Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trendy Tot Tuesday!

I am linking up with Megan and Kelly for Trendy Tot Tuesday this week because I just HAD to share these pictures of Ariana. In fact, after snapping these pics and seeing her all dolled up, I was sort of bitter because I would wear every piece of this outfit in my size and I kinda wish I could.

 I meaaaaaaaannnnnn.... 

 She has been obsessed with purses lately. She has a couple fluffy or plastic pink ones that are more like toys but I wanted to get her a cute "grown-up" looking ones so that she stops carrying mine around!

I ended up getting her a small, juniors cross body bag and taking it to my shoe guy to have the strap cut and shortened! It's still a little big/long but I figure within the next couple years she'll grow into it and hopefully it will last until she really wants to carry a purse around everyday... which I expect to be right around the corner ;)


http://www.mycentsofstyle.com/collections/kid-s-t-shirts    http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=623062002&vid=1&locale=en_US&kwid=1&sem=false&sdReferer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3D%26esrc%3Ds%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D10%26ved%3D0CI8BEBYwCQ%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.gap.com%252Fproducts%252Frip-and-repair-skinny-jeans-P623062.jsp%26ei%3Dr3PVU8mTIo-_sQSlv4CQCQ%26usg%3DAFQjCNHqt0iONMDyzumFztf0qYHwgo8Qcg%26sig2%3DtXQv_HyrJTdsRfaaSEw4aA%26bvm%3Dbv.71778758%2Cd.cWc    http://www.charmingcharlie.com/handbags/cross-body-handbags/crossbody-padlock-bag.html#color=brown    http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=96129&vid=1&pid=951660002

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Sweet Summer Treat! And, Um... FREE SORBET!

This is one of those genius ideas where you look back and think "why didn't they think of this sooner?!" You know, like spray olive oil and pre-cut sheets of aluminum foil.

As a kid, my brother and I always loved STARBURST™. It was one of our favorite candies. And we would always, without fail, fight over the pink and the yellow ones - the best flavors, obviously. Specifically the pink. The sweet, tangy, juicy, strawberry flavor that we all know and love.

Well, the fine people at STARBURST™ decided to channel that unique flavor and come up with STARBURST™ Brand Frozen Sorbet Bars. Yup, that tangy strawberry flavor you knew as a child is now a refreshing summer treat!

Available in 2.6-ounce 4-Packs for $3.99 and 2.6-ounce singles for $1.49 each, STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars are a crowd-pleasing favorite. At 70 calories each, it's a guilt-free snack that can be enjoyed poolside, post-BBQ or just as a way to cool down during these hot summer months! We are always having "picnics" in our front yard and what better way to end a picnic than with an ice cold version of your favorite childhood candy??

So if your mouth is already salivating, you should definitely pick up some STARBURST™ Frozen Sorbet Bars before your next BBQ or pool date! And don't forget to follow Starburst on Twitter and "like" them on Facebook to receive the latest updates on their candies, treats and other frozen concoctions like DOVEBAR®, TWIX® and SNICKERS® Ice Cream Bars! Multi-packs of the STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars are available in the refrigerated ice cream case at Wal-Mart and select grocery stores nationwide. The singles are available in many convenience stores nationwide. And, thanks to STARBURST™, I am giving one lucky reader TWO free boxes of the Sorbet Bars! Just enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter below. It ends at the end of the week and I'll have your free coupons in the mail to you by the weekend! Yummm! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Trendy Tot Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

I thought I'd pop in and talk some toddler jammies today! I posted this picture of Ariana last week...

And someone asked me where I get her bedtime nighties. I have recently become obsessed with baby nighties and have been hoarding all the ones I can find. Two of my favorites are from GAP but unfortunately, they don't have any toddler ones in stock at the moment. However, here are some of my favorite summer-time jams - short sleeved and such - for the warmer months!

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9

If I had to choose a favorite place to get pajamas, it would be Old Navy, hands down. I love their selection, they are really affordable (sometimes as low as $7 or $8 a pair!), they have cute designs and they wear/wash really well. You can't ask for more than that! Ariana is actually in need of some more pajamas with shorts and I think she will love those cute whale ones! The second one isn't even a nightgown at all, but a light summer dress that I think would be better served as a nightgown seeing as how it seems pretty light/short!

For boys, I also almost always turn to Old Navy. Ky owns both those dinosaur prints (shocker, I know), and I've never heard of that "Jumping Beans" brand, but I love that it comes with two different short options to mix and match! And, of course - every now and then, he just sleeps in an undershirt or tank and jersey shorts. Because they are comfortable and he's a boy, and well, that's what Daddy sleeps in and we are very much in an "I DRESS MYSELF!" phase ;)

Don't forget to link up with Megan and Kelly today!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five on Friday..?

Its been a while since I've participated in this link up and I'm not sure if it's even still around but I figured, why not!

1. Game of Thrones

As usual, we are behind on the uptake and catching on a little too late to a great, great drama based TV series. After many, MANY late nights (some as late as 3AM... yea, we're stupid), we finished all four seasons in 2 weeks and I'm literally sitting on the edge of my seat awaiting season 5 which has barely begun filming and doesn't start until.... APRIL! Shoot me. We should have started watching it in February or at least spaced it out more but the end of each episode is a cliffhanger and you can't just stop at one. It's intense. More violence and sexuality than I've ever seen in one place but extremely compelling. If you can stomach watching 12 people's throats get slit open and full frontal nudity in every episode, then I highly recommend. Aside from the incredibly amazing character development and intricate story lines, I am obsessed with the costuming and the hairstyles! Also, I have a MAJAH crush on all the characters - good and bad. Most specifically Kit Harington. I normally don't quite go for dirty, smelly, hairy men... but something about Jon Snow makes me swoon. And look at how nice he cleans up. Damn.

 2. Best Maxi Dress Discovery!

Norstroms "Lush" line in their BP section has the best maxi dress I've ever worn. I have a few of them that I have basically just kept in a rotation all month and they've been all I wear. They come in a variety of patterns/colors, are SO comfy and soft, the straps are adjustable, and then have a faux empire waist which makes them super flattering. Scoop one up while they are on sale (25% off!)

3. Troubles in Toddlerhood

This week was a tough one. Probably one of the top 5 worst weeks in parenthood ever. Ky and I are butting heads more and more everyday and there were several times this week where I just collapsed with my head in my hands, tears burning my eyeballs, wondering if I'm doing anything right as a mother. I am still working on that whole patience thing, because I have none and I can't seem to gain any. If patience was something you could buy at the store, I swear it, I'd stock up for winter. Having a stubborn, fiesty 3-year old is definitely the worst form of punishment for such an impatient person like myself. And I say that because he's basically my mini-me. He lacks patience just as much as I do, he's as hard-headed as me, stubborn as me, etc. In other words (as my mother likes to remind me almost daily), this is karma.

4. All my idols in one place
Our 6-year (WHAT?!) wedding anniversary is coming up in a few months and it just so happens that it coincides with the New York City Wine & Food Festival which is hosted every year by The Food Network and Food&Wine Magazine. Since New York is a short drive from us, we decided to go up for the weekend, stay with some friends, and attend one of the festival events which is hosted by some of my all time favorite Food Network chefs. I might just pass out from excitement if I actually get to shake hands with Geoffrey Zakarian. Like, I seriously don't know what I would do besides stutter ridiculously. Can. Not. Wait! 
5. The Pioneer Woman
Speaking of Food Network Celebrity Chefs I Love... I have been making a lot more new recipes in the kitchen lately and several have been from The Pioneer Woman. I drool watching her show and I love how everything she cooks looks fresh, simple and effortless. I particularly love this pasta salad dish that my friend Sarah made for me a few weeks ago and I made it myself for a BBQ last weekend and have been eating the leftovers all week. It's SO fresh and yummy and has no mayo so it's perfect for a light summer lunch! Definitely try it soon. 

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Trendy Tot Tuesday: Toddler Girl Sandals!

I was so excited when Megan reached out to let me know that Trendy Tot Tuesday was back in action! I loved this link up for so long because it's so fun to look around and see other adorable babies in adorable clothes which usually ends in a bit of online shopping and who doesn't love that?! ;)

I am guest hosting today and we are talking about toddler girl SHOES! Specifically, sandals. Because I bought these straight up gorgeous sandals for Ariana last week and couldn't get over how beautiful they were. I seriously had shoe envy and I wanted them in my size.

So I thought I'd share some of my favorite places to buy baby shoes and some of the ones we have and love.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5 

1. First up, those gorgeous Greek-inspired thong sandals. My mom said they looked like baby Tory Burch and I had to laugh because they are from TARGET!!! Yep, you read correctly. Target. And, um... like $16. And they are SO soft and comfortable! I can tell they will last a while and they don't slip off her feet when she is wearing them. Pictures don't even really do them justice, they are stunning in person and look way more expensive than they were!

2. Also really loving these Aztec-style design thongs... also from Target. They are killing it with their shoes this season! These come in a few different colors and would look adorable with mint or pink or yellow or any combination of the three. So cute.

3. SmartFit is one of my favorite brand of sandals and you can find these gold beauties at Payless. They also come in silver! I got them along with another pair (the ones below) several months ago during a BOGO event, and I also had a coupon and they each came out to $10 a piece! That my friends, is known as a "style steal" ;) - I love these sandals, they are soft and comfortable and also look like they cost much more than they were.

4. Also from Payless, Ariana has been LIVING in these sandals all summer. They are cute and versatile and go with almost everything. They don't slip, they fit her little ankles and she never complains about them. Super easy to take on/off with the velcro strap.

5. It's no secret that Baby Gap basically owns my house with how much I shop there. However, I have never been a huge fan of their shoes for kids. Don't get me wrong, they are CUTE, but as far as comfort and durability goes, I have never found them to be the best. Ariana and Ky have both owned a couple pairs of shoes from there and they slip off easily or aren't the kind of shoe you would want them to be running around in at the park. HOWEVER, these espadrilles are so cute, I might make an exception. I mean, with little white shorts and a chambray tee? I can't. I don't know if I would even care if she only wore them for 20 minutes, haha! :)

Don't forget to link up below with Megan and Kelly to show off pics of your cutest little tot!

  • Trendy Tot Tuesday is a chance to talk about kid's style, and pretty much anything goes.  Pictures of your cutie, talking about their style, a Polyvore board, linking to the new kid's line at the Gap - anything!  All ages welcome, from you sweet pregnant mamas stocking up a closet to the teenagers that probably pick all their own stuff out now  
  • This is a hop-style link up - please follow your hosts (MeganKelly)- we are in spots 1 & 2.  Also, jump around to meet other bloggers!  We hope everyone gains some new followers from this link up and finds some fabulous new blogs!
  • Please link back to (at least!) one of us, and feel free to steal our Trendy Tot Tuesday badge if you'd like.  If you're a tweeter or instagram-er, use #trendytot

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Dog Days of Summer

Since I never got around to really blogging about our vacation, I thought I'd just share some of my favorite pictures so far from our summer.

I am always so envious of these kids and how many cousins they have around them, all so close in age! They are going to have so much fun growing up and we are already witnessing their little groups and conversations and games they play together.

We don't have any getaways planned in the near future, but lots of birthday parties, BBQs, pool play dates and everything else that signifies summer. We spend most of our day at the park or drawing with sidewalk chalk and I feel like the kids get bored with that so quickly! Would love to know your favorite summer activities with your kiddos so we could change up our routine a bit. Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as we are!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Mish Mash

It's been a while since I've done one of these "Brain Dump" type posts... and we have a lot to catch up on!

• I need to blog and post our vacation pictures. I'm sure I'll get around to it as soon as I'm not lazy enough to take the photos off my camera. We had an amazing time with Hubs' entire family and we miss the lake so much already!

• After the winter we had this year (which I've tried very hard to forget about), we have spent almost every waking minute outside. Sidewalk chalk, splash pad, strawberry picking, the pool, the sprinkler, park playdates, bubbles, popsicles and watermelon, carnivals, dining al fresco... you name it, we've been doing it. And it's not even July! We have really been soaking up this summer to the fullest and the kids are loving every last bit of it. Well.. the kids and I.

• Yesterday, we ran out of diapers. I decided I just wasn't going to buy more. I put both the kids in underwear, and we left the house for 2 hours worth of errands with two potty breaks in between and they BOTH came back totally dry. I don't know if it was a miracle or a coincidence, but I'll take it! They both pee and poop on the potty if/when we tell them to go but if we don't say anything, neither of them (well, Ariana sometimes does) will come to us letting us know they have to go which has been EXTREMELY frustrating. Ky especially knows what to do but just refuses to tell us when he has to go. Hoping the constant asking will get him to come around. Continuing with this for the next few days to see how they do... SO ready to be done with diapers!

• I made these spicy chicken enchiladas last week and they were a huge hit. So delish and easy. Will definitely be making them again soon!

• The newest fad in our house is How to Train Your Dragon. Ky is obsessed. He loved the movie so much that we took him to the theatre for the first time to see the sequel. He was much better than I had anticipated and made me proud by devouring half a medium sized bag of popcorn.

• If you're still trying to snag something stars-y and stripe-y before this holiday weekend, GAP is doing 40% off and Old Navy is doing 30% off, both with free 2-Day shipping tonight until 5PM! I may or may not have just pointed and clicked to get Ariana her first bikini... don't tell Hubs! :D

Happy Monday!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Day I Let My Kid Run Like A Wild Animal.... Through Target

I feel like my days can be broken down into groups: meal times, getting the kids dressed, playtime, re-doing stuff I already did because my kids un-did it, driving, and momentary lapses in judgement.

Last week I took the kids to Target to get a kiddie pool and about 40 other unnecessary things because that's the Target way. As we pulled into the parking lot, Ky chimed in with, "Mommy, you're going to put Ariana in the cart and let me walk." Oh, I am, am I.

Truth be told, it had been months since I'd brought both of them to Target by myself. I'd been going while he was in school so that I could just manage one cart, one kid or or on the weekends so Hubs could join me and we wouldn't have to wrangle that huge boat that the people at Target consider a double-cart. So when he made this comment, a part of me was quietly panicking. I'd put him in the larger part of the cart a few times before but he hardly ever sits down in it and even when he does, where does all my stuff go but on top of him.

I thought long an hard for a moment and said "Ok, but you get one strike. If you run off or touch something you're not supposed to or don't listen when I ask you to follow me, you're going in. Capiche?" Capiche.

I put Ariana in the cart and Ky insisted on helping me push so he stood under/beneath me, reaching up and pushing the cart with his teeny, tiny, T-rex arms. We did our usual stroll-through route... past the two-piece bathing suits I refuse to look at, the scarves I wait to go on sale, the athletic wear that I know would just be a waste of money. We get to the baby section and I toss in a few necessities. So far so good.

Then we pass the toy aisle and of course, there are a few distractions. "I want this truck and this ball and these books and... and... and... " Yea, ok kid. Because you didn't just get 500 gifts for your birthday. 

Then we find the kiddie pool and he's all "I'LL CARRY IT." Ok, whatever. Because the thing is too huge to fit in the cart anyway and I look like a donkey trailing it behind me. Pun intended.

At this point it's been about 25 minutes and as we round the corner past all the beauty aisles and cosmetics, there in the distance is the checkout. I see it. It's so close. I think, "wow, he actually wasn't too bad. We made it!"

And then, as if the little bugger read my mind, his 25 - 30 minute behavior window expired in the blink of an eye. He takes one sly glance back at me, drops the kiddie pool and takes off. He's about 10 feet away when I freeze, mid-step, and sternly say, "Ky! Get back here or you're going in the cart!" and then... he SCREAMS, "NO!!!!!" and high-tails it back past the entire bank of registers straight for the Dollar Spot, rounds the corner and heads for the automatic doors.

Talk about fight or flight, there was a good half a second where I didn't know what to do. I had at least 10 customers staring at me, a huge kiddie pool at my feet, a cart full of crap, and an Ariana (totally oblivious), munching away on Goldfish crackers in the cart. But then of course, the first thought in my head is, "he's going to run outside and get hit by a car or something." so I drop everything, leave the cart, and sprint after him, catching up to him right as he's about to get out the door. I was only about 50 yards away from Ariana, but at that point grabbing him first was more important. I grabbed him by the arms and scooped him up, trying not to loose my shit. I said, "I told you, one strike." walk him back over to the cart and dump him inside. A lady was standing right by my cart when I got back and she whispered, "I saw you run and just thought I'd stand here with your other one... and oh, good job, mom." Which I thanked her for and totally took as a compliment until she finished it up with, "SO glad mine are in their 20's and I don't have to deal with that phase anymore!" Ummm... I almost responded with, "I'm sure they are misbehaving, too... you just don't know about it." - but I didn't.

I was red hot angry and humiliated with Ky as we were leaving Target. But then part of me was thinking how it was really just my fault. Because I'm the frog and I'm just too trusting. Or was it his fault, because he's the scorpion and it's just his nature? (Gilmore Girls reference, anyone?). The truth is, he's a runner. BOTH my kids are. And sometimes I feel like I'm the only one with runners. I swear, I spend so much time staring creepily at well-behaved mothers and children and wonder what I'm doing wrong. I see kids standing by their parents quietly in the checkout line or sitting in a seat at a restaurant without a highchair and it quite literally baffles me. Baffles me! HOW. How do you get your child to sit still. Or listen for that matter. Or not run off like they are on fire every time you don't strap them to something. My kids won't even sit down for dinner on our deck without getting up at least 5 times each throughout the meal. I don't understand it.

Part of me, of course, would love to blame my mother. There have been countless times throughout Ky's life when he had to sit quietly somewhere, for something (whether it be waiting for a table at a restaurant or waiting for me to stand in line to pay for something, etc...), and if my mother was with me, her response would ALWAYS be, "Oh, you can't expect him to stand here quietly and wait in line! I'll take him outside and let him run around til you're done." ..... yea. That. Is that why? I'll never know. 

Listening is something we are really struggling with lately. With a threenager and a 2-year-old diva, it's been a nightmare trying to get them to do anything when asked once. I know they are still young and learning and both going through a control/independence phase, but good god. This rebellious phase is one "season" that I am definitely wishing away and will not miss.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Grilled Vegetable Napoleon with Balsamic Glaze

We are currently on vacation and for the last few weeks or so, Hubs and I have attempted (ok, half-assed really) making a conscious effort to eat a bit healthier until we pig out for seven straight days with his family.

I was in the grocery store planning to stock up on tons of fresh fruits and veggies and also thinking what I could make that would be a nice change of pace from the usual tossed salads we've been having regularly.

As soon as I stepped into the produce aisle, our grocer had those huge wooden bins of fresh, "local" vegetables. They all looked so ripe and delicious I wanted all of them. I was particularly drawn to the eggplant and the zucchini so I thought I'd just grill them like I usually do and picked up a couple. Then, as I passed some beefsteak tomatoes, they had a small fridge full of fresh mozzarella and basil, and well... let's just say their marketing and product placement got my wheels turning. I suddenly envisioned a pile of grilled veggies separated by buttery slices of cheese and a delicious sauce tying it all together. And thats where this idea came from.

I had planned to also grill some red onion but forgot and I had asparagus on hand which I thought about using, but didn't. You really could use ANY combination of vegetables that you wanted.. but I decided on eggplant, zucchini, beefsteak tomatoes and "slider" sized portobello mushrooms.

Slice the eggplant and tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds and the zucchini about 1/3 inch thick. Drizzle the slices with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I decided to use an indoor grill pan for this because, embarrassingly enough, I still can't seem to work an outdoor grill without burning something. I used the ribbed side so we'd get some nice grill marks and drizzled more olive oil on the grill. I grilled everything except the tomatoes because I wanted them to remain firm and beefy. The vegetables took 3 - 5 minutes per side, depending on the size of the slices.

While that was going on, I sliced the mozz into 1/3 inch slices and began working on the balsamic glaze.

I found a recipe for balsamic glaze but it made a TON so I just simplified it and put about 1/8th of a cup of balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan with a small handful of brown sugar. I whisked it together and kept the pan on medium heat until the sugar dissolved the balsamic reduced a bit. The glaze is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Took about 8 - 10 minutes.

Finally, it was time to assemble. You can layer it however you want but I put the mushroom cap at the bottom since it was the biggest and put a slice of cheese next. The mushroom was right off the heat which I had planned for because I wanted the cheese to get a little soft and melty from the warmth of the mushroom.

Next, I put eggplant and then tomato and then another slice of cheese (two slices for me because I'm a cheese fiend... Hubs only took one), and then the warm zucchini to sandwich that slice of cheese as well. I topped it off with a fresh basil leaf. Then, I drizzled the balsamic glaze all over the top and down the sides with a spoon.

And oh my heavens. Let me tell you, this is going to be a summer staple in our house. Of course the kids wouldn't touch it, which is to be expected... but good lord, it was SO delicious. I mean, my mouth is watering again just looking at the pics. The smoky grilled veggies, the firm and juicy tomato, the creamy cheese and the sweet balsamic... it was just such an amazing combo of flavors. And SO easy. I mean, it looks 10x fancier than it is to make. You'll blow people away if you serve this next time you're entertaining! So, so good AND good for you!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ariana Elise | 2 Years Old

Where do I begin to describe Ariana. This post might seem like every other one I've done of her because the truth is, she's got the same persona that she had even as a 1 year old, 15 month old and 18 month old. Except now, with attitude. 

Since I began Ky's post with one word describing him, I'll do the same for Ariana. The word that describes Ariana is Sweet. I know that might seem cliche, but it's the best way to sum up her heart of gold, cuddly-cute personality. She's like the perfect cupcake. Sugary sweet and frosted with perfection and adorable.

Don't get me wrong... this diva isn't always such a picnic. She's definitely entering a rebellious phase, lovessss to sit there and laugh and do the thing we are specifically asking her NOT to do, loves to run away with her brother's toys, glancing behind her with gleaming eyes, just waiting for him to notice. She's definitely has moments where she is the ultimate trouble-maker. But... those are few and far between because, she's just oh so sweet.

This girl says "Good morning, Mommy! I missed you." to every morning before crawling up into our bed, pulling the covers over and nuzzling into my neck until I give her a hug and a kiss.

This girl will let you scoop her up and snuggle her like a baby until you're ready to put her down.

She will give you 100 kisses on demand if you ask for them, and then an extra 10 just in case you miscounted.

Her face and eyes and entire body lights up as soon as anyone she knows/loves walks in the room. She'll squeal with delight and go skipping, not running, skipping, over to hug the person until they let go.

She hugs me, randomly, throughout the day, for no reason... gives me a shy smile and then goes back to what she was doing.

She's flexible and very go-with-the-flow. You can take her anywhere. Most likely, she'll pass out in the car until you get to your destination. Then as long as you give her a snack and some water, she's happily along for the ride until it's time to go home. She's just chill. She's not really a crier. If Ky inherited my personality, she definitely inherited her daddy's strong, less sensitive emotions. We went to a park playdate last week with her class friends and she fell off a slide and started crying and her teacher said, "This is the first time I've seen her cry all year!" She really only cries if she's hurt or gets in trouble.

And at night? She says, "I'm tired, time for a nap." and will say good night to everyone in the house, including the dog, complete with hugs and kisses before laying down and passing out in 10 minutes flat without so much as a peep. Unless I walk in her room to get something and then it's another squeaky little, "Goodnight, Mommy!"

She's so talkative now and so, so funny. She vocalizes a lot more than Ky did at this age and I attribute that to him. The conversations they have together just make me grin like a goof because I love watching them interact and play and chatter in their own little baby language.

Like any toddler, she's becoming more assertive at testing her boundaries and her independence. Having a big brother doesn't help because now she wants to do everything Ky does and thinks she actually can. She's always testing limits with me and she knows I have a soft spot for her since she's "the baby." Naturally, I expect more from Ky being that he understands me more. But this girl.. she understands everything. She just likes to play dumb and see how long before I catch on. We don't give her the benefit of the doubt enough. She's always watching, observing, learning... without us really realizing it. She doesn't pick up things as quickly or as naturally as Ky did, but she tries so hard and she's brighter than we give her credit for.

She loves food and will always try anything I put in front of her. She LOVES animals... especially dogs. She's totally the girl going up to every dog she sees at the park or the beach and going, "Doggie so cute!" and running over to give it a big old hug. She's a lover. She's so happy and giddy and cheerful all the time. She's always willing to share her toys or her drink or her food. If she does something wrong and gets in trouble, she cries and cries until you accept her apology and hug it out.

She is just a joy. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, for whatever reason, I can count on Ariana. No matter what it is... her excitement to see me when I go to pick her up out of her crib from naptime or her cheesy grin and grateful hug when I give her a snack she loves or a simple, "Love you, Mommy!" if I ask her for a hug or a kiss. Since she was unplanned and a total surprise, I often wonder what our lives would be like had she not snuck into them... and I shudder to think. Because even though I didn't plan her, she was always meant to be part of our family.