Saturday, January 02, 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016

2016 Goals

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Last year, I wasn't sure I would write down goals (I did). This year, I've been thinking about my goals for 2016 for a week already. But first, I reflected on some of the things that were so right about 2015...what I learned and want to continue:

1. It truly does not matter what others think. I thought I was pretty good at knowing and acting on that truth, but I came even closer to just being happy to be ME in 2015.

2. #offthebeam. Yes, one of my great takeaways from 2015 is a hashtag inspired by Jen Hatmaker's For the Love. The book itself was great and definitely worth a read, but one of the main kernels of wisdom that resonated with me was the fact that I do not have to do everything...or have all the things on my beam. This was something that of course I knew, but had never before heard it spelled out quite like Jen did. It stuck. And it was life-changing.


And goals for this new year. Mostly the same as years past. 

1. Keep reading. I managed to read 67 books in 2015 and I can honestly say it's one of the best things I can do for myself. Reading is the best.

2. Complete more photo books. I was able to make several in 2015. I'd like to go even further in 2016 and catch up a little bit...if possible. Photos are just so important to me and I'd really like to have them in print. 

3. Teach Life Skills to the boys. Some of this happened in 2015 and it was really rewarding. For them and for me. I definitely want to continue being intentional about this.  

4. Travel. Always. This will always be on the list. I do want to take the kids SO many places. One trip at a time. 

5. Be active. This one will also always be on the list. Because it is far from natural for me. I have no specific parameters or goals here...just to be more active.

6. Re-Organize the whole house. Last year, I said the garage, which is still not done. But this year, after being in this house for 2 years, I have a good idea of what organizational systems work for us, and those that need tweaking. (And yes, the garage needs "tweaking" or maybe just a system to begin with). I also know what we've used or not used in the past two years, so I'd like to clean out every single room, space, and closet. (I'm already 1/3 there...the upstairs is ALL DONE.)

7. Write More. I miss writing on the blog. I have lots of blog posts in my head that I just never get around to writing...that don't necessarily have photos to share with them. Although I love sharing photos too. I promised myself that I wouldn't keep up with my blog just because I felt like I had to (see #offthebeam). If it ever became a burden instead of a blessing to me, then I'd stop. But writing will always be a blessing to me. And although I don't have to write on my blog, it is a good place to do it. And a good place to keep my writing.

8. Get IN more photos. I am going to set up my tripod, figure out my remote shutter, and take more photos with me in them! I should probably set a specific goal for this one so it is measurable...maybe at least once a month?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: Year in Review

Last year, on the last day of the year, I took a moment to reflect on the year that had passed. I assembled some of my favorite memories in photos from the year and posted them. I liked looking back on it so much, that I'm doing it again this year.

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2015 really was another great year for us. We made so many memories together and experienced a lot of "firsts" together.

We got a ton of snow and ice at the beginning of the year in February.

In March, we took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge for the first time.

In April, Casey and I went on a very quick, but wonderful trip to Asheville, North Carolina and visited the Biltmore. (1, 2, 3)

In May, Ethan finished out another season of baseball, Logan graduated from preschool, and we also went on our first cruise as a family.  1, 2, 3, the ship, 4, 5, 6, 7

In June, Ethan also went to his second year of Kid Quest at ACU in Abilene. I did not take my camera this year and did not regret that decision. I did post some photos to Instagram while we were there, though. 

The first week of July, we went to Durango, Colorado for a week. 

The boys and I went to the Lake House in July while Casey went on a hunting trip.

In August, BOTH boys started school. Ethan started 2nd grade, and Logan started TK (transitional Kindergarten). 

In September, my mom and I took a mother/daughter trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando (yes, my second visit this year!), and also to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

This fall, the boys both played soccer on teams with their best buddies, Ashton and Brennan. 

For Halloween, the boys dressed up as Harry Potter (Ethan) and Ron (Logan). We went trick or treating with friends for the first time this year.

The boys and I spent the first part of the week of Thanksgiving at the lake house with Pop. 

In December, both boys were in Christmas programs at school. Ethan had a speaking part in his program and did a fantastic job. Logan played one of the three wise men in his play. Ethan also lost both of his front teeth! 

***There are a LOT of posts I have not posted from 2015 yet. Pretty much July - December has not been done. So, when I get those posted, hopefully I will remember to come back to this post and add in the links! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween

Yesterday I took the boys out for a Harry Potter photo shoot. They decided a long time ago to be Harry and Ron for Halloween this year, which was basically what I've been waiting for since they were born. And we've been planning this photo shoot for a while too. We were all excited about it.

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Two things went wrong...1) Ethan broke his wand 5 minutes in. I had to call Casey to bring us another one. Thank goodness we were in the neighborhood. And 2) Logan's tummy hurt so he didn't feel good. It turned out to be nothing more than hunger (thank GOODness).

They were so excited about the dueling part. And they flipped over the "magic" I added in Photoshop. Honestly, I'm so glad they're pleased, because this type of photoshopping is not something I'm very good at!

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I seriously love their faces in this one! Both expressions. I think they're threatening me with "petrificus totalis."

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Ethan makes the sweetest Harry Potter. We are replacing his wand, by the way. (This time.)

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And Logan was really such a trooper. He wanted to do the photos so badly, but his tummy was bothering him a lot. You can tell by his smile...but he did it, sweet boy. 

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Logan liked the sitting shots because he felt better. He kept asking to sit down, so we did several like that.

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I didn't plan on adding magic to this photo of Ethan, but he had his hand like that (for some unknown reason) and I thought it looked like something magical should go there.

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They kept asking me if I could do a Patronus in Photoshop. I was less than confident about it, but I did it. Sort of. Don't judge! Again, they were thrilled...and that's what I was going for!

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I asked them both what animal they wanted for their Patronus and they both chose a dog. No surprise there. 

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A few more dueling photos...because this really was their favorite part.

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Ron and Harry...just discussing things. Maybe wondering where Hermione went? (Check the library, guys.)

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And there they go...marching off to the Forbidden Forest. 

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Last Minute Father's Day Card

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My boys LOVED "making" these cards for their daddy this year. Never mind that we did it at almost the very last minute! I loved that it was super-simple and did not actually require a lot of "making!"

(The cards are available for download at the bottom of this post.)

I just had the boys use blue and yellow watercolor paints to make a background on the front of their cards. Then, I printed the cards out and cut out just the Minions and the words and glued them on the front of their (dried) cards. When that was done, the boys wrote/drew their own messages on the inside of the cards.

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You can either print them out, cut out the entire card on the grey line, and fold it in half...or do like I did and just cut out the Minion and words. Then you can glue it on your own background or design. 

Click on each image to download.
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Monday, June 15, 2015

Ethan's Magical 7th Birthday Party

Last year, about a week after his 6th birthday party, Ethan told me he wanted an "under the sea" party this year. He is fascinated with oceans and sea life. So, when spring rolled around this year, I tentatively started planning that party. Then, Harry Potter hit our family when I started reading the first book to the boys. And then Ethan asked me if he could change his mind and have a Harry Potter party. There was never any question as to how I would answer him. Even if I was not such a huge fan myself, I would have gladly done that for him. And I hadn't gotten past the invitations for the other theme anyway. 

Sometime after this final decision was made, we also decided to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando on our way to and from our Disney Cruise right after school. Needless to say, we brought home some things that made for very authentic decorations for the party. Like t-shirts for the whole family...

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First, the invitations. I knew I wanted it to look like a Hogwarts letter. This design was actually printed on the front and back of a folded card so that it looked like the outside of the letter when it was closed and the inside opened up to the letter. I knew I had nailed it when Ethan was awe-struck when I showed these to him the day they arrived from the printer. I don't care how much easier it is to do an Evite, there is just no replacement for receiving a Hogwarts letter invitation. 

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The text of the letter says: "Dear friend of Mr. Ethan Cooke, We are pleased to inform you that you have been invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to celebrate the 7th birthday of Ethan Cooke. Students are requested to report to (our address) at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, the 5th of June, 2015. Festivities will conclude at 6 o'clock in the evening. A pizza dinner will be served at the celebration. Please send reply by owl, email, or text with word of your availability. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you are able to visit Hogwarts for this very special occasion. Yours Sincerely, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress."

So then, with the invitations out of the way, I could get to the decorations. I don't know that I've ever had more fun with decorating for a party. I scoured Pinterest for ideas and came up with some gems. I could have done so much more, but selected the things I thought had the most impact, but were not so time consuming. These letters hanging from our mantel were supposed to be like Harry's Hogwarts letters coming out of the Dursley's fire place in the first book/movie. 

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We also used the Hedwig plush we had bought at the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley a couple of weeks before. The packages are just Amazon boxes covered with brown paper. I added a few stamps and an address label as well. 

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Parties at home are my thing. I love them. And mostly because these two love them. They always request parties at home and I could not be more happy to oblige. Seeing their faces when I put up the decorations makes it that much more fun for me too. 

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The potions table was a lot of fun. I collected those glass bottles...mostly from HomeGoods. 

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The dragon egg was a last minute addition and a special request from the birthday boy. He wanted one like Hagrid's. It's just a paper mache egg that I sponge painted with 3 different colors, gold being the last one so it shimmered a little. I was actually pleased with the results, especially since it only took me about 5 total minutes to paint. Of course, Scabbers was hanging around too. 

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The Felix Felicis potion is cream soda, the Elixir of Life is water with blue food coloring, and the Veritaserum is root beer. The Gillyweed is actually tall grass that we quickly picked from the lot across the street from our house. 

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The sweets table was the only one I really decorated. The pizza, grapes, and other savory foods were just placed on our kitchen table to make it accessible to the kids. But here, I had some fun making some of the treats from the Harry Potter world. 

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Ethan wanted chocolate cupcakes, which was easy enough. I added little gold sprinkles for a magical touch as well as the Hogwarts crests. 

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I found a frog candy mold to make some chocolate frogs...of course. Ethan was so thrilled by these. In the background, you can see some (empty) candy boxes we picked up at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade on our trip. 

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The chocolate golden snitches are Ferrero Rocher candy balls with vellum wings that I glued on. 

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These mini cauldrons are filled with cotton candy, which also has the convenient effect of looking like smoke bubbling from the pots. Again, another hit with my boys. They loved this. 

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I went ahead and put the real identity of the Polyjuice Potion on the label so people would know what they were really getting. Although the kids didn't really care. 

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I wouldn't have even though to do Gilly Water labels on the water bottles until I saw the Gilly Water at the Wizarding World in Orlando. 

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I went easy on the party favors this time and my favorite part of them were the little bags. A Gryffindor tie and special message for Ethan's friend and that was it!

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I made a bookmark in Photoshop using one of my favorite quotes. Then, I used self laminating sheets to seal them and added a string. Also in the bags was a small box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans that I purchased on Amazon. The kids added their wizard paraphernalia (wand and glasses - see below) to their bags when they left. 

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On the entry table, we had another Scabbers - he gets around - another package, and a lantern. And a couple of tickets on the Hogwarts Express, because in this same room, was Platform 9 3/4. 

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When the kids walked in, they could choose a wand and some glasses. I also had a couple of black eye liner pencils with which to draw scars on foreheads for the kids that wanted them (which was all but one). 

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After they became a wizard, they could pass through our brick wall between platforms 9 and 10. Honestly, this was such an easy element, and I didn't expect just how entertaining it would be for all the kids. They really loved it!

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Once our friends started showing up, Ethan walked them through the process of selecting their wands and acquiring their glasses and scars. 

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Then everyone ran through the wall and into the party. 

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As fun as the inside of the house was, there were bounce houses outside. This is one of the reasons the boys want a party at home. It is so fun for them to have these in our own back yard. For them, there's something different about it than the bounce places (which they also love). This huge one is an obstacle course. 

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We also had a 16' dry slide. 

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Ethan even caught some air on this journey down the slide...

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They all had tons of fun with both bounce houses. I got more photos of them on the slide because it was open and the obstacle course didn't allow me to really see the kids very well when they were inside. 

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After wearing themselves out playing, it was time for cupcakes and pizza. 

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I love that Logan helped Ethan blow out his candles. That was very spontaneous, I think. 

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After everyone was filled up with food and treats, Ethan opened his gifts. 

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One of his favorites was this Harry Potter pillow from Mimi and Pop. Isn't it adorable? Its from an Etsy shop and it's really well-made. (Logan got a Ron one later). 

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He was also impressed with the Buckbeak the Hippogriff plush. 

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The last present he opened was a winner too, for sure. A broomstick from Nonnie and Papaw!

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This party was, and probably will be, one of my most favorite ones we've ever had. All of us had fun with it and the boys plan on playing with some of the decorations when they play Harry Potter with their robes they got last Christmas. What a happy birthday party for our big 7 year old!

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