Monday, January 16, 2017

Currently | January 2017

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! I hope you're enjoying a day off of school or work and are honoring the incredible man to whom we dedicate this day through service or a promise to live with love. There are lots of famous MLK quotes floating around social media today, and my favorite is:


We had a very productive and rejuvenating weekend here at home. Instead of posting a weekend recap, I thought I'd do a little Currently post. I'm hoping to make these a monthly post for 2017; in the past, I've been terrible about doing these consistently. Case in point: my last one was in July of 2016!

Pondering | The design for my DIY winter wreath. I have a fall one, a Christmas one, a spring one, and a summer one (or maybe the spring and summer ones are the same...I can't remember) but I don't have a dedicated winter one. Perhaps in a year or so I'll make a wreath for every holiday (Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving), but right now, I'm just working on seasonal ones. I'm thinking some winter white with pops of cranberry and/or navy. 

Needing | To get back to eating healthy again. I would like to lose a few pounds, but I've plateaued. While I'm still able to fit into and wear my jeans, they're getting a bit too snug (I may have overindulged when it came to holiday eating), and I'd like to be comfortable in my clothes again. So I stocked my fridge and pantry with fruits, veggies, and other healthy goodies, and with a little food prep, I think I'll be good to go!

Wanting | A new rug and some art to complete our living room. We bought a few new throw pillows at Home Goods and TJ Maxx, and now we need to decide which to send down to the basement because I think six pillows might be a little excessive...

Red oriental rug has to go

Loving | Victor and I received a "My Quotable Kid" book for Christmas, and it very well might be my most favorite gift I received. We're currently filling it with "Max-speak" quotes (which will soon be coming to an end as he's going to be receiving speech therapy services soon), but I know we'll be able to fill them with some zingers as he gets older, and then once Louisa starts talking, the fun will be tremendous!

Listening | I've been loving Shawn Mendes' CD Illuminate lately. I can also be seen dancing to Bruno Mars' 24K Magic and John Legend's Darkness and Light in my car on the reg. These talented gentlemen are giving me LIFE these days!

Reading | I just began reading First Comes Love by Emily Giffin last night. I'm 3 chapters in and am already enjoying it. I finished Lauren Graham's Talking as Fast as I Can last weekend, which I loved. I basically just love her and everything she does (with the exception of Bad Santa, ick). If you're wanting to read it, I recommend watching the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix before getting started, because she offers lots of spoilers!

Watching | Now that I'm finished watching the entire series of Gilmore Girls, including the revival (mixed emotions about it all), I have a lot of time on my hands, and I am really diggin' it! When I was trying to get through the series, I used naptime and after the kids' bedtime to binge watch. Now I don't really have much interest in watching TV at all. I actually announced to Victor last night that I think I will only watch This Is Us on Tuesdays and then swear off TV any other time. I'm loving how productive I've been lately.

Sipping | Coffee (Starbucks Christmas blend), water, and the occasional Shirley Temple--not all at once, though!

Dreaming | About visiting Phoenix, AZ with my mom, sister, and the kids in March! I can't wait! I'm also kind of dreaming about spring and summer (but a summer where the thermometer reaches a high of 75-80 degrees with minimal humidity). We had a 60-degree day last week and it was glorious.

Celebrating | Louisa's baptism at the beginning of February! The next couple of weeks will be spent preparing our house to host some out-of-town guests (my aunt, uncle, and cousin {Louisa's godmother}, my mom, and my sister) and the big luncheon for after the baptism.

Swooning | Over the fabric and tulle tutu I'm going to make for Louisa to wear during her post-baptism luncheon. I can't wait to get started on it! And my talented aunt is going to make her a matching onesie! I plan to do a tutorial on the blog after the baptism!

Going | To three different preschool tours in the next couple of weeks! I can't believe Max will be in preschool next year. He is so excited and reminds us that we need to buy him a backpack for school on the daily. 

Amazed | At just how smart my big boy Max is. He was evaluated last week to determine if he would qualify for speech services (he did, his vocabulary is extensive but he's having trouble expressing himself properly), and he tested at 40- and 41-months, respectively, for cognition and receptive language--that's nearly 3.5 years old! I always knew he was pretty smart, but I had no frame of reference. All the more reason to get him into preschool next year; the boy needs more stimulation that just his mom and baby sister at home!

Hoping | To get a walk in after naptime with the kiddos. It's only 45 degrees but we'll bundle up!

Dreading | Cleaning my baseboards. It's back-breaking work but must be done before we have company!

Wondering | Who actually makes their babies wear those little caps that come with their outfits? I put this one on Louisa for fun last weekend, but it's way too small for her!

Have a great week, loves!

Friday, January 13, 2017

9 years in heaven

Nine years ago today, my dad lost his battle with cancer. In some ways it feels like just yesterday he took his last breath, and in others it feels like a lifetime ago.

I sipped my morning coffee from my mustache mug in my dad's honor.

So much has changed in my life in the past nine years: I met Victor, we became engaged and then were married, and now we have two beautiful children. I've developed great friendships, I've traveled all over the world, I made changes in my career, I've moved several times, and I've come into my own as a wife, mother, and woman, overall. I am so blessed and incredibly grateful for all I have experienced and accomplished over the past nine years, yet no matter how many years pass by, the void I feel in my heart has not subsided. I would give anything to have my father back, to speak to him on the phone, to visit him in Michigan, to take adventures on boats and snowmobiles with him, to have him be an active part of my kids' lives. I wish so badly that they could know him firsthand and make memories with him. And there's not a doubt in my mind that he would be one proud Papa to Max and Louisa.

So many things have brought him to the front of my mind this week. On Tuesday's episode of This Is Us (SPOILER ALERT), William told Randall that he didn't want to fight his cancer anymore, that he could feel it coming for him, and he didn't want to put Randall's family through unnecessary pain in watching him deteriorate and fade away. I watched that scene through tears as I remembered a very similar conversation with my own father over Thanksgiving in 2007, less than two months before he passed away, when he told me and my sister that he was refusing further treatment for his cancer (read more about his decision here).

Every time I share an orange with Max, I'm reminded of all the oranges I shared with my dad as a kid, sometimes as many as three a night as a pre-bedtime snack. He always made sure to get all the icky white orange-peel residue off of the slices he gave me, making him the best orange peeler of all time, in my mind.

The son of one of my dad's good friends has been taking some snowmobile rides this week, and his photos remind me of my dad, his prized "sleds" and all the winter adventures we enjoyed hanging on for dear life as he whipped us around on the back of his Polaris. His love for the sport was so infectious, it could make even the most cold-weather-loathing person have the time of their lives as they whipped through the white powdery snow.

On my walk with the kids yesterday, a beautiful cardinal swooped in front of us and landed in a tree near the sidewalk, a sign that a lost loved one is visiting from above. I take comfort in believing he was most definitely my dad, checking in on his daughter and his grandkids.

I want nothing more than for my kids to know who their Papa Ken was, and I do my best to weave his memory into our daily lives. I included a photo of him in Max's Little Book of Names and Faces. We have framed photos of him throughout our house. We refer to Max's leather sandals as "Papa shoes" because they resemble the ones my dad wore every summer. I bought Max a snowmobile toy last year and will eventually share stories of his Papa and his love for the winter hobby. The shelf my dad built for me when I was in college hangs in Louisa's room. I've kept his old golf shirts and flannel button-downs with plans to create memory bears for the kids one day. The Father and Daughter Willow Tree figurine that I gave him for Father's Day one year is displayed proudly on the built-in shelf in our family room.

In the future, when they're old enough to understand, I will share stories of their Papa's love for golf, hunting, snowmobiling, and classic cars, and how he lived simply and frugally so he could invest in his hobbies. I'll show them all the photos I have of him, and I hope they make note of his signature mustache and how it suited him so well. They'll learn about his resourcefulness when it came to using what he had to create something he needed. I'll tell them about his talents in building and fixing. They'll know that he was a great friend, an attentive father, and a man loved by many. They'll eventually hear about his bravery and perseverance when it came to fighting for his life, and how he worked tirelessly to protect his family from pain and worry.

His memory is vivid, his legacy lives on in me, and miss him everyday. I cherish all of the physical mementos I have to keep his memory alive. One thing I wish I had, though, were photos from his funeral. My advice to anyone reading this is to take photos at the funerals of people you love (maybe not of the casket, but of the people who came to pay their respects, the decorations and flowers, etc.); it seems strange and perhaps a little insensitive, but trust me, you'll wish you had them down the line. I remember thinking about taking photos back then, but it seemed weird to me. I wondered why I would want to remember such a painful time in my life. But I have beautiful memories of my dad's visitations and funeral, and I wish I had something visual to commemorate the memorable send-off we created for my father. You can never have too many photos.

Rest in peace, my Superman. I love you. I would give anything to hug you. And I hope I make you proud.

More stories about my dad:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ohio Christmas 2016

My little family headed to Cincinnati, Ohio the week between Christmas and New Year's to celebrate in the heartland with my mom, my sister, and my mom's extended family. I haven't been back to Ohio over the Christmas holiday since 2008; every year since then I've been on vacation with Victor's family (to Portugal in 2009; on cruises 2010-2012) or celebrating at home as a pregnant lady/with Max. My mom's siblings and their families always have a big extended-family Christmas celebration, complete with a fun and thoughtful white elephant gift exchange. Last year's looked like so much fun (the most coveted--and stolen--gift was 3 boxes of delicious sugary cereal, and they played Ellen's Heads Up game) that I developed some serious FOMO and decided that this year we'd definitely be in attendance.

Here are some photos and anecdotes from our trip. I lugged my fancy camera out there and then never even used it!!! I had every intention to take it to the family Christmas and then forgot it! So please bear with my iPhone photos!

I was so excited about their "big bro/little sister" outfits. Unfortunately, this was the best photo I could get of them together.

Love this beauty! Her moccasins are from Sweet N Swag. She also has a matching bow headband (not pictured).

They love spending time with Auntie Holly!

We headed to Carol Ann's Carousel downtown on Wednesday evening. Max went on his first carousel shortly after he turned 1. He was pretty scared of it then, but I figured he'd come around to it now, at 2.5 years old. I was mistaken, however; he was not a fan of the up-and-down movement of the horse he was on. He only lasted long enough to take this photo before making me get him down.

We all rode the carousel twice, and then Max and my mom went on it two more times. Max preferred the stationary car over the moving animals.

I love the Roebling Suspension Bridge, especially at night. It reminds me of beautiful bridges in London.

We headed to the Cincinnati Zoo to enjoy the Zoo Lights after the carousel. We didn't last too long as it was windy and started to rain while we were there, but Max sure did love all the colorful lights!

On Thursday afternoon, we headed to the home of our friends, Becky and Tyler (I went to college with them; go Redhawks!) so Max and their son Ryan could play together and we adults could catch up. The boys are just 3 weeks apart in age and have only seen one another a handful of times, but they get along so well together!

We left Becky and Tyler's and headed straight to my aunt's house, where my cousin had arranged a private concert of live music, performed by her friends from college, Wes and Aaron of Brother Smith. We were so excited and thought that Max would be elated to see instruments being played in such an intimate setting, but he surprised us all by being a tad grumpy and not very into the entire experience. Everyone else loved it, though. Those boys were lots of fun and incredibly talented! We enjoyed performances of some of their original songs, as well as some Christmas tunes, James Taylor, and Van Morrison covers, among others!

I ran home to my mom's to get pajamas for the kids at one point, and I grabbed Max's ukulele that my sister gave him for Christmas, thinking that it would help him come around to the whole thing. It worked a little, especially when Wes gave Max a pick to play with!

On Friday we did some errand running and lunch eating, and then we headed to my uncle's house for our big family Christmas!

Here's Louisa at lunch, in a restaurant high chair for the first time.

Louisa's fancy dress for the party, which was a tad too small for her so she didn't wear it for too long!

We completed the white elephant gift exchange after dinner and a game of trivia. There were a few steals, but overall it was pretty tame for our family. When we first started the gift exchange years ago, there was a requirement that each gift had to be hand-made, but lately the main rule is that you have to give a gift you would like to receive yourself, a.k.a. no gag-gifts! This year, I gave a coffee-themed gift, complete with a travel mug, a witty coffee mug that said "This coffee is making me awesome!", a bag of Starbucks Christmas blend, and some K-cups. I received a vintage edition of Sorry! with some vintage candy (candy cigarettes, Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddies, etc.). No complaints here!

After the exchanging of gifts, we took our group photos. Here are the original siblings, minus my Uncle Mike in Florida and my late Uncle Willie.

Here are the original siblings and their spouses/significant others (and Louisa!)

The lady-cousins wore Target Christmas pjs to the soiree:

And this is my favorite photo of my little fam:

I'm so glad we made the trip out. These memories are what life is all about! Hopefully next time I can remember to preserve these memories on the fancy camera!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Christmas 2016

Happy 2017 friends! I hope you all had a joyous holiday season with your loved ones! We had a very memorable Christmas here at our house. It was Louisa's first Christmas, and she truly loved trying to eat all the tissue and wrapping paper she could get her hands on. Max began to understand Santa, and we also began the dreaded lovely tradition of The Elf on the Shelf this year. We named him Tito, and he seemed to prefer perching high atop various objects that were far out of Max's reach. Unfortunately, despite Max's knowledge about how "earning" gifts works, he frequently told us "No Santa Claus! Me bad Max!" whenever he didn't like us correcting his behavior. Here's hoping next year goes a little smoother!

On Christmas Eve, we gathered at my in-laws' house for a nice dinner with Victor's immediate family, our sister-in-law's family, and some close friends. We ate, drank, danced, and enjoyed a white elephant gift exchange. Here are some photos from Christmas Eve.

We didn't "plan" to match. I planned on wearing this dress, and before I got dressed, Victor said he was thinking about wearing that sweater. So we just went with it lol.

These two!

Max loves Natalie!

On Christmas morning, Max woke us up bright and early at 7 AM, so we headed downstairs to open presents. He was so excited to see that Santa came, and we opened the gifts from the Big Guy first.

This is the best photo I got of Max with his "boo die-fo" (blue dinosaur). He was very consistent with what he wanted from Santa; he said he wanted a blue dinosaur every time.

Siblings playing together with the Christmas haul

On Christmas day, we went back over to Victor's parents' house for dinner and opened presents with the immediate family there. My mother-in-law got everyone coordinating shirts, so we had to take several photos in our matching ensembles.

We had such a lovely holiday! Can't wait to share about our Christmas in Ohio later this week!