Monday, January 22, 2018

Our Year at Disney!

If you follow along on our Instagram account or you know us in real life, you've probably noticed that we've spent an awful lot of time at Disney World this year. A LOT. After Christmas last year, we took some money that we'd been saving and purchased four annual passes for our family to try it for a year. A lot of thought went into this decision for us. First, we I knew that we wanted to go back to WDW in 2017. We also knew that, for us, it was only a 4 hour drive to Orlando. It's also just 2 hours from where we stay at the beach and we wanted to try day-tripping it from there. I had the opportunity to go on a girls' trip this year in addition to our family trip. And my kiddos are the PERFECT ages for it. SO. Just before New Year's Eve last year, I hopped online and purchased our passes. I'm going to share a series of posts with you about our trips AND what we learned while Disney-ing for a full year. Our passes were 13 months so we walked into the park on January 14, 2017 and they expire on February 14, 2018. We went into it thinking we'd take several trips down, but wound up going WAY more than we planned. Are we renewing? No. I'll tell you why in a later post. Did we have the best time? For the most part, yes! Was it magical? Some of it! I can't wait to share everything!

SO...first things first. Do you have QUESTIONS for me? About Disney? About trip planning? About annual passes? I would love to answer your specific questions! Tell me what you want to know!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


We added a new family member last week and the boys are just over the moon about him! We'd like you to meet Hank, our new baby boy!

The boys have begged and begged and begged for a dog all year long. In fact, James asked Santa for one last year (about 3 days before Christmas - and that was the first time ever!). Santa told James that a dog was a BIG responsibility and he needed to be sure he was ready for that commitment. He never told him no, but it was such a sweet conversation and I'll be forever thankful that he had that conversation with him.

So the boys asked about a puppy all year long. Our yard isn't fenced in and we've intended to fence it since we moved in, but other things have taken priority over that and we've just not had it done. But this summer, Scout (my 11 year old lab who lives at Grandmama's house - because they have a fenced in yard {and a playmate that she won't leave!}) got hurt and wound up having to have about 10 stitches and a drain. She couldn't go outside (except to potty) for two weeks so she came to our house and lived in the dining room in her crate. The boys LOVED. IT. They were so helpful. I literally didn't lift a finger. If she needed to go out, they walked her. They helped feed and water her. They followed her around and wiped up the floor where the drain dripped. They played with her and loved on her. We were so very surprised!  So when they continued to ask for a puppy (even more after Scout went back to Grandmama's), we began listening.

Every Christmas list James and Will have made this year had DOG at the top. James' list has pretty much been - 1. Dog, 2. XBOX One. Will's has pretty much been - 1. Dog, 2. Dirt bike. (#nothappening) Eddie and I went to Columbus a few weeks ago for his office Christmas party and on the way I brought up possibly giving them a puppy for Christmas or at least telling them that we would begin looking for one. He agreed and the search began. We started by looking in shelters, but puppies are HARD to find in a shelter. I think they get snatched up quickly OR you have to go through a foster home and they're just hard to track down (in my experience). We were completely open to adopting a puppy, but we had a hard time finding anything. 

We've always had pound puppies or dogs that friends had who were mixes. However, one of my teachers at school texted me one day that they had beagles and had one left from their most recent litter. Beagles? What??? No, we are a lab family. That's pretty much all we've ever had. And we're a black lab family at that. HA! A beagle wasn't even on our radar! I immediately texted another friend who had a beagle when we were very young and just asked if they'd had more and what their experience with them was. She responded very quickly that they've had SEVERAL beagles and that they LOVE them. She said her mom has always described them as a nose with four legs because they are hounds, but that they are very sweet and loyal and the perfect size for kids.

The Wednesday after that weekend we went to see this beagle baby and he was PRECIOUS. I honestly didn't expect to like him as much as I did. We played with him for a few minutes, asked some questions, and then went home to think about it. I let her know the next day that we did want him, but that we couldn't pick him up until December 17th, which was 10 more days. We wanted to give him to the boys the week they were out for Christmas so that he could get used to his new home while we were there instead of having to leave him from the beginning in a crate all day long. We also had our first round of Christmas this weekend, so we wanted to wait until after that so that we could enjoy those festivities without being distracted.

So the Sunday after school got out was the day! I distracted the boys while Eddie went and picked him up. We let the boys open a gift that had a stuffed animal beagle and a book about beagles in it. We told them that since we hadn't been able to fence in our yard yet, we would let them practice with the stuffed animal. Will immediately said, "I'm taking him outside to potty!" So out the front door they went to "potty" their "puppies" while the real puppy watched on from the porch, unbeknownst to them. It only took Will a few seconds to notice him and they FREAKED OUT. And so began our newest chapter with a sweet little love named Hank.

So far, so good on the puppy chore front. We've pretty much had someone that is willing to feed, water, and walk him from the first moment he arrived. Sometimes they are too helpful. I'm sure that will wane, but hopefully they'll always take good care of him. The only problem we've had so far is that he has been using the boys as a chew toy. He likes to gnaw and gnaw and gnaw and they don't understand that he's playing and that he's teething. They have also been a little nervous about picking him up. I think it will all work itself out, but I've been reminding them that HE is not to be the master over them. (Hank means boss of the home, or something similar, so I'm hoping that it isn't a prediction of things to come! As bossy as my children are, they don't need a dog telling them what to do!)

As for Hank (whose full, registered name is still being debated but may be Hank Elvis or Prince Hank Earl of Lakewood - because he must have an E middle name like the rest of us), he is doing pretty good so far! He has lots of energy until he doesn't and then he completely passes out. He's the best napper I've ever seen. The potty thing hasn't exactly been worked out yet, but we're hoping he catches on soon. Please. His crate is too big and we know that's an issue so tonight we got a smaller crate for him. He has also been spending a little time in our outdoor pen (it's like a 12x12 fenced in area in our backyard so he's able to move a little more AND we aren't constantly wiping up tee-tee {GLORY!}) when it's been warm(ish) outside. We are also looking into the wireless fence/collar systems that would allow him to be all over our yard but not in the street. OR a fenced in yard. Let me know if you have some pros/cons we haven't thought of.

He weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces at his first vet checkup. Overall, he seems to be a happy, healthy boy! He is mostly black with brown on his nose and legs and white on his chest and paws. He doesn't have the typical "saddle" look that a lot of beagles have, nor does he have a white tip on his tail. The breeder we got him from likes the darker back so that's what they try to achieve. The top of his head and his ears are black and his ears have brown borders around the edges. His head looks to be changing from black to brown, which is sort of fun. (From top to bottom of this post is chronological order so you can tell how much lighter his head has gotten over the past week.) He may look completely different as an adult!

I'm doing a lot of reading up on how to train beagle babies. I want him to be friendly, but also polite. There's not much worse than a dog with bad manners! HA! James said earlier that he isn't a good listener and I told him that Hank fits right in with the other boys in our house.

James, Will, and Hank. Buddies for life!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Eddie, Lauren, James, and Will

Monday, November 27, 2017

Picture Perfect!

I do this to myself every year. Every single year I wait until the last possible minute to take pictures of the boys for Christmas cards, then I get frustrated with them when they won't cooperate. I fret and I fuss over which picture to use. I tell myself every year that next year I'll get a photographer to take them for us. And yet, here we are...

I LOVE to get a Christmas card in the mail, though, and so I go through the rigamarole each year so that I can send mine out to my friends and family. But if you could only see behind the scenes...

Minted makes choosing a Christmas card SO darn easy. I love to use their filters in order to fine-tune my search. I do a little clicking to choose how many photos I want on the front, the size of the card, the sentiment, and even the saying and voila! Narrowed-down choices.

Two years ago I chose one of their postcard designs, and I have to say - SO EASY. I'm leaning toward doing those again this year. No envelopes to stuff, you just address, stamp, and send! And they'll even address them for you!

Minted has a GORGEOUS selection of Christmas cards this year! And TODAY ONLY - use the code CM2017 for a special Cyber Monday price. I hope you find some that you love! And if you do - send one to me!!!

I received a coupon code in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

5-8 Year Old Boys' Gift Guide

I'm joining you today to share my boys' Christmas gift guide. This list is an assortment of things we actually own AND things that are on their wish list this year. If you have a little boy you're shopping for, these are our tried-and-true (for the most part!) items. There's plenty more I could've added to the list, but this is a great start. If you need more suggestions OR if you have things you would've added, comment below!

Just as a reference, Will is a 5.5 year old kindergartener and James is an 8 year old 2nd grader. Will is VERY engineering-minded, outdoorsy, and busy. James is very creative and very, very bright.

1. VTech Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper Smartwatch. Neither of my kids have this watch, but they're both asking Santa for it! They both asked for a smart watch and I didn't want one with a phone on it. This one has video, a camera, games, and is a fitness tracker. This version is currently sold out, but I saw it on Amazon for as low as $31 this week! Keep watching!
2. Illustrated Harry Potter series. James and Will LOVE these and so do I. These are the original Harry Potter books that are BEAUTIFULLY illustrated. I love these so much that I'm about 99% sure I recommended them last year. Currently, there are 3 out (James gets one for his birthday each year because they come out in the fall). Each is just gorgeous.
3. Doodle Books! We have one of these books, but Will has asked for one for Christmas so I've been looking for another. Maybe Santa can help me find one. These either start the drawing for you OR tell you what to draw in an open-ended sort of way. James loves it. (I cannot find a link for these! I have no idea where the first one came from...)
4. Snap Circuits. Both boys love these, but James has spent more time playing. This is a child-friendly circuit board that you have to correctly connect for it to light up, play music, etc. There's a book of instructions but you can also make up your own circuits. 
5. Power Wheels 4-Wheeler. James got this for Christmas from Santa about three years ago and he and Will have driven it for countless hours. The worst thing we did was NOT buy a second one. It's a little bit of a battle. James is between 50-60 pounds and he can still ride it. Ours is blue so we don't have this EXACT model, but I'm sure it's similar. They love it!
6. Classic Legos. So we have a TON of Lego sets that James has worked on over the past two years, but Will's favorite is the set of random Legos that isn't themed. He enjoys making his own creations. No limitations!
7. Hero series. James started this series earlier in the year and TORE through them. I haven't read them, but he was absolutely enthralled. (There's also a movie based on another book by this author - Max.)
8. Fliker Scooter. James rode one of these at a friend's house in September and then he asked for one for his birthday. This is really cool, but I cannot ride it to save my life! I cannot make it go!!! Eddie and the boys like it, though!
9. Osmo Genius Starter Kit. So this is another item that we don't have and haven't tried, but it has rave reviews from some friends. The ONLY reason my boys aren't getting this for Christmas is that we have the ORIGINAL iPad and it isn't compatible because it doesn't have a camera. If we had a new iPad, we'd definitely be getting this. It's awesome educational games that you can connect to your iPad to play.
10. Over-the-Door Basketball Goal. The boys got this about 3 years ago from my cousin and it has brought HOURS of entertainment in our playroom. It is INCREDIBLY well-made and the boys love to play. I will say that it's LOUD. It hasn't left any marks on the door, but it does bang and rattle when they play.
11. Ramona series. Will LOVES these books. Think it's because he can relate to Ramona's accidental-mischief-making? I had several of these as a kid and we've added onto that collection in the past few years. These are so cute. And honestly, ANYTHING Beverly Cleary is a favorite around here!

Hope this helps if you're looking to shop for some little boys in your life!

* affiliate links used *

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trick or Treat!

I probably shouldn't let Thanksgiving come and go before sharing our Halloween, huh? Go back and look at posts in October to see what I've added that you might have missed today!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I'm Not Letting Go!!!

We did a WHOLE LOT of Halloween-ing this year, but we didn't get to everything and since I'm not decorating for Christmas just yet, I'm continuing the fun! I'm popping in here to tell you that I'll be adding some posts to October of things we DID do but that I never shared here so over the next few days, do a little backwards reading to see that. My plan is to take my laptop to gymnastics today and knock out a few posts, but who knows.

Hope y'all are having a happy week!