Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Happiness Project

Nearly three years ago I was in a funk, so as I browsed the shelves of the bookstore, I noticed a book called The Happiness Project.  I read the description & it really seemed to be something that pertained to me so I decided to buy it.  

I read part of it, but I tapered away from it for whatever reason.  Now that we're facing the end of a year & the beginning of another, I decided to pull it off the bookshelf & start over.  It's a good time for a fresh start with the new year & the fact that we've moved into a new house.  One of the lines in the book that I think about a lot is, "the days are long but the years are short."  This is so true, especially when you have small children.  Some days, especially when they're whiny & needy, the days seem to drag on & on & I keep looking at the clock wondering if bedtime will ever arrive.  But then as the birthdays whiz by, you can hardly believe how quickly it's happened.  So, I'm reading this book to try to help me take steps in making the most of my life.  I really fear getting old & looking back on my life with regret.  Especially feeling like I didn't truly realize just how great it was until it was over.  And like the author, Gretchen Rubin, I am happy, but maybe I'm not as happy as I should be.  I find that I'm very easily annoyed, I let other people's moods affect my own, I have a hard time relaxing on weekends since I'm so wound up, I buzz around cars while I'm driving, cursing in my head for their lack of turn signal, slow speed, etc.  And I often wonder why I feel so angry at the slow driver in front of me.  Where is it stemming from?

So, it's not as if I'm thinking this book is going to cure me & turn me in to an entirely happy person, but I'm hoping it will at least help. The book is broken down by months, starting with January which is all about boosting energy.  Part of the boosting of energy is having an uncluttered life with less, more organized belongings.  I've come to accept that fact that I will literally never ever be a person that can relax when my house is in disarray.  I can try to fight it, but why?  I may as well accept it & work with it.  I have an advantage with organization since we recently moved into a house that's more than twice the size of the one we moved out of.  It's so much easier to be organized with more space.  Plus, I'm not a hoarder by any means, so I have little sentimental attachments to my belongings & easily toss things away.  January also focuses on going to bed early, getting plenty of rest & exercising more.  I'm working on getting myself to bed earlier since I'm getting up for the gym before work three times a week.  It's not easy to pop out of bed at 5am when it's pitch black outside, but I know there's not a chance I'll go to the gym after work.  When the house is finally quiet & I actually have a moment to do what I want to do after the kids are in bed, I tend to make myself stay awake.  Having that looming early wake up call helps me get my butt in bed since I know I'll feel like crap the next day if I stay up.  Energy level does have so much to do with attitude & happiness.  The main thing I need to work on in January is tackling a nagging task.  There are dozens of little things that clutter my brain that I need to just knock off my to-do list.  For instance, I need to get to the dermatologist for a skin check.  I also need to work on my continuing education hours to maintain my credentials.  These are the things I think about in the wee hours of the morning when I can't sleep.  Some of thing things that nag at me are tasks that take only minutes to complete.

I'm not at all into New Year's resolutions, but oddly enough I'm being interviewed tomorrow by the local paper about resolutions for weight loss & healthy eating.  I'm way more into realistic, long-lived goals since I hate setting myself up for failure.  I'm going to try my best to use this book throughout the year in hopes that it improves me as a person.  I'm such a sucker for self-help!  Are you planning on doing anything differently in the New Year?  Any resolutions you might have?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

We had a really great Christmas & it's so hard to believe that it's already over & nearly 2013!  Since Christmas Eve is literally my favorite day of the year, I was super bummed that I had to work this year.  Mondays tend to be pretty busy for us at work, so I got in at 6am so that I could bolt out ASAP.  I was out the door shortly before 11am which I was so happy about.  Mike told me the only thing I missed was a cranky Reese & Cam playing his Wii.  And thank goodness, Mike did a bunch of food prep to get us ready for hosting the holiday.  This year we made spicy lemon garlic shrimp, bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers, sausage bread & a tequila punch bowl.  YUM!

Every Christmas Eve my family comes up to our house for tons of appetizers & presents.  It's so much fun with all of the kids!

Reese wore the dress that Mikayla wore in 2008 when she was 18 months old.  Maddy had the identical dress that year too.  It was so cute to see my gal wearing it since I loved it so much 4 years ago.

The girls looked so pretty as usual!

I love this picture so much!  It's funny how much the cousins look alike with their blond hair & light eyes.  They could so easily pass as siblings.  Although I cannot fathom having four children!

Reese was literally so overjoyed with her presents that she got into a fit of love, bolted over to Cam & basically tackled him with hugs.

It was so funny & sweet!  When she finished with Cam, she set her sights on me...

What a doll!

As you can see by the expression on her face, I think her second Christmas was pretty darn exciting!

Watching the kids on Christmas is so awesome & makes all the hard work of preparing for the holidays so worth it!  I love all the traditions of our Elf on the Shelf, Fella, leaving cookies for Santa (and Fella), carrots for the reindeer, special breakfast after presents are opened on Christmas Day!

We said goodbye to Fella as we went to bed on Christmas Eve since he headed back to the North Pole to be with Santa until next year.  I'm actually going to miss the little fella!  It's fun to finding him in new spots around the house; he also makes a wonderful bribing tool for Cam..  He he.

My mom attempted to get shoes for Reese but ended up ordering a size 4 youth rather than size 4 baby... Oops!  We all got a good laugh at that.  They were just a smidge big!

After presents & breakfast on Christmas morning, we headed to my parent's house for the day.  It was so cozy & relaxing there!

We cooked, had some wine & just enjoyed the day with each other.

Reese showed off her new walking skills..

And the bigger kids played plenty of video games.  We had A Christmas Story playing in the background the entire time we were there.

Turns out there were some pretty familiar faces in that movie!  Who knew?

 We had a wonderful Christmas & I hope you all did as well!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Look who is FINALLY walking!

For the past few weeks, Reese has been standing more and more on her own & this week she upgraded to taking a step or two or three.  Tonight was her official night of walking!!  A baby's first steps are so exciting to me, especially when they belong to one of my children!  Cam started walking right around this same time.  At thirteen months, it appears I have late walkers.  But you know what they say, better late than never!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making a list, checking it ten times

Lately I've had some major anxiety going on. Weekday mornings, my stomach has been a mess & I'm sure it's related to the massive to-do list that's in my head as I drive to work in the morning, knowing there isn't much I can do about it.  I've felt much better today since I've had my usual Wednesday off & have gotten an insane amount done!  Mike sent me a saying today that he said made him immediately think of me:  What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be.  My response was, "obviously the picture is supposed to look perfect & tidy & smell fresh & clean!"  Sadly, I'm not at all joking.  I have insane expectations for myself which is where the anxiety stems from.  Stupid brain.

I got the teacher's presents done for Cameron & Reese to take to school on Friday.  I wasn't sure how much was an appropriate amount to give as a gift card & the consensus on Facebook was $10-15.  I decided to go with $10 a piece since there are four teachers & I don't want to break the bank.  I also made peppermint bark which was super easy & quick.  I wrapped it in a clear gift bag & tied it with a red ribbon.  Click here for the recipe.  It's a great gift or snack for the holidays!

I've also been meaning to paint the wall at the top of the stairs since the previous owners put a hole in it during their move.  I patched it before we moved in, but have yet to paint it.  Until today, that is!  We did so much painting before we moved in & I meant to paint this all along but the patch I put over the hole took forever to dry & I was so over painting.

I did a chocolate brown that matches a few other accent walls downstairs.  The framed picture that goes there isn't yet in place since I got overzealous & tried to hang it before it was dry & ended up scuffing the wall.  Dang it!  Since we're hosting both Christmas Eve & New Years Eve, I'm relieved to have this project done.

My Wednesday buddy & I went to "our" park to enjoy the insanely beautiful day & have a picnic lunch.

This boy is an absolute delight to be around.  I cherish our days together & will miss them so much when he starts real school.  It amazes me how sweet & loving Cameron is & I always say that he'll make the best husband.  When he woke up this morning he said, "I'm saying with you today, Mommy?"  After I told him yes, he said, "Yay, I love spending the day with you!  You're my best friend."  What a love.  As good as he is to me, he's even better to his sister.  That girl is beyond lucky to have such an awesome brother!  I'm so proud of my guy.

After the park, I made a batch of broccoli cheddar soup which is a knock-off recipe of Panera's from the Food Network.  It tastes awesome & I know the kids will love it.  I'm serving it with some crusty bread & a bag mix of Southwestern chopped salad.  Easy peasy.  I love meals that can be made ahead.  Click here for the recipe, it's delish!  I used whole milk instead of half & half to cut calories & avoid buying another ingredient.

After the soup was made, I moved onto cleaning.  I'm continuously both amazed & disgusted by the filth that comes out of my carpet!  One day I hope to be done with carpet since these darn pets shed so darn much!  

It feels wonderful to have some of the items on my to-do list checked off and hopefully it will help take away some of my anxiety!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Swiper, no swiping!

Cameron was an incredibly gentle baby.  He never pulled hair or tried to hit anyone.  However, I cannot say the same about my little firecracker, Reese.  For whatever reason, this girl just loves to hit.  Especially me.  A lot of the time, she's not even doing it out of anger.  She'll literally be sitting in my arms with a smile on her face as she just pulls her arm back & smacks me one!  

I'm really not sure how to handle it since I never had to discipline Cam at such a young age.  I've been grabbing her hand & telling her very firmly to be gentle as I demonstrate an appropriate way of touching my face.  When she gets really out of hand, I tell her no & set her on the floor where she wails her head off.

I really have no idea why or where she gets this aggression from since we never ever hit our kids as a form of discipline.  I also find she does this to other kids she feels are overstepping their boundaries.  Just the other day, a little boy was getting too close in her book when she just hauled off & let him have it.  If you restrain her arms, she tries to kick.  I'm hoping this is just a phase she's going through since I don't exactly want to raise a bully.  Obviously I want my kids to be able to stand up for themselves when need be, but I don't want Reese to think it's acceptable to hit whenever she's upset.   I'm planning on looking into it, but I wasn't sure if anyone else had any experience with this?  Is this normal behavior or should I be concerned & start looking into correctional facilities sooner rather than later?!  And as sassy as she can be, she's equally sweet.  I've never met a baby who gives better hugs than my little Reesey cakes!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Let it snow! Florida style...

I may live in Florida now, but I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where we saw plenty of snow in the winter.  It was free of charge, there were no lines & all you had to do was open your door, take a step & you were in it.

So, I found it pretty ridiculous that we literally stood in line for about an hour & a half to play in the snow for all of ten minutes last night.  I guess when you live in Florida, it's what you have to do to experience some snow!

I found it even more ridiculous since we're going back up North in less than a month where we'll see the real deal.  But none-the-less, the kids had a really great time, especially Cam.

They had a little hill for sledding.

It was the weakest hill I've ever sledded on, but I guess the Floridians were pretty impressed by it.

Cam has experienced snow a couple of times, but this was Reese's first time.

She probably should have had shoes on, but those were ripped off in the stroller by the stinker herself!  She promptly shoved a chubby fist full of snow into her trap before we could stop her.  She didn't mind that it had been trampled on my thousands of dirty feet.

It felt good on her sore, teething gums & gosh darn it, she did not appreciate being pulled away from her snow cone!

This is what a Florida snowman looks like... cute & petite!

Cam & Mike took a trip down the "hill" too!  Mike was sure to point out that I did a pretty terrible job on these photos.  Oops!  Guess the flash didn't shoot for some reason.

Our second try at the Busch Gardens Christmas Town was a much better success. For starters, this time we actually made it into the park.  We ended up having a really great time just walking around the park after our sledding trip.  It was so beautifully lit with Christmas lights & candles glowing all around.  We ate a super gooey Belgium waffle topped with ice cream & chocolate syrup for dinner & the kids were in heaven.

After the kids went to bed we sipped on Bailey's hazelnut martinis, wrapped presents & watched Christmas Vacation.

Now that we're in the home stretch of Christmas, I'm making sure we watch all of the movies that are a must for me at Christmas... The Family Stone, Christmas Vacation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol & Love Actually.  I positively love Christmas!!

SIDE NOTE:  To clear up any confusion from this post (thank you, Lesli), this was real, frozen, icy snow.  I'm not sure how they kept it frozen in the nearly 80 degree weather, but they did!
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