Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Review: Schoolgirl Missing

Do you remember how well I did on my 2018 Goodreads Challenge? I got to 110 books with no problem. This year? You guys.... I'm four books behind. Well, three books with this one. I'm so screwed.
Schoolgirl Missing - Sue Fortin

When fourteen-year-old Poppy vanishes on a family boating trip, suspicion soon turns close to home – to the two people who should do everything to keep her safe, her parents, Kit and Neve. Can they really be responsible for their little girl’s disappearance?

Neve loves Poppy like her own daughter, but the truth is, she isn’t. And her very existence means Neve will never have a precious child to call her own. But would Neve harm her step-daughter simply to get her own way? In times like this Neve has always turned to her sister Megan to help. Megan will know what to do…

Kit would do anything to keep his family safe and happy. But his refusal to have another child has been causing a strain on his marriage. And he’s worried Neve’s mental state is growing increasingly unstable. But would he harm his own daughter just to prove he is in control?

As the frantic search for Poppy grows, Kit and Neve’s marriage is close to breaking point. And only one person can get what they want.

To start us off, I'm kind of teetering on a 3.5 star... kind of 4 star. I'm going to mark it as a 4 but just know it's a hesitant 4. I think what makes me on the edge is because this is an interesting premise and the story is good, it's just that every single character is a terrible person. Nobody has any quality that makes you think they'd be someone you'd want to know let alone have coffee with. Now I had a good feel for Neve at first but within the first few chapters that went to hell. Kit seems like a complete dickbag from the start and how these two ended up together, I'll never understand it. 

But we have Poppy, special needs and kind of a handful, and her dad Kit has no time for her and basically married Neve to fill the mother role so he can do his own thing. Which, alright, Neve figured once she showed him how great of a mom she can be he'd be willing to have a child with her and no- Kit is not about that life. So Neve is taking up hobbies and you and I have seen enough Lifetime movies to know where THIS goes. But Poppy disappears and suddenly everyone is trying to find her, untangle clues, and figure out this really kind of bizarre web of lies and past lives, and suddenly more unlikable people are in the story and yeah. It's kind of a lot.


Once I saw where the author was going and how completely crazy this would end, I was kind of on board. You know when you watch Law & Order and the person you KNOW is the bad guy guilty of all the crimes walks out of the courthouse with a smug smile and winks at you? That's basically how this ending felt. I didn't really see this particular ending coming so kudos to the author for that but man... I really wasn't sure if she'd pull it off. This is my first Sue Fortin book and I'd be open to reading more because this was a pretty creative story.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Weight loss challenge, week 10

It feels like awhile since I updated, but here we are!
Goals for this coming week:

  • Get 3 work outs in using Beach Body on Demand
  • Use my recumbent bike twice for 20-30 minutes each time
  • Stick to no more than 8 ounces of soda each day
  • Continue with the intermittent fasting
I feel a very slow momentum but I think actually making the time, even ten minutes, to exercise really helped me. Mentally I feel no better and I have no illusion that I'm going to feel fantastic BUT! I am going to start the KonMari organizing challenge this weekend (more on that later) and that means I will be face to face with the sheer abundance of clothes that no longer fit. And I will have to make some really TOUGH choices. So we'll see. Think happy thoughts for me. HA! 

I also have to mention that I bought myself a resistance band thing. I've been skipping workouts that say you need one and now I went back and did them. This thing is kind of amazing. Seriously. I feel like a pro at this point. I got this 4-6 pound one and it works fine for even a weakling like me, but if you're more into it, you can get a heavier one, of course. 
I decided after hearing about my friend's really amazing trip to Jamaica that Matt and I really deserve to go on a trip, just him and I. It might not happen this year because hello, debt! But we are really making that a goal/priority for 2020. If I'm going on a beach trip I want to be in much better swimsuit shape than I am in now. So... goals. 

Have you started on any of your goals for 2019? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

And suddenly it all came to me.

I've really been struggling lately and I think I've gotten to a point where my angry is at full steam. As it turns out getting to that point has been beneficial because I've been writing like mad. So much so that I am ALMOST DONE WITH MY BOOK. I am not even kidding, I am legitimately almost done with it and I cannot believe it. My goal is to finish it by my birthday (March 10). It won't be edited and proofread yet of course, but the core of the book will be finished. In order for me to get to that point I still have a few things I need to do:
1. Regression Therapy: I've read a lot about regression therapy and I've seen a lot of trauma survivors use this as part of their recovery. I have also seen that it's a mixed bag of results. Some people find tremendous value in it and it gives them the clarity they were seeking. But on the end of the spectrum there are the people who either don't find any benefit from it, or worse, it's reliving the trauma and detrimental and damaging to them. For every good story you find two more bad ones. Basically, I'm really taking a gamble by doing this but I really want to try it. I'm already passively suicidal and in the depths of depression, how much worse can it get at this point? If you aren't familiar, regression therapy is a form of psychotherapy that, through hypnosis/deep relaxation, they bring you to an earlier time or even a past life to help you resolve issues from then that could be beneficial to you now. My therapist didn't tell me I was nuts but I got the feeling she isn't totally sold on it, so we'll see.

2. Email interviews with two doctors: I have some questions that Matt can't answer and as soon as I found the paper I wrote them on I'm going to email my doctors and get their take on it. I've talked to some nurses already to get some memories or comments from them, because in my research of nonfiction books that get published, they want input from people other than the person writing it. And that makes sense because of my favorite nonfiction that's been true.

3. Make sure the book has the correct timeline of events: I went through my entire medical record for 2016 AND 2017 and made a time line of notes, appointments, milestones, etc. It was actually pretty daunting and reading some of the doctor notes broke me down a bit. Some of the notes from the doctor the day of my AFE are heartbreaking. I know what a tremendous event it was but every time I read it all I cry and I have a hard time processing it. It still feels like I'm reading about a stranger that it couldn't have happened to me. It makes the feeling that I'm in the wrong body feel stronger and I feel more crazy.
4. Query letters. You guys. I've been reading about query letters, how to write them, and what to do with them. I know that I'm going to get a LOT or rejections and not hear from even more, but I feel like I'm going to throw up on my desk thinking about actually sending them out. I  just don't want to mess up. I really want to be published. I don't let myself think about the what ifs because I know anything about that end of the book world and I know it's not a fast process at all, and I just really want this to be a thing that happens in my life. GAH! So yes. I'm thinking about all of this. Obsessively.

So yes. I'm writing. Do you have suggestions on something you really want to see in my book? Like if you came to read one thing, what would it be? 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2019 Goals, because resolutions are for drunken losers.

I felt like I had some pretty lofty goals for 2018, which I posted HERE, but I'm going to share them again because most people are too lazy to click that.

  • Lose 5 pounds. This didn't happen. Technically I lost one pound, so that's something I suppose. My weight loss goals continue. 
  • Do a boudoir shoot. I did this in May. It was fun, I got some pretty photos. I'm on the fence if I'd do another one. The session itself was a ton of fun and I felt great, I just don't know what I would do with anymore photos. 
  • Do a regression therapy session. I didn't do this. I really chickened out, if we're honest. I'm going to legit try to do this in 2019. Maybe this summer and the kids can go to different Grandparent's homes and Matt can come with me to make sure I'm not murdered. 
  • Do one fun mini trip with my kids and Matt. We did two mini trips to the Wisconsin Dells, once for Spring Break and once over summer
  • Find a medication cocktail that actually works and that I can afford. Turns out this is actually impossible, and my optimism at the end of 2017 was cute, wasn't it? So right now I take one dose of Wellbutrin and two doses of Trileptal as my depression/mood stabilizer combo. I also take Ritalin as needed to stay awake and alert, like if I know I'm going out into the world, I need to be alert. I can take it if I'm at home with kids and napping the entire time isn't a possibility. 
  • Go to a concert. I smashed this one. I saw Kesha, Beyonce & Jay-Z, Sam Smith, Smashing Pumpkins, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and Florence & the Machine.  
  • Plan a 15th anniversary trip with Matt for 2019. Again, 2017 Sara was super optimistic and on different medication, because this isn't happening. As it turns out, we are really in debt and really broke, so this won't happen. 
  • Finish my book. Girl, I'm nowhere near done. In fact, I got rid of a lot of what I had written because I hated it. I know, I don't need the lecture. I'm working on it. 
  • Do a random act of kindness every month. This I know I did. I know I did more than one in some months because I was able to. This is something we're going to continue, not as a goal, but a regular practice. 

So that brings me to making some goals for 2019. It was kind of hard to make a list this time so I don't know what that says about me.
  • Spend at least five hours a month writing my book. I need to really make this a priority because I owe that to myself. 
  • Go to at least 3 concerts. This I am confident I can do. I have the Kelly Clarkson concert with my friend Amy coming up, so that's one. I just have to find a couple more I can afford. 
  • Lose 10 pounds this year. Last year I couldn't do 5 but I didn't really try. This year I'm going to really put the effort in because my health and wellness depend on it. 
  • Take each kid on their own date once this year. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but the truth is I don't get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with each kid. I'd like to plan out one day with each kid and we do stuff they want to do. I know I'm disconnected from them as a mom and I'm trying really hard to be a normal mom. 
  • Regression Therapy. I'm doing it this year. I said it above, but the plan is to do it this summer when Matt can come with me. 
  • Get Passport AND Down Payment on a Trip for Matt & I. We might not be able to go on the trip in 2019, but we can damn sure make a down payment on it. But we also need passports so we need to actually do that this year. 
  • 110 books. I'm coming for you. 

What are YOUR goals for 2019? What is one thing you want to do this year, maybe for yourself or maybe for your family? 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Weight Loss Challenge, week 9

This week my goal was to really work on my diet. That was going to be my biggest challenge because while I don't over eat, the things I do eat aren't always so great. If you remember from my post last week I was looking into Intermittent Fasting. On paper it sounded pretty easy, either during an eight hour chunk of the day (I picked 12-8) and don't eat anything outside of those hours, and drink only water. 

It sounded really easy because I was really already doing it when I thought back to my schedule of the day basically. 

So imagine my surprise when I started this last Sunday and I was STARVING by 10 a.m. I held out until noon and I kid you not I fell like I had to eat the entire kitchen in preparation for not eating beyond 8. Which is insane. 

Monday I was starving by 11 and it was everything in me to not grab a box of Triscuits and have just "a couple". I held out and though I didn't binge that day I was suddenly realizing there is zero reason for this hunger. Why am I so hungry when just a week earlier I absolutely was not hungry in the morning? It's like my mind is messing with me. 

Fast forward to now and I'm still doing it, and I'm really sticking to it. I decided that maybe 8 was too late to be having a snack because I would have stomach issues when I went to bed so I adjusted my eating hours to 11-7. I'm going to start that tomorrow and see if that makes any kind of difference. 

As far as workouts, I only did one last week. I KNOW. I'm slacking. I'm having a really hard time finding a consistent time to do a workout and make it a routine for me. Tonight I'm going to do it when Matt walks the dog, and the girls are in bed, so we'll see. I'm going to do the 10 minute workout on Beachbody because I think I've said it before but I kind of like that even if the guy is incredibly condescending and annoying. 

Did you make any weight loss goals for 2019? 
My 2019 goals will be on the blog tomorrow but (spoiler) my weight loss goal this year is to lose 10 pounds. Last year I wanted to lose 5 and I actually only lost 1... so I feel like this year I need to make my goal a little higher and I hopefully will blow my goal away. 

The goal for this week is going to be stick to my new fasting diet and workout THREE times. 
Cross fingers!

Friday, January 4, 2019

It's the little things that get you.

If you're new to the blog, please read Lucy's birth story HERE otherwise you might not understand why I'm a hot mess. 

I know I've always been open about my depression, and this will be no exception. It feels like every time I'm making some progress, that maybe I'm getting better, the universe shows me how messed up I still am. I should have known better taking on this project because just a week or so ago when my brother, sister in law, niece and nephew were here I didn't do so hot. I was actually OK when I saw my baby nephew. Granted, I didn't full on look at him, but he was next to me and I was doing alright. I was a little warm and it felt like little pricks all over me. You know when your leg falls asleep and you go to move it but it feels like needles? That's what it felt like, but all over my body. 

Then he cried. 

The cry is what did it. It sent me over the edge. 

I tried so hard. I sat in my seat, looked at a light, looked at the ceiling and counted backwards. Counted my breaths, tapped out a line on my leg, tensed every part of me and let it go, I did all of that and I just couldn't stop. I started crying. I realized there wasn't anywhere for me to actually go so I grabbed my theraputty stuff and I was in the hallway and doing breathing and counting exercises, squeezing the hell out of the putty, and it took me about 15-20 minutes to calm down and be normal. Now, I could have said something to people but it's not their fault. They shouldn't have to change what they are doing because of me, it's my job to adapt to them because this is life. But I've thought about that episode a lot lately. 

At my recent medication adjustment psychiatric appointment I talked about the unbelievable fatigue I still have and how I can't even do basic things without feeling like I need a nap to recuperate. Do you remember those commercials for Energizer batteries that had the Energizer Bunny? I compare it to that, when the bunny goes and goes and suddenly the batteries go down so you see this bunny get slower and slower but finally stopping? That's me. I can feel it happening in my body, it feels like a curtain coming down and I have to take a nap and it doesn't matter where I am. Which is great if I'm at home, not so great if I'm at Target. I've been on three different drugs at maximum doses and it doesn't do anything for me. I didn't notice any kind of difference. So my next option is Ritalin.

You guys, I am a 36 year old woman just put on Ritalin.

It kind of works. Which is how this happened.

It's just before dinner time and I'm zipping along with my Ritalin and I got the idea that I would clean and organize. We have an unused dresser and I decided I was going to use it in the basement to store mementos of the kids growing up. I've been storing all of these things in the closet in my office and it's getting crowded in there so I figured this was a good time to move it all down. 

But of course, if you start pulling it out, you'll want to look in it. 
 So I labeled each box with their name on it. I started this when Olivia was little and it holds the hospital bracelets, ultrasound photos, coming home outfit/hat, etc. I just wanted a box that had their stuff in it so maybe they'd want to look at it someday. Or use the clothes/sweaters for their kids. I don't know. I'm just sentimental and I was really good at only saving what would fit in this little box. 

Then I looked into Lucy's box. 

And I cried. 
 Inside Lucy's box are my hospital bracelets, one of hers, some ultrasounds, a rattle, a few hats, mittens, two sweaters and a shirt. I know the shirt came from my friends Gini & Eric. The rest of it... I have no idea. I realize nobody saved her coming home outfit. Nobody took pictures of us coming home so I can't even include it. I didn't save her birth announcement. 

I know it's stupid. I know in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal and she likely isn't going to care. I know all of this. 

But it's a big deal to me. Maybe more so with Lucy because I don't remember any of it and I so badly want something to help me remember. I want something tangible from that time. It's one thing to have had the Amniotic Fluid Embolism, but it feels cruel to take my memories away, too. It's bad enough that I look at baby pictures and I may as well be looking at a stranger. I want to remember what her cry sounded like, if she had hair and what it felt like on my cheek, what did she smell like, what did she feel like laying on my chest? I want to remember looking at her for the first time, having her handed to me all bundled up safe and snug. Did she like kisses on her cheek like her Penelope and Jackson? Did she want nothing to do with me like Olivia? Did she like being swaddled? Did she like it when I sang You Are My Sunshine

I'll never know any of this. 

It makes me so sad. It makes me feel like a failure of a mom that her box isn't great. That her baby book won't be like the others. That I'll never be able to tell her what she was like. I'm angry because I know that all of the moments I have today with her will be gone in a week or two. They are only borrowed moments. The pictures won't matter to me, but maybe to her someday. I hope she knows even if her mother can't remember that her mother loved her a whole lot. I hate feeling like things aren't even between the kids. I hate feeling like Matt knew I kept all of this stuff and why it was important to me and he couldn't even do it right. And I absolutely KNOW he had a lot going on but I'm angry that this just highlights everything is on me. Having died twice isn't enough to get out of those duties- it's still my job even if I can't remember. It's so frustrating. 
For perspective, this is Olivia's box. All the bracelets, a large packet of photos, footprints, baby announcement, and ultrasounds. Coming home outfit, first winter hat and mittens, hat from hospital, sweater made by Matt's grandma Bernice, Piglet rattle because she had a Classic Pooh room, first socks, first pacifier in a holder, candle and button from first birthday. Jackson and Penelope's are identical. 

It makes me angry. It makes me sad. It makes me feel like a terrible mom. It makes me feel like I'm not getting any better so I'm frustrated. I feel hopeless. I feel defeated. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Review: The Last Lie

This is it, you guys!!! This is book 110 of the 2018 Goodreads Book Challenge! My goal this year was 105 and I decided to be an over achiever. My goal for 2019 is going to be 110 books so here's hoping I can actually do that. No pressure. HA!

For Claire Daniels, life is good. She has everything she’s ever wanted – a career she loves, friends she can rely on and a husband who dotes on her. All she needs is to start a family of her own and things will be even better than good.

They’ll be perfect.

For Alfie, it couldn’t be more different. His life with Claire is built on a lie. A lot of lies. And she can never find out.

Because Alfie has plans for her. Plans which must never come to light. But lies have a way of taking on a life of their own, and when his do, the consequences threaten to destroy everything.

For him and Claire. 

Alright... where do I start? Well I'll start by telling you I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. I really liked how incredibly messed up Alfie is and how he becomes more and more deranged as the book goes on. I am incredulous how naive and stupid Claire actually is but I guess when you've got Alfie spitting a good game, perhaps you'd do all the same things. I also liked how fast paced this book was. I've seen people complain that it was the opposite, but I disagree. I had a hard time putting this down because I never felt like I was at a good break point, where I could take a breather. I flew through this book in two days, which was great because I have been in a bit of a reading slump.

But do you know what this book reminded me of? That husband in Colorado who killed his wife and two girls. It was like he had this totally different persona aside from the doting husband and father, he had this personality who liked rough sex and treating women like dirt. That's Alfie.

Just as you get going into this book and you're thinking Alfie is the ultimate dirtbag, PLOT TWIST. Suddenly nothing is as it seems and you're questioning everything you've read so far. I can't really give you more but that twist is everything, and that ending? Is. SO. Damn. Good.

I've never read anything else by Alex Lake but I'm interested now just on the craftsmanship of this story. I'm not a huge fan of psychological thrillers, I think I've watched way too many crime documentaries because I have impossibly high standards, but this one got me. I was pretty blown away, and the second half of the book felt like going down a really fast slide. It makes you think you can't really ever know anyone. Not ever. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Christmas Day. Exhausted thinking about it.

Easily my favorite day of the whole year is Christmas Day. 
 The kids were SO excited for presents. I mean, look at Penelope's face- she's barely keeping it together. 

So we opened. This year I every kid sit in different areas and we opened one at a time so I could see stuff and it wasn't over in 3 minutes. This was really kind of great. 
 Lucy really got the hang of ripping stuff open and she was so excited over every single thing she got. 
 Olivia and Jackson both got those Instamax Mini 9 camera bundles. Those were really cool and I got a GREAT deal on them on Black Friday. 
 Oh!! Olivia's "big" gift was a Chromebook. Matt stayed up SO late Thanksgiving night and had his phone and laptop ready for the sale to hit on three different websites so he could get one for the ridiculously low price they were at. It paid off because he got it and she was so excited. Now she can stop messing my laptop up. 
 Lucy and Penelope each got a Kindle Fire Kids Tablet, and those were a hit!! They are really good when I tell them tablet time is over and they have stopped asking people for their phones. Which is great. But Lucy also got this baby stroller and that's her kind of signing "baby". It was adorable. 
 Jackson actually got two "big" gifts. He got an iPad so he can use his robots since he cheap tablet doesn't work with the robots he got last year (mom fail), but he also got...
 a cell phone! Well, he got my old phone so nothing fancy. But he was pretty excited. He's been walking to my mom's after school and some times he's there alone so I want to make sure he gets there OK, but if he needs something he can call us. 

So yes, that means I got a new phone for Christmas. I even got the Ice Cream Maker, you guys!! 
 Oh!! Lucy also got the Disney Store Woody and Buzz Lightyear. These cost a little more but Woody has a working pull string that says ALL the things, and Buzz has a helmet that does the whooshy thing, the laser beam, the pop out wings- they are amazing. She was SO EXCITED. Between the stroller and these dolls, it was hard to figure out what was the favorite. 
 Penelope was excited about the tablet but the Rapunzel dress was a BIG hit. 
 There's Lucy, talking to Woody and Buzz. I'm not kidding, she's adorable. 

I have to tell you about the hair straightening brush Matt got me. I thought it was going to be a dud but this thing ACTUALLY WORKS. It works really well. It got my hair very straight and in half the time (so like 20-30 minutes versus 60). If you are looking for a new option, this is a good one. 
 Jackson and I, waiting for dinner. 
 Olivia and I, waiting even longer for dinner. 
 Matt and I, starving at this point. 

I want it on the record that I made a turkey that was THE BEST TURKEY I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I mean, that I can remember. It was damn good turkey. I dream of that turkey even still. 
 I had friends Christmas, too. I don't know what I did with my picture of what Tammy got me, but she got me a new nightgown (THANK GOD) and a bunch of great stuff. Amy got me all of this stuff and I'm not kidding- I sniff my hair. Aveda Rosemary Mint shampoo/conditioner is a splurge item for me and I feel 100% guilty buying it for myself, so I was so excited. And I got a new hat!! I wanted this when we did the Harvest Run and saw it in like three different stores but I was too cheap to buy it and it came! Amy always gives the best stuff. 
 Andrea got me new socks (love!!!), my favorite foam soap, a new lip gloss, a gift card, and my favorite candy! Confession: I've had a Caramello for breakfast the last four days. No shame. 
Look at all of the books I got for Christmas! Between my mom, Matt's mom, and Matt- I got a bunch of good ones! 

Overall Christmas was great. I have great family, I have great friends, I'm glad Matt didn't go rogue and actually read my wish list, and it was a really great day. My kids were so appreciative and they gave me big hugs and said thank you repeatedly, Matt liked his gifts (including some six foot truck bed cover I got him that was a PAIN to get into the house, wrap, and get behind the tree!!!!), and we had a really great day. It's been a good end to a weird year. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Strangers giving cheer, Christmas with parents

I have a ton of photos (not really, but it feels like it trying to get them off my phone) so I'll split Christmas into two posts. 

To start Christmas, I think it was the day before Christmas Eve that I had to go out to some stores and I absolutely dreaded it. I didn't want to go, I had a bad attitude about it, and I really didn't want to get Lucy all ready and bring her because it's absolutely exhausting for me to do that and I really struggle and usually end up crying in a parking lot. Add to that and it was right before the biggest holiday of the year and I figured people would be out in masses and I would have to deal with all of that. 

Which is exactly how all of that played out. 

But as we were leaving Walmart, and I know I looked like a cat dragged backwards through a bush, this older man approached me. Immediately all of my stranger danger alarms are going off and he says, "Ma'am? Can I ask you a question?" So I say yes because I'm not rude and he says, "It looks like you could use some Christmas cheer, can we give your daughter this teddy bear?". He pulls out this incredibly soft bear and obviously Lucy is all about it so I said yes and thanked him, and he walks off. I have no idea where he went. 

So I'm walking out to the parking lot, kind of in awe that that just happened and Lucy is hugging her bear like she's never had one before, and as I'm completely pissed because I'm realizing what I forgot to get (which is what I came to the store for in the first place), I get to my car and open up the trunk. This blue mini van pulls up and this woman opens her window. Immediately I'm thinking this is one of those people who asks if you have gas money and they have a whole story about their work check not clearing the bank, etc. But no. She says "We give baskets out to people randomly, and you look like you could use some Christmas cheer. Can we give you a basket?". I'm kind of stunned so I know I mumbled something but she gets out, opens up her side door and hands me this basket.
Before I could even process it, the van is gone. Van and woman are gone, I can't even see them driving away anywhere. 

I'm not kidding you guys. 

Now, the basket didn't have anything amazing in it. It was mostly dollar store toys, some applesauce, a little bit of candy, and a $10 bill. Which is WEIRD, because I was going out to dinner with my friend Andrea that night and I was telling Matt I was going to borrow $10 from Olivia because I knew I wouldn't make it to the ATM before I went. 

Not only was there $10 in the basket, but my bill at the restaurant was only $7something so that $10 covered my meal completely. 

I don't believe in coincidences anymore but I'm not sure what all of this meant, but I do think something special happened to me that day.  

Obviously, Lucy is so cute, how could you NOT want to buy her anything she wants?! But I'm not kidding, she carries this bear everywhere since she got it. 

 So that's how my Christmas started. 

The next part takes place on Christmas Eve eve. We celebrated with my parents and my brother, sister in law, niece, and nephew- they drove from Appleton, so it was quite a trek for them. I'm kind of hoping this becomes a tradition because it was so great to see them, do presents and not feel like we had to rush to make a dinner or rush to my inlaws, it was just very laid back and really nice. 
 Lucy and Adriana played together SO well. Penelope and Adriana did, too but it's clear that Penelope is the ring leader and somehow convinces all the other kids to do bad things. Penelope would make a really great mob boss. Subtly gets everyone to do her bidding then stands back with her hands up saying, "I didn't do it, it's not MY fault they listened to me." That's Penelope. 
 Before we did presents, my sister in law was tending to my nephew (he's just a tiny baby!) so I led four kids in crafts. We made slime and we painted some cinnamon ornaments I had baked for them. I got a really great slime recipe from Penelope's teacher and it's just glue, baking soda, contact solution, food dye and glitter. Super easy, wasn't near as messy as stuff I've seen on Facebook, and it comes out almost like putty versus a thin slime that gets everywhere. Anyways. I did slime with four kids and I feel like that should be noted. 

I did have a bit of a panic attack when I heard my nephew cry. I had my putty so I was playing with that and doing my counting/breathing exercises but it was a good ten minutes before I could calm down and rejoin the group. I really hate, hate, HATE that I have a hard time with this. I really wanted to hold him but I didn't think I could and that really makes me sad. I feel like I'm missing something. 
 After craft extravaganza we did presents! 

Penelope was all about it, obviously. 
 Lucy really got into it, too! 
 Jackson got the Harry Potter Lego set he really wanted AND this cool watch that does fancy things that I don't know anything about. Olivia got Beats headphones because my mom spoils the kids and loves it. 

Penelope and Lucy got some cool things. Matt got these mats for his truck, those really expensive nice ones that customize to your actual vehicle. 
My mom got me these really nice pots and pans, and then all of this. I got that AMAZING navy purse from Duluth Pack, THESE wool socks which are so much better than I thought they'd be, the Michelle Obama book, a new shirt, and three ornaments- one with Penelope's name, one with Lucy's name, and one with all of our names. My mom always gets me the best stuff. 

On Christmas Eve we always go out to Matt's parents home to celebrate. I know a lot of people complain about going place to place, but I really don't mind. It kind of works out for us and I'd rather have three days of fun and presents instead of one huge day. This way I can pace myself and it works well for the little girls, too. 
 The big kids go to their Strand grandparent's home often so they enjoy taking up their spots and taking over the place. 
 Grandma and Penelope read Matt's favorite Christmas book when he was a kiddo. 
 Matt and Lucy snuggled as usual. 
 They have a hunting dog named Hank, who is a love bug. Penelope thinks he's GREAT because she tells people she can ride him. Which she definitely can't, but she's completely fascinated with such a big dog. 
 We had a great dinner and took the annual picture in front of the tree. 
 Then we opened presents. I remember I got a lot of books and a gift card, but I can't really remember what Matt or the little girls got. Lucy got this laptop and she furiously types on it, which was funny for us all. 

Oh! The big kids each got a gift... that I can't remember, but their big gift is that they are going to Universal Studios and Harry Potter World with Grandma and Auntie Kate over spring break. I'm kind of bummed we don't get to take them but they are so excited to go. They have both finished the series and that was the deal- the finish all of the books and then they can go. You should have seen Jackson reading large chunks of the books since the end of summer. He was so proud of himself. 
 Penelope wanted a picture with me before we left. 

We left just in time for bed but Penelope and Lucy were asleep before we got to the end of the driveway! 
 Once we got home I gave the kids their Christmas Eve present which is always pajamas and something else. This year the big kids got pajamas and robes (they outgrew theirs), the little girls got pajama sets, and everybody got a new blanket. Which, I'm kind of mad I didn't get myself one of these blankets because they are ridiculously soft. I got these blankets for a lot of people but didn't get myself one. Lame. 
And of course Santa came.