Two Story Cottage

Ode to School & September

Dear Friends,

Well, I can’t let the whole month of September pass without acknowledging back to school time for the kiddos .  This year was particularly special because I have a kindergartner and second grader.  That means everyone is in the same spot for the first time ever.  It feels like a big milestone as a mom.

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Reid going to kindergarten has been bittersweet.  It is so exciting for him to be at big school. He is thrilled to do all of the things Lacey has done and I can tell he thinks he is big stuff.   He is proud and challenged in such a good way.

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However, kindergarten is an adjustment.   It wears them out like nothing else.  My even keeled boy is all kinds of cranky by the end of the week.  It has taken a few weeks but finally he is settling in and as a family the routine is feeling more normal.

Second grade has been a seamless transition which I’m thankful for.  Lacey is excited to have her brother at school but slightly annoyed at having to share her special place.  She has made it clear that she is the seasoned veteran and we all need to remember that.

September often feels like a blur and survival mode is the mantra. October is such a fun month in comparison so I’m ready for the next chapter!

-Erin

Lacey is 8: Annual Birthday Questionnaire

Dear Friends,

Lacey is officially eight years old and I’m full of cliches about where the time has gone.  Part of me can’t believe I’ve had this Mom gig for so long.  I still feel like a newbie yet I’m halfway to the driving years.  I have no doubt the second half will buzz by even faster so I’m trying to savor the every day, even on these sometimes looong summer afternoons.

No big parties this year for the girl.  She wanted her cousins from Greenville to come and spend the night so we had a cousin sleepover.  It was the first time we have done it and all of the kids felt so grown up.  I see a tradition brewing!

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And speaking of traditions, one of my favorite birthday traditions is the annual questionnaire from Leelou Blogs.  The kids look forward to their question session every year.  It is always fun to look back on last year’s quiz.  And once again the answers are so very dependent on what has transpired in the last few days or even hours.

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Lacey suddenly remembered that her favorite animal is actually a dolphin and not a monkey but it was too late for changes.  The surveys are so off the cuff that you just never know what you might get but that is the fun part.

Lacey is still our sweet and headstrong child.  She waffles between extreme generosity and an iron will that could test the most patient of souls.   I am proud of her for working to overcome literacy struggles over the last couple of years.  She is plenty bright but it is nice to know she can work hard and buckle down if necessary.  She has also proven to be a very good friend and is rarely involved in any drama in that sense.  She tends to ride a roller coaster of emotions at home but is perfectly even keel in the classroom.   Lacey is anything but predictable and she keeps our lives interesting whether she is building a structure out of recyclables using all of the tape we own or hosting a tea party for plastic farm animals.

Cheers to eight years of motherhood.

-Erin

 

 

Summer Days

Dear Friends,

It isn’t officially summer by the calendar but it has arrived at our house.  Triple digit temperatures are forecasted for today and school is over for both kids.  I’m not sure it gets any more legit than that.   We have already started watching Mr. C at church softball games, itching and sweating, which definitely is a sign of the summer.

reid_summer

Reid is officially finished with preschool.  I am no longer a preschool Mom.  I spent seven years hauling kids in and out of our preschool so it was a little tough to say goodbye.  I was sad and glad in equal parts.  There is nostalgia and gratitude but excitement regarding the experiences to come.  Regardless, it is the end of an era in my life as a mom.

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first day & last day of first grade 

Lacey and I got to spend a week of ”just girls” time together because her school let out a week before Reid’s preschool.  I’m excited for everyone to be on the same schedule next year but I’ll miss the special one-on-one time I have with each child right now.  Lacey and I cram in a lot of treats when it is just the two of us.  No allergies to worry about which is nice!

lacey_summer

Summer brings swim team which is already half over.  Both kids are doing it this year which means two happy kids attend practices and meets.  Reid has waited two years for his turn! I hold my breath every time he is on the block because just making it all the way across the pool is a big deal right now. Lacey is in 7 & 8’s where she gets to do all of the strokes which is exciting, but also means longer meets.

It is our first year going to the pool where we can sit on the side and not have to get in.  Sort-of. Every year brings new freedoms and this is one I’m relishing.  I still have to watch Reid like a hawk, but I’m happy to be dry and free of children pulling on my suit.

reid_sports

T-ball is over now.  Spring sports are fun but so consuming.  I’m glad for a break from the action.  Lacey played golf and still has a handful of summer lessons but that is easy breezy without school in session.   Most of all, I’m excited not to rush everywhere all of the time.

The kids have a few little camps on the agenda but we are pretty free in June.  I’m thankful for the time to slow down and mellow a bit. I’m hoping for a lot of outdoor time before it gets insanely hot.

When did these kids get so big anyway?

-Erin

 

 

Super Bowl Extravaganza

Dear Friends,

We hosted a low-stress, super fun gathering last night.  I’m bleary eyed this morning but it was worth the sleep trade-off.   After having kids, Mr. C & I started hosting my family for the big day because watching elsewhere was no longer that desirable.   Like most annual traditions there is some fluctuation to the menu depending on the year but we always have wings, pizza, and some kind of dip.  The duh Super Bowl staples that are found in a zillion households across America.

Everyone brings food so there isn’t too much pressure to cook up a storm.  This year I decided to experiment with some fun add-ons in the form of mac n’ cheese and a savory mixed nuts appetizer.  They were both winners according to the non-picky people.  I’m not talking about the children – Mr. C likes tried and true party foods and not so much anything else.  I’ll give him points for trying both and not making a face.

Because Reid can’t have dairy or tree nuts (and a lot of other things) we tend to not have a lot of either around here, so I think a party automatically makes me want those things.  Don’t worry, he was plenty satisfied with his vegan pizza, vegan pigs in the blanket, and black bean chips.

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Yes, baby Savannah is perched on top of the table for the photo op.
We had plenty of adults to ensure her safety.

Party Tip:  For last minute foods that require cooking, prepare ahead of time like it is a TV cooking show.  I measure everything ahead of time and put ingredients in little bowls so that I’m not fumbling around while guests are arriving.

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Part of what made this gathering so easy was my resident decorator.  She took on the job of party planner like a boss.  It was honestly adorable and endearing and she even cleaned her room which is epic for my messy child.  I’m not sure anyone likes entertaining as much as she does.  Lacey used Trader Joe’s bags to make a football garland.  She chose to hang it on the mantel.  She also had bags for us to drop our name and score prediction in.  My favorite is the “don’t care” bag that she came up with.  Most of us would have been in that camp but we all chose teams (mostly the Seahawks unfortunately).

football_decor

We lost our minds and let both kids stay up for the whole game for the first time ever.  They were both hanging in there so well that it just sort-of happened.  Reid doesn’t have school on Mondays so that wasn’t so bad but Lacey was a little wide-eyed at dark-thirty this morning.

rosemary_mixed_nuts

The link to the nuts recipe is here.  I highly recommend it for a savory addition to any menu.  Your house will smell amazing.  Also, you can make them ahead and stick them in the crockpot on warm which makes life easy.

The original mac n’ cheese recipe is here.  I did my own twist on things by using jalapeño cheese from Trader Joe’s for half of the allotted amount.  It had the perfect little bite to it but of course you could skip that.  I did not add any actual jalapeños because I worried that some of my guests would not be on board with that and it already had a hefty dose of jalapeño monterey jack.

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My sister always brings her kettle corn.  I cannot stop eating it when we have it.  It might be Lacey’s favorite snack. We had homemade ice cream for dessert along with some leftover Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Cheesecake from Christmas (not pictured).    Yum, Yum!

This was a hodgepodge party and sometimes I think that is the best kind!  Just get together and enjoy the fellowship but make sure the food is fabulous.  I’ll be lunching on leftovers this week which is always a bonus.

Did you party for the Super Bowl?

-Erin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2014

Dear Friends,

Christmas hoopla has receded and winter break is officially over.  We had a quiet but relaxing, family-filled two weeks.  It goes by in a blur and before you know it the dark-thirty alarm is blaring and lunches need packing.   The week before Christmas we were hit by a firestorm of illness (flu, stomach bug, rock on) but luckily everyone was stable by the big day.  This mom will be getting a flu shot from now on – luckily the kids were spared so maybe the vaccine is worth it.  I thought I was immune because I never seem to get it but that theory was weak unfortunately.

The positive of all of the sickness beforehand was the lack of chaos.  I was not running around doing stuff like a crazy person and yet Christmas still came.  Being forced to slow down is not fun but it provided a new perspective for sure.

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It was so nice to spend more time with my niece Savannah.   We just don’t see her enough!   Auntie needs to squeeze those cheeks and the kids are always excited to shake toys in her face. We are an overwhelming bunch but she is learning to love us.   It is hard to believe she is six months already.  My sister finished her nursery this fall so I’m overdue for an update on sweet Savannah and her fun space.

christmas_brunch

Our annual Christmas brunch was a success.  Everyone fit in our dining room with zero room to spare but I’m glad to know we can host a full family affair despite the limited space.  Making a combined dining/living room was a risk but I dare say it worked out.

We did not travel at all this year which meant a lot of pajama time, especially since we had a rainy spell.  Mr. C gets cabin fever but I was fine with a toasty fire and slow days.

I hope your holiday was joy-filled and restful.  Time to get in gear for a New Year!

-Erin

 

 

 

 

Halloween Recap

Dear Friends,

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  It makes me feel grinchy, but I’ve just never enjoyed the chaos, the costumes, or even the candy.  I prefer my secret stash of sugar to the motherload the kids bring home.  There is also the inevitable arrival of meltdown central which is usually epic.  This year was different though.  I quietly dreaded it while trying to put on a good front. And then…

I had fun.

It was a good day.

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ladybug_girl_costume

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I’m not sure if it is my kids getting older,  the lucky Friday positioning, or the new neighborhood that made this year more enjoyable.  Whatever the reason, I didn’t cringe and then at some point realized I was truly having a good time.

Gasp.

This Halloween was void of meltdowns and it was a smooth day.  There was silliness and a costume malfunction or two but overall I have to say I’m cured of my Halloween anxiety.  Not to say I won’t turn skeptical next October, but I’ve got hope for the years to come.

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halloween_fun

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My parents stopped by to see the kids as well as Auntie Em, Andrew, and baby Savannah.  Of course, Uncle Andrew got some good pictures like the one above.  Savannah was a show stopper in her doughnut costume.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t too interested in wearing it for long but the pictures will last a lifetime.

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And yes, Emily made the costume.  She is crafty like that.  After a doughnut baby shower, it really is fitting to have a doughnut costume for Halloween.  Perhaps there should be a doughnut first birthday party as well-  thankfully, she has a long time before that milestone.

I’m excited for the month of November and Thanksgiving.  Beyond that is too much to think about right now!

-Erin

Family Photos that Don’t Stink

Dear Friends,

I hired a newborn photographer after Reid was born and haven’t had professional pictures done since.  Every fall and spring, when everyone is showcasing pictures and planning perfectly coordinated outfits I’m lamenting on the lack thereof.  It always sounds great but I struggle with the follow through.  My Perfect Pinterest family is still stuck on the virtual board.

My mom has been requesting a family photo before holiday time that includes baby cousin, Savannah.   Last Sunday, we met in the park and my brother-in-law set-up his camera and tripod for a photo fest.  I didn’t shop for outfits and not a dollar was spent but the outcome was pretty good considering.  Of course, Andrew had to spend time downloading and doctoring photos but he was a good sport about it.

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I need to do an update on little Ms. Savannah and her nursery.  Can you believe she is 4 months now?  Yikes!  Andrew & Emily are handling parenthood like champs.  Probably much better than Mr. C and I did the first time around.  I don’t think we were prepared.

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behind_scenes

Cooperation from all parties in a family photo is next to impossible.  Looking happy is clearly hard work as seen above.

I still plan on that perfectly planned photo some day but this will do for now.   Honestly, this was a good lesson for me.  Just like house stuff, I’m always tempted to wait for that perfect opportunity.  You know, the one that never comes?  It is better to seize the moment and find contentment in the attempt.   Any outcome is better than none, right?

Most of the time, anyway.

-Erin

 

 

School Daze + Chalk Art

Dear Friends,

It’s that time again.  The school year is ready to mow us down like a big yellow bus.  Unlike years past, we were actually ready this year.  Practically playing chicken, waiting for that proverbial bus because summer was kind of long this go around.

That is a lot of bus talk for a carpool family.

Because of our move, we had a lot less travel and many more summer days at home.  I daydream about those free days when our schedule is nutty, but by mid-August we were all craving more structure.  Sure, there were pool outings, trips to the library, and a handful of camps but all of that had run its course.

I guess summer ends for a reason.

school_collage

Luckily, Reid has another year of preschool before we hit the big time.  The 4’s program will take some getting used to for all of us.  He goes four half days and will be getting ready for the big K.  I know he will be worn out with all of the big kid work they do.

Lacey on the other hand starts first grade.  That is a longer day which means we don’t see her until almost 3:00.  I’m going to have to adjust to that because it just seems so late!  I certainly didn’t go that long in elementary school.  Times have changed for sure.

chalkboard_message_summer

I hung my diy chalkboard in our breakfast space back in June.   I was so excited about summer and the endless possibilities!   Rather than post an autumn message, I figured I’d keep this one around a wee bit longer while we properly mourn our loss of sleep.

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I did change the first line because summer days are drifting away, y’all.  Bring on fall.

-Erin

 

 

 

 

Lucky Seven

Dear Friends,

Lacey turned seven over the weekend.  I’m a little startled by it to be honest.  Clearly, I knew it was coming but something about seven just seems old.  She is suddenly tall and in the span of a week has lost her two front teeth.   I guess cursive and multiplication will be around the corner.

We didn’t celebrate with a big party this year.  I’m thinking that may be an every, other year thing.  Or maybe we will just evaluate each year as it comes.  We did sort of dangle a carrot out there, telling her that she could choose a special present from Mom and Dad OR a friend party. I knew she would choose the gift because she wanted a “grown-up” doll house so my master plan worked.

It was still a fun-filled Saturday with extended family over for cake and dinner at Red Robin.   Lacey is my agenda girl and she had every minute planned out despite the lack of party.

I did the annual birthday survey, thanks to Leelou Blogs.   I always enjoy comparing it to previous years.

lacey_birthday_7

It is funny how the answers can change on a dime at that age.   Anything that had occurred in the last 24 hours was fair game, especially when it came to the “favorites.”

Six was a pretty great age for Lacey so fingers crossed that seven is smooth sailing.

-Erin

 

 

New Beginnings

Dear Friends,

I am in fact alive and still here on Earth.  I took a blogging hiatus without really intending to.  It turns out moving combined with the end of the school year was far too much to handle and everything peripheral fell to the wayside.  We were so busy and crazed that I honestly didn’t give the blog much thought except when others asked if I was hanging up my hat.

But I did miss you, the readers!

Blogging for me has always been a hobby and not a business.  I enjoy the creative outlet and the fun of having an online family and taking this little break affirmed that.   Today is the first day I have wanted to write in ages and I’m happy to have that fire burning again.   It is on simmer for now but I’m thankful for the cautious excitement I’m feeling this morning.  I’ve blogged for four years now and perhaps it was just time for a senior year break of sorts.

Where do I even start?

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Yes, we sold our house.  It took only three weeks thankfully.  Showing a house with kids and a dog is pure unadulterated torture.

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Yes, we bought a house within the city limits.  I can’t wait to show you!  We moved in at the end of May and things are finally coming together.  Sort of.   We are at least settled.

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Yes, my niece was born.  She came 3 weeks early on June 15th.  Her name is Savannah Jane and she is a perfect little angel.

That is a lot of big news to process and I can’t wait to elaborate further.  I plan to post twice a week this summer because with kids around 24/7, the lack of school schedule, and piles of stuff everywhere,  I’ve got other priorities.   Of course, summer fun is sandwiched in between the to-do list and swim practice.

Thanks for not forgetting me, friends!

-Erin

 

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