Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Things I did right in 2016

The 2016 edition of this post is not going to quite as exciting as last year which included a new baby and a promotion at work but I still think it's worth the time to look back on what went well this past year.

1) This was the first year with two kids. Everyone appears to be happy and healthy so that's a win in my book. It was, as previously noted many times, a difficult year, but also so rewarding. The kids are delightful and fun and bring joy to my heart every day.

2) We moved into a new house that feels really perfect for our family.

3) I ran 634 miles, including four races. I brought my half marathon time back under 2 hours. I also started doing 21 Day Fix workouts (3-4 per week rather than the official program) which has really boosted my overall fitness.

4) I read 60 books. My favorites were: The Light Between Oceans, The Children, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Happiness for Beginners, Ordinary Grace, Commonwealth, and To the Bright Edge of the World, and I've enjoyed getting into the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series.

5) I completed the second year in my Line-a-Day journal. It was really fun to look back on what we were doing on the same day last year. Things change so much!

6) One of my goals for 2016 was to attend church regularly. After bouncing around between three different churches in 2015, I started going to a new church in January that immediately felt like home. I really enjoy going every week and only missed a handful of Sundays all year.

7) Fun things that happened this year: Holidays - Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Birthdays - Me, Swede, Abel. My favorite summer memories are HERE. Thinking back on this year the highlights are family and friends.

8) This was my first complete year of blogging after starting up in August 2015 and I managed to post fairly consistently the whole year - This is the 103rd post of 2016. I'm still here. I still enjoy it. And you lovely people are still reading... Thank you!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Weekend

Hey Friends! Did you have a nice Christmas? We had a great long weekend of festivities here. Of course there were difficult moments due to the kids being over-excited and/or over-tired at various times but overall it was really special and fun.

I had the day off work on Friday so we made Christmas cookies. Bless my mom for inviting into her house the chaos of baking & decorating cookies with a three-year-old! We used this recipe and they were delicious.

We also watched The Polar Express and Swede tried hot chocolate with marshmallows for the first time. [A big hit, obviously.]

On Saturday I ran four miles at the gym, watched The Polar Express again with Swede, and then we tried to go to church but it was too crowded! I was really disappointed, but now I know that next year we'll need to get there much earlier. Instead we went over to my parents' house and sang Christmas carols.

Not sure why Abel looks so concerned here...

This is the face she makes if you ask her to smile

On Christmas Day we opened presents and had coffee at home. This horse, which Swede immediately named "Horsey the Cow" was a big hit with both kids.

There was a big snow on Christmas morning and Swede helped Jonathan shovel the driveway. She's a hard worker!

We went to my parents' house for a delicious breakfast, including my favorite homemade cinnamon rolls, and opened more presents over there. The most exciting presents were a tent for Swede and an indoor slide for Abel that will stay in the playroom there.

Abel loves going down the slide

New slippers for me!

Swede and I watched The Polar Express again. [Are you seeing a trend here?] And then while the kids napped I took Gumball out for a snowshoe - It was great to be outside in the fresh air and the new snow was beautiful.

We went to Jonathan's parents house for dinner and, of course, to open more presents! We had a Thanksgiving-y meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and delicious rolls from Serious Delights. Jonathan and Swede also made their annual gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert.

On Monday I had a great five mile run at the gym - I am so thankful that the kids enjoy the child care there so much. Then we played at home with all the new toys and - guess what! - watched The Polar Express once again. I am definitely ready to put that movie aside until next year!

Just a couple last photos of my favorite kids:

That's all! I'm back to work tomorrow for another short week to finish up 2017!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Currently - December 2016

Hey Friends! It's time for the last "Currently" of 2016. Here's what I've been...

Listening To: My favorite Christmas albums by She & Him, Michel Buble, and Rend Collective. I'm also enjoying the latest album by The Head and the Heart.

Watching: My favorite Christmas movies - Elf, White Christmas, and The Family Stone - And I started the new season of Mozart in the Jungle.

Reading: I had a slow start to December but am currently enjoying both To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, and Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall.

Feeling: That my efforts towards mindfulness and gratitude are paying off. I've been really focused on this the past couple weeks and I feel like I am noticing a shift in perspective for the better.

Trying: To get up before the kids to work out, shower, and hopefully have a little coffee and Bible study time. This means 5 a.m. It feel so good when it happens, but sometimes the alarm is just too early.

Craving: A cure for the common cold.

Wearing: Nothing new, because I'm nearing the end of two successful months of a not-buying-any clothes resolution. The plan is to continue for another four months then do a little summer shopping in May. The MVP of my winter wardrobe is the Star Valley Fleece Wrap from Athleta.

Loving: The kids. Of course I always love the kids but right now specifically: I love Swede's joy and delight in the Christmas season, and I love watching Abel discover and learn something new every day.

Swede gave Santa a hug and asked for a candy cane

Trying to figure out Legos without letting go of his beloved blankie and tennis ball

Not Loving: Super disappointing news last week that the sale of our old house fell through. It was supposed to close on January 3rd but now we're back to square one (and continuing to pay two mortgages) until another offer comes along. This also means that I'm not going to Florida in January as planned - Plane tickets are just too expensive!

Praying For: Patience. Always, always, always.

Looking Forward To: All the Christmas festivities this weekend!

Eating: All the Christmas cookies! So far we've made: Molasses Sugar Cookies, Christmas M&M Cookies, Gingerbread Men, Oatmeal Toffee Cookies, and festively sprinkled donuts. I still want to do a batch of traditional frosted sugar cookies with Swede when I'm off work on Friday.

Planning: 2017! I love this season of looking back on the past year and looking ahead to the next year.

What's your favorite Christmas... Song? Movie? Cookie?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Actual Christmas Shopping List

Hey Friends! I'm sure you've seen enough Gift Guides by now, and with <10 days until Christmas I hope that you're getting close to done shopping, but I thought it would be fun to share my actual Christmas shopping list. This was a record-breaking year in that I was done shopping by mid-November. I have yet to wrap a single present though, so I have that task looming ahead of me.

[ATTENTION: Real Life Family & Friends! Read no further if you want your gift to be a surprise.]

For Swede: I decided to start the want/wear/need/read gift strategy, although this year I'm skipping "need" because I think she has everything she needs.

Want: "Doctor on Call" Play Set - She loves to play "Dr. Swedey." Her most common prescription is: "You have to stay in bed for three years!"
Wear: Arctic Cat Patchwork Applique T-Shirt - She asked for this shirt ages ago while flipping through a catalog. Hopefully she still likes it.
Read: Penguin's Christmas Wish by Salina Yoon. We love this series!

Her only request from Santa is a candy cane... Done! If only she will always be this easy to please. I do still want to get one more little stocking stuffer present for her - Any ideas?

For Abel: His only present is the Rockin' Rider Charger 2-in-1 Pony Ride-On. This has gotten rave reviews from my friend Tyffani's little boy who is three months older than Abel. Oh, I did just also pick up a Baby Reindeer Finger Puppet Book for his stocking.

For Jonathan: The Langdale Crew Sweater from Boden, which is now out of stock in this stripe - Good thing I did buy early! And a Frieling Insulated French Press (aka the best French Press money can buy).

For Jonathan's parents: A Skylight Frame. Thanks to Alexandra for this idea! The neat thing about this digital photo frame is that it has a specific email address so anyone can email photos directly to the frame.

For my parents: An old-fashioned ice cream maker. I know this might seem like a weird present for the middle of winter but I think they'll really enjoy making ice cream with the kids in summers to come.

I only exchange presents with two friends, but for one I picked up Run Fast Eat Slow and for the other I did cozy socks and tea

My wish list: This Snowman Sweater is too cute! When I showed it to Jonathan he said: "I would never have picked that out myself but it really is so you." I'm also pretty sure that The Trespasser is coming my way too.

That's all! Have you finished your Christmas shopping?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Reading Roundup - November 2016

Happy Book Day, Friends! Here's what I read last month:

1) The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh. 3/5 stars. This is the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, a retelling of Arabian Nights, which I read in October. I didn't like this one as much as the original. There's more war and magic and less falling-in-love, but it was still fun.

2) Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson. 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed this one. But you have to like precocious children, which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea. The main character, Alice, spends a year living with a reclusive literary legend (think J.J. Salinger but female) and her eccentric nine-year-old son Frank while his mother writes a new book.

3) Finding Fraser by K.C. Dyer. 3/5 stars. This book is about a super-fan of the Outlander series who heads to Scotland after a divorce and a dead-end career in search of a her own Jamie. I agree with other reviews that the main character is painfully naive. Overall it was silly yet fun, but I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read at least the first couple Outlander books.

4) A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. 4/5 stars. This is the fourth installment in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamche mystery series set in Quebec, and it might be my favorite one so far. It's set at an isolated and luxurious hotel near the quaint small town of Three Pines (where the other books are set) and involves complicated long-held family secrets that become slowly unraveled.

5) The Guineveres by Sarah Domet. 2/5 stars. This book didn't do it for me. It's about four teenage girls named Guinevere growing up at a convent school in the (I think, because the book never specifies the date) Vietnam era. Their world is thrown into upheaval when four comatose soldiers arrive at the convent infirmary.

6) The Little While Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. 4/5 stars. This is a charming and old-fashioned children's story about thirteen-year-old Maria Merryweather who arrives at Moonacre Manor and sets to rights an ancient curse. I think it deserves to be as well known and loved and The Secret Garden or The Wizard of Oz.

As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books. I can't wait to see what everyone else has been reading lately!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Coffee Date #7

Oh, Hey! Let's have a coffee date. [It's actually tea in the cup below, and I abandoned the book after 75 pages, because apparently I don't "get" Swedish people, which is ironic since I have a daughter nicknamed Swede, but the cookies were good.]

I was planning to do a post earlier this week about how last weekend was really great. It was the perfect blend of fun and relaxing. The kids were funny and sweet and - this is probably the most important factor - cooperative. Jonathan and I went on a official dinner date at our favorite restaurant. Finally I had a chance to wear my fabulous new red dress! The food was delicious and overall we had a really lovely time. On Saturday I ran six miles, and on Sunday we went to church. Swede and I made Christmas M&M cookies and helped decorate my parents' Christmas tree. The kids napped and I drank Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea with a book. It was everyday wonderful in the way that you always hope life will be.

Is this the face of someone who's been sneaking cookie dough while I wasn't looking?

And then on Sunday afternoon I flew up to Denver and visited with my friend Tyffani and her adorable baby Elliott. We went to dinner at Torchy's Tacos (where I indulged in a fried chicken and queso version aka "The Trailer Park"). This was all part of the really great weekend but it meant that I didn't have a chance to write up a post on Sunday night. And then on Monday I had the longest business day of meetings at the office before flying back home on the late flight. Since then I have felt scatter-brained and hectic and edgy and very tired.

Drinks at Torchy's

That long-winded story pretty sums up how I feel lately, which is: alternating between a) peaceful and content and that I have all my ducks in a row, and b) that I'm failing in pretty much every aspect of life and that I will never again catch up at work or make it through a morning with the kids without losing my patience.

In other news: I made plans last summer to go visit and run a half marathon with my friends Jill and Kelly in Florida at the end of January. Now that it's almost here I've realized how foolish it was to think that both kids would be easier for Jonathan (or anyone) to handle solo by then. So I'm thinking about bringing Swede along for our first girls adventure weekend. I know everyone travels with kids, but I haven't yet and it makes me extremely nervous. But I think it could be really fun. My friend Kelly has two little girls aged (almost) three and five - I know Swede would love playing with them. And I'd like to run a flat course in warm weather at zero elevation. And I'd love to see my friends and do another race together. We met up for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in November 2012 and then Jill came to visit Durango for the Steamworks Half Marathon in June 2015. Please convince I can handle the travel!

At the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll in 2012

Swede is so into all things Christmas this year - It's everything that I hoped it would be and more. She loves to examine all the ornaments on the Christmas tree and sing "O Christmas Tree" together. She likes the Grinch and Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, and you should have seen her face light up when we told her there's a Peppa Christmas episode on tomorrow. We're doing an Advent calendar (with M&Ms) and my mom is doing one with fun little toys. We've been baking (probably too many) Christmas cookies, and reading Christmas books every night, and we're doing a Polar Express train ride next weekend. Abel's contribution to the Christmas spirit is that he isn't old enough to have any say regarding his wardrobe so I've gone a little overboard with festive outfits.

Both kids are obsessed with this new ornament

I have some ideas for blog posts that I can't quite seem to get written! So it's been mostly chit-chat and recaps lately. Is anyone interested in hearing about the following:
     - Day in the Life: I think these glimpses in everyday life are fascinating but I can never remember to keep track and take photos throughout the day, or I keep waiting for a perfect and/or typical day, which, I need to face the facts here, is never going to happen.
     - Thoughts on One Year with Two Kids
     - Pros and Cons of Working from Home
     - The Planner Post: I love Sarah's posts on planning and organization, I've been using the Erin Condren Life Planner for several years and my 2017 version just arrived!
     - The Time We Went To Paris/Amsterdam: Did you like The Time We Went to Austria? I might do similar posts on Paris and Amsterdam but I don't have enough photos from any travel before 2012.

I think that's all for now! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?