E’s Second Birthday: A Semi-Homemade Party Designed with Little Ones in Mind

It’s very easy to get caught up in the Birthday games, where the winner is the mom who spends their money, time, blood, sweat and tears on the perfectly created theme where no detail is ignored. A beautiful party is a lovely idea, but on many occasions these kind of parties are not kid-friendly (or mom friendly for that matter). A slew of colorful decorations and elaborate tablescapes in a theme that very often the child couldn’t care less about can be overwhelming for children, as can large crowds. My feeling as a parent is that if it’s supposed to be a party for the child, shouldn’t it be about the child?

E at the moment likes Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse (specifically Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, don’t judge) and Octopuses. Tablescape that one.

Being that we were clearly going to be piecing this one together (surprisingly enough there isn’t a large demand for Thomas with Mickey and some Octopus decor) while also keeping it kid-centered I had E help make the decorations. Displaying children’s art work is a wonderful way to validate their abilities and efforts, while also giving them a sense of ownership over the space. It becomes not just a well decorated room, but a special place they took part in creating. I came up with the odd idea of Mickey and Thomas (as Mylar balloons in this case) sailing the high seas, each in their own ship, along with some fish net on the opposite wall lined with fish, octopuses, Thomas decals, and a Mickey Mouse Happy Birthday Banner. E showcased her artistic talents in finger painting, marker swirling, and having her hands stenciled by painting the boats, coloring the tops of the waves, and having cutouts of her hands be the arms of the octopuses.

The Party DecorThis was a multiple day process. For the boats, after she painted the paper brown I let it dry and then cut out the shape of the boats. The tops of the waves are coffee filters colored with blue and green markers that are then lightly spritzed (I used a garden hose nozzle on the mist setting) to make the colors bleed together like watercolors.

Tops of the Waves close up

The Octopuses are a repeat, you can find the original post here.

the Octopi upclose 2

For the tables we used cloth mermaid themed tablecloths (a repeat from her first birthday party, reuse and recycle) and had a light brunch menu with various salads and breads, including Goldfish for the kids and Mimosas for the mamas.

Party in action cropped

And of course, a cake!

The Cake from Above 2

We kept the party very intimate. My sister and her family, a few close family friends and their respective little ones. We asked guests that weren’t intent on bringing a gift to not feel obligated as she was going to get so many as it was. Like overwhelming crowds, tons of gifts can be too much for a little one, taking the fun out of birthday presents. And really, how many toys does one two year old need?

More than enough gifts

We were clearly not lacking in gifts, and with a manageable number we were able to let E open each one in her own time.

Present opening with mama

Her favorites: A Thomas The Train for toddlers, and anything to do with baby dolls. The various puzzles and Duplo blocks (including a block set that came in a John Deere Truck) were also at the top of her list.

I wasn’t completely sure I was making the right decision by having it be a small party with handmade decor, but by the time the party had begun I knew I had made the right decision. It was calm, fun for all, and E was excited on multiple occasions to point out her artwork. Proud mama I am. Best of all, E’s Dada was there to celebrate with us.

Family Pic on Beach

A family picture from the night before E’s party, at my extended family’s annual beach party. Yes, that’s my necklace she’s sporting, and no, she’s not donning a crop top!

Here’s to many more calm Happy Birthday Parties for E!



Let’s Call it What it Is: Mom Bullying

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Stressed Mom

Being a mom in any parenting situation is challenging enough. No mom, myself included, needs  any more stress in their lives. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with another mom who feels the need to “help you” by forcing their beliefs and views on you by making sure to tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong as a mom, you are not alone. And no, it’s not OK.

These women use their preferred parenting practices as an excuse to bully other moms, looking for ways to start a never ending circular argument designed to do nothing more than cause drama. These aging versions of Mean Girls‘ Regina George are cleverly disguised as moms helping moms through constructive criticism. If any of these lovely descriptions sound familiar, follow your instincts and run. And if they sound like you, just stop and find a new outlet for your pent up aggression. 

The Attachment Nightmare 

You’re really into baby wearing. As far as you’re concerned it’s the best thing for your child’s emotional and physical well being.You wear your child on you for a majority of the day, and perhaps sleep with them too. So when you see a mom in the grocery store carrying her child in a torture device, otherwise known as a bucket car seat, you feel the need to share with them the damage they are doing to their child. God help the person you see wearing their child facing out in a standard Bjorn.

The Nipple Nazi

You want only what’s best for your child and children everywhere, so you breastfeed. Exclusively. And you plan on doing so until they ween themselves, whenever that may be. When you hear of another mom who is opting to formula feed from the start, you feel you must share with them all the possibly harmful ingredients in the formula and the vast benefits of breastfeeding, as well as the resources available so they too can exclusively breastfeed. You can do it, so clearly they have no excuse.

Women’s Studies 101  

Little girls who prefer dolls over trucks only do so because their parents force such toys on them. So you go out of your way to find androgynous toys for your child. Pink and blue are not for you. And plastic? Uh-uh. Wooden open ended toys are the only way. In fact you make sure to give such marvelous toys at each and every birthday party you attend, while also explaining the purpose of the gift, so as to show them the errors in their toy selections to date.

The Card Carrying Member of the Intelligentsia 

TV is wonderful. For those who can’t read. Your children never watch a bit of TV (but know each and every character in Frozen…hhhmmmm) and you can’t imagine introducing it into their daily lives. Studies show it should be used sparingly, at max for 30 minutes a day. So you share this with all of your fellow mom friends, and all the creative ways you’ve come with to avoid using the TV as a “babysitter” so they can start to cut down on the amount of TV their kids watch.

The Unqualified Nutritionist 

You buy only organic and clean foods for your family. So when one of your children goes to a playdate at a friend’s house and comes home excited over the awesomely delicious Ding Dong paired with a Sprite they had for a snack, you obviously must share with this other mom that your children don’t eat that way, why they don’t eat foods like that, and provide healthy alternatives to such snacks so they too can live the healthy lifestyle you do.

Yes, it’s more subtle than hateful comments and profanity spread all over Facebook, but it is no different than any other form of bullying. It’s the same mean, underhanded, nasty Girl-World bullying that happens throughout schools, only now it’s being done by adult moms, and even worse, under the pretenses of “helping” and “teaching”. Worst of all, this mom bullying is hurting other mothers, to the point of increasing rates of Postpartum Depression and its many forms, which can occur up to 4 years after childbirth. 

Your child won’t perish from a processed food treat, there are millions of healthy adults with no major issues who weren’t breastfed or worn by their mothers, and I bet you played with Barbies. Stop being a bully. And if you see another mom being a bully, call them out. I’ve got your back.

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Family, Young Cousins, and Life During Deployment for E

This past weekend was a fantastic one with my sister and her family on the Cape. 4 kids under 4, 4 adults and 2 dogs in one house, and all survived unscathed. The gorgeous weather may have helped!

Grammie loved having both her girls and all her grandkids home at the same time. E and her 3 year old cousin played so well together, screaming, laughing, jumping and engaging in general kid antics for the whole weekend. My sister’s infant twins weren’t left out of the fun, what with their playful big brother and E mothering them as much as possible.

My favorite picture from the weekend is this one, with all the kids and adults gathering and playing on the backyard lawn.

Everyone on the lawn

Although we had a lot of fun, the stress on E of having her Dada away on deployment was very apparent. E clung on to her Uncle this weekend, and asked for pictures of her Dada often. Having a Daddy around (even if it was her cousins’ and not hers!) meant a lot to her.

Sometimes only a Dad figure will do to brave the water!

Sometimes only a Dad figure will do to brave the water!


The pictures on the iPhone weren’t doing it, so I ended up cutting up a picture from our wedding that my mom had and giving it to her to sleep with. Clearly a Daddy Doll is needed, so one is on order. I honestly thought she’d get frustrated with a Daddy Doll, and not understand why min-Dada was there but not there, but obviously that isn’t the case as she loves her Dada picture.

I most definitely lost it crying a time or two when she called her Uncle “Dada” (her cousin was calling him that, so she was probably just following suit, but still). We slept together last night as she had a hard time going to bed on her own. I give lots of credit to those who co-sleep, as I got kicked in the legs and whopped in the face all night by a soundly sleeping tot. The goal was for her to sleep well, so it was a win all in all.

She was heartbroken when my sister and her family left, but luckily so worn out from all the playing and outdoor fun that she fell asleep well on her own.

Hangin in the BOB on the way back from the neighborhood bay beach

Hangin in the BOB on the way back from the neighborhood bay beach

Here’s to hoping that that was just a blip (one of many I’m sure) and we’ll have smooth nights from here on out for a bit (Daddy Doll, please come quickly!)

I also ordered a set of oils from Young Living, many that are purported to have a calming effect. For this and future deployments, I hope they help! If nothing else the lemon oil is supposed to help to increase metabolism, and what with all the extra Summer treats, I could use that for myself.






Beachin’ It With A Tot: Trading the Sam Summer for Sippies

I want E to be a beach bum like her mama. We’re off to a good start. She loves everything about the beach, from playing in the waves to collecting rocks and shells and building sand castles (and promptly stomping on them). Late night bonfires are on the list, but we’ve got a few years yet.

Whether it’s the OBX at her MomMom and PopPop’s…

Janet, Dada and E walking into the surf

Dada and E

Or on the Cape at Grammie’s…

E and I standing WHHATT

sAnd Castle Building

Mommy Sunnies Fun

Miss E is a fan of the beach. Victory!!

The thing with beach time with a tot, is that it no longer has anything to do with you. Don’t bother bringing a chair for yourself, you won’t be sitting, or an adult beverage of choice, you won’t be relaxing. Instead, you’ll be running after a beach drunk little one, in and out of the surf, over sand bars and pebbles, searching for special rocks and building sand castles that they will stomp and destroy with gusto. And you and them will love every minute of it. (OK, not every minute. The packing and unpacking kinda blows.)

If you’re not beach bums like us, but are soon going to the beach (or have recently gone and been sorely unprepared) here’s what you’ll need for even the shortest Tot-Friendly Beach Trip:

  • Have 2 Swim Diapers and 2 Swimsuits Per Diaper Clad Kid, and Arrive in a Regular Diaper: Swim diapers DO NOT hold pee. They’re designed to hold the solid stuff, not the liquid. If you don’t want a pee soaked carseat or stroller, change at the beach! Plan for the worst and so pack for a blowout, one per kid. (Hence the extra suit and swim diaper)
  • Sandals, Not Flip Flops for Small Tikes: The sand at the beginning of the beach (read farthest from the water) can be hot hot hot! Flip flops allow lots of the hot stuff in and even the ones with back straps can fall off easily. Opt for some stay-put sandals and you’ll help avoid hurt feet and carrying them over the hot sand. Ones that can get wet are even better for beach walking over rocks and shells.
  • A Towel or Blanket for Changing and Towels for Drying Off: Have a changing towel or beach blanket, as well as towels for drying off post swim.
  • Some Source of Shade, Even for a Short Trip: A simple, cheap beach umbrella works just fine. If you’re planning on staying through naps, try a portable beach cabana, like L.L. Bean’s Sunbuster Shelter. It makes changing far easier (no sun in the eyes) and gives a nice place to hang out so you can extend your time there.
  • A Wet Bag: Typically these are used by the cloth diapering contingent, but they are also very useful for beach/pond/pool trips for used diapers, and wet towels and suits. Check out this one from Planet Wise
  • Wet Wipes, Or Other Hand Cleaning Wipes: Rotting fish? A dead crab? These things are like homing beacons for kids.
  • Floaties/Life-preservers, But NO Flotation Toys: Skip the tubes and rafts for little ones (and all together at the ocean) and save the boards until they can ride a wave on their own. Currents and winds can change in an instant!
  • Know the layout before you head out: And pack accordingly. If it’s a long walk to and from the car, or there are dunes involved, pack as light as possible, and, depending on the size of your family/group, opt for a beach friendly cart.
  • Water in a Cup That Closes: Sand gets everywhere. EVERYWHERE. A cup with a closable top, like a straw cup with a latch, is key to sand free drinking.
  • Favorite Snacks: The beach can be overwhelming. Sometimes a reset with a favorite snack is in order, and sometimes you just need some refueling after so much play! The beach is a great place for juicy peaches and watermelon. Rinse off in the surf and play on!
  • Sand Toys, and Enough to Share: There’s no doubt that your kids will pick up a friend or two at the beach. Make sure you have at least one extra shovel and bucket for impromptu tot beach parties!
  • Wine for After the Beach: Or your favorite beverage or treat of choice. It’s so awesome to see your kids loving the beach and playing their hearts out, but it is exhausting and the packing and unpacking can be taxing. Nows your chance to play!

Happy Beaching!!


Our Eventful Trip to the Cape and Our First Week Here

To start, this was such an ordeal the thought of documenting it with photographic evidence didn’t even cross my mind. That in and of itself should give some indication of the drama about to unfold…

E, Meatball and I started our three-legged journey by driving from our house in VA to Jer’s parents place in WV. Smooth ride, no issues, and a lovely stay at MomMom and PopPops. My mom flew down to Jer’s parent’s house to do the next two legs of the journey (the second one being the longest) bless her heart. I can honestly say I’m pretty sure I would have had a mental breakdown had she not been there. I take that back. My mental breakdown would have been far worse had she not been there. Remember the old adage “slow and steady wins the race”? Ya, I didn’t take heed of that for our trip from WV to MA, and we did not win the race. We ended up outside of NYC instead.

I had the idea in my head that 95 up the East Coast on a Sunday afternoon from Jer’s parents place in WV would be a good option since, well, it was Sunday, so no huge amounts of rush hour traffic. Getting run off the road (literally, we nearly ended up in the grassy meridian) on 95 in MD should have been my first clue that this was not a good idea.

After our brush with death we stopped at the MD/NJ border for a bathroom break and to grab some dinner for mom and I. I had a PB&J for E, she hadn’t at this point eaten Fast Food of any kind, but that would soon change…

E had been a saint for the past four hours, happily sipping on water and watching Thomas (yes, I gave in to the DVD player for this 10 hour journey. I’m not a martyr). When I got her out of her seat, I realized just how much water she had been sipping on. She was soaked. Up the shirt, all over the seat, soaked with pee. One pee covered child and now pee covered mom entered what is apparently the only place people in that area can eat and go to the bathroom. Everyone and their friend was there.

The changing table was of course strategically located at the entrance to the ladies room, smack dab in the middle of the long line of waiting people, and 5 feet off the ground. Not at all intimidating for an infant or toddler, and oh so very easy to maneuver around. I’d have opted for the car to change her at this point except every square inch was taken by luggage and a Bulldog and the pavement of the parking lot seemed like a bad choice. After a good screaming/changing session, covering her carseat with towels, placing a now dry but unhappy E (enter Thomas) and eating crappy sandwiches in the car we were unsuspectingly on our way to one of the worst road trips ever.

After MD the ride was pretty smooth, a few delays here and there, but all in all as I had hoped it would be. We were doing 75 on the New Jersey Turnpike, and all was well. Thomas had gone to bed along with E, and were 3 hours away from my sister’s place where we would crash for the night, then head to the Cape from there the next day. And then we hit the George Washington Bridge (GW from here on out).

First came the toll booths. Gridlocked. Getting into the EZPass lane took an act of God, one that was pre-empted by near on collisions with an aggressive BMW and a clueless pick-up truck who just about got creamed by a semi. Once we got through the tolls we saw the hold up: a massive accident on the GW.

Three hours and 15 miles later, we were over the bridge, and onto more traffic. It was now Midnight and we’d been on the road since 2:30. My sister was OK with us arriving at dawn, so we kept on driving. Until we hit Stamford, CT. Construction with an hour or so delay. By now I was seeing double. And there it was, like a beacon of hope: a glowing La Quinta sign.

For whatever reason I knew that La Quinta allows dogs. I’d never stayed in one, I knew nothing else about them (other than that sign was the light at the end of the tunnel) but we were going. We pulled in around 1:00am or so, just as the bar crowd was leaving (just imagine the crowd that hangs at the local La Quinta till all hours). They had one room with two beds left. It was a smoking room. It could have been a nudist only room, I would have snagged it all the same. So up we went, to the 8th floor and the last smoking allowed hotel room in the continental US.

After taking Meatball out to do his business, a difficult task for an English Bulldog to do on the one square foot of grass in the parking lot, we settled in for the night. E and I took one bed (I had her sleep on her towels, there were cigarette burns on the sheets. Classy.) E thought it was quite the adventure, and that clearly we were having an awesome sleep over where we’d jump on the beds all night. She eventually crashed, and thank the Lord slept until a little after 7.

But just wait. It gets better.

So due to my mom’s back surgery, and her very real need to be close to where she’s going, she has a handy dandy Handicap placard. The handicap parking at the La Quinta in Stamford is located right by the front entrance. Which, the next morning (or the same day, given our arrival time) was under construction. The doors were barricaded off by cones and tape, and locked. We were told we could go through the Diner to get outside. Fine. We’d have breakfast then be on our way. Breakfast was actually really good, though you could have given me a Pop Tart at this point, any comfort food would do. Seeing my car covered in plywood while people used jackhammers to break up the sidewalk all around it mid-breakfast, not so good. And that was the last straw. I lost it. Tears and blubbering ensued. Exhausted, stressed by the start of Jer’s deployment, a few brushes with death, unbelievable traffic and now my car in the middle of a construction zone.

Mom moved the car, after taking out a few construction cones with her cane and some choice words to the crew.

And off we went, for what would hopefully be the last leg of this journey. We stopped for lunch, where E had her first taste of a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget. The Furby in her Happy Meal (which she has decided is an owl) was met with far more enthusiasm than the nuggets. Proud I am and “Owl” is now a regular crib companion. Thank you McDonald’s.

We finally arrived on the Cape Monday afternoon. Although the journey was eventful to say the least, at the end of it all we were safe. We avoided being run off the road, being one of the poor people involved in a major accident, and having our car covered in chunks of cement, among other things. I can honestly say I felt under attack, but given the outcome I can also say we were safely in the hands of God for that journey, and the less than savory arms of a sketchy La Quinta.

Some highlights from our first week back on Cape…





Definitely worth the trip.

I’ll go ahead and say “Thank You” for reading my long saga by sharing my newly learned tips on surviving a long drive with a toddler, under any condition.

  • If your road trip is more than 5 hours, I strongly recommend having another adult with you. If a husband/partner isn’t an option, like in my case, check out Priceline.com for airfares and fly someone out if need be. If for nothing more than staying alert and awake (and sane) this is, in my opinion, a really good idea.
  • Keep a bag of empty sippy cups, a large bottle of water, and many snacks at hand. Sippy cups will be thrown to the side, yet they’ll always be wanting one. The last thing you want to have to do is stop repeatedly on the highway to hunt for them.
  • And on that note, ration out the snacks and the drinks. Hand them a bowl of crackers and they’ll eat the bowl and once again be jonesing for more. As I learned the hard way, the same can go for water.This is another instance where that second adult comes in. Give a cracker or two at a time, and you won’t ruin their dinner leaving you with a hungry tot in the wee morning hours, and they won’t be screaming for more an hour later after you’ve given them the lot, or end up soaked in their own pee.
  • Your safety has to come before your limited TV policy. If keeping them occupied with a kid-friendly DVD will keep them calm and you able to focus on driving, then play on, dear Thomas, play on.
  • Be prepared to stop for an overnight unexpectedly. Have overnight bags packed and ready for unexpected sleepovers. Carrying in all your luggage is a terrible idea at all hours of the night.
  • If you’re embarking on a long trip, plan for the first day at your destination to be a low and slow one with little to do besides settle in and decompress. Stress is a lingering soul sucker when left to its own devices. Road trips with little ones are long and hard, so give yourself the time to recover mentally and physically. A week at the spa would work well.

Here’s to your next road trip to being far less eventful and far smoother than ours!

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Upgrade Your Style: Socially Conscious Accessorizing with Warby Parker’s NEW Beacon Collection

My absolute favorite components of style and fashion are accessories. Add a statement necklace, earrings and a pair of fabulous sunnies to a tired top or outfit and you’ve got a whole new look. Take your look from day to night by trading the sunglasses for fashion eyewear (or prescription if that suits your needs).

Eyewear is often overlooked as the powerful statement piece that it can be. We can all recognize in an instant John Lennon’s classic round frames. Think of a military inspired look without Aviators. Drab colors with some form fitted pieces. Or Rachel Zoe without her signature oversized sunglasses, or “sunnies” (a term I believe she coined), a look harkening back to the style icon herself, Jackie O. Sunglasses and eyewear in general can complete a look and make a statement in a way no other accessory can.

Warby Parker takes on-trend eyewear to the next level, making affordable and socially conscious pieces to suit every face and style. With all of their eyewear, from sunglasses to frames, for each pair you purchase they donate part of their profits to organizations like VisionSpring to bring affordable eyewear and eyewear businesses to developing countries. Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair Give a Pair gives not only sight but economic growth to people in need around the world. When they asked me to help them launch their latest collection, Beacon, available July 24th, I jumped at the chance to take part in this amazing company.

The Beacon collection, named for the Morning Star, visible at dawn and just before nightfall, is inspired by the impromptu, can’t-be-duplicated parties and gatherings we all live for. Although as a mom of a toddler and wife of a deployed Coast Guardsman these are few and far between now a days, these nights remain magical and for myself, coveted. Similarly, this collection, simple and elegant, with styles that not only fit but accentuate the beauty of any and all face shapes while keeping up with the night by being fun and flirty, is too magical and coveted.

Lucky for you, with Warby Parker’s price point, you won’t have to hold out for these gorgeous pieces. Here are my top picks from Warby Parker’s Beacon Collection. A little something for everyone.

the Nicole (Left) and Ingram  Sunglasses.

The Nancy (Left) and Ingram Sunglasses.

Nicole Up close






Garret Eyeglasses.

Garret Frames. (Garret is available in sunglasses as well)


McKee, Right. Fun, flirty and smart, take these eyeglasses from day to night effortlessly.

McKee frames, Right. Fun, flirty and smart, take these from day to night effortlessly.

McKee Soft Side



Check out the entire collection at warbyparker.com and let your own wardrobe transformation begin, all while helping those in need. Go forth and shop happy.

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How to Shorten a Maxi Dress to a Perfect Length for You With a….Wait for it…Binder Clip

I love a maxi dress. It is my go-to daily wear in the Spring and Summer. Comfortable as pajamas but far more presentable and easily dressed up with some wedges and accessories.

However at 5’9″ even I’ve found myself swimming in a maxi, wedges and all, leaving me to wonder, who hasn’t pulled a gorgeous maxi off the rack and left the sadly too long frock to hang beautifully in the closet? My textile savvy ladies would, I’m sure, say hem it and be done, but for those like myself, who hack up and destroy all cloth we take on with a needle and thread, what is to be done?

I brainstormed a few ideas:

Safety Pins: Too much possibility of damage.

Body and Dressing Tape: Maxis are heavy. That’s a lot of tape and a strong possibility of a wardrobe malfunction.

A Brooch: See safety pins.

Then it hit me. A clip. What about a clip? Enter the small binder clip.




And after.



I took about an inch off of the dress, making it just skirt the ground instead of laying on it. It took me all of maybe 3 minutes, isn’t permanent, and is entirely adjustable.

The trick is a very simple one. With the dress on, reach down the front of your dress an inch of two below your bust. Keep that as your “pinning” point. From there, depending on how much you want to shorten your dress, reach down that length, (so an inch, two inches, etc) pinch and pull straight up to your pinning point. Clip and done.

The Binder Trick .jpg

With a Chevron pattern like this one you’ll make a flat panel in the front if you stay at the center seam of the dress.

The front panel

The front panel

For a patterned maxi, apply the same binder clip trick but add a twist at the pinning point, creating a gathered look to accent the pattern.

Instead of a panel you have a small twist for patterned maxis.

Instead of a panel you have a small twist for patterned maxis.

The rounded top of the binder clip makes it comfortable for all day wear (I tried it, toddler play time and all). For lighter colored dresses opt for a silver or gold clip.

And for a glamorous look, add a toddler wearing a bucket.

My modeling partner .jpg


Happy maxi dress tailoring!