Friday, March 31, 2017

Livie and Becca || One Year

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Rebecca and Olivia aren't really friends...yet. Erica and I are trying our hardest to make it happen. They see each other once a week in the church nursery plus a few bonus times every now and then. We watched a basketball game a while ago, and the girls walked around together making a mess. That's probably as close as one-year-olds get to friendship. But they share a middle name and mamas who are besties so we'd like for them to play well together.
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Erica's house has pretty light in the late afternoon, so I loved capturing these photos of the girls. Rebecca is modeling her new walking Stride Rites in this photo with the wagon! When Stride Rite was closing their local stores, we snagged some excellent shoes on sale. I think she loves walking all around in her shoes, and thankfully her nice new shoes mean that she keeps her socks on too! She loved pushing around Olivia and Maddie's wagon and putting stuff in it. Now she has a wagon of her own for playing outside.
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This photo is from November, and I love seeing how the little ladies have changed. More hair, more personality and more walking!
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And this photo is one for the memory books. Olivia started to cry, and Rebecca didn't want to be left out and started to cry too. Don't worry, we comforted them immediately after we snapped this photo. Poor sad little girls that were probably ready for bed. Eventually we'll stay out with our friends past seven o'clock, but this is not that season. They are totally worth the early bedtimes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

St. Patrick's Day

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Over spring break Kip and I noticed that Becca's eyes were really gunky. Kip consulted Dr. Google. We were concerned because there was a terrible outbreak of pink eye in the babies room just before Rebecca switched to her new classroom at daycare. Kip really thought I should take her in on Friday just in case it was the dreaded pink eye. I made an appointment when I called the doctor's office because the nice nurse told me that the eye stuff might be a clue of ear infections (not just pink eye).

The double ear infections were confirmed pretty much as soon as we walked in the door. Poor little thing! She never pulls at her ears when they get infected, so it's hard to know if a new tooth is ailing her or something else. Becca's appetite wasn't as great for the few days before we went in to the doctor, but sometimes we wonder if our all-star eater is just starting to have opinions about her food. File this under the mysteries of parenting, I guess. Several friends have told me recently that the eyes watering all the time are a signal for their kiddos too, so I know I'm not alone.

It was a bummer Becca was sick and a double bummer because the doctor said no to any special St. Patrick's Day playdates. She said twenty-hour hours of antibiotics should really help Becca to get feeling better and not get her friends sick.
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As soon as I realized St. Patrick's Day was during spring break, I emailed my pals Abbey and Erica. We planned to get all our four little girls together in matching t-shirts and have a little St. Patrick's Day party. I was so sad to cancel and miss the photo-op with their little Old Navy shirts, but it was the right call. I would have been so sad if Vera, Maddie and Olivia caught what Becca had! Next year we will try again, break out all the green and gold food and decorations, and do it up right. If they are lucky, maybe they will be able to catch the leprechaun or at least find his special gold!

Mom stopped by to eat our green and gold lunch with us. She snapped a couple photos before she left for work! My K-State green shirt was especially perfect as the Cats played a NCAA Tournament game later on St. Patrick's Day. They lost, but the fun went on. Kip and I have been following our brackets closely, and he's in pretty good shape for 2017!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Trees

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Tracking the arrival of spring with our star magnolia tree in the backyard is officially a tradition (2015, 2016). The blooms were early this year after our joke of a winter. We had one ice day that was a total bust (though I loved having a random Friday off!). We like to joke that we're going to have to take Rebecca to Colorado just to SEE snow!

I have written about it before, but it is worth mentioning again that Rebecca is so happy outside! She loves to toddle around on the patio, and she's also happy walking around the backyard in Kip's arms. They look at the trees and inspect all around the yard to see what is blooming.

Using our allergies as indicators, plenty of stuff has been in bloom. Kip has seasonal allergies in the spring, and they managed to line up with another round of flu for him. Last week was a doozy! People ask all the time how his knee is holding up, and it's really impressive how well he has rebounded. Kip still has months and months of physical therapy ahead of him, and it will be fall before he is cleared to climb trees again. But he's doing really well with what he is allowed to do!

Rebecca is finishing up the antibiotics required for her double ear infection that was diagnosed over spring break, but thankfully we have had limited sick days this year. I retested my allergies over spring break, just to check and see if there were any changes. After almost nine years of allergy shots, it's all the same. That's not the news I was hoping for, but I'm not surprised. So I'm happy for the signs of new growth, leaves returning to trees, and pretty spring flowers. I'll just be enjoying the changing of seasons with a box of tissues at my side.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Surprise Trip to Jewell County.

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Spring break was wonderful. I told some one last week that I think spring break is even better when you are a teacher. It comes at just the perfect point in the semester to give everyone a little break before powering on till the end of the school year. It has not been any calmer at work (or at home) since school started back up, but hey, at least we had that break that week! 
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We left the first Friday of the break for a weekend trip to Jewell County. Our last trips with Becca were a little rougher (remember how I ended up sleeping in a chair at my in-laws house?), but we had hopes that a weekend trip to the farm would go a little better now that she sleeps through the night. She did okay going out to the farm on Friday night - the end of the road was a little bumpy, and it was tough to get a good sleep going. But we got to the farm around 9:30, and Rebecca did pretty well overnight sleeping upstairs in the old farmhouse all by herself! She slept in the same room I did before I married Kip.
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Saturday morning we surprised my grandparents with a visit from their sweet toddling great-granddaughter. After playing in town for a while, we took Rebecca back to the farm for a nap and exploring with her great-uncle Keith. She has mixed feelings about cats, which her daddy thinks is hilarious as he is not much of a fan himself.
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We loaded Rebecca into the Ergo to take a little walk even though it was cold, but she really wasn't interested. She's very big into walking everywhere she possibly can and managed to do some exploring on the rock roads.
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Saturday night we went into Mankato for dinner with the family. Rebecca was charming, eating in her high chair, and then toddling all around the house.
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Traveling with a ratio of three adults to one baby makes it pretty easy breezy. Unless she is exceptionally crabby, Becca is happy with pretty much anyone holding her. Rebecca also was happy to have Grandma Barbara sit in the second row with her! It made the miles go by quickly.
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Sunday morning we took Rebecca back into town for breakfast at The Velvet Rose and one more trip to visit with my grandparents.
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Watching Becca toddle around really does bring everyone joy. It's so funny to think about how much we all enjoy watching her just walk around and talking to her about the windows, chairs, food, and saying hi to people. I am so thankful to get to share Rebecca with so many people who adore her.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Three Books of February.

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We're sleeping through the night now and nursing much much less, which means I'm reading a bit less. That's ok - it makes writing these summaries much faster!

A Monster Calls recently was released as a movie that I didn't hear much about besides a few sponsored spots on NPR. I snagged it from the library after the recommendation of a teacher who said he never reads books and couldn't put this one down. It's YA and the topic is heavy - the young boy's mother is dying for the entire book. I definitely had to make myself finish this one. While it is really well done, it was also just really sad. I'm not planning to add the movie to our queue.

Homegoing was our February book club choice. It came highly recommended by several of our bookish friends with a few people declaring it their favorite book of 2016. Our reaction at book club was definitely split. The story follows two half-sisters and their descendants, starting in Ghana and also in the United States. It is heartbreaking over and over again, but the writing is powerful. It's heartbreaking because it's based on our history and the very real suffering of many generations. I referenced the family tree over and over again throughout the book and recommend reading one chapter in each sitting. This makes it easier to track the characters and the families over the years.

Hands Free Mama author Rachel Macy Stafford is also a blogger that writes about how to escape never ending to-do lists and really enjoy your kiddos. I don't read her blog so I can't compare to what she covers online, but I did really enjoy this book. Erica gave it to me early last year, and it's meant to be read a chapter at a time over the course of a year. I've been picking it up off and on since Rebecca was born. Her writing is full of good reminders to slow down - something I need! With Rebecca's early bedtime, it feels too often like a race between when I leave school at 3:30 and when she goes "night night" at 6 pm. She has a new book that came out this week, Only Love Today. I would love to read this one too, probably a little bit at a time just like Hands Free Mama. I enjoy a well written personal development book!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Overalls in Park Place

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Last Sunday we met our friends Erin and Eric at Pig & Finch in Park Place for brunch. They have a delicious menu, and I think the prices are reasonable for a very nice Sunday brunch. It wasn't crowded at all! Rebecca did pretty well thanks to the constant stream of food I kept in front of her. Thank goodness for fruit cups that she eats one piece at a time!
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After brunch I insisted that we walk over to the big open area so Becca could walk around a little bit before we headed home for naptime. I just found these pink corduroy overalls in a box of clothes from Reese. I wish I had found them earlier, but it's okay because they are just starting to fit now! Who cares if corduroy isn't exactly a springtime fabric? They have a little stuffed pony that is attached inside the front pocket, and while it mostly just falls out, it is too cute!
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Becca gives hugs when she wakes up from naps and cuddles if she is cranky or wants you to play with her or read her a book. Currently she likes to sit in your lap for about 75% of one book and then she has something else to do. She normally returns with another book, but we mostly only read books partially these days!
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Kip asked this morning if we needed to cut her bangs. This is also his favorite thing to offer me as well, saying often, "Just let ME trim your bangs." I explained that Becca's not going to have bangs, and that we're just waiting for these hairs to get long enough to 1. hold a bow or 2. tuck behind her ear. He proceeded to roll his eyes and sigh. He doesn't appreciate a dramatic side part.
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Becca is walking great on her own and chooses to walk instead of crawl almost all of the time. Amazingly her new little white sneakers are staying white, even on the playground at school. I couldn't resist the "first walkers" from Stride Rite when the Town Center store was going out of business and 50% off a couple weeks ago. She'll walk a little bit faster while holding onto one of us or the furniture, but Rebecca's certainly got places to go.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Donut Party || Guests

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After attending many first birthday parties, I decided that they serve two purposes. One, let everyone from baby's fan club (Becca's grandparents, aunt and uncles) see their darling kiddo and two, for the parents (Kip and me) to say thank you to everyone who helped us along the way in her first year. You'll notice that neither purpose has much to do with the baby. Rebecca could have cared less about a theme or the guest list! I imagine she'll have opinions soon enough - she is my daughter after all.
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I decided to have an open house birthday party for a few reasons. Our house isn't that big so everyone at once would be pretty overwhelming. I also wanted to invite book club and a couple of Kip's buddies in addition to our family, and I thought a staggered arrival/departure might help. Becca didn't care how long anyone stayed or who was there when we sang "Happy Birthday," so with the open house people could stay as long as they wanted. There were so many friends that I wanted to invite that I didn't because I was worried about space. I always want to invite more people to celebrate fun things!
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Dad, Tracy and Spencer came from Indianapolis on Friday, plus my dad flew out to western Nebraska to pick up Grandma Mary. We had dinner at our house on Friday night and played a quick game of BS. Spencer was so cute as he was explaining the rules of the card game BS, "You know what it means, right?" Yep, we totally do. It was good for a few laughs, and then Grandma won!
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 Three of Rebecca's uncles came to the party, including Uncle Spencer. He's the youngest (11-years-old last November), and he's certainly not afraid to crawl around on the floor with Becca. It's a safe bet that he enjoyed the ball pit just as much as Becca. I love these photos of the two of them because it looks like Becca is afraid Uncle Spencer might eat her cake!
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Grandma Karen and Grandpa Keith came to spend the day with us along with Uncle Kenny. They were so impressed with all of Rebecca's teeth and her new walking skills.
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Uncle Kevin came too! We are lucky that Rebecca has one aunt and one uncle in town to get to stop by and see Rebecca growing. Kevin waited till Becca was a bit bigger before her started holding her, but now she's so sturdy and so fun that it is impossible for anyone to resist her!
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Three of the four of us look fantastic in this photo. Olivia's shirt could not be any more perfect for her buddy Becca's birthday party. And Rebecca? Well, she's giving fantastic side eye to someone just out of the frame.
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This photo of Becca and her daddy is too cute! They have a special bond, and she's becoming more of a daddy's girl all the time. We have both noticed that if she is just with one of us, she asks about the other person. Which means I never hear her say mama, but Kip does! She's also calmer for Kip with some of the annoying tasks like cleaning up after meals. Maybe she thinks I'm a pushover.
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My godson Robert came wandering into the kitchen from the front room where he was eating with his parents and brother. When he asked for a donut and pointed to the giant LaMar's donuts, how could I resist his adorable face? His mother appeared soon after to clarify that he was supposed to choose a little donut. Whoops! In the other photo, little miss Reese! Rebecca and Reese share a birthday, exactly five years apart.
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Here are more little friends hard at work on the donut masterpiece! This spot was a central hub of activity during the party.
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Rebecca had five grandparents and one great-grandma at her party. My grandma Mary remains a faithful blog reader so she recognized many of my friends and their children from the blog. Bless my mother for frying bacon and cooking sausage during so much of the party. She also picked up balloons, Becca's new pink shirt, donuts and the cake from McLain's Market. We were so thankful for all her help.
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Rebecca's initial reaction to the cake was pretty lukewarm. The frosting kept sticking to her fingers! I have no idea why we didn't grab a bib for her, but luckily she didn't make too much of a mess with the cake. Later in the party I gave her some fruit, quiche and a donut. She didn't leave any of that chocolate donut behind and had chocolate all over her face and hands.
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After the party was over, my dad returned with Rebecca's big birthday present - a new wagon! We ate some Goodcents subs, and then my dad, Keith and Kip started working on putting together the wagon. It took an assorted set of tools and about a half hour, but Rebecca was ready to try it out when they were done. She gave everyone more snuggles and then headed upstairs for a long nap to recover from all the excitement.  photo Blog_1616.jpgAll of the cliches about a baby's first birthday are totally true. It seems like just yesterday she was born. And yet, learning how to be a mama to a new baby was tricky. I still call her "baby" often even though she wants everyone to know she's a big girl that sleeps well, explores everything, and makes us smile every single day. We love you Rebecca Claire and loved sharing your first birthday with so many dear ones!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Donut Party || Details

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Rebecca's first birthday party was donut themed, obviously. We love donuts in our house! I used donuts to ask my besties to be bridesmaids, and we served Lamar's originals donuts at our wedding. Rachel did the cutest donut party for Braden's fourth birthday party. She sent me all the files, and I set out to make them as pink, purple, and girly as I could.
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A "sweet" bonus to a donut theme was the availability of great new donuts in town. Donutology in Westport makes up mini donuts on location.* It seems like it would be a fun activity for kids - go in, choose your toppings for three mini donuts, and watch them get made fresh! We preordered two large assorted boxes with all the pink, chocolate and sprinkles possible. The mini donut flavor of the month was strawberry, a perfect fit for Rebecca's party. We also served Lamar's Originals because they can't be beat.

*We have tried both Doughnut Lounge and Donutology and much prefer Donutology. It's run by Daylight Donuts, so their donuts have a more classic taste that appeals to Kip, and I love the novelty of the mini donuts. We have yet to go to Doughnut Lounge for a donut and a cocktail or beer, and I know that's the main draw for many folks!
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Mom brought some fruit salad that was perfect for kids and adults. I was worried there wouldn't be enough, but she rightly knew that people don't take that much on a breakfast buffet. In fact there were leftevers, even after serving 29 adults and 15 kids under 7-years-old!
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The island came to the rescue yet again. It was the perfect place to serve all the food, and it looked lovely all put together. The food was kid-friendly and easy to grab, especially the yogurt pouches. I read a long article about mini quiches on the internet with the gist of saying, "Sure, you COULD make mini quiches. But why would you when the prepared ones are so delicious, and you have other more fun ways to spend your time?" So I felt great about serving the Nancy's brand mini quiches that were easy to pop in your mouth in one bite. I fueled that quiche making energy into decorations instead.

Also missing from the buffet photos - bacon and sausage. Bless my mom for cooking POUNDS of sausage links and bacon during the party. We went through so much breakfast meat!
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I started working on party prep so early that it didn't seem like that much the week of the party. I had most things printed at a local UPS store well in advance, so for the last few days I just had to put together the final little details, hang banners, etc. It helped that Rebecca started sleeping through the night right as I was kicking party planning into high gear. More rested Victoria = more efficient Victoria.
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Rachel had designed a coloring wall for Braden's party that I updated for Becca. I printed it to put on the coffee table with washi tape, right in the middle of everything. Aunt Lu colored a couple of letters to give everyone a clue that it was okay to color!
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While the only thing Becca wanted to do at the coloring station was put the crayons in her mouth, the bigger kids were super into coloring the donuts. They did a lovely job!
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One of the files that Rachel sent me was for a donut matching game. I assumed she made it for the party, but she told me later it was a party favor! I took it to the next level with 2" wood squares from Woodworks, and I assume Becca will be into it when she is bigger. A few kids played with the game on the dining room table, so it was a sprinkle success. (Kip laughed and laughed when I told him I was worried people might memorize the patterns of the sprinkles and keep track of the squares.)
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While we didn't have a fancy backdrop with an elaborate dessert bar, I did put together quite a few photos and balloons on the fireplace. I printed her monthly instagrams at MPix, and I made a banner with donuts and more photos from each month. I love looking at the photos and seeing how she has grown!
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I found extra felt in the basement and quickly sewed another banner for the fireplace. It's much easier because I have the letter files saved to my computer, so they were quick to update. And I could make a new number next year and reuse the rest of the banner!
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Rachel found these adorable paper hats on the internet, and I added some stickers that I printed at home. I should have said people could take them with them because we definitely had lots left at the end of the party. They will eventually be perfect for dressing up!
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At the front door, donut cookies! I found a donut cookie cutter this year made by Sweet Sugar Belle, and it made them so easy to make. They are easily some of my favorite sugar cookie designs - so simple and so sweet. I tried to make sure everyone took one with them as they left!
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The donut balloon came from Etsy (so did the 1 with sprinkles on it) and the rest of the balloons from Hy-Vee because they open so early on Saturday morning. I found Becca's donut headband and donut pants on Etsy too...really searching for party supplies on Etsy is a rabbit hole! She never did notice the decorations, but she did look really adorable. Just like always.