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…

Shepard’s 7th Birthday

20180217_121259 friend party cake

On Sunday my sweet and silly Shepard turned seven! We had a full weekend of celebrations. Unfortunately, we had three days after that of sickness. Caden just felt icky on Monday and Tuesday, Shepard got sick all night long last night and today. And I’m maybe sick? Maybe not? At any rate, I was upΒ all night long constantly changing his sheets and his clothes because he was so out of it heΒ kept throwing up in his sleep. I’m basically a zombie today, but I thought I’d try and accomplish one thing after laying in bed all day and write this post! Hopefully it’s comprehensible.

20180217_130713 balloon crazy

Shepard had five of his friends over on Saturday for a party. It got pretty crazy! Why do kids get so insanely wild at parties?!

20180217_133738 annie likes quinn

Annie was equally as wild, despite taking her to the dog park that morning.

20180217_132024 serving up punch

I usually make a bunch of themed snacks for kid parties, but was trying to keep things REALLY simple this time around, especially after my ear infection and all the annoying stuff that happened last week. We did make green punch, though!

20180217_132246 cheers punch

20180217_134101 big present

20180217_133611 annie wants presents

20180217_134159 minecraft stop motion

He got lots of cool gifts!

20180217_141402 candles on cake

Shepard was getting a little partied out by cake time and not so much in the mood for cooperating with smiles.

20180217_141813 cake bricks

Greg and I spent five hours on Friday getting these cakes together! It’s triple layers of chocolate fudge, funfetti, and white cakes cut out in circles and put back together to try and get a checkerboard (“minecraft brick”) look on the inside. Unfortunately the cake was falling apart, but maybe it still looked kind of cool? I thought it tasted good at least!

20180217_142016 gym teacher snaps

Apparently “talky hands” is what their gym teacher does and it’s hilarious. After cake everyone just ran around until they got picked up. It felt like a very long two hours to the adults (lol), but we made it through! Shepard enjoyed being the center of attention and showing off for his friends.

20180218_080353 birthday scone piile

And Sunday was his birthday! (He’s wearing the same clothes as Saturday because he still has a massive stubborn streak and refuses to wear pajamas at night.) I was going to make him funfetti scones because I thought they would look festive, but he caught me in time and demanded they be chocolate chip instead. They were quite tasty! We took this picture the exact minute he turned seven.

20180218_081433 reading cards

After breakfast he opened the gifts fromΒ  us. He was so hard to buy for this year! I ended up just picking out all kinds of small and super random things I thought he might enjoy.

20180218_081524 insert pizza

Like pizza themed clothing.

20180218_081707 tic tacs

And cherry cola tic tacs which are his fav. (My kids informed me yesterday I’m never allowed to say “favorite” – it always has to be fav.)

20180218_081709 tic tacs

20180218_081821 pizza socks

20180218_081847(0) dragonquest builders

20180218_081917 drawing book

20180218_081944 peregrine falcon

20180218_082011 falcon book

20180218_082136 washi tape

20180218_110738 chicken wings

The morning was pretty low key for the guys playing his new video game while I set up for the family party. I don’t really like having parties on my kids’ actual birthdays because I feel so absent from what they’re doing. I prefer making the day really be all about them and whatever they want to do. But February was so busy this year that having it on his birthday was really our only option. I don’t think he minded. I know it’s been an issue with Caden in the past, though, so I realllly try never to schedule them on the same day for him.

20180218_111000 green punch

Our usual green punch because it’s tasty and it’s Minecraft colors.

20180218_111805 chicken wings

When we asked him what kind of food he wanted at his party he answered with Ponderosa chicken wings. So wings we had! The in-law’s picked them up for us. They’re my favorite wings too, but such an odd choice!

20180218_111034 buffalo chicken dip

The rest of the “meal” was just an improvised selection of snack type foods. I converted a recipe gone wrong into buffalo chicken dip which I’m pretty sure nobody actually ate lol.

20180218_111814 pizza sliders

I was so excited to realize I had all the ingredients to make these pizza sliders. Shepard didn’t actually have one, but pizza IS his favorite food, so it was a little more on brand for his party. I’ve been wanting to make these forever. They were delish! (If you refer to the recipe, I did not add the sausage.)

20180218_111913 veggie tray

Veggie tray from Cindy. Gotta keep some healthy options!

20180218_114216 chinese salad

Chinese salad from my parents. Unfortunately my mom came down with a flu bug too and couldn’t come to the party. πŸ™ All but one aunt and uncle weren’t able to come either, so it was a small party this year.

20180218_114223 chips and salsas

And some chips and salsas because they’re Shepard’s favorite snack.

20180218_114229 food begger

Annie begging for food because I’m standing in the cutting spot where I always hand her vegetables as I slice.

20180218_114247 salad and face timing

Facetiming with Aunt Sarah while he eats his salad.

20180218_115708 shepard and mom

The cake was a little worse for wear two days after making it. I really don’t like making it that early, but since I was basically making two of the same cake there was no other logistical way to do it. I think it still tasted pretty good.

20180218_120151 aunt amy

20180218_120715(0) uncle greg

A party isn’t complete without Hudson!

20180218_122334 making faces and feeding

Shepard trying to entertain Hudson while he eats.

20180218_122902 present pile

Present time!

20180218_123333 hudson hat

20180218_123345 hudson hat

20180218_123907 art box

20180218_124303(0) box opening

20180218_124402 farty facts

20180218_124410 donut pillow

20180218_124619 minecraft mug

20180218_124625 hot cocoa

20180218_124655 hudson's picture

Shepard thought it was just the most incredible and funny thing that Hudson drew him a picture on his birthday card!

20180218_124659 hudson's picture

20180218_124700 hudson's picture

20180218_124707 hudson's picture

20180218_125122 earaser maker

20180218_125328 hudson jumping

20180218_125640 air hockey

20180218_132334 cute hudson

20180218_132446 pay attention to me

Annie was being pretty naughty at this party too. I did NOT have time to take her to the dog park this time. She’s been super obnoxious lately. It’s frustrating to realize that she genuinely needs solid exercise 365 days a year no matter what the weather or what my schedule, or she’s going to turn into a psycho dog by the end of the day. It’s the one part of dog owning that weighs me down and I wish I didn’t have to be solely responsible for.

20180218_132731 birthday boy

Cake time! Being silly.

20180218_132816 birthday boy

20180218_132832 big blow

20180218_145139 drawing lessons

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying out Shepard’s presents and relaxing. It was a pretty low key day.

20180218_145801 partied out

And that was his birthday! I totally passed out both days after the parties. My ear infection didn’t start feeling remotely better until Monday night. I wish for once I felt healthy and energetic on Shepard’s birthday party weekend! Oh well, I’m not sure he even noticed the difference. πŸ™‚ He was so busy playing with his new gifts and enjoying feeling like the special little boy he is! He continues to bring so much joy and happiness into my every day and I have no idea what I would do without him. Love that kid!!

Busy Week Recap and Sunday Intentions

Amy and Caden

Ooh boy, it was a big week. I had plans to write about all that I did,Β right after it happened, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Busy, busy. I feel like these Sunday Intentions posts are becoming much more about evaluating the week past instead of talking about the week ahead. But I like the journaling aspect of these posts and remembering the details of big and small things that happened over the week. So here goes.


On Monday, Caden had his final IEP meeting. He passed! He is no longer in speech therapy and requiring any type of special education services. Which is awesome. It’s truly amazing how far he’s come in the last few years. When he was 18 months old and still not saying any words, the doctors were becoming concerned and wanted us to keep an eye on things. Around two years old, we moved back to Wisconsin and got him into Birth to 3. Right at three he started taking speech therapy twice a week and was diagnosed with an apraxia of speech, which means the words were not connecting properly from his brain to his mouth. In 4K we still couldn’t understand more than half of the words he said. And that was us, the people who knew him best. He was practically unintelligible to anyone else, and other kids were occasionally making fun of him for it. Β In kindergarten, first grade, and now second grade, he’s been continuing therapy at school, but very unhappy about it because he missed so much in regular class. He was often taken out of class 2-3 times a week, and it was progressively becoming more a lot upsetting to him. And finally, in the last few months, we all decided that he was ready to graduate from it! He’s worked very hard the last six and a half years, and I’m incredibly proud of him. A few years ago, I honestly thought he’d still be taking speech into middle school. He’s done awesome!

Heart Model

On Tuesday morning, we had to take Shepard to the Children’s Hospital for an echocardiogram. He’s been sick a lot this winter and in January the doctor noticed a heart murmur. She thought it was probably because he was dehydrated, but wanted him to come back to get it checked out again later. She could still hear it that appointment, so we were sent to a pediatric cardiologist for a more official consultation.


It was a long morning. The doctor listened and said, “That’s not a murmur, that’s a click! A click is a lot worse!!” She was quite enthusiastic about it. She wanted to get us in for the echo, which apparently we weren’t actually scheduled for. So we had to wait to get fit into the schedule and then we had to wait for insurance to decide if they would cover it or not. All while thinking about what the words “that’s a lot worse!” could mean.


Long story short, he is totally fine. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ He did a great job laying on the table during the echo. It lasted about an hour. A very long hour! The doctor came back when it was over and declared that he was totally and completely fine. We asked what the click was and she shouted, “I have no idea!” She thought perhaps he just has an acoustic chest… Then she stood there and repeatedly asked Shepard to promise he’d never smoke because that’s the worst thing he could do for his heart. He kept staring at her blankly and I suggested that he probably doesn’t even know what smoking is because I don’t think he’s ever seen a smoker. But she continued to say she was serious and she needs a promise from him. It was an interesting appointment. But we’re so grateful that everything turned out to be great.


On Tuesday night, Greg was called out to help my brother with a broken down car situation. So I was alone with the boys at night, which practically never happens. We decided to use the time to finally look through the Gurney’s catalog and plan out our gardens. We went out and took measurements, made an official gardening notebook, and drew a to scale plot for us to plan it all out. Caden re-wrote our list of seeds we bought, and a few extra plants we’ll want to buy when it’s time. We’re planning to start a few things in one of those early seed starters too. I’m pretty excited about it! The boys aren’t often interested in things they can do with me, and I’m not particularly interested in the things they love the most (i.e. video games), so it’s really exciting to have this big project the three of us can work on together throughout the next many months.


On Wednesday, I was working hard to finish up a big batch of dolls. I was looking forward to finally catching up and making some sales. And then because of construction and/or a truck hitting a line and/or a windstorm blowing down a tower, we were without internet and cell signal for the entire day! It was pretty crazy. Definitely makes you realize how much you rely on that technology to feel connected to the world. Being home alone with the insane winds, not having any way to contact anyone, was kind of freaky. And also extremely frustrating because I couldn’t get anything listed until very late that night. On a positive note, I did go with Laura to the Rio Drumfit class. It was fun to be there again. I think we’ll continue going on weeks that it works out for us. But I still wish the class would come back to Columbus. Much more convenient night and location.

Lego Batman

On Thursday I decided to catch up on cleaning the house. When I’m in the middle of a big batch of dolls, I tend to let a lot of the housework go. So I spent the majority of the day just putzing around.

On Friday, there was no school (no idea why), so Greg took the day off and we had a family day. We went to see the new Lego Batman movie. It’s the first time all four of us have ever seen a movie in the theater together! I thought it was pretty funny!

Friday night the boys went on a sleepover and Greg and I had a date night. We were feeling pretty lazy, so we just stayed in and basically watched six hours of tv. But it was kind of awesome! It’s pretty rare we spend such a solid block of time together. And a treat to actually binge watch a show (Superstore!) all in the same night. Reminds me of life before kids when we’d watch episode after episode of 24 every single night. πŸ™‚ Anyway, it was fun.


And finally, my girls weekend in Galena! We’ve been planning this for over two months and it was great to finally have happen! Life has been crazy and I really needed the break from everything. It was also just really cool to connect with my friends longer than the two minute conversations we barely manage at the playground after school.

We spent most of Saturday going through some of the unique little shops in the downtown area. We all found some fun treasures! We also went to two wine tastings. I’ve never done wine tastings before, but it was really fun! I’m so unaccustomed to alcohol, so I liked trying out things I would never consider buying if I just looked at the bottle. We also went to a couple fun restaurants and pubs and then spent most of the night just chilling out at our two bedroom villa with pizza, cheese, and our favorite wines. We all caught up on sleep and reveled in a day and a half of not needing to be moms! I had a really great time and look forward to doing it again in the future! πŸ™‚


So onto this week! Thankfully, the calendar is looking a lot more open. Except for that it’s Pi Day on Tuesday, the Ides of March on Wednesday, Guster Day on Thursday, and St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. I’m not really sure how to celebrate on Wednesday and Thursday, but Greg always likes to make special note of those days!

Focus: Work!

It’s a working week. I need to make up for getting very little done last week. I volunteered to make some raffle baskets for the school spring carnival coming up, which I’m very excited about, I just don’t have a single thing made for them yet. So that’s my first priority, and then I need to get going hard core on Easter dolls and bunnies. The clock is ticking!! I still feel so very behind. My new system of writing down my hours has really been interesting. I’m realizing that my goal of five hours a day is nearly impossible between errands, laundry, meals, and school pick ups and drop offs. And last week at least, almost all of those hours were put in after dinner. NOT the way I want it to be.

Second Focus: Me Time

This last week really left me drained. Getting away this weekend was a lot of fun, but I now kind of feel more tired than ever. As much as I want to get a lot of work done, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my health. So I’m planning to try and get to bed early, take naps if I need them, and try not to work so much at night. I’m also hopefully going to a fun vintage store with my mom on Wednesday night. Weather permitting. But it will hopefully work out and be a really fun mid-week treat!

Meal Planning – I actually did it this week!

Monday – Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas – I always have chicken and a lot of peppers – easy peasy.

Tuesday (PI DAY) – Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie, based off of this recipe. It might be gross, it might be good, I can’t make up my mind. I don’t really like regular chicken pot pie, but maybe if I make some sort of buffalo concoction it’ll be good. πŸ™‚ Also, perhaps this Peanut Butter Brownie S’mores Pie.Β 

Wednesday – Guys are on their own, assuming I can get to that shop

Thursday – Costco’s St. Patrick’s Day ravioli. I would save it for Friday, but we haven’t had pizza a couple Fridays in a row, so I want to get back on track.

Friday – Pizza. Maybe green pizza. Or at least shamrock shaped pizza. I made some quick jalapeno popper naan pizzas for dinner tonight which were pretty great. So maybe I’ll do that again, with extra jalapenos on top, and call it Irish!

Have a great week! Enjoy all the mini holidays! Though you probably don’t know who Guster is lol. πŸ™‚


Shepard’s 6th Birthday Weekend!

IMG_0588 birthday morning

Yesterday was my baby’s 6th birthday! It’s hard to believe he’s already six years old. But it’s also hard to believe that he’s only six! Hasn’t he been in my life forever? It certainly feels like it! I don’t know how I managed before I got to see his silly smile every day. He’s definitely the life of our family and I’m thankful every day that he belongs to us.

IMG_0591 purple flowers

Purple is still his favorite color, for two or three years running. He also loves flowers, so I bought him some purple flowers for his birthday.

IMG_0595 nerdy

Caden still pretty obsessed with my new laptop… (And passports out because ours expire in the next month and I need to do something about that.)

IMG_0598 birthday breakfast

Shepard wanted donuts for his birthday breakfast. But…I bought donuts for Friday’s breakfast and he brought homemade donuts for his treat at school on Friday, and I just didn’t feel like going to another store just to buy more donuts. So he was happy to eat a toaster strudel instead.

IMG_0599 present tmie

Pretty early on Saturday morning we let him open the presents from us.

IMG_0604 sky light up

I was most excited to give him this northern lights simulator for his room, but we are apparently out of batteries, so haven’t been able to try it yet.

IMG_0619 new underwear

He got a lot of new underwear this birthday!

IMG_0633 facetime melissa

Face timing with Aunt Melissa and Andrew in Columbia!

IMG_0635 painting

Painting his new butterfly house for the garden.

IMG_0636 butterfly house

The packaging said butterflies like asters, so that’s what he painted.

IMG_0637 talkign to g and g

Taking another break to talk to Grandma and Grandpa Noe on the phone.

IMG_0643 boomerang

I bought a couple last minute boomerangs for a gift. He said they were his favorite! Of course we had to immediately go try them out.

IMG_0650 father son

Like father, like son.

IMG_0652 making pizza

Of course he had to have pizza for lunch. I made frozen pepperoni pizza on Friday night to try and give myself a bit of a break after prepping all day. Well…meltdown city because apparently pepperoni is no longer an acceptable pizza topping. So for his birthday he made himself his own bbq bacon pizza and I made a garlic honey pizza for myself. Greg was out of luck because neither of our doughs would stretch big enough to share! Caden was out to lunch and a movie with Grandma Braatz because he was having a hard time letting Shepard get the spotlight. He basically spent the entire day screaming about how unfair it is that Shepard gets to pick what he wants to do because “I NEVER get to pick things on my birthday!!!” Grossly untrue, except that his last few birthdays have fallen on school days, so it was extraordinarily unfair Shepard’s was on a Saturday. Well, wait for it buddy because all of our birthdays are on weekends this year.

IMG_0656 pizza

Enjoying his pizza, despite the fact all the toppings sunk to the middle!

IMG_0672 frisbees

This was the first year Shepard was allowed to have a friend birthday party. I scheduled it on his actual birthday since it landed on a Saturday and February weekends always get tricky around Valentine’s Day and such. I’ll probably never do that again because it did make the day feel a lot more high pressure and stressful. But, it happened, we survived. πŸ™‚

IMG_0675 wild kids

The weather has been crazy these last few days. So warm!! Which was fortunate for the party because those kids were insanely wild. It helped that they could spend most of the party just running around outside. I felt kind of bad for Shepard because he had all these plans that he wanted to do in a certain order with his friends, but then they came and everything just turned into two hours of mass chaos. I think he was pretty overwhelmed.

IMG_0679 pretzels

I wasn’t going to serve any snacks, but then I saw a new brand of soft pretzels at Costco, so decided to pick them up since it’s one of Shepard’s favorite treat foods. Most of the kids took one bite and then ran off again. Probably should have skipped the pretzels!!

IMG_0682 cheater

Pin the star. Shepard most definitely cheated!

IMG_0683 shepard smile

A real smile!

IMG_0687 sydney

I think she’s the only one who didn’t cheat.

IMG_0698 gumballs

The kids noticed Caden’s bubblegum stashes all over the family room. There was a whole lot of gum chewing going on! The gum machine was very fascinating. πŸ™‚

IMG_0702 with mario

I thought for sure I could get everyone to stand still for ten seconds for a nice picture with Mario! Nope! Parties are way too exciting for standing still. πŸ™‚

IMG_0706 with mario

IMG_0708 sam in mario

IMG_0710 with mario

IMG_0718 august

Present time. He was very happy with all of his gifts!

IMG_0719 giggle

Sweet giggles.

IMG_0726 with sydney

I love all the homemade cards.

IMG_0733 sundae bar

Shepard didn’t want cake, so we had a sundae bar for dessert. I think this is the first time in my kids’ lives that I actually served ice cream at parties! I think they all had a good time loading up on the candies!

IMG_0758 ice cream

IMG_0766 trick candles

Shepard REALLY wanted trick candles. Pretty funny stuff. πŸ™‚

IMG_0769 ice cream

And that was the party!

IMG_0778 getting measured

We spent the rest of the day just playing with the new toys, watching a movie, playing video games, and getting measured. He grew three inches in the last year. For dinner we had “Ponderosa chicken” and french fries. He was pretty wiped out by the end of the night, but I think he had a good birthday.

IMG_0783 skillet cookie

Today we celebrated again with family. He wanted ice cream sundaes again, but I decided to make a skillet cookie to go with it, mostly so I’d have a better place to put the candles.

IMG_0784 the pizza spread

Pizza party! We made buffalo, pepperoni, and bbq. Our standard three!

IMG_0800 the new way to smile

Apparently holding your head like you’re in pain is the new way to smile for pictures.

IMG_0805 one good skillet cookie picture

Finally a nicer one!

IMG_0808 doritos

Shepard wanted pizza and doritos for his party food. So that’s all I provided!! Definitely going for the minimal effort this year.

IMG_0810 veggies and dip

Grandma Noe brought veggies and Shepard’s favorite “carrot dip.” Grandma Braatz brought her amazing Chinese salad. Lots of good food!

IMG_0826 legos

IMG_0836 reading cards

IMG_0838 caden present

IMG_0843 tablet

IMG_0854 legos

IMG_0861 hockey

IMG_0885 inside hockey

Lots of awesome presents!

IMG_0896 outside hockey

I can’t believe that on February 19th in Wisconsin my kids are wearing shorts and flip flops and playing outdoor floor hockey. I know that winter weather is surely going to come back, but this is awesome while it lasts!

IMG_0898 weird face

Always such natural smiles.

IMG_0899 hockey

Shepard’s rain boots were too small and Caden’s had holes in them, so they both picked out some new pairs on amazon the other day. Shepard LOVES his Batman ones.

IMG_0908 sundae station

Today’s ice cream spread. I added a few extra toppings, including a homemade butterscotch sauce that was super simple to make and sooo delicious.

IMG_0912 lighting candles

IMG_0916 shy smile

My sweet and sometimes shy boy.

IMG_0922 silly smile

Split second later, my silly class clown boy.

IMG_0930 blowing candles

I sure do love this kid!

IMG_0940 playing uno

The rest of the party the women played Shepard’s new Emoji Uno, the men talked or slept on the couches, and the boys played outside by themselves.

Overall, it was a really good birthday weekend! Shepard is one loved little boy!

The problem I can’t fix


I wish I knew what to do with this kid. I wish I knew what was truly going through his mind when it comes time to go to the bathroom. Potty training him is the biggest parenting struggle we’ve had in the last eight years. Every single tiny step in the process has turned into a monumental challenge that takes months to years to overcome. Sitting on the potty chair when he turned three was terrifying. He stayed in diapers all through preschool, despite not technically being allowed to be there while not potty trained. A solid year after we started the potty chair we spent an entire summer desperately trying to get him to sit on the real toilet so he’d be ready for 4K. It didn’t work. After many, many tears from everybody, he finally sat on the toilet IF he was sitting on a portable potty seat. With the seat he’d only use one of our bathrooms, and one bathroom at each grandma’s house. For two years we couldn’t leave the house for more than a couple of hours in case he’d need to go to the bathroom. Every extended trip, I’d take the regular potty chair along and he’d use it in the car or parking lot. Finally after his fifth birthday he used the toilet in one of our bathrooms. And only that toilet. He made it through an entire year of 4K never using the bathroom. I lived in fear that he’d start having accidents. One of my friends kept insisting it was a very real possibility that he would not be allowed to go to kindergarten if anybody knew about his problem, so we had to keep the struggle under wraps. Maybe if we had tried harder to get him more professional help last year we wouldn’t still be fighting this today, when he’s three months shy of turning six.

This last April things finally seemed to be moving forward. We took a trip to Great America and he went to the bathroom twice while we were there – on a real toilet with very little hesitation. A week or so after that we went to an out of town birthday party and he used the bathroom there. Both times with Greg or I, but he finally seemed to be getting more comfortable. And then in May we moved into our house. And everything went downhill. He was scared of the bathrooms here, he started having daily accidents, to the point where he didn’t even seem to care anymore. By the end of summer he was okay with going in our downstairs bathroom, he was okay with toilets at three grandma’s houses. I was purposely taking day trips as often as possible, not reminding him to go to the bathroom before we left, in hopes that he’d eventually give in and use toilets in other places. It never happened. He became an expert at holding it. His record is 11 hours while we were at a wedding. By the end of the night he desperately needed to go and we spent over an hour going back and forth sitting with him in public bathrooms and he just wouldn’t go. That was the most miserable two hour car ride home in all of our lives.

By the end of summer we were all feeling pretty hopeless. I guess we just assumed after all this time once school started full time for him he’d realize going to the bathroom there was just part of the deal and he’d do it. We put him in therapy right before school started. We talked to his teacher, we talked to the school nurse. We came up with many plans of action. We toured the school bathrooms with him multiple times. We had Caden check on him several times a day the first week of school to try and convince him to use the bathroom. Greg has gone to school a couple of times during the day to try and get him to go. His teacher has given him the option to use a private bathroom. We’ve tried bribing him with basically anything he could possibly want. Nothing works. Nothing.

For the longest time our end goal was for him to successfully use bathrooms on our trip to San Francisco in October. We assumed if he could do that it would break him of this problem and he’d finally be a successfully potty trained child.Β  We spent way too much time worrying that we were going to get there, he was going to hold it too long, and we’d spend the week sitting in a hospital with him. But amazingly, he did awesome. He used five different bathrooms. He told us when he had to go, we brought him to the closest bathroom, and he went. We rejoiced, thinking that we were finally, FINALLY in the clear. Got back home and nope. Still no going at school. Or upstairs at our house. Or anywhere else.

I think the most frustrating aspect of everything is that none of us understand WHY this has been so difficult for him. He will never talk about it or explain why he doesn’t want to go in different places. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling compassionate toward him, probably not pushing as hard as I could have because he was clearly miserable or terrified. But I’ve also had times, especially in recent months, being absolutely infuriated that we are still dealing with this after THREE YEARS. Who potty trains for three years?! Caden was potty trained right after he turned three with zero issues, zero accidents. I know every child is different. I know many people in the world struggle with much more difficult challenges. But what drives me crazy is that this is so easy to change! He can do it. But he won’t. It’s this overwhelming massive problem in our family’s lives that I have no control over. I can keep taking him to therapy, I can try to bring him into the school building every day after school when he so clearly needs to go, I can bribe him, take things away, offer incentives, anything and everything I can think of. But ultimately it’s up to him. I feel completely helpless and so, so frustrated.

Shepard’s 4th Birthday!


On Wednesday, my baby turned four! It’s hard to believe four entire years have passed since this little guy has come into our lives. Though I really can’t remember a time without him. He brings so much laughter and joy to our family with his silliness and never-ending energy.

His birthday itself didn’t turn out to be super exciting, but I think he was okay with that. I had an unexpected emergency medical procedure done last Saturday that pretty much rendered me useless this entire week. It was very frustrating to want to do so many things and not be able to accomplish practically anything. πŸ™ At any rate, I did make a special chocolate peanut butter banana bread for his breakfast, which he thoroughly enjoyed. And then he was off to school with his special birthday treat of homemade mini donuts. He really wanted to bring pancakes, but I wasn’t sure how that would work. πŸ™‚


I think Caden was more excited about Shepard’s birthday then he was. Caden was bouncing off the walls and being incredibly obnoxious, trying to get Shepard to open all his presents first thing in the morning. I “let him” (couldn’t stop him) open his presents from Caden which were a big tractor sticker book and a game for his 2DS called Olaf’s Quest. He then spent pretty much the entire afternoon playing while I was napping/resting and Greg was working. Then later in the afternoon I recruited his help to make brownies and pizza dough. He definitely still loves to help bake!


After getting Caden, Shepard was able to open the rest of his gifts. This was a super bouncy ball that Caden also picked out.


For awhile there I was having a hard time coming up with gift ideas for Shepard since I really didn’t want to just get a bunch of toys for the sake of buying something. So I asked Greg for help and he picked out this bat and a matching glove and ball. Shepard loved it, but was really disappointed we couldn’t go outside and play with it yet in the below zero weather.


I gave Shepard a cookbook and his own recipe box. I figured since it’s the only thing I really have in common with either of my kids I better nurture that interest before it disappears!


He also got an activity watch that is supposed to promote more physical activity. Though I’m not sure why he needs it when he spends every minute of the day bouncing back and forth between the couches and doing flips and somersaults everywhere he goes. Caden, being the technology OBSESSED kid that he is, had a hard time letting this toy get out of his sight.


Shepard requested pepperoni pizza for his birthday dinner. Of course he refused to take a nice picture with it. Apparently four is the age you stop wanting your picture taken because pretty much every slightly posed shot I tried to get he’d cover his face or run away.


After dinner they went back to the tub of kinetic sand. I was excited about this gift since Shepard points it out every time we go to Joann’s or Walmart and was sure it was something he’d actually like. He said it’s his favorite present, so I was happy!


And finally time for his birthday brownies! Shepard doesn’t particularly like cake, so I talked him into something different for his real birthday and his party this weekend. Makes my life a lot easier!!


One happy four year old! He’s been carrying this candle around for a week telling me how fun it is to look at. He was very excited to finally use it. πŸ™‚


Side note – he’s wearing underwear! It took four years, but he’s finally on his way to being potty trained. He won’t willingly go on his own, but he does wear underwear most of the time and once he starts dancing around uncontrollably we physically set him on the potty chair and he’ll go right away. So hopefully that means he’ll start going on his own free will sooner rather than later and we can finally be done with diapers!

Anyway, it turned out to be a very simple, but I think good birthday for him. I had to go to the doctor yesterday, so we tried to make it kind of a continued birthday celebration and took him out to lunch, just the three of us. That kind of made up for what I wasn’t able to do on Wednesday. Now we’re just looking forward to his family party on Sunday! More photos on that to come. πŸ™‚


Shepard’s 3rd Birthday!


Yesterday was Shepard’s third birthday! I can’t believe my sweet little baby is now a three year old!


We started the day with funfetti birthday pancakes. Shepard was kind of in denial that it was his birthday at that point. When he woke up he asked what we were going to do today. I said, “It’s your birthday! Happy birthday!” And he yelled, “NO IT NOT!!!” and ran back to his room whimpering. He seems to be in a stage right now where he’s strongly against change. At any rate, he was happy to have some candles to blow out at breakfast.

For fun, here’s a picture of the day he was born, his first birthday, and his second birthday.



And just for a little comparison, here’s a picture of Caden on his third birthday.


Okay, back to yesterday. Birthday or not, they still needed their morning tv time. I was trying to let Shepard pick the shows, but Caden…well, Caden always finds a way to get what he wants instead. He was having a really hard time letting the day be about Shepard…


The last few times we’ve gone grocery shopping the boys have been asking me to buy limes. They’re weird. But I figured Shepard’s birthday was a good excuse to finally buy some. By the way, if you’re wondering, Shepard has a black eye because he had a head on collision with Caden when they were jumping on the bed while I was in California. This happened three days after Shepard got a mild concussion from running into the tv stand. This kid has had a really rough few weeks with head injuries.


He seemed to like it. Both boys definitely got Daddy’s sour loving taste buds. I LOATHE sour things.


Greg blew up a package of balloons the night before to surprise Shepard. We all spent a good hour playing with them in the morning. I wanted so badly to get a nice picture of Shepard surrounded with balloons, but he kept insisting on holding a balloon in front of his face instead.


Finally got a nice one!








Shepard has been really grabby with my phone lately. I don’t think he has that same instilled sense of technology usage that Caden has, and I’m always so sure he’s going to destroy something. Mostly he just takes pictures. Tons and tons of pictures.


During this balloon shoot I decided it was time I learned how to use the manual settings on my camera. I’ve had a DSLR for five years now and I’ve been using auto settings this entire time. Kind of ridiculous considering how many photography classes I took in college. While I was in CA I was greatly inspired by my brother’s photos and camera. When I told Greg I wanted to get a new camera he said that no way, not when I don’t even know how to use a camera manually. So…I was determined to learn. Yesterday. Probably not the best day for it!! I did get some great shots, but I got about four times more terrible shots. Literally. I took around 500 pictures yesterday and at least 400 of them are out of focus duds. The main thing I learned yesterday – manual focus is not for wild little boys! Anyway….back to the birthday…



Chicken nuggets are Shepard’s favorite food, so I let him decide where he wanted to go for lunch. He picked Burger King.


While Caden was at school Shepard helped me make his birthday dessert. We decided to go with brownies because Shepard doesn’t like cake.


He LOVES helping me in the kitchen. Usually way more than I’d like. But I try to let him since Caden was the same way and now wants nothing to do with helping me. πŸ™




Proud of his sprinkle work.

I wanted to get some shots of the two of us, but Shepard was continuing his independent streak by insisting on pushing the shutter button. Which his arms are way too short for if we’re both going to be in the picture. This is the only one we managed without a struggle!


After school it was WARM out! 45 degrees! For the first time in MONTHS, yes months, we were able to go play outside. Shepard picked “the park with no slides.”


This winter has taught me to never take for granted the days that we can play outside. Even in the death heat of summer, which I absolutely hate, I plan on going outside this year. Boys need to run and I’m so sick of that running happening inside!






After an hour and a half of playing at the park we came home for hot cocoa. Soon after, Daddy came home. Which meant presents! I don’t think Shepard even cared, but Caden was thrilled after begging me to let Shepard open them early all day long.






I thought I did pretty good with my gift giving this year. I normally have a really hard time with Shepard for some reason. We gave him a big Playmobil swimming pool, a small indoor sandbox, a shower stream bath toy, a Lightning McQueen keyboard game thingy, a board game, and a few books. Caden gave Shepard a Hot Wheels bath race track that he picked out completely on his own. Shepard opened that early during our snow day on Monday.


Finally time for birthday dinner. I had a hard time deciding what to make, but settled on steak. This was my first time making “real” thicker cut steaks inside.


Steak, chips and salsa (his favorite), and fruit.


After dinner the guys set up the swimming pool while I cleaned and got ready for dessert.


Time for brownies!



I think Shepard had a great third birthday! It was a fun and relaxed day for everybody. I’m so proud of my baby.


Shepard’s Birthday Party!

Today was Shepard’s birthday party! I’m so glad we unknowingly didn’t do it last weekend when he turned out to be so sick. We found out on Thursday that he actually has a really bad double ear infection, but after a couple days of antibiotics he was back to his super smiley and fun self for his party today!

We had a tractor themed party. I made tacos for the main food and then my mother-in-law made this awesome vegetable “field” and my mom brought tons of delicious fruit. As usual, we had WAY more food than we needed. It was all so good, though!!

Caden decided to help make the punch by sneaking fingerfuls of sherbet.

I was really excited to find these chocolate rocks and green seeds for party favors. I forgot to actually tell people to bring them home, though, so now we have a huge bag filled with the extras. πŸ™‚

Happy kid!

Taking a reading break.

The present pile!

Shepard shows excitement over everything, which is why it’s so fun to watch him all the time. He was thrilled over his first few pieces of tissue paper!

Tractor! (And both cats managing to sneak into the photo.)

He doesn’t even know what this is, but he’s pretty excited about it!

Getting some help from Liz.

He even holds up all the clothes he gets. Later he held up a new pajama shirt, pronounced it too big, and threw it across the room. Always, so funny. πŸ™‚

Cards that make music are apparently the greatest thing on earth to a two year old.

Very excited about a trailer to attach to his new tractor!

He loved his new Donkey Kong.

Baby Ethan and his beautiful eyes!

We all had some good laughs over this. πŸ™‚

Shepard was pretty nervous, but after Caden and Donkey Kong had a turn, Shepard loved jumping on his new Rody Horse!

Caden definitely provided Ethan with some fantastic entertainment!

Finally time for cake!

I had a really hard time coming up with a cake idea for this theme. It seems like with all of Caden’s birthday parties I know exactly what I want to do, but Shepard so far is proving to be quite difficult. I wanted to try and do something tastier (versus visual). I’m not a huge cake person (maker or eater), so I wanted to challenge myself a bit. I ended up combining old fashioned chocolate cake, peanut butter cake, toasted marshmallow frosting, and chocolate malt frosting all together to get this. And then because I didn’t want to make a third batch of chocolate malt frosting, I threw together a vanilla buttercream for the smaller cake. I was very excited about how the layers turned out. Not perfect, but more elaborate than I’ve ever done before!

I think he’s getting tired.

Layers in the bigger cake. This chocolate frosting was sooo good. I pretty much ate an entire bowl of it last night while I was making it.

The big “rocks” around the cake are actually chocolate boulders. Grandma tasted one – and Shepard’s expression in this is hilarious!

The chocolate frosting had an entire container of black gel food coloring in it so it turned everyone’s teeth black. I think this picture is sweet, though. Caden looks so old! Like a ten year old or something. My baby is growing up.

Not an attractive picture, but still funny. It was a perfect birthday party! Thanks to everyone that helped out and came and made it such a special day for our beautiful little boy!

Shepard’s 2nd Birthday

Today is my baby’s second birthday. Two years doesn’t seem like a very long time, but I can barely remember what life was like without him in our lives. Every day he brings us so much laughter and joy. He’s truly the brightest part of our family and I can’t imagine where we’d be without him. I love this little boy more than anything. 

Despite all my good intentions, the big day was kind of a waste. Shepard has been sick since Valentine’s Day and it only seems to be getting worse. He’s not throwing up anymore, but he has a horrible hacking cough and his nose and eyes are just draining nonstop. He’s been pretty miserable. But he pulled himself together today and smiled through it all. He was even happy about his donut breakfast, even though he didn’t take a single bite.

Mornings seem to be the worst. He just wants me to hold him and do nothing else. Which was kind of hard today when we needed to get ready and bring Caden to school. Poor baby, he looks so sad. πŸ™

While Caden was at school he decided he wanted a waffle. He always has to sit there while it’s toasting and get the cinnamon sugar out himself.

Back to his donut and being goofy. Even this sick he can still be funny.

The bulk of our day was uneventful. I wanted to bring him to an indoor playground, but he was coughing too much. I wanted to take him out to lunch, but I figured he wouldn’t even eat anything. Hopefully later this week or even next week we can have sort of a redo birthday celebration. Today was very boring. Shepard was really excited when Greg got home, though, because he knew he could finally open his presents!

All day long Caden was talking about how Shepard was going to be too sick to open his presents so he’d have to “help.” I think Caden was pretty disappointed Shepard happily opened them all on his own.

Shepard was enthralled with this light up, music playing card from his Great Aunt Sandy.

Caden gave Shepard a sticker book and stickers. And one of those popular turtle nightlights. Which he’s been trying to take for himself ever since the box was opened. Caden wasn’t handling all the attention on Shepard very well today.


I bought him this baby and stroller for $3 on clearance. He loved it! So did Caden…

He wanted an orange while I was making dinner. He took every single slice and sunk his teeth into it, but didn’t eat any of them.

And finally his birthday “cake.”

Such a funny little angel. πŸ™‚

Happy birthday sweet Shepard!