Halloween Festivities

Happy Halloween! Okay, I know Halloween is still a couple of days away, but the past few days have been packed full of festive activities and my kids don’t have any more public opportunities to wear their costumes, so it’s basically over around here! It’s been a lot of fun, though.

I wasn’t in the mood to buy costumes this year. On one hand, I’m totally all for buying costumes if it makes your life easier. We’ve gone the store bought route for the last four or five years. But this year it just felt like a waste of money, plus the boys never even care what they dress up as. Why spend the money if it means nothing to them? So I basically put it on Greg to figure out what kind of handmade thing they could come up with while I was on my trip. I think his mom is the one who really put it all together with some of their old costumes, but it turned out great! Shepard was originally going to be a Minecraft youtuber that nobody would have recognized or heard of. But when shown a PURPLE wizard costume that Greg wore in sixth grade, he went that route instead. Of course second grade Shepard is drastically smaller than sixth grade Greg was, so I had to alter it quite a bit. Hopefully nobody bigger ever wants to wear this costume again!! Caden wore part of some Star Wars costume one of his aunts wore at some point – turned into a Harry Potter type of cloak with his sorting hat and some black glasses. It worked, it didn’t cost any money, and they thought they looked pretty cool! Greg liked it so much he decided we need to do handmade costumes every year now…

Anyway, we went to SpookFest on Thursday night, something the schools put on for grades K-5 every year. Caden had no interest in going (shocker), but we lasted about half an hour. Shepard had a good time running around with his friends, until he decided he wanted a soda, we said no, and massive seven year old on the floor kicking and crying tantrums ensued. Oh well.

After dinner on Friday we carved our pumpkins. Greg and I did most of the work, but Shepard was very excited about it. I washed all the seeds and made my three usual flavor combinations. I was pretty exhausted, but also had a fairly rough day (more on that in my next post today!), so I decided to try and gather everyone to go to the community bonfire for some cheer. The boys didn’t want to go – until their friend Leverett got permission to come with us. Then we ran into Greg and Annie who were already on a pokewalk and all of us walked over to the park for the fire.

It was a lot of fun! It was just cold enough to enjoy the fire, but not so cold we were miserable, like last year. There weren’t a ton of people there, but enough that it felt special and fun. There was a group of kids that the boys joined with and had a BLAST dancing by the DJ. Some of my friends were there, so it was fun to chat with everyone. And Annie just loved being out and about.

We stayed for an hour and a half and then had to drag the boys home because I was just so exhausted. It was a really great night, though! It’s so rare to have Caden raving about how excited he is to be somewhere. It was like the best night of his life running around with friends in the dark with good dance music on!

I spent all of Saturday getting ready for our annual Halloween party. It was extra special this year because Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were coming, plus all the parents/grandparents, and my brother Tyler – for a full celebration. We were also sort of celebrating fall birthdays for me, Brittany, and Tyler. I tried to keep the food festive and easy to prepare with a good mix of healthy and treats. I love the simplicity of these clementine and celery pumpkins!

Monster mouths! I only had teeny apples, so not quite as effective, but definitely yummy.

White cheddar cheeto bones.

Flamin’ hot cheeto bones.

Our pumpkin seeds – dill, salt, and chex mix flavors.

These were all supposed to be different kinds of bugs.

The flourless chocolate cake Brittany requested for her birthday dessert. With a spiderweb on top to go with the theme. My mom also brought her famous kit kat bars for my birthday dessert, but I never got a picture of them.

Jalapeno popper mummies. I usually do hot dog mummies, but nobody really eats them, so I gave this a shot this year. I didn’t like them much because they were missing that salty component I’m so used to when I make jalapeno popper dip and eat it with chips. But they looked cute!

The famous pizza snake that makes an appearance every Halloween party. I thought this year’s tasted especially good because I made the effort to cut all the inside toppings into the tiniest possible pieces so it all blended together better.

I never decided if this is supposed to look like blood and guts, or brains. Maybe it looks more brainy with the raspberry seeds. With mini candied pecan brains?

And “monster fingers.” Basically just enormous beef sticks I got at Costco that nobody in my family liked, so I needed to set them out to get rid of them!

Cindy and Shepard put together a veggie skeleton for the centerpiece of it all. Very cool! Shepard loved his broccoli hair.

Hudson was getting over a bunch of illness, but he was in high spirits! It was so cute how proud of himself he looked every time anyone would laugh at something he did. In this instance he was hitting Shepard with a hammer because he kept whining. Probably shouldn’t encourage that, but it was pretty hilarious.

A tricky selfie snuck in only because we were standing at the window and he was smiling at Daddy.

The only picture I got of our finished pumpkins. Sometimes Shepard seems so big and sometimes he still seems so tiny.

I was hoping for a nice trick or treating picture of the cousins all together, but my boys couldn’t be bothered to even be in our yard at the same time and Hudson just wanted to be cuddled with Mom because he didn’t like wearing his costume very much. But we tried!

Steve stayed home to hand out candy and the rest of us set off to trick or treat. Caden and Shepard immediately ran to Leverett’s house right as he was coming outside, so they just rushed ahead with him. The rest of us stayed back with Hudson, but he was just very confused about what was happening. We only lasted about two blocks before it started sprinkling and we realized we’d never keep up with the older boys, so we all went back home. I’m kind of annoyed my kids couldn’t even stay with our group for five minutes. Or even a single house. But…they’re getting older, I guess. This is what happens. Caden’s almost never happy anymore unless a friend is involved in whatever he’s doing.

But back at the house we still had some fun with Hudson and Annie. He realized how exciting it was to hand Annie all of his food. Everyone stayed for awhile longer and then Greg took over handing out candy the last half an hour. I probably bought at least 500 pieces of candy and we went through all of it. Plus a big bowl of goldfish crackers for little kids and a bowl of dog treats. We live on quite the popular street!

Overall – great party! It was a lot of fun! Now all that’s left is actual Halloween, but the boys have dentist appointments after school that day, so really not the best of days! But maybe I can throw together one more festive meal. We shall see.

Happy Halloween!

Birthday Week Reflections 10.07.2018

Hello! Well, today is my 34th birthday and I’m at the end of celebrating my birthday week. I feel like I’ve kind of been getting some passive aggressive flak for all of my mini celebration pictures I’ve been posting online the last few days. I’m not going to apologize for it, guys. If you want a birthday week, YOU CAN HAVE ONE. The only person stopping you is yourself. 🙂 I like to think of my birthday as a weeklong celebration because it really takes the pressure off of having one really special and perfect day. Because let’s face it – if you have kids, a job, a life of any sort – it’s pretty hard to pull off a perfect day. So to try and stave off that disappointment, I spread things out so I have something little to look forward to every day. Plus, the only way you can really celebrate with everyone is to have a big party. And maybe it’s just me, but it feels a bit more embarrassing to throw yourself a huge party every year, as an adult. 🙂 I had a hard enough time just asking a couple of friends to give up a night to come out with me. Anyway, little daily celebrations it is!

So! Monday started off with Caden waking us up super early because he was sick. Already interrupting my plans. But after a lot of extra sleep he was feeling a lot better, so I left him with a package of saltines, video games, and his open chromebook so he could keep in constant messaging contact with me, and ran out to do the errands I desperately needed to do as fast as possible. And then I squeezed in a fast lunch at Qdoba. I was dying to try their Chicken Diablo nachos. They were so tasty, but crazy messy!

The rest of Monday was packed with cleaning out the pantry and fridge, doing a lot of housework and laundry, and making a big batch of chicken noodle soup for dinner. After school Shepard had his first piano lesson. He was SO excited about it!

I was super excited on Monday night because the announcement came through that Book Bonanza 2019 tickets were on sale! They had their first book bonanza this last August, in Denver, at the same time we were in LaCrosse. I found out about it way too late to have gone, but I was so jealous of everyone there! It is organized by Colleen Hoover (my favorite), but features a ton of authors. Rachel Hollis was even one of the keynote speakers at that conference. Anyway, I was anxiously awaiting to hear when and where next year’s bonanza would be and at the beginning of September they announced it would be in Dallas. In August. Blech. It was also more expensive than I was expecting and just kind of wrote it off and not going to happen, even though I was super disappointed. ANYWAY, come Monday, I was telling Greg that tickets finally went on sale and he told me I should buy my ticket! I couldn’t believe he was serious, but that’s the kind of guy he is. 🙂 So even though it feels like a totally self indulgent and expensive solo vacation, I am going to Book Bonanza next year!!!! 48 hours of author panels and signings and keynote speeches and yummy food all in an amazing looking hotel filled with fellow book lovers just outside of Dallas. I’ve never been to Texas, so that’ll be exciting too, even though I don’t think I’ll see anything besides Grapevine, the city where the hotel is. But still! Even though it’s 10 months away, I am so psyched. I have my room booked too because it’s all at the same place. So I just need to find a flight, sometime.

On Tuesday morning I had to go back to Fitchburg to get some quick lab work done. I had originally planned to stop at World Market afterward and then spend an hour or two at the big Barnes and Noble before getting back home in early afternoon. Instead I overbooked myself, AGAIN, and went to like ten stores. By the time I got to Barnes and Noble I was so exhausted that I left after five minutes. It was still a nice day, but I was kind of mad at myself for not just sticking to the thing I was really looking forward to.

Tuesday after school we lost Shepard again. This time it was a mixup because the boys had a new meetup plan, but Shepard forgot about it during the day and never found Caden. Caden ran to school, talked to all of Shepard’s friends who hadn’t seen him, and ran all the way back home to get me. Once again, it was pretty scary, but only lasted a few minutes before we found him. It made me realize that we just need to be a lot more consistent. It’s unfair to expect a 7 year old to remember all the different plans every single day.

Wednesday was the only day I took Annie on a longer walk and then I had my first Writing Wednesday, writing a few blog posts. Annie had a grooming appointment in the afternoon. While she was gone my birthday present from Steve and Cindy arrived – a new bookcase!!!

The guys spent the night building it for me while I read on the chair.

Annie found the most awkward spot to sleep while it was being built! 🙂 It took me until Saturday to get my books set up, but I’m not quite happy with my arrangement yet. I’ll get a picture up when I figure out the rest!

On Thursday morning Shepard lost a tooth that’s been barely hanging on for the last six weeks. He HATES losing teeth. But I think he was really relieved that it came out with little fanfare this time around. He just woke up and it fell out of his mouth!

Thursday was mostly a workday, pretty uneventful. Then I went out to one of my favorite restaurants, Monk’s, with two of my friends.

I really appreciate that they made time to come out with me. I was in kind of a depressed mood earlier in the day, thinking about how drastically my friend situation has changed in the last few years. On my 30th birthday I had about 14 awesome friends go out to Chili’s with me and it was amazing. And now every year I have fewer and fewer of those friendships left. Everyone is so busy. It’s just a whole issue I’m having a really hard time reconciling with. But it’s also not really something I can talk openly about without probably hurting or ruining the friendships I have left. At any rate, it was nice to go out. It hasn’t happened in a long time!

On Friday I worked for a couple more hours and then went to see A Star is Born by myself. It was so good!! I wasn’t really prepared for the ending which left me in a pretty somber mood, but I thought Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper had amazing chemistry. I really enjoyed it. It’s also been so long since I’ve been to a movie! It’s one of my favorite things, going by myself during the day. I hope I can make it a more regular thing now that better movies are going to start popping up again! After the movie I FINALLY spent some more time at Barnes and Noble. 🙂

Then for dinner I met Greg and the boys and my in-law’s at Willie Ty’s. I really just wanted to go there for all their flavored aiolis! I wasn’t feeling super hungry, so I just picked a regular grilled cheese and savored my sweet potato fries with habanero aioli.

We came back to our house for birthday cupcakes and a couple more gifts. It was a really nice night!

Birthday flowers, from Cindy.

I had a pretty lazy Saturday. I contemplated going to the farmer’s market, but I’ve been running around so much the last few weeks it just wasn’t appealing to me. So I spent a few hours working and a few hours reading and resting. We made a pizza for lunch that turned into a monster.

Mid afternoon we went to my favorite place to get pumpkins in Horicon. Shepard and I had a great time picking out a big variety to decorate the porch with. (Caden was having a fit and Greg was dealing with that.)

Then we went to my parents’ to celebrate with them. They made an amazing meal, like always! As much as I love eating in restaurants, it was great having a more wholesome homemade meal!

We just hung out and laughed at all of Annie and Gracie’s doggy antics. I opened my presents and got this awesome stack of books, among other things. Can’t wait to dig into them! I think I’ll start with It’s All Under Control as one of the nonfiction books I’d like to read this month.

We had chocolate chip cheesecake for dessert. I had a really nice evening!

And that brings me to today, my actual birthday! I didn’t want to commit to any plans specifically until I knew what I felt like doing today. Weekend birthdays aren’t really my favorite because kids are just around and not making life so easy. But they were actually great all day! We had Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants for an easy breakfast and then I spent most of the morning finishing up a good book.

My big reading chair was my main birthday present, but they also gave me a few treats they picked out at Walgreens and some spices I had asked for.

I set up the pumpkins and we got this nice picture!

One of the things I kind of wanted to do today was check out this craft fair in Sun Prairie. I rallied everyone to go and then it started raining. You had to pay to get in and it just didn’t seem worth it. So we continued on to Madison and had lunch at BelAir Cantina. It’s where I really wanted to eat today, but didn’t really want to bring it up because it was such a long drive. I was also worried the boys wouldn’t really like it because SHOCKER, no chicken tenders on the menu! But it actually turned out to be an awesome lunch. The boys kept shouting that it was the best restaurant EVER. They loved all the different salsas. It’s pretty rare that the four of us go out to dinner by ourselves ever, and when it does happen there’s usually a lot of complaining about something or other. But no complaints today! It was really great! And the food was fantastic. I actually ate here last year on my birthday too, with just Greg. The atmosphere is so much nicer on a Sunday at lunch than later on a Saturday night!

I stopped at Starbucks for my free birthday drink on the way home. I just got the Starbucks app a few weeks ago – I’m glad I didn’t miss out on that reward! 🙂

Back at home I took a long nap with Rory, my favorite nap buddy.

I didn’t really have any dinner plans and wasn’t super hungry, but Greg wanted to figure something out so he took the boys to Subway to pick up something easy.

I decided to make myself a caramel apple pie for my official birthday dessert, but I stupidly decided not to use a recipe. I totally forgot to use some sort of thickening agent and the store bought caramel I added to it must have been more of a dip than an actual caramel because the whole pie was totally liquified! The crust was good! I did use a recipe for that!! At least I got a picture with my boys giving real smiles!

And that was my birthday week! I think 34 will be a good year. The last year before I have to start checking the next age bracket in every survey people put out. 🙂 I still have a couple more minor celebrations coming up, but I’ll try not to be obnoxious about it. Many thanks to the family and friends that gave me a great week!

Caden’s 10th Birthday and Weekend Reflections 09.23.2018

What a crazy week! I’m so exhausted right now I’m not even sure how much sense this blog post will make. I’ve been feeling a bit ragged these last few days. Birthday season is exhausting! But it’s been fun too. Here’s a somewhat quick recap of the week!

On Sunday morning we had Caden’s family party. I made a big donut tower as his cake and the main food. I also served apple cheddar scones, cheesy hashbrowns, bacon, and sausage.

My mom brought yogurt and fruit and granola to add a bit of a healthy element to our meal. 🙂

We got to have some Hudson time at the party! He can walk now, so that’s pretty exciting. He’s so dang adorable!

It was a fun party! Everyone cleared out around noon to watch the Packer game – we have no way to play it, we’re not football people. But Caden was happy to spend the rest of the day gaming. We’ve been trying a new rule this school year where they aren’t supposed to have screens during the week, but can pretty much play whenever they want during the weekend. That’s probably not super healthy either, but it’s kind of nice not constantly fighting over the logistics of every gaming session. Those “negotiations” all summer pretty much did me in.

Monday was an errand day for me, and then the first night of Running Club and Lego League for Caden. As much as he LOVED the summer school Running Club, he hates this one. It was also crazy hot and humid on Monday, so I’m hoping when it’s much cooler tomorrow he’ll enjoy it more. This is a year long thing that I don’t want to force him into if he truly hates it, but we’re hoping he gives it a few more weeks before making a decision. This is the first year either of them have shown any interest whatsoever in after school activities, so if he keeps up with even one of them I think I’ll be happy.

Tuesday was a work day. Pretty uneventful otherwise.

Wednesday was busy. The first late start of the year and then I had my first appointment with an internal medicine doctor to discuss my high blood pressure. I was put on meds while I start working on having a healthier lifestyle and hopefully eventually not needing the meds indefinitely. The appointment gave me a lot to think about. I have mixed feelings on all of it. I’m not going to get into it today.

I spent Wednesday afternoon book browsing and hanging out at a few of my favorite stores while I waited for Greg to finish working. I had dropped him off before my appointment because we had a big date night planned and it seemed dumb to drive two cars to Madison when we were starting our days within a mile of each other. My mom took care of the boys at night so we could stay out as long as we wanted.

The main objective of our date night was to try and find a big comfy chair for my birthday present. I’ve been wanting a chair like this basically my entire adult life. We’ve just never had room for one. But I had a corner spot ready in the living room and reallllllly wanted one and Greg said it was time. I was actually surprised at how many chairs like this we found! They’re called chair and a halfs, apparently. It was huge. I really liked the very first one we found, but we decided on this one at the fourth store we went to. I’m actually pretty surprised I found one at all that I liked enough to buy. I am very furniture picky! But I loved it.

We had dinner then at an Indian restaurant in Middleton. Because we’re practically the same person sometimes, I ordered chicken vindaloo and Greg ordered beef vindaloo. With garlic naan. It was all delicious!

We ended our date with a stop at Marshall’s. I had planned to go here earlier in the day, but sadly, there was as terrible shooting in the area earlier in the day. If I had gotten out of my doctor’s appointment earlier, I would have been there when it happened. It definitely added a sobering layer to the day, but we had a good night out. I hope we can start having more elaborate date nights like this more often than just for special occasions.

On Thursday morning I had a haircut. Once again my stylist didn’t go as short as I had asked. But at least it holds a curl again. I wish I liked my hair. It just always looks horrific if I don’t curl it or put it up. I don’t really like the way it looks up either. I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my life when I liked my hair.

I finished up my first batch of Halloween dolls Thursday afternoon. So cute!

I made some jumbo cookies for Caden’s class treat on Friday. Then I spent most of the day getting ready for his friend party in the afternoon.

We decided to have a super low key birthday party this year with just the neighborhood kids and one extra friend. The main goal of the party was to play Minecraft together. They never left this room! Such a nice difference from Shepard’s last party where the kids screamed, ran, and destroyed our house every single minute they were here. We’ve decided we’re only doing video game parties from now on!

He picked a dirt cake for this birthday dessert. I got away without making a single cake this year! Kid birthday cakes are my most hated things to bake.

Things got a bit wild at present time. Caden’s friends picked out some great gifts, though! They know him really well. And I appreciate that they took an interest and picked things out themselves that they knew he would like. I can never get my kids to show any interest in any birthday gifts they’re supposed to pick out. As a love language gift giver person, it almost kills me how little they care!

Friends!

I took a spontaneous trip to the farmer’s market early Saturday morning. I love the fall markets so much, but they also overwhelm me. I want to buy everything, but I don’t want to CARRY everything. I only ended up buying a cantaloupe, peppers, and carrots. And I picked up some bagels for a birthday breakfast. When I got back home our chair was in the lawn! They gave us a window of it being delivered between 8 and 6. Greg got an email at 7:40 that it had arrived (except he was still sleeping). Pretty funny sight to come home to! I figured we’d have to recruit a neighbor or two to help us get it in the house, but we actually squished it through just the two of us pretty smoothly!

Because the weather finally cooled off and the mosquitoes disappeared (hopefully for good!), I ran Annie to the dog park for an hour while Greg gt the chair legs on. This thing is massive, guys. I knew it was bigger than what I had originally envisioned, but I didn’t think it was going to take up the entire length of wall I had available! Well, I had wanted it angled so I could still see the little bookcase I had against this wall, but that just looked ridiculous. So after a bunch of going back and forth on arrangements and lamp options, we ended up with this. I think it looks pretty good.

I had to move over my falling apart cookbook shelf to make room for the little one next to it. This looks pretty dumb! But I don’t have any more wall space, in any room, for my bookshelf and I refuse to get rid of it! I had a fun time going through all my books again to get rid of ones I don’t want and rearranging by color.

Everyone had to check out the new chair!

It’s very cozy!

The chair is right where Annie used to have a dog bed, so I think she thinks we got this just for her. Rory liked it so much that he joined her on the chair in the evening!! Those two NEVER go by each other. (I should say, Rory never willingly stays by Annie.)

Annie snuggling some more this morning while Caden spent his morning doing games in the other room.

Present time! I realize this looks like an insane amount of presents, but I promise it was all really little things I’ve just been picking up here and there. We couldn’t commit to anything big he might have liked, so I’ve just been on the lookout for small things he might enjoy. It was a lot of used books, Harry Potter brickheadz, sunflower seeds, and snacks. He seemed pretty happy with all of it. Again, he’s not much of a gift person – giving or receiving.

He was pretty disappointed to see that he’s only grown an inch in the last year. He used to be one of the tallest kids in his grade and now all of his friends have passed him up.

We had tacos for lunch (also what we had Friday night) and peanut butter bars for his official birthday dessert.

To get out of the house for a bit on this beautiful day, we tried out a new fall fun place called Enchanted Valley Acres in Cross Plains. It was a bit of a drive, but fun to do something different.

We went during the Packer game so it would be less crowded. There were so many activities. I think the human hamster wheels were their favorite. There was also a huge 200 foot slide.

As is often the case, they both got fixated on something and it kind of ruined their ability to have fun. First it was Caden needing a drink and thinking he was going to die until he had one. There was a Hawaiian ice food truck set up so they each got one of those and then they got obsessed with wanting to do the gem mining, which is of course extra money. Finally they were satisfied with just playing in the water.

I liked this giant corn pit type thing.

The guys ended our trip going in the corn maze and I got my own Hawaiian ice. Corn mazes are not my thing. My ankle had also had enough of bumpy ground at that point.

The rest of the birthday has been pretty low key. Lots more video games. They took a short bike ride. They talked to most of the relatives via video chat. And Greg picked up Chinese food for dinner. At the moment I think he’s feeling very overtired, but it was a good day. It’ll be a long time before he has another weekend birthday.

Sunday Intentions

Another busy week ahead as September festivities continue. Greg’s parents are making their way back from Greece and we’ll be celebrating Cindy’s birthday at some point. I’m hoping for one kind of fun errand day – I might see a movie – on Tuesday, and working as hard as I can Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And Friday I’m off to Cranberry Fest as the crack of dawn with my parents. Always one of my favorite days of the year, so I’m very excited!

My only real intention for the week is to try and enjoy life. I get really caught up in how many things need to be done every day and am often feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But this is the best time of the year and I want to enjoy it! I’m definitely really behind at my seasonal doll making, but I don’t want doll making to take over my life the way it has in the past. So…if I get a lot done, that’s great. If I don’t, it simply means I was doing more important life work. I’ll survive either way.

Have a good week!

Late Summer Vacations in Minnesota and La Crosse

This has been a whirlwind of a week, finishing our three mini vacations of the summer – all right in a row. We had our Fox Lake cottage vacation last weekend with Greg’s parents. Monday was the one normal day of packing and laundry and getting everything organized. And then first thing Tuesday I was off on a solo trip to Minnesota. On Thursday I drove down to La Crosse and met up with Greg and the boys for two nights of family vacation. Overall, I had a lot of fun, did a lot of shopping, looked at a lot of books, and ate a ton of delicious food. But there were also a ton of internet related frustrations in Minnesota and bug related stress in La Crosse. A trip can never just be perfect, right?

I started my journey with a stop at Great Harvest Bread Co. in the Dells. I’ve never been there before and was hoping to find some kind of bread to have on hand for the rest of the week in case the hotel breakfasts were disappointing (and they were). They didn’t really have much bread, but the entire store was filled with bags of these mocha chocolate chip biscotti, so I picked one up. They were delicious!

I planned on eating lunch in Eau Claire, but got to town too early. I drove around, expecting there’d be a shopping area off the main highway I could just hang out at for a little while, but I didn’t have any luck. I eventually found my way to a Festival grocery store so I could go to the bathroom. I made it to Milwaukee Burger Co. right when it opened. Their menu looked fantastic and I chose just a simple fried chicken, pickle, and special sauce sandwich with a side of their enormous cheese curds. Very tasty, but very filling.

My next stop was at Bibelot in St. Paul. It’s a really fun gift type store that I always enjoyed going to when I lived there. I also grabbed a cold brew from Starbucks because I was already dragging and my day had hardly begun!

My main reason for picking Minnesota as a vacation destination was to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing in Edina. I’ve never been to a book signing and when I realized there was one within driving distance it seemed like the perfect reason to plan a solo vacation. Anyway, it became really annoying when I realized to actually get a seat at the signing and guarantee of her actually signing my book, I had to purchase a book AT their location. They had 100 wristbands that they gave out between when the latest book came out (July 17) and the signing (August 7). 100 isn’t very many for a very popular author in a huge metropolitan area! So I ordered a book to be picked up that day, and then called to ask about the wristband. He told me that because I asked, and he still had 5 or 6 left, he’d put a wristband in my book. And then he realized they only have a 5 day hold and I ordered the book 6 days early. So I had to order a second book (technically a third because I already owned one from amazon to read on release day) the next day and just hoped I’d have a wristband when I got there. I noticed on the book signing schedule that all the other cities simply had you purchase tickets for the signing online. That would have been SO much easier for me!! And much less stressful.

Anyway! I drove over to the Barnes and Noble as soon as I could get there to see if I had a wristband waiting for me. I got lucky because the wristband was still there in the first book I ordered, despite it being expired. They made a big to do about it and decided I could still have the wristband, even though it wasn’t with the book that was still in the system… It wouldn’t have been the end of the world not to have the wristband. I still could have stood in the back and I probably still could have had my book signed. But after revolving a whole vacation around this thing, I really wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy it!

I went back to check into my hotel next and spent awhile just reading and relaxing. I put on a nice outfit, did my hair, and headed back to Barnes and Noble about an hour and a half before the signing started. Apparently this is one of five new concept stores in the country, and the setup was a lot more unique than any other BN I’ve been to. I was really excited to spend some time browsing the shelves. But everyone was already there and sitting! I forgot to bring my kindle with me, I wasn’t particularly interested in re-reading this newest book (it was great – just not her typical tingly delicious romance type book), and my internet wasn’t working at all on my phone. Eventually I decided to risk it and left my stuff on a chair so I could walk around a bit. 🙂 You can’t stick me in an awesome bookstore and not let me browse!

I guess because most people were just getting this book that day, Colleen didn’t do any readings or want to answer questions about it. But she did spend about an hour taking any other questions that people had. So many of the questions had to do with her writing process and where she gets ideas. It was so interesting! I really enjoyed the entire thing. And at the end, we went row by row to get our books signed. I watched everyone before me gushing to her about how great her books are and when I got to the front of the line I had no idea what to say! I was probably her fastest sign because I felt so tongue tied and dumb! Oh well. It was a really great experience and I hope to go to more book signings in my future!

It was pretty late, but I was getting hungry after not eating since 11 in Eau Claire. My plan was to go to Cheesecake Factory and just pick up a slice for the hotel, but then I decided I’d rather get real food instead. So I walked into this Rojo Mexican Grill and had my food about five minutes after I sat down! A huge basket of chips and salsa and three chicken tacos. I’m not normally a huge rice fan, but whatever they did to this rice was also amazing. Since I was parked right in front of it (thanks, handicap parking pass), I still got a slice of chocolate cherry cheesecake to bring back to the hotel and eat over the next few days.

I finished my night back at the hotel with a bit of a pampering spa hour. I had brought a bunch of bath bombs and oils and sheet masks. I was really too exhausted to fully enjoy it, but it was still worth doing. Overall, my first day of vacation was awesome!

Wednesday is much less exciting to write about. I checked out the hotel breakfast that just consisted in individually boxed cereals and plain bagels and went back to my room to read for awhile. I had a fully researched plan in place to start at Ikea and Mall of America and then work my way through all my favorite stores in the other cities. But on my way back to the hotel Tuesday night I saw there was a Container Store in the opposite direction. I’ve never been to one and always wanted to, so I switched up my whole itinerary. Of course in doing so, I really needed to do a bit more research, and the wifi in the hotel didn’t work at all, and my phone was roaming the entire time so almost nothing was working. I wasted a ridiculous amount of time in those 48 hours just trying to get something to load. Things that should have taken ten seconds took half an hour. Yes, I could have just used the time to unplug and made the day a true adventure. But I didn’t want to miss anything! And I wanted to make sure I had the best restaurant plan for the day. It was infuriating how hard it was to find answers or options EVERY SINGLE TIME I tried to search something out. My gps even stopped working half the time. I was trying to just go with the flow and not let it bother me. But…it bothered me. A lot.

Anyway, Wednesday was my shopping day. I went to Trader Joe’s, World Market, Marshall’s, The Container Store, and Whole Foods in Edina. I love unique grocery stores. And I love discount stores. And I love containers. My biggest mistake on this trip was not bringing along a cooler and some ice packs. So many things I wanted to buy at the first few stores I went to were meltable, so I had to pass. 🙁

I had lunch at Naf Naf Grill in Eagan. There were so many great choices all right in a row! I contemplated Punch Pizza because that was our all time favorite MN pizza chain (though there wasn’t one in Eagan when we lived there!). There was also a taco place called RTacos that looked tasty. But I was trying to get myself a wide variety of foods, so I went Mediterranean. My pita was good, but SO spicy. Too spicy. And I LOVE spicy food.

Next I went to Marshall’s and Home Goods and then temporarily got lost. Eagan has changed a lot in the 10 years since we lived there! And my gps stopped working. But I eventually found my way back to the part of town I recognized and drove past the Panera where I worked for the first year we lived there. Then I went into that Barnes and Noble to browse books some more. And of course got a frappuccino. To try and wake up, but also to try and combat the fire still raging in my mouth.

I finished up my shopping at my favorite TJMaxx in Burnsville, where I used to shop all the time (before apparently every city in MN got their own discount stores!). I also stopped in at Abdallah Candies, but I just wasn’t in the mood to buy anything else sweet after my coffees and cheesecake. After that I was totally exhausted and needed a break so I went back to the hotel to read and take a nap.

The rest of my night was kind of crappy. I kept thinking about still going to Ikea and MoA, but my ankle was killing me and I knew there weren’t really any stores I was dying to go to in the mall. I like Ikea as an experience, but it has so many steps and I still suck at going down stairs because my ankle won’t bend enough. Originally there was a restaurant that looked really good at the mall, but since I had fancy tacos the night before it really wasn’t such a priority to get that kind of meal again. I was trying to think really hard about what kind of things I’d find most memorable and of course the answer was BOOKS. On other trips the answer probably would have been to find some cool outdoor things to visit. But between the extremely hot temperatures and my stupid ankle, I just wasn’t up for that kind of adventuring on that leg of the trip.

Anyway, I ended up going to a really cool used bookstore called The Paperback Exchange. I wish I had come across it in my research ahead of time, because if you brought in any paperback to exchange, you would only have to pay 25% of the cover price on any book in the store. Without an exchange, it was 50%. Which was still a pretty great deal because they had SO MANY books, and thousands of them were in almost perfect condition. I had a lot of fun browsing the floor to ceiling shelving and came out with four new books that I actually knew about before and really wanted to read.

After that the night was pretty awful. I couldn’t make up my mind on where to eat. My problem on vacations is that I want every meal to be this perfect experience filled with types of food I could never find at home. I want every meal to be memorable and delight my senses. And sometimes that’s just a lot of pressure to put on food. I couldn’t decide on a restaurant, so instead I headed to another bookstore. But there was so much construction, closed roads, heavy traffic, and NO places to park. I just wasn’t up for walking blocks and blocks to get anywhere, so I gave up on the bookstore and headed to another restaurant choice. Came across more roadblocks and lack of parking. Finally went back to the hotel to regroup and see if there was something I could order in. Decided on something, only to see you needed to download an app in order to place an order and gave up. It was getting so late, but I didn’t want to skip eating entirely. But the internet wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do, and I was getting so stressed out.

I finally made a choice on a place that was supposedly just 1.2 miles away from the hotel. Except when I got in my car the gps then said 3.6 miles. Which was a good fifteen minute drive. When I finally got there, through more construction and closed roads, I couldn’t get to the restaurant because it was in the middle of a construction site and all the doors were barricaded, even though the open sign was on. It was so confusing and frustrating that I left and just got Popeye’s on my drive back to the hotel. Except even that was a fail because all the food was cold and limp and I didn’t even eat it. SUCH a waste of a night. I should have just walked to the Walmart next to the hotel and gotten some cheese and bread or something. I was so mad at myself for wasting sooooo many hours of that super rare solo vacation on things that didn’t even work out. Oh, and then the final straw – I figured I would end the night finding something to watch on tv while eating popcorn that I had brought. BUT you needed a code to get the tv to work, which was not provided. Stupid! I just went to bed after that.

Needless to say, I was not in the mood to linger on Thursday morning. I didn’t even look at the hotel breakfast. Just packed up and stopped at a bakery I had driven by the morning before. They had so many tasty options! I got a French donut and a cherry fritter, and two bags of salty crunchy cheese breadsticks and a loaf of cinnamon bread to share with the family.

On my way out of the area, I drove by our old house in Farmington. It looked pretty much the same, except they changed the shutters to white. I liked the black ones I painted myself so much better. I was also really happy to see that the flowers, lilac bushes, and tree I planted on my first Mother’s Day were all still alive and well. I can’t believe how much that tree has grown in nine years!

As I headed south, I came to the conclusion that memory lane vacations are not much fun. I really enjoyed our four years living in Minnesota and have a lot of great memories there. But I’ve never regretted our decision to move back to Wisconsin. Driving around on this trip, though, kind of made me feel wistful and sad for the path we did not choose. Maybe because that blog post I wrote on Monday was still fresh on my mind – regret over not staying the college course. I definitely enjoyed seeing Colleen Hoover and I always like being by myself and shopping at all my favorite stores. But I also just felt really kind of sad the entire time. I also felt ANGRY at all the traffic and lack of parking options and poor internet, so yeah. I was ready to get out of there.

I’ll spare you all the other frustrating driving related problems I had that morning and just tell you that I finally got to La Crosse around noon and stopped at the coffee shop I had picked out ahead of time. I wanted some meal food since I didn’t know our plan for the rest of the day, but also didn’t want a ton of food, so I got a mini BLT. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for it, the whole reason I picked Cabin Coffee Co. was for their huge frappe menu, so I couldn’t leave without getting one. This was the Mississippi Mud frappe. It was good, just a ton bigger than I expected it to be.

After that, I met up with my family! It was still too early to check into the hotel, so they decided to go to the Holmen Aquatic Center, a little north of Onalaska. It was really hot again, so we all had a good time swimming. But then some kid pooped in the pool and we were all kicked out. The boys were really antsy to just get to the hotel. We checked in about as early as we could and immediately went swimming there since we all still had our suits on.

For dinner we went to Buzzard Billy’s. It was the one restaurant I researched that I didn’t want to miss. Unfortunately, we had an extremely long wait on the food and Shepard was SO cranky about it, kind of ruining the experience. But it was delicious once it came!

We ended the night at Grandad Bluff. So pretty!

We were so color coordinated, without even trying!

I spent most of the time watching these people that kept walking around, laying and relaying blankets down, standing backwards, and cuddling right at the edge of the cliff.

Anyway, it was a good evening. We went back to the hotel and got the boys to bed and then we watched an episode of Better Call Saul on Greg’s laptop, with one earbud in each. The joys of hotel life with such different sleep schedules!

Friday morning is when things got tough. Long story short, while I was with the boys getting breakfast, Greg woke up to a bug biting him. It was a bedbug. He took photos and immediately went to the front desk and talked to the manager. They handled the entire thing like it was a national emergency. They wanted us to leave so they could inspect every inch of the room. While we were gone they must have found more because they moved us to a different room, gave us the hotel stay for free, AND insisted that we go on a shopping spree to replace all of the clothes and luggage we had with us, in case it was contaminated. They also told Greg if we ever want to come again to let them know we’d get another night free. They handled everything in about the best possible way, which is why I’m not going to out them to the world as a bedbug hotel. These things happen, and everything else about our stay both this time and a few years ago was fantastic. The bad thing, though…we were still exposed to bedbugs. And spent every single minute of the rest of the vacation worrying about that. And still worrying about it now.

Anyway, when we first left the hotel that morning, we didn’t have much of a plan other than to check out some river viewing spots before it got too hot. We went over into Minnesota and walked around, drove to a higher viewing point, and stopped to watch the lock and dam. The guys were mostly looking for new Pokemon.

We ate lunch at a place called Burger Fusion where you can design your own burgers from a huge list of possibilities. I don’t eat hamburgers, but chicken sandwiches were also an option.

After lunch we went to The Pearl ice cream shop where the boys split a cookie dough ice cream and I got a toasted marshmallow latte.

We went back to the hotel after that and went through the process of going through all of our items and then moving them to the new room. Greg and the boys went swimming while I figured out what the heck to do with all of our clothes. I had all of my best clothes with me. Almost all of which had to be ordered online because I can never find anything in stores that fit properly. I had three of my brand new Third Love bras with me and those are not cheap!! I also had my only three pairs of shorts, six brand new and awesome shirts, my favorite dress, and my only swimming suit and cover up. I couldn’t just ditch them all on the very tiny possibility they were contaminated. Yes, the bedbugs did exist in our room. But Greg is the only one who got bit. They couldn’t have been horrible. And all of our clothes were clear on the other side of the room from where our bed was. It just seemed so unlikely that after all the proper precautions, including extremely careful inspection and heat treatment, my clothes still needed to just get thrown away. Trust me, it has caused MANY arguments in the last three days, but I kept my things. All of Greg and the boys’ clothes they had with them – gone. My suitcase and their duffel bag too. And all the tote bags we had our food and electronics in. It sucked.

After swimming we headed over to Kohls with a long list of everything that needed replacing. Full blown shopping for every article of clothing for three people, plus a few extra things, is exhausting. Greg didn’t even know what size he wore in anything, but because all of his clothes are from Kohls anyway, we were able to find a lot of exact replacements. The boys were a lot harder because most of their summer clothes were either no longer in stock or hidden among clearance racks. Shepard definitely had opinions on what we picked out for him, but Caden started crying every time we asked him which color or style he liked better. Shopping to him is like the ULTIMATE worst thing in the entire world. I got new pajamas, the only thing I agreed to leave behind, even though they were my favorite. 🙁 And I also got to pick out a new carry on bag, which I guess is the silver lining because my other one was pretty old. We managed to get all of that done in about an hour. I felt bad it was over $500, but that was even without replacing my things! The hotel reimbursed us without a bit of hesitation, though.

We headed to the farmer’s market next, which is the one thing in La Crosse I really wanted to do. It was still so hot, though, and crowded, and the rest of my family had no interest in being there. I bought a kohlrabi, the boys each had a glass of fresh pressed apple cider, and I had a glass of delicious sweet mint iced tea. I was so sore at that point, and stressed out. We needed to think of something else to do, but I was just done. Cranky and tired and overwhelmed by everything. I wasn’t super hungry, but we still needed to eat, so we finally decided to just go where everyone wanted to go – even if it’s the same food we could buy at home. Shepard picked Culver’s. Chicken tenders for literally the eighth meal in a row.

Caden wanted a “sub” (turkey and mustard) and chips. Greg and I ended at Burracho’s because it was across the street from the hotel and I didn’t want to drive back into La Crosse for something more unique.

We ended Friday night with more swimming. I enjoyed more hot tub time. It was a long day! Honestly, the boys were great. The whole bedbug ordeal, though. Not fun.

On Saturday morning I took the boys down to the pool while Greg packed everything up. They love the pool and hot tub there so much!

Their favorite part is the indoor/outdoor aspect of the pool. They were just having the greatest time in the world swimming between the barrier and alternating between the pool and the hot tub. It made me realize if we just have very low expectations and actually listen to what THEY want to do, family vacations can be really fun. It’s been so long since we’ve been on one just the four of us. Probably about three years! They were always so disastrous in the past that we switched to just Greg and I going on mini trips, or me going by myself because I’m the one who loves traveling the most. But this was fun! And it was good for us.

We parted ways around ten on Saturday. Greg and the boys went back home to do some Pokemon hunting and pick up Annie. I had to check out the La Crosse TJMaxx (after my two day detox), a gift shop I always like seeing in town, and the craft mall in the Dells. I got back home mid afternoon and snuggled with my pup!

And that was our trip! Overall, a success. If the bedbug incident hadn’t happened, it would have been great. Alas, Greg is still mad at me for keeping my clothes and annoyed that I refused to let them sit in bags in the sun for two weeks (because I had a WET swimsuit in one of the bags, plus ALL OF MY SHORTS AND BRAS). It was pretty dang hot when they sat out yesterday, plus I washed and dried them on heavy duty loads on the hottest settings today. I think they’re fine. And if they turn out not to be, I will take full responsibility on de-infesting our house. 😛

So, no Sunday Intention post this week. I’m still so tired. Trying to get caught up after being gone a week. Trying to prepare for babysitting Hudson for three days when no part of our house is baby proofed and he is very much on the move! Trying to figure out when the in the world I can get back to work in the next few weeks. And feeling both sad that summer is coming to an end and our calendar is filled with so many things, yet still not enough of the fun things I had wanted to do. And feeling excited that FALL IS COMING and my life will finally get back to normal. It’s a confusing time, the middle of August. 🙂 But we power on!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 08.05.2018

As you can see, I’m already completely failing at my daily writing goal. I promised that on August 1st and haven’t written since. Though in my defense, I have barely been home the last four days, and when I have been home, the internet wasn’t working! When I’m home and the internet IS working, I’ve been being plagued by pretty frequent headaches that leave me not wanting to do a single dang thing. But I’m powering through and WILL write today because a lot happened in this past week that is worth recording!

On Sunday, Dianne and I managed to fit in a little time together before I dropped her off at the airport. We talk every day, but it sure is nice when we can see each other in person! I was supposed to visit her last April, but had to postpone because of my broken ankle. But bearing any other accidents, I am booked to go again in October!

We ate at Bel Air Cantina in Madison. Greg and I went there last year, I think around my birthday. The food was great, but it was so crowded with college students we couldn’t hear each other talk. But a Sunday in the middle of a summer afternoon was perfect timing! They have some delicious taco combinations. I picked a salsa verde chicken taco, Korean beef, and Ninja pig, which was like pork with hoisin sauce and slaw. So tasty.

After I dropped Dianne at the airport I did my grocery shopping while I was in the area and without kids! I spent the rest of the night working, desperately trying to make major progress.

Monday another headache hit me. They seem to be happening so often lately. Dehydration? Not enough sleep? I’m actually getting more sleep than I get during the school year, but I’m also rarely getting my daily nap. Whatever the reasoning behind it, it sucks. And I take enough ibuprofen for ankle related pain that I try really hard not to take any extras for things like headaches. Sometimes, like today, I just need to give in.

On Monday night, I had another dinner date with some of my craft night ladies. We tried out a restaurant in Lake Mills called El Mariachi. I was shocked at how busy it was for a tiny town later on a Monday night, but I guess that’s a testament to how good it is!

I had taquitos on a bed of salsa verde topped with regular taco toppings. Maybe not much to look at, but it was really delicious! And fun to have a night out with friends. They’re SO hard to organize that I’ve mostly given up in the last year. But it’s worth it when it does work out.

In the meantime, Greg and the boys were at my parents’ house having dinner with them and my brothers and Hudson. I would have gone, but it was planned after my friend dinner and I didn’t want to back out.

On Tuesday I was bound and determined to get my dolls done. But I also wanted to make sure I had some quality time with the boys. We went on a longer walk along the cemetery in the morning. After lunch we walked to Sharrow’s, a coffee/ice cream/gift shop just a few blocks away that I always forget to go to. The boys had ice cream and I had coffee. It was a fun break in the day. I even found a delightful bonfire scented candle to carry me through August before I can start burning apple and cinnamon scents in September!

On Wednesday morning we went school supply shopping. Wisconsin had five days of tax free school supplies, clothes, etc. This is normally when we’d go anyway, so it seemed like good timing. Everything gets so picked over into August anyway. It was crazy as usual, but we got everything we needed.

I had big plans to FINALLY research vacation things in the afternoon, BUT the internet was down! No reason why, just hours without it working. It magically came back on later in the day, so I spent the whole night planning out my Minnesota trip in a few days. It was so much fun puzzling together everywhere I wanted to go and eat for the perfect itinerary.

It was kind of a spur of the moment decision, but on Thursday I ended up taking the boys to the State Fair. We fully intended on going on Monday with my parents, but I kept looking at the weather and Thursday’s forecast looked SO much better. If it ended up being too hot or stormy on Monday we wouldn’t have gone anyway, so it made more sense just to head over on Thursday. Plus Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were going to be there that day, so we got to have a few hours with them which the boys were super pumped about.

We spent the first hour just sitting in this spot waiting for them, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea. I didn’t want to get too far ahead of them in looking at stuff, but the idleness was pushing Shepard into a pretty cranky mood that lasted the entire day. I should have learned from last year when the fair was also off to a bad start because we spent way too much time trying to meet up with everyone. Though that was hard because everyone kept moving! Which is why we decided to stay put this year. At any rate, it was fine once we found each other!

We went to the WI Products building for our yearly bag of apple cider donuts. As usual Hudson has no idea who I am or why I’m taking a picture with him!

Shepard and I had grilled cheeses for our late morning breakfast. That’s all he ended up eating for the day. He was so cranky because he wanted me to buy him a Pikachu stuffed animal at one of their crappy toy booths and I refused because he doesn’t play with ANY toys, least of all stuffed animals! Plus Annie would have taken it and destroyed it in five seconds. Later he was throwing a fit because he wanted to go on the trampolines. And the last few hours he wouldn’t stop whining and crying because he wanted an expandable ball. He didn’t think he could live without any of those things.

Checking out the hot tubs! Hudson likes this one.

Normally the building with all the little booths is one of my favorite parts, but I knew it would just make Shepard want sooooo many more things. So we cut down the middle, which just happened to be the perfect spot because we got to try dip samples at like five different booths! Then we ended at the beef sticks. These were my favorite thing to get growing up and they’re Caden’s favorite now. I’ve never seen this Vienna beef stick in a store, though I did just figure out where to buy them online! Might be a birthday present this year. I’ll buy it the week between Caden’s and my birthday. 🙂

I let them do the trampolines. They did outdoor jumping last year, so I guess this needs to be an annual thing.

We stopped in a little park area for awhile so Hudson could move around. He loved it!

One of the new fair foods Caden really wanted to try was flamin’ hot corn on the cob. I thought I did a very good job describing it to him ahead of time so he knew what he was getting into, but he didn’t even want to touch it when I put it in front of him. He eventually took a tiny bite, spit it all over the table, and cried for awhile. I spent $5 on it, so I took a bite – gross. Timmy reluctantly finished it off.

Trying to get Hudson to settle down for a nap because he was up early.

The new food I wanted to try were WI Hot Chicken Bombs. It was a combination of mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and corn rolled into a ball and deep fried. Then it was injected with gravy and coated with Nashville hot sauce. Unfortunately, I was not really a fan. I mostly ate one and gave the other to Timmy (he took over my dad’s job of eating everyone’s leftover food this year). I’m kind of bummed that this is the second or third year in a row of not finding any super delicious things to eat. I had other things on my list, but by the time I got this I was just tired of spending so much money on junky food and just plain wasn’t in the mood to hunt anything else out. Next year…

Normally we do animal buildings first, but it was our last stop this year. We all loved this super sweet and gentle goat that LOVED getting his face and neck scratched!

Around noon I hit 10,000 steps and my ankle was DONE. Four straight hours of walking was quite the accomplishment. Despite the cool weather forecast, it was also pretty hot in the blasting sun and crowds. I think it was a successful trip overall, though. Shepard was difficult, but he could have been worse. Caden was FANTASTIC. How often can I say that?! And it was fun to spend the morning with Hudson.

Fortunately, I was able to fit in an afternoon nap because I had more plans Thursday night. I went to see the Rachel Hollis documentary Made for More. It was playing as a special event movie in theaters all around the country. It was really great! Very motivational and empowering for women to watch. They added an additional showing on August 13th, and I highly recommend seeing it! Or at the very least, reading her book!!

I planned to spend Friday morning packing for the weekend, baking a bunch of things, and doing more research for our LaCrosse vacation. BUT the internet was down again. Greg was still home so he called Charter and it took the entire morning to fix. And because our modem and router are in the kitchen, I couldn’t do my internet stuff OR my kitchen stuff. It was obviously nobody’s fault, but it was a very stressful and frustrating half a day of not doing anything I planned on doing. I hate when that happens.

On Friday evening, we headed to Hayes Resort in Fox Lake, where Greg’s parents rented a cottage for the weekend.

The boys were a little anxious and not fans of the concept of RELAXATION, but it was a pretty perfect night of sitting out by the lake. Not too hot, very few bugs, and a nice peaceful breeze.

The property definitely could have used some upgrades. For example, this was “the beach.” Kind of hilarious. But it didn’t stop the kids from loving a big pile of sand either!

I had some problems walking around because the entire resort is on a steep hill. My ankle does not like hills! I was pretty sore Friday night, but I wore my brace on Saturday and it was a lot better. I just kept having visions of myself falling and re-hurting myself all over again, so I had to walk at a snail’s pace.

We had tacos for dinner and ate at a picnic table next to the cottage. Then Steve and Shepard built a fire next to the water and we had s’mores for dessert. It was really nice!

Despite how gross the water looked, they realllly wanted to go in. It’s always so funny when they wade into water and hold their shorts up.

I stayed until about 7:45 and then went home to be with Annie. I was hoping to just chillax having the house to myself – which NEVER EVER happens at night. But I ended up cleaning the bathroom, doing a bunch of dishes, sweeping all the floors, make peanut butter fudge, and then finally settled in to have a snack, read, do a sheet mask, and go to sleep about 10:45.

I was hoping to sleep in a bit, but that never happens. I did, however, lounge in bed and read for an hour which was great! Then I was running around trying to make scones and get everything prepped to head back to the cottage.

I dropped Annie off at my mom’s for the day so she could have some fun and then joined everyone. Greg’s aunt and uncle and cousin and her family were there too. Sometime overnight they managed to find a boat they could use. The boys loved it, but it was a lot of work for Greg!

It was a pretty hot day, but also very windy which balanced everything out – a bit. All the kids had a blast running around and playing. The adults had a little more chance to relax! We had a big lunch of brats and hot dogs, which the guys expertly cooked over the fire, corn on the cob, fruit and veggies, chips, and a variety of desserts.

Shepard and Trevor were kind of off in their own worlds, but Caden and Melody were having so much fun playing together! Caden is always so good with younger kids and babies.

Sitting on the docks while Shepard “fished,” Caden swam, and Melody kept running back and forth between them. It was making me too nervous so I didn’t stay long. 🙂

No qualms about the green water after he got in the first time. Ick.

It was a really nice day! I’m wildly impressed with how organized Steve and Cindy were with so many full meals all prepped and ready, plus all the towels and toys and chairs and accessories. I’m sure it was super exhausting, but they never let it show! We all had a really good time. Greg and I went back home for the night, but the boys stayed with them last night too.

That’s it for the week! It was packed! But really fun too. The way summer is supposed to be, right?!

Sunday Intentions

This week I just intend to have more fun! Tomorrow is our only normal day of the week with Greg at work and me madly trying to make sure everything is ready to go. Because early Tuesday morning I’m heading out on my solo Minnesota vacation! I revolved the trip around going to a Colleen Hoover signing/presentation. But I’m planning on checking in at all my favorite stores, eating a lot of delicious food, driving by our old house and apartment, possibly stopping in at Panera to see if anyone I know still works there 10 years later, and basically just enjoying 2.5 days of being entirely by myself! It will be AMAZING.

On Thursday I’m driving back and meeting up with Greg and the boys in LaCrosse for two more nights of family vacation. I have yet to plan that one out, other than noting a few restaurants that looked good. So that’s on the agenda for this afternoon. There’s A LOT on today’s agenda and I still have this terrible headache. We’ll see how much gets done!

Have a good week!

Summer Goals Update and Saturday Reflections 06.30.2018

June is officially over and summer is already one month behind us! It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since school ended. It went by pretty quickly, but was also really packed. I accomplished quite a bit this month! Still trying to make up for my three months of being out of commission. I’ve had some super busy and stressful days where I expected way too much of myself, but I also think that overall I was pretty balanced. I’m feeling pretty good about how June went! I even accomplished quite a few of my summer goals. So many that I decided to give an update and add a few more!

Update on achievable goals:

  • Clean out my car.
  • Declutter all random piles in general living spaces.
  • Clean out the fridge and freezer.
  • Reorganize all sewing room supplies (new)
  • Clean out laundry room (new)

Car is clean! Greg did most of the work, but we finished that right away. I’m making pretty good headway on all general living spaces. My biggest problem is the family room, where the boys spend most of their time, where all the electronics are, and where everything coming into the house is dumped. It drives me INSANE that nobody else seems to care how crappy that room looks all the time. I just avoid it as much as possible, really only going in to eat dinner and watch tv with Greg at night. I’m pretty sure there’s no real solution here, but I’m trying my best to keep things under control in all other rooms of the house. Anyway, I cleaned the fridge and the basement freezer and Greg reorganized our basement pantry area. The main freezer is still a mess, but I’ve been trying to cook something out of it every day to minimize how full it is. I think this weekend I can finally clean it out for good.

As for my new goals – I have spent most of this week working on my sewing room! I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to work on new dolls, so I spent almost every day working on cleaning out and cataloging all my doll accessories, re-folding and categorizing all my fabric, and taking a better inventory of what yarns I have. It’s been great seeing all my stuff get back under control! With so many other rooms getting cleaned and organized, I decided to add the laundry room to the list too. It was pretty functional for a while, but then the boys and their friends decided to start playing hide and seek in the house – and the laundry room is pretty much the only place to hide. So it’s been destroyed. Seems like a good time to really go through everything we have and organize and get rid of what we don’t need.

Update on parenting goals:

  • Keep a large visual weekly calendar complete with any non-negotiable errands, day trips, or appointments. 
  • Enforce said calendar so they know that there’s no wiggle room to argue and complain if something was already planned for the day. 
  • STAY STRONG in parenting, not letting them take advantage of me in my weak moments (and not letting them knowingly make me weak with their incessant whining). Remember that I’m the MOM and if they’re mad at me, I will survive it. Having a child mad at me for enforcing perfectly reasonable parenting rules should not affect my mental energy the way it would if Greg or a friend or other adult family member felt that way about me!

I really like our calendar idea, though it hasn’t really said much this week besides going to summer school, play practice, and Grandma’s house. I’m hoping I can fully utilize it in the next few months when the boys need to know ahead of time which days we’ll be running errands or going on day trips so they can coordinate with their friends and hopefully avoid any meltdowns. Because our schedule has still been pretty static and mundane with summer school, I haven’t had a whole lot of fights come up – yet. They’re pretty happy if they have friends to play with. The biggest issue has been Caden not wanting to go to the pool anymore. None of his friends are ever there and he doesn’t like just swimming with Greg or Shepard. A few times Greg has asked me last minute to ask friends to join them, which is always fun because then I get to deal with all the rejections. 😛 There’s nothing I hate more than being rejected (even if I have no reason to take it personally)! Anyway, that’s probably been our biggest thing to deal with, which really isn’t THAT big. Just more frustrating to me because Caden ends up staying home and whining while Greg and Shepard go swimming and I still don’t manage to have any time to myself. I’m anticipating a lot more arguments and meltdowns once summer school no longer takes up half of their days.

Update on family connection goals:

  • Go on a two night family vacation. Make it happen.
  • Visit at least 5 new dog parks in the Madison area with Annie. 
  • After summer school is over, plan and go on at least one day trip or special outing a week. 
  • Take each child on an individual date night at least once per month. Try harder to have one on one time at home in between the date nights. 
  • Go on regular dates with Greg. (new)

I scheduled our family vacation! It was actually Greg’s idea. We’re going to LaCrosse in August. It’s actually turning into three (and a half) vacation ideas all crammed into a single week. We’re going on a weekend “trip” (half hour away) with Greg’s parents for two nights. Then we’re going to the State Fair with my family. Then I’m going on a SOLO VACATION to Minnesota just because I want to and I can. And then I’m meeting everyone in LaCrosse on my way home for two nights of family vacation. It’ll be a busy week! But fun. I’m really glad I made both trips happen and scheduled them as soon as possible once I realized that’s what I wanted to do.

I haven’t been to anymore dog parks yet. It was really rainy this month! And now it’s super hot. Annie likes hot weather about as much as me. 😛 Once summer school is out we’ll definitely take some more dog park adventures, though. I haven’t been great about individual dates either. I was supposed to go to the farmer’s market with Caden last weekend, but he flaked out on me at the last minute. I don’t know how to take him somewhere enjoyable when he flat out refuses to leave the house with me. I guess I just don’t give up, right?

I’m adding the goal to go on dates with Greg. This is always a tricky one. Technically, his parents take the boys one night a week, like 50 weeks of the year. We have NO EXCUSE not to go on an actual regular date. But somehow we’re always too tired, more interested in doing our own things, or it doesn’t feel like a justifiable reason to spend money. It also seems dumb to go back to Madison to a restaurant when Greg just got home from work in Madison. We always have an excuse. I’d like to make it more of a priority. In this season of our lives it’s so easy to drift apart. We have so little in common with each other, interest-wise. We’re so focused on parenting together that we don’t know how to have fun together anymore. I want to make this more of a top priority.

Update on personal achievement goals:

  • Prioritize self care. Know what you need to keep your sanity and DO IT. No excuses. 
  • Make at least 10 dolls per month. Work is not and should not be my highest priority over the summer months. But I know I need it to keep myself and my customers happy, so I need to at least do the bare minimum. 
  • Read. A lot. All the time. It’s worth it, it’s not being lazy. It’s important. And fun!
  • Write more than just my weekend blog posts. I love to write and this is a good time to do it more often! 

I’ve had good days and bad days with prioritizing self care. I’ve been a bit of a workaholic this month, but at least I can recognize it? I’ve tried to find ways to fit in at least a short power nap every day because it’s the only way I can survive. I think I’ve been doing pretty well at recognizing what I need to help myself mentally, but failing miserably at taking care of myself physically. I walk the boys to school each morning and this week I’ve tried to make my walks back home a little bit longer each day. But I was hoping to also add some indoor biking to my daily routine and I’ve only managed to do it twice. It’s just hard to talk myself into going down into the gross basement to bike when there are a gazillion other things I could be doing. I’ve also been AWFUL in my food making choices. I think it’ll be easier to stay on track when the boys are home all the time. I’ve noticed how they want to have a snack literally every half hour when they’re home. And I kind of feel the same way. But if I’m focused on them eating more healthy and balanced meals that don’t require twenty snacks a day, maybe I can get myself back on track too.

It’s been a pretty great work month. My goal was to make at least 10 dolls. I believe I’ve made at least 38. I’ve sold 37 dolls, which is more than I’ve sold in a month – EVER. I’ve really hit my sweet spot with Heartstring Annie, keeping people engaged and interested, putting out new dolls every few days – most of which sell out within an hour or two. I was doing really well until last week when I just lost all interest in sewing and decided to do the organizing instead. But I’m back in the middle of a bunch of dolls and hopefully July will be another good month. Though I also intend to take more time off with the boys home all the time. We’ll see how it balances out.

And reading! I had a rough start to the month, not interested in much. But I’ve been a reading maniac the last two weeks, finally finding books that I never want to put down. So I’m good on that! Writing hasn’t progressed a whole lot, but I did start writing for myself. Things that I’ll never publish, but still feed my soul.

Update on health related goals:

  • Be able to walk regularly by September. Hopefully with daily practice I can do that. I’ll start with trying to walk to and from summer school with the boys every day in June. Work up to dog parks and day trips. And hopefully be a lot stronger by fall. 
  • Keep healthy food stocked, prepped, and ready to eat. 
  • Keep meal planning simple, but in existence. Always have easy meals ready to make and on hand, so we don’t resort to eating junk food all day, every day. 
  • Stay cool, calm, and positive. I CAN DO THIS.

I guess I already talked about this in terms of self care. Physically taking care of myself has been a bit of a frustration. The orthotics have helped with my plantar fasciitis, but I definitely still have ankle pain. And if I take even a day off from a longer walk – which feels really necessary sometimes! – my hip starts hurting the next day. I do pretty well walking around on errands, grocery shopping and everything. But if I’m just out walking Annie, a few blocks feels like a few miles. I’m losing my confidence that I’ll be a lot better by fall. It’s pretty depressing.

I’ve been trying my hardest to keep healthy food stocked. But like I said – everyone seems to be STARVING all day long. I just can’t keep up! I cut up five mangoes the other day and Caden ate them all in two sittings. A whole watermelon is gone in a day. I’ve been buying yogurt and granola bars and string cheese that the boys run in and grab way more often than they probably should be. Everyone’s food intake seems to have increased tenfold which is requiring me to take multiple grocery trips a week. It’s been kind of overwhelming. I usually end up spending almost an entire day just prepping produce. It’s not really how I want to spend my time. But…I guess it needs to keep happening.

I definitely want to get better about meal planning in July. June ended up being a lot of one or two big meals a week that gave us leftovers for the rest of the days. Or we got leftovers from big family meals that lasted us a few days. Which is good! It’s nice to have fast and easy food on hand. But I think I want to try harder for ME. Find healthy meals that I actually like to eat for lunch. And breakfast. Plan out ahead of time all three meals all seven days. Make a solid grocery list and try to only have to go once a week. It should be pretty easy. But it’s things like this that often throw me off and stress me out the most. Organization and planning is definitely the key.

Saturday Reflections

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week! It’s been pretty straightforward with the boys in summer school and me cleaning up my sewing room. The boys both developed a summer cold that turned into me catching a major cough. I feel like absolute crap right now. Between overdoing it with baby holding and walking last weekend, allergies, pms, and now this cough – it’s been a rough week.

Caden had therapy on Tuesday that went okay. He really just talked to Greg and I the whole time and I’m not sure we really made any progress. I’ve noticed that he basically just asks us the same questions every single time, sometimes multiple times in a session. Is he listening? Retaining what we say? What is he doing on his laptop the whole time we’re talking? I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about it still.

Greg hurt his foot on Wednesday night, kicking the lawn mower when it was stuck in a thick clump of grass. I don’t think he broke anything, but he was in immense pain and has a few very bruised toes to show for it. I tried to keep the boys away from him, going to the dog park and pool that night.

On Thursday my sewing machine broke. I spent half the day feeling overwhelmed and super stressed, researching which new machine to buy. I was supposed to be spending the day relaxing and enjoying being home alone – the boys were at Grandma’s and Greg was working in Chicago. Then he got home and kicked the foot pedal (lots of kicking this week) and it turned back on. While it WAS a relief I don’t need to immediately buy a new one and make a decision I wasn’t ready to make, I ended up being more upset at how I wasted that extremely rare and precious night I had to myself.

And on Friday we went to see Jurassic World and had lunch at Chipotle. I was feeling pretty sick by then and not in the best of moods. But it was fun to do something together.

And now today we’re trying to take it easy and keep cool before going to the Mallard’s game tonight. Somehow we always manage to pick what feels like the hottest day of the year to go sit outside at a baseball game. At least it’s not until later in the evening when it hopefully will start cooling off. I can’t stand this heat!!

Well, that’s it for now! I’ll hopefully be back later with a tv and/or book post!

Late Weekend Reflections 06.18.2018: Summer School, Alice in Wonderland, and Father’s Day

I’ve been struggling with what to say about this past week. It wasn’t an easy week. I felt very overwhelmed, stressed, completely wiped out, overworked, irritable, and angry. There is really nothing to blame for any of it, except that it was a busy week. The busiest I’ve had since I broke my ankle. It also felt like the first week in almost four months that I suddenly had to take back over all my original responsibilities. Walking the boys to school, walking Annie, taking Annie to the dog park, actually taking her outside to go potty because she refuses to go for the boys anymore, running errands four of the five days of the week, driving the boys places, picking them up, packing not one, but two meals a day for them, while also still making them breakfast and a late dinner and snacks in between. It was just a lot. While I was also working from 5am to 9pm with my only “breaks” being everything listed above. I was mad at myself for my workaholic tendencies that I just can’t seem to shake, while also wanting to lash out and blame the all the circumstances around me that make me feel like I NEED to work and cook and clean and do laundry every single waking minute of my life. This isn’t how I want to live. But it was a mindset I just couldn’t seem to get rid of last week.

At any rate, there were definitely a lot of high points to the week. The boys started summer school on Monday morning. Even though they had a lot of moaning and groaning about it, they ended up really like their classes. Even the running club that Caden was so mad about doing! He was actually pretty angry the alternating days this week where they did stretches and indoor activities instead of running outside. They’re both taking a class called Maker Space where they just create things out of everyday objects that has turned out to be both of their favorites. They’re still not thrilled about needing to go to school in the summer, but it definitely helps that they each like all four of their classes. And they have a meeting spot so they can sit together at lunch! It was pretty cute listening to them work out those details on the walk Monday morning.

On Monday afternoon the boys had their first play practice! It was three hours long and they learned the rules, had auditions, learned their parts, and started practicing! I ended up staying the whole time because I was waiting in great anticipation to see who was assigned which parts! The whole audition process was pretty crazy. Though after watching the play on Saturday I think they cast everyone perfectly. It was kind of amazing. Caden got the roll of Cook and Shepard was part of a very long caterpillar where they stuck all the youngest kids they didn’t know what else to do with. Shepard, who was most worried about the play, ended up really enjoying it. Caden wasn’t very happy with all the boring parts, but I think he enjoyed actually putting the play on in the end.

Tuesday was a big day because it’s the first time I took Annie for a walk since my broken ankle! I was a little nervous, but it went pretty well. I walked her every morning after that too. It feels good to get out with her, but also – painful. I have plantar fasciitis back in full force on my right foot. Something I suffer from every summer with the extra walks I do – though it tends to alternate which foot and never both at the same time. But one is painful enough to make walking kind of miserable. 🙁 I’m supposed to be walking more to keep strengthening my ankle, but now it’s at the expense of my foot which is supposed to be rested when it gets this bad. I tried to compromise by only walking in the morning and having the boys come home on their own after school. I ordered some new orthotics and a special ice wrap for my foot to use during down time, so hopefully I’ll find some relief.

I’ve spared you guys the sight of my ankle/leg until now, but here’s how the scar is progressing. The shorter one on the inner part of my ankle looks the same. It’s quite the battle wound! Anyway, I’m showing it off because on Tuesday, at the end of my physical therapy session, the therapist told me I’m done! I was supposed to go a couple more weeks, but I’ve hit all my goals. In the previous week I started doing all those final things that I’ve been putting off – walking the boys to school, walking Annie, etc. I still need to work on strengthening exercises at home, but there wasn’t really anything else they could show me. I was really happy! Therapy was always fine once I got there, but I still hated having that on my schedule every week. Now I am free! Well, I have one more appointment with the surgeon next month, but after that I will hopefully be done with this. At least in an appointment sense! I heard it takes at least a solid year to be totally back to normal. 🙁

On Wednesday I was already feeling the mental effects of doing too much, so rather than sit at home surrounded by my work, I decided to get out of the house to celebrate the end of physical therapy. I ran a few necessary errands and then got MOD for lunch, mostly so I could also buy a gift card for one of Greg’s Father’s Day gifts.

For fun, I meandered around Half Priced Books hunting down deals. I recently finished the book Life From Scratch and it reminded me how much I LOVE food memoirs. I’ve realized this year how much I love memoirs in general, but I particularly love ones that revolve around food. Food is such an integral part of every single person’s life and it’s fascinating to learn how many ways it touches people and influences their story. Half Priced Books turned out to be a great place for food writing books. I also picked up Off the Clock from amazon to try and get myself better focused both on and off the clock to live a more meaningful life!

Thursday and Friday were more work days. It somehow always turns out that I’m racing against the clock trying to finish dolls while I still have enough natural light to take a good photo. I get frustrated on those days when I have to work at a faster pace than I’d like, rushing the final touches that make the dolls most unique and special. It made me extra crabby. I ended every night just feeling depleted. Even though the boys were out of the house for most of the day all five days of the week, I was just SO run down at the end of every night. And I hated it. I don’t want my summer to continue in this manner.

Saturday was the big day with two performances of Alice in Wonderland! I honestly had my doubts about how good this show would be after only a week to learn everything. But it was great! The kids did amazing! And everyone was so perfectly cast to fit their roles.

I had wanted to pick them up early on Friday to try and get a glimpse of how things were going, but I was too busy madly trying to get dolls listed before they were done. I’m glad I wasn’t spoiled for the show in the end. It really blew me away how great everyone did! Shepard made the most adorable little caterpillar.

Caden actually had a bigger part than I thought, with this trio doing a bunch of singing and dancing and a little comedy routine. He did great each show, but the second one he was SO into it. I loved watching them!

As of right now, they’re not interested in ever doing this again, but I think it was a good experience for them. And really fun for the family to come watch since the boys never really participate in any extracurricular activities. I’m a strong believer in letting kids be kids and not forcing them into things they don’t want to do. But for just a week of their time they got to learn new skills, make new friends, and ultimately really did have fun during the performances. I was very proud of them!

To celebrate, we went to Culver’s for dinner after the show with the family. Fun times!

Oh, so before the show on Saturday, I spent hours working on this crepe cake for Father’s Day. I wanted to make something fancy that I’d never make for just the four of us. Crepe cakes have been on my mind since I saw one on a blog I like a few months ago. That recipe looked a bit too futzy, so I went with this one instead, knowing Greg really likes dark chocolate and raspberries. It took me six tries with two different pans and two different types of spatulas before I even made one successful crepe. But once I got the hang of it it was pretty easy, just took forever. I let them cool, made the raspberry cream, and then stacked them all up into this beautiful creation!

I put it in the fridge and checked on it five minutes later finding this. Devastating!!! I tried to slide it back together, but nothing was cooperating. I ended up taking it out in sections and piling it into a springform pan, with paper plates around the edges trying to hold it into a shape. My hands, arms, and the entire counter and fridge were covered in cream. It didn’t help that it was crazy hot and humid that day. Maybe I should have frozen the crepes for an hour or something to make them cooler. Or not put so much cream between the layers. Or just stopped at 10 layers instead of going to 20. I read so many different crepe cake recipes before landing on this one, and was so sure it would be easy to do. Nope! I was pretty upset about the whole thing. But also determined not to let it, and my entire morning that I really should have spent resting, go to waste.

I’m sure the troubleshooting of this cake is of no interest to anyone except me, but I take my dessert making VERY seriously. I spent the whole night agonizing over what I could do to fix it. A ganache covering seemed to be my only option. Except I didn’t have any more whipping cream and couldn’t stand the thought of going to a grocery store for like the sixth time in a week. So I googled it and found a very successful way to make ganache with good chocolate, butter, and milk. It worked perfectly! I re-layered the cake, cut around the edges that were still lopsided, topped with ganache, topped that with slivered dark chocolate, topped that with fresh raspberries, and garnished with a few chocolate mint leaves from Shepard’s herb garden. As good as it could get!

Moving on. 🙂 It was Father’s Day! Greg said we could wake him up with breakfast in bed at eight, so I made some freezer cinnamon rolls. We went up and left him alone with his food, waiting downstairs another stressful hour and a half before he got up. In the future, I hope if he wants to actually stay in bed until 9:30 he just says that from the get go, so I don’t have to deal with two boys freaking out for that long about wanting Daddy to get downstairs NOW. Hint, hint, Greg. It wasn’t the best start to the day.

Greg always complains that we give him too many presents. So we tricked him this year thinking he just got one gift. Until he opened it and found like 30 individually wrapped small gifts. Like it or not, I think he deserved to be a bit spoiled!

Mostly a lot of treats and snacks, with a few restaurant and movie gift cards thrown in. And a few garden tools he specifically asked for.

The guys settled in for a morning of video game playing while I kept working on the cake and made some jumbo cookies as a backup dessert. We had an easy lunch of frozen chicken strips and fries.

We went to the pool right when it opened and stayed for a few hours. It was packed because of the awful heat, but the water felt great! It was my first time there this year. I was a little nervous about my ankle, but no slipping occurred. My only slight hiccup was climbing the ladder to get out of the pool. It was an awkward position for my foot to take my full weight and not something I’m looking forward to doing again soon. But I’m glad I went along this time because it was fun! They all had ice cream cookie sandwiches for a treat before we left.

Back at home, I really couldn’t stay awake any longer. This week – whew! I ended up taking a two hour nap! I woke up just minutes before Greg’s parents came over for our celebration with them.

The boys were soooo hyped up.

It was a pretty low key evening of video games, ordering pizza, opening gifts, and eating cake. And for the record – Caden and I thought the cake was great. Greg and Shepard did not like it. I think it was a texture thing. I’ve never made crepes before, but I do occasionally make dutch babies which have a similar eggy texture and Caden and I are the only ones who like those too. I should have realized. Oh well – they had cookies.

Anyway, I think it was a pretty nice Father’s Day! It was really nice to have a slower paced day after the crazy week we all had. Everyone was in good spirits and enjoyed each other’s company. I think it was the kind of day Greg likes best, so I’m glad he was able to have it. He’s a pretty awesome dad. Seriously the best I could ever ask for as the father to my children! He had a wonderful example in his own dad and I’m so happy to have them both in my life. My own dad refused to celebrate Father’s Day, but we are going over there next weekend for a cookout to slyly celebrate in a different way.

New Week Intentions

And that brings me to this week! All I know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of the summer feeling the way I felt last week. I want to be rested. I want to be happy. I want to feel totally okay with taking a day off of work. I should be a mom foremost during these months. I also need to keep putting my health and healing as a priority above all else. I want to find a balance between getting the minimum done – laundry, basic decluttering, putting relatively healthy meals on the table – and actually just sitting back and enjoying life – reading, writing, going to dog parks, laughing with my kids. I’ve been on a bit of an errand running high after so many months of not having that option. It’s also hard to convince myself it’s not worth going when I know in three weeks the boys will be with me all the time and going then won’t be an option – again! BUT I should be reveling in my time alone AT HOME too. At least more often than I did last week!

Our actual schedule is pretty light this week. I had a dentist appointment this morning and picked up a few groceries before coming home. I’m guessing I might need a few more things later in the week, but I really want to focus on being at home as often as possible. On Thursday I’m having my monthly craft night, which will be fun. And besides that? Just summer school!

Well, that’s it for now! Have a good week!

Summer Goals to Thrive (and not just survive)

Ready or not, summer is here! My kids have one hour left until the bell rings and life changes drastically for the next three months. I know it rolls around every single June, but I’m still terrified. And I don’t want to be. I want to be the kind of mom that’s excited and looking forward to spending 24/7 with her kids. I’d like to be the kind of mom that loves chaos and unstructured days and endless hours at the pool. Unfortunately, I AM the mom that literally wants to go hide in a closet and cry because I’M NOT READY. I’ll never be ready. I know I’m about to enter into three solid months of power struggles, arguments, food battles, and NONSTOP negotiations over screen time. No genuine alone time to recharge my soul, no freedom to have my days play out the way I want them to, no reliable afternoon nap that I so highly depend on for my sanity the other nine months of the year.

Summer has a lot of redeeming qualities. But in these last few days of school, it’s really hard for me to see them. I thought that making a list of easily obtainable goals might give me a little more hope that these next months can be FUN. Days to enjoy instead of days to dread. In some ways, my expectations for this summer are pretty low because my ankle is still healing and I don’t have the energy or stamina to do a lot of the things I’d normally like to do in summer. But that’s giving me the freedom to accept a slower summer, a quieter summer, a summer that’s a lot more driven by what my kids actually want and not by what I think they need to make it memorable. At the same time, those day trips and outings are what usually make the summer more enjoyable for ME. I like to get out of the house and enjoy time with my kids that I can never seem to find when we’re at home all day. At home, I’m like a drill master. By necessity. If we leave the house, we’re suddenly connecting because I’m focusing on them and not the eight zillion things on my to do list and the four million messes strewn in every room of the house. So somehow I need to find a balance between all of it this summer so all four of us can enjoy the passing days.

Easily achievable goals that will make me feel a whole lot better going into the summer and can hopefully be done in the next week!

  • Clean out my car.
  • Declutter all random piles in general living spaces.
  • Clean out the fridge and freezer.

General parenting goals to survive the day to day

  • Keep a large visual weekly calendar complete with any non-negotiable errands, day trips, or appointments. 
  • Enforce said calendar so they know that there’s no wiggle room to argue and complain if something was already planned for the day. 
  • STAY STRONG in parenting, not letting them take advantage of me in my weak moments (and not letting them knowingly make me weak with their incessant whining). Remember that I’m the MOM and if they’re mad at me, I will survive it. Having a child mad at me for enforcing perfectly reasonable parenting rules should not affect my mental energy the way it would if Greg or a friend or other adult family member felt that way about me!

Fun goals for family connection

  • Go on a two night family vacation. Make it happen.
  • Visit at least 5 new dog parks in the Madison area with Annie. 
  • After summer school is over, plan and go on at least one day trip or special outing a week. 
  • Take each child on an individual date night at least once per month. Try harder to have one on one time at home in between the date nights. 

Personal achievement goals

  • Prioritize self care. Know what you need to keep your sanity and DO IT. No excuses. 
  • Make at least 10 dolls per month. Work is not and should not be my highest priority over the summer months. But I know I need it to keep myself and my customers happy, so I need to at least do the bare minimum. 
  • Read. A lot. All the time. It’s worth it, it’s not being lazy. It’s important. And fun!
  • Write more than just my weekend blog posts. I love to write and this is a good time to do it more often! 

Health related goals

  • Be able to walk regularly by September. Hopefully with daily practice I can do that. I’ll start with trying to walk to and from summer school with the boys every day in June. Work up to dog parks and day trips. And hopefully be a lot stronger by fall. 
  • Keep healthy food stocked, prepped, and ready to eat. 
  • Keep meal planning simple, but in existence. Always have easy meals ready to make and on hand, so we don’t resort to eating junk food all day, every day. 
  • Stay cool, calm, and positive. I CAN DO THIS.

And that’s it! Summer is here! We can do this!

Mother’s Day, Greg’s Birthday, and Weekend Reflections and Intentions 05.20.2018

Happy Mother’s Day, one week late! I kept meaning to write a post immediately after the big day, but I never had the chance. It was a busy week! Really busy. I feel like I’m back to doing about 80% of the things I used to do before my broken ankle. And that last 20% are all the things I did to take care of Annie out of the house. Day by day, things continue to get better. It’s hard to see that after a really rough and pain filled day, but honestly – compared to how much pain I was in walking around the antique mall last week to how easily and pain free I was doing a ton of stuff around the house yesterday, just a week later? It’s a pretty significant difference. So I’m getting there. Tomorrow marks 12 weeks since that dreaded day.

Anyway, Mother’s Day turned out to be a pretty great day! I’m the kind of person who always has a lot of expectations for important events and inevitably is disappointed. But I can genuinely say this year that it was fantastic! The boys were in good moods all day, no ridiculous fights arose, the weather was decent albeit a bit chilly, and everyone was just happy!

I woke up early because I’m back to doing that on a regular basis. I took a shower and then went back to bed to laze around for a few hours. The boys brought my breakfast in bed – the morning bun I bought at the farmer’s market the day before. So delish!

I opened my presents next. I love presents! I got this beautiful “diamond” bracelet. I had one when I was a kid that my grandma gave me and thought was the best bracelet in the world. I’ve been wanting one as an adult for awhile now. Love it!

Always one for practical gift giving, I also got a PopSocket for my phone, accompanying mount to use it in the car, and a drain cover for baths. I’m not much of a bath person, but it does really help when my legs are super achy, so I’m trying to get more into it.

A new water bottle.

And a bird bath! We put it out in the front yard the next day, in the middle of this random patch of hostas we have next to the driveway. I’ll have to try and take a picture of it soon, to see it outside. I really like it! And Greg picked this one because it’s my favorite color and looks antiqued.

I got ready and then we went for our annual mother sons photo shoot outside. I can’t believe how horrible my hair looks in these pictures, after just curling it. Greg takes the least flattering photos of me ever. 😛 At least the boys were smiling, even though they were being silly!

Shepard kept running away from me to do this…

Caught him!

I ventured into the backyard to see my Mother’s Day gift from Annie! It’s in the far back of our property, but it’s the only shrub I can see from the house and I love the pop of color! Hopefully it survives. We haven’t had a lot of luck with anything we plant back there.

Next we dropped Annie off at my parents’ and then went to Greg’s parents’ for their big Mother’s Day party. Shepard gave me another gift that he made at their house. I love the little ladybug!

It was little colder than we would have liked, but most of us spent the day outside. The boys were having the greatest time with their second (or whatever the technical term is) cousins.

Shepard and Jeremiah were having a blast playing with this toad they found.

A little too much fun. They weren’t very happy with me when I insisted they had to put the toad back and leave the poor thing alone! We went to a store later and when we came back the toad was in a box in the house, so you see how well they listened to that!

Annual photo of all the moms in attendance.

Cindy gave me some presents too! I’ve been wanting some new sheets forever and it’s hard to justify ever spending money on them yourself. Both of these devotionals also came out recently and look great!

Trying to get a nice Grandma and grandson photo, but they just wanted to stick their butts out for the picture. Always so cooperative!

Most of the women and girl children went to one of our favorite stores, Twisted Sister to check out what’s in stock. Then we came back home to say our goodbyes. Had to get a quick mother son photo.

Next, we headed back over to my parents’ house. This is one of the gifts we gave her. I love it!

Getting a mother daughter pic in right away so we didn’t have to worry about it later. 🙂

We spent a lot of time just hanging around and then we had a big dinner. My mom had steak and mushrooms, which is what she requested. I had this spicy chicken and sweet potatoes. They were so delicious!! Everything is always delicious over there.

Trying to get a nice photo and it went about the same way as the rest of the day. At least Gracie was looking at the camera!

More presents. The boys made each Grandma a fill in the blank book about why they love them. Some of their answers are pretty hilarious.

At the end of the night, we started transitioning into Greg’s birthday so he was able to open some presents too.

He got a couple of cords and stuff that nobody really knew what it was, except it was on his wish list. And some desperately needed new sandals.

Annie was so tired after spending the day running around Grandma’s yard! I was pretty exhausted too. But it was a really fun day!

Moving on to Monday! Greg’s 34th birthday. He went into work, so it was just a regular day at home for me. We had a mountain of laundry, so I decided it was about time I get back to doing that. I’ve been putting loads in here and there the last few weeks, but I haven’t folded or put clothes away since the BA (broken ankle). It took me FOUR HOURS to get everything folded. Obviously there were a few breaks in between waiting for loads to finish, but it basically took me the majority of my day. I was proud of myself for doing it. But also really discouraged with just how slow I am in general. Everything takes me so long.

Greg came home and it was time for birthday fun!

Of course we immediately opened presents. His main gift was a new toaster oven. It’s like his favorite cooking appliance and he uses it for literally everything, and our old one was not in the best shape. (It was a birthday gift he gave me years ago, so I decided I’d give him a nice practical kitchen appliance right on back!)

Most gifts were practical this year because he kept saying he didn’t want anything and I knew he couldn’t complain about something useful. But I did get him one thing from his list I knew he really wanted.

It’s a print from his favorite book. Don’t ask me what book, because I have no idea.

Jumbo beef jerky from Annie. We also gave me a set of pans that fit the toaster oven, a chainmail type thing that cleans cast iron pans, an instant temperature reader, a gutter scooper, a box of Buffalo Wild Wing Sauces, and some fancy dark chocolate.

Birthday picture!

He requested Day One Pizza for his birthday dinner. Easy for me!

We had peanut butter bars for dessert. After dinner we went for a short walk and set up the bird bath and front porch plants outside.

They played Minecraft the rest of the evening. (Isn’t Annie cute?!) It wasn’t anything fancy or spectacular, but I think Greg had a pretty good birthday.

Tuesday was another personal success day for me. I decided to attempt Woodman’s (a huge grocery store) by myself! It’s the first time I’ve been there at all since the BA. And I did it! I was quite proud of myself. I didn’t even feel like I was dying by the end. I celebrated by going to Barnes and Noble next and spending over an hour browsing the entire store. I think I might have even been able to handle a third errand, but knew I needed to conserve energy for carrying all the groceries in and putting them away. That was probably the most difficult task. After I got home, did all that, and ate lunch, I took a nap. There went day two of the week of not doing any actual sewing work. I was starting to get a bit frustrated by that point. I know that moving around and getting back into the swing of my regular life is what’s going to make my ankle heal the fastest. I’m not going to get stronger if I’m just sitting at my work table all day. So it’s great I’m getting better and stronger and more capable every day. But it stinks that I’m getting very little actual WORK done.

Wednesday I forced myself to sit down and work all day. And then in the evening we went out for a birthday dinner with Greg’s parents. He picked Mod Pizza (and Caden always gets a sub at Potbelly next door because he still refuses to eat cheese). We went to Culver’s for ice cream next. And then the school greenhouse to get some plants. Then back home to open presents.

It was a nice night, but I was getting pretty crabby by the end of it. Just so frustrated with myself, irritated with the boys, stressed about school about to end and not feeling ready for summer. I’ve been pushing myself so hard with very little actual breaks. I don’t feel mentally capable of dealing with my kids all day every day. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to feel physically ready to whisk them away on long day trips – the only thing that makes summer fun to me. I didn’t make nearly enough dolls this spring to justify slowing down in summer, the way I usually do. I don’t know if I should use these very few remaining days of school to bask in the silence of being home alone – or trying to hit up as many of my favorite stores and places as possible since I haven’t been able to do that for months and it’ll be really hard (and not any fun) to do them with kids. I’m also just lamenting that our anniversary vacation this year is a whopping day and a half long and I wish we could do more. I also kind of wish we could have a family vacation just the four of us since it’s been years, but I’m not sure that can happen either. Anyway, my brain was just blowing up and I NEEDED a break. So I actually did the responsible thing and bowed out of tv time, went to my room, lit a candle, and spent two blessed hours just reading before going to bed. I need to learn how to do that more often.

Thursday morning I had PT. Worked on a lot of balancing exercises. She still thinks I’m on track with everything. We cancelled my next appointment, so the next time I come I will hopefully be in shoes!

Thursday was another work day, but I also spent a lot of time cleaning. I had my second craft night in the evening. Three people came this month! It was a lot of fun! I’m not sure my work table could really handle more than four people with spread out projects, so that was a good number. It was really great to catch up with a few friends, plus get a whole lot of work done in the process.

On Friday morning, Greg and I went to a big church garage sale. I’m glad he offered to drive me because I definitely ended up getting more than I could carry. All this, plus a bookcase! I put it under my favorite book shelves, right next to where we hope to someday have a big cozy chair. My book situation is a bit out of control and I always want more, so now I have more space to put them all. 🙂

The rest of Friday was spent working. I finished up my first batch of patriotic dolls. I meant to make a lot of progress on my next batch, but….slow. I’m so slow.

Saturday was a pretty lazy day too. I didn’t do a whole lot and then in the evening Greg took the boys to a birthday party at the skating rink. They had a BLAST. Way more fun than any of the times I’ve ever taken them! It was nice to see how many pictures caught them with full smiles. I planned on having sort of a pampering evening to myself, but ended up sitting at my computer working on updating Goodreads and trying to organize my kindle. It’s a bit of a massive project I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It’ll be so awesome once everything is up to date and better organized, though.

And that bring us to this week! Sunday intentions. I guess my biggest goal is to just chill out and enjoy life as it comes. I actually think I’ve been doing a pretty great job of that – until this last week when I started letting myself get stressed out again. I just want to be happy with who I am, what I do during the day, and not feel any regret. I want to LIVE my life, and not just be down on myself for not doing everything on my lists. I gave myself a lot of necessary leeway these last few months, and it’s hard to still keep that perspective when I know I can be doing more.

The biggest thing on the calendar this week is my 12 week post op appointment on Wednesday. This is the big one because he tells me if I can ditch my boot! Something I’m equally excited about and terrified of. I hate wearing the boot. I also hate having to wear a shoe on my other foot at all times so I don’t destroy my back. Technically, I’m not supposed to ever be walking without it, though the last few weeks I kind of go barefoot, with a crutch, every night and morning. And in the last few days, barefoot without a crutch across rooms, occasionally. And I’m so unsteady. I’m scared to death I’m going to break it again. My goal these last few days have been to never use the crutch in the house (except when barefoot) and I’ve been doing great with it. But I went outside yesterday to try and plant some peppers and was just frozen in fear. There are tripping hazards in every direction. Wood chips, rocks, uneven surfaces, kid toys, slippery patches. Everything has the power to knock me down and start this process all over again. It’s really so scary!

I’m also just worried about what life will look like after the boot is gone. It feels so much like come Wednesday, my time is up. I’m supposed to be better. I will no longer have that very visual reminder to anyone who sees me that I have a bit of a handicap right now. I have no more excuses for not doing certain things. And I’m not ready. I’m SO not ready. If I’m scared to death to walk outside in my boot without a crutch, how am I going to be able to do it in shoes?! All of these hazards aren’t going to disappear in four days. How long will it still be before I can take Annie out to go to the bathroom every day? How long until I can take her to the dog park? Will I be able to walk my kids to and/or from school before the school year is up? Will I be able to do it by the time summer school starts in a few weeks? The only thing I’m confident and super excited about is being able to get in my car, drive, and get out – without all the annoying boot to shoe to boot changes! That’s really the main thing that’s stopped me from running a whole lot of errands this week. But once I’m just in shoes – watch out, world!

Anyway, that’s the main thing this week. It’s still pretty busy with working and end of school year things. Caden has another therapy appointment, I have another PT. The boys have big field trips planned. We have tentative plans for Saturday morning and a dinner and movie double date night planned for Saturday evening with Timmy and Brittany. And our anniversary trip is coming up on Memorial Day. I’m sure the week will just fly by! Hopefully I’ll be back before next Saturday to give you an update on the boot. 🙂

Have a good week!

Spring Break and Easter Reflections 2018

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We survived spring break! It actually ended up being a lot busier than I expected. The nine days still seemed to last FOREVER, but we made it. Had a lot of rough patches, like always, but many good moments as well.

On Monday, my mom took the boys for most of the day and they did some egg dyeing and other fun Eastery activities. Greg worked at home so he could take me to my first physical therapy appointment. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it ended up being very low key. All she did was measure my range of motion between my bad ankle and good and taught me the exercises I should be doing three times a day. We also practiced walking up and down stairs with my crutches. I couldn’t figure out how to get up them and have just been crawling inside those rare days I left the house. I scoot up and down on my butt inside the house, which she said is the safest way. But kind of embarrassing – and dirty – to be doing that on any outdoor/entryway steps I come across! The therapist was going to cancel the rest of my appointments until after I see the surgeon and can hopefully move on to partial weight bearing. But she changed her mind to just once a week appointments to start working on my incision scar tissue. I’ll have my first appointment for that on Wednesday.

To celebrate my first PT, we picked up chicken sandwiches and scoops of ice cream from Burger King and Culver’s before going home. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful except for Deja taking Annie to the dog park again.

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Tuesday was the one day that Greg went into work, so I was home alone with the boys. All I have to say is that I’m so glad I didn’t break my ankle during the summer and I better be able to walk by the time they’re out of school!! SO exhausting! The constant negotiating and arguing about screen time every minute of every day! The fun part about the day is that I was bound and determined to find some success in the kitchen. It took me practically all day, but I made bacon, scotcheroos, pizza dough, and later pizza. It felt SO good to actually be productive and make yummy food. I’ve complained a ton in the last few years about constantly needing to feed my family. But now I miss it so much and I hope I never take it for granted again.

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Shepard and I also made some clay erasers from a kit he got for his birthday. That night they went to Greg’s parents’ house for the evening and Greg and I sort of had an at home date night. Though he ended up taking Annie to the dog park and I spent the evening going through and organizing all the Easter stuff. I was dead tired, but also so happy by the end of the day. It felt like the most normal pre-ankle break day I’ve had so far.

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Wednesday was our family day, and the day with the warmest weather. I really wanted to get to a store, so we landed on Costco. I needed to renew my membership and since Greg was actually with me for the first time ever, I added him to it so now he can stop there on his own. I used my knee scooter to zip around the store and it went pretty well! Very tiring and my knee was quite sore, but it felt awesome to actually have some say in the food we picked out. I LOVE grocery shopping, particularly impulse buying (lol). I’ve missed it!

Unfortunately, we all got into a big fight as we were leaving Costco. It pretty much wrecked the rest of the day. We had a picnic packed for lunch, but nobody was offering up any suggestions or agreements to specific parks, so we went back to the big one in Columbus. But it was still pretty chilly and the picnic tables just looked so far away. I decided to just stay in the car. Which was pretty depressing. Watching all the kids there running around and having a good time. I wish it could be me. I won’t ever take that for granted again either. The rest of the day was pretty awful emotionally. I just feel so powerless. And also the reason that our family is falling apart half the time these days. Sigh. Moving on…

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On Thursday, Greg took the boys and met my brother and Hudson at the Milwaukee Zoo. It was cold again, but I think they had a good time! I enjoyed just being home in the peace and and quiet!!

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On Thursday night, Caden had his first sleepover over at his friend Leverett’s house. Shepard was insanely jealous. The three of them are inseparable when they’re playing outside, but Shepard is never included in the invitations that involve going into Leverett’s house. I mean, I do understand it from the parent’s perspective. But Shepard definitely doesn’t understand it! So the three of us watched the movie Leap! and then Shepard had a sleepover downstairs with me, Annie, and Jack. It was also the last night I slept downstairs. I’m back in my room now!

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We made it through the night with no issues. 🙂 Shepard just spent the entire morning begging to run over and knock on Leverett’s door to see if they wanted to play with him. Had to keep up the distractions.

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We picked our first two lemons. It took them almost eleven full months to grow. Worth it?? Probably not. I do not have a green thumb and keeping houseplants alive is pretty difficult. Part of me just wants to give our lemon tree away because I don’t like the minimal effort it requires of me. But now we have some new buds, and I did actually keep it alive almost an entire year, so I guess it’s staying.

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Greg took Annie to her vet appointment on Friday morning. We’ve had her for a year now! I really wanted to go, but it was too hard to get ready early enough. Plus I thought it would just be too chaotic with her so excited and me on crutches. But it sounds like she did well. She is perfectly healthy! And she’s up to 46.8 lbs. 11 pounds more than when we got her! The vet said she should ideally be around 44, but she’s otherwise doing great. They were really excited to get her DNA test results and change her paperwork to “Golden Retriever Mix.”

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After lunch, Greg took the boys to his parents for another sleepover and then spent an hour at the DMV waiting in line to get my temporary handicap sticker for the car. I’m not sure how often we’ll need to use it, but it’s good to have. We used it right away on our evening date! We went to a late afternoon showing of Black Panther and had diner in the theater. Then we went to Orange Leaf for dessert. And finished with a stop at Pick n Save so I could pick out some produce for a few recipes. My knee/leg were pretty much dead after that. But we still got home fairly early and had time to watch Jumanji. It was a nice night! Exhausting, but worth it to get out of the house for something other than hospital visits!

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Saturday morning came with the news that Caden woke up sick. I don’t think Caden has thrown up in like two years. And of course it happens the day before Easter! Greg went to get them and then took Shepard to the Culver’s egg hunt. Caden was resting. And I spent a super long time very carefully chopping up ingredients to make this beautiful batch of mango guacamole. I’ve been kind of over guacamole for awhile now, but this was magical. Best guac I’ve ever had.

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Saturday was also the day of the big community egg hunt and our annual egg dyeing party. The grandmas brought all the supplies and food and we did the dyeing before the party. We were missing a lot of aunt/uncle participants this year. I didn’t really have a space to get to the table, so I didn’t dye many. It went okay, but not as fun as other years. It’s hard being in this dumb boot and not being able to really do anything the way I want to. The scooter gives me more mobility, but it doesn’t exactly make that mobility easy! I was just a little bummed out the whole time. Plus having Caden sick didn’t help things. He was quarantined to his room at first, but he kept demanding Greg go up and attend to him. He finally came down and sat at a chair from a distance. I think it was probably, maybe, just something he ate. He felt a lot better by evening and nobody else got sick.

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At least I got to see Hudson! He’s at such a fun age right now! So alert and interested in everything. But he can’t crawl yet, so it’s easy to contain him. 🙂 And cajole him into taking selfies with me.

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Hudson still loves Annie! And the feeling is mutual.

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He was in a lazy lounging mood and enjoyed just chilling out on me while I was resting.

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And chilling on Greg.

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I made one egg while the Noe side of the family went with Shepard to the big outdoor egg hunt. It was really cold, so the Braatz members stayed here. We left a bunch of eggs for Caden to dye later, but he wasn’t interested. I finished them later in the evening. After the egg hunt we had pizza and desserts to finish up the party.

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After we were sure the boys were sleeping, the Easter Bunny (kitty) came. Rory always ignores people all day, but is fascinated by everything we do once the boys go to bed!

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I’m so happy I was able to fill everyone’s baskets, despite being stuck at home all month. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my mom and two of my friends picking things up for all of us. I was quite pleased with how they turned out!

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And finally Sunday – Easter! Everyone was up around six, but I made the boys wait to look for anything until I took a shower. It’s so annoying how much of a hassle taking a shower is when you can’t stand up or walk! I wanted to get it out of the way as early as possible. And then the hunt was on!

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After everything was found, we had some Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants for breakfast. Yummy.

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This was my favorite Easter basket filler. I’m not sure where I’ll put them, but they were too adorable to pass up! I think I saw them on a facebook group sale the day I broke my ankle and ordered them to cheer myself up. The Easter Bunny also brought me a ton of sheet masks, vitamin E oil for my incisions, and some tasty treats.

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Shepard’s favorite basket fillers were a package of new underwear and these Minecraft pajamas. He had to wear the shirt after we took a family picture the rest of the day. He also wore it to school today. He desperately wanted to wear the pants too and insisted they did not look like pajamas. He finally listened to  me (shockingly!) and switched to regular pants. Caden wore his new Minecraft pajama shirt to school too.

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We went to my parents’ house for brunch mid morning. And we actually got a fairly decent family picture!

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More Hudson! We stationed ourselves at the table and spent most of the time hanging out together. He’s just the absolute cutest!

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The Easter Bunny also made the boys these heatable rice bags for their baskets. Another favorite! They heated them up at least thirty times yesterday. Shepard was also begging me to let him bring his to school today. Hudson wasn’t quite sure what to think about them.

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We had a delicious brunch and then the grandboys had a scavenger hunt to find their eggs and baskets.

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They got all kinds of fun things, including a huge disc swing to hang up at Grandma’s house.

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Hudson loving his new book.

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And really loving his new swing! After just one little swing in it, he was quivering with excitement every time he looked at it. So cute!

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We ran out of energy and motivation to do the egg pecking contest on Saturday, so we were more ready for it on Sunday.

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Greg had my phone for awhile and took about a hundred pictures of Hudson eating his oatmeal.

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Then Shepard and Grandpa had to play with filters for awhile.

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And me deciding maybe I should take a picture with my own child, instead of just Hudson, Hudson, Hudson. 🙂 Caden was feeling a lot better on Sunday, but behavioral wise went waaaaaay downhill as the day went on. It was expected, especially after two sleepovers in a row, and being sick to boot. I wish Easter was at the start of spring break instead of the end, so the boys were at their best. We’re pretty used to Caden’s behavior putting quite a damper on every family get together we ever have. But it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. 🙁

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Early afternoon we went over to Greg’s parents’ house for the rest of the day. Aunt Mel hid all the eggs for the boys to find this year. We usually do this hunt outside, but it was SO cold this year! It doesn’t seem like spring is ever going to show up.

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I thought it was funny that Greg got a Qdoba gift card and I got a Chipotle gift card. We have this argument all the time about which is better. I think Qdoba is just his default because it’s near his work so he can actually go there! Plus guacamole is free and they give free chips with a burrito bowl. Which I admit is an advantage. But Chipotle is in my heart forever. LOVE.

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Shepard had pecking contests with Grandma and Grandpa while Greg dealt with meltdown city child in the other room for half the day. Fun times. Shepard was having a blast at least!

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I liked this egg the best. I think Grandpa made it. Though Shepard just kind of claimed all the eggs for himself by the end!

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We had another delicious meal and then just hung out for awhile. Despite the inevitable parenting struggles, it was a fairly good day. I’d say as a whole, spring break went better than I thought it would. But I am SO glad it’s over! 🙂 And SOOO happy to be back home alone today!

Hope you had a wonderful Easter!