2019 Goals

I always try to start the year with goals but in the past they’ve kind of been all over the place. This year, I’m trying to do something different.

My goal for the year? Self-care.

This means many things to me. I’ll say no when I have to and try (try) not to feel guilty about it. I want to read more. I want/need to drink more water. I’m going to get more running miles in.

The good thing about this all-encompassing goal is that I know that I can do it. Sure, there will be days when I haven’t had enough water. I know that there will be days when I don’t get any miles in on the treadmill or outside. But, tomorrow is a new day! As long as I’m always working toward that goal – I’m succeeding!

What are your goals for 2019?

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Christmas Traditions

Part of having a family is making our own Christmas traditions. Some things have remained the same since Lily was a baby. We visit one side of the family the weekend before Christmas. We visit a second side of the family the weekend after Christmas. But, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just for us.

On Christmas Eve, we snack and snack throughout the day. We watch movies in our jammies. We take a break to make a gingerbread house. (Or this year….a gingerbread volcano.)

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Then, Christmas Eve Mass and driving around to see Christmas lights (this was the Christmas Eve tradition when I was little.)

One of our favorite places to see lights is by walking through Lilacia Park. We’ve actually never gone to this part any other day except for Christmas Eve.

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Then, Christmas Day, we wake up, open presents and hang out all day. Recently, Christmas Day has become our big “special dinner” that Ryan plans and puts together.

Our traditions have changed some throughout the years but the main purpose has remained the same: to build low-stress memories with our girls.

What are your Christmas traditions?

 

Living the Suite Life

So, if you follow my stories on Instagram, you know that we recently went through a huge renovation in our bathroom. Some would call it a “complete gut job.” In fact, that’s exactly what it was. The entire bathroom was gutted – new floors (including new subfloor), new walls, new fixtures, new tile. New everything.

Now, many people do renovations. This is nothing new. But, our house is a one bathroom house. Living without a bathroom was not an option. And, this is during the school year so we couldn’t just travel to the grandparents’ houses and invade for a week or so. (Side note: this was not at all our preferred time of year for a reno….but our rotting/soft subfloor made it necessary to not wait until a later date….).

Our solution? We lived the suite life for a little over two weeks. Yep. We lived in a hotel. So, read on to find out more about our renovation and more about what we learned about doing a renovation with kids….during the school year.


The Renovation – Week 1

It took longer than expected to get the bathroom ready for the renovation, but we cleared out all of the “stuff” from the bathroom on night of Sunday, October 28th. I took this pic before leaving for work on the morning of the 29th.

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Goodbye, bathroom! Demolition began that day while we were at work (and while Ryan was working from home.)

 

 

I was amazed at how quickly demolition happened. Although, it’s hard to see in these pics, we quickly figured out that there were some major issues that would need to be addressed. I felt like I was living an episode of a renovation show on HGTV. Pipes would need to be updated (and installed correctly). Wiring would need to be redone (and installed correctly….and safely). One of the biggest shocks? The possibility that we could’ve actually been shocked – or worse – while taking a shower because there was electrical behind the shower. What?!

Buddy (our cat) was locked in our bedroom with a brand new litter box, her water bowl, and her food. It wasn’t ideal but at least this way she would be safe and away from the construction, if she felt panicked (and I’m sure she did at some point) she would not be able to try to sneak out of the house, and she could stay home.

That night, we moved into our suite in the hotel. The word “suite” makes it sound fancy, but, it was pretty small. We knew we needed two rooms (suite) so that Ryan and I could still be watching tv, working, etc. after we had put the girls to bed.

During this first week in the hotel we had: Halloween, packet-pickup for the Hot Chocolate 5K (Lily’s first 5K), and the 5K.

Some things that we learned during this time:

The most mundane activities can be made fun simply because they are different. Doing laundry at the laundromat? Addy loved it!

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We tried to make the hotel room as home-like as possible. But, of course, that’s not totally possible. It will never feel totally like home. But, when we moved into the hotel, Ryan brought the girls’ trays. At home, we use these trays for homework, coloring books, Legos, snacks, and meals. In the hotel room, they functioned as all of those things and were necessary because we did not have a table in our room.

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Our hotel had a hot breakfast available every morning. We would take advantage of that space during dinner after picking up something from the nearby grocery store. No, we couldn’t really cook anything (we could heat up in the microwave). And there wasn’t much space to store food but it was nice to eat something that felt more like being at home.

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Throughout the renovation, we would try to get home once a day – Ryan would stop by the house every day to see the progress, and to give Buddy some snuggle time with one of her people. The girls and I probably got home every other day.

After the first week in the hotel, we learned the importance of getting out of the room. Ryan would take the girls down to one of the meeting rooms on the bottom floor of the hotel and just let them run around. Very necessary. Very very necessary.

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There is a very fine, fine line between keeping the schedule and routine as normal as possible and acknowledging that nothing is really quite normal and the routine won’t really be routine.


The Renovation – Week 2

During the second week of the renovation, the bathroom started to actually look like the final product. The tile, the tub, the floor – all of that getting installed was such an important step in allowing us to really imagine what our bathroom was going to look like.

However, the bathroom was not ready to use yet. It was beneficial for me, to be able to see the progress and be able to picture in my head how beautiful it was going to be once completed.

During Week 2, it became more and more important to get out of the hotel room whenever possible. None of us were sleeping very well and hadn’t for quite some time. We all missed our own beds, we missed being home, we missed Buddy. (That poor cat was so stressed out with us not being home!)

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So, we would leave to see a movie. We would leave to see Christmas decorations.

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We would leave just to wander around the mall for a bit. It was important to get out, just get out, even if we didn’t really have a reason.


 

The Renovation – Week 3

Luckily, the third week did not last a full week. On Tuesday, we were able to move back home. The bathroom wasn’t completely functional yet (shower and sink weren’t ready) but it had a working toilet!

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The most important part, for me, during these first days of Week 3 was to clean, clean, and clean some more. There was dust, well, everywhere. We all dusted, swept, vacuumed, Swiffered, and did all of that repeatedly. Laundry was done. And more laundry was done.

Finally, on Wednesday, November 14th – the entire renovation was complete!

I can not fully explain in words just how amazing that first shower felt in the new bathroom. I mean…really….words do not exist to fully explain it. But, also the knowledge that this was a safe and clean room in our house that was rebuilt and reinstalled correctly – up to proper standards and safety codes… something that we learned had not been the case when we bought the house…. well, that meant more than anything. There constant mildew and mold in the bathroom? Well, that won’t happen anymore because the venting actually vents! The soft spots in the floor? Well, those are gone and brand new floors (properly installed floors!) took their place.


The Renovation – The Conclusion

Some takeaways…..

  • It was worth it. Definitely worth it.
  • It was stressful. Those days, and the weeks leading up to it, were some of our most stressful. But, we did it.
  • It wasn’t cheap. And seeing those large numbers was a little, well, the numbers made me feel nauseous leading up to the demolition days. But, once it started, I was able to finally really think of these numbers as a true investment. An investment in our house. An investment in our family.
  • Would we do something different about our living arrangement if we were to do it all over again? Honestly, I think that we did the best that we could. It had to happen within the time frame that it did. It would’ve been great to have done it during summer so we could just go on vacation, but, it really was the best option.
  • Would I go through a renovation again? Well, I’m already thinking about a kitchen reno….so there’s that. But, hopefully, it wouldn’t be a situation in which we would be required to do it during a certain time for our own safety. Hopefully, we would be able to leave and stay with family and come back to a new kitchen. lol
  • But, again,  it was worth it. Definitely worth it.

 

Have you done a renovation in your house? What did you do?

It’s Time to Give Back

It’s #GivingTuesday, a day set aside to give to organizations that can use your help. If you don’t regularly give to organizations or haven’t participated in Giving Tuesday before, it can be difficult to narrow down all of the choices.

In the past, I would feel overwhelmed by just how much need there is in the world. I’m only one person, right? But, it’s important to remember that even a small donation can mean a lot and can do a lot of good.

Need some ideas of places to donate to? In the last few years, I’ve tried to give back to organizations that I believe in.

ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union does so much every single day. I believe in this organization so much that we walked with them in this past summer’s Pride Parade. (Which was a whole lot of fun!). Their website is also full of information about what they are currently working on, what your rights are, and you can purchase gifts for others (or for yourself.)

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Amnesty International – Amnesty International works tirelessly around the world to protect human rights. On their site, you can learn more about their important work, you can make donations, and you can learn about opportunities to help by volunteering your time in your own area.

Center for Responsive Politics – On their site – OpenSecrets.org – they work to “follow the money.” There is a lot of talk about campaign donations, dark money, and how money affects our political landscape. Center for Responsive Politics follows the money so that we can be informed about what is truly going on.

Committee to Protect Journalists – Journalism is vital. Facts are important. And CPJ works to protect those journalists as they do their jobs.

International Rescue Committee – Around the world, families have been torn apart by violence, war, and natural disasters. The IRC works to protect these families in need.

Sierra Club – Sierra Club works to protect the great outdoors and preserve it for generations to come. Their website lists lots of different ways to donate or help in other ways. There are several topics that Sierra Club is taking action on, that you can easily help out with by writing your congressperson. Also, if you become a member, you can get a super useful bag. 🙂

Southern Poverty Law Center – SPLC works to fight hate across America. On their site, you can find more specific information about the causes that they are fighting for. And, of course, make a donation.

And…..

Even though the Walk to End Alzheimer’s already happened this year, you can still donate to my fundraising efforts by clicking here! The Walk is over for the year, but the fundraising continues. Together, we can End Alzheimer’s.

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Holiday Bucket List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s that time of year once again when I put up with the weather because the holidays are just so much fun!

There are many activities that we do every year around this time of year. (It’s a little crazy to think that it’s holiday time once again!) As with our fall bucket list, there are some things on the list that we’ve already done – or will be doing very very soon. So check out the list! There might be some things that you can do along with us!

Some of our favorites:

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Illuminate 900  – This one we actually did Thursday night. We rarely ever go to the 900 North Michigan Avenue shops, mostly because we just never shop that far on Michigan. But, this is a great way to kick off holiday celebrations. It’s free! But, you can add a donation to Make-a-Wish. This year, I got the free wristbands for the girls and I paid for an upgrade wristband for myself. Cookie decorating. Christmas decorations. Music. Dancing. Santa. Yes, it’s a school night, but it’s a lot of fun.

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Mag Mile Lights Festival – This one we will be doing today! This is definitely one of my favorite Christmas activities. Christmas lights. Shopping. Santa. And Disney! When I worked on Michigan Avenue, this was a stressful day to be at work. But, now, I love it! lol

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Holiday Magic –  One of our favorite Brookfield Zoo activities is seeing the decorations and lights throughout the zoo. The lights are beautiful and there are special holiday activities throughout the zoo.

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Look at Christmas decorations – We pretty much do this one all season long. I love wandering through downtown Chicago and looking at decorations, store windows, Christmas trees. There is just so much to see! Plus, after attending Mass on Christmas Eve, we drive around our town and look at decorations. This is a tradition that began when I was a kid and now my own girls look forward to going for a drive after Mass to see the lights.

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Go to Christkindlmarket – Each year, we’ve gone to the downtown Chicago location. This year, my goal is to check out the Naperville location and maybe even hit up the Milwaukee location!

Visit with Santa – Well, we’ve sort of done this. We’ve seen Santa a couple times now but haven’t had the “sit down and tell me what you want for Christmas” conversation with him yet. We did, however, write down lists and mail them off so I think that we have this task completed.

Drink egg nog – Oh, how I love egg nog. And I love to drink egg nog out of my Santa mug or one of my many holiday glasses. This will be happening. Probably several times.

Sit by the fireplace – One of my favorite things in our house is the fireplace. We weren’t able to use it during our first winter in the house because the chimney needed to have some, um, safety problems fixed first. Now, however, it’s fixed, works well, and is just so nice to sit near.

Now, I want to know….what’s on your list of must-do holiday activities?

 

Fall Bucket List

Although summer is my favorite time of year, there are so many fun activities to do during the fall. Most of these things we have already done. One will hopefully be done in the next couple weeks……before all of the leaves fall off of the trees.

Our Fall Bucket List:

Scarecrow Fest  – We love this fest! I previously wrote about Scarecrow Fest and how we celebrate it in a blog post that you can find here. Scarecrows. Pumpkins. Food. Carnival rides. And a yearly staycation at a resort? Yes, please!

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Apple picking – There are so many great orchards in the Chicago suburbs. We’ve been to several different ones. But, our favorite place for apple picking is Jonamac Orchard. This orchard has lots of activities in the farm, great apple picking, and a cider house – with tastings of their ciders and wines!

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Pumpkin picking – Just like apple picking, there are several fun pumpkin patches to check out in the Chicago suburbs. However, just like with the apple orchards, we have a favorite pumpkin farm. We love________.

Boo at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo – This is a yearly must-do for us. Our family membership at Brookfield Zoo was one of the first things that we purchased after we moved to the suburbs. And for a family of four, a membership is a great deal. It basically pays for itself after just a few trips. Boo at the Zoo has trick-or-treating, pumpkin smashing, lots of fun decor, and many fall-themed animal encounters.

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Go on a walk/hike in the woods – This one we haven’t done yet. We’ve had something every single weekend and most evenings. And, our bathroom renovation (which I’ll be blogging about soon) is altering our regular schedule in a huge way. But, we all love hitting the trails in the Forest Preserves.  There are so many great trails and the forest preserves are free. Stay tuned for some upcoming hiking.

 

 

So now I want to know, what’s on your fall bucket list? What do you try to do every fall?

A Scarecrow Filled Staycation

I am a big fan of using Groupon to find deals on places to eat, things to do, places to stay – essentially everything. We’ve lucked out that there has been a Groupon two years in a row during a staycation weekend for us. Every year, St. Charles hosts a Scarecrow Fest. We’ve gone every year since we moved into our house but last year we changed it up a bit by staying overnight and we returned to that same resort this year as well.

That resort? Pheasant Run Resort.

After we checked out of the hotel, both Ryan and I recognized that we just didn’t have a lot of time to really explore the resort itself. We spent a lot of time in downtown St. Charles at Scarecrow Fest, which honestly is the point of this staycation weekend, however we both acknowledged that there were enough activities in the resort itself that you could stay busy for a weekend. Perhaps this is something that we will look into during another weekend?

The Room

This year, we had an accessible room. That meant more space in the aisles and a much more spacious bathroom. I’m guessing that this won’t happen again but last year’s room was just fine. The beds are cozy and the bathroom is nice.

Side note: I’m guessing that the reason that we were given one of the accessible rooms is because the resort was packed during this weekend! There were several wedding groups throughout the hotel. And, members of the Doberman Club of America were also staying at the resort. There were so many dogs. !!!!!!

The Pools

There are two pools. One is an indoor/outdoor combination pool. We did not venture into that one this year. Last year, I got out of the pool because the indoor pool is just too cold (because it is actually attached to the outdoor pool, you can swim from one to the other). So, this year, we only went to the indoor-only pool. It was a bit funny to hear from other families as they joined us in the pool as they commented about how much warmer the indoor pool was.

When you check in, each member of your party gets a bracelet that gives you access to the pools. I’m guessing that the indoor/outdoor pool may be in high demand during the summer….but at not time were our wristbands checked by anyone at the pool.

There is a hot tub in the same area as the indoor pool which I was looking forward to using on the day that we checked out. However, that morning, the hot tub was filled with bubbles. Absolutely filled with bubbles. The woman that replenished the pool towels saw the water and quickly called for service. Yep. Those bubbles are not supposed to be there. Did someone add something? No idea. But, yea…no hot tub for me.

The Gym Facility

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The workout facility is really nice for a hotel gym. There are multiples of each machine. When I went down to the gym, there were four other people working on and no one had to wait for the machine that they wanted. Treadmills, ellipticals, steppers, stationery bikes, and several weight machines and some free weights. Lots of options and, when I was there, enough machines so there was absolutely no wait.

The Food

This time, since we were not in the resort itself for very long, we did not eat in any of the food options. However, there are restaurants, bars, and room service is also available. We ate most of our meals downtown St. Charles.

And, of course, we had my favorite snack: “Chewy Chips Ahoy in a hotel bed while watching Food Network.”

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The main reason to go, of course, is Scarecrow Festival.

The Festival

This is one of our favorite fall activities. The scarecrows are very cool to see, there’s a craft fair (which we did not get to at all this year but has been lots of fun in the past), you can make your own scarecrow, there is lots of food in the festival and, of course, lots of restaurants in St. Charles. There are lots of carnival rides, which the girls love. All in all, it’s a great weekend and a great way to kick start fall.