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I+ACYAIw-8217+ADs-m A Celebrator |

But it’s you I like.

I’m the oldest for four girls. It’s goes me, Jayme, Jenna and Betsy. There’s like eight years (or something) between us.

Last weekend, my baby sister Betsy got married at my parents house on possibly the most gorgeous day West Michigan could have offered up. In fact, I think Tim Allen is voicing himself into a wedding version of a Pure Michigan ad right now, featuring Betsy and Matt’s day.

They got married on my parents property, specifically in front of the neighbor’s amazing old barn. A place I remember playing in and around my entire childhood. Never in a million years could I imagine it could clean up as well as it did.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 2.03.47 PM

All four of the kids were involve-ish.

At the last minute baby Paul refused to walk down the isle, flopping on the grass like a angry drunk.

Gage the “rain barrel” ring-bearer also refused to walk, until 30 seconds before his turn (as in, most bridesmaids were already on the move towards the barn) when he got the bright idea to blackmail me hardcore like the criminal he’s turning into.

Him: Mommy I’ll only do it if I can have a Sprite.

Me (panicking): sure buddy, you can have a Sprite. Just smile real big and hold the little pillow in front of you with both hands.

Him: Mommy I want two Sprites, one for each hand. I’ll only walk for two Sprites.


Him: Mommy I want alllllllllll the Sprites. Every single one of them.

Me: (starting to get really pissed at this point):  FINE YOU LITTLE TURD! YOU GET ALL THE SPRITES. JUST GOOOOOO.

Later that night, my sister-in-law Susan, who bless her heart for helping with the kids that evening, mentioned she found countless half empty Sprite bottles throughout her minivan.

Piper and Nola were involved too, reading a short little poem. Listening to Nola’s little high voice speak these simple and true words *might* have made water come out of my eyes, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.


It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.

~Written by Fred Rogers, 1971

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 2.03.35 PM

The day wrapped up with a cocktail reception in the barn – complete with a 3-piece folk band, a trolly ride to the bride and grooms (and my) favorite brewery, a few more toasts that made me cry again (thanks Jenna), dinner and dancing over looking the beautiful city of Grand Rapids, and an unexpected selfie with my favorite Spartan.

You know it’s going to be a good night of dancing, when the party kicks of with the MSU fight song…

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.03.06 AM


Betsy, I gotta come clean here. The first time I met Matt, I was guarded and unsure about him. He smiled so much. He was beyond sweet to you, and even helped mom get dinner on the table. He played with my kids like he actually wanted to spend time with them.

Who was this guy? Was he for real? Did he really want to spend his rare Saturday nights off work eating takeout pizza with our family?

I found out quickly he was for real. He really was that nice, that kind, that loving and considerate. Matt is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and you really did hit the jackpot – not that I’m surprised.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.02.53 AM

You guys deserve each other, poor fashion sense and all. I mean, look at his sunglasses.

Congrats hobos, I’m beyond excited for the two of you!

A coffee shop proposal

Pretty sure there’s no need to rehash the news at this point. We all know just how horrible and brutally cruel this past week has been. Horrible stuff in Boston. Painful and beyond tragic suffering in Texas.

This week, this month, it’s been emotionally and mentally challenging.

These days, I’m not watching the news or even really even turning on the TV. I squint at facebook and twitter through half-opened eyes, glancing over my feed quickly before shutting it back down. Because if there’s one thing I do know about myself, it’s that sometimes ignorance is bliss. I don’t need to know all the details, and see all the photos to understand the magnitude of brokenness being experience.

I know people are suffering. I know there’s widespread unfathomably pain taking place across this country, around the globe. And just knowing that is enough information and saturation for me.

And while I’m trying to stay away from media as much as possible, this morning I found myself having a hard time doing so. For whatever reason, I couldn’t turn off the television. I could physically feel my anxiety level heighten, yet there I stared.

At 9am, the babysitter came for the boys and instead of working from home how I normally do, I packed up my gear and headed down the street to the coffee shop for a change of environment.

And wouldn’t you know it, love and reassurance meet me at that coffee shop and my hope in humanity was renewed over a hot latte and toasted bagel.

As I sat plucking away on a super boring freelance article (just being honest here, it’s not always fun and game), I was privileged to witnessed firsthand the best moment of a complete stranger’s life. Without any warning (or dropping of the knee *ahem* what’s up with that?), the women sitting in the booth next to me was offered a marriage proposal and a very beautiful engagement ring.

Between audible gasps, she said yes.

I need to see this LOVE. I needed to feel this extreme joy and happiness. My bad mood and pessimism  were washed away with her happy tears.

On dark days, when we start to think violence and hate for our fellow sisters and brothers is the norm, it’s refreshing to be reminded first hand that there is a ton of good to be had.

That girl I saw get proposed to a couple hours ago from across a coffee shop booth? She’s having the best day of her life, I know it. And to witness such elation on days when the world feels so dark and heavy is refreshing.

This all consuming hate and violence preying on our souls? I’m optimistic that we can beat it.

Peas in a pod, these two.

Let’s seek out the lovely, and figure out how to make it multiply.

Best! Days! Ever! (they don’t have to be a thing of the past)

and then she said…

I was proposed to on a hot August afternoon, while I was moving into my 5th year (because all 4 year degrees really take 5 years, amirite?) college apartment. Michael had bought me a TV for my birthday, and he surprised me by bringing it over to install. Little did I know that inside the TV box was a red rose, a bottle of bubbly, and a ring for my finger. This very classy apartment I was moving into didn’t have air conditioning or an elevator, so I was 100 degrees hot (and not in a sexy way) and in desperate need of a shower.

When he proposed, I was a hot disaster wearing running shorts and a Michigan State IZZONE t-shirt.

11 years later, I’m still a hot disaster, just now with more children. He basically got what he proposed to, which proves I’m an honest and consistent lady.

Last night, it was my youngest sister’s turn.

Half way through dinner, I realized what was about to go down. His parents were over. We all were present. There was a beach, an ocean, and a sun that was about to set.

She was unassumingly eating tacos, and it took all that was inside of me to not whisper in her ear to go put a on a little lip gloss. You know, help a sister out and encourage her to maybe change out of her beach clothes.

Because, STUFF WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN and lots of pictures were about to be taken.

But I’m a good secret keeper, so she proceeded to eat her tacos in her beach clothes without a care in the world. Me? I ate a half of a taco with one hand, while the other held the camera.

He took her down to the beach, and even used Piper as part of the not-so-elaborate plan.

The one-knee happened:

(yes, that them down there, embraced in a kiss as Piper danced circles and my brother-in-law Lance played paparazzi)

The rest of the family? We hooted and hollered from 4 stories above, BECAUSE SHE SAID YES!

My baby sister, the 4th in a long line of sisters, is getting hitched and we couldn’t be more ecstatic.

Mr. Matt (soon to be called Uncle Matt), welcome to the family.

We’re large, we’re loud, but at the end of the day we’re a whole lot of fun. You’ll get along just fine, I know it.

northpole bound

This past weekend, Satan’s Workshop was once again opened up for it’s second season. Piper made me this sign for my cloffice (closet-office) last year, and I honestly think might have to get it framed or something so I can hang it up every holiday season.

Satans workshop is officially in business.

Because between all the ugly sweaters (which, thank goodness that season is coming to a close), the stashing of unwrapped Christmas gifts, and the general disarray, the room formerly known as the cloffice is completely off limits to everyone except Satan.

So yes, needless to say I’m the only one alloweed in Satan’s Workshop.

And with the hanging of the sign, comes the writing of the want letters. My kids have always written letters to Santa, but somewhere along the way we’ve always had a hard time with the follow through. Never once have we mailed a letter. I’ve always been like, oh you know, Santa knows what you want. Just be good and I’m don’t worry about it…

But this year, since I know we’re on borrowed time with Piper and her Santa beliefs (she’s a crafty question ask-er), we decided to actually mail the letters per her request.














I gotta be honest, letters to Santa scare the pants off me. Especially letters to Santa written anytime after the end of November. For instance, Nola yesterday decided to ask for a second American Girl doll, with a mommy and me matching American Girl doll outfit, and the American girl doll wheelchair. First off, American Girl makes a doll wheelchair? And secondly, yeah, none of that stuff is going to happen for her. WOMP WOMP…

Personally, I was hoping for a list that look more like this:

Dear Santa,

For Christmas I would like absolutely any new-to-me toy my mom could find at the Goodwill Outlets, or bought with credits from one of the may online deal sites she religiously shops from. I also love anything brought off a lightening Amazon deal. And I specifically love used toys off Craigslist or swag given to her at blog conference.

Love, Nola

But yeah, no kid writes like that.

Anyway, back to mailing the letters. We headed to the biggest, baddest tree in the city.
















Because at the base of that tree, there is a mailbox.

A circle of lights kinda night.

And we made sure our letters floated to the bottom of that mailbox, where I’m sure elves collect the notes every evening when nobody’s looking.
















So the requests are in, and the waiting game begins. Hopefully, I have a few happy children in my midst on December 26th. And as always, I lovingly remind the kids that Santa brings a few treats, but the really good stuff comes from Mom and Dad.

Because come on, I’m not going to let some white haired dude that lives a million miles away get all the credit.


I’m partnering with Hallmark this year for its “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign. It’s truly my honor to be able to tell you stories about my everyday special moments. Sharing my stories and having them sponsored by Hallmark is a dream come true. Please consider signing up for Hallmarks e-newsletter, where you’ll receive discounts, special offers, and other fun stuff.

festively stuffing the ugly

Within the first two hours from coming home from the long Thanksgiving weekend in Michigan, I had already unpacked, got the laundry started, cleaned out the refrigerator, ordered take-out pizza for dinner, and requested the boxes of Christmas decorations to be fetched from the garage attic.

I could feel Michael’s eyes roll, but not being in the mood to question my manic reasoning, indulged in my demands.

But before he went out to the garage, his one and only request was that we dealt with the 30 odd Ugly Christmas Sweaters sold over the weekend. To date we’ve sold over 370, I think close to 400 if you count offline sales.

Folks, that a ton of tacky.

This business is ugly and exhausting.

There was a point this weekend when my anxiety was the highest, I actually shut Junky Brilliance down for about 18 hours. No worries, it’s back up and running. And please, if you’re in need of an ugly sweater, let me know. Deep (DEEP) discounts for blog readers. Shoot me an email, and let’s get the party started.

But once the ugly was stuffed, I got right to the business of being merry. Michael hauled in our sad, sorry, freakishly fake looking Charlie Brown Christmas tree into the house, and the kids did their best to make it look awesome.

Every year I give each kid a personalized ornament, and this year they came from Fired Up Ladies. Paul naturally got an extra bonus “first Christmas” ornament, to commemorate his first holiday season.

Making his tree debut.

Thank you, The Nesting Spot for creating such a special treasure. Ugh, I adore this little elephant so much, it’s going to be hard putting that guy away come January.

And other than the tree, there wasn’t much else to do. Our house is small-ish, and the family is large-ish. Not too much space for added clutter. Since we don’t have a mantel, the stockings are ducted tape to a ledge with care.

I got the no-mantel only shelves blues.

But I’m doing my best to fight the devil that is my anxiety. Walking down the stairs every morning and seeing the decorated tree,  watching the kids search for that damn elf (also worth noting, the elf absolutely will not be using the toilet this year) is one small way I’m trying to overcome my anxiousness.

The last thing on the list is deciding if I’m going to make Michael climb on the roof and hang some lights. Piper and Nola have been begging for some outside lights, and they’re completely not impressed with my rustic winter green bouquet at the front door.

Front door decor, you know what this is really for, don’t you? Us city folks have them not to be festive, but instead so the UPS guy can hide small packages from the naughty neighborhood kids who like to stuff bubble mailers (containing $5 barbie DVD’s, who’s being punked now) in their big baggy coats.
















I tell you what, I try my best at being crafty. Just not the Martha Stewart kind.



Turd Cake Redemption

So we all remember the great turd cake debacle of her 7th birthday, right?

Visual refresher:

seven turd cake

Yeah, so that was unintentionally awesome and gross all at the same time.

The truth is, I love to cook, but I really dislike baking. Obviously, I have photographic proof that I’m downright horrible at it. So when it comes to birthdays, I’m either cheap and ended up serving cakes that look like poop, or I buy something nice.

Because of what happened last year, Piper asked to go to The Flying Cupcake and have everyone pick out their own cuppie in place of cake. So that was the plan. On her birthday, we would go get cupcakes.

But I had a better (secret surprise) idea.

This past year, Piper, Nola, and I have been watching the show DC Cupcakes on Netflix as a way to wind down from the day right before bedtime. Piper has quickly become a DC Cupcake addict, and even successfully convinced Nola that for Halloween, the two of them would be the main characters from the show, sisters and cupcake shop owners, Sophie and Katherine. The plan unfortunately got derailed when she decided nobody would know who they were, despite the personalized monogrammed hot pink aprons she requested, and instead they ended up going as princesses (again, for the 3rd year in a row).

So I decided that this year, instead of turd cake, Piper would get a special delivery. Yes, flown in all the way from Washington, DC.

A dozen DC Cupcakes  invade Indy for a very special 8 year old's birthday.

A dozen assorted cupcakes addressed to Piper, magically showed up on our doorstep the night before her big day.

This note basically blew her mind:















And if you’ve ever wondered what cupcakes flown across the country look like upon arrival, it’s really not too shabby at all:
















HER: “So how do they know we watch the show together?”
ME: “I don’t know, I think I may have mentioned something about it on twitter once.”

*tee hee* I hope she never finds out. Also, this post is set to self destruct.
















So despite it being the most expensive dozen cupcakes I’ve ever purchased, it was TOTALLY worth it. Pretty sure these smiles say it all.

Turd cake redemption in the house tonight.

*and because we’re still celebrating her birthday (and my new little writing gig with !!!Disney!!!), don’t forget I have a little BRAVE giveaway going on right now. Go enter, now!