Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Jesus!

In order to keep our focus on Christ during this busy holiday season, we decided to spend a day celebrating Jesus' birthday. We started by attending our church's Christmas service this morning. The kids stayed in the service and got to sing Christmas carols and go up front and listen to the Christmas story. Matthew was more concerned about opening the presents that were under the tree than listening to the story, but quickly perked up when he got a candy cane.

Our church meets at an elementary school and adopted several of the families at the school for Christmas. After today's service people had the opportunity to take the donated gifts to the adopted families. We thought this was a great way for our kids to experience serving and giving to others so we joined in. We had actually bought a bike for one of the families so we joined the route that was delivering to that family. There were four cars on our route, and we arrived at the first two houses and delivered bunches of gifts to excited kids and very sppreciative parents. One of them was actually the family we bought the bike for, so Matthew got to help walk it up. We prayed for both families and then headed on our way to the next house. Unfortunately both kids fell asleep on the way, so that was all the gift-delivering they participated in!

After their naps we had a birthday party for Jesus. We started by reading the Christmas story from our children's Bible and using our Fisher Price nativity characters to act it out. Our set doesn't have shepherds, so we had to improvise that part! Then we played a few party games. We played balloon bop (basically just hitting balloons up in the air and trying not to let them hit the ground), pin Mary on the donkey, and Christmas tree bowling. Of course no party would be complete without cake, so we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and enjoyed some cupcakes. Then came presents! This part of the party was the thing I thought would be the most difficult, but my kids surprised me! I explained that what Jesus would want as a birthday present would be for us to give to people in need, so we were going to choose a few toys that we could give to another little boy and girl who didn't have as much as we did. Matthew was totally cool with it, and instead of just choosing one toy to give away he chose two! Caroline is still a bit to young to understand of course, so I helped her choose.
To finish off our fun day we went and looked at Christmas lights. Not exactly Jesus-related, but still lots of fun! We talked about how Christmas lights are bright and light up the sky just like the star that led the wise men to baby Jesus. Hopefully my kids will remember a little of this in a few days when the craziness of Christmas presents arrives!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Caroline at 18 months

This past Saturday Caroline had her half birthday, and is now 1 1/2. I seriously cannot believe it! I remember when Matthew was this age I was 4 months pregnant with Caroline. Definitely cannot imagine that right now! Caroline has been so much fun lately. I absolutely love spending time with her, laughing at her, and watching her grow. Here are some tidbits that paint a picture of her at 18 months.
I know I've mentioned this before, but Caroline absolutely LOVES dogs. In fact, I would say it's more of an obsession. If there is a dog anywhere in sight, she is pointing at it, running toward it, squealing, and saying "woof woof". Most of the time she spots a dog or a picture of a dog before anyone else has, and there have been several times Matthew and I will tell her "There's no dog Caroline" only to discover there actually was one on the Petco sign, peeking out a car window, on the cover of a book, or in some other random and discreet location.

Another of Caroline's favorite things is running away. This is not one of my favorite things. In the house it's not so bad, and she's usually running away because I've just told her it's time for a diaper change or she's stolen one of Matthew's toys. However, when we're out in public, not so good. And trust me, she thinks it is absolutely hilarious.

One day soon I hope to be able to put bows and pigtails in Caroline's hair, but at this point that isn't possible. She is rocking the Billy Ray Cyrus, spiky mullet look. But she is still absolutely adorable of course :o)

Even though she doesn't say a ton of words yet, she definitely has no problem communicating. Her favorite word is "yeah" and she actually uses it appropriately! When you ask her a question she either says yeah, or gives no response which means no. It's funny to listen to her voice inflection too. When she wants something and is upset her yeah is quite relieved that you finally figured it out. When you ask her if she wants to read a book she gives an excited yeah. And of course there's just the neutral yeah for everything else.

When she plays she likes to do one of two things. She either wants to look at book after book after book sitting in her chair or on my lap, or put things in and out of containers. I recently reorganized all the toys and books, and everything is now in bins or baskets. She doesn't care what's in the bin, she just wants to empty and refill it over and over!

Caroline is still very brave, and is definitely a rough and tumble girl. Last week we were at a new playground, and I had to sprint across the playground equipment to get to her before she went down a huge slide all by herself. She still went down it and loved it, I just held her hand so she wouldn't get hurt. When she falls and bumps her head, she usually just walks over and points to her head with a sad little face, says "yeah" when I ask her if she bonked her head, and goes back to playing happily.

One of the things that makes me laugh the most is watching her dance. She does this little bouncy pony step, and then spins around. Recently she has gotten more enthusiastic in her dancing, and she bounces so hard and so fast that I think she's going to fall over at any second! In the car she rocks back and forth, bopping her head with the music. Her favorite song to dance to is the theme song to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but she has recently started to enjoy Switchfoot as well.


Matthew has absolutely loved wearing his Super Reader costume. When he wears it he actually believes he's transformed into a flying superhero. In fact, he doesn't refer to it as putting on his Super Reader costume, but as "being a Super Reader". As he runs he likes to look back and watch his cape flying behind him, and he yells "Here comes Super Reader!" He also does Super Reader poses that involve raising his fist in the air or crossing his arms in front of his chest to look tough. Normally when we get out of the car he wants my help lifting him down, but when he has on his Super Reader costume he says "No Mommy, I'm a Super Reader" and jumps out of the car by himself. He literally runs faster, jumps higher, and feels more powerful when he's wearing his costume.

This reminds me of Ephesians 6.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Have I ever felt so transformed by wearing the armor of God that it affects my thoughts and actions? Every day I should be putting on the armor of God, and feel transformed by its power. I should feel stronger, jump higher, run faster toward the goal, and feel empowered by the strength and spirit of God. Like Matthew in his Super Reader costume, I should be living transformed. After all, to my kids I am Super Mom.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


So being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done. Every day I am mediating arguments, changing diapers, making meals, biting my tongue so I don't say something out of anger or frustration, trying not to injure myself while stepping over toys, meeting the quite demanding needs of two little people, attempting to maintain a somewhat clean and organized home, maintaining friendships, running errands, and trying to figure out how to raise productive citizens who love Jesus. It's like every day is a science experiment with constantly changing variables. I'll admit, most days I have no idea what I'm doing, but thankfully my kids haven't seemed to catch on.

So here's what I've noticed. It seems that other moms seem to have everything together - the house is clean, dinner is made, children are well-behaved and obedient, everyone is dressed in matching clothes, and there still seems to be time to actually create some of the things found on Pinterest. At least according to blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook statuses. While this is definitely something to strive for, I'm pretty sure that I don't know anyone who actually accomplishes all these things on a regular basis. Yet we (myself definitely included!) try to portray this perfect picture to the world. So then we end up comparing ourselves. We share only our successes, not our struggles, and we end up thinking that every other mom is doing things better, smarter, and more efficiently than we are.

While I completely agree that sharing successes and learning from what others do well is totally valid and important and is usually how I grow as a mom, I feel that sometimes we sugar coat things because we're afraid to expose where we fall short. We're afraid to be vulnerable and admit that our kitchen is a disaster, and our floors haven't been mopped in weeks, and sometimes we use tv as a babysitter while we take a shower or close our eyes just for a minute. But when we're real, and raw, and we really share our struggles with each other, it turns out that every other mom isn't perfect either. We don't have it all together, and we need to be encouraged by the fact that we are not alone in this crazy experiment called parenting.

So yes, let's continue to share our successes and spur one another along, but let's not forget to be raw too and admit that we don't have it all together. We need help, we need prayer, we need encouragement from others, and we need God to help us through the day. Because when we are weak He is strong, and when we fall He will pick us up. So be encouraged: you are not perfect, and you don't need to be. And no one else is perfect either.

This week, the girls in my Life Group are sharing the "raw" moments with each other. We are taking pictures of the mini-disasters, parenting fails, and less than perfect moments and sharing them on Facebook and our blogs. We aren't doing this to complain about how hard things are, or to be negative in any way. We are just trying to be real and raw and remember that we are all in this together. Besides, who doesn't find those crazy moments to be incredibly funny later!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Handmade Halloween

This year I decided to try my hand at making the kids' Halloween costumes. Matthew actually had an opinion about his costume this year, which was quite a change from last year when he refused to wear one! He wanted to be a Super Reader. They do make a Super Reader costume, but it looked cheap and was expensive so I decided to figure it out on my own. Matthew was so excited every day when he got up from his nap this week to come upstairs and see what part of the costume I had made. He even liked wearing the mask, which I actually forgot to bring with us to the party where these pictures were taken. Whoops! Anyway, my crowning achievement of this costume was making his t-shirt. Not because it's super amazing, but because I made my own pattern for it which I'd never done before. The neckhole and collar may be slightly jacked, but just disregard that ;o)

Caroline was a parrot, so I made her a tutu with some feathers attached, and sewed her some bird wings. She looked so cute, and I was really pleased with how it came out! I thought about making something for her head, but since she would most likely take it off in 5 seconds I decided against it. I may make something for her before trick-or-treating next week if I have time. Here are some pictures of our cuties in their costumes!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mote Aquarium

Two weekends ago we took the kids to the Mote Aquarium with our friends. Matthew loved running around with his friend Cora and looking in all the different tanks. They kept finding things to point out to each other and running from tank to tank giggling and talking. I think Caroline was trying to catch the fish. As soon as one would swim by in front of her she'd reach out her hand toward the tank and try to grab it while yelling "Ahh!" Last time we took her she was only 8 months old, so it was fun to watch her get excited and be so interested in everything.

Caroline loved the sea turtles. They were right at her level, and it was almost like they were trying to talk to each other. I'm pretty sure that Matthew's favorite exhibit was the manatees. There were two manatees in the tank and one of them kept swimming directly into the glass and squishing its nose on it. The kids squealed with laughter every time and I think the manatee enjoyed entertaining them!

After the aquarium we hit up a smoothie shop for lunch. We let Matthew and Cora sit at their own table, which they thought was amazing. We joked that they were on their first supervised date. Matthew even shared one of his cookies with Cora! Jack and Caroline had their own smoothie date in the wagon where Jack practiced his putting on his moves. So thankful for good friends!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Matthew Starts Preschool

And so it begins... open houses, new teachers, classmates, volunteering, programs, papers to return, and getting out of the house (sort of) on time. Matthew is attending preschool 2 days a week at Sprouts Learning Center. He has been so excited about going to school ever since we went there a few months ago and he saw the playground. Priorities, right? Then the excitement grew when we visited his classroom for the first time during a playdate. He discovered cars, trains, and most importantly, 3 dump trucks to play with. I think he may have said three words to his teacher, he was so engrossed in playing with the trucks. After the playdate when I asked him what he liked best about school, he said "I played with the dump truck, and it went around in a circle and then made a dump." And he repeated this phrase each time some asked him about school. In fact, a week into school and he still talks about the dump trucks. At least the boy knows what he likes!

Last year I struggled a lot with the decision to send him to school or not. Most people I knew with kids his age were going, I had a newborn at home and could have used the break from two kids, but I just wasn't ready to give him up. Now a year later he is much more independent, (not to mention a bit stubborn, bossy, and particular about things) and we are both ready. I know that if I had taken him last year he would have cried, I would have cried, it would have been rough. This year, he was completely excited and not at all concerned about me leaving him. And me? I cried the morning he went to school, but not because I was sad about him going. I cried because I had just experienced a VERY rough few days with him, and I was at the end of my rope after a morning filled with crying about the collar on his shirt touching him, having milk instead of juice in his cup, not wanting to wear shoes that weren't his crocs, wanting to pull not wear his backpack, you name it he was upset about it. So when 9:00 came we were both ready. In fact, this picture was taken in the parking lot at school because there wasn't a time all morning where he wasn't upset about something! I'm so glad I waited another year.

In light of the fact that this starts a new chapter in our lives, I wanted to take a minute and paint a picture of our little guy. While it's true, he does have his moments (and a lot of them came last week), most of the time he's sweet, funny, and full of entertainment.

He's really into imaginative play right now. Most of this play involves cars, trucks, or trains, and he likes to make them crash, play on a playground, or chase each other. There are also quite a few conversations about his cars going to chick-fil-a. It's really funny when I hear him reenacting a conversation that we had earlier that day, or using phrases that I know I repeat to him quite often. Pretty much anything also becomes either a mommy, a daddy, or a sister. Another favorite is to pretend that something is food and bring it to me to eat. Caroline gets involved in this one too, and I end up with a pile of random objects next to me that I "ate".

Matthew is really starting to figure out how things work. When we drive somewhere he likes to ask where it is, and where our house is, and if it's a place we go to a lot he tells me where to turn. He asks lots of questions. He's always curious to know more and why. He also wants to know what words say in the books we read, so I've had to start pointing to each word as I read it. If he missed part of a conversation (that of course didn't involve him) he's quick to ask what we said and will keep asking until we tell him something!

I love his negotiating skills. Pretty much everything is negotiable, according to him. Not so much according to his parents, which does not make him happy. However, he doesn't quite understand quanity and number relations, so when I tell him that he needs to take 2 more bites of something he says, how about 4. Sounds great to me!

He loves his sister (most of the time). He likes to keep tabs on her, and when she gets upset or cries he'll say "Mommy, Caroline wants ____. That will make her feel better." He likes to sing songs to her when she's sad, and recently discovered how much positive attention he gets from giving her hugs! They spend a lot of time chasing each other around the house and climbing on and off furniture together. Matthew still isn't great about sharing with her, but we're working on it. Hey, maybe preschool will help!

He is still cautious, a little OCD, and definitely on the shy side in large groups. But that is nicely balanced with his affinity for running through the house at breakneck speed, talking my ear off, and leaving the playroom in a constant state of disarray.

I am amazed at how in-depth his conversations are, how strong and athletic he's become, the compassion he's starting to show, his ability to memorize books and random information, and the fact that he's developing his own opinions. I love how his smile lights up a room, how his hair is always sticking up somewhere, how he wants to snuggle with me at bedtime every night, and how much joy he has brought to our family.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ordinary Mercy

Something that God has really put on my heart lately is the fact that there are children all over the world without parents. I look into the faces of my sweet babies, and can't imagine that there are so many adorable faces who don't have anyone to look back at them. I'm not ok with this, and I need to do something to help. Hosea 14:3 says "In you the orphan finds mercy." How can I, an ordinary stay-at-home mom in Florida, make a difference? How can I show mercy?

A few months ago two things happened. First, I decided to start donating all the money that I made from my crafting business to an orphanage. I have no idea how this thought came about, so it must have been from God. Then, my cousin Shannon was getting married, and asked me if I would make a bar sign for her wedding. So I did, and decided to post it on Etsy* as well. All of a sudden, sales took off! And not only has the bar sign been selling, people have been asking me to create all sorts of other signs as well. In the past few months I have found my bar sign featured on several wedding websites, discovered it pinned and repinned on Pinterest, and was recently contacted by a wedding subscription site about setting up an event and being featured there. I am completely amazed at how much God has blessed this small contribution of mine. It makes no sense to me, and to be honest there have been several times where I wanted to just stop. (There are lots of crazy brides out there!) But then I remember those faces, the faces of the fatherless, and I know that my small sacrifice is more than worth it. In fact, it's not even close to enough. But God has been faithful. He has met me where I am and allowed this ordinary, stay-at-home mom, to make a small difference.

This past month when I was crunching numbers and preparing to make my monthly donation to the New Day Foster Home**, I realized that I had more than doubled any profits from any of the past three months. And when adding all 4 months together, I passed the $1,000 mark. Seriously?! $1,000 in four months for spending some time on the computer? Wow. God is good.

*My Etsy store is cupcakesnjellybeans if you have any interest in checking it out. I also have my own website, Cupcakes and Jellybeans

**The New Day Foster Home is located in Beijing, China and cares for children with medical needs. They raise money for their surgeries, as well as for basic supplies and care. For more information on this ministry, visit

Friday, August 3, 2012

Caroline at 15 months

Caroline just went for her 15 month well visit yesterday, so I thought I would write a little update on our precious baby girl.

It seems that the word most people use to describe you is tough. I guess you have to be, with your brother constantly beating up on you (sometimes accidentally). Even your pediatrician called you brave, and said you definitely weren't a shrinking violet! I must say I like that about you, maybe because I'm not that way. I like that you get knocked down and aren't phased by it, that you're confident enough to walk up to people and "tell" them what you want, and that you climb and conquer any piece of furniture. I love that God has given you these characteristics and I'm excited to see how he uses them as you grow.

You are at that great stage where you like to laugh, and are figuring out how to make other people laugh too. No one can make you laugh more than your brother! You love it when he plays peek-a-boo with you, when you jump on his bed together, and when he chases you around the house. My favorite smile is when you're running away from me and get this twinkle in your eye and a high pitched squeal. I don't love this squeal when it happens in your brother's room during his nap, but other times it's pretty cute.

I'm pretty sure you're going to be a bookworm, because you are obsessed with books! Your favorite thing to do is sit on your little pink chair and turn the pages of books. You carry them out of your room (sometimes a whole stack at once!), bring them to me, then point at your room and lead me back in there to read to you. Although most of the time there's not much reading because as soon as I read the first page or two you start pointing at another book that you want to look at. Then another. And another. Actually, I'm usually just holding a book open while you turn the pages.

You are actually a pretty good communicator already. Your first word was thank you, and you use it every time we hand you something! You also say cajun, dada, ball, boo, bird, woof woof (for dog), this, what's this, there you go, and a few more sounds like yum and shhh. Even though you don't have words for most things you need, I still can figure out what you want pretty easily. I'm not sure if that's because you point enthusiastically, or because you generally want one of two things - milk or a graham cracker. You must have taken a lesson from Cajun on finding hidden food, because somehow you seem to know every time I have graham crackers in my purse, in the car, or when I have a new box in the pantry.

Some other super cute things that I love right now are your facial expressions. You figured out how to raise your eyebrows, and you do it when you're surprised, excited, or sometimes just for fun it seems. You have this great face where you stick out your lower jaw and teeth and look like a grizzly bear with an underbite. I also love it when you give kisses! To do this you suck on your lower lip and lean in for a headbutt. I'm also a fan of how you cover your face and say "boo" to do peek-a-boo. It might have something to do with the fact that you like to do it while I change your diaper, which is a vast improvement over the houdini escape acts you used to do while I changed you.

Other things you love: food, getting messy while you eat, the water, being outside, your daddy, baby dolls, running away, copying your brother, making a monkey sound, wearing my shoes, dogs, and babies.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My First Tri

I completed my first triathlon yesterday! My friend Jodi and I have been training together for 13 weeks with the crazy idea that it's fun to swim, bike, and run all in one day. While I was in the middle of the run, I definitely did not think that this was fun at all, but after it was all over I felt very accomplished. After my half-marathon a few years ago I had no desire to do another one, and still don't, but I actually would do another triathlon.
I convinced my friend Kendra to do the race with us too, and the three of us got up very very early Saturday morning and headed to Englewood for the race. We checked in, set up our transition areas, and battled nerves until our wave was finally called to hit the water a little after 7:00. About halfway through the swim I thought there was no way this was only the halfway point! But then when it was all said and done the swim seemed like it was over in a blink.
When I got to my transition area I stood there and stared at everything for a second, blanking on what I was supposed to do. But then I quickly got moving and started on the bike. It was an out and back route, so I started seeing the ridiculously fast people coming back a few miles into it. Apparently it is bike etiquette to announce that you are going to pass someone, so the faster bikers would say "on your left" as they passed. All I heard was "I'm beating you" which kicked in my competitive nature and made me bike faster. This resulted in my fastest bike time ever, and also a very tough run! I finished the 13 mile bike in 49 minutes, when it normally takes me closer to 55.
Brian and the munchkins had planned to arrive in time for me to finish the bike and cheer me on into the run portion. Seeing their smiling faces and "Go Mommy" poster definitely lifted my spirits! The run definitely proved to be the most difficult part. I knew this going in, but usually at about the 6th minute of the run I start to get in a groove. This did not happen on race day! The entire run was tough, which I'm pretty sure was due to the fact that I had used up too much energy on the bike. After a really slow first mile, I still ended up completing the run in 30 minutes. My total time for the whole race was 1:34:34. Woohoo! And, this time just happens to be :58 faster than Brian's time from his triathlon in March. Just sayin'.
Next on the agenda is for Brian and I to compete in the same triathlon. We'll see how that goes!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Canada, Eh?

**Warning - this blog post is a behind-the-scenes look of our vacation. While we did enjoy many touristy activities, landmarks, and sightseeing, you will not read much about those here. These are the nitty gritty, imperfect, non-photographed, memorable moments that made this vacation special. For the bright and sunny touristy pictures, visit my facebook page, or check back later ;o)

We just got back from our first official family vacation. By official, I mean it didn't involve going to stay with family or friends, or attending one of Brian's ophthalmology conferences. We are all completely exhausted, but made a lot of memories! While we hit several bumps along the way, I think those mishaps are what make this trip memorable. We flew into Buffalo, and the three hours on the plane went by pretty quickly and easily. When we got to our Kia Soul rental car, we took one look at it and thought there was no way it was going to work. But, two suitcases, 3 bags, 2 carseats, a double stroller, and 4 people later, everything fit and we were off to Niagara Falls! Both kids were so excited to see the falls. When we got close, Caroline practically leaped out of the stroller trying to point to them and Matthew kept shouting "the falls, the falls!"

Brian and I were pretty pumped about our hotel in Niagara, because we were in the Embassy Suites and could put the kids in a separate room. Knowing that we were going to be together 24/7 for the next 7 days, this was going to be a treat. It was great until about 1:30am when Matthew threw up all over his bed. After changing his clothes and calming him down, I had him sleep in one of the queen beds with me. Then at 4:30am he woke up and threw up all over that bed. So, that meant three of us in the other queen bed. Miraculously Caroline slept through everything, but none of the rest of us got much sleep!

Thankfully Matthew rallied and felt much better the next morning, so we went on the Maid of the Mist and did Journey Behind the Falls. Let me explain to you Matthew's philosophy on wearing the ponchos they give you for these attractions. Maid of the Mist - absolutely did not want anything to do with the poncho. Screamed, cried, threw a complete fit to the point where one of the workers came up and helpfully informed us that most kids under 4 don't enjoy the ponchos. We took that as our cue to give everyone around us relief from the screaming and took it off him. Now, you may be wondering why we even bothered messing with the poncho to start with. Well, Matthew is very particular and really dislikes getting his clothes wet. Fast forward to when we get close to the falls and everyone is getting wet. Matthew, of course, does not like this and decides that the best place for him is underneath my poncho gripping onto my legs and crying. Perfect. (Picture is on the Maid of the Mist. He's still mad about the poncho.) Now we like to think that we learn from previous experience, so when we got the Journey Behind the Falls we didn't even bother with Matthew's poncho. Turns out this was the wrong answer! As soon as we started getting close to the water again, he wanted his poncho. And then he didn't want to take it off! He wore it out of the falls, into the stroller, and we basically had to pry it off of him. Ah, the mind of a 3-year-old.

This whole day, Brian wasn't really feeling that great so after the kids took naps he decided to stay in the hotel and rest for a bit. I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids by myself up in the Skylon Tower. We set out in the stroller, and I got quite the leg workout pushing them up and down the hilly streets. We finally arrive at the ticket counter and I'm a sweaty mess at this point. The girl sells us our tickets, and then very sweetly apologizes and says that the elevator is out. Of course it is. But not to worry, we can hike up the hill and follow the road around to the entrance of the tower. Awesome. The kids did enjoy the tower though, so it was worth the hassle! Matthew is still talking about the yellow elevators.

Thankfully Friday was rather uneventful. Well, except for Brian throwing up that morning. At this point I just assumed that sickness was going to plague us the entire trip. So we traveled to Rochester for my cousin Shannon's wedding. The hotel was great - we were able to check in early, and they already had a crib for Caroline set up and ready in the room. Matthew was the ring bearer in the wedding, so I took him to the rehearsal that evening where he got to meet Payton, the flower girl. They immediately hit it off and he kept referring to her as his best friend. I was very excited about this development, because I thought he'd be more likely to walk down the aisle with her. Then Brian and Caroline joined us for the rehearsal dinner. Matthew and Caroline spent almost the entire time running around and escaping to the walkway outside and running around there. But hey, at least they were happy!

The wedding and the events leading up to it were great. Matthew was an exceptional ring bearer (no bias here) and made it all the way down the aisle all by himself! I left him with the bridesmaids and Payton and told him that he had to walk down the aisle with her, and when he got to me he'd get Skittles. Apparently after I left him he was repeating my instructions to himself "I walk with Payton, I get Skittles". When it was time to walk, Payton said "Let's go Matthew" and took off. I guess she was a little too fast for him because he started running after her saying "Wait for me!" It's a good thing the aisle was quite long and started around the corner, because none of us could see what happened. (I got my info from Shannon.) After the ceremony we took the kids back to the hotel where Shannon had arranged a babysitter for us. A kid-free night, woohoo! Of course Caroline decided to quite literally throw herself on the floor and scream bloody murder. I think I apologized to the sitter like 4 times, then walked out while she was still screaming. Although apparently she stopped about 2 seconds after we left. We had a blast dancing at the reception, and at one point Brian even danced on a chair (see photo evidence). That's right, no kids and we get crazy. Actually, it was part of a game and about 10 other people had to do it too. But it sounds way cooler if I make it sound like he did it voluntarily.

Sunday we made our way back to Canada. We had planned to leave after lunch so the kids would nap in the car. This worked great until we hit the border and had to wait in the customs line for 20 minutes. They both woke up, and quickly reached meltdown levels. We thought it would get better when we started driving again, but no such luck, so we decided to take a quick break and ended up in Grimsby, Canada. There's not much in Grimsby. However, there is a discount grocery store. We happened upon it while we were walking down main street, and decided to go in and get some icecream. Of course we had no spoons or bowls so we bought a box of the Canadian version of drumsticks. Brian thought it would be best if he went back to get the car and picked us up, so Matthew and I sat on the curb outside the grocery store eating our ice cream. We got quite a few strange looks. I'm not sure if people thought we were homeless or just crazy, but we didn't care!

We finally made it to Toronto in time for dinner. We looked up a few restaurants nearby, packed up the kids in the stroller, and walked outside... into a rainstorm. The thought of spending more time in our hotel really didn't sound appealing, so we decided to just go anyway and get a little wet. Caroline and I shared the umbrella, Matthew used the shade on the stroller, and Brian was just manly and got wet. Or as Matthew says, "soaky wet". Thankfully the rain stopped for our walk home. At this point I'm thinking that maybe we're done being sick on this trip since no one had puked or felt sick for two whole days. But, leave it to Caroline. She was up on and off all night crying because she had a fever and was all congested. Finally Brian put her in the bed with him and she slept a few hours.

Monday was a full day of sightseeing in Toronto. We started with the CN Tower, then took a double-decker bus tour, hopped off the bus at the Royal Ontario Museum, and, finished up the bus tour on the ride back to our hotel. I'm pretty sure Matthew thought riding on the bus was the coolest event of the day by far, and whenever we weren't on the bus he kept asking where it was and when we could ride it again. Caroline actually slept for most of the bus tour so she obviously wasn't as impressed. We took a break for naps, and Matthew actually slept for 3 hours! Most of the attractions close at 5:00, so we were left with only a few options. We decided to go to the Eaton Centre for dinner, which is a gigantic shopping mall. It's so big it has a subway stop at either end! Somehow Matthew managed to get a free cookie just by pointing at them and making some sort of grunting sound while we were in line to pay for our food. I wish that trick worked for me! After eating we happened upon a street performer juggling knives and fire. Matthew and Caroline were both mesmerized so we stopped and watched for a bit. Caroline became interested in the man next to us who was carrying a kitten on his shoulders, and when he wanted to put the cat in the stroller with her to take a picture we thought it was time to leave. We stopped in the world's shadiest Burger King for some ice cream on the way back and decided to call it a night.

The Toronto Zoo was on our agenda for our second day in the city. When I asked Matthew what animals he wanted to see, he spouted off about 12, which included the basic giraffe, lion, etc., but he also threw in a random kangaroo and polar bear. Thankfully the Toronto Zoo is huge and actually has both of these animals! It's so fun to go to the zoo with Matthew. He gets ridiculously excited about every animal, and will repeatedly say "let's go find some more animals" when he's ready to move on. Caroline is at the age where she enjoys them too. She points and laughs, and if left up to her own devices would climb right into the exhibits with them! It was kind of chilly when we got there, so Matthew wanted his jacket. Then as the day went on it got warmer, so he requested his sunglasses but didn't want to lose the jacket. He was running all over the discovery center, sweating in his fleece and sunglasses!

Tuesday being our last full day in the city, we decided to forgoe naptime and take our boat tour instead. The boat tour is included with the bus tour, and the boats leave every hour and 15 min. This meant that we had a little over an hour to get from the zoo to the harbour before the next departure. Sounds easy, except the zoo is 30 min outside the city! After missing our turn to get to the harbour, we decided to just park at our hotel and walk. We power walked down to the harbour, and arrived 2 minutes after the boat left! But, turns out another boat company honored our ticket and their next boat left in 15 minutes. Plus, they actually stop at the islands and let you get off for a bit, which was something we had wanted to do but didn't think we'd have time for. It couldn't have worked out better - so thankful God works in the details! We managed to make it to the island without losing any toys, shoes, pacifiers, or children out the window. While the nude beach probably would have been an interesting excursion, we opted for the amusement park with rides for little kids. Matthew was in heaven! He got to ride a train with Daddy, a car with Mommy, and drive a little fire truck all by himself. The whole time he was on the fire truck ride he kept yelling "I'm driving all by myself!"

Our final morning in Toronto was spent at Casa Loma. Casa Loma is a castle that used to be someone's home and is now run as a museum. There were tons of movies filmed there, which I now need to go back and watch again. We were a little concerned about how this was going to go when both kids were running and being pretty loud after 5 minutes. Brian had the genius idea to give Matthew his audio guide. He was completely occupied pushing the buttons and holding it up to his ear. Then we could take turns preventing Caroline from wandering past the barriers into the restricted parts of the rooms - not an easy task! The gardens outside were gorgeous, and Matthew and Caroline were able to get some energy out running around. There may have been a few flower casualties, but I don't think anyone will notice. We ate a picnic lunch there, and headed off to the Buffalo airport with time to spare.

At this point Brian is now feeling feverish and congested, so we really just want to get home. Just for the record: Brian 2 illnesses, Matthew and Caroline 1 illness each, Erika 0. Glad I'm healthy, but it's no fun taking care of all the sickies! So we left Toronto at noon, our flight was at 4:45, it's a 2 1/2 hour drive, plenty of time. Except we stopped to get gas, drove by the falls again, got in the slowest line ever at customs, stopped to get groceries for dinner at the plane, stopped for gas again, and arrived at the airport only an hour before our flight! And of course, there was a line. And for some reason they wouldn't give me a boarding pass until I got to the gate, which of course had another line. But, we made it on our flight, and thankfully the kids did great. I was sure that both kids would fall asleep on the drive home, but only Caroline did. We put Matthew to bed, and at 9:45 I collapsed on the couch. Now I know why people only take vacations once a year!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Adventures

After a week of rain, we were so excited to see the sun this weekend! We decided to take full advantage of the sunshine and had a great time making some sweet family memories. Friday night we went out for Mexican. Matthew colored an elaborate picture on his placemat, while Caroline stealthily ate almost his entire kids' meal. We of course had to touch the water in the fountain on the way in and out of the restaurant, and made it home just before the rain started again!

Saturday morning I helped my mom with a garage sale, and Brian brought the kids over around 11:00 to swim. Caroline splashed, giggled, and tottered around the edge of the pool. Matthew, being his cautious self, had to be coaxed into the water and would only go if someone was holding him. We ate lunch on the porch, then headed home for naps. And we all took naps! There's something amazing about a Saturday afternoon nap. I don't understand why Matthew always protests when it's time to sleep. He doesn't get how wonderful napping is!

When everyone woke up we decided to head out to the beach for a bit. We took the top off the Jeep, packed up some towels, shovels, and a picnic, and headed to Lido Key. We did have a bucket casualty somewhere on the highway. I'll be on the lookout for a pink Minnie Mouse bucket somewhere on 75!

The weather at the beach was amazing. A slight breeze kept us cool, and clouds kept the sun from beating down too much. Of course within 3 minutes of getting there Caroline dumped water on herself and then got covered in sand. She didn't seem to mind though! Matthew has gotten really into imaginative play, so he spent most of his time creating roads and tunnels for his cars to drive through. He helped Caroline play with her watering can, and may have baptized her with salt water once or twice in the process. We managed to eat our dinner without the seagulls capturing it, which I think is a small miracle with two small children waving their food around!

On the way home we stopped at St. Armand's to get ice cream at Kilwin's. Matthew's face when I told him we were getting ice cream was priceless. It's like he won the lottery and hit the jackpot at the same time! Of course he had to get rainbow ice cream with sprinkles. The one flaw in our plan was that I forgot to pack extra clothes for Caroline and she was completely muddy. But, I did have a pair of Matthew's pajamas in the diaper bag so she sported some oversized Lighting McQueen duds. It was kind of funny referring to her as she, and having people look at us like we were crazy since she totally looked like a boy. Matthew and I ate our ice cream on a bench while Caroline wandered the sidewalk looking a bit like a drunken sailor.

We spent this afternoon on the porch playing in the pool and with the water table that we finally cleaned all the sand out of. Then we had family movie night and watched Matthew's favorite - Cars 2. Well, we watched the first half anyway, until Matthew got antsy and started chasing Caroline around the house.

I am so thankful that we live in a place where we can enjoy God's creation any time we want, the weather is usually great for being outdoors, and we have family close by. We are truly blessed beyond measure.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Caroline is One!

It's true - our precious little 7 pound 14 ounce baby is now three times her size and a giggling, moving, independent one-year-old! Caroline, we have watched you grow in so many ways this year - and far too fast in my opinion!

Even though you can't talk yet, you are already very inquisitive. You point at things and say "Si Sis" which is your way of saying "What's this?" You like to do mini science experiments just to see what will happen. You also love looking inside things to see what treasures you can find. It's really funny to watch you poke your head around a corner or stand on your tiptoes to peer inside a drawer that's just out of reach. You like to strike out on adventures around the house, crawling and exploring anything and everything. We have to keep all the doors closed and try to contain you in one room if we can!

You are such a happy baby. It's a rare occasion when you cry, and it's usually a legitimate reason. You have the most precious smile, with your noise crinkled up and your 7 little teeth showing. I've loved watching your personality and sense of humor develop. You enjoy making us laugh, and then laughing yourself. A game of peekaboo or tickling always get a belly laugh from you!

Things you love:

~ Your Brother - Wherever Matthew is you are not far behind. You love to crawl with him and chase him all around the house. You even try to be with him while he's sleeping and I have to grab you out of his room before you wake him up!

~ Climbing - You don't walk yet, but you have figured out how to climb on top of all sorts of things! Your favorite thing to climb on is Matthew's bed. The two of you climb up there and play together, laughing and giggling (until one of you ends up accidentally hurting the other). One day I found you on top of the desk in the playroom - twice! You also enjoy climbing up on the bathroom stool and laughing at yourself in the mirror.

~ Food - When you were 9 months old you decided that you wanted to eat real food, and you never looked back! We have yet to find something that you refuse to try. Your eating skills are not quite accomplished yet, and most meals you end up with food all over your face, behind your ears, and in your hair. It's really funny to watch you shove fistfuls of shredded cheese in your mouth, then chew with several strands hanging off your lips. We just got you to give up your bottles, but you were not very happy about the transition.

~ Your Daddy - If your daddy is home, you are not far from his side. Your face lights up when he comes home from work and you immediately crawl as fast as you can to the door. If he leaves the room - watch out! It doesn't matter if I'm sitting right next to you, you are not happy if he walks away.

~ Music - Anytime you hear any type of music you immediately start dancing. If you're standing up you bend your knees and bounce up and down, and if you're sitting you wave your arms around. Singing soothes you when you're sleepy or upset, and is the only way we can get you to stay still during a diaper change!

Your stats:
~ Weight 21 pounds, 54th percentile
~ Height 30 inches, 94th percentile
~ One nap in the afternoon
~ Bedtime between 7:00 and 7:30
~ Wake up between 7:30 and 8:00
~ Eat three meals and two snacks

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Every year I make the kids a photo book that they can one day take with them when they're adults. Here's Caroline's First Year!

You'll love award-winning Shutterfly photo books. Start your own today.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caroline at 10 months

It's hard to believe that our little girl is already 10 months old! She is such a joy, and we enjoy watching her grow every day. Here is what our munchkin is doing at 10 months:

This month Caroline decided that she was done eating any type of pureed food. Just flat out stopped eating it. So, we just started giving her table food. She LOVES it! She eats anything and everything, and gets visibly excited when you sit her in her highchair.

Caroline is always on the move. While she has crawled on all fours several times, she prefers her own unique method of getting around - army crawling on her belly. She's actually quite fast! She also enjoys pulling up on EVERYTHING! She loves to stand to play, and has gotten really good at going from standing to sitting without falling down.

Another one of her favorite activities is emptying shelves, baskets, bins, buckets, pretty much anything that can be emptied. It looks like a tornado has gone through the playroom 90% of the time, and I've given up picking up after her because it lasts approximately 10 seconds.

She has also become very vocal lately. She squeals and yells when she thinks things are funny, and has started saying Mama and Dada. It's been really fun to watch her personality and sense of humor develop. She has a great belly laugh :o)

Unfortunately, the separation anxiety phase has started as well. Dropping her in the YMCA childcare or the church nursery has become an interesting experience. She also is quite a Daddy's girl and prefers her Daddy above anyone else! I can be right next to her, but if Brian walks away she starts crying and crawls after him.

Another challenge that has arisen this month is nap time. Caroline still sleeps great at night - most nights 11 to 12 hours. Napping, however, is not her favorite. She has been fighting her morning nap especially, crying for up to an hour and sleeping maybe 30 minutes. The past few days her nap has been closer to an hour, so maybe there's hope! Her afternoon nap is a little better, but she usually sleeps around an hour and a half. The girl likes to be involved in what's going on around her!

She now has 5 teeth, three on the bottom and two on top. She's about 29 inches long, and a little over 20 pounds. Most of the clothes she wears are 9-12 months.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Disney Vacation

We took our kids to Disney for the first time last weekend, and I don't know who had more fun - them or us! We headed up to Orlando Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Coronado Springs. After settling in we went to Downtown Disney for dinner. The dinosaur restaurant was really busy, so we opted for a quick Mexican stop instead. Caroline went to town with some black beans and rice! We also bought a character autograph book, and Matthew got a stuffed Pluto from the Disney store there.

Saturday morning we ate a quick breakfast in the room and then rode the bus to the Magic Kingdom! The very first thing we saw when we walked into the park was Pluto. In the past Matthew has been afraid of characters, but I thought we should try it out and see how did. Then we'd know for the rest of our time there. Besides, Pluto is his favorite. While we were waiting in line Matthew seemed pretty excited about getting to meet Pluto. When it was finally his turn, he ran to Pluto and gave him a huge hug. Brian and I were shocked! He hugged him for a minute, then Pluto signed both his book and his stuffed Pluto. Then it was time for his picture, but instead of looking at the camera and posing Matthew just kept hugging him again! It was so precious to see him completely believing Pluto was real and loving him so much. The only downfall was my camera was acting up and wouldn't take pictures most of the time he spent with Pluto. Thankfully the Disney people got some good shots.

After our visit with Pluto we went on in the park and visiting Tomorrowland. Matthew and Brian rode the race cars together while Caroline took a nap in the stroller. Then Matthew and I went on the Buzz Lightyear ride where I learned that he is afraid of the dark and the Evil Zurg. The poor thing started crying halfway through. We decided that our next ride should be more tame, so we went on the Carousel of Progress. Then it was off to Fantasyland and a ride on the carousel. Matthew wasn't really grooving on the carousel, so I took Caroline on it. She loved it! I literally had to pull her hands off the horse when it was over. The Johnsons were also at the Magic Kingdom that day, so we met up in Fantasyland. Then we went and rode the People Mover together. By this time we were hungry and took a lunch break, with plans to meet up again later. It was getting close to naptime when we finished eating so we headed back to the hotel for a break. On our way out Matthew wanted to see Daisy so we waited in line for her. Then when it was finally our turn he changed his mind and got shy. Caroline got to meet her instead :o)

When we headed back to Disney for Round 2 we decided to stop and meet Mickey and Minnie first. The wait said it was only 20 minutes.... an hour later we finally got to meet them! Matthew gave Mickey a big hug, but was unsure of Minnie. Apparently he doesn't like the girl characters? When we came out of the theater the parade was going on, so we fought the crowds to get back to Tomorrowland. We met up with the Johnsons again, who thankfully had extra jackets for us to borrow because it was freezing! We hit up lots of rides - we rode the race cars again, went on Small World twice, did Winnie the Pooh's Adventure, and rode Snow White. Caroline fell asleep in my arms, and I ended up holding her for an hour! I thought my arms might fall off. Matthew had a great time with Leighton like always, and we ended up staying in the park until 10:30!

Sunday was freezing, so we bundled up with our borrowed jackets and headed to Animal Kingdom. None of us had been there before, since it opened after Brian and I moved away. We started out in Dinosaur World. I think Matthew was expecting there to be real dinosaurs and was a little disappointed when they weren't there. We did ride the flying dinosaurs, but we were all freezing and decided to head to the Lion King show where it was warm. Matthew kept requesting to see the animals, so when the show was over we headed to the safari ride. It was really cool driving through and seeing all the animals. Matthew was absolutely beside himself the entire time!

We had booked a character lunch at the Tusker House, and when we finished the safari it was time to head over there. Caroline LOVED the food! She ate couscous, mashed potatoes, rice, plantains, and most of it got in her mouth! We also got to meet Donald, Mickey, Daisy, and Goofy. Matthew didn't warm up to any of them except for Goofy, so apparently he just likes the dogs :o) After lunch we walked around and saw a few more animals. It was starting to get late and the munchkins were getting overtired, so we finished off the day letting Brian ride the Everest roller coaster. We had an amazing time and are excited to go back and use the last day on our ticket!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Busch Gardens

A few weeks ago we went to Busch Gardens for the day. Since we're Florida residents now, we can pay for one day and get passes for the entire year! So it was really nice to go up for a few hours with the knowledge that we could go back any time. Matthew loved, loved, loved the animals. We got to watch the lions getting fed which was really cool. They were right on the other side of the glass the entire time. Matthew thought it was funny to roar at them :o)

After looking at lots of animals, we went to the Sesame Street section of the park. Matthew wasn't quite sure about the characters, but we did manage to get a picture next to Big Bird. He also went on a car ride all by himself, and another ride with Brian. I think Brian may have enjoyed himself more than Matthew!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Playroom Makeover

After the chandelier redo, I kept the motivation going and gave the playroom a facelift to match it! I'm really happy with how it turned out. As I looked around the room when it was finished I realized that almost everything in there is handmade, which was even more awesome! Here's the chandelier again:

It all started with the canvases that Matthew and Caroline helped me fingerpaint. I wanted to put some verses on the walls that I want my kids to know, and I thought that having them help me with them was even more special. I chose the verses and then cut them out of vinyl with my Silhouette machine. I stuck the vinyl on the canvas and then we fingerpainted over top of it. When it was dry we peeled the vinyl off, and voila! The only problem was when we hung them on our boring white wall, they didn't stand out at all. So we decided to paint! My dad very generously painted the wall this bright lime green, which I love.

The next project was creating a magnet board for the wall. I had seen the idea to use an oil drip pan on Pinterest, but I wanted to make it look a little prettier. I had this green fabric leftover from making a headboard in our guest room that complemented the wall color perfectly. I laid the fabric over the metal pan and ran my fabric wheel cutter around the edge to cut it to the perfect shape and size. Then I used one of my favorite crafting supplies - Mod Podge - and glued the fabric down. To attach it to the wall we just held it in place and nailed right through it. The whole project took about 30 minutes, and cost around $12.

To the same wall I added a bulletin board, which I have plans to put a map of the United States on and mark where my kids have traveled. I also added one of my favorite projects in the room. I had seen this quote (also on Pinterest, shocker!) and loved it. To make it I bought a cheap white frame on clearance at Michaels. I used the same spray paint from the chandelier and painted the frame green. Then I created and cut the quote out of vinyl (again on my amazing Silhouette machine) and adhered it to the glass. To finish it off I did my kids' handprints on white paper to use as the background. I seriously love it! The only thing missing on this wall now is a picture of each of my munchkins on each side of the frame. I'm waiting until the spring when we take pictures again, so until then the frame will look a little lonely.

*If you are interested in making your own frame or a similar project, I sell the vinyl phrase on my website

Above the toy organizer I hung Matthew's Artwork sign that I used to have in his bedroom. I still need to make one for Caroline, but she's not really making any art yet so I guess it's no rush. The quilt hanging on the wall was made for Matthew by one of the teacher assistants at my school in North Carolina. The colors match the room perfectly and it really adds a lot of color to that wall. Notice the cute little munchkin climbing up trying the get the toys out :o)

The final piece of artwork is actually the very first thing I made that got me hooked on crafting. I made it with my friend Amanda when I went to visit her in Kentucky, and it was our first experience with the magic of Mod Podge. We created a Family Rules sign the old-fashioned way (pre-Silhouette) by drawing/writing our family rules on pieces of scrapbook paper and then Mod Podging them to a painted canvas.

The last thing I did was rearrange the toys and furniture to give Matthew and Caroline their own play areas and free up some more play space. Tada! The playroom is now officially made over! The only remaining project I have to do is make a curtain valance out of the fabric I used on the magnet board. At least, that's all I have on the agenda for now ;o)