Day in the Life | Heads Up for Spring 2016

It's that time again!! Who is ready to document the bajeezus out of a single day?
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The details:

Any time from today until April 14th you should record your day in detail. That gives you two weeks to decide on a day.

It can be as specific or as general as you want. I personally tend to record these days as a note in my phone, including specific times of day as I'm psychotic with details. Totally not necessary for you to do the same, as simple is probably better and means it's less overwhelming! I try to jot down quotes from the kids, to mention my thoughts as things are happening, and to keep track of the nitty gritty details in a day. I would probably remember enough if I just sat down and tried to type it all a day or two later but I don't trust my mommy brain *that* much. So a note on my phone is a must for me.

Snap pictures as you go along, the easiest method being with your phone but if you are feeling extra energetic, a 'fancy' camera also works for a post like this. Sometimes just taking a screen shot of your phone to remember the time of day, or an email you read, the weather forecast, et cetera is helpful as you write up the posts. I also like the seemingly random pictures of messy houses, meals, receipts, pets, the scenery from your parking lot spot, your house, and so on. Making collages for your pictures is helpful when it's difficult to choose which images to post (always a serious issue for me). Again, get as detailed or as general as you want with the pictures, but I think the mundane details are what makes these posts interesting. Don't forget to get pictures of YOU in this post, either. Get your friends and family involved. Maybe purchase a selfie stick (I just got one and you can bet your butt I'll use it this time!) but step in front of the camera for this post.

My method is that I just email myself the iPhone 'note' from the day, and then I paste it into my blog post as a foundation. I'll go back and clean it up, elaborate on thoughts/events, and make sure it's written in English instead of just abbreviations from my note. Then I will add the pictures after that. Whatever method works for you though, as there are many ways to write about a single day in your life!

It's a lot of fun to read back on my own posts, and it's also quite entertaining to read everyone else's day. If you want to play along this quarter, here is what to do:

1. Record any day from now until April 14th. Type it up and turn it into a blog post. You can do it!

2. Email me the following to mylifeintransitionblog at gmail dot com by April 15th (happy tax day!):

*your blog title,
*your location (state or country is fine),
*the link to your post,
*attach the file of the photo you want to be featured in the round up post.
*optional: give me your Instagram name, perhaps I will attempt to tag everyone over there if extra energetic.

3. I will post everyone's link and picture by April 22nd here on my blog. Get the popcorn and clear your schedule for this one!

I love reading these posts from women all around the world, and encourage you to try it even if you aren't a blogger. And it's definitely not just for mommy bloggers, either! You could turn these posts into a photo book, you could let them live online if you have a blog, or you could just look back on them and reminisce about the glory days once life settles down a bit more (ha!). Laura, the original founder of this Day in the Life link up, also records an entire week during one of these quarterly sessions. That is something I've never tackled before, but maybe someday if I'm feeling particularly adventurous. I know she makes those posts into a photo album book and her family is going to greatly appreciate the time it took to record every day events.

I will do these quarterly: January, April, July, and October. USUALLY, you can expect to record your day and post about it in the first fourteen days, send it to me, and I will continue to post the round up by the twentieth of those months.

So pick your day (or week) and get to it!

Recipe | Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Back to baking and desserts, since they are seriously my favorite recipes ever.

Many years ago, my blog friend Darci shared a recipe for her favorite chocolate chip cookies. Since this was back in 2009 before either of us had children, I made them a few times and filed my hand written chicken-scratched recipe paper away in a recipe book. Then one time recently I found the beloved paper, with smears of vanilla and butter and the simple title of 'Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever' written at the top. Hmmm, I was making another favorite over and over again, but wanted to see if my previous acclaim held true.

I changed a few things with the original recipe (less flour, added M&Ms, added salt sprinkles on top) and sure enough---seriously amazing. Like, 'eat all of the dough until I am nearly ill' amazing. The kids like to help me make these since we use the Kitchen Aid (the other recipe I was using does not use a mixer, but does use melted butter---I should do a post on those someday, too). You should absolutely try these the next time you want to devour an amazing cookie. Then come back here and tell me if you love them or if I'm nuts for thinking they are the best.

See? Are you drooling yet?
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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever:

-1 cup of butter (refrigerated is fine)
-1 cup of brown sugar
-1/2 cup of white sugar
-2 eggs, room temp if possible
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 2/3 cups of flour (this is my own personal preference for amount of flour)
-1 tsp baking soda
-3/4 tsp salt
-1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
-1 cup of M&Ms
-a bit of kosher flake salt

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The process: (preheat to 350 degrees, ungreased cookie sheets)

1. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together in the mixer
2. Add eggs one at a time until creamy
3. Add vanilla
4. In another medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, salt)
5. Pour in the dry mixture to your mixer with wet stuff
6. Stop the mixer and add the chocolate chips and M&Ms.
7. Bake for about 10 minutes or until you find them to be the perfect amount of dough versus crispy. I love doughy, barely-done cookies but Nate likes his crunchy. I usually do a dozen of each to keep us satisfied. Also, I have used my new silicone baking sheets for these and actually prefer them baked straight on the cookie sheet.
8. When you pull them out of the oven, jam a few extra M&Ms and/or chocolate chips into the tops to make them extra fancy before they cool. Also sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on each cookie. This is my new favorite thing to do with all cookie recipes---surprisingly delicious and a great mix of sweet with salt.
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Enjoy!! (not sure why my two pictures look very different, probably because of the silicone baking sheets versus none. Both were amazing, trust me.)

Recipe | Chicken Burrito Bowls

We usually have some type of Mexican food once each week, and this is my newest favorite dinner recipe. It's a crock pot meal and takes 6-8 hours total to cook on low, but you'll need to add stuff to the pot at the 3-4 hour mark. This is important when planning the meal for me, to make sure I can pull it off on a work day or when we are out and about for a long span. It's seriously delicious and Nate and I aren't sick of it yet, plus two out of three kids enjoy this dish as well. That's about as good as it gets around here, folks.

(not the most beautiful picture but I promise it's tasty).
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Chicken Burrito Bowls (modified from this recipe at The Kitchn)

-3 chicken breasts (can be frozen solid)
-1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
-1/2 cup of chicken stock
-2 tsp of chili powder
-2 tsp of salt
-1/2 tsp of cumin
-1 15 oz can of black beans
-1 cup of frozen corn (I have used canned corn and it works, too)
-rice (prepared separately, we like brown rice)

In the morning:
Put the chicken breasts, tomatoes, chicken stock, and chili powder, salt, and cumin in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Add the black beans and corn. Cook on low for another 3-4 hours

An hour before serving, remove the chicken and shred. Place back in crock pot and turn to 'warm' if possible.

Make rice separately---I did NOT like trying to cook the rice in with the chicken burrito bowl recipe.

To serve:
Place rice down first, then the crock pot dish. Is best in a bowl (shocking, with the name and all). We usually top with chopped avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, and sometimes salsa or cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips on the side, or sometimes we will make these into nachos like the picture shows above. Also delicious to put inside a flour tortilla for a 'real' burrito.

YUM. Saves pretty well as left overs but I haven't tried freezing it, not sure if the corn and beans would hold up?

Recipe | Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I feel like sharing several of my favorite recipes of the moment. But you shall soon realize that I am not a food blogger or photographer. I just have a few 'go-to' creations that are tasty, simple, and always seem to get two thumbs up whenever I serve them. Also, I like looking back through the blog for repeat recipes even more than searching through my own Pinterest boards for that one recipe I wanted to try. ;)

This particular one is special because I have never in my life baked banana bread before (not that I can recall at least, possibly many years ago but I doubt it). But all of a sudden one day it sounded amazing and we had super ripe bananas to use. Then I noticed this pin getting re-pinned a ton on Pinterest, which was fun because I didn't know I had pinned it back in the day.

And so, I made the banana bread with peanut butter and chocolate chips. I did not have the mini-Reese's PB cups on hand and figured that chocolate chips would be good enough. I only had a super tiny loaf pan so my first try was a little odd, and also I used what I thought was baking soda but was actually some unidentified substitute powder that Nate had stored without a label. BUT! It still turned out delicious. Not exactly 'healthy' but oh, so worth it.

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I have since made this two more times, and Nate bought me a larger/perfect loaf pan. I didn't change anything else from the original recipe except to use chocolate chips and not the PB cups. I made it as a 'thank you' gift for one of our neighbors recently and it was a hit! The hardest part was getting it out of our house before Nate cut into the loaf. It's really amazing with peanut butter and honey on top, for those of us that adore peanut butter ;)
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You can read the original recipe on this pin, and I have no clue how to make this printer friendly. But here is a list if it's helpful:

-3 very ripe bananas
-1/2 cup PB
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 1/2 cups flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease your loaf pan
2. Medium bowl: whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. Large bowl: banana, PB, oil, egg, sugars.
4. Pour the medium, dry-ingredient bowl into the larger, wet-ingredients. Stir until just mixed, don't overstir.
5. Fold the chocolate chips in, spread into the loaf pan.
6. Bake for about one hour or when a toothpick comes out clean. You might need to put tin foil over the top if it's getting too brown.
7. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then release the bread from the pan and put on a cooling rack.


Tiny Dancer

Way back in September, Cecelia started her very first dance class. It met every Tuesday morning, for 30 minutes, for nearly six months. Porter started off being fairly easy to entertain during those weekly 30 minutes to now becoming adamant about running down the hallways of the school and demolishing anything remotely breakable in the 'Art Room' where the parents had to wait during the class. I mistakenly thought us parents could probably watch the class in the gym but alas, we found out the first day that the teachers wanted the dancers to be focused on their instruction. This was a class through our local rec department so hardly a cut throat experience, but it was something that Cecelia LOVED and sincerely looked forward to every week.


She and her buddy Natalie took the class together and they got to know a few of the other girls, nearly remembering their names after six months spent pliae-ing and arabesque-ing together, while us parents quietly counted down the weeks until the big production: The Recital. A time when we could see all of their hard work, realize the dream of three year olds in 'twirly skirts' on stage, and beam with pride over how simlutaneously BIG and SMALL our daughters can be.


March 19th has been written on our calendar for nearly six months now. We received the much anticipated costumes a few weeks ago and the girls were told they could not play in their outfits until after the recital, but we did peak and immediately felt giddy over the cuteness. Each of the classes, ranging in ages from three years old (our girl!) up to teenage years, had different costumes. Cecelia's ended up being the prettiest, in my humble opinion, with a leotard that is basically a swimming suit for this summer in a peacock blue, plus a yellow tulle skirt. We were told 'hair neat and pulled back' which was the source of slight stress for me, for those red curls like to rebel against any 'neat' style. Ankle socks, ballet shoes, and then we knew they would receive a hair bow on their big night. ALL SO EXCITING, right?



This was a basic, introductory ballet class and the girls danced to one song that was about 1:30 long. Then there was a second song on the 'take home to practice' CD, that ended up being the grande finale where all of the dancers came together on stage. The theme for the recital was 'Time Passages' which now makes sense, since both of the songs we've listened to a million times on CD had to do with clocks and time.



So Cecelia practiced and practiced, and at home she mostly goofed off and twirled to the I had no idea what their routine would actually be on recital night. I guess we did get to watch ONE class on accident, when the designated art room for parents was being used for something else, so I sort of had a clue about their routine. But not really.

The girls had their dress rehearsal on Thursday, and then the big recital was last Saturday night. Get this: it started at 7pm (!!) which is basically bedtime at our house, especially for a three year old. So I had Cecelia nap that day to help her plow through her main event, then after dinner sister and I were off to get things started at 6:30pm. She was saying things like, 'You are the best mommy ever, I love you so much, you are the best.' Obviously she was just a wee bit excited and with emotions running high, I will always take her extreme happiness over sassiness, especially when it comes in the form of compliments to me.

(selfie as we walked to her room, she was already so proud of herself here!)
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I dropped her off in the big room where the dancers met and she was ridiculously excited, twirling non-stop, jumping up and down, and didn't seem to be nervous at all. So I kissed her goodbye and then made my way back to the seats I had quickly reserved when we walked in the auditorium, and I was glad I threw down our coats when I did or we would have been in the back!

(pure and utter excitement)
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Nate, Truman, Porter, Tony and Lois arrived right before 7 and had stopped to get Cecelia flowers for after the show. I was rightfully concerned about Porter sitting through an hour long recital, but thankfully I found a few rouge Dum Dums in the bottom of my bag. He had two and proceeded to stick one of them in the kids' hair in front of us but oh well. There was some screaming from him, mostly asking to see 'Dee Dee!!' and 'Lights!' But overall he did great and was only squirmy for the last few songs.

Cecelia's part came in at number seven out of fifteen songs. When we saw the littlest dancers take stage, I swear to you Nate and I immediately started giggling and couldn't stop smiling at her. She never saw us, even as we waved frantically, but she did not look to be scared at all.

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She totally killed the 'Syncopated Clock' number, too. It was over too quickly but so stinking adorable!!

After waiting through another eight songs to see our girl again, the finale was pretty hilarious. I don't think Cecelia did one dance move throughout the song and they all just sort of stared out at the audience blankly. In between their parts in the recital, I'm told the girls got to hang out in the big room backstage with a movie and the teenage girls. Cecelia tells me the movie was 'for an adult, like the News,' and I still don't fully understand what they watched. But when the show was over, I went back with Truman to find our little lady and she had a ring pop from her teacher along with the biggest smile ever.

Truman handed her the flowers, and then we walked up to meet the rest of our crew. I demanded a family picture even though both of the boys were practically falling asleep at this point. Cecelia was still on cloud nine and ate up all of the compliments we gave her.

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I didn't get a single picture of Tony and Lois with the dancer, but I was thinking about how they had never been to a dance recital before, since Cecelia is their only granddaughter and they raised two boys of their own. I'm pretty sure both of them couldn't stop smiling, just like Nate and I, because it was just so stinking cute!

Also, performing in front of a group, following direction, learning the value of practicing for a big event, etc...all great things to learn. Plus: tutus.

All in all, it was a super successful first dance recital for Cecelia. Some of the older girls had tap shoes and I am sure CC would love to do another dance class, possibly tap next time. But for now we are just taking a nice break from the constant weekly activities. Because now we are deciding between a million possible summer activities.

But oh, her recital was amazing. So proud of our tiny dancer!



Review | Boon SNUG Spout

I just reviewed the new Boon SNUG silicone lids on my review site. Come on over and check it out! Hint: these lids will convert your lid-less, forgotten, sad Panda cups into a fancy new sippy option for the kids. Mine are big fans.


Four Eyes

I've always loved to brag to Nate about how I have perfect 20/20 vision. In fact, two years ago at my last eye exam, I could see slightly better than 20/20 (whatever that means...15/20?) and I've only gotten exams every five years or so because I really didn't need them. My dad didn't need reading glasses until he turned forty, my mom got glasses in the sixth grade, so I assumed I have my dad's eyes and would not need specs until I was over the hill.

Then about a month ago, I started feeling 'off' when driving. It was like I couldn't focus on the moving cars around me, or that it just made me feel kind of dizzy or blurry. I could ignore it occasionally but sometimes it would be seriously freaky when I'd be driving and then feel that 'disconnected' feeling. I started noticing it when I was inside, not driving, especially when moving my head or trying to focus on something quickly. Running on the treadmill and watching the iPad in front of me was horrible, and even watching the TV that is further away was starting to feel scary. I tried not to assume that I had a brain tumor or some neurological disease....BUT I couldn't quite pin point what was going on with my vision, and it came on rather suddenly which was concerning. I just didn't like that it was hard to focus on moving objects and definitely felt like my eyes were getting tired, but I wasn't sure it was a problem with my eyes.

One of our friends is an Optometrist and owns his own store close to our neighborhood. (Would highly recommend Dr. Veth at Be Spectacled, for the locals! Totally not a sponsored post or anything, we just really like this guy and his store). When I finally told Nate about my 'weird vision stuff' he texted Mark immediately, and then Mark called me right away, which furthered my conclusion that I was probably dying of a neurological disease because everyone seemed to be worried. I saw Mark in the office, and right away he could tell that I was not seeing at 20/20 anymore. Which, he said, was good because it meant I wasn't just going crazy;)

He went on to do all of the tests in an eye exam, then dilated my eyes which was a strange sensation since I've never had it done before. Also, I was practically blind when dilated because my over-worked lens could not longer accommodate and focus for me, so I truly could barely make out text messages on my phone when I left. I've always had trouble seeing things in a dark room, and Mark noticed that my pupils are crazy small because they are always trying to focus. Makes sense now why I can't dilate well on my own in low-light situations, and I verified that I am NOT on crack cocaine so my small pupils must just be from over-focusing for so long.

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Since my eyes are different right to left, and also I have trouble focusing far away and up close, I have an astigmatism but also seem to be nearsighted. Mark was surprised that I hadn't complained of more issues reading screens or up close objects, but he also said that many people don't notice changing vision up close. But it's common to notice when our distance vision starts to go, and that a lot of my complaints made sense to him since I was struggling to focus far away and then also close.

Basically, I am falling apart and getting older but NOT dying of a neurological disease, so that is good.

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Mark picked out the frames for me, after targeting the prescription in the office. (They are by Intrigue, since some people asked on IG and FB). And today I picked up my very first pair of glasses. I feel extremely close to thirty-five now, with the big birthday next month, combined with glasses, and an alarming number of rebel white hairs appearing daily. But you know what? I don't hate the glasses and kind of always wondered what it would be like to wear them. My dad texted to say I look 'dignified' and my mom said 'smart.' Nate likes them, the kids pretty  much hate them, and I think we will all get used to the four eyed-Julia sooner or later. I plan to wear them as much as I can to see if they help with the weird dizzy/out of focus feeling but I can already tell that I'll need to gradually acclimate to wearing glasses. I'm shocked that typing on the computer right now feels a LOT sharper than when I pull the glasses down from my eyes. Focusing on something further away still feels odd but it will get there.

Elaboration on the kids hating the glasses: Cecelia actually does like them, although she was pretty stunned at the store today when she saw me try them on. But Porter? He stared at me with a blank look on his face while we were inside, then as we walked out of the door he melted down. For a solid five minutes, he was nearly hyperventilating and saying, 'Mama!' over and over. He started with a quivering lip and then just lost it, so I ripped off the glasses to assure him it was still me, but it was too late. But not too late to snap a quick video to remember the horror of an aging mother with glasses, the poor boy. Truman already told me he doesn't like them and I look 'weird', when I showed him the selfie I took the day we picked out the frames last week. Then today he just sort of laughed and said, 'Nah, I don't like them, they are weird,' but then he seemed to get over it when I explained they help me to see.

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But seriously, the hardest part about wearing glasses? Taking a selfie without a wicked reflection from windows on my eyes. This is a very real problem, I had to take an absurd amount of selfies today to master the reflection problem. But at least I can see.

Porter at Twenty Months

It seems like I just wrote a monthly update on Porter-P and I'm not sure much has changed in the past month. Except he does seem quite a bit larger in size and closer to the age of two in his emotions. Oh, the tantrums have begun and the frustrations of being a baby-but-NOT are evident with this guy.

(this is seriously how he watches TV. The belly. The face. The posture. I cannot.)
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Classic tantrum, and Henry is obviously above this nonsense.
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Forcing him to come inside when he is having the time of his life playing in the great outdoors is an automatic freak out. Encouraging him to share a toy with his siblings also means we are asking him to donate a bodily organ and it's highly offensive to Porter. He does not want to sit in a booster seat, like ever, and prefers to sit on a big chair or my lap. He despises wearing gloves and hats although we are certainly nowhere near a real stretch of nicer weather, much to his dismay. Porter cannot be bothered to have his diaper changed and generally dislikes getting dressed each day, and brushing his teeth is as close to torture as he can imagine. He will usually protest the stroller and prefers to walk to and from school, but holding his hand when we cross the street is really upsetting for P. He's started to poke out his bottom lip for effect and can fake cry at the drop of a hat, even producing real tears within a second's notice. He's been known to hit and bite, usually for play but he's stronger than he realizes. I hope he isn't a big bully but no matter what, he will be our child that can absolutely hold his own with the bigger kids of the house.

Wearing Truman's old 3T coat, holding a train, keeping up with CC---typical.
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First meal at Costco, MAJOR fan.
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BUT. Aside from those lovely, opinionated parts of his 'going on two' personality? Porter is freaking hilarious and so sweet. I'll try to focus on the excellent parts of this child now that the less than wonderful pieces are out of the way. Because yeah, he's almost two and has turned out to be rather emotional and strong-willed, so I guess the tantrums are somewhat expected.

Nailed the Valentines Day shot.
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Really into sneaking up the stairs alone, still not the best at descending.
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Poor third child, has to wear his sister's pink boots. Also, generally hates winter.

This month, Porter officially cut his final two baby teeth, and those pointy little canines complete his sparkly set of chompers. It's crazy to me to think that our teething days are over until he's Truman's age, and gets his six year molars! {Hmmm, Google is actually telling me there might be one more set of 2 year molars ahead, I guess I will have to inspect his mouth when he wakes from his nap. But yeah, more teeth this month!}

Pretty smile.
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Also, Porter is showing a major infatuation with trains, specifically his big brother's previous bestie: Thomas and Friends! I am not sure why Porter's emerging love for trains makes me so happy, but probably because it brings back memories of playing trains with my first born for hours and hours when our lives were much quieter and simpler. I mean, I can still make a decent train track and Porter is a lucky dude to inherit a gigantic stash of Thomas trains. This is the first time I've really seen Porter sit down and entertain himself with any type of toy for up to 10 minutes a stretch, without any interaction from me. Of course, he does tend to get a little destructive with the tracks and needs help when he drains the batteries on numerous trains simultaneously. But it's still really fun to watch him pull a big string of trains across our house just like Truman would do around the age of two until maybe age four? I don't know, but I'm thinking this is just the beginning of Porter and trains. Plus, I did technically choose Porter's name after seeing his train for sale at Target, so it's obviously meant to be.

(most of the semi-elaborate tracks are designated for the unfinished part of the basement, which makes for a beautiful, uncluttered, posed picture.)
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Ports is a pretty good eater but he definitely doesn't like to sit still for longer than five minutes to allow for a substantial meal. He's a great sleeper, going down most nights around 7-7:30 and waking around 6:30-7am. He will clock long nap in the afternoon usually two or three hours and will wake up happy about 50% of the time. Almost always he will immediately ask for 'Dee Dee, Tru Tru' when I go to get him out of his crib. One time recently, Nate went upstairs to get Porter and I heard the babe say 'huh-uhhhhh!' as he shook his head 'no way, man'. He likes routine already and having his daddy get him out of the crib was not acceptable. Porter tries to call the shots around here, in case I haven't made that clear yet.

Licking frosting batter is not too horrible, I guess.
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He calls these jammies 'happy monkeys'. And his ears look gigantic here.
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Aside from playing with trains, Porter also fancies watching Daniel Tiger or possibly Thomas on TV or the Kindle. He will play with his 'guys', which are Fischer Price Little People, but mostly he just likes to empty out our toy bins to create a massive pile of junk that gets strewn across every room of the house (my fave). He loves balls and with a few pretending-to-be-Spring-days last week, he greatly enjoyed kicking and throwing balls and had his sister push him on the baby scooter.

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These two <3
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Inquisitive Porter.
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I can tell that Porter seriously worships both Cecelia and Truman, and he is determined to do everything they are doing at all times. Nate took both of the big kids to the driving range yesterday during nap time, and when Porter saw them getting hats and shoes on to leave he ran over and followed along. Although he hates to wear hats, he found one and put it on, requested I help with his shoes, and said 'go' over and over again. It was obviously a big bummer to stay home with mom and take a nap, but it was also adorable to see him say 'bye bye' over and over while they drove away. Someday you'll be able to do fun things during nap time, buddy!

My two grocery shopping helpers.
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Doesn't dislike frozen  yogurt.
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Porter and Cecelia have been doing great with Tony on my work days. CC likes to boss both Tony and Porter around most of the morning, then while Porter naps sister and grandpa get some quality time. Porter loves his Papa so much and eagerly runs to him whenever Tony comes over. Ports loves books and demands that all of us read to him, but especially Tony---he seems to do it best! Also, Memaw was a big hit this month when she visited.

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Four generations!

He has a lot of readers in his life.
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Recently Porter has been climbing up the stairs on the school playground, walking over to the slides, and will go down all by himself without totally wiping out. He also gets a little irritated with me on playgrounds because he thinks he can hang with the fifth graders and is embarrassed when I force him to leave. Porter seems fairly fearless when it comes to physical tasks, climbing, running, bowling people over, etc. He is still the BEST dancer ever, in the history of all babies, and now he is trying to jump which is highly entertaining.

Will hold hands with sister, not with mommy.
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Again, thinks he is a big kid (both of these guys, actually).
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I never know how to accurately describe Porter's vocabulary, but he is highly verbal and never stops talking. Some of his words make no sense and others are spot-on. He will repeat basically anything we say, pairs two words together, and has a set of lungs that just won't quit.

We love our Porter so much! He completes our family with a bold exclamation point. Sometimes I look at him and wonder how we could have ever been unsure about having a third baby, because Porter was obviously meant to be in our family. Then I try not to connect that thought to a potential fourth baby, but it's the topic that won't die (in my head, it's not even on the radar in Nate's head!). So Porter, you are an excellent caboose to this nutso family unit. Love you to pieces.

Party for the six year old

Six years of birthday parties, and you know I love me a good collage of comparisons! Observe.
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A week ago, we had Truman's sixth birthday party. And it was the first time we rented a place, hosting it somewhere other than our own home. And it was glorious;)

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I love having our friends and their children to our house for parties, don't get me wrong, and we will surely do a big BBQ with everyone for Cecelia and Porter's parties this year. But those will happen when there isn't snow on the ground, and I suppose Truman is at the age when the party needs to be more for him than his parents.

And so? We rented out a small indoor soccer field that has two small rooms attached. Definitely not fancy but absolutely what Truman wanted---a place to run around, play soccer, eat some food, and open gifts. Done!

I tried my hardest to keep this 'low key' but it turns out that even planning a party that is not in our home can be rather involved. First comes the classic question of: How many kids will we invite? Where do we draw the line? Entire class at school? Just neighborhood friends? WHY IS THIS SO TOUGH?

We ended up inviting ten kids and eight were able to attend, plus we had a few of the 'second borns' come to party along with the 5-6 year olds. I made it open to parents to either stay and hang out (i.e. help with crowd control) or drop-and-go, and I assumed most parents would take us up on the opportunity to leave their children at the party while they ran errands. But actually, most every kid had a parent there to observe the chaos which was great! It just meant I felt 'pressure' to have more adult-friendly food choices other than pizza and birthday cake. But we didn't actually make anything special for sides like I had considered. We stuck to ordering pizzas and breadsticks, ordering a cake from the grocery store (delicious!), then we brought bags of Sun Chips, sliced apples from Costco, and grapes. Bottled water and juice boxes topped off the very hefty list of items we so lovingly prepared for our guests.

Oh, but I DID end up making my royal icing cookies. Let me tell you about this story: I made the cut out sugar cookies for Christmas but ended up freezing all six dozen of them when I just couldn't get my stuff together to ice the cookies after a rough holiday season. I started brainstorming ideas about how I could utilize my snowmen, Santa, Christmas tree, candy cane, and gingerbread cookies for Truman's party and I was really struggling with how to make them less festive. I decided to ditch the candy canes and gingerbread men because they were just too much to disguise. But the others ended up being fairly birthday-ish with the bright colors and kids' names on them. I went for the 'abstract' look and tried not to get too bent out of shape about whether or not the cookies looked like defrosted Christmas. Bottom line: six year olds do NOT care if their name is written on a snowmen. They will eat that sugary goodness in record time, without discrimination. And what do you know? I still really enjoy the decorating process!

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We rented the soccer field for two hours, and I drove up there with Truman to meet Lois and Tony about an hour before our guests were to arrive. Nate, Cecelia, Porter and then my mom and Memaw (who flew in for a short visit based around the party!) all drove up right before the party began. So the 'early' crew had planned to clean the building really well, then set up the tables for food and what not. But the building was quite clean before we arrived, so we could get right to decorating and setting up the food that I brought along with us.

I purchased our first piñata from Party City, and bought the candy to fill it there. Truman has always asked for a piñata and we had to make it happen this time around, so Tony was in charge of figuring out how in the heck to hang the thing from the extremely high ceilings. I bought paper soccer balls for decorating and just taped them to the wall, brought my trusty felt 'Happy Birthday' banner from Target (used many times already), and bought helium balloons since those are a MUST for every party these days. That was it for decor, aren't you proud of me?

I also had gift bags for each kid, composed of random 'junk' from the dollar store like slinkies tattoos, arm sweat bands (total hit), stickers, stamps, and then the personalized royal iced cookies. Truman wrote the names for each guest on the bags and was a total help with this part, probably because a goodie bag-o-junk is for sure a highlight for all six year olds.




The cake was a delicious marble variety from our favorite grocery store, and all I told her was 'soccer theme, go for it.' It turned out really cute and was delicious, I'm glad I didn't try to make a cake or cupcakes this year. Outsourcing is really the best.



After we set everything out and decorated, we got a family picture and guests started to arrive at 11am. We had the place for two hours and I planned to let the kids run off their pent up winter energy for an hour by 'playing soccer', but I totally underestimated Nate's abilities to organize actual activities with the eleven kids that showed up to party. They scrimmaged, they did drills, they were laughing and having the best time. I had the pizza delivered at noon and the kids were happy to sit on the floor to devour their pizza (and some fruit with chips). Then Truman wanted to do presents, so we negotiated that we would sing to him first, then cut the cake and serve it while he opened gifts. DONE. He received so many awesome/thoughtful gifts, even though he needs nothing. Saying 'no gifts necessary' on an invitation doesn't always mean people show up empty handed. So I will usually say something like, 'keep it super inexpensive and simple, Truman will be happy with total crap wrapped up in a gift bag.' Something like that, I think.






After we sang to the birthday boy, ate cake, and watched him open gifts, we decided it was piñata time. I was worried that my sorry-looking soccer ball would bust open after one hit. But alas, every child got about four swings at the thing before Nate took pity on the very patient children and ripped it open the rest of the way. I had ziplock bags ready for the acquired loot and there weren't too many tears about how so-and-so got more than me. In fact, Cecelia was the one who felt most slighted by her candy stash and two little girls went over to her and offered their extra candy to her. So sweet.



Once the piñata was successfully man handled, we had them play more soccer with the dads while the moms chatted for a bit. Then two adults came out to announce that three kids were crying, and when I looked at the clock it was 1:00 on the dot. Time to pack it up, people! Heightened emotions after such a high were expected, I supposed, and it was time to go. After a group 'hands in the center' chant, we sent our guests on their way with goodie bags and hugs.

Cleaning up was not a big deal at all and it was AMAZING to leave the facility and not deal with eighty billion toys strewn across our house after a birthday party. Once we returned home, I panicked when I realized that I didn't get any pictures of Mom and Memaw with the kids. So a forced photoshoot was a must and I'm glad we did it, since you really can't take too many 'four generations' shots, right?



Seeing Truman on cloud nine with his friend was well worth the (outsourced) effort for his birthday party. I know the other kids had fun, too, and the best part was when Nate and I left later that day for an overnight getaway in Madison. A beer festival, dinner out, and a night in a hotel? Don't mind if we do!

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But seriously? This guy is six and he is the best. Time flies. Ugh, it really does!
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Oh, and his actual birthday was Tuesday, which also happened to be pajama day at school. So basically Truman was in heaven! He got to wear a crown, we brought cookies for his class treat, and he opened two presents before school. Then once Nate was home, we had Tony and Lois come over and we ordered out for dinner (chicken tenders for the birthday boy, his fave). He opened gifts, blew out the candles on a homemade cake that CC and Porter helped me bake (ahem, box mix), and pretty much had an excellent birthday.




I managed to do the Pinterest-y thing with the number and sprinkles. Delicious!
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Sklyander Superchargers, magna tiles, and clothes for his growing body were his main gifts this year. He's pretty easy to please, and was just so proud of himself for having a birthday. Announcing it to anyone within ear's shot on the playground: "Today is my birthday. I'm six.' What a guy, that Truman!
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