Addie has no idea that in exactly 8 hours she will be boarding a plane bound for Houston, Texas.

She will think the two of us are headed down there for the weekend. A work trip I was able to bring her along on, surprise!

At 11:30 am Mickey Mouse will call her and wish her a fun time on her Disney Cruise.

If a window breaks in the lower 48 at 11:31 am CST, I’m sorry, that was Addie’s squeal.

While I am headed to Texas for a work trip, it won’t be just any old trip.

It will be a week on a boat in the Western Caribbean with my heart, my darling Addie.

She will turn 8 on Friday, somewhere off the coast of Mexico.

She wanted to go to McDonald’s for her birthday, I do hope she’s not disappointed with the slight change of events.

Self expression of the seven year old female.

I honestly cannot believe this is my life.

Remember the super cool present I mentioned for Cody? Well it came and it’s pretty amazing.

It's a blanket! Made from t-shirts!

It’s a blanket made out of Cody’s (and some of my) old t-shirts. I have been saving them for years, knowing that I would someday do this for him. I finally found Project Repat who would make it the way I wanted and for a fair price.  Even better, they “guarantee that [their products are] made in the USA in a healthy working environment, where people are treated with dignity regardless of their backgrounds.

I chose a 5×6 blanket and sent in 29 shirts with specific instructions to use the front and back of one shirt. Rather than using the the reverse side of the shirts for the back, I chose to gray fleece for the back. The fleece is super cozy, the blanket is made AMAZINGLY well and it is just about the best snuggle/nap blanket possible.

But.

As soon as I laid out the blanket I noticed that they had used the back of two shirts on the front of the blanket, two backs that I didn’t care about at all. It didn’t take long to realize which shirts were missing from the blanket. Cody’s IU Law shirt from his first year of law school and his ‘Athlete of the Week’ shirt from high school. I triple checked to make sure I didn’t forget to mail the shirts and once I couldn’t find them I contacted the owner via their live chat option on their website.

Nathan Rothstein answered me and promised me an answer as soon as possible. Sadly the answer was that the shirts had somehow been lost somewhere during production and they would most likely never be found or replaced.

Ouch.

Nathan genuinely apologized in our chat, through several emails and in a handwritten letter addressed to me with a check refunding all of my money. He was fantastic to work with, meant his apology and followed through with it. Impressive Nathan. Very impressive.

I completely understand that small businesses are run by humans and humans make mistakes. While we’re bummed those shirts are most likely gone forever, they’re just shirts. We have 28 other shirts immortalized, 28 shirts saved from the landfill and one hell of a blanket to nap with for the rest of our lives.

Does this really look like a guy who is bothered by a couple of missing shirts?

project repat blanket

Nope.

I fully support Project Repat and what they do, they put out a darn fine product and Nathan assured me in his note that my problem has been brought up with his production partners and will be worked on from within. At this moment they have all my faith and support, and I wholly support them if you’re in the market for a snuggly blanket made from t-shirts. (Don’t let me down guys. I’ll hear about it if you do.)

The 5×6 is a perfect size for me, but Cody’s toes stick out just a skosh. If you’re making one for a tall person? Go big. There’s also an option to completely customize your blanket for an additional $50, which means you can specify where each shirt goes on your blanket. If you’re worried about shirts going missing it may be worth the extra investment to make sure they end up how you want them.

Want 20% off? Use the code ‘fairwagejobs’ at checkout on ProjectRepat.com

You know who else approves of our new blanket? This guy:

And he doesn’t approve of much.

Cody’s post is titled “Long Distance Holiday Travel Doesn’t Have to be That Bad.”

Mine is titled “Forget the Road Trip, Let’s Fly.”

You see, we both wrote posts about holiday travel (sponsored by Citi)  with kids in tow over on Babble. Cody’s makes me sound like a sane and competent road trip warrior:

Casey is also very good at putting together a bag full of snacks and treats.  The snacks and treats bag isn’t filled with chips and cookies, and other types of junk food, there are some of those items in the bag, but it’s filled with celery, blueberries, carrots, crackers, and other healthy snacks.  I’ve found that snacking on just junk food during a 30 hour road trip brings about that death like feel much faster than when I snack on celery sticks.  Plus, I hate getting out of the car only to learn that I no longer fit in any of the clothes I brought on my trip.

I on the other hand come clean about the last cross country road trip we made:

I am supposed to be writing about how to survive a long road trip with kids, but the truth is? I can’t survive a long road trip with kids. In fact, there’s a stretch of freeway right outside Kamas, Utah and if you look really close you can still find little bits of my sanity that were lost there in June of 2011.

We were going to drive to Utah for Christmas this year. I was fully prepared to dish out all sorts of advice about the many road trips we’ve survived in the past, but the truth is I am a giant long distance road trip pansy. Cody still sounds pretty optimistic about the whole thing though, aside from all of us looking and smelling dead by the time we made it to our destination. (To be fair, Cody had Vivi and me fly back from our last road trip to Utah, it was THAT bad.)

Are you long road trip warriors or do you hold off your travel plans until you can fly? Let us know over on Babble!

Cody’s downward spiral of football depression has begun.

Last Saturday was the last Saturday of College football until the bowl games begin.

After this past Sunday there are only 4 regular season weeks, 3 playoff weeks and the Superbowl left.

The twinkle in his eye that comes every September is fading fast and eight weeks ahead of us are weeks void of Monday night football theme songs, the commentary of Phil Simms, Dan Diedorf, Tim Ryan and Troy Aikman. Not to mention we’ll soon be without the stylings of Cleatus the dancing football robot and Sports Center will soon be overrun with too much baseball and not enough NFL.

Jersey guy’s jersey will soon be put into seasonal retirement.

John Elway and the Broncos football ornament on our tree will be packed away before the New Year.  John Elway is always the first ornament on our tree, has been for the past 13 years. He gets the top spot of honor, front and center, way up high. It’s as though the branches part for #7, even our Christmas trees are Bronco fans.

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Hi there.

In case you’re here from that list where I am supposedly the number two mom blogger and you’re looking around wondering “Really? Her?” don’t worry, you’re not alone. While I am honored to be included in the list, I’ve spent the day and most of the night shaking my head thinking “What a strange day.” I mean, number two? Out of a hundred? Out of a hundred thousand (maybe more?) Not to mention I’m sandwiched between a hysterical and famous New York Times Bestseller and one of the most famous moms on the Internet who just happens to live in the French countryside and is listed as one of the best websites of the year on Time.com.

No, really. No pressure!

I’m just here in my cat hair covered yoga pants in suburban Indiana, being equally amazing.

While lists are a nice tidy way to present things, they can also cause a lot of ruckus. Nasty yucky ruckus that involves hurt feelings and the occasional high and mighty. I don’t especially like ruckus, hurt feelings or high and mightys, so while I may throw around my title of “first runner up to the best there ever was” when ordering my children around, I can assure you there’s no awards ceremony or giant million dollar check at my door. It’s just a list.

Speaking of lists, remember that 40 x 40 list I made? Turns out I checked a bunch of things off over the past several years and didn’t even realize it. GO ME. Still on that list? Win a trophy. While I may be a top mom blogger on a list, I am a mom blogger without a trophy. So if you’re feeling left out because of a list? Hopefully you have a trophy you can hold over my head, because man, I really want a trophy.

I’ve had this quote from Conan O’Brien running through my head for the past few weeks, “If you work hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.

I’ve commissioned Robin to paint it all huge, big and colorful so I can hang it above my stairs, making sure everyone in my family sees it every darn day of their life.

Countless good things are happening in my life right now, I mean, can I say that without jinxing it? My heart feels all bursty and squeezy with gratitude and happiness, it’s almost unbearable on some days. I purposely try to find things to be sad about but my obnoxiously buoyant spirit keeps bobbing me back up to the top where all the happiness and glitter float on the surface. What interest is there in someone who is happy all the time? It sounds tremendously boring if you ask me.

Part of me wants to yell and scream “I used to be so sad! It’s still here! Lurking under the surface somewhere! It’s just properly medicated for the first time ever in my life! I promise I’m not always this lucky/blessed/happy/fortunate/positive! JUST ASK CODY! I can be SO CRANKY SOMETIMES!

But instead I’ll just stand here, all sheepishly humble and happy, holding my hand out hoping I can somehow help get you here too.

I'm Vivi, I radiate sunshine.

Work hard. Be kind. Amazing things will happen.

 

Anyone who knows me really well will agree that I am creative, but certainly not crafty. I mean, I have the means to be crafty but certainly not the patience or organization. Which is why you won’t find a “crafty DIY” board on my Pinterest profile. However, you may find a “Pay someone else to do this for me” board someday soon.

I also don’t do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. Bravo that that’s your tradition and way to go with all the super creative hijinks your various elves get into, but y’all? When it comes to December I’m lucky everyone is still alive come Christmas morning, I don’t have it in me right now to keep my children entertained by some elf who poops marshmallows (eats marshmallows and poops jellybeans? I don’t know.) I know my limits, and given how often I’ve forgot my tooth fairy duties? Those little elves can stay on your shelves.

HOWEVER! Christmas and Pinterest got the best of me this year and I crafted the daylights out of some Styrofoam trees. Wanna see? (Spoiler alert: if you want tutorials I’ll break it to you now that I am terrible at tutorials and am going to end up being a giant disappointment to you. BUT! I will happily link to the tutorials I used! I’m thankful there’s other people out there who have the patience for craft tutorials. (And recipes. Seriously.))

I got my craft ON this weekend.

crafty little trees

I should also say I am much more likely to complete a craft it involves a glue gun. Oh how I love the glue gun.

First! Peppermint Wreath! (Tutorial Here)

Christmas Mantel 2012

I used a smaller wreath form since it was going on a smaller mirror and I bought four bags of mints, just in case. I also ended up going around one more time and I sprayed the thing with Mod Podge Sealer in case the thing decided to wilt on me for some reason. Verdict? LOVE. Super easy, super cute.

Second! Pearl Star! (Inspired by this Pearl Tree Tutorial) I figured, hey! Who doesn’t like stars! So I bought a Styrofoam star instead of another tree and glued the thing top to bottom with different size pearls. Loved how it turned out. Hated making it. (Just being honest.)

crafty little trees

Third! Felt Rose Tree! (Inspired by this felt rose tutorial) I used just regular old felt for this one, wool felt is expensive (and I couldn’t find any in the right color.) I wanted it green because even though her all white trees are LOVELY? That’s not what my house is like. Glued a piece of felt to the actual cone (I used a bigger cone than she did) to cover up and peek through of the white and followed her instructions for making the flowers. Pinking shears may have made the job easier and more uniform, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. (I topped it off with a tiny red glittery Christmas ball ornament.)

crafty little trees

Fourth! Red Ruffle Trim Tree! Okay, so this one came about when I saw the trim on a spool while looking for ribbon to make this ribbon tree. The red color was just right, it went with the other trees I wanted to make and so I did. It took 5 yards of the ruffle trim to cover a 12″ tree. I just used regular old straight pins to attach the ribbon. I also cut each piece rather than continuously looping it, starting and ending each row at the same place in the back. I topped it off with a little glittery gold star ornament. LOOK! A TUTORIAL PICTURE!

crafty little trees

Verdict: It was certainly the easiest to make, it’s also very cute.

Fifth! Gold Jingle Bell Tree! Made this one up too. I liked the idea of the bells, so I covered a short tree with Mod Podge and poured gold glitter all over it. Eh, it’s not my favorite, but it fits in and sounds lovely when shaken. I sprayed the glitter with the Mod Podge sealer when it was dry, didn’t need my entire house looking like a glitter bomb went off.

crafty little trees

Sixth! White Rosettes Tree! I saw this trim when I found the red ruffle trim and had to do SOMETHING with it. It’s so lacy and delicate and lovely. I used one yard to cover a 6″ tree. Verdict? Love it. (But it was certainly more expensive with the trim at $6.99/yd.) Finished off the top with a glass marble.

crafty little trees

Seventh! Marble Tree! I had originally planned on making the pearl tree, but when I couldn’t find pearls I figured “Marbles! Same thing!” and bought a bag of big ones and three bags of small ones. Why the blue marbles? Because they are a brilliant shade of blue and I thought they were pretty. That’s why. This one was fun to make and I absolutely love it, the light reflects off of it and it is beautiful.

crafty little trees

The two print outs came from here and here, they are just printed on photo paper.

Garland? (and LED candles?) Thanks Costco ! (With added strand of red lights.)

The tall snowman lamp came from Cracker Barrel three years ago when I bought my house, he’s filled with glitter!

Christmas Mantel 2012

My fingers bear the scars of many hot glue gun burns, but as I stare at my mantel? I don’t mind one bit.

Now to just make Christmas last a little longer so I can keep staring at them.

 

Let’s talk about my dad shall we? Remember last year when I posted about all his ornaments?

Handcrafted by Ken-3836

Well, he’s selling them again this year and a few other things as well. He commissioned a California artist for exclusive rights to this hand painted tile of the Salt Lake Temple. Not into temples? You can get any one of HUNDREDS of tiles in its place. Words and photos can’t even convey how well this frame is made.

My dad's latest addition to his Etsy shop. Handpainted tile in handcrafted frame.

For serious.

dad's sketches

Addie watching my dad work

my dad's sketches

In case you’re looking for something a little more custom, I asked if he’d be willing to build Addie a doll bed for Christmas, nothing fancy, just somewhere for Josephina to lay her head at night.

THIS IS THE PHOTO HE TEXTED ME.

From my dad: "Do you think Addie will like it?" Me: o_O !!! (Doll bed for Christmas)

Which is to say that Addie’s Stickley Mission Style doll bed is made better than ALL OF THE FURNITURE IN YOUR HOUSE. (Unless your house is filled with Stickley, or my dad’s furniture, then it’s just about equal.)

Love you daddy.

(Love all of you who have his ornaments hanging on your trees this year.)

UPDATE: The finished bed…

Addie's finished doll bed is nicer than your real bed. (Made by my Papa.)

Addie hasn’t had the same vim and vigor for Santa and Christmas this year.

merry bokeh eve.

I started to suspect that someone at school told her that Santa was all a lie (I even know which little kid to blame) and Addie being Addie was crushed by the news yet locked up deep in her heart was the hope that Santa wasn’t a lie and her friend just had horrible parents. I voiced my suspicions to Cody who just brushed them off as “She can’t believe in Santa forever.” and his little sister who agreed to help me feel Addie out with where she stood on this whole Santa business.

Early Sunday morning Addie decided she was going to write a letter to Santa. She locked herself in her room with a pencil, a piece of paper and an envelope. When she came out she read the letter to Angee then to me before shoving it in the envelope, addressing it to ‘The North Pole’ and putting it in the mailbox. She was sure I never actually read her letter and I never asked to see it, which was part of my plan.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened her letter later the next day over lunch, maybe it really would be exactly what she read out loud to me, but my maternal instincts knew there was more to the story. Sure enough I was right.

LetterToSanta

When she read the list to Angee and me she never mentioned that she had put an iPad at the very top of her list, let alone that she had circled it with frills and swirls. My guess is she figured that if she got the iPad then she would know Santa was real and her friend was a liar. Way to test your theory Addie. I applaud your pluckiness. (Also the little brother thing? Touche.)

This left me with two choices. A) Give up the gig that Santa isn’t real or B) Get equally creative.

I chose B. Because obviously.

Rather than an iPad (honey, mama doesn’t even have an iPad) Addie will be getting a very fancy hand written letter from Santa that apologizes for not getting her the iPad and explaining that her grandpa and grandma are actually two of his helpers when he and the elves are super busy which is why she’s getting a handmade (by my dad) doll bed and doll quilt (made by Grandma) for Christmas this year. TAKE THAT COMMERCIALISM!

I refuse to let Addie stop believing in magic. I’m thirty years old and still believe magic happens everyday. It may not come from mythical men in fur coats that live up North with little elves, but it is still very much all around us everyday if we take time to notice it. As she makes this transition from childhood to youth I’ve made an effort to point out the real magic life has to offer. The other morning as we were snuggled up in bed laughing about something I stopped and told her that “This. This is what happiness is for me.

Addie and her bear.

She won’t believe in Santa forever, and that’s okay. But she can believe in magic forever. Hopefully this year she’ll be able to see some of the magic shift from reindeer and elves to her very own grandparents who will work so hard to make her Christmas special. She’ll be able to wake up in the home I woke up in as a child on Christmas morning, see, smell and experience what I did on Christmas morning when I was her age. I knew Santa wasn’t real when I was eight, but from the feeling of love, the warmth of the fire and the happiness I felt from being together with my family on Christmas morning?

I didn’t really care.

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I’m so grateful to partner with Hallmark in 2012 on their “Life is a Special Occasion” campaign again and I thank them tremendously for their patience with me, supporting me in all that I do and for sponsoring this post. Life with my family is the most special occasion of all.