Friday, January 31, 2014

Spread the Love

Valentine's Day isn't reserved for happy couples and it certainly shouldn't be limited to flowers and chocolate. Show your mom, dad, brother, sister, bestie, daughter, neighbor or colleague some love too with these great gift ideas. They'll put a smile on their face and make them feel special. The best part? You won't go broke - everything is less than ten bucks! 

1. Write a sweet note to your mama in this card wishing her a happy day. It is too adorable to toss so when the holiday is over she can frame it for her office or work space!

2. The perfect winter time pick-me-up, a gift card to your favorite work friend's favorite coffee shop! Ten dollars is good for a few trips!

3. You don't have to go overboard with a gift certificate to a spa for your sister or mother-in-law. Instead, pick out a shade of pink or red nail polish (my favorite is Ballet Slipper) so she can do her nails over and over and over again!

4. I always have a few of these cans stocked in my fridge. One of my besties introduced me to this champagne-like drink a few years ago. Pick one (or more) up for your BFF and toast to an amazing friendship!

5. We are a bacon loving family - this decorative sign is perfect for any one of them!

6. Pick up this reusable tote bag for your shopping buddy. She'll shop til she drops and look cute doing it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Picture Perfect and Newsworthy 1st Birthday Celebration

I wanted a very special theme for my little man's first birthday party - something unique, classy, super fun but also budget friendly! I got the idea for a "picture perfect and newsworthy" theme a few months ago when I was driving on the highway and got stuck in traffic behind a newspaper delivery truck. Mason's first birthday party turned out exactly the way I pictured it! And in case you missed it, here is a look back at his cake smash!

I had a million and one ideas running through my head while stuck in traffic. I got home and immediately started jotting them down. In an effort to let my own creative juices flow, and to go easy on my wallet, I stayed far far away from Pinterest during the party planning phase. I wanted Mason's party to be real, authentic, unique and something all of my own design!

Using leftover brown paper lunch bags from when my brother was living with us, file label tags from another project, old Birchboxes, binder clips from work, newspapers (thank you, Steve!), cardboard boxes, coffee containers and a three year old bottle of Mod Podge I was able to decorate for less than fifteen dollars! My only expenses were the black poster board & paper ($3 at the dollar store) and the paper lanterns (similar here). Big thank you to Melissa & Katy for trusting me with their antique cameras! They were the perfect touch!

I made the banner out of black paper and used a white Sharpie pen to make it look like a chalkboard. Each flag has a picture of Mason over the last 12 months. It was fun to look back on how much he has grown from month to month! 

I originally picked up these cardboard letters from Hobby Lobby with the intention of painting them to hang in Mason's room. I'm glad I was never able to cross that project off my list because mod podging them with newspaper made for another cool (and cheap!) decoration. I love the way it came out so much that I think I might hang them up in his room as is! We kept food simple since the party was in between meal times but splurged a little on tons of green and blue candy for the candy buffet. Guests could pick at their favorites during the party or take a bag of goodies home with them for later. 

In lieu of jars I rolled the lunch bags down mid-way and then attached file label tags. I downloaded this font to make it look like I had used a typewriter to label the candy. I used the same technique to store the party favors - coloring books wrapped in newspaper and tied with baker's twine.

Guests could write words of advice or birthday messages to Mason on one of the poster boards I picked up at the local dollar store. I plan on framing it and hanging in his room so that as he grows up each day he is reminded of how many people love him! And no birthday party is complete without cake! I wanted a cake that was plain and simple. To make the cake banner I used paper straws, bakers twine and triangles cut out of newspaper.

Thank you to all of our close friends (and my mama) for sharing Mason's big day with us! 
Happy 1st Birthday My Little Love!

P.S. Check out the photo booth we made just for the occasion!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mason's Cake Smash

Like any momma obsessed with her own children, I took tons of pictures on Mason's first birthday. It is going to take a couple of posts to share all of the photos so I thought I'd start with the details of his cake smash. I used paper straws, scrapbook letters and a hot glue gun to make the decorations to go with the "Picture Perfect & Newsworthy" theme.  Knowing that the cake wasn't going to actually be eaten I saved time by picking up a store-made cake (our local grocery store actually gives you a free cake on your 1st birthday!). I took their decorations off and re-frosted it with plain white icing to get a more simple look. I used black paper and a white paint sharpie to get the chalkboard banner look. We used Addie's room for the "shoot" because she gets the best light - thanks, kiddo!

He wasn't a big fan of the cake (he takes after mommy and prefers brownies) but what little boy doesn't love making a big mess? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Simple (and cheap) Pantry Organization

Hi, friends! I took a little time off the last few days to devote time to preparing for Mason's first birthday party and to spend time with my mom who is visiting for the week from Germany! The nice thing about being my own blogging boss is that I can do that! 

I'm back and looking forward to sharing more pictures and posts from Mason's first birthday but first I want to share a recent organization project of mine. There are so many awesome pantry organization ideas all over Pinterest, but most of them require $50 to $100 (or more, yikes) in supplies and containers. Today, I'm excited to share with you how I organized our pantry without spending a dime! 

I'm a firm believer that baskets, tray, bins, boxes & containers are essential to staying organized! I don't have a lot of spare time to clean during the week so I need a system that allows me to maintain cleanliness. My solution?  Throw it in something that makes it look neat and organized! To accomplish this you could go to Crate & Barrel, Target, The Container Store or even the dollar store and spend money OR you can look around your house for items you already have and put them to use in your pantry without spending any money!

Remember this tray? I used it as part of my hot cocoa bar over the holidays. It was a HomeGoods purchase from a while back that is perfect for keeping my food storage containers level and neat on an open shelf. I received these Oxo Pop containers as a gift several years ago. You can find them here but I have also seen them at Target & HomeGoods for a little less. If you don't want to spend the money, though, just keep your food items in their original packaging and use trays or baskets to keep them looking neat and accessible.

These are old storage boxes I purchased at Ikea many moons ago. If you don't have something similar lying around your house use cardboard boxes covered in wrapping paper instead! My friend Karen tried this recently in her bathroom and they came out looking great!

I bought five of these baskets at Target last year and used them as Easter baskets. Two of them have been re-used in the kid's bathroom and I dug out the rest to use in the kitchen. I have these right at Addie's level so she can feel more independent when needing to grab a snack or make her hot chocolate! Any type of basket you have lying around will work - remember, they don't have to match. Give them a tag or tie a ribbon around the handles to make them look cohesive. The chalkboard tags I used were a $1 find in the dollar bin at Target (where else!?).

I keep dish towels and bibs in old cleaning buckets I had from when we first moved (don't worry, I cleaned them first!). This system is a double win because it saves time on laundry knowing I can just toss these items in the buckets without having to fold them. Again, they are at kid level and both Addie and Mason can help mama out by grabbing what I need! No buckets? No problem! Use the trick from before and cover a few cardboard boxes with leftover fabric, gift wrap, or paint and you're good to go!

Finally, if you have a small kitchen pantry like mine just keep the items you need access to on a daily basis in close hand. We keep all canned and cooking items (pasta, flour, rice, etc.) on shelves in our basement. This helps to cut down on clutter. 

I also shared how I organized the closet in the kid's bathroom a few months ago. What is your best organizational strategy? Are you as basket and bin obsessed as I am? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Addie Isn't Watching TV Anymore

A few weeks ago - right after the holidays, Sean and I made a command parental decision to eliminate TV watching and iPad playing for our sweet Addie Mae. Here's why:

1. We were doing so good with her in terms of no screen time until Mason came along...and I'll be honest, when I first got home from the hospital it was just so easy to let her chill on the iPad while I took care of him or showered or napped.It was getting to be a little too much. It was becoming way too convenient to plop her in front of the TV or hand her the iPad if one of us had to get something done. 

2. If she asked to watch a show or use the iPad and we told her "no," all hell would break loose. 

3. She recently started saying things that were totally inappropriate for a 3 year old! 

4. We weren't really monitoring what she was watching or doing on the iPad. She would start off watching something appropriate and Disney-like on YouTube but could eventually navigate so her way to something completely inappropriate (have you ever watched Barbie Dream House? Wicked inappropriate!). 

5. She had a tendency to be short fused and so easily frustrated lately.

So, we put away the iPad and hid the remotes. And we explained to her that mommy and daddy were going to spend more time playing and doing, instead of occupying and appeasing. Granted, we had a more toddler friendly way of sharing this info with her, but you get the gist of it! Here's how we did it:

1. We did it while we were both home on vacation. It just wouldn't be fair to our nanny to have to be the one to lay down the law initially (though she continues to enforce along with us!). Plus, it meant that we had all the time in the world to play, draw, sing, go outside and keep her busy and distracted.

2. When she asked why she couldn't watch a show we reminded her, kindly, that it was "because we like the way you act much better when you don't watch TV."

3. Sean and I took turns being the "bad guy" and backed each other up with support. We also didn't let the other person cave! It is so important to be a team - especially when it comes to parenting.

4. We also stopped watching TV, using the iPad, computer and phones...until the kiddos were asleep, of course!

5. We rewarded good behavior and positive attitude with high fives, jelly beans and words of love & praise.

Now, when I get home from work, instead of letting her watch a show or play on the iPad, while I am scrambling to get dinner rolling, we go down to our little crafting nook in the basement to pick out supplies and march back up to the kitchen to start on whatever little creation she dreams up. I call it, our crafternoon time. And so far, our craft a day has had a humongous impact. This is what has changed so far:

1. Temper tantrums? Gone!

2. Meltdowns? No more!

3. Wining? Fussing? Crying? Less and less every day!

4. Quality time to chat about our days while we work on a craft? Absolutely!

5. Getting Mason involved and letting him explore his creative side? So much fun!

I've had to change my daily routine around a little bit, but boy has it been worth it. Addie loves having free reign of the crafting area and I love watching the wheels in her teeny head turn while she looks through drawers gathering supplies for her latest creation. When she's done she is always so proud of whatever it is she makes. Some days we go big - like the day we painted anything and everything under the sun that could be painted. Others, we keep it simple and just glue buttons onto a piece of paper or cut up washi tape to decorate an empty paper towel roll.

After we're all done cleaning up we make dinner together (Mason too!), pick up the house together, hop in the bath and then start winding down for bed with books and snuggles. Now I am not going to rule with an iron fist and not my kiddos ever have screen time again. However, I do think that for our family we needed to set some more strict guidelines and make screen time the exception, not the expectation. So far, it is working and I have my sweet little girl back! She's been able to watch a short show here or there, and I've let her watch scenes from Frozen on YouTube, but I make sure that now it is few and far between and that I am watching it with her so that I can ensure she isn't watching something she shouldn't. So far, she has only watching something 4 or 5 times since implementing this new change and never for more than 20 minutes. I think that in a few more weeks we'll be able to go back to our pre-Mason screen time which consisted of 1-3 shows a week and iPad on special occasions (i.e. long road trips or sick in bed). As for Mason, sorry pal - momma and daddy learned their lesson. You stuck with zero screen time for at least one more year buddy!

What are/were your "bad" parent choices? What did you do or are you trying right now to change? Is there anything you wish you could do differently knowing what you know now? 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy First Birthday, My Sweet Little Man!

Dear Mason,

My sweet little man, I cannot believe you are turning one tomorrow. It still seems like yesterday that you were born and placed and into my arms for the very first time. Unlike your beautiful big sister, you came into this world so easily and calmly. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you and you continue to melt my heart e v e r y  s i n g l e  d a y. 

I love the way you hold my hair, or my hand, while you are falling asleep. I love the way you drop everything and run right into my arms every day I get home from work. Even though I am exhausted, I love that you wake up in the middle of the night (every night) just wanting to be held by your mama. You are the best little snuggle bug! 

You are so smart, my little guy. You watch your sister like a hawk and are never afraid to try something new. You are bold, and brave, and strong and fierce. At the same time you are loving, and caring, and kind and gentle. You love your mama, your dada and your sister and boy do we feel the love from you! Your smile lights up the room and your giggle warms our hearts.

I love every moment of being your mama.
Thank you for being mine and making our family complete. 
Happy 1st Birthday!
I love you, Moose.
Always and forever,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pumpkin The Fish & "Mommy, I don't want to die"

Yesterday I received the following email while I was at work:

Dear Parents,

Today we talked at Circle Time together that Pumpkin died.  It was a natural conversation to which children added their own experiences about pets or family members who have died.  We each shared something we will always remember about Pumpkin and friends thought we could even get a new fish!  We discussed how teachers "put Pumpkin back in the ocean".  Again, it was a natural and teachable moment.  We hope you will be able to continue this same message should it come up at home.

Thank you!
Mrs. L, Mrs. D, and Miss M

Poor Pumpkin. Poor Addie. Death isn't something we've really spent a whole lot of time talking about (thank goodness). She knows about Heaven and angels. She knows that mommy's doggy, Aspen, and her tick tock Oma (great grandmother) are there. And she knows that Anna & Elsa's parents are there (yeah, wasn't ready for that clip of the movie!) along with Mufasa, of course. 

So, I spent my drive home yesterday trying to think of the best way to bring this up. I had to think fast. My "commute" is less than 2 miles. I started with the normal, "how was your day?" figuring she'd mention it then. Nothing. So a little later when we were crafting it up I asked about her favorite things to paint at school. Which led to her favorite things to do during play time. Which led to Circle Time. Which led to...well, you get the picture! Finally, she told me that Pumpkin the fish had died and that all of her friends shared something they would miss about Pumpkin. Addie decided that she would miss being able to feed him the most but that maybe they would get a new fish and she could feed that one too. She then went on to list some names she thought would be most suitable for Fish #2.  Mister Gooby Speck was my favorite. 

Boom. Done. No other questions. The kid seemed fine. Phew. 

Fast forward a few hours to bedtime.

A: Mommy, how did Pumpkin die?

M: Well honey, he might have been sick or maybe he got hurt. 

To my self: Great, now she is going to freak out anytime she gets a runny nose or boo boo.

M: Or sometimes, sweetie, when our pets have lived a long and exciting adventure it is time for them to go bye-byes. Pumpkin is lucky in that he gets to go back to the ocean. But the important thing is that we get to always remember Pumpkin and how he made us smile at school. 

A: Do kitty cats die the same way?

M: Yes, they also live a long life and then it is time to go. 

To my self: Or a lot of times they get hit by cars. 

A: Or they get sick or hurt and don't get better?

M: Sometimes. 

Long pause. 

A: Can you finish reading the story now?

M: Of course my girl.

We finished the book, I told her a story, she told me a story, we shared our highs & lows and we sang a song. Then as I was tucking her in and kissing her sweet little cheek goodnight she says to me, "Mommy, I don't want to die." 

Open up the floodgates. I immediately starting tearing up. What do you say to your three year old who is suddenly afraid and scared of dying (probably from being sick or getting a boo boo - nice job mama)? I wanted to scoop her up and hug her and tell her that I would protect her forever and she would never ever ever ever die. But I also made a promise to myself when she was first born to never lie to her. I said the first honest thing that came to mind. That one day everyone would be able to go to Heaven but that it wasn't something we had to worry about right now. That all she had to worry about was having fun and loving her family & friends. 

That was a tough one. And I know that this is just the first of many hard talks we'll have to have over the years. What is the hardest talk you've ever had to have with your little loves? How do you explain or plan to explain things like this to your kids? I'm taking notes!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Little Man's 1st Birthday Inspiration Board

My little man is turning one. Next week. As in seven days. What? What happened to my little newborn baby? How did this year fly by so quickly? As much as I want to deny it, this little guy is having a birthday and after three years of girly-girl parties I am looking forward to planning one for my sweet boy. 

I love the idea of bow ties and mustaches but I also want something different and original. That is where the cameras, typewriters and newspaper come in. His first birthday will be "picture perfect" and "newsworthy." We're having his party the week after his actual birthday when my mom can fly in so I've got some time to pull this all together.

As much as I want to keep him my baby forever, party planning serves as a great distraction!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Resolutions

I have so many things to be thankful for and celebrate from 2013. This biggest, of course, being the birth of my sweet little man. My beautiful little family of four is complete and life can't get much better for us. 

There is always something so exciting about ringing in a new year, though. I love  taking this time, as millions do, to reflect and think about what I want to focus on the most in the new year. For me, 2014 is about slowing the day to day pace down, living simply, chasing my dreams and enjoying the ride! 

What about you? What are your new year resolutions?