How I’m (Trying to) Survive Self Isolation (for now)

I’m going to jump right into this. You know what’s going on. And it sucks. Big time. Our family decided to start self isolating nine days ago now, on the night of Friday the 13th when they first announced school closures. We’ve had extremely limited contact with anyone since then. Greg took two very fast trips to the grocery store with a wipe in his hand for everything he touched. We’ve been to the dog park twice without touching any surfaces. We picked up school supplies on Tuesday in a drive thru. Shepard had very brief contact with some neighbor kids earlier in the week. And that’s it. It’s just us, at home, like so much of the world right now.

Also like much of the world, I feel like I’ve been on a ridiculous emotional rollercoaster this past week. The first few days were REALLY HARD. I was already really struggling after months of at least one extra family member being home for most of the week, week after week, because of random illnesses or bad weather. My routine hasn’t been “normal” since November. And my mental health has not been good. I’ve been working with a therapist to come up with ways to take care of myself and most of those solutions entailed leaving the house by myself. And then…this happened. I was not mentally healthy enough yet to deal with everyone home all the time with no place to go. I’m not handling it every well. But I’m trying.

After two weekends with a week in between, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good plan to survive this. To be totally honest, MY life hasn’t really changed that much since I work at home anyway. My social life was pretty limited to 1-2 gatherings a month, so it sucks not to have that anymore, but it’s also not a huge change. I just can’t ESCAPE. I can’t go shopping. I can’t go out to eat. I can’t go on two (probably three, maybe four) trips I had planned in the next few months. I realize that so many other people have had to cancel and postpone much more monumental events. I’m not trying to compete with that. It sucks for EVERYONE. But considering this isolation period will probably last weeks – most likely months – I need to have a concrete list of ways I can fight back to find the good in all of this. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Follow a Schedule

My kids think this is the worst thing in the entire world. But after the first few days of working out the kinks last week, it made all of our lives SO much better. We all do better with knowing expectations, having boundaries, and following the same routine day in and day out. My initial schedule was a bit too rigid, but we reworked some of the time blocks so the boys have about an equal amount each day of screen time, “learning” time, free outdoor play time, family walk time, and quiet reading and art time. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that learning time has been the most difficult. They will have real school lessons starting up in a week, so I’m sure we’ll need to adjust things again depending on how many hours their teachers expect them to be present. But I think this is the best way for all of us to survive. I can really vouch for that after having a “normal” weekend of basically unlimited screen time and me feeling totally overwhelmed and sad and trapped again. I didn’t feel quite so helpless when we were following the schedule during the week.

Walking as Much as Possible

We have two daily walks on our schedule every day. And for the most part we’ve followed those, though we did have a lot of both rain and snow this past week. Greg and I have also gone on occasional walks alone when one of us needs to get out of here. Annie is getting a lot of exercise! Everyone always says that exercise is the best way to reduce stress and I’ve never craved that outlet as much as I have this past week. Today we even changed things up by hiking around a (deserted) county park. The boys were NOT happy with it (less screen time), but it made me feel a lot better to do something a bit more rigorous and in a new setting.

Writing A LOT

Though I’ve been very quiet on the blog, I have been writing a lot in other places. Mostly I’ve been keeping up an ongoing daily log of the changes that are happening in the world and how our family is dealing with it all. Just a private space that only I’ll ever see where I can vent out everything in my head. I’ve also been writing in an actual journal every morning and adding a list of ten things I’m thankful for, trying to get in the right headspace for the day. And most nights I write some sort of public instagram post about how that particular day has gone, which helps me feel like I’m being heard and connects me to other people with my honesty.

Quiet Time

During my normal life, during the school year, I take a nap almost every afternoon. I always feel like I need to justify that fact with a reminder that I get up at 4AM EVERY DAY. And this past week? I’ve barely been sleeping at all. I’m allowed to take a nap! I know for an absolute fact that I will not survive this isolation period if I can’t also isolate MYSELF for a chunk of time every day. I’m also trying to enforce individual quiet times for the boys too, even though they keep wanting to sneak into each other rooms. They fight nonstop, but also can’t seem to stay away from each other. The boys have a 1.5 hour time block in their rooms for reading and art followed by 1.5 hours of screen time. So that gives me THREE hours to myself every afternoon. It will be my lifesaver.

Make Big Meals

This is maybe the most stressful part for me. The expectation of needing to feed four people three meals a day, while also monitoring all their snacks, for an indefinite amount of time in the future. Also – THE DISHES for all those meals. It’s so much mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to use up the most perishable food first at every meal so we’re not wasting anything and prolonging trips to the store for as long as possible. My only real solution to this is that whenever I do make a new meal, make it as large as possible so it’ll last at least two or three more meals in leftovers. I was very overwhelmed by this last weekend, but it’s becoming more of an enjoyable puzzle each day, getting creative with the food we have on hand. Though I do really miss running to the stores for random ingredients for special recipes. My plan right now is simple and big.

Sprinkle in Some Take Out

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at the start, but I’ve done some more research on how unlikely it is to catch coronavirus from having a no contact delivery food experience. It feels like a safe option. It’s also a huge morale booster. And it helps support our local small town restaurants for as long as they’re open. So far we’ve gotten a pizza and Mexican food. As long as they’re open we’ll probably continue to order about twice a week.

Being Creative

Lucky for me, being creative is my job. At first I considered closing my etsy shop all together for the time being because I was worried it would be too much added pressure. Now I’m realizing it might be the absolute best option for keeping myself sane. I’m mostly just sewing during the boys’ learning time, so we’re all doing something productive at the same time. But I’ve spent a few nights doing it as well. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to produce a certain number of dolls a week or anything, I’m just using the creativity to keep me happy. I’m also looking forward to trying some other craft projects I always put on the back burner and maybe even picking up one of the many coloring books I have, but never actually use.

Talking to a Therapist

I really picked a good year to start up online therapy! Yikes. I mentioned this a few posts ago, how I signed up for therapy through the company BetterHelp. I connected really well with the therapist they assigned me and it’s been such a positive experience so far. It’s so nice knowing I have that impartial person to talk through all of this with. She’s helping me problem solve a lot of the issues that have popped up. And she’s really helping me deal with how much anger I’ve had at certain people for not taking everything seriously. I know it probably feels like a frivolous expense in such uncertain times. But if you’re really having a hard time, I think it’s worth it, even if you only sign up for a few weeks or a month. With daily conversations it could really do a world of good to change your perspective.

Meditation

To be honest, I’m not so great at this. But I’m also on day 47 of a meditation streak using the Calm app, so I’m not giving it up. I still have a very hard time concentrating, but I’m committed to the effort. I like this app in particular because there’s a new 10ish minute meditation every single day, so I never have to think about what I want to do, I just sit down and do it.

Drink Tea

I am trying to train my brain to see tea as an ultimate form of comfort and self care. It’s fast and easy to make, it’s cheap, it forces you to slow down for a few minutes, and once you find a few kinds you like, it’s really quite delicious (and calorie free!). I try to drink at least four cups a day and it’s my go to every time I need a little warmth and comfort.

Reading

This one is NOT going so well. It’s been so hard to concentrate. But I’ll never give up on reading! It’s been more frustrating that I don’t seem to be connecting with most of the books I pick up. I’m dnf-ing quite a few. But then a book comes along that I like and it’s a great distraction. I’m hoping as we all settle into this new normal reading will once again become the great joy it’s always been to me. In the meantime, I might just keep rereading all of my favorites because they’re a surefire way to bring me hapiness.

Connect with Other People

I’m going back and forth on social media lately. On one hand, it seems like so many more people are connecting on deeper levels since this all began. Everyone has more time to read and write more honest posts and support for each other has been a lot more prevalent. But I’ve also had days this week where it felt like other people’s comments were being directed at me which I took very personally and kind of lost it. I don’t handle my feelings being invalidated very well. Even if it wasn’t intended to poke at me, I certainly felt like it was. I’ve also been getting incredibly angry at people who are continuing to live their lives the way they always have and taking unnecessary risks. But for the most part it’s been a positive space lately. I’m also trying to stay in contact with my friends. And of course family.

Celebrate the Things You’d Normally Celebrate (and maybe a little more)

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, but it really got lost in the midst of all the chaos this year. Fortunately I had already picked up my box of Lucky Charms, so the leprechauns were able to make their annual trek to leave it out for breakfast. And I made an effort to make a festive dinner that night. Tomorrow is Annie’s 5th birthday and Caden’s 11.5 birthday (we’re big on half birthdays around here). I’m making chicken tacos at Caden’s request and will come up with some sort of dessert for him. I’ll probably try to find some kind of dog treat cake to make Annie as well and we’re planning a trip to the dog park to celebrate. I’ve been buying things online so I’m fully prepared for all our normal Easter festivities, minus the time with extra family. And I’ve been trying to put together a nice selection of gifts to send my sister-in-law whose bridal shower is (I assume) definitely not going to be happening in a few weeks as planned. Even though life is totally crazy right now, I’m trying to remember to celebrate all the things I’d normally celebrate while also making an effort to help other people celebrate as well. We could all use a little more cheer to get through these hard times.

Lower all Expectations

I hope it’s obvious from my list that while I’m trying to find many ways to bring joy and normalcy to our life right now, my expectations are still quite low. Caden is really struggling with the indefiniteness of everything being so uprooted in his life. Shepard, as the most social of us (by far!), is really struggling with not seeing his friends, especially all of those that are running around right outside our windows. Greg is probably struggling working in such a distracting environment and not being able to leave the house for a job he enjoys. I’m struggling with the constant noise, constant arguing, constant need to prepare, make, and clean up after meals. The messes that are never full cleaned up, the enormous piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the inability to do any of the things I really love doing that nurture my soul, and the disappointment of so many trips being cancelled. But I’m also enjoying how much longer and freeing my days feel, without any real plans or restrictions. I find myself actually WANTING to exercise and really enjoying every chance I get to walk around outside. I hope that if I continue to focus on the things I CAN control, I won’t be so overwhelmed by all the things I can’t. And that somehow, we will all come out of this devastating pandemic for the better.

Saturday Reflections 02.22.2020

I think I need to start writing more. My emotions around writing have been all over the place since early November when I went to that writing conference. I went from being totally committed, to feeling completely inadequate, to deciding writing doesn’t really fit into my current life goals, to circling back to the realization that I NEED to write. For ME. And I’m going to start showing up for this little corner of my world again because it feeds me in a way that nothing else can. So hello. I’m back.

The last few weeks have been really hard. The short of it is that winter is killing me. Whittling away at my soul by taking away my inability to spend time outside, making me feel cold and uncomfortable ALL THE TIME, to keeping all the gross sick germs circling around every building, to keeping my family members home SO MUCH OF THE TIME and equally losing their own souls. I’m over it. The last two weeks have been particularly hard on me because Caden was sick and then Greg caught it and was even sicker for even longer. The pressure was SO high for me to stay healthy so I could pull off Valentine’s Day as well as a week’s worth of birthday festivities for Shepard. I literally could not afford to get sick. And now today, when it’s finally all behind me, I expected to feel relieved and relaxed and excited. Instead I feel like my entire body is just shutting down. I’m so tired and irritable and sore and bleary. Can it just be spring already? Can I be whisked away on a solo vacation to properly recharge without all the constant responsibilities of home and work? February, I am so over you.

Valentine’s Day was actually a really great day. I bought the boys festive donuts for breakfast and then had an early morning therapy session before heading to a friend’s house for a coffee/cheese plate brunch. As much as I like my always open chat room with my therapist, I’m finding our weekly live sessions even more valuable. That alone put me in a pretty good place, but seeing my friends (and getting out of my house after Greg and Caden being sick the whole week!) really helped too. I made plenty of time that day to take care of myself with an afternoon nap and pockets of time throughout the night to read one of my favorite books.

I made a much larger cheese and chocolate plate for our dinner. It was a bit much for me after only eating cheese and chocolate all day already, but the boys think it’s just the coolest meal. Greg joined us at the end of the table, even though he was literally shaking because his fever had come back with a vengeance. Not a good week for him!!

On Saturday the extended family was in town, so we split our afternoon between families. (Greg stayed home.) The boys were having a blast playing with Hudson! I really enjoyed watching a 2 year old’s version of hide and seek! We had dinner with the in-law’s then, which was really nice as well.

We moved Shepard’s birthday party to my in-law’s house on Sunday morning since Greg was still feeling so awful on Friday night and we didn’t want to risk it. I have to say it was really nice not needing to prep a whole lot (lol)! I made french onion dip, Cindy had tons of fruit, my mom made veggie pizza and punch, and we ordered a bunch of pizza and boneless wings. I made Shepard a cookie dough ice cream cake that looked beautiful, but turned into a soupy mess by the time I cut the first piece. It was good, though!

This was the only selfie I got with Hudson this trip. He’s a pretty active toddler! Plus I can’t just grab him and force him to take a picture (in my defense he was HANDED TO ME for this one!) the way I could when he was a little baby!

The boys didn’t have school on Monday for Presidents Day. They basically just never have school on Mondays in January and February. It’s SO ANNOYING. Technically, I mean, they have had school. But at least one of them has also been sick every school Monday the last two months. Which is super frustrating to me since Monday is my favorite day of the week to run errands, get lunch out, and celebrate five days ahead of feeling some sanity and accomplishment. When I don’t have my Mondays, I get very grumpy. This Monday in particular was frustrating because we had plans to go to the Dells for Shepard’s birthday dinner at Moosejaw. Instead we had another six inches of snow pile up in the afternoon. Trapped again!

Shepard’s official 9th birthday was Tuesday! He wanted donuts for breakfast, so a cheap pack of mini donuts from Pick n Save that I picked up Monday right as the snow started was the best I could do. I made little edible cookie dough cups for his school treat.

We made a spontaneous decision to go to Moosejaw on Tuesday after Shepard opened his presents. In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest decision since it essentially meant spending most of the night in the car. Plus Caden was NOT happy about it and made sure we all knew it. Caden hasn’t been happy about any birthday things, no surprise. But the food was good and I think Shepard enjoyed it.

We had Shepard’s birthday brownies on Wednesday night.

On Thursday I ran a lot of errands, but also picked up two new plants and repotted some of my others. I’m so terrible at taking care of plants, but I really like having the live greenery around the house.

Yesterday I had morning therapy again and then met a friend for coffee. Then I threw about the lowest key birthday party I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to do a friend party. I thought we were over these. Shepard didn’t have one last year because we were in Florida, so it seemed a logical time to stop having them (he really didn’t like his the year before because it was too crazy and wild). But he took things into his own hands and invited people over, so…we had a party. I made tacos and a donut tower and the small group of kids mostly played Fortnite and laughed at their own boy jokes. I think he had a great time.

Today has kind of been a waste of a day. I did take care of a lot of lingering computer tasks I’ve been putting off for ages right when I woke up. I listed some dolls. And then I took Annie to the dog park for the first time in weeks. After making lunch I went upstairs and spent three hours reading/sleeping in bed! Greg took Annie for an hour and a half walk during that time, so she is totally blissed out right now. I wish I could love exercise even a fraction as much as she does! I’m still totally failing on that front thanks to my stupid plantar fasciitis. But I think it’s MAYBE getting better. Maybe by the time real spring weather hits it’ll be gone! Fingers crossed.

I think that’s a pretty sufficient update on how the last few weeks have gone! I might possibly be back tomorrow with INTENTIONS. Maybe it’s time to start easing them back into my life…

Christmas Reflections 2019

I’ve been dreading writing this post because I’m not quite sure what to say about Christmas this year. I like to be authentic and honest in this space, refusing to gloss over or hide the truly hard parts of life. But at the same time, I know that I’m fairly pessimistic a lot of the time, and people don’t want to read about depressing things. Especially in what should be a light hearted, warm fuzzy memories Christmas post.

You learn pretty early to set your holiday expectations LOW when you have kids. Babies and toddlers are on their own schedules with their own agendas and they don’t handle chaos and change very well. You expect Christmastime to be this magical experience and it’s usually anything but. You learn to adapt to what your kids need, deal with the disappointment of relatives when you have to say no to things, and try to keep everyone as happy as possible when all you really want to do is go hide in a dark room and cry. It’s so much about putting on your brave face, ignoring what’s really going on in your heart, and just trying to get through it, focusing on the good parts of the season.

I’ve gotten so used to this over the last eleven years, being blessed with a child who is especially difficult when literally anything changes in his homebody lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how exciting the holiday or event, it doesn’t matter what relative he adores is in town, it doesn’t matter what he’s promised as a reward or what he’s threatened as a punishment, he WILL NOT COOPERATE. He will make sure everybody knows in the most dramatic, violent, cruel, and angry way as possible how upset he is about these new expectations on him. Normally if we talk things through over and over days in advance, he’s a little bit better about going with the flow when the time comes. But this year? He wasn’t having it. He made it his life goal this past week to make every morning before we left the house as terrible as he possibly could. Which really puts a damper on our own ability to carry on and have a great day ourselves.

I do want to make it clear that once we left the house, at every party and event we went to, everything was fine. He didn’t act out anywhere else, which isn’t always the case, so…progress? I’m thankful for the time we got to spend with family and how much effort our parents went to to provide some really great Christmas get togethers and meals. Nothing about my negative Christmas experience has anything to do with anyone other than the members of my immediate family. I think it was even harder this year because normally I can at least depend on Greg to be on my side because he’s the only other person in the world who understands how difficult it is dealing with this particular child. But we seemed to keep getting our signals crossed this year, resulting in a whole lot of silent treatment – our best fighting skill. So in the end, it felt like a very lonely couple of days.

Anyway! Now that that’s out of my system, back to my recap of the week. Sunday was the day I was most worried about because it involved three different events. After a repeat of Saturday’s morning, we decided to leave Caden at my parent’s house with Annie for the day, eliminating his presence at two events. It ended up working out well, giving him time to play with Hudson and giving my mom a little time to get a few things done, while the rest of us got a much needed break from his verbal abuse. We joined Greg’s family at church to watch his dad in the cantada. Then we drove up to Oshkosh for the big extended family party. Shepard kept refusing to do anything with the other kid cousins, but he was making himself pretty comfortable with older male cousins and uncles that he barely knows, joining in their conversations like a tiny adult. I thought it was hilarious.

We stopped at Starbucks after the party to reward Shepard for behaving so well and to give me a much needed pick me up.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating my dad’s birthday. It’s unfortunate that his birthday is right by Christmas when he’s working like 18 hour days at FedEx. But he had the whole day off, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were also available, so we were able to celebrate all together.

It was a really nice low key and relaxed evening.

I really liked watching the cousins play together. Hudson was obsessed with going in Annie’s kennel and kept insisting the boys go in with him. He’s so cute! I’m glad my boys are willing to play with him at his level and aren’t “too cool” for toddlers yet!

On Monday morning we did our own family Christmas at home. I like to do it early every year before the novelty of big gift exchanges wears off. Though they don’t seem as overwhelmed by it as they did when they were younger. But it’s still nice to carve out half a day just for us in the midst of so much extended family time.

Shepard picked this mug out for me when we did our Target shopping a few weeks ago. I laughed so hard when I opened it! Greg said he went right to that one and insisted on it. Such a funny kid.

We spent the night of the 23rd exchanging gifts and having a nice dinner with Greg’s family. Normally we do both families on the 24th, but we had to rearrange a bit this year with Greg’s sister and brother-in-law needing to fly out on the 24th. I really liked separating the events, though. It felt so much more relaxed during the opening (because we didn’t have another one to rush off to) and during our annual brunch on the 24th (because we weren’t rushing to get to presents). I didn’t take any photos that night, unfortunately.

We went over as early as we could get moving on the 24th to have brunch with the Noe side. It was really nice!

We used a selfie stick to get a picture with everyone in it.

We left at the same time all the siblings went to the airport to spend as much remaining time with Hudson (and the rest) as possible on their last day in town as well.

It was a little bit cooler, but still nice enough to play outside for part of the afternoon. I heard that we had record breaking warm temperatures this week, which is crazy. Normally I’m all about wanting a white Christmas, but this year it’s been really great NOT having to constantly worry about falling, or trying to fit shoveling into already very busy schedules.

Annie got to have a sleepover on the 23rd, spending lots of time with Grandma and her dog aunts. She loves going over there with a huge fenced in yard to run around in. Plus three other pet dishes to steal food from!

I tried really hard to stay on track with my eating plans in the days and parties before just so I could indulge in this snack feast with no guilt on Christmas Eve. This probably wasn’t even half of the food that my mom kept adding to throughout the day! I totally went overboard, but it was so worth it. YUM.

My dad got home from work at 4 – probably the earliest ever! (Though he also had to get up at 2!) We had to have a round of Christmas carols and toddler tunes before we could open gifts.

After the big present opening, everyone just kind of zoned out. I was really zoned out half the day, I was so wiped out! It was really nice to just read and doze for a couple hours in the afternoon while Hudson was napping. Christmas is exhausting!

We both looked pretty out of it by the end of the night! Hudson tried on some new jammies and we said goodbye.

And the night ended with a Santa visit. Despite how the beginning of this month started with a lot of questioning, both of my kids still firmly believe in his existence. I’m happy to have had another year of the magic, but I can also see how things could feel a lot easier once they know the truth. One of the hardest things this year was that Shepard’s list for Santa only included things that were ridiculously expensive and inappropriate for an 8 year old. Like an iphone, a gaming computer, some sort of massive four wheeler. We’ve NEVER had Santa bring the bigger gifts, so I don’t know why he got it into his head that this year would be his year. His reasoning was that Santa doesn’t need money because he makes everything, so he’ll bring kids what they ask for. It was kind of hard to see how sad he was to not get any of those things, even though it really was unreasonable. He told someone a few days later that his favorite present was a box of Nerds because it was the only thing on his list that he actually got. (Though it didn’t come from Santa!) Sigh.

Everyone was up bright and early Christmas morning. Annie took care of Santa’s cookie and milk leftovers. We opened our gifts and stockings and then Greg went back to bed, the boys went to game, and I spent basically the entire day reading and napping. When Greg woke up again he went to spend a few hours with his family, while the rest of us stayed home to chill. It was so luxurious to have a day where I truly felt I could ignore all responsibility and just relax. I did put together an easy but nice dinner, but the rest of the day was just doing what I love most – reading an addictive book.

Thursday, the 26th, is what I like to call my annual wrapping paper restock day. I left the house as early as I could to get to Target to stock up. I also did a big grocery run, walked through all the clearance at TJMaxx, and zipped down to Trader Joe’s to get a few fun treats for New Year’s Eve. I was planning to spend most of the day out and about, but Greg and the boys went to Beaver Dam again and the draw of having a few hours home alone was just too strong. Though they got home soon after me, so I just spent the whole afternoon in bed reading and napping. This week has done a number on me – I’m so tired! Later that day Shepard had an eye appointment and he picked out new glasses – the same pair, but with slightly different coloring. I made another nice dinner (I’m always so excited about making dinner after a week of snacks and treats!) and we picked up Culver’s ice cream for dessert.

And Friday. MEH. I was in a pretty crappy mood Friday. Greg and Shepard had bad colds at the start of all the Christmas festivities, but Caden woke up with a cold AND a hacking cough on Christmas Day. So even though I was so desperate to have more time at my own house, now that I feel like we’re trapped here because of his sickness, it’s depressing me. I really want to go see Little Women with Greg, but…Caden. I also spent half the day in the kitchen, which is always a blessing and a curse. I love making good food, but I resent the fact that it’s always all on me to do it. And when it literally takes up half my day, I get frustrated. I’m always stressed out by the piles of new gifts that I know nobody but me is ever going to put away or organize. I have so many things I could and should be doing, but I have a terrible time concentrating when there is so much going on around me, so I feel like I can’t really do anything. I can’t even do the fun things, like watch my own tv shows or listen to my podcasts or music. And I’m SO angry at my stupid foot and how it’s stopping me from exercising. So…it wasn’t a very good day. Not because of anyone else, just me reacting to a lack of time alone, lack of quiet, lack of sleep, lack of physical outlet for my building stress.

But it’s a new day. I’m hoping to power through and get a few things done this weekend, even if it means wearing ear plugs or dragging all of my stuff upstairs to my bedroom. I think it might also be a good idea to just start some dolls. It’s been almost a month since I’ve done any sewing and I NEED that creative outlet in my life. There are still five more days before everyone goes back to work and school and I need to make the most of them.

So that was our Christmas! The usual rollercoaster of emotions. I had a really nice time seeing all of our out of town siblings and nephew and enjoying drama free get togethers with everyone. I really wish things on the home front had gone a lot more smoothly, but this is our life, mess and all.

Weekend Reflections and Intentions (x 2) 12.01.2019

I have two weeks of recaps to run through today! I’ll try to stick with the highlights. Like this bread (lol). My neighbor gave me the recipe of this gluten free bread she loves to make – as well as a couple of slices. It was really delicious! I never would have guessed it was gluten free. So I bought the supplies and made my own loaf. It turned out perfectly! Unfortunately, the second day, after eating a few pieces for breakfast, I did NOT feel well. I was having pretty intense stomach pains and the only thing I could think of was that it was the bread. So I waited two full days until I felt fully better and then ate it again – a glutton for punishment. But I didn’t have the same symptoms, so it’s a mystery. I’m a bit hesitant to make it again, but I’m sure I will! Though I’m also trying to put my focus more on actual whole grain breads, since those are what’s best for my liver. I’m still not very clear on if gluten free flours are actually whole grains, or just NOT gluten. And gluten’s not my issue, the WHITE refined flour is.

One of my only real work related accomplishments this month was curating six beautiful themed “gift baskets.” I had SO much fun doing it. Plus it justified all my many TJMaxx random purchases! I sold four of them right away, but the other two are still currently available! 🙂 If I had all the time and space and the right customer base who was ready to spend tons of money on such things, I’d make gift collections like this for a living. SO much fun.

I had a sign painting party! I was really excited about hosting it, but then was a bit overwhelmed that I had to keep nagging people and practically begging for more participants. I don’t like feeling like I’m forcing people to do something! But we met the required 9 sign ups (plus one extra at the last minute!) – whew! And it was such a great evening!! I prepped a big cheese tray and flourless chocolate cake and then we all gathered for painting and conversation. I’m not sure I’d ever want to host again, but I’m still addicted to the creating part!

This is the sign I did. I painted it exactly like the example because I loved the color combination so much.

I was feeling a bit blue by this long and melancholy month that really felt nothing like FALL, so I decided to go ahead and swap out my Christmas mugs a few weeks early. They bring me so much joy!

My food adventures continued with a loaf of grainy bread and my favorite granola recipe. The bread was just okay. The flax seed made it taste very…healthy. It wasn’t awful, but I don’t think I’d make it again when I can buy a loaf of pretty healthy whole grain bread at the store that tastes a whole lot better. The granola recipe is delicious, but also not the healthiest. But I swapped the original pecans for red walnuts, which are supposedly the healthiest of walnuts and best nuts for people with liver disease.

Last Saturday was Caden’s Lego League competition. It started at 7:30 in the morning and went until after 5 at night. Greg and Caden were there from the start and Shepard and I went with the grandparents a few hours later. It was a really long and emotionally draining day for him. But I’m proud of him for sticking with it, despite how frustrating it sometimes was. He was going through a lot of mixed emotions throughout the day because he didn’t want to do well enough that they moved on to sectionals – he wanted to be DONE. But he also really, really, really hates not being great and getting recognition for things, so he was upset at the same time that they weren’t doing amazing or won any awards. But overall, they got in about the top 40% of the 38 teams there, which is pretty great considering they only had three members, they were all fifth graders (it went up to eighth grade), and it was their first year competing.

On Sunday, I had SO many things to catch up on. I was really feeling the impending deadline of BLACK FRIDAY and desperately needing a larger inventory so I could have a sale. I barely sewed at all this month between my vacation and liver biopsy related stuff and hosting and attending various get togethers. I had a pretty good plan for the day, but also made the suggestion that maybe we could bring the tree upstairs and get a start on it since Thanksgiving was so late this year. Greg proceeded to bring up every single Christmas decoration we had, giving me no choice but to ditch my agenda and spend the entire day swapping out decorations and setting up trees. Once it was done, I was thankful to have done it and to have done it early (it certainly made this past weekend so much more relaxing!). But at the time, I was basically on the brink of hysteria. I don’t like my agendas being messed with. I couldn’t have done anything I had planned anyway because every surface was covered in Christmas stuff! Anyway, for the record, I am thankful Greg made us power through and was quite helpful with the setup – not to mention carrying all those boxes and trees up and down our precarious basement steps so many times. But it was a stressful day.

By the end of the night I had the living room completely done. Greg set up the family room tree on his own, though I guess I haven’t taken a photo of that one yet. But we got enough done that all the boxes could go back down and I could sigh in relief!

On Monday I had a ton of errands to run. I knew I was going to be out the entire day, so I made a plan to go to this new restaurant Ancho and Agave that opened last month. It’s in Middleton, so I’m not there very often and didn’t know when I’d next have a chance. Anyway, the restaurant was really cute and the food was delicious! I loved all of it except the pork taco, which was cold by the time I ate it and kind of fatty. But I was so full by that point it didn’t really matter. I’d definitely go back. I like that I made myself go to a really tasty sit down restaurant rather than just grabbing something fast and terrible for me, the way that I used to do on long shopping days.

On Tuesday I set up my treat box for the delivery drivers! I’m so glad I saw this idea online a few years ago because I always feel guilty for how many packages I get. At least I can feel a little better by giving them treats the last five or six weeks of the year! Though I think it’s kind of funny that I decided to put pretzels and popcorn in the box to start, thinking maybe the delivery drivers would like slightly healthier options than chips. Nope! The only things taken all week were the Little Debbies and Oreos. I’ll pick out some different things when I get to Costco this week. (For the record, right after I wrote this paragraph a FedEx driver dropped off a package. Earlier today a USPS woman brought a pile of packages. So apparently it no longer matters that it’s Sunday, they’re still out working.)

On Tuesday I finished up a couple more Christmas dolls and then made a squash curry soup for our at home date night. I got the inspiration from Antoni on an episode of Queer Eye, but didn’t follow any specific recipe. I just roasted butternut squash, onions, and garlic with curry seasoning, salt, and cumin in the oven for awhile, then mixed it in the blender with chicken bone broth, put it back on the stove to simmer with a little bit of heavy cream, and then topped it with a teeny swirl of sour cream and cilantro. Anyway, Greg and I are not typical squash eaters, but we both loved the soup. I’m actually just really not a soup eater, but it’s kind of blowing my mind how easy and healthy it is to whip up something from scratch without a recipe, so it’s turning into a weekly occurrence.

Wednesday was more of a kitchen FAIL day. My only assignments for Thanksgiving dinner were to make rolls and one dessert. My favorite part of Thanksgiving meals are just eating little turkey sandwiches dipped in gravy – I’m not such a fan of all the traditional sides. So I wanted to make something I could eat without feeling guilty and chose a honey wheat recipe that looked fool proof. I also made some honey butter rolled Parker house buns, but it only made 12 and we were going to have 10 people there and I assumed most of them would want the white option. So then I decided to make a cranberry walnut loaf of bread with an 18 hour rise time – but with wheat flour instead. I finally moved on to the pecan pie cheesecake, only to forget to add the heavy cream at the end – which I had poured into the measuring cup, but for some reason didn’t add to the cheesecake! I think it turned out fine without it, but of course I didn’t know that until the next night when we ate it! Meanwhile, Greg came home and asked if he could have a wheat bun. He took a bite and said “Is this from a bad batch?” And then I burst into tears and immediately started hunting down other recipes. I proceeded to spend the entire night making pretzel buns – very untraditional, but also the only rolls I never mess up – and a new beer cheese roll recipe. And of course during all this I was also trying each roll, even though I shouldn’t be eating three of them, but I needed to make sure they were servable. What sounded like a pretty easy baking assignment this year turned into twelve solid hours in the kitchen with the only thing that seemed to really work being pretzel buns, and I was kind of a wreck by the end of it. I baked the cranberry walnut bread in the morning, but decided not to bring it with me. (This is my all time favorite kind of bread and changing it to wheat was a sad disappointment. I’ve still been eating a slice for breakfast every day, but it’s definitely not the same!) In the end, I realized that everyone else really just wants to eat the sides and after sitting on the counter untouched for the last few days, I dumped them all last night. What a waste of my emotional energy! Remind me next year to just make pretzel buns and be done with it. 😛 Or just BUY SOME. Caden and I are very similar in this regard (and a lot of things) – I want to be really great at everything I do, and I am not great at roll making. I should stick with desserts because I’m actually good at that.

Thanksgiving Day was really nice! I took Annie to the dog park in the morning – our tradition. Then we took our Christmas card photos by the tree. The boys would only cooperate for two rounds of 10 shot photos, but we actually got a really nice one right away. I was able to order cards for super cheap on Friday.

We spent the rest of the day at the in-law’s, just relaxing and eating! I was mostly reading because my brain couldn’t handle playing board games like everyone else. The food was delicious, as always! I tried my mom’s sweet potato casserole for the first time this year and am mad at how many years I was missing out on something so delicious! The cheesecake also tasted great, though as usual I seemed to be the only one actually interested in dessert because I don’t go crazy overboard during the meal. Overall, it was a really nice day together with family.

Earlier in the week I had a great idea to solve my lack of new inventory Black Friday problem. PRE-ORDERS. Every year I get so many people asking me for ornament sized dolls and every year people are disappointed if they didn’t get one. So I had the grand idea to offer pre-orders this year, rather than a discount. And I think it worked out perfectly! I ended up with 18 doll orders. Enough to feel very successful, but not so many that I’m crazy overwhelmed by it. And it hopefully made everyone happy! On Saturday I offered a 20% off sale that was supposed to end at midnight, but is still running today, apparently. Oh well. There might be one last slightly better deal tomorrow for Cyber Monday. My hope is that I’ll make enough sales this weekend that the pressure will be off to produce a ton more new dolls in December.

On Friday afternoon I met my in-laws at the theater and we saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It was a really great movie!

On Friday night we went to Columbus’ Christmas parade, like we always do. It seemed slightly bigger this year! The weather wasn’t too bad and it was a fun time. Our neighbor friends came with us.

Yesterday was a fairly relaxed day. I have a zillion different things I should be doing, but I’m trying to force myself to let it go and just do what I want to do on weekends. I recently finished reading a book about managing and reversing liver disease and one of the biggest factors in diseases starting up or not getting better is actually just plain stress. And I’m stressed ALL. THE. TIME. And most of that stress is self-inflicted. I HAVE CONTROL. The problem is that I’m very controlling of myself and my time and I think it’s maybe destroying me. I need to let loose more often. Or…just do nothing.

I did participate in the local wine/soda walk yesterday with my friend Laura. It was so much fun! We were mostly interested in just checking out the fun little gift shops around town and spending a few hours hanging out. I purchased a few little items at every store, making me feel like a great Small Business Saturday shopper! 🙂 It was a really enjoyable event.

And now it’s December! Twinkle the Elf made a re-appearance. All week long the boys have been talking about how they can’t wait for him to come and bring donuts. With all these new healthy mindset thoughts CONSTANTLY on my brain, I had a tough time buying these donuts for them. But it’s apparently one of their all time favorite traditions, so it needed to happen. We also got to open day one on our five advent calenders! Greg surprised me with a hot sauce advent! Jack was very jealous of Annie’s calendar, so we had to bring over a bag of cat treats so he can get something every day too.

Shepard and I set up my last little rainbow Christmas tree this morning, so now we’re officially decorated. The rest of the day has just been very chill! I wrapped up orders, made a pizza, and took my first nap in ages. I’d like to get a jump on my pre-order dolls tonight, but we’ll see how I’m feeling. I need to meal plan too.

Sunday Intentions

I think it’ll be a pretty low key week! Annie has a grooming appointment tomorrow, so I’m hoping to really devote the whole day to sewing. Tuesday will be errands. Wednesday more sewing. Thursday sewing and cleaning. And Friday prepping for my Favorite Things Party that night! Friday’s also St. Nick’s Day. It should actually be a pretty great week.

My biggest goal for the week is to get to Friday and feel prepared. I still have no clue what St. Nick might be bringing everyone this year. I also need to gather and wrap my favorite things for the party. I don’t want to spend Friday feeling like a crazy person trying to get everything cleaned and set up last minute, the way that I did before my sign painting party. If I can stay on track all week doing little things here and there, it should all go smoothly without too much stress.

My other goal this week is to go through a stack of cookbooks I bought about a month ago and haven’t even opened yet. I want some serious inspiration AND A PLAN for cooking whole and delicious foods this month. I want to be prepared so we’re not resorting to frozen meals. They’re fine every once in awhile, but I want to really focus on feeding myself and my family nourishing food at home to counteract all the other things we’ll be eating when we’re out of the house around Christmas. Balance!

Anyway, no meal plan yet since I’m hoping to go through a cookbook yet tonight. But first – treadmill time!

Have a good week and happy December!

October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

October has shaped up to be one of the busiest and hardest months I’ve ever had. It’s been filled with a lot of great pockets of time connecting with friends and family. But it’s been alternated with so much stress and anxiety and emotional overwhelm. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of so many things go at once that are important to me in order to just survive my day to day life. I stopped filling out my bullet journal and organizing my tasks and giving myself a solid plan of what to work on every day. I stopped writing even the weekly blog posts that tend to ground and guide my weeks, and haven’t even considered writing anything beyond the occasional journal entry. I stopped listening to most podcasts in favor of soaking up the very rare silence or just listening to music instead. I slowed down so much on doll making, going up to a week at a time without even picking it up. And I’ve stopped reading. Not entirely. But this has been the slowest book month I’ve ever had. Lack of actual time is a big reason why, but I’ve definitely picked mindless phone scrolling over reading way too often.

There have been plenty of good things that have been filling my time that I definitely don’t regret. A group of my friends threw me a little birthday lunch, which was really awesome. It meant a lot to me that they cared about celebrating with me in the midst of their own crazy busy lives. I’ve also had two morning coffees at my house this month – with another one happening on Friday. I had a lunch date with another friend. And I have a lunch date with a friend this week as well. It’s been great reconnecting with everyone after what felt like an incredibly long dry spell. Female friendships are so important and we should all fight to keep them alive and thriving.

I’ve been dipping into some Cricut projects – really the main reason I wasn’t sewing for awhile there. These are the first three projects I did, using free files I found online. I was most impressed with how the mug turned out and might just focus on making more of those for gifts on upcoming holidays. I designed one myself to make for my friend Julie’s birthday and it turned out really nice. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed using my graphic design skills. But it also feels like starting completely from scratch – forget all those college classes and degree from a million years ago! So it’s very time consuming, requires a ton of research and searching for free things to work with before I can entirely design my own, and – I’m not that great at some of it. The main reason I wanted a Cricut was to make stencils and wooden signs. I’ve done a couple of stencils on canvas so far and they haven’t turned out at all. I’m hoping it’s just because of the canvas. I bought some wooden planks a few weeks ago to start practicing for real, but we haven’t found a time yet for Greg to help me use the rotary saw. That thing scares me.

Last weekend we got to spend a lot of time with Hudson, Timmy, and Brittany. The boys and I joined my mom in babysitting him on Saturday night and on Sunday we celebrated Brittany’s birthday. He was so much fun to hang out with! He’s talking so much and giggling and laughing about everything. His favorite thing was wrestling with the boys. He liked joining in on all their random snacking too.

It’s hard to go so many months in between seeing him, but it’s fun to see how much he’s changed in those time periods. He’s such a little cutie.

This last Thursday night we finally had some free time, so we carved pumpkins. Except that I was SO tired – it’s been a pretty sucky week, but more on that in a minute. Shepard had just cut his thumb playing gaga ball and didn’t want to get it full of pumpkin juice. And Caden was just not wanting to participate because he never wants to participate in ANYTHING. So Greg did all the scooping, we drew the faces, he did the carving. And he did it all in record time!

I worked on cleaning and making our pumpkin seeds. We always do one batch of salt, one dill and salt, and one chex mix flavors.

On Friday night we walked to the annual town bonfire. I always think it’s just a really nice memorable thing to participate in each year. It wasn’t quite as fun as last year because there was no DJ and Caden had zero interest in playing with his friends. I don’t know what’s been going on with him lately, but he’s having a rough time. Or he’s making choices that are making him feel like he’s having a rough time because he refuses to even try to be friendly with people anymore. But Shepard had a blast.

In a single day I actually made six little boy dolls from start to finish. It’s the first time I’ve made boys in almost two years. It’s the first time I’ve made dolls this small in probably at least six months. Dresses and long hair are what take the longest, so boys are very speedy! They all sold instantly. I started a second batch right away. I’ve needed a break from fall and Halloween dolls. Seasonal dolls kind of drag me down. It’s hard to feel super inspired when I feel like I have to make them. I don’t like being told what to do! So it was fun to throw in something different.

Last night we had our annual Halloween party with the grandparents and the city trick or treating. I wasn’t feeling super inspired this year, so I just made my annual pizza snake and a few snack mixes. Cindy brought caramel, apples, veggies and dip and sparking caramel apple cider. My mom brought a ham and cheese mummy and two desserts. It was a nice evening! Caden was being especially moody, but he perked up a bit as we were trick or treating. He was dressed as a dabbing taco. Shepard was his favorite youtuber, Unspeakable. Only one person recognized him and most people probably wondered why he wasn’t wearing a costume.

Annie was a rainbow and received A LOT of attention. The boys lasted longer than years past, but Shepard was still antsy to get back home and help hand out with Greg. Caden went back out for a few more houses.

Later in the evening there was a flashlight pumpkin hunt set up for older kids. I had signed Caden up thinking it would be something really fun to do, and extra special since only he was old enough. But he DID NOT want to go. But we were already planning to take Willow with us and I was sure he’d cheer up once he got there, so we went. It ended up being inside because it was raining by then, but we had to stand around for 40 minutes waiting for it to begin and he was moping and scowling and begging me to go home the entire time. Once the whistle blew he seemed to kind of enjoy himself, but it definitely wasn’t the fun memory I was expecting to make.

I just don’t know what to do with that kid. He’s always been like this – never wanting to do anything outside of the house. But it seems to be getting even worse. It’s infuriating trying to find this balance of encouraging things that might surprise him, while also realizing he is VERY much like me emotionally and not wanting to push him into more than he can handle. It’s hard to make him do things when I’m also in this season of life where new things are being thrown at me and added to the calendar every single day and I feel like I’m absolutely drowning, no matter how much fun those events might be. Despite the fact that he was super excited about the idea months ago, we didn’t force him into joining basketball this winter – a 3-4 night weekly commitment that he was flat out refusing to do. The deadline was this week and I just let it slide, even though Greg wanted to make him do it. I felt like that was just going to guarantee three months of all of us being miserable. I DID, however, make him sign up for chess club again. He loved it in spring, but wanted nothing to do with it this fall. They included a few younger grades this year, so Shepard actually joined too, which is probably the only reason he was convinced to go (he wasn’t “missing out” on game time if Shepard was with him at school). I’m trying so hard to help him with a balance, but he doesn’t make it easy. Ever.

So I had my annual doctor’s exam a few weeks ago. Which is more intensive than it used to be since I started having blood pressure and liver problems last year. All my female parts are in good working order and my blood pressure is under control with my meds. But my liver – it’s not good. I had to go back a second time since I hadn’t fasted the first time to get my labs done. I got the results the next day and my cholesterol is high and my liver values have doubled since February. NOT good. I won’t try to interpret the numbers on my own just yet, but I’ve been referred to a GI doctor and will see her this Wednesday. I obviously don’t know what she’ll say and what next steps might be, but this was the wake up call I guess I really needed to start genuinely changing my life around. And I’ve been going through all the shame and depression and mourning that comes with a self-induced disease that I have to somehow buck up and change entirely on my own if I want to stay alive. It sucks.

Changing my diet is basically the hardest thing in the entire world I can imagine doing. Last year when I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with mild fatty liver, I was upset, but also motivated to start losing weight. I joined Noom, I started tracking food, and then I did really well for about four months when life took over and I gave up. This year, I don’t want to focus on losing weight. Because that feels temporary. Something to strive for, achieve, and then fall back into old habits. This time around, I NEED to change. I need to change basically everything. And I’m so, so overwhelmed by it. And honestly….just really sad. Refined carbs are the biggest contributor to fatty liver. And…I live on refined carbs. Hence my self induced disease and dealing with the shame that this is all my fault. I did this to myself. And I’m maybe doing it to my kids by allowing them to eat the same way I’ve eaten my whole life. So now not only do I have the pressure of changing my own diet, I’m also responsible for the three other people in my family and trying to change their diets too – which is SURELY going to be met with so many riots and anger and additional stress. I really don’t know if I can handle it.

I’m still waiting to see what the GI doctor specifically tells me I need to do, but I’ve started this week by eliminating almost all my usual carbs, trying out some keto recipes, adding green tea to my day, finding ways to add bone broth to many meals, and avoiding as many bad fats and sugar as possible. I’ve found some good ideas and worked on looking for substitutions to my favorite things to try and not make it feel like I’m suddenly doomed to a life of deprivation. But I’m also really struggling with how I’m going to live with this long term. I don’t like soup, unless it’s loaded with cheese and chips or crackers. I don’t like salad unless it’s covered in ranch and croutons. I have no idea what to eat for breakfast that will fill me up and not have carbs in it. I’ve been having yogurt with granola and bananas every day this week and while it is filling, it’s not really what I crave. It’s too sweet, mainly – I never like to eat sweet things in the morning because I get headaches from it. I honestly think I’d be okay giving up most desserts and sugary things, but I don’t know how to give up the salty things I basically live for. English muffins, chips, sandwiches, peanut butter toast, tacos, rice bowls. This whole week I’ve been cycling through feeling hopeful about some new ideas and absolute depression at how many things I have to let go of forever. I can’t encourage bad behavior by thinking I can eat most things in moderation. I know I can’t. I have to say give them up or this is never going to work.

Anyway, this whole process is just beginning and it’s been hard. But I honestly can already tell the difference in how I feel. Yesterday I was going up and down stairs over and over again and realized hey – my legs don’t hurt as much as they usually do. I’ve had some extra energy and have been taking Annie on two walks every day. And I haven’t given carbs up completely – I did still have grilled cheese and some amazing tomato soup twice this week, and I had a few small pieces of the pizza snake last night. But just not having anything refined for breakfast or lunch is already starting to help. And I want to hold on to those positive changes I can already see after such a short period of time and start craving more of that instead of only thinking about how much I’m losing. I have a long road ahead of me.

Well, usually when I write these monthly recap posts, I just address how I’ve come along on my goals for the month. And I’ll just sum it up quickly by saying I’ve been an utter failure this month! I couldn’t handle it. I did read SOME of my seasonal book stack. I have been taking a lot of walks, but haven’t done any yoga videos or enforced the idea of doing it first thing in the morning because so many mornings have held appointments or important errands. My daily writing practice has only come in the occasional early morning journal entry. And I did go to the theater – Greg and I saw Downton Abbey for my birthday date. I was still hoping to go on my own at some point, but there hasn’t been anything worth seeing.

I think that’s it! I’m finishing October off with a Culver’s fundraiser with Shepard tomorrow night, lunch with my friend Laura on Tuesday, the doctor on Wednesday, and a coffee morning on Friday. My trip to North Carolina is in just a week and a half, so I’m also trying to prepare for that. There’s been a whole lot of anxiety and doubt about that trip as well. It’s hard to feel excited about a writing conference when I haven’t been making writing a priority in a long time. But I have to trust that how I felt when I signed up was true and this WILL be a good thing. But now I also have the added stress of trying to find restaurant options ahead of time that will support these new dietary needs without getting there and having a ton of anxiety every time I need to eat. There’s just so much going on. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in January??

It was my birthday.

It’s been a busy two weeks since my last update. SO busy. Again. Tons of really fun things, but it’s starting to feel a bit overwhelming. I’ve barely been home, I’ve had almost no time to sew, and worst of all – almost no time to read! I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, but this isn’t a lifestyle I can sustain long term. I love doing fun things, but I HATE feeling so out of control and behind on literally everything else. But, the last two weeks have been full of great memories, so I want to share!

Earlier this month I was running all those random and annoying errands I talked about in my last post. One of which was the boys getting flu shots. They did great!

I also hosted my second coffee morning! I’m still working out the kinks to see if I can make this a very dependable and regular event, but every week is so different I think I’m going to have to continue taking it month by month. Unfortunately, the coffee morning coincided with some awful rains that left most of the town dealing with flooded basements – us included. So not as many people were able to come, but it was still really great to connect with those that could! Greg worked at home that day to shop vac the back room in our basement that doesn’t slope to the drain over and over again. That’s also how I spent my Thursday that week.

Thursdays are proving to be the one day of the week I never seem to have a ton of stuff going on and I SHOULD be using that time to actually get to work, but both of the last two Thursdays were spent doing more self care type activities instead. Special candles, longer reading sessions, long naps, etc. I really need a solid chunk of time like that to recharge if I want to make it through a weekend.

Birthday presents started rolling in! My friend Dianne sent me these awesome hot sauces that she taste tested and picked out for me in NYC. I’m excited to try them out! I don’t have any photos, but I also got a happy lamp and face roller from my sister-in-law and her fiance that they gave me at Caden’s party.

Grandma gave the boys these big blanket sweaters and now they wear them ALL THE TIME. It’s hilarious. But also – it’s gotten really cold!! They will really come in handy this winter.

I had so many restaurant plans in the days before and after my birthday that I had to make sure the one day we were eating at home it was something I really liked, so I made my all time favorite jalapeno popper pizza on pretzel crust! It’s a tiny bit more work to make the crust, but SO worth it. Plus they have to be smaller sized, so we can all pick which toppings we want with no compromising.

One of my treats to myself this month was signing up for a weekly Halloween coffee subscription from my favorite roasters, Brandywine Coffee. Each week for five weeks I get a small bag of unique Halloween flavored coffees. So far “Halloween” tastes very savory. I’m hoping the closer we get to the actual date they make the blends a little sweeter!

Another present in the mail from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I don’t think I’ve ever read Little Women! I’m excited to read it before the new movie comes out. I think it’ll be a good November read. And a gift card to go toward a rug I really wanted, and maybe already bought (keep reading lol).

That Saturday night we went to my parents’ for my first official birthday celebration! I just realized now that it’s larger I wasn’t even looking at the camera – oops! I made myself a butterscotch cake I’ve been wanting to try out for weeks. It was pretty good! Maybe a bit too sweet, though. I’d maybe do it with chocolate frosting if I did it again.

My parents made me a delicious dinner of foods that I like! And they gave me a great collection of coffee themed birthday gifts. I love the rainbow mug! And a larger pour over for my coffee mornings since my current one can only make a single cup. And local coffees! I’ve only tried the Nunatak Marsh Mud so far, but it’s really chocolatey and delicious!

I spent last Sunday finishing up some dolls. I decided to take a break from fall and Halloween and focused on birthday dolls and things that I enjoy – like tacos! This taco doll is still available, by the way. 🙂 She turned out so cute!

On Sunday afternoon we did the one thing that I like doing most on or around my birthday – picking out pumpkins! This year we decided to check out a new place everyone was talking about where the pumpkins were only $1. And they were so big too! The kids were much more interested in trying to find all the kittens, while I mostly picked out the pumpkins.

And then on Sunday night (it was a busy day!) the boys went to Grandma’s for a sleepover and Greg and I went on our first date in awhile. I picked Bartaco in Middleton, the place I went with my mom and the boys once this summer. They have my favorite tacos. They’re super tiny, but SO delicious. Greg loved them too. Afterward we walked around Hilldale Mall for a little bit and I splurged on a box of fancy chocolates. Greg was a little wide eyed at my financial life choices, but then he got an equally expensive Moscow Mule at the movie theater, so we were even. We finished the night watching the new Downton Abbey movie. I really liked it!

And finally, Monday was my birthday! I am officially 35. I feel like 35 is the year you officially become an adult, and I’m not so sure I like it. It could definitely be argued I “became an adult” the day I had my first child. But I’ve still felt relatively young, until now! I’m in the next age bracket on every survey I’ll take in the next 9 years! Anyway, there was no school on Monday because it was conference day, so Cindy kept the boys at her house a little longer so I could have the morning to myself. I wish I had spent it actually relaxing, but I was rushing around trying to catch up on tasks. Right after they got back we headed to school for conferences. They’re both doing great!

We met my mom at Ponderosa for lunch afterward. Then we went to Horicon to the place where we usually get pumpkins every year and they were no longer in existence! Quite the disappointment. So we stopped at the meat market while we were in town and then headed back home for a little bit of game/reading/rest time.

When Greg got home I opened my presents. They gave me a Cricut! I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making my own signs since I took that first class in August. I really wanted a Cricut so I could do projects on my own at home. I’m really excited to try it out, but also very intimidated. A week later, the box is still right where I unwrapped it. TOO BUSY. I was hoping to spend some time with it this weekend, but I’ve barely been home. I will, though! Soon.

My brother and sister-in-law sent me this bracelet. I already have it in gold and loved it so much I wanted it in silver too since I wear silver a lot more often (and strongly hate mixing metals). It says “She believed she could, so she did.” I’m trying to wear one of them every day to keep me motivated with taking better care of myself and never giving up, even on the hard days.

One other thing I bought for myself was this awesome rainbow “bookshelf” wall hanging. Awkward photo because it’s so high up on my wall above my desk. I LOVE it. I’ve been eyeing up this etsy shop’s instagram page for months, just waiting for a rainbow one to pop up. It was perfect timing for my birthday! I’m in love with it.

Caden had Lego League, but Greg, Shepard, our neighbor friend Leverett and I ended the night at the dog park. The weather was gorgeous, but unfortunately, Annie got attacked AGAIN. This was a full blown attack where the dog looked and sounded like he was legit trying to kill her. The other owner had to tackle his dog off of her. It was really scary. I have enough PTSD after the whole ear biting fiasco and this trip did not help ease my anxiety. We loved the dog park so much, and now I feel like we can’t trust it. Or we at least can’t trust it at night when a lot more unknown dogs are visiting.

Overall, it was a pretty low key, but really nice birthday. As good as it could be with the boys home most of the day. I’m more of a fan of weekday birthdays where I can do whatever I dang well please during the day and just enjoy my family for a few hours at night (lol). I was a little bit resentful that after two years of weekend day birthdays, I had to have yet another one with my kids home (and one of them super angry at me half the day because he didn’t feel like he had enough game time). But…it worked out pretty well.

By Tuesday I really needed to run errands, but Shepard was also home with me because he randomly threw up in his sleep Monday night. He did have some questionable yogurt before bed, so we’re guessing it was just that because he didn’t have a migraine. He was perfectly fine on Tuesday, but couldn’t go to school, so he ran errands with me. He’s a pretty great shopping companion on his own, but NEVER stops talking. We had a little down time at home in the afternoon before picking up Caden and bringing him to the doctor for his well child visit. He was much worse at the doctor this time, mostly because he was mad we were FORCING him to go out to eat again. I’m pretty sure all other children in the world would LOVE going out to eat multiple times a week, but not Caden! It’s pure torture, apparently. After the doctor we headed back to Sun Prairie to eat at HuHot and celebrate my birthday with Greg’s parents. I haven’t been there in ages, despite it being one of my favorite restaurants. It was SO good! And the boys absolutely loved the experience. At least until Shepard decided he NEEDED to know how to perfect his chopstick technique and it wasn’t going his way so he started crying and throwing his body around the booth while slamming his fists on the table. If you’re ever under any illusion from my instagram posts that life is just always hunky dory around here, believe me – IT’S NOT. Caden spent days acting like I was the worst person in the world simply for having a birthday and making us busier than normal so he couldn’t have as much game time as usual. I’m such a bad mom.

More lovely gifts! They gave me some new Pioneer Woman dishes and bowls, earrings, a Qdoba gift card, and some money to go toward my rug.

The birthday fun continued for one more day with a special joint birthday lunch out with my friend Nora! We went to Nitty Gritty and Beans and Cream for a coffee dessert. She made me a beautiful unicorn embroidery to hang in my sewing room. It was such a nice time together!

In between all the outings this week, I was also working hardcore in my sewing room to get things reorganized and cleared out to make room for my Cricut and more painting supplies, plus cleaning out under and around furniture to make more room for my new rug. I spent Thursday taking care of all kinds of random things, like switching out the boys’ school pictures. They both look so much older this year! It was a pretty exhausting day, but I felt very accomplished by the end of it! I had to remove some of the more decorative items that I don’t love as much as I used to and cleared off a whole shelf for my Cricut and changed another shelf as storage for all my paints.

I FINALLY sat down and started sewing on Friday morning. I decided to only make two large witch dolls this time around. Then my new rainbow rug arrived in the afternoon! I am obviously really bad at mental measuring because it is A LOT bigger than I was expecting. My last rug was 5×7 and always felt too small under the table of roughly the same dimensions. But this rug was only available in 4×6 or 8×11, so obviously I had to go with the bigger one! The real challenge is that I REALLY wanted to keep the matching runner in the room. I didn’t realize the chevron stripes were going to be wider on the bigger rug – I prefer the smaller ones and rainbow rugs really only belong in this one room of the house, so I had to make it work! It was a much bigger challenge than I was anticipating, but I think it looks pretty good in the end! Maybe a little silly, but they’re bright and beautiful and will really make the room warmer this winter. The pets love the carpeting!

On Friday night the boys got shipped off to Grandma’s again because we had tickets to see Rory Scovel’s comedy special in Madison! We both listen to the podcast Penpals, and we saw the other half of the duo, Daniel van Kirk, earlier this year, so we HAD to go see Rory when he was in town. Plus, he’s more of an actual celebrity and I thought it would just be cool to see him! We had dinner at a super cute, but very loud restaurant, Lucille. Greg loved his more unique pizza, my pepperoni was just okay. Then we rushed through the 30 degree raging winds down State Street (I don’t think we’ve EVER had good weather on a State Street date!) to Comedy on State. It was definitely a new experience for us – we had to lock up our phones in little cases, so no photos were taken. We were also required to buy a minimum of two drinks per person, which I was apprehensive about ahead of time because I really don’t drink and don’t like the idea of being forced to – but their cocktail menu was AMAZING. I had a salted caramel martini that was delightful, followed by a non alcoholic Bailey’s Mint Kiss coffee. And the show was great! So funny. We both really enjoyed it.

I spent almost all day Saturday doing a whirlwind shopping trip around Madison with Cindy. It was really fun! We both picked up some unique new treasures and gifts. Then I had a date with my computer to watch The Popcast’s live stream of their Dallas live show. It was such a fun experience! Maybe even more fun than being at a show in person because I got to be wildly entertained by the chat taking place at the same time among all the other Patreon supporters. They’ve only had two live shows this year, but are promising many more next year. Hopefully another will be within driving distance for me – I really enjoyed the one I went to in Chicago last year. But I’m really liking this new live stream thing too. Their $7/month Patreon is SO worth it.

And we’ve made it to today! I worked all morning and then Shepard and I were signed up to serve at his school’s community soup social. I was a little nervous about it, but he really wanted to do it and this is our last year at DCS, so we gave it a go. And it was really fun! I was at the drink station, filling up all the juices as they were taken. He was in charge of refilling all the cracker bowls around the tables. He and his friend Ava were having a grand time together!

I took a nap when we got back and then worked a few more hours until I finally finished up these witches! I LOVE this huge doll pattern. But, they’re also pretty expensive, so haven’t sold yet! I think this might be the last I make for Halloween. It’s another really busy week and doesn’t seem worth it to try and squeeze any more in when I know I won’t have any real time to sew until Thursday again – and that’s my self care day!

Sunday Intentions

Okay, briefly! I just said – busy week ahead. A LITTLE bit less busy. I definitely need to go run errands tomorrow. You could argue that I could save them for Tuesday when I’m going to be in Madison anyway for my doctor’s appointment, but I don’t like to give myself too many things to do in a day because I get angry and resentful and way too tired. So I’ll plan to do speed errands tomorrow morning and then MAYBE have time to check out my Cricut in the evening. Tuesday, I have my annual exam. I’m actually much more dreading the doctor’s lecturing on my internal health instead of all the womanly stuff. I know she’s not going to be happy with me. But Wednesday some of my friends are throwing me a belated birthday lunch, so at least I have that to look forward to! But the boys also have an early release from school, so it’ll be hard to get much done that afternoon. Then things slow down a little bit until Science Night at school Friday. And we get to hang out with my brother and his family this weekend! I know I should sew at some point this week. And I’d really love some more substantial reading time…

I think that’s it! I’m sick of arguing this point and wasn’t going to even bring it up, but….it was a good birthday run. I sometimes get teased by people for making too big of a deal out of it. I honestly don’t feel like I do and I already pointed out that it’s NOT all sunshine and rainbows around here. I just want to create situations in my life, especially around my birthday, where happy memories can be made in the midst of all the harder stuff. Plus, I feel like it makes sense that my family would want to celebrate with me? And my in-laws? And my husband? Yeah, I could try to somehow cram all of that into a single day, but it would be miserable. I need space between events. I need down time or I lose my mind. So year after year, despite what anyone else might think, I’m going to keep doing this. Making the most of the days before and after to take care of myself and my happiness and do the things and connect with the people that will bring me joy. It is WORTH IT. You can do it too.

Caden’s 11th Birthday and All the Things

This past week was PACKED with fun activities and celebrations! I was a little apprehensive about so many things happening in so little time, but it ended up going really well! It helped that I didn’t actually end up having a ton of prep work to do (plus Greg did most of the housework), so I had a pretty healthy mix of down time and party time. And NOTHING stressful or dramatic happened. I think that’s a first!

I don’t remember much of what happened earlier last week, except that I ran a lot of errands and made six new dolls. I still wish I were producing these dolls at a faster pace, but I need to just accept life is too busy for this couple week span of September to get to everything I want to. And it’s okay.

On Thursday I had a pretzel dinner with my mom and the boys again, just like we did last month before our sign painting class.

Then we painted! I designed both mine and my mom’s sign ahead of time. Brushed off my rusty Illustrator skills and it was so much fun! I wish I had picked a slightly different color scheme for mine, making it a little easier to read. But I’m mostly happy with it. I think I’m going to take the class again in October. If anyone wants to join me, it’s right after my birthday and is SO MUCH FUN. 🙂

On Friday afternoon I took Annie to the dog park for the first time since her attack. We were the only ones there and didn’t stay that long, but she loved having the chance to run around for a little bit. I think she’s just dying to have some playtime and the longer I wait the more insane she’ll probably act around other dogs, so I should just bite the bullet and take her at a busier time one of these days. It’s just been so nice out this week we’ve been going on long walks instead.

Right after school I took the boys to Beaver Dam to meet up with all of Greg’s family to have dinner together and celebrate my brother-in-law Alex’s birthday a week early. He’s never been in Wisconsin anywhere near his birthday, so it was the first time we could celebrate with him in person. That was probably the only issue we had the whole weekend – Caden kept bursting into tears and shouting that he just wanted to be alone. CLASSIC introvert behavior. He’s also had a really bad cold the last week or so and he’s been very short tempered and emotional. Once we got to the restaurant, though, everything was fine.

We told the waiter that we were celebrating all three birthdays, so they got to wear sombreros and eat sopapillas. It got a little rowdy!

Typical silly boy.

Saturday morning was a little crazy because I had a lot of errands to run. I got up super early and picked up the bagels I had ordered for Caden’s party. Then I did a quick rush around the farmers market because I hadn’t been there in so long. A storm was brewing, though, so it wasn’t very relaxing or enjoyable as I was rushing to get back to my car before the rain started. Then I had to pick up a few groceries before heading even further west to pick up the cake for the retirement party. I went back home and crashed for a few hours while Greg took care of all the house cleaning for the birthday party. I finally rallied some energy and got the kitchen mostly set up and then got dressed up for the retirement party.

We had a small, but very nice retirement party for my mother-in-law Cindy in a private room at Buck and Honey’s in Sun Prairie. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was jovial, and the restaurant itself was fancy enough to feel special, without being over the top.

Caden was being a little whiny again. It’s hard to have a lot of things going on your birthday weekend that don’t have anything to do with you. Even I get that way around MY birthday and Mother’s Day, so I get it. He was allowed to get a sundae in place of cake and then proceeded to completely ignore the whole table of people singing to him.

The original Noe family. We did get a photo with everyone, but it’s probably going to be a Christmas card picture, so I don’t want to spoil it.

We decided to treat the boys like toddlers who are incapable of understanding restaurant/party etiquette and let them just play games and watch videos after they were done eating. It was really nice for Greg and I to finally just be part of the adult group without constantly having reminders that we’re mom and dad to kids who like to be verrrry difficult around other people. Throwback to the last time everyone was together in July and Caden had his biggest most epic meltdown/tantrum of all time. I didn’t want a repeat performance.

On Sunday morning we had Caden’s birthday party bright and early! I decided to give myself a break with so much going on and ordered/bought most of the food so I didn’t have to worry about making much ahead of time. I did cook all the bacon on Friday and made a batch of granola. And I cooked the sausage Sunday morning. I got two dozen bagels from Gotham Bagels in downtown Madison. And I ordered three kringles from Racine Kringle to be his “cake.” It’s one of his favorite foods and I almost never buy them, so he was really happy with that surprise. I also picked up some yogurt, set up a coffee station, made a harvest punch, and Cindy brought berries to go with the yogurt and my mom made a beautiful berry filled fruit pizza. It was A LOT of amazing food. So tasty.

Annie was being so needy during the party. She usually only makes me hold her hand during car rides, but apparently she needed some support in the house that day. She also had an abundance of energy since it was raining all weekend and she didn’t get any exercise – plus cooped up in her kennel quite a bit while we were gone.

It was a nice and relaxed party! Before it started I was looking at timehop photos from his third birthday when I took really nice pictures of him with every single person who attended the party. I was determined to do that again, and then only got as far as one photo with the aunts. Oops. It’s very hard to get kids to cooperate once they’re past age 2 or 3!

I took a nap after everyone left and then made some chocolate chip cookie dough cups for his school treat.

We weren’t sure what to do on Sunday night – I wanted to go out as a special treat, but restaurants aren’t treats to Caden. He hates them. And we’d already gone out three nights in a row. But he finally agreed and we went to Bel Air Cantina – what has quickly become “our” family place in the last year. It’s the only restaurant we go to just the four of us!

The boys are WAY more excited about eating the unlimited chips and unique salsas than the actual meal food, but Greg and I like it. Caden was given Mexican s’mores for a birthday dessert.

And finally Monday was Caden’s official 11th birthday!

It was also the first day of fall, so I broke into my bag of Brandywine Small Wonder fall blend coffee. I do have to give a little PSA – this brand of coffee is AMAZING. It is what’s broken me from only drinking flavored coffees and opened up a whole new world of what coffee can actually taste like. Every single blend I’ve had is so delicious. My only problem is that when I only drink one cup a day, I have so much to use up and they release new blends every single week that sound so good! I need to have more coffee mornings. Speaking of, I wanted to have one this week, but I’m just too exhausted from everything that’s been going on. NEXT WEEK.

It was also Annie’s 4.5 birthday. I forgot to get her anything, but she definitely helped Caden open his gifts – she loves opening presents. Originally we thought we’d have a pretty rushed evening because it was Lego League night, but we decided to let him skip it just this once. We’ve been so busy and he’s had this awful cold that he deserved a chance to just chill out and have a good night at home.

It was a VERY low key night – all Caden ever wants from life. I made tacos for dinner and brownies for dessert. He loved all his new gifts and spent the whole night playing some new video games. He was very happy.

And that was our week! We survived! It went WELL. And now I’m in recovery mode. I’ve been working a lot yesterday and today, but also went on some long walks and did a yoga video for the first time in ages. Life really isn’t going to settle down for a few more weeks. Cindy’s birthday is Thursday and Friday I’m off to Cranberry Fest. I have some appointments and things I need to get done next week. And then it’s MY birthday. 🙂 And then things will slow down a little, at least until November when I head to North Carolina. Today, though…I’m just exhausted. But we made it.

Early August Festivities

Well, I told you guys all about Book Bonanza and my trip to Dallas the other day, so now it’s time to catch you up on everything that happened before that trip. It’s been such a busy month!

Greg and I spent the first few days at the Secret Cottage – a beautiful little place we discovered a few years ago.

This was our third visit there – we first went for my 30th birthday, then again for our 11th anniversary. We’re talking about going again in January for our 20th anniversary of being together – mostly so we can officially say we’ve stayed there for every season! It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but I bet it would be especially cozy in the dead of winter with the fireplace and snow covered trees surrounding it.

We were only there for two nights, but it was such a wonderful break from reality. I think it’s the first vacation we’ve ever taken where we seriously just chilled out and did basically nothing. We only went out once to get lunch because I hadn’t packed enough food. It was such a nice trip!

Right after that, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson came to visit! They spent the first day hanging out at our house. I think this was the first time ever that Hudson didn’t take a really long time to feel comfortable with us. Maybe he finally knows who we are from visit to visit?! He was having so much fun exploring everything and trying to pet the cats.

We went to the pool for awhile. The water was pretty chilly, so Hudson just hung out on the edges. It was quite a challenge getting the three of them in a photo together – impossible to get them all smiling!

We had a pizza and snack party afterward. Hudson is just the cutest!

Midpost PSA to tell you if you’re looking to make your own cold brew at home, this is a fabulous combination. (I should write a post on coffee soon!) I really prefer to buy cold coffee drinks at coffee shops and wanted to up my game at home this summer, making my own instead of buying the premade jugs of cold brew. I’ve been trying out a lot of different brands, especially the fancy brands that make a specific blend for cold brewing. This Sunny Spot by Grounds & Hounds has been my favorite by a mile. It’s so good. It’s even better with this new Nitro Creamer. If you’re local, I found it at Woodman’s. Unfortunately when I went there a few days ago to buy another bottle, they were all expired. Hopefully they’ll stock some fresh ones!

We spent that Sunday at my parents’ house to celebrate Timmy’s birthday a few weeks early. It was a beautiful day with lots of time outside.

Annie was feeling very jealous of all the attention Hudson was getting. She definitely likes to be the baby of the family!

Greg saying goodbye to Hudson. 🙁

On Monday morning all of us, except Greg, went to the State Fair! The boys and I got there a few hours earlier than everyone else and walked around the mostly deserted park checking out some of the animals.

We normally start our annual fair visit with a bag of apple cider donuts. But Shepard was feeling especially hangry and couldn’t wait until 9:00 when that side of the WI products building opened. So they settled for kringle slices instead.

Then Shepard and I got grilled cheeses. I’ve reached the point where I can’t eat anything remotely sweet in the morning or I have a massive headache all day long, so grilled cheese was perfect!

We found Hudson! And he had already found a donut.

Caden wanted to get a baked potato. That reminded me that he LOVES baked potatoes, but I never, ever make them. Poor deprived child!

We split up for a little bit because they wanted to watch the pig races and we didn’t want to sit in the sun for that long. Shepard was already being pretty difficult about everything at that point. The whole day was really very up and down. Caden was FANTASTIC. Shepard was really testing my last nerve. There was a lot of either miscommunications or simple ignoring of when I thought we were going to be meeting back up with everyone after brief splits, which was extremely frustrating to me. A lot of wasted time on our part, thinking they were coming to us, when they were instead just doing something else without letting us know and we had to go hunt them down. It’s hard going to events like that as a large group. It’s hard for me to accept that not everyone is like me in the way that they think and go about life. But…yeah. Let’s just say I had a really good time with Caden. I think maybe next year Shepard can stay home and have a Daddy day!

I think the cream puffs were Hudson’s favorite treat!

The boys and I finished our day (at like 1pm lol) at the super crowded building that sells our favorite beef sticks. I also finally found a coffee option that sounded good to me. The boys had a great time looking at all the hot tubs for sale – until Shepard became infuriated that I wouldn’t buy one. Because we totally have the set up to just buy an enormous room sized hot tub and stick it in our house. 😛

We said our goodbyes to Hudson who was off to find a place to take a nap. We won’t see him again until possibly late October.

Finished up our fair visit with Shepard getting some cotton candy – what he wanted from the minute we arrived. I was disappointed to realize that once again I filled up on all our regular foods that I didn’t have any desire to spend the money on something unique. NEXT YEAR.

After fair day, I was just super busy getting packed up for Dallas and trying to make sure Greg and the boys had enough food at home for easy meals to last them while I was gone. It was a very chaotic two days!

Back at home this week, I’ve just been trying to get settled back in. I still haven’t been feeling the greatest, plus just SO TIRED. I thought I’d come home from my solo vacation feeling relaxed and rested, when the opposite was definitely true. I’ve tried to lay low this whole week. We did go grocery shopping asap on Wednesday morning, followed by some school haircuts. I’m not particularly thrilled with either of them, but at least I know Shepard’s will grow out looking really cute! Caden fought tooth and nail to have a haircut at all and you can barely notice a difference. But…that’s what he wanted. And I said I’d be respectful of their personal body choices.

Otherwise I’ve just been working! I finished up six new dolls this morning and took two custom orders that I’ll start working on tonight. I’m happy to be back at it, but also really feeling the pressure to make as many as possible as fast as possible. There are basically just two weeks left of summer and my goal was to keep prioritizing my family and making the most of the days we have. But honestly…I want September. I want school. I want regular schedules. I want quiet days. I want to only make lunch for myself. I want to take naps where I don’t have to be in the next room with one ear open to any shenanigans that might occur. Summer is EXHAUSTING. But it’s almost over and I think I can survive. Hopefully. 🙂

Easter and Other Updates

Happy Easter Monday! I’m not really sure what that is, except that it’s on the calendars. Oh, it’s also Earth Day, so more appropriately – happy Earth Day! It’s been a really busy week with a jam packed holiday weekend. Lots of updates to life around here!

I forgot to mention in my post two Sundays ago that we were supposed to be at Great America that day for Greg’s employee appreciation day. But for the second year in a row the weather was horrible. They didn’t cancel it all together this year, but apparently only four rides were open and they shut down early. Such a bummer! We might be given free tickets to go at some point during the summer, but it’s always fun to go on the employee day when it’s a lot less crowded and they feed us an awesome lunch.

Shepard started soccer on Monday night. Unfortunately, he was the only one there! Apparently only he and his friend signed up for the 4:00 slot and his friend was sick. So the coach asked if we’d stick around for the 5:00 group which was a little bigger and then he spent an hour giving both boys a private lesson on all things soccer. They loved it. Caden was invited to play with them at the 5:00 time too. They decided halfway through the week to eliminate the earlier session entirely, which is kind of a bummer. They also extended it until 6:30, which is making our dinnertime a whole lot more complicated. But it’s only for a month, so we’ll deal.

Jack had another vet appointment on Tuesday to get his blood and urine rechecked after a few weeks on his prescription food. Apparently, this is common with kidney failure – he has very high blood pressure. So while his protein and kidney levels were stable enough that he doesn’t need medication yet, he DOES need to start taking high blood pressure meds. I was worried about shoving a pill down his throat every day for the rest of his life, but so far I’ve been smashing it into a soft cat treat and he gobbles it right up. Whew! The pharmacists at Walgreen’s thought it was hilarious that the prescription I brought in was for a cat.

Shepard had his open house at school on Wednesday night. It was cute to see him so excited to show off everything. He’s really come into his own this year. He’s grown up so much and even looks like a completely different kid!

The biggest news on Wednesday – for me, anyway – is that I signed up to go to a Hope*Writers conference in North Carolina this November! I’ve been aware of the Hope*Writers community for awhile and have had it at the back of my mind as a thing to join when I started feeling really serious about writing. Well, I’m starting to feel that way! The actual community is closed for new memberships at the moment, but the writing conference sounds AMAZING. It definitely felt a bit self indulgent to plan another cross country solo trip when I’m already going to Book Bonanza in Texas in August. But the more I thought about it the more it felt like the right decision. This is a valuable investment into my future and a career I have felt called toward my entire life. I still have a lot of details to work out, but I’ve bought my ticket and I’m really excited about it. I also signed up for a 90 day Directions course through Hope*Writers that is hopefully going to focus my writing and get me on the path I want to walk. I haven’t had a ton of time to delve into the coursework yet, but I paid to be in it, so I’m going to give it my best effort in the next few months.

Back to my reality career, I finished up these 12 little Mother’s Day dolls on Thursday. Most of them sold pretty quickly.

Friday was a pretty crappy day. First of all, there was a lot of pressure to make the day somehow special because it was the one and only day we got off for Spring Break after all the snow days this winter. Fortunately, Greg went to work at his parents’ house which eased up that extra layer of also trying to stay out of his way all day. Because it was so nice out, we went to the dog park for awhile and then got some Burger King drive thru food for an early lunch. Then I just gave in and let the boys play video games for awhile because I desperately needed to get stuff done. I’ll admit I had a pretty poor attitude the whole day. I was a little angry that I felt forced into having an egg dyeing party that I fully intended on not doing this year. I was resentful of how much work goes into parties and holidays and vacations and how little credit I get for doing all that work. Every once in awhile I just want to rant and scream about how it is not easy to make all of these things come together smoothly, even if it somehow appears that way. I’ve also just been terribly stressed out about my doll making plans for the next month. I want to have specials for my six year anniversary, I need to make more Mother’s Day and teacher appreciation dolls – for selling and for my kids’ teachers. I also offered to make raffle baskets for the school auction, which I LOVE doing, but the timing for it is just awful. Plus we have a six day vacation coming up very quickly, I need to have Mother’s Day gifts and Greg’s birthday gifts all settled before that. Greg is having a friend stay at our house next weekend, a friend I’ve never met and our first ever houseguest, and the logistics plus my messed up anxiety around having strangers in my space, has been difficult to wrap my head around. And there’s just a ton of end of the year things going on with school. Plus, you know, kids and pets and cooking and cleaning and laundry, and oh yeah, this intense writing course I just signed up for at the worst possible time of the year. It’s a lot.

But, I made it. A lot of the stress is entirely my own fault because I don’t like to do anything halfway or take the easy route when it comes to having people over. In general, I really do love having parties and the more the merrier. It’s the reason why I keep trying to gather people for taco nights and craft nights and then get so incredibly sad when nobody comes. But the exact timing of this late Easter and everything happening in the coming weeks was NOT GREAT. But it was worth it in the end.

Saturday was the big day! I was really excited about all the egg hunts this year because last year I couldn’t walk yet, so I didn’t do any of them. I seem to remember the year before that everyone was very uncooperative about going, so we skipped out. But this year, we were all gung ho! The boys and I started with the early Pick n Save hunt where there are the least amount of kids and the most and best candy.

I took Annie to the dog park after and Shepard showered and styled his hair…

Next we went to the Culver’s hunt and brought Willow along. She was with us for most of the day, which I really think helped Caden stay in a positive mood. He was SO much more into all of the festivities than he ever is. It was such a wonderful change! Willow and Shepard made out with a good amount of free ice cream tokens and Caden got as many large tootsie rolls as he could grab.

There was about a three hour gap between the second and third hunts, and I totally just chilled out and read and took a nap. I felt really guilty because the weather was gorgeous and basically the entire neighborhood was outside doing various yardwork and such. But I figured I put in my time on Friday and I just didn’t want to do any more work.

The big park egg hunt was insane, as usual! This was the first year the boys were in the same age group (for all of them), which was really nice! Caden still has one more year for the park hunt before he can do the Friday night flashlight egg hunt, which sounds awesome.

I got my homemade salsas and a few other snacks out for the party. Greg’s parents brought some Aldi pizzas for the main course. It was about the longest egg dyeing party ever because everyone came in batches over a number of hours, but it was fun! Caden and Willow were having the greatest time with their egg decorating. And then we had our usual egg pecking contest at the end. Willow was declared the overall winner.

Greg’s family stayed for a few more hours to play board games and I made a peanut butter pie. Super easy, but very indulgent.

We finished the night loading up baskets and hiding eggs. I bought some bigger baskets at Walmart this year so everything actually fit for once! Mine even looked a little bare! Though I realized later I had just gotten some new coffee on Saturday that I should have thrown in to fill it up. I love gathering stuff for baskets and stockings and any other holiday that might include a variety of unique goodies!

Easter morning was surprisingly relaxed! Caden and I were up first and Shepard slept till 7:30! Even Greg was up before that because he thought we were all waiting on him. (Like we usually are!) I had time to make two kinds of scones for breakfast before the boys were ready to hunt for their baskets. The pets found theirs first and were very happy! It was like the best day of Rory’s life getting a nice catnip stick to wrestle with.

We went over to Greg’s parents’ house mid-morning for an outdoor egg hunt. I can’t believe how great the weather was, especially considering it was snowing and below freezing just a week before! I always think it’s so fun to do the hunts outside.

Forced everyone into one family picture. The boys wouldn’t wear the nice polo shirts I bought them for the occasion (shocker), but they did agree to wear the Peeps shirts, which I wanted them to wear on Saturday and they refused.

We had a huge brunch after the egg hunt. Yum!

More board games.

It was a lovely first (second?) Easter celebration!

Next we went to my parents’ and the boys did a scavenger hunt to find their baskets.

MORE board games. 🙂 Caden’s really into them. I was just relaxing and watching Shepard shoot nerf guns outside.

We had a delicious Easter dinner! My dad heated up the ham on the grill with a glaze. Grills are just the best. I hope to have one again someday!

And we finished up the night with pie. Overall, it was a really nice day. It was actually a great weekend! I think it’s maybe the first holiday of all time that Caden was happy and engaged with no blow ups. Shepard was great too. Though he did eat WAY too much candy yesterday and came home from school with a migraine halfway through the day. After a long nap he’s already feeling a lot better, though.

Looking at the week ahead – still pretty busy. I want to plan out all the dolls I hope to make in the next month and get them traced and cut and ready to sew. That was actually my plan for today, but then I got way too distracted by a ton of other stuff. I was hoping to run a few errands tomorrow, but Shepard is probably going to have to stay home, so I’ll work tomorrow. I will. Wednesday is my last yoga class, which I fully intend on going to this time after three weeks off. And Friday is when our houseguest arrives, Greg and Caden and him are going to see End Game while Shepard and I go to soccer and out to dinner. And the four of us are seeing End Game together on Saturday. Meanwhile our Colorado trip is coming up really fast, so I need to finish making plans for that. So much going on!

Reflections on 2018

2018 was pretty much a year I would like to forget. Reflecting back, there’s really not a whole lot of joyous events that can redeem for all the sucky health related things that happened this past year. The whole year was just plain HARD. But I also think I learned a lot about myself and was able to come out ahead, despite all the trials I had to face.

January did get off to a good start with a lot of fresh enthusiasm for exercise and taking better care of myself. I did a 30 day yoga challenge and if I remember correctly, I only missed one day – if that. I was so proud of myself for following through on something that was really tough for me. I was also doing a lot of walking outside every chance I could. I was on track for really changing my habits around and getting in better shape. And then that awful day at the end of February went and ruined everything.

The day I slipped on that invisible bit of ice and broke my ankle in three places and severely sprained it enough to probably ruin my tendons forever was the worst day of my life. The proceeding surgery and months and months of recovery were a nightmare. The pain alone was horrific, but there was also so much stress and frustration and depression that came along with suddenly not being able to do ANYTHING for myself. There were weeks of slowly crawling across the entire house in blinding pain so I could shower and have one tiny bit of normalcy. Not that that was normal either since I had to wear a bag on my leg that cut off my circulation the entire time I had it on and I needed Greg’s help with everything. I lost control over what foods I could put in my body, what things needed to be shopped for, my ability to take care of my kids or Annie, and I felt completely useless, and worthless. You’d think with some forced down time I could have gotten some reading or rest in, but the pain was so bad and my concentration was completely shot. I was so angry and depressed all the time. I felt like I lost a lot of my friends, or at least the depth of our friendship. (Though the entire situation also showed me who my truest friends were, for which I am grateful.) When Greg had to go back to work I was suddenly on my own with a crazy hyped up dog that I couldn’t do anything for, even if she was practically attacking me because she desperately needed to go to the bathroom. The recovery was so much harder than I ever would have expected. Even now, 10 months later, I’d say my ankle is only at about 60% what it used to be, and the doctor told me that it might not get any better. That’s a sucky diagnoses at age 34.

On top of all my ankle stuff, which really just felt like what the entire year was all about, Greg was also going through some things and had to have surgery in August. It went fine, but he had to suffer through months of pain before the hospital could get around to putting him on the schedule. That definitely didn’t add any joy to our summer.

At the end of summer I was officially diagnosed with high blood pressure and was put on medication. A month later after a bunch of blood tests and an ultrasound, I was also diagnosed with mild fatty liver, which is basically an irreversible condition that happens when you’ve just spent thirty years not taking very good care of yourself. Both things were a huge wake up call that I think I really needed to finally make some changes in my diet. Both conditions would also really be helped with more exercise, but my ankle is still making that quite difficult, especially at this time of the year when I’m scared to death to walk outside for any reason if there’s even the tiniest possibility I might slip on snow or ice.

And to just add to everything else, I’ve also had an infected toe on my left foot for the last nine months. I was on three rounds of antibiotics that didn’t do a thing to help it. Finally, now, it’s just about back to normal.

We also finished up this year with both Shepard and Greg needing glasses. We are just on a roll with health crap. The good news, maybe??? We used up our massive deductible after my surgery at the end of February, so everything else the rest of the year has been “free.” But we also had to spend most of the year paying that deductible off which didn’t leave a lot of extra for vacations or fun.

Speaking of vacations, I did have to cancel my original spring trip I had planned to DC in April because of my ankle break. Originally the physician’s assistant told me that I should probably be okay to still take the trip, which in hindsight was absolutely ridiculous since I still couldn’t even walk without crutches until over a month after that trip would have happened! Fortunately, I was able to go in October and despite some lingering pain, I was able to enjoy it.

We weren’t able to have a big anniversary trip this year, but Greg and I did spend one night away at the end of May to celebrate 12 years together. Honestly, I was still in so much pain from trying to walk that I really don’t remember any of it.

In August, I was feeling well enough to go ahead with the trip I had planned to Minnesota to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing. I spent two days going to basically every TJMaxx and Marshall’s in the Twin Cities. 🙂 Then I drove down and met Greg and the boys in La Crosse for two more nights. That trip was overshadowed by the bedbug Greg found the first morning we were there. That was the first of not one, not two, but THREE bedbug scares/issues we had in three months. For the record, we never had any bedbugs in our actual house and the third issue turned out not to be bedbugs at all. But all three incidents were enough to make us wary of going to hotels ever again.

In September I was able to go on another little trip by myself to Chicago to see my favorite podcast, The Popcast, live. Greg’s sister joined me for the show which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that trip even more because I happened to come across an amazing vintage market on my drive down. I’m planning to go to that market annually, it was SO amazing. I finished up the month going to Cranberry Fest with my parents as usual. Though between my ankle and my mom’s hip, it was a bit more of a subdued adventure than usual.

One of the saddest things that happened this year is that my brother and his family decided to move to Nebraska for new jobs. It came as an incredible shock after the rest of the family made the wrong assumption that they were in Wisconsin to stay after they just moved back a year earlier. We’ve still been able to see Hudson about every two months or so, but it’s really sad we can’t all be more actively involved in each other’s lives the way we thought we were going to be when we were given that new (and only!) nephew/cousin.

In Heartstring Annie related news, despite being out of commission for a month or two after breaking my ankle, plus taking almost all of October and December off for more personal time, it’s been my biggest year for sales. I made 224 sales and sold 297 dolls. Plus all the dolls I made that didn’t sell, and dolls I made for gifts and giveaways. That’s a lot! It kind of surprises me, especially at the moment when I haven’t had a single sale in over three weeks. This year has really proven to me that the more I put into it, the more sales I will make. I have a big enough following now that when I make something new, it almost surely sells right away. I got a lot more creative this summer and pushed outside the traditional Raggedy Ann boundaries. It was really fun to follow my more artistic side instead of constantly letting “what people want” force my creative path. I’ve definitely had some serious ups and downs trying to decide if sewing dolls is really what I want to do with my life, but after a month of trying to let myself focus a lot more on writing – my other favorite careerish prospect – I realized that I really do like making dolls for money and keeping the writing as a hobby. So for now, that’s what I’m going to keep doing!

I do think that in the midsts of all our trials, Greg and I have become closer this year. I never could have gotten through those horrible months without him. Without a single complaint he took on full time parenting and dog caring all while still working his full time job and doing everything around the house and out of it. He was truly amazing. I don’t think I would have lasted a week if our situations had been reversed. I don’t believe caretaking is in my genetic code! We definitely still have plenty of ups and downs. It’s really hard to stay connected in this stage of parenting when our kids still need us and want us (mostly him) and our attention constantly. We’ve also gotten a lot busier this year. But he is an amazing partner in life and incredible dad and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. We’ve been trying to make date nights out of the house a more regular thing again and I look forward to prioritizing our marriage more in the coming year.

I think Caden has grown a lot this year as well. We still struggle – a lot. I might regret saying this, but I truly think he’s gotten better in the last few months. He’s becoming more mature. He’s also had to take on more responsibility, walking Shepard home from school when I couldn’t last spring. It worked out so well and I started feeling like it was such a waste of my time  to go myself that he picks Shepard up every day after school this year too. We continue to get raving reports from his teacher about how amazing he is in class – so helpful and smart and patient with his classmates. I still think he’s using up all that patience and helpfulness while he’s at school and saving very little for at home with his us, but…it’s okay. He’s getting there. I’ve been very proud of him lately, especially over the holidays when he’s usually at his worst. He’s really been great this Christmas.

Shepard continues to surprise me in how helpful he can be when he wants to be. He usually makes breakfast for both him and Caden every morning. For the kid who took seven years to fully potty train, it still comes as a surprise when he’ll just randomly start doing things that seem so beyond his years. Or at least things that are beyond Caden’s limited capabilities – usually in the kitchen. He has such a curious and silly spirit and is always up for new things and helping people with projects. Ask him to read for ten minutes or clean his room, though – NOT going to happen. His crazy stubborn streak is still very much alive and well!

And things continue to be well with my sweet babes. Jack and Rory turned 13 in April and are still healthy and well. Jack is starting to have some issues, but nothing decisive yet – he just drinks a ton of water and goes through a massive amount of litter. Both cats are pretty grumpy with each other and Annie, but love being around the four of us more than ever. And my beautiful Annie is happy and wild and still lives for the chance to play with other dogs at the dog park. Despite those rough few months (in which a few friends did help me out by bringing her out to play a few times a week), I think all three of the pets have had a really good year!

So looking back on the year, it was not as bad as it could have been, that’s for sure. I do think I grew as a person and I think I needed those internal health scares to really get me thinking about what I need to change to live a long and prosperous life. I can’t think of any ways that breaking my ankle helped me out. That just sucked. But it is what it is and I just have to keep working and hope it gets better. I’m glad to see this year come to a close, though. I think 2019 will be a much more exciting and joyous year and I can’t wait for it to begin!