Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's December already?

Our tree! 
Distractions run a muck this time of year. Thanksgiving kicks it off.  We had plans to travel like every holiday since we have no family close by. This year? Bob Evans. Yum. Not that we planned it that way.  We were set to drive two hours to my in-laws for the day but my daughter got sick. Rather than torture her with a total of four hours in the car that day we ate Bob Evans and put up our Christmas tree. We basically replayed the year I was pregnant with our daughter. We could not go anywhere that year either because I was ready to pop any day and we had to stay close to the hospital. Traditions go out the door those years but sometimes that can be a breath of fresh air.

A few days after Thanksgiving we celebrated my daughter's 8th birthday with a 'Frozen' themed party for relatives. Can I just say this....and I know others will agree with me....I am getting sick of 'Frozen'. It is everywhere.....EVERYWHERE! Being a communications/public relations major I do give them props though for monster marketing that is successful beyond measure.

Then comes Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, and more travel. I get a reprieve in that my husband's company decided to have their office party after the new year...whew. One less item to deal with before Christmas. This year Christmas is with my family about 2 1/2 hours north of where we live. Santa Claus is still prevalent in our house so gift planning and logistics of moving the merchandise north is tricky. She is not as naive as she used to be. I become the gift ninja.

Between holiday and birthday festivities I am job hunting.  Ok, well maybe I have abandoned that a lot until after the new year. Mostly right now job hunting means beefing up my portfolio, hunting for a great interview outfit and reading books to help me 'reinvent myself'. Yes, apparently some of these books think I am verging on 'old' and have to keep up with hip twenty-somethings by watching 'Keeping up with the Kardashians', hanging out at Starbucks, and finding some 20 year-old to dress me.  Okay, okay-the book did not say it in those exact terms but I can read between the lines. So I went to Starbucks today. Check that off my to-do list. However, someone will have to point a gun to my head in order to get me to watch the Kardashians.

'ole girl is getting old but still serves me well
In the last week I have also heard my camera crying, "come play with me Jennifer. It has been so long!". However, I hate this dreary time of the year so I have been snapping pictures of weird stuff around the house working on my love-hate relationship with light. People always ask why I don't start photographing people. I hate people. No, not people in general- just photographing them. They move around too much and a good majority are not a fan of getting their picture taken.  I much prefer nature and still life. Calm and quiet.

I have also been working on some projects. I cannot talk about them or show photographs until after Christmas. I am excited to show you my crafty side which is still in bloom.

I hope the holiday spirit is washing over all of you! Breathe deep and enjoy family.

Thank you Pinterest for birthday decor ideas!

I made the cake with specific direction and detail from my daughter...don't judge! 

It cannot be a party without M&M's, right?

"Mom, I want a regular cake AND cupcakes!" 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"I am soooo bored!".....not this week!

My parents beautiful property
Near Lake Michigan
My daughter is on fall break...for two weeks...ugh! Breaks give me anxiety.  My daughter's favorite phrase lately is "I am sooooo bored!" -despite a room full of toys, a laundry room stuffed with crafts, a spare bedroom littered with legos, a kindle, a DS, games, a bike, movies, and too much more for her to keep busy.  Rather than stay home the entire two weeks we packed up and headed to my parents for the first week. I love my parents house. So in love with it.  First of all, it is returning to my hometown--hitting up my favorite restaurants and shops.  Secondly, my parents house is so beautiful.  I can only wish to have a home like theirs someday.  They built it almost 5 years ago so it is not the home I grew up in, but that does not matter in the least. I don't need to spend money on little vacation getaways when I have my parents little retreat.  Cozy, comfortable, my second home. The landscaping is gorgeous and I still wonder how my mom and dad take care of it all.

After arriving we swung by Lake Michigan to walk along the pier and see the beach and ate lunch at one of my favorite hometown restaurants over looking a 'creek' that opens up to Lake Michigan.  During our visit we also visited a lighthouse museum, took a short drive to visit my college alma mater, enjoyed a wagon ride out to an apple orchard and pumpkin patch, went bowling, and shopped at my favorite outlet mall.

Now that we are back home I was afraid the "I am sooooo bored" whining would return. Nope....thank goodness for twin neighbor girls who keep our daughter laughing and playing!

I do savor every minute of her breaks...I really do.  I know that once I find a job I won't have these breaks with her anymore.... or as much time to visit my parents.  

Walking all the way out to the lighthouse

My mom knows how to decorate her yard

No shortage of places to enjoy a good book on my parents porch

Up by Lake Michigan

My daughter doing a little dance near the lighthouse museum
I miss this view from my parents porch already

Driving the county roads was so beautiful last week

Tuesday, October 7, 2014's Fall!

Finally it is fall. My absolute favorite time of year. The crisp air, the colorful leaves, spicy chili, pumpkins, football, and hot apple pie equal heaven. I love to take pictures this time of year but I only wish I had a better camera. Many professional photographers (I consider myself a mere hobby photographer) say that it is not the camera that takes great pictures, but rather the person taking the photos that matters. I beg to differ when my camera is slightly scratched up on the lens, has a temper mental flash, and is almost 10 years old. I also cannot tell you how much it sucks only having a 50mm lens.

We went on a day trip to see covered bridges about an hour from our house this past weekend.  I took several photos with my digital camera (Cannon EOS Rebel XT with 50 mm lens) before the battery died. I was so unprepared for this day trip. I switched over to my phone camera which was at 10% battery unprepared. I got better pictures on my phone than on my digital camera.  The scratches on my digital are killing me!

Maybe you can tell which ones are from which camera...maybe not.  I can and it pushes me to start my camera savings bucket.

I am still in the process of deciding how to change my blog and whether I will switch hosts or not. I am craving change.  Along with my renewed love for photography, I am also diving back into my genealogy.  Under the surface of my hobbies I continue to look for a job. More accurately put- a career and not just a 'job'.  This is proving difficult after being home for 8 years and trying to convince potential employers that I have not sat around watching soap operas and eating bonbons.  I am not a great salesman and I have to sell myself.

A few more days of job search and then my daughter has two weeks of fall break and we will venture around to find great photo opportunities and fall activities.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Karate chops and pictures....

Pictures make me happy. Taking pictures makes me even more happy. I hate my camera and will be saving for a new one soon (including a sweet 300-800mm lens--I hope) so these pictures are from my phone.  Plus, I forgot my camera when I visited my parents a few weeks ago.  That always bums me out because their property makes for some beautiful photos. 

After my lousy day I felt the need to post some pretty pictures. Whether you think they are pretty or not is beside the point.  The shots I took are from my place of serenity.  They make me forget that I wanted to karate chop my doctor this morning when he told me I was getting older and probably needed to transition out of this  7 year 'trying to have another baby' stage. Of all the things on this earth...THAT made me feel old. 

I am also in a photography and blogging rut.  I need new ideas and fresh perspectives. I am thinking of a redesign of my blog and maybe switching to WordPress so bear with me if I decide to do this. Or maybe I am procrastinating my job search. Who knows?!

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Wear Teal For Me!

September is a special month for me.  It is PCOS awareness month. Most of you are probably saying, "huh?" or "what in the world is PCOS?".   PCOS is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
I thought long and hard about whether to write about this at all. This syndrome does not define me.  It does not keep me from my life or my dreams (except for one dream). Not for a second should anyone put pity on me or think my life revolves around this monster (there are worse diseases out there). This annoying cluster of symptoms is something I deal with everyday under the surface while I go about my business. Writing about it and talking about it is something that I don't do very often and it does not come easily for me.  I keep somewhat quiet about it mostly because those that I have explained it to do not understand.  I have even received the comment, "I think this kind of stuff people bring on themselves."  Yep, someone close to me said that. Really? At 16-17 years old I asked for this and brought it on myself? Wow.  Despite some ignorant people, I decided to write about this because I belong to a couple of PCOS groups with some amazing 'cysters' who are all raising awareness about it this month in their own ways.  For me, what better place than on my blog? 

What is PCOS? It is the most common endocrine system disorder in females.  It is diagnosed by use of blood tests, ultrasounds, and symptom analysis and often characterized by multiple follicles (cysts) on the ovaries in what is often referred to as a 'string of pearls' pattern. Not every single woman will have the cysts but may also have numerous other symptoms of PCOS including: 
- Weight gain
- Irregular cycles
- Sleep apnea
- High Cholesterol
- Dark patches of skin
- Excess hair growth
- Increase in stress levels
- Fatigue
- Infertility
- Thinning hair
- Insulin Resistance
- Pelvic Pain
- Depression 
- Anxiety
- Many many more.....
* most information above is from the PCOS Foundation

In the long run women with PCOS are at a high risk for diabetes, infertility, apnea, liver disease, heart attacks, miscarriages, high blood pressure, obesity, and endometrial cancer (among other cancers). 

That is PCOS in a nutshell. Really, it is very complex and so many women go un-diagnosed because many doctors just simply tell them to lose weight and they will be fine. PCOS often causes weight gain and despite weight loss, PCOS cannot be cured, only controlled. 

I was diagnosed at age 24 after a trip to the Emergency Room for a cyst that burst, although I know I had symptoms from the time I was about 15 or 16. It then took us three years to have our daughter and now....7 years trying for second baby with no luck. PCOS sucks. However, I have seen the bad cases and can say my PCOS is mild to moderate. Thankfully, I do not have every symptom.   

What do I want everyone to know?  Do not judge women you see everyday. Do not assume heavier women sit around all day eating crap. Many do not. So many of my 'cysters' (me included) try so hard to eat right and exercise. We take supplements and/or meds everyday to control our symptoms. Our struggle is a constant uphill battle that most people have absolutely no clue we are fighting. We are not the opposite. 

If you are able to get pregnant with no problem and have more than one child-- be grateful and thank god. Never keep asking a couple when they are going to have kids.  Please, never ask a women when she is due without knowing for sure if she is pregnant. Just realize everyone has a struggle you do not know about so be kind.  
This September I support all my 'cysters' in the fight and raising awareness.  We will not give up. We will give it our all and live our best lives. I am proud of myself.  Most people do not realize what I have been through in my life and how much I have fought up to this point (not just with PCOS).   

I could write so much more about the struggle, the symptoms, the treatments, etc., but writing this much was tough enough. 
To my 'cysters':  Fight like a girl!  


Thursday, July 31, 2014

No Second Chances

That was the shortest summer vacation I have ever experienced--with a child OR when I was a kid.  My daughter got out of school June 5th.  Today was her first day of 2nd grade. I am serious. July 31st. It is still technically July and I sent my daughter off to school today. Every first day of school is tough, especially this year for two reasons.
First reason? New school.  My daughter started at this school the first week of May so, really, it is still new to her. I could see it on her face this morning- no big smiles. I could tell from the hug she gave me last night- I had to pry her off of me. However, my daughter being the independent, brave little girl that she is, holds it all in and goes at it with all she's got. I hope she holds on to that bravery for the rest of her life, but I also hope she finds a way to release stress.
She also never wants to show how scared she is in front of me. The only words of her true feelings were said to her father, not me. My feelings are not hurt. I know at this stage in life it is all about daddy. Yeah, I read that in a book, "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters", which my husband has read--all the way through! (insert sarcasm).  She is growing up way to fast. Every time I buy her new clothes or shoes I pretend to yell at her and say, "I told you to stop growing! You didn't listen!".  Then we both laugh together and she says, "But I can't help it. I have to get big and strong!".  Love. that. girl.

Second reason- This is my last shot (pretty darn sure). A lot of parents get a second shot at moments. You know...."oops, forgot to get pictures of Timmy's first steps. Oh well, we'll plan better for the second kid."  We probably will not get that second chance. God must have other plans for us and our tiny little family. I take a ton of pictures, spoil my daughter a little, make moments extra special, etc.  That is what you do when you have one shot at parenting.  There is no "we will do that with the 2nd" kid. Not saying other parents don't make moments special for all their kids, but...well, it is just different with one kid.  All the big moments are firsts and probably lasts.  Know what though? I am becoming content with that concept.  It has taken me about three years to make that transition, but acceptance is most of the battle.

So here's to an excellent first day of school!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The 4th of July tradition continues...

I can't believe my daughter starts second grade in three weeks. This summer is just too short.  After spending five days with my parents, we met up with my mom at the lake house and spent a gorgeous Fourth of July weekend fishing and enjoying the water. We have spent the last 4 or 5 Fourth of July's here and it has certainly become a tradition. Now that we live closer we hope to get up their several times a year now instead of once or twice.
Our daughter caught three fish this holiday weekend and that doesn't include one that almost pulled her off the dock and then snapped her line and swam off because it was so big.  We also enjoyed a beautiful fireworks display over the lake and watching many houses all around the lake set off fireworks as well.

Our daughter is home for a week and then off she goes again to South Carolina. She is a traveling girl! We are grateful to the wonderful grandparents she gets to spend time with this summer. I never had grandmother's to spend time with when I was a kid so I am more than happy to turn half her summer over to them.

She's in love with this dress grandma got her

My annual photo of my husband and my daughter on the dock 

So glad my dad put this bench out on the dock this year. So peaceful to sit out there.

Quite scary! This hot air balloon came so close to crashing into the water. 

Sitting on the dock watching the fireworks.

Her first time in a paddle boat and she loved it!

Her second fish that she has ever caught all by herself.

Sunrise over the lake.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Settled, Summer, and Smiles

We have made it through the first two months in our new city.  We are settled in and enjoying a peaceful summer. Our first summer in almost three years that we can enjoy without constantly keeping the house clean for showings. I cannot describe the joyous feeling of having dirty floors for a few days.  Seriously, when you clean like a freak constantly for two years it feels damn good to take a break and enjoy life.

Although, this summer I will be finding myself alone quite a bit.  My daughter is gone this week visiting my parents. In a couple of weeks she leaves me again to go with her aunt and other grandma to visit her cousins in South Carolina.  She will be gone for 9 days. I have never been away from her for that long so this should be interesting and make me a nervous wreck.  Maybe I should be more concerned for the sanity of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for having to be in a car with her for 11 way.

This is also the shortest summer vacation ever.  Her last day was June 5th and she starts second grade July 31st. Squeezing in summer activities and lots of pool time is keeping us very busy.

Bubble fun at grandma and grandpa's

Posing for me at grandma and grandpa's
Love spending time with friends in the pool

Days spent at the neighborhood pool behind our house

Beautiful day spent in Chicago

Top of the ferris wheel in Chicago! What a view! 

Come into Chicago at least once a year and finally ride the ferris wheel. All smiles!
Weather in Chicago could not have been more gorgeous
Exhausted on the train after a fun filled day at Navy Pier and shopping in Chicago