What does this sign mean to you?

The mall during the holiday season – it’s exactly where I don’t want to be, and yet I find myself there a lot lately.  A few months ago they put “family parking” signs in at select spaces close to the mall entrance.  I was thrilled, but apparently some people don’t exactly understand what they mean.

Here’s what they mean to me:

  • I have kids, and therefore, a ton of crap with me.  It’s going to take me a long time to get the aforementioned “ton of crap” in the car.  I’ll try to hurry, but I have to get all the crap in the car, my kids in their car seats, and then get the car started and backed out of the parking spot.  I see you with your blinker flashing and that annoyed look on your face, and I will hurry, but please be patient.  As patient as you can be during the holiday season, that is.
  • My child might need a last-minute diaper change.  Of course, I would have done the diaper change in the mall if I had noticed, but I didn’t notice until I lifted my baby out of the stroller.  No, I don’t want her driving the 20 minutes home in a dirty diaper (which we all know can lead to dirty clothes, hair, carseat…you see where I’m going with this, right?).  And no, I’m not going to pack all of the aforementioned crap back in my car, god forbid I leave valuables in my car and go in without them, so the trunk is going to have to do.  I don’t need your side-eye while I do the diaper change.
  • Neither of my kids are particularly fond of their carseats, so I may need to physically restrain them to get them buckled in.  No need to call child protective services.  Not putting them in their carseats is not an option and illegal, though I realize it would make it much easier for you to get my highly coveted parking space.
  • It may take me a time or two to get the stroller properly collapsed and into the trunk.  While we have a smaller, light-weight stroller, like I said, I have a ton of crap with me.  It may take a second to get all of the crap in the car in such a way that my stroller still fits.  I can do it, but you staring holes into my head isn’t helping.  And in the off-chance that I need to actually take the stroller out of the trunk to re-situate, throwing your hands in the air is not doing anyone any good.
  • If I don’t back out of the space immediately, it’s because I’m looking for my daughter’s snack.  Relax, it might take me a minute.  Needless to say, her snack is under all the other crap in my purse.  I’ll find it, but your honking isn’t helping.
  • Finally, as I do actually exit my parking space, there is no need to almost hit my vehicle as you accelerate forward while I’m still in reverse.  I get it, you want the space.  I get it, I took too long.  Have I mentioned that I have a ton of crap with me?

Perhaps I should stick to online shopping.

Word-ish Wednesday: When a 2 year old steals your camera…

You just never know what will be there when you finally get it back.   She took these on our trip to Orlando a few weeks ago.  First, she captured my husband ironing.  Well, his feet near the ironing board.  Close enough.

Then it was off to take pictures of her favorite subject, her little sister…um, most of her at least.

She loves to take pictures of her own hand – there were several of these.

Then back to Hazeline for more pictures.  At least this time she got most of her.  She really captured the magic of Disney World, didn’t she?  Apparently, someone missed the photo tutorial.

I had forgotten that she commandeered my camera until I accidentally downloaded these on the computer, amidst all the others from Disney.  When Greenleigh saw them on the computer screen, she screeched with delight.  She got upset when I tried to skip ahead to the actual pictures of us at Disney.  I guess she knows (and loves) her own work.

Christie Scibior Art Studio: Whimsical & Wildlife Art {Review} ***Giveaway Now Closed***

A while back, I posted about how Greenleigh’s room was ready for her weeks in advance, perfectly decorated.  Hazeline’s room?  Not so much.  Poor Hazeline.  It’s tough being the second born.  Not that she knows the difference, but I want her to have a beautifully decorated, well-coordinated room.  Little by little Hazeline’s nursery has come together.  She now has a beautiful crib and bedding, but we were lacking something very important – artwork for the walls.  I was looking for something that would work in a nursery, but wasn’t sure where to start.  Everything I found in stores was too serious, not to mention, outrageously priced.  If you know my love for Etsy, you should know where I’m going with this…

When I found Christie Scibior Art Studio, I knew I was in the right place.  Her collection of art is colorful and fun, perfect for a nursery, but would easily fit in an older child’s room, playroom, or any other room for that matter.  Christie realistically captures animals and wildlife, but also has a few fantasy paintings if you are looking for something more lighthearted.   She offers original watercolor painting illustrations and art prints, but no matter what you choose, it will be signed by Christie herself.  To say that she is talented doesn’t even begin to describe her work.

I quickly decided that I had to have one of her paintings.  The problem was that I loved all of her work, but had to narrow it down to just one.  These were the top contenders.

She even does custom work if you send her a picture of your favorite pet.  How awesome is that?  If you have a pet lover on your gift list this year, I can’t think of a better gift.In the end, I selected this one.I love the vibrant colors.  It also gives me a sense of serenity and calm, which is exactly what I wanted for Hazeline’s room.  Because calm, sleeping babies are wonderful.

Now the good part – Christie has generously offered one of her fine art prints for a giveaway!  That’s right, one lucky reader will receive an 8×10 art print of their choice from Christie Scibior Studio.  Even better, Christie is currently offering free shipping worldwide on all of her art work if you use the code FREESHIP2011 at checkout.  This shipping code is good through December 31, 2011.  Need a few gifts?  This is the perfect time to pick them up.

Thank you to all who entered and a special thank you to Christie for hosting this giveaway.  We had over 80 entries, but only one can win.  The winner is…drumroll, please…Birgit with Comment #2!  The winner has been contacted by email.

And don’t forget, if you are looking for some beautiful artwork be sure to check out Christie Scibior Studio.  You can also keep up with her on her FacebookTwitter, or by following her blog.

Disclosure – I was not compensated for this review.  I’m writing this review because I genuinely love the items in Christie’s store.  Christie is so easy to work with and incredibly talented.

Adults Only or Not?

Last weekend Erajh and I had a wedding to attend.  The night before the wedding I grabbed the invitation to see exactly where we had to go the next day.  As I glanced over the invite everything was as I remembered it – church wedding, restaurant reception, black tie requested, etc.  The times were even as I remembered them.  The part that I seemed to have forgotten was the small print at the bottom which read, “Adults Only”.  I giggled to myself.  As if the fact that the reception started 7:30pm and the words “Black Tie Requested” weren’t enough to tell me that my infant and toddler probably weren’t on the guest list.  Lets talk about the places I would rather not be with my infant and toddler at 7:30 at night – a black tie reception tops that list.  Not to mention, the invitation was made out to Erajh and I only.  It never even crossed my mind to bring my children to the wedding.

Of course, I don’t blame the bride for wanting a child free wedding.  As I looked around the reception that night, which was absolutely beautiful by the way, I couldn’t help but think about all the things my kids would have been doing if they had been invited – climbing the ornate centerpieces, running out in front of the servers passing hor d’ vours, and eating the flowers that appeared to be everywhere…  Needless to say their full Catholic mass ceremony would have been a bit louder, filled with Hazelines velociraptor-like screeches.  Well that’s what they would have been doing if I wasn’t running all over the place trying to stop and quiet them.

While I normally like to be the one to put my kids to bed at night, this was one of those nights where I sat out and let someone else do the honors.

At the Child-Free Reception

But naturally, the word “Adults Only” didn’t just appear only on my invitation; they went out on every invitation.  So perhaps there was someone they thought might think their little ones were invited?  Who is this crazy person who thinks it would be fun to bring small kids to a black tie event that starts at 7:30pm?  Even my kids were a little older, I don’t know that this would have been a fun or interesting event for them.

Five years ago, I was a bride planning our wedding.  Fairly early on, we decided to make our ceremony and reception child friendly.  We knew that meant our ceremony might be a little louder and mishaps can happen when kids are involved, but we felt that getting married was a blending of two families, and kids are a part of those two families.  For us, it was important for everyone to be there.  In the end, some parents brought their kids and others didn’t.  We clearly addressed every invitation to the entire family, and left it up to the parents whether they wanted to bring their kids.  I think this was the right choice for us.

If you planned a wedding was it child friendly or “adults only”?  What made you decide one way or the other?

Decking Our Halls

You want decorating your home for the holidays to be a precious family event. You envision something similar to the Hallmark commercial where the mother lovingly describes each ornament and its significance to her kids, who look on in wonder while lights twinkle in the background.   Decorations in pristine condition and all in their perfect, well thought out places.

That so did not happen in my house today.

Instead, my house was chaos as we unloaded our holiday Tupperware bins and tried to make some sense of how we organized everything last year when we packed them up.  Greenleigh had fun decorating the tree, but would only decorate one branch over and over and over again.  That’s right, she would put 3-4 ornaments on one branch, then take them off and rearrange them, only to put them all back, plus some.  Poor branch couldn’t handle the weight from all the ornaments and was dragging on the floor by the time we were done.  She would actually be a great tree decorating companion if she would venture away from that same branch.  Oh, and it would also be helpful if she would agree to sing more than the first line of Jingle Bells.  Cute at first, but after 2 hours, it gets a bit, um, tiresome?

Greenleigh's Branch

In between her attempts to scale the tree (because up is her new favorite direction), Hazeline made friends with the snowman ornaments.  And by friends, I mean they probably have teeth marks in them.  Well, tooth marks…she only has one tooth as of right now.  Who knew that ornaments made such great teethers?  Why spend the money at Babies ‘R’ Us?  We may just leave the Christmas ornaments out until she is done teething.

We did get the tree up and decorated, but the holidays are a lot more work than I remember.  And now let it begin, the choruses of “Don’t touch that”, “Don’t scale the Christmas tree”, and “Don’t eat the ornaments”, that will no doubt consume the next 6 weeks.

Why can’t my life be more like that Hallmark commercial?  I bet that mom never had to beg her kids to not scale the Christmas tree or eat the ornaments.

Weekend Baking: Oreo Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Frosting

A few weeks ago I saw a recipe online for Oreo brownies.  The recipe looked simple enough, you lined the bottom of the brownie pan with Oreos, poured the brownie batter over the top of the Oreos, and then baked as required by the batter.  I thought, “That can’t be right, surely the Oreos would burn.”  I decided to give it a try making cupcakes.  I figured they were either going to be delicious or I was going to burn them.  Worth a shot, right?  If they turned out delicious, I thought this was the perfect time to try making my own buttercream frosting.

You will need:

1 box cake mix (any kind that you like, I used Chocolate Devils Food because that is my husband’s favorite) & ingredients required by that mix

Oreos

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 Tablespoons 2% milk

Step 1 – Preheat oven to temperature indicated on cake box mix.  Line muffin pan and drop an Oreo cookie in the bottom of each liner.Step 2 – Make cake mix as directed on box.  Fill muffin cups with batter, 3/4 full.Step 3 – Bake for 18 minutes.  Test with toothpick before removing from the oven.Step 4 – Time to make the frosting!  Place the butter in the bottom of a large bowl.  Using a mixer on medium speed, beat until soft and fluffy.  Add in sugar, vanilla, and milk, and beat until smooth.Step 5 – Place 3 Oreos in a plastic bag and crush until they are in small pieces.  Frost the cupcakes and garnish with Oreo pieces.So that was my idea, but as I was making these cupcakes I thought, “why not add cookie crumbs to the frosting itself?”  At this point I was winging it…  If you want to make cookies and cream icing, skip step 5 and do this instead.

Step 5 Alternative – Place 5-6 cookies in a food processor.  Grind until fine:Step 6 – Slowly add ground up Oreos to the buttercream icing.  Blend using the mixer on low-medium speed.  Voila!  Cookies & Cream Buttercream Frosting.  Yum!How did I not know how simple it is to make your own buttercream frosting?  Sure it’s easy to pick up a container of frosting at the store, but making your own frosting takes about 5 minutes and is delicious.  Love it!

And, just in case you were wondering – the Oreo didn’t burn at all.  I couldn’t believe it.  It tasted the same as a normal Oreo but more delicious because it was part of a cupcake.

Baby Sleep Solution Audio Program {Review}

I’ve written at length about the sleep trouble we had with Hazeline, so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out I was selected to receive and review a copy of the Baby Sleep Solution audio program.  Actually, excited doesn’t even begin to describe it.  I saw nights of great sleep in my very near future.

When Greenleigh was an infant, I read a few sleep books, but they were long and somewhat tedious.  I just didn’t have the time.  I often found myself skipping through to hit the key points quickly and promised to return to the book later for more details, but I never found the time to pick up the book again…  When I found out that Baby Sleep Solution’s audio program was a 35 minute audio book, it sounded too good to be true.

The Baby Sleep Solution Audio book focuses on 5 strategies to get your baby or toddler to sleep better, accompanied by about a dozen tips to be used in conjunction with whichever the strategy you try.  I was thoroughly impressed that in the first few minutes of the audio program it acknowledged that every child is different and for that reason you may have to try each of the strategies before finding the one that’s right for you.  This is one of the key problems that I’ve found in so many sleep books – they seem to think that one size fits all, or that their book’s one strategy should work for everyone.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Every child really is different

I found several of the tips in this program helpful, and now that Hazeline is feeling better, we have used them with great success (please allow me to brag here and say that we both slept through the night last night for the first time in ages).  At the recommendation of this program, I have started a sleep diary to try and figure out the patterns of Hazeline’s sleep.  I have also stopped jumping up and running to Hazeline’s room at every sound coming out of the monitor.  Two nights ago, Hazeline woke up, cried out, then went right back to sleep.  If I had run to her room at the first sound, I might have actually woken her up.

If you have an infant, over the age of 3 months old, I would definitely recommend this audio program.  I think it would be particularly helpful if you have problems getting your infant to sleep at bedtime.  The program is also incredibly convenient if you are a busy new mom -you can listen to it where ever and when ever you want.

While I know that we still have work to do, I’m thrilled with our progress so far.  Thank you Baby Sleep Solution!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.