Reviews

Daring Greatly

Book Review: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

I really benefited from listening to this book. In fact, in a way continuing to write and work on this blog is an a result of this book and specifically that quote from Roosevelt.

Vulnerability is an interesting thing. The author describes the feeling well as that hallow feeling in your stomach you recognize when you first wake up in the morning then remember the brave actions you took the day before.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing we are confident enough to not be ailed by our vulnerabilities. That comfortable place is where I have found myself too often. Here is to getting off the sidelines and getting our face marred by dust and sweat daring greatly to do even better things.

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air

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I bought this book and at an actual store, for darn-near full price. All rarities for me these days. 

I had heard about the book’s premise just a few days before and was so intrigued and ready to hop on my next nursing-time read and the library’s waitlist was way too long.

I’m glad I bought it. Really glad I read it. I highly recommend you do the same.

To me now Paul Kalanithi seems like an old friend that I have lost. He wrote this book as he was finishing up medical school to be a neurosurgeon. And while he was dying of lung cancer. It’s a beautiful story about how Paul had prepared his whole life to understand how our bodies, our minds, our relationships and ultimately our deaths were meant to intertwine with one another. He only had 22 months from the time of his diagnosis at such a young age until he passed away. That short amount of time only allowed him to refine the beliefs and knowledge he’s spent his prior years acquiring.

His wife and widow writes the afterward of the book in a beautiful, emotional way. I listened to a few interviews of hers and one of my favorite quotes was something to the effect that she and Paul had both seen so much cancer, so much tragic death that when they got the diagnosis instead of questioning ‘why me’ rather they realized ‘I suppose it’s our turn.”

I’ve thought a lot about this sentiment. Really in life we are all learning to “take turns” just as we teach our children to do with their toys. Sometimes it’s my turn for a wonderful blessing in life. Sometimes I’ll take my turn with a challenging trial. And other times I’ll take my turn celebrating and mourning with others as they take theirs.

Paul was a really great, true man. His book may be about death but it gave me a lot of insight into life.

 

Piano IS Here!

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Earlier this year I called a piano tuner to ask his opinion on a used piano I was interested in. Without seeing the piano or agreeing to listen to the video I had taken playing it (somehow I thought that would be a good idea?) he asked me the question:

“Does the piano speak to you? Do feel a connection to it?”

…I thought he was totally crazy.

UNSOLICITED ADVICE: Do not waste time like I did hunting for a used piano deal. I can’t tell you how many classified ads I scoured, how many Estate Sales I chased, how many times I analyzed the cost of hiring a technician to go look at the piano on-location before I purchased. Then if their recommendation was that it was a worthy investment (which for me it never was), then I’d have to pay for it to be moved to my house (in the example above the piano happened to be on the top floor of an apartment complex, in the most unreachable cigaret smoke-filled room), then have it tuned and possibly refinished once it arrived in my home. Skip all that. Go to a good, reputable piano gallery like Brigham Larsen. Let the experts do their job. This is an instrument and asset to your home you will use for years. I was so impressed the used piano prices at Brigham Larsen, and the relief knowing you didn’t just painstakingly haul a lemon into your house!

But when I saw the ad for Brigham Larsen’s free piano giveaway, the piano spoke to me. I feel like I knew that was the one for my family. Or at least knew I would do everything I could to make it be so.

The contest was a combination of all the things I love: creativity, competition, and my children (I don’t usually use the word children to refer to my littles, but that alliteration, really).

The requirement was at least one photo and a caption. So naturally I took a billion photos, video and wrote a novel. I tried not to get my kids’ hopes up, though mine were through the roof. For the first round of of contestants they asked us to ‘bring social media attention’ to our entry. Which I brought. See first ‘c’ above. I about died when we made it to the finalists. Then we once again brought a whole lotta more social media attention to the good people at BL. At the grocery store I had someone I’d never met wish me luck on the contest. She’d ‘liked’ our entry for after our mutual friend had shared it. (Who says social media doesn’t create new bonds in the real world?)

I knew the day they’d be announcing the winner. I’d actually left my phone at home and worried it would be like a radio contest where if you don’t answer they go to the next one in line! I finally got home, checked my phone-nothing. Then checked Facebook where I saw they announced they had a video with the winners. I thought that meant that they had made a video with the winners IN it, which I was good with. Happy for whoever it was. I took my kids to see the drive-through christmas lights at the park while Luke was at school. As I was waiting in line to drive through I glanced at my phone and checked good ol FB. I had a notification that Brigham Larsen had commented on my photo. I clicked to check what they’d said and saw: “Congratulations, you won!”. What!? What!? What!? I thought I would die. That can’t be real. No way. No way a comment could hold such news. But then it was our turn in line to drive through the lighted tunnel. So I put my phone down like a responsible driver and drove through the animated animals, making note of our very favorite bear catching the salmon in his mouth.
When we got home I told the kids to run inside while I made a phone call. Checked my phone to see a bunch of notifications from friends congratulating us. Safe to freak out now. I immediately did what I always do when I have news of any sort; called my sister. Her end of the phone call went something like this: Her: “Hello!” Me: “Weeeee wwoooo (sobs) oooonnnnnnn (more sobs)!!!” “What? Who died? What’s wrong?” “Weee wwwwwoooonnneee. The piano. We did it Aubrey!” “Whaaaaaaaat!!!!???? We won!!!!” (Wakes up her sleeping children, scares her husband and their dog, and yes refers to it as ‘we’ won, because that’s the kind of sister she is).
Then I had to put on my game face because I wanted to keep it a surprise from our kids until delivery. I put the kids to bed making up some story about why I was crying (pregnant and so excited for Christmas, always good reasons). Waited until Luke got home, thought of a bunch of cool ways to unveil the news to him, then the second I heard the garage go up I ran in yelling “We won! We won! We won the major award! You thought I was crazy (and I am) but this time we did it!” Then I ushered him to our computer where I let him look at all the awesome comments on FaceBook and all the people who had helped us out and told him about the awesome group of piano teachers that had selected us as the winners.

I could barely sleep that night. Way better than Christmas Eve. I was so excited to meet the good people at Brigham Larsen. I made sure to go to their gallery the next day. I got to first meet their daughter who was working the front desk LIKE A BOSS. That 14 year old girl is going places! I LOVE family businesses. Got to meet Mama Karmel, who is amazing. Got to meet our future piano, that invoked immediate tears and connection. Got to meet Alison, one of the finalists for the giveaway whose story I just loved. She teaches piano to youth in her area.

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It was interesting. The moment I learned we learned I thought of Alison. I love what she is doing. I remembered the nice keyboard I had purchased on Black Friday that our piano teacher had recommended for students starting keyboarding the next year. I had never seen it actually, Luke had hid it away in the garage as soon as it got delivered and I forgot about it. As soon as I learned we won and wouldn’t be needing it anymore I knew I would give it to Alison. I thought of how great she could transport the keyboard to wherever she would be teaching her students. It was so fun to meet her at Brigham Larsen and give her the keyboard I had wrapped up. It was so great to see how blessings roll off of each other.
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We arranged the piano delivery. They were great to accomodate coming from Orem to Davis County. They deliver all over the state and probably even further. (Again, so much better than trying to arrange that all on our own!) Christmas Eve wouldn’t work, the 23rd it would be. A couple weeks of keeping the biggest secret from my kids and my parents, because I thought how fun it would be to surprise them too. (There’s got to be some advantages to them not being on FaceBook, right? And our family is addicted to the adrenaline of surprising one another.)
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“Tonight tonight it’s coming tonight!”

 

Then that day a HUGE snow storm hit. What the heck? I was at a prenatal appointment, waiting for an ultrasound after they couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler (stressful scare that every pregnant woman hates, but all ended up being fine) when the coordinator from BL called saying she didn’t think they’d be able to deliver the piano until the next week due to the snow and how late all the deliveries were going to be. Sad!! I had a reveal party all ready, had imagined every moment of the ‘major award’ delivery and caroling all through Christmas on our new bad boy. So I did the thing that I always do when I have stressful moments, I called Luke. Who is a problem-solver extraordinaire. Who did what he always does when he needs a partner problem-solver, he called our brother-in-law Drew. The two of them devised a plan how to trek down to Orem and bring the piano to us. This wouldn’t be the first big game Luke had to haul home.

 

The Grandma Camp finale at ‘Chuck a Grandma’ (where we swallowed our stress in scones and self serve ice cream.)
But then the snow had cleared. (I like to think the heavens had opened up too.) And BL was awesome enough to send their awesome guys on their awesome delivery truck chuck full of awesome pianos for families all around Northern Utah. So we waited. We awkwardly made up reasons for our family to come hang out and eat delicious food (that’s not really out of the ordinary actually). I refused my kids’ requests to go to bed, forcing a mandatory viewing of A Christmas Story.
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Then the knock came. Faint at first. Silence fell across the house. The knock grew louder, standing out from the outside silence the tiny snowflakes falling had created. Luke was the first one to rise, the rest of us following. The hallway to the front door seemed a mile long. The littles noticed a shiny glimmer outside the window. Another knock. Now something red, a bright red bow is seen through the shutters. Suspense got to all of us. Our oldest flung open the door, unveiling for everyone the most beautiful sight. “Would you look at that!?” Luke proclaimed. And there it was, shiny and gorgeous, the perfect major award. A Hailun piano.
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*The actual delivery may have gone slightly different. (Read: tired kids, suspecting grandparents, our entire staff enlisted to haul the piano up the steep, slippery driveway, me almost forgetting to put the big red bow on, me directing Aubrey to flip the iPhone around “because friends don’t let friends take vertical video”, me surprised I didn’t go into labor with all the excitement.)
 
But it was there. Brought in and slid perfectly into the spot so carefully outlined before. The delivery guys polishing the beauty, demonstrating how it played perfectly. Me doing what I always do to those who visit my home; offered ridiculous amounts of baked goods and treats. Thanking the delivery guys a million billion times. (They laughed “You realize we are not the ones giving you this, right?).
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And then it was there. We took a few tired photos. I couldn’t believe it was real. How could this be real? Everyone cleared the room and I was left standing there staring at the dream come true on my wall. Then a knock. Here it comes. The video crew to tell me “You’ve been punked! We’re taking it back!” Hesitantly I opened the door. It was our dear delivery boy. Oh no. Actually he’d just forgotten his water bottle. The dream was real indeed!
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It’s like that little boy knew all the years of practicing he has ahead of him.

Finally we went to sleep. I made a grave social media error, too tired and overwhelmed to post anything (a rarity for me, I know). I woke up to dear friends wondering about the major award and if it was real. I had to go down to the basement to see for myself. And look who I found atop, our elf Kelson had even made his home in the big red bow.
So then we shared the great news with the masses. Took pictures with my elves. Probably cried some more. I played some choppy Christmas songs from a handed-down piano book. Then we all got ready to go Christmas Eve ice skating. Only to find out that Luke had missed his box jump that morning during Crossfit, resulting in an early Christmas present of 60 stitches! Apparently the excitement and humbling of the night before had him too grounded. And because we always like to always keep things exciting!
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That Christmas Eve evening we hosted another party at our home making our traditional Abliskever. My brother in law Drew came through yet again and helped me make all the food, after he built the stand for my computer arimura he’d brought his tools down to do, after he picked up Luke’s prescription and my forgotten groceries. My younger brother dropped by after one of his “Santa Gigs”, a side job that brought joy to so many children and confidence and extra cash to a guy right when he really needed it. We sang Christmas carols in our front room. Jetta and Aubrey played a duet that I’d always anticipated. My dad read the Christmas Story from the book of Luke. We ended the evening with a humble, thankful prayer and shuffled off to bed. Not focused on Santa or the presents we were anticipating in the morning. But in the spirit of Christmas and in the joy and disbelief that comes when life blesses you with what you’ve hoped for.
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This year more than any other year I can say I truly believe in the spirit Santa. I believe in Christmas.

Piano…Here! (Please)

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The Goal: Raise bright, motivated and cultured children and musicians.

 

The Problem: No piano.

 

The Solution: The Brigham Larson Piano Giveaway!

 

Hi, we’re the Barbers.

 

We are a young, blessed family who love…pretty much everything. Today I’m going to tell you about our love of music. My husband and I have made an effort to introduce music to our children since birth. We sing and dance throughout the day, rely on music as a strong part of our bedtime routine, have opted for album after album of music instead of movies on most road trips, take our family to the symphony, ballet, plays and other exposures to the arts as often as we can and try to always share our appreciation for all kinds of expression available to us.
All three of our kids at their first symphonies. 

 

We are devoted to raising a generation of musicians. Neither my husband nor I are much of musicians ourselves. (I no longer refer to us as “not musically talented” as I believe everyone has musical talent if nurtured.) I took a few years of piano in my pre-teen years on the side of playing many sports and live to fulfill my mother’s prophecy of regretting not continuing with it further. My husband was also mostly involved in athletics and wishes he had better taken advantage of the guitar lessons he was offered – but we’re glad he is taking it back up! While we both still have a passion for athletics and value the lessons that can be learned through team sports, we know that time will come. The time for igniting and nurturing a love and appreciation of the gift and heritage of music is now.

 

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 Bravo!

 

 

I’m thankful as I look at our ever-filling schedule full of great opportunities for our family. Each of our children start with music and singing class at three years old, our youngest will start next year. Since then we’ve progressed to private violin for our seven year old daughter, which she looks forward to each week. (And as her at-home teacher I have spent many nights practicing the note flashcards I had to make for myself and placing video calls to my sister for help with rhythm and chords so I’m ready for practice the next day.) She and our four year old daughter are also enrolled in a three year music program. This first year is teaching tone through singing and bells, introducing staff awareness and rhythm, and even music reading. (All of this has been so beneficial – especially for me!) The second and third years will focus on keyboarding. (That’s where this contest comes in.) That in addition to dance, tumbling, Chinese immersion and more. We also have plans for our second daughter to start private cello and are excited to find which instrument best fits our son and also our fourth baby coming in April that we can’t wait to meet.

 

With all these instruments in our home there is one centerpiece, one nucleus, one heart to our trio soon-to-be quartet that is missing. The piano. It’s been on our list to acquire since we’ve been married. It’s just never felt right. We’ve shopped, browsed classifieds, and visited estate sales at length. We even brought home a piano to refurbish and could tell, even as untrained musicians, that it was not the quality piece we wanted our children tuning their instruments and ears to, so we sent it on its way.

 

Let me introduce you to our music room:

 

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A lot of time spent practicing, reading and serenading in this room and many memories still to be made.

 

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You could say we’ve got the perfect spot all ready for the piano you’re giving away! 

 

We’ll even give our budding musicians a chance to serenade you with their impromptu concert:

 You have got to really give it to that imaginary pianist and singer – imagine what she could do with a real piano!

Being the lucky recipients of the piano Brigham Larson is graciously giving away would be a dream come true. I can’t even imagine the excitement our children would have to see it being delivered and finally know the answer to the question I am asked daily; “When are we getting a piano?” It would mean confidence that our family has an instrument to learn on and fill our home with joy and music for a lifetime. It would mean the world to us.
Their faces say it all…

 

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Please!!!

 

(And thank you.)

Sharing Sisters New Room

With the gender of Barber Quattro remaining a mystery the two girls have been the lucky beneficiaries of my nesting.
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These girls have always shared a room. We previously had two twin beds that took up most of the space and one that never got slept in besides by stuffed animals because they insisted on sleeping together. Adorable, I know. But not the greatest use of space which is a commodity for two girls who love to collect every single thing and need to be outfitted five times a day.
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Be still my heart.

I considered just getting a full bed for them to share, but wanted the option for them to have their own space if/when the need so arises (tell me they’ll still want to snuggle and tell stories as teenagers!) These bunk beds with stairs were my favorite. I love that they feel more safe and sturdy and offer cute storage. Once I saw them I couldn’t choose anything else. A lot of planning and saving later they got delivered almost exactly one year after I first started considered them for my daughter’s birthday last year. Sounds about par for me.
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I bought them bedding with their old beds. I’m picky on bedding since I’ve been spoiled by an amazing seamstress mom who makes beautiful quilts and bedding for their nurseries. I hoped the bed-making would be a bit easier since the comforters just laid on top of their mattresses and didn’t need to be tucked in. But most nights they ended up sleeping on top of the quilt so they didn’t have to mess with it and just their minky blankets. Then they’d get cold, or one would, and there wasn’t really enough room for two pillows so they had those ugly (sorry!) animal pillows that I cannot stand.
I’d heard about the Beddy’s company for a while but I actually was reminded about them by a mom who told me to NEVER buy bunk beds. Unless of course I wanted to buy Beddy’s bedding for them. I looked into them and tried to convince myself of literally every possible way I could get around justifying the investment. I even priced out how much it costs to make these babies and found Beddy’s sells them for a steal.
In the end the week before the beds were to be delivered (I’d planned this room’s big reveal in my mind over and over) and after an embarrassing amount of deliberation (we’re talking dreaming about zippers and colors and which patterns coordinated the best) I sold their old beds, dresser, clothes, shoes, and if we’d had a pet or kid I didn’t like I would have sold that too in my raid! With the cash in hand I knew exactly what I was buying. Luckily Pinners Conference was coming up and I heard that this awesome company would be there offering a great deal and chance to see these beauties (the bedding, and their employees) in person.
Friday afternoon was the funnest Gingerbread Birthday Party for the seven year old.
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Exhausted and with a full day planned Saturday I cleaned up the afterparty and left our kids at grandmas for a bit, grabbed my husband and told him we were going on a date. I was so excited to see him and actually have a real conversation since he’d been at grad school and traveling for work all week I kind of forgot to tell him where we were going.
So as we pulled into the expo: “Hey, we’re here at a Pinterest conference of sorts, full of women and their blogs and businesses and we’re looking to buy some stuff for the girls’ room.” Cool, he says. Because he’s awesome like that. Then he grabs his Pinners bag and proudly starts filling it with every flyer, giveaway, knick knack and sample he can find. I lost him several times and on one occasion he came back smelling very nice!
We found Beddy’s booth and Betsy, the cutest owner and inventor ever. Before I could tell her I was basically sold with an envelope of classifieds cash burning a hole in my pocket she and another lady started giving Luke the sales pitch. I had also forgot to tell him the details about the bedding, including the price, which I was a little hesitant about his reaction because he knows I’m a (self-proclaimed) Frugal Fannie. After the demonstration on the bunk beds, him trying them out a few times and asking if he could take a nap there for the rest of the night he says; “Well we’re definitely going to need two for the girls, one for their little brother (the gingerbread man from the party above) and we’ll eventually need one for the baby on the way, and I want one for us too so we may as well get them all while we’re here.” Did he think my envelope grew money? But consider us both sold.
I had deliberated which patterns to get and in the end I’m really glad I drove down to see them, especially the Always Enchanting design. I have to say it’s even more beautiful in person and a much more aqua color than I thought showed in the pictures online. I was worried it would be more of a sky blue that wouldn’t mesh with the room design in my brain. I really love the Vintage Blush because it looks so girly and thought it would be perfect on the top bunk. I like the original with all the ruffles but was excited to learn about the Vintage Blush II coming out with a less-ruffled look that would better match the style of the Always Enchanted. (These are the things of my dreams, my friends.) I gladly handed over my molaah with a promise to be back for the remaining beds.
Just a few days later I get this text from the hubs: “They came. They both came!” I knew he was hoping that meant we could move the girls back into their own room, which was mostly painted and had the adorable bunk beds installed and a “Do Not Enter, Surprise In Progress” sign with tape all across the door. But we needed to finish the details and a few more sleepless nights to be reminded how beautiful children that sleep are.
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I’d had our weekend planned down to the minute to make sure we could get paint to dry, vinyl adhered, trim and shelving hung for a Sunday morning reveal. Because the school week needed sleep.
Saturday morning we were blessed to take our family to participate in a fundraiser 5K for my friend and coworker who is undergoing his second battle with Male Breast Cancer. It was a great event and opportunity for our children to support someone who is going through a trial harder than they could ever imagine. Harder than any of us could imagine. We spent a lot more time there than I had planned but it’s hard to think of anything more important than supporting a friend and being reminded what’s truly important in life.
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In the end this is how the room looked Sunday morning. Not totally finished. But beautiful and so fun to surprise two sweet, thankful girls with. Not only have our mornings gotten better, our story time, play time, laundry time, and bedtime.
Welcome. 
Finished the sign way late that night, but I couldn’t sleep anyway I was so excited.
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My favorite corner.
My oldest every time I look in this corner: Mom are you going to stare at the pictures and ask us why we grow up so fast again? Yes, yes I am.
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I Love You to the Moon and Back. 
Pillows from Pick your Plum a while ago, but had to happen because that’s our saying.
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The Light. 
All us girls wanted a chandelier in the room. I wanted the function of a fan so we could get rid of the ugly one floor one. So we made a hybrid, thanks of our awesome electrician friend installing and reinforcing this fan for us. The crystal jewels in the center are from one of my grandma’s fancy necklaces she always wore that I got when she passed away. It’s been nice to have a piece of her in their room. And with a little help from Hobby Lobby’s Christmas section and daddy’s fishing line and I really love the way these sparkle in the sun.
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The beds. 
The final piece. I withheld my excitement putting on the bedding until everything else was ready and painted. Well past midnight I honestly exhausted myself putting on the mattress covers alone and was so relieved to know I wouldn’t have to perform that lift, shimmy and tuck ritual every morning.
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The one shelf we did get added was on the bunkbed itself for their books.

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I loved the grey walls and white ceiling and paper flowers rescued from my friend’s garbage pile.

This is the bedding right out of the boxes. So bright and beautiful! It made the bright white ceiling and perfect grey walls really pop. I was expecting them to be even more wrinkled. I know you can steam the top layer and ruffles to have them lay even better or after you wash them but I think they look pretty great.
The Vintage Blush II – it’s not even supposed to be shipping yet but of course Beddy’s delivered. I love it. The “So Loved” sign above is pretty fitting.
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The reveal. 
We make things a big deal around here. So getting a fancy new room (probably the nicest in the house right now!) couldn’t be a small occasion.
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Girls Take on the New Room: 
“I’m so excited to sleep can we go to bed right now?” — We got one night of that, we’ll take it.
 
“Mom, there is no food in our room OR our beds!” — There goes my lunch plans.
“How lucky it’s all our favorite colors!” — Luck and some lost sleep…
“Everyone! If you make a mess in here, you clean. it. up.” — Rev.o.lutionary.
My favorite story from our new zippered life: 
The first night our oldest chose to sleep on the top bunk. The little sister woke up in the the middle of the night, scared I’m sure from being alone for a change. I walked her back to her room and told her I’d lay down with her. When we got there she had to carefully remove the pillow shams and unzip her bed again. I asked her why it was zipped up, I was pretty sure I had tucked her in earlier. “Because mom you have to make your bed when you get out of it!” 
Anything that gets your kid to make make their bed at 2 AM wins in my book.
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