three of her dogs on their turf. Even though boarding at the vet seemed to go relatively well a few weeks ago, at least from what I can tell, it’d be really nice if occasionally Annie could stay with my mom too. So I actually know what she’s doing during the day. Anyway, Juno (the yellow lab/golden retriever mix) had zero problems with her. And Annie seemed to realize Juno was too old and fragile for playing, so they just sniffed each other and then Annie left her alone. Gracie (the dachshund) was meeting Annie for the second time and a lot more curious than scared, like our first meeting at the dog park. She was occasionally engaging in Annie’s “play” by yipping and running after her. And Pip (the Boston terrier) was just about as vicious as the last time they tried to meet. They were only outside together for a few minutes and Pip never really let up. Though Annie can definitely outrun her and I don’t think she could really do any harm. Anyway, it was a mostly successful trip. We’re trying again in a few days.

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Tuesday

I wanted Tuesday to be a work day for me, but it started bright and early with Caden yelling at me about something, so I knew we needed to get out of the house again. It was a lot cooler at the beginning of the week, so I wanted to spend more time outside while we still could. We decided to take Annie and walk to Fireman’s Park. The boys were having such a great time and decided that they want to walk everywhere this summer so we can take Annie with us. Then they realized Annie can’t go into restaurants, so they nixed that plan! At the playground Annie nicely sat while hordes of little kids pet her. Then she started noticing all the squirrels and couldn’t relax after that. We walked over by the stream and she jumped right in. The first thing she did was squat to pee in it, which the boys thought was hilarious. That excitement really hyped her up, so our walk back was a lot more arm destroying than the walk there. We stopped at another park before going on. All together, about 3.5 miles of walking.

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After lunch, we headed to the pool for quite awhile. It was too cold for me, so I sat and read. Shepard got out and took a little zoning out break. It’s hard for him when we go to the pool and no friends are there and I don’t feel like going in. Caden only wants to hang out in the deep end and Shepard isn’t there yet.

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They always want treats at the pool, but it gets so expensive. So I’m trying to devise a way this summer that they can do extra jobs to earn money to use for treats at the pool. At least they’re actually learning a little bit the value of money that way. And get jobs done. But…they haven’t done a whole lot yet! They were so cute at the front of the line counting out all their nickels and dimes to pay for these treats.

Tuesday was really a great day! I didn’t get a shred of sewing done, but I’m okay with that. I want to be more in the moment with my kids and make sure they’re always the priority these few months we have together. Even when it means I’m really not going to get much done.

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Wednesday

On Wednesday morning we went to the Madison Farmer’s Market. I haven’t been to the Saturday market in awhile and thought it’d be a fun excursion. Caden got one of his favorite, over-priced, spicy beef sticks. I also bought romaine lettuce, cilantro, jalapeno cheese curds, asparagus, and some garlic dip that the boys insisted on.

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We walked around Monona Terrace for a little bit after the market. My mom had never been on top before. We had fun watching a stand up paddle boater zoom across the lake.

After this we drove a few blocks to Gotham Bagels to pick up some of our favorite super egg everything bagels. The guy who waited on us was a super huge jerk about everything, though, and it’s going to be awhile before I go back again. Which sucks because I LOVE those bagels. And their jalapeno garlic cream cheese.

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We ended with a french fry lunch at DiscoFries on State Street. Our third parking place in like a one mile radius. 🙂 I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Poutine. Everyone else just had fries and dips. I’m not really a huge french fry person, but it was fun to go somewhere unique. And actually, we ended our Madison trip with a stop at Sun Prairie Target. I did some speed shopping while Grandma filled the boys with Starbucks cake pops. 🙂

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Wednesday was also Greg’s dad Steve’s birthday. So we met everyone at Pizza Hut in Beaver Dam for dinner. Greg and I split a four pepper pepperoni pizza with salted pretzel crust, which was actually really good. The boys split boneless wings. Steve and Cindy had a sausage pizza.

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Back at Grandma’s house for presents. We gave Grandpa tickets to the Star Wars themed Mallard’s game on Saturday.

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Some lawn mowing headphones.

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Birthday desserts – lemon meringue pie and flourless chocolate cake.

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Recreating a photo the four of them took on Steve’s birthday six years ago. Kids are much bigger!

Wednesday was also a really nice day! I was feeling pretty happy with how our first few days of summer were going.

Thursday

And then Thursday. Oh, Thursday. It began at 5:45am with Caden screaming at me because he wanted to play tablet. He had his tablet taken away for the week because of how he acted at the end of our time at Grandma’s house on Monday. I gave them back for our drives on Wednesday because he was so good on Tuesday. But we’re trying to establish some screen time rules this summer where they need to clean their rooms and read before they can play. And well, neither of those things happened by 5:45 in the morning, but he didn’t even give me a chance to try and explain that.

So. I don’t want to rehash everything that went wrong that day. But it was horrible. An absolute nightmare of a day. With Caden. And allergies. It’s gotten to the days of grass allergy season where I absolutely want to shred my eyes out of my face they are so itchy. And I’m constantly getting little irritants stuck in them that I can’t get out and make me want to scream. For most of Thursday I could barely even open my eyes. I was so itchy and in pain, I was SO fed up with the way Caden was acting and treating us, it was just a TERRIBLE day.

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On the bright side of Thursday, Willow spent much of the day here playing with Shepard. They seem to be getting along extra well these days. It really helped having someone to keep Shepard busy in the midst of the Caden chaos. Though it was very embarrassing to have another person around to witness him that day. He doesn’t normally act so fiercely when non-family members are around. So I guess he considers Willow part of his inner circle now.

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After Greg got home, I took Shepard and Willow to the pool as a reward for playing so nicely all day.

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They had fun. And were adorable. 🙂

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Friday

Friday was a work day for me. I really needed to get SOME work done. Photo is showing how lately Annie seems to think Jack is her play toy and spends half her day trying to chase him around. He most definitely fights back by smacking her in the head over and over again. But she’s starting to think it’s all good fun and enjoys the occasional chase through the house. I don’t think Jack is too bothered by it. Keeps him young. 🙂 Annie still steers clear of Rory, though the last two days I had both animals in bed with me for a nap. Annie at my feet, right in front of the air conditioner, and Rory pressed up against my face. Fun.

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Willow was over again and all three were playing together fine. No residual drama from the day before. I wish I knew what triggered these days with him. They suck.

Meanwhile – our lego area?? Yeah, legos have taken over this entire room. I’m glad they’re having fun and using their imaginations, really. But I kind of miss my beautiful peaceful room I had all to myself!

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Saturday

Saturday morning was more work for me. I just get so much more done when Greg is home to take care of other things. I don’t like that that’s the way it is. But…it works. I finished up my last patriotic dolls for the year. And I sold four of the six right away, which was awesome. Sales have really dropped the last few months, after record breaking sales earlier in the year. I just need to keep making. Which is very hard in summer.

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Saturday evening we headed to the Mallard’s game! It was super hot out, but I was smart this time and bought tickets so we wouldn’t be facing the sun. It was also super windy, which helped keep things a little bit cooler. I didn’t really feel like it was TOO hot. Anyway, the game was fun!! Usually when we go the boys are so much more interested in walking around and checking out all the kid activities. But this time around we mostly just stayed in our seats and watched the game!

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We all had our unique ballgame dinners and then the boys had cotton candy.

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Grandpa bought them duck whistles. Which made the end of the game so fun. 😛 Actually, the game really heated up in the eighth and ninth inning. We ended up losing, but it was really enjoyable. The boys were even really into the game!

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Cuties.

Sunday

So that brings us to today! We had a birthday party to go to, which was fun. But also kind of miserable because my eyes are little sockets of itchy death again today. Then I got home from the party and randomly saw this article about introverts at social gatherings. It definitely hit home seeing as I just came from a party where I spent the majority of the time by myself, playing with their puppy. I’m getting worse in social situations these days. I don’t know how to be in the thick of friendships anymore. I need work.

This Week

So! The week ahead. Summer school starts in the morning and that’s every day from 8:30-1. It’ll be nice to reclaim a few hours to myself each day. I’m hoping to get a lot of sewing done in that time. I only have 2.5 weeks before REAL summer begins, so I need to make work a priority now.

Top Priority – Work!

Second Priority – Take Care of Myself

I’m not generally a fan of summer. I can’t stand being hot. I loathe being out in the sun. BUT one of my favorite parts of summer is going on adventures, exploring new areas of Wisconsin, and getting treats. Treats, treats, treats. Which is all awesome. But definitely not healthy. So starting this week I’m going to pay a lot more attention to the food I put in my body. Hopefully try harder to think about meals ahead of time so I’m not just snacking on whatever is easiest to find. I continue to gain weight and I know I only have myself to blame. I want to turn things around this summer. For good.

I also want to get back to my exercise goal. Starting with hitting 10,000 steps a day, no matter what. Even if that means I’m taking a walk at 10:00pm. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but if it means walking in much cooler temperatures, it’ll be worth it!! I’m hoping this week I’ll get most of my walking hours in after I drop the boys off at school. With Annie.

Third Priority – Have Fun!

I need to keep my overall summer goals always in mind. Even though I have more hours to work this week, I still want to have fun. This week that will probably just mean pool time with my kids. And hopefully lots of reading. It will be a good week!

On Friendship

Friendship as an adult is so hard. Friendship as a parent is even harder. You want friends, you need friends, but family has to be a priority. And family life is busy and full and leaves very little room for friendship. At least deep and committed friendships. This is something I’ve really been struggling with the last few months. And to be honest, the last ten years.

When you’re a kid, friendship is so easy and carefree. You find the people that make you happy and you spend as much time with them as possible. You laugh, you play, and you definitely never feel any guilt over the time spent together. You know time with friends will make you happy and you cling to that.

When you’re a teenager, you live for your friendships. Your friends are your allies against the world. You want to spend as much time with them as possible because they understand you. They crave the same kind of connection that you do and they’re willing to sacrifice whatever to keep that friendship alive.

As a young married couple, at least in our experience, you look for friends in the same situation as you. You hope to find couple friends that you can both connect with, You want to be with your spouse as much as possible, and it’s all the more fun when you find another couple that wants to join your circle. It’s still relatively easy and a priority to stay connected.

And then you have kids. Life changes in ways you never even thought possible. It’s probably the time in your life when you need adult friendships the most, but they’re thrown to the wayside. How can you possibly give up time with your precious baby? Family should always come first when a tiny person depends on you. Right?

This is when my dilemma hits. Because I know my family is important and I want to be with them. But I still desperately crave the deep connection with other women. I feel guilty for feeling that way because nobody else seems to feel it. So many of my friends are so enamored with their children and can’t bear the thought of even the occasional night away from them. And I get it…and I don’t. Can’t our friendship sometimes be the priority? Aren’t you lonely too?

Perhaps my problem is that I always expect too much out of friendships. My best friend Dianne and I have been friends for 27 years. From the time we were five and I moved into her neighborhood, we’ve had the greatest bond. Almost all of my childhood memories revolve around time we spent together. It’s certainly gotten harder as we’ve gotten older. Mostly because we haven’t lived in the same part of the country for the last eleven years. But we try to see each other at least once a year in person, and we talk every day. Emails back and forth every single day. It’s not the ideal form of friendship because I wish we could hang out in person. But we’re still so close. She knows about every single up and down in my life because we talk about it. Every day. Because I’ve known and continue to know that deeper level of friendship with my best friend, I want that with other people. And it’s an impossible standard.

Making friends has always been incredibly hard for me. In high school I had Dianne, and I had the people that I worked with. I got a job right at the start of freshman year, so all four years of high school were spent working. Which I don’t regret, because I made some very awesome friends in that time. But then came college and I was thrown into a world I wasn’t prepared for. I had a single dorm room, so I was never forced to spend time with any one person the way most college roommates are. Greg and Dianne were both a mile or two away at the UW campus, so I didn’t feel that huge need to search out other friends. I joined a few things and made some friends, but none those relationships stood the test of time.

After Greg and I got married and moved to Minnesota, it felt even harder. The only reason I made any friends at all was because I got a job and started to get closer to a few people. Greg met a few people at work and we started having game nights and get togethers. We had two couples we felt especially close to and life was feeling pretty good. And then I had Caden. And became a stay at home mom. And never saw anybody because my entire world revolved around him and his needs. It suddenly became impossible to make new friends.

In the years since I birthed that always hungry, never sleeping, heart consuming little person that needed me, I’ve had a different purpose in life. But that’s never changed the fact that I miss friendships with other women SO MUCH. When we moved back to WI, and Caden started speech therapy and then preschool, at least I had opportunity to start meeting people. But I’m very shy, reserved, and taking the initiative to get to know new people was incredibly difficult. I started to make bonds with other parents in Caden’s classes, spending time together over playdates and parties and school events. It was easier to see people for a few minutes a day, share a tidbit of information about life at that moment, and then go back to our mommy duties. I had friends. But it wasn’t enough.

Which I guess brings me to now. The stay at home mom without any kids at home. Want to know how hard it is to keep up with your friends when you no longer have a little one at home to make playdates for?? My days are spent trying to work. Their days are spent watching their kids and having playdates with other friends that still have kids at home during the day. All of our afternoons are packed with after school activities. Evenings are for family dinners and spending quality time together. Nights are spent with our husbands. There’s little to no room for each other in our daily lives. Not in the ways that it really counts.

I do have friends. And I appreciate them. But I miss them, if that makes sense. I’m not very happy with quick exchanges here and there. I want more and I don’t know how to get it. Sometimes I get sick of being the one that always takes initiative. That’s not intuitive to me. It’s not easy for me. But looking back over this last year, if I didn’t take the initiative I never would have done anything with my friends. NOBODY invites me to do things. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to hang out with me!! Or maybe it’s because everyone feels too busy and overwhelmed and just as lost as me at finding better ways to connect and fit our friendships into our lives. It’s a struggle that I don’t really know how to deal with anymore.

Lately I’ve been finding myself becoming more reserved than ever. I want to protect my heart. I’ve had too many friendships over the years fall to pieces over something that could have been worked out, but nobody made the effort. I always get so excited after I have a meaningful conversation with one of my friends. When we actually talk about something beyond the surface stuff. And then it’s weeks before another conversation happens and I simply feel deflated. It takes so much work for so little long term fulfilment.

I wish I had some sort of hopeful and encouraging way to end this post of rambling. One thing I’ve been reminding myself lately is that the friends I have right now do not necessarily need to be the friends I have for the rest of my life. I HOPE to still be friends with some of the wonderful ladies in my life. I hope that as our kids get older we’ll somehow find ways to stay in each other’s lives. But I want to be open to new friendships too. Maybe find the people that feel the same way as me. The women that deeply crave an emotional connection with someone outside of their family walls.

So with summer ahead of me, I’m going to add this as another little goal for myself. I want to try and be more open with the people I usually just say a passing hello to. I want to put out feelers for people that I could get to know a little more. And I want to try harder with the friends I already have, even though it leaves me feeling very uncertain to always be the initiator. TIME is the only way to make a friendship work. Sharing and honesty are important too. I hope I can come out of this summer feeling a lot better than how I’m going in.

School Year Reflections and Summer Intentions

Like it or not, summer is here! Tomorrow is my boys’ last day of school. Today was my last day home alone for three months. Okay, I can’t technically say that because in just over a week they’ll already be starting summer school and I’ll be alone from 8:30-1 every day. Minus walking and waiting time. But still! The life I’ve lived the last nine months is about to drastically change and I’m not so sure I’m ready for it.

School Year Reflections

I had a lot of expectations for this last year. The first year both kids were in school all day, every day. I thought my life would suddenly be so structured and clearly defined. I would actually get stuff done. I fully expected that at least four days a week I would bring my kids to school and then come home, sit down, and work all day. I thought I would actually be on top of things. With children only around to mess up the house a few hours a day, there would be so much less cleaning to do. Dinners would suddenly be easy to put together and get on the table on time every night. I would only sew during the day and fully devote my nights and weekends to my family. I would regularly exercise and feel great about myself. I would have time during the days to have breakfast, coffee, or lunch dates with so many of my friends on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be so tired all of the time.

Want to know how many of those expectations became my reality?? None of them. It’s kind of been a really hard year. Maybe because I put too much pressure on myself and I constantly feel like a failure. It was so discouraging every single day to think about how much I thought this year was going to be different and if anything it felt more chaotic and crazy than ever. At least when I had a kid home with me all day or half a day, I was allowed to sit around and do “nothing” with them. When I’m home alone without kids, I have something to prove so people don’t think I’m sitting around living the privileged life of leisure. Or at least I feel that way. So the pressure is constantly weighing on me and there were VERY few days I actually felt like I had the schedule and peace of mind I was supposed to be having.

First of all – the house is always messy. ALWAYS. It will never all be clean as long as I live with other people. Particularly people who have zero desire to actually find homes for all the possessions they bring into the house. People that couldn’t care less about clean countertops and peaceful spaces. And the laundry! Why is there so much laundry?? I feel like I learned this year why housewives actually exist. There IS enough to keep me busy every minute of the day, even if I wasn’t trying to run my own business on top of it. I don’t know how working moms do it. I really don’t. I feel like I’m drowning in just the daily tasks on a very regular basis. It’s exhausting. The planning, the list making, the organizing, the shopping, the putting everything away, the breakfast making, the lunch packing, the snacks, dinner, more clean up, homework, a constant influx of useless school papers and artwork, random rocks and pieces of junk that are “so special” to the boys, the laundry, the cat responsibilities, the dog responsibilites. It never ends. NEVER.

I somehow thought that being home without kids would afford me more time to see my friends. That definitely didn’t happen. I remember going to coffee with one of them once. I had another friend over for lunch once. Both of those occurrences were in September. I don’t think I’ve done a single thing with any of my friends during the day in the last eight months. I’ve gotten together with friends at night maybe four or five times? In nine months. My entire social calendar has subsisted of thirty second stilted conversations on the playground after school between kids and chaos. It’s been a lonely year.

I also fully expected I could start taking care of myself this year. Ha! I did do pretty well with continuing my long walks back in fall. But when it got too cold and icy I had a hard time keeping up. And then it all slide away over winter and spring. I thought I’d be able to start up again once I got Annie, but it’s been hard. I don’t enjoy walking with her for long periods of time. It’s stressful.

And work! I think that’s been my greatest disappointment this past school year. I was so hoping for clearly defined work hours. And I’m pretty sure all year long I continued to put in the most time at night and on weekends. The constant list of other things that “needed” to be done were almost always the higher priority. I was SO easily distracted this year. Some good distractions, some not so good. But it was nearly impossible for me to just sit down and work for hours at a time. I wanted it to happen, but it was just so dang hard. Around January things did get a lot better. But there are still weeks at a time when I can barely put in two hours a day. I don’t know how to work at home yet. It’s amazing, it’s the dream, right? At least for creative super introverted people. But focus was lacking. So much.

I didn’t really mean to go vent crazy there, but I guess that proves how much of a frustrating disappointment this school year has been. I feel like I failed in every area of my life. And I feel more tired than ever. I’m trying to give myself grace and remember this is only the first year of many. Hopefully Heartstring Annie will be career for a long time. I will hopefully start settling into better routines the longer I’m doing this.

School Year Reflections – Caden

It’s also been a tough year for Caden. Second grade did not seem to be a lot of fun. He really seemed to genuinely enjoy school the last few years. He loves seeing his friends and learning new things. But second grade has been a game changer in a pretty sucky way. I think it has a lot to do with his teacher. She wasn’t terrible by any means, but she was a lot more strict than what he’s had in the past. At the beginning of the year he was always upset about not being able to have a snack break. He doesn’t drink milk, so his few sips of water in the morning definitely didn’t do anything to fill him up. In first grade snack was always the highlight of his day. He took great joy in picking out his snacks every morning. It was really hard for him to go without it. He was always hungry. The only thing we could do to try and alleviate the problem was by sending him extra food for lunch every single day. So hot lunch or not, he brought an extra bag of food every single day.

Besides that, it just seemed like his class never did anything FUN. At their charter school they’re supposed to go on a lot of field trips and field experiences. They’re supposed to spend a lot of time outside and in nature learning. His class didn’t do that. When we finally brought it up to the teacher in February, after many, many months of Caden being upset about going to school, she said that she didn’t trust his class as a whole, which is why they never did any of that. It seemed very unfair, and very against the policies and intentions of the charter school they belong to. I think they went to the woods one time. Once. And had two regular field trips. His class was also often given a list of fun incentives that they would receive at the end of the week if they do well. And every single time that list would be completely taken away by the end of the week. Caden was constantly disappointed and sad that things he was so excited about were taken away from everybody because of the behavior of a few. Obviously I’m not in the classroom and I don’t know what it was truly like for him. But he had a hard time. And it’s contributed to him being a lot more difficult at home again.

I guess the good news is that third grade at their school seems pretty awesome. I think they go to the woods almost every week. They do a ton of gardening. They code all the time. He’s probably going to love it. But I hate that he had to have such a hard year before he could get to that point. I’m dreading Shepard’s second grade year.

School Year Reflections – Shepard

For the most part, Shepard has really grown into himself this year. After crying every single day of preschool and 4K, and then last year’s horrible summer school experience of needing to be held by the teacher, kicking and crying, while I run out the door – I was SO worried about kindergarten. And the first few months were hard. The few days that he had to go to school when Caden stayed home sick were a nightmare. On more than one occasion I had to carry him all the way into his classroom while he was crying and fighting with his life to get away from me, trying to run back home. But for the most part, especially in the last few months, he is FINE. He loves school. He loves seeing his friends. He loves learning new things. He walks down the halls like he owns the place. He’s turning into the class clown I always fully expected he would be. Which isn’t really the best thing to be because it gets him in trouble. But he’s happy, he’s positive, he basically loves life. His attitude about being at school and away from me has done a 180 in the last year. And I’m so thankful for it.

On the downside – he still won’t pee at school. An entire school year, never used the bathroom once, even when we had to stay late for a conference with Caden’s speech teacher and Shepard was crying in agony because he had to go so bad. Nope! No school bathrooms for him. And no accidents either. Just a whole lot of rushing home every single day after school, almost never getting to stay and play the way we used to. I just keep telling myself that one of these days he’ll just make the decision and it’ll all be fine. He’s the most stubborn kid in the world if he doesn’t want to do something, and peeing at school is a big fat no way. It’s INFURIATING, but I guess it’s his choice. And if he can hold it? I guess that’s just the way it’ll be.

Summer Intentions

So! Summer. I hope I can look back in three months and be happy with the way I spent my summer. I hope I don’t have these seem feelings of failure and frustration with myself. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these last few days and came up with three goals for myself. I think if I keep these in mind on a daily basis, I’ll be in for a good summer.

1. Read More

I hereby give myself permission to read as much as I want this summer. I’m always reading fiction, I don’t think I’ve gone a day of my life without it. But I also have stacks and stacks of nonfiction I collect over the years. Books that look so good, but I never get around to reading them because I’m so immersed in my current fiction book. This summer I’d really like to make my to be read piles shrink. I want to read those books that I know will be good for my soul, even though they take me longer because they require so much extra thinking. But I also want to read more of my beloved fiction too. As much as I want, whenever I want to. It’s my summer right!

2. Keep Working, but No Pressure

I want to keep working, but I don’t want it to consume me. My biggest problem is that I always feel very all or nothing about my projects. If I have something started, I want to keep working on it until its done. But if I have nothing started, I let things distract me and it’s so hard to start again. I’d like to always be somewhere in the middle. Have a project going so I always have something to do – IF I need something to do. But I’m not going to stress about it. I’m not going to put super high expectations on myself for productivity in the next three months. But if the boys are busy doing something, the house and laundry situation are mostly under control, I want to work. It will keep me sane.

3. Have Fun!

I like to think of summer as a constant adventure. As I’ve said in the past, I have a hard time connecting with my kids when we’re just sitting around at home. But I absolutely love getting out of the house and trying to find new and exciting things together. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, it’s just the getting out that makes it special. I want to have picnics, go to parks, do a little hiking, maybe find some new places to take Annie. I also want to be open to even simpler pleasures. Gardening together, looking for recipes we can make together, setting up the sprinkler, going to the pool every afternoon, family bike rides. I just want to let loose a little and let the fun side of myself out. She doesn’t come out often! I want to make happy memories this summer. As many as I can.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m kind of freaked out that I’m about to go three months without any peace and quiet. But I’m also optimistic that I can make the most of this opportunity. I know that I’m blessed to be able to be at home and have these summers with my kids. There aren’t that many years left and I want to make them the best they can be.

Happy summer, everyone!

What I Read and Watched May 2017

It’s book time! Four 5 Star books in a single month. That’s got to be a record for me. Page turners, tears, deep emotional connections. They have them all. I can’t wait to give you all of my recommendations!

BOOKS

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The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Rating: 3.5 Stars

If you remember last month, I finished the second book in The Remnant Chronicles series and highly recommended it. I thought the grand finale in the series was a bit disappointing. Still worth reading the trilogy, but this book seemed bogged down with all the political stuff and had very little interesting interaction between the main characters. A lot of emotion was pushed aside to fight for their territories. Which some people love reading about, but I much prefer the inter-character development to be first and foremost in every story.

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Come Back to Me by Mila Gray
Rating: 2.5 Stars

I had a hard time reading this book because I felt so certain I’ve read it before. I realized later that it had a very similar storyline to Karen Kingsbury’s Ever After/Even Now books, which used to be some of my favorites. Anyway, that’s probably not a valid reason to rate a book 2.5 stars – one of the lowest ratings I ever give a book that I actually finish. But it just felt so familiar in a frustrating way. Forbidden romance, tragedy in war, a lot of messed up emotional responses. It wasn’t really for me.

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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
Rating: 4 Stars

This is a book about a series of characters that find their way into circus life during WWII. While circus set stories are something I usually tend to avoid, it was interesting to read about how they managed to continue performing in the midst of so much tragedy. The main characters are a former Nazi’s wife who was divorced and sent away because she was Jewish, a young woman who was disowned by her parents when she had her soldier’s born baby taken away right after birth, and another baby that was taken off a train car filled with mostly dead babies on their way to work camps. The only thing that really bothered me about this book was its title. Who was the orphan? Probably only the baby – and the story really wasn’t about him. If I realized this book was about the circus I probably never would have picked it up. But it was definitely another eye opening account of lives set in WWII Europe that I never would have considered until reading this book.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I’ve heard this book recommended on numerous podcasts in the last few months. It’s also a book that Greg read and really liked. We don’t often have the same taste in books, but since it kept coming up, I decided to give it a chance. I do have to say it took me about a full week to read this. It felt SO LONG. The first 20% of the book (thanks, Kindle for the number) was setting up the story. If you can get through that, the rest of the book is much more exciting. It’s about our future world that has become so destitute that just about everybody lives most of their lives in a virtual reality universe. The book was very heavily focused on 80’s nostalgia and video games, which I had no interest in. But the premise was unique and kept my interest to the end.

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Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
Rating: 5 Stars

This is a story about the after effects of two families when their parents have an affair. The daughter of the man and the son of the woman meet under random circumstances and instantly have a connection. The boy soon realizes who the girl is, but she is left clueless for most of the book. There is a whole lot of emotion packed into this book and how it feels to be betrayed by those you love the most. People pick up the pieces in different ways and choose to be bitter or choose to forgive. This is definitely one of my favored YA books that I had a hard time putting down. It’s a little on the serious side, but it was good.

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Rating: 2.5 Stars

I never, ever would have picked up this book on my own. But I received it in a book exchange I did a few months ago and felt like I should give it a chance. It’s basically a memoir of a woman who suffered for twenty years from a mysterious illness that left her completely bedridden and unable to do almost anything on her own. A friend brought her a snail that she found out in the woods and the author learned to come to terms with her own existence and contribution to the world by spending her days watching the snail beside her bed. While the book was beautifully written and mildly intriguing, it is still just basically about the life of a snail. I don’t feel any richer for have read it, though I do know a whole lot more about snails!

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Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Rating: 3 Stars

I bought this book for Caden soon after we got Annie. It’s about a boy and the connection he has to his fox, and I thought Caden might appreciate the similarities between him and his new dog. But he read two pages and said he didn’t like it. So I read it myself! Meant for ages 8-12, it was still a full length book, but had some beautiful pictures thrown in the middle. Each chapter goes back and forth between the boy’s and the fox’s point of view. It was an interesting read. Slightly boring at times. But it had a very bittersweet and appropriate ending. If you or your child is into more introspective books, this might be a good one.

caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 5 Stars

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. But I kept seeing it every time I went into bookstores – in the YA section, of course. I kind of assumed it was about a carnival, which is much like a circus, and I already said I’m not interested in those. But it wasn’t. This was kind of a dystopian/fantasy type story. Two poorly mistreated sisters sneak away from their father with a handsome sailor and join in the magical game called Caraval. I admit the background information was a bit confusing. It was constantly repeated that Caraval was magical, but also it was just a performance. But if you don’t focus on all of that, the actual story and character interactions were truly wonderful. I love the connection that was made between Scarlett and Julian, the sailor. The only disappointment was getting to the end and realizing that there will be a second book coming. I try not to read books with sequels until they’re both out. I hate waiting!

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If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 5 Stars

I hate waiting, but I did for this one! Though I was extremely upset to get to the end and find out that the story still isn’t over! Anyway, this is the sequel to a book called If I Run. Both books were fabulous. It’s the story of a woman who is wrongly accused of murdering her best friend. She is on the run while trying to find ways to prove her innocence and show that the dirty cops working on her case were also the ones to stage her father’s suicide many years before. The main character, Casey, distantly teems up with the private investigator who was hired to find her, but believes in her innocence. What I love most about these two books is that despite being one of America’s most wanted, Casey is constantly finding ways to reach out and help other people. In the first book she rescues a girl who was kidnapped. In the second book she stops a man from committing suicide and helps a young girl who is forcefully being abused by her parents’ drug dealer. There’s a lot going on, but I love Casey’s clear cut purpose in always doing what is right and fighting injustice. I can’t wait for the third (and hopefully final) chapter in this series.

windfall

Windfall  by Jennifer E. Smith
Rating: 5 Stars

The situational premise of this book is that a girl gives her best friend a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday and he wins. Previously very down on his luck with a history of family financial woes, Teddy’s life drastically changes with a sudden 55 million dollars in his possession. Emotionally, this book is about Alice, a girl who lost both of her parents at a young age and despite growing up with a loving aunt, uncle, and cousin, continues to feel lost and alone on many levels. Despite not being an orphan or having any experience with coming into piles of money, this book really resonated with me. There were a lot of tears watching Alice learn to deal with change and truly learn to accept the love around her and let people deeper into her life. While Teddy definitely isn’t my favorite male lead in a book, I enjoyed watching the two of them grow and change throughout the story. I highly recommend this one!

MOVIES

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Greg LOVES the first movie, so of course we had to see the second one right when it came out. We went on a Friday morning, which was fun. I really liked this movie – more than the first. It was so funny! Chris Pratt is just the best.

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Deepwater Horizon

Just another movie I’ve kind of wanted to see and finally got around to watching. It kind of bothered me how they just immediately jumped into the tragedy without much happening ahead of time. I guess it was a bit entertaining, but not that great.

TV – Alone

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I’ve been avoiding watching this Good Wife spin off because I figured it was just the same show, except with Diane instead of Alicia. And I always hated Diane. But really, this show was so good! Definitely worth the watch, even if you’ve never seen The Good Wife.

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I finally caught up with the latest season. Young & Hungry is so ridiculous, you guys. But it never fails to make me laugh out loud either. The main character Gabby is so obnoxious, there are way too many fat jokes, and the on again off again romance between Gabby and Josh feels like it will continue on FOREVER. But it’s still funny. And cute. Good for when you need something lighthearted.

last man on earth

I think I heard this is the last season of Last Man. It’s okay. I continue watching, but it definitely lost a lot of its earlier charm.

izombie

Still love it! Still recommend it. The newest season is especially good. I love Wednesdays when I can watch the newest episode from the night before.

quantico

I’m not sure if this one has been renewed, but I’m okay if it wasn’t. It finally ended with everybody being happy. I’d like to imagine that’s it, no more insane drama.

modern family

It’s getting old, guys. But…it’s there. I need these sitcoms in the middle of the more serious shows I watch.

jane

While I’m still bitter about Michael’s death, I am enjoying this season a lot more than I expected.

TV – Together

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Master of None is SO good. I really hated Aziz Ansari for such a long time because of his character Tom on Parks & Rec. But on this show his character is so much deeper, and yet still deeply hilarious. Each episode is like a random slice of Dev’s life. Which I feel makes it really unique, but also slightly frustrating when they act like we should just know who everybody is, when there’s no introduction of them. But overall – I love this show. A lot.

superstore

Watched the finale at the beginning of the month. I’m not going to stop recommending this one. I LOVE IT.

flash

This season really seemed to drag, but in one of the final episodes when Barry’s memory was taken away and he was suddenly happy and carefree – it was so funny. I hope the show somehow gets back to its humorous side. That’s the reason I’ve always liked this superhero show best.

arrow

While Arrow is not my favorite, I did really like this season’s nemesis.

riverdale

I think I maybe liked this show less with every episode. But still thought it was worth watching. I’m interested to see where they go with it next season.

brooklyn nine nine

Still funny. Still makes me laugh so much. Such a good show!

And that’s it! It was a busy month. What have you read or watched?!

11 Year Anniversary Weekend Getaway

20170527_122427 on our way

On Sunday we celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary! Every year we struggle with trying to come up with a unique vacation spot, usually just for a couple days and within easy driving distance from home. This year felt especially hard and I was leaning toward skipping a trip all together. Spring has been super busy, we had a big vacation in fall, we’re going to New Jersey in June, it just felt overwhelming to add one more thing to the calendar. But we were super lucky and there just happened to be a cancellation at A Secret Cottage posted on facebook at the exact time I checked when we were all in the car together – for our actual anniversary weekend! This is the one place Greg really wanted to go back to, so it seemed perfect. He doesn’t usually have much of an opinion on where we go or what we do, so it was really nice we could go somewhere that he loved this year.

A Secret Cottage is an adorable little cottage that we came across when trying to find a place for a fall getaway a few years ago. When we don’t have other bigger fall vacation plans, like the last two years, Greg and I have always tried to have a getaway around my birthday in October. We were fortunate enough to find this little place and spend my 30th birthday here. It’s only about an hour from home, but in the middle of a bunch of rolling hills and farmland. Basically in the middle of nowhere. The cottage is down a private drive and has its own private little lake. The building is clean and cute with a loft bedroom and large jacuzzi overlooking the lake, a full kitchen, a living room stocked with tons of dvds, a large shower room, two porches, a fire pit, a dock with paddle boat, and walking trails all around the property. It’s pretty great! It’s also very hard to get into if you’re not booking a year in advance. But if you’re looking for a secluded getaway sometime this is a great place to check!

20170527_123020 appetizer platter

On Saturday morning, Shepard and I took Annie to the vet for her first boarding experience. It was so sad! She put up a big fuss when they took the leash from me and tried to get out of her collar to get back to me. That’s the first I’ve ever seen her try that maneuver. It was only for two nights, but I felt really bad. We’ve only had her for two months and I really didn’t want her to think we abandoned her the way her original family must have. 🙁 But we didn’t really have any other options. Dog owning is a lot more complicated than cat owning in this regard. You can never just pick up and leave for a night without a lot of planning.

Anyway, next we dropped off the boys at Greg’s parents house. They had lots of fun plans with the grandparents for the weekend. And finally, Greg and I headed off to the Dells for a big lunch. Since the cottage is so far removed from everything, we were planning to just eat out once each day so we could spend the majority of the time just relaxing and hanging out. I did restaurant research ahead of time – we never seem to have much luck just randomly picking places. So Saturday’s lunch was at Dells Distillery. We got the sampler appetizer platter with tots, chicken fingers, fried pickles, and cheesecurds. They were all pretty blah and bland.

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Greg had a burger and I had a chicken sandwich. Also fairly disappointing.

IMG_20170527_130053 smokehouse caramel

There was a fudge shop next door, so I stopped in to find a dessert after that disappointing lunch. I bought a $3 smokehouse caramel square. It was pretty good.

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We never considered that being Memorial Weekend, it was also Dells kickoff weekend with all the outdoor waterparks. The city was jam packed. We didn’t have any interest in doing touristy things or walking through the crowds. But we still had some time to kill, so we went to one of my favorite places ever – the Craft Mall. In the antique section I was super excited to find some Steiff and old teddy bears. Those are my absolute favorite thing to collect because they are so hard to find. The hunt is always so rewarding when I finally come across an adorable little bear. Greg bought me this one as an anniversary gift. I love it!

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We made it to the cottage at 3:00 on the dot.

20170527_151126(0) turtle

Turtle and fish feeding is highly encouraged at the cottage and they have a tub of food for all the guests to use. This huge snapping turtle was right by the dock waiting for us. We fed him right away. No sign of him on Sunday, but fed a bunch of painted turtles. And then this guy came out to say goodbye on Monday. It’s such a little thing, but it really made the whole cottage experience so much more fun!

20170527_163059(0) boating

On a paddle boat ride. Boating makes me pretty nervous, even on tiny little pond lakes. Pond lakes filled with turtles and gigantic fish, mind you!! But it was fun to paddle around. It’s the only boat ride we took because it was super windy on Sunday.

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Do you think I can pull off a hat?! I keep seeing women online with big hats and I always think they look so cute! Since the sun is basically my arch nemesis in summer and I HATE being hot and blinded, I bought myself two hats to try this year. But I’m nervous about actually wearing them in public because I never see real people wear hats like this! Dilemma. 🙂

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On our boat ride we also saw a beaver swimming around us. He hung around the whole evening.

20170527_175651 saturday afternoon

Next, we went for a walk around the trails. We saw some deer, but I didn’t get a picture.

20170527_190840 saturday dinner

Saturday’s dinner was frozen pizza and these frozen peach margarita type things I found at the store last week. They were pretty good!

The rest of Saturday was for relaxing and watching part of a movie. It was a really good first day!

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The cottage owners supply guests with a small container of biscuits and four eggs. So that was our breakfast on Sunday morning.

20170528_110643 11 years

Eleven years married! Seventeen and a half years together! A lifetime, basically. A lot has happened in the last eleven years. Two jobs for Greg, four jobs for me, four years in Minnesota, two kids, two apartments, one house swap, six months of living with the in-laws, two houses, two cats (actually they came before), one dog, six vehicles, a lot of ups and downs, and a whole lot of memories. I kind of hope the next eleven are a little less eventful. 🙂

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We spent a long time on Sunday morning just chilling out. I was pretty tired and into a really good book, so I wanted to read. Finally around 10:30ish we decided to go out and explore. Our first destination was Observatory Hill in Montello. Well, really in the middle of nowhere. We never would have known about it except it was listed in a brochure at the cottage. There were zero signs on the way there. The hill was at the end of a road only marked “dead end.”

20170528_113012 the weak trailheads

There was no clearly marked trail, only a few little spots like this. We picked the right one.

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A little history for you.

20170528_114456 made it to the top

We made it to the top! It was a bit more of a hike than I was expecting. Not a good sandal hike! But it was so pretty when we reached the top.

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So sunny! But it was only about 65 degrees and felt really good. I’m so glad we ended up with such amazing weather after weeks of rain and gloom.

I didn’t take any pictures, but our next stop was Lunch Creek Winery. Also only found because it was in a paper brochure. I was expecting it to be more of a full scale vineyard, but it was basically just someone’s barn that they open up on weekends. We had a free wine tasting, trying out all the sweeter wines. A lot of fruit wines. We ended up buying a bottle of their sweetest, a caramel apple wine. I think I’ll save it for fall.

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It was an hour back in the other direction, but we decided to go back to the Dells for a late lunch. I kept looking at the menu and really wanted to go here, to B-Lux. Greg got a buffalo chicken sandwich, parmesan dusted waffle fries, and an oreo hard shake that had Bailey’s and Kahlua in it. I love our vacation meal pictures. 🙂

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I had a southern fried chicken sandwich with cajun mayo, sweet potato fries with maple bacon salt, and a “long weekend” hard shake, made with Creme de Cacao, vodka, nutella, toasted marshmallows, and graham crackers. I thought the whole meal was delicious! I’m glad we made the drive back there.

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At this point we were both really exhausted, so we went back to the cottage for the rest of the night.

20170528_155354(0) fish

More fish feeding! Because it’s a private lake you can fish without a license. The cottage also has a variety of poles we could have used, but Greg didn’t want to deal with taking the fish off the hooks for me over and over again. I’m sure it would have been an awesome fishing experience because there were just so many around, but I don’t blame him. I’m a fish wimp.

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A pretty panorama of the cottage’s yard area. We didn’t really make use of the fire pit or porch seating. It was pretty buggy out already. And allergies…they’re the worst.

20170528_195129 watching sunset

Trying to watch the sunset, which wasn’t very magnificent that night. But a sunset nonetheless. I look pretty awful at this point. Allergies suck. I try to ignore them. The medications I started taking last year really helped with a lot of the sinusy stuff, but I haven’t yet found anything that really makes my eyes any better. It’s such a beautiful time of year to be outside, but also hard not to be halfway miserable anytime I’m out. 🙁

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Panorama of the porch and lakeside of the cottage. So pretty!

20170528_195948 toasting

Toasting our eleven years with my favorite pink moscato. I loved the champagne flutes they had there!

20170528_195956 toasting together

To many, many more years! (And maybe a vacation past its grass allergy season next year!)

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Ended the night with one more walk around the trails.

20170529_091831 going home

Monday morning and time to leave. We didn’t really linger around after we were both up. I forgot a picture, but we had some fancy cinnamon roll frozen waffles for breakfast. None of our cottage meals were too thrilling, but I wanted a real vacation where I didn’t have to do any work. So simple it was!

20170529_104535(0) strong man

Next we picked up the boys. Sounded like they had a really good time! Popcorn store, zoo, movie nights, a day at Cedar Lake with the cousins, and lots of time in the sandbox. I’m glad they got to have a little vacation of their own.

20170529_172207 annie

And six very long hours later, I was able to pick up Annie! She survived! According to her report card she missed us, but did pretty well. She didn’t eat very much, but she doesn’t eat very much at home either. And she enjoyed playing with the toys. She was definitely super excited to see us! She started whimpering as soon as we turned onto our street. Usually she only does that when she realizes we’re almost to the dog park. We were all very happy to be reunited! Well, except for maybe the cats who got the long weekend and house all to themselves!

So overall, a really sweet eleven year weekend getaway celebration. I wish it could have been at least another night longer, but we’ll take what we can get! The weekend was exactly what we needed to connect and feel closer after some pretty crazy months.

Happy anniversary, honey!