Thursday, December 31, 2015

Farewell, 2015

Here we are again! Another ending to another year that has passed by in the blink of an eye.

This year had a lot of ups for us, and a couple of major downs. This year we said goodbye to both Eric's mother and grandmother, and it is still hard to believe they're both gone. We have also been struggling with some more uncertainty as to what the future holds for us, though we are confident in God's plan and look forward to finding out what He has in store.

As for the more positive parts of the year:
  • We made two trips to Disney World this year, including one that featured Eric's successful completion of the Disney marathon! 
  • After a long battle against solid food, E.J. started eating and now eats constantly (though his nonstop movement keeps him contentedly in the fourth percentile for weight and size 6-9-month pants, the little shrimp!).
  • We celebrated birthdays for all, including a Doc McStuffins-themed third birthday party for Ellie, a Star Wars-themed 33rd birthday party for Eric, a we're-leaving-on-a-two-week-road-trip-in-two-days-themed 33rd birthday mini-celebration for me, and a "Hole in ONE" golf-themed party for E.J.'s very first birthday, which also coincided with a great July Fourth celebration here in Jacksonville. Eric and I also celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this year! Additionally, we attended celebrations in honor of both my parents' 60th birthdays.
  • The kids racked up their own list of celebrity sightings, including myriad PBS Kids stars and Disney characters ( such as Thomas the Train, Disney princesses, Mickey et al., Sesame Street friends, Daniel Tiger, and Buddy from Dinosaur Train). They loved every second of it!
  • The big summer highlight was our two-week road trip that included stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Sesame Place, Pittsburgh, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood at Idlewild, Cleveland for the annual Hesterman reunion, and Pinehurst, NC. The kids were angels and we made some really wonderful family memories!
  • Eric started his third year of teaching (honors students this year!) and Ellie started preschool. She also started ballet lessons after school.
  • We went crazy with Halloween activities and had a blast in this year's family costumes inspired by the Disney movie Tangled!
  • We got to watch Ellie perform in her school Thanksgiving program, and watched her sulk her way through both her ballet recital and Christmas program. At least she has true sulking talent so it was quite a sight to see.
  • We enjoyed very nice holidays in St. Pete, spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas proper with family. We followed that up with our own family Christmas celebration back at home in Jacksonville, which was really special as both kids were very into it this year (Ellie especially). 
  • We wrapped up the year today with the VyStar New Year's Eve Run—my very first 5k! Eric has been helping me train and it went so well.
What a year! 2016 promises to be another filled with potential change and, hopefully, continued progress down the path that will lead us to where we are meant to be. In the meantime, we are enjoying each other, our family, and all that Jacksonville has to offer.

May 2016 bring happiness and good health to you and your loved ones, friends. Wishing you all the best!

VIDEO: A look back at our year in 2015

Signing off for 2015,


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Love and peace to you this holiday season!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

I know a couple of kids who are all ready for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thirty-Three is the Way To Be

Today is Eric's 33rd birthday! We have some Christmas-y fun planned for tonight after work (plus cake and that sort of thing, naturally), but otherwise it's a pretty laid back birthday for him. As for me, I opted to keep with tradition and am spending my day thinking of all the reasons why I love my husband!

In addition to all the reasons previously listed (see: 32, 30, 29, 28, 27, and 26), here are 33 bright, shiny, new reasons why I love Eric!

33 Things I Love About My 33-Year-Old-Husband
(in no particular order)
  1. I love that whenever he sees E.J. looking at/playing with a Mickey Mouse, Eric says "Oh, boy! It's Mickey Mouse!" in full-out Mickey voice.
  2. I love that he always makes the phone calls that I don't want to make.
  3. I love that he is willing to push the jogging stroller for me so that we can all go for family runs together, and I can just focus on running (I'm a newbie!).
  4. I also love that he praises my "fast" running pace even though we all know it's far slower than he would run on his own. I appreciate him slowing down for me.
  5. I love that he is SO EXCITED about the new Star Wars movie.
  6. I love how "Clark Kent" he looks in his new glasses.
  7. I love that he is the type of person that is willing to change his opinion on important topics. He actively seeks out convincing arguments on both sides and when presented with information that contradicts his current stance, he will amend his position according to what he now recognizes as truth.
  8. I love that in his math classes every day, he writes the date as a math equation. So nerdy, but so adorable.
  9. I love that he cares so much about exposing his students to the full range of options before them for college and life after high school.
  10. I love how hard he works in search of the perfect next step for him, his career and our family.
  11. I love the way he calls E.J. "the big guy." (Ellie must love it too, because she has adopted it herself!)
  12. I love that he will always read books to Ellie. Always. I complain about it sometimes, when bedtime has long passed and I'm ready to get her tucked in and get on with our night, but he insists it's important and I know that he's right. I'm glad he doesn't allow that to be brushed aside.
  13. I love that when he reads to the kids he creates different voices for all the characters. And, if there are other people around, instead of toning it down (as I would likely do), he embraces it and asks them to read the part of the narrator so he can better focus on his characters.
  14. I love the way he stirs pasta.
  15. I love the way he stepped up and took care of things when his mother and his grandmother passed away.
  16. I love the beautiful words he wrote and spoke about his mother and his grandmother at their memorial services.
  17. I love that he always sleeps on the couch without complaint when I am sick, so I can cough and sneeze all night without worrying about disturbing him (and still having the comfortable bed).
  18. I love that he is always willing to crack or massage my back at my request.
  19. I love that he always tells me I'm beautiful even when I don't feel it. And by the way he looks at me, I know he's not just saying it; he really means it.
  20. I love that he is constantly in pursuit of knowledge. He is always reading, studying and learning, and enjoying it.
  21. I love that he always drives when we ride in the car together.
  22. I love that he texts me a nice little "good morning, have a good day" message every morning when he leaves for work.
  23. I love that he takes our cars for oil changes for us.
  24. I love that he doesn't think twice about donning a tiara and sitting down for a princess tea party with Ellie.
  25. I love the way he eats Kit-Kats (even though it's wrong).
  26. I love that as soon as he saw I was feeling sad about my sister leaving for another six months (at least) in Japan, he started talking about ways to get me over there for a visit, even if he can't come with me (and of the two of us, he has always been the one who wants to visit Asia). He can really be very selfless like that.
  27. I love that he is always willing to give the kids use of the entire house for their play, while I usually try to contain them (read: contain the mess) to the main living area. He wants them to explore!
  28. I love that he is so amused when our kids do something clever to get their way, that he will likely give in.
  29. I love that he takes Achilles to the vet for his shots for me.
  30. I love that he is willing to give up his holidays in our home this year in favor of being in St. Petersburg while my sister is home this Christmas.
  31. I love that he points out when it has been a while since we've hugged (by "a while" I mean roughly a day) and makes sure to remedy the situation.
  32. I love that he did Japanese cosmetic face masks with Heather and me over Thanksgiving.
  33. I love how much he values our marriage and how steadfastly committed he is to sharing a long, happy life together with me.
Happy birthday to a truly great man!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ellie Kitty

Doesn't this little kitty have the prettiest blue eyes?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Other Halloween Fun

Trick or treat!

I mentioned earlier this week that we really stretched out our Halloween fun this year, and took part in a myriad other celebrations. Most of them allowed the kids to get more wear out of their costumes, so that was a bonus!

The first event was a Halloween picnic in Hemming Park. I got the kids suited up and we took the train over for the festivities, which included a MyGym play station, painting, free cookies, a little Halloween parade around the park and trick-or-treating at the vendor tables. This was Ellie's first taste of trick-or-treating this year and man, was she hooked.

Rapunzel and Pascal on the Jacksonville Skyway

Just looking amazing.

Painting a paper pumpkin

Flips with MyGym


Taking a break to eat some candy by the shark

Poor sweaty little Pascal!

We also went to the Zoo Spooktacular again this year, and had a nice time. Ellie was able to get her first use of the glowing feature of her Rapunzel dress, and we did some more trick-or-treating. Ellie got a little nervous in the "spooky" part of the zoo (the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed portion), but for the most part, both kids enjoyed it.

E.J. was so tickled by Woodstock!

High five for koala bear

With Wendy and Tinkerbell

"That candy better have come from E.J.'s bucket, woman."

For another round of trick-or-treating, we went to trunk-or-treat at Ellie's preschool church. That was such a nice event! People went all out with their trunks and treats (E.J. was especially fond of a Thomas the Train-themed one), and they served fun food for cheap. The kids enjoyed trick-or-treating and then playing in the pumpkin patch.

Trunk or treat!

Cute little pumpkin!

The day before Halloween we went downtown for a Halloween-themed storytime at the Main Library which included not only the usual storytime, but also a parade around the library and a Halloween craft. Then we went back out to Hemming Park and the surrounding area for Trick or Treat In The Street, which was trick-or-treating at local businesses. We didn't last long, because naptime, but still had a nice time. Trick-or-Treat In The Street would probably be really fun if you could devote some time to it and really walk around and get a feel for the downtown area and check out some of the local establishments. Mental note for next year!

E.J. making a Halloween mask at library art class

Ellie trick-or-treating in a restaurant on Laura Street

The night before Halloween we ditched the costumes in favor of some more comfortable Halloween wear and went to San Marco Square for the Halloween/FL-GA Bash in Balis Park. We had a great time! They had live music and food and beer for purchase, plus a FL-GA cornhole tournament and trick-or-treating at surrounding businesses. Ellie loved dancing to the bluegrass music and E.J. just wanted to walk all around the park holding my hand, so that was highly enjoyable for me, too!

I was able to get Ellie out of her Rapunzel dress by promising her she could wear her black cat dress with her kitty ears and—the kicker!—I would put whiskers on her. She was OBSESSED.

Cute little mummy!

Festive signage at the entrance to San Marco Square

The lions were looking rather nice for the occasion too!

Ellie and Eric dancing to the live music

Walking with E.J.

And that was it! Quite the Halloween Spectacular, eh? We really know how to get our money's worth out of a holiday. Bring it on, Christmas!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Tangled" Family Halloween Costumes

I wanted to do a little in-depth recap of our Halloween costumes, because we had such a great time putting this ensemble together. Ellie has been a hardcore Tangled fan for months now, and she loves playing the part of Rapunzel (of course). Always one to go fully into character, in her daily play she has assigned the rest of us roles in the Tangled cast, so it was an easy fit to assign parts for our family Halloween costume.

I'm not going to do any full tutorials this year, largely because, well, I don't feel like it. Ha! But also, most costumes were just embellished by me, and not made entirely from scratch. There are a couple of exceptions to that statement (most notably, Eric's Flynn Rider vest, which was my largest sewing project to date), but for most of those things, excellent tutorials are already floating around out there on the Internet so I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I will, however, direct you to my inspiration and any tutorials I followed!

So, let's put together a Tangled family Halloween costume!

* * * * *


Ellie (3.5 years old) as Rapunzel!

Ellie was so excited to play the lead role in this year's tale, and she did so beautifully in a store-bought Rapunzel dress. It was a special dress, brought from Tokyo Disney just for the occasion (thanks to her aunt who returned from Japan with dress in tow just in time for Halloween)! Ellie loved it.


Of course, the coolest part of this dress was that it had a little battery pack in it that made the skirt light up—a big hit with Ellie, and perfect for trick-or-treating in the dark!

Ellie's light-up dress!

No Rapunzel costume would be complete without "long, long hair," so I made Ellie a long braid out of yellow yarn using this tutorial. After making the braid I glued a ton of pink and purple flowers all over it to mimic Rapunzel's braid in the movie.

Rapunzel's braid, heavily adorned with flowers

My interpretation

As for shoes, as Ellie will tell you, Rapunzel "wears barefoot" but obviously that's not an option for trick-or-treating. So, I picked up some plain white shoes at a consignment store and covered them in purple glitter (using this tutorial, which I also used to make Ellie's Tinkerbell shoes last year) and glued some gemstones on the toes. Because, you know, if there's anything to get Ellie to slightly break character, it's glitter and jewels. As expected, Ellie loved them.

Shoes fit for a long-haired princess!

And so our Rapunzel was Halloween-ready!


Of course, Rapunzel needs her trusty chameleon friend Pascal by her side.

E.J. (15 months) as Pascal!

I got really lucky with E.J.'s Pascal costume: I found a frog costume in his size for cheap at a consignment sale, and I was able to use that as the base. It was the full suit with hood and mittens, which was all the hard stuff! With a few modifications, that frog became Pascal.

One big change was the eyes. The frog eyes were narrow and squinty and I wanted them big and round and expressive like Pascal's eyes are. So, relying heavily on this full Pascal costume tutorial, I added some stuffing and felt to the eyes to fill them out a bit.

The eye on the right is the original frog eye, and the one on the left is my modified version. I rounded them out, added "eyebrows," and gave the eye itself more dimension. (He still got called a frog, but hey, let's just say he made a darn cute amphibian and not get ourselves worked up over it.)

Naturally, Pascal also needs that curly chameleon tail. I once again used the tutorial linked above to make a tail, and then I sewed snaps to the tail and the suit so the tail was removable. It didn't look quite as nice as it would have if I just sewed the tail directly onto the suit, but my purpose was twofold: 1) I wanted to be able to remove the tail so E.J. could sit comfortably in the stroller or car seat in his costume; and 2) I wanted to make a babywearing version of his costume (more about that momentarily), and by using snaps on the tail I was able to remove it and snap it onto the carrier cover I made for an easy transition from toddling to wearing.

Pascal's curly tail

I also wanted to make some little feet to go over E.J.'s shoes. I used the same tutorial linked above to create little feet, which I sewed to the bottom of the suit legs. I attached elastic to the bottom of the feet so they would stay on top of his shoes, and voila: chameleon feet!

Look at those little chameleon toes!

Now, I also wanted to have the option to wear E.J. in a baby carrier for all of our various Halloween outings. But, I didn't want the carrier to cover his adorable chameleon-ness. So I had to make a cover for my carrier. I once again lucked out and found a dinosaur costume for a dog in the Dollar Spot at Target for only $3. It fit perfectly over my carrier! The straps of the costume that go around the dog's neck fit nicely over the shoulder straps of my mei tai (I added Velcro at the sides of the carrier to hook them on better), and the waist strap of the costume hooked right around the front panel of the carrier. Perfect! All I needed to do was chop off the dinosaur tail, trim down the spikes and add some snaps so I could snap on the tail I made. Voila!

Chameleon-wearing! (My cape had arm holes which were perfect for threading my mei tai straps through for back-wearing!)

Our whole family: the babywearing version

And that's how we created our happy little chameleon!

The sweetest Pascal!

Flynn Rider

Eric as Flynn Rider

Ah, Flynn Rider! My biggest labor of love this year. Most of the costume was easy: Eric already had the white shirt and khaki pants, and we ordered some cheap boot tops on Amazon. His "satchel" was a brown purse of mine. He wore a belt he already had.

The vest, though, was a project. Pinterest served me well with vest tutorials and I referenced both this one and this one pretty extensively. The vest isn't actually a vest in that it doesn't open and close; it goes over his head like a shirt. I used blue fleece and traced one of Eric's shirts for the "pattern," leaving a little extra length at the shoulders to make faux "sleeves." I sewed lines on the front panel of the vest to give it a little texture (as described in this tutorial), made a collar (using this tutorial) then sewed on the buckles and other details. I was so pleased with the end result!

A closer look at Flynn's vest from the movie

My interpretation!

A better look at some of the details

That's one handsome outlaw, if I do say so!

Mother Gothel

Last year was a nice break from being the villain for me, but I was back at it this year!

Mother Gothel!

My costume required the least work of all of them. I found this Renaissance dress on Amazon and thought it was a near-perfect match. I paired it with a black cape I already had, as Mother Gothel often sports a black cape while she's out and about.

Looking rather wicked

The rest was just makeup. I used spray hair color to color my hair black, and did my best to do some gold/bronze eye makeup using this picture as a guide:

Mother Gothel's makeup

I'm far from a makeup guru, but at least I felt I looked the part!

Mother knows best!


Last but not least, we have crime-fighting palace horse Maximus, played by our dog, Achilles!

Achilles as Maximus

Achilles' costume was the only one I made completely off the cuff. For his mane, I cut a piece of felt to go across the top of his head like a hat, and cut two ear holes in it. I sewed an elastic strap to the bottom to hold it on his head, and I attached a long, loose strip of faux leather to the top of the elastic pieces to serve as the reins. Then, I wrapped a pipe cleaner around the hat piece and let it extend down the back of his neck. I tied pieces of white yarn to the pipecleaner to create the mane.

For his saddle/harness, I sewed a piece of black felt onto red felt to look like the saddle on top of a blanket. I sewed straps to the bottom of the red blanket piece to hold it to him, and secured them with Velcro. I also sewed a little ribbon loop at the top of the vest where the pipe cleaner from the mane met the saddle, so I could hook the pipe cleaner to the saddle and hold it all together.

I also sewed two strips of brown felt to the front of the saddle piece in a V-shape to make the harness, and attached one strip of faux leather from the point of the V back to the Velcro straps on the saddle blanket so it all went on just like a regular dog hardness would. I decorated the brown V-straps with yellow puffy paint, adding the gold dot detail and sun emblem to the center.

I must say, Achilles is getting better and better at posing for pictures. He was on his best photogenic behavior this year!
Look at that poise!

What a noble steed!

 * * * * *

And there you have it! This marks four years now of family costumes for us, and I've had such a blast with each one, it's hard to pick a favorite:

This was definitely a fun one!