Parent’s Day @ Ballet!

Today was “Parent’s Day” at McKenzie’s ballet class, so we got to observe. It was so cute, and she had a lot of fun. =) There’s a recital on Sunday, so that should be cute too…but that goofy girl can’t keep her tongue in her mouth, she sticks it out whenever she’s focused (a la Michael Jordan). Ha. Baby boy was dancing around the whole time too. Gosh, I love that feeling. He’s getting stronger & stronger every day!

And if you’ve noticed that I’m blogging a bit more than usual, there are a couple reasons: 1) I’m trying to keep a record for Jon, and 2) I’m going a little stir-crazy with McKenzie by myself and craving an outlet/adult interaction. Ya dig? Sorry if I’m blowing up your inbox! (But not really…)

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Day #1 in California

After what seemed like an eternal day of traveling, McKenzie and I are finally in California visiting Grandpa Jeff (my stepdad). She was an amazing little traveler, but she was queasy on the plane…she threw up on the 2nd flight then fell fast asleep. I’m so happy I always carry a car sickness bag with me at all times! I highly recommend it for any parents…it’s saved me from cleaning up vomit in cars or planes on more than one occasion (the joys of parenting!).

Anyway, on our first full day yesterday, we took Dexter the dog on a long walk, and McKenzie stopped to enjoy all the flowers. She loves flowers. Then we ate a delicious breakfast at The Original Pancake House, after which I napped. Later in the day we went to Strand Beach in Dana Point, 10 minutes from Jeff’s house. The vistas are beautiful & McKenzie wanted desperately to play in the sand…she did & she loved it! It was a great start to our visit, and today we’ll be boating on the ocean on Jeff’s boat. Hopefully we’ll see some dolphins, seals, & whales!

Part of me is always a little sad when we visit, with the realization that we won’t be living here anytime soon (which was our plan before the Army). It’s just so beautiful: weather, scenery, everything. I would have loved for McKenzie to grow up here.

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You spent $1,000 on a…WHAT?!?

Yes, it’s true. As I alluded to in this post, we got a 2012 Bugaboo Cameleon! (Pictured below is the color scheme we got.) If you don’t know anything about these strollers, it’s probably because they start at $979 brand new. Which is insane. I mean, who spends that much on a stroller?! That’s a lot of dough. It’s pretty sweet though…just look at it. But you know who turned me on to it? My momma. Bugaboo

You see, before McKenzie was born, my mom practically begged to buy us this stroller. She thought it was super cool. Awesome even. But I vehemently opposed the purchase of a $1,000 stroller.  I was like, “Geez Mom…for that price, would you please just buy the entire bedroom set AND a cheaper stroller/car-seat set?” But at the time, I wasn’t personally aware of the awesomeness that is the Bugaboo Cam. Until now.

When we found out about Baby #2, I started thinking about strollers immediately, so of course my mind drifted to the Bugaboo, which my mom had liked so much. I did TONS of research. Read hundreds of reviews. Etc. And I came to the same conclusion: it’s pretty awesome. It has a sweet bassinet (w/ a foam mattress!). It’s car-seat compatible. It can be forward or rear-facing. It has 6 different positions. Adjustable suspension (no kidding!). Heavy-duty foam tires. A reversible, height-adjustable handlebar. On top of all that, it’s relatively compact, and everything is machine washable…and according to the legends, you can push this bad-boy with one hand, no problem.

McKenzie will be 5 by the time the baby is born…which, I’ve decided, is a little old to be using a stroller…don’t you think? So I quickly ruled out double strollers. ((As a hilarious side-note, check out www.toobigforstroller.com for photographic evidence of this phenomena, if you could use a laugh.)) BUT, that said, if I’m going on a long, work-out-style walk, it might be too far for her little legs. Enter: the Bugaboo’s roller-board! I had never heard of these…but it folds up or detaches easily when not in-use…the perfect solution to my problem! I can still use a single stroller, but my kindergartener can ride along if she’s tired. Brilliant.

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Anyway, so I decided to go ahead with my Mom-inspired purchase, but I was still completely opposed to paying full-price. No freakin’ way am I dropping $1,000 on a stroller. So I began obsessively checking Craigslist and eBay. Unfortunately, not a lot of people in Madison, WI (or even Milwaukee) use Bugaboo strollers. And on eBay, they were pretty beat-up. Then, I had a genius idea: my step-dad lives in Orange County, California…so I searched the Craigslist there, and there were pages of Bugaboo listings. Score!

I kept my eye on them, and found a 2012 stroller, listed for $450 with car seat adapter + other accessories included. My lovely step-dad swooped over and scooped it up at my request…and after some bargaining, the final price was $375!  It’s still a lot for a stroller (I know), but we didn’t spend $1,000 on it. We managed to get a *mint* condition Bugaboo Cam for almost 65% off. I’m stoked, and I can’t wait to push Baby #2 around in it! And the best part is: I know my momma would approve. ;)

How to have a happy marriage: 9 little words.

“Don’t sweat the petty stuff…pet the sweaty stuff.” Oh my goodness, isn’t that ridiculous? Hilarious? Horrifying even? Haha. You know what makes it even worse? Apparently that was one of my dad’s favorite lines (of course I never knew that though). It sorta makes me want to gag and giggle simultaneously. I’ve said it to Jon before when he was upset, and I sorta yelled it at him, “DON’T SWEAT THE PETTY STUFF, PET THE SWEATY STUFF!” It ended in a mutual fit of laughter. You should try it. Works like a charm. I think it covers pretty much everything: the importance of both communication and intimacy…and it lightens any mood because it’s so damn ridiculous. Yup. 9 little words to live by.

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Not quite the same, but you get the idea. ;)

Passing down traditions: New Year’s Eve

imagesWhen I was a kid we had a really fun family New Year’s Eve tradition. First, we’d go to Blockbuster and pick out 3 or 4 VHS movies for our movie marathon (quite a splurge back in the day), and then we’d come home and set up our fondue pot…I always looked forward to it! *mental note: get a fondue pot* Our first course would be veggies in a tempura batter, next was meat (chicken, shrimp, steak), and we finished it off with chocolate fondue & fruit. Oh, and there would always be a crackling fire to set the ambiance. I was always the designated “fire tender,” not because I loved the mood, but because I’m pretty sure I was a pyromaniac. Haha.

Anyhow, our meal usually lasted the first whole movie. After that, we’d quickly clean up and then literally wrestle my parent’s queen sized mattress from their bedroom to the family room. It was quite an event. This was back in the day when you inflated air mattresses with a foot pump, so it was actually easier to move the whole bedroom mattress…we only did this on special occasions of course, like NYE.

Then we’d all cozy up on my parent’s mattress on our family room floor and continue our movie marathon until about 11:30 (we’d have it timed perfectly), and we’d watch the last 30 minutes of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve & watch the ball drop. Then my mom would give us wooden spoons and pots & pans and we’d bang them outside (I’m sure our neighbors loved us), because that’s what she used to do when she was little. Then my sister & I would retire to our rooms, and our parents would stay up and sleep in the family room for the night.

It was such a fun tradition, and we’re carrying it on with McKenzie…although, we just go out for a nice dinner and bring out the air mattress. =) Ah, fond memories…did you have any fun family traditions for New Year’s Eve when you were a kid?

He Graduated! Woo!

After 5 years working part-time at UPS, going to school with a  3/4-course load, and being an awesome husband and daddy, my hubbs graduated from UW-Madison! Now we just need a Rose Bowl win. ;) Here are some pics, as promised…2 weeks late. But I can’t believe he’s done with college, almost exactly 1 year after me. I’m so, so proud! In high school, he would not have been the kid graduating from a top-tier university. Funny what a good woman can do for ya. *pats self on back*

But now the Army is less than 3 months away. *eek!* Thankfully, we’re going to Cancun in less than 2 weeks now, which should be super-fun “alone time” before he leaves. ;) Can’t wait.

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What’s in a background?

My photography business has been (understandably) slower in the winter, so it’s wayyyy fun to get out and play around with McKenzie & my camera. I miss it! I posted these photos about making a wall-collage with the same pose for every season, which I think is a ridiculously fun idea. Funny thing is, I took the winter photo on the 2nd floor deck of our condo…who would’ve thought?

Surely if you are an experienced portrait photographer (or a photographer in general) you understand the importance of “framing,” but I’m just posting this to illustrate that backgrounds don’t have to be fancy! I only use natural light, meaning I don’t even have a studio. So be creative! Here’s an example:

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And since I’m missing my photography, here is another pretty winter one that I took on our snow day…this tree actually broke in half from the weight of the snow the night after I took this photo. IMG_0672 copy

Snow Day!

McKenzie’s school was cancelled today because of the blizzard “Draco.” We made sure to get out and play, and we definitely got some use out of her new snowsuit. I even wrapped Cali’s tail with a plastic bag so she could join us.

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We had fun sledding, making snow angels, and building our first snowman as a family! Logan (our Golden) LOVES the snow. By the end of our time outside, his coat had grown snowballs. IMG_0773

We put her brand new Disney Princess sled to use too, and we built a wicked-awesome snowman named Frosty. =) Overall it was a very fun day, complete with hot cocoa!

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In other news, Jon graduated on Sunday! I’m going through pics now, so I’ll have up some photos in a couple days. It was such a nice ceremony. We’re so proud of him!

“Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6 Easy Steps

IMG_0318I was so excited to run out and get “Elf on the Shelf” this year, I knew McKenzie would love it. At $29.99 it was a little overpriced if you ask me…but I figured we will use it for several years, so I considered it an investment. We named him Edwin “Eddie” the Elf.

Initially, I was a little surprised that he wasn’t more pose-able…he kept falling off the shelves I would put him on, so I googled a quick solution: Elf on the Shelf Hack. You simply add some wires, velcro, and magnets! I ran to Michael’s craft store and bought the supplies right away. After the modifications, he can now bend, hang, and climb to his heart’s desire! And I even gave him little feet, ’cause I though he looked a little weird with stick legs. Anyhow…

You’ll need:

  • White velcro
  • 16 gauge wire (I found it at Michael’s in the bead aisle)
  • Magnets
  • Needle & white/red thread
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Pliers/wire cutter
  • Stitch ripper (I don’t have one, so I used a pin to pull out the stitches, then a scissors to cut them free)IMG_0288IMG_0272

Steps:

  1. Step 1: First, snip the thread connecting the hands. Then, gently rip 2 stitches from the end of your Elf’s hands…or enough to fit the wire. This was pretty easy and I didn’t have any issues. Start heating your glue gun for the velcro in Step 5.
  2. Step 2: Measure the wire to the size of his arm, adding about an inch so you can curl the wire ends over (you don’t want it to poke through!). Then measure another piece of equally sized wire and wind them together. This makes him/her stronger.IMG_0305IMG_0301
  3. Step 3: Fold the ends of the wire to the exact length of the arms, and insert the wire into your Elf’s arm. Be sure to get it all the way to the end. There are circular tubes in the arm…try to get the wire to go through them. It was tricky, but I managed after persistent wiggling. Then sew him up! (Be sure to use matching thread, and use whatever stitch you think looks best.)
  4. Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with other arm & then the legs.IMG_0307IMG_0308
  5. Step 5: Next, you will add velcro to the bottom sides of your Elf’s hands. First, cut the pieces to size and use your glue gun to secure the velcro on both hands. This will make the elf easier to hang on things! (Be sure to use the different sides of velcro so they stick.) The velcro option is great…you can use it to have him display clever little notes! The possibilities are endless.IMG_0309
  6. Step 6: Get your magnets ready and cut velcro to size. Again, be sure to use opposite types of velcro. Also, ensure you are not using the sides of the magnets that stick together. I love the magnet option, because now he can “chill” on the refrigerator (get it? haha), but they’re still removable. That’s it! You’re done!IMG_0313

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    Now he has feet!

This project was super-simple. I have very little sewing experience, but I pulled it off just fine! Feel free to share with me if you do the project too, I can’t wait to see how yours will turn out! What a fun little tradition “Eddie” will be. =) Pin away, y’all! And be sure to “like” Life So Lovely on Facebook to receive updates of new posts in your newsfeed. ;) Oh, and I also did a pretty rad tutorial for a DIY Christmas Tree Preservative, or if you have younger kids check out my post on 10 Awesome Holiday Gift Ideas for Preschoolers/Kindergarteners.

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A Love Story.

May 2003

Once upon a time, in early May 2002, Girl met Boy in study hall. It was her Freshman year of high school, and Girl thought Boy was pretty cute. He was older and he could drive, so that was awesome too…but not only was Boy cute, he was sweet and respectful, which Girl appreciated very much.

On their first date Girl and Boy watched a movie, complete with Twizzlers, which was supervised by her terminally ill (yet very protective!) daddy. Girl and Boy would talk on the phone til 3 in the morning, go on long walks in the park, and fell in love pretty much immediately. Their first kiss was May 21st, 2002 and they were 15 and 17, respectively. The rest is history.

Almost a year later, Girl’s daddy passed away in March 2003, and Boy was always there for Girl. He took two days off school to be with Girl. He sat next to her at the funeral and held her hand. Boy’s family was very supportive of Girl, too, and always there for her as well. But only three months later Boy left for Bootcamp because he had joined the United States Marine Corps, and Girl was very sad. Girl missed him very much and wrote him letters all the time.

Bootcamp Graduation

Boy graduated Bootcamp in September 2003, and became a machine-gunner with 2/7 Weapons Company, stationed in the Mojave Desert in California. Girl still missed Boy very much. He bought his first cell phone so they could talk on the phone all the time, and they did. They saw each other on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

But they found out that Boy would be deployed to Iraq less than 5 months after graduating Bootcamp. Girl was scared and missed Boy more than ever. He left on Valentine’s Day, 2004, and they celebrated their 2 year anniversary in May with a long phone call. He was an accident in July which resulted in Boy calling Girl from the hospital with internal bleeding. She was terrified. Boy was resilient, though, and completed his 7-month tour, returning in September 2004 at the beginning of Girl’s Senior year of high school. They went to her Homecoming together, and his Marine Corps Ball. Since Girl had turned 18, she would fly to visit him whenever she had a chance, whether it was in L.A., Palm Springs, or Las Vegas. They loved each other very, very much and knew the long-distance was worth it.

Married June 17th, 2005

In February 2005, Boy flew home and surprised Girl. He proposed! Her Mom and sister were both willing accomplices in the surprise, and very supportive. Girl was over-the-moon! But then Boy found out that he had to deploy to Iraq for a 2nd tour in July 2005. Girl and Boy were both sad. They were going to wait to get married until after he returned, but eventually decided to “take the plunge” before he deployed. They got married less than a week after Girl’s graduation from high school on June 17th, 2005, after 3 years of dating. She was 18 and he was 20, and they were very happy.

Less than 3 weeks later, on the 4th of July, Boy left for his 2nd deployment to Iraq. Again, Girl was scared and missed Boy horribly. She knew he was in Fallujah and constantly in danger, so while Boy was gone she tried to stay busy. She was accepted to a top-tier university and decided to start her higher education in the Spring. Girl wanted to have a “normal” college experience, so she lived in the dorms. She had a great roommate and they had a lot of fun, but she was very studious as well. Girl was always faithful to her beloved Boy, and eagerly awaited his calls. ((And if anyone has ever said otherwise, they were fucking liars…mmmmmm-kay?))

Fallujah, Iraq 2005

Girl did very well in college, but after 1 semester, Girl could not bear to be away from Boy voluntarily any longer. 2½ years apart was enough! She decided to put school on “pause,” and she moved to California so she and Boy could be together at last. Boy returned safely from his 2nd deployment in late January 2006, but 3 of his good friends had been killed in action, so it was bittersweet. Girl was happy to have Boy back, and they were both very happy to be together again.

Girl had gotten Marine Corps base housing, and prepared the home for his arrival, meaning she bought a bedroom set. ((Heh, heh.)) Boy and Girl did a lot of furniture shopping together, and overall enjoyed each others’ company. It was refreshing to be together and they were still very much in love. This was the beginning of their married life together, without a war keeping them apart. In Spring 2006, they welcomed two puppies into their little family, a golden retriever and a yellow lab. Girl, Boy, and The Dogs were a little family. But it was not always happy. Boy was often irritable and volatile…an often unseen after-effect of war. This was a difficult time for Girl, but they changed and grew together, and never gave up on each other. They were still very much in love.

Girl & Boy 2006

Luckily, Boy did not have to deploy anymore. After 4 long years, he was honorably discharged from the Marines in June 2007. Boy and Girl moved back to their home state, and decided that they would finish college together. The adjustment was hard, but they supported each other completely. Boy got a part-time job at UPS to help pay the bills and provide health insurance, and fortunately the GI Bill helped with the rest of their expenses.

Girl was able to attend classes full-time, and was excited to be back in academia, but Boy was having trouble transitioning from a combat Marine mentality to the “civilian world.” Boy missed his friends, and it was a difficult change from the Marine Corps Infantry lifestyle. Mentally, the change was tough on Boy. Having been there with Boy, and experiencing it first-hand, Girl supported Boy and encouraged him to move forward and make progress. She listened. She didn’t pry or push. But she was always there, his constant. It was a very private and personal struggle.

35 weeks, July 2008.

On December 14th, 2007, they found out Girl was pregnant. This was a BIG surprise for Boy and Girl, since they had just started school again. The timing was not ideal, as their steady military income was gone, but Boy and Girl had been together for 5½ years, married for 2½ years, with two 7-month combat deployments behind them…so they knew if they could handle that, they could handle anything.

In March 2008, they learned that they were expecting a Little Princess. Girl was uncomfortable and felt like there was a parasite in her body draining all her energy. Boy was nervous and wondered if he would be a good Daddy, but Girl had no doubts that he would be an amazing father. They became more and more excited each day, and eagerly awaited the arrival of their Little Princess.

Little Princess, born August 24th, 2008

Nearly two weeks past her due date, Girl had become convinced that Little Princess was trying to torture her, but on August 24th, 2008, Little Princess made her arrival at 7:54pm. She weighed 7lbs. 11oz. and was 20 inches long. Little Princess was absolutely perfect, and Boy and Girl were amazed by the Little Princess they had created together. So Little Princess joined Boy, Girl, and The Dogs, and their little family grew.

Little Princess was a mercifully well-behaved little baby. Girl loved to play dress-up with Little Princess and give her lots of cuddles. Boy loved to tickle Little Princess to make her giggle, and give her lots of kisses. The birth of Little Princess also helped Boy change his outlook on life: he felt hopeful again, where he had previously been struggling with the mental implications of combat. Boy was constantly striving to overcome any war-related issues he had, not only for himself, but also for his relationship with Girl and Little Princess.

Little Princess, 4 months

Boy and Girl continued to go to school, which was very tricky with Little Princess. Boy and Girl both switched to part-time, but they alternated school days and made it work. They were both very determined to reach their goals, not only for themselves, but to set a good example for Little Princess. Little Princess was a very loved little child. Soon she was babbling and walking, and before they knew it, she turned 1….and then 2. Boy and Girl just loved watching Little Princess grow up.

Soon after Little Princess’s 2nd birthday, Girl’s mom became gravely ill, with a combination of heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, and lung failure. Girl was very close with her mother and was devastated. Boy was an amazing and supportive husband, and he encouraged Girl to go spend as much time as possible with her mother, even though she was far away in California. But Boy was sad too, because he had known Girl’s mother for 8 years, and also because he knew that Girl was sad. Eventually, Girl’s mom came home from the hospital for hospice care and she passed away 6 days later on October 3rd, 2010.

Girl & Boy, Caribbean Cruise 2011

Little Princess was too young to understand why Girl was upset and sad, but Boy was a great husband and Daddy, so he always tried to cheer Girl up. He told her he loved her all the time, and always let her know she could talk if she wanted. Girl was grateful. But within the next few months, Girl’s remaining 3 grandparents died too, and it was overwhelming. Boy was vigilant and always let Girl know that he was there for her.

But Girl and Boy always made time for each other, they would go on dinner dates and grown-up vacations together. Their relationship was very important to them, so they made it a priority in their lives.

Over the next year, Little Princess turned 3. Time was flying. School kept Girl busy. Her hard work paid off. In December 2011, Girl graduated from college with her bachelor’s degree in English Linguistics, and minors in Women’s Studies and TESOL. She was very proud of herself, and Boy was very proud of her. He told her all the time. And Girl also knew her parents would have been proud, which made her feel good.

Girl Graduates College, 2011

Boy was going to graduate soon too (within the year), and Girl and Boy planned on moving back to California to get grown-up jobs. They loved the weather there, and Little Princess could play outside all day long if she wanted to. So, Girl started a photography business because she didn’t want to get a job and have to move right away, because it seemed impractical. Throughout the year, Boy kept busy with his last couple semesters of class, and Girl worked on her business. Boy had come very far recovering from the traumas of war, and Girl and Boy loved each other more than ever. They could still talk until 3 in the morning.

First Day of Kindergarten!

As for their Little Princess, she was growing fast…too fast! In August 2012, Little Princess turned 4. The next month, Little Princess started 4K kindergarten. Girl and Boy wondered where the time was going. And Boy started his very last semester of college. Then their plans for California changed.

The military had always been an ever-present thought for Boy. He knew that he missed it, and Girl knew it too. He missed the camaraderie, the structure, the “Man Shit,” the teamwork, the leadership, and the sense of purpose. In Fall 2012, Boy decided he wanted to join the Army (the Marines were downsizing and no longer taking prior service). Girl wanted Boy to be happy, and she was very supportive of Boy. She knew that nothing would ever compare to the military for him. Plus, Girl had her bachelor’s degree, so she wouldn’t need to work at the PX for minimum wage, or live vicariously through her husband’s accomplishments.

On November 8th, 2012, Boy officially enlisted in the Army, with Girl’s blessing. It was going to be a new adventure. By this time, Boy and Girl had been together 10½ years, married for 7½ years, and knew that together they could handle anything.

Now, Boy and Girl were not perfect, by any means, but they worked hard at their relationship. They tried, and continue to try. They communicated and never tore each other down. They refused to ever give up, and never will. They will always be there for one another, loving and supporting each other, through anything, no matter what. ‘Til death do them part.

Boy + Girl = Forever