Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gift Idea: Seed Bombs

Last weekend, Lucas and I spend about 30 minutes making seed bombs to give out as Christmas gifts. It was inexpensive and fun and I think he and I are both excited to make them again soon.

There are numerous tutorials around the interwebs and you can even buy them on Etsy, but they are so fun to make, I can't imagine buying them!

  The ingredients are simple:
  • Air dry terracotta Crayola clay (I also read that if you have clay soil, you an dig down and use that. We do have clay soil but didn't want to get that DIY in our first attempt!
  • Potting soil or compost (we used potting soil we had on hand)
  • Seeds -- native perennials are best; we used a perennial wildflower mix
  • Water

Our process was highly scientific: we combined several small garden spade scoops of potting soil and clumps of clay until it looked like about 2/3 soil and 1/3 clay. We added enough water to get it all nice and squishy (maybe one cup?). Then we dumped in the packet of seeds.

Next comes the fun part when you're a 6yo boy -- squishing it all up!

I believe it was right about now that Lucas proclaimed, "Dirt is my middle name!"

Once it was sufficiently squished and mixed together we formed round balls. You can make these any size you want. Most of ours were a little smaller than a ping pong ball.

I carefully loaded them up on a sturdy piece of cardboard and put them on the only flat surface in our house that is safely out of reach of Nathaniel "hurricane is my middle name" -- the top of the fridge! Within about 48 hours they were dry and completely hard.

Warning: You may want to let anyone in your house who can reach the flat surface you are drying your seed bombs on that they are little balls of dirt, clay and seeds.

Abel -- who knew we had done this project but had not been around for it -- mistook the seed bombs for truffles (which I've never made in my life!) and apparently took a big bite. I SO wish I had been there to see it! I think I laughed harder than I have in a year when he told me that story!

I packaged them up six per bag with cute labels that said:

Seed Bombs -- Handmade by Lucas 

Drop a seed bomb anywhere you think needs a little beautification!

Ingredients: Potting soil, clay, perennial wildflower seeds

It's my understanding from reading other tutorials that the clay protects the seeds from being eaten by birds or other animals. The clay will continue to protect the seeds until they sprout and break the clay apart on their own. We made about 30 this round and will be giving them all away, but I think it would be fun to make a batch for us to keep in the car and use for guerrilla beautification!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The True Spirit of Christmas

This is one of those stories that I'm blogging about because I never, ever want to forget it....

Lucas and Nathaniel spent this past weekend with my parents and attended a Christmas party after church on Sunday. Santa was there and while Nathaniel wanted nothing to do with him, Lucas happily sat on his lap. He whispered a wish to Santa who replied, "I'll do my best."

Lucas didn't breathe a word of his wish to my parents and so for part of the drive back home, Abel and I tried to get it out of him. Mostly, I was worried that there was one toy he hadn't mentioned to us, but only to Santa, that he really, really wanted.

We learned that the "thing" is invisible and that only "good guys" have it. Despite many, many guesses, we never figured it out.

At bedtime, in between books and songs, Lucas told me his secret wish, the one thing he really wanted for Christmas. I waited with baited breath as he took a few moments before whispering it to me.... He said, what I really want is "the true spirit of Christmas."

I thought I was going to cry right then and there.

I told him that if that was his true wish then it means he already has the true spirit of Christmas inside of him.

We sang songs and moved onto prayers. After reciting the memorized Our Father and nearly-memorized Hail Mary together, he said he wanted to say another prayer. He folded his hands and squeezed his eyes and prayed to Santa* to please, please bring toys to all the poor children, too. Lucas went on to say that he'd help but that poor children and homeless children needed presents, too, and please, Santa, don't forget them.

Oh my goodness. Could a mother's heart melt any further?

Lucas knows that we buy gifts for other children via the church's giving tree each year, and this year I talked to Lucas about putting some of his own money toward a gift for a child (he's got a whopping $7 saved at the moment!) who "might not get any other gifts." I didn't think about the fact that, in Lucas's mind, this would mean that Santa was skipping these children as well.


I am so proud of my kind and generous boy, my boy who truly does know the true spirit of Christmas.

But, now, how do I re-explain all this so as not to make Santa sound like the bad guy who leaves poor children off his list?

*Yes, apparently some slight confusion here but I didn't mind, considering the content and spirit of the prayer.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It Could Have Been Worse

Anyone who reads this blog and also knows me IRL and on Facebook definitely noticed the dissonance between weekend Facebook postings and Monday's blog post. I must admit that I typed up that little gem last week and scheduled it to post on Monday. Because, trust me, on Monday I was not thinking good and caring thoughts about women in Haiti or about great projects like Maiden Nation.

Instead I was saying the "F" word more than I ever have in my life, probably combined, and feeling really crappy.

Saturday night, Abel and I were rear ended by a drunk driver. We were stopped at a red light (as were about 10 cars around us) as he barreled -- and we think even accelerated -- down the road in his work truck, crashed into us, and kept on going. I really don't want to go into all the details but I will add that when we stopped, it was because of (thanks to?) a tree.

It was the single most terrifying experience of my life.

We are OK. We are going to be OK.

But it really, really sucks.

We are thankful for many things.

1. Our children were not with us. (THANK GOD)
2. We were driving my parents' SUV, which took the punishment quite well, considering.
3. They caught the guy. We are looking forward to testifying at that trial, believe you me.
4. We have been well taken care of by friends and loved ones, including:
     a. My parents who were in town and took care of the kids.
     b. The neighbor who recognized Abel at the crash scene and stopped. (I had already been taken to the hospital via ambulance.)
    c. Another friend who came to the hospital and stayed even though they wouldn't let her back.
    d. The friend who took our grocery list and went shopping for us.
    e. Countless others who have brought us meals, treats, and made offers to help.
    f. Our chiropractor!

So I'm remembering that it could have been worse and am trying to focus on the many things we have to be thankful for.

Your continued good thoughts are appreciated!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kiss Kiss!

Our darling Nathaniel was born just one day before the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. I didn't watch any TV during my two days in the hospital with him because my heart and mind were unable to process the fact that I was holding a perfect, precious, strong, healthy baby boy and getting access to incredible health care while thousands of men, women and children were suffering so horribly in a neighboring country.

The two events -- the birth of my second son and the earthquake -- are tied together in my mind and remind me to count my blessings.

When my friend Leticia gave me the opportunity to learn -- and share -- about Maiden Nation and the Kiss Kiss Bracelet, I jumped at it!

Shop here
The Kiss Kiss Bracelets are named for the signature Haitian greeting of a peck on each cheek. They are part of a new line of Chan Luu jewelry created especially for Maiden Nation by members of Hands Together Cooperative in Haiti, in partnership with the Glamour Women of the Year Fund Initiative and the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative. Each purchase will help the survivors of the 2010 earthquake build a new life by supporting this new business. Additionally, for every bracelet sold, $6 will be donated to Sean Penn's J/P Haitian Relief Organization to support community development in Haiti. AND, to support victims in the U.S. and Haiti coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Maiden Nation will also donate $2 to the American Red Cross.

I love this project for so many reasons. First, Maiden Nation's tag line is "Where Visionary Women Rule" -- swoon! Second, these projects aren't just a band aid. They are about empowering women (and therefore the whole community, right?) to shape and improve their own way of life.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more about Maiden Nation. Wouldn't a Kiss Kiss Bracelet make a wonderful gift for your hip babysitter, friend, sister, niece or child's teacher?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Kiss Kiss Bracelet but was not required to blog about it or compensated in any way. All opinions are my own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gift Idea: Hostess Gifts that Give

A few weeks ago my friend Justice Fergie wrote a great post about hostess gifts for her Happy Holiday Countdown. I commented that I love giving hostess gifts because it gives me an excuse to buy extra cute little items when I'm shopping. (You know, for my stash!)

But then a little later, I heard from Share our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign about their really beautiful holiday cards.

On the back, they have a message that lets the recipient know that a donation has been made to Share our Strength to provide healthy food for kids who are hungry.

Wouldn't one of these be a fabulous hostess gift? There's room on the card for a personal note and I know that if I received one of these with a heartfelt message from a friend along the lines of, "Thank you for your wonderful hospitality this holiday season. In your honor I've made a gift to Share our Strength to help more families are happy and healthy this year!" -- I'd be absolutely thrilled.

For a suggested donation of just $45 you could have five of these cards on hand this December.

Here's a little bit more about why No Child Hungry is so important:

Disclaimer: This post isn't sponsored; I didn't receive anything in return for writing it. I just think these cards and the cause are important so wanted to share them with you!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


In my on-going quest to Do Creative Things and in line with my love of mailing written correspondence, I was inspired by these beautiful Thanksgiving printables by Oana Befort on Sincerely, Kinsey which I first saw on How About Orange. (Whew! I think that credits everyone!)

I even used some scrapbook paper to make custom envelopes for them!

I only ended up actually writing and mailing three and I also hid a special one for Abel to find when he opened his laptop one day. It was a fun project and, although I have a million people that I'm grateful for, I was happy to send the three out that I did.

And, of course, you don't really need Thanksgiving to express gratitude so I'll keep the extra copies close by.

Dear Readers, I'm so thankful for you, too!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gift Idea: Family Membership

I believe I've mentioned once or 500 times that both of my boys' birthdays are close to Christmas. That means that the explosion of gifts is even crazier and it also means that we run out of gift ideas. Last year was one of those instances. If I recall correctly, my parents got the boys each one or two gifts but then were stumped. When my mom asked me for more ideas, I was stumped, too!

And then I remembered a friend mentioning that they asked for and received a family membership to a different museum/attraction each year.


So my parents got us a family membership to Port Discovery in Baltimore. And we've enjoyed the heck out of it! Not only have we been to Port Discovery many more times than we normally would have gone, we've also taken advantage of the reciprocal membership at children's museums when visiting my in-laws in Ohio. The children's museums in Columbus and Toledo are reciprocal members--score!

Of course we adore--and do take advantage of--the blessing of living close to the free Smithsonian museums, but there are also great museums and attractions that do charge. A family membership is a gift that literally keeps on giving throughout the year. And -- bonus! -- it doesn't add clutter and can't be lost or broken!

What are some creative gift ideas you've given or received? (Seriously, please share, we're always looking for new ideas!!!)

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Trusting Our Instincts

I think one of the hardest parts of being a parent is trusting your instincts, especially when it comes to the health of your children. How many times have I been absolutely certain that one of the boys had an ear infection, only to have the doctor tell me everything was perfectly clear? Or what about the times when I thought it was just a cold but it ended up being a "raging" ear infection?

After a few months of wonder and worry, Abel and I sought out some extra help for Nathaniel last year when he wasn't talking. I'm so glad that we did!

I wrote all about it over at The DC Moms and I'd love for you to go check it out.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 5, 2012


On Friday, October 12, I decided to start a fitness routine and join several of my friends and neighbors at Planet Fitness 3x a week. They carpool over, leaving town at 5:15am. Upon arrival, one of the women leads strength training for 30 minutes and then everyone branches off to do their own cardio for another 30 minutes, getting everyone home by about 6:45.

Just in case you aren't aware, I am NOT a morning person! (NOT being an understatement!) But, I was committed because everything else was so perfect:
  • I really, really needed to start an exercise program. 
  • The gym is only $10 a month.
  • I am totally unmotivated and uncommitted on my own (read: willing to hit snooze a dozen more times) so going with others provides the accountability I need.
  • I have no idea what to do when I get to a gym, so having a leader design routines is perfect.
I started off on Monday, October 15, and felt GREAT.

Until later that afternoon, when I felt not-so-great. By 1pm I was running a fever! I headed home and to bed. And here's the crazy part: that fever ended up lasting -- on and off -- until Sunday, October 28! Worried after just four days, I went to the doctor on October 18. After blood and urine tests, the Dr. concluded that it was just a virus that needed to run its course. I started feeling better on Oct. 20 & 21 (partly, I believe, through force of will as we had a wedding to attend!). And then got worse and worse, with Sunday, Oct. 28th being the worst day.

Worried that I wouldn't be able to get back to the Dr. for days after Hurricane Sandy hit, I went to an urgent care on the 28th. That Dr. confirmed the same thing: all test results look great, nothing else is wrong, just a very strange and long-lasting virus.

Finally Hurricane Sandy blew my virus away (I'm giving her credit anyway b/c of the two "free" days off work!) and I was back to normal by Oct. 30.

So now I'm back on the exercise bandwagon, and even though I'm tired and sore, I much prefer feeling my muscles burn rather than my forehead!

Oh, and can I please get the second half of October back??

{Props MUST be given to my fantastic husband who literally held the fort down for those two weeks, handling 95% of everything so I could rest. He's the best!!!}

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Making a new friend

Since Lucas started at a neighborhood, in-home daycare at three mos., he immediately had a built-in set of friends, many of whom and their family remain wonderful friends for our entire family today. And since so many of Lucas's friends have younger siblings, or Abel and my friends have young children, Nathaniel also got a built-in set of playmates.

The other night, one of these families came over for dinner and a quick marshmallow roast. Their oldest was one of Lucas's earliest daycare friends and their youngest is just a few months younger than Nathaniel. The boys, E. and Nathaniel, have been around each other many, many times. But for whatever reason -- their ages 2 1/2 and 2 3/4 -- or the fact that their older siblings were ignoring them, the boys were playing with each other and truly interacting for the first time.

It was so incredibly adorable!!

The moon was full (this was just a few days before Sandy swept into town!) and at one point they were both running around with small nets. E. looked up and threw his arm and the net into the air and announced he was going to "catch the moon." Nathaniel quickly joined him and they spent several minutes jumping and extending their little nets into the air while exclaiming, "Catch the moon! Catch the moon!"

I do believe the moms' hearts melted at that very instant.

It was so fun to watch my baby make his very own friend and I look forward to many, many years ahead of this friendship developing. Next year, they'll both be in the same preschool class and then soon after that they'll start kindergarten together as well.

Here's to new -- and hopefully life-long -- friendships!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

I feel like we did barely any prep for Halloween this year. Basically, Abel opened up a bag of hand-me-down costumes from my cousin and Nathaniel fell in love with Spiderman while Lucas was pretty psyched about the skeleton. Done and done!

Spiderman was missing his mask, which was fine because we're certain Nathaniel wouldn't have tolerated it anyway. It was nearly impossible to get a photo of this adorable little guy because he loved loved loved his costume and was a ball of energy in it!

We had impulse-purchased this awesome hat for Lucas when we bought his new batch of uniform pants over Columbus Day. The band is hard to see, but it's skulls inside of paisley. It's super-cool and we weren't even thinking of Halloween when we bought it. We painted his face for the Saturday town parade, but Lucas really didn't like it.

So here's the crew last night. Lucas went without any make-up and, in my humble opinion, was a super-cool skeleton. Abel jumped in on the fun this year, too.

Here's a close-up of the clown that surely terrified children all over town last night. 
Creepy or what??

The boys trick-or-treated for about an hour while I handed out candy. Then, Abel and Nathaniel stopped by a friend's house for some adult libations (and juice boxes!) while Lucas came home to help me hand out candy. I honestly think he had more fun handing out candy than anything else. He was freaking adorable! He even gave a lollipop to every adult who had even a bit of a costume on, saying in a grand voice, "My rule is you have a costume you get candy!" It was hysterical! That kid has a joie de virve that I pray he never, ever loses.

As for me, in raiding the loot, I have rediscovered how delicious Baby Ruth's are. Yum!!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rest in Peace, Sleep Sound, Rest in Peace

It it with great sadness that I bid farewell to my faithful sleeping companion of fifteen years. I've professed my love for this small machine before and am not at all exaggerating about the great sadness I felt on Tuesday night when I realized it was really dead. Truly, I feared I would be awake all night. But, alas, somehow I have managed to sleep for the past few nights, although I have been unable to actually discard my broken companion.

This guy helped me sleep through college dorm room antics, Vegas hotel room antics (sharing a room with far-too-many people!), the light stirrings of babies and toddlers, the snores of husbands, (er, husband!), and so much more.

He's traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from north to south, in carry-ons and packed luggage. He's been dropped, knocked, perhaps even thrown (never by me, by a young not-to-be-named child), and finally--without warning--has ceased his soothing sounds.

Goodbye, Sleep Sound, goodbye.

{Your replacement will be ordered momentarily!}

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

More DIY Art

In my on-going effort to follow my New Year Resolution to "Do creative things" I created another little DIY art project. I'm thrilled with the results!

It all started with my leftover and VERY out-of-date blogger business cards. I'm guessing I ordered this set in 2006. They're Moo mini cards and I love them. I wasn't using them anymore because my contact info and blog info are both out of date but I couldn't bear to throw them away because they are so gorgeous -- look at those lovely back designs!

What to do???

On my last trip to Ikea, I bought a simple black frame thinking that I could do something with it and the Moo cards. Last Sunday I had a few moments to myself so I pulled out the frame, cards and glue and got to work.

I experimented with placing the cards over the white mat, thinking they would make an interesting border for a photo.

Then I decided to make the cards the feature.

I cut a piece of card stock to be the same size as the mat and using very light pencil, outlined the opening. Then I got to work gluing overlapping the cards to fill up the space:

And here's the final product!

 It's hanging in our bedroom next to our wedding photo. (Look at that good-looking and YOUNG couple!!)

I love it!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Am I in your reader?

This feed seems to have disappeared from my own Google Reader -- I've heard Feedburner is going away but I didn't think that would affect me on Google Reader. Am I showing up in your reader?
Please let me know!!!!


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Instax Mini: A fun little camera

I referenced photos from Abel's Instax Mini on a recent post and my good friend, Tech Savvy Mama, commented that she'd never heard of it. Thanks for inspiring this post, Leticia!

One of my favorite blogs is Oh Happy Day by Jordan Ferney. She has mentioned the Instax Mini camera a few times with nice reviews so when I was brainstorming a gift for impossible-to-buy-for Abel last Christmas, the FujiFilm Instax Mini 25 jumped into my head. After more than 12 years together, I can read him pretty well (sometimes!) and I think he was rather uncertain about the gift when he first opened it. However, it quickly became a favorite toy!

He debuted the camera at a low-key New Year's Eve neighborhood party (along with photo props also inspired by Jordan!!) and the photo props, camera, and especially the adorable instant photos MADE the party. Seriously, once we broke them out, everyone had a blast and even strangers were asking to pose for photos!

Certainly an Instax Mini couldn't be your only camera. The prints are small -- about the size of a credit card, including the border, making the actual photo even smaller. And the cost averages out to about $0.60 per print (like Jordan, we have also found the best deal ordering the film on eBay via Asia!).

But it's definitely a really fun camera to break out on special occasions -- or even to make any occasion special!

This is not a sponsored post and does not contain sponsored links. I purchased our camera and film via my own dimes. In fact, I don't make a cent off of this blog!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pro Parent Tip: Toothbrushes

Here's another in my irregular series of parenting tips (see past tip here)....

Getting up and down stairs with children can take F O R E V E R. In our world, the kids eat breakfast then brush their teeth and often brushing teeth is the last task before getting out the door in the morning. We don't have a bathroom on our first floor, so every day, brushing teeth required an extra trek up and down the stairs. UGH!

Until...I started keeping an extra toothbrush for each boy and an extra tube of toothpaste in the kitchen! Now they can brush their teeth at the kitchen sink (which, surprisingly, seems to still give them a thrill after about the 100th time!). They enjoy it and we shave precious minutes off of a hectic morning.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 21, 2012

DIY Update

Last May I wrote about the DIY project in our dining room

Geesh, what a terrible picture! Sorry!
Since then, this frame has become one of my favorite things in the house. And, it gets a ton of compliments. I changed out the paperclips for teeny tiny clothespins and really enjoy updating the items on display.

I'm no good at keeping up with regular segments on this blog, but I thought it would be fun to photograph the frame every now and then to see how it changes.

Here's what it looks like today:

Top L to R:
An easy tissue paper flower
Wedding invitation
Beautiful handmade baby card that I recently re-discovered.
Wedding invitation
Back of an old Moo business card

Middle L to R:
Adorable photo of the boys from the Instax Mini I got Abel for Christmas (such a fun camera to have, BTW)
Photo booth photos of Abel and me from a wedding

Bottom L to R:
Original art by Nathaniel
Instax photo of Abel and me on NYE
Family photo from an incredible vista in Cameron County, PA -- we could see four different mountain ranges!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Big Boy Bed Blues

Our little monkey Nathaniel had been climbing out of his crib for a few months. He didn't do it very often, and we never actually witnessed the act itself, but the evidence was clear! Luckily he really is a monkey (remember some of his early days of climbing?!) and can scale things with great ease and dexterity, so we weren't really worried about him getting hurt.

During our August vacation to the Pennsylvania mountains, Nathaniel slept on the bottom bunk of bunk beds with a bed rail and when we got home, we brought Lucas's old toddler bed down from the attic and set it up.

He was thrilled!

Why yes, that is ink on his right cheek from a little self-adornment session!

I expected some transition issues -- after all, now he could get out of bed without any effort at all. But, I was not expecting weeks of night time challenges. Finally, last week, in pure exasperation, I threatened to get out his crib again.

He agreed with excitement!

Total backfire! The crib had already been sent down to my sister in South Carolina!!!

So, I got out the pack 'n play, thinking he'd never want to sleep in that, especially since he's about 1/4 of a Nathaniel too long for it. Silly me, he climbed right in, happy as a clam.

So now he has the pack 'n play and his big boy bed tightly squeezed into his tiny room and he is mostly choosing to sleep in the pack 'n play. His occupational therapist suggested that maybe he likes/wants/needs the confined space the crib and pack 'n play provide. So, we attached the bed rail to the side of his toddler bed and that seems to have helped.

Our little guy is only getting bigger, though, so we're not sure what we'll do next.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

So polite!

Little buddy Nathaniel is one of the most polite 2.5 year olds ever, IMHO. He is fantastic with please (peeeeeese!) and thank you (tan too! or more often No! tan too!) and even excuses himself after burps (me me!) and from the dinner table (quse me pees!).

One thing that has been cracking me up lately is the encouraging tone he uses when he wants us to do something for him. He'll say, "Mama you can do it!" when he wants me to do something. I like to think his encouraging tone is modeled after the encouraging tone I use with him when I want him to try to do something on his own, "You can do it, Nathaniel!"

And while we are trying to help Nathaniel be more independent, what Mama can resist such a gentle and encouraging, "Mama you can do it!" and not respond by helping a buddy out?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012


After our Mantis nymphs were born and released during less-than-ideal weather circumstances in April we've spent the summer with our eyes peeled for any sign of them. But, alas, not a single mantis was spotted! Abel snapped these two pics of the same stately guy just today. He could be doing a little better job with the mosquitoes that have been eating me alive all summer (ahem!) and I desperately hope he has some hidden friends! But, mostly, I can't wait to order another round of Praying Mantis or other creepy crawlies next spring!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back to School Goodies

Eeek! Only two weeks until Lucas's first day of FIRST grade. I really can't believe it. As the PTA president (yep, second year in a row, what am I thinking??) (kidding!!) (kind of.), I wanted to include a little something in the teachers' welcome back bags. I'm not the craftiest person ever (plus we were talking 50 little somethings which really adds up quickly money-wise!) but I am pleased with this little goodies I whipped up. I obviously played off the Olympic theme with the gift tag and the baggie has a handful of assorted gold wrapped candies -- Rolo, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Werther's hard candies. It's a small token but I think it will be appreciated.

Now....we just have to finish that school supply shopping list!
Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pro Parent Tip: Minimizing Splashes

I truly wish I could take credit for this awesome parent tip, but, alas, full credit goes to #1 Dada, Abel. Like his brother before him, Nathaniel loves, loves, loves the bath. And, of course, accompanying all that fun is a lot of splashing!

Now that he's old enough that we don't have to be right next to him the entire time, we close the liner, throw the curtain up over the top and let him splash away 'til his heart's content (or 'til his little piggies are prunes!). The closed liner stops 99% of the water from escaping the tub. It's brilliant!

Oh, here's a bonus pro tip I can take credit for -- I often use this part of bath time to multitask and do some bathroom cleaning -- toilet, sink, etc. I'm in the room with him and interacting but still getting an unpleasant task completed.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Boy

This adorable 32 pounds of awesomeness simply hasn't gotten enough spotlight on my blog. And so I'm here today to tell you about how fantastic he is. Nathaniel is the light of our lives. We all adore him. Even his big brother whom he frustrates to no end and idolizes like no other.

This boy spent two years barely letting a mumble escape his lips. And we're convinced that during that time he was sucking in every bit of knowledge possible about the world around him.

Because this kid? He's a genius.

And now that he is talking, he is sharing every want, desire, demand, question and thought you can imagine. And we can't get enough of knowing what our boy is thinking and wanting.

A daddy's boy through and through, Abel claims that he asks for me when I'm at work, but all I know is that all he wants is his Dada. Even at bedtime. Especially at bedtime. Even at 2am. Especially at 2am.

I do it, Mama.

Darling Nathaniel/Naffy/Fanny/Fafafa/Faffy/Nafaffer, you are amazing. Your smile and laugh light up our days.

We all love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dream Building

LEGO heaven!

When was it that the Mega Millions was up so ridiculously high? I have no idea. But I do remember that I bought a ticket. Two, actually. Because when your chances are infinitesimal you might as well make them infinitesimal times two, right? Anyway, like most, I got my full $2 worth by day dreaming about what I'd do with the millions.

#1 was take a long vacation (perhaps rent out a cruise ship?) with everyone I know and love. Also high on the list was a new home. We live in a very modestly-sized (read: small!) 1940s colonial. Oh what I wouldn't give for a master bath! A bigger kitchen! Heck, even an entry way and coat closet!

But we adore our neighborhood so much, I could never leave it. I don't even think I would want to leave our block. So, I decided, as a multi-hundred-millionaire lotto winner, I'd just buy out one set of neighbors and build our dream house on the new double lot!

Of course I promptly forgot about that dream after I was, indeed, not the winner. But I remembered it again on Sunday when we were invited to a special event held by the Gulick Group at the National Building Museum.

OMG. Their houses are stunning! (And let me tell you, they know how to throw a family-friendly event!!).

We arrived and were treated to breakfast, including many kid-friendly options AND some adorable LEGO-inspired krispie treats.

Donut + Stick = 2yo heaven!
It's an 8 block! No! a six block!

Then we had the opportunity to explore the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit. I've really been wanting to take the boys to the exhibit and the LEGO playroom but just hadn't done it yet. Folks: this is a MUST DO!! We had so much fun!

Plus, you can check out one of the Gulick Group's signature homes built in LEGOs! (Seriously, if I owned one of their stunning Winthrop homes and was indeed that multi-hundred-millionaire lotto winner, I'd totally commission my home in LEGO, too!)

Nathaniel, newly obsessed with Bob the Builder, was in love with his new yellow "hard" hat. He was completely engaged with the LEGOs and kept saying that he was "building like Bob da Builder" -- it was so adorable.

Even with a blurry photo have you ever seen a more adorable builder?

Meanwhile, Abel and Lucas went to town on a dragon/tunnel/pagoda and kept requesting that I get them more bricks!! more bricks!!! more bricks!!!!

Please won't you click over to the Gulick Group's FB page and give this awesome creation a "Like"? Lucas is super-proud of it!! And, you know, I do have that competitive streak! :)

Just a quick break after so much work! (Union rules, after all!)

Disclosure: We were offered free admission to the National Building Museum and exhibits as well as a delish breakfast but were not required to blog about it. All stories, opinions and comments are my own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Boy + Muddy Pond Bank =

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Sand Box

At some point over the past 12 or so years, I mentioned to Abel that when I was growing up my family had a big tractor tire as a sandbox.

I have very fond memories of that sandbox -- losing and rediscovering Star Wars characters in its depths, no matter how grubby the middle sand was, still being able to dig into pure white sand inside the rim -- and Abel got completely hooked on the concept.

You'd be surprised, though, how hard it is to find a big, used tractor tire.

A few months ago, Abel was out at a sod farm buying some sod for our backyard hilltop sanctuary (more on that later!) and he noticed they had a handful of old tractor tires stacked in a barn. How much for one of those? he asked. Take one! they replied.

So a few days later Abel bribed a friend and his pick-up with some beer (consumed post-drive!) and brought the tire home. These are two strong guys and it was an effort for them to get it off the truck and rolled into the yard. It's one big, heavy tire!

Abel dug out a donut for the tire to sit in, put some weed cover fabric down, and filled it up with sand.

He even built this handy cover out of wood from another project:

And this little guy fell in love. The first weekend I found him laying--face down!!--in the sand. He can't get enough.

Many toys have already been lost and re-found in its depths. I wonder if, come September, there will still be clean sand to be found around the edges....

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


At the pool on Wednesday--a mid-week holiday-turned-to-survival-mode--Lucas was climbing on me, over me, nearly into me, it felt. His hands grabbing at my shoulders, my neck, my head. His legs climbing on my legs, attempting my shoulders. Climbing. Pulling. Grabbing. Slapping. Soothing.

This very tactile child was even more tactile than usual. His clamoring was needy; desperate, nearly. He and his brother had been up since 5am when we woke them, dressed them and carried them to the car. His father and I had been up until 2:30am making the emergency arrangements and woke at 4:30am to get dressed ourselves before waking our babes. Then driving Abel to the airport airport for a  6:40am flight, him running to the gate because a closed road necessitated a detour, and of course we were cutting it close anyway. No traffic at 5:30am on a holiday, right?

And so while Nathaniel and I napped at home, the six-year-old did whatever six-year-olds do when they are doing anything to avoid the long-given-up nap: TV, Legos, aimless wanderings through the house.

So that afternoon, with his dad gone to be with his sick grandfather and a group of friends telling him he wasn't in their "club" and couldn't play their pool game, and his mom's attention focused on the suddenly-too-daring-for-his-own-safety 2yo brother, Lucas took the attention he needed by force.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 6, 2012


One of the most amazing and miraculous sounds I've ever heard was when my babies called me by name for the first time, Mama. And not the gurgle-babble of stringing two or four Ms and As together, but Mama as directed toward me.

Just before my sister, Sarah, and nephew, Sawyer, visited, Sarah mentioned to me that Sawyer calls me Mimi when they play with the photo puzzle. And so my hopes were up that he'd have a name for me in person, too.

And he did! What a feeling it is to be named, known, recognized by a baby. Mimi! he'd say as I left the room. Mimi! he'd say when he saw me in the morning. Mimi!

The funniest thing is that Nathaniel learned the word and understood it referenced me as well. And so he tried it out on a few occasions -- all with a bit of a smirk, I do believe. And then, home again after our visit, Nathaniel tried out Aimee as he stood in his crib fighting off sleep. AIMEE!! AIMEE!!

Sorry, Nathaniel, I'm thrilled to be Mimi to Sawyer and Aimee to the world, but to you I will only be Mama.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!


There's a lot going on right now and there's much I need to blog about, but for now, please go over to The DC Moms and check out my latest post, I Joined a Cancer Study. It's hard to explain how I feel about it, but it's very good. I feel like I've taken a bit of control against this terrible disease, that I'm doing something about it, fighting back in a small but hopefully meaningful way.

Because we need more research.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!