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.


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.


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.


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.

I blame Ke$ha for making me want to go insane, go insane throw some glitter make it rain. There’s also P!NK who was all “Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?” and I was all, “You know what P!NK? I haven’t, but I sure would like to.”

So I bought some glitter and did just that. (Well, I made Cody’s baby sister throw it. (And by “throw” I mean “blow” which brings this whole thing back to Ke$ha meaning maybe that girl really does know what she’s talking about.))

Here’s what to consider when you throw glitter.

A) You want to be far enough back so the glitter doesn’t blow into your expensive camera.

B) You want a nice wide aperture so you get more in focus, not just one or two flecks of glitter and a fingertip.

C) To have a wide enough aperture you need somewhere bright to shoot (which usually means outside which is good because who wants to blow glitter all over their house?)

D) Having something bright (like the sun) means you don’t have to set up external side lighting to highlight the glitter (which is what I found a lot of photographers doing when I did my “how to photograph glitter in the air” research. It’s totally fine if you want to do it that way but I’m kind of lazy and if the sun is willing to light stuff up for me? Go ahead sun!)

E) Finally, you want a nice high shutter speed so you can catch the glitter mid-flight. Too slow and you’ll wonder why you just took a picture of someone blowing into their hands.

I shot these with a Canon 7D with a 70-300 f/4.0-5.6 IS outside on a super bright and sunny day.

BUT. Guess what happens when you shoot at high noon on a super bright and sunny day?

If you guessed harsh shadows, pat yourself on the back because you would be correct.


I fixed this little conundrum by moving her up next to my light colored house. BOOM. Instant reflector.


(Isn’t she pretty? She’s single! Florida area! Call today!)

Another thing worth mentioning is that the f/stop actually went up an entire stop in the following photo yet the background became even more lovely and blurry. BUT HOW CASEY?


Compression! In the first photo I was standing fairly close to her (well, as close as 70mm will let you stand, perhaps four feet?) In the photo above I’m standing at least 12 feet away from her but I’m zoomed in which allows her to be totally in focus while the background just blurs into lovely oblivion. This is why I shoot portraits with my 70-300 lens if I can, they’re so much more realistic and lovely and it’s also why I don’t need a 70-200 2.8L. Stand far enough back with a zoom lens and you’re going to get a delicious bokeh that rivals any low aperture lens at half the size and a quarter the cost.


I shot this on AI SERVO which means if and when her hands moved while she blew on the glitter they would stay in focus. I also set my shutter to continuous release (which is *I think* 8 frames per second on my camera.) I wanted a nice wide aperture so I could get a lot of the glitter in focus but have her just slightly out of focus. Even though it was bright as dickens outside I moved my ISO up to 400 so I could get my shutter speed higher to catch the glitter in mid air.


For the first set I filled her hands with just silver holographic glitter, not super fine but also not that scratchy crummy stuff we used in grade school.

How to Photograph Throwing Glitter

The second time around (once I was sure I knew I was getting what I wanted) I filled her hands with foil confetti stars as well as a fine holographic blue glitter.

How to Photograph Throwing Glitter
How to Photograph Throwing Glitter

More sparkle is never a bad thing.

Since I was zoomed in on her no glitter ended up on me or in my camera and thankfully it was a calm day so the glitter carnage on her was kept to a minimum as well.

I think that’s it! Any questions? Comments? Concerns?

My next big idea is to fill a balloon with glitter, blow it up then photograph it popping. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE GLITTER BOMB!? WHEE!

So there you go, Ke$ha and P!NK sang about it. I made it happen.

(animated GIF tutorial can be found here.)

“Hey Red, are you going to give me a Christmas list anytime soon?”

He already had the mittens. #CatsWithThumbs #OneEyedCats #CatsDressedAsSanta

“I have a Pinterest board. I mean, ignore the $3,200 ring (so pretty!)…but there’s some good stuff on there!”

I’ve since employed Shireen who is essentially a female Cody with much nicer boobs to help him pick out any and all Christmas gifts. Honestly there isn’t much that I want (Except maybe a storm door, hey! I want a storm door! A full glass insulated one that locks! Christmas for grownups! So glamorous!) but I know I always appreciate a good list of fully backed suggestions from people I trust. My friend Anna says she always thinks of me (and often consults me) before making a major purchase so I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about.

While some of these things aren’t exactly amazing Christmas gifts (stocking stuffers maybe?) they are things I am loyal to, buy over and over again and use on a daily basis. (None of them are samples or freebies either. Bought with my own money or bought for me as a gift.)

EOS Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream – 3 x 7-ounce bottles $10.44

Whoops, lies. I received my first bottle of this shave cream from BlogHer in 2009. But I’ve bought at least two dozen bottles since so that kind of negates the fact that the first bottle was a gimme. I’ve been known to use coconut oil as well but it seems to wear my razors down a lot quicker. I like the vanilla kind best.

Clarisonic Classic – $195 Olay Pro-X Advanced – $21.97

I own the Clarisonic, have since early 2010 and it is the best darn thing ever. I use it twice a day and nothing (NOTHING!) has ever helped my skin more. Natalie did an extensive comparison of the Clarisonic vs. the Olay Pro-X and guess what? The Clarisonic won! Here’s one thing the box won’t tell you, when you first start using the Clarisonic your skin may purge, meaning it may break out even more, specifically in little whiteheads. It’s all the deep garbage working its way out. I used to be able to feel the zits bubbling under my skin, especially on my cheeks and chin. Now? Nothing. If I were to tell you to save up for one thing? This. This is what you save up for.

Microplane Zester – $12.95

If you have ever zested anything with a cheese grater, this thing will change your life. You will find excuses to zest all the things. Oranges! Limes! Lemons! Nutmeg! Hard cheeses! No pie will be too much for you and your zester.

Dyson Digital Slim Multi-Floor Cordless Vacuum Cleaner – $263.20


Cody got this for me for Casey week (my birthday and Mother’s Day in the same week) THE THING IS AMAZING. Yes, I have a big Dyson for real vacuuming, but to be able to just pull this one out when Vivi spills cereal or to get a little pile of cat hair off the couch? Angels sing. I’m not kidding.

In-Oven Thermometer – $21.00

Do you cook meat? You should have one of these. Once your meat is prepared you stick the thermometer in, throw your meat in the oven (or on the grill), set an alarm to go off when the meat reaches a certain temperature and BOOM! Perfectly cooked meat. You’re welcome.

UP – $16.46 Finding Neverland – $1.99

I judge people by how they react to the first 15 minutes to the movie UP. You should own it. Same with Finding Neverland. These are movies that make you feeeeeel. Sometimes you just need to feeeeeeel things.

Nature Bright SunTouch SAD Lamp – $70.99

Do you have your SAD lamp yet? You know how I love my SAD lamp. This one has taken the internet by storm.

Contigo Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle – 2 for $30.48

BEST WATER BOTTLES EVER! I put ice in one the first night I had them and when I went to fill it up the next night I found the ice from the night before hadn’t even melted completely. WHAT? I have kept one of these in my car on a sweltering summer day and the ice never completely melted. Even better? They never sweat! BEST! BOTTLES! EVER! (Shireen can also vouch for best bottle ever status.)

Urban Decay Naked or Naked 2 Palette – $50 each

The colors in the Naked palette are a little better (lots of sparkles in the Naked 2) but the Naked 2 case is aluminum, snaps shut and is super sturdy (the brush is better too.) I’m not an eyeshadow wearer but when I do? I want them easy to use and I want them all to match. These all match (super flattering neutrals) and are really easy to use.

Kindle – Starting at $69

I can read in bed without my glasses while lying on my side. I could read with one hand while pumping, breastfeeding or holding a baby. I know some people love real books, I like books, I love to read, but real books are kind of a hassle. Kindle to the rescue.

Silver Tag Earrings – $28 also available in gold $42

My friend Lisa makes these. I wear these earrings 90% of the time because they go with everything and are in a word, lovely.

Fresh Sugar Lip Balm – $22.50

Emily got me hooked on this stuff when I was pregnant. I’ve since gotten several more people hooked on it since. I’ve tried every shade except for coral. Rose is my favorite followed closely by Berry. It feels wonderful, it looks wonderful and it works wonderfully well. The case screws instead of snaps so there’s less chance of user error or the cap popping off.

Layering basics from Shade Clothing – starting at $12

You will find one of these, or some version of these, on my body 95% of the time. They keep all the parts you want covered (armpits, cleavage, butt crack) covered without bulk. Best basics ever. (I prefer the baby tee in a medium for layering and adore their more casual t-shirts. ADORE.)


(this photo illustrates the earrings, the effectiveness of the Clarisonic, the Fresh lip balm (Rose) and two layered Shade shirts.)

So now it’s your turn, what do you LOVE that I should know about?

(Cody’s gift is already taken care of. BOOM! It’s amazing, I can’t wait for him to see it. I’ll tell you about it in private if you need an idea! I also really want to tell you about the gifts I’m giving my family but they read this (hi guys!) and I don’t want to spoil it.)

eighteen months

It’s a super exclusive Blurb sale!

You guys responded so well with my last offer from Blurb they’re letting me share a code good for 25% off you Blurb order!

I just made my third Instagram book last night…they truly are becoming one of my most favorite things in my home.

Blurb just introduced planners as well. PLANNERS! HELLO PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT!

The code is EARLYBLURBS in all caps. Feel free to tweet or share this post, but please don’t post the code itself. (And y’all are so awesome you play by the rules.)

Fine print: This offer is good for 25% off your print product total up to a max discount of $200 USD, AUD, CAD and 120 Euros. Offer is set to expire on Nov 21st at 11.59pm Local time. Offer may only be used by each person once on books made by you. Offer may not be used in conjunction with volume discounts, other offers or used retroactively on previous orders.


Disclosure: I was not provided anything for promoting this sale aside from the code itself (which I totally used.) I’m just a huge Blurb fan. HUGE.

Vivi and I are figuring out a system.

One element of that system is that she now showers with me, strange, but kind of a must given that her favorite thing to do in my room when left unattended is turn the volume dial on the stereo all the way up, then turn the stereo on. Addie did the same thing once at Vivi’s age and literally scared the crap out of herself, Vivi just thinks it’s hysterical.

After breakfast we head upstairs, she runs to the side of the tub tearing at her clothes while simultaneously trying to dive head first into the tub. Once she’s undressed, she sits down and splashes in the water by my feet. Occasionally she’ll take a pouf and scrub my leg and I can always count on getting poked in my bellybutton at least once. Once I’m all clean I rinse out the bubbles, put in the stopper and fill the tub with a few inches of water so I can get ready and she can stay entertained and contained. Oh master bathroom, you’re the best.

Fresh and clean piggies.

We take a little walk everyday after lunch, they’ve become shorter as it has become colder but they maintain the same pattern: wave at the planes, bark at the dogs, poke mom with all the sticks, throw all the rocks, tweet at all the birds and scream “BYE!” to all the cars.

If we were to have kids close in age like my sister and I are I would need to be 6 months pregnant right now.

(Can you hear the hysterical voices laughing in my head?)

We still call Vivi the baby, and far as all of us are concerned? She is a baby. While we’re certainly not throwing our hands up in the air and saying NO MORE BABIES FOR US! but we are in agreement that we’ll let Vivi be our baby for as long as possible, even if that means forever.

After Addie there was so much to worry about when it came to having a second baby beyond the stress of simply getting and staying pregnant. Vomiting through pregnancy, antenatal depression, postpartum depression and all that other stuff that comes with newborns. With Vivi all those problems were there, except for the postpartum depression. Sure, secondary infertility was a fat stupid blowhole, but Vivi came exactly when she was supposed to. I earned a big old gold sticker in patience and trusting in the will of God when it comes to babies with that little six year trial.

Vomiting through pregnancy? Pretty darn horrible. But I had (and continue to have) an amazing support system around me and generic Zofran for $12, amen.

Antenatal depression? Look, if there is any argument or debate I’m willing to go all in on it’s the one about depression medication while pregnant. Something in my brain is wired completely wrong and it will never be fixed with surgery or lots of good, happy thoughts. When the risk to me and my unborn baby outweigh the possible side effects of medication while pregnant? I’ll take the pill and thank modern medicine, thank you very much.

My labors are easy (thanks wide hips!) my babies come out healthy (thanks God, genetics, modern medicine, and body for working in unison on that one!) and while postpartum depression nearly did me in with Addie, it didn’t even touch me with Vivi, meaning that I have been able to spend the last 18 months fully immersed in my own life and it has been wonderful.

Funny how when something terrible ends on a good note it can shift our whole perception of an event if we let it.

Take Cody and me for example, we had an awful three years that culminated in what I call the horrible ugly. We stuck it out, fought for us and now ours is a true love story better than most anything Hollywood could come up with. If you were to ask me in the thick of the horrible ugly if marriage was worth it? I would have thrown things just to watch them break. But if you ask me now? I will say that marriage, even with all of its crap, growing pains and potential garbage is the very best thing I have done with my life.

Ask me how much I’m looking forward to another baby as I’m barfing in aisle 8 at noon on a Tuesday? I’ll punch you.

Ask me after the last 18 months of magic with this little face?

miss vivi on a wednesday.


We can’t lie about the ugly when we tell others about our sweet, that isn’t fair. And when we find ourselves envying the position of others we must take into consideration how much gunk they’ve waded through to get where they are at.

In order to distinguish light, we have to have darkness.

In order to have any frame of reference or gratitude for true happiness? We have to know absolute misery.

I am happier than I have ever been at this point not because I fit in a certain size, have great hair, a great family or a great job.

I am happy because I have gone through so much to get here, I can accept that great won’t last forever, but it will always come back if I’m willing to acknowledge it when it does.