Shepard’s 4th Birthday!


On Wednesday, my baby turned four! It’s hard to believe four entire years have passed since this little guy has come into our lives. Though I really can’t remember a time without him. He brings so much laughter and joy to our family with his silliness and never-ending energy.

His birthday itself didn’t turn out to be super exciting, but I think he was okay with that. I had an unexpected emergency medical procedure done last Saturday that pretty much rendered me useless this entire week. It was very frustrating to want to do so many things and not be able to accomplish practically anything. πŸ™ At any rate, I did make a special chocolate peanut butter banana bread for his breakfast, which he thoroughly enjoyed. And then he was off to school with his special birthday treat of homemade mini donuts. He really wanted to bring pancakes, but I wasn’t sure how that would work. πŸ™‚


I think Caden was more excited about Shepard’s birthday then he was. Caden was bouncing off the walls and being incredibly obnoxious, trying to get Shepard to open all his presents first thing in the morning. I “let him” (couldn’t stop him) open his presents from Caden which were a big tractor sticker book and a game for his 2DS called Olaf’s Quest. He then spent pretty much the entire afternoon playing while I was napping/resting and Greg was working. Then later in the afternoon I recruited his help to make brownies and pizza dough. He definitely still loves to help bake!


After getting Caden, Shepard was able to open the rest of his gifts. This was a super bouncy ball that Caden also picked out.


For awhile there I was having a hard time coming up with gift ideas for Shepard since I really didn’t want to just get a bunch of toys for the sake of buying something. So I asked Greg for help and he picked out this bat and a matching glove and ball. Shepard loved it, but was really disappointed we couldn’t go outside and play with it yet in the below zero weather.


I gave Shepard a cookbook and his own recipe box. I figured since it’s the only thing I really have in common with either of my kids I better nurture that interest before it disappears!


He also got an activity watch that is supposed to promote more physical activity. Though I’m not sure why he needs it when he spends every minute of the day bouncing back and forth between the couches and doing flips and somersaults everywhere he goes. Caden, being the technology OBSESSED kid that he is, had a hard time letting this toy get out of his sight.


Shepard requested pepperoni pizza for his birthday dinner. Of course he refused to take a nice picture with it. Apparently four is the age you stop wanting your picture taken because pretty much every slightly posed shot I tried to get he’d cover his face or run away.


After dinner they went back to the tub of kinetic sand. I was excited about this gift since Shepard points it out every time we go to Joann’s or Walmart and was sure it was something he’d actually like. He said it’s his favorite present, so I was happy!


And finally time for his birthday brownies! Shepard doesn’t particularly like cake, so I talked him into something different for his real birthday and his party this weekend. Makes my life a lot easier!!


One happy four year old! He’s been carrying this candle around for a week telling me how fun it is to look at. He was very excited to finally use it. πŸ™‚


Side note – he’s wearing underwear! It took four years, but he’s finally on his way to being potty trained. He won’t willingly go on his own, but he does wear underwear most of the time and once he starts dancing around uncontrollably we physically set him on the potty chair and he’ll go right away. So hopefully that means he’ll start going on his own free will sooner rather than later and we can finally be done with diapers!

Anyway, it turned out to be a very simple, but I think good birthday for him. I had to go to the doctor yesterday, so we tried to make it kind of a continued birthday celebration and took him out to lunch, just the three of us. That kind of made up for what I wasn’t able to do on Wednesday. Now we’re just looking forward to his family party on Sunday! More photos on that to come. πŸ™‚


15 Years and Other Ramblings


Last Saturday Greg and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary of being together. Do most people still celebrate the date they met and were sort of together forever after? Probably not, but January 17th was such a big date to us in the six years we were a couple before getting marriage that we didn’t want to let it go. In many ways this anniversary has always felt a little more special to me than our wedding anniversary because it marks such a major change in my life. Plus it’s always a lot more fun to celebrate in the middle of January when nothing else is going on rather than the end of May during Memorial weekend and the end days of school when we’re too busy to focus on our special date.

At any rate, we’ve officially been together for half of our lives. Crazy! I barely remember life before that. It’s always amazed me that the thing that most attracted me to Greg when we first met was how well he interacted with a child. We were working at a fundraiser together and while we were sitting there this little boy kept throwing a ball in our general direction. Every single time Greg would get up and throw it back to him, clearly enjoying himself. Who would have thought that hour in time would so clearly portray our future together. Greg is and has been an amazing dad from the second he became one. I feel so blessed that found each other that day and have been committed to each other ever since. I look forward to still celebrating this day fifty years from now. πŸ™‚

So. On to my “other ramblings.” I am SO fed up with my cpap machine and sleep in general. I used to love that moment every night when I was ready to put my kindle down and know that I’d fall asleep immediately and wake up at 5:00 feeling fully recharged. According to my doctor, at least, that great sleep I always thought I had at night was a lie. With the mild sleep apnea I was having over 40 “episodes” an hour of partially waking up, resulting in my extreme fatigue during the day. Since being on my machine I’ve been averaging about 1.4 per hour which is obviously a significant improvement. Then why does it now feel so hard to sleep?? Why do I wake up feeling so groggy and exhausted? While I’m used to this feeling the majority of the day, I never had it in the mornings.

I’m technically on a three month trial with the machine and am supposed to be putting my absolute best effort into using it so I’ll know beyond a doubt if it helped or not. In the past three weeks I feel like I’ve really tried but I’ve only totally slept through the night once in that time. I’ve been restless, had a hard time falling asleep, had a hard time staying asleep, and most nights I wake up around 2 or 3 and take it off because it feels like too much effort to try and fall back to sleep with it on. The last two nights have suddenly felt like the first few nights where it’s suffocating me and I’m going to die if I don’t take the mask off. The whole thing is just so frustrating!! But…on the other hand…while not actually feeling any better, I HAVE been a lot more active and productive during the day. I’ve been doing so much more, having more willpower, and pushing myself harder than I have in a long time. Is that the result of a better sleep quality, despite how awful it’s felt? I wish I knew. Clearly I’ll continue using it because I want to know if after three months I really do feel better or not. But I hate it. I dread bedtime so much knowing that my exhaustion will continue to fight me through the night with no relief in sight.


Mt. Olympus


For Christmas, my in-law’s gave Caden and Shepard a trip to the Dells for their big present. The boys both love swimming so much and everyone is always ready for a getaway in these long Wisconsin winters. So last Saturday the six of us headed to Mt. Olympus for two days of fun!


One of the coolest parts of Mt. Olympus is their indoor theme park. Granted it was nothing magnificent, but it had more than enough to entertain us for awhile. It wasn’t crowded either, which was awesome. The boys were super excited to ride the bumper cars. I was the photographer because bumper cars only look like the perfect way to break my back to me!


These also had a small indoor go-kart track. Go-kart racing is something they always want to do at Little Americka, but they’re not tall enough, so it was fun they finally had a chance to ride here.



After lunch at Sprecher’s, some time in the arcade for the boys, a stop at the craft mall for the girls, we were able to check into our rooms. Shepard was SO excited. They both kept running around the room yelling, “I love this place!”


We spent about an hour in the waterpark area – sorry, no photos. It was really crowded and so loud. We managed a few slides, some time in the regular pool, and Caden even got to go in the hot tub for ages six and up.


And not surprisingly, the arcade was the favorite place to be. They spent most of their arcade money (thanks, grandma and grandpa!) on these water racing games.


Saturday night Greg, Cindy, Shepard, and I went back to the theme park to ride the balloon rides. They look so innocent from the ground, but were really kind of terrifying!



I laughed for like ten minutes when I saw this picture! Shepard seemed to love the ride, but Cindy and I were recovering from it the rest of the night!

On Saturday night we had a snack picnic in our room, which was lots of fun. Then Saturday morning the girls went to the local Denny’s Diner to get their “famous cinnamon rolls” for breakfast. We then went back to the theme park and water park, had lunch at Famous Dave’s, and headed home. It was a great chance to get away from it all and have some fun!


Welcome Back

Well, guys. It’s been awhile. I pretty much gave up blogging this past year. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I was just way too busy trying to make Heartstring Annie a success. There are only so many quiet hours a night to get something done and sewing always won out. And overall, I think it was mostly worth it. Until I began feeling incredibly burnt out, too tired for anything, and basically just very unhappy. These last four months especially, since school started, have been really rough for me. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my long lost blog for a few weeks now and decided it was worth giving it another shot. Mostly just for my own cathartic purposes, not really for the entertainment of others. Unless you’re interested of course, then have at it. πŸ™‚ 

My relationship with Caden hasn’t changed much. I went through some major sadness over him starting kindergarten. Not so much because I was going to miss him. But because I felt like my time to truly mother him was over and I failed. Completely. I tried to cheer myself up with the fact that at least since we’re not with each other every minute of the day anymore, maybe the time we do spend together will be worth more. We’ll connect better. And…it’s not happening. He’s so crabby after school. The only thing he wants from me is a snack and to leave him alone to watch tv or play (fight) with Shepard. He doesn’t want to answer any of my questions, he has no interest in actually doing anything with me. And once Greg gets home I may as well be invisible. So things are rough. I can’t decide if it’s just because he’s overly tired or what, but he’s so upset about everything all the time. It worries me so much that he’s six years old and his overruling emotion seems to be anger. It scares me how much I look at him and see myself. But myself NOW. Just like me he feels everything so deeply, expresses himself out of anger without thinking, and seems to deeply regret it, but not know how to deal with that other than self loathing. Which only turns into more anger directed at everyone else. I feel like I ruined him not only because I failed at being a good mom, I also managed to pass on all my bad mental attitudes. I love him, but he makes it so hard some days.

And Shepard. My ray of sunshine – most of the time. He’s developed quite a bit of his own attitude these past few months. He is about the most stubborn child on earth when he sets his mind against doing something. Of course it’s always at the worst possible moments too. For example this morning, while we were running late for school, he decided that he absolutely was not going to get his winter clothes on by himself. He always manages to find the worst times to throw these stubborn fits. But the rest of the time he’s still a pretty happy little guy. Whereas Caden has so much of my personality, Shepard has so much of Greg’s. Both such comedians. Usually very easygoing and happy. My favorite thing about Shepard, which I’m trying so hard to always see as a good thing, is how helpful he wants to be. Especially in the kitchen. He wants to help me with EVERYTHING. Literally, everything. And even though it takes a lot longer, it’s always a whole lot messier, I let him help. His desire to be by my side will probably not last long and I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Things with me personally have not been that great. Like I said before, I started getting very burnt out this fall. I pretty much gave up on sewing and trying to keep up with Heartstring Annie in the way I wanted. My biggest problem has been total exhaustion. I am so tired every day that I cannot function through the afternoon without a nap. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve had a nap every afternoon for a year and a half now. And I’m still dead tired, no motivation to do anything, pretty much ever. I finally decided to do something about it in October and went to see a doctor. She did a huge number of blood tests and everything came back looking normal. Which lead to me a sleep study – one of the worst nights of my life. The sleep study revealed that I have very mild sleep apnea, but I didn’t qualify for a cpap machine so I better just get used to feeling this way. Which was pretty devastating news since I was already at my rope’s end. But a few weeks later my doctor pulled through and managed to convince the insurance company to give me a three month trial with a cpap machine. I was so excited – until I tried it. It’s been a week and a half now and though it’s getting easier, it’s definitely not easy. The first few days I felt like it was trying to kill me. Forcing air into me with no way to let the air out, essentially drowning me. At least that’s how it’s felt. Finally in the last couple of days I’ve been able to keep it in most of the night, but I wake up so often. I feel more tired than ever and have little hope it’ll ever actually make me feel better.

I feel like the lack of energy is making all my other problems feel so much worse than they are. But…it’s been a very trying couple of months. I’m usually okay most days. But I have other days that feel like such a battle just to get through them in one piece. This is such a lonely season of life. I’m alone almost all the time. I mean, I have Shepard with me all but the four hours a week he’s in preschool. But he’s three. Greg gets home at night and spends every minute with the boys until they go to bed and then just wants a break by himself. Which is totally understandable. He’s an amazing dad, but every night I end up feeling like such an outsider. The three of them are all so obsessed with video games and legos and there just doesn’t seem to be a place for me, other than the provider of meals. This school year has also opened up a lot of new friendships for me and while I totally appreciate that I have them, I also feel like it’s almost worse because these people have been placed in my life but I can never really see them. I’m struggling to figure out how friendship truly works without more than a two minute conversation a day. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I just can’t figure out how to hang out and connect with people because everyone is so busy with their own families. And while I obviously have a family too, I’m NOT busy. I’m never busy! I spend pretty much every night in my room reading or watching tv wishing I could at least occasionally go out to dinner with somebody the way life used to be before everyone had kids. I’m available almost every weekend wishing I could invite somebody to something – anything! – but sure that everyone else is surely too busy for me, for the kind of friendship I miss so much. So in the end I try to make do by getting out on my own. It helps me preserve my sanity, but obviously doesn’t fill the gap of friendship.

Anyway, that’s where I am in life right now. It sounds really depressing! But I’m trying to make things better. Getting that cpap machine was my first step. With better quality sleep I will hopefully have a foundation for everything else. I have a lot of other minor steps I’m starting to take to get control of my life again too. I’m sewing again and actually enjoying it. I’m hoping to get the business going at a pretty good speed, but without pushing myself too far. I’ve also been pouring over new cookbooks and blogs trying to find different foods and recipes that make me actually excited to get in the kitchen three times a day. I want the meals I prepare to be fun and a blessing instead of stressful and burdensome. And finally I’m trying to just be aware of what I need and when I need it. Taking more time and effort to actually connect with the people in my life instead of always hiding inside myself. Not sewing at all for a day if I don’t honestly feel the desire to do so. At any rate…it’s a start. I’m hoping 2015 will be a whole lot better than the last year.

Mother’s Day 2014


I thought I’d share the best of my Mother’s Day pictures from the other day. It turned out to be a really relaxing and wonderful day. My boys gave me breakfast in bed – a gigantic donut I bought at the farmer’s market on Saturday. Then they gave me two little Willow Tree boy figurines. And then they left me alone for a few hours so I could read!


We stopped at the park for awhile to try and get some nice mother sons pictures. I was really happy Caden was so cooperative this year! He doesn’t usually put up with posed photo shoots too well.








“Planting a tree.”


Side note – things have gotten SO much better with Caden in the last few months. He seems so much happier than he used to be. I love it.

Next we headed to Greg’s parents’ for Mother’s Day brunch. Caden immediately had to go check out the gardens. He’s kind of obsessed. I’m glad somebody in our house will hopefully be able to take care of our plants this year, though! I’m so terrible with gardening.

Caden is tasting chive bulbs. Chives are like his favorite thing EVER.


It was actually relatively warm out, especially in the sun, so Grandpa set up a brand new slip and slide for the boys.

They couldn’t really figure out what to do with it, but Caden eventually caught on to the sliding part. Shepard just ran through the sprinkler sprays.








Mom picture before present opening.


Noe women pictures.


Caden and Shepard gave me a giant almond scented bar of soap. Which they immediately had to rub all over themselves.



They were so proud of the pictures they drew for the grandmas.


We gave Grandma a Lisa Leonard “My Wildflowers” necklace. I got one for myself for Easter and it’s my current favorite.


He’s fascinated.


We also made some hand print embroidery pictures for both grandmas.



And an Andy from Greg.


Shepard watching the neighbor’s dog play while eating his fruit snacks. And still wearing diapers – 3 years and 3 months old and still has ZERO interest in potty training. Hopefully this summer….


Caden talked Grandma into planting a bunch of herbs and flowers, even though she was supposed to be taking a day off!


Gardening. And Greg having fun playing with my new camera. I haven’t even had much time to play around with it yet, but Greg was trying to find ways to be more creative.

Mother and children pictures, without Sarah.

Ah, this is the Caden photo poser I know so well.


In the afternoon we headed over to my parents’. Caden was super excited to give Grandma cards and presents.



This dog cracks me up every time I look at her.


Mother daughter picture.


Mother and children, without Timmy. Right after these pictures a gigantic thunderstorm rolled through. It didn’t last long, but it was big!


My dad, the master griller, made me some hot wings so I’d have something for dinner that I liked. They were SO good. So good that Greg said we could take the grill out this summer so I can make something similar.


Best buds. πŸ™‚ They’re watching the rain. The rest of the night I spent reading, the boys played outside with Grandpa, and Greg and Tyler did math (again). Overall it was a really great day. Happy Mother’s Day!


Easter Weekend


Happy Belated Easter! It’s been over two months since I last wrote – yikes! Things have definitely been busy lately and the blog has fallen to the wayside. I’d like to occasionally do some updates on here, though it’s not as high of a priority anymore. There are just too many other things to worry about first. At any rate, here is a recap of our Easter weekend!


On Saturday we began our day at the Culver’s Egg Hunt. We didn’t know what to expect, and it was pretty crazy! Just WAY too many kids in way too small of an area. The entire hunt lasted about two minutes.

They only had a few plastic eggs, but lots of little chocolate eggs so I think everyone went home happy.


We didn’t think to bring a bag or basket, so Shepard filled my pocket.


Back at home counting their eggs.


In the afternoon we went to the Fireman’s Park Egg Hunt. The available grandparents and uncle joined us there to watch the fun. The boys were really excited!


We even saw the Easter Bunny.


Caden had Shepard convinced that when the siren went off it was going to be super loud.

Waiting, waiting.


We were standing at the opposite side of the crowd so we definitely had our choice of eggs!

Checking out what was in the eggs. A lot of cheap candy, and tickets for three hula hoops, and passes for three free games of bowling. Not bad.


Back at home for our 4th Annual Egg Dyeing Party. These are the desserts I made. Homemade peanut butter eggs, oreo truffle eggs, and bird nests.


Starting to decorate. This year wasn’t quite so competitive with four of the five aunts and uncle unable to come back for Easter. The boys were having a great time, though!


We thought we had way too many eggs, but the boys were fighting over the remaining ones by the end.


Shepard was the speed dyer. I think he made 36 eggs, leaving them in only for a few seconds at a time.


Caden was dyeing as many eggs as possible at a time, but left them in as long as he could stand.


I made baked brie with cranberries and bacon for an appetizer. We ordered Chinese for an easy dinner.


My mom made some egg cookies.


Caden and Shepard started out the pecking contest. Shepard really had no idea what was going on, but Caden was really into it.


He was more interested in his new hula hoops.


The eggs! Most of those are Shepard’s.


Grandma and Caden about to battle. Caden loved it when he was winning and was very upset when he didn’t. He’s quite the sore loser and was so sure everyone was doing it to him on purpose! Later he was still complaining about it and how “I’m just a little boy!”


Shepard against Grandma.


Shepard against me. That’s it for Saturday – it was a fun day!


Easter morning! The Easter Bunny couldn’t fit everything in the regular baskets so he had to make a separate basket of treats for the table. I forgot to take a picture of our actual breakfast, but we had crumb cake, bacon, and strawberries with sugar.


The boys got up at six. They were supposed to stay in their rooms until 6:45, but they kept sneaking out earlier. I finally forced Greg to just get up so we wouldn’t have to rush so much to get everything done before church.


Shepard, who has been overly amused by so many things lately, thought finding an egg in a shoe was hilarious.


Checking out their first few eggs.


The Noe boy knee sit. I see this a lot.


A lot of the eggs had marbles, which they immediately had to add to their marble drawer.


They found my basket first. I had lots of books, yummy candy, a Lisa Leonard necklace, and a bunny I bought in Santa Monica.


They found Shepard’s basket next, though Caden wouldn’t stop digging through it.




Cat basket next.



I finally gave Caden a very strong hint where he might find his basket so he’d leave Shepard’s alone.


They each got robots, which I think have been the biggest hit.


Finally found Greg’s basket.


He got a Lego Computer Programmer Minifig. I think he was offended by how geaky the lego guy looked.


Next we ate breakfast and went to church. Then to Grandma Noe’s house for our first (second?) Easter celebration.


Always doing silly pictures now. I miss his super cute happy smiling picture face!


I really wanted a nice family picture, but I guess it was too sunny. Shepard didn’t have a smile in any of the pictures.



Greg’s uncle, cousin, and his son joined the family for Easter. Our boys were so happy to play with their three year old cousin, Jeremiah. Oh yeah – they’re now wearing swimsuits because Grandma gave them each a set and they were SO excited. Caden has been talking nonstop to anyone who will listen how he has a swimsuit SHIRT now and he’s never had one before and he wants to go swimming right away.


Checking out their eggs after another egg hunt!


The kids table. Funny stuff.



Easter desserts! I LOVE that strawberry pie.



Notice the grass is GREEN, nobody is wearing a coat, and we ate dessert outside! It was the first truly nice day this year. The perfect day for it!


In the afternoon we went over to my parents’ for our next Easter celebration. We spent most of the time outside there as well.


Trying out his new chalk pencil and eraser.




They had to spend most of the time working on Tyler’s math homework. Lame!


Shepard was pretty tired and having a lot of meltdowns by this point, but he was happy to get some more candy.


Pip was so tired. Such a funny looking dog.


I’m not really sure what was going on in here, but everyone was laughing pretty hard!

So that was Easter! Lots of egg hunts, lots of Easter baskets, and lots of fun!


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!