Thursday, May 9, 2019

No Matter What

Putting Eli to bed is one of my sweetest joys. Every night, we cuddle up in his cozy gray chair, his soft blond hair resting against my chest as I hold him close, knowing that each day he's growing a little older and we're a little closer to the day he'll no longer fit into my lap. His finger inquisitively points out his favorite parts of the Paw Patrol and Mickey books for the millionth time, and I succumb to his pleas to read one more, and then another. I finally tear myself away, standing as my not so little baby wraps his arms around me, then reaching down to place him gently onto the fitted gray sheet where he's slept since his first week. I zip up his SleepSack as he pulls the neck of it up over his mouth, and the same blessing I say each night echos through the room. As the soft lamplight illuminates his grin and I marvel at how big he's getting, I hope and pray that my words would take root in his heart and mind, and that he would always know that he is so unconditionally loved: no matter what.

"You are prized and precious, liked and loved, chosen and cherished, blessed to be a blessing. You're a child of God, and a treasure in our family. Sleep in peace, new mercies in the morning. I love you so much, no matter what, and I always will." 

It's amazing how you can love someone so much that it doesn't phase you when you're cleaning blueberry vomit out of their hair at midnight, or holding them for an hour at 2 am, slowly rocking back and forth and and delighting in their milk drunk, sleepy smiles, forgetting how exhausted you are. And you expect absolutely nothing in return. Even when they grow up and throw a fit on the ground in the Target aisle, scream "NO" at you and crinkle their stubborn little face when you ask them to come put their shoes on, or chuck their steamed carrots haphazardly over the dining room carpet, there's nothing they could do to make you love them any more or any less than you do. Their behavior does not impact your love: it's a choice, and it's unconditional.

There's something about recognizing the basic and unmet needs of a child that makes you pause and give them more grace. For a good portion of their early life, they're helpless, depending on you fully for everything from diaper changes to their next meal. No loving parent would ever intentionally neglect their children in these areas, nor would they ever expect their child to contribute or "earn" their love in return. They don't always understand why we aren't giving them another cookie or letting them touch the hot stove, but we know it's really for their own good. Someday, when they're chasing their own kid around, they'll get it. And yet, even as a parent myself, the concept of true unconditional love is both obvious and foreign at times.

As someone who often mistakenly determines my own "worth" or "lovability" based upon my personal successes, sometimes it is easy to feel that I am failing in many ways and am therefore unlovable. That loving me unconditionally would be stupid of others, and that I have in fact earned less and need to strive to earn more. That my actions determine whether or not I can expect someone to accept me as I am. And because of this, I often blame myself for the hard times in life when they come, for the seasons of wait, the botched timelines, for the rejections or disappointments, rather than trusting in the greater plan. I sometimes take the absence of the things I may desire as a sign that I have messed up. A sign that I haven't done enough to "earn" the good things, and that I am somehow being "punished". It can be hard to grasp the Lord's unconditional, unearned love when we are stuck loving others around us conditionally- only if they earn it. If this person does this specific thing, then I'll love them. Or, if it's easy and comfortable, then I'll love them. Or even, if they're nice to me and their presence in my life doesn't make me feel threatened or less than, then I'll love them.

But that's not how God works. He does not love (or bless) us based upon our good works, our kindness, or what we've "earned". If that were the case, the only thing we would've earned at all was his judgment and eternal death for our sin. But instead, He died for us, taking on our sin, showing us immense grace, and loving us in the depths of our imperfections. Just like the loving father that He is, his intentions are to help us and not to harm us, even when it seems like he's withholding things from us. Even when we, as dependent, imperfect, and impatient children don't understand it, his timing is perfect, his plans are good, and He loves us regardless of our constant failures. I am thankful that we have a big God who chooses to constantly and unconditionally love us, no matter what.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

With This Ring

Almost six years ago, Aaron and I vowed ourselves to one another, slipping shiny new rings on each other's fingers while pledging our love in front of friends and family. But vows aren't just something you say one day and then move on from. They're constant: whispered through our actions, cemented in our sacrifices, and renewed as we learn from our mistakes. They're words and truths that keep us grounded and remind us of how we truly feel about each other: even on the days when it all doesn't feel like roses and fireworks. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, when I catch a glimpse of the gorgeous promise glistening on my left ring finger, I'm reminded just what a circular piece of metal can mean: just how much I can, and did, and will continue to commit myself to- with this ring.

If I wrote them today, here's what they'd look like:

With this ring, I promise to love you even on days I don't feel like it. I promise to choose you again and again, each and every day for all of my days. I promise to do my best to ease your burdens in areas I can since you handle so many other things that I can't.

I promise to laugh with you, dream with you, and throw all I have into making this about much more than just us. I promise to listen, and to do my best to understand, even when we both think we're right. I promise to learn and change together, rather than apart, and to always keep fighting for us.

I promise to always hold your hand, to keep you and our marriage a priority even when we have kids, and to never stop dating. I promise to be open and honest with you, even when I'm not quite sure how I really feel (which will happen a lot...sorry). I promise to wipe off your shirt after I'm done crying on it, and to make last minute plans on occasion because spontaneity and adventure keep us fresh- even though I like to plan.

With this ring, I promise to be your best friend, to always assume the best, even when it's easy not to- to stay in my lane and to value your wisdom. We both know things aren't always perfect, but I promise to forgive and forget, to say I'm sorry freely and without reserving my grudges. I promise to kiss you before bed and when I wake up, to do my best to back the car out of the garage without hitting anything, and to remind you to check the important emails out of the thousands within your inbox.

I promise to laugh at your silly jokes, to stay up way too late watching Parks and Rec while you sleep on the couch, and to make you fresh iced tea because I know it's your favorite. I promise to bear your burdens to the best of my ability, to walk by faith and not by sight, and to sit back and marvel at the wondrous story God is writing in our lives. I promise to be your helper and to stand by your side, even when times get hard and we're forced to navigate through uncharted waters.

With this ring, I promise that my heart is and will always be reserved solely for you. I couldn't live this life with anyone else, and I'd never want to.  I promise to love you, no matter the numbers in our bank account, the hairs on your head, or the days we have left together. You're it, forever. Thank you for loving me and pursuing me in a way I never knew someone could, regardless of my many faults. I love you. Thank you for choosing me to be your bride, today and every day. Because this ring, and these vows- they aren't just for one day. They're forever.

Engagement | January 2013

Date Night | April 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

One Fork at a Time

I stand there, bare feet touching the hardwood floor, exhausted from the day, yet finding my patience as he reaches in again and again. His fingers, still slightly sticky from the cookie he polished off at dinner, grasp the handles, one fork at a time, slowly handing me the clean dishes. I thank him each and every time, praising his hard work. His longing to be involved makes my heart melt. He looks from me to the silverware basket and back, a gleam in his blue eyes at the joy he feels from helping me accomplish this mindless task. To him, it's not a chore, it's a delight, and it's something he gets to be a part of with his mama.

There are moments of frustration for us both: the top rack, littered with Shakespeare's plastic cups and now clean ice cream bowls, is two inches too high for him to reach in and help unload. He's ready to shut the door long before we're done unloading, or when I still need to fill it up with a new round of dirty dishes covered in spaghetti sauce and leftover olive oil. To be honest, it would be way easier for me to just do it myself. There are less "two year old" battles to potentially fight, and I would undoubtedly be much more time efficient. Our sectional couch is calling my name and I'm worn and tired. But I see him learning, and growing, and reveling in the way I am including him. And that makes it more than worth my time, much more than any "relaxing" option may be, no matter how tempting This is Us and a mug of hot tea sounds.

 So I linger, and I'm patient, and I let him tell me about the bowl that holds his "goldfishies". I let him point out his bright blue cup, or work hard to get his tiny fork unjammed from the corner where it's caught. After some struggle, I help him break it lose, and thank him as he drops it from his palm into mine. I answer his sweet "What's that?" question about sixteen times, using the opportunity to strengthen his vocab and work on sentence structure, as only an English teacher can. And I marvel at the ways he's learning and at the way my heart could burst with pride and joy and overwhelming love for his sweet 28 pound self in this exact moment.

Sometimes I think this is the way that the Lord sees us, his children. How what we have to contribute is not necessary in order for him to accomplish his plans. How we are quite honestly probably a hindrance more than a help to him most of the time. And yet, He still includes us. He lets us a be a part, lets us have a role in the broad plans He has, in the beautiful story that He is writing and weaving together. A loving father, much bigger and greater and more patient than my selfish and broken "earthly mama self", a father who is not surprised by our frustrations along the way, our temper tantrum moments, or our inability to express our emotions at times.

And yet, he keeps showing up, opening the door, letting us a be a part of his tasks at hand. We are not the reason He accomplishes his works, it's quite the opposite: He accomplishes them in spite of us. And yet, I am so grateful that he lovingly takes the approach he does. It is such a gift to be a tiny part of his big, master plan. I am thankful for a loving, patient father who lets me get my hands in on things that point toward his glory: one grubby little hand, one tiny fork at a time.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

5 Easy Ways to Jazz Up Your Living Room

When I gave our front room a farmhouse refresh, I had a dark couch to work with, along with dark oak trim. I wasn't feeling up to repainting the entire room, buying a new couch, or painting the trim. But I'm getting to the point where I think I'll be ready to purchase a new, more modern sofa some day, or at least dream about it: I mean, have you seen how beautiful a Barcelona style sofa is?? Its presence alone is like art, but like any piece of furniture, you need to enhance the mood of the overall ambiance with some well-chosen décor objects (and the same is true for any sofa you may currently own). Here are five easy ways to help jazz up your sofa, and really your entire living room!

1. A Beautiful Floor Lamp

A modern floor lamp can make your sofa feel all the more stylish. Tall and oversized lamps are preferable to the smaller ones, as they have a large presence and tend to look pretty amazing as a whole. Just take a look at this image: the minimal layout feels positively striking in itself, but it’s actually the presence of the floor lamp that enhances the visual value of the whole setting. Their metal accents match the monochrome theme of the sofas really well and adds interest to the living room aesthetic. Yes please!


2. A Textured Area Rug

Any couch needs a proper area rug accompaniment to seem holistic, and the Barcelona style sofa is no different. However, you have to be extremely careful about the kind of rug that you pair it with. Tactile texture is important because the sofa itself is extremely sleek and elegant, so the texture of the rug will set off the clean design of the sofa even more. Shag rugs and Beni Ourain style Moroccan rugs are an excellent option. You can also experiment with different colors to make the ambiance feel more interesting. 


3. Plants and Greens

You can also use indoor plants to ramp up the presence of your sofa. Nature is an excellent contrast to the sleek output of this particular sofa style. The leafy green of the planters would beautiful the black and chrome visuals of the sofa even more. Just a single planter by the side of the sofa would add a refreshing aura to the whole set up. Alternately, you can also hang some planters from the ceiling or set something up on the side or coffee tables. I love adding pops of green life into our rooms!


4. A Gorgeous Coffee Table

The modern design of the Barcelona style sofa needs to be accompanied with a beautiful coffee table for proper presentation. Now, this pairing totally depends on the type of interior design theme that you’re going for. The transparent one in this image presents a contemporary output. You can also use a classical style, a traditional brass, or something else entirely depending on the kind of look that you’re going for.


5. Shelves and Art 

Finally, you can enhance the look of your sofa by complementing it with beautiful artwork and shelves. Floating shelves are pretty stylish and seem really interesting – especially when you’ve got a furniture piece as simple as this sofa. You can also use statement art in the backdrop to enhance the overall outlook of this sofa.

There are numerous other accessories that you can use to beautify your sofa and living area, especially a drop-dead gorgeous Barcelona style sofa, but these five ideas will definitely help you get started with the process. Happy decorating!


Sunday, March 31, 2019

My Travel Must-Haves

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

Whether it's a mid-Missouri road trip or an international adventure backpacking through Europe, traveling is one of my very favorite things to do. In a world that often seems crazy busy and demanding, hopping on a plane or in a car and getting away is one of the best ways that Aaron and I can truly escape. We've never been the best at staycations- they always turn into productive weeks knocking out our mile long to do list. But I love everything about traveling: the packing anticipation, the boarding passes, the photos, the long conversations and fantastic books. Since we're fairly frequent travelers, I've had time to hone my travel favorites (and find new ones). Here are my list of travel must haves! 

An Excellent Carry-On

If you're going to be traveling frequently at all, you need a great carry-on. Big suitcases can be nice if you're flying with a pack and play and tons of baby stuff (been there), but carry-ons are always my luggage piece of choice. They're lightweight, easy to check in and out of a bunch of different places, and you don't have to check a bag: which saves time getting in and out of the airport (not to mention, you don't have to worry about your luggage getting lost). You also don't have to pay for luggage if you're flying an airline that charges for that (although we're Southwest people and previously had the Companion Pass, so hit me up if you want more info on all of that)! 

I recently took the leap to investing in a better carry-on because I was tired of buying something that just fell apart after the first couple of uses. And guys, I'm legit in love with my new Chester Minima Carry-On Spinner Suitcase. So much so, that I ordered a matching one for Aaron (and we aren't those kind of people ha). It's a dream in the airport. I took it on a recent trip and I loved the ease of the zippered compartments, how well it fit in the overhead bins, the little laundry bag that was included, and how cute it looked while being so functional. And it also comes with a 10 YEAR warranty, a 100 day trial, and free returns, so I know I'm covered and working with a great company who believes in a great product. They also offer free two day shipping, and you can use the code 10AF to get 10% off!! Click this link to hurry up and get yours today! I'm seriously SO happy with the bag and can't wait for all the adventures it will be a part of, especially Europe this summer!

A Great Personal Bag

Since carry-ons are often a little smaller and you're usually only allowed one personal item, I really recommend also getting a small personal bag that can serve as your carry-on bag if you're checking your luggage. I found this bag online and I'm in love. It has a lifetime warranty, and I love the way its little pocket slides down over the handles of my Chester Minima Carry-On so that I can push my suitcase with one hand and move everything I have like it weighs nothing! This bag is a great size to hold my laptop and charger, my purse, a water bottle, some games, and a book. I feel like I always have room for souvenirs if needed. Between this and my carry-on, I could honestly comfortably pack for a week long trip! If I'm going on a little overnight trip somewhere, this is perfect- and it has a nice shoulder strap and longer strap included too if I'm not rolling it on my suitcase (which is my favorite hands-free way to do it). 

A Comfy Travel Outfit

If you're going to be traveling for any length of time, it should be in comfort! Over time, I've learned that comfort doesn't have to mean not cute though! My go to travel outfit is now leggings (unless it's summer) and a comfy top with a layered cardigan or jacket. I also like to wear boots, TOMS, or Chacos depending on the time of year- anything that doesn't have to be laced up. Bonus points if they would have taken up a lot of room in my bag! I also bring along ear plugs because I can't sleep to save my life if there's any noise. And if I'm going to Europe, I do a travel pillow and eye mask!

Packing Cubes

If there's one thing I love about packing, it's trying to see just how much I can fit into my carry-on! Packing cubes are my jam! I love using them to separate tops and bottoms, or sepaarting clothes for me and Aaron if we're traveling together but being strategic about our packing across suitcases (a wise choice if you're renting a car and you don't want to bring in two suitcases each night- pack for the first few nights in one suitcase and then switch). My Travelwise packing cubes have been so great, and have accompanied me everywhere from Branson, MO to Venice, Italy. If you'd like to read more about them or my backpack for our Europe trip, click here! 

An Excellent Water Bottle

I never go on any trip without a solid water bottle. Of course, it's empty on the way through airport security, but then I've sure saved a pretty penny just filling it up wherever I am. Not to mention, I've always had an option ready whenever I got thirsty. Lately, I'm loving my Thermoflask because I can screw the top closed and I don't have to worry about it leaking inside my bag like many other water bottles would. 

A Great Read (Plus Some Tunes)

Not everyone may care about this as much as I do, but travel time is prime reading time for me! Whenever I know I'm going on any type of little getaway, I load up on recommended reads from our local library. I brought three books with me on my last trip, and I knocked two of them out. On longer trips, I've packed as many as five books- some in suitcases and some in personal bags. Some people love reading on Kindles, which would eliminate some packing space, but I really love kicking it old school with a paper book. I also would recommend having a cord and a phone with either Spotify or some tunes on it so that you can make the most of your time in the car. 

I could go on and on about other important things like carry-on sized toiletries and packing games in Ziploc baggies to save space (love me some travel hacks), but I think these are the main biggies! Hit me up with any questions you may have- I LOVE talking travel and probably should have been a travel agent in another life!! Don't forget to use the code 10 AF to save 10% at Chester Travels


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Clint Harp on Why Marriage is a Funeral

"Marriage is a funeral." That's probably one of the last things I expected to hear Clint Harp say when I was invited to attend a meet and greet interview with him last week before the Johnson County Home and Garden Show. Clint is best known for his role as a carpenter on Fixer Upper, but he has also been busy with his own DIY Network Show, Wood Work, and a recently released book Handcrafted. Clint's journey with Harp Design Co. is pretty inspiring, and I was so excited to meet him in person!

My husband, Aaron, was also able to come along with me, which was extra exciting because he teaches a basic woodworking class at his school and loves to build things on the side (like our front room pew). One thing that we liked about Clint was how down to earth he was, along with the fact that he loves to share his story in hopes of inspiring others along the way. Handcrafted isn't all about woodworking, but rather the story that brought Clint to where he is on his journey- all the tiny little steps and people along the way that led him here.

Clint runs Harp Design Co. with his wife Kelly, so they are not only spouses but also business partners. I asked Clint if he had any tips for working with your spouse, and he responded with “Be very careful. It’s hard.” This led into some really beautiful points about marriage (and even business/life in general):

Marriage is a funeral.

“Marriage done well is you allowing this person that you have created to protect you from everything else, to control everything around you, that person has to die. That person is not going to do you any good moving forward.” Man, I love this point, and it is SO true. Numerous times I have found myself sitting in my stubbornness, wanting things a certain way- and not wanting someone else to mess it up. But as Clint said, “That is not going to let me survive, that’s going to kill my marriage.” So marriage is not a funeral because you’re stuck with someone else forever and dying as a result, but rather because you need to die to yourself in order to be willing to open up and let someone else in. That’s love right there. 

Let them royally screw up.

According to Clint, this idea is even harder in business, where you freak out even more about decisions, and feel like everything will undoubtedly fail if you don’t get your way with how high the curtains are hung or what color you’re going to paint the walls. But I loved Clint’s point in this. That in so many areas, “If we want to get better, we have to let each other try things and mess up- to fail in order to get better.” And this is something I’m also not so good at, but it’s so true. Just like I don’t expect perfection from my students - we can’t expect perfection in life, and we certainly can’t expect it from our spouse or loved ones. So let go. Let them royally screw up, and don’t be mean about it. Give them room to grow, and go work on things that you’re good at.

Let them own it. Stay in your lane.

Clint has learned that he has to step out of the way in several areas and “Let [Kelly] own it— and she lets me own my stuff, and the more we do that with each other the better it gets.” Clint also has this same approach with his employees, and I love that. No one can feel good about what they’re doing if no one lets them truly do it, or if they constantly feel you breathing down their neck. And when you stay in your lane and let other people be in theirs, it’s a beautiful thing when they start asking you to come into their lane- to help them out, and to just them be themselves but “when you are constantly forcing yourself on each other, it doesn’t happen”. Yes. We may be offense and defense, but we’re all on the same team. That’s powerful stuff. I think it’s a safe bet that Clint’s employees, along with his wife Kelly, appreciate this approach, and I’m pretty dang inspired to do the same in my own life.

In case you're interested in other nuggets from Clint:

We knew that Clint started his business with really no money, so we asked him what advice he had for those lacking the finances to fund their dreams. His answer: take the little steps. Keep taking tiny steps along the way, even when you can't see the end result yet. This is how he ended up going from totally broke to someone who now employs over 30 people. He may have only been able to pay his first employee $750 cash every two weeks, but with the help of local bankers, they just kept inching their way forwards towards their dreams.

Clint's story is an incredible testament to the idea that one little small thing can set you on a crazy path to something huge. From time working in ministry, serving as a missionary overseas, taking a medical sales job, moving back to Waco, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, and then eventually buying the Habitat building for a shop, along with buying the house next door for $10,000: it has been a crazy ride. Oh, and did you know that he met Chip Gaines at a gas station one day while filling up after playing at the park with his kids? If you remove any of those small steps, there's a chance that none of it may have happened. That's inspiring. Nothing is by chance. Nothing is wasted!

You can read all about this (and more) in Handcrafted. I'm reading it on my trip this week, and I can't wait to let you know what I think. (Be sure to follow along on Instagram for more!) In the meantime, visit the Harp Design Co. website at and use code HARP10 for 10% off of your purchase of anything! Treat yourself!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Space Saving Ideas for Your Master Bath

Ensuite master bathrooms are a plus in any house. There’s something luxurious about being able to head straight to the toilet without running down the hallway in your jammies. It’s almost like the convenience of a hotel room in the heart of your home. I never had a bathroom in my bedroom until I moved into an apartment during my first year of teaching, and I knew there was never any going back! If your bedroom and bathroom remodel priorities are anything like mine, I will absolutely neglect my own private space because I know other folks won't really see it. But that's not a great way to handle remodels because you'll end up hating the outdated decor and space wasting appliances you see on a daily basis. Here are some space saving ideas to consider for your master bath!

Sneaky Storage

In the majority of cases, ensuites are so small that they don’t exactly scream storage. It may be so bad that you have to keep all your bathroom basics shoved in the larger bathroom (like I do). Of course, we can’t literally create more space in your ensuite. We can, however, suggest sneaky storage solutions which might achieve the same goal. Something as simple as a cabinet under your sink could do the trick. This won’t take up more room than a standard option, but it can provide you with at least a few shelves. Other good choices include shelves that don’t take any floor space at all. You definitely don't want to make the room feel any more crowded than it already does, even with your stuff there.


Wetroom Designs

If you try to fit a bulky shower cubicle or bathtub into your master bath, you may struggle. These take up an enormous amount of square footage, and you may not need them. By designing a wetroom, you can make use of options like these showers for small bathrooms without needing a cubicle. With the right flooring and wall tiles, you’ll be able to simply stick one of these on your wall and open the whole room up. That means more space all around, as well as an on-trend design.

Floating Appliances

Along the same vein as shelves, you might want to think about floating appliances. Again, these work wonders for freeing up floor space. If you pair these with that wetroom idea, you can bet your master bath will soon feel more extensive and open than ever before. That’s because you won’t have any bulky bottoms to attend with. You won’t have to worry about tripping over your sink stand at night anymore, or stubbing your toe on that toilet. You’ll be able to glide in without any obstacles and do the do in ultimate luxury.

It's take to take that cluttered master bath and make it a space you love (one where you can actually move). Go for it!


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Taco TWOsday Birthday Party

February 23rd has come and gone again and our sweet Eli is two! Last year, we had a blast at his Onesie First Birthday Party, so we knew we wanted to have a party again for his second birthday. I was hunting around for ideas, and fell in love with a fiesta themed "Taco TWOsday" party- because what's not to love about tacos, fun bright colors, and pinatas? Here are all the details (plus fun pics) to help you plan your own Taco TWOsday Birthday Party (or really any fiesta)!

Decor And Theme Apparel

I wanted to keep things pretty simple, but go with bright fiesta colors: red, orange, yellow, and green. I found my color inspiration with a super cute fiesta flags banner from Hobby Lobby. I also knew that I wanted to highlight the whole "Taco TWOsday" title, so I bought this gold Taco TWOsday banner that I found on Amazon. I loved hanging it in our dining area as a great backdrop for fun photo opportunities! I designed my own little fun photo of Eli wearing a sombrero and mustache, and used that to make a simple twine banner for downstairs, along with the birthday party online evite for invitations. 

To let others in on the fun, we bought a few "props" for people to enjoy: plastic party hats and mustaches, both from Hobby Lobby. I also wanted E to have a cute shirt that he could wear for not only his party, but for the year. His "I'm Dos, Let's Fiesta" shirt was made by Ali Mordhorst Designs, and it turned out absolutely perfect! Definitely check out her Facebook Group for all sorts of designs, bags, shirts, and more!

The boy just wanted to get down and play with balloons...

Food and Drinks

A taco bar is an obvious must for any good fiesta! We went the street taco route, complete with grilled steak and chicken, flour and corn tortillas, an onion/cilantro mix, chips, salsa, and sour cream. Aaron did all the main course cooking and it was delicious! We ended up going without printables for our taco bar, but if you're looking for something pretty you could use these ideas from Wedding Chicks! We also bought a pack of Mexican Coca Colas from Costco and they were a hit!

Samantha of Crumbs and Confections did an AMAZING job on Eli's adorable fiesta cake, the cupcakes, and these incredible taco and cactus cookies! They were just as delicious as they look. If you're in the Kansas City area, be sure to check out her website and Facebook page. She's does weddings and special occasions cake and more, and she's great!

To round out our desserts, I made Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars which turned out to be pretty yummy! They were super easy and you can find the recipe here. I finished the table with Eli's "I love" and "I can" statements to add to his time capsule from last year. I also had him draw a picture of his family, and we filled out a birthday info sheet, so I'm hoping to keep up with those traditions in the years to come!

Games and Activities 

It definitely wouldn't have been a fiesta without a pinata, and when we found this taco pinata at Hobby Lobby, we knew it was the one. We loaded it up with candy, and had five kiddos (ages 10 and under) take a whack at it. It was pretty funny to watch and we got some great video footage of it. Now Eli is kind of obsessed with hitting balloons with bats, so I guess we're working on hand eye coordination for his future athlete days!

Eli had been raving about his party for weeks, and he kept telling us that he was going to "candle, blow out". He even got some good practice in before we lit it. He was so cute while everyone was singing to him, holding my hand with a big ole smile while he listened. Gosh, he's great!

After the cake, we wanted to throw in a fun party game for all, so I printed out this Amigo Bingo game I found online. Our winners got lottery tickets, but sadly no one walked away a millionaire. I also had a lot of fun making Eli's One Second Everyday video again, which I put on loop on our TV in the background, along with his video from last year. It's sooo awesome to watch a little bit of his entire year in less than six minutes, and I love seeing all the memories and firsts as he grows. Check it out!

All in all, it was a really fun party. I loved piecing together the theme and decor, and most of all I loved having our home full of forty of our closest friends and family. I love seeing our cozy little home full of laughter, and having our "village" there with us was the very best part. They have been such a huge part of this year for Eli, and I honestly wanted to celebrate and throw this party for them just as must as for E. Here are a few more fun pics!

I hope you have a blast celebrating and planning your fiesta. We sure did. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help- party planning is my jam!


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Two: A Birthday Letter to My Eli

To My Big Two Year Old E,

It's strange to think that you won't remember this year of your life, but I hope I always will. Your sweet little blonde hair that refuses to give up its stubborn bedhead ways after every three hour nap, the precious little grin that makes your eyes squint just like mine, and the way you fit perfectly in my lap when we're chanting "I think I can" and tapping along on your "Choo Choo" book just one more time before bed. The way you incessantly ask for more "crack-oos", cling to me when I'm forced to leave for work, and boldly call for watching "tra-toos" whenever you want Daddy to turn on Gold Rush and snuggle with you. I hope that I can remember the joy that you brought us when you were so little and yet growing so quickly. This time when even your biggest concern can be calmed by wrapping you tightly in my arms and kissing your soft cheeks again and again.

I know that this letter won't mean much to you until you are older, but I hope that it shows you just a tiny glimpse of how much Daddy and I love you. How we loved and cherished this season (and every other one) with our precious son- you, a gift from God, a treasure in our family.

I marvel at the wonder of watching you learn. You are inquisitive and curious, already climbing under your Cozy Coupe to "work on cars" just like Daddy and sketching masterpieces with your bathtub crayons. You are a helper, always game to put the laundry away, wipe a paper towel on the window, or help me unload the dishwasher, one fork at a time. You are a little parrot, repeating every word and every song, lifting up your own little melody of praise when I least expect it, or getting mad when Daddy and I forget to hold your hold while we're praying. You are kind and thoughtful, always telling people "Bye Bye", "Night Night", and "Love You". Oh sweet boy, it is such a privilege to be your mama.

I can't quite explain the feeling I have when you run over to me in those pants you can't quite keep up around your skinny waist. The feeling of wonder and pride when you ask me to put on your shoes so you can "run run" fast, or "step and throw". You beg for me to "giddy up" with you around the kitchen, lifting your hands in the air and boogying with such joy. You plead for just one more piece of bacon, one more fry, and one more cookie. To ride in Daddy's truck or to go outside and slide just one more time, saying "No" and "Okay". but never "Yes". It's so hard to tell you no because it brings me such joy to see you happy.

But sometimes I do say no, even though it may mean tears and a tantrum, because at the end of the day, I love you so much that I know you must learn how to deal with rejection. How to follow the rules, how to handle your emotions, how to listen and disagree and still be a calm and rational human. I want the best for you, and sometimes that may mean that you don't always get what you want. But some day, I promise you'll thank me for that.

But on this day, your second birthday, your 730th day on this Earth, I'm not wishing it was some day already. I'm holding tight to this world of Pete the Cat and Paw Patrol, SleepSacks and snuggles. I will do my very best to not wish any time away because I know that it will go so very quickly. It already has. So here's to you, my little love. You light up my world. I know that you have your moments, and will continue to, but I also know that we have so many wonderful moments ahead that will make even the most frustrating two-year old behavior fade away from my memory. Here's to another whole year of loving and learning and living life to the full.

I love you so much, no matter what, and I always will.


Monday, February 18, 2019

Three Days in Austin: A Travel Guide

In early January, Aaron and I escaped the Kansas City cold and hopped on a plane for an adult's only trip to Austin, Texas (our first kid free getaway since our Hermann Getaway back in August). We had never been to Austin before, and it was the perfect non-stop flight to somewhere warmer. Plus, I had always wanted to make a little trip to Magnolia, and it was less than two hours to Waco! If you're looking to spend a long weekend in Austin, you've come to the right place. Here are my tips for things to do and places to eat while you're there!

To start our trip, we flew into Austin and rented a car (Side note: EasyRentCars offers incredible deals and coupons on rental cars! We got a steal of a deal on our Toyota Camry!). From there we hopped on the highway and drove straight to Waco (see farther down in the post for more), but you've got so many options for kicking off your own adventure in Austin. You'll definitely want a car to get around, as the city has so many different areas that are fun to explore- and not all of them are close together. There are lots of scooters and bikes you can rent, but we found that driving and parking, then just walking around was pretty time and cost efficient.

If money is less of an issue, you can definitely stay right in the heart of downtown, with Rainey Street and 6th Street being major areas to visit. We chose to stay in the quirky and fun South Congress area, just south of downtown, where there are numerous restaurants, music venues, and touristy areas to explore up and down South Congress Avenue. Once you get here and park, it's easy to walk up and down the avenue. We stayed in a cute Airbnb that was just minutes away, and was a great home base to explore from.

Explore the Austin Murals

One of the things Austin is known for is being "weird". And Austin wants to keep it that way. They celebrate their unique music and art culture, and have numerous fun murals throughout the city. They're fun to find and take selfies with (or make friends with people who are willing to take your picture)!

The Greetings from Austin Mural 

The Hi, How Are You Mural: "Jeremiah the Innocent"

Austintatious Murals on Guadalupe Street (Near the University of Texas)

Willie for President Mural

Party @ The Moontower Mural

I love you so much mural- outside Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress

Eat LOTS of Yummy Tacos (And Other Food)

One of the very best things about Austin is trying all of the delicious food. There are definitely tacos and Mexican restaurants in abundance, but we weren't disappointed by anything that we had. Here are a few big ones to hit! 

Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy's has locations all across Texas. We ate at the one on South Congress. I had the "trailer park" and the chicken fajita tacos, and they were delicious. So was the guac, and I loved the Austin sodas that were featured in their fountain drinks options.

This place was a diamond in the rough, and honestly may have been our favorite meal of our entire trip. We just happened to pull off and grab breakfast tacos here, and they were incredible: so fresh and cooked to order. Click the heading for more info and for location- you won't be sorry!  

Guero's Taco Bar

Guero's was our first stop for Mexican and it was super yummy. We hit happy hour for a great deal on Margarita's, and they had excellent enchiladas. They also have free live music every Wednesday through Sunday outside of the South Congress location. (6-8 on Thurs, 6:30-9:30 on Friday, 2:30-4:30 on Sat.) Check it out!

Homeslice Pizza

Homeslice Pizza is great if you'd just like to grab a quick slice without a line. They also have a sit down restaurant where you can order whole pizzas, calzones, or other items.

Dolce Neve Gelato

I never go on vacation without scoping out great ice cream options, and this one did NOT disappoint. They have delicious, unique gelato options and I would say it was pretty authentic to what I've had in Italy.

Enjoy Live Music (Often for Free!)

Austin is home to lots of great live music, and many of the options are even free! If you look up "Free Music in Austin" you can usually find lots of great options for when you'll be in town! 

One place that has been home to live music for years and years is the Continental Club on South Congress. Depending on timing of the show, they have free music or a small cover charge. Check out their website for more info!

Another option is to check out free music in the nearby Zilker area at the Saxon Pub. They often have free music from 6 -7:30 pm, and you can register ahead of time online. Definitely take in a show while in town!

Take a Dance Lesson (Or Grab a Drink)

If you know much about the story behind me and Aaron, you know that I love dancing, and that it has always been special for us. We couldn't take a trip to Austin, Texas without doing a little bit of counry two steppin'. I checked around and found free two step lessons for us at The White Horse.

It felt like a major hole in the wall, but just minutes after we showed up, a whole crew of people walked in and suddenly there was a full house for the lessons. We had a lot of fun and the instructors were really great. Other than asking if anyone wanted to tip, it didn't cost a dime. I would highly recommend it- they didn't make anyone feel silly and I didn't see a single person having a bad time.

We also made a little stop at The Austin Winery. It was a super fun space in what appeared to be a little warehouse area in a small part of town. There were several breweries and different areas nearby, so there was something for everything. We enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine, playing games, and watching playoff football games on their drop down screen. It's also really cool because they make and store the wine in the same space, so you can see it all from the long farmhouse tables. It's definitely a hip area worth checking out.

Take a Walking Tour

One of my very favorite things to do anytime we visit a new city is to go on some sort of tour. We found a great downtown Austin walking tour through Tipster Tours. Tipster doesn't have a price for their tours- you just tip what you feel is fair afterwards. It was a perfect 70 degree day in Austin, and we had a great time exploring the Capitol area and downtown, while learning more about the history of the area. 

The tour ended at the popular and gorgeous Driskill Hotel, which has a whole lot of character and its own restaurant and bakery. We didn't eat there, but I've heard it's delicious! 

Road Trip to Waco! 

If you've got time for it, and if you're just as big of a fan of Chip and Joanna as I am, hop in the car for the easy drive from Austin to Waco. In less than two hours, you'll be able to check out Magnolia. If you've watch any of the Fixer Upper series, especially the one where Jo renovates the bakery at the silos, it will really mean a lot to see it all in person. We had a ton of fun exploring the grounds, snagging a delicious cupcake (or two- don't judge!) from the bakery, and perusing the store to pick up a shirt and magnet before we left. And of course I was totally drooling over all of the cute decor in the store. But then it wouldn't have fit into my cute carry-on!

Magnolia is open from 9-6, and their Magnolia Table restaurant closes at 3 pm. Because of the timing for us, we didn't eat at their restaurant, but I've heard that it is amazing! It was really fun seeing all the things they've done the Silos. We did also make a quick stop in downtown at the Waco Winery and the Harp Design Co. before heading out of town. Waco is so cute!

All in all, we had an amazing time in Austin, and our bellies and hearts were pretty darn full after this getaway. You should definitely add it to your list! Let me know if you have any questions, and be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook if you aren't already! Can't wait to share more of our adventures with y'all soon!