Saturday, December 24, 2011

from my family to yours

Our Christmas card this year.
Photographs by: myself (Rachel Briggs)
Card Design by: myself (Rachel Briggs Creations)

Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas and all the best for a joyous and prosperous New Year!!
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

But, I'm not ready yet

Mason is having his first drop-off play date tomorrow and I am having a minor, ok, Major panic attack over it.

Mason has had a bunch of play dates over the years, and even a few with new families we have met through preschool. They have always been with me present, mostly because me and the other Mom want to chat and get to know one another. But seriously, I have never had a Mom ask me to drop off my child at their house. Until now. And well actually, she never really asked, but more assumed.

For about a week we had been playing phone tag in trying to set up a play date with our sons. Finally we met up at a school function. This was where she said, "so do you want me to just take him to my house after school or would you prefer to drop him off?" I'm pretty sure my mouth dropped to the floor and my eyes bugged out. I felt blindsided as I struggled to regain my composure. We had already agreed to the play date and even though I am not at all ready to let my son run off without me, how could I back out now? I feel really uncomfortable sending my son to the home of someone I barely know. He is only five years old. I know most of the parents in Mason's class have multiple kids and the ones in his class are usually their second or third so they have been there and done that. But he is my first, my baby, and this is a HUGE step for me. I'm sure they are a wonderful family and from the brief moments I have talked with her, I've determined she is very nice. The fact remains, we've only had a few brief encounters, so I don't know her all that well yet. I don't know any of the parents in his class very well for that matter. At least not well enough to let my son go to their house alone.

Mason, of course, is thrilled about going to this house because he says they have Legos and he is really into building with Legos right now. I explained to him that I will not be there and it would be a long time without Mom (2 hours, and that was me cutting it down). Still he doesn't seem to be apprehensive about it at all. I seem to be the only one with reservations and suffering from fear, panic and worry. What if he gets hurt and I am not there? What if they allow him to do things that I find inappropriate? What do I do if their discipline methods are completely different than ours? Will she let them play outside unattended? What if he gets uncomfortable or upset or bored and wants to go home, will she call me and let me know? I told him that he should tell the Mom if he wants to leave and have her call me and I'll come pick him up but still, I have all these horrors running through my head. I've never been to their house, I've never seen my son and her son interact or play with one another, so I have no idea how well they get along. This is all so new and uncharted territory for me and for him. I have no idea what to expect, nor do I know what is the protocol in these situations.

I mentioned this on Mason's birthday, with all the parents wanting to drop off their 4 and 5 year old children at my house for his party, and this wasn't the first time I ran into this. At what age is it appropriate to expect other parents to watch our kids for two hours while we run off? Even more, is 5 too young for a drop off play date? Especially if you do not know them that well? I want my son to feel independent and confidence in not having me around but at the same time, he is only in preschool. I have such anxiety and feel so uncomfortable about the whole situation, yet I feel I can't insist I be there or back out for fear of being seen as rude or over protective. I'm almost trying to find any excuse, like bad behavior, to call up and cancel. Ahh! Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way?

So how do I deal with this anxiety? I'm not sure. I could very well be that Mom who sits in her car for two hours, parked across the street.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011



Mason turned five years old last week. FIVE! Oh my gosh I cannot believe it has been five years since I first became a Mom. How fast the years go by and even faster, how you settle into your new routine. The ease at which you transform from a daughter, to wife to a mother and never look back. So it is only fitting that he chose to have a Transformers themed birthday this year.


I had quite a bit of fun planning this party. O.K., I have fun planning all my kids parties, but this one was especially fun. Mostly because of the age of my son and his party guests. I was able to do so much more, be more creative and actually plan some fun activities to go along with our traditional pin the tail, pinata and cake. Even more, it was fun because I kept it simple.


Yup, that's right, I said simple. The decorations, the favors, and the food, all quick and easy. It really helps to make early preparation a priority. Establishing that theme early on and then buying things like streamers, balloons, and tablecloths weeks before the party; even before I made the invitations. I scored them pretty cheap thanks to sales and coupons. Of course I could not go shopping for any of this stuff without my co-planner. He has been a part of the process from the very beginning. Since he could talk (which was two) and had an opinion, I've respectfully run my ideas through his approval. He usually agrees, but every once and while we butt heads. Still, it's fun to get the kids involved.

Having a Transformers theme, it was pretty easy to pick the colors. I assumed we'd pretty much be doing black and yellow for BumbleBee, Mason's favorite character, but he insisted we have blue, red and grey as well. Representing Optimus Prime and Ironhide, respectfully. We split the five colors up between the streamers (Red, Blue, Black) and balloons (yellow, black and silver). I then made two banners. One that says Happy Birthday, replicating the yellow and black stripped Camero that is BumbleBee. The second, a blue and grey banner to represent Optimus with alternating Autobot and Decepticon images. I hung them up the night before his birthday so when he woke up that morning and came downstairs he saw them and immediately said, "I love it Mom. Especially the Transformers letters."

For the favors I made yellow and black playdough. After having made my first batch of playdough last year, I have never looked back. The batch you get is huge and it a lot softer and stays moist for way longer than the store bought brand name dough. I packed them in cheap tupperware containers, printed out the recipe on sticker paper and wrapped them in ribbon.

That night after everyone was in bed I stayed up way too late and decorated the house. I am a bit of a night owl. I work best, creatively, when I am alone with no distractions and it is quiet except for my music or latest podcast I listen to while working. I think it was 2am by the time I finally crawled into bed but I had the satisfaction of having everything that could possibly be done, done. Weekends are my days to sleep in so thankfully I got to sleep later than everyone else after pulling the all nighter. I missed Mason's reaction when he walked downstairs, but my heart soared when Fred told me that he went on and on and on about the decorations and how, "this was the best birthday ever!!" And "Daddy, isn't this great? Isn't this the best birthday ever? How are you not more excited?!" I guess I got it right. If everything else fell apart or didn't go as planned, I could be happy anyway.


The most exciting part of the planning, and the party for that matter, was the activity I had planned.

Are any of you familiar with a show called Dino Dan? It is a show about a boy who is really into dinosaurs and you get to learn all about them and see them in action. It's a neat show as we have stumbled upon it a few times. On one particular day we watched an episode in which Dan was having a birthday. As one of the activities, his mother created a hunt for the kids with clues to find out which dinosaur was on the cake. Mason turned to me and immediately suggested a hunt to figure out which Transformer was on his cake. For months, he would mention this idea to me. However, I soon realized that finding a Transformers cake, much less getting a say as to what character was on it, was extremely difficult. So the plan had to be altered. I thought back to my childhood and remembered the summer reading programs my Mom would drag my sister and I to, as her helpers. One summer, the program had a pirate theme and she did a treasure hunt with the kids. I remembered how much fun that was for the kids, and despite the fact that at the time, I hated being there, it was actually a lot of fun for me too.

So our cake clue idea became the Hunt for the Allspark. Mason immediately thought this was a cool idea. However, we needed a way for each kid to get their own Allspark to take with them and how in world would I make 14 Allsparks? As I searched for ideas, we found ourselves at Walmart, shopping for who knows what, and ending up in the party isle where they have all those little trinkets for favors. You know the ones that are like $1 or less. There we found these cubed erasers, that are a puzzle, and immediately said, "this is our Allspark". They were perfect.

I then spent the next week leading up to the party, creating and coming up with clever clues to hide around the house leading the kids from room to room and ultimately the Allspark. The morning of the party, I hid all the clues in their appropriate places and anxiously awaited for the time to start the game. Below are the clues I created.


I started off by explaining the deal with the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, for those who are not familiar with the Transformers. I then explained that we needed to "find the Allspark before Megatron and save our planet from the evil forces of the Decepticons. Who is with me?" All the kids started jumping up and down, raising their hands and screaming, "me! Me!" The funniest part was after all the kids got quiet as I was about to read the first clue, Sophie runs up to the group and yells, "me too! " (Have I mentioned how much I love this girl?) This actually might have been more fun for me, but I think I got the kids excited enough. I watched as they ran from room to room, looking for the clue and getting so excited once it was found, ready to hear where they were heading next. Once they found the cubes, they were rewarded with a pinata. What an excellent way to get rid of excess Halloween candy.

After some more playing, it was time for cake. Being the family documentarian and always having my camera, my only regret was not having taken pictures throughout the party. No images of the kids all hitting the mark on the pin the symbol on BumbleBee, no images of me reading the clues to overexcited kids, no images of them pulling the strings on the pinata, no images of them them just all around having a blast and playing. However, I did grab my camera long enough to take a photo of the cake and Mason blowing out his candles. Which was a fun event, because jokingly I told Mason was going to use those trick candles on his cake and he then convinced me to actually use them. So two of them, no one knew which ones, were the trick ones and it took him a few tries to blow them out.


All in all, it was a fun day. I think it could have potentially been more chaotic, especially if more people were invited. I am learning that at this age most parents assume parties are drop off. I ran into this last year with Mason as well. I don't know about you, but I would not drop off my 4 or 5 year old preschooler at someones house for two hours, especially when I do not know them that well. Though this does not seem to be an issue for the majority of the parents at our preschool. A few of the kids got dropped off, which was fine, as we had a sufficient number of parents who did stay, but if it had been all 12 kids in my house just me and my husband, I would have lost it. Knowing this, and knowing it was only going to be expected for next year, Fred and I decided that future parties for Mason will be held somewhere other than our home.

I'm glad Mason had a great time with his friends, I'm glad he loved all the planning that went into it and I am especially glad I have gotten to see him grow from year to year. When it comes to transformations, this past year has been the biggest for him. Baby fat is gone, and his skills are expanding. With that, since he is learning to write, this year I am having him write his own Thank You notes. I created fill in the blank cards and he has been busy writing them out this week.

He has been doing such a great job, though I know even those few words are a challenge for him. I am so proud of my little man and the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. I'm not sure what I would do without his smile, laughter, sense of humor, logic and reasoning and all around truly caring spirit.

Thanks for Transforming my life buddy.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Fa-BOO-lous Halloween!!

Our Halloween started off with the class party and parade at Mason's school on the 28th. This year they came to school dressed in their costumes. Sophie, of course, had to be just like her brother and dressed in her costume that day as well. Being a room parent again this year, I helped plan, prepare and execute the party. The kids made an eyeball snack out of carrots, cream cheese and either a blueberry or an olive. I didn't think about how this snack would taste at the time of planning. Unfortunately it wasn't that great, based on the faces of some of the kids. However, these kids are pretty smart and ended up just eating each piece of fruit/vegetable on its own.

I also learned something while in the classroom. The white part of the eye, represented by the the cream cheese on our snack, is called the tapetum. It reflects light and helps nocturnal animals, such as bats, see in the dark. See even I am learning something from preschool!

After clean up, Sophie and I headed outside to join the rest of the Bears parents while we waited for the kids to parade by in their costumes.
Mason brought up the rear for his class in the role of caboose for the parade. It was pretty cold that day so coats were a necessity. He was pretty bummed though that they would not allow him to wear his cannon for the parade as it was considered a gun and no weapons were allowed. Still, I got so many comments on how much he looked like BumbleBee.
After making their way through the parking lot, the older kids (JK and Kindergarten) got to parade around Bloom grocery store across the street while the parents waited for the kids back in the classroom.

That evening we went to IHOP for free scary face pancakes. A special treat for the kids and night off of cooking for me.

I swear Halloween night could not come fast enough for these two kids. They had been chomping at the bit ever since Friday. This year was exceptionally special due to Fred and I hand making either all or parts of the kids costumes.
Mason was BumbleBee. This was a given from early on. In fact, he has been so into Transformers that when I saw the BumbleBee costume at Costco a month before Halloween, I didn't have to think twice before putting it in my cart. My only concern was whether it would fit. Which it did perfectly. After I had the idea to make Sophie's costume, thought it would be cool to make Mason a canon fully equipped with LED's. Mason, of course, LOVED the idea and would talk of nothing else till it was done. I have to say it came out awesome and really made the costume. Fred used a shipping tube for the canon, painting it yellow to match. He then programmed a micro controller to have the blue LED's blink in a circle like it does in the movie, as if he is about to shoot you. There were many compliments of his canon throughout the night.
Sophie was so hard to figure out. We had gone to Target, Costco, Walmart, etc. as soon as the costumes were being displayed to find one for her. At first I thought she would be TinkerBell, but the costumes were all either too baby or too adult or had elements like the wings and such which we already had. My next thought was a princess, she has been liking Ariel lately, but wouldn't even try on any of those costumes. She tried on Wonder Woman and wore it around the store, I was thinking we found the costume until she got bored with it. Mason and I were both at a loss. That's when Sophie started to really get into Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.

It all started because we watch Transformers Prime on the hub and one day stumbled upon the newest Strawberry t.v. show. So one day while picking up some supplies at Target I had her try on the Strawberry Shortcake costume. For what it came with, it was a good price. Unfortunately the sizing on these costumes in not accurate. Even though it claimed to be a size 2T-4T it barely fit her and Halloween being a month away still, I was apprehensive about buying it. So I started to wonder how hard it would be to make.

Next thing I know I am searching Pinterest for homemade Strawberry Shortcake costume ideas and buying pink polka dot fabric and searching every store for green and white striped tights. Little by little the outfit came together and while I had some redos with the outfit, I think for my first attempt it came out really good.

Following a tutorial I found online, I just took one of her dresses, folded it in half and cut the shape out of the pink polka dot fabric. I then chopped of the top part and sewed the bottom half to a white T-shirt I bought at Walmart. For the leggings, I found the green stripped leg warmers at Target and ended up sewing them to the shorts of an outfit that she no longer fits into. Voila, leggings. For the hat, I used this tutorial, except I bought a cheap visor at Walmart for $2 as the base. I took the leftover green felt from making the peter pan hats for Sophie's second birthday party and covered the brim. Then I used the leftover fabric from making the dress and made the hat, using a hot glue gun to attach it to the visor. I piped the edges, covering the frays, with white ribbon from my stash and after trying it on her attached some elastic to the back of the visor to help it stay on her head. For the Strawberry Shortcake emblem, my friend, Kim from Hammers and Fire, made it for me and I then just printed it out on special paper and ironed it directly onto the t-shirt. Kim is the one who Fred collaborated with to make my one of a kind necklace for our 6th year Wedding Anniversary. I encourage you to click the link and check out her work on her blog. It is absolutely stunning. I am thinking of commissioning a ring to match my necklace. The pink sparkly shoes I found at Target and had to fight with her to not wear until Halloween.

I am quite impressed with myself and will be attempting to make more outfits and other crafty things. First on my list is to figure out how to make a memory quilt. I am feeling more comfortable with my sewing machine and am glad it is getting a lot of use these days, for more than just my scrapbook pages and albums.

After getting my pre-requisite photos of them in their costumes, we headed out into the night to accumulate as much candy as possible.
It was a cold evening, thanks to the freak snow day we had Saturday. Which also ruined our pumpkin patch plans. While Mason was fine in his outfit the whole night, Sophie only lasted the few houses on our cul-de-sac before wanting her coat.
Mason is a seasoned pro at Trick or Treating. It being Sophie's first real year, Mason was teaching her what to say and after the first few houses she caught on quickly. Putting her cuteness to work and milking our neighbors for all they were worth. At one point she fell, pretty hard. Tripping over her shoes and her pumpkin of candy rolling down the street. We made it to the next house, me carrying her and Sophie, using her tears to her benefit. For each whimper the lady but more candy into her bucket. I cut it off after the third or fourth handful. By the end of the evening Grandma and I had to carry their buckets for being so full of candy they were too heavy for the kids to carry anymore.

I think they really made out this year, as Mason's school assignment clearly indicated. He had to count the number of candy bars, lollipops and gum that he got. We counted 48 candy bars!
Well at least I now have enough bribes for them to last me through the new year. Either that or they might get so tired of candy by December they won't want to eat the rest. At least until next year.
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

MommyPage: Featuring Unscripted

This week I have been given the opportunity to be featured on a new website, MommyPage.

About a month ago I was contacted by the owner of this website asking if they could interview me to feature on their blog. I was kind of caught of guard. Me? They want to interview me? So then I thought about it and I checked out the website and ultimately agreed. I'm pretty excited about it. So if you get the chance, go check out my interview and while you are there, check out what MommyPage has to offer.

If you are not familiar with them, here is some more info on what they are all about.

MommyPage is a brand new Website that brings the latest and greatest deals, coupons, and discount opportunities offered on the Web to expectant mothers, new mothers, and veteran mothers. The main goal at MommyPage is to find the best free samples, coupons, and other special offers from your favorite name brands! To be able to provide connections to these items, MommyPage has a knowledgeable team of moms just like you that encourage companies to offer great deals that are relevant to family-based lifestyles. MommyPage has recently found and posted some amazing offers from companies such as VTech Kids, Kellogg's, ThredUp, Baby Talk, and American Baby! Beyond our offers and deals, MommyPage assists mothers in navigating their way through parenthood. The mothers within our MommyPage community share stories on topics like buying maternity clothes, healthy eating for two, baby behavior, first days at preschool, and much more! At MommyPage, we know that being a mother is about finding a harmonious balance between home and family management, as well as all other aspects of life. With our tips and hints on parenting and access to discounts, we sincerely hope to help our MommyPage subscribers make parenting a successful experience. Please visit to sign up today!

And don't forget to read my interview being featured today!
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Just like that

I tell you. I make plans, have great ideas and then just like that, it's almost a month before I get the chance to post to my blog again. Ugh. I feel like such a slacker.

Blame it on my inner overachiever who feels the need to be SuperMom at all times. If you remember, at the end of the school year, I became the Vice Chair for the Parent Connection Committee at Mason's preschool. Well, plans kinda changed a bit. So, um, yeah, now I have stepped up and become the Chairperson for the PCC instead. Gulp. Yeah I just had a minor panic attack too. It's a long story, but basically the PCC is struggling a lot with parent involvement this year and no one came forth interested in being the leader. I pretty much said, well I'm kinda doing it anyway, and so there you go.

I haven't exactly told Fred just yet. Mostly because of his less than enthusiastic and not so supportive response when I told him I wanted to be Vice Chair. Imagine how he would react if I said, "Honey. Guess what? I am now running the whole thing." Yeah that would not go over well. So I am kinda taking my time to ease him into this knowledge. That, and well, it's a hell of a lot of work.

I was not prepared to take on this role, so naturally I was not prepared for the responsibilities and duties that have all of a sudden slapped me hard in the face. I've only been in this role, in official capacity, for a week now. Mostly, I am trying to play catch up. I have been reading through the previous Chair's binder she put together. Getting myself familiar with how she ran things, what worked and what didn't. Studying up on her notes, past agendas and meeting minutes. Working hard to come up with a strategy or plan for how to make this year successful. I'm not gonna lie, its A LOT OF WORK and I find myself struggling with it all. I really don't want to admit this, but I think I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew.

It's not like I was really keeping up with all my domestic duties as a SAHM anyway. I'll get into my opinion on domestic duties another day. As I was saying, I already wasn't keeping up with my massive laundry list of duties as it was, but now it's all gone to the wayside.

I haven't washed my floors in months. I know, disgusting isn't it? The only time I remember to do the laundry is when there is a lack of clothes to wear and by then the piles have gotten so huge it takes me two weeks just to get through it and by then it's piled up all over again. *sigh* I don't have a dinner plan and it's 5pm and Fred is super annoyed. My kids have watched way more television that I would normally allow, and eaten way more junk food than I am completely comfortable with them having, and whined far above my tolerance level due to boredom and wanting Mommy to pay attention to them. I feel so incredibly guilty. As if I haven't been feeling guilty enough since becoming a Mom. But, in turn, I need to have some time to get non-child related work done. Not just for school, even though we have three events that are coming up and no one to chair two of those committee's and a serious lack in parents stepping up to run stations at our Safety Day event at the end of the month, but to be able to have the time to nourish myself as well.

I joined the PCC, yes to help out with my son's school, but mostly to meet other Mom's. I felt so alone at the beginning of school last year. It was Mason's first year, I was new to the whole school thing. Unsure of what to expect, not really knowing anyone but one friend. I hated that disconnected feeling, especially when everyone around me seemed to be so in tune with one another. So I signed up for Room Parent and I met Nancy. I think I spent the most time with her than any other Mom at the school, between planning classroom events and chit chatting about life in carpool line. I got to know the other parents in the classroom and play dates were made as well as friendships. I then signed on to co-chair the Art to Remember event. I met Aimee, who's children swim on my neighborhood swim team and got a background of the school from one whose children have attended for nearly 10 years. I got to know the teachers and some staff where we would exchange hello's and how is you daughter in the hallway. One day, I ran into a fellow PCC member at Wegmans, than another one at Target, and then waves started exchanging in carpool line and I no longer felt alone. I felt part of a community and that was really the point.

I want to take my experience and bring it to the Parent Connection Committee this year. The whole idea is to connect. To enlighten parents on how the PCC makes school life better. I know we all have felt at some point in our lives as if we were alone, but we really aren't and we shouldn't have to feel this way. There is whole community out there waiting for you! As our children attend school, developing their minds, they are also establishing friendships, so why shouldn't we?

That said, I am struggling with the business side of it all, sitting here putting together my own agenda as I prepare for our first official social meeting of the year. I almost already feel like a failure, having not established committee heads for the majority of our events/fundraisers. Nor do we have the officer positions fully staffed. Psst, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I don't like talking in front of groups of people, it makes me so uncomfortable and self conscious. I too, shy away from leadership roles for lack of confidence in myself that I know enough to hold such a high power position and do it effectively, because I am not much of a confrontational person. My personality is anything but tough and I'm not sure I could be stern enough to someone when they aren't getting the job done. However, I hosted an extremely successful Room Parent Coffee Talk forum last week, where I discussed the role and responsibilities of the Room Parent and shared a few tips and tricks that I learned from being a Room Parent myself. There were many new parents and I had more than a few come up to me afterwards and thank me. I admit, it felt really good. My ego was boosted a little bit and I had some more confidence in myself that I might actually be able to pull this whole thing off.

So after that long explanation, what I was really trying to say is that if you don't see me posting as often, it's because I'm either desperately trying to catch up on laundry, planning the latest party for my son's classroom, actively getting parents involved, or just spending time with my kids.

And speaking of parties, I have a 5 year old Transformers birthday party to plan. *bangs her head on the table* Yeah, I'll get on that one first thing in the morning.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

That Mom

Today my heart about leaped out of my chest as I came so close to having an absolute break down. Right there in the women's section of Target. I hate to admit, but this is not the first time I have experienced this kind of sheer panic. Sophie has run off in the store many times before; at Kohls, Target, Walmart, etc. You know, only the really big stores where its easy for the kids to hide under clothes racks and in store displays, and equally easy enough for sometime to just walk away with your precious child and no one notice.

This is the scenario playing out in my mind as I am running up and down the aisles calling her name, "Sophie!" Each look around a corner or behind a rack I hope to see her pop out, that mischievous smile on her face and say, here I am! But there is nothing. This continues for some time, longer than I am comfortable with, and I suddenly realize, I am THAT MOM. We all know her. The one who didn't pay close enough attention and lost her child. She is the one in shear panic, running all crazy like and screaming at the top of her lungs, turning the store upside down, sobbing and calling out her child's name. The Mom who we all stare at and judge and secretly pray we never become. For some, our heart goes out to her and others swear that will never be us, because we are way better parents.

I really try hard not to fully embody that mom. I calmly walk up to the associate in the fitting room, "have you seen my daughter run by here?" I try not to sound too concerned. "She is wearing a cupcake shirt," I tell her as we walk the aisles together. She must have sensed my panic rising, or maybe saw the fear and tears I was fighting hard to suppress. "Would you like me to call it in," she asks. "Yes, please." I hate to admit that my daughter isn't just going to appear any second like she always does, and give in, accepting my failure.

The call goes out over the radios to all the associates. Amongst my fear, I feel embarrassed too. How could I have let this happen? Why do I let her play in areas where I don't have a direct eyesight with her? How could I have been so engrossed in looking at clothes that I didn't notice she was gone? Ultimately what I was really thinking was, I am a terrible mother.

I'm sure we have all been in this mindset before, for something we perceived as the ultimate betrayal to the trust of our children. It may be just an over reaction or it might be rightfully justified. All I know, is that today, in that moment, I had never felt so undeserving of my children. These precious lives that are at the mercy of my hand each and every day deserve better, better than me as their Mom. I wanted to turn to all those people who praised me for my mothering skills and snap at them, "See, I told you I suck at this."

Just as I was settling into this doom of self hate, a lady walks my daughter, who is donning adult sunglasses being held upside down, to her face, over to wear we stand. My heart skips a beat, my fear fades and I grab her and hold her as tight as I possibly can. "She was just trying on sunglasses," the lady reveals to me. I cannot thank her enough as she explains she has a son who does the same thing. So many feelings rush over me as I carry my daughter back to our cart and place her safely inside. "You are staying in here," I tell her, as I explain how terrified I was that I could not find her and it was very important that she NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!!

The rest of our shopping excursion goes without a hitch. Thankful and feeling as though I narrowly escaped what could have turned out to be THE ABSOLUTE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE, I buckle her into the car seat, steal a sweet kiss and drive off to pick up my son from school.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Holy Crap! Was that an earthquake?

Those were the words screaming very loudly in my head as I descended the stairs after checking on my, just put down for a nap, daughter.

It started off just like any other day. Sophie waking up way too soon, but since she just stays in her room till someone comes to get her (and that might be 20 minutes later), I tend to stay in bed and get a few more minutes of rest till Mason comes charging in the room. After breakfast and a much needed cup, or two, of coffee, I join Fred and the kids outside for a morning bike ride. What a morning it was too. A nice breeze, probably in the upper 70's or lower 80's, much cooler than it has been. Mason rides around and around on his two wheels, while Sophie tries to keep up on her tricycle and at times just giving up and running after him. We wave good-bye to daddy as he drives off for his meeting in Maryland.

A few hours later, we are having lunch. Sophie is looking tired so I put her down for a nap. Then Mason and I settle down into the family room to work on a Transformers puzzle we picked up earlier in the day. It was a hard puzzle, later I realized it was because I had the edge pieces in the wrong spot. The point is that we were concentrating hard on this puzzle, sitting on the floor, when all of a sudden we heard a loud rumble and the windows rattle.

My first thought was that it was a big truck coming through the neighborhood, that was until everything started to shake. Mason looked at me, almost horrified. I kind of froze trying to settle myself as I looked up and saw the house moving. I felt dizzy and nauseous and knew this was not just a low flying plane or a tremor from the local quarry blasting. I went to grab Mason and heard picture frames falling in the other room. That was when my mind went to Sophie, alone upstairs. I jumped up, running up the stairs as fast as I could, Mason close on my heels. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, I just knew I needed to grab both kids and have them with me. I was also afraid that stuff would be falling off the shelves and walls of Sophie's room and onto her laying helpless in bed. About the time I reached the top it was all over.

I opened the door to Sophie's room. She sat up in bed, looking so innocent and confused as to why I was there and looking scared. Are you o.k.? I asked. Uh, huh, she mutters through her pacifier. Everything looked normal, only her butterfly mobile slightly swaying above her bed. I doubt she knew what happened or that it was potentially dangerous. I told her to go back to bed and quietly closed the door.

My hands trembling, my legs feeling of jello, my head reeling. Mason is practically in tears, the house is going to break. Is the house going to break, Mama? Was that an earthquake? I thought you said earthquakes don't happen here. I said we'd check on the computer, see if the news sites were reporting anything. Nothing, yet. But Facebook and Twitter were on fire. Wow, that was really an earthquake. Then CNN confirmed it, 5.8 earthquake hits the Washington D.C. area. That's when the phone rang. I rushed to get it. Fred was calling to ask if we just had an earthquake. I choke back some tears, the need to be brave for my kids starting to wear off, yes. Did you feel it too?

I spent the rest of the conversation walking around the house, picking up picture frames, checking on everything else to see if anything was broken. It wasn't. I called my dad in D.C. to see if he was o.k. We talked for a bit. Mason and I finished the puzzle. He begged for another bike ride. He rode his bike, I caught up on some reading. I talked with my sister, turned on the news. Talked with a friend, updated Facebook and Twitter.

All in all, everyone is o.k. and everything seems to be in good shape. Though, we will be making a few walks around the foundation, checking the gas lines and such just for good measure.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

The training wheels are off

When we first got Mason his 16" inch bike because he was seriously outgrowing his 12", it was a struggle, and hit my fear nerve trying to get him to ride on both training wheels. He tended to favor one training wheel over the other and I was certain he was going to bite it when he sped through the turns on our cul-de-sac. So much, that my body would temporary seize in fear each time.

This was only back in April or May. So when Fred and Mason came running in the door this morning insisting they had a surprise, Mason was riding without training wheels, I was shocked. You mean the training wheels are off the bike? Oh, yes they were indeed.
Doesn't he just look so cool?
Occasionally, he'd fall down. But he'd get right back up.
but not before Sophie ran to his side to see if he was o.k.
Right now this is our fourth time outside to ride bikes. Clearly he is proud of himself, as he should be. Taking the training wheels off is a big step, and at only four years old no less. He never fails to amaze me. His courage and determination alone are inspiration for my own life.

As I sit here watching him, picking up speed with each passing lap around the cul-de-sac, maneuvering turns with precision, it is hard to believe that just a short week ago he was practicing how to just balance on the bike. Now he looks as if he's been riding this way for years, instead of 5 hours. Our neighbors son, who is around 7 years, sees Mason and joins him. They ride together in a, we're part of the same club, sort of silence. Then,"I really like your bike." "Yeah, it's Transformers." "I know, and your helmet is Bumblebee." "He's my favorite Transformer." "Mine too." "Really?" And their off again, riding side by side. He looks so different on two wheels.
I still cannot believe my four year old is riding his bike without training wheels and doing such an awesome job! I am beyond proud. Practically speechless. It is odd for a four year old to have mastered riding a bike without training wheels already, isn't it?
It must be the energon seeping into his veins.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Big Girl

Recently Fred did some handy work for my parents, so we all found ourselves hanging out at Grandma and Pop-Pop's for the day. Train tracks were built, cars were raced and when it came time for Sophie's nap she decided she didn't want to go in the pack n' play. I thought, well great. Where can I put her to sleep? Enter the trundle bed from my childhood bedroom. It is low to the ground and where Mason usually sleeps when he is visiting. Sophie was more than excited, to say the least, but I was nervous as to how it would turn out.

Surprisingly, she did really well. After some coaxing and instructing to, not jump on the bed, she eventually calmed down from all the excitement (this was her first time actually being allowed to sleep in a non confining bed), and fell asleep. She stayed asleep for about two hours without even falling off (seeing as my parents don't have any safety bed rails). It was this that encouraged me to decide that now was the time to say good-bye to the nursery.

So the next day, while Mason had his Grandma Sunday and Sophie was busy playing downstairs, I dismantled the crib and set up her big girl bed.
It was a long time coming. Sophie has shown interest in Mason's bed since January. Running into his room, jumping on his bed, pretending to fall asleep and looking so happy while he looks at me in frustration to, get her out of my room. In honesty, I have wanted to transition her since she turned two. Now that she is almost 27 months and has proven she can sleep in a big girl bed, there were no more excuses.

Her reaction to the crib being gone was priceless. She spent the rest of the time hanging in her new room with me, making it difficult to put things together because she wanted to touch and explore and jump on things. It was all so new and exciting and so freaking awesome for her.

Months ago, while having dinner at the home of a dear childhood friend, we ended up in their basement going through piles of clothes their girls no longer fit into, picking things out for Sophie. In the process, we got on the topic of toddler beds and left that evening with not only a bag of clothes but a cute white metal toddler bed as well. I am so very grateful for their ability and generosity in helping us out.

It sat in our guest bedroom until this day. Putting it together, I was a bit concerned that it didn't include bed rails like the one we got for Mason. However, since she did so well with the trundle bed at my parents, I thought we'd try it without them for her nap.
Doesn't she look so cute, and so not a baby, fast asleep in that bed? I had to peek on her just to make sure she was doing o.k., and she looked so peaceful and adorable so, I grabbed my camera. She did really well for the whole two hours in bed. Then I heard her wake up and...BOOM! Followed by screams and tears. Yeah, o.k., we need a bed rail. I remembered we had some handed down to us from family, so I dragged them out of storage and began to put them together until we realized they were longer than the bed itself. Uh...

That night I took a last minute trip to Target to see if I could find a bed rail that would work. I thought I found success. Unfortunately, when we put it on, we found out that there was only a 5 inch gap for Sophie to climb into bed. It made do for the night, but I knew it had to change for the long term. I mean, come on, seriously? A five inch gap to squeeze into bed? She's only going to grow bigger and quite honestly it seems like she's still in a crib. What was the point in putting her in a toddler bed then? I was frustrated. Torn between decisions, I called my friend and inquired upon what they used. The next day, I drove to her house and picked up the bed rail they used. It is 5 inches shorter so that gives her 10 inches of space now to climb into bed. Not as much space as Mason, but much better than before. Also, these bed rails were meant for a twin bed with box spring so I had to rig it to fit the toddler bed. My friend said they just zip tied theirs to the bed. I might have gone a bit overboard with the zip ties, but I can tell you, that sucker ain't going anywhere.

Here is an overall look at her new setup.
Since moving into this house, I have always felt the nursery room was small. Not big enough for an older kids bedroom. Now that the crib is gone, the room feels so much bigger. I moved the glider and ottoman out and into the guest bedroom, turned the book shelf on it's side for easier access at toddler height, and kept the starlight rug and changing table where they were for now.

Mason had a clear theme in his room; Cars. Everything matched perfectly, from the wall color to the bed and bedding, to the hamper, valance and border. Sophie doesn't have a clear theme. The walls are still the yellow and green with the half torn border that fit the starlight/nursery rhyme nursery theme. It's been hard to plan her theme, because she really isn't into one main thing like Mason. Yeah she LOVES TinkerBell but she also likes the Princesses, Cars, owls and deer, Thomas, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake...the list goes on.

Over the last year I have been creating and bringing things in, here and there, that she has shown interest in as she has grown. The bedding is from her first birthday. Woodland theme, with pillow and lamp and valance to match. The pinks and greens from the bedding go well with the current paint color in the room. She still has the butterfly mobile I made her a year ago. After she ripped it down a few weeks ago, I rehung it over her current bed at a height she can't reach. I fixed the butterfly collage and placed that on the bookshelf next to the vintage birdcage I picked up at Home Goods and was used for her second birthday. It still houses TinkerBell, hanging from some fishing line. I also utilized the two garlands from her party, the pictures from all the TinkerBell movies and the vintage scrap fabric. I plan to get wooden letters to spell her name and hang them above the fabric garland. Also from her second birthday party, I hung a second butterfly-TinkerBell mobile in the corner. It hangs over a big Birdcage we scored free from our neighbor when she moved out. The vintage Cinderella Poster we bought when I was pregnant with Sophie still hangs on the wall. It's a bit eclectic but I think it all works.

Of course Mason, not wanting to be left out, asked to have his room rearranged.
I moved his bed and bookcase to a different wall, so now we don't get woken up by his kicking the wall in his sleep anymore. His toy chest now sits at the foot of his bed and I moved the Cars table from downstairs, that went with his room in a box, into his bedroom. Now he can do school stuff and be creative in here. Hoping it will encourage him to spend more time in his room, playing on his own. At the same time, I decided to move the Lego table into Sophie's room along with the Mega Blox Legos and her talking tea set. The idea, to make it more fun for her to play in her room as well. It makes sense to utilize the space in their bedrooms and keep less toys downstairs to be thrown all over the floor.

This was a huge step for all of us. It was huge for Fred and I to trust that Sophie would stay in her bed all night and not randomly come walking out and accidentally fall down the stairs. It was huge for Sophie to be given the trust and freedom, so huge she hasn't quite accepted that concept yet. We still have to go and get her out of her room in the morning and after naps as she won't come out on her own. It has equally been huge for Mason to share the big kid role.

It's been almost a whole week with this new arrangement and all I can say is this. I love having her in a big girl room, and even after many months of knowing this day would come, I am finding it heartbreaking to admit that my baby girl is no longer a baby. Though, I have a feeling this realization was not so hard for her.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Mazel Tov!

This past weekend we attended the wedding of this wonderful couple. My brother-in-law, Chris and new sister-in-law, Cynthia.
She was gorgeous, he was handsome. The day was beautiful.
With the bay as backdrop, a slight breeze kissed our skin, and sunny skies hovered above. Just long enough for the ceremony and all the pictures outside to be done because as soon as the reception started the lightning flashed, thunder rolled and the skies opened up with a steady fall of rain.

Despite the fact that I had a serious migraine for most of it, I enjoyed myself at what I can only describe as the most laid back, charming wedding I have attended to date. A wedding, whose ceremony time rivals our own. I swear it beat our time, but Fred will not concede.

It was a much needed date-night out for us, as we chose to go solo. These days it is rare we get out, just the two of us. It was nice, but with all the other wee ones running around I began to miss my rugrats. Especially when the music started and no one would dance with me, including my husband. I knew Mason would, he loves to dance, we dance all the time together at home. I almost cried when, I got a feeling by the Black Eyed Peas came over the speakers. That is our song, Mason and I's. So I grabbed a drink and enjoyed the company of family and friends.
It felt so awkward to not be mommy, especially when every one of my girlfriends attending were. But it was equally satisfying, knowing that no matter how late we stayed up (which in all honesty was only like 11:30pm), we didn't have to get up at the butt crack of dawn. It was a rather peaceful wake up as opposed to the jolt of a whining child in your face.

What started out as a long week of events with friends and family and this and that, ended with a joyous celebration of the love of two wonderful people who I am blessed to call family. You can totally see how much they love one another, all you have to do is see them together. Is is hard to find two people who make a more perfect match than these two. I wish them all the best in their life together and that this love they share now, lasts a lifetime. And seriously, how cool is it that they start this journey in Israel? They both managed to get their P.h.D's while planning their wedding in only a month and a half. Amazing! Cyn was offered a post doc in Israel. So off they go, leaving Sept. 3rd, for what is sure to be a grand adventure in their new life together as newlyweds. I know most of the family is worried for their safety and what not, but I mostly think, what a unique opportunity they have to experience this together. Though, I too, will miss them greatly over the next year and wish they lived closer. But you can bet I will get their new address and try to write to them often.
Chris and Cyn, with all the love of family and friends, Mazel Tov!
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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week in the Life: Sunday

Sundays are usually appropriately named Grandma Sunday, as Mason usually gets picked up by my Mom around 11am and they do their thing till she drops him back off around 6:30/7pm. It's a sweet deal for us. Recently I have been thinking to alternate weeks so Sophia can have a chance to spend time with Grandma too. Especially since she loved it so much the week Mason was sick. However, Saturday night we got a call from Grandma. She has pink eye and a raging fever. Of course Mason was devastated and well that meant we had to deal with both kids all day. Ugh. I think we all look forward to Grandma Sundays in our way. My Mom has this attachment to Mason unlike any of her other Grandchildren. Mason's attachment to her is equally as strong. Probably because he gets her full attention ALL DAY LONG and plus she is just a cool Grandma. For Fred and I, it was freedom to go out just the two of us and see a movie but since Sophia showed up it was the easy going day of having only one child. A child who still takes naps no less. So equal disappointment all around when the day is cancelled.

Still we find things to fill it up the day.
We have family members and friends descending upon us in two days for the wedding of my dear brother-in-law and his sweetheart of a fiance. I seriously could not be more happier that she is becoming my sister-in-law. Unfortunately our house is currently a mess and we can't have that with guests. Not to mention the damn ants. Argh. I could go on and on about the damn ant problem this house has. Honestly I thought we were going to get through this summer without them invading our house, and we almost did. Now I am being psycho mom about the food on the floor or left on the countertops. Which is proving to be a full time job in and of itself with a two year old who throws her food on the floor when she's done with it.
I'm learning what else is available for breakfast when I can't eat dairy within two hours of taking my medication.
The kids pick some more yummy tomatoes from our garden.
They play. So thankful we have an open floor plan for the kids to run circles, or push each other on the bike, which they do on a daily basis.
Fred works.
I cook.
And we begin to use the Wii as a game/fitness console again and not just another device to deliver a slue of television shows and movies to our home.

This marks the end of my documentation of our week. As much as I enjoy it each year, it is a lot of work and it doesn't allow me to focus on just having fun and living life. I focus more on capturing the memories than living them.

Tonight, as a way to unwind, I was going through my archive of photos on my computer and ran across my photos from Week in the Life last year. It was done in April then and as I went through each days photos I thought to myself, Wow. How different life was then.

It really is amazing how much our lives can change in just a year. April of 2010, I had a 10 month old and a 3 year old. Now I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old. That makes such a difference in the things we are doing. It became clear to me that the kids and I were constantly out and about. Target, Wegman's, the mall, soccer class, Costco, gas station, the park. Not so much of that right now. The park is difficult to manage with both kids alone, neither one wants to be on the same playscape and the same time. I run to the store only once or twice a week now as I make a list and only go when it is full. No one is currently taking any classes. Friends moved, are taking last minute vacations, or busy with swim team, or enrolled in summer camp.

One main difference is that Fred's company was still in business last year. Right now we are technically both unemployed. Fred is busily trying to put together this bird tracking gps business, his newest venture since closing the doors on telecom. So he spends pretty darn close to all his time working.

Different situations, different dynamics. A different set of photos represented. It really blows my mind, but it also reaffirms why I do this project.
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