Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deck the Halls

I truly LOVE decorating for Christmas, Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. While, I'd love to have a large gathering and have you all over to see the house, its just not happening this year. However, I'd still love to give you a tour of our Home for the Holidays. Had enough Christmas music references yet? Alright, alright, turn on your own music and come on in...

The kids helped pick out the tree, aren't they festive? 

Here, a little better? 

We've never had a window we could put the tree in so I was glad it fit here. You can see it right when you walk in the front door and I can enjoy it from the couch while I catch up on my mid season finales.

I love everything about sitting in the room. The light, the tree, the fireplace...

My mom made these stockings for the kids. It took her almost a year on each of them, but I am so glad she did it. They'll have them forever now and its pretty special.

Even the couch got a little Christmas cheer this year, and I'm not talking about the wine I drink there when the kids go down for the night.

Our dining room and my home coffee bar

Several of my windows have snowflakes hanging in them for some added sparkle.

I found these mercury glass snowflake lights and had to have them.

Leaving the dining room and heading into the kitchen 

The dish washing window got in on the festivities. Snowflakes make washing dishes not as bad and occasionally little bubbles will float up from the dish soap, then its a real party.

My small collection of Santa pics are on the sill. Now that I have space to put them out I am going to have to round up the rest -minus last year because the kids were terrified of the jolly fella and refused pictures with him.

What's the limit on strands of garland inside your home? I may be pushing takes about 10 min to unplug everything before bed at night. 

 Some people make Christmas cookies, this year I made Christmas pillows.

I walk by the tree a thousand times a day and never tire of looking at it. 

That about rounds it out folks. Thanks for stopping by. 

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Light Show

Ok there is not really a light show, but I'm showing you our lights, isn't that good enough?
I have to say, our luck with Christmas lights is minimal. As in, we are lucky they ever work.  A couple years ago we bought some solar lights for the old house. See, there was only one plug on the outside of that house and it was actually in the garage. So we had to string an extension cord across the 2 car garage  then up the side of the house. Any of the small tree lights we used were run through windows that were closed on cords and then towels stuffed around them to keep out a draft.  Solar lights seemed like a great solution and they were, for a year.  The following year we pulled them out and at $30 or so dollars a strand, they didn't work.  So we threw them away and just did a couple of strands inside until we could find another solution. Then one night when we went out to take out the trash, of the solar strands was lit up in the trash can.
Anyway, this year we decided being in a new house and all, we would just go out and buy all new. Make the conversion to LED and hopefully it would last a while before we had to replace anything. Of course we went to 3 stores and none of them had the large C9 style LED lights in warm white (the cool white is not my favorite but no offense intended.) We finally decided on a slightly smaller bulb, my OCD just prevents me from really loving them because they are nearly impossible to get tight, straight, and all the same direction. 
In the end I'm happy with the results but secretly holding out for big bulbs next year! 

Pretty cute huh? I went all out with deco mesh this year, I just like the sparkly-ness of it (and the price) plus it holds up in the weather. So where to start...

My fancy mailbox swag.  That bow is giant but I love it and although I've said I'm done, I may be adding more greenery to it. (Please note the lollipop, Eli had to have them.)

These bad boys are my tomato cage topiaries. They are about 4ft tall and only cost $17 to make the pair. During the process I was cursing the whole ordeal but as soon as they went up I was smitten and forgot about the hassle. After Christmas I can just pull them out, put them straight in the attic and replant my planters with something seasonal. 

Just above the topiaries I have these pretties...brand new porch lights that are actually large enough to be seen on the front of the house.

Since we took out all those giant bushes I knew our chimney needed something large to tie it in a bit, enter giant wreath and mesh bow.  Freebie tip: I added pinecones for a little flair and to make it match the other window wreaths. 

That leaves the front door. I originally bought the deco mesh for the wreath but once it was made I had more than enough left over so I added it to, well, everything. 

"Santa I was good..."

Tomorrow you'll have to come in and see the rest but first I have to scoot everything out of the way  clean up for pictures. See ya then! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Elf on the Shelf 2013

Its finally that time when our Elf Teddy has returned for his second annual Christmas with us.  This year when the kids woke up they had (a little and easy) breakfast waiting for them. The elf also brought two wish lists for them to fill out and color, some window clings, and most importantly a letter from Santa.
Check out the blog links of the fantastically creative people behind these ideas. A few pictures too, but please excuse the quality I took them on my phone.
The Elf breakfast is served...

These Rudolph donuts are so cute. They can be found here at My Frugal Adventures. They are so easy, its just a chocolate donut, some red hots I had on hand from Christmas baking - I believe she used red M&M's, Bonus: you get to eat the rest - pretzels halved, and some candy eyes (found on the baking isle next to all the frosting and candles.)

The window clings were from Micheal's and were less than a $1. (get 20% off your ENTIRE purchase with a coupon

I found the letter to Santa on pinterest as well,you can print it here.

We also printed a letter from Santa. I used this very official looking letterhead from Design Editor and printed the letter on gold scrapbook paper. It was rolled like a scroll - this for some reason, is how I imagine Santa letters - and tied with a ribbon. 

She was very impressed. We are taking them to see Santa this morning and the letter mentioned it. Also, the bumble bee headband (why?) was broken by Brother last night and magically repaired by the elf and left in her chair this morning. 

It was a very easy return of the Elf and the kids enjoyed it. Hope your elf has made its triumphant return as well. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Teacher Gifts

This year I've been debating on teacher gifts. I hate to give them something they probably have already received a thousand times, I don't know enough about them to pick something personal, and they can probably decorate their entire tree in gifted ornaments alone. Plus, its Christmas and like everyone else, I have a budget.
Finally, I came across this cute idea on Pinterest to give giftwrap (maybe my blog should be called Pinterest adventures.) At first I saw it and thought, thats pretty lame but I followed the link to to a blog called It's Always Craft Time and read more.  So the giftwrap comes with tape and a little card (you can print a couple cute ones free from Always Craft Time) that reads...

Since November you've been shopping,
Barely sleeping, hardly stopping. 
Now its late, you're in a scrape, out of paper or out of tape.
Hope this wrap saves the day! 
Merry Christmas


Since our printer is not a color printer I had to make my own card. While I was at Hobby Lobby getting the gift wrap I picked up two coordinating Christmas scrapbook pages then a matching transparent one to each. I bought the smaller size paper, it went through the printer no problem and I was able to make two cards per sheet. 
I just printed the saying on the transparent paper and layered it over the decorative one. I punched two holes in each so it would lay nicer once it was all tied together. 

All and all not bad for a cute, useful, budget friendly teacher gift. The kids even got to have a hand in it because they picked out the paper. Hey, if the teachers don't like it they can always re-gift it and at least its not another ornament with an apple on it.
Happy gifting!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Give Thanks

Since the surrogacy has come to a close, I've been a lot more thankful for all the things around me and may family. Its just amazing the way God can touch your life through the smallest of things. However, I'm not one to post my  30 days of giving thanks on Facebook.
Whats up with that anyway? I feel like if your going to do it you need to dig deep and come up with something worth posting/reading.  I mean, aren't we all thankful for our children, family, and the beautiful weather? Maybe the whole "Im thankful for" should be changed to "Count your blessings" - but that's another soap box all together I guess.
Moving on... This, year as you know, we moved into our new house. It was also our first year to host Thanksgiving. Honestly, it was the first year we had enough space to even consider it.   I wanted to have a big family gathering with lots of food and too many pies.  I wanted our house to be filled with the aroma of Fall, conversation, and plenty of laughter. You know, the things traditions and memories are made of. And I got all I wanted and more (that is definitely something to count in your blessings!)
So we had a total of 15 people including both sets of grandparent, the kid's great grandpa, my aunt and her family, and our neighbor (and her mother) from across the street at our old house. It warmed my heart to watch my house fill up with guests and everything went off without a hitch. So here a few pictures from this year's Thanksgiving and I hope that there are many more just like it to follow.

I was so excited to host I decided to go with real plates an everything. I am so glad we did.

The "kids" table, turned overflow seating, even had a coloring table cloth. (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and no, this TV is not in my dining room, we just had to spread out a bit.) 

The dining room decor (I had to mix Chritmas and Thanksgiving this year between the baby and our house doubling in size, there wasn't enough "fall" to go around.) 

Turkeys made by the kids 

Then there was was so good.  Beautiful cookies handmade by my friend Wendy (why yes! she sells them)...

 "old fashioned" (so it was deemed this year) chocolate pie, pumpkin roll, pumpkin cheesecake...

and did you see those cupcakes?! Feast your eyes friends...

Is it obvious yet, why a post Thanksgiving diet was in order? 
As if all the scrumptious homemade sweets weren't enough, we roasted marshmallows with the grandparents and kids that evening...

A little too close to the fire there Dad

Not sure if her mouth is big enough for that bad boy...

Finally, we spent Black Friday at the zoo with all the grandparents.  It was a great way to walk off some of those calories and create more of those memories I want my kids to have. After all that' really what its all about.

And that my friends, is something to be thankful for! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Baby Story

In no way am I a good enough writer to compose this post and be able to fully convey the magnitude of my experience over the last few days.  However, it was so powerful and touching to all involved I know I have to write it down. If for no other reason, other than my children are to young to have been there and understand what exactly happened. I feel like them not hearing it while it is fresh on my mind and heart would be doing them a disservice. So here I am ready to share with you today and with them at some point later, when they ask "Mommy, why did you do that?" what will probably be one of the most tender stories of my life.
In the beginning this surrogacy started as a means to an end.  It seemed like a great way to pay off my student loans quickly while being able to stay home with my kids. After all, both of my pregnancies have been uncomplicated and fairly easy. My labor and deliveries also without complications and very quick. This was going to be a great way to help my family and not really impact our way of life too much. It was also a nice gesture for the other family. You know, win, win.
So we began the process and were matched up with what seemed to be a pretty good match. All was well in surrogacy land.  As time went by I really got to know the other mom, we'll call her the intended mother for sake of keeping things straight without using names. She attended all the appointments of mine that she could, which was most of them, and we talked pretty often on the phone or via text. Eventually, the intended parents met my kids and I met the daughter they already had. Chris was still not really involved with the other family because he was at work through most of it. For me though, over time, the intended mom became a friend. The more pregnant you become the more you want to talk about pregnancy and since this was her baby she ate up every little bit of information I was willing to divulge. She and her husband are two of the most caring people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I didn't speak to him much, only a few times at the major appointments, but he was always so gracious. Their compassion toward me was indescribable. They were always respectful of my privacy and always thoughtful of my needs and the needs of my entire family. My sweet Eli came to most of the Dr. appointments with me because he is not in school yet and by the end he would ask if my friend was going to be there. He looked forward to seeing her. All of this, and I still had no idea what I was in for, I'm not sure any of us did.
By this time, what started as a great way to pay off some old debt, had bloomed into something a little more. God was teaching me how to be compassionate to these other people, complete strangers really. He was teaching me to be grateful for my own children and how to be more compassionate to them. To watch a mother who is unable to carry her own child savor every tiny kick she was able to feel or her eyes  fill with tears at the sound of her baby's heartbeat, can sure make treasure some of the truly small moments that you are blessed with in life.
Even so, the lack of sleep there at the end and the foot wedged in your rib can start to really wear you down. Looking back, I was not a very good sport in the final weeks of this pregnancy. I was ready. I was huge, in pain, hungry, tired and hell bent on not carrying this baby for the full 40 weeks (Eli came at 37 so I just knew she was going to be early too.)  I'm sure I wasn't quite pleasant to be around. At my 37  week appointment the Dr. decided that she would go ahead and schedule to induce 3 days shy of 40 weeks (November 6th,) it was a definite end to this all and I was grateful to have it on the books (though still sure the baby would come before then.) The intended mother dutifully checked on me every few day,s but the closer we got the grumpier I got.  She respected my feelings and gave me the space I needed until finally the day came, it was hospital time.
When we arrived, even though we came from different places, it was like a weird act of fate and we ended up at the parking garage elevator all at the same time. Looking back, it was kind of like a premonition that we were going to be crossing the finish line all together.
Our spirits were high, today was the day. We were checked in and all sent up to labor and delivery together. Surrogacy is a unique case and the intended mother was very thorough with the hospital making sure everything was set up. Chris and I would have a labor and delivery room and the intended parents would have one just next door. The plan was to have the baby and the nurse would hand it to the intended parents at which point they would go next door and check all the vitals. This would be a great way to set immediate boundaries and give both parties a little privacy from the other. Neither couple could be prepared for what was in store.
After we got to our room the intended parents said their goodbyes and went next door so that they could hook up all my IVs, the epidural and get started. The process took about two hours. During this time Chris was back and forth a couple times keeping the couple posted and I was occasionally texting the intended mother with little updates. Finally, we hit the "sit and wait" point and the intended parents came in just before I was going to nap.  I previously described them as compassionate and thoughtful and they were true to their nature. They again told Chris and I how grateful they were to us and presented me with a precious locket so that I could always keep my own children close to my heart. After chatting a few min they left so that I could rest. Over the next 4 hours we texted a little and I cat napped a bit, but all and all it was pretty quiet.
Then, just like that it was time.  I called the intended mother while my nurse called the Dr. and everyone arrived. The intended mother was very excited, but we had originally agreed that both intended parents would be present (within respectful distance) and the intended dad came in to say good luck but, headed out. I told him he was welcome to stay because I didn't want him to miss seeing his baby girl for the first time, but he said he had a lifetime to spend with this little girl and wanted to make sure I was comfortable. With that he stepped in the hall and we began. 3 pushes, and 8 min later, the Dr held up a perfectly pink and healthy baby girl. I looked over at the the intended mom and watched tears fall to the floor.  She wrapped her arms around my neck and all she could say was "thank you, thank you, thank you, I cannot believe what you've done for us." They handed her the scissors, she cut the cord, they wrapped the baby and put her in the arms of her mother then sat them together, on the couch. The baby cried while gazing up at her mom for the first time. It was beautiful, she knew that was exactly where she was supposed to be. The mom just held her and kissed her, tears streaming the whole time, each one falling onto that tiny bundle. After a moment she brought her over and hugged me again with baby in arms. Her voice cracking through the tears but full of so much joy she said more thank yous, it was all she could do to peel her gaze away from the baby. While we finished up and they checked the immediate vitals of the baby, Chris went out to update dad and came back with the report that dad was just weeping in the hall, he said he was feeling so overwhelmed with the blessing they just received. The baby's nurse got them to the other room and came back. I asked her what the baby weighed and how long, she replied all I know is she is healthy and pink, there is no way I was taking her from them. So she let them be a few min while the other nurses were still buzzing around my room. As my Dr. finished up some paperwork she looked up and me and Chris over the top of her glasses and said something to the effect - I want you guys to know that I am so proud to be a part of this. I've been involved in several surrogate deliveries but I have never been touched like this. The support that you have for each other is truly something special. And the moment we were all just a part of will be something I never forget.- With that I was in tears as well as the 4 other nurses and the Dr.
Things settled down over the next few hours but even the director of the hospital came in at one point. She has heard about what had taken place in that room that afternoon. She gave us both a hug and told us she was proud to know us. Later we were moved to our post-partum and it was rounding out the end of our nurse's shift. She had been with us all day and was absolutely wonderful. She told me earlier in the day that she was working at the hospital when my Dr. did her residency and they have known each other a long time. She said she was pretty impressed because she'd never seen the Dr. tear up, ever. She was a tough nut to crack, were I believe the exact words. She wheeled us into the room and got us situated then came over and gave me a huge hug and just as she left she said "I will never forget you or what happened today."
That was they best way to sum it up, it was just the tiny moment in time when a tiny miracle came into the world and touched so many people all at the same time. Along the way so many people told me what a wonderful gift I was giving and how selfless it was, but being in our room that day, when a mother saw her child for the first time, it felt like being touched by God. I know, in the end, this baby was actually the blessing, not what I did.  She was a blessing to us all even if she came through our lives for only a moment.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Adventures of Trick or Treating

Well over all last night was a success. I wasn't sure how it was going to go in the new neighborhood, especially since there are no sidewalks for the kids to walk on.  The kids had lots of fun and I enjoyed meeting some of the neighbors. Everybody was very nice and I have to say, way to go Nottingham, they gave out GREAT candy.
So here are a few costume pics (a cat and rainbow fish) and some cool decorations we saw in our adventures...

I had to add this one, the only shot of my DIY Halloween wreath

The first year they have allowed me to put make up on them

This was really super cute in person, I didn't feel like the pictures did it justice

Until I saw this one...
(wait for me!)

Getting the lay of the land

I am not a big fan of decorating for Halloween. I would much rather just do "Fall" but the kids were way into it this year so we made a trip to the dollar store. Pretty good cemetery for a $20 budget.
(Hey Penny, the doggy in the window. Told you terriers are nosy)

Since we weren't sure how the walking was going to go without sidewalks we decided that the wagon was a safe bet. That, and in case I went into labor Chris offered to pull me home. Next year we will have to decorate it too.

Our first street, I loved these little lights.

This house was done up (again my pictures do not do it any kind of justice,) the kids were pretty creeped out. Eli loves scary stuff but even he was unsure. They are definitely the winner for the evening.

This next set up was very cool. The Zombies trapped inside the house were awesome. It was like a video thing so they were moving in front of the window. They were having a big Halloween party, it was a fun house.

This is our neighbor, the witch is actually really high in the tree. I just thought it was cute.

Pointing at the large pumpkin (see next photo)

Checking out their haul...

It was such a fun night. We got dressed in costumes, went to get the kids free kids meals at JCI (and ice cream) then headed home. After trick or treating we did baths and they snuggled up with a couple pieces of candy in their bean bags to watch the Charlie Brown Halloween special. Needless to say they were out almost as soon as their sweet heads hit the pillow. Now they're both at school and its time for me to pick up all things Halloween to make room for Thanksgiving, but first...the trick or treat basket! 

Happy Fall!