Monday, December 29, 2008

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree

you really drive me CrAzY!!

I love decorating for Christmas. Really, really love it. But this year, our tree has almost put me over the edge! I'm sorry to say that I won't be leaving it up until nearly Valentine's Day as usual. When I first put it up back around Thanksgiving, I was stringing lights and got almost all the way to the top (I start at the bottom) when every last strand went out. I messed with it for over an hour before I finally found the problem.

Over the course of the last few weeks, little sections of lights have been going out. One, by one. Forcing me to trace my way back to the source and try to somehow get the strand off without destroying the entire tree. . . And don't even get me started about Avery and her "un-decorating" techniques!

So as much as I love this beautiful symbol of Christmas. . . .

she's comin' down in the morning!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The birthday that almost wasn't!

I'm not usually a last minute, throw-it-together, anything goes kind of gal when it comes to planning birthday parties for my girls. O.k. Well, maybe some things do get done at the last minute, but this is my blog so. . .

Really, though. I usually spend several months planning a theme, looking for the perfect party favors, making decorations. So I have a little bit of mommy guilt that I didn't go "all out" for Miss Avery's third birthday. For one, her birthday is so stinkin' close to Christmas, that it makes it kind of hard. For another, (excuse in case you're keeping track here), Avery was scheduled to have oral surgery on her birthday this year, so I was assuming that she wouldn't really feel up for a party.

But at the last minute we decided we couldn't bring ourselves to put Avery through such a yucky ordeal on her birthday and so we canceled the surgery. Which left us with a birthday girl, and no party.

So what's a mommy and her super six year old side kick to do? We went into party planning fast forward mode, whipped up some cupcakes- chocolate, Avery's favorite, picked up some balloons and party hats, and wa-la! Instant party. And you know what? It was probably one of the most enjoyable birthday's I've spent with my girls. There was no pressure, no stress. Just a beautiful birthday girl, delicious cake, and lots of fun.

Kaylen proudly displaying the gift she hand made for Avery (and wrapped herself:) In case you couldn't tell, it's a jingle bell bracelet, and Avery loves it!

The best part about having a three year old, who is really more of a one year old developmentally is that you get to do the 'smash cake in your face for the first time' every year! At first Avery wasn't sure what we wanted her to do with the cupcake and kept looking at us, like, "Are you serious? You want me to just dig in?"

Smart girl. She wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to eat an entire chocolate cupcake by herself, so she got right to work!

Thank God for cupcakes!
Happy Birthday precious Avery! We love you sooooo much!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

the key to my Hart

Kaylen was scrolling through our blog the other day making sure that there were equal amounts of pictures of her and Avery. There aren't, but she pointed out something else. There are no pictures of Daddy, and nothing written about him. I saw this version of a "tag" on another blog and decided to borrow the idea.

1. Full Name: Britton Nathaniel

2. How long have we been married: 8 and 1/2 years!

3. How long did we date: on and off for EIGHT years!!!! (Four straight years before we were married.) We were together on and off my junior year of high school. We never "dated" my senior year, but couldn't really stay apart either. . . Then we were weren't together my freshman and sophomore years at K-State (Britton was still in high school), but when I was home on the weekends he usually found an excuse to stop by:) Then a few weeks before Britton moved to Manhattan to start school at K-State he "stopped by" to tell me that he had changed his mind, that he wasn't going to college after all! I remember my reply to this ludicrous line of thinking exactly. "Well that's a bummer because now we'll never be together." Long story short, he went. We're together.

4. Who eats the sweets: Well that's a no-brainer. Me. All me.

5. Who said I love you first: Britton. Over the phone on Christmas morning when he was 15-in 1992!!! Do you think he really meant it?

6. Who's Taller: Britton is 6'1" and I'm 5'5" (in heels:)

7.Who sings better: I'm not sure either of us sing that great, but I guess we would both say me?

8. Who is smarter: It depends on what we're talking about. I'm smart in all things reading, writing, and book-related. Britton is a math, number crunching, kind of guy. He knows about cars and sports and guy stuff. I'm more knowledgeable about babies, laundry, and medical stuff.

9. Who does the laundry: Ahhh. Me. Sadly.

10. Who pays the bills: Britton.

11. Who sleeps on the right side of the bed: Britton

12. Who mows the lawn: Britton (I've mowed it twice. In Eight years:)

13. Who cooks dinner: Britton again. Come on people, where are the "Who changes diapers? Who gets up with the baby in the middle of the night? Who knows each child's birth weight, current weight, shoe size, favorite food". . . kinds of questions?

14. Who drives: We both do, but usually Britton

15. Who admits they are wrong: Neither of us, but I am pretty stubborn, so I can sometimes get him to admit he was wrong. (He usually is. :)

16. Who asked who out first. Britton asked me out and I turned him down. Twice. Then he finally manipulated his way into a double date with my best friend and the guy she was wanting to date at the time. (He was two years younger than me. It was pretty uncool at the time!) The rest is history.

17. Who wears the pants: Both of us.

18. What does he do that surprises you? Gets emotional when he talks about Avery.

19. What is your favorite feature on him? His eyes.

20. What is your favorite quality he has? He is the most hands-on, loving and patient father I've ever seen. He love for his girls is so obvious and it melts my heart.

21. Does he have a nickname for you? Leigh (or Lee?)

22.What is his favorite food? Too easy. Spiral cut ham and cheesy potato casserole.

23.What is his favorite sport? To coach? Track. To watch? Football

24.What is your favorite thing to do as a couple? Ha. Since Avery's birth and diagnosis we've had very little "couple time," but we have so many plans and dreams. We love to travel together. Right now those are just short trips to the Ozarks, or to the lake, or for an overnight in Kansas City (like this New Year's Eve!), but we hope to be lying on a beach somewhere on our tenth anniversary next year. We plan to walk hand in hand down the street in Italy, named after my Grandpa's family and kiss under the Eiffel tower. Goofy I know. But those are the shared dreams and plans that get us through the tough times.

25. Does he have any hidden talents? He is an amazingly talented woodworker. He builds beautiful furniture. (Not sure if that's "hidden"?)

26. What do you admire most about him? His work ethic, his dedication to giving anything he commits to 100%, his faith.

27. What is his favorite color? Green or Black? I don't honestly know.

28. How did he propose? It wasn't that romantic or anything. We were on a trip to Branson together and he planned to propose on the patio of restaurant that sits up high on a bluff overlooking the lake, but then our reservations were pushed back, and I talked him into going somewhere else to eat because I was starving, so he just got down on one knee in our hotel room and very nervously (which is funny because we'd been together eight years at that point!) asked me to marry him. I said yes, and the rest is history!

There is so much more to my husband than just these 28 questions. I wish I had the words to explain what he means to me. When I try to explain I fall short, only coming up with the old cliches "the love of my life", "my best friend," and his favorite "the key to my 'Hart'':)

The past two years have been the most difficult years of our lives and they have taken a huge toll on our marriage. For obvious reasons my life and my energy has been focused on keeping Avery alive and making her well. I know that has changed who I am and Britton is married to a different 'Leigh' than he fell in love with. But he is different too, and the most important thing is we are "soul mates" for lack of a better cliche. Regardless of how time and circumstance changes us, our love is the same. I can't imagine my life without him. I can't imagine having gone through the struggles and heartbreak of Avery's illness and surgeries without him. He "carries" me in so many ways. When I am upset or worried, he is the first person I run to. I will never forget the day of Avery's first brain surgery. When the time came to finally hand Avery over to the anesthesiologist, as the weight of her little body left my arms, my knees buckled and I started to go down. But I never hit the ground because Britton was right there to catch me as I fell.

I could go on and on about the one I love forever, but I know eventually the "sappiness" will get to ya! Suffice it to say that the "Hart of the Matter" is that I am truly blessed to be married to my best friend!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Harts

Here's the sneak peak of our fall family pictures that I promised. Our sweet friend and neighbor, Angie, took us out on a warm day a couple of weekends ago to take our family photos. She did an amazing job! She captured some great shots of us that afternoon. This is one of my favorites. . .

Unfortunately, Britton and I couldn't seem to keep our eyes open, so in each and every one of the pictures of all four of us, one or the other of us looks goofy! The girls did fine for the most part. Avery of course, is impossible to "pose," but Angie did take some great pictures of both girls that day, that I love!

Like this one. . .

And this one. . . Avery being Avery. Everywhere we go she has to stoop down and "touch" the ground, or the sidewalk, or the tile. . . . Yeah. It takes us awhile to get from point a to b.

We did a re-take session the next afternoon, when the sun was beginning to set and it was much easier to keep from squinting. Britton's dad snapped some quick pictures of us in the same location and a couple of those turned out fine. Again, it was nearly impossible to get Avery to look at the camera, but I do love the innocent look on her face in this shot, and the rest of us look how I picture us.

I'm so not loving myself in these pictures. They are proof in 'black and white' that I have really packed on the pounds in the last year since we moved here. So I'm jump starting the infamous "New Year's Resolution" early, which will certainly be hard to do around the holidays! But, I can't let Britton out-do me. He has been getting up at five in the morning several days a week and working out! It is already starting to show in his face and his 'tummy':) so I better get moving! Going back to work part time means that I have to dress nicely a few days a week, and that's when reality set in for me. I have a closet full of size fours and sixes that I wore just two years ago- none of them fit now! Yikes!

Getting old is such a bummer!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I have been dying to share her with you, so without further ado, here she is! My first great-niece, baby Emily. Is she not breathtaking or am I biased as usual? Look at that hair!

So how is someone as young as myself a Great-Aunt? Well, its a long story, but I was Aunt-Lisa from the day I was born, as my brother's first child, Wendy, was born just two weeks before me. Have you ever seen Father of the Bride part II? Our story is similar, minus Steve Martin running back and forth between delivery rooms on the day of our births. I don't think my dad or my brother were allowed in either delivery room. . . but I digress. So suffice it to say, I was a late in life surprise (VeRy late, my mom was 45!!) for my parents. Wendy and I share a special bond. We have been through some tough times together and celebrated many special days side by side. She was my Maid of Honor and I was her Matron of Honor. She was the first person to call me the night of Avery's diagnosis and ask "Are you o.k.?" -the question that everyone seemed to be afraid to hear the answer to. We were in the same grade all through school, although they separated us into different classes. I suppose it would have been odd to have an aunt and her niece in the same class?

And that's how on November 14th, I became the proud Great-Aunt to this sweet baby girl. I can't wait to meet her!! I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out who she looks the most like, my niece Wendy, or her handsome husband? For now I'm going to have to say that she looks an awful lot like her daddy, although I see hints of some Croucher in her:)

Here she is, just two weeks old! Doesn't she look like such a little lady?! Perhaps being born at almost nine pounds had soemthing to do with that! So, so sweet.

Love you sweet girl - and your mommy and daddy too!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

She takes my breath away!

I have a love hate relationship with photography. I love looking at beautiful pictures, I hate being the subject of a photograph. I love capturing a memory in a priceless photo, I hate being stuck behind a camera. I am very blessed that I have many dear friends who are talented photographers. Many of the pictures that I post on this blog are taken by someone other than me, because while I want to remember special events such as birthdays and holidays, and the simple joys of playing in the park or a beautiful sunset, there’s something about the pressure of capturing the “perfect picture” that, for me, takes away from just enjoying the moment. I know this isn’t the case for many people. Taking pictures doesn’t stress them out, and they can just snap away, all the while ‘living in the moment.’ I have never been able to master this talent, and so, fortunately I usually have someone close by to capture it all “on film.” (Does anyone actually use film anymore?)

So today, when I slipped this hat and scarf on Avery to see if they would fit, I was instantly faced with a dilemma. She looked sooooo stinkin’ cute in her little outfit, I felt the need to take a picture. But it was also nearly sixty degrees and sunny outside this afternoon, a rare treat for the end of November in Kansas. I wanted to go out back with Avery and spend the rest of our afternoon swinging, crunching in our leaf piles before they blow away, and just soaking in such a perfect day. I decided to grab the camera, “just in case,” and I am so glad I did.

Unlike my friends who “get” their cameras, I know nothing about composition, or lighting, or the settings on my camera. I simply point and shoot and hope for the best. My dear friend, Bethany, is probably cringing as she reads this. . . The best thing about this reckless photography is that I have no expectations and so I am rarely disappointed, but more often, pleasantly surprised when I find that I have actually captured the essence of why I was taking the picture in the first place.

These pictures of Avery are priceless to me because they are are true Avery- they capture her ornery spirit, her feistiness and her sweet, gentle, life-loving little soul.

And that is why I love them.

Not because of their quality. Not because of their composition.

Because of the sweet little girl in each of these pictures.

So here you go. As my photographer friends would say they are SOTC (that's straight out of the camera), feel free dear Photoshop gurus to edit away. (I would be more than happy to email you an original. Hint, hint.) I was too eager to share them to take time and edit.

I’ll warn you, there are a ton! I got a little carried away, so if you are short on time be sure and check out the last few. . . they are my favorites!

Look very closely. What's wrong with this picture? See that sweet piggie toe sticking out? A hat and scarf and bare feet? Yeah. It wasn't really hat weather today. . .

I absolutely love this one. It's the calm before the storm. It's sweet innocence. It's the beginning of the end because the fact that Avery is wearing a hat has not escaped her, she's just been too busy playing until now to take care of business.

Hah! Success! What is so cute about this hat?

Oh, wait. What's this? Why on earth do I have this goofy thing tied around my neck?

Just a little bit farther.

Oh! Almost.

Aggghhhhh! Seriously. Get this thing of of me! And enough with the pictures already mom!

And finally, my absolute favorite picture from today. This is just so Avery. When I look at this picture I see the orneriness in her eyes, and the sweetness that is Avery in her little half smile.

O.k. I seriously have to stop there! Are you on Avery overload? There are more where these came from my friends, so my intention is to add a few more, plus a sneak peak of our family photo shoot, later this week!

So out of curiousity, which one is your favorite?

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Can I Have this Dance?

Today I bought this. . .

Today I bought this CD because we took Kaylen to see High School Musical 3 last weekend and she loved it!! Today I bought this because I knew that when Kaylen saw it sitting next to her CD player after school she would squeal and run to me saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you. . . " Today I bought this because I love to surprise my first born and spoil her a little bit, because I can. Today I bought this because even though Christmas music was playing in the background as I tossed it in my cart, it's a long time until Dec. 25th.

It had nothing to do with me not being able to get this song (out of a teeny-bopper movie no less) out of my head.


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Friday, October 31, 2008

Flashback Friday-Happy Halloween!!

Excitement fills the air this Halloween morning! Kaylen is so excited about Halloween this year that she is about to burst!! I don't remember her being this excited last year, but maybe I've just forgotten. Last year Kaylen wore an adorable witch costume hand made by Grandma, and Avery went as her lucky black cat! (A costume I threw together at the last minute, literally, because Avery had outgrown the Ladybug costume she was supposed to wear!)

When Kaylen first saw Avery in "costume" last year, she exclaimed, "I'm being a cat next year!!" I assumed she would forget, but when we started talking about costumes this fall, sure enough, a black cat was still on the list. Well. . . right behind Hannah Montanna and Sharpay (from High School Musical), I nixed those ideas, and we came up with an adorable girly black cat costume on our own! (A little more involved than Avery's drawn on whiskers and felt ears glued to a headband at 5:00 p.m. on Halloween night!)

Here they are last year!

This afternoon I get to help out with Kaylen's First Grade fall party which I always look forward to! I have Poltergeist Pins (two liter bottles made to look like ghosts for bowling), Halloween Twister, Witches Brew and Cauldron Stew Relay Race (picking up "ingredients" i.e., construction paper cut outs of bats, witches, ghosts, etc. with a straw and blowing them into a witches cauldron), Spider Ring Toss, and Ring around the Pumpkin planned. If we have extra time I also whipped up some Halloween Bingo cards, and have a really fun guessing game called Boo Who? planned. We should be busy, busy, busy, and I know it will be a blast!

As a teacher, I used to dread "party days" because the kids show up in the morning wound for sound, and you have to try to keep them focused until the party at the end of the day. As a mom, I love these days!

Stay tuned for party pics, and this year's costumes!

Have fun tonight and BE SAFE!
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Priceless. . .

An inflatable swimming pool from the clearance aisle at Walmart . . . $1.00 (Seriously. $1.00!)

A bag of one hundred brightly colored balls. . . $9.99

This expression. . .

Priceless. . .

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