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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Kids Valentine’s Day Cards

Every year I ask the kids what they want on their Valentine’s Day cards and this year Annabel picked “Frozen” (no shocker there) and Daniel picked “something with cars.” I did a quick search on Pinterest and found the cutest options! The two I picked were from sellers on Etsy.com. It’s a fun and easy way to get original Valentine’s Day cards. All it takes is some white card stock paper and a color printer at home. Then you order the PDF downloads for $3-$10 from one of the creative folks on Etsy.

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Annabel’s card came personalized with her name so she just had to fill in the names of all her class friends. Pinterest also gave us the idea to attach a “Frozen” blue rock candy stick as a treat. I found pre-wrapped sticks on Amazon.com and attached them to the card with red and white baker’s string from the craft store.

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Daniel’s card left space to attach a toy car. We went to the Dollar Store and found toy car three-packs. It cost $8 for all the treats. I bought 3D glue dots from the craft store to attach the cars. I put each one in a small clear bag and closed with a piece of red raffia ribbon.

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They are both so excited for their Valentine’s Day school parties! Did you buy or make your kids Valentine’s Day cards this year? Comment below!

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What are you doing for others?

Sometimes it takes the return of a national holiday and the memory of a great man to remind me what really, truly matters.

RIP, Dr. King.


Merry Christmas ’13

Joy to the world! The Lord has come. I hope your Christmas rocked. Mine sure did. See you soon.

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Happy Halloween ’13

Happy Halloween! My little wizard and animal doctor are finally tucked in for the night after walking around the neighborhood in 80 degree weather. You gotta love Florida. They survived a week filled with neighborhood parties, school parties, tons of sugar, and loads of fun. Bring on November.

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Happy Birthday, Baby

Happy Birthday to my one and only. Get ready to rock the last year of your thirties! Let’s send it out with lots of hugs, kisses, fun adventures, yummy meals, and family memories along the way. I love you. We love you.

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My Halloween Pinterest Board

The countdown is on! Halloween is only 15 days away. My kiddies have been diligently updating our funky witch calendar since October 1st.

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I’m always looking for fun craft and game ideas for school parties and I love to find yummy and healthy Halloween treat options. I’ve put together a “Trick or Treats!” Halloween Idea Board on Pinterest. Click HERE to check out my idea board and you can follow me on Pinterest by clicking HERE!


Do you have a cool Halloween craft or treat idea that I can add to my board? Comment below!

Daniel’s 7th Birthday: LEGOLAND Florida

I love having my kids’ birthday parties at home, but I also love NOT having them at home. As much as I enjoy all the fun and details, it’s A LOT of work. If I had to list one of Daniel’s favorite things this year, it would be LEGOS. (He even went to LEGO summer camp.) So I was not surprised when he said he wanted to go to LEGOLAND Florida for his 7th birthday. The deal?  It would just be our family. He was fine with that…so off we went!

We first experienced LEGOLAND Florida during their grand opening festivities in October 2011. We were excited to go back and check out the new attractions and finally visit the giant water park. It was August in Florida, so we knew we’d welcome the cool off after a day filled with rides and lots of walking.

We spent the first night in Orlando where we hung out at Downtown Disney and had dinner at Daniel’s favorite restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack. The next morning we were up bright and early to drive the 30 minutes to Winter Haven, FL – the home of LEGOLAND!

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Daniel’s favorite part of LEGOLAND is MiniLand USA. It’s the heart of the park and features seven different cities all built out of LEGOS.  It’s truly amazing and my future architect could not get enough. We stayed there a long time and he had to pose in front of all the landmarks.

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Annabel’s favorite part was the LEGO Friends Shop where she picked out her one treat. It was a stuffed LEGO puppy dog. No surprise there.  She even met one of the LEGO Friends!

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I love the Safari Trek.  Whenever I can see a giraffe, I’m happy.  Even a giraffe made out of hundreds of brown and cream colored LEGOS.

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And I held the stuff while the rest of my family enjoyed the roller coasters. It was the first time Daniel and Annabel went on the LEGO Technic ride and they loved it.

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We also saw our first LEGOLAND live show, the Pirates’ Cove Water Ski Show. It was all about pirates invading the LEGOLAND lake and there were some seriously cool water ski stunts and special effects. The best part?  The hero of the story was a girl!  Annabel was thrilled. (Daniel thought it was pretty awesome too.)

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And you can’t go to LEGOLAND without building with LEGOS!  The kids went right to the earthquake building zone where you try and build large towers that can withstand the giant shake button. Everyone was checking out their creations. They could have stayed there all day. I kept reminding them that they have boxes of LEGOS at home, but it’s definitely much more fun to build there.

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I didn’t snap any pictures of the water park because it was packed and hot and all we wanted to do was spend time in the wave pool and water slides. The final stop of the day was the giant LEGO store to pick out Daniel’s birthday present.  He chose a glow-in-the-dark ghost train.  The biggest accomplishment was leaving the park with just ONE box. Phew. But the REAL accomplishment was that smile glued to Daniel’s face for eight hours straight. Thanks for the fun, LEGOLAND Florida! See you soon!

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