The Girl is One

It always sounds so cliché, but it’s so true: The first year of a baby’s life goes so quickly! Our youngest turns one tomorrow. We celebrated with a donut-themed brunch over the weekend.

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The bear cake, made by my mother, is a family tradition. I had it for my first birthday, as did my oldest daughter, my cousin (who is also my youngest daughter’s godmother), and my niece. The girl was really quite dainty about eating her cake. She didn’t even get frosting on her shirt!

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We had donuts, cake, and cupcakes. I felt a tiny bit embarrassed because our family dentist who is also a good friend was in attendance with his wife and adorable daughter. I apologized for the sugar overload (while stuffing my face with a sprinkle-covered donut.)

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Happy birthday to our sweet baby girl. You are a cuddly, entertaining, delightful soul. You are a terrific walker and say “mama” and “dada.” You love animals, your sister, and making us laugh. We love you!

 

 

Motherhood Should Come with a Lifetime Supply of Kleenex

She’s three, sitting there bravely waiting to have her ears pierced, and I’m digging frantically in my purse for one of the little packs of Kleenex I can never be without. They’re not for her. I look away, pretending to be interested in a display of tacky pink feather boas, hoping she doesn’t notice my tears.

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Her sister will be one in a week. Again, I am reaching for Kleenex as I put finishing touches on her birthday party plans and wonder where the last year has gone. I can’t help but think that motherhood has made me soft. But in reality, it has also made me incredibly strong because I know I can and would do anything for these two girls.

I kick myself for crying because, well, I’m usually a little embarrassed about it. But, when you think about it, maybe that willingness to be vulnerable and to love deeply is actually one of our super-hero powers as parents. Capes are the new mom-jean.

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I know reaching for those little packs of Kleenex is just part of my life now. I’ll be digging for them at first days of school, graduations, and wedding days, and all of the milestones in between. I wouldn’t change it. Motherhood is such a deep, consuming type of love. We can’t describe it, and we can’t contain it, so sometimes the only thing left to do is to invest in a lifetime supply of little Kleenex packs. We are going to need them, and that’s a good thing, because I really believe most of those tears will be the happy kind.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

Recently my daughters and I were perusing our local library when the head librarian (who we know from church) approached us about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. I was instantly excited! An excuse to make a list and read with my daughters? Count me in.

The 1000 Books Foundation exists to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers and to encourage parent and child bonding through reading. I have read to both my daughters from the time they were tiny babies, but I am excited that this program will help me be more intentional in our reading choices. I think it will also help us carve out more time to read.

1,000 books might sound like a lot, but really, it is fewer than three books a day for a year. In our town, the program began April 1. Books can be repeated as your child requests and still count toward the 1,000. Information on finding a local program, book recommendations, and tips for reading with your child are all available at this link.

To get in the spirit of things, here are six current favorites in our household.

1. Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett. 2. Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz. 3. I Am a Warrior Goddess by Jennifer Adams. 4. Little Women: A Playtime Primer by Jennifer Adams 5. Found by Salina Yoon. 6. Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Product Review: Date Night In

It’s Friday and hopefully that means you have fun plans in store for the weekend. Last Friday night, my husband and I put the girls to bed early and opened up our first-ever Date Night In box. With two little ones at home, it is sometimes hard to squeeze in date time, so I was interested in trying Date Night In. It was so much fun! Our box arrived in the mail and sat on the counter for a few days until Friday rolled around. When we opened it, I was immediately intrigued!

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Each date also includes a menu for an easy-to-prepare, yet scrumptious meal as well as a complete grocery-shopping list. Our menu, courtesy of Marina Makes, included roasted walnut and honey bruschetta and a delicious penne bake with vodka sauce. I’ll definitely be making these again.

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Our date also included supplies and instructions for making yummy Oreo pops to snack on during the date.

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Then it was time to start documenting the “Story of Us.” Each Date Night In box features a unique theme designed to spark conversation. Ours even came with an “old-school” disposable camera.

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Our date required us to answer various questions about each other and our plans for the future. It also featured a photo scavenger hunt. We had a great time making our book and can’t wait to complete it when we get our photos developed this weekend.

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We were surprised how much the activities in the box really prompted us to talk about our wishes for the future and what we are currently so thankful about in our marriage.

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We reminisced about our first few dates and talked about some prospective travel plans, all with our little ones asleep in the other room.

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A Date In Box would be a perfect gift for newlyweds or parents with a new baby. We are definitely going to try another one. I love the element of surprise. I also look forward to trying a Kids Night In or Faith Night In.

For more information or to purchase your own box, visit this link. You can purchase a one-time-only box or a subscription for monthly shipments.

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Note: Date Night In provided a free date box to A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER for this post, but all opinions expressed are truly my own.

 

 

Why We Still Need Feminism

With the thought of today being International Women’s Day, I pulled my old NOW shirt out of the bottom of a dresser drawer last night. It’s wrinkled and worn. In my teens and early twenties feminism was a big part of my life and my identity. As I looked at the old tee from those days, I began to think “is all this feminism and activism still necessary?”

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Then there was my answer: My 10-month-old daughter crawled into the room, babbling low and deep as if to say, yes, Mama, it’s all still necessary.

I am fortunate to be married to a great guy who believes in feminism, is dedicated to equal parenting and household duties, and nurtures every hope and dream of our young daughters because he truly believes men and women are equal. I am also fortunate to work with a group of strong and intelligent women as well as men who respect that strength and intelligence.

Still, sexism drifts into my life, usually in the form of comments.

“You might want to think it over a little more. I mean, you just got back from maternity leave.” –A male (former) coworker in response to a business decision I made.

“You’re so lucky your husband will babysit for you.” –A female acquaintance.

“I won’t set foot in that church because women shouldn’t be pastors.” –A male community member.

Occasional sexist comments, while inappropriate and frustrating, are nothing compared to the vicious sexism and misogyny taking place in many places around our world. According to the United Nations, globally, more than 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Here at home and throughout the world, we owe it to our daughters to keep gender equality at the forefront. Feminism has a place in our daily lives, even when our NOW shirts are yellowed, tattered, and shoved in a drawer. Feminism isn’t a shirt, or a placard, or a loud angry mob with megaphones.

We can choose to stand up against inappropriate behavior targeting people of all shapes, colors, genders, and beliefs. We can choose to support one another instead of tearing one another down. We can choose to raise strong, confident girls, and fair, respectful boys. That’s feminism, my friends, and we still need it.

A Tour of Hillcrest Estate

I have an amazing treat for you all today! I caught wind of the fact that the talented Tarin of Tayhart Photography had gotten the opportunity to stay in Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ renovated vacation rental. The spread of this gorgeous estate in the winter issue of Magnolia magazine left me yearning to see more of this place.

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I reached out to Tarin, who I bump into occasionally in our small western South Dakota town, and asked if she’d be willing to share some of her beautiful photos on A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER. She graciously said YES! Warning: The images you are about to see are going to make you want to drop everything and hop on a plane to Texas immediately, just for those cupcakes alone.

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“I love photography, but my next favorite love (besides Jesus, my hubby, and kiddos) is all things Fixer Upper, ” Tarin said. “I’ve watched every episode of every season and love everything Chip and Jo do!”

So imagine her excitement when she received a text from her mom asking if she would like to take a trip to Waco, Texas and stay at Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ newest vacation rental.

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Tarin’s mother went on to fill her in on the details of how her long-time friend from Spokane, Wash. won a three night stay, gift-card, and tour for herself and 11 of her friends. This awesome lady invited Tarin, her mother, and sister to be part of that lucky group.

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“Our first glimpse of Hillcrest Estate did not disappoint,” Tarin said. “It’s a stately historic home situated in the middle of a beautifully manicured lawn, complete with a garden area, gorgeous fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs, amazing porches, and a sweet little playhouse.”

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“The inside of the home is decorated to fit the historic charm of the house with some of Joanna’s classic touches of antiques, beautiful wood tones, perfect paint colors, gorgeous textiles, and, of course, shiplap,” Tarin said.

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Not only did Tarin and her mother get to stay at Hillcrest Estate, but they also were treated to a tour of Magnolia Market.

“My favorite part of the tour was that everywhere you looked you could see glimpses of Chip and Joanna’s faith and their love and appreciation for their employees,” Tarin said.

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Tarin said Silo’s Baking Co. was worth every minute spent in line.

“That line was pretty long, but the way they work it is like a fine-tuned machine,” she said.

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Tarin found time for shopping, too. Some of her favorite spots were The Findery, The Warehouse, Spice Village, and Laverty’s Antiques and Furnishings.

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Thank you Tarin for sharing this beautiful tour with us!

 

 

 

 

Some Spring Favorites (Yes, I Know It’s Still Winter)

The official start of spring is still a month away and we are supposed to get yet more snow today, but can’t we at least start talking about the end of winter? Here are a few spring items I’m excited to incorporate into my life.

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1. These Easter sprinkles are adorable for cupcakes and cookies. (Williams-Sonoma) 2. I love this butterfly pattern and my three-year-old loves the soft feel of this dress. (Cat & Jack for Target) 3. Lately my daughters spend 99% of their time pretending to be unicorns. These headbands will be in their Easter baskets. (Target) 4. This floral pattern makes me feel warmer. (Loft) 5. A precious book about flowers is perfect for spring. (Anthropologie) 6. My dining room table has been rocking this runner for the past few weeks and I’m loving it. (Hearth & Hand with Magnolia for Target)