Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smoke & S'Mores

I know I've said this before, but I love my parents' house. They love to entertain us and both have such a knack for making this place feel like home, even when I haven't lived there in almost half my life. In the fall, the sun sets at just the right moment in their backyard. You can just see the cotton field through the trees and if you're quiet, you can just hear the coyotes howling from afar. The Texaco sign on the barn is all lit up and the entire place smells like a campfire.

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We eat hot dogs and doritos and drink gallons of sweet tea.

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We do our homework around the fire and complain a little because mom forgot to bring us warm pajamas.

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We chase this little guy and keep him from falling headfirst into the fire. We play kickball until it's too dark to find in the woods and complain about being too full after dinner.

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We burn marshmallows and make s'mores with pumpkin shaped Reese's Cups. We laugh because after giving a speech on how we are doing it all wrong, my dad's marshmallows slide off the stick into the fire.

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We make fun of these two for being twins with their iPhones, but that's only moments before I join them to post a few pictures on Instagram. The first official campfire of the season can't go undocumented.

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We are all smiles because our aunt is in town for the week and she'll indulge all of our stories and our giggles and our silly songs. We show her our math skills and try on the new clothes she brought and make spend the night plans for later in the week.

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We will regretfully load up our trunks and head home in the dark because it's a school night and their feet are black from playing outside barefoot and we still have chores to do before bed. It's late and we're tired, but I can't think of a better way to spend a Monday night at home with my tribe.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Letters

Dear Monday, Thanks for showing up so quickly. You always manage to ruin the perfect weekend.

Dear Alabama Football, Thanks for being much kinder to us this weekend. Our Saturday was filled with good friends (and pretty babies), corn hole and more barbecue that one could possible eat. The day was going to be pretty much perfect anyway, but a 59-0 finish over Texas A&M certainly helped.

Hanging with this pretty today! #rolltideyall ❤️ Untitled

Dear The Most Amazing Dry Shampoo of All Time, Thank you for making me look completely put together and CLEAN, even when I'm not. I have successfully worn three-day hair to work on numerous occasions in the last few weeks because of you.

Y'all. It's time for a very important public service announcement. This dry shampoo is THE BEST. For reals. It cost me less than $10 at Walgreens, it's tinted so no more granny white hairs and it let's me go an extra day between shampoos! < Wait. You wash

Dear Jerry Seinfeld, Why can't I seem to find the bit I'm looking for on YouTube? You know, the one you've opened with every time we've seen you live? Where you talk about making plans for something in the far off future sounds super fun when you buy the tickets, but then you wake up and say, "Wait. That's today?!"

Dear Cask + Drum, You were a pretty fantastic little music festival. Even though Josh pretty much gave me that Seinfeld routine up there verbatim, he was all smiles once we got to the venue. What is not to love about food trucks and good music?! We even got cool t-shirts and made it home in time for kick-off. Roll Tide.

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photo by Andi Rice via Cask + Drum's Facebook Page -- see us on the front row?!

Dear Jamestown Revival, Thank you for being just as fabulous on stage as we knew you would be. Thanks for taking a photo with this cheesy mama of two and for helping me feel a little less embarrassed about the fact that my husband asked you to get off stage and pose with me. Thanks for catchy songs to dance to in our kitchen when we're cooking dinner and the promise of great things to come.

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Dear Heated Throw, You were worth every bit of the $20 I spent on you at Wal-Mart last week. Thank you for keeping me warm in my office, even though I kind of look like a grandma all wrapped up when people come by to chat. I was tired of battling off frostbite from the comfort of my office chair.

Dear Sweet Fluffy Angel Wing Pillow Sent Straight from Heaven Above, How how we lived without you for the last 34 years?! First Josh bought you for himself, but I've been secretly sleeping on your tiny corner after he falls asleep. I swear I hear harps and babies laughing every single time I lay my head down. I've since electronically transmitted the $37 necessary to make you mine.

Dear Amazon Prime, Please {dear sweet baby Jesus} deliver the aforementioned pillow safely to my doorstep on Wednesday.

Dear Spotify, Again with the monthly subscriptions to glorious things, but thank you for delivering pretty much every album of all time for the nominal fee of $10 per month. I will never overspend on iTunes ever again.

Dear All the Friends Who Recommended Spotify, You were right. Thank you and good day.

Dear iPhone 6, I am still longing for the day I get to make you mine. Just fourteen days and counting.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Small Town Friday Night

This is one of those posts that I write every year and I feel like I say the same thing over and over again. Do you mind?

Living in a small town is one of my favorite things. It has its disadvantages, certainly, but there are so many wonderful things that we choose to focus on those instead. High School Homecoming is the highlight of football season and everybody in town turns out for a full week of events. With dance pretty much monopolizing our lives, we had to opt out of the weeknight activities, but boy did we shop up on Friday. 

We don't send our girls to school on Homecoming any more because it is always too hard to get them checked out and either lined up for the parade or camped out downtown to watch. Josh sat in a carpool line for hours one year and vowed to never do that again! I took a half-day off this year and they were pacing the floor when I walked in the back door! Armed with a blanket and our brother-cousin, we walked a few blocks from home and found a nice place to sit and wait on the sirens to round the corner. 

Did I mention it was smoking hot?!

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We usually sit on the other side of this railroad bridge because my favorite part is to finally see the police cars come under the overpass, but we opted to hang out here this year. The crowd was thinner and we were a block closer to home. I promise you when K and I walked these three tired, sugar-crazy kids home we were glad not to have that extra block to contend with.

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Of course, every girl's favorite part of the parade are the firetrucks full of cheerleaders. I remember loving that as a little girl, too! 

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Now my favorite part is scoring a Blow-Pop while the kids are fighting over Tootsie Rolls and Skittles!

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We were planning to walk to the high school for the Pep Rally after the parade, but they were hot and sweaty and everyone agreed what they really needed was a shower and a nap! We had a few hours at home in the cool before it was time to don our black and gold and walk to the Annual Alumni Tailgate. That is definitely one thing I'll miss about this neighborhood -- we just packed up our wagon and walked down the street!

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Sophie was promptly greeted by all kinds of sweet faces. There was never a girl who loved her friends more than this one.

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And those cousins! Soph and Blakelee take dance together this year, so they are pretty in love with each other. Blakelee's mama even said she was worried Sophie wouldn't love her new shirt! Could they be any cuter?

What is Homecoming without our family photo op. Can't you tell how happy J is taking this one? I promised him if he would just pose for a few minutes and get it over with that I wouldn't bother him all night.

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I can assure you that this meal was NOT Whole30 approved. We had BBQ, pringles, brownies and buffalo chicken dip. The Dr. Peppers just might have been endless, too...

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I always love to get a good picture with my mama and my sister. Lucy (not my mom's real name, but I still call her that most of the time) wasn't happy with this one because of her head-tilt, but it was my favorite. How pretty are they?

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We won the game, but not on Friday. The weather turned bad after half-time and the refs post-poned the finish because of lightening. They waited patiently for quite awhile before deciding to resume the game on Saturday night! We were at home watching the miserable win by Bama over Arkansas, so we missed the big finish, but we won the game, which is always nice on Homecoming.

And because we all know I like a good comparison, here are my favorite family photo ops from the most recent Alumni Tailgates.

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2012 -- click here to read

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2013 -- click here to read

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2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Whole30 // Round Two

When I *finished* my first round of Whole30 in September, I posted about my plans for how to move forward. I should have known that when I don't have major structure in place that I tend to convince myself it's okay to cheat. When I was looking at the calendar, I realized that I didn't have any special events planned to get me off track and that I had exactly 30 days between now and a trip with my girlfriends in November. So begins round two of Whole30 for my household.

On Sunday afternoon, Josh and I planned out breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week and I spent two hours alone at two different grocery stores. Like clockwork, I had several people comment on the things in my shopping cart and how they needed to come eat healthy at our house. I guess I don't know what other people buy at the grocery store?! Even when we aren't on Whole30, I still buy all fresh meat and produce and very little processed food, with the exception of some afternoon snacks for the girls. It is more expensive, but it tastes so much better and it so much better for you to cook from scratch!

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When I got home, I spent a few more hours in the kitchen getting everything ready for the week. We cooked our favorite pasta dish with goat cheese and fresh broccoli for dinner before we said goodbye to grains and dairy. While dinner was on the stove, Sophie helped me prep all the fruits and veggies for the week.

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I washed and portioned grapes, watermelon, bell peppers, onions, celery, strawberries and lettuce for the week. Then Sophie helped by making salads for her daddy's lunch for the week. She was so careful selecting the veggies and measuring them out for each jar.

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We also made homemade mayonnaise and salad dressing to keep us from cheating and I whipped up a big batch of compliant chicken salad for my lunches for the week.

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On Monday afternoon, I finally sat down and watched Fed Up. Have you seen it? I won't say it will keep me from ever sipping a soft drink again in my life, but it certainly changed the way I viewed food.

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I learned a lot in September about how much added sugar is in pretty much every item in the grocery store, but this movie helped to make it even more real. We've essentially doubled our sugar intake since 1977 -- out of 600,000 food items available to us, over 80% of them have added sugar?! That's insane. The recommended amount of daily sugar intake for a woman is 6 teaspoons a day. One can of soda has the equivalent to 9.75 teaspoons of sugar. ONE CAN. The movie demonstrated the amount of sugar the average person consumes each day and it was something like 40 teaspoons. It made me so sick to watch what we are doing to ourselves and to our children because of a lack of understanding.


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I am so guilty of saying we eat healthy and that I feed my children good foods, but when I looked at the pantry on Monday night I felt sick. I don't want to deprive my children and certainly don't want to be a food nazi, but there has to be a better way to feed them. A compromise, if you will. I'm working on making a few small changes to the way I pack their lunches each day and really encouraging them to make better choices on their own. I think it helps when they see us step away from the soda and make better choices ourselves. I've also been guilty of letting them eat something completely different than us for dinner at night. They still eat pretty well <insert our variety plate concept here>, but there is no reason they shouldn't be trying new foods and watching their parents eat real food at the dinner table, right?


On Monday night, we had grilled chicken and potato hash for dinner. I cubed white potatoes and sweet potatoes, tossed them in olive oil, sprinkled on onion salt, garlic powder, salt and pepper and roasted them in the oven for 45 minutes. I decided that during this round of Whole30, the kids could try something we were eating each night, alongside some healthy items that I already know they like. Ella's plate had chicken, a few spoonfuls of the potatoes, watermelon and strawberries. Sophie had chicken (which she doesn't love), a banana, applesauce and potatoes. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the video I posted above {that refuses to be centered no matter what I do!!}. Ella was wailing at the table over three bites of sweet potatoes. I wish my camera hadn't cut off, because this little clip is a tiny snippet of her reaction. I'll admit that I didn't think I loved sweet potatoes either, but I have become a fast fan and we now eat them weekly. Sophie wasn't thrilled either, but she did eat her chicken and a few bites of veggies, too. 

On Tuesdays, I typically pick up pizza after dance class because it is 8 o'clock before Ella gets home from the studio. I decided not to buy any fast food this month and, again, the girls were frustrated. Ella loves roast, so she was happy with dinner and Sophie ate several bites alongside other fruits and veggies that she loves. I know it's going to be a slow process, but I'm determined to introduce them to some new things this month. I don't want to force them to eat things they don't like -- I'm not planning to eat eggplant any time soon -- but at the same time, I know I need to broaden their horizons a little bit. They'll never know what they don't like until they actually try it!

So, that's that. We're giving Whole30 another chance to whip our household into shape. I'll apologize in advance for clogging your blog reader and your Instagram feed with a bunch of food this month. I'll try to squeeze in some funny videos and silly smiles every once in awhile!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Letters

Sophie

Dear Sophie,

I thought for sure you would take to elementary school like a champ. You seem so grown up and four year old kindergarten is all you talked about for months before classes started. We picked out a backpack and talked about navigating the cafeteria. We visited your classroom and got you all ready to meet new friends. As eager as you were, school has not been without it's challenges.

I worry a lot that we did the right thing, sending you a year early. If we had kept you at home one more year, would you be more ready? Would you have settled down a little and be easier to engage? Or would we be facing these same tears, but during a more critical year of instruction?

Last week you came home and told me, "Did you know they don't even let you watch TV during naptime?!" as if it were a national tragedy. You are struggling a bit with the structure of the day and not being the free-spirited Taz you are used to. You can't decide whether to eat breakfast at home or carry it in a sack or choose circle cereal from the line. Your opinion on the matter changes daily and with each new opinion, you're mad that I would even suggest otherwise. My girl who used to sleep seven hours a night with no nap, is sleeping through snack time and doesn't want to get out of bed in the mornings. I get reports of teary eyes because Gran didn't speak to you in the hall or because you just wanted to give your blanket, Pink, one more squeeze before getting out of the car. She bought you a new blanket to leave with your nap mat and you don't like it as well as Pink, but it's soft and snuggly and you named it Blue. She put extra baggies of circle cereal in her room, just in case you panic at breakfast again. 

And just when I start to second guess myself, you come home with a smile on your face. You pile into my bed for a pizza picnic and tell me that you love school and that you "didn't fall in the potty today." You pull out your beautiful art work and hang it proudly on the bulletin board next to Ella's. You tell me about the fire drill and the painting center and how Phoenix got moved to a new chair and now she sits right by you! You rounded the corner and your eyes lit up when I surprised you at lunchtime last week and you are so excited to finally remember your carpool number. 

Oh, how I'm glad you aren't quite grown up yet. Ella breezed into elementary school and never looked back. It was easier, sure, but she didn't leave any 'little' behind at all. Thank you for lingering, for growing up slowly and dragging your blanket around the dirty floors. You can wait to be big another day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Shopping with Ella

As Ella gets older, she gets fewer and fewer toys for her birthday. If it isn't a book, clothes or make believe, she just isn't interested. This has been pretty typical of her growing up -- she has never really been the kind of child who played with "things" unless they involved dressing up or using her extreme imagination. Since she was having a slumber party this year, we didn't have a big family party like we normally would. Instead, they all tried to visit her at some point during her birthday week and she got tons of gift cards. Girl racked up and had been looking forward to spending it all -- cue the shopping trip. 


If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen this post on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. They were pretty quick to pose for a selfie in our first dressing room of the day! 

When we left the house, she was firmly in the camp of "I'm buying LOTS of books, SOME clothes and maybe a FEW toys". True to her nature, we ended up with lots of books, lots of clothes and zero toys. When I asked her exactly what she was looking for, she said she wanted to buy clothes that looked like her cousin Kassidy (who's a junior in college and has a great sense of style). She wanted wedges, rompers and harem pants. Oh, my.

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Anchor hoodie & Joe's Jeans via Nordstrom Rack

Our first stop was Macy's since both girls had a gift card to spend from their Aunt Lane. Sophie was easy and picked out a dress and two outfits and of course, I had to loan her $24 to complete her purchase since she just couldn't make a decision!

Ella had arm fulls of things to try on there and had a tough time narrowing down her selection, especially since it was our first stop. We ended up ranking the things she tried on from best to worst and let the cashier tell her the total after each piece. Once everything was totaled up, she elected to put a few things back and move on. The cashiers were so sweet with her and they just fawned all over both girls. I apologized to everyone around for how slow we were, but they all enjoyed the process so much. It was a great first stop.

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 distressed jeans, aztec print top, & dotted jeans via Nordstrom Rack // metallic cardigan via Justice

We might not have found a romper appropriate for fall, but Macy's did have these super cute harem pants. The smallest size was a little big for her in the waist, but Gran remedied that pretty quickly. She said they were super comfy and loved how they looked with her Target gladiators from earlier in the summer.

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She paired them with a layered, Aztec print top -- again from Macy's -- that was on sale for less than $10. This outfit was probably her biggest bargain of the day!

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chevron harem pants and layered top via Macy's

We spent some time in Books-a-Million and she got 5 new chapter books, two of which were books one and two of a new series she wanted to try. She is SUCH an advanced reader, so I have to help her pick out things that are going to hold her attention, but still be age appropriate. I think we got some good ones and I can't wait to hear about how she likes them. She also picked a book up for her sister, to repay the favor, since Sophie spend some of her birthday money on her earlier in the year.

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floral dress via Nordstrom Rack // chevron dress via Macy's

Dresses are a huge bone of contention between us. Stylistically, I think we are drawn to the same things, but she gets bored with dresses and declares that she "never really liked them anyway". I refuse to dress shop without her in tow because I've been burned too many times! She found several dresses that she loved, but being the thrifty shopper that I now know her to be, she opted to spend most of her cash on things she could wear to school. She did wear the chevron number for school pictures last week, though!

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The adventure in the shoe store was probably my favorite. First, she picked out a pair of silver metallic flats for $15 that would have been great for church and school. Then she found an adorable pair of tribal print, wedge sandals on sale for $10 that we both adored!! She decided that $25 was okay for one store, but as we were walking out she spotted those suede wedge booties and wanted to try them on. They were $25, but she was in love with them before I could help her tie them. I assumed she meant to buy them all, but she put the first two back, refusing to spend fifty whole dollars in just one store! I think she did pretty well on the booties -- I might need to track those down in my size.

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She got all of these clothes, five chapter books for her and a story book for Sophie for just over $300. We discussed that she didn't have to spend it all in one trip, but she knew what she was looking for and made very careful selections. It took us about three hours to try everything on and decide what to keep and what to put back. She knows that there will be very few times when we have this much money to spend it one day on herself, but it was a fun treat and I was so impressed with how she budgeted and made sure to stick to her list. It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon with my girls, even if I was a little jealous of her clothing budget ;).

The light-up runway is the Vantad Rug from IKEA and was probably her favorite birthday gift this year. She has been strutting her stuff and practicing her walk for days!