Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Funny Story

We're in the middle of a Thanksgiving baking fest at my house, but I had to take a quick break to share a funny story from this week.  But first you need to know that I have long suffered from a serious disorder that I just now self diagnosed as "Hollywood Life Expectations."  For years now I've consistently over-glamorized things in my head, only to be caught slightly off guard when things don't go quite according to plan.  For example, after watching "She's All That" I was pretty sure prom was going to be the most fantastic, coolest night ever.  But there was no spiked punch (that I found) or choreographed dance, and Usher certainly wasn't the DJ.

I've talked about my lofty expectations for picking a Christmas tree last year here, and my high hopes for Halloween here, but somehow after years of thwarted prom, holiday, and other everyday kinds of Hollywood dreams, I just never seem to learn.

So, back to my funny story.  A few weeks ago Ryan mentioned that a friend of a friend of a coworker sort of person had written a romance novel and was looking for models for her book cover.  The coworker had recommended Ryan due to his strapping good looks and flowing locks, and when they said they were looking for a girl with long blonde hair he offered up my (6 month pregnant) services.  They apparently saw pictures and "hired" us for a photo shoot last night, assuring us they could cover up the belly.

As soon as Ryan told me this my mind went immediately to the glamorous, sexy, romantic photo shoot they'd shown on The Bachelor last season.  I could just imagine me with Fabio Ryan, lying across some big rock in the wilderness, my dress slightly untied, passion in our eyes.  It was going to be hot.

Then we showed up to the photo shoot and learned that most of the book series are about Amish people, and this one was about a couple in the civil war area who are "unmarried and can't really be touching much."  My long blonde hair got parted in the middle, braided tightly into a bun and covered into a super hot hair net.  Not my best look.

I probably shouldn't even share these photos, but who am I to keep you from a good laugh on this Thanksgiving eve??

I guess we'll chalk this up to another Hollywood dream gone bad.  I really won't ever learn.

- K

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Grandma Visit

Another quarter close has snuck up on me at work, and with Joan being out of town we've had to call in the reinforcements, which means a lot of exciting visitors for L.  My stepmom came into town last week and ran around with that silly girl all week.  They had a blast reading about 2.3 million books every day and chasing our poor pup around who got neutered and was forced into the cone of shame.
It's so sweet to see how much Lyla loves to have visitors these days.  The way she grabs their hands and drags them around from one activity to the next is pretty cute.  And her rendition of the word "grandma" going from "ma" to "wa-wa" to "wa-mwa" was pretty cute too. 
Wa-mwa was so helpful to me, keeping L busy all day long and helping around the house.  And I think it's safe to say Lyla had a blast.
Kevin, on the other hand, has seen better weeks.  ;)
- K

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Freshly Picked Moccasins

A little while ago we were able to host a giveaway for Freshly Picked Moccasins, and I was so excited to get to partner with such an amazing company.  I'm not one of those hardcore "support small business" people - I shop almost daily at Target and we eat out at chain restaurants more often than not.  But, I am big on supporting companies I believe in.  There are a handful that I would consider to be my favorites - companies that I don't feel bad about splurging at because I know I am supporting some great people.  I think it's fantastic when people have a dream and make it happen, and I really like when I see good people succeed.  Freshly Picked is one of those companies for me, and Susan Peterson, the owner, is one of those people you just feel like should be succeeding.  She's got a good thing going with those buttery leather moccs, and hello, they actually stay on those fat little sausage feet!  Win - win if you ask me.  ;)

Here are some photos from a recent sunny, fall day of Lyla "Dora-the-Exploring" around our backyard in her adorable lilac moccs.  

- K


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fighting the Christmas Spirit with Apple Pie

Ever since Halloween came and went I just cannot kick the Christmas spirit.  Typically I'm right there with everyone, like, really Target?  Too soon.  But this year, I don't know.  I just am into it.  Really into it.  Every single day I have to fight the urge to turn on the Christmas carols and bust out the decorations.  I've already finalized my Christmas list and even bought a couple of Christmas presents.  I honestly have no idea what's gotten into me.  So, in an attempt to "live in the present" I decided to go ahead and make my Thanksgiving pie this weekend.  And it was a delicious way to do so.  And maybe a couple of Christmas carols were played.  So sue me.  ;)

I've always been a baker.  There's something really comforting and peaceful, and not to mention delicious, about it for me.  Cookies were always my specialty, but I've always thought that pies are the cutest of the baked goods.  I don't know what it is about them.  When I was in high school I found this apple crunch pie in Good Housekeeping (don't ask me why I was reading Good Housekeeping in high school.  Clearly I had a fantastic social life.) and I knew I had to give it a try.  That Thanksgiving began a tradition, and I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a year since that I haven't made this pie.  And since having this pie, no other apple pie will do.  I'm telling you, it is the best

Here's the recipe in case you'd like to try it yourself.  Also, I double the crumb topping recipe, but I'm a "more is more" kinda girl.  Especially when it comes to sugar, butter, and cinnamon.


Crumb Topping
1/2 C + 2 T flour
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1/3 C white sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 C butter

7 medium - large tart apples
1 T lemon juice
1/2 C white sugar
3 T flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg


Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Crumb Topping
Mix flours, sugars, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter until mix forms moist, course crumbs that clump together easily.

Cut apples in 1/8 inch thick slices.  Toss with lemon juice to coat.  Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over apples; toss to coat.  Layer apples in pie shell, higher in center.  Pat topping evenly over apples to form top crust.  Place on cookie sheet to catch drips.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes longer.


- K

Friday, November 8, 2013

First Snow

My post the other day was more timely than I knew.  The very next morning we woke up to our first snow.  There's something about that first snow that just feels good.  It's so pretty and white and a reminder that the holidays are right around the corner.  Lyla obviously doesn't have any memories of snow, but somehow was so excited about it, like she'd been waiting all her life for it to snow.  As soon as we came downstairs she pointed out the back door and yelled "Lyla!"  (She's very into speaking in the third person right now.)  Then kept pointed and saying "oushide!  oushide!" 

Before we could even eat breakfast we had to bundle up and head outside to check out the snow.  It was really freezing, and as soon as we got out there Lyla looked at me and said "brrr!  coe!"  I love how much she's talking these days, it's so fun to have these little mini conversations that aren't so one-sided any more. 

We didn't stay out long, but Lyla and Kevin had a great time goofing off in the white stuff.  We'll see how well we're all holding up in 5 or 6 months when it's STILL snowing.  ;)

- K

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Love Letters: A Guest Post

Wow, when I was asked to be a part of the "Love Letter" series I have to admit I was beyond flattered and so thrilled to start writing! I read some of the previous posts for Inspiration and an idea of what to write.  In doing so I had the idea to write 3 letters. One to myself, one to my son, and one from God, or rather what i think He'd want me to know. Here it goes: 
Dear Self, 
Yes, YOU! Stop right there and take a moment to breathe and read this love letter that your soul so desperately needs.  First of all, congratulations on making it through a very challenging time emotionally and physically throughout your pregnancy. You carried a human being from a bundle of cells to a 7.4 lb bundle of love. You watched on as your body changed, having no control over the new shape and form taking place, and embraced it. Even during those moments when you could no longer fit into your bras or underwear anymore, ya THOSE moments, you persevered.  You looked at the beauty that was within and accepted the transformation taking place as something that was none other than the greatest gift you'd ever been a part of. Although there were rough moments, you always loved yourself and never gave into the enemy's lies while he tried to attack you with insecurities and use your vulnerable emotional state against you.. No, you stayed strong and kept your faith in focus. Be proud. Feel great, no feel wonderful, that you not only did that for YOU but for your son. He is healthy and alive because of you and your healthy, loving choices. 
Now, look at the mess you've been in your head lately. What's going on? Lets take a closer look & have a moment of self-reflection. You wake every morning with a to-do list in mind that you allow to instantly consume you. You beat yourself up if you don't get the baby's clothes changed in time after feeding him, changing his diaper, stimulating him and playing with him, using the bathroom yourself and trying to eat breakfast and pump all at the same time. Now he's fussy and he was supposed to be asleep 5 minutes ago! Oh no, 5 minutes is BIG, you're interrupting his sleep schedule while sleep training. Keep in mind, darling love, you only had 1 hour to get this done.. Because this little one takes his first nap real quick upon awakening. Then once he's down you go through the next list in your head.. "The me list".. Nope not yet. That one's still on hold. "The house list"..yes, that's the one!  You scroll through what needs to be done, dishes are in the sink from the dinner you made the night before, laundry has gone bad because its been sitting wet in the washer for more than a day, you just moved 2 weeks ago so you have loads of boxes to unpack, clothes to put away, and bills to pay. Oh yes, you also need to go to the grocery store.. Isn't that fun by yourself ..with a newborn (:   
Next list, "the Me list". Okay, you need to make some coffee because you were up multiple times last night, you need to read your daily devotional, pray and journal. You need to wash your face and get ready for the day (oh wait, we don't do that anymore unless we are going somewhere).. Okay scratch that, put on gym clothes to motivate yourself. Besides, lets face it, you will soon be covered in spit up. Now return all the text messages you have yet to read so your friends and family know you are still alive. Pause. You're stuck, you don't know which "to do" to do first..So you pick one that seems easy and less overwhelming. Now the baby woke up prematurely.. Get him back to sleep..10 mins later same thing. 5 mins later same thing. Now it's time to wake him and feed him and start it all over again. So what about those lists, ey!? 
Are you seeing the crazy that you are? A hot mess. It's okay, most first time mamas are. You've managed to learn something new each week & will only continue to get better & better at balancing all this mama stuff.  But lets start something new here today. Lets try to put down our lists for just a moment, tuck away our self defeating thoughts, and lets have you reflect back on each day at all you HAVE accomplished. Lets have this be your new focus.  

Today you woke up, nourished your son through breast feeding (amen to be able to do that), got him dressed, fed yourself, got yourself ready, packed his diaper bag, put him down for a nap, went to work for a few hours, visited grandpa, fed the baby, put baby down for another nap, wrote and finished 2 blogs, ate lunch, made sure you were drinking enough water, changed the baby and fed him again, did laundry, took the baby for a walk, worked out for an hour at the gym while baby napped, you affirmed your best friend,  fed the baby and got him ready for bed, showered, put the baby to bed with daddy singing songs, made dinner, fed the baby and put him back to bed, spent time with your husband, read "purpose driven life" with your husband, and went to bed. You accomplished much more than you would've realized had you not had a moment to stop and self-reflect. Make that your new goal. Stop looking at all you didn't do and look at all you did do.. Even if its just that you fed yourself and took care of your family that day. That's enough, and that is a lot. And it's a very honorable thing to do each day, so be proud of yourself because being a parent is such a blessing, but can also be the most challenging job in the world at times.  
My husband is part of the AA program and taught me a great way to start off my mornings. "Three G's" - 3 things I am Grateful for".."3 Goals for the day"...& lastly, "3 things I'm Good at". I love this little exercise because it keeps my heart filled with gratitude, makes me set just a few goals, and reminds me to affirm myself and lift myself up instead of the opposite. Today I am grateful for my family, I am grateful to be alive and appreciate life, I am grateful for food to eat and a home to feel safe in. Today my goals are to finish this blog post, do 1 load of laundry from start to finish, and soak up at least an hour of family time with my two boys by living in the moment with them and forgetting all about "whatever else I think I need to do". 
To sum it up, have a moment of self-reflection everyday to check in and see what's going on in that head of yours.  Secondly, focus on what you DID accomplish that day & leave the rest for tomorrow.  Third, be grateful, affirm yourself and set just three small goals for the day (instead of a billion because then you'll always feel like you've failed).  Lastly, keep on loving yourself.

Dearest Baby Boy,
You are my sunshine. You light up each day with the brightest sunlight I could ever imagine.  I'm writing this letter to do my best to convey the love I have for you.  This  love seeps into the depths of my heart, into the valleys where I didn't know love existed. I could hold you close on the darkest of days and just soak in the sunshine that you are. You must have gotten this from your daddy because only him & Jesus know how to reach these places in my soul. If you can brighten a crummy day then just imagine how much joy you bring to our family on the most spectacular of days! Your smile reminds me not to worry. It pricks my heart and tells me I'm foolish for caring so much about things that don't matter, when what really matters is right in front of me. Your smile. Your heart. To protect you, love you, and lead you. Daddy feels the same way. We often talk about how you've changed  our lives & how we couldn't dream of  having a child so perfect for us. You make us love deeper, you connected us in a way that isn't possible without you. You are a literal dream.come.true.  It's been a whirlwind trying to figure out this new life with you in it, but these are the memories we'll laugh about when you're older and we've figured out how to balance & juggle everything. Life with you is so sweet, it's tender and delicate, each day brings something new. The simplest of things is so b e a u t i f u l, life with you honestly means so much to me.  I watch you learning & growing from morning to night, day after day & my heart gets so excited.  I understand God's love & how He must see us even more through loving you and being your mommy. It's truly the only unconditional love. There's nothing you could do to ruin or spoil the love I have for you sweet boy. My hope is for you to always feel my love and never question how deep it goes. I know I will not always be the perfect mommy and I'm going to mess up a ton I'm sure, but I believe you will understand and love me anyhow. You  look right into my soul and make me feel like every imperfection I have doesn't matter in the least. God chose me to be your mama and that gives me more confidence and assurance than I could ever need. I am yours forever sweet son and for that I am forever blessed beyond what my heart can bare. 
To My Daughter, 
I am so proud of you. Just stop and let that sink in.  You have become such a wonderful mom and wife this past year. I walk by your side every day just watching how much you enjoy the blessings I have given you through your precious family, My family. This is my every intention. I want you to enjoy Taylor and Cash and glorify me through the joy they bring to you and others. I chose you for them and created you for each other. I have so much planned for My family, your family, and just wish that you would trust in Me more. I wanted you to understand just how much I love you through having a child of your own. He is mine, but I created Cash through you and for you so that you could not only enjoy him but also experience the love I have for you by loving your son. I knew when you became a mommy that My love would be SO evident and so clear to you. I am celebrating here with you as you journey towards growing closer to me these past couple of months because of this realization of how deep my love goes. So many worldly things can become a distraction from Me, even good things like becoming a mom, so I want you to be focused more now than ever. Focus on your Father, the One who knows you ever so well and wants to guide you in not just life but more specifically to be a light to your family. Raise Cash up to know my name and to see his parents daily walking with Me, side by side. He needs to see Me in you. When you face days that seem unbearable remember I can take your load, that is why I died on the cross for you. Do not worry about Cash's future for His future is in My hands and he is My child above all. Trusting Me means you have Faith that I know what is best for you and your family, My family.  Let "trust in Me" be your words for this first year as a mommy and your second year as a wife.  Let My Holy Spirit lead you and rest knowing you are in my care. This is the best gift you can give to your family. And this is the gift I have given to you all. 
Your Heavenly Father

- Tessa Armstrong

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Ryan had to go down to Davenport, Iowa on Saturday for a rugby game so L and I had a little girls day, complete with donuts, pizza and the park.  I hadn't been to the park with her in weeks because it's been a little chilly and she's fighting a little cold so we've been bunkering down with Dora and the Bubble Guppies lately.  Ryan had taken her the weekend before for a bit and told me what a pro she was all of a sudden.  Sure enough, as soon as we got there she was off.  Climbing up the steepest stairs as fast as she could and flying around the playground with all the bigger kids, taking turns going down the biggest, scariest slides.  And she didn't need any help at all!  With any of it. 

I was so excited for her having reached another milestone and having so much fun up there, so proud of herself for every slide and tunnel and stair set she accomplished.  I was also a little relieved, no longer needing to climb up there and follow her every move, crawling through tunnels meant for much smaller people and following her down every slide.  But as I stood there on the ground watching and cheering her on, I couldn't help but notice the chill in the air and the leaves mostly off all of the trees and I realized that another season has come and gone.  And now, having a little one, those seasons mean so much more.  It's not just Summer to Fall to Winter, it's a season and chapter in her tiny little life.  I sat there reflecting on how much she's changed since the beginning of the summer.  It's amazing to think back to the days where she couldn't even go down the smallest slide without our help, and just a few short months later we have this big kid running around, totally owning that park.

We had one heck of a summer.  From the start of pigtails, to pools, lakes, and splash pads, to obsessions with school buses, then the park, then puppies, then getting her very own puppy!  We had countless dance parties, read millions of books, watched her skin turn bronze and hair bleach blonde with every day spent out in the sun.  It was a summer I could live over and over and over again.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the last several months.  I'm sure they won't make you cry like they did me.  ;)

- K

Friday, November 1, 2013


Am I the only mom guilty of having these magical fairy godmother expectations of all holidays, and then getting sorely disappointed when your sweet little child doesn't care and/or throws a huge fit and crushes all of your dreams? 

We had a bit of a rough start to our Halloween festivities last night.  It's hard enough to get anything done in the two hours between work and bedtime, and getting an almost 21 month old fed, in a costume, out the door and back by 7 is somewhat rushed and hectic.  Being in a rush turns me into that Snickers commercial where I become a nasty, sour version of myself (it also happens when I'm tired.  Or hungry.  Or pregnant.  No wonder Ryan has all these "away games" for rugby lately.  ;)

Anyways, I'm pretty sure Lyla inherited these qualities from me because the girl does NOT like to be rushed.  And rushing is what happened.  And then tantrums happened.  On both of our parts.  But I'm glad to say that we both managed to pull it together and L had what I think turned out to be the best night of her life. 

First we went to the party the fire station down the street had and she ran around like she was born for this.  There was a puppy jump house that she was obsessed with, and she was not shy about collecting her candy from the stations the fire fighters had set up.  She wasn't even shy about taking seconds or thirds from some.  Have I mentioned how much she likes chocolate?

After that party we stopped at a couple of houses for trick-or-treating, and she had the most fun.  She kind of said trick-or-treat, obsessed over puppies that greeted her at the door, said "BYE-BYE!" and ran as fast as she could for the next house.  Her favorite stop was the house that gave out full size candy bars.  She refused to put in her basket, and held it in her little hand for the rest of the night.  I think she would have slept with it if she could. 

As soon as she woke up this morning she remembered all the candy, and the "choc-WA?!" requests started early.  We had to settle for chocolate milk to get her past noon, the official chocolate happy hour.

So, it ended up being a pretty cute, perfect Halloween night.  Tantrums and all.  ;)

- K


so proud of her loot
my favorite face
spotted the puppy with his tongue hanging out :)
check out this candy, puppy!

always the gracious guest, stopped to clean before leaving
hurry, dad!!  more chocolate!!!
creepiest house on the block