Feb 20

Choo choo, Graham is two.


Our son, Graham, turned two last week. Because he is in love with trains right now, we threw him a train-themed party.
train birthday cake and table

I had this dream of buying a fabulous cake so I wouldn’t stress myself out about making/decorating a cake. But when I started price-checking cakes like I wanted, I quickly retreated. So I whipped out my trusty old cake mix boxes and got to baking. The cake didn’t turn out anything like what I wanted, but I was still happy with it. I used cookie crumbs and chocolate frosting to make a track around the perimeter for his toy trains to sit on.


I also threw together a larger train car for snacks. I used shoe boxes, covered them in brown paper grocery bags and made the wheels out of rolled up strips of black felt. One of the cars had wheels made out of some vintage coasters.

We also had some sugar cookies made by a friend of my mom – and I was so happy with them! Adorable! My favorite was the RR crossing sign and the stop light. We used these as party favors for the kids as well.
train party cookies
For low cost decorations, I made him a birthday sign out of cardboard and reused our 4th of July pennant banners. I made the sign to match the party invitation that we mailed out. He was really funny with his invitation – he carried them around the house and called them his “tards”.
train invitation
Graham absolutely loved his day. He loved all the attention and all the snacking. He was super excited for presents and told each giver “than-too” after he unwrapped. We even had a difficult time pulling him away from his new toys to blow out his candles. But once he got to it, he was thrilled to hear his birthday song and huff, puff and blow his candles out. He was so darn cute doing it that we let him do it a couple more times.

Happy second birthday, Grahamser. It’s been two sweet years – here’s to many more!

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Feb 14

One sweet day.



Lilah had her very first Valentine’s party at preschool last week. So one evening, we sat down and made valentines for all her classmates. I had seen an idea for matchbox valentines recently, so we went with that. They turned out to be an easy project and she enjoyed the process. Especially filling the boxes with the candy.

For the last few years, we have made pink heart-shaped pancakes on Valentines Day morning. So, of course, I continued the tradition today. The kids LOVE pancakes, so at least I know they will have full bellies.

Owen is barely fitting into his valentines shirt today. This boy is getting so big! He is two months old now and is in the 85% for his weight. At his check-up, the doctor called him a “tank”.

I hope you are all having a sweet day!

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Jan 26

Graham’s room.

When I was pregnant, we had the task of determining where to put our kids with the addition of the new baby. We contemplated putting the baby in with one of the older kids, moving the older kids in together or moving our oldest downstairs to her own room. In the end, we decided to keep them all separate by moving Lilah into what was once our guest/toy room downstairs.

This meant that we moved Graham into Lilah’s old room (keeping the nursery for the pending baby). Not only was it decorated for a girl, it was DISGUSTING. The walls were beyond nasty. The first thing we did was paint it and it immediately felt beautiful. The wall color didn’t change that much, we just painted it a little bit warmer gray.

We didn’t have to buy any furniture, thankfully. We are borrowing the crib from family, and we weren’t moving the dresser and play table to Lilah’s new room. The super cool “G” toy box was built by my incredibly talented brother last year for Graham’s birthday. We love it because there is no hinged lid to come crashing up and down. The two doors slide back and forth perfectly.

The license plates belonged to Brady’s grandfather and had been stashed in our garage for years. I was happy to use them – and surprised to find four that matched the colors in the room!

The growth chart was made by Graham’s aunt Casi – it was also a gift last year for his birthday. Don’t we have the most talented family??

I painted/collaged these canvases a while back for the kids’ toy room. They are modeled after these prints. The two globes were auction finds and just needed a coat of paint – they had gold hardware on them before.

And I made the “Oh, the places you’ll go” sign. I have always loved that Dr. Seuss book and with the globes below, it just made sense. You can’t tell it in these photos, but I used sheets of lined notebook paper to make the letters – they are decoupaged on. We had this huge canvas hanging in our garage that was from Brady’s college days. He and his college roommates had it hanging at their house and whenever they had a party, guest would sign it. See below for the before. You might notice my name in big red marker in the middle – that is from our early dating days :)


And the little guy has loved his room. Of course, it is always WAY messier than this. He is really into trains now, so there is constantly a layer of little train cars and tracks covering the floor. It’s a dangerous place to walk.

And we are happy with the way that we separated our kids. Lilah has been sleeping great downstairs and surprisingly, has never once questioned being so far away from us. I guess she’s too little to realize it. I’m just glad that the two older ones are sleeping all night, cause this baby boy is not!

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Jan 10

A baby.


Owen Lee Rott, born December 6. Weighed in at 7lbs, 11oz.

A lot has happened since I last updated. We had a baby. We had Thanksgiving. We had Christmas. And we had New Years. And another Christmas with my husband’s family. It’s been busy, to say the least.

Things are finally beginning to slow down. School is back in session and our new little guy is beginning to find a routine. Life as a family of five is good and we couldn’t be happier. Okay, maybe a full night of sleep would make us just a little happier, but other than that…

Since Owen was born, we have been fortunate enough to have two photographers take his pictures. Both turned out awesome and I cannot wait to share them here!

The first photo shoot was just of Owen. He was only a couple weeks old and was still in the really sleepy stage. These pictures were taken by my friend, Sarah Kaiser. She hasn’t been a taking photos professionally for very long, but I think she is doing an amazing job. You can check out more of her work (and her adorable sons) on her blog.

The second photo shoot was of all three kids. Brady’s cousin, Mollie Wetta, took the shots. These were all taken in our bedroom. Mollie did an amazing job – I can’t imagine being tasked with shooting these three. What chaos. She was a trooper and got some really great shots. You can see more of her work (and her adorable daughters) on her blog.

As you can see, the two older kids cannot keep their hands off the little guy.

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Nov 20

The quilt that almost wasn’t.


In my family, it’s a tradition that each new baby that comes along receives a handmade quilt. Between my mom, my great-aunt, my SIL and I, we have always gotten it done. When my niece, Ela, was born in July, we hadn’t even STARTED a quilt for her! Since then, my mom and I have pulled it together and taken turns to finally finish her blanket. We’ve had several mishaps along the way, but alas, it is DONE! Just in time for winter!

The quilt pattern is called Argyle Dreams (by Jackie Clark). This is the third time I have made this pattern and I still adore it! I absolutely love the frayed, unfinished edges and big diamond argyle pattern.

Ela Sue is nearly four months old now and getting sweeter by the minute. She loves to smile, but, despite all our silly attempts, is really stingy with her giggles. She is the youngest of three and gets LOTS of attention from her older brother and sister.

This morning, I had the pleasure of babysitting them while their dad worked and their mom ran in the Turkey Trot run. (Way to go, Jenny!) While I was there, I snapped a few pictures of them. I can’t help myself – they have the most beautiful eyes!

Jak changed clothes about six times while I was there. In this photo, he is a cowboy getting ready to go to the farm.

My kids and their dad are out of town this weekend and I am in full-on nesting mode here. I have been cleaning, organizing and sorting since they left yesterday. Which means that this baby can come ANYTIME!

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Nov 01

Coming down from a sugar high.


Well, we survived the week of Halloween! The kids loved it and I am exhausted! They were so cute trick-or-treating last night that I seriously wasn’t ready to stop. Each holiday that comes and goes, I become more aware of how much holidays are all about the kids. Guess my perspective has changed some.

Over the past month, I have found myself wishing away these last weeks of my pregnancy. But then I think twice and realize that I am wishing away a holiday season with Lilah and Graham. Plus, I realize that carrying an unborn baby in my tummy, despite all my complaints, is way less work than caring for a newborn. All the diapers and feedings and laundry and willing the child to sleep! I think I’ll take the indigestion and back pain for a few more weeks.

I have been VERY busy lately with my freelance work, so I have been trying extra hard to keep the kids busy. Now, I wouldn’t say that it’s worked, but I think they like the new activities. Here are a few that I took pictures of.

When I was a kid, I was VERY into rubber stamps. I still have a huge tub of stamps and ink pads that I never use. I let the kids pick a few out and stamp their little hearts out.

About 10 minutes in, they decided that it would be more fun to stack them up and build towers. Knocking them over was just as much fun as getting ink all over our hands and arms.

Last week, during the Halloween madness, I thought I would let the kids attempt to make some treats. My first thought was sugar cookies, which Lilah and I did last year, but remembered how much work that was for me. So I decided I’d try some other treats that looked simple enough. It went pretty well, but again, their attention span wasn’t nearly as long as I hoped. They had the most fun placing eyes on whatever treats we made.




We made ghosts (out of Nutter Butters), spiders (out of chocolate cake mix cookies, pretzels and M&Ms), witches hats (out of Keebler cookies and Hersey Kisses) and “spooky” eyeballs (Bakerella’s cake balls).

And because Lilah has been interested in sorting things lately, I got out her boxes of crayons and let her sort them by color. We used a muffin tin and she sorted through them all two times. Graham “sorted” too, but not with much method. This drove Lilah up the wall but kept them both occupied as she “taught” him how to separate them.


So, keeping them busy often keeps me busy. But at least I feel better about the hours that I don’t give them any attention because I am stuck at my computer.

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Oct 26

A new hope chest.


My mother’s side of the family has been working to sort thru some of my grandma’s belongings, as she is living in an assisted living home and my uncle and his wife are moving into her old house. Lucky me, I got dibs on an old chest that she had. It is a beautiful piece and still has the 1941 paperwork stapled to the inside of the lid.
As a child, I remember pulling old mementos out of it, such as her 1947 wedding dress, and straining to imagine that era. My mother always had a memory chest too, a “hope chest” as we called it. And as we grew, it was filled with little pieces of our past. Like our first pair of shoes, our baby blankets or my girl scout sash with all my hard-earned badges.

I had already started small “hope chests” for my children. So when I got my grandma’s chest, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. But it didn’t take long to decide that it would be the perfect home for all our photo albums, which were currently stashed here and there. This inspired me to develop some sort of system for organizing all these photo albums.

One night, with the hubby out of town, I went through each book and jotted down what was inside. I used the digital files on my computer to determine the date range of each album. Once I had a rough chronological order of them, I numbered them.

I used metal-rimmed tags and a circle punch to make the number labels. And I stuck them on with hot glue. Here’s to hoping they stay on!

Taking, sorting, printing and organizing pictures is a huge task! Often, I only print photos once or twice a year. Many times I have questioned why I go thru all the trouble of printing and storing them at all.

My mom always kept photo albums and I LOVED looking thru them. Especially as I got older. I can’t imagine not having those albums to share with my husband when we met. Pictures can really share so much about your past and I am hoping my children appreciate it as much as I do. We’ll see if I can maintain my system and not get too far behind with all the pictures we take…

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Sep 01

Anatomy of a fit.

One minute, he’s playing. Having the best evening ever.

The next, he’s in timeout for not sharing the slide with his sister.

Broken hearted.

So sad. Poor Graham, huh? You feel for him, right?

Then Dad has a talk with him. He listens, says “yessir” and promises to be a good boy. Then we go on and play some more, only to repeat minutes later.

A typical three-minute span in our day.

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Aug 16

Old.

This summer, my husband, my brother and his wife are all celebrating their thirtieth birthdays. (Thirty?? What? My husband is turning thirty?!?!? When did we get this old?) Of course, I am happy to celebrate with them as I have two more years before I hit that milestone.

Together, we all threw a party to help the three of them through this. Of course, good times were had by all. But I have to tell you the story of the cakes.

The damn cakes.

First of all, let me tell you that I was determined to buy the cakes, not to make them. For two reasons. One: I know very little about decorating cakes and have been “winging it” through each of my kids birthday so far. Two: I didn’t need that added stress in my life. However, when it turned out that my kids were going to their grandparents for a few days and I saw what the bakery wanted for three separate birthday cakes, I changed my mind. I thought, I’ve got plenty of time. I’ll just use a box mix and do something simple. No problem.

Right.

I made these cakes the night before. Mistake number one, perhaps? And, I used frosting from a can. Mistake number two? We’ll just say that Martha would not be proud of my cake decorating skills. Oh well. At least they tasted good. Didn’t stop me from eating two pieces today. (Hey, I’m eating for two, remember??)

But I do have to tell you that I did learn one thing in the process. I always get really frustrated when baking the layers of a cake because they always bake with a raised dome in the middle. Which I then have to chop off and discard (read: eat while waiting for cake to cool). But I feel like this wastes cake and my layers aren’t as tall as I want them after I level off the lump.

So, I googled it. And it turns out that I wasn’t the only one who was devastated by the dome. All it takes is some old wet towels wrapped around your cake pan as it bakes. Who knew?? I guess the moisture keeps the outside cool so it doesn’t cook as fast as it normally would. Follow these directions and you’ll get a perfectly level cake. Worked for me six times.

At least something worked.

Anyways, clearly the party was still a blast without beautiful cakes. Life is not about perfect cakes. Life is about good friends and good memories. Here’s to thirty more years of that with three of my favorite people in the world. Happy Birthday to Trever, Jenny and Brady! Love you guys!

Oh, and to explain the “23” atop Jenny’s cake:
What woman wants to openly admit their true age, right? For this reason, I taught my daughter to say that her mommy and Aunt Jenny are “twenty-twee” whenever prompted. In fact, according to her, I turned 23 on my last two birthdays!! Love you, Lilah!

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Aug 16

Cinderelly.

One day last week, Lilah was playing in her pool and decided to “clean” the deck. She slid her bucket all over and sloshed an old rag back and forth all over the place saying that she was “Cinderelly”. I thought it was adorable – and was also amused that she gets her cleaning habits from a cartoon rather than from her mommy! She definitely hasn’t seen me sliding around the floor with a bucket too many times!

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