Elijah: Two Years

Everyone told us that time would go faster with each child, and everyone was right. On May 18, our Elijah turned two.

We call Elijah our happy-to-be-here kid. He really is just happy to be here. Happy to be included. Happy. Mostly.

When he turned one, he was referred to the birth-to-three program because he was quite behind in gross motor skills. Like, he had the ability of a six-month-old when he turned one. For a minute I was like, “Is this a muscle thing?? Should I be worried?” And then the physical therapist came and evaluated him and was like, “Oh, he’s just lazy.” Right after he turned 18 months old, almost exactly a month before I had Ellen, Elijah started walking. And after that, his personality exploded.

Elijah loves making us laugh. He also happens to have the BEST laugh. It’s super infectious, and the more we laugh, the more he laughs, and it’s just the best cycle in the world. Our own in-house comedian, he dramatically falls to the ground, pretends to be hiding in plain sight and will say or do just about anything to get a chuckle out of his biggest fans. He has a goofy smile thanks to his beloved Nukie and honestly, I can’t get enough of it.

Elijah adores Daniel. He will do just about anything Daniel does – good and bad. If Daniel claims he is done with his meal, Elijah immediately puts down his fork or whatever he has in his hand and is done too. Never mind that when he gets up from his chair, he often stands at the table grabbing whatever is still in reach on his plate and eating a few more bites. Elijah went right from his high chair to the regular kitchen chair; Daniel didn’t use a booster seat and neither would he. Never mind that his chin barely cleared the table. The two have become the best of friends, and it is so much fun watching them play. Elijah wants Daniel to help him take off his shoes, wants to hold Daniel’s hand in the parking lot and always needs to give Daniel a hug and a kiss goodnight. Whenever I see my boys helping each other, playing together or wanting to cuddle on the couch, my heart simply melts.

Elijah is an instigator. When they really started to play together and I would hear Elijah crying, I would immediately put the blame on Daniel; he’s older and should know better. Then, I witnessed what was happening and wouldn’t you know it – ELIJAH was the problem. When the boys rough-house, Elijah is always the one to start it, chasing Daniel around saying, “Push me! Push me!” Inevitably, Elijah is always the first one to start whining or complain of an injustice. And do you know what? Daniel doesn’t even really DO anything to Elijah. So I separate the brothers only to hear Elijah yelling, “Push me!” ten minutes later to start it all up again.

Elijah is close to fearless. He climbs, jumps and takes risks that Daniel still doesn’t. Because of this, Elijah always has bumps and bruises, often times on his face. But the tumbles and falls don’t deter him like I want them to. All ailments are better with a kiss, and I never want that to end. When the tears are done, he’s right back at it and we’re often left wondering when the next inevitable fall with come.

Elijah is a mama’s boy. I was so nervous to bring Ellen home from the hospital. On our car ride to begin our lives as a family of five, I told Peter I had a nervous stomach, not because we were bringing home a new baby, but because I didn’t know how my bubby bear would react. He was always on my lap, by my side, wanting mama to cut up his dinner, read him books or fix the hurt. And now a baby sister was going to impose on that. I shouldn’t have been so worried. Elijah cherished Ellen from the moment he set his eyes on her. Even six months later, he can’t get enough of the baby, and I can’t get enough of watching him loving her.

Elijah loves singing and dancing. He grabs the play guitar and strums along to any music that is playing. He insists we listen to “Moana Maui” every time we get into the car. I’m his personal jukebox, singing songs on demand so he can dance along. If I don’t know what song he’s asking for it is a BIG DEAL, and I always end up listing every song I know until I stumble upon the right one. He performs for others and is starting to love the spotlight.

Our Elijah is the perfect middle child, often the breath of fresh air we need when struggling with an emotional four-year-old or trying to soothe a fussy six-month old. Always up for a cuddle and a kiss, always ready to celebrate anyone’s excitement, always the life of the party.

Our Elijah is two.

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Daniel is FOUR

Every year on Daniel’s birthday, I feel like I spend the day fighting back tears. I incessantly beg time to slow down, so I can savor one more minute of him at this age. Daniel is growing up, and I cannot accept it.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I wrote about how I was pregnant with a baby and was dumping perfectly good wine down the sink to hide my pregnancy? I SWEAR that it was only two days ago when Daniel was clomping down the hallway in new shoes, just learning how to walk. And wasn’t it only last week that I was crying about him moving out of the crib and into his big boy room? How, how, HOW is it possible that I am the parent of a four year old??

Daniel is smart. He loves books and learning and will spout out the most random facts any chance he gets. He remembers every detail of what I think are very trivial, unimportant things, but he thinks are very important and not to be ignored or passed over.

Daniel is imaginative. The last few months have been amazing for Daniel’s imagination. At the beginning of the school year, Daniel was the kid who said, when other kids were crawling around on the floor saying they were dogs, “But you’re not a dog, you’re a kid.”😑 But now he pretends plastic golf clubs are Maui’s hook, tells me Elijah went out the window when he is in fact under the blanket still in his crib and uses a wrapping paper tube to row his boat down the hallway.

Daniel thrives on routine. Before bed every night we talk about what we will do in the morning. If in the morning we deviate from the plan it is a big disaster. We tell him what to expect when we go places, and when we’ve finished one activity he announces what is next on our agenda. He often asks for the plan, and we do our best to give it to him. We work on talking through unexpected schedule changes and staying calm instead of acting out.

Daniel is a sass mouth. He has to have the last word; he goes from zero to one hundred; and he can scream with the best of them. I have no idea where he gets this. None.

Daniel is loving. He often will look up from what he’s doing to tell Peter and I that he loves us, and he is always, always up for a biiiiiiiiiig kiss, hug or snuggle. He loves cuddling on the couch exclaiming, “Let’s get cozy!” and bringing a blanket over. He will still crawl in our bed when he’s up before our alarms go off in the morning. He wants to hold our hands as we walk him into school.

Daniel LOVES Elijah. He wants to wake Elijah up in the morning so they can play. He wants to sit by Elijah at the little table to eat a snack and always wants Elijah to follow him. He tells Elijah what to do, and like the good brother he is, Elijah always does it. Daniel is incredibly affected when Elijah goes into timeout, much more so than when he himself has to go in timeout. When Elijah when into his first timeout, Daniel sat at the kitchen table sobbing with real tears, “You can’t do that to my brother! My brother can’t sit in time out!” He is starting to be lost without his brother by his side.

Daniel loves movies and music. He can reenact entire scenes after he sees something one time. If he ever starts talking and it doesn’t make any sense, we just need to ask “Where is that from?” and we know he’s quoting a movie. He will often assign everyone a character and for days only call or refer to us by our assignment, getting upset when we forget and, God forbid, call him Daniel instead of Captain Hook. He sings along to songs in the car and will often correct us if we sing the wrong lyric at the wrong part.

Daniel likes having choices. In the mornings he chooses each item clothing – dark jeans or light? Star Wars shirt or striped? Shark or Mickey Mouse undies? He likes to know what his options are, weigh them out and then make a decision. Yogurt or applesauce with dinner? Fan on or off when he goes to sleep? Sheet or no sheet on his bed? His life runs much more smoothly when he has a say in how it goes.

Daniel is independent. He would often rather read a book or play with animals by himself than join the larger group of friends. This aspect of his personality has been a challenge for me. As a very social extrovert, who will almost always choose to be with someone else rather than alone, I worried. Was Daniel making friends? Did kids not like him? Was he lonesome and sad? Yes he was making friends; yes kids liked him and no, no he was not lonesome and sad. It took a long time, and I’m still working on this, to realize that alone does not mean lonely.

Daniel adores his dad. He has always been more of a daddy’s boy than a mama’s boy. He runs to the door when Peter gets home from work, ready to greet him and tell him something important. I bribe him to let me spray down his hair by telling him, “But don’t you want to be handsome like Daddy?” He prefers Peter dropping him off at school or the babysitter’s and just loves when he gets to go to the store with just Dad.

People have often asked me what my favorite age is with my kids. To be totally honest, I like them all, for very different reasons. This age has been a challenge, with Daniel bordering on the line between being a kid and being a toddler, pushing limits far past where I’d like him to. Confidently know what he likes and what he doesn’t, what he wants to do and what he’d like to skip.

But on the other hand, this age is so much fun. We can have a conversation and make jokes and be silly. He is proud of himself when he does something great. He is confident in his choices. He always ends the day with a hug and a kiss and an “I love you,” even if he is upset.

I could not be more proud or more in awe of the person our Daniel is becoming.

Our Daniel is four.

Romenesko Christmas Letter (2018)

Hi! If you’re here for the 2018 Christmas letter, please accept my sincere apologies because I had EVERY INTENTION OF WRITING IT. I was CERTAIN that if I put my blog address on the back of the card that I would write my yearly roundup. In the past when I did that, it worked! But my cards were sent out riiiiiiiiight before Christmas… 

And I had to sent the cards out earlier this year because I put “Baby R3” on there, and I didn’t want people to get the card AFTER the baby arrived and not have the baby’s name on it and have R3 on it. Because that is not going to be the baby’s name. 

Ok, so basically, at this moment, I am nine months pregnant and care more about making sure my house is clean and picked up so I’m calm (“calm”) when I go into labor than writing about our year.

BUT I SINCERELY HAVE EVERY INTENTION OF WRITING THIS LETTER BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR. I’m just hoping to do it when a little cuddly wuddly, snuggly wuggly, baby waby laying on my chest when I’m writing instead of being uncomfortable because the baby is kicking at my ribs, I have to pee every time I stand up and I have heartburn LIKE NO OTHER. 

A Sugar-Addict’s Tale of the Whole30

Well. I did the Whole30. I did it for a few reasons. I’m addicted to sugar, namely, and I also thought it would be a good idea to you know, be more responsible about my eating habits. After talking about how I was going to do it for a few weeks, I was like “OK! Setting a start date!” And January 29 it was.

I only had one intentional cheat, and honestly, I don’t even really count this as a cheat. If I was going to cheat, I was going to CHEAT.

I made Lobster Mac and Cheese for a party we had. I had never made the recipe before, so had a taste of the cheese sauce because you just never know if it’s going to be flavorful enough. Homemade mac and cheese can go south reeeeeeal quick.

One of the questions I’ve gotten most since completing the Whole30 is: What did you miss the most while you were on Whole30?

EASY. COFFEE CREAMER.

Anyways, I have a lot of thoughts, and after writing and deleting a lot of times, I just decided to do a list. Here goes; it’s a long one!

1. HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER.
I am what Gretchen Rubin defines as “an obliger,” meaning, in the simplest terms, that I meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations I impose on myself. Hence, my need of an accountability partner. My sister Taylor and I decided to embark on the journey together. She was my number one person in this whole thing – the person I called when I was feeling weak; the person I called when I was really proud of myself. Taylor and I meal planned together. We live 2.5 hours apart, so we created the same menu and grocery list so that we knew what each other was planning to eat during the week. This was WAY more helpful than I thought it would be! And it made it more fun, too.

Tay and I ended up seeing each other more over the 30 days of the Whole30 than we have in the last like, three years. When we were together, we grocery shopped together and meal prepped together. Again, made it SO MUCH more fun and just like… Man, we felt accomplished.

Because I know myself well, I also figured that my like 400-ish Instagram followers would also be good accountability partners. I am nothing if not weak, so I was like “I CANNOT LET THESE PEOPLE THINK I’M WEAK.” So I started doing Instagram stories of every meal I made. I missed some, but got most! Thanks to all who cheered me on. It really, REALLY helped!!!!

W30 Breakfast
The majority of my Whole30 breakfasts. Lots and lots of scrambled eggs.

2. MEAL PREP LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
Man, meal prep. MEAL PREP was KEY to my success on Whole30. I managed my time better on the Whole30 than I ever have in my life. I had a solid three meals per day, and they were (mostly) delicious. There were a few duds. Like, REAL duds. Like, I kind of cried and ended up throwing the food away. Lucky for me, I seemed to have other food prepped when times got rough.

W30 Lunch
Lunch was generally my favorite meal because I only packed the things I knew I liked.

3. HAVE A ROOMMATE THAT SUPPORTS YOU.
So, Pete didn’t do the Whole30 with me, but he was very, very supportive. Like, one day, he had a Diet Coke open on the counter and I said, “Ok, I’m really sorry to be this way, but can you please get that away from me because I’m VERY tempted to take a drink.” And he didn’t huff or puff. He just said, “Sure thing!” He also tried a lot of new foods and never complained. Not even when the food was kind of gross. He also didn’t complain about me being like, “Sorry you can’t have frozen pizza because I’M FEELING WEAK.” And he shrugged and said, “OK!” I mean, if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

W30 dinner
Dinner. The least photographed meal because, you know, #familytime.

4. CELEBRATE WINS, AND DON’T GET DEPRESSED WHEN YOU FEEL WEAK.
So, when I had a good day where I wasn’t wanting to dump sugar down my throat or binge on Twizzlers, I was openly proud of myself. I would go to bed and tell Pete, “I was so mentally healthy today!” On days where I was very crabby or just felt WEAK, at the end of the day I ended up celebrating because I didn’t give in to my cravings or weaknesses and was very proud of myself. It was really easy to sink into a hole and wallow in my sadness. And then it was easier to sink DEEPER into the hole and think about how sad it was that so much of my mood depended on FOOD. Anyways, this sounds very depressing and sad, but I didn’t have that many moments like this, especially when I changed my mindset.

5. DON’T TRY TOO MANY “NEW” MEALS IN ONE WEEK.
I think Taylor and I did a really good job of not being overly ambitious each week with new meals to try. A few of the meals were some family favorites in our house that I was able to make minor adjustments to so they were Whole30 compliant. That was nice because I already knew that I liked the recipe. At the bottom of the post, I’ll link our favorite recipes.

6. TRY TO NOT HOST A PARTY WHEN YOU’RE ON WHOLE30. IT WILL BE DEPRESSING.
So I had two work trips planned at the beginning of the year that dictated when I would do the Whole30. I had NEGATIVE desire to be on Whole30 while traveling for work. Unfortunately, after I had committed to my start date, we all of a sudden had a weekend-o-fun scheduled. Like. Dinner at a supper club with friends on day five, hosting a party for Pete’s team from work on day six, and having a couple of friends over for the Superbowl on day seven. Yeah, it was hard. BUT it helped being so open about that fact that I was doing the Whole30 because then people weren’t like “Seriously! These cheese curds are SO GOOD! Just HAVE ONE!!” It was really hard getting a piece of cake for Pete’s birthday at our dinner with friends and not having a bite. BUT I DIDN’T GIVE IN TO MY CRAVINGS.

IMG_1756

7. HAVE AMAZING COWORKERS THAT SUPPORT YOU.
Guys, we need to give a big hug to my coworkers J and A who fully supported my Whole30 journey. In solidarity, they didn’t re-fill the candy drawer at work with Twizzlers. When I was crabby because I was craving sugar, they were SO NICE about it and not like, “OMG SARA EAT A PIECE OF CANDY, PLEASE.” For example, the day after the Superbowl, J said, “Let’s all share the best thing we ate on Superbowl Sunday!!” I responded, “No, sorry, but we can’t have this conversation. I’m feeling really weak and can’t listen to what you guys ate.” And I was not very nice when I said it. J and A just said, “Ok! No problem!” And we moved on. They are the true rockstars here.

THE RESULTS
Firstly, and in my opinion most importantly, I am SO PROUD of myself for actually completing the Whole30. It was such a challenge! There is sugar in EVERYTHING, and I wanted to put cheese on EVERYTHING, and I wanted to eat yogurt in the mornings and have a Twizzler snack in the afternoon. And the coffee creamer. THE CREAMER. MY VICE. Almond/coconut creamer just isn’t the same. About a half cup of the stuff leaves coffee one shade lighter than black, and I like my coffee light-khaki colored.

People told me that after Whole30, I wouldn’t even LIKE coffee creamer. Well. Let me tell you what. The first time I put delicious peppermint mocha creamer in my coffee after Whole30, it was amazing. In fact, to steal from Jen Hatmaker, it tasted like unabridged joy and fulfilled dreams.

Ok, ok, moving on. The Whole30 really DID make me think about my food choices in a different way. Day two was the worst with my sugar withdrawal. Around day 14/15 I felt like I had been doing Whole30 forever and day 31 would never come. The second half was easier than the first half because I had gotten into a groove and was confident in my choices. I never had the surge of “tiger blood” that they describe, it was more of a slow moving thing for me, but it came either way.

I do have to admit, though, (kind of ashamedly) that I fell totally off the wagon after I was done. I went on a trip for work on day 31, and I had two desserts a day, plus a mocha WITH whip. Every day. And it was sad (but delicious). But now I’m working on my food freedom and will hopefully find it soon! I’m a work in progress here, people.

Now, the physical results.

First, the Whole30 is NOT a weight loss program, although many of the people who go through the program do see a nicer number on the scale when they’re done.

I lost ten pounds in the 30 days, three-and-a-half-inches around my waist, one-and-a-half-inches around my bust and one inch around my hips. This was amazing. I also noticed that my hair and nails were like pregnancy hair and nails AKA AMAZING. I didn’t notice a difference in my skin until after I completed the Whole30… As soon as I started eating crap, I got three zits 😑

In summary: I would do the Whole30 again, especially after the holidays or when I just feel like my body needs a reset. In the future, I’ll have better plans for the post-Whole30 days that don’t include traveling for work.

If you are thinking about doing the Whole30 and want more info/thoughts, feel free to reach out to me! Or if it’s in the future and you’re looking for an accountability partner, DEFINITELY reach out. Depending on what’s going on in my life, I might just go ahead and say YES let’s do it together!!

Here’s to everyone’s journeys!

PS: Favorite meals were…
Beef Cauliflower Fried Rice
Shrimp and Sausage Skillet
One Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas
These easy-peasy chicken drumsticks

If you’re starting the Whole30 journey, let me know and I can scrounge up my meal plans for you! And make any recommendations about what I would change about the meal plans I had.

Romenesko Christmas Letter (2017)

2017 has been another one for the books in the Romenesko house. I feel like the fact that I have posted only a handful of blogs all year is an indication of how hectic our lives have been, but (most of the time) we wouldn’t have it any other way. So here is a year’s worth of blog posts in one! As I always do, I’m vowing to stay more up-to-date in the blogosphere in 2018. I love looking back on the random posts I’ve written, and know that in five years I’ll be like “So, what did we actually do in 2016 and 2017? Nothing? Ok!” And then I’ll be like “OH YEAH we had Elijah in 2017!”

😂

January was a really exciting month because we had our 20-week ultrasound where we found out that we were having another baby BOY. Pete was nervous about me finding out the gender of the baby because girls rule and boys drool… because I really wanted a girl. I had convinced myself that if we were having another boy it would actually be amazing because HI I’M FORCING THEM TO BE BEST FRIENDS and because two boys born in the same month = all clothes will be same size/same season. It was very obvious that the baby was a boy, and we were thrilled that Daniel would have a little brother. Peter was thrilled that we wouldn’t go broke because I would be buying pink EVERYTHING. Win-win amIright?
January
February. I legit can’t remember what happened in February except that Peter had a birthday, but I can’t even remember if I gave him a gift or if we celebrated. For some reason I think that Peter was traveling in Mexico on his birthday, but that might have been a few years ago… [Confirmed: this was the case in 2015. Although, he did go to Mexico in February of this year – just not on his birthday.]
February
March. Also drawing a blank. Let’s see. March. Yeah. Those 31 days are completely gone from my brain. Also seem to be completely gone from my phone because there aren’t many pictures in March of our family, ha!
March
On April 15, the travel ban I enacted on Peter went into place. After he got back from India just days before Daniel was born, I was not about to have that happen with the second baby. I made sure anyone who would listen knew that Peter was not allowed to travel after April 15, and you’re not even going to believe me when I tell you all my hollering finally worked for something! Ha! In April, we also moved Daniel to his big boy room so he basically is like, one step away from moving out of the house, and I was (and clearly still am) feeling a lot of emotions about him being in a big-boy bed.
April
May was a very eventful month for a few reasons. On the 7th, Daniel turned two. TWO. I cried a little bit on his birthday because this little boy who is so full of energy and love is growing up and frankly, I’m just not ready for it. We celebrated by spending the day at the zoo and just making sure we loved on him as much as we possibly could/he would let us. It was such a gorgeous day. For his birthday, we got him a kitchen set, and it’s a big hit. He still plays with it every day.

The day after his birthday, I was like “OK BABY, COME ON OUT ANYTIME NOW.” This was also the time Daniel walked around with a hornet’s nest in his hand saying “Look Mommy, bees!” That didn’t send me into labor, so I knew the baby was not going to come by himself.

And then I was walking around 5 cm dilated for like 3 days before I got induced and Elijah was born. I’m still amazed at how perfectly he fit into our little family. Like a good mom, my first words to him were “Oh my gosh, he looks just like Daniel!” And you know what? He STILL looks just like Daniel, so at least I was accurate.
May
June was a very splendid month for a variety of reasons. One being hello baby snuggles galore and another is that it was my BIRTHDAY and a BIG BIRTHDAY at that. I turned 30 and was shockingly unaffected by the number. It probably had to do with exhaustion, but who am I to say?

Pete had a big surprise in store for me and had gathered our families and some of our closest friends in Lake Geneva at my parents’ house for a wonderful surprise party. Some of our favorite friends from Shawano made the trek down, and my darling friend Brenda drove over from Michigan and I cried and it was SO WONDERFUL. As I’m typing this, I’m like “Why didn’t I write a blog post about this??” 🙄

Also in June was Peter’s first trip post Elijah, and I was like, “Well, I’m not equipped to be at home by myself for a week with these two hooligans” when Elijah was only 5 weeks old, so we stayed at my parents and it was wonderful.

Anyways, one of my favorite pictures of me and the boys was taken the morning of my actual birthday. I have bags under my eyes and my crow’s feet are out in full force. I remember just being so tired. So, so tired. Daniel came downstairs and wanted to cuddle with me, so we scootched over and all snuggled in the wee hours of the morning. As I’m looking at this picture almost 6 months later, all I’m thinking is about how happy my heart is in this very moment.
June
Ok, in July Marty got married and it was so wonderful and beautiful and I get all warm and fuzzy thinking about the day! I also get really sweaty because it was about 100 degrees outside and I had two kids hanging all over me, but the day wasn’t about me, so whatever. I also need to draw attention to this magical dress that I had that DIDN’T SHOW SWEAT. I mean. Talk about miracles.
July
In August Pete went on another trip, and I stayed at home with the boys by myself. We all survived. Pete, on the other hand, was preparing to NOT survive. Pete, his dad, his uncles and his cousins went to Isle Royale, a national park in Lake Superior. Fortunately, he survived. It must have been because he was so prepared. Anyways, the REALLY big news is that I went back to work and had all sorts of emotions. I kind of feel like we’re still adjusting, but I mean, aren’t we always??
August
We celebrated September with a trip to the Walworth County Fair where Elijah slept a lot in the stroller (rookie) and Daniel was in heaven being able to see animals and tractors and he also got yelled at a lot because he wanted to walk around by himself. Two year olds are always sunshine and rainbows and you never want to like, leave them somewhere “by accident.” Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. At the end of the month I went on a sister/mom trip to Vegas to celebrate my youngest sister Rachel’s 21st birthday. I bought a 100-ounce thing of piña colada and some other delicious rum drink and you guys, I made more friends in the eleven minutes it took to get back to the hotel room than I have in the last two years. It was amazing. Oh, we also saw J Lo and I didn’t know what my life was missing until I saw her in concert. Amazing.
September
In October Elijah got baptized. Peter was in charge of putting his baptismal gown on when I went to find the priest, and when I came back, Pete had put it on OVER his not-cute outfit, so Elijah was really sweaty (poor kid got that from me), and I had to keep shoving his sleeves up so they didn’t show in the pictures. It was great. We also took the kids trick or treating for the first time, and I DIED because Daniel was SO ADORABLE going up to the houses. It was a big meltdown when costumes had to come off, so I hid Daniel’s costume that night and we haven’t had any problems since. We also hid the candy right when we got home, so Daniel actually hasn’t even had one piece, but somehow there’s none left.

OctoberI can’t really remember November and it was only a couple of weeks ago, but I think it was pretty great because we were so close to Christmas and it also went by SO FAST.
November
And now we’re in December and I’m really confused as to how this year is already only weeks away from being over. We are in this incredible season of life where we’re constantly exhausted, there are always toys scattered on the floor and laundry in the dryer, but I can honestly, honestly say that I’ve never felt more complete and just… full. My heart and my soul. (And at this moment, my stomach.) I can’t imagine this life any differently, although I could stand for less timeouts. But I will say that for every timeout that Daniel has, there are about a billion hugs and kisses, so it all works out in the end.

December
I recognize that there are more pictures of Elijah than Daniel in this collage. However. Daniel is at a stage where he doesn’t like his photo taken. So there’s that.

As we reflect on the last year, we want to wish all of our friends and family the merriest Christmas season. We hope you are finding the good in each day, and go to bed each night feeling fulfilled.

Wishing you many Christmas blessings during this wonderful time of year –

Sara, Peter, Daniel + Elijah

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 8.54.26 PM

PS: Read our past letters here – our lives have changed a lot! But you can’t read about 2016 because I didn’t write about it and I still regret it.

2015 Christmas Letter
2014 Christmas Letter
2013 Christmas Letter
2012 Christmas Letter

PS again: I feel the need to point out that all of the photos came from my collection and not Peter’s because I did this post when he was traveling, and I just didn’t have the patience to ask him to sift through all of his photos. So that’s why there are more pictures of me and the kids vs. him and the kids.

Ok done now, go celebrate the season and be filled with Christmas joy and cheer!!

12 Days of Christmas Gifts: Friend Edition (2016)

Guys. I had the most brilliant idea way back in AUGUST 2016. I can’t even remember what I was doing, but I was putzing around on Pinterest, and an idea popped into my brain and I felt like I was in a movie and a lightbulb turned on above my head.

I decided that I was going to do the 12 Days of Christmas Gifts for one of my closest, dearest friends BRENDA. I’ve talked about her before on the ol’ bloggy blog, like the time we drove over a cliff, and the time she was wonderful and came to help me paint the basement, and I know there are other times that I’m just not thinking of.

Brenda moved back to her home state of Michigan a few days after Daniel was born. We were both so happy that she was able to meet him before she moved back – I was devastated at only the THOUGHT that she wouldn’t be able to meet him for months and months.

Anyways, Brenda is one of the most wonderful people on this earth, and I was like “OMG this would be SO FUN to do.” So. I did it! Also, it’s REALLY hard keeping the 12 days a surprise for Peter every year. I WAS DYING THIS YEAR not being able to tell Brenda that I was doing this. It’s a good thing she lives so far away, otherwise I totally would have spilled the beans. Also, when Brenda did get her gifts I was like, “This is why I’ve been avoiding your calls, because I wasn’t sure I would be able to contain my excitement.”

Doing a friend edition was amazing you guys, especially when you know the person getting it will be SO surprised! I worked with a couple of little elves to make this come to life. The ONLY thing that almost foiled the entire thing was FedEx. Pro tip: Don’t use FedEx.

In the early days of December I went to a shipping place to figure out what day I should ship everything to Brenda so that the package would arrive on day one. I was anxious – such an important part of the 12 days, and I couldn’t control it! I went with FedEx because they guaranteed the arrival date. Perfect.

ALL DAY on December 14 I was checking the tracking obsessively and waiting for a call or text from Brenda saying she got her gift. I told her sister (Her poor sister was probably to the point of being like “Leave me the eff alone.”) that it was supposed to arrive. And then, it didn’t. And I was SO SAD. Like, actually got teared up.

So the next day towards the end of the day when it didn’t arrive AGAIN, I texted Brenda and was like “Sooooo… you need to really look all over because there should be a Christmas package for you…” And that made me sad because I wanted it to be a complete surprise.

I called FedEx and was like YOU ARE RUINING CHRISTMAS. (Ok, I wasn’t aggressive aggressive as I like to call it, but I was DEFINITELY not passive aggressive.) Anyways, after being transferred to a bunch of different people, I finally had to text Brenda and be like “They left the package on your back porch.” And she was like, “WTF FedEx NEVER leaves packages on the back porch.”

At least there is a happy ending, and Brenda got her package on day two, so it actually turned out ok. AND IT WAS SO FUN GETTING A TEXT FROM HER EVERY DAY WITH WHAT SHE OPENED. I felt like it was Christmas every day for me, too!!

Since I wanted to mail everything to Brenda and have it all pretty and stuff, I was SUPER good about photo shoots (unlike Peter’s 12 days…). Ugh, it turned out sooooo pretty and sooooo perfect!!!

All

Day 1 (December 14)
🎄
Christmas decoration
Day 1
Merry Christmas, Brenda!
It’s the best time of year!
12 Days of Gifts
To fill you with cheer!

I’ve been so excited
Planning this for you;
I even had some elves
Helping me too!

For the first day of Christmas,
One Christmas decoration.
Enjoy the rest of your gifts –
Eleven more days of celebration!

Day 2 (December 15)
🎄🎁
Nail polish
Day 2
“Mistle”toes on two feet
Give your little tootsies a treat!

Day 3 (December 16)
🎄🎁🎄

Christmas cookies in a jar
Day 3
Christmas cookies
OMG SO YUMMY
Add three ingredients
And GET IN MY TUMMY.

This one was super fun to put together, especially if you’re looking for a pretty and easy gift to give someone. I feel like it would be a great housewarming gift around the holidays. I had seen these things all over Pinterest, and after making it, I will definitely be making them again!

I had to send Brenda the picture of what this was supposed to look like, because THIS is what it looked like when she actually got it. So sad, right??
Picture1

Day 4 (December 17)
🎄🎁🎄🎁

A magnet from Shawano
Day 4
I’m so thankful for your time in Shawano!
Those four years introduced me to the greatest person I know.
CRI was less fun when I couldn’t see your face;
Think of me when you see Shawano all up in your fridge space!

If you told me in 2011 when I moved to Green Bay and worked in Shawano that six years later, not even working there anymore, I would still be attached to the town, I would have laughed in your face. I’m pretty sure that Brenda would say the same about that town.

Day 5 (December 18)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄

StrengthsFinder 2.0
Day 5
Anyone who knows you,
Knows you have more than five,
But use this great book
To see where you thrive.

I did the StrengthsFinder in 2015 when I was going through career coaching, and it was wonderful. You do a pretty in-depth assessment, and it pops back with your top FIVE strengths. Not only does it talk about your strengths on a general level, but the report comes back with an insight on how your strengths play off of each other. I recommend StrenghtsFinder to anyone who will listen. It really helps you recognize where you shine, and who doesn’t like learning about what they do well??

Day 6 (December 19)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁

Mug with brownie ingredients listed on the side
Day 6
Only six ingredients
To make this treat.
Who doesn’t love
A brownie to eat?

Don’t mind me, being all crafty. This was another one that I had seen all over Pinterest and always had intentions of doing. Like the cookie-mix-in-a-jar thing, it was SO EASY when I actually did it that I feel like I need to do it again. What I’m basically telling you is that if I am in a gift drawing with you and the limit is like, $5, I will give you this mug and a cookie-in-a-jar thing. But know they were made with love!!

Day 7 (December 20)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄
7: How Many Days of the Week can be Extraordinary?
Day 7
There are seven days
In one week.
Use this book
To live your life on fleek.

One of the things that I love about Brenda is that she is always looking to better herself, even though she is already one of the most spectacular people I know. I was roaming the aisles of Target one day, saw this book, and the lightbulb went off that this would be just perfect for Brenda.

Day 8 (December 21)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁
Pack of “Hey” notecards
Day 8
Eight cards to send
When you have something happy to say
To your friends who are near
Or hundreds of miles away.

Brenda is really thoughtful, and loves sending mail to people. Notecards came in a pack of 8, so this was obviously perfect.

Day 9 (December 22)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄

9 k-cups
Day 9-1
Coffee’s so good,
It’s a nice morning treat.
Here are nine cups
To help make your day sweet!

This is the part where Daniel woke up from his nap.
Day 9

Day 10 (December 23)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁
Mini Adirondack chair
Day 10
We’re both alumni
Of the Big Ten.
Now I have a chair like yours
To watch the games in!

Wow, as I’m writing this post and looking back at my gifts, I am too impressed with how crafty I was.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever shared how handy Brenda is. She made the bookshelves that are in Elijah’s room for Daniel before he was born. She is SO GOOD. Seriously, everyone who visits our house comments on those bookshelves.

shelves

Another thing that she made which is awesome is a Spartan Adirondack chair.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 1.51.26 PM

You guys, she MADE that. Anyways, she is a Michigan State alum, I am a Wisconsin alum, blah blah blah this mini chair was super cute and already red, so I just drew the Wisconsin W on it.

(Also, now I’m feeling less impressed with myself about drawing a W on a chair that was tiny when Brenda fricking built an actual, usable chair.)

Day 11 (December 24)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄

$11 gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings
Day 11
Treat yo’self
To some wings.
(I know they’re some
of your favorite things!)

Who doesn’t like BWW??

Day 12 (December 25)
🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁🎄🎁

You Are a Badass calendar
Day 12
Twelve months of the year,
Every single day,
You are amazing
In every single way.

I think that everyone needs to be reminded daily on how awesome they are, and this calendar is just perfect for it.

So there you are! My 12 Days of Christmas Friend Edition. Oh man, it was so so so so much fun to do for my sweet friend. A fantastic Christmas gift to put together for someone!

If you want to see what I’ve done for Peter the last few years, here it is!

12 Days of Christmas 2016
12 Days of Christmas 2015
12 Days of Christmas 2014
12 Days of Christmas 2013

12 Days of Christmas Gifts (2016)

I’m going to just go ahead and pretend that I haven’t not blogged since Elijah was born and carry on with my life. 

Christmas is coming! It’s October! That means it’s almost Christmas!

Once again, if you want to do a super fun Christmas gift for someone, I TOTALLY recommend doing the 12 Days of Christmas gifts. If you want to do it this year, DEFINITELY start thinking about it now, otherwise you’ll be stressed when December hits and it won’t be as fun. Also, last year I did a friend version of this for my wonderful, wonderful friend B. I’ll share that post SOON. (And I know I’ll actually do it soon because it’s already started, ha!)

Also, this year I was SUPER PREPARED and had a little photo shoot for the gifts. Well, most of the gifts…

So! With that, here is Peter’s 12 Days of Christmas Gifts 2016.

Woohoo! Christmas!

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Day ONE (December 14)
❤️
ONE new travel scarf

DSC_0629
Christmas is my favorite time of year,

So I couldn’t help but spread the holiday cheer.
I said I wouldn’t, but it’s so much fun!
12 days of Christmas are better than one!

One travel scarf for when you fly;
I’m sorry I ruined yours from Dubai…
This one is foreign, from far away.
It’s from the Amazon! (.com… what can I say?)

So, funny story. A while ago, Peter told me that he really wanted a travel scarf. I was super confused. A travel scarf? Is that actually a thing? And I did some Google research, and sure enough, it is a thing. Anyways, I was not about to buy a travel scarf for Peter because I knew he had a specific vision of what he wanted.

Then, Peter came back from a trip to Dubai and brought home a black and white travel scarf that he got there. He loved that scarf.

Too bad he never got to wear it… Because of me.

I was doing laundry one day and thought I’d be a nice wife and wash his travel scarf before his next trip. Guys, what I’m about to share had NEVER happened before and it has NEVER happened again, but I put the scarf in with towels. And there was a red towel in there… And when I took the towels out of the washing machine the scarf was now… Pink and black.

I STARTED TO CRY because I felt SO BAD. And when I told Peter about it, he was like “OMG Sara, stop crying.” And I was all, “BUT I FEEL SO BAD.” And he was just like, “It’s not a big deal.”

Fast forward to Christmas last year, and I bought him a new travel scarf off of Amazon, that is actually a piece of crap, and I just recently threw it away this summer because I was too depressed looking at it in the closet.

Needless to say, I’m not buying Peter any more scarves anytime soon.

Day TWO (December 15)
❤️💚
A shoe horn

DSC_0632
One morning as you
Were leaving for work
I noticed you needed this –
Your two feet get a perk.

I ordered this shoe horn after getting tired of watching Peter struggle to put on his damn shoes in the morning. He still uses it! Daniel also uses it, and it’s EFFING ADORABLE.

Day THREE (December 16)
❤️💚❤️
Three ounces of Downy spray

DSC_0633
Sometimes when you’re gone,
I worry you’re a wrinkly mess.

Three ounces of wrinkle spray
To keep you looking your best.

So this was the original day three gift that I got for Peter, and then like two days before day three, I found out that he was going to play hooky from work and go see the new Star Wars movie with some of his buds. I WAS going to buy him his ticket, but learned from one of the people going to see the movie that they pre-bought tickets. So instead I got Pete a gift card for snacks to enjoy while he was at the movie. Of course I didn’t take a picture. I did, however, find the rhyme I came up with by searching my Gmail inbox because I KNEW that I told Jenna what I was getting him. Oversharing for the WIN!

The three of you 
Are playing hooky.
Have some snacks
While watching the Wookie.

Side note: I’ll bet you thought for a minute when you started seeing the photos of this post “Wow! Sara had it SO together last year!” Well, the jig is up. Further down the line of days you’ll see that I didn’t take pictures of the things. BUT you WILL see when I post my friend edition that I was SUPER put together for that one! (Mostly because I had to get it in the mail in time for B to get it, but I’ll save that for the friend edition post!)

Day FOUR (December 17)
❤️💚❤️💚
Family of four Christmas ornament

DSC_0635
Our family is growing
From three to four.
We love Daniel so much
We had to have one more!

I LOVE this gift. We didn’t know Elijah’s gender yet, but I thought it was just splendid to add this ornament to the tree because it was exactly what our family looked like in 2016.

Day FIVE (December 18)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️
Five donuts

Aaaaaaaaaaand here is where I start not having pictures.

In the song they sing
Five Golden Rings”
But I know donuts are
Some of your favorite things!

I mean, who doesn’t love donuts??

Day SIX (December 19)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚
Six pack of Mountain Dew

DSC_0636
An annual tradition,
The six pack of Mountain Dew.
Drink one up and become
A more energized you!

I still never buy Mountain Dew for the man, so this is still a wonderful treat!

Day SEVEN (December 20)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️
A comb from Chicago Comb Company

DSC_0638
On your list was
A “non-plastic comb.”
Seven days a week
You need to style your dome.

When I asked Peter what he wanted for Christmas, one of the things he told me “a non-plastic comb” (hence the rhyme) and I was kind of confused. Like, who cares, right? And then I remembered that his coworker got her boyfriend a comb from Chicago Comb Company, and Peter thought it was THE COOLEST THING. So this was actually SO PERFECT.

Day EIGHT (December 21)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚
Where to Eat Pizza book

DSC_0640
You’ve traveled the world – 
Eight countries this year!
Now you know where to find
The best pizza and beer!

It’s no secret that Peter LOVES pizza. Frozen, fresh, anything. He loves it. It’s a real drag for him when I’m pregnant and that is one of the only smells that make me feel very, very nauseous. You guys, this book is SO COOL. So many pizza places all over the world! There actually is a series of these books; I got my girlfriend this one for Christmas last year.

Day NINE (December 22)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️
90-minute massage

Surprise! No picture of this one either!

This month has been crazy,
You have a sore back.
I hope ninety minutes
Will help you relax!

When Peter and I went on our honeymoon, we got a gift certificate to use at the resort’s spa. I was all about getting a couple’s massage. Peter was having NONE OF IT. So I went by myself. Super romantic, right?

Then in 2015, Peter had his first massage, and he was like “Wow, I am VERY RELAXED after that.” With all of his plane time, I figured a massage would be good for him. Fun fact: It is now October and I am going to tell Peter that if he doesn’t schedule this massage and use the certificate, I am going to use it. Because that is disgraceful, letting such a wonderful thing go to waste!

Day TEN (December 23)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚
10 Sharpie pens

DSC_0642
You recently discovered
The Sharpie pen.
A little elf helped me –
Here are ten!

One day Peter came home from work and he was like, “SARA. THESE PENS. LIFE CHANGING.” Easy gift, right?!

Also, the note on these is inaccurate. As you know, I like to have everything wrapped and under the tree on day one. I was going to drop these pens off with Pete’s coworker to put on his desk, but then he decided earlier in the week to take the 23rd off so we could drive down to Lake Geneva for Christmas. I had already written everything out, so I just was like “Yeah, Bobbie was supposed to help me… But you ruined it.” Merry Christmas!

Day ELEVEN (December 24)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️
$11 Kwik Trip card

Ok but seriously, gift cards are hard to take pretty pictures of.

One of your favorite places
To go for lunch
Here’s eleven dollars
To grab something to munch!

If there is one thing Peter loves more than his family, it is Kwik Trip. When we drive down to Lake Geneva, we do our very best to stop only at Kwik Trips. I mean, they do have very nice bathrooms and a whole bunch of good food choices. Peter often gets lunch there, just a sandwich or something. I don’t even think they’re that good, but man, does he love Kwik Trip.

Also, I feel like I need to point out that this year’s gift card experience went MUCH better than last year’s, where I never delivered on the gift card… Whoops! (I SWEAR that I actually bought the gift card, despite the lack of photo evidence.)

Day TWELVE (December 25)
❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚❤️💚
Star Wars one-a-day desk calendar

Well I REALLY dropped the ball on this one. No photo and no rhyme ☹️ I had everything saved in a Google doc so I could access it anytime I had a Christmas inspiration. I had the rhymes in there and everything, and this is all there is for the calendar:

Star Wars facts for
Twelve months of the year.

I mean, I CERTAINLY had something clever written. The world will never know!

So! There you have it! Another year of 12 days of Christmas gifts and TONS OF FUN. If you decide to do it for something this year TELL ME because I LOVE hearing ideas and creativity!

Need more ideas? Here you go!

12 Days of Christmas 2015
12 Days of Christmas 2014
12 Days of Christmas 2013