Friday, October 31, 2014

Flashback Friday: Halloween Edition

In honor of Halloween falling on a Friday this year (YAY!!), it's only appropriate to dedicate this week's Flashback Friday to all of my favorite Halloween costumes of the past. I absolutely love dressing up, getting into character, and pretending to be someone (or something) for a day. And up until now, I have never worked for a company that has allowed me dress up for the occasion (or that cared much about the spirit of the day, in general), so I was extra excited as I put on my costume this morning. "What am I?" you ask. Well, you'll have to follow me on Instagram to find out. But I'll give you a hint: our entire family is dressing up as characters are from an all-time classic movie (which just so happens to include one of my favorite soundtracks ever). I can't wait to put the tot in her outfit this evening and have her join in on our family tradition this year. It's going to be fa-boo-lous!

I should note that my sweet friend Shanna was always my partner in crime for Halloween, always ready and willing to dress up, go out, and celebrate life with me (no matter how ridiculous my ideas were). She was a huge contributor to our Halloween fun, and  I will miss her so incredibly much this year.

So here we go, a trip down memory lane - Halloween style.

In 2005, some friends of ours threw an 80's party. Shanna and I spent the day going through racks at Goodwill, ratting our hair, and singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". We had such a blast that night with all of our friends (and all of that booze in the background).

In 2009, Jake insisted on being something masculine, so we bought him a plastic gun, a cowboy hat, and a fake mustache and went as a cowboy and saloon girl.

In 2010, we bought a fog machine, decked our basement out in Halloween decor, 
and threw our first Halloween party (beer pong included). 
Wayne & Garth was quite possibly my favorite costume EVER!

In 2011, Jake and I dressed up as Juno MacGuff and Paulie Bleeker. 
I guess people actually thought that I was pregnant, because I got a lot of dirty looks while drinking at the bar. (Kuddos to me on the stellar costume!) We were obviously too busy having fun to get a picture together, but I assure you that Jake looked exactly like the image below. 
He was hilarious in those short shorts!

In 2012, we decided last minute to dress up which led to a late night trip to Wal-Mart and a lot of burnt fingers ironing on those logos. In the end, it was totally worth it, because these costumes were a huge hit. People wanted to throw pong balls into our helmet cups all night long!

Wishing you all bucket loads of candy and more treats than tricks this year! 
Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Fall of Firsts

As we are nearing the end of October, I thought I'd do a recap of all of the fall fun we have been having lately. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, but experiencing it with a toddler makes things so much more interesting! We have been crossing things off our fall bucket list left and right, with the exception of the ultimate fall activity which is rapidly approaching. This year the tot will get to partake in the trick-or-treating festivities, and I am so very excited for her! She loves people and adores other kids, so I can't wait to see her little face light up as she waddles door-to-door in her costume with her pumpkin bucket in hand. And to add to the weekend excitement, two of our favorite people are coming to town to meet the tot, take in the Mizzou/Kentucky game, and celebrate Jake's birthday, so I'm sure this weekend in total will be nothing short of epic.

We started the month off with a trip to the pumpkin patch. I hadn't been to one in years (and Jake had never been), so it was the perfect fall activity to begin with. We met up with my mom, sister, nieces, and nephew on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, which meant that the place was packed! There were kids and parents and pumpkins everywhere, but it made for a pretty interesting time. Thankfully, there were plenty of activities to do, from playing in a giant box of corn to the petting the farm animals to riding a hay wagon out into the patch to see all of the pretty pumpkins. Taylor's favorite activity? Riding around in the twins' Radio Flyer, of course, and petting the animals. We had to carry her out of the barn kicking and screaming, because she refused to leave the piglet pen (which was perhaps the sweetest thing ever). After our pumpkins were purchased and the tot was fully covered in dirt, we called it a day and headed for home. We no sooner got on the highway and the tot was fast asleep. Success indeed.

We have also been spending a lot of time in my hometown this month, because - let's face it - nothing beats the countryside in Missouri this time of year. The trees create a backdrop of red, yellow, and orange that is simply amazing. We took full advantage of nature's beauty (and the 80 degree temps) this past weekend when we headed out to the farm for a family photo shoot. Everyone must have been in the fall spirit, because we managed to get some pretty great shots of the entire family (a feat that has never been accomplished until now). Attempting to wrangle my sister's kids and the tot into the same photo is always a challenge, but allowing them to run around and play on the farm created the perfect atmosphere. Everyone was a little sweaty (as we were decked out in jeans, sweaters, and boots for a fall appearance) but full of smiles. The farm is a place that is near and dear to all of our hearts (more so now since we are nearing the anniversary of my grandfather's passing), so it was extra memorable capturing those moments in one of our favorite places.

After our sweaty family photos, it began to cool down just in time for our annual church hayride that evening. My dad recently purchased a new tractor and was down right giddy about pulling a wagon this year. He was even more excited that his youngest granddaughter was going to be along for the ride. I was a little bit leery as to how the tot would do seeing how she doesn't like to sit still or be held but, surprisingly, she did very well. The hay bales were set up along the edge of the wagon so she was able to get down and walk around in the center. She bounced around from person to person, even crawling up into their laps on occasion. Once the sun went down, the tot didn't last much longer. She snuggled into her daddy's arms and was out for the rest of the ride. It was simple yet refreshing, and something we aren't able to do in the city.

Sunday after church, we spent the afternoon celebrating my dad and brother-in-law's birthdays. We had a delicious home cooked meal then sat out on the deck and watched the kids play. Unfortunately, Taylor napped through the majority of it but, once she woke up, she was refreshed and ready to go! We spent the rest of the afternoon taking wagon rides around the yard and playing in the leaves. We wrapped up the weekend with lots of hugs and kisses before heading back home. This has been the most incredible month, full of so many activities and new experiences for all of us. All of our fall fun makes me so excited for the upcoming holidays. I can't wait to dive into our Christmas bucket list soon, but, for now, I'm going to soak up the rest of fall for as long as possible.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baby No. 2

Don't worry, this isn't some lame attempt to announce another pregnancy. Trust me when I tell you that no one in our family is ready for that! While the tot is still number one in our household, she has recently become baby number two at daycare. And she hates it. If there's anyone she loves as much as her dad and I, it's her babysitter. In fact, she typically cries when I pick her up in the evenings. A good problem to have, right? Sure, until something (or in this case, someone) comes along and steals all of the attention. All was well until a new baby arrived at daycare three weeks ago. Since then, Taylor's world has turned completely upside down. Our tot has become second fiddle and she's letting all of us know that she does not like it.

In order to communicate her unhappiness, she has decided to skip the adorable age of one and head straight for the Terrible Two's. Not a day goes by without hitting, biting, and the most intense temper tantrums. Don't get me wrong, all of these things suck, but I can live through them because I know they're just phases and eventually she'll grow out of them. But what really gets me is the fact that she hears me tell her no, turns to look at me, and then stares me in the eye while she does the exact thing I just told her not to do. She is blatantly choosing this bad behavior - and she's only ONE! Seriously, what is going on?!

In order to counteract her poor behavior, she displays moments of pure sweetness. Like last tonight.  I was sitting on the floor playing with her and out of nowhere she dropped her toys, walked over to me, sat on my lap and laid her head on my shoulder (this is her version of a hug). Then, she followed that sweet gesture with a kiss - on the lips, no less! How can I be even mad at her for throwing a toy at my head when my heart is bursting with happiness? I can't help but think of her as a Sour Patch Kid - you know, sweet one second and sour the next. She's far too smart for her own good.

While we are vastly aware of her terror at home, what I didn't realize was that our poor sitter was experiencing equal disdain until I went to pick Taylor up last Friday night. Our sitter tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You're it." As in, it's your turn to deal with the little hellion until I'm forced to see her again on Monday. Crap. Now I'm the mom of the problem child at daycare. I can handle these moments of shear agony when they're confined to our home, but the fact that she is acting out at daycare is not okay. She is the second youngest (with the youngest being a mere three months old) yet she is aggressive with kids who are 2 and 3 years older than her. As she grows, I am learning that this is just a part of her personality - girlfriend is intense when she plays (and has a number of scars already to prove it), but when does it stop being "oh, she's just a baby" and start being "you need to do something about your crazy child." I don't want to miss the transition from her not knowing any better to a lack of good parenting.

My sitter's solution to all of this madness? "You probably need to have another baby." Ha! Yeah, right. The thought of having to deal with Taylor times two makes me seriously reconsider procreation a second time around. Most days I just drink another cup of coffee and wait for this nightmare to end. I mean, there has to come a point when she'll be sweet and loving again, right? Or is that why people choose to have another baby? Are those first few months (when they're unable to move or speak) the only time they're actually enjoyable? But if my memory serves correctly, those months were spent in a sleepless haze of confusion and bloat, and I'm not ready to sign up for all of that again. Not yet anyhow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Taylor's One Year Photos

It's not often in life that I find someone who's exceptionally talented and has a true passion for what they do, but our photographer-friend Crystal Arellano is the exception to this rule. Although photography isn't her full-time occupation, you would never know it by the dedication and creativity she brings to each shoot. While these images capture Taylor's personality at its finest, you wouldn't believe how completely uninterested our tot was in taking these pictures - with the exception of one moment during the shoot when Taylor managed to break free from my arms only to run up to Crystal and give her a big bear hug. It truly was the sweetest thing ever!

As a mom of two young boys, Crystal has endless patience when it comes to photographing kids. She was loving and caring with our overly tired (and extra crabby) girl, even when Taylor just wanted to scream and run away (which she did nearly 80% of the time). Yet, somehow, Crystal managed to capture the most beautiful, candid images of our family. This certainly has been my favorite photo shoot to date, and we couldn't be more pleased with how these photos turned out. Crystal, you rock. I hope this post brings endless business your way (or at least one or two new clients. I mean, this blog isn't that popular)!

Please check out Crystal Arellano Photography for all of your photography needs. Girlfriend has a great eye and exceptional talent. Thanks again!


Who taught this girl how to do the 'Carlton'?



Please do not use these images as your own. If you are friends or family, just ask and we will gladly get you copies!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Small Town

"I was born in a small town," but that's the only similarity that John Cougar Mellencamp and I have.  I high tailed it out of that town at the ripe age of 17, and I have no desire to ever reside there again.  It's not that I dislike the town or the people that continue to call it home, but small town living isn't for everyone.  It sure as hell isn't for me.

I had a memorable childhood which consisted of countless sleepovers, riding bikes around town, prank calling boys, and constantly seeking one adventure after another.  I was out the door after breakfast and back in just before dark.  My childhood was amazing.  My teen years, not so much.

As a teen living in a town that shuts down at 8:00 p.m., I was forced to resort to any means necessary in order to entertain myself.  I was restless and bored which led to poor life choices, damaged friendships, and a reputation that I wasn't proud of. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a trouble maker or a juvenile delinquent.  I was a good girl who came from a loving home and went to church every Sunday.  I just couldn't wait to escape that small town and all of the drama that encompassed it.

The summer after graduation felt never ending, which prompted me to leave for college as soon as the dorms opened.  Upon arriving, I didn't take into account the fact that I only knew a handful of people at the University and none of them lived remotely close to me. Classes hadn't even begun and I found myself so lonely I couldn't stand it.   I called my mom sobbing every day because I was absolutely miserable.  I thought I had made the wrong choice, and I wasn't sure I was strong enough to make it on my own. I didn't miss my hometown, but I missed its familiarity. I missed my family and the comfort that came from living in a small town. It's hard to walk down the halls of a dorm room and not know a single person or eat every meal by yourself in a cafeteria full of strangers.  It's even harder going days on end without seeing a single person you know. My mom assured me that things would get better, and she was right. Eventually, I made friends.  One by one, little by little. And the phone calls to my mom became less and less. I finally began to feel like I wasn't just getting by, but I was building a life for myself.

Looking back 12 years later, it turns out that moving away and starting a new life outside of those city limits was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It forced me to step out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, to befriend people I never thought I would, and to challenge myself with new experiences (some of which changed my world forever). My eyes had been opened to endless possibilities, and there was no way I could go back to the life I had previously known.

And while this path that I have chosen suits me to a T, my sister is just the opposite.  She has created a life in that small town that she absolutely loves. She works at a local business, her children go to the same school we went to, and everyone knows her by name.  Even though we come from the same upbringing, we are complete opposites, which just goes to show that what works for one person doesn't always work for another.  And that's okay.  I've learned that you have to find what works for you.  The drama and hardships will follow you wherever you go (unfortunately, those are just a part of life), but you can choose how you handle them. Where you decide to live doesn't really matter, because if you're happy and surrounded by the people that you love, you will be always feel at home.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Arellano Photography. You can check out the rest of her beautiful work here

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


On September 27, we woke to the most beautiful weather - blue skies, sun shining, and 75 degrees. We also woke to a baby with runny eyes, a runny nose, and an "I just want to go back to bed" attitude. The poor thing was miserable, but alas it was her birthday and we were determined to make the most of it. My mom and I spent far too long in the kitchen Friday night, but we had a table full of treats ready for our party guests to enjoy. My dad and husband were on decoration duty, so I sent them outside with a drawing of my vision and a tote full of decorations and told them to get to work. While we prepped the food and the men blew up balloons, the tot was fast asleep in her crib. I knew a long nap was our only shot of her making it through the party, and, thankfully, she crashed instantly. At that point, I was pleasantly surprised by how well everything was coming together.


By 1:30 the food was ready, the tables were set up, and the bounce house was inflated. Taylor woke from her nap just in time to put on her birthday outfit and take a few quick photos before our guests arrived. However, just as I was handing her off to my dad so that I could greet our guests, I heard her scream bloody murder. And she didn't stop. She wailed until we finally took her outside and put her in the bounce house. And then came the smiles! She was so happy just sitting there watching the other kids bounce and go down the slide. Who knew?!

In order to contain her happiness, I quickly encouraged everyone to head toward the food table. I strapped the tot in her high chair, gave her a handful of strawberries, and sat down to engage in one of the few conversations that I would have during the entire party. I no longer turned my head and Taylor's white shirt and gold tutu were covered in red. But that was the least of my worries. Five seconds after she finished eating, the tears started again. She was fading fast which meant that it was time to expedite the cake smash. We tore off her strawberry-stained shirt, attempted to light the candle (which I never was successful at), and sang a quick rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. She stared absent-mindedly throughout the song, but as soon as I sat the cake down in front of her she lit up! What started as a couple of fingers in the icing soon turned into an entire face plant into the cake. Our tot did not disappoint!

After we decided that she had enough sugar for a lifetime day, we dug her out of the crumb-filled highchair, stripped off her tutu, and headed straight to the bathtub. Ten scream-filled minutes later, she was dressed and back outside to open presents (which was the last thing she wanted to be doing). I opened her gifts as quickly as I possibly could, throwing out thank you's as I wiped Taylor's nose and tried to contain her on my lap. As soon as the gifts were opened, we let her play in the bounce house a little longer. We knew she needed a nap, but I wasn't about to make her miss playtime with her friends on her birthday. After all, I'm pretty sure that was the only part of the day that she truly enjoyed (aside from the cake).

Here's our tot giving true meaning to the phrase "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to."

As our guests started to leave, I took the tot inside to lay her down. I'm not sure if it was the abundance of sugar or the fact that she had reached the point of being too tired, but she laid in her crib and screamed for a solid 20 minutes. At that point, I couldn't take it. No amount of crying was going to put her to sleep. As soon as I picked her up, she laid her head on my shoulder and wrapped her body around mine. I sat in the glider and rocked her for what seemed like forever. I could hear doors closing and cars pulling out of the driveway. The party was ending and I didn't get to say a single 'thank you' or 'goodbye'. But at that moment, I didn't care. All my sick baby wanted was to be held by her momma, and I wasn't about to deprive her of that. As we rocked, I sang "Hush Little Baby" on repeat - the same song I sang to her the very first night she slept in her crib. Then I realized that the detailed party that I had planned and all of the food and decorations that I had crafted by hand - none of it mattered. What mattered was that I was there to comfort my baby when she needed me. I can't think of a better gift than that!

A special thank you to all of our family and friends who attended Tay's birthday party, whether in person or in spirit! It's always hard having family and friends who live far away, but I hope this post makes everyone feel like they were a part of her special day! We are so thankful for the abundance of gifts she received as well as the love that surrounded us that day. We love you all so very much!