All The Holiday Stories I Meant To Tell You.

My in laws came into town to celebrate the holidays with us and now there is almost too much to share. This is what happens when I don’t blog regularly for a couple of weeks – too many pictures and not enough time to do them justice. Let’s try and clear through the backlog a bit with some mini stories, k?

In no particular order.

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  1. I took the kids to my favorite coffee shop on the last day of vacation and my ten year old was  kind of “meh” about what to do for fun at first – he’s finally maybe too old for the play kitchen and whatnot. But he quickly got sucked into designing epic pictures on an Etch a Sketch they had lying around and made this message to send his Portal loving father.
  2. The kids got a build your own melting snowman kit in a recent subscription crate that I ordered them (a one time buy of Owl Crate Jr. because I couldn’t resist being such a big fan of their regular crates which boast a new release YA novel along with a box full of bookish goodies)
  3. The kids’ crate also came with a copy of The Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig. The ten year old read it first and gave rave reviews so I snagged it shortly after the holidays and blew through it. Such a cute story with awesome illustrations and so much #lifegoals. I definitely recommend this one for your kids and I think it would make a good read aloud, too.
  4. We took the kids to my hubby’s office on New Years Eve for our annual family photo fest which involves a lot of walking through various buildings while I mutter about lighting and tripods and ask the kids to stop giving each other bunny ears.
  5. lately1My in laws always stay at awesome hotels while they are in town so that they can squeeze in some pool time. Our kids were veritable fishes for the week, joining them every chance they got. Their swim skills are really coming a long way and my seven year old might have fins now.
  6. The ten year old got his first camera for Christmas. It’s one of those Fuji film instant cameras because everything old is new again. It’s so much nostalgia waiting for the pictures to develop and I kind of love the pictures he’s taken so far, even if they are tiny and blurry. I think he has a good eye for the framing of his pictures. #momblebrag
  7. We took the in-laws to my favorite brunch spot and my kids continued their quest to try and draw a recognizable Mickey Mouse which soon devolved into drawing Minecraft Mickey because obviously. My seven year old actually churns out some really nice drawings – they don’t look anything like Mickey but she draws a mean teddy bear which Mickey aspirations.
  8. We also went to the local botanical gardens to see their holiday train exhibit that they put on every year. This year was LEGO themed and kind of a dorky paradise with lots of Star Wars and Minecraft legos and even a TARDIS spotting in a far corner.
  9. lately3I’ll finish this off with some outtakes from the two days we spent taking pictures at Dan’s office. The second day was just squeezing in one more building and giving the ten year old some more chances to try out his new camera. So many buildings, so little time.
  10. One of the new buildings has a nod to moving pictures like from Harry Potter which was way too amusing. The ten year old was obsessed with this picture of a brave knight that was largely uninterested in us. The kids pretended they were knights, too, and showed off their sword fighting skills.
  11. I posted about the giant tractor last week so you already know how my ovaries feel about this one. The seven year old was just a giant bag of sugar for both outings and would not stand still for a picture to save her life which was super for my patience level. But in spite of her absolute lack of playing along (for the most part, unless it suited her) she continues to look fabulous in general.
  12. My favorite building was Alice in Wonderland themed. Someday when I’m really bored I might share with you the thirty million pictures I took there. For now enjoy this mad tea party that went down in a small nook or cranny of some such thing.
  13. Lastly, behold the very best family photo that my kids were willing to sit still for a hot second for. Thanks to my father-in-law who took the picture for us:

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And now, we are mostly caught up. Enough. Happy 2017 guys. Is it redundant to say that yet?

 

 

Then and Now: Family Photos

Every year we go to my husband’s office on New Years Day (sometimes New Years Eve) and explore some of the new buildings and take some family photos. Each building has a different theme and their artwork lends itself to some fun pictures. Back in 2014 we stumbled across this giant tractor and the kids were obsessed with it.

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We stumbled upon the tractor again this year and the kids were, once again, all over it. I snapped a bunch of pictures and had to share one here along with the photo above so we can all oooh and ahhh and clutch our ovaries over how much the kids have grown in just a couple years.

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Seriously. I literally cannot even.

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More milestones to sob over: Seven years in seven minutes. Give or take.

Yesterday I showed you six years of school pictures with my first born. Today I thought we could collectively cry into our hankies over my seven year old who is probably going to start college tomorrow or something.

For those of you who weren’t here from the beginning, you should know that seven years ago BB looked like this…

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And then we blinked and she showed up looking like this:

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There was some stuff in the middle.

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The adorable eating Eeyore phase.
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Her first ballet lesson
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Her first day of preschool
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Her first awkward school picture from preschool. 
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Kindergarten
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When she first realized she was destined to be a heart breaker.
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That time she turned out to be an amazing actress.
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First Grade
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Second Grade – apparently this is her “school picture” dress

And now we’re back where we started. Staring at all those cheekbones, trying to come to terms with the speed of life. Wondering if that dress will still fit her next year.

16 Peeps to Follow on Instagram.

I overheard two girls talking about Instagram at a coffee shop the other day. One clearly had mad Insta Game and the other didn’t have an account. Other Girl lamented to Insta Girl that she really should join Instgram, but then she laughed and said, “But you’d be like the only person I would follow!” There was much chuckling about this and the conversation ended. I kind of wanted to run over to her and gush about all the amazing people you can follow on Instagram and demand she set up her account immediately, but that would seriously violate all the rules of people watching.

If I had gone over, I would have told her about how cool Instagram is because unlike Facebook where we really only follow the people we know and we sometimes get stuck in that trap of “I don’t really want to follow this person on social media but they follow me and I’d feel guilty for being a jerk like that…” This isn’t a thing on Instagram. I feel no pressure to follow people whose Instagram feeds aren’t filling me with joy – and the majority of the people that I follow I’ve never met. There are so many amazing people – dig deep enough and your feed starts to look pretty amazing.

Here are some of the majorly cool accounts I’m following:

Artsy Accounts To Make You Ohhhhhh and Ahhhhhhh

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There are so many beautiful pics by artists of every medium:

@aishaaaaah shares her gorgeous Disney inspired illustrations.

@uggoff is a hair stylist sharing her customer’s beautiful after pics.

@cocolavine posts pictures of her life as a prima ballerina.

@houselarsbuilt shares gorg pics that may give you life envy.

#Bookstagram or #Bujolife For The Glory!

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I get majorly sucked into the worlds of bookstagram and bujolife:

@myriadinklings will give you shelfie envy for sure!

@twirlingpages is awesome! I want her pink camera!

@nicoles.journal brings her bujo to a new level.

@itslahe makes my flower doodles look like preschool.

People Much Funnier Than You

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Sometimes you need a good LOL:

@gemmacorrell shares illustrations all girls can relate to.

@averageparentproblems is meme-tastic (by Mommy Shorts).

@obviousplant likes to leave pretend signs in real places.

@briankesinger illustrates for Marvel and posts hilarious mashups.

People Watching Upgraded

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Follow all the celebs and hear all the funny things:

@kristenanniebell is one of my fave celebs on and off Instagram

@michelleobama makes you want to be a better person.

@hotdudesreading proves a picture really does last longer.

@overheardla never ceases to be funny in a face palm kinda way.

Bonus For People Who Read The Whole Post!

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You seriously rock! If you are feeling that Kindred Spirit connection, check me out at @thingsmommaloves!

It’s a seriously mashed up assortment of bookstagram, cute kids, travel pics and more.

Are you on Instagram? Leave your user name in the comments so we can check it out!

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Mama’s Losin’ It

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The Las Vegas Vaycay: Best and Worst

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Friends, we drove from Wisconsin to Massachusetts, visited family for two days, flew to Las Vegas without the kids (who were left safely in the care of Grammy & Papa) where we stayed for four days, flew back to Massachusetts and then two days later we drove back to Wisconsin again.

This trip was amazing and stressful and exciting and nostalgic and too long and too short and just all of the things. I’m not really sure where to begin or if you want to be bored to death with all the minutia of a vacation recap so I’ll stick with how I’ve been recapping vacations lately and give you a Best / Worst list rather than attempt to give you a minute by minute recap.

Ready?

6 Best Moments

Vegas Best

  1. 13876359_1270172276361340_9151433683835147605_nFOR THE WIN I was on a mission to find a slot machine where you actually pull a lever to play – most of the slot machines have transitioned to buttons or touch screen. Several of the machines have levers that do literally nothing, but I somehow found one in the middle of Treasure Island Casino while we were waiting to see Cirque du Soleil, so I put in a dollar and pulled the lever and won TEN dollars. I’m not a high stakes kind of girl so I took my winnings and never touched another machine. Dan tried my machine and one other and lost both times so out of the three dollars that we willingly sacrificed, we lost 2/3 of the time, but…. I won ten dollars in Vegas, so.
  2. 13668875_1265022976876270_3984995559212191329_oOMG FOOD NOM NOM Dan had an amazing Japanese breakfast in room service one morning, we ate some seriously delicious Italian food the first night. There were little coffee shops everywhere with lattes that would make Starbucks ashamed of itself and pastries that just completed me. We went to a buffet at Treasure Island before seeing Cirque du Soleil and I had chicken fried steak with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn bread and collard greens while Dan had chinese food and then we checked out the dessert buffet and it was like oh my god, where do I even begin? I could go on. The food was good.
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    CIRQUE Like I said, we saw Cirque du Soleil and yeah it was all the things. It bordered on overwhelming with so many amazing acrobatic stunts being pulled off, often at the same time, and it just never stopped for two hours. It had comedic moments and ohhhh and ahhhh moments and was literally breathtaking. I could go on, but I don’t want this to be a whole review of the show.

  4. 13880215_10100959495545446_7383965259143166571_nTHE DAM TOUR We took a tour of the Hoover Dam on our third day which was a much needed break from the constant buzz of the Vegas Strip. Our tour guide, Memel, was amazing and funny and we had a great group of people on the bus with us. It was also nerdily fascinating to see the other side of Vegas and learn more about the history of the town and about Hoover Dam. Memel was really knowledgeable about the area and we learned a lot and saw a lot and laughed a lot. And perspired a lot, but that’s par for the course when you go to Nevada in August.
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    THE SWEET SUITE The King Bed in our hotel room was all the things. We stayed at The Venetian which is massive and beautiful and kind of like being on another planet compared to some of the other Vegas hotels. And when we weren’t wandering casinos or peeking at people taking Gondola rides or listening to entertainment in Saint Mark’s Square while sipping lattes and eating gelato, we were hiding in our amazing hotel suite. The whole room was really phenomenal with the huge bathroom and comfy bed and whole separate living room area with tvs in like every room. Also it wasn’t my job to clean the room, do the laundry or entertain small people for like four blissful days. I was sufficiently pampered.

Overall Best

  1. FRIENDS AND FAM We got to catch up with friends and family, too, for the few days we spent in Massachusetts. Somehow we managed to catch up with a ton of people, celebrate a few birthdays, eat at all the local nostalgia places that make it feel like home, and drive those old streets of our childhood. Our kids got an extra dose of family time while we were in Vegas – they had an amazing vacation of their own as both of our families whisked them around to see and do all the things and I’m so grateful for their enthusiasm and care and time that they put into making it a great week for the kids.

And in an effort to keep it real, folks…

5 Worst Moments

Vegas Worst

  1. CASINO CROWDS The whole casino environment really is not my scene and I’m pretty sure hubby would agree with me on this one. After two days I think we were both done living inside a Casino, dodging crowds and dealing with the constant flashing lights atmosphere. Why did we take a trip to Las Vegas when we are not gambling night life folks? We have never been and we really wanted to experience it – and see some shows, stay at a nice hotel and eat great food. Las Vegas gave us all of that, so mission accomplished.
  2. 13882422_1270168349695066_3845605412622649863_nPUSHY SELLERS Our hotel has this whole section called the Grand Canal Shoppes with all these major label stores that are too expensive to buy anything but so pretty so we spent a lot of time window shopping and just peeking at all the things. It was beautiful and seriously where we spent a good 1/3 of our trip. But while walking through this area, you are constantly bombarded with people trying to sell you tickets to shows. Not scalpers, but like legitimate employees of the hotel jumping in front of you to ask if you want to buy any show tickets. Constantly. These folks make the mall kiosk employees at your local mall seem passive by comparison.

Overall Worst

  1. NOT ENOUGH TIME For a ten day vacation, it felt like we were always running from one place to the next. Trying to squeeze in a proper visit with friends and family in Massachusetts was nearly impossible but we tried anyway. I wanted more time with everyone – but I probably say this even when we get there with plenty of time to catch up. Still, it bears repeating : There wasn’t enough time.
  2. UH AIRPORTS There is a reason we drove to Massachusetts, we really hate airports, especially with the kids. Waiting in line at security for the first flight to Vegas took literally hours. The planes were tiny and cramped like always and we had six hours of flying plus layovers to deal with. The flight back lasted literally all day after factoring in the time zone changes.
  3. HIGHWAY TO HELL Driving 1,500 miles is bound to be stressful so I’m surprised I don’t have more stories of bad moments on the road, but the truth is that most of it was pretty par for the course. Until the last day of driving when a tractor trailer literally swerved across four lanes of highway right in front of us after the driver inexplicably lost control of the truck. We still have no idea what happened – if he had a heart attack or fell asleep or what – because the highway was pretty empty and amazingly there was no one in front of him really or next to him in any of the lanes. He hit nothing but the jersey barrier (which he hit hard) and I’m grateful that we were somehow not harmed, but we were all seriously shaken by it. After calling 911 to make sure someone got to him ASAP we made a serious bee line for the next rest stop so we could shake off the trauma before finishing our trip home.

And now we’re back to the grind of swim lessons and karate classes and why isn’t my house being magically cleaned by housekeeping? I should have smuggled some of them back in our luggage.

 

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6 Favorite Memories of Summer 2016 (So Far)

My kids go back to school in like 27 days which sounds absurd but also appropriate because we’ve been out of school since Memorial Day and we’ve had a fun filled, busy summer that isn’t even over yet. We’ve still got some fun summer memories to make in the next couple of weeks, but I thought I’d share some of our favorite summer moments so far, at the bidding of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Per her instructions, here are 6 of our favorite memories from this summer (so far).

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Sunsets on the river at our campground in June. We went camping for 5 days last month which was craziness and awesomeness.

You can read more about the trip here.

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I took my ten year old to a Mallards baseball game with his cub scout pack and I have to say it was probably my best experience at a baseball game with the kids ever. We had fantastic weather, good seats and I think having just one kid to dote on made it easier to relax and have fun while we ate our weight in walking tacos and cotton candy.

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We did two weeks of swim lessons last month (we’ll be doing another two week session in a couple weeks) and I continue to love the pants off the pool and swim instructors. Small class sizes and enthusiastic swimmers who come out of the pool lamenting that the classes aren’t longer are just two reasons we love it there. A shady spot to catch up with a good book while they are in the pool does not hurt either.

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My little girl turned seven last week and we celebrated over the weekend with so many good friends who joined us for a Wild Horses Party which almost didn’t happen when massive storms and a sensible husband who pointed out that our house was too small to hold all of us indoors threatened to ruin our fun. Then my sweet friend who lives nearby volunteered her home at a moment’s notice to host the party and after a frantic dash to transport all of the party supplies and food and then actually set up, frost the cake and fill goodie bags…

I took a deep breath and looked around at all of these wonderful friends we have made in our new town (yes it still feels new after seven years – shhhhhh) who gathered around us to celebrate, who offer help and support when needed and who don’t bat an eyelash when I’m not at my level best and love me anyway. We had a great night filled with bandanas and plastic horses, carrot cupcakes and crock pot bratwurst, a gaggle of giggling children and good conversation with some of our favorite people.

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For years bowling was rather hit or miss for me with the kids. Those balls are so heavy and my kids are so clumsy and for a long time it was more work than seemed worth it for the sake of a casual day out. But at seven and ten, my kids are finally at an age that lets them bowl pretty much independently and they only scare the pants off of me occasionally when they fling that ball down the lane. We’ve been making major use of the Kids Bowl Free program, meeting up with friends on weekday mornings to escape the muggy heat and catch up while the kids work on becoming Star Bowlers and drink slushies.

13619817_1248273465217888_13476747633771453_n It’s been a summer of movies this year between date nights, family outings and girls night out, I’ve been truly pampered. I swear most years I see 3 movies in a year if I’m lucky but we’ve somehow managed to see Finding Dory, X-Men Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Love & Friendship, Popstar, Me Before You, Secret Life of Pets and Ghostbusters this summer. Thanks largely in part to our theater’s Five Dollar Tuesdays.

These are six of my favorite memories from this summer thus far.

What have been some of your favorite moments?