Wisconsin Dells Trip

When I was growing up, heading to Wisconsin Dells was a common occurrence. We lived about 45 minutes away and knew where to get the discounted tickets to all the great waterparks – Noah’s Ark, Mount Olympus, Riverview Park & Waterworld, and all of the other attractions. I’ve done the duck tours, the jet boat rides, the go-karts, the arcades, the shops and randomness. The waterslides – big, small, terrifying, with my group of friends, with strangers to meet weight requirements. And I loved every single second of every single minute. There is something about the Dells that pulls me in, makes me reminisce and just smile. The touristy nature drives me insane and yet I still find it exhilarating.

With our boys, we’ve really tried to focus on providing memorable experiences for them in lieu of more useless plastic toys that get broken in the first 20 minutes of play. With our boys having early summer birthdays, the Dells was a great idea to include in our experiences gifts for them. Okay, so it might just be to soothe my insatiable need to visit there at least once a year. The boys are 7 and 5 and are now waterpark junkies. They ask for this for Christmas and their birthdays now and we abide with no qualms.

Our first year we tried this, Charlie was about 18 months old and I was about five months pregnant. We went to the Wilderness Hotel & Resort with a group of friends. We loved the time with our friends, but the resort was way too much for a kiddo that age. It wasn’t worth the money for us. We then found the Polynesian Resort the next summer. Yep, kind of shady, maybe not super clean, but damn it, it’s a perfect place for kids under the age of 7! The size of the resort is perfect, the rooms are so much cheaper, and the different areas truly are perfect for young kids. During the winter months, we’ve fallen in love with heading to Three Bears Lodge in Warrens. This summer, we decided that the boys were big enough to try the Wilderness out again.

What an amazing experience! Charlie is tall enough to go on everything and Adam was able to go down a few of the tube slides by himself, but was able to go on almost everything with one of us. Charlie had no fear about being dropped straight down five stories on the Cosmic drop, but struggled with any slide that involved the dark. The Lunar Loop made my stomach have a conversation with my tongue, but was amazing. Adam rocked the five story mat riders on his belly with the rest of us and loved the raft rides with the family. Pictured below – the red slide is the one Charlie loved, the blue slide is the Lunar Loop and the others are the mat slides.

I did learn some unexpected things this year while being in the Dells that I felt the need to reflect on.

  1. I LOVE waterparks.
  2. My kids love waterparks.
  3. Waterparks are so much more awesome now that they are big enough to actually go on things!
  4. In a few years, waterparks will be amazing when they can both go on everything.
  5. I REALLY want to head to Noah’s Ark with adult friends and no kids.
  6. I love that women in the Dells aren’t ashamed of their bodies. #thickthighsarein
  7. While I’m comfortable in a bikini, I could stand to lose 10 pounds.
  8. I really love food and beer so that 10 pounds might not ever go away.
  9. My introverted personality sometimes manifests itself into what resembles my panic attacks just because I need some quiet time.
  10. Being around that many people and so much noise for so long has utterly exhausted my mental health. Currently, I wish I could get my kids to stop talking for even 15 minutes to regain some of my energy and sanity.
  11. I am able to tune out hundreds of people with a good book. Thank you, Mosquitoland.
  12. Waterslides do not make me motion sick. Weird.
  13. My kids are beasts when they are hangry.
  14. Waterparks are my biggest wondering – how do you engineer a waterslide? What does the design phase of a waterpark look like? How can you make a green waterpark? What happens to all of those pieces of a waterpark after they are no longer of use?
  15. Moosejaw’s Relaxin’ Raspberry beer is pretty damn tasty.

Range Failures & Deliciousness

After writing my post yesterday about wanting to continue to blog, etc. and actually pushing myself to do it, I posted this to Facebook.
Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 4.55.53 PMI was determined yesterday to feel accomplished and was needing some down time for myself in the kitchen. This is my happy place and my anxiety about returning to work has kicked in and panic attacks are ensuing. My anxiety and a quick trip to the grocery store for milk and fruit this morning coupled with the boys asking me to bake for them today pushed me into the kitchen to create awesomeness.

Except…my awesomeness turned into failures. Damn 15 year old range that heats unevenly, takes 45 minutes to preheat, etc. I bought a new Samsung 5 burner range yesterday, but it doesn’t get delivered for another 2 weeks – the light is at the end of the tunnel! I’m still geeking out over this new range and I’ll be sure to post about it when it arrives. Bring on the range love!

Failure #1 – Tortilla chips. I cleaned out the fridge this morning and had 1/2 a package of corn tortillas that needed to be used up. We’ve had a ton of tacos lately and I decided that I’d just throw them in the oven to make homemade chips to use up the little bit of homemade guacamole I had in the fridge as well (both recipes are from Homemade Snacks & Staples by Kimberly Aime). This was breakfast – not a great start to my day, but oh so delicious! Here is the picture of how they turned out. Same oven, same temp setting, same time. ARGH. Anyway, I ate the pan of good chips and threw the others out into the compost pile.

Failure #1

Failure #1

Deliciousness #1 – Cranberry Raspberry Upside Down Cake with Raspberry Italian Meringue. So delicious! This recipe came from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which Steve bought me for Christmas. I love, love, love her books and have them all, but definitely don’t do her food justice. The meringue was a bit tricky to make as I don’t have a hand mixer, but I got it. It’s not pictured, and my cake isn’t as pretty as hers in the cookbook picture, but yep, it’s delicious!

Cranberry Raspberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Raspberry Upside Down Cake

Failure #2 – Homemade Cheese Crackers (think Cheese Nips or Cheese Its) – one of my favorite crackers and it was my first homemade attempt at them. The flavor is awesome, but once again, my stupid range. In a matter of under 10 minutes at 325, this is what my cheese crackers looked like. Sad. I will for sure make these again, once my new oven is here and I can trust that out of the three pans, three will turn out, not just 1/2 of one. I will not roll them out as thin and make them into circles. Recipe is courtesy of Homemade Pantry (check out her blog!).

Cheese Crackers

Cheese Crackers

Deliciousness #2 – My own recipe for meatballs using the fresh herbs that I had. One pound of grass-fed ground beef mixed with minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, a little oregano, and minced onions. Baked, cooled, and frozen ready to go for dinner next Wednesday.

Deliciousness #3 – Homemade Pizza with the crust recipe from Homemade with Love (check out her blog)! We top our pizza with a light coating of olive oil, italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, onions, and fresh mozzarella cheese. For the boys, just a plain, extra gooey cheese pizza. It’s our Friday night dinner every week. We mix up the toppings once in awhile, but we love our Friday night tradition of pizza and a movie. Especially since the boys are starting to watch fun movies like Harry Potter, Jumanji, Night at the Museum, etc. instead of just animated ones.photo

Deliciousness #4 – As long as the range works today well, I will be making homemade Pop-Tarts. My kids ask for these disgusting things every time we are in the store and they gross me out. They are dried out, filled with nasty ingredients, and really just gross me out. When I found the recipe a few years ago for homemade ones on Pinterest, I was pretty excited. However, that recipe just didn’t do it for me. Then I bought  Homemade Pantry (check out her blog!) and was sold on just using a pie crust recipe. Pop-Tarts this week will be filled with Nutella, Wildtree’s Wild Blueberry Jam, and some homemade Strawberry jam. I haven’t attempted creating savory ones yet. The boys love their sweets so I’ve just stuck to those. Fingers crossed I have a cooperative oven today!

New Year, New Beginnings

New beginnings seem to swirl around our family at least once a year. This year, our new beginning really seems to coincide with the start of 2015. Let me explain. In September 2014, we swapped houses with my father-in-law to live in the home that my husband grew up in. This beautiful home is situated on roughly 175 acres of farm land and has a small wooded area and a conservation pond in the back of the property. There is room for the boys and the dog to run, the cats to wander, and for me to garden. The quiet life has happened upon us and we couldn’t be happier.

Officially, in the upcoming monthss, we will finalize our purchase of this home. We are excited to begin this new chapter of our lives and raise our boys the way we want to – to be outdoor kids and appreciate nature and sustainability. The boys love helping out with the heifer cows (cows that aren’t producing milk yet because they haven’t had babies) that the neighbor keeps here and eventually, we’d like to have a few of our own to raise for meat only. When we moved out here, my father-in-law built us a chicken coop and bought 10 chickens for the boys. The immense need the kids have to run around and play in the dirt is satisfied on a daily basis with building a fort in the woods, playing in the sand pile or swingset, or just running around being boys. They are excited to help me plant and work in the garden again this year and love taking long walks or a quick 4-wheeler ride back to the pond to check out the wildlife.

I decided that with the new year started, I should really focus on this blog thing that I attempt multiple times a year and then drop. My personal blog will continue to stay focused on my family and the craziness that ensues with two little boys and now incorporate me living on a farm, trying to be more sustainable, and getting used to the concept of chickens running around everywhere. Another focus will be to discuss cooking from scratch and how we provide for our family with using very little processed or prepared food. My love for being in the kitchen continues to grow and I cannot wait to share this love with others.

In other words, here’s to new beginnings, new outlooks on life, and being grateful for the life we have!

Happiness Ever After

About three months ago, my attention was caught by a post from a friend on Facebook. A smiling, laughing little girl with the sun caught in her hair on a beautiful, sunny summer day blowing bubbles. They had this picture of one of their daughter with a caption and the hashtag #100happydays. This person then posted the following website (100happydays) to state why they were posting this. Being as I normally don’t click on websites that people post (I mean there are just so many!), this one just drew me in.

As I perused the website, I was appalled that 71% of people who would start the happiness challenge would quit because of their lack of time to complete it. 71%, almost 3 out of 4 people, didn’t want to make time for their happiness….really?! 

I knew that something was missing in my life at that point in time. I was content and seemed happy, but couldn’t really pinpoint why I was happy. I was content because life was just moving along. One major obstacle has been in our way since March, but we’re just along for the ride and taking everything in stride. That same day, I was at Target and found the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was definitely noticing a theme emerging in my life. 

That day, I started the #100happydays on Facebook. I didn’t post a picture everyday as I thought it would be overkill, but just started posting a simple phrase or sentence about what made me happy each day. After the first week, I noticed that I was consciously looking for little things that made me happy as I didn’t want to be redundant to and just keep saying that my family made me happy. After the first month, I did notice that I was being a more positive person and I was truly becoming happier.

With that, I then read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and simply realized that I just need to embrace the crazy that is my house and understand that my happiness is not what others view as happiness. My peace is not their peace and that’s totally okay. 

As I finished up my 100 days last week, I scoured through my past posts to find my happiness themes and came up with these:

  • My kids just being themselves
  • Spending time with my husband
  • Enjoying coffee
  • Eating great food
  • Spending time with close friends and family
  • Being outside
  • Reading
  • Enjoying solitude 
  • Cooking
  • Fantastic colleagues & career

I reflected then on Rubin’s work and realized that yes, my linen closets being organized makes me gleefully happy. A clean kitchen makes me melt when I wake up in the morning to glimmering countertops and no dishes to be done. I am more laid back about cleaning the bathroom and putting away clothes now. I mean, really, I live in a house with three guys, I’m not sure my bathroom will ever not smell like a hint of urine no matter what tricks I use. 

I am more grateful after this 100 days of focusing on happiness. I say thank you probably way more than I should. Instead of nagging someone else to do it, I just do the task without complaint (unless it’s taking the puppy out at 1:00 a.m). I relish in the quiet moments of reading and snuggling with my kids as much as I relish watching them run through the Course of Doom. I appreciate my husband more and nag him less. I have started taking time for myself and understanding that I can take 30 minutes out of my day for something that makes me happy versus something that should be done (like the bathroom cleaning). I’ve stopped wishing away my life and really started living in the present. 

I will be continuing the happiness effort by keeping a private journal instead of continuing to post on Facebook. These past 100 days have made a huge impact on my life that I’d like to continue to keep up to constantly remind myself that my life is pretty amazing. We don’t live in a fancy house, drive nice cars, or have a lot of money lying around – but I’m beyond happy with what I have and that’s all that matters. 

 

 

Purging

While I have yet to be productive this morning (unless you count reading blog posts, drinking coffee and pouring cereal for my kids productive), I have devised my latest plan. In the last year, as my kids have gotten older and created more messes in the house and we have been accumulating more things, I have grown incessantly tired of cleaning my house. No, this is atypical for me. I am generally a clean person. Not freakishly clean, but my house has always been picked up, not deep-cleaned always, but others wouldn’t know that type of clean. And, I enjoy cleaning. Really enjoy it. I find it therapeutic and it helps control my anxiety.

With that being said, I find myself spending more time just putting away the mountains of laundry, toys, and other just random odds and ends we have in the house than spending that time with my family. With work consuming more of my time at home (which I don’t mind 90% of the time), I have been trying to find my balance. This past year has definitely thrown my life into a tailspin of chaos. I’m managing, but pretty much feel like I’m failing at the mommy/wife part a lot of the time. I am winning at my job though. So, I guess I’ve got that going for me.

I used to make tons of freezer meals, monthly. I used to have organized closets and rooms. I used to meal plan and just feel de-cluttered and content. I have decided to take back my organized life.

After spending the morning reading blog post, after blog post, on organizing, simplifying, and de-cluttering your life, I have decided this needs to happen to bring me back to the real world and to allow me to be true to myself. Also, I would then be winning at that mommy/wife thing again.

So, my plan of action is to take it by days/weeks and move slowly.

  • Start with that boys room/Playroom – Clean out clothes that don’t fit, aren’t worn, or are destroyed. Charlie’s clothes will get put away for Adam and Adam’s clothes that are still in good condition will be passed on to my cousin’s son. Anything that is unusable will be taken to school to be upcycled for the fabric scraps.
  • Home Office – Purge, purge, purge. Basically, I want a huge bonfire to burn the excess old paperwork that is buried in the closet. Organize the odds & ends in a better system as well.
  • My bedroom – CLEAN out the closets. I’m going to try the 40 hanger challenge. I have so many clothes that I hate and don’t wear. Steve will be going through his stuff as well. Or, I will be doing that. Jewelry, purses, clothes, shoes – out! I cannot wait to purge. I’ll try selling some of the stuff, but will probably end up donating it instead, mainly because I’m lazy and hate the time it takes to try to sell things.
  • Linen Closet – Refold the sheets! Steve’s been doing laundry, which believe me is a gods send for me, but he doesn’t know how to fold fitted sheets. My once clean, organized closet is a mess and for whatever reason, a clean linen closet makes me very happy.
  • Purge random odds & ends, decorations, etc. that I don’t like or aren’t used.
  • Kitchen – Clean out  the pantry, fridge, and freezers of expired items. Organize the baking cabinet. Menu plan with what we have until we have it cleared out before buying tons of new groceries.
  • Basement – Sell stuff! We have a lot of random things that can just be sold. Movies can be sold that we never watch.

I’m going to be busy. But it’s a busy that I’m excited for and ready to do. I want to be between a minimalist and normal. Wish me luck! I’ll take pictures along the way as I organize and purge.

My 30’s

Today is a “cold” day off from work and school for the boys and me. It’s -25 without the windchill and around -53 with the windchill. There is no way that our door will be open. I’d like to call the post office and tell them that we don’t need our mail today and that our postal worker should stay warm!

I’ve been very reflective lately on myself and my actions, which has led me to really discover some strong realizations about myself and how I’ve grown in my 30’s.

My birthday always hit me hard. When I turned 30, two years ago, I cried. Sobbed. Think about the Friends episode where they all turn 30. That was me. Thirty meant that I had to get my sh*t together. I was a professional, I had just switched positions in my school district to a non-teaching one, I had two kids that I had to put in daycare and spend a ton of my income on and a husband, a mortgage, car payments, life insurance, health insurance, IRA’s, union dues, gas, groceries, etc. I had to maintain these safeties for my family. I am in charge of the finances so I had to come up with how to save money and be responsible. It was/it is overwhelming at times.

Over the past two years, I have learned to really embrace my 30’s. I am not in my 20’s any longer – I hate bar hopping, prefer to drink coffee over booze, haven’t smoked a cigarette in almost seven years, dislike Miller Lite and prefer a craft beer that isn’t too dark.

I’ve accepted the fact that my house will only stay clean for about an hour and that there is always a mountain of laundry to be done and put away. I will step on a Lego or toy tractor piece daily. Empty fruit crates and books decorate my house. Stacks of books, yarn, knitting needles, toy tractors, legos, and random other toys are scattered around my house to make it look lived in. I’m okay with having next to nothing on my walls or near the floor as decorations – it’s less to be broken or cleaned around.

My refrigerator is stocked with fruit, veggies, and homemade goods. My pantry shelves are filled with homemade jams, sauces, pickles, wild rice, brown rice, beans, whole wheat flour, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, homemade breads, rolls and snacks for the kids. As my husband has said to me, “It looks like we live on a commune.” I love knowing that my family is eating healthy, at least in our home.

 

I’ve really learned that my husband is my rock. Steve is beyond supportive of me personally and professionally. He has helped me grow to be the person that I am today and I’m not sure that I would be where I am without him. He accepts that I’ve grown from the party girl he met in college over 11 years ago, to a granola loving, gardening, knitting, reading machine. We have found our love of camping, being outdoors, and canoeing together.

I have learned to appreciate and love my boys more and more each day. I am not like them each day, but my heart bursts with love for them always. They are growing into some pretty amazing people.

I’ve surrounded myself with supportive people that are excited about what I do personally and professionally. I don’t deal with other people’s drama. I do whatever I can to keep my life drama-free.

I’ve learned that I do truly love the field of education and what I went to school for. From being out of the classroom for two years to now being back in it, I understand that this is something I am meant to do.

When my birthday rolled around this year, the day was a breeze. After 32 years, I feel like I really do have my sh*t together, even when I feel like I’m failing at life. My family is healthy and happy. We are financially secure and stable. By no means are we rich or totally debt-free, but I’ve done a pretty good job of getting us close with only our mortgage and my student loan left and the beginnings of a down payment on a new house started.  We are close to each other, support each other and love each other and there isn’t anything else that I could ask for to make my 30’s even better.

Motivation

“I’ve got no motivation, where is my motivation?” Thank you Green Day for having that song stuck in my head, but it so fits lately.

I have so many things I want to finish, or even start, but I’m spinning my wheels. I think it’s because I know I honestly have about five days that I am not working before schools starts (yes, that includes my weekends) and I’m sure that I’ll still be doing something for work on those days. I’m so excited for the year to start, but man, where did my summer go?

This weekend I need to finish the following projects:

  • Putting up veggies
  • Knitting a blanket
  • Painting frames & a supply organizer
  • Deciding my team building activities for work (see, I told you I’d still be working!)
  • Cleaning my breezeway
  • Taking donations to the thrift store

Before school starts, I still need to:

  • Make a menu for dinners & school lunches
  • Make some freezer meals
  • Go clothes shopping for Charlie and me
  • Landscaping at the house

Oh goodness! I’ll figure it out after running some errands and trying to enroll Nexus Tablets into the system (again, there’s that work thing!).