Mary, did you know?

I never wanted a Christmas baby. Mostly because I love birthdays and celebrating them, and I didn’t love the concept of one of my children’s birthdays being swallowed whole every year by the hustle and manic rush of our country’s most cherished, most overblown holiday.

And yet, here I find myself, 40 weeks pregnant, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of a baby boy, not unlike a certain Jewish girl 2,000 years ago. (Although, yes I realize that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December).

I’ve never given Mary too much thought. I mean, after all, she was just the vessel. Just the container for the miracle that was God incarnate. Nothing special, really.

The thing is, it’s easy to dismiss Mary as ordinary until you read the Magnificat. I mean, historians estimate that Mary was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen-years-old when she received the news of her impending pregnancy.

So that’s…young.

If an angel of the Lord had appeared to my 14-year-old self and proclaimed that I would be supernaturally impregnated with the Savior of the world, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been as follows:

1) pass out

2) wake up, remember what the angel said, and burst into tears

3) curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb

And yet, Mary, a simple, uneducated teenager had this to say (among other things):

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Not only is her eloquence surprising but her poise is just astounding.

Was she scared? I have no doubt. Worried? Um, yes. Aware of the repercussions of a virgin pregnancy that no one would believe? I’m sure.

And yet, she chose to praise.

Which is very different from the response I had yesterday as I was lettering the words, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” on a piece of burlap with a black Sharpie, feeling all of the weariness and none of the rejoicing.

thrill of hope

My body has been trying to go into labor for over a week now. At first, I was cautiously hopeful. After 5 babies, I am on a little too friendly of terms with my old friend, the Braxton Hicks contraction. But these were different. And if they could just establish a pattern and kick in, darn it, we could get this baby out.

9 days of (sometimes painful, always distracting) contractions later, and I’m no longer hopeful. In fact, I’m downright jaded. And annoyed. Maybe even a little persecuted feeling.

But as I was having yet another hormonal episode (right in the middle of touching up the word, “rejoice,” ironically enough), I thought about Mary.

Mary, who was forced to ride aback a bony donkey for days, hugely pregnant, with no hope of a bath or anything resembling a decent bed.

Mary, who, even when she did finally arrive at the closest thing to the prospect of a bath and a decent bed, was rejected out of hand with the terse declaration of, “No room.”

Mary, who suffered through contraction after contraction, crouched in the filthy hay, surrounded by lowing, braying, baaing creatures. No midwife. No dresser full of tiny, clean little clothes she didn’t have to sew herself. No freezer full of meals just waiting to be thawed in a magical contraption called a microwave.

Y’ALL.

My tailbone is getting sore just sitting here on my comfortable couch as I type this. If you asked me to get on a donkey, much less ride him for longer than 2 minutes, I might drop-kick you across the room.

Can you imagine her discomfort, her uncertainty, her worry that she might somehow manage to completely bungle this whole being-the-mother-of-God assignment? I can’t, and I’m feeling considerably more empathetic with her than I ever have before.

You know that song, Mary Did You Know? It posits all kinds of questions about whether Mary fully understood the impact that the tiny baby in her womb would have on the world. For eternity. I have to think that she didn’t. Couldn’t.

And yet, Mary did understand this: God is God. Period. And not only that. But he is Good. And that was enough for her.

May it also be enough for me (and you) this Christmas season.

Today, I am asking the Savior of the world to remind me, in “my humble estate,” to “magnify the Lord.”

Regardless of when these contractions finally decide to stop teasing and start torturing me to the point of delivery. Regardless of how much I don’t want to tackle another mound of dirty dishes. Regardless of how fed up I am with getting screamed at by teething toddlers.

Merry Christmas, friends. May a joy that has nothing to do with your circumstances and a peace that passes all understanding fill your hearts and minds this blessed season.

“Overdue”

Okay, so first off, I’m so glad that y’all got a kick out of Monday’s ThredUP post. I wasn’t sure how many of you would already be familiar with it or might think I was a bit of a nut for getting so excited about having used clothes mailed to my door, but apparently, if I’m a nut, y’all are too because I got an inbox full of referral requests in addition to your blog comments.

HOWEVER, although I went through every single name I received and sent referrals to each of you, I know for a fact that not all of them went through (some of you emailed and let me know, and then some of them just refused to show up in my referral history).

So! If you’re still interested in a $10 code to ThreadUp and are thinking that I’m ignoring you…I promise I’m not. I just can’t figure out how to make them all go through.

HOWEVER (again), I *think* you should be able to use this code whether or not you got an email from me.

Let me know if it works for you!

Okay, so you know from my anti-getting-dressed rant on Monday that I’m not super into wearing normal clothes these days.

Which is why, I have to admit, that this post is a bit of cheat. Shaun snapped these shots of me after church one day a couple weeks back (I think I was 37ish weeks along). But I never actually got a post written about them.

polka dots4

The funny thing is that, even though I’m still measuring about a month behind, at almost 40 weeks now, I’m getting every belly-reaction possible–from the woman at Beall’s who said, “Goodness! You’re about to pop, huh?” to the lady who made me turn sideways and told me I couldn’t possibly be ready to deliver a baby because my belly wasn’t big enough (both of these occurred on the same day while I was wearing the same outfit).

polka dot2

So, I have no idea what to think about how pregnant I look or not, but I know this: I’M READY.

I shouldn’t be. I should be totally content with being pregnant for another few weeks (since I probably will be), but the reality is this funny meme that my friend, Shanna, sent me:

overdue

Ha! Right??

Of course, I agree with the “overdue” part being in quotation marks since I genuinely believe that God’s timing is perfect and that babies come when they are good and ready.

HOWEVER (take three). While I haven’t even reached my official “due date” (which ranges anywhere from tomorrow through Sunday, depending on the source of the info), and  I’m MOST happy with whatever date gives him the healthiest entry into this world, it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t prefer him on the outside where I can hold him rightthisverysecond.  polka dots

I will say, though, that–while it’s been a lesson long in coming–I think I’ve finally, mostly (pretty much) gotten the hang of not worrying about it too much. (I almost lost my mind when, after having Ezra, my first, 6 days early, my next two BOTH showed up two weeks “late,” and then the twins hung around for 39 weeks and 4 whole extremely uncomfortable days).

Just the other day, as I felt that familiar antsy feeling creeping up my spine, I forced myself to open my Bible to the Psalms right then and there and read about God’s unfailing goodness and how He has a plan for my life that far surpasses any that I could conjure up. It helped a lot. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t get a bit frustrated again yesterday (hey, I need lots of reminders). But every time I turn to Jesus with my jitters–which is usually the truly overdue thing in my life–I’m amazed (I shouldn’t be by now) at the almost tangible peace that overtakes my anxious heart.

As my blog friend, Ruth, is always saying, “Motherhood is sanctifying.” And, I might add to that, “Pregnancy too!” :)

Of course, pregnancy is hardly the most anxiety-inducing thing on the planet, and I know many of you have worries that far surpass anything I’m dealing with right now.

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to turn this post around to you and encourage you to take your worries to the Lord today, whatever they are.

And, if you want, you can even email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com if you’d like me to pray for something that’s keeping you up at night, and I would be honored to lift you up before our Father in heaven. I mean, you’ll get prayed for, and I’ll have something other than the fact that I’m not in labor to focus on when I wake up in the middle of the night. It’ll be good for both of us, I promise!

Linking up with Lindsey

I’m having an affair with ThredUp.com (Shhhhh…don’t tell Goodwill)

There is a point that I reach in every pregnancy where getting dressed just sounds like a joke. A cruel, sadistic joke that had to have been invented by a man, who, by laws of nature, will never have to experience this particular level of extreme clothing aversion.

Of course, by “dressed,” I mean in anything other than items made from the stretchiest of materials. (Wandering around in the buff sounds even crueler–especially to those around me–than actually clothing myself).

And I am here to say, my friends, that I have reached that point. At 39 weeks and change, there are very few items in my closet with whom I am still on speaking terms. Last week alone, I had a girls’ night out and a date night with my husband–both of which are rare and cherished occurrences. And yet. They required semi-cute outfits that didn’t leave 3 1/2 inches of belly exposed. Ugh.

Now, in all likelihood, I’ve still got a ways to go (my babies tend to be fashionably late to the party), so the 6 items I have left in my closet that still look decent and cover the bump will be on constant repeat for the next ____________ (insert more days than I care to even consider).

So, what’s a very pregnant girl to do?

Why, browse for clothes for when she’s not pregnant anymore (which might be in 2015…yipes!), of course.

And where is said very pregnant girl to do such browsing?…since actually going to a store and trying on anything would be enough to send her on a crying jag of such epic proportions that it might take a very large Coke Icee and several Snickers bars to quell it? Oh, and especially since said pregnant girl doesn’t exactly want to drop a wad of cash on these after-baby clothes that may or may not fit for another 3 months (optimistically).

The answer: ThredUp.com

Have you heard of it?

It’s an online used clothing consignment site that lets you search by brand name, size, item type, color, and pretty much any other qualifier your heart could desire until you find just the right thing in just the right size.

The pictures they display are usually quite clear and detailed, they carry a huge variety of brands, and–maybe best of all in my mind–they give each article of clothing a “wear” rating and include a description of any possible flaws.

I was fairly unfamiliar with the site until a few weeks ago, when I did a FB poll, and several lovely peeps assured me of their good experiences with ThredUp and even clued me in to a 40% off an entire order coupon that I could use.

So! With my coupon code copied to my clipboard, I proceeded to spend a Friday evening snuggled next to my husband, watching a movie with one eye while browsing ThredUp for the best deals with my other (apparently, I have very talented, slightly schizo eyeballs; just don’t quiz me about the movie plot).

And you know what I discovered? Some really amazing deals.

Want proof?

thredup collage

I was very picky with my selections–only choosing name brand items that were described as “like new” condition, with a starting price point of $12 or less (most way less)

And while, yes, it probably looks like I bought items for next spring (which, hey, may be the most realistic projection for when I can fit into them), the truth is that our Texas winters tend to be mild enough that I should be able to wear the shirts under layers like cardigans and the dresses with tights, boots, and jackets as soon as I’m able to squeeze into them.

To my delight, all of the items arrived in true “like new” condition (I’m pretty sure several of them, including the shoes, had never been worn) and were exactly as described/pictured on the site.

And now, because I’m sure you’re dying to know the total for my haul, I am happy to announce that I got 2 dresses, 4 tops, one pair of shoes, and one wool-blend zip-up hoodie (ah, how I love hoodies!) for…

$50. 58 

And I never left my house. (#holla)

Saaaaaaaay WHAT?!!!

Shipping was free on orders over $50 (did I nail that or what?), and then there was the 40% off coupon, so I got about the best deal I possibly could have. But still. Mint condition, cute clothes, shipped to your door for only a little more than Goodwill prices?

Can’t. be. beat.

And before you think that I have signed up to be a spokesperson for ThredUp (although, apparently, I should, huh?) this post is simply a public service announcement to all of you fellow thrifties who love a good deal as much as I do.

In case you can’t already tell, I’m a fan.

So, spill: have any of you ever tried ThredUp? Were you as impressed as I was? I was genuinely happy with everything from the packaging (which was cute and thorough) to the clothing quality and accuracy.

Did this post give you a hankering to try it for yourself? If so, shoot me your email address at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com or just leave it in the comments, and I’ll send you a friend share code that gives you an automatic $10 credit if you’re a first-time customer. In full disclosure, it also gives me $10 for sharing, but, while it probably seems like this was the ulterior motive of this post, the truth is that I was just so excited to share about my score that wrote the entire post, hit publish, and THEN went to the site and realized that I could use the friend-share code with as many people as I wanted (I had previously thought it was a one time thing). So…NO PRESSURE at all, but if you’re interested in giving it a go…we both win! ;)

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {$20-40}

Hey guys, and HAPPY FRIDAY! (Can you tell I have a date night lined up with my husband tonight?)

So…from what I’ve been able to see on Amazon, this year’s gift guides (see the first here and the second here) are really hitting the spot! You guys are getting lots of great deals without ever having to leave your house, which makes me really happy! It’s like we got to go shopping together, even though we’ll probably never meet. :)

I’m back today with our last (and priciest) gift guide today. But even with everything starting at $20, I still think there are some pretty fun/great scores here (and most are below $30) that would be worth a “splurge” if you know of someone would love them as much as I would!

under50collage

1.

I know that not everyone shares my love of color, but I think both of these floral quilted throw options are just gorgeous and amazing prices for the quality (based on the rave reviews) and style (which could easily be found at Anthropologie or another boutique-style store).

2.

I’m completely in love with this blue crate (there are other color options and sizes too). And for $25 (shipped free with Prime or a qualifying order of $35+), it’s about as good a price as you could expect for its size/style/good reviews.

If y’all are fans of Fixer Upper, and I know from this post I wrote about it that you ARE, then you know that Joanna Gaines would fill this crate with a fresh batch of brightly colored Crayons and use it as a multitasking table centerpiece.

I can see its being used as a caddy for craft supplies or silverware or baking/coffee supplies or…can you tell I like it?

3.

I’m a fan of carryall totes, especially in fun, bright prints that can wipe clean, and this Fossil option (there’s one other pattern if you don’t love this one) is a great price. I’m not a designer bag girl at all, but I do love the quality and style that you get from Fossil, which is one of the few brands that I consistently buy when I can find a great deal.

4.

I realize that buying shoes for someone else is a risky venture (so, maybe this is just for you…shhhhh…I won’t tell if you won’t).

But I’m including these because a) I have a very similar pair that I wear A TON and which always get compliments and b) because these have amazing reviews (over 600 of them!) for style and comfort and come in a vast array of colors. Plus, they’re a fraction of the price for the TOMS desert wedge booties that they’re mimicking (it depends on the size/color comb, but many are below $30), and most of the reviews said they couldn’t tell the difference.

I’m finding myself sorely tempted by the black linen with rattan wedges, but I’m exercising self-restraint (barely). :)

P.S. Don’t be scared off by the funky red ones in the pic or the price. That’s just the one that shows up by default. There are lots of more neutral options (or even an allover cheetah print if you want to go completely–ahem–wild).

5.

I confess that I stole this cookbook from Mandy’s list (be sure to check it out; she’s got great, affordable picks for the whole family). It’s been on my mind to buy for myself/others for forever, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The Forest Feast is universally hailed as absolutely gorgeous, not to mention super-simple to follow, with delicious recipes.

6.

If you know someone who loves ho-cho as much as I do, then this milk frother would be an ideal gift. And if you have a coffee-lover in your life (which, I realize, is most of the world, even though I’m a weirdo), well even better! (Since frothed milk is pretty much the thing that makes lattes everybody’s fave).

It has amazing reviews as a great bargain for how well it works (more expensive models run upwards of 3-4X its price).

7.
Speaking of coffee, this thermal mug would be a super-fun and practical gift for the caffeine addict on your list.

8.

I love PiP studio products. They’re bright, fun, cheery, beautiful, great quality. In a word: perfection. And, thanks to my super-sweet husband’s gifting me pieces of PiP china for special occasions over the past two years, I have a decent collection (you can see most of it in this post).

I can’t wait to have tea parties with my girls!

I don’t have this tiered cake plate, but it looks just as pretty as the rest of their offerings (and a smidge cheaper than usual) and would make a fabulous gift for a lover of beautiful serving-ware.

9.

If you love James Avery (or know someone who does) but don’t love the price points, then this sterling silver floral filigree option just might be the perfect ring for you/your loved one.

Great reviews!

10.

Likewise this sterling silver Jeremiah 29:11 ring, which would be a great unisex gift and gets good reviews as well!

11.

And while we’re on the subject of beautiful jewelry, check out this “I love you to the moon and back” sterling silver cuff bracelet.

Fabulous reviews and just so pretty and whimsical.

12.

Okay, I’m not gonna lie: the reviews on this cake plate are a bit mixed. It sounds like it’s not the highest quality (although no one disputes its beauty), but if you didn’t have a super heavy duty use for it, it might be worth the gamble. Because it is just cute as heck!

13.

This book caught my eye because–duh–it’s pretty! But it can serve also two purposes. It has great reviews as a coffee table book, but quite a few people said that they dismantled it and framed the art on their walls, and it turned out really great. So, if you know someone who loves pretty art, DIY projects, or both, then The Art of Instruction might just be the perfect gift!

14.

I have to admit that these headphones kind of make me giddy. They have great reviews for functionality, but they’re also just so stinkin’ fun! They kind of remind me of the technological equivalent of that PiP cake plate from above, and that’s definitely a good thing in my book.

15.

Here is the promised gold + acrylic stapler that would look so great stocked with the brightly colored staples from our under $10 list.

Because seriously, if you’ve got to have something as utilitarian as a stapler sitting out in plain sight, then it might as well be shiny, right?

16.

This is pretty pricey as journals go, but if you know someone who is a Kate Spade lover, then this Penny for Your Thoughts book with multiple colored ribbon markers is actually a lower price point than almost all other options I found.

………………………………………………

And that, my friends, concludes my Amazon Christmas round-up for 2014! Phew! That was A LOT.

I hope you guys find something for your favorite girls or maybe just have a good list for future birthdays or…whatever. I know I’ll be referring back to it when I have a special gift to give!

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {$10-20}

Hey guys! I hope y’all found Monday’s installment of our Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women helpful.

Just as an FYI, I ordered quite a few of the smallish items from that list either as gifts for this year or to squirrel away for the future, and many of them have already shipped (even when their estimated delivery dates were a ways off), so if you’re worried about Christmas arrival times, the odds are looking good for getting most things in if you order this week.

So, this morning, I’m back with our next installment of goodies, in a slightly higher price point, but all still totally affordable.

User note: if you click through an item that has multiple color options, and it wants you to “add the item to your cart,” go ahead and do that, and then click on the actual item link on the next page to be taken to all of the color options. You may not want that ACTUAL item in  your cart (and you may just want to browse), but it won’t let you see the rest until you add it. Don’t worry, though. You can take it right back out once you’ve had a chance to look.

under20collage

1.

Continuing with the owls-can-do-no-wrong theme that seems to be ruling the universe these days, I give you these adorable, retro-inspired S+P shakers. Perfect for the kitchen that needs a touch of whimsy. (Great reviews!)

Owl Salt and Pepper

2.

I’m a sucker for cute ceramic measuring spoons (my kids are equally fond of breaking them), and I love that these have bright pops of color without being ornate or overly themed. (Again with the good reviews).

3.

I don’t know if you’ve gotten the memo, but plaid is IN. I love this long shawl-style pashmina scarf for its muted colors and ultra-cozy size. (Good reviews).

4.

On Monday, I showed you a fun owl pillow, but if you’re up to your ears in all things owl, how about going for yet another trend that has been raging for quite some time? This deer head silhouette pillow cover would look fabulous by itself on a chair or mixed up with a bunch of other patterns.

5.

Another fun trend is the pom pom beanie. I’m honestly not sure I can pull this one off with my rather large head size + mop of thick hair, but I love the idea of the playful pom pom atop a thick knit cap. This one comes in quite the color selection, so if you don’t like the look of this one, be sure to click through to see the others.

6.

Confession: I first started compiling this list a good two weeks ago, and when I stumbled across this Champion hoodie, I managed to snag the pink in my size for–wait for it–$10 shipped!!!

It’s since jumped in price, but at $14.99 (+$2 shipping) for select sizes/colors (you’ll have to click on the different combos to see what price shows up for you), it’s still better than you’ll find at Target unless you score a major sale.

7.

Okay, so I kind of don’t even want to post this one because I want time to figure out a way to justify buying this pretty Fossil wallet (even though I don’t need it) or at least thinking of someone to buy it for…before it sells out.

I know that the link says that the price is $40 and shows a red option, but be sure to click all the way through the link and click on the gray colorway (my favorite option anyway), which is the only one under $20.

8.

I have no practical purpose for this backpack, since I would probably destroy it with my rough, stuff-and-grab ways (although, it has good reviews for both appearance and quality) in mere days. But it’s just SO stinkin’ cute! Also, it comes in several different color options (my fave is the teal…shocking, I know).

9.

I’m not gonna lie: I ordered these the second I saw them. Not only am I always needing an extra pair of scissors (it makes me so nervous when I can’t find my sharp ones because I find myself wondering exactly who is going to show up with a brand new haircut…or a big gash on their face) but–hello!–they’re gold!!! Oh, and they have great reviews for sharpness and functionality too, if you’re into your scissors actually being worth a flip at–you know–cutting and stuff like that.

10.

I have contemplated ordering these Puffin classics designed by Anna Bond–the super-talented lead artist behind Rifle Paper Co. (my fave company for all things paper)–since I first spotted them on Amazon for about 30% less than you can score them anywhere else.

I haven’t quite managed to justify the splurge since I already own versions of all three of the titles offered (this link only shows The Little Princess, but if you look below at the other “suggested titles,” you’ll see the other two), but just give me time. :)

11.

Again with the owls already! But, honestly, I think these are some of the cutest, funkiest, most authentically Anthroesque owl mugs I’ve stumbled upon. Totally rad gift for the on-trend, yet slightly off-beat, girl in your life.

12.

Another one of my favorite paper companies is Cavallini. They have the prettiest nature-themed calendars and such, and this bird journal is no exception.

13.

See? I told you I love Cavallini. These vintage-inspired mini-notebooks are practically too cute to write in. But they would be perfectly great for gifting, no?

14.

If you’ve got someone who loves to cook in style, then this laser-cut utensil holder would look awfully pretty corralling all of her cooking paraphernalia.

15.

This six pack of lip gloss has great reviews and lots of versatile colors–perfect for gifting as a pack to the lip gloss addict in your life or splitting up into stocking stuffers!

16.

Okay, I confess: I have three of these tin chalkboards (you can see one behind my sink in my kitchen redo and one in my recent living room post). And I LOVE them. I got mine on major sale from Urban Outfitters a while back, but this price is quite good too. They just add immediate depth and fun to any space and, with the scalloped edges, are a nice change of pace from your average chalkboard piece.

17.

I discovered something in all of this “research” I’ve been doing: mouse pads are EXPENSIVE! I wouldn’t have thought it considering that it’s basically a piece of foam, but I was lucky to find anything even remotely cute for less than $20. This one was one of the winners and is more reasonably priced (but there is a shipping fee, which bumps it up considerably).

18.

This is another fun statement necklace option. Just be sure you click through to see the aqua option, since the one showing in the link is more than $20.

19.

I wouldn’t normally pay $10+ for a single tea towel, but this one is pretty darn cute and would be worth the extra coin for a kitchen-girl who likes the vintage flour sack look. Again, very Anthroesque but with a lower price point.

20.

I love the simple style of this sterling silver initial ring. Plus, unlike many of the initial options I looked at, it has great reviews and lots of initial options still in stock.

21.

Get a load of this set of (really) well-reviewed Shany “professional” cosmetic brushes for less than $13. Pretty much too good not to include, no?

I’m not too skilled with brushes, but I’m tempted to order these and play around to see what I think.

22.

I was originally going to include these moc slippers with my $20+ gift guide, but they’ve since dropped in price, so here you go! Lots of color options!

23.

Oh, and last but not least, here’s a super-fun option for the girl who loves to bake cupcakes!

……………………………………………………………………………………………

So, there you go!

23 (such an awkward number) items under $20 sure to please at least ONE of the women in your life!

Happy Shopping!

Again with the disclaimer: each of these items contains an affiliate link, which means that if you buy them, I will receive a small percentage of the price, at no extra cost to you.

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for Women {Under $10}

So, if I were to tell you that Christmas is only 17 days away, would that panic you? Or do you have all of your Christmas, um, ducks (turkeys? hams?) in a row?

Well, just in case you still need some ideas for gifts, I’m back with some more great picks from Amazon. (Be sure to check out last year’s list too; most of the items are still available at the same or similar prices).

This year, I’ll do three separate posts at three different price points (under $10, $10-$20, and $20-$50)

I’m starting with the super-cheapies–many of which would make great stocking stuffers or even stand alone gifts for friends, coworkers, Great Aunt Alberta…you know, whoever.

Note: Each of these items includes an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase these items, I will receive a small percentage of the price at no extra cost to you. Win, win!

under 10

1.

I love the look of these lace-topped boot socks that come in 5 different neutral color options. There are only a couple of reviews, but they’re both positive and say that the socks came quickly (in the one week range).

2.

I actually ordered these fun statement earrings as an add-on to an order, and they came super-quickly and are very cute (and good-sized). The colors are quite bright (almost neon), but not so much so that they couldn’t add a nice pop of color to a subdued outfit.

3.

I also ordered this cute vintage bicycle necklace. It’s supposed to come in this week, so I can’t speak personally to the quality, but it does have a few reviews (all good) and is only $3.55 shipped.

4.

Another great stocking-stuffer option are these crocheted floral ear-warmers. No reviews, so I can’t speak to quality or how quickly they ship. But they come in 6 pretty colors with a cute button closure and cost $3.45 shipped!

5.

I love this funky owl pillow cover. It’s less than $5 shipped (!!!) and has a hidden internal zipper and great reviews.

Update: I just ordered one, and it says that estimated delivery time is the 1st of January, so order for yourself, but it doesn’t sound like a great option for gifts. :(

6.

If you’ve got a baker in your life, these melamine Cake Boss measuring cups are a great alternative to the plain Jane variety, are dishwasher safe (top rack), and won’t break the first time you use them. Great reviews!

7.

This set of 4 adorable pencil pouches (yup, you get all 4!) are only $3.42 shipped and have great reviews. Just beware that the estimated delivery time is 10-17 days.

8.

If you have any polish lovers in your life, this is an amazing deal on a trio of fun, holiday colors. China Glaze polishes usually retail for $8+ per bottle and are great quality (I have several), so I’d snatch one of these up in a heartbeat.

9.

If you or someone you love is into Burt’s Bees, this is a really good deal on their basic lip balm. (They usually retail for over $3 per tube).

10.

I ordered this statement necklace because of the good reviews (most noted that it looked more expensive than they expected) and because I don’t have any necklaces with black accents. But I haven’t gotten it yet (and am not sure when I will), so I can’t say what I’ll think for sure. The reviews are a bit mixed as far as delivery time (most said it came “quickly,” but didn’t qualify that with a specific time amount). But it might be worth a gamble for less than $5 shipped.

11.
I haven’t done it yet, but I’m tempted to order this jeweled headband just to see what it’s like in person. If you’ve ever priced out similar headbands (very Anthro-esque), then you probably know that they usually run a minimum of $12 (even at Ross or Marshall’s), so, even with no reviews, this one might be worth checking out, since the price-tag is only $5.34.

12.
This pretty turquoise Fiesta cup barely squeaks in under the $10 mark, but it’s quite large (18 oz.) and nice quality, so it should be a hit with any coffee/turquoise lovers. (There are lots of other colors available, but not all are under $10).

13.
There are quite a few (barely) under $10 funky print options for this lightweight infinity scarf, so be sure to scroll through the options to find the one that works best for the loved one you have in mind.

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This option is a bit on the random side, but it would pair quite nicely with a stapler I’ll show you in our $10-$20 price range later on this week and would make any office-supply lover totally geek out.

15.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy, and I love it. But I am sad that this chic gold + white polka dot (well-reviewed) phone cover is only for iPhones.

16.

Another great pillow color option–especially for neutral-lovers–is this striped option.

17.

These vintage-inspired s+p shakers would add a nice touch of whimsy to a neutral kitchen.

18.

This leather + nylon stacked LOVE bracelet looks fun, and at only $1 shipped, is kind of hard to pass up.

(Note: for some reason, this image takes you to the right link but is not actually displaying a picture of the LOVE bracelet that I’m listing, so be sure to click through if you want to see the real deal)

19.
Another item to please the pretty office-supply lover in your life. This 3 pack of gold patterned washi tape would be so great for taping up your kids’ artwork, making packages look nice…taping notes written backwards onto your kids’ foreheads. Whatever.

20.

Love the soft, muted colors of this “Not all who wander are lost” sketchbook journal.

…………………………………………………………………………………….

And there you have it–20 fun, affordable options for practically every category of woman in your life!

Happy Shopping!

38 Week Pregnancy Check-in {Baby #6}

So, I didn’t exactly intend to leave you hanging without a preggo update for the last 7 weeks (because I’m so sure that you’ve been dying to know exactly how many hormonal breakdowns I’ve had in the last two months), but since my last check-in was at 31 weeks, I guess that’s exactly what I’ve done.

So sorry. I will do my best to include as much minutiae as possible to make up for it, k? (Yippee).

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Welp. I must say that I’m not the least bit surprised to be giving you a 38-week-update because–as I’ve mentioned before–my babies tend to stay verrrry comfy in this belly o’ mine. (I just keep telling myself, “4 more weeks,” just in case, but I don’t honestly think we’ll make it that far…famous last words). Weirdly enough, after feeling ready-to-the-max about 6 weeks ago, I’m experiencing a level of chill I probably never have before at this late in the game. Part of that is because life is just so stinkin’ full, and it kind of feels like, “As much as I’d like to meet you right this very second, buddy–not to mention give my aching lower back a break–I’m kind of too busy to have a baby right now.”

NESTING: In keeping with what I just mentioned, I’ve been trying to get as much done as possible before he comes when I feel that frenzy of MUST-CLEAN-ALL-THE-THINGS coming on. Which…usually manifests itself in a 4-hour-long flurry of dragging things out to wash them or dust them or sort them or bag them. Oh, and lots of cooking. I’ve made double-batches of various staples for the last several weeks and have built up a respectable back-log of freezer meals for when he comes. In fact,  I’ve just about gotten everything to the point that I feel like, if he came tonight, I wouldn’t feel crazy. BUT, I know that it won’t stay all nice and tidy for long, so I’m trying not to worry about it too much.

ATTITUDE: A friend of three who isn’t having any more asked me the other day if I felt like my attitude towards this baby is different than my first–citing her own more relaxed standards by Baby #3 (and expressing a tinge of worry at what Baby # 4′s fate would have been had they had one)–and I just started laughing.

With Ezra, my first, everything was done. I mean, people throw you multiple showers. You’ve got baby gear threatening to swallow your house whole (please tell me I’m not the only one who has tripped over the bassinet, only to fall into the giant stroller box, on my way to the bathroom at 3 in the morning). The car seat and the crib and the rocker and the changing table and the diapers and the diaper Genie and the bottles, the bibs, the blankets…you get the idea.

But by the time Baby # _____ (I’m sure the number is different for everyone) rolls around, not only do you already have a pretty good stash of (spit-up and poop stained) everything, you also have a much better idea of what you actually need. So, basically, my response to my friend’s question was: “Welp. We have no small diapers, but that should be fixed by Saturday (some sweet friends are throwing me a diaper shower), and even if he comes before then, we can probably get some by the time I have him with how slow my labors are. I just washed a bunch of clothes and his bassinet cover, so he won’t have to be naked or bedless. And I’m pretty sure we’ve got a warm hat and a blanket somewhere around here (although they’re probably pink). Oh, and I have boobs. So, I think we’re good.”

Poor kid. Hope he’s not expecting too much. (Although, really, what newborn expects more than warmth, snuggles, clean pants, and food?).

EXERCISE: I’m still truckin’. In fact, last week, when everyone was out for Thanksgiving, I subbed 5 classes on top of my usual 3. Another instructor quipped, “That’ll teach ya not to go out of town for the holidays!” But, honestly, I had a lot of fun and felt great pretty much every time I taught. This week has been a slightly different story. This little guy’s head is definitely lower, and doing a roundhouse kick with that kind of pressure on your pelvis is…interesting. I plan on teaching ’til the bitter end, though, so I’m just grateful that everything’s still functioning on some level or another.

PREGNANCY SIDE EFFECTS: Don’t hate me for saying this, but I feel pretty awesome for being this pregnant. I mean, yes, my back and hips hurt constantly, and I could take a nap standing up pretty much always, but I’m not miserable. My varicose vein-y leg flairs up every now and then (wow, I feel 90 when I type that), but overall, I’m doing about as well as could be hoped for at the about-to-pop stage.

I attribute a lot of that to the whole exercising-til-the-bitter-end thing. As I was walking along with all five kids about to leave the gym one night, Nola dropped her blankie, and one of class participants marveled to her husband: “Did you just see that? This woman is 36-weeks-pregnant with her 6th child, and she just leaned down and swooped something up off the floor totally flat-footed. That’s just wrong.”

And I just laughed because I had no idea where she had been going with that and totally wasn’t expecting her to say that (and totally hadn’t even realized what I’d done). But the truth is that, because I bend and move so much when I exercise, my range of motion probably is better than could usually be expected with such a big belly.

I try to remind myself of little blessings like that when the twins spill milk all over the floor…again. At least I can still get down there to clean it up. The key word being try. Sometimes, it sounds a lot more like Yosemite Sam after Bugs Bunny tricks him into stepping off a cliff…again. Frickasammin’ is a fun word.

WEIGHT GAIN: I still haven’t stepped on a scale since 20 weeks, and I don’t plan to. I don’t think. I’m kind of curious but mostly blissful in my ignorance. But he’s definitely growing. At 33 weeks, I was only measuring 25 cm, and the baby was breach. But somewhere between that midwife appointment and the next (I’m pretty sure it was in the middle of a jump kick in BODYCOMBAT), he flipped (Praise Jesus!), and I had–ahem–jumped to 30 cm by my 35 week appointment. And then this past week, I had another big bump up to 34 cm. (If you’re not familiar with what these measurements mean, they represent the size of your uterus and usually correspond roughly 1 cm to 1 gestational week; I always measure a little behind, though).

CRAVINGS: None to speak of unless it’s just the random craving for carbonation or chocolate, but I have pretty much reached that point where it’s like, “I probably shouldn’t eat that, but I might anyway because I’ve only got a few weeks left, and it sounds good.” Which means that this little guy needs to get out before I gain 10 pounds in the last two weeks of my pregnancy.

Aaaaaaand there you have it. More maternal minutiae that you could possibly have ever wanted to read.

I know a few of you are due around the same time as I am. How are y’all doing? No, really. I want to know. Because pretty much every last person that has been pregnant in real life with me has had her baby already, and it’s starting to feel a bit insulting to still be pregnant.

Do you feel like your “standards” have dropped with each baby? At this point, if we have any more, he’s probably going to be wearing one of his older brother’s diapers and whatever mildly babyish thing we can find to shove him in.

 

A little house sprucing…

So, I realize that I’m supposed to be showing you pictures of my house all decorated for Christmas.

Thing is, it’s not there yet. And, depending on when Baby #6 comes (a 38 week update is coming soon), it may never get there.

We did put up the tree on Sunday, and it was, as I described it on Instagram, “chaotically awesome.” (See: broken ornaments courtesy of a certain twin twosome).

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But as far as any other Christmassy touches, we’re not there yet.

I did, however, trade out a few of my accessories  a while back for some slightly more seasonally appropriate options, along with a bit more fluffing, and thought I’d show you the updates, since a) they happened and b) I took pictures of them. (Both of which pretty much scream blog post in my world).

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This is what you’d see looking from the kitchen into our living room. I love the openness of it so that I can still be at least a small part of the epic tickle fights that happen on that (increasingly stained) rug while I’m in the kitchen making dinner.  living room1

I wasn’t interested in buying much of anything new for fall, but I did score that fun, multicolored throw and that mustard dip-dyed pillow at Ross for $25 (for both!). living room2

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Another new score (though hardly “seasonal”) is that HELLO sign from Tarjay. It started out a blah cardboard brown, and I spruced it up a little with some white spray paint and gold shimmer polka dots.  living room5

Another quick (and CHEAP) project was this little Dollar Store pumpkin, which got a similar makeover with white spray paint, gold craft paint, and our family monogram. living room6 living room7

I also decluttered my shelves a bit and am loving how much more streamlined everything looks.

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I’ve had the same accessories above the TV for at least a year, so I shopped around the house and ended up putting together a surprisingly neutral-for-me collection of mostly black/white knickknacks.

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Most everything you see is old, but I did get that wooden ampersand for something like $2 from Hobby Lobby recently and just decoupaged a layer of patterned craft paper from Target on top to make it a little more interesting.

Oh, and my favorite part?

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That painted acorn garland that I made after a Friday afternoon crafting session with the kids (otherwise known as smearing paint all over acorns while listening to Christmas music).

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Ezra, my oldest, kept saying, “Mama! They look like little Christmas lights!” I think he’s onto something. acorn garland

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I also (rather sloppily) wrapped a clearance Hobby Lobby fabric score around my bench cushion to give it a bit of an update.

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Oh! And I can’t tell you how much happier I am with the toys in our living room after I bought those pretty $15 bins from Marshall’s about a year ago. There’s absolutely nothing organized about their contents, but it sure does make the evening pickup process so much easier. Just grab, dump, shove ‘em under the bench, and–voila!–we can all pretend that the floor stays this clutter-free all the time.

A look towards our front door from the living room gives you this view.

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This is one of my favorite little nooks to fiddle with. I never really plan it out. I just grab what’s leftover from something else that I’ve moved and fuss with it until I’m happy.

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Back in the living room, if you turn around toward the kitchen, this is what you’ll see.

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I painted that “Give Thanks” canvas a year ago (and blogged about it). Oh, and I made that sweet kid you see getting snacks ready for his sisters about 8 1/2 years ago. The painting’s only so-so, but him? Yeah, he’s pretty great.    living room15

Y’ALL. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the flow from our living room into the our made-over kitchen now that the wall colors are the same, and the kitchen shares the same pops of black motif going on in the living room. It’s like a mental sigh of relief every time I step back and take it in.

So, do you feel sufficiently bombarded with pictures of my house? I may or may not do it again when/if we get some Christmas touches up. But no promises. In fact, let’s just assume it won’t happen. And then we can all be pleasantly surprised if I pull it off, m’kay?

Have you guys put up your tree yet? And what about fake vs. real? I love the idea of real (not to mention the heavenly SMELL!), but I’ll be honest–I love the convenience of fake so much more these days. It’s up in 5 minutes. The lights are already on. And there’s no shedding!

What about decorating for Christmas? Do you go all out? Throw up a wreath and call it good? I’m happy with little touches here and there, but this year, I think I’m most excited about the (tiiiiiiiiny) trees I got for my kids last year, but only because they are. Hopefully, we’ll get them decorated this weekend.

A Thanksgiving Miracle (Family Photos)

I am so thankful for this blog…for many reasons.

But one of the biggest is that it has forced me to take so.many.pictures of my family.

Well. I guess “forced” is a strong word.

But, for years, I was the girl who hid from the camera and grimaced awkwardly when I did have to be in a shot. I was the girl who didn’t even own a camera (and this was before phones that took great pics) until I was 25, and even then, I forgot to bring it with me to important events or have it out ready to use at home at any given moment.

But since blogging, I’ve really stepped up my camera game and discovered that, not only am I oh-so-grateful to have captured literally thousands of sweet,memorable moments over the last 3 1/2 years, but I actually enjoy the process.

Which brings me to that Thanksgiving Miracle of this post’s title.

For the last 3 Thanksgivings/Christmases, I have bundled my family into coordinated outfits (always assembled pretty last minute from whatever we already had in our closets) and hustled us out to the pier on my parents’ pond to snap a few pictures. (You can see 2012′s and 2013′s if you like).

We’ve also done several other family photo shoots and lake pics that I’ve shown you here on the blog.

But in all of those attempts at cute, posed togetherness, I don’t think we’ve ever before achieved this:

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That’s right. Every single one of us is looking and smiling. See? Miraculous.

I posted that shot to my Instagram and Facebook page the day we took it, and someone (a mama who knows what’s up) asked how many shots it took to pull this off. The answer? Um, quite a few. It was definitely sandwiched between many wiggling, sneezing, half-closed-eyes shots. But it happened, darn it!

So did this:

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Could have been worse, right?

Oh, and, perhaps even more impressively, THIS!

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That would be all 13 members of my immediate family (yes, I’m counting the little boy in my belly) looking pleasant and aware that a camera is pointed in their general direction.

Even my ridiculously adorable little niece, Halleli, got the: Smile and Look memo.

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{Although, I don’t think my brother got the “clean your shirt” memo. :) }

Nola was the least cooperative of our entire clan…

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…but after a week of fussiness and digestive issues (hello 2-year-old molars), I was just thrilled to have the twins participating on any level.    thanksgiving8

Ezra, on the other hand, it always ready to smile and “do the right thing.” He is such a sweet, good big brother/cousin.

And these two? thanksgiving9

You’d never know from this shot that their similar personalities tend to produce a bit of–ahem–friction on a regular basis every now and then.

Oh, and in case you needed it, here’s proof that Nola wasn’t the biggest fan of family photos.

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This shot makes me laugh so hard because of how dramatic Nola’s expression is. She is alittle woman of high highs and low lows. And, according to her, this was a very low moment. I think this was the best shot we got of all the cousins, and it just went downhill from there.

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I would have loved to have nabbed a few more shots that I had planned out in my head. But I have long since resigned myself to getting what I get when it comes to pictures with kids in them. And, with those low standards in place, I can honestly say I was thrilled with our results this year.

Of course, these pictures represent only a tiny fraction of our Thanksgiving weekend, which was full of food and family and fun.

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Not to mention that this handsome little dude got to share his birthday with Thanksgiving for the 2nd time in 7 (!!!) years.

I hope that all of y’all had just as enjoyable a weekend and are still finding things to be thankful on the Monday after.

Oh, and anybody else a little freaked out by the fact that there are only 3 1/2 weeks left until Christmas??

Della turned 4, and it wasn’t even remotely Pinterest-worthy!

Last Friday, our sweet Della-Lou turned 4-years-old. (You can catch up on birthday posts with her 2nd and 3rd if you like).

For some reason, her birthdays, more than any of my other children’s, always strike a nostalgic chord with me. I promise I don’t have a favorite kid, but Della was my first girl, and I really think having her unlocked something in my heart that might never have been completely free without a little girl to love on. Which, obviously, makes her special in some ways. So, it seems strange to think that the tiny little elfin creature with the big blue saucer eyes like this all.the.time…

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{Seriously. She looked constantly surprised. Also? How in the world have I been blogging long enough that she was this size when I started???!}

…is no longer a baby or even a toddler, but a “big girl” as she insists on calling herself. It’s all a bit much for this hormonal mama to take in.

We started off celebrating her birthday with a big breakfast that she ate barely two bites of…

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…mostly because she was so busy checking out her gifts (this is the first year that she has been fully aware of all the material perks of being the birthday girl).

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Can you tell she’s a “Hello Kitty Cat” fan? She was super-excited about that Hello Kitty Baking Book that I got for us to make HK treats together (honestly, I’m not a big fan of Miss Kitty–or any other branded paraphernalia, for that matter–but she doesn’t bare her midriff, wear tiny skirts, sport a bad attitude, or do anything else terribly objectionable–that I know of–so I’m picking my battles).

But Della’s favorite gift of all was this card from her big brother, Ezra.

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It said, “Happy Birthday, Della! You are the oldest and best sister I ever had! I love you!”  :) and had a custom, construction paper + Scotch tape pocket for $2 and some ice cream gift cards he had been hoarding.

The part she loved the most–even more than the cash–was what he had written for her. She kept looking at it and asking him to read it to her again. It made my Mama-heart skip a beat or two.

After breakfast, we jetted off to the gym since I had a class to teach, and then we headed to Target where Della got to use some birthday money from G. Grandma to buy whatsoever her heart desired.

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After quite a few, “Are you SURE that’s what you want to spend all of your money on?” prompts from me, she finally settled adamantly on this puppets + playhouse combo, and I have to admit that it was a pretty smart choice and has already seen its share of use (it’s currently residing on her bed, and she’s sleeping inside her “castle” at night).

After our shopping spree, we rushed home to get lunch ready for her “party.” I put quotes around that because, out of the two families we invited (through the super-formal method of texting), one couldn’t come because of sickness. (This seems to be a theme). And, if a party is supposed to have a) preparation b) a theme or c) more than a smidgen of effort put into it…

Then this didn’t qualify.

I’ll admit that I like the challenge of a themed, pretty party every now and then. But I’m rarely doing it for my children, since they would be just as happy with store-bought cake and a few streamers as they would with glass apothecary jars and matching favor bags.

Instead, I’m doing it for me–because I enjoy crafting and baking and that jazz. Until I don’t. Until it’s just too much. Because if no one cares but me, and I’m tired, and all the “jazz” is doing is detracting from the energy I could be lavishing on an actual human being…then the pretty is pretty much not worth it. Amiright?

Which is why the ONLY thing that I had specifically planned to do for Della’s birthday was a Hello Kitty birthday cake made by moi.

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And even though I’m pleased with how it turned out, it was still a far cry from anything fancy (I ordered the mold from Amazon, used a boxed pink velvet cake, and iced it in 45 minutes flat using supplies I already had in my baking stash).

Since our “party” was so small, I had Shaun set up a portable table between the kitchen and the living room.

I had fully intended to throw some hoagie sandwich fixins’ on the table, plop the cake in the middle, and call it good. But then, when I was digging through my piping tips, I stumbled across a stash of hodgepodge, leftover decorations.

So…a polka dot disposable tablecloth, some yellow streamers, a lone pink balloon, some fun straws, and Dollar Store plates later…and we had something resembling an actual party going on!

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World’s easiest “tablescape” meet world’s most easily pleased kids!

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It felt good to do something festive for my girl. But I’m not gonna lie: it felt even better to not have stressed or slaved over every last detail.

And you know what?

None of our guests seemed to care about the less-than-photo-worthy decor.

The sandwiches got scarfed. The cake got inhaled. The proper songs were sung. And a grand old time was had by all.

Don’t get me wrong, y’all. There’s nothing wrong with a pretty party every now and then. But it’s also good for me to remember that my kids don’t care about pretty. They care about love. Even the wonky, tattered and reused tablecloth kind of love that ties a non-helium balloon to the back of the birthday girl’s chair and calls it a day.

Last year, I put a similar lack of effort into Della’s “party” and wrote these words on Instagram:

Della’s sooo excited about her “hello kitty cat” present. I am soooo excited about a super-informal playdate/birthday party at McDonald’s that involved zero homemade crafts, fancy chalkboard art, or elaborate desserts (I made the cupcakes this morning and had to “punt” after discovering I was short several ingredients, and they STILL turned out ok). Mamas: your little princess will NOT care one bit whether her party is Pinterest-worthy…unless you teach her to care. They just want love. And cake. Cake is good too.

I’m glad that I listened to my own advice again this year.

Especially the part about the cake. ;)

What about you guys? Do you also enjoy making pretty parties, or do you keep it prefer to keep it pretty simple? Obviously, I’m a mix. Sometimes, it feels worth it, but most of the time, not so much.