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22 Months and Growing

To my precious, independent, strong-willed, and beautiful daughter:

Olivia-22-Months-3

I love you. Always and forever. You are teaching me so much about the world. You make me laugh and want to pull my hair out… every single day. We are both learning new depths of patience and how to navigate the world together. I love your tenacity and know it will serve you well as you grow older.

Olivia-22-Months-4

These days, you love to listen to music. I can’t help but smile as you immediately start dancing to whatever rhythm is playing. You are also a big fan of bouncing on the trampoline at gym class and soaring through the air on your new red swing. I’ll say, “READY, SET,” and you enthusiastically fill in the “GO!” You started saying the word “Mama” a few weeks ago in a very intentional way… and I’m pretty sure my heart explodes into a million pieces every time I hear it. You regularly say “bye-bye” and blow kisses. So many other phrases are just on the brink of your grasp. Your Daddy and I have no doubt, however, that you understand absolutely everything.

Olivia-22-Months

My darling girl- you have such a soft spot in your heart for animals. It is so amazing to watch you with the puppies. You love to give them hugs and are a regular helper with their care- finding their leashes to take them outside and feeding them dinner each night. Over the past several months, you’ve also become an expert on animal sounds (monkeys, cows, puppies, cats, lions, and even chickens!).

Olivia-22-Months-2

Olivia-22-Months-1

You are quite attached to your blankets these days. We don’t dare leave home without one! You also adore jewelry and fashion accessories. Necklaces, bracelets, hats, headbands- you name it!

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It’s hard to believe that there’s only 2 months until your second birthday- what a journey we’ve had!

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XOXO, Mom

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DIY Sensory Bin for Olivia

To help her sensory and speech issues, Olivia has been working with an awesome occupational therapist.  On one of Tracy’s visits, she brought an enormous sensory bin filled with colorful noodles.  Olivia LOVED scooping, dumping, and pouring.  The best news?… the bin was large enough for Olivia to actually climb in (which she eagerly did!).  Here’s a quick pic I took during this visit:

Sensory Bin Success3

I knew I wanted to recreate this learning activity… so….

14 boxes of noodles later, Olivia has her own extra-big DIY sensory bin!

Sensory-Bin

Tracy told me the secret to getting her noodles to turn a gorgeous blue was soaking them in rubbing alcohol. I did a few Google searches to figure out the exact process.

Some posts suggested using vinegar to dye the noodles.  I actually tried this approach with one box.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same success.  The noodles I dyed with vinegar came out clumpy and an entirely different texture.  See the comparison?

Sensory Bin Process

Since I wasn’t planning on using any of the noodles in later recipes, I went ahead and used alcohol as a dying medium.

I would definitely recommend using gel based food coloring! I mixed the gel coloring with alcohol in a small bowl and then dumped in into a Ziploc bag filled with noodles.  The next step was super easy- shake, shake, and shake some more!

Supplies-for-Sensory-Bin

After the color was dispersed, I emptied the noodles onto parchment paper and arranged them into a single layer to dry.  Since the gel food coloring is so potent, a pair of disposable gloves was invaluable for the step of the process!

Olivia absolutely loves her new DIY sensory bin!  I love that this activity will grow with her.  We can use the noodles for learning colors, sorting, counting, adding to art projects, and the list continues!

 

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Around Here: July and August 2014

July flew by and August is almost a distant memory.  Lately, I’ve been:

…coordinating evaluations and therapy sessions for Olivia.  I’ll write more about this personal adventure in the future.  I’m still digesting all the lessons I’ve learned about advocating for your child and some of the new insights we’ve gained into fostering speech development for toddlers.  Olivia has a huge gap right now between her receptive and expressive language abilities.  Naturally, this reality fuels daily frustrations for her and escalates tantrums quickly.  I am amazed at Olivia’s intelligence, curiosity, and independence- she experiences life so fully!  I am so grateful that we have some services in place now to help facilitate her journey.

Olivia-19-Months

… reflecting on some awesome blog posts focused on motherhood, life, and finding your own voice:

  • Baseball, Mom, and Staying the Course: This article was written by my friend, Tammy, who is also on the Design Team for the Snap Click Supply Company.  I just love her beautiful perspective on motherhood… some days are so tough and everything seems to go wrong at once.  Simply continuing to meet each challenge with an open heart and love is enough.
  • Redefining What I Want: Love this list about crafting a life you love.  How do you want your life to feel?
  • Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt: Awesome post challenging our constant need to upgrade and “fix” our life.  Love her focus on gratitude and staying in the present moment.  I hope Olivia remembers our kitchen as the site of many impromptu dance parties.
  • A Code for Living: This thoughtful quote from Tara Mohr is a true gem: “Do not give anyone an experience that you are not eager to receive, tenfold, at the end of your journey.”

… working on projects for The Dating Divas.  I posted this photo to Instagram in July with the caption: “Real life… What our kitchen table has looked like for the past week and half.  A growing and increasingly random assortment of materials for taking staged photos of upcoming blogging projects.  Yes, those would be balloons, Skittles, ping pong balls, and sprinkles on the table! #wannabephotographer”

Photo-table-July-2014

I am so excited about the products our team is creating and feel so blessed to be in charge of leading the process.  Our graphic designer, Courtney of All Things Bright and Beautiful, is AMAZING!  She consistently transforms our design requests into a gorgeous, visual reality.  To top it off, her designs are  modern and fun!  If you are hosting a group date night, you will want to check out our Couples Win It in a Minute Party Pack.  It has EVERYTHING you need for a successful and FUN night with your favorite people.

Couples Game Night

We also recently launched our DIY Birthday Card Pack for Him.  These gorgeous cards are print ready and perfect for telling your hubby how much he is adored.  Wait until you see the embellishments on these cards- Hallmark has nothing on these!  This pack is a STEAL!  10 birthday cards and coordinating embellishments for less than 1 typical store-bought card!

Birthday Card Pack

… finishing this book: Dying to Be Me.  Additional thoughts and review COMING SOON!

… participating in Big Picture Classes Phone Photography Project 2 on Instagram.  Click to see all my summer photos related to this challenge!

Summer-Light

…writing a little bit about essential oils.  I’ve been using them for the past year and loving our experiences.  They are definitely part of our daily routine and a first line of defense for anything that life throws our way.  For instance, on our last trip down to the lake, James was working in my parent’s yard and got into what we think was Stinging Nettle.  Almost immediately, he felt intense stinging and little white bumps appeared on his finger.  I immediately applied Lavender, Melaleuca, and Purify.  Within about 10 minutes, his pain subsided and the bumps were gone!  If you are curious about essential oils and what they can do for your family, check out The Essential Oils Archives.

PINCHING myself because I was featured on Kara’s Party Ideas!  I’m beyond thrilled that Kara decided to feature my dear friend Ashley’s Coco Chanel Inspired Baby Shower.  HERE’S THE FEATURE!  I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone in terms of submitting this party to a major blog… and checked off one more item on my 30 During My 30th Year!

…noticing that the seasons are beginning to shift.  This hydrangea’s beautiful white flowers always turn a gorgeous shade of blush announcing Fall’s arrival.

Hydrangea-August-2014

… dumping a cold bucket of water/ice on my head.  Yes, my good friend Kim nominated me to take the ALS ice bucket challenge.  It was COLD!  Brrr…. Read how this challenge started HERE.  It truly just takes a few people with open hearts, an idea, and a desire to make a difference.

Ice-Bucket-Challenge-August

… and, just this past week, catching some unexpected inspiration from the radio.  I was driving over to my mom’s house and happened to tune into Oprah’s channel on Sirius where she was interviewing Pastor Rick.  This quote really resonated with me:

“You can waste your life. You can spend your life. Or you can invest your life. The best use of your life is to invest it in that which will outlast it. Invest it in serving others. And that’s what it means to live a purpose-driven life.”- Pastor Rick

Looking forward to all that September will bring!

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Summer Photo Challenge 2014

This summer has been filled with beautiful moments. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been using the hashtag, #bpcphonephotographyproject, to describe many of my photos along with several more specific ones like #ppp2silhouette or #ppp2light.  These labels refer to a phone photography challenge I participated in through Big Picture Classes.  Every couple of days, they released a new prompt focusing on a particular photography technique.  Here’s my round-up of photos related to this project:

Summer-Photos

I LOVED this challenge because it really forced me to focus on specific photography principles- some technical, some design related- and experiment with different editing apps.  And, it was all done using my iPhone.

Photos by Prompt Challenges

  • Row 1: Light, Action, Lines
  • Row 2: Lines/Light, Silhouette, Landscape
  • Row 3: Vantage Point, Fill the Frame/Vantage Point, Shapes
  • Row 4: Shapes, Lines/In a Row, Shapes/In a Row
  • Row 5: Fill the Frame/Shapes, Rule of Thirds, Vantage Point/Backgrounds
  • Row 6: Shadow, Objects, Portrait

Editing apps that I use on my phone all the time include: PicTapGo, Snapseed, LensLight, BubbleFrame, and Rhonna Designs.  My “action” shot of Olivia in the first row was selected to be featured on Rhonna’s Start Screen… what an honor to be featured!

Rhonna-Feature

With this challenge complete, I can check off 1 more item on my 30 During My 30th List!

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Thoughts on Motherhood and Traveling: Part 2

To read Part 1, click HERE!

Aerial View

During a recent flight, I had the chance to sit next to the window and gaze out at some incredible cloud formations.  Perhaps I was just focused on missing Olivia, but the clouds (and really the whole process of flying) made me think about motherhood.

Some similarities that I was struck by:

… on both types of journeys, you alternate between periods of clarity and complete overwhelm.  As a new mother, you might feel like you are permanently stuck in a never-ending haze of confusion, panic, and stress… Similarly, to get to your cruising altitude, a plane must ascend through a dense and often murky layer of clouds.  I think I involuntary hold my breath for these moments- you can’t see anything and it feels like you’re traveling through a giant marshmallow!  Both scenarios require patience and trust that you are slowly getting closer to your destination.

Navigating Motherhood

… and then you emerge on the other side and it’s just grand.  This higher perspective fuels both gratitude and reflection.  These moments make the journey worthwhile and truly inspiring!

Clouds from the Plane

I’m still trying to navigate and find my footing on this precious journey of motherhood.  The highs and lows just seem so darn extreme!  Moods cycle so easily between clarity and overwhelm.  These days we are focusing on the good.

… precious baby smiles and laughter… watching new learning take place before our eyes….sweet baby snuggles and embraces… her joy in discovering something new… her delight in new independence and skills….

Flying

… all the steps and stages of learning to fly.

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Around Here: June 2014

Busy, busy, busy….  This month has been spent:

…enjoying this gorgeous view while in Florida.  The Breakers Hotel review coming soon.

TheBreakers

…taking our baby girl to the pool.

Olivia Swimming June 2014

…looking through a camera lens.  I took on several large photography projects for The Dating Divas blog.  They are launching several amazing products over the next few months- here’s a peak at my work:

Anniversary Printable Pack

Dating Divas Anniversary

Couples Group Date Night

Dating Divas Group Date Night

Printable Summer Activities Pack

Dating Divas Summer Pack

Babysitting Co-op Printable Pack

Dating Divas Babysitting Co-op

…reading these articles on motherhood:

…taking stock.  By Kara Anne sent out an email with the subject, “Is June the fresh start you need?”  This one-liner got me thinking about my OLW for the year, as well as my 30 During 30 Goals.  #12 on the list was to make and send 30 cards.  I wrote down a quick list of projects that came to mind and realized that not only had I met this goal but exceeded it by quite a bit!  2014 has demanded an outpouring of creative products.  My goal for the reminder of the year is to figure out how to lighten my load, focus on what’s important, and let the rest take care of itself.  Easier said than done!

…visiting my Grandma after her fall.  I hope Olivia inherits her grit and determination!

…writing many blog posts.  Curious what goes into a post?  Read THIS and THIS for a thoughtful breakdown.  When I got into blogging, I had no clue that you needed to be an amazing photographer, eloquent writer, expert WordPress user, marketing genius, and part-time HTML coder to be successful.  I am far from where I’d love to be in this industry BUT I’ve made great strides with my photography skills over the past year.

…learning why I hate cilantro!  And, I picked up a new phrase: single-nucleotide polymorphism.

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Fourth of July 2014

For the past several years, our Fourth of July’s have been a mixture of boating, sunshine, and fireworks on the lake.  This year, however, we spent our Holiday talking to doctors and visiting care facilities after my sweet 93 year old Grandma fell and broke her hip.

Grandma Surgery

Three: the number of places she broke the top of her femur bone.  Fortunately, the position of the breaks were such that she didn’t need a full hip replacement.  The orthopedic surgeons opted to place 1 rod and several pins into her leg to secure her broken joint area.

I’m so glad to report that Grandma is making wonderful progress.  In fact, she walked across the hospital room the day after surgery!  I so admire her strength and determination.  On July 4th, we moved her to a rehab facility where she will spend the next few weeks receiving an intense dose of physical therapy.

One of my favorite generational pics from Olivia’s first birthday:

Three generations

I’ve been taking Olivia up to visit daily- Grandma adores seeing her.  So much so, that she insisted that we place Olivia on her lap as she was wheeled down the hallway to dinner.  We ever so gently placed our very active toddler on her non-broken leg and held our breath!  I think my whole family was braced to immediately swoop in if our baby moved an inch.  Guess what?  Olivia leaned back, enjoyed the ride, and didn’t move a muscle!

Grandma after surgery

How was your July 4th?  My Mom surprised us over the weekend with this festive package filled with a few yummy treats:

4th of July gift 2014

…and some dear friends delivered a food care package with a darling July 4th themed cake:

4th of July Cake

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Father’s Day Gift 2014

To celebrate Father’s Day this year, I knew I wanted to do something special for James.  We’ve had quite a year of ups and downs!  When I saw a template for adorable printable book on the blog I Heart Nap Time, I knew it would be the perfect gift for our superhero!  Here’s how my version turned out:

Super Dad Book

I used Photoshop Elements to superimpose James’ head on all the pages.  A bit of washi tape, a “Dad” rubber stamp, and a personalized message embellished my project.  To bind my book, I used the Sew Easy Paper Stitching Piercing tool to create an evenly spaced row of holes.  Then, I threaded blue baker’s twine to complete the spine.

Super Dad Book Binding

I was so excited to see Erin of Strawberry Mommycakes as the designer of this awesome printable.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Erin several times on projects for The Dating Divas (check out my recent posts: Mother’s Day Adventure and The Puzzle Date for more of her amazing work!).

Super Dad Treats

….Definitely had to include these adorable snack toppers filled with James’ favorite treats: Skittles and Peanut Butter M&Ms!

Olivia wore her Super Girl t-shirt from Target and presented her SUPER DAD with his gift and candy!  What a great day filled with wonderful memories and the perfect Father’s Day gift.

Super Dad Fathers Day 2

In case you missed it, here’s what we did LAST YEAR.

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Thoughts on Traveling and Motherhood: Part 1

Over the past two months, I’ve spent two weekends away from my sweet baby girl.  I’m happy to report that she did great!  I, on the other hand, was largely a hot mess.  Part of me was so excited to escape my current reality for just a few precious days.  The other part was overwhelmed with anxiety- about a million questions raced through my mind… is James feeding her something other than puffs?  Is she sleeping at my parent’s house?  Does she miss me?  Does she know we are coming back?  Does she feel like I abandoned her?  Are her teeth hurting her?  Am I missing any milestones?

Totally stereotypically.  Totally normal.  And, yet, I’ve never experienced this push-pull range of emotions so completely.  Traveling solo during my first weekend away also brought up another set of questions that I wasn’t necessarily prepared to answer.  All those pesky “what if” scenarios… What if something were to happen?  What if there was an accident?  I was quickly reminded how fragile life can be.  I also immediately thought of a post I had seen on Instagram by Holly from Decor8.  In one of her captions about her beautiful little boy on April 25th, she wrote “I’ve never valued my own life more than I do now…”

Decor8 inspirational words

Ah… I can completely relate.  Don’t you just love Holly’s inspirational words?  Being Olivia’s mama has definitely challenged me in a completely new way to be the best version of myself.  Taking exquisite care of my health, both physically and emotionally, is also a gift to my daughter.  Not only do I just want to be around for the next several decades, I want to make the most of it!  So many things to teach to her and so much love to give!

Motherhood Memories

Photo Credit: Karen Hendrix Photography

And, as if the universe heard my concerns and longing to be a great mama/teacher/friend, I happened to run across a little treasure along the aisles of our local Hallmark store: a recordable version of my most favorite book: Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You.  I’ve mentioned this beautiful story before HERE– I just adore it.  And, now, my sweet baby girl has a version to listen to in my voice.  Knowing Olivia could her me reading and feel all the love from this book’s message made leaving just a little more bearable.

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Around Here: May 2014

Another packed month.  Beginning some new journeys, managing commitments, and trying to remember to breathe.  Lately, I’ve been:

… marveling at our garden’s blooms.  After a good rainstorm, James and I finally weeded our flowering beds.  Olivia was such a great little helper!  She loved being outside and eagerly carried the weeds we pulled over to a collecting bin.  She’s still not a big fan of grass although she will now walk in it if she is wearing shoes.  The bunny hat is a wardrobe staple, as well!

Garden-2014

… creating.  Bachelorette projects, Mother’s Day packages, scrapbook pages, and posts with The Dating Divas.  If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out this post: 40+ Photography Tips and Tricks to Savor Summer Memories.  It was so fun to collaborate with my fellow Diva/Photographer, Chrissy, as well as our team of expert photographers.  There’s even a fun photo checklist to help you document all those summer bucket list items.

… celebrating new chapters.  A friend’s upcoming marriage.  Another friend’s littlest turning 2.

Fire truck party 2014

Olivia got to see a real live fire truck as part of the celebrations!

… traveling.  A whirlwind weekend trip to New York was followed by an extended trip to the Lake so James could visit engineering firms in the Southwest portion of the state.

Bachelorette Materials 2014

The makings of a memorable Bachelorette weekend!  All needed to fit in my suitcase!

… exploring my faith.  I traveled to a local spiritual retreat the first weekend in May.  One of my personal goals is to develop my intuition and to stop over-thinking/over-analyzing everything.  As a follow-up to this spiritual retreat, I decided to take an online class with Amy Oscar.  I have previously read her amazing book, Sea of Miracles, and fell in love with her beautiful writing style and way of translating spiritual concepts.  Some of my favorite articles on her blog include: Abracadabra: Real Magic, Where is Your Attention?, and Awakening to Love.

Lake Sky 2014

Captured this amazing sky over Memorial Day.

… and finally, looking forward to sweet summer adventures!

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