Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good Stuff

It's rainy, chilly and dreary in the DC-area today; a perfect day to snuggle in bed. I was lucky enough to do so for a few extra minutes this morning because we had a meeting at Lucas's school (so I didn't have to get out the door to work) and Nathaniel was a little snuggle bug, not wanting to get out of bed, either. Those moments are incredibly rare, so I was happy to savor it.

I have a post up on The DC Moms about my recent experience with the Avon You Make it Beautiful Tour.

It's October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While my mom is in remission she's suffering from lymphedema as an aftereffect of having lymph nodes removed. I so admire the fact that as much as it really sucks, she doesn't complain about it. Such an inspiration and example.

I hope you'll also read a few incredible posts as you see all the pink pop up this month...

Marty writes about how to be a good friend to someone who has breast cancer. She doesn't know me, but she was Susan's best friend so I keep her in my prayers often, especially the many times I think of Susan.

Susan's words are so, so important to remember. This is bigger than going pink.

And Marty linked to a blogger I've never read before, but her words are heart-breaking, raw and true. Please take a moment to read what CancerInMyThrities has to say about National No Bra Day and other "awareness" campaigns.

xoxo, friends.


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Photo Booth Backdrop: Sneak Peak

This weekend my beautiful niece is celebrating her Quiceanera and I've offered to create a photobooth backdrop and props for the party. When I think about it, I've been preparing for this moment for years -- purchasing stick-on mustaches for a funny family photo while my brother-in-law was deployed (and grew a pretty amusing-looking mustache!), creating photo props for a New Year's Eve party, pinning bunting after bunting and photo backdrop after photo backdrop.

And I'm ready for my debut.

Here are a few sneak peaks! I'm so excited to put it together and really hope it helps make what will surely be a fabulous celebration even more fun.



These are just a few pieces of what I've been working on -- I can't wait to report back next week with photos of the actual backdrop and some fun photos with props!


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Livin' the life in a Cadillac ATS

You can't mistake that distinctive grille!

GM's Northeast Team lent us a Cadillac ATS recently and it was so fun to drive in the lap of luxury -- and really confuse our neighbors -- for a week! When they offered the loan, there were several models to choose from. My choice was to get as far away from a minivan as possible, and I'd have to say we succeeded pretty nicely.

Abel and I both loved driving it, and throughout the week we kept noticing different features. For example, the sound system somehow automatically adjusts the volume to remain at the same level based on the outside noise. So, if you're driving with the windows down and then stop at a stoplight the volume adjusts down and when you start driving again, with the wind whipping around you, the volume goes up. Love it!

Abel also noticed (although I never encountered this, ahem!) that the seat gives the driver a little buzz when you go a certain number of miles over the speed limit. Again, I will emphasize that I did not experience this particular feature!

The best part of the week, though, was forcing ourselves to enjoy two lunch dates -- and driving to them in a car that momentarily took us out of our messy and stick-strewn life as parents.

Listening to the Kojo Nnamdi show on the way to a lunch date!








Thanks GM Northeast for such a fun week!

GM Northeast delivered and picked-up the car for us to enjoy for a week, but didn't require this blog post. All opinions are mine.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Meet the producers: REAL Seal Challenge Part 2


...And by producers, I mean this beautiful lady and her companions!

Going back to school and getting into the routine of early wake-ups, packed lunches, homework, etc., really kicked our butts, so it's taken me too long to report on our awesome last-hurrah-of-summer trip to the Eastern Shore to visit with the Patterson family at their dairy farm in Queen Anne's County, MD, along with my friend Sandie and her family.

The Patterson family and Amber from the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association were so incredibly generous with their time, giving us an incredible tour of the farm and answering our many, many questions.

Althought I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and many of my high school classmates lived on working dairy farms, I'd never actually visited one. Neither had Abel or the kids. It was fascinating to see a working dairy farm up close and personal!

As I mentioned in my REAL® Seal recipe challenge post, we drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of dairy in our home. We get most of our milk delivered directly from another Maryland dairy farm, but often have to pick up a gallon or two from the grocery store in between deliveries. Did you know that, for example, Giant brand milk is locally supplied milk from dairys like Patterson Dairy? Who knew that buying a grocery store brand would be supporting local family farms? After learning that, I definitely feel better about our grocery store purchases! (By the way, the ice cream we used to make our Creamsicle Floats was also a store brand which proudly bore the REAL® Seal, letting me know that it was true dairy produced in the US!

The Patterson's explained every step of the milking process -- how the equiment is throughly cleaned, how the each cow is tested and how the day's batch of milk is also tested to ensure that it is top quality before it is trucked away.


After we pulled ourselves away from the adorable baby and juvenile cows, the Patterson's suggested we stop by the Queen Anne's County Fair, which we did! We even got to meet Charlie and Sherry Patterson's oldest son who was showing a beautiful cow there!


Thanks, Patterson family, MDVAMilk and REAL® Seal for such a fantastic day! and for teaching us so much about dairy farms!

REAL Seal provided our family with a stipend for travel expenses. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Balancing Act {+Giveaway!}

Today is the first day of school! (Adorable pics to come in another post!) We can hardly believe how fast the summer went by....of course, as Lucas keeps pointing out, it is still summer even though school has started. True, but school means the end of late bedtimes, lazy mornings (for the boys in the household anyway, remember, I'm a full-time work-outside-the-home mama!), and carefree days. And school means the start of a balancing act -- getting lunches packed, homework finished, getting to bed earlier and waking up earlier.

Anyway, the metaphor I'm going for here is that summer = carefree easy living and school = lots of stuff going on that requires planning and preparation and balance.

So when Balance Bar offered to send me a back-to-school pack including Balance Bar mini energy bars, I jumped on it.

And then I promptly used a few of them to create some back-to-school presents for the two ladies in our school's front office. I thought this would be a nice gesture for two reasons. One, it must be really tough to be in the front office during the first week of school. And, two, I'm on year two of my campaign to kill these ladies with kindness. My previous efforts were all on behalf of the PTA, but now that I'm not president anymore, I decided they should be from our family.



I also threw in a package of new pens because front desk pens just disappear, right?

But back to balance -- one thing I did to help make mornings easier was to create a morning checklist chart for Lucas. It includes his tasks (written and clip art) in one column with a clock showing the time in another column. It starts with wake-up at 7:30 and ends with shoes on at 8:15. Today he was up and had everything finished by 7:05--but I don't expect that level of enthusiasm to last!


Balance Bar is inviting us all to join in a back to school twitter party tomorrow at 2pm EST to share tips and hopefully pick up some new ones!

And I'm inviting you to share one way that you find some balance in your life to win a Balance Bar back-to-school giveaway including some Balance Bar mini energy bars and an awesome reusable snack bag from itzy ritzy.

Just leave a comment by August 26 and I'll randomly draw the winner on August 27. The winner must provide her/his name, U.S. mailing address and phone number in response to my e-mail notification.



Balance Bar provided me a back-to-school care package including Balance Bar mini energy bars and an itzy ritzy reusable snack bag. They are providing the same as a giveaway to one lucky reader. All opinions and ideas are my own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sending Summer Out with a Blast


I can not believe summer is nearly over. Lucas goes back to school -- 2nd grade, wow! -- on Monday and Nathaniel starts nursery school after Labor Day. This summer has flown by!

Lucas and I decided to send summer out with a blast by hosting a water fight party. Honestly, I don't know who is more excited about it, him or me. We hand-delivered these invitations to 12 friends (boys and girls) this weekend. Most of the kids have younger siblings who are also good friends, but we're just inviting the "big" kids to this one (and are arranging an off-site play date for Nathaniel) to minimize the potential for tears if things get a little rough.

Overall, I'm anticipating that this will be an incredibly easy party to host. Here are my plans:

In advance:
X Create invitations
X Deliver invitations
X Gather up all the water guns we own
-- Purchase watermelon, trail mix, drinks, etc.

Day of:
-- Fill baby pool with water and spray paint a perimeter circle around it (for refill station)
-- Fill water balloons and hide several dozen around the yard (this will hopefully be a surprise for Lucas, too!)
--Hide extra water guns around the yard (everyone will bring their own, but we thought this would be a fun surprise, too)

During party:
--Watch from a safe distance
--Refill baby pool as needed
--Serve snacks when kids get tired (or too insane and need a break!)
--Turn on sprinkler for the rest of the party

Does this sound like fun or what?!




Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 12, 2013

50 Book Challenge


Lucas finished first grade below grade level in reading. Not only was he behind, but by last school year, he had decided that he hated reading and that he couldn't read.

For someone who literally can't remember a time when I didn't love, love, love reading, this has been a real struggle for me as a parent.

He got special attention and time with the reading intervention specialist at school and we took him to weekly tutoring with a neighbor who is pretty amazing at what she does. And he made great strides, but still, professed his hate for reading and that he'd never be able to do it.

We knew we needed to make sure he read over the summer. He'd made great progress the last few months of school and I knew it would be so easy for him to loose all that momentum. June was incredibly busy and by the end of the month, he'd only read a handful of books. So in July I decided to set a summer challenge for Lucas: to read 50 books before school started.

We have a giant mirror in our dining room and I used teacher bulletin board letters to write "Lucas 50 Book Challenge" across the top of the mirror. Each book = a paper ring to give him a visual of success.

There were some tears, lots of frustrations, lots of cajoling and some yelling, from all of us. But, all that was forgotten when Lucas read his 50th book yesterday and we all savored his triumph and success. Abel and I are so incredibly proud of Lucas and -- even better -- he's really proud of himself.

He might still profess that he hates reading, but now we have tangible evidence to show him when he tells us that he can't read. Because all know that after reading 50 books, he definitely can read!


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!