The Family Christmas Questionnaire

My son had a Secret Santa Questionnaire he had to fill out at work and he posted it on his Instagram so people could see his answers. He’s pretty funny, eclectic and a really interesting person, so it was fun to see his answers. And, I actually learned some things about him – I didn’t know he likes peanut M&M’s!

When I read his answers, I realized that his tastes and interests have really changed in the last 20 years! No kidding, huh?  When you don’t live with your kids anymore and unless you really talk deep and often to your family members there are a lot of things that you miss. Things like their favorite candy or what tv shows they watch. I mean, in the short time that we’re together, we don’t often get down to finding out these things about each other. If I don’t know these basic things about my own children, I know even less about my in-law children. My grandboys are little and they change so quickly that one questionnaire a year is probably not enough for them.

Then, I started thinking about myself and realized that I change, too. Sometimes my tastes and interests change from year to year or even more often. So, it’s not that I don’t pay attention or don’t love my family if I don’t know the answers to questions about their favorite things, it’s just that people change and we sometimes don’t have enough time together to find these things out!

So, I created this Christmas Questionaire that I’m going to give to my family! And I’m not going to be embarrassed about it at all!

The ChristmasQuestionnaire

If you’d like to use this, you can! It’s free! Here’s a link to the PDF you can download:

The ChristmasQuestionnaire

Happy Holidays!

Peace,

Jill

 

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When You Ask A Question, Do You Really Want An Answer?

A couple of posts ago I asked, “To move or not to move? That is always the question.”  Well, I got my answer: looks like we’re moving. Where? To Texas, but not in the same place as my kids and grandkids. We’ll be about 4 hours away, and that’s better than 12!

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My answer came in the form of a promotion for my husband. It’s really great! I’m so excited for him – and me.

It’s really one of those God-orchestrated things where you can’t believe how it all works out so nicely. Not to say that there won’t be challenges and difficulties, but you can’t doubt the rightness of it.

All my minimizing, weeding out, and decluttering is so worth it right now! There are things here and there that I’m getting rid of but for the most part, I can say, “This is what is going with us.” And, it’s not much.

I feel like the past two years has been setting me up for this move…

but…

there are still emotions. The untangling of my heart from this place, loosening of my fingers from around memories.

Also, holding my breath to see if my friendships can stand the test of distance. Fearing they won’t, praying that they will.

Change. Yuk!

Adventure. Yay!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that conflicting emotions that battle inside of me won’t kill me and after the dust has settled I usually find that they can live together and both be right at the same time.

On a side note: I’m thinking about starting a vlog in conjunction with this blog. Would you like to see me and hear me and let me show you where I’m going? Let me know!

Thanks for being patient with me dear reader!

Peace,

Jill

To Move Or Not To Move, That Is {always} The Question.

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In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges of being a person of my age & station (i.e. a distance grandparent) is that will we swim in the brackish waters between the past and future – and there is this EXTREME tension between the two.

My husband and I decided to make our home, right here, in this house I’m sitting in as I write this, 22 years ago. We’ve been in this general area for 33 years, 3 years after we got married. So, basically, we’ve been here our whole married life. We’ve raised our kids here, made memories here, established lifelong friends and careers. We’ve forged trails and worn paths. It’s home.

And that is precious and wonderful to me.

I raised my kids to explore and reach out into the world. I fully expected them to leave and go. But I imagined my husband and I and our home as John Donne describes how he felt his wife was to him, his “fixed foot.”

“Our two souls, therefore, which are one, 
   Though I must go, endure not yet 
A breach, but an expansion, 
   Like gold to airy thinness beat. 
If they be two, they are two so 
   As stiff twin compasses are two; 
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show 
   To move, but doth, if the other do. 
And though it in the center sit, 
   Yet when the other far doth roam, 
It leans and hearkens after it, 
   And grows erect, as that comes home. 
Such wilt thou be to me, who must, 
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run; 
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 
   And makes me end where I begun.” 
Foolishly, I guess I thought my kids would “end where they begun.” I don’t know why I thought that, I mean, left home and never went back. It was silly for me to think my kids whom I raised and was an example for would be different.
So, here I am, having established this kingdom, a castle, a homeland with my kids and grandkids –  my heart – 800 miles away.
It seems daunting to leave all this history and start building a world again. But the tension often gets so unbearable especially when they are struggling or sick, I want to be at their side to be a help and support.
I know there are options, compromises, I guess you’d call them. I have a friend, a grandparent, who sold their house and bought an RV and is traveling the US. That’s a bold move, to so totally let go of the past. Maybe I’ll get to that point one day.
And I know, as I age, my role as the “fixed foot” will inevitably change. My kids will become the anchor and I will depend on them more. I’m just not ready for that.
So, for the time being, I’m weighing my options, living on FaceTime and becoming very familiar with the 800 miles between us.
But the questions still haunt me: “Will I move?” “If so, when?” “Should it be sooner than later?”
Got any advice, suggestions, my blog friends?
Peace,
Jill

 

#2 Grandboy’s First Birthday

So, I realized that I never told you about my #2 Grandboy’s First Birthday! I told you about #1’s Sea Pal Party, so let me tell you about #2’s Elmo Sesame Street Party.

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Little Man turned 1 back in August and his Mom & Dad did it up right! Little Man loves Sesame Street, especially Elmo and The Count. So, Mom found a giant vinyl sticker of most of the Sesame Street characters and they had a few friends come over to help put it on the wall.

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Then Mom came up with snacks in keeping with the theme…

She was SO clever! And I made the Smash Cake…

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The red dye didn’t stain his face too bad, haha!

They had indoor and outdoor games for everyone…

 

And Husband made Little Man a motorcycle, too!

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A great time was had by all! What a great day celebrating our Little Man!

Peace,

Jill

Settling In

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So, I arrived 800 miles later safe and sound. And since I’ve been here we’ve been on full-out playing, eating, laughing and birthday planning mode!

Me and my boys have been getting to know each other better and learning what each other likes and finds funny. I bought the above double stroller at a 2nd hand shop so we could go Rollin’ together. They are so cute when they hold hands when they’re in the stroller together! Both of my kids are planting a church together with their spouses and some really great people. They meet in a movie theater on Sunday mornings. So, they have to go early to set up. I went early this past Sunday to watch the boys while they were setting up and this stroller was a big help. We rolled around outside then inside. Great fun!

Gideon, the cute guy on the right will be a big ONE year old this week and we’ve been in party planning mode. I offered to make his birthday cake and we’re going big! I made a practice cake to see if I could actually make what my daughter was thinking about. I am NOT a professional. I’m just crazy enough to try.

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Don’t judge! I don’t like anything you see here, except maybe the “sand” layer. We’re working toward an ocean theme. Sand, waves, fish scales, you get the idea. I was trying out some canned icing and found it’s not good for piping unless I add powdered sugar to stiffen it up. Then there’s the HEAT to contend with. We also played around with colors. I don’t like any of the colors you see in this pic. So, I will adjust. The Golden Oreo “sand” turned out good, I think. It was fun working with my girls. I really miss spending time with them. They are so creative and daring (especially letting me make the 1st birthday cake!)

7 weeks after Gideon’s birthday, Manny, the handsome guy on the left will turn ONE year old!

So, I’m settling in for my long visit. We’re so used to having just a few days together that we rush around trying to get in all our fun and talking and hugging before I have to leave. But now, we can relax and just BE. It’s SO nice.

Hope you’re all doing well. In my next post, I’ll talk about feeding the grandkids. Is that a source of tension between you and your kids? Let’s talk.

Peace,

Jill

 

This Was The Goal!

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Of course there are many factors, many purposes and many reasons because life is not that simple. But one of the goals of freeing up, lightening up and streamlining my life was to do just what I’m doing right now…being able to spend A LOT of time with my kids and grandkids who live half way across the country.

I packed up pretty much all of my clothes in a plastic bin- because I’ve cut down the size of my wardrobe, remember – and threw them in the car and drove 15 hours to my kids to stay for a month.

It’s okay. The husband is okay with me leaving. Not jumping up and down but okay especially when I reminded him he’ll have control of the remote and he can cook all the crazy, spicy, weird foods that stink up the house he wants to.

But let me tell you, it was a breeze leaving the house. Back in the day it would have taken me a week or so to get ready to leave. I would have had to wash a ton of clothes and dig out a suitcase. I would have probably gone shopping because I never really had stuff to wear because I hated most of my clothes in my closet. So, thank you KonMari!

I would have cleaned the house (because I hate coming home to a dirty house) which would have led to the sorting and cramming and the frustration of realizing I need to throw stuff out but I’m too stressed because I have to go on this trip to stop and do that right now which leads to the guilt of having just crammed all my crap into weird places just to make the house look neat and clean and putting discarding and organizing on my to-do list for when I get home. Whew!

Then I would have to pay the bills which would lead to the same ordeal only in the office and file cabinet followed by the guilt of feeling unorganized and worring if we have enough insurance in case there’s a flood or the apocalypse and knowing none of my important files are in a fire/water safe safe and then feeling guilty for not really knowing where those files are, in fact not knowing which files are important. Whew!

But since I’ve done all the decluttering and organizing, leaving for the trip was easy. I paid the bills, filed the necessary papers which took me 20 minutes max. I had one small, and I mean small load of laundry to do. I didn’t have to pick and choose what clothes to take because I only have like 4 pair of pants, 2 shorts, and several shirts. I threw in my sneakers for walking and sandals. I wear my hoop earrings almost every day and my fitbit so I didn’t have to figure out what jewelry to wear with which outfit. I slimmed down my every day grooming routine, so I just threw everything I use everyday in my toiletry bag. I didn’t really have to clean the house because the house stays pretty clean everyday now that I don’t have a lot of clutter.

So, I put all my clothes in a plastic see-through bin so I wouldn’t have to dig through a suitcase for a month. I packed a tote bag to take into the hotel with me for my one night stay halfway there. One basket of snacks and water and I was on my way!

I didn’t leave with that uneasy, guilty feeling of having left things undone or unfinished or out of order. I left free.

Now, I’m here and we’re already having loads of fun. I think all those FaceTime sessions has helped make me a familiar face with the grandboys. They are sweet and social anyway, but they’re not looking at me like I’m something from another planet.

So, now to settle into a routine and try not to be an annoyance. You know, “the mother-in-law.”

Let me say sorry/not sorry if I write and post pics about my grandboys for the next little while.

Peace,

Jill

 

Smash Cake Crazy!

Ok, if you know me at all you know that I run about 2 years behind trend. However, I hate to admit it but this time I’m about 10 years behind trend!

But let me say that it’s because I haven’t had a baby in like 28 years!

So, Skrunchkie Gideon is getting ready to be ONE YEAR OLD! He’s so big! And we’re talking about his birthday party. I’m so excited!

(I take FaceTime screen shots, so sorry about the quality.)

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And his Mom said she wanted him to have a Smash Cake.

Now, I knew that birthday kids were having little cakes that they could dig into so that the party guests wouldn’t have to eat a slobbered, destroyed cake. But I didn’t know it had an official name.

Daughter shared some pinterest ideas with me (and you know Distance Family depends on Pinterest) and I decided to try my hand at making a Smash Cake.

I’m not much of a cook but I love to bake and since I’m trying to improve my health and husband is diabetic, I don’t bake much around here.

So, I had SO much stinking fun making Smash Cakes! Now, I’m not a pro and I haven’t done cake decorating in like over 25 years, so don’t be judgey. But here’s a practice run on Gideon’s Smash Cake.

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I’m serious, don’t look too close. But while my technique needs some practice, I was happy with how I was able to tint the icing to get the colors I wanted. I had to add the little mini vanilla wafer clams with pearls. Too cute not to try! I don’t know if we’ll use them, the candy pearls are really hard for somebody with just 5 teeth.

And since I had the kitchen covered in powdered sugar, I decided to try my hand at making a Smash Cake for Manny the Man since his birthday will be in a couple of months.

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He loves Elmo, so I made him a big, red, Elmo head.

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I showed the kids and they approved so I’ll pack up my pans and tools and take them with me when I head out to Texas for the birthdays.

In my research about Smash Cakes and the best icing to use, I ran across Cupcake Jemma and all her YouTube videos. They were very helpful! You should check her out!

I’m going to be experimenting with different icing and practice my techniques so the Smash Cakes will be just perfect before they get destroyed!

Peace,

Jill