Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent with little ones

Happy last day of November! Otherwise known as...the last chance to get your advent act together! Eeek!

Ok. Don't freak out, because that's the exact opposite of the point of advent- a season when we're supposed to be looking with hope, joy, and gratefulness for our coming Savior. But as a mom of toddlers, with a goal of celebrating the season, it can get a little stressful to feel like I have twenty five days to fill- and I better have some sort of special memory making plan. 

But great news...I do have a plan! And it's called: repeat last year's plan!
When I shared our Christmas tour last year, I showed our advent calendar which I just loved. It was super cute (thanks, Starbucks!) and filled with simple notes for daily activities. It was all pretty small stuff, just enough to be festive, but not so much that it stops being fun. 

My philosophy on advent with toddlers...or...anything with toddlers, is set your expectations low, and cut yourself some slack. (I went into this theory a bit more in depth in a Thrive Moms blog post: "How to do advent without losing your mind"), It can be a super fun time, but it can also be overly busy, and exhausting. But there's so much beauty in this season, and the best part about little kids is that they pretty much think anything is special...especially if you hype it up to them. So we had a blast last year, mostly doing regular stuff- but doing it with gusto! 

So as December 1st approached (quickly!) this year, I wasn't worried! I figured I'd set the whole thing on repeat...we're already ready to roll! Buuuuuuut....then I realized that I never actually recorded all of the activities we did last time. I still had most of the scraps of paper in my tins (a small miracle in itself), but most is by definition not all, so I had a little bit of work to do. Plus, I wanted to tweak things a little bit this time around to match up with our schedule and events we already had planned. So I took a look at our calendar, and typed out a list to use as a cheat sheet for this year's line up of activities.

None of my ideas are particularity unique (a quick google search will lead you to a ton of useful lists, most with very similar activities...This list has a ton of great ones!) but in case you find yourself wanting to make some Christmas-y fun, with minimal planning effort, feel free to copy our list!

Here's what's on the docket this year:
  1. Eat a special snack
  2. Set up your very own tree
  3. Read a book together
  4. Write a letter to Santa
  5. Go get a Christmas tree
  6. Visit Santa
  7. Family game night
  8. Draw a picture for a friend
  9. Have a PJ dance party
  10. Sing Christmas carols
  11. Look at Christmas lights
  12. Buy gifts for kids in need
  13. Perform in a Christmas program
  14. Make a Christmas card for your teacher
  15. Color in a coloring book 
  16. Santa bath (Psst...this is just bubbles and a little red & green food coloring!)
  17. Facetime with Grandma and Grandpa
  18. Movie night
  19. Pancake breakfast
  20. Make a craft
  21. Bake something yummy
  22. Recite our bible memory verses
  23. Wrap a present
  24. Go to church
  25. Wish everyone you see a very Merry Christmas!
Fun, right? I know it's not rocket science (flying sleigh science?) but for a type-A planner like myself, making a list is a way to be a little bit more intentional about spending time together. I could probably fill a full year with fun things if I tried, and I certainly could do a better job of making our list more Christ-focused, and filled with opportunities to serve others. But there are still a ton of things we'll do over the next month that didn't make the "official" list, so this isn't meant to be an all encompassing view of our approach to the season. Likewise, there are probably a few entries on the list that just won't happen, but if it all doesn't work out as planned (if...ha!), I figure I'll just put "special snack" on repeat and call it a win. I can guarantee my kids won't mind!

P.s. In other "ghost of Christmas past" news, while I was doing some archive searching (hoping to find last year's list), I was reminded of an online advent calendar I made a few years ago (ok...SIX years ago. crazy talk!) with little activities for each day. So just for fun, I compiled it all into one post- which you can check out and click through for some fun this year (or the next, or the next...)

Soooooo....What are you all up to for the month? Anything we should make sure to squeeze into our plans?
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks Thanks Thanks

Oh how I LOOOOOOOOVE Thanksgiving.'s in my top five favorite holidays. Maybe even top three. But really, what's not to love? It's like the trifle/shepherd's pie of holidays:

Food: good
Family: good
Four day weekend: good

Yep. It's a winner. Plus...pause while I bring you brand new's all about being thankful. Another very good thing. 

I could go on (and on and on and on) about the big big blessings in my life- my job, my house, my family, my church, my friends...I could get really deep and sappy, and theological, and heavy (oh wait...I sort of already did that) and it would be real and true and good....But you know what else is real and true and good? Silly, frivolous fun. Yes...let's add a layer of that to our trifle! So here's a silly little list of some somewhat frivolous things that in this moment I'm really, truly thankful for (And please feel free to ignore that approximately 85% of this list is food):
  • Magic keys that unlock my van doors from inside my purse
  • Sunflower crunch chopped salad
  • Baby clothes with animal shaped feet
  • Beer
  • iphone chargers with extra long cords
  • That noise that babies make before they go to sleep, where they breath in like four times in a row and then relax. You know that noise? Yes. 
  • Selfie sticks (Judge me all you want. They're fun). 
  • Oxy clean
  • When my kids requests "puffs" (two pigtail buns) in their hair
  • A house with more than one bathroom (especially when the whole family has the stomach flu. Ok, that was complaining disguised as gratitude...)
  • Chick Fil A sauce. And Cane's sauce. And Bibibop's yum yum sauce. I love sauce. Sauce sauce sauce.
  • Puffins. I'm just really happy to live in a world where we have animals that look like puffins, that are named something like puffins. 
  • Having Dustin chauffeur me to work
  • Matching Christmas jammies (I'm putting that one out there early. If I'm thankful for them, they will come). 
  • My diaper bag/work bag/makes me feel stylish and put together while hiding smooshed up fruit snacks and backup onesies bag. 

  • Crockpot meals
  • Getting a surprise bonus third peanut inside of one shell (as if Five Guys could get any better!)
  • Baby sneezes
  • When Miller wakes up at 4AM (not 2, not 6). It's late enough that I actually got a fair number of hours in a row, and early enough to still have time to go back to bed. 
  • The 100 Grand bars I sneaked out of my kids' Halloween buckets
  • The way Fin pronounces "pan-pakes"
  • First floor laundry (I actually love hearing the washer/dryer running. Makes me feel like I'm being productive, just by proximity).
  • Muppets
  • This song
  • The tears of joy emoji. (and wide-eyed emoji. and Oprah praise hands emoji.)
  • Blanket cardigans 

And about 1,000 (x 1,000) other things, epically big and impossibly small. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Muah!
I'm thrilled to be partnering with Lily Jade...I really do love my bag so much I could make an entire list just about it: converts to a backpack, made of yummy (and durable, and wipeable) leather, big enough to store all my stuff without making me feel like I'm lugging a rolly-suitcase, outside pockets for all the things I have to have constant/immediate access to (keys, phone, so many stray hairclips and tiny rings). And when I take it to work I can forget for a few minutes that I'm a mom. Until I realize there's spit up on my shirt...{Madeline diaper bag care of Lily Jade. All thoughts- and thanks-are my own}

P.s. You can check out a couple thankful-lists from the past...(You're going to want to click on that link, if only to enjoy Fin's fat thighs. NOM NOM!)

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Piper's Picasso Party

Piper is four! And so's the best! Well, it's only been a couple weeks, but's pretty darn fun. She's transitioning out of toddler-hood, and into a bona fide kid, so this was the first year her birthday party was really hers, versus just my vision. Don't get me wrong, I still planned it all (it's how I show my love!), but she got more control over the event this time around...And the result was a party perfect for Piper!

The theme this year: Piper's Picasso Party!

More details and pics....

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Piper's Party Animals

We just celebrated Piper's fourth birthday last weekend (and it was a blast!) but as I went through my pics to share them here, I realized (again...) that I still haven't posted Piper's second birthday party! So before we catch up to real time...let's hop in the way-back machine to celebrate: #pipstaturnstwo.

After going all out for Piper's first birthday, the bar was set kinda high for her second round (in my mind anyway...I'm pretty sure she was oblivious). She probably would have been happy with a cupcake and some balloons, but I love throwing a party, so I was pretty set on making a big deal of our big girl. I did want to temper some of the madness though...(we were still adjusting to life with two kids, after all) so we decided to do a party for just family, hosted at my mom's house. But lucky for me, even our immediate family is pretty big, so it turned into quite the bash.

For the theme- because you know I gotta have a theme!- I went with one of Piper's favorite things at the time: animals! (or "animoes" as she referred to them). It was a mish-mash of circus and safari, with a dash of Halloween, and it turned out perfectly wild.

I managed to keep things pretty simple...we pretty much invited people to hang out, eat some food, and have some low-key fun. Oh...but costumes were pretty much mandatory. (We provided ears/hats/antennae/tails for everyone to get in on the animal accessory fun). A two year old's attention span is about two minutes long, so I didn't bother planning out activities or games. I figured as long as she got some cake and some presents, she'd consider it a win. 
The main star of the party (besides the guest of honor of course) was the coloring wall. I found a zoo themed coloring page online, and had it printed out HUGE on our fancy printer at work. It served as the decor, the activity, and a photobooth backdrop. We hung it up, set out some crayons, and let the kids (and adults) go to town. 
It was a big hit...everyone seemed to get in on the action, and it kept all the kids entertained while the rest of us got to hang out a bit.

(My family is full of some really good sports...)

The other star of the party...the homemade cake:
Oh. Ha. 

I had a vision. And a plan. But then......

It clearly wasn't going well, but I was pretty sure I could fix it with some sprinkles. 
I was....wrong.
To say it was an epic fail would be an understatement.

I can't even explain how horribly wrong it went (I mean, you can see it). It's almost an accomplishment to do something so spectacularly bad. I tried to laugh it off, because in the end, it's just a cake, and it was for a two year old, but I still felt bad to have the centerpiece of her party be such a wreck. So my mom and I spackled it together with an extra couple cans of frosting, doused it in sprinkles, hid the sides with a tiny animal parade, found a semi-photogenic angle and prayed it wouldn't slide off the plate before the candle was blown out.

Not bad, right?
Considering where it started...and the terrible turn it took...I was happy it was even slightly presentable!

And predictably, Piper didn't care one bit. She actually was pretty thrown off by the whole birthday song portion of the evening. I think it was overwhelming for her to have that many people all looking at her, and taking pictures. We helped her blow out the candle, and she eventually warmed up to it all.

All in all, it was an awesome day. Just enough festive touches to make me happy, with a laid back vibe to make me really happy. We all just hung out, chatted, ate, laughed, took pictures, and held babies...Not a bad way to spend a day.

(And this gem has been my phone lock screen for the last two years...for obvious awesome reasons:)
 Eventually the littlest guests sacked out:

While the birthday girl pretty much....did whatever she wanted:
Get wild, kiddo.

P.S. Check out Piper's 3rd bday post, for more "bash from from the past" fun.
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Monday, November 16, 2015


I'm starting to wonder if I should even bother with words on Miller's monthly posts. Mostly because I look at his little face and suddenly can't come up with anything to say except things like:

This guy. This friggin' guy. 



So, uh, yeah. Let's skip to the good stuff:

And in more repetitive, non-eloquent news: 

He's getting so biiiiiiiiiig
I'm not sure if it was me going back to work (maybe he covertly grew while I was at the office?) or perhaps having the stomach flu (he seemed really huge when I could barely lift my own head, let alone his too), but in the last week I swear he doubled in size (he hasn't really. That'd be crazy). Don't get me wrong, he's still teensy in the grand scheme of things, but I'm afraid he's officially out of newborn territory, and I already miss his furry little neck folds. Now he's doing all this crazy grown up stuff like smiling, and babbling, and generally not-laying-there-like-a-lump....and I mostly love it (seriously, have you seen him? Of course I love it) but it also reminds me that in about five minutes he's going to be sassing/totally disregarding me like his sisters, and then probably asking to borrow the car keys. (Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon....) 

So yeah. To sum up: He's the best. He's a giant. Time is flying. I love him to smithereens. 
You get it. See you next month. (if you need me, I'll be alternating between smiling at his irresistible  expressions, and sobbing that my bay-beeeeee is growing up too fast. Repeat repeat repeat.)

P.s. Thankfully I got all of these shots before I dropped my camera (very thankfully not on him) and broke my lens. If there were nine pictures of my face at that moment, they would all be sad.

Previous months: 1, 2
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Little Pip-speaks: Sister Speak edition Piper is still jabbering away...I'm honestly having trouble keeping up with her quotes, as it seems like she has something hysterical to share with us each day. I'd record them all if I could, but here are some of my recent favs: 

Pip-speak #1:
Daddy {frustrated at Piper's constant yelling}: Piper, can you turn your volume down? 
Piper: Yeah. I could do it at 55 cents {holds her hand up in front of her} instead of extra-large {holds her hand up high}.

Pip-speak #2:
Piper: Fin, you put on the green bracelet, so you're the boy Cleopatra and we're going to get married. You have a dog and I have a cat. We both have pets and we're getting married. 
Fin: Ok!

Pip-speak #3:
Daddy {to Fin}: Are you poopy? 
Piper: Yes. She is. She was breathing hard on my bed so I thought she was pooping and she said yes.

Pip-speak #4:
Mama: {reads Dustin a stat about some people not liking Halloween}
Piper: Who would not like Halloween?...Can you imagine?!?

Pip-speak #5:
Piper {watching Miller get a diaper change}: Which diaper did you get? 
Mama: Elmo.
Piper: Good. I'm glad you didn't get Oscar the grouch. 
Mama: Why? 
Piper: Because he lives in a trash can and that's super disgusting.

Pip-speak #6:
Piper: Did Miller change clothes?
Mama: Yes, because he got some poop on his clothes. 
Piper: Oh, because he had too much poop so he gave some up to his jammies? 

Pip-speak #7:
Mama: I tried to change the clock but I couldn't figure it out. 
Piper: Maybe daddy could. Because he's a good fixer outer of things. 

Pip-speak #8:
Piper: There are some things that I don't like about fall.'s smelly. 

Pip-speak #9:
Piper {to mama}: Why are you playing with your hair?
Mama: I don't know...but I'm not putting it in my mouth. {referencing a bad habit Piper has}
Piper: Well. I decided not to do that anymore... I used to put my hair in my mouth to get the food out so I wouldn't have to take a bath. 

Pip-speak #10:
Piper: Fin got an orange plum.
Mama: A peach? 
Piper: Nope. Orange plum, I say.

Pip-speak #11:
Piper {watching football with Daddy}: Is he crying? 
Daddy: No, he was just upset for a minute because he didn't catch the ball. 
Piper: But that's ok because you always get another turn.
Daddy: That's true. This is the third game, and there are 16 games in a season. So they'll have lots of other chances {goes on explaining...}
Piper: Yes. You know what? {long pause}....I'm a puppy dog. {crawls away}

And while Piper is still our original chatterbox, Fin is talking more and more (and more and more) these days, and her little quips are ever bit as entertaining as her sister's. (One of her favorite sayings is "what are you talking 'bout, kids?!" which she likes to yell at us during dinner). The two of them have us in stitches pretty much every day. Here are a few of Fin's best quotes from the past few weeks:

Finnish #1:
G'mi {yelling, after seeing Fin break a rule}: Finley Joann! 
Fin {joyously surprised}: G'mi! Dat MY name!

Finnish #2:
Piper: Why do you say 'why' to everything?
Fin: Why...
Piper: Stop!
Fin: Why...
Piper: Fiiiiin!
Fin {devilish smile}: Why...

Finnish #3:
Fin: I goin' bye byes. I have my purse. It a babysitter night. You stay with Piper and my baby brudder. See you in a liddle bit! {trots off to the kitchen}

Finnish #4:
Fin: I have a secret... 
Piper: Ok, tell me.
Fin {shouts}: MEATBALLS!!!

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Monday, November 9, 2015


(Preamble: no...I'm not sick of that pun. I'll never be sick of that pun). 

Remember this guy?

Well, little boy Bowden has been growing like a weed (like a 'shroom?) so it's time for an update...

Handsome little fella, isn't he? (and by little, I mean: WHERE DID MY BABY GO? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY BABY YOU GIANT MAN-CHILD?!) I know babies grow at the speed of light, but it will still never cease to amaze me, how fast that newborn stage flies by. (and by amaze me, I mean: BRING BACK MY SQUISHY LITTLE SLEEPY PUPPY BABY, MY HEART HURTS!)

Ok, drama. Let's press pause on the tears, and have some fun with some comparison pictures, shall we?

Remember this? (three Bowdens, each one week old)
Left: Piper   //    Center: Finley   //    Right: Miller

Well, here's an updated side-by-side of our kiddos all around 12 weeks:
Left: Piper   //    Center: Finley   //    Right: Miller

ARGHHHHHH. Aren't they just the cutest babies anyone ever made ever in the whole wide history of ever?! (I know. I can't really be objective. But truly...even if these little squishes weren't mine, I'm pretty sure I would still want to snuggle their faces off.) 

And speaking of faces (smooth transition, no?), I just love seeing these kids side by side. Miller is clearly an identical (but tiny) twin of his dad, but I've also said since the beginning that he's a pretty good mix of his sisters too. He's got a lot of similarities to Piper (Bowden genes: the eyebrows, the chin) but he also resembles Fin quite a bit too (harder to articulate how exactly...but he does, right?) To me, if the girls were on opposite ends of a spectrum (a short spectrum, as they may not be identical, but they're hardly opposites), Miller would fall somewhere in the middle- leaning towards Piper's end slightly. There are still times when he looks exactly like one of them...which I always get a kick out of. But he's also still got his own thing going on. He's a bit bigger than either one of them, has a slightly darker complexion, and his head is just as big, but his face isn't as long. 

It's so crazy how the same set of genes can combine multiple ways to form these completely unique little people. And I know, I know I'm beyond biased...but I just couldn't love each of them any more. 
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