October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Intentions

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

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

Caden’s 11th Birthday and All the Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical silly boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 07.07.2019

It’s been quite a week! Every day seems to last about five days long, yet summer is also flying by. Officially, our summer only started on Wednesday because Tuesday was the last day of summer school. We’ve fit in so many things already!

I spent most of Monday stressfully trying to figure out what to do with all of my overripe peaches. The 25 pound box was hard as a rock on Thursday, I force ripened some to make peach crumble on Saturday morning, and then they were all ripe to overripe by Sunday. If your life doesn’t match up with the ripeness schedule of your box of peaches you’re in big trouble! I think next year I seriously need to find someone to just flat out split a box with me. Then it’ll be less stressful. I was feeling pretty lazy this year and used most of my remaining peaches for salsa. Unfortunately, it was only good for a day and one of the people I made a bowl for wasn’t home to give it to that night.

It was a really hot week! While we did get a new air conditioner this spring, it only cools the lower half of our house. We have a window unit in our room, so Shepard fell asleep in our bed every night and then Greg moved him to his room when he came up.

On Tuesday I tried to just relax and soak up my last day home alone for the next two months!

Determined to jump right into my goal list for the month, we left early Wednesday morning to go to Token Creek Dog Park. We’ve only been to it twice before and that was before I broke my ankle. It’s a really nice enormous field with a hilltop in the middle and woods around the edges. Despite the early hour it was already SO hot, but the bugs were a lot less annoying than at the dog park in town. I’m really hoping I decide on a few solid favorites this summer and continue taking Annie to dog parks in fall when things cool off and the trees start changing. It’s probably the most exciting way for both of us to get some fresh air and exercise. This one is definitely a contender because it’s one of the closest – about 25 minutes away.

Because it’s on the way home, we stopped in at Mounds for Annie to pick out some treats. I’ve always wanted to bring her into a pet store like that! I think she was having some sensory overload. The boys thought it was really cool, though!

We were back home by 9:30 and it was a VERY long first morning of the no screens before noon rule. They were at least pretty good natured in their complaining, but they also wouldn’t leave me alone. We’ve really only had two days of the rule being in place, but I’m still optimistic that it was the right choice.

Greg was home early and came with us to the farmers market. Annie came too, though it was crazy hot by then. I bought a loaf of bread and some cheese. They were doing a brat fry fundraiser and Caden had a hamburger. Shepard bought a ceramic pot that he was able to paint and will be able to pick up this week after it’s been fired.

The 4th was a good day! The weather seemed so iffy all week. Actually, we were getting random short storms almost every day. Fortunately, they held off until afternoon so we were able to go ahead with our plans to visit Cedar Lake.

Because it was just going to be us and Greg’s parents and grandparents (there are usually many more extra relatives and kids at these parties), we decided to bring Annie along. She loved it. And it made the day a little too chaotic. Within ten minutes she somehow managed to break apart her pinch collar and took off. I was screaming and chasing her and she never even looked back. I literally had just told the boys the day before at the dog park that I bet she wouldn’t be a runner anymore because she always stays so close to me at dog parks. She decided to prove me wrong. Luckily, Greg caught her. It could have been a much worse outcome.

The three of them were having the time of their lives playing in the water. Annie never left the depth where she could still touch the ground. Maybe if she hadn’t been on a leash she would have tried swimming, but she already proved she can never be trusted! We also managed to break her retractable leash by submerging it into the water, which meant I had to hold her on her four foot standard leash the rest of the day. She was so hyped up about being there, but also wanted me to be right next to her and kept getting fully wet and then running back and shaking it all over me. It was fun to see her happy, but stressful to maintain that for the entire day.

I was switching back and forth between the beach and further up the hill under the shady trees where it was a bit cooler. The weather really was great for the first few hours before the heat overtook it!

The boys were having the time of their lives just swimming and playing on the tubes. They were getting along so well and having so much fun! Another reminder that the simplest of plans are what make them happiest. They did some tubing out with the boat too. I don’t go on the boat rides anymore because I can’t stand the blasting sun.

Annie and I spent the last few hours trying to cool off in the shade. It was a really nice time! Worth missing my beloved once a year fire station fundraiser cheese fries.

The rest of the day didn’t turn out as well, thanks to Mother Nature. We stopped in Beaver Dam to get some fireworks to do at the in-law’s house right when the first storm rolled in. We waited it out and the guys went to pick up some Culver’s for an easy dinner. We tried to do a few at their house, but the post-rain humidity was deathly! I had to continue holding Annie on her leash for another three hours because she kept terrorizing the cat. We went back home with half hearted plans to go watch the fireworks, even though Greg and I didn’t really want to. But, how can you say no when they’ve been so good all day? Unfortunately, more storms hit right when the show was about to start. There was a ton of confusion on if they would be postponed or not. I think most people at the actual park eventually assumed with pouring rain and nonstop lightning that it wouldn’t happen. We gave up and went to bed. And then we HEARD the whole show as we were trying to fall asleep. Oh well. It was terrible timing, but still overall a really good day.

I thought everyone would sleep in on Friday, but no deal! They LOOK tired, but they were wrestling and attacking each other all morning.

Shepard and I decided to make some beignets. He’s been wanting to do it since we saw them make beignets on The Chef Show. That show is seriously just a wealth of food making inspiration. I think we’ve created something from almost every episode! I was watching one of the last episodes this morning when they were making and eating breakfast tacos – I was so insanely jealous. I think I’m going to watch the season all over again and actually write down all the ingredients they use for the more complicated recipes.

This is how many we had left after we already ate our fill! I thought they turned out okay. Not really as good as I had imagined. I’d like to try the famous ones in New Orleans someday.

I’m not sure what I did the rest of the day other than make pizza!

Saturday was another fun family day. I woke up really early and decided to go to the farmers market because it’s been a long time since my last visit. Unfortunately, storms struck AGAIN and I never even got out of the car. I waited out the thunder and lightning at a grocery store, but it was still raining too hard to stop at the market. If I was just heading home afterward I probably would have risked it, but I didn’t want to be wet the next few hours.

I met Greg and the boys at the theater and we watched the new Spiderman movie. It was really good! We had lunch at Portillo’s before coming home and spending the rest of the day just relaxing.

Today, amazingly, it was in the low 60’s when I got up! So we packed up the cats in their stroller and took the pets on a long walk around town. It was so nice! I wish every morning was like that. The boys were being extra cooperative, even cleaning out my car the first time I suggested it, in hopes of me not enforcing the noon rule on weekends. The rest of the day has just been very chill. Overall – a pretty great week!

Sunday Intentions

Oh, I just remembered what I did on Friday – spent THE ENTIRE DAY doing research, trying to plan a spontaneous vacation for the boys and I when I realized this upcoming week is basically the only one until the end of August that we don’t have some random plan on a Tuesday or Wednesday that would interfere with having a midweek trip. This is something I really wanted to do with them this summer, and just hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the logistics yet. After entertaining a ton of different options, I ended up going with the hotel that started my search in the first place – two nights at Three Bears Resort in Warrens. I’m really excited about it! We’re leaving on Tuesday morning and coming home on Thursday night. I think it’ll be a lot of fun and great opportunity for long lasting memories together. Most of the time I’m totally fine with being the unfavored parent, but sometimes it feels good to be the one that can do something spontaneous and special with them. Plus it gives Greg a few nights to himself, which NEVER happens. Annie’s even going to go on her own mini vacation to Grandma’s, so Greg won’t have to deal with her.

Since that trip is basically our whole week, there’s not much time for anything else. I started some dolls last night, which I intended to finish today, but I’m not making much progress. Hopefully I can get them done by morning since I won’t have time to work the rest of the week. I also need to do a bit more research and figure out something we can do on Tuesday before our 4pm check in time. Despite only living an hour away, we don’t spend much time in the Dells, so surely there is something unique we can check out before heading further north.

So my intentions for this upcoming week? Have fun, be patient, make memories. I want to totally go with the flow and let the boys dictate how we spend our time on the trip. I realize I’m very lucky to have the option of doing things like this and I want to make the most of it.

Have a good week!

Easter and Other Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More board games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Crazy

Merry Christmas!

The last five days have been such a whirlwind of holiday festivities for us! We’ve been jam packed with family get togethers, lots of quality time, and way too much delicious food.

Friday was my dad’s birthday and the last half day of school before break. I spent the morning running around doing cleanup and then Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson came over! We haven’t seen them since Halloween, which felt like forever. Hudson was in such a smiley and fun mood the whole night!

We all had some Christmas coffee to try and wake up. Shepard was wearing his brand new long underwear, which he’s pretty much been wearing for the last six straight days. I did wash them once in the middle of that span… Two more pairs will be delivered tomorrow, since apparently long underwear is the coolest thing ever!

Getting our selfie in!

Hudson and Annie were pretty much glued to each other’s sides the entire night. They were both fascinated with each other. It was pretty hilarious!

The point of the get together was to celebrate my dad’s birthday, though we weren’t sure he’d be able to even make it. But he switched for a Columbus route and was able to come over during his 30 minute break. I think we set a record for world’s fastest birthday party! We ordered pizzas from a local place, I had Caesar salad and garlic bread made, and we had a giant chocolate Costco cake for dessert. It was a really fun night!

On Saturday morning we had our family Christmas. It was definitely a rocky start because one child did not want to stop playing video games. But we eventually got them in the room and they noticed their new bikes, which we made no attempt to wrap! Both were a little bit too big. I’m not sure Caden will be able to ride his at all yet. We realized later that Shepard’s bike was actually broken and couldn’t be ridden at all. 🙁 It was damaged in the mail, but we Greg didn’t realize until after he had built it and Shepard actually got on it.

Anyway, once everyone settled down, it was a nice morning. The favorite gift was definitely the shared hoverboard. We decided to go with only getting one and having them share, though it’s caused a ridiculous amount of fighting since then. They’re so expensive, though! Plus – bikes. Greg gave me a new end table to go next to my reading chair, a book, a candle, two pairs of earrings, and a couple of Willow Tree figurines from the boys. Oh, and an upholstery cleaner! (lol)

Mid afternoon Greg’s family came over for the night. We just hung out and everybody took turns cuddling under Caden’s new weighted blanket.

Shepard had to show off his hoverboarding multitasking skills. We had Italian roast beef sandwiches for dinner, but also snacked all afternoon on a big cheese tray, veggies and curry dip, and chips and salsa.

On Sunday morning we headed to the big extended family party on Greg’s side. Shepard continued to have epic tantrums every day for one reason or another. I assume they were born from him just not feeling the greatest with a long lasting cold. But still – so annoying to deal with. Besides hoverboard fighting, Caden was shockingly really great the entire week!

Chilling out during the party.

Looking a bit tired!

After the party we took Shepard to Walmart so he could pick out a new bike, again. They didn’t have the same one in stock, but he liked this one more because it was so shiny. It was already built (hallelujah!) and he got to walk it through the whole store and out to the car. Every single person we passed commented on how cool it was and told him merry Christmas. I’ve never seen so many nice people at Walmart!

Greg spent the rest of Sunday playing board games with his family and I took the boys back home for some down time.

Christmas Eve is our biggest day. We got going as early as we could and went to Greg’s parents’ house first. I didn’t really take any pictures besides this one. But we had a big breakfast and then opened all our gifts. The big exciting gift that the boys got to open was our trip to Universal and Harry Potter World in February! Greg’s parents are taking the six of us over Shepard’s birthday weekend/week (because they’ll miss the least amount of school in that time frame, not necessarily because it’s his birthday). I’m so glad they finally know about it so we can talk openly! They were both super excited and immediately started going through the guidebooks to pick out places to eat and rides to go on.

After things died down, I went back home to just sit and chill for an hour. It’s hard to be around people nonstop, even when nothing is going wrong. I also had to get Annie since she couldn’t stay locked up all day. While I was home Greg’s new glasses finally arrived! I brought them back with me and then we had to take another selfie with his new look. He hasn’t really adjusted to them yet.

We ate A LOT of food while we were waiting for my dad to get home to open presents. Gracie was being very protective of my mom and her food!

It was pretty chaotic and crazy once the present opening started. Hudson only lasted a few minutes and then went up to bed. I didn’t take any photos besides this one. But it was a really great day!

Back at home Greg got the boys to bed and Santa came! We have about the world’s biggest stockings, but I still can’t get all the presents into them.

Everyone got up around 7 on Christmas morning – even Greg! We took our time opening our stockings and the boys’ gifts. Santa mostly brought books and board games, but also karaoke microphones and saucer chairs that are supposed to be in their rooms, but they are both using as gaming chairs right in front of the tv.

Annie took it upon herself to finish Santa’s cookies. Jack had to come running to see what she was getting that he wasn’t. He drank Santa’s milk the night before and immediately threw it up everywhere. It was only like five drops, but he is apparently EXTREMELY lactose intolerant!

We hung out at home for a few hours and then went to see Greg’s family for a bit and then mine. It had snowed overnight – an unexpected white Christmas! And Hudson just got new boots from his other grandparents, so he was outside checking out the snow when we got there. Such a wonderful smile!

We had a repeat table full of delicious snacks and then hung out and soaked up our last few hours with Hudson.

And we finally went back home around 4:00 to settle in for the rest of the night. Shepard immediately went to work weaving bracelets together. He also learned how to finger knit on Friday and made himself a gigantic purple “scarf” that he wore all weekend.

I finished up the Christmas night snuggled on the futon with Rory next to me and Annie below me and a pile of books at my side. It was a really nice Christmas and I’m so glad that everyone was able to travel to be there, completing the families on both sides this year. But I do sometimes wish the days could be a bit more laid back with a lot more relaxing and comfy clothes and no responsibilities. I guess that’s what the rest of the week is for!

I hope everyone else had a very wonderful Christmas as well!

Christmas as a Gift Giver, Life as a Gift Giver

Many people by now have heard of the five love languages – the five ways that everyone experiences and expresses love, developed and thoroughly researched by Gary Chapman over twenty years ago. These love languages include receiving gifts, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. Each person usually has one or two languages that they are dominate in and that is how they express their love and how they best experience love from other people, particularly their spouse and family.

When I first read this book as a young adult, it felt groundbreaking to me. I finally had validation for one of the biggest parts of my life. A part of my being that so few people seem to understand or appreciate. You see, my dominant language is receiving gifts. The language that I believe is the least understood and the one that people will probably look down upon. When I say that I need to get gifts from people to feel loved, I sound selfish and greedy and materialistic. When I give gifts to people, if I do it the extent I actually want to, I’m often made to feel ashamed and rebuked for “going overboard” or flat out anger at me because they don’t have anything to reciprocate (which is not why I give!!).

Unfortunately for us, Greg’s least dominant love language is receiving gifts. Though strangely enough, him giving me gifts is one of the things that made me fall in love with him. As 15 and 16 year olds, he would give little gifts every month on our anniversary of being together. He’d give me a sweet piece of jewelry or sentimental gift every January on our yearly anniversaries. He’d shower me with notes every day and write me full notebooks when he went on trips away from me and bring me flowers for no reason. He showed all signs of being a huge gift giver as a teenager, but it must have just been him blinded by young love because that is absolutely not his personality now.

I don’t mean for this to be an attack on Greg by any means. But it’s definitely something that has made our marriage more challenging over the years. He’ll buy me obligatory birthday and Christmas and Mother’s Day presents. But picking me up something on a random day just because he thought of me? Definitely not. In turn, the little things I get to show him that I care every week often go unnoticed or unappreciated. I honestly can’t do a day of errands without picking up at least one special little treat for each of my family members. I put so much thought and effort into every holiday gift, always giving little things on every possible occasion. The response is most often that I shouldn’t have. And no, not in a cute little way he didn’t really mean, but NO, you shouldn’t have, because it’s not important to me.

To be fair, Greg’s dominant love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. Want to know which two are at the absolute bottom for me? Right. So no matter what, we’re always missing the mark with each other in how we’re giving and what love language we’re receiving and internalizing AS love. I’d say the thing that’s holding us together is that acts of service are both pretty high for each of us. Acts of service can often been seen and felt as a gift, so I’m not feeling depleted entirely. Acts of service are quietly going about your days doing as much as possible to make the lives of the ones you love easier. Because we both do so well with this, our household responsibilities are split pretty evenly and for the most part, run smoothly.

Anyway, like most of the world, Christmastime is when I think most often about gift buying. It’s also when I spend way too much time thinking about my highest love language. I do it for birthdays too, but at Christmas, when every single person that means anything to me deserves a special gift in their hands, my brain kind of explodes. I want every gift I buy or make to have meaning and be valued. Most of our siblings and their significant others and parents have been making it significantly harder on me because they don’t create wish lists anymore and we don’t spend enough time with them to get the best ideas of what they might like most. And no, I’m not going to buy something just to buy something. It NEEDS TO BE thoughtful and well received. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, but it does need to fit who they are and what they will like. The pressure is real high, you guys. I love it. And it consumes me and maybe sometimes destroys the season for me.

Christmas as an inherent gift giver can be pretty overwhelming. I’d say I devote about a solid month of my time to all things Christmas gift related. The thinking, the research, the price shopping, the actual buying, the unpacking of all the online shopping boxes that arrive at once, the hiding in the house, the creating, the wrapping, the dividing for each location, the measuring out to make sure everyone is getting roughly the same amount of gifts with roughly the same value. Then there’s the actual in store shopping, where I often find my best gifts to give because I go on these treasure hunts and almost always happily stumble on something that’s perfect for someone and can’t possibly be passed up. But then I need to reassess again to make sure everyone is still getting about an equal amount of gifts. I also have to spend time making sure I have things for neighbors and teachers and postal workers (yes, because they work dang hard for me at this time of the year!!). And then there are the friends I want to get gifts for simply because they’re my friends, but I have to constantly be reigning it in because I don’t want them to feel like I expect something in return, because I don’t. There’s really quite a bit of reigning it in this time of year, which is starting to ruin the season for me. I want to give what I want to give. I don’t want to be criticized for giving too much or judged because I have a generous spirit and have a really hard time saying no when I come across a gift that will be perfect for someone. Unfortunately, all these adverse reactions to my gifts is truly starting to wear me down and take a lot of joy out of the one thing I seem to do really well.

Then there’s a part of the Christmas season that’s hard to talk about when your love language is RECEIVING gifts. The actual gifts you want for yourself. How can you talk about this without sounding like a selfish child? I don’t think you can. But yeah, I really look forward to opening my own gifts. I’m a pretty reserved person and it’s very unlikely I will outwardly gush over a gift given to me, which maybe makes it seem like I don’t care. But believe me, I really, really do. I get so excited about one of the only times of year I get gifts from Greg. I love that the boys still usually make some sort of art project at school that is meant to be a gift because the handmade and personal things are truly the most treasured. Really, any gift that shows a person knows ME is a gift I will treasure. Adversely, a gift that clearly has shown no thought at all is worse than no gift at all. Another thing that causes more trouble than good at this time of year. A gift with no thoughtful intent means nothing. I try to counteract these possibilities by trying to ensure my tank is going to be filled up, even if it means taking measures into my own hands. I spend a ton of time cultivating wish lists of things I would be truly joyful to receive. I make lists for the boys to try and ensure they will also get things they’ll truly use and enjoy. I’m in charge of filling my own stocking (and all the rest), so I use that as an excuse to pick up all kinds of little treats for myself. This year I even took things a step farther and bought myself two different advent calendars – a sticker advent from Pipsticks for the entire month, and a bookish 12 days of Christmas advent surprise box from Once Upon a book Club. In this time of the year when I’m focusing so much on gifts for others, I’m also giving myself two little surprise presents every day to keep ME happy. No, of course it doesn’t mean as much as someone else gifting me surprises. But self care and self love are important and this is what I do to fill my own tank at Christmastime.

There really is no point to this post, other than I needed to get it off my chest. I’d say in my whole circle of people close to me, there is only one , maybe two, other people whose stronger love language is gifts. Everyone else? It really doesn’t matter to them. Which is unfortunate to all of us! I am simply putting it out there to everyone that if you’re given a gift this Christmas season, or for no reason at all at any other point in the year, just be thankful for it! Don’t say you shouldn’t have, don’t comment on the expense, don’t flat out refuse to accept it. Don’t belittle the time and effort and thought that a person put into picking out that gift for you. They didn’t have to, but they chose to, because they love you. It matters to them. Maybe more than you’ll ever realize.

My Favorite Things

Last night I hosted my fourth annual Favorite Things Party. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions! It’s a great way to see friends and celebrate the season together in a unique and fun way. It’s also an awesome way to give and get some really cool presents! (I am ALL about presents!) All you do is invite a group of great people over and ask everyone to bring three of their favorite things in a certain price range (I did $8-10 this year) wrapped and ready to give. Provide a bit of food (I always do a mega cheese tray and wine), let everyone else know they’re welcome to bring their own treats if they choose, and then gather and enjoy! After a proper amount of time to linger and eat you have everyone put their name three times on paper in a bowl and go around the circle drawing recipients for each of your gifts and explaining a little about why that item is your favorite thing. It’s really fun, you’re pretty much guaranteed to go home with three really great little gifts, and you have plenty of ideas for other special things you might want to check out later. It always turns out to be a great night!

As I was thinking about my favorite things for this party, I decided I really ought to do a blog post of my favorite things of the year. I kind of have a tendency to get totally obsessed with certain items and I just want to share them with the world! I’ve been considering doing a more regular post on my favorite new thing of the week or month, so keep a lookout for that! 🙂 In the meantime, here’s a pretty comprehensive list of everything I’ve been obsessed with in the last year.

Formula 10.0.6 Peeling Face Masks

This was the first item I picked out to give at my party. I first tried the orange Get Your Glow On Peeling Mask earlier this year when I saw them at Target and picked a few up as little Valentine gifts for some friends. (They don’t sell them at the local target anymore, but you can find them at Ulta and target.com.) I think the peeling masks are so much more fun and feel so much more useful than sheet masks (which I’m not against, I just like the peeling!). This one smells great. I was really excited to see Ulta put out a sample set of all six of their masks this Christmas. I immediately bought one for myself and my party gift. Funnily, my friend Laura is the one who ended up with it – one of the friends I gave the original mask to at Valentine’s Day, who I also gave a set of masks to for her birthday last month because she told me how much she loves them, and she brought these masks as one of her own favorite things to give! They’re great. 🙂

Bones Coffee

So I only started drinking coffee on my 33rd birthday when my mom gave me a Keurig that I wanted pretty much just because the cool robin’s egg blue color matched my kitchen. In the last 14 months I’ve become a bit of an addict. While I definitely love my Keurig for its speed and ease (the boys especially love it for making their own hot cocoa whenever the mood strikes), I’ve really been venturing out into “real” coffee the last four or five months. I don’t really like the way any of it tastes in the Keurig’s reusable cup, so I’ve since acquired a french press, an aeropress, and from a Cyber Monday sale – a little pourover. I think I like the taste from the french press best, especially with this brand of coffee, but the pourover is really winning me over because it’s so much easier to clean (with our plumbing issues I have to try crazy hard to not get ANY grounds going down the drain). Anyway, I think I just came across Bones from a random facebook ad and took a chance on it buying multiple sample packs over the last few months. And I love it! It’s incredible to me how each of the flavors comes through so strongly (I only liked flavored coffees). My favorite flavor is one that they had this summer as a limited edition – chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake. The chocolate, the strawberry, the cheesecake – every flavor was so distinct in every sip. I’ve liked every flavor I’ve tried except perhaps the chocolate orange. But I’m not a huge orange fan to begin with and the flavor was super strong on that one.

Candles from TJMaxx and Marshall’s

The third gift I gave at the party were three little candles from Marshall’s in holiday themed scents. I’ve always loved candles, especially in wintertime, but in the last couple of months I have been seriously obsessed. I have to look at them in every store I go to, but my favorite place to buy them are discount stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s because you can get the most bang for your buck and most of their candles really smell amazing. My favorite company, and the one they seem to sell the most of, is DW Home. The cinnamon scents are always a sure bet, but I like a lot of their pines and vanillas too. Though Greg is apparently super sensitive to pine scents now, so I’m not allowed to burn them when he’s home. 🙁 If you enjoy candles and don’t want to spend a ton of money on them, I highly recommend checking out these stores. The variety is huge and it changes with every season.

Third Love’s 24/7 Perfect Coverage Bra

I was on the hunt for a new bra for over a year. I tried so many online companies and went to pretty much every store I could think of that sells bras for more (ahem) well endowed women. It was so discouraging. I had heard about Third Love a million times because they’ve sponsored so many of the podcasts I listen to. But I was pretty turned off by the price. Eventually, armed with a good coupon code, I decided to give them a shot. And I will never go back! They are seriously the most comfortable and well fitting bras I have ever tried. I did their fit finder quiz and they recommended a size different from what I’d been wearing and it worked so perfectly. The only downside to Third Love is that they seem to sell out very quickly whenever they have a size in stock. Also, if you need the bigger sizes, this is the only style they sell them in so it’s the only one I can vouch for. It’s taken me about eight months, but I’ve now acquired six of them and threw away all my old ones. These are the best and SO worth the price to have something that fits properly and will last a long time.

Mantraband Bracelets

I discovered Mantrabands when I was laid up after my ankle surgery. Something about the simple cuff with words of encouragement so plainly stated really resonated with me and what I needed during those months. I have four of them now and wear them when I’m feeling a little down on myself or my life. I really like that they come in multiple colors and have so many different mantras to choose from. There have been a couple times in the last few months they’ve even offered the chance to write your own mantra on a band. I think these would make perfect gifts for anyone going through a time of struggle and needs a little uplifting.

Mezzetta Habanero Hot Sauce

This has been my favorite hot sauce for probably the last eleven years. I have very vivid memories of stopping at the only store in Minnesota that I knew sold it on my way home from work before I had Caden. Because it’s been such long standing favorite and I eat it multiple times a week right now, it definitely deserves a spot on my favorites list. I love spicy food, tacos are my true love, and I need a good hot sauce to spice everything up. I’m not a fan of cayenne based sauces, jalapeno sauces are rare and kind of weird, but habanero – the best. Over the years I had a hard time getting ahold of this because it was only available on their website with massive shipping costs. But now it’s on amazon and makes me so happy! It can never, ever go away.

Only Love Today Book

I’ve been reading this book for over a year. Not because it’s crazy long or hard to get through, but because I want to savor each little nugget it has to offer. It’s hard to describe exactly what kind of book this is, but I’d probably call it a bit of a devotional, with less (but not no) emphasis on religion/God. I think it’s an amazing book for anybody who has children living at home with them. Rachel Macy Stafford offers so much wisdom on putting those little lives and your relationship with them above everything else because love is what truly matters in life. Each “chapter” is only a page or two long and I usually read one a day during my morning quiet time. I can’t recommend this book enough!

Cool and Unique Mugs

My coffee obsession has come with a mug obsession. And I’m pretty picky about what I like. For awhile I was mostly using handmade pottery mugs that I picked up at craft fairs. But more recently I’ve gotten addicted to checking out Marshall’s or TJMaxx for mugs. Every once in awhile I find an amazing one – and it’s usually the only one there (like this pumpkin spice llama mug above). I’ve started collecting so many that I only have space to store 10ish at a time, so I’m now fully committing to have an arsenal of mugs to rotate by season! This was definitely my favorite fall find. A few weeks ago I found an amazing Santa one I use almost every day.

TJMaxx/Marshall’s/Home Goods

Okay, yes, I have a problem. Like seriously, an absolute addiction to these stores. I can no longer pass one up, EVER. I think this began when we lived in Minnesota and every month or two I’d drive to the next town over to visit their TJMaxx Home Goods. I’ve always liked stopping by them when I’m shopping in an area with one, but lately – I NEED to go in. Always. When I took my Minnesota vacation in August by myself I went to every discount store in every town. That’s seriously all I did for an entire day. I think I like them so much because every visit is like a treasure hunt. The stock changes so rapidly. Lately, with all the fun seasonal things out, I’ve been going to the closest Marshall’s almost every single week. I can’t stop. I’ve already mentioned candles and mugs are my favorite things to look for, but I also really love checking out the bath and beauty section, the food area, the blankets (they have THE BEST blankets) and pillows, and the small stationary/notebook section. The only areas I rarely look at are clothes, which I guess is the bulk of the store. But there are so many treasures to be found around the edges! I’ve also realized that one day every week or so, tjmaxx.com offers free shipping. Dangerous! I’ve gotten a few great blankets and pillows online that I haven’t seen in store. I’m super excited that they’re currently building a TJMaxx and a Home Goods store right between the Target and Costco I shop at every week in Sun Prairie! I can’t wait!

Bombas Socks

This is a new obsession, but already a favorite. I’ve never been that excited or interested in socks, but with the shifting winter weather I had been getting frustrated with all the lighter weight socks I wore all summer (needed tennis shoes every day for my ankle – lame!). Bombas had so many great coupon codes around Black Friday that I decided to check them out. And I LOVE THEM. Definitely pricey, but they seem to be very high quality, very thick and comfortable, and they offer coupon codes pretty often. I love these so much that (spoiler alert) a lot of people might be getting a pair for Christmas this year!

Frostbeard Studio Candles

My brother gave me this candle for my birthday and I loved it so much! I’ve heard of Frostbeard Studio before, but had never ordered a candle before. I loved that it’s a candle for book lovers (great marketing for book lovers! :)) and it actually smelled amazing. I’ve since ordered a few more in Christmasy scents. The Bookstore one is still my favorite and I really like Christmas in the Burrows. I currently have Bah Humbug lit right next to me. These candles are definitely more expensive, but I use it as a little treat to myself when I’m sitting down at my computer or in my chair to read for a long period of time. It doesn’t appear to be available at the moment, but I’m really hoping to get their Bookworm and Old Books scents sometime in the future.

Coffee Gator Pour Over Kettle

If you’re making coffee in any of the methods I talked about above, this is almost an essential accompanying item. Also – all of those coffee things are really only best if you’re making one cup/coffee for only one person. Which works great for me, but maybe not the best if you drink more than a cup at a time or are making for multiple people. Anyway, this little kettle is so much cooler than microwaving water and trying (and often failing) to get the perfect temperature. This one will tell you when it hits the ideal temperature. I love it! It really works great with the same company’s little pourover in teal that I bought last week.

Scribbles that Matter Bullet Journal

I started a new bullet journal at the beginning of this school year and this is the brand I went with. It’s really so great! The pages are really thick and it lays flat when opened. I’ve tried many other journals that regular bujo’s recommend, but this has definitely been my favorite. I love all their fun color combinations too!

Pentel EnerGel Pens

Last year I was all about Papermate Flair pens. Which I still LOVE and use every day in my bullet journal. But this year I’ve discovered these and use them everywhere else. They write so smoothly and the colors are great. I of course have a rainbow set at my desk and blues in the area of the house where I actually have to sign important things. 🙂

TACOS

Tacos have been my favorite food for as long as I can remember. But it’s only been in recent years that I realized tacos can be soooo much more than seasoned ground beef, hot sauce, and cheese in a hard taco shell. I’ve become seriously obsessed with tacos in all their flavors and forms. Whenever I go on a trip I’m immediately looking for cool taco joints. I went to a few amazing ones in DC this fall. There’s one in Madison called Bel Air Cantina that we all love. I usually eat at Chipotle or Qdoba every single week on my big errand days. I recently bought a tortilla press and figured out how easy homemade corn tortillas are to make. I often whip up chicken tacos for my lunches multiple times a week. I even occasionally eat egg breakfast tacos – and I don’t normally like eggs! I try to make Taco Tuesday an actual thing and try different recipes every week. I have at least six different taco cookbooks. This is my most recent one and I love all the simple yet delicious ideas it has. Tacos are the one food I could never, ever live without. SO GOOD.

A Space of Your Own

I fell in love with our house because of this living room. And because the tv and video games and everything are in the family room at the back of the house, I’m the one who spends the most time in this pretty area (where my computer also is). I realize not everyone can basically claim a room mostly for themselves (and their dog!). But I think it’s so vitally important to try and carve out a little nook for doing whatever makes you happiest. When we lived at our apartment, that was my sewing area. And while I also have a great full sewing room at our house, my favorite area is my little book corner with the amazing gigantic chair Greg got me for my birthday. I try to spend at least a little time reading there every day. Sometimes I just sit and savor the comforting solitude. It’s awesome in December when I also get to take in all the Christmas decorations and candles. This is pretty much my favorite place in the world and I’m so lucky I get to spend my time in it every single day!

BOOKS

I’ve saved my ultimate favorite thing of all time for last – BOOKS. I absolutely adore, love, and lust after books almost every minute of every day. I’ve loved reading for always, but this year actual books in their physical form have become so beloved to me. Granted, I still really like reading on my kindle because it’s easier and more portable and can be done in the dark. But I love BOOKS so much. I want them all. I want to research them, look at them, hold them, shop for them, think about them, read them, share them, gift them. If all anybody ever gave me for the rest of my life was books I would be so very happy. My favorite of the year has been The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I read it back in February, but I still think about it often. It was so fun and delightful and a delicious romance. I know it might not be for everyone, but I loved it soooo very much. I’m so excited for Thorne’s next book coming out in January!

I think that’s about it! I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but this is a pretty comprehensive list of everything I’ve been obsessed with this year! I would LOVE to hear about your favorite things!

November 2018 Reflections

Happy end of November!

I’m so behind in my posts, I decided to just go ahead and do my monthly recap instead of trying to remember what I did every day the last two weeks and just write about that. It feels a little irrelevant and boring at this point. Or maybe always?! 🙂

Looking back at my goals from the beginning of the month, I was planning for a slow November. It was far from slow! Something about this school year, or this fall, seems busier than it’s ever been. We’re constantly running around, seem to have things going on almost every night, and I am just crazy busy trying to balance everything during the day. It’s so exhausting. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or this is just the season of life we’re in right now and I need to learn to deal with it. I’m really hoping winter will finally quiet down. Because I’m terrified of walking on potentially slippery ground EVER AGAIN, I think winter will be quiet just because I’m going to flat out refuse to go anywhere!

Anyway, here’s a quick recap on the goals I was aiming for in November. I think I did a pretty great job this month!

1. Write EVERY DAY

Well, I gave up on this one in the middle of the month because it was stressing me out and putting too much pressure on my already overloaded mind. It’s funny how by giving myself permission to prioritize writing, I suddenly had very little interest in doing it. I’ve just been too busy to even want to stop and get my thoughts down. But…it’s okay. I guess this is why I’m not a career writer. Maybe that is never meant to be.

2. Stop eating fast food for the sake of having a fast meal

This has been really tough, guys. This whole weight loss journey I began about five weeks ago has been A STRUGGLE. So many emotional ups and downs. So many days of the scale going up and down. As of today, 34 days after I started, I’m down 8.4 pounds. Which is great, I think! My goal was to lose 10 pounds by the end of January, so I’m doing far better than I expected of myself. But most of the loss was in those first few weeks when I was using Noom and Lose It. I’m proud of myself for still going down now that I’m doing everything totally on my own without counting calories, but the changes day to day feel very insignificant. Anyway, I definitely have times of being totally hangry pretty much every day. I miss eating  what I want, when I want, and not thinking about portion size. I REALLY miss grabbing fast and easy food choices when I’m out running errands and feel like I’m starving. I realized that I just can’t have a full shopping day and expect myself to still come home and take the time to make a healthy late lunch for myself. So once a week I’ve been going to Qdoba or Chipotle which feels like a very worthy reward for being pretty good the rest of the week. And since errand days are always the days I get the most steps, I feel justified in splurging for the extra calories. As for actual fast (fried) food, I’ve only had it once. I planned it, which was within the rules I set for myself. I ordered a chicken and waffle sandwich from KFC. And it was SO not worth it. I’m going to stick with this goal for next month too. I just want to remember how crappy I feel after eating certain foods and drill it into my brain that it is not worth feeling like crap just for the convenience of something fast I can eat while I drive back home.

3. Finish 75% of my Christmas shopping

Okay, I’m not going to do the math, but I’d guess that I’m at least 90% done!! It’s been a pretty crazy two weeks of doing research on what to get everyone, finding the best deals, trying to take advantage of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But with the exception of a few small filler gifts, I’m basically done. With everyone! I’ve been a bit overwhelmed, though, because when you do all your Christmas shopping for about 25 people – most of them needing multiple gifts – in a week and a half, all of those gifts start showing up at your door at the same time. Part of the reason I feel like I’m getting absolutely nothing done this week is that every single day a massive pile of boxes is delivered to my door and I need to figure out what to do with all of them. I did a round of wrapping earlier this week to try and further get ahead of everything, but it’s just A LOT to deal with. But when it’s all done, hopefully within the next week, I will be SO relieved to just sit back and relax and not have to worry about gift buying anymore in the month of December.

4. Write a Book Bonanza reading list

This is probably one of the easiest and most enjoyable things I’ve assigned myself, but I haven’t done it yet. There are maybe around 120ish authors who will be at Book Bonanza in August, and I’ve at most read books by 5-8 of them, I’m guessing. I’d really love to do a quick search on every author and find at least one book of theirs I’d like to read by the time I head to Texas in August to meet them. I suppose the month isn’t over yet, but I did buy my Book Bonanza ticket almost three months ago, so I really need to get going on this list!

5. Have a meaningful date with Caden

We did this! A few weeks ago we went to The Mineshaft and shared a huge pile of appetizers followed by games in the arcade. It was really nice! I want to make this a more regular part of our monthly routine.

Reflections on the last two weeks

Treat your delivery drivers

I heard about this idea last year from Jessica Turner at The Mom Creative. You fill up a box of treats (ideally food AND drinks, but the drinks are too risky in the below freezing temps most days around here) and leave it out for all your delivery drivers. I started a this a few weeks earlier than last year since all of my packages have already been rolling in. I also got a cover this year because last year the squirrels realized that box of snacks existed and raided it every single day, leaving food wrappers strewn around the neighborhood. Anyway, I think it’s just a really fun thing to do. Maybe they’ll take something, maybe they won’t, but at least the gesture means something. My dad has worked at FedEx my whole life and I know how insane this time of the year is for all delivery workers. I hope that getting a little treat when they stop by our house brings a joy to their day! And because I love variety, I have about ten different options in that box and try to switch things out every few days, taking note on what gets eaten the most (Little Debbies) and make sure things like that are in stock. 🙂

Pre-Thanksgiving date night

Exactly one month after I left DC, I saw Dianne and Jack again as they were in town visiting her dad for Thanksgiving. It’s nice that she can always kill two birds with one stone when she’s in the area and make some time to see me too! The four of us went out for Mexican the night before Thanksgiving. It was fun! I wish we could do couple dates more often.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving began the way every holiday begins – with a sick child. Caden, who rarely gets tummy sick, was rolling around with a bucket and moaning and groaning. He sort of spit up once and then laid in bed all morning, while we tried to decide what to do. Seeing as he seemed to be getting better, we continued on with our initial plans.

We always have Thanksgiving at Greg’s parents’ house and my parents come too, so we don’t have to eat two meals anymore. Shepard and I worked on this gingerbread turkey before the meal.

I was in charge of desserts, like I always am (and am thrilled about!). I always try to make my most unique things for Thanksgiving that still kind of fit the traditional offerings, but with a few twists. This was an apple gouda sage pie. The gouda was in the crust and I didn’t taste it at all. I only put in half the sage because I don’t like sage, but I couldn’t taste that either. But…it was a really good apple pie!

This was a triple cherry pie with a chocolate crust. My dad told me I ruined it with the chocolate crust and refused to even taste it, which is kind of a shame since I halfway made it for him because I know he loves cherry pies. But Greg also loves cherry pie and this was his request. Of course the recipe called for fresh cherries, which you will not find in November! I used frozen cherries, twice the amount called for, and it was kind of a juice explosion disaster. But if you only ate the top crust and a scoop of the filling it was delicious! And I normally don’t like cherry pie at all.

I only planned to make two pies since our group was pretty small this year, but I was so worried about the cherry pie being too juicy to eat that I stayed up late to make this black bottom peanut butter mousse pie. I added a bit of salt to each of the layers and it was PERFECTION. In retrospect, three pies for six eating adults (the boys didn’t have any) was definitely overkill. But as we’ve already established in this blog post, I love variety!

Shepard showing off the themed desserts he made on Wednesday night with my mom. He was very proud of them!

A moment of calm in the midst of a pretty trying day with a certain child. I know he wasn’t feeling the greatest, but he was also still being the way he is at basically every family gathering these days. It was rough. It’s ALWAYS rough.

And finishing the evening with some Thanksgiving Mad Libs and clay art projects with Shepard and the grandmas and me. I love how much of a kick he gets out those stories! Overall, it was a very nice Thanksgiving and I am forever thankful that I’m not responsible for the turkey or the sides!

Black Friday

I had big plans to work together to get the house fully decorated on Friday. But Thursday was so difficult with Caden that Greg decided to go into work so he didn’t have to spend the day with us. I still really wanted to get the tree up, but of course I had a few other things I really needed to do first (shopping!). Shepard was very impatient with me and started the tree on his own. He gave up right after I joined him and I ended up doing pretty much the entire thing myself. The boys spent the rest of the day playing with their friend while I decorated and cleaned.

After dinner we all went down the road to the Christmas parade! It’s really like the tiniest parade that has ever existed, but so many people show up and the atmosphere is festive and fun. Afterward Santa and a few people make a super long speech at the library that I have never been able to hear a single word of – I have NO CLUE what they talk about for so long every year. But then Santa lights the Christmas tree and everyone cheers.

Since everyone was actually in a good mood after the parade we powered through and finished decorating the tree. Greg and Shepard also put up the smaller tree in the family room and went crazy hanging twinkling white lights around the entire room. Our main tree shifts positions in the living room every year, but I really like this year’s placement. I have a perfect view from my big reading chair to the left.

Work Stuff

I spent a lot of time debating how to make sales over the Black Friday weekend. I decided to stay up late Thanksgiving night to finish these 12 ornament dolls. I offered one free with every order placed on Friday and Saturday. On Small Business Saturday I added an extra 15% off. I had exactly 12 sales on those two days so it worked out perfectly. On Cyber Monday I offered 25% off everything and made a giveaway doll that every sale for the day got entered in to win. Overall, it was very successful. I’ll probably do the same series of sales next year. There were a lot of people who wanted to just outright buy the ornament dolls, though, so this week I’ve been working on a batch of 24 of them to list for individual sale. I’ve just been so busy with other stuff I’m still not done with them.

McKenna’s Birthday Party

On Saturday night we went to my goddaughter McKenna’s 6th birthday party. It was also her sister Alaina’s 3rd birthday party – they have the same birthday. It was so fun to hang out with them! But also really sad that it’s been an entire year since I last saw her. This year just flew by.

Such a happy and fun little girl!

House Stuff

One of my totally random purchases in the last few weeks were new shades for our living room. Before we had a pretty translucent white curtain that was broken and couldn’t properly be opened (See tree pic a few paragraphs earlier.). It definitely looked a little bare at first, but I LOVE this new upgrade. I got the light filtering shades so it’s still pretty bright in here even when they’re closed. But I also feel like we finally have a lot more privacy in this room in the evenings, which makes me really happy. Unfortunately, that big curtain was also hiding a bunch of paint that peeled away when we put those plastic window sheets on our first winter here. I was really hoping to immediately patch all that up this week, but again – NO TIME. I’m hoping in the next year or two we can replace all the regular blinds that are left in the house with shades like this. They just look so much nicer.

Other Decorating

It’s taking me so much longer than I’d like, but I am very slowly making sure the rest of the house is decorated and ready for Christmas! One of my completely unplanned for Black Friday purchases was this little Christmas tree for our room. I love it so much! This is the first tree that I was ever able to pick out – not a hand me down or one we got on super clearance because it was the only one available. Putting this tree up inspired me to finally clean up our dresser top and reorganize my whole makeup area. Our room is looking very spiffy right now!

Edible Slime

Shepard saw a video the other day of people making edible slime and insisted he had to do it too. I bought the ingredients he told me to (gummy bears, cornstarch, sugar) and he and Greg made it. It looked so gross!

I’m not sure I’d call it a successful experiment, but they certainly had a lot of fun doing it! What a sticky mess, though!

End of the Month, by the Numbers

  • I worked about 61 hours this week over 21 days. Most days just 2-4 hours which is pretty realistic for what I can fit into my schedule right now. I’m still hoping to someday just have a normal work at home DAY and not work on nights or weekends at all. But I haven’t figured out how to do that yet!
  • I took Annie to the dog park 13 times. Our number is going up because I’ve been driving the boys to school more often with the cold or snow or their inability to get ready on time. If I’m already in my car with Annie it just makes more sense to get a little dog park time in!
  • I ate at restaurants 9 times this month. Better than last month’s 15, but still feels like a lot. At least I know my choices this month were a lot healthier.
  • I know they were healthier because I concluded that I “felt good” 22 days of the month. In October I only felt good in my body 9 days of the month. That’s a lot of progress!
  • I felt like I did some sort of nourishing self care 13 days of the month. Not so great. I’m hoping that number will jump significantly in December and I stop letting my to do list stress me out and rule my life and happiness so often.
  • I had a pretty even amount of quality time with Greg, Caden, and Shepard this month. I had 3 days of friend quality time.
  • My average happiness rating for the month was 6.7, only a tiny bit higher than October’s. I’m not very generous in my rating system – I’ve never given myself a 10/10 day. But I did have a lot of 7-9’s this month.

And that’s it for November! Happy December!!

 

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!