Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Things I Did in 2014

This list is in no particular order of importance…just as they came to me.

1.  The weekly money saving plan.  At the end of last year I saw this idea on Pinterest to save one dollar per the corresponding week of the year it was.  Week 1=$1, Week 25=$25….you get the idea.  By the end of the year you'd have somewhere over $1000 in your envelope.  To be honest, I never thought I'd last past a couple months because I was sure I'd just forget about it.  But it's kind of cool to see the cash start accumulating and after a couple months go by you don't want to throw the towel in just yet.  I kept at it through mid-November and had decided somewhere in July that this is what we were going to use for Christmas presents and any other miscellaneous purchases that always come up during December (food for parties, hostess gifts, Christmas cards and stamps, etc.).

As you know, mid-November rolled around and we got the call that Crosby was born.  So just like that I went on an unpaid leave from work and I had money socked away to spend on Christmas "stuff" without having to worry about my pay check not coming in and adoption expenses that were sure to begin.

I'd highly recommend doing this.  It's pretty satisfying and it feels fantastic to have Christmas money saved ahead of time and in a slow, methodical way!  I'll definitely repeat this for 2015.

2.   Salvation Mountain. Chris and I went to California for a week last spring and on our last night there cancelled our dinner reservations on a whim and took a drive into the desert to visit Salvation Mountain.  I'd heard about it from another blogger I follow, and Chris was aware of it because the artist had recently died and it came up in his IG feed one day.  It was an adventure and getting there was a little scary because you drive through some less than savory little towns and border patrol and a whole smattering of drug drop houses right along the border.  But when we saw Salvation Mountain rising out of the middle of nowhere it was instantly one of the coolest things we've seen.  The moral here--it's not about Salvation Mountain, it's about having an adventure, doing something off the beaten path, finding those weird tourist things anywhere you happen to be and seeing something that the majority of the world won't ever experience because they'll keep their dinner reservation.  My mom and dad taught me this lesson on every family vacation we ever went on and I'm so thankful for it.

3.  Joined a pool during the summer. This might sound like a huge luxury….and I get it….it's not free.  However, I know for sure we saved money this summer as a result of joining a pool.  And….summer was so relaxing because of it.  You could find us there at least four days out of the week and then even on the weekend sometimes.  There were almost no random trips to wander Target (read….drop $150) just for something to do on a hot day when no one was around, only a handful of trips to the gardens--which are nice--but pricey and not super entertaining more than a couple times a summer, only one trip to the far away beach that eats gas, very few lunches out since we'd grab something quick at home and then head to pool with snacks, and I could go on.  Plus--Georgia conquered her fear of swimming and is so confident in the water now.  We'll do it again for sure next summer and I can't wait to see Crosby splashing around in the kiddie pool.

4.  Dressember. I found out about this campaign in November and instantly signed up.  You can read more about it here.  I had a team of 12 fundraisers and I set a goal for ourselves of $500.  We ended up bringing in over $600.  I thought it was pretty cool to be part of something so large and international and see how other women all over the world were participating and raising money to aid The International Justice Mission in their rescue of human trafficking victims.

5.  New School for Georgia. I wrestled and wrestled with this decision all the way up until Georgia started kindergarten.  The school where she attended pre-school for two years was amazing.  Great teachers, staff, students, families…..I really liked it all.  Choosing for her to leave was really about helping her grow vs. any kind of dissatisfaction with the school itself.  Georgia was lacking the confidence to meet new kids, strike up conversations with peers, join a new group, and ultimately grow socially in a healthy way.  Her prior school was small and having attended a small school like that myself until I was in 8th grade I knew that it would pretty much stay that way and there would be very few new kids to meet as she progressed from grade to grade.  Not a bad thing necessarily--but for Georgia I thought it would only create a bigger problem for her in learning how to step out of her comfort zone and meet new people and realize her own strengths and abilities.

Luckily, our district school is fantastic and from the minute we went to kindergarten orientation I knew it was the right choice.  She loves it.  I have seen her grow in confidence, discernment, academics, and friendships in the last four months more than I ever have.  I will never make grand sweeping decisions about school that span years.  I will make year to year decisions based on what I believe she needs.  For now--this is it--and I'm so happy we did it.

6.  My Job. Two weeks a month I work two days and two weeks a month I work three days….I have an incredible job share partner and I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to work with kids and teachers every week as a school administrator.  I've worked in education for 15 years this coming February (what?!) and while it's definitely challenging and makes me want to gouge my eyes out sometimes it's still worth it…..and I would say I feel like that almost every day.

7. Read these books amongst others…..

You can read the description of each of these books on Amazon….I'm kind of a stream of consciousness, every chapter is a different life lesson kind of reader these days so that's what you'll find in this list:

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (this was a re-read from last because it's just that good)
Speak by Nish Weiseth
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (this is fictional and will actually be a movie next year--but a thought provoking read as an adoptive mom)

8.  Celebrated 14 years of marriage to this guy: Not a lot needs to be said about this one.  Our anniversary got lost in the shuffle of bringing Crosby home and passing in the night between newborn feedings but I am so thankful everyday that he's mine.  Marriage is the best thing I've ever done and I'm so happy it was to him.
9. Continued traditions & started new ones…..I'm a stickler for traditions and believe they're pretty important for kids.  They build a solid, predictable, memorable, and special childhood for our hoods that I hope they'll want to emulate with their own kids one day.

Valentine's Day Tea Party:  A new one for us that is sure to be repeated this year. I love Valentine's Day and think it begs to be celebrated in all it's red candy heartness, glittery paperness, chocolatey goodness.

Michigan Adventure with the Hammonds: Four years running with this one and I know Georgia looks forward to it every summer at this point.  Can't wait for year five.

4th of July at Greenfield Village:  See my posts here, here, and here about this awesome tradition.

The Cottage:  Georgia has gone ever since she was born and I can't wait for Crosby to join her for a week of Pure Michigan.

Adoption Day Dinner: To celebrate Georgia's adoption day we let her pick her favorite place to eat and buy her a Christmas ornament that represents something she's really loved throughout the past year.  She counts down the days to this date in December and tries to guess all month long what her ornament will be.  This year we got her a donut…..Chris and G get donuts almost every Saturday morning and I think it's the best tradition….they do too.

10.  I mean…..Crosby…..right? November delivered a whoosh of a surprise and we were beyond thrilled to bring this little guy home.  He's squishy and cuddly and loves to smile at G and daddy and has stolen our hearts.  He finishes off our family perfectly!

2014--you've been a good year.  I mean….really so good.  It feels like it was just New Year's Eve 2013.  So I know we'll be back here in a flash next year at this time.  It's a good reminder for me to take things slower, really savor the moments--even the ones that feel hard (like getting a newborn on a sleep schedule), and chock the year full of memories that my kiddos will keep in their hearts for a lifetime.

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