Sunday, September 29, 2013

September Mommy of the Month

I am so excited to share two exceptional mamas with you for September’s Mommy of the Month!
Thank you to Mama C from Letters to Baby MC for nominating our first mama, Amanda. Amanda is a Texas native who I first met many moons ago while living in Belgium. Our parents were stationed on the N.A.T.O. base at the same time and our mom’s both taught math. Amanda’s big brother and I were good friends and we stayed in touch after graduation. More recently we ran the Marine Corps Marathon together.  (And by together I mean that he finished over an hour before me and then doubled back to watch me and our other teammates finish!)

Amanda’s mother, Cindy, also a super mama took some time to share with me some of the amazing things Amanda does for and with her sweet little girl, Olivia:

Amanda takes every available second of her day to be with Olivia and enjoys every bit of it. Life is one huge lesson and Amanda takes the time to explain so much to Olivia - which is why Olivia is absolutely brilliant of course! She takes time, for example, to teach Olivia about compassion and kindness, not just to herself, but to others, to property, to animals. Amanda teaches Olivia without teaching her.  Books are a #1 priority around their house, as are learning activities, no matter how messy, how inconvenient, how gross - it's all hidden learning that Olivia absolutely thrives on.

Olivia is being raised to be kind and respect the world around her.  Amanda, selflessly, puts Olivia before everything else.  She will never be one to say she won't do something for Olivia no  matter how tired, uncomfortable, frustrated, hot, cold, or inconvenienced she is.  What’s more is that she makes sacrifices so that Olivia can have lots of much needed mommy time - no "me" time for Amanda, no gym, no walks, no tv shows, no shopping unless Olivia is involved. One of the things I find to be very special about Amanda is that she makes sure that Olivia gets family time with their own nuclear family plus takes time from their busy weekends to make sure that Olivia gets to see her grandparents and cousins. Family is always number one!
As a working mama, Amanda strives  to enjoy every second with Olivia so they make an hour long commute to and from work in Austin, struggling with horrible traffic, as long as they are together.  The alternative is for Olivia to attend a daycare in the same town they live in but that extra 2 hours a day together is so important. This supermama definitely puts the family's needs way above her own.

Amanda and her husband are expecting their second child! Olivia is so excited to be a big sister. And if she is anything like her mommy, she is going to be the best big sister ever! Congratulations Amanda!

Supermom #2  is from Florida and was nominated by her mother, Grandma A.  Grandma A is so proud of her daughter but wishes to remain anonymous. Not a problem! The story she shared with me is such an amazing birth story and is an inspiration to other young or new mommies who may have faced something similar.

Grandma A’s daughter had her baby on August 10, 2013 by unprepared c-section. It was then discovered that the baby had pneumonia and had to take a med flight to a larger city hospital.  She never even got to hold him. Nearly 48 hours later she was released from the hospital she gave birth in and was able to relocate to the hospital where her handsome son was. She spent 11 days in the NICU all while trying to heal from her surgery. Her son was 4 days old before she was able to hold him in her arms. Despite all of this she remained calm and patient and her mama instincts just kicked in. She is, indeed, a supermama!

Meet last month's supermom here. Do you know a supermom? Is your mom, daughter, wife, sister or friend an inspiration to you? Nominate her for October's Mommy of the Month by sending an email to keepcalmmommyon(at)gmail(dot)com.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where the Green Grass Grows

Six lanes, taillights
Red ants marchin' into the night
They disappear to the left and right again
Another supper from a sack
A ninety-nine cent heart attack
 I got a poundin' head and an achin' back
And the camel's buried in a big straw stack

I'm gonna live where the green grass grows
Watchin' my corn pop up in rows
Every night be tucked in close to you
Raise our kids where the good Lord's blessed
Point our rocking chairs towards the west
And plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows
Where the green grass grows

Well, I'm from a map dot
A stop sign on a black top
 I caught the first bus I could hop from there
But all this glitter is gettin' dark
There's concrete growin' in the city park
I don't know who my neighbors are
And there's bars on the corners and bars on my heart

But I'm gonna live where the green grass grows
Watchin' my corn pop up in rows
Every night be tucked in close to you
Raise our kids where the good Lord's blessed
Point our rocking chairs towards the west
Plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows
Where the green grass grows
"Where the Green Grass Grows" by Tim McGraw

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Getting Our Fall On

Sean and I took advantage of taking the day off of work for Addie's first day of school and took her & Mason to the local nursery afterwards to pick out some mums, gourds & pumpkins to start sprucing up the outside of the house for fall. We took both vehicles so that we could just load up the truck with everything we needed.

If you follow me on Instagram you saw Addie picking out and filling her apple basket with mini pumpkins and gourds. Her favorites were the white ones!

Addie thought that lining them up on the deck would be the best look! 

Mason, on the other hand, was not as amused as his sister to be decorating outside. I think the poor guy's tummy was probably rumbling.

I'm not a fan of the fall (I don't care for the weather getting colder) but I jump at any opportunity to decorate! Bye bye summer, it's fall ya'll! Stop by later this week, I'll be sharing some DIY Halloween decorations that are super easy, super quick and super cheap!

Do you decorate with each changing season? What are your go-to favorites for the fall? Share and leave a comment below! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Addie's First Day of Preschool

I don't think there is anything that can really mentally prepare you for your baby's first day of school. While I know that she is independent, prepared and more than excited to go to school I can't quite get over the fact that this means my sweet little love is growing up way too quickly for me.

I had laid out a cute little pants & shirt outfit for her the night before the big day. When she woke up she decided she wanted to dress up and she picked this cute Crew Cuts hen dress from the factory store instead (similar here). Loving that she is becoming a mini fashionista!

First day of school means another opportunity to get my craft on! One of our family's tradition is for children to receive a schultute on the first day of school. I made mine using pink & gold striped wrapping paper and filled it with tissues, nail polish, stickers, crayons and other goodies. I'll be sure to post later how to make them! They can be used for any special occasion, not just the first day of school.

Addie did great on her first day! She was so excited to tell us about everything she did; painting, playing with playdoh, singing, reading books and playing on the swings with her new friends. I was able to snap a few quick pics before we had to leave her.

Sean and I each took the day off of work so that we could share in her special day together. She was waiting patiently for us to pick her up and boy were we excited to see her! Our big girl!

In between dropping her off and pick-up time we dashed home and quickly put the finishing touches on her bedroom (pictures of that coming soon too!) then stopped by the florist to get her a bouquet of flowers for when we picked her up. 

To make the day extra special for her I pulled an all nighter to create a chalkboard printable on Pic Monkey, her schultute, and stuffed her new backpack with the required supplies. I'm not going to lie, that part of sending my baby girl off to school was fun! 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, September 16, 2013

An Apple a Day

You already know that I am not a fan of fall (read more about that here) but there are some things about living in New England in autumn that I do love and our annual pilgrimage to Honey Pot Hill Orchards is one of them.

We skipped the hayride this year and headed straight to the orchard. It was much more crowded than in years past so we wanted to make sure we got some good pickin' in!

Addie has been coming here since she was just 3 months old. She's got the perfect grab, upside down, twist and pull technique!

It was nice to just take a few hours and slow down to spend time walking through the orchards with my family. My new Bob Double Stroller arrived last week and it made all the difference lugging the kiddos and apples up and down the hills!

 I'm looking forward to making some apple pie, apple crisp and apple sauce with my little loves. I might even try some caramel and chocolate dipped apples, yum!

Of course, we couldn't go home before a few pictures in the pumpkin patch. One of my all time favorite pictures of Addie is of her, at 3 months old, lying in the pumpkins.

But the highlight of our trip each year? Fresh, warm and yummy apple cider donuts. Does anyone have a recipe for making these at home? Eating these on the weekends might just help me appreciate fall a little better!

P.S. First day of preschool post is coming! I went a little overboard and have so many pictures to sort through. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Hope You Dance

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...

I hope you dance,
I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making

Don't let some hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...

I hope you dance,
I hope you dance.

Lyrics by Lee Ann Womack

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

8 Months Old

Little man is growing up way too fast! I've got my baby girl ready to start preschool and this guy is crawling, standing, cruising and trying so hard to walk on his own. I just want time to slow down!

Trying to get Mason to sit still long enough for a great photo is becoming harder and harder the more mobile he gets. He is a little man on the move and there is no slowing him down! Out of almost 200 shots, these are the only ones that turned out decent enough to share!

It is only a matter of time before he takes off walking all on his own. Time to get the baby gate installed on the stairs.

Outfit Details: Long-sleeved stripe T-shirt from Target / Skinny Jeans from Old Navy (similar here)

Want to see little man growing up? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Embracing Fall

Central air is off. Windows are open but the house was chilly enough this morning to require a robe and slippers. You know what that means? Summer is almost over. I am not going to pretend to be one of those people who love the fall. I'm not a fan. I'm a summer girl, through and through. One of the things I miss most about living down south (in addition to the people, style and southern hospitality) is the weather. I am happiest when the weather is warm year round. As a New Englander, however, I try to make the most of the changing seasons and try to focus on the positives fall and winter have to offer. Here are a few things that help do the trick!

1. Emily Ley Journal: I love her trademark phrase, "I Will Hold Myself to a Standard of Grace, Not Perfection." This yellow cover is perfect for the season and makes a great accessory to any desk space or book shelf. I also have this print framed by my desk upstairs and the Simplified Planner to keep track of the kids activities, blogging, budgets and meals.

2. Land of Nod Favorite Sweats Blanket: Cozy up with the little ones on the couch with some hot cocoa and cartoons. It is the perfect way to start a lazy fall weekend day. This blanket can easily be thrown into the car, stroller or packed in a small travelling bag for weekend getaways.

3. Paper-Source Feather Pack Kit: Real feathers coming into the house doesn't sit well with me! Addie loves them, though, so this is the perfect compromise. Hang them up as a decorative banner or use for fall crafts. I love all of the bright fall colors and you can't beat the price.

4. Bijoux Design Studio: Etsy is always my go to place for cute accessories. I love the color and chunkiness of this necklace. It would go great paired with a long sleeve white tee and dark denim.

5. Hobby Lobby Burlap Ribbon: One thing I do love about fall and winter are all of the fun crafts I can make around the holidays (I detest cold weather but Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday). I love hitting up the local craft stores for ideas and inspiration and I've got some neat ideas that I can't wait to share over the next few months!

6. Erin Condren iPhone Case: I love everything Erin Condren, including her stylish Life Planner (I have this one). The colors on this phone case are perfect for the fall. The blue and brown combo embraces the cooler season without being dull and dreary.

7. Paper-Source Chalkboard: Every home needs a chalkboard! This one is perfect for hanging up on a kitchen or entry way wall.

8. Paper-Source Tee Pee Kit: Play tents are the latest craze these days. This is another project I've been working on for the kiddos.  Until their life size one is ready, though, these cute kits will have to do. Perfect craft for a rainy fall day. Added bonus - you now have some cute handmade decorations or place cards.

9. Pottery Barn Savannah Recycling Bin: I've dropped a few hints hubby's way about this item! It is currently on sale and could be used for so many things. Our trash and recycling is sorted in the garage so I'm thinking of using this in the living room for spare throw blankets and toss pillows so that they are always easily accessible without being piled up on the couch all the time.

Do you like fall? What are your favorite things about the season? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Versatile Blogger Award & My Emotional Breakdown

I am really feeling the love from fellow mama bloggers! Two weeks ago I was nominated for a Liebster Award and now this, the Versatile Blogger Award! Big thank you and shout out to Jodi from Enjoying the Life for acknowledging me! Check out her blog for some creative inspiration and her experiences in motherhood. 

Speaking of motherhood, today was the first of a few tough days on my end. Addie's preschool play date was today. Organized by the parent association, it is a social gathering of students, parents and teachers that facilitates the children getting to know each other. It is an awesome idea and I was able to sneak away from work this morning to take her (another bonus of living ridiculously close to where I work!). As I was putting together the drinks for the kids (I'm a classroom parent) last night I was thinking to myself, this is no big's just a play date. I won't be emotional until the actual first day of school. Boy, was I wrong! Seeing my baby girl just run up to other kids and introduce herself and ask what their names were, and hearing her call all of the kids her friends and laughing with her teacher and saying "that's so silly" when she told her they'd have a sandbox in the was heart wrenching! My sweet little baby girl was off and running all on her own. Little miss independent did not need her mommy. Clearly, she is going to be just fine!

I was a little choked up but managed to pull myself together before returning to work! Next week is her visiting day where I get to go to school with her and the week after that she starts full time all on her own. She'll do great. Me? I'll be a mess. I have a little bit of time left to mentally prepare, but I'm not sure that will matter. I will be a total wreck! They say this gets easier the more kids you have? What do you think? Any tips? Suggestions? Thoughts? Anyone else in the same boat as me and sending their first born off to school!? I need someone who can sympathize with me!

Monday, September 2, 2013

5 Tips for the Perfect (Impromptu) Playdate

Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend. Sean was traveling for work but the kiddos and I managed to have lots of fun & giggles. Unfortunately, it was super humid, overcast & stormy most of the weekend. Thank goodness for central air!

While we were waiting for the crew to come and assemble the new playset, Addie's good friend Dylan came over for a play date! We had originally planned to meet up at the splash park but the threat of storms and a hold up by the play ground builders kept us home bound. No biggie! Luckily, I had everything I needed for the perfect play date! 

Using what you already have at home, you too can be ready for the impromptu get together! Here are my 5 tips for pulling together the perfect play date in less than 20 minutes! 

1.  Pack-a-snack: Little bellies go from happy to hungry in a heartbeat! Rather than opening up your pantry for little ones to ransack explore (and potentially de-organize) pick a few kid-friendly snacks ahead of time to put in baggies or a basket. Keep it at their level so that when they start to feel hungry it is only an arm's length away. This cuts down on little one's food indecisiveness and tantrums!

Anytime I see a cute printable on Pinterest or another blog I love, I print it out! You never know when you might need one! These, from Scribd, were perfect for our little play date on Saturday to celebrate Addie & Dylan going off to pre-school!

2. Pick Three Activities: If your kids are older, plan for more, but toddlers can usually handle about 2-3 hours of playing & (more importantly) sharing their stuff! Ask your little one for input in choosing things ahead of time. This allows them the opportunity to express whether or not they like the idea of sharing a particular thing with their friends! Addie, for example, does not really care for other kids using her doll stroller (something we are working on) so she doesn't pick dolls as an activity. This is my way of avoiding a meltdown later on. Put the toys or activities together in one area.

3. Use What You Have: We have a ton of arts & crafts supplies down in the basement. Play dates are great for busting these out because you have at least two adults to help supervise & assist! Not a craft hoarder like myself? Check your pantry! Pour some uncooked rice or pasta into a big plastic box. Toss in some plastic kitchen utensils & dishes and voila, you've got yourself some high end toddler entertainment. Older kids can use the noodles to make necklaces! 

The kiddos decorated their own snow globes! 

4. Change The Scenery: Keep those kiddos engaged! If weather permits switch to doing an activity outside. Stuck indoors? Change rooms! Worst case scenario, move them from a table to the floor and then back to the table.

Taking a break from the humidity and coming inside for a "picnic."

5. Be Flexible & Go With The Flow: You are not directing a cruise! Kids have a mind & agenda of their own! And sometimes, as was the case on Saturday, you have unexpected guests show up! (Turns out our neighbors niece was in town and spotted A & D playing outside). The more the merrier! Let them be kids...let them have fun!

Chalk & bubbles. What more could these cuties ask for?

What are your tips and tricks for play dates & get togethers with your little ones? Share what works (or doesn't) for you in the comments section below! 

Big thanks to Dylan and his amazing mama, Emily, for coming over and spending the day with us!