Learning to Hand Letter

So... I've been pretty MIA, and honestly, I'm okay with that. It will happen occasionally - I'll have dry spells, and then I'll have weeks where I post almost daily. Anyway, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you have probably noticed that I am learning hand lettering. I am seriously addicted - it is so much fun!

So. I'm obviously a beginner (just started learning last week, hello!), but here are the resources that I have used and that I like.

1. Hand Lettering 101 This book is a great resource for the super beginner (like myself). It is very basic. Like super basic. It touches on faux calligraphy and teaches you a basic, lower case alphabet. It also has some projects and shows you options for a fun sans serif printed alphabet. Yes, I know it is sold out - order it anyway and it will ship as soon as it's available.

2. Tombow Brush Pens Writing with brush pens has a bit of a learning curve, but these were recommended by some pros, and the more I use them, the more I love them.

3. Creative Lettering and Beyond This book is so much more intensive than Hand Lettering 101, and I recommend it as a second book. This book talks about chalk lettering, calligraphy, faux calligraphy, and watercolor, and it shows multiple alphabets, flourishes, embellishments, and gives fun DIY project ideas. I am loving it!

4. Watercolors and brushes If you just want to hand letter, you don't really need watercolors and brushes, but I love the painted look, so I went ahead and got these. If you do watercolor, keep in mind that you'll probably want some good watercolor paper. I've been using cardstock on some of my practice sheets, and the watercolors smudge.

5. A good eraser I block and draft my pieces in pencil, and then trace over with pen or paint for the final project. Once the project is dry, I erase the pencil marks.

I'm sure as I learn more, I will have more recommendations, but this is what I've used so far as a beginner!

Our Ten Favorite Children's Books

If you know me or have been around here for a while, then you know that I love  to read. Being able to escape into a book is an amazing thing (a gift, even), and reading is one of those things that I truly believe everyone should learn to enjoy.

I have tried really, really hard over the past few years to make sure that my kids love books as much as I do. I got lucky, because my kids love books. Callum's favorite thing is to run into their room, grab a book off the bookshelf, bring it to me, and cuddle up with me while I read to him. Every night before bed, he and Elsie have to have at least two bedtime stories before they are satisfied.

Basically, we do a lot of reading in this house, so I thought I'd share some of our favorite children's books with you. 

1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. This is Callum's all-time favorite book. I think, on an average day, we read it 5-6 times.

2. Harold's Purple Crayon Treasury by Crockett Johnson When Elsie was younger, we would read this book every day. She absolutely LOVES Harold and the purple crayon. This book is great because it is a compilation of five adventures.

3. I love you, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore I actually found this book at a garage sale when Elsie was a few months old. It quickly became one of our favorite stories, since I call my kids silly names like "Stinky Face" on a regular basis.

4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss This is on the list because it's my favorite story to read to the kids. I get really into it - voices, actions, the whole shebang. It's like Cat in the Hat dinner theatre at our house when this book gets read.

5. A Treasury of Classic Stories I love that this book is full of classics like Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, and Black Beauty. These were stories that I loved when I was younger, and ones that every child should know.

6. Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein This is a silly, fun book that I picked up at Target a while back. Callum loves to read it with me.

7. Mr. Brown can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss Callum and Elsie both love this book! It's so fun to go through and make all of the sounds with Mr. Brown.

8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein This is a classic story, and one that I think every child should have in their collection.

9. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault Elsie loves to read this book with me. Plus, it's great for helping kids learn their letters.

10. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney This was my absolute favorite book when I was little. I try to read it to my kids a couple times a week. 

What are your favorite children's books?

Living with Depression & Anxiety.

Some days are better than others. I suffered from PPD/PPA with both kids. I got over it with Callum pretty quickly, but then we moved a few months after he turned one, and depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads and made an appearance in my life again. 

With exercise, I was able to sort of moderate and things got a little bit better, but then my knee started acting up. I went and got an MRI, thinking something was torn, but it was just extreme chondromalacia, and the doctor's solution was to cut out any and all physical activity that caused pain. Well, since even taking my dog for a walk or going up and down stairs causes pretty intense pain, I've had to cut out all exercise. I swam for a while, but it's to the point where even swimming is painful, so that's out, as well. 

Not being able to exercise has basically thrown me into a downward spiral, and, I'm not going to lie - things have sucked. Here's the thing - I know I am so blessed. But when you are suffering from depression and anxiety, it's really, really hard to see that. You feel so alone and isolated, even when you have a ton of people who love you and care for you.

On the good days...

It isn't a struggle to get out of bed.
The thought of going out and being around other people doesn't completely paralyze me.
I am able to get dressed and get ready for the day by putting on makeup.
I actually play with my kids.
I am patient.
I enjoy talking to old friends.
Being a mom is enough.
I can be genuinely happy for others and their success.

But on the bad days...

I dread the moment my kids come to my room and drag me out of bed. 
It is a struggle to get dressed. 
Leaving the house is terrifying and just doesn't happen. 
I have a short fuse and am very impatient with my kids. 
I sit on the couch and just don't move until one of my kids forces me to. 
The smallest thing out of place makes my heart race and causes me to have a breakdown.
I avoid contact with anyone and everyone. I push people away. 
I feel lost.
I feel like a failure.
I look around and I feel stuck.
I see other people's success and I allow it to make me feel like a lesser person.
I feel like I've failed as a human being.
I feel like my intelligence is wasted on motherhood.
I feel like I'm not enough.

Now, I know that depression and anxiety can change a person so much, and I know that they are changing me, so please believe that I'm doing my best to not let them beat me. And really, this has all just been weighing on me for a while, and I needed to get it off my chest. I don't really want comments, so I've turned them off. <3 

Family Activities in San Francisco - San Francisco Zoo

So. If you haven't figured it out yet, we moved this summer, and, as luck would have it, were dropped in the second most expensive city in the United States. The cost of living here near San Francisco is astronomical. Because of the cost of living, most families are either a) in a home where both parents work or b) on an extremely tight budget.

Now, I have also noticed that there are not a lot of families in the area (at least not compared to Utah and Nebraska), so family friendly activities in San Francisco are extremely hard to come by and generally pretty expensive (because everything in this city has to cost an arm and a leg). I have taken it upon myself to save some other poor unfortunate soul the time and effort involved in finding family (& budget!) friendly activities in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.

First on the list: The San Francisco Zoo. Let me start off by saying that I am a zoo snob. Seriously. I grew up with the Sedgwick County Zoo (ranked the 8th best zoo in the US by ranker.com) and then when I went to college, I lived near the Henry Doorley Zoo (ranked the 2nd best zoo in the US by ranker.com).
Photo by Elsie
Quite frankly, when compared with those two zoos, the SF Zoo sucks. Hardcore. But... my kids don't have very high standards when it comes to zoos, and, honestly, when you've got two toddlers, your main goal is to kill a good portion of your day, get kids out into fresh air, and enjoy the sound silence of two passed out kids on the drive home.

The animals are fine, although the zoo is missing a couple of my favorites (what kind of zoo doesn't have elephants?!). Hands down, the best part of this zoo is the children's play area. I would pay the membership fees just to get year-round access to this playground.

To get the best bang for your buck: Park on Sloat Blvd. - NOT in the zoo parking. It is a short walk and it saves you $10-$12 (depending on when you go). If you live close enough to the zoo that you will go more than 3 times, get a membership. A basic family membership is $130, and single admission for adults is $19. Kids 3 and under are free, but if you've got a 4-year-old, you're going to spend $13 on admission for them. The basic family membership gives 2 adults and 3 children complete access for a year. If your kids are young enough to be free, this membership pays for itself by the fourth visit. If you have three kids over the age of four, the membership pays for itself by the second visit.

Helpful hints:

-You can make your membership for you and a "guest." This way you can save your sanity and bring a mom friend and her kid(s) for free.

-Your membership gives you discounts at all the stores and cafes in the zoo

-Your membership gives you discounted admission to over 100 zoos and aquariums nationwide.

The verdict: The San Francisco Zoo is a fabulous family activity and worth your time if you live in the Bay Area. If you're just visiting, I'd skip it.

Anyway, now that I've talked about all the logistics, I'll share some pictures from my mommy-daughter date with Elsie. She asked to go to the zoo, and it was great to spend some one-on-one time with her.

Time Flies

And just like that - Christmas is over.

It seems like it was just a couple weeks ago that I was sitting in my living room, looking at the mess around me, wondering how another Christmas had gone by, and it was almost 2016. This year has totally flown by, and I am feeling totally blind sided by the fact that it's going to be 2017 in less than a week.

I could talk about all the ways 2016 kicked my butt, but instead let's focus on happy things like Christmas! My in-laws came out to California to celebrate with us, and it was so wonderful to spend a few days with them. I've also decided that the best thing about Christmas these days is having kids and watching them get SO EXCITED about every present!! And shout out to Esther, who made our matching family jammies!! We were in such a rush to get to church that we didn't get a picture of everyone together, but I'll work on that.

Wedgies = Weapons of Mass Destruction

UGH. Today. Let me start with where it all went wrong. Side note: Nikki, if you're reading this, HI! I can't reply to your comments and I feel bad about that! :)

The moment my alarm went off at 7:45 am (yes, my kids sleep in past 8:00... sleep training works, people).

I got up, got myself ready, and then went in to wake up my sleeping monster devil child daughter. At first, it was great - she got out of bed, happy to be starting her day. She was pumped and excited for school. But then I did a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing.

I made her put on pants. 
It started with a whine, "But mom, there's wedgies in my pants!!"

Fine. I did what any loving mother would do - I picked my kid's underwear out of her butt.

"THERE'S STILL WEDGIES!!! I HATE THESE PANTS!!! STUPID PANTS!!!" as she rips them off and throws them against the wall. 
Okay, okay - so I got her another pair of pants, and it was like the freakin' twilight zone as she started screaming AGAIN.


I sighed, trying to keep my patience, and through gritted teeth in a not very nice voice, "It's not the pants, let's try a different pair of underwear, okay, sweetie?" In my mind I was thinking, Ohmyfreakinggosh I am going to kill someone. I wish I drank wine. Why are three-year-olds so damn crazy?!

We got her some new underwear and put her pants back on. Nope. Not happening. This time the screaming reached levels of epic proportions. Poor Callum was just sitting there watching everything go down, no doubt thinking, Women are psycho. Girls are psycho. I'm moving out as soon as I can wipe my own butt.

By this point, Elsie was lying on the floor of the bathroom, butt-naked, screaming something along the lines of "I JUST HATE WEDGIES, THEY ARE LITTLE MONSTERS IN MY UNDERWEAR MAKING MY BUTT ALL ITCHY. WEDGIES ARE SO DUMB, MY PANTS HAVE SO MANY WEDGIES! I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!!!"

I did what any mom would do at that point and stormed downstairs, got one of her Christmas presents, and threw it away (AKA the trunk of the car, not to be seen again until her birthday), all the while noting my every move in a very loud, "I just escaped from the psych ward" voice.

Let's just say that that certainly didn't help matters and, to put it nicely, s*** hit the fan and my kid went crazy. She proceeded to teepee the bathroom, throw all her clothes, and shriek like a banshee the whole time. That takes talent and dedication, you know.

Eventually everything got straightened out, my kid settled on a swimsuit for her day's wardrobe, and I decided two kids is more than enough.
Moral of the story: Wedgies ruin EVERYTHING.

A Christmas Gift to Myself

If you came to my house, you would automatically know that I am one of those people who LOVES having photos of my family up on my walls. Ya know, I'm a photographer and hound my clients to print their memories, so I think it would be a little hypocritical of me if I didn't print my own. 

As you looked at all of the pictures on our walls, though, you might wonder why there is only ONE of Mike and I. Well... it's been 6.5 years, and honestly, we've only got one photo of us that I feel is wall worthy. A couple of months ago, I found out that one of my favorite photographers was going to be in California for a few days and was scheduling sessions. I knew that I wanted her to do a session for Mike and I so that we would finally have good photos of us together, so I went ahead and gave myself a Christmas gift and scheduled a session with Five and Five Photography.

You guys. I am so in love with these photos. I look at them and I am so happy  that I can finally put together an heirloom album and get some prints for our walls. If you are in Idaho, I highly recommend hiring Krista - she is amazing!