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Happy First Birthday Zoe Bear!

Before going to bed last night I told myself that today would be a positive day.  Zoe’s birthday is a joyous occasion–a day to celebrate her entrance into the world.  The 22nd is a day to mourn; the 14th a celebration.  Obviously I didn’t exactly feel the same way when I woke up this morning.  I vacillated between angry and depressed two dozen times between 7 and 830, going from crying to wanting to cursing everyone and everything, back to crying.

But you know what?  Today was actually a good day.  Tuesday is usually a non-gym day because Carter has music class in the morning and it’s nearly impossible to squeeze both in.  But last night I made the decision that as soon as C woke up we’d drive to the gym so I could get a quick but brutal 45 minutes on the elliptical in before heading straight to music class.  I knew I would need it.  The entire way there I cursed my decision–I should’ve just stayed at home in my pjs, preferably in bed, crying.  I even debated dropping Carter off at playcare and then hiding in the handicap bathroom upstairs at the gym and just crying for my 45 minutes instead (sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time I did something like that).  But I forced myself to exercise and it was the best decision I could’ve possibly made.  Climbing off of that machine, red-faced, out of breath, legs rubbery and sweaty (choosing to go an extra 10 minutes instead of showering–I’m sure the moms at music class really appreciated that decision) I never felt so good.  Those endorphins really did their job.  I was able to listen to my cool down song twice without crying.  After grabbing C, I climbed in the truck and listened to “Three Little Birds” on the way home without crying (but with C bitching the entire 3 minutes–“I want Carter songs.  I don’t want Mama songs.  I want Carter songs.  I don’t like this song.”).  I got through music class with the 5 week old baby right next to me without crying.  I got through pretty much the rest of the day without tears.

There were a ton of other things that got me through today besides the endorphins.  Like the amazing necklace my 323 moms got me.  It’s a purple butterfly with Zoe’s name and birthday inscribed on the back, along with three little birds to represent her song.  A wonderful heartfelt birthday card with personalized messages from each family was included.  Everyone’s texts and comments and messages letting me know they’re thinking of us today.  A friend from college is getting married in May and I spent naptime today making plans with two of my other college friends for a mini-reunion that weekend, child-free.  It’s the first time I’ve felt truly excited for something in a long time.  My bi-weekly chat with my Irish twin just happened to be today and we had a great talk.  The weather was gorgeous.  Lurch didn’t pee in the house, and if he popped then he ate it so at least I was never the wiser.  The kids were good (even if C was a complete asshole since he decided to not nap today).  My favorite Girl Scout cookies finally arrived, so I helped myself to a row of Tagalongs (merely because they’re amazing, not because of depression).  I made a delicious birthday cake for Zoe, even if it did turn out crumbly, lopsided and ridiculous looking.  We released a paper lantern in honor of Zoe’s birthday (which Jeff had the brilliant idea that instead of each of us releasing one, each year we should light the number of years she would be.  He’s so brilliant).  

It was a good day.  It was a fitting way to celebrate Zoe’s birthday.  No moping, no crying, no wallowing in self-pity or punching things–just cherishing the things we do have, the things that are going right.  It’s not the way that I thought today would go when I woke up this morning, but it’s the way I hope every February 14th is.

My favorite part of the day?  When we went outside to light the lantern and J saw a star in the sky.  She chanted, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.  Wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”  And instead of her usual wish to be a fairy or a princess, she wished that Zoe was still alive and celebrating her birthday with us instead of as an angel.

It’s moments like that.

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Happy half-birthday Zoe Bear! And yes Jeffrey, half birthdays are a thing on this house, no matter how much you try to deny them.

6 months. Wow does time fly. So much has changed since we lost you. The big things–a new home, a new state, a new car, new friends, new adventures. A ton of little things–your brother now talks just as much as your sister; J started first grade; a billion and one other things I can’t think of at the moment.

How are things up there? Have you started crawling yet? Both of your siblings were very late with all of their gross motor skills. I didn’t think either of them would crawl, that they’d skip right to walking instead since it was taking so long. Turned out they were just a bit late to the game, that’s all.

What makes you giggle? For J it was the sound of a zipper going up and down. Man, that used to crack her up! C loved (and still does) any funny noise we make. Nonsense words are his favorite. That and tickles. Tickles are an easy way to get a spectacular giggle out of both of them.

Are you happy? I don’t think you could possibly beat your brother on that one. Carter takes his Canadian roots very seriously and is the happiest, most laid back kid ever. Your sister on the other hand is…well…fun. Let’s go with fun. Are you a mix of the two? Are you a people-lover like your siblings were at your age? They definitely didn’t get that trait from your father 😉

Any teeth? I’m an awful mother and am unable to remember when either of your siblings started sprouting them. How dare I forget something so significant?! It’s recorded somewhere…I’m just too lazy to look. Especially since your brother and sister are actually playing very well together at the moment and I’m terrified that if I move they’ll notice me and the peace and quiet will stop.

Are you sleeping through the night yet? You would be if you were in this household, that’s for sure! Cry it out starts at 6 months here and doesn’t end til you know only to cry if you actually need something. Mama values her sleep. If you can’t get on board, then you get sold.

Please don’t tell me you hate riding in the car. I’m still traumatized by months and months and months of your brother screaming every time he was strapped in his car seat.

How about food? Found anything you enjoy yet? Your brother loves food so much that the very first time we put that spoon to his lips and he got his first taste of “people food” he started shaking like an alcoholic craving a drink and he hasn’t looked back. We made you half a birthday cake since today is your half birthday (even though your father doesn’t believe in half birthdays. Which is why I don’t think he should get a piece of your incredibly-messy-but-hopefully-very-delicious half birthday cake). But let’s be honest–I wouldn’t let you have a bite of it any way. No desserts til you turn 1! Both of your siblings destroyed their first birthday cakes at their photo shoots and are now sugar-holics. No idea where they get that one from 😉 And then you can follow in your brother’s footsteps and start screaming “WHOOPER!!! WHOOPER!!! WHOOOOPPPPERRRRRRR!!!!” the moment you’re strapped into the high chair for dinner. That phase lasted a good 3 months and I do not miss it one bit.

Hopefully someone is singing songs and reading books to you. Both your brother and sister love books and songs and can’t get enough of either. I’m a bit sick of princesses and trucks though, so hopefully your tastes are a bit more diverse.

The details don’t really matter though. What matters is that you’re happy and no longer suffering. Although I would give anything in the world to know every single detail of your personality, I never will. And it is what it is. Just know that we love you and we miss you. And although disastrous looking, your half birthday cake was absolutely delicious. Happy 6 months Zoe Bear!

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Check your quiet book mailbox!

I needed four new pages for Nolan’s Quiet Book for his birthday.  Two of the pages I decided to do were some of J’s favorites:  the mail and coloring pages.  One side is a mailbox that opens and closes and the flag goes up and down and the opposite page has a notebook and pens/pencils/crayons/markers to draw some “mail” to put in it.  This is still a huge hit two years later.  I noticed when we saw Nolan a couple of months ago that he enjoys coloring so I figured he was ready for these two pages.

There are a lot of things I don’t like about the page I have for J.  First, I used a button and ribbon loop to keep the mailbox shut.  It’s never worked well to begin with (she had a hard time sliding the ribbon under the button) and now it’s falling off completely.  Second, the pockets I made to hold the drawing stuff don’t actually hold it.  It’s constantly falling off.  And, least important, the flag looks funny.

This all meant that although I’ve made these two pages before that I had to go back to the drawing board to find better solutions.  I found a super simple solution for the closed mailbox issue on this blog:  velcro!  I also really liked how The Montoya Family added that zipper in the grass to put stuff inside!  I contemplated doing the same on my page and then either nixing the opposing page that holds supplies or making some felt envelopes like some other pages I had seen.  In the end I decided that it wouldn’t be big enough to hold all of the supplies and I just didn’t care enough to make envelopes, haha.  It just seemed like a bridge too far.

To help solve the pocket problem I decided to make three distinct pockets and make sure they were all large enough.  The first would hold a small spiral notebook; the second a pencil; the third crayons.  While browsing endless “mail box quiet book pages” on Google Images and Pinterest I stumbled across this pin and loved the crayon holder.  Sold!

The flag issue was the easiest to fix.  At the time I didn’t have my amazing and awesome Crop-a-Dile eyelet tool so I used a button instead.  Which works, it’s just not ideal.  And that flag was made out of fabric for some reason, while this time I planned on using felt.

Now that all of my problems were solved it was time to get cracking!  First, the mailbox template.  This was easy since I still had the template from my previous mailbox page saved.mailbox-quiet-book-page-templateI made the mailbox, the door and the flag all a bit bigger and then sized Holtzapple (their last name) so it fit along the bottom.  I learned with J’s original quiet book that felt does not iron well onto felt, so I made the mailbox and the letters out of fabric instead.  Light blue for the mailbox and white for the letters.  For the door I used a dark blue felt and then red felt for the flag.  I ironed sewable Heat n Bond onto the back of all of my fabrics/felts and used my Silhouette to cut it all out for me.  You can find more details on how to cut felts and fabrics on my Cinderella Felt People post.

Then I got to work.

First I lined up the letters on the bottom of the mailbox and ironed them on.  Since there was Heat n Bond on the other side of the mailbox I had to be careful to iron just the bottom part and I made sure to pull it up off of the page immediately after lifting the iron, before it adhered itself on there.mailbox-quiet-book-page-11Then I added the flag.  I placed the flag where I wanted it and then used my Crop a Dile (more information on how amazing it is here) to add the grommet.  So much nicer!mailbox-quiet-book-page-10Next I figured out where the mailbox was going to go so I could sew on the velcro.  I put the soft side on the page and the rough side on the mailbox door.mailbox-quiet-book-page-8mailbox-quiet-book-page-7I also added a ribbon loop on the top.  Really it doesn’t serve a purpose, just looks nice.

Then I sewed the door down, just along the very bottom.mailbox-quiet-book-page-9I lined the mailbox up with the door and pinned it in place.  Then I sewed all around it, starting in the upper right corner and ending where the E is.  Otherwise there’s nowhere for the mail to go!
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Whew, finished with that part!  Although I noticed after I finished sewing it on that somehow the mailbox and door didn’t quite line up.  Still not sure how that happened… 

Then I added some grass and a mailbox post to embellish the page a bit.  I did it on my original mailbox page and I think it adds a lot to it.

First the grass.  I just used some green and white checked fabric that I had on hand.mailbox-quiet-book-page-5Then I cut out a rectangle from some brown fabric and sewed it on.mailbox-quiet-book-page-3Bam!  DONE!  Now for the supplies page.

I cut 3 rectangles out from some bright orange and yellow fabric.  I just eyeballed the dimensions.  Since I can’t cut in a straight line to save my life, plus to keep the edges from fraying, I always fold in all four sides and iron them down to make them as straight as possible when making pockets.  I sewed each rectangle along the top edge (where the opening would be for each pocket).mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-3I pinned the rectangles down on the page and then sewed along the three remaining sides.mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-4For the crayon roll I sewed a line about 3/4 of an inch from the edge from the top to the bottom.mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-5

I repeated this process 7 more times.  I did one line at a time.  Originally I placed two pins where I needed to sew, hoping that would help me keep the lines straight.  It didn’t seem to be working, so I started using one pin instead.  So I would sew a line, pull out my tape measure, mark 3/4″ with a pin and then sew from top to bottom on the pocket as straight as I could.  Then repeat.  Although they definitely could’ve turned out nicer, I was pretty impressed with myself.  mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-6I dug out a notebook, a pencil and 8 (used) crayons and then the supplies page was also finished!mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-1These two pages also took me less than a 2 hour nap time to sew from start to finish.  I’m starting to get the hang of these things again!mailbox-quiet-book-page-2 mailbox-quiet-book-page-1
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I did make one huge mistake after I sewed the pages together and put the eyelets for the binder rings in.  See how there are two sets of eyelets in the mailbox pictures?  Well after I punched the one set I realized that I put them in on the wrong side.  I punched the holes for the mailbox supply page first and if I left it that way then they would no longer be opposite one another.  Which defeats the purpose.  So I punched three more holes on the other side of the mailbox page and then tucked a note into the pages explaining which set of holes she should use.  So close to being perfect!!!!  Oh that and I don’t think the pocket I made for the notebook is going to work very well.  That sucker is going to fall out.  A lot.  Not my book though, so not my problem, HAHA!

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Just what you’ve been waiting for…more quiet book pages!

So Nolan’s 2nd birthday was sometime in September.  I’m a horrible Aunt for not even knowing the date!  I’ll use the excuse that I’m a “fake” aunt to make myself feel better.  I had given him a Quiet Book last year for Christmas with the intention of making pages for him every year for his birthday and Christmas.  I have absolutely no idea if he uses his quiet book or not, but I know he has enough toys and clothing (according to his mother at least) and it’s what I planned on doing, so that’s what he’s getting, like it or not!

I browsed both my own and Amanda’s Pinterest boards dedicated solely to quiet books for ideas.  I settled on a mailbox page, a paper/pencil/crayon page to go across from it, a brush teeth/comb hair page (when we saw him a few months ago he hated having his teeth brush so I was hoping it may help!) and a color matching page.

I’ll walk through the color matching page on this post.  You can find the details for the others in the links above 🙂

I found my inspiration pin on Amanda’s board.  It led to a dead-end link that was just a bunch of pictures of different quiet book ideas.  I googled and searched Pinterest for more ideas for a color match, but liked the gum ball idea the best.  Originally I was going to use buttons like the original pin but I didn’t have any large ones and didn’t feel like hitting the store.  As much fun as Joann’s/Michaels/Dollar Tree is with a 1.5 year old, I like to pass as often as I can.  Plus I figured they’re technically a choking hazard anyway, so I’d just stick with felt ones.

This was one of the simplest pages I’ve ever made.  I started off by searching for a drawing of a gum ball machine on Google Images.  I saved it to my computer, opened it in Silhouette Studio and used that to make a template for the page.gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-templateI used my Silhouette to cut the coordinating colors of felt for each piece.  All except the round circle where the gum balls would go–for that I used just regular white fabric.  Just remember that you need to iron Heat n Bond on the back of any fabrics/felts first before using your machine to cut!  The red package is for materials that you don’t need to sew later, and the purple for ones that a needle will be going through.  As I learned making this page, this is a very important distinction.

For felt I set my machine to a speed of 3, thickness 33 and blade to 10.  I usually double cut.  You can see more details on how to use a Silhouette Cameo to cut felt on my Cinderella Felt People post.

In the case of the red felt I used I had to send it through about 4 times and it still never cut it well.  It was a glitter felt that was super thick.  Lesson learned.

Once I had my pieces I got to sewing.  I started with the machine “pieces”.  First I sewed the change collector onto the grey box.  Then the grey box and the gum ball dispenser onto the red felt.  Since the pieces were so small putting a pin in didn’t seemed like more of a pain than it was worth so I figured I didn’t need it.  Wrong again.gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-3Next I cut out my gum balls by hand.  I already had yellow, green, white, blue and red velcro in my sewing stash, so those were the colors I stuck with for the gum balls.  I sewed the rough side of the velcro (male??) to the balls and then soft side (female?  I could definitely have that backwards.  That’s just what intuition is telling me 😉 ) onto the white round part.  gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-1This is where I made another mistake.  Since the fabric had Heat n Bond on one side since I used the Silhouette to cut it, I thought it would be a great idea to leave that side up…then it would look more like the gum balls were “inside” the machine–the shiny stuff could be glass!  I must’ve used the red (non-sewable) Heat n Bond and not realized it though because that was a b*tch to sew through.  See how it’s all wrinkled?  And my needle got really gummy.  I had to keep pulling it out of the machine and cleaning it off.  Yet another lesson learned–don’t mistake the two different kinds of Heat n Bond!gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-2

It was all easy after that.  I sewed the red piece with the “parts” down first, followed by the white gum ball bowl.  I added the black bottom piece and the little black top part.  Then the little red “hat”.  The biggest pain was having to switch my thread back and forth a bunch of time.  I hate threading the sewing machine for some reason.gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-4Finally I added a long strip of white velcro for the gum balls to rest on when they weren’t in the machine.  gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-5Voila, finished!  This page didn’t even take me an entire two hour nap time to complete.  Although it does irritate me how wonky the machine turned out…gumball-color-matching-quiet-book-page-6

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DIY Toddler Busy Board

C turned 1 back in April and one of his presents was a DIY Toddler Busy Board.  As you can see, this post is just a teeny tiny bit overdue.  That’s just how I like to roll.

I found this pin on Pintest that I pinned (let’s see how many times I can use the word “pin” in a sentence) 2 years ago, knowing that I wanted to do it for a future child.  C already has a ton of toys due to being the second child and a spoiled rotten grandchild, so we decided to keep his birthday low key.  This board was the only thing he got from us.

Once his birthday got closer I started to do some mad research on Busy Boards, looking at ideas for things to put on it and ways to paint it.  Then I started searching the Dollar Tree, Walmart and thrift shops for the items.  We ended up with a decent spread, and plenty of room to add more if we find some stuff.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything at all about how Hubby built the box itself.  I do know that it has sides and a back, so it’s like a giant box.  That way he could screw everything in but we wouldn’t have to worry about C playing with all of the nails and stuff poking out the other side.  Plus the door knob I had would actually turn and the side part moves, which I think is pretty cool.diy-toddler-busy-board-sidediy-toddler-busy-board-2 diy-toddler-busy-board-backIf you have any questions let me know and I can relay them to him and he can answer them!

So this is everything he attached on there:

a wheel from an office chairdiy-toddler-busy-board-wheela switch from a lamp (he just cut off the cord on either end)diy-toddler-busy-board-switch

a door knobdiy-toddler-busy-board-door-knob

an old school telephone corddiy-toddler-busy-board-cord

a door that opens and closes with a sliding lock on itdiy-toddler-busy-board-lock-door diy-toddler-busy-board-door-open

a light switchdiy-toddler-busy-board-light-switch

and door stoppers.diy-toddler-busy-board-door-stoppers

After I painted it he also glued on a combination lockdiy-toddler-busy-board-lock

and a mirrordiy-toddler-busy-board-mirror

After he did his part (which took entirely too long.  I had to nag him for weeks to just do it!) I took over.  Although I found tons of ideas, the way Millionayres painted hers was by far my favorite.  I had a bunch of leftover red and white paint from previous projects so I used those colors instead.  Painting it this way was very time consuming and the lines turned out a bit wonky, but overall I love it.

First I used painters tape all around the front, about an inch from the edge.  diy-toddler-busy-board-3I painted all of the sides and that first inch red.  Then I taped around all of the “things” since I’m like the worst painter in the world.diy-toddler-busy-board-6

I peeled off the edge.  Not too bad…for me!diy-toddler-busy-board-4Then I taped the diagonal lines.  I spaced them out so they were the same width as the tape just to make it easy in my head.  I painted all of the empty spaces (and quite a bit of the painters tape 😉 ) white.  diy-toddler-busy-board-5I peeled off that tape and then covered up all of the white lines.  I just reused the same tape since it was still sticky and about the right length. diy-toddler-busy-board

I painted the remaining space red, and voila it was finished!

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Just in time for C’s birthday, too.  If I remember correctly we had a day to spare.  Perfect.  And he loves it.  It doesn’t keep his attention for long, but really what does??  It’s funny because at first the door stoppers and telephone cord were his favorites, but now that he’s a bit older he loves flipping the light switch and opening and closing the door.  When Hubby built the door he left an empty space in there, so C loves to shove things inside and shut it, then open it to retrieve the object.  Over and over.  He hasn’t shown any interest in any of the other items yet, but I know he will.  All in all, a success!

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The Bibbidity Bobbidity Boutique. Dumbest name ever.

For J’s 5th birthday I took her on a surprise mother-daughter trip to Orlando, Fl–the dream destination for a princess lover like her.  You can read about our adventures getting there and at the Magic Kingdom here.

J loves the Disney princesses, having her hair done, getting makeup on and doing her nails.  So what better birthday present for her than a spot at the Bibbidity Bobbidity Boutique in Orlando!  Basically it’s a princess salon.  A “fairy godmother in training” does your hair, makeup and nails like a princess.  And if you feel like spending $200, your child can also pick out a Disney Princess outfit.  I decided to take the cheap way out and get her the Elsa dress she’s been talking about for months, bring it with me and give it to her the morning of her appointment instead.  Considering the fact that I spent $30 on the Elsa dress, shoes, wand, tiara, “hair” and gloves total, I’m happy with my decision.  And she was super excited to open her present that morning and wear her outfit so she couldn’t have cared less that she didn’t get one there.Js 5th Birthday Trip 6But I’m skipping way ahead of myself.  First things first:  score an appointment.  In the high season it’s damn near impossible to get in.  You can book 60 days out and spots for that day are gone within minutes.  I lucked out since I was going at a good time of year and was able to secure her an appointment at the Downtown Disney location for Monday morning (her actual birthday!  Bonus!) 35 days out.  Whew.

And then with all of our flight mishaps (long story short:  we arrived in Orlando 23 hours later than we should have) we didn’t have time for everything that I had planned for that weekend.  Something had to go.  Obviously we were doing Magic Kingdom, so that left either Sea World or the Boutique.  Although I was 95% sure what J was going to pick, I still wanted to leave the decision up to her.  As much as I hated to ruin the surprise, I told her the two choices.  To her credit, she did think about it for a few minutes before deciding wholeheartedly on the salon.

The morning of she opened up her Elsa dress and immediately put everything on.  A few hours later we headed to Downtown Disney for the appointment.  As we wandered around the Disney store the Boutique was located in waiting for it to be “Princess Jordan’s” turn, I was even more grateful I had pre-purchased the Elsa dress.  They were asking SEVENTY DOLLARS!!!!!!!  And theirs weren’t even as nice as the one I bought her (and by that I mean it was only knee length.  J will only wear “dresses that cover my feet”).  I mean I know Disney ups the prices of everything but you’ve got to be joking!

It was finally her turn!  And this is where we were both disappointed.  She only had 3 choices of hair styles:  a high bun that was very slicked back, a bun with a “colorful hairpiece” or a ponytail with “colorful hair”.  I had seen the girls walking around MK with the high bun yesterday and I’m not going to lie, that hairstyle didn’t look good on a single one of them.  It just looks uncomfortable!  And too beauty queen/pageant princess for me.  I like individuality.  J wasn’t too happy either.  I was under the impression that they would be able to pick a princess and have their hair styled similarly to her.  I mean I guess it makes sense, but for $60 you’d think the “fairy godmothers in training” would have a bit more hair styling expertise.

She went with the traditional princess bun…thank God.  I hated that style, but I don’t think I could’ve handled the other two.  I could tell how disappointed she was and how much she didn’t like it though.  But her fairy godmother was great, doing all kinds of things to make her laugh and asking her all kinds of questions.  So that helped to save the experience.  And she got to keep the makeup and nail polish, which she was happy about!Js 5th Birthday Trip 7Js 5th Birthday Trip 11Js 5th Birthday Trip 8Js 5th Birthday Trip 10Don’t let the smile and appearance of being happy fool you.  She was miserable for the rest of the day.  Well, I shouldn’t say miserable…disappointed is a better word.  She told me that she doesn’t want to do anything like that again, unless she gets to choose the hairstyle.  And that she wished she had chosen Sea World instead.  I felt so bad..mainly because I know J.  If I would’ve realized that she had practically no say in the matter I wouldn’t have booked it to begin with.  She is very particular about everything; especially her hair.  Had I known, I would’ve called around to kid-friendly salons and found a stylist who could do whatever she wanted and then just add glitter and makeup to it.  Probably would’ve been cheaper and she would’ve enjoyed it.  Oh, well…as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  At least we know for next time!

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DISNEY!!!!!!

So my baby girl turned 5 on the 14th of September.  Awhile back I started thinking about what we were going to do for it.  She has a ton of toys and she’s relatively spoiled by grandparents and family so I knew there’d be a ton more on the way.  Her absolute favorite thing in the world is the Disney Princesses.  One of my best friends lives in Orlando (she works at Sea World) and I make an annual trip to see her every year, sans kids.  Best time ever.  I went down with my other best friend in April and while there decided that was what I was going to do for J’s birthday–Disney.  And it would be a girls trip:  just her and I.

Once I let some more time pass to think about it all (which was actually pretty difficult since we had the busiest summer ever and it felt like I was planning ten tons of other things!) and ran it by Hubby, it was the end of July before I decided for sure.  I decided on the weekend (fly down sometime around the 11th and return around the 14th, based off of prices) then called for a spot in the highly coveted Bibbidity Bobbity Boutique (can I just say how much I despise that name?!?!).  I got an appointment for Monday the 14th (her birthday!!) at 1130 am at the Downtown Disney location.  You can read more about our experience there in my next post, here.

The flight was next.  I was able to find us super cheap plane tickets through Allegiant, flying both of us down there and back for less than $200.  I’ve flown with them a couple of times before and enjoy their airline.  They may nickel and dime you for everything, but when you don’t need luggage, seat selection or priority boarding it’s a fantastic deal.  We flew down Friday the 11th and returned Monday the 14th.  The only thing I was hesitant about was school.  Her first day of school was that Tuesday and then I would have to pull her out early on Friday, miss Monday and go in late on Tuesday.  Whatever, it’s kindergarten.  This is DISNEY.  For CHEAP!

My Orlando connection, Noelle, used to work for Disney.  I was hoping that she would be able to scrounge up a ticket or two for free since Disney is EX-PEN-SIVE.  She tried her hardest, but was unable to find us anything.  We were able to stay at her place though, so that made a huge difference in price at least.  Both for lodging and food.

I figured out a general itinerary for us:  Magic Kingdom Saturday, Sea World Sunday, and Downtown Disney/fly home Monday.  Perfect.  I used the phenomenal My Disney Experience app to book our three Fast Pass+s for Cinderella/Rapunzel, Ariel and Belle.  My priority was to get in to see the Princesses…rides be damned.  We can do those anywhere!  For autographs I vacillated between getting a photo frame from Michaels and having everyone sign it (like this) or bringing a book so each Princess can sign her story.  In the end I opted for the book–mainly because I didn’t feel like running to the store, haha.  It worked out well because Auntie Amanda sent J the Disney Storybook Collection for her birthday so I gave it to her as an early birthday present.disney-storybook-collection

All of the princess signed their story, which I love.disney-princess-book-autographs

Well, except for Merida…Brave wasn’t in there!!  Which I didn’t discover until we were standing in line for her.  I was shocked!  So she signed the inside cover instead.

I also researched the best places to sit for the parades and screenshoted any other relevant information.  Kenny the Pirate was the most amazingly helpful website ever!  I spent hours browsing all of his tips and advice beforehand!

I decided to do a little something extra for the character greetings.  I wanted J to color a picture for each princess to give them to keep.  Twofold:  just a little something “special” to make her stand out a bit more and (more importantly) it would kill time during the flight.  I used my Silhouette program to print off cards for each character.  I did Cinderella, Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, Tiana, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Anna, Elsa and Tinker Bell.  I didn’t think we were going to see Aurora or Snow White, but I made one for them as well, just in case.  I put two on a page, downloaded a picture of each princess and wrote their name.  I printed them off and cut each page in half, and voila!  Cheap idea!  And worked very well for keeping J occupied.  And the princesses loved the fact that they got something!diy-princess-cards

diy-princess-cards-2The trip was a surprise for J.  She knew that we were going somewhere, just her and I, but had no idea where.  Or how we were getting there.  Once we were on our way to the airport I told her we were flying, which she was super excited about.  She’s been on a plane once, when she was about 15 months old, but obviously doesn’t remember.  She’s been begging to go on an airplane forever, so this was a real treat for her.

Once we were sitting at the shuttle stop I told her where we were going.J 5th Birthday Trip

We were ready!

The flight, however, didn’t go so smoothly.  We had a scheduled takeoff of 455 pm.  After posting delays in half hour increments, we finally got on the plane at 730.  And sat on it until 815 when it was determined they needed to do more mechanical repairs.  At 10 pm they announced that we were ready to fly.  At 1030 we were still sitting on the plane on the tarmac when they made the announcement that we would no longer arrive in Orlando before the pilots were required to go off duty.  The flight would be rescheduled for 2 pm tomorrow.  After another two hours waiting in line for a hotel voucher, getting on a shuttle and checking into the hotel, we finally collapsed into bed at 1245.

J was a trooper.  There was no complaining, no whining, no nothing.  She was frustrated, but an absolute angel.  
J 5th Birthday Surprise 3We got to the airport the next day ready for our 2 pm takeoff.  We were loaded on, heard all of the schpeels, and headed to the runway.  We were first in line to take off…and then we stopped.  Apparently there was some “tornadic weather activity” in Florida and the pilot was unsure if we would be able to takeoff or if we would have to go back to the airport for another delay.  5 minutes later we got the go-ahead and we were in the air!  J 5th Birthday Surprise 4Since it was the same crew from the previous night, I bet no one was more relieved than the pilots and flight attendants.  They knew there was going to be a massive revolt if we had to turn around.  The crowd was…let’s say…antsy…

Since we arrived nearly 24 hours later than anticipated, plans had to be changed.  The Magic Kingdom was switched to Sunday.  Thank God it wasn’t high season so I didn’t have any problems switching our Fast Pass selections.  Although the Boutique was supposed to be a surprise, I gave J the choice of either going there or to Sea World.  I was 95% sure that she would pick the hair salon, and I hated to ruin the surprise, but I wanted it to be her decision.  And I was right, the salon won out.

We arrived at MK at 830 Sunday morning.  I was hoping to be there for the Welcome Show and rope drop.  And we would have been, except they opened the park 15 minutes early that day!  We did manage to catch the last 20 seconds of the Welcome Show at least.

We made a beeline for Anna and Elsa.  That was a good call on our part…the wait ended up only being about 45 minutes!  And it would’ve been a bit shorter except I got lost trying to find them, hahaha.  My sense of direction is non-existant.

She was completely star struck when she met Elsa.  And I’m not going to lie, I had tears in my eyes I was so excited and happy for her.  J and ElsaShe calmed down by the time we saw Anna and asked her if Sven was still trying to steal Olaf’s nose, which I thought was adorable.  (He’s behaving, just in case you were wondering.)J and AnnaWe had a slight mishap while standing in line.  J had developed blisters on both of her feet, even though I picked out a pair of sandals she wears all the time and never gets blisters from.  She was so miserable that she said she didn’t want to meet anyone else.  We had a bit of a disagreement then, our first one so far on the trip (which is amazing for us), and I told her either she has to suck it up or we’re going back to Auntie Noelle’s house.  After meeting the sisters we hiked it down to First Aid and got some bandaids, then over to the stroller rental.  I was planning on renting a stroller regardless, I just didn’t want to waste precious time getting it at the beginning as the Anna/Elsa line got longer and longer by the second.  Those two things solved the problems and not another word was said about the blisters the rest of the day.  Minus me rubbing it in her face later that she would’ve missed all this if we had skipped it like she wanted to.  A grown-up face rubbing, of course 😉

Since we were in the vicinity, we swung in to see Tinker Bell next.  She loved how sparkly Tinker Bell was!  J asked how Wendy was doing.  Since Tink spends most of her time in Pixie Hollow and Wendy is usually in Mermaid Lagoon, they don’t see each other very often.J and TinkerBellWe also saw Ariel.  For some reason J started asking the princesses to sign the picture she made, the one that was for them to keep, which confused them.  Understandably.  I had to keep interjecting to confirm that the picture was indeed for them.  J and ArielWe also saw Cinderella and Rapunzel.  Rapunzel is telling J her favorite part of the story, which I can’t remember what it was for the life of me! J and Cinderella J and RapunzelAnd Merida, who is my favorite Disney princess, so I had to jump in this picture.  She cracked J up, telling her that she was going to eat 500 cupcakes in celebration of J’s birthday.J and MeridaTiana and Prince Naveen were together.  She adored him.  I have no idea what he was saying to her, but she was in stitches the entire time.  She couldn’t remember what was so funny, but for the next few days all she could talk about was how silly he was.J and TianaWe did the Enchanted Tales with Belle and loved that too!  It’s a shame she doesn’t sign autographs, but luckily I knew that ahead of time.  I also knew that the only way J would get to interact with her was if she volunteered to be part of the show (thanks Kenny!).  I forced her into it and I’m glad I did!  She was at least able to give her the picture she made.J and BelleWe stood in line two times at the same spot, once to see the Fairy Godmother and once for the Tremaine family.  J and Fairy GodmotherThe Tremaine family was amazing.  They interacted with each guest for about 10 minutes and were hysterical the entire time.  Drizella made fun of Anastasia because she didn’t have a picture in the Cinderella story, so Anastasia made sure to add that she’s “so pretty” when she signed her name.  J happened to have the Evil Queen from Snow White with her, so she showed her to them.  They were thrilled that J likes “mean people”.
J and TremainesWe met all of the Princesses who were available for autographs except Jasmine.  J opted to go on Big Thunder Mountain instead of standing in Jasmine’s line, which I think was a good idea.

We watched the Fantasy Parade at 3 and the Electrical Parade at 8, both of which were phenomenal.  We also watched the fireworks show, which completely blew me out of the water.  And to think we would’ve missed both the Electrical Parade and the fireworks if we had done MK on Saturday like I originally planned since there was an event in the park and it closed at 7 that night.  See, things happen for a reason!  That and waking up Monday morning all I could do was thank my lucky stars we didn’t have anything going on for a few more hours that morning and that it was very low key.  How on earth people get up and do that all over again for days in a row is beyond me.  And with more children.  And when it’s a helluva lot hotter (we really lucked out weather-wise.  It rained for about 2 hours, but otherwise stayed cloudy and wasn’t too humid or hot).  They’re insane.

All in all I was very impressed with Disney.  I’m not a big Disney person…I can take it or leave it.  And when I go to an amusement park I want to go on roller coasters, not the spinning tea cups or fantasy rides.  But we had a phenomenal day together.  J was so well behaved.  The park was clean.  The cast members were all above and beyond friendly.  J had a button on that said it was her birthday and I was blown away by how many people wished her happy birthday!  Not just the characters and their “helpers”, but anyone we passed!  It was well worth the money we spent on it.  And I would do it all over again.

Maybe.J 5th Birthday Trip 5

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It’s a Party! A Big Dog Party!

So C turned one last week 🙁  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about it…but as all mothers can relate, it’s bittersweet!  Especially since I look at him now and he just looks older.  He’s not this itty bitty baby anymore…he’s turning into a true toddler.  He just looks so big!  And that’s saying a lot since he’s in the 5th percentile for height and isn’t even on the charts for weight, haha!

Hubby is currently stationed in Virginia, so we’re about 5 hours from my hometown in Pennsylvania.  Since it’s rare for us to be so close I figured I would have C’s 1st birthday party up there so they could join in the celebration.  Since we were in Kansas when J turned 1 and none of our family members could make it out, I decided to take advantage of it and throw the exact same birthday party for C as I did for J:  dogs!

I used the same Etsy seller, PlanB Designs, for C’s invitation:Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-InvitationThe food was served in dog bowls I picked up from the Dollar Tree for J’s party 4 years ago.Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Food-1To drink I whipped up Belle of the Kitchen‘s absolutely delicious Watermelon Lemonade (which was a huge hit!  I doubled the recipe and all of it was gone by the time the party was over!).  To eat we had Puppy Chow (just the recipe off of the back of the cereal box.  No reason to mess with perfection 😉 ),Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Food-2raw carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and broccoli with Vegetable Dill DipDog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Food-3and strawberries, watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe with Fruit Dip (easiest recipe ever:  just two ingredients!).  I used a dog bone cookie cutter to cut the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew to match the theme!

We also served hot dogs with all of the fixin’s.

Having experience with decorating cupcakes that didn’t go so well in the past, I wanted to stick with something simple.  I found this cute pin for dog cupcakes and did my best to replicate it.Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Cupcakes-1I didn’t want to decorate them all the same, so I found a second pin that I liked, this one.  This replication didn’t turn out nearly as well.  Sigh.  Serves me right for trying to make things more complicated than necessary. Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Cupcakes-2Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Cupcakes-3But these cupcakes still turned out loads better than the ones I decorated for J’s Farm Birthday Party when she turned 2.J-Farm-Birthday-Theme-CupcakesI still shudder every time I look at that picture.  They looked so easy!!

Since I learned that C really wasn’t into cake at his Cake Smash photo shoot I kept this cake simple.  I used a box cake mix and canned frosting.  I still made it in the 6 inch cake pan I have, but I used a giant dog bone cookie cutter so it was about half the size of the last cake.  I threw some frosting on top, outlined the bone with a store bought tube of icing, stuck the candle in, and voila, fini!

Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Cake-1Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Cake-2Try to ignore the frosting that’s everywhere on the plate.  Not only am I not a master cake decorate (obviously), but I’m also an insanely messy cook/baker.

I kept the decorations pretty simple.  I bought tablecloths, silverware and plates from the Dollar Tree in dark blue, bright blue and teal to match the invitation colors.  I also picked up a bag of balloons from there and blew up just the matching colors.Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Decor-2I used my amazing Silhouette to cut large dog bones out of dark blue, bright blue, teal and lime green cardstock to match my colors.  I also had it cut out all of the letters for “Happy Birthday Carter” and “One” out of the same cardstock colors.  I peeled the letters off, glued a letter onto a dog bone, punched two holes in the top and weaved balloon string through the holes to make the two banners.Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Decor-4There was a random balloon-animal-type balloon in the bag, so my sister had the brilliant idea to blow it up and form it into the letter C!  Loved it!Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Decor-5

The party was held in my father’s garage.  Super long story, but basically the garage is bigger than the house they live in.  And even though there’s a ton of space inside, at the end of the day it’s still a garage, which means it’s not exactly ideal for pictures.  To help remedy that we hung up an extra tablecloth on the bay door and laid down an orange blanket I happened to find that matched his birthday outfit perfectly!  We figured he could do his cake smash and open presents there.  That way the pictures wouldn’t look as bad.

Final touch:  helium birthday balloons from Party City tied to some Kongs as a centerpiece.  Even though I paid the extra 15 cents for helium for 18-36 hours, the teal balloon only made it about 10 hours before it bit it.  I paid $1.35 plus tax for that one balloon…I was going to display it dammit!Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Decor-3The centerpieces for J’s dog party were much nicer.  I picked up dog toys and rawhides from the Dollar Tree, but I just didn’t care enough this time around to go into that much detail.Dog-Theme-Birthday-Party-Decor-1

I also cut out a “1” from posterboard and taped a bunch of pictures from C’s first year.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find anywhere good to hang it, so I ended up just leaving it laying on one of the tables.  Whoops.

Party time!

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And the cake smash went MUCH better this time.  Figures, the little sh*t!

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The only bad part?  C got his first fat lip 🙁

C Fat Lip

Other than that, the party was a success!  Woof woof!

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One?! Already?!

Well, we hit the big age mark with C on April 10th.  He turned 1.  Bye bye cute little blob of a baby…hello toddlerhood!  He took his first steps a couple of days before his birthday but hasn’t moved much beyond that.  Yet.  I know how this works…once he starts going there’s no stopping him!  Honestly I’m anxious for him to walk on his own (yes, I know.  I’m going to regret that statement back once he can actually do it.  Big time).  The kid isn’t satisified sitting…he has to be moving.  And since he can’t do it on his own yet, that means he needs Hubby or I to hold his little hands, hunch over him and walk all over the house.  All.  Day.  Long.  So the freedom will be so nice when he can move around all by himself!  So I’m definitely looking forward to walking, with one big caveat:  at home.  Once we leave the house to go absolutely anywhere–the store, a friend’s house, the pool, walking the dog–I know I’m going to miss the days of complete control.  That and it will official mean he’s no longer my itty bitty baby but now a real live boy 🙁

I did a cake smash photo session for J when she turned 1 and I wanted to do the same thing with C.  We hired a local photographer to take our Christmas photos and I absolutely loved her.  This one is my favorite from that session and is what we sent out as our Christmas card this year.

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We chose a date (one week before his birthday) and time for the photo shoot and I started to gather everything I needed (okay, wanted).  First:  a birthday outfit.  Although I love both of my children to death, one of the things I miss the most about having a baby girl is dressing her.  J had on the cutest little outfit for her first birthday:  a customized birthday shirt from Etsy, a tutu, and the cutest personalized bloomers ever (also from Etsy.  Man I love that site!).  She looked freaking adorable!!

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C was a much bigger problem.  I spent forever on Google Images searching for things like “birthday outfit 1 year old boy”.  I knew I wanted a bowtie but nothing I found seemed cute enough.  And then I stumbled on this image:

It was perfect.  I had to have it.  I bought a dark grey vest from Target.com and a pair of dark jeans from a local consignment shop.  I picked up two squares of orange and white fabric from Joann’s.  Finally I contacted a local seamstress and asked her to embroider a 1 and a paw print (his bday theme was “dog”) onto the vest and to make a bow tie and tie out of the fabric for me.  He already had a white onesie to wear underneath, the bowler hat from his Christmas photo shoot and a pair of black and white sneakers to complete the look.

Here’s the finished product.  I couldn’t be more pleased!!!!

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Next step:  the cake.  My friend Ashlyn has this AMAZING food blog, Belle of the Kitchen.  I mean seriously amazing.  Her daughter turned 1 a few months back and the cake she made for her was so cute that it stuck with me all this time.  You can’t tell me that isn’t the cutest cake you’ve ever seen?!  Click on the photo to go to her blog and get all of the details!  And while you’re there check out all of her absolutely scrumptious recipes!

Belle of the Kitchen 1st Birthday Smash Cake

Belle of the Kitchen 1st Birthday Smash Cake

Of course C isn’t a girl so I didn’t think pink frosting would be the best choice.  And the roses seemed a bit girlie as well.  But I really liked her cake so I used her recipe for the cake and frosting.  Fortunately it made enough for a 6 inch cake, 12 cupcakes and 2 cakes in a jar (something special for J to have too) because it was delicious!!  Especially the frosting.  It is a must-try.  Like right now.  Seriously, stop reading and go make yourself a cake.  Or at least a batch of frosting.

I wanted to use Belle of the Kitchen’s basic decorating ideas so I searched around for a less-girly finished product.  I found this one and decided it was perfect.  Like Belle of the Kitchen, Director Jewels also kept going on and on about how easy it is to decorate a cake yourself, so I decided to give it a shot.  My attempts in the past have not been so pretty…like these farm cupcakes.  And I didn’t even have to actually decorate them!  They should’ve been super simple!

J-Farm-Birthday-Theme-CupcakesBut it actually did turn out to be relatively simple.  I made the cake, let it cool, then tossed it in the freezer for about 30 minutes (I read somewhere that makes cakes easier to decorate.  I figured I could use all the help I could get!).

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While I was waiting I whipped up the icing and frosted the extra cupcakes.  Then I pulled the cake out of the freezer and coated it in white.

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I actually didn’t end up having enough icing for the cupcakes and the cake, so if I were to do it all over again I would skip this step.  It was unnecessary and was just a waste of frosting (although I’m sure C appreciated it 😉 ).  Then I took about a third of the frosting out, squirted some blue gel food coloring in and mixed it until it was a shade I liked.  I have a cake decorating tool so I decided to use that, figuring it would be easier than messing around with decorator bags.  Definitely not the case.  That sucker was a giant pain in the ass and wasted a bunch of frosting.  Stupid POS.

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Just look at how much frosting is left in there!  What a giant waste!

But anyway, I put the frosting in the tube, screwed on a decorating thinger (I’m assuming those things have an actual name but I don’t have the slightest idea what it is.) and placed random blue dots all over the cake.  Easy peasy!  I repeated the steps, making both green and yellow.  By the time I was halfway through with my second color I knew the frosting was going to be cutting it close to decorate the entire thing.  Fortunately I had only done the top, afraid something like this might happen.  Mental note:  decorate the cupcakes that are just meant for the family to eat at their leisure last, not first!

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Around the sides I opted to go for the ombre look.

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C’s birthday is right around Easter (at least it was this year and last year…Easter is such a strange holiday since it’s date varies greatly every year!) and although it definitely wasn’t planned, I love how it turned out spring/Easter colors!

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So we were all set for the photo shoot, which I was super excited about.  C LOVES food.  This kid can chow down like I’ve never seen before.  I figured with his love of food combined with his love of getting messy/dirty he was going to demolish the cake in seconds.  I thought we’d get some adorable happy photos of him in some cute outfits, make him naked and watch him destroy the cake.

As usual with kids, nothing ever goes as planned.  He spent about half of the 40 min shoot crying, so most of his pictures turned out like this:

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Fortunately he’s the cutest crier ever, so at least those ones have an adorable-in-a-particular-way element.  And our photographer is absolutely awesome, so even though he spent a good portion crying, she managed to get some great shots in.  After, of course, 50 million verses of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Here Comes the Bumblebee”, taking a 10 minute break to walk around the parking lot and look at trucks and finding a life-saver stuffed bear in the trunk of my car.

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Seriously, I’m in love with his outfit!!

And then the cake smash wasn’t much better.  He really didn’t care about the cake at all and made a minimal mess.

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It was nothing like J’s 1st cake where not only she ate the entire thing, but she did it in under 5 minutes.  Twice (at her photoshoot and again at her birthday party).

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And although the photo below makes it look like he ate a lot, that’s not the case.  J, Hubby and I were all snacking on it during the 10 minutes C picked at it.  At least it didn’t go completely to waste!

C-1st-birthday-cake-smash-1Oh well!  We got some cute (crying) pictures out of the deal, I learned that I’m somewhat capable of decorating a cake, and I knew I would only need a small cake for his birthday party next week!  So at least there’s that I suppose…