Nell is 2 and a half. And she is full of personality, opinions, and, at this very moment in time, a lot of patience testing. My mom just laughs at her because she reminds her of me as a child. To which all I can say is that my parents are saints.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.46.32 PM Carrying her Halloween bucket as a purse. In February.

Driving Thomas to preschool last week:

Thomas: Mama, I call our President Bronco Bama.

Me: Yeah, that was pretty silly when you were littler and thought he was named after the Broncos, huh? But do you remember what his real name is?

Thomas: Ummmm…

Me: Barack Obama. Can you say that?

Thomas: Barack Obama.

Me: Good! So since you know his real name, it’s probably a better idea to call him by his real name. It’s a respect thing, baby.

Nell (loudly and with emphasis): Well, I call him NELL MA-KEPITT!

Me: Oh yeah, Nell? Do you think you’re going to be President someday.

Nell: Yeah. It’s going to be SO cwazy.

Agreed baby girl, agreed.

  Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.46.46 PM

I went into Nell’s room to get her up from her nap to find her with no clothes on.

Me: Well hey there, Nell, how was your rest?

Nell: I taked off all my clothes because I was doing a dance class instead of my nap.

Me: [Pause to evaluate what my response should be...] Oh, isn’t that something.  Let’s get those clothes back on so you can come down and play.

(We later had the “NO grown-ups should ever ask you to take your clothes off body safety rules and oh-by-the-way, you will NEVER be enrolled in a dance class with a nudity requirement chat.)


At Target:

Me [Picking up a cute coral-y pink striped shirt on clearance]: Do you love this t-shirt, Nell? Should we get it for you?

Nell: Um, no fanks. That is not beautiful enough for ‘mys closet’.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.47.09 PM

At the dinner table trying to get Nell to eat her food.

Me: Nell, can you eat this bite please?

Nell: Excuse me, mom. I is talking right now.

Toys for 2 Year Old Girls

It’s that time of year – my big kids had birthdays a couple months ago, so I can tell you what they’re loving now that we’re a few months into their new ages. Let’s start with Nell because finding things for Thomas was tough this year! No affiliate links, just sharing what we love, so click away!


2 year old toys

Nell is a baby doll girl. And when it comes to baby dolls, you have to go Corolle. Ok, you don’t have to, but they’re my favorite. They’ve been around forever – my two favorite babies were Corolle babies, and Nell plays with mine. My aunt bought Nell her first Corolle baby, and for her birthday, we got Nell a Corolle doll that is water safe. The body is soft, not hard like you’d expect, and my water loving girl loves giving her baby a bath. But, this is also Nell’s go-to baby right now for just general play. I’m telling you, Corolle dolls are the best.


Doll stroller. Most doll strollers don’t have front swivel wheels, which makes them a pain to take anywhere, and especially to push around the house. We bought a Graco one for Nell this winter and it just didn’t cut it for our circle floor plan – so for her birthday, I found this only slightly pink stroller on sale on Amazon (I think I paid $20 for it) and it’s been a hit. Note: The Amazon reviews aren’t great because someone thought this was a Maclaren stroller. It is made to look like a Maclaren, and we’ve loved it. Sometimes reviews are helpful, sometimes – like this time – they’re not.

Play kitchen. Santa brought this play kitchen to Nell in December. Santa specifically picked this one because it’s gender neutral since Nell had a big brother (at the time just one, but I was hugely pregnant with Peter and didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl – good choice Santa since we’re now a male dominated household). Honestly, Thomas loves playing here just as much as Nell.  Santa did leave B and I a note letting us know that it was a bear to put together, so keep that in mind should you be thinking of asking Santa for one for your little one this year…give Santa lots of extra time.

Play kitchen food. This is what I tell eveyrone to get Nell when they ask for ideas – play kitchen food and accessories. My favorite food is by Learning Resources – these healthy baskets are great because the baskets store the food, but the kids also like playing grocery store. My aunt got Nell this Farmers Market set from Learning Resources for her birthday, and it’s a hit. The kids play market and grocery store – and love it.

And I didn’t even move the water table off the picture from last year’s round-up, because it continues to be a favorite (Nell’s 1st birthday gift). I cannot tell you how many cups of morning coffee I’ve finished before 10am because of the water table. We use it outside Spring – Fall. I store it in the garage, but bring it inside every few weeks in the winter for the kids to play with like a sensory table. I bought ours at Costco for Nell’s 1st birthday – and they tend to carry a new one every year, but buy early, because they sell out by June!

So, that’s what Nell’s loving these days. What about your kids? I’ll get Thomas’s post together soon…if I can figure out what to put on it!

Here are my past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games


Nell’s Room: A Pattern Explosion

When we moved into our house last June, I immediately knew that the room with the built-ins and window seat would be Nell’s room.  When we found out I was pregnant seconds after moving in, everyone questioned if we shouldn’t just move Nell to the guest room and keep the “nursery” (as it was for the previous home owners) a nursery. But I felt strongly in the beginning that Peter was a boy (and then talked myself out of being convinced of it for most of the pregnancy) and I just had this picture of Nell in her room and the boys in the two rooms across the landing from Nell’s room. A girl’s wing and boy’s wing, if you will.


Anyway, this was Nell’s room when we moved into the house last June. Under the chair rail was a sage-y green and the top of the chair rail was yellow. The window seat was covered in jungle fabric that tied those colors together well, but Nell’s turquoise crib (my $69 painted IKEA pride and joy that we painted long before Pottery Barn Kids was jumping on the painted crib bandwagon) blended into the green too much and looked more green than turquoise with the colors. Plus, I had firmly established Nell’s color scheme as shades of blue and coral, and yellow and green didn’t work well with that.



Making Nell’s room her own was a very long process. In September, my mom and sister primed the green and painted the yellow gray (Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore). When B flew out to DC for a wedding in November, my mom and I put up beadboard wall paper on the bottom half of the walls (the same weekend my mom and B’s mom ridded Peter’s room of the cobalt blue paint).


We still had so far to go. This room needed color and pattern (and perhaps photos taken during daylight hours). I knew Nell’s room would be navy and turquoise with pops of coral, so immediately after we moved in last June, I ordered this Ikat print for the window seat and seven of these seaglass bins for under the bench. And that’s as far as I got until the painting happened last Fall. In February, we started to finally put the pieces into place when we moved Nell’s dresser and chair to the guest room so it could become the nursery, and the double bed from the guest room to Nell’s room for her to grow into and for guests. Did you follow that? Phew.

Enough talk, here’s Nell’s room as it stands today:


painted ikea crib

window seat


collage wall

So much of what’s in the room are things we already owned or I relocated from Caroline’s basement.  In fact, the only thing we purchased was the bedding. The room will continue to evolve – I’m sure in the next year sometime, the crib will come down, and artwork will change, but for now, we’re calling it done. And so, that’s Nell’s room. It’s a vibrant, colorful room and it fits her personality (and wardrobe) to a tee.

January Organization: Kid’s Closet Makeover with Rubbermaid® All Access™

I made two other January resolutions is addition to our commitment to “No Spending January” (which I’ll have an update on for you tomorrow!). The first was to order a credit check as a result of the hacking fiasco before the holidays, and the second was to organize 31 spaces in my house before the 31st. My goal is to get our entire house in order before February so that I can focus February on getting the baby’s room ready, and spending every extra second with my family before we become 5. So, when I was challenged to makeover a space with the new Rubbermaid® All Access™ storage containers from Home Depot, I readily accepted.

Rubbermaid All Access Containers

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Nell’s Nursery: Bead Board Wallpaper

Nell’s room is a work in progress, and is going to remain that way until we move the double bed into her room in early 2014 to get the 4th bedroom ready for baby Peyton Manning.

I always had a game plan for this room, but since I found out within minutes of our move that we were expecting #3, my painting and projects kind of came to a sudden halt. It drove Caroline crazy – every time she suggested she come up to help me paint a room I made an excuse for why I didn’t want to do things too quickly. When we finally told my my parents that #3 was on his or her way (we wait to tell everyone until the first trimester is in the rearview mirror), she finally understood my sudden heel dragging and immediately asked if she could come paint. I readily accepted her offer.

On Move-in Day:


So, Caroline and my sister came up while we were in Florida and painted Nell’s room. The top half above the existing chair rail went Gray Owl, and the bottom half they just primed white in preparation for bead board. I have a personal preference for chair rails that serve a purpose, rather than just chair rails that break up a room, so I knew I wanted to add bead board underneath the existing chair rail. But adding real bead board meant taking off the chair rail – and the baseboards – and waiting for Mr. B to have a few weekends to work on the project either with me or while I occupied the kids. And since B’s been super busy between work, finishing up his Master’s (one more semester, friends!), a non-profit he’s involved with and everything else I volunteer him for, like coaching T’s soccer team because history has made me not trust anyone else with my kids, I was pretty sure adding bead board to his plate in 2013 was going to push him over the edge.

Painted and primed (please excuse the terrible lighting that makes this gray paint look yellow-y beige).


So, I started researching paintable bead board wallpaper. And the reviews I read told me to go with the Allen and Roth version from Lowes. So, I picked up two rolls, and while B was in DC last month, Caroline dug up her old wallpaper tools and the two of us relearned how to wall paper. It’s kind of fun! Everyone I mentioned this to was skeptical, but in the end, everyone was really impressed with the results.


The process of putting up the wall paper was really easy. I just cut everything to the right length and followed the instructions on package – soaked the paper for 30 seconds, let it set for 5 minutes, and we applied. Caroline and I took turns squeegeeing out the glue – this wall paper had a ton of extra glue. We opted not to paint the wall paper. We were prepared to if we needed to, but it was actually really white and matched the trim in the room. The seams aren’t noticeable, but we were very careful to butt two pieces right up against each other to avoid any seams. And can I just say? Using scissors to cut around outlets instead of a dremmel? Heaven on Earth.

Finished product the night we wrapped this project up:


When B got home he was shocked that it was actually textured, and he said he’d wished he’d known about this when he did bead board in our old powder room – cutting around all those appliances was a pain. So anyway, bead board wallpaper gets my seal of approval. I wouldn’t use it anywhere that’s going to get a lot of abuse – like under our kitchen island, just because I do think it would be prone to tearing under foot kicking circumstances – but I’m a convert. We took this picture just as we wrapped up the wallpaper, and since then the bookshelves have been styled (as much as you can style an 18 month old’s bookshelves), pillows have been added, and the room is coming along. I’ll share progress photos soon, but:

Now I need your advice. I’ve still got to figure out window treatments. What would you do? The window seat necessitates either shorter panels or a roman shade (I’m not going the valance route). Would you go solid or patterned? The ikat fabric on the window seat I’m in love with, and I have pillows in coral chevron. The chair and ottoman are moving to the baby’s room – and will be recovered when I meet him or her – so ignore that stripe that doesn’t work with the room. The bed we bring in will likely have a quilt or patterned duvet on it, and in the long run the scheme here is gray and navy with pops of sea glass and coral. I was leaning toward a solid navy or white roman shade, with maybe some grosgrain ribbon trim, but I’m just not sure. I’ve thought about a subtle pattern, but being so close to the larger scale ikat I’m not sure. So, help me friends, what would you do if that was your daughter’s window? Panels? Roman Shade? Pattern? Solid? What color? Thanks a million.


A Walrus Costume (and mini-tutorial)

My 3 year old decided last year on November 1st that he was going to be a walrus for Halloween 2013. His walrus obsession began when his Gigi took him to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for a “Thomas Day” shortly after Nell was born, and continued into our trip to DC last November when we took the kids to the National History Museum. So, the walrus costume has been on my mind for a year, but I wasn’t going to get started until October since Rickie Fowler (I vetoed on account of no one in Colorado really following PGA golf outside of my dad, Mr. B and Thomas) and Peyton Manning (pretty sure he decided that he dresses like Peyton every day, so what’s the fun in being Peyton for Halloween?) were both thrown around as Halloween costume options for awhile.

  DIY Walrus Costume

Nell’s costume is a Carter’s Elephant (she loves elephants and we sometimes call her Nelephant, so it fit) and is basically a well padded sweatshirt with an elephant trunk on the hood, and her costume inspired me to create the walrus out of a brown hooded sweatshirt. We live in Colorado – chances are good there will be snow on Halloween, so Colorado moms know that costumes need to fit over a snowsuit (or just act like a snowsuit itself). When T was firmly decided on the Walrus on October 1st, I ordered a brown hooded sweatshirt from Amazon and found brown sweatpants at Walmart (of course they couldn’t sell a hoodie with their sweatpants, that would be too easy). Then, I googled around for my favorite walrus – the walrus costumes out there are kinda meh, so I just found a stuffed walrus whose face I liked and made the walrus face based on that.

Toddler Preschool Walrus Costume

First, I cut two bean shapes out of carmel covered felt to make up the walrus snout. Then, I cutout a quick heart shaped felt nose from black felt and hand stitched it onto one of the bean shapes at the top. I turned the bean shapes inside out and sewed the two sides together, turned them right side out and stuffed it to make a Walrus snout.  My mom was over while I was doing this and decided that a simple stitch around the snout would add detail and also that classic home-grown Halloween costume feel, so Caroline is responsible for the detailing. I also used the same colored felt for the walrus stomach – just to provide some variation in the costume. The tusks were the same idea – I cut four long curved tusks out of white felt, stitched two together twice to make two tusks, stuffed them, and sewed them to the snout. Then I attached the snout and tusks to the hood with a hand stitch, and cut two oval black walrus eyes to hand stitch on, too. Overall, it took me about an hour, and Thomas was giddy watching his long awaited walrus costume come together.

Walrus Costume

I love making Halloween costumes for the kids, but I’m also a reasonable person. Carter’s made a damn cute elephant and I bought it at Costco for $12.99. I spent more than $12.99 on T’s hoodie and sweatpants alone, though his costume didn’t total more than $20. Sometimes you have to make a costume (when your three year old decides he’s going to be a walrus, for example), and sometimes it’s okay to buy one (when your one year old’s only opinion is that every costume she passes in any given store is “MINE!”).

Walrus and Elephant costumes

Our walrus and Nelephant are pretty happy with their Halloween gettups – and Thomas is already scheming for Halloween 2014. Let’s hope it’s something I can make out of a sweatsuit. So, Happy Halloween from our zoo! Hope you all have fun and safe trick-or-treat adventures!

Traveling With Kids: Beach Vacation

We just got back from five days on Siesta Key, Florida. It’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever been too, and the fact that Mr. B’s sweet grandparents live nearby makes it pretty much our number 1 vacation destination at this point in our lives.  We try to go down to Florida once a year to visit B’s grandparents and get some beach time – it doesn’t always work out to be exactly on the calendar year – it was a year and a half between our first visit with Thomas and when we took both T and Nell last Fall, but less than a year between our November visit last year and this one – but in five years of marriage, we’ve made five trips to Siesta Key, so I’d say we’re doing well with our goal.

We love traveling with our kids. I know it’s not for every family, but B and I find so much joy in watching our children discover the world. Whether it’s Nell’s first real encounter with sand – she was meh about it – or Thomas discovering that he loves the ocean and body surfing waves after a summer of refusing to be anywhere near water without pitching a relatively large fit (which broke his swim instructor mama’s heart), it’s almost like we rediscover the world through our children’s eyes. I think the biggest key in enjoying a vacation with your young kids is to manage your expectations. The plane ride (or car ride) will have its tough moments. You won’t stay out late drinking and eating like you used to. What used to be my idea of quality beach time – at least half a day every day in the sand and the surf – has evolved to mean that two 90 minute beach sessions a day = success. Rather than walking the entire beach hand in hand with Mr. B talking about our goals for the next 5 years, we’re now running the same 20 yards of beach over and over again after two kids and talking about how to survive bedtime with four people in one tiny bedroom in our hotel. Our late night extravagant dinners have changed to early dinners, and drinking wine on the beach at sunset has become eating ice cream on the beach at sunset. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Siesta Sunset Ice Cream

On the first night we were at the beach, we walked up to Siesta Village from our hotel and grabbed ice cream to eat on the beach and watch the sunset. And for the first time in my life, I saw the green flash. Well, I’m calling it a partial see, because I had my camera up to my eye to take the picture above of the sun setting into the ocean and definitely saw the flash, but had to wait for confirmation from those around us that they saw it too before I felt comfortable saying I’d seen it and it wasn’t just some camera effect. Thomas’s mind was blown seeing the sun set into the ocean. “The sun goes Night Nights in the water?!? Can I sleep underwater? Pllllllease.” These are the moments that make playing musical Nell for 3 hours on an airplane so worth the trip.

Beach with Thomas

Thomas adored the ocean. I was nervous, as I mentioned earlier, because this summer he gave his mama a lot of trouble refusing to swim. In typical Emily fashion, I said since before I had children that I would never use any kind of floatation device for my kids and never, under any circumstances, would I put them in water wings. When my friends asked me for advice, I said, “If you HAVE to have something, please pick a life vest so that they learn their torsos are how they float, not their arms.” I mean, honestly, I’ve probably deterred 5 friends from putting their kids in water wings. And last Tuesday when T was at school and I was running last minute trip errands? I threw the freaking clearance Target water wings in my cart, because our summer had been such a mess and I was willing to do anything to at least have T enjoy the water again. I didn’t break them out until he’d already been out in the ocean with me, jumping waves and having a blast, and then I gave him the water wings and he had an absolute blast. He loved floating with the waves. We held hands in the ocean and kicked our feet up together towards the sky. And I looked at B and said, “I don’t care how lame they are or the fact that I think water wings look dorky. I don’t care that I think they’re the worst invention ever for teaching your child to swim. He’s loving the water. I’m sold.” Sorry, friends who I’ve told to avoid water wings. Do whatever you need to do for your kid. Oh, Emily.

Thomas on the Beach

Nell on the Beach

Little Miss Sis was hit or miss about the beach and the water. Some moments she loved it, some moments she wanted nothing to do with it, marched herself over to the umbrella stroller, climbed in by herself and sat with her arms crossed staring at us playing. She’s hilariously herself and we love every spicy little part of her personality.

Tom and Nell going to the Beach

This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. The second morning we were going to the beach, B and I were still packing the beach bag and finishing sunscreen and T and Nell were ready to go. Thomas took Nell’s hand and said, “Come on sister! Let’s go to the ocean! Mommy and daddy will catch up wif us.” Ha. 5 minutes later he fell on the walk to the beach and his skinned knee was apparently impossible to recover from, so it diverted our entire beach trip – we ended up driving to Longboat Key to see it and hope the kids fell asleep in the car.

It was a fabulous vacation, and one that we look forward to every year. So that’s where we’ve been the last little while, now I’m ready for Fall.

A Combined Sibling Birthday Party: Bubble Birthday Brunch

Note: You can still enter the $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card giveaway through Sunday night (closes at 12 am Monday morning).

Two things you should know: 1) Entertaining and parties don’t come naturally to me. 2) If I’m going to throw a party, I want it to be a good one. Enter: Bottle Pop Party Company. When Shannon announced she was taking her party planning business virtual, I emailed her pretty dang fast to see if I could hire her (not a sponsored post, I hired Shannon to plan the party and it was worth every penny and then some) to plan Thomas and Nell’s joint birthday bash. Because, referring to #1, if I’m going to have kids with birthdays less than a week apart, I’m definitely going to combine their celebrations into one for as long as I possibly can. And referring to #2, if I’m going to get away with a combo birthday party, it’s going to be a good one!

bubble birthday party

So, I approached Shannon with a few ideas I had and she gently steered me in a better direction. Love that girl. And when I threw out bubble party, she ran with it and made it awesome. Shannon came up with a navy, seafoam, coral and teal color scheme for this boy/girl birthday party and I was so in love with it, I used it for our family pictures we had taken in May, too.

Shannon’s plan was awesome. She laid out everything from the decor from the entrance to the backyard, from tablescapes to entertainment ideas, and having her plan made this party so much easier for me – especially considering we’d moved to our new house six days earlier. The house wasn’t in the ideal state I’d love to have it in for the party – would I have loved to have had every room repainted before inviting 50 people over? Sure. But you work with it. Here’s the party:

The entrance. A bubble machine greeted guests with tons of bubbles! A clump of coral, navy, sea foam, and polka dot (bubbly) balloons said “Party’s here!” and at Shannon’s suggestion I laid bubble wrap at the entry so guests would pop bubbles as they walked in (happened to have about six rolls worth around anyway, we could have bubble wrapped the entire house).


bubble birthday entrance

As for food, Shannon recommended a bubbly brunch which was perfect with the morning party I was hoping for – love to get a party wrapped up before lunch so everyone can go about their days. The food choices included a bagel bar with all the fixings, a bubbly bar, and donuts for dessert! Of course, Thomas apparently has an opinion now and demanded cupcakes, so we had both cupcakes and donuts. Obvs. You can never have enough sugar at a 1st and 3rd birthday party.

bagel bar

Bagel Bar Birthday

bagel bar birthday party

These cute utensil and napkin pouches were one of my favorite touches. I normally would have thrown a chunk of silverware in a bucket on the table, and after I put these together I texted Shannon that I would never present silverware and napkins another way again. Even my dad, who’s been known to not notice when my mom has had the exterior of their house painted for months, came up to me and said, “Em, I love these.” That’s saying something, right there.

Napkin Utensil Pouches

The Bubbly Bar. I offered three different juices and Champagne and Pellegrino (for those few friends of ours who don’t drink at 10am on Saturdays). I loved Shannon’s idea to anchor balloons behind the table, and I wish that we had another blank wall at our house to have set this against, but you work with what you’ve got, I guess. Like 13 different wall colors.

bubble birthday bubbly bar

A highchair full of balloons for the 1st Birthday girl (and the 3rd birthday boy had a regular chair full of balloons, no one was left out in this party plan).    1st birthday highchair

And some very happy birthday kiddos. Which is all that really matters in the end. It was the best party I’ve ever thrown (from my standpoint – I wasn’t stressed AT ALL) and we got tons of compliments so I assume our guests had a good time, too. Out back we had bubble stations setup, bubble hop scotch, and another bubble machine, but I failed to get pictures before guests arrived in true Emily fashion.

Birthday Collage

So that was our Double Bubble Birthday Brunch. What do you think?

Monthly Baby Photos: Time Flies

Well, Nell Caroline went and turned 1 on me yesterday, so I thought I’d do a quick update on her monthly baby photos. I think my favorite was her upside down at 6 months. I love that, like the calendar baby photos I did of Thomas, the clock chronicled Nell’s growth against a fixed object while also conveying the passing of time. And I just love an under 1 year old in a diaper for baby pictures – it’s timeless. Pun not intended.

Monthly Baby Photos

We had a great combo birthday party for Tom and Nell last weekend, I’ll post about it later this week. In the meantime, I’m mourning the end of “babyhood” but still savoring the sweet days with my two toddlers. Every year I’m the same age as my brother for two weeks and I’ve always loved that – I’m sure my brother finds it less than charming, or doesn’t even think about it. Ha. But for the next five days, I have a 1 year old and a 2 year old. Don’t even talk to me about the fact that my 2 year old is about to turn 3 and will start school in the Fall. Time flies.

To My Daughter On Her First Birthday

Sweet Baby Girl,

We’ve made it a whole year. Hard to believe that just one short year ago, you were placed into my arms for the first time. That just one year ago we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of this sweet bundle – we didn’t know who you were, we didn’t know what you’d look like, and we didn’t know if you’d be our son or our daughter. You are still a sweet, innocent baby in my eyes, but before I know it you’ll be off to school. It won’t be long before we’re shopping for prom dresses together. Before we’re arguing over curfews. You’ll be taking on the world one day at a time – learning more and more every day who you are, what you love, and how to create happiness for yourself. I have so many hopes and dreams for your lifetime, but more than anything, I am so looking forward to having the opportunity to observe the world – and watch you grow – through your own eyes. Here are just a few things I want you, my daughter, to know.

You are beautiful. I am committed to sheltering you for as long as I possibly can from the crazy body image battle that you will soon see everywhere – on magazines at the grocery store, on TV, from your friends and even your friends’ moms. Beauty is a mindset. If I could, I would never let you hear another woman speak negatively about her body, but I know that I won’t be able to shelter you forever. So know this, my darling girl: You are beautiful, smart, funny, and the purest joy I could ever imagine. I will tell you this every single day. Multiple times a day. And I will tell myself that same thing. Do I strive to live a healthy life and make healthy choices as a role model to both you and your brother? Absolutely. But when you were born, I realized exactly how much my body is capable of. YOU taught me that. But there’s so much more to beauty than what the world will want you to believe. Know this: You fill your body with healthy foods, you keep your body active, and you love it for what it is capable of and how you were made. You treat your body well, and it will treat you well. There will be days when you feel awkward in your own skin, but you are beautiful. You will always be beautiful regardless of how tall you are, how much you weigh, or what size jeans you wear. You are perfect. You are you. And we love you to pieces.

You Are Kind. When I’m focused on the day to day and not so much the big picture, I often marvel at the difference a few months makes in the first two years of a baby’s life. Compare you, at 12 months, to a friend who is 14 months and you are still such a baby. You learn SO many new skills every week at this age. Just a year ago, you couldn’t even hold up your own head and now you try to hold mine up every morning at 4 AM like you’re trying to say, “It’s time to PLAY mom, open your eyes! Let’s go!” It’s easy to think that these are the days I’ll remember as the ones when you changed so much day to day.

But the truth is, that you have a lifetime of rapid growth ahead of you, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that we’re raising you for the big, wide open world. It’s been a year that makes me sometimes want to shut the world away, sweet girl. Since you were born, I’ve held your warm, dependent infant body in my arms too many times as tears rolled down my face watching breaking news of things that should not have happened – some physically close to home, some further away – all of them have touched me in a way they never would have before I had you and your brother. In the last year, simple day to day activities are no longer “safe”, to the point where you have to think not once, not even twice, but daily: “Will I go to the movies ever again? Will I ever be able to send my baby to kindergarten? Should I run that marathon?” And I’ve realized, the answer is “Yes”.
Because the world can be scary. There are bad people out there. But there are more good people. And so, we live our lives so that we can be a part of the good, and so that we can share the good that we witness with others. I owe it to you, and to your brother, to live our lives in the real world. To embrace the good. You are kind, and when you feel like the world is insurmountable, look for other kind people.

You are in charge of your own happiness. It seems silly to write this to my one year old, because right now, I’m in charge of your happiness. Daddy and I provide you food, shelter, cuddles, playtime and security. But with each passing day, you become more independent and more capable, and one day, you will be on your own. Or so you’ll think, mama and daddy will always be here for you. Always. But one day, you’ll think you’re on your own, and here’s the trick to conquering life on your own: You are in charge of how happy you are. That’s it. You will make decisions every single day that contribute to your overall happiness. Not every choice will be a great one, and that’s okay, too. We all make mistakes, so take responsibility for your mistakes and move on – it’s how we learn. Sometimes you’ll just have to admit defeat and take a new path. Sometimes you’ll have to put in hard work to get the path you chose back on track. But you create your happiness. No boy. No friend. No “happy weight”. No designer label. No car. No house. None of those single “things” will make you happy. Fill your days with the things you love, the people you love and who love you back. Somedays, you’ll wake up and feel grouchy. That’s okay. Sometimes you might need help, and that’s okay, too – part of finding happiness is learning how to ask for help. But oh, baby girl, if I could impress just one thing on you and your brother, it’s that you’re in the driver’s seat of your life. Sometimes happiness requires work. Sometimes happiness requires help from others. But it’s out there, and you can find it.

I love you sweet, sweet baby girl. Daddy and I are your champions, we will do everything we can to help you learn and grow and become the smart, independent, happy and beautiful young lady we know you will be. This first year of your life has been a beautiful one – you’ve taught us so much already – and how lucky we are that you are ours. We cannot wait to see what your second year of life will bring, and how you will continue to make a lasting impact on all the lives you touch – watch out world, here comes Nell.