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! (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. (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)
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!
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
These jackets are great, they stay on through all the jumping in, running around and swimming that my kids can do!
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!
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. (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You may have already seen one of these pictures on my Instagram a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share them here with more of the story-
Here’s what I wrote on Instagram, “Life around here has been hectic lately. Our basement flooded, kids have been sick, there have been a million Dr appointments and an unexpected tooth surgery, plus a million other normal day-to-day things we have going on. I’ll admit, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and focus on the negative, but then I come downstairs to find the boys playing piano together, and as soon as I put Ford down he wanted to be right there with them, and it reminded me that life is all about what you focus on. There is always bad, and always good, and I hope I will always remember to focus on the good.”
There is SO much good in my life, even when life seems overwhelming and like everything possible is going wrong. I just need to remember to focus on it, and in my mind, I feel like I do, but when people genuinely ask how I’m hanging in there, I tend to say something more like “well, lifes hard with three kids” etc etc, and it is, but I need to be better about what I focus on when I answer those questions. My children are a joy, I love them. Yes parenting can be hard, but that isn’t what I should be focusing on, and when I don’t focus on it, I barely even notice that parenting is hard.
I had a really great conversation a few weeks ago with a good friend of mine about how we can easily get distracted by things that are good and lose our focus on what is best in life. Many times we spend so much time doing “good” things, that we end up not having time left for the things that are “best” like one-on-one time with our children or our spouse. One of my favorite talks centers on the “good,” “better,” and “best” things in life. I feel blessed that I was raised in a family that knew the importance of what was best in life, and we spent much of our time growing up either at church, at school, or spending time with our family. As Brandon and I have become parents and especially as the kids get old enough to want to go play with other kids all the time, we have had to start deciding what is better and what is best more and more often, and sometimes it can be really hard to know what is the best thing for our family, and for me one of the hardest parts is telling people no when they invite us to something that is a good thing to go do and would be fun but our family really needs that time as just Mom and Dad and our kids, so we turn down the invitation. Yes, at those fun things we would be together, but where would our focus be? Most likely, it’s not on each other. The kids are running off with friends or cousins, and Brandon and I are chatting with the adults. It’s good, and there are times when those activities are great, but nothing is as important as that time with your immediate family, especially if you’ve been missing out on that lately.
Seeing how much my boys just enjoy that time as brothers really stopped me in my tracks and helped me to pause and enjoy that time that we have while they are little and to put down the vacuum and just be present and focus on them. They are what’s best in my life.
Hasn’t this weather been amazing??? We have been outside a lot over this winter, it was such a mild winter, no complaints here, but most of it was spent (at least by me) digging dirt in and out of our yard after our basement had to be dug out and repaired. Talk about a workout, but this kick into the high eighties has finally been enough to pull me out of hibernation and and get playing and photographing again. I’m also finally almost done with some other big home projects that I am getting ready to share with yall once they are finished and I think you’ll love them. I feel like I really am coming out of hibernation after a quiet but restful winter and am so excited for the Spring!I’m sooo glad I captured this moment because those lips!!!
I know the last picture is blurry but it’s my favorite. That’s exactly how I feel when a ball is coming at me too. Also, yes my parents do have a boat upside-down in their yard that the kids have turned into a slide. It’s awesome. They are also turning an old four-wheeler into a toy for the kids to ride and it’s awesome. I’ll have to share a picture of it when it’s done but I’ll give you a sneakpeek and say that it is baby blue with awesome fake horns (the loud kind, not the antler type kind, although that sounds awesome) attached to the front. Coolest grand-parents award.