A Very Happy Birthday (Party)

Today, we had a very happy birthday party for the Bigs. When you have four kids, four parties are a lot (not just on Mom and Dad’s budget, but also on the guests who get invited). While the Twins are built-in party sharers, we’ve gotten creative with having the Bigs share their days by celebrating both midway between their days – in November. Today was their big day!

We welcomed family and friends into our house and kept it simple this year. Between being busy and trying to lead a debt-free life, simple just made sense. There was no theme, no fancy cake, and not a ton of fussing to get things set up. It just was fun. It felt like I was back to the basics of parties when I was growing up, and frankly felt just right.

Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated Arianna’s 9th and Evan’s 7th birthdays today. We feel so blessed to have had a very happy birthday party and a home full of love and laughs (many that made us laugh ’til we cried!). xoxo

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbXxMP4n097/?taken-by=mrsgregwillis

Lottie Dolls: Birthday Girl Sophia

Disclosure: This post is a collaboration between this blog and Lottie Dolls. We were provided a Birthday Girl Sophia in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are 100% our own.

Tomorrow is a big day – our oldest ‘lil girl will turn nine! We celebrated a ‘lil bit tonight and shared with her a doll this mama is swooning over – the Lottie Dolls Birthday Girl Sophia! She was the perfect addition to Arianna’s doll collection – she already has a Lottie Doll and LOVES her – so both of us spent some time checking out all her cool features.

Lottie Doll

Birthday Girl Sophia is part of the Lottie brand, one created to empower kids to be themselves and engage in imaginative play. They are built proportionate to a nine-year-old child, can stand, and have realistic hair. The best part? They encourage both girls and boys not to grow up too quickly. (If you have to have her, head over to the Lottie Dolls site to find Sophia, Lottie, Finn and more friends!)

Our set came with a fun friend, Biscuit the Beagle, and adorable accessories like a tiny bone and dog bed. Arianna was quick to start imagining how Sophia and Beagle could be best of buds! (Head over here for information on how to purchase Biscuit.)

Our Experience: Birthday Girl Sophia and Biscuit the Beagle

I admit I hung onto Sophia a little longer than I wanted to because she was going to be perfect for Arianna’s birthday. I think it was worth the wait. Arianna loves realistic dolls (Lottie Dolls have flexible limbs – that’s one of the things she looks for in dolls), especially ones that have a theme or story. Sophia fits the bill perfectly. And the accessories that come in the Lottie Dolls Pets make for tons of imaginative play, too!

Check out this video to watch Arianna unbox Sophia and Biscuit. Listen for what I love most – Arianna just might agree with me! =)

Isn’t she just adorable? I’m thinking that Sophia (+ friends like Biscuit and other Lottie Dolls) are going to be a hit this holiday season…and top the birthday girl gift lists!

(PRO MOM TIP: Get Sophia now and keep her on hand for those surprise birthday party invites that sneak into your kids’ backpacks!)

If you’re in love like we are, join Club Lottie and follow Lottie on Facebook and Twitter! You can purchase any doll from the Lottie Dolls collection online at lottie.com.

Win Your Own Birthday Girl Sophia and Biscuit!

We love to spoil our fans and are sure you’ll love having a Sophia and Biscuit of your own! Enter our giveaway which is open to US Residents 18+ and ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday, October 15. Good luck!

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Like Statues

Arianna and Evan have always loved visits to the Pittsburgh Zoo. On a recent trip, they acted just like statues as part of their journey through what’s become “the norm” for them.


If you ever have the chance to experience the zoo on a cloudy afternoon, late in the day – do it! We were there the day they brought the baby elephant out to public but just an hour after they’d closed up the elephant house to visitors. It was like a ghost town and we got to slowly mingle and truly enjoy our favorite parts of the park up until closing time.

Last Day of School 2017

This one is coming to you a month late, but The Bigs last day of school photos have to make it to the blog at some point! It’s incredible to take a look at how much has changed in a year.

last day of school

Seriously, though. And in the month since that photo was taken (their last day was May 31), they’ve both changed even more. (For instance, Evan has way less hair and I swear Arianna has grown a foot.)

Arianna completed second grade and fully lives the tween life (the struggle of being the oldest and not wanting to do “baby” stuff anymore is getting to be tough!). Let’s take a close up look at her first day of school photo from this year and then I’m sure you’ll see what we are faced with – the fact that we are raising a smart and gorgeous girl who is going to move mountains!

That there is a baby compared to her “now” photo! Someone hold me.

And then there is Evan. He excelled in kindergarten and is probably able to tell you how many days until school starts again. This boy loves learning and exploring – we can’t blame him – so school comes naturally easy for him, too.

Sure, keeping these two busy for the summer hasn’t been the easiest, but it sure is enjoyable having them home to fill the house with laughs and fun. Their little sisters are going to miss them when school starts next month, that’s for sure!

How are your kids doing this summer? How about mom and dad? 

Stitches

A summer wouldn’t be a summer without a trip for a slushy, right? Especially when that slushy is accompanied by stitches and a trip to the ER.

On Tuesday (gosh, it now seems years ago), this was the scene (I’m sparing you the gory one).

After a fall, Arianna ended up with nine stitches in the underside of her chin. She is so brave, sitting still on the bed while the doctors stitched her up. She tried to see under her chin to watch what they were doing, but you know that doesn’t work!

It meant missing her last softball games, but she seemed okay with it because that slushy though. For the next week she has to keep her face dry. That’s a challenge with how much she loves to swim at the Y for lunch!

Arianna says thanks for all the prayers and love she’s felt over the last few days. xoxo

Not an Only Child

This girl is blessed. She’s blessed because she is not an only child. Although there are plenty of other things that make her blessed, I’m going to stop and focus in on this fact for a few minutes. 

not an only child

This weekend, Greg and Evan are away camping with the Rangers. As a mom, I really should have been excited to have a weekend with just my girls. The honest truth is that I was scared.

No, I wasn’t scared of being outnumbered (which includes two two-year-olds). I wasn’t scared of someone breaking in or creeping on the house. I wasn’t scared of someone getting sick and me having to clean it up (one of my worst mom-qualities).

I was scared of Arianna being alone without her brother. 

Those two are such a pair. They might fight like cats and  dogs, but they are truly a pair. Perhaps not gifted as built-in besties like Ava and Isla, but one would think The Bigs are more the twins than The Twins are.

Without Evan, Arianna faced the need for constant attention. She was bored. She was tired (but wouldn’t nap or sleep because SCARED). She was hungry. She was not hungry. She was clingy. I knew this is what I was in for, but I didn’t really prepare myself.

Driving to work on Friday, I remembered that the Y had Kids Club, so I registered her. When I got home, she was mad that I had. Registering meant she was going and going meant she needed to take a swim test that she knew she wouldn’t pass. Not passing meant she was going to have to stick in the kiddie pool without her brother. Deep down, she finally admitted that taking the test was the thing because she was scared. I told her to just admit she couldn’t pass and that she wanted to stick in the kiddie pool. It worked, and I got an hour and a half to power clean the toy room while the girls played in the living room. Mom win.

On Saturday, she woke with the sun and had to entertain herself until I was ready to get out of bed. When I finally did, I found her in the bed with me (sneaky chick!). We worked on breakfast together then headed off to softball practice.

The afternoon was an impromptu visit to a Lularoe fundraiser so I could pick up something from a friend and I left with an unexpected gift from another. We dropped supplies (blankets) off to Greg and Evan and she clearly wanted to stay. But little brother was in the boy zone and no girls allowed was heard loud and clear. Before we left, he did give her some candy, to which she noted was a nice thing.

But the rest of the weekend has been everything I was afraid of. It was like she was magnetized to me. I’ve yet to use the restroom alone. I’ve been paying bills and trying to blog and she’s right beside me. I only got to write this post because I told her it was time to shower before church.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, all of them. But Arianna is definitely blessed that she is not an only child. Especially blessed with her little brother, her partner in crime. And she, like me, is counting down the hours until he gets home.

Maybe I should have just got her the darn fidget spinner. 😉

 

What to Do When Mom Won’t Buy You a Fidget Spinner

(*articles may contain affiliate links*) Hey, guys. It’s Arianna. Today I’m going to offer up some ideas on what to do when mom won’t buy you a fidget spinner. Trust me, I know from experience. My mom won’t put one in our Amazon shopping cart. The struggle is real.

“A lot of people have them,” Evan says. “Some of the fidget spinners spin for a long, long time and that’s why I want one.”

If you’re like us, and don’t have a fidget spinner, you will have to come up with something else to do instead. Here are my suggestions!

What to Do When Mom Won’t Buy You a Fidget Spinner

Balls. You can use them like they are a fidget spinner. So like you twist it on the carpet and you can throw it up and down. It kind of looks like it when it twirls around, especially if it is different colors like a baseball or softball. If it’s just like a plain color like red, whenever you throw it, it looks like a fidget spinner that is one color.

Help put away the groceries. It will keep your mind off spending money on toys and remind you that mom and dad just spent money to fill your hungry tummy!

Make a fake computer. You can fold a piece of paper in half and draw on it so it looks like mom’s laptop and pretend to blog along beside her.

Play with your brother and sisters. You can draw pictures with them, fix their guitar, play monkey in the middle, or watch some Sesame Street.

Clean your room. Who knows. You might find something else really cool that you forgot about and you can play with that instead.

Not beg and complain. Fidget spinners are a fad! Soon enough, you will find something else to make you happy. Don’t make mom feel like she is messing up the mom thing by not buying everything you want. Give her a hug and be good!

If you don’t know about fidget spinners, here are some facts:

  • They are two or three sided and can have a color on each side.
  • You can spin it with your thumb or fingers, or even spin it on your head.
  • You can use them to relieve stress and help you pay attention.

If you have a cool mom, she can head over to Amazon and get you one like this galaxy fidget spinner that I really, really, really want (sorry for begging, Mom!). Maybe if you do some chores, you’ll end up with a surprise!

Ari’s Theme Park Friend

Greg and I are so proud of our oldest. She keeps growing up in ways that we don’t explicitly teach her, ways that she just gets from being with us.

Like when we were at the theme park in Wisconsin. Greg and I were busy trying to keep the twins entertained and ensuring Evan wasn’t throwing up everywhere (he had a stomach bug a few days before, we were overly cautious for good reason). Arianna took matters of having fun into her own hands and made a new friend.

The girls played and played until the park closed down, running back and forth between all the rides in the (indoor) theme park then checking in with us every so often. Like, we didn’t have to tell her to make sure we knew where she was, she just did it. This filled up my mama heart with joy.

As moms, we often worry that we aren’t doing the right thing. We get anxious over wondering what someone is going to say because you are letting your kid run around an enclosed theme park and ride rides without you being there riding the bench to be sure everything was okay. We worry that we haven’t taught them to be kind. We worry that we aren’t doing enough.

But then one day, your kids will wake up and surprise the heck out of you just like mine did. She acted grown up but not disrespectful. She was kind and attentive, far less shy than I have come to expect. She blew me away with her attitude and energy that day.

And she gave me hope that the next generation will be able to see beyond the things that matter not at all and see the things that matter most. Love and kindness.

Thank you, Arianna, for making a new friend. Your Mama and Daddy are so proud.

A Thankful Birthday

Today we celebrated The Bigs, a thankful birthday party filled with food, fun, and family. Just the way we like it.

arievan2016

With an October birthday for Arianna and a December birthday for Evan, we try to go with the middle road and celebrate both in November. While it’s confusing for Evan in December, it’s a nice way to separate his day from the holiday hustle and bustle.

Arianna turned 8 on October 5 and Evan will be 6 on December 17. 

 

It was a day filled with food – the highlight of which was this cake (and cake pops) from Tasty Bakery, an adorable cake shop in Pittsburgh. I totally contemplated running away, just me and the cake because it was so delicious. And the icing was incredible and edible. I’m really blown away by Beverly’s talent.

cake shop pittsburgh

The day was fun, full of laughs (especially comparing Ava to Aunt Wink) and smiles. The kids got some neat gifts and are thankful for their piggy bank builds (because they hope to put it toward a Disney trip with their new suitcases – they’ve been begging since I got home and getting new suitcases upped the ante). Isla made us all giggle with her selfies that kept our family photo from being pinterest perfect but made it this is us perfect.

willisnovember2016

And of course, there was family. The glue that holds us together. If you peek in the top left of the photo above, you’ll see the kids four years ago. My, how they’ve grown in front of our eyes. Knowing they’ve grown up with all four of their grandparents, several great aunts and uncles, and uncles and aunts who are so very much part of their lives warms my heart. It’s truly a very thankful birthday, indeed. Thank you to everyone who was part of today being so special. Love you all lots! xoxo