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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Cuteness for Every Season

I’ve been planning a seasonal collage of McKenzie for our hallway, and I’ve got 3 out of 4 photos now! I took the winter one today since we have some fresh snow. I think it’s so fun! Maybe I’ll start doing 1 every month so I can make a calendar next year. Just thought I’d share…I can’t wait to order the 8×10’s so her adorableness can adorn our hallway. It will be super-easy to replace one every 3 or 4 months, nothing too crazy. =) Any ideas for spring? I was thinking something with Tulips maybe…? Or maybe in a puddle? I’m sorta drawing a blank…

McKenzieCollageOh. And FYI: Netflix currently has Pocahontas, The Aristocats, and Fox & the Hound! Some of my favorite kids movies (thanks for the tip Jesse)! I LOVE the songs in Pocahontas.

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!

  1. 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!

    Marble Race $24.99

  2. 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!

    Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Wooden Block Set, $48.99

  3. 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!

    High Five Magazine (Ages 2-6) $34.44 for 12 issues

  4. 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. ;)

    Discovery 77-Piece Construction Fort Set, $24.99

  5. 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!

    IKEA 20-Piece Train Set, $9.99

  6. 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. ;)

    Melissa & Doug Food Sets, $19.99 each

  7. 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.

    KidKraft Firehouse ($109.99), KidKraft Dollhouse ($99.99)

  8. 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!

    Annual Family Zoo Pass “Plus,” $109

  9. 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!

    Huffy 12″ Bikes, $39.97

  10. 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+

    Disney Sleeping Bags, $19.99

**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. =)

KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker, $46.99

Do you have any great gift ideas for kids? I’d love to hear them!

A break from all things political…

Here is a short, heartwarming story…at least I think so:
When I arrived at school today, McKenzie’s co-teacher approached me and said, “I just have to tell you something that happened last week. We were all walking back to the classroom from outside, and I fell behind because of my bad leg. All the students and the other teacher were already around the corner, and McKenzie came back for me and said ‘Don’t worry Miss Mary, I’ll wait for you.’ I just had to tell you, she is such a little treasure. The most genuinely caring child I’ve ever met.” This woman has been a teacher for 30+ years…talk about making a momma proud! Maybe it’s because her Daddy’s a Marine: “leave no man behind.” Haha. ;) But seriously, I am so thankful for that little princess. She is literally our pride & joy.

A FREE Petti Skirt Giveaway by Mommy’s Little Sunshine!

Hi all, I just wanted to share a giveaway with you! I follow the blog for the children’s boutique Mommy’s Little Sunshine, and tomorrow they will be giving away FREE Petti Skirts! (Saturday, November 3rd, starting at 11am central time.)

They are originally valued at $48.99 and SO cute…best of all, they’re FREE. I’ll be ordering the hot pink. =) Be sure to “like” them on Facebook to get the coupon code and information on future giveaways, they have really cute stuff!

My crazy weekend! Who knew working was…work?

I was SO busy this past weekend! It was the busiest weekend since I started my photography business (which is good), but it was utterly exhausting…if I could do that every weekend it would be like a real job! ;) I had four photo sessions, 2 Saturday, 2 Sunday. And being me, I hate having things hanging over my head so I did all the editing right away…plus, people like getting their photos quickly. *sigh* So the past two days I caught up on much-needed relaxation. I’ve become obsessed with the series “Revenge” on Netflix. I’m a Netflix junkie, remember? ;)

On another note,, I’m thinking of changing my logo to something more family/kid friendly. I just think it’s a little “dark” (check out my FB business page for reference…it’s the cover photo) and I want something more light & fun. I loved it at first, but I don’t think it reflects the feel of my photography or the direction I want it to go…maybe if I were a wedding photographer, but I’m not, nor do I have any desire to be. What do you think about a logo change? I’d love some input. I love checking on Etsy for ideas (search: “photography logos”).

Since all I did was photograph & edit this weekend, I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos…I just love adorable kiddos!

Dear Disney Vault: I Hate You.

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who’s following me over here from the Trendy Tike blog! Again, I just want to express that I really feel like I have more to say than just tips and tricks about kid’s fashion. Of course I will continue that stuff on here too…how could I resist? BUT I want to be able to be myself and not feel like it’s inappropriate for a kid-centric blog, ya know? Because for anyone who knows me personally, you know I’m a bit of a straight-forward, potty-mouthed, open-about-everything type person. Oh yeah. So if you’re looking for a “picture perfect” lady, alas, that is not me.

So moving on to this post: Am I the only one who friggin’ hates the Disney Vault? It’s particularly annoying because my favorites are still locked away…every 10 years or so they re-release the classics? Laaaame. But I’m super excited because they’re releasing Cinderella on October 2nd! It’s my favorite next to The Little Mermaid…we’re saving a gift certificate that McKenzie got for her birthday to buy it. I vividly remember making a fort out of table/chairs/blankets and watching it in my living room as a child. Maybe I’ll re-create that for Kenzers. We shall see. It’s just such a happy story. Those bitchy step-sisters definitely get what’s coming to them.

And truthfully, I know if I really wanted to I could stream them, buy some on eBay, or get a VHS and play them…but it’s not the same. I suppose it’s a good marketing plan and what-not, but it sucks! Urgh. Dear Disney Vault, I hate you. A lot.

Oh, and what’s up with the re-releasing in 3D in theaters? Don’t get me wrong, I love to see them again on the big screen, but am I seriously the only one who hates 3D movies? McKenzie won’t even keep the glasses on if we go, and then I worry about it hurting her eyes. And it kinda gives me a headache. Fortunately, the theater near us also always offers the movies in 2D as well (which is cheaper too, so that’s a plus), so we just see that. Do they offer 2D everywhere when 3D re-releases? I have no clue. Damn you Disney.

But yeah, thanks for sticking around folks. And “follow” along if you haven’t already, either by email or by “liking” Life So Lovely on Facebook! ;)

McKenzie’s First Day of School!

As a parent, the first day of school was definitely a bittersweet day! Jon came home early from campus just so we could both walk McKenzie to school, since she’s the afternoon class of 4K. I just can’t believe our baby is getting so big! Granted, she is probably the youngest in her class…but still.

So funny story: I have a chalkboard and I was trying to make it look super-cute (like this girl’s blog…she’s a freakin rockstar at the chalkboard), but I was failing miserably and running out of time. Long story short, I ran to Michael’s and bought a frame ($4.99), scrapbook paper (65¢), and scrapbook lettering ($3.99). So for under $10 I was able to make her a Pinterest-style frame in 10 minutes, with less than an hour to spare before her school started. I was very relieved, and I think it turned out pretty cute! At least it looks polished! Apparently, I am no chalkboard artist. Haha.

A few hours later, I walked back to the school and picked her up. She saw me, ran to me, and gave me a huge hug. Her sweet hugs are enough to make my heart melt.

Her teacher told me that at the end of the day, McKenzie announced, “That was easy!” Super cute. The whole way home, she was talking about how much fun she had, and how she can’t wait to go back tomorrow! I certainly hope she always keeps up this positive attitude about school! Oh, and I didn’t cry once. ;)

I love all the pics I snapped today. I especially love that there are some of me with her. All too often as the momma/photographer, I am not in any pictures ever. Oh. And I think the one of McKenzie hugging Jon (daddy) goodbye are especially precious. Here are some photos from our sweet baby girl’s first day of school:

UPDATE: I thought it would be cute to take the “First Day of 4K” sign and turn it into a real photo frame, with some of the fun/memorable photos we took today. I think it turned out adorable! Please excuse the crappy camera phone pic. I chose the one of her with her backpack and one of her waiting in line to go into her classroom. I’m so happy she had a great first day. =)

The Laurie Berkner Band!

McKenzie is one of the most musical little children I’ve ever met. If it involves singing or dancing, she’ll love it…guaranteed. So one day, my good friend Stephanie came to visit (who happens to be an elementary school music teacher) and she’d burned two great kid’s CDs for us! One of them was The Laurie Berkner Band (this song is McKenzie’s favorite).

The best part is that they’re on Netflix and there are two different shows, so definitely check it out if you have it. There are fun moves and everything…it keeps her entertained for awhile. Haha. It’s great for both boys and girls, and even babies would love it, I’m sure!

The best part is that the music isn’t annoying like some other kid’s music I’ve heard (think the SpongeBob theme song), it’s actually very good. Anyhow, I’m super excited because they’re coming to Milwaukee on October 28th! It’s going to be a Halloween special, and I can’t wait to go with McKenzie. She’ll even get to dress up! She’s gonna have so much fun.

When we told her about it, she was ecstatic. She said, “Oh my gosh! I love her voice. Will I get to meet her? I’ll have to tell her that she has an awesome voice. Will she sound the same as on TV?” So full of questions and excitement. It was pretty much the epitome of adorable. =)

So yeah, check it out. I really recommend them if you have a musically inclined kid!

Free 8×8 Shutterfly Photo Book Code…who doesn’t love FREE?

Okay, so I LOVE those few times a year when Shutterfly gives away the free 8×8 hardcover Photo Books…and now is one of those times! I just got the e-mail yesterday and I am soooo excited, you guys! The promo code is: SUMMERBOOK and it’s good until Wednesday, September 12th. You only pay shipping…so basically, it’s time to get creative! Here are some things that I currently want to do with Photo Books for McKenzie:

http://www.shutterfly.com

-Memories: I have recently resolved to make a photobook for each year of her life. I never really kept up with the baby book for her, so I think this is a great way to chronicle her infancy/toddlerhood/preschool years before I start forgetting the silly/adorable little milestones she’s had! I’ll need to catch up on Birth/1-Year,  Age 1/2, Age 2/3, and Age 3/4…oh my! I have a lot of pictures to sift through. =)

-Create a Story: I always thought it would be fun to create a little story with McKenzie, take pictures for it, and turn it into a Photo Book…wouldn’t that be such a fun little memory? You could either make it a project, write your own little story, and take pictures for it OR you could have your little kiddo(s) act out parts of a popular kid’s story and/or take pictures with friends to re-create  it for a Photo Book (think: ToyStory, Cars, Nemo, Snow White, Cinderella, etc). It’s kinda like publishing your own book!

-“A Day in the Life:” What about a Photo Book chronicling “A Day in the Life of (your kid’s name here)“?  Wouldn’t it be fun to read them their own story at bedtime?! How cool would that be? This could totally work for any age too, boy or girl. I really want to do this before it gets too cold outside to take pics!

-Give a Gift: These Photo Books are great gifts, and I want to start prepping for Christmas. And thoughtful gifts mean so much more than expensive ones…no question! I mean, no one needs to know it was free! ;)

I hope this gave you some good ideas for Photo Books so you can make fun, free one too! And please, you guys, let me know if any of you do idea #2! I really want to see one made this way, I think it’d be so fun! Remember, the coupon code expires Wednesday, September 12th…so you only have 5 days! Do any of you have other fun ideas for fun Photo Books?

As a side note: I’m working on creating another blog as a more permanent one that I plan to use: “Life So Lovely.” I’m going to re-copy all these posts to that one…I don’t really want to be restricted to blogging about kid’s fashion, because I think I have a lot more to say. Just interesting things. Parent things. Wife things. Life things. School things. You know, just general stuff. Never fear, I will always post about McKenzie and her little fashionable-self…I don’t think I can help it! Haha. I just think I’ll be able to build a longer-lasting audience if I have a less-narrow specification…ya dig? So that’s in the process. I’ll continue blogging on here until I feel ready for the big reveal of “Life So Lovely.” Stay tuned, and as always, thanks for stopping by!