Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year's Eve!!

We actually got a sitter to go out tonight! Can't wait! I find that New Year's Eve is what you make of it and we'll be hanging with lots of our friends. Plus...shhh...we have a big surprise for them... I got Abel a Fujifilm Instax MINI 25 for Christmas and we made lots of photo booth props like these along with various red lips and colorful mustaches! Can't wait to take lots of silly photos, give Abel a big smooch at midnight and ring in '12!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jewelry Board

I'm not usually one for New Year's Resolutions but am thinking hard about putting some into place this year. Near the top of the list will be: Less Clutter!

And, I'm proud to say I've gotten a jump start this year. Thanks to my darling hubby hanging a fantastic bulletin board that had been gathering dust in the storage room, my jewelry has gone from this:

 A complete jumble including many tangled necklaces...

To this:

A lovely display and pretty piece of wall art!

Now I will actually have room inside my jewelry box for the remaining ear rings and bracelets that didn't fit onto the board. The bonus is that by keeping my lovely necklaces in sight I will hopefully stop wearing the same two or three again and again.

Next up: the linen closet!

P.S. Our Christmas was lovely! I hope your celebrations were as well!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Photo Puzzle

My only nephew, Sawyer, turned one earlier this month and we had a little celebration for him over Thanksgiving (minus cake because his dad wasn't with us and so the first bite of cake was saved for his actual birthday!). The little cutie lives FAR too far away and I don't see him nearly enough. So, I took inspiration from my friend Amy and made him a gift that will help him remember or at least recognize the faces of our family members.

This is a super-easy project, and, in my opinion, makes a great gift, especially for a too-far-away baby!

I got this Melissa & Doug puzzle...

Then I gathered photos of each family member, used the shape to trace my cut lines, cut them out and glued them in. I decided to put a layer of Modge Podge over each photo to seal it. Amy didn't advise this step, but since Saywer is a boy and I know how crazy and destructive my own boys can be, I thought it might be a good step. Unfortunately, the Modge Podge caused an issue with the ink on my mom's photo...I think it might have been because I printed them at home. Anyway, I still think it turned out great and hope that Sawyer is playing with it daily!

  Don't we have a good looking family?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy 6th Birthday Lucas!

Dear Lucas,

It is nearly impossible for me to believe that my baby--my first baby--turned six today! You awoke this morning to balloons filling up your bedroom and your dream of dreams came true: Dada carried you to our bed where you opened gifts, watched Phineas and Ferb and ate breakfast in bed!

You amaze me and melt me and challenge me every single day, Big Boy. You are an emotional being and you feel--deeply, deeply feel--every emotion with every cell of your being. Your joy and excitement escapes from you in leaps and grins and cheers. Your anger and frustration comes out physically as well. But your love, your love and kindness and warmth, it exudes from you and I am so, so grateful to often be the recipient of your love and affection. Ever since you could say the words, you have taken the opportunity (often many, many times each day) to tell people you love them. It comes out equally in the middle of a quite moment or in the middle of chaos...

Yes buddy.
You know what?
I love you.
I love you, too.

My heart melts each and every time.

In the morning when I leave for work and at night when I leave your room, you always need one more hug and kiss, often following me out of the house (a few times sans pants!) or into the hallway to get one more hug, one more kiss, to yell out one more I love you. As exasperated as I get sometimes (especially when I'm running late!), I cherish every one of those hugs and kisses and yelled-out good-byes. I hope and pray that there never comes a time when you don't have another hug and kiss for me.

As it has been since the moment Nathaniel became aware of you, you are his favorite thing in the world. And, Lucas, you are an amazing big brother. I know it is so hard when he plays with your toys (especially if he ruins something!) and I know it hurts when he hits or pinches, but your Dad and I are so grateful for how kind you are to him. He is a lucky boy to have such a great big brother!

You tell us that when you grow up you want to be an engineer or an artist. I have no doubt that you will be both. You are very creative and have a beautiful singing voice. You also are constantly thinking of new inventions and creations--your ideas always impress me!

Happy 6th Birthday, Big Boy. Your Dad and I couldn't be any more proud to be your parents and grateful to have you as a son. You'll always be my best Christmas present ever.

Love always,

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gift Wrap

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is wrapping presents. When I was in high school, I often wrapped all the gifts for the family (except those for me, of course!). BC (before children) I would spend a day in my jammies, watching Little Women, sipping hot cocoa and wrapping, wrapping, wrapping. I often wished I had more gifts to wrap! (Luckily Abel enjoys and is an excellent wrapper as well. When we were newly married he even happily humored my Little Women tradition!)

I am particularly pleased with the "look" I've come up with this year for our gifts. When Abel's company shut down, he snagged a HUGE roll of Kraft paper from the mail room. I've used it for a million things already and have barely made a dent in its size. I'm starting to suspect it might be a lifetime's worth of paper! I decided to use that as my wrapping and ordered these simple but beautiful silver and gold rolls of twine from KnotAndBow.

Alas, with my crazy boys, I no longer have the luxury of spending hours wrapping so I have to squeeze it in when I can. The top photo is a sample of a few gifts I finished last night. I added a sprig of holly to the gift for Lucas's teacher.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Birthday DIYs

Poor Lucas! Our just-before-Christmas baby is having his first year of being totally slighted for his school birthday: because they'll be out of school on his actual birthday, he's sharing it with the class holiday party this afternoon!

(But honestly. as a summer baby, myself, I think I rarely if ever got to take cupcakes to school on my birthday so I'm trying to remember that I haven't been scared for life. Or, have I?)

His big request was a monster truck birthday, which in his mind = monster truck themed plates and napkins. Easy, right? Well, when I realized that his cupcakes would be served during the class holiday party and the teacher had already requested a donation of holiday napkins, plates, etc., I had to get more creative.

Inspired by cupcake toppers I had seen on Etsy, I put these little guys together. I just grabbed two monster truck clip art files from Microsoft, printed them out 12 to a sheet, cut them out and glued them to some orange card stock. I had the plastic tooth picks on hand as well as the flame duct tape. (Heads up to all my friends who have recently had boys: in just a few short years, you, too, will see flame duct tape and think, "Wow! I've got to have that!") The tape secured the toothpick and added some excitement to the backs of the toppers.

Abel's heading over to the school this afternoon to help out with the par-tay and so will insert the toppers into the (mandated!) store-bought cupcakes before they're served. Lucas hasn't seen them yet so he'll be surprised. I'm pretty pleased with this quick project and hope he loves them, too!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Family Game Night -- A Review and Giveaway!

I come from a big family and some of my very earliest memories of family gatherings include games. I learned to play challenging card games at a very young age and remember joining in very competitive spirited Trivial Pursuit games when I was way too young to have a prayer of ever getting an answer right!

We have several old favorites but are always on the look out for great family games!

So when I saw that North Star Games had set up shop in the hallway at Blogalicious I was very curious to see what they were all about.

I played a few rounds of Say Anything (and enjoyed it!) but the game that really caught my attention was Wits and Wagers. If I could pick any two words to describe the perfect game for my extended family they would be "trivia" and "gambling." And those are the two words that describe Wits and Wagers!

I took the game home over Thanksgiving and played it with six other adults. It was proclaimed a hit! The only grumbles came from my sister (also our biggest Trivial Pursuit hater!) but the funny thing is that she came in a VERY close second place. Even though she didn't love it, she was really good at it. Silly girl.

A few highlights:

1. It's fast-paced. We finished a game in less than 30 minutes.
2. You don't have to know the answers to win! Family members who don't have much to offer during those intense games of Trivial Pursuit have just as good (sometimes even better!) chances to win at this because of the wagering. My sister often had crazy guesses (way off!) but consistently bet on the right answers. My aunt often had the correct answer (or closest to the correct answer!) but never bet on herself so didn't really leverage her correct answers.
3. A large number of people can play, up to seven as individuals but you can even play in teams. That's great for a big family.
4. We liked the dry erase answer boards.

Suggestions for improvement:

Only one: include eraser tips on the dry eraser marker caps! Really, that's all we could come up with as room for improvement!

I received a complimentary review copy of Wits & Wagers from North Star Games but all opinions are my own. You can buy Wits & Wagers at Target or Toys-R-Us or, if you're local, head over to Labyrinth on Capitol Hill or Child's Play in Chevy Chase and patronize a great small business!

Win your own copy of Wits and Wagers for your next family gathering! Leave a comment on this post by Friday, December 16, at midnight eastern time with the word or words that best describe the perfect game for your family (or group of friends). Make sure to include your e-mail address! I'll notify the winner on Saturday and you must get back to me with your mailing address by Monday, December 19, so we can ship the game right away (hopefully to arrive in time for Christmas, but definitely for your New Year gatherings!). Good luck!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guess who visited us last night?

The tooth fairy!!

Lucas's tooth had been loose for several weeks and it finally came out last night. My mom had given me the great advice of not pulling it out because if it hurt he'd be scared/worried about future teeth. So I just made a game of having him wiggle it 10 times whenever I thought of it. Last night we were working on his homework (yes, kindergarten homework!) and it seemed SUPER loose. I suggested he push it back instead of pulling it forward and out it came!

He was SO excited!

The tooth fairy left four quarters, an Avengers activity book, a small magic kit and...the tooth!

Apparently Lucas had taken the tooth out of his tooth turtle pillow and hid it under his regular pillow. The tooth fairies couldn't find that tooth for the life of them! As Lucas raced out of his room with his gifts this morning, he also exclaimed, "She left my tooth!"

Abel and I were quick to suggest that maybe she left this one because it was his first and therefore extra-special! We also let him know that probably he got extra gifts this time for the same reason (with 19 more to go, the tooth fairy will be broke if she keeps giving so much!).

Then I casually asked where he had put the tooth and got the full story!

Oh that boy. My baby boy. How is this possible? I remember so well when that first tooth broke through. That itty-bitty baby tooth. It had already gotten way too small for my big boy's mouth but the one coming in behind it seems impossibly large. He's still my baby after all, right?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Birthday Expecations

Lucas's first day of "winter break" is his birthday but I'll still be working that day. So the other evening I suggested that on his birthday dad could bring him and Nathaniel to my office and we could all go out to lunch and get special cupcakes.

I expected excitement.

I got, "Mom, I'll be busy celebrating. You know, with a pinata and stuff."


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Books

Lucas has been asking to break out our many Christmas books for more than a week but I've held him off because I wanted to start a new tradition. Last night I wrapped our 23 Christmas or winter themed books and loaded them up in this basket. Starting Thursday he'll be able to select and unwrap one each night as part of his bedtime stories. Yes, we need a few more to make it until December 25, but my parents traditionally give each boy a Christmas book for St. Nicholas day on December 6 so we should be all set after that.
By the way, if you're looking to start or supplement your own Christmas book collection, I highly recommend Humphrey's First Christmas. (One of last year's St. Nicholas day gifts!) It's the specific book Lucas has been asking for. Not only are the illustrations absolutely stunning, but the story is very, very sweet. We all love it!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Free printable from here.

Life is challenging and busy and hectic these days. And I'm often wishing for more time, especially with my wonderful boys. But I am so grateful for our family -- for Nathaniel, who can now say, "Mommy" and calls for me often. For Lucas who is so full of hugs and kisses and always wants one more, just one more, one last hug, okay this is the last one, but mama, one more hug and kiss! And for Abel who is my biggest fan and who is an amazing father. These days are hard and long for him, too, but our sons are so lucky to have such a great dad who takes care of their needs and makes time for fun adventures.

And, I'm thankful, too, for this outlet -- to write and share with you, dear readers.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and surrounded by loved ones.


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Last night Lucas and I made a quick little fire in our fire pit to roast a s'more each before bedtime and then we hung out by the fire for a bit to ensure it was out before we went back inside. After we gobbled up our s'mores, he used his amazing imagination to start a game -- I was the captain of the ship and he was my first mate, all kinds of fish started attacking and he speared them with his bamboo. At one point a whole school of piranhas attacked and Lucas started telling me about his super power: his brain can divide into 1,000 Lucas's to make a Lucas army.

I tried to play along and said I'd make a Mama army, too. He came over, really close to my face and said, "Silly, Mama, that isn't your superpower."

"What is?" I asked.

"Sweetness and kindness and putting people on the naughty step when they do bad things."

Being able to divide into 1,000 me's would be pretty useful, but I'll happily take those three instead.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The universe is telling me to get a Wii!

I'm not even kidding.

So several months ago, I got an e-mail with the opportunity to host a Wii Play Motion party. So fun, right? The only problem was that we don't own a Wii. No worries, they said, can you borrow one? Of course!

I decided it would be selfish super-fun to make it a ladies-only night. I mean you know that if the guys and kids were there the moms and ladies would get NO playing time. Am I right?

Nintendo and their pals at Brand About Town sent me two HUGE boxes which were, essentially, a party in a box. Seriously. The only thing I had to do was use the generous Cold Stone gift certificate to actually go purchase the ice cream.

(Don't you just love my table scape above? I was so proud of it!)

Oh? A close up? Here you go!

Yes, the jars came pre-labeled. And yes, I saved them for a future party.

Man, those sundae's were delish! But, of course the most fun was an evening with some of my favorite ladies and having a TON of fun playing with the new Wii Play Motion!

And did I mention the favors? Everyone went home with an ice cream bowl and scoop and one lucky lady went home with a copy of Wii Play Motion and a controller!

My generous fist-pumping friend, D., let us keep the Wii for an extra week or so and Lucas, Abel and I LOVED playing. I may or may not still be obsessing about Pose Mii Plus. (Not surprising since Tetras is my first and true Nintendo love!) Oh, and ladies, Abel and Lucas figured out Skip Skimmer in about 2 seconds -- it is super fun!

So after a few fun nights of gaming with our 5 year old, Abel and I started to think that maybe a Wii should play promently on our Christmas List this year.

But, wait! The story doesn't end there!

Fast forward a few weeks to Blogalicious (totally. amazing. more coming soon!) and WHOOOO gets her card drawn to be part of the Sears & KMart Winter Wonderland Dirty Santa gift exchange?

MEEEEE!!!!! (And 24 other lovely ladies!)

I know my good friend Thien-Kim at I'm Not the Nanny won't mind me stealing this pic. That's the awesome Lindsay Maines of Rock and Roll Mama but I'm on the floor on Lindsay's left.

Man, they had some amazing gifts. And you know how this game goes -- you can pick a gift from under the tree or steal from someone else. You know the moment one of the bloggers ahead of me opened up a Wii that I was intent on stealing it. But, alas, I got caught in the 3 steals max rule and lost it. However, I did score a Wii Fit Plus!

So, let's add this up: I now own a Wii Motion Plus game, 3 Wii motion remotes and a Wii Fit Plus. What's missing? An actual Wii!

Yeah, it's on the top of our list!

Of course the disclaimers: Nintendo supplied me with the game and remotes and sundae fixings and ice cream gift card (whew!) but all opinions are my own and those of the fun ladies at my party. I paid for Blogalicious with my own dime(s) and had a grand time and totally lucked out on getting to play in the Dirty Santa game (THANK YOU to the MANY bloggers who dropped your cards but weren't "present to win" as they say). No compensation was provided for this post.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Congratulations, Katrina at Wakeboarding Mama! You won the Tiny Prints giveaway. I'll e-mail with the details!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How do you choose?

Friends, I had the BEST luck yesterday -- I won a giveaway over at Design Mom!. Do you read all of Gabby Blair's amazing stuff? Oh I just adore her! And her giveaways are to die for. I always enter (you can't win if you don't play!) but never dream of winning because she usually has nearly (or more than) 1,000 entries per contest.

But yesterday I got an e-mail notifying me that I won! And a really good one at that -- $250 to spend at House8810.

So that got me to thinking: how do you spend "free" money like that? Even if you've never won an amazing contest like those at Design Mom, certainly you've gotten some sort of reward or even received a gift card.

Do you go crazy and buy frivolous things that you'd never spend your "own" money on? Or do you go super-practical and feel as though you have to get the absolute most bang for your buck?

I go back and forth. This time I went super crazy and bought all kinds of fun things that I would have had a hard time spending my "own"money on. And, my lucky, lucky sons (especially Lucas!) will be the recipients of some pretty fun things this year for Christmas!

But I did make sure to get the most bang for my buck -- through some slight changes to my initial order, I got my grand total up to $249.45!

Photos above are a few of the items I selected from House8810. And that umbrella? Totally keeping it for myself!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Free TinyPrints Card from Santa for All PLUS Giveaway!

Lucas has already started hoarding holiday toy catalogs and is circling and pointing out ALL the toys he wants (note: just about every single item in the catalogs!).  And Monday night he wore his robe to bed "to be ready in case the Polar Express comes tonight."

So while I may not be ready for Christmas, HE certainly is! One of the absolute best things about his age (he'll turn six right before Christmas!) is that he's so smart and grown up in so many ways but still has this amazing sense of wonder and excitement. I mean, he was really and truly serious about the possibility that the 'ole PolEx might rumble in front of our house that very night!

So imagine how excited he'll be to get personalized card from Santa in the mail soon!

Today only, visit the Tiny Prints Facebook page to find out how to personalize either the Checking It Twice or Santa’s Scroll greeting card for FREE!! {Hurry! Offer ends 11/9/11 at 11:59 pm (PT).}

And...even lucky reader will win 50 free TinyPrints cards this year! Just head over to to check out this year's selection and leave me a comment with the one you'd choose! (I know it's hard to narrow it down, so feel free to mention your top 3!)

The giveaway will close in one week, on Wednesday, November 16. One comment per person, please and I'll randomly draw one winner.

Disclosure: I was offered free address labels for giving away 50 free cards to a reader. Sounded like a win:win for all of us! All opinions are my own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

We got invited to a very fun Dia de los Muertos party on Saturday. It was the perfect addition to our otherwise very low key weekend (just what we needed after a very, very busy October!).

The day before I decided we'd paint our faces like the calavaras and I thought the flowers in my hair were a nice touch! Our painted faces were a hit and several other guests joined in the fun (I brought the face paint and brushes with us!).

Another nice aspect was that everyone was asked to bring a photo of a loved one and many people spoke about the person or animal they were remembering. It was lovely--how often do you get to share a story or memory like that? Not often enough, I say!

We brought the wedding photo of Abel's maternal grandparents (on the left with blue background) and Abel told the group how they had 15 children and were incredibly poor (think one-room house and no indoor plumbing with all those kids!) but that there was so much love their poverty didn't matter. In fact just this summer I asked Abel's mom and aunt if they knew how poor they were and they both answered that they had no idea. Their memories are filled with laughter and love. How wonderful.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

We had such a fun Halloween this year! As always, it was a little hectic (especially since I had to get home from work!) and there were a few minor costume incidents, but overall, it was fabulous!

I took a picture of our treats this year (above). I was totally RADICAL this year and didn't give out ANY candy. None at all. Only one child yelled back to his friends, "There's no candy here!" But I got lots of "wow!" "awesome!" "look mom!" comments, so that was very cool. We gave out boxes of temporary tattoos which I got on clearance last year, glow stick bracelets (15 for $1 at Michaels!) and, Halloween comic book samples which the comic book store gave to Abel (literally about 100 of them!) for free when he and Lucas stopped by to pick up some new kiddo comic books earlier that afternoon. (If you don't already know, there are some really neat kid comic books out there--Lucas really loves them and they're the first "books" he's sat looking at for long periods of time.)

But of course you really just want to see the costumes, right?

Nathaniel was an adorable fire fighter! I picked this expensive costume up at the thrift store last September for about $15. It's really nice material (heavy canvas with reflective strips) and we already had the hat. Nathaniel spent our town holiday party on Saturday trying to strip out of it (and succeeding!) but didn't try to wrangle out of it last night.

This cutie pie LOVED trick-or-treating. He loved running after his big brother from house to house, loved saying, "HI!" "THANK YOU!" and "BYE!" to everyone. He did get quite spooked at the scariest house in town, but quickly got over it when Lucas ran on to the next house!

Lucas made an awesome Captain America. As you can see from the expression below, he was quite serious about it! His poses were awesome! Abel (aka The Best Dad in the World) hand sewed that star, the red and white stripes and the arm bands. And, he even shortened the fingers on those long red gloves so they'd fit perfectly. The coolest thing is that Lucas can now wear his Captain America sweat suit all fall and winter! And, of course, the mask and shield will make for fun toys.

(In this last picture you can see that Lucas still has his saber tooth tiger face painting on from earlier in the day! He didn't want to wash it off but also didn't want anyone to see it and be confused! Too cute!)

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby Boy Stroller, Part 2

Do you read Apartment Therapy's OhDeeDoh blog? I just love drooling over their featured nurseries and kids' rooms. Anyway, today I just had to laugh because they featured a post about the oh-so-elusive non-pink toy strollers. My post on the same topic from nearly THREE years ago is still the #1 Google search hit to my blog!

Okay toy stroller manufacturers, you heard it here first: there's a BIG market for non-pink or purple toy strollers! Go forth and create, please!

P.S. Lucas's overpriced toy stroller is (thank goodness!) still going strong and is currently one of Nathaniel's favorite toys!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I heart scarves!

This video is fantastic! (Thanks Suzie for sharing it!) I love scarves but am often at a loss for how to wear them. This video is a great excuse to add to my (meager) collection. I've already tied today's scarf in a new way and can't wait to try out the other 24 ideas! Check it out!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Christmas Cards

We haven't even finalized Halloween costumes yet and I'm writing about Christmas cards? I know. I know. But, here's the thing: for the past two years, my absolute most favorite Christmas cards, of all the cards we received, have been from Tiny Prints. I can't really put my finger on it, but there's just something about Tiny Prints that makes their cards extra special. And, no lie, I can spot them without even turning them over to see the little Tiny Prints logo on the back. Here's how it goes:

Oh this card is so so beautiful.
I bet it's Tiny Prints.
(turns card over)

And so when Tiny Prints e-mailed to give me the opportunity to get 50 free cards in return for a blog post. Well, my friends, I am totally willing to pimp myself out for that!

Especially because this year...this year? I already have our Christmas card photos! This might be the year that I return to my pre-kid days of mailing my Christmas cards immediately after Thanksgiving, instead of barely-in-time-to-arrive-before Christmas. (And I'll be interested to see if this new mama friend, our first card received for two years in a row, will switch places with me!)

This summer when my sister and adorable nephew were visiting, we had the most wonderful photo shoot of the grandparents and their grandsons. Oh these photos! They are stunning! There are wonderful photos of the three boys together, wonderful photos of the boys and the grandparents, wonderful photos of each boy alone.... We've been oohing and ahhing over the photos since we got them back. (And Nathaniel truly steals the show--there are dozens of perfect photos of him!)

So I have the photos this year, but the hardest part is going to be choosing a Tiny Prints card....

I love this one -- the photos are clearly the focus of the card. I also love that it opens so there's room to jot a note on the inside...

But how cute is this? There's room to personalize the text around the photos. I think it really captures the fun and joy that is Christmas with young children.

And what about this? The great thing about this card is that when Christmas is long gone, our friends and family can cut the pictures off and have two lovely stand alone photos of the boys on their fridge.

 Decisions! Decisions! (But of the best kind!!)

As I mentioned, Tiny Prints offered me 50 free cards for a blog post, but all opinions are 100% mine!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

S'mores Parties

I have a fun little post up over at the brand new The DC Moms about budget-friendly, easy and delicious s'mores parties. Are you reading The DC Moms yet? You should definitely add us to your RSS feed, reader or list of regular blogs because, not only will I be writing there several times a month, there are some phenomenal women writing there every day. Seriously, they're we're an awesome crew!

But here's the deal, if you're local and take my tips for hosting your own fabulous s'mores party, you really need to include me on the invitation list!!
Oh, and Hershey's, if you're listening and want to sponsor my next s'mores party, feel free to send chocolate!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Launching cake to heaven

Lucas asks and thinks about my death quite a bit. I'm not sure why but I always try to reassure him that I plan to be around for a long, long time. Mostly these questions/comments come about in reference to something of mine that he wants. For example, he knows/believes that when Abel and I die he'll get our house "for free." (I do try to remind him that he'll have to share with Nathaniel!) He's also looking forward to getting my wedding rings "for free" after I die. (He's always desperate to wear them but he's lost/broken so many pieces of my jewelry over the years that I won't ever let him.)

The other night, after books and songs and snuggles, Lucas told me that after I die he'll make me a birthday cake every year and put it on my shrine. (Yes, he used the word shrine...where does this kid get this stuff?? Did Phineas and Ferb recently build a shrine to someone?) I told him that was very nice, but since I know he loves cake SO much, he should just go ahead and eat it. He quickly agreed... very quickly. But, he also told me that he'd save me one piece:

"I'll save one piece for you and I'll put it on a rocket ship and send it up to heaven. But I'll put a really tight lid over the plate so the cake doesn't fly away and I'll write your name, Aimee, on it so that God knows it is for you."

I can't stop thinking about this conversation for several reasons.

1. So, so sweet.
2. How quickly he agreed to eat the cake. That boy does love cake! (Maybe even more than his Mama!)
3. So smart -- he knows all about gravity.
4. That God would need to know it was for me via a name tag and that he would write "Aimee" on it instead of "Mama."

Man, I just love that kid.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rain, rain, go away!

Between Hurricane Irene and now three days of nearly constant rain, I've been spotting really cute rain boots on my daily commute to and from work. Since it now involves the Metro and a four-city-block walk to the office, I have to think about the weather more than I used to!

Jordan's Rain Boot Roundup on babble comes at the perfect time!

As much as I love admiring tall rain boots on others, I'm just not sure I'd wear them. But I'm thinking these Dansko Vail Rain Boots might be more my style. Plus, maybe I could get away with them in an inch or two of snow, too? (Hmmm...the reviews are pretty bad.)

And there's something very appealing about the classic L.L. Bean Rubber Mocs (sorry for the fuzzy picture, they've apparently made it difficult to grab images from their site.

But how fun would it be to have a pair of waterproof red or bright fuscia shoes to brighten a rainy day?

I certainly won't be buying anything today, but it's fun to think about!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Summer of our Lives

Fab graphic available as a free postcard download at Frolic
A few weeks ago, on the Saturday night before the first day of school, after our yard emptied of the dozens of friends who had come over for an end-of-summer hot dog and s'mores roast, Lucas emphatically declared it had been the best day of his life.

Then he reconsidered as he started listing all the other best days of his life that summer.

We ended up agreeing that it had been the best summer of his life.

Ah, how that made my heart sing.

The summer, well, late winter and early spring, actually, had started out as possibly the worst time of our lives for Abel and me when his small organization closed down and he was laid off. The first few weeks were horrible. Scary. Filled with anxiety. Dread.

Not only was Abel laid off, I had been a stay-at-home mom since Nathaniel was born 19 mos ago so our weekly income suddenly = $0.

Luckily we had some savings. Luckily Abel qualified for unemployment. Luckily we also qualified for food stamps. Luckily a free lance gig came up for me.

But more than luck, we buckled down. We counted every penny. Literally every penny. It became a personal challenge--and triumph--for me to calculate our grocery bill down to the dollar. To go for days and days and days without spending a dime. We started line drying when our dryer broke. (In February. Brrrrr.) We gratefully accepted gas cards from my parents and when they visited they brought lunch or paid for dinner.

And after I was able to fall asleep instead of laying in bed fretting for hours on end. And after we were able to go a day without questioning, worrying, wondering. After we settled into our poverty. After that?

It did become the best summer ever.

We had a house. A car. Two actually. We had the most amazing, wonderful, happy children on the face of the planet. We were together. And in love.

If there is one thing I am most proud of about our little family of four, it is the abundance of love. Of hugs. Of kisses. Of never-held-back I love yous.

Summer 2011 featured no camps, no beach vacation, no amusement parks.

But it did feature lots and lots of adventures -- parks, museums, s'mores (a very cheap way to entertain friends!), the zoo (free in DC!), back yard camping, cardboard robot making -- adventures of all shapes and sizes but with one common factor: free or very, very inexpensive.

Our yard never looked better! The floor of our laundry room was visible on more than one occasion!

Because there was time. Time together. Time around the house. Time for adventures.

And nearly every day (after I stopped freaking out) I thought to myself, "This, this is the time of our lives." We were poorer than I ever hope to be again. But we were happy. Because we were together. And as hard as it was, especially at first, I think I will always look back at the summer of 2011 as the best summer of my life.

{I'm back at work (er, outside the home!) full-time and Abel's home with the kids but still looking for a job. We are doing okay on what I make + unemployment. Thank goodness for unemployment. But we are hopeful that something will come along for Abel soon. And in the meantime, he's trying to savor his time at home, especially all the time he has with Nathaniel.}

Though I didn't initially write this post with this in mind, I've decided to link up to Elena and her Be Enough 4 Cancer Campaign. Because I think this post really is about our family, our love, our togetherness just being enough.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brown Bagging It

 Of course I'm not actually bringing in a brown paper bag every day for lunch. What a waste! And I know that the most green thing to do is use what I have instead of buying a new lunch bag. But, my current lunch bag (left) leaves MUCH to be desired. As you can see.

Since I am using a TON of restraint to not eat lunch out every single day at one of the literally hundreds of cafes, restaurants and lunch spots--including a plethora of DC food trucks--within a few blocks of my new office, I do think I at least deserve a cute new lunch bag.

I'm sure you agree! RIGHT?

But, which one to get? Decisions...decisions!

This Koko Cristy lunch bag looks adorable! It definitely takes the cute factor. But, I'm a bit concerned it would be too small for my lunch and snacks. ($15.98 on Amazon)

I'm a big fan of Built NY (and also black, apparently!) and love this Built NY Getaway. Reviews assure me that it would be big enough and I know from experience that the neoprene stretches and also is easy to clean. ($17.15 on Amazon)

I'm seeing So Young's lunch boxes in all the back-to-school round-ups but how about this lovely large cooler? It is quite tempting....but do I love it as much as $36.95? Hmmm....

What do you think, friends? Or, do you have another favorite I should consider?

Here are some more great lunch box inspirations:

Apartment Therapy's Cool For School: Lunch Bags for Older Kids

Apartment Therapy's Cool for School Lunch Bags for Toddlers and Young Kids

Swistle's Milk and Cookies

Oh, P.S., I'm not even close to being sophisticated enough on this blog to have an Amazon affiliate program or anything like that so those links above are just links, nothing more.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The DC Moms

Did you mourn the loss of DC Metro Moms? Then head right on over to The DC Moms and you'll find some familiar faces and meet some awesome new ones--back and better than ever!

I'm excited to be up with my first post about recent recalls and eating local.


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 22, 2011

1st day of Kindergarten

Lucas was so excited this morning! From the moment he woke up, he was raring to go.

He was in his classroom, had his book bag hung up and was sitting in his seat before Abel, Nathaniel and I could even get into the room.

Immediately before I left, I heard him introducing himself to one of his table mates and asking her if she wanted to be friends.

I'm pretty sure this kid is going to thrive this year. And I'm so excited to watch it happen!

{Yeah, the apple is for his teacher! It's a fun little tradition I started last year with his nursery school teachers. It has a brown paper leaf on the stem that says, "Happy First Day of School, Ms. T!"}

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prep (for) School

Lucas's kindergarten orientation was Thursday morning--we found out his teacher and got to spend some time in the classroom. I couldn't be happier about his teacher, and neither could he.

His school supplies are purchased and uniform shirts and shorts are neatly folded in his room. He's thrilled about his new book bag and his beloved and very durable (going on 2.5 years of use!) lunch box has been given a good wash and his name re-applied in Sharpie.

We're all set for Monday morning!

On one hand, Lucas's first day of kindergarten can't come soon enough. On the other, I think it should still be a few years away!

{Do you also get a school day report of approximately five words? Check out this adorable--and useful--School Notes Free Printable from Living Locurto. I'll be printing several copies this weekend!}

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Told you he was crazy!

I've mentioned that this little guy is crazy, right? This pic is from last weekend. A ball rolled under my parents' Honda Pilot and he went right in after it...the ball kept rolling and he kept going! That's Abel's arm on the left: he was a little stumped about what to do. My mom oh-so-helpfully pulled out her phone and snapped this pic! (But, seriously, thank goodness she did: I'll treasure this always!)

Luckily he crawled out the other side!

Oh, Nathaniel, how you keep us on our toes!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!