Six weeks ago I began what is probably the most important transformation of my life…
At the beginning of this year, I was in such a rut. The things I used to really enjoy—crafting, blogging, working on my home—didn’t mean as much to me. Everyday I was simply going through the motions, and it was a struggle to find the happy. So I wrote myself this note of inspiration. Maybe it’s cheesy…but I know how I want to feel in life, and it was not the way I was feeling then. And I also knew, in order to make the biggest difference, I needed to work on myself first. So I made a plan to change things. But I didn’t really act on the plan right away. I guess I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. Or maybe I just didn’t know where to start.
(I’ve since learned that getting started on anything new is the absolute hardest part.)
I tucked my little note of inspiration away for another day. Even though I knew in my heart—and in my head—that things would never change unless I did something to facilitate the change. I mean, things just don’t change on their own, right?! That’s a hard lesson to learn. Which means the first 3 months of this year were spent doing things I had always done. Wasting time. Spinning tires. Farther stuck in this rut.
(At this point I’d just like to say that my husband is amazing… and so very supportive. And this rut I was in had absolutely nothing to do with him or our family life. They are always my rays of sunshine.)
In early March, at the deepest part of my rut, I turned 32 (and Mark turned 31). And we took a trip to Chattanooga, TN to celebrate. And we had THE.BEST.TIME. Ever.
We hiked up a mountain, stayed in a beautiful hotel, ate the best food and drank the best beer. But my favorite part was the aquarium.
We took tons of pictures, but hardly any have me in them… I usually prefer to be behind the camera. So I was taken aback a little when the first thing we did when we walked in the aquarium was have our photo taken by one of the employees. It was one of those green screen set ups where they superimpose your photo over various backgrounds and then, at the end of the trip, hand you a package to purchase.
Let me just say, that I did NOT want to purchase the photos. But Mark wanted to… to have a keepsake of the great time we had. I do love the photos for what they are—a representation of our time together and all the fun we had. But I never, ever wanted anyone to see them.
(And now I’m about to post them on the internet… oy.)
This, my friends, is what you call a “wake-up call.” I never saw it before now. Of course, I knew I was gaining weight—the scale told me so. But when I looked in the mirror I didn’t really see myself this way. It was time to make what I saw in myself be the same as what the camera and everyone else would see. I realized then that I want to be able to look back on our photos and not cringe. I want to be in front of the camera enjoying time with my family and not be self-conscious. And I want my kids to have more photos with their mom.
When we got back from our trip, I started walking a little bit on the treadmill. Nothing very serious, just enough to kind of get moving. It’s ridiculous to think how out of shape I was… 30 mins on the treadmill had me completely out of breath and 5 mins on the elliptical made me feel like I would die. I absolutely wanted to give up and I had barely gotten started!
A couple of weeks later, with a little prompting from my sister, I joined Weight Watchers online. I told myself I would give it 3 months. And I would really, really try. That has turned into the best decision I could have made. Before I was drinking stupid amounts of Pepsi. Every single day I had at least 4 or 5 cans worth. I was completely addicted. The first week, I gave it all up.
By the tenth day of no Pepsi, I could already tell a difference. My skin was smoother, clearer…the pores smaller. And the bags under my eyes—the ones that could give Louis Vuitton a run for his money—were barely noticeable.
A couple of weeks into the program I began to feel like I’ve gotten a handle on what I should be eating. I’ve started exercising 5x a week. And that elliptical that I couldn’t even stay on for 5 mins? I began keeping a steady pace for 30-45 mins at a time, sometimes going as far as 6 miles!! It’s amazing really when I think about it. Clothes that I hadn’t been able to wear started to fit again.
A month after starting Weight Watchers and working out, I put back on the shirt and jacket from the dreaded aquarium photo. This time though they looked a little different…
After losing about 10 lbs, there’s no more “i look six months pregnant even when I’m SO not” belly and I can button all of the buttons on my jacket. I don’t even remember the last time that happened.
(Maybe it’s important to mention that I’m only 5′ tall. So 10 lbs on me looks a lot more than on taller people.)
It has now been 6 weeks since I started Weight Watchers and I’m down 15 lbs and counting! I’m halfway to my goal and I am so proud of myself for sticking with it. I already feel better—both physically and emotionally. I’m not nearly as tired and sluggish feeling. I can run and play with my kids without being out of breath. My confidence is coming back. I feel happier and ready to take on new things. And I honestly can not wait to see what happens and how my body changes in these next 6 weeks.
A few people have started to tell me that I’ve been an inspiration to them, which is extremely flattering and humbling. I never imagined I would inspire anyone with this experience. I am no one special. I am just like you. Exercising and dieting do not come easy for me. I just made a decision to start and see what happens (because, honestly, it couldn’t hurt). If this is something that’s been weighing on you—maybe you’ve been going back and forth with yourself over making a change, for your health or otherwise—my advice would be just get started! Today. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Give yourself a time frame and really commit. Then just see what happens!
We all deserve to be able to find our happy!
Okay. So I know I haven’t been here in forever. I could give you all the regular excuses of how I got so busy, life got in the way, blah, blah, blah…
but that doesn’t really matter. And while I can’t say that I promise to be here with a new post everyday, I can say that I want to revive this here little ol’ blog. So, on this day of love, I thought I’d share a little something I whipped up for the little loves in my life.
I found all of the cute cupcake stuff in the Valentine section of the local walmart, which makes things super easy for this last minute mama. And Laurel was very happy to help with the sprinkles and putting in the toppers.
While the cupcakes were baking and cooling, I got started making the kids’ Valentines. I designed these cards and printed them on cardstock, cut each one out, and punched a hole in the corner.
For Spencer’s I tied little bags of chocolates to the cards. The Hershey’s nuggets, aside from being extremely tasty, looked like bars of silver to me… kinda like a pirate’s treasure. Perfect for my little pirate-lovin’ boy.
For Laurel’s class, we decided to hand out bubbles. I found these cute little bubbles in the wedding section of walmart. The wands even have little hearts on top. So, with a loop and a swoop of some ribbon tied in a bow, we were left with these little darlin’s…
And, there you go. Our version of Valentine’s Day… cute, quick, and easy. Just how this mama likes it. Now here’s to a day filled with cupcakes, chocolate, bubbles, and the ones you love!
On Monday I told you all about our whirlwind trip to Disney World. But, believe it or not, Disney World wasn’t our only stop.
It had always been the plan to go to Disney for 2 days and spend our last day at Universal. But after battling the rain and thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with even more rain in the forecast for Thursday, we weren’t too sure we’d be making it to Universal. But I guess the weather gods took pity on our plight and gave us a few hours of almost blue skies to enjoy.
You can probably tell from this picture how tired the kids were. And… we had just gotten there. Poor things. It had been a long week. Not to mention it was so hot. Like a few degrees cooler than the sun hot. Yuck.
Luckily, Universal is much more compact than Disney. It’s separated into two parks, and we opted to only visit the Islands of Adventure.
Why the Islands of Adventure, you ask? Because it’s home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that’s why! Mark, Courtney and I had been looking forward to it all week, so we basically made a bee line for the back of the park. I guess they keep the best stuff in the back because you have to go through the entire park to get there. Here are a few things we saw along the way…
Honestly, I wasn’t paying much attention to everything else. I was just snapping photos for posterity’s sake. It wasn’t until we saw this…
that we got excited!! Like coming home.
Clearly, we should all respect the spell limits when visiting.
The Hogwarts Express, right off Platform 9 3/4. There was even a conductor, with a very convincing English accent, who asked my very red-headed sister if she was a Weasley.
The first roller coaster we rode was right off of Hogsmead (to the left of this photos) and it was themed after the Goblet of Fire. At the end of the line we had to pick which dragon we wanted to face, and then loaded in to the car. It was my first time to ride a coaster where my feet dangled, and I did okay, even though I was completely nervous. It was a little scary at first, but oh so fun once I got used to it.
All of these buildings were based on shops from the books. Some were real, like Zonko’s and Ollivander’s, and some were not. But it was all very cool to look at and window shop.
We got to go inside Zonko’s, where they had all of the familiar sweets. Chocolate frogs ribbitted and bogey flavored jelly beans lined the walls. There were also cute little toys and gadgets. Unfortunately, the line for Ollivander’s was too long for us so we didn’t make it in there. But there were a couple of other shops that sold wands, so we did get to eventually see those too.
The attention to detail really made this place spectacular. It felt like we had stepped onto one of the movie sets. I know it’s hard to tell, but in the windows were potted mandrakes that moved and screamed. Even the bathrooms were in character. Moaning Myrtle had flooded them again, and her voice could be heard teasing those who entered.
There were a few butter beer carts around the park. The lines were pretty long, but the end result was worth it. It tasted a lot like a cream soda float. So good on a hot day. Vendors also sold pumpkin juice, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any polyjuice potion.
And then there was the castle. Hogwarts itself. I can’t say enough about the amount of detail that went into making this place look authentic. Inside Hogwarts was a simulated ride, that we immediately lined up for. The good and bad thing about it was that we had to check all of our stuff at the beginning of the line. So my camera and all of our other belongings went into a little locker until we got off the ride. It was good because I didn’t have to worry about losing my stuff on the ride, but bad because I couldn’t take a single photo while I was in line. But, let me tell you… it was amazing. As we walked through Hogwarts, we saw floating candles, talking paintings including the Fat Lady. We saw statues of the founders and Dumbledore’s office, complete with the headmaster giving us advice on the adventure we were about to embark. Harry, Hermione, and Ron popped up a few times to tell us good luck. And Ron even made it ‘snow’ on us. After we passed through the greenhouse, again with potted mandrakes, it was time to load on the ride. It was easily the best ride of the whole trip!
We hopped on, and after a spell from Hermione to allow us to fly our brooms, we took off after Harry for a Quiditch match. It was amazing! The projected images and the movement of the car made it really feel like we were flying through the castle. There were dementers, projected and real, that blew super cold vapors at our faces. And spiders that spit cold water at us. The ride lasted for maybe a minute, the longest of the trip, and at the end we were congratulated by all of the students and professors for a job well done.
We were all so stoked when we got off. I can’t say enough how awesome it was! After the ride we went through the shops looking for souvenirs.
There were so many people crammed in these little shops, so it was hard to take photos. But we saw everything from sweaters and scarves, to wands and broomsticks. I came home with a sweet little time turner key chain.
If only it really worked!! Wouldn’t that be sweet!?
While there was a lot to see and do in the wizarding world, there wasn’t much for the kiddos to do. So while Mark and Courtney and I were busy in Hogwarts, mom and dad took the kids back to Dr. Seuss land to play a bit.
They had so much fun cooling off and playing in the splash pad!
Mark, Courtney and I finished off our trip to Universal with a ride on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. It was both amazing and scary at the same time. Definitely worth the 45 minute wait.
So that’s the rest of our vacation story. It really was such a fun trip. We’re already trying to figure out when we can go again. It probably will be a few years at least. We want to give the kids enough time to grow a bit so they can do all the fun stuff, too!
I feel like I should warn you… this post has a ton of photos.
Well, we did it! After what felt like years waiting, we made our trip to Disney World.
We hopped on a plane last Monday—the first time for both of the kids and only the third time for Mark—and made the 2 hour flight to Orlando. The kids did much better than expected. No crying or fussing from either, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
The weather in Orlando wasn’t the greatest. A storm was coming in when we landed and we fought the rain most of the time we were there. But all in all, we made the best of it and had a great time.
On Tuesday morning, we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
And we got to see some of our favorites. Like Ariel in The Voyage of the Little Mermaid…
The show was fantastic!! There were sprays of water and bubbles and dancing fish. It almost felt like we were under the sea with Ariel and Ursula.
We also got to visit Toy Story Midway Mania in the Pixar Animation Studios section. Where there were things like chains of monkeys and little green army men…
We took pictures in the claw machine… (the claaaawwwwww)
…and with Buzz and Woody!!
Pretty much the best day of Spencer’s life!! haha
After spending the morning at Hollywood Studios, we went back to the hotel to get some rest and get ready for the evening. We headed to Downtown Disney where Laurel had a very important appointment with a Fairy Godmother. We got there a little early for the appointment so we shopped a little while we waited.
We made an appointment for Laurel at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where a Fairy Godmother in training made her over into a little princess.
It was soooo worth it! Laurel got to walk around like a princess the rest of the day. She was so excited and she looked so pretty!
On Wednesday morning, we made it over to the Animal Kingdom.
Basically Disney’s version of a zoo, the Animal Kingdom was a huge hit with everyone. We saw things like waterfalls…
…and Disney’s Tree of Life. The whole trunk of the tree is made of silhouettes of various animals. It was fun trying to pick out all of the different ones.
We walked through the streets of Africa…
And saw things like giraffe and hippo skulls…
That hippo could have eaten Mark’s head!!
There were tons of fish and a hippo if you look closely…
And just as we were about to leave the area, this big guy came out to say hello…
An 800-pound lowland silverback gorilla… the alpha male of this territory. He had 2 female companions and a baby with him.
Then it was time for a safari ride!
Can you believe this is Florida? It was almost like being in Africa. The animals roamed free…or so it seemed…and we were able to get pretty close to a few of them.
Those big red mounds are actually termite colonies! They were huge!
This one was easily 8-feet tall!
There were lots of grazing animals. Including a long horned steer whose antlers were 20-inches wide at the base!!
We were maybe 6-feet away from this guy!
There were elephants, big and small…
And of course, there was Pride Rock…
If you look closely, you can just see a lioness’ head.
And, Timon and Pumba were there too…
After our safari ride, we trekked over to Asia and Expedition Everest…
After Mark and Courtney and I rode the Everest roller coaster, we headed back for a nap. That evening we made our final Disney stop at the Magic Kingdom.
By this point, it had been raining most of the day. But we plowed through and had the best time. This was by far the best part of the trip. The Magic Kingdom is what you think of when you hear Disney World. The castle, the teacups and Dumbo, Space Mountain… parades and fireworks… all make this place the happiest on earth!
I loved these little statues that were in front of the castle…
We were lucky to arrive just in time for a parade!
After the parade, we made our way over to the teacups and spun ’round and ’round. And here we are riding the Dumbo ride with the kids…
Once the sun started to go down we made our way back over to the castle to get ready for the night parade. The castle was beautiful all lit up for the night.
The parade included some of the most iconic characters. Like Tinkerbell, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie…
Alice and the caterpillar smokin’ his houka…
There were Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother. Some evil stepsisters and a ballroom full of dancers…
Snow White and the dwarves sang Hi Ho…
Pinocchio was there…
And Pete and his magic dragon…
The parade concluded with an Americana theme…
By this time, we were all pretty pooped, so we watched the fireworks as we made our way out. We spent 2 days at Disney and there was no way we could have seen and done it all. We really tried to make this trip more about the kids and do what they wanted and could do. I know that they had a blast, and so did we! But, I really can’t wait until we can go again. There’s just so much to do and so many more memories to make!
Today is the last day of Teacher Appreciation week… the day to “bring your teachers something sweet to eat.”
Instead of brownies or cupcakes or bags of candy, I wanted to bring something a little bit different. I just discovered this stuff at walmart a couple of months ago, and I can not get enough. It is so good. The perfect combination of sweet and salty.
If you can’t read it clearly, it says “A sweet and savory dream of white chocolatey drops, chocolate drops, peanut butter drops, almonds, peanuts, cashews, golden raisins and cranberries.” Mmmmm mmmmm, good. I might’ve bought a bag for myself. Maybe.
I grabbed a couple of glass jars from walmart, a piece of fabric and some yarn.
First I cut 2 circles from my fabric. I used my rotary cutter and a plastic paint palette as a guide.
And then filled each jar with the trail mix.
I wanted to wrap each jar with the fabric and some yarn. But first I needed to add a bit of double sided tape to help hold the fabric in place.
I placed the fabric down on the lid, and while the hubs held it tight, I was able to loop the yarn around a few times and tie it in a bow.
Teacher Appreciation Week is rolling right along. Yesterday was “give your teachers a hug” day, so we didn’t have to make anything for that. But today is “bring your teachers a card” day. And Laurel made these all by herself!
All I needed to do was set out a few supplies. A couple of blank chipboard cards, some acrylic paint and a few foam heart stickers.
Laurel enthusiastically picked 3 colors for each of her teachers. Then I took a brush and painted a little bit of paint onto the front of a foam heart sticker.
After I painted the heart I handed it over to Laurel to stamp away.
We used a new sticker for each color and put 3 hearts on each card.
Just look at that handwriting!!
Laurel did such a great job all by herself. She was so proud of how they came out, and she was super excited about giving them to her teachers today.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week at Laurel’s school! So, everyday I’ll be whipping up something cute to show her teachers how grateful we are to have them.
On Thursday of last week, the PTO sent home a list of suggestions to help show the teachers that we are thankful for all the hard work they’ve put in this year. Monday was “bring a colorful pen or pencil” day so Laurel brought a couple of pens like the ones I talked about here. Tuesday is “make or bring your teacher a flower” day. And instead of bringing the teachers flowers that can wilt and be thrown out, we made these cute felt flower brooches.
I’ve made flowers like these before (here), but I put a little twist on these and wanted to show you how you could make your own. Maybe it’s Teacher Appreciation week where you are, too. But, if it’s not (or maybe you don’t have kids), these would make an awesome happy for Mother’s Day, which is right around the corner.
Here’s everything you’ll need to make 2 brooches:
Various colors of felt: 2 colors for each set of petals and green for the leaves
Button covering kit
Needle and embroidery thread
2 safety pins
STEP ONE: Cut the felt you’ve chosen for the petals into circles that are roughly 2.5″ in diameter. I used a small bowl to trace the shape. You’ll need 2 circles of each color.
STEP THREE: Cover your buttons. Start by cutting a small piece of fabric. Place the fabric face side down over the white piece in the button covering kit. Trim off any excessive fabric and fold it down into the button. Place the back of the button over the fabric and use the blue piece to push the back into place.
STEP FOUR: Take each of the circles you cut for your petals and cut them in half. Cut slits evenly around the curved edge of the half circles.
STEP FIVE: Take a needle and thread some matching embroidery floss. Using a back stitch, outline the leaves with the thread. I didn’t draw a line or anything, I just followed the curve of the felt as best I could. Then I added a line down the middle to give it that leafy feel.
STEP SIX: I really didn’t like the idea of the thread showing on the backs of the leaves. So I hot glued the embroidered leaf to another piece of contrasting green felt. Then, I just trimmed around the leaf so that a bit of the lighter green was showing. Leave a little tag on the end… it’ll come in handy when it’s time to put everything together.
STEP EIGHT: Now, let’s put it all together. Starting with the leaves. Add a bit of hot glue to the end tag part of the leaf and stick it down onto the green circle. Arrange the 2 leaves any way you like. One on each side… both on the same side. Whatever you like.
STEP NINE: To make the petals, take one of the half circles and add just a tiny bit of glue… just enough to hold it together folded in half. Then take a contrasting half circle and glue the first piece to the middle of the second. Wrap the other half of the second piece around and glue down. Repeat until all the petals are complete. You’ll need 4 petals per flower.
STEP TEN: Arrange the petals around the green circle and hot glue down. The petals should be on top of the leaves.
STEP ELEVEN: Hot glue the covered button to the center of the flower. I added another felt circle under the button, but it’s not necessary… I just thought it needed something more.
STEP TWELVE: To attach the safety pin, add a tiny bit of hot glue to the part of the pin that doesn’t open and stick it down in the center of the back. To finish it off and add some stability, hot glue a small piece of matching green felt over the pin.
Plus, they last way longer than real flowers.
Yesterday my baby boy turned 2. And we celebrated. Toy Story style.
There is just something really special about the 2nd birthday. I felt it when Laurel turned 2 and I’m feeling it with Spencer. It’s almost like a signal of the end of the their baby days. I mean, he’s certainly come a long way from this squirmy little dude…
He never goes anywhere without Buzz or Woody. Those 2 are just as real to Spencer as his dad and I… and I am completely okay with that. We absolutely love the Toy Story movies and have been known to watch them 3 or 4 times a day when we’re home sick… ahem, Spencer and I, that is. So it was an easy choice to have a Toy Story themed birthday party!
I decorated the house with all things Toy Story. Including the toys we already had, like Woody and Slinky Dog. And paper decorations from a store bought pack. I even framed the invitation I designed. My good buddy, Eric Summers drew Buzz and Woody for me!
We made cupcakes and topped them with Toy Story sprinkles.
Spencer blew out a Buzz Lightyear candle.
And we opened lots of Toy Story themed presents.
But there were other things, too. Like this big ride on John Deere tractor that my mom and dad surprised him with. It was a BIG hit… with all the kids!
After the party was over and everything had calmed down a bit, we brought Spencer over to the growth chart in the hallway. Just like we do on each birthday (and at other random times), we marked how tall Spencer has grown.
And I know it’s cliche, but I still can’t believe it’s been 2 whole years. Sometimes I can look at him and it feels like he was just born and others it feels like he’s been with us forever.
Having a little boy has been such a rewarding experience. He shows me everyday how sweet and silly and loving he is… and how completely different he is from his sister. He makes me smile and laugh out loud. He also scares the bejeebus out of me (I mean, really, the kid has no fear), but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Happiest 2nd Birthday, Spencie Man. I can not wait to see how much you grow and learn over the next year!
Last week I signed up to bring apples for Laurel’s Easter party at school. It was one of the last things on the list. And because I am officially that mom, I couldn’t just bring sliced apples. So, I made these fun little springtime apple treats instead.
You know those moms. The ones who completely overdo and go way above what is required for the sake of being cute or crafty. Yep, I am totally that mom. And I am totally okay with that.
I love doing things like this. Especially when it’s for one of the kids. We get to work together and make something cute that we can share. And I know that one day (all too soon) these things will become just a fun childhood memory. So I will be that mom. For as long as my children will let me.
These are so fun and easy. You can make as many as you need for school parties, birthdays, or just an afternoon snack. It took me right around 2 hours from start to finish to make 16 treats.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Clear plastic punch cups
STEP 1: First, I followed this tutorial and filled each apple with peanut butter and a gummi worm.
STEP 2: Crush the Oreos (about 2 per treat) and place into the bottom of each cup. Place the apple on top.
STEP 3: Wrap each apple and cup in saran wrap so that the edges are on the bottom of the cup.
STEP 4: Using an Exacto knife and a small plate, cut the tissue paper into circles.
STEP 5: Wrap each cup with a tissue paper circle. Hot glue some ribbon all around to keep it in place.
STEP 6: Make this springtime treat even more sweet with fun embellishments. Add flowers, bumble bees or butterflies. The ones I used are scrapbook stickers but you can use whatever you have around or can find at the craft store. Anything is fair game as long as you think it’s cute!
For the flags, I used premade banners, but you can definitely cut your own from scrapbook paper. Just fold the banner in half and hot glue a toothpick in the fold. Stick the toothpick into the apple top (going through the saran wrap) and you’re all done!
Laurel was so excited to take these to the party. She told me that all of her friends and her teachers loved them. So I’d say these were a big hit!