Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cheers to the Week, Random Bits of Christmas Edition

Happy Less-Than-Two-Weeks-Til-Christmas, friends! Isn't that nuts?! Every year, I do my best to try not to overwhelm my schedule, not get overly-stressed by all things holiday, and focus on the enjoyment and actual meaning of CHRISTmas. But. I pretty much always fail at most of those. 'Tis the season, right?! 

Regardless, I absolutely love this time of year. I am a stickler for family traditions, and December is chock full of them! So, a few things we've been saying CHEERS to over the last week, as Christmas approaches:

Meeting Santa. I have to start with, what will undoubtedly be, one of my favorite memories of the 2017 Christmas season. Last week, we got the kiddos all fancied up and headed off to see Santa. We arrived - no line! - which gave me a quick minute to chat with Santa before the kids went over to visit with him. I shared with him that we've had our sweet Bella for just over four months and that we didn't want to traumatize her by having her suddenly forced on a stranger's lap (because #attachment). I was starting to blabber on about how maybe we should just have him stand behind his chair for the photo with the kiddos, keeping her pretty much oblivious to this stranger's Santa's presence while cheesing for the annual Santa photo. But then, Santa interrupted me. "Where is she from?" he asked. "China," I said. "Inner Mongolia, specifically." And then, he turned to our Bella, who was in her Daddy's arms, and started talking to her in Mandarin. She stared at him, totally in awe, as I held back tears. "How Santa?" I asked him. "How do you know how to speak Chinese?" With a twinkle in his eye, he responded, "Because I'm Santa." I'll never forget it.

 Santa success!

 My girls.

My boys.

Off to Aiken. We spent last weekend with my hub's "side" of the family and had such a lovely, relaxing weekend celebrating Christmas together. Aside from a quick, 20-minute paths-crossing during Thanksgiving, my kiddos hadn't seem some of their cousins for a whole year, and they were all so clearly ecstatic to be together again! I swear, I pretty much saw my kids when we arrived on Friday and then again when we left on Sunday. They just had with their cousins! I have such wonderful, vivid memories of playing with my cousins at my grandparents' houses, and I love getting to see my own children living this out. It was such a special weekend, and we definitely have several new, special memories tucked away, especially since this is all brand new to our beautiful Bella girl. <3 

 The kids loved putting on "shows" for all of us grown-ups

 Singing a few carols before opening gifts Saturday morning. Clearly, Banks was into it big time ;)

 Snuggles with Pop

 Reading about Jesus' birth before opening gifts - a tradition we love!

 Someone loved her gifts!

 Someone else did, too!

 Chats with Aunt Amanda

 Hot chocolate party time - another favorite tradition!

 Bella's first ever hot chocolate <3 She was a fan ;) 

 So was Rals! :)

 Snuggles with Aunt Chrissy

 Three sweet boys, playing Banks' new football board game

 Snuggles with Momma <3

 Nana and Pop and their nine grands

 Last snuggles with Nana before we hit the road!

Until next time!

Nutcracker. One of my favorite holiday traditions is taking Raleigh to Columbia City Ballet's Nutcracker each year, with both of her grandmothers joining us. It is just so special. This was our fourth year, and I swear it gets more beautiful every year. I was in tears as it ended. <3 Unfortunately, our Nana couldn't make it at the very last minute, but it just means we are already looking forward to next year. And our Bella isn't quite ready for the show, but when she is, it will be a special, special day when we get to add her to the tradition. <3 

 Our fourth year and just as excited as the first!

 My big girl, who insisted on wearing her "Clara dress" (a Christmas gift she requested last year :))

 Raleigh and Bammy <3

 Every year, she gets to choose a Nutcracker/figurine to add to her collection. This year's matched her perfectly, right down to the blonde curls!



Home decor. We have decked our halls and are feeling festive. A quick peek at some of our indoor and outdoor decor:

I cannot describe how amazing it feels to see SIX stockings on our mantle this year!!!

All of our Christmas cards from years past :) 

And all of our Santa photos from year's past, from 2009 to 2017!

Outdoor decor, courtesy of my hub

Modern medicine. 'Tis the season for all things festive, fa la la la la, but not.the.bugs. Ugh! Y'all! We just got over strep, and the worst sinus infection of my life, only to have the stomach bug hit our house! Praise the Lord, the only victims so far are Banks and Raleigh. They were out of school on Monday but were able to go back on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the rest of us were chugging grape juice, bathing in Lysol, and (I was) downing activated charcoal pills like it was my job. The rest of us aren't going down without a fight! Fingers and toes crossed for good health!

Upcoming fun. Just like the rest of y'all, the next couple weeks will be filled with school programs and dance showcases and pajama parties and elementary school feasts and preschool celebrations - and this Lu Crew can't wait! I know it makes things busier, but man, is it fun! 

Holiday laughs. If you know my Harrison, you know he is the most loveable, mischevious, sneaky little fella there ever was. ;) The kiddo loves to entertain and loves to cause mischief and is really keeping my hub and I on our toes lately - in both fun-loving and reeeeeeeeally challenging ways. But. We adore our littlest buddy, even when he, say, takes our address stamp to the rest of the holiday cards (and books of stamps) we have yet to send. So. If you haven't received our card yet this year, I am so sorry to say it is now in my trashcan. Next year is a new year (one where I will hide my address stamp). For now, please accept both my apologies and this virtual holiday card as we wish you the jolliest Christmas around, from my family to yours:

Have a great week, friends! Ho, Ho, Hope yours is great! ;) 



Thursday, December 7, 2017

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...the time has come for this fun blog post that I write each year about some of my favorite things, in case you're in need for some fun, outside-the-box gift ideas! There's a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but hopefully all are a lot helpful! :) Here we go!

Face Halo pads. I first saw these when one of my new favorite bloggers raved about them. And then, I was so excited that it was one of the five favorite things I received during this year's "My Favorite Things" party I attended with my girlfriends. These face pads are AMAZING! They require only water and do an incredible job of removing all your make-up (my hub was so pumped I got these: "No more mascara all over our white towels!" he cheered). They are reusable for up to 200 washes and are made with non-toxic microfiber. They are sold in packs of three, so you can divvy them up amongst your girlfriends if you're looking for a fun, reasonably priced gift!

R and F. I mean, I have to give myself a shameless plug every now and again, don't I? Especially since I avoid social media advertizing at all costs. But seriously, if you are interested in this Rodan + Fields stuff that has been everywhere the last couple years, feel free to reach out! Ask any of my customers - I will not BS you on products I don't think work (because I honestly don't love ever R+F product). BUT. There are some I absolutely LOVE (I'm looking at you, LashBoost. It is MAGICAL, y'all), and I am happy to chat more about it. Hook a momma up while helping yourself to age backwards, achieve enviable lashes (no more expensive mascara!), and erase those dark, under-eye circles all of us tired mommas loath! ;)  

Lipsense. Yes, you guys. I know, I know. Lipsense is the new Rodan + Fields when it comes to social media takeover. BUT, when one of my high school besties sent me some to try (because the shade is called "Bella" and she wanted me to have it <3), I was immediately S.O.L.D. after the first use! Here's the thing: you need to buy the kit when you buy your first color. This includes a lip color, a gloss, and the remover, which you apply if you screw up when putting on the color and/or at the end of the day, when you need to remove the color. However, from then after, you just buy any single lip color you like. Y'all this stuff works. It doesn't move from my lips all day! And I just re-apply the clear gloss during the day as needed to keep my lips feeling soft and looking glossy. Now, I can kiss my babies' cheeks 8,567 times per day without covering them with color. AND these would make a superb stocking stuffer, don't ya think? My friend Lindsay has the coolest Facebook page where she shares the cutest videos and photos showcasing various colors and application techniques. Check her out if you're interested in giving this Lipsense stuff a try!

Barre3. You guys know I love, love, love me some barre, and go to classes any chance I get. The last couple years, I was a Pure Barre enthusiast, and I still am! I love the classes, I love the lifting, toning, and burning, I love the staff! It is an awesome workout! But, since bringing home Bella, I have switched over to a new studio that recently opened nearby, called Barre3. Barre3 is similar to Pure Barre in some ways and different in others. One thing it does offer is free childcare, which is exactly what this momma of four needs these days if I want to have any chance of working out, especially on those days my hub is traveling or has meetings. Anywho. A gift certificate to a barre studio would be a super fun gift - maybe a great way for you and your best girlfriend to kick off the new year on a healthy foot? Health - it's the gift that keeps on giving. ;) 

Sip by Swell bottles. This was what I gifted my girlfriends as my "favorite thing" for our party over the weekend. The reason was three-fold: (1) I love drinking water and know how important it is for our health; (2) I love a good, cute water bottle you can tote everywhere; (3) I promised to monogram each of the bottles for the five ladies who ended up with one (thanks to my trusty, Silhouette, which is one of my favorite gifts I have ever received), because this Southern momma loves a good monogram. Target has some really pretty rose gold ones right now as well as tons of other solid color and patterned options! 

Simply To Impress. Meet the stationary brand I will now be using for every holiday card and monogrammed stationary I purchase from here on out. I stumbled upon this brand when looking for something different than the usual suspects (i.e., Minted; Tiny Prints; etc.) for our Christmas cards this year and am now obsessed - with their options, with the quality, with the fast shipping, with the customer service. I am sold! Check this company out if you're looking for pretty stationary as a gift (or if you have yet to order your holiday cards). You will not be disappointed!

Becca Under Eye Brightening Concealer. As a tired momma, I am always on the hunt for a great under-eye concealer to hide my dark circles. Recently, one of my favorite bloggers mentioned this brightening concealer, one that several makeup artists swore by and, well, now I do, too! This stuff is amazing!!! And I love that it gives this pretty, bright, dewy look once applied; at least I can look awake and rejuvenated, even if I don't feel it. ;) 

Fab Fit Fun. I have mentioned this in a recent post but wanted to mention it again. This would be an AWESOME gift for a sister, momma, or friend. FabFitFun sends out four boxes a year, each with different seasonal items that range from accessories to make-up and so much more. I am currently (impatiently) waiting for my second box to arrive, and I can't wait to see what goodies await! At least give it a try and see what you think! Use this code and let me know when your box arrives:

Pretty scarves. I love, love, love me some pretty scarves - comfy, cute, and functional! And I must say, Old Navy is knocking it out of the park with the scarves this season! They have so many cute patterns. Spoiler alert: this is what I am gifting each of Bella's therapists, along with another little yummy surprise. These would be great gifts for so many women in your lives! I snapped a quick pic yesterday to show you one of my current favorite patterns:

And that's all she wrote, folks! I'm sure the second I hit "Publish" on this post I'll think of 108 other ideas, but for now, I leave you with these. Happy shopping, friends! 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cheers to the Week, Hello December Edition

I decided to forego my typical Friday CHEERS post last week since that was the day of our 4 months post-Gotcha Day update; so, I am starting out this week by saying CHEERS to a few things I didn't get to share last week:  

Amelia Island. One thing I am most definitely cheers-ing today is that my hub and I got to sneak away, down to Amelia Island in Florida, along with 17 other couples from our neighborhood for a super duper fun weekend! The trip was planned back in the summer, and at that time, we were a "maybe," given that we didn't know how well Bella would be doing by this point. Eventually, we crossed our fingers, paid for our trip, and hoped for the best. And we're so glad we did! Bella, and her three big sibs, had a GREAT weekend with their Nana and Pop, who so very kindly took care of the kiddos from bright and early Friday morning until last night.
We boarded a big bus at 8:30 am sharp Friday morning, and away we went! The bus ride down was a BLAST! Lunch and bevs, music and dancing, and plenty of time to catch up with our friends, sans kiddo interruptions. It was great! (Note: I won't share *all* the photos from the trip because some just shouldn't be made public :), BUT I have included a few of my favorites)

A quick pit stop en route...
If only I could share the pics/videos from this ride... :0 :)

We arrived to the beautiful Ritz and quickly freshened up before meeting for happy hour. One thing that I loved was all of the beautiful Christmas decor around the hotel, both inside and outside. Not only that, there were frequently live musicians playing Christmas music in the bars and restaurants, and Christmas music playing softly throughout the hotel. Just lovely!

View from our room
Photo cred to my friend, Julie. <3
A boat, made entirely of gingerbread, in the lobby
Happy Hour bunch!

Anywho, after Happy Hour, we all got all fancied up and went to dinner at this amazing restauarant, Salt, that was in the hotel. We were divided up with six couples per table (by random draw), and it was so fun and SO delicious. I’ll be dreaming about that meal for years.

On Saturday morning, I was able to sneak in a quick run on the beach before heading to one of the hotel conference rooms with the rest of the girls, where we had our “My Favorite Things” party. We do this party each year, it’s just that this year, we were able to do it at Amelia. This is one of my favorite parties of the year, and I left with five awesome gifts (more on that in a future post). 

That afternoon, everyone went their separate ways for various fun activities - some hit the spa, some played golf, some fished, some hit the beach, and some (me and eight other friends!) went into (the most adorable!) town for some shopping and lunch! 

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel. I freshened up, changed into my Clemson orange, and headed to the hotel bar for the rest of the day to first, support our Auburn fans as their team played (womp woooomp), and then to cheer on our Tigers and watch as they became ACC Champs. Yahoo! 

Sunday morning, my hub and I grabbed a quick but yummy breakfast and walked on the beach before loading back up for the (much quieter, less rambunctious) ;) ride home, during which I was writing all of this. Amelia Island, thank you for the wonderful memories with wonderful friends!!

Nana and Pop. The only reason we were able to sneak away for the weekend was because our awesome Nana an Pop took care of our Lu Crew  over the weekend! This was our first time leaving Bella overnight and....she did GREAT! She did so, so well, and we were so, so proud (and so, so thankful!). Aside from Banks’ first basketball game on Saturday, they were able to just hang out and have fun!

Goldy. Our beloved Elf on the Shelf, Gold E. Locks (aka Goldy) made his return on December 1st, as he always done! And as I've done in years past, I will be sharing each of his daily antics in a post at the end of the month. If you are looking for elf ideas before then, #ittakesavillage, pop over to my Instagram feed and you'll see the ideas I post each day. :) 

Antibiotics. I am saying cheers to antibiotics because they helped Harrison feel so much better, so very quickly, after he came down with strep last Tuesday. And then, they quickly cured Banks and Raleigh after they, too, came down with strep the following day.  I am also thankful for the Lysol and Clorox blanket my hub covered our house in to try and protect the rest of us from the sickness. We also called a 911 to our cleaning lady. She usually comes once a month but I asked if she could come for an emergency sanitization cleaning session to rid our house of any pesky germs before Nana and Pop arrived. She's the best! 

Clemson. Those who aren’t Clemson fans may not understand how amazing the last few years of football have been for us. For as long as I can remember, like back to the early 80s, we have always been a middle-of-the-road kind of team, some years better than others, many years, worse, but never, ever great. But then, Dabo Swinney became our coach and brought with him his strong faith and compassionate heart, which have been amazing to witness. He always gives the glory to God. Anywho, after Saturday’s win, we are now ranked #1 and headed back to the college football playoffs for the third time in as many years. This is so big for those of us who bleedeth orange. I spent my college years cheering loud and proud on the football sidelines as a Rally Cat, and yet, our time just didn't come. Until recently. After a loooong drought, we've finally had some really fun years of success. So, while some are tired of hearing about Clemson over the last few years, we are thankful for the ride we have been able to finally enjoy after years of football mediocrity, especially given the strong faith our coach and players display - it is such an amazing forum they've been able to use to share their faith. So, with that being said, I now say: GO TIGERS! I'll unabashedly enjoy every moment of this ride while it lasts. Next up: Let’s take down Bama, again, on January 1st, 2018, as the #1 seed in the CFB playoffs. The Clemson faithful are ready!

And that’s all I’ve got! I hope December is treating everyone well so far! Be back soon with some seasonal fun. :)