All of this Life

My daughter’s birthday was over the weekend, sandwiched in between two separate family funerals (and a soccer lesson). It’s one of those delicate parenting moments. Of course you want your children to feel they are safe and secure while acknowledging the reality of loss… You still want your child to feel special on their birthday. So as life goes on, you are pressing dress shirts for your sons to wear to a showing, and explaining to your 4 year old how we are related to those who have passed. You need to make sure your daughter has her 22 snacks to bring on her appointed day to her kindergarten class. It’s important that your 5th grader still gets his homework done. And when you realize on one of the evenings you are too exhausted to stay up with him, you have to make sure you write the teacher a note explaining you’ve been to a funeral and ask for another day to make it up. (Then, if you’re like me, you judge yourself for not planning your timing better.) I am in remembrance that it was about this time last year that I lost one of my best friends, Barbara. I miss her. And sometimes all of this life feels like it’s coming and going so fast.

You try to keep it in perspective, right? It’s a balancing act. I have so much to be thankful for: My children are healthy. My two year old is having the longest period ever of clear skin on his face, and we haven’t been to ER in over a month. We made it through the last asthmatic attack right at home! We are warm, even though it is snowing outside… because I managed to locate two AA batteries to put in our digital thermostat that stopped working. We have food on our table… Which reminds me someone still needs to pick up the birthday cake…

What would I do without my support group?

My husband? Who takes the day off of work to attend my great-aunt’s funeral with me. And exits with my 2 year old when he claimed to have pooped during the service. Diapers still need to be changed.

My parents? …Who offer to pick up the cake and bring it to the party. Who say, “Do you and the kids have something to wear to the funeral? Do you need us to come watch the kids so you can go shopping?” I still have to get dressed.

And I realize that I have loved ones who just lost a mother, an aunt, a sister, a grandmother… It’s a time of reflection, grief, appreciation… But you can’t just stop. There are still wishes to be made.

Through all of the uncertainty that’s going on in our country, in the media, in our families, in our homes… You realize the significance of family and the strength in love. And sharing that love.

Hugs help.

At times, I know we all feel like we are in a wind tunnel… a storm with things coming at us from every direction. Sometimes, it’s really hard to navigate. My advice? To myself? Remember this is temporary…

Look for the good. Be the good.


Happy Birthday Naomi! Mommy loves you!

A Surprise Party

Surprise parties are the best. Well, all parties have the potential to be the best. But surprise parties have the element of um, surprise so it’s like another level of excitement. Really, they can be easy to pull off too. In this case we are specifically referring to a birthday party, but the principles for all surprise parties remain the same. First you set the stage, or time and place, with an invitation to the guest of honor; at a restaurant or friend’s house, etc. so the one-to-be-surprised actually plans on being at the event. (*Because that person showing up is essential.) But be careful, you don’t want them to get suspicious.


Picking the venue can take some thought, it’s got to accommodate the amount of people coming. And you have to take into consideration a plan to hide cars if you’re having it at someone’s house or even a restaurant. In this case, we (aka my sister and brother-in-law) booked a presidential suite at a hotel. Let me tell you why I love this idea, because you can set up ahead of time without being suspect. It’s yours for the evening. And I always love when you don’t have to stress about keeping the house clean. Then friends, family members and loved ones are waiting with ease! (As long as everyone can stick to the schedule and you do not have stragglers. Which reminds me, here’s a tip: If you’re to-be-surprised-one thinks dinner is at 7 pm, make sure all guests have arrived by 6:30 pm. If guests cannot accommodate that time (which is often understandable with work schedules and such) give them a second time option. The invitation might ask that the guests are there by 6:30 pm or after 8:00 pm (in case you are running late). You get the gist, do not sacrifice the surprise. The guest of honor has to be none-the-wiser.


Ok, this is my favorite part, and is only available if time permits. Plan part of the day. If you know your to-be-surprised-one is going to have a fabulous shindig later in the day get them ready to be fabulous; that way they are comfortable at their own party!


Now, this might not always work, which is understandable. So, it might just mean letting guest of honor believe they are going to a nice dinner, so they can dress appropriately. Whatever the occasion think ahead. If your surprise includes jet skis, make sure to pack their swimsuit, and so on.


Next of course, food and drinks… think it through. In this scenario our important guests were mostly under the age of ten, hamburgers, french fries, cheese and crackers, mac n’ cheese bites and chicken fingers worked nicely. If you’re doing the cooking, you’re a champ. Just remember this; catering can be an affordable option- especially with a large crowd.






We love kid parties. The kids really give us so much joy… so when they’re happy- we are, like, beaming. Mostly the idea is to wow your guest of honor, right? If you are going through the fuss of the surprise, make it count! Surround them with the ones they love, and the ones that love them!




So more ideas:

  • Signage


  • Balloons


  • Cake


  • Confetti


  • Photo Ops (I <3 photo ops!!!)


  • Nail the surprise! Hide, hush, and “Happy Birthday!”


  • Wardrobe change (totally optional, but a lot of fun 😉 )


  • Just have fun! But not too much fun…



Hannah’s Birthday Tea Party

Firstly I need to apologize for not bringing a nice camera to Hannah’s first birthday party; to her family- because my photos do not do it justice, and to my readers- because my photos do not do it justice. Phew! Now that is out of the way.

We were invited to the most lovely tea party the other afternoon to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the birth of our dear friends’ daughter Hannah. The event was stunning! It included a beautiful backyard tent and a vast assortment of delicacies…

It was hard to contain our excitement.

tea sandwiches, dainty scones and sugar cookies,

darling pots of tea and tea cups,

a gorgeous cake,

a wonderful hosting family,

and great memories to share.

I wish everyday had a tea party…

So we could have our cake,

and eat it too!

Loving Lately 🎂

Loving Lately: My Birthday!

I am so blessed. I really am. I have such a loving group of family and friends. I have a great husband and four beautiful children. I don’t normally like to get gushy. (Must be softening up as I age.) Something happens to birthdays as you get older. When I was a child it was all about the party, people coming over, presents, cake and ice cream. It’s different now. Now it seems like a time of reflection. Where am I at in life, how far we have come and gratefullness that there is so much to be thankful for. The number 39 seems non-monumental, but thirty-nine years of life, a good life- not unchallenged, not always easy, but good and full of love, that’s special. I think my day was a pretty fair representation of my life.
I woke up to a gift bag full of presents, literally before my feet hit the floor. Owen was leaving for work and wanted to see me open a gift. He surprised me with some new workout clothes, complete with socks and sweatbands- appropriate for my new lifestyle. And he had wrapped a new cookbook and a couple of new kitchen apparatuses that were on the table when I went downstairs. He knows me so well! Isaiah had “Morning with Mom” at his school, so I got to start the day off right and have breakfast with my eldest son. Sometimes it rains, and so it was on the morning of my birthday. It was raining and slippery, so when I walked through the door I slipped and fell. But I’d like to pretend that didn’t happen, because those kind of embarrassing accidents shouldn’t happen on one’s birthday. Right? Onward! Of course I’m on this strict diet so I skipped the donut and stuck to the fruit. Life is full of those difficult choices… and occasional embarrassing moments. We take the ups with the downs… and keeping a sense of humor really helps.

My parents came over to watch the kids so I could go to breakfast. And they visited with me all day. They gifted me some fun decorative accessories to finish off my newly decorated bathroom (towels, soap dispenser, garbage can, etc. to match my well-loved French goose) and a new shirt. Yay! My sister came over in the afternoon joined me for my workout. My parents brought lunch; turkey and cauliflower stuffed cabbage rolls. My mom volunteered to give me a hand and give the kids a bath. I sat down and decided to commandeer the television, a rare treat but after all it was my special day. We watched a cute old Doris Day film and “To Catch a Thief”. Hey, sometimes life hands you those privileges. Take ’em! At some point throughout the moviethon, however, my baby woke up from his nap in real discomfort. He was cramping and scrunching, moaning and crying. I thought it was gas, until he threw up (a peculiarly large amount of lunch, goat milk and bile) all over me. You know, when life hands you sour, um, “lemons”… thankfully I had babysitters on hand and could dash into the shower right away; I try to keep my eye on the silver lining. (Trying to be a little bit Pollyanna never hurt anyone did it?)

Nevertheless, the best metaphor for my life was yet to be. Because at the end of the day I was surrounded by my family and friends. I had hot food and cold drinks (water of course, I’m dieting). Simply everything I want and need (with the exception a few people not there). I was surprised by thoughtful and beautiful gifts, including a baguette making class from a local bakery, a rustic rotating “fromage” (cheese) board, and a “21 Day Fix” approved dessert, that sufficed as my birthday cake- made by my sister- from which I might add all of my friends and family indulged because that’s the kind of awesome they are! (Imagine a sliver of a Clif Bar.) Thanks to everyone who make my day, days, years, life- great. I love you!

A Birthday in Jurassic Park

The only problem with having a birthday in Jurassic Park is… the dinosaurs! Aaaah! Run for your lives!


Okay, don’t be frightened. It’s actually just a cardboard cutout, and you (or the birthday boy) can totally pretend that you are about to punch it in the face.


It was a group effort to turn my nephew’s home into a Jurassic World. My sister does an amazing job making her ideas become a reality. She, along with her husband, work really hard to make their kids birthday dreams come true. I wish I could say I contributed. (But if you remember, I just got home from vacation and didn’t even have milk in my house…) Needless to say, I was completely useless. But I do know how to appreciate (and photograph) the details!




My dad made the awesome “Jurassic Park” sign over the door. My mother, inspired by Pinterest, made dinosaur bones from marshmallows, pretzels, and white chocolate; she baked sugar cookie “fossils” imprinted with dinosaur tracks; and she painted an umbrella to replicate that crazy dinosaur (the Dilophosaurus) that everyone (or just I) thought was harmless and then it let out that terrible screech and the head fans out and it spits acid at Newman from Seinfeld. Scary.


It was just protecting the Dino Juice… and it’s eggs. Muwahhahaha. (That’s my maniacal laugh.)


There really wasn’t a detail left undone. From the vines hanging from the chandelier to the dinosaur salivating over the food table, for the moment we were all transported to another time.


A time with danger lurking around every corner… or hanging on every wall.



On a side note, I think it’s adorable that my nephew requests cheesecake for his birthday. I mean, you might as well have something you’re going to enjoy… If you can get it out of the cage.



Whew! That was dangerous, but I got a piece.

And I’d like to thank every dinosaur big and small who made an appearance. The birthday bash was a roaring success. (Get it? I’m so funny.)


Happy Birthday Jude!

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Living Lately: The Circle of Life

I met Barbara years ago. It didn’t take long to figure out that she was one of my favorite people. She never had any children, and at that time I hadn’t either. Something else we had in common? Scrabble. And so it started. Every week we would meet at one of our houses for a game of Scrabble. Eventually our meetings turned into visits with my baby, babies, children, lunches and dinners; and of course whenever we could make it work, a game of Scrabble. She was fascinating. We would have long conversations about things like the mill her family owned when she was a child, and how she loved the bread they would make with the flour. Barbara shared how long it took her to grow up after her mother died in a car accident, after a visit from her parents, when she was a sophomore in college. And she confided that she always wished she would have stayed in school after that and finished her degree. Barbara told me about when she was hired to accompany Herbert Hoover’s wife’s secretary on a drive across the country to California because she didn’t want to drive alone. And we often discussed how things had changed since she was born in 1918. Our bond was deep and our relationship was strong. I loved her greatly and I am going to miss her terribly.

I said goodbye to Barbara and not 24 hours later, I had to pull it together and put on my happy face to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She was so excited for the day to finally be here. First thing in the morning, she opened a makeup kit with her dad and brothers (and mom) before they left for work and school. We face-timed grandma and grandpa, who are away in Florida, while she opened the art set they gifted her. Thankfully we had planned to have a princess luncheon at my sister’s house in the afternoon. She picked out the dress she wanted to wear for the day and we all got ready to go. My mother and sister had a lovely Disney Princess table set for the first round of celebration. Naturally we would have dinner when dad was home from work at the restaurant of her choice, which happened to be Taco Bell. (Yes, I am aware that there is not 1 organic thing on their menu. To be honest, I don’t want to know their food products. I’m not in the mood.) I have to say it turned out to be one of my favorite parties. It was completely laid back and unpretentious. I actually found myself looking around at our group of about 30 people and laughing about taking up over half of the dining space. I was surrounded by people who love me and my children. We were creating wonderful memories for Naomi and nurturing the building blocks for her life ahead.



Life is an amazing thing. Such a beautiful gift we get to share with each other. It’s hard to believe that Naomi is five! It seems like just yesterday the doctor said “It’s a girl!” and shortly thereafter, right in the delivery room, I called Barbara to let her know.


Noah’s First Birthday!

Our little baby (our young buck) finally turned one. I knew with his birthday being so close to Thanksgiving that I did not want to continue a harvest theme… which lead me to think about what else was seasonal. Here in the northern midwest, hunting season is well under way. Perfect! Time to take the mounted rifle off of the wall.


It’s kind of a tradition to go big on the first birthday. I really don’t know why, because they’re not going to remember it. But the rest of us do. Actually, using so much of our hunting and camping stuff made it pretty easy and a lot of fun. We set up camp, starting with the front porch.


Welcome to Camp Noah

We had a small chili cook off in the lodge (aka ‘the dining room’), which was tasty and very appropriate (at least for the hunters I know). There were four entries, and I am sorry to say I did not get a good picture of them… but you can just picture four pots of chili. And the winner went to (dramatic pause) my sister, aka ‘the chef’ because it was really good. (I voted for her chili and I had an entry myself!) I also thought it was a good idea to use all of the cast iron I could find in my cupboards to set the table with toppings and sides for the chili.


Camouflage was everywhere- even on the S’more inspired cake.



I love dressing for the theme.


We set up camp in the living room.


Using our undecorated Christmas tree was a nice touch (thanks mom). We also tried to camouflage the TV, with a deer.


I saw this really cute photo op on Pinterest. So naturally I had to replicate it. (Side note: If you are new to my blog, I have a big thing about photograph opportunities at the parties I host.) And now that I have a blog I love to post the pictures all over the internet, because that’s the kind of friend/mother/daughter/sister/aunt/wife I am.

Happy Birthday Noah! We love you!



My husband turned 40 this week; which meant we could listen to Coach Mike Gundy’s sound bite incessantly, “I’m a Man! I’m 40!” (Are you familiar with the speech from a couple years ago? He was defending one of his young Oklahoma State players…) I think Owen even made it his ring tone for part of the day, because it was finally legitimate. It also meant that an event I had been planning for about a year was finally ready to come to fruition. I didn’t tell a soul until about 3 months ago, which was my mother, when I was confirming a babysitter. It seems like I plan a lot of events throughout the year, but this had to be special. I wanted it to be memorable (and something to commemorate his manhood, thank you Coach Gundy. -Honestly, I don’t think we could wear it out.) So when I was struck with the idea of a surprise private hot air balloon ride, I didn’t waiver!


The other details took a little thought. Owen’s favorite food is pizza. I needed a place that could hold a crowd and be conveniently located by our landing site. I also needed a cake place that could pull off my Pinterest find and wouldn’t be far from the restaurant, because I wouldn’t be able to store it. Thankfully my sister offered to pick it up before dinner. There was the small issue of having the kids ready for the party before we left… but all of that could be worked out, no problem.


So it was hard to believe that my parents were ill (exposed to Shingles/Chicken Pox), and couldn’t babysit. As well as my sister’s kids, so they couldn’t come and I would have to pick up the cake. The wind was too strong to go on the planned ride (a chance I knew I was taking). And the pizza place that we were supposed to meet everyone at afterwards had an oven fire and sprinkler situation. They called me the morning of to say they couldn’t serve us… What are the odds?


However, our very accommodating friends made the switch to a different location without issue. (And BTW a huge shout-out to the Moosejaw employee who will never read this and who was working at the store when I received the phone call about the restaurant mishap. You are dear to my heart for making phone calls and getting us relocated, while keeping our children entertained with the store video games none-the-less!!) I’d also like to thank my in-laws who offered to watch our children in place of my parents, and although our flight was cancelled allowed us to have a lunch date. And last but not least I’d like to publicly express my gratitude for “Money” and “Clutch” (aka Nanny Tara and Molly O) who once again came through like champions on a perfect windless night so we could balloon high in the sky and I could actually give my gift to my husband on his actual birthday! (Not a bad ending after all.)


Happy Birthday Owen, I love you!!


Elijah’s Birthday Extravaganza!

Everyone wanted a horse themed party this summer (well two kids anyway). So how do you plan two parties back-to-back with the same theme and keep them completely different? It ended up being a lot easier than I thought. Elijah, who turned three, wasn’t able to take riding lessons this year. For a couple of the lessons he sat and watched enviously as his older siblings and cousins got to ride around on horseback. I know, I feel like a terrible mother. But what are you supposed to do when you have no baby sitter? I’ll tell you what I did. I rented a horse and pony to come to our house for his birthday party so he could have his very own horse ride.



Look at that face, worth every bit of it!

And you have to let the other kids ride too…


The package also came complete with petting zoo,IMG_9829IMG_9779IMG_9780IMG_9785

And face painting!



I got to feed the horse one of our apples!


Aren’t horses beautiful?


And so are little cowgirls!


I honestly was so busy with the party that I almost had forgotten to take pictures of the food!


Beef brisket, scalloped potatoes, rolls, chips,


the family baked beans (I think they make an appearance at almost every gathering),


and corn on the cob grilled in the husk,

Where is one to get something to drink in these parts?


At the waterin’ hole of course! (And there was pop on ice.)


We had “haystacks” at the last party, so this time we had “Barn Muck,” peanut butter and chocolate. Yummy!


And no birthday party is to be without cake!

I missed the whole part with swimming in the pool, but it was there. Then we had what turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the day. (I’ve shared my love of party photo ops before.) I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time. I never knew one could have so much fun turning dollar store mustaches into all sorts of facial hair… (I’d really like to do a whole post on this, and I would like to apologize in advance for the onslaught of pictures coming your way.)

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Overall the party was a huge success because the birthday boy was happy! He told me so! “Me excited about my birthday. Me like my presents!”


Happy Birthday Elijah/Cowboy/Power Ranger/Spiderman! We love you so much!

Horsin’ Around for Addi’s Birthday

The kids, my two oldest, my neice and nephew, have been taking riding lessons this summer. Naturally horses are all of the rage to them right now. So when the birthday ideas were rolling around the one and only theme to be had was a horse of course! (I had to.)


The farm, where the lessons are had, rents a pavilion along with a horse riding package for parties. My sister, the chef, is also quite an efficient party planner (she gets that from our mother). She made the giant daisy overhead streamer for an area designated as the dance floor. (She also made the burlap birthday banner from the featured image.)


She covered all of the picnic tables with white cloths and made beautiful arrangements with wildflowers and Mason jars.


The menu included hamburgers (requested by the birthday girl)…


baked beans and watermelon…


slaw salad,

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and potato salad.


The weather was absolutely gorgeous for cowboys and cowgirls alike.


As a memento for the birthday girl, everyone attending the party signed a picture…


of Addi with her favorite horse, Morning Star.


I have to admit, when Addi said she wanted a cake with the face of Morning Star, I was nervous it would come across like something from The Godfather, but it turned out pretty cute.


A highlight of the evening for me was the daddy-daughter dance.


Everyone got to take home a little “haystack.” Have you had one of those before with chow mein noodles and butterscotch? Um, delicious.

Thank you Addi! You are turning into such a lovely young lady!