Shepard’s 3rd Birthday!


Yesterday was Shepard’s third birthday! I can’t believe my sweet little baby is now a three year old!


We started the day with funfetti birthday pancakes. Shepard was kind of in denial that it was his birthday at that point. When he woke up he asked what we were going to do today. I said, “It’s your birthday! Happy birthday!” And he yelled, “NO IT NOT!!!” and ran back to his room whimpering. He seems to be in a stage right now where he’s strongly against change. At any rate, he was happy to have some candles to blow out at breakfast.

For fun, here’s a picture of the day he was born, his first birthday, and his second birthday.



And just for a little comparison, here’s a picture of Caden on his third birthday.


Okay, back to yesterday. Birthday or not, they still needed their morning tv time. I was trying to let Shepard pick the shows, but Caden…well, Caden always finds a way to get what he wants instead. He was having a really hard time letting the day be about Shepard…


The last few times we’ve gone grocery shopping the boys have been asking me to buy limes. They’re weird. But I figured Shepard’s birthday was a good excuse to finally buy some. By the way, if you’re wondering, Shepard has a black eye because he had a head on collision with Caden when they were jumping on the bed while I was in California. This happened three days after Shepard got a mild concussion from running into the tv stand. This kid has had a really rough few weeks with head injuries.


He seemed to like it. Both boys definitely got Daddy’s sour loving taste buds. I LOATHE sour things.


Greg blew up a package of balloons the night before to surprise Shepard. We all spent a good hour playing with them in the morning. I wanted so badly to get a nice picture of Shepard surrounded with balloons, but he kept insisting on holding a balloon in front of his face instead.


Finally got a nice one!








Shepard has been really grabby with my phone lately. I don’t think he has that same instilled sense of technology usage that Caden has, and I’m always so sure he’s going to destroy something. Mostly he just takes pictures. Tons and tons of pictures.


During this balloon shoot I decided it was time I learned how to use the manual settings on my camera. I’ve had a DSLR for five years now and I’ve been using auto settings this entire time. Kind of ridiculous considering how many photography classes I took in college. While I was in CA I was greatly inspired by my brother’s photos and camera. When I told Greg I wanted to get a new camera he said that no way, not when I don’t even know how to use a camera manually. So…I was determined to learn. Yesterday. Probably not the best day for it!! I did get some great shots, but I got about four times more terrible shots. Literally. I took around 500 pictures yesterday and at least 400 of them are out of focus duds. The main thing I learned yesterday – manual focus is not for wild little boys! Anyway….back to the birthday…



Chicken nuggets are Shepard’s favorite food, so I let him decide where he wanted to go for lunch. He picked Burger King.


While Caden was at school Shepard helped me make his birthday dessert. We decided to go with brownies because Shepard doesn’t like cake.


He LOVES helping me in the kitchen. Usually way more than I’d like. But I try to let him since Caden was the same way and now wants nothing to do with helping me. πŸ™




Proud of his sprinkle work.

I wanted to get some shots of the two of us, but Shepard was continuing his independent streak by insisting on pushing the shutter button. Which his arms are way too short for if we’re both going to be in the picture. This is the only one we managed without a struggle!


After school it was WARM out! 45 degrees! For the first time in MONTHS, yes months, we were able to go play outside. Shepard picked “the park with no slides.”


This winter has taught me to never take for granted the days that we can play outside. Even in the death heat of summer, which I absolutely hate, I plan on going outside this year. Boys need to run and I’m so sick of that running happening inside!






After an hour and a half of playing at the park we came home for hot cocoa. Soon after, Daddy came home. Which meant presents! I don’t think Shepard even cared, but Caden was thrilled after begging me to let Shepard open them early all day long.






I thought I did pretty good with my gift giving this year. I normally have a really hard time with Shepard for some reason. We gave him a big Playmobil swimming pool, a small indoor sandbox, a shower stream bath toy, a Lightning McQueen keyboard game thingy, a board game, and a few books. Caden gave Shepard a Hot Wheels bath race track that he picked out completely on his own. Shepard opened that early during our snow day on Monday.


Finally time for birthday dinner. I had a hard time deciding what to make, but settled on steak. This was my first time making “real” thicker cut steaks inside.


Steak, chips and salsa (his favorite), and fruit.


After dinner the guys set up the swimming pool while I cleaned and got ready for dessert.


Time for brownies!



I think Shepard had a great third birthday! It was a fun and relaxed day for everybody. I’m so proud of my baby.


My Trip to Newport Beach


Last weekend my mom and I took a little birthday vacation (her’s) to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Newport Beach, California. This Wisconsin winter has been so brutal this year we were both more than ready for a break! I tried to stick with my tradition of taking meal pictures, beginning with my airport smoked turkey panini lunch.


Chicken Caesar wrap. Our flights were fairly uneventful, except that we were forced to check our bags because they ran out of space halfway through boarding. It ended up being a blessing, however, because we had to rush through the entire length of the Minneapolis airport and we were so happy not to have that extra luggage! We finally arrived in Orange County around 7:30pm. It was dark and raining so we didn’t really see anything on the drive to their place. We were all pretty exhausted and settled into our four person, five night mass sleepover in a studio apartmentΒ  soon after we arrived.



Friday was our designated day for my brother Timmy to show us around Newport Beach.


This is one of their pools. It looked nice, but was still way too cold to actually swim.


The hot tub, which we planned on trying out, but the heater was turned off.


We went on a long walk around the back bay, checking out some beautiful houses and views.




Afterward we went to the actual Newport Beach and Pier. It was fun to watch a few people surfing. I also enjoyed looking at the birds. πŸ™‚

So beautiful.



Mother and son, reunited.


Learning how to do a panoramic picture on the phone.







I was really surprised at how many donut shops there were as we drove around California. I would LOVE to have an actual donut shop somewhere near me, but apparently they only exist in the west. We stopped in at one on the boardwalk and it was delicious.


I don’t even know what kind of donut this was, but it was totally delicious. I wish I had bought more for later.


The ferris wheel in the Balboa Fun Zone. Supposedly the best ferris wheel ride you’ll ever have. We didn’t go on it.


Lunch was a dream come true. I’ve been wanting to go to Chick-fil-A for YEARS. I see so many people on facebook talking about how amazing it is and I was feeling seriously deprived. But I was FINALLY able to go. So exciting!


I had the spicy chicken sandwich, which was quite good. I just wish I hadn’t eaten a donut right before going here because I wasn’t hungry enough to fully enjoy the food. The waffle fries were pretty blah and I only ate a few.


Next we headed to Downtown Disney, which I’ve never heard of before, but is apparently just a huge collection of shops outside of Disneyland. Timmy didn’t think we’d be able to stay busy very long there, but we definitely proved him long. I think we spent at least an hour and a half total just in the Lego store!! We also enjoyed going through all the Disney shops.


I should probably mention that with my first picture on Friday morning, my camera lens stopped working properly. I couldn’t believe I was about to have an entire vacation without a working camera! I finally figured out that it would work if I did manual focus, so every picture is either better than my normal auto focused pictures, or horribly fuzzy because I had a hard time figuring it out. I was quite impressed I got this great nighttime picture, though!


We stopped in a pizza by the slice restaurant for dinner. I wasn’t very impressed by the pizza, but I got a container of cantaloupe later that really hit the spot.




Saturday was my mom’s birthday! It was also the day we were supposed to leave really early, so my mom took a shower the night before. While she was busy, Brittany and I did some crazy fast baking to make her favorite pumpkin cupcakes. Despite being in the same room, we still managed to surprise her with them in the morning.


I had to give her my present right away. I made this bear a week earlier and it was killing me not to show it to someone. It’s my favorite bear I’ve ever made. So cute!


All her presents.


Despite our early start, everything changed when we went outside and the car was gone. So…long story short, it was towed, it took three hours to figure that all out. In the meantime, we changed plans a little and went to the Corona del Mar Farmer’s Market. It was small, but still fun to see. I love all the succulents!


My mom and Brittany bought a grapefruit. I forgot to take a picture, but I bought a loaf of jalapeno cheese bread, that was delicious.


Once we got the car back, we changed plans a little and headed to Hollywood so we could say we’ve been there. We ate at a cool sandwich shop called Mendocino Farms. I had the amped up spicy jalapeno turkey sandwich. Yum.


The Hollywood sign, way off in the distance. Right after taking this picture I went into the Hollywood Target to buy some sunglasses so I’d stop getting sun headaches. Then – amazingly – I checked out in line behind Katie Lowes – also known as Quinn Perkins from Scandal. Anyway, I was beyond excited, but of course kept it cool while I stared at her in shock. πŸ™‚ When you’re walking around LA you always know that there’s a possibility you could see a celebrity, but I didn’t really expect to! Granted, she’s not a huge celebrity, but I do love Scandal so I was thrilled.


Next we went to the Chinese Theater, where I think they do all the big movie premieres. It was really crowded, but I managed to hunt around the ground and find the hand and footprints of some more exciting celebrities. I was trying really hard to find Christian Bale’s, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there. I had to settle for Christopher Nolan…as close to Batman as I’ll get, I guess! It was cool seeing Johnny Depp’s, though.







I guess the Dolby Theatre is where they do the Oscars. I’m not very knowledgeable about anything Hollywood, so I took Timmy’s word for it.


We spent quite a lot of time at this gigantic candy store. They had make your own chocolate bars from a huge list of ingredients, which is why I wanted to go in, but then I didn’t want to spend $7 on one tiny bar.


After Hollywood we went to Pasadena, where Brittany’s brother lives and where Timmy spent a summer working many years ago. It was much quieter here. I liked it. I forgot pictures again – we got malts while we were riding around.


I assumed being in California I’d see all these amazing sunsets over the beach, and we didn’t actually see a single one. This was very pretty, though!


Again, no pictures…I was really failing on Saturday….but we ate at a restaurant called BJ’s. I wasn’t very hungry at all and just had a plate of Bacon and Jalapeno Corn Fritters. Which I thought tasted okay, until Brittany’s brother pointed out they smelled just like corndogs and then I was super grossed out. The thought still makes me gag. I hate corndogs. My mom had soup and a side salad. Not a very exciting birthday dinner! We also spent a lot of time shopping in Pasadena. We both bought a ton of stuff at Sur la Table.


Very blurry, but this is the Pasadena City Hall, which doubles at Pawnee City Hall in Parks and Rec. This was exciting to see too, since we love Parks and Rec.


I got another good night shot! This never happens!



Sunday everyone was tired, so we had a lazy morning, followed by a Girl’s Day because Timmy had to work. First we went to church, which was nice. Then we stopped back at the apartment for lunch and headed to Balboa Island to do some shopping. There were some really unique shops there. I bought myself a scarf and art print, as well as a few gifts.


I really wanted to get a frozen banana in honor of Arrested Development, but wasn’t hungry at all at that point. Next trip, I guess.


After Balboa we went to Brittany’s aunt’s house to see Rusty the Dog.



It was cool to see a real California house. πŸ™‚ I can’t imagine ever being able to own a house like that!


I love this little hidden courtyard that only has an entrance out of someone’s bedroom.


After hanging out some more, we began the biggest dinner adventure of my life. We planned on eating at a Mexican restaurant on Balboa Island that everyone loves. While we went back to pick up Timmy, Brittany’s cousin called to say that restaurant was closed. After much debate they settled on another choice which required us to take a short ferry and then a long walk out to a restaurant on a pier.


The ferry was only about three minutes long and we could have driven around, but it was a neat experience.


Ruby’s, on the pier. I think this would have been a really cool place to eat at, but we got there fifteen minutes too late. Who would have thought so many restaurants would shut down that early on a Sunday night in a big beach town?


We finally decided on In-n-Out. After walking back to the ferry, taking it back across the water, and driving to the nearest In-n-Out we saw that it was a drive through only. At that point we were all ready to just end this adventure and eat! I don’t like hamburgers, so I only had fries. Which I really didn’t like either. Oh well.



Already our last day! We saw this big lizard on a windowsill every morning. At first I thought it was wild and really creeped out, but he must be somebody’s bet. So weird that they’d just set him on a windowsill where he can’t even get in, though.


Monday was our day for Santa Monica. It was a bit of a traffic filled drive (I would never survive driving there), but all the women got a nap in. πŸ™‚



So beautiful. I’m definitely not a beach person when it comes to sitting in the sun and just getting hot, but in the cooler weather just walking around, it’s perfect.


This is where Timmy proposed to Brittany.


Always so photogenic. πŸ™‚



I spent a long time getting this picture. Love it. πŸ™‚


I never took my shoes off, which I regret a little now. I just wasn’t sure how I could carry my camera bag, camera, and shoes. Lame, I know.


End of Route 66.



We got to see some dolphins, which was really cool. This is the third time I’ve seen wild dolphins and it’s always so surreal.

Peaceful waters.

Another ferris wheel we didn’t ride.


Our last meal. Chicken flautas for me. And really lame looking nachos for her. Couldn’t they at least put real cheese on them??


And one final picture of our hosts. (And the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen.) We were exhausted after Santa Monica and spent the rest of the night hanging out in the apartment and watching Parks and Rec.

Overall, it was a great trip filled with fun memories! I once again know I’d never ever want to live in California, but it’s a cool place to visit, especially for the first time. Big thanks to Timmy and Brittany for driving us around and showing us everything and my mom for suggesting we go in the first place.


New Years Resolution

As usual, I have spent the last week contemplating what I’ve done in the past year and where I’d like to be a year from now. I was re-reading what I wrote last year at this time and realized I did a pretty bad job following through on most of what I had hoped to accomplish. In fact, I can probably say that I failed miserably with all of my resolutions. I did not forgive my children very easily, I did not accept them for who they were, I was not healthier – in fact I was probably the least healthy I’ve ever been. I did not look for or find much joy in my life. I wasn’t a very good friend, instead retreating even further into isolation. And I didn’t save any money. Yeah, I definitely failed with all of that.

The tangible goals I set for myself went a little better. Learning how to make Annie’s was my main goal. I definitely succeeded on that one! It took me until the middle of April to start, but once I figured out what to do, I had a blast. I started Heartstring Annie and actually feel like I was pretty successful with it by the last four months of the year. Sales have been pretty good considering the amount of time I’m able to put into it right now.

I did okay with my other goals. I still haven’t learned to use my camera properly, but I did do the 365 Day project for HALF of the year. Then the Annie stuff took off and my camera fell far to the wayside. I didn’t read 110 books, but I read a lot of longer books than I usually read. I think my final total for the year was eighty-seven. 34,195 pages (I know this because I was having a competition with Greg and we had to use page count to be more accurate since he reads much longer books than me. I won. Five times more reading – hah!). The one date a month thing didn’t exactly work out. I forgot to actually think about it. And writing something every day – I tried. I had a couple of books to work through, but when day after day I was writing such negative and hopeless statements I decided to give up. I didn’t really want a reason to look back and remember this time in my life.

To be honest, 2013 was a really bad year for me. I was depressed, unhappy, angry, and just very sad. I’ve felt like a horrible mother, an inadequate wife, a bad friend, and overall a pretty worthless human being. I don’t want to dwell on this anymore because the year is over. Instead I want to look ahead to 2014 and hopefully a much happier year.

With that in mind, I only have one real resolution for the year:

Do whatever it takes to stop having so many bad days.

I want to smile and laugh a lot more this year. I want to be present in my life instead of always trying to hide away from it. I want to go to bed every night feeling good about how I spent my day rather than drowning in regret. I truly what to do whatever it takes to stop having bad day after bad day after bad day. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few days and I’ve come up with a list of things I can work on to make this happen. So not goals in themselves, but tools to help me achieve my overall goal.

  • Listen to my children. I blow them off SO often. Way too often. When Shepard carries a board game to me ten times in a day, I should probably take the hint and get on the floor and play it with him. When Caden asks me for months when I’m going to go to school with him like some of the other moms, I should do whatever I can to make that happen for him. It’s not really a mystery to find ways to make your kids happy. Listen. They’re pretty obvious about what they want.
  • Read more nonfiction. I used to make myself read a chapter or two of nonfiction every day. And by nonfiction I usually mean inspirational books that nurture my relationship with God, my husband, or my kids. This requirement of myself has been all but forgotten in the past year. I want to get back to it. There are so many books out there that could lift me up and help me to be a better person. Fiction is wonderful, but I don’t want to use all of my reading time simply escaping the real world.
  • Take better care of myself. Laying around doing nothing all day but stuff myself with unhealthy food isn’t doing much to help my mood or my body! I don’t have any drastic plans, but I want to simply make better choices this year. Exercise when a twenty minute gap in my schedule appears. Keep more fruits and vegetables stocked in the fridge where I can easily grab them when I start getting hungry. Move more. Try harder. Do what I can.
  • Be present. This is a big one for me. Instead of dealing with my problems I tend to just retreat inside myself, my computer, my books, etc. so I don’t have to think about things anymore. I want to stop that. I want to deal with that’s around me head on, even if it’s not going to be pleasant. I’d also like to just start enjoying the opportunities I do have, but often walk away from. I have a very bad habit of disappearing when Greg walks in the door at night because I’m so overwhelmed by my kid problems. I don’t want to do that anymore. At least not every single night. We have so many chances to bond and laugh as a whole family and I’d like to start taking advantage of that.
  • Stop unnecessary spending. I love online shopping. So many deals and it’s so easy to do. But the truth of the matter is that more than half of what I buy online I really do not need. It seems like a great idea at the time and usually by the time whatever I ordered arrives I regret wasting my money on yet another thing. This is the year I want to start asking myself every time a “good deal” comes up if it’s more important than buying a house. Because the answer is probably always going to be no. It’s been three and a half years now since we’ve owned a house and I’m starting to really miss it. I’ve reached the point where I really think we need more space, but there’s nothing we can do about that unless I stop spending money.
  • Dream more. Dreaming is something I’ve kind of given up on this past year because nothing I really wanted seemed possible, so why think about it, right? I don’t want that attitude anymore. I’d like to take a few minutes a day to think about my future and what I want out of it. Even if it’s unlikely to ever happen, I can still entertain the possibility. 

Well, I think this is a pretty simple resolution for the year. The tools I listed might not feel simple to implement all at once, but they are all doable. I can do this. I don’t want to have another miserable year. It’s the beginning of a new year, the perfect chance to step up and try harder at changing my life to the way I know it can be.


Christmas for our family always begins on the 23rd when we celebrate at home just the four of us. We’re WAY too busy on the 24th and 25th, so it’s nice to have a slower day to open and thoroughly enjoy all of our presents. This year I got up early (I get up early every day, always, no matter what – kind of annoying) and made brown butter donuts with chocolate frosting. They turned out pretty good!


After breakfast we opened presents and played with each one before moving on to the next. Caden opened this Lego set right away so they spent the next hour building it.


Greg gave me a craft saw so I can make more standing bears. πŸ™‚ He also gave me a Vintage Pearl necklace I’ve been wanting for a long time, a seat warmer for the van, and a salted caramel candle.


The boys gave Greg his favorite sunflower seeds. He’s been out for awhile, so he was pretty happy.


Shepard too!


The boys gave me a Whirley-Pop and a bunch of popcorn packets. We had popcorn for lunch. πŸ™‚


Popcorn! It was a really nice day just bonding and relaxing. Everyone was even getting along for most of the day. It was a good Christmas.


On Christmas Eve we start the day with the Noe’s. Here are all the Noe children.

Noe parents.

After a big breakfast, the boys started off the present opening. They both looked so handsome with their new space shirts over button shirts. πŸ™‚

Shepard got underwear! He keeps saying that when he’s three he’ll start potty training. I hope he realizes this is only seven or so weeks away!

We love hot sauce!

It was really hard to come up with sewn presents for the men in the family, so I finally settled on tote bags. Not sure if he’ll use it, but at least the fabric is pretty awesome!

Caden got a lot of map related gifts at all three Christmases. This book is extremely nice.

Greg got a tablet! He was pretty excited, though Caden immediately gravitated to him and wouldn’t stop bugging him to see it the rest of the day.

After playing some games, we headed over to my parent’s house for the Braatz family Christmas.

We had no idea when my dad was going to get home from delivering packages, so we tried to make the afternoon and evening last as long as possible by opening the occasional present that would occupy some time. I gave my mom and myself oysters with pearls inside of them. We were both really freaked out about opening up a live oyster.

Our pearls! So pretty.

This was definitely the Christmas of Legos! It’s kind of funny since Greg actually does all the building (which he LOVES), but the boys do enjoy playing with them.

Shepard loves all the little vehicles. He’s very good at sound effects. πŸ™‚

My pizza bread wreath. This stuff is SO good.

Finally all together, including my brother and sister-in-law via Skype. It was really nice they could be included, despite being in California, though also a little weird to have two people just sitting there staring at you from the computer for most of the evening! Anyway, it was a great Christmas eve. I love Christmas eve. πŸ™‚ Just lots of family time and gift giving. I’m always so excited to give my gifts!

Christmas morning and Santa has come! Despite going to bed three hours later than normal, the boys were still up at the same time. And they were CRANKY. There were a few dollar bills in their advent calendar which immediately sparked huge fights, tears, hitting, throwing things, etc. It was NOT a good start to Christmas day. Greg came out and told them they had to go back to bed, which really doesn’t happen with them. Instead we just sat around waiting for Greg to get up later. Which resulted in a very rushed and stressful morning opening Santa presents so we could get to Oshkosh in time for our other Christmas obligations. It was not very enjoyable. πŸ™

Santa’s gifts. When Shepard saw the presents he yelled, “Who give us all these presents??” And Caden’s reaction, “Why did Santa give us only like fifteen presents?” I wish there was a way to space their present openings out a little more so they don’t start having that attitude that they should be getting more, even though they’ve already gotten a hundred presents from other people!!

Caden was excited about his new bike, though it’s a little too big yet. He had to put his boots on to get the pedals to move.

Shepard got a lot of games this year. He loves his games!

I think Caden was most excited about this bubble bath! Maybe Santa should have given much more simple presents!

I didn’t take many more pictures, but after we were done with our Santa gifts we went to Greg’s grandma’s house for a short visit and then his aunt’s house for our annual big Christmas brunch. In the evening we went back to my parents’ for dinner and Caden was reunited with his globe that we forgot there the night before. He says this is his favorite present. He really loves maps.

Overall, it was a really nice Christmas! I love that the boys are getting older and enjoy everything a lot more. Caden at least is finally getting really into Santa, so I hope we have a good handful of years left before someone spoils it for him. Christmas is definitely a lot more fun with little kids around sharing their excitement over everything.

Merry Christmas!


A Quick Speed Through December

December has come and gone in such a whirlwind I’ve barely had time to enjoy it this year. I had so many plans to relax this year and enjoy every tiny moment of the Christmas season. It didn’t happen. πŸ™ In the first week I had the flu. The second week, Greg had the flu and I still did not feel good at all. The third week I was crazy stressed about getting presents done on time. And then it was Christmas. It was a busy and exhausting month with many, many late nights and far too little sleep. There were some highlights, though, so I want to skim through them before I write my next post on Christmas itself.


December first – the first day of Advent. After much debate I gave in and bought a Lego Advent calendar this year so the boys could each open a door every day, rather than always fighting over the one.


I also went to my goddaughter McKenna’s birthday party on the first. She’s so big already!


I gave her my very first playable Annie. She opened it and immediately hugged her. So sweet. πŸ™‚


Such a cutie!


December sixth was St. Nick’s Day. Twinkle our elf was pretty lazy this year. Most days he really just sat on various shelves. Occasionally he’d do something a little more exciting. πŸ™‚ I did St. Nick presents a little different this year by giving everyone a shared huge Lego set and individual candy for each person. I think that might be the new tradition.


On December 7th I took part in my very first craft fair! I signed up for this craft fair in June, right after I started Heartstring Annie and was desperate for customers. I then spent six months stressing over it and if I’d have enough inventory.


It was a very long day (still right after my flu, so I was exhausted to begin with!), but I made a few worthwhile sales. Overall it was a good experience, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again for awhile. I’d rather just sell online if I can and maybe once Shepard is in school full time I’ll think about doing more and bigger craft fairs.


A week later, we finally did one of those memorable family experiences I was hoping to be doing all month long. We put together a gingerbread train.


Greg was in charge of frosting…



The boys were taking their decorating very seriously!


The final train. I thought it turned out quite nicely for a two and five year old’s handiwork!


After the craft fair was over my goal for the rest of the month was to sew everyone a handmade gift for Christmas. It was fun to take a break from Annie’s and try out a lot of new things. These are the bags I made for all of Caden’s teachers.


Christmas mice for my mother-in-law. I’m in love with them.


Standing teddy bears for my mom and I. I’ve been admiring this pattern from Sweet Meadows Farm for months and finally decided to give it a try. I was hesitant since I needed to cut dowels, drill holes, and stain wood, but I think it was worth all the effort. So cute.


I made a few Annies for relatives, as well as trivets, mug rugs, tote bags, and book covers. Lots of new experiences!

I also took a day to make something for myself. These turned out SO cute.


Sometime around Thanksgiving I made a vow to go on a weekly date with Caden. And then something come up every time I planned on going out with him. Finally on the 17th we had our first date. We went to Chili’s for dinner and then Barnes and Noble so he could pick out a calendar. Despite his expression in this photo, I think he had a really good time. I hope once the holiday season dies down, we really can make this into a weekly tradition. Caden and I have such a rocky relationship at home and as soon as we leave the house together everything gets so much better.


Just a cute picture of my babe.


The 19th was Caden’s last day of school before Christmas and also his winter program. It was adorable to watch and he did so well! Last year he seemed kind of hesitant to get into the songs, but this year he was singing his heart out. πŸ™‚


At the end of the program, Santa appeared! We avoided Santa all month because Caden didn’t want to see him, but he went fairly willingly that day.


Then Shepard, who was scared to death of Santa last year, was all smiles and giggles.


One thing I totally slacked on this year was baking. I usually spend the entire month baking! Sewing has definitely changed my life in that regard. Finally, because I decided to make SOMETHING, I decided on three simple cookies. Shepard was my helper.


On the 20th, my best friend Dianne and her boyfriend Jack were in town for one night. She lives in DC, so I don’t get to see her very often, even though we talk almost daily. It was so nice to go on a nice date together downtown.


I love our annual Christmas dates in downtown Madison.
The 21st is my dad’s birthday, though we weren’t able to see him. Being a Fedex driver around Christmas is bad enough, but when your birthday is right around then too you’re too busy working to enjoy much. Shepard and I did make him some chocolate peanut butter cookies, though.
And finally, we had our first huge extended family Christmas party on the 21st. I didn’t take many pictures because it was super loud and chaotic, but we all had a nice time. Santa showed up there too and brought the boys each a change counting bank. A great idea, though it’s now made my children obsessed with money and given them yet another reason to fight, fight, fight. That seems to be all they ever do anymore. πŸ™
Anyway – that was December! It was quick! Christmas overview coming up next…





As this month of thankfulness nears its end, I wanted to take some time to focus on the people and things that I am most grateful for in my life.



I don’t know where I would be today without Greg’s unconditional love and support in our relationship. We’ve almost been together for half of our lives now, which always feels like such a blessing. Not many couples are able to go through so many growing phases together, and I’m so glad we got to be one of them. While marriage (and parenting!) can be tough at times, I know that Greg is by my side and going through it too. He’s the only one that can completely understand me and I love him for it. I am also thankful that Greg is a very hard worker and an amazing provider, allowing me to stay home for our boys’ early years. He’s also an incredible dad – better than I ever could have imagined. He is much more patient than me, much more rational, and he is always able to make me laugh.Β  I am so blessed to have Greg as my husband.



Oh, Caden. Though my relationship with him has been put through more trials than I can count over the years, especially most recently, I cannot imagine my life without him. He can be so sweet sometimes. He truly has a good heart and is only looking for confirmation of our love returned to him. He is incredibly smart – we’ve been told that so many times by people and of course seen it on our own too. I’m excited to see what his future holds and which direction he’ll take. Caden is also creative and generous. He loves to make gifts for other people, he loves helping me in the kitchen, and he shows interest in absolutely everything Greg and I ever do. He wants to be just like his Daddy with their love for video games, and he’s also excited to learn how to sew and bake with me. He never wants to be alone, which is very trying at times, but it’s better than having a child who wants nothing to do with us. Caden is a good big brother and as he starts to gain more confidence in himself, he’s becoming a good friend too. I love Caden so much and I am glad to have him as my first born son.


Β Shepard

Shepard is by far the burst of sunshine in my life. He keeps me laughing and reminds me how much fun simply being alive can be. While Greg, Caden, and I are very reserved in our expressions and emotions, Shepard is a refreshing breath of fresh air with his constant exclamations and joy. I can’t even tell you how many times a day he begins a sentence with “I love.” “I love snow, mom! I love these boots! I love this movie! I love Elmo!” It’s adorable, sweet, and kind of hilarious.Β  Shepard may only be two, but he’s open and affectionate in ways I never saw from Caden. He’s not perfect, believe me, but he brings so much happiness to everyone who knows him. I am thankful every day that I didn’t get that daughter I longed for and was instead blessed with this beautiful and entertaining little boy.


I am so thankful to live near and have such support from my parents and in-laws. It’s wonderful to know that they’re here for me, but even more great to know that they’re here for the boys. Grandparent relationships were a huge part of mine and Greg’s childhoods and I’m so glad that my children get to experience that too. It’s kind of nice that because they’re the only grandchildren on each side they get even extra attention (though I do REALLY hope they get cousins someday!). But back to our parents. They have taught us how to work hard and love deeply. They’ve taught us the importance of family above all else. And they’ve raised us to the be people we are to be and I am so grateful for them.


I am grateful for my brothers and sisters-in-law. Though distance now separates most of us, we will always have a shared past and common bond. I don’t always appreciate the relationships with my siblings the way that I should, but I’m still happy that they exist. I’m also thrilled that they love my children and take their roles as aunts and uncles seriously. It kind of helps that once again, they’re the only kids around, so they get a lot of extra love and attention. Caden and Shepard are always SO excited to see their aunts and uncles. I am so thankful that they are in our lives and I’m excited to spend extra time with most of them in the upcoming month.


Friendships are pretty hard for me, which makes my existing ones so much more important. I am particularly thankful for my best friend Dianne, who has been by my side since kindergarten. We haven’t lived by each other in years, but we talk on a daily basis and I don’t know what I would do without her. I’m also incredibly thankful for my friend Liz. We met at my wedding rehearsal when she accompanied the best man and stood in as my maid of honor for the rehearsed ceremony. We seemed to bond instantly and now that we live near each other again, we talk often and try to see each other when we can. Like I said before, it’s really hard for me to open up to people and develop actual friendships, but when it comes easy for me I know that I’ve gained a friend for life.


McKenna is my goddaughter and daughter of my longtime friend, Dana. Though I’ve only seen McKenna a handful of times in her year of life, I think of her often. Dana knew how much I wanted a daughter and that I’m never going to have one, so she gave me the gift of a goddaughter instead. I hope that as McKenna gets older we can develop a lasting bond and I’ll become as important to her as she currently is to me. I’m so thankful for her.


Heartstring Annie

I began Heartstring Annie a mere seven months ago, but it has given me a sense of worth that I didn’t even realize I so badly needed. I’ve always been a creative person, which has been expressed through various mediums throughout my life. I feel like I’ve finally found a passion that will last, though. I love making dolls and bears and bags. I feel so accomplished when I can turn a pile of fabric into something adorable, useful, and appreciated. This business has also given me a source of independence from the rest of my life, allowing me to be an individual instead of just a tired and run down mommy.Β  As I wade my way through the world of other primitive sewers and buyers, I’m developing friendships and building dreams for what I want to do in the future. Something that has been missing in my life since I had kids and refused to ever think of what would come next because the emptiness terrified me. Though my housework has seriously suffered since I began, I am so so grateful to have Heartstring Annie in my life.

I am blessed. πŸ™‚

Happy Thanksgiving!



I’ve had a lot going through my mind the last few weeks and I’m to the point where I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t get some of it out, even if nobody reads this or nobody cares.

Life has been HARD lately. Very hard. We have been having some major difficulties with Caden and I feel like it’s tearing us all apart. I’m on the fence about if I should keep these battles private or if I should share them and perhaps find some support in other people that might be going through the same battles. The problem is that I feel like when I do start to share, the majority of people think I must be exaggerating or start to attack me for daring to say something negative about my child. People don’t believe me and I think that’s one of the hardest things to deal with.

The truth is, Caden has become a very angry and very violent child. He’s not like this at school, he’s not usually like this around strangers or extended family. But at home? It’s a completely different story. Caden hits, kicks, pinches, spits, bites, and throws things at me on a daily basis. Usually many, many, MANY times a day.  He does the same to Greg and the worst part – he does the same to Shepard. The other day Caden was hitting me with an umbrella. His newest thing is throwing objects at me, most often – kitchen chairs. He’s five years old. And he’s throwing kitchen chairs at me. I am devastated by what this is putting everybody through and I’m terrified of what he’s going to be like when he’s older if he continues on this path.

We shared some of our concerns with Caden’s pediatrician last month and she strongly suggested we start seeing a therapist to help Caden deal with his anger. For the last few weeks we’ve been going to a therapist now and though she seems to have some great ideas, Caden’s behavior has amplified considerably with the changes we’ve made. It’s getting harder and harder to see the good things in him when he spends so much of his day screaming at and attacking me. I feel very hopeless and very alone.

I love Caden and I always will. But we’ve had so many emotional struggles during his short life. We’ve struggled – and still struggle with – his speech apraxia and inability to be understood by most people, at least the first and second time he repeats himself. I know he must be hurting too in ways I probably can’t understand. He’s frustrated and feels like the only time he can let that go is in the safety of his own home. But…he’s hurting us. Physically, emotionally, deeply. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. 

Halloween Fun

Happy Halloween! Once again I planned on writing a bunch of smaller posts this week, but it’s been crazy busy and I’m once again doing a gigantic post. Sorry! Anyway – we started our Halloween fun off last weekend when the boys had a sleepover at grandma’s. Caden harvested his sunflower into a smiley face.


On Saturday morning a large group of us went to Waldvogel’s, a local farm filled with fall activities.


Getting tall!

On the “train.” It was FREEZING and so windy.


Shepard has hit the age where he does a lot more fake smiles than real ones. So sad. πŸ™


The gigantic tunnel slide.









Sweet little baby goat. I want to keep him.

The boys opted for cupcakes this trip. And then threw fits that they couldn’t get caramel apples after their cupcakes.


Sunday afternoon was trick-or-treating. We stopped at Grandma’s house first for treats.



Finally ready! These costumes were almost the death of me. I spent every single minute one entire weekend working on them – plus a few afternoons. I guess they turned out pretty well, though, except for the hem on Caden’s pants!




I like how even Juno has a cheesy smile in this picture.


The poor pig and bumblebee had to stay inside.


Trick or treating! The boys did really well. I was a little nervous when at the first house the lady gave Caden candy first and then Shepard yelled, “Give me candy too!”



Door to door service.



Their loot! And more fake smiles. I don’t think Shepard had a real smile all night. He seemed really tired and bothered by his mustache and went through everything in kind of a daze.


Loading up the bags again. Caden counted later and they had 193 pieces of candy.


On Monday night we finally got around to carving pumpkins. Caden was so proud of the face he colored on ahead of time.


And then Daddy sliced right through the face and by the time he was cutting he wore all the marker off!


They were not very enthusiastic about digging the guts out!


Caden very delicately scooped a couple of seeds out and then spent the rest of the time bossing us around to make sure we got all of them.


Scooping away.img_0682-pumpkin-family




It was a really nice night in the midst of a pretty difficult week.


Last night we had our official Halloween party, which I guess is now an annual tradition! Last year I didn’t make a ton of food and I went way overboard this year. It was great, though. Above is a chocolate graveyard dip I made to go with fruit.


Monster fingers. Or gorilla fingers.


Pumpkin seeds.


Frozen banana ghosts.


This was my favorite scary thing – eyeball punch! It was super easy too. Just buy a can of lychees, stuff them with blueberries and freeze. The punch itself is just a mix of 7up and Hawaiian Punch.



Spiderweb dips my mom made.


Dirt and worm cupcakes my mom made.


Witch hats and broomsticks my mom made.


Pizza bread snake. This was my favorite thing to eat! It was pizza dough combined with diced pepperoni, green peppers, garlic, and parmesan cheese and then stuffed with a ring of mozzarella cheese. So delicious.


Mummy hot dogs.


After we all stuffed ourselves, we built the Halloween puzzle together.


That’s a lot of people putting together a 100 piece puzzle!


And that’s it! It was a great Halloween!