My Gender Reveal Party! (It’s Not What You Think)

My gender reveal party had three people in attendance. And it wasn’t actually a party. It was me, my husband, and the sonogram tech. “Congrats, it’s a boy!”  I had the same party a year later. “Congrats, it’s a girl!” That was it.

Don’t get me wrong. We were thrilled! We were overcome with emotion! I cried. My husband fist pumped. It was a memorable moment. For the three of us. In a tiny dark room during my husband’s lunch break.

As a mom to older kiddos (9 and 10), I’m realizing I missed out on a lot of these cool, new mommy trends. When I was pregnant with my son Daniel, there was no such thing as a “gender reveal” anything. I missed out on the party where all your friends and family gather at your house to enjoy a taco bar and mango margaritas while you hit at a piñata until blue confetti pours out. A son! Or maybe you go on Facebook Live! to cut into a giant white cake to reveal a strawberry pink middle. A daughter! I’ve even seen the YouTube video where the happy couple opens a giant cardboard box and pink AND blue balloons fly out. Twins! One of each! How awesome!

I love planning parties. I would have really annoyed my family and friends with an obnoxious gender reveal party. I could have done an 80’s theme. A Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalks into the room and tosses us a pink or blue Rubik’s cube. Or since it was 2006 when I was pregnant, maybe I would have jumped on the popularity of American Idol which was the number one TV show at the time.  Everyone would sing karaoke, drink Coke, and eat star-shaped food until it was time for the grand finale. Hubby and I would stand on a stage while blue or pink confetti poured down on us.

A girl can dream.

I’m done having kids so there are no gender reveal parties in my future. But that’s okay. I have two amazing, healthy little ones who I love and adore. And I do have a photo from each of their gender reveal moments that I cherish with all of my heart.

Did you have a gender reveal party? Tell me about it below!

Annabel’s American Girl Birthday Sleepover

Annabel had her very first sleepover party last weekend and we all survived to tell about it! But seriously, all the girls were super adorable and well-mannered and you know I LOVE a good THEME PARTY! (See here, here, here, and here!)

Our sleepover theme was American Girl. All our guests were told to bring their sleeping bag, PJs, and favorite doll. Annabel helped me come up with all the fun activities, games, and decoration plans. We went with pink and hot pink streamers, balloons, paper products, and American Girl doll accessories. I had matching party hats and tiaras for the girls and their dolls. Each guest received a sleeping bag and eye mask for their doll and a personalized eye mask for themselves. Annabel also sewed each girl a pillow for their doll. (She learned to sew last summer during camp.) We organized our playroom as the sleeping area for the night and Annabel also made each girl a cute bed sign to welcome them to the party!

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We had five main American Girl themed activities for the party: A “Lea” Scavenger Hunt, a “Saige” Painting Craft, “Grace” Cupcake Decorating, a “Julie” Basketball Toss, and an “Isabelle” Dance Party! The girls loved it and it kept them busy between dinner and movie time.

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I also planned a couple cute filler games. One was a “Love it” or “Don’t Love it” quiz where they each had a sign with a pink heart on one side or a heart with a big “X” drawn through it on the other side. Then they flipped their sign to answer questions like “Do you like roller coasters?” “Do you like cats?” or “Do you like scary movies?” We had each girl ask a question too which made the game turn super silly. They loved it!

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We picked An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success as our movie of the night. It was adorable and I knew there would be zero issues with language or content which is something to always consider. We had popcorn, pretzels, and fruit trays as snacks. One of Annabel’s girlfriends gave her an adorable nightgown which all the girls could autograph as a first sleepover memory. Love! Once the movie was over, it was time for some sleepover-themed Mad Libs and then lights out!

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The girls slept for about 6 hours which was a great success in my book. Yay! In the morning we had a pancake breakfast, present opening, bead necklace and scrapbooking crafts, but mostly they just wanted to play and girl talk. Oh, and try out big brother’s four-wheeler in the backyard.

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The girls went home with a pink tote bag for their goodies and we attached a special star necklace and poem for each friend. Thank you Pinafores & Pinwheels for the awesome idea. Find it HERE.

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The sleepover was so much fun. Annabel gave it a “100” on a scale of 1-10. She was so sad when it was over. As a gift, I gave Annabel a mini photo album that would hold all the instant photos we took throughout the night. The only challenge was I had to remember to snap those photos with my Fujifilm INSTAX camera while also taking separate iPhone photos. But it worked out great and now she has a sweet photo album from her very first sleepover party. It was such a special celebration of my girl’s 8th birthday and I’ll never forget it. I hope she won’t either.

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And at least I have a year until I plan the next one, right?  :)

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American Girl Sleeping Bags: Etsy shop, JMaga Clothing

American Girl Eye Masks: Etsy shop, Little Buttercup Dolly

Girls Personalized Eye Masks: Etsy shop, The Sleepy Cottage

Initial Paint Craft Items, Paper Products, Doll Crowns: Target

Pink Jelly Goody Bags: Oriental Trading

Instant Camera and Mini Photo Album: Amazon

Annabel’s Party Outfit: J. Crew


It’s been a big year for my girl. She got glasses and lost teeth. She joined Brownies and church choir. She saw her first concert and her first orthodontist. She learned to make sandwiches, sew, and multiply. She still loves fashion, art, and music and spends hours in our art room making new creations and coloring masterpieces. She adores her stuffed animals and American Girl dolls. Her “Pinky” puppy is her number one companion – my daily reminder that she’s still my “baby” girl and for that I’m so grateful.

She’s loyal and funny and loving. She loves BIG, this girl. She’s always giving the best hugs and kisses. She tells me she loves me every single day. She sends sweet notes to her friends. She’s kind and oh so smart. I love you to the moon and back a bazillion times, Annabel Marie. Happy Birthday. Eight sure is GREAT.

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Daniel’s 9th Birthday Dune Buggy Driving Party!

So I learned that my brand new 9-year-old is an excellent driver. Daniel drove a dune buggy and I got to ride shotgun at his 9th birthday party at Jacksonville’s Baja Buggyz Adventure Park. Okay, maybe I screamed a little from his lead foot and all the muddy puddle jumping, but it was so much fun. My kid was in his element and it was the perfect party location for his driving passion. Baja Buggyz is known as “the place kids drive.” The kids take the wheel and get to drive their own dune buggy around a giant dirt track. There is no experience necessary and the buggy speed is adjustable. There were five buggies at our party and the boys went around in pairs for 10 minutes before switching places. Moms and dads even had a turn to drive! (I think I was the muddiest one of all so I should win a day at the spa.) Baja Buggyz has covered pavilions with picnic tables and a grassy space so we brought corn hole, ring toss, footballs, and  frisbees to keep the boys entertained while they waited for their turn to drive. Lunch was pizza, fruit, veggies, chips and Daniel’s giant chocolate chip cookie birthday cake. We gave out goody bags that had a pair of funky driving shades and colorful wristbands (for the boys to wear at the party) as well as a smoothie gift card, a matchbox car, football cards, and organic gummy rings/tires. We sent the boys home dirty, tired, and happy, so I’d say it was a success! Daniel’s sister Annabel was the only girl there and she held her own and had a blast! Special props to the hubby for the awesome video!

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Happy 9th birthday to my baby boy, Daniel Thaddeus. Even though you think it’s pretty cool to be called “Dan” or “Dan the Man” by your friends, you will always be my Daniel. And my baby boy, for that matter.

I’m so impressed that you can recite football stats like a pro, do math problems in your head, build a LEGO by the time I get out of the shower, pick up new piano tunes so easily, and draw intricate road maps on every piece of paper in our house BUT, I’m most proud of your big heart and how you always praise your sister’s Minecraft building skills. I’m most proud of your loyalty and how you have a group of wonderful friends who have your back and support what you do. I’m most proud of that cool imagination and sweet spirit that guides you down an independent path. And I’m most proud to call you my son. I love you.

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Kids Valentine’s Day Cards 2015

Love is in the air! My kids always get excited to pick out their Valentine’s Day cards for their schoolmates. This year Annabel decided to go with a “Paris” theme. (The same theme she’s using for her 7th birthday this weekend. Stay tuned for all the details!)

I ordered her this adorable printable tag from the Etsy shop, Confetti Fete. Ooh la la!

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I found these cute Eiffel Tower pens on the Oriental Trading website and then Annabel picked out some heart candies to complete the Valentine’s gift bag. I found the black and white ribbon in the $1 bin at Target.

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Daniel wanted to design his own card this year. He sketched out a Valentine’s city scape with colored markers on white paper. I scanned his artwork and resized the image to fit four on a page. Then I printed out copies on white card stock. He cut them out himself and added a small heart bag filled with a lollipop and some chocolate kisses. Xoxo. All done!

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Pop Tip: You can find the clear treat bags from the baking section of any local craft store. I buy these in bulk, in a variety of sizes and designs, and use them all the time for party favors, birthday gifts, holiday treats, snack bags, etc. They are awesome. Keep a bunch of baker’s twine or colorful ribbon handy and you’re all set!

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Now I just need to get Hubby to take these extra chocolates to his office or I’m in big trouble.)

Mama/Daughter Girl’s Night!

I started a really cool tradition with Annabel that began because our two “boys” went to a Monster Jam Truck show. (Annabel went once and decided to hang up her pink ear plugs and stay home with me.) We took advantage of the boy-free zone to create a special “Girl’s Night” that we have continued to do at least twice a year. Want to do one too? First, you’ll need decorations:

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I go “old school”and pick up a bag of balloons and paper streamers from the party store. We listen to music and dance around while we decorate the entire master bedroom as our “Girl’s Night” headquarters. I also had Annabel create construction paper collages using pictures she found in magazines. It was a craft project from earlier in the week. I taped the pictures around our party space and she was so proud of herself for the artsy addition.

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Next, you’ll need an activity. This night we picked mani/pedis!

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Then, it’s movie time on the big bed. We recommend any of the “American Girl” flicks because they are smart, fun, and our “boys” don’t care that they miss it. Win-win!

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(We also worked on our duckface selfies with colored hair clips. Hee.)

Do you plan special “Girl’s Nights” with your daughter? My next mission is a special “Mama/Son” night with my Daniel. Comment below with fun ideas for both!



This was the first year my son LOOKED different when he woke up on his birthday. It was Saturday morning. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me, or the lack of sleep from having seven crazy boys spend the night, but Daniel was eight. No doubt about it. His long limbs looked longer. His tousled hair looked like a teenager’s. His personality had a little more swagger, a little more confidence. The way he called his friends to breakfast. The way he organized the Wii game. The way he spoke about his excitement for the weekend. The little things only a Mama can notice. Gone are the days when he would worry about school and new situations. He’s still a thinker, an analyzer of facts and situations. But he’s bolder now. The worry is replaced with wonder. And he’s bigger too. Not just in a physical way. He’s a bigger person in this family. He constantly offers new insights and opinions. I talk to him like a peer, but can still pull him on my lap for a hug. But it’s getting harder. Time does fly. We all say that. But I’ve FELT these eight full years with my son. I remember them. Every hug, every adventure, every sleepless night, every first. It’s been a joy to be his mom and I’m so proud of the young man he’s continually becoming.

Happy Birthday to my Daniel Thaddeus. Eight is GREAT.

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Annabel’s 6th Birthday at the American Girl Store in Atlanta

We went to the American Girl store in Atlanta for Annabel’s 6th birthday so she could pick out her very first American Girl doll! We have been looking through the fancy AG catalogs for over a year now, so we were all excited to drive the five hours north from Jacksonville to finally see these dolls in person! Annabel had decided she wanted Isabelle, the Girl of the Year. Isabelle will only be available for purchase in 2014. That made Isabelle the perfect choice. She also has Annabel’s same hair color and she’s a dancer. Annabel was counting down the days until our trip. We arrived in Atlanta on Friday evening and had a fun Valentine’s dinner as a family. Then, we were off to bed so we’d be ready for our big American Girl adventure. Saturday was Annabel’s actual birthday, so after a special room service breakfast, we headed out to get Isabelle!

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The American Girl store is in the North Point Mall in Alpharetta, a suburb of Atlanta. We were staying in Buckhead, so it was a quick 20 minute drive. There are closer hotels, but we had plans to explore downtown that afternoon so we wanted to be central. The store was a lot bigger than I expected! It has its own library, hundreds of boutique shelves filled with dolls, clothes, and accessories, a separate doll hair salon, and an American Girl Bistro in the back for lunch, dinner, tea, or parties.

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I booked an 11:15 AM lunch, so we arrived at 10:30 AM. Note: You need to book your bistro appointment as early as possible. I originally wanted a Noon appointment, but was happy to get 11:15 when I saw how fast it was booking up. I booked six weeks in advance, but I would suggest months in advance, especially if you are planning a party with your daughter’s girlfriends. When we arrived, we checked in at the front desk to meet our “personal shopper.” I know the “personal shopper” part sounds super fancy, but it’s a free service and I definitely wanted a chaperone to navigate us through the store. And since it was Presidents’ Day weekend, and Atlanta families had been stuck inside their homes for two days because of an ice storm, the store was super crowded. I was glad I had someone to help us out.

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Our personal shopper met us at the check-in desk and we were off to explore. Annabel could not wait to find Isabelle. She also picked out Honey the puppy (a gift from her brother, Daniel) and Isabelle’s Dance Barre set (a gift from her Grandma and Grandpa.) I told Annabel she could buy one Isabelle outfit and she picked an adorable rosette leotard and gold tutu set that was out of stock. No! But our personal shopper ran to the back room and found us the very last set in the store! Win! (And another reason to book a personal shopper.) I was also preparing myself for all the “upsells” (“You NEED this suitcase for all her clothes!” and “Don’t you want to buy some accessories and shoes while you’re here?”), but none of that happened. That was refreshing. Well, she did convince us to buy the official American Girl hairbrush so we could “spritz Isabelle’s hair with water each night and brush it gently.” I definitely recommend the brush because Annabel’s favorite thing to do is play hair salon. (A gift from her GG.)

When we were done, the personal shopper took us directly to the front of the check out line. We filled out an information card, paid, and then Isabelle was ready to party. Annabel was overjoyed and could not wait to hold her new “sister.”

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We headed over to the American Girl Bistro. After all that shopping, we were starving! The Bistro was my little girl’s bright pink fantasy. There were flowers on the ceiling and sparkly chandeliers everywhere. They seated us right away and gave Isabelle her own doll chair for the table. Annabel, Isabelle, and Honey received birthday crowns and Isabelle was handed a small tea set.  There are two party package options. We opted for the “Bistro Birthday Celebration” so everyone at the table received a drink, appetizer, and entree. The kids had their first ever Shirley Temples! Then they picked the warm pretzel bites and spaghetti with little meatballs. Hubby and I picked the tomato and mozzarella caprese salad and the herb-roasted salmon. (Here’s a sample menu.)

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Everything was savory and delicious and perfectly seasoned. It also looked so beautiful on the plates. When we were done eating, the wait staff gathered to bring out Annabel’s pink and white cake and sing “Happy Birthday.” Annabel blew out the candles (with a little help from her big bro) and then they took the cake away. They returned with it perfectly sliced and served with an ice cream flower pot. Is this not the cutest thing EVER?

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We took a ton more pictures and then Annabel received her party goody bag. It had a “Happy Birthday” T-shirt and red balloon for Isabelle and an American Girl activity book and stickers for Annabel. I was so glad we made the trip to the American Girl store for Annabel’s birthday. It is such a special memory. And I know it’s a moment Annabel will never forget.

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Annabel’s and Isabelle’s matching pink pajama set is from Chasing Fireflies. I couldn’t resist.

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And all the cute instant photos were taken with my new pink Fujifilm Instax camera. I love it so.


She comes in colors everywhere; 
She combs her hair 
She’s like a rainbow 
Coming colors in the air 
Oh, everywhere 
She comes in colors.

-The Rolling Stones

Annabel is my little rainbow: colorful, bright, unpredictable. She makes everything magical with her bright eyes, sweet smile, and curious nature.

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Annabel literally lights up the room when she enters it. She’s either our sunny ball of energy or a bright spirit full of opinions and contradictions. She’s never boring, this girl.

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She loves with all her might. Whether it’s her Mama, Daddy, brother, school friend, or stuffed animal. She loves with all her heart.

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And she has a beautiful heart. And a curly-haired head full of smarts. And a great laugh. She reads books with passion and draws and colors every chance she gets. She loves to play make-believe and dance and sing. She’s a dreamer. I love to get her opinion. She has lots of ideas. She’s just so much fun.

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She’ll grab a hand, volunteer to help, and teaches me to enjoy the little things.  She’s like a rainbow: bright, beautiful, sparkly, filled with colorful light.

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Happy 6th Birthday, Annabel Marie. I love you.

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