Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January jumble

It's been a lot of every day normal stuff around here lately. (For January in Iowa at least.)

Snow coats the ground, the wind chill has dipped down to 30ยบ below zero on more than one occasion, and we've been hunkering down. School was cancelled 4 out of 5 days last week for my preschoolers, and I have felt a bit stir-crazy.

It's impossible to get anything done amid the continual begging to go outside and numerous requests for the movie Frozen, which I must admit is extremely appropriate.

So there really hasn't been much happening. Lots of kleenex and antibiotics. Strep throat and ear infections. Warm blanket snuggles on the couch. We did brave the temps and the wind and escape the house a few times though.

I took the kids out to my parents' one day to eat lunch and celebrate my dad's (belated) 55th birthday.
Bailey helped my mom pick the frosting color for his cake, and we all sang Happy Birthday to Papa Jeff.
The kids assisted in blowing out the candles. 

And it is a {sick} fact that one of them literally sneezed a candle out. (Granted this particular child was using the "sneeze into the elbow" technique, so my nurse's heart was happy.) And in case you are wondering why there are exactly 6 candles forming a semi-circle: this was the excited work of a 4 year-old.

Last weekend I promised the kids a movie at our local $2 theater. Excitement abounded. I said we would go Saturday afternoon at 2:00.
Cut to 1 pm when I realize that they no longer do afternoon shows and the only option was 7:30pm - way too late for Mr. G.
We settled for bowling instead.
They had never gone bowling and it was a fun, exciting new experience... for the first 6 or so rounds. By the time the last round approached, Jared and I were both thanking God and were ready to run out of the bowling alley.
But they all looked so darn cute in their tacky bowling shoes!

The only other new thing around here...
Jared and I booked a vacation!

This is huge news in my world.
Our last vacation was in 2009 - not counting our trip to Colorado in October with our kids. Because as fun as that was - and it was fun - it still doesn't feel quite like a vacation with toddlers in tow. 

In March we are going to Puerto Vallarta to an all-inclusive resort for 5 days. 
Of beaches.
And sun.
And quiet.
And all the adult beverages a carefree parent could ever dream of.

To say we are excited is a big understatement. We have been saving up money in a special vacation fund for a few years, and it feels good to finally put some of that money to use. This trip is giving Jared and I both something to look forward to and work toward. 
I am definitely using it as my mental Happy Place when the snow is blowing, the kids are whiny, or my workout is kicking my butt.
I think the anticipation of an awesome vacation is almost as great as the vacation itself. 
I can't wait for March to get here!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

post-Christmas catch-up

It's 2015 and we all survived the holiday season. There isn't much to survive in our world. We only attend two different Christmas get-togethers, which I find to be a real rarity after talking to other people. And especially since Jared has divorced parents. But I am not complaining. I find it way more enjoyable to go to a Christmas celebration and just stay, as opposed to running here and there, making sure to "make an appearance" so no one's feelings get hurt. Especially with kids in tow. Kids that probably missed naps and way overdid their allotted sugar intake.

We had a great Christmas.
As usual we attended Christmas Eve church service and hosted a meal of appetizers at our house for my family.
There were the usual pictures in front of the tree.

I felt like Christmas was relaxed this year. That is a goal of mine - to not become that frantic, crazed person rushing around buying gifts and thinking that perfection is what makes Christmas special. Santa didn't spoil our kids. Their grandparents and aunts do that. Our kids got one present each from Santa and the other two were from Mom and Dad. Santa of course gets to be the fun guy, while Mom and Dad gave books and clothes. 

Our families usually ask our opinion on presents to buy for the kids. Most of them know I hate the clutter of a thousand toys. Toys are important for kids, but we want stuff that makes them use their imaginations and be interactive. And they all did so great picking out stuff that they will use again and again, without driving Jared and me insane.

Princess dress-up stuff for the girls. Instant hit.

"The Little Blue Truck" board book. Graham is obsessed.

Little People. They've already been in the plane, bus, tractor, barn, you name it.

A unique, personalized board book made by my mom on Pint Size Productions. Graham loves this book. It is all about farm implements with pictures of his papa's tractors, combines, wagons, etc. And he can't get over that there is a picture of his grandparents in a book!
ThinkFun Roll & Play Game (G's present from Santa). All 3 kids love it. They learn and have fun at the same time. And it entertains for a long time. I highly recommend.

Tool set. Tractor repair was going down just yesterday morning.

This adorable Melissa & Doug doorbell house. Jared hid their snacks in it one day and Avery couldn't stop laughing at the fact that her fruit snack was hidden behind Door #2.

And of course they got clothes, and leggings for the obsessed Bailey, and other books. It was all stuff we can use and I appreciate all the thought that went into getting them meaningful gifts.

We went after-Christmas shopping on December 26th and scored some good deals on decorating stuff. Now that all my sisters have their own houses, we can all behave like old ladies excited over new decor items. :) 

New Christmas tradition for next year!
My sister Beaner told me of an ingenious idea that a friend does for Christmas each year. Every year she individually wraps every Christmas book they own and places them under the tree. Each night in the days leading to Christmas, the kids get to pick a book, unwrap it, and read it together that night. They are all books they have already read, but it's like they are brand new. It's a unique tradition that is essentially free and fun for the kids. Another way to get in the Christmas spirit. I am so going to do this next year!

Other stuff:

I don't know about you, but man we are getting lame on New Year's Eve. And when I say "getting" I really mean that we have been this way forever. We even had no kids for the evening (Thanks Mom!) and we were still lame. As my sister Justy expressed, it's all the pressure that comes with New Year's supposedly being this awesome, great time. I haven't ever had an amazing New Year's experience. Maybe one day? 

This year Jared and I went out for dinner and drank too many margaritas. We came home and drank some wine and played some games, passing time until it would be suitable to go to the bar. And then around 9:30 our couch started looking pretty amazing. And we did have a long list of movies DVRed. And with that showers were taken and jammies put on and we snuggled up on the couch to watch "Dallas Buyers Club." Yep, that is how behind we are on new releases. We were in bed before midnight. And it was pretty great.

I reached my goal and lost 30 pounds a few weeks ago. Christmas happened and I took the liberty of still working out but eating whatever indulgent crap I wanted. I gained a pound. Oh well. I would have been in a pissy mood passing up delicious food at Christmas for the sake of a calorie count. 

And despite the Christmas food free-for-all, I bought my first pair of jeans (not counting one pair of maternity jeans) in 8 years. 8 YEARS. That's pathetic. I have been getting by using some of Fe's jeans that she couldn't wear anymore (because sister lost like 60 pounds in the last 2 years!), but those are now too big. It was time. 
I am pretty ecstatic to report that I now fit into a pair of 9/10 jeans. That's amazing for me. I haven't been that size in probably a decade. 

On the exercise front, the week of Christmas I decided it was time to rededicate myself to actually getting more fit. For a while I had been coasting by, still losing weight, but not really challenging myself with workouts. So I started a new workout routine. It's called The 90 Day Warrior Workout by, and it's a calendar with 3 months of workouts planned out for you. Some of the workouts are ones I have already done while doing the 30 Day Beginner calendar, but there are quite a few new routines that are kicking my butt at times. And that's a good thing. As always they are all exercises that are done at home with only handweights. I highly recommend if you are looking for something to challenge you without shelling out money for a gym membership you aren't sure you will use all that much.

I think that is about all for now. I put the kids in front of some Looney Tunes so I could have a minute (or 30. or 60.) to myself. Hey, at least it is the classics and not Caillou or some crap. Man, I hate that little, annoying brat... Him and his grating personality and that hat he always wears. One shouldn't have such aggression towards a PBS cartoon character, but it is what it is (to quote my mom).
I digress...
Time to go make lunch! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

countdown to Christmas

Christmas is a mere two days away and I am a little saddened by that fact. This year the month of December seemed to fly by. 
I love the house all decorated. At night when the house is picked up and there isn't a toy in sight, I sit down and enjoy the dim glow of the Christmas lights and pine-scented candles. Choir-sung Christmas carols have a way of soothing the emotional exhaustion I feel lately. The house feels festive. The kids are excited. A new (clearance sale!) tree shines brightly in the girls' room. The chaos and joy and celebration of Christmas Day looms closer.

But in the meantime, tasks are to be completed.
A few final presents need wrapped.
Food needs prepared.
There's always laundry to do. Always.
And then there's the usual house cleaning that comes with hosting a holiday party, even though it's just a small, immediate family-only gathering on Christmas Eve. 

So before I depart to clean under dining room booster seats - you always think you do a decent job housekeeping until you check under those bad boys, I leave you with this gem from like 1995 or something.
There are so many comments to be made from this picture...
Have a good laugh at our expense.

Enjoy your last few days of all things merry and bright.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas traditions

Christmas is the holiday for family traditions. And Christmas has this talent for making me think in a rose-colored glasses sort of way. My mind drifts back to the traditions of the Christmas season that we celebrated when I was a small freckle-faced child growing up in rural Iowa.

Decorating the tree and the house to the sound of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the holiday classics. (Yes, my mom did that by choice.)

The Christmas Eve church program we put on as Sunday school kids every single year. 

Driving around looking at lights with my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie.

The holiday cookies and goodies that covered every surface of my mom's kitchen. 

Running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to what felt like a mountain of presents under the tree.

They have this glossy feel that favorite childhood memories have. A feeling that everything was perfect and right in the world. There was a magical, special feeling to all the little things that happened during the month of December.

And I want my kids to have that feeling. To be able to look back fondly at special moments we celebrated as a family. Before December even arrives, I am already anticipating all kinds of magical Christmas-y activities. 
decorating the tree.
baking Christmas cookies.
looking at Christmas lights.
I smile thinking of how special it is going to be. 
The twinkling tree lights apparently affect my memory and dramatically increase my optimism. 

Before long reality sets in. 
Graham is taking ornaments and throwing them across the living room. 
Fights ensue over the set of pretend reindeer antlers. 
After 6 hours of Christmas baking, I am lacking the patience required to help preschoolers decorate cookies. Ten kinds of sprinkles?! What was I thinking?!
The hot chocolate we poured lovingly into sippy cups for the Christmas light viewing gets lost and rolls under a seat during the drive. 
Apparently the kids didn't get the memo: We're making magical memories, dammit!

Sometimes I see other families and the fun stuff they are doing this holiday season. I think, why aren't we doing that? Are we doing enough? Would our kids even behave enough for that?! Are our kids going to look back fondly at what we are doing? Are they going to remember me losing patience over the pound of sprinkles on the floor?

But the truth is, 
things weren't perfect when I was growing up either. 
In almost every picture in front of the tree on Christmas Eve, at least one of us kids is pouting or crying or crossing our arms in defiance. 
And yes, we looked at Christmas lights with my grandparents, but usually around 10 minutes in, we were more excited about the Pizza Hut they promised us than any nativity display.
I was a small child during the farm crisis of the 1980s when money was tight, and I am sure most of my presents were necessities - not the newest toy I thought I wanted.

But none of that distracts from the glowing feeling of my childhood Christmases. In the end what mattered was that my mom and dad were there on Christmas morning - Dad throwing balled up wads up paper at us, Mom in the kitchen baking turnovers for breakfast. 
Santa had showed up and there were gifts under our tree to unwrap in a wild frenzy.
Our grandparents wanted to spend time with us, even if we were just in it for the pizza.
We went as a family to Christmas Eve church and sang our little hearts out for everyone to hear.
Perfection isn't a requirement for cherished childhood memories.

Our kids are still little, and we are gradually adding to the traditions around here.

I don't put on the Chipmunks album, but we decorate together and jam to some other tunes. 

We bake cookies and try to contain the kids' enthusiasm for sprinkle throwing.

We load up and go looking at Christmas lights, hot chocolate filled sippies required.

We dress up in fancy clothes for the kids' Christmas program at church. 

They might not be storybook-quality moments, but hopefully our kids will look past the imperfections and see the love that went in to each day and every occasion - big and small - of the holiday season. Hopefully someday they will remember the rosiness of their childhood holidays just like I do. 

**And no, you didn't miscount kids. We are watching my cousin Alan's daughter Carlie while they are on vacation. So Carlie got to join in some Christmas light viewing with us. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Faves

1. Blankie has been found!
Praise the Lord!
all that.
He had been M.I.A. for the past four days. Things were getting serious. We last saw him (yes, the blanket is referred to as a person around these parts) on Sunday when Graham went down for a nap. And then that night he was no where to be found. 
We. tore. this. place. apart.

I was on the fence about full-on accusing Jared of taking care of him Chicago mob boss style. See, Jared started to despise Blankie about 6 months ago when Graham figured out how to tear tiny bits of the fleece/cotton/whatever mixture off of it and roll it into balls. It's like a weird OCD thing he does when he is falling asleep. Whatever. Point is, there are tiny blue clumps of cottony fabric all over his room. So there was possible motive there...

But yesterday Bailey came running up the stairs yelling, "I found him! I found him!" The him, of course, being Blankie. The blanket had been stuffed into a small nightstand drawer in the spare bedroom. Clearly I owe Jared an apology. He did not shove him in the garbage and hustle it out to the curb Monday morning to cover his tracks.

Now that Blankie has returned, nap times are bound to go much more smoothly again.

2. Christmas decorations! 
We spent a large chunk of last Friday unpacking tub after tub of Christmas decor. 
The Pandora Christmas station was playing.
The tree went up.
Lights were hung.
Decorations are now in almost every room.

I particularly love our buffet in the dining room that helps spread more of the Christmas spirit around the house.

Jared even put up a couple strands of white lights on the girls' bunk beds. It's a fun substitute for a lamp for a few weeks, plus Bailey and Avery think it's pretty special.

3. And speaking of Christmas decorations, if you have a fake tree, you definitely need to purchase these bad boys.
Jared hates that we have a fake tree. But I like to have the tree up for a month, plus live trees are more work, as well as being more costly since as we got a good after-Christmas deal on our fake one. Jared mostly misses the fresh tree scent.
So we bought some Scentsicles on Amazon.
Under 9 bucks. 
Problem solved. 
It makes the whole room smell amaaaazing!
Totally worth it to buy a pack every December.

4. The girls' school pictures came in yesterday. I tried to scan them, but it made the quality of the already not-exactly-high-quality photos even less. 
But I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. Bailey as always did fine. 
With Avery, I had to go in with her after school got out. Her teachers tried and tried during her scheduled time, but she refused and wouldn't stop crying/freaking out. In the end I had to jump around acting crazy while bouncing her Hello Kitty backpack above the photographer for her to grimace smile at the camera. So considering all that went into them, they work for me.

And $80 later we have two somewhat okay photos that we could have taken ourselves in our own living room. But it's like a childhood rite of passage, right? You need these sometimes-good/sometimes-extremely-awkward photos to fully commemorate your school experience. Or they are just good for a laugh when it comes to making fun of your grown siblings. Either way.
Fe - your 7th grade v-ball photo. 
Nuff said.
(And you're welcome for not posting that photo here!)

5. Tonight I get to hang out with Sarah, one of my oldest friends. We've been friends since 3rd grade. 
us, 15 years ago

She is definitely one of the few people who will tell it to me straight no matter what the consequences, and that is one of the things I appreciate most in a friend. I can't wait for the laughs and over-sharing that is about to occur in a few hours!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday

As most of you probably know, I started working out and tracking my calories back in April of this year. I don't write about it much because I don't want to bore people to tears, but it is definitely a big part of my life right now, so I thought a little update might be nice.

My weight loss has actually gone really well - despite my love for delicious and less-than-healthy foods at family get-togethers and holidays. I've lost 27 pounds at this point, surpassing my original goal of 20 a few months back. Starting around October I stopped being quite so rigid and am now satisfied losing a pound or (more typically) a half-pound a week. I work out about 5 days a week, sometimes for 30+ minutes and sometimes just for ten. I also have continued logging all my food on MyFitnessPal - something that I think has contributed greatly to my success thus far.

I was looking through photos over the past 12 months in order to make the calendars for family members, something I do every year at Christmas time. When you look at yourself in the mirror every single day, sometimes it is easy to not see progress. 
I couldn't resist a little side-by-side comparison, if only for my benefit.

I remember at the time thinking that that picture from 2013 was really flattering and made my face look thinner. Now I look at it and think, "Whoa, my face looked chubby!" 
And maybe it isn't a big difference at all to others looking at it, but it definitely is to me. 

Occasionally I wish I had taken a full body "before" photo like so many people do. At the time you definitely don't want photographic evidence of your starting point, but later on it would be nice to help you see just how far you have come. 

With the scale not moving as rapidly as it did in the beginning, I am happy to be noticing some non-scale victories lately.

  • Exercise pants I bought back in July are now so loose in the waist that I can't really do an involved workout while wearing my insulin pump because it makes them start to fall off.
  • I thought two pairs of workout/casual pants back in September. At the time I remember thinking, "Yeah they fit, but are they obnoxiously tight...? I will just wear them around the house." Now they are actually not fitted in the thighs anymore. That never happens!
  • I tried on dress pants that I used to wear to church in college. I remember wearing them for the last time on an interview for a nursing internship. That was 2007. Now not only do they fit, they are actually maybe too baggy to even look dressy anymore. 

My goals are constantly changing. 
At first all I really wanted was to lose 15 pounds and get back to my pre-baby weight. At the time I thought, I would give anything to weigh that amount again.
But once I reached that weight I figured I'd try to get to the weight I was on my wedding day. I'm now 7 pounds past that goal. 
My current goal is to reach a healthy weight, which means I still have 8-13 pounds left to lose. Losing 13 more pounds would put me at a healthy BMI - something I haven't been since I was a senior in high school 12 years ago!

I have other non-scale related goals too.
I want to increase my physical strength and stamina for completing workouts.
I'd like to run a 5k next year sometime.
And I am thinking maaaybe even purchase (even wear?) a 2-piece bathing suit next summer...  (Jared is totally rolling his eyes and saying "Reeeeally?" to that one.)  But hey, ya gotta have something to work toward, right?   :)

So if anyone reading this is on a similar weight loss journey, feel free to comment and/or add me on MyFitnessPal. I can always use more inspiration and people to hold me accountable!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Graham's 2nd birthday party - Thanksgiving style

Graham turned 2 years old last week and the celebration on his actual birthday was pretty simple. 
It was a Tuesday after all. 
And he's two. 
So we gave him a brownie with some ice cream, and he was a happy camper.
He got both candles on the first attempt.

Aunt Justy came over for supper because she was going to be out of town for the week and would miss Thanksgiving and his birthday party. She bought him a CAT digger set. 

You can't tell that he is excited about it at all, can you?
And as a disclaimer, I want to state that I do attempt to clothe this child. 
They don't seem to stay on. 
Or stay clean.

We continued the birthday celebrating this past Saturday. We had our "real" Thanksgiving meal with just my parents and two out of three (ain't bad, says Meat Loaf) sisters and my mom's parents. 
(We had a soup dinner on Thanksgiving Day, but it just ain't Thanksgiving without a turkey and some mashed taters and gravy, folks!)
As far as celebrations go, this was the lowest that low-key can get. I didn't do any decorating other than the cake. We spent the entire day eating basically. 

But of course there was present opening. And as far as gifts go, Graham received:

  • a car carrier,
  • a skidloader,
  • a tractor,
  • a Gator utility vehicle,
  • a digger,
  • a lawnmower,
  • a Batman motorcycle...
  • and some pajamas.

Noticing a trend? Minus the PJs of course.

Little Man loves his wheels.

 Forget the cake! There are fake hay bales to haul!

And lest I forget, I finally lifted the shoe-buying embargo on Aunt Fe, and she bought her little G a sweet pair of new kicks. 
And while I am at it, is "kicks" even culturally relevant anymore? 
I am totally sounding like a 30 year-old, aren't I?

We eventually drug Graham away from loading hay and pallets with Papa Jeff long enough to sing a quick Happy Birthday and let him blow out some candles on the tractor cake that his parents lovingly decorated and he barely noticed. 

Believe me, he sure liked to eat it though!
But he needed a glass of milk to go with his chocolate cake - just like Papa.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ah, screw it. Let it snow! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

I am usually one to always wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas. It might be the day after Thanksgiving, but it is after Thanksgiving. 

But all this snow in November?
I am mentally giving in. 
Christmas could be tomorrow and I'd believe it.

So I'm all in.
Let it snow.
Crank that Christmas music. (Wait, what? It's been on the radio for weeks? Oh yeah...)
Bring on the mountain of green and red storage totes and let's decorate this place up. 

If it looks like Christmas outside, 
it might as well look like it in our living room too!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two, Dude

Almost exactly two years ago to the hour, I was holding our son in my arms for the first time.
My son.
The reality was finally sinking in, and I think I cried like twenty times that day. 

And much later, after the worst of the sleep deprivation was over,
we realized just how complete our family felt with this little man in it.

I just finished tucking in our now 2 year-old baby for his daily nap. 
He grabbed my face in his chubby hands and pulled me in for a big kiss on the lips. He smiled and said, "I yuhv you" before turning over on bed, snuggling in to sleep.

It melts my heart every time. 
He might not technically be a baby anymore, but he is still my baby.
Although if you ask him, he will proudly let you know that he is "two, dude."

Happy Birthday little G.