Normal Day Treasures

6 10 2015

normal day

The sun is back. It’s been a long time since we have caught even a ray of it! Today can pretty much be chalked up to a perfect “normal” day. I thought a lot about how grateful I am to have a generally positive attitude, as I was pulled in a million different directions at work while my sons were away from me at daycare. I began to look for the treasures hidden in the day, reflecting on each one as its own silver lining. I hope to collect these thoughts later in my journal of blessings (inspired by Ann Voskamp).

The fog settling over the valley was so pretty during my drive to work this morning. Stumbling over my words as I tried to explain fog to my 3-year-old.

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My 12-month-old waving goodbye to me from the comfort of his teacher’s arms. A tear-free transition. Finally.

Arriving to work 10 minutes early and using the time to walk a prayer circle behind the school. Still in awe that I get to work in such a beautiful place.

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And feeling blessed that at my new job, I get to be a full-blown counselor. Almost 100% of my time is spent directly with students individually, in small groups, and in the classroom (I log my hours in NoteCounselor after school every day). When I’m not directly with students, I’m talking to their parents or conferencing with their teachers, also direct hours. It makes for busy days, and my principal has begun to exclaim, “You came back!” after some of the most eventful days.

Getting a handwritten card from my principal, just thanking me for being at the school and being a positive light.

Having one of the most respected teachers in the school, the one who never speaks when I teach in her classroom, seek me out in my office later just to say, “Thank you. You have such a calm and soothing voice for the kids, you talk to them in such a way that they have no choice but to want to follow your directions.”

Me: an awe-struck puddle on the floor.

Missing lunch to facilitate the toughest small group of them all, and seeing the boys’ tough exteriors begin to crack as they slowly trust each other. Finding a pocket of 10 minutes afterward to eat a bowl of hot soup and a full-size Hershey bar.

At car rider duty, a parent sincerely telling me, “It’s so nice to see a smiling face every single day. Thank you.”

Staying after school to coach a running club, running alongside a new coworker who is exactly my pace, and finding out we grew up in the same hometown.

My 3-year-old, after spotting me at daycare, running toward the gate with open arms, not yet too cool for such affection over Mommy or for falling head over heels to hug me.

Finding a free book for the boys in our mailbox: “Llama Llama and the Bully Goat.”

Wolfing down leftover Greek dinner my husband made last night before leaving the house one last time for the evening.

Driving through my favorite canopy of trees today…

…six different times.

The first and sixth trips with cups of hot coffee.

Opting to let my hairdresser straighten my hair before I left. (I ALWAYS leave the salon with wet curly hair.) Laughing with her about the 3 wiry white hairs I found on my head this week.

Teaching my 3-year-old how to play a board game before bed. How to roll a die. How to take turns and play fairly.

Watching his excitement as he taught his daddy how to play the same game while I watched, nursing the baby to sleep.

Trying on pretty Stitch Fix items, debating what to keep and what to send back.

Finding quiet time to blog and do laundry.

Grateful for my decision to cloth diaper as I hung them to dry. Looking forward to having a new friend over next week who wants to learn about cloth diapers.

Thinking about the 5 cute little cloth diaper pails, lined up all in a row at daycare.

Being able to answer my toddler when he asked, “Mommy, are you coming to the pumpkin patch with me and my class?”

“Yes, Mommy is coming.”

I’d rearrange the world for you. 

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Sage |O-N-E

27 09 2015

Happy birthday, Sage! I can’t believe it has been a whole year since you made us a family of four. Today we party!

Sage Bartley - 12 months photo by Ashley Bartley - mom

Your First Birthday

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Wearing size 24 months and 2T | Long, wispy blond hair | Eyes – blue like mommy’s, shaped like daddy’s | Dimples for days | Sleeping in your crib | Teething | Nursing at least 3x a day and alllll night | Refuses bottles | Eats everything | Loves bananas | 92nd percentile for weight | 99th for head | Refuses Wubbanub | 10 fingers | 10 toes | Loves being worn | Wears cloth diapers | Climbs staircases | Smiles in a straight line | Rides tricycle | Walks with help | Gives sloppy kisses and hard hugs | Bites Mommy

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(Bites Mommy.)

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They grow so fast

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You and your brother are 26 months apart and the very best of friends. He’s the first person you call for in the morning from your crib, and he constantly looks out for you. Your brother is quick to say, “No more babies, I just want Sage.” ❤

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Sage, as you fell asleep (for round one) on the eve of your birthday, I prayed over you, so many things.

I love you.

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Sage 12 month birthday collage - photos by Ashley Bartley





No-Sleep Week | Worth It.

13 07 2015

July is one of my favorite months, for good reason. This year, between the 4th of July, my son’s 3rd birthday, my birthday, a trip to the lake, a drive-in movie, a family trip to Busch Gardens, teaching preschoolers, and a kayaking excursion (sans kids) with a group from our church, we are EXHAUSTED in a good way!

My son loved every bit of his 3rd birthday party. We decided to invite several of his friends from preschool and church in addition to family. The theme was construction. I’m sure a blog post will come eventually. It was pretty hectic getting everything ready because we were out watching fireworks the night before, but I guess that will always be the case.

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I had jokingly “complained” to my husband that I never celebrate my birthday anymore, because my son and I have our birthdays a day apart. He went out of his way for me this year – he took off work so that we could all go to the lake. I rode my son’s new scooter around our neighborhood (where were these when I was little?!), got extra snuggle time with the baby, went to Target, drank coffee and flipped through a magazine (unheard of!), and had a yummy birthday dinner. And had my own cake, even though we had about 2 dozen leftover cupcakes from E’s party.

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On Thursday, we attempted our first drive-in movie to see Minions and Inside Out with free tickets we had. Both kids were restless, so we only stayed for Minions. We are just not movie-watchers – none of us can sit still for that long!

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We also joined my husband’s family for a day-trip to Busch Gardens. It ended up being a perfect day despite the forecast of rain – the sky was cloudy and overcast and there was a cool breeze, unreal for mid-July! There was a torrential downpour midday that pretty much emptied out the park and shut down the rides, but we were eating lunch then. When we returned to the park, the rides were reopening with essentially no lines. So I think we rode almost every ride in the park plus visited both kiddie play areas. It rained again that night while we were on a roller coaster – the rain was coming down so hard, we could barely breathe! I ended up with 18k+ steps on my FitBit even with 5 hours in the car.

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Props to Busch for having a nice nursing center in the kiddie area. I don’t care about privacy so much, but it had rained off and on and all the benches outside were soaked and all the covered seating was taken. Land of the Dragons had 2 private, locking rooms with couches, so I took advantage of the space to get my baby changed and fed before heading back out into the rainy weather.
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The next morning, we taught 24 preschoolers at church and headed out for our first kayaking adventure! We rented kayaks and dropped our kids off with family, joining our church group at my favorite lake. We loved it and were a little sad to return the kayaks the next day. Kayaking on the serene lake was basically the opposite of going to Busch Gardens. 

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(Does anyone know how to still get FitBit steps while kayaking? I didn’t get any with it strapped to my wrist! And we kayaked for HOURS!)

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I am loving summer, but here’s to hoping for more sleep this week! 🙂





4th of July | 2015

5 07 2015

The 4th of July has ALWAYS been my favorite holiday. This year we visited a hot air balloon festival, made red, white, and blue bark, and took my parents to our favorite brewery, followed by spectacular fireworks at a ski resort!

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That night, after the boys fells asleep, I held my toddler’s hand and prayed for him (and my patience this year as a mommy of 2) as the clock struck midnight and he turned into a 3-year-old!





Five on Friday

3 07 2015

Linking up with September Farm and The Farmer’s Wife (she has news!) for oh hey, Friday and April for Five on Friday!

This week brings so much celebration – my brother-in-law got married, one of my best friends had a baby (and I held him!), obvi the 4th of July, and then my son’s birthday and mine fall the next 2 days! So this morning will just be a quick recap of our week:

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one | My “Mommy and Me” yoga class inspired me to get a yoga mat ($2 new at a yardsale) and a workout DVD (free at library). Neither of which will get me any steps toward the challenge I recently registered for with September Farm, but at least I’ll be motivated to train for two upcoming races.

two | I took the boys on a lake outing. It had all the benefits of the beach, as far as toddlers and babies are concerned, without the long drive. They loved it!

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three | We’ve been going to a nearby peach orchard each week for their children’s program. Since my husband and I are on a “no donuts for a year” kick, I bypass their peach cider donuts and get a slice of fresh, homemade peach pie or a peach milkshake. Heavenly.

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four | I stumbled upon this playground not far from my house through a library program. I cannot BELIEVE we didn’t know about this place! We were also excited to get free lunches, and the boys each picked out brand new, free books to keep!

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five | We also went to our first $1 movie at Regal! Sage loved the movie but then nursed for the last half. E was terrified and shouted loudly every few minutes, “I want to go home and get in my bed!”

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And now… off to celebrate the 4th and party on my little guy’s THIRD birthday! Weren’t we just celebrating his 1st birthday with our matching birthday smashcakes?

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Have a safe and happy Independence Day!





Five on Friday

1 05 2015

Our weather has been all over the place lately (I had to DEFROST my windshield this week), but we’re plugging along doing all the spring things. Our tulips and dogwood trees have bloomed! Yay!

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one | My husband’s spring has been so busy, from off-roading trails to a 205-mile running race. One weekend, he setup a booth at a local craft show. I was so proud of him and took the boys to surprise him. He sells handmade 550 paracord survival gear, from Jeep grab handles to fire mummies, belts, and bracelets.

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two | While he was selling, I took the boys to a Great Cloth Diaper Change event and a birthday party. I won a BumGenius prize pack! This was my second year – here’s my 2014 GCDC recap where we set a Guiness World Record.

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The birthday party was an adorable Little Red Riding Hood/woodland theme. We had such a good time with our friends, and I survived the entire trip solo!

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three | My school had a spirit day – Superhero Day!

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four | I co-hosted another bridal shower – we have 5 weddings to attend this season. I love putting together outfits for the boys to wear to the weddings. I’ve been finding most of their clothes lately on Instagram and Kidizen. For this shower, I mostly planned the games, but I also made white-chocolate-dipped-silver-sprinkled Oreos, fruit pizzas, and more advice jars for anniversaries 1-20.

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five | Making healthy choices – My friend has been bringing Trader Joe’s salads to work each day, and I wanted to try one out – yummy, but way too many onions for me!

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Another friend gave us a jogging stroller – I NEED to get running back into my life ASAP!! I would really like to sign up for another half to get back on a real training schedule.

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And there you have it. I crammed 10 things into my Five on Friday. BOOM. Linking up with April for Five on Friday and  Karli and Amy for Oh hey, Friday.





Five on Friday

10 04 2015

Linking up for Five on Friday with DarciChristinaApril, and Natasha, and oh hey, Friday with Karli and Amy.

Summer is within reach, and I’m trying to prioritize our summer plans, many of which would require buying passes (pool, lake, amusement parks, admission to local events – so many choices!). Recently, I’ve chosen some thrifty habits that will help us save our pennies for what really matters!

one | Contests

I’ve always been lucky at contests – it’s how I won most of my cloth diaper stash, for example. When my midwife practice offered up 30 chances at family passes to a private screening of “Home” at our movie theatre, I tried my luck and won! With little ones at home, we never go to the movies. N-E-V-E-R. So this was a huge deal for us. It will be both boys’ first movie in a theatre. I still remember mine – Bambi! I also recently won a baby product at our local cloth diaper store and am hoping for more freebies at an upcoming cloth diaper event.

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two | Promos

I try to take advantage of promos when I can, like when JC Penney sends me “$10 off a $10 purchase” coupons. Our ice cream shop just offered free cones to anyone who entered their Easter coloring contest, so both boys came away with free ice cream. (I might have ordered a lemon gingersnap cone…A-MAZE.) Busch Gardens offers free passes to preschoolers (ages 3-5), so we snagged one for E; it’s good through September!

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three | Warranties

Sometimes when things break, I’m quick to replace them. But recently when my breastpump (which I got free through insurance!) malfunctioned, I called the company first before buying a spare part, and they had the new part airlifted to me by lunchtime the next day, free of charge. It never hurts to ask – especially politely! Companies want to support their products.

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four | DIY

I’m all abou DIYs when I can find the time. I even skipped the salon to attempt haircuts myself last week. Recently I made much of the decor for a bridal shower and returned what I didn’t use to the store afterward.

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five | Planning ahead

I don’t really have a knack for thinking of gifts spur-of-the-moment. But if I can collect things over time as I come across them, I can get good deals. The kids’ Easter baskets, for example. Almost everything was free.

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And here are the boys enjoying some of their favorite (free) activities. We are also big fans of our library and enjoyed their programming over spring break.

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Happy Friday!





Easter Sweets

6 04 2015

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We enjoyed a weekend spent with family, food, fellowship, worship, sweets, and lots and lots of eggs!

2015 Easter Basket Blog Hop

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My 2-year-old played SO hard with his cousins. Allll weekend. He would LOVE to have a big sister oh my WORD. He kept up with the big kids for the most part, but every so often he’d run upstairs crying for Mommy to kiss a boo-boo or wipe away a tear, then he’d scramble back down to the basement to play.

He still needs me. ❤

It reminded me of this Mama-Mommy-Mom post I just read.

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My sister was so sweet to fill eggs specifically for the babies – with treasures like baby puffs, grippy socks, and bath toys! E methodically combed the perimeter of Great-Grandma’s backyard during the egg hunt while everyone else ran amok- he was so proud of his loot and happily traded eggs with his cousins all afternoon.

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We hope that you had a sunny, safe, and blessed Easter.





Easter Basket Blog Hop and a Confession

2 04 2015

easter egg blog hop logo - the good life blog

Linking up with Darci for my second annual Easter basket blog hop! This one is a special one, since it’s Sage’s first Easter! Both boys have gotten spring pictures taken and had an Easter party at school complete with an indoor egg hunt (roundup?) due to frosty, rainy temps.

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Photos courtesy of their daycare Facebook page:

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And now, for the baskets! I try to be pretty thrifty, so most things have a story of where they came from. Oh, and no Easter grass! Not in our house!

For our 2 (almost 3) year old: Brand new gray Toms (Instagram score), a free book “Pretend” (Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program), Pez and scented bubbles (Target), a Crayola art smock and Silly Putty (free with Staples ink rewards), a kazoo and pinwheel (recent party favors we got at a museum), ring pop and stuffed bunny (both from his class Easter egg hunt), gold coins (extra from a recent bridal shower gift), tan shoes (free with JC Penney coupon/clearance sale), 4 crayons (restaurant kids meal), and tiny bubble bottles (Halloween). There might be a few other prizes down in the bottom of the basket.

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For our 6 month old – a basket full of almost all hand-me-downs! I did buy the bear PJs new (free with a JC Penney coupon) and the colorful egg stackers from a friend:

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And a confession: In last year’s blog hop linkup, I mentioned that “I also went to Michaels and bought just one more basket to match our family set of gingham baskets – a green one to match E’s! We won’t use it until next year, but I wanted to get it just in case Michaels discontinues them or something.”

I lied.

We actually bought a pink basket! Because at the time, we had been told Baby #2 was a girl, and I wasn’t ready to reveal the gender!

So it was back to Michaels again this year and bought a green basket for our BOY. I guess I could have just made a new liner, but the basket only costs a couple dollars after discounts.

This year, we’ll spend Easter with my family. I love knowing that our church family, as well as the boys’ school, are helping us to teach them about God’s love for us.

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Sugar and Spice | Bridal Shower DIY

31 03 2015

I remember a summer when my husband and I attended 13 weddings. In recent years, I’ve mostly attended baby showers, but 5 weddings this year means it’s back to the bridal shower circuit!

For the first shower, we based the decor around the couple’s wedding colors – purple and teal – with hints of Mason jars and wine. We used purple and blue Mason jars wrapped in ribbon as utensil cups, pen holders, kabob displays, and table centerpieces.
I filled six of the jars with roses crafted from coffee filters. The roses were so simple to dye and shape around drinking straws but looked so life-like!
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Using free paint chip cards, I made confetti for the tables and added purple doilies. The tablecloths were leftover from a work event, and I found teal burlap runners at WalMart. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law fashioned favors by filling 4-oz Mason jars with Easter M&Ms and Hershey Kisses.
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For the drink table, I designed this “SIP SIP hooray” art similar to one I spied on Pinterest.

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For the wine-loving couple, I created wine bottle advice jars. My husband and I emptied four wine bottles and removed the labels. I found scalloped cardstock stickers and labeled them “1 year anniversary,” “5 year anniversary,” “10 year anniversary,” and “20 year anniversary.” I picked up a mini chalkboard easel from Michaels and wrote on it with chalk pens borrowed from a fellow teacher. Guests could write advice for any year, roll up the paper, tie it with teal Baker’s twine, and drop it in the appropriate wine bottle.

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Bridal shower - 1My husband and toddler used the helium tank at our local car dealership for the balloons, even stuffing some balloons inside clear balloons for pops of color.
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The couple registered using HoneyFund.com, so I purchased an excursion for their honeymoon and gave the money to them in the form of gold US dollars (mixed with chocolate coins) nestled in a chocolate box.

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Gifts were recorded on a keepsake list I designed and printed on cardstock.
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Using scrapbook paper, I die-cut larger circles and attached them to Baker’s twine to make 2 garlands.

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My in-laws made all the food and served fruit kabobs, popcorn, veggies, cake pops, and flower cookies.
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For dessert, I used a recipe for Peanut Butter Fingers borrowed from a coworker and actually delegated that task to my husband when I got overwhelmed between shower planning and several huge projects at work. I’ve made them for several occasions now.

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We had lots of shower games, from toilet paper-fashioned wedding dresses to a cake-guessing game. I brought an easy estimation game. We filled a giant wine glass and wine carafe with corks – some of the corks were mine (we write the date and occasion on all our corks), and I got the rest from our friend who is the head chef of a local winery.
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Peanut Butter Fingers – I can’t take any credit for this recipe, since I borrowed it from my friend at work! 🙂

Peanut Butter Fingers

Base

½ cup margarine ⅓ cup peanut butter

½ cup sugar ½ tsp. each baking soda, salt, vanilla

½ cup packed brown sugar 1 cup flour

1 egg 1 cup quick oats

Icing

powdered sugar (play around with amount)

¼ cup peanut butter

3-4 tablespoons milk

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugars, add egg, peanut butter, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.  Add flour and oatmeal.  Mix well. (Batter will be stiff.)  Spread in a greased 9X13 pan.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  Don’t over bake – just lightly brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let stand while you make the icing.  For the icing: mix peanut butter, powdered sugar, and milk.  If it’s runny, add more sugar; if it’s too thick, add more milk.  Spread melted chocolate chips and top with PB icing.  Let the chocolate cool before spreading the icing or they’ll mix (tastes the same either way).

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Time to start planning the next bridal shower. I can’t believe how much longer preparations take with 2 little ones at home!