this year i feel the need to reflect more than i ever have before.

Oh man. 2011. It came in like a lion and has cruised out like a lamb. Temps in the 60′s, Daddy home, playing outside, riding bikes, having adventures together… this week between Christmas and New Year’s has been amazing. But when I think back to this month a year ago I can’t believe we made it this far!

January of 2011. It started with the stomach flu, we moved to my parents house, traveled with them to WI to visit my sister, C’s car was stolen while I was in WI, Parker was diagnosed with an egg allergy and about a million food sensitivities, we radically changed the way we all ate to accommodate her new diet, C’s car was found, all three kids had pneumonia during an incredible ice storm and two had double ear infections. It was quite the month! The best moment? When Bailey put $20 in our house fund. Sweetest moment ever.

February found us at the end of basketball season which is always awesome (what’s awesomER is NOT coaching basketball like Chris did this winter!). I helped run Bailey’s Valentine’s Day party that she was too sick to attend. I wrote THIS blog post that I will cherish for years. Sometimes blogging can be so so good. I tried to get back into running but failed miserably. We started our 52 Smiles project which was totally the highlight of our winter/spring!

March was soccer soccer soccer. Oh how I love being a coaches wife. Lots of fun 52 Smiles projects too! The girls went to WI with my parents and we had a few days with just Gray. Gray had his adenoids out and new tubes put in. Spring break with Chris gone for most of it on a soccer trip. Oh and Parker had a cigarette butt in her ear. It may not have been in this month but I can’t remember when it was and I don’t want to forget so I’m sticking it in March!

April. Soccer. Becoming better friends with Adriane. Staying sane with Angie by my side at soccer games. Feeling hopeless about ever owning our own home. Struggling with PJ’s food allergies. Soccer.

May was a crapload of crafting. For Teacher Appreciation Week which I unwillingly was put completely in charge of (not that I didn’t love Bail’s Kindergarten teacher but who can afford to do an entire week of gifts alone with NO reimbursement?), Bailey’s birthday at school and two birthday parties. Summer started which is ALWAYS my favorite time of year. I love having Chris and the kids home. We all do better somehow when we’re together all the time. Chris and I argue more when we’re busy doing our own things… when we’re all together we’re just happier. My dates are mixed up now but I think this month is when we really started house hunting too even though we hadn’t been approved yet… it was wishful thinking!

June was THE BEST MONTH EVER. We were approved and bought our first home! Not much else compares even though a ton of other things happened that month! Two other BIG things though were Gray turning three and becoming completely potty trained! Six years of diapers came to an end!

July was all about paint. I think I painted 8+ hours a day that entire month. I ruined so many clothes, constantly had paint in my hair/hands/legs/feet and watched every episode of Dexter as I dragged my laptop from room to room while I worked. I had a lot of solitude at the new house which was awesome but also worked harder physically than I ever have before. It was an exhausting month but so so good. Bailey also turned six but we pushed her birthday party to August so it could be at the new house.

August we moved in! We had Bail’s birthday party AND Terri’s 60th birthday within weeks of moving in so it was a stressful time. Fun but hard. Bailey started first grade, PJ and Gray started preschool and Chris began his first year as a tenured teacher at Webster Groves High School.

September flew by. Fresh Art began its busiest season, both girls played soccer, choir at church started, Chris was coaching field hockey for the first time and I started working more at Kuhn Const. Chris and I celebrated our 7th anniversary by taking a road trip for three days that was one of my favorite parts of this entire year. We’ve never had so much uninterrupted fun together! Just the break we needed after working so hard all summer.

October was so much just loving our new neighborhood and house. Still the Fresh Art busy season, Halloween preparations, decorating our house for its first holiday, Gray got new tubes in his ears AGAIN and just surviving the madness of my fall season while soaking up as much family time as we could get. It was also when Kim decided to step away from Fresh Art and I turned 32. Lots of good and bad this month.

November will always be when I surprised Parker with the best birthday party ever! It will ALSO be the month my sister and I surprised my mom for HER birthday! SO much planning and secrets this month it was so much fun! Parker turned FIVE and was finally given an IEP for speech therapy at school. We took fun photos for our Christmas card, I spent an eternity making stick horses for PJ’s party, I finally started to feel like our house was organized and my busy season wound down.

December was pure magic. If January sucked a big one December completely made up for it in one big swoop. Chris had enough Christmas spirit for our whole block but we were the lucky ones to get to soak it in everyday. The kids had a blast with Elfkin, buying+decorating our tree, so many nights driving to look at lights, working on Christmas gifts, warm movie nights next to our new fireplace and just all the other usual Christmas festivities. We missed seeing our extended family this year but MAN did I love how relaxed the days leading up to Christmas were. Charades at my parent’s house was hysterical, renting a 15 passenger van to do lights with my sister’s family was amazing and camping out in our living room watching Christmas movies late into the night. Literally I could go day by day to talk about all the magic that happened this month! And it ended with gorgeous weather, well-behaved kids and so much family time. This is the kind of month you dream of.

We had a rough start to this year but every month, every day practically, it just got better and better. Chris and I will sometimes just look at each other and talk about how lucky we are.

Every year of our marriage has been hard. Babies, moving, lack of money, etc. Some of the stresses we’ve been under almost sank us. But looking back on this year I feel like they were leading up to now. That without all the struggle we wouldn’t be able to sit back and enjoy our life so much right now.

I know 2011 wasn’t awesome for a lot of people. Jobs and the economy have taken their toll. Trust me, this winter we’ll be eating a lot of Ramen too! It’s just that, the bad almost doesn’t matter so much anymore. Looking back today I finally see that God really doesn’t give you what you can’t handle. That He has the perfect road laid out for you. We are so blessed I’m bursting from it all.

Moving into 2012 I can’t even hope for more. I just pray that I continue to learn and grow in every area of my life. As I have more time I’m going to sit down and write out some very specific goals for the first time ever and I will share them with you. I don’t want time to move faster but I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me and my family! I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas and that we all have a blessed new year!

The fun of giving.

Merry Christmas you guys! It’s been a while because for almost a week I didn’t even know where my laptop was! Days went by without me even opening it and it was EXACTLY what I needed. Today I got our tree down, the floors cleaned, furniture rearranged, new organizers bought, toys put away, bedrooms cleaned and our living room put back together. Around 6pm I hit a major wall and have been catching up on blogs/pinterest/FB/emails/etc ever since with a rousing game of Don’t Break the Ice in-between!

So now that I’m back online I have a ton of Christmas images to post which means I have just a few days to get them all done before the new year starts. Or maybe I’ll walk on the wild side and start 2012 by showing you our Halloween photos!

Anyway, to break it all down I wanted to start with my favorite gift I gave this year! I made this for my best friend Angie because her office had a huge blank wall. She’s the director of our preschool so it had to be child friendly but I also wanted it to be colorful and a tad inspirational… something she could look at each day and find new meaning. I’m not sure exactly how she feels about it but she got a little choked up when she opened it so I think she liked it!

 

Just in case my process isn’t obvious…. I bought a map and cut it out. This took two nights. The east coast is a bitch. And my map was printed on card stock to make it easier to trace but also make it a lot harder to cut. Once it was all cut out I traced each state three times (I had originally planned on making three of these for gifts but the first one took so long I quit! The other states are cut out and ready for gluing someday) and that took three nights. Tracing the east coast sucked too! Then there was the cutting. The cutting took forever and my hand became a claw after two hours so I had to divide this part up over a few nights as well. And then there was the gluing! Oh man! So I laid it all out and ended up starting with Florida. When I got to Texas I must have gotten just slightly crooked because if you look carefully up the middle the states are a little too big! HA! I had to remake some of them just to make it all work. Oh man you should have heard the cussing! Just look at North Dakota! Ugh! And then the words… that’s from one of my favorite songs (And Run by He is We)… “draw a map, find a path, take a breath and run. If you’ve never heard hat song you should listen to it… it’s amazing! Oh and it’s all glued to a canvas I found at Big Lots of all the random places. I had some from Hobby Lobby but they weren’t quite the right size and this one ended up being perfect!

So this took forever to make and ended up completely less than perfect but I am in love. SO in love I bought a huge map and I’m going to do this on the wall of our basement playroom! One day. Right now I’m kind of over map cutting/tracing/cutting!

Did you make any fun gifts this year?

Things that lifted me up today.

1. Working with Kim. I love having her as my sounding board and friend. She’s awesome.

2. Having my brother-in-law come over today and for very little money finish painting our bathroom. Thanks Jack!

3. Getting to sit with some of my dearest friends at church tonight while the kids had choir rehearsal and chat. We crafted a little too which just added to the awesomeness. I drove away feeling so much lighter.

4. Sitting with C on the couch with my feet in his lap. He rubbed them while I worked and it was magical.

5. Being awake from 3am-5am last night (which sucked) but reading THIS POST and having a major AH HA Oprah moment. Sara’s blog is my absolute favorite over any other out there so go read it. Seriously. Especially if you’re a gift giver.

6. THIS post just made me laugh so hard I had tears running down my face.

7. Getting an inquiry for boudoir, hours after lamenting the fact that not one person had shown interest yet.

8. Having a good+surprising order come through today which just solidified that our new pricing IS ok and to stick to my guns.

9. Remembering to move Elfkin. Setting my phone alarm is genius.

10. Getting 300 KCCI Christmas cards stuffed/labeled/stamped and IN a mailbox. Now I just have Fresh Art left and I’m done with all 500 cards I had to mail this year!

11. All the sweet comments and emails. Sometimes I just need to write a bunch of crap down and it somehow allows me to let it go a little. Dumping that last night and breaking the perfect mommy image I’m sure all of you have of me (HA!) just felt good. Thanks for all the ideas and support. I might not respond personally but just know those comments coming through today truly made me feel better.

my stress level is climbing

Did you know we’re under two weeks until Christmas? We have two Christmas countdown things and everyday Bailey reminds me just how little time I have to get a whole lot of shit done. This morning I sort of yelled at her and told her I didn’t need to be reminded! I immediately apologized of course.

I think it is a combination of complete lack of sleep for the last 6+ weeks and an insane amount of soda, no water and possibly an overdose of vitamins as I try to combat the crap I normally put in my body that’s put me in a crabby mood. The mood comes and goes though.

Taking over Fresh Art is finally and really starting to sink in. It has me up late at night stressing out. Which does not help the few hours I actually get myself in bed. Terrified doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s not helping that no one is booking right now.

Oh Christmas. December started off so strong. Our house is decorated, our tree is beautiful, our lighting scheme is working and almost every gift is purchased. Oh and our Christmas cards are all out. I should feel ahead of the curve. But I don’t. I feel like I’m drowning in needing to wrap gifts and class parties and Fresh Art cards needing to be addressed and teacher gifts to deliver. Every single year I’m up until 3-4am on Christmas Eve finishing my wrapping and I’m so scared that will happen again I’m working my ass off right now. And yet every night I crawl into bed wishing for just a few more hours in the day.

Back to Fresh Art. My to do list is what’s keeping me up. Oh my gosh you guys. Re-inventing pricing and packaging and ordering and web presence takes freaking forever. Finishing up orders so clients have them for Christmas. Seriously, I have to stop writing because it’s giving me a migraine.

Money is hard too. I mean, it’s ok right now, but the slow winter months freak me out and now we have a mortgage to pay. I need people to start booking. And fast.

If I could stop working for one week and just tackle my to do list I think I would get it all done. As if that is going to happen. I’m just so tired of tackling it all from 8pm-1am I could scream. Give me 9am-8pm three days in a row and I’d feel SO much better.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Elfkin, is driving me insane too. I can’t tell you how many nights I’m drifting off to sleep and OH SHIT FUCK SHIT I FORGOT TO MOVE THE DAMN ELF! Sorry. But that’s seriously what goes through my mind as I haul my butt out of bed to go get creative throw him in the first place I find. Twice already I’ve forgotten him and you should see my kid’s faces. It’s like I just told them Santa isn’t real. Does this little tradition stress anyone else out?

Oh and I’ve sucked up our Advent calendar completely too. I had all these grand plans and big lists of kindnesses to do for other people. We’ve done about four together and everyday I forget I try to do just something myself to make up for it. The sweetest thing we did was buy, wrap and deliver earrings to the woman that sells me my soda every morning at QT. She wears big dangly earrings everyday and the kids love her so we surprised her the other day. Her face totally made up for all the times I’ve just forgotten.

I didn’t budget this year at all and while I wouldn’t say we’ve gone overboard on the kids, it’s all the other outlying people that feel like they’re costing an arm and a leg… but I keep thinking of someone I forgot. My love language is gift giving and this season is really hard for me and our bank account.

The kids made their Santa list a couple of weeks ago and Bailey specifically asked for no toys. Seriously? She’s 6. She wants a new bike and jeans and books. How can she be growing up so fast?

Ok. It felt good to vent I guess. At least some day when my girls are moms and feeling stressed around Christmas I can show them this and encourage them to simplify the hell out of everything!

My Grayman

SO I had an epiphany of sorts today concerning one very grumpy, angry and overall nightmare three year old I know.

Do you see this face?

He’s perfected that face don’t you think?

Well, we’re seeing it more and more. And it usually comes with a big scream or hit or even a bite he delivered for the first time ever recently to poor Parker. Overall he has just become this awful kid who I’m constantly embarrassed by.

But do you see this face?

Sweet sweet kid. Loving and funny and active and smart.

That’s the kid I miss on days like today when all I got was the beast.

BUT.

The epiphany came as I was driving away from his preschool where I left him SCREAMING and KICKING his teacher.

It’s all about attention. I think.

When Bailey was three years old she had a one and a half year old sister and a newborn brother. I was so concerned about her feeling forgotten I made sure to pour attention on her. As Parker got a bit older I was constantly worried she’d end up being the forgotten middle child so I poured love on her. Grayson has been so easy and go with the flow I realized today he’s been nearly forgotten. By me at least.

This morning he came into my bedroom while I was getting dressed and leaned on my leg asking to cuddle with me. I was running late so I brushed him off and told him to go get dressed. Because I fully expect my three year old to go pick out his clothes, take off his jammies and get dressed alone. When that wasn’t happening and my yelling wasn’t making a dent I asked his sisters to get him dressed while I made three lunches and breakfast. It ended in him getting a spanking for not listening to anyone.

And it just got worse as the morning went on.

But the more I thought about it the more insane my expectations of him are. Which is funny b/c when Bailey was his age, as the oldest, I had a house full of babies so she got treated like a baby OR like she should have been for a young three year old. Sippy cups and cuddles and book reading and playing on the floor made up our days. Now carpool and homework and errands and work fill so much of our days I can’t tell you the last time I sat on the floor and just played. Which is ok for the girls b/c we sit and color together or read and we have our time together. But Gray doesn’t do any of that. He plays. He gets dragged along to all of the “big kid” stuff we do and we’re sort of forcing the toddler/preschooler right out of him.

Ugh.

This hit me hard today as I thought back on all the times he’s really acted out vs. the good attention I give him. He’s pushing my buttons b/c he knows he’ll get a rise out of me and get attention, albeit BAD attention. And it made me really sad.

The silver-lining is that he IS only three and it’s not too late to change. Me and him. We’re going to have to work together at this. And it’s going to start by some undivided Bubba-Mommy time!

 

the tree.

When I was a kid we had an artificial tree. At least that’s how I remember it. And I hated decorating the tree. The branches were scratchy and hurt my hands, it took forever to get all the ornaments up and most (at the time) I thought were tacky. When we were in high school my mom bought my sister and I our own box to store ornaments and she started buying us one+ every year… I thought it was silly and don’t remember caring much about it at the time.

The second I got married my view of Christmas trees changed. Suddenly that red/green box from my mom is the first one that comes up on decorating day. Now I look forward to buying our tree, decorating and enjoying it more than most everything else. Every ornament tells a story. There are ones from my parents as they started my collection, some from friends back in college, some we got as wedding gifts, the kid’s baby ornaments and the ones we add each year for our family.

Last year we had kind of a disaster of a tree (you have to click on that link b/c it’s the funniest story you’ll ever read!) and it wasn’t at our own house so it all just felt off. The year before we couldn’t afford a live tree and used my parents old artificial one (we used that one for years). This year we splurged and bought the most beautiful tree we could find that would fit in our house! It almost tops cutting our tree down our first year of marriage in Spokane (which is one of the coolest things we’ve ever done).

I love that we’re finally in our own home and secure enough to really and truly start making Christmas traditions! We went to Ted Drewes where the Allen’s have always gotten their trees from (except the year we were engaged and didn’t get home until just days before Christmas… when we went to Ted Drewes the only trees left were expensive and Bill said no… so we ended up dumpster diving at a local church for a tree that the tree lot had discarded. I kid you not I almost wet my pants when my future-father-in-law jumped in this dumpster to pick a tree!) and where we got ours last year too. It was the perfect night. Full of decent weather, frozen custard and our husband-wife argument over which side of the lot we were shopping from… the good side or the cheap side!

Guess who won!

That’s the first one I wanted… a true Charlie Brown tree! I thought I would have been able to make it super cute!

See Chris holding the more scrawny one but pointing to the other one? I wanted a slightly bigger Charlie Brown tree but they kept going back to that one they’re pointing to. That’s when i said if he was willing to spend $50 on the kind of tree I don’t like then we could spend a little more… and that’s when I crossed to the non-cheap side of the lot!

Grayson was with us the little turd, he just refused to be in any photos! Why are three year old kids such turds?

THERE SHE IS!

Now pretend like you don’t see how ragged her bottom is… it’s mostly b/c after we tied her to the car (ourselves since we had such awesome luck with an employee tying our tree on last year) we still didn’t trust ourselves so we opened the sunroof and held on to the branches the whole way home! HA! Basically like holding onto a mattress! A few branches broke off but we figure the bottom will be covered with gifts soon enough! AND I’ve fixed that blank spot towards the bottom AND fixed the beads so they’re more even… tweaking it daily!

Things that make me happy?

It stayed on the car this year.

The kids and I surprised Chris by decorating it while he was at school and he was thrilled!

The fact that not only did the kids ALL get into decorating it this year, they LOVED hearing the stories behind each and every ornament. They would each hold one up and I’d have to tell them all about it! My heart was about to burst!

I’m not sure what kind of tree this is but the branches are almost soft… SO much nicer to decorate than our old scratchy artificial tree!

The fact that no ornaments broke this year.

That we had to actually remove furniture to make it fit b/c our house is so small. But NOT CARING ONE BIT because it’s OUR house and we love it!

Being surrounded by those memories every single day. I love walking over and looking at each year’s photo ornament to see my babies.

Yep, I kind of am in love with our tree.

And this whole season. I think our little family of five is actually bursting with Christmas spirit this year!

the lighting scheme 2011

Chris takes his Christmas lights VERY seriously. He calls it his “lighting scheme” and every year it’s a battle over how over the top I’ll let him go. This year in our new house he really had some GOOD ideas. Um yeah. For example his favorite idea and the one he argued for pretty hard was to have a waterfall of blue lights going down the roof and “pooling” in our yard where deer would be drinking. Can you picture it? Then after I explained how expensive those deer are (b/c just saying HELL NO didn’t work) he moved onto wanting a candy cane house, all red and white. As in one red bush one white bush and so on. Ugh.

After days and days of talking about it we finally came to a compromise. And he got right to work!

Look at my manly man! Aren’t you so jealous?

He started on our insanely steep roof. And on day one it was nice and sunny and warm. Day two was rainy and cold. I was actually really worried about his slipping but he had everything he needed in his backpack and was determined to make it work.

His idea (and the compromise) was to take three red strands and three white strands and interchange them. So our lights are red/white/red/white. Candy cane. It took him forever. Totally patience I don’t have.

Then I did the bushes, he added Santa to the chimney (it’s an antique one that’s a little too small but totally a part of our family) and then did the star. He made me that star a few years ago when we had no money to spend on gifts. He raided my dad’s shop and with his help cut this metal star out of scraps and edged it in wood. Forever it will be in our home somewhere because he worked SO hard on it. Anyway, he stapled lights all around the edge and it’s the cherry on top!

Our house is so tiny. 974sq ft. And we laugh that outlining the roof sort of eccentuates that fact. But truly, we love it. It looks happy and cheery and warm and inviting. Which it is.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the tree!

Happy December first!

today.

Today I am home again with a sick Bailey (fever+coughing).

Today I have dinner in the crock pot already which makes me feel like the most accomplished woman ever.

Today my eyes burn from my 2am bedtime last night (but client edits are slowing getting caught up and Christmas gifts are being made… I just won’t sleep until 2012!).

Today the house might not get picked up at all because I’m desperately trying to hit the My Publisher sale that ends tonight.

Today it will be hard to chose between nap with the kids or work. At this point the nap just might win.

Today might be a 3+ Dew day.

Today I wish I could shut the computer and craft with my girl all day. I might just end up doing that.

Today I wish my mom the HAPPIEST birthday ever, even though she’s not feeling well either.

Today I took the kids to preschool, hit the gas station for my soda AND did a quick grocery store run for one last dinner ingredient all with NO bra on. Yep. It’s that kind of day.

Today Bailey learned how to play Angry Birds and is happily killing pigs as I type.

Today a shower might be optional.

Today I might announce that I’m going to offer boudoir sessions and I’m equal parts thrilled (because I’m loving them) and terrified people will think I’m insane.

Today I wish I had a cleaning lady, a laundress and an assistant. Oh and a nanny. I totally would love a nanny today.

Today I found gloves Chris swore I lost right where I told him I put them.

Today I can’t wait to give him a huge “I told you so” when he gets home.

Today I’m just in survival mode, trying to smile and keep my patience in check.

We’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE!

It’s now 6pm and I just realized I never actually published this post this morning. I also just realized that I never turned on the crock pot.

The kids are eating mac n’ cheese (NON organic) and we’ll order Chinese later.

We DID get the tree decorated to surprise Chris (he’s not a fan of doing the ornaments so it was fun to surprise him with it finished) and the kids actually got into it which was surprising.

I’m on Dew #2, forgot to eat lunch and have the start of a headache which I’m sure is directly related to lack of food and sleep today.

Chris is home (we are LOVING him not coaching basketball!) so he’ll take over baths for me which means I can start editing early tonight.

Hopefully I’m bed before the clock strikes midnight!

Our Thanksgiving.

I’ll post what we did all morning yesterday later because there are so many funny photos it’ll take me a little while to edit them all. Oh man they crack me up though! After lunch and a little quiet time we headed over to the Allen’s for dinner. My favorite part of the day is always before dinner when everyone gathers in their driveway to play with the kids. Footballs being thrown, little cars driving around, laughter, catching up with cousins, etc. It just makes me happy.

We also always try to grab a few quick snapshots because Christmas is crazier and colder… so for everyone in C’s family I wanted to get some of them posted!

Totally a snapshot but I am in love! ALL my kids looking at the camera and smiling? A miracle!

The newest addition to our family! Harper! C’s cousin Shayne and her husband, Dan, are amazing parents! It was so fun to see them in action yesterday! And it was even better to get my baby fix!

The girls loved getting to hold Harper too! Maybe even more than me!

Harper with her Grandma and Grandpa (C’s Uncle Tim and Aunt Linda)… I LOVE her face+smile in this shot!

I LOVE baby bubbles!

The whole family. Without a tripod along for the day (who carries one? ever? not me!) I dragged their grill into the yard and balanced a rock+ my camera on top. Then Gray and I just RAN LIKE HELL to get into position. I have no idea why I’m craning my neck though! UGH! Out of the few shots we managed this was the best though so it will have to do!

We had such a great day, only to be followed by yet another awesome day today! We had my little sister (by love, not blood), Kelsey, come over for lunch today, we got more Christmas lights up (C calls it our “lighting scheme”), we took the kids to Ted Drewes for ice cream BEFORE dinner and to scout out the tree lot, we had movie night, I had a great session this morning with my best friend’s family and the list goes on. Just a really really good day. After naps (when I worked AND fit in a run) Chris came out, went to our front door, stood there looking out and said, “I’m just so happy.” Oh man that was it. All I needed. Everything else was just icing on the cake.

Tomorrow we’re going to go ninja on our laundry pile, finish the lighting scheme, and go buy our Christmas tree. I’m hoping to get the house decorated too. And run again. I can already tell it’s going to be a good day!