7 Ways to Keep Black Friday Fun & Festive

Deny Christmas as much as you want halfway through November, we all know it’s coming. I, for one, am OK with that. I love Thanksgiving too, don’t get me wrong, but to me it’s all part of one big wonderful holiday stretch. With the quickly approaching season are coming the Black Friday announcements and ads. Will you contribute to the madness?

Here’s the thing, shopping on Black Friday, does not mean you have be ‘mad’, or grinchy or just in it for the best deals. In fact, my experiences have brought fun and festive memories and I think that can be the case for anyone.

Some people are obviously in this only for the hot deals, and if that’s you then you should stop reading now. This is for the people who, sure, want a deal, but are also in it for the fun.

1. Wait until Black FRIDAY


With the trend of Black Friday hours starting earlier and earlier, people will eventually wonder why we even call it Black “Friday”.  While I love Christmas, I love the entire holiday season and that includes Thanksgiving and even the events and days leading up to that last Thursday of November. Enjoy what Thanksgiving is and enjoy the time relaxing after that big glorious meal with people you love. Don’t rush through that special time just to go stand in line half of the holiday.

But also keep in mind the bigger picture beyond yourself and what shopping on Thursday means. By partaking in the early shopping on Thanksgiving Day, you are encouraging more and more stores to start their sales earlier, meaning over time, more and more people will be asked to sacrifice their holiday to go into work. I am so grateful to have always enjoyed a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving, but some are not so fortunate. It may not be a big deal to you to spend the end of your Thanksgiving shopping–especially if it’s with friends–but other people are spending it at work.  Those stores starting Black Friday earlier and earlier and eating into more and more people’s holiday weekends and one day it might affect you. (Like your kids not being able to come to Thanksgiving dinner!)

2. Don’t shop for yourself


Make your outing is about what Christmas shopping should be about–giving. Shop for others. Sure, you might see something you just can’t resist, but for me, real shopping joy comes in being able to shop for others. Shop for your kids, your friends. Find joy in having an opportunity to shop for MORE people because you are find such great deals. Don’t just take advantage of deals for yourself. I once talked to a couple who had a cart full of toys. At first glance, it almost seemed extreme, but as we talked we came to find out that not only were many of the gifts for a child they had chosen from the Salvation Army Angel Tree, but their motive was so touching. They experienced a miscarriage during their parenthood journey and felt, had that child lived, they would be spending money on him every Christmas. They instead spend that same money on another child who is likely not to be gifted much. That is the spirit of Christmas shopping.

3. Add at least one goal to your list that is a charity buy.


It takes very little effort to find a charity or event happening near you that is taking up gifts for children and families who would greatly appreciate gifts this Christmas. If you have children or young people shopping with you on Black Friday, this is also a great way to teach them the true spirit of Christmas and have them help pick out what gift(s) to buy that will go to someone else. Here are a few ways you can find others to shop for during the holidays:

  • Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army Angel Trees are just two that come immediately to mind.
  • You likely have local churches and organizations doing similar drives.
  • You may even know people personally who may not be receiving much, if anything, this year. Playing Santa for these people would be awesome.

4. Go with a group that loves Christmas as much as you.



In one of my few Black Friday outings, I remember seeing a group at checkout that had matching custom-made Black Friday shirts. (And this was before graphic tees were the big hit they are today. Now you can get all sorts of fun Black Friday shopping tees.)  They told me how the late night/early morning shopping extravaganza was a fun tradition they had done together for a number of years. You could tell by their faces that the joy was in the shared tradition and not in any of the deals they were finding.

My first time shopping on Black Friday was about 12 years ago. It was long before I had kids to shop for, but I went with my cousin who did have young kids. She invited me along for her mid-night waking to drive 90-minutes to get to Lexington where she could hit up Toys-R-Us and the mall. I accepted the invite and had the best time and did not even have any shopping to do for myself. (I can’t even say I bought anything!) But it was such a fun experience. For one, she and I were at different states in life (college vs. motherhood), so it was quality time we never got together anymore, but it is still a special memory of driving in the dark, waiting in the cold, meeting interesting people, and just kicking off Christmas. My memory has nothing to do with deals and presents and it’s a great memory.

5. Do something festive with your time.



You may be out for the purpose of shopping and maybe you are even shopping with major purpose. (Special deals for your family or your kids…) But with the close of Thanksgiving, it is sort of an unspoken but socially known rule that no one can give you a hard time about being in full-on Christmas mode. (Well, people can, but now you are on the winning side.) By no means do I judge those who play music or put up a tree before Thanksgiving, but for those who do complaining, they usually shut up after Thanksgiving. So Black Friday, beyond shopping, is the day the holiday season can officially begin, so celebrate the day that way. And I think most Christmas-lovers would say their love of the season is not about gifts and shopping. Here are just a few simple ways to spread holiday cheer when out and about.

  • Bring a bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music while you wait in line for your store to open. (You could sing, but if you are like me, you know that’s not going to brighten many moods!)
  • Bring an extra large carafe of coffee or hot chocolate to share with those in line around you.
  • Dress extra festive to really put on display your love for Christmas.

6. Don’t shop at all.


I’ve always been blessed with a job that let me have the Friday after Thanksgiving off and Mingus has shared this blessing since we have been together. Some are not so fortunate, but if you do have the day, it does not have to be used shopping for it to be special or festive. The primary reason I have not done Black Friday shopping much is because of a family tradition that started a little over a decade ago that has become the main gathering for my parents and siblings for the holiday: Wood Day. My siblings and our families gather at my parent’s the night of Thanksgiving for laughs, leftovers and drinks and a toast to the holiday season. The next morning we are up bright and early with our warm clothes and work gloves to help my parents gather and split firewood for the coming winter. My parents heat their home with a wood-burning stove and while it just sounds like a bunch of work to most, it is always a fun day. With so many of us, an oftentimes other family friends showing up, no one is ever too stressed with work. We also enjoy good food, lots of leftover desserts and more time to catch up. With four of us siblings, all adults with our own lives and families, getting us all together does not happen often, but this is a set event we can count on happening each year.

Your ‘Black Friday’ tradition does not have to be even as elaborate as this, but making the day special can be a tradition. If you are blessed with a day of no work find a way to make the day special. Here is a list of ideas.

7. Don’t forget about Small Business Saturday


While you may not get the big box deal prices, don’t forget that following Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, and it’s worth saving some of your money for this shopping event. This is a great way to be in the Christmas spirit with your shopping by spending money with businesses and people where it makes a real difference. These places are likely to run specials and deals, but you might also find some personal charm by hitting their brick and mortars–free coffee and door prizes. Shopping local and small is a way of giving back in and of itself. With today’s technology (social media, Paypal, etc.) it is easier for all of us to have our own businesses both on the streets and in our own homes. Find out from your area and your friends who will be participating in SBS and even if you don’t shop, maybe you can show up and/or introduce others to your friends’ businesses. (PS–> Look for a #shopsmall #shoplocal post in the near future!)


Graphic Tee Syle: Thanksgiving & Fall Collection

As someone who has been through 3 babies in 3 years, you can imagine I’m all about some comfort in my life. I’ll admit that since I am an stay-at-home mom, I get off the hook most days and can wear whatever I like. It is nice to dress it up a bit from time-to-time, but even on the occasions I am going out for non-major events (grocery runs, the park, doctor appointments) I like to dress nice, but still in comfort.

That is why I LOVE two major trends of today: leggings/yoga pants and graphic tees! I know, not everyone cares for graphic tees, but you have to admit they have gotten crafty and fun with the designs and sayings they sling. What’s even more interesting is the way fashionistas have taught us that even a t-shirt can be jazzed up to look classy. I’ve seen them paired with skirts of all styles, cute jeans and booties, blazers and flashy neck ware. I love it.

Three Ways to Dress Up a Graphic Tee

And what holiday is more important than dressing comfortably than Thanksgiving when you want the freedom to eat to your heart’s content? Check out some seasonal fun below and know you have the freedom to dress them up or keep them casual. I would love to see some of your favorite fall-festive tees as well!

Thanksgiving Tees


Feast Mode


It’s Turkey Time


I’ve Got My Fat Pants On
Eating For Two
This Isn’t Pumpkin Pie

Basic Thankful Tees



Pumpernickle Pixie Tees

Pumpkin Spice Tees

You Had Me At Pumpkin Spice Latte



Fall Season Tees


I’m A Happy Camper
Tailgates & Touchdowns
Adventure Awaits

Real Life with Rita: It All Passes Too Fast

As of yesterday… I am two weeks out from my due date. It’s a time when many expectant moms are ever-so-anxious to meet their little one and be done with all that comes with pregnancy.

And there are plenty of good reasons for it… Who doesn’t want to finally see the precious face of a a newborn baby–especially one that is your own? Not to mention the level of discomfort that you have at this point in the game. Having an extra 30 pounds on my midsection and a basketball size weight in my front while chasing toddlers is not exactly my favorite thing. By 38 weeks doctors tell us the baby is safe for delivery anyway, so why not hope for things to move along sooner rather than later?



I have never had expectations for an early delivery this time around. Maybe it’s because Jacob went past his due date and my hoping/wondering if I’d go into labor those last two weeks just caused it to drag on. But I think the truth is, with this being my third pregnancy in three years, I instead realize the pricelessness of time more than ever before. Time marches on at the same beat no matter what. This baby will arrive. This baby will grow. This time will pass.

It will pass all too fast. It all passes too fast.

I see my friends posting pictures of their babies that I feel like were born a week ago, but already they are 1, 2, 3, 4 months old! What?? My nephew is nearly a year old and I feel like it was last month we were waiting on his arrival! Jacob is a full-on toddler speaking words and playing silly games with Dorothy. Dorothy is a little girl who plays imaginary games, draws pictures that actually look like things and speaks in full sentences.

I’ve been asked if I’m all “ready” and if I have my bags packed, etc. I kind of laugh and shrug saying something about, “Oh baby number three… We have stuff. We’ll be fine.” I think some take that to mean I’m not excited. It’s actually the opposite. With Dorothy’s pregnancy, I was so excited, but I didn’t know what I was excited for. It was all a mystery. The only thing I knew to do with that excitement was to make lists and try to prepare. With Jacob, he was so soon after Dorothy, I was lost in the fog of still raising the baby Dorothy was (not even walking when I found out I was pregnant) in addition to building a house. I was excited but very much distracted with so many other excitements in my life.



This time, I am excited because I KNOW what is in store and that it will be over in a blink and that there is nothing I can do to slow time down. All I can possibly do is live in the moment and not be anticipated the next one. Call me crazy, but my baby has not even been born and I already get sad about how quickly it will be suddenly be ‘big’.

It’s better to live in these final moments of feeling this babe wiggle inside of me.
It’s better to enjoy the magic of hearing it’s heart beat at the doctor appointments.
It’s better to capture the opportunity to talk to Dorothy about what will happen when the baby is born and ask her questions to hear her perspective on something she doesn’t fully understand yet.
It’s better to snuggle a little longer with Jacob while he is still my “baby” and I am not being pulled away by an infant that needs me.
It’s better to fully participate in the fun of taking two toddlers to the park or trick-or-treating.

I already spent too much time in the first three years of parenthood anticipating the next thing for my children or my life. Looking for the next milestone or next development. Those things come regardless of anticipating them.

I have a close friend due about a week ahead of me. It is their first. They had an induction scheduled, so they knew it was their last night at home together sans-baby. I thought so much about them that entire night. They knew it was their last night at home, just them, but they really had no idea what that meant. You can’t know how your life will change and how YOU will change. Adding baby number 3 (I imagine) is not quite the same as the change you experience with number one when you first enter parenthood, but after 2+ years of having a ‘baby’ in my house, I do know that life right now–two toddlers and no nursing baby, is different from what it will be when this baby arrives. It’s more of a change than just having our family grow by a number. This time of just Jacob and Dorothy playing, dancing, doing activities and chores…This time will pass and be a snippet of a memory in my life. By the time this baby is at a toddler age, Dorothy will be nearly five! FIVE… Are you getting it yet? TIME DOES NOT STOP. If anything, I think it speeds up.


In a blink, this baby will be here and life will be completely different. And in another blink, it won’t be a baby.



It’s easy to wish this baby were here now so I could know if it’s a boy a girl and hold it and see it with Dot and Jake–and be done with the preggo belly. But what is two more weeks? It’s two more weeks of this special time with my two toddlers. It’s two more weeks of soaking in the kicks and braxton hicks and the magic that is carrying a life inside.

It’s two short weeks.


One Simple Change: Daily Pregnancy Stretching

Last Month’s Review: September

GoalWrite letters/Send mail to friends

Fail/Success? Epic Fail!! If you haven’t been able to tell from my blog/vlog upkeep, I’ve been busy. I honestly have had this post in my head for at least 3 weeks, but finding time to write has been tough. My ‘job’ workload has had me busy in the night hours and I am trying to get as much done prior to baby’s arrival next month as possible. During the day I have been going a lot with the kiddos. (And when I am home, there is the regular housework to be done!)

What I got out of it: I can at least say I have sent a lot of snail mail in the past month, just none that were simply for the sake of writing a letter. (I did start one letter!) However, I did send a multitude of thank you notes (for baby gifts and birthday presents), birthday cards and anniversary cards, as well as birthday party invitations for Lou. With many of these I included a personal note of at least a paragraph. Better than nothing right? 

Moving Forward: I have three friends I really wanted to send mail to that I have yet to get anything done with. I have not given up simply because September is over, though. October is full of festive reasons to send cards (birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween), so the mail doesn’t stop. I love that Dorothy helps me so much with cards. We’ve already sent five birthday cards and two anniversary cards in October. My mom was big on cards and I know she got it from her mom, my Grandma Rousculp. It’s a dying trend yet it is such a breath of fresh air to receive real mail. I’d love to pass that on to my kids. 

New Challenge (October)

Celebrating our 5 year anniversary. Only 1 month until Baby Harris #3 is due! (November 10!)

Goal: Daily stretching and baby prep

Motivation behind the challenge: Everyone who has been through pregnancy knows the final months/weeks are tiresome for many reasons, but mostly because your body is so not itself, it is impossible to stay comfortable. I forget what I was experiencing recently that made Hubs ask if I’d been doing much stretching. I admit, even as a runner for so many years, stretching was never a practice I was great about. I did it before every practice or race, but mainly because I was told to and was doing so with other people. I always felt yoga during pregnancy was a great intention, but one I have never really followed through with pursuing. 

Being that my body is not nearly in the shape it was the first time I delivered a baby, I feel the least I can do is have my muscles more relaxed and prepared for what is to come next month. Stretching will obviously also help my daily comfort level. My goal is to stretch daily, which comes at night after the kids are in bed but before I start my work. Halfway into the month and I have forgotten four days.

Although not part of my ‘challenge’, I also would like to revisit the ‘hypnobirthing’ app I used with Jacob. I heard about this from my sister when it was becoming evident that Jacob was going to go past his due date and I really wanted labor to begin. Some mothers start this early in pregnancy and practice throughout the nine months, making delivery (especially natural) much more relaxed. Even the minor practicing of it I did for a couple of days did help me focus my thoughts and energy through delivery the last time. The pre-exercises gave me visions and ideas to focus on once labor began and I’d like to have that again.

Real Life with Rita: Finding Fall

I admit it. I’ve slacked in the blogging world.

I used to not understand when other bloggers said they’d lost motivation or had writers block. You can always find something to write about, right? I learned that as a journalist with a deadline. But when you have a million other things on your plate… Finding time to write a blog post when no topic is motivating you to sit down usually means it just doesn’t happen.

August was busy, making it hard to focus. But September, I just lost motivation. Maybe it was the fact I was expecting the fall season to begin moving on to fall blog topics, but instead the Bluegrass decided to hold onto the 90-degree weather, making scarves, boots and pumpkin spice lattes not really fit the vibe. Here we all wanted to change out our wardrobes, sip on warm drinks and enjoy the sites and smells of fall, but instead we were still planning trips to the pool to cool off!

The good news is September 22 welcomed the first “official” day of Fall and the following week saw the 60-70 degree days we’d been anticipating. And, given I still have pretty much zero spare time in my life, I do want to get back to my regular blogging.


Blogging may not have been a high priority last month, but enjoying adventures with the two tots was. While I am anxious to meet our growing peanut (Dorothy named it (him?) George), I am doing my best to get out and have fun with Jake and Lou. Chasing two toddlers wears a mama out, but just imagining what it will be like next year at this time–with three and one that hardly if even walking–is exhausting.

I started the month with a baby shower/girls night. Some of my closest gal pals and I hosted a baby shower for two fellow mamas-to-be. Their due dates sandwich mine in November. (11/4, 11/10, 11/17) but they are both first-time moms. I decided to take the kiddos to Louisville with me the night before the event while Mingus stayed home and had all the husbands at our house for man-activities (including building our garage!) Taking two toddlers for an overnight trip somewhere other than one of the grandparent’s house can be intimidating, but I’ve learned it’s best to roll with it and make it work. It’s good for me and for them. We enjoyed a trip to the neighborhood park before they hit the hay, and then it freed me up for a cozy night of much-needed girl talk with two of my favorite ladies–something I rarely get anymore! We all enjoyed the shower the next day as well. If you have ever gone through pregnancy with a close friend, you know the special bond and joy you share, knowing you’ll have little ones to grow up so closely.


The next week was low key, but I did make an impromptu shoe-shopping trip for Dorothy. I’d hoped to take on the task at a time when I could have some assistance in order to focus Lou on shoes while someone kept track of wily Jake, but I’ve started forcing myself to worry less about going into ever task with ideal kiddo conditions. It’s better to just take on the task and see how it goes. Even if ends up disastrous… you do survive, you might accomplish a little, and you learn something to help with the next occasion. I definitely learned Once Upon a Child in Lexington was a much better kid consignment choice than Re-Kid. At least with kids in tow. Re-Kid was incredibly too packed (aisle so close together), so unless the kids were right next to me, they were easily out of site. Also the organization was kind of all over the place (particularly when it came to finding shoes in specific sizes easily). Unfortunately, that was my first stop. I did find a couple of pairs of cute boots for Lou, but I wanted out fast! I nearly skipped the second stop, but being that I’d made the trip to Lex and Once Upon A Child was only a few minutes away, it seemed silly not to at least pop in. I’m glad I did and it was much less stressful than the previous stop. In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d come for. Oh, and did I mention the trip included the bonus of a stop to see none other than Holly Jo and her precious girlies.

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Mingus was away the next weekend and we had plans to travel to St. Louis for a wedding shower, but those maternal instincts told me my kiddos needed some deceleration in their lives. Instead we stayed home–went nowhere–all weekend. We had a great time and everyone was in fantastic moods. It even helped move Dorothy through some of the threenager habits she’d been developing and I’ve seen SO much less of it since. Sometimes I think that’s all a toddler needs. We, as parents, are always filling up schedules because of so many invites and options. It is easy to forget how the constant change in routine and going disrupts a little ones life. Sometimes it is our duty as parents to sacrifice the things we’d like to be go-go-going and doing in order to let the kids be kids in their own little peaceful world.


Despite the warm weather, the kids and I had a week of fun celebrating fall that included nature hikes and afternoons outside. The following week we moved on to apples, which included a trip to Haney’s Appledale Farm to celebrate the first day of fall. It’s just a small farm, but plenty of apples for picking, a play area, picnic tables and treats for purchase. I went with two of my dear friends and their littles. Between three moms we had six under age three (plus my bun in the oven!): two almost-3-year olds, two 18-month olds, and two 3-month olds! It’s days like those that I remember how blessed my life currently is and how much there is to cherish. I know I’ll look back at these ‘good old days’ with my kiddos and friends when times were slow and simple in their own right. Sure, toddlers are exhausting, but spending a day to take in the joy of something as simple as picking apples with friends is what life is all about: the simple joys.

That weekend was our local Apple Festival. It’s the most time I’ve spent at the event since moving back to the area five years ago. Having two kids that could actually enjoy aspects of the festival–and not having to carry any babies–made it a must. Hubs was heavily involved with the fire department, which actually was a huge perk for me. Not only was there a spacious booth right in front of the grassy town hall  lawn where we could easily sit for a break, but it gave me reason to feel welcome at the city fire department building where we could cool off and little Lou could use an actual bathroom and NOT a port-a-pot! We watched the parade, enjoyed some carnival treats, rode some rides–partook in the giant apple pie AND giant cookie.

img_5434Version 2

The fall weather finally arrived this past week and we laid low at home, but I was happy to be pulling out the long pants and boots and sipping on tea both morning and at night. Now October has arrived and I think it’s safe to call it the fall season. We have less than six weeks until we are a family of five, and I can’t think of a better month to soak up the final days of life as we know it. We’ve already planned a trip to the pumpkin patch and have some birthday fun on the agenda for our soon-to-be 3 year old! Mingus and I are about to hit our 5-year wedding anniversary and, while we may not be doing anything extravagant, I think we have a lot to show for five years. Oh, and who could forget the amazing holiday all about costumes and candy?! I think the only fall-fun I am missing out on is football action! I have some hopes to see our currently undefeated high school team under the Friday night lights in the coming weeks.

Cheers to a Happy October to all of you! Fall is for real now and we know what jolly season follows!


A Scary Story With A Happy Ending

This is a fairly non-traditional post for this blog, but it’s a great outlet for me to share an event I recently experienced and, I believe, it also gives some insight to the culture and people of small-town, rural Central Kentucky.


On Monday a 21-month old child went missing from his home. You hear about missing and lost children, but what is different here is where we are located. It turns out this was our neighbor’s child, but that neighbor is two miles away. In the city, that would likely be someone living in a completely different neighborhood. Here, that means it was the closest person to our home off our family property. (Which, for the record, is several hundred acres among the entire family.) In a more populated area, you have to worry about roads and traffic and (worst of all) abductions when a child wanders off.

Although the boy was missing 11 hours, abduction was never the prime concern. This little boy just wandered from his home without his parents’ knowledge and got lost in the vast wilderness and back roads that surround this area. While there is peace believing he had not been kidnapped, if you have ever been in the knobs of Central Kentucky, on back county roads, you know that even as an adult without GPS or maps you could easily find yourself lost. So try putting yourself in the shoes of a toddler who has no baring of direction or location–let along dangers.

The disappearance happened around 9 a.m. and I was unaware until a text from a friend checked in with me around 4:15 p.m. She’d heard the location was near us and the toddler was not being identified in reports, so heaven forbid it was one of ours! Within an hour of her text I’d read more and heard from the Hubs, who was now on his 45-minute drive home from work because his fire department had been called in to help. He told me the search seemed to be centralizing near the gravel road that runs nearly two miles through the family property and dead ends at our house. I offered to drive his boots and jeans to the end of the road to save him some time, but found a state police officer walking the road on the way out. The child’s diaper and shirt had been found further up the road and the search was narrowed to our road and property.

Version 2

State police were present, a helicopter was flying as low as possible in search, and slowly more and more volunteers and locals showed up with whatever means they had to help: ATVs, four-wheelers, horses. The fields, roads, paths, creek beds and woods were crawling in search of this boy. It was bizarre to see this kind of activity on our otherwise quiet and untouched land. Typically, a strange vehicle comes down the road and all of my relatives are asking questions. Not this night.

Meanwhile, I could not leave my own kids (nearly three and 19-months), but sitting by idly waiting was impossible while knowing this young, lost boy was out there. He could be as close as my tree line but so confused or hurt he couldn’t do a thing. I pushed the stroller, cried, prayed and walked calling his name.

In my heart I had to believe this boy was okay. Not just because that’s obviously how everyone wanted the story to end, but because of where he was: in our Valley. Prayer and faith run deep in the family and since buying this property and moving to Kentucky 37 years ago, prayer has been present. We pray in our homes and from the knob tops and we pray for protection of our daily activities and all forms of life and happenings within this Valley. If a toddler were to be on his own in the wilderness, this was as safe as they come, and I truly felt that was the case.

Helicopter in search as the last light fell.

But as the sun began to fall all I could think of was how hard this search would become for the next 10 hours of darkness. More and more people showed up from our community. My phone was blowing up with texts from our family who own pieces of the property but don’t actually live here. They were asking for updates and thinking of possible places to search as they prayed. It was just after 8 p.m. when a text read “they found something”. That was shortly followed by messages that it was the boy and that he was okay. He was completely naked and shoeless, but aside from some scratches, he was unharmed.

It was merely a local volunteer that found him. He’d turned up my cousin’s long gravel driveway that wound up a knob. Where the drive makes a switchback, a logging road goes straight and not far down the logging road, under a tree, sat the boy. Small towns may have their fair share of troubles and drawbacks and Kentucky may be thought of as a backward place from some viewpoints, but what really matters is the good hearts. Whether they knew the family or not, people felt connected to this boy, as though it could be their own, and wanted to help.

The driveway he walked before wandering onto a logging road further along.

I truly believe a larger force was at work in the situation for two reasons. First, he was found in literally the final minutes of any kind of natural light. Once the sunlight was gone, I cannot imagine how difficult and impossible the search would become; not to mention the dropping temperature, the dew setting, and knowing the kid was naked and without food.

Second, he was unharmed. Just two weeks ago I came upon a rattle snake (at least 5 feet long and fat as a rat) stretched across the middle of our road. Between creatures like that, venomous and stinging bees/bugs, poisonous plants he could have eaten, creeks and ravines he could have slid into, the list of possible injuries is endless. But the level of prayer and protection and safety that has been called upon for this valley is strong, and with the amount of prayer being poured out for him during those 11 hours, I have no doubt he was being kept safe by a bigger presence.

Praying for people and causes is something most people of faith do regularly, but praying for your surroundings is equally important and makes a difference. Pray for your home and that it is a place filled with love and comfort and safety. Pray for your property or neighborhood and that it is a place of positive energy and good vibes; these things make a difference in your day-to-day life and the growth of your children. Pray for your transportation, whether it be a car, bus, bike or airplane; ask that it be surrounded by protection and the protection of those within. Pray for the places you visit in travel; you do not know who was last there or the happenings within and what negative experiences may have occurred. Pray for our country and that goodness and peace is being sought and welcomed.

Let asking for peace and protection be the first thing you do each morning.


Friday Fall Fashion Dreaming

This is coming a day late, I know, but it’s Friday night, and while I am a SAHM, I am also a WAHM, meaning my nights are spent working. I take Friday nights off. Tonight the hubs is gone and it’s just me. I had a GREAT day of just being home with the kids and now I’m winding down with a Netflix binge and I thought I’d dream-shop online. I LOVE fall-wear and this year it’s not about what I can and can’t afford (although, always a factor), but it’s more about my still-growing third-trimester belly and the fact fall will be nearing it’s end when preggo-body is gone. So my “dream shopping” is what I’d be looking to wear if I wasn’t pregnant.

As you may realize at this point, I’m a pretty casual dresser. Part of that is lifestyle (living away from EVERYONE, being a SAHM), but it’s also just my style. I like trendy but comfortable, particularly when it comes to warm-wear. This year, aside from a few baby/wedding showers, we don’t have any weddings or formal events, so I’m not even thinking that direction. But I do love sweaters. SO cozy. Hoodies have had my love since I knew fashion was a thing.


Tunic Hoodie | Paneled Tunic | Duster Cardigan

Dressing it up a little more, without going to an extreme, I am loving some lace and floral and I’d definitely add some booties to my closet. (Not that a baby belly prevents shoe-shopping…)


Print Blouse | V-Neck Tunic | Lace Top | Booties

The reality is, plain-jane shirts are more  than likely my daily attire around here, but it doesn’t hurt to feel cute while chasing crazy kids, right? I especially love the “Blessed” sweatshirt. The “Game Day” shirt can be customized to be any city you wish.


Flowy V-Neck | Game Day | Blessed Pullover | Dolman Top

I also love to accessorize–but for me it’s not so much on jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, I love some bling, but I’m better at choosing my own accessories that are functional and letting someone (like my blog-partner Jo) choose my sparkle. Boots, vests, scarves, hats: things that keep me warm and can also dress up an outfit are up my alley. Take a plain white tee and jeans and add any of the above and you’ve got something totally new.


Utility Vest | Beanie | Infinity Scarf | Boot Cuff | Slouchy Boots

I will note one item I am loving for fall that actually could work for my preggo-self and soon-to-be nursing self, are the flowy wraps and cardigans. These can be used to dress-up or down just about anything.


Kimono | Button Wrap Cardigan | Stripe Cardigan

I know I didn’t include any dresses or pants on this list. I think I am so stuck on cozy leggings and harlem pants that I didn’t go there with pants and with no weddings, I don’t have dresses on my mind either. (And honestly, once it gets too cold, I steer clear of dresses.) I would LOVE for you to share your fall inspiration. Leave a comment and share links!


One Simple Change: Snail Mail and Personal Outreach

Last Month’s Review: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Fail/Success? Success! Although it took halfway through the month for me really figure out what I was doing. Initially my thought was I just needed to start focusing on learning and teaching particular things and research some of the activities and ideas out there. Homeschooling is becoming so common and collaborative thanks much to do with the social networking we can do through the web. There are so many materials and such out there online. Honestly, Google and Pinterest searches were overwhelming! Eventually I realized I had to have a laid out plan. A schedule of some sort, but most examples I found were too structured for me. I get that it works and is best for many people, but on any given day our schedule is different—we have places to go or I have things to do for my work during the day. But by the last couple weeks of the month, I’d found a way that works perfectly for us: The School Fairy Box. 

Together, Dorothy and I decorated a special box. Each day, only after we have eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and brushed our teeth, we open it up to see what the “school fairy” has left inside. Typically it is an activity involving nothing more than paper, crayons and maybe glue or sometimes stickers. Every so often it is a new book, flash cards or something more unique like Playdoh. I keep each week focused on one to two concepts and have outlined ideas for the next six weeks, not going further only because I wanted to see how this routine would work before planning too far out. 


What I got out of it: By taking the time (which honestly was only about a day or two of hit and miss time) to determine how to approach incorporating focused learning into our day, I have created something that helps both myself and the kids accomplish what I wanted. Having the box makes Dorothy not only excited to do whatever is inside, but it also helps motivate her to go through the standard morning procedure. Additionally, the box forces me to not just plan in advance, but to have something fully ready the night before. I know I cannot afford to wait until morning to put my activity together and not have Dorothy watching or asking or wondering why I have the box out. The themes for each week are a huge help in driving a concept home. 

Moving Forward: I am excited to keep going forward with this and coming up with new things to excite my children’s learning. I am a lover of lists and planning so coming up with a weekly and monthly schedule is enjoyable to me. Doing this also makes finding ideas online less overwhelming because I can search for specific activities. September will be fun. In addition to more letters, we’ll also talk about the season of fall and have an apple week (because of the local Apple Festival, of course!)


New Challenge: September

Goal: Write letters/Send mail to friends

Motivation behind the challenge: I did this for Lent a couple of years ago and loved doing it and recently I received a nice letter in the mail from a close friend whom I am not in touch with much anymore. Were it not for social media, I’m not sure we would know much of anything about each other’s lives! Even though social media gives us an easy sneak peek into certain people’s lives, personal contact is so meaningful. Of course, I also love writing and sending mail in general, so, in theory, this will be an easy challenge for me. I do know how the days get away from me, though, and even my evenings when the kiddos are sleeping are consumed by work. I’ve already sent an anniversary card this month, but I am not counting any cards I’d send typically (unless I include an extra note.) I’m hoping to send at least one a week. 

Real Life with Rita: Embarking on Life with a Threenage

Remember how I started the month reporting my One Simple Change update and how some of my adjustments with the kids had gone? I told you how surprisingly smooth it all was?

No more pacifier for Dot? No fight.
Two kids, one room? Sure!

Well, something then happened during the month of August. I think it’s a pretext to that thing I have heard about for years called “the threenager”.

I always heard of the “terrible twos”, but threenager was a new term I started hearing a few years ago, alongside noticing more and more people talk about three-year-old toddlers pushing the limits and sanity and patience of parents to a whole new level that two never saw. A year ago, my pediatrician (who has two daughters) explained it in a simple but sensible way: At two, a toddler acts out without any understanding. They are learning and trying to understand when things don’t go their way. At three, a toddler knows what they are doing and they begin to push to find out where limits exist–if at all.

Like every child, Dorothy has her traits and tendencies that make her difficult, but for the most part, she is a very agreeable child and aims to please. (Translation: I think I’ve had it pretty easy.) She doesn’t even like it when my facial expression changes to that of disappointment or concern. She will ask, “Mama, are you happy?” even when she just hears me directing a stern tone at Jake. But I am beginning to see her explore her independence and it is coupled with experimenting with trying to mimic what she sees in others. This includes actual people and things she sees on TV. I’ve always been particular about wha she can and can’t watch, but I am now finding fault with shows I was OK with for the past year.

For example,  Max and Ruby, an old Nickelodeon cartoon based on a book series, is super cute and something she’s always loved. However, I’ve found her mimicking Max’s tendency to use one word phrases repeatedly. He is the younger character and I suppose this is the extent of his vocab. In her case, it’s led to being less polite. Instead of asking, “Please, may I have more soup?” she will yell, “More!” or “Soup!” Mingus and I have been very committed to working on reminding her to use her manners and speak properly.

Even worse, the one word phrases have branched into two of any parents least favorite phrases: “No” and “Why”. She will even say “No” at times when her actions follow direction. While I’m glad she isn’t completely defying me, I still want to quickly correct this habit of rudely responding “No” to myself or anyone, for that matter. Both the “why” and “no” tend to be in whiney tones that drive me bonkers and continue no matter what response I give. (I have started using the “Because I said so” line frequently or even more simply: I don’t respond at all!)

The worst, though, is the disaster of nap time or bed time. She has never liked sleep. As an infant it was a constant battle. (She didn’t even like being cuddled or rocked!) Sometime after our early August vacation, she started defying bedtime. She goes through the bedtime routine just fine. She’s content to move from bedtime snack to books. She gets a little wiley by prayer time and singing, and that’s usually when Jon and I depart, but now she begs us to stay, comes out of the room a complete crying disaster.

Version 2

I am working hard to find a balance between accepting that she is moving into a new age and phase where questioning limits and boundaries is completely natural, but I also do not want to accept this as an excuse for her poor behavior developments. I also recognize that this little soul is extremely sensitive. She crosses quickly from A-OK to distraught and nearly unconsolable when she feels disappointment or disapproval coming down on her.

Additionally, I remind myself that she is not even three years old yet. It is easy to have unrealistic expectations for her when it is only a matter of months and she will be the oldest of three children. I have to realize that while I want her to behave a certain way, she is still learning much of what my expectations even are and her vocabulary is limited, so my reprimands and instructions are not always understood. In short, I need to keep my patience intact and not expect her to figure these things out without some guidance and attention.

I still consider myself blessed with the kind of child Dorothy is at this age. No one said any of it would be easy, but I am beginning to realize just how easy I have had it, particularly through the first 18 months of Jacob’s life. Despite having two kids so young and close in age, together they made it feel (more or less) like a walk in the park. These last few weeks have just been a wake-up call to the reality that Dorothy is just a normal child who is waking up to the reality of her freedoms and if I don’t put layout expectations for her behavior, they will spiral out of control.

For those of you who have been through this and similar stages with your kids, how did you move through it best?



12 Ideas for Celebrating Your Birthday as an Adult

My birthday is tomorrow!! But let’s be honest, by your late 20s and into your 30s and 40s, it’s not uncommon for your birthdays to have lost their sha-bang. Either you feel it’s unnecessary to make it a big deal or request big events or your life is just too full of other things (career, kids, etc) to stop and celebrate. If you’re like me, the day sneaks up on you. Honestly, I still always love my birthday no matter how low key, because it’s awesome to receive the texts and Facebook messages and even small acts of acknowledgement. Anything bigger is icing on the cake.

But that does not mean one should feel guilty about wanting to do something fun or memorable for a birthday. Plus, there are ways to celebrate that don’t necessarily mean tons of money or time. Here is a list of ideas for yourself or to plan for someone special in your life whom you feel deserves a memorable day.

1.Go all out with dessert or drinks
Birthday meals are great and all but great drinks and great desserts are really the way to celebrate. Try doing finger foods or appetizers for your main birthday meal and instead focus on an elaborate and fun dessert. If sweets aren’t your thing then go all out with your drinks. Come up with a fun new drink to try.
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2. Celebrate like a Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits celebrate birthdays in a unique way where the one having a birthday gives gifts. (In their case, it is because they are infamous for accumulating way too much stuff and this is a way to get rid of things.) If you have kids, I think this is a great tradition to teach and start with them. We should always remember that even though a birthday is a fun reason to feel celebrated, know our lives would not be what they are without the special people we have in them. Find a way to fit the Hobbit tradition into your own birthdays.

3. Have a day out while the house is cleaned
Maybe it’s just me, but the one thing about throwing a party, having people over or any kind of birthday activity is that it tends to result in a mess needing cleaned up afterward (and sometimes pre-cleaning as well). Avoid creating extra work for yourself on your birthday and instead plan a day out–either with special people or solo– and have your house cleaned for you while gone. You can hire someone to come in or someone you know (your kids and/or husband, for example) can do the cleaning as a gift.

4. Have a themed party and dress-up
Make a get-together with friends a little different for your birthday. There are plenty of occasions where you all dress up nice (showers, weddings, holidays), so try something a little fun and different to make your celebration special. Throwback to the days of high school or college and have a decade-themed party. (70’s/80’s/90’s) Some other ideas are to dress as favorite movie or TV characters, have a luau even if you don’t live near the beach, a pajama party (and play board games!) or a “formal prom” or a Goodwill inspired party where you find attire at a local Goodwill. You can even simplify it further and have fun accessories for a laugh. One year we all wore temporary tattoos for my birthday.

Birthday 2010

5. Date Night or Girls’ Night
Whether your work keeps you busy, you have moved away from many close friends, or you are involved with children, it is likely you don’t get a lot of time to just have fun the way you once did. Plan a date night with your husband only or a girls’ night if that is what you are in need of. I, for one, rarely get either. Between now having kids to accommodate for and the fact we live away from most of our friends, nights or days out like we had in our early 20s are few and far between. There is no better excuse than your birthday to plan special time away from normal life and celebrate like your 22 again.

6. Do a Bucket List item
Rather than a standard gift, think about all of the random things you’d love to try–your bucket list–and choose one (or more!) to try. Experiences are what make life memorable and your birthday is a perfect time to have a memorable and new experience. Maybe it’s something like zip-lining or skydiving; maybe it’s taking a class (cooking or dance). Don’t let life just pass you by.

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Celebrating a friend’s birthday… atop a firetruck!

7. Take a Mini Roadtrip
An adventure doesn’t have to include a plane flight or a 14-hour drive somewhere. You might be surprised the fun you could have with a mini-getaway roadtrip. Even a night out at a hotel in a nearby city is something that everyday life doesn’t present. As adults we have plenty of excuses to not have time or money for things that aren’t a part of the daily grind, but if you don’t make time for special adventures, they won’t happen on their own. Pick a place. Pick the people. Get away.

8. Let the Kids plan your party
If you have kids–especially young children–you may find planning a special event for your birthday is more work than it’s worth. So make it memorable by bringing them into your celebration. What child doesn’t like a birthday party? Live vicariously through your kids and feel young again. Let them help you pick decorations and set up a party. Let them help decorate the cake. You only have so many years where you will celebrate your birthday with your children at their young excitable age, so cherish it.


9. Make a Mix CD/Playlist
How do teens make their mix tapes these days? I highly doubt they do mix CDs like we did, but surely to goodness creating your own personal soundtracks to life is still the thing to do. Do it for your birthday. Fill a playlist/cd/whatever works for you, with songs that make you happy and play it throughout the day. The other things I love about mix tapes/cds, is finding old ones. I can put one in and it takes me back to a certain era of my life. Be sure to hang on to the one you create and in 10 years, listen to it again on your birthday and feel 10 years younger!

10. Take a family picture
Start a tradition of taking a family photo on your birthday. It’s not uncommon to do an annual photo for your children’s birthday to see them grow year by year. Now, we my not physically change that much year-to-year, but our family does. It can include your spouse, significant other, pets, or children. It could also be a group shot of who you celebrated with that year. Do this every year and see how your family grows and evolves. (We do this each summer in the same location as something Jon and I did the first two years of being together even before marriage.)

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Annual family “Bench” photo: 2012

11. Journal the year’s highlights
Start a birthday journal and write down the highlights of your past year and aspirations for the coming year. I do something like this as a New Year’s tradition. It’s fun to look back on the accomplishments and happenings from the past years. I’m often surprised by things I wrote, thinking I’d “of course” remember them, but actually have forgotten. By writing hopes for the coming year, you can not only set goals for yourself, but it also records a place in time of who you were and what your life was all about.

12. Surprise parties truly are the best
Obviously this isn’t something you can plan for yourself, but if you are looking for ideas for someone else, I truly think everyone deserves to have a surprise party thrown at some point in their life. (Unless it is someone who would truly hate the experience for one reason or another.) Hubs did this for my 27th birthday and it was such wonderful fun. We’d been married less than a year and it had been a couple of years of living away from most of the friends I’d spent all of my early 20s with in daily life. To suddenly have them all gathered for a night of fun was the best gift.

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Surprise party!

Share in the comments your ideas for celebrating birthdays as an adult or something fun and unique you’ve done.