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Posts from the ‘Personal’ Category

Wherever You Are, Be There Totally

It is a busy time of year for most people, and I have been trying to work on being more present and totally all in the moment, so that I do not miss anything. Our minds tend to vacillate between the past and the future, and we consequently miss these important, ordinary, fleeting moments. What I love about animals is how present they always are, regardless of their circumstances. These words really resonated with me by Lisa Congdon, shown below.

Given the fast pace and hectic schedules of our lives, we have grown used to living with anxiety, stress, and general unhappiness, as if all of those things are a necessary condition of life. Our tendency to ruminate over the past or trip on the future can leave us exhausted and drained. Sometimes just being in our own skin can feel uncomfortable. When we pay attention we realize that we spend a lot of time avoiding and distracting ourselves from uncomfortable feelings — like not knowing what’s going to happen next, or whether someone is going to text us back, or feeling lonely or disconnected. But the antidote to anxiety and distraction is a conscious awareness and a commitment to staying ‘in the now.’ When we focus on our feelings and whatever is happening in the present moment, instead of distracting ourselves from them, we begin to eventually feel a sense of ease and calm. We can practice this habit intentionally through meditation, which strengthens our ability to be present in the rest of our days. And we can also practice it at any moment in the day when we feel ourselves tensing up with annoying thoughts or worry.

Holiday Traditions

What are your holiday traditions? Alex is getting older and she is getting more into the holiday spirit, each year! This year we are doing the following:

-Each evening after dinner, we do the advent calendar with both of our girls; and Alex never lets me forget, with her great memory and attention to detail! We found the chocolate (human) and dog advent calendars at Trader Joe’s, and they are a hit with the girls, including Victory!

-We are making Christmas eggnog sugar cookies, and they are simply the best! Alex loves to creatively decorate them; and then we all consume them! We especially like these sugar cookies, and Alex always loves to eat her cookies with eggnog!

-We love looking at Christmas lights. We have enjoyed Enchant and the Symphony of Lights! We also like to drive through neighborhoods and look at residential lights and decorations with our girls.

-We love watching Christmas themed shows with Alex, which are always a hit! We especially love A Charlie Brown Christmas.

-We love reading Christmas stories together, which is always fun!

-We love listening to Christmas music as well!

-I always get the girls matching Hanna Andersson pjs for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, which Alex enjoys, and Victory fortunately tolerates wearing them!

-We make a photo Holiday card each year!

-I also get the girls an ornament each year; I also get a few photo ornaments made from the year; and we also pick up ornaments from the places we visited, creating a Christmas memory tree!

-We decorate our Christmas tree together, and Alex loves to put on decorations! I especially love and cherish her hand made Christmas ornaments!

-I get Alex a Christmas dress each year!

-We usually go and see Santa with the girls, but we skipped last year and we are skipping this year, again, due to COVID. Alex has not asked for any specific gifts from Santa, this year, just that she hopes Santa wraps her gifts in orange wrapping paper, her favorite color! She is curious, though, about what Santa is going to bring her, which she is looking forward to with great anticipation!

-We will also likely leave a note and cookies for Santa this year, for the first time!

-We love spending time together, and Christmas morning is always so much fun! I am sure that our traditions will expand as Alex gets older, adopting some of her ideas, which she has many!

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Here are a few quotes that I love about this time of year, shown below. Wishing you a great Thanksgiving!

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” —Randy Pausch

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” —Lionel Hampton

“Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.” —Rumi

“Be present in all things and thankful for all.” —Maya Angelou

“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” —Will Arnett

“Be thankful for everything that happens in your life; it’s all an experience.” —Roy T. Bennett

“For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” —Elie Wiesel

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” —Johannes A. Gaertner

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” —Henry Van Dyke

“Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot.” —Hausa Proverb

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” —Catherine Pulsifer

“There are only two ways to live your live. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other as is though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” —Marcel Proust

Snapshot: Summer 2021

This summer snapshot blog post is a few months late due to the summer and fall seasons being so hectic. However, I finally finished editing our family photographs from this summer, a feat! (I am still roughly six weeks behind on editing our family photographs from this fall, a never ending process!)

This summer we did a lot of swimming, which Alex truly loves. She now likes to dive down for rings and be more independent! This summer we also acquired a new Big Joe hippo and new a Big Joe alligator to add to our growing menagerie! Alex also loved getting ice cream from the ice cream truck at the pool!

Additionally, Alex also continued her horse riding lessons; and by the end of this summer, she has graduated to a bigger horse, named Storm, and Arabian horse, shown at the end of this post! Alex is currently learning how to use the reins to control/direct the horse on her own, and she is making good progress; her teacher believes she is doing great for her age. And, Alex is the most calm little person, while being very present with the horse while riding. It is magical to witness.

This summer was also notable as we celebrated Alex’s third birthday, in July, which is so difficult to believe, as the time is literally flying by. She is a bright, beautiful little girl! We celebrated Alex’s birthday together as a family with a unicorn themed birthday! On her birthday, we took Alex to the National Aquarium, which she affectionately refers to as the “fish house.” Alex had a ball; and we took her out for pizza at one of our favorite places in Harbor East, near the Aquarium, for lunch; and we also took Alex out to dinner on her birthday, along with Victory in toe! In the evening, we all celebrated together at home with a unicorn cake and cupcakes with both of our girls!

Further, we celebrated the Fourth of July with some small fireworks and sparklers with the girls, along with some friends.

During the summer, my parents also came to visit a few times since COVID-19 hit, and Alex greatly enjoyed her time with them!

Additionally, in August, we also took a vacation to Rehoboth Beach, which photographs can be viewed here, as they are not included in this blog post.

Anyway, we feel very grateful, and we hope that you are enjoying your fall. I cannot believe Thanksgiving is next week, already!

Here is a short video of Alex riding Storm!

Vacation Photographs: Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach

This blog post is roughly three months late. This summer and fall have been extremely busy, so I have been quite behind on editing our family photographs. Now, I am only a month behind on photo editing, a little progress! (I hope to do a summer snapshot blog post soon.)

In August, we took our second trip since COVID-19 hit! We did not want to go too far from home due to traveling with Alex, so we decided to go to Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach again.  Doug, fortunately, found another beach house to rent that would allow a small child and a furry family member!  We were only a few blocks from both beaches!  Alex loved the ocean; she had no fear! She also enjoyed building in the sand with Doug! (Unfortunately, on our final day at the beach, Alex got sea lice, what were the odds, and her tummy and torso area were covered in red bumps. It gave us a scare. Fortunately, urgent care helped us and gave us a prescription hydrocortisone cream, and everything cleared within a week.)

We figured out a rhythm to our days, which went something like this: we woke up when Alex got us up, which was really early; we all had breakfast; got our swimsuits and sunscreen on and packed up and headed to Rehoboth Beach where we stayed about four hours; we had lunch; we got Alex bathed and down for a nap; we got ourselves cleaned up and took a nap; then, when Alex got up from her nap, we all got ready and headed out to dinner at one of our two favorite places — Dewey Beer Co. or the Iron Hill Brewery; then we got Victory and we all went to Dewey Beach for a long walk, which Victory loved; then we came home and got Alex to bed; and, we rested for a little bit after getting Alex to bed; however, most nights, were were so tired we were back in bed with Victory, too! So, this was more like a trip than a “vacation,” as Doug and I were very tired when we got home!

We were not permitted to take Victory to Rehoboth Beach, but she could still go to Dewey beach, thankfully, in the early mornings and evenings!  So it worked out perfectly!  Victory has been to Dewey Beach several times before. Victory was absolutely in seventh heaven on the beach!  She loved it!  And, Victory even let Alex walk her on the beach, in the evenings, shown below in the brief video! It was so sweet! (Victory can be very particular, our little regal princess!) We were also very fortunate for good weather — it only rained one evening during our entire trip!

Some images from our trip are below!  We are really grateful for our time away together with our girls!  We have many wonderful memories! 

Here is a video of our girls at the beach!

Victory: A Birthday Celebration — 10 years!

October 12, marked eight years since we adopted our sweet dear little Victory!  The time is going by much too quickly!  We decided to make October 12 Victory’s birthday — the day we went to Michigan and adopted our sweet fur girl.

As such, we recently celebrated Victory’s birthday marking her eighth year with us since her adoption!  This also marks four years of being a ‘big sister’ to Alex!  This year, for Victory’s birthday, we did a personalized theme and a pastel theme! (As shown below, last year, we did a pink theme with gold accent; two years we did a pastel rainbow theme with a silver accent; three years ago we did pastel theme with a gold and silver accent; four years ago we did a gold and champagne theme; five years ago we did a light pink and gold themed birthday; six years ago we did a pink themed birthday; and seven years ago, we did rainbow themed birthday for Victory!)  For this double-digit birthday, we had a small cake made with Victory’s likeness. It turned out beautifully! We also purchased some fun decorations and balloons, along with an embroidered peachy pink sweater for Victory, a tradition, in honor of her birthday!  Victory also enjoyed a Snake River Farms steak prepared by Doug, along with her very own cupcake (with no icing, of course!) Victory looked absolutely adorable and beautiful on her birthday, as always, shown below!  This is the fourth birthday that Victory celebrated with her sidekick, Alex! It is wonderful to witness their relationship blossom as Alex grows older. Alex loves giving Victory treats and hugs (with supervision!) Victory had a fun birthday and she truly enjoyed being over fed and the center of attention! I sincerely believe Victory knows her birthdays are all about her!

We are truly the lucky ones to share our lives with this wonderful, loyal, and loving being.  Victory has been such a source of comfort to us all. She is always by our side. Victory has also fully embraced her ‘big sister’ role!  Victory is very attuned to her little sister and loves to greet Alex in the mornings and evenings!  It melts our hearts!  Victory continues to join us each morning and evening for play time and story time, in addition to all feedings!  We also do our best to keep Victory fully integrated in our outings as well!  We are so very grateful and thankful for our Victory.  She means the world to us and we love her very much.

For Victory’s birthday, we gave her: a Snake River Farms steak; and a new peachy pink embroidered sweater!

(All birthday decorations are via Sweet Lulu.)

Here is a video of the girls celebrating our fur girl, Victory!

A look back at Victory’s birthday celebrations over the years…

Here is a look back at Victory and Alex on Victory’s birthday!

If you are considering getting a dog, especially during this difficult time, I hope that you consider adopting a rescue dog.  There are so many dogs in need of a good, loving home, especially now. As shown below, Victory, a rescue, has changed so much physically and emotionally over the years since we adopted her, pictured on the left (image from Victory’s foster mom via the Michigan Sheltie Rescue).  You really can save a dog’s life, while simultaneously enriching your own life/lives. We cannot imagine not having a rescue dog in our lives!

Happy Halloween from our Peacocks!

Happy Halloween!  I cannot believe how quickly the time is flying by that it is already time for Halloween, one of our favorite times of the year!  We love the fall season!  This is Alex’s fourth Halloween! Victory is a peacock this year for Halloween along with her little sister, Alex, shown below! Victory (along with Alex) was a Crayola red crayon last year; Victory (along with Alex) was Super Woman two years ago; a unicorn (with Alex) three years ago; Wonder Woman four years ago; a fifties girl five years ago; a lioness six years ago; a butterfly seven years ago; and a ladybug for her first Halloween, eight years ago.

Here is Doug and Alex’s pumpkin, which they worked diligently on this year, shown below!

Additionally, here are links to other pumpkins carved by Doug: last year; two years agothree years agofour years agofive years agosix years agoseven years agoeight years ago; and nine years ago!

Here is a short video of the lit pumpkin that Doug carved for us this year!

Additionally, here is a look back at Victory and Alex over the years on Halloween! We hope that you have a safe and great Halloween!

Finding Pleasure in Small Things

The practice of finding pleasure in small things — watching a sunrise, long walks in nature, smelling beautiful flowers, the sound of your sleeping child — reminded me of a Ted talk by palliative medicine physician B.J. Miller.

He described being an in-patient at a burn center: “One night, it began to snow outside. I remember my nurses complaining about driving through it. And there was no window in my room, but it was great to just imagine it coming down all sticky. Next day, one of my nurses smuggled in a snowball for me. She brought it in to the unit. I cannot tell you the rapture I felt holding that in my hand, and the coldness dripping onto my burning skin; the miracle of it all, the fascination as I watched it melt and turn into water. In that moment, just being any part of this planet in this universe mattered more to me than whether I lived or died. That little snowball packed all the inspiration I needed to both try to live and be okay if I did not.”

Decades later, while running a hospice center, Miller saw again how much sensual gratification meant to people. Although many of his patients couldn’t eat much, if anything, they loved baking cookies in the shared kitchen. “As long as we have our senses — even just one — we have at least the possibility of accessing what makes us feel human, connected,” Miller explained. “Imagine the ripples of this notion for the millions of people living and dying with dementia. Primal sensorial delights that say the things we don’t have words for, impulses that make us stay present — no need for a past or a future.”

Thirteen Years In

13 years of marriage.  17 years together.  3 years of parenting a little human together. 8 years of loving and taking care of our fur girl together. You are my favorite human being. You are always by my side, and supportive through everything.  You are the greatest gift of my life, and each day spent with you is truly a gift.  I look forward to many, many more years together, knowing that we can get through anything together. Most of all, you are an incredible Daddy to our girls! We are all so blessed.  I am truly grateful for you. Happy thirteenth anniversary!

Tips: How to Balance Working and Parenting

The pandemic has been especially hard on working moms — balancing working with parenting simultaneously, along with some moms having to give up their jobs due to the pandemic. This type of situation can be incredibly difficult, stressful, and challenging for all involved. Below are some ideas that have helped me during these times.

Set Priorities: I have found it helpful to first figure out and set my (our) priorities on how I want to spend my time, along with setting boundaries, on other things, to help ensure that I can actually spend my time the way I set intend.

Outsource: Instead of trying to do everything, and feeling like I have no agency over my time, we figured out a few ways to save time via outsourcing. For example, after becoming fully vaccinated, we hired a house cleaner, which has been life changing. We also continued doing Hello Fresh, which has been so great in saving time with deciding what’s for dinner, along with mixing things up. (Doug does all of our cooking and baking!) So, I have found outsourcing things that you are able, frees up time to be spent in different, more meaningful ways.

Set Realistic Expectations: I soon learned after having Alex, that life would never be the same, in a very good way; however, I also soon learned I had to adjust my expectations about what can get accomplished with a little person in toe. By readjusting expectations, it helps prevents frustration, when I am unable to get my to do list done, which rarely happens these days. I have found more efficient ways to work, knowing, that things take a little longer to get done, and that is okay. And, on days where Alex is home, with no help, I have learned I am not able to get too much done outside of working during her nap. Overall, I know I have become more efficient with my time, which always feels so fleeting these days.

Get Help with your Child/Children: I think this is imperative for working moms to have help with their children in some capacity. We learned this, very well, during this pandemic, that help (or school) is absolutely essential for everyone’s sanity. You can get creative with finding help, depending upon your circumstances. You might consider doing a swap with a friend, that way, you can have dedicated times to get work done. Having help with Alex affords Alex with engagement and enrichment, while freeing us up to work and be productive. I am so grateful for help with Alex!

Make Time for Yourself: This is getting a little easier to do, as Alex gets a little older. I find even just taking a walk outside, by myself, is so refreshing and I come back home feeling rejuvenated. Doug and I try to relieve each other in order give each other breaks and time to exercise, etc. Overall, we have found that this is vital.

Make Time for Rest: Finally, making time to rest is really important, and I did not always feel this way, always pressing on and through, previously. But rest really helps in every aspect of one’s life. You come back to work and life in a better frame of mind from really taking a pause, which also provides a time to reflect.

And, at the end of the day, you can only do your best, which varies, depending upon the day, while developing compassion for yourself.