Friday, December 29, 2017

Five on Friday – An Ode to 2017

Well friends, the time has come again to close out another year.  I have to say that I’m not having any qualms about saying goodbye to 2017.  2017 has been a year plagued by illness, heartbreaks, and trials for our family as well as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and general division of our nation as a whole.  There’s been lots of sadness and frustration this year and I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2018. 

I came across this meme on Facebook not too long ago and I died laughing because this is exactly how I feel about this year:

A few of the reasons why I’m ready to say goodbye to 2017…

It was the year that doctors thought that Olivia could possibly have some serious issues with her kidneys.  After many appointments and lots of testing, we found out that she did not.  Praise the Lord.

It was the year that B left town for business for a week in January and I had pretty much one of the worst weeks of my life.  Everything that could go wrong went wrong.  This was when all of the issues popped up with Olivia’s kidneys so I had to handle everything alone, and to top it all off she also fell on her head/neck twice that week, and both times were so bad I thought she would end up in the hospital.  Thank God for extended family who helped me get through that week without losing my sanity.

It was the year of tornados and more tornadosand the hurricane here in our city and pretty much everywhere else in Georgia.  We spent countless days this year huddled up in our safe place riding out storms.

It was the year that my allergies have raged more than ever and in turn kept me sick for almost half the year.  Literally.  In May I was sicker than I have ever been in my entire life and it ended with me having to be driven to acute care for a steroid shot because I was at the point where I couldn’t even drive myself.

It was the year where I also had lots of other health issues as well that I didn’t really get into much here on the blog – abdominal issues, some odd swelling in my extremities, exhaustion here and there, and hormonal issues, and my chronic pain was also worse than ever this year.

It was the year that I got a stomach virus for the first time in years.

It was the year that I finally had the guts to attempt to cure my chronic pain with a series of experimental procedures with a specialist in Atlanta, only to spend thousands of dollars and have my heart completely broken when it didn’t work. 

It was the year that it rained for half of our beach trip and was waaaay too warm for our fall mountain trip (minor things, but still frustrating even though we made the most of it).

It was the year that we decided to keep Olivia at her current school for one more year so she could have Jacob's old teacher who we adored, only to have the teacher quit two weeks into the school year and us regret not just moving her to Jacob's school.

It was the year that my cousin (who is my age) was diagnosed with lung and colon cancer, both in very late stages.  She is still fighting and your prayers are much appreciated.

It was the year that my uncle was hospitalized and placed in a nursing home as he is no longer fit to take care of himself due to his Alzheimer’s.

It was the year that my grandmother (mom’s mom) experienced some serious heart issues and was hospitalized on multiple occasions resulting in her having to get a pacemaker.  I’m happy to report that she is back to her lively, energetic, and spunky self!

It was the year that my other grandmother (dad’s mom) went downhill with her blindness and many other illnesses, some bad falls, and some broken bones which required surgery. 

It was the year that my step-grandmother was hospitalized for weeks with severe pneumonia.

It was the year that my aunt had to have a major heart surgery for some issues she has been having.

It was the year that my parents’ dog suffered several strokes and a major decline in health.

It was the year that numerous friends of friends and relatives died way too young.

It was the year that my supervisor was laid off which also eventually lead to me being forced out of my job that I’ve had for the last 13 years. 

It was the year that I accidentally left a boiling pot of water on the stove for too long, and it caught on fire and could have burned the house down.

It was the year of deadly earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and the deadliest mass shooting in American history.  The year that we swore in our most controversial president in history which created a great divide in our nation.  The year of a never-ending stream of sexual harassment accusations directed at our leaders and other prominent figures in our culture. 


2017 has been overwhelming to say the least.  And while nothing earth-shattering happened to our little family that we can’t overcome, the little things sure added up to cause a lot of heartbreak and general frustration.

However, there is always always good with the bad, and those are the moments that we all need to remember to cling to.  We had so many highs with our lows this year, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.   So in addition to all of the bad things in 2017, there are many things that I will always love about 2017…

It was the year that we celebrated the last birthday for Brian in his 30’s.

It was the year that we celebrated our sweet girl’s third birthday! 

It was the year that Olivia got her first haircut.

It was the year that I celebrated two years of blogging!

It was the year that I did a little experiment and grew my Instagram following by 2K in 2 Months.

It was the year that I celebrated my 35th birthday (with tornadoes, no less, but it is what it is…)

It was the year that B and I extended our pact to go on at least one date night per month and we exceeded it yet again by going on 17 dates!  A few were doctor’s appointments in Atlanta for me, but still time alone with B nonetheless.  If we don't count those, we did actually go on 12 real dates so we did meet our goal again!

It was the year that we went on several weekend getaways.

Atlanta, GA - Lego Land
LaGrange, GA - Sunflowers & Fall Stuff
The Rock, GA - Rock Ranch
Athens, GA - UGA vs. Kentucky

It was the year that we took two big family vacations as well as one vacation alone together. 

Panama City Beach, FL - Day 1 / Day 2 / Days 3 & 4 / Day 5 / Days 6 & 7 / By the Numbers
Nashville, TN - Day 1 / Days 2 & 3 / By the Numbers
Hayesville, NC - Days 1 & 2 / Days 3 & 4 / By the Numbers

It was the year that we celebrated Jacob’s sixth birthday.

It was the year that we went to six concerts, two of which are in my top five of best concerts I’ve ever been to!

It was the year that I may have been forced out of my job, but in turn got my wish of being a stay-at-home mom.

It was the year that toward the end, I finally figured out the solutions to some of my health issues that had been plaguing me and I finally, finally found someone who is helping with my chronic pain issues after six long years.  I know I haven’t yet discussed this on the blog, but I promise to address it eventually.  I just want to make sure that this is finally it. 

It was the year that we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.

It was the year that we celebrated all of the holidays better than we ever have before!

It was the year that I shared several new yummy recipes with you here on the blog.

It was the year that I hosted my first permanent link-ups and the year that I had several amazing sponsorships. 

And since this is technically supposed to be a Five on Friday post, I thought I would leave you with my top five most viewed posts that were written in 2017.  Instead of starting with one, like I usually do, I’m going to start with five and work my way to number one.  I have to keep the suspense, right?!

This post is currently at 1,670 views and I have no clue why it was the fifth most popular post of the year.  Lol.  So random!

This post is currently at 1,975 views and growing.  And it’s crazy because I just posted this a couple of weeks ago and it’s already the fourth most popular post of the year!  I guess my cute little Pinterest graphic is helping it right along.  :o)

This post is currently at 2,244 views and it’s another one that I have no idea why it was so successful.  I guess people like to read about our weekends!

This post is currently at 2,438 views and growing and I totally understand why this one is my second highest viewed post that I wrote in 2017!  I made a pretty Pinterest graphic for this post as well so I’m sure the repins are helping it along as well.

O N E – How I Grew My Instagram Following by 2K in 2Months (Without Following & Unfollowing)

And finally, this post was my most popular post of 2017 by a landslide.  It is currently at 9,877 views and still growing.  This comes as no surprise to me since 2017 was the year that everybody and their grandma started trying to make it big on Insta.

Before I go, I do have to mention that my most viewed post of all time is still my very first blog post that I ever did back in 2015 – Olivia Cate’s Pink and Gold First Birthday Party.  It’s now at 142,802 views and still going strong… thanks, Pinterest!

And finally, just for fun, here are my best nine (most liked) photos on Instagram this year:

Cheers to 2018!!  And 2017... BYE FELICIA!!

*Linking up with A Liz Adventures and Carolina Charm for Five on Friday, A Little Bit of Everything for Friday Favorites,  September Farm and The Farmer's Wife for Oh Hey, Friday, Meet @ the Barre for Friday Favorites, and Cup of Tea for High Five for Friday.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017

*This post may contain affiliate links.

What a wonderful long weekend we just had!  I had intended to post our Christmas recap yesterday, but the holiday got the best of me, and I decided to forgo time on the computer to spend quality time with my lovies instead.  :o)  What can I say about our Christmas?  Well, it was pretty much perfect.  It was magical and fun and a little bit crazy all rolled into one.  Just the way we like it!

We started the long holiday weekend with lots of relaxing Wednesday evening.  I whipped up some copycat Winter White Cosmos (from Bonefish) and B and I settled in for a movie night.

Thursday Jacob and I hung around the house in the morning and then it was off to run a couple of errands.  My allergies and asthma were RAGING in the few days leading up to Christmas so we headed to the allergist so he could change my meds to try to keep me comfortable.  But first, we decided to swing through the Wendy’s drive-through for frosties… at 11 o’clock in the morning.  Because – Christmas break! 

Jacob and I picked Olivia up from school early and then we headed straight to my parents’ house for an impromptu dinner with my brother, SIL, and nephew!  It was the first time we had gotten to see them since they had arrived home and it was a wonderful evening of catching up.  I helped my mom prep for dinner and then we all headed outside for some fresh air since we finally had a break in the rain.  It literally rained/was super cloudy all week leading up to Christmas Day. 

That evening when we got home from my parents’ house, we arrived home to this:

The majority of the Christmas tree lights were out and I was beside myself!  Why oh why does stuff like that have to happen right before Christmas?!  Brian messed with them for a little bit and he finally discovered that the fuse for the strand that plugged into the wall was blown.  All he did was pop out the old one, pop in a new one, and voila!  The six dark strands were all okay!  Whew!  #IKnewIMarriedHimForAReason  ;o)

That evening we put the kids to bed, watched the SNL Christmas Special and then called it a night.

Friday morning we were up and out early to get the kids to Nana and Poppie’s house to bake and decorate Christmas cookies!  B and I used the opportunity to step out and run a few last-minute errands while the kids baked with Nana.  We actually ended up at Toys R Us and it wasn’t near as crazy as we were thinking it would be since it was just three days before Christmas.  We ended up scoring a Robotrax for Jacob for half off!!  We were already done shopping for him, but for the last week all he kept telling people was that he wanted a Robotrax from Santa.  Fortunately we were able to make that happen!

Meanwhile, the kids were decorating cookies AKA dumping sprinkles EVERYWHERE.  Haha.

That evening we made White Chicken Chili at home and then we did our annual drive around and look at Christmas lights night.  The kids were particularly excited about it this year and they really oohed and ahhed more than ever!  They kept shouting gleefully, “MORE MORE!”

We finished the evening with some festive mules and more couch time.

Saturday morning we were up and out early again to meet my bro, SIL, and nephew at our local trampoline park.  They do toddler time on Saturday mornings so we were able to avoid the chaos of older kids and it was a great time!  The kids (and adults) all jumped and played for two straight hours and a good time was had by all!  I thought for sure I would be super sore the next day but I actually wasn’t.  Good to know I’m not an old lady yet.  ;o)

Saturday afternoon was spent making gingerbread houses that B and I had picked up on Friday.  I helped Jacob with the frosting while B helped Olivia and then the two kids decorated their houses all by themselves.  Not too shabby, right?

After the gingerbread houses were made and lots of frosting and toppings were eaten, B and the kids baked all the chocolate chip cookies for Christmas Eve.  We called in pizza for dinner and then we all snuggled up on the couch to watch Home Alone.  While we’ve had it on in the background every Christmas Eve since both of them were born, this was the first time we had all actually sat down and watched together.  The kids LOVED it.  No surprise there!

Sunday was Christmas Eve and the morning was spent cooking.  We all took a very short break to have Sunday lunch at my MIL’s, and then it was back home to cook some more and get ready for children’s Christmas Eve mass.

Mass was at 4 and it kicked off my favorite 8 hours of the entire year.  The kids were able to go to the front of the church to hear our priest tell the story of the nativity, and the children’s choir sang all of the hymns.  It is always my absolute favorite mass of the entire year!

We had to stop in the commons area after mass for some pictures by the big Christmas tree and then it was time to run home and grab all of the food and gifts to take to my parents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner.

We arrived at my parents’ house around 6 and the rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking, opening gifts, and being merry with so many of our loved ones.  In addition to my family of four, my momma, daddy, two brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, uncle, uncle’s girlfriend, father-in-law, and brother’s friend were all there so it was a packed house!

My mom had made a huge spread – honey glazed ham garnished with pineapple, dressing, homemade mac n cheese, sweet potato soufflé, and green beans, and I had brought the mashed potatoes and black eyed peas while my uncle’s girlfriend brought broccoli salad.  I whipped up some Winter White Cosmos and we also opened a bottle of wine, and we all stuffed ourselves silly. 

After dinner we opened gifts.  My Momma and Daddy bought several things for me off of my wish list – these bootsthis scarf, and these work out pants along with a few other things.  And by the way, I love all three of those things… all fit perfectly and are so cute!  The boots are ah-mazing.  I LOVE them. 

The kids scored lots of new stuff including a new spaceship shaped tent for J and a Jasmine costume and Cinderella dress for Olivia. 

Once the gifts were all opened, we all settled in for our annual viewing of Home Alone and dessert – Ritz Pecan Pie and the homemade chocolate chip cookies that B and the kids had made with coffee to accompany. 

Christmas Eve perfection.

Side note, my littlest brother surprised my mom by chopping off his hair which has been as long as mine for several years now... she was ecstatic!  And he looks so handsome!

A little after 10 we got the kids in their jammies and loaded up the car and headed home to get them in the bed so Santa could come.  They were both sound asleep within 30 seconds (literally) and B and I quickly got to work. 

B built a fire, we put on Home Alone 2 and then I cooked up the breakfast sausage for Christmas morning before pulling out all the things to put together.  We made it to bed a little before 2 and then we were awakened a short hour or so later by Olivia’s awful croupy breathing.  Thank God our doctor had prescribed some Prednisolone for us to keep on hand, because if not, we would have had to take her to the ER.  Her strider was so bad that she was struggling to breathe and it scared me to death.  We are no strangers to croup as it landed Jacob in the ER overnight when he was two, so we knew exactly what to do.  I ended up putting her in our bed and I spent the next hour and a half wide awake waiting for the medicine to kick in and her breathing to regulate.  Just as I fell back asleep it was about time to be up on Christmas morning.

Olivia was perfectly fine when she woke up and you would never know that she had had any issues during the night, thank you Lord!  We all headed downstairs at about 7:45 and the kids checked out everything that Santa had brought.  The first thing Jacob commented on was the Robotrax so B and I were glad that we had gone out and gotten it at the last minute!

The kiddos loved everything that they received and Olivia changed clothes no less than five times in the first hour because she wanted to wear all of her new costumes. 

I started brunch around 9:15 and everything was ready by 10.  I made a sausage, biscuit, egg, and cheese casserole, bacon, Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes, and then OJ and coffee to drink.

My momma, daddy, bro, uncle, uncle’s girlfriend, and father-in-law all came over and we ate and ate some more.  Afterward, the kiddos showed off their new toys, and then we all opened our stockings from my parents. 

They all cleared out just before noon and I took the next couple of hours to get some stuff put away (hardly made a dent in the mess.  Haha) and then around 3 I lay down on the couch for a nice little Christmas nap while B and the kiddos played.

I was up by 4 to cook my pineapple casserole and then we all got ready and headed to my aunt and uncle’s house for Christmas evening with my mom’s entire side of the family.  You may remember that we were originally supposed to host, but my aunt and uncle who usually host ended up being able to stay home for Christmas so they just decided to host like usual.

Olivia received some real Georgia cheerleading pom poms so she naturally wanted to wear her Georgia cheerleader uniform.  ;o)

My cousins who live in Denver and LA were both here and my cousin Zoe’s kids were here as well.  They are Jacob’s and Olivia’s exact ages so the four of them played and played and played all night while the adults ate a ton of food (again) and drank lots of wine (again).  It was a wonderful evening!  We even managed to take a group picture of the whole family!! 

We got home a little after 9 and the kids had already both passed out in the car, so bedtime was easy peasy and B and I spent the rest of the evening downstairs watching yet another movie… this time, Bad Santa.  (Not a fan, by the way!)

Tuesday everyone was so exhausted that we all slept in past 8 and then we got ready and headed to Atlanta to meet my brother, SIL, nephew, and some of my brother’s friends at the Georgia Aquarium.  My nephew, Tucker, is obsessed with fish right now so they wanted to take him.  We hadn’t been in a couple of years, so it was nice for the kids to see it again.  Jacob remembered going the last time, but Olivia had no memory of it since she wasn’t even two the last time we went. 

We spent the day looking at beluga whales and whale sharks and penguins and all sorts of other marine life.  We went to the section where you can touch some of the rays and fish and other things and both of them were all over it, even though Olivia was a bit timid at first.  The kids were a bit whiny in between exhibits, but over all they did pretty great considering that we were there for five hours!

Also, Tucker hadn't been wanting me to hold him too much since he had arrived because he doesn't get to see us but once a year other than in pictures and via Facetime, but toward the end of our time at the aquarium he lifted his little arms to me because he wanted me to pick him up.  I was in heaven and I carried him around for the remainder of our time there.

We made it home just in time for me to make some grilled cheese sandwiches for a late dinner, and then it was off to bed for the kids and more TV watching for B and me. 

B was back at work yesterday and the kids and I literally never even left our PJs, so it was a productive day.

We truly had the best loooong Christmas weekend and we are so very thankful for another year of holidays where everyone was healthy and well.  And as of yesterday morning our house still looked like this:

Now to celebrate with Brian’s family this coming weekend!

*Linking up with Home of Malones for Thoughts for Thursday.