Category Archives: Kids

InstaFriday!

This week’s instafriday post is going to be short and sweet. I didn’t take or share many photos this week, not for any specific reason- some weeks I just don’t have my phone out that much. And I’m okay with that :)

 

I still want to link up with Jeannett at Life Rearranged though and chronicle the photos I did take of this week in the life of the Toney family.

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Getting happy mail is one of my favorite things ever. The other day, my mailbox was full of happy with all of these fun fabric swatches. It is time to start designing baby boy’s crib bedding!

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I just couldn’t get enough of this outfit. The shirt is from etsy seller Greythread. Even though he is the stage of only making silly faces when you ask him to smile, I just adore this picture of him.

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I have mentioned my friend Emmy and her adoption swaps before on here. It is such a fun way to support a family’s adoption while getting to do something crafting. AND- on top of all of that- you get something super cute in the mail from another person. Again, with my love of happy snail mail, this is right up my ally! This week, I whipped up this sweet Valentine’s Day garland and shipped it off to my exchange partner along with one of our mini banners for Emmy’s Valentine’s Day exchange. If you want to be involved in future swaps, but sure to follow @theadoptswap on instagram.

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It’s a pretty exciting day when I get to hang out with batman all morning.

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My husband has been home for most of the past week after and before some traveling for sabbatical, which has been a treat. He’s made an effort to get some house projects done the past few days, which has been awesome. On today’s agenda was painting my childhood dresser to use in our front room for the kids games and puzzles. When my 6-year old asked to help paint the dresser with “lots of beautiful colors”, I handed him a paintbrush and told him to have at it- on the back side. It was a total win-win: he is stoked that he will have a hidden work of art in our house and I am stoked because my dresser will only be one color while still getting to encourage my son’s creativity and to allow him make a fun memory.

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That’s it for this week! We’ve got a full weekend ahead of baseball, winter partying and superbowling. I hope that your weekend is lovely!

 

 

 

A full recap of our 2013 Advent Calendar

Christmas has now come and gone, which is always bittersweet for me. I am tempted to hang on as long as I can, but I also start longing to get the dead tree out of my house and get everything clean and back to normal. The holidays have always my favorite time of year, even more so now that I have kids who are super into everything Christmas.

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To best manage our time and focus during the advent season leading up to Christmas, I started doing an advent calendar with my boys a couple of years ago. I made mine in banner style and it hangs under our stairs, which is the boys play area.

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In each pocket, I write a Christmas related activity for us to do together that day. A little tip: I never write what we are doing until the night before or early that morning. That way, if I need to change plans last minute, any sneaky eyes don’t peek and seek the wrong thing.

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In our home, my goal is to put the focus on celebrating Jesus as much as possible. To set the tone for this, we start each morning reading an advent devotion together. This year, we followed along with posts from The Story Warren, which mostly used our favorite children’s bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible. On school days, we have our oldest get dressed right away and then we eat breakfast and get totally ready for school, making sure to leave 10 minutes for our advent time before we have to leave the house. Then, we squish on the couch and do our reading for the day. After that, Isaiah gets to take the card out of the advent calendar and read what we are going to do that day.

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Some activities were big and others were little, some were about giving and some were about eating or drinking something sweet. No matter what it was, though, Isaiah was excited. I loved that! Every day, he was pumped to do something Christmasy together- to create a memory.

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It made the season not as hurried and me not as crazy. It helped me focus on what was important, as I would have rushed through many busy days without doing something intentional to celebrate with my boys. It helped us be merry, it helped us love each other better and it helped build our joy as we awaited the day we celebrate our newborn King.

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Here is a full list of the activities we did this year, with any applicable links. I hope that this can help inspire your own lists in future years. Ours will change from year to year, but many staples will always be a part of our advent routine.

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Day 1: get our christmas tree.

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Day 2: christmas book marathon (always a favorite- I pack the Christmas books away with the decorations, which makes reading them that much more exciting for the boys)

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Day 3: holiday craft day with nonna (my mother-in-law). There were a couple of days that my kids were with one of their grandmas, so I planned something they could do together.

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Day 4: drink hot chocolate. (easy and quick- but made the boys so happy. Perfect for a busy day)

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Day 5: make christmas legos (Lego sells little $8 sets- we found them at Legoland the month before, but I am sure you can find them online)

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Day 6: Help daddy hang the lights and finish decorating.

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Day 7: listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas book on vinyl (yes- book on vinyl. One of my most favorite thrift store finds ever. This is one activity that will always remain on our advent calendar list)

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Day 8: family Christmas movie night. We had a picnic dinner in front of the tree and watched Elf.

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Day 9: make a gingerbread house (Trader Joe’s sells super easy and cute sets)

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Day 10: make snowflakes. We did some normal ones, but also used these templates to make some Star Wars ones, which were a big hit with this kid.

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Day 11: giving day 1. I try to have at least 2 days where we focus on giving to others and sharing God’s love with those in need. On this day, we went through all of the boys toys, books and clothes and donated what they didn’t need. Isaiah was surprisingly into it. It made this mama’s heart so happy.

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Day 12: make snow globes. We used these directions, but altered them a bit to make it less expensive. I just used hot glue instead of epoxy and didn’t use any anti-rust sealant and they turned out fine. We used them for decor on our dining table.

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Day 13: christmas light scavenger hunt. We had actually planned to go to the Zoo for our activity this day, but Isaiah ended up being a little sick, so we changed our plans around. After dinner, we piled in the car in our PJ’s, freshly baked cookies in hand. We drove to a neighborhood near us (in central San Diego) called Candy Cane Lane to look at the lights. I found this scavenger hunt list on pinterest, but next year I will just make my own. How often have you seen a dolphin in Christmas light displays? It became a big joke for us, as Hudson would look for a dolphin every time we drove anywhere for the rest of the month because he wanted to be able to check that last thing off of the list :) It was a fun way to spice up looking at lights.

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Day 14: christmas in the park. Our local park, Old Poway Park, is awesome. Not only do they have steam trains you can ride on the weekends, but they also have a big Christmas celebration one night in December. We saw Santa ride in on the train, rode the train (where they gave the kids jingle bells- which my boys loved), did free crafts and bought some gingerbread while choirs sang in the gazebo. Be sure to check your local community events to see what fun free family activities they may have planned.

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Day 15: christmas at Sea World. We are blessed to have Sea World annual passes, so we got to go check out the decorations and special holiday programs. We were really surprised by the Shamu Christmas show- it was totally a worship service! They had the words to Christmas carols about Jesus on the screen, a big choir singing and encouraged all the guests to sing along. I thought it was 25 times better than the normal Shamu show. (note: it is only on the weekends during the holidays. I made that mistake last year and went on a weekday)

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Day 16: Christmas bingo, found here. We use M&M’s as markers, because chocolate always makes everything more fun.

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Day 17: craft day. This day ended up being different and more awesome than I could have planned. I had a bunch of different crafts prepped for us, but Isaiah grabbed ahold of our first one and we spent all afternoon on it. I had planned for us to make a nativity scene out of popsicle sticks- which I envisioned as Jesus, Mary & Joseph inside of the manger. Oh no- Isaiah wanted to do the whole shebang. So we made shepherds, wise men, an angel and animals. I helped Isaiah glue and cut the more difficult things, but most everything was his idea. After we had it made, he wanted to use them to perform the Christmas story for my friends that were coming over that night. It was precious. I was able to hear him tell the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that I could have never initiated. This will be one I remember for years.

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Day 18: record their Christmas song with Daddy. Every year, our family releases a 3 or 4 song Christmas album. The boys always contribute and, this year, they each got their own little song. You can hear the album here.

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Day 19: giving day 2. This ended up spanning two days. On the first day, it was pouring rain, so we took hot chocolate to the cross guards during pick up at Isaiah’s school. I couldn’t get a picture because it was literally dumping rain & hailing, but they were so surprised and thankful. Isaiah’s face was beaming. We also: bought McDonald’s gift cards to keep in our car for when we see someone who needs them, paid for the car behind us in line at Starbucks, left a note & treat for our mailman in our mailbox and put together blessing bags to keep in the car for the homeless (we included socks, gloves, toiletries, snacks and water). Isaiah remembered doing some of these things last year, so he was excited to do them again. Once again, this mama’s heart was overflowing.

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Day 20: make cookies.

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Day 21: Surprise day with Grandma- she took them to see Frozen but didn’t tell them until they got to the movie theater. Daveed and I were at a wedding that day, so I was so thankful they could do something exciting with my mom since we couldn’t be with them all day.

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Day 22: ride on a double decker bus to look at lights. This has become one of our favorite holiday traditions. Friends of ours invite a bunch of people over for dinner and then we all load on a British-style bus to drive through several awesome neighborhoods. Daveed brings his guitar on board and leads everyone in Christmas carols. In one of the neighborhoods, we hop off at a house for dessert and hot chocolate. It truly is such a treat for us and we are thankful we get to be included.

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Day 23: watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on the lawn with our next door neighbors. We have been blessed with awesome neighbors who like to project Charlie Brown movies outside on almost every holiday :) Next year, we are hoping to expand this to be an outreach for our neighborhood.

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Day 24: make Christmas cards for family and friends.

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Day 25: we always end our advent activities by singing happy birthday to Jesus. We do this and read the last reading of the Christmas story before any gifts are opened. This is a tradition that will continue throughout the years and it is one of my favorites moments of Christmas day.

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A couple of other ideas that we did in past years, but couldn’t fit in this year:

*California snow day: We did  snow themed crafts all day long (including snow paint, made with shaving cream), watched Frosty the snowman and had snow themed snacks.

*Make Christmas pizzas: buy ready to use pizza dough and use cookie cutters to make it into Christmas shapes. Then add toppings and bake as usual.

*Deliver Christmas cookies to neighbors

*Each kid gets some one-on-one time with mom or dad at a store to pick out a Christmas gift for their sibling

*Ornament making day

*Buy a gift to donates to Toys for Tots. We did an Angel Tree gift this year, but took care of it before our advent calendar started, so it didn’t make it onto the list.

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It is a fair amount of work to plan these things in advance, but it is definitely worth it. Seeing the joy on my kids faces each morning as we talk about what we are going to do that day helps build the anticipation for Christmas Day and it helps me stay intentional in creating memories for my boys during a crazy busy time.

InstaFriday! (times two)

Ready for a double dose of Instafriday? Including a birthday, thanksgiving, a 50th anniversary, dates and the beginning of advent? Here we go! Linking up with the lovely Jeannett of Life Rearranged.

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In my last instafriday post, I shared that it was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. We celebrated that night at dinner with family and their closest friends and it was a really sweet time. You can still kiss after being married 50 years? Gross. :)

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The kids with the parents. We love you mom & dad!

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It was my birthday a few days before thanksgiving and I felt so showered with love from my family and friends. The day before, a group of 15 friends went to lunch and to see Catching Fire to celebrate. It is so rare to be able to get this many friends in one place at one time, so it was a great present for me.

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I took this at church that morning. I truly am so thankful for our church family- especially being a pastor’s wife, it is a blessing to be a part of a community that loves Jesus, loves each other and is so real.

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On the morning of my birthday, my boys and I hiked Torrey Pines- one of my favorite spots in San Diego. It was so lovely!

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My sweet husband knew how much I would appreciate a handmade gift so he made me these joy letters:

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How cute is that? He even used glitter- his least favorite thing in the world. What a good crafty guy :)

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That night, I thought I was going on a date with David, but when we got to the restaurant, he surprised me by having a bunch of my dear friends there to join us. One of my favorite places to eat in San Diego (Extraordinary Desserts) with some of my favorite people? Definitely a win. At the end of the night, one of my friends bought me a sparkler candle and they all laughed at my while I lit it. A great end to a great day.

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Thanksgiving weekend was crazy, full and wonderful. We are blessed with amazing families on both sides and I never take that for granted. On thanksgiving, we drove a lot, ate a lot and laughed a lot. Especially at the end of the day when my brother showed the kids Elf Yourself. They were belly laughing for a good 15 minutes watching their faces on dancing elves. My heart was so full in that little moment at the end of a big day.

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No black friday shopping that day, just lots and lots of family time. Every year, either the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas, we have the Cheney family olympics. We all plan 2 games, break into teams and have some healthy friendly competetion all day long. It is a highlight of the year. We are super goofy and there are 24 of us, so it is entertaining for sure. Here is a quick look into some of the activites.

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Daveed always starts off the festivities by leading the group in the most lovely (errr.. off-pitch and loud) version of the star spangled banner, followed by ridiculous and awkward stretches. Normally, we do this down at the park, but the rain kept us inside in the morning. We started off with a bunch of minute-to-win-it style games.

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The next series of photos started like this (throw the cheetos on the shaving cream head game):

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Which led to this (sibling shaving cream fight):

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Which, obviously, led to this (polar bearing in the freezing pool):

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We headed down to the park once the rain stopped for some soccer, basketball and balance beaming:

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After our park games, we headed back inside for name that tune, a cupcake decorating contest and ended the day with the adults playing nouns in a bowl. It was such a fun day and I love that my kids will have these memories.

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Cousin cuddles:

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The next day, we did thanksgiving with Daveed’s family and I totally forgot to take any pictures. It was delicious though! Before that, we got all 24 members of my family together for a big family photo. It was pretty crazy, but went better than I thought. The professional pics are going to be beautiful, but here is a quick iphone snap of my siblings and parents:

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I’m so glad that these people are my people.

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It was so fun to have one of my favorite past brides take our photos. Kelsey, thanks for being brave enough to take on the Cheney family :)

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Amazingly, in all of that craziness, Hudson only had one timeout. #placeshudsonhasatimeout: grandma’s house.

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On December 1st, we got our tree and kicked off advent. Every morning, we read a devotional with the boys (from the great website The Story Warren- which uses The Jesus Storybook Bible) and then Isaiah gets to take a card out of our advent calendar banner. Here is a look at what we have done the first 6 days:

Day 1: Getting our tree

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Day 2: Christmas book marathon (which ended up being not a marathon due to some tantrums and a terrible dinner time… but that’s another story for another time):

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Day 3: Christmas crafts with Nonna (including a playdough dreidel for good measure)

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Day 4: hot chocolate time

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Day 5: Christmas legos:

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Day 6: Hanging the lights outside with Daddy:

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Isaiah is loving every minute of it. It’s just the best. Reading about Jesus together every morning and creating memories. We also do a couple of little things to celebrate Hanukkah, to teach Isaiah about his heritage (on Daveed’s side). I realized this week that he thinks everyone does that as part of their Christmas celebrations :)

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We got a couple of dates in during the past two weeks- we are approaching the finish line for our 50 dates in 2013. For date 43, we walked from my parent’s house up to get some breakfast and grabbed some donuts to surprise the kids on our way back. Those streets are the streets of my childhood- riding bikes to get ice cream, walking to get McDonald’s on long summer days. Walking them with my love was a sweet thing.

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For date 44, we decorated our tree while listening to Christmas records and starting our advent readings together. Such a dreamy way to start off the holiday season.

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While looking at maternity clothes online, I came across these. No. Just no.

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We have become that family that all wears our team shirts on game days. And our boys are perfecting the 8-clap. Go bruins!

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I am currently up in San Luis Obispo for the Stitch Market. If you are in the Central Coast, come see us tomorrow at Grace Church from 10-3.

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How you know you’re a mom of boys: a customer finds a star wars angry bird guy in your box of Christmas banners and then sets it on display:

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How you know you’re a crafter: your 6 year old texts you from his grandma’s phone to ask if he can show her how your cricut works.

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Happy weekend everyone! I’ll try to not post 37 pictures in my next instafriday post :)

Isaiah’s Halloween Birthday Party

Today, I am sharing Isaiah’s 6th birthday party- a halloween party. Yes, I realize that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. At least I am getting it posted before it is Christmastime, right? :)

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Issaiah’s birthday is mid-October and this year he really wanted to have a costume party with his friends. We went with a non-spooky Halloween theme- lots of black and white stripes with orange accents. I found a ton of food ideas on pinterest- you can see the board I put together here.

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He was supposed to be Yoda, but at the last minute, pulled out the spiderman costume from our costume box. The spider man costume that is too small and has a big whole in the crotch. How could I say no when it was his party? :)

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Some details:

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Halloween food:

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I have a vivid memory of going to a friend’s halloween party when I was little and being blown away by the smoking punch. I had to get some dry ice to give my son the same memory, even if it meant calling 10 stores to find some.

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We did a couple of crafts, played pumpkin bowling, and then I took everyone’s least favorite bridal shower game and made it halloween themed for kids. “Make your friend a toilet paper mummy” was a big hit.

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Yes! High 5 to myself for getting this posted before Christmas (and even a few hours before thanksgiving!). Ha!

Boy #3

Two and a half weeks ago, we loaded the boys in the car and headed 20 minutes south to get a 4D ultrasound of our baby. Thanks to impatient grandmas, we were about to be able to find out the gender of the baby a month before we normally would have.

 

Baby Toney #3 is… a boy. Again.

 

I am going to be honest with you today. I was bummed. I am bummed. This will be our last baby, so we have now closed the door on the possibility of having a girl in our family.

 

Before I continue, let me just say from that start that I am so happy to get to have this little guy. After loosing a baby this summer, we are overjoyed that he is looking healthy and growing well. I love him fiercely already and I will NEVER wish that he was a girl.

 

However, I still need to mourn. When I found out that our second was a boy, I received a lot of mixed reactions from people. I was surprised to find that many people instantly tried to give me a positive benefit of having two boys: “You’ve got hand-me-downs!” “At least they can share a room!”. But the reaction that stood out the most to me, and was the most helpful, was what my sister-in-law immediately said. She said, “it’s okay to be sad”.

 

It was okay to be sad. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I felt guilty that I was holding back tears- that I wasn’t jumping up and down that it was another boy. Somewhere in my head, I was telling myself, “you’re not being a good mom because you are bummed that it is a boy”. Lindsey’s simple words gave me to freedom to give myself grace. To grieve the hope and idea that I might be having a baby girl.

 

And, now, when I am faced with the fact that I will never have a daughter, I’m allowing myself to be sad. To mourn all of the dreams I had of braids, dolls and prom dress shopping. You see, I always envisioned that I would be a mom of girls. God obviously saw me as a mom of boys. I have absolutely LOVED being a mom of two crazy little men. It has brought me more joy than I could have ever known. I love watching Isaiah play baseball, I know the names all of the Star Wars, Thomas and Cars characters, I am always looking for adventure and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that Isaiah loves to craft and bake with me. However, I am sad that I will not have a pink, ruffly, glittery nursery. I am a bit heartbroken that I will never get to use the girl name that we picked out 6 1/2 years ago before we found out our first was a boy. As a young girl (and a girly young girl at that) I loved playing house and playing with dolls and barbies. Whenever I was pretending to be a mommy, the baby was always a girl. Even recently, I assumed that, at some point, I would get to have nail painting parties, go to mommy and me ballet classes and, one day, help my daughter plan a wedding.
It has been hard for my husband as well. I choke back tears pushing away the dreams I had of seeing him with a little daddy’s girl wrapped around his finger. He told me one night that he was really sad thinking about how he will never walk a daughter down the aisle (cue the flowing tears).

 

The boys, on the other hand, are happy as can be to have another brother. Isaiah was jumping up and down in the ultrasound room and on the drive home he told us, “I prayed that it would be a boy”. It melts my heart. I love that we will have three little buddies. That this baby will have two older brothers watching over him and loving him wholeheartedly.

 

In the past two weeks, I’ve been able to work through a lot of tears and to begin processing all of this. As a side note, I don’t suggest watching the show Parenthood while dealing with all these emotions :) It is a hard hard thing to come to the realization that your life is not going to look exactly the way you had planned and dreamed and expected. Yet, every time my expectations have been turned upside down, God’s plans for my life have been ridiculously better. I take comfort in that. The excitement has come back and I’ve directed my attention to designing another boy’s nursery (no pink, ruffles and glitter obviously) and to trying to come up with a name (I am 99% he will remain nameless).

 

I will continue to allow myself to be sad and to grieve that which will not be. One of my dearest friends had this same situation in her life and she told me that she still has moments where she grieves, even though her youngest son is now 6. That is fully okay and healthy and I know that I will have moments of sadness for years. But I will not let this steal my joy. I will thank God daily for giving me these three sweet boys, when we thought chemo was going to take away my chances of getting pregnant. I will embrace being the lone woman in a house of dudes and will rock the mom of boys thing. I will paint nails and have tea parties with my nieces and other little girls in my life. One of my boys  might end up in dance class, much to my husband’s dismay, but we will cross that bridge when we get there :)

 

I will thank God continuously for my three blessings and my little sesame seed that is with Him. Even if it does not look like what I had envisioned, my family is more than I could have ever dreamed of and there is not a day that will pass that I will not be grateful for that. Even in the hard moments. Even when I’m sad.

Isaiah & Samuel’s Star Wars Birthday Party

As I have been planning Isaiah’s 6th birthday party (coming up at the end of the month!), I realized that I never blogged his 5th birthday party. Oops! Yes, it’s almost been a year, but I want to still share it. Better late than never, right?

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Isaiah and one of his best buds, Samuel, both wanted Star Wars parties for their birthday. Rather than having two of the same themed party 3 weeks apart, my dear friend Holly (samuel’s mom) and I decided to combine forces and have a joint birthday party. It was so much fun planning a birthday party with a friend and we were thrilled with how it turned out.

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The birthday boys, all dressed and ready to party:

 

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Luke & Yoda:

 

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Hudson killed me in that Yoda costume (that his head was WAY to big for):

 

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A big focus of the party was having all of the food be Star Wars themed. We got lots of ideas from scouring Pinterest and then came up with a few of our own as well.

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Geoff, Samuel’s dad, made all of the fun labels. We got the free printable for the lightsaber napkins here.


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Boba Fruit:

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Leia buns:

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Vader Tators:

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Falcon Ship Dip:

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Pizza the Hut (instead of Jabba the Hut… I know, kind of a stretch, but just go with it):

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Ewok snacks:

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Yoda Soda: (recipe found here. We searched all over for the lemon lime Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch- I ended up finding it at Wal-Mart)

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Holly made the cute R2D2 cups (modeled by a cute little Luke), using a free printable we found here.

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The dessert table:

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I made the banner (The V means “Happy Birthday episode V) and it can be custom ordered through my shop.

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How stinkin adorable is the cake that Holly made?

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The little peg dolls are from Bubba’s Basics (who will be at The Queen Bee Market!!):

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We made marshmallow stormtroopers (so easy- found the idea here) & I found the big Yoda marshmallow pops at Michaels:

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To make them stand up, I got a cheap tray from the Target dollar section, put a piece of styrofoam inside and spray painted it all black. Then just stick in the pops and they are ready to go!

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Holly had the Williams Sonoma Star Wars cookie cutters, which are awesome, and Isaiah and I made the cookies together.

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I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe, which is great for things like this because the cookies don’t spread out while baking.

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We also had Han Solo Rolos. This one made us giggle.

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Geoff let us use all of his awesome childhood Star Wars toys as decor:

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Each guest got to pick a pool noodle light saber:

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They also got a Jedi Training certificate, which Geoff & Holly made personalized for each child:

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For favors, we put together little buckets for each child. Since it was around Halloween, I was able to find black buckets in the Target dollar section & I just spray painted over the jack-o-lantern faces. We filled them with big glow sticks that looked like light sabers (also from the Target dollar section), Star Wars pez (which we had to hunt down online), Star Wars fruit snacks (sold at Stater Bros), coloring sheets we printed from the web and little R2D2 crayons.

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We made the crayons using a silicone mold we found on Amazon. We chopped up old broken crayons and then baked them in the molds. It was tricky getting them popped out without breaking those little legs- Holly was way better at that than I was :)

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I loved Abby’s Leia costume:

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We did a couple of games. The first was attack Darth Vader (aka my husband) with the foam lightsabers. I think this was their favorite :)

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We also had a meteor shower. The adults threw crumpled up balls of foil at the kids and they had to deflect them with their lightsabers:

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For the last game, we tied a balloon on each kid’s leg. They had to try to stomp on the other balloons and pop them before someone else popped their own. We told the kids that their balloons were death stars and they had to try to get rid of all of the other death stars :)

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Geoff & Holly made a death star pinata by covering a soccer ball pinata that was on sale with foil.

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We forgot a blind fold, so we made the kids where a jedi robe backwards while trying to hit the pinata :)

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We had so much fun planning this party and the boys had a blast, which is the most important thing to us. On his 6th birthday last week, Samuel told his parents that the highlight of being 5 was his Star Wars party. And that, my friends, is why we do what we do. Yes, it is fun for us crafty moms to plan detailed birthday parties, but we do it for our kids. Because they remember those details. It’s all about creating memories for them. I still remember little things about the parties my mom threw for my childhood birthdays and I hope to create the same treasured memories of celebrating my boys.

Remembering Summer

As a kid, I remember how magical summer was. There was an indescribable feeling that day school ended: the world seemed limitless and there was so much joy in what waited in those two and  a half months ahead of me. Summer days were thrilling- even if I wasn’t doing anything particularly exciting. Swimming in the pool, chasing the ice cream man down with my best friend, walking to get ice cream after dinner with my parents. There was a simple freedom, an everyday excitement. Even as a high schooler or college student, when work filled some of the time, that magical feeling was still there. The late night movie watching, the day-long beach excursions, ending with bonfires late into the night. Calling friends every day to see what their plans were. That freedom, that feeling- it was still there.

 

Then, the first summer after I graduated college, it changed. A few weeks into June, I realized that I didn’t feel it. The magic of summer was gone. Nothing changed in my life when mid-June rolled around- in fact, as a wedding planner, summer was my craziest season of the year. Sure we snuck a few beach days in there, but the magic of summer had been replaced with normalcy. That excitement constantly in the air changed to stress. I longed for the summers of my youth- carefree days and the break from routine and responsibility. I mourned that I would never again feel the joy and magic of June, July and August.

 

I was wrong. Little did I know, it comes back. The magic and joy returned through my kids. Not when they were little- summer activities were fun, but I still didn’t feel it. It wasn’t until my oldest started school. A couple weeks before school ended, I started to feel the itch for summer break- not just in Isaiah, but in me also. When the last day of school finally came, it took me by surprise: the magic of the beginning of summer had returned. I saw it on my son’s face and felt it in my heart.

 

I was committed to keeping the joy alive throughout all of his break. The main way I did this was through our summer fun list. Some people told me that I was crazy having such a big list of things to do for our summer. I’ll admit, looking at that poster of 50 things we dreamed of doing was a little overwhelming at times, but I am so incredibly glad we did it. It kept me committed to making memories, to filling our days with adventure instead of sitting around lazily (although we did have some days like that, which was necessary and wonderful).

 

Honestly, it was one of the hardest summers we have ever had. Between my miscarriage and my husband’s extremely full workload, it would have been easy and okay to cut myself a lot of slack and give up the list. To take it easy all summer long. But the joy in Isaiah’s eyes every time he read the list or got to cross an activity off kept me going. It kept me encouraged, it kept me present with my kids and it kept our days fun.

 

In the middle of the summer, we took a trip to a lake in Northern California with a group of high school kids from Santa Cruz. It is the second year my husband was hired to lead worship for their retreat and the youth pastor, being wonderful, invited our family to come along both years. It was just over a week after I had my miscarriage and was at the worst possible time for my husband’s work, but we had committed to going, so off we went. It was such a sweet time for our family to rest and connect and to also hang out with a bunch of kids in God’s creation, worshiping Him together and having fun on the water.

 

One day, we were out on a boat and Isaiah was on a tube with a few of the other kids. He was brave and nervously excited. As the boat took off, the thrill on his face burst my heart. Seeing his joy as he bobbed along, clinging to the handles for dear life, reaffirmed for me why the summer fun list was worth it. Some of my dearest summer childhood memories were of our lake trips- riding jet skis, tubing, feeling the wind in my hair while speeding along in a boat. As I watched Isaiah take in every second of that tubing ride, I knew that he would remember that trip and that moment for the rest of his life. I saw him experiencing the same thrill I treasured from my youth and it filled me with gratitude. After about 10 minutes, one of the high schoolers jumped off so that I could ride with Isaiah. As I sat next to him, I could hear his happy screams, I could fully take in his huge smiles and I could treasure the looks he gave me. Looks that said, “I’m so glad we are doing this mom and I love that you are here doing this with me”.

 

We weren’t just having fun this summer, we were making memories. I think that is one of the most important things about parenthood. Yes, we are nourishing, protecting and teaching our kids, but we are also giving them opportunities to make memories that they will carry for the rest of their lives. That is a big deal to me and I want to  continue challenging myself to provide those opportunities to my kids. It doesn’t have to be big trips or exhausting days at amusement parks. Those are awesome and definitely big memories for kids, but I think the things that we enjoyed the most this summer were the little activities: having a book reading marathon one day (cuddling on the couch reading 25 library books at once), having a picnic dinner and then going swimming at night, having an outdoor movie night with our best friends, mini golfing, making cookies and delivering them to our neighbors, and walking to get ice cream after dinner, just like I did with my parents.

 

Will I always do a summer list of 50 activities? Probably not. But I always want to do all I can to capture the magic of summer for my kids and to be present with them, making memories that will hopefully, one day, impact how they parent their children.

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That being said, I was ready for school to start again and I am anxious for it to finally cool down and feel like fall. But before I break out the pumpkin scented candles, I want to recap our summer fun list briefly through pictures so that I can have a record of our 2013 summer activities. There are a couple I did not get pictures for, which I’m trying to not be too bummed out about :)

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Here we go:

 

1: water gun fight

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2: walk to get ice cream

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3: go to yosemite

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4: swim lessons

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5: join the summer reading club at the library

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6: book reading marathon

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7: go to the beach

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8: board game day

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9: have a picnic (we turned this into a dinner picnic by the pool followed by an evening swim)

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10: outdoor movie night

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11: get snowcones

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12: go to the fair (we ended up going to both the San Diego fair & the Orange County fair)

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13: play with water balloons

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14: make smores

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15: go to the zoo

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16: go to a Padres game

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17: vacation bible school

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18: make cookies for our neighbors

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19: go to the lego exhibit at the discovery science center with Aunt Lois

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20: get an ice cream from the ice cream man

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21: go to a museum

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22: make a star wars craft (out of a book we checked out from the library)

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23: go to a kids workshop at home depot- we ended up not doing this one because we couldn’t go on any of the days that they were held. Instead, we surprised the kids with their first trip to Legoland, thanks to generous friends who let us use their guest passes :)

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24: have a treasure hunt

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25: make homemade pizza

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26: go to a movie

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27: go camping

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28: watch fireworks

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29: play tag (my 5 year-old insisted this one should be on the list)

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30: go on a hike

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31: go to the lake

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32: science experiment day

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33: play mini golf

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34: have a sleepover with a friend

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35: make homemade ice cream

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36: craft day

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37: go to the pool (ours & grandma’s in Orange County)

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38: go to Ruby’s on the pier and get a milkshake

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39: do sidewalk chalk

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40: play baseball with friends

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41: make juice popsicles

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42: make a fort

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43: run in the sprinklers

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44: ride on a boat

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45: go bowling

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46: go to sea world

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47: make & play glow in the dark bowling

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48: make rocket straws

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49: go to the splash park

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50: ride the train at Old Poway Park

InstaFriday!

I looked at my blog yesterday and realized that I haven’t posted much all summer except for InstaFriday posts. While I am a little embarrassed by that, I am glad that the routine of linking up with Life Rearranged once a week has kept me chronicling our moments and adventures this summer.

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This past week was our last half week of Summer and the start of school. We packed a lot of  fun into those last days, fitting in as many of our summer fun list activities as possible.

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We made a fort:

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We rode the train at Old Poway Park:

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We had a science experiment day:

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I will review all of the fun experiments we did when I do my whole summer list recap soon. Isaiah loved it!

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We got one more beach day in with our best buds:

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Daveed took Isaiah mini-golfing for the first time. The kid LOVED it! It may have had something to do with the fact that he somehow got 4 hole-in-ones!

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We spent a morning at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido. The boys loved it! We followed it up with a picnic and some gelato- a perfect last day of summer break!

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The pirate grocer at your service:

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Then it was back to school time for this guy:

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He is loving it! He has the same teacher for Kindergarten that he had last year (which was transitional kindergarten) so he is stoked. He came home from the first day and immediately wanted to start playing pretend school with me. He did work, had snack and lunch, recess and everything :) Gotta love that he couldn’t get enough school!

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These are our new favorite farmers market find. Isaiah calls them magic green beans because they start out purple but turn green while they are cooking. They are delicious and cheap, which makes them a new weekly purchase for us.

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I made this banner for friends of ours who just had a little boy named Archie (how cute is that?). His nursery is woodland animal themed, so a couple of squirrels made their way onto it.

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Date #31 of 50: We went to another movie night at Stone Brewery (they are free in their gardens every wednesday during the summer). This week, it was Zoolander. Here is our best attempt at Blue Steel:

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And when I say best, I mean sadly, this was the best. You should have seen the outtakes :)

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Happy weekend everyone!

InstaFriday!

I did! I actually got my instafriday post up on Friday! It’s a good day friends. Jeannett over at Life Rearranged is going to be proud of my for finally getting my act together and linking up when I’m supposed to :)

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With school starting next week, our goal was to fit as much summer fun and family time into this week as possible. I think we did a pretty good job!

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Isaiah and I baked cookies for our neighbors and delivered them later that day in our wagon. He wanted to make a sign for the back of the wagon that said, “cookies for our neighbors”. It was super fun, until Isaiah flew off of his scooter onto the ground, face first. The first of many falls I am sure…


 

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The final product:

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We had a dinner picnic by the pool with some evening swimming time after. It was a perfect evening.

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We had a crafternoon (did you know that they still make shrinky dinks? I was so excited when I found them at Michaels!):

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Nonna (my mother in law) came down for a couple of days and we had a ton of fun with her! She and Isaiah kicked off game day, which turned into 3 days of game day because Isaiah picked Star Wars Monopoly for the first game. It. took. forever. We planned to play a bunch of games. It took over 3 afternoons to finish the game, so we only got one game of Uno in as well.

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We had some fun at Sea World:

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We went to the beach and had shakes at Ruby’s on the pier (yum!!!). Notice Isaiah’s scooter fall scabs. He likes them- he told me they make him look tough :)

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Of course, Hudson got a couple of time outs in to add to the #placeshudsonhasatimeout series.

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Sea World:

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In the middle of the Oceanside pier:

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Seriously, that kid is a busy bucket of energy and mischief. But he is such a lovebug too- a great cuddler and he can melt this mama’s heart in two second with his smile.

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We got a couple of dates in this week too, which was SO wonderful!

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Date # 29 out of 30: A night in Little Italy, reminiscing about our trip. We started with tasty pizza at Napizza, then hunted for authentic Gelato (mission accomplished- Pappalecco) & stopped to browse in multiple little markets on the way. We then ended the night with another slice of pizza for the road. Too much pizza & gelato- just like we were back in Italy :)

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Date # 30 of 50: Our boys went up to Orange County from Ruby’s with Nonna, so we got to have some kidless beach time. Then we went kayaking in La Jolla Cove (which has a great story- I’ll share it soon), got burger to go for a sunset picnic and had sprinkles cupcakes for dessert. It felt like we were college kids on summer break :)

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2 seconds after we took this picture of our picnic burgers, a seagull swooped down and picked up our entire box of fries and onion rings in his beak & flew away! He devoured it in 1 min. The best part: the lifeguard then asked david to climb over the fence, go down on the rocks and pick up the container so that we weren’t littering. Ha! Those seagulls are thugs! The same bird then circled around the grass in the area we were sitting in, looking for more food. He would scare away any other bird that dared come into his territory.

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I love this ornament that the lovely Lisa Leonard made for me. It says “comfort & joy”- so that at Christmastime I will remember not only the comfort & joy found in Christ’s birth, but also the comfort & the joy I found in the Lord throughout my miscarriage. It’s a way to remember my little sesame seed in a little, pretty way. Thanks again Lisa!

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Have a wonderful weekend everyone! We are off to conquer some more summer fun before school starts on wednesday!

Yosemite and more bits from last week

I’m not even calling it an insta-anything this week :) I am failing at linking up with Life Rearranged on Fridays, but I’m okay with it because I’ve been too busy enjoying summer with my boys. Once we get our lives back into a routine when school starts next week, I’ll try harder. I promise Jeannett :)

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The past two weeks… scratch that… the past two months have been crazy for my husband. Our church moved, which has meant a lot a lot of extra work for the staff. Our first sunday in the new building was on the 4th and it was such a special day! Our new facility is awesome and it has been so fun to see it come together. It was a gift to be able to sing with the worship band on the first sunday there- so much fun to see all of the excitement and the full sanctuary. We are praising God for this blessing and also that the move is done! :) 

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Once the service was done, we packed up our car and hit the road for vacation. It was SO needed- especially for my hubs. My boys needed to just be with him for a few days: exploring, cuddling, laughing, playing.

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We stopped on the way at my brother’s house in San Luis Obispo to get in a tiny bit of cousin time. We love them & don’t get to see them enough.

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Yosemite is such an incredibly beautiful place. I’ve been there multiple times and it still takes my breath away when we curve through that tunnel and see the amazing view of the domes and the valley. It’s got to be one of God’s greatest works of art.

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The view from our campsite:

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The boys kickin it vacation style with one of their favorite people in the world:

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Our fam, hanging in the meadow:

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One of my favorite things is our evening bike rides around the campgrounds and the valley. The kiddos in their PJs, we take in the last magical moments of the day. It’s pretty dreamy.

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photo stolen from my hubs

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Speaking of bike riding, this kid did awesome. He rode miles at a time and kept going even when he was tired. Riding behind him, watching him speeding along with the bigger boys made me realize how quickly he is growing up. It’s lame. :)

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Hudson got to cruise around in a bicycle trailer tent thing behind David’s bike. He thought he was pretty awesome in that thing.

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Another highlight was hiking Sentinel Dome before we drove to Glacier Point. The kids all did great. Just before we had to hike up the big rock (dome), Isaiah was complaining a bit about how he was tired and how it wasn’t that fun. Then, as soon as we got to the top, he had a huge smile on his face and said “THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!”. Totally worth it.

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I am so glad that I get to create these memories with my dear friends:

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I was expecting Hudson to have a ton of timeouts during the trip. When we were there with Isaiah at the same age, that kid had timeouts all over the national park. Given Hudson’s current bent toward tantrums and hitting his brother, I expected him to follow in Isaiah’s footsteps. However, he only got 2 the entire time! While his good behavior was SO nice for us, I cannot tell you how many times one of us in our group said, “I kind of wish Hudson was disobeying right now because it would be an awesome timeout spot/picture”. When we were on top of Sentinel Dome, I decided to take a picture of him in timeout style anyway because it was just so awesome. But I have to give the full disclaimer that he did not actually do anything wrong and was in no way getting disciplined here :)

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Our little adventurer striking a pose on the tallest rock on the top of the dome:

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He was SO sad to leave. He loved everything about being there. Exploring, playing with his BFF, bike riding, smores, ice cream, sleeping next to us in a tent, learning about everything around him. I love that he is old enough now that he will retain a lot of these memories for the rest of his life. It makes trips a much bigger deal that they were before.

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The boys loved playing in the creek, even though there wasn’t much water (really low rainfall meant no rafting this year and hardly any waterfalls). We also went to Happy Isles and threw some rocks and visited the little taxidermy museum there (in all of its dusty glory). I don’t think that we got a single photo of all four of us looking at the camera, but I will treasure these little snapshots from my phone and the memories they hold.

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We got a couple of little summer fun list activities checked off while we were there: we made our own glow in the dark bowling set out of water bottles and glow sticks (I have no pictures because it was pitch black) and we made little rockets out of envelopes that get launched by straws (I found the idea here via pinterest).

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We also did a treasure hunt. Three years ago, our head pastor started this fun tradition for the boys. He and his family go to Yosemite a month before us. While they are there, they hid little toys and then record video hints of where they are. It’s such a fun tradition for our boys!

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The boys at the Ahwahnee. No small miracle that they were all looking at me.

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It was such a fun trip. Well, once we were there it was such a fun trip. It was a lot of awesomeness sandwiched in between two terrible drives. On the way up, the bike rack we were using broke and we lost a bike (which didn’t belong to us). We spent two hours on the highway looking for it, with no luck. Then, while we were packing the car up to go home, the good ol bike rack broke again, which lead to another hour of figuring out how to get the bikes home. We lost no bikes on the return trip, but we did get to deal with the monster that is Los Angeles. Now- we timed it well so that we wouldn’t be driving through the terrible traffic times. Well past rush hour, in fact a few hours beyond what we had hoped for, we were cruising down the 405 in the middle of the night. First there was an accident. Stopped. Then a stalled big rig. Stopped. We were already frustrated at being stopped on the freeway twice at 11pm. Oh, but little did we know what was ahead of us. We would have laughed at that stalled big rig traffic.

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You see, LA freeways frequently get widdled down to one lane during the middle of the night so that they can do construction. This happened to me often during my wedding planner days- I would finish up at 1 am expecting to fly home, only to sit in traffic with my aching feet and tired eyes. Then, on some dark nights, the LA freeway gods slam motorists in the face by CLOSING DOWN 2 FREEWAYS COMPLETELY without any advance notice, so you can’t take an alternate route. Friends, we had to take a detour off of the freeway that took AN HOUR to get back to freeway. An hour! After 9 hours of driving already, struggling to stay awake, we were sitting on side streets hoping we didn’t run out of gas and that we would see a freeway on ramp sometime that night.

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One of the 1,000 times Daveed and I have said how thankful we are that we no longer live anywhere close to the 405 and the 10 or LAX or Sepulveda Blvd.

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Then, at 1:00am, while still crawling along the side streets of south Long Beach, Isaiah woke up. His droopy eyes looked at us sweetly and he said he was hungry. Right as we were passing an In-N-Out. Why, yes, 5 year old. You can have a cheeseburger at 1:00am. To make it even better, while we were in the drive thru lane, he had to go to the bathroom. So, at 1:00am, I walked my 5 year through the drive thru lane (hello drivers looking at me strangely) and through the crowded restaurant (hello party crowd looking at me like I am the worst/craziest mom ever- who lets their kids stay awake at that hour? Who lets them get a cheeseburger at that hour? Me, thank you very much). But, in Isaiah’s eyes, we were the parents of the year. He had a little smirk on his face the entire time he ate that cheeseburger. And that will probably be one of his favorite memories from the trip.

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We got home close to 3am and our boys were up at 7. Hooray for parenthood!

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Hudson’s Yosemite #placeshudsonhasatimeout photo:

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And one out front of Chipotle last weekend:

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Overall, though, we’ve had a couple of good weeks. Much less disobeying, which means fewer timeouts and more sanity for me. It also means less funny pictures, which I know is a sad thing for some of you :)

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Before we left for Yosemite, Isaiah got to choose a craft to make from a Star Wars craft book we got at the library. He had put this on our summer list, which was great when I pictured finger puppets or pillows. What did he pick? The grossest craft in the book. We left an apple out for days so that it got all shrived (and moldy in the middle- lovely) to make into darth sidious. Crafting with boys.

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Gotta throw in a little bit of work. A customer ordered this flag for her ring bearer to carry into the reception during the grand entrance. How fun is that? A great example of how our flags can be customized for a wide range of options.

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While we were camping, I read The Fault in Our Stars (book #21 of the year). This one was hard for me to read at times. It’s about teens with cancer. I was a teen with cancer. A young friend of ours died last month from cancer. That being said, it is a beautifully written book. I loved the characters and the love story and I thought that the author did a very good job describing life with cancer as a teenager (something I am very critical about in literature & film). Also, it made me thankful that I knew the hope of Jesus during my treatment (something that was not in the book). Overall, I recommend it- unless you are currently very close to cancer. I am a big proponent of advocacy for adolescents and young adults with cancer, so things like this that bring the issues this group face to the mainstream public- as long as they are done well- are a win.

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I’ll sign off with one last Yosemite photo. My husband took this beautiful panoramic shot on his phone:

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You win, nature. You win.