American Girl Adventure

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Growing up I was never an American Girl person. I didn't really even know it was a thing until I was older, and then I mostly thought it was silly. I have mommy friends who are AG obsessed and I definitely just humored the conversations that I naively assumed I would never be part of "that" world.

You guys.

I was so. wrong.


On Friday, Brittany and I loaded up the girls for our very first girls only road trip!! I have been WAITING for this day! We love that these cousins are growing up together and taking a trip to Chicago for Avaya's 7th birthday was EXACTLY what I call perfection. 

We pretty much started swooning the moment we walked into the GINORMOUS store. It's amazing. Both girls got to pick out a doll. Avaya chose a doll that resembled herself (beautiful, obviously), and Charlie chose the doll of the year, Blair, whom we all adore.


We're all obsessed with Blair. She's a stinkin' cute farm girl. Charlie is straight up obsessed with her farmhouse & restaurant. She spent as much time as she could manage playing with it in the store. I definitely called Brian asking if I could buy this ridiculously expensive doll house.

I got an emphatic "NO." (But it's officially on the wish list).


After we shopped, we ate at the most adorable cafe EVER. The dolls had their own seats and place settings!! What?! Avaya got a stinkin cute cake and we ate an amaaazingly delicious lunch. It was a FANTASTIC DAY!!



Brittany and I MAY have been just as entertained as the girls. We're so grateful for a chance at this super fun girls' day! 


Our First Family Symphony!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

We had our first family symphony experience tonight! It pretty much went how I'd expect the symphony to go with my 3 and 5 year old. And we loved it.



The St. Louis Symphony has a special Family Series that we now know is absolutely fantastic! For the hour before the performance, they have special activities for the kids. Today's performance of Cinderella called for visiting with a "real" prince and princess (which Charlie was not totally convinced of & required daddy's escort), decorating a fairy wand, and their awesome instrument playground!

It would have been way cooler without the chaotic long lines, but it was VERY neat that the kids got to check out the instruments up close, hear them played, and try them out for themselves. The flute girl insisted I try - which was more entertaining than you might imagine.



During the performance, the kids were a bit less entertained, but still did well. Brian and I tought it was FANTASTIC - and it was only 45 minutes so a perfect timeframe for introducing! At various points, it definitely entertained and kept heir attention, but overall, it was a good thing we brought a stack of books! Beckett loved using his orchestra book to identify the instruments he saw. :)

Regardless, we'll definitely be back! It was such a great experience. Beckett has even decided he wants to play the violin.




My Magical Valentines

Thursday, February 14, 2019

You know those days where you are totally overwhelmed with the crazy? Maybe just want to move out, leave everything behind, and start all over? Those days where everyone around you (aka: the little people) are doing anything they can to make it so. much. worse? And you're so overwhelmed you feel like you want to jump out of your own skin? That was our day yesterday. This momma was not coping well with our transition from one chapter of crazy chaos to another. The house was a holy mess, the Christmas decorations are STILL UP, I cleaned all day only to make things worse, and the kids were on MISSION to make the house significantly more disastrous that it already was.

And I had an epic melt down.
But today is a new day, with fresh new mercies, and I was determined to make Valentine’s Day full of quality, enjoyable togetherness.

We started the day with coffee (obviously) and stack Valentine’s Day themed books. Breakfast was Greek yogurt piled with strawberries, blueberries, and almonds. It's a go-to breakfast in our house, but served in a purple bowl, over a Valentine’s Day themed tablecloth, it was extra magical! The kids were thrilled.


After breakfast, we gussied up in all of our best PINK and headed to the library for story time. We are SO LUCKY to live in a county with a fan.tas.tic library system. There are a plethora of classes to choose from. Our favorite is the story time at the library closest to us. The librarian is PHENOMENAL and manages to keep a room of toddlers and preschoolers on task and engaged for the entire experience. She's magical.



Next came an unscheduled stop at the playground. Where did this magical weather come from?! (And how many times can I use the word "magical" in one post before someone hands me a thesaurus?). We played for a long time, and I nearly cried when I realized my kids are officially big enough to push ME on the merry-go-round. What is happening?



In our house, pancakes seem to be the food of special occasions. I'm not sure why, but they're... magical (couldn't help it). For lunch, we worked together to whip up some pancakes, find all of the red foods we could muster, piled them on a plate, and called it our super special Valentine's Day lunch. We read some more books, talked about the people we loved and why, and just enjoyed having a less-than-exhausting morning together!



The Christmas decorations are still up, and as I type this I'm still very ready for bedtime to be here, but we had a good day! And for that I'm super grateful!

How We Roll

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Recently someone who I know just through Facebook asked if Brian and I were gypsies. I'm not even entirely sure what that means, but I was thoroughly entertained. While we wouldn't label ourselves as gypsies (we have a legit home, ya'll), we sure do live a life that is very much on the go.

People tend to ask how we do it. WHY we do it. Insist that they couldn't or wouldn't. Wonder if we're crazy or if we prefer a life that has no semblance of routine. So I decided I'd share some thoughts. Don't get too excited. This is not mind-blowing.

First, let's talk about WHY. The only reasonable answer I can think of is: why NOT? I think the reason we seem to be on the go so much is because we just tend to look at opportunities and think, "sure! why not?" At no point have we ever thought, "LET'S FIND 27 PLACES TO VISIT THIS YEAR!" or "let's see if we can travel 22 straight weekends." It just happens. It's a combination of work, family, friends, and just travel for the sake of travel. It's how we roll.

If you follow our crazy journey, you know we've been visiting/living in Tennessee for the last five weeks. We headed there the first week of January and stayed until yesterday so that Brian could get work stuff done (actually, he's still there for another week). During that time, while we were living in a temporary home, we HOSTED people (as in lived in our house with us) for 13 total days and then one or both of us traveled out of town for 12 total days. Almost four out of five weeks INSIDE of our travel weeks were spent hosting or traveling. I legitimately don't know how this happens.

So how?

Well, we've gotten REALLY GOOD at going with the flow. Taking it all in stride. Giving ourselves a whole lot of grace. Because WHY NOT?

Sometimes we figure out how to cook regularly. Sometimes we eat out WAY TOO OFTEN and gain weight and blow the budget. Sometimes we're on the ball. Structured and routine and on it. Most of the time though, we miss goals we've set. Are months behind on sending holiday cards. Leave our Christmas trees up until Valentine's Day...

STRIDE.

Sometimes we haven't done school in days. Haven't left the house. Haven't bathed our kids. Have to buy socks and underwear because we've run out and can't bear hauling the laundry somewhere to clean it...

GRACE.

I've also gotten REALLY GOOD at self-care. At saying NO when I just NEED to say no. At scheduling CHUNKS of time that are absolutely off-limits so that I can just decompress. This is CRUCIAL for the introverts in our crew (Hint: NOT Brian or Charlie).

Also?

We just REALLY LOVE IT. We love being on the go. We get to see SO MUCH. Our kids have hard days and sometimes they're over it but MOSTLY, they are all in. They don't know a difference. I honestly don't think Charlie knows where she lives anymore, but the kid is CLOSE to her family. Her brother is her bestie. And we LOVE that.

The kids can make friends anywhere. They're great in public and in restaurants and in the car for HOURS. They'll make anyplace home. Sleep anywhere (often preferably together). And they LOVE to learn. We get to make every experience a learning opportunity! Our lives don't look like the traditional suburban fam, but we're cool with that.

During this last visit, we got to spend time with MANY sweet friends and family. We didn't even capture pictures with them all, but here are some of the highlights.

Top Row, L-R: Charlie with Penny Frey, Buck with Cousin Nate, Me with Book Lady Friends Paige & Bethany, Buck & Chuck with Cousins (who visited us) Eli & Avaya at a winery

Bottom Row, L-R: Chuck with Cousin Parker, Brian with his nerd-buddies playing Cash Flow, Kiddos with Addie Fowler

We Loved You, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018

I am absolutely obsessed with this crew. On a regular basis, in our ordinary old day-to-day lives, I find myself swooning and melting with affection for each and every one of them. Deliriously happy is an understatement. 


2018 was not particularly ground-breaking. It was actually a bit of a chill year compared to the last few, but it was a year full of adventure, family, and gratitude for this life we've built and love.


L I F E  I N  S T .  C H A R L E S

We just celebrated ONE FULL YEAR back in our home in Saint Charles. Remember we moved here five years ago, then moved back to Tennessee for what we thought would be six months, and then finally made the "official" move back last December (two and a half years later). 

We LOVE this area. We love the environment St. Charles provides for raising a family, we love the new church we've found (seriously, I'd move here all over again just to attend this church), and we LOVE LOVE LOVE being close to family! My brother and his family live just over four miles away, which is AMAZING. The cousins have gotten super close, and adults have each other to lean on! We're raising kids together - among other adventures (more on that later!)


Brian's family is only 35 minutes away, which means the kiddos are close to their grandparents, we have free child-care, and we get to spend plenty of time together. We particularly love camping together, and finally got our very first camper this year, which means MANY more family camping adventures to come!



W O R K

Things with Brian's company continue to change and evolve. There have been a lot of overwhelming and discouraging moments, but even more moments of progress and gratitude. (We finished a 3-year law suit last month!!) Being a business-owner is nothing short of HARD WORK, but he takes it in stride and manages to prioritize family life better than I'd ever expect a human being with his work load to manage.

In addition to running a company and studying for other hobbies and ventures, he's also partnered up with my little brother to start their own LLC (so now he gets to work with TWO of his brothers!). This was a big deal this year! These boys have been talking about getting into rental property for EVER and on Halloween, they finally took the plunge and bought our very first property. I'm so proud of them and their hard work!


I am still really loving being a Book Lady with Usborne Books & More. I get to work part time and on my own schedule sharing these awesome books and leading a team of book ladies - and I love {almost 😉} every single minute! 


Book lady life has helped cover some major expenses (mostly travel 🙌), blessed us with a ginormous library of truly wonderful books, kicked up the book-obsession in this house quite a bit (growing two avid readers), and introduced me to an empowering and inspiring network of people. With the combination of fantastic books that we love and the amazing women that I've met, this journey has had a GINORMOUS impact on a major decision we made this year... which brings me to my next point:


H O M E S C H O O L

EEK! Yep. This year, we made the huge and extremely unexpected decision to homeschool! We're still kind of in shock (and awe), but simultaneously feel liberated and empowered and so so excited.

See, I was a public school teacher and (to be honest) pretty anti-homeschool. I'm a BIG fan of public schools (mostly of the teachers who work SO hard) and always expected my kiddos to attend. We actually moved to this neighborhood with the local school in mind.

I won't get into the story behind the decision (we'll save that for another extra-long post), but I can tell you that we believe so deeply that this is the right decision for our family, and we are so thrilled to have the option to learn and grow together as a team, and to have our family unit be so close-knit.


What makes the decision EVEN. SWEETER. is that Brittany is homeschooling her two as well! The kids attend a Classical Conversations community together and are learning all of the same material there. We get to journey through this together, and our kids get that much more opportunity to learn and grow as a family. I do not have the words to express the depths of how precious this opportunity is to us. We are in love!



T H E  K I D S

These two kids are w o n d e r f u l. We are smitten and grateful and overwhelmed that we get to be their parents. They get along incredibly well MOST of the time and sincerely love being together. They both love hot wheels, legos, playing with babies, being outside, wrestling with dad, reading, being with their cousins, helping in the kitchen, and {home}school! Brian and I agree that their current ages are our favorite yet. They're old enough to be independent in a lot of helpful ways, but not old enough yet to cause toooo much drama. 😉 

  
Beckett turned FIVE this year and had a super fun transformers + nerf war party (check it out here). This year he is in pre-k. He started soccer, took swim lessons, ran his first Spartan Race, and (among other awesome academic accomplishments) graduated to reading chapter books (!) completely independently.


Charlie turned three this year! She started tumbling classes (and loves them), attended soccer camp, and started talking up A STORM. Her vocabulary is way ahead of where Beckett was at this age, so we're continually amazed. She's also incredibly sassy!



T R A V E L

Travel is a passion and priority for this crew. We want to see EVERYPLACE, domestic and abroad, and try to be intentional about saying YES to opportunities to just GO! This year, we visited Chicago (five times), Wisconsin (a couple times), East Tennessee, Florida (twice), Michigan, Texas, Southern Illinois (a dozen or more times), Indiana, Arkansas, Jamaica, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cayman Islands, Panama Canal, and Kentucky for a total of more than 18,400 miles traveled as a family! That total doesn't include three girls trips (including another cruise) and a few work trips for me, or a couple of boy trips and many, many work trips for Brian!


The highlights were getting to spend a TON of time with all of our fantastic family (including welcoming my sweet new birthday twin nephew!), spending 10 days on a cruise to the Panama Canal with my mom & her side of the family (see those highlights here!), and taking the kids to Disney for the first time!! Apparently I forgot to document Disney here on the blog, but the jist is: it. was. MAGICAL.


T H A T ' S  A  W R A P !

For our family, 2018 has been WONDERFUL.  The fact that the same is not true for all families around the world is NOT lost on us. We are indescribably grateful for the sweet life we live and actively look for ways to share joy and bless others as well. 

This new year already looks wonderful, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store.

Happy New Year!

A New Christmas Tradition

Monday, December 10, 2018

Brian and I have slowly been building on Christmas traditions for our little family. So far our traditions have included Advent activities every year (although this year I'm way behind), a birthday celebration for Jesus on Christmas morning (complete with cinnamon rolls and candles), the same Eggs Benedict and mimosa breakfast, stockings stuffed with individually wrapped gifts, and new Christmas jammies. 

We've chosen to follow the "want, need, wear, read" pattern to gifts and then choose one more traditional, "old-school" gift to be left out and unwrapped under the tree. This is our gift from Santa, even though we have yet to actually ever reference him in our home! (Biding our time on that one).


This year, at the recommendation of Brian we decided to add in a new tradition! Yesterday, we loaded up on the ingredients for brownies and four types of cookies (confession: the pile included boxed brownies and two types of break and bake cookies) and we spent the entire afternoon baking! There were messes and Christmas music and kids licking (and then washing) their hands 1 billion times, and all of the chaos and goodness you would expect of a Christmas Baking Day with two preschoolers.



This was also a really excellent opportunity to talk about giving. It's a hard, hard lesson for a three and five year old to comprehend when we intend to give the cookies we're baking away to someone else. Yes, there were tears - but I think it ended up well! 


Today, we loaded up the kids' gator (which worked out super well) and knocked on the doors to seven surrounding houses! Three of the four neighbors we talked to we were meeting for the VERY FIRST TIME. These are people who live 35 yards from us! 



Brian had coached Beckett on how to introduce himself with a handshake, ask questions, and wish the neighbors a Merry Christmas. He did a FANTASTIC job. Brian and I both thoroughly enjoyed watching him work (he's definitely his father's child). 


 For those who know me, you know that neither baking or knocking on people's doors and making small talk are in my wheelhouse of talents. Both give me anxiety (and spoiler alert: Charlie is a chip off the ole block). However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Charlie and both I enjoyed this project and I'm sincerely looking forward to getting to know our neighbors better! This is definitely a tradition we'll aim to keep for many years to come!


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