Peter’s Pete-za Party

So, Peter is one. My baby. I am mostly excited, because here’s what I’m learning as these kiddos of mine insist on getting older: They get more and more fun with age. Except, possible for 2 and a half…that age is knocking me down a notch or two in my parenting game currently. But there’s a little, tiny part of me that mourns the baby stage. Peter is very likely our last baby. I say very likely because I’m not ready to declare us done with squishy babies 100% yet, and I have an excellent girl’s name just in case. But we’re so content. This family of 5 of mine is perfect, and in all honesty, I’m looking forward to not being in an endless pregnant/nursing loop – I loved it, I’m beyond grateful to God for my family and my healthy body that helped me sustain life for the last 5 and a half years, and now I’m kind of excited to see what else we can do. But enough about that, let’s talk about Pete’s party.


I’m not a party person. Just throwing that out there. Entertaining, while I enjoy it, can overwhelm me a bit. I often wake up in the middle of the night after a party worrying that no one had a good time. And I’m not a normally anxious person. I’m starting to piece together after a few Whole30s that maybe just maybe the sugar and alcohol I tend to consume at parties are what cause my head to spin worrying about things I can’t change after a party is over, but that’s another story for another day.

I didn’t feel up to a big 1st birthday party this year (or, let’s be honest, I’ve never felt up to a big 1st birthday party but felt pressured to conform…but by baby #3 I don’t care about what everyone else does ;) ), so B and I agreed in advance that we would keep it to just family. Which is laughable because our in-town family alone means 30 people and there is nothing small about that, but family is family – they love you for who you are and I felt zero pressure to make anything pinterest worthy. I decided we’d have a Pete-za Party in honor of our Pete and one of his favorite foods, made up some adorable invitations, emailed them to our family because I knew I wouldn’t get them in the mail promptly, and that was that. We kept things simple: simple appetizers and snacks, take and bake pizza that we setup on the counter, and some simple, easy decorations. Peter had a blast watching his big cousins run around, he devoured a cupcake, and was passed from loving relative to loving relative for hugs and kisses all night long. And that’s all that matters!

As far as decorations go, I just printed out Peter’s monthly photos and strung them on my window in the living room.

monthly photos at first birthday party

Wrote some festive things on a chalkboard or two that I had around the house:

monthly photo display

pizza by the slice

I made a homemade vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. Simple, non-themey and deliciously homemade.

simple homemade first birthday cake

I hung kraft paper in the bay window in our kitchen (his invitations were on kraft paper, too) because those windows wreck havoc on pictures of the birthday boy eating his first bite of cake. It also gave me a surface to hang pennants off of, which was nice. I wasn’t really feeling the typical red and green Italian theme, so I added navy and just used red in accents. That made my not-so-red-loving-self happy.

cake table

first birthday party high chair

I plunked some fresh tulips in a tomato can for our homegrown pizza party:

flowers in tomato can

And that was that. A sweet and simple birthday party for our sweet Pete. And a celebration of our 1st year as a family of 5.

family of 5

A Gallery Display in Thomas’s Room

A year ago, I was scrambling to get Thomas and Nell’s rooms “finished” after moving in before Peter’s arrival. We worked with what we had, not wanting to spend a ton with a new baby on the way. So, a year has gone by, and there are a few things that just weren’t working in the kids rooms. So, I’m taking it one room at a time, getting things in working order, adding finishing touches and just giving the rooms a little new life for Spring. Thomas’s room is the first up. I’m excited to share pictures with you soon of his space soon, but we rearranged his furniture last week, I ordered him new sheets for his bed, am on the hunt for a solution for his windows, and am now focusing on getting something up on the walls.


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Nell is 2 and a half. And she is full of personality, opinions, and, at this very moment in time, a lot of patience testing. My mom just laughs at her because she reminds her of me as a child. To which all I can say is that my parents are saints.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.46.32 PMCarrying her Halloween bucket as a purse. In February.

Driving Thomas to preschool last week:

Thomas: Mama, I call our President Bronco Bama.

Me: Yeah, that was pretty silly when you were littler and thought he was named after the Broncos, huh? But do you remember what his real name is?

Thomas: Ummmm…

Me: Barack Obama. Can you say that?

Thomas: Barack Obama.

Me: Good! So since you know his real name, it’s probably a better idea to call him by his real name. It’s a respect thing, baby.

Nell (loudly and with emphasis): Well, I call him NELL MA-KEPITT!

Me: Oh yeah, Nell? Do you think you’re going to be President someday.

Nell: Yeah. It’s going to be SO cwazy.

Agreed baby girl, agreed.

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I went into Nell’s room to get her up from her nap to find her with no clothes on.

Me: Well hey there, Nell, how was your rest?

Nell: I taked off all my clothes because I was doing a dance class instead of my nap.

Me: [Pause to evaluate what my response should be...] Oh, isn’t that something.  Let’s get those clothes back on so you can come down and play.

(We later had the “NO grown-ups should ever ask you to take your clothes off body safety rules and oh-by-the-way, you will NEVER be enrolled in a dance class with a nudity requirement chat.)


At Target:

Me [Picking up a cute coral-y pink striped shirt on clearance]: Do you love this t-shirt, Nell? Should we get it for you?

Nell: Um, no fanks. That is not beautiful enough for ‘mys closet’.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.47.09 PM

At the dinner table trying to get Nell to eat her food.

Me: Nell, can you eat this bite please?

Nell: Excuse me, mom. I is talking right now.

Resolutions Check-in and January Goals

So here we are in February. I laugh thinking about me this time last year – 8 months pregnant, so uncomfortable, and having regular contractions. For over a month. I remember being grumpy when people would try to plan things in the last two weeks of my pregnancy because I was obviously going to have a newborn and wouldn’t be able to be there. Ha! Sorry about last February anyone who knows me, I was not myself.


January was successful as far as goals go. My resolution to “Be Present” in 2015 has been mostly successful so far. There have been times where I’ve caught myself on my phone and needed to tell myself, “Put the phone down, do you want the kids to remember you as a mom who played games with them, or was constantly checking her phone?”, but I’m recognizing those moments and doing pretty well with keeping my phone in it’s designated spot while the kids are awake. So part two: disconnecting after they go to bed. This is hard when B travels – I find myself laying on the couch with TV on in the background and scrolling through blogs or Pinterest or Instagram on my phone. What’s the point??

No Spending January was great. As I’ve said before, this mostly comes into play – for me at least – with shopping. Groceries, I just buy what’s on the list that’s needed for meals that week. I fill the car up when it’s empty, but I don’t do an excessive amount of recreational driving – to and from preschool, activities (which are few at this stage in the game – but I know will be a big contributor to gas spending in our future) and to the grandparents on occasion. But shopping – throwing one extra thing in my cart at Target or Costco, or stopping into HomeGoods “just to look” are budget killers.  There were plenty of times when I filled my cart online and then had to physically remove myself from the office to remember that I didn’t NEED to buy those t-shirts for Tom this month. Or that, wouldn’t I prefer to buy those jeans after I finished my Whole30 and P90x3 and things fit differently? And honestly, this was a really good thing. I went through all of the kids clothes. Nell has so many (great and my style) hand-me-downs that all I need to buy her for summer are swimsuits and sandals. And if I’d just filled my cart, we’d have too much. The boys are a different story – Tom needs all new clothes for spring and summer, and Peter can wear a lot of Thomas’s hand-me-downs, but that three month difference in sizes makes a little bit of a difference, so he needs a couple things. I spent January assessing our closets and organizing what we had instead of buying more…and it was great! I have a couple house projects I want to put some money into (mostly paint purchases) in February, but otherwise I’m keeping shopping to a minimum again, preparing for spring wardrobe shopping for everyone (and a first birthday party! wahoo!) in March.


My Whole30 was meh this time around. This was my 3rd attempt and I didn’t finish. I knew from the start I wasn’t going to finish, and I was perfect for 21 days. But after my one allotted night of not perfect, I gave myself a lot of leeway. A few things: I weighed myself the morning of our party (B and I turn 30 within a month and a half of each other, and instead of having two parties, we decided to combine it and do it once) and had only lost a pound and a half. And I was discouraged. I KNOW this is why they tell you not to weigh yourself during your Whole30. Self sabotage. I’m back on track – eating Paleo with the occasional treat. There isn’t a good 30 day period for me to redo a full Whole30 until April, and I’m ok with that. I’ll consider it then, but for now, I think I need a break. I’m a big believer in moderation with diets, which is why I like Paleo and the Whole30 – you fill your body up with good, wholesome foods. Nothing processed, no chemicals. And I know that’s healthy,

But my workouts are going great! I am loving P90x3. I need a daily schedule and varied workouts to keep myself motivated. The workouts are challenging, and there are days I dread them, but I also feel like I’m getting back into my daily workout groove and it feels so good. P90x3 is BIG on strength – I am seeing muscles that have LONG been hidden. I feel strong and slim and healthy and over the first 30 days, I lost 2 inches in my waist and hips. I do think the strength and muscle building focus has a bit to do with my only losing 1.5 pounds over 21 days of perfect clean eating. I’ve talked to my BeachBody coach, and we think I need a more cardio based program going forward (T25 or Insanity Max are top contenders for April). I have a little less than two months left of P90x3 and I intend to finish it, but I will be adding running in soon (I’m a fair weather runner – March – June, and then evenings or early mornings July – August, and again September-October) to get my heart-rate up more.

So that’s my recap. How were your Januaries?

Kindergarten. Oy.

So, it’s January 2015. Which for some reason that I really struggle to come to terms with, means parents have to make decisions on school for their kids 8 months from now. I have to make a decision for my 4 1/2 year old that will go into effect when he’s 5 and 3 months. That’s insane to me. Since I found out I was pregnant in September 2009, our first baby’s June due date gave me a bit of anxiety. People I barely knew would bring red-shirting up with me. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has an opinion on when a summer birthday kid should start Kindergarten. There is study after study showing that older kids do better in school and have more confidence. And there is study after study refuting those exact claims. So how the heck does a parent decide? I have friends with kids on both ends of the spectrum, and they all swear by the choice they made for their child. And I think that’s what it comes down to, you have to make a choice for each kid individually.


I remember when Thomas was brand new, our neighbors who had a boy 6 months before Thomas came down with dinner and a baby gift one evening. And as we were sitting in our living room politely chatting, it donned on me that this 6 month old would be in the same class as my infant. This sitting, almost mobile kid and my baby who couldn’t even hold his own head up, would someday be expected to walk to Kindergarten together. And I remember thinking, “Well, that’s that. Thomas will be the oldest in his class. No one can tell me that those 6 months don’t make a difference, even at age 5.” And then T started talking and walking and being a kid. And we kind of forgot about those 6 months. I say this simply to state facts, but T is a bright kid – he’s got a hell of a memory and an incredibly thoughtful persona. He knew all 50 states at the age of 2, he’s been reading since he was 3.5 and he asks questions that I don’t expect to hear from a 4 year old – he’s just an old soul. So, we knew that the school portion of Kindergarten would be easy regardless of when he started. But when T went off to preschool at 3, there was a pretty obvious difference between Thomas and his classmates. Size-wise for sure – he was the shortest in his class. But he’s also just a cautious kid. He’s an observer. A perfectionist. He’s a pretty typical oldest child, and in his class these past two years, he’s the only oldest – everyone else has older siblings, which makes a difference in how kids play.
And so, after much hemming and hawing, we’ve made a decision. Thomas is enrolled for five day a week, half-day Kindergarten at his current preschool – which has an excellent and accredited Kindergarten program. The intention is that he will do Kindergarten twice – so we’ll call this Kindergarten 1 and the following year he’ll do Kindergarten again at our local elementary school. The beauty of this arrangement is that because the class is accredited, if T’s teacher next year thinks two years of Kindergarten would be a disservice to him, then we will reconsider our plans and he can go straight into first grade. So really, we’re calling this a “buying time” year, but in a Kindergarten program that is incredible. And Nell will start preschool at T’s school next September, as well going two days a week. Thomas is so excited to have Nell at school with him, and Nell is so excited to go to school because she wants to pick out a pink backpack, a pink folder and a pink water bottle. Whatever it takes, right? And we’ll be in the same boat two years from now figuring out what’s best for Nell – and by then our experience with T will have shaped our own opinions, so I’m sure it will be an entirely different ball game. But right now,  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Peter has a March birthday and there’s zero gray area with that.

Play Kitchen Food and Accessory Storage

how to store play kitchen food

A year ago, Santa brought Nell a play kitchen for Christmas. We specifically asked him to bring a play kitchen that wasn’t pink and plastic because, regardless of whom a toy is brought for, everyone gets to play with toys in our house so we wanted something “gender neutral”. Santa picked the Kidkraft Uptown Espresso kitchen…I’m assuming he knew that primary colors were probably not my thing either :) . Anyway, the kitchen is awesome. Nell got a couple sets of play food along with her kitchen and some pots and pans, and then we asked family who wanted gift ideas to get her some more play food for her 2nd birthday last June. For Christmas this year, B and I gave Nell a set of play kitchen small appliances, and she also got lots of baby doll feeding accessories that we play with at the kitchen. We don’t have a ton as far as play food goes, and I know our collection will grow over the years, but a year in, I’ve found a system that works for us for organizing the stuff, and I wanted to share it with you.

I had no clue how to organize the play food at first – just kept everything in the container it came in and put it in the fridge. That only worked until she got more food and dishes and the little appliances we gave her this year for Christmas. So here’s what I’ve come up with and what has been working for us. First of all, I’m picky about play kitchen food…mostly because I love it, and I like playing with it with the kids. Nell has a little shopping cart that came from Target and all the food in it was dinky. So eventually, I just donated it all – we had a lot of repeats of certain foods that I liked better. I love the Learning Resources play food (we have this Healthy Dinner Basket and the Farmer’s Market Set – which my kids use to both play grocery store and “Church” since the baskets apparently remind them of the offertory baskets at Church…) as well as Melissa and Doug food – the slice and bake cookies are such a hit with Miss Nell she often sleeps with them. I have my eyes on a few other sets for upcoming birthdays, including this Pizza set and this Ice Cream set (mostly because I had a play food ice cream set growing up and it was my very favorite…told you, I love the play food just as much as the kids).

As for storing the food, all produce and food is stored fridge or freezer of the play kitchen. Anything that doesn’t fit gets stored in the toy cabinet for rotation. For now, all of our food fits into the shopping basket that came with the Learning Resources Healthy Dinner basket, but as our food collection grows, we may have to find different containers that rotate. All the produce that goes in the Farmer’s Market baskets fits in the shopping basket – for 6 months I resorted all the food every night, and then I decided that it was going to get dumped out anyway, so might as well just embrace it.


Santa brought Nell a Bitty Baby for Christmas, and for now, all of her accessories fit in a small target container that are stored in the freezer. As her doll accessories and collection grows, I can foresee needing a different solution for that, but for now, this works. Nell is my organizational girl, when I gave her the tub she said, “For me? Oh fank you mama! I just yove it.” No sweat, kiddo. No sweat. She loves having her own container that’s just for her baby stuff. I foresee arguments over who gets to use the label maker in our future…


Back to food: Anything that would get cooked in the oven, including baking sheets, is stored in the oven. Pretty self explanatory, no clue why it took me a year to get here.


Dishes, pots and pans and small appliances are stored in the dishwasher in tubs I picked up at Target…they fit perfectly in the dishwasher of the kitchen. They do have lids, but I just store those in the toy cabinet because I find that things are more likely to get put away without the lids on, and these items are big enough I’m not worried about them walking away.



And that’s that. It works great for us so far, and has a little bit of room to accommodate more. Nell and Thomas love to play together at the play kitchen. And Peter likes to be wherever Tom and Nell are.



Laundry Room turned Mudroom

mini mudroom makeover

When we moved into our house a year and a half ago, I was so excited to have a bigger laundry room than I’d had in our old house (which was a closet). But a couple weeks into living here, we realized the long, narrow space was completely dysfunctional for a family of 4 – which quickly became 5. So I quickly developed a plan in my head for how we could make this room – the first stop as you walk into our house from our garage – functional for our family. Which meant it needed a good place to hang coats, a place to put shoes, and lots of storage for all of the stuff that we need at the ready as we leave and enter the house.

We’re working with a very narrow, builder basic laundry room – spots for a washer and dryer on the right next to a blank space, and a builder grade wire shelf on the opposite wall. In theory, this is all you would need in a laundry room. The problem? When you hung something on the shelf, the hangers stuck out an extra 10 inches…and we didn’t have 10 inches to spare in this room. Here are the legitimate, I didn’t clean up at all befores. I’m embarrassed about how messy these are, except that there wasn’t much better of a solution.


You can see that this is our dumping ground room. Nothing had a specific place and it was a madhouse.IMG_4809

My plan was always to remove the shelf and do hooks for coats and bags – far more functional for our family than a long rack for hangers. And you know I love hooks.  Then I decided that we needed all the vertical storage we could get, so I wanted a wooden shelf, but I knew it would be better if we raised it up almost a foot so that it didn’t hit you at eye level as you walked into the room.  So, I drew up a plan in my head for the shelf side of the room, but I was struggling with the washer and dryer side, so we didn’t do anything for awhile. But then I realized that I could customize an Elfa setup from the Container Store and get exactly what I needed – vertical storage, and drawers for stuff.  I knew exactly what I needed, so I just took my drawn out plan into the Container Store and they plugged it into their software so that we could make sure it would work, and I was on my way.

And then I told B he had bought me Elfa for Christmas and was also going to construct a mudroom for me for Christmas. I’m pretty sure he was hoping I wanted something he could order from Amazon, but he humored me, and in the end, he’s so proud of his work I might be able to convince him we should put Elfa and moulding everywhere.


Let’s start with the laundry side of the room. I specifically chose the wall mounted elfa so that I could store Casco’s food and a laundry basket for main floor laundry under the system. Casco’s food used to be on the opposite wall, and it took up too much space. This is absolutely perfect. The three drawers currently house cleaning supplies, mittens and gloves and snow pants. But I imagine going forward that each kiddo will have a drawer for their sports gear.




This has changed the way we use this room. The mess is contained because there is so much storage. A place for everything, and using that vertical space. I love it.

Now, the mudroom portion. B did everything – found a couple “shelf without brackets” tutorials online and told him how I wanted it to look, and he took care of the rest. The white woodwork and higher shelf make the room feel so much bigger – I’m obsessed.


I recovered the cushion of our existing little shoe bench with some leftover fabric from Nell’s room.


We installed 7 hooks. And no, mom, there extra two hooks don’t mean anything other than that I wanted as many hooks as possible for maximum functionality.


So that’s our little laundry room turned mudroom. I’ve never enjoyed laundry so much. Also, I love that there is no excuse for backpacks to be strewn about the floor anymore. All that’s left for this room is changing out the fluorescent light and figuring out a window treatment.  What do you think?

New Year, New (Personal) Decade, New Resolutions

Well, it’s 2015. I turned 30 on January 1st – a milestone I was happy to welcome. A friend asked me at Christmas Eve Mass how I felt about turning 30, and I told him honestly, “Well, I’ve been acting 30-something for the last five years, so might as well embrace it and make it official.” And truly, it felt a little anti-climactic. Quite honestly, the majority of our friends have about 7 years on us. We have a good group of friends that are our age, but they’re not in the same place in life as us – kids, houses, etc. It just seems that most of the people we meet in daily life – living in the suburbs with kids about our kids’ ages – are about 7 years older than us. So 30 wasn’t scary to me – I’ve had a healthy year after having my 3rd baby, and so I am entering my 30s feeling good about myself, my kids, my marriage and our circumstances in life. But there’s always room for improvement, and I’ve never been one to shy away from a New Year’s and Birthday resolution or two or three. I have a couple resolutions for the whole year, and a few things just for January.


January 2015 Goals

Whole30 – I’m embracing my 3rd Whole30 (read about my first one here) – I started the day after my birthday, on January 2nd.  I almost didn’t – B and I are having a joint 30th birthday party mid-month, and I am going to have a glass of wine or two that night, which I know means that this won’t be a real Whole30, so I considered just not doing it.  However, I knew if I didn’t commit to it, then I wouldn’t follow it – so one night of not perfect is going to have to do, because with travel and weddings and lots of 30th birthdays coming up, the next available month would be April, and I didn’t want to wait that long.

No Spending January - You can read all about our first No Spending January here and here. And then my No Shopping October here. Nothing new, we’re following the same plan we did last year, and looking forward to putting a little extra money into savings after Christmas.

Establish a Workout Routine - After Peter’s weight gain issues this summer, I dropped working out. And I tried to get back into it a couple times, and never succeeded. So, with spring clothes and summer swim suits approaching, I’m jumping back into it. I’m borrowing P90x3 from a friend to see how I like it, but while the Whole30 is going to handle any Christmas cookies I indulged in over the last month and help me feel great, I still would like to do a little more toning up.


2015 Resolutions

Be Present - This is specifically about me and technology. I do a lot of mindless phone scrolling throughout the day, and I don’t like it. I would rather play with my kids. So I’ve established a place in our home for my phone – I can go get it if I need it, but then I need to put it back.  I will still take pictures and occasionally post to Instagram, but I want to get away from constantly monitoring my phone.

Run Two Races. I was going to make this goal 4 – one a quarter – but the bottom line is that B is traveling a lot for work and I’m not going to bundle my kids up in a double stroller and take them for a run in the cold. Nor am I going to put them in a gym daycare so I can run on a treadmill in the heart of cold and flu season. So I won’t have a lot of run training time, but I’d like to get back into races this year, and two seems like a manageable number given limited training time.

So those are my goals for January and 2015 – what about you?

Merry Christmas 2014

B is off work this week and we’re enjoying lots of family time, so just dropping in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy, healthy and safe holidays. Peace, in particular, is on my mind this Christmas season. Wishing you sweet moments with your families, loved ones and friends.

possible christmas card

My Favorite Sleepsack: Merino Kids Review

Peter is 9 months old. Where does the time go? I’m registering my oldest for Kindergarten and mentally preparing for my baby to be 1?! Crazy. He’s had a huge growth month. He’s crawling (which would make him our first kid to crawl), sitting up, pulling up to stand, and standing independently for a few seconds at a time.

These milestones have also wreaked havoc on his sleep. And he wasn’t the best sleeper to begin with. The biggest issue we’ve had is that he rolls over and sits and then isn’t willing to lay himself back down. But, I’ve recently been putting him in the awesome sleepsack by Merino Kids and it has helped his sleep a ton, and seems to keep him from sitting himself up. If I had known about these when Thomas was at this stage, I would have never had to buy another sleepsack again. And good news! Merino Kids is offering imperfect readers $20 off their cute polka dot sleepsacks!

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