Planners, Journals, Notebooks, etc.

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Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one of my favorite little nooks of the house. I start and end every day at this beautiful hand crafted writing desk I bought myself a couple years ago after a successful craft fair venture. My table is tucked in a corner of my sewing room and it’s my favorite space to sit down and get centered.

One of my goals for the year is to become more balanced, and all the books at this table have been awesome tools in getting me started. Granted I’ve only been using a lot of them successfully for the last ten days, but it’s been going so well I don’t think I’ll have a problem continuing throughout the year.

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Finding a perfect planner has always been a huge struggle. I’m a little bit obsessed with the hunt, though. Last summer I finally settled on one that felt like the perfect fit for what I needed it for: Bloom Daily Planners. All of the designs are really pretty and they come in various formats. I love the spiral binding so they’ll lay flat. My favorite feature is how it shows a week at a time. I’m much better at planning out my weeks when I can easily see what’s on the agenda for every day and space out my to do lists. I usually take a look on Sundays at what absolutely needs to be done and then add in smaller things each morning that I feel like I can accomplish. I use the empty spaces at the bottom of the page to plan out dinners. I’m not great at filling in the extra sections, but each week has a spot for goals and your main focus for the week. Sometimes I add those in, but most of the time I really use this planner as a spot for my to do’s.

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At the start of 2017 I really wanted an additional planner or guided journal that would help me stay focused on my aspiration to be more balanced this year. I stumbled across The Dailygreatness website and their awesome selection of yearly planners. It was really hard to decide which one to get because they all looked great. But I settled on the most all encompassing journal. I’ve only been using it since the start of the year, but I absolutely love it. Each morning you answer a couple of questions about your intentions for the day, a short gratitude list, or various other small journal prompts. You also fill in four “I AM” statements. One of mine every morning has been “I AM worth taking care of.” Writing it on a daily basis has helped me remember every day to make better eating choices and find time for exercise.

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At the end of the day you’re supposed to go back to the planner and answer the questions after reflecting on your day. It makes me think about what I did right and what I could do better with. All of the questions are very positive focused and it’s given me a better attitude about myself and how I spend my time. There’s also the obvious section for planning your days, though most of mine are left blank. I have very few actual commitments throughout the week besides school pick up and drop off! But it’s nice to have the space when needed. If I wasn’t using the other planner for to do lists, I’d probably add those in here. But I do really like the weekly format from Bloom. In addition to Dailygreatness’s daily pages, there are also quarterly goal worksheets, and more extensive journal pages. I haven’t had a lot of time to work through those yet. The only downside of this journal is that it goes on a six week format. The seventh day is for overall reflection and planning for the following week.

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I’ve enjoyed my Dailygreatness planner so much that I gave in and also ordered their Wellness journal. I haven’t started it yet because I just got it yesterday and want to start at the beginning of the week. But the obvious focus on this journal is taking care of your overall wellbeing. It has journal space for thoughts on your body and health. It has an area to record your daily workouts. And a big section on meal planning. I’m hoping to really use this to keep track of what I eat every day. Hopefully planning out my meals ahead of time, so I don’t succumb to binging on junk food when I feel most hungry. The snacks and meals will already be planned out for me in my journal.

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I’ve always been obsessed with pretty notebooks. Always. Last year I jumped on the bullet journal craze, but I just couldn’t get into finding a way to organize my entire life in a single plain looking notebook. So I’ve strayed from the idea a bit, but kind of consider this pile of flowery goodness my own version of the bullet journal. Each notebook has its own purpose and is ready and waiting for when I need to use it. I have blogging ideas in one, a list of happiness tips in another, and Annie ideas in another. The rest are blank and waiting for their purpose!

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I love the idea of a five year journal. Which is why I’ve picked up three of them in the last few years! I’ve been really bad in the past with writing in them consistently, but now that it’s part of my nightly rituals, I’m hoping to stick with it. The Q&A a Day book is my favorite because it’s really fun to look back and see how I answered each prompt differently in years past. I use the One Line a Day book to try and write a brutally honest sentence about my day. I want to remember what made me the most happy that day, or what brought me down. I use The Happiness Project for Mothers journal to write something about one or both of my kids. Usually something funny one of them said, but occasionally I write about a struggle we had that day. Besides these short and fun journals that I write in each night, I also have a regular journal that ideally I’d fill up daily. My hand starts to hurt far too often, though, so it’s more of a once a week thing.

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And finally, I like to keep a few fun extra books at my desk to fill out when I’m feeling especially bored or contemplative. I really, really like journals, guys. 🙂 These are new for this year because I wanted fresh inspiration at my fingertips. They both look like a lot of fun, though!

And besides all my various planners and journals, I also keep my Bible and a devotional book at my desk to read in the mornings. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s really been such a better way to start my day than wasting time on my computer each morning. I feel so much more focused and ready to tackle anything, after 10-15 minutes of planning and intention each morning. It’s also really great spending those few minutes at the end of the day reflecting on how everything worked out.

I’d love to hear about any special journals or tools you use to keep on top of your life!

2017: New Year of Balance and Wellbeing

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Happy new year!

Well, it was another low key New Year’s celebration in our house. It used to bother me a little bit that we were so boring year after year, but now I’m totally okay with it. We had a nice taco dinner and piled on the couch to watch a movie together. Then we watched a plethora of Netflix countdown videos around 8:30 and put the boys to bed. Someday, verrrry far down the road, maybe they’ll actually be able to handle staying up until midnight. Right now that would turn them into total monsters for a week. So after they were settled, Greg and I watched another movie, shared some jalapeno popper dip, started a second movie, and then I declared myself desperate for sleep at 10:45. Normally I really do try to stay up until midnight (doesn’t always happen), but I’ve had a terrible cold the last few days and thought if I could actually fall asleep for once I needed to go do it. I think Greg spent the last hour of 2016 playing a video game. We’re super exciting people. 🙂

Overall, the last week of the year, our Christmas vacation, was quiet and nice and a little disappointing. Greg and the boys had bad colds through Christmas and nobody was really their best selves. I was psycho stressed in the beginning of the week trying to deal with all the new toys and stuff that needed to be put away and organized. Then I was gearing up for some fun activities the second half of the week, but I caught the cold and didn’t want to do anything. I spent the majority of the week reading and resting. Caden played video games all week. Shepard built legos all week. Greg spent his week helping everybody else with their stuff and working. I regret not being able to do more fun things, like I saw all my friends doing on facebook. But I’m also kind of REALLY ready for my kids to get back to school and get back into a routine. I miss being home alone.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to think about the new year and how I’d like to improve my life in 2017. I sat down to write a list of aspirations for myself and realized everything I hope to change can fall into two main categories: Balance and Wellbeing. In the last few months I’ve found myself stressed over and over again by how imbalanced I feel. I really struggle with organizing my time throughout the day in a way that makes me feel fulfilled and content. I also just want to take better care of myself in general.

BALANCE

Time for Work

This has probably been my biggest struggle in the last four months. I want Heartstring Annie to basically be my full time job and I want it to be successful. I want it to be the priority of most of my days, but also be able to step away from it at 3:00 and not feel the need to keep working late into the night because I didn’t do enough during the day. I want to keep searching for new inspiration to try sewing new things, while continuing to work on dolls and bears that I know my customers will love. I’d like to actually keep my etsy store fully stocked at all times by putting out new creations week after week. In theory, this should be pretty easy. My problem is DISTRACTIONS. I waste so much time mindlessly trolling the internet every day. Facebook is the worst, but I also get trapped by pinterest and food blogs and amazon way too often. Maybe I need to turn my computer off every day. Turn off all notifications on my phone. Some sort of physical step I can take to keep myself away from the temptation of wasting my time. Once that’s eliminated, finding time to work should be easy.

Time for Writing

I’ve loved starting this blog up again. It’s something I’d like to continue working on a couple of times a week. It doesn’t feel like a job or something I have to tick off my to do list because I’ve been writing when I want to and when I need to. As long as it comes easy to me, I want to continue. But I’d also like to do more personal journaling and focus on the couple of daily planners I got myself for this year (more on that another day!). Writing has always been immensely therapeutic to me and I want it to be a higher priority, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there every day.

Time for Family

I’d like to work on this by breaking out of the parenting routine we’ve established in the last eight years. I’ve always been a stay at home mom so for many years it made sense that I “put in my time” during the day and Greg took over when he got home from work so I could have some much needed me time. This dynamic doesn’t really make sense now that the boys are in school all day and I’ve only been alone with them the hour before and the two hours after school every day. Though those after school hours are really rough!! 🙂 I’d just like to try harder to bond with my kids in the evenings and weekends. Not obsessively try to spend every minute with them, but I’d like to be more open to setting aside my own agendas to sit down and play a game with them or take a walk with them or go sledding or cook something – anything that we can find to do together. I want to stop feeling like the odd (wo)man out in my own family.

I’d also like to focus more on my marriage. I want Greg and I to take better advantage of the times we do get to be alone together. I’d like to go on more actual dates because we always talk and connect so much better when we’re out of the house. And I’d like to try playing more board games together, the way we used to. I love our tv times every night because they’re comfortable and easy. But it’d be fun to switch things up every few days!

Time for Friends

Time for friends has gotten easier for me in recent years because my kids are getting older and they have a very capable Daddy that is totally supportive and encouraging of me going off and having fun in the evenings. The problem is that very few of my friends seem to have that same availability. I’ve kind of given up on even trying to go out anymore because it’s so frustrating trying to schedule an outing. So I want to try and find more creative ways to see my friends that will also fit their schedules. I don’t want to just give up, the way I usually do. It’s harder now because nobody will be inviting me out on playdates with no little kids at home! But that doesn’t mean I can’t invite somebody over to see me. Or out to lunch or something. I just want to try harder. I’d also like to continue having little get togethers one evening every couple of months, the way I did with my Favorite Things Party. It was really awesome providing a space for everyone to gather and just have fun without the kids for a few hours.

Time for the Mundane

This is going to sound really dramatic, but lately I feel like such a slave to everything that needs to get DONE around the house. Just the constant mundane tasks of making food, cleaning up after meals, tidying up clutter, and never ending laundry can just feel so all consuming and overwhelming. I realize that every person alive has to also go through all of this and it’s nothing special to me. But it still overwhelms me. Greg is helpful with a lot of household things, but the boys basically do nothing. I think this is the year they need to start being held accountable for regular household chores. I’m sick of feeling like the weight of so much everyday STUFF falls on me. Not only falls on me, but holds me down and wears me out so I have no time or energy left to give to the things I want – like sewing, reading, and FUN.

Time for Me

This moves on to the Wellbeing category, but yeah – I want to take better care of me. I want to prioritize the things I need and want to do with my time. Not ALL the time, but here and there on a daily basis. I’m important too.

WELLBEING

Okay, I’ll try to keep this portion a little shorter. 🙂 Basically, I want to focus on being a healthier person, inside and out.

Walking Goal

I want to start up my 10,000 steps a day walking goal again. I got really off track in December, but that’s no excuse not to start up again. I felt a lot better after those daily walks and they need to be one of my highest priorities.

Weekly Exercise Class

I love my Drumfit class and plan to continue taking it as long as it’s offered. If for whatever reason it stops being offered, I want to find a different class to try. Maybe Zumba, or maybe something fun at the Y. I just want to do that one night a week boost of something cardio based, yet fun.

Yoga

I’d like to start doing yoga at home a couple of days a week. I’m always tense and sore and a ten or fifteen minute session of stretching always helps. I’m just too lazy to sit myself down and do it most of the time. Not anymore.

Healthy Breakfasts

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, and I usually just have a piece of toast or bagel or whatever other carby thing I can find. I’d like to try harder to make myself protein rich healthy breakfasts that will fill me up until lunch, instead of leaving me starving an hour later.

Better Meal Planning

Life goes so much more smoothly when I know what’s for dinner every night! Shopping lists are a breeze with that tiny bit of extra planning. When I scramble for meals I get stressed out. I want to spend ten minutes a week actually looking at the food we already have and planning meals for the coming days.

Time for Fun

I don’t have a lot of fun in my life. I want to find ways to smile more, laugh more, relax and restore more. It’s as simple as taking ten minute reading breaks in between tasks during the day. I just want my happiness to stop being ruled by how much I can achieve during the day. That’s not what life should be about.

LOOKING AHEAD

As always, January 1st brings a lot of clarity and hope. I plan to come back to this list often to try and recenter my priorities and do what I need to have a most fulfilling life.

Unlike last year, this upcoming year has very little on the schedule. And I’m good with that! I don’t think we’ll be going on any vacations and there shouldn’t be any major life changes. We’ll just continue to settle into life with a house and focus on making the most of things!

There’s just one thing coming up in July that I can finally mention – I’m going to be an AUNT! My brother and his wife announced their pregnancy on Christmas Eve and it was about the greatest news ever. I’m so happy for them and really excited that my kids will have a cousin. 🙂 That alone will make this year awesome. Congrats!

The Best and Worst of 2016

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2016 was a pretty big year for our family. A lot of awesome things happened that made this one of the most eventful years of our lives. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the ups and downs over the last couple of days and wanted to get it into words so I can remember all that we went through. Many of the actual events made this a fantastic year. But a lot of the more abstract struggles I went through made it a harder year.

THE BEST PARTS OF THE YEAR

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We bought a house!

It’s been six long years since we decided to leave our lives in Minnesota and move back to Wisconsin so our children could know their family. That first year back when we were living in Greg’s parents’ basement, and then subletting a friend’s house, and then going back to his parents’ when her house sold, all while our house was sitting in MN unsold (not to mention I was pregnant and then had a newborn (and toddler!) during it all) was a very, very hard year. Our experiences with finally letting that house go in a short sale so we could move on with our lives, left us very weary of owning again. We moved to our apartment in Columbus and spent five fairly happy years there. We loved not having to deal with all the things that come with home owning and we were mostly content. But as the boys got older and wilder and clearly needed more space, we were starting to feel like it was time to move on again. So in a whirlwind of house showings in a crazy market this spring, we found our new home! A little over a month later it was ours! Buying this house has been the greatest blessing for our family. We live in an awesome neighborhood with lots of kids that the boys play with all the time. We’re only a couple of blocks from school so we can walk there, to parks, basically anywhere in town. The boys have their own rooms. I have a sewing room to continue building Hearstring Annie. We all have plenty of space to breathe and grow and thrive in the new house. We plan on living here a very, very long time.

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Having neighbors and friends on the very same block has been incredible.

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We didn’t have a ton of time to work on and enjoy the yard this first summer, but I’m looking forward to making better use of it from now on!

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Greg and his dad did build an awesome sandbox!

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Of course six months after I took these pictures the house looks a lot more lived in. 🙂 But it’s honestly so great.

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10 Year Anniversary

A couple days after buying the house, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary! It was fun to hit a milestone anniversary, though it also feels like we’ve been together so much longer than that. Well, we have – almost 17 years. But buying the house right before our anniversary made it feel extra special this year.

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10 Year Anniversary Vacation

Before we even talked about buying a house, we had planned out a cross country road trip to Charleston for our 10 year anniversary vacation. Most years we tend to just go away for a weekend, somewhere relatively close. This year we wanted it to be a bigger deal, so we had an eight day trip planned out with stops in Tennessee at the same cabin where we spent our honeymoon, a couple days in Charleston, and then a couple of alternate plans for how we might drive back home. When the trip rolled around, though, ONE WEEK after we bought our house, life was a little bit insane. We were both more tired than we’ve ever been in our lives, Greg had rolled his ankle during the move and was having a hard time walking, and we didn’t have a lot of money to spare. But we reveled in having time to ourselves after an overwhelming month and a half of packing, cleaning, moving, Mother’s Day, birthdays, school ending, etc. We spent a lot more time relaxing on the trip than going out and being adventurous in new cities. Charleston itself was quite a disappointment to us, but we had a great time in Tennessee on the way there and North Carolina on the way back. I’m so glad we decided to keep our plans and still go on this trip, despite everything else.

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More Opportunities to Entertain

Over the last few years, I’ve really been wanting more opportunities to invite people over. I love having parties, I love having friends come over here and there to hang out. But our apartment was not an ideal location, so it rarely happened. Since moving in we threw a big 4th of July bash, had family over a few times, threw birthday parties for Caden and my dad, and held my Favorite Things Party. I’m looking forward to a lot more chances to invite people over to celebrate the big and little things in life. I have the space, it can happen even when the boys are asleep, and it makes me happy!

I Found Podcasts

One of the most exciting things that happened this year was that I discovered podcasts! I talked a lot about this in my Favorite Podcasts post, but it really opened up this whole new world of entertainment and learning that changed so much for me. The best part about podcasts is that they can be listened to while doing other things. I rarely do household chores anymore without also listening to something entertaining. I love listening to creative and inspiring podcasts while I sew. Funny podcasts always accompany me while I’m walking. There are so many different things to listen to no matter what mood I’m in and I absolutely love it!

Exercising Became Fun

Okay, so I’m using the term “exercising” lightly. But in the middle of this summer after the house was mostly settled in and after I learned about podcasts – and Pokemon Go – I decided to start walking. In years past I always loved when Caden was in summer school because it gave me a built in time to walk around downtown and dream about my future. Now that future is my reality and it’s the greatest. Our apartment was about a mile away from the rest of the city, so walking was not part of my daily life. Now it is and I can’t be happier. I made a goal of 70,000 steps a week and for four months I exceeded that goal week after week. I was having fun, but also really proud of myself. Once December and snow and Christmas busyness came around, things have really started to slid. But I’m planning to get going again in the new year.

Besides walking so much more, I also joined a Drumfit class with my friend Laura. It was my first experience with an actual exercise class and I was really nervous about it. But with her moral support we started going and we both love it! It’s so much fun and the hour just flies by. I know that only going to a class once a week probably isn’t doing a whole lot for my overall health, but it’s better than not going at all! I definitely plan on continuing the class for as long as they keep offering it.

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Shepard Transitioned to Kindergarten Smoothly

This is something I was really worried about. He’s always been very difficult about going to school. I think he has some social anxiety when it comes to being in large groups of kids. He was in a summer school class in June to prepare him for kindergarten and drop off every day was HORRIBLE. Every day for three straight weeks he’d cry and scream and fight to follow me out the door while the teacher had to hold on to him. I was so sure that every day of kindergarten would be more of the same. But shockingly, amazingly, it’s gone really well. All thanks to Caden. Because there have been a couple of days when Caden was home sick and Shepard put up the biggest fights I’ve ever witnessed when trying to drop him off alone. But on days that they go together, he’s been fine! He spends a lot of time with Caden at lunch and recess, but as the months have rolled by I notice him talking about his own friends a lot more. He definitely seems like the most outgoing member of our family, so once the anxiety is behind him there’s no holding him back!

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Timmy and Brittany Moved Back

This was one of the most shocking developments of 2016. During a visit to WI in August, my brother dropped the bomb that they were moving back – in two weeks! They seemed to be living the dream out in California and none of us expected them to want to come home ever again. It was shocking, but really awesome! We’ve seen them a couple times a month since they moved, and even went on a really great double date in Milwaukee. I’m looking forward to developing our sibling friendship now that they live closer.

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Alex and Sarah Got Married

In October, Greg’s sister Sarah married her long time boyfriend Alex. Tons of family flew to San Francisco for the week to enjoy all the wedding festivities. It was the first time on an airplane for the boys and the biggest vacation we’ve ever taken them on. We also had some big triumphs on the trip when Caden got over his extreme fear of flying and Shepard used public bathrooms as necessary for the first time in his life – something we all had a severe amount of anxiety about in the months leading up to the trip.

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The wedding was beautiful and we gained a new brother! Greg was a groomsman and the boys were each ring bearers. Despite Shepard’s attitude during photos, they did a great job.

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There were a lot of ups and downs on that trip, as expected any time you gather that many people together for a giant event. But my absolute favorite memory was the morning before the wedding when I got to spend a couple of hours alone with Shepard. It was absolutely pouring, but it didn’t stop us from following through on our plans. We walked a couple of miles in the rain, ate a big breakfast at Boudin, and then went to my favorite pearl place to open up some oysters! Shepard opened an oyster for me and got twins! We were both really excited. 🙂 My oyster had a single pearl which I made into a necklace for my friend Michelle who was cat-sitting for us while we were gone.

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It was a splurge, but we had my twin pearls made into this gorgeous necklace. I’ll treasure it forever and the memory attached to it. My relationship with Shepard is so easy and delightful, and this necklace will always remind me of that. I love sentimental jewelry.

More Time Alone

The older I get, the more I realize the need I have for time alone. It’s always been pretty obvious that I’m an introvert, but this year I’ve been reading a lot more about it and what I need to make myself a happier and better person. Now that both kids are in school full time, I get seven hours a day to be alone. I definitely don’t always use that time wisely, but I do appreciate the quiet. I’m a lot less desperate to get out of the house at night because I’ve had time during the day to restore myself and feel a lot more calm and content. It’s made the last few months easier on me emotionally. Though it also worries me how used to the alone time I’ve gotten. When summer comes around and kids are flocking my house day and night again, it’s going to be really hard to transition back to that loud and wild atmosphere. But it does make me appreciate these times by myself that much more!

THE WORST PARTS OF THE YEAR

There weren’t any specific events that made this year worse than any other. No significant memories I can pinpoint where things did not go my way. But it still felt like a hard year. A challenging year internally. I’ve had a lot of emotional struggles in this new season of my life that I’m still trying to figure out.

No Time for US

I think the hardest part of this year is that it’s felt like Greg and I have almost no time together. The boys are at an age where they want Daddy’s attention ALL THE TIME. And they need a lot more than their basic necessities met. They want constant interaction, every waking moment. I feel like I can’t even have a two minute conversation with Greg until the boys are in bed for the night because they are always interrupting. Greg is an awesome dad and I don’t want my kids to feel like they are a secondary priority. But I often feel that way myself and sometimes find myself envious of how they get the best parts of him every night and weekend. We occasionally try and do more full family activities, but I always feel a little left out. My interests are so different from theirs. I have a hard time fitting in with their easy father sons dynamic.

Besides attention demanding kids, we also have a demanding house now! We have a lot more square footage to clean and take care of every day. The lawn needs to be mowed, the gardens worked on, the gutters cleared, the driveway shoveled. It’s taken some getting used to. Our favorite part about apartment living was not having to deal with any of that stuff. It’s time consuming. But it also comes with the territory.

I just wish that Greg and I could find more opportunities to connect. After 8:00 at night when the boys are both asleep, we’re both completely drained and have very little left to give each other. I miss the fun and spontaneity that happened so much more often earlier in our relationship. I also miss feeling awake and energetic and excited about spending time together. Parenting is hard work. Kids make marriage harder. I’m sure many, many couples deal with these same feelings and it’s just a matter of changing our priorities. We do usually get a night a week alone when the boys go to Grandma’s house. And we try to go on dates about every other month. But we need to find a way for more of that.

Expensive Year

It’s been an expensive year! Buying a house costs a lot of money. Followed by a week long vacation and then a summer of new house related expenses. Followed a few months later by a huge trip to San Francisco that cost about four times more than any trip we’ve ever taken in the past ten years. Followed by Christmas. It was a lot and it was depressing. I’m looking forward to catching up again in the new year. Though currently we need/want a new toilet, new sewer pipe, new lawn mower, gutter guards, new garage door, and a snowblower. Owning a house is quite the expensive venture!

Weight Gain

Ah, the dreaded weight gain. When I went off of pills and switched to an IUD a year and a half ago, I gained 20 pounds in three months. I blamed it on the IUD and had it removed. The weight has continued to pile on in the year that followed. I know I only have myself to blame at this point. I went on Weight Watchers a few years ago and while I did lose some weight I was completely miserable. I want to enjoy food and be happy instead of hating the world and everybody in it because I’m so hungry all the time. So now I’m in this constant struggle with wanting to be happy with my body at any size and wanting to be healthier to lose weight. Every time I see a picture of myself it’s followed by days of self hatred. I never think I look that big in the mirror. I thought that walking so much more every day would have some sort of positive effect. But it hasn’t and it’s frustrating. On a positive note, in the last six months I’ve started finding styles of clothes that I feel like are more flattering. They at least make me feel better about myself. Lots of dresses, skirts, leggings and tunics. Despite being very unhappy with the number on the scale, I’ve had so many more compliments about my clothes and accessories that it makes me feel like maybe I’m okay.

Overall Disappointment in Myself

I had a lot of expectations for what my life would look like once the boys were in school all day. I would go on a brisk walk every morning after dropping them off at school and then happily sew away all day long. I’d take breakfast or lunch dates with a friend once a week. And I’d have spare time in the afternoons for reading or resting or whatever else I felt like doing. By the time I picked the boys up from school I’d be excited to see them and energetic about making a great dinner and taking time connect with them individually every single night. I’d help put them to bed, spend time with Greg, and wake up again the next morning to do it all again. Well, guys, that has NOT been my reality. Instead I feel like I’m constantly flailing around, never fully getting a grasp on anything. Household chores continue to overwhelm my to do list and sewing has been one of my lowest priorities. I’ve barely spent any time with my friends and by early afternoon I’m so exhausted that I still need to take a power nap to deal just surviving the rest of the day. I lose my patience after two seconds of an after school tantrum and have very little interest in making good dinners. I still let Greg handle most of the nightly entertaining with the boys while I work on my never ending list of things that need to be done. I sit down to watch tv with him at 9pm and I’m exhausted and emotional and disappointed. I never feel like I’m doing enough, and yet I’m always DOING. I’m struggling so hard to find a balance in my day to day and always seem to come up short. On paper it looks so easy. I’m home alone seven hours a day! How am I not getting everything done? How am I not even sewing 1-2 hours in that huge chunk of time! I’m frustrated with myself all the time. I don’t know how to change either.

OVERALL

So despite all the mess in my head, overall it’s been a really great year. So many positive things changed to make our family’s quality of life that much better. I’m hoping that 2017 will be just as great of a year, though it’s just fine if things are a little quieter! I’d like to settle into this new life and figure out how to be even happier.

Quieting My Mind

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I started blogging again because I need to write. It clears my head to get my words on a page and helps me feel a little bit more sane. But because I chose to start writing again in a public space, I feel like I backed myself into a corner. The pressure is on to write posts that revolve around specific topics and have clearly defined content with a solid conclusion. The problem is that those self imposed limitations are now keeping me away from the blog, rather than helping me process my life the way I had hoped to by writing more. So I guess this is a warning to anybody who actually reads these – it’s not all going to be clear and concise. Some days I really need to just empty my brain of everything that’s been going on, no matter how random or irrelevant it may be. I need the freedom to write what I want, even if it doesn’t follow the direction of most other blogs. This is for me and I’m going to do what what feels best.

That being said – it’s been kind of a weird week. I’ve had to let go of a lot of my expectations for myself. Mainly sewing. This happened last year too, though I was totally okay with giving myself a pass from Heartstring Annie sewing for the entire month of December. This year I thought I was going to be able to do so much more. I guess in terms of quantity of dolls made, I did far exceed my output from last year only because I made a gigantic batch of ornament sized dolls. But I continue to feel so behind and constantly disappointed in myself. I want to make my customers happy. I want to always have a fully stocked shop. And I’d also really like to make some money! But I’m learning that for me, December is really about focusing on the rest of my life. I want to be present with my family and not acting like a mad woman behind schedule. I want to make sure my Christmas shopping is done early so I don’t have to frantically be fighting the crowds in the stores and panicking over those hard to buy for people on my list. I want to have time and energy to plan a party or gathering with friends and family during the month, before Christmas week is upon us. I want those gatherings to be a source of joy instead of stress. And I also want to simply take care of myself this month. Winter illnesses in Wisconsin are pretty terrible. My family is notorious for getting awful sicknesses right around Christmas – Shepard especially. I want to schedule in quieter afternoons for myself to catch up on rest if I need it. I also want to keep the pace as a whole this month a lot slower and quieter to try and help everyone else from getting run down as well.

This week I let go of most of my expectations, as hard as it sometimes was. But I also feel like it was really for the best. I had a lot of quality time with a lot of people. I feel closer to many of my friends, I feel closer to Greg, and I feel like I enjoyed and truly paid attention to my kids more than I have in quite awhile. I also focused on quieting my mind. As much as I love my podcasts, I chose to listen to Christmas music more often than not. The podcasts I did listen to were chosen with great intention, mostly episodes centering around Christmas themes that were uplifting and peaceful. The music, the added quiet for my mind, the good conversations and quality time I spent with people – it really added up to a nice week. Not what I expected for the week, but it was worth it.

Looking ahead at this next week I feel a bit of rising panic. Despite the quieter mind space, my to do list has not shrunken! I’m throwing two parties in the next four days. My house is nowhere near the party clean level I like it to be. I desperately need a large solid chunk of time to unearth all the presents I’ve stashed away for the boys, divide up which day they’re getting each gift and trying to make it all look even before wrapping and re-hiding them all. It’s also a very weird week with Greg being gone three nights and a fourth night me kicking him out so I can have my Favorite Things party. It appears we’ll have one family dinner together in the entire week, which is extremely unusual for us. I also need to finish up a couple strands of Christmas bunting for my shop and probably convince myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t make any more Annies this year.

There’s a lot to do. There’s always a lot to do. But I’m learning that December is not about perfection. It’s not about spotless houses and the fanciest foods I can create to impress my guests. It’s about forgiving myself. Taking shortcuts on things that truly don’t matter. And spending time with the people I love because they are what is most important in my life. I’m not going to look back on this month of my life and regret how few sales I made. I’m going to look back and be proud of myself for letting go of a lot of the stress that I didn’t need to carry. I know that chasing perfectionism makes me a crazy person that nobody wants to be around. I don’t want to be that mom/wife/friend. At least not this month. 🙂

I guess what I thought would be a bunch of rambling about my week turned into kind of a cohesive blog post anyway. That’s the power of writing it all out!

On Worth

For the last few months I’ve been going through a mental rollercoaster, really struggling with how to spend my time every day and how those decisions determine my worth. I think it must be linked the start of school and this new chapter in my life of still being home every day, but not having any kids to take care of between 7:30am and 3:15pm. Trust me, nobody is challenging this decision, least of all Greg. But I feel like I need to justify to myself day in and day out that the only way this lifestyle makes sense is if I stay busy, busy, busy. And it’s not like I’m searching out new things to do! Just simple household maintenance seems to take up almost all of my time. And when I finally feel like I’m caught up enough, then I actually work on Heartstring Annie stuff. Funny how I thought I’d be able to work at least a solid six hours every single day once my kids were in school. I think in the last three months I’ve put in less time than ever toward my business. It’s disheartening.

While my weekdays fly by in a flurry of grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, and cleaning, I really struggle with nights and weekends. I find myself lately feeling very envious of the rest of my family who are truly on break during those times. They have their solid work/school hours of the week and the rest of their time is for fun and relaxation. They have no problem spending an entire Saturday playing video games and watching movies together. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. The problem arises because I feel like I can’t afford to take those breaks. Ever. Meals always need to be made, laundry always needs to be done, dishes are always next to the sink, groceries always need to be bought, the kitchen table always needs to be cleaned off, the floors always need to be swept, the litter boxes always need to be cleaned. And at this time of the year, everything Christmas related falls entirely on me. The planning, the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the executing of each and every tiny detail. It’s so completely overwhelming.

I know I sound like I’m complaining. But honestly the problem is where I stand in my head. I’m so jealous of the fact that the other members of my family have a very clear cut balance in their lives. I feel like I’m surrounded by work ALL THE TIME and I don’t know how to not see it. I’ve always been a perfectionist and I’ve always had a really good work ethic. I hate to see things undone and I seriously cannot turn off my brain to stop thinking about my to do list. Ever, at any point, day or night. I have a problem!

When school started this year I was so excited about my plans. I would sew a lot – and only during the day. I’d set it aside at 3:00 and not think about it again until the following morning. I’d have my nights completely free to make dinner, help with homework, and just be with my kids and not be stressed about the half finished dolls all over the place. I also fully intended on having friend dates. Clearly nobody will be inviting me for playdates anymore, but I didn’t want to lose my friends because of it. I wanted to go to coffee or lunch or just hang out at a park with at least one friend every week. I wanted to better plan and condense my grocery shopping to only one morning a week so I’m not constantly running out for things I forgot. I wanted weekends to be centered on family time. Finding fun things we could do all together, since doing special activities during the week was no longer an option. You know what happened to all those plans? By about the third week of September when I was crazily working on Caden’s birthday and parties, all my best intentions just went out the window. And with one big event after another I haven’t been able to get on track since. I’m so tired, stressed out, and still constantly feel guilty and inadequate.

I’ve read a lot of books, heard a lot of speakers, and know on an intellectual level that my worth is not determined by what I DO. If I measure myself by how much I accomplish every day, I’m basically never going to be enough. I realize that one day my kids are going to grown and gone. My list of chores will shrink significantly. And I’ll probably look back on this time in my life and hate myself for how much time I wasted worrying about things that truly didn’t matter. I want to be the kind of person that puts people first, no matter what. I want it to be blatantly obvious that my husband and kids are my first priority in life. I want them to realize that. Right now I just feel like this invisible person that does all the behind the scenes work to make sure their lives run smoothly, but I’m not really an active participant in their lives. And it’s been this way for so long that they don’t even notice or care. It makes me really sad. But I also – still – do not know how to change things. Who is going to make meals and do laundry if I don’t? Who is going to make birthday parties and holidays happen if I’m not constantly working on them? I can’t figure out how to let things go. I really can’t figure out how to properly balance my life. And I can’t stop linking check marks off the to do list with my worth at the end of a day.

I have no solutions for myself or anybody else that feels this way too. Other than to just keep trying. Look at those little faces and realize they don’t care about clean houses. They probably don’t even care about clean clothes! They just want ME. And that is where I should feel my worth. In what I can be to them, not what I do. If I can remember that, then maybe things will be better.

Feeling Thankful

Like most people this week, I’ve been trying to get in the spirit of Thanksgiving by thinking about what I’m most thankful for. My list doesn’t vary much from year to year, though the specific reasons for my gratitude might. This year I really want to focus on each individual aspect of a person or thing that brings me joy and thanksgiving.

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Greg

  • We celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this past May. It felt like a pretty big milestone, though getting married at 21, I barely remember life before marriage! The last ten years have held a lot of joys and a lot of challenges. We’ve stuck together and always will. I greatly look forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
  • He supports me. In the most basic ways, like allowing me to continue staying home to pursue my creative dreams while we live off of his income. But also in every other meaning of the word support. He fully supports me emotionally in everything that I want to do. He encourages me to better my life and do whatever makes me happy.
  • He is an awesome dad. The best I’ve ever met! He selflessly gives all of his nights and weekends to the boys, helping them with things, playing with them, loving them in the language that matters most to them. He’s so much better than me at setting aside everything else to just focus on our children.
  • I’m also very thankful that he takes care of most of the “man stuff” around the house. He’s been learning all the important home owning stuff, he takes care of all the car maintenance, he does the lawn work, takes out the garbage, etc. He’s also a technology genius and I don’t know how I – or any of our family members – would get by without him!

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Caden

  • Since this school year started, Caden has continued to impress me in how he looks after Shepard. He knew how worried Shepard was about going to kindergarten and he got permission from his teacher many times a day the first few weeks of school to drop in and check on Shepard. He sat by him at lunch, he sat by him on their first joint field trip which Shepard was terrified about going on, and he asked Shepard to join him and his friends at recess playing kickball every day. Even though he’s older, I don’t think it’s even occurred to him yet to want to get away from Shepard. Instead he always includes him in everything. He protects him and shelters him as well. Two days ago Shepard had a bathroom accident after he left the school building. We started to walk home and I stopped to talk to a friend for a minute. Caden continued to walk with Shepard, shielding him from the other kids so they wouldn’t see his wet pants or his tears. They definitely have their fair share of fights, but they’re also inseparable. Caden takes his big brother duties very seriously and I love that about him!
  • He’s a reader! Greg and I were talking about it the other day and admitted that we both thought he wouldn’t be. He’s very, very addicted to video games. Even though he has them taken away more often than not! But sometime in the last few months it finally clicked with him that reading is pretty awesome! He reads in the mornings when he wakes up, in the afternoons when he’s bored, and at night by lamplight. We set him up with my old kindle and he loves having that option available to him as well. Reading has always been a HUGE aspect of my life, and I’m thrilled that he’s started to love it as well.
  • He works hard. He’s still in speech therapy, though I think if people didn’t know that about him they would no longer be able to hear why he needed it. Just three years ago I felt like things were never going to change. People would never be able to understand him. And now he’s just a teeny fraction away from speaking at his age level. I’m proud of how far he’s come. I’m also proud of how well he does in school in general. He’s a pretty smart kid.

Shepard

  • Shepard is the comic relief we so often need in our family. Unless he’s throwing a tantrum over food, he’s pretty much always a joy to be around. He’s silly and funny. And he’s always thinking and sharing his newest ideas with people. I love listening to all the crazy things he comes up with every day.
  • He’s always up for learning or doing new things. He loves to help people with everything they’re doing. He’s constantly asking to help me in the kitchen. He loves pitching in when Greg is working on things around the house. He just wants to be where the action is and throw himself in the middle of it. He begs to do homework every night, even though he rarely has any. He’s optimistic and up for adventure pretty much all of the time. It’s refreshing to be around someone with that kind of perspective on life.
  • He’s growing too. I was so, so worried about how he’d handle kindergarten. He cried basically every morning that he had preschool and 4K. School gave him a lot of anxiety and he never wanted to be away from me. Summer school in June was even worse. The teacher literally had to tear him away from me every single day for three weeks. But he’s been doing really well. (Besides the potty issue!) He still drags his feet a couple times a week, but for the most party I think he’s starting to really acclimate. I kind of fear the day he becomes totally comfortable at school and his true personality starts to show! 🙂 I think he might be the kid that everybody wants to be friends with, but might also be a bit of a troublemaker and class clown! I love seeing how much more confident he’s become in just a few short months, though.

Our House

  • I waited a long time for this! I think that most people take owning a home for granted. I hope that the last six years of not owning will help me to always appreciate how awesome it is to truly have our own space. I do feel that your home is where your people are. But having an actual house with a yard and room to run is something to be pretty grateful for.
  • I LOVE my living room and sewing room. I spend basically the entire day in these two rooms. And because nobody else has much reason to be in them I can actually keep them clean and pretty, entirely for my own enjoyment. When we were house hunting, having a room or at least a solid space for my sewing room was a must have. I wasn’t sure that the dining room I claimed in this house would work out, but it turned out great. I have room for all my stuff with space to spare and it’s amazing. My living room, where my computer is, is also just the best. Hard wood floors, bay window, candle filled fireplace, pretty mantle, my favorite colors – I love it.
  • I’m so thankful that we have enough room for our family of four. Apartment life was fine for us for a long time. But the older the boys got the more desperately we started to feel the need for change. This house has been such a blessing. The boys have their own rooms, something that Caden at least really needed. Shepard has the biggest room, so ALL of the toys are stored in there. That alone is pretty huge! Besides the legos taking over our family room, the main living spaces of the house are usually pretty clutter free. I feel like I can breathe here. We all can.
  • Possibly the best thing about this house – the neighborhood. Our yard isn’t spectacularly large or exciting, but the boys have so many friends within our small block. They want to be outside all the time. That definitely wasn’t the case before we moved. I love that they’re finally having the childhood that I grew up with – outside with friends having adventures as often as possible. And we do have a yard! I didn’t have much chance to spend time in it this year since I was so focused on setting up inside. But I’m looking forward to planting a big garden next year, spending more time outside, having get togethers, etc. We plan to be here a very long time. I also love the area of town we live in. Country living has always been my dream, but living in town has some amazing advantages. I love that I can walk the boys to and from school every day. I can walk basically anywhere in Columbus if I want! It’s the perfect location.

Friends

  • Friendships have always been hard for me. Mainly because I’m not very satisfied with casual acquaintances. I want friendships to be deep, honest, comfortable, and stand the test of time. The problem is that those kind of friendships take a whole lot of effort between both people, a vulnerability that does not come easily, and a lot of time spent together. Something that only gets harder the older you get and the more family obligations you have. Anyway, I could go on with this topic for awhile, but I should probably just say that I’ve reached a point, finally, where I feel like I do have a couple of really good friends. REAL friends. I hope in the next few years, now that I have more time to devote to it, I can develop some other friendships and make them stronger. Maybe try and meet new friends. But I’m infinitely grateful for the couple of women who have shown me the meaning of true friendship in its best form. You know who you are.

Family

  • I am exceedingly grateful that my children have grandparents that live 20 minutes away and are a part of their lives. My grandpas both died when I was too young to remember them. My grandmas were a huge part of my childhood and I lost them both between Caden and Shepard being born. I miss them. I want my own kids to realize how important those relationships are and treasure the fact that they have them.
  • I’m also thankful for our siblings. I have a brother I see fairly regularly and the boys love talking video games with him. As I mentioned the other day, I’m really excited that my other brother and sister-in-law moved back to Wisconsin this year. Greg is very close with his sisters and we gained a new brother-in-law last month. My kids don’t have any cousins yet, but they’ve had the advantage of having many aunts and uncles doting on them for all of their lives. When we’re all together they fully enjoy having so much attention!
  • Beyond our more immediate family, we also have a lot of extended family in the area. We don’t see them that often, but it’s a comfort to know that they’re there.

That’s about it for my list. This year I’m celebrating the people in my life and the roof over my head. That’s all I need to be fulfilled. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Outlet Needed, Desperately

My mind has been a total mess lately. I constantly feel filled to the brim with words and emotions that are desperate to get out. Instead they are trapped inside making me feel crazy and overwhelmed and oftentimes very alone. I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting back into blogging for about a month now. It seemed an easy decision to make, but I couldn’t get around the logistics. The Everyday Crumbs was a big part of my creative process in years past, but with such a big gap since my last post perhaps it made more sense to start anew? In the end, urgency won over the mild desire to start with a fresh page. I need to write. And it seems like such a waste to just let go of all my previous posts on here. It’s a lot of my history, a lot of my struggles and joys as a young mom. I want to hold on to that, and leave it up here in case anybody else can learn something from the battles I’ve fought. Or maybe just look at all the pictures of my adorable kids. ☚

A Reintroduction

With that being said, I feel like I should reintroduce myself. Who I am now versus who I was a few years ago. So, my name is Amy. ☚I turned 32 last month, a birthday that didn’t really phase me the way 30 and 31 did. I’m good with getting slightly older. I’m married to Greg. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this past May with a cross country trip to Charleston. We’ll be celebrating 17 years as a couple this January! We have two kids that keep us constantly, shall we say…challenged. Caden turned 8 in September and is in second grade. He’s a very active kid, a good big brother, a total homebody, and he loves video games and reading. It’s been a joy watching him grow in recent years, but we still have many, many struggles. More on that another day! Shepard is 5 and in kindergarten. He continues to light up our lives and give our rather serious little family a lot of much needed laughter. But he can also be the absolute most stubborn little person in the world. Shepard loves to do just about everything, especially when he can jump in and help with projects the people around him are working on. We also have two kitties, Jack and Rory, who have been part of our family for 11 years now.

This fall has begun a weird and hard to define chapter in my life. I’m still a “stay at home mom,” though both of my kids are in school full time. I have a business sewing primitive dolls, bears, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I’ve been doing this for over three years and have been anxiously waiting to start working on it full time once the boys were in school. The past few months have showed me that working at home full time is a lot more challenging than I ever expected! I’m easily distracted and can never stop thinking about everything else that needs to be done around the house. But I’m working on it! I love what I do and that I found this creative passion that allows me to continue to stay home for when my kids need me, but still bring in a little extra money.

My other hobbies and interests include reading, baking, walking, listening to podcasts, and setting up our house. We bought our first house in six years this past May and it’s been amazing living in a permanent location that I can decorate and rearrange to perfection. I love, love, LOVE to read. I read in all my spare time and whenever I allow myself a break from cleaning and sewing. Baking has always been a source of immense joy, though I try to keep it to a minimum because while everybody enjoys a good treat, their waistlines don’t and they’re not afraid to tell me that! And finally my newest obsessions – walking and podcasts, always simultaneously. Since moving into town I’ve been taking 2-5 mile walks almost every day and I absolutely love it. And podcasts have opened up this whole new world of information and entertainment that I seriously cannot get enough of. I listen to them all day long and it’s awesome. 

I’m hoping this blog will turn into the creative outlet I really need to clear my mind, get my head on a page, and move forward with my life in a positive direction. I want to continue to share pictures from my family life and celebrations throughout the year. I also want to write in greater depth the things I struggle with on a regular basis. I’d like to occasionally post about awesome recipes I find. And I’d love to share more about my sewing, the books I’ve been reading, and the best podcasts I’ve been listening to. I have a lot to say and not a lot of opportunity to say things out loud. Even if nobody reads this, at least it’s out of my head and that’s all that matters. Enjoy!

15 Years and Other Ramblings

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Last Saturday Greg and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary of being together. Do most people still celebrate the date they met and were sort of together forever after? Probably not, but January 17th was such a big date to us in the six years we were a couple before getting marriage that we didn’t want to let it go. In many ways this anniversary has always felt a little more special to me than our wedding anniversary because it marks such a major change in my life. Plus it’s always a lot more fun to celebrate in the middle of January when nothing else is going on rather than the end of May during Memorial weekend and the end days of school when we’re too busy to focus on our special date.

At any rate, we’ve officially been together for half of our lives. Crazy! I barely remember life before that. It’s always amazed me that the thing that most attracted me to Greg when we first met was how well he interacted with a child. We were working at a fundraiser together and while we were sitting there this little boy kept throwing a ball in our general direction. Every single time Greg would get up and throw it back to him, clearly enjoying himself. Who would have thought that hour in time would so clearly portray our future together. Greg is and has been an amazing dad from the second he became one. I feel so blessed that found each other that day and have been committed to each other ever since. I look forward to still celebrating this day fifty years from now. 🙂

So. On to my “other ramblings.” I am SO fed up with my cpap machine and sleep in general. I used to love that moment every night when I was ready to put my kindle down and know that I’d fall asleep immediately and wake up at 5:00 feeling fully recharged. According to my doctor, at least, that great sleep I always thought I had at night was a lie. With the mild sleep apnea I was having over 40 “episodes” an hour of partially waking up, resulting in my extreme fatigue during the day. Since being on my machine I’ve been averaging about 1.4 per hour which is obviously a significant improvement. Then why does it now feel so hard to sleep?? Why do I wake up feeling so groggy and exhausted? While I’m used to this feeling the majority of the day, I never had it in the mornings.

I’m technically on a three month trial with the machine and am supposed to be putting my absolute best effort into using it so I’ll know beyond a doubt if it helped or not. In the past three weeks I feel like I’ve really tried but I’ve only totally slept through the night once in that time. I’ve been restless, had a hard time falling asleep, had a hard time staying asleep, and most nights I wake up around 2 or 3 and take it off because it feels like too much effort to try and fall back to sleep with it on. The last two nights have suddenly felt like the first few nights where it’s suffocating me and I’m going to die if I don’t take the mask off. The whole thing is just so frustrating!! But…on the other hand…while not actually feeling any better, I HAVE been a lot more active and productive during the day. I’ve been doing so much more, having more willpower, and pushing myself harder than I have in a long time. Is that the result of a better sleep quality, despite how awful it’s felt? I wish I knew. Clearly I’ll continue using it because I want to know if after three months I really do feel better or not. But I hate it. I dread bedtime so much knowing that my exhaustion will continue to fight me through the night with no relief in sight.

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Welcome Back

Well, guys. It’s been awhile. I pretty much gave up blogging this past year. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I was just way too busy trying to make Heartstring Annie a success. There are only so many quiet hours a night to get something done and sewing always won out. And overall, I think it was mostly worth it. Until I began feeling incredibly burnt out, too tired for anything, and basically just very unhappy. These last four months especially, since school started, have been really rough for me. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my long lost blog for a few weeks now and decided it was worth giving it another shot. Mostly just for my own cathartic purposes, not really for the entertainment of others. Unless you’re interested of course, then have at it. 🙂 

My relationship with Caden hasn’t changed much. I went through some major sadness over him starting kindergarten. Not so much because I was going to miss him. But because I felt like my time to truly mother him was over and I failed. Completely. I tried to cheer myself up with the fact that at least since we’re not with each other every minute of the day anymore, maybe the time we do spend together will be worth more. We’ll connect better. And…it’s not happening. He’s so crabby after school. The only thing he wants from me is a snack and to leave him alone to watch tv or play (fight) with Shepard. He doesn’t want to answer any of my questions, he has no interest in actually doing anything with me. And once Greg gets home I may as well be invisible. So things are rough. I can’t decide if it’s just because he’s overly tired or what, but he’s so upset about everything all the time. It worries me so much that he’s six years old and his overruling emotion seems to be anger. It scares me how much I look at him and see myself. But myself NOW. Just like me he feels everything so deeply, expresses himself out of anger without thinking, and seems to deeply regret it, but not know how to deal with that other than self loathing. Which only turns into more anger directed at everyone else. I feel like I ruined him not only because I failed at being a good mom, I also managed to pass on all my bad mental attitudes. I love him, but he makes it so hard some days.

And Shepard. My ray of sunshine – most of the time. He’s developed quite a bit of his own attitude these past few months. He is about the most stubborn child on earth when he sets his mind against doing something. Of course it’s always at the worst possible moments too. For example this morning, while we were running late for school, he decided that he absolutely was not going to get his winter clothes on by himself. He always manages to find the worst times to throw these stubborn fits. But the rest of the time he’s still a pretty happy little guy. Whereas Caden has so much of my personality, Shepard has so much of Greg’s. Both such comedians. Usually very easygoing and happy. My favorite thing about Shepard, which I’m trying so hard to always see as a good thing, is how helpful he wants to be. Especially in the kitchen. He wants to help me with EVERYTHING. Literally, everything. And even though it takes a lot longer, it’s always a whole lot messier, I let him help. His desire to be by my side will probably not last long and I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Things with me personally have not been that great. Like I said before, I started getting very burnt out this fall. I pretty much gave up on sewing and trying to keep up with Heartstring Annie in the way I wanted. My biggest problem has been total exhaustion. I am so tired every day that I cannot function through the afternoon without a nap. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve had a nap every afternoon for a year and a half now. And I’m still dead tired, no motivation to do anything, pretty much ever. I finally decided to do something about it in October and went to see a doctor. She did a huge number of blood tests and everything came back looking normal. Which lead to me a sleep study – one of the worst nights of my life. The sleep study revealed that I have very mild sleep apnea, but I didn’t qualify for a cpap machine so I better just get used to feeling this way. Which was pretty devastating news since I was already at my rope’s end. But a few weeks later my doctor pulled through and managed to convince the insurance company to give me a three month trial with a cpap machine. I was so excited – until I tried it. It’s been a week and a half now and though it’s getting easier, it’s definitely not easy. The first few days I felt like it was trying to kill me. Forcing air into me with no way to let the air out, essentially drowning me. At least that’s how it’s felt. Finally in the last couple of days I’ve been able to keep it in most of the night, but I wake up so often. I feel more tired than ever and have little hope it’ll ever actually make me feel better.

I feel like the lack of energy is making all my other problems feel so much worse than they are. But…it’s been a very trying couple of months. I’m usually okay most days. But I have other days that feel like such a battle just to get through them in one piece. This is such a lonely season of life. I’m alone almost all the time. I mean, I have Shepard with me all but the four hours a week he’s in preschool. But he’s three. Greg gets home at night and spends every minute with the boys until they go to bed and then just wants a break by himself. Which is totally understandable. He’s an amazing dad, but every night I end up feeling like such an outsider. The three of them are all so obsessed with video games and legos and there just doesn’t seem to be a place for me, other than the provider of meals. This school year has also opened up a lot of new friendships for me and while I totally appreciate that I have them, I also feel like it’s almost worse because these people have been placed in my life but I can never really see them. I’m struggling to figure out how friendship truly works without more than a two minute conversation a day. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I just can’t figure out how to hang out and connect with people because everyone is so busy with their own families. And while I obviously have a family too, I’m NOT busy. I’m never busy! I spend pretty much every night in my room reading or watching tv wishing I could at least occasionally go out to dinner with somebody the way life used to be before everyone had kids. I’m available almost every weekend wishing I could invite somebody to something – anything! – but sure that everyone else is surely too busy for me, for the kind of friendship I miss so much. So in the end I try to make do by getting out on my own. It helps me preserve my sanity, but obviously doesn’t fill the gap of friendship.

Anyway, that’s where I am in life right now. It sounds really depressing! But I’m trying to make things better. Getting that cpap machine was my first step. With better quality sleep I will hopefully have a foundation for everything else. I have a lot of other minor steps I’m starting to take to get control of my life again too. I’m sewing again and actually enjoying it. I’m hoping to get the business going at a pretty good speed, but without pushing myself too far. I’ve also been pouring over new cookbooks and blogs trying to find different foods and recipes that make me actually excited to get in the kitchen three times a day. I want the meals I prepare to be fun and a blessing instead of stressful and burdensome. And finally I’m trying to just be aware of what I need and when I need it. Taking more time and effort to actually connect with the people in my life instead of always hiding inside myself. Not sewing at all for a day if I don’t honestly feel the desire to do so. At any rate…it’s a start. I’m hoping 2015 will be a whole lot better than the last year.

New Years Resolution

As usual, I have spent the last week contemplating what I’ve done in the past year and where I’d like to be a year from now. I was re-reading what I wrote last year at this time and realized I did a pretty bad job following through on most of what I had hoped to accomplish. In fact, I can probably say that I failed miserably with all of my resolutions. I did not forgive my children very easily, I did not accept them for who they were, I was not healthier – in fact I was probably the least healthy I’ve ever been. I did not look for or find much joy in my life. I wasn’t a very good friend, instead retreating even further into isolation. And I didn’t save any money. Yeah, I definitely failed with all of that.

The tangible goals I set for myself went a little better. Learning how to make Annie’s was my main goal. I definitely succeeded on that one! It took me until the middle of April to start, but once I figured out what to do, I had a blast. I started Heartstring Annie and actually feel like I was pretty successful with it by the last four months of the year. Sales have been pretty good considering the amount of time I’m able to put into it right now.

I did okay with my other goals. I still haven’t learned to use my camera properly, but I did do the 365 Day project for HALF of the year. Then the Annie stuff took off and my camera fell far to the wayside. I didn’t read 110 books, but I read a lot of longer books than I usually read. I think my final total for the year was eighty-seven. 34,195 pages (I know this because I was having a competition with Greg and we had to use page count to be more accurate since he reads much longer books than me. I won. Five times more reading – hah!). The one date a month thing didn’t exactly work out. I forgot to actually think about it. And writing something every day – I tried. I had a couple of books to work through, but when day after day I was writing such negative and hopeless statements I decided to give up. I didn’t really want a reason to look back and remember this time in my life.

To be honest, 2013 was a really bad year for me. I was depressed, unhappy, angry, and just very sad. I’ve felt like a horrible mother, an inadequate wife, a bad friend, and overall a pretty worthless human being. I don’t want to dwell on this anymore because the year is over. Instead I want to look ahead to 2014 and hopefully a much happier year.

With that in mind, I only have one real resolution for the year:

Do whatever it takes to stop having so many bad days.

I want to smile and laugh a lot more this year. I want to be present in my life instead of always trying to hide away from it. I want to go to bed every night feeling good about how I spent my day rather than drowning in regret. I truly what to do whatever it takes to stop having bad day after bad day after bad day. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few days and I’ve come up with a list of things I can work on to make this happen. So not goals in themselves, but tools to help me achieve my overall goal.

  • Listen to my children. I blow them off SO often. Way too often. When Shepard carries a board game to me ten times in a day, I should probably take the hint and get on the floor and play it with him. When Caden asks me for months when I’m going to go to school with him like some of the other moms, I should do whatever I can to make that happen for him. It’s not really a mystery to find ways to make your kids happy. Listen. They’re pretty obvious about what they want.
  • Read more nonfiction. I used to make myself read a chapter or two of nonfiction every day. And by nonfiction I usually mean inspirational books that nurture my relationship with God, my husband, or my kids. This requirement of myself has been all but forgotten in the past year. I want to get back to it. There are so many books out there that could lift me up and help me to be a better person. Fiction is wonderful, but I don’t want to use all of my reading time simply escaping the real world.
  • Take better care of myself. Laying around doing nothing all day but stuff myself with unhealthy food isn’t doing much to help my mood or my body! I don’t have any drastic plans, but I want to simply make better choices this year. Exercise when a twenty minute gap in my schedule appears. Keep more fruits and vegetables stocked in the fridge where I can easily grab them when I start getting hungry. Move more. Try harder. Do what I can.
  • Be present. This is a big one for me. Instead of dealing with my problems I tend to just retreat inside myself, my computer, my books, etc. so I don’t have to think about things anymore. I want to stop that. I want to deal with that’s around me head on, even if it’s not going to be pleasant. I’d also like to just start enjoying the opportunities I do have, but often walk away from. I have a very bad habit of disappearing when Greg walks in the door at night because I’m so overwhelmed by my kid problems. I don’t want to do that anymore. At least not every single night. We have so many chances to bond and laugh as a whole family and I’d like to start taking advantage of that.
  • Stop unnecessary spending. I love online shopping. So many deals and it’s so easy to do. But the truth of the matter is that more than half of what I buy online I really do not need. It seems like a great idea at the time and usually by the time whatever I ordered arrives I regret wasting my money on yet another thing. This is the year I want to start asking myself every time a “good deal” comes up if it’s more important than buying a house. Because the answer is probably always going to be no. It’s been three and a half years now since we’ve owned a house and I’m starting to really miss it. I’ve reached the point where I really think we need more space, but there’s nothing we can do about that unless I stop spending money.
     
  • Dream more. Dreaming is something I’ve kind of given up on this past year because nothing I really wanted seemed possible, so why think about it, right? I don’t want that attitude anymore. I’d like to take a few minutes a day to think about my future and what I want out of it. Even if it’s unlikely to ever happen, I can still entertain the possibility. 

Well, I think this is a pretty simple resolution for the year. The tools I listed might not feel simple to implement all at once, but they are all doable. I can do this. I don’t want to have another miserable year. It’s the beginning of a new year, the perfect chance to step up and try harder at changing my life to the way I know it can be.