papa’s birthday ’19

we traveled up north to meet rich’s dad and famille to celebrate his birthday!

he picked a place called beelow’s. this would be the second time i’ve eaten there and the second year in a row we’ve gone there to celebrate dick’s birthday there. i, unfortunately, have had two subpar experiences with their food! now, everyone else loves this restaurant and has had a great experience with their food! the service is typically fantastic, which makes all the difference but i think i’m cursed to have not so great encounters with my main dishes!

when we went last year, i ordered the scallops. i looooooove scallops! when my entree arrived, it tasted like it was doused in salt! oh it was tooo salty! i ate one scallop and didn’t finish the rest. i could not eat it or the greens it was sitting on. my whole entree was lost. i was so disappointed! then this year, i decided against sea food and went for a tasty burger. i ordered the fried onion and blue cheese burger with truffle fries! i was excited to eat! i dug into my burger and it was very good! i loved the fries as well. as i was eating my burger, i noticed a piece of black hair on it. i was like, what? how did my hair get in there?? i was wearing a ponytail and i thought it was odd, since my hair really doesn’t fall out in that style. i went to grab the hair off my burger and it was ENTWINED in the meat. ohmergawd. barf. i just about died.

i immediately stopped eating my food. i couldn’t believe it!!!!! i was disappointed and i was once again, hungry! hc looooved his meal, which was great ’cause he didn’t have the best experience last year either. so, at least this time around, one of us had a good meal!

our evening was super chill and as usual, always wonderful when you get to spend it with family! despite my meal{s], it was so good to hang out with the fam. the girls always love seeing their sister, grace, and they absolutely love seeing their papa and gramma! auntie missy is always killing it with the selfie game…she’s queen of selfies and olive and ellie love taking them with her!

it doesn’t matter where or what we do to celebrate papa’s birthday, we just love being with him and gramma! happy birthday sweet papa!

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[isn’t she so sweet?]

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[she’s so silly and sassy]

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[selfie! no filter, no editing, sometimes i look young and other pics i look old AF]

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[the birthday papa and his granddaughter]

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[rich and jane]

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[missy, brian, rich, and jane]

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[daniel, grace, and aunt wendy]

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[gramma and olive]

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xoxo

birthday snowstorm

hbd to my sister thuy!

my sister kim planned a birthday dinner for thuy but an incoming snowstorm {an expected 8 inches of snow in some areas} derailed our plans for the city and we also ended up switching days too. the snowstorm was suppose to start on friday evening and go super strong throughout the night and into saturday morning, so we changed our dinner plans to friday evening instead. we diverted our eatery of choice to a local restaurant called cadence.

our reservations were later that evening but the snow didn’t start until 10-11pm; the weather folks predicted the snow to start around 3pm, then 6pm, then 9pm…hahaha! so, we were in a good place from a driving perspective.

i’ve never been to this restaurant and the decor was pretty cool – a modern woodsy feel and the our server was super friendly and prompt. we ordered drinks right away and perused the menu on suggestions to help guide us on what we were going to order. we got a bunch of yummy shared appetizers and i ordered the salmon which was soooooo good! i throughly enjoyed everything we ate!

what was so fun too, was that throughout our dinner, random employees at the restaurant would come up to thuy and wish her a happy birthday! that was so cute and nice! what a great way to make someone who’s celebrating an occasion feel special! they even brought out a polaroid camera and snapped a group picture of us and printed a few copies for the gals! i loved that!

i had brought a cake with a topper and sparkler candles to surprise thuy! i told our waitress that if she couldn’t light the sparklers, i brought regular candles instead. after our entrees, she brought out the cake with the sparkler candles lit!! it was so fun to see and experience!

the snow started to come down furiously and the ground and cars were becoming blanketed in white. we wrapped up our delicious dinner and headed on our merry way in the beautiful snowstorm.

it was a fun, warm, wonderful evening celebrating thuy! cheers to many more wonderful birthday celebrations sis!

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[a fun night for me and hc]

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[this was really, really good]

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[birthday shots courtesy of the restaurant]

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[birthday girl]

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[happy 21st birthday!]

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[a signed card from the staff and polaroid pic!]

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xoxo

nye ’18

hello 2019!

hc was at work and i was at home with the kiddos. i had done a lot of my prep work the days prior – grabbing drinks, food, accessories, ordering balloons, buying decor, etc. i knew i had to get it done before monday because i knew monday was going to be jam packed full of nothing! haha!

our day started out slow. we woke up late and hit up the grocery store for some last minute items. the girls were too adorable shopping with me. ellie insisted on sitting in the cart and olive wanted to grab the mini red shopping cart and help me shop! it then ended up with ellie wanting down and helping olive push the cart around the store and filling it with goodies! it was sooooooo cute!

once we got home…it was already early afternoon! i started prepping some things but before i knew it, it was ellie’s nap time. i put the, getting sick, little babe down, right then thuy was knocking on the door. she wanted to come over early and bake cupcakes at the house for the kids. olive was quite excited to help thuy bake! she loves to help in the kitchen. she helped mix and decorate them and she definitely had a fun time!

hc came home early and was surprised i hadn’t finished decorating! ha! like i said, it was a slow morning and afternoon. i started my hustle and got everything dunzo by 5pm, got myself ready, and continued to do the final touches in the house – lighting candles, turning on mood lighting, hc started a fire, and then i started to put together my cheese plate.

i also created a champagne bar! i collected veuve cliquot, moët et chandon, la marca prosecco to make fun cocktails! i had raspberry sorbet, sugar cubes, mint, limes, lemons, berries, bitters, and rock candy sticks for an endless combo of tasty beverages!

everyone slowly trickled in around 6/7pm and kim started cooking her dinner for the night. she decided to make a shrimp diavolo, arugula salad, and pull apart garlic bread. yuuuuummmmmmm. dinner was ready by 8:30pm, which was perfect for new year’s eve! eating late, serving dessert late, and then counting down the new york’s new year is how we roll!

this year was just family and it was perfect! although we were missing our usual suspects – you know who you are! our evening consisted of eating well, drinking delicious libations, and cheered to the new year together!

2019 – don’t disappoint us, you’ve got some heavy competition!

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[olive helping thuy make cupcakes for dessert]

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[thuy’s diy cupcake toppers]

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[so proud of her work!]

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[kids table]

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[boxes of goodies – hats, poppers, candies, glow sticks, and noise makers]

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[our go to app when hosting]

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[oh, my poor ellie was sick]

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[adult table]

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[kim and terry]

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[champagne bar – create your own cocktail]

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[my poor under the weather ellie]

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[the goodies]

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[the cutie pies]

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[terry, bennett, reagan, and kim]

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[desserts!]

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[super aunty thuy with her kids and pouty olive]

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[happy new year!]

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[diiiiiiiiiiva]

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xoxo

christmas day

i was looking forward to christmas morning. this year, olive was fully engaged in it. 1-3 years of age, she didn’t care. 4 she sparked interest and age 5, she was full blown into it! she’s been so thoughtful, opinionated, detailed, and just so funny with her ideas, comments, and conversations. i’m sooooo loving this age!

we don’t wrap santa gifts {hello, it’s so much easier and they know those are his gifts versus ours that are wrapped} and olive walked out from her room with the most sheepish, excited look on her face! she was gleeful to see that she received all the gifts she asked santa for!

we waited for ellie to awake before we opened up the gifts from us. we wanted to do that with ellie but having such a late night on christmas eve, ellie was wiped out and slept in late. so, we cooked breakfast and hung out until we heard her stir. we all then went back to the tree and the girls opened up the gifts from us to them! ellie’s most favorite toy was the cash register from santa!!!! she looooved it and still does!

hc and i then got crackin’ on our preparations for christmas dinner. we had his side of the family coming over at 3pm and we needed to decorate and start the food. the good news was, everyone was bringing something. whether it was apps or side dishes, it was fantastic to have bits and pieces of the meal being brought over by someone else, so the burden wasn’t completely on us!

this is our second year hosting christmas. it was passed on to us after the aunts and uncles discussed how they were getting old and tired and needed the kids to carry on the tradition. this year, we had 27 or so people at our house. holy cow! {i hardly took any pics!} let me tell you…our entertaining space is quite small, so that’s a lot of people crammed together.

nonetheless, it was wonderful, merry, and full of love – everyone made do and i think we fret over our small space more than anyone else. our evening was filled with great conversations, joy, and merriment – exactly how christmas should be spent with family!

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[my sweet girl]

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[she looooooves bath bombs!]

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[so in love]

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[rudolph the red nosed reindeer]

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[surprising, ellie was not into presents this year, although it may seem like she was through these pics]

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[her most favorite toy from santa – a cash register]

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[ellie, it’s a scanner…not a phone. hahaha!]

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[my sweet girl]

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[rich’s side of family]

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[christmas dinner tablescape]

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[jane and aunt vicki]

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xoxo

christmas eve ’18

christmas eve. it’s such a special evening. i get so excited leading up to this day. the magic, the love, the merriment. there is something so wonderful about spending this evening together as a family. maybe it’s the hustle and bustle that envelopes you. maybe it’s because everyone is in a good mood. maybe it’s the sound of christmas music and strangers saying merry christmas to you. maybe it’s the joy and smiles that exude from your children filled with anticipation of candy, toys, and a visit from santa. maybe it’s the smell of a delicious dinner waiting to be served. maybe it’s the wine kicking in. hahaha!

whatever it is, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. we spend christmas eve at my parent’s house annually and i love the coziness of it all. the kids have fun darting all around and playing. our family members ebb and flow to different parts of the house to socialize and immerse themselves in random conversations and activities.

once dinner is ready, we all take our seats and my dad says grace. this year, we had mom’s crab soup, tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, corn, mashed potatoes, {i’m sure i am forgetting something} and agata brought her homemade cabbage pirogies sprinkled with chopped bacon!!! her dish was the highlight and hit of the night! it was sooooooo flippin’ good!

after dinner and clean up, we served desserts and then we all changed into our christmas pj’s and posed for our family photo. a tradition running, maybe, ten years strong…or close to that! once that was done, the kids became super excited because we started our gift exchange. it’s soooo delightful to watch their excitement and joy!

oh gosh, the girls are so fortunate to get so much!!!! the gifts kept rolling in for the kids. ellie was a bit fussy and was not into opening gifts but olive on the other hand – she was a pro! oh my, it was such a long and lovely night. after each gift was opened and desserts were consumed, we had to get home. it was almost midnight!!! so late for the little buggers. plus, santa was coming soon!

what a perfect and wonderful christmas eve. we are feeling so grateful for everything – life, love, health, family, and friends.

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[bûche de nöel]

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[tashina and huy]

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[olive is sooooooo extraaaaaaa. aren’t they the cutest cousins?!]

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[she’s so sassy, sweet, and thugalicious]

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[ellie loves dogs]

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[how sweet is nutmeg and ellie?]

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[our sweet family]

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[christmas is for chillin’ with the fam]

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[kim’s table centerpiece]

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[kids table]

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[plaid anyone?]

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[hamming it up]

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[ellieeeeee, she was hugging reagan so tight and making the funniest faces!]

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[thuy and mom]

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[how sweet is this?!]

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[y’all. i can’t even with olive’s faces. hahhaa!]

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[i had to post them all because she’s so cute!]

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[christmas pj’s]

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[the doan zone]

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[there goes olive again with the cute expressions]

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xoxo

winter ballet recital ’18

even though this is her third recital {second winter one}, i still get so excited, although less nervous. the anticipation of seeing her perform gets me all giddy, happy, and feeling so proud of her!

we typically split the driving duties…i take olive early to drop her off before the show and hc will take ellie and make it in time for the performance. this time around, thuy, dad, jane, dick, grace, dan, agata, hc and ellie were in attendance to watch olive perform to ‘santa claus is coming to town’.

she did such a great job! she had high jumps and perfect poise. oh, it’s so cute to watch her dance! it makes my heart melt seeing her confident and growing in her execution. don’t get me wrong…these girls were so goofy, all over the place with their moves, and so fun to watch! that’s the best part! seeing each kid do their own thing and not really following a routine is always so funny and endearing.

anyhoo, after the recital ended, i grabbed olive from the pick up room and brought her back to her fan base. everyone then showered her with kisses, hugs, and flowers. after quite a few pictures, we all headed to a restaurant down the street called pierce tavern, a new joint in the downtown area.

it was a bit of a wait, so we walked across the street to the toy shop and the kids had fun while we waited for our table to be ready. a perfect shop to go to when the wait is long and you have kids! our experience at the restaurant was great! hc and i really loved the food, ambiance, and decor. it’s a cool cozy place with a diverse menu. i really think we found our go to place and that’s saying a lot because we don’t have one after all these years out here!!

moving from chicago to the ‘burbs leave little to be desired in the restaurant department. that’s the one thing we truly miss about not living in chicago anymore. we had easy, quick access to so many wonderful restaurants and bars and being out here – well, we haven’t found a place close to home that we love and we’re hoping that this is it!

it turned out to be such a lovely, loving afternoon. we all had a great time watching olive perform and our lunch together, afterwards, was just perfect. excellent job on your ballet recital miss olive. we are so proud of you and love that you love what you are doing.

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[she’s so sweet]

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[walking into the waiting room…excited to see all the other ballerinas!]

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[the girl with a million silly faces]

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[getting on stage]

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[they started off sleeping and waking up like little blooming flowers]

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[‘sleepy heads’ getting up to stretch]

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[plié]

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[done! walking off the stage]

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[this…oh my heart. it’s melting into a puddle]

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[she was like, ‘kiki…i can’t hold all these flowers!’ haha!]

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[double whammy…papa deux bisou]

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[oh, proud mama here!]

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[olive and her super aunty]

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[dan and agata]

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[a yummy bloody mary – extra spicy please]

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[silly cats]

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[a perfect sign for hc]

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[celebrating my birthday, at home, too!]

xoxo

holiday downtown

we did our annual holiday trip to macy’s on state this past weekend! we did our usual routine of eating up on the 7th floor, shopping for ornaments, and just shopping around the store.

we love to buy ornaments from here every year, grab a little candy from the shop downstairs, and just take in the hustle and bustle of the season. dan, agata, kim, terry, the boys, thuy, mom and dad came out this year. we stayed at the department store for several hours and then headed home to our house to decorate gingerbread houses! before we left, we were able to admire one of their animated windows at macy’s. olive was so enamored with all the trumpets and christmas lights and wonderment all around her! her and ellie were so amazed as we walked the streets!

once home, we tidied up a bit and then kim and fam and agata and dan came over. kim brought over wine, cheese, and paté to nibble on. the boys brought food over to the house and the kids ate dinner. we had ordered pizza for everyone else and once all the consuming of food was done, we set up the gingerbread houses for the kiddos!

the kids had a blast! olive looooooved decorating her house. she was so excited and looking forward to it for days! olive did such a great job decorating her house – she didn’t even get frosting on her fingers! a big thank you to dan for being her structural engineer and making sure her roof didn’t fall down. thanks for holding the house together while olive decorated around you!

overall it was a great, fun festive day with the family! i love being able to spend the time with them during the busiest season of the year. that is what matters most during this crazy month! we soaked in the holiday mood and created some good memories together.

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[she’s so funny]

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[hey grace! i’m only going to take a pic of you while you’re eating. oops]

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[olive is so silly!]

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[she loooooooved riding the escalators!]

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[picking out candy]

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[olive’s stash]

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[my sweet girls]

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[ready to assemble her house!]

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[all the goodies to decorate with]

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[the cutest cousins]

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[olive’s house]

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[reagan’s house]

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[putting on her adornments]

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[reagan’s house looking good!]

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[olive was sooooo dang careful with her decor and she didn’t even get frosting on her fingers!]

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[reagan and his masterpiece]

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[she did such a great job!!]

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xoxo

kidcon

we were invited to an event called kidcon chicago. honestly, i had never heard of it and was curious. i love taking the girls to fun, different places and i was hoping this event fit that description.

we had a really rough day, because of me. i was a bad mom, literally. i hate to admit it but the pms was strong. sometimes when i am in this moment…it’s so hard to snap out of it and it was a miserable morning and afternoon for everyone. i had to leave the house just to reset. when i came back, i apologized to the girls and eventually to hc. we were hoping to hit up the event earlier but we ended up not going until wayyyyyyy late in the afternoon. much later than anticipated.

no worries, we still had time to enjoy ourselves. it was the longest walk ever to get there…mainly because i was carrying ellie. hahaha! once we arrived, we checked in and i could tell that the girls were excited. we started walking around and there were so many cute booths and i was pleasantly surprised. everyone was so darn friendly and nice.

we were so distracted when we walked in because we didn’t know what to do with our coats. we, honestly, should have left them in the car…we really didn’t need them but right when we walked in, we were trying to get situated and this super nice lady at the booth we were standing next to exclaimed how cute a hat would look on olive because she was wearing this polar bear ear headband. i was so distracted that i was polite with her but i felt bad because i didn’t fully engage with her the way i usually do with people. it’s little things like that, that can bother me! i’m so hyper aware of stuff like that.

anyhoo, the girls were EXCITED. they ran from one booth to the next. the convention had play areas everywhere. a lot of companies had their products set up in play stations around the area too, so that was cool and fun. olive loved playing with the toys, there were craft areas, interactive play areas…it was non stop for the kiddos. i was happy because they were so joyous!

well, we walked away spending way too much money! i had to restraint myself from buying something from every booth! it was great, though, because i also did some additional christmas shopping. i bought stocking stuffers for miss olive and the girls looooooved the super hero costume booth. we were suckered in to almost everything.

after an hour or so…we finally decided to leave but not before we hit up all the booths we loved and bought a thing or two. as we were leaving, i stopped back over to the check in desk and asked for my gift bag. the women gave me the most amazing bag! it was so cute and cool and filled with so many good things! olive was just as excited because she had a feeling there would be toys inside and she was correct!

overall, we had a really fun time at kidcon! i throughly enjoyed all the vendors and the kids had such a great time! thank you so much for having us! it was super FUN!

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[in one of the play areas]

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[her favorite toy in the entire area]

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[she’s so sweet]

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[i was thinking, ‘please don’t put this cup to your lips elllllieeeeee!’ hahaha!]

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[oh these girls. olive’s signature pose]

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[olive loved the unicorn headbands!]

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[this girl melts me heart]

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[she was given a free lip balm stick and that was it…it was application after application. hahaha!]

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[there were so many interactive areas for the kiddos…balloons, crafts, play…it was pretty awesome]

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[back at the play area and looking for all the flowers]

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[i got suckered into these costumes…they are so cute though!!!!]

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[they were obsessed]

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[my superhero]

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xoxo

olive’s birthday

olive’s birthday fell on tuesday of this year.

we started the morning with a happy birthday song with a big gold 5 balloon in her room. she woke up smiling – goal! hc made her a birthday breakfast and afterwards, she chose her outfit of the day. a gold sequined dress {courtesy of miss tashina}, lavender tights, gold converse, and a gold flecked caplet. the most perfect outfit ever for a birthday.

i took her to school and excitedly dropped her off for the day. there, she was star of the day, natch. she led the class. she got to wear a birthday crown and mama made stupid treats for the class. as in, i brushed lettered her name onto the brown paper bags, put stickers on them, olive filled each bag with coloring books, activity book, chocolates, candy canes, and more stickers! i really hoped the kids enjoyed them!

hc chose to stay home for her big 5 birthday! we were excited to have him home. about 20 minutes before her class ended, hc, ellie, and i hopped into the car to go pick olive up and take her out to brunch! to my dismay…in which i understand, hc wanted to go pick her up. i know i am always picking her up but this was her birthday! so, i reluctantly let hc do the honors and be the person she saw when she got out of class. we then drove to a local brunch restaurant and enjoyed our time together, celebrating miss olive!

later that day, we just snuggled, relaxed, and then later on, after dinner, we sang happy birthday to miss olive with a vanilla bean cake!

happy birthday beautiful girl. we wish you all the love, happiness, and fortune in life!

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[she chose this fancy little outfit for her birthday at school and yeah, that pose? trouble]

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[dada took the day off to celebrate olive’s birthday]

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[my budding artist]

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[she’s oh so sweet and sassy!]

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[olive was upset we made her wear her caplet outside because it was cold. look at the pouty face. [mama: *eyeroll] ellie is happy though!]

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[she loves to color and draw every day]

xoxo

thanksgiving ’18

preparations for thanksgiving this year was feeling good.

olive’s birthday party was done and done. we were gearing up for turkey day and black friday weekend. food was purchased, plans were finalized, desserts were bought {sheesh…who has time to bake?? not i said the cat}.

we did our usual, in the morning we go to aunt wendy’s house for an early turkey treat and then we head on over to my parent’s house for another gobble gobble dinner.

i am quite thankful my sister kim basically does all the prep and cooking. like seriously…without her, i’m not sure who would do it. we have hc’s family obligations during the day and i always feel bad i can’t be there to help out more. once we arrive, though, i jump right in to help with whatever i can. she’s such a good cook anyways, no one would want me in the kitchen full time. hahaha!

well, both sides of the family get togethers were wonderful, fulfilling, yummy, and so good. life is great when you’re with family. another beautiful thanksgiving on the books. we are so incredibly thankful.

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[three out of four looking at the camera is good enough]

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[ellie loving aunt wendy’s couch]

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[jump, jump, jump]

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[aunt vicki and jane]

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[sisters eating together]

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[plate o food]

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[uncle eddie and jane]

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[i’ll be sad when i can’t put her hair up like this anymore]

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[olive and hannah]

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[uncle steve and danielle]

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[some sorta shot]

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[hc and grace]

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[she’s so fun!]

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PART DEUX

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[the cutest cousins]

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[hc, ba, and terry]

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[sisters]

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[the family that buffalo checks together, stays together]

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[mom in her element]

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[we’re getting more photo time as a family of 5]

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[beautiful arrangement by kim]

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[agata and dan]

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[i kept screaming, ‘cheek to cheek!!!’…this was as close as they got to ellie]

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[so delicious]

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[cookie decorating]

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[i said, ‘olive, show me your cookie’. she picked it up aaaaand…]

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[her face…too cute when her decorations started falling off! she was like, ‘ohhhhhh no’]

xoxo