What kind of family traditions does your family have?  I have struggled to find consistency with traditions when there are only 2 of us in the household…and one isn’t going to remember what happens for a few more years!  There isn’t another adult bringing magical traditions their family shared.  It is up to me.  Up to me alone to build memories that HJ will hopefully look back at and say, “My mom and I always did it this way…and it was freakin’ awesome.”

Growing up, my family would load in the mini van and drive to my grandparent’s house 5 hours away in Wisconsin Rapids for Thanksgiving.  The day after Thanksgiving, we would go to the mall to watch Santa arrive in a helicopter.  Christmas Eve was spent at my grandparent’s in Cedar Falls, IA where we would have to eat dinner and take family pictures while trying not to tear into our gifts before we were told to.  When we arrived home that night, my dad would read us “The Night Before Christmas”. The next morning, I would wake up before everyone and make them all get out of bed (Ahhh…so there is my damn karma with HJ not sleeping!) and run downstairs to see what SANTA! SANTA! SANTA! brought us (we had to look at our stockings first).  That was followed with a yummy breakfast that always had egg casserole.

Those things happened every year.  Without fail (barring ridiculous snowstorms once or twice).  I am hoping that HJ and I can get started on some family traditions.  This year, I asked my parents if we could do Christmas morning at my house.  My mom eagerly agreed (crap, this means I have to cook).  That way HJ can wake up and see what Santa brought for him!

Another tradition I started is the ornament box.  Every Christmas I have put away an ornament with a little tag explaining why it was chosen.  When HJ gets his own tree, I will give him the box, full of ornaments, to decorate his tree. 

What traditions does your family have?  Single parents, any advise on how to start more family traditions?

**DON”T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR THE KROME PHOTO BOOK GIVEAWAY!  The drawing will be on December 1st.  Can’t wait to see who wins!

Alright people, I am really excited for this…

Krome Photos has decided to give one of you a FREE photo book.  Wouldn’t this make a ridiculously awesome Christmas gift for someone…or for yourself?  And they make it so easy!  All you have to do is upload your pictures and a real live photo editor and photo book designer go to work!  They will make sure your pictures are edited and design the a 20-page book for you.  Then you can work with them to make sure the end product is exactly what YOU want.

In the past, I have tried making photo books on others sites…ugh, snapfish…but I get so annoyed with trying to decide what pictures should go where.  Krome Photos eliminates that irritating problem! 

And one of you can try this for FREE, eeks!

So, let’s get to it…want to win?

Make sure you are a follower of my blog and leave a comment letting me know who you would make the photo book for!  You can also follow me on  twitter while you are at it! (one entry per email, the winner will be selected via random number generator.

Here is how you can follow Krome Photos on Facebook and Twitter.

The winner will be selected on December 1 to jump-start the Christmas Season!

Good luck!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so I thought I would share what I am thankful for today.  Mostly because Thursday I will be relaxing at my parents with a mimosa, pretending to stir food once in a while so it appears I am helping.

I know being a single parent means having challenges, but I also realize how lucky I am compared to most people.  I am thankful for a loving, supportive family.  A family who would bend over backwards for my son and me.  I am also thankful to love close to a large portion of my family.  I don’t have to drive more than 10 minutes to see my grandparents, cousin or parents.  I am thankful my parents love taking HJ every now and then so I can relax…even if relaxing means putting on make up and heading out on the town or going to the grocery store solo.

I am thankful for my friends.  I don’t know how I became so lucky to have such amazing people in my life.  I have the most beautiful friends.  Inside and out.  They lend a shoulder to cry on and keep me laughing.  Although many live in different cities, we still stay in touch and keep close.

I am thankful that I don’t have the daily struggles many people do.  HJ and I have a warm place to sleep at night, we always know where our next meal is coming from and always have clothes that fit (usually stain free!).

I am thankful I have a job that understands I may need to take an hour or two off to take my son to the doctor.  A job that allows time off with family.  And a job that sincerely has my well-being in mind.

I am thankful for my son.  Without him, I don’t know where I would be.  He is my everything.  I won’t even try to go more in-depth than this, words alone cannot describe how my heart feels.

On a lighter note…have any of you looked at first world problems?  They really make you laugh and realize how lucky we are…and how ridiculous some of our complaints are.

Here are a few of my current first world problems…

My hands are cold while trying to type…or maybe it is my iced tea I am holding in one hand.

I had to drive to three gas stations last night to find one that had air to put in my tires.

We ran out of bubblebath.  I am not sure how my son will take a bath without them.

My dog ate HJ’s basketball yesterday.  HJ slept with the basketball.  Last night I had to substitute a soccer ball.

I found out via facebook that Starbuck’s ran out of the red holiday cups (yes, the paper ones).  I have a gift card I was going to use, but I will wait until I can get a red cup.

I am the only one in the office today.  Boo.

Alright lovely readers…I need some advise.  Not for me, have no fear, but for an expecting friend.  She has asked for a baby carrier from her in-laws for Christmas, but needs to know the best one to get. 

With HJ I had both the back-pack looking carrier and the hip baby carrier, also known as a wrap.  I didn’t have a preference over one or the other because we didn’t use it too often.  But, my friend will be a stay at home mom, and will probably be running more errands with the little one in tow.

Which ones have you liked or disliked?  While chatting with my friend, we came across something to help her with her decision (it seems to be helpful, so feel free to pass it along to your expectant friends!) but it is always good to get first hand advise.  Please tell me your thoughts on the different baby carriers…the good, bad and difficult (seriously, some of them have so many straps and clips I wouldn’t know where to start!).

HJ and I had some professional pictures done right before his 2nd birthday.  Molly Weber took the pictures, and I LOVE THEM L.O.V.E .  We started the photo session at home sweet home, hoping that would help HJ be comfortable with her.  I even blew up a bunch of baloons and pu thtem in the play room thinking that we would get some super cute pics of HJ playing wiht them.  That was a good idea in theory…what I didn’t think through was that HJ would be so crazy excited he wouldn’t stand still for more then a nano-second and that the dog would want in on the action.  That resulted in a few pictures like this…

And there were a few moments where HJ just thought we were being to silly to pose

But overall, they were fantastic.  I highly recommend Molly!  I will let the photos do the rest of the talking today…

Have you ever noticed at parties that everyone gathers in the kitchen?  It doesn’t matter if your kitchen is big, small, with seating or not, it tends to be where everyone goes.  That is why when looking at floor plans for the house, I wanted the kitchen to be big and open to the living room.  Anddd this is what the kitchen looks like…

The fridge area.  The fridge is plastered in children’s art work…artwork that is plastered at a high enough level that it will not be torn down by a rambunctious 2-year-old or a tail wagging maniac dog.  I always thought I would want white cabinets, but I love the rich look of the dark cabinets.

Straight across from the fridge on the other side of the island is the table area.

The white door is the pantry.  I frikken love pantries.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal…but what a space saver.  HJ even likes to hide in there and eat Cheerios.  The black towel on the one chair is for Mr. Goober Hands.  HJ despises utensils.

The prints above the kitchen table?  Here is a closer view

I had a graphic design student make and print them off for me for $50 and found some cheap frames.  I love them 🙂

On the pantry wall,

Cute EAT letters…they look like metal, but are actually the cardboard letters at Hobby Lobby just painted. (and that is HJ’s red vacuum in the right hand corner).

And this is the other wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love all the light that comes through (although it does nothing for pictures!)  Again, if you want to see how I made the curtains, you can go here and here.  The sliding door leads to our little, tiny deck that has a hand me down table that is a tad to big for the space.

The other “wall” of the kitchen is actually an open space to the living room, so I will show that when I reveal the living room!

The flooring in the kitchen is a porcelain tile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dark tile has been awesome for concealing dirt and dog hair (I swear I clean it often!).

Side note: my garbage disposal is not working, so wish me luck on attempting my first fix-it attempt as a home owner!

 

 

I know, weird title for a post considering I live in Iowa…and it’s flipping cold right now.  BUT, HJ and I finally have a yard!  And he has sooo many indoor doors.  So I have been thinking,about getting him a few outdoor toys for Christmas.

I came across a site, which is full of GOOD GAMES!!  HJ loves bubbles (they can be used indoors to, right?  And, they do have a snowman kit (winter appropriate!). They also have some play houses that I know he would love, but I have mainly been looking at the kid tents.  Maybe we could have a winter camp out in the living room?  A little hot cocoa, sleeping bags, and snuggling with my cutie-pie!  Anyone else have camp outs with their kids or am I just asking for a night of terrible sleep?

With all the excitement of HJ’s monster party, I forgot to share MY PARTY.  Yup, I celebrated my 30th birthday with amazing friends.  Nana and Papa volunteered to take HJ for the night, and I rounded up a few friends (around 15!).  Some of them even came from Des Moines to help with the festivities.

We started the night with pizza and beverages at my house.  I was surprised with Scratch cupcakes (YUM!) and a few gifts.  I learned my friends have amazing taste…one friend (who couldn’t make it to town) sent me a gorgeous coach bracelet, another gave me super sweet Isabella Bloom figure.  With my single mom budget, it’s nice to be spoiled every now and then :).

The group then hit the town.

While at one bar, I went to the ladies room with another girl (girls go in pairs, right?).  When we walked into the LADIES room, I noticed male shoes in the first stall…and the door was open…and it was clearly a male.  My friend and I checked the door again to make triple sure it did in fact say ladies (it did) and stood there for a second unsure of what to do.  Then, from the stall, we heard “Ah…am I in the wrong restroom?”  We busted out laughing.  He walked out and awkwardly looked at us as he beelined for the door.  Then he hesitated.  Turned back and said, “I have to wash my hands.”

We weren’t sure if we should feel bad for him or continue to laugh at him.  When we came out of the restroom, his friends were clearly giving him a hard time.  So naturally, we laughed at him.

Then in walk two bears…

This was about the point we decided to head to another place.

We then went to our old college hang out, the OP…where we felt old.  We basically stood there and laughed at the shenanigans around us.  By this point we figured we might us well feel even older and we went to Sharkey’s.  The Shark Tank (as it is fondly called) is a place I had not ventured since I was 20.  While we were in school, no one past legal drinking age went there.  Things haven’t changed.  So we hit up the dance floor, and made the unwise choice of stopping in the restroom.  There was a young lady kneeled over the toilet telling us of her love for tequila.  We assured her she does not in fact love tequila at all and quickly left.

Clearly, it was time to call a cab to go home.  While waiting for the cab, we ran over to the fraternity house to pose for pictures in their front lawn.  The fraternity house was a place we use to go to quite often while in school…in fact most of my friends are married to guys they met there.  Thank goodness the cab came before anyone spotted us.

We ran home and chatted for a while before heading to bed (yes, I was the first one in bed).

It was a great night and wonderful to get out and have fun!  I felt so lucky to have all of my friends out helping me celebrate.

*Click here to see an update with more instructions*

In my kitchen, there is a cute little window above the sink.

The only problem?
While I would be getting ready in the morning, HJ would suddenly shout “MAMA!!!!” from the living room.  This would cause me to run from the bathroom to the living room, usually in my bra and underwear.

There is one house behind mine where they could potentially see me prancing around through the window.  Luckily, it is lived in by college students so they are rarely up before 8am.  Except that one morning after Halloween when neighbor boy wondered thru our backyard in a pair of boxers and a sombrero…and Ty started barking and HJ started pounding on the window at him (we are very subtle)…

Anywho…I wanted a window covering.  That way, I could run from my room to the living room, in my underwear, if I so pleased and not be freaked out that sombrero wearing college kids would start pounding on my window.  And I had LOTS of extra fabric from my happy-go-lucky curtains I made for the patio door.

Naturally, I started scouring pinterest for no-sew roman shades.  And right away popped up this cute little thing.  I started reading the directions thinking uh-huh, yup, piece of cake.  And then out of no where, in a description labeled no-sew, it says “now you need to sew a button”.  I need to sew a frikken what?  I don’t know how to sew a button.  I don’t even own a needle or string..or thread…or whatever the heck it is called.  I will be sewing no flippin’ buttons.

So I went to the next one

Pretty, yes?  I even super-love the fabric.  But I was worried how it would look from the outside.  You know, to my sombrero-boxer-wearing neighbor.  He doesn’t need to see ugliness when looking at my window (that was the point of a window covering in the first place!).

So I looked at this one on pinterest…which was not about making a shade at all, but rather selling your first-born so you could afford to buy them.  And I don’t want to sell HJ.

I gave up and made up my own.  I figured I had enough fabric that if I goofed it up, I could try again.  I picked up a $2 tension rod and some more heat-bond no-sew hem stuff and set to work.

I measured the window’s width and height.  I cut the fabric to match that, plus an inch on each side for the heat bond (and an extra 2 inches for the top).  I ironed the heat bond on the top leaving a little “gap” to slide the tension rod in.

And iron-hemed the rest of the sides…

Make sure to not do this step on carpet…or the heat bond can get stuck to the carpet…damn.

Then I cut 2 long strips and “hemmed” the edges to act as the ties.  I thought I could make a cute little bow.

I really liked how it was starting to look, but the cute little bows looked dumb, not cute at all.  The heat-bond hemming had left the strip a little too stiff and they just awkwardly stuck out.  So I went to bed.

During the night I woke up and thought velcro!  Velcro on the strips so there is no stupid bow.  And went back to sleep.

The next day I called my mom because I knew she had self adhesive velcro.  She was nice enough to bring it over (knowing I wouldn’t let it go until I had it in my hands).  I am not sure where she got the velcro, but it is sticky like glue on one side and then the velcro strip on the other.  So I took my silly little strips that were supposed to be cute little bows and put velcro on each end and…

TA-DA!  My “For Real No-Sew Roman-ish Shades”.  They cover the window perfectly if I un-velcro the strips, or if I want to peer out the window, I can leave them velcro-ed.  Except for the giving up and going to bed portion, the whole thing took around 15 minutes.  It was extremely simple and very inexpensive!  My kind of project.

It happened.  HJ turned 2.  Or if you ask him, he will say THREE!  I follow-up with, “No honey, you are 2.”  To which he responds, “NO THREE!” and then cracks up.

This past weekend we invited family to help us celebrate the big birthday with a monster themed party.  The invites went out…

And I kept telling myself to keep it low-key (which I think I did pretty good at).

HJ woke up on his second birthday to a living room full of balloons!  The dog and him ran around like crazy chasing and throwing them.  Then we got ready (sans dog) to go to the library for story time.  After that we went out for a birthday lunch at Maid-Rite, where we snacked on maid-rites, sweet potato fries and a chocolate shake.

That evening, I started making his monster cake.  I had found what I wanted to make on pinterest (of course) and thought it would be easy-peasy.  Ha.  The top layer of the cake started breaking off…I felt defeated and was ready to call a bakery (yup, that quickly).  My sister suggested “glueing” it with frosting.  My brother-in-law helped with small details like the teeth.  And I went through a lot of orange frosting.

Once the cake was ready, I glued googley-eyes onto cups

Because, what is a monster party with out googely-eyed cups?

I made a monster wreath

This was suppper easy (yup, with 3 p’s).  All I did was buy a styrofoam wreath, wrap a blue feather boa around it and super glued on the eyes.

I threw the favors in a basket

Set out 2 candles for my little man (tear!)

And set out the monster picture frame

Then, it was party time!

See how excited HJ was?

The kids got to draw monsters for HJ (nana got in on it too)

And we ate lots of pizza and cake

HJ posed for pictures with mommy (sometimes even willingly)

And made his best monster face

He loved opening up presents.  His favorite?

This box.  I have been told there is a wagon in it, but for now the box is providing lots of entertainment.

HJ had fun celebrating his 2nd birthday and has been waking me up at night to tell me about his new toys.  Can’t wait to see how much fun we have during the “terrible two’s”.  Love you HJ!