Friday, February 28, 2014


A birthday celebration isn't complete in our house until the birthday interview is complete! It's by far the favorite thing I have done for the kids in this space! I love looking back and I have just been waiting to do one with Belle! This is her first. If you want to take a walk (or click) down memory lane, here's Jackson's birthday interviews at age 3, age 4, and age 5

(click on the pic to see it larger)

I asked her some questions last week, but she wasn't particularly cooperative and so I thought I'd give her a few days and then try again! She was super into these questions today and it was super easy. Boy are three year olds moody. 

Here's a few thoughts I want to add. Belle can't tell you how old she is without showing you her fingers. We were at the store today and even though she had mittens (and we couldn't see), she was adamant about getting those fingers up. Most of these are spot on: the color pink, Minnie Mouse, her blanket, etc. Her favorite foods have been consistent for awhile and she tells me every day. She loves Frozen songs and apparently sings them in nursery with her friend, MJ, which is probably the basis for being BFFs. 

The most ridiculous answer is clearly playing with tigers. She mentioned this the other day and I figured it was just some random thing in her head, but she was insistent upon it today as well. I even tried saying, "Well, what if the tigers are tired?" And she responded, "The tigers don't get tired. I just like to play with tigers." So... there you have it. 

I snapped this pic this morning. I have been obsessed her pigtail braids lately! I think they are so stinkin' cute. But truthfully, it's the best way to manage her hair. And she's a fan because it helps her hair not get so tangly. She also really, really, really loves dresses. And her Minnie.

And I love this pic because it captures her "real" smile and it reminds me so much of when she laughs. 

The kids are all smiles because they got to play at McDonald's this morning. I can barely handle all the energy in this house and so getting out was a must! I packed pretzels, bought apple slices, got them each a water, and they played for an hour a half. And now, they are all snoozing away. I'm going to call this a parenting win! :)


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Caring for God's Creation: Tips for reducing, reusing, and recycling

I'm not sure how your church service was this morning, but our church this morning was WOW! Our Sunday School lesson was focused on taking care of creation and I was very excited to see this topic approached in the church. The sermon today was a great gospel filled message about how Jesus lived and sacrificed his righteous life so that we could can offer his righteousness as our own! I am so thankful for the gift of eternal salvation!

But back to environmental issues. To me, it seems that the secular community has really stepped in where the church has failed at encouraging and educating people about how we can take better care of God's creation. In attempts to avoid association with environmental groups, who often possess fundamental opposing views than most Christians, I sense the church has backed out of the issue almost completely. (There are bigger issues we have to deal with, right?). But what that means, is that the only message our society gets is from environmental groups that don't have a Biblical fundamental backing. Also, the underlying message that Christians hate the environment.

The scripture obviously doesn't state specific commands to reduce, reuse, and recycle but it does indicate that we are to rule and take care of the earth. And scripture also says that we need to be good stewards of what God has given us. What greater gift has he given than his beautiful creation that he took five days to make before man?

I thought I'd share a few of the ways that our family works to do our part in taking care of the planet. I am no expert and I am learning new ways along the way! It's important to not get legalistic. The important part is to make conscious efforts (yes, it takes effort!) to know that we are doing our part.

Disclosure: We use disposable diapers and it's a possibility that my daughter might be using them until she's in college. Unfortunately, she's not interested in potty training even if we beg her to save us money or to stop filling landfills. It's what we decided that works for our family practically and financially. So if your family uses plastic baggies everyday, no judgement here. Just decide what works for you! Also, there are times when I buy paper plates and utensils, like for parties and stuff. I don't feel guilty about it either! Again, it all comes down to making wise and practical decisions that benefit your family and the environment.

Ways we try to Reduce:

  • We use glass and plastic containers for lunches and snacks to avoid using plastic baggies. Eventually, I'll probably buy some reusable baggies.
  • I like to buy items in bulk, like flour, oats, rice, etc. This reduces our trash and recycling, but it also save in manufacturing and transportation costs that smaller packaging requires. 
  • Also, I avoid buying individually packed items and use containers at home to divide them up. So much less waste, and also it's cheaper. Works for fruit cups, chips, applesauce, homemade lunchables or even 100 calorie packs. 
  • We save disposable plates, cups, and utensils for special occasions. No need to create trash if we can just put forth a little effort to get the dishes clean. And I do like to get plastic items so that way it can be rinsed off and recycled!
  • We only run our dishwasher and washing machine when it's full... but that's not really thing that takes effort! There are always lots of dishes and laundry.
  • We check out books from the library like crazy people and I rarely buy books because most books only get read once or twice. I am not opposed to buying books that will get lots and lots of use.
  • My family might think I'm super crazy about informing them about the toys that my kids would like for birthdays and Christmas. I'm not trying to be super controlling. What I am trying to avoid is getting toys and gifts that will go end up unused, broken and/or, in the trash within a week. 
  • I make sure to leave hangers at the store if we do buy clothing new. They can reuse and recycle and it reduces my trash! 
  • Ultimately, I like to reduce what we bring into the house to what we really need and want.
Ways we try to Reuse:
  • Thrifting! Buying gently used clothing and other housing items is an excellent way to help those items from going straight to a landfill! I have been needing a crock pot for months but didn't want to spend so much for the size I wanted. I finally picked one up at the thrift store for $8! 
  • When we do use plastic baggies, or when we get them from friends or family, I always try wash and reuse. I realize this is a bit crazy, but my mom always did and so did my grandma. It actually works out great because we acquire baggies enough that I never have to buy them for the rare times we use them!
  • I reuse plastic containers all the time, like sour cream or the containers that lunch meat sometimes comes in, even ones that fast food items come in, like baked potatoes at Wendy's.
  • I often use old t-shirts for cleaning rags-- cut them up to whatever size you need. 
  • I'm not a repurposing furniture pro, but I did paint an old entertainment center to make an organizational shelf for the kid toys in the basement.
  • Derek prefers a his water on the go from a 20 ounce bottle and isn't a fan of reusable options. He is really good about refilling the bottle several times before it goes into the recycling. 
  • I save our egg cartons and give them back to local chicken farmers. I've given them to friends, taken them to farmers market, and even posted on craigslist once. I'll email the guy from time to time to see if he wants to come pick up more. 
  • Ultimately, I like to give second (or third or forth) life to as many items as I can... even the "single use" items! 
Ways we try to Recycle
  • We have the option of recycling through our trash company. It's like $3 extra a month, but that's not much to sustain local jobs and to keep items out of landfills. Our recycling container is always more full than our regular trash.
  • The one thing our recycling company doesn't accept is glass. I save the glass containers and make an occasional trip to a nearby recycling dumpster. A lot of times they are at schools or grocery stores. This is a great option if curbside recycling isn't available or an affordable option!
  • While I try to remember my reusable shopping bags, there are often times I forget and acquire a ton of grocery bags. All of the grocery stores have a container in front to put used bags. The kids love helping with this task!
  • There are tons of resources for recycling miscellaneous items. The local Converse store recycles old tennis shoes into rubber pieces for playgrounds. The local goodwills accept old electronics-- they employ people to disassemble so that parts are recycled and disposed appropriately. Target and Best Buy have containers to recycle old ink cartridges. I even read about a sock company this week who recycles old socks into insulation. 
  • Ultimately, I like to explore feasible and economical options for recycling as much as I can!
I'd LOVE to hear some of your favorite environmental friendly ideas! What else could I be doing better? I'd like to look into those gadgets you can get for where you plug in electronics that stop the power once fully charged. And we might try to garden this summer, too!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The reason Jackson will never go to Mars

Bullet points separated by topics. I'm getting fancy around here!


I was waiting to do a post about the Olympics because I thought there might be something notable to post about. I was pretty excited for the Olympics to begin a few weeks ago and so were the kids! Turns out that the Opening Ceremony was the coolest part.  I didn't get to watch it with the kiddos, but Derek did. This is how it went down:
  • Belle was so excited about Belgium, Belize, and Belarus. She was thrilled that people "with her name" were on the Olympics. Seriously, I can't type that without laughing.
  • Jackson kept saying that he has traveled to all the countries they announced. Derek reminded him that he has only been to several states, not countries. And then Georgia was announced. "See, Dad... I have been there!" 
  • Also, Jackson was very concerned for the people of Hungary. "Dad, do they not have food there?" 

Closing ceremonies are tomorrow. More like the Hallelujah Ceremonies. If I never watch NBC Commentators again, I won't be sad. You know, the ones who make athletes cry. Also, I am really, REALLY ready to get back to regular programing. The Blacklist anyone? The Amazing Race? Survivor??? I can't wait much longer.


As you are probably well aware, Jackson is pretty into planets, stars, and pretty much everything space related. Today as we were driving twenty minutes to Chick-fil-a for dinner, Jackson kept complaining about how long it was taking, so I brought up how long it would take to get to Mars. I read about the Mars One mission a few weeks ago, so my son thinks I'm pretty cool for knowing this kind of stuff. Well, I remember it being a ridiculously long trip, so I told him it would take one year. Like, if he left when he was five, he'd get there when he was six. (Turns out I overestimated, 7 or 8 month trip depending on orbit). Jackson's response:

  • "But you can't have a birthday cake on a space ship! I would NEVER go to Mars!" 
There are a million and one reasons I wouldn't go to Mars, but missing out on birthday cake wouldn't be a priority. But, that's okay. From what I have read, all missions to Mars involve a one way trip. I'll make all the birthday cakes necessary to keep Jackson on this planet!


So, during the same week that Belle turned three, Jackson's school has an open house and we enrolled him in kindergarten. It seems like a cruel thing to do to a mother in one week!! Jackson (or Jack as he wants to be called in school) was pretty timid when we visited his class room, but after looking around and playing at different centers, he decided that kindergarten might be fun. The convincing factor:
  • In Kindergarten, you get TWO recesses!!!!!!!!!! 
  • There are more boys enrolled than girls, which to him, is awesome. 
He keeps asking when he gets to go to kindergarten because preschool is clearly lame now. There's still several months before I'll be ready to send him away for full day school! Who am I kidding... I probably won't be ready.

Other Miscellaneous Happenings:

  • I cleaned out Belle's room the other day and packed up too small clothes and unpacked bigger sizes. Want to know what I found? The cutest little outfit that I picked up for her birthday. :( I am so sad. 
  • Jackson has been playing basketball and it's been so fun to watch! I am hoping to get a post up soon. He's improved SO much!
  • Belle got into an arguing match with another little boy this week. "No, I'm three." ... "No I AM three." So on and so forth. Turns out he just had a birthday too and they were both pretty possessive!
  • This weather this week has been a breathe of fresh air. Literally. Like, you can go outside and breathe and not choke on the frigid below freezing temps. We have played and played and played outside. It's supposed to get cold again (boo!) tomorrow, but at least we had a nice little sneak peek of what's to come in only a few weeks.

Jackson and Belle with cousins Gabe and Eli


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Belle's Pajama Party

When I began thinking what kind of party to have for Belle this year I wanted it to be 1) something she loved, 2) simple, 3) fun. Belle loves jammies and so I knew a pajama party would be perfect! We had our party in the evening and finished right around bedtime so the kiddos could go home and go to bed! We invited three little girls from church and fortunately one has an older brother so Jackson had a pal to play with.

The kiddos came in their pajamas and we started off by making Fruit Loop necklaces. Or just eating fruit loops and ignoring the string. Either way, it was fun. When they were done with the necklaces, I had some shaving cream that I put on plates for them to play in. It's Jackson and Belle's favorite bath time activity, so it was appropriate for the occasion!

We played this game that I based on an activity Jackson does at the community center. The plastic tubs were the bath tub and the balloons were bubbles! The kids tried to keep the bubbles out of the tub and the other kids tried to put them back in. As simple of an activity as it was, the kids went crazy and it entertained them for a very long time!

We had cinnamon rolls as a treat!

I made our dining room table to look like a bed. It was the extent of my decorating, but it was cute and it served it's purpose! :)

I didn't get a picture of all the girls together-- toddler girl drama x4. Oy!! But, I was able to get a couple individually with her friends.

It wasn't super fancy, but Belle got to spend time with friends (and Derek and I got to hang out with *our* friends!) and so it was a good night. Our kids, though they were completely wound up, fell asleep pretty quick after the party ended. 

The next day, we had a family party with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I didn't get many pics, but we had a good time. Most importantly, Belle soaked up the attention. Isn't this precious? It's my favorite picture. Without planning, she had a very Minnie birthday, just like Christmas. She wore the Minnie dress to church, opened the Minnie slippers and requested to wear them and then she got a Minnie doll.  Also, her little pigtail buns are the signature "minnie ears". 

More Minnie Mouse panties!! Are you getting the hint, Belle???

Make a wish!

Lastly, I just wanted to share the little collage I through together of Belle today! I love looking at each picture and remembering her at each stage! Man, I love this girl! 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dear Birthday Girl

Dear Belle,

I remember writing you letters each month when you were a baby! It feels like such a long time ago, yet just like yesterday at the same time! Today you turned three. THREE!! We had your parties this weekend, but today is the most fun day to celebrate! Three years ago today, Daddy and I were so happy to welcome a little girl into our family. First it was just Mommy because you weren't cooperative to wait for Daddy! You've been doing things your way ever since. :)

Here's how we spent your birthday. First, you opened presents before Daddy left for work! You got some new dresses, a Cinderella book, and some Magi-Clip princess dolls. 

You are a meticulous present un-wrapper. You don't take the paper off in one big rip-- you tear about a bazillion tiny pieces for each gift. 

We had donuts for breakfast. You requested them for dinner, but I figured you would be okay to have them for breakfast. 

We visited story time today and every sang you Happy Birthday. The kids all practiced holding up three fingers, too! You felt pretty special.

After picking up Jackson from preschool, we met Great Grandpa for lunch at McDonalds. You guys played so well that we were there for almost two hours! And in that time, you managed to actually sit for a moment with every other family that came and went in the playroom. You have a very outgoing personality and you seem to think that you fit into every group that exists around you. The thing is, you are so sweet and charming that most people just welcome you right in and talk as if they've known you for years. It's 

This winter has been so icky, but God gave you a special treat for your birthday this year-- 60° temps! After naps, we played outside and you enjoyed yet another birthday cupcake.

We went for a walk when Daddy came home. You love going on walks and you always have! You pretty much just love going on rides. You would sit contently in a stroller for hours I'm sure. 

Your birthday dinner request was pizza, goldfish, donuts, and apples. We had donuts for breakfast, so I just added some broccoli. You often vocalize the connection with how food makes you feel. "Cake makes me happy!" and you actually try to use those lines to sneak treats in to other meals. I'll ask if you want waffles or muffins for breakfast and you'll be like, "I like pizza. Pizza makes me happy." And when I deny the request, you take it personally and get very sad. I imagine you have had great success with these tactics with your grandparents.

After dinner, we FaceTimed with Aunt Laura and you showed her your birthday presents and how you can do a somersault! It normally takes you about four or five pushes to finally make it over, but you always get it! 

We definitely made time for baths on your birthday. You love to take baths and will play, and play, and play. Aunt Mary picked out this Minnie towel for your birthday and you think it's the coolest thing ever!

Right before bed, Daddy set up an old iPod* in your room to play with the Frozen soundtrack!  You were so happy to climb in bed and listen. Hopefully you're falling asleep. You've been known to talk to yourself for three hours to keep yourself from falling asleep. We tucked you in with your new Minnie doll and your blanket! After dealing with your big brother's love for a blanket, I swore that we wouldn't do the blanket thing for anymore kiddos. (ha!) I can't decide which came first: loving your blanket or carrying around a blanket because your big brother did.  You love your white blanket with pink circles and only that blanket will do. 

Belle, you are the sweetest little thing that I have ever met. There are times I can barely stand it. I think I might actually die of cuteness. You love to sneak kisses and you give the best hugs. You interrupt to say things like, "I love you" or "You're my best!" I love to savor up those moments when you like to cuddle after first waking up or after nap. You always ask to snuggle at bedtime, but you actually don't want to snuggle as much as you just want to talk and delay bedtime.

As sweet as you are most of the time, but when you get sassy-- boy are you SASSY! Whew! You've been known to stop down the hall, slam your door, and scream at the top of your lungs, "I AM SO ANGRY WITH MY MOM AND MY DAD!" and then proceed to let out the longest, loudest little yell that your body is capable of making. Daddy and I actually get quite a kick out of your little tantrums because they are just so shocking coming from such a little person. Plus, the biggest tantrums are normally over the littlest things. Maybe you're getting this all out so by the time you're a teenager, you'll be all done with slamming doors and yelling at us. We hope. 

I have loved watching you grow and discover your little personality. You love to play pretend. Always. You also like to boss others about how their pretend should be, too. You really like to help take care of people and your dolls. You are in tune with how others are feeling. When Jackson got hurt playing today, you came up and said, "I think he needs a hug!" (see what I mean about sweet?) You enjoying coloring and crafty stuff. You like to be the leader sometimes, but you are a good follower too. 

You are a social butterfly. Having friends is so important to you and you really like to know that they like you, too.  You are very in tune with social dynamics, far beyond your years! You'll ask Jackson, "Do you like me?" and he mostly say yes. Sometimes you are pleased, but then sometimes pull some sort of social experiment and annoy him. And then repeatedly ask if he likes you as if to see what you can get away with and he'll still like you. You like to ask me several times each day, "Are you happy?" and you check to make sure I am still happy even when you observe something that might make me not happy. You can people watch and know when others are having a disagreement and when people like each other. This social aspect of your personality was evident as an infant when you wouldn't nurse or wouldn't cuddle because you'd be so busy with the people around you and it's been incredible to see it transform into little relationship with your friends and how you see people. It's exactly who God made you to be and there is no denying it, girl! :)

You are a sharp little girl. You can count, recognize letters, shapes, numbers. You have the ipad mastered. Your language skills are through the roof. You know all about using the big girl potty, though you have no actual desire to make it a reality for yourself. 

Belle, Daddy and I love you so much! We had no idea how we'd manage to love two kids or how our love for our kids would just grow so much over time. You taught us how love multiplies when the second one joins the family. And how it multiplies by like a kazillion. We really didn't know what was in store when we welcomed our baby girl three years ago, but it's been a crazy fun ride. Thank you for bringing so much joy into our lives!

I love you more!

*An iPod is a pre-iphone that just played music! Once upon a time, we had several different devices for music, phones, cameras, planners, and GPS. But now they are conveniently combined into our phones. And I realize that as you read this, our nifty "new" technology is going to be so old!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day!

I was looking through my old blog posts the other day and came across last years Valentine post. I forgot that Jackson called it 'tinesvalens' day. Re-reading that made me smile! :)

I've always been a fan of Valentine's Day and it's just so much more to celebrate with kiddos! Early in the week, the kids made valentines to send to my siblings. We used a heart sponge and a toilet paper roll!

I love looking at his handwriting!!

Jackson made valentines for his class with Grammy last weekend and started counting down days until his class party on Thursday. He was so excited. He came home with quite a bit of loot and told me all about the fun things they did in class. He couldn't talk about his party without mentioning the fact that Camilla made enough valentines to give one to herself and so she ended up with one more valentine than all of the other classmates. She went home with 17 valentines while everyone else only had 16. Oh the injustice. :)

We got the kids little gifts for Valentine's Day morning. (Actually, I had picked them up on mega clearance and had them sitting in the closet waiting to be gifted!). The night before, I picked up this cute little cupcake doll at the thrift store and Belle just loves it! :)

We made more valentines that morning before we went to visit my parents. Belle drew this picture of Grammy.

 And Jackson colored this heart!

That's also a picture of Grammy. Seriously, I love his little handwriting. Not bad for a preschool! :)

I made these flowers for mom! They'll last longer and plus they were much for economical that real ones! :)

We met my dad for lunch and then we surprised Grammy at work to deliver the gifts! 

When Derek got off work, we dropped the kids off for a Valentine Party with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Forrest!

Derek and I didn't have plans to go out and were just going to celebrate with the kids, but Linda called earlier in the week inviting the kids over. So then I called Derek and said, "We need to make plans!" We went on a double date with friends last night and they joined us for our annual pizza tradition. We tried a new place and the pizza was delicious. It hit the spot! We had a great time. 

I love my hubby and I love my kiddos on Valentine's Day and every day! I am so blessed!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Beating the winter blues with swimming!

Our morning started very chilly this morning! Not the single temps outside, but the cool temps inside! I checked the thermostat first thing. Turns out the heater stopped working overnight. Brr! Jackson had the toughest time getting ready for school this morning. He couldn't stop shivering to eat or get dressed. Fortunately, I found a company who came over first thing and they had it fixed by 10:00am. The whole situation was certainly not as bad as it could have been.

In the mean time, we hung out in our coats by the fireplace. :)

By lunchtime, the temps were back to normal and by dinner we were in our swimsuits headed to the community center! Having a winter pass to the gym is the best thing ever. Derek and I use it to work out, but we love it mostly because there are so many kid programs that are great ways for the kids to burn energy while it's so stinking cold. Plus, the kids absolutely love the pool.

We've gone several times over the past couple of months and I snapped a few pics today. Some are blurry, but they

Isabelle is a "frog" every time we go to pool. She normally hops around finding flies for me to eat and then making sure I take a nap. It happens about a dozen times each visit. 

Jackson has been working on holding his breath underwater. He's not even holding his nose! 

Jackson's favorite thing is the slide. The last time we were at the pool, he went down the slide 12 times and we were there less than an hour.

 Isabelle really wanted to go down too. Can you see how tiny my little babies look up there?!?

I walked her up to the top because I was more anxious about her going up than going down! I then nervously left her at the top while she waited for her turn so I could be down at the bottom. Fortunately, the lifeguard was so sweet, got her situated, and sent her down!

Belle immediately climbed out and marched back to the stairs! I walked her to the top so she could do it one more time. If you notice grey hair next time you see me-- this is why! This girl isn't afraid of anything.

To avoid having a heart attack, I convinced the kids to come back to the pool and they could do some jumping. I wish these pics were better, but it'll have to wait until I have another adult with me! Jackson is a confident jumper these days after being very timid about it until just recently. When he is the 3 feet, he can jump in and push himself off the floor to come back to the top. He loves it!

Belle doesn't have a timid bone in her body and she loves to jump too! She barely even notices if she goes underwater. 

Her swimsuit is a clear indication that she's really been growing. Her birthday is next week (!!!!) and she just can't fit into 2T anymore. I haven't been swimsuit shopping yet, but I'll need to get to it pretty soon! 

These winter days seem to be just one big blur, but having a community center to escape to is super nice! Thanks for spoiling us, Great Grandpa! :)



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