So Many Reflections: Nebraska, Valentine’s Day, Shepard’s 8th Birthday, and Florida!

I am SO behind, you guys! I’m behind on blog posts for sure. No weekly reflections or intentions in the last three weeks! And so much has happened! I’m also crazy behind on doll making and keeping my customers happy. It’s been a great month, but I’m just about ready to drop, when I feel like I should be rip roaring ready to get back to regular life now that all the travel and parties are behind me. I’m hoping maybe I’ll feel a little bit better if I can get out some quick reflections on everything that’s happened this month. I’ll try to keep it relatively concise! We’ll see how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Omaha,ย Nebraska

One of the things I gave Greg for Christmas were tickets to see his favorite band, Guster, play with the Omaha Symphony. I figured we could make it a fun date night with the added bonus of staying with my brother and his family and seeing their new digs. The entire trip was weather dependent and we didn’t even decide if we were officially going and if the boys were coming with us until a few days before.

Hudson was napping when we got there and was super shy when he woke up, but he warmed up quickly. He LOVED pushing around our suitcase!

Timmy made us some burgers and chicken for dinner and then Greg and I headed over to the symphony hall for the concert. I was amazed to see that Omaha has $3 event parking directly across the street! $3! We weren’t allowed to take photos during the concert, so no pics, but it was really great. Probably the most subdued Guster concert I’ve been to since we actually had to sit down (hooray!). But it was fantastic.

We spent Saturday morning playing with Hudson. Such a cutie!

We went to the Omaha Zoo for our Saturday outing. It was so amazing! We didn’t even look to see if there were animals outside (it was FREEZING), but there were so many unique indoor exhibits that we had plenty to keep us busy.

Grandma wanted a good picture of her grandsons. My boys loved hanging out with their cousin!

We went to this place called Charred for dinner. It was seriously one of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever had. Everything was amazing. I want to go back.

Back at the house we had a mini birthday celebration for Shepard since they wouldn’t be able to come for the party this year. The nerf gun ended up being a lot more powerful than anyone expected!

Finished the night with an awesome ice cream birthday cake. It was such a fun day!

Sunday? NOT fun. We woke up to unexpected snowfalls for our drive back home. We wanted to make a pretty early start out and even though the roads out the window weren’t plowed, I just assumed the highways would have been fine. Um, not true. It was HORRIBLE. Probably the worst driving conditions Greg has ever been in. Our seven to eight hour drive was closer to twelve, in total completely tense silence. I did the last two hours of the trip in freezing rain with a windshield that kept freezing solid. Maybe one of the worst days ever. But, I’m still glad we went and made some fun memories with Hudson!

Valentine’sย Day

Valentine’s Day was pretty low key this year, stuck between two big vacations and a lot of birthday festivities for Shepard. I was feeling pretty frazzled by everything and determined to try and focus on just resting and having a good day. We started the morning with some good old canned cinnamon rolls.

Trying to get the boys to wear non-character shirts with red in them was like pulling teeth! I had to threaten Shepard with taking away his birthday presents to get him to cooperate. But hey, I got three mostly real smiles!

Annie’s Valentine gift was going to the dog park for the first time in almost two weeks. She was SO excited!

I gifted myself this beautiful Pyrrha necklace. I’ve been in love with their wax seal stamped talisman necklaces for years. I don’t remember seeing the writer one in the past and it immediately jumped out as being the one I needed.

I spent the rest of the morning reading and then I met Laura for coffee in the afternoon to catch up on some friend time. After school I made Valentine hot cocoa for the kids. I really just wanted to get some extra use out of my Valentine mugs!

We had a very easy dinner of heart shaped pastas and garlic bread and candy for dessert.

Shepard and I finished the night by making edible brownie batter cookie dough for his school birthday treat. I was so exhausted by this point and thrilled that one batch made exactly how much we needed. I don’t think I could have handled another batch!

On Friday after school we celebrated Shepard’s birthday with just the four of us. Still three days early, but I didn’t want to lug anything extra to Florida or make him wait until a few days afterward to open.

We had lava cakes for his dessert. He technically wanted them for Valentine’s Day, but then I would have had to think of another dessert for this night! It all worked out fine.

FLORIDA

On Saturday we went to Florida! Fortunately the weather cooperated on this trip and we had no problems getting to the airport with enough time to each lunch and get on the plane.

We took an uber to the hotel and spent Saturday night hanging out in our huge courtyard. It felt so great to get out of Wisconsin winter! The boys LOVED the outdoor hot tub. We got the easiest meal we could for dinner – a pizza and chicken tenders from the on site Italian restaurant.

We were up early and raring to go on Sunday morning! The hotel had a shuttle service to Universal every day, but you had to sign up for it the night before and spots were limited. We managed to get on it the same time every morning, though. On the first day, the guys were hyped up and ready for Harry Potter World!

First stop was Ollivanders to pick out their wands. We watched a little presentation with a smaller group of people and then we were released into the massively packed shop to find the wands they wanted.

Caden picked out Dumbledore’s wand and Shepard picked Ivy’s. The cool thing about the wands is that they’re interactive with a lot of various spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. It was too busy the second and third day, but they loved casting spells around that first morning!

Sunday was really just a lot of waiting around. After wands our main objective was going on the Escape to Gringotts virtual rollercoaster ride. It ended up being a two hour long wait, which is really just way too long. And then it ended up being a lot scarier than we expected. Caden was basically traumatized by it. We also tried all the types of butterbeer they offered. I think my favorite was the regular cold, but not frozen variety. Afterward we stood in another long line to ride the Hogwarts Express which was pretty cool. We had lunch at a diner in Universal – mostly because it was the first indoor air conditioned place we could find. Funny how quickly you adapt to the new climate and suddenly can’t wait for the opposite kind of relief you’ve been wanting all winter!

The one downside to our hotel is that it was basically surrounded by highways and without a car and six people requiring larger ubers, it was pretty difficult to do anything except go between the parks and the hotel. But Greg remembered services like UberEats exist (oh, to have something like that in Columbus!), so we ordered some easy Mexican food and ate it next to the fire for a late dinner. Simple, easy, delicious.

Monday was officially Shepard’s 8th birthday! The night before we happened to see these giant donuts at a gift shop, so we picked up two of them for his birthday breakfast. And of course we ate out in the courtyard! That courtyard really was amazing. We also had a Starbucks on site and made between one and four stops in there a day!

We started in Hogsmeade on Monday, which I think was even more cool than Diagon Alley, but it filled up with people faster. Shepard convinced Grandma to buy him a Gryffindor necklace for his birthday present.

Hogwarts! It looked so awesome from the outside, but unfortunately, you could only see the inside if you stood in line for the Forbidden Journey virtual roller coaster. Caden and I had no interest in riding, but we wanted to see inside the castle, so we stood in line with them. It was a pretty fast wait this time.

Then we had some more butterbeer inside Three Broomsticks, the location Caden really wanted to visit. And then a family picture (I think our only one) with Hogwarts as we crossed the bridge into the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure.

Most of the Jurassic Park things were inside of a building. We got to watch a baby dinosaur hatch and the boys had their DNA tested to make their own species of dinosaurs on a machine. Afterward we stopped to watch one of the water rides and the boys (on purpose) and Greg (on accident) proceeded to get completely soaked from the splashes. They thought it was so much fun until they realized it meant being wet for the rest of the day! This is the point I stopped taking pictures because Shepard flipped a switch and was being pretty terrible for the next few hours. A very entitled, demanding, and selfish birthday boy! Though to be fair, he also had caught a cold by this point which definitely wasn’t helping how he felt. Plus not enough sleep and absolutely no healthy food in his body.

The plan for his birthday lunch was to take an uber to a restaurant outside of Disney called Chicken Guy. It was the ONE THING I really wanted to do on this trip, but nobody seemed to understand why. Alas, it did not happen, even though I still think it would have been awesome. Shepard kept refusing to go to a restaurant at all, demanding we just go back to the hotel and order food, because isn’t that the most logical solution, even though we were literally walking past hundreds of amazing restaurants?! Greg and Cindy finally settled him down with more Starbucks and eventually we ate at like a food court in the City Walk area where we could all get our own meals. Shepard had Burger King chicken fries. Then we went back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

There was a TGIFriday’s across the street from the hotel (I originally ruled out eating there because I don’t like eating at places we could just as easily have at home when I’m on vacation). But Shepard was very excited to eat somewhere we could walk to, so that is what we did! It was a really nice end to his special day.

Tuesday – another breakfast from Starbucks. That definitely got expensive! ๐Ÿ™‚ Though by Tuesday I was also buying bananas for everybody, so at least we were getting a bit of healthy stuff into our bodies. I was also only drinking teas or cold brews, so I didn’t feel like total crap!

We realized with a constant supply of gum from Grandpa, Caden was actually really well behaved on this trip. He definitely had some times when he purposely was getting on Shepard’s nerves, but for the most part – he was great. SO much better than I was expecting from him.

I think Tuesday was my favorite day because we had already seen the things we really wanted to see, so we had more time to check out the quieter areas of the parks. Greg really wanted to go on the Spiderman ride, so he went in that direction and the rest of us went into Seussland. We had opportunity to go on a few more rides there, walked through Jurassic Park again, and finished at a Men in Black ride, which turned out to be my favorite one because it was just FUN – no scariness.

One last ride on Hogwarts Express – and the only time it was just the six of us in the car. Shepard was pretty cranky again because his feet hurt.

He just refused to walk at one point. Even though it started out the coldest, I think Tuesday was the hottest day. We were all dragging by lunchtime. We ended up just going into the first large restaurant we could find. It was delicious! And Shepard said that of his nine chicken tender meals of the trip, that was his favorite.

This is the view from our hotel room. The pool was huge and the boys practically had it to themselves the whole time! They loved the splash pad in the middle and we all enjoyed the big hot tub. The hotel itself (Double Tree Hilton Entrance to Universal) was perfect for us.

One more cold brew! We realized way too late into the trip that on the other side of our hotel there was actually a string of restaurants and a Walgreen’s, so our final dinner was at a local place called Miller’s Ale House. Then we stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up some snacks and Benadryl for Shepard. He perked up a lot after giving him meds. I wish we had found some days earlier.

On Wednesday we headed back. We had a few hours in the morning to enjoy the last warm Florida morning. Then we had a lot of time at the airport to grab lunch and wander around. Despite there being storms all across the country, we somehow managed to get to Atlanta for our layover, and back home, without a single delay. We finished the trip with a quick stop at Burger King for Shepard to have his final chicken tenders meal. Overall, it was a really great trip! It definitely went better than I expected it to. Kids make things so unpredictable, but they handled everything like champs. I’m so glad we were able to make these memories with them and their grandparents!

Familyย Birthdayย Party

And that brings me to today! We were able to skip a friend birthday party this year with everything else going on, but still wanted to have a small family party for those that were able to come. I caught Shepard’s cold a few days ago and have not been feeling the greatest, but we kept everything very low key and it turned out great.

Shepard became OBSESSED with GoPros in Florida and forced someone to look at them with him every time we crossed a technology store. There were a lot of technology stores in the airports. Anyway, with a last minute heads up, my parents gave him an (unofficial) GoPro of his own. He’s in love with it and has been using it ever since he opened it.

We had hot sandwich sliders, Chinese salad, chips and salsa and guacamole, and fruit for lunch with peanut butter bars for dessert. He had to videotape us while we sang to him.

I think Annie really missed Grandma, even though it had only been a few days since she came back home! They’re best friends now, I guess!! We got some final pictures and then everyone went home. It was a good day!

And that’s it!! I will try to never wait so long to write again and never write such a huge wordy photo heavy post. If you made it to the end – congrats and thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
Rating: 4 stars

Paige Townsen is a relatively unknown aspiring actress who lands the lead role in the season’s hottest books turned film series. She is whisked from her small family life in Portland to Hawaii, where she’s filming with two of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs, Rainer and Jordan. While struggling with the pressure to make her role in the movie amazing so it doesn’t let all the cast, crew, and fans down, she finds herself being drawn to Rainer and the stability and encouragement he brings her. Then she meets Jordan, Rainer’s sworn enemy, and finds herself being pulled in his direction. Acting with Jordan is easier, their chemistry is stronger, but reality guarantees that they can’t be together. Not without ripping Rainer apart.

Famous in Love gives interesting insight into what it might be like for an unknown actress to suddenly be at the center of the tabloid universe. She loses touch with her best friends who used to mean everything to her. She struggles with her family’s reactions to her sudden success. She has complicated and confusing feelings for each of her co-stars and isn’t really sure which one she wants to be withย and if it’s worth losing the other one in the process.

I made the mistake of starting this book after watching the first couple of episodes of the tv showย very loosely based off of these books. In the tv show – Jordan is not the third member of the love triangle. And in the book, I’m most definitely rooting for Jordan! It was hard to merge the two things in my mind while consuming them in the same day. But looking at the book alone – I really enjoyed it. It was a fun YA pick with an interesting storyline and characters. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with who Paige chose at the end of this book, but I’m hoping things might turn around in the sequel!

Sunday Intentions

Whew, it has been a busy week! With something going on every night this past week, I’m feeling pretty wiped out this weekend. It was a fun week, though. I’m slightly irritated that I’ve finally found a good rhythm for balancing kid time and work time, only to have it all change again in two weeks! But at least I know now and can hopefully remember for next summer so I don’t spend two months flailing around and being upset with myself again!

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On Monday morning, we went to the Pope Farm Conservancy Sunflower Days in Middleton. I found out about this last year, but too late to go. I’ve had it in mind all summer that we definitely needed to make it a priority this year. My mom came with us. The giant sunflower field was pretty cool to look at! But the boys were not cooperating at all. SO MUCH WHINING. They’ve been whining and moaning and ugh-ing about everything we do these days. School needs to start!

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We didn’t spend a huge amount of time here, but enough to slowly walk around the whole field. It looks like a really cool place to check out any time of the year. Maybe I’ll go back in fall to walk the regular trails.

After the sunflowers, we had a picnic lunch in a nearby park. And we finished our outing with froyo at Orange Leaf. Pretty simple day trip, but it was fun!

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Late Monday evening, I met up with my best friend Dianne and her husband Jack for ice cream at Dairy Queen (despite getting it twice in one day, these are the only times all summer I’ve gone out for ice cream!). They were visiting from DC for just a couple days and we were trying to squeeze in any pockets of time together we could. We only get to see each other once or twice a year and try to make the most of it. The whole family was originally going to go, but it got to be too late.

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Early Tuesday morning I dropped the boys off with my mom and Annie and I met Dianne for a walk. (Her dad still lives right by my parents’ house.) We walked down to the lake. It was really nice! As much as I enjoy walking around Columbus, I really miss walking in quieter and more rural areas. It’s so peaceful. And pretty, despite the green water!

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I worked during the day on Tuesday and then in the afternoon, Dianne and Jack came back over to our house for a bit. We went to the dog park so they could see Annie in action! And then I drove them back to Beaver Dam. I’m really glad we were able to fit in three separate get togethers in such a short time frame!

Tuesday night I had obedience class. Just two more left. As always, Annie did pretty good for the exercises, but was so antsy and hard to control while we were sitting down. And there’s so much sitting down while each person and dog has to individually work on their exercises for the class. She wants to play with the other dogs so badly.

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Wednesday was a work day. I finished my first batch of Halloween dolls! And I sold all six of them within 24 hours, which was really awesome. Except that it really put the pressure on me to get going on more fall themed dolls as well. I started another batch, but didn’t get very far. Having sales is always so exciting – especially when I’m trying to store up money for Door County and Cranberry Fest next month. But then it’s always a let down to sell all my newest dolls right away and go back to days in a row without sales!

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Wednesday afternoon we went to the Dodge County Fair with Steve and Cindy. It was a pretty hot day, but with a breeze cooled off considerably once we got to the fair.

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All the boys cared about were sitting on tractors! They could have done it for the entire night, I think. We didn’t really get to much else because they wanted to keep going back to the tractors.

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We walked the food aisles a couple of times trying to decide on what to get. Greg ended up with buffalo chicken fries and I had haystack onions, for lack of any more exciting options. Everyone else had hamburgers and hot dogs and slushies and ice cream. We walked through the amusement park section and Grandpa paid for the boys to play a few prize wining games. They LOVED their plastic swords. We were there only about two hours until the rain started rolling in. It was a fun night, though!

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Thursday we stuck around home. It was one of those days where I really didn’t want to do anything and was mad at myself all day for it. There are so many things I should be doing that it just overwhelms me and I do nothing.

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Caden had therapy in the afternoon. I thought it was going to be our last session, but Greg wants to continue. So I guess we are, maybe on a monthly basis. Afterward we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up Shepard’s half birthday breakfast.

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I spent the evening at the dog park with Annie, desperately needing some quiet. It was raining, so we were the only people there.

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Friday was Shepard’s half birthday! Greg had to leave for work in Chicago at 5am. We were in for a long day. After breakfast the boys played video games and watched tv for a few hours while I read and took a nap.

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Shepard picked lunch at Culver’s and then we ran some errands. Sometimes I wonder how people ever survive errand running with kids and keep their sanity in check. Surely my kids aren’t the only ones to drive their parents INSANE when shopping! It’s so stressful. I think I’m going to try to avoid it in these last two weeks. My blood pressure can’t handle it!

On Friday afternoon, the boys had their first friend sleepover with Leverett. He came to our house, so Shepard could partake in the festivities. We had bbq bacon pizza for dinner. The boys played all night and went to bed a little bit later than normal. Shepard slept in his own room and the other two slept in Caden’s. He thought they fell asleep around 9:45. Overall, a pretty successful first sleepover, I think. I’m still not super gung-ho about it happening too often, but it’s survivable.

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Sleepover breakfast food.

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On Saturday morning there was supposed to be this Dog Days Paddle Swim event in Beaver Dam. It was announced as the final event in a summer full of dog related things (like the parade a few weeks ago). But other than the original article about it back in June, no other information was ever given. A location wasn’t given either, other than “the beach.” Beaver Dam only has one “beach” that I know of, so that’s where we went. Nobody else was there. We drove away to get gas and came back, but still nobody. So we went in anyway, even though it was probably technically against the rules. Nobody else ever showed up, but we had a good time anyway. It was super fun watching Annie actually learn how to swim. Once she finally figured it out she seemed to love it! I wish we could have taken her off the leash so she could go further. Maybe someday… (Doubtful). (Speaking of – she ran away on Monday when Shepard just stood in the doorway holding it open and expecting she wouldn’t charge past him. That was NOT a fun afternoon.) Nobody brought swimsuits, but the boys finally swam out in their shorts. It was a really fun family morning! How often do I say that about weekends?!

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We babysat Eva for a little bit when we got back home. The boys adore her!

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At least somebody is getting some use out of our sandbox!

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The rest of the day was spent making cake pops for Timmy’s birthday party today. I ended up not actually fully coating any of the pops because the chocolate melts never really got thin enough, to my great frustration! I thought they turned out really cute looking, but I’m not so sure they’ll survive travel time, plus hot temperatures today.

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The boys also had complaints about how they tasted, so maybe it was just a total waste of half my day! At least they look cute. ๐Ÿ™‚

This Week

Well, we don’t have quite as much planned for this week, but that’s a good thing. Summer is winding down. The boys have been so whiny lately that I think they just need more rest. I’m not sure how to make that happen when they refuse to sleep any extra. But if we’re at least not running all over the place, maybe they’ll somehow get it!

Today we’re going to Timmy’s 30th birthday family bash. Should be fun! Tomorrow is the solar eclipse and the cats have their annual checkup. I’m hoping to have a date night with Caden at some point this week. I always want to make this a monthly thing and it basically never happens. Mostly because he never wants to leave Greg. Or the house. But I’d like to make it happen before school starts. We might either go on a “hike” or roller skating sometime mid-week. Friday we’re going to the Milwaukee Zoo with Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson. The boys think Hudson loves animals because he woke up during the pig races at the fair. ๐Ÿ™‚ Saturday we’re going to Cedar Lake.

My highest priority this week is to just ENJOY the last days of summer. As much as I feel that constant pressure to work every spare minute I have, I want to try and push those feelings aside. Working hardcore will be my top priority once school starts. This is my last opportunity to be lazy, laugh with my kids, make memories, read a lot. I want to enjoy them and not have any regrets about how I spent August.

That’s about it! Have a great week!

 

 

 

The First Week In

Caden has made it through his first week of school! The verdict? He LOVES it! He’s so excited to go every day and can’t wait to get outside and wait for the bus. So far every day he’s wanted to have a photo shoot. Kind of funny for the kid who never wants his picture taken. The only thing that hasn’t gone well is the bus ride home. After sticking with it the first three days, I decided to start picking him up every day. He wasn’t too scared once he knew what to do, but making him sit on the bus for 45 minutes every day when I can get him home in five seemed kind of ridiculous.

The boys definitely miss each other while Caden is gone. Though I think Shepard likes having more individualized attention from me. Every day he talks about what he wants to do “just me and Mommy.”

Caden doesn’t have school on Fridays, so I’m trying to start a tradition of Friday Fun Days. Most Fridays I’d like to take a break from all regular responsibilities and just focus on doing something fun and different with my kids. This last Friday we went to Eugster’s Farm Market. It’s a bit of a drive from Columbus, but we’ve gone there the last two years and the boys seem to like it. They have a ton of animals to see, as well as a lot of other fun activities.

Feeding the baby goats bottles is always fun!

Caden was having more fun teasing the goats…

The best part of Eugster’s is the kitty house. Lots of adoptable kittens temporarily live in there to get socialized before going to their forever homes. I think it’s a great way to get cats comfortable with kids.

Most of the kittens were hiding in the safe box. The one on the left is a little creepy.

Caden always loves being able to hold a cat. That definitely doesn’t happen with our cats!

After the farm we had lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. I think my kids definitely need some training on restaurant etiquette. Better keep practicing! ๐Ÿ™‚ Overall it was a really great day.

On Saturday my mom held a birthday party for her dog, Gracie. The boys were in charge of making the punch. Very serious business!

Everyone gathered around to watch Gracie open her presents.

Caden is hiding it behind his back while he opens it so Gracie will still be surprised. ๐Ÿ™‚

Everyone is very excited about these!

Sprinkler time!

Always a cutie.

In other news, I’ve been sewing like crazy. I know I should be able to go at whatever pace I choose, but I feel this pressure to keep up with all the other doll makers, making dolls for every season and holiday early, early, early. It seemed to take me forever to finish my first batch of witches, but I LOVE the way they turned out. Especially the one in the middle (which is still for sale! ;)). I’ve also been working on a bunch of side projects. There are so many birthdays coming up and I’m trying to include handmade gifts for everyone. I love trying new projects, but I also have this constant nagging in my mind about how I should really be making more Halloween Annie’s. And fall pumpkins. And teddy bears. And more bags. The list goes on and on. What did I ever do with my time before I learned to sew??

Well, I have a lot more to say, but I feel like I really should get off my computer and get busy working on other things. Caden has two birthday parties this weekend and there is so much to do! I’m just hoping the weather is nice and we can have one of the parties at a park as planned because our house is NOT party ready!!

The Last Month

It really isn’t my intention to keep doing these massive catch up blog posts. Time just seems to keep getting away from me and I never have the time I need to post things event by event. It’s frustrating on so many levels! In the last few months I’ve even gone entire weeks between uploading my photos to my computer. And for me – that is ridiculous. Photography doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to (sad to say) and I’ve had other priorities lately. Anyway, I’ll try to keep this relatively brief…

We finally made it to Little Amerricka. Both last year and this we bought season passes so the boys and I could have something fun to do during the long summer days. And once again I’m finding it really hard to actually make use of the passes. It’s only 25 minutes away, but the park is only open a couple of days a week with stupid hours (12-5) and it’s not as easy to go as I always think it will be. Anyway, we’ve been there a couple of times now and will hopefully make it a lot more in the next month!

It rained so much in June that the majority of the train ride’s path was flooded!

Matching Supermen.

Feeling guilty that we’re only going on vacations without our kids this year, I persuaded Greg to take a day off so we could go to the Dells for a few hours. We had coupons for the Ducks, which I thought the boys would really enjoy.

It didn’t really go the way I had hoped – Caden was fairly terrified. I felt so bad for him. ๐Ÿ™

After awhile Caden decided Daddy was the safer one to sit by on that scary ride. (Shepard loved it, by the way. It’s funny how different kids can be.)

To make it up to him we went mini golfing afterward. He loved it!

Watching Shepard play made me think he’d make a much better hockey player. ๐Ÿ™‚

He got a hole in one on his second course!

Lovely photo.

For the 4th of July we went to Cedar Lake. Disappointed that I’d once again miss all the big Columbus activities, I dragged everyone to the carnival on the night of the 3rd to check things out. It was all so expensive that we just played on the playground! One of these years I’ll get to see the huge Columbus parade…

The guys feeding the fish oatmeal at Cedar Lake.

It was a very laid back and quiet day.

Trying to get a nice family photo is pretty difficult these days!

Not so bad.

Caden has turned into such a HUGE water bug this summer. He’s always seemed to enjoy swimming, but now I think it’s definitely his favorite thing in the world to do. He absolutely loved floating on this tube on the 4th!

Shepard, however, was scared to death. (Again, the differences – and not what you’d expect.)

Back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house we did a couple of mild fireworks. Unfortunately, Caden was misbehaving pretty badly at this point in the day and both boys had to go to bed early. No fireworks for any of us this year. I was really disappointed since they’re both at the perfect age to enjoy them. ๐Ÿ™ I had really been looking forward to watching with them.

So, to try and make up for lack of fireworks, we went to the local pool the next night. They both were in heaven! We’ve been back three times since then. Next year we’re definitely going to have to invest in that season pass. If it were up to Caden we’d be there every day!

We went fishing for the third time with my family. Greg finally gave in and bought a fishing license so he could join in. He seemed to enjoy it a lot more once he could participate!

The fish weren’t biting that day, but Shepard still caught one!

In the middle of all this other stuff I’ve been sewing, researching sewing tips, searching for patterns, buying fabric, and practicing as many new things as I can fit in. It’s hard to imagine what I was doing with all my time a mere three months ago before I opened my sewing machine up! Now I can’t imagine my life without it! I’ve been having so much fun! Above is a tiny teddy bear I made. I don’t like his eyes…

I also made these ducks! I plan to make a lot more of them in varying shades for my first craft fair booth in December! (By the way, I signed up to be in a craft fair!!)

And these love birds!

I wanted to make something for the boys to enjoy, so I created these monsters. They weren’t as excited as I had hoped, but I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I’ve been trying some new Annie patterns to figure out which styles I enjoy making the most. I LOVE this one and decided to keep her for myself. I think I really like this pattern because it looks like an actual DOLL and not just a decoration.

I also learned how to make my first bag! It took me forever to decide what pattern I wanted to use. I wanted something simple, but stylish. I settled on this one and love how cute it turned out. The only problem was how tiny it was. Not very functional (until I realized it’s perfect for a handful of diapers and package of wipes!).

So I made a bigger size! I never realized how often I could use a tote bag until I actually had a nice one. I’ve been using it for everything this past week and a half.

After seeing my bags, my mom and friend both commissioned me to make two bags for them. I absolutely love this gray and mustard combination. I think it’s my favorite color combination, though I can’t get away with wearing it. Both my camera strap and my sewing machine cover are these colors. Love it.

Another of the bags. I love this color combination too. I also made floral and autumn bags for my mom.

And after learning how to make the tote bags I really wanted to try something smaller with a zipper. So I made little bags to match the totes! I LOVE the ruffle!

So pretty. These little bags have sparked a whole new obsession. Now instead of only hunting for perfect Annie dress fabric, now I’m constantly thinking about what patterns would look great on a tiny ruffled bag!

I made these for my sisters-in-law’s birthday. The pink and red one is my favorite so far.

Okay, back to the order of events for the month. (Sorry this is kind of scattered.) Last weekend Greg went to Chicago for a thing with a bunch of his online friends. And of course Shepard just happened to get sick while he was gone! Fortunately it was only a one day thing. So bizarre. We just cuddled all day.

The next morning we went to a flea market that’s been advertised for the last few months. I was disappointed in how small it was, but I did find some treasures. Ever since I committed to that craft fair in December I’ve been looking for cute things I can use to display my Annies. I was so excited to find this vintage suitcase in great condition for only $18!

I also found these gems – and everything was so cheap! I wish I could go to flea markets every weekend. The hunt alone is so much fun! I love the tiny green iron I found. I want to keep it for myself! ๐Ÿ™‚

Later that day we had a family get together. Caden saw the tiny (dog) swimming pool and ran straight for it.

Shepard was back to his normal, silly self!

We went on a boat ride down the river.

Caden didn’t want to go, so Shepard and I had some bonding time. I feel like Shepard and I have been having a lot of that lately. He’s been sticking closer to my side and is always so interested in everything that I’m doing. I should soak it in before he’s Caden age and doesn’t care a whit about me anymore!

We had to stop and take a picture of this on the way home. Pretty cool!

Eating his first corn of the season. Gross picture. ๐Ÿ™‚

A belated chocolate berry birthday tart. Berries make anything look delicious.

And I’m caught up! Yesterday we went to “our spot” on the river. We haven’t been there since last year and Caden asks about it all the time. We’ve had some much cooler weather this week so it seemed like the perfect time to go.

Despite all the fun it looks like we’ve had, this has been a really, really hard month. I know a lot of people get depressed in winter, but summer is definitely my down season. I hate being hot, I can’t stand the headaches I get from even five minutes in direct sunlight, and I somehow find it harder than ever to deal with being a mom.

This month especially has been ROUGH. Caden started summer school a few weeks ago and it’s like that forced hour of being good creates this need inside of him to act out ten times worse at home. The part that bothers me the most is how violent he is. The tiniest irritant causes him to lash at Shepard or me. He’s constantly punching us, kicking, screaming, etc. And I have NO IDEA how to deal with it. I was hoping it would just be a little phase with the start of school, but three weeks later he’s still going strong.

I’ve also been struggling so much keeping the house clean. I think one of the hardest parts about being a stay at home mom is pretty much everything you do feels pointless. At least I feel that way. I clean something up and three minutes later it’s a mess again. And that’s my entire day. I’m to the point where I don’t even want to try anymore because it’s completely useless! Shepard literally walks through the house all day long just pulling things down and scattering them on the floor. He doesn’t even think about it. And Caden has a habit of taking out every toy he owns and never putting a single thing away. It’s so completely frustrating. And besides the boys, my cats are just as bad!! Jack is usually knocking things off the counters and tables and Rory is obsessed with my sewing supplies. Even though everything is well covered, he finds ways to knock things over looking for stray threads. It’s infuriating! When my house is messy I feel like I can’t focus on anything. And my house is always messy.

Anyway. July is almost over. July always seems to be the worst month of my year. I’m hoping August will be better. Tomorrow is already Caden’s last day of summer school and then we have a month to find other fun things to do. I feel like June was wasted because of my allergies and the garage sale, July was wasted because of summer school and the heat, so we need to make up for it all in August! Somehow, someway, I’ll find my stride again.

Back to the river. I don’t want to imply every single moment of this month has been horrible, because it hasn’t been. I’ve also been learning how to focus on my kids a little more and stop being so selfish. It’s hard because I constantly feel guilty for what I’m not doing. If I’m sewing I feel bad I’m ignoring other responsibilities. If I’m doing something with the boys I feel bad I’m not cleaning. There’s never a winning situation. So I’m trying to just go with the flow and at least do one thing a day that I know they will really enjoy. I’m glad we went to the river yesterday. They loved it.

Finally – today! I’m caught up! I’ll try and make photos and blogging a little higher on my priority list in the future. I’m sure most of you have already given up on me by this paragraph! ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy end of July!

365 Day Photo Project – June

Well, once again I am really behind on photo and blog stuff. I’ve been so busy sewing and teaching myself new things that all computer related things have fallen to the wayside. Even though I still love having photographic documentation of my life, photography in general does not interest me as much as it used to. It’s been hard to find the motivation to get creative and I find myself using my phone to take a lot more pictures than my camera. At any rate, I’ve stuck with this project half the year so there’s no way I’m going to stop now! Here are my photos from June!

Fishing!

On Sunday we celebrated a belated Father’s Day with my dad and family. My dad is pretty hard to buy for, so I decided to be a little creative and give him more of an experience gift this year. Though now that I think about it, last year we gave him a Brewer day, also an experience gift, so I guess I wasn’t really that inventive this year. At any rate, I decided to take him fishing. Caden has been talking about fishing a lot (he does it in video games) and they couldn’t get this experience from anyone else we know, so it seemed perfect.

I ordered two Mickey Mouse fishing poles from Amazon – pretty much the only kid fishing pole made – and they sent me seven! I thought it was pretty hilarious, but considering three of the four poles we gave my dad are already broken, I’m thinking sending seven was not a mistake. They know how crappy the poles are!

We did some practice casting in the backyard for awhile. Caden was really good at it from the start, and Shepard just seemed confused.

Once we got everything set up and my dad gathered his supplies from the neighbor’s house, we headed to the lake. Originally I wasn’t planning on fishing, but then I started thinking about how much I loved it as a kid and decided to get a one day license. When I went into Fleet Farm I was informed that if it’s your first license you can get an annual license for only $5! I was pretty excited. I probably haven’t fished since I was about twelve, but I always did love it. And was pretty good at it. ๐Ÿ™‚

The first lake we went to was pretty boring. Not a single nibble.

We gave up after about half an hour. Little kids don’t have much attention for something that isn’t actually happening.

The park where we were fishing just put in a new playground so we had to let the boys play awhile. Uncle Tyler was put in charge of Shepard and came carrying him back a minute later with trails of gum waving from his feet. Gross.

We went back to my parents’ for a delicious lunch and then this ice cream cake I made! My dad loves ice cream and I’ve never made an ice cream cake before, so it seemed like a fun challenge.

Grandpa and Shepard.

The layers! It had a peanut butter oreo crust, homemade double cookie dough ice cream, peanut butter sauce, more oreo crumbs, homemade salty peanut butter chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, and peanut butter cups. It was soooo good. I’m really regretting leaving the rest of it with my parents! I think I’ll share the recipe soon. Yum.

After relaxing for awhile we headed to a new lake where my dad guaranteed we would catch some fish.

Within two minutes I caught my first fish! And the competition began. I’m a really competitive fisherwoman. Really competitive.

Caden caught one right after me!

Shepard still seemed kind of confused, but he stuck with it a lot longer than I expected. Greg chose not to get a license, though I think if we go again I’m going to make him. It was a long night of just watching us!

Shepard’s first fish! It was the perfect size for him!

More fish!

They took their worm carrying duties very seriously.

Greg was forced to start taking fish off the line and worms on the hooks because I was too freaked out to do it. I love fishing, but I can’t handle actually touching things. Kind of a problem.

Caden’s eleventh fish. Apparently a very good sized one because my dad gave it to someone who was keeping fish instead of throwing it back like the rest.

Fun times!

We were at the lake for close to three hours! The final count was Caden eleven, me eight, Shepard one, and Grandpa one. Caden had an unfair advantage because we were down to one working pole for awhile and I let him use it. I tried catching bass for awhile with the big pole and frog lure, but didn’t have any luck. Anyway, it was an awesome day! Now that I have my annual license I’m ready to get back out there every weekend! I suppose it would help if I actually had my own pole. And wasn’t too scared to touch the things I catch. So hopefully my dad knows I’m serious and we ARE going back again. It was an awesome father’s day. Hooray for fishing!

Celebrating Handmade

I’ve been obsessed with the world of handmade lately. Obsessed. I’ve always been a big fan of crafty things and homemade gifts. Throughout my life I’ve gone through stages of jewelry making, sewing, photography collages, paper craft, graphic design, and more. Creativity has always been one of my greater strengths, but until recently I’ve never thought that much about OTHER people’s creativity. It’s this whole world out there that is amazing. People are so incredibly talented and blessed with amazing gifts. I’ve really been appreciating the awesomeness of this lately. In honor of what I’ve been obsessing over lately, I thought I’d share some of my favorite handmade shops.

 Jewelry is what first lured me to the world of handmade. Lisa Leonard is my all time favorite because her jewelry is all so unique and can be personalized in so many ways. I think I own at least ten of her necklaces, two or three bracelets, and a couple pairs of earrings. Above is the sundrop necklace, my favorite one to wear with anything (except mine have a C and S).
The Vintage Pearl is next on my list of incredible handmade jewelers. As each shop continues to evolve I find myself drawn to Vintage Pearl designs a lot more. I LOVE this bird necklace. I don’t yet own it, but I loooooove it. I’ve been drawn to birds for a long time and this color matches pretty much all my clothes. Love it.
Pangea Handmade is a local artist I discovered at an urban craft fair earlier this year. I love how all of her designs are kind of antique and vintage looking, which is something I’m really into right now. I own a handful of her jewelry already. The barn swallow bracelet above is one of my favorites. 
I’ve never bought anything from Gussy Sews, but I read all of her blog updates and love to hear about her views on handmade treasures. She makes all these cute little ruffled bags that I don’t really have a use for, but I think they’re cute nonetheless. I’m mostly just encouraged by how easily she turned her love of sewing into a genuine and very successful business. I hope I can eventually do the same. 
Old Ragdoll Cupboard is what sparked my huge obsession with primitive Raggedy Ann dolls a mere eleven months ago. I saw her booth at a craft fair and was amazed at how unique and cute all the dolls were. That’s where I bought my very first one. Her dolls tend to be a little less polished and actual ragdollish, but some of them are adorable.

Okay, I practically worship Raggedy Old Annie. She is an AMAZING dollmaker and the total inspiration for my own dolls. Two of her patterns (filled with very detailed instructions) are what got me started in my own business. Her dolls are so beautiful and filled with amazing details. I love every single one of them. And own like twelve of them, including the specially ordered family set Greg got me for Christmas last year. She is awesome.
This has been one of my newest stalkee’s. On facebook she posts all these pictures of amazing primitive animals she creates. I’m totally and completely in love with this elephant. I wish she still sold her patterns so I could make one on my own! So cute. I love the look of primitive dolls and toys. 
I first discovered some Bit ‘o Whimsy prints on Mackinac Island last summer. I didn’t buy any, but thought I’d be able to find more choices online. I was unsuccessful. Then by total accident earlier this week I found her on etsy! I love the way these mixed media prints look and feel like it’s something I’d never be able to replicate on my own. Definitely beyond my realm of creativity. It just so happens that this week she was having a buy one get one free 8×10 print free, so I ordered this one for myself. I love the message because I’ve been feeling lately that I’ve just learned to fly. This new world has been unlocked to me (by learning to sew) and I suddenly have an infinite amount of possibilities of what I can do with it. I love it.
Well, I could probably go on forever with some of the shops I’ve found most recently, but the ones above are my favorites so I’ll stop at that. It’s been so exciting learning how to sew and expand my own possibilities in the last few weeks. Annies are still my favorite and I really hope I can make a go of Hearstring Annie. So far I’ve only sold three dolls, one to my mom and one to my mother-in-law, so I don’t think those really count. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I’m hoping for more as I continue to get my name out there. In the meantime, I’ve been having a lot of fun this week learning some new techniques on softies and stuffed animals. Above is the bird I made. I’m not too thrilled with my color choices, but at least it actually ended up looking like a bird!
Next I made a dachshund. I’ve had this pattern for weeks and finally worked up the courage to try all the new steps involved with this one. I think it turned out pretty well.
And finally a teddy bear! This is what he looked like before I did the paint staining. I really like the way he turned out and can’t wait to try some more bear designs. I collected teddy bears growing up (until Jack, my cat, peed all over my collection and I had to throw most of them out ๐Ÿ™ ), and they still have a special place in my heart. 
Well, that’s it for my handmade celebration! For today. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure I’ll have much more to share in the coming months. Two of my favorite craft fairs are approaching, as well as a new one in Chicago I’m excited to check out, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty more to exclaim about. I love handmade! ๐Ÿ™‚
 

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day! This year we joined everyone up at Cedar Lake for the big family gathering. The weather was perfect, everyone was in good spirits, and it was a great day!

Caden was dancing with excitement to get in the water. I felt a little bad for him because he wanted to swim so badly, but nobody wanted to go in with him.

My boys. Greg is such a great dad. ๐Ÿ™‚

Family paddle boat ride. Shepard was in the middle steering.

Greg’s dad and sister, Melissa.

Greg was talked in to getting in the water. Apparently all the boys wanted to do was jump off the dock for awhile.

After awhile Caden ventured out on his own. He loves swimming so much! I feel badly we haven’t gotten to any pools yet this year, though the weather hasn’t exactly been cooperative. Maybe later this week we can check something out.

Happy kid!

We went on the fast boat ride to watch the tubers. I feel like I would probably die if I went tubing.

Caden was really scared that they were going to fall off.

Back ashore, playing some giant dice game.

That didn’t last long.

Me and my gross allergy eyes. This has been the worst week of my life for allergies. Probably doesn’t help I spent all day every single day outside getting ready for and then working at my garage sale! I hope they go away soon because it’s completely unbearable.

Shepard was in such a silly mood all afternoon.

On board for the slow boat ride.

Caden was our captain.

My brother said the other day that pretty much everything Shepard does is the cutest thing ever. I have to agree. He is adorable.

Braiding Shepard’s hair. He really needs a haircut. I think he’s going to get his first official one sometime this week. No more baby hair. ๐Ÿ™

I was about to pass out on the boat. Too much sun! You know me and my extreme sun avoidance! Oh well, it was fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Feeding the fish some oatmeal.

Shepard wanted to sit in the backseat on the way home so Grandpa agreed to squeeze into the two inches of space left after two carseats are put side by side. Craziness.

Back at the grandparents’ for a quick present opening.

Caden is pointing out where Shepard spilled pizza on the card and he wrote “PIZZA.”

Family resemblance?

Trying to get a father and sons picture at the end of the day. Turned out better than I expected!

Another one. Shepard, seriously. He just cracks me up.

For fun, last year’s picture.

And the year before.

And that’s the end of the day! I guess I shouldn’t speak for the father’s, but I think it was a pretty perfect father’s day!

Grandpa’s Birthday at the Mallard’s Game

On Friday night we went to a Madison Mallard’s baseball game for my father-in-law, Steve’s, birthday. We all went to a game for the first time last year and it was so much fun we wanted to make it a summer tradition.

We got there early to have a little birthday party with cupcakes and presents. The boys were both so excited to give Grandpa their handmade cards!

Caden made Grandpa a whole book! He picked out seven sheets of construction paper and I sewed them together to make it more authentic. I seriously thought he’d be bored with it by page four, but he diligently spent the entire morning working on it – and then wanted to make another! It was adorable how proud of it he was. ๐Ÿ™‚

He filled it with all of his favorite activities to do with Grandpa, the ABC’s, a lot of pictures of him and Shepard throwing rocks in water, and lots of hearts.

Showing it off to Aunt Melissa next.

Shepard’s sleep schedule has been pretty wacky this week because he’s pretty much given up naps, but still needs them, and has been staying up later and getting up earlier almost every day. He fell asleep on the way to the game and was a little confused when we got there. Nothing is better than Daddy snuggles, though! (except maybe mommy snuggles?)

At the game! We all started by getting our meals. I decided to break from traditional ballpark food and got a BBBBLT. Which had like twelve slices of bacon on it, bacon mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a pile of cheese curds. I wish I had taken a picture, but my hands were too messy for it. I like Mallard’s games because they have so many more unique food options. Freshly made things too, not just overpriced, fairly gross food that you find at the bigger stadiums.

I was really trying to get a nice picture of all four of them, but Shepard kept stealing the show.

Funny kid.

Sucking on peanuts. Both boys were so awesome during the whole game. I wish they were so happy and well behaved during the day when it’s just the three of us! I’m kind of thinking the secret might be allowing them to eat nonstop like they did during the game! Hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and candy. They were content!

Shepard spitting his sunflower seeds out was kind of hilarious. And really gross. Melissa and I were both covered in spit. I took my camera out yesterday and realized the whole lens had dried spit stains on it. Disgusting! But pretty funny at the time. He definitely has some power!

Greg and I. I think Greg was the only one actually watching the game. We were in the front row, which is neat, but I have a hard time paying attention.

And finally Caden and I. Looking very sleepy! Anyway, it was a great night and hopefully a very happy birthday for Grandpa!