Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thankful for 2016

I'm so very thankful for the contents of this past year. There were of course some things that were less than ideal. I think I spent less time with friends this year than many years past. Although, I did spend much more time with one of my many friends, a tender sweet soul who lives a few blocks away, has a son of her own who is close in age to little Abe, and she watches my son on Monday's when my husband and my work schedules overlap. So maybe in the grand scheme of things "friendship" time actually balanced out.

I'm also very out of shape. I did a horrid job of keeping track of spending for the second half of the year. The budget also suffered. And I would have liked to spend much more time with extended family. All in all, I think the list of "less than ideals" for 2016 is rather short and for that I'm thankful.

But, to return to where I began I'm very thankful for 2016. I'm thankful that my family is in good health, and specifically that both our aging dogs are still with us. Last Christmas Eve (2015) our eldest dog was diagnosed with diabetes. He was horribly ill and we thought we'd lose him (one month after saying good-bye to my precious kitty of 13 years). The insulin, syringes, and many vet visits to treat the diabetes this past year have been a financial burden but our boy Bozzy is in very good health, holding out like a trooper and I can't express my gratitude at him still being in our lives. I'm under no allusions about him no longer being around sooner than later but as of now he is still here. We love him as much as ever. His eye sight is barely remaining (from the insulin) but regardless he is very healthy, happy, and he is ours. I'm thankful for a year of life.

It can be bittersweet watching a young child, your only son, your "baby" growing like a weed, or shall I say like a tomato plant. I look at my son who seems to grow two inches taller each night in his sleep and I'm not sure where this young man came from and where my baby boy went to but I am so thankful for his growth this past year. I'm thankful to have been witness to all the things he learned, to all that he experienced. I'm thankful that my once baby can now count to 50 (and is on his way to 100), knows all of the letters, letter sounds, and can write his own name. I consider it a blessing that we read 970 books together this year. I'm constantly amazed at his witty conversations and the world of imagination that he often lives in. I'm thankful for a year of growth.

I can't say that it wasn't a whirlwind of discomfort but I'm incredibly thankful for mine and my husband's job changes this year. With a high level of terror I walked away from my job of 12.5 years, a job with rapidly increasing stress, disorganization, and frustration. I honestly dreaded leaving for work each day. I dreaded the weekly new projects riddled with poor instructions and ridiculous time constraints. The new job is one, for the past six months, I haven't once dreaded going to. I'm already making more money then I had been, work a consistent set schedule close to home (which is the exact opposite of what I had been doing), and I feel highly appreciated for the work I do. The change is night and day different in every way possible (except that the actual work of both jobs is very similar). My husband is a million times happier in his new position at a different store and we still haven't need for childcare (except for 1.5 hours on Monday). I'm thankful for a year of wonderful changes!

As far as all of my own little projects go, I'm so thankful for this year's garden, my third go at it. It was again overflowing with fun and so very fruitful. I feel I learned a lot more through this year's gardening experience AND my life was so much more enriched through it. Another project I'm quite happy with this year was my attempt to take at least one photo each day. The file on my computer containing all the selected photos has just over 300 pictures in it. Thus, I clearly came short of my goal but it's a project I will definitely repeat in the new year. I LOVE looking back at the photos spanning the year. I have multiple photos of little Abe playing with his friends, visiting with his relatives, multiple photos of him and me, of him and my husband, of all three of us (and the dogs), of little Abe doing projects, crafts, ect;. We have photos of the many places/ outings we went on. There are so many photos I would have not taken if it weren't for the point of having a photo for the day. Possibly more than any other THING I acquired this past year I'm thankful for the collection of photos that document the life we lived in 2016. I'm thankful for a year of fun and enriching experiences.

Wishing you all an enriching new year in 2017!
Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


A normal rambling of my son (uttered while sitting on the couch watching TV and writing his name with a blue marker on a blank sheet of white paper):

You know what?
I like my own name.
You know what I like the most of it?
I like the letters of it. I really like MY letters.
I'm proud that I have my own name.
I'm happy that I don't have to share it.

He adds so much joy to life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Laughing January Away

Looking towards 2017, I decided instead of New Year's Resolutions I would attempt themed months. I'd like January to be devoted to laughter. Once I decided that I'd like to start the year off with considerably more laughter I started to notice just how little I actually laugh.

I'm a first born of four to parents that divorced when I was young. A first born that took on way too much responsibility at too young of an age. A first born that takes life considerably more seriously than probably need be. Did I mention that I'm a first born?

I've noticed that I laugh in my head. At times there might be some laughter behind my closed mouth smile. I laugh a little if something is really funny. Very rarely do I laugh boisterously, and generally it's when I'm incredibly tired and my inhibitions are very low. I've noticed that I actually force laughter with my son fairly regularly. He takes a bit of pride in how humorous he is and he can get offended at people not noticing his hilarity. Often I'm too unfocused, or too foggy, or... they're all lame excuses; I find myself laughing at him on purpose and I need to work on being in the moment with him more often.

I'm looking forward to January, to a month of laughter. Right now my brainstorm contains a list of ideas to work at laughing more often:

Read funny stories, funny poems
Watch funny movies
Tickle regularly (Little Abe relishes tickling)
Tell jokes
Discover/ sing silly songs
Document on the blog one moment of laughter each day

Remind myself to laugh
-when I notice myself laughing in my head I intend to remind myself to laugh out loud
Take photos of laughter
Play more often
Make time to be less serious
Read a book(s) about laughter... or just quotes, haha!

I think I want a more detailed list but this is my brainstorm AND knowing me this will likely be my only list for the month. Is anyone else in denial about 2017 only being four days away? I can honestly look at the calendar and still totally not believe it.

On that note, I hope y'all can make the most of the rest of 2016!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Ninja Hunt (and Our Christmas Card)

Each morning of December before the 25th little Abe wakes up to open a brown paper bag with a number on it. I have the 24 bags hanging from a strand of lights strung around the perimeter of the dining room. Each bag contains a Bible verse, a piece of candy, and sometimes a small toy, or craft, or sticker. Today we opened the last bag but this one was quite different.

There was one tiny lone ninja inside with a note. I knew that the reaction upon finding one of his tiny ninjas in the bag would be one of intense confusion and probable frustration but I went with the plan anyhow. The little ninja's note reads: Could you help me with a Christmas wish? Please find my six missing friends? I know they have a treat for you if you do. Merry Christmas kind gentleman."

After I read the tiny little note to him his face lit up, still a little suspicious of the change he started to slowly walk around the house. All doubt was thrown to the wind when he stumbled upon the first tiny ninja standing on top of a Hershey miniature candy. I'm continually amazed at what little joys you can create for a small child. Seven quarter machine ninjas I collected from his bedroom, six little Hershey's miniatures, and a house lit only by Christmas lights: the perfect Christmas Eve morn!

Now for the unveiling of this year's Christmas card: 

Like I said, a bit goofy, a lot of photo shop, six different pictures cut and paste together, and several different drawings by the little boy, my family sends you Christmas greeting from the beach at Lake Michigan. (I drew the camels. He colored them in. The star and gifts are entirely by him.)

Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Christmas Let Downs (don't fret: this isn't a grouchy post)

I woke up with a sore throat and I think I might have a fever. Two days before Christmas and once again (this seems to be somewhat of a reoccurring holiday tradition)... I don't even care. This Christmas season has been really great. Has there been too much stress? Yes. Has there been the usual rush, rush, go, go, go? Yes. Has work been crazy? Of course. But none of the stupid stuff matters because Christmas has been great.

This year little Abe and I have made the most of our holiday traditions. We've anxiously done a countdown each morning. We've enjoyed a few different wonderful advent calendars. We've baked several batches of Christmas cookies together. We've made cards for loved ones together. And sent them out in the mail. In today's digital age I think real mail (like the kind that has handwriting and return addresses from people you actually know) has an even more magical aura to it. We've read Christmas books together every day and talked about the birth of Jesus. We've focused on little ways to give to others all month long. And I think we've very much appreciated the gifts others have given to us.

All three of us have gone sledding in the spirit of Christmas fun, watched Christmas movies together with hot cocoa, played in the snow, and gone gift shopping for friends and family. We've listened to Christmas music over and over and over some more. We've been to one family Christmas party, one Christmasy dinner with friends, and, oh yeah we went out of town Christmas shopping with little Abe's Grammy.

The whole month of December has been a celebration, not just in preparation but a true celebration. In years past Christmas day tends to feel... it can be a bit of a let down. So much anticipation, so much preparation, so much craziness at times for this one day; one day that just comes, goes, and then... it's done. In years past all the little let downs of Christmas day, maybe not getting the ONE gift you asked for, getting the flu instead, maybe getting into an argument with a relative, or just being thoroughly annoyed and bothered by them, maybe just the day going by much too quickly and you feel not enough was accomplished, so many things can make Christmas feel disappointing. I'm just being honest. MAYBE you've never suffered from the Christmas let downs, but many years past I have.

Right now, two days before Christmas I'm feeling pretty satisfied with how this Christmas turned out. Anything bad that comes from here on, I don't care. My Christmas was great this year! Anything good that comes from here on, well it's just all icing on the deliciously sugary Christmas cake. Feeling pretty darn satisfied. I think I'd better sign off and start wrapping some gifts...

Yes, I got him a clearanced Halloween costume for a Christmas gift.
Yes, I was careless and left it right where he could find it.
Yes, he loves it and wants to wear it Christmas morning to my in laws
and has been living in it ever since he stumbled across it.
Yes, I should have wrapped gifts like two weeks ago and not put it off until today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

to live deliberately

We're only a few days away from the big event but I'm taking a break from all the suspense by thinking about goals for next year. Me and goals are a funny thing. I tend to only ever make it about half way to my mark but the way I see it, at least when I set a mark I make it half way there. That's better then never setting off in the first place, right?

I'm thinking about assigning 2017 a word and that word shall likely be "Adventure." I'm also dreaming about structuring my goals (haha, yes I just said "structuring" my goals... maybe had too  much coffee already today)... sorry back to my point, I'm thinking about structuring my goals in a Gretchen Rubin type way (you know, The Happiness Project lady). Like, January will be about laughter. I'd set my course for an adventure in seeking laughter. I think that could make for a really fun first month of the year. Little Abe and I could try and find some really funny books at the library. We could watch a few funny movies, make a point to tell silly jokes and tickle every single day, really put our mind to finding ways to add laughter to life.

February is generally a really hard month for me. I start to get cabin fever really bad; seasonal effective disorder. The bitter cold temps combined with lack of sunshine take a super huge toll on me (says the person who dreams of living in Alaska). February should be an adventure in seeking new things; new places, new foods, maybe read a new genre, find some new music. New, new, new!

March could be for friends, relationships. April could be about gratitude. May should likely have everything to do with getting outdoors. I think that's how I want to approach next year. Maybe I'll even incorporate The Happiness Project a little and carry some of each month's adventure theme into the following months of the year. Honestly that sounds like too big of a task to me but I think it'd be worth while to at least give it a shot. Come May little Abe and I would be finding ways to laugh, looking for new experiences, focusing on friendships, gratitude, and getting outdoors. Gosh, that sounds like such a fun year.

It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Cards Are Out!

Victory cry: yahoo!!!

A little late but task done. Not that it was something I was necessarily struggling with or stressed about. It wasn't/ I wasn't. But Christmas cards are a time consuming task I welcome, that I'm always really excited to finally complete. With less than a week till Christmas, this task was more then ready to be wrapped up.

Feeling festive and accomplished
: )

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Rules (Warning: grouchy post ahead)

Can some one please tell me when Christmas collected so many rules? Maybe it's always been this way. Maybe something is just wrong with me but this year the rules are driving me batty. Granted I've always been a little bit of a rule breaker, not so much in disregarding posted signs or breaking laws but I've never adhered very well to social norms.

1.) Everything must be equal:
If Grandma is going to give gifts to the kiddos they darn well better have an equal number of presents to open. It would be wildly unfair if one kid opened three and another had only one (despite the one being worth the same as the three combined). And she absolutely must spend the same amount on each kid. Heaven forbid one kid receive a gift worth $10 more than another. 
If one grandchild gets four outfits, the others must get four as well. If one kid gets an ornament, they darn well better all get one. Everything must be equal. Everything! Christmas is about nothing if not equality.

2.) No gifts for the adults:
If you want to buy something for your brother, how dare you be so bold. I mean there's a rule: no gifts for adults. Once that threshold of 18 has been passed, don't you dare. He can't even legally drink yet but gosh darn it he is too old to be getting gifts. I mean how would everyone else feel? I suppose it'd be okay if you showed up to the party early and gave him a gift behind closed doors. Or no, actually you better just schedule a separate meeting and give him a gift in secret. Secret gifts are better because then no one gets hurt. Christmas is about nothing if not covert gift giving. (but it better be a gift that he would be able to afford getting you because if you give him something too expensive his feelings or pride may get hurt; see rule number four)

3.) You better make sure and buy all the kids something they REALLY want.
I mean, if it's not on a list somewhere that they've made, if they haven't specifically picked it out themselves then you probably shouldn't be gifting it to them. Actually, you're best off to have their mom or dad buy them a gift and wrap it from you. You can just give the parents cash under the table. If several phone calls back and forth have not been made before the actual gift giving ensues then something clearly was done wrong. If that doesn't work out just gift the kid a gift card. That way you're sure to not get the gift wrong, not to offend the parents with a stupid gift, and not to see a tantrum from the hurt child.

4.) If you receive a gift from someone then you better give them one too.
This one is just conscience speaking. I get it. I really do. We all feel a sort of obligation when an unexpected gift is given but this rule still bothers me. When I give someone a gift that wasn't expecting anything from me it's generally because I found something for them that really meant a lot to me, that made me really think of them. Or the person means a lot to me and I really want to do something extra special for them. Honestly, if I give someone a gift and they automatically feel obligated to gift something back to me that takes away from the giving for me. I don't like it. I think this rule is sad and the obligation is unnecessary. But we've all heard it said, Christmas is about nothing if it's not about obligation.
And it gets even worse when the money equality thing gets thrown in there. If I give you a gift worth $100 (don't worry, that's not going to happen) and then you feel you need to get me something equally as nice. Spit on that! It's all stupid. Don't get me anything. Maybe that should be a new rule: If you get a really unexpected gift then you're not allowed to return the sentiment.
5.) We no longer say Merry Christmas. It's offensive...

Should I keep going? I could. I know I shouldn't. I'm being a real Christmas downer. This December has been really special. Little Abe is old enough to remember years past, to totally comprehend everything that's going on, to be really excited about things he's been looking forward to for months (Christmas tradition type things). We've pretty much been celebrating Christmas every day this month and it's been awesome but all these rules, OH. MY. GOODNESS. I'm about to explode. I seriously want to be a hermit. My husband is not bothered about the true Christmas spirit of "obligation and fair play" like I am so the frustration has really just been building and building for me. Thus, all you fine folks get to hear my cheery Christmas rant.

You know, the really Christmasy thing to do would be if everyone just bought everyone else a $10 gift card. I buy one for you to Wal-mart and you buy one for me to Red Lobster and so on and so on. That way everyone would get something from everyone and it'd all be equal. Although, I might not actually like Red Lobster, they use a bit too much butter in their food so actually we should just all give each other cash, no more then $10. $10 cash for everyone. Then everyone gets something. Everyone gives a gift, everyone gets a gift. It's all fair. Kind of pointless in the long run but gosh darn it, it would be fair. No feelings would get hurt. No one would be offended. Perfection. Wonderful, pointless, Christmas perfect... I mean holiday perfection! Who wants to get this ball rolling with me? (that's sarcasm by the way... in case you hadn't figure it out. If everyone gave everyone $10 then no one would have actually given or received ANYTHING!)

The Grinch signing off.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Cards

I spent considerably too much time deciding what to do for our Christmas card this year. I enjoy making each year's Christmas card in some form or fashion. I just didn't have a vision for this year until really late. It's been a long time since we did a family photo card so I was leaning towards that, especially considering their growing popularity but I really, really prefer a traditional card. I know, I'm repeating myself now.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the Christmas card poll. The poll is now closed. The results are in and they're a bit skewed because I set the poll to run for nine days but I hadn't realized people could repeat vote once each day. I have no way of knowing (apart from wasting time looking at IP addresses) how many people actually voted and how many people repeat voted.

None the less, it was the first time I posed a poll to the blog thus it was a simple form of fun entertainment for me.
Apart from the two votes for "I don't like Christmas cards," I think 38% traditional, 26% family photo postcard, and 29% zero preference sounds about right. Your votes in the poll helped inspire my family's Christmas card this year so again, thanks for taking the time to vote : )

I decided to use several different photos (six in total), a collage of artwork from Abe, and a ridiculous amount of time with a free online photo editor to compile a "family" photo I then adhered to card stock (I should say, a family photo I am adhering because I'm so not done yet). Long story short, our Christmas card this year is... different, but it falls easily into each category on the poll. For real though, I put way too much thought into absolutely everything. I need a holiday away from my brain.

Okay, back to assembling, writing, and addressing the cards. I'm pretty certain I can get them to almost all recipients before Christmas... you know there are only nine more days left right?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Giving

cookies for the neighbor
I want my son to be raised thinking of Christmas as a time for giving and not just receiving. But Christmas to a little one can certainly seem like a time for getting. The magical month of December when presents are being given to you left and right; We have a Christmas party this weekend. Little Abe will receive a few gifts there. We will be going to another Christmas party next weekend and he'll get a few more. The weekend after that he'll open a few presents at a Christmas Eve party, even more on Christmas morning, and more still when we go to my in-law's house Christmas afternoon. My dad's family's Christmas party is not happening this year but you can generally add that to the regular list of gift stops.

I honestly don't remember Christmas being like this when I was little but we also didn't live near extended family. It seems crazy to me. I love how excited he is at every gift. I love how truly amazing the whole month of December is for him. I love to see that playing with his cousins is just as much fun for him as receiving new gifts but back to where I started, I'm trying my hardest to remind him that Christmas is a time for giving too.

We've certainly been talking about giving and talking about the gift that God gave us. The reason we celebrate Christmas, the gift of Jesus's birth. This whole month we've been finding little ways to give. Last week we went through all of Little Abe's books and picked five to donate to the little free library at the elementary school near our house. The little free library is just a box, kind of like a mailbox in front of the school where people can leave books for others to read, or take books to look at themselves. We've borrowed books from the library box before. We return them when we're done with them but this is the first time we've given books of our own to it. Little Abe really enjoyed giving away books for other kids to read.

A few days ago he made an adorable card to mail to someone, a Christmas card from specifically him. He's planning on making a few more. He'll probably send a card to each of his cousins. I think he is realizing that making a card for someone and then getting to mail it to them is a pretty fun way to give something small to someone else.

We also went through his room and took out many, many toys that he no longer plays with, toys he's grown out of. He likes the idea of giving them away to other kids who will enjoy playing with them. I just have to figure out the best way to donate them or who we know that might like some of them.

We've made cookies twice and both times planned to bring them to our neighbor. The first time I wasn't happy with how they turned out. Go figure right, the time you plan on giving them away they don't turn out well. The second batch was very involved. We made cut out cookies from my Grandmother's recipe box. They are the same cookies I made each year as a kid with my mom. Abe helped the whole time, mixing, rolling, cutting, and sprinkling. We brought them over to our neighbor's house today. I think that was the first time this year either of us said Merry Christmas to anyone. 

making peanut butter balls
There are some really fun lists online of giving ideas, things I would have never thought of. We plan to put many of the ideas to use this month. One of my favorites (something I can't imagine I would ever in a million years think of on my own) is to leave a note at houses with really great Christmas lights thanking the homeowners for putting up such beautiful lights/ decorations for everyone to see. I think that's such a neat idea. Two of our neighbors across the street have lights up that little Abe really likes so hopefully we'll stop a note over at their homes this week.

Of course there will be more cookie making, more Christmas card crafting, and more brainstorming but Christmas this year will be a time for giving and something about that just makes me so much more excited for Christmas. It is better to give then to receive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I am a jumbled mess.

Over the years the main lesson I've learned from this blog is that everything in life runs smoother with a plan. Don't get me wrong, at heart I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-artistic-turn-life-into-a-giant-collage type person. But planning things; having a spending plan (not just a budget), having a weekly meal plan, having a plan for numerous different tasks makes each task run more smoothly AND having such plans does ease a good deal of stress. BUT planning takes work and sometimes the initial work can make the benefits appear small and insignificant.

Ever since the job change about six months ago I've been really frazzled. My husband and I really like our new jobs but it took a decent amount of time for all three us to adjust to the schedule, routine, and all over changes in life. I think all planning fell through the cracks six months ago but I've still yet to pick it back up.

Essentially, I'm driving myself crazy. I can't tell you how often I rush out of work while needing to pick up three things and leaving the store with fifteen things or more. This means way overspending. And we're constantly out of one or more fixins for a dinner even so. My mind is always racing about something I'm trying to get done very last minute because I didn't have an initial game plan. It's madness!!!

It's time to regain control of my life. This blog post is my motivation to buckle down and get back to it. Christmas is coming and any planning I'm attempting seems geared towards that. Christmas will be great and we're going to make the most of this month of holiday festivities but gosh darn it I am off work tomorrow and:

make a meal plan
go over the budget
write out a spending plan for this week
post real December goals
and finalize Christmas spending

Okay, self motivational speech done.
I hope everyone is having a great week thus far.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

His name is Frank the snowman

He looks super grouchy, I know.
But his name is Frank the snowman and we sure had fun making him.

Today was the first real snowfall this winter. I mean, snow has fallen a few times, maybe three but it hasn't really stuck. This evening it began falling. The big wet sticky kind of snowflakes that are perfect for making snowmen and snowballs and snow forts. We call it snowman snow. It was after dark by the time a good few inches had collected but we headed out for the event my son has been waiting months for. One hour, one snow man, too many snowballs to count, and two very, very, wet and rosy cheeked individuals later our first snowy day is in the books.

Today has been really great. I spent a TON of time working on this year's Christmas card (it involved taking the dog to the beach to get a few photos). I'm just stoked that I finally decided on what to do for the card. Our old man Bozzy had a wonderful time running around on the shore with little Abe. I'm glad we got there before the snow! Our snowy shenanigans this evening were memory making. Of course hot cocoa with mini marshmallows was enjoyed after. And now I have a very tired grouchy boy. I think I may have "overworked" him (little Abe that is). Haha, I guess you can't win em' all.

Time for bed!

OH, and remember to take a sec and vote in the Christmas card poll above.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looking for your opinion concerning Christmas cards

I've posted a poll at the top of this page.
Please take a moment to vote.

For years I've been wondering if there's an overall preferred style of Christmas card. Extremely trivial, I know. But it's a pondering I often stop at. I've noticed that the family photo postcard style of card has gained in popularity. I personally love seeing photos of people's families and their children. But when it comes to Christmas cards I think I still prefer a traditional greeting card. I've turned a photo of a pet into a greeting card for several different Christmases (before baby Abe came along). Once I used a photo of our cat snuggled under our bedspread. Once I used a photo of our dogs (one being a new puppy) with Christmas wrapping as a backdrop. But on both occasions I adhered the photos to folded card stock to create a card I was then able to write in.

I know a few people that display the family photo cards in their homes at Christmas and basically dispose of the regular holiday greeting cards they receive. I know a few people who honestly dislike the family photo postcards at Christmastime. I eagerly welcome every card we get, family photo or traditional card. Each is hung on the wall next to our entryway book case. The cards on the wall are one of my favorite holiday decorations. I wish everyone sent Christmas cards. But alas, fewer and fewer people actually do.

Do you have any thoughts on the subject?
Do you have a preference?
Feel free to leave a comment and vote in the poll. I'm really curious, even if you have the slightest little preference what your thoughts are on the subject.
AND do you send out holiday cards?

Last year I turned little Abe's artwork into our card. I don't think I posted about it. This year I'm still on the fence about what to do. But I think I'm going to go the same route as last year.