Day 1334 | Pattern Play

IMG_9347.JPG

Chris didn’t take me seriously when I said I wanted this Pattern Play set for Christmas. Luckily, all my subtle hints payed off as I got one for my birthday. Chase has been doing this pattern “work” at school and when I was introduced to it at a friend’s house, I was smitten. It’s just so fun! 

When Chase does it at school, he has to take all the pieces out in an orderly fashion and line them up (like in the bottom left photo) before he starts the actual pattern (there’s a stack of cards with a bunch of different options). He was excited to show me the “correct” way to start the pattern work but he was even more excited when I told him he could just dump mine out with a loud thud and start the pattern right away when he’s at home. Talk about breaking all the rules. For our rules-following dude, this idea is crazy. And crazy awesome. You should have seen his smile. 

Day 1333 | Recovery Day

IMG_9329.JPG

We had a lovely recovery day today.  Chase was the only one with any type of responsibility (he had school), so the rest of us enjoyed a low key morning catching up on life a bit. Chris and Robbe spent a good chunk of time deliberating the right choices from the latest book order (see above) and we decided to surprise Chase by bringing him lunch at school (it was a huge bummer that he couldn't hang out with the rest of the fam, after all). But then, as we were waiting to surprise him, we found out that school was getting released early due to weather. We opted to bring him home right after lunch...so we all won! The evening wrapped up with one last birthday dinner with my parents (so nice not to cook!). And now we're ready to take on the week.


Olympic Party Pics

As promised, here are some photos from the Olympics party we put together for my birthday celebration. If you want a full rundown on the specific activities, pop over to my friend Ashley's blog. Special thank you to Ashley and Chris for going along with this crazy idea with just three days of warning. It was exactly how I wanted to celebrate the big 3-4.

Day 1332 | Partied Out

IMG_9317.JPG

This is how the whole family is feeling today. Tired. Birthdays and holidays and weekends away are fun but, man, are they exhausting. 

Grandma and Grandma filled us full of delicious food and sweet treats all weekend (not to mention a hefty supply of new toys). We managed a lovely birthday dinner with Chris’s brother and his wife. And fun family time was had by all. 

Now we’re heading home for swim lessons, dinner, and [hopefully] an early bedtime.  

Day 1331 | This Guy

IMG_9313.JPG

Three days. Three big celebrations. It’s pretty great. 

Today we celebrated our #1 guy.  I wish we could have done something over the top to show him how very important he is to our family. Instead, we’ll be grateful for a low-key day including quality time spent with some of our favorite people.

Every day is a party with you, Swan. Birthday or not. Thanks for being my very best friend. 

  **Side note: Chris opted for dirt dessert as his special birthday treat, in case you were worried about what we were eating.**

Day 1330 | My Birthday

IMG_9289.JPG

Today was a lovely day. Thanks for all the calls and texts and happy thoughts. I’m feeling very loved. 

Among other things, here are some reasons my day was just about perfect:

  • No cake: I’m more a brownie and ice cream kind of girl.
  • No talking on the phone: I love receiving phone calls and voicemails but I really don’t like talking on the phone on my birthday. I make an exception for my own parents (I’m really nice like that), but otherwise I’ll happily listen to voicemails.
  • No decisions: I prefer to avoid decisions in daily life in general but that holds especially true on my birthday. Luckily, Chris really stepped up to help me out today so I had minimal decisions to make.
  • No surprises: Chris surprised me with one of my favorite people flying to DC for my birthday one year. I didn’t handle it well (for the record, most of the problem was that we celebrated my bday at an outlet mall Mexican restuatant as we waited for the plane to land). Since then, he’s realized that surprises aren’t really my thing. I just like to look forward to things too much!

So what did I do today?  Lots of quality time with the kids and a super fun Olympic-themed party. More photos to come but for now you can just enjoy the one above from after the metal ceremony. 

Birthdays are the best. Thanks for showing me the love. 

 

Day 1329 | Feeling the Love

FullSizeRender.jpg

Whether you're into Valentine's Day or not, I hope you did something to make your heart happy today. I woke up hoping for the following today:

  • Smiles instead of glares
  • Kindness instead of anger
  • Compliments instead of criticism
  • Patience instead of frustration
  • Hope instead of fear
  • Hugs instead of hurt  

It seems even more appropriate with what happened in Florida today. As full as my heart is, it hurts for those families who aren't as lucky.

 

 

Day 1328 | My Grandma

IMG_9245.JPG

Part of the healing process for my back is figuring out what emotional baggage I've been carrying around and figuring out how to separate myself from it. One of the "bags" that I've been carrying with me for years is the relationship with my mom's mom--my grandma. 

I grew up 3+ hours away from that side of the family so we didn't get to be a part of each other's day-to-day when I was growing up. I went to UW-Madison for college so was just 40 minutes away from her at that time, but I never really made an effort to make plans with her. You know...because at 18 you're just **so busy**. Then I moved to DC for three years, then to Iowa for one year and there was minimal contact. Don't get me wrong, we usually saw each other at least twice a year (sometimes more) and Christmas at that grandma and grandpa's house in Monroe will always be some of my most cherished and favorite memories as a child. 

But I was the only granddaughter. There were six grandsons and me. I should have fostered that granddaughter/grandmother relationship more. I should have recognized my role in our family sooner. I should have asked her questions about her adventures through life and the people she loved. 

One of the best things I've done in my life was to spend the last few weeks of my grandma's life with her before she passed away from cancer. It was a transition point in my life--Chris and I had just moved back to DC (from Iowa) and I had quit my job and was actively hunting for a new one. My mom and my aunt were working important, full-time jobs at the time so I decided to head "home" to Wisconsin to hang out with my grandma for those sad, quiet, important days while she slipped away. 

I think that's part of the reason I wish I could go back in time and foster that relationship sooner. In those last few weeks, I saw what we could have had. What our relationship meant to each other even though we didn't have the countless conversations or individual memories to support it. 

And she protected me to the end. She would *intentionally* wait for my mom or aunt to reappear before needing any medical attention during those days when we were together. She held on until after I left so that I didn't have to be there when she finally slipped away. That kind of control and intention when someone is near the end always takes my breath away. 

I continue to carry those memories from her last few weeks with me even though 7+ years (7 years?!?) have passed. I use the bird mugs that she loved all the time. I wear her ring (pictured above) which she wore every day for as long as I can remember. I carried one of her bags around for years (also pictured) until the corners and straps finally started to give way. Now I save it for special occasions. 

I would do anything to go back in time, grandma. But I hope you know how much you meant to me and how those few weeks together shaped my life more than you (or I) will ever know. 

Happy birthday, Grandma.

Day 1327 | Calligraphy Class

IMG_9240.JPG

I’ve wanted to give calligraphy a try for a very long time. Today, the dream came true! As a little background, my handwriting pretty much stinks, so I had low expectations. Calligraphy is no joke, you guys. I think there’s hope for me but it’s defintiely going to take some work. Stay tuned. 

I love that this little local store does these workshops. You remember the wreath, right? I can’t wait to take another one.  

Day 1325 | When I Look Back

IMG_9216.JPG

This is another post that comes directly from one of my expressive writing sessions. I promise I won't go crazy with these! As I was penning my thoughts for the day, I thought about how it will feel to someday look back on the boys when they were little. For some reason, I decided that this time when the boys are this age is going to be what I look back on and remember fondly when I'm nostalgic of "when they were little". I think I might have mentioned this notion before, but while I was writing, it really dawned on me why this age is so special. Again, I couldn't recreate the list I made that day, but I'll make due with what I've brainstormed this time around. When I look back, I'll remember:

This time...

  • when our little family is their whole world.
  • when they are each other’s best friends and they can’t even imagine a world where someone else fills that roll.
  • when no matter the problem, a momma snuggle can fix just about anything.
  • when they expect nothing but love everything.
  • when words flow freely without care or censorship.
  • when they wear holes in the knees of their pants from playing too hard.
  • when playing with daddy is about the best thing ever.
  • when hooded towels hang in the bathroom.
  • when toys are stashed in every nook + cranny of our house.
  • when they wear the smallest size underwear.
  • when conversations about them growing up and someday moving away brings sadness and terror to their little eyes.
  • when we can have a family meal together every night of the week without activities or commitments getting in the way.

Day 1323 | And So It Continues

IMG_9165.JPG

Another day of sick baby snuggles around here. Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday but it’s hard to find something to take a picture of when you’ve got a feverish little one connected to you at all times. 

I took Robbe into the doctor yesterday. With all the crazy stuff going around, you can never be too safe. We found out he’s got a nasty cold and an ear infection. He just has to let his little body fight through it. 

Today was a bit better. The Tylenol really helped make him more comfortable, which it didn’t do yesterday, and the fever only crept back in with some achiness when it was time for the next dose.  

All in all, I really can’t complain. We’ve had a relatively healthy patch for awhile now. Here’s hoping once we get past this round, we’ll have another nice long healthy patch ahead.  

**As you might have guessed, the photo above is not from today. Once again, I didn’t have a picture to post so I found this gem buried in my phone. Ahh...remember the time when everyone wasn’t sick and they could share a drink? And we could actually leave the house?!?  Those days were the best. 

Day 1322 | A [Not so Fun] Sick Day

IMG_9211.JPG

Poor Robbe had his turn at a sick day today. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite as lucky as Chase with his day off. He didn't feel great. A fever and drippy nose kept him pretty uncomfortable most of the day. The only thing that helped? Some momma snuggles....which I was happy to supply. Oh, and a bit of tea, of course.

Let's all hope for a good night tonight so the little nugget feels more like himself tomorrow.

Day 1321 | Apple Science

IMG_9207.JPG

Robbe and I were working on the letter A all week so we decided a little apple science was in order. We cut up some apples, Chase wrote all the labels, the boys filled the cups with liquid, and they plopped the apples into the cups and waited. And waited. 

The changes took longer than I expected but it did work pretty well. Vinegar caused the apples to darken the most and the lime juice (which was supposed to be lemon, by the way) kept the apple light for the longest. 

Day 1319 | I Wish...

IWish.jpg

This is officially my first blog post derived from one of my expressive writing sessions. This morning’s session was 15 minutes of this “I wish…” type of string of consciousness. Do you know how hard it was to tear that up after I decided it would be a great blog post? Trust me. It was hard. And it’s funny that my list is a very different now than it was first thing this morning.

Maybe there will be more of these types of posts. Maybe this will be the only extension of my twice/day ritual. I guess time will tell.

**Please note this is not a bigger-picture wish list encompassing things like "world peace" or "equal rights". I thought that might get a bit heavy.**


I wish...

  • I wish manicures lasted longer (the regular ones).
  • I wish my boys wouldn’t be exposed to unkind words + actions.
  • I wish my laundry would magically put itself away.
  • I wish I could read a book to the boys every time they ask for it.
  • I wish I was more sympathetic to sick people [Chris].  
  • I wish showers were easier to clean. 
  • I wish I could eat ice cream all the time.
  • I wish I could craft whenever I wanted.
  • I wish winter didn’t last so long.
  • I wish I could get to bed earlier.
  • I wish I had more time to read. 
  • I wish dirty chai lattes didn’t have milk in them.
  • I wish I could buy my boys everything they want but keep them grateful and grounded.
  • I wish I could fix healthier meals for my family (like the kind that don't have gluten, soy, dairy, refined sugar, white flour...).
  • I wish we could act on the bathroom renovation epiphany we just had. 
  • I wish I liked to hold hands. 
  • I wish I could take more naps. 
  • I wish Donald Trump wasn't the President.
  • I wish I didn’t feel guilty when I have other people caring for my kids.

Day 1317 | A Back Update

IMG_3019.JPG

I know I dropped a hint awhile ago about a new strategy for my back pain...well, I'm finally ready to share what's been going on around here. Forgive me for the delay. **And this is a long one so feel free to skip if you have no interest. Ha!**

The short version of the story is that the best cousin ever (which will forever be her title now that I've got some back pain relief) heard this interview on WPR where Dr. David Hanscom, a neurosurgeon, was discussing the relationship between your brain and chronic pain. I'm not going to go into all the details here because, frankly, I'll sound like a fool and will not do justice to the actual science behind what's going on. I'll just throw this quote out there from his website: 

By using a multi-pronged approach to calm and re-route your nervous system, you can minimize or eliminate your pain. 

So what he claims happens with folks experiencing chronic pain (and not just back pain!) is that your brain is on high-alert when it comes to the pain your body is experiencing. Because of past trauma, your brain and the neural pathways have been trained to freak out any time the slightest discomfort is sensed. His theory, then, is that if you can train your brain to calm the f down (excuse my language), you can get relief from your pain. The same philosophy is proven to work with folks suffering from anxiety, depression, TMJ, etc.

I know this sounds crazy. It couldn't have been my brain all along, right?!? I haven't been spending a crazy amount of time + money trying to get relief when the solution was so incredibly simple, right? I know. 

So how do you retrain your brain? Good question. And it's not one I'm going to answer. In fact, I'm still reading the book and learning about the program myself. The bottom line is that it's about creating awareness in your life, stopping your mind from focussing on the pain, and expressive writing (among other components). That's the big kicker for me.

Expressive writing is the reason I'm putting my all into this program. The book (and podcast) suggested that you spend 15-30 minutes twice a day writing anything that comes to your mind. It could be related to the pain, or your to-do list, or something that's stressing you out, or just nonsensical gibberish. Whatever's going on in your head. At the end of your writing session, you rip up the paper and throw it away. By doing this, you're creating a separation between your thoughts and your brain and then "filing them away"--again, I'm no expert here so take that for what it's worth. 

So I did it. Day one: I wrote for 15 minutes one morning instead of jumping on my inversion table. I wrote (mostly about my pain and frustration with the whole process) and then I tore the paper up and threw it away. Again, I know this sounds crazy...but I went to take a shower afterward and the sharp pain in my back that usually accompanies me when I bend over to get conditioner wasn't there. It's been years since that has happened. No joke. 

Now I'm about ten days in. I've been writing twice a day for [about] fifteen minutes and my back does feel better. I am still close enough to the pain that I can realize how many times a day I'm surprised to not be feeling the shock of pain when I twist or bend over or reach for one of the kids. I was able to go sledding the other day. I shoveled [minimally] to get into my driveway one morning. I made the boys' bunkbed (my least favorite task, by the way). I've been carrying the laundry basket. It's been unbelievably eye-opening and spirit-lifting for me. 

I'm definitely not cured. Definitely not. But there is relief. And this expressive writing is only one piece of the puzzle. There's a lot more to Dr. Hanscom's method that I need to fully invest in: forgiveness, awareness, relieving anxiety, not focussing on the pain, not talking about the pain, etc. And I'm going to do it because what do I have to lose? This is the most progress I've made in years and I'm determined not to go backward. 

Some helpful links:
The podcast episode
The book
The website

If you're interested in talking to me about this. I'm happy to share my experience further. But I'm not talking about my pain anymore. Because that's my new life.

Side note: I don't think I ever reported back after my MRI with the findings. The official report from the radiologist was that I had disc degeneration between the L4+L5 vertebrae and Spondylosis (which is just a fancy catch-all word for "back pain"). Basically, there's no glaring physical problem that is causing my pain. Something like 95% of back pain doesn't have a diagnosable cause (reassuring, right?). Maybe receiving this information put me in the right place to be open to a different treatment path. Maybe I needed to know nothing was seriously wrong to be able to climb out of the whole of pain. Here's hoping.


A new podcast

As a not-so-unexpected tie-in, you can listen to me talking about this new-found relief in our latest podcast. I offer some other interesting life updates as well (oh, and so does Mary Catherine). 

Day 1315 | Home Schoolin’

FullSizeRender.jpg

You know what finally gave me the motivation to get down to business with my educating at home? My almost six year old only being in school for .75 days this week  (Tuesday, his only day, was a delayed start due to snow). I realized that I could probably get my act together to do something productive with the time we had. It also helped that, for the most part, we were locked in our house. 

I managed to pull off math, biology, music appreciation, geography, and language arts all this morning. And the boys thought me “teaching” them was hysterical. [Side note: I may have been doing something wrong all these years if it’s truly that funny for me to be spreading knowledge. Eek!]  

Although I consider the morning of [very loose] homeschooling to be a success (we even discussed the 13 original colonies for heaven’s sake), I’m more certain than ever that there’s no way I could do this full time. Moms that homeschool and teachers as a whole are incredible people. Thank you for taking this responsibility off my plate. My boys thank you, too.