What’s Up Wednesday: 11/22/17

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I thought it would be fun to jump in on What’s Up Wednesday!  I love Mix & Match Mama’s blog, and have wanted to start doing these posts for a little while.

Here are the questions:

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1. What we’re eating this week…

Nothing else matters except the Thanksgiving dinner we will be having tomorrow!  Since moving down to NC, we have gone back to New York every year for Thanksgiving, but since we are making a big trip next month (more on that in a sec), we decided to stay put this time.  We are really going to miss my family, but some friends invited us over to their house so that will still be fun!  We will be contributing roasted brussels sprouts (which I’m obsessed with recently – along with everyone else!), cauliflower, and pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.  My sister always makes these bars, and you know that Paula Deen doesn’t mess around with desserts!  If only I had my mom’s corn pudding…oh, and my sister’s sweet potato casserole with its sugary, nutty, candied topping…mmmmmm

2. What I’m reminiscing about…

At Henry’s pre-k Thanksgiving Feast, I ran into Charlie’s old preschool teacher, and we talked about the days when Charlie was Henry’s age and Henry was just a baby!!

And so we don’t leave Sienna out – here she was (at Charlie’s age!)

Aaaaah, I love them so much now, but it still breaks my heart a little seeing them so much younger!

3.  What I’m loving…

Speaking of Henry’s preschool, I really love it!  Here’s a pic from his Thanksgiving Feast.  On a side note, his teacher commented on how funny it was that the girl’s in the class all said they were thankful for their families, or specific family members.  The boys were all thankful for Lego, trains, or pokemon.  Hahaha!

It’s a Christian school, so they teach from that perspective, the staff is amazing, and his teacher does an incredible amount of fun crafts and activities with them!  He comes home talking about their science experiments and carrying a backpack full of projects.  It lets me off the hook from doing all of those things with him at home too!  🙂  Although Henry described a really fun sounding experiment when they made popcorn “dance” and he told me what they mixed in a jar (I checked online first that he was right, so I didn’t end up blowing up my kitchen), and it was a lot of fun!

4. What We’ve Been Up To…

This past weekend we took out our Christmas decorations and Sienna and I had a lot of fun figuring out where everything should go, since this is our first Christmas in this house!  Maybe I’ll take some pics and put them up after we’ve bought our tree.

5. What I’m Dreading…

6. What I’m Working On…

7. What I’m Excited About…

Ok, these are all the same thing!!! I am really excited about, actively working on, but sort of dreading…CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!  I really love giving gifts and seeing people light up when they receive a present that they enjoy.  What I’m NOT a fan of is going through our kids’ wish lists and paring down things that I think really aren’t great gifts (As an example, half of Charlie’s list is Pokemon things, but he has liked pokemon for about five seconds and I think he may move on to something else pretty quickly and so don’t want him to receive things he will value for only a short amount of time), and then delegating to all the family members who should buy what (because our family thoughtfully asks what to get for them).  I’m sorry if I sound like a grinch!

One thing I am excited about is that I am trying to get most of my Christmas shopping done early this year.  To be honest, I am usually still wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve!  Yes, I’m one of those.  I watched a video recently though about having a stress free Christmas by Kaley at The Merry Little Christmas Project, and one of her biggest tips about enjoying December and all of the fun Christmas family time is to have all of your shopping done and wrapped by December 1st.  I’ll let you know whether that actually happens!  One tricky thing about our shopping is that David’s family is all in England, and now all of my family is in New York, so the long distance gift giving complicates things a bit.  But I’m mostly excited about picking out fun gifts for everyone!

8. What I’m Watching/Reading…

Last month, my book club read, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and I loved it!  I listened to the audiobook version, which was so fun because it takes place in Australia.  It also really slowed down the speed at which I consumed the storyline – I’m sure if I read the book myself I would have sped through because the plot is intense and compelling, but the slower pace of the audiobook forced me to pay attention to every detail.  I also listened to “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan, and that was a super sweet, fun, romantic, love letter to book nerds!  Plus, it takes place in England and Scotland, which makes for some really fun accents when listening.  I also read, “Lost Lake” by Sarah Addison Allen and “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry (to screen for Sienna).  I’ll write more details about all of these in my next book review.

I haven’t been watching much TV – I’ve been on a big reading kick instead!

9. What I’m Listening To…

The audiobooks mentioned above and Christmas music!

10. What I’m Wearing…

I’m not the person to ask for fashion advice, so I’m not answering from that perspective!  It’s been nice though to wear more layers – I like button downs with cocoon cardigans or loose, long sleeved shirts with the same sweaters on top.  Honestly, I have a somewhat small wardrobe and tend to wear the same things on repeat!  Recently I have been pairing these old forever 21 dark maroon pants with this navy sleeveless top from target and this mustard cocoon cardigan from target.

It’s comfortable, and I feel like you’re allowed to mix these jewel tones together in the fall.  But I don’t really know anything about fashion, so I could be totally wrong.  🙂

11. What I’m Doing This Weekend…

Hopefully we will be getting our Christmas tree!  We always go out and eat pizza, then pick out a tree (the kids wear their Santa hats).  And everyone helps bring it inside and get it set up and decorated.  Here we are last year:

12. What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month…

We are going to ENGLAND!! We have not been there for Christmas since Sienna was five months old, so we are all so excited to be going during the holiday season.  We never get to share Christmas with David’s family in person, so we are ready for lots of great memories!  David’s brother and his wife also have their first baby due mid-December, and we cannot wait to meet her!

BONUS – Elf on the Shelf Ideas

So.  Call me Scrooge, but I don’t want to pay $30 for an elf on the shelf, even though Charlie and Henry have both asked for one.  Last year, Charlie wanted one so badly that he asked if I could print out a picture of one on the computer.  He colored it in, then asked me to “laminate” it with packing tape.  Then he started hiding it around the house for everyone to find.  I thought it was a win, win because A) I didn’t have to buy a real elf, and B) Charlie was able to be creative.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself, because it makes me feel better about depriving my kids.  🙂  Here’s the elf Charlie made, hiding in our tree last year:

A couple of weeks ago, Charlie saw a really cute little elf ornament at Target for $2 and secretly asked if we could get that to use as an elf to surprise Henry.  I thought that was really sweet of him and it was priced just right, so we will be introducing that little elf to our family this year!  Our elf is not very creative or mischievous though…so he will not be rigging up complex ziplines or spilling flour everywhere.  I have a feeling that he is very, very good at hiding though!  😉

 

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving!!

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2017: January – March

Here are some more photos to try and catch up with what we’ve been up to so far this year:

January – My Sister’s Baby Shower

Sienna and I flew to New York for the weekend to celebrate my sister’s baby shower!  She was expecting twin boys (who are now four months old and so cute!!)  The theme was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars.”  It was nice and simple, and my mom did most of the decorations herself!

I copied this sign from something I found on pinterest using a simple chalkboard and chalk marker my Mom bought at Michael’s.  My sister now has it in the boys’ nursery.

My Mom assembled these little mason jar decorations with fake votives and made the little gift bags using personalized stickers she ordered from etsy (they are filled with gold wrapped Rolos and star chocolates).

She also ordered this cake from a local bakery – but was disappointed that they made a slight error in the writing! (Although, to be fair, they probably thought it would be a mistake to write, “twinkle twinkle little starS”)!

The beautiful Mom-to-be!

Posing in the airport, pretending we stopped in the city!

With our mocha and hot chocolate.  🙂

Somebody turned 7!!

We had a little fun in the snow.

And welcomed two sweet baby boys from afar! H:And L:

And poor Charlie broke his arm in a soccer game…which meant he missed almost the whole season!  🙁

We also did some house hunting, and ended up buying a home!  🙂  Woohoo!  That’s enough for one post, I think!

 

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Well, hello there

I’ve spent months telling myself I would start blogging again soon, but I am nothing if not a supremely talented procrastinator.  So many months later, I am finally logging in and playing a little catch up.  To be fair, a LOT has happened in the past half a year.  We went to New York as a family for Thanksgiving, Sienna and I flew back in January for my sister’s baby shower, we bought a house and moved, my sister had her beautiful twin boys, we hosted my in-laws and went to Savannah with them, and I flew up to New York to visit my sister’s family and love on my newest nephews!!  Then all five of us drove back up to New York to see family, and we hosted my husband’s teenage cousin from England for a couple of weeks!  Those are a few of the biggest events that jump out to me, so we have been keeping ourselves quite busy.  I am excited to get back into a more regular routine with sharing what is going on with our family and also talking about some of the wonderful books I’ve been reading! #imanerd  So without further ado, here’s a little photocentric walk down memory lane.

Our Thanksgiving Trip to New York

While there, we visited our NY house for the last time, as it had just sold after being a rental for a few years.  That was a very bittersweet experience.  It is the place we brought all of our children home from the hospital to.  We lived there for seven and a half years, and it will always be where our family began.  There were some tears, but it was a great chance to say goodbye to our first home.  I’m so thankful that we were able to do this!

We got to see some dear friends that we used to live around the corner from!

After we came home, it was time to get ready for Christmas! We started with our annual pizza and Christmas tree night.

We also took a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  It is so beautiful at Christmastime!

They even had visits with Santa in the Antler Village section of the estate!

Sienna was really oohing and aahing over the dollhouse village on display, which I was happy about because I had been working on assembling a little gift that my parents, sister, and brother-in-law had bought her for Christmas…

(Which, by the way, still isn’t entirely finished!!) It took so many hours, though, that I am having a nice, long break.  Maybe it will be completely done by next Christmas. 😉

I will continue some updates in the next post – working my way into 2017!!

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Friday Favorites No. 2

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Sienna ran a 5k with her running club last Saturday in Charlotte, and David did it with her.  She loves running and really enjoys the accomplishment of finishing a race.  It was an unexpected surprise when her coach called later that morning to say she had won 1st place for girls in her age group!  She was so excited and pleased that her hard work had won her a gold medal!  Henry was completely transfixed by the live music on the main stage.  It was a COLD morning!  It was the first time we all pulled our heavy winter coats out!

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Charlie’s soccer club had their tournament weekend last week as well, and after some ups and downs during the season, they ended up winning all three of their games!  Charlie has made a lot of improvement over the season, and again, he felt so good to get a gold medal for all of his hard work!  I could only be there for the second game (it was a busy weekend!), but watching Charlie’s team play is so much more interesting to me than any sports games on TV!  I could care less about the pros, but I’m completely engrossed in watching these first graders!

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Sienna went on her first church retreat last weekend with the other fourth and fifth graders.  It was held at a camp in the area, which was beautiful.  (Of course I forgot to take a picture of her there!)  She played games, went ziplining, stayed up late, sang songs, and hopefully grew closer to God.  🙂  She had an amazing time!

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We had fun at our neighborhood block party on Saturday. It was nice to meet some neighbors we didn’t know and chat with those we do.  Plus fire pits + roasting giant marshmallows = joy!

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I met my friend Kathryn again for coffee this week, and the coffee stirrers proved to be more fun for Henry to play with than the toys he brought.  It was fun checking out all the Christmas stuff at Target with him afterwards!

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I just finished reading this book with a small mentoring group that I’m in.  It said a lot of things that I know are true, but are always good to be reminded of, about how chasing perfection is damaging to our self-image, relationships with friends, and relationships with our husbands and children.  She presents a great, simple “antidote” to what she calls the “perfection infection,” which includes choosing to replace specific negative emotions with positive ones, and letting go off expectations.  It was easy to read and a great reminder to me to let go of striving for an unrealistic ideal that doesn’t exist.  Most times I do this without even realizing it, so this helped me remember to be more aware as well!
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I went to have lunch with Charlie again on Thursday, followed by a fun presentation in his classroom.  Each student read out facts about Thanksgiving, and then they all sang some Thanksgiving songs.  It was really sweet!  They had cookies and drinks, which each student served to their parent first, before going back in line and waiting to get some for themselves.  Their teacher had them do this because the Pilgrim children would always serve their parents food and then wait and eat after the adults were finished!  Hearing facts about the lifestyle of the Pilgrims made me really thankful for the way we live now, with all of our modern conveniences!  Even if it means that my children are not serving me food every day.  🙂

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Autumn leaves!  They’re fun to play with, but I like them best on the tree and full of color.  I saw some gorgeous fall colors this morning on a walk I took with Henry, which brings me to…

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I enjoyed a really pretty walk this morning with Henry!  The air was very brisk, and the sunlight still had that early morning glow, which highlighted the autumn leaves so beautifully.  It was a perfect fall morning.

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No view can compare with this face though!

I hope you had a great week too!

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A Weekend in Savannah – Part 1

As I mentioned last week, two weekends ago we visited Savannah for the first time.  David had been training for months to run his second marathon with our friend Jonathan, so our two families decided to stay together to turn the marathon trip into a mini getaway!  Jonathan and Judith’s children are older than ours, so they just had their youngest son, Isaac, (who is 13) with them on this trip.  I felt a little bad for him because my boys were clamoring for his attention, but he was so patient and kind with them!  Our friends had already been to Savannah before and stayed on Tybee Island, so we did the same.  It worked out really well.  It’s an easy drive into Savannah from the island and takes 30 minutes at the most.  It is so scenic, and downtown Savannah is quaint and beautiful.  I can’t get over the TREES!  All of that moss hanging from the twisting oak branches is stunning.  As soon as we arrived in Savannah, we went to the race expo so David could pick up his running bib.

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It was the Rock n Roll Marathon, so Henry loved seeing guitars everywhere!!
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Then we met our friends for lunch and a stroll through Savannah.

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This is Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah.  I heard it’s standard Southern fare, but I liked the worn brick exterior!dsc_0283

The city is filled with small, pedestrian squares with seating areas and monuments in each one.  And more of those gorgeous trees!  It’s definitely a pedestrian friendly city.  I was surprised by how few traffic lights we came across, but most of the drivers showed Southern hospitality and graciously stopped for pedestrians.  (How many times can I use the word “pedestrian” in a paragraph? 🙂 )

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Henry was sweeping the ground with a tree branch.

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And sweeping all of the benches.  There must be a way I can capitalize on that in our house!

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Forsyth Park is right in the middle of Savannah and was really pretty.  It contains a fountain that is famous for being featured in the film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  Have you ever seen that? Do you recognize the fountain?  I’ve never seen the movie, but would like to now, if it’s set in Savannah!dsc_0304

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After our walk and time in the park, we headed to our holiday house on Tybee Island and ate a big dinner!  I participated in a lot of carb-loading, despite the fact that I wasn’t running.  I liken it to husbands gaining sympathy weight during their wife’s pregnancy.  It’s like my duty as a wife, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Saturday was RACE DAY!  It was really cold in the morning!  I’m still getting used to Southern fall weather, which can be frigid in the morning and t-shirt weather in the afternoon.  The first marathon David ran was the New York City marathon, which was MUCH more crowded and stressful for spectators.  However, I went with just my sister so we were able to dash around and hop on Subways to watch David at a few different spots.  Because of the layout of the course in Savannah, plus the fact that we had three young children with us, we just cheered for the guys right around 8 1/2 miles and then at the finish line.

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They were looking great at this point!  We didn’t find out until later that David had hurt his calf somehow around three miles in and seriously thought he might not finish the race.  I am so thankful for Jonathan, who stayed with him and prayed with him, despite the face that David kept telling him to keep going without him.  They stuck together the entire race and crossed the finish line together.dsc_0396

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Our friend Shane was also running in the race and it was fun to see him and cheer him on too!

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 The kids worked on these posters to encourage our runners, but we realized that we didn’t have one for Shane!  So Isaac had the idea to add a little addendum to the poster on the left.  Can you see it?img_3806

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Shane loved it! 🙂

You may be wondering what we did with the kids for the long period of time between mile 8 and mile 26.  We strolled over to Forsyth Park, where the race was ending, and played in the playground!  On the way we stopped to see the Candler Oak tree next to the park, which is estimated to be about 300 years old.

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Henry’s trying for peace signs.  He got one and a half!

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They had live music and some other fun things set up after the race, but we just headed back to our cars, after taking a few pictures, of course!

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We took a few family group pictures (like you do when you have kids) – and I just had to put up the progression of Henry’s facial expressions.  I couldn’t stop laughing!

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Haha!  I don’t even know where that bottom expression came from!

Ok, that’s enough for today!  I’ll put up the rest of the pictures soon!

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Friday Favorites No. 1

1-img_3794-2Last week, Sienna went on a field trip and brought some of her own spending money for the gift shop.  She came back having not only bought herself something, but also surprised us by getting an arrowhead for David and the boys and a pair of earrings for me!  It was really sweet to see her generous spirit in action!  I’m wearing the earrings she bought me in the picture above.  I love the turquoise color!

2-dsc_0310 We spent a beautiful weekend in Savannah with friends, because David and our friend Jonathan ran the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon down there.  We stayed on Tybee Island, which has a gorgeous beach, and also had time to stroll downtown Savannah.  It was our first time visiting that city, but it won’t be our last!  I’m writing a separate post about our trip, but here’s a little peek:

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3-dsc_0337I’m always proud when I see David run at an event, and this was no exception.  There is also a great attitude of encouragement among the spectators of a big race, and I love the energy in the air!  Without fail, every time the thought runs through my mind that maybe I should attempt a half, just to feel the rush of crossing the finish line with all of that encouragement!  Then I come to my senses!

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I love the colors of fall.  And beautiful autumn sunsets.  God is the best artist in the world.

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I had a great morning on Wednesday meeting up with my friend Kathryn and her daughter.  We grabbed fancy drinks at Starbucks (I tried a salted caramel mocha with half syrup for the first time and it was AMAZING), then walked to Chick-fil-a to get some food for the little guys and let them play in the inside playspace.  Well, it was being deep cleaned and sanitized, so the poor kids had to entertain themselves for an hour while waiting for the workers to be finished.  I’m sure the playground has never been that clean before when they’ve been in it!  At least, until another kid in there decided to spit chewed up food onto the steps of the playset.  Fortunately, that was right about when we needed to leave anyway so I could be mystery reader in Charlie’s class.  I love when I can surprise the kids by doing something in their classrooms.  It doesn’t happen very much now that Sienna is older, but I still get to sign up for things in Charlie’s class sometimes.  I stayed and had lunch with him.  He was so excited!!

6- stranger-thingsSTRANGER THINGS – David and I took a little over a week to watch this show (we didn’t watch every night, but doubled up some nights!) and I was completely addicted! It’s a Netflix original and at just 8 episodes it has almost instant gratification.  I normally don’t like sci-fi that much and I hate horror, but I loved this.  It has some great characters (I love the little gang of outcast middle school boys), great acting, extreme suspense, laughs, major conspiracies, and the entire thing feels like a show birthed in my childhood, because it’s set in the 80’s and pays homage to all of the popular films of the same genre from that time period.  Although I had to watch more than a few scenes through my fingers (you just KNOW something is going to jump out at you!) the scares don’t stick with you once the episode is over. What does remain are the questions that are raised, and although the ending of season 1 was satisfying, I’m excited that they are already working on season 2!  I would highly recommend this show for adults who like suspense and don’t mind some scary bits, occasional bad language, and poor judgment on the part of teenagers (that can be extremely frustrating to watch)! (Image from netflix.com)

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Starbucks is having a Buy One Get One Free holiday drink sale through Monday!!  I am going to use this opportunity to meet Kathryn for another fancy coffee drink and try the Caramel Brulee Latte!!  I just started drinking coffee a couple of months ago and can finally understand how people spend a fortune at Starbucks.  I need to limit my exposure to Starbucks, or I might find myself spending way too much money there (and gaining ten pounds in the process!)  (Image from momsbyheart.net)

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The Ghosts of Halloween Past

I thought it would be fun to find the pictures of all of the kids’ past Halloweens, and I decided to share them with you too!  I’ll work my way backwards from last year.  Sorry that the quality is terrible in some pictures!

2015: Ariel and Sebastian.  Fortunately, Sienna already had the Ariel dress and wanted to use that.  We bought the wig at Target.  I made Henry’s costume out of felt and cardboard using a glue gun.

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Harry Potter!  Charlie wore clothes he already had under a robe I made out of cheap black fabric.  Sienna had the Hogwarts pin from a Harry Potter birthday party she attended, we borrowed the wand from a friend (it’s a Great Wolf Lodge wand!) and I bought the glasses on Amazon.  The actual Harry Potter glasses were pretty expensive, so I ended up ordering these that are supposed to be for a Santa costume for a few dollars!  (And free shipping – don’t you love Amazon Prime?)

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There was also a little Captain Hook wandering around the house around Halloween!

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2014: Our first NC Halloween!  We had Elsa, Captain Hook, and Peter Pan.  Sienna wore a dress she already had been given as a birthday gift, and we added on a dollar store crown.  Charlie had a vest I made by cutting up an old t-shirt and hot gluing ribbon onto it.  I made the little cuffs with felt and lace, and his hat was from the Target party favor aisle – I just hot glued strips of black fabric scraps to look like hair!  He already had the hook!  I sewed Henry’s little Peter Pan shirt and hat.  We reused the belt and dagger I had made when Charlie was Peter Pan as a toddler.

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David and I were supposed to be Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games, but you can’t really tell we are dressed up at all!

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2013: I barely took any pictures this year!  Sienna was Princess Leia, Charlie was Darth Vader, and Henry was Yoda.  I have this picture from Sienna’s costume parade at school.  She just wore a bathrobe and we put her hair in buns.

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I don’t have ANY pictures of Charlie from Halloween – I don’t know how! I found this from Star Wars day at our library in New York, and he was wearing the same shirt and dollar store cape.  He also had a Darth Vader mask on Halloween that had been a birthday present.  By the way, he was thrilled to meet Darth Vader at our library that day!  There were also storm troopers there and they were all appropriately menacing!
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I had to take a photo of this photo from a book my Mom made for Henry’s first birthday.  Somehow she got this picture but I can’t find it!  We borrowed a Yoda hat from a friend for Henry’s “costume.”

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2012: Rapunzel and Buzz Lightyear.  Everything was store bought except Sienna’s braid, which I made out of yarn.  We actually just gave these away when we purged a bunch of toys.  They used them for dress up for a looooong time.  The braid went to my friend’s little four year old girl, and I love it when we go to their house and she’s wearing it!
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2011: Beauty and the Beast.  Sienna’s costume this year was hands down my favorite ever, because it was a labor of love!  It might be my favorite sewing project that I’ve ever done!  This was another costume Sienna used for dress up for years.

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“The Beast,” who everyone (understandably) thought was a dog.  I just sewed furry fabric on an old sweatshirt and made little furry shoe and hand covers.

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They reused their costumes from 2010 for a pumpkin painting party at a friend’s house.  I just love these frosting covered faces!

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2010: Tinkerbell and Peter Pan.  I made Charlie’s hat, shirt, belt, and dagger.  Sienna’s dress was store bought, I made the tutu skirt, and I made the wings out of a clothes hanger and tights.

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2009:Sienna was Tigger!  This costume was a hand me down from a friend.  It’s strange to remember the days when we just had Sienna!

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fall-2009-jan-2010-0082008: I have no memory of what we did and no pictures! #ilostmorebraincellswitheachbaby  So here’s a (few) pictures from around Halloween that year!

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2007: Sienna’s first Halloween!  She was a cow, in a borrowed costume.  Her cousin was a little chick.

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I hope you enjoyed taking that little walk down memory lane with me!  I love looking back at older pictures of the kids and seeing how they’ve grown.  Another thing that this post makes me think is that I need to get back into sewing and crafting.  I used to do a lot more of it when the kids were little (and when there were less of them!)  Any good sewing/crafting project recommendations?

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Halloween Weekend in Pictures

Ok, get ready for picture overload!  This post is probably best for the grandparents, family, and my dearest friends.  (Friends: if I ask you a question about something in this post and you don’t know the answer then I’ll know where our relationship stands).  😉  We had a great weekend and a fun Halloween night!  We kicked it off by (finally) carving our Jack-o-lanterns on Friday night.dsc_0265-1

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The kids made designs on paper first, then drew them onto the pumpkins.

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I took this picture just to show that the kids disappeared rather quickly once they were done drawing on the pumpkins!  Henry said he wanted his pumpkin to say “hi” so this is what we came up with!

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Charlie’s was rather detailed.  He was actually disappointed when I said I couldn’t carve out the words, “BOO BOO.”  Haha!

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On Saturday, we went to a fall festival at a local park.  The kids were a ninja, an Odd Squad agent, and a witch.

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You can see our sweet friend Carol’s foot there next to the pile of toilet paper – after Henry’s fifth unsuccessful attempt to knock them down, she gave him a little helpful nudge!

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Watch out, Batgirl!  There’s a ninja behind you!  It was fun to run into some friends!

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Saturday night we went to a friend’s fall party/bonfire night.  The big kids had fun shooting a bb gun for the first time!

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Actually, Charlie had fun…once was enough for Sienna!

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I love spending time with girlfriends.  It’s a bonus when our kids like to play together too!

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Tonight was beautiful weather to be out trick or treating!

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Sienna was a “witch cat” and the rest of us were members of the Odd Squad, a show that the kids like.

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Here’s a side by side comparison!  The kids changed costume ideas about ten times, so I was glad when the boys settled on something that David and I could do with them! (I love family group costumes!)

 

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“You look pensive.”

“Man, I was going for thoughtful.”

(I know the quote is not completely accurate, but who can guess the movie reference?  Hint: it probably helps if you were in high school or college at the end of the 20th century!  I watched this movie approximately 5 million times as a teenager.)

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Sienna and her sweet friend from down the street.  She actually carried a fake tree with her as part of her costume!  She won for best “trending news” costume haha!  We had a fun weekend and great night tonight.  But I’m excited to be moving into the Thanksgiving season!  From now until New Year’s is my favorite time of the year!!!  I hope you had a great weekend and got to dress up and be goofy.  Any other grown ups don a costume this year?

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A Trip to Wise Acres Farm

If you live in the Charlotte area and have young kids, Wise Acres Farm is a great annual fall activity to add into your schedule!  This was our second trip to the organic, family-owned farm in Indian Trail, and already it has grown a lot in two years.  There is plenty to do, delicious food offerings, and a cute pumpkin patch as well.  It is completely free to park and play on the play areas that are set up, one of which is primarily made of recycled items.dsc_0297

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dsc_0296I love the quaint red barn in the background!  In that barn is where you can purchase admission to the hay ride, barrel train, giant corn pit (a huge sandbox filled with corn kernels!), as well as organic cotton candy and slushies.  We had the apple cider slushie and it was REALLY good!  There’s a little gift shop as well with locally sourced gifts and treats.dsc_0265

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My goofy boy.

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Henry was not so sure about being up on the pallet swing!

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Sometimes I wish my baby would stay like this forever!

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This is a whole second play area further back on the grounds.  There was a much bigger zip line here, as well as a few other play areas, including a small train that Henry loved!dsc_0314

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The barrel train rode around the perimeter of this play area.  We didn’t buy tickets for this attraction, but it looked cute!dsc_0321

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The kids went on the tractor hay ride on their own.  Side note: I was a little panicked about letting them go without one of us, but that is why David is the perfect husband for me.  I would prefer my kids to wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads (and mouth guards) before they leave the house, and he is basically the opposite.  So we balance each other out really well!  He encouraged me that the bigger kids could take care of Henry on the ride, and that they would all be fine.  He also reminded me that at Sienna’s age he used to take a public bus to school by himself, but that’s another story.  (“When I was your age….” statements are coming out of David’s and my mouth more and more frequently now!  Which means that basically, we are getting old!)

The kids loved the hay ride, and I think the older two felt really proud about doing a good job taking care of their little brother too!  If my memory serves me correctly, the tractor ride was $3 each.

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If you do plan a weekend trip to Wise Acres Farm, I highly recommend the brick oven pizza that they offer!  We got the cheese pie and it was soooooo good!  They also locally source some of the ingredients, including the mozzarella cheese, pesto, and whole wheat flour.  Check out more info. here.  The crust was nice and doughy, giving it a delicious chewy texture.  Combine that with the slightly charred flavor you get from the brick oven, the fresh toppings, and…mmmmmmm it was so good!

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If you go in the fall, you have to visit the pumpkin patch!  We ended up letting each of the kids pick out a smaller pumpkin, and getting one big pumpkin to carve.  Although we paid a little more than we would have at the supermarket, our Wise Acres pumpkins are still in pristine condition weeks later, and I have had to throw away a supermarket pumpkin already because it started rotting badly!

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They have a row of wagons you can use to cart your pumpkins around.

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I would highly recommend that you visit Wise Acres Farm!  They also have strawberry picking in the spring time, so I know I’m marking my calendar to go this spring.  It’s all organic, and my friend who went this past spring said that the prices are better than organic strawberries at our local supermarket!

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September Book Review

Because the middle of October is a great time to write about the books I read in September, right?  🙂

I absolutely love reading, and although I wish that non-fiction inspirational biographies or educational books made my heart beat faster, I’m hooked on novels.  Recently, I’ve been a sucker for a gripping storyline and fast moving plot.  I read five novels last month, some great, some not as enjoyable, and one that gave me the biggest shock I’ve received from a book in years!  I’m listing these in the order that I read them.  (If you want to purchase any of the books, you can click on the link under the book image.)

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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
“The Goldfinch” had been on my radar for a couple of years, since it received many rave reviews and won a Pulitzer Prize.  Donna Tartt’s story follows the main character, Theo, through a shaky adolescence that was unhinged when he lost his mother in a tragic museum bombing.  Although Theo walked out of the building (relatively) unscathed physically, his life course was altered dramatically in that moment.  Without the stability of his loving mother, Theo ends up shifting from one home to another, and the bright future that seemed guaranteed grows more and more dim and out of reach.  What Theo carries with him to each residence is not only the pain of loss, but the titular painting that he took from the wreckage of the museum on that fateful day.  It both sustains him and haunts him, and eventually causes him to enter a dangerous path that he never intended to go down.

At first, “The Goldfinch” was incredible.  The writing is beautiful and descriptive, and I was immediately drawn into Theo’s life.  The rich character descriptions and intense moments are so inviting that you feel as if you are among the characters, bearing witness to their intimate encounters.  Around a third of the way in, however, the tone changed drastically and I found myself becoming bored.  I believe Tartt intended for this segment of the book to be depressing and dry, but it was quite long and I found myself speeding through it, hoping that Theo’s circumstances would change.  If I had personally felt more connected to Theo, I would probably have moved more slowly through this portion of the book to absorb everything he experienced.  It made me think of Kate Atkinson’s novel, “A God in Ruins,” which is her companion piece to “Life After Life.”  The main character of “A God in Ruins,” Teddy, was a beloved character in “Life After Life” and so I was very fond of him and felt invested in finding out all of the details of his life, despite the sometimes achingly slow moving plot.  In “The Goldfinch,” however, I felt like I didn’t care enough about Theo to pause and wade my way through this depressing section.  I had to skim through it!  Things picked up again, but the end of the book contained a rather unexpected and slightly outrageous turn of events, in my opinion.  I would definitely recommend this book, however, because even if you do not enjoy the entire story line or don’t even finish, it is worth it to experience the gorgeous writing in the beginning.

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Jane Steele
“Jane Steele,” by Lyndsay Faye, was a fun read for anyone who enjoyed “Jane Eyre” (I love it!)  Rather than being a re-write, it makes a lot of fun references to the classic novel.  The plot follows Jane Steele, who is inspired to record her own story after reading and immensely enjoying “Jane Eyre.”  Set in the same time period, there are unmistakable similarities between the two Jane’s:  they are orphans, sent away to a miserable school by a cruel aunt, have been told they’re inherently wicked, and end up governesses in grand homes with cantankerous masters…who they fall in love with.  Our new Jane has a little more adventure along the way before she ends up in Mr. Thornfield’s house (a nod to “Thornfield Hall” from the classic novel), as our heroine is a murderess.  The darker side of nineteenth century England is on full display here, and Jane unfortunately crosses paths with many unsavory characters whom she feels she has no choice but to eliminate in order to protect herself or those she cares about.  Believe it or not, however, her role as a serial killer is not the main focus of the story.  The plot really picks up when she begins her role as a governess and is plunged into a household brimming with mystery and unique characters.  Even with the mad woman upstairs, “Jane Eyre” is tame compared to “Jane Steele,” which has its own satisfying twists and turns.

I really enjoyed this book!  It was convincingly written in the language of a nineteenth century novel, and its protagonist is likable, even with her criminal record. I did find myself slightly annoyed with her at times, because she was meant to be tough as nails, but then acted incredibly insecure and meek at times.  Then she might turn around and do something stupidly rash and risky that required extreme bravery.  I suppose, however, that everyone’s character can be a little inconsistent at times, depending on their circumstances.   I would recommend this book overall, but especially to people who enjoy “Jane Eyre.”

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The Last Midwife: A Novel
This book caught my eye on the new fiction shelf at my local library.  I love “Call the Midwife,” (both the memoir and TV show), and am interested in the experience of midwives, so the title jumped out at me.  I found out after reading “The Last Midwife” that Sandra Dallas has written many successful novels, so her style of writing must appeal to a large population of people.  I have to say, though, that I wasn’t a big fan of this book.  Set in 1880, “The Last Midwife” follows Gracy, who has been a beloved midwife for around half a century, with most of the years spent in the small Colorado town she currently lives in with her husband Daniel.  Everyone is shocked when a wealthy mine owner and his wife accuse her of murdering their newborn son, and immediately the town is divided over whether or not she is guilty.  We the reader immediately know that Gracy is innocent, but are left wondering why this man would make such an accusation, and what actually happened.  While waiting for the trial, Gracy continues visiting mothers and delivering babies, as this is her purpose and love in life.  Dallas slowly reveals Gracy’s own past as well, which has a surprising amount of pain mixed in with the joyful moments.  There are a few surprises as the case against Gracy progresses, and one major bombshell.

As I said, however, I did not enjoy this book that much.  I skimmed most of it just to get the story and find out what actually happened to the baby, but I found the protagonist, Gracy, to be unrealistically gracious and forgiving with a level of self-control that becomes annoying.  I could see why people really enjoyed it because there were some very interesting characters and plot lines, but it just wasn’t for me.  What I did love about “The Last Midwife” was the view it gives into what it was like to live in that part of America in the late nineteenth century.  It was eye-opening to read about the harsh environment, rigorous travel methods, quaint quilting groups, and how much work (and time) it took to make a decent cup of coffee!  I love getting insight into different lifestyles, and on that front, “The Last Midwife” did not disappoint.  If you are interested in reading a novel about a more modern day midwife (who is also accused of a crime), I would recommend Chris Bohjalian’s “Midwives,” which I read years ago and enjoyed immensely.  Narrated by the midwife’s daughter, who is reflecting on events that took place during her adolescence, “Midwives” is mystery, the world of midwifery, and a coming of age drama all wrapped up into one.

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The Forgetting Time: A Novel
Ooh we’re getting into my two favorites of the month.  I got both of these book recommendations through the blog Modern Mrs Darcy, and they did not disappoint!  First up: “The Forgetting Time,” by Sharon Guskin, is haunting, suspenseful, and had me hooked from the start.  Single mom Janie loves her little 5 year old boy Noah more than anything in the world.  But the older he gets, the more she realizes that something is wrong, and she has no idea how to help him.  He is very attached, terrified of water, has night terrors about drowning that end in screaming episodes, and he keeps asking for his “other mother,” saying he wants to “go home.”  I don’t want to say any more, because I think this is a novel in which much of the enjoyment is peeling back each layer of the story for yourself!  It explores unusual territory, which some readers may feel is too “out there,” but I think it’s still a really interesting read and would recommend it.

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I Let You Go
This was definitely my favorite book of the month, the last few months, and maybe even longer!  It is gripping, well written, and I gasped aloud while reading for the first time since I read “Gone Girl” a few years ago!  Clare Mackintosh’s novel begins with the unspeakable: a mother lets go of her young son’s hand for a moment, and he gets hit by a car and killed.  The driver immediately flees the scene, so it is up to DI Ray Stevens and his trainee Kate to investigate and find the person responsible.  While their investigation keeps coming up dry, Jenna, haunted by the accident and mourning the loss of her son, leaves Bristol to start over in a remote town in Wales.  Although the mystery of the hit and run driver gives the book it’s initial spark, the intensity of the novel is really fueled by its characters.  You are drawn into each of their lives and don’t want to leave.  There are some disturbing scenes and heavy subject matter, but the plot moves at lightning speed and you are left thinking about “I Let You Go” long after turning the last page.  This is truly a compulsive read, so the last page may come sooner than you think!  I read this in one day!

If you’ve read any of these books, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!  (No spoilers in the comments, please!)  Also, I am always looking for good book recommendations, so please let me know if you’ve read anything good recently!

*Note: this post contains affiliate links.

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