My facebook feed is rife with screenshots of everyone’s weather apps showing it is -5 degrees here in PA. With the wind chill, it will get down to -30 in some areas. Chicago transit is setting their train tracks on fire to keep them from breaking. Schools are closed all over the country. People who don’t understand science are posting, “what about global warming?”
Our family is doing just fine on this cold day off, snuggled under blankets, watching YouTube. Because spending a day at home without accomplishing something causes me intense anxiety, I am sure I will organize something today. Otherwise, I will read, spend time with the kids, spend time avoiding the kids, and maybe change from my current set of pajamas to another set of pajamas.
That being said, it is not lost on me that there are people out there suffering through this cold: people who are housing-insecure with little to no shelter, children who are food-insecure and will not eat because they are not in school, and people who will lose pay because their workplaces are closed. If you know anyone in those situations, reach out to them. If you are in one of those situations, reach out to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, for food, for shelter. If you lose your power and cannot stay warm, come share our warmth. There is room for you here.
I’m a latecomer to the world of Gretchen Rubin. I discovered her last summer when I was looking for podcasts to listen to that would lift my spirit and help me develop a positive mindset. I simply typed “happiness” into my podcast app’s search bar and the top podcast was entitled: “Happier, with Gretchen Rubin.” I had no idea who she was or that she had a best-selling self-help book, The Happiness Project (and several others), I just liked the title and I appreciated the simplicity of her advice.
One of her projects last year was “18 for 2018,” a personalized list of tasks one would like to tackle throughout the year. Because I started listening mid-year, I was too late to take on that one, but decided to give it a try this year and do “19 for 2019.” The best thing about the list is that it is low-pressure. The tasks aren’t resolutions and they don’t have to be life-changing. They can be as mundane as finding a new shampoo or they can be as monumental as quitting smoking. At the end of the year, there are no expectations that you will have completed all 19. Instead, you can enjoy the satisfaction found in the ones you did accomplish.
For accountability, I’ve decided to post my 19 for 2019 here on my blog. As the year goes one I’ll come back to revisit the ones I complete.
My 19 for 2019 (in no particular order):
- Watch ALL the Avengers movies in chronological order before seeing Avengers:Endgame.
- Run in 6 local 5ks
- Spend one entire day playing Zelda on the wii
- Finish reading every book club book (1 each month)
- Organize our important paperwork
- Fix our printer
- Organize our address book before Christmas card time
- Get our passports renewed
- Learn to play my dulcimer
- Lose 15 pounds
- Keep a calendar of time spent with friends so I can make sure I’m not neglecting any friendships.
- Visit Valley Forge with the kids.
- Visit every covered bridge in Columbia County, PA.
- Update our wall photography.
- Write at least one blog post per week.
- Get my hair colored.
- Get a professional family photo taken.
- Do three service projects with the kids.
- Get grass to grow in the muddy spots our yard.
If I accomplish even half of these, I will consider it a pretty successful year.
Do you have a 19 for 2019 list?
Recently, my grandmother was at our house to celebrate our December birthdays with us. She was walking through the kitchen and stopped for a moment to look at our cabinets. I walk through that room so often that I don’t even see them anymore. Watching her look at them reminded me how special they are.
My grandparents built their house on the family farm in the 1950s, starting small and adding on whenever possible. They raised 4 boys and 1 girl in that house. I spent every afternoon there as a toddler while my parents’ work shifts overlapped. Our extended family celebrated countless Easters, Christmases, and birthdays within those walls. In my mind, I can still walk through the house and feel the textures and smell the familiar smells.
My family gathering for the holidays.
My grandmother holding our first baby in her living room.
The house was demolished in 2008 after it was decided that repairs to keep it habitable would be too costly. My grandfather had passed away ten years earlier and my grandmother was living on her own in a house that was too much work to maintain. It was decided that a new house would be built in its place and demolition began that summer.
Demolition on the house
Before the old house was demolished, Jim was able to salvage the kitchen cabinets. They were already fifteen years old, having been replaced by my grandfather a few years before he passed. They were excellent quality and far better than the 1970s stock cabinets we currently had in our kitchen. He carefully removed them with the help of a friend and they sat in our garage while we slowly remodeled our kitchen. The two kitchens were different designs, so the cabinets had to be assembled like puzzle pieces. Jim worked methodically. In the end, we had a beautiful new kitchen.
Jim, piecing together the salvaged cabinets
The original house has been gone for over a decade and our kitchen no longer feels new. It was lovely to be reminded of how special it is that we were able to use a part of our family’s history to create new memories with our own children. One day, Jim and I will leave this house and it will be hard to leave those cabinets behind. For now, I can appreciate how special they are to our family.
Our kitchen now
March must be the golden month for our marriage, because two of our three children were born in December. Not only that, but their birthdays are only 1 day apart. On top of that, Jim’s birthday is also the same week! Add to that two of my grandparents and one brother-in-law and our entire December is filled with birthdays. Oh, yeah, and also Christmas.
For now, both littles are happy with sharing a birthday party, as long as cake, presents, and all their favorite friends and family are involved. To individualize their celebrations just a little, each of them also gets to choose a restaurant in our area to go to on their actual birthday.
This year, 4yo (in all her fanciness) chose Wendy’s.
7yo decided to go slightly higher-end and selected a local restaurant that he thought sounded fancy because it had the word “hotel” in its name. Unfortunately, they weren’t open for lunch, so instead he chose a local brewery that he knows we go to for trivia. He’s never been to either place before, but he wanted to go somewhere that felt “grown-up.”
In a few years, I imagine their birthdays will look more like their older sister’s: sleep-overs, going to the movie with friends, and disappearing to the basement to avoid adult interaction. For now, we we are still enjoying getting to spend every moment of their birthday celebrations with them.
Years ago, we used to have to travel for Thanksgiving weekend to visit Jim’s family. We would be gone all weekend and, when we got back, that last thing we felt like doing was decorate the house for Christmas. So, one year, I decided we would decorate on the evening before Thanksgiving. It was the perfect time because I always get out of work early that day and we don’t have to prepare Thanksgiving dinner at our house, so the evening if free.
Even though we no longer have to travel, we have hung on to this tradition. Last year, Jim’s mom and dad stopped by while we were decorating and they had such a good time they decided we should turn it into a decorating party this year. I was a little apprehensive about trying to throw a party AND get my house decorated – especially since it wasn’t my idea, but it turned out to be a really fun family evening. We were joined by Jim’s parents, my parents, and my aunt and uncle. We kept things very simple – just a pot of meatballs on the stove for people to make meatball subs and some snacks. My MIL brought some dips and my mom brought a dessert.
Because there was so much help, we managed to get the house decorated in no time and we even put up two trees this year! It was a great way to start the holiday season and spend time with family.
While we were setting record rainfall this summer, more than once I heard someone declare, “Well, at least it’s not snow!”
Welcome to Pennsylvania in November:
This heavy trend of precipitation has held for the entire year, so I don’t know why I expected it to be different just because the temperature dropped. All we can do now is make the most of it, which is exactly what my kids did yesterday when they were sent home early from school.
Mom tip: Purchase ALL your snowpants in black, regardless of the gender of your children, then hang onto them until all your kids have gotten some use out of them. I started doing this when 12yo was about 5. Now, I only need to purchase one pair of snow pants each year and the younger two wear hand-me-downs. I spend enough each year replacing the gloves and hats they lost the previous year, I cannot afford to purchase 3 sets of brand-new set of snowpants.
I hope we aren’t experiencing regular foot-high snow storms this winter, but if we do we will just make the best of it!
My 6yo has been dreaming of being a millionaire when he grows up. We’ve been talking about the hard work and determination that would take. Then, we fantasize about what life would be like. His first priority is season tickets to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The other day, our conversation went like this:
Me: When you’re a millionaire, I’d just like you to buy me a nice RV so Daddy and I can drive it around the country.
6yo: Ok, but that’s it.
Me: …and I’d like you to take me to Disney World.
6yo: Aw, now you’re cutting into my football money!
It’s Election Day!
I have a 30 minute window in which I can squeeze my trip to the voting booth today. Fortunately, my polling place serves a small community and is rarely crowded, so I should have no trouble getting in and out.
I used to be complacent about mid-term elections, but I understand now how important they are to shaping the future of the country. I always try to take my children with me so they can see me do my civic duty. Fewer than half of the eligible voting population voted in the 2016 election. We should be doing all we can to encourage and enable people to vote, regardless of their political leanings.
So, go vote today!
Despite several inches of rain this week, the leaves are still hanging on. So, 12yo and I headed out to a local hiking trail we had never tried. The trails aren’t marked very well, and at one point we lost the trail. Thankfully, I had full cell service the entire time and was able to use my GPS to hop from one trail to the next. We never worried, but treated it as an adventure.
We spent about an hour in the woods. The leaves were golden and like fire. It was medicine for my heart and soul. Now, I’m ready to sink into the gray that is Pennsylvania until April.
I don’t know what’s up with Pennsylvania right now but it’s so gross. We’re almost in the middle of October, Halloween is rushing at us at light speed, and I’ve worn a sleeveless blouse to work more than once in the past few days. The humidity is crazy and it rains just frequently enough for it to be impossible for us to mow our lawn.
But change is ahead! If the weather forecast is to be believed, fall will finally arrive on Friday.
After some more rain, of course.