Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: A Year in Review

I've been saying this for several months now, but after the emotional roller coaster that was 2013, 2014 has proven to be one of the best (probably THE best) years of my life.

January brought the beginnings of our basement remodel. I CANNOT wait to show you the finished product! We just have a few more touch-ups to do here and there, and I haven't gotten around to taking photos due to sheer and utter laziness, but I promise to get them up in 2015!

A little reminder of the before:

I am IN LOVE with this basement and even more in love with Jon for making such a cozy and happy place for our family- and for alllll of the toys to be in one place, out of sight ;-)

In February, I did a little photo shoot with some of my girlfriends. What a blast! I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us, but I know there will be weddings, wine, and widdle babies to name a few.

March was spent avoiding time outside and seeing the movie 'Frozen' for the first of over 500 times this year. Okay, maybe not 500, but pretty damn close, especially if you count listening to the soundtrack in that total. The Polar Vortex of 2014 was fierce and had us seriously contemplating moving outside of Ohio, but thankfully the spring DID actually come, so we've decided to stay put for now. Ask me again in February when it's -11 though.

In April I got very deep and insightful with you all. See here and here.

And then came May. Oh May. May 2014 - you rocked my socks.

First we celebrated my 30th birthday with a Derby 30 birthday party. It was a total BLAST and I also learned that I tell people I love them alot when I drink wine.

I shared our proposal story (and shed quite a few tears writing it).

We celebrated Anna's 1st birthday with a sunshine-themed birthday party.

We also celebrated wonderful years of marriage and Jon's MBA graduation with a trip to Northern California.

Let me tell you something right here and now. If you asked me today "If you could go anywhere on vacation every year for the rest of your life, where would you go?" I would say Napa Valley, without a doubt.

We had the most amazing time. Napa was everything that I love in this world (outside of my children of course). Amazing wine. Amazing food. Beautiful scenery. Clean, unspoiled air. Fantastic photograph potential. I felt like I was in Heaven that week, and I can't wait to go back!

See my recaps here 

and here.

Ahhhhh, somebody PLEASE take me back. Please. Pretty please?

As if summer wasn't perfect enough already, I got to return to California in June to attend a conference, and three of my best girlfriends tagged along and the result was the most fun trip that has ever been! (without my husband and children). It could not have been more perfect, and I will forever cherish the memories made with these girls.

In July, I watched the fireworks for the first time since moving to Columbus (whhhattt?!) and enjoyed lots of family time out in the sun, including an awesome and stress-free trip to the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.

It's cool Jon, don't look at the camera.

In August, I reflected on time spent with my children, and how time is a completely different concept to me now.

August also took us on an impromptu road trip to Disney World. Read here for my sage advice on not taking your toddlers to Disney World in August. We had a blast though and I can't wait to go back and spend more time there.

From Orlando, when then spent a week in South Carolina. As stated above, any time spent with my family is the best time ever, and this trip was no exception. 

At the end of August, we surprised my in-laws with a 40th Anniversary Party on Kelley's Island. We had such a good time! Just wait till you see what we have in store for their 50th ;-)

In September, I reflected on the one-year anniversary of Anna's scary ordeal. My God, this child is an absolute miracle, and even today I tear up when I look at her and see how far she's come. She is braver than I will ever be.

This girl is now walking everywhere, talking up a storm (she says SO many words!) and is defying every odd put in front of her. Just a reminder of the gift I was given by being her mother.

In October, we drove to Washington DC to do a little sightseeing and watch my incredible husband run the Marine Corps marathon. He. is. a. stud.

Did I mention that he trained for this marathon while going to school, working full-time, renovating our basement, AND being a loving, doting, and hands-on father? Yep. I know I'm the luckiest. That's a fact. 

We also got to celebrate our first coherent Halloween. Meaning, Emerson is old enough to really "get it" and Anna wasn't in the hospital like she was this time last year. 

The girls went as Anna and Elsa, naturally, but swapped costumes because Emerson likes the Anna costume better and (our) Anna didn't really care. They had so much fun, and though I thought Halloween was overrated until now, I have to say that these holidays are WAY more fun as a mom! I love watching their unspoiled joy and excitement over the littlest things.

In November, we hosted Thanksgiving at our house, and though I love some good food and wine, I could not be more thankful for my family.They make every day better.

We also picked out our Christmas tree and decorated the house because, Christmas!

Lastly, December was chock full of fun! 

We went to the Snowflake Castle. SO MUCH FUN! The girls look indifferent, but I swear they loved it. They're a little skeptical of Santa though. Who wouldn't be? If you asked me to sit on a strange man's lap to get presents, I'd meet that request with an appropriate amount of apprehension and terror.

Then we had Emerson's 3rd birthday party, the Non-Pinterest-Worthy Tangled Party, and it was so special. I can't believe she's 3!

 The next day, I hosted our (5th?) annual Friendsgiving. See above. I love these girls like WHOA!

We spent Christmas day at my in-laws, and they spoiled us and the girls rotten.

If you learned nothing from this incredibly long blog post, you will have learned that as long as my family is involved, I am the happiest I could be.

My entire heart belongs to these people.

So there we have it. The best year of my life, in pictures and clipped sentences. I can't put into words how grateful and happy I am that we had a healthy, happy, exciting, adventurous, crazy and beautiful year.

2015, you have A LOT to live up to. Let's see what you've got! ;-)

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Friday, December 19, 2014

A Non Pinterest-Worthy "Tangled" Party

Hey blog!

What up. It's me, Audra. Your author. Remember me?

Anywhoo, just checking in to share some photos from Emerson's birthday 3rd birthday party this past weekend. 


And just like most of my posts these days, there's also some reflection in this one. So, if reflecting isn't your thing, please feel free to skip that part and just look at my beautiful daughters. 

I work full-time. I leave the house every morning by 7:30am, drive 30-40 minutes (depending on traffic), work my 8 hours plus a little time for lunch, leave work at 4:30 and usually arrive home at 5:15pm every day. I don't see my girls in the morning at all (they usually don't wake up until 8:00, so Daddy gets them ready for daycare, feeds them breakfast, gets them dressed and out the door). 

They're usually ready to fall asleep by 8:00, sometimes 8:30pm.

If you're doing the math, that means Monday-Friday, I only see my daughters awake for 3.25 hours a day. 

3.25 hours!!!

Now, if you're a mother too, I know you feel me. Because whether you are a SAHM, work from home, or work full-time, motherhood brings a constant stream of guilt. That guilt manifests in different forms for every mother, but my personal guilt resides in those 3.25 hours per day. 

When you only have 3.25 hours a day with your children during the week, the best advice I was given is to make it quality time; you don't have the option for quantity, clearly, so make those hours TRULY count. 

And for the most part, I think we do a pretty good job at this. Sure, I try to do dishes, cook, clean, etc. in between, but for most of those 3.25, you will find me laying on the floor, playing puzzles or dress up, chasing, pretending to be a monster, playing hide and go seek, coloring, singing, and any other activity that a 1-3 year old enjoys doing. I would like to believe I am pretty good at this whole "Be Here Now" concept. 

But "Being Here Now" also involves some sacrifice. I can't be everything to everybody, and I can't be perfect at everything I do. I have always loved having and attending birthday parties, so it would make sense that I'd give my daughters the coolest/funnest/most magical parties around. 

But remember, I only have 3.25 hours with them per night. Which means I have only about 1.5 hours to myself per night. In short, I just don't have the time to be perfect.

And guess what? I am totally, completely okay with this. 

We hosted a small party for Emerson on Saturday, and the "theme" for this party was Tangled, because it's one of Emerson's favorite movies and she loves the color purple. I saw so many Rapunzel-themed party ideas on Pinterest, and it stressed me the hell out. I just can't justify spending Emerson's college fund on $100 invitations to a 3-year old birthday party. Because what does 3-year old Emerson care about more? That her Nana is at her party, or that Nana was invited to that party via cardstock instead of email? It's kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud.

Still, I wanted it to be fun, and I wanted her to feel special. So, I took cues from what I KNOW I'm good at (food, always food) and nixed ideas where I have no real skill or expertise (DIY-anything) and the result was a perfect party. It wasn't fancy, it wasn't expensive, it wasn't the most extravagant 3 year old birthday party ever, but it was so unbelievably perfect.

Because it was us.

We woke Emerson up at 9:00am (yes, the girl slept until 9:00am on her birthday) and surprised her with one of her gifts, a Rapunzel dress and shoes.

Emerson is my girly-girl, and I knew she would love it. I had no idea just how much she would love it, but she wore it 24 hours a day for 3 days in a row, so yeah, good choice. Watching her twirl around in a circle singing "I'm beautifuuuuuuuuul, I'm a princesssssssss, I love my mommmmmmmmmy" I mean, come on! I can't handle it.

Nope, I didn't take a cake-decorating class and use my own piping bag to create this lovely concoction. I walked right over to the Kroger bakery counter, chose a stock design, happily paid my $35.00 and walked away with this cake.

I ordered Rapunzel plates and napkins , and also the purple lanterns and tablecloth online and never had to step foot in a Party City.

For food, this is where the real fun came in. Well, fun for me. Themed food is a weakness of mine.

Specialties were:

"Maximus" apples and vanilla yogurt dip
"Golden Sun" grilled cheese sandwiches (using this cookie cutter)
"Long Hair" spaghetti pies (a red and a white)
"Hazelnut Soup" (Rapunzel's favorite food, though technically it was butternut squash soup with hazelnuts on top because that sounded better)
Salad (no theme, just thought we needed some greens)
Bread (because spaghetti needs bread)


The food was a big hit, but the best part is that it required little fuss. I got everything accomplished before they woke up and during their nap time.

Emerson was a little apprehensive during "Happy Birthday" (our harmony must have been off) but she was super excited to eat her cake.

We had to blow out that candle 100 more times throughout the weekend.

The only shot of mom, and I look super weird, but the mom is never in the picture, so here you go.

My oldest friend Nikki, her husband Ray, and their precious baby Oliver.

(and also a sneak preview of our basement remodel!)

The lovely Kristen and sweet Sam. I love Sam's face in this photo!

My beautiful girls!

Emerson opening her presents. It was so fun to watch her discover what each item was, and she treated every present like it was the best thing ever. Love. 

She wasn't sure what this was, but she ended up loving it.

So like I said, this was a totally normal party, on a totally normal day, but my 3-year old had a BLAST, I didn't stress over it, and I imprinted a few memories. 

I'd call that a win.

Happy birthday my sweet girl!
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