Our Colorado Vacation

At the beginning of the month, Greg and I took a trip to Colorado to celebrate (a little early) our 13th anniversary. I’m still not sure if the timing of the trip was the greatest idea because we really needed to get away and didn’t want to wait until late July when it next worked out best. But it also left me frantic and more overwhelmed than ever to get back home having missed an extremely valuable week in keeping up with everything that needs to be done in the month of May. I don’t think I’d purposely go with that timing for a vacation again, but the trip itself was definitely worth it! We really had a great time exploring a state that neither of us had ever been to before.

Wednesday

We began our trip on Wednesday after bringing the boys to school. Even though we had a direct flight and no delays, it felt like one of the longest travel days ever. But we finally made it to Boulder in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained that entire first evening we were there, but it was the only day we had bad weather, so I can’t complain.

Our first order of business was getting SOMETHING in our stomachs. We ran out of time to eat at the airport as planned, so we found a coffee shop first thing and I got a mocha and Greg had a smoothie. Then we went to the Boulder Farmers Market, which was our main reason for heading straight to Boulder from the airport. It was their first Wednesday market of the season and fairly small, but still worth checking out! Every booth had samples and at least half of them were various hot sauces and dips. We bought a sample pack of six sauces to bring back home with us that were delicious. Then we walked around Pearl Street, checking out some of the shops. We were basically the only people there! It was my favorite of all the shopping areas we went to. My favorite store was the Art Market Gift Shop, filled with cool things local artists made.

We also went to this amazing kitchen store called Peppercorn. They had the biggest selection of cookbooks I had ever seen. Absolute heaven!

We had dinner at a restaurant called Mountain Sun. The decor was very eclectic and unique. Greg had a chorizo burger and I had a blackened chicken sandwich. This was probably my least favorite meal, though Greg liked his. I also just wasn’t feeling the greatest that whole day and not super interested in eating anything. After dinner we headed to Target to buy some water and soda and then checked into our hotel – The Westin in Westminster.

Thursday

We started our day mid morning at a restaurant right by the hotel called Snooze an A.M. Eatery. This is a chain restaurant around Denver which is apparently VERY popular in the mornings. I have to say, it did not disappoint!! Greg loved his french toast and my sandwich was incredible! It was a soft but toasty everything seeded bun with green goddess cream cheese, an egg, bacon, and some sort of citrus vinaigrette arugula. So good.

I took a picture of this same view on Wednesday afternoon when it was completely gray with the windshield coated in rain. This day it was so much nicer!! We could actually see the mountains as we headed toward Estes Park.

We drove all the way up to the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and then decided against going in. There’s a $25 fee and at the beginning of May, very little of the park is actually open due to so much snow left on the roads. Instead we drove back to a little information building and walked around.

So I mostly wanted to go to Estes Park because my parents are having their vacation there next week and I didn’t want to find out they did something really cool that we had missed because we chose not to drive that far into the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t really find much to do there, other than walk around the little town and stop at a few mountain and lake scenic spots. It didn’t help that we were FREEZING and definitely not dressed for such high winds and cold temperatures and snow beneath our only pairs of shoes.

We drove really high up to Lily Lake, which had a simple trail around the edges. But I was way too cold to even attempt it, plus there was still snow and slush on everything. But it was pretty! We had enough after that and headed back east.

Our next stop was the Sawmill Ponds hiking area near Boulder. It was a 1.2 mile loop that took you past 18 different ponds! I think this might have been my favorite thing we did on the trip because it was absolutely gorgeous and there was hardly anybody else there.

I will admit that the trail was so deserted that for the first time in my adult life I had to pee “in the wild.” I was desperate!

So beautiful! Perfect weather, perfect everything. I loved it there.

We had dinner at another really unique place called The Sink. We got some happy hour martinis, jalapeno poppers, and a delicious bbq chicken pizza. It was all really tasty!

Before heading back to our hotel we stopped at another park to view the Flat Irons in Boulder. I think Greg would have liked to have walked a little further into the trail, but my legs were SO tired and that martini hit me harder probably than anything I’ve ever had before (I almost never drink).

But we sat on a big rock and just enjoyed the views. We really loved all the gorgeous nature areas we could just pull off of and revel in. Our best vacations together are the ones filled with beautiful outdoor sights.

I felt pretty bad about it, but we went back to the hotel at 5:30 because I was so tired. Strangely, this was the vacation that Greg wanted to go go go and I wanted a little more resting time. We’re usually very much the opposite! Though to be fair, I was still waking up at my normal time, meaning I was awake 4-5 hours before him every day!

Friday

I was a little on the cranky side Friday morning. Mostly frustrated with my body and how out of shape I’m in and how much my ankle has just wrecked me from ever feeling normal and good. We went to The Denver Biscuit Company for a late breakfast, which is a restaurant I absolutely wanted to check out. But the wait took forever and then we were seated at the bar and the food did not sit right with me. Greg had a chicken biscuit with local honey, stone ground mustard, and pickles. I had a Nashville hot chicken biscuit with ranch dressing and pickles. Somehow the combination of flavors on mine just did not taste great, but I wanted to go there so badly I tried my best to finish it off and then felt kind of crappy for the next half the day.

Our next stop was the original Tattered Cover Bookstore. We realized later they have locations all over, but I think we went to the biggest one. It was amazing! So big and unique. Our only sadness is that only a small portion of the store was actually used (and cheaper) books. But we spent quite a long time just looking around at everything. I bought two books and a notebook.

Our next stop was the Denver Botanic Gardens. Honestly, I was not that impressed. I think Olbrich Gardens in Madison is nicer. And it’s free! I was also just cranky and tired and not feeling great, so all the wild and loud school groups touring, plus all the very slow elderly people looking at every single plant, were just all getting on my nerves. It was hot too! That Colorado sun is blazing, even though the temps were only in the 60’s. I’m not sure how long we actually spent here, but it wasn’t probably more than an hour. There were certainly some pretty flowers, but nothing that blew me away. It all felt a bit artificial and contained compared to the amazing mountain views just twenty minutes outside the city.

Next we searched out Union Station. I love food markets and Denver apparently has like five or six of them. Once we realized how horrific the parking situation was, we just picked one. It was kind of a nightmare trying to find a place to park that wasn’t going to cost a fortune and then we had to walk so far to get there. I was surprised to see how few stores were actually in Union Station, which is, in fact, a working train station. But it was cool to see and Greg got some ice cream and I had a delicious blackberry honey latte. I love checking out new coffee shops hoping they have some sort of signature or seasonal drinks. This is the first place on the trip that actually did. After the station we walked a few blocks to Milk Market, another food market. That one had tons of options, but we were saving up to eat at a taco place. We finished our two hours we paid for of parking by checking out the Millennium Bridge.

We had dinner at a place we both found independently on our searches and really wanted to go to, Tacos Tequila Whiskey. They just had a menu filled with tacos and salsas and you filled out which ones you wanted. Greg had some sort of fried chicken and pork tacos. I had a saucy chicken and a vegetarian one with grilled cheese and poblano peppers and corn in a chipotle sauce. They were SO good. I ordered another vegetarian one and Greg ordered their special taco, which was pork belly and some sauces. Overall, a really delightful meal!

Our next hotel was in Colorado Springs and the traffic was pretty terrible for a Friday evening, so we took a short detour to Matthews-Winters Park to walk around and sit by a stream. It was SO beautiful there. Everything was beautiful really! But this particular spot was like in the center of a valley and we had mountains on every side. I loved it.

We managed to go to these new mountain ranges every night about the same time – they were amazing to see in person, but terrible for taking photos when the sun was hitting at exactly the wrong spot!

We finally made it to The Academy Hotel in Colorado Springs. We were here for three nights and I was really disappointed to see that our only window looked over the hotel lobby/pool/breakfast area/fire pit resting area. I can’t believe anyone would design a hotel next to the mountains and not let every room have an outdoor window!! I think the hotel tried really hard to still provide a great experience with an awesome breakfast and lots of amenities, but the lack of a view made our room just feel very dark and depressing.

We finished the night going to Ute Valley Park, a few miles from the hotel. Gorgeous! There are no bad views in Colorado if you’re outside!

Saturday

On Saturday we split up. The entire reason we picked Colorado in the first place was so Greg could visit one of his college friends before he moved out west. He was planning to take a trip no matter what, so we combined it into our anniversary vacation. We had breakfast at the hotel and then went to Poor Richard’s, which was a unique book/gift store. Then we wandered around Colorado Springs until Greg eventually got picked up and I did some more shopping on my own. I’m not sure if it was because it was so early and a Saturday, but Colorado Springs seemed SO much nicer than Denver, in terms of just walking around and checking out shops. And ease of parking! I had lunch at TByrd’s Tacos with a chicken and fried avocado taco. They were good, they were just unexpectedly both piled high with onions (descriptions both said peppers) which I had to take off, which then took off most of the sauce and cheese. But it was a good choice for eating on my own.

I really liked the store Terra Verde and some fancy chocolate shop where I bought these blonde pearls which were AMAZING. I really wish I had bought the bigger bag. I stopped at Pikes Peak Lemonade, at the recommendation of someone on facebook. I don’t like lemonade, but I tried a few samples and then bought a raspberry puree iced tea. My only complaint about Colorado restaurants is that they don’t seem to believe in using ice with their water, so it was nice to have a refreshing cold drink! I was pretty tired after that, so I went back to the hotel for a nap. Then I sought out this recommended Decadent coffee shop for a coffee, which I didn’t really like much.

I met Greg and his friend for dinner back in downtown Colorado Springs at Bingo Burger. I wasn’t super hungry, so I just got the loaded tater tots, which were sooooo good. I love that in Colorado they have green chile things added to so many menu items. I had some version of them on almost everything I ate the whole trip. Loved it.

Greg and his friend spent the day at Seven Falls, exploring the outskirts of Garden of the Gods, eating, and playing at an arcade. Greg and I went back to see the official Garden of the Gods park after dinner. Amazingly, very few people showed up in my photos, but there were a ton of prom kids everywhere posing for pictures. But the further we walked the less crowded it was. I’m really glad we went that night instead of saving it for morning as planned.

I kept looking for the “kissing camels” part of the rock and we didn’t find it until the very end. I realized last night going through my photos it was actually right at the entrance and I had already taken a photo of it without realizing!

We finished the night seeing the Balancing Rock. Couldn’t avoid getting extra people into those pictures.

Sunday

By Sunday we were kind of floundering on what to do. I didn’t plan the second part of the trip as well as the first because everything was really up in the air with Greg’s friend and I didn’t want to overschedule us. But, I should have found the time to make some solid lists of ideas because it would have avoided some stress of the day. But I think it worked out okay. We started at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, which I didn’t realize was something we had to pay for as it’s also a museum and large gift shop. The dwellings were a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it was still really interesting to see and imagine the Pueblo Indians actually making their lives in such cramped quarters.

The only time of the trip we had perfect selfie lighting! 😀

Where they baked their bread.

As we continued down the road toward Pikes Peak, we stopped next at the top of a mountain for Cave of the Winds. The shortest tour was an hour and a half and cost a lot, so we opted to just walk around the grounds. We were there for the mountains anyway, not the caves! Plus we didn’t have anything with us to get warmer underground, as that was the hottest day of the trip so far (only low 70’s, but that sun!).

I was legitimately terrified driving up this mountain, but the views at the top were stunning. We actually spent quite a bit of time here just walking around and taking it all in.

Caden really likes ropes courses, so we took a photo of this one to show him. Even though he’s scared of heights and it’s hanging off the side of a mountain, he said he definitely wants to do it and expects us to take him to Colorado ASAP just for this attraction. I couldn’t even go on the overhanging decks because I was so freaked out.

We stopped in Green Mountain Falls (thinking there would be falls, but if there were, we never found them) and walked out to this little island gazebo. There was a drawing next to the walkway of the town in winter with all the kids ice skating on the pond. It was so idyllic.

We drove as far as Woodland Park, trying to get some good photos of Pikes Peak, which never happened. We stopped at a place called Coffee Leo where I ended up getting a chocolate banana coffee shake and an everything bagel for a snack. The one frustrating thing traveling with Greg is that our eating (okay two things – also our sleep schedules) schedules are so polar opposite. I was STARVING by the time we ate this around noon, and he was still full from his small hotel breakfast. We didn’t have a plan for any specific restaurants that day, so I convinced him to get a bagel too (they were so good!). Afterward we stopped in Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City for me to walk around and check out the shops. I wasn’t prepared for how touristy they were going to be. But it was still nice to see what was there. I was pretty exhausted and we were getting pretty crabby with each other by that point (lack of a plan is never good for us), so we went back to the hotel so I could take a nap.

Because it was Cinco de Mayo and Mexican food is always best, we decided to join the masses and went to a Tex Mex place called Chuy’s for dinner. After a ridiculously long wait (about an hour), we engorged ourselves on all this food. I know Mexican food never photographs well, but it was SO good. My chimichanga was on a bed of Colorado green chile sauce with a side of green chile rice – perfection!

We stopped one last time at a “scenic overlook” right off the highway before turning in for the night.

Monday

Our last day kind of turned out to be a bust. Our flight was at 7pm and our original plan was to spend the day in Denver doing whatever we missed on Friday. But neither of us liked Denver that much and didn’t want to deal with the traffic and people again. So we were packing up and trying to decide what to do when we got a text from the airline that our flight had been cancelled! I’ve never had that happen before. Fortunately we were able to quickly book another flight four hours earlier. So we originally would have gotten home after midnight, and now this put us at 8:30. Which is a lot better! I’m not sure why I didn’t pick that flight originally, unless it were a lot more expensive. So it worked out, it just ended up being kind of a waste of a day. We went to Castle Rock and checked out a few shops, returned the rental car, and then spent a long time at the airport. This is the only photo I took the entire day. I had a super dry and totally generic $10 turkey sandwich with a peach tea and Greg had a giant bowl of Asian food. We made it back in time to surprise and say goodnight to Caden. Shepard was already sleep.

And that was our Colorado vacation! It was genuinely one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. I had so much fun seeing all the beautiful sights with Greg and we got to eat a lot of great food. What more can a girl ask for?!

Positive Pep Talk

I am drowning in negativity lately. I’ve been blessed with the wonderful ability to internalize every single bad vibe that floats my way, or anywhere even near me. I am always reading between the lines and analyzing facial expressions and actions, hurt by things that may have been – or more likely were not – intentional, and harboring that hurt pretty much forever. I am overly sensitive to any conflict aimed at me or others I am close to. Injustice, duplicitous conversations, and unreliability can set me off in an instantaneous rage, at least internally, and it eats me alive. Basically, I’m a real fun person to know!

There has been so much going on in the last few weeks that has constantly fed into all the bad thoughts and feelings that I no longer feel like I can get away from. A lot of it doesn’t directly affect me, but I’m still absorbing the blows like they do. I’ve also been dealing with a lot of personal attacks as well. People have been making me feel worthless and less than and inferior and it isn’t fair. I’ve also just been in CONSTANT battles with Shepard and his strong-willed personality that has increased tenfold since his eighth birthday. The fact that these battles are over the stupidest things makes it even worse. Bit by bit all of it is just chipping away at me and leaving me either empty or flat out crazed depending on the situation.

I was planning to write all about these situations, though in abstract form to retain some semblance of anonymity, but realized nobody really wants to read that, right?! So instead I’m going to dig deep and try and find some positive things about myself and my life right now that can help me focus on the good, let go of the bad, breathe, and smile.

I know who I am.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve always kept an identity all of my own. There are so many women that have kids and suddenly lose themselves. Or they set aside their lives, placing all of their hopes and dreams on hold for eighteen plus years, with the assumption they’ll have time for the things they want to do later. What if they don’t?? There are definitely seasons of sacrifice and those baby and toddler and preschool years are always going to be tough when kids need you for their very survival. Don’t get me wrong – if motherhood is what you WANT to identify most strongly with, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you don’t need to sacrifice who you are in the process. I like the fact that even when Caden was a baby and literally breastfed round the clock for about twelve hours a day for over an entire year, I never stopped thinking about and doing the things that made me ME. Those unique hopes and dreams for myself have only clarified and multiplied in the years since.

I work really dang hard.

It may mostly be in my head. But there have definitely been many, many occasions over the last ten years where I felt belittled or shamed for being a stay at home mom. There are even years where I’ve felt that way about myself. I was really, really smart in high school and college. My entire identity was wrapped in my grades and my accomplishments. And then I gave it all up to stay at home with my kids – a job I’m still not entirely sure I was right for. But it’s the choice we made and the choice we’re sticking with and I don’t regret it. I may not have taken the career path I originally saw for myself, but I work HARD, you guys. I give just about everything I do my best effort. Why else would I be constantly writing these blog posts about my goals and evaluating how I did at them? Sure, it may sometimes come across that I’m living the life of leisure, going out for lunch or coffee dates, taking a break every afternoon to read and nap. What you don’t see are the days like today when I was awake and working for three full hours before anybody else was even up. Or all the time I spend organizing and planning to make sure our schedules and family life run smoothly. Raising kids is no easy task! Heck, raising PETS is no easy task! Sometimes I think taking care of all of Annie’s needs is more overwhelming than the boys’. Or it’s at least a lot more inconvenient! Anyway, I may not have a typical 9-5 professional career that would surely bring me a lot of pride. But I DO work all the time. I am actively trying to be my best self every waking minute. And that’s not something to be ashamed of.

I am a successful business owner.

I’m not sure why I always downplay this. I often don’t even bring it up with new people because “I make dolls” is not usually something strangers respond very enthusiastically to. I mean, it’s kind of weird. If you’re not already immersed in a community of makers through social media or an avid craft fair/vintage shopper, this is an avenue of work that most people don’t understand. Should I say I’m an artist? A designer? Sometimes I say that I sew, but then people assume I’m a seamstress, which I want NOTHING to do with. When I do try to explain exactly what I do, most people comment on how that’s a nice little hobby and I agree and say it’ll never pay the bills, but it’s allowed me to stay home with my kids and for that I’m thankful. But…it’s more than that and I think I need to start owning that. I’ve now run Heartstring Annie for just about six years. It’s a business I kind of started on a whim, just to bring in a little extra fun money for myself, but also to give me a bit more of an identity outside of my family role. It’s grown into what I do consider my full time job, even if I don’t always put 40 hours a week into it (at least not in the last year or two when I’ve actively tried to stop letting it overtake my entire life). No, I don’t usually make enough money to even cover our mortgage, if it came down to that. But it brings in enough money for me to take solo vacations multiple times a year, buy clothes from sources beyond what I can find the cheapest, and it allows me to splurge on special gifts for people throughout the year. Last year, I made 224 sales, selling 297 dolls. That’s almost a doll a day. Business is absolutely thriving. I can’t keep up. This is so much more than a hobby, and even if people think it’s weird, that doesn’t discredit what it is and what I’ve built. Also, I think I’m pretty great at it.

I have an awesome family.

I have a seriously awesome husband. Greg has been nothing but 110% supportive of anything I have ever wanted to do. He has been an incredible dad from day one – I can honestly and truly say, there is NOTHING I would have ever changed or wished for more of in his role as co-parent. He works so hard for us, providing a stable and substantial enough income that I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do – for the past ten years, but also for all the years to come. He never makes me feel bad about who I am, he never belittles me for anything, he never shrugs off my sometimes crazy emotions. He’s been a steady and stable force in my life for the last nineteen years and I know I can count on him for anything.

I also have some pretty great kids. Yes, Shepard has been fraying my last frazzled nerve these last few weeks with his ridiculous arguments over EVERYTHING. But he has bloomed so much in the last few years and I’m so incredibly proud of him. In preschool and 4K and even many days of kindergarten, I had to literally carry him kicking and screaming into school because he didn’t want to leave me and the comfort of home. Now? He is fiercely independent. He knows who is he and he’s not going to back down from that. He is friends with everyone and the most popular guy around. His silliness and laughter can light up a room and even though I think it’s going to be getting him into more and more trouble as he gets older, I am proud to call him my own.

There’s something very strange that happens when one of your kids is suddenly less than a head shorter than you. I feel like Caden has grown up so much in the last year. Whereas Shepard is always a wildcard, Caden is completely responsible and reliable. He definitely has a strong-willed personality as well, but I think he is growing into a person that can be counted on. He is so smart and we’re told by his teachers every year how he’s the most helpful kid in the class. I believe he’s going to go far in life and I can’t wait to watch it happen.

I also have an awesome set of in-laws and mom who provide a great support system to the four of us. I’m so glad that we live near each other and get to experience life together. It’s invaluable to our kids.

I’m not going to be hot this summer!

I loathe summer. It’s my least favorite season – because of the weather, because of the lack of structure, because I have zero time to myself. It’s been especially difficult since we moved into our house because it’s SO HOT that I can’t even function. We added a window air conditioner to the kitchen last year that at least helped when I was in there, but did little to cool any other room in the house. But this week we decided to invest in a REAL air conditioner! It’s still going to only cool the lower half of the house (with two window units upstairs), but I’m confident we’re all going to be so much more comfortable this year. Trust me, I will be a much happier person if I’m not sweating and breathing in muggy air 24/7.

I’m going on vacation!

In less than three weeks Greg and I will be off on our 13 year anniversary Colorado vacation! I’ve been doing a lot of research and we at least now have a solid thirty or so awesome restaurant options (lol). I have quite a list of things to see and do too. I think it’s exactly the break from regular life that we need. Our schedule these last months of the school year are crazy town. It’s going to be wonderful to get a reprieve and spend some solid time together. Something that has been pretty sparse lately.

If all else fails – books. 

Always reliable and always the best form of escape. And at least in my case – always abundant! I think I need to spend more time actively avoiding the internet related things that are stressing me out. Read more. That should always be the answer.

Okay, this concludes my personal pep talk. I guess it sort of became a defense of who I am and justification for why it’s okay to be me. But – it IS okay, and I’d do well to remember that!

10 Things to Tell You Prompt: What are you assuming about others?

I’ve been thinking about this particular podcast prompt for a couple of days now and I’m still not quite sure how I want to delve into it. Most of my assumptions about other people are in terms of how they must be thinking back about me. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t the point of the question, but that’s the only way my brain can seem to wrap around it. So I guess I’ll just go with it!

1 – I assume that nobody else is having the same struggles with their children that I am.

I definitely recognize that parenting is a struggle in one area or another for basically everyone. Nobody has a perfect child. Nobody is a perfect parent. I don’t mean to say that my struggles are WORSE than anyone else’s. But I also assume that nobody can really understand the exact kind of struggles we have. Unless you are my husband, I can guarantee you do not understand the full extent of the struggles we’ve had these last ten and a half years of being parents to our particular children. And sometimes in the worst of days it’s very easy to think that nobody else is going through what we are and couldn’t possibly understand what it is like.

2 – I assume that others do not think I am important/a high priority/a valued person in their lives.

Again, unless you are married to me, or you birthed me, I have a pretty steeped belief that nobody really cares all that much about me. I hold the assumption that most people that are connected to me just kind of put up with me. And if I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind. And often in sight, I’m also not really valued for what I can bring to the table.

3 – I assume other makers have their lives figured out.

This is a hard one for me. I follow a lot of other creative makers on instagram and facebook and they always seem to have their stuff TOGETHER. I feel like my own creative business is such a mess of trying to find balance, struggling to stay motivated, and debating on how to promote myself without feeling like I’m trying too hard. I hold the strong assumption that at least for most of them, they just sit down in the morning and work all day, nary a struggle to be had. Which is completely the opposite of how I feel in my own work.

4 – I assume nobody sees me or understands me completely.

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately and am not quite sure how to explain it, other than I feel like everyone I know can only relate to a small part of who I am and not a single person out there can feel connected to me as a complete person. I feel like the choices I’ve made in my adulthood have alienated me from a lot of deeper friendships and sibling/sibling-in-law relationships. And now that I have a handful of mom friends that relate to me in terms of family stuff, they don’t seem to have any of the extra stuff in common with me, which alienates me in different ways. I am in so many facebook groups filled with kindred spirits, but can’t seem to find any of those people in my real life. I don’t need or want to only be friends with people who are exactly like me. But lately I feel the differences between me and others have been so hindering with very little connecting points drawing us together anymore. It’s lonely to feel so misunderstood and outcast all the time.

5 – I assume other people think I’m a pretty crappy mom.

I feel like we’re getting into my deepest and darkest secrets now. This one has been at the forefront of my mind these last few weeks as some school/kid related issues have been brought up around town. It’s made me think about how little I know about what goes on in my boys’ days. I am a thousand percent not a helicopter parent and like to let my kids have freedom to make mistakes and try to figure out their own problems. I will of course advocate for them if a specific incident were to occur, but as long as they seem happy and healthy, I’m good. I feel like my kids are smart and learning well and it’s not my job to constantly be interfering with the system. If they were struggling, I’d feel differently. It just seems like lately, my lack of fight and vigor, might be misconstrued as simply not caring and being a pretty bad mom.

6 – I assume other families always have fun on vacation.

Please tell me I’m wrong on this. Guys, there is a reason that more often than not lately, I go on vacations BY MYSELF. I feel like family vacations are almost always disastrous. With the exception of our recent Florida trip, which still had some struggles, but was overall pretty good, every family trip we’ve ever taken has not been enjoyable, at all. Even my vacations with Greg are often disappointing. We just never want to do the same things or have different ideas of what a vacation should be (relaxing vs adventurous in our case). I get so excited about vacations and always come home from them full of regret. When other people go on vacation? It looks so fun and easy. It makes me wonder what in the world we’re doing wrong. Or, see #1 on this list.

7 – I assume everyone else knows who they are and are good living the life that they chose.

Ugh, this is a big one. I spend every day wondering about the choices I’ve made and trying to figure out the core of my identity. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I never know if I’m doing the right thing, living the life I should be, making the best choices. One day I feel like I have it all together and the next day I’m a total emotional mess. Why does it seem like nobody else has these struggles?!

8 – I assume that very few people are interested in this little blog I keep.

This just ties into everything I’ve already talked about, but I think about it all the time. I would love for my writings to be “popular.” I know that people look at my site because I can see the traffic statistics. But nobody comments, EVER. Only a handful of people I know follow my facebook page for post updates, and almost all of them are related to me in some way. I assume that if anybody was really my friend on facebook they would see that I also have a business page and a blog page and follow both, and if they don’t, they probably don’t care at all. I struggle with promoting myself and feeling self indulgent, trying to force people to know more about me if they don’t actually care. I assume that the people who do read this probably just do it to humor me. I hope saying all this doesn’t offend anyone, because I truly appreciate the ones that read all my posts. I just wish I could make more of this platform, but I don’t know how to do it, when I feel like the majority of the people in my real life aren’t interested, so why would strangers care?

Okay, I think that’s enough assumptions for one day! After re-reading this I kind of feel like I’m a very obnoxious and exhausting person to be around, so my assumptions must surely be true. But hey, I wanted to write more this week, and I am. Do with it what you will!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.13.2019

Despite my highest hopes, this last week went nowhere near as smoothly and joyfully as the week before. Mostly due to circumstances beyond my control, but…nonetheless, it’s been a pretty crappy week.

On Monday it was pouring, but I also really, really needed to run errands. I did them as quickly as possible in the midst of a horrible headache. Then I spent most of the day doing various food prep and trying to get a bit of work done. I felt so disjointed and frustrated for once again expecting too much of  myself and not living up to my own ridiculously high standards.

Monday night brought the terrible news that my uncle had been found dead in his apartment. I won’t divulge all the details, but cause of death is still unknown. He was very reserved and had really isolated himself from the rest of the family for over a year. We’ve all been in varying degrees of shock and grief as we try to deal with everything. My uncle didn’t have a significant other or any kids, so the bulk of taking care of everything he left behind has fallen on my mom and my remaining uncle and a few cousins. It’s an undertaking that nobody was prepared to deal with. But, it needs to be done.

That clearly set the tone for the rest of my week. I wasn’t sure if my help would be needed for anything, so I cancelled my Tuesday morning friend date and my Thursday craft night. I kind of went into a shell and just didn’t really want to interact with anybody. I barely knew my uncle, but it’s still so hard to realize he’s gone, and with it any opportunity TO know him.

Despite being in such a little pit of sadness, I tried to keep busy working and taking time to read and rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like I desperately needed to get out of the house and do something – anything – so I went to Walmart and just wandered around for over an hour and then stopped at a new coffee shop for a treat before heading back home to work some more.

Adding a bit to Thursday’s sadness, I was getting instagram bombardment of the start of that craft retreat I was supposed to be at. The AMAZING craft retreat at The Whatever Craft House in Kansas. The one I had my ticket to and then had to beg to be let out of once I realized my maker friend bailed on me and I didn’t want to do the 12 hour drives there and back by myself in unpredictable winter weather. I know in the end it was probably best I didn’t go. But it was pretty hard seeing everyone’s awesome photos and everything I was missing. I wish it could have worked out for me.

Friday morning brought a spark of joy when I got the email that my 23andme results were ready! I’ll maybe do a full post on this at a later date, but it was really exciting to see everything they could find out from my vial of spit! The ancestry reports were not much of a surprise since my mom’s side of the family has always kept extremely detailed records going back hundreds of years. But I loved that I could look even further in depth to see exactly which areas of the countries my ancestors were from. My Irish ancestors were from all over, but most heavily in the areas that I’ve visited myself AND were my favorite part of the country. My English ancestors are only from London, so I think I definitely need to add that to my travel bucket list. My German ancestors were from the northernmost regions. I didn’t get that far north in my high school trip to Germany, so I’ll have to go back there too. 🙂 Anyway, it was just really cool to see. And since my sister-in-law took the test last summer, I was able to combine my ancestry reports with hers so I can now give the boys definitive numbers on their own ethnicities. It has definitely gotten pretty muddy by their generation, but they are still predominantly 40% Irish/English, which is cool.

Knowing I really just needed to get out of the house, I kept my plans to go to lunch with my friend Laura. I worked in the morning and then she picked me up and we tried this new place called Full Mile in Sun Prairie. It was such a nice place! And really great to just have a chance to hang out with a friend. I desperately needed it. We prolonged our outing by getting Starbucks afterward and then shopping through Menard’s (lol).

I spent Saturday helping my parents, uncle, and two cousins start the work of clearing out my uncle’s apartment and looking for important paperwork that will help everything from now on go more smoothly. Honestly, it’s a task that’s probably going to take weeks. SO MUCH WORK. We all put in a full day and then went back again this morning. I bowed out after a couple of hours today. It’s overwhelming. My mom and uncle will continue to work all week while everyone else chips in between their jobs and families. I have another cousin flying in on Wednesday to help too. I hope for everyone’s sakes it starts picking up speed and can be completed earlier than expected. I think we made a lot of progress this weekend, but there is still a lot to go.

Sunday Intentions

Moving ahead to this week. I really need to get some work done. January is just flying by and I’ve not been as productive as I had hoped to be! I have eight dolls that are half done, so I’m hoping I can complete them by Tuesday afternoon. I also need to run a few errands tomorrow, but I was apparently very overzealous in my shopping last week as we still have a pretty full fridge! I should try and get some walks in with Annie too. I’ve been neglecting her (and my whole family). Actually, we did walk to school last Wednesday and Thursday since there wasn’t any ice and it felt SO GOOD. I think I’d be pretty happy if we just continue on with this almost snowless winter. It sure makes my life easier!

It sounds like Wednesday night as much family as available will be gathering for a dinner somewhere. The one good thing about a death in the family is that it brings everyone else closer. I’m kind of ashamed of how rarely I see my cousins that only live half an hour away from me. Not counting this weekend, it’s been an entire year and a half since we’ve been together. We’re all so busy. But maybe from now on we’ll try harder?

On Thursday, Greg and I are celebrating 19 years of being together. (We keep celebrating this since we were together 6.5 years before we got married, so this original anniversary still feels very significant!) We usually go on a fancy date every January, but this year I happened to see an awesome groupon deal, so we’re going on a little one night getaway. I do feel a bit bad going in the middle of everything that’s happening. But…it’s already paid for and everything and I think Greg and I need the little break from reality. The boys and Annie will have a sleepover that night at Grandma’s and then hang out at her house until we come back Friday, as there’s no school.

And I expect next weekend might be more family or apartment cleaning stuff. I’m leaving it open if I’m needed.

Anyway, that’s about it! A lot of unexpected emotions swirling around these last few days. But I’m trying to keep busy if that’s what it seems like I need or take breaks if that’s what I seem to need. I’m trying to keep my schedule pretty loose and flexible. It feels much better to help out when I’m needed, than to stick to some pre planned agenda. I think I need to work on being better about that in general.

Have a good week!

January 2019 Goals

Happy new year!

Is everyone as THRILLED to go back to school and work tomorrow as I am?! These last couple of days have seriously just sucked the life out of me. I think because we were so jam packed busy the first half of winter break, we’ve been ridiculously lazy and unmotivated the second half. I’ve resigned myself to only wearing pajamas because getting dressed is too much work. I’ve been eating super crappy food because I haven’t had the energy to go to the store and buy fresh food to cook with. I’ve been laying in bed for hours every afternoon because I don’t want to face any people or responsibilities, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep at night. I haven’t been getting any exercise and I haven’t been giving Annie any exercise, and I feel like I’m about to lose my mind with the constant noise of video games and annoying youtubers. I miss walking (no chance for awhile after the ice that showed up last night), I miss quiet, I miss listening to my podcasts and watching my tv shows during the day, I miss only having to make a meal for myself, I miss working, and did I say yet that I miss QUIET? Tomorrow is going to be awesome.

Anyway! Our New Year’s Eve celebration was really lame and barely worth mentioning. I got too tired to make the meal I planned on, so we had chicken nuggets and jalapeno popper dip for dinner, with giant cookies for dessert that nobody wanted  to eat because I mistakenly believed my family preferred crunchier cookies since they complain every time I make softer ones… I drank too much sparkling juice and felt painfully full, so I never opened up the wine I’ve had waiting in the fridge for at least four months when a celebratory alcohol needing moment might pop up. Greg was in a bad mood from the get go because there was a huge dump of heavy snow that took way too much time and energy to shovel away. I was in a bad mood because I was so strung out from being surrounded by loud and obnoxious noises the last twelve hours (plus eleven days). We settled in and watched the movie Mowgli with the boys and sent them to bed at ten. And we finished the year watching Bird Box. Both movies were way too stressful and angsty to pair with the moods we were all currently in to begin with. It’s the first year in ages that I actually stayed up until midnight, but I probably would have been better off just going to bed when the boys did. Lame city, you guys.

So I’m really excited to jump into January! Fresh starts and all that jazz. I’ve been pretty lax with my productivity in the last month, so it’s time to take a deep breath and tackle some big goals. Ideally I think I’d like to stick with about three accomplishable goals a month so I can readily have them on my mind with every decision I make. But I’m going to go a bit above and beyond this month and flat out expect more from myself. We’ll see how it goes.

1 – No excess spending

This is the biggest one. After six weeks of crazy present buying and being way too indulgent with picking up things for myself, I need a bit of a detox. My plan is to avoid all online shopping – not even any looking. No new books, coffee, clothes, snacks, or treats. The only things I’m allowed to buy are perishable foods and household items we absolutely can’t live without – like cat food, which is just about gone. But I’d also like to get more creative with a lot of the random food we have stored in the basement and figure out ways to use it before buying anything else. My only exceptions to this rule is if I find birthday presents for my mom and Shepard (the February birthdays), and if I find an awesome Valentine mug. Since I decided to have rotating seasonal mug collections, I’ve been itching to find one or two great Valentine choices. So if I happen to see one in one of the few stores I’m allowing myself to walk in this month, I have permission to buy it. 🙂 Everything else? Off limits.

2 – Lose 3 or more pounds by the 30th

I have my next doctor’s appointment on the 30th to recheck my liver levels and blood pressure and everything. I was doing so great for about two months, and this last week just totally let go again. My original goal for this appointment was to lose 10 lbs since my appointment at the end of October. I’ve been hovering at the 10 or 11 pound mark for the last month. I want to get a lot more strict with myself and push for at least 3 more pounds and obviously still a lot more after that.

3 – No fast food

I think going without fast food in November was really helpful to resetting my system. I didn’t go overboard in December, but I did stop for food three or four times simply because I was really hungry and that was easy. Really, going hand in hand with my no spending, I’m just not going to allow myself to eat anywhere unless it’s using one of my gift cards (Chipotle or Qdoba!), or on a date. Dates get a free pass for any kind of food.

4 – Make 20+ Valentine dolls

Valentine’s Day is one of my biggest holidays for sales. I think because I usually take most of December off and then I’m freshly motivated and start pumping out pink and red dolls in January, everyone is itching to buy them. I’ve picked up a lot of new fabric in the last few weeks and I’m really excited to start creating again. But hopefully only in small batches so I don’t overwhelm myself and get burned out. I think making 20 should be relatively easy, though. It’s a pretty quiet month. (so far!)

5 – Read 4 books from my shelves

In my new bullet journal I wrote out all the books I own that I haven’t yet read. Want to know the number? Probably not, lol. 113. And there are three smaller areas of my house where I didn’t even count those books. So, I have a lot of books to read! One of my favorite hobbies is researching new books and getting excited about all the possibilities. As I was organizing my shelves and writing down all those titles yesterday, I was so excited about the books I already have. I genuinely want to read a lot more of them this year, even though the majority of them are nonfiction.

6 – Have a great anniversary getaway

Desperate to get something on the calendar for just the two of us and not ready to plan an actual anniversary vacation in May yet, I found a really great looking hotel through Groupon and booked us a night in mid January to celebrate our 19th year of being together. I think it’ll be really great to have two full days to ourselves.

7 – Spend time with friends

I’m hoping this will happen! When a bunch of us got together a few weeks ago on two separate lunch occasions, we all made a point of wanting to do that more often. I already set up a craft night and plan to get back into hosting those as well. And I’m trying to get together with one of my friends who moved away. I don’t want the months to keep passing by with no girl time on the calendar. I’m going to make it happen!

I think that’s enough to keep me busy this month! Happy January, everyone!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

I recently discovered that instead of writing straightforward lists of resolutions and goals for the year, some people chose to write out what they’re looking forward to in the new year instead. It’s still a way to get your greatest hopes and dreams for yourself out in the universe, but you’re writing them as something to look forward to instead of something you have to do to make your life better. I loved this idea and became a lot more excited thinking about 2019 in these terms. I still fully plan on giving myself smaller accomplishable goals at the beginning of every month to truly focus my time and energy, but for the year as a whole I’m really liking this format instead!

In 2019, I am looking forward to…

1 – Becoming a healthier and more energetic human being.

I’m going to use what I’ve learned in the last two months and continue to take better care of myself. I’m going to go back to only eating the foods that I know will make me feel good and avoiding things like fast food which I know will make me feel bloated and gross the rest of the day. I’ll walk Annie as often as I can and find exercise videos to do in the house when I’m too freaked out to risk slipping on ice if I go outside. I’m going to continue to take my internal health into consideration with many of my choices because that’s what has a greater influence on my motivation than the number on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

2 – Having a better work-life balance.

I think a lot of my work frustration in the last few years is that I expected to be able to just jump into making this a full time job now that my kids are in school all day. I need to – and I WILL – accept that I only have a part time job slot in my life right now. And THAT’S OKAY. The internal war has been waging for years on what I should be giving the most of my time to and no matter what option I choose, it feels like the wrong one. This year I am going to give myself grace and remember that sewing dolls is not the most important thing in my life. People matter more. Life happens. I still want work to be part of my life – but only PART. I’d like to strive for only working 20-30 hours a week with as few nights and weekends as possible. I’d like to prioritize my family and friends if I’m in a busy season where that truly matters more. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it or start worrying what other people think of me. I believe I can have the best of both worlds and this is the year I’m going to figure out how to do it.

3 – Going on vacations!

I’m excited about going on some fun and much needed vacations this year. Greg and I have a one night getaway scheduled in a few weeks to celebrate 19 years of being together. In early February we’re going to Nebraska to see Guster play with the Omaha Symphony. We may or may not bring the boys, but either way we’ll be staying with my brother and spending some time with Hudson too (as long as the weather holds out!). In the middle of February we’re all going Florida to see Universal and Harry Potter World with Greg’s parents, which should be an awesome family vacation. In August I have tickets to Book Bonanza, which will bring me to Texas for the first time. I’m hoping we can take an actual three or more night vacation somewhere new and special for our 13 year marriage anniversary in May or June. Greg has been talking about wanting to take one or both boys to San Francisco, so if that happens I’ll either do something special with the remaining kid or have one heck of a staycation by myself! We’re hopefully going to have a really full year of getting away and making some amazing memories.

4 – Reading all the books and tracking them closely.

Reading is and forever will be a huge part of my life. But it still deserves a big spot on what I’m looking forward to in the new year! I’m hoping that maybe audiobooks will eventually win me over and might start replacing some of my tv time. I think I could be much more productive sewing that way since I don’t need to constantly be looking at a screen! But I also have to get better at paying attention with my ears. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading MANY of the physical books I have on my shelves. I’ve re-fallen in love with physical books and may have gone a bit crazy buying them in the last six or so months. Now I need to read them! I’m also looking forward to tracking them much more closely on the Book Riot tracking spreadsheet, as well as continuing to track on my own spreadsheet and Goodreads and writing about them every month.

5 – Really just tracking all the things!

I’ve used a bullet journal for most of the past year and it’s been an awesome way to keep track of my daily to do lists, meal plans, work hours, gratitude lists, etc. This year I’m planning to take things a step further and track things like how much money we save, how much weight I lose, the dates we’ve been on, the books I’ve read from my shelves, as well as all my usual stuff – tv, podcasts, movies, happiness levels, etc. I want my bullet journal to basically be the one thing I can’t go a single day without sitting down in front of and writing in. Not because I have to, but because I love it so much.

6 – Writing more and reformatting my website so it’s more accessible.

I really do love to write! This year I’ve found the most joy in writing recaps and intentions and lists of things I’ve consumed each month, with books being my favorite. I feel like most of the stuff I write about is really personal and is probably much more interesting to me than anyone who happens to read it. And I’ve been okay with that. But I would like to try just a tiny bit harder at growing my readership. I will be more active on instagram to promote my posts, plus just more about my everyday life. And I’ll figure out how in the world to reformat my website so posts of similar content can be grouped together and easier to find. I have no clue how to go about doing that, but I will learn!

7 – Reenergizing my relationships.

Mostly with Greg. But also with friends. And maybe with Greg AS my friend and not just my parenting partner, which is sometimes what it feels like. I want to make monthly OUT OF THE HOUSE date nights a real and exciting thing that I cherish and look forward to more than anything else in the month. I want to kiss more and laugh more and find things to do together that we both enjoy besides just watching tv every night. I love watching tv together, but I think we need something more. I also look forward to spending more time with my friends and maybe making some new friends! This last year has been so weird with me being locked away in the house for so many months and everyone just being “too busy.” Well, guess what? If it’s important, we will make time. And I’ll start taking the initiative again to make sure those things happen.

8 – Using my cookbooks and making actual meal plans on a weekly basis.

I adore cookbooks. I have a ton of them. But when it comes to making my meals I always just look to pinterest because it’s fast and easy and convenient. But my cookbooks are overflowing with amazing inspiration and new ideas and foods that will bring us all joy and excitement. I plan to start with just picking one cookbook at a time and finding 2-3 meals I want to make from it in the next week or two. Nothing crazy or elaborate or stressful. Just take the five minutes it requires to open a book and find something fresh to make. It will be so worth it.

9 – Having one massive, mega, crazy garage sale and then donating whatever is left.

Our garage is overflowing with items that didn’t sell at our last garage sale, two years ago. I fully planned on having one last summer, but then didn’t feel up to it with my lack of walking abilities. This summer, hopefully right in early June, it will happen! And when it’s over I’m not going to save everything for some future sale. This is it. I want it all gone. It’s going to feel AMAZING to get rid of all those boxes of things we no longer need. It’d be great to make a little money in the process, but really – I just want it all gone.

10 – Learn how to be good at hand lettering. 

I usually have some hobbies at the back of my mind that I never seem to get to. This year the only thing I can think of are these two new hand lettering books and brush markers I got for Christmas. I would like to go through each of those books carefully, practice, and become pretty awesome at writing things out fancy and cool. I have no real purpose for this other than my bullet journal and my own enjoyment, but it’ll be worth it!

I think it’s safe to say that 10 is enough! I truly think that 2019 is going to be an amazing year. Happy new year, everyone!

Reflections on 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

December 2018 Goals

I’ve been having a hard time coming up with goals for December. I like my monthly goals to be measurable so I can look back and clearly see if I met them or not. But measurable in December feels overwhelming and like way too much pressure. My general attitude for December is to slow down and be open to enjoying life in ways that I have a hard time with in any other season. So even though it might be tough to decide if said goals have been accomplished, I’m going to structure my intentions for the month around them anyway.

1. Keep making healthy choices (DO NOT GIVE UP)

I was doing so great with this for about a month. Then Thanksgiving happened. And a lot of Thanksgiving pie leftovers. And a birthday party filled with delightful foods I’d been denying myself all month. And then I started buying awesome unique Christmasy treats and sampling them as they arrive. Then I started eating a dessert – or two – every day. Then the processed foods started creeping back in. Then the sidewalks got icy and my daily steps decreased by at least half every single day and I haven’t found anything to do in the house yet to supplement that regular exercise. In just over a week I’ve hit such a downward spiral and I’ve been losing so much motivation to stay strong and make the choices I KNOW will make me feel better. It doesn’t help that the rest of my family has become a group of nonstop grazers. They snack alllllll day long. I’m trying to put a stop to this and get them to actually eat more at meals, but it’s not working very well. So on weekends when we’re all home I feel very resentful of all their eating when I’m supposed to be saying no. My willpower has faded fast. But I don’t want to give up. My weight has pretty much plateaued the last two weeks. Which is better than going back up, but I still have a lot I’d like to lose. And really, I just want to FEEL good. So even though there are going to be tons of extra parties and treats and get togethers this month – which I’m definitely going to allow myself to indulge in if it feels worth it – I want to be making better choices all the rest of the time. Keep eating good breakfasts that fill me up. Keep making actual homemade lunches instead of waiting until I’m so hungry that I just grab a bag of something crappy. Stay away from the fast food. Try to limit the sugar. Find a way to exercise in the house. Basically, just stay on track and do not give up.

2. Prioritize people and memories

It’s well known that I have a very bad habit of putting my own agenda and to do lists above basically everything else. I want to be better this month. I’d like to be more emotionally available in the evenings and weekends when my family is home. One thing I’m doing to try to facilitate this is to have Twinkle, our elf, bring some family activities to do together every few days. Today he brought four small Christmas perler bead kits because I know we’ll have time tonight to all sit down and work on them together. I’ve also got some new board games, a holiday puzzle, and gingerbread houses in the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to a nice date night with Greg this Friday and there might be time to squeeze in a mini date with each of the boys before the month is through. There’s also tons of opportunity for large family stuff around Christmas. I just want to be present and open to spending time with people and stop revolving my life and energy around things that genuinely don’t matter in the big scheme of things.

3. Be done with everything by December 16th (possibly the 12th)

I usually like to take most of the month off from sewing because there are lots of handmade things I want to do for gifts and get too stressed trying to do it all. Unfortunately, since I took basically all of October off from work, I’m still just so very far behind on doll making. I’m not sure how much more I can do in the next week and a half, but I’m going to try my best. But come December 16th – I’m done. I will officially be “on vacation” the last two weeks of the year. Ideally I would also like to get all Christmas prep done by the 12th. That’s the day I have my next ortho appointment and find out if I need a bone graft surgery before the year is out. I’m praying I won’t need the surgery at all because that would suck. But if I do need it, we’re hoping it happens before the 31st so the surgery will essentially be free since we used up all our deductible in February with my first surgery! I really do not want to start another year with a pile of medical bills. It’s incredibly stressful not knowing if this will happen until the 12th because it’s kind of a big deal and something that needs to be planned around! I’m just hoping to have absolutely all presents bought and wrapped by the 12th with a freezer full of easy meals just so we’re prepared for the worst case scenario.

4. Read. A lot!

December is basically my time for fluffy reading. I just want happy and sweet and uplifting books to fill my life. Most of the books are also relatively short, so I’m going to shoot for 12 books this month. It really doesn’t matter, but most months I read 9-11, so it’d be nice to have it be my biggest book month of the year, and also round out my total books for 2018 at 120. Basically, I just want to give myself permission to sit down and read and enjoy the decorations and candles and piles of blankets and pillows any time the mood strikes!

I think with all the potential uncertainty I’m facing right now, four intentions are enough to keep me busy and focused for the month! I’m sure the days are going to continue to fly by and I just want to make the most of them and feel like my time was well spent, precious memories were made, and I truly lived my LIFE to the fullest – focusing more on people and doing the things that make me happy instead of only thinking about what “needs” to be done.

Happy December!