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Toddler Pumpkins and Art Project Ideas

Olivia worked so diligently on a few Halloween greetings this year! Love how this simple art project was a great learning opportunity to discuss drawing circles and triangles. My sweet girl is a pro at making smiley faces! Here are here masterpieces:

Toddler-Pumpkins

The process in action:

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After the paint was dry and the pumpkins were decorated, Olivia added stickers. It’s so fascinating to watch her decision process– the spiders, for example, needed to go in the corner upside down. The simple act of peeling stickers and placing images is a great way to strengthen her fine motor skills. I always like to ask her questions about the various images- silly animal faces or Halloween images are natural conversation starters!

There are so many great toddler pumpkin and art ideas floating on Pinterest. Here are some of my favorites:

We tucked one of Olivia’s pumpkin portraits into a special Halloween greeting for Olivia’s newest cousin.

Halloween-Greetings-for-Baby

My Mom has a collection of fun spider rings and Olivia has LOVED playing with them this year. We couldn’t resist sharing some spider bling with Adeline and her Mommy! We placed an orange and pink jeweled ring, along with pumpkin bubbles and stickers, into a spider silhouette box.

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I love this pattern- it cuts beautifully and comes together so easily for a unique and spooky gift!

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Sweet Summer Memories 2015

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Dearest Olivia,

We’ve had so much fun this summer! Right now, you love playing with play dough, blowing bubbles, chasing the puppies, painting your nails, reading books, and anything to do with water. It’s been an absolute JOY to watch you swim in the pool and lake. I will never forget you leaping off the pool steps with confidence. I won’t lie- my heart did skip a beat! But, I knew your pool vest would hold you above water and seeing the smile on your face was priceless. A favorite pastime in the water? Pouring and scooping, of course! I love watching how your inquisitive mind works- you truly want to understand the why’s behind everything.

I am continually amazed at how your vocabulary has expanded. We are having actual conversations! You are telling me things like “That was delicious!” or “not quite yet” in response to a friendly redirection. You have no problem communicating your preferences!

Looking forward to what the Fall brings!

Love always, Mom

 

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Wellness Wednesdays: Gratitude in Action

I had a different post scheduled for today, but this one feels more timely, more real. I posted on my Instagram account earlier today:

Breathe

“Got some good/bad news this morning. We’ve been working with a holistic MD for the past few weeks to get a better overall picture of Olivia’s health. Right now, I’m sitting in a parking lot, enjoying a Starbucks, trying to take deep breaths, and admiring the view in the backseat of my precious girl sound asleep. Things I know for sure: 1) Information is power: We have a much better understanding of how to support Olivia’s body- you can’t fix/deal with something until you have all the facts. 2) You are your child’s health advocate and most important example. 3) It’s never too late to hit the reset button.”

So, wherever you are on YOUR wellness journey, I invite you to take a moment and just breathe. Honor the facts and experience- it’s ok to be angry, sad, confused, overwhelmed, frustrated… curve-balls can quite literally feel like a punch to the stomach… But, they can also be beautiful opportunities to GROW, step out of your comfort zone, and inspire others. So, I’m working really hard on this cycle:

Breathe. Be grateful. Repeat.

I am so grateful to have a plan of action, deeper insights into our family’s health, and a whole arsenal of wellness tools. Our sweet girl is going to be just fine.

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The Best Christmas Present 2014

I might have gotten the best Christmas present ever, this year. I know, I know… that’s a pretty tall claim. But take a look:

DIY Toddler Sticker Book

2 gorgeous sticker books crafted with care by Olivia. My mom watches Olivia during the week and one of their favorite activities is crafting sticker books. The concept is super simple: grab an empty photo album and fill it with stickers! Love that it’s simple, cheap, and FULL of amazing learning opportunities.  All of the designs provide endless prompts for talking about colors, shapes, and so much more. Olivia also gets to practice her fine motor skills (and motor planning/sequencing) as she peels and places the stickers on a page. It’s also a great way to reinforce the process of cleaning up- picking up all the little pieces and taking care of her supplies.

Toddler Sticker Books

Our sticker box is filled with goodies from the dollar bin at Target and old address labels.

Sticker-Book-Detail

My mom wrapped up 2 completed editions as a present for me, along with a homemade card from my sweet girl. Every time I look at these, I’m amazed at Olivia’s effort, determination, creativity. Thanks, Mom for putting together this keepsake that’s equal parts love and learning.

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Guess what Olivia got for Christmas? 2 new photo albums to fill up!

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22 Months and Growing

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

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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!

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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.

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… 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.

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… 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.

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… 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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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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