Holiday Photo Booth

We decided it would be fun to try doing a photo booth this year over the holidays. This was our first adventure with it, so we weren’t sure what to expect. My friend Ashley of Ashley Bruschi Photography was a big help with loaning me her flash, and educating me on what camera settings would be good with the flash… because I have NO clue when it comes to using an external flash. It’s whole new world for me!  I found the backdrop on Amazon (we decided to do black because it’s more forgiving with shadows), and we got a few of the fun glasses on Amazon as well, and then the rest of the props came from the local Party City.

We had two Christmas parties at our house this year. One was a ornament exchange with a few close friends and neighbors, and the other was our family Christmas Eve gathering. For the family gathering, unfortunately, we didn’t get as much participation because it was just to chaotic with all the kids, but it really is a fun way to capture an event. It’s challenging to photograph adults at a party. I think kids are a bit easier because they can turn on the charm and goofy-ness.  A photo booth is just the thing that turns grown adults in to goof balls themselves. Well, and alcohol helps too, I suppose. I can’t tell you how many good belly laughs we got from these silly props and poses. It was a big party hit.


Summertime… Livin’ it Up and Lovin’ it! {{PART 1}}

It has been my intent to update for some time now, but with all the new things going on in the Christiansen home, (Starting School, Selling our townhouse, consignment sale preparation, etc) I haven’t been able to carve time out of my schedule.

Well, Sienna is in school two days a week (a school post coming up soon!) and that has allowed me to catch a breath and have a little bit of free time! Wohoo! It only took six years! This has allowed me to finally do some blogging. So, prepare for a 2-3 post update over the next few days!

So, this summer, we enjoyed some great times with our friends! We kicked it off with an ice cream social, that you see in the post below. For those who know me well, it’s no secret that Summer is my absolute favorite season! I know most people love spring and autumn, but there is just something about the warmth of the sun, the smell of sunscreen and chlorine in the air, beach and sand, unscheduled free time, and of course, my birthday is in the summer! So, in order to live our summer to it’s fullest, without over booking ourselves and allowing us to enjoy being lazy and schedule-free, I booked weekly summer playdates with friends in order to have some fun time with local moms, and let the kids enjoy time with their friends. We really had a great time with it!

The kids also attended Birthday parties, cook-0uts, and I was even a mean Mommy and made them do school work. I know, I know…It’s summertime, but they wanted to have iPad time too, and I felt like a good compromise was to make them work on some worksheets instead of napping and earn their iPad time. Most of the time it worked well! They even got stickers that allowed them to earn special gifts for doing good work.  All practice for what was to come in their new school year!  Here’s an unfiltered iphoneography glimpse into our Summer activities:

{Sims Lake Park}

{Dan and the boys visit Hershey Park with the Daymans}

{Sienna and Mommy enjoy a Mother-Daughter Weekend}

{Summer Cookout at the Leiby’s}

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{Earning iPad time and stickers for special summer gifts}

{Fun with Farmer Sue at The Art Barn}

 

 

{Sophia’s Fourth Birthday}

{Crafting bracelets at the Library}

{Playdoh and puzzle Fun}


{Sarah and Gene’s Bridal Shower}

 

 

{Playdate with Horstmeyer and Hunt Boys}

{Gary Pirkle Park}

{Catch Air Playdate}

{July 4th with Family and Friends}

 

 

{Central Park}

{Chuck-e Cheese Playdate}

{Copper Creek Bunco Night}

{Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A}

{Cumming Aquatic Center Playdate}

{VBS and snow cone fundraising for missions}

Destin Family Vaca 2015

Lots of fun memories made in Destin this year! We stayed at probably one of our favorite places. We stayed at Crystal Dunes on the ground level with a walk out straight to the beach! We try to stay on the water each year, and even though it’s more expensive, it’s just a life saver when you have small kids who whine about having to hold a towel on the way to the beach.  This place wasn’t super luxury, but it was close to everything  and had a decent outdoor pool and hot tub.  We love the larger high rise condos, and mega pools with zero entry but they’re always set pretty far back from the water. This one was nice because even though it didn’t have fancy amenities, it was so nice to be close to the water and just open the sliding door and hear the waves morning, noon and night!


We skipped the last week of school, missing field day and a few other fun events in order to beat the rush, and save money in the process.  The prices skyrocket the following week.  This is the last year we’ll be able to miss school since Parker will be in Kindergarten next year, so we took advantage of it!  The only downside is that with the smaller crowds, sometimes they don’t offer as many boat tours as they do with the larger groups.  So this time instead of doing a snorkel cruise and shelling tour, like we’ve done in years past, we opted to do a pirate cruise since it was offered at a time that worked better for our schedule.  That was really our only scheduled thing that happened during our trip.  That and the date night… and we’ll get to that later.  So, other than the pirate cruise, we just did went to the beach, pool, visited Destin Commons, etc. We asked the kids if they wanted to do the Aquarium, and they didn’t want to. So… we didn’t force it. We just took our time and relaxed at the condo between our beaching, eating, pooling, going to dinner, waking up and repeating…  It was amazing!


As for pictures during our trip… I started to use my DSLR, but then I didn’t want to lug it around, so I mainly used my iPhone 6.  I just didn’t want to risk getting a bunch of sand in it, or not being able to enjoy my time in the water, for fear that it was going to get stolen. So, I left it behind and brought my phone that was more portable and easier to conceal.  I’m also three weeks late in posting this, so I have not edited my photos, but that’s okay!  It’s either I post my unedited photos in all their imperfections, or my posts don’t get done.

One of my very favorite  days of our trip was Mother’s Day.  For obvious reasons, because I felt a little more celebrated and appreciated, but one of the things I really loved was visiting Baytowne Warf.  We found a fun restaurant overlooking the bay, and they had live music. They played some of my favorite beach tunes and the kids were laughing and dancing. It was the best!

The kids really loved the Buccaneer pirate cruise.  We would’ve loved to have done the snorkle cruise where we go shelling, go down to the jetties and ride the kayak, but their timing just wasn’t good during our trip. The pirate cruise was definitely the highlight of the trip in the eyes of the kids. They loved it!  It wasn’t too bad for the parents either since we got to enjoy some adult beverages and just let the kids have fun with several planned activities they had on the boat with the pirates!

We made some great memories during our trip!  The kids did have a few moments of grumpiness that I would credit to the lack of sleep and excitement of the vaca and the expectations that came along with it.  We found a sitter one night to go out to dinner (thanks to a referral from a neighbor who used to live in the area), and Dan and I enjoyed a fun evening alone without the kids in Destin.  We went to McGuire’s Irish pub and ate dinner, had drinks, and then enjoyed a nice walk in Harbor Walk where we had a funny character drawn of us.  When we got home, we found out that the kids were less than well behaved with the sitter.  We were so embarrassed that they didn’t behave.  We of course disciplined them by removing privileges, but we were just really bummed and disappointed that they represented our family in such a bad way.  It’s just a reminder that even when you do the best you can to teach and raise your kids the right way, they’re still just kids, and they are full of sin and mistakes sometimes. So we didn’t dwell on it, we dealt with it and moved on, but it may be the last time we do a sitter on vacation. Especially one that our kids don’t know.

This is probably our last trip to Destin for a while.  We will have a kindergartener next year who will have to abide by ‘normal school’ scheduling.  It’s just so expensive during the summer peak times, so we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing it for a while. We plan to go to NC and PA next year to visit family and get our beach fix that way, although we know it won’t be the same. We really enjoyed the beach time we had on the Emerald coast. Until we meet again!

Visit to Greenville and Thanksgiving

Playing Catch-up

We had been planning for a few years to visit my brother Spencer, sister-in- law Lisa, and two nephews Zane and Gavin in Greenville, but it just wasn’t easy to make plans with the little ones because there were always naps and the dread of extended time in the car.  However, now that the kids are older, we decided to go for it and make the trip in early November to visit with them and enjoy the weekend.

It was very low-key, and perfect. We visited downtown, had lunch, rolled down the grassy hill with the kids, laughed and talked. The weather was perfect and we had the best time catching up and enjoying time with one another. I look forward to the next time we can visit with them!

 

Thanksgiving this year was pretty typical of years past.  We enjoyed snuggling up with the family on the sofa and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I made yummy mac and cheese that I got the recipe from here and also mashed potatoes.  We headed over to my Aunt Angie’s house for a family gathering and we had a nice time with the family! The mac and cheese bake was a big hit, so if anyone is looking for a recipe that is both yummy and EASY (I’m all about easy!) then this one comes highly recommended!

The evening of Thanksgiving Quackenshelf (a name Parker gave him when he first came to our home three years ago) arrived and brought the kids PJs. They loved  seeing their old pal, and reading the Elf on the Shelf book in their new jamies!

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It was the best way to start off the holiday season!

Our Colorado Trip

So, it wasn’t really planned to take this trip together.  Dan called me from work one day and said he had booked his Colorado trip.  It would be a weekend trip out to Colorado to visit with family and attend his grandmother’s memorial service.  We had discussed him going ever since they made plans to have the memorial for her, but didn’t discuss me going.  When he called to tell me he had booked the flight, we got to talking about maybe having me go out there too.  We have never left the kids and gone out of state except right across the boarder to Highlands, NC for a New Year’s trip when Parker was 13 months old. Never since having three kids.  We starting talking about my Sister-in-Law Lisa “Aunt LiLi” watching them since she was free during the summer with her youngest, and she is so great with kids and did such a great job with Sienna last time.  I loved the fact that the kids would be at our house instead of in someone else’s house.  I think it’s hard enough when the parents are gone and someone else is watching them, but stick them in a new environment, and it gets even trickier. So, Lisa was able to help us out and stayed at our house, and I booked my flight out there.  Conveniently, my Mom wanted to visit that weekend too, so the kids got a lot of attention from her as well.

Since we had it on our minds, and heaven forbid anything ever happen to us, we made arrangements with a family lawyer to have our Last Will and Testament drawn up.  We hate to think of anything like this, but even more so since we were traveling out of state.  We did not want our children going into state hands, or having our estate divi’d up by the state.  So, we got that completed and signed by witnesses before we left.  We felt like it was the responsible thing to do, even though nobody wanted to think about it!

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We left early on a Friday morning and got to Denver early afternoon.  We gained a few hours in the air, so we had time to spare.  It was so strange flying with just the two of us.  We haven’t flown together without kids since I was pregnant with Parker back in 2009 on our way to Hawaii!  When we arrived, we got our rental car and headed to downtown Denver.  We thought we’d walk around and shop for a bit, and eventually grab lunch.  Dan’s cousin owns a medical marijuana shop in downtown Denver, so we were planning on visiting him too.  We found a nice area that had stores and a nice Fresh Market that had THE YUMMIEST grub.  We decided to eat there for lunch.  The city was different.  It was a little dead at first and then it picked up with the lunch crowd.  There was an interesting mix of hippie grunge folk, young teens, semi-professional daily-grinders with a sprinkle of businessmen here and there. It was great for people watching as well as shopping (new pair of Toms, and make-up at Bare Essentials). It was so nice walking around an not having to keep a mental note where the bathrooms are (for the kiddos), rushing through stores (due to kids boredom) or what time we need to scoot home for one of the kids’ naps!

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During our walk we found a Federal reserve.  They had a very small museum, so we decided we’d check it out!

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It was pretty interesting.  However, not as interesting as Dan’s cousin’s Eric’s Medical marijuana dispensary Lotus Medical.  It takes away all stereotypes of what amarijuana dispensary should be.  It’s upscale and unlike other dispensaries in the area, he only deals with medical clients who have a red card.  Even though recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, they didn’t want to bring in the rift raft of the general public. They’d rather keep it upscale for their valued clients.  He’s got a good thing going there!  I was shocked to see all the different products available.  Everything from patches to cartridges for e-cigerettes, to candies and other ingestibles.  It was interesting to see.  It definitely opened my eyes to the good uses for marijuana.  Anyone who has had two glasses of wine to “feel better” can identify with the feeling.  It’s a feeling of no worries, introspection, relaxation and even pain reduction.  There’s certainly a use for it.  In moderation.  It can quickly become a crutch if you let it, as well as a de-motivator. Just like anything…moderation is key.  Know when you need it, and know when to stop. I personally don’t feel comfortable as a Mom using it because it makes me feel incompetent and unmotivated.  It also makes me over-analyze everything to the 100th degree, and those that know me know that I don’t need ANY help in that area! Haha!  I think my smoking days are in the past, but can definitely see a use for it, for those who need it.

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On Saturday, we met up with Dan’s family.  I met several aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. that I had never met before.  We met at a local restaurant that Ming loved, and enjoyed a beautiful memorial lunch with family.  Everyone had such sweet things to say about this amazing influential woman and I learned a little bit about her, but also quite a bit about each one of the family members there that day too.  It was beautiful.  I got to meet Jess of Boston Baby Mama.  I have been following her blog for a several years now, and we have kids around the same age, and it was nice to finally get a chance to chat with her, and meet her beautiful daughter Marlo.  Her youngest was with Daddy at home due to an illness, but I hope to meet her in the near future as well.  Dan’s cousin Steven and wife Janine have the sweetest little family with their adorable little boy Vinny.  It reminded me of all the joys of life with one, our first born! Lots of sweet family members, great memories of days past shared, and sweet memories of their dear Ming, who was very missed.

IMG_7597 IMG_7611 IMG_7605Our last day in Colorado, we checked out of our hotel room, grabbed breakfast and drove up to Mt. Evans.  We stopped along the way to take some photos, and then there was a restaurant/hotel that we stopped at and ate lunch.  Dan was impressed with his Tetris shaped tater tots! The views were amazing.  It was also interesting to see how the trees changed the higher up we went.  Very beautiful!

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We tried to make it up to the top, but it was snowing and very windy, so we  made our way back down.  We couldn’t get over the steep cliffs off the edge.  Fortunately, Dan and I were equally as terrified, so he drove very slow around the turns. Once the snow and wind picked up, we decided we just couldn’t stomach going any further. It just wasn’t enjoyable because it made us both sick thinking we could slide off the side of the road, down the steep cliff to our demise. Very scary!

 

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Then we headed to Idaho Springs, and it was a cute little town, but right after we parked, and got ice cream, the sky opened up, and it was pouring rain.  We didn’t get a lot of time to look around the stores and shop like we had hoped we would, but that’s okay.  It was definitely different not having the kids around.  It was quiet and uneventful.  Don’t get me wrong, I love one on one time with my husband, but it is just different when you’re used to having three rambunctious kiddos around, and then you don’t for a few days. We love our time together, but also cherish our time as a family too.

On our way back to the airport, we stopped at an Outdoor World.  It isn’t the mothership, but it was pretty close. Biggest Outdoor World we had ever been to.  It was very cool to see camping tents set up, lots of clothes, outdoor gear, etc. Very fun… They had some serious stuffed taxidermy animals (one that looked scary like our old dog Summer) and we got a little carried away without the kids.  I guess we missed the kids so much that we started acting like them. Haha.

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We made our way back home that evening.  It was brutal flying a delay’d red eye out of Denver.  We didn’t get home until 2:30, and the kiddos were up bright and early at 7:30! Back to reality! It was nice seeing them though.  We had missed them so much, but we really enjoyed our little mini-vaca away, spending time catching up as a couple and enjoying our one-on one time! Lisa and My Mom had had a great time spoiling the kiddos and taking them places.  It turned out to be a real fun time for the kiddos as well.

An evening of fun at the Fair!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since Dan’s surgery. One of the reasons why I remember it so well is because the week he was admitted, was the same week of the fair. It was something that we looked forward to each year and had to skip during his hospitalization. Thankfully, Dan is feeling great this year and looks great too! We are so thankful for his good health this year, and God’s continued healing! So, this year we celebrated life and enjoyed going to the fair. I’m not sure who had more fun.. us or the boys! Incidentally, we left Sienna’s pacifier in the car, and we stayed out WAY past her bedtime, but she wasn’t sad one bit! The boys had so much fun riding rides, and taking in all the lights, fun and action. By the time we were ready to go, we were ALL ready to go. We were so tired, and ready for bed. Great memories were made, and we look forward to this fall tradition each year!
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A box of smiles

A little sad that the kiddos are starting school next week. We’ve enjoyed our summer, and the boys have thoroughly exhausted being silly, being loud and energetic, being creative, and being… well I suppose normal 2 and 3 year olds.  I had a lot of consignment sale preparation to do last week, and the boys succeeded in entertaining themselves for a while.  They found a box, and from the other room I heard loud bursts of laughter, and Parker yelling “Let’s do it again, Mason!” as they played in the box, entertaining not only themselves, but Sienna too! I grabbed my cam to snap a few pics, since they were having so much fun!

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Fun at Home

Since the weather has been getting colder lately, we’ve been getting creative at home coming up with some ideas for the boys.  As much as I’d love to sit with Parker and do crafts, and have some “quiet time”.  He’s just too rambunctious for that.  I love the fun energy he has.  It is the best way to get us all in a great mood.  We decided to throw all the pillows that were on the bed, on the floor, and call it “Pillow Mountain”.  Parker loved diving into the pile of pillows, but not before yelling the ceremonial “Pillow Mountian!” prior to his take off.

It became a favorite, and Mason ended up loving it just as much. He was all giggles watching Parker jump and play with the pillows!  The red tunnel is also a big favorite, and what’s a pillow mountain without a tunnel?

What great memories we created with such just the simple things!

Watching this makes my heart happy.  I’m so glad I am blessed with boys, and I can have fun rough housing and playing with them!

Music Saturday

So… My friend Danielle at Danielle’s Dish is posting a Music Saturday. So, I thought I’d link up and share my fav. Okay…two this time. I couldn’t choose!

Here’s the first… Is this not freegin hilarious? Lord help me if I ever have a diva daughter.

Believe it or not, I like the following because of its dance-ablility. I just love dancing with my little guy Parker, and when I hear the Kid Bop version of the following song, It makes me want to go to Kangazoom and jump around and celebrate the end of the week.