December 31, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

Last year, I looked back at the amazing journey that was 2011. This year went by in a flash - but was also an incredibly journey!

My little guy turned 1 (and I turned 35, but there need be no photo evidence of that!)

We took A's second trip to Washington DC to see friends and family - and his first trip to the Mall!

I had my first week away from the little guy - an amazing time in San Fransisco, great food, beautiful city, great food...


A loved Easter! We continued our Poutine tradition, looked for eggs in the yard and enjoyed a trip to the farm for more egg searching!

We joined the LA zoo - went a few times, I met another mom of  January baby (yay!) and we enjoyed a night out at "Brew at the Zoo."

The Visitor Center I'd been working on for over two years finally opened! A was the first kid to get to go through the tunnel...

A took yet another plane ride, and saw another major city (Chicago). My cousin got married in a beautiful ceremony and we got to see many friends and family - including his 93 year old great-grandma.

My little guy grew up. He started talking, singing, and just smiles all the time. I am so very very lucky. Not only that, I get to take some amazing pictures of the smile to keep me smiling when I feel down :)

We took the most amazing vacation to the Canadian Rockies. It was truly the vacation of a lifetime. Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise. It was incredible. Trains, bears, waterfalls, mountains, gondolas....and A's first passport stamp :)

Our neighbor's oak tree came down - adding sunlight to our lives!

Another work trip - this time to NYC! It was a lot of walking and contemplating parks. What a vibrant, alive city. Though I am glad not to live there!

A really learned about Halloween this year. He was a little train conductor and by the end of the night got the hang of "Trick-or-treating"

My little guy is almost 2. He can hike a good deal by himself. Love water, birds, and just being outside. We took him to the Salton Sea recently. I can't believe how much he looks like a little boy and not my little baby :(

And of course - Christmas. He loved his Great-grandparents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, NYC, his new bike, dad's trains, pie, "pull, pull, pull" -ing the presents open.

All-in-all, a very eventful year! A left the US for the first time and went on 4 flights...he has now visited quite a few major cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Calgary. A is quite the traveler. Every time we travel he grows by leaps and bounds. He is learning how to ride a bike, he is saying new things every single day and he is the light of my life.

I can't wait to see what 2013 brings. I'm glad you are sharing it with me!

December 30, 2012

Top Ten Posts of 2012!

As we count down the days to the end of the year, I thought it might be fun to look back on the most popular posts of 2012. I started this in 2011 and found it really interesting to spend some time reminiscing :)

Clearly you enjoyed my house tour~and the crockpot chocolate (who wouldn't?)! I'm glad I had the chance to invite you over to our home, even if it was virtually! In case you missed them...the top ten posts of 2012~

1. Tour of our bedroom ~ my sanctuary!
2. What, a mantle?
3. Dreams of window treatments...and wishes of better interior decorating talent :)
4. Enjoying my kitchen!
5. My attempts to decorate tables with a toddler around!
6. The best recipe ever! I mean, seriously molten lava chocolate in a crockpot ~ yummy and easy.
7. Getting ready for the holidays with a nearly 2 year old is so much fun :-0 - oh the trains!
8. Come on over - inviting you into my home, hope you enjoyed it!
9. There is nothing better than sharing a meal with friends and family.
10. It wouldn't be home without the outdoor living in Southern California!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2012 - and that everyone has an even better 2013!

December 29, 2012

What's the cutest thing ever?

My little guy on his Christmas bicycle!! I've never seen him love anything quite so much. Other than me, of course ;) I love seeing the happiness on his little face! Thanks grandma and grandpa :)

Opening the bike from the grandparents!

So very excited!
What was the best gift you or your kids got? A's birthday (and mine) are coming up soon - I need some ideas! :)

December 26, 2012

It's the day after Christmas

I feel so very lucky this year that I was able to spend Christmas with my family.

I am surrounded by the people that I love and that love me.

I am the luckiest woman in the world.

I know not everyone is so lucky - there are many, many people who don't get to be with their families on Christmas. I am keeping them in my heart and thoughts today.

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to everyone for making this an amazing year! I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

May your life be filled with Peace, Love and Joy.

December 22, 2012

Simplicity Parenting

A few weeks ago I wrote about reading "How to Raise and Amazing Child" - and how much it resonated with me. One of the things I've already started to think about is what aspects of the book I can incorporate easily into our lives. One of the concepts that it touches on is simplifying life. So in order to follow-up on that I decided to read a book called "Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne, M.ED. - an inspiring book!

My husband is always trying to simplify our lives - mostly by getting rid of "stuff." So as I read this book, I kept him in mind :) The very first action tackled in this book is to "Streamline your Home Environment" - reducing the amount of toys, books and clutter, as well as general sensory overload. It also delves into establishing rhythms and rituals, inviting down-time into our schedules and scaling back on media and information. It's about simplifying every aspect of our kid's lives - from "stuff" to noise to extra-curricular activities to time online.

I know my little guy is only a toddler, but this book gave me a moment to breathe and think about how I can build the scaffolding of his life. We, as parents, should take the time to protect their childhood and let them be kids, to play, to breathe fresh air, to get dirty playing in the dirt, to sleep in the sunshine. This book gives inspiring words, examples of what other parents have done and suggestions on how to simplify your kid's (and your own) lives. While it may seem insanely scary to take all your kids toys - and halve them, then halve  them again - and then one more is also incredibly intriguing. It might even be cathartic!

I highly recommend this book for new parents, parents of older kids, anyone searching for a way to make our kids lives easier, calmer and better...

December 20, 2012

Maternity Worldwide ~ Give for Christmas

If you are still looking for meaningful ways to give this season - either as a gift or as a donation, please consider giving to Maternity Worldwidea British organization dedicated to improving maternal health in developing countries. Every year 287,000 women die in childbirth worldwide - that's one mother every two minutes, 800 every day. Most of these deaths could easily be prevented - most of these woman die from complications and/or conditions that are readily and routinely treatable in other parts of the world. Currently, Maternity Worldwide is working in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Uganda.

Maternity Worldwide works to provide information to communities on family planning and maternal health, improve access to health care facilities, train local doctors and midwives, provide equipment and supplies to medical centers to help enable safe births, as well as empower women by assisting them in setting up their own businesses. Learn more about these mother’s stories and see how Maternity Worldwide has helped them.
What can you do? You can help Save a Life This Christmas!

For the month of December, they are offering an alternative Christmas gift idea.  For $24, you will fund a safe delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. For $81, you will fund a safe emergency delivery. For your donation, you will receive a Safe Birth Certificate that can be personalized and given to your chosen recipient (though prices are in pounds, it will charge in U.S. Dollars at check-out).
All pictures and information used with permission from Maternity Worldwide.

December 19, 2012

Christmas Cards 2012

I love getting mail. I especially love Christmas time when I get tons of smiling faces and good cheer in my mailbox. This year I need those smiling faces more than ever! I love getting cards every day...the happy thoughts and well wishes make me smile. Thank you to everyone who sent cards!

Last year, I managed to fit them on the mantle and fridge - this year I am trying a new system this year...what do you think?

December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012

Donations for the Year

It's that time of year - a time for thinking of others and not ourselves - not only in giving gifts, but in donating something to those less fortunate than ourselves or for causes that speak to us. I spent this year trying to donate locally. I think it's imperative to give back to the community that you are a part of.

I also feel that there are times when we need to think of ourselves as being part of a larger community. We need to work together to make a change for our children, our community, our world. So as the year ends, I think I need to look at what I can do to support change for the national community - I need to try and make the world a better place for my child and to support those that lost children this past week. 

For those interested in helping the families of Newtown, here are some options:

The Emilie Parker Fund Facebook Page
The United Way Sandy Hook School Support Fund
The Newtown Memorial Fund
The Newtown Parent Connection

December 16, 2012

Struggling to Understand

It's been a really tough couple of days - I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected by the Sandyhook school shootings. Shootings like this are always horrible, but this one, it affected me more than any other even has.

It's the fact that the victims were mostly children. Six and seven years old. As a mother, this is my worst nightmare. This hurts my heart. When I heard, I sat in my office and cried. I wish there was something, anything, that I could do for the parents that lost their children. No parent should have to go through something like this.

I know I can't protect my child every minute of every day. I can't possibly protect him from everything. But this makes me want to never let him leave my sight. I really, truly just do not understand how anyone could do something like this.

I know I've hugged my son a lot in the last couple of days, and know just how lucky I am to have him in my life. My thoughts are with the families that lost loved ones. I am so sorry, so very, very sorry.

December 13, 2012

Warner Bros. Happy Holidays ~Giveaway~

Ho Ho Ho, it’s the holiday season and that can only mean one thing... finding the perfect gifts! But finding presents for your loved ones can be no easy task!  One way to help is by using the  Warner Bros. Happy Holidays Blog App featuring some classic and new movies out on Blu-ray. There is something sure to please everyone - from your little one to those looking to re-live a bit of the past...

For the Holidays, Crazy Casa K is giving away a copy of Peanuts Deluxe Holiday CollectionClassic Christmas Favorites or Dr. Seuss’s Deluxe Holiday Collection on Blu-ray! (Prize will be chosen randomly from the above Blu-ray titles!). My little guy is currently in love (LOVE) with I know I'd be hoping for the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection!

Enter the Giveaway below! p.s. I got a perfect score on the Holiday Movie Challenge :)

Giveaway is open until 12/17 midnight PST
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Motherhood is the New MBA

I'm excited to tell my husband that since becoming a mother, I've mastered the skills necessary for an MBA. He had to go to school for a couple of years to get his title, but I just have to be a mom (a very small feat, I know). I can't wait to tell him :)

I jest, I jest...but I was very intrigued by the book Motherhood Is the New MBA: Using Your Parenting Skills to Be a Better Boss. I've been feeling recently at work that since becoming a mother, I've changed as a Manager.  In some ways for the better, in some ways, I'm not so sure. I know I have learned to have nearly infinite patience at home - not so much at work. So when I saw the title of this book I just HAD to read it!

It may seem a bit of a silly premise, but the take home messages are actually relevant to all managers. As a mom of a growing little person, I do my best every moment (or at least try) to be the best mom possible. I am always thinking about what I can do to make the world a better place for him. I am searching for new challegenes, experiences, and tools for him to learn. This is not a bad way for a manager to think as well - I am here to support my employees work, growth and make thier life easier. The universe may be different, and the experiences on a whole new level, but I want what's best for my employees as well.

Some of my favorite chapters: Remember the Magic Word, Don't Mess with Momentum, Make it Fun so It Will Get Done. Again, the context may be different, but the message can be the same. The book has some great take-home advice. It's succinct, funny and all rings true.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

December 12, 2012

Parenting Book Challenge

I have to admit that I am a bit of a book addict. I love reading them, I love having them, I love the smell of books. I just love books.

I also realize that recently I have not been so good at reading all the books that come into my home - either bought or borrowed books. This weekend I counted the parenting books that I have in my home. I am a little hesitant to share this overwhelming number.

Currently, I have 42 books on parenting/children/education in my house.

Some of this many, many books

I know, I know - too many. One would think I'm an expert by now (haha). Now, some of these are library books and will only remain here for a few weeks, but most of them are permanent residents on my bookshelf. I have therefore decided that I need to do something about these books.

I am going to start a series on Wednesdays reviewing these books. I actually already started with How to Raise an Amazing Child and Simplicity Parenting :) But I decided I needed to keep myself accountable, so I'm doing the equivalent of shouting from the rooftops - letting you know my intentions!

I hope you find something interesting! Let me know if I'm missing any important I can add them to my list :)

December 11, 2012

Enjoying the Great Outdoors - Paradise Falls

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself that I live in Southern California. There aren't really changing colors to mark the transition of autumn, there is no snow or really any cold. The grass is always green - or greenish brown - the sun is almost always shining...ok, no I can't feel too sorry for myself.

One of the things I love is that I can  go hiking year round, and in many ways winter and early spring are the beautiful seasons for hiking (if a little muddy). Just recently we went on a beautiful hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks. We may have gotten a little lost...but overall it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours. I would suggest finding a good trail map, since signage was not always readily available...

Some of my favorite parts of the hike:

Gorgeous Day!
So don't forget to get outside this holiday season. Whether there is sun or snow - take a minute to enjoy, maybe even get lost :)

December 10, 2012

The Little Person in my House

After reading all these fascinating books about Montessori and early child education - one thing that jumped out at me is making things more accessible for the little person in the house!

For example, A is very good a putting away mom and dad's shoes and is happy to help throw things away when need be - both tasks which are entirely reachable by a very small person. So it got me thinking about what I could do that he could actually feel helpful doing, that he could learn to do and that I had not been allowing him to do by keeping elements out of his reach.

First task - Relocate his shoes! A now has his very own shoe shelf with Mom and Dad. he is so excited to get his own shoes. Now we must work on him getting them on. He can sometimes, but not consistently!

Second task: Relocate his bowls, dishes, cups to a low drawer. Before I kept the tupperware down low so he could play with them. But now I put his dishes down low. Now in the morning I ask him to get me a bowl, plate etc. from the drawer and he is so excited to do so!

Third task: Allow him to help prepare food. This week he helped me cut the banana with his very own ikea knife. He watched me do it and then he tried himself. He was hungry so it didn't last too long, but I could tell he felt very accomplished :) I couldn't take a picture of this since I'm not letting him alone with the knife just yet!

He also loves helping put things, like the dirty laundry, "away!"

A few little things made him so happy - and I can see the little wheels spinning in his head! Have you done anything to make it easier for the little people to help around the house?

December 7, 2012

'Tis the Season for Giving: 1000 Shillings

As I delve into my pocket books to buy gifts for my loved ones this season, I started to think about opportunites to give twice for each gift :) Instead of just buying another gift from a big company, I wanted to think about small businesses, non-profits and groups that give back for every purchase. One organization that fits this bill is 1000 Shillings - their goal is that you get to know the woman you are buying from, and then, through purchasing her products, you help her to become a self-sufficient businesswoman that is able to support her family.
1000 Shillings is a Uganda-based organization that helps mothers earn a living through their paper bead work. Their model is unique, because the women artisans earn capital for their own small businesses by making limited-edition products for 1000 Shillings. 1000 Shillings is currently working with six mothers in the Namatala slum in Uganda; Aidah, Annette, Veronica, Esther, Martha and Elizabeth. Take a moment to read about these amazing women! They create beautiful paper bead jewelry, and are the first women to produce products for 1000 Shillings. 

ugandan jewelry

1000 Shillings became the name of the company based on the amount of money that the average woman in the Namatala slum lives on per day – approximately 1,000 Ugandan Shillings ($.40). 
So think about doing some of your holiday shopping at 1000 Shillings! I'm sure you know someone who would love this beautiful jewelry!

December 6, 2012

Getting Ready for the Holidays!

One thing that I'm really excited about this year is showing A our holiday traditions. I think he'll really be excited about the holidays this year!

From hanging Christmas lights, candles in the windows, baking cookies, sharing Christmas Eve with friends, special ornaments, Christmas songs, giving and receiving gifts to Trains :)

One of my favorite traditions is setting up Christmas Trains. This is a new tradition for me - but not for my husband, it's been part of his Christmas his whole life. We didn't set up the trains last year as A was just learning to walk and it seemed like a dangerous proposition. This year, my husband set them up (new and improved) in a separate they are easily rendered inaccessible if need be!

I love how they turned out! A was so excited to see the trains go all by themselves - and the real choo choo noise...such excitement!

Now it's time to work on trimming the tree :) I'll share some of our decorations next week. If you need ideas for decorations...check out some here!

Any old or new holiday traditions that you especially love?

December 4, 2012

Thunderstruck ~ Giveaway ~

Another confession this week - I LOVE sports movies. I am not sure how - ok, maybe my dad's influence :) - but I am pretty much a sucker for any movie that involves sports, especially an underdog story.

I am excited to give you the chance to win a copy of Thunderstruck, a family film starring Kevin Durant as himself. He magically switches places with a klutzy 16-year-old fan Brian (Taylor Gray), who becomes the star of his high-school basketball team....while he can't seem to make a shot! But with the playoffs approaching, Brian learns that being a true winner means working hard at your own game, and he tries to make things right in time to prevent a catastrophic end to his hero’s season.

The DVD and Blu-Ray were released just yesterday, along with the Thunderstuck Blog App. My high score on the free-throw game is 11 - can you beat me :)? You can try it out right here:

Use rafflecopter below for your chance to win! Giveaway ends 12/12 at midnight!

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Knott's Berry Farm #MerryFarm

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit "Knott's Merry Farm!"  It was a rare rainy day in Southern California - which meant a perfect time to beat the crowds and have an incredibly enjoyable day at an amusement park!

A had been to Knott's Berry Farm with the grandparents once before, but this was the first time that we got to take him to an amusement park. I was not disappointed. Not only is Knott's perfect for an almost 2 year old, it was lots of fun to go while it was all decked out for the holidays!

First of all, Camp Snoopy is just right for little guys like A. He was in heaven. Everything is perfectly sized for a little guy. He also went on his first Log Ride - Elf Mountain! The Timber Mountain Log Ride was transformed for the holidays with many elves! I think A waved at every one :)

knotts merry farm

We also had the opportunity to see the "It's Christmas Snoopy" ice show. A was totally mesmerized. He kept checking the snoopy in his hand and comparing it to the one on stage to make sure he wasn't seeing things - truly the cutest thing ever. I was impressed with the skaters - especially the pairs skating!

knotts ice show
I think the ice show solidified Snoopy as A's new favorite :) He wouldn't let go of the Snoopy ornament for anything. He stayed safely in his pocket during the rides. We were lucky to be visiting for Knott's Merry Farm. We got photos with Santa Snoopy, were able to explore Knott's Christmas Crafts Village and even see Santa Claus! A got his first Candy Cane from Santa! Yummy but messy...

We were excited to see "A Peanuts Holiday Parade," but it started to rain a little harder in the late afternoon, so unfortunately the parade was canceled. That didn't stop A from absolutely enjoying himself. He was thrilled (I was a little scared) to ride the red baron all by himself. 

We also took off a little early due to the rain so missed the lighting of the Christmas tree and Snoopy's Magical Night of Lights. We'll just have to come back! All in all it was one of the best amusement park trips I've ever experienced. If we lived a little closer I'd take advantage of a season pass - only $66.99! Don't miss out on the fun :)

Disclosure: I was provided with media tickets to enjoy a day at Knott's Merry Farm. All our photos, thoughts and opinions are of my own.

December 3, 2012

Holiday Confession

Pretty much every year, the day after Thanksgiving, I get excited about Christmas. I motivate to help get the lights up, decorate the house, and even get excited about Holiday baking! I start making lists for gifts, start shopping and wrapping. I have Christmas music playing non-stop :) I get those Christmas cards out the door pretty quickly and love putting cards I receive on the fridge!

This year, I just can't motivate. I'm not sure why. It's been rainy and dreary. Thanksgiving was early and some of my favorite people weren't there. I don't know. I can't put my finger on it. I'm even having a hard time getting excited about writing this post :)

A doesn't seem to have a problem getting into the Holiday Spirit!

Help! I need a jump start for the holidays. Any suggestions? I know that I love this time of year, I just need to get started! For more confessions, check out Toddle Along Tuesday hosted by Growing Up Geeky :)

December 1, 2012

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. It is the 24th World AIDS day. I can hardly believe how long AIDS has now been a part of our world. We have a long way to go to prevent AIDS, but there are things we can do.

Today, and every day, 900 children are infected with HIV. That is 900 too many. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation knows the number of new infections can be to zero and they've joined the global health community in setting a goal to do so by 2015.
We know that 90% of child infections of HIV are passed on from mother to child – and 100% of those infections are preventable with care and treatment for the HIV-positive mother. A donation of $30 can provide care and treatment to one mother, for one month.

In honor of World AIDS Day, please think about donating to save a child, I am proud to say that I did.


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