Holidays

Our Little Red Riding Hood and Supporting Cast — Happy Halloween!

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Adelina has been in love with Little Red Riding Hood lately — last week we were reading it every night — so I asked her if she wanted to be le Petit Chaperon Rouge for Halloween and of course, she thought it was the best idea ever!

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We made a trip to our local Ace Hardware for some fabric (love our small-town Ace!) and voilà — we had a costume! I loved this especially because it’ll serve for years to come, she definitely has room to grow with it, and I took special care with details so it’ll be a great dress-up piece too. Here is the tutorial I based my design off of, with some modifications 🙂

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We were going for a more classic French vintage vibe and I think it turned out so perfect. (Those are technically foxes on her dress, but they were gray and I think they totally worked as wolves!)

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And then we have our little hunter. I had grand ideas of getting him a traditional French hunting cap, a cute jacket, maybe a horn or something, but really… he’s a baby and doesn’t care. So we just handed him an old-fashioned wooden pop gun and called it good! (side note: those things are super fun, they make a very satisfying pop noise, which I may have driven my husband insane with… ha!) He wasn’t feeling so hot lately so he’s just in some cute monster jammies and a cap. Done.

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He still had the energy to be adorable and mischievous, of course.

And here’s the whole crew!

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Andrew may have terrified a few little girls… oops! We reused an old werewolf mask from a dance show several years ago (Thriller-themed, obviously!) and that was that. And I figured if I had to be an old lady, I could at least be a classy Mamie. Ha!

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We just did the downtown businesses trick or treat, it’s earlier in the day so it’s easier for little people, plus they have some pretty good stuff. Our bank serves up amazing hot apple cider… mmm… and the movie theater was handing out fresh buttery popcorn!

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After making the rounds, we came home and had dinner, then handed out candy to trick-or-treaters (probably Adelina’s favorite activity of the day) under this gorgeous fall sunset.

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And then we wrapped it all up with a monster green glow stick bath! Just throw some glow sticks in the tub and turn out the lights — so entertaining.

Side note: how do you handle the candy overload? We got some non-candy treats and little toys, but there’s still SO MUCH candy. I had her choose five pieces of candy to keep when we got home and put away the rest for later (AKA mom & dad tonight… ha!) but I’ve heard of kids turning in what’s left of their candy to the Halloween fairy in exchange for a toy or book. Kind of a cool idea, I think. How do you do it?

I have dreams of being the cool house someday that serves chili and soup and cider out of their garage for the parents to stop and hang out while the kids play. We had some friends that did that back in Casper and it was so awesome. Maybe next year!

Anyway, there you have it. Happy Halloween!

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Holidays

Independence Day 2017

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We headed down to sunny St George to visit family for the fourth of July, and it was blazing hot, but the trip didn’t disappoint! We spent as much time getting wet as we possibly could, because that’s how you cope with the heat in my book.

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(Ha ha. I love cousin photos) Water play, and eating snow cones on the patio or relaxing inside my in-laws’ beautifully air-conditioned home! (she was a lot happier about this than she looks)

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Ahhhhh. How I miss air-conditioning (there are very few homes in our area that have it, people just go without since the winters are so long).

I’m sure many of you can relate to this next photo… This is what happens when you try to get a picture with your child: the only one where you’re smiling is the one where you have crazy eyes because you’re trying to get them to look at the camera. Oh boy!

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Jonas loved exploring (he was fascinated by that vacuum cleaner hose!) and of course getting kisses and cuddles from everybody. And yogurt.

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I love having all this attention around them too — Andrew and I actually managed to sneak out on a date night! We saw Wonder Woman, and it was awesome. I loved it! I think what I loved most was that she was a mind-blowingly powerful fighter (all those slow-mo action scenes were sooooo cool, and watching her bring justice upon bad guys is incredibly cathartic!) but she is also vulnerable, sensitive, innocent in the best of ways (her reaction to the first baby she’s ever seen just melted me!), and compassionate. The much-discussed no-man’s-land scene is perfect ❤️ She brings the best of femininity to an awesome superhero, and that’s why I loved her the most. She embraces her AND without embarrassment or complication: “well what do mortal women wear when they go into combat then?!” I loved her relationship with Chris Pine’s character! I could also go on about spiritual analogies — they were abundant — but I’m turning into my dad ha ha so I’ll just stop at how much I love how she comes to her decision that humanity is worthy of love and of her saving. And I loved the movie.

Anyway! Adelina loved running wild and playing with her cousins. Sophia sure is patient with this girl!

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Of course, we ate our share of appropriately-themed patriotic foods (below, a jello-raspberry-angel food cake trifle) and wore red white and blue…

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Because what are holidays for if not dressing up your kids in cute clothes? Ha! I look forward to getting more into the history and meaning of holidays as our kids grow older — with Adelina I think it was limited to “yay hot dogs” this year (ha) but really, how do you explain abstract concepts like “freedom from tyranny” and “the pursuit of happiness” to a 2-year-old? We’ll keep working on that one, to be honest, with packing and traveling, I kind of dropped the ball and was just looking forward to relaxing.

It all ended with some good ol’ fashioned at-home fireworks. We let Adelina stay up late with the cousins and I think it went pretty well! I have some great memories of fireworks with my dad when we lived in Virginia, and trying so hard to stay awake even though we were exhausted and couldn’t keep our eyes open! I think she’s on the right track to making those memories herself 😉

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The next morning, the 4th, we packed up and headed home, full of Fiiz soda and jello trifle and hot dogs and chips and everything else that goes with Independence Day picnics. We skated into town with enough time to put the kids to bed and enjoy our small town’s INSANE fireworks display — and this is before the actual fireworks show started!

(This doesn’t really do it justice but it’s a taste — everyone was lighting up the sky with these crazy aerial fireworks! And yes, our kids seriously slept through the entire thing.) Next year is going to be a blast.

 

Holidays · Traditions

Easter 2017

Our Easter was relatively simple this year, but still lovely.

I loved doing some of the little things in preparation, like dying eggs with Adelina (she loved it, obviously. We even managed to not make too big a mess!). She was so proud of her creation!

 

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She very much enjoyed helping with these cookies too…

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We did some special scripture studies during Holy Week — watching Bible videos, reading special articles, etc. For Family Home Evening, I opened Easter eggs that told the story of Christ’s last days with Adelina. She’s still a little young but getting to touch and hold objects was fun and helps the concepts make a little sense. (Here’s one, and another version here)

For my own personal study I found this guide really helpful — and no, I certainly didn’t make it through the whole thing! But over the years I look forward to refining what works for our family traditions. This is a great guide for families as well.

And yes, Easter also meant the end of my social media fast. This year was interesting because instead of a complete break, I decided to only allow myself to use social media when the children were sleeping. Full disclosure, I wasn’t 100% successful. I had some rough days here and there where all I wanted to do was escape. But generally it went well and it was really beneficial in terms of evaluating how I was using social media and for what purpose. It helped me exercise restraint in a more real-life type of scenario. I significantly disconnected from online hysteria and debates, which was really good for me. Instead, I plunged myself into books, I texted or called friends more often (instead of just assuming they’ll see my updates on the internet), and I had more time for reflecting on the important things. General Conference was so good this year, and I think part of it was I was cleared from a great deal of the distractions I usually surround myself with. This “fast” was so good, I think I’m going to continue to restrict social media time in a very similar way. In the last few weeks I also gained some really good insights into things I need to change in my life, and received a really direct response to how I could invite Christ into my life more — a concrete way I could do that. It’s funny how the answers come when you’re finally listening…

So there’s my recap of sorts. It is absolutely worth doing, and I recommend it to anybody who’s looking to recenter their thoughts on what really matters. It was a really great tool to start some important reflection. And it helped me make more mental space to prepare to celebrate Christ for Easter.

Of course, I love the fun and decoration aspect too 🙂 I’ve been slowly collecting or making little items for around the home — a moss-covered bunny hanging, a linen table runner, an egg wreath that I adore. And no spring would be complete without tulips and daffodils!

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I got to enjoy these on Saturday at the Provo City Center Temple (I got to shoot my sister’s engagement photos, and I can’t wait to share them with you!) Since we had to travel that weekend, my plans for an egg hunt sort of went out the window when I realized it was just one thing too many. I decided it wasn’t worth stressing about, so instead, Adelina simply found a surprise from the Easter bunny ready for her.

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(And yes, things got a little crazy so I dug out and repackaged a toy or two! Ha ha. I didn’t even buy any chocolate eggs… I know, I know. But she seriously didn’t need more junk food that weekend.)

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The big item in her basket was an apron I found just in the nick of time. I love cooking with her, and she loves the hands-on fun — like playing with dough — so much! She was a great helper for our Easter meal that day 🙂

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As for the traditional family photo… Jonas had a blowout ON Andrew before we got a chance to take it! And then Adelina was waving a stick in my face the whole time, so this is as good as it gets.

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Real life, right?! (Just take my word for it, Jonas looked stinking adorable. And my husband was handsome as always of course!) I had some moments of frustration that day, but I’m getting better at tampering my expectations and being reasonable about what will and won’t work with small children. So when Adelina decided that “I’m going to get a quick picture!” meant “Quick! Run around as fast as you can and whatever you do, DON’T look at the camera,” I took a deep breath and just went with it.

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Jonas has matching shoes that he can finally wear now! And yes, she’s been wearing that cardigan since she was about six months old…

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Gah! She was so tiny! But seriously, I can’t find a good replacement for this cardigan and I love it so much! It’s probably getting a little ridiculous though.

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And there you have it: hope you had a beautiful, peaceful, and meaningful Easter weekend!

Holidays

St Patrick’s Day Surprise

Kids make everything more magical in life.

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I’ve always been a huge Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween fan, but other ones like St Patrick’s Day have not been my thing in the past… it’s not that I hate all things Irish — in fact I love a good rousing celtic jig, I was obsessed with riverdance as a kid, and there are all the beautiful fairy tales (or should I say faery tales!) and breathtaking landscapes… but here in the U.S. it often feels like a ridiculous caricature intended mainly for getting slopping drunk and wearing green.

This year though, I got in the spirit of it — minus the flowing ale — and it was a fun holiday to do at home. As our children get older, I look forward to reading real Irish folk tales (a compilation like this would be a great start!) and learning more about the history and culture. For example, this was an interesting article: When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis. Plus my husband has relatively recent Irish ancestry so it’s a great chance to look up the family tree with our kids!

Anyway. I love having a little surprise ready for Adelina when she wakes up from her nap on holidays, it’s a fun way to make the day special (and kill some time when afternoons grow long… ha!). We went to pick up rainbow-colored balloons this morning so she had seen them, but after the nap they had disappeared! I told her a leprechaun had probably stolen them and hidden them to play a trick on us… we searched around the house a bit and found his pot o’ gold!

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And yes, that’s definitely a Halloween votive… whatever, it was the closest thing I had on hand. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.

Also, how cute was our little Leprechaun! This boy melts me!

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We ended the day with some delicious corned beef and cabbage (apparently, not terribly authentic… still yummy though!) and it was not as tricky as I worried. Meat has always intimidated me some, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Stores tend to carry corned beef pre-packaged with a little spice packet around St Patrick’s Day, so that made things pretty easy, and then I added red potatoes, onion, carrots and of course cabbage. Drown the whole thing in some beef broth and you have a tasty roast! (Crock pot would have been nice, but in typical fashion I didn’t get it in in time to let it cook long enough — about eight hours on high is the general consensus — so oven it was. Still took four hours, but it was worth it! Here’s an easy recipe) And the Celtic Pandora station made for perfect dinnertime ambiance 😉

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I’d love to hear how you celebrate St Patrick’s Day, tell me all about it in the comments!

Holidays · Life

Why I need a Social Media Break Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a little social media break. This is a post from last year when I did a “social media fast” for Lent. It was a long 40 days, but it was really good for me, helping to refocus on the things that matter most. Even if you’re not religious, this is something we could all benefit from!
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Definitely been guilty of that lately…
One thing I noticed last year was I started getting in touch with friends personally, and it was more meaningful communication. I would think about a friend and text her or just call her up and see how she was doing. I FaceTimed my family more often.
At the time, I wrote, “It has given me back those little in-between spaces because instead of checking my phone when I have five minutes, I think ‘what have I been needing to do?’ and can write in my journal, read the Ensign, read a book, get some scripture study done or write a friend or make that shopping list or… you get the idea. More focus on the things I actually want and need out of life instead of mindlessly entertaining myself. More moments just soaking in our sweet girl. And more time to hear the quiet whispering of the Spirit that we can so easily tune out.”
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I’m not going to do a full break this year because I have several projects I’m working on that are important to me (such as my blog — I’ll still be posting — and my #cherish365 photography project), but I think I’m going to a Ramadan-style fast: only after sundown. Or perhaps only when the kids are asleep (the mom version of sundown ;). I’ve deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone and logged out of Instagram. One thing that I was discussing with my husband last night was how I wanted to spend more time creating media, not consuming it. Those are things that build me up instead of draining me: writing, photography, projects I volunteer for. That’s my goal this time around — no mindless scrolling.
And with that: I’m unplugging for a bit now. Wish me luck!
Have you ever done a Lenten fast, or a social media break? How did you do it? What did you gain from it?
Holidays · Traditions

Sweet Valentine & Toddler in the Kitchen!

We had a pretty sweet Valentine’s Day around here — simple, but full of good moments.

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It started with Jonas taking an awesome nap, which meant Adelina and I got plenty of time together to make some treats!

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This has become something of a tradition for me and I rather like it: making chocolate-covered pretzel rods & strawberries. I LOVE those pretzels, especially with the crushed peppermint. Adelina did a great job of crushing and sprinkling it!

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We definitely had to wash hands a few times though, she kept licking her fingers clean ha. I wouldn’t have cared so much except we all had a cold and some of these were intended for other people…

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(It’s pretty self-explanatory how you make these, but for a few tips: I hate using the “candy melts” because they taste nothing like chocolate. I use milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, melt, then dip and drizzle. Make sure the strawberries are completely dry before dipping or it’ll make a mess of your chocolate and the chocolate won’t stick properly to the fruit — I usually pat them each with a paper towel before dipping. Oh and cute cupcake liners are perfect for giving the strawberries a few extra presentation points 😉 Crush some leftover candy canes for the pretzels and sprinkle while the chocolate is still wet or it won’t stick. Let cool. Voilà!)

Andrew stopped by for lunch and I handed him a plate to take to his office. I also gave him a little felt mailbox valentine with some chocolates and notes (I loved these prompts over at Marriage Laboratory for 14 days of love letters!). I used to think Valentine’s Day was cheesy and overly commercial (it’s definitely a commercial holiday…), and I still think giant teddy bears and heart-shaped jewelry are ridiculous, but all things considered, I do love the idea of a day to remind the people around you how much you care. Plus you don’t need to convince me to eat more chocolate…

After Adelina’s nap, I had prepared a valentine for her too: a little baggie with a Frozen sticker book, some glow sticks and lollipops. Great way to get over the post-naptime grumpies!

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We set off to deliver our treats to a “Galentine” and her little girls — gotta love Leslie Knope 😉 Adelina was excited to deliver them but sad once she realized we weren’t going over to play ha ha!

Later that afternoon, I cut out a paper heart and had her decorate it for Andrew. When he came home that evening, she stood at the top of the stairs, hardly containing her anticipation, crying out “Papa!” and rushing down the stairs to hand him her scribbled Valentine. It was pretty cute.

You know, we haven’t always been very good at holidays around here. You get married and both swear that Valentine’s Day is stupid because you don’t need a special day to say “I love you,” and then several years go by without really celebrating any of the other holidays or milestones either, and you start to realize little holidays really are kind of nice, and that little gestures go a long way. My point being, it takes time to develop rituals and align expectations, and I’m glad we’re getting to a point where traditions are beginning to form.

That evening, after getting the kids down to bed, Andrew had prepared a little surprise of his own! I’ve been on a big hygge kick lately — I’m reading The Little Book of Hygge, which has been really interesting, plus I’ve always had a big crush on Scandinavian cultures. One of the concepts is spending simple, cozy evenings in good company, and I’ve been mentioning lately how we’ve definitely gotten into the rut of collapsing in front of Netflix at the end of the day instead of talking to each other. Anyway: Andrew prepared a “hyggelig” evening, complete with a puzzle (of a scene along a dock in Copenhagen, ha!), candles (proper lighting is very important for good hygge), and hot beverages!

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I’m pretty sure the last time I did a puzzle, I was a kid. It was fun and it was something different where we could just have casual conversation for a while. I love that he takes note of things I mention, it’s the little things in life!

Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day! Have any other fun things you do to celebrate? I think “heart attacks” are pretty cute too, I’m always on the lookout for other ways to involve little ones.

Holidays · Motherhood · Traditions

Blessing Day

This story is not sweet or picture-perfect… but maybe there’s at least a lesson to learn, so bear with me.

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Since we were with all of Andrew’s family for Christmas, we thought it would be nice to bless Jonas with them there. We blessed Adelina in France two years ago so it was mostly my family then. And it is rather special to bless a baby boy on Christmas day when you think about it.

But as much as I’d like to say it was all lovely and wonderful, it was mostly just stressful. It’s a pretty wild rush to get ready and go to church on a Christmas Sunday, after the stockings and breakfast, and luckily we all made it in time. Jonas was actually perfect and slept throughout the whole meeting and his blessing, so that was a relief. Adelina was a little hyper but she did OK thanks to Omi. The meeting ended and I wanted to grab a photo with the whole family. Of course, it was suddenly uncharacteristically cold and blustery in St George, so everyone was freezing, and did I mention the presents were still waiting at home? So this is the cousin photo we got!

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It actually cracks me up looking back… real life right there! But at this point in the day I was getting really frustrated because Jonas was now screaming and Adelina was melting down because she didn’t want to take off her coat for the photo, and we have a very limited window of time to get this done… fine, let’s head home.

I really wanted to get a photo of our family because dang it, we’re dressed in our Christmas best and I’d like one stinking photo, right?! I’ve carried this baby for 9 1/2 months and looked exhausted and overloaded for months, so the one day I finally look nice, I’d like just one picture before everyone tears their clothes off! But no. This is the best we could do.

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Double chins all around, Adelina was crying because she didn’t want her socks off, Andrew had immediately undone his tie on the 2-minute drive home because he wanted to put on his BYU tie that day (bowl game week), and Jonas wouldn’t calm down. So that was fun (just writing about this makes my skin crawl all over again). I finally just gave up, so frustrated I could hardly speak, and it was time to do presents anyway.

I know, you’re probably laughing at me right now… I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes we do this to ourselves — have high expectations (apparently, getting a single decent photo is a high expectation these days) and get frustrated when they don’t hold up. Another life lesson to store away. I was just glad to be done with the whole ordeal and finally just enjoy Christmas.

And once I took a breather and gave up on my dream of a picture-perfect moment, it was a lovely day. Everyone just hung out and relaxed, the kids played with presents, we all enjoyed sweet Jonas and ate delicious food… simple things. I tried to get some photos of Jonas but once again came up short, so you know what I did? I dressed him up again the other day and did a photo redo. And that’s how I got the photos I actually wanted!

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Moral of the story: don’t plan more than one “thing” in a day. It’s not worth it. Leave space for important things because it’s just too much to try to combine. Also, expectations… waaaaay lower. You’d think I would’ve learned that by now, but here we are again. In my defense, holiday expectations mixed with postpartum exhaustion are a little intense! So that’s the story of how poor Jonas’ blessing went down!