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Welcome, Spring

Today is the first day of spring! When those blossoms bloom on the trees as spring approaches, it is so beautiful and I love it. March started out on the rainy and overcast side and it was a little sad too (the one year anniversary of my mom’s death, and we went and spread her ashes) but ultimately, life is sunny and exciting and full of love. I am constantly blessed by my family and I appreciate those blessings.


(click for larger images and details)

Next up… Jaimee’s 6th birthday and the awesome fairy party we threw her.

Click images for details and to see larger versions of each page.

Most scrapbookers have heard of Project Life, the pocket-page style of scrapbooking. I mostly see the weekly version where you create a page or spread for each week of the year. The “365″ version is the “photo a day” approach. I’ve always liked the style and simplicity of Project Life, but I knew I could never stick to scrapping each week by the week, and DEFINITELY would not enjoy trying to take a photo every day. I finally thought to just do the pocket style but scrap however many days in each page/spread I wanted and (oh my!) even skip days if nothing happened that day. It freed me up to do this quick and easy style, and doing it digitally makes it REALLY quick and easy. So here’s our January:

Spread #1:

left side:

right side:

The first spread covers only the first 4 days of the month. But it was a BIG four days! I’m keeping VERY simple by using white cardstock for the background and mat every time (I can take forever to decide on paper colors & patterns and this really simplifies and streamlines the process). I choose one accent color for each spread and embellish minimally. Not my usual scrap style, but I am at a busy phase of life with my four kids (I have a high-schooler, a middle-schooler, a kindergartener, and a toddler!) and it’s quick-and-easy scrapbooking for me right now or none at all.

Here’s the 2nd and last spread for January:

left side:

right side:

Since the flu hit us, it made the rest of the month a pretty slow one. We didn’t even TRULY celebrate my birthday (the plan was for me and Ron to go to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner) because I was still feeling horribly. Hey, that’s life and I’m glad I gave myself the freedom to not try to create a page or spread for every week of the month. There was pretty much nothing going on from the 5th to the 16th and how would those pages have looked if I’d stuck with the by-the-week approach religiously?

So there it is. I already can’t wait to see how the rest of the year goes, and then to create a hard-bound photo book using these pages (I will probably do a 10×10 book from Shutterfly) as our family album for 2014.

Do you do Project Life? If you’ve posted images online, link me up in the comments!

Elf On The Shelf ideas

I did it! When it became clear our 5 year old needed some fun Christmas make-believe, the elf was the perfect solution. I was a little nervous about being committed every day for 24 days (what if I forgot one night?!) but the desire to not see Jaimee disappointed was strong enough to remind me each night. It ended up being fun for the whole family and I’m glad we did it.

I hinted in the post about how we decided to start doing this that I changed some of the traditional “Elf on the Shelf” ideas and wrote a letter from our elf that better framed this the way we wanted to do it. I didn’t want an elf that went back to the North Pole each night to report on the kids’ behavior. Because… well, for a LOT of reasons. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Drew, Holly, Jaimee, & Bennett,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now that it’s the Christmas season, I’ve come down from the North Pole to stay with your family! There are three things you should know about me:

1. I only come awake when everyone else in the house is asleep.
2. I shouldn’t be touched (only your parents can if it’s to keep me safe).
3. I will go back to the North Pole on the night of Christmas Eve.

I will have fun watching you during the day, and I’ll be having my own fun in your house at night while you sleep!

Love,
Jolly McJinglepants

Yes, I named the elf, lol. Knowing what Jaimee wants to name our future pets, I knew this would be a better idea. And I wanted something that would amuse ME too, hahaha. I liked the “no touching” rule but I didn’t say anything about elf magic… I just didn’t want the elf to become a play thing that would endure extra wear and tear, or worse, I didn’t want the elf to get MISPLACED (*shudder*). Lastly, I wanted the elf to be “leaving” on Christmas Eve because really… can the elf even compete with Christmas morning? And do I want another thing to have to do the night before Christmas? Sometime during the month, Jaimee reasoned that the elf had to leave on Christmas Eve so that he could help Santa deliver toys. Ok!

So…. I admittedly used many ideas I’d seen online (I’m just not that inventive!) but I do love how it all turned out and it really was a lot of fun. I’ve already shared the first six days. Here are the rest!

more elf on the shelf
7. Jolly is taking a Barbie out on a date. And driving all over our partially-done puzzle!
8. Jaimee had the class “pet”  for the weekend and they were chilling on top of the TV. Sunday was a great day for this since we were all watching a lot of NFL football that day (P.S. how much fun was watching that game in the deep snow?!)
9. Peeking out from the water dispenser in the fridge
10. TP’ing the tree. (I loved how fast this one was – great reaction… a lot of bang for the buck!)
11. Then rolling down the stairs in the toilet paper roll (30 seconds to set up since he was already in the toilet paper roll!
12. You know syrup is one of the main elven food groups! (That blue one is my bunny-elf from my childhood!)

still more elf on the shelf ideas
13. A panty raid on the ceiling fan! A pair from everyone except Drew. I’ve even got one of Bennett’s diapers up there.
14. Playing Candy Land with some Groovy Girl dolls.
15. Jolly made a gingerbread train and brought three gingerbread house kits. That day (a Saturday!) Jaimee, Holly, and I made gingerbread houses.
16. Jolly made a snowman in the freezer! (this was the one time Jaimee needed help finding him)
17. The elf loves low-brow humor (ie. whatever will make a 5 year old laugh!)
18. Jolly, drunk on sugar, eating a gingerbread house!

and still more elf on the shelf ideas
19. Snow angels (I used flour, sifted)
20. “Snowball” fight!
21. Playing Mr. Potato Head. With REAL potatoes!
22. Elf-sized donuts (cheerios, frosting, cookie decorations) and a dozen donuts for the family from Krispy Kreme. Perfect for a Sunday morning.

23. This one was a two-parter. He sat on the tree with a packet of “Magic Elf Seeds”:Elf on the Shelf Magic Seeds
(“guaranteed to work overnight!”)

and instructions:
1. Plant the seeds in the vase on the ledge
2. Sprinkle the fertilizer on top
3. Wait till morning to see what grows!

Here’s the “planter” (filled with sugar) and “fertilizer”:
planter for magic elf seeds

Both Holly and Jaimee loved this:
planting magic elf seeds

24. Candy canes grew overnight!
elfcandycanes

And that was a big hit that morning. By the time I’d gotten up, Holly and Jaimee had already each had a candy cane, lol! Next time, I guess Jolly needs to specify that they need to wait for mommy (so I can get pictures!) and eat their breakfast first. ;)

What a blast. Jaimee already misses Jolly and hopes he’ll come next year too.

That is until Jaimee. Jaimee is our first child who really REALLY wants to believe in Santa. We were sort of blasé about it at first because it wasn’t a big deal with either Drew or Holly… it just caught us by surprise, I guess. Over the Thanksgiving weekend when we were at Grandma & Grandpa’s as Jaimee and I were snuggled together on a blow-up-mattress ready to fall asleep, I was looking at Elf on the Shelf pics (knowing she’d be looking over my shoulder) to see her reaction. When I told her about elves from the North Pole who sometimes visit homes for the Christmas season and sometimes cause mischief, she was so tickled by it. And I knew this would be the way to bring some Christmas make-believe that she was so craving. In the car on the way home, I typed up a letter from him and emailed it to myself. We stopped by Barnes & Noble (yay for their 30% off Black Friday weekend coupon!) and I ran in to get the elf. When we got home, I got in before Jaimee could get out of the car seat and hurriedly put him up on top of the entryway mirror and printed out the letter. She spotted him minutes later. She was so excited she practically started crying and her face turned beet red. Yay, we pulled it off!

So now, six days into it (wow, already 25% done!) here’s what Jolly McJinglepants has been doing in our house:

ElfOnTheShelf_FirstSixDays

Dec 1: Surprise! Jaimee gets her elf!
Dec 2: Having fun with Dumbo
Dec 3: Naughty Jolly on the mantle. There were discarded wrappers and chocolate bits on the floor too!
Dec 4: Haphazardly strewn lights and a few ornaments… the tree smells good, but decorate it already!
Dec 5: He likes TV and popcorn. Who knew?
Dec. 6. Did you know elves poop chocolate?

I think we’re all having fun with it. Holly is excitedly giving me ideas and Ron, who’s been out of town for the last two days on business, asked me to send him pics of what the elf has been doing while he’s away. But mostly, I’m just happy to be doing it for Jaimee.

If you do Elf on the Shelf, hit me up with your blog posts and Pinterest boards!

I’ve always loved Halloween… I love the dressing up, the trick-or-treating, the candy… this year we’re doing something really fun (hint: a very happy place!) and for the first time (and most likely the last) we’re doing one theme for the whole family. I know the Alice in Wonderland theme has been done before, but it’s still fun for us to do it. I had a little harder time with the guys… either they didn’t want to do a full-on costume (cough, Drew, cough) or they weren’t old enough to cooperate (cough, Bennett, cough)… or, well, Ron was actually ready to do a full costume, but he only told me this a couple days ago and there wasn’t enough time to shop for/make/whatever a full Mad Hatter costume. If only I’d known!

Here we are:
AliceInWonderland

 

Jaimee is Alice!
I’m the Queen of Hearts
Ron is the Mad Hatter
Holly is the Cheshire Cat
Drew is a Card Guard
Bennett is the White Rabbit

Bennett looks even cuter when you can see his face:
WhiteRabbit

Okeee, this is a quickie. Gotta go pack the car. Now get outta my way. Or OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!
OffWithHerHead

You remember the ol’ “What did you do this summer?” essay. Me? I did this:

transformation_front

transformation_neck

transformation_back

It took me 14 weeks. That’s 98 days. From June 7th (before pics) to Sept 12th (after pics). The summer.

Those before pics are really embarrassing, y’all (and there is no Photoshopping of the bod in any of the pics, I promise). I struggle to even post them. But if someone (Kerry Stewart)  hadn’t posted her own transformation three years ago, I never would have had the inspiration or known how she’d done it. So I figure I owe it to whoever may be out there that would be inspired enough to change their body (and life!).

How’d I do it? Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM). It’s not a diet. It’s nothing extreme. It’s eating right and exercising. It’s not about the number on the scale. It’s about body fat vs. lean body mass. It’s about health and fitness. If you want my advice (and I’m not an endorser, I don’t get paid to say this, I’ve received nothing, I’m just someone who’s been successful using this) I recommend getting his book (either ebook now or hardback when it comes out in December) and even joining the online community and participating in the next 14 week challenge which starts the first week of January. Actually, I recommend first reading his book The Body Fat Solution and then “graduating” to BFFM. Be prepared to not only count calories, but to calculate “macros”. These are the percentages of the total protein, carbs, and fat grams you eat each day. I used My Fitness Pal (you can use it on your computer and/or via an app on your phone) to track my macros and highly recommend it. Don’t let this scare you off! If I can do it, you can do it!

Anyway, I was ready to change my life. After two miscarriages, a pregnancy that required bed rest for the 2nd half, and then my mom being diagnosed with cancer and passing away this March, I was in bad shape. I weaned Bennett in April and was ready to start taking care of myself.

I’m not gonna lie. It was work. It took time and effort. But isn’t something worth having worth working for? I have to admit… I’m proud of myself. I feel GREAT. I’m sleeping at night. I’m STRONG. When I first start started working out, I attempted to climb the rope at the gym. I couldn’t even lift my own body weight up off the ground. As of 2 1/2 weeks ago, I can climb that rope. I’m getting out there and being active. Last Saturday, my daughter and I did a 5k and had a blast. I have energy. I’m living life. I’m loving life.

Speaking of working out, I’ve tried doing the big gym thing in the past. For me, it’s hard to motivate myself to get in regularly. But this time I decided to give Crossfit a try. They are 100% willing to scale every workout to what YOU can do, so don’t worry and don’t think you can’t do Crossfit. It’s an awesome community of encouraging people and I recommend it highly (again, not an endorser, I receive no compensation from them). What more can I say than, even though my 14 week challenge is over, I can’t wait to get back in for my next workout. I love getting stronger. I love feeling good. I will continue to improve my abilities and strength. This has been a kick start to truly changing my life. I am so thankful.

If you use Pinterest, check out my Fitness Motivation board. The mental aspect is important too.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Just post in the comment section and I will answer!

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