Ramblings on Creative Pursuits

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately. I’m reading the book Big Magic where the author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about catching your creative passion or idea before it passes you by. Whenever I sit down to read a chapter, writing is the creative pursuit that comes to mind. When I spend six hours a day sitting at my work table sewing, I’m constantly coming back to thoughts of what I could be writing in that time. Whenever I’m tired and overwhelmed, writing is what I want to do. Usually in the form of an email to my best friend across the country, but often just because it’s the best outlet for me to get out everything inside me. At the end of the day when I’m evaluating what I did well or poorly, I’m often frustrated that I didn’t have time to write anything. Writing is what I keep circling back to. Writing is that dream that’s constantly swirling around my brain. Writing feels like what I’m meant to be doing.

So why am I sewing? Why am I using this rare freedom that I have at this time in my life to spend six hours a day watching tv and mindlessly sewing doll parts together? Money is probably the main reason. It’s very exciting that I found something enjoyable to do – at home – that will bring me a small income and a ton of flexibility. It allows me to still be home with my kids in summer and breaks and whenever else they might need me. It brings in enough money that I can buy myself extra things or splurge on bigger gifts for people. It also brings in money that I can use to take guilt free and desperately needed little trips by myself once or twice a year. Selling dolls legitimizes my purpose in staying home and not going out and finding a “real” career.

I DO love making dolls. But I also feel so held up by my shortcomings. I’m one person. I can only make so many dolls a year. And now that I’m genuinely trying to cut out my night and weekend hours, I’m guessing my doll production might be cut by as much as half. There’s a very definite limit to how much I can create and how much income I can cultivate in doing this. It’s not the kind of business where I can bring in another person to help me. This is a one woman show, all the way. And it’s frustrating. I’m doing well! I have a large customer base and I often sell out of new dolls I list within a few days. Which is great! But it also makes me feel like I’m constantly behind and there’s just no way I’ll EVER catch up. When I have this bottomless pit of urgency and failure to keep up, it makes me wonder if I should even be doing this at all. Is it a life giving pursuit if I always feel behind and like I’m letting people down?

I think I’m a pretty talented doll maker. I don’t take shortcuts, I don’t put out anything less than my best work. I’m proud of my creations and I have such joy when I finish them and people actually want to buy them. I don’t think it’s something I can give up. So I need to find a way to blend them all together in a way that makes me feel complete and fills my soul. I need to carve out more room for writing and fulfilling that part of me that I desperately want to satisfy. It’s probably going to mean even less time a day to work on my dolls. And I NEED to be okay with that. Writing is what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. And that scares me. Because saying that out loud and then openly letting my words by judged is terrifying. I might not be good enough. I’m out of practice. I don’t have any worthwhile topics to write about, unless it’s directly related to my life and just the random jumble of emotions I constantly feel. I feel like I have SO MANY words inside of me, but no direction in which to mold them. I can’t change my life to revolve around writing when I don’t have a plan.

So. For now… I’m going to be blogging more. It might be a lot of rambling posts like this one. But I want to challenge myself to just start. Start where I am and write, write, write. This is probably my safest space because I don’t have much of an audience! My words will be out there, but also relatively secure. I can say whatever I want and get the peace that comes with putting my thoughts to the page. It’s a start. I don’t want this creative passion to pass me by because I’ve ignored it for so long. It came back to me and I’m not going to let it go this time.

2018: Celebrating a New Year

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Happy New Year!

Last night we celebrated the way we always do – staying home with food and movies. We had a big taco feast followed by a creme brulee tart for dessert. As a family we watched Captain Underpants, Boss Baby, and a bunch of Netflix countdown videos as we ate popcorn and drank sparkling juice. The boys went to bed around nine and Greg and I finished the evening watching Logan Lucky and half of Battle of the Sexes. He drank a beer, I drank some of the amazing ice wine I found at Costco last week. It was about the least exciting celebration ever, but at least we were together. And hey! I actually made it to midnight. I NEVER make it to midnight.

Anyway, like most of the world, I’ve spent the last week contemplating the ups and downs of the last year and what I would like to do differently in my life and approach to 2018. I re-read my resolutions from last year and realized that I basically feel exactly the same way as I did a year ago. If anything, I’m even more of a slave to my to do lists. The frustrating thing is that I’m completely aware of it and still struggle day after day to just let some things go. I so often link my worth to how many things I accomplished in a day. I set impossible standards for myself and am constantly wracked with guilt and disappointment in what I wasn’t able to check off my list by the end of the night. And quite honestly – I’m sick of living this way.

In the midst of trying to just DO all the time, I’ve really lost sight of what’s truly important in life. Family, love, laughter, joy, contentment, connection, dreams, acceptance, and simple happiness. I somehow want to find my way back to all of that this year. I want to live by my the words of my current favorite book and choose ONLY LOVE TODAY. Again and again and again. That is what matters. I only have this one life and I want to make it count. For me. For my joy. For my acceptance. That will be my focus this year.

Personal

  1. Practice Self Care. 
    I want to learn how to love myself this year. I have a lot of self hatred, especially with how I look. And sometimes with aspects of my personality and how I treat other people. I’d like to take a journey this year in finding things that make me happy. Looking for joy in little moments. Being completely in tune to what I actually need to loosen the stress and smile more. Let go of the to do list slavery. Show gratitude for the best parts of myself. Learn to accept and even love the parts of me I sometimes can’t stand. This is all so much easier said than done. But I think it’ll be my highest priority for the year. And also my hardest.
  2. Take Better Care of Myself. 
    My first goal is to take care of myself emotionally and mentally and my second goal is to take care of myself physically. I would love to lose some weight. I need to lose some weight. But I’m not going to give myself a number or even any extreme pressure to do it. I do want to start making better decisions. Remember that the food I put in my mouth not only affects my size, but also my blood and my heart and my ability to live (or not live) a long and healthy life. I want to move more too. If it ever stops being negative temperatures, I need to get back into taking long daily walks. Preferably in the morning, but at night if necessary. I’d also like to find some sort of online exercise program that I’ll actually enjoy and stick with. Especially on these cold winter days when spending long hours outside just isn’t possible.
  3. Be Happy With What I Have.
    I think this became a real problem last year. I always want more. Whenever I found myself stressed out and overwhelmed with life I’d often go to my computer to at least window shop on amazon and other various websites. Shopping shouldn’t be my solution to anything, but especially emotional turmoil. Though I will say that going to thrift stores and antique shops is an active way that I DO give myself self care. But shopping just for the sake of shopping, because I’ve had a bad day? I need to cut myself off. I don’t need more books. I don’t need more clothes. I don’t need more clutter. Whenever the urge to mindlessly shop hits, I want to stop and take stock in what I already have. I think this is a weird habit that maybe only people with the same love language can understand. Gift giving (and receiving) is my love language. And in many circumstances, especially around my birthday and other holidays, I like to shop for myself. I like to give myself gifts because it does fill me up, even if it sounds to people with all other love languages like a ridiculous excuse. That’s how my love tank works, though. I just need to cut back.

RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Get My Family Back.
    I feel like I’ve lost them this last year. Or…they’ve left me behind? You know how in most families the mom is the glue that holds everyone together? That’s not really the dynamic in our household. Yes, I do all the organizing and shopping and cooking and school things- all the behind the scenes stuff that makes a household run relatively smoothly. But I’m not there. I’m not actively present for so many little life moments. Part of the reason is because I just don’t feel like I fit in with them. They love video games. They love Legos. They love complicated board games that always end in screaming and tears. I don’t want to sit in a room with them and watch them play video games all night when there is ALWAYS a huge running list in my head of other things I want to do. Another reason I’ve lost them is that I’ve honestly just stopped trying. The truth, which I should stop using as an excuse, is that Caden never wants to do ANYTHING. I love getting out of the house with my kids and even the tiniest request is always, always, always met with extreme outrage from him. I got really sick of fighting it. If he doesn’t want to do things with me, then what’s the point of fighting it out? It’s SO MUCH EASIER to just drop it. Walk away. Go live on my side of the house where I can at least spend my time doing something productive, even if it’s not the connecting activity I was hoping for. But it finally occurred to me the other day that I’m still the mom. I’m not allowed to give up on my kids. I try so hard to almost never push him into doing things he doesn’t want to do. But it’s come at the cost of me feeling emotionally empty with my own family. Empty and a more than a little resentful because it feels like they’re not letting me live the life I really want to live. They don’t need me anymore. They certainly don’t want me. Daddy is their everything. But it’s time to do a little fighting back and not give up.
  2. Prioritize Marriage.
    I was looking through all my instagram pictures last night trying to pick out the best memories of the year. One of those was a picture of Greg and I when we cut out of someplace we were supposed to be to do something for ourselves. It was definitely met with a little outrage, but for once we didn’t care. We have to stop letting our need to please other people always make our own relationship slide to the back burner. We also need to stop letting our kids rule the roost. I just want to approach our relationship as being one of my highest priorities this year. Because it’s not, for either of us.
  3. Make Friendships Important.
    It’s so easy to let this slide in the craziness of family life. You begin falling into the trap thinking that you don’t actually need friends because your life is so full and busy with your family. And the reality is that making time for friends is HARD WORK. No matter how much fun you had the last time you were together, it’s still so hard to get out the door the next time something comes up. But it’s important. It really, really is. And even though I know it’s going to require ME to make the effort, I’m not going to give up this year. I need my friends. And I’d like to hope that they might need me a little too.

WORK

  1. Set Work Hours – It’s just a job!
    This is a really hard for one for me. Without the clearly defined boundary of leaving my house to go to an office, I am surrounded by and often consumed by work all the time. I often think of it and act like it’s my entire life. Especially when I’m in the middle of a big batch of dolls. Setting it aside for anything feels like a huge loss to my productivity. But working from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed does NOTHING for my personal happiness. It burns me out, stresses me out, and makes me feel extremely resentful of everything I’m missing out on. The ridiculous thing is that I put all of this on myself! I have no clock to punch and no boss to demand more of me. It’s just me. I have the freedom and because of that I feel like I owe it to everyone to put in my absolute best effort every waking minute. But I don’t want to live like that anymore! So set work hours it is. Preferably – just when my kids are at school! I’d really like to end at 3pm when I go to pick them up every day. And maybe a little bit more until dinnertime if they’re busy doing other things. But I really want to limit myself to only working one evening per week and one weekend per month – and only if I absolutely feel like it’s completely necessary. It’s just a job. And I’ll have a much richer life and a lot more joy if I start treating it like it’s not the be all and end all of my existence.
  2. Give Myself Grace.
    Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I’m just one person in an actively creative and artistic career. If I want to do my best and maintain a level of care and precision in my dollmaking, I can’t produce hundreds of dolls a month. Yes, the income from a hundred dolls a month would be incredible! But it’s just not going to happen. I also need to remember that there are a few months of the year (May, September, December) that are just SO busy with actual life events, it’s really hard to keep up with sewing. I want my life to be my priority. And I want to give myself the grace to let up a little in those months. Take breaks when I need them. I DO have this freedom and I should let it GIVE me freedom to do what I need instead of letting it restrict me to feeling like I’m never doing enough, the way it has this last year.
  3. Work in Smaller Batches.
    I also need to remember that this is actually a business and I’d like it to continue being successful! And while I can’t produce hundreds of dolls a month, I can do my best to continually produce my best work. And my best work is often done when I only make a couple of dolls at a time. I get excited about all the details and really make my most precious dolls when I’m not struggling to get through a never ending pile of arms and legs. It’s also a lot better for business to be releasing new dolls every few days instead of every few weeks. When people are always watching for something new they get a lot more excited and immediately purchase those new dolls. It often feels counterproductive to make three dolls vs. twelve, but it’s worth it in the long run. For business and for my own wellbeing!

HOBBIES

  1. Read, read, read!
    Reading is my favorite thing ever. But lately when I’m stressed I find myself reaching for my phone to mindlessly scroll instead of picking up my kindle which is also always within reach. Books are going to enrich my life a whole lot more than my phone. I mostly read for entertainment and escape, but this year I’d like to put a little more emphasis on the nonfiction books that could uplift and change my heart. I have so many of them already in my possession, it’s time to crack them open!
  2. Write, write, write!
    I’m really loving having this blog as an outlet for a different form of creativity. For awhile I was hoping that it might grow into something more. But I’m realizing that’s probably a whole lot harder than I expected. And that’s okay. I’m making a small, but valuable income making dolls. And I love doing that. I don’t need to make money writing. It’s worth it for me to just have the availability to pour out my words on a page. Even though I’m pretty sure the only people that read this are my mom, my mother-in-law, my neighbor, and my best friend. (Hello, and thank you!) But that’s okay. It’s more about what writing can do for ME. I love it and I’m not going to stop.
  3. Bullet Journal!
    Because I apparently don’t have enough creative outlets in my life already, I decided to try out bullet journaling again this year. And I’m super excited about it! I’ve found ways to integrate actual journaling, habit tracking, and lists galore so it’s more than just writing down my daily to dos. I don’t want to get ahead of myself the way I did last time I tried this out a few years ago. But I’ve invested in some fun stencils and washi tape to really make the book more of a fun and artistic expression that I guess I can’t find in sewing or writing!

Well, I think that’s it! Longest New Year’s resolution list ever. You’ll be happy to know that in the middle of writing, Caden came up and asked me to play a board game with him. I immediately stopped and we played. Progress already, on day one!

What I’m Thankful For in 2017

Well, I wanted to write a long, beautiful, elaborate post about everything that I’m thankful for. But honestly, nothing is going the way it was supposed to go this week. Shepard is having a variety of mysterious ailments, Greg and Caden have colds, Annie has way too much destructive energy and the dog park is closed, I haven’t had any time to work or get even half the things done I wanted to in the last few days, and everything I do is taking a million times longer than it should. I’m tired, I’m physically drained, and I’m a little bit crabby. I’m still thankful for a lot of wonderful blessings in my life, but I’ll try and keep them short and sweet!!

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Greg

He is my partner for life. A better dad to our kids than I ever could have asked for. He works really hard. He does a lot of the cleaning and most of the dishes and all of the yard work. He’s supportive of everything I ever want to do. He puts up with my emotional breakdowns over and over again. He balances me out in many ways. He likes to just stay home and watch tv as much as I do. He loves helping with homework. He empties all the things out of the fridge that make me want to gag. He’s pretty selfless. He makes me laugh. And he loves our family unconditionally.

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Caden

He is my first born and the one who taught me how intensely one can love. He is super smart and has an amazing mathematical mind. He lets Shepard tag along with him and his friends – always. He loves to read. He loves our pets and always wants to be near them. He challenges us as parents, but also helps us grow. He can be very sweet. He’s happiest when someone is simply sitting right up next to him.

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Shepard

He’s forever my sweet baby and the one who brought an immense amount of joy to our entire family. He is always up for an adventure and trying new things. He’s kind and generous and loves to make gifts for people. He is excited and eager to help with any project. He’s shy when you first meet him and a total goofball when you get to know him. He makes me laugh and smile more than anyone else.

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Annie

She is my most loyal companion. She has made my life a bit more complicated, but a lot more full. She’s my lone female ally in our family of boys. She is so incredibly excited just to do anything with me. She’s a riot to watch at the dog park. She is my best exercising partner. She’s the dog of my own I’ve dreamed of having my entire life.

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Rory

He’s still my all time favorite kitty. Before Annie came along, he was at my side almost every waking minute of the day. After seven months of mostly hiding in the basement, that’s starting to become our reality again. His favorite thing is to sit on my books when I’m trying to read in the morning and cuddle into my left arm under the sheets if I take a nap in the afternoon. He loves to snuggle with us when we watch tv at night and it makes me so happy that he still wants to be near us even though we betrayed him by getting a dog.

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Jack

He’s always in my way when I’m working. Which is a huge nuisance, but one I’m sure I’ll miss when he’s gone. His health is starting to decline, which has made me appreciate him more in the last few months. His favorite companions are Caden and Shepard and I love to see him snuggling with them in bed at night. He’s always been good with kids. He likes to cuddle with me too, if nobody else is around to witness it.

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Extended Family

I’m so glad that we live only twenty minutes away from our parents and they get to be a huge part of their grandchildrens’ lives. I love the fact that Timmy and Brittany moved back to Wisconsin and we get to see them every few weeks instead of once a year. I’m thankful for our other siblings and their significant others and that everybody wants to stay close, despite the distance that sometimes come between us. And I’m happiest that my kids are constantly surrounded by so many adults that love and support them.

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Hudson

Our first nephew! The boys’ first FIRST cousin. He’s such a delight and I’m SO thankful that he exists and that we get to see him on a regular basis. Caden absolutely adores him.

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Good Friends

Life can be tough and I’m glad I don’t have to go through it alone. I’m especially thankful for my best friend Dianne and that she puts up with my crazy long winded emails I write her every single day. I’m also very thankful for my friends Laura and Michelle and that they make the effort every month to keep our friendship strong, even though varying circumstances have kept us from seeing each other more often lately. I’m grateful for all the other friends that are also in my life.

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Heartstring Annie

All my internal crises about what I should really be doing with my life notwithstanding, I’m so glad I created this business four years ago. It’s given me a way to be myself again. More than just a mom. I get to be creative, I get to make other people happy, and I get to make a little bit of money. It also gives me an excuse to keep staying home, even though my kids are in school full time.

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Everyday Crumbs

This blog has given my mind the creative outlet I didn’t know I needed until last year. It’s helped me rediscover how much I absolutely love writing. I don’t get to spend as much time working on it as I would like, but it still exists and is always waiting for me. It’s a bit of a passion project that fulfills me in a way that sewing never will.

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Our Home

We’ve been here for 18 months and I never want to leave. It’s already evolved in so many ways to accommodate our family. I love being here all day, every day. I love my huge sewing room. I love my cozy reading area in front of the candle fireplace. I love just about everything about it. It was made for us.

And a few other random things I’m thankful for:

  • The dog park. I don’t think I could survive having a dog without it. The fact that it’s so big and beautiful makes it so much more of a blessing in my life.
  • Walking to school. I love the necessary exercise it gives us twice a day. Plus it’s pretty awesome being able to send one kid to school on his own, if one is home sick.
  • Books, books, books. When I’m not reading a book I’m reading about books. I could not survive without them. Literally.
  • That Greg finally figured out what smelled so bad in the fridge the last few days. It was cauliflower. That he discovered by taste, rather than smell.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

My First Experience with #ONEDAYHH 2017

Last year on November 9th, about halfway through the day, I started seeing people tagging photos with the hashtag #ONEDAYHH. I quickly realized that it was part of a worldwide instagram photo project started by Laura Tremaine (at her former blog Hollywood Housewife). All day long on November 9th each year, people are invited to post random photos of their lives. As the day goes on, you start looking at all the photos using the hashtag and realize how small the world really is. I was fascinated by the project, but it was too late in the day to do anything about it. Plus it felt pretty pointless since my instagram account is private. But this year, when I started seeing people talking about it a few weeks ago, I got super excited! My @everydaycrumbs instagram account is public, so it was the perfect space for me to join the photo movement with my own everyday moments.

I’ve had a deep love for photography since I got my first camera around age eight or nine. Since having kids, I’ve been even more obsessed with recording the little bits of life that might not mean anything to anyone else, but they mean everything to me. I’m often a little bit embarrassed by how many photos I take every day. I’m very self conscious about it when I’m with friends and rarely take my phone out. (Though they should just be happy I’m no longer toting my DSLR everywhere!) But then I remind myself that this is what matters. This is my life. I don’t think I’ll ever look back on it and wish I hadn’t taken so many photos. What if something happens to one of my children? What if one of my pets dies tomorrow? I’ll never regret how many photos I took of them. Anyway – all that to say, I really loved this project! I probably went a bit overboard. Many people I saw only took a handful of photos throughout the day. But I really wanted to give a full and complete picture of what a day in my life is like. The only abnormal part of this particular day is that I saw friends – twice! Even going back and adding timestamps to the photos, I’m wishing I had taken more. I also wish I had added full explanations for each photo on instagram. Next year!!

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I usually get up around 4:45 to 5, naturally. I don’t usually shower immediately, but I had a busy morning ahead.

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Rory came up to me with a needle sticking out of his mouth. I pulled out the attached string while he gagged. I’m not sure where he got it because I usually keep all needles with attached string pretty well locked up.

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Trying to have a quiet time reading my favorite sort of like a devotional book. I love that Rory has been out of the basement this past week, but it’s driving me a little crazy how he’s ALWAYS in my way now.

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I usually try to fit some work in while listening to an inspirational podcast before I’m officially on mom mode at 6:30.

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While they wait, because they know they don’t get to go outside to go potty or eat breakfast until the clock hits half past six!

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Potty time.

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One of my least favorite parts of the day. And they both had cold lunch all week long.

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I was ahead of things and actually got to eat breakfast before school! This homemade haphazard granola is amazing.

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I was getting dressed and heard whimpering and hissing. Rory has reclaimed the upstairs as his domain and wouldn’t let Annie up.

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Shepard was all about this photo project and then got grumpy. So I posted the picture where he wasn’t actively glaring at me.

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At the dog park, trying to get Annie to wear off some energy. It was SO COLD. I’m not ready for winter.

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We were the only people there and she was having a blast.

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Quick tidying up!

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My friend Katy and her little daughter came over for caramel lattes. I was distracted trying to keep Annie from being obnoxious and then too self conscious about asking Katy to take a picture with me. But…she was there!

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Back to work, taking more photos of the Christmas dolls I made earlier this week, trying to drum up more interest at Heartstring Annie. It didn’t work.

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Cutting dresses for some tree topper Annies I’m working on.

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I hate figuring out lunch for myself. Most days I just kind of snack all day. But when I actually take the time to make something (quesadillas), I like to sit at the table and watch part of a show.

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Nap time! It was a pretty intensely busy morning and I needed the break. Rory joined me. He used to nap with me all the time. Then we got Annie and he spent seven months in hiding. Now he’s back!

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In that seven months, Jack napped with me. But now Rory fights him off. 🙁 I found him napping in Shepard’s room when I got up.

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Back to work for a little bit. I wish I was better at finding solid chunks of time to work. But there’s always so many other things to do!

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Probably the building I frequent the most in my life right now! Which is a good thing!

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Not so thrilled to be greeted with a photo.

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He can running out yelling, “Take my picture!” I like that he’s interested enough in what I’m doing to remember throughout the whole day that I was doing this photo challenge.

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On these really cold days I sometimes drive to pick up the boys. And pretty much every single time they ditch the quick and warm drive home to walk with their friend instead. It doesn’t make me too happy to stand outside for half an hour for the sole purpose of giving Shepard’s teacher the nod to let her know a responsible person is picking him up.

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Chilling out, waiting for the easy dinner to be done in the oven.

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Normally if I’m going out I let Greg fend for himself, but Caden needed to bring in dinner’s packaging for homework, so I made a quick meal for them with packaging he could easily bring in.

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Looked over and saw Annie cuddling with the pig we bought her on Monday. She loves that thing!

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I’m really terrible at making any sort of cooked vegetables. Except roasted broccoli because that’s the only cooked vegetable I genuinely love. But the other day Caden was raving about the carrots in a soup he had at a restaurant. So I picked up a package of steamable carrots and then mixed them with some melted butter and brown sugar. Caden ate almost the entire bag’s worth himself and said over and over again he wants me to make them every day! I loathe cooked carrots.

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The not typical part of my day! I went to a winery/restaurant with my friends to celebrate Laura’s birthday. It was a unique experience! I really liked the wine I had – their sweetest, of course.

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A table never opened up, so some older women took pity on us and asked us to join them. Not exactly the evening we were expecting, but they were fun! I had this sweet chili flatbread pizza.

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Back at home. Rory’s ready for tv watching. This is where I wish I had taken a photo next because we watch tv together pretty much every single night, without fail. But the light was off and my phone was on the other side of the room, so I didn’t do it.

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I also wish I had taken a picture of the boys sleeping. Every night I lay in bed with Shepard for about ten minutes talking about things and scratching his back. Caden’s always reading and has no interest in answering my questions, though I occasionally read with him. But they were both sleeping when I got home. Anyway, this ended up my night! Reading in bed – ALWAYS.

I had so much fun recording my day in this way! Next year I’ll have to give some warning so you can join me!

Midweek Musings: I hate being the bad guy.

I hate when my schedule is thrown off by something unexpected. I don’t usually deal with it well. I’m very protective of my time – especially in the daytime hours. I’m driven by my to do lists and a basic agenda I set for myself the day before. I like to plan everything. And I try my hardest to stick with it. Especially on days like today, knowing it’s my last home alone day until Tuesday, thanks to an early release Friday, a busy weekend, and no school Monday. I value these hours in a quiet house alone so much. They fill me up and help me get through the busier, crazier, surrounded by people days.

So what messes with my plans more than anything? A kid home sick. Caden woke us up in the middle of the night because his stomach hurt. In the morning he said that it still hurt. But he did not have a fever, he never threw up, he didn’t have diarrhea, he was interacting on a pretty normal morning level, and he ate a big bowl of crackers. While I did believe that he didn’t feel great, I also thought he was fine to go to school. He has a very strong track record of feeling sick in the morning so I let him stay home, and an hour later he magically feels fine. And I ALWAYS regret letting him stay because he thinks he’s gotten away with something and I get upset that it’s messed up my day for no valid reason. If he were truly sick? Then that’s fine. Obviously he should be home if he’s actually throwing up or whatever. But with him – he almost never, ever genuinely gets sick.

Anyway, I told him that he had to go to school and he ran up to his room, covered himself with blankets, and just laid there crying, refusing to get dressed. So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. We have a tenuous relationship sometimes, and I don’t want to be the person he’s supposed to trust the most – actually being the person who never believes him. Plus, I didn’t really know how to force a strong and defiant nine year old to get dressed and get all the way to school. So he stayed home.

And guess what? By the time I got back from walking Shepard to school, Caden appeared fine. Totally fine. I couldn’t help being angry. But I also tried to reign it in. I figure everybody needs a mental health day every once in awhile. I know I certainly do. I told him he couldn’t watch tv or play video games. I was hoping that a total day of boredom might make him listen to me next time I think he’s good enough to go to school.

The first few hours were fine. He was reading in his room and I was working. Then he came down and watched me edit all my doll photos and list everything, asking me tons of questions. It was sweet that he was showing an interest in what I do. But then he got bored. And angry. He wanted to have candy after he ate his lunch. He wanted to play video games. He wanted to type things on my laptop. And every time I said no he’d run away crying. And with every episode I just felt worse and worse. I hate being the bad guy. And I don’t want to punish him because he felt sick this morning. But also? I’m the parent and I KNEW BETTER. I know how much crappy food he ate yesterday. I knew he wasn’t sick sick.

He wanted to play games once Shepard got home and I’m sticking with my original no. Which believe me, is not going over well. Now I’m the one who wants to run crying to my bed to be buried in blankets. I hate being the bad guy. I hate being the reason my child is upset. I hate feeling conflicted because I never know if I’m doing the right thing or not.

It’s just been a crappy day all around. I was planning to finally take Annie on a really long walk this morning. The only one we’d have this whole week. Didn’t happen. I thought I’d be done with my batch of dolls by ten at the latest, but it was closer to noon. Then I still had to make us lunch, eat, shower. I wanted to write a different blog post this afternoon. And now I’m just venting instead.

I hate being the bad guy.

On Friendship: Lamenting the past, trying to embrace the future

I used to have a lot of friends. Just a couple of years ago, I felt like I belonged in a pretty strong group of friends. We all had kids the same ages. We were all stay at home moms. We met often for playdates and park visits. When we didn’t have something extra planned, we still saw each other multiple times a day at school drop offs and pick ups. Our kids were in sports together, we met at each other’s houses for coffee, we had girls’ nights at a local bar. I felt part of something and so grateful to have those women in my life.

Fast forward a small handful of years and I feel like I’ve lost almost all of that. The couple of people I felt closest to started pairing off and I became the third wheel that was eventually left behind. A lot of my friends had another round of babies, which also made me feel excluded – not only because I wasn’t going to have any more, but because I didn’t want to. Some friends started full time jobs, some friends moved their kids to different schools. My kids both became full time students and I entered that weird and misunderstood arena of “work at home mom.” I don’t have kids around during the day to schedule play dates that benefit me more than anything. The richness of my friendship circle changed so drastically in such a short time that some days I have a really hard time dealing with it.

I still see many of those original friends every single day when I pick up my kids. But it’s different. It’s distant. It’s full of small talk and amiable hello’s that bring nothing to my desire for true and meaningful and real friendships. It’s awkward and lonely and so many days I’d prefer to stay at home in my hideout just to avoid another round of shallow nothingness.

I’m not sure if I’m the one to blame for what I’ve lost. Sometimes I wonder if my parenting style alone is something that’s kind of launched me away from the group. I love my kids. But I’m not a helicopter parent. I don’t rush to their side if they fall down. I don’t really care if they’re rolling around in the mud and destroying their clothes. I don’t try to monitor their relationships and watch everything they’re doing at all times. I’ve never been one to get down on the floor and play at their level. And I’m terrible at interacting with kids that aren’t my own. I like that my kids can get hurt and brush it off two seconds later, without needing to run to me for comfort. I like that they’re not super sensitive and having their feelings hurt a million times a day by what other people might say to them. But I think I’m in the minority. And perhaps I’m judged for it.

I’m also just really bad at being myself with people. Or maybe the problem is that I’m too much myself and that scares people off. I’ve written about it before, but I had a mishap with a friend a few years ago that really put me on edge about how much I share with people. Every conversation I have with her I feel like I’m being judged and looked down on. I’m terrified of being honest about anything, because my honesty isn’t always positive. And that’s a problem with her. I like to be honest about what I’m going through, what my life is really like. Which is why I love to write because writing makes honesty easy. But in person? People aren’t usually ready for that kind of vulnerability. Not in a casual after school conversation at least. And when that’s the only time I ever get to interact with people, it leaves me with nothing worthwhile to say.

I think I’m also just really bad at interacting in general! I’m home alone all day every day. I’ve lost the ability to have conversations with people. I’ve always been shy and I hate being the center of attention in a group. If I see two friends talking, there’s very little chance I’ll go and interrupt them. And when I see someone else alone, I’m even more scared to make the initial contact. I’m guessing having a child attached to me is what gave me the courage to find friends a few years ago in the first place. But without that buffer, I don’t know what to say. I’m a socially awkward mess. Which makes me retreat. Which comes off as stuck up or standoffish or uninterested. Which isn’t the case! I just don’t know how to be functional female friend anymore.

In the last year, hoping to move my closest friendships to a deeper level, I’ve really just focused on feeding those few people that I had the most connection with. Without realizing it, I kind of dropped the ability to hold on to the rest. But things have been good with the few. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but we do make an effort. Circumstances have recently changed which has made it even harder. They’ve made life changes which were right for them and their families. But selfishly, I hate how hard it’s been on me. So hard. Because now that I don’t see either of them on a daily basis – or even a weekly basis – I’m realizing how much I’ve lost in the last few years. How many people I used to be close to that now would really rather have nothing to do with me. And it’s a lonely place to be.

With all that behind me, I’m trying to figure out how to get my friends back. Maybe not even the friends of the past. I’m completely open to finding new friends, though it seems so hard when I’m sitting in a house by myself working day in and day out! I’m trying to reconfigure how to make friendships work when we all have families, we all have some type of job, we’re all incredibly busy. But I desperately, desperately don’t want to let the hope of true friendship go.

I feel like consistency is the key in all relationships. If you don’t SEE each other, how can you be close? If you’re not living life together, how can you be the best of friends? If you’re not vulnerable and open, what’s the point? I crave those relationships in my life. I know there are so many things I could do to make them happen. Or at least start them blooming. I could ask people over for coffee. I could plan a monthly girls’ night the way we used to do, open to anybody that needed it. I could schedule afternoon playdates. Dog park meetups for our kids AND dogs. I could ask someone if they’re interested in taking a walk with me once a week. The list of possibilities is endless. The problem is actually doing it. Taking that leap of faith even though it means risking rejection. I hate nothing more than rejection. It hurts me to my core, even if someone has a very logical reason for saying no. With every no, it stops me from asking the next ten times I think about it. It’s so easy to give up and hole away. I don’t want to be that annoying person that tries to tear people away from their families. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want people feeling obligated to spend time with me because I ask so many times. And so, I don’t. But I wish I did.

I know there is hope for me. There is hope for everyone. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who is missing this in my life. But I can’t be. Right?? Even though my friendship numbers have greatly diminished over the years, they’re still important to me. And I want to treat them with as much importance as I used to. And I want to be open to making more friends. Maybe people I didn’t have a lot in common with a few years ago, but can align more closely with who I am today. And I don’t want to just sit around waiting for people to come to me because experience shows that doesn’t really happen. It’s time to open up, take a few risks, and make my friendships strong again.

 

Saturday Reflections: Birthday Week

Birthday week has come to an end! It was kind of an odd week. I was feeling a lot of anxiety about already being at the end of a two week sewing break (because of Caden’s parties!), but at the same time wanting to spend the week relaxing, reading, fun shopping, and just plain doing whatever I felt like doing. I felt like I earned the break, but was also frustrated by how few sales I’ve been getting lately – because I haven’t been sewing! It was a Catch-22 kind of week full of mental battles that really just left me stressed out and exhausted. BUT there was a lot of fun stuff thrown in too!

Monday and Tuesday I did a lot of clean up and reading. I had to take the boys out of school early on Tuesday for a dentist appointment. For dinner we went to a fun library celebration with free pizza, popcorn, and desserts. And then I went to my first yoga class! I actually really enjoyed it. It was hard work and at one point I felt like my feet and ankles were about to break on me. There were only two people in the class, including me, so I felt the pressure to do everything perfectly. Which was good! But also left me pretty sore for the rest of the week. I’m definitely looking forward to going back and hopefully more people will join in.

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This was also Homecoming week. The dress up days were a little boring this year. They used to do five days of dress up with pajama day always being everyone’s favorite. No pajama day this year. 🙁 Wednesday was hat day. Only Shepard would cooperate. (Weekday mornings are now a battle because Caden wants to READ all morning instead of getting ready because READING is always a good thing and he can do it whenever he wants! :P)

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I spent my morning meandering around the antique mall. Every six months or so I like to go and hunt down treasures. Sometimes I’m looking for accessories to put with my dolls, but most of the time I’m on the hunt for well loved vintage teddies and dolls that need to be rescued! I actually found quite a few Raggedy Anns and Andys this time around, so I had to be picky. I ended up with these two teeny tiny dolls. The one on the right is about two inches tall.

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On Wednesday night, we had my first birthday celebration with Steve and Cindy at Pizza Ranch. I ate way too much! Cindy had bought me a piece of cheesecake and cupcakes for a special dessert too. Very thoughtful!

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Cindy, Shepard, and I harvested all of our gourds and mini pumpkins. We had so many! I was a little sad that I planted like twenty white pumpkin seeds and ended up with a whopping three white pumpkins. Those are my favorite.

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Presents! They gave me a new set of Pioneer Woman dishes to add to my growing collection. And a candle, earrings, spicy dressing, and some fun money that I think I’m going to use to either buy a bracelet I’ve been eyeing up, or a couple of books. I’m pretty book obsessed these days, but also have like a hundred sitting around the house I need to read (plus over 500 on my kindle!!). It was a really nice night!

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Thursday was jersey/team day.

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Thursday night I went to dinner with my friend Laura at Monk’s. I had a volcano monk-tini, which was a mango rum concoction. I also had my all time favorite chicken sandwich. It was a really great night of catching up. I really appreciate that she went out with me. I need more friend time in my life. It’s so easy to hide away when things get overwhelming and exhausting. But we still need each other.

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Friday was school spirit day.

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I spent the day with my mom, which is what I usually do on my actual birthday when it falls on a weekday. We went to Marshall’s, World Market, and spent a huge amount of time at Ulta and Sephora looking at makeup and perfume. We had a delicious lunch at Granite City. It was a little bit rushed since we had to drive so far and only had about three hours to fit everything in once we got there, but it was fun! We made it back to Columbus just in time for the Homecoming parade. They hold the parade at the end of the school day so all the kids can sit with their classes and watch. My mom sat with Shepard and I stood by Caden. Right when the parade started it also started raining. Terrible timing!

Friday night we had pizza for dinner, though I was still stuffed. And then we had a family movie night watching Princess Bride. I was worried I would think it was cheesy after not seeing it in so long. But I still liked it! The boys were distracted at the beginning, but then they got really into it too.

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And Saturday was my birthday! I slept till 6, which is the latest I’ve slept in about a month and a half. Without necessarily wanting to, I usually wake up between 3:45 and 4:15 every single morning. SO ANNOYING. Anyway, I got out of bed late enough that Greg took care of the boy’s breakfasts and getting Annie out.

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Shepard wanted to do presents right away, so one by one they ran to the other room and got me a present. Greg gave me a DNA test of Annie. I was shocked by the results!! I’ll have to do a full post on all the info they gave me soon. We were told by the humane society that she was a Shepherd mix, the vet guessed Australian Shepard mix. And that’s what she looks like, so that’s what I tell everyone. Lo and behold, ZERO DNA matches to anything in a Shepherd family. I’m not surprised by the Golden Retriever, just because she has longer hair like that. But the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute?! I guess that maybe explains her mostly black hair and her very strong desire to PULL, but I’m otherwise pretty shocked! It was an awesome gift, though. I like knowing for sure what she is and now I can obsess over it forever.

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Shepard and Greg built me a little family minifig display. I love it! Caden gave me some nice bluetooth headphones to wear around the house. I also got a new kindle case, instant read kitchen thermometer, cast iron melting pot, and my favorite tea in k-cup form.

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And Greg gave me a framed picture of the original Raggedy Ann patent. I love it!

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Cards. 🙂 I love Caden’s Annie picture and Shepard’s tree.

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We went to the dog park together in the morning. It really is amazing how much difference exercise makes in Annie’s personality. She was SO obnoxious and wild on Friday night and after Saturday’s dog park visit she was completely calm and sweet.

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For lunch I made some baked turkey sliders. I had plans to also serve an Asian salad and some chips and dip, but it was kind of a weird morning of everyone eating random things all morning long, so we just had sandwiches.

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I read and took a nap after lunch and then we went to my favorite pumpkin stand/farm. They have all their pumpkins set in their yard with like twenty different varieties of all shapes and sizes. It’s my favorite place to go every year because they have so many and they’re pretty cheap. Annoyingly, it was pouring rain by the time we went. The one thing I wanted to do! We haven’t had rain in about a month and of course it comes on my birthday with all of my outdoor plans. Very disappointing. We still got our pumpkins, but it was a race to get them as fast as possible, with no fun pictures to show for it.

After pumpkins, we dropped the boys at Noe’s for a sleepover. I felt a little bad ditching them for half of my birthday, but I felt like a date with Greg was more important this time around. We needed it.

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The plan was to walk around downtown Madison and feel like cool and trendy adults, maybe getting a cocktail somewhere, browsing stores, and dinner later. But the weather! It was super windy when we got there and by the time we walked to State Street it was pouring again. Without even realizing it until later, about a mile away from where we were walking a tornado touched down! We saw all the tree damage when we were driving home, but never heard a siren or anything. We were going in and out of stores and the rain was pouring almost perpendicularly. But a tornado in the sky we did not notice!

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We had dinner and drinks at Belair Cantina near the capital. While I knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be a fancy place (not really our style), I also wasn’t expecting it to be quite so loud and crowded either. We were seated at a longer table with other people. And the longer we were there it got so loud we could barely hear each other and people waiting around the bar kept knocking into my chair. Not exactly a romantic date. Which wouldn’t have mattered if we did that sort of thing often, but we don’t. Kind of disappointing. But the food was good! I had a watermelon margarita with a spicy pollo taco, Korean beef taco, and fried avocado and bacon taco. All with different slaw/salsa/sauce toppings. We both really liked the things we ordered.

After dinner I was pretty sick of people. We contemplated going out for dessert too, but nothing was jumping out at me. So we just went home and watched the movie Gifted. And that was my birthday week!

Anyway, good week, lots of fun celebrations. And it’s not over yet! I still have a party with my family today, drinks with my friend tonight, and a breakfast date with my friend and goddaughter on Tuesday. I feel like I’m probably really annoying people on instagram and facebook with all my birthday posts. But…I don’t care. If I want to make my birthday week special for myself I’m going to do and not apologize. You can make your birthday weeks special too. 🙂

 

Flying Solo in Door County

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Last night I got back from my three day solo trip to Door County. There was no purpose to this trip, other than that I really wanted a break from real life. It was the ultimate form of self care and something I desperately needed. I’m SO thankful I was able to go and enjoy myself for three full days without any responsibility to anyone other than myself. It was amazing.

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I left around 6am on Wednesday morning. Late enough that I could say a quick goodbye to everyone, but early enough that I didn’t have to pack lunches or make breakfasts. I got to see an amazing sunrise on the drive up. I tried to take a picture, but phone photos (while driving!) do NOT do gigantic red sun photos justice. I made my first stop in Sturgeon Bay. It was a bit too early for the stores I wanted to go to, so I wandered around Target to pass the time. Then I walked through the downtown area and checked out their shops. I had lunch at The Bluefront Cafe. It was a turkey, brie, arugula, and cherry jam grilled sandwich – delish!

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I worked my way up the peninsula, stopping at all the stores that looked interesting. Mostly the farm markets because finding unique locally made food goodies is my absolute favorite thing on any trip I take. Plus all the samples are always just the best. I stopped at Lautenbach Orchards and had a wine tasting. Picked up two bottles of their Summer Breeze wine – it was so tasty!

While I enjoyed stopping in at so many stores, I also had a terrible headache and was really looking forward to getting to the hotel. I checked in at Church Hill Inn right at 3:00 and was put in The Lighthouse Room. It was such a nice room! I rested for about an hour and then decided I’d rather go back out and check out a few more shops before they all shut down at 5:00. Before I left, I had some of the hotel’s afternoon appetizers – cheese, sausage, crackers, and spinach artichoke dip.

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I had dinner at Grasse’s Grill in Sister Bay. The entire reason I wanted to go there was for their sweet potato fries with curry dip. Except the lady apparently didn’t hear me say the “sweet potato” part when I requested the fry side. I always feel awkward enough eating at sit down restaurants by myself, so I decided not to make a deal out of it. The cherry chicken salad wrap I ordered was delicious, though! The best chicken salad I’ve ever had. I also ordered cherry soda, just to stay with the cherry theme. It wasn’t that great (no surprise).

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After dinner, I settled back in at the hotel for a full night of reading. I brought a lot of books along, but really just read fiction that night. Flipped through some of my new cookbooks. It was relaxing and wonderful.

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Despite being there alone, I still woke up at 4am. I guess that’s just my normal wake up time. I did stay in bed for quite awhile reading. The hotel’s breakfast starts at 8am, so I was down there right when it opened, along with every single other person in the hotel. Breakfast was my one complaint about Church Hill Inn. They’re known for their great breakfasts. And the food was definitely good. But it’s very awkward how they insist on seating you, serving you drinks, and requesting a tip, for a buffet style meal. Both mornings they did not seem very pleased to sit a single person at a table when couples and groups were waiting behind me. Anyway, Thursday’s breakfast was potato pancakes with applesauce, scones with whipped cream, English sausages, and fruit. It was all really good! Despite the raisins, it was the best scone I’ve ever had.

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Since it was still too early for most shops, I decided to start the day driving to Cave Point County Party. I stopped at Door County Bakery on the way, at my mom’s recommendation, to get their Corsica bread. I also had to get a French Cruller because they’re my favorite kind of donut. Plus it was only $1. The chocolate croissants also looked amazing, but those were $6.

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I’m SO glad I went here first thing. I was one of the only people there (with many groups of people filing in when I was leaving), it wasn’t very hot yet (the weather got so unusually hot all three days), and it was simply way more fun than shopping. And I love shopping.

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It must have taken people a lot of effort to make all these rock stacks, but they looked so cool! Totally worth the effort. I wasn’t expecting to see them, either, so it was a really awesome surprise. I liked these particular stacks because the top rocks look like birds.

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The rocky shores were starting to get crowded, but I didn’t want to leave yet, so I walked the contemplation trail. I figured it would be a loop, but it instead just ran into trails made by the state park nearby. It was very confusing.

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There weren’t many fall colors yet, but every once in awhile I’d spot a tree in full glorious shades of red. It’d be fun to come again a few weeks later another year when it’s all in full color display.

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After the park, I drove around until I found some more stores to check in at. I also ate one of my Corsica sticks from the bakery. They were SO good. It’s like French breadsticks infused with a massive amount of olive oil.

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I was all about the cherry culture while I was there. 🙂 Cherry jam in my sandwich, cherries in my chicken salad, cherry fudge at two different farm markets, cherry juice, cherry soda, cherry infused wine. Yum yum.

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I wasn’t super hungry for lunch, but wanted a little something else, so stopped at Not Licked Yet to get my favorite chunky monkey sundae. I didn’t like it as much as I have in the past, but still a nice treat.

Around this point I got really tired and went back to the hotel for a nap and reading time. I enjoyed the appetizers again – homemade chips, veggies, and dip.

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My original plan for the night was to just stay in with my piles of books. But I had so much fun at the park in the morning that I decided to check out a few more of the county parks. If I go back again someday I’ll buy a pass to go to the state parks, but this time I was all about the free parks. Despite all the times I’ve gone there as a kid, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been to any of the county parks. This one was Ellison Bluff scenic lookout.

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I ended at Door Bluff County Park, thinking I’d stick around for sunset. I was not expecting to get there and see there weren’t even any trails to walk on. I had to climb down a huge hill of rocks and tree roots. I was sure I’d either fall to my death, get injured and have nobody around to save me, or be attacked by the one group of men I saw while I was walking through the woods. Fortunately, none of that happened. It was quite a workout, though!

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It was another really pretty shoreline, but there was no way I was sticking around until sunset. I could barely find my way back up the mountain in the light. I never would have made it in the dark!

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My original plan was to get a pizza to take back to the hotel, but then I figured it was easier to just eat in. I went to Wild Tomato and ordered a small pepperoni pizza. It was HUGE. There’s no way any one person can eat that whole pizza. They only had room to seat me at this barstool area where all the waiters filled their drink orders. I felt super awkward and the pizza was really messy. As much as I like doing things alone, eating at restaurants is not one of them. I was very uncomfortable. But the pizza was fantastic!

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One more quick stroll along the marina before going back to the hotel. It definitely wasn’t as productive as the night before. I spent a whole lot of time playing Toy Blaster on my phone. Then tried to watch a movie that needed to buffer every five minutes. I finally gave up and went to bed way later than I usually do.

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Friday’s breakfast was not very impressive! Well, it was a lot of eggy things. Like an egg frittata with a side of scrambled eggs. Why?? They also had cinnamon buttermilk pancakes. Except when I got to them there were only two left and one person in line behind me, with nobody around to immediately refill them. So it seemed rude to take the last two, even though I didn’t want anything else. I don’t normally like pancakes, but it was pretty good. The waitress was not very happy that she had to sit me at a table for four again. I ate as quickly as I could and booked it out of there.

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I didn’t want to stick around until shops opened at 10, so I headed out with a final stop at Cana Island Lighthouse.

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I’m not really sure why, but the road to the island should have looked like this, but it was totally flooded with water. So a trip to the lighthouse was not going to happen! But I enjoyed walking around the beaches for awhile.

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This was my final stop in the peninsula. Then I said goodbye to Door County and drove down to Green Bay. I went to a couple of stores that my mom recommended.

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Had lunch at Chipotle because I wanted to try their new queso. I wasn’t very impressed. I love their hot salsa SO much, so the queso would have had to be pretty amazing for me to give up having salsa when I go there!

I didn’t want to get home too early, giving up part of this day to myself. But I was also really tired and headachy again. I made a halfhearted attempt to go through a bunch more regular type stores in Appleton and Oshkosh. For dinner I had a Starbucks frappucino.

IMG_20170915_175205_489 sweet annie

I got home around 5:30. Annie acted like she hadn’t seen me in months! It was pretty sweet. Shepard was also jumping around and excited to see me. It was a nice welcome home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip! I hope I can make it an annual thing. Despite the fact I still came back tired and achy, it was rejuvenating for my soul. Exactly what I needed.

Confessions of a Weary Mom

I haven’t been very proud of myself lately. At least once a day, I feel like my head is going to explode. About once a week I actually do explode, to the dismay of my family. These bursts of extreme frustration and stress and total weariness almost always happen between four and five pm. Can all moms agree that’s about the worst hour of the day?? I hate it. HATE. IT. Everyone is hungry and searching through the pantry and fridge for a snack, even though I’m literally standing right there working on dinner. The boys are SO whiny, either complaining that they’re starving, begging to play video games, arguing with me if I say no, asking for some other thing that I can’t do for them while I’m trying to make dinner, complaining about homework instead of just doing it, and fighting with each other all while we wait for Greg to get home. He probably dreads coming home because he always walks right into the middle of whatever the mess of the day happens to be. I always have the best of intentions to get a nice dinner on the table and have us all happily sit together and eat a pleasant meal. But by the time the food is ready, Greg is home, they’re all off doing legos or something, and then nobody wants to come eat. Half the time Caden is in a time out for his own explosion during that hour. I’m irritated that once again nothing has gone to plan. Greg is silent trying to avoid me bursting out. And Shepard is usually moaning and groaning because he doesn’t like what we’re having, or the meat isn’t cut exactly right, or nobody brought over his BBQ sauce and walking all the way to the fridge is just so hard.

This past Sunday afternoon I was once again in kitchen working on dinner. Greg requested pizza since we didn’t have it on Friday and I’m going to be gone the next two Fridays. Pizza requires bacon in our house. So first I had to cook the bacon. Then I started thinking about this maple bacon scone recipe I saw in one of my new cookbooks (Eat Delicious) and figured if I was already making bacon, I might as well make the scones! And then I made the pizza. While I was doing all this, internally I was just stewing. Last week I didn’t get nearly enough sewing done. I was frustrated with myself and determined to make up for it on Sunday. So I spent the entire day sitting at my work table and sewing up some little witches that I needed to get listed Monday morning so they had a chance to sell before Wednesday when I had to put the shop on vacation mode. Meanwhile, the guys all fended for themselves, spending most of the day playing video games or building legos. Which was fine, really. They work hard at school and work all week and deserve to have fun and let loose on the weekends. But I was starting to feel extremely resentful that every night and weekend they get to do what they want WITHOUT GUILT. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want them to feel guilt. Because it sucks. I just want myself to stop feeling the guilt! It consumes me. All day, every day. Every time I stop to read a chapter in a book I can’t stop thinking about the laundry that needs to be folded. Every time I break to cook a meal, I can’t stop berating myself for not sewing fast enough and getting more done. Every time I take a nap or take Annie for a longer walk, I’m thinking about all the stupid dump piles of crap that everyone leaves around the house and never ever puts away and how if I just dedicated a single day to cleaning all that up it wouldn’t be that hard and it wouldn’t be there anymore. Why doesn’t anyone else see those messes?! Why does it bother me so much?? Why can’t I just enjoy my life for what it is?

Anyway, Greg walked by me while I was in the kitchen that day and touched me and I totally flipped out on him. I don’t blame him, I don’t expect anything more from him, but it still comes out sounding that way when I get too overwhelmed. I just can’t do it all and some days that makes me just about lose my mind. I felt terrible about my outburst because it ruined the night for everyone. But it also made me think that I seriously need to make some changes in my life to stop going through this cycle.

I think that one of the best things I can do for myself is to reclaim my nights and weekends. I’ve tried to start doing that since school started, and succeeded, with the exception of Sunday when I felt like I desperately needed to devote my day to catching up on dolls. Sunday, the day when everything got to be so much that I outwardly exploded instead of keeping it all in my head. I see a correlation! I think if I straight out eliminate sewing from my weeknights and most weekends, then I can’t feel guilty about it anymore. If I change my thinking to see sewing as my full time, but DAYTIME job, I can let go of it at 3:00 every day when I go to get the boys. For the last four years I’ve basically spent every possible minute working on dolls. I really do love it, but it’s begun to feel more like a burden on days I’d truly rather do something else. If I stick with this new goal, it just might be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I also realized I need to start delegating some responsibility to the rest of my family. Yes, I am at home during the day. But does that really mean I’m solely responsible for every single aspect of planning, shopping, cooking, random errand running, laundry, cleaning, transportation, pet care taking, and calendar maintaining? I don’t think so. Especially not now, when my kids are old enough to start taking care of a few things themselves. A new rule I started this year is that they need to empty their backpacks and put away whatever is left of their lunches immediately upon getting in the door every afternoon. So far they just whine and moan about it, but it will hopefully start to become second nature. It’s a little thing, but if it’s one less thing I have to do during that horrible part of the day? Worth it. I’ve also started making them get out their own clothes every day. They really don’t care what they wear, I don’t care what they wear, so why was I wasting precious brain time every morning getting out their clothes for them? I’m also trying to always do laundry folding when everyone is home, so they can help put things away. I hate putting clothes away. Last week Greg kept talking about how hard it was to get to Walgreen’s to pick up his prescription. I could have gotten it for him. Except I never go to Walgreen’s. And it started to really irritate me how much he was complaining about the ONE errand he has to do a MONTH. I have to run stupid errands almost every single day, whether I want to or not. So I held my ground (silently) and he eventually biked to Walgreen’s with the boys on Sunday to get his own medication. I don’t want to put any more major responsibilities on him because he does work very hard for us. And he dedicates every night and weekend to just being with the boys. Which in the end will mean a whole lot more to them than having clean laundry and a not quite so messy house. But I think I need to be a little more verbal about asking for help. Instead of just silently resenting everyone for not knowing what I need. Growing up, I remember spending every weekend helping my parents on some sort of project. Cleaning out the shed, raking leaves, cleaning our bedrooms, etc. I think it’s high time to get to more of that in our own family. Just a little bit more responsibility shared with everyone else could make my own load so much lighter.

A final change I’d like to make is prioritizing self care. Knowing that I need a break and taking it. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Door County, by myself. At the end of summer when I was about to lose my ever loving mind, I asked Greg if I could take a vacation by myself as sort of a birthday present. He quickly agreed, which made me think I should do this a lot more often and before I reach the point of desperation. Not necessarily in three days away from my family increments, but more than I was doing. Lately, every time I leave, it just adds to my guilt. So I haven’t been taking the time that I used to take. I used to occasionally go shopping or to a movie in the evenings. Now that the boys are in school all day, it seems ridiculous to do that since nights are the only time I see them. But if I need it? I need it. I’ve been trying to take Annie for walks at night to relieve some of the tension of the evening. Sometimes Caden goes with us, which is a nice bonding time we’d never get otherwise. I’m also trying to do more of what’s important to me, and not become consumed with the accompanying guilt. When I think of the two things I love to do most in the world, it’s read and write. So I read more. And I’m trying to write more. You might have noticed I started to do individual book reviews instead of saving it all up for the end of the month post that I so look forward to. I’m also writing now, when I could be doing a myriad of other things while I’m on this solo vacation. I want to start writing so much more often than I was. Even if this blog never goes anywhere and nobody ever reads it, I’m going to keep writing.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. I feel like that’s probably what many moms are dealing with. So I’m highly encouraging everyone who feels as weary as I sometimes do to TAKE ACTION. Don’t wallow in guilt and stress and frustration. Figure out what you need to do to change your life and make it happen. You matter too.

Fall Goals and Intentions

Fall is here! The school year has started! I think this is the first year that besides a tiny bit of reluctance on the first day, I am SO READY to get back into the swing of things. I know I should miss my kids. But I also know that I’m a whole lot better of a person when I have time to myself every day. I’m happier, more focused, and a much better mom. Summer just sucks the life out of me. Yes, there are tons of fun opportunities and ways to spend time with each other and I’ll never, ever regret being able to stay at home with them when they are little. But summer also brings SO MUCH NEEDINESS that pretty much destroys my soul. So I’m thrilled that September is here and I’m not going to apologize for it!

That being said, I’ve had a lot of goals and plans and intentions rolling around in my mind for the last few weeks that I really need to organize and write out so I’ll remember them and hopefully live by them! I thought about encompassing my goals for the entire school year, but I think it’ll be better to focus by season. My September looks a whole lot different from my April. December deserves a list all of its own! So here’s the plan. September, October, and November.

Work Goals

  • Work only during the day.

I think this will be the hardest goal to accomplish. Four and a half years in, I’m still used to doing the majority of my sewing in the evenings and weekends when the boys are spending time with Greg. I want to shift my focus and start to truly see Heartstring Annie as my job and not my life. I know that realistically, I’m not going to be able to stick with this every single day. But I’m going to try my best. More mundane household tasks like laundry and cleaning can wait until evening. When that’s all done, or even if it’s not, I can spend the night WITH MY FAMILY. Or reading. Or seeing friends. Or going on a long walk. I think if I can follow this rule, I will suddenly feel a lot more free. The weight of guilt that constantly flows through me will be eliminated because work no longer exists in my evening schedule. As for weekends? That’s probably still fair game. Greg and the boys do a lot of gaming and things on weekends, so I think I’m free to sew. IF I want to. But weekday nights? No more sewing.

  • Work at least three full days a week.

To actual working moms, this probably sounds like a ridiculous goal. But last year for a few weeks I started keeping track of my hours and most days I only worked 1-3 hours a day, usually at night. This year I’d like to work for almost the entire time my kids are at school. With time for exercise and eating lunch. Ideally, I’ll do this four days a week. The fifth day reserved for running errands. Also, I’m hoping to schedule this all out in advance every week so I know what my workdays are and keep them highly prioritized as such.

  • Stick with what I know, and stay on task.

From my first two goals, it appears that I’ll either be severely limiting how much time I have to sew each week, or with the added focus I’ll actually get more done. Only time will tell! This goal is mostly seasonal, reminding me that fall and early winter are the biggest shopping months and not the time to mess around with new patterns, new ideas, or trying out new products. People want dolls. And they want dolls that match the season and upcoming holidays. So I need to stick with what I know and do it the best that I can. Spring and summer afford me more time to be extra creative and try new things. In fall I need to stay on task.

Family Goals

  • BE PRESENT

This is something I am terrible at. My mind is constantly running over my neverending to do list. ALWAYS. I resent the fact that the rest of my family just goes to work and school and then they get to play and have fun every night and weekend. Without the guilt! It’s mind blowing that they have such carefree thought lives! Why can’t I have that?? Why can’t I enjoy my life and my time with them? I need an attitude shift, for sure. I need to ask for their help with more chores. They’re certainly old enough. I also need to just let go and laugh and have fun with them too. I need to be a much bigger participant in my own family. More than the meal maker and laundry doer and errand runner that I’ve reduced myself to in the last couple of years.

  • Schedule regular time with Greg.

Greg and I see a lot of each other. He pretty much never goes anywhere but work. He works at home on Fridays. He’s flexible enough to leave early or stay home whenever necessary. But I feel like so little of our time together is actually quality time. We’re just existing in the same space. Parenting the same children. I want to change that. We do have weekly “date nights” when the boys go to Grandma’s house for a few hours. I usually make a dinner that I know the two of us would like to eat more than the kids would. But at least once a month, I really want to have a real date night. Out of the house. I’d also like to change up our nightly tv schedule to maybe include a once a week movie night. Something different and special to look forward to.

  • Monthly kid date nights. 

I talked about this a few weeks ago. I always have the best of intentions to take my kids on a monthly date, usually the date of their birthday so it’s easy to remember. But I never follow through. This is the year to change that! I’m hoping it becomes something that they look forward to and get excited about helping me plan every month. So far, at least with Caden, it’s something he’s very apprehensive about. He’d much rather be home with Daddy than out with me. But I’m hoping to turn that around!

Food Goals (Yes, food goals.)

  • Care about meals.

This past summer, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with meal planning. After a full day of the boys begging for food, telling me they’re starving, never liking what I gave them, never being full – I just could. not. deal. with caring about dinner. But I want to get back on track. I want to CARE.

  • Make lunch special.

One of my biggest school year stumbling blocks is that I can eat when I want, what I want, where I want, with nobody to answer to and nobody I need to share with. Which is a surefire way to gain more weight! This year I’d like to have a lot more intention about what I feed myself. The best way I can think to do that is to make lunch more special. Actively search for recipes that I know I will love and actually cook something! Have something amazing to look forward to, so I’m not just stuffing my face with crap because I’m starving and I waited to long to do anything healthy for myself. This won’t be possible every day because I do have to work! But I need to plan out my lunches in the same way I plan out dinners. It will be so worthwhile.

  • Make use of cookbooks and record everything.

I have so many cookbooks. I love cookbooks! But I almost never look at them. I’m usually desperate for a recipe at the last minute and 99% of the time turn to pinterest. I don’t have time to flip through random cookbooks to find something that looks good. Or to try and find something I liked in the past, but have no clue where it might be! So in the next few months I’d like to look through more of my cookbooks on a regular basis, record what I want to make, and MAKE IT. I also want to start keeping a nightly dinner log of what I made and where I got the recipe and how everyone liked it. Then I’ll have a single resource I can always look back on for inspiration.

Exercise Goals

  • 10,000+ steps a day. No matter what. 

On days that we walk to school, there’s really no excuse not to get this many steps in a day. On weekends or rainy or snowy days I’ll have to try a little harder, but it’ll be worth it.

  • At least three long walks a week with Annie.

Long meaning over 2.5 miles. It won’t always fit into the schedule, but it’ll be really good for both of us. Even if we have to break it up into two walks in a day. On alternate days we’ll go to the dog park for her socializing time.

  • Take a class or actively do exercise videos at home.

Walking is awesome and definitely my favorite form of exercise. But I realize I should be doing more. I’m really hoping some sort of fun class will randomly start up in Columbus this fall, the way cardio drumming did last year. (MAJOR boo to them leaving Columbus.) And if not, I want to actively do exercise videos on days I’m not going on long walks. I need it. It’s good for me. It has to happen.

Personal Goals

  • Self care, self care, self care.

I read a facebook post someone wrote yesterday reminding everyone that self care it not something you need to earn. You can do it any time you need it, any time you want it, without guilt. I want to remember this too. No matter how many goals and plans I had for myself, if I’m not feeling it and I know that I desperately need a break, I’m going to take it. Hopefully I’m going to take it before I’m desperate!! Last year I tried to instill Self Care Wednesdays into my week. Usually that meant going to a fun vintage of thrift store, taking half a day to read, or spending time with a friend. I’m not sure I’ll relegate it to the same day each week this time around, but I need to make it happen. Shopping is always very fun to me, but maybe I can be more creative this year. $5 movie nights at the theater are always a great idea. Entire days to catch up on some of my books? I need to take care of myself. And I don’t have to earn it.

  • Friendships matter!

I want my friendships to take higher priority in my life. I’m busy, everyone’s busy, but it’s SO worth the effort. I hate putting myself out there and risking rejection. I hate feeling like asking someone to do something with me is taking them away from something else, which is why I rarely do it. But I need to change. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of friendships in the last few years and haven’t gained any new ones. Making time, showing I care – it NEEDS to be a much higher priority in my life.

  • Never stop reading. 

Never! Okay, obviously this is the easiest goal for me. I will never go a day of my life without reading. I’m pretty sure I never have. But I want to read more. Spend less time sitting at my computer or staring at my phone when I know there are fifty awesome unread books sitting in the same room as me. Reading is the better choice! Make it happen!

September Specific Goals

  • Regroup, repair, rejuvenate.

Summer has left me pretty haggard. I’m exhausted and stressed and just plain weary. Despite this very long list of goals I want to start working on, I also just plain need to get a grip on my life. Which is probably going to mean a whole lot of self care this month. One thing that I’m looking forward to SOOOO much, is a solo vacation next week! I’m going to Door County for three days all by myself. It’s going to amazing. It’s not going to be long enough. But it’ll be so worthwhile. I can’t wait to not have any person or pet need anything from me for three entire days. It will be the height of luxury! So awesome.

  • Good birthday month for Caden.

September starts birthday season around here! Caden’s birthday, Cindy’s birthday, Alex’s birthday, a couple of Caden’s best friends’ birthdays. Busy busy. And sometimes the stress of it all really gets to me. It’s so many fun things, but it’s also a lot of work and a lot of things we need to do and places we need to be, on top of adjusting to the new school year. Which is a lot. But I want to remember to make Caden a top priority and help him to feel extra special and loved during all the festivities.

October Specific Goals

  • My birthday month!

In the last few years, with my birthday being on the end of the string of birthdays, it feels like everyone is really birthdayed out. It doesn’t feel as special as it used to be. This year might be even harder because Caden isn’t having his parties until days before my birthday. But for myself, I want to keep a positive attitude. Even if everyone else is sick of birthdays, it’s still important to me and I’m going to make it special.

November Specific Goals

  • Sew like crazy!

So far there hasn’t been a year where I actually feel like I can keep up with holiday demand. Or even come close to it. Most years I don’t even sew anything in December. Which is a good thing! But I also lose a whole lot of potential sales. This year I’m hoping to just work my butt off in November sewing up Christmas dolls. And then I can afford to take December off, without the guilt! Which will be amazing.

Well, this looks like quite the list now that I’ve written it all out. But it will give me focus to know where my priorities are at. I’m really hoping this school year goes so much better than last, now that I’ve had some practice. I know what I need to do, now I just need to do it!!