Atlanta Airport Military Homecoming

For the last year, I have been keeping the biggest secret here on my blog. Because this blog is a lifestyle blog and because it’s a lifestyle/home diy blog and my biggest partner in my diy projects is my husband, it made it even more hard not to share, and hard to write at all. My husband, Brandon, has been gone on a military deployment to the Middle East for the last 9 1/2 months, and he came home about a week and half ago! This was so hard not to write about here, not to reach out and be someone for those of you who can relate to my situation, and so hard not to mention when writing about the boys birthdays, Christmas, or vacations. None of that even matters now though, because he’s home!Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (53)
(I’ve already gotten a few questions- yes, many soldiers do wear civilian clothing when traveling home, especially if they are flying through a public airport on a normal plane. Brandon actually had flown in to the US with the other troops and then was flown to the Atlanta airport from there, and traveled in civilian clothing for that last leg of his journey home).

We had a rough idea of when he would be coming home but didn’t get an exact day until the day before, and didn’t get exact flight info until a few hours before. That is completely common in the military, and so that wasn’t a big deal, but it made the waiting feel even longer, as if time wasn’t going slow enough at the end. I had reached out to an amazing photographer in the Atlanta area, Martine Beher, and was so happy when she was able to be there to capture those moments of Brandon reuniting with the boys again. I really wanted to have those moments forever but also not have to be there trying to juggle a camera and three very tired, wiggly boys (it was around 10:30pm when we finally were reunited). This deployment has been a great learning experience for both of us, but more than anything we’re just so happy to have him home. I’ll let the amazing photos speak for themselves.Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (1)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (7)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (11)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (4)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (14)
(this is me desperately trying to find a way to keep them distracted and not running around crazy after his flight got delayed coming in)
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Thank you again to Martine, these pictures are so beautiful and capture those sweet moments perfectly. If you are in the Atlanta area and in need of a photographer, she was amazing!

How to Personalize Your Flip Flops (and stop losing them at the pool)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias DIY personalized flip flops

I know I’m not the only Mom who is tired of having everything packed up and ready to roll, and one of your kids is hopping around on one foot yelling that they can’t find their other flip flop. Somehow we lose them, leave them places, end up with someone else’s, or, quite often, only have one. I can’t tell you how many left flip flops I have that I keep holding on to in hopes that it’s right will show up someday. So far, that hasn’t happened.

As I was thinking about that, and about all our upcoming pool adventures, I realized I could easily personalize my kiddos flip flops with some vinyl and my good hair dryer.
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For this project, you really only need some crafting vinyl (I used 651 thickness, the permanent vinyl) and my hair dryer. If you have a cutting machine, you can simply type out your kids name and size it to your flip flops (I kept mine to 5 inches long for the kids flip flops), then send it to your machine. Weed out the parts you don’t want, and put on the transfer tape. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter, they sell lots of vinyl letters at stores that you can put together to make names or designs.
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Stick it to your flip flops, and rub really really well. I use a credit card to really press the edges down and rub the top until I know it’s stuck. Now, flip flops usually have a bumpy texture, plus we want this to last a long time, so you are going to grab your hair dryer and heat the vinyl up for about 10 seconds until it’s nice and hot and then rub and press down on it really well with a piece of fabric (you don’t want to rub it with your bare skin because it will be hot!)personalized flip flops (2)personalized flip flops (1)

Ta-da! Personalized flip flops that no one will accidentally steal when you’re at the pool! I even made some for myself. The real fun though is kicking off your shoes and jumping in! DIY flip flops

Like I’ve mentioned before, I taught swim lessons for three years, plus we spend a lot of time at the pool and lake, and so I’m pretty picky when it comes to life jackets or swim assist for my kids. I want something that is coast-guard approved for a higher degree of safe swimming and something that allows my boys the freedom to move and swim and learn to play in the water. My sister always used Puddle Jumper® life jackets for her kids, so naturally when my oldest got old enough to swim in a life jacket, Puddle Jumper® life jackets is our go-to.

This year we’ve got three in life-jackets and so as the pool season started up, I went to Target and let Rhett pick out his own Puddle Jumper® life jacket. He’s right in the weight range (30-50lbs) and is ready to start really learning to swim and have fun in the water.20170608_110613

Puddle Jumper® life jackets are US Coast Guard approved life jackets, with adjustable buckles in the back to ensure the right fit, and they are a life jacket I trust. Rhett loved the fun, 3-D designs and was so excited to pick out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® one. I love that he can learn to swim with it on.
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These jackets are great, they stay on through all the jumping in, running around and swimming that my kids can do!Puddle Jumpers  (4)Puddle Jumpers  (2)Puddle Jumpers  (3)
See that buckle in the back? I love that I can adjust it to fit, and he can’t reach it so we don’t have worry about him taking his lifejacket off.

The summer is just starting for us and now with our Puddle Jumper® life jackets and personalized flip flops, we can’t wait to get out and make memories and have fun at the pool and lake.  We are in the water as much as possible in the summer. What are your favorite things to take along to the pool? Do you have a favorite pool toy or beach bag? I’d love to hear it, we’re always looking for more great pool-side supplies!

Memorial Day

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Lake season is back as wonderful as ever this year. We’ve been out to my parents lake property at least three or four times and it never feels like enough. We spent the long Memorial Day weekend out there for four days and the boys still cried when we had to leave.

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My parents have a wakeboarding boat, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, jet skis, a paddleboat, four wheelers, everything you could ever want to play on and have a great time. We are really lucky to get to have somewhere so wonderful to go spend our weekends all summer  (and winter) and be together as a family. As fun as all of the boats and things are, it’s really the time spent with family that makes it a special place.

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Sawyer caught his first fish over the weekend. He’s always had those Disney poles that have the fake rubber fish on the end and was too young to realize he wouldn’t catch any thing with that, and since I liked not having to worry about a 4 year old walking around with a long stick with a hook on the end, it was fine, but this summer he was ready to move up to a real pole and real hook and bait. He was excited when he caught something but not so much about having to help take it off the line to throw it back in.

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We spent a lot of time on the water with fun swim breaks and time at the rope swing, and can’t wait to get back out there.

5 Backyard Car Activities

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #UltimatePitStop #CollectiveBias

I don’t know about your families, but my kids love playing outside, and they love playing with cars. We’ve been getting excited for the new Cars 3 movie to come out on June 16th, and since it’s summer and the kids love to be outside, I thought it would be fun to come up with some backyard car-related activities for our boys. They always play so well together when they are outside and get worn out twice as fast, which means this Momma can get a much needed nap! Here are the five summer activities we’re doing to enjoy cars outside:Hero1

1. Turn your slide into a racetrack!- My kids love playgrounds, and they love toy cars. What better way to keep them playing happily than to turn our playset into a racetrack?

The only supplies you need are some foam tape (I used foam window insulation tape) and a pair of scissors! The foam tape usually comes in 10ft rolls, so just make sure you buy enough for your slide. It’s only a couple bucks per roll, so it doesn’t cost too much to add additional lanes; I wanted to have three lanes, so I bought two rolls. Having my kids play happily together is always the goal, so I wanted each of my boys had their own lane so they could participate and so more cars could race at one time!diy slide racetrack (10)

Clean your slide so the tape will stick (caveat- this tape pulls off great if you just leave it on for an hour or so, but if you leave it on all afternoon in the heat, it will stick permanently. You can still pull it back up, but it will leave behind some gunk which you can get off with goo gone or a paint scraper), and then start at the top of the slide and slowly stick down the foam tape until you get to the end, create lanes for the cars. The window tapes foam is thick enough that when the cars hit into it, they will stay in their own lanes and keep racing.diy slide racetrack (12)diy slide racetrack (1)

That’s all you need for your kiddos to have hours of fun racing their cars, running down to get them, climbing back up and racing again!  It only take about two minutes to set up but has already provided hours of fun for my boys. We just used Amazon Prime to get the Disney•Pixar Cars 3 Crazy 8 Crashers Smash & Crash Derby Playset from the new Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 movie, and as soon as we opened it, they were out there on the playground running Lightning McQueen and Mrs. Fritter down our racetrack and into the derby. I love seeing them use their imaginations and come up with different “scenarios” for the cars. I also like the track came with two different ways to play which spring boarded Sawyer into thinking of more ways for Lightning McQueen to enter and try and escape the derby. I love toys that encourage my kids to make their own stories and think outside the box. It always makes for longer play and more fun for everyone. Hover over the image to shop this toy and more Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 merchandise!

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The cars from this set are so fun because they wiggle and bump into everything as they drive which had the boys laughing lots!
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I did decide to get my cutting machine out really quick and made  “START” and “FINISH” decals just to add to the “race track” feel. We’re also working on Sawyer learning to read, so I try to incorporate words into as much of our day as I can. One of my favorite things about them racing their cars on the playground is they have to run up and down that ladder over and over to retrieve their cars, and that is a great way to wear active kiddos out!

2. Make a backyard city- I’ve seen some awesome tutorials on Pinterest using 2X4s that are painted black with small white stripes  in the middle to make roads all over the yard. Kids get to rearrange them and build cities. We love to keep our Amazon Prime boxes and save them for making cities like this. We go outside with finger paint and they can decorate the boxes to look like sky scrapers and then put them along the roads as towns and buildings. It’s a great way to encourage creativity and keep them busy!

3. Backyard “Carwash”- diy slide racetrack (8)
On those hot days of summer, one fun outdoor activity is to make a “car wash” for the kids to ride bikes and cars through. Simply hook your hose up to a sprinkler on the back porch and let the kids ride through. My kids love it when we do this, especially if I put out buckets of soapy water and sponges to clean them with. We like to add to this playtime by getting chalk sticks and getting them a little wet, then the kids can draw all over the cars and then go clean it off in the carwash. They love washing off all the chalk and then starting over again.diy slide racetrack (5)diy slide racetrack (7)diy slide racetrack (4)

4. Have a “demolition derby” after it rains!-The hardest days of summer for a Mom are always the rainy ones. The kids get restless inside, and so do I. Just like the Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 Smash & Crash Derby playset, you can let your kids get out and get muddy and have a pretend demolition derby. Have some towels and clean clothes at the ready, and send them outside with some cars that you don’t mind getting dirty, and let them have a demolition derby with them! It might be a good idea to have this one followed by #3.

Another fun idea to go along with the derby is to let your kids “fix” their cars afterwards. Amazon has a really cool Just Play Cars 3 Mack Mobile Tool toy that comes with kids tools that you could let them pretend to repair their cars afterwards. My boys love to fix things and pretend to work on things like Dad, so I know any kid would love that toy.

5. Backyard “Drive-in” Movie-When the days is done and your kids are ready to slow down a little, invite some friends over and have everyone bring their favorite bike or car to sit in and watch a move on a projector in the backyard. You can even provide cardboard boxes and let kids decorate them to look like cars to sit in during the movie if they want to. We got a projector for Christmas and the boys have been waiting for it to warm up so we could watch a movie. Amazon has some really cute Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 bedding that you could have for when the evening starts to cool off and if they fall asleep in their cars after doing car activities all day, you can just wrap them up and put them to bed in it. They’ll have sweet dreams of Lightening McQueen.

There are so many great ways to get outside and get your kiddos playing and get excited for the new Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 movie. We already bought gift cards to take the kids when it comes out on Friday and they are so excited. Don’t forget to head to Amazon too as your pit stop for all things Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3! We’ve been eyeing some of the cute Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 apparel  for our kiddos to wear to the movie, and they even have a LEGO Juniors Thunder Hollow Crazy 8 Race Building Kit that would be perfect for any fan of the movies, plus it can all come in two days with Amazon Prime!

Are you planning on heading out to see the new Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 movie on Friday? Let me know who you’re bringing with you! Your kiddos? Husband?

Battlebots and Moana Last Minute Birthdays

If there is an award for best-way-too-early or way-too-late parent, I could win it. If I don’t get something done when it’s fresh and new and way ahead of time, it simply doesn’t get done. Lucky for me, when the boys birthday’s were coming up and I had a lot on my plate, my Mom had us do a small get-together to celebrate the boys birthdays several weeks ahead of time because she would be out of town the following weeks. We decided to do it just a day or two before, so lucky for me, one trip to Michaels and I had some perfectly good supplies to make it a great birthday for those boys.Battlebots Moana birthday party (28)
(check out those fine wrapping skills of mine right up front and the Christmas wrapping paper. I know I’m not the only one who uses whatever’s around, right?)

We are usually pretty old-school as far as birthdays go. The boys get to say what kind of cake they want, there’s usually some balloons (I failed on that part this year), and a couple of presents. We break out out the classic paper streamers and I try to throw together some decorations from around the house. Weeks ago when I asked Sawyer what kind of cake he wanted, he immediately said “Battlebots.” If you don’t remember his Halloween experience, here’s the post where I shared just a bit about his obsession with combative robotics. Nothing has changed since then, he acts like a Battlebot on a daily basis and ask me questions about each Battlebot from the show and their strengths and weaknesses and battle strategies. If you ever want to talk for an hour about why a Battlebot team chose a certain weapon or size or even name for their Battlebot, I know just the kid for you to sped an afternoon with.

Since Battlebot cakes aren’t exactly lined up in the bakery windows (although they should be. It’s pretty awesome), I had to get creative. He’d asked for a cake of his favorite Battlebot, Bombshell, but I know my limits. I have zero cake decorating experience, and I’m smart enough to know what I definitely can’t do, and building a cake that looked like a battlebot with a vertical blade or axe on the front was definitely on the not possible list. Instead of making Bombshell, I decided to make his cake a giant nut, which is the trophy for winner of the Battlebot competition. Pretty circular, so easy to use standard baking pans, some straight edges cut, I figured I could do it. Lucky for me, they sell silver food coloring spray, and problem solved, I’d have it done. It really wasn’t too hard too make the main shape and my Aunt let me borrow some of her more professional frosting tools which made it easier, plus the silver food coloring spray hid lots of my imperfections. The cake was looking so good.  At the last minute, I decided to add some words out of sprinkles using a template I cut, and it looked awesome until we rode in the car and it shook the sprinkles out of place. I wish I’d gotten a picture before we left, but it’s no matter because Sawyer couldn’t have cared less if the words were messed up. He was so excited, and that’s all that mattered.Battlebots Moana birthday party (3)

Tell me that’s not one happy kid? He was SO proud of that cake. And can we just take a minute to appreciate my handi-work? Check out those details, my OCDness came out a little bit on the sides of that hexnut. I even measured and used a compass to make sure each side was the equal and that the points were in the right place, and used a pie server to make the screw threads inside the nut. Not that anyone cared or noticed but I had to do it right or it would have bugged me. haha. Here’s an upclose shot- It’s by no means perfect, but it’s good for me, and was everything Sawyer had hoped for.
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Apparently it didn’t taste half bad either. Now, Rhett, had no idea what he wanted. He probably would have been okay with a plain cake, or even sharing Sawyer’s, but I didn’t want him to see Sawyer getting all excited and not get something special for himself, I mean, it is his birthday, so while I was at Michaels I grabbed a couple miniature figurines (they’re made for fairy gardens), some teal and orange food dye and sprinkles, and I was ready to create the best last minute cake ever, but I’m completely bragging on this one- it came out awesome! Rhett loves the movie Moana and ask to watch it every single day, so I went with a Moana-inspired cake for his.Battlebots Moana birthday party (32)Battlebots Moana birthday party (18)Battlebots Moana birthday party (22)

Moana’s boat was one of the fairy garden figurines, I just added the little red Moana logo like her canoe has. You’d be surprised how hard that little symbol is to draw, I had to practice a couple times before I got it right. All of the flowers on the cake are sugar flowers they had in packages at Michaels, and so is the “Happy Birthday” words, which I think totally made the cake. Thank goodness for ready-made, easy to add supplies.

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The coconut Kakamora was my favorite part to make. I just bought a coconut at the grocery store and googled Kakamora and took whatever features I liked (and looked easy to replicate) from some of the Kakamora from the movie and painted them on. The great part is there are so many of them in the movie and they all look different so there was no way to really mess it up.

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Like I said, I am by no means an expert cake decorator. Most of my food taste awesome but looks terrible haha, so for this to come out so well  was amazing. Making something look like water was pretty forgiving though, I purposefully didn’t mix the food coloring all the way into the frosting so it would have some color variation, and was able to make it all swirly and not-flat and blame it on looking like water haha. The “mountain” and beach didn’t look very great until I covered them in orange sprinkles and added the shell and tree and flowers and magically it looked amazing. The Happy Birthday words were the real focusing point and made the cake look so much more professional and the little boat was a fun addition that made it obvious that I was going for the Moana theme. Most importantly though, Rhett was so excited when he saw it. His favorite part was the Kakamora and after the party we broke it open so they could try coconut milk.

Now we’ve got a 5 year old and 3 year old (and the 1 year old of course) and I am constantly on the edge of anxiety just thinking about Sawyer starting Kindergarten in the fall. I can’t believe I have a “kid” now, not just toddlers or babies. Time really does go by so fast. Rhett had a baby-face for so long and he’s starting to lose that toddler chubby tummy and it just makes me want to grab him and squish him and never let him grow up, although sometimes I feel like I got jipped on the baby and little toddler stages with him because he grew SO fast. Sawyer is 98th percentile for height and Rhett is 100th, and Rhett is only a couple inches shorter than Sawyer. For the most part they wear all the same clothes and Ford is so big that he’s only one clothing size behind them. Both sides of our families have a lot of men over 6’2”, and even a lot of women over 5’10” on my side, so it looks like at 5’8” I’ll probably be the shrimp of the family. I look forward to being the short Mom with her boys towering over her someday, but not quite yet. For now I’ll enjoy them being small enough to still cuddle up on my lap and watch Battlebots or Moana with me.