Decking the halls (or something like that)

12/04/2012 at 4:54 pm | Posted in family, just plain fun, snap happy | 2 Comments

Before we had kids I used to go bonkers with Christmas decorations, inside the house and out. Confession: I’ve always wanted to be *that* house. The one with so many lights that people drive miles to see but the neighbors hate. Someday, friends. Someday.

But after Lily was born it was all I could do to hang three stockings on the mantel. And every year since then, I’ve given myself a break on decorating.

Tree, stockings, basket to collect cards. Check, check and check.

This year is no exception. Although I’m going to try a couple of (small) Pinterest projects for our living room. That post may or may not come later. Wish me luck.

We decorated our tree Sunday, and Sophie loved the ball ornaments. Mostly because ball is one of her favorite words. And she loves to fling them around the room.

We only had one glass ornament casualty. Not bad.

And the girls had to try on the stockings. Because they’re supposed to go on your feet Mommy! Of course.

Little sister see, little sister do.

After Sophie went down for nap, we let Lily tear into the big box of ornaments. She decorated about half the tree all by herself. And she only took five ornaments up to her room to keep them away from Sophie even though she wanted to hide about 20. Progress.

Of course there would be no smiling for the camera, but this one actually turned out to be one of my favorite Christmas shots ever. This girl.

{Linking up with Mandy over at The Haps.}

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Welcome, tree.

11/29/2012 at 3:17 pm | Posted in just plain fun, snap happy | 1 Comment
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We picked him out the morning after Thanksgiving. Because I’m cuckoo for Christmas and my sweet husband obliges.

Lily loved the scent. Sophie loved sitting up on the truck bed.

I loved every bit of it.

We’ll bring him inside and dress him up real fancy this weekend. I can’t wait.

Have you chosen your tree? If you post photos, leave a link in the comments. I’d love to see!

Good things

11/27/2012 at 5:15 pm | Posted in just plain fun | 3 Comments

Mister Monroe says hi. And he wants to do your taxes.

A little of this and that …

>>My internet pal Mandy is hosting a pretty amazing forum to help those in need this holiday season. Check out her comments section to make a request (clothing, food, stocking stuffers, you name it) or lend a hand.

>>And speaking of online friends, my very first blogging pal Andrea is back to it! Check out her lovely new website and super-adorable vintage shop for the kiddos. She’s also a bit of a celebrity on Instagram — her feed is my favorite.

>> Laura and I are getting excited for Posy’s first holiday market of the season, ELF Fair. It’s this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Carrboro ArtsCenter. Come visit us! Also, she just listed the coolest little vintage Christmas ornaments — made inside egg shells! Here’s a peek.

>>One of my funniest friends, Beth Anne, just published her life list (with a hilarious prelude about the end of days). Have you written one? I’m thinking about it …

>>Keep an eye on Design Mom this holiday season. She publishes beautiful gift guides and hosts some of the most awesome giveaways I’ve ever seen.

I got a little trigger-happy during Thanksgiving, so …

11/25/2012 at 11:38 pm | Posted in family, just plain fun, Love | 1 Comment

Because you haven't had enough Halloween photos today, right?

11/01/2012 at 2:48 pm | Posted in just plain fun | 3 Comments
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They’re all over Facebook. Happy toddlers in little red wagons. Big kids trick-or-treating while the sun is still relatively up. Smiling parents. Brilliant costumes.

And then you have us:

In the blink of time between arriving home from work and the trick-or-treating kickoff, we scrambled to carve a pumpkin, feed and costume the girls, be remotely social with friends and family who visited, kiss skinned knees, resolve tantrums, and try (just try) to get a photo of the girls together, in their costumes, doing something besides crying.

Sophie rejected her antenna and wings after about three minutes. Lily’s dress tore from the ankle to the hip. And Marc was stranded carving the jack-o-lantern by himself.

But then the Deputy arrived. As Crispy. And things got better.

Of course there was no way I wasn’t going to try on this costume.

So we didn’t get outside until after dark. And our costumes weren’t perfect. And our photos may be blurry.

But this is life. Our life.

Happy chaos.

 

How Big Is A Blue Whale?

07/09/2012 at 8:59 am | Posted in just plain fun | Leave a comment

Remember Animal Dance Party? Here’s the second in a series of guest posts about creative games to play with your kids. Enjoy! 

I love science. And I want my kids to love science. But before they love it, I have to get them to like it. Luckily, this is pretty easy. My kids, like most kids, are drawn to insects, sharks, dinosaurs, horses and a wide variety of other critters. Fostering this interest in living things (or, occasionally, prehistoric things) has been a fun and easy way to encourage their interest in science.

My plan is to parlay their fascination in animals into a fascination with plants. From there we can talk about sun, rain and the atmosphere. And, before you know it, I’m blowing their minds with the concept of just how small an atom is. (All of this actually happened — the discussion about atoms was just last month.)

But, as I said, for a lot of kids it starts with animals. And when kids are interested in something, they ask questions. A lot of questions. Where do they live? What do they eat? How big are they? Are they as big as you? Are they as big as a TYRANNOSAURUS? Answering these questions encourages a child to ask even more questions — and spurs on their interest. Plus, it can be a lot of fun to look up the answers to these questions WITH your kids — whether that’s looking at books in the library or scrolling through the animal files at National Geographic. But sometimes it can be difficult, even impossible to explain some of the answers you find. For example, how can you explain just how big a blue whale is?

Blue whales, for the record, are the largest animals ever. Bigger than the biggest dinosaur. From what I’ve read, blue whales tend to be larger in the southern hemisphere, reaching lengths of up to 100 feet (they tend to top out around 80 feet in the northern hemisphere). But there are reports of blue whales as long as 108 feet (or longer).

I’m an adult, but it’s difficult for me to truly appreciate just how big that is. It’s virtually impossible to explain it to preschooler. Luckily, if you can’t explain it — you can demonstrate it. All you need is a tape measure, a piece of chalk and a sidewalk.

The first thing I do is sit down with my kids and make a list of animals we’re interested in. Then we look them up to see how long they are (I also measure my kids to see how tall they are). For most animals, you can usually find both average lengths and maximum lengths, so decide which set of figures you want to use. Once you’ve written all the lengths down, grab your tape measure and your chalk and head for the sidewalk.

I draw a line on the sidewalk and mark it as zero. Then we measure out the length of each animal (and child) on the sidewalk, marking down the right spot with our chalk and writing the name of the animal next to it. Once you’ve written them all down, you can begin to get some sense of perspective.

I stand at the baseline (zero inches), and as I call out the names of the animals, the kids run to the relevant chalk line on the sidewalk. (Five-lined skink? Eight inches.) As they get further away, I get smaller. By the time they reach the blue whale (100 feet), I’m pretty far away.

This is also pretty useful for talking about prehistoric animals. For example, most children’s books on prehistoric creatures mention ichthyosaurus, pliosaurus and mosasaurus on the same page – they were all marine reptiles, after all. So it’s easy to picture them as all being about the same size. They weren’t. Ichthyosaurus was around six feet six inches, whereas Pliosaurus could be approximately 40 feet long. And the longest of the mosasaurus species is thought to have maxed out at around 55 feet!

One last note: this is a great excuse to break out your camera. Showing your children photos of themselves standing at each of the chalk lines really reinforces the difference in size for each of the animals.

Give it a try – and let me know how it goes! – Matt Shipman

July Fourth

07/04/2012 at 9:00 pm | Posted in just plain fun | Leave a comment
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She peers at me from under thick eyelashes, rubbing away the sleep, all sweet and warm.

“Today is a special day!” I say to her. “Can you tell me what it is?”

She thinks for a moment, stretching til her belly pops out from under her jammy top.

“Americans’ birthday?” she replies.

“Yes!” I say.

“Should we get Americans a LalaLoopsy treehouse like mine?” she asks eagerly.

“Nah,” I reply. “We’ll just celebrate. We have TWO parties today!”

And that’s how our July Fourth began. Lily and me. And all the Americans.

We had a blast today. Pool, grilled hot dogs for lunch, grilled hamburgers for dinner, sparklers with neighbors in the cul-de-sac. Perfection.

Hope your “Americans’ Birthday” was awesome.

Vacay!

06/16/2012 at 12:08 pm | Posted in just plain fun | Leave a comment

Finallyyyyyyy. Vacation.

It feels like I’ve been packing for 100 years! I think I even packed in my sleep because when I woke up this morning I found a piece of paper on the floor beside the bed with the word “sneakers” scrawled across it.

Lily’s top items, when asked what she should bring to the beach? Toothbrush, toothpaste and toys. Kid is serious about dental hygiene. Or the letter T. Who knows.

And holy crap I’d forgotten HOW MUCH STUFF babies require. Sophie needs her own car. Seriously.

I am ridiculously excited at the prospect of getting away. Of watching Sophie dig her toes in the sand. Squealing with Lily as we catch that first glimpse of ocean from the top of the bridge. And slowing down. To sit on a deck, beer in hand, enjoying the silence almost feels too good to be true. I’m going to try my best to soak it all up.

And the blog? She’s taking a break for the week too. Something about being exhausted by all my rambling.

We’ll still be hanging out on Instagram (@prettyswell) so check it out if you’re jonesing for some baby thighs or smiley 4-year-old pics.

See you soon!

xo

Animal Dance Party!

06/01/2012 at 9:19 am | Posted in just plain fun | 2 Comments

father and daughters

Say hello to my pal Matt. He’s dad to three darling little girls, and he loves making up fun games to play with them. Games that fire their imaginations and encourage movement.

The other day, he told me about one called “How Long is a Blue Whale?” and it sounded perfect for Lily. And then I got to thinking, other parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, etc.) would love this game too. Then Matt rattled off a list of other games he’s invented, and my mind started spinning.

So here we are! This is the first in a series of posts written by Matt about creative games to play with your kids.

I really think you guys are going to dig this.

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On a recent Saturday morning, I had to deal – in quick succession – with roaring lions, dinosaurs and bears. It was pandemonium. After a few minutes I called out, “Okay, now we’re all animals that fly!” I was suddenly surrounded by butterflies. Much less threatening.

I was playing a game called Animal Dance Party with my daughters. I came up with Animal Dance Party as a fun way to get my kids to exercise their imaginations and their bodies. Getting young kids to do anything for more than five minutes is a challenge – and it’s nearly impossible if it’s not something fun.

Animal Dance Party is pretty simple. I describe a type of animal, such as “animals that fly,” my kids take turns naming different animals that fit that description and we all imitate them. When one of my girls calls out “butterfly,” for example, everyone runs in circles and flaps their wings. Acting like a pteranodon involves running in circles and looking for fish. Running in circles, apparently, is an important part of the flying process.

To keep things moving (and other kids from pouting), I use my watch to make sure each turn is only one minute long – then it’s time for the next kid to pick an animal. Sometimes, when attention spans are particularly short, the turns will only be 30 seconds each. Before the kids can get bored with flying animals, I switch to animals that roar (lions), or stomp (elephants), or run very fast (horses). On a good day, Animal Dance Party can last for almost an hour. On a bad day, it peters out after a few minutes. Either way, it gets them moving.

My kids are pretty active, but I am constantly trying to find new ways to engage with them. I want to create games and activities that encourage them to be creative, to learn new things and (hopefully) to get some of their energy out. If I have to choose, I focus on getting their energy out (seeing which kid can jump up and down the longest is a favorite).

I want my kids to engage in active play because it makes them happy, and easier to put to bed. But I also encourage them to play because I’m a worrier. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that 17 percent of kids in the U.S. are obese. For kids between the ages of 6 and 11, that estimate rises to a staggering 19.6 percent – that’s one out of every five American kids.

And let’s be clear here. We’re not just talking about kids who are a little husky, we’re talking about obesity. Among other health problems, that can mean asthma and joint pain in the short-term, and type 2 diabetes and hypertension in the long-term. Nobody wants that for their children.

Not everyone has the time or money to enroll their kids in dance classes, sports teams or organized exercise activities. And, while they can be great for kids, you don’t need them. If you use your imagination, and tap into your children’s imagination, you can find a way to get your kids moving.

If you can play these games with your kids – great! If it inspires you to make up your own games, even better! Please share your experiences with us in the comments.

The 2012 no-hate Golden Globes fashion recap

01/16/2012 at 4:04 pm | Posted in just plain fun | 2 Comments
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Oh, how I love awards show season!

Cue Marc’s perplexed face. Although I’ll give him credit. He sat through the pre-show and about an hour of the Golden Globes last night. Then the DVR messed up and I freaked out and he got to watch the Simpsons after all.

My favorite part, as always, is the fashion. And despite the trend toward nudes this year (and feathers!), the gowns that I loved best came in every color of the rainbow.

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Paula Patton: hands-down the most gorgeous. Look at that color! And yellow is a hard color to rock (here are some other striking yellows from years past — remember Michelle Williams and Reese Witherspoon in those dresses? LOVE.)

I’m a sucker for pink. And for Natalie Portman. A win-win.

Isn’t this blue stunning on Freida Pinto? I also love the drape of the dress. Looks like she can actually move her legs. And that necklace! Swoon.

Octavia Spencer was lovely in lavender. And I adored her no-nonsense red-carpet interview. Like Cinderella at the ball, indeed.

Diana Agron’s dress confused me at first. Then I fell in love. The detail is so intricate and interesting. Can you imagine the work it took? And the red is gorgeous.

Returning from last year’s list is Claire Danes in another beautiful column. Although this year’s frock was much edgier. I love the detail, especially the back. Although she looked a little … er … chilly … I love the simplicity and clean lines of this gown.

And a brief nod to my favorite nudes. Dresses, that is.

Sarah Hyland was stunning. Period.

And I love everything about Jessica Alba’s gown.

And because Modern Family rules the school, I couldn’t resist including this shot. Love these guys and their awesome show.

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And here’s my 2011 recap

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