Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Vacation Swimming with Speedo

This post was sponsored by Speedo. I received Speedo products as compensation.

We were so excited for the holiday break, not just of course for the magic of Christmas morning, but for the opportunity to spend the week with family.  We headed back to Pennsylvania for the first time since moving south.  It had been a hard adjustment for the girls who used to be only 15 minutes from their PopPop and Nanny to no longer be able to visit whenever, but PopPop was a genius and was able to get all the grandkids together for a few nights at an indoor waterpark resort over the holiday break.

The kids had such a blast spending time with each other, as they always do, but this time with the added fun of an indoor waterpark.  The girls really grew in their swimming ability this past summer, but hadn't been in the water since Labor Day.  I anticipated that they might be a bit rusty, but they just picked up where they left off.

By the end of the summer Ashlynn was jumping in unassisted and going under all on her own.  She was still wearing her floaties, but we were pretty sure she was ready to start testing the water without them.

We loved trying out her new Begin to Swim fabric arm bands while staying at the waterpark.  They gave her the security she needs while allowing her to adjust to her own body's buoyancy.  These will definitely become the new summer staple as she learns to swim confidently on her own.

Kenley was so excited to have a pair of her own pink goggles that matched her sister's purple set.   Ashlynn's Speedo googles really made a big difference with getting her to put her face in the water, and now Kenley is less resistant to blowing bubbles and getting an underwater view.

And while the kids no doubt had a total blast, we have to talk about mom for a minute.  Rocking a bikini when getting some sun at the beach is something I'm okay with, but when you take away the sand and sun and add in chasing kids, funneling down slides, and shooting water canons at splash pads a bikini is just not the practical choice.  Having a comfortable, yet flattering one piece is essential.  I have been a loyal fan of Speedo swimsuits since childhood, and to prove the test of time, I still have one from high school that I dig out whenever swimming in a gym pool!  I was so excited to wear my new Cross Back Thin Strap suit to the park.  It never came out of place, crawling here or slipping there.   I love the color blocking for giving the illusion of a slimmer figure, which let's face it after all the Christmas cookies, was totally welcomed!

And for when I was running around grabbing drinks, snacks, chaperoning potty trips, and taking nap breaks to recharge in our hotel room, this grab and go cover up, that was as practical as it is cute, was the perfect addition to my luggage.  It's perfect for the waterpark, pool, and beach.

Speedo definitely helped prepare my family for our winter vacation and I can't wait to go swimming again hopefully before summer.  Check out for your family's winter getaway needs!

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Loving Lately

Just a pop in of things, I feel compelled to share with the world... or 5 people who still read here.

The girls' classes were cancelled on Monday due to a delayed start for the school district, so we spent some of our morning at the library.  They picked out this book, Little Red Gliding Hood, and it is seriously sooo cute.  Lots of cameos from your favorite storybook characters telling a new adventure for Little Red who loves ice skating.

I might be way behind the times with this one, but I am obsessed with Crayola Twistable Crayons. It's like crayon meets eyeliner.  Ashlynn loves to peel the paper off crayons which makes me twitchy and a huge mess.  I also feel like crayons are constantly snapping in half, maybe it's because they are naked or because the kids are just actually breaking them in half on purpose, but these twisters are awesome.  They help the girls with their pincer grip since they hold them like pencils.  We have the set that comes with neons, metallics, and multi-colors and they are huge hit.

I was a bit unsure during the holiday what to get for my teenage nieces.  Toddlers I have nailed down, but teens actually have opinions, and actually remembering my teens years vs my toddler, I remember how hard to please I could be.  Since they are southern girls, I decided to go monogramming something and picked up S'well for Target water bottles.  The bottles were on sale for $10 a piece and I was able to get them monogrammed at a local shop nearby. Going through Etsy would have cost double, shop local friends!  They were a huge hit with the girls and to be honest, I kind of wish I picked one up for myself!  This will definitely be on my Mother's Day wishlist.

I stocked up on a bunch of athletic gear from Old Navy last week when it was up to 50% off plus additional 30% off all items.  Everything should be arriving tomorrow, so I'll follow up if it's worth the pennies I paid.  I've never purchased work out clothes from them and was a bit hesitant too, but I've heard good things, so I'll be sure to share my sometimes picky opinion.

What are you currently loving?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Merry Merry

We had such a great holiday break, it was so fun having the girls be old enough to truly enjoy everything we had planned and that magic of the season had to offer.  We baked cookies, waited for Santa and his five firetruck motorcade, sprinkled reindeer food in the backyard, and basically every other standard holiday tradition we could squeeze in.

The girls had a magical visit from Santa, bring Ashlynn her much requested Torch, My Blazing Dragon and Kenley her 'red cash register'.   He also brought a set of wooden bunk beds for their WellieWishers and a highchair for their baby dolls.   They also got some new bath and playdoh toys, hooded towels, clothes, headphones, books, games, and an awesome dollhouse from Bopo and Yaya.

I love the dollhouse because it's big enough, two sided, that they can both play without pushing each other around.  It came will all the furniture which is color coded to each room (so they haven't stuck the toilet in the nursery yet) and is actually sturdy, unlike my plastic and cardboard Barbie Townhouse of yesteryear.  I could have definitely taken the time to customize it all pinteresty before putting together, but I'm glad it's a hot pink, purple, green and orange monstrosity.  Less pretty for me to look at, but definitely more vibrant for them to play with since I don't think they appreciate the white farmhouse and rifle paper flower wallpaper look as much as I do, ha.

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home, playing with our new toys and packing up for our trip.  We left early the next morning to head back to PA for our adventure filled trip.  We spent a solid 30+ hours in the car over the week break from school and work, and the girls really did handle it like rockstars.  We visited 3 of 4 sets of grandparents, all of the cousins, old neighbors, and old friends in just 8 days.  Every night was pretty much a party and the January slump was real for that first week getting back to the grind of a routine. A little more from our trip coming up!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dear 2017,

see also, Dear Poor Ol' Neglected Blog,

I hope I can return to somewhat more regular posting and inspired content, but last year was just lacking in motivation and effort on all fronts.  The move happened so fast, listing our house in 10 days notice, going under contract in 12, and finding our new home after two trips in just a week after that.  We settled into our new home and immediately jumped in two feet first into all our neighborhood had to offer and all the holiday fun we could have.  Our house has yet to feel like home (to me) and I hope that's something we can change in the next few months.  The same was reflected in my health, with half assed effort for exercise and all the cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it's time to get on track on all aspects.

So since I love a good brain dump and list, here are some thoughts and "resolutions" for the new year ahead.

1.  House Tour and Projects:  I would love to share more of our house here on the blog.  It'd be a great way to share with friends and family who keep asking for pictures and details and of course all my readers who still might be around or have any interest.  Our big plans for the year include painting the cabinets and overhauling the landscaping.  We want to take advantage of living in an area with such a mild climate, so the porch, patio, and yard (while small) are something we want to enjoy.  There are some other smaller projects that are mostly organizational or just styling, we'll get there too.

2.  Health: I'm officially in my mid-thirties.  For some reason 34 stings a bit more than any other age has, I'm trying my hardest to keep on top of things like sunscreen/sun exposure and skincare, but exercise needs a kick in the pants.  I was a cliche and asked for a gym membership for Christmas, but instead got a trial run at a fitness studio.  I've taken one PiYo class so far and enjoyed it, tomorrow is Barre, and I'd like to fit in a cycling and HIIT class before I decide if it's something worth joining full time.  I've realized I need the motivation of a class or group because working out my own this past year has been the definition of inconsistent.

3. Mental Wellness:  This fits a bit hand in hand with working out, but I need a bit more peace and 'me time' as selfish as that sounds.  I'm playing solo parent more often with Pete's traveling work schedule, and I find myself burnt out quicker than ever.  The girls have some habits that need breaking, mainly needy bed times routines and tv time.  If we can change that, I could have some more mental quiet time before bed, instead of feeling frazzled and 'done'.   I would like to read more books.  This is another inconsistency of mine.  I'll read 3-4 in two months time then not pick one up for months on end.  I'd really like to set the goal of a book a month.  I checked out Swans of Fifth Avenue from our library before the holiday break and am enjoying it.  Utilizing the library is also something I'd like to take advantage of more often.  It's within walking distance and keeps me from spending money on books, so really no excuses.

4. Habits:  My quick list in my notebook is mostly habits I'd like to improve, drink more water, wash my face twice a day (should I be admitting thats a goal??), clean my make up brushes regularly, exercise (see above), etc.  I'd also like to get back to posting more regularly since blogging has always been a creative outlet, however at some point I lost inspiration it just started feeling like work, so I stopped showing up.

On the other hand, I have also really enjoyed pulling the reins in on social media.  I find the race to keep up, or want, or feeling inadequate really has diminished with the less I use my social media accounts.  I check in my instagram feed usually once a day at most, occasionally on snapchat (which my list of friends is rather small so I can't get sucked into spending hours of time watching other people live).  I'm trying hard to really only follow accounts that I feel connected to or are true source of inspiration.  I might miss out of some cute new shops and sale announcements, but cleaning the junk accounts out has really made a difference and kept it about the relationships with people I care about.

I feel like there is a lot more, but then this will be even more rambly.  Plus it's time for the kids to unplug (my resolution for them!) I hope to recap some of our holiday break.  We had a great time seeing so many friends and family, even if we did spend roughly 30+ hours of the trip in the car, oomph.

Dear 2017... I'll be back!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Current Kid Lit Wish List

We just took the girls for our annual trip to the see The Nutcracker Ballet this past weekend.   Kenley is really into the story and loved the nutcracker that Alice the Elf brought her that morning that she broke it's arm like Fritz and now has to take care of it like a good nurse like Clara.  We have a Little Golden Book version of the story, but I would love to add one of these two copies to our library for their gorgeous illustrations.

Kenley is definitely our little artist.  Crayons, markers, paint, they are definitely her favorite way to pass the time.  We love Julia Denos illustrations (I Had a Favorite Dress and Grandma's Gloves), and can't wait to add Swatch to our collection.  I Don't Draw, I Color! is basically Kenley's second life motto.... right behind famous words of Ricky Bobby "If you ain't first, you're last".

Ashlynn would love any of the stories involving make believe.  We heard that Mimi was sending some of her fairies down south with their own doorway, so would be a great compliment.  Henry's Bright Idea is like a new spin on Winnie the Pooh with all of today's favorite woodland creatures belonging to the Walnut Animal Society.

Last, we've noticed that a majority of our favorite stories include our favorite furry four-legged friends.  Antoinette is the follow up to the beloved Gaston, and Miss Moon the story of a Dog Governess who imparts all her knowledge and advice that can go beyond the dog park.

What's on your current kiddie book list?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

American Girl Birthday Celebration

Kenley had a great 3rd birthday, it was probably her best day ever.  She woke up to chocolate chip banana muffins and some presents, including a Bitty Baby.  We got ready for school and she had her celebration there and popsicles with her class before the end of the day.

By the time she got home, I had put together her new microphone and the kids sang "LALALALA", the ABCs, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, to their hearts content.  After a short rest of mom imposed quiet time, we headed over the American Girl Store at Southpark Mall.

Out of habit back in PA, I still always park at Nordstrom, which at this mall is at the opposite end of where we were going.  As we made our way though the store and then the mall, Kenley shouted excitedly, for everyone nearby to hear, "I ride the alligator! I go on the alligator!"

... the escalator!  dead.

We caught a glimpse of Santa on our way to the store, but he had gone back to the North Pole by the time we left.  That Santa is one busy man.  ;)

When we got to the store we spent some time checking out all the dolls and toys and then made our way to the bistro for our birthday dinner.  It was just us three since Dad was traveling for work.  I thought this would be a nice way to make an ordinary Wednesday into a special birthday Wednesday.  The girls both brought their Bitty Babies, who got to sit with us, and started with some chocolate milk for the girls and cups of cream for the babies.  The girls enjoyed their meal, the coloring books, goodie bags, and mostly the ice cream and cake.

It was the perfect little outing and definitely memorable for them.  Memorable for me was driving through a tornado on the way home.  I had no idea the weather was going to turn and we left right when our town went under a take shelter warning.  I'm super thankful we made it home safe, but what a way to turn a fun and fancy free evening into a super stressful one!  And with her birthday past we now full speed ahead to Christmasville!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kenley's Big Girl Bedroom Reveal

Kenley's room is probably one of the most completed rooms at the moment in our new home.  Aside from a fresh coat of paint,  everything is the same from her last bedroom. We switched the color from SW Vaguely Mauve to BM Frosty Pink.   The girls firmly identify themselves and their belongings as Ashlynn = Purple and Kenley = Pink.  Sometimes, I encourage them to branch out and show independence in their opinions and picking whatever strikes their fancy, but usually they stick to the plan and I won't deny them of their pink and purple phases. It'll most likely be tossed aside with their princess dresses one day too soon.

Bed Frame: thrifted and chalk painted | Bedding Set: Xhilaration
Chair: Ikea Extorp Jennylund | Pillow:  Skoope Home via Brickyard Buffalo 
Unicorn: White Faux Taxidermy Pom Trim Curtain Panels:  DIY (tutorial, similar)

Our new house features 9' ceilings on both floors, which is really nice added bonus.  However, the curtains I added black pom trim to, are now a foot too short for ceiling to floor.  Instead of the hassle of making new ones, I just made due and hung a curtain rod right over the blinds.  

Currently, we keep minimal if any toys in the girls rooms.  We have enough space in the loft that it gives me them one less space to keep tidy.  Books and stuffed animals pretty much full up the space and the bedroom is mostly for sleeping or having quiet time to wind down with a story.   I mentioned Kenley's favorite story is Twelve Dancing Princesses and we read it nightly.  She also can recite Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in it's entirety.  

Dresser:  Ikea Hemnes 
Peach Knobs: Anthropologie  | Gold Knobs: DIY painted gold | Lamp:  Target Threshold
Mother Daughter Print:  RK Designs  | K Initial:  Michaels (DIY painted gold)
Happy Girls are the Prettiest Print:  A Painted Arrow | 'Hello' Sign:  Simply Sawdust (DIY Painted)
Shamrock Print:  DIY | Hanger:  Initialee 
Wall Frames:  Ikea Ribba (DIY painted gold), Sondrum

The ikea dresser is still holding together nicely and offers more than enough storage.  The gallery wall is identical to her last room, but 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.  The dresser and frames fit perfectly between her bedroom door and walk in closet. 

I'm still looking for the right decor to place over her bed.  It was something I never completed in the last house and hope to do here.  I've been looking for a faux floral swag, but just haven't found anything that matches what I imagine in my head.   I also am considering repainting her bed frame, but it's just not a priority at the moment.  Her bedding has held up really well, despite being incredibly cheap.  I also snagged a second set of sheets during a clearance sale. The moroccan pouf went seamlessly from a nursery chair footstool to a launch pad into her bed.  I love when things can continue being functional.

Now, if only the rest of the house can de-clutter itself and I'd have some content!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kenley Drew - 3 Years Old

Oh Kenley.  How I can't believe it's been three years since you completed our family, and yet, how has it only been three years, it feels like you've been part of our lives for so much longer.

You are a spitfire and you keep us on our toes.  You two girls could not be more different, but thankfully you couldn't love each other more.  You are fiercely independent and sometimes we feel you were sent to us to make sure we understood other parents with 'strong-willed' children and that we weren't going to breeze through this parenting gig.  Despite your ability to still throw an epic tantrum, you have grown and accomplished so much in this past year.

You started with a ditching your crib in lieu of a big girl bed, then quit the paci habit shortly after.  After that we tackled potty training which I was so glad to be through by swim season, even if we then visited every public bathroom possible.    For the second half of the year, you started pre-school, gymnastics (non-parent child classes), and most recently dance.

You have been learning a lot at school and will randomly surprise us with what you know.  You have always loved to draw and paint and I was pretty impressed when you started drawing actual faces over the summer without being really taught to.  You now can draw our family.

Your favorite book is Twelve Dancing Princesses and can name at least eight of the princesses, even if you do call Clover, Alice.  I also like to read Uni the Unicorn afterwards every night and recently have fallen into my trap to get you to enjoy the story of the Nutcracker.  I may be preparing you for your first trip to the ballet by getting you familiar with the story and some youtube videos so you'll stay in your seat at the performance.  You do fancy yourself a ballerina, which you were one for Halloween.

We have been working hard with getting you to control your emotions and use your words when faced with a problem, which at 2 years old, can be tough, but you have gotten a lot better at calming yourself and will even tell us when it's time to take deep breaths or that you just need a hug.

But being strong willed isn't your only leading characteristic, you are a clown.  You can be so silly and regularly have us in stitches. You love a knock knock joke, and tell us the same one with potty humor daily.  'Knock knock' 'Who's there?' 'Baxter' 'Baxter Who?' 'Baxter go potty!'... and it cracks you up harder than any one else!

Our favorite on running gag is that you refuse to accept Drew as your middle name and insist yours, too, is Hazel, like your sister.

Me: "Hey there Kenley Drew!"
Kenley: "No!! I'm NOT Kenley Drew!  I'm Kenley Hazel!"
Me: "No, Ashlynn is Ashlynn Hazel, you're Kenley Drew"
Kenley: " No, she Ashlynn Drew, I'm Kenley Hazel!!!"

This has been going on for a solid 8 months, possibly longer.  

You are incredibly athletic and live by the motto of the one and only Ricky Bobby,  "If you ain't first, you're last".  Even while walking the dog or getting to the car, you HAVE to be first, or watch out.  You LOVE tv, you continued through your Daniel Tiger phase for months, before switching to our nemesis Special Agent OSO, and now are hooked on StoryBots and any Mickey Mouse Christmas movies netflix can offer.  You're favorite activites are coloring, playdoh, and playing in your kitchen making me pancakes and various soups.

You love to cuddle and find your way to our bed pretty much nightly.  You love the dogs, especially Baxter, even if he is 'grumpy'.   We are so excited to see you grow this year and your personality is going to shine through everything you do.

Happy Birthday, Little Biscuit!