Merry Christmas!

I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas. This season has absolutely flown by!

Today I wanted to share our Christmas card, where we decided to stay true to what our life with two small children really looks like right now. We *might* have been able to get a good picture with everyone looking and smiling, but this crazy blooper reel felt much more like us. 😉

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Last year, on Christmas morning, we found out I was pregnant. Now, as I snuggle my sweet little four month old daughter while we both look at the Christmas tree, I am feeling all sorts of happy and content. It’s been wonderful to mostly unplug these past few days and enjoy the time with my sweet babies and our family.

From my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy holiday season. ❤

Santa Train!

I love Christmas and doing Christmas-y things, but I never want us to get so busy we don’t really enjoy the season. I’ve been very intentional about just picking a few things to do as a family in this season so we can truly enjoy without being overwhelmed.

LJ is completely obsessed with trains right now (in case you couldn’t tell based on his Halloween costume and birthday party theme). When I discovered that a local railroad historical society puts on a train ride with Santa, I knew this was definitely something Christmas-y that had to be on our to-do list! My parents wanted to come too, so we all got tickets and went this past Saturday.

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I had no idea what to expect with this ride, but it actually was perfect for small children. There were two caboose cars and one engine and it just went out the track and back. We boarded a caboose (ours was 60 years old and the other caboose was 100 years old!) and it was all decorated for Christmas. Santa was in ours to start with, and he passed out candy canes and let kids sit on his lap and take pictures. The train stopped halfway through and then Santa left to go visit the other caboose. The ride was supposed to be 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back, but it was a little shorter than that, which was fine by me since it was pretty chilly.

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Vi seemed to enjoy Santa . . .

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but LJ was very unimpressed ha!

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LJ may not have been impressed by Santa, but he was ALL about the train ride! He was absolutely fascinated with looking out the window to see passing landscape or looking at how the cars were connected and how they moved during the ride.

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My dad is a history buff and he and LJ were like two little peas in a pod geeking out over the train.

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After the train ride, we went inside their warehouse, where they store their engines and had set up a mini Christmas village. There were lights strung up, a few little booths, a little food truck where you could purchase snacks and hot cocoa, and of course, trains. It was a cute little set up! You could go inside their biggest engine, which LJ loooooooooooved. The lighting wasn’t great, so my photos are low-quality, but getting to pretend to drive the engine was a highlight for LJ for sure!

We stayed about an hour in total and then loaded up the car to go get some lunch. Leaving was pretty tough, as we had a strong-willed toddler who was not ready to say bye bye to the trains. Haha! Safe to say it was a huge hit and is definitely something I can see us doing as a little family tradition each Christmas. I’m so glad my parents were able to join the fun too!

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Do you have fun Christmas traditions you do with your family/children? I’d love to hear what you enjoy doing each year!

LJ’s Second Birthday

Well, it’s official: I have a two-year-old!

LJ’s actual birthday was Friday so we had a little mini celebration as a family. After Justin got off work, we went to Culver’s for a little family date. LJ received a few birthday cards in the mail from family so we let him open those one at a time throughout the dinner. (Sorry for the terrible photo quality! I was actually videoing him opening everything so these are just screen grabs from the videos).

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My grandparents always send some dimes for his piggy bank – so sweet!

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We also got a book for him so that he would have a little present to open during the birthday meal. He loves trains and lift-the-flap books so when I saw this during a friend’s recent book party, I knew it was the perfect choice.

After finishing our meals we each got an ice cream for dessert. LJ usually just shares his dessert with one of us so the fact that he got his own cup of ice cream with sprinkles was a big deal for him. He was so excited and definitely enjoyed it!

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Instead of a bunch of gifts, Justin and I decided to get one big gift that he would really love: a train table! We received a hand-me-down table from a friend and saved it until Saturday morning. Justin woke up early and got it all set up so it was ready to go when LJ woke up. He was SO excited to see it in his playroom and played with it all day!

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On Saturday after LJ’s nap, some of our family came over for his little party.  I stuck with the train theme and just grabbed a bunch of things around the house to decorate. I bought a “happy birthday” sign from the dollar spot at Target back when I was teaching and it gets brought out for every party. I re-used the train and conductor’s hat from LJ’s Halloween costume, grabbed some books and trains we already had, pulled out my white serving dishes and letterboard and voila!

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My friend Amber made some amazing train cookies and I bought a little 4 inch cake from a local grocery store to put candles in. We served super fancy cuisine – Papa John’s pizza, chips, and a veggie tray. LJ loved it! 🙂

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Now unfortunately, once the party actually started, I was so absorbed in it that I lost track of my phone and didn’t take pictures! Justin snapped a few, but overall, we were all just enjoying ourselves without phones.

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I did manage to get this one of my sister and Vi – how sweet!

Justin and I made the decision a few months ago to have a “no gifts” party for LJ. We did this last year and wanted to do it again this year. We agreed that not only is LJ still too little to really understand gifts are typically given on birthdays, but his birthday is super close to the holidays and he will be receiving a lot of things then. Also, we are minimal-ish people: we’re not trying to live with 5 things or be super controlling and never accept more items, but our home is a more pleasant place and our lives are more enjoyable when we’re not overrun with stuff so we’re intentional about what comes into our house.  Because we still wanted family to be involved and participate in his gift, I bought unpainted trains and asked our family members to decorate a car instead of giving a gift. Some did their own, some couples shared one. We painted trains during the party and those that couldn’t make the party had theirs made and sent to us ahead of time.

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This idea worked SO well and it was so fun to see the creativity (check out my brother-in-law’s “hippopotamoose-caboose” ha)! They were all so unique and reflected everyone’s personality. LJ loves them and it’s sweet to see him play with all of them.

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Happy birthday, my sweet LJ! It was such a joy to celebrate your life (and bribe you with one more cookie before bedtime when I realized I hadn’t gotten a picture with you – haha!)

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Two.

Tomorrow is a big day for our family. LJ is going to turn TWO.

I need a minute for that to sink in.

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How in the world do I have a two-year-old?? I know people say all the time how fast it all goes, but milestones like this make me pause and really understand just how true that is. The days can seem so long (especially these days with all these toddler emotions that are happening) but the years are so. very. short.

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy. Before LJ was born I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and was emotionally and physically traumatic. LJ is the answer to so many prayers in so many ways. He is the joy after my deep sorrow, the laughter after my many tears. This little boy stole my heart two years ago and has held a firm grip on it ever since.

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If I could describe LJ in one word, it would be “motion.” This kid is always on the go! He loves running, spinning, playing, galloping, and recently started jumping. He loves anything with wheels (trains, trucks, tractors, you name it), finding planes in the sky, watching sports and trying to play them – his energy seems endless! Given the choice to stay indoors or go outside, he will always choose outside. Every now and then, there will be a rare moment where he just wants to cuddle with his mama and you better believe I soak those up! He’ll even sometimes hold my hand or put his arm around me and oh my word, my heart just melts.

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LJ is also incredibly observant. He’ll notice the smallest speck on the ground or the tiniest bug in a window. He notices whenever Vi is wearing a bow and insists on wearing one himself. He likes to search for the moon in the sky, he perks up at the sound of a train or a plane (he often picks up on it before we’ve even noticed the distant sound!) and he always alerts us to when his sister is crying.

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LJ likes to explore and show off his discoveries. He likes to color and is obsessed with stickers. He has been in speech therapy for a few months now and his language is developing and vocabulary is finally building beyond a few words. His little “hi!” is the absolute cutest music to my ears.

When I was pregnant with Vi, I worried how LJ would react to a sibling. I expected jealousy, tantrums, and maybe even some aggression. He has surprised both Justin and I by taking it all in stride. He is the most natural big brother, so caring and sweet! He loves to hold Vi, he talks to her and gives her kisses, and if anything, I have to tell him to be gentle with his love so he doesn’t smother her with it. 😉 He loves his little sister (and her pacifier too, but that’s a whole other story ha!)

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I could go on and on, but I’ll stop because otherwise I think I’ll make myself cry. Instead, I’m just going to take a little walk down memory lane and look back at the last two years with LJ.

LJ, there aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love you. Happy birthday my sweet boy. ❤

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween!

Historically, Halloween is a time I go all out. I loved coming up with costumes and especially themed costumes. Ever since Justin and I have been together, I’ve tried to do a couples costume and then once LJ came along, we did a family costume. I had originally hoped to do a family costume again this year, but with 2 under 2, it’s been a bit hectic around here and coming up with and executing a family costume just wasn’t a top priority.

So instead of a family costume, I kept things relatively simple. For Vi, I found a 0-3 month unicorn “costume” (it’s just a headband and tutu) at a consignment store for a couple bucks and decided that was good enough for an infant who a) doesn’t care about this holiday b) will likely sleep through the whole thing and c) depending on weather, may be too bundled up for anyone to see what she’s wearing anyways.

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For LJ, I went with his interests and what I already had. Someone gifted us an 18-month engineer costume about a year ago and I’ve been saving it for Halloween. LJ is currently obsessed with trains so he’ll be a train engineer (provided the outfit fits – I actually haven’t tried it on him yet – eek!). Then yesterday during naptime I fashioned a Thomas the Tank Engine costume based loosely on something I found on Pinterest.

Look, the key here for me was to shoot for “adequate at best.” I’m not trying to win a costume contest or get a thousand likes on social media. I’m just trying to come up with a cute idea that my son will love and may or may not decide he’s in the mood to wear. I mean, he is a toddler. I found a DIY Thomas costume that had an internal contraption for storing candy so when you trick or treat, the candy goes through the steam pipe and gets stored inside the costume. Look, maybe that mama has an engineering degree or just really loves intricate costumes. Good for her! I’m happy if she’s happy. But I’m not using that as my measuring stick for success.

There are a ton of ideas for how to make a Thomas costume on Pinterest and the end results are all more impressive than mine, so I’m not going to give you a step by step. All I did was take a Pampers diaper box and cut the top flaps to the general shape of the train. When I cut out the bottom flaps, I used the extra cardboard and duct-taped the pieces to the top flap to fashion the back of the train. I had a red box from Aldi that I cut into the shape of the front grill (do trains have grills? I don’t even know that that is called) and I cut circles out for the wheels and taped them to the inside of the box.

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I painted the train blue (I just got a color sample jar from Lowe’s in Sherwin Williams Georgian Blue) and used red masking tape, yellow washi tape, and black construction paper to decorate the sides to look like Thomas. Justin printed out a Thomas face, and I just used construction paper to form a circle around his face which I taped to the front of the box. I wrapped half a paper towel roll in black construction paper and taped it on top and voila!

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It took me about 2 hours (not counting the dry time) and cost about $10 for materials. I’m happy with it and LJ is thrilled. Well, thrilled with the box, we’ll see if he actually wants to wear it tonight  (I do still have to attach some straps today).

I’d love to have a picture of my kids in their costumes to post here, and I give mad props to all the mamas who have already wrangled their kids into costumes to take photos before Halloween. For me, I’m pretty sure I’ve only got one shot to get LJ into his costume so I’m waiting for the main event tonight. So I’ll just leave you with some costumes from years past. Enjoy!

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2010: Katy Perry
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2012: Haymitch & Effie from The Hunger Games
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2013: Little Bo Peep & her sheep (and bumblebee)
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2014: Progressive Flo & Jake from State Farm
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2015: Abby from NCIS
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2016: Nick & Jess from New Girl
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2017: Backstreet Boy & Brittney Spears (BABY one more time!)
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2018: Pooh, Tigger, and Rabbit

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

 

Tuesday Toddler Thoughts

Today, LJ turned 23 months old. The last little milestone before TWO! I can hardly believe it.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen in my stories a bit about our recent library adventure. For those that don’t follow me, let me paint you a little picture.

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With the cooler weather lately, I’ve been trying to find more indoor activities that I can take the kids to. I recently learned that our library has a toddler story time on Tuesday mornings so I signed us up. The first two times went pretty well, so I decided to try out another class they offer on Thursdays which is called Music and Movement. It’s an awesome program for littles, and after the 30 minutes was up the librarian unlocked the closet in the room and brought out a bunch of toys for some free play afterwards. Fun, right?

Well.

The following Tuesday (which was one week ago), we rolled in to our normal story time class right before it began. The room was full of toddlers and their moms and so of course the only available floor space is up front next to the librarian. Not really a problem, except LJ saw The Closet. You know, the closet full of fun toys that he now knows about thanks to the Music and Movement class.

Do you think my toddler wanted to sit quietly in a circle and listen to a book?

No.

He wanted to play with the stuff in the closet.

I told him no, we were not going to open the closet, and he proceeded to throw a mini tantrum. Right in front of the class. Tears, cries, refusing to come sit down.

The poor librarian is trying to start the book and here my toddler is right next to her throwing a fit. I’m not going to lie, it was tempting to just pick up LJ and leave. I already felt like a bit of a hot mess rolling into class right before it started with my toddler and infant trying to squeeze into the front. Then my toddler melts down and I’m all hot and flustered and honestly, embarrassed.

Instead of carting off my crying toddler and sleeping infant, I stuck it out. I continued to tell LJ no, the closet was going to stay closed and encouraged him to sit. I attempted to draw his attention to the librarian reading the book and the pictures she showed. It wasn’t easy to keep calm and stay in the room, but after about 6 or 7 minutes, LJ realized he wasn’t going to get his way and he started participating in the class. He danced and followed the songs, he followed directions (I mean, as well as any of the other toddlers did anyways 😉 ) and he had FUN.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that day in the past week, and I have a lot of thoughts about it.

It would have been so. easy. to just call it a day, leave, and try again another time. And I know there are some situations where it’s better to lower expectations and/or head home. But I don’t think this was one of them. Story time at the library is for kids 18 months – 3 years so there is plenty of grace for typical toddler behavior. The activities are catered to them and if they throw a fit, the other moms get it. Even though I was flustered, I trusted that the other moms were thinking “been there, sister!” instead of “can’t you control your kid!?” (Who knows what they were really thinking but I’m not going to lose sleep over that).

LJ needs to learn how to act in social settings. He needs to learn how to be told no and process and cope with his feelings. He needs to learn that he won’t always get what he wants. And if I had given in and just taken him home or left the story time room to let him go play with toys in the kids’ corner, he would probably have stopped crying. But he wouldn’t have learned any of those things. Better to learn these skills in a toddler story time setting than melt down in a crowded restaurant or on an airplane, right?

I can’t expect him to behave perfectly every time. I know he won’t. He’s learning! But we practice and stick it out and celebrate the victories, like how when we played in the kid’s corner afterwards he shared toys SO much better this time than last time. And today, when we go back to story time, he might do a little better. Or he might not. But we’re going to keep showing up and trying!

I don’t know why all this was on me heart to share today. I guess I feel like my social media/blog/online life has been very baby-focused lately but the truth is we are firmly entrentched in TODDLERHOOD around here. And for any other mama out there experiencing the same thing, I see you. I’m right there with you. Toddlers are wonderful and sweet and hilarious and TOUGH. Hang in there. We’re all just doing the best we can.

Let’s Look: Favorite Fall Recipes

Today I’m linking up once again with Shay and Erika for their monthly “Let’s Look” post and today is all about fall recipes which is perfect because it is FINALLY is starting to feel like fall around here! 

A quick recap of our recent fall fun before I share my favorite recipes: Justin and I took the kids to a fall festival at a dairy farm in our area on Saturday and it was a blast! The weather was a little cooler and I was feeling ALL the fall things. Hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkins galore!

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It was so much fun to get to experience the festival with LJ: he absolutely LOVED it!

He played in a giant bin of corn, which just cracked me up. I mean, does it get any more Midwestern than that?

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We also got to see how their cows were milked, pet a baby calf, and take a ride on a train pulled by a tractor through a corn maze. I think LJ’s favorite part was getting to play on the giant jump pad – he wants to do everything he sees the big kids doing and he had so much fun running from end to end and getting bounced around (I love the progression of pictures haha!) It was SUCH a fun fall day!

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Alright, now on to fall recipes! Now I’m not one to go crazy over pumpkin spice everything as soon as the temperatures drop, but I do get excited for a few things every fall. My absolute favorites are:

THESE BARS from Sally’s Baking Addition. They’re called Apple Butterscotch Magic Bars and they really do feel like fall magic. I am not a coconut fan so I leave out the shredded coconut and they are still so delicious!

THESE COOKIES from Dear Crissy are the perfect pumpkin cookie. I love making these for a party because otherwise I end up eating them all myself. If you prefer a cream cheese frosting, these cookies from Cooking Classy are also very good.

And as for Halloween festivities, I wrote a blog post several years ago about simple Halloween treats for procrastinators (basically, a few festive and easy treats you can whip up quickly). These are sweet and simple additions to a Halloween party!Final Treat Collage

What are your favorite recipes for fall?