We saw our first robins the other day, so hopefully spring is around the corner. It was finally 40°-50°F the past couple days. Nina (paternal grandma), came to Madison to watch McKenzie so I could have some girl time and go shopping for Easter goodies for the basket. I managed to find some great non-candy items, as well as some yummy treats she’s been eying at the store.So this morning McKenzie woke up and discovered that the Easter Bunny had filled plastic eggs and hid them all over the house…and hid her basket in the shower! Silly Bunny. She totally did the “overjoyed face,” complete with wide-eyes and palms to her cheeks. We had a great morning! Happy Spring everyone. =)
We had a great Valentine’s Day! I woke up to not one, but two beautiful flower arrangements & a sweet note from my wonderful husband. Our romantic evening in Milwaukee was so much fun (although, let’s be honest: the February horse-drawn carriage ride in Wisconsin was a little torturous). As expected, the food was amazing, and we had a beautiful river-view from our hotel room. I would say dinner was the highlight…we got to order whatever we wanted off the menu! Whatever. We. Wanted. I didn’t snap any pictures because I wanted to feel “present” in the moment with Jon, so my apologies (or not). We really did have a great time.
On that note, it’s crunch time: Jon leaves for the Army 3 weeks from today. It’s getting so close! I do a really good job of NOT thinking about things until they’re here…I think it’s a protective mechanism for me, but it helps me to enjoy the moments we still have without anxiety about the future. So overall, I think it’s a good thing. It won’t be real until we get back to the empty house without him. =( I figure we won’t see him for about 3 months. While he’s training, I plan on staying busy with McKenzie and going on a few trips.
As I mentioned in this post, my sister and her husband are closing on their first home on March 15th, so we’ll definitely make the trek to Minnesota to visit them and see the new place. I’m super excited for them. Any good housewarming gift ideas? We also plan on visiting my step-dad (Grandpa Jeff) in Laguna Niguel, California. Not a bad place to visit! He loves taking us out on his boat to see dolphins, seals, & whales on the weekends. We were out there for McKenzie’s birthday in August, and we always have a blast.
The year 2013 is full of exciting uncertainty for me & my family. For those of you who know me, or have been following my blog, you know that my husband just graduated college and is leaving for the Army soon. For some reason, we were thinking, “Oh, it’s 3 months away,” maybe because March is the 3rd month? I don’t know…but two months seems infinitely closer than three. So, for the next two months we’ll be enjoying precious time together as a family, before we’re on the military’s schedule.
Now, if you’ve read our love story, you’ll know that this lifestyle isn’t new to us…I was a military wife before. BUT (and it’s a big but) we didn’t have a child when he was in the Marines, which I think is both good and bad. Good, because now I can keep myself busy in his absence, but bad in the respect that I know it will be harder on McKenzie, and Jon too, for that matter. I’ve been preparing her, telling her that Daddy will be gone for awhile and we’ll be moving to a new home. I told her that she’ll get to go to a new school and make new friends. I think the mental preparation is key, so it’s not a shock. We don’t know exactly when Jon will be done training, so we’re not even sure when we’ll move. Exciting uncertainty, as I said.
And since a lot of people have asked: no, he’s not going to be an Officer, even though he has his Bachelor’s…at least not until he exhausts his other options. His contract is 18X (google if you’re curious), but of course there are a lot of obstacles to overcome…literally…before he would be assigned to a duty station. In order to prepare, he’s training with a personal trainer 4x a week for the next 10 weeks before he leaves (I don’t even want to tell you how much that cost…but we’re considering it an “investment”). We have no illusions about the realities of Army life, so we have no expectations. We’re just keeping an open mind and going with the flow.
On that note, I resolve to make 2013 a great year. Life is primarily about attitude, so I will strive to have a positive attitude, be more patient, and be kinder to myself (I am notoriously hard on myself). Three simple things I think I can easily achieve with a conscious effort. As Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
I sincerely hope that 2013 is a wonderful year for everyone, full of happiness, success, and joy. Happy New Year!
When 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?
I posted a link awhile ago to the online children’s boutique, Mommy’s Little Sunshine. They’re always having giveaways, and I just got this “free” (plus shipping) headband in the mail. It was originally for McKenzie, but I commandeered it…I always wear ponytails, so I LOVE headbands in the winter. =)
In other news, I officially finished Christmas shopping! What a chore. But it’s always worth it to see the look on McKenzie’s face! That said, I’m relieved to be done (except for stocking stuffers). It looks sparse under our tree right now, but when Santa comes it’ll be packed under there.
We’re having Christmas morning at home for the first time ever…I’m pretty excited. Then during the day we’re going to my mother-in-law’s. Jon has to be back for work the AM of the 26th, so we’ll just leave the doggies at home.
On that note, Cali’s tail is taking nightmarishly long to heal. Goodness. I have to wrap it at least once a day still, and now we have a large syringe-cover taped to the tip so she doesn’t split it open.
Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 WEEKS until our Mexico vacation. =) I’m excited. As you can tell, I could definitely use a tan.
Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 MONTHS until Jon leaves for the Army. =/ I’m definitely nervous about that one. Since he’s graduated now, it’s getting more and more real. The hardest part is that we don’t really know what his job will be yet, or where we’ll be living. It’s just hard to picture the future, and that’s nerve racking.
Anyhow, Happy Holidays everyone. =)
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.
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.
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!
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!
Alrighty, I haven’t posted any “life updates” lately, so here’s what’s been going on with me:
- I’m super stoked that my tutorial “Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6-easy Steps has gone viral on Pinterest. I had almost 1000 views here yesterday alone! That’s wayyy exciting for me. So I’ve been thinking of ways to keep that going. Suggestions welcome. ;)
- My amazing hubbs is graduating from UW-Madison next weekend! ((GO BADGERS, WOO!!)) We’re obviously excited. Then in March he will become active duty in the Army, and re-training will commence. Who knows where we’ll be in a year?! It’s both exciting, and somewhat stressful. It will be strange, since the Army is very different from the Marines in some ways, but I’m sure the lifestyle is similar overall. Details on this decision here, since I don’t really want to hear any more “How could you let him do that?!” questions.
- Since he will be active duty again, thought we could use some “alone time” before things get crazy, so I booked us a vacation to Cancun in January. We’re going to an adults-only all-inclusive for a whole week for some much-needed relaxation. I hope adult-only doesn’t translate to “swingers” because that would be really awkward. Haha. That said, I’m super excited! We’ve always stayed in the Riviera Maya, so I’ve never been to Cancun before. If anyone knows of fun stuff to do there, please share!
- We decorated our tree! I have a particular affinity for real trees, specifically Frasier Firs. I think it’s because of the smell…it reminds me of my happy childhood Christmases, which makes sense because smell is the strongest sense linked to memory, so they say. We played Christmas music, and McKenzie had a blast helping us this year. She LOVES Christmastime, which is fun to see.
- We are having a family Christmas celebration here on the 15th, because my family will be in town for Jon’s graduation…which translates to: I have to clean the house and wrap all the gifts that are being mailed here. *sigh* I am mostly excited for the meal, which is going to be Beef Wellington (at the request of over 5 people). It’s amazing. If you are not a family of vegetarians, it is a must. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a labor intensive recipe, but easy and delicious. And I don’t dare modify that recipe either…why mess with perfection?
- Cali’s tail has been a PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. Seriously. (If you are not up-to-date with story, click here for details.) The bandaging is practically impossible to keep on, due to her frantic tail-wagging whenever we come home. And then she gets nervous, because she thinks it will hurt and shakes for like 5 minutes. Poor girl. I’ve been trying to keep her cone-head off whenever we’re home, though. She gets her stitches out next Thursday (hopefully), but she has another appointment Monday for some more professional re-bandaging.
- I have been running 1 mile a day. This is HUGE for me. Granted, it takes me 10 or 11 minutes, but I run the whole way. Yay me! Gotta get in slightly better shape for this upcoming vacay. ;) I would love to get into running again. I LOVE running when I am into it, but it’s the “getting into it” that’s difficult. It’s so hard. [Insert whiny voice here.] But it’s worth it, right? *sigh*
So that’s pretty much what’s been going on with me. How is your December so far? Do you find the holidays stressful, magical, or a little bit of both?
There is something to be said about real trees…they’re unbeatable if you ask me. First, there’s the search for the perfect tree. Then, the decorating. And the smell…there’s just no comparison!
Unfortunately, there’s always the vacuuming. Urgh. BUT with the help of a simple recipe I found for a DIY Tree Preservative, you can extend the life & health of your tree by several weeks! It’s pretty easy, and with 3 simple ingredients (that you probably already have in your home) you can have it ready in no time. Ultimately, it will be wayyy cheaper than buying the store-bought kind. And for me, anything that minimizes vacuuming is a must.
- 1 quart warm water
- ½ cup light corn syrup (nutrients)
- 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach (prevents fungal & bacterial growth)
- Simply mix the 3 ingredients and top-off your tree daily! It has definitely helped our tree so far. I highly recommend it!
I 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…
- White velcro
- 16 gauge wire (I found it at Michael’s in the bead aisle)
- Needle & white/red thread
- Glue gun
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with other arm & then the legs.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
If you’re like me, every year I struggle to come up with awesome kid’s gift ideas for the holidays. And if your child is like mine, they probably have a lot of stuff that they rarely play with already…so why add to the junk? That said, over the past few years McKenzie has gotten some pretty cool stuff that she regularly plays with and/or uses. In my opinion, the best gifts are those that encourage creative family play, and are ones that I actually enjoy playing with her. Here are my top 10 (mostly) gender-neutral gift ideas, that are fun and reasonably priced…we either have these already, or they’re on our wish-list!
- Marble Race ($24.99) McKenzie got this last year for Christmas, and both Jon & I have fun building it with her. She still needs help at age 4, but it’s a great way to spend time together. It provides hours of entertainment! Just be careful if your child has younger siblings, the marbles could be choking hazards!
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks ($69.99…currently on sale $48.99) I love these because they’re gender-neutral and full of potential…the possibilities are endless! Towers, castles, bridges, etc. They are extremely good quality and come in a convenient, matching wooden crate for easy storage. These will easily last for whenever we have a 2nd child, or even grandchildren!
- High Five Magazine ($34.44 for 12 issues) Perfect for a boy or girl, this gift keeps giving all year ’round! McKenzie loves the “Tex & Indi” stories in each issue, the “hidden pictures,” and also the interactive activities at the back of each magazine (ie: matching games, build-a-book, etc). She really looks forward to getting her own “mail” each month!
- Discovery Kids 77-Piece Build & Play Construction Fort Set ($24.99) I got this for McKenzie this year, so we haven’t opened it…but it just looked really fun for building forts! Maybe regular ‘ol chairs and blankets would be better, but it looked pretty cool. You can make rockets, tunnels, castles, or whatever their little hearts desire! My husband mentioned that you could probably buy two and combine them for an even more awesome fort. We’ll see how she likes it! Blanket not included. ;)
- IKEA 20-Piece Train Set ($9.99) If you’re fortunate enough to have an IKEA nearby (or maybe a relative does?!) this little set is great for preschoolers & kindergarteners. McKenzie got this when she was 2½, and she still plays with it. For $9.99 you can’t go wrong!
- Melissa & Doug Sandwich Making Set OR Wooden Food for Slicing ($19.99 each) These foods are fun, gender-neutral, and encourage hours of imaginative playtime away from the TV. Who can complain? As with all Melissa & Doug toys, the solid wood quality and craftsmanship ensure the product will withstand preschooler/kindergartener play. In my opinion, the only down-side is the multiple small pieces eventually disappear over time…but they always seem to re-appear, too. ;)
- KidKraft Fire Station Set or KidKraft Dollhouse ($109.99|$99.99) Although we don’t have the fire station, it could easily be fun for a girl or boy. I love that all the pieces are included and it sits atop a lazy-susan, so it swivels around. If you’re looking for something more girly, McKenzie has the dollhouse. Again, all the pieces shown are included, and I love that it has a removable roof. I chose it because it’s portable, and we can easily move it around from room to room. I’d recommend purchasing a couple extra dollsthough, ’cause it only comes with two. Assembly is super-easy, and it has stood up to hours of play.
- Annual Family Zoo Pass ($109 in Milwaukee…check local pricing!) Although Madison has a free local zoo affiliated with the University, Milwaukee’s Zoo is much larger and has a lot more animals. Check your local Zoos to see how much an annual family pass costs! In Milwaukee it’s only $109 for the Membership Plus package, which includes parking. Great for making memories together as a family!
- Huffy Bike ($39.97) According to the LiveStrong website, 12″ bikes are ideal for ages 3-5. Kids always love a new bike, and at less than $40 (including training wheels!) you really can’t go wrong. Hopefully McKenzie will be getting one this year. She was lucky enough to get a hand-me-down from a neighbor, but there’s something about having a sparkly new one to to call your own, ya know? She already gets enough thrifted clothing and toys, she can be spoiled by her Grandpa a little. ;) Maybe we’ll even jazz it up with these cool princess accessories. Also, since we don’t have this bike yet, I can’t speak to the ease of assembly, so if you’ve done it, please let me know. Annnnd of course if you do get your kiddo a new bike for Christmas, be sure they start practicing bicycle safety early and always wear a helmet!
- Disney Sleeping Bag Girl or Boy ($19.99) These sleeping bags could be used anywhere, from Grandma’s House to a sleepover, to a sick day in the living room. They are inexpensive, and yet they take up a lot of room under the tree…which is awesome. Although this sleeping bag is clearly not intended for outdoor/cold-weather use, it would be really fun for a kid to curl up and snuggle in it, even in his/her own bed! As an added bonus, it comes with a pretty cool carrier backpack. Score. Please note, the suggested age is 4+
**If you’re looking for an awesome 1-year old gift, I like this KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker ($46.99). We’ll probably be getting it for our friends who have 8-month-old identical twin boys. =)
Do you have any great gift ideas for kids? I’d love to hear them!