This is the first thing I've posted on the internet in the new year! I had planned to wait longer than 10 days, but I have some unexpected childless coffee shop time during Gracie's ballet class and I don't have a book with me, so here we are. A quick spilling of the thoughts. Last January was the most peaceful month of 2021 thanks to logging out of social media. I waffled back and forth all of November and December on whether or not I should do it again this year, and I didn't make up my mind until 10pm on NYE. Two months off, at least. I don't miss it in the slightest! I miss a few friends, but I am so happy without it. I wouldn't call the last 10 days peaceful by any stretch of the imagination, but my mind has felt immensely calmer. I've been less anxious. Sometimes I miss the distraction, but I just can't get past the thought that we are not meant to know everyone's thoughts and problems.

I say as I blog my thoughts and problems, on the internet.

On New Year's Day we got a massive snowstorm. Christmas Eve was warmer here than in Florida according to the weather, but the new year started with tons of snow and frigid weather. We have a perfect sledding hill in the backyard, as long as it's not icy, because then you have to grab onto a passing branch to keep from flying into the frozen creek. But! It's been SO FUN to go sledding in the backyard with my girls. I haven't been sledding since I was a kid. We all pile on the sled and zoom down the hill. I scream louder than they do. There is no better workout than trudging up a snowy hill with a sled and toddler. 

I've felt more like a zookeeper than a mom lately. It's been below zero, so we made birdseed ornaments and then spent hours at the front window with binoculars, trying to identify the birds. It has literally been the highlight of our week. We made snow paint with a squeeze bottle and food coloring. We are currently hatching brine shrimp eggs to observe with a microscope and I've never seen G so excited. I think we're going to make beeswax candles soon. Something about the beeswax candles makes me feel like I've entered the long denim skirt tier of homeschooling, though I will never wear a long denim skirt.

We're only 10 days in, so I need to think of new activities stat. Play doh is smashed into every crevice of my home. We turned an old crib mattress into an indoor trampoline. I referee fights over baby dolls nonstop, and now I see why King Solomon said fine, I'll just chop the baby in half if you guys won't quit squabbling. Sometimes I worry the kids are sick of being home with only each other to play with, but the other day G told me that if I put either one of them in school, she'll yell at me. I've never felt so warmed by a threat of loud noise.

I've been baking bread again and knitting in the evenings while sipping herbal tea. The cold is hard at times, but I really do live my best 87 year old life in the winter. 

Things are getting cancelled again and going back to Zoom thanks to The Thing. I have felt sad about. January 2022 is feeling a lot like March 2020 these days, bread baking and all. Tonight, Gracie and I have Zoom BSF at the same time. Just imagine how that is going to go. I'm really glad I don't have to leave my warm house, though.

And with that said, I finished my brown sugar cinnamon latte, and it's time to make the trek to the ballet studio.

Stay warm, stay cozy. I promise that birdwatching is more fun than it sounds.


2021 family christmas newsletter

In the last year and a half, we have endured a pandemic, new baby, leaving a church, job loss, homeschooling, selling a house, buying a house, a big move, losing a pet, and another job change.

If you see me boppin' around in 2025 looking tired, I'll refer you back to the previous sentence as I will probably still be recovering. 

I started 2021 on top of the world. We had just recovered from a festive Christmas bout of Big Rona, I got out of jury duty after 7 weeks of stressed out phone calls, I stepped away from social media, we had plans to finish some big renovation projects, and we had a cozy winter getaway scheduled. "This is going to be such a calm, uneventful, easy year!" [relatively speaking]

And all God's people LOL'd.

We were snowed in the night before our getaway to Michigan, James' company was put on a PTO freeze for many months right after that, and we descended into chaos from there.

As soon as the freeze was lifted, we went on a permanent getaway and moved away from Ohio 3 weeks after tentatively deciding to move. Those three weeks were full of house hunting, fighting in a bidding war while our house fell out of escrow, sick kids, saying goodbye to my dearest friends, and packing. We stayed with my parents for about 6 weeks before moving into our new house, and we've been painting and making it our own ever since. Annie the bunny ran away during our first night in our new house, and I can't help but wonder if it's because we gave her a bath and realized that Annie has been an Andy all this time. You can't blame her. Him? It. 

James has been the hero of our year. He's worked hard at his job, redid our guest room, packed the majority of the house while I cared for sick kids, helped the movers load and unload boxes, painted in the new house, does the dishes every night, makes coffee for me every morning, and he’s ending the year with a huge promotion at work. He's been the calm in the storm of three females. This year his hobbies have included drumming on every surface he can until I complain of a headache, leaving cords and chargers all over the house until we start to look like a Best Buy, making fires in the fireplace and warning us (me) not to touch the thermostat, watching shows about building Tiny Houses, and complaining about the taxes in Illinois. 

Gracie turned 6 in the spring and has been breezing through first grade this fall. Her teeth have been coming out so fast she’s nearly bankrupted the tooth fairy. She's started tap, ballet, Awanas, BSF, and a co-op. She's been making friends and loving every minute of it, unlike her awkward, shy mother nervously sweating in the corner. She’s as wild and silly as ever and recently made a composting toilet (she loves the tiny house shows as much as James does!) out of legos. Her hobbies include changing the lyrics of every song to poop, dressing herself and her sister in matching outfits, drawing pictures for everyone she loves (which is everyone), making mud pies outside, asking for a snack 30 seconds after finishing a meal, and begging for pets. She’s had a big year with lots of changes, and she’s handled them better than I have. 

Clara is the sweetest, most precious little toddler peanut, and I squeeze her all day long. She is my constant reminder that we are born sinners, as her favorite pastime is running off the with tv remote, and she’s also the constant reassurance of God’s love. She turned 1 in April and started walking soon after. Her vocabulary has taken off recently, and she adores her big sister/2nd mother. She would eat only bananas if we let her, and her two greatest passions in life are shoes and clocks. Her hobbies include playing with baby dolls and flipping through board books, pulling clothes out of dressers, asking for another banana, pilfering markers and crayons and terrorizing the walls, and playing outside. She wants me to hold her all day long, and the only time she wants to get down is when we’re in a busy parking lot. 

I, Michelle, feel like that meme with the dog saying “this is fine” while everything is on fire. I feel like I have a new lease on life now that we have family in town, we have a house we fit in and absolutely love, and I no longer have to worry about who I’m going to run into at the grocery store. There are a lot of emotions that come with leaving your close friends and trying to come out of your very shy, introverted shell to make new friends. It’s not fun to be the new girl. I am so thankful for the church we’re in now and the friends we are slowly making. My claim to fame this year was starting our Donut Friday tradition, where we get donuts after we finish our school work on Fridays. It’s been a treat we look forward to all week, and we’ve consistently done it all year long, which proves my theory that I can be successful at anything as long as donuts are involved. This year my hobbies have included binging Bigfoot documentaries and YouTube videos (he’s real), banging on the windows to get the squirrels out of my bird feeders (“You’ve turned into the Crazy Bird Lady” -James), complaining about social media while continuing to scroll, reading past my bedtime (almost 70 books this year!), and hiding in my room with coffee and chocolate during nap time. I have never been so relieved to hang up my hobby of obsessively scrolling Zillow and imagining my furniture in other peoples’ houses. I’m still feeling pretty discombobulated from all the changes, but I’ve finally broken my years long pattern of buying sour cream not realizing we have 2 containers in the fridge already. 

It’s been a long year of a lot of big things and we are weary but grateful. As a family we’ve fallen even more in love with homeschooling, and we miss our friends and aspects of Ohio even though we are really excited about this new chapter of our lives. Last year at Christmas when we were visiting here and fermenting in Covid germs, James and I mentioned how nice it would be to live here. 

And now we do. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I have no grand proclamations for 2022. I’m too scared to even imagine. 

Godspeed and good luck. 


currently, december ed.

reading: the 12 Dates of Christmas. I did that thing where I placed a bunch of library holds thinking they wouldn't all come in at once. Well, they all came in at once. Thankfully, many of them are Christmas books.

drinking: coffee, though the week I've had has me considering trying out a mulled wine recipe.

rejoicing: over the Josh Duggar guilty verdict. Now let's do the same thing for Ghislaine Maxwell.

annoyed: that I searched the entire grocery store for molasses and checked Target before realizing there's a molasses shortage (of all things!). Then I asked my mom to borrow some, but she didn't have any. All that just to discover I had some in my pantry this entire time that I moved from our last house. All I wanted was to make some gingerbread, but I'm too exhausted from the unnecessary molasses hunt to make any now. My other annoyance for the week was walking into the library the other morning just as their book sale opened. I mean they opened the doors right in front of us, and we were the first ones in. I didn’t even know they were holding a sale, and we had first picks! Then I realized they took cash only and I had zero cash. I could have wept. I did fish enough coins out to buy a book for Gracie that she wanted, so it wasn’t a total bummer. 

watching: cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. A Castle for Christmas takes the cake so far, and that's mostly because it has Cary Elwes speaking in a Scottish accent. Love Hard was also good. In a bad way. Bad in a good way? I don't know, but we enjoyed it.

buying: last minute stocking stuffers. Target two Saturdays before Christmas was a TERRIBLE choice. 

checking: tracking info over and over. I ordered my Christmas cards and matching labels on the same day 3ish weeks ago. The cards were here within a week, but the labels have been floating all over the US of A. If I don't get my cards out soon, they're going to be Valentine's cards thanks to the mail delays.  

(edit: since writing this, I was complaining out loud about this to my family, and James pulled an envelope out and said “oh this? It came already and I forgot to give it to you.” The tracking info still says it’s in Kansas. The USPS needs some help.)

listening: to Christmas music. I’ve been very into Amy Grant’s 1980s Christmas album lately. Jon McLaughlin has a great one with some killer piano, and I’m still giddy that Jamie Cullum put a Christmas album out last year. I’ve been playing a lot of classical piano carols during the morning when we’re doing schoolwork and the girls are playing. 

thankful: that Dunkin Donuts being closed on Friday led us to an old bakery instead, where they were decked to the nines for Christmas. I got a butterscotch danish that rocked my world. If only they served cappuccinos. I'd never leave! I think we have a new Donut Friday location. There are no good donut shops here, but this bakery was amazing.  

unhappy: that Clara has managed to destroy two books this week, one due to a mugful of coffee and another from being thrown in the toilet. Sweet Gracie washed it in soap and water before presenting it to me and telling me what happened. More than anything I'm proud of her for scooping it out of the toilet, because no way would I have done that. I would pay a stranger off the street to fish it out of the toilet before I would do it. 

loving: the wintering newsletter series from Kristen LaValley. I've been following her advice religiously. Last week I got a new mug, and this week I made a Pinterest board of things that make me happy just because. I realized I had a board like that that I hadn't touched in probably 6 or 7 years, so I scrolled through it and added to it. It helped keep me calm during the tornado watch (more on that in a sec). Here it is if you need a serotonin boost. You can tell I started it during my obsessive concert-going years. 

surprised: we made it through Friday night unscathed. Instead of chilly days and snow, we've had warm weather, and Friday night was a huge storm and tornado outbreak. It was terrifying, and I spent the evening stress knitting and watching movies. Thankfully we missed the tornadoes, but the high winds woke us up at 4am. During the wild 4am winds, James walked into the bathroom and found the faucet had been on high all night long. It was the en suite bathroom so it was not a child who did it, and I was the last one in there but I KNOW I wouldn’t have done that. It was truly the strangest, creepiest night. 

It’s going to be a record breaking 70 degrees on Wednesday. No snow in sight, and this is the year I splurged on expensive snow pants and boots for the kids. Merry Christmas! Here’s a swimsuit.


photos from the week

Tis the season for scented candles. 

Drinking coffee in a Christmas mug by the fire is my favorite hobby. 

Twilight from the driveway.

It's been an unusually warm month so far. 60 degree evenings in December are weird and unsettling but kind of nice.

Had to wear our Nutcracker outfits to celebrate the first of December and visit Grammy & Grandpa's.

For the first time in years, I actually got to see my dad on his birthday. The girls and I surprised him at his office with cookies.

We played restaurant to practice math skills. Today we played grocery store. So much more fun than worksheets.

Sometimes reading lessons = reading Christmas books to your baby sister so mom can drink her coffee in peace.

We love Sunday afternoon movies.

A newsletter I'm subscribed to recommended buying a new mug for winter. Something you can drink a hot beverage in just to make it a cozier experience. I needed to run by Walmart, and I was hoping for a Christmasy or wintery mug, but all they had were floral. I like that even better, because it's a little added cheer during the hardest months of the year. Gracie, of course, had to get in on the action. Homegirl loves her herbal tea.

10/10 would recommend a new mug just for the heck of it. My mug cabinet gave this a 0/10 as it's already overflowing. 

 Not pictured:

+ When we went to drop off cookies for my dad's birthday, it didn't even occur to me that I'd see people he works with. My cardigan still had crusted cookie dough on it from Clara's hands and after the 4th or 5th person left his office, I looked down and realized my fly was wide open. 

+ We've had a lot to celebrate this week with a birthday and some big things happening at work for James. We all went out to dinner on Friday night, and both girls ran up to a stage in the corner of the restaurant and put on a show for everyone there. I will never not be perpetually shocked at how a shy, introverted person like myself can give birth to two raging extroverts.

+ We went to our church's night of Christmas worship. There wasn't any childcare, which is fine, but one year olds do not want to stay put. We finally left early after she grabbed a diaper from my bag and then charged toward the stage screaming like a banshee. I had to chase her up to the front row, and as I grabbed her while she kicked and screamed, her foot caught my sweater and pulled it all the way up. It was like Easter all over again. It's not a holiday with us until I flash someone.


photos from the week, thanksgiving ed.

If it's seasonal, I will buy it. I'm a marketer's dream.

Thanksgiving week school.

We finally got our family room mostly set up. I love it. James lights a fire almost every morning.

I don't know what's up with the feather placement, but our second annual thankful turkey is complete. 

She's surprisingly good at Checkers.

The last little whiff of autumn. 

A friend told me about a used bookstore that just so happens to be right outside my neighborhood. I spent a lot of time wandering around. They had an entire Amish section which cracked me up. You know you're in the Midwest when...

Hanging paper snowflakes. I can't wait to replace that light fixture.

We put our tree up on Friday. Last week I had a dream that the lights didn't work, and sure enough, we plugged it in and a whole section had gone out. 

I love having a mantle again.