Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Goals Wrap-Up

Overall, 2013 went a lot better than 2012 and it shows on my yearly goals results:

1) Have the full year of lesson plans put together by the end of August.  Check!  I was putting in a lot of lesson planning hours at the end of the summer, but I got this done.  Our school year got seriously derailed when the house flooded and our school room was turned upside down (well, not literally, but might as well have been), but because of all the plans I already had done, we're easily making up lost ground.

2) Pay at least an extra $2500 to student loans on top of regular payments.  Fail.  Secora's hospital and therapy bills have added up to $1500 (above regular medical bills and not counting pediasure) since May.   When Josh finished his post-doc and moved to a permanent job, the new job didn't cover any health insurance premium for 3 months so we paid all that out of pocket.  We could have skipped our trip to Great Wolf and saved about $600 (would have if it were possible to still cancel and keep our money when the house flooded), but we needed a break.  Repairs from the house flood have been another $1700.  In short, it was totally reachable when I set the goal, but big things kept happening and then we chose to relieve stress in the short term rather than pinch every penny.  We paid about $500 extra, but I definitely want to get more serious next year. 

3) Blog more consistently. My goal was to blog 3 times per week, but my measure of success was to see a traffic jump by June that maintained for the rest of the year.  I didn't blog more, but I did blog smarter, so I have seen that traffic increase I was looking for and I'll call this one a success.

4) Market my lactation practice more effectively.  Word of mouth mostly accomplished this for me, but I did surpass the "more than one new client a month" goal and ended up with just about the level of work I could comfortably maintain.  I took on 24 more one-on-one clients in 2013, plus taught several classes and accepted several emails-only clients.  Just because the kids are another year older, I think I could comfortably take on about 30-36 clients in 2014.

5) Finish the quilt.  Yes! Done!

Four out of five, not bad at all!  I was also much healthier this year, getting into and sticking with an exercise routine I enjoyed that made a noticeable difference in both my physical and mental health. Now to look forward to 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Fun!

We had a great time celebrating Christmas.  We had my parents and my brother and his family over for a big dinner on Christmas Eve, then presents and grandma and pa-paw stayed the night (which the girls were super excited about) and we woke up Christmas morning to find stockings filled by Santa. 
Secora very happy to get a Thomas mega blocks set
Sierra's new bike, she's completely enthralled with her new ability to change gears
Secora also got a bike and has since figured out how to pedal it
Checking out a stamp set
Santa was left cookies and an apple (this was a step up, they were insisting on salad earlier in the week) because he "really needs to start eating healthier".  Santa tried the apple, but decided to stick with finishing off the cookies instead
Stockings! Sierra learned about the spirit of Santa this year and got to help fill her sisters' stockings, which she thought was incredibly cool and grown-up.
Of course, when you keep the spirit alive, Santa still fills your stocking too.
Our Christmas morning tradition, homemade cinnamon rolls.
Secora helping to assemble her new workbench
Sierra and Sedona looking at prepared slides on their new microscope
Sierra tuning her guitar
Never takes long for the toys to become communal around here.  Occasionally the actual owner will put her foot down and "pull rank", so to speak, but generally they share exceptionally well.  Everyone has spent plenty of time creating things with the work bench, in particular.

It was a really great couple of days and we've also been fortunate that Josh has 12 days off for the holidays this year.  We might all have some withdrawl issues when he goes back to work!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Finished Quilt

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! There are Christmas and year-end posts in the pipeline, but first, I have to follow-up about the quilt I started about 6 weeks before Christmas. To give credit where credit is due, this is not my idea or design.  I saw the idea here and I used a cross stitch design I found online and made each square on the design a 1-inch square on the quilt.  6,400 squares later, I had assembled sixty-four ten-inch blocks. 
This picture was taken around 10 or 11pm on December 21.  We open presents on Christmas Eve and from this point on, I couldn't do much work on the quilt during the day while Sedona was awake, so I had a few "all nighters" ahead of me.  This night, I stayed up until 3am sewing all of the blocks together (and doing a little quilt surgery when we realized I had one of those 6,400 squares in the wrong place. It would have driven me nuts to leave it).

The 22nd, I pre-washed my backing fabric during the day...and realized it was too small once it shrunk.  I just about cried in the fabric store when I couldn't find any more of it, but on my 3rd pass searching through the shelves, I found the last 2.5 yards in the store.  My next problem was how to quilt it.  Josh had a brilliant plan to quilt "Twilight Sparkle" in cursive over and over.  I wish I'd had a week or two, because that would have looked awesome, but after doing it the first time, it became clear I wouldn't be able to finish that before Christmas.  After breaking the pretty variegated purple thread I'd picked numerous times and wrestling with my machine and realizing it was already 10:30 at night, I just put plain white polyester thread in the machine and set out to stipple the whole thing. That kept me up until 3:30am.

The 23rd, I made my own binding (for the first time, it was surprisingly easy) and got it onto the quilt in about 2 hours total. 

I think it came out pretty cool.  And Sedona was so excited she pretty much completely freaked out:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gingerbread Houses 2013!

Another year, another gingerbread party!  This year I made 22 houses.  We had several kiddos get sick and have to pick up their houses to do at home though, so we had smaller groups actually decorating at our house this year.   Because our weather has been unusually cold, we added in a little hot chocolate bar this year where we set out hot water, instant hot chocolate and apple cider, and marshmallows with disposable coffee cups.  My only real regret with that was that I couldn't find small insulated cups with lids, so I had 12oz cups, but 8oz would've been better.   
As usual, dots were the favorite candy.  I finally had enough this year, I bought 12 boxes and there was about half a box leftover.
Secora took a long time to warm up to all the people around, but she did eventually decorate her own house
Secora with her finished house

Sedona was Sedona and several people commented that her house was a very accurate reflection of her personality.  She went with a layering method this year in an attempt to cover her house with as much candy as possible.
Sierra's house was a little more low-key, but did show the scene of a tragic climbing accident.  That's a gingerbread man near the top of the house, a "rope" of m&ms and then the unlucky fall victim on the ground.  Merry Christmas?
She was very amped up and hanging out with friends every time I took a picture, so I don't have a lot of her I can share on the blog.

Overall, another successful year! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Meet Walter

Since Angel lived to the ripe ol' age of 14, we had plenty of time to discuss and think about what would happen after Angel.  We agreed it'd be nice to a little bit of a dog break, mostly for the purposes of traveling without worrying about boarding.  Over much of the last year, we've tossed around ideas of what kind of dog would best fit our family.  We like the slightly easier upkeep of a small dog, but the security of a big dog is a big plus for me.  If I ever felt the need to open the door for a stranger, I loved that they'd take several big steps back when I let Angel stand in front of me and bark at them.  

We kept going back and forth on what we should be looking for, but it was becoming obvious that Secora was developing a pretty significant fear of dogs over time.  She had been fine with Angel, but she was getting more and more skittish around neighborhood dogs.  We decided we needed to get a move on and get a dog sooner rather than later so we would be able to introduce one into the family without traumatizing her.  As these things tend to go, less than a week after we had that discussion, a friend posted on facebook about a stray dog that needed a forever home. 

He had been taken in by the friend's parents, updated on his shots, neutered and generally fixed up.  He had been named Walter.  And when we met him, it turned out he was just right for us.
 The best guess is that he's a great pyrenees/german shepherd/blue heeler mix and a little over a year old.
 His pictures really don't do him justice.  He looks labrador-sized in all pictures, then you sit with him in person and find yourself saying, "that is a BIG dog".  He's already chased off a meter reader (he was in the house, but he kept up his really deep, "I will eat you" bark until the guy left the yard)
 He does like to chew things up when he gets bored.  The people we got him from warned us of this and seemed determined to really impress upon us how bad he is on chewing stuff up.  Angel was even worse though, so we've been managing alright.  He has torn up his fair share of toys and his biggest ticket item was the entire enclosure net off the trampoline.  He has been learning the "leave it" command and doing much better with that than I expected, so when we're with him he's okay.  He's just like a toddler that needs supervision.
 Secora did take some time to warm up.  She loved to see him and talk to him, but it took her a month to pet him.  She's getting braver and braver.  The other girls have done really well.  Sierra likes to run around the backyard with him and Sedona likes to snuggle when he's taking naps.
They are even having a little too much fun with the pooper scooper.  They argue over who gets to scoop the poop.  That's weird, right?  We never even actually told them they had to do it, they just make their way out there about once a week and pick up without being asked.  I'll take it!

His biggest behavior problem is loving on guests just a little too much.  Once we invite someone in the house, he wants to immediately be in their lap.  He hardly ever jumps on us and we don't have guests all that often, so we haven't had a lot of opportunity yet to teach him this behavior has to stop.  Angel acted like a puppy for a good 4 years, which I think was the heeler in her (she was part red heeler), so I imagine he still has some time before he's going to settle down much.  That's okay, he's been the perfect mix of run with the kids, then lay down for calm snuggles!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Heart, Melted

Last year, I posted about why I decided to stop telling my kids anything about the naughty list or that Santa is watching their every move.  Santa is pervasive in our culture though and mentions of the naughty list and the nice list are around every corner.  A couple weeks ago, we were driving in the car and the opportunity came up to move from passively leaving out the naughty list to actively explaining it to the kids themselves.  Not surprisingly, this came up with Sedona.  She is quite possibly the happiest, snuggliest kid in the world.  She also has a really hard time sitting still and thinking ahead.  If one of the little people in my house is in trouble, there's about a 75% chance it's Sedona (even though she's only 33% of the kids). 

So we're in the car when Sedona starts talking about the nice list and the naughty list.  Instead of ignoring the talk, I said, "you can't lose Christmas."  She was genuinely shocked and baffled.  I explained that Christmas is about love and they will always be loved, so they will always have Christmas.  I did clarify that they weren't entitled to big expensive gifts, this was about celebrating the holiday.  They won't get something they've shown they're not mature enough for and if money is tight, they may only get one small gift, but there will be a celebration, not coal in their stocking.  Sierra, being a little older and having had more opportunity for one on one talks with me chimed in and backed me up, "yes, they'll ALWAYS love us, no matter what". 

A few days later, Sedona wanted a snuggle, so I picked her up and held her like a baby for a little while.  She said, "Momma, I really like snuggling." I told her I like snuggling with her too.  She asked me, "and you'll always, always love me?"  Yes, I assured her, always. 

And then, earlier this week, she was walking through the living room (well, who am I kidding? Skipping/hopping/dancing through the living room) when she stopped and said, "you're gonna love me forever and ever no matter what."  It wasn't a question anymore, but I still smiled and said, "yes, no matter what."  Her whole little being just radiated joy and my heart melted. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

First (and last) Marathon

I finished a marathon yesterday.  26.2 miles on foot.  And I learned one main lesson: I am NOT a marathoner.  Mostly, I just don't enjoy running.  It's boring to me, so I didn't train like I should have.  I went into this race perfectly prepared to do a half-marathon.  Unfortunately, that is not what I signed up for.  Between not enjoying training and having to take a month off for my wisdom teeth (and even when I started back, they still hurt with every foot strike), I was woefully unprepared.  I had completed two sprint triathlons in the 5 months beforehand, so I wasn't completely out of shape or anything, but I hadn't done the prep work that I should have to cover that many miles purely on foot.

To make matters more interesting, we had a record breaking cold snap this week.  Last year's race had to have an extended time limit because it was so hot and humid.  This year we started out below freezing and only warmed up about 5 degrees and it was overcast with not a hint of sunshine the whole time. 

We made a trip to the store a few days before the race to buy a few "disposable" layers.  We figured we would warm up and shed these things as time went on, but that never happened. 
I was particularly glad I thought to wear a neck warmer at the last minute because it was great to cover my face or pull down as needed throughout the race.  I made Josh one the night before the race that he wore the whole time too. 

The biggest thing that got me through this race was having Josh run with me.  Because of the kids, we trained separately and he trained better and also runs faster than me anyway.  When we picked up our packets the day before the race, and he realized how few people were signed up for the full marathon, he said it sounded awfully lonely and he might just run with me part of the way.  He ended up sticking with me the whole time and definitely made the difference.  I have no doubt I would have logged a DNF without him there to literally hold my hand when I needed it.

Despite the cold, the beginning of the race was great.  The first 10 miles were smooth sailing.  I made a comment somewhere between miles 10 and 11 that I was glad I didn't sign up for the half because I would've felt too good at the end and wondered if I should've done the full.  Miles 11 to 14 were tougher, but still totally fine.  Miles 15 and 16 were my wall.  With the prospect of 10 more miles ahead of me, I would have quit there.  I said I wanted to quit and Josh said I could keep going.  At one point he had equated a marathon to giving birth and somewhere just before the end of mile 16, I whined that I didn't even get a snuggly baby after all this work.  The marker for the end of the 16th mile was across the street from the 20th mile marker.  Santa was there and I decided I couldn't quit before I got to Santa.  So 17 to 21 were a long slog.  One foot in front of the other, repeat.  It was very reminiscent of when we climbed the backside of HalfDome together and the 3rd class slabs near the top just seem to go on forever because the "top" is an optical illusion for a very long time. Around 21 I got tylenol from the medical team.  From then on, I wanted to quit with every step and only didn't because I didn't want that much misery to be for nothing.  Mile 24 was an apparent second wind that I think may have actually been mild hypothermia.  I suddenly felt hot all over, but did not take off any of my layers because it just didn't seem right, I had been cold to the point of having numb thighs through the entire race and the weather had not changed at all.  We knew we were nearing the 6:30:00 time limit (based on the clock, we had started about 10 minutes after the clock started because we were at the back of the pack) and we didn't know how strictly they were going to enforce it, so we picked up the pace a little bit.  As we turned down the last stretch for the final 0.2 miles, we realized we only had 02:30 left until the time limit.  I told Josh to go ahead and we both started running (or stumbling?).  I nearly stopped just before the finish line, but plenty of spectators/volunteers were there and shouting to keep going.  I was the last person to cross the line before the time limit.  A kid from the local Down Syndrome Association put my medal around my neck with a giant smile that clearly said she thought I was a rock star even though I was last.  I got a high five and "Congratulations, Kimberly" from the race director.  Best of all, the people behind us didn't get cut off after all.  Even though the time limit passed, they were still announcing, "here comes marathoner ____________".  And I found out later that the race director even met the very last person at mile 26 and ran in with him.  Makes me happy just thinking about it. 

I will be sticking to half-marathons from here on out though.  It's a distance I can perform well at and enjoy much more. 

The day before the race, in even colder weather, the girls participated in the kid's run.  Thankfully this was only a mile because they insisted on doing it, but the short distance made it possible to bundle them up in snow gear and send them out.  We even still had a 3T snowsuit from Montana that we could put Secora in.

 When Sierra passed me at the half way point, she just said, "you do NOT want to run in this weather tomorrow!" (I probably should've listened to her)

 Sedona was Sedona, gleefully running along

They were both really proud of the medals they got at the end and had a fun time doing it.  Maybe we can have a bit more temperate weather next year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quilt Update

I'm behind schedule on Sedona's Twilight Sparkle quilt.  I'm really so happy with how it's turning out though that I think I'm just going to have to have some late sewing nights (gettin' all wild and crazy in my 30s) and get it finished anyway. 

I'm halfway done now.  Here's what it looks like (minus some plain white blocks towards the bottom that are already done):

Those random white squares are just my pinned on tags telling me which block goes where. I can't figure out the best way to join all the blocks yet. Originally I thought I'd sew a whole row together, then join the rows, but now I'm thinking I should do it in quadrants so it's a little easier to match up seams. I have to figure out what thread I'm going to use to quilt it too.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gobble Gobble!

We've had a nice, mostly relaxing Thanksgiving at home this year. I made a lot of progress on the latest quilt, did one last long run before the marathon, got the family budget balanced, bills paid, December grocery shopping done and we've finished most of the Christmas shopping. Plenty of playing card games and reading books together too.

Josh did a lot of kid wrangling and dog training and worked on installing new flooring in our backroom.  This has to be done because we discovered after the flood several weeks ago that not only was the floor still wet from that flood, there were sections that could not have possibly gotten wet from that flood that were wet.  It all had to be torn out, carted outside and concrete cleaned so we could put in something more suitable for the conditions of the room. 

The dark spots on there are just leaves that got tracked in.  There was a small snafu with figuring out which adhesive was going to work best, so it's still a work in progress, but will be done soon.

Ironically, he was installing flooring on a previous thanksgiving too, hopefully this doesn't become tradition.

Before Thanksgiving, I had seen an idea on pinterest to put the kids' handprints on a table runner each year to have as a memento.   I liked the idea and I happened to have yards and yards of a orange and brown plaid I inherited from my grandmother's sewing stash.  I made a runner long enough to cover the table with the leaf in it (and hold many years of kids' and probably grandkids' handprints) and worked on adding the handprints.
I used regular acrylic paint with textile medium mixed in
To get a neater print, I painted the girls' hands rather than having them dip into a puddle of paint
They thought it was super cool
And after watching her sisters, Secora even let me do her hand
There was a little bit of trepidation about the paint part, but she LOVES seeing her handprint on the table
I added the year at the end, and am still debating if I'm going to label the prints with their names or not.  It's pretty easy to tell them apart for now.
While we were doing that, Josh smoked a turkey all morning.  He's been smoking turkey for us for several years now and he does an amazing job of it
I made up all the sides and desserts and we sat down to enjoy dinner, complete with my grandmother's china
The big girls asked for the drumsticks, but Sedona is newly front tooth-less, so she traded her's in for sliced turkey pretty quickly
Sierra stuck with her drumstick, which means I have another picture to add to my list.  Sierra and drumstick at 9:
Sierra and drumstick at 7:
At my father-in-law's urging, I even have Sierra and drumstick at 6 weeks:
Apparently the tryptophan hits pretty quick, she looks dazed in every turkey eating picture I have of her.

All in all it was a great long weekend and now we're gearing up for Christmas and this year's gingerbread house party!!


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