Our Boy is Four

Happy Birthday, Evan!


Just Sit


Yesterday morning, I found myself in need to just sit and enjoy the awe and wonder of this world.

Physically, I needed it. Mentally, I thought about all the things that could be going on instead…baking cookies with the kids (it’s going to be dough to cookie this year), catching up on scrapbooks from 2013 and through thus year, so many things. It was hard to just sit and do nothing.

But that’s what I did. I sat and enjoyed the view of the tree through the candles. Because that is what I needed.

This Christmas Means to Me…


Something had been eating at me as we lived out of boxes and suitcases and from house to house in the 6 weeks between the sale of our home and purchase of our new one.

I really wanted to get Christmas started, but I didn’t know why.

You’d think that it would be next year, with getting to watch on wonder as four ‘lil Burghers gather by the tree and squeal in delight.  But that wasn’t it.

It wasn’t until I was around a table with some aunts and cousins, talking about Grandma’s tree star that I really got it.

I wanted to get Christmas started for Grandma. There are a zillion reasons why…

She always decorated her home with gingerbread people graced with each of our names. My mom tended to make her sweatshirts with all of us on it, too. (One year someone fell off and got crushed in our van door and I lost my mind because that’s just horrible to watch a cousin’s apple get crushed.)

She always wrote us cards, individual cards, with a sentiment…sometimes a “Love you” and sometimes more. Grandma had a lot of cards to write.

She always gave us ornaments for our tree, and last year they were accompanied by the note above. If you’ve received an ornament from me this year, it’s because of Grandma. Our kids will have a collection to start their trees with because I plan on adding to their yearly collections, too.

And, finally, because without Christmas with Grandma, I really am not sure I’d have what I do today. Grandma and Pappy welcomed us to their home every December, often on Christmas Day after 12 to 20 hours of driving through snow to the beach because it was 6 days my Dad usually could fairly safely take off before the new year. We would spend those days in Surfside with a walk or two on the beach, driving the Boulevard to see lights (hotels used to do that), and enjoying a warm Christmas week together. During these days, I fell in love with the Myrtle Beach many of you may not know…the local side of it. It gave me courage to spread my wings and eventually move there and close a chapter of my life and start a new one with Arianna and Greg.

And because this year, for the first time in a long time I will not get to go for winter in SC or get to enjoy moments with Grandma, I think I really wanted to get Christmas started early and let it last.

As we hung the ornaments, I cried a little. It’s easy to forget the little things until you realize you won’t have them again (at least not in the same way as before). And this year, the little things came in the form of four glittery ornaments in envelopes that we got for the last time last Christmas. But it prompted me to pick up some for us this year, as well as a chirping cardinal to remind me of my Grandma Peterson. Because even if in the moment you don’t realize what it is, someday you will. And it will be bittersweet, like this Christmas will be for me.

Gingerbread House

Tonight as Greg was leaving for work, I decided a fun pre-bedtime activity would be to build a gingerbread house. It’s been on the counter for a week, torturing ‘lil souls who just wanted to eat the candy and frosting.

Or torturing their Mama who wants all the sweets.

I didn’t read the instructions, just pulled the house out of the box and got to work. When I couldn’t decipher what piece was what, I did what any woman do and read the directions. Even then, it wasn’t clear to me this was going to take almost an hour and a half and the pieces just wouldn’t quite fit together. This bothered all three of us and our OCD. Especially when I picked up the front of the house and it fell apart. I almost threw the whole thing in the trash, cried, and stomped off…but I remembered I am the mom and needed to show them accidents happen and we would work around it.

Patiently, my two ‘lil ones watched as the house came together, fell apart, came together. (It was kind of like the whole home buying process all over again…grand visions…minor setbacks…small victories…then living in something you can call home.) I quickly snapped a photo as proof in case it fell (and rushed the kids off to clean the Oreo from their lips before letting them share in the glory).



They really just wanted that candy.

The directions said to let the icing set for 15 minutes. I went for 20 and told the kids 10. We had to leave the room after 2 because all three of us were scared to breathe lest the house would fall.

Finally, after an eternity of waiting and watching Arianna play stack cup 1000 times, the timer went off and we were in full on decorating mode. Pro tip (ha), use a rubber scraper to spread the snow “cause that’s how we do it in America, Mama” as Arianna advised.

Icing in our hair and on our jammies, the house was done. And as of this post, she’s still standing. Let’s hope Daddy gets to see it before the great fall…


Holiday Curls with Kiss InstaWave

Disclaimer: I was asked to review the item or service below in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

I’ve been meaning to share a new product with you, and after checking out my limp, lifeless hair in a photo from last night’s holiday party, I have to get this post out ASAP. No, I didn’t use the KISS InstaWave to do my hair, but I should have at least given it a shot. The reason I’ve been holding off on the review is that my hair just doesn’t like to cooperate, but it’s time to show you what I learned.

KISS is a beauty product company that makes it easy for busy folks like me to amp up their natural beauty. The InstaWave is an automatic curling iron that frees up one hand for you multi-taskers. Watch this video to see what I mean:

It looks easy, right? Well, I’ve got to be honest. It wasn’t really easy for me. At first, I was super worried that I would twist my hair up and be left with short hair (reminiscent of my pregnancy with Evan, eek). But it doesn’t get tight to the point it pulls. I am sure that this is a product that actually does what it is intended to do, but my hair just simply hates to cooperate. I had it on as hot as it would go (which was safe enough to use on Arianna and even Evan who helped me out with photos), but my hair just doesn’t like to wave. Boo!

Arianna wasn’t scared, and her hair is similar to mine, fine but some natural waves. I think it gave her a cute “boost”, but this isn’t something we’ll be using all the time on her young hair.

The process…and then the result:

Just because our hair wasn’t the right fit for this curling iron, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’ve NEVER been successful with curls, but always want to try. Both Arianna and Evan had gorgeous curls (Ev still has his) and I am super jealous. But I am sure that if the curls stick around, he’d be wishing he got my genes instead and shave it all off like his Daddy does. (Hopefully there’s a girl in my belly that will love the Willis curls!) If you’d like to give the KISS InstaWave a try, you can grab it over on Ulta.com or at Target (MSRP is $59.99). Find out more about KISS and their products by visiting them at kissusa.com.


Last night, I stayed up until the midnight oil ran out working on Evan’s birthday invites. Instead of using an online tool, I literally hand wrote the puppies. (Lost my mind? Perhaps.) All that was left was to stamp them and mail them.

This task was left up to the men.

One of which barely survived.

I texted Greg to see if he could hold the fort for a little longer than usual so I could enjoy a party with my Virtual Village. His response was that he needed sleep because he had been dealing with a tantrum over stamps.

Because stamps are not stickers. Because stamps have to go on mail.

I let go of the thought I’d be at my party sans kids and told him get some sleep.

Later, Greg told me he had it under control and to go be with my friends. Before the party, though, I had to stop home. What was I greeted by? A sad almost 4 year old. Because stamps are not stickers and Daddy will not let him have them NOW.

I narrowly pulled off a guilt-filled escape and went to my party. When I returned home, he was still upset that he can’t use stamps as stickers. Nope, not even for pretending to mail artwork to me, Evan.

And tomorrow? My bet is he forgets what a stamp even is. Cross your fingers for us.


Nothing to do with stamps and everything to do with "omg, 4 years have passed".

So if you are reading this and wondering if Evan is having a party this year, the answer is yes. And we understand it’s the holidays and late notice…life happened and I let this slip my to do list somehow…

Elf Pets: A New Tradition

Disclaimer: I was asked to review the item or service below in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

This Christmas, for the first time in our kids’ lives, we’ve introduced an Elf on the Shelf to our family. But there’s also a new friend, too! Her Elf Pets Reindeer Friend has joined us, too. It’s a new tradition that our kids are eating up.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf holiday sensation. Our elf, Lily, can’t be touched by the kids and she watches over every day to make sure that they are on Santa’s nice list. At night, she “reports” to Santa on how the day went and moves to another location if things are going well. A book came along with Lily, and the kids’ eyes lit up as they heard about her magic and the rules to welcome her into our home.


What you may be unfamiliar with is Elf Pets, a new addition to the Elf on the Shelf family. Elf Pets™: A Reindeer Tradition allows children to help Santa fly his sleigh on Christmas Eve by filling the reindeer’s heart up with Christmas spirit. As the book reads, kids are encouraged to touch, hold, and love on their Reindeer (ours is named Olaf) so that he knows how much hope and joy there really is in the world. (You can read more about this new Elf family product here.)

Our Elf Pet, Olaf

Since we just have one reindeer, we’re doing a nightly swap of who gives love at night. Evan got to sleep with him first because Arianna had a “naughty list moment” that Lily happened to witness just before bed the first night Olaf joined us. He took his job seriously, worrying that Olaf wouldn’t be warm enough under Baseball Blanket or that Evan’s love for his tags would overshadow his love for Olaf. We worked together to find the ideal snuggly spot and Evan was thrilled.

We’ll definitely be enjoying the magic of Lily and Olaf throughout this season and anxiously waiting to welcome them back next year. If you are joining in the Elf fun this year and need some ideas about how to get creative with your new addition, check out ElfOnTheShelf.com for a photo gallery of ways you can engage your new friends in holiday fun (and make sure you are following along on Twitter @elfontheshelf!). Don’t have one yet but are looking to add an Elf or Elf Pet to your family? Find a local adoption center near you!

Lily, making mischief!

Deal Alert: Speck the Halls

You probably know I am kinda addicted to my cell phone, and Greg is addicted to saving money. The two worlds are colliding this month as Speck Products is bringing month-long holiday deals our way with their Speck the Halls promotion.

For example, here’s what you’ve missed if you haven’t been heading over to speckproducts.com or following them on Twitter (@speckproducts)…

(Sorry I can’t spill all the beans, but use this list as a guide to prompt you to check them out daily between now and January 1 so you don’t miss out on deals to protect your Samsung or on iPad Accessories!)

I will tell you that if you happen to know what phone I have, you’ll want to head to Speck tomorrow! *Wink*

Speck the Halls

Source: Speck Products



We’re Speck

Speck is an award-winning leader of mighty slim protective cases for the world’s top smartphones, tablets, and laptops. From iPad cases and iPhone cases to Samsung Galaxy cases and everything in between, we design cases that are slim, good looking and most importantly, the most effective protection possible.

Our roots are in the heart of Silicon Valley, at the intersection of design and technology, inspiring forward-thinking innovation to craft masterfully engineered and patented designs. Our design philosophy delivers the best looking and most effective slim protection because we believe protection doesn’t need to be ugly, nor bulky. It’s all in the details; we create our cases to enable you to go more places and enjoy more from your mobile devices. Get to know us at speckproducts.com or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.


Disclaimer: I was asked to review the item or service above in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Pittsburgh: Healthy Together

Hey, Pittsburghers. Did you know that currently there are uninsured children and youth in the City of Pittsburgh…to the tune of over 2,000 kids without health insurance? If you have insurance, think about what that means for the parents of these uninsured kids. No immunizations. No medicine when colds last too long. No inhalers for kids who have asthma (or no way to detect that they have it).

That’s scary, and as a mom of a kid who went four months without insurance coverage, I know how frustrating it could be. When Arianna was a baby, I was working as a contractor and couldn’t get her coverage under my “plan”. It took months to apply for assistance, only to be told I made too much anyhow. That meant a 3 month old child went until she was 7 months without immunizations or care for her allergies. Yup, I wasn’t being a bad mom, I was literally holding out hope that she wouldn’t get sick or that the doctors were easy on me when it came to paying bills slowly (which they did, but I don’t know that it could have gone on for too long).

Arianna as a 'lil baby

Arianna as a ‘lil baby

It’s sad and scary, but thanks to the Healthy Together campaign, there is a plan to get 100% of Pittsburgh kids covered by medical insurance. And the Healthy Together team has great backers – starting with Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. He’s joined up with Allies for Children, the Consumer Health Coalition, and the Allegheny County Health Department. There has even been a $200,000 grant awarded to the program by the National League of Cities. Check out this video where the Mayor and Pittsburgh parents explain why this is crucial:

A big thank you was delivered to the City leaders and organizations today at the Children’s Museum by MomsRising.org, – the online and on-the-ground organization for moms and everyone who has a mom.

Need insurance for your children or know someone who does? Good news. There is help to get them enrolled right now. Just head over to www.getenrolledpgh.com or call 2-1-1. “A Covered Community is Healthy Together” is one of their mantras, and what a good one to have!


Disclaimer: I was asked to review the item or service above in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Get Active with West PA Pride and UnitedHealthcare

Even in the cold winter weather, Western Pennsylvania is a great place to get out and be active. (And after you indulged in all the deliciousness of yesterday’s food, I am sure you probably are like me and wanting to get out move a little bit, right?) UnitedHealthcare is bringing their campaign, Western PA Pride, to our area just in time to motivate you to get out and do something active in your community.

You know, something like running yesterday’s Turkey Trot in Downtown Pittsburgh (which I didn’t get to do this year due to being on hold with my running game, so let’s celebrate with last year’s photo). Earning your pie Being thankful that you are taking care of yourself is a great reason to run a race like this!

2013 Turkey Trot

UnitedHealthcare’s Western PA Pride campaign is looking for Western PA residents who are being active or healthy in their communities that they love, and they are looking for you. To participate, they are asking you to submit an “activity-inspired photo” of you participating in healthy activities – and there are prizes involved, too (more on that below!). I love this campaign and spent some time yesterday checking out all the awesome entries they already have – a huge shout-out to all of you who love our area and their bodies and lives! Think it’s time for me to get an updated photo of being active and submit it (maybe something like my Ambulance 5k first place walk?)!

Me being active for my community!

Beyond looking for participants in the campaign, UnitedHealthcare is sponsoring several local events to inspire you to get out and doing something good for you and your community. A few options for you are:

  • Bundle Up Telethon for WTAE-TV – December 5
  • Holiday Party at Uniontown Fire Department Social Hall – December 6

You can check out the campaign page (westpapride.com) to find more events near you AND submit your active photo! Prizes that you can win for submitting your photo include:

  • $25 Visa gift card (11 weekly winners)
  • $100 Visa gift card (for photos revolving around events)
  • $400 Visa gift card (1 grand prize winner)

Remember, your photo should be of you (or your family) being active or healthy in your community or of you participating in one of the upcoming events. (Have a picture from yesterday’s Turkey Trot? That counts!)

Take advantage of this slight warm spell and get active this weekend!


(Looking for health insurance during this year’s enrollment period? UnitedHealthcare provides options for Western PA residents to be covered for their medical needs.)

Disclaimer: I was asked to review the item or service above in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

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