Nursery Update: Peacock & Play for a Toddler

Recently, we slightly re-arranged Ella's nursery to reflect her growth.  Packed away the burp clothes. Removed the breakables. And, made playtime much more accessible. All modifications were made with no extra cost. Now, her room echoes a toddler's. 

For before pics of Ella's nursery, click here

When we created the nursery, I knew one day we would have to remove the glass shelf above the changing table. The room was previously our office/spare room and the shelf was above the desk for our pencils and such. As Ella grew into her curiosity, so did her interest in everything on the shelf. Trying to change a standing baby isn't the easiest. The shelf had to go. And, something needed to cover the large holes it left behind...

The hand-painted, one-of-a-kind peacock art was originally designed as a corner piece. The artist, a good friend, had never seen the room, but it's like he knew exactly what it needed. Visit artcasters.com for more on our talented artist friend. He's genius. 

We created shelves for toys from unused blocks from Target that we had stashed in Jack's closet. Easy access = happy baby. 

The peacock feathers I found at a craft store fitted the window valances perfectly (previously in a glass vase on the glass shelf). 

We added the letter "E" to the collage above her bed. Out of reach of course. The "E" was also on the glass shelf before the room revamp.

Books replaced burp clothes in the nightstand basket.

So, the remodel wasn't much. Took all of a few hours to do. But, the results are much more functional for Ella, now one. At least we can get another year out of our pretty, purple peacock theme before we say goodbye to another baby room...


Ten Gifts for New Moms

Color me strange, but I love holiday shopping. Not the actual parading of stores part. But, the browsing for the perfect present part. The brainstorming. The thought behind the gift that makes someone smile. Something they need. Could actually use. Or, holds sentimental value.  

I’m a mom. With two kids under four, I’m still considered a “new mom.” I thought finding a present for a frazzled, time-crunching, realistic mom like me wouldn't be difficult. But, talks with family and friends suggest another story. Weird. So, here’s ten gift ideas for new, young and fresh moms. Little or big. Thoughtful or useful. All we would like, need or want for the happiest of holiday.

A pretty scarf.
Trust me, scarves are not something we’re normally browsing when wrangling in tiny speedy munchkins. Above: Scarf from the shop Womann on Etsy.

Wallet plus iPhone case.
Seriously perfect. An iPhone 4/4S case with built-in storage space for credit cards, ID, money, you-name-it. Above: Pink storage/iPhone case by EYN (Everything you Need) on Amazon.

The Reminder Frame.
As parents, we sometimes need a little reminder of why we’re in this together. Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Child Keepsake Jewelry.
I have no jewelry with my kids’ names, birthstones, fingers, hands or feet on them. Nothing. I would cry for this. Above: Child’s handwriting charmfrom J4J Charms on Etsy.

Girlfriend Date.
Mani. Pedi. Dinner. Coffee. Us new moms don’t get girl time often. Unless it’s a tea party with the toddler. Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Maid service gift card. 
I hate HATE cleaning the house. Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Yoga class registration. 
My back hurts all the time. Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Travel coffee mug
I’m always on the go. And, my mugs are always missing. Above: Trudeau Paige 16-ouncestainless teal mug on Amazon.

Good bottle of wine
For those nights following crazy days. Oh yeah, that’s every night.
Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Trendy little LITTLE diaper sac
You can never have enough shoes? So, you can never have enough diaper bags. Especially cute little ones, which is what I use most often. Above: Petunia Pickle Bottom’s SatelliteBackpack. I love love LOVE.

Cheers! Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter!


Snapshot Series: Walk of Faith

It was Wednesday afternoon. The evening sun peeked through the windows. Lighting the kitchen in warm orange glow. Little coats and report sheets lazily scattered the kitchen island. Each telling a story of the day. I had picked the kids up early from daycare. My monthly routine when Justin is up north for a night. 

We had an hour before I had to start cooking dinner. Usually I'm frantically cleaning hands and wiping faces. Pulling out pots and putting away lunch boxes. But not this day. This day I situated on the floor. Quietly smiling at my kids tinkering in the kitchen. 

Jack dangled from the island. His eyes lingering for a snack. He started to sing. Ella, busy clapping the dog dishes together in the pantry, looked up at him. Smiled and started to sway. I laughed. The girl dances for everything. 

Jack and I started to discuss dinner. Him on top the counter. Me legs crossed on the floor. Ella picked up the dog treat bag. I sighed. 

"Not again, E. The dogs still need to eat dinner." 

As the words left my lips, Ella caught my gaze. A grin took over. She stepped towards me. My smile lit up. 

"Come on E! You can do it!" 

Her excitement got the best of her. She crumpled to the floor. Ella had been taking steps, here and there, for three weeks. She hadn't completed a walk further than three steps. 

"Stand up E! Come on, stand up!"

She smiled at me. Proud. And, actually stood up. She grabbed the dog treats and headed my way. The thrill rose in my voice as I coaxed her to me. Her smile grew with each step. My heart melted with each step. 

She fell just before reaching me. Anticipating my hug. I swooped her up. Threw her in the air. Tears soaking my cheeks. I'm not one to get over emotional, but Ella's first walk reminded me of Jack's. It was a day larger than small steps. A day everyone in my family will never forget.


Aug. 22, 2010. 

My Nonna had been in a coma for over a week. At 93, she had suffered a stroke. She had been living in assisted living for years. Unable to tell me from my mom. Yesterday from 20 years ago. And, spring from summer. 

She still saw me. Knew me. But, the independent woman I grew up idolizing was already gone. I always said she'd hate to see herself this way. So dependent on others. Unable to talk world news or write a letter in Italian. I missed her every time I saw her.

That early afternoon Justin, Jack, my Mom and I had spent at my parent's lake.  It was one of the most beautiful days. A slow breeze trickled off the lake. The summer sun warming our skin. The thought of fall lingering in the trees. My Mom even said we needed to enjoy that day. And, we sure tried. My dad was at his mom's bedside. Reading the newspaper and catching up with his brother.   

A week past 11 months old, Jack was a true toddler already. He had mastered standing. Would occasionally take a step or two, but never without coaxing. We usually tricked him to walk. He was head-strong. Determined. And, fearless. True boy right down to his curiosity. 

Jack played in the grass as we talked. He grabbed the arm of my Mom's beach chair and stood up. Sitting on the grass a few strides away, I coaxed Jack to walk to me. He looked over his shoulder. A sly smile. Turned and walked towards me. Too many steps to count.  The three of us cheered. Hugged and kissed him. Probably the first time any of us had laughed in days. 

For a few moments, we watched Jack wobble around us. Smiling and cooing at his accomplishment. He'd fall and get right back up. It was amazing. 

Then, we saw my Dad walking towards us. A different look on his face. We all knew. My Nonna was gone. 

For me, the timing wasn't coincidental. It was faithful. As we told my Dad about Jack, I saw a small twinkle in his dark eyes. It was then I understood. My Nonna was there. Reminding us to smile for the life we're watching grow. Not cry for the one we watched end. 


The post above is part of my Snapshot Series. When my preschooler, Jack, was a baby, I recorded all his milestones and silliness in a journal. I'd write daily on the things he was doing. First tooth. First time climbing the couch. His first laugh at the dog. And last taste of baby food.

In order to keep my recordings alive, I've started a Snapshot Series. An e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I've shared the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have these tiny memories to remember.  


Birthday is for Butterflies

Three weeks from today, Ella will be one. An entire year has whizzed by. Literally whizzed. With Jack, I couldn't wait for him to start walking. To turn one. And, gain his independence. But, not my little girl. I dream she stays small forever. 

So, just in time for the holiday madness, we're planning Ella's first birthday. Filled with girlie goodness.  She's mainly played with monster trucks her whole life. It's her time to appreciate the pretty things in life.  Here's a little preview of Ella's soon-to-be party. A little winter garden party.

Photo credit: Catchmyparty.com
Photo credit: Catchmyparty.com
Pinterest find: Add Epsom salt in a mason jar to create a candle in snow effect.
Photo credit: theinspiredroom.net

Another Pinterest discovery, although I may use paper butterflies and snowflakes.
Photo credit: ohhappyday.com
Vintage-inspired butterfly decor. Photo credit: Etsy Shop: ScrapBugs

Birdseed flower favors. Photo credit: Etsy Shop: GreenDoxieEvents
Photo credit: Etsy Shop: PropShopBoutique


Kid-Approved Tortellini & Veggie Soup

I'm not a chef. Won't pretend to be. Really, my husband understands the kitchen better than me. But, I do prefer a healthy meal. Filled with goodness to make the kids grow strong. And, something simple. Ingredients I can easily find at the supermarket. Finally, a recipe that takes less than 30 minutes and fits on an index card.

I came across the following recipe in a $1 item at Target, Family Fun's "Kid-Friendly Meals: School Night Suppers."

Twelve ingredients, including salt and pepper. Tortellini. My favorite. The taste was above the dollar I spent on the book. And, both baby Ella and preschooler Jack devoured it. Even the vegetables. My favorite about the recipe is you can add in new veggies each time. Creativity for the simple cooks.

Tortellini Vegetable Soup

2 tbls olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small zucchini, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried basil (more if fresh)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
8-9 ounces tortellini (cheese or meat)
2-3 tbls chopped parsley
black pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot or large saucepan. Add onion, zucchini and carrot. Saute over moderate heat 8 - 10 min., stirring often, or until onion is soft/translucent.

2. Add the stock, basil, bay leaf, tomatoes and salt to the pot. Increase heat and bring mixture to low boil. Add tortellini and bring back to low boil. Cook for two min., then reduce heat and simmer 5 - 6 min. Gently stir in parsley and pepper during last minute.


ABC. Not as Easy as 123.

Our three-year-old Jack has been singing the ABCs since he was just over two. Clearer than crystal. He can also count to 30. To ten in Spanish, with no help. But, when it comes to identifying letters and sounds or numbers, he's clueless. I hold up a "B," he boldly shouts "Jay!" I ask what letter dinosaur starts with he says "A, ah ah!" 


We've been aware at his resistance to absorbing the alphabet. But, his recent preschool assessment reinforced our knowledge. "Jack needs improvement on recognizing letters and numbers." Unlike Jack, I've absorbed this.

For the past few months, we've been working on letter and number recognition. Sounds easy. But, maintaining a preschoolers attention is quite challenging. So, I found a few games that keep things fresh. Hold his interest. And, hopefully he'll start to catch on.

ABC Cookies
Jack loves his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut in shapes. I found a box of 101 kid-themed cookie cutters at the supermarket. From holiday and transportation shapes to letters and numbers. Every week I match his sandwich to the featured letter of the week at preschool. But, why not actually cut letter cookies? Duh.

Alphabet Hunt Game
Jack received foam letter bath toys last Christmas. While we do practice in the tub (find the letter "C" among numerous floating letters), I uncovered many Alphabet Hunt Games on other Mom blogs. Sort of like an Easter Egg Hunt, Jack has to find the letters around the house. If he guesses the letter correctly when he finds one, he gets a special treat. Or sticker. Depending on how well he's doing.

Letters from Objects
This one's pretty simple and takes no time to prepare. Use objects, such as noodles, legos, crayons, to create different letters. We even used his trucks one time to make the letter "T."

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt
We've done indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts, but I recently came across the inspiration to host an Alphabet Scavenger Hunt. Find objects and things in the house that start with each letter of the alphabet. 

ABC Mat Game
This is our favorite. I discovered numerous ways to play this game. Here's our way: we place the ABC foam mat in order A to Z. Then, I pull out Jack's wood letter blocks. He picks a wood block and matches it with the correct foam letter. To keep his interest, I offer a sticker if he gets it right. If he can repeat the letter and what sound it makes, he gets a treat. 


Red Leaves and Green Snot

Well, it’s definitely fall. Not because of the cozy boots or vibrant leaves. But, because our family weathered our first sickness.

As a parent, the beauty of autumn signifies the ugly of sick. Unending snot. Horrific coughs. Watery eyes. And, “well we can’t prescribe her anything” nod from the doctor.

Puffy-eyed Ella with her first cold of the 2012 season.
When he turned one, Jack (now three) started daycare two days a week. And, he was sick November through April. Literally visiting the pediatrician every 14 days. I cried thinking something was terribly wrong. Reconsidered my play on returning to work. We were basically loosing money. And, he was miserable.

A good friend with two kids promised it was normal. My Mom, research, readings and own doctor even reassured it was typical. A kid’s first year in daycare is the pits.

Ella just turned ten months. She started daycare last month. As a Mom-of-Two, I know she’ll get sick. There’s no preventative. Especially for a baby who loves to taste everything. Hands her pacifier to everyone. And, drag her mini-blanket across the floor. Everywhere.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that kids under two shouldn’t use over-the-counter cold and cough medications. So, there are a few tricks and techniques (some our pediatrician never mentioned) that we discovered to help our tiny people sleep and feel better.

Quickly insert saline drops. Quickly.
Babies hate to get their nose sucked. Even more so when it’s followed by saline drops. But, quickly instilling a drop or two of saline in each side of the nose will help loosen up the mucus. Doing so before feedings will help them eat better, since babies primarily breath out of their nose.

Green snot isn’t always an infection.
According to Rod Moser, PhD, PA, on WebMDExpert Blogs, colored snot doesn’t always indicate a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics. He advised to see the pediatrician if green mucous persists more than 7 – 10 days.

It’s all in the steam technique
Before bed, we close the door and soak the kid in a hot bath. Not scorching. Warm enough to fog the glass. We’d add bubbles of Johnson’s Soothing Vapor Baby Bath to clear the nose. Afterwards, we’d towel off and read a book or play games in the bathroom as we turned up the shower heat. Smoked out the mucus and cough.

When Jack was a baby, a steamy bathroom was the only trick.
Cool mist vs. hot steam?
Both do the trick. After the vapor steam shower, we turned the cool mist humidifier up full blast in the kid’s room. FYI, humidifiers can grow mold so they need to be cleaned and inspected often. 

Nix the aches
A little ibuprofen or acetaminophen may sometimes do the trick. Especially with the aches and pains. Be careful though, our pediatrician warned that such medications may dry things out even more, causing the coughing to intensify. Rookie parents beware.

Note: Medications should not be given to babies under three months. Dose is based on weight, not age.
Click here for an acetaminophen dosage chart
Click here for an ibuprofen dosage chart

Vapor rub the chest and ... feet?
Nowadays, they make a vapor rub safe for babies three months and older. Vicks Vapor Rub  contains soothing aloe, oils and eucalyptus to soothe babies. Most infant rubs are made without camphor or menthol, which shouldn't be used on children under two. You can also find recipes to make your own rub. 

The trick is to not only apply the rub to the chest and neck, but also the feet. Then put on some socks. An old friend once told me this amazing technique, which really does work for some silly reason.

Warm up the day with chicken soup
Chicken soup really does help kids feel better. Studies prove it actually relieves cold symptom such as aches, fever and congestion. Other warm liquids, like apple juice or chamomile tea can help relieve symptoms during the day. If your baby is at least six months old, try warm liquids to make the days easier for you both.

Best-kept secret: Vapor Plug In for Babies
PediCare, Vicks and other brands make waterless, vapor plug-ins safe for babies. Like an aroma therapy plugged right into their outlet. Genious. Like most, PediCare's Gentle Vapors Plug-In is non-medicated and contains a blend of eucalyptus, lavender (proven to help people sleep) and other aromatic ingredients. Vicks Vaporizer Plug-In lasts up to eight hours. 

BabyCenter's Cough, Cold and Flu: What to Do
Mayo Clinic: Common cold in babies


Down on the Farm

Before kids, I dreamed of creating the perfectly unique birthday party. From hand-crafted decorations to signature drinks, each birthday better than the last. But, today, our hectic life and crazy schedules leave little room for etching names on party favors and cooking homemade pot pies for 30-plus. So, for Jack's third birthday party I mixed a little of my craftiness with a lot of simpleness. 

He's finally at the age where a party can only include friends. And, it can be housed somewhere other than our home. No prepping. Clean up. Or bombarding of personal space. 

After researching many local places, and factoring in Jack's favorite activities, we decided to have his party at a local petting farm that rents out for parties. The farm, Carousel Acres in South Lyon, Mich., provided the decorations, table clothes, cowboy/girl hats and bandanas, pony rides and personal access to all the animals. All for a seriously decent price. 

I found some trendy farm party invites on Etsy, purchased farm animal paper products, bought a basic chocolate cake from Costco and ordered carryout from a local Italian caterer. The favors were juice boxes and starbursts (Jack's favorite) in farm animal muslin bags I found on Etsy. I finished the cake with farm animal candles, chocolate shavings and gummy worms (another of Jack's desires). Wa-la. Party planned.

Jack and two of his favorite buddies, Caleb (left) and Asher (right).

Farm invites from Dream a Little Dream on Etsy.

Muslin bag party favors from Little Chicklets on Etsy.

Luckily the rain held off, and the kids were able to enjoy the farm to themselves. Chased goats. Rode a pony. Fed a baby cow. And, brushed little ponies. The next morning, Jack wanted to go back. With all his friends, of course. Guess it was a perfect party, after all.

Jack was a little nervous to ride Jackie the Pony. 
Little sister Ella was not afraid one bit. Hoping she grows up to ride horses like her Momma!

Our good friend's son, Asher, took farm duties seriously. Heart him.
The beautiful Rozanski family. Also known as Jack's future in-laws and wife Lucy. Ella's BFF.
Jack's smile face. 
Our other close friends' son, Caleb, 4.
Modified Costco cake. Yep, I did the lettering too.
He gets a little shy when people sing to him.

Checking out the reindeer.

Now on to Ella's first birthday in November....

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