Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31: Happy Birthday AND Happy Halloween!

I've never been a big fan of Audrey sharing her birthday with Halloween.  I like to make a big deal out of birthdays, and I like to make a big deal out of holidays.  So when you put those two on the same day, it is a bit exhausting.  Fun, but exhausting!

We started the day by letting Audrey open her present from us as soon as she stepped foot out of her bed!

The one thing she asked for was an Ursula doll.  (Seriously, the girl might be just a little obsessed with Ursula!).  You can't just go to the store and find an Ursula doll, but you can definitely find one on Amazon!  She also got a Disney Dance game for the Wii and a new pair of pajamas.

Daddy made Audrey's favorite breakfast:  chocolate chip pancakes!

Then we headed to Sprouts for a Halloween costume party.

Audrey loves McDonalds, so we invited some of her Sprouts friends (and their moms) to lunch to celebrate Audrey's birthday.

I convinced Audrey to lay down and take a nap this afternoon so she would have lots of energy for trick or treating.  She crashed with her new buddy Ursula.

Then it was time to get ready for trick or treating.  It was a very rainy day.  And it got colder and windier as the evening continued.  Not ideal trick or treating weather!  We managed to go to a
few houses on our block, then we drove around to visit some people we know, and then came back for a few more houses in our neighborhood.  As per tradition, Cael and his parents joined us!

Audrey has been planning to dress as Ursula for months now.  You can't just go to the store and buy an Ursula costume, so we had to get creative.  I'm planning to post a tutorial soon on how I made her dress, just in case any other little girls out there aspire to be Ursula as well.  It's not easy to find much advice on how to make this costume!

To go along with Audrey's Ursula, we decided Isla should be Ariel.  I bought some red hair extensions for her, but Isla wanted nothing to do with them.  I was happy enough just to get her to wear her costume!  When it came time to take pictures, she struck some classic Isla poses!

Phew, what a day!

Next up:  the big Little Mermaid birthday party!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

On Party Planning, Pinterest, and Being a Good Mom

'Tis the season for birthday party planning and Halloween costume making.  It's also the season for many of my fellow moms to feel guilty because they didn't make a Halloween costume or plan a themed party for their kids.  And it's the season for me to feel guilty because I did do those things.

Several people have made comments like this to me recently while talking about Audrey's birthday party (and similar comments are made pretty much every year around birthday party time):
 "Oh, you are so creative. You throw such great parties.  You are such a good mom!"
"I just buy store bought invitations and cake for my kids' birthdays.  I'm a bad mom."

And when I hear these types of comments, I just want to cry and scream and laugh.  Because they couldn't be farther from the truth!  Being creative and planning parties and making cakes and invitations does NOT equal being a good mom.  I'm pretty sure that you can be the most creative and best party planner in the world and still be a bad mom.

Yes, I plan big elaborate parties because I want to create good memories for my kids.  But there are a thousand other ways that I could create those memories and show my kids I love them.  I throw parties mainly because it is fun for me.  It's really a selfish motivation, and I try to always be quick to admit that.  Right now, these types of parties are fun for my kids too, so it is a win-win for all of us.  If the day comes when my kids don't like parties any more, we won't do them.

There is much talk around the internet these days about "mommy wars."  I've seen it with my own real life friends as well.  Many moms are caught up in a war of comparison with each other, leaving everyone feeling guilty and frustrated because they are not as good of a mom as everyone else.  Or at least not as good as everyone else APPEARS to be. These are moms who are filled with guilt every time they get on Facebook or Pinterest, because they do not plan elaborate parties like everyone else.  Or because they don't make crafts with their kids.  Or because their house is not clean and organized.  Or because they served Kraft mac n cheese for dinner, again.  As if simply doing all of those things would make them a good mom.

For me, when I talk to friends or read comments from moms who feel guilty because they are not up to Pinterest standards, then I start to feel guilty.  Because I do like Pinterest.  I like making crafts, and I like throwing fancy parties.  I like to cook homemade food on occasion.  And sometimes (but only sometimes) I like to have a clean, organized house.  When I hear that this makes other people feel bad or less worthy, then I feel guilty for causing anyone to feel this way.  I've even contemplated not posting pictures on Facebook or other social media, in order not to make any other mom feel guilty or less worthy. I hate the idea that I could give the appearance that I think I am a good mom because I do those things.  I just like to do them; it has very little to do with being a mom.  I'm pretty sure I would do many of the same things even if I wasn't a mom.

Here is the truth about me:  being a mom is the hardest thing I have ever done.  I feel like a failure. Every. Single. Day.  I yell at my kids.  I sometimes pay more attention to my phone and my computer than to my girls.  I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to discipline.  I am completely insecure about my parenting ability and uncertain that I will ever be a "good" mom, whatever that may mean. 

However, there are two things of which I am fairly certain.  One, being a good mom is not equal to being a Pinterest mom.  I am quite positive of that fact.  Please, please, please to all my fellow moms:  believe it!!

Second, I know is that every mom is different.  Every mom has their own abilities and interests, and no two moms are going to be alike.  So why are we all trying so hard to be like each other?  You shouldn't feel guilty because you don't make crafts or plan parties for your kids.  And I shouldn't feel guilty because I do make crafts and plan parties for my kids.  You do what you like, and I will do what I like, and maybe we can help each other figure out this tricky business of raising human beings!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24: Best Friends!

We are headed out of town to drop our kids off with family, and then Daniel and I are going to a church conference.  So this is just a quick post to share a cute picture.

My friend Lindsey took this picture of Audrey and her buddies Anna and Elliot at Sprouts today.  These three are together all the time at church, and they are just too cute!  And growing up too fast!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17: Family Pictures

 Here are some of my favorites from our photo shoot last month!  All I really wanted was a nice looking family portrait that we could use for Christmas cards and for a new canvas print to hang in our living room.  Isla wasn't flashing her biggest smiles (or any smiles) in these shots, but I'm still happy with all these options.

I also love this one of me and the girls!

And we got several cute ones with both girls together.

These will be used as Audrey's five year old pictures.  She is in a stage right now where she has a very unnatural smile for pictures (I think almost all kids at this age do!).  It's more like a grimace than a smile.  But I'm happy that we got a few where she looks happy!

This one is by far my favorite!!

And by the time we got to Isla's individual portraits, she was finally warming up to the idea of getting her picture she gave us some smiles!!

And we even got a picture of Daniel and I together!  It's been a long time! 
It was not an easy process, but I am happy with the results! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 12: Martha Stewart Day

One of our favorite fall traditions is Martha Stewart Fall Fun Day.  This event started about seven years ago before we had kids.  It has evolved as our group gets bigger and we have more and more kids.  Basically, it is a weekend to celebrate all things fall.  And the pumpkin patch we visit was once featured by Martha Stewart, which is where the event got its name.

This year we simplified our trip and cut out a few things.  The main focus of our day was The Great Pumpkin Patch.    The weather was looking ominous for a while, and it did rain briefly, but for the most part, the weather was cooperative for our day.

As soon as we got that, we hurried to take pictures in our favorite spots, just to make sure we got them done in case of rain!

Spot #1: A family picture in the Pumpkin King and Queen chairs.

We've been taking a picture in this spot since 2007, when we looked like this:

Spot #2:  A picture of each of the girls in front of the How Tall this Fall? sign.  According to the sign, Audrey measured around 43 inches, and Isla measured around 32 inches.

And here is a comparison of how they have grown from year to year.  Seriously, because I am a dork when it comes to record keeping, taking this picture is a real reason that we make the trip to the pumpkin patch this year.  Although I'm a little annoyed that they changed the sign this year and messed with the continuity of my pictures!  =)

Shortly after these pictures, it did rain for about 10 minutes.  We all piled onto the porch of the sweet shop and enjoyed snack.  The girls and I shared an apple cider slushie with a pumpkin whoopie pie, and it was delicious!

My mom and Marcus made the trip with us this year, so it was fun to introduce them to all of our fun fall traditions!

We spent the rest of our time looking at all the displays, saying hi to the animals, taking pictures of Audrey at every photo stand, going through mazes, taking a wagon ride through the pumpkin patch, and picking out our own pumpkins to take home.

After lunch, our whole group (which ended up being about 40 people) headed to lunch at a big Amish restaurant.  We filled two long tables this year!

Our final stop was at Beachys Bulk Foods, an Amish store with all kinds of fun food items! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 7: A Day in Our Life

(I had this post all typed up and ready to go last night, but then our internet wasn't working so I couldn't upload the pictures.  So you get it today instead!)

I came across the above quote this week, and it seems so obvious...but it is so true!  It made me want to be a little more conscious of how I spend my days.  I've always wanted to do some "A Day in our Life" posts here.  Not that I think our life is that interesting for you to read about, but I just like the idea of having documentation about our normal, everyday days.  I'm a dork, and I think it will be fun to do these posts every so often, and then compare them all and see how our days change through the years.  

So without further introduction, I present to you:  our day!

 7:50 am  I got out of bed.  Daniel had already been up with the girls for about an hour.  I tend to stay up later than Daniel, so I don't feel too guilty about allowing him the pleasure of getting up with the girls in the morning!  =)  7:50 is cutting it close, as we need to get out of the house by 8:30 or so to get Audrey to school on time.  Days like today make me grateful for dry shampoo, a product whose greatness I have just recently discovered!

8:20 am  After getting their clothes on, the girls squeezed in a song on our Wii Dora Dance game.  They have been obsessed with this game lately, and it is cute.  This is probably worthy of a blog post in itself (coming soon!).

8:33 am  Hair combed, shoes and jackets on, and out the door!  Lately the girls think it is fun to hold the doors open for us when it is time to leave.

9:05 am  After dropping Audrey off at school, Isla and I swung through Panera's drive thru.  Getting up late means I didn't have time for breakfast.  And Panera is just so conveniently located on our way back from school.

 9:45 am  I've been trying to be more purposeful about spending quality time with Isla while Audrey is at school.  Being a second child, she just doesn't get as much one on one attention.  I also am trying to help her with her speech development and learning her ABCs.  Isla loves pushing buttons on my computer, so we used that today to learn about the letters and spell names.

10:20 am  While I did some laundry and put clothes away, Isla played with her Little People on our bed.  For some reason, playing with Little People is just more fun when it happens on Mommy and Daddy's bed.

11:00 am Time to go pick up Audrey at school!

 11:35 am  Back from school, I started some chicken in the crockpot for tonight's dinner.  I teach piano lessons until 6:30 on Monday nights, so I have to do some early meal prep and planning on Mondays if I want the girls to be able to eat dinner before bed.

12:35 pm  Daniel came home to eat lunch with us!

 1:15 pm  After Daniel went back to work, I tackled the dishes and swept the kitchen and dining room floors.  Doing dishes is my most favorite job ever in the whole entire world(written with the utmost of sarcasm).  Because of my disdain for doing dishes, I tend to let them pile up.  Fortunately, I have a husband who is willing to do the dishes, so he keeps things from getting too out of control.  But since I teach piano lessons every day and since our piano overlooks the kitchen, I have been trying harder myself to keep our kitchen dish free every day, so my students don't have to see and smell our dirty dishes. 

1:40 pm  While I was cleaning, the girls were coloring pictures.  And they were very proud to show me their finished masterpieces!

2:00 pm  Rest time!  I put Isla down for a nap and got Audrey settled on the couch to "rest" while she watched a movie.  I started editing pictures from a recent photo shoot.  Audrey ended up falling asleep after about an hour (hooray!!), so I had about a whole hour of peace and quiet!  I ended up getting almost the entire session edited in one sitting.  That never happens!
4:00 pm  Piano lesson time!  Daniel gets home between 4:30-4:45, so the girls are kind of on their own for 30-45 minutes while I teach.  Isla has been sleeping (or at least playing and being content in her crib) until Daniel gets home.  Audrey is usually pretty good about staying quiet during lessons, and today, she slept all the way through my first lesson as well!  

4:45 pm  I was teaching my second lesson.  Daniel got home and took the girls out to run errands.  He also got the mail and found our CD of family photos!
5:00 pm  I had a 30 minute break from teaching.  My plan was to make biscuits for dinner during this break, but the photo CD was calling my name.  I have been waiting for it to get here for two weeks, so I had to take a quick peek.  The pictures look great; they will be worthy of their own blog post in the near future.  And while I was looking at the pictures, my 6:00 piano student cancelled...which meant I could make the biscuits later!

5:30 pm Time for another piano lesson

6:00 pm  I made the biscuits that I was planning to make earlier.  

6:30 pm  Dinner was about ready when I got a text from Daniel.  He had taken the girls for a walk to go shopping for my birthday present.  They shopped too long and walked too far and wanted me to come pick them up.  So I drove over to a nearby shopping strip to rescue them!

6:55 pm  After we got back home, it was time to eat!  Again!  Sometimes I feel like that is all we ever do.  Fix food, eat food, clean up food.  Repeat.

7:20 pm  Daniel graciously let me leave for the evening so I could get some work done without distractions.  I do some work for my dad's business, and I am so much more productive when I am away from home.  I headed to Starbucks, where I settled into a comfy chair with a caramel apple cider, my headphones and my computer. 

9:10 pm  I didn't get all my work done but I got enough done to call it quits for the night and head back home.  My eyes were glazing over, and my stomach was feeling yucky thanks to the caramel apple cider.  I got one about once a year, and then I drink about half of it.  It tastes good at first, but it is so sweet that it usually gives me a stomachache.  And then I wonder why I just wasted $3.50!

9:45 pm  Now I am sitting on the couch, typing this blog post and waiting for our internet to start working so I can post the pictures!  Then I will go to bed and read for a while, with the goal of falling asleep by 11:00 (or 12:00 if the book gets really good!).

I'd say this was a fairly typical day for us, though I was probably a little more productive than normal.  Mondays are always my least favorite day, although reading through all of this, there is nothing especially bad in our day today.  It's just a matter of getting back into the groove of the week.  And finding enough energy to get everything done.  Maybe it is just because I typed all of this out, but I am EXHAUSTED tonight!