Weekend Reflections 08.01.2020

This has been a really emotionally taxing week. I’ve been working through a lot and it’s left me a bit of a mess. I won’t get into all the details, but I’m trying to climb my way out of the pits. It would just be a lot easier if each day wasn’t bringing on new battles!

I believe I mentioned in my last post how I’d been suffering from one of the worst headaches of my life. I think stress is a big part of it, but being too tense on my morning bike rides is probably the main culprit. It’s SO discouraging to me how every time I get excited about some new physical activity that I think will finally change my life around, it causes a new negative issue with a different part of my body, kind of rendering all the benefits null. I’ve been loving my early morning rides so much that I never take a day off from them. But it’s wreaking havoc on my neck and shoulders so I finally forced myself to stay home on Tuesday, for the first morning in the month since I started. I was so angry at myself because I don’t want to start giving in to lame excuses and taking more and more mornings off without a really valid reason. But a whole lot of people told me that breaks are necessary and not to be so hard on myself and on Wednesday morning I actually started feeling a lot better. Now I’m trying to alternate long bike rides with shorter ones every other day. I’m still pretty tense and have a constant lingering headache, but it’s not as bad as it was last weekend.

I listed some dolls last Sunday as well and had more people than usual upset with me that they missed out on a doll they wanted. I had one customer in particular quite angry with me for having a restock a day earlier than I had mentioned “probably” having one to her the week before. (Which I genuinely forgot about, otherwise I would have given her a head’s up.) This is a frustrating aspect of owning your own handmade business that continues to wear me out. I avoid conflict like the plague. I hate having people angry with me. But I also really, really thrive on having my own creative freedom to make whatever I want, whenever I want, with zero outside pressure on me to perform to somebody else’s standards. Which is the main reason I almost never take custom orders and I refuse to make duplicate dolls. But I get tired of trying to explain that to upset customers, especially when so many other handmade businesses depend on making duplicate items as their main source of income. I just don’t want to do it that way. And I wish I didn’t always have to justify that to other people. The whole ordeal really messed with my motivation to start new dolls this week. I did end up making six, but it’s been hard to get myself to sit down and actually work.

We had therapy on Tuesday. It went shockingly well a few weeks ago, so we stupidly assumed it would go well again. It didn’t. At all. I won’t get into it, but it was a pretty sucky day. Fortunately our next session will be in person for the first time with this particular therapist. I think it will go better that way. Virtual therapy with a kid who can just walk out of the room whenever he pleases is just a recipe for disaster.

In positive news, however, I started reading the book The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. It’s about the enneagram – something I hear about all the time in my online circles. I’ve owned the book for quite awhile, but only finally picked it up because a small group of online friends invited me into a buddy read discussion with them about it. And I honestly think this is going to be the book that will make a bigger impact on my life than any other. One of the first chapters talks about one of the personality types that fits Caden to an absolute tee. You are not supposed to typecast your kids – or try to tell them what they are until they’re old enough to understand all of it, like late teens. But seriously, this was Caden. And it opened my eyes to an understanding of who he is that I have never, ever been able to grasp before. I was uncontrollably crying while I listened (I’m doing audio and physical book) to that chapter. I’m working on getting Greg to listen to it asap so we can maybe finally understand what’s going through Caden’s mind all the time and why he acts the way he acts. And maybe really come up with an effective plan to help him – FINALLY.

I started my week making a batch of donut muffins, with my newfound plan of always having breakfast foods on hand. Of course everyone ate them all in the first day, so it didn’t last! I did go to Costco, however, on Wednesday and picked up quite a few easy options. Not exactly healthy, but some weeks you just need to roll with it. This was our last week of getting free school meals, so my efforts will need to go up a notch next week.

On Monday I made carne asada on the grill. It was my first time grilling such a large cut of meat and it worked pretty well! I’m still not really a fan of steak, but I will eat a bit of it if it’s on a taco. Everyone else loved it.

Chicken wings on Tuesday. This dry rub is amazing. It will most likely show up in my next Friday Favorites!

The rest of the week I kind of gave up cooking all together. We had a Costco rotisserie chicken on Wednesday and on Thursday we ordered Mexican and ate it with Greg’s parents on their deck. I did make this beautiful chocolate ganache tart for dessert, though! It was fun making a fancy dessert – that used to be the only kind I made! Now I just make cookies or brownies, whatever is fast and easy. Yesterday Greg was finally able to pick up some of his things from work, so he also grabbed a Qdoba family meal for lunch. And tonight he’s getting Chinese because that’s Caden’s favorite and he always gets so disappointed when we pick up food from other places.

I continue to pick through my garden every morning to get the next few ripe tomatoes and peppers. I was really excited about that purple bell pepper! I thought none of my pepper plants were the same, but I keep getting so many weirdly shaped long light green ones on multiple plants. I’m not even sure what they are, I just cut them up and throw them into whatever I’m making that day.

I also had my own therapy session on Friday. Some weeks our talks are pretty surface level and some weeks they get a lot deeper. This week we talked a lot about body image and just trying to focus on being healthy rather than what you look like. It was a pretty triggering conversation. It’s frustrating to me how I’m exercising an hour, sometimes more, every single morning and it doesn’t seem to be making a difference yet. I have never consistently exercised and definitely never more than 15-20 minutes tops! It seems like I should be feeling and seeing progress! There are days I feel stronger – on the bike – but every day activities like walking around? It’s can still be so hard, which is pretty infuriating! My body continues to deceive me and I can’t seem to get out of this downward health spiral no matter how hard I try.

Anyway! It’s been a rough week. But maybe the kind of week I needed. It’s really helped to remind me I need to take better care of myself, every aspect of it. This weird pandemic season of life has been so, so hard. But it’s not all bad. I think I’m growing. I have a LONG way to go, but I’m giving it my best effort and I feel good about that.

Weekend Reflections 07.26.2020

Another week behind us in this weird pandemic existence. It’s been such a stressful week as we try to make a decision on what to do about school in the fall. Weighing the pros and cons of going full virtual versus a split week for Caden and a four day in person week for Shepard has been really overwhelming. Every time I feel confident in our decision somebody throws out another perspective I hadn’t considered and then I doubt our choice all over again. (Or it’s validated!) We haven’t turned in our final decision yet – we have until Friday – but I’m about 95% sure we’re going the all virtual route. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be HARD. But it’s the only way I can guarantee my children will be as safe as possible. And other kids and teachers and our family as well. I wish I knew what all virtual will actually mean in terms of a time and workload commitment, but I guess we’ll find out in five weeks! I really hope a vaccine will come out soon and we won’t have to do this for an entire school year. My brain can’t even handle thinking about that possibility right now. Being home, all of us, all the time…it’s rough.

We visited the puppies on Monday! I liked how both of them immediately climbed into my lap and settled in. In reality, owning a dog that wanted to be held all the time would drive me absolutely insane. But it’s pretty sweet to visit them and have them cuddle up!

I had a farmers market pick up scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. My first in about a month. Instead of doing a grocery pick up as well I decided to go in a couple of stores, but it ended up being incredibly stressful. I normally only go in stores in the early mornings – in pandemic life AND in regular life. So I wasn’t prepared for how busy it was going to be. Then I had to make an extra stop because Caden was out of sunflower seeds and he can’t survive a week without them (he kept texting me “MY LIFE IS OVER!!!!). Then I had a very low tire and had to learn how to refill it for the first time. By then I was pressed for time on my Trader Joe’s run, which was supposed to be an extra special treat. And then I barely made it to the market on time. I was so upset that the one thing in the week I was really looking forward to turned into such a stressful disaster. I really miss when shopping was fun.

The boys have been fighting so much this week. They always fight a lot – because they refuse to EVER be apart from each other. But it’s seemed even worse than usual this week. I suggested a small field trip to the dam on Thursday after dinner. I somehow keep thinking a change of scenery will do us all some good, but it often makes their moods even worse. Caden calmed down, but was uninterested in the adventure aspect of the trip. Shepard enjoyed walking through the river until a giant spider landed on his hand and then he was traumatized. But Greg, Annie and I still thought it was fun to get out of the house and do something different for a little bit!

On Friday Greg surprised me by asking his parents to babysit for a few hours so we could have our second pandemic date night. We ordered Chili’s and went to a park to eat and walk around. I just picked the park on a whim from google maps and it turned out to be such a beautiful surprise! I’m definitely looking forward to walking around there again soon.

I didn’t take any pictures, but on Saturday morning my friend invited me over to walk around some trails near her house. I probably scared her a bit with how enthusiastically I jumped on that opportunity! It was really great to see a friend in person – it’s been almost two months since my last outdoor friend visit. And it was fun to walk around in another new and beautiful place too! Annie came with me and loved the adventure.

This morning I took the boys back to my parents’ again for another puppy visit. Six days was a long time between visits! They were both pretty sleepy today and much more interested in sleeping on the ground instead of us. But it was cute to watch them!

I biked all seven days this week for a total of 45 miles! I’m still loving it! There are certainly a few mornings here and there where I’m dragging my feet a bit more just because I’m not used to getting up early and immediately leaving the house. I much prefer getting up early and enjoying some peace and quiet at home before everyone else wakes up. But these bike rides are totally worth it. I love the days I’m out early enough to catch the pre-sunrise, but I get so frustrated at how poorly my phone captures the beauty! I’m pretty tempted to bring along my real camera, but haven’t done it yet. I bought a mirror so I’d feel more comfortable on the busier streets (though let’s be honest, “busy” in a very small town at 5am usually means I see three cars at most), but I can’t figure out how to secure it properly so it actually stays up. I also bought some bike cleaner and lube to try and learn how to take better care of it, but haven’t gotten around to learning about proper bike care yet either. The only downside of biking is that even though I’m in an upright pedal position, I’m still apparently tensing my neck and back quite a lot. I’ve been having daily headaches from it and today is one of the worst I’ve ever had. I still think it’s a worthwhile trade off, but I wish it didn’t happen at all.

I haven’t done quite as much sewing this week, but still managed to finish nine more dolls. I’ve been binging the show Manifest while I watch and I’m really into it!

I didn’t put a ton of effort into food this week. It’s just one of those things that I really care about or it’s the neverending responsibility that breaks me. There is rarely an in between!

We had a big batch of hamburgers, hot dogs, green beans, and pretzel buns on Monday night. Greg really likes the burgers from Butcher Box. This is the first time I tried their hot dogs and I didn’t like them at all. But I’m pretty picky about what kind of hot dogs I like and these didn’t fit the criteria. But now I know!

I used my new little espresso maker and try and replicate the salted caramel iced latte I always get at my favorite coffee shop. It was pretty close! I have determined that making full espresso drinks is actually a lot of work (lol), so I only have one every few days. I don’t even drink regular coffee every day, but I like to have the option!

I needed to use up some farm eggs I had bought on a whim before they expired, so I tried out this magic custard pie recipe one night. It was really good! I don’t normally make non-chocolate desserts, so it was fun to have something really different.

We ordered pizza and a calzone on Wednesday night. I love those calzones SO MUCH. They’re just amazing.

After my stressful shopping adventure I decided to try out an improvised cocktail using my new fancy maraschino cherries and liqueur. I don’t usually drink at all because I’m not so fond of alcohol and it’s not great for my liver problems! But I wanted to give it a shot. And….still not my thing (lol). But the cherries taste AMAZING on ice cream.

I used my farmers market produce and a couple things from the garden to make some fresh pico de gallo. I’ve been eating a lot of the tomatoes mixed with cut up string cheese, pepperoni, olive oil, salt flakes and fresh pepper. So good! And I used the zucchini to try a new brownie recipe, but was disappointed it ended up just tasting like chocolate cake. I’m not a chocolate cake fan.

Looking ahead, I can’t believe it’s already the last week of July. Normally I’d be thrilled that summer is officially 2/3 over, but I’m trying to really soak up these outdoor opportunities while I can this year. Now that we’ve decided to keep the boys home for virtual learning, I’m really dreading winter and those long cold months of truly feeling trapped. I need to make the most of these days while I can.

It feels like another busy week, with appointments or something on the calendar every day. Most of those will only be an hour or less of my time, but it still feels like a lot. Especially with how headachy and stressed out I’ve been lately. I’d love some truly lazy days, but I don’t think they’re going to happen.

My biggest goal this week is to get more on top of having pre-prepared snacks and meals around the house. We continue to have breakfast arguments every single dang day, though my struggles are usually with Shepard because he’s just not happy with whatever we have on hand or whatever the school gave him and he loves to make sure I know just how enraged he feels about it. Caden’s pretty much given up, he just won’t eat anything and I don’t even really care anymore. But like every struggle we have, I get sad or upset about it and then I pull myself together and figure out a way to do better. And as frustrating as this whole neverending food debacle is, the food making is still my responsibility so I need to try harder.

Have a great week, everyone!

Weekend Reflections 07.19.2020

This has been such a busy week around here! Probably the busiest we’ve had in months. Lots going on and many, many photos to share!

Last Sunday I was feeling pretty down and wanted to do something fun and different to brighten my spirits. It was the first somewhat cooler day we’d had in like four weeks, so we decided to go to the Token Creek Dog Park. It’s one of my favorite Dane County dog parks, and one of the two closest to our house. We hadn’t been there at all yet this year, so I was excited to get out and explore. The boys were not very cooperative, but I’m never surprised by this anymore. They don’t like doing anything outside of the house. So Greg and I tried our best to just ignore them and had a fun time walking around the park while Annie checked everything out and then we had a picnic before going back home.

Unfortunately, later that night Annie started acting a little off. We assumed she just got a bit overheated at the park, even though we weren’t even there for more than half an hour and she didn’t do that much running. But it was in full sun and she has long dark hair, so it still seemed like a logical conclusion. But on Monday she was clearly feeling worse, spending most of the day walking or sitting with her head hanging off to the side, not eating anything, and almost no energy. On Tuesday it was even worse and in the afternoon she started vomiting all over the house. Her stomach was pretty empty at that point, so it was mostly just bile, but then the blood started coming. I called the vet and was able to get her in immediately so I rushed her over and then spent two hours in my car waiting for the verdict. Her x-rays and blood panel came back fine, so at least it wasn’t anything that needed surgery. But we also really have no idea what happened, other than she PROBABLY ate something at the dog park. I took her back home with a bag full of meds and by the end of the night she wasn’t even walking anymore, Greg had to carry her around. It was pretty scary, especially after my mom’s dog passed away with similar symptoms just a few months ago.

I woke up Wednesday morning to a pretty horrific poop explosion in the family room and Annie still obviously feeling pretty awful. But with each day and each dose of medicine she’s been feeling a lot better. I wouldn’t say she’s 100% quite yet, but her appetite is back and she seems much more like her old self. I’m so glad I was able to get her to the vet so quickly because I’m not sure we would have had the same results without all the medication.

While the whole situation with her this week has been scary and sad, I’m also just really bummed that we probably can’t in good conscience go back to that dog park again. I’m pretty wary of going to ANY dog parks at this point because she probably just ate a random weed or something which could very well be growing all over the place! I purchased an annual pass when we were there on Sunday and I briefly felt elated that I now had another option of something fun and free to do that would get us, or at least me and Annie, out of the house every week or so. And then a day later that option was taken away. It really sucks!

I continued on with my early morning bike rides every day this week. Actually, there were two days that I had to postpone because of rain or storms, which is really annoying because I can’t tell those things are actually happening until I’m standing outside ready to leave! But I still got a ride in all seven days, which has been great! Earlier in the week my legs were really tired and then around Thursday it was like I suddenly graduated to a level of being just a bit stronger and it all came easier to me. But then it got super humid and gross, so yesterday and today’s rides were pretty short. I’m hoping to make up for it with an extra long ride tomorrow morning.

I’ve made twelve new dolls this week (one of my photos does not want to upload!) and had a restock on Wednesday, selling out within minutes. I’ve really been having so much fun now that I limit myself to making three at a time, completing a batch every day or two. But I still struggle with feeling like I’m not making enough or not making them fast enough. At the same time it’s like I literally do not know what else to do with myself anymore, so sewing is practically my whole life. It’s probably not very healthy. But it distracts me from feeling utter despair over the state of our world and our lives right now.

I was pretty on top of meals this week. I’m trying to get back in the habit of actually caring about what goes into my body, as well as using up as many random ingredients as I can before they go to waste. Most days I enjoy the challenge of seeing what I can cobble together. I made a delightful grilled bbq bacon jalapeno and roasted garlic pizza earlier in the week. We also grilled steak kebabs and I made roasted garlic and bacon mashed potatoes – my first time ever making mashed potatoes and I didn’t even use a recipe, but they were great! We had a giant pretzel from Milwaukee Pretzel Company for dinner that night I took Annie to the vet. I made a blueberry honey simple syrup for coffee drinks, though I honestly can’t taste the blueberry, so it was a bit disappointing. I also tried out my new espresso maker a few times. I need some practice making “official” drinks, but it works pretty well! I tried a new granola recipe that I really like because it’s the first one I’ve made that doesn’t taste too sweet. I have a lot of problems eating anything even remotely sweet in the morning without getting a massive headache, so I finally found a winner. It’s great with fruit! We needed more freezer room for our latest Butcher Box, so I made some banana bread, but with a gluten free flour mix this time. (A large chunk of our main freezer is filled with frozen bananas.) So good! Especially the third I made for me topped with lightly salted walnuts.

I forgot to take a picture of the actual meal, but last night I made a grilled Turkish chicken that we ate with curried rice, fresh tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers (all from the garden!), and a Greek yogurt garlic lemon sauce. For dessert we had fresh cherries topped with a mascarpone whipped cream, fresh mint leaves, and shaved dark chocolate. YUM. Caden told me multiple times over the evening that it was the best meal I’ve ever made.

On Thursday the boys and I went to meet my mom’s new puppies, Herbie and Ollie! She knew she was getting Ollie since he was a few weeks old, but Herbie was an added surprise. They are SO CUTE. Ollie is very snuggly and Herbie seems a lot more interested in playing. The boys were in love and back on a campaign to get their own puppies.

On Friday night Greg and Caden had a camping trip in his parents’ backyard. It was a reward for Caden FINALLY cooperating at therapy this week. I was concerned Shepard would be really upset about being left out, so we planned a fun night together too. We picked up some Burger King and then went over to play with the puppies some more! We plan on going over every few days whether they want us there or not so they get used to us!

We made it back home with just enough time to make popcorn and ice cream and watch A Dog’s Purpose together. Shepard listened to the audiobook recently and wanted to see the movie. Then in the morning we went on a short bike ride together. It was really fun! It’s pretty hard to get the boys to spend any individual time with me when they’re both home and distracted by their screens, so we should probably plan to split them up like this more often.

Today is my sisters-in-law’s birthday, so Greg and the boys went to Chicago to meet one of them for lunch and a walk around the botanical gardens. I wasn’t yet comfortable going into a major metropolitan area when I knew I’d definitely need to use public bathrooms multiple times, so I opted to stay home. I spent most of the day sewing, doing laundry, and cleaning. Which feels like a really dumb use of my rare alone time, but it’s so refreshing to clean a room and actually see it stay clean for a whole day, instead of just three minutes until Shepard grabs his next snack that half ends up all over the floor. I also picked up some Mexican for lunch. I love getting food from the place in town because it’s definitely enough for two very full and delicious meals! I added chile toreados to my usual order today and it was a great spicy addition eaten with the flautas.

Besides all the Annie stuff and one terrible night with the children, it was a pretty good week overall. I’m hoping this next one is a little bit quieter, though!

Weekend Reflections 07.11.2020

For the first 99 days of quarantine I was writing nightly instagram recaps of what I did each day and how I felt about everything going on. It was quite a cathartic ritual for me to process this extreme change in our daily lives on a much smaller and more personal scale than a long public blog post. My favorite thing to come out of that exercise was realizing just how much I do in a single day. I’ve always been cursed with constant feelings of “not enough” and it was so helpful to see that even though it felt like my entire life was reduced to just cooking and cleaning and cooking some more, I was still living a very full and productive life, even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted or what I was used to. I stopped doing those nightly posts around the time I went into a store for the first time in three months. Quarantine was officially over about a month before that so it started to feel silly to keep counting the days after I had been doing a lot more regular pre-coronavirus activities. (Though going into one store a week isn’t exactly “a lot!”) I also started feeling like the days were becoming very monotonous and my mental health was taking another dive, so it was better to stop doing those nightly evaluations when I couldn’t think of anything positive to say anymore. I want to always be honest about what’s going on with me, but I also don’t want to come across as being whiny and ungrateful all the time.

In the last few weeks since then I’ve been pretty quiet on social media. I’ve been quiet in real life too. Summer is always the hardest season for me for so many reasons and it all just feels so amplified this year after already having the entire family confined to the house for three months before summer even began with three long months ahead of us and still no guarantee that any part of life will go back to normal come fall. It’s really overwhelming to this extreme introvert who only thrives when she gets a ton of alone time and space to exhale. Being caught in the middle of so much familial conflict and screen time noises and always having so many demands on my time and energy to cook, clean, and again cook – it’s really starting to get to me. I feel so trapped. I’m irritated with everyone all the time. I struggle to even know who I am anymore outside of these bizarre new circumstances we live in.

Fortunately, I am a fighter. And even though I’m prone to wallowing in despair more often than I should, I also like to problem solve and work on finding solutions to make at least my own life easier and better. Unfortunately, most of the solutions I’ve come up with in the last month have had unexpected negative consequences because my life is invariably linked to the three humans (and three pets) that live with me. Which is really frustrating. But I’m doing my best to just keep moving forward because what other choice do I have?

The best part of my life lately has been going on an early morning bike ride almost every single day. I started about two weeks ago and it quickly became the favorite thing I do. I’ve never, ever been a person who enjoyed exercise. But apparently I’ve just never found the right thing to connect with. I’ve also struggled greatly since breaking my ankle two and a half years ago and getting plantar fasciitis every single time I make a commitment to start walking more. Amazingly, biking doesn’t hurt my feet nearly as much as walking and my ankle seems healed enough (finally!) that it doesn’t hurt at all. My legs certainly get tired when I’m out – probably because I can’t seem to go a day without it right now. But the only lingering effects I have are feeling calmer mentally, feeling less restless physically, and sleeping more soundly (though so far not for longer lengths of time). There are ONLY POSITIVES. Okay, there are actually some negatives, like this morning when apparently one of our pets decided to open the French doors and go wake everybody up while I was out. All three of them get so hyped up when they see me ready to leave the house so early in the morning. It’s really annoying! Both Rory and Annie know how to open those doors to get upstairs if they work at it long enough, but the blame was still placed on me. My biking every morning also means that I’m too tired to go on our regular morning family walk, so those have just disappeared completely. Greg will often still take Annie, but he prefers to go on his own than try to force the boys to go with him when I’m not also trying to make them follow through on this four month long ritual. It really bothers me that I found something I’m enjoying SO MUCH with so many health benefits both mentally and physically, but it still means other things then fall to the wayside as a result. But I’m trying to just focus on how happy it makes me and go with that feeling for as long as I can! I really like going early because there aren’t many other people out (though surprisingly still quite a few at 5am in a very small town!), the streets are free of cars, it’s much cooler out, I can usually catch the sunrise – though my options for seeing it on a more rural road (for a better photo!) are pretty limited – and it’s just a great way to start the day.

I’ve also been taking a lot of joy in my garden this week! We’ve harvested all of our radishes, a big bouquet of broccoli, one huge cucumber, a variety of hot peppers, and our first two tomatoes. I usually check for ripe produce every morning after my bike ride and it always surprises me to find at least one new vegetable ready to pick every day. I’ve always loved the idea of gardening, but am terrible at following through on them. Since we don’t have much else to do with our time these days we’re really taking good care of it and I love seeing the fruits of our labor!

After a month of being more productive sewing dolls than I have in years, my sewing room was a bit of a disaster. I also had this corner that I used to use when I was bullet journaling and doing devotions every morning and night, but haven’t really sat down and used in probably a year. I wanted to make it more useful to who I am right now so I finally went ahead with a project I’ve been toying with for a long time – making my own drink station!

It took awhile to perfect how I wanted it to look, but I’m very happy with the results! Since I’m really the only one that uses it I decided to have a more minimalist look with only two mugs out at a time, even though I have quite a collection. If I’m ever allowed to have friends over again I’ll add in a fun mug tree display. I was also happy to finally find a good place to display this adorable little pebble family art that my best friend gave me.

The real winner of all my hot drinks is this Cosori electric kettle that my mom gave me for my birthday last year. I use it multiple times a day for tea or coffee. It’s amazing.

I usually drink more tea than coffee, so I picked up a fun spinning tea bag display to make it look a lot more organized. And of course some tasty syrups that I like to add to cold drinks.

My beloved little pour over pot is what I used most often. The Moka espresso pot is the only thing I couldn’t actually use IN my drink station area, but because I still wanted the ability to make fancy drinks I actually ordered a small real espresso maker. I haven’t taken it out of the box yet, but I’m antsy to set it up and give it a go! I will be a full on barista by the time people are allowed back into my house for visits!

Coffee grinder because I’m hoity toity and only drink coffee from freshly ground beans. My ember mug is my favorite for tea since it tends to take me so long to drink a mug. And a recent addition – a milk frother which is a total game changer. I actually whip up my regular creamer in there and it’s amazing. I also used it for salted caramel cold foam on top of a cold brew the other day.

The main addition was adding in a cute mini fridge! While I of course just wanted it for looks and convenience of having all my coffee items in one room, it also solved the problem we’ve had since quarantine of having more stuff shoved into our main fridge than we technically have room for. It’s amazing how much more space has opened up now that I took all my extra things out of there! Plus we have room for Greg’s soda again – he had to sacrifice that space awhile back. And of course space for my emergency chocolate supply!

I also bought this really cute set of three shelves to add some layering and dimension to the drink area instead of just shoving it all on top of the table. I ran out of things to display by the third shelf so I grabbed a rainbow of my favorite books and added this delightful candle which smells like blueberry pie.

Once the drink station was complete I spent another couple of days reorganizing and slightly rearranging my entire sewing room. The biggest difference was changing the direction of the table. My main reason for choosing to put it there is that I wanted to find out if I could carve out some space for an exercise glider I’m thinking about buying in a few months when it gets too cold and icy to do anything outdoors again. I think it’ll definitely fit, but for now I’m really enjoying how spacious the room suddenly feels! The table definitely looks more like a workspace now rather than any type of welcoming entertaining space, but who knows when we can entertain again so I need to make the room work for what I need now and this is perfect! I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in the last few days just staring at my beautiful room!

I also managed to make seven (one not pictured, I’m not that bad at math!) dolls in between everything. It feels like a bit of a disappointment after making at least 15 a week in the last month, but still better than nothing!

I have had some pretty decent alone time this week, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Greg and the boys went to his grandparents’ house on Sunday so I had about eight hours to myself, which was very much needed! I treated myself to some local Mexican food, which we haven’t ordered since Mother’s Day, I believe. So good! Their chile relleno is my ultimate comfort food. Then on Friday I had a grocery pick up, but made a point of ordering myself some lunch from Canteen for pick up as well. Remember right before all this started and I declared it my mission in life to hit up every taco restaurant in the Madison area? Canteen is definitely at the top and it’s been my favorite curbside pick up place I’ve tried because you can easily order online and the directions for pick up are very clear on where to park, who to text, and they rush it right out. They also have the most amazing arbol salsa, which I prefer to eat with their wagon wheel duritos instead of chips. Yesterday I had carnitas and barbacoa tacos and both were so delicious.

As for other food adventures this week, I haven’t been that energized about trying new things – it’s too hot. But after the millionth morning of the boys arguing that they hated the school breakfast food (another solution that has almost only caused more problems) I tried out a new recipe for chocolate peanut butter muffins that don’t have any flour or grains in them. I was really impressed by how well they turned out, but I probably wouldn’t make them again because it required a 1.5 cups of peanut butter and 3/4 cups of cocoa powder. That’s a lot of relatively expensive ingredients! The only really big dinner I made were grilled chicken shawarma and spicy potato and tomato skewers with a roasted garlic sauce. We did run out of propane halfway through cooking, but it was worth the wait! And on Friday we went to the in-law’s house and they ordered food which we ate out on the deck. Today I also made some pretty tasty grilled raspberry jam, bacon, jalapeno, and havarti sandwiches, but I forgot to take a photo.

Well, this is quite a reflection post, so I’ll leave you now with this photo of me holding up this cute rainbow unicorn bottle I bought a few weeks ago when I went into TJMaxx for the first time in 3.5 months! Happy weekend!

Saturday Reflections 02.22.2020

I think I need to start writing more. My emotions around writing have been all over the place since early November when I went to that writing conference. I went from being totally committed, to feeling completely inadequate, to deciding writing doesn’t really fit into my current life goals, to circling back to the realization that I NEED to write. For ME. And I’m going to start showing up for this little corner of my world again because it feeds me in a way that nothing else can. So hello. I’m back.

The last few weeks have been really hard. The short of it is that winter is killing me. Whittling away at my soul by taking away my inability to spend time outside, making me feel cold and uncomfortable ALL THE TIME, to keeping all the gross sick germs circling around every building, to keeping my family members home SO MUCH OF THE TIME and equally losing their own souls. I’m over it. The last two weeks have been particularly hard on me because Caden was sick and then Greg caught it and was even sicker for even longer. The pressure was SO high for me to stay healthy so I could pull off Valentine’s Day as well as a week’s worth of birthday festivities for Shepard. I literally could not afford to get sick. And now today, when it’s finally all behind me, I expected to feel relieved and relaxed and excited. Instead I feel like my entire body is just shutting down. I’m so tired and irritable and sore and bleary. Can it just be spring already? Can I be whisked away on a solo vacation to properly recharge without all the constant responsibilities of home and work? February, I am so over you.

Valentine’s Day was actually a really great day. I bought the boys festive donuts for breakfast and then had an early morning therapy session before heading to a friend’s house for a coffee/cheese plate brunch. As much as I like my always open chat room with my therapist, I’m finding our weekly live sessions even more valuable. That alone put me in a pretty good place, but seeing my friends (and getting out of my house after Greg and Caden being sick the whole week!) really helped too. I made plenty of time that day to take care of myself with an afternoon nap and pockets of time throughout the night to read one of my favorite books.

I made a much larger cheese and chocolate plate for our dinner. It was a bit much for me after only eating cheese and chocolate all day already, but the boys think it’s just the coolest meal. Greg joined us at the end of the table, even though he was literally shaking because his fever had come back with a vengeance. Not a good week for him!!

On Saturday the extended family was in town, so we split our afternoon between families. (Greg stayed home.) The boys were having a blast playing with Hudson! I really enjoyed watching a 2 year old’s version of hide and seek! We had dinner with the in-law’s then, which was really nice as well.

We moved Shepard’s birthday party to my in-law’s house on Sunday morning since Greg was still feeling so awful on Friday night and we didn’t want to risk it. I have to say it was really nice not needing to prep a whole lot (lol)! I made french onion dip, Cindy had tons of fruit, my mom made veggie pizza and punch, and we ordered a bunch of pizza and boneless wings. I made Shepard a cookie dough ice cream cake that looked beautiful, but turned into a soupy mess by the time I cut the first piece. It was good, though!

This was the only selfie I got with Hudson this trip. He’s a pretty active toddler! Plus I can’t just grab him and force him to take a picture (in my defense he was HANDED TO ME for this one!) the way I could when he was a little baby!

The boys didn’t have school on Monday for Presidents Day. They basically just never have school on Mondays in January and February. It’s SO ANNOYING. Technically, I mean, they have had school. But at least one of them has also been sick every school Monday the last two months. Which is super frustrating to me since Monday is my favorite day of the week to run errands, get lunch out, and celebrate five days ahead of feeling some sanity and accomplishment. When I don’t have my Mondays, I get very grumpy. This Monday in particular was frustrating because we had plans to go to the Dells for Shepard’s birthday dinner at Moosejaw. Instead we had another six inches of snow pile up in the afternoon. Trapped again!

Shepard’s official 9th birthday was Tuesday! He wanted donuts for breakfast, so a cheap pack of mini donuts from Pick n Save that I picked up Monday right as the snow started was the best I could do. I made little edible cookie dough cups for his school treat.

We made a spontaneous decision to go to Moosejaw on Tuesday after Shepard opened his presents. In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest decision since it essentially meant spending most of the night in the car. Plus Caden was NOT happy about it and made sure we all knew it. Caden hasn’t been happy about any birthday things, no surprise. But the food was good and I think Shepard enjoyed it.

We had Shepard’s birthday brownies on Wednesday night.

On Thursday I ran a lot of errands, but also picked up two new plants and repotted some of my others. I’m so terrible at taking care of plants, but I really like having the live greenery around the house.

Yesterday I had morning therapy again and then met a friend for coffee. Then I threw about the lowest key birthday party I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to do a friend party. I thought we were over these. Shepard didn’t have one last year because we were in Florida, so it seemed a logical time to stop having them (he really didn’t like his the year before because it was too crazy and wild). But he took things into his own hands and invited people over, so…we had a party. I made tacos and a donut tower and the small group of kids mostly played Fortnite and laughed at their own boy jokes. I think he had a great time.

Today has kind of been a waste of a day. I did take care of a lot of lingering computer tasks I’ve been putting off for ages right when I woke up. I listed some dolls. And then I took Annie to the dog park for the first time in weeks. After making lunch I went upstairs and spent three hours reading/sleeping in bed! Greg took Annie for an hour and a half walk during that time, so she is totally blissed out right now. I wish I could love exercise even a fraction as much as she does! I’m still totally failing on that front thanks to my stupid plantar fasciitis. But I think it’s MAYBE getting better. Maybe by the time real spring weather hits it’ll be gone! Fingers crossed.

I think that’s a pretty sufficient update on how the last few weeks have gone! I might possibly be back tomorrow with INTENTIONS. Maybe it’s time to start easing them back into my life…

General Reflections on the Last Few Weeks

Life has been really hard lately. I keep alternating between feeling desperate for more time to myself and extremely lonely. I have this constant emotional war going on in my mind that I don’t think anybody understands, myself included. But I’m pretty sure it keeps circling back to one or the other as the base problem.

In a normal school year, I should have four, sometimes five, days a week to myself. A solid seven hour chunk every day to work, run errands, prep food, read, rest, and recharge so I’m ready to emotionally deal with the rest of the night. This last month? Between school holidays, sick kids, and bad weather, I’ve had zero or one day, every single week. And it’s killing me. It’s felt like those three months of summer where every single day whittles me down to the point I’m honestly not even sure I’m going to survive to the end. Except in summer everyone has the option to play outside, go on walks, see friends, go to the pool, find ways to occupy themselves in locations other than the walls of this house. And I’m not REALLY placing the blame for my emotional distress on my family members, not really. But I can’t explain how I’m feeling without immediately offending them. And without thinking there is surely something wrong with me because MOST PEOPLE do not have four days a week to be alone! I always fall into the trap of belief that my issues are not valid because I’m coming from a place of privilege to begin with. I don’t feel like I’m allowed to have these feelings, which makes the problem that much more intense and that much more hopeless.

I think what bothers me so much about having people around ALL THE TIME is that there are so many expectations on me, with none of the connection. I need to make food for everyone alllllllllll the time. Preparing and cleaning up after those meals takes huge chunks of time as well. I will be the first to admit that I do very little of the major house cleaning in this family, but I AM responsible for all the daily upkeep, which is that much more stressful when four people are contributing to the messes all day long. It leaves me with very little time or energy left to do the other things I need, or especially want, to do.

I’ve thought many times over the years that video games have basically been the worst thing to ever happen to us. But how could we deny them to our kids when it’s something Greg has always loved so much? I wish we could go back and do things a little differently because it’s nearly impossible to change their expectations and demands at this point in time. What annoys me so much isn’t even the games, but the stupid youtube videos. When my kids are home, that’s basically all I ever hear. They do have pretty strict screen time rules during the week, but Caden’s gotten around them by going on the treadmill for three hours every night (NOT an exaggeration) so he can keep watching his videos while he walks. What used to be a safe haven – my beautiful living room – is now filled with that awful obnoxious noise all the time. It makes me feel trapped and overwhelmed, especially because of how much my kids like to bully me into more screen time until I finally give in – or they just start watching anyway because I don’t know how to stop them. Ever since Christmas break when Caden was fully determined to destroy every single day before we even left the house, I’ve had very little fight left in me. The behavior challenges we’ve had with him his whole life only seem to be getting worse. And the more I feel like a failure as a parent, the less I want to try to be a better one. I resent how he makes me feel, I resent how many things he’s ruined, and that resentment has seeped into how I feel about everyone else. I’m sick of trying and I just want to be alone.

That’s probably a little more honesty than I should share. I try not to talk too in depth about our parenting problems these days because he’s very aware of this blog and could access it if he wanted to. But…that’s my truth right now, so I’m keeping it in.

All that aside, I’m also feeling very lonely. When life feels so hard, I’m like most people and would rather hide away than find positive ways to deal with it. I was determined to get past the overwhelming sadness Christmas break brought and immediately planned a coffee morning with my friends at the start of the month. But only one person showed – and I’m certainly not mad at the people who couldn’t come, they had valid reasons! But it also made me feel like maybe I don’t want to keep trying to organize things. It frustrates me so much that the only way I ever see anybody is if I organize it. Is it because everyone else is just too busy? Is it because they’re really not that interested in hanging out with ME? I somehow keep expecting friendship to get easier and it only gets a million times harder. Where are the people who long for deeper connection? Where are the people who will immediately say yes to something without making me feel like I’ve only made their lives harder? Where are the people I can count on to show up and actually care about me and respect my feelings? Where are the people who want to just do life together and not reinforce the idea that I AM a bad mom or person because of the way things are going right now? I’m honestly ready to put some sort of personal ad out online because SURELY those people must exist. They exist in my facebook groups! They exist online. But in real life? Why can’t I find them?

Anyway. That’s basically how my January has gone. I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, my head down, working a lot, reading a lot, cooking a lot. Trying to make sense of what’s going on in my heart and my brain. Hiding.

Greg and I did get away for a night in Milwaukee to celebrate our 20th anniversary of being together. It was kind of a stressful situation because Shepard had some type of influenza that entire week and we weren’t sure if we should leave him and we weren’t sure if we’d catch it and that would ruin the trip anyway. So we compromised and cut our two nights into one – also because we were expecting a huge snowfall the second night and didn’t want to drive home in that mess.

The trip itself was really nice. We had lunch at a really cool taco place and then went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the photography exhibit that was featuring a photo of my grandpa in his barber shop. Then we relaxed at the hotel for a few hours before heading out to a cool restaurant across the street. We ended the night rushing through the super cold streets of Milwaukee to see a Doughboys Podcast Live. It’s Greg’s favorite podcast and I usually only listen when we’re in the car alone together (rare!), but I really enjoyed the show. It was so funny! We finished the trip walking around Milwaukee Public Market and having a huge brunch at the cutest European cafe. The whole trip was a great reminder that we can still laugh and have fun together. But it also ended with a reminder that kids are always on the back of our minds, as we struggled with whether or not we should come home even earlier in order to meet Caden after school and let him stay with us (while a fevered Shepard was still with Grandma). Nobody was even supposed to know we were coming home early to avoid that ever present sense of parental duty, but there were some communication mix ups that really ended the trip on a sour note.

The boys had off of school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first day Shepard was finally feeling better (though he doesn’t look it!), so I was determined to make the most of it and take them out for lunch and Starbucks. But if we were already going to be in Sun Prairie it made sense to me to also get some groceries, which is NEVER a good idea with kids in tow. At least MY kids. Or…KID. They weren’t being naughty, exactly, just…made the whole trip very stressful. And not at all fun because all they wanted was to rush through the food and go back home to their games. Just like every time I try and do something special to connect with them, it falls flat. I was also supposed to take Caden out for a lunch yesterday, but he is a master of self sabotage, so that fell through too.

I’ve still been cooking, a lot. Using my air fryer every day! I’m trying to keep reminding myself that eating good food is part of nourishing myself and should be my number one priority. But I’m really losing steam. Mainly because I’m not losing any weight. I lost 10 pounds right away last fall when I started making changes, and then absolutely nothing in the last two months. It’s really frustrating. I’m not trying to FOCUS on the weight loss, but it also seems like with how many beloved foods I gave up, I should really be having some accompanying loss!! As you can see from this photo I’m not exactly eating salads every day (lol), but I’m still almost entirely gluten free, no processed snack foods, no desserts unless they’re also gluten free/low sugar, a lot more fruits and vegetables than I used to eat. I’m not trying crazy hard to eat perfectly, just avoiding the things that will most harm my liver. So I guess it’s to be expected that the weight isn’t falling off. But I’m still discouraged!

In happier news, I finally reopened my shop the other day after a six or seven week break! I had 20 new dolls and sold 12 of them so far. I’d like to really keep the momentum going with a couple new batches listed a week, but this week when I’ve been so obsessed with work again has really reminded me how much falls to the wayside when I prioritize that. And I’m not sure I’m in a great place at the moment to just work all the time again. I need better balance. So…we’ll see what happens. At any rate, it’s nice to be making some money again! And just creating in general. I love it.

So that’s what’s been going on with me lately. I’ve been tempted to just stop writing until I get my stuff figured out, but writing is what helps me, even if nobody is interested in reading this depressing update on my life! I’m trying to figure it out.

Weekend Reflections 01.11.2020

This has been a weird week. On one hand, it’s been AWESOME having everyone go back to school and work, letting me have the daily quiet and space I desperately need to be a functional person. And some of these days have been great! I’ve started getting more sleep at night, maybe because I’ve been getting a better grip on my overall stress levels. I got over EIGHT HOURS last night, guys. I’ve been on about a 5.5 hour streak for the last year. At least. I’ve also been walking Annie a couple of times a day, though it snowed last night, so there’s another halt on that for the foreseeable future. I’ve also gotten back on the treadmill a couple of times. I’ve decided that more pain in my bad foot is worth the exchange of feeling better in the rest of my body. But I also devote spare minutes of every hour to stretch and massage my foot and leg, so I think that’s actually getting a little better too.

I’ve also felt very productive this week. I finished that online business class I was talking – a lot faster than expected! It was really refreshing to stretch my mind in different ways, and learn more efficient ways to run the business end of things. While there’s still some more office work I should probably do soon, I was desperate to get back to the fun stuff and spent all day Friday and this morning sewing my first batch of dolls in over a month. I’ve also cooked A LOT of food this week. Which to me is always a double edged sword. I love feeling like I’m feeding myself nutritious and wholesomely made food. And I resent how dang long it takes to research, plan, shop for, prep, make, and clean up after that food. It could very easily become a full time job and I don’t like it. It shouldn’t require so much energy to eat food that’s good for you.

While it’s been a great week in many ways, I’ve also found myself spending half the week feeling very depressed. It’s like all the good things I’ve been doing to nourish myself are uncovering a lot of the deeper issues I’ve been hiding away for a very long time. I’ve been trying to just let the bad feelings come and pass over me as some form of healing while trying to move on. But…I don’t know. Sometimes it’s really hard to just get out of the chair and get back to doing something good. Also – it’s cold. January in Wisconsin is a hard time to be happy, period.

Anyway. I was going to share about some of the food I made this week, but I think I’ll save it for a belated Friday Favorites post I’ll write next. But back to the week – I spent Monday and Tuesday working on the class. On Wednesday morning I had a coffee scheduled, but only one of my friends ended up being able to come. It was great to catch up with her, though!

I decided to take Thursday as a day to celebrate finishing the class, so I went to some of my favorite stores in Madison to browse around. I wanted to get lunch at Bartaco (my favorite Madison tacos!), but it’s in such an inconvenient location that I just ended up at Chipotle instead. Still delicious, but not very special. I also changed up our bedding on Thursday. I’ve been on the lookout for a new comforter for ages and finally found one I liked. It feels like a very cozy change of pace. Jack definitely approves!

And on Friday I got back to work! I spent so much of 2019 making dolls with only the business side of things on my mind. Which is funny to say since I spent this week focusing on the BUSINESS side of things. What I mean is that I was only making larger dolls and dolls that were quickest to make (no painting on the legs, only pigtail hairstyles) because I wanted to get as much money as I could as quickly as possible. Which is MAYBE a good business plan? But for someone who really just desperately wants to be creative, it wasn’t working out for me very well. I’m not sure how the rest of the year will go, but for RIGHT NOW, when I’m focusing so hard on nourishing my needs, I’ve decided to just do whatever I feel like doing, even if it’s not going to bring in a huge profit. I’m hoping in two weeks I’ll reopen my shop with a lot of new inventory. Giving myself a little leeway to only think about the creating side of things is really what I need right now. Though I’m so excited about all my new ideas I’m a little worried that might bog me down as well! Balance, like always, that elusive idea.

I was excited to have a weekend free of plans, especially with a snowfall overnight and another one starting right now. But those feelings of being trapped with so much video game and youtube noise is quickly driving me to insanity again. There has not been enough of a break between Christmas vacation and this weekend! But I’m trying to keep my head down and just focus on the fun things I wanted to do this weekend. While I’m very anxious to immediately start on my next batch of dolls, I also FINALLY found a Cricut project I’m excited about doing, so that’s up next. Plus my pile of cookbooks and books and planning for the week ahead.

Next week should be a nice mix of work and fun. I have a lunch scheduled with a friend Tuesday. And then Greg and I are going to see his favorite podcast live on Thursday night. Friday is our 20TH anniversary of being together, so we’re making a little mini vacation out of it. I hope the weather cooperates so we can walk around Milwaukee a bit. But either way, it’ll be nice to have a little trip. I don’t think we’re going to have a chance to really do much for our wedding anniversary this year, so I’d like for this one to be special.

That’s about it for now!

Weekend Reflections 01.05.2020

Whew, it’s been an exhausting weekend! It’s been an exhausting week, with the end of Christmas vacation, New Year’s festivities, and jumping back into the swing of things Thursday. I’ve been trying to pace myself getting my life back in order, with as little freaking out as possible about time going too quickly and not getting enough done. I’M TRYING. But it’s officially been a month since I’ve done any sewing and I’m still not sure I’m going to have a chance to do it this week because I have a huge work related thing I need to get through before I can actually start sewing again. I miss it! I really miss making money. 😛 But day by day, decision by decision, I’m trying to just do what I can and know I’ll get back to my dolls eventually.

On Monday, Greg went into work and I took the boys to Madison because Caden had a dentist appointment. We stopped at Starbucks and a grocery store before I dropped Caden off at a friend’s house for a few hours.

Tuesday was New Year’s Eve. It already feels like ages ago. Oh yes, we had a big snowfall overnight, so we all spent the morning shoveling because Greg was having issues getting the snowblower started for the first time this season. He was also working at home while the boys and I were enjoying our last day of mostly chilling around. I think I was writing blog posts.

Our night was fun! Nothing super exciting, but it’s exactly the way I like it. I made a huge cheese platter that we all stuffed ourselves on and then we watched the third How to Train Your Dragon movie, Abominable, and a bunch of Netflix countdowns before putting the boys to bed around 10. Then Greg and I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood until about 11:45 and then went up to bed to read. So we WERE awake at midnight, barely. I almost never make it that late, so it was impressive. It was a really nice night, though. No fighting, no drama, just movies and food and laughter.

We had a New Year’s lunch with ping pong and puzzles and Great British Bake Off Holiday Specials with the in-law’s and then headed home to get back on track for school and everything.

I was THRILLED to get everyone off to school and work on Thursday. I should have enjoyed finally having the house to myself, but after feeling trapped at home for most of break with sick kids, I was antsy to get out and enjoy myself. I ran a few necessary errands (mostly involving buying three different shovels from three different stores), went to a few of my favorite stores to just leisurely look around, and then had a lunch out, enjoying every bite of food that I didn’t have to make myself. Making three meals a day for all four of us for over a week straight is EXHAUSTING. I think I spent at least half my day in the kitchen every single day.

On Friday I was ready to get down to work and I spent most of my day at the computer, closing out all the distractions, and focusing on this work-related class I’m taking, trying to learn a lot more about the actual business side of being a business owner. It’s important stuff and I feel like I can’t start creating again until I’ve finished. I’m hoping to really power through and get it done this week, even though it’s supposed to take 2-4 weeks.

Shepard’s new glasses came in, so I nabbed him on his way home from school to go pick them up. They’re the same as the old ones, but black instead of blue. They put plastic lenses in instead of glass and I wish I had asked more about the difference, other than them being cheaper. This pair seems extremely reflective and I don’t like it (though I wouldn’t say that to him). Fortunately, I guess, we also ordered a cheaper pair from Zenni because he was OBSESSED with wanting transitions lenses and we didn’t believe that he’d actually like them and didn’t want to waste so much money on them at the eye doctor. But that pair came yesterday and he likes them a lot more, so I guess that’s what he’ll be wearing most of the time. They look almost the same, but a more matte black frame, and – they’ll transition when he’s outside.

On Saturday we FINALLY had a chance to go see Little Women. Unfortunately, I had a terrible headache the entire day that I couldn’t seem to shake, so it did put a bit of a damper on the date. But we went to Guimo’s to get some yummy Mexican food, stopped at Target to buy cat litter, and then saw the movie. I liked it a lot! I spent the entire rest of the day laying on the futon reading an awesome book (The Grace Year).

We spent all of today putting away the Christmas decorations. Whew! I should say that GREG and I put everything away, while the boys just whined about it and maybe did five whole minutes worth of work. I was getting pretty stressed out because every cleared area meant that I actually had to start more projects to rearrange all my stuff after the influx of Christmas gifts. I ended up taking ALL my books off all my shelves and rearranging all of them. And let’s just say – I have a lot of books that I really need to read.

Anyway, it was not the most fun of days, but Christmas stuff is put away! I’m glad we got it all done and now I can move on with my life.

I’m not sure I want to do Sunday Intentions anymore, in lieu of my new plan of not putting so many goals and expectations on my time. But it looks to be a pretty quiet week ahead, with just a coffee morning with friends on Wednesday and getting my brakes replaced on Friday. I’m planning to just focus on my coursework and hopefully going through a few more cookbooks to get good meal plans for the coming weeks. Greg gave me an air fryer for Christmas, but I have no idea what to do with it (I did ask for it!), so I need to find some great recipes. I also need to get back to eating well. I was doing so great until Christmas Eve and then it got hard again. It’s just plain really hard when everyone is home all the time. Easy well liked meals are more important than healthy meals, for my sanity’s sake.

That’s it for tonight! Have a great week!

Christmas Reflections 2019

I’ve been dreading writing this post because I’m not quite sure what to say about Christmas this year. I like to be authentic and honest in this space, refusing to gloss over or hide the truly hard parts of life. But at the same time, I know that I’m fairly pessimistic a lot of the time, and people don’t want to read about depressing things. Especially in what should be a light hearted, warm fuzzy memories Christmas post.

You learn pretty early to set your holiday expectations LOW when you have kids. Babies and toddlers are on their own schedules with their own agendas and they don’t handle chaos and change very well. You expect Christmastime to be this magical experience and it’s usually anything but. You learn to adapt to what your kids need, deal with the disappointment of relatives when you have to say no to things, and try to keep everyone as happy as possible when all you really want to do is go hide in a dark room and cry. It’s so much about putting on your brave face, ignoring what’s really going on in your heart, and just trying to get through it, focusing on the good parts of the season.

I’ve gotten so used to this over the last eleven years, being blessed with a child who is especially difficult when literally anything changes in his homebody lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how exciting the holiday or event, it doesn’t matter what relative he adores is in town, it doesn’t matter what he’s promised as a reward or what he’s threatened as a punishment, he WILL NOT COOPERATE. He will make sure everybody knows in the most dramatic, violent, cruel, and angry way as possible how upset he is about these new expectations on him. Normally if we talk things through over and over days in advance, he’s a little bit better about going with the flow when the time comes. But this year? He wasn’t having it. He made it his life goal this past week to make every morning before we left the house as terrible as he possibly could. Which really puts a damper on our own ability to carry on and have a great day ourselves.

I do want to make it clear that once we left the house, at every party and event we went to, everything was fine. He didn’t act out anywhere else, which isn’t always the case, so…progress? I’m thankful for the time we got to spend with family and how much effort our parents went to to provide some really great Christmas get togethers and meals. Nothing about my negative Christmas experience has anything to do with anyone other than the members of my immediate family. I think it was even harder this year because normally I can at least depend on Greg to be on my side because he’s the only other person in the world who understands how difficult it is dealing with this particular child. But we seemed to keep getting our signals crossed this year, resulting in a whole lot of silent treatment – our best fighting skill. So in the end, it felt like a very lonely couple of days.

Anyway! Now that that’s out of my system, back to my recap of the week. Sunday was the day I was most worried about because it involved three different events. After a repeat of Saturday’s morning, we decided to leave Caden at my parent’s house with Annie for the day, eliminating his presence at two events. It ended up working out well, giving him time to play with Hudson and giving my mom a little time to get a few things done, while the rest of us got a much needed break from his verbal abuse. We joined Greg’s family at church to watch his dad in the cantada. Then we drove up to Oshkosh for the big extended family party. Shepard kept refusing to do anything with the other kid cousins, but he was making himself pretty comfortable with older male cousins and uncles that he barely knows, joining in their conversations like a tiny adult. I thought it was hilarious.

We stopped at Starbucks after the party to reward Shepard for behaving so well and to give me a much needed pick me up.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating my dad’s birthday. It’s unfortunate that his birthday is right by Christmas when he’s working like 18 hour days at FedEx. But he had the whole day off, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were also available, so we were able to celebrate all together.

It was a really nice low key and relaxed evening.

I really liked watching the cousins play together. Hudson was obsessed with going in Annie’s kennel and kept insisting the boys go in with him. He’s so cute! I’m glad my boys are willing to play with him at his level and aren’t “too cool” for toddlers yet!

On Monday morning we did our own family Christmas at home. I like to do it early every year before the novelty of big gift exchanges wears off. Though they don’t seem as overwhelmed by it as they did when they were younger. But it’s still nice to carve out half a day just for us in the midst of so much extended family time.

Shepard picked this mug out for me when we did our Target shopping a few weeks ago. I laughed so hard when I opened it! Greg said he went right to that one and insisted on it. Such a funny kid.

We spent the night of the 23rd exchanging gifts and having a nice dinner with Greg’s family. Normally we do both families on the 24th, but we had to rearrange a bit this year with Greg’s sister and brother-in-law needing to fly out on the 24th. I really liked separating the events, though. It felt so much more relaxed during the opening (because we didn’t have another one to rush off to) and during our annual brunch on the 24th (because we weren’t rushing to get to presents). I didn’t take any photos that night, unfortunately.

We went over as early as we could get moving on the 24th to have brunch with the Noe side. It was really nice!

We used a selfie stick to get a picture with everyone in it.

We left at the same time all the siblings went to the airport to spend as much remaining time with Hudson (and the rest) as possible on their last day in town as well.

It was a little bit cooler, but still nice enough to play outside for part of the afternoon. I heard that we had record breaking warm temperatures this week, which is crazy. Normally I’m all about wanting a white Christmas, but this year it’s been really great NOT having to constantly worry about falling, or trying to fit shoveling into already very busy schedules.

Annie got to have a sleepover on the 23rd, spending lots of time with Grandma and her dog aunts. She loves going over there with a huge fenced in yard to run around in. Plus three other pet dishes to steal food from!

I tried really hard to stay on track with my eating plans in the days and parties before just so I could indulge in this snack feast with no guilt on Christmas Eve. This probably wasn’t even half of the food that my mom kept adding to throughout the day! I totally went overboard, but it was so worth it. YUM.

My dad got home from work at 4 – probably the earliest ever! (Though he also had to get up at 2!) We had to have a round of Christmas carols and toddler tunes before we could open gifts.

After the big present opening, everyone just kind of zoned out. I was really zoned out half the day, I was so wiped out! It was really nice to just read and doze for a couple hours in the afternoon while Hudson was napping. Christmas is exhausting!

We both looked pretty out of it by the end of the night! Hudson tried on some new jammies and we said goodbye.

And the night ended with a Santa visit. Despite how the beginning of this month started with a lot of questioning, both of my kids still firmly believe in his existence. I’m happy to have had another year of the magic, but I can also see how things could feel a lot easier once they know the truth. One of the hardest things this year was that Shepard’s list for Santa only included things that were ridiculously expensive and inappropriate for an 8 year old. Like an iphone, a gaming computer, some sort of massive four wheeler. We’ve NEVER had Santa bring the bigger gifts, so I don’t know why he got it into his head that this year would be his year. His reasoning was that Santa doesn’t need money because he makes everything, so he’ll bring kids what they ask for. It was kind of hard to see how sad he was to not get any of those things, even though it really was unreasonable. He told someone a few days later that his favorite present was a box of Nerds because it was the only thing on his list that he actually got. (Though it didn’t come from Santa!) Sigh.

Everyone was up bright and early Christmas morning. Annie took care of Santa’s cookie and milk leftovers. We opened our gifts and stockings and then Greg went back to bed, the boys went to game, and I spent basically the entire day reading and napping. When Greg woke up again he went to spend a few hours with his family, while the rest of us stayed home to chill. It was so luxurious to have a day where I truly felt I could ignore all responsibility and just relax. I did put together an easy but nice dinner, but the rest of the day was just doing what I love most – reading an addictive book.

Thursday, the 26th, is what I like to call my annual wrapping paper restock day. I left the house as early as I could to get to Target to stock up. I also did a big grocery run, walked through all the clearance at TJMaxx, and zipped down to Trader Joe’s to get a few fun treats for New Year’s Eve. I was planning to spend most of the day out and about, but Greg and the boys went to Beaver Dam again and the draw of having a few hours home alone was just too strong. Though they got home soon after me, so I just spent the whole afternoon in bed reading and napping. This week has done a number on me – I’m so tired! Later that day Shepard had an eye appointment and he picked out new glasses – the same pair, but with slightly different coloring. I made another nice dinner (I’m always so excited about making dinner after a week of snacks and treats!) and we picked up Culver’s ice cream for dessert.

And Friday. MEH. I was in a pretty crappy mood Friday. Greg and Shepard had bad colds at the start of all the Christmas festivities, but Caden woke up with a cold AND a hacking cough on Christmas Day. So even though I was so desperate to have more time at my own house, now that I feel like we’re trapped here because of his sickness, it’s depressing me. I really want to go see Little Women with Greg, but…Caden. I also spent half the day in the kitchen, which is always a blessing and a curse. I love making good food, but I resent the fact that it’s always all on me to do it. And when it literally takes up half my day, I get frustrated. I’m always stressed out by the piles of new gifts that I know nobody but me is ever going to put away or organize. I have so many things I could and should be doing, but I have a terrible time concentrating when there is so much going on around me, so I feel like I can’t really do anything. I can’t even do the fun things, like watch my own tv shows or listen to my podcasts or music. And I’m SO angry at my stupid foot and how it’s stopping me from exercising. So…it wasn’t a very good day. Not because of anyone else, just me reacting to a lack of time alone, lack of quiet, lack of sleep, lack of physical outlet for my building stress.

But it’s a new day. I’m hoping to power through and get a few things done this weekend, even if it means wearing ear plugs or dragging all of my stuff upstairs to my bedroom. I think it might also be a good idea to just start some dolls. It’s been almost a month since I’ve done any sewing and I NEED that creative outlet in my life. There are still five more days before everyone goes back to work and school and I need to make the most of them.

So that was our Christmas! The usual rollercoaster of emotions. I had a really nice time seeing all of our out of town siblings and nephew and enjoying drama free get togethers with everyone. I really wish things on the home front had gone a lot more smoothly, but this is our life, mess and all.

Saturday Reflections 12.21.2019

Well, here we are at the end of another week and the start of Christmas week. It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I won’t be home at all tomorrow or most of the following couple of days and I didn’t want this week’s memories to disappear from the record, so I need to get this post written!

It was kind of a rough week, physically and mentally. My plantar fasciitis has come back with a vengeance. Even before I broke my ankle, every time I tried to get serious about walking a lot more or doing any sort of exercise, the plantar fasciitis would come back and it’s so incredibly painful I can barely even stand up, let alone try to do any sort of exercise. It’s so discouraging to feel like I can just never win. I get so excited about improving my physical health – especially now with the treadmill – but the more I walk the more extreme pain I’m in. It SUCKS. The only way to make it go away is to let it rest. I’ve still taken Annie for multiple short walks this week, but I think I’ve only been on the treadmill once. It’s really frustrating. And it hurts. A lot.

I also made the decision this week to cancel my Hope*Writers membership. I was so excited about it just a short month and a half ago, but life has been a hard reality check since coming home from the conference. There were a variety of reasons I finally made the decision to give this up, but the main one was just a lack of time and mental capacity for it. Trying to change the way I eat and cook and shop has been so all consuming and I still have so far to go. I also have basically zero inventory for Heartstring Annie and need to get really serious about stocking my shop back up in the next few months after not giving it much attention this fall. Hope*Writers was just one more thing that made me feel like I was failing at life. At the bare minimum as a member I should have attended the live weekly classes on Tuesdays. In seven weeks, I managed to prioritize it 1.5 times. If I can’t even do that, I’m certainly not making the effort to do any of the other aspects of membership. I’m really disappointed in myself for this decision, but I think it was the right one for this season of my life.

Anyway. I spent all day Monday running all of my necessary errands. And it took me about a full week in total, but I eventually went through my pantry and baking shelves and basement areas, switching all my new healthy food supplies into glass jars. They’re more appealing this way, they take up less space, and I’m much more likely to actually use them. I also made the final steps to throw away almost all the remaining junk food in the house.

I also spent a ton of time this week wrapping presents. For some reason I thought I could be done with it all in a day. Nope! I used to love wrapping presents, but it’s definitely lost its appeal to me.

On Wednesday I decided I deserved a little bit of fun, so I went to my favorite west side stores to browse around and pick up some final stocking stuffers. In the evening I made this gluten free banana pumpkin bread I wrote about yesterday. It was so good.

On Thursday I was prepared to finally buckle down and finish wrapping Santa gifts – only to have Shepard home from school because he had a bad headache and lost a lot of sleep. Fortunately after a few more hours of sleep he was feeling fine, so I was still able to take him to school and get what I needed to done. And then in the evening we met up with Greg’s parents and friend for Mod Pizza and Star Wars!

On Friday Caden participated in his middle school spelling bee! He was one of 24 kids in grades 3-8 to compete. He did well! He was so nervous, but we’re really proud of him for going up there and doing it. He had quite the support section with Greg and I, three of the grandparents, and an aunt and uncle!

After school we went to the in-law’s and out to dinner. It was a nice kick off to our Christmas festivities!

And then this morning was pretty awful. Always such an emotional roller coaster around here. It’s so hard to know how to properly parent a child who has serious behavioral issues with being required to leave the house for any reason, no matter how special or fun it’s going to be. On one hand you assume that by age 11 he should be expected to go along with what we tell him to, no matter what. On the other hand, we’ve had 11 years of experience to tell us that’s just not going to go well and it’s only going to ruin the day for everyone. We need to prioritize HIS needs when we can, even if it upsets other people. It’s just not a battle we needed to have before the real days of Christmas celebrations even begin. Greg and I had very different ideas of what our plans were for today and because I was the one up six hours earlier than him, I’m the one the kids wanted to believe. In the end, he went off to spend the day with his family, and the boys and I stayed home. Them gaming, me getting things done. It was so beautiful outside, though, that we did take a break and run around the dog park for awhile.

We did decide to join most of the siblings for their pre-Star Wars dinner at Tipsy Cow tonight. Caden’s participation in the movie going was back and forth all day, but he ended up going with everyone as planned. Shepard and I came back home. Once is enough for me!

I finished the night making a French onion dip for my Dad’s birthday celebration tomorrow night. Now I’m ready to crash!

Our next few days are packed! We have early church tomorrow to watch my father-in-law sing in a cantada. Then we’re off to Oshkosh for Greg’s huge family party. And then back to my parents’ house for my dad’s birthday party. On Monday we’re going to open presents just the four of us and hopefully have a somewhat laid back morning of enjoying our new gifts. Then we’re doing a gift exchange and having dinner with Greg’s family. Christmas Eve will be back there again for brunch and then the rest of the day with my side. And Christmas Day we always leave open because chances are high most of us are pretty over traveling around by then and just want to enjoy some time at home. We’ll see, though. It should be a lot of fun if everyone stays in good spirits, myself included. I probably won’t have any time to write for awhile, so…. Merry Christmas!!