Looking Back Fondly

I had yet another amazing weekend! This summer seems to have been filled with amazing days, nights and weekends. I wonder why that is…could it be an outlook change?

The weekend started with a bang! I brought my best friend to the Taylor Swift concert in Minneapolis Friday night. It was my fifth TS concert, her fourth. We went to the first 3 together. She had lost interest after high school, but I remained a loyal Swiftie. I didn’t have to do much convincing to get her to go with me because the memories were already a part of our relationship. It would’ve felt wrong going with anyone else.

The thing about this concert, though, was that I felt like it was really aimed at the nostalgic fans who had been there since the beginning. So even though my BFF hadn’t listened to any of the current music, she was still able to sing along with a lot of the songs and we were still able to reminisce about the last time we’d heard the songs live.

I am not a dancer. (Probably for good reason.) But I was dancing and screaming and eating up all of “this is the best crowd” lines! I was so in the moment and I just couldn’t believe that that many people liked Taylor at least as much as I did. I’m surrounded by people who pride themselves on not liking mainstream music, so I often feel like a loser or a chump for liking it. So it was really, really nice to be surrounded by that many like-minded people.

But every song had a memory attached and that’s what really sent me over the top. This time I realized that she has memories attached to every song, too. I remember after seeing One Direction in Chicago years ago, I was really disappointed to realize that they were just 5 teenage boys. But every time I see Taylor Swift live, I’m so relieved to see that she’s just another twenty-something trying to figure everything out.

Okay, fangirling over. It was a magical night for me, but the best was yet to come.

Friday was also my brother’s fifth wedding anniversary and they threw a huge “dream reception” in the prettiest park around on Sunday. Family was trickling in all week, but our houseguests arrived Saturday. We brought them to a new little speakeasy in town (hello, girls’ nights!), got milkshakes at the cute, little 50s diner, took a little riverfront walk and picked up some gourmet popcorn before heading home. They joined us for church the next morning and we managed to fit in a little bit of shopping before party prep started. I love showing off our town and I love having the extended family around!

We got to the park hours before the party started to help with anything and everything. I was, of course, in charge of the kids (who hadn’t had naps…). It was really nice to have some quality time with them before the crowd came, though. I traded off kid duty with my dad and my sister-in-law’s mom all night so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their guests.

After getting family and group pictures, my brother gathered everyone together and thanked them for coming and being a part of their marriage. Then he said he wanted to thank a few people who they could not have lived without these past 5 years. Guess who the first thank you was…

Me.

He thanked me and his wife’s brother for always being willing to drop everything and help them with anything. And then he asked everyone to give us a round of applause.

I swear I almost cried.

Selfishly I’ve always really wanted that validation that they appreciate what I do. But getting it was just so much better than I ever imagined.

They both pulled me aside later and thanked me again for being such a big help.

Gah.

There are circumstances in our family’s history that have made our relationship awkward at times, but it felt so good to be so loved and appreciated by my brother. I realized that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to give up on me. And I’m not going to give up on him, either. We’ve got each other for life.

That was kind of the theme of the summer. I realized who was really there for me and who wasn’t. I really learned to appreciate who and what I have. I will always look back fondly at the summer of 2018.

But I’m so ready for fall!!

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30 Years

I did a good thing today (yesterday for most of you reading this).

Tomorrow (today) is my parents’ 30th anniversary. They would have been happy to just let the day come and go without any kind of celebration. But I couldn’t let that happen. (I’m also the girl who wrote them a thank-you note and gave them a dinner out for my 20th birthday…)

So about two weeks ago I approached my dad with an idea for dinner out and a reservation at a swanky new hotel in town. He loved it and we decided to keep it a secret from my mom for as long as possible. The next step was getting my brother involved. He was all in.

Everything was set up; we just didn’t know how my mom was going to react to it all. We decided that it was necessary to tell her about the dinner last weekend, so she had time to warm up to the idea and so she wouldn’t plan something with someone else! But we managed to keep the hotel a secret until hours before we left.

We enjoyed an adults-only dinner in our favorite small town sipping manhattans, martinis and an old fashioned. They reminisced about the last 30 years, we cracked up talking about favorite TV shows, we shared stories about our two favorite children. We dropped them off at their hotel and the “kids” went off to get ice cream! It was an evening none of us will soon forget.

And it all started with my idea.

I mean, technically I know it all started with a blind date 31 years ago…but we wouldn’t have made those new memories tonight without my idea.

I’m letting myself bask in it tonight. We made them feel special. Appreciated. Valued. Loved. We wouldn’t be who we are without them and we needed to show them how much they mean to us.

Family can be a tricky thing. There are lots of downs, but there are also lots of ups. The really beautiful thing is that family is there for it all. We help each other through the difficult times so we can enjoy these times.

30 years ago, my parents made the crazy decision to be each other’s family, baggage and all. I am so thankful that I got to celebrate this amazing milestone with them and give them an evening to realize what a milestone it truly is.

I don’t want this night to end. I want to live in this feeling forever. At least we’ll have the memories and each other.

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Summer of Change

There are lot of changes happening this summer.

My parents are currently at my mom’s retirement dinner with her coworkers. She has one more day of work left, next Tuesday, followed by a few weeks of moving everything out and then she’s done. It’s very exciting for her, but a little scary for my dad and I. We have no idea how she’s going to fill her time–she’s starting to show signs of maybe being ready to slow down a bit, but she’s always been a very busy and involved person. We’ve learned how to keep the house running without her around and, honestly, really like it that way.

We are also in the midst of a bathroom renovation that rapidly grew to include siding, trim, carpet and other odd jobs around the house. My dad and I spent a good portion of Mother’s Day moving everything from my room and bathroom down to the guest bedroom and bathroom. (We let my mom do whatever she wanted; she chose gardening.) We didn’t realize how bad the bathroom looked until it was all emptied out!

Since I moved downstairs, we’ve discovered more and more things to improve in that bathroom. We’re replacing just about everything that doesn’t require more than a drill or a wrench to remove.

 

My bathroom is getting a little more work done…

I was really dreading the first day of demo. I thought I would really miss my space, but now that it’s all torn apart I’m just really excited for the finished product, which should be stunning! They’re putting up drywall next week, so things will really start taking shape!

On the less exciting end of the spectrum, my parents think they’ve found a new home for our last llama, Rosie. The process really sped up after a visit from one of my uncles. He tends to make things happen and straight up asked my dad why we still had Rosie. He hadn’t even been in the house five minutes when he called up a llama farm in eastern Wisconsin. That didn’t pan out, but he was applying some pressure and my dad finally decided to look into it seriously. They found a petting zoo about 90 minutes south of here that’s interested.

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I’m having trouble adjusting to the thought of not having any llamas. I was only two when my parents got the first two, which means that we’ve had them for 20 years. And Rosie was the only one who was born here. She’s never known anything different and now they’re going to send her to a petting zoo? She still seems to be pretty happy here, even if she doesn’t have any other llamas to socialize with. And I can’t imagine not having llamas around for my niece and nephew. My dad can understand that. Which is why he’s agreed to having chicks, ducks or pheasants every spring. Birds fly away before winter! So we now have four chicks.

So, yeah. Lots of changes. This will be an interesting summer.

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December

I love December.

Because, as you know, I love Christmas. And December is basically just Christmas.

December is also the month of babies in my family this year. And, I mean, I don’t know, do you think I like babies?!

My “twin” cousin just had her little girl this morning and we’re all kind of betting on my sister-in-law having her little boy this week!

Combine those two things, Christmas and babies, and really what else do you need?!

I felt like I was going overboard with my Christmas shopping this year, but then I realized most of the stuff was for me…whoops. I’m really really enjoying the giving part of Christmas lately, though. I haven’t been able to give any suggestions for myself in years, but I have so many ideas for my parents, brother or sister-in-law, niece, or even friends. It’s a strange new era for me.

Another thing that’s strange for me is that I’m not really getting all of the familial warm and fuzzies I talked about in my last post. My dad and I are still doing all of the traditions, but my mom has no interest. Like, no interest.

I used to have an order that I would want to watch all of the Christmas movies in. I guess I thought it was important to her too, so I’d always wait for nights when we were all home. This year, when we tell her we’re watching a movie, she grabs a snack and watches her British dramas in her bedroom. Because she’s been so blatant about it, the magic has greatly diminished for me, so we’ve been *gasp* watching the movies out of order.

I also seem to remember at least 2 years when we had a little tradition of all of us putting the tree up together while watching (the first movie of the season) White Christmas. This year, while my friend and I were partaking in a Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life binge, my dad literally brought the tree home, set it on the deck and said “Okay, here’s your tree, Carrie.” put it in the stand (okay, with a little help), put the lights on, put the angel on top and put all of the ornaments on. There was no “we.” It was a little sad, honestly.

also put up all of the Christmas decorations around the house, which my mom used to help with.

The only tradition we’ve truly kept alive this year is my dad and I putting up the outdoor decorations together to avoid being sucked in to one of my mom’s projects.

I’m not trying to sound down. It’s just an adjustment for me. I’m starting to realize what my Christmases going forward might look like.

Growing up feels weird.

That’s why I need to hang out with all of these cute babies being born!!

I seriously cannot wait to meet the little dude!

Here’s the last calendar page for 2016:

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I haven’t decided yet if I will be sharing pages from next year’s calendar…cliffhanger.

Now that I see the page, I feel bad that I didn’t say anything about my best friend!! I think I summed it up pretty well last year! I love that dog more than any person (maybe he’s tied with that little girl)! He is literally the best, most constant and loyal friend I’ve ever had! Ugh, LOVE HIM. SO MUCH.

Merry Christmas!!

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Already Dreaming in White

We got our first snow of the season today! If there was a little bit more snow involved, this would’ve been a blizzard, because the wind is crazy! If there’s any left tomorrow, it’ll probably only amount to about a half an inch.

But it was enough to make me crave Christmas music and movies and fires and stockings and Christmas villages and cookies and, most of all, a Christmas tree! Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé are serenading me as I write this!

Usually we jet off to Hawaii for New Years, but this year thanks to my little nephew (and, honestly, our poor planning) we won’t be leaving until a little later in January. Because we’re usually gone for New Years, my dad takes the tree down a few days after Christmas. I would personally leave it up half way through January! So his compromise has been letting me start the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving. But this year, I just can’t shake it! Even though I’ll get an extra week or so on the other end, I NEED IT TO START NOW!

I used to love this time of year because of all of the things. I loved decorating for Christmas and listening to the music and watching the movies and making (and eating) the cookies, and, of course, the tree and presents. And I still love all of that, but it’s different now.

When I went to college, it became more about the people and the feeling of Christmas than the things. It became the time of year when I was reminded over and over and over again how much I love everyone in my family and how grateful I am, especially, for my immediate family.

And when Juliana came along, oh boy! It’s 100% feelings now! I’m just a giant ball of mush in December! Literally everything can make me cry!

I think my mom thought I was pretty crazy when I turned the Christmas music on today. But I felt like I was in a Christmas movie.

My dad was sitting on the couch pretending to be asleep and Juliana would “sneak” up to him and scream to wake him up. He would jump a little and tickle her, and her sweet little giggle radiated through the house. Then she would want “Mo! Mo, Papa!”

I was sitting on the floor across the room watching the shenanigans and I started tearing up a little bit! Their adorableness, the Christmas music playing in the background, the snow falling outside, and my mom beaming in the kitchen just put me over the edge. I felt like my heart was going to burst!

That’s what Christmas is.

Forget Thanksgiving, I’m already dreaming of a White Christmas!

(Fun fact: White Christmas is the title of my favorite Christmas song and movie! Who doesn’t like the classics?!)

And I’m not the only one:

Have I ever mentioned that he’s a snow dog?!

Now I have to go listen to Michael Bublé’s “White Christmas” about a million times!

Happy Friday and almost Thanksgiving AND CHRISTMAS (too far?!)!

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November

I’ve been a little preoccupied this month.

I live in an extremely political family and there’s a divide, so I’ve pretty much been holding my breath for the past 2-3 weeks. I can’t wait for the election to be over–I know the talk will continue, but at least there’ll be an answer to the question that has been the center of family conversations for the past 2 years. (I’m also kind of excited to watch the results come in, whichever way it ends up going!)

To help me cope with the 24/7 election talk and Vikings downturn (Boo!), I’ve become a bit of an exercise nut. When the weather allows, I go for multiple walks a day and my evenings are spent on our brand spanking new sit down elliptical! I get to watch whatever I want (which is never news) and don’t feel one ounce of guilt about it!

What does make me feel guilty now is every minute spent on my computer. I kind of can’t stand sitting still now. Which hasn’t given me much motivation to keep writing. But here I am! It’s finally a cool, cloudy day and my dad has all of the shades down, per dermatologist’s orders.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things concerning the little girl lately. I love taking pictures of her, but no one else appreciates it, so it’s been a bit of an internal battle. A few months ago I was really excited to make a photo album of all of the fun times we’ve had with her this year, but now I’m struggling with that, too. I also realize that this year she has been the main topic of my blog posts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that–she’s kind of the best part of my life right now.

The problem is she’s not my daughter.

If she was my daughter, these wouldn’t even be considerations for me. I would take as many pictures as I wanted and make as many photo albums as I wanted and write as many posts about her as I wanted.

My mom, rather bluntly, reminded me that there are other people in Juliana’s family who might feel jealous of our relationships with her. Some weeks we end up spending more awake time with her than her parents, and I love that, but she has other family that she only sees a few times a year.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for me, but I feel like I have to work this out before her brother is born in a few weeks.

I don’t know what that means for this blog, though.

I love documenting all of this for myself, but do I really need to be sharing it all with the world? Should all of the energy I’ve been putting into this blog be going into a book specifically for Juliana with all of the stories of her childhood? Should I leave my comfort zone and get my own freaking life?

I struggle because I want to have an amazing relationship with my niece (and soon with my nephew) but I don’t know how that looks if I’m not here taking care of them.

I don’t know what my life looks like without them in it almost every day.

Anyway, things might be changing around here.

I just really needed to write all of that out and see it all put together as opposed to random strings of thought in my mind.

Here’s the calendar page for this month:

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She really liked hats last year!

I hope the rest of November can be a little less heavy.

US: PLEASE VOTE.

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October

I know I say this every month, but I cannot believe it’s October already. Today is the first really chilly day of the season. I can’t say cold, because compared to the temperatures we will be experiencing by Thanksgiving, this is just barely chilly.

We’ve been really busy these past few weeks! We’ve had birthdays upon birthdays upon birthdays. It was my mom’s birthday on the first Football Sunday, so of course she wanted to go on a historic homes tour during the game! But we won and she had fun, so it was a win-win! Then it was my brother’s birthday, which frankly, got skipped over and probably will be skipped over for the next 20 or so years because his daughter’s birthday is one week after his.

And boy did that girl celebrate.

They had a family birthday party at their house the weekend before her birthday and everyone loved it! It was only 10 of us and we all have great relationships with the birthday girl, so it was fun for everyone! Unlike last year, J knew exactly what was going on! She had farm balloons to show everyone as they walked in the door, she handed out napkins and cups (also farm themed) as people sat down in the living room, she entertained us as we waited for dinner, she was beaming when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her, she tried to blow out her candle, she scooped the cream out of her cream puff and wiped it all around her mouth and then posed for pictures, and she was fully aware of who all of the presents were from and for and how to open them! It was such a fun afternoon!

And then we got to watch her on her actual birthday, which her parents weren’t planning on playing up. But we were! We saved some of the presents for her to open and keep here. Her balance bike is her new favorite outdoor toy, her potty book is her favorite book to read and her magnetic blocks are her favorite indoor toys! We also took her shopping for some new fall clothes, let her run wild at a fun park designed for little kids in Stillwater, and let her eat french fries and a chocolate raspberry milkshake for lunch at a little 50’s-style diner near the river! We were all pooped when we got home, but it was, without a doubt, one of my favorite days with her!

(I also caught her singing “Happy Birthday Ju-ana” the other day! I think she likes her birthday!)

It’s so hard to believe that we’ve known her for two years already! It seems like forever ago and yesterday at the same time! And I really can’t believe that next year (literally by January) she will be a big sister! Watching a child grow really is one of the most amazing experiences. She is pretty much talking in sentences now. She is starting to try to say “Carrie” more. She says “I love you.”

All she was doing two years ago was sleeping on me. I can’t even remember how little she was. I’m so excited to experience all of that again and really soak it up more with her little brother, but I’m also really really loving this new stage with Juliana.

Being an aunt is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And October will always be the month that brought that to me.

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