Harper Turned 2!!

We have a toddler! A two year old! A sweet little soul who is so wise and kind and intuitive. She has taught us so much that I feel like my life completely reset when she was born. Here is a look at her birthday celebration and what we did to make it special.

The decor: Pinterest is a dangerous thing. It had me believing I was someone I’m not. I knew I bit off more than I could chew when Wednesday night I wasn’t even close to being halfway done with the decorating for the party that Saturday. We still got a good amount completed and I was really happy with how it turned out. We rented the linens and outside tables which we have done in the past for parties. Did you know that the tables on the bottom of the picture with the pink and orange linens were each under $10 to rent? It’s so worth it just to rent when we need them and not worry about making the commitment to buy and store things we don’t always use. The round tables are just plastic ones we use a lot for parties, and the higher square one we pulled in from another room as well as the one holding the watermelon lemonade and food- that was from another room too. Something else I learned by having so many parties over the years- use whatever you have around the house to make it work.

Decor

Us: We actually got a few pictures as a family this year! (We’re not all looking at the same camera, but whatever!) The dress and shoes I bought for Everly had to be replaced the week before because they didn’t fit. She’s in 12 (and sometimes 18!) month clothes by the time she was 6 months which apparently I’m in denial about so I still buy things was way too small thinking they’ll fit. It’s good though because the same company we got Harper’s dress from had a variation that fit Evie and it turned out to be much cuter than what I had prior.

The dress

The activities: Last year we had a bouncy house and face painter, this year I found such a neat lady who does music, balloons, and face painting and she was so awesome and patient with the kids! She started out making balloon animals, flowers, and swords for the boys, then once everyone was ballooned out she switched to airbrushing face and body tattoos. She offered to bring interments and do songs with the kids, but we thought this would be perfect for the varying ages and both girls and boys. We now know that keeping kids happy really makes the whole party especially if it’s a kids and adults party so the adults can hang out and talk while their kids are occupied and having fun. They were also kicking around balls in the yard and playing chase. The weather was perfect so we spend the whole time outside.

Fun

The guests: We edited our list way down this year which was really hard! We love our friends so much but last year we had 100 people (literally!) so we just cut it way down (to 50, but half were kids!!) and that was it. I still feel guilty about it but it felt really manageable and easy. A big chunk of that was family who helped us so much. They were there the day before and early the day of watching the kids and helping with whatever we needed. It was a group effort for sure. See below- the pic with the girls and me and my sister? We’ve already changed into comfy clothes by then, our party clothes were covered in cake and watermelon.

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But soon after that I had to change Harper’s clothes again. She kept filing a cup with watermelon juice and dumping it on herself over and over. She did it in her dress, then this shirt, then I moved the juice after this change of clothes because at this point I was missing too much of the party.

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The gift bags: This is my first time doing gift bags and I was so fortunate to have the Johnson’s Baby team from RF Binder send along what would become a ‘family gift bag’ which was a HUGE hit. I said it on Instagram when I received this generous package you see below, they are one of the nicest companies I’ve worked with in the 7 years I’ve blogged. They’re just really kind people who value relationships above the business. They sent everything you see in the photos with no request of a blog post, no expectation of anything, they just wanted to help make Harper’s birthday special which they did. Thank you RF Binder and Johnson’s Baby!!

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I bundled the items in these bags for each family.

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I included a Baby Oil (which I use right after the shower), Baby Oil Gel (my go-to for shaving), Intense Moisture Cream (my fave lotion of theirs), Neosporin’s Neo to Go! (which one kid used when she fell at the party), Monsters Band-Aids, and Baby Bedtime Washcloths. Even though Everly was the youngest baby there, the parents were thrilled to have this kit. They told me later that they keep the Neo To Go! and Band-Aids in their cars along with the bedtime washcloths for random clean ups and spills. I’ve also used them for quick makeup removal/ washing my face at night too when I’m too tired for anything else. I also heard loud and clear from parents that they were happy to have a goody bag that was useful and not filled with cheap junk toys that would clutter their house with stuff their kids didn’t need. It’s something It was a great lesson and something I’ll do for the girls’ parties going forward.

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Every single day for a whole week before the party it rained. But not this day. This was the sky while the last lingering souls threw a football in the yard after everyone else had gone home. Dark and crazy, but no rain.

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It’s so surreal watching your kids get older. I was really emotional for weeks leading up to Harper’s birthday knowing that we have to say goodbye to this little version of her that I just want to bottle up and keep forever. Mostly though, I think about what it takes to get her to this point and how hard Mike and I work every single day to do our very best for these girls and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of us.

Happy Birthday Harper! I hope you look back on this day and know that you were loved.

My Life Lately: Spring 2014

This year so far has been a total whirlwind – selling houses, building a house (more on that to come), getting ready to move, and really just perfecting a rhythm to our daily lives so there’s both happiness and efficiency.  While we’re thriving as a foursome, I’m falling down on everything else it seems. Emails unanswered, blog posts desperately late, a site re-design that has dragged on for months because I’m too tired at the end of a long day to jump on my computer and give the project real thought. The list goes on as you can imagine. While I’m trying to sneak a little more balance into my days, the one thing I’m getting better at is filling time with my family. Everly is old enough to take everywhere we go (7 months) without worry, and Harper who just turned 2 (more on that later too!) is happiest when she’s outside looking for birds and bunnies, she’s such an outdoors girl (she must get that from Mike.)  Anyway, I wanted to share a few of our adventures we’ve had here in beautiful Colorado. Happy spring!

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Mike roped me into a run by presenting it as just a hike. We did a loop in this beautiful park
which was short of 3 miles I believe. It’s all he wanted for his birthday, he even surprised me with new shoes the day before to make sure I was prepared.

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I didn’t get a lot of pics because my phone died and I didn’t have my real camera, but my girlfriend Chris and I went to the seriously amazing Cher & Cyndi Lauper D2K concert. It was literally one of the best concerts/shows/entertainment acts I’ve ever seen. We stayed to the bitter end and wondered how much our families would miss us if we just took off and followed her around the country. (The photo was posted to Instagram- follow me if you’re not a weirdo- I’m HookedOnBeauty of course.)

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We took the girls to the Butterfly Pavilion which was perfect for Harper. They call it a ‘little zoo’ with most of the insects and fish in small cages or tanks. At the end though, you walk through this big greenhouse type thing with a pond, trees, flowers, and even turtles and of course butterflies everywhere. She had a blast.

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We finally gave in and bought a BOB double stroller. We love our City Select and I’m so glad we bought a stroller that converts into a double right from the start, but the BOB is so light it basically pushes itself. Mike jogs with the girls and I can easily take them to the park and push them around our neighborhood. Little Everly is happy to sit up and see out like a big girl. We take family walks several times a day so we feel like we’re really getting some use out of it.

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I surprised Mike on his birthday weekend with a dinner with friends and an overnight stay in Denver. Not too far away, but our first as parents leaving the girls. My parents were thrilled, I was nervous and guilty, Mike was drunk.

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We checked out the new Butterflies at Chatfield thinking it would be as impressive as the Butterfly Pavilion, but it wasn’t. It’s a greenhouse with literally 10 butterflies in it roughly the size of my living room. Not a total bust though, the grounds are huge with goats, ponies, chickens, ducks, and a really cool treehouse. We were there for quite a while chasing Harper and looking around. A total must see especially for little ones who want to see some animals but without the time commitment and cost of the zoo (just $5 a car.)

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More of the grounds at Chatfield and a look at the treehouse.

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Then last weekend something amazing happened. We had a date night (technically ‘date day’ since the sun was up the whole time and we sat down to eat at 5, but whatever!) For I think the 4th time in 2 years we left the girls with my parents and met friends for some wine, fun, and (mostly) adult conversation save for a few impromptu Frozen sing-alongs which is an oddly quotable movie.

I see a little light at the end of the tunnel as the girls get bigger and I learn that not everything I have to do can fit into a single day. It might take me a little longer than before, but I’ll get there. Eventually.

Spring Fashion Inspiration

Somewhere along the way during my back to back pregnancies, I gave up trying to be fashionable and basically wore the same 5 t-shirts over and over. Why spend tons of money on clothes I was hoping to not fit into for long? So here I am, almost 6 months post-Everly and ready to clear out the t-shirts and update my wardrobe just in time for spring.

Prints, color, and funky gold necklaces were what grabbed at Nordstrom (BP) and Macy’s. Such a change from black, grey, stripes, and t-shirts! ‘I do not need one more striped shirt,’ is a motto I have to repeat over and over while shopping in order to encourage some sort of diversity in my closet.

Here’s what I ended up with- pieces that have me totally inspired for sunshine, summer, and a more updated look.

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5 Tips for Making Easter Baskets for Your Kids

I know, Easter was last Sunday but I made the girl’s baskets Saturday night so this post isn’t late when you think about it that way. Just pin it and dig it up next year when you’re scrambling for DIY basket ideas like I know you will. This was my second attempt but  I learned from my mistakes last year so these are keepers. I don’t think I’ll have to make baskets ever again. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when creating your own baskets.

Grab what you like then figure out how to make it work. I loved the flowers in the can but I didn’t know how exactly I wanted to incorporate them until I got started. They worked out perfectly with a little glue and dots from the lettering kit in the middle of each one.

Think function. These baskets weren’t Easter specific, just colored ones I found at Michael’s. Harper’s basket from last year was too small and the handle was so low that we couldn’t get books to fit inside. When they get older we’ll put shirts and other grown up goodies in there, I think the size of these baskets will work for that phase too. (Note: Post-’bunny’ we got baskets well until high school. It was just a fun tradition that I’ll do with my girls too.)

Bigger is better. The basket I made last year had lettering that was way too small so I grabbed these oversized ones and I’m so glad I did. They’re more sturdy and they stuck perfectly to the uneven texture of the basket.

Simple doesn’t mean plain. There are only two elements I used here- flowers and letters and they look great. Their function is to hold gifts and candies so they’ll look better once they’re filled anyway.

Down with glitter. I’m not a fan of glitter on things for kids anyway because it transfers onto their hands and always ends up in their eyes and mouths.

Ester Basket Essentials
Everything was found at Michael’s, the glue gun, paper flowers, and lettering.

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Their middle names are on the back with more flowers.

I’m not especially crafty (honestly, or else I’d already have a glue gun) and it only took me about 30 minutes to put them both together.  They’ll last a long time and will be used every year like Christmas stockings so for me, the extra effort was totally worth it.

6 Tips For Taking Family Photos With Toddlers & Babies

Fact: Most of those adorably posed, perfect looking family photos hide a secret most people will never know. The day was most likely a total mess. We’ll ours was anyway.

Our good friend and celeb photog extraordinaire Jensen Sutta came to our house the other day to photograph our family. They were our first formal pics as a foursome and I didn’t really know what to expect. As it turns out I over-planned on some things (poses!) and under planned on others (pretty much everything else.) I have some tips below so you can learn from my mistakes. Some of it is toddler-centric but most of it will help with kids of all ages.

Ditch the over planning:

Pinterest does have a lot of ideas but let them be just that- ideas. You can’t overplay a series of shots that your kids may not be agreeable to. It’s about capturing the moment, joyful play, and real smiles. Pick the clothes (casual or more dressed), and the setting (park, backyard, studio), and let your photographer lead the rest. The pic I like best was on marshy grass (with my heels sinking in) on a little tiny hill right by our fence. Not a sweeping, movie-worthy setting and certainly nothing I would think to choose but he make it look really cool.

Plan it around nap times and meals:

You want rested, fed, happy kids so stack the deck in your favor going in.

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Bring along snacks:

Harper is so enchanted with crackers right now. I think they would’ve gone a long way to bribe her into sitting still, smiling, not running, or whatever else we needed that she didn’t do.

Pack a little kit:

If you’ll be outside walking around it pays to grab a little bag and throw in zippy cups, sunscreen, snacks, safety pins for clothing fixes, and even toys. Anything to keep them happy since you’re basically asking them to be in a play environment (like outside or a park) but not necessarily play.

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Practice:

We didn’t prep our toddler enough. A little role play taking photos (because we usually take candids) would’ve gone a long way so she understood what was expected and what was happening. Make it a game and reward for standing still, kissing daddy on the cheek, or good smiles. We only have a few photos of Harper looking at the camera and giving a real smile. I wish there were more.

Make sure the clothes fit:

When we first tried Harper’s skirt on just days before the shoot it was a little big but nothing major, but once she was running and moving around it was literally on the ground. A quick try on doesn’t tell you how the clothes will function in real life. I should’ve let her wear it around for a while so I wasn’t running home for pins mid-shoot.

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Ultimately though we got some beautiful pictures that we’re thrilled about. Next time, I’ll be better prepared.

Johnson’s Baby: What I’m Using These Days

Part of the fun of being an ambassador for Johnson’s Baby is all the great stuff I get to try. Having two girls under the age of two really has me running so I’m faithful to the products that work best and make life easier. A few I received recently I’m really loving and are worth telling you about.

Little Harper has always had a tough time falling asleep. She sits on our lap and we rock her until she’s sleeping which regularly takes an hour or more at night. Since this eats into Mike’s and my night together, you can imagine how much we really want to speed this process up. We’re slowly starting to get her to doze off in her crib, but until that whole process is up and running we’re happy to find other ways to get her relaxed enough to get to sleep quicker. Since it has been working pretty regularly, I know it isn’t just coincidence that the Soothing Vapor Bath really helps. It’s a liquid you pour into the bath that gives off an aroma that reminds me of that Vicks menthol scent but lighter, and it’s made to calm fussy babies, help stuffy noses, and encourage relaxation. When we use it she leaves the bath more relaxed and falls asleep much quicker than the nights when we don’t use it or if we bathe her in the morning. Nothing instant of course, but noticeable. I’ve used it in my baths too because I just love the scent and it’s so much less expensive than other bath salts I’ve bought that are basically the same thing. I’m already exhausted all the time, so the calming effects are essentially lost on me.

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The other thing we’ve been using all the time is their Shampoo & Conditioner combo made for thin or straight hair. At two years old little Harper is still rocking a short pixie which she pulls it off perfectly. While we wait for more hair to sprout, this shampoo/conditioner really softens and bulks up her hair. I was using a body wash before because I didn’t think it mattered, but this really seems to give her locks a little boost.

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Oh- and I’m still using their original baby shampoo to remove my eye makeup every night (just a dot of it on a damp cotton pad does the trick), as well using it to wash my makeup brushes. I also use it on Frisco and Meatball! It’s a total all-purpose cleanser around here.

Full Disclosure: All products were sent to me to try but no additional compensation was given. Opinions posted are my own and I select what to (or not to) write about.