Extraordinaries

The past 30 or so hours have felt different than what I’ve accepted as normal lately. It’s not that everything has gone perfectly and lived up to every unrealistic expectation I might have. In fact, I think most things have deviated from the “plan.”

But I’ve noticed every single little beauty and blessing.

That tends to happen to me a lot at this time of year. Everything is so gorgeous with the leaves changing color and dropping, so cozy with the cooling temperatures and return of the blankets, so delicious with more apple flavored treats than I ever imagined and so exciting with the growing number of birthdays and the anticipation of the holidays.

This year has been extra special for me, not only with the addition of my nephew, but with the quality of my time spent with family and friends (with a few exceptions).

It got to the point yesterday where I actually thought, “How did I get so lucky to have such an extraordinary life when so many people live such ordinary lives?” But I know that my life looks pretty ordinary to a lot of people, too. I guess that’s the secret, though. You have to recognize all of the extraordinaries in your life, no matter how big or small. They add up fast!

My dad and I were walking around soaking in all of the fall colors last night and our conversation turned toward an old, ailing tree that I’ve always called The Tree of Life. It sits alone on top of the highest hill on our property and our most beloved pets are buried beneath it. We were trying to figure out what we want to replace it with when it inevitably dies. I kept suggesting a tree that would either flower in the spring or change colors in the fall. While my dad agreed, he pointed out that those trees don’t grow very fast.

As we wandered, we pointed out all of the trees that could work. At some point my dad suggested an Oak. Oaks are pretty much his favorite trees. He went through a period where he saved every little Oak seedling because there weren’t many trees around. Now he has forests of towering Oaks. Because of the number of Oaks we already had, I immediately dismissed that idea. But as we made our way around the property for the second time, I noticed that there weren’t nearly as many Oaks on the back half as there were on the front half.

And then I thought: If I’m going to continue to call the tree on the hill–whatever it may be–The Tree of Life, what better tree is there to represent our family? Oaks are big, strong, sturdy, stable trees. That’s how I think of my dad, the leader of our family, the one who created such an amazing life for his family. We already have so many memories planted on that hill, why not go all the way?

That’s kind of when it hit me. That’s the moment that all of those little extraordinaries provided me with that overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I don’t know how to carry this with me throughout the rest of the year, but I’m so incredibly grateful for the little glimpses this season has provided.

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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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September

I think September is becoming one of my favorite months. May and September. They’re the best. I’m really loving the cooler temperatures right now! This summer was too hot.

August was pretty crazy. I turned 22, we toured the new Vikings stadium and attended the first ever (preseason) home game in it, we went to the county and state fairs, and I became the mom.

Let me explain that last one: My parents and my brother and sister-in-law took me to a show for my birthday and we ended up asking one of my best friends to babysit J at our house for the night. Well, I’m the one who watches her the most and knows her routines here, so I was the one giving the directions and checking in and having a hard time saying goodbye. I told my friend before we left that I felt like I was the mom! (They both had a BLAST with each other and I secretly loved being on the other side of it!)

I do have one regret about my birthday, though: we bought a cake. That has never been done in my lifetime. When my friend came over she was complimenting my mom and telling her that she really has this cake thing figured out. When we told her we bought it, she was so surprised she almost spit it out! That’s kind of the one thing you could always count on in our family: a homemade birthday cake. My mom’s birthday is in a few weeks, so I’m going to make an extra special cake for “her.”

One more birthday note: Juliana has kind of figured out the “Happy Birthday” thing. It started with my dad’s birthday and her saying “Happy Papa.” Then it was her mom’s birthday (“Happy Mama”). But for mine, she didn’t say “Happy Carrie,” because she can’t say my name. So I have been renamed “Tia,” which I actually think is adorable because it means aunt in Spanish. So I got some “Happy Tia” songs!

Now, on to September:

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As I mentioned, it’s my mom’s birthday this month. She has a rather unfortunate birthday, 9/11, but she came first so I’ve always chosen to celebrate the day as opposed to mourning. Last year was the first time that I actually felt like I was mourning with the rest of the country, because she was out of town so we had already celebrated her birthday the day before.

It’s also my brother’s birthday. And then pretty much immediately after that, the little girl will be two.

Honestly, I struggle with the grandma/Juliana relationship a little bit. I’m jealous, because I never remember having a really loving relationship with my mom. I loved her because she was my mom and that was that. There’s never been a deep connection, like there is with my dad. So instead of being happy for them and participating in the relationship, it almost makes me sad.

And even though my mom doesn’t approve of how many pictures I take of them, I can’t stop. They will both cherish these pictures someday.

The one thing about their relationship that does make me smile, is that when I have kids someday, they won’t remember their grandma the same way I do. They will remember her as the most loving, caring, supportive, and fun grandma they’ve ever known. This isn’t to say that she’s a bad mom, she’s not. We just don’t have as deep a connection as other mothers and daughters. Or grandmothers and granddaughters.

I’m excited for the next month and all of the changes it will bring. But I’m really, really, really excited to leave this heat behind. I’m ready for my Chai Tea Latte!

Happy September!

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