In the end...

Tonight, when I was tucking Madigan into her bed, I did what I always do.

We snuggle together, I rock her in my arms, and we sing a song. Then, with her blanket pressed against her face and her thumb planted firmly in her mouth, I say her "bedtime prayer".

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
May angels watch me through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.

She always has to chime in on the "amen" part. It's her favorite part of any prayer. Tonight, she said it four times. Amen. Aaaammmeeennn. amen. AMEN. Very cute.

Then, I layed her down with her blanket and her bunny, and kissed her forehead. I always leave her room with an "I love you". Out of the darkness on my way out, I hear a tiny little voice echo back:

"Love you".


In the end, that is what being a mama is all about.


Edit, cut, repeat.

One of my favorite photogra-bloggers had a post about "before & after photography", or the editing that goes into photography. Trust me that anyone can be a great photographer- seriously! Sure, nice equipment and lights come in handy, but they're not necessary. All you need is some great software (like photoshop, or even the free, online stuff is great too!) and you're well on your way. Take this picture for example:

I have gotten a lot of compliments on it, and in fact I think it's one of my current favorites. But the raw image was NOTHING like this one! The thing in the picture that drew me in was her eyes- that sweet look she was giving the camera. But there were several things about the original that I didn't like as well. Take a peek for yourself:

First off, the spot to the right of the pic draws obvious attention away (no, it's not pee! it's a carpet stain!) Also, she was holding a bright green drumstick, her cheek was red, and there are toys in the background. Of course I want the attention to be on my wonderful kiddo! So after turning the pic black and white, leaving her eyes big and blue (yes, they're her original color- no tweaks there!) I felt like I was getting somewhere. In photoshop I added a layer (a b/w heart "bokeh" if you're into knowing that kind of thing) and then just erased around what I wanted you to focus on in the picture.
Voila! There you go from mediocre snapshot to "wow- great picture!" in a matter of seconds!
Anyone have any favorite snapshots at home they'd like me to tweak for them?


Fashion Advice

The importance of being properly dressed for the occasion cannot be stressed enough.
Especially to toddlers.
If you find yourself in need of a little fashion advice, read on:

First, it's of the utmost importance to find the dress. Because you can accessorize around it. Take for instance this green, Tinkerbell number that miss M has on. Just the right amount of tulle and bows for a 4 pm playdate at the local children's museum, right? The shirt underneath is important, as it covers enough skin to keep her modest. After all, you don't want to show it all off, you know? Leave a little something to the imagination.

After you've committed to a dress, you must find the right accessories. In this case, it was a bell-bracelet and a pair of wooden clackers. Also important is getting that dress out on the dance floor and making sure you can "shake it" like no tomorrow. Because when you're wearing a Tinkerbell exclusive ensemble, you won't be a wallflower. She's practicing her paparazzi face, and I think from this shot it appears she's working on her "Mary Kate Olson".

Of course the outfit can't be completed without a hat. Headwear did seem to go out of style there for a bit, but Madigan is attempting to bring it back in, and wanted to try the Chef hat on for size. Attractive, yes? But possibly not the right fit. It's ok to try on many hats before deciding on the one you like best.

Take for instance this hardhat. It provides a nice, masculine balance to the tulle and sequins that Tinkerbell brings to the table. Also, it provides function in the construction zone while working. The key here is to make your hat work for you.

Then again, at the end of the day, if you just feel like slipping into something more comfortable, then do just that! A helmet is the only accessory you need to rock the jeans and a bodysuit look. Pick out your own pair of Dora-the-explorer shoes, and you're in business.

See? Being a fashionista is made very simple!


The Eyes Have It...

Don't let those angelic eyes and soft little pouty-smile fool you.

She is death on a roll of toilet paper, if she doesn't get her way she will try to lick you, and she has a tendency to let out a high-pitch screech just to get your attention. With the 3 1/2 teeth that she has, she can put down a bowl of cheerios (with milk) in about 2 minutes flat. She is a stuffed bunny loving, thumb sucking, baby-doll toting girly girl extraordinaire. She is good natured until she's tired, then she's got a short fuse. She sleeps for 14 hours straight as long as it's in her own crib, otherwise she won't sleep a wink. She will steal your cell phone and call the first person in your phone book. She withholds kisses because she can, and then gives them freely to her stuffed animals. She's a tail pulling, dog kissing, tutu-wearing ball of energy and love.

That's right, folks. Don't let those baby blue eyes and sweet little smile deceive you at all.

She is even more amazing than a photo could make her look.


I like to move it, move it....

Does anyone get a visual image of King Julian singing when they read that title?

Ok, so truthfully, I don't love to move. My possessions, that is. I only like to move.
On the plus side, we got help from both sets of parents, including the free usage of an enclosed trailer and the extra lifting power of the dads and the toddler wrangling power of both moms. I also kinda like moving because it forces me to go through all my worldly possessions and decide what is worth keeping and using the manpower to move, and what is best to just give to Goodwill or another charitable organization for their use. (Oh, yeah, and also what is worth packing up and putting into storage at your parents house or the basement of some very generous friends... but we'll get to that...)
Not that moving is all roses and rainbows for us either.
Motivation to move came from several sources for us. We have been homeowners for 5 1/2 years. In that time, we have had two major home repair issues (main line sewer back up and black mold) that were not covered by our homeowners insurance. Both of these led to complete deconstruction and then re-construction of our finished basement, and both issues cost us 5k+ out of pocket. I have to use the term "us" loosely there, because, in fact with the mold issues most recently, we had to borrow money from my generous family to help with the removal of the fungus. Because apparently you need that check in full in the company's hands before they begin work. Lets just say that Dave Ramsey would also not be jumping for joy at our previous budgeting and the fact that we could not just write that check post-haste and feel OK with our savings account afterwards. Don't worry, Mr. Ramsey, if you're reading this, we're working on it... Also, with several property tax increases (schools, parks, developments abound!) our mortgage payments had gone up by 25% since we bought the house (yes, with a fixed APR).
Besides the aforementioned issues, we have other motivating factors as well. We found a rental house that fits our family just fine for around forty percent less than our mortgage was. I actually love that we are renting, because anything that goes wrong costs us one phone call to the homeowner. Lastly, we have to admit that moving home (back to Kansas) has been on our radar. It's not an immediate goal, but it could very well be in the "five year plan" for us. What stops us now is probably solely my employment, because it's honestly amazing. And I can say that, honestly, because I know my boss doesn't read my blog. (Or even know I blog... or maybe even know what a blog is?) Once we made the decision for Brett to stay at home with Madigan (a stay-at-home-dad? In Nebraska? Almost un-HEARD of!) we knew that downsizing for our financial sake, with the goal of getting everything paid off, paid back, or saved back was a necessity.
Why might I be motivated to disclose some less-than-stellar financial issues as our reason for downsizing? Because I think that, in this economy, we're all finding ways to save some money, and this was our solution. Because I think that a lot of the time I talk about my bright, shiny happy life (because, honestly, I feel like most the time it is bright and happy), and I'd hate to have anyone think I perceive any kind of perfection on my part. And because, honestly, I would be willing to share this information with anyone who asked, because we are open people and we have nothing to be ashamed of.

So last week, on New Years Day, we packed everything* we owned into that borrowed enclosed trailer, and hauled it half way across town to our rental house. Luckily, it was enclosed, because January in Nebraska isn't exactly pleasant.
*(Everything: 80% came with us, and about 20% is packed in boxes in the basement of some true-blue friends here in town. Honestly, who lets their friends use up their storage space so that they don't have to pay for a storage unit? People who are awesome, that's who!)
Within 3 days, I had my home unpacked, and we are about 90% settled. There are a few boxes to recycle, a few items needing a "place", and a few little things to tweak, but for the majority, we're home. Home in our "new" old house, with less space, half the bathrooms, half the bedrooms, but twice the charm, less cost and more reassurance than we could ask for right now.
It feels good to be home.


18 months and counting...

I'm so glad to be finally back on line and in the "real world" again- Its amazing how stressful a move can be, especially when an 18 month old is involved!

True, true- I don't want anyone to think that I forgot that my daughter turned 18 months old while in the midst of the hubub and hoopla of a move!

I remember when she was born, holding her squealing, squirming little body. I remember being told by literally everyone about how it "goes so fast". I remember holding clothes for an 18 month old at my shower and thinking "18 months is so far away."

Now, what seems like mere days have passed, and I have my life full of 18 month old sassy fun. She is becoming such a talker and we are amazed by what she can do every day. Just today she walked to the TV while the food network was on and said "Bite?" to Ina Garten. She is a good eater, a great sleeper and has such a happy disposition. We are so blessed and so lucky!
I cannot believe that in the last 18 months we've went from this:

to this:

And I am so very excited to see what the next 18 months have in store for us!
I really love this girl!