Monday, November 24, 2014

Phone dump

Just a bunch of pictures from my phone that don't fit into other categories.

We had a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party, and Reese grabbed a token and went straight to a game and put it in the slot. Should I be embarrassed or proud about how many times my 21 month old has been to the Cheese?

Lily helping Reese.

We also went to a precious, perfect birthday party for one of our best and favorite family friends. This is the really quality picture I got of the adorable birthday girl, Emily. 

Meredith will take a party plan and raise it to a level you didn't even know it existed. Emily's Circus, complete with face paint, corn dogs, huge bounce house, popcorn machine, etc...

Reesie the clown.

Love this girl.

One day at Lowes, Reese just sat in the middle of the aisle and started pouting and fake crying. FOR NO REASON. What am I going to do with these girls?
I was just grateful for the small break from her trying to run away from me.

Lily's school is an hour round trip. It's crazy when I type it out like that. So, I spend two hours in the car just to get her to and from school. But, I promise it is worth every second. I love her school and am so lucky that we have it here. Her teacher, Dr. Fish (yes, my daughter's Kindergarten teacher has a PhD AND has the best Kindergarten teacher name, EVER.) sends daily texts.

I took Reese with me to get my passport picture taken. (We have NO plans to go anywhere, but it is cheaper and easier to just renew it rather than let it expire). She wanted a turn in the chair. She is crazy and exhausting, but the girl is FULL of personality. She is Lily made over in so many ways. 

 A little dose of real life. My girls are both so obsessed with tiny things, but Reese will occasionally put them in her mouth. I had just pried open her little hand to take the beads out before she went to bed, and she was so mad at me. "beeeeeaaaadddss!!!"

Lily at tumbling one day. They were practicing for the Bristol Christmas parade.

One morning, 3 of my friends and I ran into each other at the Target check out. Target selfie!

"Everyday life takes less effort."  I read this a few weeks ago and think about it daily. I love my little girls, but I am sort of living for the day when they can buckle their own carseats.

I let Lily do a craft at night before bed usually. One night, I went up and saw this was her craft. What on earth. I know some of the numbers are backward, but she was doing MATH. ON HER OWN. This has to be Hughes' influence.

But...see what I mean about her school? Lily's teacher challenges them to think every day, all day. Lily had a Math homework assignment the other day about geometrical shapes. I had to ask Hughes to help explain the plane or whatever to me. And, then Lily corrected me when I pointed incorrectly to what I thought was a "rectangular prism." Is that even a real thing?? (I just googled it. Yes, it is, apparently). She finally said, "Mom, I think I can just do this on my own." So, my 5 year old has surpassed my math skills. It was bound to happen.

I finally replaced this Wordle that is clearly out of date. It was cute to look back and remember that she wore a headband every single day. And she was obsessed with Ariel. And, she has always been so responsible at her core.

My newest one. I tried to pick things that described both of them. 

I explained how to make a Wordle one time:

Heehee. Her name will never, ever get old to me.

She has just started sleeping with a blanket. She wraps it tight around her, and it makes her seem like a kid and not a baby. 

Another picture from her teacher. I love Lily always smiling (top right)

Reese found this tiny button one night at Bass Pro when we went to see Santa. She carried it all night, through dinner, though her bath, and had such a tight grip on it at bedtime that I let her keep it. I did sneak up and take it away after she fell asleep. My kids love, love, love tiny things!

Another picture from school.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm 5 years old, it's getting cold...

Taylor Swift's The Best Day has been a special part of my life as Lily's mom. Almost every single night of her life has ended with me singing this song to her. When she was tiny, and I was overwhelmed, unsure, and exhausted, this song gave me strength. I listened to the CD every single day for a full year after I would drop her off and drive to work. 

It starts "I'm 5 years old, it's getting cold..." I loved imagining Lily as a 5 year old, because that would mean we had survived. I was not completely sure I would survive her newborn-ness and infancy, so the idea of visiting a pumpkin patch with a Kindergartner was a beacon in my future. If we could just make it to 5 years old, we would be okay.  NUMEROUS times, I remember holding onto the hope that surely, by 5 years old, she would sleep? Sleep- lack thereof- has ruled my life as Lily's mommy. Even when she was 2 and 3 and not sleeping well, I would sing The Best Day to her and cling to the hope that by age 5 she would be sleeping. Unfortunately, there are still a few sleep issues, but overall, she is better sleeper at 5 than at any previous age! I will take it. 

Lily has been really excited for a while that she is now 5 years old and the "5 years old song" (as she calls it) actually describes her. Since the first stanza is about visiting a pumpkin patch, I have basically been dreaming of taking her to a pumpkin patch for 5 years. LUCKILY, Lily's class went on a field trip to one, and I got to just tag along!

It was fitting that Aunt Manda was there, because any part of a Best Day for Lily will always involve Aunt Manda. 

I'm 5 years old, it's getting cold, I've got my big coat (clearance jacket) on, 

I hear your voice and look up smiling at you, 

I run

and run.

Past the pumpkin patch 

And the tractor ride, look now- the sky is gold (grey).

I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home.

(Oh, that's right- it's supposed to be Mom, not Aunt Manda...)

The funniest part is that Lily ACTUALLY did look up and smile and start running toward us! I couldn't believe it, and I actually got a little teary eyed as I was taking her pictures running toward me, her wonderful mama. Literally, the song was even playing in my head. Except, then she literally ran right past me and straight up to Reese, screaming, "REEEEESSSIIEE!!!!" 

So, there's that. But, at least I got the pictures.

I didn't know if you knew, so I'm taking this chance to say, I had the best day with you today. 

Another day, we went to a free church festival right by our house and rode on a tractor ride while some random stranger watched.

I never knew so much of our song would change to include the baby sister, but I know Lily's days are so much better for having this baby girl to love!

Honestly, I am still overwhelmed, unsure, and exhausted as a mommy. But, I can honestly say that my best days of my life have been spent with these girls. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lily Craft Book

For the past 7 months I have had "Make Lily Craft Book" on my list of "things I really want to do if I get time." My mom gave me a free shutterfly book coupon, and I was sick of looking at it on my list. I finally started putting in on my calendar in ten minute appointments every night at 10pm. (Happiness Project advice) It took a long time, but it makes me SOO happy. I have taken pictures of Lily crafting and of SOME of her artwork over the years. I have probably only taken pictures of about half of her artwork, and I could only fit about half of that into the book. I didn't include anything she made at school, because I had to draw the line somewhere. She makes several things every day. Lily has never played with toys. I can't think of anything, besides her Daisy, Minnie, and Lucy dolls, that she has played with for more than a few minutes at a time. She just doesn't play with toys. But, the girl will craft. 

When she first started coloring around 18 months, I never imagined crafting would be her thing. Crafting is Lily's happy place. As I looked back through pictures of her crafting over the years and of her artwork, it was really special to be able to see how focused she was even when she was really young. She is so creative and generous. Almost of her crafts are for other people and are made with a great amount of thoughtfulness.

I am going to start making a book every year, I think. 

Here is a link to the Shutterfly book. I don't actually expect anyone to look at it, but I do like that it is here for documenting purposes. 

Create your own personalized photo books at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Books.

Some books I have read (mostly listened to) over the last few months or so:

I LOVED Bossypants (Tina Fey), so please read that one. It was hilarious. I also enjoyed Mindy Kaling's book. I adore Amy Poehler. If you don't watch Parks and Rec, please, please give it a chance. It is hilarious and endearing and clever and memorable. BUT, this was just not as good as I hoped. I wanted to love this book. was just okay. It was all over the place and it just sort of lacked a focus. I listened to it, and Amy read it herself, which was hilarious. But, sadly, it didn't really change my life. Eh. It was worth listening to (I recommend the audio over reading it), but  it isn't going to change your life.

But, really, if you like The Office and Modern Family, watch Parks and Rec. LOVE IT.

I would not run out and read this one- Most of it is geared toward business men. But, it did help me realize I need to reorganize my life, because I feel purposeless, chaotic, and overwhelmed. I did like this few bits of advice:
  • With a to-do list, write when and were I will do the task. I always transfer a 46 items from one week to the next, because I never actually accomplish much each day. So, either:
      • Do it immediately
      • Schedule it (if not for an immediate time, commit to doing it at a specific time on a specific day in the calendar. Actually WRITE it in the calendar of when you will do it)
      • Let it go. Maybe the task doesn't need to be done anyway if it has been carried around for weeks.
  • At the end of the day, ask: How did the day go? What successes and what challenges? What can I do differently tomorrow?
  • Stop multi-tasking. It's stressful and inefficient, like juggling balls in the air. 

I actually READ this one and didn't listen to it! 
It was a cute YA book- different and precious, odd...but I loved it. I really fell in love with the characters. It was an easy, quick read. It was refreshing to read a simple YA book that is appropriate for everyone without cussing and crazy suspense. Cute.

This was just not for me. I LOVED Unbroken, but I could not get into this book. I listened to it, and my kids are crazy and loud in the car, so this was probably part of why I just could not finish it. Not recommended.

One of my favorites! We chose it for a Book Club, so I re-read it. 
If you have not read it, please read it. It is life changing, and I think about parts of this book multiple times a day. I can't even try to list all of the parts that stand out to me.

Another gem that I recently re-read for Book Club. It's beautiful and memorable and hopeful and honest. READ THE GLASS CASTLE IF YOU HAVEN'T! Highly recommend.

My friend, Alyson, recommends the best books. I would never have read this one if I had just seen the cover and read the summary. It was fascinating, and now I am intrigued by the history of the Bible. It tells the story of Dinah and her father (Jacob) and her brothers (too many to remember- Joseph was one) and her grandparents (Isaac and Rebekah). It was different and interesting, and I liked the narrator's voice in the audio one. 

I enjoyed this one. It was serious and funny and sad all at once. It tells the story of a Russian immigrant who becomes a rich, successful ice cream company owner. My only problem with the book was that I couldn't' decide if it was supposed to be overall funny or overall serious. 

I recommend it, though. It was enjoyable and different. And, reading about the history of ice cream was interesting. 

This is LONG and I would never have been able to finish it if I actually read it.  But, once again... Audible to the rescue! 
I don't typically love Stephen King, because I don't like scary books. This one isn't scary at all, though. I really enjoyed it, but it IS LONG. You have to really like historical novels and lots and lots of details. But, this was a fantastic novel. 

I stole this from Stephen King's website:
Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

I love Cheryl Strayed. Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things are two of my favorites. This one was depressing and sort of terrible. I don't recommend it.

Liane Moriarty is usually a pretty safe bet, and this was a good one. I listened to it, which helped, I think- the narrator is AUSTRALIAN!!!!!!!! It didn't change my life---her books are like a much deeper level of chick lit. I typically enjoy her books and this one was a favorite. 

This one has been on so many book recommendation lists and best selling lists, and a few weeks ago it was chosen as A National Book Award Finalist. It is set during WWII from many perspectives- a blind French girl, a genius, orphaned German boy, an old man, etc... I like the different  approach to WWII it takes- different characters and setting with no concentration camps or actual battles. I wanted to love it, but I just didn't. It was slow and jumped around too much for my tastes. I listened to it, and I think in this case it negatively affected how I felt about the book. I am so distracted when listening to the books (usually in the car) that I think I just got too confused about which character was talking each time. It is probably worth reading, but make sure you have time to focus. 


TOP TEN LIST: this was from FB but I want to include it here for documenting purposes. 

I was tagged in the Book Challenge by Clare Brimer and Rhonda Helms. So much pressure to just pick 10 books that have affected my life! I am choosing books that I read 3 years ago or longer, since they are proving their staying power. Also, my top 10 list is a rotating one that can change at any point (with the exception of my #1, which is firmly planted at the top).

1. Harry Potter. 
As if there could ever be another #1 in my life. My husband knows that if something ever happens to me, his most important task is to get my our girls to read Harry Potter. The series will explain everything about life that I could ever hope to teach them. 

2. Of Mice and Men.
The simple but powerful friendship of George and Lennie makes me love this book more each time I read it. In high school, the first research paper I ever wrote was about this book, and I credit it to helping me understand a thesis-driven paper. I risked getting in a lot of trouble as a teacher when I would whisper to a student, "Go close the door," and we would spend 30 minutes a day reading this book, which most people would not deem appropriate for 7th and 8th grade. My middle school kids realized the power of this book, and every year, my room would be full of tears and understanding from 12 and 13 year olds who discovered that even the "old boring classics" could impact their lives.

3. James and the Giant Peach. 
Without Roald Dahl, I don't think there would have ever been a JK Rowling. I love every Roald Dahl book, but this is probably my favorite. I love his imagination, his silliness, his ability to create worlds and magic.

4. Room.
Sigh. I hate this book. But, it it has affected me so much that I think of it daily/weekly. A teenager is abducted and help captive in a shed- her kidnapper rapes her, and she raises her son in a tiny, one room shed. The book is told from his 5 year old perspective. Sigh. I hate this book. I made Melissa promise me that they escaped before I would agree to read it. The little boy is happy and doesn't know anything different. His mom has created a world for him- with physical activity and games and fun and characters and songs- in this 11x11 square foot space. This book is terrifying, depressing, and horrific for the mom, but for the son, it is hopeful, heartfelt, and adorable. It is a testament to moms everywhere, to the lengths they will go for their children. 

5. The Happiness Project.
I think of this book numerous times each day. It changed the way I organize, the way I think, and the way I react to situations.

6. Berenstain Bears.
These bears taught me so many life lessons- don't speak to strangers, go play outside, clean my room, don't eat too much junk food, be myself, etc... They further developed my love of reading as a kid, and I am so happy that Lily now loves them! 

7. Pride and Prejudice.
I read this as a freshman in high school, and I loved it from the start. Part of me felt so "smart" and old for reading and understanding a "real" book. But, mainly, I just loved that Mr. Darcy. He comes across as arrogant and hard to crack, especially at first, but he reveals his warm heart and his depth of feeling over time. He and Elizabeth seem like polar opposites, but they eventually realize they are meant for each other. She calls him by his LAST NAME for most of the novel. Yes, throw in a great sense of humor and some beer...and Darcy is my husband! Honestly, I knew by our second date that I had found my own Darcy. I sometimes wonder if I would have even given my husband a chance if I hadn't been secretly waiting for my own Mr. Darcy. I even found him a card last year on etsy that says, "Thank you for being my Mr. Darcy." #truestory

8. One and the Same, My Life as an Identical Twin.
Melissa Salvaggio Glover gave me this one year. The author- a twin- interviewed identical twins of al ages on their bond and their twin-ness. She interviews a set of twins who were Jewish teenagers during WWII. They were sent to concentration camps, watched their entire family dies, were experimented on by Nazi doctors, and barely survived the Death Marches. And, yet, over and over and over during their interviews they emphasized their luck and how blessed they were. "We had each other. The entire time, we head each other. We were so very lucky." We have been asked a million times what it is like to be an identical twin, and I think that sums it up the best. 

9. The Giver.
Having the opportunity to teach The Giver to hundreds of students is one of the highlights of my life. I love this book. I love the hope, the revelations about life, the sprit, the way it makes readers think. I have read it countless times and cried every single time- always out of happiness. " 'There could be love,' Jonas whispered."

10. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. 
Amy Krouse Rosenthal, I love you. This is a book about her life- her normal daily life. It is poignant, funny, charming, realistic, precise. I read this YEARS ago, and I still get a warm feeling every time I think of it. Melissa and I became obsessed with her, and on my first Mother's Day as a mom 6 years ago, Amy mailed me a signed popsicle stick! Melissa somehow found out about it and sent her my info. If right now you aren't extremely jealous of my popsicle stick, then you need to go read her books. She has several children's books (Spoon, Exclamation Mark, Chopsticks) published. She created "The Birthday Book" and "The Belly Book" that I ADORE and have for each of my kids. It all started with this fun, memorable, genuine book.

Runner's Up (because I can): Steve Jobs, The Help, The Hunger Games, The Babysitter's Club series.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


We are obviously obsessed with Kiwi Crate. I never imagined I would spend the money to do it, but I broke down and bought the whole year package, and it is only $16 a month. It is Lily's FAVORITE thing in the entire world (besides Reese). I enjoy doing it very much, and the residual effects of doing a Kiwi Crate with Lily make me feel like a good mom for days after we do it together. Kiwi Crate is like a direct defense for Mom guilt. They even have one called Koala Crate for younger kids! And new crates for older kids: Tinker Crate and Doodle Crate. The cleverness and attention to detail of these boxes blows me away every month. I seriously wish they would make an adult crate. 

Anyway, the reason I brought that up is because I love a subscription box. I especially love trying them when I get a $10 off promo code and I can just cancel after the first box. Kiwi Crate is really the only box I have found that is worth the money. I read about this cooking subscription box for kids called Kidstir, and I decided to try it (since I saved $10). It was cute. It was worth the $13 I paid for the first box, but once the monthly price is $23....that is too expensive to me. I am sort of desperate for Lily to not hate cooking, so I am trying to give her every possible chance to think it is fun. 

The first kidstir box was worth the $13, because it came with a super cute cookbook, 3 recipes, a grocery list, and 3 little goodies- a whisk, chocolate sauce, and a pot holder.

The kid stir recipes are cute, and the cookbook is a little bigger than a 5x7. It has little divider tabs for breakfast, snacks, lunch, etc... So, now I can just find random recipes online for Lily and we can add them to her cookbook.

Her favorite part was taking the shopping list to the grocery store and marking off items as we went. 

I hate cooking, and I especially hate cooking with Lily. But, she ALWAYS wants to do it. This was really fun, because we did it on a Sunday while Reese was napping, and I just let her lead the way. She made a mess (flour=ugh), but since the entire point of this was for us to spend time together and do something fun, I mostly just let the mess build up until we were finished. 

She was soooo happy. It was really awesome to just be able to pull this box out of the closet and surprise her with a fun activity for us to do together. I felt like an awesome mom for the rest of the day and had zero guilt when she watched TV later. 

We have made banana bread, apple crisp, and popovers. The best part is that they food is actually GOOD. Lily won't even try any of it, of course, but the rest of us have really loved it. And, is is mainly things already in the pantry- we just had to buy apples and bananas.

Honestly, if I enjoyed cooking, this might be worth the money each month. Lily did have a great time, and I am glad I got the first box because it gave me a great start (cookbook, little kid utensils, the idea in general) to actually doing more recipes for the sole purpose of doing an activity with Lily. It was worth $13 for that. I could see how some people would really love to share the joy of cooking with their kids, though. I think it is a great idea. My parenting joy is just more in the craft / festival / TV range. 

I ended up getting another promo so I tried the October box, too. Again, it IS really cute:

We can't do every single kid subscription box, and I would rather put the money toward Kiwi Crate. But, I may revisit this when Lily is older. 

It was SOO hard for me to find a kidstir promo code or kidstir coupon, but I finally found one on some random person's blog. You have to go through a link- it's the only way to save $10, which is about half off. If you want to try it, email me, and I will email you the link. 

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