Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Let me tell you a little story. About a year and a half ago, when I was only a few weeks pregnant with Elizabeth, Evie and I went to the Parade of Lights with my brother-and-sister-in-law. While we were driving downtown, we passed a gorgeous ocean-blue Mustang. My first thought was "Ooh! I'd like to have a car like that!" Then the rest of my brain shouted "NO! That car is pretty, sure, but it's going to be bouncy, loud, and a little cramped. Really, what I want is something that's large enough to provide a smooth and quiet ride, and with enough room to grow our family. I want a MINIVAN!" It was a weird moment because I'd always sworn that I would never own a "tacky minivan," and here I was, not quite 22 years old, and daydreaming about one. I'd never felt so old in my entire life!

Granted, that story seems a little random. But, six days ago was my fourth wedding anniversary, and my husband gave me the very best anniversary gift ever: he gave me a new car! Baxter, our old car, has been breaking down regularly for the last couple of years. There's a short somewhere in the starter wiring, so about 60% of the time, the car doesn't start when I turn the key. Instead, we get to push-start the car to get it going. Fortunately, we live on a slight hill, so I can usually leave the house when I need to. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to start rolling in a flat parking lot. I've been getting more and more fed up as time has gone by, and so has Todd. He's really pretty good at fixing whatever goes wrong, but no matter how many times he's replaced the starter and alternator, it never did any good. Enough was finally enough. I was half-joking (okay, I was really only 25% joking) about shopping online for a new car, and Todd finally agreed.

We had already been discussing what kind of car we'd want to buy someday and Todd finally caved to my desire for a minivan. I reminded him that we were planning on have two more babies within the last five years, and I only wanted to have to buy one car and it had to have enough room for all of our kids. I'd been doing research about safety measures and special features on different minivans, and the consensus was pretty much that the Honda Odyssey was the safest/most affordable combination on the market. In a dealership only a couple of miles away, I found a shiny red 2002 Honda Odyssey. I took the girls for a test drive and when Todd got home from work, he and his brother went on another test drive. A couple of days later, after getting all of the paperwork hassle done, we drove away in our brand-new (to us) car!

I'll admit it, I'm one of those weirdos who name their cars. ;) Our 1989 Honda Accord was as old as I was, clanky and rusty. The personality seemed like that of a cranky old man, and the name Baxter just fit. The minivan, a 2002 Honda Odyssey, has an entirely different vibe. For what should be obvious reasons, I delved into my memories of Homer's Odyssey for a name and came up with Circe the witch, because she's my magical new car: bewitching and just a little seductive glinting in the sunshine! I refer to her as a "hot mama" car: she's no longer young, but she's still sassy! Besides, look at all of these magical buttons and knobs!

We have working air conditioning! And it can be adjusted to any specific temperature. Cool, right? ;)
With the touch of a single button, I can automatically open or close each of the girls' sliding doors.
On my steering wheel, I've got buttons so I can change the radio station and affect the volume with just my thumb.
Look! A place to keep my sunglasses!
The middle row of seats can be put together as a bench, or separated into captains chairs. The back row can be folded down into the floor to yield a huge cargo area. So we will have plenty of space for all of our beloved babies!
We bought Elizabeth a cute new booster car seat, the Graco Argos 70 Eliza seat. (Eliza for Elizabeth. Get it? I thought so.)
Evie inherited an old used car seat from her Tia. Someday, I'll get her a nice new one. Someday.
Isn't she gorgeous? She's higher up than my old car, so I feel like the Queen of the Road every time I drive her. And the best part? She starts every time I turn the key! Happy Anniversary, my love, and thank you for the beautiful gift!

A Month of Blessings

This month has been a very good one for our family! It started with our sweet little girl turning one year old, followed by her birthday party turning out pretty much just as I wanted. Then, some very generous friends in the ward got a new refrigerator and offered us their old one:
At pretty much the same time, another family in the ward was remodeling their house. They ordered all-new furniture and offered us the couch and love seat that had been in their formal living room. Since their room had been so rarely used, the furniture is actually in really great condition. And surprisingly comfortable!
In order to fit all of the new furniture downstairs we had to reorganize almost everything. We put our old couch in the girls' room and moved my rocking chair out to the living room so I can actually use it on a regular basis. We also moved the new couch back behind our desk to make a sort of "sitting room" area for when company comes. Then we shifted over the new love seat to make room to walk between it and my rocking chair, and Voila! It all fits!
Todd's older brother brought his family to visit for a couple of days, which was really fun. They were here during our 4th anniversary, so Todd and I were able to leave the kids with them so we could go on a date to see "Despicable Me 2" in the theater. In fact, Steve was actually able to help Todd figure out if it would be a good idea to actually buy the car we'd been looking at. Which, of course, leads me to one of the very best things to happen this month: getting our beautiful new car!
We have been very richly blessed this month!

New Job Opportunity

I am thrilled to announce that the time has come for me to resign from Babies "R" Us! Today, I finally submitted my two weeks' notice, and I can already feel weight lifting off of my shoulders. For several months, I could see that I would eventually leave, and now I've just given into the inevitable. Once I had Elizabeth, and my maternity leave was over, I went back to work but only very part-time. I only worked about 8 hours or so a week and stayed at home with my girlies for the rest of the time. Often, on the internet, I see arguments between working moms and stay-at-home moms, and I'm tired of it. I can understand both sides of the story, and the guilt that each path brings, as well as the joy. Those 8 hours stretched on for an eternity, during which I felt overcome with guilt for imposing on family members to watch my girls, and leaving my girls to be cared for by someone else. Then, when I was home, I felt guilty for only working for those 8 hours, because I felt like I wasn't contributing my all to help support our family in a financially significant way. No matter what, I had the worst of both worlds, shouldering both burdens of guilt. Then, just a month or so ago, I received an offer from a lady in my ward. Her daughter had started a new job, and needed someone to watch her two little kids on days that she worked. This lady thought that I might be interested in the position, so I called up her daughter and asked about the details of the job. It turns out that her two kids were very close in age to mine, and she was willing to work around my BRU job. After a few weeks, Todd and I were noticing that I was making more from this babysitting job than I was from BRU, and the lady was saying that she could use me even more, if I was able/willing to open my hours. I finally talked Todd into letting me quit Babies so I could work more hours, for more money, than I was currently available for. And the best part? I can take my kids to work with me! Her little boy is only 3 months older than Evie, so they play together all the time, and her little girl is about 6 months younger than Elizabeth. The two babies mostly play independently, but they'll probably grow to like each other. Now, instead of having the worst of both worlds, I have the best! I'm helping to bring in some money (and more than I would have been able to working retail!), and I still get to be the one raising and teaching my kiddos. Plus, I go to the lady's house to watch her kids, so I have a few days a week that I get to escape the dungeon...excuse me, the basement where we live. And that weight on my shoulders is gone! Or, at least it will be once my two weeks are up! ;)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ella!

My little one turned one year old on Tuesday, July 2nd! We wanted all of our extended family to be able to attend, though, so we held her party on the Saturday, which was the 30th of June. As you may remember from Evie's jungle-themed party, I tend to go all-out when my babies turn one! Instead of a jungle theme this time, though, I decided on a garden theme. Elizabeth is my little "cutie-bug" and since her birthday is in July, I thought it would be a really fun to have a rainbow of bright happy colors at her party. I think we succeeded!
For decoration, I bought some really fun pinwheels at Hobby Lobby and used balloons to make shapes like a flower, a butterfly, and a caterpillar on the walls.
On the wall behind the table, I hung the banner I made:
In case you can't make it out, it says Our lil Ladybut is Turning 1!
Just like last year, I really put my whole self into this party, but because of last year, I sort of knew what I was doing and was able to be a lot more efficient and creative. Most of the food ideas were mine, and I just bought and made a few decorations at a time so I wouldn't get burned out like last time. The first thing I did when I woke up Saturday morning, was make Ella's personal 6" cake, which I made out of chocolate cake mix. When it was cool, I colored it purple and decorated it like a caterpillar head.
The cupcakes for the guests were made with chocolate or yellow cake mix and decorated in one of four colors that made up the caterpillar's body. I bought a package of cupcake papers that had four colors in it, all with cute white polka dots. Each cupcake had matching paper and frosting. I called them "Caterpillar Cupcakes" and arranged them all on the table.
Next was my "Veggie Patch." I was especially proud of this idea. I wanted to have a variety of foods to choose from, including a healthy option. So I bought some cheap green broadcloth and stuffed it with plastic bags to make rows, and then put the veggies in between the mounds to get the effect of a veggie garden.
Each row had its own sign, just like a real garden. I got the veggies as little as I could so they would make easier finger-foods: sugar-snap peas, cherry tomatoes, baby corn (from the can), baby carrots, and slices cucumbers (it occurred to me later that I could have gotten some little whole pickles instead, but these worked anyway!).
 My next endeavor was my own home-made Edible Arrangement. I found a tutorial online and made some tweaks. I used pineapple, watermelon, grapes, and strawberries and arranged them all into a flower pot filled with foam. This took a lot more time than I expected, but it actually looked amazing when I was done, and it was a huge hit! I called my bouquet "Floral Fruits" and moved on to the next item on my list.
Next, I went for something easy. I poured our "Bee Hives" (Honeycomb cereal) and "Sun Chips" (...Sun Chips) into their respective flower pots and put them on the table as well.
Then Todd helped me make our "Cups of Dirt," which consisted of layering chocolate pudding, Cool Whip, and crushed Oreo cookies into 9 oz cups before garnishing each one with a gummy worm. I got some cute little wooden "shovel" spoons online to complete the cups.
Once again, these were the treats that Todd and I liked the best: they were delicious!
Our last menu item was "Lemonade." It was a recipe I found online that was lemonade, pineapple juice, and Sprite. It actually needed more Sprite than I'd bought, so it was very tart, but it was still pretty good. I thought it would be a really fun idea to serve the lemonade out of a new watering can. I couldn't get the really cute metal yellow one I found online in time, so we ended up just getting a huge plastic yellow one from Wal-Mart for $3. It still looked pretty cute with the rest of the decor though!
By this time, our guests were starting to arrive, so I took a few final pictures and got Elizabeth ready for her presents!
I didn't want to exert extra effort by making Ella's party hat. Instead, I found, at the Dollar Tree, cute butterfly wings and cute butterfly antennae for her to wear.
Elizabeth's first present was from her Uncle John/Aunt Margot and their family; they gave her a cute set of pajamas.
The next gift bag was from Tia and Uncle. Julia, Ella's cousin, wrote her a cute handmade card. Then Ella pulled out her actual presents: a pair of Weebles, a Disney book, a Sesame Street book, and a cute little jungle book.
Finally, it was time to open the presents from Mommy and Daddy. She opened a cute little butterfly box that held her little porcelain 1-year-old Growing-up Girl figurine. Evie's are brunette, so I bought the blonde one for Elizabeth.
Next was a long line of the Little People Disney Princesses, concluded by the palace.
After all of the presents were opened, I lit the candle on her cake and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
Then we stripped her down to her diaper so she could dig into her cake. Where her sister ate her cake very fastidiously, Elizabeth needed only a little prompting before diving right in! By the time she was done, she had frosting all over her face and hands, and even some in her ear!
Jenette mentioned that Ella's eyes looked super blue while she was eating her cake, and it's because the purple frosting really accents that bright blue.
After everyone else left, it was time for Elizabeth to wash off all of the cake crumbs and frosting. We put her in the tub and let her splash around. Even in the tub, she was still "tasting" herself! Then, when she was finally all clean, we got her out and let her play with her new toys.  
I think she really enjoyed her special day, and I'm glad that her party went almost perfectly! 

Just like last time, I'm putting together a list of where I bought everything for any crafty people who might care.

Hobby Lobby:
Colored pinwheels
Orange tablecloth
Colored cupcake papers
Flowered paper for place-cards*
Red/black cardstock for ladybug banner*
Green broadcloth

Watering can
Flower pots
Green gardening styrofoam
Gummy worms
Belle/Prince Adam set
Ariel/Prince Eric set
Cinderella/Prince Charming set
Palace/Dwarves bundle set

Babies "R" Us: 
Ariel/Aurora set
Rapunzel/Tiana set
Jasmine/Aladdin set
Belle/Beast set

King Soopers (local grocery store): 
Honeycomb cereal
Sun Chips
Cool Whip
Drink (pineapple juice, Sprite, lemonade mix)
9 oz cups

Dollar Tree:
Wrapping paper for Ella's presents
Butterfly wings
Butterfly headband
Butterfly box
Blue plates

Party City:
Yellow tissue sunshine (not pictured, for some reason)

Wooden shovel spoons--this website
Purple paper flowers on Ella's cake--this website
Age 1 Growing Up Girl--this website

*The font I used on the banner and place-cards is called "Bumble Bee BV."