Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Favorite Disney Links

I followed Eric around like a lost puppy this morning, haha. He's only going to work for a half day today so that he can come home and pack and get ready for his super late flight tonight. So weird to be digging out shorts for him to take while we are riding the polar vortex. It's going to be ninety degrees where he is going. Eric - you suck! :)

I swiped this picture from Facebook of Eric speaking at that dinner from the other day. :D


I felt like doing a post just for fun today, so I thought it might be time to share another Disney update. We've changed our plans...big time. Just like I said we would. Haha.



When I started planning this vacation nine years ago, October was a prime time to go to Disney World. The weather is usually awesome and crowds and prices were low. There are special Halloween events and fun decorations for Fall. I always pictured us taking our trip then!

And then last year happened, and I've been a little nervous ever since. All throughout October 2013 people were reporting back from their trips saying things like, "These are the biggest crowds I've ever seen in October!" Over and over again. Several Disney planners were writing things like, "The secret is out." Suddenly the rest of the world seemed to catch on about how awesome October is/was at DW. But that means that now the purpose is sort of defeated, haha. It's become a busier time to go.

So when I saw the September crowd calendar that was just released a few days ago, my wheels started turning. We have the opportunity to take our trip during the LOWEST crowd week of the entire year. Literally, if you numbered the weeks 1-52, the week we're looking at is #1 for lowest crowds. Um, yes please!

So...we will now be making our trek south even sooner than expected! Our new tentative dates are for the second week in September - woohoo! It will still be pretty hot then, but that just means I'll have to schedule in more pool time. Darn. :)

It also happens to be a slightly cheaper season for Disney's hotel pricing, and we'll be saving a whopping $12 a night on our room. But the best part? We won't even have to miss out on any of the Fall fun of October. The decorations and parties will be up and running all throughout September, too. Lower crowds also means less people competing for the dining reservations we want - just a better deal all around. We are holding our breath and crossing all of our fingers and toes that Disney will release their typical "Free Dining" promotion for September so that all of our food will be f.r.e.e for the entire week. It would be the first year in many if they didn't offer it. Don't let us down, Disney!



If you would like to know when the best time would be for YOUR family to visit, I highly recommend Josh's crowd calendars at www.easywdw.com.  And certainly check out the Disney World website for room rates per season, if you are staying on-site. Prices of rooms fluctuate greatly depending on the time of the year.

Here are some of my other favorite links for planning a Disney vacation!

* If you are curious about what restaurants you might want to enjoy (and take a gander at prices) you can see all of the current menus at every Disney owned restaurant at allears.net. This is will be invaluable when choosing your dining reservations! And seriously, just scrolling through that list is a bit intimidating. There are A LOT of restaurants at Disney!

*If you want your child to have some customs to wear for those oh-so-cute photos, and don't want to spend a fortune, look no further than Miss Morgan's Designs. She creates DIY iron-on transfers at very affordable prices. You will literally spend a fraction of the price going this route than ordering from Etsy or another site. It's not embroidery, but it's also not clothing your kid is likely to wear many times. I vote for affordable!

*If you are having problems deciding which resort to stay at...you are not alone. Haha. But I have found that you get the most "real" look at the resorts and rooms by watching tours on YouTube. Just type in the resort name and you will find tons of tours. One of my favorite channels is iThemePark.

*For all of the latest Disney deals, check out www.mousesavers.com.

*And finally, if you are a first-time visitor and are looking to really optimize your time in the parks, I highly recommend the touring plans at easywdw. There are a lot of touring plans out there, but Josh's are the best...or so all the Disney veterans tell me. :) We will definitely be using many of his suggestions for which rides and attractions to prioritize.

I could go on and on all day, but I won't. :) Eric gets to hear this chatter every single day. What a good guy for putting up with me. We'll miss him around here until next week. It's really not a super long trip (thank the Lord!) and once he's home life slows way down for us. Hallelujah! Hope you have a great day, and hopefully some of these links will help you plan a trip soon or someday!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Divide and Conquer!

Crazy crazy. We are a house divided at the moment.

Not like, in the ordinary way, per say. One of us is very busy right now. (Eric.) Which means one of us is very stuck-at-home right now. (Me.) We are two parents going in two different directions...but all pulling for the same cause, at least. :)

After all of the ridiculous Amber alerts last week and missing kids getting plucked up in broad daylight, it sort of weirded me out to share Eric's absence on the home front. A little unsettling to say the least. But he left us for a New Jersey business trip last week only to come home after we were all in bed, wake up the next morning and leave for work, speak at a dinner that night, come home after we were all in bed, wake up the next day and leave for another marathon weekend class....

We've barely seen the man. Luckily he's home for two days before he packs his bags and flies to Haiti to do some work with The Pitch this week.

We knew this crazy two week period was coming, and we had been dreading it for a while. Thankfully we're halfway through it! If we can get through the next week we'll be able to breathe for a bit. (And listen to me go on...I'm not even the one giving speeches and presentations and taking exams, haha. Poor Eric.)

Unfortunately, Reagan has one eyeball that seems to be regenerating goopy pink-eye stuff. I refuse to take my kid out when I don't have to when they have some sort of contagious something. So I was pretty much homebound all weekend. The girls did get to go out though with frequent visits to grandma and grandpa's house.

Since I'm sure you aren't interested in pictures of infected eyeballs, how about some pictures of my silly Gracie girl instead? She walked into the room the other day and announced, "I'm from New York!"



Guess Eric isn't the only one who has been doing some traveling. :)

And oh, we've been keeping busy while being stuck inside. Just look at all of the things that have been going on:


*Evelyn mastered whistling.
*Reagan now says "mama" when he loves me...not just when he's upset. That's something. :)
*Grace can recite the entire opening to "Jon & Kate + 8." Pure talent right there.
*I'm completely addicted to tracking down vintage clothing lines for the girls to have this summer. So hard to find two of everything...and so fun.
*Reagan is finally getting teeth on the right side of his mouth. No more jack-o-lantern smile.
*Evelyn has been writing books like nobodies business.
*Grace...hasn't changed much, really. She's still a pistol. Haha.
*I have been going to bed so early (for me) every night. My body isn't sure what to do with itself!
*I haven't had caffeine in many days. Again, body wigging out. Hey, maybe that's why I've been going to bed so early.
*We've started going through closets again, so someone tell me they are having a yard sale we can join in on...pretty please. :) I don't think I have the energy to do that again so soon!

See, our lives are so interesting! We're begging for Spring to arrive, obviously....

So moral of this story is that we're trucking along in complete survival mode right now. Just getting through each day. We would definitely appreciate prayers for Eric as he travels out of the country this week. All of the running around and lack of sleep is definitely wearing down his immune system, and he can't really afford to be sick at the moment. We're praying for his health, for safe travels, and that Eric has a great, productive trip!

Hope you all have a wonderful week. It might not be warm where we are, but the sun is shining! What a metaphor for life. :D


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Winter Vlog!

Our computers are running at full steam again - hooray!  I was able to throw together a little vlog for today - just a few clips from the first half of February. It was fun to edit a video again...it really is kind of addicting, haha. And now that I sorta kinda know what I'm doing, it doesn't take me nearly as long.

So here it is...birthday parties, cookies, Valentine's Day...and just a little more!



Thanks for watching!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valentine's Day

We always get so spoiled after a long weekend with Eric at home. We had a fun Valentine's weekend, and I hope you did, too! Well...most of it was fun. Haha. More on that in a minute. First, our Valentine's Day.

Last week out of the blue Evelyn came up to me and asked:

Evie: Mom, can we go to the mall?
Me: Uh, maybe. What do you want to do at the mall?
Evie: Well...there's a Build-A-Bear Workshop there....

Haha. So when Eric and I were putting our heads together to decide what we wanted to do with the kids for a family day on Friday, that conversation came back to me. We decided it would be a nice surprise. 

We donned our V-day apparel.



And we set off for the Galleria. Of course, the kids had no idea where we were going. That's half the fun for them.

But you should have seen their faces when they found out what they were about to do! (And you just might if I can manage to edit a vlog for this week, haha.)

The last time Evelyn had gone to BAB was when she was one and we were at the St. Louis Zoo. She swears she remembers it, but I have no idea how. :) Grace and Reagan had never been before. 



Out of the dozens of options both of the girls decided that they wanted My Little Ponies. Evie chose Fluttershy and Gracie chose Pinky Pie. I am not an MLP expert, and I have no idea how the girls knew their names, but they did! We giggle every time we hear Grace say "Where's my Pinky Pie?" Haha.

If you've been to Build-A-Bear, then you know the drill. Pick em, stuff em, clean em, dress em.






I just crack up at this picture of Eric in the middle of a sea of doll clothes. :)



It was a good day, and a perfect Valentine's Day activity. We must not be alone in our idea though. While we were there, we learned that V-day is one of Build-A-Bear's most popular holidays. :)


We made our way home so that we could fix our traditional Valentine's Day dinner. The girls couldn't wait to make our heart shaped pizza! We decided to make two pizzas this year. 



One was the usual...


...and then there was the one that Evelyn was most proud of. The scary Mickey head. :D


(That black stuff is cheese. Freaked Evie out, haha.)

And we made dessert.


It isn't going to win any "prettiest trifle" awards, but it was definitely yummy!

We had a great Valentine's Day as a family! And we are so thankful to our parents and my sister for sending cards and treats and making it extra special for us and the kids. (Thank you!) 

We had a very nice rest of the weekend. But then on Sunday afternoon we started noticing some goop in Reagan's eye. And then on Monday morning, Evie had it, too. And that's when we knew that our children had really taken V-day to the next level by trying to dye their eyeballs pink. Haha. A lovely case of pink-eye to end the weekend. 

It's actually a very mild case, and we got them to the doctor right away. But holy crap. Eye drops suck. It's a huge ordeal just to put a tiny bit of liquid in their eyeballs. Like wrestling a pig. :) Three times a day. And we've been hand washing and hand-sanitzing and disinfecting like nobodies business. So far no one else has caught it. (Crossing fingers.) Their eyes aren't even pink, but...we're not taking any chances, haha.

So Evelyn is home from school today for the obligatory 24 hour wait after starting antibiotics. But we're happy to see the sunshine today! And I might be crazy, but I thought I saw that we may get up to almost 60 degrees by the end of this week. Awesome! 

Looking forward to a warmer week ahead with healthy kids. And I couldn't end this post on Valentine's Day without saying something that I don't say often enough. I love you guys. You...complete...me. Okay, that's weird. But seriously, thanks for reading and for always making it a little more fun to record memories of my family. Love! :)


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Evie's Valentines

**Our internet is still being funky-fabulous, but I couldn't let it stop me from powering through to post today. I think we've finally found the problem, though. Hopefully we'll be up and running as normal again, soon. I miss being able to edit videos, too! **

And why did I have to post today? Well, I'll tell you. 

Because my kid has a Valentine's Day party at school this afternoon, and I am just so thrilled about that. :)

Oh, valentines - the cutest of cards. This is one of those, "I always dreamed of the day…." sort of days for me. (The first was Evelyn's very first Christmas program at school…which we missed…and I'm still depressed about.) 

I loved making out valentines for my classmates when I was in school. Loved writing names and slipping tiny cards into tiny envelopes. I loved passing them out during class parties, and I treasured the cards I received…I still have some from grade school somewhere, haha. And I always dreamed of the day that I would get to help my own kid with their valentines. 

Never mind that Evie had to make out generic cards with just her name on them. And we can't bring in home made treats anymore or pretty much anything that I held so dear when I was her age. Sigh…. That's okay. It took enough time just getting her to sign her own name twenty times. :)

Evelyn was so proud of herself. She did it all on her own with very little supervision from me. From writing her name to putting the suckers into each card.



When Evie was finished we had a few leftover suckers, so I asked the kids if they wanted one. When I got to Gracie I said, "Would you like a sucker, too?" And with a sly smile she slowly lifted one hand and revealed that she had already swiped one when I wasn't looking. Baha. 


You know how when kids are little and they think they are hiding something from you, but really you watched them do whatever they think they are getting away with the whole time? Yeah, I believe we're past that stage. My girls are just full-on stealthy now. Evie smuggled toys in her coat to school the other day, and I had no idea. It's a whole new era of parenting…. :D

I can't wait to pick Evelyn up from preschool today and hear all about her day. I'm probably more excited than she is to look at all of her valentines. 

We are thrilled to have an extra-long family weekend coming up. Evie doesn't have school tomorrow, so Eric took the day off, too. We're hoping to take the kids somewhere fun and make our valentine's dinner tomorrow evening. Get ready for your Facebook feeds to be flooded with people making heart-shaped food…you know it's coming. Haha. Embrace it. Make some of your own. Bonus points if you color it pink. ;)

Alright, that's enough of that. Later gators!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kicking off Love Week

Coming atcha just a little late. ;) Oh my gosh, our internet is so sucktacular right now. We got an "upgrade." (That's code for, the internet company came over to fix our internet so that we would get what we already pay for.) Yeah, no. Pictures won't even load on half of the websites I visit after 9pm now. That has never happened before, and it makes it nearly impossible to blog at night...which is what I do. I spent three days...THREE days...stuck at home last week waiting on the internet to be fixed. Met four or five different nice young men sent to rescue us from our internet distress. And it just got worse and worse and worse....

ANYWAY.

We're excited for a reason to do some out of the ordinary things this week. Yay for Valentine's Day! That's what these little greeting card holidays really are for us. Just an excuse to bust out some scissors and paper and bake something. This month, it's heart-shaped celebrating. Next month - shamrocks. Following month - Eastery things. Etc. etc.

I read an article recently about what people from other countries really think about America when they visit, and one of the most consistent things people mentioned was, "Americans are always celebrating something! They have a holiday for everything!" It's so true. God Bless the USA.

We kicked off our week with an annual tradition. Gracie had been bugging me for days to "Bake the cookies! Come on, mom!" Her dream finally came true. I love that my kids are finally old enough to remember and appreciate these things. And it was probably my favorite Valentine's cookie baking day yet!



I was taking pictures of the girls at the counter, and I could hear Reagan saying, "Cheese! Cheese!" at my feet. Haha. So I backed up and took a picture of him, too. :) He wanted to be a part of everything so badly, so I plopped him up on the counter.


And it was all fun and games until he grabbed the rolling pin. 


Evelyn's face. :D




This year Gracie had a special request. She didn't want to just cut out heart shapes, she insisted that we do a snowman, too. Oh, okay...that works. It's still winter, right?


But then Evelyn had a special request, too. She wanted to cut out...a fish shape. Haha. So this year our valentine's cookies were hearts, snowmen, and fish. :)



I loved watching all three of my babies get in on the fun this year....


I loved that my kids had opinions and added to our tradition. My heart has been waiting for days like these. :)




There was a lot of shlurping and stuff going on, so I made sure to ice a few cookies just for the adults, haha. Betcha can't tell which is the kids' plate. 


They really love sprinkles. ;)

The girls did a great job this year, being very methodical with their spreading and sprinkling. Believe it or not, it wasn't very messy at all. And both Grace and Evelyn were so excited about their creations. As soon as Eric walked in the door they shouted, "We made valentine's cookies!!" They could not WAIT to show him. It's through little projects like these that I can really see how much they've grown up in a year. 

Hope you're staying warm this love week! Cuddle something cute, haha. Happy day!





Friday, February 7, 2014

Don't Let Curveballs Become Excuses

Eric and I are drawing very near to the end of a big chapter in our marriage and family life. It's a part of our life that many of you have joined us on for a while as we've blogged and shared the ups and downs over the past few years. We are SO excited to be debt free soon and ready to move on to new things!

It's not time for a celebration just yet, but knowing we are so close to the end has been causing me to think about the last five years or so and ask myself the question, "What have I learned through all of this?" Because let's face it...reaching a goal is usually just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. It's cliched, but it's true.

Before we were married, Eric and I had a plan. We were going to work our tails off, as quickly as possible, to get rid of our student loans so that we could eventually start a family on the right foot. We were fresh out of college and ready to do whatever it took. With two incomes and just a few expenses it should have only taken us about two years to realize our goal.

And then life happened.

The economy tanked. Babies came...in quick succession. :) We lost an income and gained three kids in less than four years. As if baby bills weren't enough, it seemed like we were always getting hit with more than our fair share of huge expenses. There were surgeries, multiple root canals, exploding ovens, failing appliances and technology, ER visits...we're talking bills with several 00's on the end. As soon as we thought we could breath a little, "Surprise! You're having another baby!" or "Surprise! Your car is about to die!"



It isn't like anything we faced was obscenely out of the ordinary, but there were setbacks...so many setbacks. No matter how diligent our planning, no matter how careful we were, life was constantly throwing us curveballs. Any one of those curveballs were enough to take the wind out of our sails and make us feel like we were never going to reach the shore. Any one of those setbacks could have become excuses to give up.

What did I learn over the past five-and-a-half years? I learned not to let curveballs become excuses.

I learned that it's not "if" something is going to knock you back a step, it's "when." I learned that the most solid plans we can create are not bullet-proof. And I learned that those things are true in so many more areas of life than just personal finance.

Everyone has a goal of some sort. Weight-loss goals, money goals, education goals, family goals, career goals...I'm not sure a breathing human being can exist wholly without something to look forward to. Whatever your goal is...right now... remember that it is impossible to journey any road without hitting a few bumps along the way. Knowing that from the very beginning is probably the best weapon in your arsenal of fighting back discouraging voices when they come...because they will come.

Do not let curveballs become excuses. 

When you can anticipate that challenges will be coming your way, they become much less scary when they finally do arrive at your doorstep. By the time baby #3 came along, Eric and I just had to laugh about our life. I mean, seriously. :) By then we were so used to having our plans turned upside down that it became a running joke of "What could possibly happen next?!"

Our goal has taken us over twice as long to complete as we originally thought that it should have. (And given our track record it wouldn't shock us if something crazy happened in the next month to set us back further, haha.) But we just keep plugging away, slowly but surely, never losing sight of the end. You know the "tortoise and the hare" thing? Yeah. Turns out that tortoise really did know what he was doing.


We aren't perfect, and we're never going to make all of the right decisions. Some of our setbacks were totally our own doing, too. If there is another lesson that we have learned in our marriage so far, it's humility. Sometimes our worst decisions started from the very beginning - without prayerfully seeking God's will instead of our own. Haha, would have saved us a lot of headaches. :)

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

^^Yup. We are living proof.

I have learned that obstacles are not endings, they are just plot twists. They are no reason to give up. While I certainly don't know everything, God has definitely taught me a few things through this first chapter of our marriage. If I were asked to sum up our experience and pass on advice for anyone else standing at the beginning of a journey, it would be this:

1. Plan prayerfully.
2. Keep a sense of humor.
3. And don't ever let curveballs become excuses to stop you.

You can do it.
Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reagan the Expeditionist

I was standing in the kitchen the other day, cleaning up our lunch mess, when I hear Gracie say, "Uh...mom...loook." What did I turn around to see?


My one year old perched atop the kitchen table. And he was looking pretty happy with himself, too.
Great.

Please, someone, anyone, tell me I'm not the only mother who has birthed children that are part monkey part mountain goat, cause my kids think they have to climb everything! The girls have pretty much grown up and out of that phase, but it looks like we get to start all over again. :)

Like his sisters before him, Reagan discovered how to shimmy his way out of his high chair and onto the table. And just last night as we were all in the living room, we watched as he figured out how to climb onto the entertainment center to tightrope along in front of the television set. Up next: barstools and kitchen countertops...it's inevitable. Sigh. Another year of heart-attack inducing fun coming my way!

It's hard to be aggravated at this face, though. 


Gosh dang.

But seriously, I'm a little bit frightened by this one in particular. Not only does he already have mad climbing skills, but he's the only one of my children who has ever shown any interest in playing with kitchen stove knobs. And this child loves knives. Like, I don't know what it is about knives that he finds so appealing, but don't you dare leave the dishwasher open around him, because he will try to swipe a knife and run. And scissors. Those are awesome, too.

It's going to be an exciting toddlerhood, haha. Reagan is lucky that I can't even look at that second picture without wanting to kiss the computer screen. Now I know why God put a special place in a mama's heart for her sons. Those baby blues are gonna save his hide. :)

My brother Roger was well-known for being a climber, too. My mom would find him hanging upside down on the outside of his crib rails in the morning. And he'll never live down the time that he made it to the top of the refrigerator, where he dumped an entire jar of honey all over his head. Ahaha...we can laugh about it now. The headaches of today become the legends of tomorrow. :D But please son, go easy on your poor mom. I'm already a little nutty as it is. 

Ha, happy Tuesday!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Groundhog Day Weekend! :)

Well...Punxsutawney Phil saw his stinkin shadow. Six more weeks of winter for us...but I already called that, so it's not really front page news or anything. :)

Happy monday, friends! (If there are any more friends still reading this blog, haha.) I swear I started blogging every day last week, but I never hit "publish" cause it was all just blah blah blah...lame stuff. I can always depend on Monday though for a little weekend wrap up!

I'm trying really hard to think back to Friday, and nothing is coming to me. What the heck did we do? I think we stayed home, grilled some cheeseburgers with fries, and watched movies. I'm sure we baked something, because that's what we do every night in the winter, and it's the reason why we tend to put on a little extra protective layer during the cold months. :)

The highlight of our weekend was definitely Saturday. It had been so long since Eric and I had been able to get some time away for our normal routine. Or at least it felt like a long time. We were both looking forward to a night out to do some shopping and grab dinner. But before our evening out, the girls and I got to celebrate a fun birthday....

 It was a very girly sort of affair. :) (Too bad I left the good camera at home!)

I can't believe Stella is four. I remember Cassie blogging about her first birthday party! That does not feel like three years ago. I still can't believe that I have a four year old myself and that some of my friends have five year olds!

ANYWAY. It wouldn't be a normal birthday party if my kids didn't spend half of it embarrassing their mother. :) Allll week long Evelyn talked of nothing except going to "Stella's house, Stella's house...when are we going to Stella's house?"

The day finally arrived. We got to Stella's house. And the entire time we were there, Evie insisted on renaming Stella "Savannah." Haha. Who is Savannah? I have no idea. I even asked Evelyn if she had a Savannah in her class and maybe she was getting them confused. Nope. So half of the day, at the top of her voice, Evelyn called out for "Savannah!" to come and play with her, and Stella just went along with it with a politely quizzical smile.

Now that we're not in public, surrounded by "Savannah's" family and friends, Stella officially has her name back. Of course. :)



One thing that I made sure to mention to the girls before we arrived at the party was that it was Stella's birthday, not theirs, so please (please) do not try opening her presents, haha. My girls think they need to "help," if you know what I mean. Turns out I didn't have to worry about that at all - whew! But...I failed to lecture them on another important birthday point.

"Girls, for the love, do not blow out the birthday candles."

Yes. They did.

Or I should say, Grace did.

There we were, singing happy birthday. Stella looked so adorable with her happy, candle-lit smile and a cute little bow in her hair. It was a picture perfect moment. The last note was sung and there was a pause as the birthday girl got ready to blow out her number "4" candle.

When suddenly, Grace leaned forward with a surprise attack from the side, and "Phoo!" Blew that candle right out.

All I could do was stand there mortified and utter, "Was that my kid?"

We are so lucky that Stella is a sweetie pie, because she just sat there like a champ and waited for her candle to be re-lit.



We apologize to Stella-Savannah for all of our crazy shenanigans. :) But we are so thankful that we had a chance to hang out and celebrate. My girls had such a good time, and we hope that Stella has lots of happy memories of her 4th birthday party!

Sunday was groundhog day, which my oldest child made sure to remind us of. I honestly had no idea it was Super Bowl Sunday when I woke up yesterday. We didn't watch one second of any of it, but we did make up for that with a dinner of chili-cheese macho nachos. Haha. Geez Eric, we were so healthy this weekend! And one thing happened that never happens. I took a nap. Say what?! Yes, while most men were watching football, my husband let me sleep and cooked dinner. Hallelujah, he's a keeper. :)

We're gearing up for valentine-y things around here. So excited that we made it over the January hurdle...easily the loooongest month of the year. I really need to take some new pictures of the kids, you know...since I still have Christmas pictures of them up everywhere. Perhaps that's what we'll try to accomplish in the next couple of days. Time to bust out some construction paper and make it look like a Hallmark card in here. Hope that you all have a great week!


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