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!