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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

the moment I knew he'd be a great dad.

It was one of those moments that strike you out of no where, that you know will hold some significant meaning in your life...even if you don't know why yet.

We were pretty much kids ourselves, age twenty, spending spring break in Mexico - years before I knew Paul was going to be my husband, much less the father of my babies.  We had broken up a few months before, and the trip to Cancun was, I suppose, just wishful thinking on both our parts that we might get back together.

One day when we were down at the pool there were some really young boys playing "pool basketball." Paul joined in with them enthusiastically.  I sat poolside and observed, impressed that he would take time to hang eight-year-olds on his spring break.  He was very patient with them, and just plain sweet.  I don't know why, but as I watched him interacting with those kids I had a "moment." Just like the first time I met him, when I felt all the air rush out of me in an exhilarating whoosh of excitement.  Or like years later, on a camping trip with my family, when it dawned on me, with perfect clarity, that I would not marry any man but him.

Moments like that are like guideposts - where something stirs inside you, and you think, "I don't know why, but I'll always remember this."  God is leading you, revealing something important, speaking through that moment...as simple and normal as the moment may seem.

Paul ended up being what I saw that day down at the pool.  Patient and fun, a dad who enjoys playing with and teaching our kids.  He also ended up being so much more!

While neither of us are perfect parents by any means, but rather just muddling through,  I'm grateful to have a partner in that muddling who knows how to have fun with our babes, and who loves them and delights in their stubborn, spirited, yet sweet personalities.  A man who works super hard to support our family financially, and spends the rest of his "free" time either working on our crazy home renovation or spending quality time with us.  He is a pretty unselfish husband and father.

Recently when Paul first watched the slideshow for Finola's birthday, he asked, sounding somewhat bruised, "Where am I in all these photos???"  In truth, he was only in a few.  We laughed about it a bit, but it makes sense : I stay at home with the kids full time so he just ends up on proportionately fewer photos.

But, here you go, babe...this one's for you!  We love you and are infinitely grateful for your hard work at your "real job" and all that you do to make our 'house a home.'


Happy belated Father's Day!  
I swear, one day, you'll get your gifts on time.  When the kids are grown, perhaps.

Friday, June 17, 2016

'roomie reunion recap' : georgia!

Although my small friend circle has gone through quite a metamorphosis, particularly in the past year, I know my friendship with my roommates from my second year of college is a lasting one. 

It began by us randomly getting matched as roommates at a college apartment building sixteen years ago.  As we all know, cohabitation with a person can make or break a relationship...and I am thankful ours has thrived!  We have been through good times and bad.  We have each had our conflicts with each other, and lived through them -- through honesty we have ultimately coming out closer.    We have inspired and encouraged each other throughout the years. In fact, it was during our first "Roomie Reunion", back in 2010, that my friend Beth convinced me to finally start this very blog! 

We currently live in all different parts of the country, but don't have to see each other or talk all the time to stay close. While I have reservations and cynicism about social media "friendships" - I appreciate it specifically because of friendships like these.  A way for friends and family who are far apart to still "see" each other and stay connected visually.

It has been a joy to watch these women grow and change throughout the years, each becoming stronger and more beautiful.  Each becoming closer to God.  (No coincidences here, folks.)

I am excited to see where our lives take us from this point on!

Last weekend we had our fourth weekend reunion trip together, and our time at Kristina's home in hot, gorgeous Georgia was so much fun.
fresh off the plane in ATL - reunited!
stopped for lunch at a spot in the "Central Park" of Atlanta
Beth and I split that "fishbowl" - I think it was my first, and my last.   
Cheers!  
of course I came armed with my trusty selfie stick.
back at K's lovely home, we got comfy, cracked open some wine and did yoga.  seriously, we did.  not just for these posed shots.
inexplicably we all enjoy red wine and yoga!
all the hydrangea down south are beautiful blue due to the soil acidity -- I was in heaven!!!!!
Beth kept us entertained the entire weekend with her Bill Clinton impersonations and random comments.
Kristina taught a Body Flow class and we got an awesome workout with some of her regulars!
my last photo before my selfie stick broke.  post workout.
stopped in a cute little town and had a yummy lunch of fish bites, fresh garden salad, and lobster bisque.
good food, tasty drinks, and exposed brick?!?!  perfection.
we are butterflies!
we don't miss any photo op, obviously!
despite me getting bit by a fish, we had a chill time hanging at the beach 

dinner out our last night.  we were literally (beth!) the only ones in this cool restaurant.  I wish you could see the dramatic, huge, white leather, high-backed couch we were sitting on!!!
We definitely made some memories and had some moments of growth during this trip.

I love you, ladies!
Excited to see what the next year brings all of us!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

stitch fix : 'white dress' fix!

***Note: if you are inspired by this post to try this fun fashion styling service yourself, please use me as your referral by clicking HERE or any of the included links.  If you do so, I will receive a small commission to support future posts for sharing my honest, personal experience with Stitch Fix.  Thank you!!!!***

This month's Stitch Fix box had a specific request: an all-white dress for an upcoming "diner en blanc" event.  

I told my stylist Hillary that I would love a couple options to put up against the only white dress I already have (besides my wedding dress!) and I was not sure what to expect.  However, she sent me two surprising but cute frocks!  I also requested some denim gauchos, and some cute tops for summer.

So, without further ado, here are the five items I received in my Fix this month...
#1 Maegan Lasercut Knit Dress (London Times) 
This dress is totally not my typical style...but I kinda love it.  It is very girly and had a sort of retro, 1950's housewife vibe.  The laser cutout material and skirt design make it really unique and the fit is pretty flattering, despite not being what I would normally wear.  This, ladies, is why I love Stitch Fix -- it really can help you learn to branch out and figure out what works on your frame!  I am strongly considering keeping this dress...but still not sure,  I don't know what else I would wear it to.  (Update: ended up KEEPING!  Wore it to Diner En Blanc and had a fabulous time!) 

#2 Arley Dress (Skies are Blue)
White dress option number two was more of a simple sheath. When I unboxed my Fix I thought I would prefer this one.  But despite the fun print and cutout in the back, this shift style of dress is not quite as flattering on me.  Super comfortable, but a bit baggy and ill-fitting.  I doubt I would keep this, as I don't feel completely fabulous in it...which I think is a necessity for a special event.
#3 Carrie Released Hem Denim Gaucho (Mavi)
I really, really want to keep these gaucho jeans...but I'm not sure I can pull the trigger.  I like the raw hem, and the wash is great...but they really accentuate my hips!  They actually look better with a tank top that is more fitted, rather than this billowy blouse.  The wideness of the leg needs to be balanced by something a slimmer silhouette on top.  At least on me.  They are comfy and breezy in the summer, though, so I am highly considering keeping!  I not-so-secretly adore this trend.  I wore gauchos on my honeymoon nine years ago! So comfy.  (Update : ended up returning to hold out for something more flattering....)

#4 Diller Crochet Sleeve Knit Top (Market & Spruce)
I love, love, love this yellow top, though.  It is super soft, and the lace detail at the shoulders is delicate and feminine.   Plus,  I love this bright hue for summer!  I am definitely keeping it - tags already removed and I even wore it to book club this week.  I can see wearing this to a variety of different casual events, or dressing it up for church on Sunday.  Probably won't wear with the gauchos as I feel the look is a little too much.  Or maybe it is the floppy hat that is making me look like a fabulous gardener...which I don't mind, really.  :D
Gardener G - and sweet little C!
#5 Gena Cutout Detail Top (Skies are Blue)
This top was just okay for me.  It is the perfect color, as I love this jewel-toned turquoise, but it is really wrinkly and the front is a little too blah.  This one is a definite return.

So that is it for this Fix!  Besides the yellow tope, I have no idea what I'll end up keeping!

Want to try a new trend but don't know where to start?  Get overwhelmed in malls or big-box stores and end up buying items impulsively - or not buying anything out of frustration? Don't have time to hit up a bunch of boutiques looking for something unique?  Sign up to try Stitch Fix for a totally different experience and possibly an item or two that you LOVE.  Almost all my favorites in my little wardrobe come from Fixes.   
Click this image to get started on your own Fix!

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In other news...our backyard is coming together!  As you can see from these photos, we have a new fence, the gravel is on the ground almost ready for pavers to be laid, and the raised brick planters are all filled with dirt and some things have been planted.   So excited for all the progress!
Here you can see the reality of trying to do a Stitch Fix post during a chaotic backyard renovation with two kiddos that do not take any naps...
They are pretty darn sweet, though. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

10 steps to running a half marathon

Last month I ran my third half marathon - the Flying Pig in Cincinnati - and it was honestly the most fun 13.1 yet!  Maybe it is because I've learned a bit of wisdom from my other two halfs, as well as the full marathon last year (read about that whole, crazy, amazing experience here)  The more you do something, even if it is challenging, it does get easier!

In the past three years I've gone from running 3-4 miles at most usually (besides a 10K here and there) to running several half marathons as well as a full marathon.  These goals were all accomplished AFTER I birthed two children and while raising two toddlers.  Not saying I'm a superstar or anything...but I accomplished several huge goals after life got exponentially more busy/challenging.

My long runs (the actual training) occurred on the weekends in the wee hours of the morning.  That was the way I was able to fit it in, since I am a SAHM the rest of the time.  One of the halfs I trained solely on a treadmill at the gym, which is doable...but I don't recommend unless that is the only way you can make it happen.

Alright mamas (or guys!) -- If you've never run a half marathon, but think you might want to make this 'your year' to train for one and accomplish that goal, here my ten steps for running a half - learned as a 'mama runner'...
{disclaimer : I'm not a professional so my "advice" is strictly what worked for me in my experience and should not be trusted as "medically correct" for all runners...just sayin'.}
1. Register for your race.  You have to just pull the trigger, pay the registration fee, and get started!  This will be motivation in itself. Find one that is local or even do a destination race!  It is really fun to plan a vacation around any race, especially if you go with friends. Which brings us to...
2. Get a friend to run with you. Even if you don't run the actual race side-by-side, it is so awesome to plan to run it with a girlfriend or two and keep up with each other during the training period.  Do at least a few long runs together on the weekend - this is awesome for catching up on life.  Then definitely have a celebratory meal or drink (or two!) post-race!  Make sure to take sweaty selfies and perhaps even coordinate your outfits.  Seriously - the camaraderie makes it more fun.

3. Update your race playlist!  Never underestimate the motivational power of music.  Inevitably one song will become your "anthem" during your training process and race.   Find your anthem!
4. Establish a pre-race and mid-race 'eating routine' and keep it up! cannot stress enough the importance of routine during the training process.  Get up the same time each week before your long run, and eat the same pre-race fuel.  For me this ritual involves a big plate of spaghetti the night before, tons of water, and bulletproof coffee an hour before race start time.  I used to eat a piece of whole wheat toast with almond butter for my pre-race breakfast, but I have trained my body not to need it that early in the morning. You figure out what works for you!   Best to avoid eating too much or anything greasy/heavy, though.  For during the race : I bring two Gu packets on the race with me. One I eat ate around mile six, then another at mile ten - if I think I need it.  Some people eat orange slices, Starburst, or running "gummies."  There are lots of options - you just need to find one that agrees with your tummy! You might not feel hungry during the race, but eating something can give you a mental boost anyway!  On your weekly long run experiment with different foods and the timing of eating them. Do not experiment during the actual race!!!!!!!
5. Try not to skip your long runs!  I know that with kids and work and the cold season that stuff happens.  But, especially with a half marathon, you really need that weekly long run (meaning you only have a certain number of weeks to get to your goal, whereas with marathon training you'll have some cut-back weeks.)  You need to gradually build up your endurance. I personally like to make it to at least 11 miles before I consider myself ready for a half.   You'll find that 'race day excitement' will help you get through those last couple "untrained miles" -- but, trust me, you will feel it afterwards.  Find a training schedule on Pinterest and use it as a starting point. 
take time to run even while on vacation -- these will be your most enjoyable and memorable runs!
6. Lay out EVERYTHING you need the night before. Races are usually pretty early.  (My most recent started at 6:30am.)  Make sure you have your race bib with safety pins, music device fully charged, Fitbit fully charged, outfit picked out and laid out, shoes by the door.  The worst way to start out a race is rushed/stressed because you forgot something.
7. Never trust the first mile - of the race or any of your long runs.  It could be amazing...or it could be super hard.  Your body needs time to find a groove during your race.  I've had long runs where the first seven miles were horrific, then around mile eight I started feeling amazing!  Give it time and enjoy the process.  Really be present during your run and pay attention to your body.  Or maybe zoning out and focusing on the music works better for you.  Slow down if you need to.  Walk if necessary.  Just try to keep going until you reach your goal for the day!
"Did you win, Mama????"  Yes Cormac, yes I did.  ;)
8. Don't skip the water stations.  (or Gatorade if you prefer that)  I've run three half marathons now, and I don't run with a water belt because I find it just too bulky.  There are awesome folks there to hand you cups of water or Gatorade nearly every mile!  This is more than enough water to get you through the race -- provided that you were well-hydrated to begin with.   Also, if there is any other forms of water (misters, sprinklers, people on the sides spraying runners with hoses) don't miss those either!!!!!!  Seriously, getting sprayed mid-race with cold, refreshing water can be a major morale booster!  Just trust me.
    9. Reward yourself!  After the race make sure you reward yourself for accomplishing your goal!  Maybe it is to take a hot bath and then long luxurious nap.  A new pair of running shoes. A vacation?  Or make it as simple as going out for a meal and nice cold adult beverage with your running friends!  We had a couple margaritas after the last half, and, wow - they tasted amazing!   Everything will taste pretty amazing while you are on your runner's high post-race!  Try to avoid anything too heavy or fried, though.  Just sayin'.  (Bowel distress is common.)
    10. Have a positive attitude through it all! Remember, a race this long is not supposed to be easy. If it was easy everyone would do it!  Enjoy the challenge of pushing your body.  Your body is amazing!  It can do things you never thought it could if you treat it right and train properly.  I started out years ago barely being able to run a mile.  Part of that was because I had told myself "I am not a runner."  I hear this from so many people.  If you make it a point to run, you are a runner.   One mile turns into 3.1 which eventually can turn into 13.1, if you want it to!
    I hope this was motivating!
    I've seen so many friends go from "run haters" to regular runners, and it is such a cool transformation to see.

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    Happy Memorial Day weekend!

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    finola is three!

    Dearest Fin,

    Your third year has been fun, busy, and loud...kinda like you!  

    You are such a ray of sunshine in our lives -- always quick with a smile, hug, or a "joke," you definitely prefer to remedy any uncomfortable situation with humor.  You are known to laugh loudly for no apparent reason during awkward moments.  If there is a moment of silence you might insert a belch or a fart to lighten the mood.   

    You like to tease and irritate your brother.  Lordy. This year the two of you learned how to bicker and compete - constantly.  I have been a referee for the past year and I don't see the end of it any time soon.  

    You are my little helper in the kitchen!  You love to volunteer to help me prepare meals, or get the snacks out.  You kinda love food in general.  While I sometimes get initial complaints about eating your vegetables at dinner, you always end up chowing them down at the prospect of dessert.  I remember craving sweets to the extreme when you were in my belly, and your sweet tooth is strong! Favorites are powdered sugar donuts and vanilla ice cream with sprinkles!  No chocolate, though. 

    Favorite non-sugary food?  Easily mac n cheese.  Pretty sure you request this for every meal, even breakfast sometimes.  I limit it to once a week but you would prefer more often.  Hot dogs, cottage cheese and pickles are other frequent requests.

    While you have recently developed a weird bug phobia (okay, not so weird, I hate them, too) you are still my nature girl.  I think you would rather be outside in the dirt and puddles than playing with toys any day.  In fact, I had a hard time thinking of presents to get you for your birthday!  You tend to just want to play with all Cormac's "boy stuff."  Like, you want anything he might be playing with at any given moment.  Sigh. 

    You love singing and dancing and music in general!  You have been known to belt out John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in McDonalds, at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else where an a random audience might listen. 

    Finola, we love you light and fun personality!  You never take anything too seriously, which is sometimes a bit frustrating, but probably a good thing in general.  You are also competitive, assertive, and sometimes bossy and demanding.  You have your share of typical toddler tantrums.  I've learned with you that when you throw a fit, I need to just give you a moment, wait patiently in silence with an understanding look on my face, and then you clearly see your outburst was out of line and then you'll let me hug you.  You say you're sorry without being prompted.  You are very self-aware.

    Other general things of note: you are doing AWESOME with potty training, though still need to wear a pull up at night, and there will be the occasional accident. You do things "yourself" so that makes me happy, even if I have to clean up a few more messes in the bathroom.  (Our concepts of "enough TP" are not quite the same.)  However, we still need to work on appropriate places to use the potty...like maybe not in one of the Lowe's display toilets.  

    And now, because your mama is obsessed with photos and particularly photos set to music...here is your bday slideshow.  The first song is one of our favorites -- and one that really fits our life right now.   

    Finola, you are one of the "good things" in this life we've been blessed with that reminds me how present God is, and what is truly important every day...

    Happy, happy birthday Finola!!!!

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    stitch fix : mother's day fix!

    This year, for Mother's Day,  I decided to treat myself to a Stitch Fix!  My shipment arrived the Friday before, and, as always, it was exciting to see it arrive!  

    I shared my unboxing in this post, and now I'm finally getting around to posting my photos of the items.  Usually I use my tripod, DSLR and remote for my Stitch Fix photo shoots...but alas the memory card for my camera has gone missing.  (Maybe it is lost in the couch with the remote???) Therefore I started off taking the photos outside with my phone propped on the railing of our second floor balcony.  Thankfully my phone didn't fall to a grisly death...but after a couple shots it started raining.  Doh.

    Here are the items from this Fix...
    #1 Loveapella 3/4 Sleeve Shirt
    I found these fabulous fringe Steve Madden sandals at DSW!!!!!  The shorts are the only jorts I own...from Target last year. 
    I know this is a very basic shirt, but I like it.  It is the softest material ever, and I like the contrasting stitching and 3/4 length sleeves (which make your arms look longer and leaner!)  I am still trying to figure out different ways to wear it...but it was a KEEP!  Besides being a nice casual shirt for everyday, it actually dresses up nicely with black pleather leggings and heels, with a statement necklace.  I like versatility!

    As it began to rain I headed inside I went to do mirror selfies - a modern art form I have not yet mastered.  My lighting is terrible, but I think you get the gist.

    #2 White Lace Detailed Tank
    This is a very pretty lace-detailed tank.  I'm not sure the flowy peplum cut is something that flatters me, however. Also, while  I loved the black and white of it, and it was lined, it was still very see-through.  Maybe this is totally okay fashion-wise, I don't know, but I didn't love seeing my strapless very clearly through it.  Not wearing a bra was definitely not an option for me with this one...so it was a return.  Sigh...still searching for a white dressy tank!

    #3  Kyle Skinny Jeans
    These jeans fit, technically -- I mean as skinny jeans they are supposed to be form-fitting, and they were not uncomfortable per se, but a little too "skinny" for me.  Also, the distressing was a little weird.  I felt like someone just sliced two cuts across the knees and called it a day.  When I sat my knees popped out, which made me feel like I was going to completely rip the jeans.  I need to be comfortable - er, as comfortable as one can be in skinny jeans - and I just wasn't.  To be honest, wearing most skinny jeans makes me kinda crabby.  They are cute and fine while out and about and distracted...but then I'll find myself super cranky and I'll be trying to figure out why...then it dawns on me...I'm wearing skinny jeans!  Then, if I am at home, I promptly change into yoga pants.

    But for all you skinny jeans lovers...these were okay!  For skinny jeans.

    #4 Orange Suede Cork Wedge Heels
    I was excited that Stitch Fix offers shoes now, and even more pumped to find some in my Fix!  These wedges are bright and fun for spring, and I love a cork wedge.  However, the price point was pretty high ($120) and if I am gonna spend that much on a pair of shoes it needs to be a style I would wear A LOT.  This color won't work with a lot of outfits...so they were sent back.

    #5 Collective Concepts Cold Shoulder Printed Top 
    jeans - Stitch Fix // shoes - TJ maxx
    This bright and fun top was the definite winner of this Fix!  I love the cold shoulder look, and am glad it is back for the summer.   The spaghetti straps are nice as I don't feel like it is going to fall off.  You could probably get away with not wearing a bra, although I am gonna wear a strapless for sure.

    Here is a closer detail of the print - interesting sort of boho, which I adore.  I am not a huge pink person, but I like it on this.  Bonus : Hubby loooooved this top!  So it was a definite keeper! 

     So that's it for this Fix!  

    Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?  
    I highly recommend trying out this online styling service...it is so much fun!  You communicate with your stylist via online request notes, your Pinterest board, and your feedback on items she sends in each Fix.  I find it is best to be both specific and honest about your likes and dislikes.  

    You keep only what you like!  You schedule shipments for as often, or not often, as you like! 
    It's all about you, sister. 

    This is especially good for those of us who don't love shopping at the mall anymore.  With two tiny children I just don't have the time.  This makes it so I have several days to try on the clothes, with all my other clothes, make a good decision, then send it back it the USPS bag they provide for me.  

    I don't have to deal with crowds or leave the house at all.
    Introvert paradise!  :D

    Click the photo below to get started!

    ***If you sign up for Stitch Fix using the links on my website and end up getting a Fix shipped, I do get a small commission...which I would most likely use to do more Stitch Fix posts in the future! :D

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    In other news, we were part of a Prohibition/20's style progressive dinner this past Saturday night, and I am still recovering.  Since becoming a mama I rarely stay up past midnight, and as my close friends will tell you, I have been known to get sleepy pretty quick when drinking any adult beverages past 9pm.  However, we had a blast being one of the homes on the dinner progression, and while I didn't take many detail shots I had so much fun decorating our home to be 20's glam and preparing some "fancy" apps for our neighbors/friends!

    Here is a shot of me and my sweet friend Niki in our outfits for the night!

    I love this style...can it all come back in fashion, pretty please?

    Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!