Dear 2013,

Every year I write a letter on December 31st.
To read the other yearly letters, click HERE.

Dear 2013,
You have been a good year.
It has been a year of being stretched, a year of growth, a year of ups and downs.
 But, it is a year I will look back with on fondness. 
It was a year that seemed to FLY by.
When I think back of 2013, I will think of throwing a lot of parties.
We {happily} hosted and threw a party almost every month this year.
When we bought this house 3.5 years ago, we wanted to make sure we opened up our home to people and I feel like we have done that, especially this year.
This is also the year that Luke turned from a baby into a toddler. 
A year that holds a lot of wonderful memories.
Let's take a look back!

My highlight in January was Kate's 6th Birthday Party.
It was a Pancakes & Pajamas theme and it was so much fun.
{See the party post here}
Kate said it was her best birthday yet.

Also in January, Luke started sleeping through the night at 5 months old.

That was HUGE for us, since the girls didn't sleep through until 10 and 11 months. 
So, thankful for sleep!!

Our beloved 49ers were heading to the Superbowl.
Harbough vs. Harbough.   We lost. Boo.

Luke turned 6 months old in Febrary and we were getting into our grove of being a family of 5.
It was a little crazy going from 2 kids to 3 kids. Much harder than 1-2 kids. But, thankfully Luke was a really easy going happy baby!

At the end of February I also helped throw a baby shower for my friend Becky's 3rd baby...Evan!
I had fun making all the signs & food labels.
 The theme was Ahoy! It's a Boy!
 See the full post here.

March 1st started off with a wedding in Southern California and it turned into a trip where we surprised the kids with 3 days at Disneyland.
It was SO much fun!! It was the first time we had taken the kids to Disneyland (we went to DisneyWorld and a Disney Cruise in 2011)
Read my Disneyland posts here, here & here.
I hope the girls will always remember their first trip to Disneyland.

It was magical!

In March, I wrote THIS post.."Yes, I am one of THOSE Moms" and didn't realize that post would soon cause me to be contacted by the Huffington Post and that post also caused me to be selected as one of BlogHer's Voices of the Year. Crazy! 

We also celebrated Easter on March 31st this year. It was a wonderful day spent at Kevin's sister's house & brother in law's winery. 
hen we headed out to Kevin's sister & brother in law's house.

 Read more about our Easter {here}
It was special because it was Luke's first Easter!

 We got Luke dedicated at church in April.
That was the highlight, for sure.
 And had a sweet little luncheon at our house after.
Read more about his dedication {here}

Also in April, I wrote THIS post about Relishing my Role as a working mom.
It can be really hard being a working mom, so I wrote it to encourage myself (and other moms out there)

Kate lost her first tooth on May 1st.
I posted a tutorial on my Tooth Fairy Receipt. See it {here}
And, my Mother in Law made Kate an adorable Tooth Fairy Pillow:
 Luke turned 9 months in May... Our baby boy was getting closer and closer to the big ONE.

Right before Mother's Day our Backyard Renovation was completed It set us up for TONS of swimming in 2013. This was the year we swam the most. And, our Spa was fixed. Horray!
You can see Before & After Pictures {here}

I had one of my most embarrassing moments EVER when I got walked in on when I was pumping in my classroom. Read all about it {here}

Kate finished her 1st season of TBall. So much fun.

Also in May, Kevin turned 38 and I turned 34. Yikes....we are getting OLD!!

Claire finished preschool and Kate finished Kindergarten.
Kate's teacher gave out awards to each student on the last day of school, this is what she got:
The weekend after school got out, Kevin and I had our first night way since Luke was born. 
So, 10 months later, we had a lovely weekend in Napa, because I was reading Scripture for Brittany & Greg's wedding. Brittany was one of my youth group students over 10 years ago. 
Such a beautiful wedding. See more pics {here}
I hosted the 2nd Annual Pioneer Woman Potluck Party with some girlfriends.
So much fun!
Read about how you can throw your own PW Potluck Party {here}

4th of July....one of my favorite days of the year!
A HUGE highlight is that my BFF since 5th grade was in town from Colorado with her hubby & 2 boys and we were SO happy they were able to come to our 4th of July Swim Party & Sausage Fest!

Read more about our 4th {here}

In July I was invited to be Hormel Foods Extended Family Preferred Blogger.
What does that mean? They have sent  me stuff  to review!
“In the spirit of full-disclosure, I’ve partnered with Hormel Foods as part of the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger Program. Throughout the year I’ll be receiving product, coupons, giveaways and promotions. However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own."

One of my favorite things they sent me was some of their salsas. I have an awesome recipe that I will be sharing in the next week or so using that recipe! You guys will love it.

 In July we went to Lake Tahoe 2 times. Once with my family & then 2 weeks later with just the 5 of us. Lake Tahoe is my happy place.

 Luke took his first steps this year in Tahoe at 11.5 months...I couldn't believe it...first steps on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

I am not going to lie...I was dreading August.
First because August meant Luke was turning ONE. 
And, secondly, because the end August means that school is back in session. Boo.
It turns out, August was one of our busiest and most fun months. 
A lot happened!

Luke turned ONE. And, yes, I cried about it.

Luke's 1st  Birthday Party was a highlight FOR SURE. I had literally been planning it in my head for over a year. I am happy with how it turned out. 
We had a Nautical 1st Birthday Party.
 Here is the Invite that I made:
  {Invite available in my Etsy shop
 See all the party pics {here}

Also in August I completed my #thedailyluke project on Instagram. I took a photo of Luke for his first 365 days of life. 

You can see all 365 photos by using the hashtag #thedailyluke on Instagram
Luke got his 1st Haircut 2 weeks after his birthday. Bye Bye Baby, Hello Big Boy.

I also helped throw a baby shower for my dear friend Jackie who was welcomed their 3rd baby (1st boy!) in August.
 See the Baseball Baby Shower post {here}

 Kevin & I celebrated our 11th Annivesary on August 24th
I surprised him with a weekend away in Half Moon Bay & we stayed at the same Bed & Breakfast were we stayed the first 2 nights we were married.

School started at the end of August. It was the start of my 10th year of teaching!!!
Lots of changes this school year...I dropped a class, so I am even more part time this school year (yay!) And, our district implemented Common Core this year and my school now has an Advisory class and Block Schedule.
Claire's started TK and Kate started 1st grade.

So much fun having them both at the same school.
We had our annual Back to School Feast. 
See that post {here}

Claire turned FIVE!
 I threw her a Tangled Party. Rapunzel even came to the party!
 See all the party pictures {here}

The week after Claire's party, we also hosted my nephew Jack's 1st Birthday Party (which was supposed to be at a park, but a rainstorm happened, so we moved it to our house)
See all of Jack Jack's Incredible 1st Birthday Party {here}

Most of September was spend trying to get my groove back after summer break and having 3 kids on 3 different schedules.
It has taken some adjustment, but we are getting there!

Myself and other girls in my Small group threw a baby shower for my friend Dana's baby girl.
 See all the shower pics {here}
My younger sister Rebeca found out she was pregnant with baby #2 and due in May!

My Grammy turned 102 & we celebrated her!
 See Grammy's party pictures {here}

We celebrated Halloween with  Wizard of Oz costumes and had friends over to Trick or Treat around our neighborhood.

See all our Halloween pics {here}

November is when I signed on to be an Independent Consultant for Rodan + Fields Dermatologists
I have been using their products for over a year and loved them so much I decided to start selling them. It is a wonderful company and a totally flexible part time job! 
If you are interested in buying products, shop {here}
Give yourself the gift of good skin for 2014!!!!!
If you are interested in joining my team, send me an email:

We also had our Family Photos done in November!

The 1 year anniversary of Sandy Hook and doing 26 Acts of Kindness {read those here}

Christmas and celebrating the birth of Christ.

At the beginning of 2013, I teamed up with Shay & Sheaffer for our Pin-Spired link up that we started in January of this year. It has been so fun seeing all your Pinterest Inspired outfits.
Our first Pin-Spired of 2014 will be this Friday!

Also, in 2013 I added 18 new recipes & 6 new free printables to the blog.
See all the recipes {here} & printables {here}

 2013, you have been good to us.
Thanks for all the fun memories.
I am thankful to God for the ways he worked in our family this year and for the ways that He will continue to work in us and through us.
I am a little unsure of what 2014 will hold.
Toward the end of 2013, there have been a few health issues come up in our extended family, so I am praying for God's healing in those.
I also am praying that God will continue to reveal himself to me in the coming year.
Happy New Year, friends.
Thanks for reading my blog this year.
I appreciate all of you!


Christmas Week in Photos

Well, Christmas has come and gone. 
I don't know about you, but our Christmas celebrations last almost a week between all the traditions & family gatherings. I love it all.
We kick off Christmas week the day after school gets out for break. 
The Saturday we got out, that night we did our annual tradition of looking at Christmas lights in our town. There is a Griswold house that never disappoints:
 The next door neighbor. Classic.
 We love this house. So fun.

 Other houses we always check out...one that has music/lights.
 And, Candy Cane Lane...a street that is lined entirely with candy canes. Love it.
There was  lots of cookie making & dessert making with me & the girls.
We made M&M Christmas Cookies 
 Used THIS recipe.

I made Candy Cane Kisses Cookies.
 Recipe {HERE}

I made Pam's Cheesecake for Christmas dessert.

Recipe {HERE}

And, I made Peanut Butter Ritzies.
Here is what you need for Peanut Butter Ritzies:
- Ritz Crackers 
- Peanut Butter (I use Skippy Natural Peanut Butter)
- Melting Chocolate/Candy Melts
- Sprinkles

As a Hormel Foods Extended Family Preferred Blogger, I learned that Skippy is under the Hormel brand! I love Skippy and I really love that they have a natural peanut butter that doesn't have to be refrigerated or stirred every time you use it! Check it out if you are looking for a yummy natural peanut butter.
“In the spirit of full-disclosure, I’ve partnered with Hormel Foods as part of the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger Program. Throughout the year I’ll be receiving product, coupons, giveaways and promotions. However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own."

Make peanut butter sandwiches with Ritz crackers (I use Skippy Natural Creamy peanut butter)
Dip the sandwiches in melting chocolate & then add sprinkles.
Allow to cool, then enjoy!
 I make Peanut Butter Ritzies every Christmas and Valentines Day. So yummy & so easy!

The Sunday before Christmas we had Larson family Christmas with Kevin's family.
Larson Family Christmas always starts off with gin fizzes. Yum! 

Kevin's mom LOVES Christams and goes all out. Here are all our stockings:

 Growing up we opened all our presents on Christmas Eve, so with our kids, that is the night we celebrate Christmas with my family & we still open up all our presents that night as well.

Christmas morning we had a nice little morning at home with the kids.
We stayed up until 1:30 getting Christmas ready.
Then we headed back to my parents house for Christmas brunch.
Gotta love my dad Jimmy's Bloody Mary's:
And, Jimmy's 3 meat Breakfast/Brunch:
It isn't Christmas Day if we don't watch A Christmas Story:

It was such a mellow Christmas day hanging out & watching Christmas movies.
Kevin (and Kate) had lots of fun building Kate's Lego Cruise Ship.
Dinner was amazing...Filet Mingon, PW's Mashed Pototoes & Roasted Brussel Sprouts.
 We ended the night by watching Home Alone 2. I love this movie :)

It was a wonderful Christmas. So mellow & relaxing.
 The next day was Decebmer 26....in my opinion one of the most depressing days of the year.
It is the day I take down Christmas & pack it all away.

It was packed up & cleaned up by 2pm on the 26th.
Every year, we put up Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and pack it up the day after Christmas.
 And. I am so sad about it. I love, love, love this time of year, but pack it all away because when it's over, its' over. I can't bear to look at all the decorations anymore knowing that Christmas is over. It's too depressing. And, plus....I am OCD...I need it all cleaned up :)

So, there you have it...our Christmas 2013. So thankful for another wonderful holiday with family.
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas also....is your tree still up or did you take it down?

And, don't forget....this Friday, January 3rd we are having our Pin-Spired link up!
Link up your Pinterest Inspired outfits with me, Shay & Sheaffer!
Can't wait to see what you wore!


2013 Family Photo Shoot

One of the most important things for me to do each year is to have our family photos taken.
Because our kids are so young, they change so much from year to year.
This year, like last year, we had our family photos taken by Monika McSweeney Photography.
She has the patience of a saint...putting up with my crazy kids.
Seriously, what is up with my kids and photo shoots? Even though photo shoots can be stressful (we all want THE PERFECT SHOT) 
These photos are worth it to me, because this is our life right now with 3 young kids....it is crazy. They don't like to sit still and smile on demand, but I am so thankful that we take out time each year to document the crazy :)

 In case you missed it last month, I posted the video that Monika's daughter made during our photo shoot.
Watch the video here:
(Make sure you have the volume on so you can hear the music that goes with it!)

And, outfit details, since figuring out what everyone is wearing is half the battle!
Kevin {Shirt} {Jeans} {Shoes}
Claire {Dress} {Leggings} {Shoes} {Headband}
Luke {Shirt} {Pants} {Shoes}


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