Saturday, November 10, 2012

November Thankful: The 10th

Today I am thankful for the warmer weather. The kind of weather I love, when all you need is a sweatshirt. It really felt like Fall today, instead of the early onset of winter. Fred, Nana, Mason, Sophie, and I walked the short distance to the courts in our neighborhood. Happy to be outside, breathing fresh air, and the chance to have a family fun day playing tennis. Oh, how I have missed spending my days like this, and how I hope to have more of them in the future.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

November Thankful: The 9th

I was talking to my father on the phone today and he told me a wonderful story that I wanted to share with you.

It was election day. My dad slowly made his way into the polling station at the local elementary school, my elementary school. He went to stand in line and very soon realized that the line wrapped around the building a few times and would be hours before he got to vote. He knew he would not be able to stand that long, having suffered a stroke 5 years ago and dealing with physical disabilities as a result. After about 10-15min. the people around him began to see him struggle. They offered to have him sit on the buckets they had been sitting on, but they were too low to the ground. He would never get down or back up. Then the young man standing behind my dad asked if he could get my father a chair from the principles office. The young man was excited to be voting for the first time, a recent graduate of my high school alma mater as well as a former student at the elementary school they were standing in now. The chair in the office has wheels and that would be perfect for my dad. So the young man disappeared into the office for a few minutes, returning not with the rolling chair, but a wheel chair instead. The young man than proceeded to push my father through the long, winding line around the school until they reached the sign in table.

As I listened to my father tell me this amazing story, I felt some tears well up in my eyes; tears of unexpected gratefulness. In that moment, I said a silent prayer; thankful that there are people out in this world who are still compassionate, decent human beings, considerate of others.

I am also thankful for the very rare opportunity to get dressed up and go on a date night, enjoying a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant with my handsome, loving husband. (*Thanks Nana, for letting us have this special night. It really meant a lot to us.)

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

November Thankful: The 8th

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer in Sophie's classroom. Originally another mother had signed up for this day, which I wanted, but at the last minute needed to go out of town. Luckily I had walked Sophie into school this morning and was asked if I still wanted to volunteer. Of course I did! It really worked out great, because Nana is in town and able to watch Mason, so Fred could work and I could volunteer. 

Interacting with the Ducklings and seeing how things run in the classroom has been a memorable experience. It really made my day to see the smiles on the kids faces as we played monster in the dollhouse, searched for and counted out the colors of bears at the sensory table, and was served tea and various other foods in the dramatic play area. Sophie had a little bit of a hard time letting me leave in the end, but soon joined the rest of the class in the circle, singing the "go wash your hands" song before snack time. She loves to sing, a trait I am certain she gets from me. 

I was really nervous to help out in the classroom at first, you never know how the kids will react to you. It seems silly, but I care whether or not I have the approval of a classroom of three year olds. Especially a group of three year olds who interact with my daughter on a daily basis and could potentially be candidates for play-dates. I guess I had nothing to worry about though, because it was a wonderful experience and especially rewarding when I got a hug from one of the girls, for the second time this year when volunteering in the classroom. I was kneeling on the floor in the dramatic play area when she just came right up and gave me a big hug. It was so unexpected, and I got that knowing look from the teacher as she walked by, observing this interaction. My lips instinctively curled up into a smile and I melted into a puddle on the floor. To know that I have made a positive impact on a child's day really makes my day that much brighter. I walked around the rest of the day with a bounce in my step. I never noticed before, but these children, especially my own, really make a positive difference in my life as well. This is the reason I became a parent, why I love working with children, and am so incredibly thankful for everyday that I get to have moments like these. 
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November Thankful: The 7th

OK, so I know I have been totally neglecting this little blog of mine. I don't really have an excuse.  Simply put, I underestimated how busy I would become,  and how little "me" time I would get with two kids in school on opposite schedules. That, and I have been trying to focus on taking care of myself better.

In addition to all the things occupying my time, I am getting over a serious cold, where I lost my voice just in time for Mason's birthday party, and am recovering from what I call my minor breakdown. If I am going to be truly honest, I have been suffering from some pretty severe anxiety over the last month. After finally recognizing that I needed help, I am on my road to recovery.  I feel healthier, stronger, and have more energy. I am happier than I have been in a really long time and the change is noticeable.

With this new me emerging, I am hoping to get back to blogging on a regular basis. Making it a priority to write things out and once again document our lives. To start, I thought I would bring back November Thankful. It being so fitting with my life path right now, and it being the season of giving thanks and all. So here we go.

Today I am thankful to wake up and be reaffirmed that Obama was re-elected president, and that I was brave enough to get the haircut that I really wanted. It's short but I like it and am slowly getting used to it. Sophie runs around calling me Tangled. I believe this is mostly due to the fact that I took inspiration from the movie and showed my stylist a picture of Rapunzel's hair from the end of the movie. 

I felt really silly bringing in a picture of a cartoon, but apparently someone else had brought in an American Girl doll asking for the color hair of the doll. LOL.

Most everyone says they love the new look. I think it makes me look older, more mature. Which I like. Now I just need to learn how to style my hair the way she does.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maryland Renaissance Festival 2012

On August 25th we went to the Maryland Renaissance Fair with my Mom and Sister. It happened to be opening weekend, but it was the only time we would be able to go before the kids start school. We have been able to go to the Renn Fair every year since Mason was about a year and a half, except last year. We missed last year and it was a total bummer, so Mason was excited to find out we would be going again. Sophie doesn't remember going since she was only a year old the last time we went, but she took her cues from Mason and was jumping up and down the night before. I too, was excited about going back. It's such a family friendly, fun place and I really enjoy dressing up. Only, this year I was also real nervous about going. Having a food allergy to manage makes outings like this a real stressor. You have to plan, plan, plan and then hope for the best.

In the weeks leading up to opening day, I contacted the MDRF staff asking about their food vendors and ingredients, letting them know our situation. They recommended that I bring our own food as they could not 100% guarantee the safety of their foods for those with severe food allergies. That made sense and I was glad to know they allowed outside food in their venue (most places don't and you are just screwed). So I planned accordingly, packing lunch and snacks for both the kids. Mason made it easy when he asked to have his lunched packed too. He really looks after his sister these days, never wanting her to be left out or feel different than the rest of us, and I love that.

I ended up taking the backpack diaper bag; it comes in handy at festivals, parades, and other events, because you can pack a lot of stuff and carry it easily. I made sure to pack a change of clothes; the portable potty seat, as they only have porta potties and no way am I letting my kids butts touch those nasty seats; Benadryl and Epipens; baby wipes for hands and lysol wipes for tables and seats. People may think I am totally paranoid when they see me wiping down chairs, tables, and benches, but when your child runs the risk of having a reaction after touching any surface with traces of peanut and other nut residue, you would be doing the same.

The weather ended up being really nice. After the scorching Summer, it wasn't too hot and only raining towards the end of the day, but not too hard; especially not hard enough to spoil the kids fun. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of childhood and not having to worrying about adult issues. We arrived around 10am and didn't leave until around 4pm; having had a fun filled day. Here are a few of the highlights throughout our day.
The Rouges celtic band. They are awesome and so much fun to hear play.

After The Rouges the kids were hungry, seeing it was 11:30pm and their usual lunchtime. We packed lunchables for the kids and made sure we bought food that was the least likely to be made, or have come into contact with nuts, for ourselves. Pizza seemed the least likely to be contaminated and of course I made sure we all wiped our hands with baby wipes afterward.

After lunch we headed to the clothing stores to take a peak. We have never been able to get Mason to dress up, despite that fact that Grandma, Aunt Jenni, Fred, and I ALL dress up. I thought especially with Fred dressing up that he would concede, but so far, no such luck. Sophie is a different story. She immediately picked out a dress or two that she liked and we tried them on. After finding one in her size and a color she liked, she wouldn't take it off. Then we bought a matching head piece and Sophie was running around the rest of the day saying she was a Princess. I knew we would be able to get my little girl to dress up.
This is Sophie in her garb just after Grandma bought her and Mason a sword and shield set. She, of course, got a bejeweled purple sword and a shield with a Purple Unicorn painted on the front. Mason picked out a black sword and a shield with a phoenix painted on front.
These photos crack me up. How fierce Sophie looks here.
Fred and I in our garb.
Waiting for jousting to start, we took the kids through the maze. Fred and I both thought this was going to be an easy walk through, but still fun for the kids. We quickly learned that it was not going to be that easy to find our way through. Each turn around a corner was met with excitement that this would be the way out followed by laughter when it wasn't. After a while Fred and I began to get really nervous we would never find our way out. Mason suggested that Grandma start yelling so we could follow her voice. Eventually we found the exit; all smiles and laughter, happy to finally be out. It really was fun, especially watching the kids run ahead of us, laughing and smiling, hoping to be the one to find the way out.
Sophie and I then rode an elephant. Being opening day, I totally expected there to be a really long line, but we got to ride immediately as there was no line at all. Woohoo! Sophie loved it and I was glad that she would actually remember it this time.
Mason was really into the jousting.
During the joust was the only time I seriously got nervous and paranoid about Sophia's food allergy. I was sure to steer clear of the Roasted nuts stand, as there seemed to be only one. However, at the event, there were vendors walking around with packages of roasted almonds, cashews, and the such. Sophia tested positive to a severe allergy to cashews along with peanuts and as the vendor made it's rounds I fixated on each of the people sitting around us, praying that none of them bought a bag. We got real lucky.

We shared a treat of strawberry flavored Italian ice stuffed into a hollowed out orange. I remember Sophie devouring the thing, her face stained red the rest of the day.
The kids got knighted and princessed. (If that is even a word.)
Had some fun in the many picture cuts outs.
The adults enjoyed the local brew.

It was then that it started to rain, and I mean really pour. It didn't deter Mason from playing in the pirate themed play area. He loved it, running in the rain. Sophie sat in the stroller, snacking, while we took shelter under the trees and archway.
After the rain stopped we took the kids for pony rides. Mason was old enough to ride on his own this year and absolutely loved that. Because of the rain, there was a small line and the kids got to ride (for free) three times. This was Sophie's favorite part.
Before leaving we got to see Squire on the Wire. This guy was walking this tightrope directly over the crowd, in the rain. It was amazing.

We had a great time and look forward to next year!
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stylish, Homemade Drawstring Bags

Back in July, I found this post in my google reader and they looked so cute, I decided to make the kids their own bags to carry with us to our various Summer outings. However, they looked a bit beyond my skill level so I searched for some simpler designs. I settled upon three and they can be found here, here, and here. The first I used only for reference of the patchwork, the second one I liked how she sewed the holes for the drawstring much better, and the third I liked her step by step pictures. I am such a visual learner. Each tutorial is easy to follow and the bags came together quickly and quite nicely. I tried to document my process to give you all a tutorial of my own, but alas, due to my lack of sewing skills (and unable to read directions when I am tired) it was 2am when I finally finished Sophia's bag and the photos came out terrible. There is little to no light in my craft room, or the dungeon as I refer to it sometimes, as my craft room is in the basement with one tiny window in the top corner, and the track lighting we installed is just not getting the job done. So I apologize, but if you follow the tutorials from the links above you should do just fine.

Once I had my plan written down, Mason went with me to JoAnn's (I had a coupon) to pick out fabric. He was insistent on the flame fabric as soon as he saw it. Such a boy he is, I swear. Finding fabric for Sophie was a bitter harder. I know she likes pink, but wasn't sure what she would like beyond that. I finally decided upon a set of flowery fat quarters in pinks, blues and greens. I also purchased cheap white linen for the liner. I then went to AC Moore and bought parachute cord to use as the drawstring. Though, nylon cord from Home Depot would work just a good.

I used a 3/8" seam allowance and calculated that into my measurements, so I ended up with my final bag measuring 13"x11". Perfect for small children.

Supplies for Mason:
1/2 yard of flame fabric cut into 2 - 15"x12" pieces
Liner fabric cut into 2 - 15"x12" pieces
16ft. of black parachute cord cut into 2 - 21" lengths (about)
Grosgrain ribbon cut into 2 - 2" pieces

Supplies for Sophie:
4 fat quarter pieces cut into 4.875"x3.875" strips
Liner fabric cut into 2 - 15"x12" pieces
16ft. of white parachute cord cut into 2 - 21" lengths
Grosgrain ribbon cut into 2 - 2" pieces

(Aren't they such cute models?)

The kids are super proud of their bags and couldn't wait to start using them. I couldn't have gotten them done at a more perfect time as they came in very useful for our second trip to the Free Summer Movie Fest. It was the day after Sophie's trip to the ER and I was uber paranoid about her eating anything that I couldn't read the label. Yes, this included popcorn and all candy sold at the theatre. My plan was to use them to bring our own food. I packed two juice boxes, some fruit snacks, goldfish, and gummy bears in each of their bags. (I ended up caving and buying some popcorn once we sat down and it was fine). We have since used these when going to see other events like Reptiles Alive at the mall (packing snacks like grapes, raisins and goldfish), going to the allergist (I packed it with some books and toys), and one more trip to the movie theatre (this time I made our own popcorn). The kids insist on bringing these with us just about anywhere we go now. I'm glad they are getting good use, and holding up to the wear and tear. I had also intended to use these for going to the pool. Kids could pack snacks, goggles, toys, a change of clothes, etc. in their bags and it would be less for me to carry. But we haven't made it to the pool much this summer. I just had an idea; if I lined the fabric with vinyl it would be perfect for the beach. Note this on my list for future projects.

I had planned to post this back in July, shortly after I finished making them, but recent events pushed this to the back burner. I have found it hard getting back to normal, and writing about projects or crafts have just felt so trivial. I know blog posts have been sporadic at best and sometimes just random, but it has been an incredibly rough and emotional few weeks. Most days I can't even find the words to write, or it all comes out sounding so disjointed (a bit like this post is sounding right now). I am slowly getting back into the swing of things and will hopefully be blogging regularly again soon. In the meantime, what do you think of the changes to my design? I even created, and added two new blog buttons, so if you haven't already, grab one for your website or blog.

As always, thanks for reading.
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Simple Things Sunday: Budding Gymnasts

In lieu of Grandma Sunday, as my mom went out of town today, my sister came over to play Wizard 101 with Mason, and help give him some pointers. If you are not familiar with this online role-playing game, it is a little bit like WOW (World of Warcraft) but for the younger crowd, holding a rating of Everyone 10+. Mason has been downstairs in the basement, on the desktop in Fred's workshop playing this game almost every day this past week. He is super proud of the fact that he can do it completely on his own, and I have been thrilled that he has found something to hold his interest away from me for a period of time throughout the day. Summers are a struggle around here. Boredom being the major culprit. While they are busy playing Wizard 101 and Sophie attempts to diaper her babies, I wanted to share a moment, from the other day, with you.

This weekend the kids and I watched the rhythmic gymnastics final. A bit disappointed we missed the synchronized swimming, I was eager for Sophie to see this sport as she loves to dance. It proved to be a good choice as she stood in the middle of the room showing her own rhythmic moves. "I can do that," she would say, followed by a spinning move. Mason would make the beep sound indicating the start of their performance. At one point there was a minor fight over whose turn it was to perform, because clearly the big space in the family room was just not enough room for them both. Mason tried to do a split jump and land with his feet in straddle, but mentioned he couldn't do it. As Sophie tried the move herself she replied, "see Mason. Easy peasy." Ha, ha, she cracks me up; her personality really beginning to shine.
They were being so cute and funny, I couldn't help grab my camera and capture the moment. I'm glad I did, because it is a good reminder that life can still be normal amidst the turmoil and hardship that have recently befallen us. My children are constantly showing me that no matter how difficult life can be, allowing yourself to smile, laugh, and just revel in the simple things can hold the most amazing healing power.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Scratch Test

Last thursday, August 2nd, was our appointment with the allergist. I am not entirely sure what I was expecting, but I was really not prepared for what transpired. *Disclaimer: I want to point out that this was our experience, and that each individual experience is unique to your/their personality, medical history, and circumstances. Always consult, and take the advice of your pediatrician. If you are new to food allergies, as I am, and are about to go through the necessary step of testing, I hope that by reading this, knowing the details of what someone else has gone through, you will be better prepared for your first visit; because I wish I had been able to read about what to expect, in detail, before taking our daughter. That said, below is a detailed account of our appointment with the allergist.

The appointment started off just like any other, getting her usual measurements and vital signs. Sophie was in good spirits, in fact we were all smiling and laughing. Once the allergist came in, we talked a brief medical history and gave the story of how we came to be here that day. He gave her a quick check (looking at her ears, eyes, and throat) before explaining his thoughts and what he would be testing her for today; the usual culprits in food like tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts, egg, wheat, soy, etc. and inhalants such as: cats and dogs. He had a suspicion that she is allergic to eggs and that is what has been causing her horrible eczema. Fred and I just stared at each other, eyes wide, each hoping beyond hope that he was wrong. A peanut allergy we could handle, that is fairly easy to avoid, but an allergy to egg; this would be more difficult.

As we waited for the nurse to arrive and do the testing, Mason played on his LeapPad while Sophie listened to me read the ballet Strawberry Shortcake book. When it came time, the nurse explained the importance of keeping her still during this entire process. They do not use needles, but rather sharp plastic sticks to prick the skin. Sophie was laughing as the nurse drew circles on her back, indicating the different panels. She must have had close to 30 dots on her back, and as the nurse began to prick Sophie's skin, my heart went out to my little girl. She managed to get out an audible, "Ow", before all out screaming and trying to get out of Fred's grasp as he struggled to keep her still. I tried singing to her, anything to distract her, as the test went on, prick after prick. It didn't take as long as you would think, but when your daughter is screaming so bad that her brother is almost in tears and trying his best to tune her out, it feels like eternity. She was crying and saying she was scared and I did my best to choke back the few tears that began to well up. I will not cry today, I told myself. It was finally over and for the next 15 minutes we had the challenge of keeping her from scratching or messing up the marks on her back; which doesn't seem like such a difficult feat, but a screaming 39lb. three year old, whose back is now itching with all the fervor of an annoying mosquito bite, is a lot stronger than you think. I was glad Fred came to this appointment, as I would not have been able to keep her under control. I had to assist a few times when she got loose and stood up on his legs. He held tight to her arms as I sat her back down, holding her legs, careful not to touch her back. She kept yelling, "let go of me! Let go of my arms!" I felt bad for holding her prisoner in this state, but I knew this test was needed, as it was an important piece to the puzzle. Whatever we found out today would get us one step closer to being able to effectively manage her food allergy, ultimately keeping her healthy and alive.

We still had 13 minutes to go. Those 15 minutes felt like an eternity, as we struggled to calm her down. I tried playing her favorite My Little Pony episode on my iPhone; she was not interested. She wanted out of daddy's grasp and to scratch her back. Totally understandable. Mason was begging us to get her to stop screaming. We were trying as best we could. In assisting to hold her still, I was face to face with her back, and had the perfect view as the reactions developed. There was a significant welt appearing, and I prayed it wasn't egg. As hard as we were trying, it wasn't until Mason, who I'm sure was at his own wits end, came over with his LeapPad, to show Sophie his game, that she finally began to calm down. Proof, yet again, that they share a special bond. It was then that the nurse and doctor came back in, went over the results, and measured the welts that appeared. The test showed positive for peanut (that was the huge welt) and cashews. So we were advised strict avoidance of peanuts and ALL tree nuts. Other positive reactions showed up for cats and dogs. Not surprising, as Fred is allergic to both and Mason is allergic to dogs. At least these are not life threatening and can be managed with a dose of Benadryl before going to a house with pets. The doctor said there was a very minor reaction to egg, I didn't see it, and even though he did not diagnosis it as an allergy he is having us put her on an exclusion diet for the next 4-6 weeks. The goal is to find out if the egg is indeed causing her eczema. So if her eczema improves after eliminating it from her diet, than we keep the egg removed. If there is no change, than she can eat egg again. This means we need to avoid all foods that have egg, and let me tell you just about everything we eat has egg in it. As much as I hate to see her in pain with the eczema, I am hoping for no change. Does that make me a horrible mom? At least there is some relief in knowing that if she is allergic to egg it is not life threatening. So I won't have to freak out so much if she comes into contact with this food. The worst reaction will be an eczema break out; been there done that for the last 3 years.

I had a list of questions for the allergist that, of course, I didn't get a chance to go over; only one or two got answered. But, at least we now have a better idea of what she is allergic to and have gone about adjusting our lives to account for them. These last few days have been spent running around; getting school medical forms filled out, signed, and turned in on time; and making our home (snacks and meals) Sophie friendly. I have been posting cheat sheets all over the house and in my purse to help me with the process, and doing my best to educate family and friends. I am trying desperately to get as organized as possible before the school year begins in three weeks and find that I am feeling frantically unprepared. I thought I had it all in the bag until this food allergy through me for a loop. Now I am not so sure I am prepared for it all.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

True American Idols

I can remember sitting down as a child with my family and watching the Olympics. We would pop some popcorn and gather around the television to cheer on the USA; gymnastics and figure skating being my all time favorite events to watch during the Summer and Winter games, respectfully. These times were just like watching Redskins Football: our reaction to winning gold was equal to that of winning the Superbowl; screams, jumping up and down, hometown pride, and maybe even a tear or two. Standing on that podium, holding your Olympic medal up for the world to see, must be the best feeling in the world. Who wouldn't want to be an Olympic athlete? They had their faces on Wheaties boxes and epitomized greatness.

I recall being a young child in the 80's, wearing my official Mary Lou Retton leotard, accessorized with sweat bands for my wrists and head, and equipped with pink dumb bells and the rhythm and ribbon set from Get in Shape Girl. Do you remember Get in Shape Girl? I'd put in the cassette tape and shadow box my heart out, or dance around the room with my ribbon pretending I was an Olympic champion. In the 90's, my sister and I would spend our Summers rollerskating in the garage, imitating the likes of Kristi Yamaguchi, pretending to do triple axels and spirals. Fast forward to my 30's and I still get excited over the Olympics. Watching the 2008 Summer games in Beijing, witnessing history as Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal (a record for the most first place finishes in any single Olympic games) was beyond exciting. We all screamed with pride in our fellow countryman, unable to believe he actually pulled off this incredible feat. So, it was with great anticipation that I awaited for the Olympic Summer games to start this month.

In the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony there were stories being shown detailing the favored U.S. Olympians journey to London. You couldn't help but be inspired. I looked at my kids and thought, these are your true role models. Proof that you should never give up, always give your best, and even if you fail you still achieved something great; and that is enough to make those who love you so very proud. These athletes, some very young men and women, get to represent their country in the most prestigious event in the world. This is no easy accomplishment, and for them to handle that pressure with maturity and grace is what makes them Olympians.

During the opening ceremony, I thought it very poignant for Great Britain to not choose a former Olympian to light the cauldron, but to pass that privilege onto the younger generation; 7 aspiring young athletes who may become future Olympians. Fred and I have made it a point to have the kids watch as much of the events as possible. I want them to see the battles, the triumphs, and the defeats. I want them to see the skill, the dedication, and the courage it takes these athletes to compete. I want them see greatness, and as a result to see themselves.

I thought all this was falling on deaf ears, until the last few days. Mason has been asking to watch the beach volleyball events and in turn, came up with his own version of the sport, using our beach ball, and begs to play it every day. This morning, I woke up and started preparing the kids to leave for our planned trip to Fairfax Corner to see Reptiles Alive. Mason has been excited about going ever since we saw their Rainforest show a few weeks ago. Any time he can see snakes, and lizards, and such is an exciting time. So, when I asked if he was ready to go and he said no, I was shocked. The archery event was on (remember this post?) and Mason wanted to stay and watch it. As I sat there with him, cheering on Khatuna Lorig, my heart smiled. It was a great moment shared between me and my son. Afterward, I showed him and Sophie the women's gymnastics team final I taped the night before. It is always on when they are in bed so I thought they would like to see it, especially since we won gold! Sophie was jumping around the room, imitating their routines. At one point I looked up to see her standing absolutely still, staring at the screen intently before uttering, "wow, she's good." Mason was really impressed too, and after it was over, asked if I could watch him do his gymnastics moves, "but they are the woman's because its the only one I've seen," he explains. I sat there watching him jump from couch to couch, doing his gymnastics, a big smile on his face as he looked at me and said, "I'm doing really good." It reminded me so much of my childhood. He told me that Sophie wanted to be a gymnast. I told him he could too, or he could be an archer, or a swimmer, "or play beach volleyball!" he exclaimed. Yes! I could see that spark of inspiration, the hope, the dream coming alive.

I hope that I am able to encourage and nourish those dreams and to always give my kids the support and belief that they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do. I am a parent and I just want my kids to be great: to have the courage, determination, perseverance, and belief in themselves; to always try their best and never give up. In other words: to have the values of an Olympic athlete. I don't care if my kids are olympic gold medalists, or if their dream is simply baking cupcakes. I only want them to believe in themselves; to know that they have greatness and the heart of an Olympian no matter what they do.

So I find it only fitting the motto of these 2012 Olympic Games in London is, Inspire a Generation. Thank you Olympics, for doing just that!
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Mother's broken promise

July 18th, 2012

"Emelina scraped toast corners into a blue enamel pail and ran a sinkful of water. 'I don't think I could stand to let Mason go off to Kindergarten next year if it wasn't for the baby. It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't.'"
--excerpt from Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

From the moment I became pregnant, I made a promise to protect each of my children with every fiber of my being until the day I die. Feeling another human being growing inside of me; I can't explain how that feels, but it changes you. There is a special bond that connects us to our children, a love unlike any other. As a stay at home mom I have devoted my everyday to making sure my children get the best possible life. This includes: feeding them the right foods so they grow, teaching them the right things so they learn, playing with them so they have fun, and always, always keeping them as safe as I possibly can. Just as I promised them I would.

So when you fail to keep that promise you made to your children, it is the worst day of your life. You realize you are vulnerable, you are not Super Woman, and you don't have it all together. You do the best you can, but you will not be able to protect them from everything. It's a hard pill to swallow. Today I had to swallow that pill. After all the stuff we've had to deal with over the last few years you'd think we were done and get some reprieve. We would not be so lucky.

Today started off, just like any other. The kids watching t.v, me hoping to get a few more moments of much needed sleep, willing myself to not get another migraine. Late in the morning I paid some bills, took a shower, and made plans to take my car in for emissions testing after we ate lunch. As always, I asked the kids their preference. Mason asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It had been a while and I happily agreed it was a good idea. A simple and easy lunch as I was determined to get the day started. Realizing Sophie was now three, and could be given peanut butter, I made her one as well. At first she looked at it in the jar and was like, "ew, that's gross. I don't like that." But after cutting it into small star shapes she took her first bite and happily announced, "it's delicious! I like it!" And before I knew it she had devoured the rest, just like that.

A few minutes later she had to go potty and I rushed with her into the bathroom. As she sat there she started coughing and acting funny. "I choke Mommy," she told me. That usually means she's going to throw up. Then she started scratching at her neck and face and rubbing her eyes. I noticed the slight hint of a rash and my concern began to grow. Crap! Could she be allergic? Oh God, I hope not.

Me: "Are you feeling OK, Sweetie?"
Sophie: "I sick. I need to go to doctor."
Me: "You're sick? Like your stomach?" She had eaten three boxes of raisins earlier and I was thinking the horrible poop was on its way.
Sophie: "My heart."
Me: "Your heart?"
Sophie: "My heart," she repeats as she touches her chest.
Me: "Your heart, is it beating fast?"
Sophie: "Yes!" She is clearly upset now.

I try to check her heart, to find out if it is really beating fast; but I can't tell. She is looking kind of pale. I take her off the potty and run to get the phone. I call our pediatricians office, and after a few excruciating moments I talk with a nurse. Sophie is starting to act sleepy at this point and still itching--all over. It is determined that I should skip coming to see them and go straight to the ER, just to be safe. I'm not completely concerned at this point as she is breathing fine, no massive rash showing up all over her body, and no throwing up; she is just irritated and tired. Always erring on the side of caution, I do as I was instructed. I run downstairs to tell Fred what is happening, leave Mason at home with him and make the 10 minute trip up the road to the hospital; thankful we live so close.

Sophie looks like she might be trying to fall asleep. I urge her to stay awake. Despite this, she walks into the ER on her own accord; holding my hand, her baby bear and blankey in tow. And just like all the other times, she seemed to be pretty much fine by the time we enter the lobby. She was asking about stickers and toys as we made our way to the sign-in window. I had just finished filling out the form when I heard Sophie call my name and proceed to puke ALL OVER THE HALLWAY. Nothing was safe; her blankey, baby bear, my purse, our shoes, clothes, and anyone within our vicinity was covered in purple and brown vomit. I stood there trying to calm my daughter down, unsure of anything else to do, while she acted out a scene from the Exorcist. I see a puke pan on the counter and grabbed it just before a nurse came out with a bucket, ushering us out of the waiting room and into the Pediatric Emergency Department. I carried Sophia as fast as I could, listening to her attempts to grasp for air in between moments of vomiting. The next two hours will be the most chaotic, stressful, and horrifying moments of my life.

Immediately, there were 4 people in the room all doing something. Orders were being yelled, Sophie was crying, and then screaming, and then puking some more. The doctor ordered a shot of epinephrine, Benadryl, and a steroid. She confirmed Sophie's throat was closing and pointed out the now massive rash that covered her chin and throat. I felt the tears well up. I was doing my best to stay calm as things were being done but not exactly explained. I knew they were all there to help. The nurses struggled to get in the IV. Sophia was scared and her body, fighting off the allergy, were all causing her veins to constrict. They tried twice in one hand and then twice in the other before finally getting it in. Sophie's screams were more than my emotionally fragile state could handle. It was a sound a mother should never have to hear. Having to endure the fear and pain my daughter was experiencing, the room suddenly became like a sauna and I felt faint. I should have eaten lunch. I knew my vaso vagel was kicking in. It was the stress, the worry, and a lack of blood sugar in my body. In the midst of all this chaos, a nurse found the time to grab me a sandwich, juice, and a chair. I sat there holding Sophie's hand, unable to hold back my tears; the guilt overwhelming. I was the one who agreed to the peanut butter. I was the one who decided it was OK for Sophie to have. I was the one who fed it to her. How could I not feel guilty? I gave my child, my sweet, innocent little girl, food that ended up being almost fatal.

I've had many trips to the ER with both my children, and have always managed to remain calm and never cried. It must have been the knowledge that my daughter was experiencing full-blown anaphylaxis, or perhaps it was the knowledge of my best friend, who having gone into anaphylactic shock after eating a piece of candy, died from her peanut allergy in this very hospital almost 13 years ago to the date. She was only 20 years old. Possibly it was both, along with my guilt, that shook me to my core. The tears flowed and I tried to fight them back. I tried so hard to not show Sophie I was scared; to be that rock, that calm I know she so desperately needed in that moment. Holding her precious little hand in mine, all I could say through my sobs was, "I am so sorry, sweetie. I am so sorry." I kept repeating it, in between kisses, hoping she might turn to me and tell me it was OK; that she wasn't mad at me and that I was still a good Mom. She never did. She just kept screaming. It went on for at least and hour and a half. By the time she had finally calmed down, showing signs of the medicine kicking in and her health improving, it was mid afternoon and we were both exhausted.

As she slept on me, my thoughts drifted back to my friend. I wondered if this was what she went through in the moments before she left this world. How scared she must have been, the pain she must have felt. The tears welled up again and I quickly brushed them away; willing myself to think of anything else. Sophia slept on me for about 45 minutes, until Fred and Mason arrived. By 3:30pm she was feeling better. The doctor came by for a quick check. Sophie's vitals were normal, no more air restriction and the rash was gone; however, she needed to stay one more hour for observation to make sure her reaction didn't flare up again. By 4:30pm we were all restless and ready to go home. At this point, Sophie was playing with Mason and even laughing. It was like she was a whole new child. She had her spunk, her attitude, and her smile back. I even allowed myself to smile. Four hours after we arrived, she was finally discharged and we could all go home.

Within 24 hours of the whole ordeal, I sat down and wrote story you just ready above; my emotions still raw, but I knew I needed to get it out. In the days that followed I did the best I could to show a brave face while inside I was falling apart. When I could no longer keep it together, I hid in the pantry and sobbed. Terrified, overwhelmed, and feeling all alone I struggled with thoughts of where to start. When it came down to it I really knew nothing about food allergies. Then I remembered that I really wasn't alone, and reached out to those I knew with kids who suffered from food allergies. I have spent the last week immersing myself in websites, blogs and online support groups learning as much as I can about peanut allergies. I want to be as informed as possible, so I could then educate my daughter, our family, and our friends. This is our first and foremost line of defense. We cannot effectively protect her if we do not know how. As it turns out, I was right; I knew nothing.

This is a major lifestyle change for us and I would be lying if I said it was going to be easy. I now carry an Epi Pen with me wherever we go, another one stays at our house, while yet two more are slated for my parents home, and Sophie's preschool. We have been advised to avoid not only peanuts, but also tree nuts until we can get her tested by an allergist. My biggest fear is not that we can no longer have peanut butter. Yes, it sucks. I love me some PB&J and Mason's favorite was PB and Fluff. However, its not like we ate them on a daily basis. Quite the contrary. PB was almost like a treat in the house, something we only ate every so often. Mac n Cheese, Chicken Nuggets, and such are more of a staple in our house. Besides, I don't like foods with nuts it them anyway. I've never been a huge fan, so that part is not a big deal. At least for me. Fred, well he likes himself some nuts (I mean he lives with us right?). Seriously though, he loves nuts. Still, we rarely have a can of nuts, or a bag of peanuts in our house. Again, a non issue. Done. No nuts. We're over it. Move on. Except that's not all of it. What terrifies me the most are all those foods out there with the hidden danger. The ones that have possibly been exposed or might have traces of peanuts in them. Foods that would never have crossed my mind as being life threatening to my child. It is astounding the number of foods we have eaten on a regular basis that have "manufactured in a facility,"or "manufactured on equipment" that also process peanuts written in the nutrition section. Something I never noticed, or rather never even attempted to look for because there wasn't a need. These are all now on the don't even think about it, no seriously just forget you even knew this food existed list. No more chocolate chip pancakes; no more M&M's with our popcorn on movie nights; no more going out for ice cream or frozen yogurt; no more Twix for me, Snickers for Fred, or any candy bar for that matter (I can Halloween is going to be a hurdle); no more running up the road to Harvest Bread Co. for their delicious homemade breads and rolls; no more cake or cupcakes from the bakery (birthday parties are going to be a bitch); no more cookies from the snack bar, or treats from the sample booth; and good lord, going to a restaurant now puts me in a panic. And when I think of how the kids get excited for haircuts just so they can get their packaged cookies from Ms. Holly it breaks my heart, because they can't have that anymore. The threat of cross-contamintion on any single food is extremely real and down right terrifying. Even those who mean well and try to make nut-free cookies, treats, or other foods for my child could potentially be putting her life at risk if they didn't properly wash their equipment, hands, utensils, and surrounding area. How can this not be a parent's worst nightmare?

Right now we are waiting for her appointment with the Allergist to arrive and crossing my fingers we have no more allergic reactions between now and then (and well never again. But I figured that was a given). In the days and weeks to come I am hoping to have the answers to my questions and at least some of my fear subsided before Sophia starts school in the fall. At least I have the small comfort of knowing her preschool is a nut-free facility and that allergy notices are posted in the classroom as well as the kitchen. Yet still, I freeze in fear at the thought of her not being under my supervision, or rather at the mercy of others, for three hours every day. As if I wasn't already the neurotic, paranoid Mom about ticks and Lyme Disease, a peanut allergy HAD to be thrown in the mix. How am I going to get through this? How am I going to not freak out and worry every second of the day that she is not in my presence? I was so excited and ready for her to go off to school, to spend that time away from me, and now I can't find the strength to let her go. Does it get easier? Will I always worry? Am I going to become that Helicopter Mom my husband warns me I am turning into? Will I die of a heart attack, or ulcer from worry before she comes close to ever having a reaction again?

I suppose the answers to those questions will come in time. For now, I am going to pour myself a glass of wine, sit down with my favorite TV show, and will myself to relax. If only for a few fleeting moments. Stay tuned for more posts about this peanut allergy as we navigate our way through this challenging diagnosis.
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Monday, July 23, 2012


Sophia picked a set of Princess paper dolls from her earning bag this morning. As she sat there picking out outfits and accessories she turned to me and proudly announced, "Don't they look stylish?" Mason then came over to check out her work. "You always make them look stylish," he tells her with a smile.

I felt this profound sense of pride in his ability to compliment his sister without being prompted. And that is why I love these two so much. Their genuine devotion for one another makes me so proud and always puts a smile on my face. Don't get me wrong, they fight like cats and dogs just like any normal siblings; but they also hold a deep love and caring for each other. This love is shown to us when Mason falls off his bike and Sophie jumps off hers, running to his aide and making sure he is alright. When either child is sick the other is so concerned they lay by their side while they sleep. When Sophie is upset, for any number of reasons, Mason quickly rushes to give her hugs and kisses, and reassurance it will be OK. The most recent example: our trip to the ER (which will be explained in a later post). While on the phone with Fred, Mason was in the background yelling that he wanted to talk to Sophie, to make sure she was feeling better. This special relationship they share, while it can be taught, is one they were just born with. From infancy, Mason was the only one who could calm Sophie down when she was really upset. We would try all we could until finally giving in and asking, "Mason, can you sing ABC's to her?" He would happily do so each and every time, and sure enough Sophie would calm right down. We really hit the jackpot with our kids. I say this because I only recently realized that not all siblings act this way, whether they care for one another or not. For instance: We were at a party talking with friends about our kids, and we mentioned the things Mason and Sophie do for one another when they are hurt. Our friend, who has three kids, responded that his kids didn't do that. They care for each other and get along great, but they were not the ones to rush to each others side in order to make sure they were OK. Really? Not all siblings do that? It was then that I began to feel real lucky with the family we created. So now, when I come across moments like this, ones that show the true meaning of unconditional love and family, my heart bursts open and I can't help but point out its greatness.

As I turned around, catching Mason's eye, a smile spread across my lips and I said to him, "That was such a nice compliment you gave to your sister. I really love that." The smile and look of pride on his face was the best gift in the world.

Thank you for these two wonderful souls, as they were definitely meant to be siblings.
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Monday, July 16, 2012

Passport to Summer

In 2010 the kids and I had a Summer full of adventures, which I chronicled on this blog. It was one of the more fun Summers I can remember. Partly intentional, as we planned weekly play dates with friends, while others were purely spur of the moment ideas. I hoped to continue those adventures the following year with no such luck. Some friends moved, others went back to work, and every time I tried to get a group together it never panned out. So, I was faced with a decision. Let the kids be bored at home all Summer, or bite the bullet and do the things we wanted all on our own. We ended up doing less stuff, just me and the kids. It wasn't ideal, but we made do. At the end of the year, I bravely took the kids to the Zoo on my own for the very first time. I hate DC, especially when driving, and have never been in the city by myself. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but it was kind of lonely. Trips like this are better when shared. The kids never seemed to know the difference, but as Summer came to an end I swore I would do better.

Unfortunately, it seems that this year we are facing the same situation of doing all our "Adventures" just the three of us. I won't lie, I'm stressing about the whole thing. The kids are older, more demanding, and easily bored. I have a smaller budget, less patience, and an extreme lack of inspiration. I think the hardest part is finding the motivation when it's just me and the kids. They behave better when they have friends to play with and my stress level goes way down in the presence of a fellow Mom. If you are a parent you are nodding your head and saying to yourself, "True Dat."

The motivation factor has a lot to do with fear. I'm not afraid of my kids, I'm afraid of how things turn out when it's just the three of us. Them running rampant because they are bored, me yelling because they won't listen, and all of us miserable. It's just not fun. In these moments I lack control and therefore confidence in myself as an effective parent. As a result, I struggle with the motivation to do things with them. So as I mentioned before, when you add in friends I find I am better able to hold myself accountable for the plans we make. When I run solo I need to dig deep and get creative. Make my own motivation. This Summer I was determined to keep us busy in order to avoid the usual routine and resulting outcome. I only needed a spark of inspiration to get me going.

We get the Sunday Post for the coupons but I have found that I enjoy reading through it while sipping my morning cup of coffee. One Sunday I found myself perusing the Arts section and discovered their Summer Preview with a full list of kids events. I felt like I hit the jackpot and circled certain events I thought the kids would possibly enjoy. I added those to the already ongoing list of things we do every year; trip to the Zoo, Free Summer Movies at local theaters, visit to the fountains, and of course the neighborhood pool. This gave me a little more confidence heading into the Summer months. From here, I decided to finally put together a project I've been wanting to do for awhile.

I came across the idea of the Summer Passport while reading blogs about scrapbooking. I thought it was brilliant. Each child has a passport for the Summer and just like a real passport, you need, and want, to go places in order to fill it with as many different stamps as you can. Just as you would get a stamp for going to different countries, the kids get stamps for the different events that we plan, places we visit, and adventures we have. Seriously fun right? So as with all my creative endeavors, I took the general idea and made it my own.

First, I created the cover of the passport. I stuck with the color blue of traditional passports but made it a more Summer hue. I searched for ways other people and places designed their passports. I was amazed at the popularity. Libraries, Schools, Botanical Gardens, Summer Camps, Museums, the list goes on. They were all using this passport concept. I settled on a simple design which Mason pointed out looks a bit like Captain America's shield (which he loved). I was going to make the passport look authentic, similar to the real thing, but after Fred's reaction to the Driver's Licenses I made the kids (they were too close to the real deal and he was worried I might be infringing on federal laws) I decided against it. I had my design printed out on 5x7 photo paper at Costco and folded it in half. This makes my passport 5x3.5 inches.
Next I made their ID pages. I made a little area for their picture and listed their name, age, hometown, and a brief summary of their current likes. This was more for memory keeping purposes so I could compare to future years. I then created a little blurb describing the purpose of the passport. I got this idea from reading through my own.
For the inner pages I repeated the design on the front and then changed the opacity to like 35%, created four blocks for the stamps, added page numbers, and the words Summer Adventures.
I included pages with pockets so the kids could keep souvenirs of their adventures such as, ticket stubs, postcards, brochures, maps, photos, drawings, crafts, notes, etc. I figured out where I wanted each page and then printed those 5x7 according to the set up and glued them back to back. For example, I have 8 stamp pages so I printed the ID page and stamp page eight on the same paper and folded in half. Likewise, I printed pages two and seven together, three and six together, and four and five together. Once they were all glued together and folded, I opened it to the middle and stapled them in place.

They came out better than I thought and the kids absolutely love them. I figured I could use this as a way to hold myself accountable for fun this Summer. If I want the kids to have full passports by the end of the August then I have to stick to the plan and face my fears of venturing out with them on my own. Besides, I know Mason at least will constantly ask about his stamps, wanting to get more in his passport.
Here is a shot of our current stamps. This only includes the month of June. I haven't gotten around to stamping July yet. I just searched my stamp supply for images that closely represented each adventure. I included the date and a description of what we did. The kids get so excited to find a new stamp in their passport. Now I just need the weather to hold out so we can continue the fun. Crossing my fingers we get a full passport by August 27th.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Maybe she's born with it

A few weeks ago we spent an entire day with friends. It was not exactly planned, and turned out to be one of the more productive and fun weekends we've had in a while.

It started with a phone call. My friends husband needed to talk to mine. Which in and of itself does not sound like anything special, but it was out of the norm for him to call our house and speak to Fred directly. You see, the wives (me and my friend) are the ones who are friends. And when I say friends, I don't mean the neighbor you hit it off with when you first moved in, or the fellow PTA mom, not even your sorority sister from college. I'm talking about the friend you've known since you were 2 years old. The one who lived across the street your entire childhood. The friend you did everything with, your best friend in the entire world, until you had a horrible falling out in college. The friend who after 8 years of not talking, took the first step to reconciliation at your 10 year High School reunion. The friend with whom you now share a connection as if it never ended. With whom, much like the Phoenix, you have a friendship that was reborn from the ashes; foundation repaired, slightly renovated, and fully restored.

Wow! That crudely summed up 31 years in about 2 seconds. But you get the point. I've known this woman for a really long time. Practically my entire life. We are the friends, our husbands are just along for the ride. So to have them contacting each other, conspiring projects together, was an oddity.

As I sat there on the couch listening to one side of the conversation, pretending to be engrossed on the website on my computer screen, I became more and more curious. What in the world were they talking about? Something involving coming to our house and using Fred's welder. Will we be home tomorrow? The kids could play and the girls catch up. Before I knew it my Sunday morning was already planned for me and I only heard snippets of what that would entail. It turns out, my friends husband brews his own beer. This I already knew. However, he needed to make a new stand for his burner and wanted to borrow Fred's skills and welder in order to do it. Fred, of course, jumped at the chance to play with fire and help out a friend. As I watched him explain the design to me, I could see that familiar smile creep upon his lips. They were going to have way too much fun doing this.

Fast forward, it's Sunday morning, kids bummed there is no Grandma Sunday, but super stoked friends are coming over to play. As the boys disappear into the garage, our kids play restaurant and draw pictures while my friend and I discuss the latest in our lives. She offered to help her cousin with the programs for their upcoming wedding and she had no idea where to start. She was hoping I could help since I am such a creative, crafty guru. A few minutes later I am pulling up Pinterest and seriously getting into designing these programs. We all break for lunch, enjoying our traditional Sunday Potbelly sandwiches and shakes. The boys are done and now discussing how you brew beer. Next thing I know, it was agreed we would all head over to their house to brew beer on the newly created burner. So we clean up lunch, pack up our stuff, and hop in the car.

The kids never missed a beat, returning right to play as soon as we arrive. The boys quickly head off to brew the beer and I sit down at the computer. My friend and I deep in creative discussion about the wedding program. She never had to ask. I love to create! I could sit at a computer designing things in photoshop all day. I was happily in my element, working till it was done and dinner time arrived. As I said, we spent an entire day with friends. While we enjoyed our dinner in the dinning room, the kids quickly scarfed down theirs before returning to play. It was nice to have adult conversation and not be interrupted by screaming kids. It was then, mid bliss, that I realized it had been awhile since we heard any noise from the children. In my house, this usually means they are up to no good. As I mentioned this out loud, Fred went up to the bedrooms to check on them. He returned carrying Sophia, her arms and legs spread out as if she was terrified to let anyone touch them.

"She was on the top bunk," Fred explains. Our first reaction was, how did she even get up there? She knew she wasn't allowed on the top bunk because previously in the day it was discovered she could not get herself down and screaming for me to help her. Then we discovered that was not the worst of it. Fred shows her hands and feet to us. They are messily painted a dark blue. "I boot-iful," Sophie exclaims. That's when it hits us. The realization of what was going on upstairs. Why the silence. My friends face drops. "They were painting their nails on the top bunk? On the brand new comforter I just bought?!" Fred and I exchanged knowing looks. Someone's about to be in trouble.

Her husband returns from upstairs, comforter in hand, blue nail polish, clear as day, smack dab in the middle. I cringe. Then he places the small bottle of Bon Bons dark blue nail polish on the counter. I freeze. Eyes wide, fixated on the nail polish, wondering if anyone recognizes that bottle, because I do. It was one of the favors from Sophie's birthday party. Oh, snap! I'm the one in trouble. I felt so guilty having supplied the contraband that ruined a brand new comforter.

Sophie, however, spent the next 24 hours refusing to use her fingers afraid to mess up her pretty nails even though we assured they were dry. And over the next two weeks she kept showing off her nails and telling anyone and everyone she was beautiful. I admit she does look cute in the polish, and they were perfect for 4th of July. What we can't figure out is where does she get this love for all things girly? I'm talking makeup, nail polish, skirts and tutus, etc. I am not a real girly girl. I hardly every wear skirts or dresses. I haven't had a manicure or pedicure in over a year, and maybe once a year (Halloween) paint my own nails. I don't wear makeup, unless Fred and I have a date, or I'm attending a special occasion. Both of which rarely happen. Don't get me wrong, I like to dress up and look beautiful. It's just not a part of my daily life/routine. So we can't figure it out. We know she doesn't get it from me. The only thing we can think of is this; she is a girl, and girls are born with it.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Embracing my inner child

These pictures really bring me back to my childhood. When my best friends and I would swing at the playground in front of our neighborhood pool. You could find us there, playing, just about any day of the week. And just as I loved the playground in my neighborhood, my kids also love theirs. Asking to go to the park or playground pretty much on a daily basis. The catch 22 is that most of the play equipment in our local parks and neighborhood tot lots, burn to the touch from the hot summer sun.

Not on this day though. This particular day was a gorgeous, breezy day. We had just finished a round of tennis, and the kids convinced us to let them play on the playground, while Fred went to Walgreens to rent a movie from Redbox.

Sophie was busy climbing, sliding, and running around as Mason and I enjoyed the swings. Each of us on our own swing, facing opposite sides, and high-fiving each other as we passed. We smiled and giggled, showing off our cool moves to Fred upon his return, who shook his head at us, the disbelief that he could be related to these two crazies emblazoned on his face.

Mason had hopped off to run around at one point while I continued to swing. Upon his return he asked if I was swinging high, and was it scary. I knew he wanted to go really high, but I also knew he was scared. "Do you want to do something really fun?" I asked. He nodded in agreement, so I sat him on my lap and away we swung. Higher and higher we went. The wind blowing across our faces, the smiles and giggles infectious. It was the most fun I've had in a really long time. Swinging with Mason. Laughing. Really, really laughing. It brought back so many memories. My best friends and I sitting on the same swing together, face to face. We called it the "spider" back then. Do kids even do that anymore? Swing spider style? Well, even if they don't, Mason loved it and asks to go back to the park everyday just so we can do it again. Fred, of course, finds the two of us so ridiculous in all our childhood fun.

Oh yes, my dear boy, I do see us coming back to swing like this again, and again, and again. If only to embarrass the hell out of Daddy.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tennis Anyone?

I'm seriously loving the fact that we have started taking up tennis again--and doing it as a family. On the court everyday, sometimes even twice in one day. (Mason can be quite persuasive when he really wants something). The last few days have been fairly beautiful weather and we've taken advantage of it. Especially Father's Day. It was a beautiful 75 degrees with a slight breeze. After dinner, we changed into our workout clothes, packed up our gear, and made the short walk up to the courts. With Mason actually wanting to play, and being old enough to learn how, we bought him his own junior racquet. We take turns having him on our "team" and he has done pretty good. Chasing after the ball as fast as his little feet will take him, which I hate to admit is probably faster than I can hustle after the ball myself. Sophia, our little ball girl, can be seen running around gathering up balls. Sometimes putting them in the bin, sometimes handing them directly to us. Sometimes, she grabs an extra racquet and tries her turn at hitting the ball. But mostly she stays in her own little world, entertaining herself. One of things I love about this girl.

It's been a great family activity. Getting us outside, getting us active, and having fun. Hmm, I think I just found my mantra for the summer.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Herndon Festival (and a Homemade Childs Quiver)

Every year, Herndon Festival takes place at the beginning of June. This is our second year in a row bringing the kids and already its something both Mason and Sophia have come to expect. The rides, the food, the crafts, and of course, the goodies.
(1. Mason, Sophie and I on the helicopters. 2. The horrible ride Fred made me go on with him. It did not go well. 3. Sophie and I on the flying dragons.)

They had some really nice Arts and Crafts vendors. Some I remembered from last year and some new ones, like the Casually Chic Lilla Rose booth. I was attracted to the beautiful hair clips that actually keep my hair in place and don't stab me. I snagged up two for an early birthday gift. As we continued to make our way through the rows of vendors we picked up a cute purple purse (which is actually a cell phone holder) for Sophia, a few t-shirts for the kids, and made our way to one particular booth that caught my eye. It had swords, axes, bows and arrows. Right up Mason's alley. I knew my Mom would get what I was thinking when I showed her the bow and arrow set.

We like to attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival with my Mom and Sister. Each year, we have tried to get Mason to dress up with us at the Fair, but he refuses. At least with the bow and arrows he'd have the weaponry, if not the attire. It didn't take much for Mason to negotiate the purchase of a set with my Mom. She so spoils my kids. But, I suppose that is the point of a Grandparent isn't it? They sold a quiver as well, but after checking it out, it was decided I could make one just as good, if not better. Of course I could. I am seriously crafty, am I not? Well, that, and the quiver was way too big on Mason with no adjustability. Mason, of course, thought the bow and arrows were awesome. Especially since he recently discovered The Avengers and as soon as we got home, he had to try them out.

While Sophie was taking her nap, we headed outside for an archery lesson.
He got pretty good. Standing on the front walk of our house, he was shooting arrows all the way to our neighbors driveway. He even almost made it across the street to the sidewalk on the other side. I was quite impressed. Especially when I gave it a try and my arrow went like half an inch because I didn't do it right. Getting taught how to properly use a bow and arrow by my son was a little embarrassing, but I'll deal. Mason, being the 5 year old he is, could not wait to have his quiver, now that he was an expert archer, and begged me to go shopping for fabrics so I could make it RIGHT NOW. I had to endure this consistent pleading until bedtime brought me some relief.

The following day, I took Mason to JoAnns and we looked at many fabrics until finally settling on a faux brown leather. I convinced him it would look more authentic. My original idea was to make a similar quiver to the one we saw at the festival. A sling type bag to carry over his shoulder. But, then I started researching, as I always do, and saw all kinds of different shapes and types of quivers. This lead me to rethink my plan. First, I had to get Mason's opinion since it was his quiver. Did he want a bag sling like the one at the festival, or a round one? As I mentioned before, he is really into The Avengers, especially after I took him to see the movie his last day of school. With this in mind, he told me he wanted one just like Hawkeye. I don't know much about the character, other than he is an expert archer, and had to go to my computer for some more research. I needed to figure out just how Hawkeye's quiver looked in the movie. After looking at many photos, Mason decided upon the really cool quiver that Hawkeye wears at the end of the movie, during the big battle, which is round.

Plan in place, I spent all afternoon gathering my supplies and putting his quiver together. It turned out great! Better yet, Mason absolutely loves his Hawkeye inspired quiver and it was super easy to make. You can make one too. Here's how I did it.

You'll need:

1 Pringles can (if your child is older you will need 2)
1 yd. Faux leather fabric ( I bought a yard because I tend to make mistakes and wanted to make sure I had enough. However I think 1/2 a yard or less of fabric would do just fine.)
Construction paper (optional)
2 Binder rings
Hot glue/glue gun
Sewing Machine

Step One:
First I wrapped brown construction paper around the Pringles can to cover the bright orange label, taping it in place with electrical tape. (Later I realized this step was unnecessary, so you can skip it if you wish.)

Step Two:
I measured and cut the faux leather, wrapping it around the Pringles can so that it overlapped a tiny bit. I punched holes in the ends and tied it together with round flexible lace. *I had extra fabric at the top which I just folded into the can and secured in place using hot glue.

Step Three:
I traced the bottom of the can onto the leftover fabric and cut out a circle. I then used hot glue to secure it to the bottom of the Pringles can.

Step Four:
I measured around my son's body with measuring tape (just how he would be wearing the quiver, slung over his shoulder, across his body) to get the appropriate length for the strap. I added a few extra inches for growth and adjustability. I then cut out two lengths of the strap and sewed them together with my sewing machine. Because it was faux leather no special needle or thread was needed for this. It went right through the fabric no problem. I used a straight stitch, medium length, with a slow speed.

Step Five:
I chose one end of the strap, folding it over to make a loop, and sewed it together.

Step Six:
I needed to secure the strap to the can, so I laid the strap on the Pringles can covering the seam. I then used an awl to poke a hole at the top of the can. Using a big brad--you need the prongs to be long enough to poke through the fabric and the can and still have enough length to open--I pushed it through the hole, bending the prongs open and securing the strap in place. I repeated this step three more times evenly spacing them. The strap was now securely pinned in place.

Step Seven:
Lastly, I took the loop end of the strap and placed in on the two binder rings. To ensure the binder rings would stay closed I wrapped brown ribbon around the opening and hot glued into place. I then laced the other end of the strap through the binder rings like you would a belt. Voila!
Here is the end result. It fits him perfectly and is adjustable if needed.
Wearing his quiver, view from the front.
Wearing it, view from the back.
The full effect. Mason being the Avenger, Hawkeye.
A close up of the ring closure.

There you have it. A simple, quick and easy DIY quiver you can make your very own Avenger.
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