Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wrapping up 2016

Hello friends and welcome to what will probably be my last post of 2016!

And can I just tell you... I will gladly kick 2016 in the rear when it parts us!

I don't recall in my 34 years of living a year quite like this one. It started off great with my dad's 60th birthday celebrations, then three days later, came to a quick, whiplashing halt. I will spare you all the details, but what I will say is this. If you are ever in or near the Havana, Kan., area, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT drink the water. It's spread crazy across the entire county.

Now the one place I really had treasured visiting because it was my place of calm and peace is now the last place I want to visit.

Which sucks.

But I will tell you my bright spots from 2016 and what I'm looking forward to in 2017!

This sweet baby is the No. 1 thing to come out of 2016! I couldn't wait for her to get here so I could get my attention off of what started the year off so horribly. And man, did she deliver! Our sweet Tess was born on February 24 after a long day of induced-labor. The girl would have stayed put another two weeks if I had let her. But I was done being pregnant!

The first few months were tricky with her because we could not figure out why she was crying so much. I had prayed for a healthy and happy baby because my Reece had severe acid reflux as a baby and was anything but happy! So I was definitely frustrated until we found out the poor girl wasn't pissed off, she had a milk allergy and her belly was hurting!

Once we figured that out, all was well! She has been so much fun to watch grow, though that has gone rather quickly. She is now crawling and all over the room, while Sloane is saying "Mom, can you hold her so she doesn't get in my stuff!" Ohhh, she has no idea what she's in for! :)

We all adore her, as does anyone that meets her. And man, am I glad that she was the bright spot in our 2016!

Sloane started kindergarten and turned six this year. I feel like both are these super momentous moments in her life AND ours. How did we get from zero to six so quickly?

She was SO excited to start school and really has loved it! Just now are we beginning to see some unlove for school, but it's perfect timing for a two-week break. A time to get re-energized and just enough time to drive mom crazy!

Reece started and finished occupational therapy at Children's Therapy Team. It's been quite the last two years with this kid, but we are thrilled with the progress he has made. As we left school yesterday and were saying goodbye to Ms. Heather who won't be returning after Christmas break, she told me that she will miss him the most.

It's funny because I'm always the most scared to send him off to something new. NOT because he won't enjoy it, but because I fear the teachers just won't get him. By the time it's time to move on to the next school year or teacher, I've gotten the same response from his teachers. It literally makes my heart burst with joy because if anything, my kids are good kids and people like to be around them. And sometimes, in the end, that is what is most important!

This summer, we found out that my brother and his wife were expecting their first baby! I cried MANY tears of joy because my brother is the absolute greatest guy I know (I feel like I'm allowed to say this and it not hurt my husband's feelings since it's my brother) and I am SO excited for him to be a dad and watch him and Alex parent together!

He LOVES kids. Probably because he'd like to be one his entire life, but his patience and kindness and love for babies is amazing and watching him with his own will be a true joy in my life!

Baby Hills will be here in January and - as I told his wife, Alex, just last night - I'm SO ready for a new teeny baby to be here to snuggle and hold! I don't need the baby to be my own, but blood-relation will do just fine!!

And last, but not least...

Our family has news to share. For the last half of this year, we've been teetering through the unknown with Matt's job. His company got bought so he was in limbo as to what he might be doing for a job or where he would be.

At one point, we thought we'd be moving back to Minneapolis. At another point, we thought we might be staying in Bentonville. We were hoping he could find a job in Kansas City. And then, he was offered a new job.

In Chicago.

What's funny is that we had always said we wanted to live in Chicago.


But here we are. Three kids later. And about to move to the third largest city in the country.

Sounds nuts, but I kind of think we are nuts, so when you think about it in those terms, it's not nuts. It's more traveling (again) back to Kansas, it's learning my way around a new area (again), but we are close to a lot of Matt's aunts and uncles and cousins, which we are thrilled about!

When deciding on taking this job, Matt pointed out how much we loved getting to know my uncle Blish's family better when we lived in Minneapolis and feel that we are close with them and how neat it would be to have the same experience with his family.

And it was hard to fight that one!

We are excited! The kids (or Sloane) are excited! Our families are .... ehh ... coming around to it.

My mom and dad are thrilled to have a fun place to visit, but not thrilled it's farther away (though Manhattan is five hours for us and Chicago will only be seven). My brother is already planning trips.

And my sister? Well. We don't talk to her much about it because Matt is afraid she will harm him in his sleep. She was desperately wanting us to move to Kansas City (as were we) and we are very hopeful that will happen!

We just have a stop in between!

So... that's it for the Clark's in 2016. It started off really rough and had many moments of rough in between, but when I look at what we have accomplished, I am proud.

I have a very hard-working husband who loves his family with everything he has and wants nothing but the best for us. I have three healthy and happy and good kids. And I have a roof over my head.

That roof is about to get much more expensive, but it's a roof, nonetheless.

2017 -- you've got your work cut out for you, but I feel fairly certain you can handle it!

Merriest of Christmases to you all and have a wonderful and safe New Year! Thank you for following along these past few months - this has been a newfound love for me and I appreciate each and every one of that read this.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Importance of Great Teachers

I am the daughter of two educators.

My mom taught elementary school for more than 25 years before she retired... then returned as a teaching assistant (slash she is a teacher) at a school near Manhattan, where they moved two years ago.

My dad was a teacher, counselor, principal and superintendent over his education career.

And I can tell you that they were two of the VERY best. It is hard to find someone in Sedan that had my parents as a teacher or principal that did not love them. So I hold teacher's to the very highest regard. Their value is priceless.

I've entered that time in my life where my kids are in preschool and in public school and man, have we lucked out with some great teachers!

We had the sweetest teachers when Sloane and Reece were at Normandale Preschool in Minneapolis. When we moved to Bentonville, we somehow lucked out at a wonderful preschool that had ONE opening left in Sloane's age level. Ms. Ashley transitioned Sloane into her room so well and Sloane loved going! Reece was at Creation Corner and it was there that they pointed out some of his hearing issues, which brought about so many things we now know about Reece.

So again... I don't know what I would have done without these wonderful teachers!

Sloane had Ms. Alicia for pre-K at In His Image and in one her books here at home, it asks who her favorite teacher is. It says Ms. Alicia. And that will be there forever! Ms. Alicia pointed out how she noticed Sloane seems to be lacking in the self confidence area and how she was going to work with her on that and again, pointing out things for us to watch for!

Reece had an interesting year at Creation Corner because his meltdown tantrums would show their ugly face here sometimes. And thanks to Ms. Amber and Ms. Amanda, he found his way.

Now Reece is at In His Image and Sloane is in elementary school. Reece's teacher, Ms. Heather, is moving on to a new job after Christmas break and won't be returning to the school.

Ms. Heather took on Reece beginning in June at summer school and really 'figured him out'. He loved going to school and seeing Ms. Heather. And I am so grateful and appreciative of her and the kindness, love and patience she showed Reece (and myself) over the last six months. She saw him through some of his rough patches, but man, has he progressed! We both had tears in our eyes today when we were saying goodbye. Ms. Heather, you are going to be one missed woman!

My Sloane's kindergarten teacher has shown tremendous kindness to Sloane and has called to fill me in on things she has noticed with her, which I'm thankful for. Sloane is going to be one that takes awhile to process things, which slows things down. So we've got some things to work on, but hoping it will all just start to click.

It takes a village to raise children and you just hope and pray that your village includes people that I have discussed above. I will always remember these teachers and what they have done for my kids! And I hope that I can look back in 25 years and see that our village is massive and full of people just like them!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Favorites

So... we're down to nine days until Christmas. And for the first time in a long time, I'm done Christmas shopping.

As in everyone on MY list is shopped for.

My husband? A different story. But I can't do it all, honey... so best of luck (can you feel my empathy?)! :)

We begin our Christmas adventures this next week so blogging for me will be a little sporadic. I'll be thrilled if I get one post up before New Years! Here's hoping!
So ... not sure if you all have heard of her before, but The Pioneer Woman lives less than an hour from my hometown! Ofcourse this means that I feel like we were destined to be friends.

We haven't met yet, but I know it will happen!

Maybe if I can get to her new store/restaurant in Pawhuska, The Mercantile, the legendary faux meeting will happen and our budding friendship will spark!

Anyway... a set of polka dot bowls had popped up on my Facebook feed from her store, but ofcourse are sold out, so I perused and found these Batter Bowl Measuring Cups. That I love and I know would get good use out of at our house and possibly yours!

You get a set of four mixing cups in four bright colors... for $16. Not only is she suppose to be my BFF, but she has good quality and good prices at her store!

See you soon, Ree!

Ladies, the Loft is having a 50% sale on sweaters, outerwear and cold weather accessories. When I pulled up the e-mail from them earlier this week, I literally started adding everything to my cart. I since then got realistic and narrowed it down, but this is definitely in the cart!

This blazer is perfection and the color is so pretty and the perfect pop during the dreary winter months. It's also a great fall-weather blazer so I feel like you'll get great use out of this! Plus with the no-collar shirt underneath, I just want the entire look.

It's available in sizes 0-16 and will run you around $60! THIS is a forever closet piece!

Last week, one of my sorority sisters tagged me in a post by Charlie Hustle about their new K-State shirts and I was so thankful she did because they immediately went on my Christmas list (better late than never, right?).

Charlie Hustle also got me with this amazing video ... nothing is truer than this!

Let's see ... I'm not afraid to tell you to shop at stores from your teenage days and I'm going to keep doing it.

This time, we're talking American Eagle. But ... this time, it's vintage-style collegiate t-shirts that are too cool to pass up!

Sadly, my team is not associated with this because K-State doesn't like to have fun when it comes to allowing others to use their logo/brand. Which is why you never see super fun K-State shirts unless you see above (thanks Charlie Hustle!).

Anywho, there are lots of colleges on here and the shirts are super cute! Check out the site if you're in the hunt! They sell both men and women.

What is your favorite Christmas movie? I love so many movies and every year, I'm sad that I don't seem to make it through even two movies other than Elf and The Santa Claus (two classics at our house).

I love, love, love White Christmas, Home Alone, Polar Express, It's a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, Family Stone... but my all-time favorite Christmas movie is not one you can find on DVD. Because it was a TV special back in 1987!

The Muppets - A Muppet Family Christmas is one that I hold dear to my heart. I love the Muppets! What makes them even better as an adult is because their humor is soooo meant for adults. Thank you Jim Henson! 

Luckily for me when I was younger, my mom had recorded it on VHS so every year I got to watch it. She had recorded over some Dudley Moore movie so every once in awhile, you'd see this guy pop in and out.

Anyway, I found 'The Muppets - A Muppet Family Christmas' on YouTube for your viewing pleasure! Pull your kiddos up and enjoy!

And if I don't talk to you before Christmas ...

Have the most merriest of Christmases friends and thanks so much for following along these past few months!


PS. HUGE Two Dots sale this weekend only before we wrap it up for the year -- 50% off the entire store Dec. 16-18! Shop away!

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Happy Thursday everyone and welcome to the second installment of Pinterestin'! I found a few yummy treats to make this holiday season or New Years as well as some decor ideas, that I want and can't have. :) 

Cranberry Pecan Brie Bites --- YUM! These won't take an extreme amount of time to make, but will be a fantastic addition to your Christmas appetizers!

Grinch Kabobs --- an easy recipe that my kids would love to make AND eat!

LOVE this idea! And I know my mom has to have a few of these crocks laying around! :) When we moved here, my goal was actually to have a pitcher full of old wooden rolling pins in the kitchen. So far, I have two. I have some work to do!

Who wants to come to my house and find a place to make and install these?! I need them for shoes, hats, gloves, etc. immediately! Our was one of the few houses in the neighborhood that didn't get the 'lockers' that have hooks and seating to hang up everyone's backpacks, jackets and whatever else we feel needs to hung up!

Texas Toast Garlic Bread Pizza --- easy and yummy! A hit with my kids!

Just another fun kitchen with some cool touches -- I'm starting to dig the gold hardware. Three years ago, I would have never said that! And ofcourse, I'm obsessed with the butcher block counter tops!!!

I could do a 'Pinterestin' post almost every day and never show you everything I truly love. Because every five seconds, new stuff pops up that I love!

I saved all of these pins to a specific 'Pinterestin' via Tess and Elm' board, which you can find here or you can follow all of y boards here!

Enjoy the rest of your day! See you back here tomorrow for Friday Favorites!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yearly Pictures

We came across Wrenn Pacheco thanks to one of my sweet hometown friends when Sloane was a year old. We were going to be in Manhattan for her first birthday party and I wanted to try and get pictures taken of her and Matt and I.

Wrenn was just getting started with her photography business and funny enough, she and her husband were considering a move to southeast Kansas, around Sedan, where I grew up. So we had lots to chat about!

We LOVED our pictures with Wrenn - she was so easy to work with and so sweet, a good combination when you're dealing with children (and a husband who would rather be doing anything that taking pictures -- though he always loves them after the fact)!

Since then, we have used Wrenn every year (with the exception of one when we couldn't get back to Kansas for pictures) for family pictures and every year, I'm in love.

And every year, someone in my family doesn't want to cooperate and/or the weather doesn't want to cooperate, such as the last two years.

Wrenn's business has BOOMED since we first started using her - she is an amazing wedding photographer and spends many weekends doing just that. She was my sister's wedding photographer and I'm still jealous about that and she just recently shot my friend Abby's wedding in Manhattan. Again. Jealous.

But we are thankful we have found someone who now knows our family, can deal with what comes with us, and who I can trust will capture pictures that we will treasure forever!

 SO... if you need a wonderful photographer in Kansas ------- find Wrenn! :)


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

'Adulting' at Christmas

 I’m a traditionalist.

And I don’t mean that I like things they were back in the 1950s.

I mean, I like tradition. Every year, same thing. Growing up, we did the same thing every Christmas.

Woke up early, sat on the stairs until mom said we could come down, opened gifts (me, very slowly as I really liked to savor each gift), got dressed, went to my Grams and Papps's house, ate breakfast, opened gifts - youngest to oldest. Drove to my grandma Dean and grandpa Bob's house, and spent the rest of the day ogling over what my cousin Megan got for Christmas, eating and watching football.

That was it! That was our Christmas for many, many years and in my eyes, it was perfection!

As we got older, pieces of the puzzle started to change. My grandparents somehow got old enough that they were moved to the nursing home, so the Hills' Christmas moved to my house. And the Barnes Christmas kind of poo-pooed (this makes me incredibly sad thinking about it) because everyone lives all over the country!

Then in 2014, my parents moved from my childhood home to Manhattan, Kan., and Christmas at our home was no longer. My mom even made us get NEW STOCKINGS! Can you believe it? The old-school knitted ones from the 80s are no longer (though she does hang them up in our respective rooms - because though almost all three of us are in our 30s ((Lauren is inching her way there)), we all have our own rooms at my parents house.

Check out those stockings!
 So much has changed since 'the days of 'ol.

Yes, I still kind of sit on the steps at my parents new house and wait for my mom to tell my kids (and me) to come downstairs. And yes, I'm still the first one up on Christmas day, even if my brother and sister aren't there. And yes, I'm secretly hoping my mom has Mariah Carey's 'Merry Christmas' CD playing in the background.

But what I find a little gratifying this year is that I think I may have finally grown up. Not enough to not tell my mom to still get me a few extra presents ‘if she feels like it’. But this year, we aren’t spending Christmas at my parents.

This year, we are all going to my sister’s house in Kansas City because my sister-in-law will be nearing nine months of pregnancy and can’t travel. They also live in Kansas City, so for us all to be together, we have to be somewhere other than my parents house.

My family has doubled and then some since those early days at 210 West Elm. I have gained a husband, a brother and sister-in law, four babies (three of those my own) and one more on the way to spend my most favorite holiday (besides my birthday) with. 

And when I put my ‘adult pants’ on and think about it, there is no where else I would rather be than with my family on Christmas Day because my Christmas traditions started with these people. And in the end, they are what makes this the most wonderful time of the year.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Favorites

Welcome to the end of the week, friends!

Otherwise known as 16 days until Christmas.

I don't know if that stresses you out or makes you happy. It does a little of both to me! It is my favorite time of year (besides my birthday), but man - when you are searching for gifts and don't know what to get someone or can't find that perfect gift, it can be a liiiittttle stressful!

Maybe today I can help you with some gifts if you're still searching.

Or just more stuff to add to your list!

Here we go...

So... I have sent these boots to numerous people to show them that a) I love them b) I want them c) but I don't know if I can pull them off.

Because I'm five foot four inches tall. That's why. Not 5' 9" like this model. I literally googled with short girls can wear over the knee boots and ofcourse, the best advice was that if you want to wear them, wear them with confidence.

So I'm thinking about it. Matt keeps asking what I want for Christmas and I tell him. He shrugs. Then I show him these boots. Because they are $180 and I would never buy them for myself.

My sister said to try a pair on before I commit so this weekend, count that as one of my tasks!

This site popped up on my Facebook page not too long ago and ofcourse, I saw something cute so I had to check it out.

And I advise you all to the same! There are SOOO many items to look at and are at really good prices!

For example, I think this sweater is gorgeous:
And it is $56. I think for a sweater this pretty, that is reasonable.

And since I'm trying to find some sweaters that are daily wearable...

This is a fun one at $53.

Take a look and see what you can find and share the love!

Since we're talking clothes... today is the final day of Two Dots' 5 Days of Deals and it's a doozy -- 40 percent off EVERYTHING in stock! So if you've been waiting to get a good deal on some cute clothes, don't want anymore because today is the day!

Oprah continues to make me want everything she has with her 2016 Holiday Wish List out on Amazon! I perused the list the first day it came out and made my own list of things I'd like and things I knew others would like (this spaghetti pot is being gifted to some family members of mine who shall remain nameless but who love spaghetti more than anything on this earth).

I saw this NutraNuva Face Food and read reviews on it and there wasn't a single bad review! And I'm definitely looking to add to my morning/nightly face regime.

And it's anti-aging.

Yes, please. With a side of 'Can I get it tomorrow'?

This has been on my 'to buy' list for a few months now. For a few reasons.

It was impossible to get because it became so popular, no one could keep it on stock. And two, it would, quite easily, give my hair some lift and volume where I needed it!

I watched a Younique makeup consultant use it on a Facebook live video one day and it was amazing! It's like a powder that you spray in at your roots and you kind of scrunch it in and voila! Lift and volume!

It's only $13 on Amazon and since I have Amazon Prime (which is amazing), it's free shipping and no tax (in Arkansas) so it's hard to pass up at that price!

There you are, my friends! Your Friday Favorites!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I plan to clean my house (which makes me happy), try to finish up some Christmas shopping and go out to eat at my favorite chicken place with Sloanie, who gave me a gift card and $20 to take her to a movie! I can't wait! :)


PS. Casee Moran, if you're reading this -- the Morphe Eyeshadow Palette you won FINALLY came back in stock on Amazon, so it's headed your way!

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