hey 2013, it’s been real.

So a lot of good, exciting and once in a lifetime stuff went down in 2013, which maybe explains why it went by so fast? I decided in October I was going to make a reverse life list, acknowledging all of the crazy and amazing stuff I’ve been blessed enough to do instead of focusing on all the stuff I thought I should be doing. These are kind of in order, and I’m probably missing some — but I’m pretty sure NYC with Addie was the best if I had to pick the best one.

Going to the fancy wedding of a dear friend with the world’s best flower girl.

Britty is a Mrs.! @brookempaulsen @britmariger

Going to the Animation Research Library and seeing pencil sketches from ‘Plane Crazy’ and ‘Steamboat Willie.’

Hanging out with Minnie in Disneyland.

Disneyland

Whenever Addie got off the bus.

Looked for it. FOUND IT. #LookForTheLovely (look at Addie's face over Vivi's shoulder in the first photo.)

Having my family drawn in penguins by a Club Penguin artist.

I don't even have words, my family in penguins! Including my one eyed cat! #ClubPenguinSummit

Spending my birthday in Disneyland.

BIRTHDAY. MADE. #MinnieStyle

My mom meeting my friend Minnie for the first time ever.

My mom went to Disneyland the year it opened and never had her picture taken with Minnie,  until now. #DisneySMMoms

Going to New York City with Addie.

Day two: Endless possibilities. #AddieInNYC

Photographed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

I'm photographing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir today! Are you coming to their show in #Indy tonight? #MoTab

Kayaking in Florida

@luxurytravelmom on a luxury canoe through Oscar Scherer park

White Sandy beaches with this little creature.

Beachnastics. #SponsoredByCarnival

Going to the Animation Research Library again and seeing original sketches from ‘The Little Mermaid’ then interviewing Jodi Benson.

Going to the world premier of Planes and running into the Dane Cook, not that I like him, but still, kind of cool.

OMGEEEEE. #PlanesPremiere

Surprising my dear friend Rachel for her birthday and spending a perfect day on the lake with her and her family.

So there's this place in Texas that's all about beavers so Rachel took me there and it was strange and wonderful.

Horseback riding on the beach in South Carolina

Horseback on the beach. #Kiawah

Mumford in concert with my honey.

I may never again be comfortable around huge crowds again, but it was worth it tonight. #Mumford

Seeing this in Michigan during ArtPrize.

One off the most AMAZING things I have EVER seen. #ArtPrize

Spending the night at West Point.

It's not everyday you wake up at West Point. #NikonSubaruAdventure

Drove across the George Washington Bridge and into New York City in my dream car. (Red Subaru Outback wagon.)

Doing this.

When you have a waterproof camera, you have to remember you're waterproof too. #ClickRetreat (photo by @ohhbetsy)

Having three of my very bests in the same place for an entire weekend.

Bests. #ClickRetreat

Hanging out and getting a massage on Disney’s private island.

I now interrupt your trick or treat photos with Castaway Cay and the #DisneyMagic, because for Halloween I went as a terrible person.

Watching Cody fall learn how to surf on a boat.

Cody learned how to sur...nevermind. #FreedomOfTheSeas

This sunset after a terrifying storm

I've never seen a better sky than the sky in Indiana. #NoFilter #AfterTheStormGram

When it snowed in Disneyland

YOU GUYS. IT JUST SNOWED IN DISNEYLAND.

These thighs:

One more from today. Because thighs and hips should be celebrated.

Witnessing the relationship between these two.

Copyright Cody and Casey Est. 2001

Let’s do this 2014.

mickey marilyn monroe christmas clubhouse (sponsored by hallmark)

On Sunday we had our Christmas program at church, it was a good one. It convinced me I need to find a different church to attend on Wednesday (Tuesday?) so I can hear more Christmas songs sung by a choir. I don’t even know how Christmas services work on Christmas since we don’t do them (I mean, unless Christmas is on a Sunday.) What I’m trying to say is there is a severe lack of live Christmas song singing by choirs in my life and I’d like there to be more. (There is however plenty of terrible Christmas song singing done by me in the privacy of my own home.)

For as long as Addie has believed in Santa I have bent over backwards, sideways and in various plank positions to bring her exactly what she asked Santa for.

This year? Nope.

Partly because she tried to pull a fast one on me Santa last year and also because she keeps changing her damn mind. To be fair I feel doubly confident in my decision not to indulge her elaborate Santa desires this year because she actually hasn’t sat on Santa’s lap, nor has she written him a letter so really it’s up to Santa’s discretion what he’s going to be bringing down the chimney on Tuesday night. LEGOS IT IS.

Addie had the chance to visit with Santa but passed, Vivi did not.

First photo with Santa. Nailed it.

Addie chose a Marilyn Monroe ornament this year, not that she knows who she is or that she’s seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Once she finally made her decision she excitedly whispered “Mom? This is what I look like as a famous movie star in my head, that’s why I chose this one!” I wanted to say no, but I wasn’t going to argue with her. Perhaps someday she’ll end up being the feminist to bring all other feminists to their knees and I’ll have this ornament to remind me of this time of her life. Or perhaps she will end up an actual movie star or Marilyn Monroe historian — regardless, 2013 has been the year of reminding Addie that Marilyn Monroe is not Madonna or Lady Gaga and yes, she was a real person and a very famous movie star.

Vivi has absolutely NO IDEA what’s going on, we have to be careful when we bust her messing with the presents because she has a tendency to throw them as hard as she can in the opposite direction when she gets caught handling one. Addie made the mistake of showing one that was meant for her, “THAT’S FOR ME? OKAY!” as she plopped down and began to tear it open. We’ve had to glue three ornaments back together due to her intense and passionate desire to carry around them the house like treasured possessions, and you know what? I’m okay with it. The one she’s most enamored with is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ornament she chose from Hallmark this year — poor Mickey was so loved that his little hand popped right off. In 7 years when she pulls it out of our ornament box  we’ll be able to show her the little bits of leftover superglue and tell her about the Christmas she spent with that ornament in her hand until we were forced to take it away from her.

Tonight Vivi was taking orders in a notebook “What do you want to eat?” she asked Cody.

“A green salad.” said Cody

“Candy canes it is!” replied Vivi.

She also thinks Santa says “Yo ho, yo ho!” and whoever corrects her will be put on my naughty list.

It’s really here, Christmas morning is two sleeps away and it’s going to go by so fast. This may very well be our last Christmas with a two year old around and I want to remember every silly little thing she does. It may also be Addie’s last Christmas believing in Santa, to be honest I’m almost ready to give up the gig and explain to her that Santa is a feeling and a spirit that I very much believe in and have her be more involved with it in the coming years for Vivi so she can enjoy seeing the magic through her little sister’s eyes.  I have this feeling if I don’t consciously remind myself to be present on Christmas day or if I let myself get too caught up in everything I think I have to do I’ll forget and the day will be over.

That seems to happen too much lately.

I wish I could record every little moment of Addie and Vivi’s relationship, it just seems too good to even be real. (They danced, kissed and hugged each other through all of our church program on Sunday.)

This Christmas, it’s going to be a good one and it will be thanks to those two little lovebugs up there. Their relationship is the best gift I could have ever been given.

What magic do the little kids in your life bring to your holidays?

*****

I’m so thankful to have partnered with Hallmark during this holiday season on this series of sponsored posts to talk about all the little ways this season can bring us together and allow us to look at life and our relationships in a new way, I know that’s exactly what it has done for me. When’s the last time you mailed a loved one a real card? Save $5 on your $10 purchase in stores now with this printable coupon.

the gift of being (sponsored by hallmark)

Vivi has this way of fitting against me as I rock her at night, it’s going to be one of the things I miss the absolute most as she gets bigger and more independent. One of the things I ached for the most when I was trying to get pregnant again was to hold a little sleeping body, I’ve never put a sleeping Vivi down before I was ready. I can remember times when I simply couldn’t bring myself to put her down, so I didn’t — and I don’t regret a single hour spent with her little sleeping body in my arms. Holding a sleeping toddler is like holding a sleeping wild animal, it has all the potential to kill you where you stand — but while it sleeps it’s peaceful.

Addie's 9th Birthday Party

There’s this powerful feeling that comes with caring for a little human (which can also be terrifying and all encompassing if you think about it too much.) You are their safe place, their home base. When the snow is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is so cold outside snot freezes on contact, you can hold them in your arms and keep them safe and warm — they don’t have to worry about windchill and tomorrow’s forecast because they have you. Even though Addie is now nine and composed entirely of long, bony limbs, I’m still one of her greatest comforts. The amount of gratitude I feel that Cody and I can provide a warm, safe home and family for these little girls is what begins my prayers every night.

I’m beginning to think that many of my neighbors keep their Christmas lights out year round not because it’s 2 degrees outside and they’re kind of lazy, but because they give a warm glow to an otherwise chilly and often dark landscape. As much fun as I had in LA  two weeks ago, it just wasn’t the same without (real) snow. At this exact moment I’m sitting by the fire covered in cats and basking in the glow of Christmas lights hanging from my mantle. I was never much for decorating at Christmas until we owned our own house, and after four years we have December down to a traditional science. The little girls each have an advent they attend to each day and every Sunday we watch a different Christmas movie. The car is nothing but Christmas music thanks to satellite radio and the house always smells like some sort of baked good (today was carrot cake and corn bread.)

Last week we all bundled up to build a snowman and worked together to build a pretty sweet snow fort. It was a bittersweet moment where we were the perfect little family I had always wanted to be a part of growing up. Today Vivi ran around the house with a string of bells yelling ‘JINGLE BELLS, CATS! JINGLE! BELLS!” She randomly breaks out into festive songs and Addie has taken to wrapping anything that even remotely resembles a gift. “You’re sending that check to the electric company? THAT’S KIND OF LIKE A PRESENT! LET ME WRAP IT!”

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This year Addie has gotten into the giving groove, we even chose a family to play secret Santa to and Addie has been in heaven wrapping dozens of little gifts that we will leave on their doorstep on Christmas Eve. She insists that every single gift be adorned with ribbon and a bow and she takes great pride in how far her wrapping skills have come this year. Vivi, the constant observer has taken on a fondness for wrapping as well, in fact there’s two plastic plates and a wad of bubble wrap under the tree right now — wrapped, taped, and tied up with ribbon in a way only a toddler could.

Vivi wrapped a plastic plate for you, not to spoil it - but she's wrapping bubble wrap next.

With Wink’s recent vet trip I realized I like this place where I’m at, I like that I can make him feel better. I like that I can give gifts to my friends, family and a few strangers along the way. While it’s often unheralded, I like that I can give my kids simple comforts so they can go about being kids — not having to worry about hunger and homelessness. Maybe it doesn’t mean much to them now, but maybe someday it will. I like being the giver — all that time I spent so stressed out about what to give my parents when I was younger, I have to believe that they too at some point crossed over into enjoying being the giver more than the receiver.

Maybe we all do?

******

I’m so thankful to be partnering with Hallmark during the holiday season on a series of sponsored posts to talk about all the little ways this season can bring us together and allow us to look at life and our relationships in a new way. Save $5 on your $10 purchase in stores now with this printable coupon.

 

epic naps of denial (sponsored by hallmark)

We’re moving in four days. Not a single box packed. I took an epic nap of denial today. So there’s that.” -@oiler02

Christmas is less than a week away, which means I should be vibrating with holiday cheer and magic — but instead I’ve become incredibly familiar with the epic nap of denial.

Today I made the mistake of going to the grocery store sad, hungry and alone which means potato chips for breakfast with a Pop-Tart chaser.

Wink decided yesterday that what we really needed in place of nice Christmas dinner  and presents was a vet bill for $170.

Seems this is the fourth year in a row of the Christmastime glums, but each year has been marked by sadness for a different reason. Not sure what’s wrong this year, but three years ago I can clearly remember being so sad and pregnant that I took up permanent residence on the couch watching old Christmas movies. Meet Me in St. Louis is the one that sent me over the edge, Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was the nail in my proverbial coffin of holiday cheer.

I don’t dislike Christmas, in fact I rather enjoy a dozen different aspects of the holiday season — especially all the lights. I’ve convinced myself that my neighbors keep their lights up until April, not because they’re lazy — but because Christmas lights brighten up the oftentimes miserable landscape of Indiana in winter. I love playing Santa for my girls, I love the smell of our tree, I love seeing Vivi play with her little nativity and I love when Addie gets home and attends to every advent we’ve accumulated over the last several years.

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But there are other aspects that aren’t my favorite. The commercialism, the greediness, the gimme-gimme and the complete loss of the whole reason Christmas began.

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Being with my family and having our little traditions is what carries me through each year. Like Chinese food and  watching Elf on Christmas Eve (modified from my childhood tradition of crab legs, which I still love, but no one else does and when you’re the only one who actually enjoys a tradition it’s really just everyone else putting up with your strong need for drawn butter and difficult food) Christmas jammies, (started when we moved to Indiana) a giant bowl of M&Ms on Christmas Day (Cody’s childhood tradition) and a delicious Christmas brunch (sort of a conglomeration of both our childhoods and the belief that brunch is the best most indulgent meal of life.)

This year we added driving around looking at Christmas lights and cutting down our own Christmas tree.

It doesn’t help that so many other people in the world are all “GO GO GO!” and if you’re not “WHY AREN’T YOU?” I did everything important ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to leave the house in December, but that’s part of the problem — I haven’t left the house. There may be a little cabin fever going on, but I don’t want to leave the house, it’s crazy out there. So I hang out in the house painting with Vivi, playing games with Addie and baking way too many treats.

And really? It’s not that bad. Vivi is hysterical, Addie is always down for a snuggle, the house smells of Christmas and there’s always these two little girls together:

...Vivi's little paws wrapped around bunny...

Maybe I’ll stop looking at my epic naps of denial as failure during the holiday season and instead look at them as a way to recharge and take care of myself during a season full of so much. I mean, I’ve already finished the things that needed to get done, and there will always be more things to do so why not just snuggle down right here in front of the fire and zzz…

Where do you find the most magic during this time of year?

*****

I’m so thankful to be partnering with Hallmark during the holiday season on a series of sponsored posts to talk about all the little ways this season can bring us together and allow us to look at life and our relationships in a new way. I’m also thankful to Hallmark for having cards that deal with some of the more difficult moments in life, the ones that show it’s okay to not be 100% and that laughing about it is okay. If you haven’t been in a Hallmark store lately you should go, a mailed card really is the best way to get to someone in this increasingly digital world. Save $5 on your $10 purchase in stores now with this printable coupon.

good birthday? nine.

I knew Addie wasn’t a birthday party girl, even Addie knew she wasn’t a birthday party girl.

But we tried a birthday party anyway, and to make sure I did something wrong in the entire birthday process I requested no gifts on her birthday invitations.

Curious how it turned out?

She didn’t enjoy opening her birthday presents at all.

Addie's 9th Birthday

Addie's 9th Birthday Party

She didn’t like any of her gifts.

Addie's 9th Birthday
Addie's 9th Birthday

Her cake was pretty lame.

Addie's 9th Birthday
Addie's 9th Birthday
Addie's 9th Birthday Party

Took my chance on a new local bakery for Addie's cake. I'm so happy I did.

No one showed up to her birthday party and no one had any fun at all.**

Addie's 9th Birthday
Addie's 9th Birthday
Addie's 9th Birthday

Here I was afraid I’d never, ever be able to outdo her 8th birthday and before going to bed she had the nerve (THE NERVE!) to say “Mom? This was the best birthday ever, thank you.”

9.

Halfway to being able to kick her out of the house. Halfway to how old I was when I got engaged. NINE.

(**so here’s the funny part, she thought she had too many friends at her birthday party and got really overwhelmed about halfway through and needed to take a little breather. My darling sweet introvert, we both knew a big party wasn’t really her thing but she wanted to give it a try. After we dropped her last friend off say said “Mom? So, let’s never do a birthday party again okay?“)

((In case you can’t see the photos on this post, or understand sarcasm in the written word — she really did love every bit of her birthday.))

 

 

 

remarkable gratitude (sponsored by hallmark)

Let’s talk gratitude, and not the ‘what we all have to be thankful for’ gratitude but the really deep-down-in-your-bones gratitude. The kind of gratitude that not everyone relates to, the gratitude that can seem a little weird and out of place at times. The kind of things you think to yourself but rarely, if ever, utter out loud. Vivi’s gratitude lies in armfuls of bunnies.

This is worse than Vivi finding out there's no Santa. The alternate bunnies have been compromised. The end is near.

I’ve started to teach Addie about this kind of gratitude, the kind that lets you find little bits of lovely in even the most bleak of situations. Like a perfectly sharpened pencil at the start of a math test or a really comfy dress that looks like a very fancy dress so you feel as though you’re getting away with wearing your pajamas in fancy situations. How about when you get one of those big lettuce hearts in your salad and the dressing has seeped down into all the little crevices and it’s covered in crouton dust (maybe that last one is just me?)

My mother-in-law delights in the little burnt french fry bits at the bottom of the bag. Cody loves it when he gets the last bowl of cereal out of a box and it’s half cereal dust, it apparently makes the milk taste better. I love to shove my face in the fur of a cat who has been sleeping in the sun, the smell of warm cat is intoxicating to me.

I’m grateful when someone my own age calls me hun, darlin’ or sweetie. It means strangers can be friends and not everyone in this world is a terribly cynic.

There aren’t even words for how grateful I am that the heater in my car gets so hot it makes me grumpy. The heater in my previous car didn’t work, which made me grateful that I discovered that wearing big mittens over thin tight gloves kept my hands warmer than any single pair of really expensive gloves.

I’m grateful for my garbage disposal, that’s another one of those things that when you go without — you miss them terribly.

More than anything these days I am painfully grateful for my family. Even though we annoy each other quite often, we are still each others’ favorite people to be around. The relationships that exist within these four walls are each powerful and unique — from the obvious one between Addie and Vivi to the more secret one between Cody and Wink. Having a place to call home, and a home I love being in was never something I grew up with.

Christmas Photo Attempt 2013

I like it here.

Silly as it sounds, I’m grateful for my ability to find the lovely in most any situation. If only everyone would stop and smell the proverbial roses a little more often. We were talking about perspective at church yesterday and one of the more experienced ladies said “A good way to look at your life is to ask yourself ‘Will this matter in 100 years?’”

The time I spend on the floor laughing with my little girls will matter in 100 years, because it will carry over to how they love their babies and their grandbabies. The fact that I spend all this time on the floor in cat hair covered sweat pants?

That won’t even matter next week.

What are the little strange and remarkable things you find yourself quietly grateful for?

What are you doing in your life that will matter in 100 years?

******

So grateful (see what I did there?) to be partnering with Hallmark during the holiday season on a series of sponsored posts to talk about all the little ways this season can bring us together and allow us to look at life and our relationships in a new way.  

 (Our holiday photo props are courtesy of Hallmark, more on those later!)

sticks, stones and the screen.

So, I have some autoplay video ad pop up every once in awhile and I’m not entirely sure where it’s coming from. Sorry about that, I’d fix it but then nothing would come up because when I go in my backend things get messy. (See also: Backend jokes will never cease to be funny.)

I was told tonight I need to “Get Help.” in order to “spare my daughter the vicious cycle I am in.” Which is, um, raising her? I guess? You see, I wrote an article about why I put ‘no gifts please’ on Addie’s birthday invitations. I was still kind of in the throes of pneumonia so everything I wrote during that time was kind of grumpy and pessemistic, maybe even a slight bit snarky? (True story, my editor had to have me to make an article a little more ‘perky’ because I sounded like the harbinger of doom in the written word. Oops.) Anyway, when I wrote it I told Facebook I *knew* I was going to get a good solid reaming on it, because Babble. But facebook , oh Facebook, being comprised of people who know me and consider me a friend said nice supportive things like “I think it’s great! You’ll be fine!” Then the random Internet commenters HAD! THEIR! DAY! *pitchforks! RAAAR!*

There were supportive comments , but the mean ones were really mean. What bothers me is the people who have no problem calling me a name from behind a screen are probably also raising people — and kids learn a lot from their parents behavior. Three years ago I would have begged everyone who disagreed with me to “Give me a chance! I THINK YOU’D LIKE ME!” but now? Clearly those people don’t know me, at all. Despite the fact I feel terribly inadequate as a parent — I’m doing okay. My kid is well adjusted and if she ends up using drugs and making bad life choices because I asked that her friends come to her birthday party simply to enjoy hanging out and not stress about bringing gifts? Then so be it, I’ll take those therapy bills when they come.

Please, if you disagree with me TOTALLY FINE, but I don’t think you need to call me names or tell me I’m denying my child her childhood simply because she doesn’t need more stuff and most families these days don’t need to be spending more money on other peoples’ kids. I took Addie to see Frozen on Friday and she clapped like a seal and kept her hands clasped right underneath her chin the entire time, which is exactly what I do when I see something I love. We traipsed through a magical forest yesterday and cut down the most perfect Christmas tree ever then danced around like fools to hipster Christmas music as we decorated the tree and put some form of snowman on every flat surface in the house.

She is not being denied the magic of childhood, but you’d never know that if you based your assumptions of me off of the 100 comments from people who do not like me much at all because of one thing. Up until the ‘vicious cycle’ comment my favorite one said “You sure do write about you a lot in your post.” Which would be funny if it was sarcastic, but *whispers* I don’t think it was.

I have wild and vivid fantasies of filling our loft with @lovesac. I've loved them since they first creeped on the scene in Utah when I was a kid.

Oh kid, when you read this someday I hope it is deep within your bones how much I love being your mom and how proud I am of you for being exactly who you are and constantly blowing me away with your ever-developing personality that teems with kindness and empathy. I mean, this parenting gig is no joke, but if I can take even one smidge of credit for how spectacular you are? Then I really did do something right.

(So I just read through this again, and I still sound pneumonia grumpy. I just wanted to say something like “I LIKE ME ENOUGH TO NOT BE BOTHERED BY MEAN STRANGERS!”  “Don’t let one (or 100) stranger’s opinions of you ruin who you know yourself to be!” and “If you disagree with someone either keep quiet or be civil about it, is that too much to ask society?” But clearly you already know all of that because you’re here and you’re all really nice people. I have the emails to prove it. So sorry about that, I have a feeling the pneumogrumps with fade once this fractured rib heals, because OW.)