Thursday, October 30, 2014

Costume Week: Tiger-tastic

If Piper had her way, she would be a tiger every day of the week. It might stem from her adoration of Daniel Tiger, but she also loves the real deal- begging to see the tigers from the minute someone utters the word "zoo". She's perfected her roar, consistently names it as her favorite animal. (And if you know any almost three year olds, then you know their favorite things tend to change by the second).

So when our church hosted a Hoedown, (does that warrant a capital H? I'm not positive...feels like yes...) and that Hoedown had facepainting, Piper was adamant that she be transformed into a tiger. I, of course, was hoping for maybe a simple little star on her know...something that could be removed with one baby wipe or less, but she was not budging. We discussed it while we waited in line, because I was worried she might like the theory of face painting more than she liked the actuality of it all. But she assured me she really really wanted to be a tiger. The heart wants what it wants I suppose.
Pipes climbed up on that big country chair with no reservations, which may not seem like a big deal, but she has a tendency to be a bit of a fraidy cat, so I was a bit surprised to see her press on during the process. I hate to limit her, but I've also often seen her love the idea of something, only to hate it once it gets started, so I try to warn her about what's about to happen to avoid a freak out. Face painting may not be a huge deal to most, but for a sensitive kid, a stranger touching your face with weird wet stuff can be a little scary. I'm finding that it's a bit of a balancing act to have a cautious kid...I want to support her when she makes a brave choice, but I also get nervous for her, and want to prepare her so she doesn't get overwhelmed. She's been surprising me more and more lately though, begging to do things she previously wouldn't have even considered. (This same day, she even rode a horse! This, from the girl who previously wouldn't even pet a cat!)

She did have a little change of heart just before it was her turn, when I told her that being a tiger meant they were going to paint her whole face. She thought for a minute, and decided- "Not my eyes, mama. And not my tongue." Ok...we can work with that.

So she got her wish, and the eyes and the tongue stayed paint free. She was quite the sight to behold...definitely not my vision, but it was everything she hoped for. (I took a few pics while we were at the Hoedown, but when we got home she requested a slew of selfies, and asked to send them to people to show off her new look. I was worried we might not convince her to wash it off come bedtime.

I'm probably making too much of it all, I know facepaint isn't exactly a sign of a budding daredevil, but I was so proud of her for knowing what she wanted, and enduring something she may have been a little unsure about in order to get it. It's so fun to be her mama, watching her personality develop and change. She may always have a bit of a cautious side, or she may surprise us all and embrace her tiger spirit. But we'll love her either way. (Though Fin may be a teeny bit suspicious...)

Oh- and #costumeweekspooktacular bonus: Hoedown Bowdens. Next time...hats.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Costume Week: Cow Appreciation Day

Ok, so we're three days into #costumeweekspooktacular so I don't need to profess my love of dressing up. You get it.

But do you also know about my intense love of Chick-fil-A? Oh yes. It's partly about the delicious chicken, but also may have something to do with my intense desire to be southern. And the extreme patience they show to my sauce-loving, havoc-wreaking kids doesn't hurt either (plus: indoor playground!) In any case, it's a popular choice for us Bowdens, especially in our Pittsburgh days when we had a few of them nearby our house AND our office. Convenient, church-y, chicken. My pleasure.

However...even if Chick-fil-A hadn't already solidified its place in my heart (more specifically: my arteries) they would have won me over with their annual July 14th festivities. What's that? You weren't aware that July 14th is an official holiday? Oh yes, my friends. For it is:

...also known as the very, very best kind of holiday, in that it involves- nay- demands costumes, and rewards the wardrobe effort with FREE chicken. It's like Halloween in the Summer, but without all the terrible spooky stuff (and swapping the candy for waffle fries).

It's a pretty simple deal- dress like a cow, and get a free meal. I'm never mad at a free meal, but I truly can't resist the urge to get my entire family in on some matching outfit action. So last year, Piper and I worked on some cow costume crafts, and convinced Dustin to humor me (again...some more).

Piper was wary for sure, but poor little 4 week old Fin didn't know the dairy dynasty she was born into.
A photo posted by Courtney Bowden (@bowdenisms) on
So this year, we had to continue the tradition...and luckily we had saved pieces of our outfits  ( don't all use your spare bedroom as a costume closet?) so we updated them slightly and were ready to roll. (a little electrical tape over some devil horns...voila: cow horns!)

Mooing all the way...

Seriously...she liked the costume, but loved the mooing.

This is Fin's attempt at a moo:

We managed to get some family shots. The clean before...

And the slightly messy after:

I'm already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Costume Week: Weird Animals

I'm sure I don't have to remind you that the things I post here are just teeny tiny snippets of our big crazy lives. I do try to make them accurate snippets, or at least balance the good and the bad so it never looks like I'm polishing up my Dream Life to show off to the masses. But in any case, so much goes on around here I am lucky if I can document 1/100th of it. Piper is at a stage right now where I want to record every single thing she says. Honestly. Every one. I try to take notes of the very best quips, but sometimes they just come right after another, and I can't keep up. And Fin? Well...she's just awesome. And I could write that a hundred different ways every day and it wouldn't do her justice. (To be clear...she's also a pistol...and so is her sister. The two of them have perfected the adorably mischievous smile, and use them often. I have never been so hopelessly in love, and simultaneously overcome with frustration in my life as I am with these girls every day).

So I know I'm constantly "behind" on blogging- not in a "you guys must be clamoring for more news about me" kind of way- just in a "I can't possibly keep up with the doing AND the documenting" kind of way. And I know that there are tons of things I haven't gotten to write about, but sometimes even I'm surprised at the stuff I never manage to share. I'll look for something in the archives, thinking surely I must have blogged about that (whatever that happens to be) and I'll come up empty. I've got an endless stream of photos saved, but the sorting, and editing, and posting, and writing....well....that typically takes a backseat to more living, and more photo taking (as it should). It's a great problem to have- too much awesome for one blogger!- but it is still a bit of a bummer when I look back on all the fun, important or momentous occasions in our lives that I haven't gotten to formally process or reflect on, or share in this setting.

So for today's #costumeweekspooktacular I'm sharing a throwback to July, when we got to participate in Vacation Bible School. I grew up attending VBS at my parents' church, but that was 20 some years ago, so it was a bit simpler than the fully-marketed, media-integrated, branded, mega shows that go on today. Not to get all crotchety on you, but in my day, we climbed in a creek, sang cheesy songs while we sat on carpet squares, and made a friendship bracelet or two (the red bead is for Jesus' blood...)...and we liked it. So I'm slightly suspicious of the corporate take over of the VBS scene, with the crazy themes and packaged details, and official soundtracks. VBS is a BIG deal these days, and it kind of blows my mind.

But but but. Let me say, that though it's different, and crazy, and not what I'm used to....I also love it.
Last year was our first year to really witness it, when I was in Columbus for a while during my maternity leave. My entire family was mega-involved in it (troop leaders, worship band members etc.) so I tagged along each evening with the girls, even though they were much too young for it. They had a blast though, (Ok, Fin was 6 weeks old....she didn't care a ton...but Piper loved it.) and it was incredible to me to see a church full of elementary schoolers having so much fun, and being loved so well.

So when it came time for this year's event, I was first in line to sign up. The kids are still too young, but again, my parents have the inside track, so the folks in charge humored my crazy self-serving attempts to weasel in on the fun. We put in a donation for the week in exchange for permission to crash the "volunteers only" dinners that preceded each night's events. (No cooking for a week? Yes! I'll pay you!!) Then we would stay for the first portion of VBS (hanging out in the family members zone in the back) watching the skits and video lessons and singing and dancing along to the worship band. The girls LOVED it. They danced, and ran, and sang, and just got all around wild. (fitting, as this year's theme was Weird Animals....)

I adored watching my girls hanging with their cousins, and I can't even describe how it felt to see them be embraced by the entire extended church family. And to know that Piper maybe learned a little about Jesus? All the better. all that know there was one more teeny tiny motivating factor for me, right?

Oh yes. The costumes. You of the very best parts of VBS, is that every night is a theme night. It's like high school spirit week for little tykes, and there's no way to describe my reaction to this other than ALL IN.

Can I recap? Picnic dinners every night. Tiny kids singing adorable songs. So much Jesus. AND COSTUMES. Heaven, guys. I know what heaven looks like.

There were five nights of themes, all centered around animals...I manged to document "Dress as your favorite animal" and "Crazy Coats" nights. Thanks to $5 clearance costumes, and a bunch of wacky stuff we already owned, the kids were looking pretty fierce.

When you put something on Fin's head, she pretty much turns into a different person. It's the most hilariously bizarre thing. Her personality changes, and she's completely unable to focus on anything but her head. She doesn't even necessarily want it off...she just freezes into a suspicious and confused little creature. It's sort of like putting a costume on a cat. And by that I mean I love it.

The roaring. So much roaring. And paw clapping.

Arguably my biggest parenting accomplishment to date (in my mind) is passing on my love for costumes to Piper, so you can imagine how proud I was when she not only agreed to wear the costume, she begged to wear it. And though this pic doesn't show her enthusiasm, I have to tell you, that even when she was in a full sweat (it was July after all) she refused to remove her mane. Committed, that one. (and for the record, I was coming straight from work each night, but I did manage to get into the dress up action a couple nights. For some reason we don't have that craziness immortalized on film...)

I love these two crazy critters. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Costume Week: Nesting Dolls


I love them.

So much so that I have created a little tradition around here called Costume Week! (#costumeweekspooktacular for you Instagrammers). I trust you don't have to explain the concept...lets just get to the good stuff.

I'm super excited to share this year's first Trick or Treat ensembles (that's right...first...this was just the warm up round) even though they're actually repeats from last year. Check 'em out...

I mean...Come on. Have you ever seen a cuter trio of nesting dolls?'s hard to get the nesting doll effect when only one of my mini-matryoshkas was cooperative. And even she only managed to wear the hat for a few minutes. Plus, we didn't actually get out of the house for Trick or Treating (I'm pretty sure it was cold and shock for October in Pittsburgh) so we only managed to snap a couple pics while we passed out candy. (though we did get a pretty incredible video of a dancing Piper-doll). So I felt like we maybe short changed the world on witnessing this adorable-ness (I'm nothing if not biased). And let's be real, if I'm going to go to the trouble of making us matching costumes, I'm gonna need some decent pictures to show them off.

So 2014 brought us the chance for a redo. We're all a few pounds heavier, but fortunately headscarves and aprons are pretty forgiving, so we suited up for the annual Midnight Madness event in our town's uptown shopping district. But first....some photos:
Worth the redo, right? I mean...Fin is as skeptical as ever, and Piper wouldn't stop showing off her jumping skills...but still...Three Bowdens in one picture, looking mildly not crazy? Total win.
Seriously...look at that 2" of air. Fin is astounded!

I have learned to set my expectations really low when it comes to things like this. I do love a costume, but I don't like forcing one on an unwilling child (I'd be a pretty terrible pageant mom), so I try to drum up the enthusiasm as much as I can, and then remind myself to let it go if they're just not having it. So I wasn't sure how this would go down, but I was so pleasantly surprised. Piper loved every second of wearing matching outfits, and as long as I let Fin hold on to her doctor's kit, she was a happy girl. (Who am I to say nesting dolls can't have big career dreams?)
Giving mama a shot. 

Again...Come on. Such cuteness...even if everyone thought we were Red Riding Hoods, or Amish.

We had a ton of fun walking around the uptown district trolling for candy, and watching the endless parade of dog costumes. This was Piper's first time truly Trick or Treating, and she was a champ. She marched right up to every shop owner, and proudly said "Trick or Treating!" (there had perhaps been a slight misunderstanding on the script for the night, but it was too adorable to correct. (oh- she also thought we were "Nesting Dogs" for some reason, which made me again I refused to correct her). Fin clutched a bag of Halloween pretzels like Gollum, and we even got Dustin into the action (wearing a vaguely Russian inspired fur hat and red tee. That's about as festive as he gets). Awesome all around. 

We'll be back later this week with some more dress up goodness, but in the meantime, you can check out all our past costumes or follow all the fun via #costumeweekspooktacular

Friday, October 24, 2014


Today I'm blogging over at Thrive Moms, talking about embracing chaos.

Because if there's one thing I'm familiar with, it's chaos. I only have two kids- two semi-well behaved girls at that...but together they're more than the sum of their parts. They become of force, intent on destruction. A tiny, giggling force, but still.  

 Chick-Fil-A must just love us. 

It's been fun for me to write for Thrive's a truly lovely group of girls, and they put out such inspiring truth-filled content. So if you haven't checked it out, please go... read... follow...

Oh- and for extra Thrive Moms fun, I made a little page here.

And P.S. Did you know they're hosting a free online retreat?
That means all the goodness of Thrive, right in your home. Or if you're a Columbus local (maybe even a member of Northchurch?) it's all the goodness of Thrive right in my home! I'm having a viewing party, and would love to have you join. You can check out the conference details here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Best songs for little ears (with big opinions)

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For the last year or so, every car ride taken with Piper starts with two little demanding words: "MY MUSIC!" It's typically quickly followed with the nicer version (usually/always prompted by us...): "We listen to my music please?" And so we oblige, and crank up "ToDleR Jamzzzz" (ok. Just a kids themed Pandora station.

How did we get here? I ask myself.

Before I had kids....well actually....before I had a 2.5 year old, I sat firmly on my high horse of parental control. I didn't see any reason that having kids meant succumbing to kiddie music. A friend of mine told me every car ride with her family was met with the demand for "Julia Music"! What in the world is Julia music? I inquired. Duh. It's what their 3 yr old, Julia, calls kids songs. I scoffed, thinking (and probably saying, because I have no sense of when to keep my mouth shut) Well that will never be me. We listen to what we want. Piper doesn't have to even know about kids music. She'll just learn to love what we love. Kids shouldn't run the show, you just have to be smart about what you expose them to...

Um. Wrong.

We try to play "good" (our opinion anyway) music for the kids....But toddlers are smarter than I imagined. Somehow they know. They just intrinsically know about kids music. Piper heard it at school, or on a show, or at church...And she knows the difference between these little ditties, and the stuff we tried to raise her on. We've tried to expand her tastes, and take turns with radio controls, but
she knows what she wants. And she wants peppy, catchy, and made just for her (regardless if it makes my ears bleed). And I don't mean to paint myself as some musical purist, or a hipster tastemaker...I pretty much jam on some top 40 and various other guilty pleasures. But even to my pop-lovin' ears, kids music can be pretty painful. (And don't get me started on recordings of actual kids singing. I know it's supposed to be precious and irresistible...But I just can't tolerate it. I mean...unless it's this adorableness.)

So all that to say...We're on the hunt for some tolerable music geared towards kids. And thankfully...we've found some stuff we can work with...or even enjoy. And just in case you've found yourself in the same rockin' boat  mini-van, I thought I'd share some of our favorites: 

We started a toddler station on Pandora...Every song isn't a guaranteed winner, and it's still fairly repetitive, but we're working on it, and it's getting better. From a few song seeds, we've discovered all the above albums, and have at least a short list of our favs: 

Give a Little Bit by Renee & Jeremy
So hipster. So good.

A Place in the Choir by Terri Hendrix
Like riding Splash Mountain in heaven. Love.

Willoughby Wallaby Woo by Raffi
Raffi is like the Elvis/Beatles/Jesus of children's folk songs. Plus the song has names that rhyme with Dustin and Fin, so we're all in.

Three Little Ducks by Julie Frost
We teasingly mock how she oversings on this one, but she's still so obviously talented, and the style isn't refreshingly not cheesy.

This Little Light of Mine by Elizabeth Michell
Such a beautiful version of a classic. Love her voice.

Goodnight by Laurie Berkner
If you have kids, you know about Laurie Berkner. Fact. (or it is now...) Her stuff is a little cliche at times, but this song is just the sweetest, and has become part of our bedtime routine (with Piper yelling out other animal suggestions for new verses...anything to postpone actual sleeping). 

If All of the Raindrops by Laura Doherty
This song just makes me happy. So very happy. 

All I Want is You by The Vespers
Also so hipster. Also so good.

Shortnin' Bread by Caspar Babypants
A million kids songs. All with adorable album cover art. 

So that's what I know...But really I want to hear from you! What should we be listening to? What artists have you discovered who bridge the toddler/adult music gap? Do you have tips on getting your kids to listen to non-terrible stuff?

P.s. Check out my actual favorite kid's album, or read about how I'm so not a lyrical genius.
Oh- and we're working on another station specifically for lullabyes, which you can listen to here. It's pretty much 98% songs by The Piano Guys, and I'm ok with that.

*some affiliate links used.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Place in the Choir

You know those songs...that get into your heart. Those songs that every time you hear them, you're struck with the meaning and power. Those songs that take on much bigger significance than any melody and lyrics should truly be capable of...

Do you have one of those songs?

I'm sure you do. Maybe it's some hymn or worship song, or a song you used to listen to, that now reminds you of a hard time you went through, or a song your Grandma sang to you when you were little.

I think we all have those songs.
But one of mine- is about a possum. And a bullfrog. And a donkey.

A Place in the Choir, sung by Terri Hendrix

All God's critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.

For some reason, this song just gets me. The verses are kind of crazy...but the chorus. Every time I hear that chorus all I can picture is Heaven. Well also...I picture the end portion of the Disney ride Splash Mountain, with all of the animals singing and celebrating...but that actually makes me think of heaven too. I realize that sounds a little nuts, and I don't really have an biblical knowledge that can back up my prediction that Heaven is one big banjo party with Southern "critters" running (and singing) around everywhere. But I just love the joy of the song. And beyond that, the idea of all these different critters- myself included- just coming to God as we are, throwing up our hands, or paws, or anything we've got to praise Him...that's powerful.

The girls and I were listening to it on the way to dinner this weekend, and I couldn't resist trying to get Piper to catch my vision...

Me: Do you know what this song is about, Pipes? 
Piper: Yeah. 
Me: Really...what?
Piper: I don't know. 
{BTW: that's our exchange every single time I ask her a "do you know...?" question. I've tried to explain that she can say "no" the first time, but to no avail...}
Me: Well, God created all the animals and people, and everything on earth, and they're all different. So when it says that they all have a place in the choir, that means we all belong. We can all play together, and He loves all of us exactly the way we are...
Piper: .....Mom? Can you turn the song up.

So. She obviously totally got it.

I stifled the urge to force any more folk-song philosophy into my uninterested toddlers, but I still think about it every time that song comes on (which in our kid-mobile, is kind of a lot). I could wax on this for quite a while, probably pulling entirely too much meaning out of some lyrics about a quiet possum, or crazy porcupine...But as silly as it is, I'm just so thankful for the truth of it. God created me and my critters (and you and yours) and He has a place for every single one of us and our gifts.
I'll be clapping my paws to that idea today.

Background watercolor by Katherine Jury, via Design Love Fest. Font is Channel.

P.s.  Another old-school uplifting jam of mine, and a reminder that God loves us as we are.