Thursday, October 8, 2015

Kiwi Crate and Craziness

The other day I had just packed my biological sardines into the van after successfully,
not without tears, braving my holy trinity of grocery stores: Costco, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
I was patting myself on the back real big as we glided onto the interstate; music blaring,
baby sleeping and a whole carton of peanut butter cups in my lap. Life is good.

And then my five year old piped up, "Hey, mom, I gotta pee."

OF COURSE I FORGOT TO HAVE THEM ALL PEE. *bangs head on steering wheel*
But I have peanut butter cups. Angels sing. If only very quietly.

"Like bad bad, buddy!?" I hopefully question.

Next thing I know, I'm pulled over with a van full of children and groceries in the middle
of rush hour Chicago on the side of the road explaining that I firmly believe, with all my
heart, that toddler boys can pee in a plastic water bottle.

We laughed so hard I was crying. I looked at my other son and asked him if he wanted
to take a shot at the bottle. He said, "Um no," in between maniacal bouts of laughter.

"Don't drink out of the water bottle, mom!" was the joke all the long way home.

I feel like this sums up my life right now.

It's just crazy. Two days go by and I think I have a routine down and then BAM -
a certain baby doesn't sleep through the night and I'm making dinner in my pajamas.

My dear sister reminded me, "That's parenthood, Brittany."
And that same dear sister, God bless her, recently sent a KIWI CRATE our way!!!
That was a nice segue, right?! And so nice of her!

It was for Judah's 4th birthday and the thrill was intense. My boys are like *tight*
so the joy was shared all around! They were so happy -- and I was so happy -- knowing that
EVERYTHING we need (down to emergency "back-up" glue) to create a couple really cool crafts
to go along with a theme and story was in that box! I suck at kid craft time. I kissed the box.

KIWI CRATE offers a monthly subscription where a specially curated box full of craft happiness
comes to your house for your little one! Or send it off as a birthday present like my sister did!
Or Christmas present! Or "just because" from grandma!

For us it is also a nice supplement to our homeschool routine!
Where the art department struggle is real.

P.S. Right now you can use code: SAVE25 at check-out to save 25%
on your first month PLUS you'll get free shipping with that! Wha what?!?

This box was a Western theme -- so we made a horse.
Pretty sure my boys named him "Hookey."

My boys also did their first little sewing project! They made these little bags for a
"rodeo" toss!!! SO. CUTE. I am keeping these forever. And will awkwardly give them to their wives
when they get married some day. Ok probably not. HA.

"Buddy, I'm so glad you got a KIWI CRATE," are the words exchanged as this picture was shot.
I kid you not. I am not making this up. Can you even handle this brother love?!

Check it out and always always ALWAYS have your kids pee before a long trip home.
Rookie parents. They get distracted by peanut butter cups.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ARBONNE || it's a long story

I began my health + wellness journey (it's all the rage) about four years ago.
It was shortly after the birth of my first son and I was suddenly "very sensitive"
to the world around me. My husband began affectionately referring to me as the
"girl in the bubble" around this time as I began to avoid all of my triggers.

It wasn't just food. It was household cleaning products, hygiene products, the clothes
I was wearing (latex), the candles I was lighting in my house, the cigarettes my neighbor
was lighting 20+ feet from the building, etc. My initial reaction was to actually purchase
a giant bubble to live in. When your world is spinning out of control, and you're trying to
figure out how to make a cake with kale flour and scrubbing your toilet with the same vinegar
you make pickles with, you get desperate.

I started with nutrition, but in the past year or so I've been focusing more on household
and beauty products. I was reluctant to give up my tried and true beauty products. And honestly
I couldn't, and still can't, afford to just wipe the slate and start over again.

But when my sister, Nellie, started working with ARBONNE... she lured me in. Like she's a
good saleswoman or something! She's so passionate and dedicated to this company, and I'm
proud of her. I realized it could totally work and be affordable if I just paced myself and
bought replacements for my drugstore brands full of chemicals, preservative, dyes,
fragrances, etc. as they ran out.

And the truth is, I will never go back.
The difference was that obvious.

My eyes are no longer red and puffy.
My skin is softer than ever.
I am getting safe + quality coverage.

Some of my favorite beauty products (left to right) so far are:

CALM Gentle Daily Moisturizer
Make-up Primer (more here)
Charcoal Eye Liner
It's a Long Story Mascara
Dusty Rose Blush

My newest addition being "It's a Long Story Mascara"!!! Waterproof. Lengthening. Strengthening.
It goes on smoothly and comes off easy - not tearing out my eyelashes like some other product I
was "so in love with" before. I never need to reapply and it doesn't leave any "dust" on my
face. Even after corralling babies all day. It basically transforms me into a movie star.

ARBONNE's ingredient policy reads...

"Transparency and honesty. They are the hallmarks of our product integrity. At Arbonne we are continuously improving and evaluating our ingredient policy so we can develop the most thoughtfully designed, innovative, safest products. And we’re always striving to do better. Each and every single day.

We formulate without...

talc | tallow | carbon black | animal products or by-products | parabens | formaldehyde-donating preservatives | phthalates | formaldehyde | alkylphenols | benzene | monoethanolamine | triclosan | synthetic dyes | hydroquinone | artificial sweeteners | artificial flavors | cholesterol | trans fats | mineral oil"

Nellie is giving away one It's a Long Story Mascara to one of my readers this week!
Head on over to my INSTAGRAM account to enter to win <<<

Or if you'd like to join the Arbonne conversation,
catch my sister at
or leave your e-mail in the comments below.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Pirate Party

Judah recently turned four years old!!! I love to throw parties for my kids, and this year
my little guy wanted "PIRATES". He also wanted a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -
"Batman" - "SpongeBob" - "Goldfish" - and a "Red" party, but I wasn't sure exactly how to
hone in on all of that. So "PIRATES"!!! I'm not Pinterest, son.

In fact, I promised myself NOT to get on Pinterest to plan his party.
Because panic attack. I just created the good old fashioned way, straight from my brain.

And can we all just pause and stare off into the distance together for a minute?
I have a FOUR and a FIVE year old. And an almost ONE year old. What is going on!?!?
I am so thankful for each of them. The adventures of a lifetime.

Especially thankful for my Judah, the birthday man, this month!!!
He brings such a WILD JOY to our family!!! His whole life is a celebration!!!

FLAG: Some old fabric from Hobby Lobby with a skull mask (yes, we literally just had
that lying around) puttied to the front. Tacked to the window frame and fabulous.

TABLE COVERING: $3 brown bag wrapping paper from Target.
We DIY-ed "PIRATE MAPS" as a family!

LABLES: Used a large hole punch and a lighter to make a burnt fringe to layer and label.
Stuck them on skewers and straight into limes.

WINDOW FLAGS: Old red and black cloth napkins from Target tied together.

Nathan made an incredible "Treasure Map" for Judah!!! It took him and his little buddies
on a hunt around the house and yard to find the buried treasure! He is STILL talking about this.

PIRATE GRANDPA: Free. And so fun!

PINATA: Target. Of course.

CAKE: I ended up finding a plain wooden "treasure chest" and "canoe" at Hobby Lobby for super cheap.
Painted and accessorized - I was pretty proud of the results ($3 total)! Found gold (chocolate) coins
and small pirate figurines at a party store. Coconut for ocean. Crushed graham crackers for sand.

PIRATE FLAGS: Found a great FREE print on Google images and resized it before printing.
Cut and pasted to toothpicks.

Such a fun day!!!
So thankful for all our family that came out to celebrate with us!!!
Happy Birthday, Judah!!! You. Argh. Loved.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Un-Curated House Tour

We always knew that we would move home eventually. Back to the town so familiar, literally impossible to go anywhere without running into someone you know, to raise 'em up. We loved living in the suburbs of Chicago - the hustle and bustle is so alluring. Always something to do. Everything you want at your fingertips. But we didn't want our kids to miss it. We didn't want them to miss the joy of a quieter life, a slower pace and family.

Nathan and I have the privilege of sharing a home town. This place is our old and new stomping grounds. We're back, but it's different. The town has changed. We have changed. But family doesn't change. And that is just so good. An irreplaceable gift.

"Sometimes I find myself thinking about the people I love,
all spread out all over the country and I think: why are we so far apart?
Would it be insane to move houses or cities or states because of friendships?
Doesn't it sort of make sense? This is what I want, in my secret crazy heart:
I want to pick a neighborhood and put out the call: lets' do this!

Let's stop texting and seeing each other twice a year, if that.
Let's pick a neighborhood, and let's move there and raise our kids together
and have dinner together twice a week and go running together and put our kids on
the same bus in the morning. Here is my question these days: when you have friendships
that are so dear to you, when you feel so seen and loved and connected and thankful
for what these amazing people bring you, why wouldn't we change our lives,
or at the very least our location,for them?

- Shauna Niequist

I'll never forget the day we decided to start looking for a new job and house. I was in the midst of an autoimmune episode. It scares me. Wakes me up a little bit each time. One life. And boy is it fleeting. So why not? Why not live where we want to live with the people that mean the most to us? We had to try, and God blew us away when He opened every door that ushered us into this new life for our family.

We quit "living so far apart" and it feels good!

I've been planning to take pictures for weeks now. I had hoped to curate a nice overview of our little, brick ranch for you all, but this is about as un-curated as it gets. The rooms aren't Pinterest worthy, but I slapped a nice filter on all the photos just in case. Wink. This is a real life, work in progress, people live here kind of thing. So don't go calling HGTV or anything. HA. But if you do, please call Chip and Joanna Gaines. Please and thank you!

I live in the kitchen. It's the first time that I have a window over the sink. I'll never go back. It looks out into the fenced-in (all the mothers said AMEN) backyard. It's basically a vacation every time I step into this room. I love it.

I have a new theme for my house. It's called minimalism. We hung four things on the wall in our main living space: a crucifix, Mama Mary, a mirror and a bulletin board. I've got boxes of d├ęcor sitting in my basement. I dream of a garage sale in the spring.

The boys have their own space. With a $1 tiger I found at a rummage sale.
I know. So mid-century of me. I try.

We have plans to use this as a baby/guest bedroom. Right now Bella is holding down the fort.

And here is our laundry. I mean our master bedroom. Ahem. I'm excited to expand this little office space for me and Nathan! I've got an Ikea floating shelf in mind. An upright chair. Faux animal skin rug. Baby steps. Gotta fold that laundry first.

This one is for anyone dying to see our bathroom. We downsized in the bathroom department. I didn't realize how much we were going to miss our "en suite", but we are consoling ourselves with a that little office space! Eventually we hope to finish the full basement and add another bathroom down there. We shall see.

I almost included a picture of our backyard for your viewing pleasure. But then decided against it. You basically can look at any overgrown forest on the side of the interstate and get a good idea of what it looks like. HA. For real though. Mulberry trees are from the devil.

Ok, well now I feel super naked. As in exposed.
But we LOVE our new life and home and wanted you to share our joy. Curated or not. In this case, not.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Second Generation Homeschooling

Where did my babies go?! I am seriously in shock every time the UPS man comes by and drops off another book order. Get out of here! We always planned on homeschooling our kids. But if 5 years of parenting has taught me anything, it has taught me that things don't always go according to plan, every kid is different, and always always ALWAYS have a stash of chocolate. Not for the kids. For yourself.

I am thankful that we are able to homeschool this year--
and look forward to whatever adventures are to come!

Isaiah and Judah are twins born 15 months apart. They don't cope well without each other and it would seriously crush them to be separated. Thus, the brothers are doing kindergarten! The little nerds.

I was homeschooled 3rd-12th grade, and my husband was homeschooled for a couple of years as well. I've had so many people look at me and tell me, "Well, since you were homeschooled this will be easy for you." False. I was homeschooled, but I wasn't the educator-- ordering books, putting together lesson plans, making sure all the subjects were checked off the list. I'm just as intimated as the next rookie! Someone get me a sensei.

I shared over on Instagram a moment I had with my aunt. She's a homeschool veteran with eight kids of her own. These words are my mantra this year:

"I was going on about 'all the things' I want to commit to for the school year-- and she just kindly smiled and shook her head. 'I'm going to tell you what I wish someone would have told me when I was at your point,' she said. 'This is the only time in your life where all of your kids are happy to be doing the same thing in the same place. Your attention to them isn't much divided yet.' Sometimes I focus on how hard it is that everyone is very dependent on me right now and forget how easy it is at the same time! Per my aunt's advice, you will probably find us all snuggled in and reading books on the couch this school year... because she's right! All the extras are coming. But for now, we are all really good with just being little. I'm sure I'll look back and think, 'Man, I'm glad she stopped me in my tracks.'"

Isn't that good? I feel like those words affirmed me so well as a homeschooling momma. I am so looking forward to living and learning with my kids this year.

Here's a glance at what our Charlotte Mason inspired Catholic Kindergarten will look like this year:

This book. I want to grab a cup of tea and curl up in the pages. It is so restful and freeing to be using Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home. Elizabeth Foss gets me. It's less about the details and more about the journey.

A Beka K5 Math

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons- I watched my siblings learn to read from this program! It is so easy to teach and is perfect for 3 1/2 - 5 year olds. HIGHLY recommend. A "no cry" approach to learning how to read. And that's what we need around here. Less tears!

Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven: A Catholic Preschool Curriculum

This one is so sweet and perfect for us. Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven: A Catholic Preschool Curriculumoffers a gentle outline for pre-k. Scripture, saints, poetry, excellent book lists, and ideas for math, science, and art based around the letters of the alphabet. Less "book work" and more "real life application".

My kids also love Catholic Children's Treasure Box Set 1-20!!!! These are colorful, easy to follow, and perfect for my little learners. Saints, guardian angels, poems, activities, and more!!! I love how the stories and characters continue throughout the series. These are what we read when snuggling on the couch together. They are special.


There's no line between home and school in my brain. Learning happens in pajamas around half eaten bowls of cereal- it happens while folding laundry or jumping on the trampoline- it happens while working in the garden and making dinner. Some days will be more organized and "put together", but most will be busy and alive as we seize the moments to learn from our books, from the situations we find ourselves in, from the world around us, and from each other.

I'll report back every now and then as this school year develops and let you know how things are going! Or not going!? I'm sure we will have lots to share on what we love and not-so-much. Until then, if anyone wants to be this guinea pig's Jedi master step right up!!!

Because these pictures and ideas are nice and all, but real life is like...

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