Riley's Baptism

Riley's baptism is coming up this next weekend and we couldn't be more excited!  For those of you who may not know much about our church, most kids raised in our faith are baptized at 8 years old...which is the age at which we believe they can be accountable for their own choices and that they are old enough to understand the importance of convenants made during baptism.  Riley has made this wonderful commitment to follow her Savior and we are so very proud of her!

We got these cute invites made from Tiny Prints, which I was thrilled with.  I felt like the circular ones were so unique, and they looked just as I had hoped once they arrived in the mail.  Aren't they adorable!?!  Today, I'm mailing out the last of them (procrastination, much?).

A few weeks ago when the bluebonnets were still in full bloom, I snapped some shots of Riley in her baptism dress.  I thought I'd have a heck of a time finding a suitable one she liked (she has the most particular style of any 8 year old I've known), but we came across a gorgeous one from Zulily and she approved right away!  The pictures don't quite do it justice, as I didn't get a full-lenth shot of the entire's beautiful on her!

I'll be sure to post more photos of the actual day sometime next week.  Happy Monday friends!!!!

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Disney Cruise Tips {Things Learned the 2nd Time Around}

Our Disney Cruise vacation last week was our second time to sail the magical seas.  Our first was three years ago when our oldest was 6 and our youngest was 10 months and we loved it so much, we couldn't wait to get back!  This second time around, we were a bit wiser about some "secrets" to make our Disney Cruise even better than the first!

I'm sharing today 10 of those secret tips and how to make the most out of your Disney Cruise vacation.  (Please feel free to leave me any questions or addition tips you may have!)

1.  Get character tickets.  When we first boarded the Disney Dream, we saw something on the schedule that we hadn't known of or seen before.  For a limited number of people, tickets are given out for special character meetings with the princesses (Snow White, Belle, Cinderella, and Rapunzel), Elsa and Anna, and the Disney Jr. crew (Doc McStuffins, Sofia, and Jake).  We knew we'd have opportunities to see most of these characters at some point on the cruise, but obtaining a ticket was basically like the "fastpass" option at Disney World to bypass long waits.  Thanks to one of our friends, we got our hands on these HOT tickets and saved a LOT of time.  And I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure Elsa and Anna didn't have any other appearances besides this one...totally exclusive!!!

2.  Download and use the Disney Cruise Line App.  This was such a lifesaver!  There is no internet access on the ship (except for paid wifi), but through the app you can text others in your party...which was HUGE for us, as we traveled with 4 other families and it facilitated us being able to coordinate with others and keep track of kids.  Also, each and every detail of the cruise is at your fingertips.  Where and when to see characters, directions to everything on the boat, schedules, fun facts, etc.  Disney really fulfilled a need with this app...we were so thankful for it!

3.  Budget to purchase photos on the boat.  On our first cruise, I made the mistake of not purchasing any of the photos taken on the cruise (there are photographers everywhere snapping shots the entire time) thinking I had most all of them on my own camera.  To my dismay, I got home and realized most were either poor lighting or blurry...which was even more devastating because I had seen how wonderful the images of us captured by the Disney photographers were!!!  So moral of the at least a few photos.  You'll thank me later.

4.  Register your kids for the Oceaneer's Club/Lab online ahead of time.  Doing this will expedite the process once you're on the boat when your kids are excited to be checked in.  And if you're on the fence about leaving your child in these clubs, let me assure you that it's COMPLETELY safe and okay.  The kids are given wrist bands equipped with GPS in order to locate them within the club...that's right, the counselors know exactly where your kids are in the club.  At any moment your kid wants to leave, they text you immediately asking parents to come pick up children.  My kids loved the Oceaneers Club/Lab this time, especially Andy's room and the character activities such as "Find the Hook".

5.  Have a plan to maximize your cruise experience.  While Disney vacations are the best memory-making experiences for families, they are not usually very relaxing.  That being said and knowing that from the get go, make the most of your time on the cruise ship even if that means being quite busy.  There are SO many fun activities, character meetings, shows, etc. that when taken full advantage of, can really enhance your cruise.  This second time around, we learned to plan out our days so that we didn't miss anything we wanted to make sure to see/do.  Our first cruise, we felt we wasted time somewhat...but that may have been due to napping schedules of little ones.

6.  Take advantage of room service at night once everyone is back in the room.  In my opinion, when else can you get free room service AND have Mickey bar cookie sandwiches at night?!?!?!?!?!?  Never, that's when.  These are the kinds of things that make a super cruise a super special's what your kids (and you) will remember.

7.  Bring your own sand toys.  I thought bringing our own toys to the beach on Castaway Cay would be a big ol' pain in the butt, BUT it wasn't at all!  On any other beach vacay you'd bring along sand toys, so this one shouldn't be any different.  They don't take up much room, so make this a priority!

8.  Get to know your room hosts and servers well.  These fine people leave their families for months on end and work super hard to make their guests feel at home.  We've found that we enjoy getting to know their backgrounds and stories.  Our servers treated our kids like their own...bringing them special treats at dinner, entertaining them with origami or magic tricks, and really taking over in terms of helping during mealtime.  They made dinners a relaxing experience for our family, which I truly appreciated.  And although we didn't see our room host as much, he was exceptional as well and was SO very nice.  Treat these crew members well...they deserve it!

9.  Take time to explore the ship...there's treasures to be found everywhere that might otherwise be missed.  We knew there was putt-putt golf somewhere on the boat, however we probably would've never played, must less found it had we not taken the time to wander around.  On our first Disney cruise, Blakely and I were strolling down a hallway exploring the ship when we happened upon Belle reading a book all by herself!  Having such an organic and unstaged encounter with a princess made our day!

10.  Book your next Disney cruise while you're still onboard.  This can be done in the form of a "place holder" which doesn't commit you to a time/date, but allows you to take advantage of a discounted price, a smaller deposit, AND room credit on your next cruise.  Kind of a no-brainer if you know another Disney cruise is in your future.
Until next time....See ya' REAL soon!

*This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions and ideas are my own.

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Why My Family Makes Vacations a Priority

When vacationing with our family (kids ages 4, 5, 8, 9), I often have the subtle thought to put my camera down and just enjoy the moment.  That's not to say I don't enjoy moments without my camera in front of my face...I do...but whenever I have these thoughts, I argue with myself that for now, when my children are young, I DO need to capture these moments because they very well might not remember themselves, and will need something to keep those memories alive....such as pictures and video.  It won't always be like this I imagine, but if my children are like me, they'll ALWAYS love looking back on photos and I want to make sure I give them plenty of resources from which to draw.

Over the past few years, we've made family vacations a priority.  Blake and I strongly feel that investing in experiences for our children (rather than buying "things") is the best use of our money and time.  And as I mentioned, at the ages they are right now, there's a good chance many of these memories will not stick for why do we even bother?  I'll tell you two reasons why:

1.  WE as parents will remember.  These wonderful family vacations are just as much for us and the joy we have with our children, as they are for our kids.  WE will remember their huge smiles when they ski down a mountain, or their giggles as they anxiously await to meet Elsa and Anna, or the innocence in their faces seeing the wonder of the ocean.  WE love the memories.

2.  Traveling and vacationing together strengthens family bonds.  Whether they remember specifics or not, inside their little hearts will be a patchwork of memories which deeply affect their feelings of belonging, togetherness, love, and family.  And what it really comes down to is time....

Time is one of the most important reasons we prioritize vacations...and more specifically, why we LOVE Disney cruises.  As we disembarked the boat last Friday morning, I felt myself getting teary-eyed, but couldn't quite put my finger on why.  Yes it was a wonderful time, but I'm usually pretty non-emotional about why was I affected so strongly?

And then it hit me...I had this epiphany explaining WHY a Disney cruise is so wonderfully fabulous over all other types of vacations.  It's because of the time.  Not just any time....but time cut off from the rest of the world.  We were literally able to leave the world and everyday worries behind us.  We didn't have the distraction of the internet, we didn't have the stress of planning where to eat/see/go...nor did Blake work at night as he sometimes does on our trips.  We were able to 100% focus on our family, our love for each other, and FUN!  It didn't hurt either that our kids were treated like royalty at every turn.  I don't know of another type of vacation where families can experience that kind of intense memory-making.  It made the vacation so very special and memorable for me, Blake, and my mom as we played with our children and had the freedom to completely soak it all in...(mostly) stress-free.  In addition to that, I believe our hearts and minds can be more open to the spirit when we just step away from it all...which indeed we did!

I haven't even touched on all that is Disney and the experience that adds to every detail (Disney service is PHENOMENAL)!  I'll be posting more this week (and next) about our vacation, so stay tuned for additional posts featuring my Disney Cruise tips and reviews...but until then, I strongly urge you to look into one for your next family vacation!

*** All photos taken with my iPhone 6+ or my DSLR and 50mm lens.

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Smart Style: Comfortably Chic

Howdy y'all!!!  It feels really great to be back from our vacay, but oh it sure is hard coming back to real life.  Monday morning packs a punch when you've had no worries or cares for the last 7 days!  We had SUCH a wonderful time and I can't wait to share it...but for today I have for you a "smart style" outfit post!

You know those days when you want to look really put together and chic?  Yesterday was one of those days.  I was speaking in church in the morning, but knew I'd be in the clothes for most of the day and comfort was key.  When I put this outfit together, I originally intended to tuck in the blouse (read: re-tucking required all the day long), but decided belting it was both easier and made the look a bit more interesting.  Who doesn't love a neon pink belt!?!  But really, when comfort trumps, there's usually always a work-around to make an outfit a bit more easy to wear.

Now these shoes on the other hand...ouch.

Outfit details:

striped blouse // Loft
skirt // Target (similar)
heels // Steve Madden via Nordstrom
belt // old (similar)
glasses // Bonlook Honeybadgers
necklace // Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant
earrings // Kendra Scott Skylars

*Shop this Look (hover on image for brand/price):

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What to Pack for a Cruise

We leave soon for our cruise and I've been a hot mess of a momma trying to get everything/everyone packed, cleaned, etc.  I'm going to sure NEED this vacation after all it takes to get 6 people travel-ready.  I'd hardly thought about my OWN packing until today, so I finally stood in my closet for a few minutes and picked out some basics that will be both versatile and stylish while cruising...but also tried to stay as minimal as possible.  Here's my top musts for cruise packing:

// Simply click on each piece to shop //

1.  Swim Coverup:  I hemmed and hawed over a chic coverup and I finally settled on this simple (and affordable) gray striped one from Target.

2.  White denim:  White just begs to be worn in the Caribbean, does it not?

3.  Maxi dress:  For those no-fuss nights at dinner, slip on a sleek, elongating dress for both comfort and style.

4.  Sun hat:  A must to shade your face and to cover that beach hair!

5.  Slub tee:  I'm packing black and white versions of this tee as well...goes with anything and everything...just add some statement jewelry and you're set!

6.  Backpack:  Instead of taking a purse or large tote, a backpack is more safe and versatile...and I needed this backpack!

7.  Jean jacket:  For those chilly nights on the deck, throw on a jean jacket and you'll be good to go!  Again, pick pieces like this that go with everything.

8.  White sandals:  These are my new faves...I wear them daily, and do you know what???  They're actually MORE comfortable than my real Birks.  Gasp!  I know, I know...sacrilegious, right?  

9.  Sunnies:  I went on a cruise once where I had to wear my eyeglasses (rather than sunglasses) the entire time and I almost died of squinting.  True story.

10.  Swimsuit:  I love what a great black swimsuit can do!  This one, especially, looks extra cool with the on-trend cutout.

11.  Wedges:  Pack a pair to dress up your outfits just a bit...whether it's for dinner or an after-dark activity.  Make sure to go for a neutral or basic color for matching.

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Easter Memory-Making, With a Side of Confetti

Happy Monday friends!  How was your weekend?

Ours was quite the celebration.  With Riley's birthday falling on Easter, it seemed as if the whole weekend was one big party!  Yesterday, we went to my in-law's house for a family Easter get-together...and the kids (and adults) had a blast as usual.  My MIL hides over 300 eggs for the hunt, and I'm not sure how many cascarones there were this year (maybe 100?)...but they were gone in no time flat!  Memories were definitely made, shoes were muddied, scalps were assaulted by eggshell, laughs were heard, faces were chocolate-smeared, candles were blown, and tummies were filled with goodness!

^^^ Tyler Bree never saw it coming...until this moment, of course! ^^^

^^^ Blakely was in what I can only guess was delirium, as she kept picking up confetti from the ground and throwing it at people, which resulted in hysterics on her part.  The girl likes some confetti, I guess...or she was past the point of exhaustion...take your pick. ^^^

^^^ My pensive little boy.  He kills me. ^^^

^^^ I kept wanting to get a good "birthday picture" of her, and thankfully she let me after the 10th pleading, but let me know she did NOT have time for that. ^^^

^^^ Not quite sure what's going on here....I think Blakely just got my SIL's sister with her fists of confetti and she was already looking for her next victim. ^^^

^^^ We gave my FIL this same photo taken when Bennett was not even a year I plan to print this one out and gift it to him as well.  Because nothing makes time seem faster than a side-by-side comparison photo of 3 generations.  Tear. ^^^

^^^ OFF TO THE RACES!!!!  Er, I mean Easter Egg Hunt!!!! ^^^

^^^ Blakely and Bennett got a head start because there a bit younger than the other she took full advantage of it and sprinted her way to the eggs. Go Blakely Go! ^^^

^^^ After hunting eggs for a while (and finding "his" personal egg $$$), he said to me, "Momma, I think I have enough.  I'm going to be done."  This statement did not compute with me.  "What!?!  Don't you see all those other eggs out there?  Where's your competitive bone!?  You're done???!!!"  Yep, he was good with what he had.  What???  Gosh, I could analyze that exchange and our difference in egg hunting philosophy in countless ways...but let's just say, his apathy contentment will serve him well someday. ^^^

^^^ And this is my new favorite picture of my kids.  Yes, they put up with me taking photos non-stop yesterday...but do you know what?  I go this one.  And that was my only goal.  So there. ^^^

I hope you had a fabulous Easter, as well!  Holiday like this really bring what's important into focus...our Savior, our family, and memories we make!  

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Teaching Children the Importance of Easter

One of the most profound statements I often think about this time of year is:
"There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection." -Gordon B. Hinckley
That speaks such magnitude of the importance of Easter....the atonement, the crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ.  Because HE did those things for us...for ME and YOU...He is our Savior and who we look to as our only chance for salvation and exaltation.  Without all that, Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Christ would not have significance.  But it IS so important because of what He did, what He would do, for us in His life.

Pondering those things this time of year always leads me to wonder about the heightened emphasis placed on Christmas over Easter.  Is Easter not the whole point of it all?  Yes, all the miracles and prophetic happenings surrounding Christ's birth ARE wondrous...but wouldn't it be amazing to see equal reverence and significance observed during our Easter celebrations?...And to instill in our children that huge love and appreciation for the holiday too?  

Teaching children about the importance of Easter is sometimes a challenge.  Heck, grasping the full all-encompassing power of it is sometimes mind boggling for me as an adult!  What I've come to learn in these almost 10 years of having little ones, is that when basics are taught to children, the spirit can fill their hearts with the rest.  Developing that knowledge, understanding, and testimony is a life-long journey, which starts in the home when their hearts are young.

Here's a several ways we try to teach Easter to our children:
(a few of these ideas we borrowed from the Eyres)

Read in the New Testament about the last week of Jesus's life and act out.

This is a fun one, as the kids get to ride on the "donkey" (their daddy) into Jerusalem and turn over the "money tables" in the temple, etc.

Watch "Because He Lives" video with our family

Christ-centered Easter baskets:

This is sometimes easier said than done...but we almost always have a picture of Jesus in their baskets, along with a special gift to them, as Christ is Heavenly Father's gift to us.  I sometimes fail in thinking ahead in time to make this happen, but there's always something we round up around the house we can include in their baskets.

Easter Egg Family Home Evening:

I found this one on Pinterest that I think is really doable.  Symbolic items are placed in 12 eggs...which are opened and discussed as a family once all are hunted and found....printable included!

Resurrection Rolls:

We've made these as a family, but Blakely and Bennett's school also makes them during Holy Week.  Such a simple object lesson for children that He is not here, He is Risen.  Try out this recipe.

Family Testimony Meeting:

We normally do this tradition on Christmas Eve right before the kids go to bed...something about a peaceful nighttime sharing of our individual testimonies of Christ is super special.  I'd like to start an Easter version this year, but plan to have it early Sunday morning...maybe even outdoors if it's nice.  We go around and share what we know to be true about the gospel...It's one of my all-time favorite experiences with our children as we get to hear their sweet voices testify that Jesus is the Christ and that they know He loves them.  What a better opportunity than Easter morning to begin this new tradition!


All of these activities and lessons can add to an ongoing dialogue with children about Easter.  Little ones will most likely grasp that he died for us and lives again....while, older ones begin to understand how it applies to their own lives.  What a blessing it is as parents to be able to strengthen our testimonies of Easter as we teach our children the basics on which they can build their own.  HAPPY EASTER!

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