Saturday, November 22, 2014

Moms Go Wild and Crazy for Local Hanna Andersson!

Meet Adam. He's that man you see up there holding my baby. 

"Why?" might you ask, "is a complete stranger holding your baby?" and better yet, "what's so special about him that you're sharing it on your blog?" 

Well let me tell you. Adam is the current CEO of Hanna Andersson, president of the Hanna Andersson corporation. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Adam during the grand opening of a Hanna storefront in Maryland's the Mall at Columbia. I tried to keep my fangirl-ing to a minimum while shaking his hand and immediately asked if he would hold my baby for a photo-op.

Trust me, it would have been way creepier if I had asked him to sign my baby which did cross my mind.  

Hanna Andersson home page

Five years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby, my mother started buying these ridiculously soft one-piece pajamas for him. When I say soft, I mean, incredibly sweet and super soft. So soft, in fact, that they were exactly what I dreamt of dressing my brand new baby in and I even began to wonder if they came in my size. 

It was then that I was first introduced to the Hanna Andersson brand and thus began my love affair with this Swedish-rooted retailer. Not only did I fall head over heels for their pajamas but also their entire clothing line and their mission in general. 

Thirty years ago, Hanna launched a "softness revolution, " designed to provide quality clothes made from indestructible cotton with bright colors and bold patterns that let kids be little. It wasn't until I experienced the fleeting moments of motherhood that I came to truly understand and appreciate the idea of letting kids be little and in doing so, dressing them to fit the bill. 

This means clothing that doesn't restrict their wild imaginations or the bodies that act out those creative visions. Nothing that's too squishy or scratchy or sticky-pointy in all the wrong places. For instance, if you peruse the Hanna website, you'll find that they don't sell baby jeans. While baby jeans sure can be cute sometimes, I often ask myself if it's really comfortable to stuff 23lbs. of chubby love into a set of denim and Hanna understands. 

Soon after my love for Hanna blossomed, I realized that without a local store front the only way for me to feed my addiction was online. When I discovered that a few pieces of Hanna were sold wholesale through Nordstrom and Costco, it was a dream come true. As much as I loved being able to shop online for items, it was nice to be able to actually lay my hands on the pieces as well. When Hanna was pulled from our local Costco, it was a sad, sad day. 

When I heard that Hanna Andersson would be coming to our local mall, it goes without saying that I was beyond excited. So excited that I didn't think twice about attending their Grand Opening event and taking advantage of the crazy-amazing promotions they would be offering. When I say crazy-amazing, I mean that the deals were the best I'd ever seen for the brand. Buy-one-get-one sleepwear, including their licensed and organic line, not to mention 20% off your entire order AND a free pair of their infamous long johns to the first 500 customers. 

I wasn't the only one who was excited about their arrival, as evidenced by the hoards of happy moms, dads, grandmas, aunties, babies and tots who came out to show their love for Hanna on the day of the grand opening. Admittedly, I was crazy enough to show up an hour early and still managed to find myself nearly the 100th person in line. I laughed as I watched fellow mall-goers' eyes grow wide when they stumbled upon the crowd. Many of them wondered just what was going on and I was approached by several people who admitted to thinking it was a line for Santa, what with all of the moms, strollers and babies in tow. One young gentlemen assumed a new phone was dropping or it was the unveiling of some equally incredible technology. 

"Nope, just amazing kids clothes," I would reply. 

This is where I have to stop and give kudos to the management, staff and the CEO of the store. I haven't attended many grand openings so my experience is rather narrow, but I think they did a fantastic job of preparing for, accommodating and handling the crowd. Everyone was warm and welcoming and the customer service was tantamount. Shopping is never easy, especially when it involves tired and hungry tiny humans and I believe that Hanna handled everyone from the biggest to the littlest customers so well. 

That said, I understand that you can only plan for so much before those plans are put into action. While the store front was a beautiful sight to be seen and as a fellow social media addict, I LOVED seeing #happyhannas Instagram photos lining the store windows, the lay out of the store wasn't exactly stroller friendly. With display tables and racks of clothing that made for narrow aisles, in conjunction with long checkout lines and busy shoppers, it was very difficult to navigate the store with or without a stroller, but especially with a stroller. Checkout was also a bit of a headache because as you were funneled into the store and directed towards the back end, to check out you needed to wind back and return to the front of the store to stand in line. Mobile checkout was a god send but even then, these handful of stations were still towards the front end of the store which made for some tight, cramped quarters. 

I could tell Adam's wheels were turning. The smart and savvy business man, although while proud, I'm certain, of the store's opening, was already brainstorming ways to improve the situation, to make it a top-notch experience for everyone who set foot in the store. I haven't met many CEO's of retailers, not to mention of retailers that I love, and it was evident that Adam truly cares about the consumer- about not just our love for the brand but about how the brand enhances and enriches our lives and most importantly, what he can do to make it better.

As moms? That's pretty darn important. I love that Hanna Andersson is a part of my motherhood and my babies' childhood. It was there to welcome my babies home from the hospital- to keep them warm and safe as I struggled to navigate those messy waters of first-time mommydom. It has celebrated Christmases and birthdays and taken memory-filled vacations with us to places like the beach, the mountains and everywhere in between.  It's  been there as my babies turned into toddlers and took their first steps and even as my oldest started his first days of preschool. 

Pieces that have been handed down from oldest, to youngest. From one brother, to the next and finally, to our last little baby. Our story with Hanna Andersson doesn't end there and I look forward to continuing to have Hanna be just a small piece of our lives for years to come. 

Congratulations on a job well done from one very satisfied customer and her three little gentlemen. I think it's safe to say, we'll be back! Now, who's going to start the local support group for Hanna addicts? Might I suggest a 12-step program... 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post nor was I compensated for writing about my love for Hanna Andersson. Although, I would graciously accept store credit for life (ha-ha-ha) this is simply one mother sharing her love for a brand that has played an important role in the raising of her three babies.  

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A Very Minted Christmas {$150 Holiday Card Giveaway}

It's that time of year again- time to choose that singular family photo that best captures your family and tells the story of how busy, amazing, wonderful, incredible and fun the last year has been and insert it into an equally beautiful holiday card. If your family is anything like ours, this picture also happens to depict your family of five as well-dressed, calm, cool and collected. And full of attentive listeners.

Basically, it depicts how our family looks and acts 8% of the time. 

Regardless of always struggling a little with which photo will adorn the family Christmas card each year, I know without a doubt that I will be using Minted for all of our holiday paper needs. We've used Minted for numerous stationery needs over the course of the last several years and we continue to receive compliments on Minted's unique and beautiful design work. There's just something about their wide array of personalized and customizable designs, not to mention their support of indie designers world wide that I just can't turn away from. 

Some of my favorite designs for this year are included below:

joyful jotted holiday
oh what watercolor
deckled merrier than ever

I especially love Minted's "Find it Fast" feature which allows you to insert a photo into many cards at once. It truly helps narrow down the often difficult process of choosing a winner, not to mention it's much more effective than playing Eenie Meenie. 

With our annual Cookies and Cocktails party around the corner, I think we'll definitely need a signature holiday photo backdrop and love this new addition to Minted's holiday paper repertoire. From bunting banners to wine glass tags, table runners and more, Minted is the perfect place to shop for holiday party decor.

I need to fill you in on just one more thing before you enter to win a $150 credit to Check out their exclusive FREE addressing that coordinates with your hand-selected and unique card design. Not only does it save you time from having to hand address every single envelope but adds just a little extra touch of flair to your holiday greetings.

And now for the best part- once again I've partnered with my amazing friends over at Minted to offer one lucky ILYMTC reader a $150 credit. Entry is fast and easy. Be sure to enter below using the Rafflecopter widget. Winner will be notified on Friday, November 28th and will have 24 hours to claim their prize. Good luck to all who enter! Season's Greetings!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Family Photos That Made This Mama Cry.

I never once want to give the impression that taking family pictures is easy. As much as we all yearn for that one perfect image, the one that doesn't really represent us whatsoever, the reality is that the outtakes are so much better and a much truer sneak peek into our lives. 

We haven't had professional pictures taken since our wedding, seven years ago and I can probably count on one hand the number of pictures taken since then that include the five of us, especially since Collins was born nearly seven months ago. If you're counting, that's hardly enough pictures of our family together. 

I knew I wanted to have professional family pictures captured the moment Collins was born. I also made several excuses for myself as to why I kept putting them off. I wanted to be happy with how I looked in them. I wanted to lose 10 more pounds. I wanted to look rested. What stupid, stupid reasons to put off something so important to me. 

When I found out that Melissa was hosting mini sessions, I don't think my fingers even hit the keys as I emailed her to claim one of the early slots. It was now or never. Within minutes I had booked a 9am session nearly an hour away. The logistics of it all didn't really dawn on me until a couple of hours later when I realized I would have to have our entire crew fed, dressed and ready to walk about the door by 7:45am. Somehow, I knew it would be worth it. 

I immediately set out to put together outfits. Since we don't have pictures taken on the regular, I wanted us to dress up a bit- to look a little fancified for the occasion. Of the five of us, I knew I wanted to be the fanciest- especially surrounded by all those boys! 

In my head I already knew what the boys would be wearing- I had scooped up Collins' romper from the GAP as well as his striped pom hat a few days earlier and knew he would look darling in it. I snagged two pair of those fancy camo slacks from JCrew Factory for the bigger boys at $14 each and knew I'd want to class them up with a cardigan. Again, JCrew Factory to the rescue. I ventured a bit out of my black yoga pants-wearing comfort zone and donned a tulle skirt and chambray top- pulling those pumps out of my closet was icing on the cake. 

The night before, as I was pondering scrapping the lot of outfits, I was desperate for a belt to tie together my top and skirt. I spent two hours at the mall, scrambling before closing hours to find just what I was looking for, the belt I so glamorously saw in my mind. I found it at Nordstrom to the tune of $72.00. Yep, you read that ride. It was perfect but needless to say, that sucker went right back to where it came from the day following our shoot. Ain't nobody got the money for a $72.00  belt! But it was so, so pretty... 

The morning of our session I couldn't believe it. The night before I was *this close* to scrapping everyone's' outfits but was too tired to follow through. Get this- I had to wake everyone up! The one morning all three of the boys choose to sleep in, of course! Through groggy smiles and foggy eyes, we made our way through a quick breakfast and into our "costumes." I knew if I called their outfits "costumes" I would have a much better chance of getting them excited to wear them- and excited they were!

Before stepping out of the car, I silently hoped the boys would cooperate for at least half of the session. I know my boys full well that at 2 and 4 years old, expecting anything above that was just too much. I wanted one, just one, really good family portrait and just one pictures of me and my three sweet gentlemen. I trusted our very talented photographer and knew she would be capture us the best she knew how. 

Good lord. I walked away from our session thinking that out of all the kids I've ever photographed (and there's been plenty) that mine were the worst behaved by far. No amount of fruit snacks or candy corn could get the middle one to stand still, or so it seemed. It felt like, we came, we saw and hoping against all hope, maybe we conquered. 

But then I received a sneak from Melissa. Followed by another sneak and another and then our PASS gallery. I was literally moved to tears as my eyes scanned over our images. I'm so rarely in pictures with my boys that aren't taken using the front camera of an iPhone, much less all three boys at once. 

I couldn't love these images more if I tried and it goes without saying that I've backed them up on several different hard drives. This is us. This is our family. The loud, the crazy, the messy. The beautiful. 

I'm so grateful for these images but even more so, grateful for the faces in them. 

images c/o Melissa Manzione Photography
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