Happy Birthday Heidi-loo-who!

Today's the  BIG day.  My baby turns one... *cue mini cry fest*.  Ok, that's over.  One year ago today, I held her in my arms for the first time.  Talk about a surreal moment... especially once I got over the whole "she looks like an alien thing"!

Tomorrow is her birthday party, the theme reflects her personality:  She's a peach!  What's the point of having a theme if you're not gonna over do it?  I can't wait to share all our peach-tastic ideas/foods/decor with you!  I'll get to that NEXT week... I'm gonna be uber busy this weekend with partyin' and eating and snuggling my one-year-old.  So I will be unplugged all weekend :)

Ready for her monthly picture?  Here she is... God, she's beautiful (not that we place much importance on that, but how did this perfect creature come from me?  Oh wait, check out the upper right pic...now I see it :)

Her birthday dress is from a talented Etsy seamstress named...Heidi!  It was meant to be!  More about the party dress(es) in the birthday post.

As of THIS WEEK, Heidi is a walker!  She gets this extremely proud look on her face each time she takes a few steps.  The best part is that when I sit on the floor (for frequent story times), she walks over to me, stands beside me, and lays her head on my shoulder!

At 12 months, she still sucks those 2 fingers to self-comfort (and if she's lucky, pinches my neck while falling asleep.  urgh!  if I'm lucky, my mom is holding her 'cause Heidi also enjoys pinching her!), lights up when given the slightest bit of attention, giggles with her sister...esp when I'm not supervising, loves to snuggle (with her head in the crook of my left arm.  does NOT like it if I flip her to the other side), thinks peek-a-boo is HILARIOUS and will sit with a blanket over her head until I notice, prefers playing IN the toy baskets (she is sitting in the music basket as I write this.  drums are scattered all over the floor as she sits in the basket and blows a train whistle... a skill her older sister has yet to master!) and she has an even 4 teeth on both the top and bottom.

Here's a recap of how she evolved from ALIEN to BABE:
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I am Spartacus

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Spartan Race. All opinions are 100% mine.

Ok, I am NOT Spartacus, nor have I actually seen that movie.  However who among us doesn't love the feeling of unity and belonging that happens when in a group.  It is rare, but it does happen.  Whether it was during the last minute of your high school graduation as you surveyed your classmates one last time or whether it was the comaraderie you found while working towards a common goal... it is a wonderful, warm, energizing feeling.

While living in Oregon, I signed up for two all women running events.  That feeling of belonging, support and encouragement was a surprise to me.  Women I'd never met shouted words of encouragement, joked as we leap frogged each other, breathlessly smiled their support.  

I am NOT a runner.  However, pre-kids, I signed up for at least one 5k every year.  It turns out that I have NO self-discipline, but a hefty amount of pride.  So the only way I can actually get those running shoes on and hit the streets, is to have a goal.

Have you ever heard of Spartan Race?  Holy camoly this looks like fun!  Whether you sign up for a 5k or a 40-miler, you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll have fun.  Their philosophy is that working out doesn't have to be torturous.  It can be fun and exciting... through the eyes of a Spartan.  (ie hardcore, tough as nails, just try and stop me!).


They have children and women events and when you sign-up, they offer you a couch to finish line plan that takes a mere 45 days!  Check out their website... these races are EVERYWHERE.  I'd like to sign up for the one in Edinburgh... but the PA one might make a tad more sense ;)

The farthest I've ever run was a 10k Trail Run.  I didn't feel like waiting for the start, so my friend and I set off before the gun.  It was the smartest thing we ever did 'cause the trail was ours for the taking... plus enough other women had the same idea that we got the benefits of the comaraderie and drink stations!  Ok, I admit, I also kinda do races for the swag.  Gimme dry fit tees, free energy bars, water bottles, hats...and the best one... a necklace (Hippie Chick Race).

Perhaps it's time to lace up those running shoes?  Head over to their FAQs to cast off the last of your concerns!

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts®. All opinions are 100% mine.

I can smell it in the air, spring has arrived and brought the sunshine, budding maple trees, chirping robins & cardinals and dreams of our BIGGEST and BEST garden yet!

Jake is a notorious gardener... how often do you see those two words together?  This is the 4th place we've lived together and every time, Jake breaks out of hibernation with gusto as he (rips up) turns our yard (and often kind neighbors' yards) into a garden much grander than the plan we agreed on (some past garden posts here.and here)

This year, a lifetime of dreams are coming true for my farmer.  In true busy beaver fashion (have I ever told you about the time he ran 70 miles in 19 hours and didn't get tired till after mile 50?), he's logging 16 hour days putting the finishing touches on HIS greenhouse!  I'll have more posts in the future telling you about this project, but for now, here's a peek at his masterpiece (I'm not sure which of us is more surprised with how great it's coming together.  This is his first building project... and since it's ATTACHED to our house, I had many many concerns).

house addition greenhouse

With this greenhouse and a few newly cleared acres, farmer Jake has big plans for this summer.  As for me, my gardening plans are on a much smaller scale!  All I want is a porch bursting with red geraniums... like my inspiration:  my Great Aunt Lizzy's farmhouse, built in the 1600s!  Picture the quintessential Swiss farmhouse...ahhh....lovely!

Last year, I used regular potting soil and put a DIAPER in each pot according to a silly tip I found on the internet.  My geraniums were OK, but they never filled out.  I was quite disenchanted with the whole experience... which is my excuse for why I left them outside in a frost instead of saving them for this year.

This year, wooo doggie, I've found the perfect thing to take my geraniums from MEH to WOW!  My Aunt Lizzy is gonna be sooo proud!  INTRODUCING Miracle Gro Expand 'n Gro!  Expand ‘n Gro™  works in the ground and in pots, so maybe I'll even share with farmer Jake... maybe... I kinda like the idea of my flower boxes getting all the attention for once :)  Expand ‘n Gro™ will give me up to 3x the amount of blooms versus soil, it feeds the plants for 6 months (we all know I'm too idle to ever remember to feed my plants), improves the soil for next year and it's natural fibers hold up to 50% of the water (no diapers in my planters this year folks... don't judge ;)

*one last thing about those natural fibers that I LOVE... they take the parts of the coconut husks that used to be discarded and use the coir (new word for the day!) to make our gardens look like we know what we're doing!

EnG Product Shot.png

Sounds pretty awesome, eh?  Miracle-Gro is offering a free sample to any of my readers who leave a comment on this post!  So, we all get a nice head start on our Spring planting!  GREEN THUMB...HERE WE COME!



**If Expand ‘n Gro™ isn't available in your local garden store yet, you can purchase it on Amazon!

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Today's feature artist

I can't take credit for this idea... I saw it here.  I have the gift of being able to replicate other people's awesome ideas :)

So, I found this lovely gal (HI SHELLY!) online and she agreed to partner with me to help me take my walls from ugh to WOW.  Seriously, I made my family live amidst a patched/primed hallway for 2.5 years. I love it so much that I've almost forgiven her for offering so many awesome font choices.  It was torturous to flip flop between fonts trying to pick the perfect one.  I finally settled on the Walt Disney font for the quote and Cozannc for Pablo Picasso.  Typically, I'm a stickler for not intermingling upper and lowercase, but old Walt had me with that scribbled "i"...he had me at hello scribble.

If, like me, you excel at recognizing other people's brilliant ideas... head over to Shelly's etsy shop.  Then you save yourself the TROUBLE of having to choose fonts ;)  Shelly and her sis-in-law create awesome things and sell them on Etsy.  It's very appropriate since I found Shelly via her s-i-l's adorable work that I saw on Pinterest (another idea that I've stolen and will show you once I've officially made it mine!  mwahaha!).

This was really the fastest/ easiest/ biggest impact thing I've done in the house.  Plus, it solved a small problem between husband and I... I felt the need to feature each piece of Hazel's artwork (ie handprints) on the fridge while Jake prefers a more zen-like fridge.

too idle to switch to my wider angle lens, this is the best shot I could get of my tiny hallway.
For those of you who are uber-observant, you'll notice that the striped wall is a new addition!  It's the follow-up to this cliff-hanger.  After I finished painting my kitchen cabinets, I had about 3/4 gal of each color of paint.  So, I scrapped my former plans for the hallway and simply started painting stripes.  I LOVE it!  I wish I had put a little more thought into the spacing, but I need to get over that and simply enjoy the stripes!  However, two of the dorks who frequent my house have struck a "running man" pose in the hallway because they think they're comic book speed lines.  Oi Vey!

In the nearish future, I'll be finishing up some other projects that I've made with Shelly's help!  I even bought a little sumpin' sumpin' to use as a GIFTaway (like a Giveaway, but it's a gift from me)!  Stay tuned :)


rebel moment

The other weekend, hubby and I had a rather impromptu date.  Our toddler decided that she wanted to go to Tymanda's house on "Fri" and lucky for us, they agreed.  It pays to have good friends!  Since we're one to ALWAYS take advantage of a good thing, we also left Heidi at their house... kinda a 2 for 1 deal :)

At dinner, Jake began a little peer pressure...and I caved.  Here's a clue:
photo credit:  the jolly roger theyoung
 Nope, it wasn't frizzy hair, ill-fitting glasses, or a totally stylin' baby in a backpack.  Look closer.  SCARY close!

pic credit:  jane anger from 30 before
See it?  Some call it my "silver nose booger" (thanks for teaching that to Hazel, Dad!)... it's a NOSE RING!  As a 30 yo, SAHM, I'm a little late to the party, but I'm lovin' my new accessory!  Jake told me that he thinks they're "hot" and I could use a little of that in my life!  Now on those days when I truly can't remember how many days it's been since I showered, I can think "I have a nose ring, I'm one hot mama!".

Plus, I brought joy to all the tattoo parlor groupies when I loudly declared myself "WAY TOO PRUDISH TO BE HERE".  It was sooo true :)


Leprechaun Playdough

We're off on a family get-away.  According to Hazel, "we go to camp with our friends and eat CANDY!".  Sounds like the perfect weekend, eh?  Note:  this camp comes equipped with private rooms, electric fireplaces, catering and lots and lots of board games.  I'm just hoping that this year Hazel sleeps through the night and Jake doesn't throw in the towel and drive the 1.5 hours home at 4am like last year!  True story... and we still love her, go figure!

Since I'm not the only one bringing youngsters, I decided to make a double batch of my favorite play dough... precisely the recipe a leprechaun would use... I'm sure of it!

Here's the original recipe.  Since I'm not one to recreate the wheel, you'll have to go to the original site for the recipe.  However, here are my adaptations to make Leprechaun Playdough:

  • use lime jello
  • instead of any ole cooking oil, use coconut oil!  Why?  I'm glad you asked!
so you see, there is really no other option when making lime playdough.  Teach this song to your youngsters and now you have an interdisciplinary activity (I tried to get a video of Hazel singing... it went something like this "lime and cucnt.... WHAT NEXT MOMMY?".  As an added bonus, the playdough smells DIVINE and though not delicious, it's perfectly safe to let babies play with since it is completely edible.

  • When mixing your playdough, slow and steady wins the race.  I stirred over low heat for about 10 minutes!  It seems impossible when you start with your green liquid, but it will eventually form a ball!
  • Once cooled, knead in gold glitter (I used mostly green glitter since I ran out of gold.  Ho hum!) and working one handful at a time, add 2-4 T of flour to each handful.  Just till it doesn't stick to your hands!
  • I packaged the playdough in clean baby food jars, hit the lids with primer and spray paint, and then using double-sided tape, stuck a St. Patricks Day tattoo on the top (I found 12 for $1 at Dollar General).

For more ideas, check-out my St. Patty's Day inspiration board (can you figure out why my pantry is stocked with boxes and boxes of jello?).  If you want your own framed subway art, this lovely person is sharing it for FREE!  I simply downloaded it to my computer, uploaded it to my favorite photo center and had it printed in an 8x10!

And there you have it!  15-minutes to full-out St. Patty's day fun!  Now all you have left to do is choose a corned beef recipe... and figure out how to keep your favorite leprechaun from stealing your dough!
rainbow shirt a lucky coincidence!


a walk on the WILD side

A few weekends ago, Jake's cabin fever came to a head and he decided to embark on an epic hike.  By epic, I mean BUSHWACKING FOR 3 HOURS.  IN THE SNOW.  WITH OUR TODDLER.

Now, some (sane) mom's would say "nuh uh.  You are not taking our 2.5 year old deep into the snowy woods." That mom would not be me.  I mean, I let my 2.5 year old walkdaily through the woods to her grandparents house.  Little Miss Independent!  My heart bursts with pride and joy as I watch her out the window.

Proof that my genes are in this girl too... she loves to nap as much as she loves to explore.  So, Jake timed the hike to include her nap.  She napped for at least 1/2 of the journey!

Oddly enough, she finds this position extremely comfortable!  Her middle name should be Kelty (the backpack brand).

This goes along with the whole RAISE A CREATIVE CHILD thing I recently discussed.  I mean, if you treat your babies like babies... they will grow into BIG babies.  Blech!  

Hazel is already starting to correctly identify plants and animals.  She thinks time outdoors is better than chocolate cake.  She has confidence in herself and her surroundings.  Anyone else ever read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder ?
 (err... I didn't read it, but I heard the author speak and listened to Jake discuss it extensively) Check it out (preferably through my link!).  You will promptly stop thinking we're crazy and immediately get your kids outside.  If not, I'll be the first to admit... my kids are cooler (and smarter and happier and healthier) than your kids!

On that snooty note, I'll admit that I was very relieved to get Hazel back in my arms when I picked them up.  She and her daddy had a great time while Heidi and I also enjoyed some bonding time.  However, life is always better when we're all together!

Here are a few more gems from that hike:

*Jake was very prepared with way more supplies than he'd ever need.  However, after a 10-minute retrace of steps in search of PURPLE GLOVE, he will carry extra gloves, socks and maybe a fleece base layer in the future.  Koskers just can't resist the temptation to throw large objects in water...  Things could have gone very very wrong if she had slipped into the creek!  Brrrr!!!


from my freezer to YOUR table

I just told a friend about this site (Hi Tara!) and thought, I should share the love with the rest of you!

Last year, or it might have been 2 years ago, I took the Real Food Challenge.  I didn't exactly stick with the challenge, but it did make me more mindful about what I serve and consume.

Then I joined TheFresh20 and the revolution took hold.  Though I am no longer following that menu (I might go back, just wanted to do my own thing for awhile), I learned A LOT about meal planning, using fresh seasonal foods and cooking.

Wonder of wonders, I'm actually enjoying cooking these days.  Well, on days when children are calm and happy and not screaming at me...
Hazenator in the fridgerator (taken about one year ago).  I wanted to share a food related picture with you.  I couldn't decide between this inappropriate picture or the inappropriate picture I took of her wearing her Christmas apron...and only the apron.  HEY, 2-year-old buns are ADORABLE!

My new favorite thing (which also happens to be FREE!) is this website:  www.onceamonthmom.com .  Specifically, their whole foods menu!  Each week, I choose one or two of their meals, make it, eat 1/2 and freeze 1/2.  Later in the month, I have a healthy, homemade meal... and I didn't even enter the kitchen (except to reheat)!  My husband was always against "freezer meals"  because he thought it would be a life of casseroles.  HA!  I haven't made a casserole once (yet)!  Maybe I'll even try the whole:  shop, prep & freeze only 1 day each month thing?  baby steps...

Tonight I'm serving a homemade BBQ chicken pizza.  Instead of prepping it during nap time, I did some cleaning, laundry and BLOGGING!  That's a trifecta...err quatrefecta...or if I include the fact that the kids are napping...err...cinqfecta (see how I went all French on you?  I'm fancy like that.  Ooo la la.  College tuition proving it's worth!).

Since I happen to know that every mom, whether working outside of the home or in, could use some help with serving healthy balanced meals, check it out!  Oh, and if you live near me and want to exchange some meals, that would be awesome!  One of the coolest things about that site is you can change the # of servings you want and all the ingredient amounts adjust for you!  So, let me cook you dinner once each month :)


Raising a creative child (part 1)

THIS article is precisely what I wanted to write about this week.  I'm going to break it into 2 sections for the sake of time.

Let's start with one of my favorite quotes (coincidentally, just like the article linked above :)

"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you'll discover will be wonderful.  What you'll discover is yourself."  Alan Alda

side note:  When I was a youngster, MASH was one of my favorite shows.  My husband claims I was/ am  ignorant of pop culture... well, I'll show him... I still know the words to the MASH theme song!  Julie=one cool kid.

Raising creative kids is something that is always in the back of my mind.  While a School Counseling Graduate student, I took a class called "Counseling the child and adolescent".  That course should be mandatory for all parents.  I think about it all the time and incorporate gems of wisdom, many of which support creative thinking, into my parenting.

So, let's look at Kiwi Crate's list:

1.  Mistakes are good.  This is also a key component of Love and Logic, a parenting technique/ philosophy that we taught in my last school.   This (Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years) book sits constantly on our bedside tables... we always intend to be rereading/ consulting it.  Basically, hope and pray that your youngsters make LOTS AND LOTS of mistakes.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn problem solving skills, experience consequences and learn to make better choices.  I'm all about Hazel making mistakes now when a mistake leads to cheerios thrown all over the couch or a toy being snatched out of a friend's hand... as opposed to drunk driving, stealing from a store, inhaling.
getting into diaper rash cream during nap time.  Hazel was generous enough to give me a few chances to parent this one correctly.    finally, I stopped reacting in anger and calmly removed all "injured" toys from her room for a few days....until I got around to cleaning them.  hasn't happened since!
2.  Embrace a good mess.  This is a sticky wicket.  There are parts of every day when I feel totally overwhelmed by the constant clean-up.  Montessori emphasizes children playing with one toy, on a mat and then putting it away promptly.  I'm fairly certain angels sing when this happens.  However, constantly stopping the kids during their play and "encouraging" them to clean-up is like punching creativity in the face.  A balance.  I try to designate areas of the house that are allowed to become a mess (the toy balcony).  Once or twice a day (on good days), the kids join me in putting all the toys away.  However, areas like the block ottoman (I keep blocks in our living room ottoman) and the book basket are set-up so that as soon as a toy is done being played with, it goes RIGHT back.
      one of those times when it wasn't a big deal to just let the kids get messy.  my first reaction was to say "STOP", but I caught myself in time!  after painting, Hazel and her buddy Logan (near the window) got to play in the bathtub.  double fun!
    3.  Be mindful of when you praise.  Something stressed in Play Therapy.  It is so tempting to follow the kids around, complimenting them on every single thing they do.  "You threw the ball!  GOOD BOY.", "You scribbled on a piece of paper!  Pretty picture.", "You ate a bite of banana!  GOOD GIRL.".  Seriously?  Actually, I'm not all that impressed and that picture is nothing.  Constantly complimenting our kids teaches them to crave praise for the tiniest of reasons.  As they grow older, they know whether or not something is truly impressive, so if we compliment them on their mediocrity, what are we teaching them?  Instead, I use a play therapy technique called tracking.  I let the kids know that I am paying attention and what they are doing is important by simply naming their actions:  "You colored with green and blue.  You're throwing a ball.  You're trying new foods."  
    4.  Be open-minded.  Like I shared in this post, in this house, it's not "MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY".  We encourage dialogue and creative thinking.  Though our kids are not our equals, we listen to what they say and consider their points.  Not a big deal at the time to let Hazel choose which bed to nap in or decide we should go to the park.  This also ties into letting them make mistakes.  Rather than fight over putting a hat on for a short walk to the mailbox, I can save my energy and let Hazel endure a natural consequence.


eleven :: Heidi @

At night, I fall asleep thinking of how one year ago, I was round and unwieldy.  Comfort was a distant memory.  One year later, my nights of quality sleep are returning (though not consistent).  I've begun party planning in celebration of the best year of my life.  The year that my family became complete.  The year that I got mucho baby snuggles.  Oh, it's been a hard, tiring year for many reasons, but it's been fantastic.  The reason for my glee:  this goofball:

visual proof of her family tree

At 11 months, Heidi eats mostly solid foods.  She ate rabbit last night, how many 11 months old can say that?  She has started to wave and say "Dada".  She LOVES to giggle!  Daddy just has to look at her, Mommy has to cover her belly with tickly kisses and work really hard.  Humph.
She also adores her sister!  She follows her around, plays with HER toys, laughs at everything she does.  In return, Hazel finds her toys when she's sad and best of all, sings "rock a bye" when she cries.  Yesterday during the photo shoot, Hazel joined Heidi for an impromtu songfest.  One of my all-time favorite mama moments happened last week when Heidi was crying in her crib as Hazel was trying to fall asleep (a huge hurdle in the saga of them sharing a room).  I stood outside the door deciding whether to let Heidi cry it out and risk Hazel loosing sleep or to rescue them both and reinforce a bad habit.  Before I made up my mind, I heard Hazel's sweet voice start singing:  "rock a bye baaaby on da tee top..."

She LOVES to paint!  One lazy day, I simply took her shirt off instead of putting her paint shirt on.  I call this EXTREME FINGER PAINTING.  Please excuse her goofy pose.... her new favorite pose is "wiggle wiggle wiggle" and that's what she's doing for the camera.
I've begun calling her my Little Lawyer.  Daddy calls her his Little Scientist.  WHY?  She is exploding with the gift of logical thinking.  At 2 1/2, she out logics me ALL.THE.TIME.  I am in BIG trouble!

Some examples:
H:  Mama, I want to go Llamy's house (her grandma that lives next door)
M:  No sweetie, it's night time.
M:  Nope, it's dark out.
H:  But daddy has hat with flashlight and Hadel can wear it.
M:  You are right.  Let's go.
H:  *smile*

H:  Mama, I want to go Tymanda's house too (I was going to a women's Bible Study the other night at Amanda's house.  She lives with Ty.  They have a Mr. Potato Head AND purple chalk.  Hazel really likes going there.).
M:  Nope, it's time for just Amanda, Mama and some of our friends.
H:  But I could play with potato head in a different room.
M:  No, I'll be out late and you'll miss your bed time.
H:  But daddy could take me home.
M:  Sorry sweetie, but mommy needs the car to drive home.
H:  Well, daddy could drive the truck.
M:  But Heidi won't fit in the truck.
H:  Heidi can stay with YOU!
M:  No, remember it's time for JUST mama and her friends.
H:  Well, Heidi could stay here.
M:  That wouldn't be safe and Heidi would be sooo sad.
H:  How bout Hadel go to the park (which is near Tymanda's house).
M:  How about I take you to the BIG park tomorrow?
H:  *smile*

Do you see a trend here?  First of all, I had NO idea that 2.5 year olds could reason and talk like this.  Second of all, somehow she ALWAYS WINS.  Jake and I really want to reinforce this type of thinking, so when she makes a good point, we back down.


HAPPY 39th ANNIVERSARY to my fabulous parents.  Wow.  39 years.  One of the best numbers, my favorite odd number, I'm completely in awe of them.