26 Acts Challenge

Last Sunday, I was sitting in line at Starbucks singing to Eartha Kitt's ridiculous "Santa Baby" and looking forward to my coffee cake and caramel brulee latte. When I got to the window, the guy said "The woman in front of you paid for your order, so you're good to go!"  I was stunned. I know it was a little gesture, but I wasn't expecting it. In my confusion, I said thanks and drove away. I should have paid for the person behind me, I just wasn't thinking!

I did end up paying it forward to a friend within an hour or two of the Starbucks Miracle, but I still don't feel satisfied with it.

Because of the nature of my workplace (elementary school), we were understandably not permitted to discuss the tragedies of Newtown Connecticut. Having family there and being in the exact setting of the actual shootings, I probably feel a little more connected to it than most people. Hit me hard.

Anyway, have you seen this? Scroll down to check out all the good ideas. I am inspired! There was no way I could get them done before Christmas, so I am just going to make it a goal this winter to get them done. And hopefully those 26 will lead to 676 (26x26...math for the day) kind gestures.

Thanks to Mel for showing lots of different ways to get this down without spending lots of money. What about you? Will you try it?

The Great Christmas Post

I'll let the pictures do the talking. What a wonderful day we had!
Christmas Eve at Grandma's house
Stockings have always been my favorite part of Christmas! I love finding those perfect little things that my family will use and shows that I know them (except now Matt has 16 tubes of chapstick because Santa overcalculated his usage).

The tree is dwarfed by the gifts! They aren't all for us...that's for the whole family! Well, let's be honest...they're mostly for Larkyn.

Good morning! Check out your new kitchen, baby! PS- we LOVE our Hannah Andersson PJs!  And the kitchen is the Kidkraft Espresso. It took 2 hours to put together but was very straightforward and hard to mess up. We hope it lasts for several years!

I had to laugh. But I was impressed that he actually wrapped!  I had absolutely no idea what was inside.

Seriously?!  Daddy done good.

Santa and his helper had a little snafu, so the dogs didn't have anything in their stockings. We put toys that they thought disappeared in their stocking as well as a jar of peanut butter and a Kong!  They were happy as could be!
Always have to have a special Christmas breakfast. This year, it was Paula Deen's Gorilla bread. Next time, we will omit the cream cheese. Otherwise, delish!

While we are waiting for round 2 of the gifts, she kept herself busy with the phone. Another mama note...you might scoff at the toddler Uggs. I'll have you know that this child requests her "boops" daily, they go on easily, and keep her warm. When your little one starts to resist socks and shoes, these are a lifesaver!

The Pottery Barn cupcakes were a huge hit. She says "Mmmm!" every time she sees them and will offer them to her guests.

"Give PawPaw a kiss!"  His favorite little girl.

Her favorite gift? The new shoes (Keen Coronado). She wanted them on ASAP and then ran back and forth in them.

Her other favorite:  CHICA!!  If you don't know Chica the chicken, congratulations to you for not spending your day watching Sprout. She is adorable though.

Feeding her baby from Nana (it is creepily life-like but perfect for a 20 month old)

Do you know what time it is? Time to end the best Christmas I can remember in a long time!  And to show you the watch I was lucky to receive. I've always been a Fossil girl, and the Georgia watches are my new fave!  Ready for one in every color:)

So there you go. Just a small glimpse of our day. There are 200 more pictures, but I will spare you. What was your favorite gift you gave or received?  What did your toddlers like?

Merry Christmas!

Birthday Thursday: 20 Months

Yesterday was her first time to "play" in the snow. I use "play" loosely, as she sat and looked around or wanted to walk only in the neighbor's yard. I'd say she's a little indifferent to the snow at this point.

Favorite activities: Playing with your new Christmas stuff, using a broom to "help" me sweep, pretend play

New words:  Bowl (necessary for everything I give you), Buhlease (please), "me" (knee), "Ba-paw" (my dad), "nono" (rhino), bubbles!

Ways you make us laugh:  It's pretty funny when you kick on command. Also, whenever you hear a train, the world stops as you listen, and you respond with a "wooo woo!"

Ways you get into trouble:  With the cold weather, you are getting stir crazy. This has been translating into random screams or banging things around to shake things up a bit. Ah yes, and coloring on the walls. Thank goodness they invented washable crayons, which did not exist in 1984 when I had the same idea.

Sweet things you do:  You hold up your stuffed animals to our mouths and say "Mmmm..." to give them a kiss. You will give family kisses when they leave or when you go to bed. You walk over to the dogs and pet them, saying "Awwww".

We are back!

And man, do I have a lot of catching up to do. So expect a few posts today, while Snicklefritz is napping and I am all cranked up from my peppermint mocha.

It's time for a December wrap up. Which depresses me. My poor mother can confirm that I was known for crying after my birthday and after Christmas because all the fun was over. January pretty much sucks, except for Julie's birthday and...yeah that's it.

This December was especially great because of my toddler. It is true, Christmas is fun again when you have kids around. Christmas is always fun for me...I don't get the stress that comes with it. It is a choice: you can choose to be stressed out over buying, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, or you can say: "this is supposed to be fun and dammit if I am going to use boxed cheesy potatoes and be OK with it" :)  With that, I now present by favorite moments of December...

10. These 2 fails that went a little something like this:
  • City of Dublin tree lighting (oh, sounds fun, right?)- speed home, feed baby, dress baby in 6 layers, try to stuff her into carseat that doesn't accommodate 6 layers. Get stuck in rush our traffic on 2 lane road. No parking whatsoever. Off-road with the stroller through the city and arrive at said tree lighting to hear "3-2-1...Happy Holidays! Santa will meet everyone back at the library!" (where we parked). Arrive back at library, where we should have stayed, to see a line 12312836 people long. Decide to go home, pass Santa in a firetruck on our way out.
  • Columbus Zoo Lights: Decide to go out on a 60 degree Saturday night. HA. Everyone else in the greater Columbus area had the same idea. Divert to over-priced Alum Creek lights and wait in 2 total hours of traffic getting there and back. Screaming child. December has to get better...

9. Going to see Santa at the high school Santa Breakfast. I am totally sold on never going back to the mall Santa. This is my advice to you: find a Santa breakfast to support a school, church, or Rec Center and GO. Admission was $5 and we got breakfast, social time with Julie and other Dublin teachers.

8. Making Christmas snack mix and bringing it to my coworkers. It was so easy and brought a smile to their faces.

7.  Mama's day out shopping. I took a personal day, dropped Larkyn off with Miss C., and got 90% of the Christmas shopping done at my favorite mall. I could take as long as I wanted to compare every tea set in Pottery Barn Kids or every go back and forth on 5 pairs of pajamas at the Loft. It was Heaven.

6. Watching 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family with Matt. Though there was way too much Tim Allen and not enough Chevy Chase, we had fun relaxing with a fire and a movie almost every night!

5. Wrapping presents with my fantastic $9 coordinating set from Target. The (actually very cute) set came with matching bows, ribbons, 4 rolls of paper and gift tags. All in ONE BOX. I hate the mess of all those oddly shaped things, so this was my dream come true.

4.  Listening to the Christmas radio station on the way to and from work. Larkyn has always been a good car rider, but she especially loves Christmas music it seems.

3. New words from Larkyn: When she sees Santa, she says "Ho, ho, ho!" and she will say "Hey!" if you sing Jingle Bells.

2. Christmas Eve in German Village with Matt's family. Love it when the kids can play together!

1.  The BIG DAY. It is my favorite day of the year. Watching Larkyn play with her new kitchen, her baby, her train set, seeing Matt's face when he opened his surprise shoes, and even the excitement that the animals show is priceless. Having the grandparents over for delicious food and more presents is always fun, and nothing beats opening a few presents myself;o)

This doesn't make sense.

I teach kindergarten.

I taught kindergarten today. With 2 sets of 22 children happily making gingerbread houses with their parents. All of them were blessed to be safe and return to their parents' arms at the end of the day.

I don't understand what happened today in Connecticut. Why someone wanted to and was ABLE to harm those innocent children. I'm watching the 20/20 special now and can feel a big pit in my chest opening up.

It could have been my classroom. And what would I do? I have no idea. I have no idea how I would protect the children who I consider my own for 8 hours of the day. And I kind of feel like I have to figure that out now. I was shaken up by other school shootings, but assumed that I was safe in a kindergarten room. Now my mind is racing, trying to figure out how I'd lock my door, where I'd put my students, how I would help them survive. I have a daughter, a husband. I don't want to be fearful of going to work every day.

Because we were sheltered from all of the news today, I knew only a few details until I got home. But as soon as I turned on the TV and saw the location, I realized that there was not six degrees of separation from these people experiencing the trauma. There was ONE. Newtown, CT. I just sent a Christmas card there today. To my dear cousin and faithful follower on this blog. She is a teacher in Newtown. I was so relieved to call my mom to find out that she is OK, but surely she is experiencing pain right now. This has to be a hard night.

I am thinking of you.

And my heart is absolutely breaking for the parents who have lost their babies. I hope that time and the world's kind thoughts can heal.

What I take from this is that something MUST change. Our system of keeping the public safe is broken and this is unacceptable.

FYI, I'm still deciding on what to do about running out of space for photos on blogger. The holidays have been busy around here and I will do a December recap, I think.

19 months...whew!

Let's just say that months 18-19 have been totally different from the past year and a half. Lots of changes, good and not so good...I guess all to be expected!  Larkyn is making us laugh a lot more and making us shake our heads  lot more. Welcome to toddlerhood.

New words this month: "no?" (always said like a question but clearly it is a declaration, "wehwa"= umbrella, "bapo"= apple, MOMMY (yayyyy!), "boop"= boot, "oh whoa!"= whenever something goes wrong/looks slightly amiss (ie: our neighbors cut their tree down and for days, it has been an "oh whoa" situation

New skills: Identifying letters A-G or the letters on my North Face sweatshirt

New developments that make us say "Oh whoa": She still hasn't adjusted to Daylight Savings Time apparently. Ever since that day, she has woken up an hour early, which is no fun when I am trying to get ready for work. I'm not sure if I should dread or welcome "Spring forward"??

New favorite activities:  Climbing and standing on the ottoman, pretend play with the baby doll (baby loves to eat syrup and salt), running. Man does she love to run. You can bring her back from the dark side simply by asking "Do you want to run?", bubble baths!

New favorite foods:  I'm not sure because all of a sudden she doesn't like much of anything anymore. Oatmeal cookies from the McDonald's drive through? Those are a God-send.

So what comes next in this stage, mamas? 

Wednesday in (Wedding) Pictures...

After a fun few days of catching up on phone calls and telling "the story" a million times at work (it doesn't get old), I have a few photos to share. And then if you want to see all of them, you can watch the video. Enjoy!

And this is a wonderful time to find out that I am out of storage on Blogger. Ha! Guess you will just have to watch the video:)

So, we got married...!

Ooops. I meant to publish this yesterday, our WEDDING DAY!! 
picture courtesy of Kate

At the 60th Anniversary party of Matt's grandparents, we learned that the two lovebirds actually eloped instead of having a big blow-out wedding. We did not know this. Thus began an interesting conversation in the following weeks...

Funny, the conversation went a little like it did for my parents (who are going on year 33!) It was a mutual decision, not exactly a proposal. Which is perfect for us. We are a tad unconventional and (I) love big surprises, so we began planning!

The plan was to steal away, just the two of us, to the Hocking Hills, and surprise everyone on Thanksgiving. Then, we decided we wanted Larkyn and our families to be there too. So, it grew a little, and I don't regret that. They were all there when Larkyn was born, and this was another big moment in which they needed to be included.

We picked out the rings on lunch hours and through text photos and internet pictures, making sure we both loved what we picked out. I picked out the dress on the Nordstrom website and when I told the customer service rep that it was intended to be my wedding dress, he waived the $15 expedited shipping fee so that I could have it as soon as possible. You know how I love good customer service like that. Pinterest of course led to fabulous "casual wedding" and "courthouse wedding" ideas. We wanted it small, but of course, reflective of us and our personalities.

We started the planning with Karen at Hocking Hills Wedding Chapel.

We were so lucky to get down to the courthouse and back on election day without hassle.  We got a rock star parking spot, had no lines, and were out of there in about 15 minutes. People who got on the elevator and even a homeless man saw our envelope and congratulated us. So sweet.

Kate, my trusty photographer and longtime friend, accompanied me on a few very frustrating shopping trips to find jewelry, shoes, and a cover-up (we expected it to be freezing outside!)  I ended up with my first pair of heels, which I am not sure I will ever wear again. But they are so pretty! I tried to find tall gray boots, but those apparently do not exist in Columbus, Ohio a week before a wedding. Truth.

Then, time for my favorite part, flowers! Since Larkyn already had her pretty holiday dress, I decided on red flowers. I used a local grocer to order the tulips, spray roses, alstromeria, mini gerber daisies, and hypernicum (red berries). My awesome mom read a few tutorials and off she went, making my bouquet the night before the wedding. She even included a photo pin that my grandpa made of him and grandma as teenagers.

We ordered a big old BBQ feast of our favorite foods: fried chicken, beef brisket, mac and cheese, potatoes, salad, and desserts. Giant Eagle Marketplace (less than a mile from our house) catered it all. It was delicious, convenient, and inexpensive. Check, check, check. We had two little wedding cakes, one chocolate and one white. And then all the necessities for ice cream sundaes, of course.

Matt and I spent the morning watching An Idiot Abroad marathon and relaxing. I had fun getting ready with Larkyn. She brought out several pairs of shoes for me to wear. She really wanted me to wear my "boops" (Uggs), so I did. Matt fed her while I did my hair and makeup, and when his dad arrived, we were off to Hocking Hills!

The 45 minute drive went quickly, but suddenly became interesting when the turns were 90 degrees and roads like "Chicken Coop" and "Klump" turned into straight-up 90 degree inclines. Yeah, I am mathematical like that. Anyway, the grounds of the Valleyview Cabins and wedding chapel were adorable. The views were beautiful and we had so many places to take pictures. There was a fire in the fireplace, started by our sweet Pastor who we met shortly after we arrived.

The service was short and sweet, which was a good thing, because Larkyn was not impressed. It took the whole rest of the family taking turns to keep her occupied. The girl just wants to run, plain and simple. I wish I could remember more of what the pastor said, but it is a blur. I just remember feeling loved and feeling love radiate out of my whole body. I was a big, happy mess who burst into tears as Matt was saying his vows.

He pronounced us husband and wife, and that was that!

We came home to watch the Sprint Cup Championship, the end of the Browns game, and feast on our reception food until we thought we'd burst. The kids were noisy, the dogs were everywhere, and it was chaos. But, it was 100% us.

I loved keeping our little secret and now am proud to wear these rings and call Matt my husband. Yay!

15-18 month essentials

It's that time again, when I share my favorite things that have helped me get through mom-of-a-toddlerhood through each stage of the game. Hope it helps you buy some useful things for the holidays...
Skidders!  Not the Skidder socks (no tread on the bottom), but these bad boys. They claim to be an indoor/outdoor hybrid of sock and shoe. We have a pair for the sitter's house and a pair for our house. I don't want her running around in slippery socks, bare feet, or stuck in shoes at home, so these are the solution. You can get them for $14.99 at Target, or for multiple prices on amazon.com.
Once Larkyn's hair got long enough, I started doing ponytails and pigtails ASAP. I tried 2 other kinds of bands that were ridiculously unflexible. These little rubberbands save the day, and if you lose one, you have 1000 more. I have yet to get one tangled in her hair, which is also a plus! I found them at Giant Eagle for 2.99.

Make way! She loved this stroller so much that we had to pack it in our vacation bag. It folds up just like a real umbrella stroller and it super light. Her cousin (who is a boy) also loves to play with it. Look how happy she is in her trail of destruction! This is the You and Me umbrella stroller from Babies R Us for 9.99.

OK, I had a bad-mom moment a few weeks ago. As I was giving her a bath, I thought "Wonder if I will ever use that faucet cover I got at her shower? She's never even gotten close to the faucet." Within seconds, she tried to stand up in the tub and smacked the back of her head on the faucet. Out came this little guy, who has protected her ever since. You are truly a mom when your faucet is covered in an ocean creature. This is the Skip Hop Moby whale from amazon.com for 10.47.

This could be any box of dry cereal here, but this is her new favorite. This has been a lifesaver because she no longer takes a morning nap....which was when I used to shower. Now, I pour a ton of cereal on her high chair tray, snap her in, turn on Sprout, and take my shower! By the time she is done picking up each piece to eat it, I am successfully showered!

The Fisher Price baby animal sounds app. This is a screen shot of her favorite sound. Rarr! We use this when someone (ie: everyone) takes an excessive amount of time to help us at any given store or restaurant. It is free in the app store! Another good one is Toddler Jukebox.

Jumping beans jeggings. We had them in capri for summer and full length for winter. Much more comfy than real jeans (am I right, ladies?) and perfect underneath dresses or shirts. AND $5.50 at Kohl's. Run there.

Lift-the-flap board books are a favorite around here. In particular, we love books by Karen Katz, Elise Broach, and any of the Biscuit books for the holidays. All of these either have flaps or textures to them. These are the books she brings to me to read to her every night!

Wednesday in Pictures: Trick or Treat!

Well, it was the worst possible weather for Larkyn's first Trick or Treat, but that didn't stop us from going out for a quick trip to the neighbors' houses! Everything about this holiday was created for this kid. The chance to dress like a piggie, running down the street like she always wants to, meeting new people, and getting CANDY...are you kidding me?  If the weather is good next year, I guarantee she will be the last one in that night.

She came to school to see everyone and get in some costume time in case the weather was too bad. I loved having the nice, warm hand-me down (which did fit perfectly, the elastic ankles just kept riding up!) I was happy to see that my girl loved it as much as I used to.

What made your day?

Here's what made mine. It was an icky, cold Saturday, but a few things brightened it up!

Breakfast with Nana and Paw Paw at Cracker Barrel. You should have seen Larkyn eat her eggs. And mine. And man, does she love that gift shop!  PS...go there immediately and get the cinnamon streusel french toast. Photo via foodspotting.com    

Welcoming our new bedroom furniture. This is extremely exciting for us because we have been using my furniture I received when I was 8 (shout out to Lane furniture for lasting this long and still holding up!) Oh and it is our first bed with a frame and all the accoutrement that one possesses in a "grown-up bed". Toronto storage bed from Value City Furniture
Matching Toronto dresser. The mirror is like an IMAX screen compared to my old one.
Fire. Who doesn't love to look at this until their eyes cross?

Well, hello! I picked up this mercury glass cutie at Kohl's today for $8 thanks to an Instagram tip.

At nap time, I made a big batch of Halloween Puppy Chow, as promised. So quick and easy. And addictive.
What made you smile today? Show us!
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