Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My life is terribly exciting.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I bought a deep freezer. It's funny the things that excite you as the years pass!

I have been wanting a deep freezer for a while now. We had one in Ohio, but it got left behind when we moved. The fridge/freezer that came in our house in Michigan is pretty small, and things have been falling out of the freezer at us when we open the door, but we don't really have $1,000 - $1,500 to spend on a new refrigerator right now.

Something I also bit the bullet on this past week was a Costco membership. I'd had a Sam's Club membership for several years, which came in handy for diapers and formula. But since we're past that phase of life (YAY!), I hadn't been going often enough to make the membership fee worth it.

However, we are on a pretty strict budget in 2016 in order to meet some big financial goals, so I'm trying something new: monthly grocery shopping. Dum dum dummmmmm.

I realize that not everything at these membership stores are a deal. I tend to break prices down to the unit to make sure I'm getting a better deal before I buy, and I've been doing some pricing research, and I'm very convinced that we can save the $4.60 per month in order to pay for the membership.

Something else I'm planning on doing in order to make life a little easier for myself on school mornings, is to do mass-baking days every couple months and bake up big batches of gluten free goodies such as muffins, pancakes, breads, pizza crusts, etc. Jameson takes a pastry of some kind to school three days a week (to match what his classmates are having as closely as possible), and obviously I don't have time to make something every week.

So this coming Friday (yeah, I realize it's Black Friday) is my first big grocery trip! It's going to be a bit of a slap in the face to spend almost an entire month's grocery budget in one trip, but I just have to remember that these groceries are going to last me almost five weeks, and focus on the savings!

I'll keep you posted on how it goes, along with my menu and grocery list planning process.

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving! Make sure to put your screens away and look your loved ones in the eyes as you converse with them this weekend. It means more than we might think to let people know that - even just in that moment - that they're important to us.

See you all soon!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Leaves. A lot of them.

This past weekend was pretty low key. Jameson had his (second to last!!!) soccer game, then we came home and rested. Then I went and got my hair trimmed and we went to the library.
Can you tell I got it trimmed? I don't like how it's longer in the middle and shorter on the sides, but I also don't want to just hack that longer part off completely. What's a girl to do?
Sunday, Matt had to work. I took the boys to church. Matt was home by the time we got home from church and after lunch, we tackled our leaf carpet in the back yard. I wish I would have taken a before picture. It was ridiculous.
We laid down a 8'x25' tarp that we had used in the garden and raked leaves onto it, then pulled the tarp out into the woods and dumped them. Matt had done about 4 tarp loads when I got out to help him, and I think we did 6 more together. The last few loads went on top of my garden so that the leaves can compost and enrich the soil for next spring.
The yard looked great when we were finished.
I walked to the shed to put the rakes away and stopped outside the shed door to look at the yard. These are the leaves that *still* need raked. We just did inside the fence. Tonight and tomorrow we are going to tackle these.
This is pretty much how I feel about that right now.
But, oh well! A leafless yard under the forthcoming snow means clean snowmen. Because who wants to roll up a big round snowman's belly and have it covered in dried, brown leaves?

Have a good week!






Ohio Trip.

As many of you know, when we moved from Ohio to South Dakota, we put our house on the market, and it sat without an offer for 9 months. We had someone inquire about renting it, we needed help with the mortgage, and someone moved in. She was a fantastic tenant. She paid her rent faithfully on time every month and took care of the place. But she moved out last march. *Cue giant sad face.*
Some people she knew that lived near her parents then moved in. Living 1,200 miles away from the house, we weren't as thorough, or even as picky, as we should have been, and we let them move in without references or rental history. (Long story short: Lesson learned.)
Anyway, we felt like we needed to get down to Ohio and check on the house. The inside of the house was dirty, but not falling in on itself or anything. The outside needs a full weekend worth of yard work, but again - nothing catastrophic.

The sunrise headed east on I-96 from Grand Rapids.
But driving three hours to Ohio wasn't just for the house. We stayed with our good friends that live just down the road from that house. We went to the pumpkin patch, carved pumpkins with the kids, and watched the Ohio State game and drank apple cider sangria! (Me, not the kids. Calm down.)
((Side note to college football fans: how about the ending to the Michigan/Michigan State game!?!))
I didn't get many pictures of the pumpkin patch because I just wanted the kids to be able to run and have fun. It was a fun little farm, but good grief was it ever cold!!

Jameson and I hung out in the goat tent for a while because it was a bit warmer.

After the pumpkin patch, the kids played for a little while and we had pizza for dinner. I'm not scared of any pizza topping (with the exception of mushrooms and anchovies) and tried pepperoni and banana pepper. I'd totally get down on that again - it was delicious!

After dinner we got to carving. Matt helped Jameson and I wanted to help Hendrix, but Mr. Independent wanted to carve his all by himself, so I helped the other little ones.

Apple Cider sangria. I made it with ginger brandy, but I think I'd like to add some caramel liquor to it the next time I make it. How good does that sound?

Jameson chose a green pumpkin. Because why wouldn't he?

This is what a Jack-O-Lantern face carved by a 5 year old looks like. It's awesome.

It's always great to spend time with family and friends, but it definitely makes for a long weekend of travel!
We were home this past weekend and we'll be home this coming weekend for Halloween, then we're headed to Indiana for an early Thanksgiving with family at my mom and dad's house. I cannot wait!
Hope you're all enjoying fall! It's slipping away much quicker than I'd like to admit.







Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Hike.

The weather last Sunday was absolutely gorgeous! (This post is a little late, sorry.) The high temperature was 73 degrees, and it was breezy. The only downside is that a lot of the trees are much more bare now than they were before this weekend. :(
We went to church Sunday morning, had our rest time Sunday afternoon (not taking a Sunday afternoon nap should be against the law), then we all headed out for a little walk. Hendrix told us about a trail he learned of at his pre-school over the summer. It's actually on the property of the church next door to the school. There are no private property signs, or anything leading us to believe we should stay off of it, so we've hiked it twice now.
The trail takes a slow incline all the way up to this open field where there's a big bonfire ring. Along one part of the trail is a steep drop-off to a valley with a small stream flowing through it. Last time we hiked it, we wanted to explore the stream, but weren't sure how to get down to it. This time we found a trail that descended to the bottom.
It was so gorgeous and peaceful. We hung out down there for about a 1/2 an hour before heading back.

I look forward to hiking this trail another time or two before the flurries start to fly. It will also be fun to explore new growth next spring....and plow through lots of mud. But that's what little boys are made for, right?
After we got back, the weather was just too nice to sit inside, so we sat out on our deck. Matt and I talked and the kids drew pictures and looked at their library books. It was perfect.
I love the background to this picture. Our deck is second story, so all you see are the leaves on the trees. It's awesome.
Talking about the deck makes me realize that I still haven't given you guys a tour of our house! I'm hoping to start a big fall cleaning and organization binge, so as rooms come together, I'll try and share them with you.
Hendrix was adamant for a while that I not cut his hair, but once it started to get in his eyes, I think he got a little annoyed and he finally agreed to let me cut it, so I did that Sunday evening. Honestly, though, now that it's short again, I miss the longer hair look! We'll have to find a middle ground somewhere.

Hope you're having a great week!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

So, we got a dog...

The kids have been asking for a dog for two years. We rented our homes in South Dakota, so a dog wasn't an option.
One thing we planned to do once we got settled here in Michigan was get a pooch for the boys. Enter Olaf.

He's a VERY calm dog. We were told he's an English Shepherd/Husky mix, but we aren't so sure of that. The vet, along with several other people, have told us his marking look like border collie and his face looks like I lab. So he's basically just a mutt, and he's an awesome boy. He's just over a year old, and the kids love love love him!
We didn't have a crate when we got him, and the thought of sticking a dog in a space slightly larger than its body makes me a bit sad anyway, so I thought we could try and put him in the bathroom while we're working during the day.
We gave the bathroom a test run while we went to church two days after we got him. He chewed up my bath sponge/loofah thing, but other than that, no messes. Monday through Wednesday, he chewed a few other small things, but nothing major.
When I got home Thursday (I was the first one home), I went to the bathroom to let him out and noticed a small puddle outside the bathroom door. I thought maybe he'd gone to the bathroom near the door or something. I opened the door and found the entire bathroom sitting under an inch of water!
Our sink drain had been running slow. We'd tried Drano, and were going to dig a little deeper to work on it that weekend. Olaf had jumped up on the bathroom counter and, in the process, turned on the sink faucet. My best guess is that it happened sometime shortly after we had left and the sink ran all day. Due to the slow drain, the sink overflowed and flooded the entire bathroom.
I stood there staring for a minute or two. There weren't enough towels in the world to soak up that kind of water, but I was in shock and disbelief, so I walked downstairs to see if I could round up several towels.
Our downstairs bathroom is directly under the upstairs bathroom. I walked into the lower bathroom to find the ceiling on the floor. It was JUST as awesome as you can imagine. The water had soaked through the floor upstairs, ruined the ceiling downstairs, and had soaked into the floor in the downstairs bathroom.
We filed a homeowner's claim, of course, and now both of our bathrooms are in complete chaos. They're usable, but a giant hot disaster. This is the current floor situation upstairs.

The first contractors were at our house last week tearing up the floors and running these huge dryers for 5 straight days. It's been deafeningly loud in our house.
The next contractor is supposed to come this afternoon to see about fixing the floorboards.
I'll keep you updated on the progress.
So yeah. We got a dog........



Monday, October 5, 2015

A Bit of Honesty.

Guys, I enjoy blogging. My blog isn't super well known (despite going viral almost two years ago), and I'm far from famous. But I don't care. That's never been my goal. My original plan with this blog was to keep family and friends updated on our life, and that's still the goal.

Two of my favorite blogs, are written by two ladies who just live their lives doing what they enjoy, they blog about their days, some recipes, some fitness, and they aren't really dedicated to one thing in particular. That's always kind of been what my blog has been about, and I don't see that changing.

So, with that said, you can probably expect to see a little more from me, though I'm not committing to any kind of schedule or anything. Just sharing my life with those that care to know about it. :)
I think a good place to start is what's been going on in the last few months of life.
Six months ago, we relocated from western South Dakota to west Michigan. I said little to nothing about our move on any kind of social media because I was upset about it. Matt's warehouse/office in Rapid City was closing (he buys produce to sell to grocery stores), and he could either find another job in Rapid City, or relocate to the company headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI. Obviously, you know the route he took.

I'm a real person, so I'll be honest. This was a very difficult thing for me. I had friends and people in South Dakota that meant a great deal to me, and I genuinely felt a part of the community. I was five weeks into a new job that I really enjoyed when he came home one day and told me the Rapid City warehouse was closing. I remember simply walking upstairs to the bathroom without saying a word, closing the door, and crying. Because before it was ever discussed, I knew what the outcome would be.

I put my notice in at my job (which was extremely difficult), and started looking for a job in Michigan. I found a temp opportunity at SpartanNash (same company Matt works for). I wasn't thrilled about a temp job, but a temp job in Ohio in 2008 turned into permanent employment that lasted for four and a half years, so I tried to remain positive. I did end up getting permanently hired into the company, and the job is going well. But I'd be lying if I said everything is awesome with life here in Michigan.

I don't believe in the constant fake portrayal of perfection on social media. I could choose to show pictures of camping trips, smiles, backyard football games, my adorable kids, make comments about how blessed I am (which I am, don't get me wrong), and make it look like it's all sunshine and roses. But I try to keep it real. I'm lonely, and my heart is struggling.

I was talking with someone locally, and he told me that people in west Michigan are quite "provincial," meaning they don't accept new people into their fold. I've found that to be very true. I've reached out within the celiac community, the type 1 diabetes community, we've visited two churches, and I feel like I'm hitting brick walls. People will make small talk, but it's like no one is looking to form any kind of relationships or friendships beyond the ones they already have. I'm frustrated.
I'll be ok, no need to worry. I'm just kind of "stuck" in this funk right now. My sweet and ornery boys continue being the happiness in my world, and I'm drinking in their silliness as much as possible.
I'm also trying to refocus and relocate my fitness motivation that's gone by the wayside since we moved. I've put on a few pounds (nothing crazy), and they've been VERY stubborn. My focus is no longer a specific body fat percentage, or even a number on the scale though. It's health. I want to be physically fit, healthy heart, and healthy mind and soul. The last part has been the most challenging, but I'm a work in progress!
We're headed into the most crazy and busy time of the year, and with my limited spending budget this year, I hope to busy myself with some homemade gifts for the little ones in the family. (SEVEN kids besides my own to buy/create for this year. Ouch.)
There is an early Thanksgiving family get-together at my parents' house in a few weeks, and I'm ridiculously excited for that. There will be family in from Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, and Michigan.
So - lots to look forward to in the coming months. Hopefully I can break out of this funk.
In the mean time, if you have any positive vibes or prayers to send my way, they wouldn't hurt!
Thanks for sticking by me as I try to figure out how I want to continue being involved in social media, as well as work through a bit of a tough time in my life.
Posts moving forward will hopefully be a bit more fun and positive!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Future of This Blog

Maybe you've noticed. Good chance is you haven't noticed. Ha! I've been sharing much less of my life here on the old blog. Posts have been fewer and farther between.
I can't really speak to what the future of this blog is right now. I'm going to be taking a hiatus (which I kind of have already been taking) to think about things.
I've been feeling like I want to step back a bit from the social media world, and this "modern" society we live in. Both for my own protection, and for the protection of my family. Also for my sanity.
I've had a Facebook account for ten years. It has its benefits, of course. Some of those are:
Being able to stay in touch with those loved ones who don't live near to us.
Seeing photos of our friends' children.
Learning who's just found out they're expecting.
Yes, there are benefits. But in my own life, the negative vibe far outweighs any benefit.

Social media is toxic.
I'm aware that the statement I'm about to make is bold, to say the least. But we all know boldness hasn't stopped me before. :)

Social media has made my generation the most tragic generation in history.
Here's why I feel that way:
We're distracted to the point of being dangerous.
Texting and driving is illegal, but we know very well it's still done all the time. We can't wait 15 minutes to check that text message we heard come in.

I'm scared to go for walks or jogs, let alone take the kids on bike rides. I don't know who's driving down the street that is paying more attention to their phone than they are the road, who's going to plow right into me.

We can't spell or use proper grammar. Either that, or we're too lazy to put forth the effort.
I cringe when I read texts, Facebook statuses, or comments on articles. Not always for what they say, but the giant failures I see at their attempt to say it. My grammar isn't always perfect, I admit. But it's painful to read (or try to read) the things people want to say. Mis-spellings of very common words, not a punctuation mark to be found, and terrible grammar. Oh, it hurts.
We are very self-centered, and assume everyone cares a lot much about what we post.
We waited 76 minutes at the doctor office. We're sharing our 4th selfie.....before lunch. We share 13 angles of back-to-school photos.

It's awesome to love yourself and to love your family. But we find it extremely hard to accept that not everyone loves to see us, or what we post.
We're "bullies."
(I hate that word, by the way.) We would never walk up to someone and call them an ignorant idiot to their face, simply because their opinion differs from our own. But it's nothing to call people names like that, and ones much worse, in the comment thread of a news article.
Besides being bullies, we're very judgemental.
We read an article, posted by a news source that is obviously on one side of the political spectrum or the other, where details are often skewed and/or left out. We come down VERY hard on the people in the news stories, without having the proper facts. We are very quick to call people terrible parents, horrible people, stupid people, bigots, etc. But the truth is that we weren't directly involved in the situations about which we read, and we truly have no idea how things really went down. We (should) know by now that stories aren't reported correctly. Depending on your new source of choice, facts about the situation are mis-reported, under-reported, or ignored completely.
Speaking of facts....
We take everything as fact.
Facebook is going to start charging a fee.
Ants and dogs won't even touch aspartame, so it's poison.
Texas has started requiring drug tests to qualify for welfare. Share to show your support.
Celebrity X has passed away! Please pray!
Share this and JoeBob Schmoe will give you $5,000!
It only takes a moment to ask the googles for assistance in verifying whether or not something is true before sharing it. More often than not, a very bored teenager created this "fact," in an attempt to see how viral it could go, and we're sharing complete nonsense.
We don't know what intimacy means anymore.
I'm not referring to sex. I'm referring to something that's shared with only a select few people. (And I'm referring to "shared" as something having been experienced. Not hit a re-post button on social media.) It's special, it's not shared with the world. Just you and your loved ones.

Laughing with your family and/or a group of close friends about something your child said or did is an amazing feeling full of warmth and love. Sitting with friends around a campfire or a table and laughing about your crazy shenanigans from 10 years ago....such a special feeling. That's not the case when it's shared with your 497 Facebook friends. In fact, it might cause stress or anxiety if you don't get "enough" likes quickly enough.
Which brings me to my next point.
We feel inadequate in the shadow of "perfection."
It's really easy to hop onto Instagram and immediately feel like a failure. One of your friends got a new car, and you're still driving your car that's 9 model years old.
You get your work clothes at Goodwill because they're much more affordable and no one has ever known they're second hand. But your neighbor's aunt's best friend is showing off her new Michael Kors bag.
Your cousin is posting about how blessed she is to be these babies' momma and her life has never been better in all of her 30-something years. You've snapped at your kids 4 times today and you're currently not speaking to your spouse while you chisel dried cereal out of yesterday's breakfast dishes.
As a result, we're in debt up to our eyeballs.
See previous point. We get a brand new $35,000 truck so we feel adequate in today's consumer society, drive it a few years, then feel the need to get a newer one.

We feel the need to spend $1,000 per child to send them back to school in their Under Armor outfits, and do extra-curricular activities (which are not all bad, don't mis-quote me here), and buy them all the toys we think they need, and tablets, and phones, and 8 pairs of shoes.....all name brand of course.

As someone who is currently clawing her way out of credit card debt, I fully realize how crazy it all is. We no longer think of how much money something is actually going to cost us, but rather how much the monthly payment is, and whether or not we can fit it into our budgets for that month. We don't think long term about money.

The only way we experience things is through the lens of a camera.
Been to the zoo? To the playground with your kids? Anywhere? In the age of camera-phones and photo-sharing platforms, we're so desperate to get the perfect shot that we stop our children from running, playing, and having a good time, and we spend the most beautiful sunrise or sunset taking 84 photos of it, then trying to put the perfect filter on it so it looks even "better." My opinion is that it's more beautiful when experienced with your eyes and soul than any filter can make it.

A study was done and showed that by taking pictures of everything, we're actually hindering our ability to remember those events, times, places, etc.
We don't hold conversations anymore, let alone smile at strangers.
Stood in a line anywhere lately? Tried to speak to someone you don't know out in public?
Not only do people not acknowledge anyone else around them, they'll often become annoyed at someone else's attempt at conversation, or even a simple hello. It's sad.

The other day, someone I know shared a photo of her 3 young children "on a lunch date." All three of them sat across the table from her.....staring at tablets. And she was obviously on her phone taking a picture of them. I'm imagining being another patron of that restaurant, looking over at that scene. I don't see a mom enjoying time with her children. I see a tragedy.

They could have been practicing reading or math. They could have been drawing or coloring magical creations while they awaited their food. They could have been talking about the magical dragon world those kids created that morning. They could have been talking about......anything. But they weren't even talking.
Every molehill becomes a mountain.
(Always searching for our 15 minutes of social media fame.)
We got bad service at a restaurant? We no longer approach the manager and respectfully resolve the problem. Instead, we post about it on facebook and see how many shares it can get so that we can damage the reputation of an entire restaurant because one of the servers was having a rough day.
Someone at McDonald's messed up our order? Instead of going back inside and politely asking them to correct it - which they'll do, I assure you, we rant about it on facebook and make someone feel like they're stupid and unworthy as an employee because they made a simple mistake on 1 of their 846 orders they took that day.

A few women (who really have no importance in the grand scheme of things) made foolish comments about nurses. While this was uncalled for and I have a great respect for nurses, people have been up in arms about the comments, have blown it out of proportion, and have started a "movement," all because of viral social media.

I know some people are thinking it - I was one of these people who went viral almost two years ago based on a piece I wrote about modern parenting. So who am I to be talking down on all these things now?
The beautiful thing about the passage of time is that we can learn. We can step back, look at something from varying perspectives, and learn from our experiences. I still back every opinion I wrote in that post almost two years ago that landed Hendrix and I in New York City. But if I were to do it over again, I probably would have worded it a bit differently to show more respect for people who *don't* feel the same way. Because those people and their opinions are no worse than me and mine.

We're more divided than ever as a nation.
Racism has always existed. Obviously - look at the history of this country. But as we all know, it's flared back up with a vengeance. I think it's normal for these things to happen, but I believe 100% that social media has made it worse.

News outlets post a biased story, people comment with rude and nasty statements, and emotions flare. Fights break out in the comment threads of just about every article shared. The same thing happens with politics, parenting, morality issues, you name it.

Our "fighting" from our keyboards, paired with heavily biased new "reporting" has this country in a divided, tragic, mess.

Social media is the biggest downfall of humanity in the last five years, in my opinion. I got my first smart phone (Blackberry Storm) at the end of 2008. I believe there was a Facebook Ap, but it hadn't taken us by storm yet at that point. That didn't really start happening until 2010, as I can remember it. It's gotten worse and worse with the passing years. It's made us more anti-social, selfish, and angry than ever. 

So with all of that said, I'm going to be stepping back. This is my personal choice - what everyone else does on social media is their choice and I'm not saying my way is right and/or your way is wrong.

I can't change what society has become, but I can change myself, and encourage those close to me to do the same.
I might be back, I might not. At this point in time, I can't make that call.

If you're interested in having my phone number or email to keep in touch, please send me a message and I'd be happy to share that information with those I know personally.

Whether I continue blogging or not, thank you to all of you who have shown me support over the years on my blog. I hope to catch up with you someday soon - over coffee! Not a Facebook message!

Take care, and God bless!