Do you have to work??

Last night I was on a desperate mission to finish a batch of Halloween dolls. With Cranberry Fest coming up on Friday I’ve been feeling the urgency to get as many sales as possible this week, earning a bit more fun money for my disposal while I wander around on this annual unique shopping experience.

Earlier in the day yesterday I was using a pair of scissors that was screwed way too tight and left me barely able to use my thumb by afternoon. It sounds so pathetic that maybe fifteen minutes of using a tight scissors somehow destroyed my thumb. How old am I?! I feel like I’m constantly falling apart. Anyway, Greg was trying to convince me to rest last night and that work could wait. I vehemently disagreed with him and powered on. How can I rest when there is ALWAYS so much that needs to be done?

I was finishing up my batch of dolls, despite the pain, while watching The Great British Baking Show. That’s one of the only shows I watch while I work on evenings or weekends because it’s basically the only one that’s kid appropriate. And Shepard loves it. So he came in after playing outside for an hour or two to join me in the final ten minutes. I was so exhausted and hurting and still anxious to fold all the laundry before I finally dropped to sleep. As the show came to a close Shepard begged me to watch the next one. I said no, I can only watch while I work. And he responded in the most confused and sad voice, “Do you have to work?? Can’t you just watch?” I immediately said that no, I only watch tv while I work because I have to be productive. I closed my laptop and went upstairs to work on the laundry.

I was on such a mission to just get one more thing done last night that it didn’t really hit me until the middle of the night when I was up with Shepard while he had a migraine how much of a terrible example I was setting for him. On one hand yes, having a good work ethic is important. And I think it’s important for my kids to see that I have been able to successfully run my own business, while also being home with them for their entire childhood. But I also might be setting the example that work is more important than anything else. That fun, even at 7pm after already putting in 13 hours of nonstop work, isn’t allowed. How much would it have hurt me to put off the laundry to today while I snuggled with him on the new comfy chair to watch the next episode?

I would have shown him in a tangible way that spending time with him is more important. Especially considering how little time my kids actually WANT to spend with me in the first place. I could have created a sweet memory for us both instead of pushing him away and insisting that ticking things off my to do list is the only thing that really matters. I made the wrong choice last night and I regret it. No, I don’t always need to work. I just need to remember that.

September Goals

Happy September!

The calendar has turned, the kids have returned to school, and my heart is filled with joy! I can’t even tell you how much I struggle with summer and how much happier and free I feel in fall. I love my kids, but I’m a much better mom when I’m not with them 24 hours a day. I think they’re happier too, having a normalized routine, seeing their friends every day, using their brains and bodies for more than just laying around the house, eating three solid meals with a lot less random snacking, and feeling a greater sense of purpose in their own lives. I love the fresh beginnings, the cooling temperatures, and most of all – seven blessed hours at home to myself every day. I can breathe again and I love it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about goals now that the season has shifted and with what mindsets and intentions I want to carry with me into the fall. I was going to do an all-encompassing fall goals list, but I decided that September, October, and November are all so vastly different, I’m better off keeping these on a month by month basis. I do much better with short term goals that I can think about often and actually reach.

1. Get back to routine.

Easy enough, right!? I feel like with my own personal routines I’m pretty good at staying on task for 11 months of the year, and then August comes and everything slides away. I start sleeping in later, I stop persisting with Annie’s and my exercise routines, and I let meal planning and cooking really fall to the wayside. It’s hard to pick it all up again in full force come September. But I’m ready. The hardest part is going to be getting disciplined in the mornings. I never have much issue waking up early, but more often than not I end up wasting so much of my best mental energy just doing stupid things on my computer. Anyway, I’m going to write out what I’d like my ideal routine to look like. I think about 90% of school days should be able to follow this routine without much hiccup!

A. Wake up by 5:30 every day and take a shower immediately if it doesn’t interfere with Greg’s morning schedule. (I get way too lazy when I put it off until later in the morning.)

B. Start each morning downstairs with a quiet time, devotional, writing a short gratitude list, and going over my bullet journal – which I definitely want to be consistent about using again.

C. If there is any remaining time before the boys get up, use it to do something for myself. Read, exercise, bake, write, etc.

D. Fully focus on the boys from 6:30 until when we leave for school. If I’m not trying to multitask with work or the internet, I will be a much better mom in the limited time I have with them.

E. Walk them both to school and walk an extra 15-45 minutes with Annie before coming home. Never go on my computer until after this whole morning routine is done!

F. Get down to work by 9:00. Hopefully most days that means actually working! Otherwise if it’s an errand running day, don’t put it off. Just go and get it over with.

G. Pick the boys up from school and just focus on them and homework and dinner until after we’ve eaten.

I. End each evening going over my bullet journal, writing about the day, filling in my tracking stats, and preparing for the next day.

2. Focus on WORKING.

Summer is over! I have the great privilege of working for myself and taking any time off whenever I need it. But that doesn’t change the fact that people are relying on me and if I’m not producing enough dolls, I’m going to lose their interest. And their money! 🙂 I’ve given myself a lot of leeway over the summer, which I think is the right choice. But it’s time to stop coddling myself and just sit down and focus. Fall and Halloween dolls are always huge sellers and I’m definitely behind on where I should be at this time of year. So unless I have a grand excuse not to be, I’d ideally like to put in at least six hours a day for the rest of the month.

3. Take care of my body.

My high blood pressure at the doctor’s appointment the other day has been a bit of a wake up call. I often think of my being overweight as just being an inconvenience to finding clothes that fit and look good on me. When you realize that you actually have internal things going on that ARE NOT GOOD FOR YOU, it’s kind of eye opening. I mean, I’m not stupid and I realize I’m not exactly healthy. But it’s also been hard to put exercise first when I broke my ankle and couldn’t walk for three months and the following three months have still been filled with pain. But it needs to be a higher priority here on out. I have sub goals for this too!

A. Walk Annie for at least 30 minutes every morning and take a second afternoon or evening walk when time and mosquitoes allow it. (They are a NIGHTMARE right now.) Always bring earbuds wherever I go because it makes walking a lot more interesting and takes my attention off of how my ankle feels.

B. Do the Yoga with Adriene Commune 14 Day Challenge. In January, I did a 30 day yoga challenge with her videos and I actually rather liked it. There were days and poses that I absolutely hated, but there were other days when I realized how much better I would feel if I made this a regular practice in my life. My doctor is all about the yoga. My best friend is all about the yoga. I think it’s time to give it another shot. I don’t see this as something I’ll do every day of my life, but I think doing a 14 day challenge will help propel in the right direction to do it at least 2-3 times a week.

C. Eat better. Just plain eat better. Plan meals. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Stop buying so much crappy food. Stop eating so many crappy snacks. Fill the fridge with healthy choices every single week. Drink a whole lot more water. Be a healthier person by making the healthier decisions.

4. Give Caden a great birthday month!

September is the start of birthday season in our family. Caden and I and at least half of our extended family has birthdays these last four months of the year. It gets a little crazy. (And expensive lol) But I think I have two good yet easy and manageable birthday parties planned for him now, as well as whatever he wants to do on his actual birthday. I still need to brainstorm some good gift ideas. But I’m on track for everything going well, I think! I’m not always the greatest at making people feel special, but I really hope he comes out of this birthday time feeling loved and important.

5. HAVE FUN!

The last few weeks have been very much about just surviving. Getting through life without losing my mind. I’m hoping September will be a lot more fun! It SHOULD be. But sometimes I let all the chaos overwhelm me and I can’t really enjoy anything. But starting with this weekend I’m going to a Popcast Live Show (CANNOT WAIT) and having a super mini vacation by myself. At the end of the month I have my beloved Cranberry Fest trip with my parents. I’m hoping to get to the awesome fall farmers markets as often as possible on the weeks in between. I’m hoping to reconnect with some friends after barely seeing or talking to anyone all summer. And I want to give myself a good amount of self care and fun excursions when I know I need them. It’s going to be great!

Quick August Reflections

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I wanted to write a reflection post on the month of August. Honestly, August felt like the longest month of my life. June and July flew by and I can barely even remember them. August seemed to last forever. It was five very long weeks packed with adventure, excitement, turmoil, sadness, pain, irritability, exhaustion, and memories. Lots of good, lots of bad. A huge part of me just feels like saying good riddance and forgetting about it all together because it’s already done and over. But I feel like I’m doing myself a disservice not to briefly reflect on it, because reflecting is how I make positive changes and move forward with my life in the right direction. But I will try to be quick! My mind is currently MUCH more focused on September and all the awesomeness that will begin tomorrow WHEN SCHOOL STARTS!!!

I had four goals in August and I think it really helped to keep them to a minimum and keep them obtainable! I’ll have to keep that in mind tomorrow when I write my post about September/fall goals!

1. Make Memories!

I definitely made a lot of memories this past month. We had our little cottage weekend vacation with Greg’s parents and relatives. I had my solo vacation to Minnesota which was equal parts fun and frustration. We had our family trip to La Crosse which went really well, not counting all the bed bug stress (but hey, it was a memory that we’ll NEVER forget!). We took care of Hudson and had two night sleepover. Caden got to see two theater movies with Greg and Shepard and I had a nice Mod Pizza date night. We spent another day with Greg’s relatives which is always enjoyable. The boys had tons of low key friend time with the neighborhood gang. I had a couple of evenings and a Saturday to myself, which I always appreciate A TON in summer when it’s so rare. Greg and I had a date night at a local restaurant. And the boys, my mom, and I had a really special day in Madison together. We were busy! We also had a whole lot of crappy things happen in August, but I think the good outweighed the bad.

2. Read 12 or more books!

I really tried to make reading one of my highest priorities this month, just because it makes me so happy. It’s always hard to get much genuine work done with kids running around all day in the summer, but I’m always able to read. I gave myself plenty of opportunity and validation to spend hours a day some days, just lounging and reading. It was pretty awesome! I read 12 books in total, just as I’d hoped. Books and reading are such a huge part of my life and my biggest hobby and I liked giving myself permission to just go ahead and do it when it’s the only thing I felt like.

3. Make and start an end of summer/fall doll schedule. 

I wasn’t super successful with this. With over a week of vacation at the beginning of the month and a whole bunch of stressful chaotic things happening the last two weeks of the month, it didn’t give me much time to work. I did make a batch of back to school dolls, which went over pretty well. I also ordered more fall and Halloween fabrics to make some fresh new dolls when I have more time. I was hoping to have a big release of new dolls tomorrow, on the first day of school, but the weird pinched nerve in my back these last four days prevented me from ever sitting down and working. Oh well, that’s just life. I know that summer is a very slow time for producing and for sales. I just expected more of myself this year after all the time off I needed to take after I broke my ankle in spring. But I’ll just need to remember next year that working simply can’t be my highest priority. It’s easier as the boys get older, but I still need to be available to them. I will have to make up for this in September.

4. Write every possible day.

Well, this was a big fat fail! As I feel like I’ve already explained three times, this month turned out to be insane. August is usually one of our slowest months of the year and this year it was so busy and packed and exhausting. I just did not have the mental energy or physical time to sit down and write in the ways I had hoped. Reading, which requires a lot less effort, was my go to when I got any sort of break from everything life was throwing at us. And I’m okay with it. But I do truly hope to start writing a lot more often in the future months.

Overall, I’d say it was one of my best summers to date. It helps that the boys keep themselves pretty entertained on their own now, especially if their friends are available to play. We didn’t go on as many day trips as we usually do, but we still had a lot of fun times together. I think that at least until this last week when I was just DONE, I kept a pretty good attitude and accepted the chaos instead of being incredibly overwhelmed by it (most of the time). I appreciate these few months a year I get to see my kids all day every day. I LOVE when they go back to school, but I did a really good job of pushing that out of my mind and not wishing the days away. As a whole, it was a good summer. But I’m also really glad it’s over. 🙂

(Side note: This photo is from a week and a half ago when I randomly decided to dye my hair for the first time in ten years. Can you tell?? Probably not! I don’t think a single person noticed. I was trying to keep it as close to my natural color, just hoping for a bit more vibrancy. I guess I picked a little too close because it looks EXACTLY the same.)

Vignette of a Hard Day

Parenting is hard. Parenting an extremely emotional and behaviorally challenged child is sometimes debilitating.

These hard days aren’t new. They’re not a surprise. I’ve been having days like this multiple times a week for almost ten years now. And yet they still have the power to knock me down and question my ability to be a mom, every single time.

Let’s start with this morning. We were at the vet, for the cats’ annual checkup. Both cats are pretty subdued and cooperative, but Jack was vibrating with a low growl the entire time. Caden assumed the growl meant he was in pain and was getting really worried about him. He reached over to pet him about the same time they were going to give him his vaccinations and the nurse gently said, “Oh no, don’t touch his face right now, we don’t want him to bite you.” Caden immediately burst into tears. He went to the corner of the room, curled into a ball, and cried the remaining 15 minutes we were in the room.

I understand why the nurse asked him not to touch Jack, and she honestly was not in any way harsh about what she said. But it almost killed me to have him reprimanded for doing something kind and loving, when that’s a side I see so little of. He was heartbroken, thinking Jack was being hurt, and upset that he got scolded for genuinely trying to give him love. I tried to comfort him and help him understand, but he’s not the kind of kid who wants comfort.

Jump to this afternoon. The third day in a row with no neighborhood friends available to play. This summer has gone pretty great when friends are around. No friends, though, means they turn on each other. Caden does everything in his power to push Shepard’s buttons. In his personal space, making disgusting noises with his mouth, sitting on top of his head, touching his back and arms. It is completely predictable how he will behave the minute he gets bored. In turn, Shepard eventually responds with violence, screaming, or crying. And it goes on, and on, and on.

My children are the best of friends. They also have NO IDEA how to spend time apart from each other. They truly believe they have to spend every waking minute within two feet of each other, even if they’re fighting. After a break in fighting they come and ask me what to do because they’re bored. I list a bunch of jobs. They tell me no. I list ideas of things to play with. They tell me no. They go back to fighting with each other and then come back to beg for screen time, which they’ve already had too much of, because it’s the only time I can ever get any of my work done. They thrive on taking advantage of me and wearing me down to the point of exasperation. They take all of my “I don’t know’s” as yeses and go ahead with whatever they wanted to do. I lose battle after battle because I don’t have any energy left to fight.

When it seems they’re incapable of doing anything except wrestling and getting on each other’s nerves, I tell them to go take breaks in their rooms for awhile. After telling me no over and over and over again, they eventually go, but I can hear that they’re still in the same room. I decided to let it go today because I wanted to take a quick nap. I’ve had a terrible time sleeping these last two weeks and my regular school year afternoon naps are few and far between in summertime. I thought I could have twenty minutes of rest until they charged back down. I swear the second I closed my eyes they were in the same room as me again. Wrestling on the dog bed across the room. Whispering, loudly, fully intending to keep me awake, but under the guise of “trying to be quiet.” I gave up on sleep, again. I yelled at them to find something to do. Caden responded by getting in my face and trying to push MY buttons, bored with pushing Shepard’s.

And then an entire afternoon of him being so dang proud of himself for getting under my skin. Me knowing full well he was pushing and still responding anyway. I tried to keep my cool. I always try. I’m onto him, always. But I can’t always be the bigger man. He wouldn’t go to his room for time outs. He kept babytalk begging me to play games, even though he knew I already took everything away. He kept pushing the doorbell over and over again because he knew I was trying to watch a show while I worked. When I yelled at him and couldn’t think of the word for doorbell he laughed and made fun of me. I chased him to the stairs. He went halfway up and refused to move. I gave up and went back to my computer, deciding ignoring him was the better option. While he was messing around he somehow tripped and fell down half the staircase, hurting his knee. I walked over to make sure nothing looked broken and then I walked away. I am a terrible mom because all I can think about is how if he would JUST LISTEN we would never be in these situations.

The afternoon continued with more of the same. I kept up my new ignoring tactic and he got even more in my face. I went upstairs to empty garbages and he got out a toy gun he got at the fair last week. He held it to my head and pulled the trigger. I ripped it out of his hands and threw it in the garbage bag I was holding. That is apparently what “broke him.” He ran to his room, slammed the door a few times, and cried.

I don’t want to have to get to the point of breaking him. Yet somehow, after literally hours of this behavior, I have to be a tiny bit relieved that it’s finally over. I broke him so he would stop breaking me. Because he did and he does. Today I was defeated. But believe me, I felt no triumph over my eventual win. These power struggles are so old. And so soul wrenching.

These are my days. Parenting is hard. Summer is SO hard. I’ve given it my absolute best effort, but I’m done. Just two more weeks. I hope we can all survive it.

Late Summer Vacations in Minnesota and La Crosse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ended the night at Grandad Bluff. So pretty!

We were so color coordinated, without even trying!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Biggest Regret

Last night I found myself thinking a lot about my biggest regret. I’m not really sure why, other than that it’s on the list of blog post prompts I accumulated for this month. It’s not something I dwell on often, but it’s definitely where my mind jumps when the topic of regrets pops up somewhere. My biggest regret is pretty simple: not finishing my college experience and getting the degrees I wanted at Edgewood College, where I started. (Photo of my freshman dorm because I apparently never took a picture of any other part of campus.)

In high school I worked really hard and got fantastic grades. That’s such a weird time in your life where your academic achievements really define who you are. And those definitions stick with you, like it or not. It’s probably the reason I still feel so much regret, 13 years later. When I started looking for colleges, I knew I wanted to go private. I wanted something small and personal that wouldn’t be overwhelming to me. I also didn’t want to stray too far because Greg was a year older than me and at UW Madison. We had already been together for 3.5 years at that point and had no desire to risk losing our relationship. So I landed on Edgewood. It was close to Greg, it was close to home, and it had everything I wanted. I knew right from the start that I was going to double major in English Writing and Graphic Design and I formed the perfect plan getting all my general studies and most of my English classes done in the first two years and saving up the best and most exciting Graphic Design classes for my final year. I took a few summer classes and would have definitely graduated a semester early. Maybe even a year if I had pushed it a tiny bit more.

Unfortunately, my lack of patience and desperation got in the way of me following through on the plan. Halfway through my sophomore year, on our 5th anniversary together, Greg proposed. We were young, for sure. But also, five years together without a permanent promise was hard for me to swallow. So at the age of 20, we were engaged. That summer, Greg took an internship in Minnesota that was sure to guarantee him a full time job right after he graduated the following year. Graduation that would have happened eight months earlier than mine in December. I didn’t want to wait that long to get married. I didn’t want to get married and then live apart for eight months. We were so stupid. I was stupid for not seeing the ways we could have worked around this extremely brief period of time in the grand scheme of our lives.

To be fair, I didn’t just up and drop out of college after all I had worked for. I researched Minnesota colleges that I could transfer to. I took the steps for transfer and was accepted into the very prestigious Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with plans to complete my Graphic Design degree, which was sure to land me a myriad of career opportunities, especially in such a large city. I remember being SO proud of myself for getting into MCAD. When I told my friends and teachers that I was transferring they were proud of me too. It was a big deal.

So with the transfer set in place for the following fall, I finished up at Edgewood in the middle of my junior year and went back home for the next six months to work, save money, and plan out all the wedding details. That was Greg’s last semester of college and we got married two weeks after he graduated and immediately moved to Minnesota.

That summer is when all my hopes and dreams fell apart. We got my financial aid package for MCAD and finally realized that wow, this is an EXTREMELY expensive school. I already had a massive amount of loans from Edgewood and I didn’t have anyone to cosign on any more. Greg just started his job and didn’t have the solid employment history they needed to guarantee that we’d pay. With many, many tears, I had to drop out before I even began.

What should have been the happiest time of my life – newly married and finally with the man I waited six and a half years for – ended up being so hard. I was in a new state with no friends, no way to graduate with the degrees I identified so strongly with, no career options or even a job. In hindsight, I was such an idiot! We could have still gotten married when we did in May. We could have spent the summer together and I could have lived with my parents that one final semester, one of us driving every weekend so we could still be together. It would have been a whopping three and a half months of inconvenience and I would have graduated, gotten a real career, and probably had a drastically different life than I do now. And it’s not that I hate my life now, but there’s always that niggling wonder at the back of my mind how it could have been different if I had just stayed the course. I’m definitely sad that I wasn’t able to finish at MCAD either, but Edgewood would have clearly been the simplest and easiest option! I loved it there. And I loved both of my intended degrees equally. I will always, always regret my haste to jump into wedded bliss, thinking there was no viable option for finishing what I had started. It didn’t have to be one or the other. But I couldn’t see that then.

Anyway. In the Rachel Hollis movie last week, she pointed out that you should always give yourself credit for how far you have come. I’m happy to say that I do not regret never getting a degree, because I did. I never gave up completely, it just didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. Later that summer I enrolled at an online art school and graduated with a certificate in Graphic Design. I’m not sure a certificate would have ever landed me a life changing career, but it did give me more experience. I also had to take a lot of self-employed type business courses, which maybe trickled down and are helping me now. I was still so discouraged that I didn’t have a degree to show for all my work – and money! – so when I finished my certificate I was able to enroll with an online degree completion course through UMass Boston. For two years I worked so hard in all my extra time and finally graduated with a real bachelor’s degree in Community Studies. And that last semester I had a newborn to boot, so it felt like quite an accomplishment.

I’m proud of myself for never giving up. I’m glad that I have a degree, even though I’m not using it. But I will always regret not finishing at Edgewood with the degrees I dreamed about my entire life.

August Goals and Intentions

At the end of June I posted an update on all my summer goals that I set for myself. It was a pretty lofty list of admirable intentions and attitudes I hoped to possess over these three crazy months. Instead of revisiting that list for a third time, I decided to write something entirely new for the month of August. I have just under 5 weeks left before school starts and I want to make them count. But I also want to keep them simple and achievable and full of fun. So here we go!

1. Make memories!

We usually save up all of the most exciting summer activities for August. This year has been no different. I put in a lot of hours of work in between the chaos the last two months, and I’d like to take this final month to prioritize family time. I’m taking the boys to the State Fair tomorrow, we have a weekend mini vacation planned with Greg’s parents, we have a two night family vacation next week, and we have a bunch of day trips already booked in those last couple of weeks. There will definitely still be days here and there where we just stay home, but I want to make those count too. Continue morning walks with the boys, maybe check out some more local restaurants for afternoon treats, and just go to the pool. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have only taken them to the pool during the day ONCE this entire summer so far. Greg definitely makes up for it with evening trips, but I should try a little harder. I’ve lived my life extremely agenda driven in June and July, and I want to let loose and be okay with letting things slide in August.

2. Read 12 or more books!

I was looking back and saw that I read 9 books each in July, June, and May. Which isn’t terrible. I know many people read a lot less than that, which is fine. But I’m in this facebook book club group and at the end of every month people post what they read and so many people have more like 15-20! Which seems insane to me! But if I’m already going to be easing up on work this month, I might as well spend more time reading! Or add in a few more audiobooks in place of podcasts. My TBR piles and lists are GIGANTIC. It would be awesome to make a big dent in it this month. And if I don’t read that many? No big deal. I’m just hoping to challenge myself a bit. And give me an excuse TO just sit down and read.

3. Make and start an end of summer/fall doll schedule. 

Sales were booming in June and greatly dropped by the end of July. Which is kind of frustrating. The only thing I can attribute to the decline is that people just really like holiday themed dolls, and I don’t make many of those in summer! I actually love summer doll making because I get to express more creativity and the sky is basically the limit in what types of dolls I make. I’ve been having a lot of fun really pushing the boundaries on what a “prim doll” really might look like. Lots of color, lots of new hair textures, a lot of new stamp discoveries. I’ve had fun and lost customers because of it! Anyway, Halloween dolls are usually my best sellers, so I guess I will reluctantly start moving into that season. I’d really love to finish off the summer with some sort of big boom of dolls, though. I’m considering a large batch of ornament sized dolls, which I’ve avoided for months (so much work for so little profit). But they’re fast, and people LOVE them, so it would garner more interest in my shop again. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an alphabet themed set of dolls. I bought the cutest set of vintage mini alphabet playing cards at a store last summer and have been thinking about this idea ever since. It’s just a really big thing to take on. Maybe August is the month for it? My third option is to just jump right into fall/harvest themed dolls and maybe save them up for a unique facebook sale on the first day of school or something. Lots to consider.

4. Write every possible day.

I’ve done a really crappy job of writing more often this summer as planned. I basically just write my journal-like weekend posts and book and tv posts at the end of the month. I really want this blog to be more than that. But I struggle so much with how to go about doing that! So I did a little research on random blog prompts and want to challenge myself to write a whole lot more this month. I think my biggest hangup is that people really don’t care about what I have to say. But…so what? It’s not like I’m forcing anyone to read this. I’m already only posting it to a facebook page that a whopping 22 people follow! I don’t have to feel bad about being annoying. I can write what I want, when I want, and if nobody reads it I really don’t care! I’d love to have a whole lot more interaction that I do now, but maybe writing more would push that forward. Anyway, I was strongly considering a blog post for every day of the month. But I think that’s a bit too hard to achieve considering I already know there at least 12 days this month I either won’t be home at all, or only briefly in the mornings and evenings. So I won’t put on the pressure for a daily post, no matter what. But I’m going to do more! I PROMISE this time. 🙂

And that’s it! Just four broad intentions and goals for the month of August. I think I can do it!

Summer Goals Update and Saturday Reflections 06.30.2018

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

Update on achievable goals:

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

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

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

Update on parenting goals:

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

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

Update on family connection goals:

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

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

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

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

Update on personal achievement goals:

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

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

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

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

Update on health related goals:

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

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

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

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

Saturday Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Fight My Seasonal Allergies

The spring after I gave birth to Shepard, I was shocked to find out that I suddenly developed seasonal allergies. Without really any knowledge, I dove into over the counter remedies hoping to find something that would help, to no avail. My itchy wretched eyes were my worst symptom and I think I tried every eye drop known to man. When I called to make an appointment with an allergist, they told me I had to have an eye exam and then a regular doctor exam before I could be referred to them. I was so annoyed with the system that I just decided I’d suffer through.

The next spring when it started happening again, I got the eye exam. No problems. I got the regular exam and was referred to an allergist – only to be told I couldn’t get in until the end of July – by then my allergies were done. I guess the good news is that I was no longer taking random antihistamines by then, so they were able to do official allergy testing. Turns out I’m allergic to grass, ragweed, fall mold, and cockroaches. Grass being the one that feels like it’s going to kill me, or at the very least make me go blind by my own scratching, every single spring and summer.

Anyway, it’s taken me seven years of deadly Mays and Junes to finally work out all the medications and tricks I should use to keep the worst of my suffering at bay. The problem is that there are so many different components I often forget everything I use from year to year, since I usually only have 2-3 months of suffering. So I’m writing this post mostly for my own benefit so I can refer back to it each spring and know what to do to make myself feel the best I can! But maybe it will also be helpful to other people suffering from the same allergy who haven’t perhaps researched or tried out more than just your basic antihistamine.

Zyrtec

My allergist told me that Zyrtec was the most effective over the counter medicine to take. I think by the time I talked to him I had tried all of them and definitely realized that Allegra made me feel like crap and Claritin didn’t help at all. The key is that you need to build it up in your system before allergy season actually starts for it to be most effective. I usually start taking it daily in March, when allergies usually hit me mid to late May. My allergist also told me it’s safe to take a double dose on the worst days. I try not to, but I know I’ve done it on occasion, especially on those days I know I’m going to be outside all day long. Also – buy the generic brand at Costco – you can get a bottle of 365 pills for less than $20. It’s massively more expensive to buy the name brand anywhere else.

Singulair (Montelukast Sodium)

This is my trickiest solution because you need a prescription for it. It’s technically a medication used to treat asthma, but it’s done wonders with making my allergies a little more bearable each year. My original allergist prescribed it to me, saying it’s often used to help with seasonal allergies. The annoying thing is that if you want the prescription filled each year, from the allergist, you actually have to go to yearly appointments. Which seems really, really dumb to me, especially with how hard it is to get an actual appointment. Fortunately, my regular doctor fills this for me each year without needing to see me.

Zaditor

Like I said before, itchy eyes are my worst allergy symptom. The sneezing, stuffiness, and coughing – I can deal with. Eyes that I want to shred out of my face every minute of the day are a little harder to ignore. Last year a friend of mine suggested this brand of eye drop, which I hadn’t tried before because it’s a little more expensive. And guess what? It works! Better than anything else I’ve tried, including prescription eye drops. Fair warning – it definitely stings going in. But give it a few minutes and you genuinely will feel some relief. It’s not the be all end all of eye itchiness, but it really does help.

Flonase

This is another remedy I’ve found to really be helpful in the last couple of years. It’s also the thing I always forget to take. I believe I originally was prescribed a nasal spray, but it was crazy expensive. Flonase is expensive too, but not as much as a prescription! The doctors actually said that a nasal spray helps a lot with eye symptoms, which seems odd. But it’s the truth! When my allergies were really bad a couple of weeks ago it finally hit me that I totally forgot about the Flonase. Once I started taking that again every morning I’ve been feeling so much better. (It just occurred to me that Costco probably has a generic and much cheaper brand of this too.)

Allerest PE

As you can see, I’m already very heavily medicated April through July! But on those occasional days when I’m still absolutely miserable, I’ll take an Allerest, or possibly a Sudafed (I think they’re about the same thing). I don’t know if pollen counts are lower this year, or I finally have everything under control, but I’ve only had to take this twice this year. But it’s good to have on hand, especially when the sinus side of things starts getting bad. My sinuses are usually pretty manageable if I don’t spend a lot of time outside. (Also – this is super expensive if you buy it from amazon, but I’m pretty sure it was only a couple of dollars at Walgreen’s or Target, or wherever I saw it and decided it was worth trying out.)

Eye Wash

A couple of times every allergy season I inevitably rub some sort of irritant into my eye that is impossible to get out. It’s so painful and so itchy and unignorable because I literally can’t open that eye up to see out of it. Last year after a particular awful episode, I was doing some mad googling and sent Greg to Walgreen’s to find this eye wash – something I had never heard of before. And guys, it’s pretty amazing. You pour the solution into a little cup, hold it over your eye while you open and close it a few times, and then dump it out. Almost always, it gets the dirt or pollen or whatever out. I felt like I discovered a miracle last year when I learned about this. It’s also just a good thing to use every night before bed if you’re having a lot of eye irritation.

Germ Guardian Air Purifier

I bought this two years ago when I was feeling particularly desperate. I ran it next to my bed day and night and I think it really helped. Unfortunately, once it needs a new filter it will no longer work. And the filter only lasted that one 2-3 month season. The purifier itself costs $85 and a single new filter costs $30. Quite the rip off! BUT if you’re absolutely desperate, I think this is a good idea.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Always wear sunglasses outside! Seems pretty obvious, but I usually only bring sunglasses out of my car if I know I’m going to be outside for hours at a time. But if I remember to have them on every single time I’m outside, the protection for my eyes is noticeable for sure!
  • Keep windows closed! Also pretty obvious, but it’s a hard thing to enforce when you’re the only one in your family suffering from allergies and you just had your windows closed for the last eight months of winter and everyone is desperate for fresh air! We compromise by me keeping the windows shut in my sewing room where I spend most of my day and in our bedroom.
  • Wash your face before bed. I’m not always great about doing this, but I do ALWAYS use a makeup wipe. Maybe it’s mostly in my head, but it’s kind of crazy how much immediate relief I feel after wiping all those allergens away from my eyes.
  • Cold and wet washcloths are your best friend. Want the fastest and most immediate relief? This is your answer. At least for eyes. Which is always my biggest problem and what I most want to fix.
  • Shower before bed. Basically you just don’t want the pollen from your body and hair to ever get into your bed, where you’ll roll around in it all night and wake up feeling even worse. Unfortunately, I’m usually way too lazy to take this step, plus I hate going to bed with wet hair. But when I’m desperate, I’ll do it. I also change our sheets often in summer to try and avoid too much pollen build up.
  • Avoid going outside! Duh, right? 😀 June is always my worst month, so it’s the month I sign my kids up for summer school. Because they’re busy a big chunk of the day, I don’t feel at all guilty for not scheduling extra day trips or fun activities in the afternoons. I get away with spending very little time outside every June, and it really helps!

Obviously I am not a doctor and don’t take my word as truth for all. But hopefully some of these tips and tricks might give you a few ideas for dealing with your own seasonal allergies. It’s one of the most fun times of the year, and it’s not worth feeling the misery of just accepting your fate and dealing with it every summer. Take the steps you need to take to make yourself feel at least a little bit better!

Summer Goals to Thrive (and not just survive)

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

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

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

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

General parenting goals to survive the day to day

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

Fun goals for family connection

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

Personal achievement goals

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

Health related goals

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

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