Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008...Hello 2009!

I feel like New Year's Eve just kinda' snuck up on us this year. We're at my parents' home and will ring in the new year with my mom and dad, brother and his girlfriend, sister, cousins and aunt and uncle. I'm looking forward to an evening of good food, good drinks and several ultra-competitive rounds of Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit, Shoot the Moon and who knows what else.

I'm not usually a resolutions kind of gal, but I do have a list of things I want for 2009:

1) Exercise regularly.
2) Get pregnant!!!!
3) Socialize more--with both old friends and new. (This is Abel's resolution but I'm fully on board with it!)

I hope you ring in 2009 surrounded by loved ones and that you have someone to kiss at Midnight!

Thanks for reading my blog, either as a loyal reader throughout all of 2008 or a new reader. I'm so grateful!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Memories

Hope everyone isn't sick of Christmas already because I have two adorable stories to share. Lucas has really been great through a ton of traveling and a lot of being out and about.

Here's the first story. It was the day of his birthday and we were at my parents' home in Pennsylvania. My mom and dad had to work that day and so we were just hanging out at home without them. All of a sudden Lucas walked into the room holding the (empty) box to his big Christmas present from them: a wooden tool bench. He was so excited and said, "Mama! Mama! My present from Grammy!" Apparently they had put it together already but had left the box in plain toddler-level-view under their bed! I didn't know what to say, so of course said the totally wrong thing. I told him it wasn't for him that it was for another little boy. He freaked out and started crying "No, Grammy got it for ME!" He was positively heartbroken. After some soothing and many birthday presents later that night, he seemed to forget about it.

Until, that is, two days later when we were in Ohio visiting Abel's parents. There is a cute independent toy store at their mall that we really like. It happened to be right next to Santa so we stopped in. Wouldn't you know that right up front was a very similar wooden toy bench! Lucas stopped right in front of the display and I prepared myself for a meltdown. Instead, he very nonchalantly commented "Oh man, Grammy forgot my present." And them moved on. I burst out laughing!

After Christmas, when we got back to my parents' house, they had the tool bench set up under the tree. He was so excited! After a few minutes of play, he exclaimed, "Grammy remembered!" And, the next day, my Mom tells me, he said to her, "That other little boy must be sad he didn't get his toy." She told him that his Mama was just joking and this present was for him all along. He still insisted "Well, he must be very sad. But, I am SO happy!"

The second story is of Lucas's visit with Santa. By virtue of a very busy December, we never got to our town Christmas party or even a local mall for Lucas to sit on Santa's lap. So, on Christmas Eve in Ohio we went over to the mall. We were psyched that there was only one person in front of us but as we got closer Lucas started literally shaking with fear. He was totally freaked out. I didn't want to scar him for life to we just said hi to Santa, got a candy cane and left the area quickly. Oh well, no photo with Santa this year. After a little last-minute shopping (and a visit to the toy store mentioned above) we left the mall and started running to the car through freezing rain.

About half way to our car Lucas started crying telling us that he was a good boy and wanted to tell Santa Merry Christmas.

Decisions. Decisions.

Do we keep going, get to the comfort of the car and take off telling him he missed his chance? Or, do we head right back in, get back in line (of course now there was a line!) and risk that he'll freak out again upon closer proximity to the Big Guy?

I decided to give it a shot.

We ran back into the mall and waited in line. Lucas was so excited he started dancing. He got right up on Santa's lap and they had a several-minute-long animated conversation. It was a great experience and we paid way too much for the most adorable photo with Lucas and an expression of pure little boy joy! Priceless!

I hope you had wonderful holiday celebrations and created many priceless memories with your family and friends, too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Backtrack: Lucas's 3rd Birthday Party

Lucas turned three just three days before Christmas. (What a silly sentence! He'll turn 4 and 5 and 6...and 35... just three days before Christmas as well!) We celebrated at my parents' house then left the next day for Ohio. Of course we planned to have the family over, but I felt bad that Lucas wouldn't have any kids at his party. My sister's two best friends in our hometown have 3 and 4 year old nieces (their moms were my classmates in high school!) so we invited the aunts and nieces over. It worked out really well. Lucas especially hit it off with Layne, whose mom and I were friends at age 3, too!

Before the party, Abel spent about a million dollars at the Dollar Store on balloons (just kidding! only like $12! The Dollar Store is the best place to get Mylar balloons!)

Lucas loved them! Luckily we were inside so they didn't lift him up and float him away!



I wanted to do a little craft/activity with the kids and my mom had the idea of making marshmallow snowmen. I put together baggies with all the "ingredients" ahead of time and the aunts worked with their nieces/nephew to put them together. A few adults joined in, too.

To make these, you start with extra-long toothpicks. Push 3 marshmallows down onto the toothpicks, top with a gumdrop ring then a small gumdrop. Use mini chocolate chips and cinnamons for the eyes, nose and buttons. Then, add pretzel sticks for the arms! Easy, fun and you can eat your creation when you're finished!


For dinner, we had pizza with applesauce (for the kids) or a big green salad (for the adults). Continuing with the snowman theme, Sarah and I made cupcakes and my mom found these adorable toppers.


Birthday cake is one of Lucas's favorite things in the entire world!
After a lovely sugar high from eating some of the extra snowman ingredients and cupcakes, the kids had fun running around like crazy before their aunts took them home.

We sent the kids home with their own snowman cup, an extra baggie with the ingredients to make another snowman at home and a (very annoying!) light-up snowman wand my mom had found at the Dollar Store. Because we were leaving the next day, we tied each bag up with 2-3 balloons as well.

It was an absolutely lovely 3rd birthday party!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nicknames

Lucas has been experimenting with nicknames lately. Specifically, nicknames for his grandparents. We call my mom and dad grammy and grampy. Abel's parents are moo-moo and po-po (inherited from his older cousin). On our holiday visits to both sides of the family Lucas has been calling his grammy "gram" and his grampy "gramp". He is calling moo-moo "moom" and po-po "pope". It is totally cracking me up!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Aunt Gloria's Broccoli Casserole

In today's edition of Favorite Things Friday, I bring you a really great recipe: Aunt Gloria's Broccoli Casserole. I fully realize that one of the main ingredients, Cheez Wiz, might turn you off. But, I promise if you try it you will love it!

Before I give you the actual recipe, I want to tell you why this particular recipe is getting honored as a favorite thing on this, the Friday after Christmas. Well, I'll be honest, I considered writing about my family (definitely one of my favorite things!) or my new phone device (my Christmas gift from Abel that I'm obsessed with!). But, ultimately I settled on this recipe because, honestly, it has helped make this Christmas more special for me.

You see, this year was our year to celebrate Christmas with Abel's family and when we spend holidays with them there are, of course, a few things that I miss. My family is at the top of that list, but right below them are all the special foods that my mom prepares each and every year for Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve or Christmas.

So this year I decided to take things into my own hands. I packed up some recipes and the necessary supplies and brought them with me to Abel's parents' house. I scoped out the pantry and went to the grocery store for additional ingredients and on Christmas Eve afternoon I got to work making sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies (my MIL doesn't bake!). I also made an egg & sausage strata and a crumb cake for Christmas morning and--suddenly there appeared a multitude of heavenly host singing--Aunt Gloria's Broccoli Casserole.

Most of my in-laws didn't try it, but I didn't mind because that meant more leftovers for me. Having that one dish--a dish that is a favorite at every Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family--helped make my Christmas with my in-laws feel just a little more like home.

So, here you go. I hope you can see past the Cheez Whiz and give it a shot!

Aunt Gloria's Broccoli Casserole

1/4 C finely chopped onions
4 TBS butter or margarine
2 TBS flour
1/2 C water
8 oz Cheez Whiz
2 10 oz packages chopped broccoli (thawed and drained and--this is key--squeeze out all the water from the thawed broccoli about a fistful at a time)
3 beaten eggs
1/2 C bread crumbs
2 TBS butter or margarine

Saute the onions in 4 TBS butter. Stir in the flour, add the water. Cook over low heat until thick and bubbling. Blend in Cheez Whiz, broccoli and eggs.

Grease a 1.5 quart casserole dish. Pour mixture into casserole. Cover with bread crumbs, melt 2 TBS butter and drizzle over the bread crumbs.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

(You can definitely make this the day before and re-heat in the microwave! I swear that it is even better as left-overs!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Merry!

Warmest Christmas wishes to all!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For Sarah and Mike

My sister will be celebrating Christmas Eve with my parents, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins tonight. Her husband Mike will be with his fellow Marines on the Iraqi/Syrian boarder. I'm so proud of both of them and ask you to please keep them in your Christmas prayers.

A Soldier's Silent Night

Monday, December 22, 2008

Three!

Happy Birthday, Kink! I can't believe you're turning three today. Sorry about your crappy birth date. You haven't noticed yet, but I'm sure that you'll be mad about it being so close to Christmas in a year or two.

Your Dada and I can hardly believe what a big boy you are now. You're so fun. We love to laugh and joke with you. You want to help with everything all the time. Which is awesome and at the same time makes everything take (at least) twice as long. You tell me I'm "the best Mama ever" and that I'm beautiful. You cheer me on by saying "good job!" You also make sure I know the rules. Just the other day, as I was leaving for work you told me "no hitting, no biting and make sure you share, Mama". I appreciated the reminder.

You love watching TV. In fact it is the first thing you ask for in the morning and the last thing you ask for at night. We try to limit it, we really do. But you love it so much. And, I have to admit, I love watching you watch TV. You smile and laugh and get happy or sad or excited right along with Handy Manny or Diego or Dora. (I'm also very glad that those three characters have helped ignite your recent interest in Spanish since your Dada has not done a very good job with that.)

You also love to be outside, especially at the "new park" (our regular old park got some new equipment over the summer, thus making it seem brand new!). You have friends you love to play with, specifically Baby Will (he's only 8 mos behind you but I fear he will always be known as Baby Will!), Isaac and Sophia (pretty much all the girls you know are named Sophia so any one of them will do!). You love your Abigail, whose home you've been going to three days a week since you were 3 mos old. In the not-too-distant future you'll have to move on to nursery school and I know you'll miss her dearly. After a few days home with Mama and Dada you start asking to go to Abby's house.

Trucks--diggers, dump trucks, garbage trucks--and fire trucks and ambulances are just about the best thing in the world. Especially when we see them in person. When driving, your Dada and I will speed up or slow down or change lanes to help you see a truck!

You love to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In fact, you often ask for one of those for breakfast! (I've fed you PB&J but so far have drawn the line at grilled cheese before 11am!)

You love to sing! It is amazing that after hearing a song just once or twice I'll hear you singing it later. You don't always get the words right but the melody is there which is amazing to me.

I could go on and on (clearly!), but I'll try to wrap this up. Lucas, you're the best boy in the world and I'm so grateful to be your mama. I'm looking forward to our 4rd year together!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Nativities

As promised, here are some photos of a few more of our nativity scenes. I have several more which I didn't get out this year because I ran out of high places to put them and didn't want to risk Lucas breaking them.

This first one was my paternal grandmother's. She actually painted it! She made a total of seven sets so that eventually each of her grandchildren would have their own nativity (there's a complicated inheritance scheme involved!). This was actually her own personal set and the first one she made. I love how colorful it is. It also kinda' cracks me up that one of the shepherds is black. It was actually pretty progressive of her to include a dark face in the set, but if you think about it, they all should have dark faces! There is also a wooden stable but it doesn't fit on our mantle and this year I wanted this set to be as high as possible!

These are three of my favorite small nativity sets. The far left is carved out of olive wood and is from Israel. Abel and I bought that at a church fair when I was pregnant with Lucas. The middle and far right are Peruvian. I purchased the middle one from a vendor at Eastern Market in DC and my cousin and her Peruvian husband brought the far right one back from Lima, Peru for me last winter.

Thank goodness I have relatives who are world travelers! Another cousin bought this one for me in Switzerland. It is so beautifully carved and I love that they left the bark on the wood.

And, of course, I have to get Lucas in on my obsession with his very own set--the Little People Nativity! My parents gave this to him last Christmas. I thought about arranging the figures before I snapped this picture but I kind of like how he has everyone just milling around. (Please note: Sir Topham Hatt and a gorilla are not included in the set! Can you spot them?)

Thanks for joining me on a tour of just a few of my nativity sets!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Willow Tree Nativity

If you were to make a surprise visit to my house today you'd notice a few things:

  1. I'm not a very good housekeeper.
  2. A toddler lives in our house.
  3. I have a thing for nativity sets.

Today, I'd like to focus on item #3: nativity sets. I've got a thing for them. My Christmas decor pretty much revolves around nativity sets. Don't get my wrong, I've got plenty of Santas, too, but I think I love the nativity sets so much because they help keep us focused on the reason for the season. (I really hate that saying, by the way!)

Anyhoo.

If you are looking for a beautiful nativity set, I'd like to recommend the Willow Tree Nativity. For the past two years (and hopefully continuing this year?) my parents have given me pieces of this set for Christmas.

Two years ago they gave me this six piece set. I adore that Mary is holding the Baby Jesus. I mean, if you had given birth to the Son of God in a stable, would you really put him down in the straw manger? No! You'd be holding him close. Isn't this just the exact pose you see in every picture of a mom and her new baby? I also love that the shepherd is a woman!Last year they gave me this three kings set. Because I received it for Christmas, I never really took it out of the box, but just packed it away with our other decorations. It was a special treat to open and put it out this year!



All these figures, like other Willow Tree figures, are beautifully crafted, very sturdy and a nice size. I just adore them!

P.S. Check back tomorrow for photos of a few more of my nativity sets!

P.P.S. Mom, if you haven't gotten me another piece of this set, please please don't run out and buy it now! I'm certain you've gotten me more than enough gifts! Seriously.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Inauguration Tickets

I'm almost bursting with the news that it looks like we have tickets to attend the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States! But, just like when we attended his acceptance of the nomination in Denver, I don't think I'll truly believe it until I'm physically holding the tickets in my hand.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in the DC-area, coverage of the inauguration festivities has mostly centered around the sheer number of people expected to attend. Estimates range as high as 4 million people. They are talking about things like a ratio of people to port-a-potties of 16,000 to 1. Let me repeat that: 1 toilet for every 16,000 people. They also say that if you are coming from 2 miles or less you shouldn't even attempt taking the Metro but should just walk.

To be honest, all these statistics scare the crap out of me and as much as I had said we'd be down on the Mall no matter what, recently we'd pretty much resigned ourselves to watching the big event on TV with some friends.

Now that equation has changed.

If we have tickets we have to go!

So, I'm mentally preparing myself for a gruelling day. Thinking through the absolute warmest items of clothing I own--or need to purchase.

And I'm starting to get really, really excited.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just call me the Queen of Sleep

Similar to the day I posted about how great potty training was going and then within days it totally fell apart, I'm certain I'm going to regret this post tomorrow. But, today. Today, I'm going to possibly make you hate me. Today, I claim the crown as the Queen of Sleep.

No, not because, if given the opportunity, I'd happily sleep until 10am or later every day (ah, a girl can dream!). But because all is right in our house once again with Lucas easily going to sleep and staying asleep for 10-11 hours each night.

You see, Lucas has been a champion sleeper since he was just a few months old. I worked really hard to instill good sleep habits and implement a consistent routine when he was tiny and that initial work has truly paid excellent dividends. Well into 2 years old Lucas slept from 7pm to 6am and took TWO 2 hour naps each day. Even after he dropped his morning nap he slept from about 7:30pm until 6:30am and took a 1.5-3 hour afternoon nap each day. We always, ALWAYS, put him to bed awake, kissed him and said good night then left the room. He ALWAYS fell right to sleep and didn't utter a peep until morning.

Then we just had to go and muck it all up by getting Lucas a "big boy bed". He wouldn't stay in bed, wouldn't go to sleep, woke up insanely early. It was awful.

After a few weeks he started staying in bed but would spend 1-1.5 hours yelling down to us. The requests/concerns varied. Sometimes he was scared. Sometimes he just wanted to say hello. Sometimes he was hungry. You get the idea. We tried not to respond but the yelling would just escalate--both in noise level and in urgency.

I was at my wits end. I knew we were making it worse by giving him attention. When he said he was scared we'd comfort him. When he wanted water we'd get it for him. You get the idea.

I knew we had to do something. I knew the key to our old and oh-so-smooth-bedtime was the routine. We'd fallen away from that and Lucas was pushing us as far as we'd possibly go.

I needed to lay down the law. So, Sunday evening right before bed, I whipped up a little chart which outlined Lucas's bedtime routine. This serves two purposes--it gives Lucas control and gives Abel and me boundaries (for example, now we know we can't just sing one more song!).

Here it is:
Obviously I am not an artist! (Also, that tape in the middle of the page is because initially Lucas insisted in hanging it up himself.)

Sunday night we talked about the chart, let him pick out the two books and tell us which two songs to sing. Then he crawled into bed, we kissed him good night and left the room. Then, we went downstairs and I held my breath.

Not. A. Peep.

It was unbelievable.

Monday night and Tuesday night the same thing. Lucas tried to push (and told me that one of those books was actually TV--nice try, Buddy!) but I didn't let him. We just followed the chart.

And all is well, once again.

The Queen of Sleep. That's me.

(And also I'm fully aware that any and all future children will probably never sleep solely because I wrote this post.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Giving

I feel like I'm a jumble of thoughts so bear with me! We're all ready for Christmas. I think. Well, a few more gifts to buy and still have to do all the wrapping, but mostly ready. Abel's dad is still my problem case. I have one idea but Abel says that is our "backup" plan if he doesn't think of something better. I'll bet you $10 that we end up going with my idea.

The only other gifts we need to buy are for the three gift tags we selected from the tree at church on Sunday: a 4 year old boy, 11 year old girl and 16 year old boy. We're going to get each of them 1-2 clothing items, a hat, gloves and a book. We'll also get the little boy a new toothbrush and toothpaste and the older girl and boy some shampoo and/or body wash. Knowing me, I'm sure I'll pick-up a few extra things like crayons or a little bracelet, too. That 16 y.o., though, what else do I get for him? Maybe something will catch my eye.

I'm planning to wrap each item individually and then put them all into a large gift bag for each child. It is so hard to buy items for someone you don't know a thing about other than age, gender and clothing size, but I hope they like everything.

Last night at dinner Abel and I were talking about these gifts and then started talking about the first Christmas after we got engaged. Abel came over to my apartment one evening just about a week before Christmas with the name and address of a family he'd adopted (through some local agency). It was a mom and three kids. We had their ages and sizes. At first I was so mad at him: it was so close to Christmas and I had so much to do. On top of that, he didn't have a job! You see, we'd gotten engaged that past June and in December he found out he was being laid off (big down-turn in the economy...his lobbying firm lost several clients and he was the most junior staff member...sounds familiar!). He did have severance--he was being paid through March with health benefits. And we were getting married in May (little did we know it would be until August that he found a new job.) So, while things weren't tighter-than-usual at the time, we knew tight times were coming and were being very frugal. (Again, sounds familiar, doesn't it?!)

Right after work one evening I went out to Old Navy and Target and, with a pretty strict budget, got several gifts for each person. I remember buying a hat and gloves, PJs and a sweater or sweatshirt for each of the kids at Old Navy. Then at Target I bought them each a board game and book. We bought the mom some clothes, too. And, I think, gave her a grocery store gift card.
We wrapped everything up really nicely and drove it over to their apartment. Well, that was quite an adventure. The neighborhood, not surprisingly as it was in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC, was very very sketchy. It was pretty dark (though only early evening) and I remember being pretty nervous walking from our car to their apartment. (Luckily I was walking next to a big Mexican guy!!) When we got to the apartment building door, the buzzer didn't work! We had to wait (for what seemed like forever) until someone came out. We told them we were there to give gifts to the X Family and did they know them. They didn't but let us in anyway. We knocked on the door and the family was shocked--and delighted. They were so grateful. They had submitted their name but had no idea they had been "adopted". As we carried in the boxes, the kids were so excited.

I felt bad because I had hoped they'd think it was all from Santa. I guess that it was pretty naive of me to think that these kids still believed in Santa.

Even though that was one of the leanest Christmases for us personally, that experience was one of the most meaningful of all my Christmas memories.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lucas says...

Lucas has been saying the cutest things lately. Here's a sampling of a few comments from the past few days:

"Great job blowing your nose mom!" Guess we know our positive reinforcement is working!

"Mom, you are the best helper." After he "helped" me make dinner!

To our neighbor, who was holding his son's paci in his mouth backwards (we've all done that, right?):
"Chad, you're a big boy, not a baby. You don't need a paci!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: TinyURL.com

Very long hyperlinks that often get "broken" in e-mail are just one of modern life's little annoyances. Nothing we can do about it, right?

WRONG!

In today's edition of Favorite Things Friday, I bring you one of my new favorite websites: TinyURL.com. This might just be one of the most useful little, er, tiny, sites you ever visit.

What does TinyURL do? Just what it says: take a long URL and make it tiny!

So, for example, this:

www.mom2momsc.com/content/cancel-me-please-0

becomes this: www.tinyurl.com/smilingmama

(notice how I directed you to a syndicated post by ME?! Sneaky am I!)

When you create your tiny URL, you can have them randomly assign you what comes after the slash (generally a mismash of letters and numbers) or you can create your own (as I did above). Cool!

So go check it out.

www.tinyurl.com

You'll never send a broken link again!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas cards!

Our Christmas cards arrived yesterday! After much gnashing of teeth, I am incredibly pleased with the result. Generally, my preference is to mail a very religious, non-photo greeting card and enclose a 4x6 photo of Lucas.

But, this year.

Well, time was at a minimum and stress was at a maximum. So, I looked through dozens upon dozens of recent photos and chose 4 to include on a photo greeting card from Shutterfly. I think the "theme" of the photos is the pure joy on Lucas's face and so my greeting is "Wishing you love and joy -- lots and lots of joy! Merry Christmas!"

Our 75 cards arrived yesterday and I am thrilled with the result. The photos printed really, really nicely; I love the retro background and our greeting. And, I think there is enough space at the bottom to write a short personal note (to do: purchase fine tip sharpie) which makes me happy.

I'm very much looking forward to spending the next few evenings addressing, signing, sealing and stamping our cards. If you're lucky enough to be on our list, look for yours soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't hate me because I'm lucky

I've posted before about my luck in winning contests. And, am very pleased to report that the streak has continued in the bloggy world. Recently I won Tech Savvy Mama's year-long membership to Sitter City. And, in just the past few days, I've been notified that I won Mummy Product Reviews' giveaway of a one year subscription to Brain, Child magazine and two tickets to the Spy Museum from Passion and Art.

I'm particularly excited about these three prizes because they are just so darn useful. I mean, who isn't constantly on the look out for a babysitter? Brain, Child is described as a magazine for "thinking moms" and what am I if not an over thinking mom? Finally, the Spy Museum. I've been wanting to go since it opened, but I have never been able to bring myself to pay to get into a Washington, DC museum. There are so many free museums that I don't go to enough, why pay for one? Now that I have two tickets for free admission, I can't wait to check it out!

Thanks Leticia, Victoria and Kim, for these great prizes that are helping me to keep my sanity during what has been a very trying few weeks in the Smiling Mama household.

Monday, December 8, 2008

We're going for a record here

For the 4th week in a row, I took Lucas to the doctor this morning.

We got a clean bill of health for Lucas last Tuesday. But, Friday morning when we left for Greensboro he was coughing and had a runny nose. He really was fine, though, running around, sleeping through the night, eating well. Just a cold, we thought.

Then last night he started whimpering at about 11pm when we went up to bed. (Totally stayed up too late watching the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. And I cried over both the movie and the commercials!) I went into his room and he was burning up with a fever. Gave him some Tylenol cuddled and let him sleep with me. Called in sick to work this morning and got him in for a morning appointment.

Diagnosis: ear infection and pneumonia.

Are you kidding me? I thought we were done being sick. Now it starts all over?

So, this is week 4 of 4 with a doctor appointment. We'll have a follow-up next week then he'll be due for his 3 year old appointment so it is looking like we'll be visiting the doctor every week for 6 weeks.

I've written a new Christmas list: All I want for Christmas is for all of us to be well!

A Wedding Weekend

We drove down to Greensboro, NC this weekend to attend the wedding of my good friend Stephanie and her now-husband Will. It was wonderful!

We stayed at the Proximity Hotel, the only LEED Platinum rated hotel in the country! Not only is it incredibly luxurious, it is incredibly green. The water is heated by solar panels on the roof, almost all the materials came from local sources and--how cool is this?--the elevator captures energy going down to use to go back up!

Oh and did I mention that my parents were watching Lucas for the weekend?

So the hotel and weekend alone were nice, but of course, the best part was all the wedding-related festivities. A fun girls luncheon, manicures, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner...then of course the actual wedding and reception on Saturday.

A few fun things I wanted to share...
  • Be careful leaving the husbands and boyfriends of the bridal party alone in the back of the church during the rehearsal. They might just end up putting together an under/over bet on the length of the ceremony.*
  • I did a great job with my reading. In fact many people came up to me during the reception to tell me what a great job I did. One person, a cousin of the groom, told me that the reading and the way I read it "made me rethink the importance of my own wedding vows". Wow.
  • Perhaps I should offer my reading services for hire!
  • There was a band at the reception and it was so fun! They did a great job of getting people out onto the dance floor.
  • This is the second reception I've been to where someone ordered pizza to be delivered. Come one people, seriously.
  • The reception ended with a really awesome Slovak tradition (from the bride's family). The women form a circle, lock arms and dance around the bride. The groom tries to break through while the women hold him off. Eventually, of course, he breaks in, scoops up the bride and carries her off to everyone cheering for them. It was a really awesome way to conclude the celebration!

*Abel won! The ceremony was well under 37 minutes in length!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Other places

Come on over and visit me at DC Metro Moms today.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Today I was a Fun Mom

I don't know what got into me today. Maybe the fact that we've been passing a cold around our family for the past two weeks but are now all feeling better. Maybe the fact that Christmas is fast-approaching. Maybe the fact that my son's third birthday is even faster-approaching. Maybe for no reason at all. But, I know that today, today I was a fun mom.

As opposed, that is, to a strict mom, a mean mom, a yelling mom or a boring mom. Today I was fun. Today I let my son play in the bathroom sink with his cars and get himself and the floor soaked. Why not? Clean up was as easy as a new shirt and toweled off floor. Today I let him mix his yogurt into his grape juice. Why not? Maybe I'm developing a future scientist. And, guess what? He drank it up and proclaimed YUM! at the end. Today at the park, I ran around and played with him, went down the slide with him and swung next to him. Why not? It was too cold to stand still anyway and besides, we were the only ones there. He would have been pretty lonely without me as a playmate.

Yes, today I said yes to fun. Messy, gross, exuberant fun. Why not every day? Why do I normally give in to my instinct that playing in the sink will just make a big mess, that yogurt and grape juice would be gross mixed together, that my fun at the park is to sit on a bench and check my e-mail on my phone?

When I look back at my own childhood, my fondest memories are the ones where my mom let us have fun in totally unexpected ways. One afternoon she let us empty all the cupboards to play store. Imagine that! Another day she built us a huge tent in the backyard. I am certain that these days were the exceptions but they were just plain fun and they are what have stuck with me.

I know that there will be plenty more times when I don't allow the dinnertable to become a time for food experiments, when I will spend our time at the park checking my phone and when I'll feel as though I have spent the entire day saying "no" rather than "yes". But, I hope that I am the fun mom often enough that it is days like today that become my son's strongest childhood memories.

Original post to DC Metro Moms. Aimee writes about the times she's a fun mom, a mean mom and every time in between at her personal blog www.smilingmama.blogspot.com.

Comments

jodifur said...
I hear you on this. I feel like I never get to be a fun mom! Good for you.

Claire Jess said...
Sounds nice! It's all in the attitude (she said knowing full well you gotta have some clutter tolerance and the time to deal with it). I went to a conference recently where a mom suggested having a "Yes Day" scheduled for every so often. My problem is when all the things they want to do conflict with each other!





Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Automoblox


















For today's edition of Favorite Things Friday, I bring you Automoblox. Abel and I each decided that these would make an awesome birthday or Christmas present for Lucas without even talking about it. I first saw them on-line here. Abel saw them in a print catalog for this company and promptly ordered two--the green truck and red sports car.

And, I can report that they are amazing!



















How can I report this, you ask? Well, because Lucas has already received them. I know that it is still 17 days until Lucas's birthday and 20 days until Christmas. But, cut us some slack, Lucas was so darn pathetic when he was sick recently that we just had to try to cheer him up somehow. We intended to just give him one car but when we saw how much fun he we all were having playing with it, we broke out another one.

We took them with us to my parents over Thanksgiving and everyone loved them--my 16 year old cousin was as impressed with them as my father!

Now, before I get too far, I do want to let you know upfront that they are kind of pricey. On Automoblox they range from $38-$40 each. (Currently there is free shipping on orders over $60!). Amazon has them as low as about $34 and they are eligible for free super saver shipping. Abel purchased ours from here for $35 each.

Despite the price, however, I am seriously considering buying 1-2 more for Lucas because I want to try out some new combinations they are just so cool! Here are some of the best features:

  • Amazing construction--I am confident that they will hold up to years of rough play

  • Cool design--these are more like works of art than toys

  • Challenging--literally every part of these cars comes apart and the models are interchangeable. I can see Lucas's little mind working hard to figure out new combinations. And, the adults had fun working on new combinations as well! I'd rate them as appropriate for ages 2.5 through 99!
So if you're looking for a great gift that is well-constructed, well-designed and promotes creative play, I highly recommend Automoblox.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Keep Calm and Carry On

Everyone in the Internets has seen this wonderful poster, correct? Well I think I need to tattoo it on, oh say, the back of my hand for quick and easy reference.

You see, last night I banged out a post FREAKING out about the fact that it is already December 2 (yesterday) and I am SO. FAR. BEHIND. on Christmas. No cards. No card photo. No tree. No decorations. And WHEN oh WHEN will I have time to do all this? I concluded with the fact that I may as well just skip Christmas cards and decorating this year because I am so. far. behind.

Luckily I didn't hit post immediately but decided to sit on it overnight. Whew. So glad I did. Because then I was able to say to myself:

Calm the f*#k down Miss Type A freak. Calm down.

It is now only December 3. Plenty of time to snap an adorable pic of Lucas (or heck, troll through our hundreds of recent pics for one or more adorable shots) and upload and order cards. Plenty of time to decorate, even though we are out of town this weekend. Still several weekends left after that. Hey, not everyone in the world is obsessed with mailing their cards the Monday after Thanksgiving. In fact, strong evidence shows that MOST people don't mail their cards until just a few days before Christmas, as I well know because I enjoy getting cards in the mail up to and-- wait for it--after Christmas day. And, let's give credit where credit is due: I am doing fabulously on my Christmas gift shopping. I have already purchased (hooray for Etsy!) or know exactly what I am going to get for every person on our list (except Abel's dad. He is IMPOSSIBLE.) So that is definitely a positive thing.

So, people, let's just breathe. Keep calm and carry on. Christmas is fast approaching, yes. But, there is still plenty of time to get it all done.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sick: By the Numbers

  • 3 people
  • 16 consecutive days of sickness
  • 5 visits to the doctor (with one more tomorrow, Lucas's 2nd follow up)
  • 2 antibiotics prescribed
  • 3 oral or inhaled steroids prescribed
  • 6 boxes of tissues used
  • 2 bags of cough drops consumed
  • 2 times I've cleaned the car and car seat of vomit
  • Countless hours of TV watched
  • Countless loads of laundry washed

Friday, November 28, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Etsy

I've never been one for Black Friday shopping. Yes, the early bird specials are alluring but the getting up at 5am, the standing in line, the crowds, that just isn't for me. This year, still recovering from being sick, I definitely will not be hitting the mall for Black Friday.

Today's edition of Favorite Things Friday highlights my newest on-line obsession and my alternative to Black Friday shopping: Etsy. Maybe you've heard about it already, but have you lost yourself in it? Have you purchased your first Etsy item? I'm telling you, this site is amazing! Etsy tags itself as "your place to buy and sell all things homemade". Individual sellers have stores where they post their items for sale. Some shops are very small, just a few sewn items or photographs. Others are quite extensive and demonstrate amazing artistry.

If you are new to Etsy, or overwhelmed by how extensive it is, I suggest you start by scrolling through their great gift guides. Or, you can pounce and look at shops that have just updated items or shops that just sold an item. You can also shop local and search for sellers in your area.

I've already purchased several Christmas gifts through Etsy and am planning to purchase several more. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Correction

The editors of this blog would like to make a clarification. Abel's symptoms, which led him to go to the doctor earlier this week, included, but were not limited to, the following: multiple sneezes, numerous moderate-to-severe episodes of coughing, and chills which may have indicated a feverish state. The author would like to further clarify that she has been known to visit the doctor herself, before death occurs. The mention of "two sneezes" v. "I'm dying" in this post was not a true fact but rather was meant to illustrate that the author's husband is generally more quick to visit a doctor than the author herself is. While occasionally the author may poke fun at her husband for being a "wimp" when it comes to being sick, she acknowledges that sometimes it is good to have him to balance her d0-not-ever-go-to-the-doctor tendencies, for example, back in May when he forced her to go to the doctor and if she had not, she may have, in fact, died.

And, since we are clearing the air here, the author would like to clarify that despite the fact that this post may have led you to believe that the author herself cleaned the shower/bathtub on this particular day, that is not correct. In fact, the author's husband cleaned the shower on that particular day. The author would like to point out, however, that she did put the liner into the washing machine. And, that 99.9% of the time that the shower gets cleaned it is due to her personal efforts.

Also, despite what the second word of this post may lead you to believe, there are no "editors" of this blog, just the author herself.

Readers of Smiling Mama can be assured that no creative license is taken with this blog. All stories are 100% true and accurate as reported. You have a very strict quality control reader in the author's husband.

(You know, Confession is sacrament non grata among Catholics these days, and generally misunderstood by non-Catholics. But, one thing about confessing your sins is that you sure do feel good afterwards!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wellness? Ha! Ha!

Within hours of hitting "post" on my previous post which said, "we're finally starting to see the light--the light of wellness" the Internet was all mwahahahahahaha silly, silly girl and laid me low. Did you get my mental blog messages that said woe is me, I think I am dying cause I was definitely sending them out. I got Lucas's virus x4. I truly think there is some sort of relationship between kid germs and the adult who catches them. Like that they grow in strength when transmitted to an adult by the size difference between kid and adult. So, for example, if I am 4x the size of Lucas then the virus gets 4 times as strong when it comes into my system. Luckily Abel--who is like, I've sneezed twice, must see the doctor, unlike me who is like I'm dying but what is the dr. going to do about it?--went to the dr. and got a miracle elixir. Which, though I did not actually see said dr., I also took because I mean we have the same symptoms (except mine are worse, clearly). This miracle elixir has allowed me to go for 18 hours without a coughing fit that made me vomit. Previously I was going approx. 45 minutes without one such attack. And, I have now eaten 2! meals! without (see above). So, I think that I will not die. But, I'm not going to say that out loud just in case the Internet wants to be all mwahahahahaha again after I hit post. (Also, above mentioned elixir is making me a bit loopy to apologies if this all makes no sense.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sick and tired of being sick

This has been one of the longest weeks ever and we're just finally starting to see the light--the light of wellness. We've been sick. Well, Lucas has been sick all week and since yesterday Abel and I have been feeling pretty lousy, too. Last night we all, finally, got a good night's sleep and so far this morning there's been a lot of playing and no TV, a huge improvement over past days which included Lucas laying on the guest bed or couch and watching TV, basically all day. As far as I can remember, this is the sickest Lucas has ever been. He's on his nebulizer and an antibiotic and prednisone. He's been totally pathetic and we've catered to his every need. I mean, that's what you do when your kid is sick, right? Yeah, but in the back of my head, I'm really worried we've created a monster. We've broken so many of our long-standing rules and I'm so worried that once he's well, we won't be able to put Pandora back in the box. For example:

1) Lucas never sleeps with us. He really never has, even as an infant (we did have his bassinet right next to our bed, though). But, since Sunday night, Lucas and 1 parent have slept in our bed while the other one of us slept in the guest bed. We did this because he was waking up many, many times a night with major coughing fits (often so bad he'd vomit) and so it just made sense to be near one of us. And, at least one parent got a good night's sleep in the guestroom. I can't tell you the joy/excitement this has bought to his life. He's going to freak when we make him sleep in his own bed again.

2) TV. Oh the TV. He's been feeling so terrible that he hasn't had any desire to play. We've done a few other activities and have read lots of books, but come on, don't we all just want to veg out in front of the TV when we're sick? So far this morning we've managed to keep it off (yeah, big feat as it's only 9am!) but we'll see how the rest of today goes.

3) Whining. So much whiiiiiniiiiing. And the tantrums. And we've been giving in, every single time. He whines for apple juice. Well, the Dr. said to push fluids (he's barely eaten all week) so of course we'll give him apple juice. He whines to be held. Well, the poor little guy feels horrible so of course we'll drop everything (not that much anything else is getting done anyway) and cuddle. Lesson: whine or throw a tantrum and you'll get your way. We've worked really hard not to give in to whining and tantrums for the past almost-3 years. Now, after 1 week is everything down the drain?

It's been a rough week so far, but I have a feeling re-establishing our rules will be tough, too.

One bright spot in this entire week is that I won! I won Tech Savvy Mama's Year Long membership to SitterCity. I can not tell you how excited I am about this. The second Lucas is better, we're hiring a sitter and running for the hills going out to dinner. Two always has been my luck number!

Thanks Tech Savvy Mama!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: This American Life


This American Life by Chicago Public Radio.

I love Ira Glass and This American Life (TAL) so much that I'm having trouble finding the words to tell you how great it is. I have to start somewhere, so I guess I'll start at the beginning.

I'm totally obsessed with NPR--National Public Radio. I listen to it in the car. I listen to it at work. It is what wakes me up in the morning. Somewhere along the way of being obsessed with NPR, Abel and I heard This American Life. Most likely this was on a Saturday afternoon drive to my parents' house in Pennsylvania. Right away, we were hooked. Now, we each have at least 20 episodes (free downloads, by the way!) of the hour-long series on our ipods at any given time.

One our L O N G drives to Ohio, to visit his family, we listen to 3-4 episodes. (Well, we used to, now that all depends on how much Lucas sleeps.) TAL got me through the hours long weekly IV infusions I had to get this summer. I listen to TAL when I get my butt out of bed for a morning walk. I know some people depend on pumping music to keep them going, but I get so into these fascinating stories that I want to keep walking so I can keep listening!

TAL is impossible to describe. But, I don't feel bad about that fact because their own About Us page acknowledges the challenge of the question"What is This American Life?":
There's a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It's mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There's lots more to the show, but, like we said, it's sort of hard to describe....

So, my best advice is to listen for yourself. Find them on a station near you or download the free podcast. I promise you three things:

  1. The hour will fly by.
  2. Within 48 hours, you'll say to someone "you won't believe what I heard on This American Life...."
  3. You'll be hooked.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winner: Mommy's High Heel Shoes

Congratulations to comment #2, Dr. Blondie, who wrote: I LOVE children's books and this one sounds like a good one! At the moment, I love my new pair of trendy black sketchers because they are saving my feet today (a few walking trips across campus are on the agenda).

You're signed copy of Mommy's High Heel Shoes is on its way!



I'm happy to be able to offer everyone else a 10% discount (through December 31). Just use the coupon code "smile" here. And, if you don't want to take my word that this is a fabulous book, it also made Tech Savvy Mama's Holiday Gift Guide!

Congratulations again, Dr. Blondie!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sick

I came home from my girls weekend in North Caroline to a sick little guy. He'd had a cold when Abel took him to my parents on Friday (yes, I got a weekend away in North Carolina and Abel got a solo weekend at home) and ended up with a pretty bad cough. He ran a fever Sunday night so Abel stayed home with him on Monday. I'm home with him, as usual, today. Poor little guy! He's just miserable. He slept with me last night (Abel escaped to the guest room) and we were up about every two hours all night. I think that was the most night wakings he's had since he was about 4 months old. I honestly didn't mind it, though. It was so nice to be able to cuddle and soothe my little guy.

The funniest thing happened, though. About 4am he turned into a little dictator. First, he didn't want the blanket, only the sheet. Then he wanted his pillow a certain way. Then he wanted my pillow a certain way. He was so serious about it all. Honestly, I think he was just a bit delirious.

We're having a cuddly little day--with too much TV. I don't think Abel will be able to take another day off this week, so most likely I'll be home with him again tomorrow. I'm thinking I'd better get out to Target or Safeway tonight or I'll start going a bit delirious myself!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Girls Weekend

I can't remember the last time I had such a great time as this weekend. I flew down to North Carolina--solo--for my friend Stephanie's bridal shower and had such a fabulous time.

Stephanie picked me up from the airport around 4:30pm Friday afternoon. We went straight to the mall, specifically Banana Republic, where I helped Stephanie pick out some wonderful outfits for her shower and rehearsal dinner. (How fun is it to get to pick out great clothes but not spend a dime!) We went to her house to drop off my things and pick up her fabulous fiance. Off to a wonderful restaurant in downtown Raleigh for great food, great wine and wonderful conversation. Poor Will, he just zoned out a bit at dinner while Stephanie and I talked and talked and talked. He was a great sport!

The next morning we were up bright and early for our drive to Charlotte for the actual shower. Our friend Claire hosted at her beautiful home. The whole thing was just lovely. The best part is that things moved along at a good pace and after the presents and dessert the guests didn't linger. That left the hostess, the bride, the bride's sister, me and two other bridesmaids with the afternoon to talk and catch up.

After a few hours of conversation we headed downtown to a fabulous, modern and trendy restaurant for a delicious dinner, then back to Claire's home for an evening of...bachelorette fun! We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning and woke up fairly early--by about 9am for more talking (and laughing!) before we went our separate ways.

With the exception of the bride's sister, the rest of us are fellow alumnae of the women's college we attended as undergrads. The bride and I were friends in college but didn't become really close friends until after college. I knew and was friends with the other girls, but not really close friends. Now, here we are almost 10 years out of college, with Master's degrees, fabulous careers, husbands (all married or soon-to-be- except one) and two of us have preschoolers. And we talked and talked. Talked about life and love, marriage and husbands, sex and money, kids and family.

At our college we were all leaders--involved, told we could have it all. We went out, degrees in hand, and truly did have it all. We conquered the world. Six master's degrees among us, amazing career accomplishments. The one thing we didn't learn in college, in this women's college where women empowerment was a constant theme--was how to have it all and balance it all. Yes, go out and conquer the world, but what about the husband and the kids? How does that all fit in?

We talked about our struggles with losing our identity. Yes, I'm still working, but since having Lucas and by working part-time I've definitely put the brakes on my career and remained on a plateau--if not even taken it down a few steps. And I know that is my choice and feel grateful to have that choice. But, sometimes in the mind-numbingness of playing trains, again, or wiping a butt or making my millionth PB&J sandwich, I just want to shout out to the world: "This isn't all I am, I have an MBA!"

It was awesome to hear these women, these smart, funny, amazing women, voice the same problems, the same challenges. To get advice on some issues and give advice on others. And to drink. And to laugh. It was amazing.

To sum up: No men. Much laughing. Much talking. Much support. (Much drinking.) Yeah, this girls weekend was just like college!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inauguration Plans

Just in case your inauguration plans included asking to stay with us, I'm sorry to report we're booked! Read about it here!

January 20? Sorry, no vacancy

The guest room was first to go. Then the pull-out couch. Next, the air mattress. The other couch fits one, it really isn't too bad. Room for four on the floor, but you'll need to bring your own sleeping bags. But, don't forget, we only have one shower!

Why do we suddenly have so many people coming to visit--and all at once?

The inauguration, of course!

A quick survey of my neighbors confirms that everything in this Washington Post article is true. If you live in the Washington region you're completely booked on January 19 and 20. My neighborhood is right on a Metro line and only 15 minutes from Capitol Hill by car (though you'd be crazy to try to drive there during the inaugural festivities!). One neighbor told me that they will be hosting a long-time friend who asked to stay with them because her downtown friends were already full! Even as I laughed at him, I had to admit that two of our closest friends are staying with other friends who live in the city (but promise that they want to get together with us, too!).

Actually, it's a good thing those Arizona friends had another option because we'll have every sleeping surface (including the floor space!) crammed with family visiting from everywhere from California to New York. (And we really do have only one full bath!)

Not only do I not mind, I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to it. After all, I invited them! I can't think of a better way to enjoy this historic occasion than with my family.


Original post to DC Metro Moms. Check out Aimee's personal blog at www.smilingmama.blogspot.com.

Comments

cindyfey said...
Can't wait to read all the DC Metro posts about the inauguration!


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Best Bridal Shower Games

I'm off to North Carolina today for my good friend Stephanie's bridal shower. She was one of my three bridesmaids, along with my sister and cousin and I'm honored to be doing a reading in her wedding. (In my opinion, that's the best possible role to have--you are invited to the rehearsal dinner, are listed in the program, but wear your own dress!)

One of my favorite things about a good friend getting married is hosting--or helping to host--the bridal shower. Oh how I love bridal showers! As this shower is long distance for me, I offered to help the hostess with two things: the invitations and the games.

I'm 99.9% sure Stephanie doesn't read this blog so feel safe telling you about the things we're doing at her shower tomorrow.


For the invitations, I purchased these from Target. They are currently on sale, $24.99 for 50 (I think they were $34 when I bought them). Either way, they are a bargain as they look and feel much more expensive than they are. Because we asked people to RSVP via e-mail, we are using the reply cards as a special surprise for Stephanie. I included them in with the invitation along with a note asking people to use the front of the card to write Stephanie a note, share a memory, give advice, share a quote or poem or even attach a photo of themselves with Stephanie. At the shower we'll put them all into a scrapbook and later add photos from the afternoon.




What else can a long-distance friend help with for a bridal shower?

Games!

I'm generally not a fan of games at bridal or baby showers. Toilet paper dress? Guess what's in my purse? Yuck and yuck. But, over the years, I've collected ideas for several fun and funny games.

1) Bridal Bingo -- The most boring part of the shower for guests is generally when the bride- or mom-to-be is opening her presents. Yay towels! Yay knives! So, let's give the guests something to do. Preparing for this game is easy. Just make a table with 5 columns and 6 rows. Instead of BINGO across the top, type in BRIDE. In the center square type "Your Gift". Hand the sheets out to the guests before the bride starts opening her gifts and give them time to fill in each of the squares with gifts they think the bride may receive that afternoon. When the bride opens one of those gifts, they cross off that box. The first person to get 5 across, down or diagonal yells "BRIDE" and receives a prize! With this game, I like to offer prizes to the first two people to get a row, just to keep it going a bit longer.

2) Advice Game -- This is a really funny game! Get all the bridesmaids to help come up with various wedding or honeymoon scenarios--they should be humorous and relevant to the bride and groom. For example, we played this game at my friend Katie's shower this summer. Her fiance, now husband, is an engineer and her mom sewed her dress (it was so stunning!). So, one of our scenarios for them was "On their wedding night, Katie discovers that her mom has sewn a chastity belt into her dress. Despite being an engineer, John is unable to remove it. What should they do?". There should be one such scenario for each guest at the shower. You hand out the pieces of paper with the scenario facing down--tell the guests to write down a piece of advice for the new couple on the blank side without looking at the other side. Collect the cards and read the scenarios followed by the advice. They end up being quite funny!

3) Love Poem -- This is another way to keep guests busy while the bride (or mom) opens all those gifts. Take a piece of paper and write the first line of a poem, for example, "Stephanie and Will have found true love". The guests add the next line of the poem, but--here's the catch--they can only look at one previous line. So, before the pass it, they fold the paper so that only their line is showing. After all the gifts are open, you read the poem--it always garners a laugh. The hostess can then type the poem up nicely for the bride or mom to keep in their shower album or scrapbook.

4) Famous TV Couples -- I just discovered this game and plan to use it for the first time this weekend. There are several different ways to do this game. I have listed the first names of 20 famous TV couples and the guests will have a certain amount of time to list the TV show that goes with each couple. The person with the most correct answers wins! There will be a broad age range at this shower so I've got couples ranging from Carrie and Mr. Big to Edith and Archie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Mommy's High Heel Shoes (and a giveaway!)


I recently received the loveliest package in the mail--the book Mommy's High Heel Shoes by Philly Mom Kristie Finnan. I told Kristie I'd be happy to read the book and give her my honest opinion about it. Well, here is it: this book is adorable!

The beautiful cover, illustrated by Pat Achilles, helped draw me in. In fact, the illustrations throughout are just simply delightful. But, it is the overall message of the book that means the most to me.

As you know, I work outside the home 2.5 days a week and I often attend meetings in the evening for the various community groups I'm part of. Lucas definitely can tell by how I'm dressed if it is a day I'll leave for work or a day I'll stay home with him. (He also knows that meetings are boring!) And, what parent hasn't laughed as their kid stumbled around in their high heels, slippers or other shoes? Kids just love trying to--literally--walk in our shoes!

My favorite line of the book is "And when I feel good, I'm a better mommy." Truer words could not be spoken. I currently am struggling with continuing to work part-time or staying at home full-time. As much as I love spending time with Lucas, I know that my professional identity helps make me a more fulfilled person and that does help me be a better mom. I truly believe that each mom--and dad--has to find the balance that is right for them, that is best for their family.

And this book helps teach kids that although mommy has many, many roles to play, the most important one is being a mommy.

Giveaway! Although I am very tempted to keep this adorable book for myself, I'm going to give this autographed copy (!) away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment telling me about your favorite pair of shoes by Wednesday the 19th at Noon (Eastern). I'll use random.com to choose the lucky winner! (Don't forget to leave me your e-mail address or some way I can get in touch with you if you win.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A bit of domesticity

Recently the community over at Shannon's Rocks in My Dryer blog was commenting about all the things they do with their dishwasher. It was crazy. I mean I get cleaning dishes, pots, pans, pet dishes and was even with them as far as swim goggles and the lid of the trashcan. But a computer keyboard and shoes? Now that's just crazy. Apparently you can even cook in your dishwasher--salmon or potatoes.

Not only was I a little incredulous when reading these few posts, I was also quite jealous. In my entire life, I've had approximately 2 years of dishwasher use. The apartment Abel and I lived in after we got married but before we bought our house had a dishwasher and that is the first--and only--time I've ever had one. It was really old and really loud, and I'm sure it used a TON of water. But, I loved it.

So even though I don't have any dishwasher tips to share with you. (Go here and here for those.) I do have an appliance tip for you and it came to me as I was cleaning my shower this weekend.

First some business: if you are the kind of person who regularly wipes down the shower curtain liner when you clean your shower, this tip is not for you. In fact, why don't you just meander over here where I'm certain you'll be much more comfortable.

Okay, now that they're gone, this tip is for you. I know your shower curtain liner gets pretty yucky. Nothing to be embarrassed about, mine does to. Now, what would I have done about this in the past? Well, I would have thrown it away and purchased another cheap-o $1.99 liner.

But, what do I do about it now?

I put the liner in the washing machine!

That's right, just take it down and throw it in. It comes out all "clean and shiny" (Lucas's new favorite phrase--"look Mama, I'm all clean and shiny!") Here's what I do--I put it in by itself (really, I don't want that gross shower gunk to get on anything else, do I?), on a small load and with warm water (I'm sorta' scared the hot would be too much, it is vinyl after all) a lot of detergent (more than what you'd put in for a small load normally) and a splash of bleach (now that I've gone green with all my cleaners I really avoid bleach, but in this case feel it is warranted).

When it is finished washing, take it out slowly--there will still be some water hanging around in the folds--let it drip out into your washer and put it into a towel to take to your bathroom (or you'll leave a trail of water behind you). Just hang it up and it will drip dry into the shower.

Voila! It is like you have a brand new shower liner!

And so concludes Smiling Mama's pretense of domesticity!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: Baby's First Year Calendar

Welcome to Favorite Things Friday, a weekly series where I share products I love!

This week's product is Baby's First Year Calendar.

My pregnancy journal has about 5 entries, I don't scrapbook and have more photos saved in the computer than printed and put into albums. I knew that if I wanted to remember all the wonderful little details of Lucas's first year I needed some help. I ordered this calendar for myself a few days after Lucas was born and it was the perfect solution!

The concept is pretty basic--it is a blank calendar! You fill in the dates and write something-- anything--in the square for that day. Then, at the end of each month, you fill in the top of the calendar which prompts you to fill in what foods the baby is eating, books you are reading, milestones achieved that month, etc. I kept this calendar on my nightstand and tried to write a phrase or sentence every night.

On Lucas's first birthday, I went back and read through the entire calendar. It was amazing. In it, I captured so many little details that I would never have remembered otherwise. That is truly priceless.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Big Boy Bed

We were so excited to move Lucas into his big boy bed almost two weeks ago. Well, honestly, I didn't mind him still sleeping in his crib but Abel was really pushing to move him into a bed. I started searching and found the cutest little toddler bed on Craig's List and it is cherry, which matches his other nursery furniture.

Here he is on that very first night:

Adorable, right?

Right?

Well, he is adorable and really likes the bed. The problem is that there have been many problems. Many. Problems.

First problem is that he gets out of bed and sneaks to the top of the stairs many times after we say goodnight. He lets us know he is awake by yelling downstairs "HEY MAMA! HEY DADA!". Generally if we go to the bottom of the stairs and tell him to go to bed he complies.

Second problem is that suddenly he says he is scared--thus requiring that the door be kept open a crack and the hall light on (his nightlight doesn't seem to offer enough light and he freaks if the door is shut tight). He also has commandeered Abel's feather pillow and I tell him every night that having Dada's pillow is just like having Dada there and will keep all the scaries away. This was invented at a desperate moment and I know it will come back to bite me at some point in the future, like if something ever happens to the pillow!

Third problem is that for the last few nights he's been desperate to sleep in our bed. On Election Night I came upstairs to find him curled up in our bed. Last night he was yelling for us and Abel went up to put him back to bed. I came up later to find them both asleep in our bed. Ugh! I was so annoyed. We're trying to teach Lucas that he has to sleep in his own bed and so what lesson did this teach him--that if he gets out of bed and yells for Dada then he gets rewarded not only with sleeping in our bed but with Dada. Jackpot!

Fourth problem is that he's been waking up very early--like between 4:30am and 6am--and coming into our room to crawl into bed with us. He doesn't go back to sleep, however, just keeps us awake. I'm certain he used to wake up early in his crib, too, but would just amuse himself for a while before he yelled for us.

Help! What do we do?

Honestly, I wouldn't mind the rest of it so much if he would just not wake us up before 6ish. He has books and toys readily accessible in his room. I've talked to him about staying in his bed and that it is okay to play with his toys when he wakes up. He gets the concept of "when the sun is up" but runs in at 4:30am asking if the sun is up.

I know there are many parents out there who are dealing with much more difficult sleep issues. I'm sure they are scoffing--sleep until 6am. Ha! You are so weak! Well, yes, we are weak. Lucas has been a champion sleeper since he was very, very young. And if things don't improve soon, I'll be very temped to bring back that crib!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change

This is what I did while glued to MSNBC last night...

A New Day

I just cried my eyes out through President-elect Obama's speech. It is impossible to put my emotions into words. But, the thing that is forefront in my mind is that my almost three year old Hispanic son, my half-Mexican son, will never think that only a white man can be elected President of the United States of America. Amazing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nervous Energy

I know many, many people, like me, have had a lot of nervous energy yesterday and today. What have they done with that energy? Many have phone banked or knocked on doors for their candidate. Or, they've obsessively checked websites, blogs and the news. Or they facebooked or twittered or blogged.

What did I do with my nervous energy?

Why, I baked cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

My first batch--double batch, actually--was sugar cookies cut out with my donkey shaped cookie cutter purchased at the Democratic Convention. Aren't they adorable?


I plan to decorate these 60 or so donkeys tonight. They're for a Thursday night potluck social (which everyone but me is scared to refer to as a Victory Celebration) for the local progressive group I'm co-chair of. I plan to decorate them while watching the returns tonight. I briefly (very briefly) thought of decorating one with the state flag of every state that goes for Obama. Instead I'll just use red, blue and white icing. I'm sure I can make some sort of semblance of stars and strips and the Obama logo!

The second batch--again, a double batch--was chocolate chip. Yum! Yum!


My adorable helper who decided today was a "no pants" day!



Ooey gooey goodness fresh from the oven! (Are you hungry yet?)


For the first time in about the past 6 or so elections (and with all the special elections 'round these parts in the past year, those 6 have all happened pretty recently!) I'm not working the polls this election. Our precinct and the entire state of Maryland will go pretty solidly for Obama so there's no need for volunteers to be out in the cold and rain. But, I thought it would be nice for some of the after-work voters, who are sure to be in a very L O N G line to have a little snack. So, I've packed up these 70 or so cookies and am about to walk over to my polling place to hand them out.

My sister asked if I would take the cookies away from anyone planning to vote for McCain! I did think about it :) but my confidence in our victory has made me magnanimous. After all, we're in tough times and post-election need to be united not divided. What better to unite us than chocolate chip cookies?

Don't you wish you voted at my precinct?!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Extremes

I can only imagine how hard it must be to be a toddler--there are just so many extremes! You want to be independent and do it "all by myself" and yet need so much help. You want to go off on your own to explore but even the most familiar room in your house is a little scary when the lights are off.

Being the mother of a toddler puts you into some extreme swings in feelings as well. Yes, indeed it does. Take for example, this high and low of motherhood which occurred literally moments apart.

High: I was tucking Lucas in for his nap when he reached up and put his hands on my cheeks, pulled my face right into his and said, "You're the best mommy in the whole world." Heart. Melting. On. The. Floor.

Low: As I walked out of his room, I glanced down to notice a bit of dried poop on my pants. Lovely.

The Election

I plan to head to the polls at about 10am tomorrow morning, hoping that most of the before-work voters will be done by then and I'll breeze right through the line. We'll see how that goes. It just occurred to me that about 24 hours from now I will have cast my vote for Barack Obama. It literally makes me tear up just thinking about it.

Barack Obama won't be the only important vote I cast, though. I'll also vote for a constitutional amendment to allow early voting in Maryland (seriously, I feel like everyone I know has already voted early in their state!) and against a constitutional amendment to allow slot machine gambling in Maryland. This is why I'll be voting against slots.

Here's another thing that made me tear up today. I have a feeling it is going to be a pretty emotional few days.

Photo from this blog. And I'm all about the flag but dude, what is with that jacket?

Speed Racer

Lucas's Speed Racer costume came together better than I ever imagined--isn't he adorable? It was our first real Halloween with him--trick-or-treating and the whole nine yards and he absolutely loved it.

As I previously blogged, the entire costume came from the local thriftstore for about $13. Most people would never guess that Abel is the more meticulous of the two of us, but he totally is. He used electrical tape and a razor blade to make the awesome and totally accurate "M" and "5" logos. It all looked so professional that one mom in our playgroup thought it was store bought!

Lucas wore the costume for our Friday morning playgroup halloween party, Friday night trick-or-treating and our town's Saturday morning parade and party. By about 1pm on Saturday the shirt was juice-stained, the pants grass-stained and the racing stripes peeling off!!

Go Speed Racer Go!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Favorite Things Friday: The Original Sleep Sound Generator

Welcome to Favorite Things Friday!

Okay, so you expected me to start this new little series off with a bang. Then you come here and see the most boring looking product ever.

How disappointing!

But I'm telling you, this little bugger has changed my life:
It's The Original Sleep Sound Generator by Hammacher Schlemmer. I've had mine for more than 10 years and sleep with it next to me every single night. Let me repeat that. Every. Single. Night. I take it everywhere.

At $54.95 it may be a little more pricey than other white noise machines. But, as I mentioned, I've had this baby for more than 10 years. That averages out to approximately 1 cent per night for a sound, restful sleep. It has been packed in more check luggage than I can count and has been knocked off many various nightstands over the years. All that and it still works perfectly.

This is small enough to always fit into my suitcase and only makes white noise. There are multiple sound options, however. I know it is hard to describe but there are several variations of white noise based on how you slide the base and top.

I've just purchased a second Sleep Sound--one for Lucas. Now that he's in a big boy bed, he seems to be hyper aware of every little noise. And, when you live in a 60 year old house with creaky stairs and rattling windows there are a lot of noises to hear. I know that this will help drown all that out for him.

Sleep Sound Generator: Seriously the one item I can not sleep without.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Introducing Favorite Things Friday

I'm the kind of person that when I love something, I want to tell the whole world about it. So, I've decided to start a new little feature called "Favorite Things Friday". In theory (and with all the best intentions) I'll post a photo and description of something I just love every Friday. Again, this is all in theory. Please check back tomorrow for my first favorite thing!

Edited to add: Each item I highlight in Favorite Things Friday is just a favorite thing of mine. I have not recieved free samples or any sort of kick-back from these companies, websites, etc. for highlighting their product. If I ever review a product I have recieved for free, I will certainly let you know! Thankssomuch!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Working Mom Blues

I am feeling rather bleh these days. I think primarily it is my dissatisfaction with my job. I e-mailed Abel on Monday and all the message said was "I want to quit." I really do want to quit. But, that would be pretty stupid for multiple reasons, including:

1) The Economy Stupid.
2) Abel's job is still very much up in the air.
3) My hours, etc. are a mom's dream -- 20 hours, 2.5 days a week, very flexible...
4) I start to go a little crazy after too many days at home.

But, it also would be great for many reasons. And, in my mind that list is much longer than the four reasons listed above. I know I can make it through the holidays. Then we'll reassess. My dream situation is that Congress comes back for a lame duck session and passes the language to secure Abel's job. Then, he gets a big fat raise for basically saving the entire industry. Then I can quit my job and stay at home with Lucas. But, the big fat raise will still allow us to send Lucas to this wonderful 1/2 day nursery school in our town so I'll still get some time to myself during which I'll clean the house, cook amazing healthy meals, volunteer at our local public school and of course BLOG.

Sound good?

Yes!

Okay team let's make it happen!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cancel on me, please!

Last night my friend called me to cancel our play date for this morning. While she felt horribly guilty for doing it at the last-minute, I actually felt a bit of relief when I listened to her voicemail message.

Don't get me wrong, my son and I very much look forward to the chance to talk (me) and play (him) with our good buddies. We live a solid 40 minute drive from our friends but have done a good job of getting together once a month, alternating our visits, over the past two years. Lucas and his little buddy get along really well. They're both rough and tumble boys and they each love the new-to-them abundance of trucks and trains at the other's house.

Two weeks ago, I had a lunch scheduled with a good friend during my only possible window for a weekday lunch--at 1pm on my half day of work. At 8am that morning, she e-mailed to cancel. A former colleague, boss, mentor and all-around good friend, I very much look forward to our rare lunches. Yet, I wasn't crushed that she cancelled. In fact, I was a bit excited about it!

If this play date and lunch were so highly anticipated, why in the world was their cancellation met with relief and excitement?

Because a canceled play date = a free morning and a cancelled lunch = a free afternoon!

I admit it: I over-schedule my our life. Plain and simple. Whenever I look at the calendar I always think that our schedule is do-able. Then, in the throws of packed days and meeting-filled nights, I long for some down time. Time to just hang out.

This morning's canceled play date meant lazing around in our jammies (while playing trucks, of course) and a chance to hop on-line to write this post. Canceled lunches give me time for solo-grocery shopping (any mom knows that is a true luxury!) or an afternoon nap (sometimes a necessity!). And when the cancellation comes at the last minute, there is almost no chance I'll be able to fill it up again. That's an added bonus!

So here's a message to all my friends: I do love spending time with you and thoroughly look forward to our get-togethers. But, don't feel guilty if you have to cancel, especially at the last minute. You're really giving me a gift. (But, let's be sure to reschedule soon: I'm pretty booked for the next few weeks!)

Original post to DC Metro Moms. In her spare moments, Aimee blogs at www.smilingmama.blogspot.com.

Comments

BananaBlueberry said...
I agree :) I love the occasional day when we stay in pjs and play trucks! Life is so nice and relaxing- while seeing it through your little one's eyes !

Diana said...
Now I'm tempted to schedule a play date with you guys and see if you cancel! :)

Wife and Mommy said...
Hanging out in jammies is a luxury that happens less and less as my kids get older. Must schedule days in to just laze about!

Robin said...
Couch potatoe days are our favorite!

Shannon said...
Even better: when they cancel via e-mail/voicemail/text, and you don't have to actually talk to them and conceal your secret excitement!

April said...
you can schedule me for whenever you like - and then pretend I called to cancel!

Claire Jess said...
I have felt this so often - love my time with people/at activities but also love the surprise free time that just can't get too full because it lands in your lap so late.


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!