Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our Spooktacular Halloween

I know I say this every year...but that was the BEST Halloween yet :-) The kids were both so good today, despite the lack of naps and ridiculous amount of sugar. Blake actually wore his costume...AND LIKED IT...and Addie pretty much made the cutest Snow White ever.

But before the costumes and trick-or-treating today, Addie had her preschool Noah's Arc Pajama Party. They did lots of singing...


Some story time...


And after a special snack, they got to create their own Arc. It was so sweet...the kids had the best time.


If you can believe it, I attempted to do quiet time/nap time with my kids today. Even though they both knew they were getting to dress up and go trick-or-treating in a matter of hours. 

It didn't work.

In fact, Snow White here was dressed and ready LONG before it was time to leave. But seriously...isn't she precious? She made the most beautiful Snow White ever :-)


And Blake made the cutest Lightening McQueen ever...for the second year in a row!! He was such a happy little camper tonight, which made me SO RELIEVED!! Costumes aren't his thing and the boy had some serious attitude earlier in the day. But as soon as it was trick-or-treat time...he couldn't put on his race suit fast enough.


Our first stop was Mima and Papa Steve's house so that the kids could all run around together and stop at a few houses. Just look at these goofballs...I love them to pieces. 


They couldn't wait to take off to the first house...


This is Blake telling the kids to slow down. My boy likes to take his time at each house...


And check out all the awesome decorations :-)


These ghosts were his favorite :-)

After filling our candy bags once, we headed back to our house for more trick-or-treating with Nana and Papa. We ordered some pizza, passed out some candy, gave the kids a bath to wash off all the chocolate and when they were literally starting to fall asleep sitting up...we tucked them in bed :-)

We had every intention of doing some FaceTime with another Halloween cutie, but the night got away from us so we will have to raincheck for tomorrow :-) But luckily, we got to see some ADORABLE pics of Owen and his first trick-or-treating!!

Here is the little Bumble Bee himself...


Out trick-or-treating with Mama. This picture made all of us get a little teary-eyed. He is so grown up!!


Well I hope everyone had a Spooktacular Halloween!! I know we sure did :-)

Stop & Smell the Roses: Halloween Edition

I know the point of Stop & Smell the Roses is to VLOG, but this mama couldn't make that happen this week. AGAIN!! But I do have a lot to be smiling about on this BEAUTIFUL Halloween day, so I thought I would link-up anyway :-)

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Halloween? Next to Christmas...it's my favorite holiday, especially now that I have kiddies to share the day with. We have a lot of fun little things planned today and they are ALL making me smile.


1. I am smiling about going to Addie's preschool today for their Noah's Arc Pajama Party and watching the kids sing their "October" song :-)

2. I am smiling about the pumpkins we carved this week and being able to light them for the first time.

3. I am smiling about Blake and his hit-or-miss attitude when it comes to dressing up.

4. I am smiling about Addie, who has decide to be Snow White tonight because she's already been Ariel twice this month.

5. I am smiling about the pizza we are going to order because there is simply no time to cook today.

6. I am smiling about the Halloween cupcakes we made for Addie's teachers and our mailman Jim.

7. I am smiling about all the Halloween cupcakes I saved for us tonight :-)

8. I am smiling about these two kiddies and how EXCITED they are to trick-or-treat.


9. I am smiling about Nia, Nolan and Owen and seeing their happy faces today {even if it's just through FaceTime}.

10. And finally, I am smiling about my blessings. The fact that we are all healthy, happy and able to dress up and have a fun Halloween. So many people in our country are dealing with aftermath of Sandy and their Halloweens will not be the same this year. I don't want to take for granted how lucky we are.

So what are all of you smiling about this Halloween??!! Link up with House of Rose and join in on the fun!!




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

100 Days to Christmas Catch-Up

All through through the month of August, I was literally counting down the days until I could begin my 100 Days to Christmas ebook. I was SO excited to get started with all the daily projects and tasks and most of all...I was really looking forward to blogging about them.

So as I was jotting down some ideas for our Advent Activities Calendar {Task for Octboer 23rd} I realized I hadn't blogged about my progress in over a MONTH!! Where is the time going...seriously?! November starts in 2 DAYS! 

I figured if I am going to share anything from this fabulous book this season, I had better get started and do a little catch-up. So with that in mind, here are a few of my favorite {completed} tasks from the month of October.

Oct 11: Stock up on Stocking Stuffers

The Target Dollar Spot. Need I say more? I don't think there has ever been a time when I have escaped Target without picking SOMETHING up from the dollar bins. Coloring books, stickers, notepads, board books, sippy cups, sunglasses...you name it. It's pretty much my one-stop-shop for the kid's stockings.

Eric and I, on the other hand, only do stockings for each other. Small things, mostly essential items like new socks, a gift card, shaving cream, etc. But we like to treat each other a little too. So I like to visit The Art of Shaving for him, and he visits Origins or Benefit for me. We also like to surprise each other with some little fun stuff we aren't expecting. And gentlemen...if you are clueless when it comes to "cute little fun stuff" for your wife or girlfriend, here's a little list from this cute shop I love...


Also, I've also become OBSESSED with a new website called The Joy of Socks.The Joy of Socks

They sell some of the CUTEST athletic socks and tights. If you have a sock-lover in your family, especially an athlete that likes to spice it up...you have to check out this shop. It's where we bought our pink and black striped socks for our half marathon :-)

Stocking stuffers may be my favorite thing to buy...so don't be surprised if I post about them every time I find a cute new shop :-)

October 23: Advent Activity Planner

This was one of my favorite things to do with the kids last year. In case you aren't familiar, an Advent Activities Calendar is a list you make for all 25 days of Advent. They usually look something like this...


For each day of Advent, you write down one activity you would like to do with your family. Our list last year had things like drive around to see Christmas lights, bake cookies, do a Christmas craft, Watch "Charlie Brown Christmas and eat popcorn", etc. One of the special things we added to our list last year that I hope to make a regular event is a charity day. Last year, we helped out with a toy drive that benefited the sick kids at Children's Memorial Hospital. We plan to help with this organization again this year, and possibly add something new. This actually brings me to my next October task...

October 24: Establish a Tradition of Giving

Last year I walked into a room filled with toys. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, this place was packed. Barbies, Lego sets, race cars, books, stuffed animals, you name it. And it was all there because one little boy had a dream before he died. Mark Staehely spent a lot of time at Children's Memorial Hospital while he battled cancer, so he understood how important it was to brighten a sick child's spirit at Christmastime. Mark started a toy drive with the goal of providing every sick child in the hospital with a new toy on Christmas. With the help of his wonderful family, friends and our community, Mark's Toy Drive has become one of the most successful individual toy drives the hospital has ever seen. I was honored to be a part of this toy drive last year and Addie and I got to see first hand just how much work and generosity goes into this mission. Here is Addie standing among all of the gifts ready to be delivered at the hospital.


The Make Your Mark Foundation is doing so many wonderful things throughout the year...I feel like the least I can do is support them in every way I can this Christmas.

And this isn't the only charity I plan to work with this holiday season. Around Easter, my AWESOME friends and family helped me collect a bunch of shoes for Share Your Soles and I would love to collect more for a holiday donation. I would also like to select a person/family from The Angel Tree and also have the kids pick out books to donate to the Barnes and Noble Holiday Book Drive.

To me, there is no greater feeling than giving back to others and helping those that are less fortunate than me. I am SO BLESSED...blessed to the point where I often feel guilty about it. But if there is one way to show God my appreciation...it's by helping others. And I don't do that just for me anymore. I do it because I want to teach Addie and Blake the same lesson. I want them to feel that same joy I experience when I help someone else. Eric and I want to establish a tradition of giving with them, which is why I want to include them in everything that we do this Christmas {and all year long}. 

I want to do this now so that when they grow up, they will have a giving heart as big as my sweet friend Kenzie's. In case you don't follow her blog, let me tell you...this girl is doing more in her teens than some people do in their entire life. Just recently, Kenz has committed to a very big goal...one that will raise $1000 for an organization called Speed the Light.

If you are already looking for some amazing charities to donate to this year, I encourage you to please check out Kenzie's post and read more about what this organization is doing to change the world. Or better yet, check out her blog just so see what she is doing to change the world :-) I've donated...will you?

October 29th: Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"

So this is just the nerd in me, but I love that one of the tasks for this month is to read. I love Edgar Allen Poe but I am afraid Addie and Blake aren't quite ready for that craziness yet. So we visited the library to pick out some more age-appropriate Halloween books. This has been our favorite...


What Halloween books are your favorites?

*******

Ahh...I feel SO MUCH BETTER now that I have caught you all up to speed on my 100 Days to Christmas journey. Are any of you following along and finding it as helpful as I am? Have you managed to complete most of the tasks? Which were your favorite?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Week in a Nutshell: Halloween Parties, Pumpkins & Some Ice Skating

Happy Monday {afternoon} friends!! 

I am just now getting the chance to hop on and do my "Weekend in a Nutshell" post and as I was going through pictures, I realized there are a few things I missed posting about throughout the week last week! Too many awesome giveaways and link-ups going on I guess :-)

So I thought I would take this chance to bring you all up to speed on what the kids and I have been up to.

For starters, we have been Halloween Party animals lately. First we celebrated for an entire weekend at Yogi Bear, and then we participated in our Library's Halloween party this past week. They had games, stories and of course...trick-or-treating. The kids had a BLAST and came home with way too much candy :-)


We will be trick-or-treating AGAIN on Wednesday, and Addie has her Pajama Party at school that day as well. Clearly, we will be on sugar detox come Thursday. Ha!

And speaking of sweets...Eric had a major craving for some Oberweis ice-cream on Friday and decided to take the kids. I certainly couldn't let him go alone, so I went and had myself the most amazing banana shake ever. It was a fun night :-)


Saturday morning, we were up bright and early for Addie's first Ice Skating class!!! This girl has been talking about ice skating since last year and when Dana told me that she had found a class for Nia, I thought it was the perfect time to give it a try. Here she is in her little skates :-)


Aren't they precious? Nia was totally decked out for class :-)


According to Eric, the girls did "Good!"but according to Addie they did "SO AWESOME!!! ME AND NIA KEPT FALLING SOMETIMES BUT WE WOULD GET RIGHT BACK UP AND IT WAS COLD BUT NOT ON MY HANDS BECAUSE I HAD GLOVES AND CAN I WEAR A SKIRT NEXT WEEK??" 

I can always count on Addie for her enthusiasm :-)

After ice skating, we did more Halloween prep and carved our pumpkins!! Or should I say...Eric and I carved our pumpkins while the kids watched Spookly. Ha!


And today, we are going to be making some Halloween cupcakes to share on Wednesday. My AMAZING BFF Chelsi sent me the most fabulous belated birthday gift this week and in it was a bunch of Halloween crafting and baking supplies. This girl knows the way to my heart...and my kids' hearts!


Chels also sent me this adorable handmade pumpkin with our name on it and I am honestly a little sad that pumpkin season is almost over!!!


But I'm not too sad because around my house, when Halloween ends...CHRISTMAS BEGINS!!! Officially :-)

And speaking of Christmas, I am hoping to recap some of the fun stuff I've been doing for 100 Days to Christmas tomorrow! Yay!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fitness Friday: Crossing the Half Marathon Finish Line for the Second Time

Happy Happy Fitness Friday Friends!!!


I am SO HAPPY to be back this week because it means I survived my SECOND half marathon!!! WOOHOO!!!

Although this time I don't if I should use the word "survived." Survived is what I did the first time. I dragged my tired, defeated ass over the finish line and accepted my medal with tears in my eyes. That race I survived.

This race I ROCKED!!

But don't let that word fool you. It's not like I rocked out any 5 minute miles or took a place in my age group. Far from it. But I did rock this race for myself. I set a goal to do 2 things this time:

1. Keep up with Dana and run the ENTIRE 13.1 miles. No walking.

2. Stay in the 10s for pace. I didn't care if I kept a 10:59 pace...as long as we were out of the 11s.

On the day of the race, I woke up feeling pretty confident about these goals. I was excited. I was trained {Like a Mother}. I was rested. I was hydrated. There was nothing left to do but throw on my tutu and head out the door.

As you all know from my post earlier this week, my Dad TOTALLY shocked me when he showed up for the race with his 5K bib. 


I actually forgot for a while that I was about to go run a race because I was so caught up in the excitement of him running!! But reality set in quick when I saw the starting line.

But this starting line was SO different from the Rock & Roll Chicago. For one thing, it was a fraction of the size. There were no corrals or elite groups. It was just a bunch of people dressed in costume laughing and taking pictures. It was a very laid back atmosphere and maybe that's what kept me calm in the beginning. That...and seeing my girls. Aren't we cute in our costumes? 


By the time we actually lined up to start, all of my nerves were calmed. I felt more excited than anything else and when the gun finally went off...I was ready to go. Dana and my friend Aimee and I gave each other some fist bumps, we waved to our friend Carol (who was running the 10K shortly afar us) and we all yelled good luck to my Dad. And then we were off!!

The first 4 miles were one big costume parade. All we did was look around at each other and laugh at some of the creative costumes people came up with. At one point, Dana and I were passed by some guys dressed like Hooters waitresses and I laughed so hard I thought I was going to get a cramp. Everyone seemed to be feeling great in this race. The weather in Chicago was GORGEOUS and we were running right along the lake. The conditions were perfect. I mean...just look at this view!!

Photo: Monster view of Chicago Monster

By mile 5 it hit me that my Dad was probably at the starting line for his 5K and for some reason, I really started to worry about him. Was he ready to do this? What if he over does it? I was so focused on thinking about my Dad, I didn't even realize that we had hit the half way point until the chick on my Nike app alerted me. I looked at Dana with big eyes and yelled "HALF WAY BABY!!" and we both held up 6 fingers. 

We only had 6.5 miles to go.

At the halfway point, my head was still in a pretty good place. I was feeling good, my legs were moving and we were keeping a great pace. I saw the 7 Mile marker and then the 8 Mile marker. Dana and I looked at each other and held up 5 fingers. We were down to one hand :-)

I made it to mile 10 feeling pretty great...but then I could start to see that wall again. It was there...in the distance. My legs were getting tired. There weren't any crowds cheering us on. No one was laughing at costumes anymore. People were dropping off to the sides walking, stretching, hurting, crying. Those last 3 miles were SO intense. For everyone.

It was at the 11 Mile marker that I thought about walking. How good it would feel to stop and stretch my legs. I saw two women sitting on a bench near the lake drinking Starbucks watching the race. They were wearing cute scarves and boots and laughing hysterically about something. I was in a damn tutu, sweating my ass off. I was so jealous of those bitches. Ha!

But I pressed on. Dana kept looking at me to make sure I was moving and I just kept giving her the thumbs up. But I was hurting pretty good at 12 miles. I knew that with only a mile to go, I could NOT stop now. If I walked I would be toast. It would be over and I would be so mad at myself for giving up. I knew I was strong enough to finish this...I just had to get my head right.

But friends let me tell you...it's REALLY hard to get your head right at the end when you are so close...yet so far away. But as soon as the crowds started picking up and I could hear the band in the distance...I knew we were going to make it. I saw my friend Carol first and waved like a crazy person! And then I saw Eric, Kevin and Joe...snapping pictures and clapping for us. And then I saw my Dad...he made it too!!! I was so happy.

Dana and I were in perfect step with each other as we crossed that finish line.


And then at the end we hugged. And cried...just a little. Happy tears, of course, because we MADE IT!!! We set out to run that entire race and we did it!!! With a 10:42 overall pace no less :-) We finished in 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is almost exactly 23 MINUTES FASTER than our first half marathon!! We could not have been more proud.

After we slipped on our medals, we set out to find our group. Our friend Aimee, who had a baby only 10 months ago, finished her half in 2 hours and 11 minutes. AMAZING!!! We were all so proud of her. 


And my girl Carol finished her first 10K and did an amazing job! 


Here we all are with our beautiful medals...


And then of course there's Waldo, who finished his 5K with flying colors!! Here he is in the home stretch...


And crossing the finish line!

This picture is just priceless to me :-)


We all had the BEST day and even though I felt like puking for a good hour after the race, I was happy. And proud. And above all else, I felt satisfied. Item #5 on my bucket list...CHECK!!!!!

So now what?

People keep asking me if I want to commit to a full marathon next year since I have already tackled the half and the answer is NO WAY!!! But...I do think we will all do another half together next year because even though the training is hard and time consuming, the feeling at the end when you accomplish something SO HUGE is worth it. Plus, running as a team with your best buddies is an amazing experience. I really enjoyed sharing this with Dana, Aimee, Carol and my Dad and I can't wait to do it again!

So before I end this VERY long post, I just want to say thanks again to everyone who has offered me advice, encouragement and support this year. Training for two half marathons back-to-back was a LOT of work and I know you are all probably sick to death of me talk about running. But accomplishing this goal was very important to me. It was a personal goal that had nothing to do with being a mommy, or a wife, or a teacher...it was just something I needed to do for myself. But I can honestly say that I couldn't have reached this goal without my amazing friends and family so thank you...from the bottom of my heart :-) 

Happy Fitness Friday guys! I promise to be back with some new workouts and recipes next week :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Digital Scrapbooking Sparked my Creativity & A Chance to Win Your Own Copy of My Favorite Software!!


It all started simply enough.

I wanted to find an easier, less messy way of scrapbooking. I was tired of all the containers of papers, stickers, embellishments, printed pictures {that didn't get used half the time}, tools, punches and adhesives that were taking over my house. I was done. I vowed to just put my kid's pictures in traditional albums and call it a day.

But then I started blogging. 

I so badly wanted to design my own blog header, background, etc. and Googled tutorial after tutorial. What I soon realized was that in order to make anything, I would need some type of software. Adobe Photoshop was way to complicated for me so when I stumbled upon a few tutorials that mentioned digital scrapbooking software...I was intrigued. I could scrapbook on my computer??

So like I said...it started simply enough. I downloaded some free digital scrapbooking software and started working on some pages to help me learn the ropes. I worked until 3:00am that night on Blake's first birthday pictures and from that point on...I was hooked.


I spent weeks making scrapbook pages and teaching myself the ins and outs. And after MUCH trial and error, I eventually taught myself to create a blog header, sidebar pictures and backgrounds and I've had about 20 blog makeovers since then.

This of course sparked my creativity. I started thinking about all the other things I could make with digital scrapbooking software and that's when I made my first birthday invitation for Addie's Bouncing Ballerinas Party... 


And my first set of cupcake toppers...



I was so excited with how Addie's party turned out, I started thinking about what I would make for Blake's birthday (which was still 9 months away). So then I started hitting up my friends and making invites and toppers for their kids. It gave me great practice...but I needed an upgrade. I needed software that was affordable and easy to use. And that's when I found My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software and I was IN LOVE with it!! The possibilities were endless and I spent MANY sleepless nights playing with all of the fabulous features trying to come up with my next projects. And this is where I became addicted.

Enter the holidays.





To teacher gift tags...


I was making tags for anything and everything. ALL of my gift tags last Christmas were homemade on My Memories Suite and I got more compliments on them than I did on the actual gifts!! Ha! And obviously, the holidays aren't the only time you need gift tags. You can spice up any occasion (and any gift) with a super cute custom label...


And speaking of gifts...I can't even count up all of the handmade gifts I have given to others...



baby shower sip and see sweet baby girl

I think it's safe to say that I became a "Printable Junkie" this year. It all started with the printables I used for my Home Management Binder...


And the ones I made for our Camping Binder...


And the ones I made for our Christmas Binder...


See...I told you. Printable junkie!!! But I just LOVE all things cute and now that I know what this software can do...I feel the need to make everything with it. Eric likes to joke that I am going to start making my grocery lists on My Memories Suite

And he may be right :-)

But in all seriousness, this software sparked my creativity in a BIG way. All I wanted to do was find an easier way to scrapbook my memories but now...after almost 2 years of working with this software...I have actually created a business out of my love of designing.

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!!

If you have ever looked at one of my printables, birthday invitations, cupcake toppers, etc. and thought, "I wish I could make that kind of stuff!!" just know that YOU CAN!!! And I have even put together a few video tutorials on how to make and print cupcake toppers and design your own custom invitations and cards. You can find them here:

TUTORIAL: How to Make Printable Cupcake Toppers Using My Memories Suite
TUTORIAL: How to Make Custom Cards & Invitations Using My Memories Suite

My Memories Suite software is so easy to use and they continue to upgrade and add new features all the time. If you think about all of the money you will save by making your own cards, party decor, printables, gift tags, etc...you will find that it is WELL WORTH the price.

But how would you like to win your own copy of My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software

FOR FREE?!!

That's right...my friends at MMS are giving me the opportunity to give away another free download of their software just in time for the holidays!!!

Here's How to Enter:

* Leave a comment telling us what you will make first if you win the software. Will you scrapbook? Make a card? Make your holiday gift tags? The possibilities are endless! {Earns 1 entry}

* Like My Memories Suite on Facebook and leave a separate comment letting us know you did so. {Earns 1 entry}

* Follow My Memories Suite on Twitter and leave a separate comment letting us know you did so.
{Earns 1 entry}

And that's all you have to do!! You get 3 chances to win this fabulous software and become a Printable Junkie just like me!!

You have until Wednesday, October 31st to enter. A winner will be selected and posted on Thursday, November 1st!!

Good luck everyone!!