Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Senior Prom

Dear Em,
It's prom season. Somewhere there are girls getting excited about wearing the perfect dress, & guys worried about having to dance all night. You haven't even been to a dance yet, but I think about what your prom might be like someday.

My prom was so, so fun. A big group of us gathered at my house for pictures before heading to the event. I went with a friend rather than a boyfriend, which left me free to just enjoy the night dancing with all of my friends.

I haven't kept in touch with my senior prom date...or really any of my prom dates. But there is something that has remained the same since that senior prom: one of my best friends.

She just got engaged to be married, & now instead of dreaming about our prom dresses, we're dreaming about her wedding dress. I can't wait to be there for her big, magical day. So much has changed, & yet so much has stayed the same.

I love you so,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bachelorette Wednesday: Mugshot Photo Booth

Dear Em,
While I've pretty much covered all of the fun bridal shower topics I wanted to share from Aunt Andrea's shower, there is one thing I wanted to share from her bachlorette. We had such a fun time at Andrea's bachelorette, & I stored the crazy fun photos in a secret album. I'm going to bring out just a few pics from the vault to talk about something that is near & dear to my heart: a bachelorette party photo booth.

When I first got together with the other bridesmaids to talk about our shower/bachelorette plans, the Maid of Honor really wanted to a mugshot photo booth to highlight photos of the night of & the morning after. I will NEVER say no to a photo booth. I couldn't wait to put it all together.

I chose to use a large piece of white fabric for the background. You can find white fabric for pretty cheap at the fabric store. I looked for the widest piece of fabric I could find & bought enough to hang from the ceiling to the floor, so 8 feet or around 2 & a half yards. I brought the fabric home, & during our crafting weekend we made the white fabric into a mug shot background.

While not at all difficult, making the background was a little tedious. First we laid the white fabric out on our dining room table. Then we used a tape measure & marked each inch on each side of the white fabric. I found a long, straight board in our garage, & we used it to make the straight lines on the white fabric. Using a sharpie, we lined the board with the inch marks we made on the sides of the fabric & traced along the board to put a line across each inch.

Once we had the basic lines across at each inch, we wrote in height numbers at each inch. We also made the lines at each foot a little thicker & darker. While it wasn't in any way difficult to do, it took a while. It was so worth it. We loved the results.

The mugshot photo booth was one of my favorite bachelorette party activities. I used my camera on a tripod to take the photos. I loved capturing each individual in a fun & original way before our night out celebrating Andrea.

We also captured morning after shots. For fear of death, I'll only include mine.

While we took a lot of mugshots, we also used the props we made for glittery pink photo booth, & had a ton of fun.

And this is why I will never say no to a photo booth. These pictures make me smile every time I look at them. Our mugshot photo booth was such a fun way to capture hilarious moments & memories that will last a lifetime for your aunt Andrea.

And now I have a tediously made mugshot background that I can use again & again in the future. You know it'll be used quite a lot...& will hopefully be the only time you or I are in mugshot photos.

I love you so,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Little Swimmer

Dear Em,
With the summer about to begin, Daddy & I hope our warm weather adventures include lots & lots of pool time. To prepare for that, we signed you up for swim lessons. While you are great in the water, you still use a swimmer to stay afloat. We hoped that swim lessons this spring would give you a jump start into possibly swimming on your own.

During our recent vacation in North Carolina, we realized two things.
1. You didn't need a jump start.
2. I'm really glad we signed you up for swim lessons.

During one afternoon at Nonnie & Papi's house, everyone was getting ready to swim in the pool. All the littles had their swimmies on. Before Nonnie could put your swimmer on, she watched you walk into the pool & glide to the deep end. Not wanting to alarm you, Nonnie didn't say anything. She closely watched you & got ready to jump in the pool to save you. This was when you swam on your own for the very first time. You did your little doggie paddle until you reached the ladder in the deep end- no swimmer, all by yourself!

While Nonnie was sure to put your swimmer on after that & remind you that you need your swimmer unless you're swimming with an adult, you spent the next week with Nonnie, Daddy, & I practicing swimming without it. By the end of our southern vacation, you were swimming on your own from one side of the pool to the other. I was so proud of you & how hard you were working at it. After each little swim, you would look up excitedly & say "again!"

I am also scared- really, really scared. I love the water. My parents have lovingly referred to me as their little fish. I love that you also love the water & that you've taken such a big step to swimming on your own. But you have no fear of the water. You jump right in, without fearing what could happen if no one is there to help you. That really scares me. What used to be my playground, looks like a death trap to me. All I can think of is "what if?" It just takes a second for me to turn my head & you to go under with no safe guard in place. A part of me doesn't want you swimming without a swimmer. A part of me doesn't want you swimming at all. A part of me just wants you safe.

But I know having that fear is part of parenting. Letting you soar is another part of parenting. So, I'm happy you've begun swim classes. I'm hoping they can teach you more about what to do if you're struggling in the water. I'm hoping they can teach you more about safety. I'm looking forward to you getting stronger as you swim & more confident in each little kick of your feet. And I'm looking forward to a fun water-filled summer with the cutest little swimmer I know.

I love you so,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Extreme exhaustion, too many office hours, & a little bit of imagination.

Dear Em,
For many college students, they're in the midst of finals right now. For some college students, they're in the midst of finals, maintaining quiet hours, helping residents, & working to close the dorms...because they're RA's. I was an RA, & there are so many amazing things I want to tell you about my adventures of being an RA. For now, I'll just tell you that when you're an exhausted college student in the midst of finals AND you're working as an RA in the last few weeks of college, you may look something like this.

I honestly can't remember what brought on what is now a hilarious throwback thursday moment. My guess? Extreme exhaustion, too many office hours, & a little bit of imagination.

I love you so,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wedding Shower Wednesday: Heart Shaped Map Gifts

Dear Em,
Rather than registering for typical gifts, your aunt Andrea registered at the Honeyfund. We weren't supposed to bring gifts to her shower, but her bridesmaids may have cheated. You see, I recently discovered Pinterest. I've known about Pinterest for a while now, but I was trying to avoid anything that might add to my already serious internet addiction. Since the other bridesmaids had made wedding shower & bachelorette boards that they were pinning away to, I had to join Pinterest so I could see what we were planning to plan. Sigh, once you go Pinterest, you never go back.

I was looking at the various "Andrea's Wedding" pins one day, when I saw something cute that your aunt Andrea had pinned herself. It was a set of three maps, cut into hearts, & framed on the wall. The maps highlighted the locations of where the couple got engaged, got married, & honeymooned. It was such a fun idea & looked so easy, I was excited to make your aunt Andrea something that she had pinned.

I decided instead of highlighting the locations of where they got engaged, where they got married, & their honeymoon, I would frame the maps of where each of them had grown up & where they were getting married. I think the idea was to repurpose maps, but that got a little tricky. First I looked through our weathered United States atlas that we keep in my car. We have written & highlighted all over our atlas, & I realized we probably still want use of all of the pages. I probably could have printed maps from MapQuest, but I wanted the maps to look professional. So, I ordered an atlas on Amazon. This was a smaller atlas, & some of the locations were separated onto two pages. That wasn't going to work for my project. So then I ordered three separate maps of three different states. When I got them, I realized they really didn't look like anything more special than what I could have printed from Google Maps. Sigh.

I made a heart template that would fit well in the frames, traced heart shapes over the areas of the maps I wanted displayed, & cut the heart shaped maps out. Then I taped the map hearts onto a square of gray card stock background that I had cut to perfectly fit in the frames.

The frames worked perfectly as a gift for Andrea & also decor for her wedding shower.

Since our Bride is from Rhode Island, but has been living in another state for five years, we also gave her a number of Rhode Island themed items with the frames. She smiled as we presented her with a Rhode Island shaped cutting board, Dels Lemonade mix, Olneyville New York System spicesIggys Clamcake & Doughboy mixes, Rhode Island Hot Sauce, & Kenyon's Grist Mill Johnny Cake Mix. We were happy to give her a little piece of home for wherever her travels take her.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, my Pinterest addiction only started there. I'm sure unlimited projects await.

I love you so,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dave & Busters...with kids

Dear Em,
I remember when Dave & Busters opened at Providence Place Mall. It was a magical place for only adults, & I couldn't wait to turn 21 & freely play behind closed doors (I feel like the age policy was a lot different when it first opened). Since then, Daddy & I have enjoyed Dave & Busters a handful of times. It's always nice to watch adults be kids for a night.

It's always nice to be without kids for a night. The last time we went to Dave & Busters, I found myself noticing all the kids...running late hours...& asking myself "WHY?!" What happened to having to be 21 to enjoy the magic?

A few weeks ago Daddy & I had our first experience at Dave and Busters with our kid. You were invited to a four year olds birthday party. On the one hand, I thought Daddy might actually enjoy this birthday party. On the other hand, I was worried Dave & Busters would lose it's magic once we had a child in tow.

The party started with food. There were french fries, chicken fingers, & pigs in a blanket. It was one of the first birthday parties where we didn't have to struggle to find something you would eat. I have to say, Daddy & I were pretty happy with the food choices too (although my body might disagree). All the kids sang & ate cupcakes, & then we headed out into the game area.

Oh Em Gee! We had so much fun. It was one of my favorite family outings in a long time. Just showing you all that Dave & Busters had to offer was the cutest thing ever. Your eyes grew wide & danced in excitement. "Mom, look at all the things! Look at all the people coming from every direction." You rode a motorcycle, learned (yet again) the hard way that the claw game only serves to steal your money, drove a car with Daddy, hunted sharks, played a family game of air hockey (me & you against Daddy), raced horses at the race track with me, & won lots of tickets.

It was so fun to spend an afternoon together & to watch the smiles & excitement in your eyes. At the end of our afternoon (aka the end of our money), you got to take the tickets you won & trade them in for a stuffed animal. Not only did you have one of the best afternoons ever, but you got to take a souvenir home with you.

So, I guess Dave & Busters can still be magical with kids. Because although there weren't any beverages that come in fun glasses, I think it was my favorite trip to Dave & Busters yet.

I love you so,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday: One of Five

Dear Em,
It's weird being the oldest in a spaced out family of five kids. My family was my whole life. I had friends, but after moving all over the country growing up, my family was the only constant. When I left for college, my siblings were still so young. We all had a lot of growing up to do, but I was no longer doing my growing up with my siblings. All of a sudden my life was going on & my family's lives were going on, but not at the same place.

I never went back home for more than a few weeks at a time after I first left for college. This picture was taken the summer before I left for Rhode Island. This was us during the last weeks that I lived as one of five kids. Look at how little we all are.

We're spending two weeks with my family this month, & I am going to enjoy ever moment of living together with my Daddy, my Mommy, & my four siblings...even if it's just for a little while. Of course you & Daddy will  be there too. We're all looking forward to the sunshine, the pool, the beach, & the bustle & the craziness & the rowdiness & the love that is living in a great big family.

I love you so,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wedding Shower Wednesday: Mason Jar Sweet Tea Favors

Dear Em,
On a gorgeous day last weekend, your stunning Aunt Andrea married her sweetheart- your now official Uncle Lowell. It was such a beautiful & fun event for our whole family. While the wedding has already happened, I'm not quite finished recapping the wedding shower. I have just a few more Wedding Shower Wednesday posts before I wrap up this segment for a little while.

One of my very favorite projects of the whole wedding shower were the favors. Pretty early in the planning process, I did a Google search for Charleston themed wedding favors. Since it was a destination wedding, I thought it would be fun to highlight something the area is known for. I found a couple images of mason jar sweet tea favors, & I swooned. I love, love, love sweet tea. I love, love, love mason jars. Plus, using actual lemons in the mason jars would give everything a natural pop of color.

I was prepared to beg the rest of the bridesmaids to agree with me on the mason jar sweet tea shower favors, but they really liked the idea without me having to get down on my hands & knees. We ordered mason jars in bulk (I think at the time they were least expensive at KMart). I also bought a large box of orange pekoe tea bags, & two boxes of sugar cubes (we would also need lemons for the recipe but I planned to buy them fresh right before the shower).

We debated whether to add glitter to them (like we did with the center pieces), but in the end we wanted people to be able to drink their sweet tea in the mason jars & modpodge glitter might make that difficult. Still, we wanted to add cute pops of color. We tried to cut out circles of fabric to place between the disc part of the lid & the band of the lid. It was kind of difficult to work with & looked a little frumpy. I looked at the glitter paper that we had bought in bulk for some of our other projects & realized it was the perfect thing to add a little glamour & pop of color. Using the lids as a stencil for the circle size, we cut out a circle of glitter paper for each mason jar.

We made labels which included the Bride & the Groom's names, "Thank You" for coming, "See y'all in Charleston," & a recipe for the sweet tea. We painted a rim of gold glitter paint around the labels to add a little extra fun. Then we filled the mason jars with tea bags & sugar cubes, put on the glitter tops & lids, & fastened the labels on using pieces of pink twine.

I was absolutely giddy with how they turned out. Each one of the bridesmaids had added their own fabulous idea to the project, & as a result, they came out better than I had ever hoped. They were so pretty & so fun.

Since we created the sweet tea favors a couple months before the shower, I waited until the night before the shower to place newly bought lemons into the jars. There was just one problem. None of the thirty lemons I had bought were fitting into the jars. They were all too big! You & I ran to the grocery store, mason jar in hand, & measured 30 more lemons that would fit (there were a few weird looks at the crazy lady who was hoarding all of the lemons).

Sigh. Crisis averted. We placed the favors in the venue, & I fell in love with the way they added to the pink & sparkly decor. They were fun. They were practical. They gave a nod to the fun location where we would soon be celebrating the Bride & the Groom's wedding. There were a few bumps, but in the end, I loved these shower favors more than any other shower favors I've ever seen.

Needless to say,  with the 30 original lemons that we couldn't use, I tried a lot of lemon recipes in the next couple weeks. You know what they say, when life give you lemons...make a lot of yummy lemon flavored food. And yes, we did make freshly squeezed lemonade for the very first time.

I love you so,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On Being 32

Dear Em,
Tomorrow is my birthday, & I turn 33. As much as I don't really look forward to growing older (I hope I'll forever be 25 at heart), I'm actually looking forward to saying goodbye to 32. It was a tough year. Not tough like I didn't enjoy the adventures the year gave me. We've had such an amazing year filled with ups & downs & so many hugs in between. This year was tough in the sense that I started to feel myself aging for the first time.

I typically gain 5-10 pounds each winter & then the pounds melt off in the activeness of each summer. That didn't happen this year. I've had to struggle with exercise & (gasp) diet this time around. I never really lost the 5-10 pounds from last winter, all the while struggling not to put 5-10 more pounds this winter. In the end, I've at least maintained & learned important life lessons about regular exercise & portion control. Lessons that I'm more or less struggling with every day. Sigh.

I spent most of this year feeling exhausted. Even during the summer months when my energy typically soars, I found my body begging me to sit down at the end of each day. I had gone to my doctor to check all my levels of everything, & everything seems normal...except for the fact that I feel exhausted. I went gluten free for a month and a half hoping that would help my energy levels. The diet change did give me an initial boost of energy, but soon I fell back into being tired again. In the end I learned that a healthier lifestyle does help, & that once I get my bum off the couch I'll find the energy I need. Also, I guess 32 was the age I started drinking coffee.

My face started to show signs of aging. I looked at myself in the mirror & hardly recognized the person I saw. I had read about the importance of having a nighttime facial regimen & kind of laughed it off. My nighttime facial regimen was collapsing into my pillows. But my lack of a real nighttime regimen was making me look...well...old. So, I started to wash my face, apply a retinol based living cell clarifier, & moisturize before bed each night. Within a couple months I started to look like me again.

At my dental cleaning, I found out I had seven cavities (seven!). I tried oil pulling but in the end settled on being more diligent about my oral hygiene & purchasing a mouth guard to protect my teeth from additional damage (I am & always will be a horrible nighttime tooth grinder).

So, another year wiser, I'm looking forward to 33 & everything it may bring. While 32 may have brought on signs of aging, they also brought the lesson of taking better care of my body. A body is an amazing thing, & I want mine to last through all the precious moments of our future.

As for my birthday tomorrow I want nothing more than my family, the sunshine, a beach, & perhaps a girly, fruity drink or two.

I love you so,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Little Love Art Show

Dear Em,
About a month ago you went to your very first art show. It was the sweetest art exhibit I've ever been to, because it was actually your art work & the art work of your classmates that was being exhibited. So much stinkin' adorableness.

Your school does some of the most amazing things with you kids. Along with all the other things that you do, your school provides you with the opportunity to participate in different activities during school hours. Art, gymnastics, karate, & soccer are just a few of the activities you kids can enjoy. You've been taking art since last year. When I got a note from the art teacher asking if we wanted you to participate in an art exhibit, I couldn't wait for the cuteness that would ensue.

Your art teacher chose different art pieces for you & your little classmates, & the artwork was displayed at T's Restaurant for a week before the school held an art show for all the kids & parents. Unfortunately, we had other plans for the night of the art show (but ended up having an awful stomach bug instead). I didn't want to miss out on the art exhibit, & I didn't want you to miss it either. So instead, I took you out of school for an hour so that we could enjoy a special lunch at T's Restaurant.

As we entered the restaurant, you were beyond excited to see your cousin's art work right through the front doors. We were encouraged to look around at the artwork before settling down at a lunch table. I loved watching you beam as you found the artwork of each of your friends. When we finally found your artwork, you were bubbling with excitement. "That one is mine! Look, Mom, there's my picture next to it. That's mine!" Then it was my turn to beam. You had made a beautiful piece in yellow, orange, and red colors. There was my little love's artwork, hanging professionally on a wall. It was a proud moment.

After that we enjoyed lunch, just the two of us. You could see your artwork & the artwork of many of your classmates from where we sat. That made you happy for a little while, but then you were too busy making new artwork as we waited for our food. You ate pancakes & I ate an omelet (I love places that still serve breakfast during lunchtime) while we talked about how our days were going.

The art exhibit & special lunch with my little love was definitely the highlight of my day.

I love you so,

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