3 good things

I can't believe it's Thursday already. This week just completely flew by. The boys are slowly pushing through the sniffles and I'm still trying to fight it off. I'm slightly congested but I'm downing vitamin C like a boss. Ain't no virus entering this body.

With life going by so fast, it's easy to stop and be thankful for the goodness that is happening all around. So today I'm linking up with Jess and going to remember 3 good things that have happened today.

I spent one whole uninterrupted hour roaming happily through the non-fiction section of our public library. I really love libraries. So much information just waiting for me! And quiet, comfortable couches where I can sit in silence and lose myself in pages. Working for 4 years at the university library in college gave me this intense appreciation for libraries. It brings back good memories, allows me to be lost. It really makes me miss the Iowa library, being part of the system, around people learning. The inner nerd/bookworm/totally awesome bad-ass really comes out of me here.

I appreciated and reveled in my alone time. Even though it's not long each week, I look forward to it. I  love being alone. For as outgoing as I am, I love solitude even more. It's because of this solitude that I'm always a little bit surprised I found a husband and had kids. And now that I have kids, I guess I value this alone time even more. Funny how that works, huh? Oh, and I treated myself to Starbucks. 

I watched surprised and proud as Isaiah talked up a storm during his therapy session today. I mean, he was killing the 2 word phrases today. Trying brand new words repeatedly and they sounded good. I love watching the progress of these boys. 

So what about you guys? Link up your 3 good things posts with Jess OR share with me here 3 good things that happend in your life today. Go!

my secret to staying stylish in cold weather #htc8 #troop8x

Growing up in the Midwest, I learned early on that winter doesn't exactly bring out my most fashionable side. Hats usually never match gloves, coats and boots never coordinate...it's just a big wintery, knit, fleece mess. 

We lived in Southern California for 3 years and I was a little bit lost as to what to wear in the winter. There really was no need for winter clothes and over those 3 years I've somewhat "lost" what little winter style I had.

And now we're living in a completely different climate from what I'm used to and am just trying to slowly figure out a new winter style appropriate for the Bay Area. I looked for one common denominator in my wardrobe that I always feel comfortable and stylish wearing and just decided to go with it. 

Enter-cowls. I'm obsessed. They're like scarves that don't come undone. And my new favorite hobby has been picking out fun prints and fabrics to sew unique ones for myself. 
This polkadot one is my one of my favorites. 
They're so easy to layer up over a jacket or sweater. I've been choosing basic knit fabrics to use for these so they don't get too bulky. And they're perfect for San Francisco weather which requires lots of layering for the many temps we experience throughout the day. 

And? They're so much fun to get creative with. I love using bright patterns to fun-up a simple outfit like this white knit dress/denim jacket combo:

I'll let you guys in on a little secret because I know not everyone knows how to sew or has a sewing machine: 
--Often times if I've bought a fabric and haven't gotten around to sewing it, I'll just drape it around my neck a few times like a scarf. So simple! AND SOOO much cheaper than buying a scarf at a store (that a million other people have). Just run to your local craft/fabric store and pick out a yard of a few of your favorite fabrics and there ya' go! An instant and fashionable upgrade to your winter wardrobe. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

How about you guys? What's your go-to way to stay warm and still not look like a grade schooler in winter? 

(These photos were taken with my Windows Phone 8X which, pretty much stays stylish all year round.)
Content and/or other value provided by our partner, HTC.

stuck in my own creative rut

I feel stuck, in a rut. I know we all experience them at some point but I'm really feeling like this one just will not let me out. I have so many ideas, so much stirring in my brain and I just can't seem to keep it organized or to put anything into action. I feel like I never have enough hours in the day to do the things I really want to do. It's not that I lack motivation, it's just that I don't know where to start. And as I'm thinking of where to start, more ideas start flowing. 

I've always been like this. I'm an idea person. I think of things, problem solve, have plans and things I want to do. I fail to plan out the necessary details to follow through with said plan. I see the beginning and end and my road to the finish line, instead of a direct and well thought out path is usually a sporadic and winding road that eventually gets me where I need to go. 

There are so many things churning in my head for this blog and I just can't seem to get the traction to get going. I'm spinning out in my own muddy puddle of creativity and motivation. 

How do you stop planning and start doing? 

What works to help you get out of a rut?

prepping for a special valentine's day #HTC8 #Troop8X

Well you guys, now that Christmas is done and over with, I've been just tapping my foot waiting for the next event to craft for. Valentine's Day is less than a month away and I'm really looking forward to it. I know some people hate everything it stands for but my parents always made it special for me growing up and I plan on doing something special for the boys each year as well. I've had the opportunity to test out the new Windows 8X phone and have been using it this week to search for and plan some fun stuff for us to do on Valentine's day.

Ok, so one cool way I've been saving up my ideas is by taking screen shots and saving it in a favorites album on my Windows phone. I do a lot of browsing while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at doctors appointments, waiting for the boys during their speech therapy. It's awesome having a screen I can personalize and organize- keeping my favorites album front and center as a good reminder to keep on searching!

I've also been searching through a couple of my favorite craft books for some special activities I can do with the boys on Valentine's day, taking pictures as I go and adding them to the album...below you can see some photos from my craft books, some pinned inspiration and a recipe idea.

I like the easy customization of the home screen and how big or small I can make the boxes based on my needs. (Which is something I can't do with the iphone and have problems seeing what apps are in what box because it's all so small!) The screen is bigger than that on the iPhone 4s and just provides for a more visually appealing experience without extra bulk to the phone itself.

The nice big and clear screen wil also come in handy on Valentine's Day when I whip up this super cute cake (and will be able to easily see the recipe without squinting or scrolling!). The allrecipes.com app is pretty sweet and I mean, how good does this look:

Chikezie and I usually do something fun/funny for each other and not put too much pressure on the day. I want to help teach the boys that Valentine's Day is all about spending time with those you love most and showing them your appreciation and love for them...and that it's not about the cards or gifts or flowers or perfection that so many people come to expect.

Do you have any special Valentine's Day traditions or do you one of those people who absolutely hate the day? 

Disclosure: I am a member of the HTC Troop8X . I have been furnished with HTC Windows8X phone so that I can review the new Windows 8X phone and give you my honest opinion.

chopping it all off

If you've been following me the past few months, I finally got brave enough and decided just to chop my hair off. Granted, it was only between my chin/shoulders, I really felt like taking a chance. My first cut I modeled after Michelle Williams' pixie cut. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it. I was getting a lot of compliments on it but was struggling to feel feminine. Some cute earrings and new lipstick later, I was doing better. 

Yesterday I had an appointment I was originally just going to get a trim and decided - what the hell, I'm almost there anyways, might as well just chop the rest off- and I did.  I showed my stylist this picture of Michelle Williams' shorter cut. (And had it lightened quite a bit. My scalp is sore today!)

I'm still getting used to the whole-no bangs thing. And the extremely short layers that I can occasionally feel sticking out/up. But this morning it took me about 3 minutes to comb through and put some wax in and I was done. To fix from wet, all I have to do is put in some shine serum and blow dry it with a brush. I finish with some styling wax/cream to give it some texture and I'm done. What usually takes me at least 30 min of mostly blow drying has been cut significantly.

I've noticed myself playing around with make up a little more over the past month, getting a little more brave to try new things. I'm not afraid to wear bright red lipstick on any normal day taking the boys out. I've used some new eye shadows (that I NEVER used before) and found a way to make them look natural. I've bought cute new earrings to accessorize with and they can always be seen. 

One nice thing about short hair is that even on my "lazy days" it looks pretty much done. Whereas, on my lazy days with long hair (which let's be honest, was most days) my hair was just thrown into a ponytail. I'd go without makeup and fail to wear much  more than sweats out to run errands. Now that my hair looks a little more put together without much effort, I find myself putting on some make up, putting some effort into my wardrobe...trying. When you're a stay-at-home-mom it can be so easy to fall into that rut of not giving a crap about how you look. That little bit of extra self confidence you get from actually getting yourself dressed and putting effort into how you look really makes a difference.

How many of us stare longingly at the short crops on Pinterest and wish we had the guts to just give it a try? Everyone thinks only certain people can pull off certain hair. I think this is completely false and SO limiting. Obviously, you have to take into account the texture of your hair and how much work you're willing to put in, but you really can do any length and I have the secret- 


It takes a brave woman to cut off what is typically seen as "womanly" and really have nothing to hide behind anymore. You know those days when you have a zit on your face and can just strategically cover it with some bangs or leave your hair down and use it to distract from whatever flaw you feel you have. With short hair, you're out there, your face to the world. 

a belated look back at 2012

Today I just realized I never did a proper look-back on our very chaotic and adventurous 2012. And because I'm such a nostalgic person, (and because so much changed, I'm sure a lot of people need a catch-up) I thought I'd share some things that happened last year!

Our friend Cassie took some 2 year photos of the boys. My children tortured me a few times. I shared some tips on caring for your kids' curly hair. I wasn't afraid to share my stretch marks with the world. Gave you guys my banana bread recipe

I wore skinnies for the first time (and fell in love). I turned the boys' table into a chalkboard table. I added a new flower to my bouquet. Mama Mandolin was on the front page of Etsy! I shared a recipe for coffee grounds body scrub. I stepped out to the So Cal Blogger meet up with one of my favorite people!

My babies turned two and we had a party. I caught the boys in a sweet moment. I learned a lesson in self confidence when I traveled to Iowa for my dear friends' wedding. We announced our move to Portland!

We attended our friends' awesome wedding in LA on Easter. The dudes shared some of their favorite books. I drank a lot of wine while packing up our home. The POD showed up and we made our move to Portland.

I chopped off all of my hair. The boys remained crazy toddlers as we continued our home search in Portland.

We finally moved into a house. I learned turning my kids into professional models would be too much work. The boys thoroughly enjoyed their first backyard

Julian drove a firetruck and it made his life. The boys made their modeling debut in a lumberjack wedding photo shoot. I wrote a letter to Isaiah and Julian. I tried out a yummy (and cool) summer snack. We got an awesome family photo taken. We announced our move to San Francisco and  I shared my thoughts on moving, again.

I shared my love for my 3 sweet boys. I learned a lesson in parenting, late at night and without much sleep. The dudes tried out sensory bowls, and they were a huge hit.

I made a trip back to Iowa for a dear friend's wedding (and had some relaxing mama time). The dudes had their first speech evaluation. We finally found a house!

Thing 1 and Thing 2 went trick or treating. I made bread pudding, crock pot apple butter, and vegan boca chili.  I talked about how important being a mom, being a stay-at-home-mom is.We played in shaving cream and went to a pumpkin patch. I got a diagnosis for my back pain. Oh, and we were so busy having fun, we forgot our anniversary!

My dad came and we dorked around San Francisco. I shared some thoughts on blogging. We made key ring photo flashcards to help the boys get comfortable with school. I shared some of my struggles with the boys' speech delay. We painted with cars and I showed you guys the boys' play space.

The hubs celebrated his 31st birthday. I tested out some pinterest yellow cake batter cookies (they were amazing). I talked about our daily struggles with communication with the boys. I talked about Julian and his ever-so unique personality.

What a busy 2012!

naming babies

Over the holidays my (basically) sister-in-law Ellie and I went shopping and of course stopped at Starbucks. The girl at the counter asked my name a couple of times because it was loud, and when my drink was ready (or what I thought was my drink) they kept saying the name "Bailey" instead of Mandey. 

I decided I loved that name and if we were to ever have a baby girl (the jury is still out on more babies) I would really like to name her Bailey. And wouldn't that be a cute story? That it was the wrong name on a Starbucks cup? Instead of "it's one of the only names your daddy and I could agree on" like the story of Julian and Isaiah. I told Chikezie about the name, he didn't like it. But I bet if it came down to it, I could get him to love it. 

The boys' names were pretty simple to figure out: Julian was originally going to be Sidney (Chikezie's middle name) but I eventually decided I didn't like the nickname, Sid. We settled on Julian, something different but easy to say, cute for a little boy but a strong, manly name as well. He has two middle names Tochi, which we asked his parent's to pick out, an Igbo name meaning "praise God". And James, after my brother Joshua James, my dad Andrew James and my great grandpa Leonard James.
Isaiah was also a name we both agreed on (and that I'd always loved). His middle names, Chidi, meaning "God exists; God is real" in Igbo. And Hamilton, his Uncle Chic's middle name. 

Do you have an interesting story on how you got inspiration for you kids' names?

i won't give up

I've really been meaning to tackle this whole blog thing but you guys, it's kind of been on the last of my list of things to do. We had family here visiting for 2 weeks over the holidays and I feel like life was kind of put on hold. Now that everyone's gone, the last two weeks have caught up with me and now I feel like I'm just trying to keep my head above water. 

One big thing I've been working on/dreading/stressing over is the boys speech therapy transitions. We're having a couple of different problems. When they turn 3 their speech therapy is transferred to the school district. They have to be tested through the school district to see if they even qualify for services. When I talked with a representative from the school district in November, she told me they typically only qualify the bottom 5%. I hope they don't qualify then but at the same time, I hope they do so we can have some for sure help for them. 

I requested that the boys receive some individual therapy through the state as well, just to really get the most out of our last few months with this therapy. This means even more hoops to jump through and more paperwork. The holidays slowed things down. I REALLY love ALLS, where the boys get their therapy now, but they were booked for individual therapy. And even if we can find a therapist, we'll get, what? 6 weeks with them before they're 3. 

SOO in effort to maybe get a therapist through our insurance that we could keep through this transition, I had to set up a doctor appointment with our family physician for a referral to a speech therapist (I'm really getting tired of having an HMO). We waited 2 weeks for this appointment just for her to write on a piece of paper the referral. I called the speech therapy office today that we were referred to (only TWO places within our network and both over 30 min away). I found out we'd be put on an 8 month waiting list for therapy. EIGHT MONTHS. 

I lost it. I cried. I cried with both of the boys, fighting and crying all morning out of frustration. Everyone assures me that they're so smart (and I KNOW they are) and that I'm a good mom and that I'm doing a great job. I know these things. I'm just so tired, you know? I just magically want someone to appear at my door saying they are here to help my babies learn to talk. And then teach me things I can do as well. 

I know we'll get there. I know this. I know they'll be talking my ear off someday. But help is out there, somewhere. There is so much frustration in this house. They've made amazing advances in the past couple of months but they're almost 3 years old now and very rarely using two words together. They don't participate with peers because they don't know how to ask, to what to say. 

So now, I'm on a mission to figure out another route. If they qualify through the school district to start more therapy in March, great. But I can't wait around until then with no back up plan. I'm fairly certain any other therapy will be out of our pocket (which gets super pricy with two kids). You guys have been a great support system for us through this journey and I know we're not alone.

If you know of any other resources I'm not using, please let me know!

family selfies at half moon bay

Welp, the holiday marathon is finally over. Two weeks of family coming and going to and from our house. Now time to rest, and for life to get back to normal. We had the best time with Chikezie's family (and I was majorly missing mine). We had a chance to take everyone to Half Moon Bay and I'd decided we were doing family photos there. I busted out my new tripod, found my remote and here is what came of my very first family photo self takes. 

*You can click on the images to see them bigger*

I really wish we could have faced a different direction (to avoid shadows) but we really wanted ocean in the background so I didn't have many options. I'm pretty proud of this first try! Seeing Chikezie's usually pretty formal parents making silly faces was pretty great. 

Happy 2013!

Sorry we've been a little MIA lately, we have had family at our house for the past week and until this weekend. We've enjoyed the heck out of these holidays and are soaking up all the time we can get with family.

Happy 2013, friends!