Back On Track

Today is the first day that everyone is back to a normal routine after the holidays. Hubby is back to work. The kids are back in school. And it is so quiet in the house.

Well, at least it is in between the moments when I’m desperately trying to cough up a lung (thank you so much my old friend bronchitis, I thought you’d decided to leave me alone this winter), something I’ve been trying hard to do on an off since around Thanksgiving. It is hard to try and get back into any kind of normal routine when you feel like crap.

The longer than normal break has allowed MC’s birthday to sneak up on me. He will be turning 18 and that is such a mixed bag of emotions. We keep joking that we are kicking him out now that he is an adult. He just keeps laughing at us.

Because of his birthday, Death by Chocolate is in my future. The fun of having birthdays so close to the holidays (both MC’s and mine) is that it feels like the holidays don’t just stop, but trickle away slowly. That goes for all the food and goodies.

I have a day to try and get up the energy to do everything I need to for that and I’m going to spend it with my nose buried in a book, eating cough drops like candy and trying not to nap with the hope that I’ll actually be tired enough to sleep through the coughing for a change.

Looking Forward

I’m not really big on setting major goals or resolutions. I’d rather focus on just noting the things that are important to me to maybe focus on or to try and the things to look forward to. It is part of my need to focus on the positive things rather than the negative.

This is going to be one of those really big, notable years for me. So much of that focus will be around MC because he will graduate from high school in the spring and then will start college in the fall. BG will add her smaller but still important events by getting her driver’s license and by being in a much larger part of her dance recital by being in the oldest group of girls for the first time and as an assistant. Hubby will turn 50 this year. All major changes, but all things I’m mostly excited about.

I really want to continue to try and focus on the good and the things that bring me joy. While many of the major events this year will be amazing, they will come with that bitter sweetness that most major changes bring, so that positive focus will sometimes be easier said than done. My plan is to add some things to that list of events that help tip the balance.

While there will always be lots of books to read, I really want to spend more time this year doing more creative things. I’ve started playing with one aspect to see if it is going to work for me. I have a few other ideas, but I still need to see if they will fall into the “I’m doing this for fun” side of things or “This is more work than fun” side. Since the goal is to focus on the positive and the joy, it needs to stay on that fun side.

I really want to spend more time out taking photos. Partly for the photos and partly because I really need to be more active than I am. I didn’t spend nearly enough time walking and reading this year as I have in years past, so I need to make some changes to that.

Really, other than the things that are happening this year, this isn’t a whole lot different than what I’d looked to focus on this last year, finding the joy and the things that make me happy.

 

Best of 2019: Moments

Outside of photography and the books I read this last year, I thought I’d note a few of the bigger moments and highlights of my year, things that I did or experienced that I was really proud of or stuck with me as important moments.

There will always be tons of those when it comes to my kids. Yes, I’m hugely biased and think I have the best kids ever, even when they are being little shits. There are a couple that really stick out, though.

BG stepping WAY out of her mostly introverted comfort zone to be a dance assistant. Just the few months that she has been doing this, she has really gained a lot of self-confidence that I haven’t seen in her before. It has been amazing to watch. I’ve also seen her really grow and mature this last year with how she has handled friendships and dating and high school.

This has been MC’s year to really drop the proud mama moments on me. I’m over the moon proud of his accomplishments and getting not only accepted into his school of choice, but winning a top scholarship because of all the hard work he put into is school work. The biggest mush moment from him though is one I never posted about. I never could quite find the words to describe how he made me feel, but… for a project in one of his classes, he had to name the smartest and the wisest people he knew (separate people). His obvious choice, to me anyway, would be my Hubby because he looks up to him so much. He did name his dad as being the smartest, but he said that I was the wisest. When all the other students were naming famous people and other people of note, he picked me. When he told me all the reasons (which I have now forgotten because I’m still blown away by the fact he even considered me) I just almost bawled. I am not, and never have been, the person he really looks up to. I’m just mom. The fact that he feels that way about me, enough to include it in a school project and then tell me about it… talk about feeling like you’ve done something right as a parent! My 17 year old son thinks I’m wise. Just… wow.

There were a few creative projects that I’m still really proud of. While it wasn’t my best cake, by far, but BG’s birthday cake this year was still insanely challenging and turned out pretty well.

Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side
Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side

That costume really hit me in the creative nerve because just doing it in cake wasn’t enough, apparently. I had to paint it as well. Again, far from being perfect, it was something new for me and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic
2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic

I was also really pleased with the first piece of jewelry I’ve attempted in a few years. It reminded me how much I love working with stones and silver.

Of course I think one of my proudest creative endeavors this year was publishing my book, An Unexpected Turn. Considering I never planned, expected or even dreamed of writing a book, I’m still a little astonished that I actually did it. It has been this insanely difficult, emotional roller coaster of an experience. I’m even more proud of the fact that it really seems to be received well by most readers. It is selling and getting mostly positive reviews. I still sometimes struggle to believe it has all actually happened.

An Unexpected Turn - Christmas Ad Image
An Unexpected Turn – Christmas Ad Image

Even though I definitely had some rather low moments throughout the year, 2019 was a pretty good year, especially on the creative and mom front. With MC graduating in the spring, BG starting to drive, and my creative muse chafing to get my hands busy, I know 2020 will probably bring a lot of the same.

On The Flip Side

I have only just now had a few moments to go through all the photos I took over the last several days. Nearly all of them are family related, but I did manage a minute or two to play with my new toy, a photography sphere. I’m going to have so much fun playing with this!

Today is going to be focused on getting the remaining messes picked up and put away from the last few amazing days followed by the post holiday crash. We really had a wonderful, drama free holiday, so I’m very much a happy camper. Even more so because I got to be evil mom to MC by making his one and only gift something he had to really work for to get open. Let’s just say that multiple layers of wrapping and boxes culminated in woven packing tape can only be broken into if you cheat and use scissors. Even that took more work than he expected. The look on his face when he got to that layer absolutely made my day and was so worth all the time it took to set that up.

Everyone is off of work and school until after the new year, so I probably won’t be back to regular posting until then, though I’ll try and sneak in a couple here and there. This time of year is always family time and filled with food and movie marathons and lazy time.

Hoping you all had as amazing holidays as I did and will keep enjoying this fun time of year!

 

Absolutely Epic

Normally starting my day cleaning up cat puke would set the tone and the rest of the day would be full of not fun, but I ended up having one hell of a day yesterday.

I finished my gift baking. Got all my presents wrapped and under the tree except the couple that hadn’t arrived yet. Got the kids to wrap their gifts to each other. Heard from the people that I shipped gifts to that they got their packages early. So, in all, it felt like I’d accomplished a lot, which was really good.

I was stressing the hell out trying to finish getting my pizzas assembled knowing I didn’t have a ton of time left as the kids were due home and I still had to work with the kids on their gifts, start baking the pizzas, take a shower and fix BG’s hair all before we had to leave for her Christmas program.

MC gets home as I’m rushing around and tossed out that he has to call his college choice back as they’d tried to call him while he was in school and left a message for him to call them back. I honestly didn’t think about it when he told me as I was too focused on finishing everything in time, but he comes down only a few minutes later with a kind of stunned look on his face.

He was officially offered the scholarship with full tuition and is the runner up for the tuition with room and board scholarship (he will get it if either of the top candidates choose another school). That means he was third out of all of the applicants for the competitive scholarships. He frickin’ did it! All his hard work over the years, all his dedication to getting those amazing grades and doing so well absolutely paid off in spectacular form. I’m so damn proud of my kid. He is still a little bit in shock over it all and I think it may take a little bit for that to sink in.

After all the crazy and the excitement, I then got to go watch BG do her Christmas program for tap and jazz. This is something like the 9th one I’ve sat through, but it was a little different because of the class she is now in. Being the older girls (sophomore, junior and seniors) the program is a bit more intense, with harder choreography and steps, plus it is treated with a little bit more import as the girls aren’t those cute little girls anymore. It is still full of fun, but it is just that little bit more mature. The difference is subtle, but still noticeable.

It was so much fun to watch her. I mean, it always is, but this year she has put so much more effort into it than she ever has and it really shows. Being an assistant has made her look at all of this a little differently and it has become even more important to her. For the first time ever she agreed to let me take group shots of her and her friends after the program and damn! The smiles I got! She was absolutely glowing.

I could not be more proud of my kids. They are growing up in this amazing way that shows how amazing they are going to be as adults. I think I won the lottery when it came to kids with these two.

Snowy Day At The Pond

Sadly, the pretty snow was bad enough to force the studio to cancel BG’s performance yesterday, something they almost never do because of how difficult (really impossible) it is to reschedule. They will do most of it during the first class period back after the new year, but it won’t be the full thing as they don’t do pointe, just ballet.

I was sad but also really glad because all the roads in the area were a horrible mess and I really didn’t want to attempt to get out in that disaster. Instead, I froze my butt off to go take some pictures as the conditions were perfect for it. Or, mostly perfect. I would have stayed out longer, but the snow was really coming down and it was getting impossible to keep my camera dry, so I wasn’t out too long. Long enough to get a few good shots. I love snow covered landscape shots, but I can rarely ever seem to really capture what I see.

 

Careful What You Wish For

You just might get it. Apparently Mother Nature was listening to me moan about not getting snow and decided to be generous. Sadly, of all the days (and there really were only a total of 2) that this really need to NOT happen, today is one of them as it is BG’s ballet Christmas program.

What you see here is only the beginning of what is already proving to be extremely nasty with area highways shut down and accidents all over the place. Predictions are for multiple inches today and then again tomorrow. We still have a few hours before we have to leave, but it will be snowing the entire time. I have my fingers and toes and pretty much everything that is crossable crossed that it tapers off in enough time for the roads between here and the studio to get clear, but I don’t think I’m going to get that lucky.

This would be the second ballet program we will miss since BG started pointe if we can’t get to this one. The last time was her first year in pointe and we had a nice ice rink outside our house.

Seriously Mother Nature? You couldn’t postpone this just a day? Okay, I get it. There are programs for different classes all week, so if it isn’t ours today, it will be someone’s. Maybe just hanging on to this until Christmas would have been best.

That said, the conditions are perfect for getting out and taking some amazing photos, so if I can’t get to watch my daughter do beautiful, impossible things, I’ll go watch Mother Nature do it instead.

Annual Holiday Lights Tour

Tonight we are going to do our annual tour of driving around and looking at all the holiday lights. We have been doing this since our kids were little and even now that they are both teenagers, this is still an activity they love and look forward to every year.

We start with grabbing dinner that we can eat while driving around. I make hot chocolate and the kids have been known to get their PJs on or grab a blanket to ensure the mood is perfectly cozy. There will be nothing but Christmas songs on the radio and more than half the time we will all be singing along or, just as often, making up our own lyrics that have us all laughing.

I’m really a little surprised that both MC and BG still really want to do this again this year. I love that we have this tradition that they both look forward to and get so excited about, especially knowing how few teenagers would be caught dead having fun hanging out with their parents. I have no clue if this will be MC’s last year to do this with us since he will be doing the whole college thing next year, so I’m going to savor this one as much as I can.

This is just one of the sights we get to see while we are out doing our rounds. Twice actually. And every single day of the season because it lives next door. It is kind of crazy and has sparked all kinds of jokes over the years, but it is also fun. We see so many cars coming to look and it’s fun to see how amazed all the little kids get at the decoration overload.

Decoration Overload House
Decoration Overload House
Decoration Overload House - Santa's Workshop
Decoration Overload House – Santa’s Workshop
Decoration Overload House
Decoration Overload House

Ball of Nerves

So MC is off for his scholarship interview today. I’m a ball of nerves right along side him. He was chosen to interview for the top scholarship at his first school choice, which is a full ride including room and board. There are several others that offer a little less at each level down you go; one is a full ride and no room and board, another just offers more than their base merit scholarship (he is already qualified for the merit scholarship based on GPA and test scores).

This is nearly a full day event that he is attending and includes multiple interviews with different people. He was a little stressed (understatement!) over the last several days. I couldn’t be more proud of him and how he is handling it all, though. He did tons of research on potential questions and did his best to prepare for having some answers to those questions. Even though I’m pretty certain there will still be questions he doesn’t expect, he will still be going into them feeling ready.

I did want to do a little head smacking when he mentioned that he finally read some of the “fine print” on the scholarships and realized that there are a few strings he wasn’t expecting (because of course he didn’t look that deep before applying for them). Like the requirement that you be an active ambassador for the school at several events throughout the year (like today’s competitive scholarship day). Each level had slightly different requirements, with the top even including being the ambassador in media and TV. For someone as introverted as MC, this threw him for a loop, bringing on a massive dose of doubts.

After a lot of conversations, he has realized that as much as he will probably hate having to do those things if he wins any of these scholarships, they would be really good for him overall. The fact that he didn’t panic and pull out of the interview made me even more proud of him.

I have no clue when he is supposed to be notified if he does get one of these, so even though he makes it through today and can breathe without being stressed out, he is still going to be on edge until he hears something.

Me? I’ll be sitting on the sidelines being a proud, nervous wreck.

Tree Pretties

I feel like I’m falling behind on where I should be as far as the holiday season goes. I think this is probably because it was a late Thanksgiving this year. Whatever the reason, it is starting to stress me out a bit.

Normally the kids would have given us their wish lists and we’d at least have started talking about what we want to do for them by now. The only thing that has been discussed is MC’s gift, which is actually also part graduation gift and something we all talked about and agreed on last year, a laptop that he will be able to take to college but is still powerful enough for him to play the games he likes. I haven’t a single clue what I’m going to do for any other gift. At all. Not BG. Not Hubby. Not my in-laws. Nada. Hell, I don’t even have any ideas to give to Hubby as something to get me. Not sure you can wrap up world peace and a cure for ignorance in a box and put it under the tree.

We are at the point where the gifts are very different because the kids are teens and the things they want aren’t the same as the latest cool toy (not that any of my kids were ever into that, unless it was a video game). It doesn’t help that my kids really don’t ask for much and never really have. Every once in a great while there will be something big, like the computer, but it is so rare.

BG mentioned wanting to go shopping for clothes, but that sort of changes the whole gift under the tree thing, so I’m not sure what I want to do about that either. I could be evil and take her, but tell her she can’t have any of it because it is still getting wrapped and put under the tree.

In years past, because of the madness that was holidays in this family, I practically had to beg them to add more things to their list just so I could pass along a gift idea to a family member. It got so bad I started to hate the whole gift concept even though I’ve always loved putting the time and thought into finding something meaningful and fun. I’m exceptionally grateful that I don’t really have to do this anymore.

It doesn’t help one bit that my normal level of creativity is currently flatlined. I’m going to need some inspiration soon, though.

 

On My TBR – December 2019 Edition

Looking at last month’s TBR, I realize that I didn’t end up reading half of my list. One ended up as a DNF, but the others… I just really wasn’t in the mood for them. I still read a ton of books, but none that were on my TBR and very few of those did I put in the effort to write a review for. I have desperately needed the lighter, more fun, and heart warming reads lately without the pressure to evaluate them for a review. For that reason, I’m not really putting together a TBR this month.

I do have one indie book I’ve committed to on my list:

I NOT David
I NOT David

I NOT David
Genre: Family Life

 

 

 

Other than that one book, I’m not committing to any specific reads this month. In part because of moods and in part because this is going to be an insane month for me. With all the dance Christmas programs for BG, MC doing his scholarship stuff, and other holiday events, I need to keep this month low key on other fronts. I’ll still be reading and, when I feel inspired, posting reviews. But I’m just going to do my best to sit back and try and find some joy this month.

Holiday Perspective

Is it just me or do other people’s view and attitude about the holidays change depending on those they are around? Specifically family.

Sorry if the following does not match the cheeriness of the photo.

When it is just Hubby, the kids, and me, I’m generally excited about the holidays and the traditions we have established over the years. I look forward to all those moments I know we all love.

Throw in pretty much any other person and all of that gets tainted and I start to lose some of that joy. People that cannot manage to do anything but bring negativity with them. I do my damnedest to choose beauty and joy every day because there is so much that isn’t, but it is hard to do that when all that negativity jumps in your face.

It is worse when those people bring hope of change and a promise of healing, all out of the blue, only to have all that hope get smacked back down under the weight of the reality that things are still exactly as they were before you chose to walk away.

I’ve seen others talk about how much they dread doing some family event because of how negative it can be. How do you maintain the joy around the holidays when you are forced to deal with people that feel the need to drag everyone down?

Can I Sit Down Now?

I spent the entire day getting all of my indoor decorations up. I love it when it is all done, but my poor body really doesn’t. Doing this every year the day after I spent the previous two days on my feet in the kitchen really doesn’t help. At least we had all the outdoor stuff up and done before Thanksgiving, so I didn’t have that to do this weekend as well, giving me a full two days with nothing to do before we jump back into our normal routines. I will be spending those two days being as lazy as I can possibly get and still be considered human.

Did You Say Pie?

My pies are done! And… They look like they turned out really well. I’m kind of shocked.

BG insisted we do an open lattice apple pie, though I’m pretty much the only one besides BG that actually likes apple and I’ve never done a covered pie before, but… sure! No problem. Let’s do something new because we don’t already have enough to do today!

Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin also turned out really nice. I think this is only the second time I’ve ever made one, so… go me! I need to dig into a couple of different recipes for crust baking references for this, because it is a little darker than I’d prefer.

Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

Pecan has always kind of been my pain. I love pecan, but I always manage to do something that keeps it from looking great. It usually still always tastes really good, but it doesn’t always look really good. This is better than most, but my recipe really should be for an 8 inch pan, not a 9, so it doesn’t come up as high as it should, leaving too much crust showing around the edge. I’ve made a note and will be modifying my grandmother’s recipe (the only one I’m willing to use) to make it work for my pan. Otherwise, I managed to bake it and keep both the crust and the top from getting too dark for once. Still not the prettiest pie ever made, but I’m taking this one as big win.

I couldn’t have gotten it all done without some major help from BG. I’m so incredibly grateful that my girl not only wants to do these things with me, but that she has as much fun with it as I do. We spent most of our time laughing our butts off. I love that almost more than the holiday itself.

I was forced to take a tiny break in the middle of all the baking to take some impromptu senior photos of MC. He picked up the suit he needed for for his scholarship interview and did a little sneak preview for us after he got home. My hoodie and jeans lovin’ boy looks frickin’ amazing in a suit. I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to grab a few (50 or so) shots while he had it on. I’ve never been so tempted to break my “no kid pics” rule than I am right now because he is so worth showing off. Sadly, I’m not allowed to show his handsome face. Just picture a super cute nerd in a slim fitting dark charcoal suit (stylin’ pocket square and all) and you might get close.

I’ll be busy with family tomorrow so I’ll wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now for those of you in the US. Or “Happy Eat Until You Cry” day!

 

The Marathon Begins

I’ve been in the kitchen working for hours now and have managed to knock out most of my to do list for the day. I have my noodles made (yes, we do noodles… those of you that don’t are weird and totally missing out), a double batch of rolls made up and baked, bread drying for stuffing and 4 batches of my pie crust ready to roll out. I still have to make the actual pies, but that is the last of what I’m getting done today. Thankfully I have BG as my sous chef, which has cut that work down tremendously. Hopefully I will have some pretty pie pictures to share later, though pies have always been one of those things I just don’t do well, so we will see.

Today’s Project: Outdoor Decorations

I’m breaking a bit with my normal tradition, which is to put up decorations the day after the US Thanksgiving. I decided I didn’t want to risk trying to do this in sub-zero temps when I have a nice, mid 50s day to work on them now. Nothing will get turned on until the normal day and the inside is going to happen as usual, but it will at least be up and ready before it gets too miserable. This also breaks it up a little so that I don’t have as much to do all at once, which is nice.

We aren’t the only ones with this idea as most of the people along my street are outside working, taking advantage of the small warm break we are getting. Now, I’m off to work my butt of.

Oh! I’m also going to get to see BG’s pointe costume for this year, which I’m insanely excited about because they are doing a piece from Swan Lake. I’ve seen glimpses of a stunning black and white piece, but I get to see it in person today, so I’m over the moon excited, even if it means I have to stop in the middle of my work to go watch them unveil it.

It’s going to be a good day.

My View Today

And it is stupid cold. If it weren’t windy, I could be out trying to photograph frozen bubbles. It is snowing heavy enough that it was a challenge to get a pic of my front Maple that wasn’t blurry. I didn’t quite manage it.

Snowy Fall Maple
Snowy Fall Maple

I’m hoping the snow stops soon and gives the streets a chance to melt off because MC drove to school today and he has never driven in snow. It wouldn’t bother me if he were a few short miles from home, but we live really close to the farthest edge of the district, which means a good 20 minute drive on 50+ MPH highways and a few side roads. We did tell him to take the bus home if it was still bad when school lets out. Now we get to see how well he listened.

Oh, and a bit of a brag moment… MC got accepted into his top 2 colleges. We are now in wait and see mode on any scholarships.

Happy Halloween

For the first time since my kids were tiny, Halloween feels so different and I just don’t have the motivation to do everything I have for years. I’m not doing the garage this year. I’m not dressing up this year. I barely got up the energy to do a pumpkin (mine’s on the left), though it was only BG and I carving this year. The weather is so NOT helping. Upper 20s and snow do not put me in the mind of Halloween.

Snow on Maple Leaves
Snow on Maple Leaves

I’m still doing my best to make it fun for my kids, but they are teenagers so it just isn’t the same. Their idea of fun is for me to make a bunch of awesome finger foods and spend the night grazing, so that’s what I’m going to do. I think BG is going to dress up and answer the door. She was a little disappointed we weren’t doing the garage, but she understands. It is a lot of work to put in when kids aren’t going to show up. The new construction has changed how kids go through the neighborhood and we got skipped last year even though kids know we put on a great show. She did say last night that it was probably a good idea we didn’t do it when she saw that we were going to be lucky to hit 30 today.

Like so many things, our Halloween tradition is changing to fit how we are changing. I hate it from the standpoint that I have always adored Halloween and have always gone all out. I’m also really kind of glad to not have a crap ton of stuff to do. I can just sit back and relax for once.

Just Realized…

I have lived in this house longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. A little over 15 years. This beats the last record that, if I remember correctly, was about 14 years.

Not that this is any particular day that would have triggered this, just something that popped up in the book I just started that made me think about this fact. Just one of those “Huh. Wow!” moments that is kind of cool. It’s a little mind breaking that there is a pretty high probability that I’ll be here (happily so) for many, many years to come.

I can only imagine all the family memories that will continue to seep into these walls as the years go by. Walls that have only ever experienced the memories of this family. Just some really nice warm thoughts on a really dreary, rainy day.

 

It Begins

I so adore starting my Monday cleaning a massive hairball off the wood floor. *sigh* And this is just the start of the insanity because dance starts this week for BG. This means that her assisting days also start this week. I only discovered last night that I’ve got to scramble this afternoon because MC has his gaming club right after school. That means I have to leave as soon as BG gets off the bus so I can run and pick MC up, race home back home, grab BG and take her to her first class she assists. Then I get to sit in my car for a hour while she does it.

This bit of crazy really won’t last but maybe a couple of weeks because we just almost have the car situation worked out and he will start driving himself to and from school. It doesn’t relieve the stress of Wednesdays when BG has to be at the studio at 4 but wouldn’t get off the bus until nearly 3:30 which is about the time we need to leave to get her there on time. I’m probably going to have to be picking her up from school on Wednesdays. Until MC gets comfortable doing this drive (which includes a stint on the highway) BG won’t be riding with him. We all have decided that we all need to be in agreement that he is ready before she will do that, that includes BG being comfortable with it. I have no time frame for that piece.

Have I mentioned that with BG assisting this year, I’m going to have to be at the studio, in my car, 3 different times a week? The 4th time she is there long enough for me to drop her off and come home or get stuff done. The other 3 times is only an hour so it makes no sense to drive the 20 minutes home to only be there for about 10 minutes before doing the 20 minute drive back.

There are reasons I’m pushing her to learn to drive ASAP. I’m hoping she will be able to get her license as soon as she turns 16 after the first of the year.

It’s a good thing I like to read.