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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
So that was our Double Bubble Birthday Brunch. What do you think?
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.
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.
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.
Nell Caroline is 9 months old today. How is that possible?
These 9 months have flown by, and true to form, I love every day and every stage more. She’s personable, chatty and in love with her big brother. And her big brother? Adores that little girl. I could not have asked for a more perfect sibling relationship. It’s almost as if Tom makes it his mission in life to make Nell laugh, and Nell’s mission is to laugh at her brother. They’re a perfect team and I can’t help but think to the future – the two of them cheering each other on at their sporting events, doing homework together at the kitchen table, and driving to high school together. I thank God every single day for my healthy kids and their love for one another.
I was filling out Nell’s 9th month page in her baby book last week and was about to put down that she still doesn’t really have any words. And then, Nell decided on Friday night that she was going to start talking – went from having no real “words” other than incoherent sounds to full on talking. She sings “Dada” all day long now, says “Booboo” when Thomas commands her to (Booboo is a character in our current favorite series of books that we joke is Nell because Booboo likes to eat – even non-food items), and has a few other consonant and vowel combinations. I love this stage of language discovery where they’re combining all of their consonants and vowels and you (as the parent) hear real words that the child obviously does not know. Putting Nell to bed tonight I swear I heard, “Happy Birthday”. Obviously not, but I so love this stage of pretending like they have worldly views because they randomly combine sounds to make it sound like they’re making sense .
Nell’s hybrid-crawling. She doesn’t prefer one leg over the other, but she crawls with both arms and one leg. She will pull herself up onto all fours and rock, so I’m expecting four limb crawling at some point, but for now, we’re all just happy she can get around in a somewhat crawling way.
(That photo on the left is quintessential happy Nell – scrunched nose and happy eyebrows – and on the right is a Nell intent on getting across the room to her Mama. B’s mom told me today “I love how you know what mood Nell’s in by her eyebrows”. And these two pictures perfectly capture those expressive eyebrows).
Nell decided in the last month to give the whole sleeping through the night thing a whirl, too. She doesn’t do it consistently, but I’d say two to three times a week we get 7pm – 7am stretches. Those few nights a week make the nights where she’s up once to eat totally manageable.
Our Miss Nell is a cuddler and a Mama’s girl – when she puts her head down on my shoulder, we all just melt. She prefers to be with me if she has the choice, but Mr. B is putting up a competitive fight for her main affection. We call our Nell Caroline the community baby – in our neighborhood, Nell’s the newest baby. From the time we moved into our house in 2007 until Nell was born in June, there was only one single 3 month stretch where not a single person on our block was pregnant. Which means we have a lot of babies between the ages of 9 months and 4 (since the oldest babies have now moved away). Now no one is pregnant (to our knowledge), and Nell is giving everyone their baby fix. She makes the rounds at church, sitting with all of our neighbors and their kids. She goes on play dates to our neighbors’ houses when people need a little baby snuggle time. She’s the community baby, and she’s good with it.
If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite moments with Nell are the mornings when she wakes up before Thomas. Thomas does most of Nell’s talking and gross motor development for her (another awesome thing to watch – “Nell wants some milk, mom. Feed Nell.”, “Nell wants her paci [picks it up from just out of her reach and shoves it in her mouth]“, etc), but when it’s just the two of us one-on-one, Nell babbles, crawls, and tells me all about her world. I love our mornings together. But I also love watching her eyes light up the second she hears Thomas’s voice on the monitor. The fun part of the day in Nell’s mind begins when her big brother puts his feet on the floor.
A year ago, Nell was still cooking and we were still guessing who this baby would be, so it’s crazy to think that just one year later we have a full-fledged little lady with a big personality in our house. I cannot begin to wrap my head around the fact that she’ll be one in June, and that she’s now been on the outside for almost as long as she was on the inside. We adore every day with out sweet Nell Caroline, and count our blessings daily for our happy, healthy family that is full of love.
Thomas was very interested in the Baptismal Font. Here he is talking to his Uncle Mike about it. He was really excited for Nell’s “Bathtism” – which we thought was poignant since he had no idea that Nell would, in a way, be getting a bath during it.
And here he is taking a little break with Corduroy on the floor of the church. Being a big brother at a “Bathtism” is exhausting work.