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Baby’s First Birthday

Oh my goodness, I know no other mother has said this before, but how did an entire year go by already?

This girl has brought more joy to our lives than I could ever have imagined. I never felt the desire to be a stay-at-home mom until she came along. I cried almost every day thinking about returning to work and begged Hubster to take a different position so that I could stay home, but it just isn’t in the cards for us. I just had such enjoyment spending those first 9 weeks of her life with her. I so enjoyed reading her books, cuddling up with her for naps, taking her for walks, and letting her watch me sew and work on projects from her bouncy seat. I was at a different place in my life when her brother was born and I didn’t have those same desires, although it cut me deep to leave him every day.

This girl was a champion sleeper right from the beginning (she’s regressed a bit recently, which is odd), and for that we have been so blessed. She has been such an easy baby. She only cried when she was tired or hungry, never for no reason.

She surprised us with her shocks of bright red hair when she was born. I didn’t think she would be born with any hair at all. And the fact that she did and it was RED just blew me away.

She is a very active, curious, smart child. Forget toys! She wants to investigate nooks, crannies, books and…well…everything. She is also a huge garbage picker. I mean, I know babies like to stick everything in their mouths, but this girl will find the tiniest hair on the carpet or piece of dust on a windowsill and try to taste it. And she literally loves to pick out of every garbage can in the house.

This girl also skipped right over pureed baby food and went straight to table food. She would literally have NOTHING to do with purees or baby cereal. I even made some pea and squash purees from scratch for her that may never be used. She wants what we’re eating. So, we started her on soft things, but she pretty much eats what we eat already.

She is a water baby, loving baths and sticking her own head underwater. She’s super funny, like the times she puts clothes on her head and crawls around laughing. Or when she clunks heads on purpose or blows raspberries on momma’s belly. She is a huge daddy’s girl and she especially loves her Auntie Jenny and her daddy’s friend David.

She beat her brother with not only hair and birth weight, but also teeth. She has had four for months where her brother cut his first on his first birthday.

I love the place she is at now. She understands many things and she rushes to meet me when I get home. She waves and gives hugs. She’s easy to make laugh. She has quite a personality, even though she can’t really talk yet. And she always gets her way. If baby ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

Her nicknames have been Raynaliscious, Rayna Pants, Dolly, Miss Thing and currently, Booga. She is also the prettiest girl in the world:)

Her brother made me a mother. And she is the one who completed our family. They both have such a special place in our family and lives. I am so elated that I get to have both a boy and a girl. I can’t wait until she’s a little older and we can do girl stuff together. We’ll probably get our nails done together by the time she’s 3, haha. I just looooooooove this little girl and thank God for sending her to me.

Happy Birthday Booga!

Baby’s First Pumpkin Patch

Seeing as Rayna was fresh out of the baby factory last year, we never made it to any of our normal pumpkin patches. It somehow seemed like an unfinished fall without a hay ride and a glass of cider. This year, it was perfect because she was so interactive with the animals. Her face lights up and she has this high-pitched screech sound she makes when she sees animals. She tried to pet the baby chicks like she pets our big moose of a dog.

My workplace is amazing. They sponsor a day for their employees every year to check out Mulberry Lanes Farm. Rayna’s due date was the exact date that the trip fell on last year, so we obviously didn’t RSVP.

Mulberry Lanes offers hay rides, horse rides, and a bunch of petting zoo stuff. You can try to catch a chicken or a turkey. You can feed the goats and hang out in the pig pen. We always spend way too much time in the little cage where they keep the kittens.

Momma, you didn’t save me any coffee!
Dunkin Donuts has the best.
Our favorite spot
No, you can’t bring one home
After you’re done petting all the animals, each person gets to choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home. 

My cabbage patch kid

And my cool kid

The weather was absolutely perfect for this trip. The kids were wearing flannel and I was in long sleeves and we got a bit hot, but it was a perfect day. See you next year Mulberry Lanes!

Advent Calendar Ideas

When you’re an adult, most of the magic of Christmas is just a memory. Santa is a nostalgic part of your youth and it’s easy to become disgruntled about the commercialism of the season. But sometimes, you just want to reach back and grasp some of that sparkly Christmas dust and bring it back. I still love looking in windows at Christmas displays, peering at Christmas lights in passing, and I still love to hear the story of Jesus’ birth no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. Every year for the past 20-something years of my life, my grandpa would read the Bible story to us and relate it in some way to our lives in the current day. He took a fresh approach every year, so we always got something different out of it. When we were younger, we had to sit on our hands in anticipation of gift opening, but those memories are now the sweetest treasure. We lost grandma and grandpa pretty close together in the past couple of years. Last year was the final time we gathered as a big full family around grandma’s table. This year, that house where all the magic happened is completely renovated and up for sale and it hurts the heart of all their progeny. (Give your family extra long hugs this year, would you?)

It is time now, as parents, to create that magic for our own little family and begin traditions that will be carried on down the line. Perhaps one day the way we choose to celebrate will become one of our own unforgettable legacies. One of those traditions I hope to pass down is our version of the Advent calendar and some of the traditions that are created within that calendar (i.e. giving back, watching all the classic movies together) and celebrating Christmas for the whole month of December, building a climax to the actual holiday itself.

Here are the activities in our Advent calendar and a peek into our Christmas preparations:

Take a ride around town looking at Christmas lights
Rent Christmas books from the library and read together
Make Ninja Turtle ornaments (Inspired by these)
Festival of Lights
Send a letter to Santa
Make Christmas sugar cookies
Go buy a new Christmas CD/album
Eat dinner by candlelight
Have hot cocoa or cider together
Read the Christmas story in the Bible
Make a Gingerbread house
Make and hang coffee filter snowflakes
Bring hot cocoa (and money) to a bell ringer
Make reindeer food
Start embroidery project for grandmas (inspired by this)
Snowball Fight!!!!
Nighttime Christmas walk
Donut date
Think of a special gift for Jesus like the 3 kings
Make an angel tree topper (from here)
Play with Christmas cookie cutter and Play Doh

Here are some more ideas from two years ago when we did it!

Angel tree topper
Instead of a wishlist, my boy writes a love letter:)

Special North Pole mailbox

Kayne and Rayna with Santa

Cookies! We’re not fancy. Just gimme some frosting!

BLT’s by candlelight

Cutting down our own tree is a big tradition

Hot cocoa and Christmas movies

I used the printable paper from here and filled in our activities. Then wrapped them up, tied them with string, and put them in a simple Christmas box. Kayne just loves picking one out every day and looks forward to the simple ways that we’re building up to Christmas. Notice that these activities aren’t extravagant or extra time-consuming (I do have an infant at home!), but they are very meaningful and highly anticipated nonetheless. I hope you are inspired by this simple way of creating new traditions, gather together as a family, and create memories and perhaps even a legacy for your own children.

How are you celebrating this month?

News to Share

Photo: This week we have some better news to share. John Collins and I are expecting baby #2, due in September.

Our little family of three is expecting a new little visitor to this Earth in about 6 months. We couldn’t be any more thrilled to be adding to our family, our family story, our traditions, our memories, our hearts.

It took us a full 5 years to be at a point where we felt semi-ready (you’re never fully ready, right?) to go through babyhood again. On the other hand, the older and more self-managed Peanut gets, the harder it seems to be starting over with a fully-reliant infant. It’s so easy to do most things with a well-disciplined 5-year-old. With a baby, I know it will be a monumental task just to go across town. And potty training again? Oy. But really, in the big picture of “family,” those things mean nothing. When it comes to everything from day-to-day life to celebrating Christmases at home to taking family vacations, all of our lives will be enriched by the incorporation of our new family member.

Peanut is beyond excited about “his” new baby. He’s already taking ownership with his big brother status. He kisses my belly and gives the baby hugs all the time and I can already see his little heart making room for this new sibling of his. He wants the baby to sleep in his room and he says he’ll take care of everything. His well-meaning words are enough to warm a mother’s heart. We know that having a sibling will be good for him.

We got to see the baby last week at our first OB appointment. Doc couldn’t find the heartbeat, which is normal this early in pregnancy, so they did a quick scan. The baby was moving around so much that it was no wonder the doc couldn’t nail down a heartbeat. In the ultrasound, we could actually see the heartbeat, not just hear it. At just 1.5 inches, it’s amazing how human-like this tiny little bean already is! I keep those pictures with me at all times. When I start to feel defeated by sickness, I just peek at the pictures and reflect on what this is all for.

It hasn’t all been pretty pink and blue roses though. For one, I’ve been pretty darn sick. In fact, last week, I was so sick to the point of tears. I know I don’t have it as bad as some women, but still, feeling like you have the flu or an awful hangover all day every day for days on end does begin to wear a person down, even a person with a pretty high threshold for pain/discomfort.

With the morning all day sickness and fatigue, I haven’t been very active. Pregnancy is a time where you must listen to your body. Mine is saying rest and I’m more than willing to listen. I’ve really been taking this time to sloooow down. For the most part, I’ve put my ambitious to-do lists away in favor of just the must-get-dones like paying bills and even doing dishes. My eating habits have been much different than they were pre-pregnancy. Simple carbs are sometimes the only things I can keep down, and I’m not ashamed that there have been Pop-Tarts and granola bars involved.

In the midst of the pregnancy news, we’ve also taken some hard hits in our family recently. After one little trip to the ER, my dad learned he had cancer and in a whirlwind of activity had tons of tests and surgery all within one week. He’s starting chemo today, and I still don’t think this diagnosis has quite sunk in for any of us. If you’d like to follow along with his story or show your support, check out our fundraising page.

At the same time, my grandma was navigating her way through the end stages of cancer. With our religious family background and strong faith, her passing was more peaceful than I would ever have imagined. She’s in heaven with grandpa, there’s no doubt in my mind, and what’s better than that? We got to say our goodbyes, which is a blessing in itself. I just melted under the last long hug she gave me, the “I love you’s” and the sweetest, most precious prayer in my ear for me and the baby.

I think it’s safe to say that I am pretty much off-the-hook for being MIA. So much is happening and all my energies have been focused on family in various ways with little room for anything, let alone a blog post here and there. I’m pretty sure my lack of posting even affected my application to be a FitFluential Ambassador, but I shall just try again next time they open applications up.

I will be back to posting again soon, though probably not as predictably. I’ve got some projects and posts up my sleeve already. I’ve been itching to get at the sewing machine. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Baby Fever that I have been keeping secret for months. Now, I’m finally pulling up my sleeves and ready to start sourcing some fabric. I can’t wait to share what I’m up to on here. And if I get really ambitious and start feeling better, I may even post a prenatal workout or two, who knows?

National LOVE Day

Mondays are usually reserved for my workout rundowns, but mine is a little too…um…nondescript to post. There’s a reason, but I don’t want to get caught up in excuses. Let’s do a weekend recap instead. It’s a bit more exciting anyhow.

Friday night, I came home from work to a beautiful bouquet of roses and some Ferrero Rocher chocolates for Valentine’s Day. V-day was pretty low key at our house, but it was fun to look through all of Peanut’s little valentines from his school friends. All the kidlets are learning to write, so their handwriting is adorable.

After I gave Peanut a special Valentine, he ran into the dining room and wrote me a love letter of his own.
Mommy I love you to 100 forever. Signed, Kayne
Best Valentine ever!

Saturday night we were invited to a couple’s Valentine’s Day dinner with some church friends. It was a hit! We played The Newlywed Game–and Hubster and I won! Oh, but he might be in the doghouse for a few of his answers. The worst “How would you fill in the blank: my wife is a natural-born….what?” Oh. Yes. He. Did. He put Nag! Those that know me would probably widen their eyes at such a statement, knowing how inaccurate it is and how …. he is. Haha!

newlywed game

Our hostess had the most lovely V-day decorations all over her house. Her mother saved all her sweet lil valentines from when she was a kid. I wish I would’ve gotten a few pictures, but they all had such endearing vintage prints on them, like this:

Capping off the games, we had some tasty fruit fondue. This was after a full spread of lasagna, veggies, fruit salads and all kinds of goodies. No one walked away without a full, warm belly.

Chocolate fondue with fruit

Sunday consisted of church, followed by some much needed slooooowed down Netflix time. This time momma got to pick what we were watching. The choices? I ended up watching A Little Bit of Heaven with Kate Hudson. It was a heart-wrenching story, like a Lurlene McDaniel book. What really stood out, aside from the exploration of existentialism, was the adorable swing in the main character’s living room! I love this idea and want Hubster to install one pronto.

Marley's kitchen

Next up was Amélie. The weird connection here is that I was reading Amanda Knox’s book, and this was a movie she persuaded Sollecito to watch because it was one of her favorites. When I skimmed over it on Netflix, I thought, what the heck? It’s a very interesting little movie with whimsical cinematics and quirky humor. I love how Amélie touched the lives of a whole bunch of people in the most creative, touching ways and how there are multiple storylines woven through the actual love story. It is not your typical cookie-cutter sappy love story. Put it in your queue, it’s good.

How do you normally celebrate Valentine’s Day? What’s your favorite love story?

Fall Family Traditions

It’s important to me that our little family establishes memorable traditions that extend our love for one another and our desire to make meaningful connections throughout our sometimes harried days. I like to pull out small little things that we can together enjoy either once a year, once in awhile or once per season. One day, I hope my son will remember some of these with fondness when he’s all big and grown and perhaps even carry some of them on.

Whenever someone completes an accomplishment in our house, we make it a point to celebrate that person. It’s not enough to just “high five” and “atta boy” each other. This past week, by some foreign-to-us luck, Hubster landed the position at work that he’s been hoping for for over a year and a half. It was quite by miracle that he got it, but I can just see on his face how happy it makes him. So, we had a lunch date at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants. I think he liked it:)

Aside from that lunch, Hubster and I have made a concerted effort lately to have more date nights. We’ve had a few celebratory gift cards come our way that make it possible without the guilt. It’s imperative to keep connecting on just a you/him level because it’s way too easy to become two separate people with two separate lives. We want a partnership, so we choose actions that hold us true to that partnership.

Halloween harbors some other fun traditions for our family. On this holiday, I always bust out an Edgar Allan Poe tale or poem. Sure, the stories may be a little sinister at times, but I think it’s a fun, intelligent way to end the night. Plus, I was an English major, so I thinks it’s neat that we can slip some classic literature into our family traditions.

Aside from that, we also do the whole trick-or-treating thang too. Even in the rain, as we did this year. We grabbed a giant umbrella and hit the streets shortly after sundown. My feet were utterly soaked by the time we made it home, but you absolutely can’t steal this tradition from a kid. Even one who’s scared of trick or treating;)
Costume #1: pirate for Boo Fest
Costume #2: Batman for school
What are your favorite family fall traditions? 

Weekend Highlights

After taking a few trips in June and July, the weekends seem to get shorter and shorter because the prospective days off get fewer and further between. But we don’t like to spend our weekends complaining about our lack of time, we go gangbusters and try to get every last drop out of them that we can.

Yesterday found us on the Wisconsin waterways. Hubster got done with work early and asked if we wanted to go for a little boat ride. Well, sure. If only I’d known that little boat ride would be six hours long, I would’ve packed more sunscreen, snacks and drinks. But I digress. Despite the sunburn, it was an amazing trip in my dad’s little fishing boat.

Saturday boat ride
This was what our view looked like almost all day. Just beautiful trees over the water with amazing streams of light coming out of the clouds.
dog on a boat

Actually, my view looked mostly like this. Ha! This knucklehead is a baby of a pit bull. Every time we hit choppy waters, he whined and tried to hide. But these calm waters made for a happy pooch.

Anyone know what these birds are? We found an island that had these white-looking trees just littered with these birds. It was a bit “Birds” creepy but cool at the same time.
Fox River Turtles
We saw turtles sunbathing on almost every open log.
I love spending my days with these guys.
Two abandoned outhouses in the middle of nowhere.
redneck fishing dock
Only in Wisconsin.
And…….I saved the best for last. Look at this majestic bird Hubster spotted out on the power lines on our way back. Such a rare treat:

Wisconsin Eagle Sighting
Yesterday was completely unplanned, but I enjoyed every minute of it, even the time Hubster jumped a wave and got all of us soaked. Peanut started to cry until he saw how hard we were laughing. Crisis averted. Memories made. What a good day!

Peanut Turns 5

Peanut turns 5 today. We’re trying to convince him he’s turning 3, because time moves backwards, right? I mean, there’s no way my 4-year-old could be turning 5. Oh, we had a good laugh about that last night. He asked for a glass of milk and I told him “No way! If you drink milk and grow your bones, then you’re going to turn 5!” He giggled and I relented. But seriously, how do 5 entire years pass by in such a wisp, like a moving cloud?

My Peanut

This little boy is one of the best gifts a momma could ask for. He’s intelligent, he’s considerate, he’s helpful, he’s sensitive to others’ needs, he’s spiritual, he’s headstrong, he’s a born leader, he’s athletic, he’s funny and he’s all mine. I’m so proud that I get to be his momma.

Every year, I write him a letter and tuck it away for him for when he gets older. It’s a special little tradition that I hold close to my heart. I tell him what I’m thinking about him at this particular stage in his life, so it sort of is like a record of his life and a confession of what being his momma is really like for me. You see, as a writer and mother, these things are so much easier to write and record than to ever explain to him out loud. Someday, I hope he appreciates these letters.

Boy in the trees

I also purchase a special coin set for him every year from the US Mint. He has quite the little collection building that I hope someday makes him smile. We have one coin set minted from every year since he’s been alive.

I just love my little Peanut to pieces. I must’ve done something right for God to give me such a sweet little kid.

Rock Lookout
Happy Birthday Peanut!

Elevate the Everyday

There’s a whole world of difference between eating your lunch alone in your cubicle and having your husband call you up to split a cupcake.

See, what he really likes to do is to take these little “riding” dates, with me on my moped and him on his motorcycle. I’m pretty sure driving on two wheels has brought our hearts a little closer.

Little dates in the middle of the work week are pretty special.

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This cupcake lived up to its name: “Lick the Spoon”

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“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy cupcakes
and that’s kind of the same thing.” Exactly!

We are lucky enough to have a little a la carte cupcake boutique in our town where you can get the most mind-blowing cupcakes ever. The owner is quite the award-worthy confectionery artiste! To boot, every single flavorful cupcake is filled with something delicious, whether it’s berry jelly, flavored pudding or butter cream frosting. Even fitness fanatics like me have been known to fall hard for this place (hence why Hubster offered to “split one” with me). I know for a fact that I’m not the only one;)

I think occasionally visiting a place like this or lying in the grass by the river with Hubster on my lunch break is something worth celebrating. I am all about elevating the everyday, and this is such a simple way to create a meaningful experience where there normally wouldn’t be one.

Do something unexpected on your lunch break today, just for me, ok?