Sunday, February 23, 2014


I went to church recently. That's not really my thing. I grew up going to Catholic schools, regularly attending church on Sunday, and even getting into theological debates with my Lutheran friends. And now? Religion makes me cringe. There, I said it. I have big issues with organized religion (and yet I have plenty of friends who embrace Jesus and we're still able to be friends - I'm not going to shut you out of my life because we have different beliefs). 

Doubt entered my mind early. I was in junior high preparing for Confirmation. We had to fill out a questionnaire, volunteer, go to classes in the evening with a sponsor, and meet with the campus minister. It was the campus minister that really sealed the deal with me. I had been brought up with the teachings that there was a heaven, a hell, and purgatory. I had also been told that if you ask for forgiveness God will grant it. The campus minister asked me how many people end up in heaven and in my naive and overly optimistic mind I thought most people would. However, the campus minister gave me an actual statistic (how would he know?) of all the people who end up in purgatory... and that's when I thought "this is all bullshit". 

On the way to one of the nightly classes with my parents I told them that I wasn't sure I really bought into everything I was being told about religion. I'd already endured years of the guilt and shame Catholicism likes to dole out so the conversation with the campus minister wasn't my first moment of doubt, but it was really the moment that I knew I no longer believed. My dad gave me some of the best advice that night saying "as long as you believe in something". And I do believe in something. It might not be organized religion, but there are certainly some overlapping ideas as I think of it as more of a philosophy of life - how do I behave and how do I treat others and myself.

Luckily, my husband is of the same mind set (also grew up Catholic) so we get a long fine in our mutual distaste of most religious things, but now we are parents and have to think about how we want our daughter to be exposed to faith - which by the way, I think of faith and religion as overlapping, but very different. I am more comfortable with faith, although acknowledge that can be abused as well. At any rate, a couple Christmases ago I realized Riley only thought of Christmas in terms of Santa bringing gifts. As much as I didn't want to sit around reading bible stories I also thought it was important for her to know the story behind Jesus' birth and I bought a book that explained it in terms that she could understand. I know we have time to explore religion together as she is only 4, but I do think about how I should best present faith to her.

I want her to be exposed to many religions - obviously it will be hard to not be influenced by Jesse and my thoughts on the whole thing, but I truly want her to be able to make her own decisions when it comes to her faith. It's a very personal thing. 

So last weekend we went to church. It was a baptism for my niece - my birth sister's daughter, and it was held at a Lutheran church during Sunday mass. We didn't prepare Riley that much for what to expect so it was sort of fun to see her take it all in. Sure we let her do some coloring while she was sitting there, but she also joined in when there was singing (eve though she didn't know the words), wanted to stand each time the congregation did, and was very intrigued by the actual baptism process. It was one of those moments that we realized that we hadn't exposed her to this environment because we just never go to church.

We probably won't be going back to church anytime soon either as the mass confirmed why I feel all cringy about religion. Matthew 5:30 "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell". Matthew 5:32 "But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery".

Granted it was nice to hear the minister tell  the congregation to go cutting off their hands since that won't really solve the issue, but just hearing the story about the divorced woman made me think how it simplified the complexity of relationships and put so much guilt and shame on women. Cringe.

Ha, and this was only going to be a post about my niece's baptism. I'm fairly certain I should be avoiding controversial subjects like this as I know people are passionate when it comes to religious talk. Moving on...

This was a pretty special visit because it was the first time I got to meet two of my nieces, Madison and Rowan (who is already a year old!).

My little book nerd found books at the church.

Little miss Rowan

My birth dad's wife, Debbie.

The country.

My birth dad, Leo, and baby Madison.

A grandpa and some of his granddaughters.

My birth siblings, Derek and Lindsey... and my birth child, of course.

Showing off the dress that Leo and Debbie got her for her birthday.

Hugs for auntie before we left.

Family Picture.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Working from Home

I've been meaning to write this post forever. I started working from home mid-September and wanted to share my experience in how I got to that spot, but then I decided to give it a little time so I could also talk about what it was like once I settled into a routine. And then, Christmas came around so I was busy with that. But even after that I was hesitant to write about it as I was at the end of my trial period. The trial period was extended into January as new documentation was evaluated and I finally just received an approval to work from home through 2014 (as long as it continues to meet business needs). So finally, about 5 months after starting to work at home I am ready to talk about it. This is a long post, but hopefully there are some helpful tools for those who are also thinking about asking for a work accommodation with their work.

Desk was on hydraulics so I could sit or stand

Back Story

This journey actually started over a year ago. I work for a company that provides work from home or alternative schedules to some of their employees, but it's often not full time (in fact, today I discovered quite a few people working from home due to a snow storm, but no one in my department has the luxury to decide to work from home on random days). In my department it's a little more challenging to get this in place as my position requires me to be on a phone queue so apparently it's easier to have everyone in the office.

For most of my co-workers this change in my schedule may have seemed like it came on suddenly as one day we announced it and the next day I was at home (I wish we would have done this differently), but this was a process that took about 9 long months to get to. In fact, in my original request I never asked to work from home - that was suggested later by leadership. I had asked to work 32 hours a week - having Fridays off.

I've alluded to it in previous posts, but I was having a hard winter last year. Part of if was my job (I'm very adaptable, but there were so many, many changes), and there were many other personal factors. I knew I needed to make a change, but I wasn't sure getting a new job would solve what ailed me. I had heard of a few other people in my department who were able to get adjusted schedules approved so I considered that as an option

Part of my issue was feeling a lack of balance in life and work. Probably the story of most people's lives, but it felt so heavy to me at the time. Between my husband taking on more of the parenting and household duties (due to his flexible work schedule), some health issues, and my dad getting older (and also having health issues) I felt like something had to give.

Once I established what I thought would work best for myself and my family, I approached my supervisor. I have to admit I felt lighter than I had in months and felt hopeful the accommodation would be approved.

Leaf to help block to too bright light

The Request

I know I wasn't the first and won't be the last to ask for some accommodation to a work schedule. I'm fairly certain I didn't do everything 'right' when it came to this process, but I tried to keep a few key factors in mind.

1. Really know why you need this accommodation.

Will it actually help? Will it bring you balance? Will it cause different stress? Is it less hours that you need or a different position elsewhere? Can you afford it?

When I first presented my 'wish' to work shorter hours I was looking for some work/life balance. Jesse was taking on more of the parenting duties and household stuff because his job was more flexible and he worked less hours than I did. We were both feeling the strain and for a while Riley was favoring her dad and it was killing me. Additionally, I had some annoying health issues and wanted to be around more for my dad who at 85 was having heath issues himself. I was hoping that working one less day a week would give me just the break I needed.

My boss and I had a long talk about if working less hours was actually going to help. Was it going to bring the relief I was looking for? When I made my request I was fairly burnt out and we were very short staffed. I had watched many of my co-workers and a supervisor leave and I'll admit, there were times I wish I was one of them. But to be honest, I wasn't sure another job would make me any happier unless it could provide me with more work/life balance. I really felt I needed to work less hours.

My boss and I actually had many conversations over multiple months about this. I was asked to submit a proposal and asked to write an essay of sorts. They wanted me to address how shorter hours would bring me balance and express what my dedication to the company was. To be honest I was really put off by the essay part. Really. Put. Off. It felt silly. I'd been there for almost 6 years and was known as a high performer. Did I really need to do this? I almost gave up at this time because I sort of felt like I was being strung along. It didn't help that my dad ended up in the Emergency Room during this time period which obviously stressed me out, but also highlighted one of the reasons I needed to move forward with the request. This was already taking so long, but I did it. It took me three weeks to put it together because I honestly didn't know quite how to sum it all up and wanted to be really careful with my words.

The proposal and essay led to many more conversations since I had mentioned some health issues (I have a number of health 'things' I deal with, but probably my migraines, dry eyes, and chronic myofascial pain impacted me the most in the workplace). It was a route I didn't really expect to take, but it led to a slightly different work schedule than I had proposed. It was a better accommodation because it addressed a lot of factors that impacted my health issues. I hadn't originally made the request, well... because I was told it absolutely was not an option (to work from home), but in the end it was the right one to address my concerns.

2. Really know what the company needs.

Is it feasible for you to work from home or work shortened hours? Does your team have the capacity? Does your position require face to face interaction?

When I made my request my team did not have the capacity to lose me even for a few hours. We needed more bodies, but I knew that we were working on hiring new people. In fact, we got a bunch of people, and then lost a couple more people. Sigh. It was frustrating for me that my request wasn't being moved a long faster, but I understood that there were business needs and they couldn't really cut my hours at that time.

After multiple meetings, I also offered up a different adjusted schedule. I had been challenged to come up with another option in case my "Friday off" request was turned down so I came up with a shortened Monday through Friday schedule which was starting to look more appealing to me. When I made the original request Riley didn't have daycare on Friday so Jesse was watching her while working from home (he has a job where that is possible - I do not). Our daycare needs changed over the course of this whole process and we decided to put Riley into preschool where she would be there 5 days a week. I was then able to present a back up option of working 5 days, but shorter hours. I would have taken either option at that point and recognized that the company also needed to have this work for them.

On the other hand, after my trial period ended I was repeatedly told by Human Resources that I was hired for an on site position so they wanted to make sure we explored all options to have me working in the office. I felt like I really had to defend myself, and was almost ready to cave into their request to come into the office a couple times a week. But I knew how much better I was feeling once the accommodation was in place and wanted to fight for keeping it as it was. I was able to articulate what worked and didn't work while in the office and at home and stressed that I was still performing at a high level from home. Luckily, they agreed.

3. Know what you are willing to budge on and what you aren't.

I knew I needed less hours, but what was the cut off for me? The down fall of working 32 hours a week was that I would lose some benefits such as health insurance. It was something I struggled with, but after assuring that Riley and I could get onto Jesse's work insurance I felt more comfortable with this option.

Knowing that other people were able to get this accommodation based on family needs made me hopeful, that I could use that rationale as well. It was true, but once I mentioned health issues that started to become the focus. I had originally mentioned my health issues because they really did play a role in all of this, but I NEVER wanted to use them as an excuse. And I never wanted anyone to think I could not do my job because of them. I had been frustrated from time to time because I thought I could work even harder... more effectively without such issues, but I knew I was still a high performer (I'm in a Senior role on my team). Once the accommodation started to shift towards my health issues I had to determine if I wanted to move forward or just back away.

In fact, my supervisor and I had 3 or 4 conversations over many months time before she understood the scope of my health issues as I was so uncomfortable using this as an excuse to work less. Ha - and that's the thing... when I was using 'work/life balance' it felt like a reason, but using my 'health issues' felt like an excuse. There was obviously a lot of internal stuff going on there, but I also think there were some valid concerns about what this would mean for me if I wanted to move into another department or if I felt ready to come back to full time work. I didn't want my health issues to define me.

Eventually, I decided this was important enough to me that if I had to use my health issues I would do so. Once we moved forward with that there were a few different work schedule suggestions thrown out. I wasn't happy with all of them, and luckily ended up with one that I was comfortable with, but there was a time that I debated what I would do if I didn't get the accommodation. Would I stick it out with the company or start a job search? I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.

When it came down to signing the paperwork allowing me the accommodation I realized that my company wasn't going to provide a computer or phone. I already knew I would have to pay for phone and internet, but I assumed these items would be provided (partly because other's that worked from home were given laptops). I tried to negotiate this a bit, but in the end decided it wasn't worth the fight. It has caused some issues since work IT hasn't been able to assist me as they would if I had a company computer, but I have a computer nerd husband so it all worked out.

4. Do your research.

I connected with other people in the same department that had adjusted schedules. Everyone had their own reasons for asking (and getting) their accommodations and some even had different leadership who handled the process differently.

I got a lot of tips in talking to other people about writing up a proposal, how to present my request, and what other documentation might be needed. It helped prepare me for some things that I might have found to be larger bumps in the road, but I was somewhat prepared for them. Don't have anyone at work to share their experiences? Go online. There are a lot of tips there, and while some may not fit for your situation it can give you a better idea of some of the things you might need to be thinking about. I used a proposal outline I found online and changed it to fit my situation. Proposals aren't something that I put together every day so I wanted to get as much information to help me through it. I felt really confident that my proposal was put together in a professional and convincing way.

In my research, I also talked to co-workers that work from home to discuss the pros and cons and just get some general feedback. They all gave me a few pieces of advice and the most interesting was to see how everyone manages their day a little differently. One person told me they get up, make their lunch and get ready as if they are going to work. They head into their home office and don't come out for the day. Another said he wears shorts and a sweatshirt and his wife needs to remind him to shower. Ha! When I read about working from home I'd always hear how it's best to treat it like you are going into the office. One of my health issues relates to being hyper sensitive (lights! smells! touch!...) so I knew that a benefit for me in working from home was being able to wear very comfortable clothes without having to worry about being business enough. I took all these suggestions into mind, but in the end I did what I was best for me (and just so you know... I am not in my pajamas all day. Think one step up from there.)

5. Be patient.

And be patient some more.

Everyone with an accommodation that I spoke to told me that "it takes a really long time" to get an accommodation in place. Most quoted me 8 - 12 weeks. Again, mine took about 9 months. I often found myself frustrated, and that hopefulness I initially felt when I first asked started to fade, but my supervisor was trying to support me through this. There may have been big gaps in time between our meetings, but when we did meet I was given slight encouragements that helped me hold on.

I also knew that it was a terrible time to be asking for this since we were short staffed. Each time someone left it was a blow, but I was always assured that we were going to be hiring to replace our lost staff. I think if we were fully staffed the 9 month time frame would have been much shorter.

6. Document everything.

Document every meeting date and topic covered in that meeting. I didn't think this process would take so long so I was lax in this department, but it could have come in handy.

Working from Home

After all those conversations, my supervisor was the one to suggest I work from home. She was also the one that initially told me it absolutely wasn't an option. We were able to identify a number of things in the office that exacerbated my headaches, body pain, and dry eyes so it started to make more sense to work in a environment that I had more control over like my home. My supervisor suggested that I might be able to still work 40 hours a week since I was cutting my commute out, but I still wanted to cut a few hours as I knew I needed a break from sitting in front of a computer all day. So now I am at home working 36 hours a week. I work 8:30 - 4:30 four days a week and 11 - 8 one day a week.

So how is it working for me? Do I feel better? Has it provided me with the relief I was looking for? Yes, everything is better. I absolutely love it. I'd love if I didn't have to work late hours that one day a week and I miss seeing my co-workers, but overall this really was the right choice for me. Not everyone will thrive working from home, but it is a good fit for me. I feel like I'm more efficient and focused. I'm not distracted by all the conversations around me. I can control my lighting (no more florescent lighting or makeshift fort above my desk), heat (I'm not freezing anymore and my eyes aren't nearly as dry), smells (no perfumed co-workers or musky people on the bus), and the general comfort of my work environment. I happened to already have a desk at home that I could sit or stand at, and although it's not on hydraulics like the one in the corporate office it does the job and allows me some relief from sitting all day. I even found that I benefit from the cordless phone I have at home as I can actually walk around while on a call, and while this might not seem that important it really is wonderful when you are mostly tied to a computer all day and your mobility is limited.

When I first started working at home I found myself on overdrive. I felt like I had to do ALL THE THINGS now that I was at home. I felt like I had to work extra hard to show my employer that I was still performing well from home and I felt like I now had to cram in as much house stuff that I could as well... I mean, part of the reason for this adjustment was to bring balance to my household. So before work, during lunch, and after work I was doing dishes, laundry, playing with my kid, going to the gym... all stuff I did before, but I tried to do it all in one day. Eventually, I found a balance that didn't leave me feeling absolutely exhausted every day and I still feel way more efficient than I could be while in the office.

As I've been at home I've also needed to make adjustments. When I first started working from home the weather was still nice so I would often take a lunch walk as my steps per day dropped significantly when I no longer had to walk to the bus, through the skyway, and around a corporate office. Once it got cold I found myself stuck inside so I now try to find little ways to move more. Sometimes I do some exercises right in my office or I walk around the house. I've even found YouTube videos of Zumba and followed along to that for 10 minutes over lunch. I can't wait for it to warm up so I can get outside again. I also used to be able to decompress on my bus ride home from work and since I no longer have that I often will take 5 minutes to myself before heading upstairs where my family is already home. It doesn't sound like much, but it really makes a difference.

I've discovered that asking for what you want isn't always easy, and doesn't always work out, but sometimes it really is worth the fight. I absolutely am in a much better spot personally and professionally. Yeah, there are some opportunities at work that I might not get to take advantage of, but I've realized that right now my biggest priority is my family and my health. That doesn't mean that I don't put my everything into my work when I'm working, but work isn't my everything. Focusing on what's important to me and having a company that is willing to work with me really does make me a better employee. So there you have it. This post was originally three times as long, but I figured you probably didn't want every single detail and random thought that ran through my head. I'm sure there are some things missing that I really wanted to hit on and questions you might have so don't hesitate to ask.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catching up

Thought I would provide a little update on life lately (besides Riley's birthday and my trip, of course)...

Movie Night

A few months ago we started a movie night on Friday nights with Riley. The first night was sort of a last minute "hey, we should start a movie night" so we pulled a movie from our shelves that Riley hadn't really seen before: Up, and had dinner on the floor in front of the TV.  I thought she would really enjoy this, but Jesse was worried about the sad content when it came to the husband and wife in the movie. That went right over my then 3 year old's head, and she seemed to enjoy the movie... that is until we were near the end of the movie and there were dogs barking and balloons popping and it was all too much. Riley totally broke down and that was the end of movie night that night.

We weren't ready to give up on movie night altogether since we know Riley's watched lots of movies and some I would say were scarier than Up, such as Lion King, and Brave.  Luckily, that next movie night and every one since has been a success. Movies that I thought would freak her out didn't (Disney, your G movies are not G in my opinion).

We usually have pizza and veggies (Riley) or salad (Jesse and I) and wear our pajamas. We all look forward to it each week even if some movies are harder for the adults in this house to have much excitement for. It's a great way for our family to be in the same room for an hour or two without giving in to any other distractions. I'm a little worried that we are going to run out of movies to watch, but so far we've done ok.

PS. Despicable Me franchise? Please make more movies. Thank you.

New Mattress

As noted in my day in the life post we recently went shopping for a new mattress. I was hesitant to get one as I wasn't sure we needed one, but we did. I will own up to that. I went in wanting a firm, but not too firm bed, while Jesse wanted a very firm bed. We both also thought we didn't want a pillow top because our spare bedroom mattress has a pillow top, except it doesn't. How did I think it did all these years? Turns out it's just a cheap mattress with little support. Anyhoo, Jesse and I tested out a lot of mattresses and luckily ended up on the same page: somewhere between firm and soft and with a very supportive spring system. Oh, and we totally got a pillow top. Go figure. I'm loving our new bed even though that meant needing to get new sheets because the mattress is almost as thick as two of our old mattresses. Ok, maybe not, but it's big.

My Birthday

I usually devote an entire post to this, but I have to admit I was feeling slightly sour about this birthday. Oh, don't get me wrong, overall it was a nice day, but my hubby struggles with birthdays or any celebration... and not just mine. More on that in a moment - let me talk about the fun stuff we did first. The day started out with a visit to the gym. Riley kept asking to go someplace else after which is sort of weird since she never does that. She finally came up with that we needed cupcakes for my birthday. Smart kid. I was going to mention that I wanted to have a good piece of chocolate cake at some point that day so I was all on board with Riley's suggestion. We picked up the treats and made plans to eat them at my in laws later since Riley was spending the night there.

Around 3 we left for my in law's house. It was getting pretty cold and very windy. Very windy. At one point we had to stop in the middle of the road because we couldn't see anything except white snow blowing in front of us.

We arrived safely at my in laws and ate our treats which I didn't really care for. Boo. We got these from a high end grocery store, but one of my favorite pieces of cake I've eaten in the past has come from a normal run of the mill grocery store (Rainbow). Must remember this next year.

Jesse and I then headed over to Mill Valley Kitchen. It's rather close to our house, but I'd never been there. This seemed like just the occasion to try something new. I liked the feel of the place: bright, yet cozy, and a nice open kitchen. Jesse had the kale salad with seared tuna and I had the sea bass that came with a mushroom quinoa and cucumber salad and we shared some veggies. Oh, and we each had a glass of wine. And I can't forget the water. Seriously, this was some pretty awesome water. I don't think I've ever commented on how good the water is at a restaurant - we even had to ask the waitress about it. Apparently, it's ionized. I'd come back for the water alone. They have a different lunch menu that has some good looking sandwiches on there so I am looking forward to checking this place out again.

After dinner we watched Man of Steel. Meh. Just... too much stuff happening.

And then? It was time for bed. I still hadn't received a gift or card from Jesse (or Riley) yet, but he's been known to wait allllll day only for me to find my gift in my pillow case so maybe it was still coming. But then he went up to bed to read and I followed and nothing.

I love this guy and he really is a great guy, but fails when it comes to birthday stuff. The night ended in a lot of sorry's from him and some tears from me. Yuck, you guys. I have a friend who goes all out and plans secret getaways for her husband, but he just gives her a simple gift on her special day. My friend has said that she knows that her husband will never go all out and she's ok with that. I'm not looking for Jesse to go all out, but trying to decide if I just accept that he sucks when it comes to birthdays (and mother's day, ahem) or how I deal with this. It's not the first time we've had to have this talk and it's not just me that he misses the ball on. He said he had plans to have Riley make a card, but ran out of time. Sigh.

It's a couple weeks later and still no card or anything so I am assuming I won't receive anything. He had mentioned months ago about getting me a new camera and that was the plan - we even picked out the model I wanted - but then I told him to hold off on that because of the cost. I didn't think he would take that as code to not get me anything at all. And to be clear, it's not that I need anything big. I would have loved to have something meaningful that didn't cost a thing.

Ok, enough ranting about that. I don't want to throw my husband under the bus, but if you have any suggestions as how to rectify this (again, I'm not the only one who doesn't always get gifts. See also: his mothers, his nephews...) I would love to hear your suggestions.

Edit: I should add that for Valentine's Day Jesse did plan ahead and gave me flowers and chocolate.


I know I just did a couple of posts on her since it was her birthday, but I realized that since then we've been to the doctor and received her weight and height stats. It's funny how less important these seem now than when she was younger, but I'd like to capture them here. Turns out she's still skinny and tall:

34 lbs - 42%
3'5" - 77%

Also, it was interesting to have the sight and hearing tests introduced this time. The sight tests had different shapes of different sizes to identify except that some of the shapes weren't really shapes that even I would identify. For example, one looked like a heart with a bite taken out of it. Riley struggled to know what this was and called it a star until the nurse mentioned to us what some of the kids called it (she thought it was a strange shape as well). But I suppose, in some way, it's a test to see what kid's do call it. She did ok with the sight test and they seemed fine with they way she answered, but I thought she did better with one eye over the other, but maybe that's normal for kid's her age.

The hearing test was a bit of a struggle for her as well. She did fine hearing, but had some stage fright at raising her hand when she heard a noise. We kept having to stop and explain the directions to her. Finally, the nurse asked her if she knew about how many beeps she heard. She definitively said "six". We did another round and again she noted how many beeps she heard. This is soooooo Riley and something we joke about all the time (and are amazed at as well). In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if a year from now we asked her how many beeps she heard and she would be spot on (but not remember something I just told her to do).

So yeah, that's about it. It's still cold. I'm still yearning for spring. Oh, and I finally plan to post about working from home. I was waiting for some news in regards to it and finally have it. Look for that post next. I swear.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Princess Party

It happened. My kid fell head over heals for princesses. Until a few months ago it seemed like she couldn't care less about princesses. She was into rocks, cars, puzzles, coloring, books... but not really girly stuff. Then one day she came home from school where they had been talking about what they would be when they grew up and she said she wanted to be a princess. I asked her what princesses do and she said something along the lines of "nothing, they just hang out". Uh huh. Ok. The independent woman in me started freaking out internally, but then I remembered what a girly girl I was at her age (pink everything, thank you). So here we are riding the princess wave (which is seriously full blown). We walk around holding imaginary Cinderella's hand, we watch Disney princess movies, tell 'once upon a time' princess stories... you name it. Princess are a part of our daily existence now. 

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Riley wanted a princess birthday celebration. I'm sure it would have shocked many of my friends to see me pile up the cart with all things princess, but you embrace the things that make your kids happy even when you never thought you would do certain things. Ah, to be a parent.

Like last year, we decided to have a small gathering. I knew I would be out of town the week before and wanted to keep it easy to prepare for. We invited my dad and the in laws and then decided to invite a couple people with kids, one of which unfortunately couldn't make it. Riley didn't seem to care if there were 6 people or 20 so I'm all for keeping it small for now.

Riley most adores Ariel (and wants to be her when she grows up) - her teacher even let her borrow a book from school over the weekend that's all about Ariel, but I tried to bring in multiple princess characters while still having Ariel be the main star.

Our party was fairly simple. We hung out for a bit and Riley played board games with grandma.

I asked for a silly face. This is what I got.

I made Italian Beef sandwiches and an orzo salad for lunch. We also had a veggie plate and hummus and crackers. Nothing too fancy and nothing that Riley would really eat (except some of the veggies), but the adults enjoyed the food.

Sandwich toppings. The olives were a new addition and a good one.

After lunch some of our friends arrived just in time for Riley's favorite part of the day - opening gifts. Riley was waiting for this allllllll morning. As you could probably guess there were a lot of princess presents.

She audibly gasped at this gift when she opened it. It was so dramatic and cute at the same time.

And then there was the playing with all the gifts...

Found this at the airport on my way home from CO.

Glitter without having glitter everywhere. Win win.

Cupcake time! We went to Byerly's for Jesse and my birthday and while his birthday cupcake was really good - mine, not so much. We decided to check out yum!, a local restaurant that has delicious food with the hope that their cupcakes would follow suite. And they did. So good - can't wait for another birthday to come up so I can buy more cupcakes from there.

And just for kicks we played a game that was simple and fun for all... pin the seashell on Ariel. Of course, the guy holding the baby and using his non-dominant hand won.

Such a fun and simple party. We had a little drama that night when we wouldn't let Riley stay up all night playing with her princess stuff and the next morning when one of her dress up princesses broke in half, but otherwise the day was a success.