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Baby

Life

FOR KIDS: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

2016 Holiday Gift Guide for KidsOn St. Nicholas Day, Isla and I wrote a letter to Santa and put it in her shoe. She dictated, I wrote. She first and foremost wished Santa a Merry Christmas and then proceeded to create a very specific wish list: “A raincoat, Peppa boots, a bunny, a dog, a kitty cat, a piggie, a rabbit, a balloon and a scooter for Theo.” It appears Isla wants to jump in muddy puddles, move to a farm, have a birthday party and would appreciate it if her brother would stop stealing her ride. I think we can make some of that happen.

We’re really big on make-believe and learning toys around here, though it does appear Isla’s Paw Patrol collection multiplies every time we go to Target and her cats must be breeding while we sleep. Kids know what they like.

Here are a few cute things for the toddlers on your list:

(quick PSA: If you live in Philly, our favorite stores for kids’ toys, clothes, gear and more are: Tildie’s Toy Box, Cloth and Occasionette. I know the owners of all three of these shops and they are lovely. If you can support them, or the small shops in your own neighborhood, please do. Many of the things on my list (or similar and probably even better items) are sold in these shops.)

1. Micro Mini 2 Go Scooter. We bought this one for Isla when she turned two and she was already a bit too advanced for the seat. So we put just the seat in the basement and she’s been riding the regular scooter ever since. This Christmas we’re going to buy just the scooter for Theo and finally put that seat to good use until he’s ready to ride like his big sis. Though he’s pretty good already! He loves that thing and has learned to propel himself a couple inches with the kick of a foot and loves to balance on it … to Isla’s great frustration.

2. Dino Ears + Paws + Tail by Opposite of Far. I’ll never stop including Opposite of Far’s adorable animal masks and accessories in all my favorite kid toy blog posts. We really love this shop and the owner is ridiculously sweet. She may not be local, but she’s a small shop and is our favorite place for make-believe. Also, Isla and Theo are both currently obsessed with dinosaurs. Isla’s preschool spent a whole week learning about these prehistoric monsters and Isla came home and told Theo everything. He now rawrs like a dinosaur and it’s pretty stinking cute.

3. The Learning Journey Match It! Spelling Puzzles. We’ve had this box of three and four-piece puzzles for about a year and Isla loves them. She dumps the whole box on the floor and then digs through to find the pieces that match so she can put each puzzle together. I thought at first she would have a hard time, but she figured it out quickly and has gotten really good at matching the pieces and even recognizing the letters. So many skills to learn from one small box.

4. Binoculars. Isla loves to explore. She wants to go on adventures like Dora and be an animal rescuer like Diego so I think she’d love binoculars. They’re great for people watching in the city, too! Can’t go wrong.

5. Softcover Photo Book by Artifact Uprising. Isla was given an empty photo album for one of her first holidays so I printed pictures of all of her favorite people and filled it for her. She carries it everywhere and even sleeps with it. She loves that thing. It’s filled with cousins, grandparents, friends, adventures and even my aunt’s dog, who is no longer with us. Her excitement when she looks at it is still as strong as it was the day I put the pictures in it. But of course she and Theo have ripped a few of the pictures and those albums are flimsy so it’s falling apart. I love the idea of printing photos into a softcover book. It’s inexpensive and this way the images can’t be removed and torn.

6. Peppa Pig Rain Boots. Isla asked for Peppa boots so I had to include these. There’s just something about that Peppa and her muddy puddles! To be honest, I love that show, too!

7. Little Doctor’s Suitcase Wooden Playset by Janod. We don’t have this exact set, but the kids love playing doctor and Janod makes really great toys. Isla’s kitties are always getting sick and our little veterinarian makes them all better. Theo just likes to eat the little scope thingy that checks out your ears. Isla is actually sick this week so she’s been carrying around her stethoscope and listening to her own heart to make sure she’s okay. She also checked my belly yesterday morning for some reason and gave me a clean bill of health. Phew!

8. Ukelele by Janod. Our kids are music lovers, especially Theo, so absolutely any instrument or toy that plays music is a hit in this house. I thought all these loud toys would drive me crazy, but it’s pretty cute and anything that keeps the kids entertained long enough for me to actually eat a meal or do a load of laundry is a keeper.

Life

FAMILY PHOTOS WITH KATE LEIGH

Family Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia

Way back in October, Chris and I hired photographer Kate Leigh to capture our family out and about in Philadelphia in honor of Theo’s first birthday. We had professional newborn photos taken of both kids and did a one-year shoot for Isla so we really wanted to document this milestone with Theo, too. I also have literally thousands of photos of the kids but not many of the four of us. We’ve done professional photos in our home and at a studio, so this time we wanted to use the city as our backdrop. Philadelphia is so beautiful and we loved running around the museum properties and streets with the kids. It felt more natural and they cooperated much better being out and about rather than posing in a studio. Wild (city) animals in their natural habitat! But, really, I give all credit to Kate. She was incredible! These kids did not want to sit and smile and I was certain she’d come back and say, “Sorry, I only got five photos with everyone’s eyes open, and P.S. your kids are total monsters!” Nope! She worked her magic and I had a really hard time narrowing down which photos to share with you because there are so many and they are gorgeous. She was great with the kids and it shows in their relaxed smiles!

Thank you, Kate, for capturing our family and helping us commemorate our little guy’s first year!

Family Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia Family Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia Family Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia Family Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia Family Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia Family Photos with Kate Leigh, PhiladelphiaFamily Photos with Kate Leigh, Philadelphia

Kids

THEO’S PARTY ANIMALS | A WOODLAND-INSPIRED FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY

#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party cake by Vanilya Bakery, East Passyunk

Remember that time you decided to throw your child a really low-key, chill, no frills first birthday party but then you accidentally opened Pinterest and the whole thing just got away from you? I have no idea how that feels.

Just kidding. The struggle is real people.

Theo turned one last week and we decided long ago that our kids’ first birthdays would be a big deal but then things would just go down hill from there. Okay, maybe not down hill, but you know what I’m saying. Or at least that’s my justification for the carpal tunnel I got cutting paper trees and random tiny animals and spending too much money on tree stumps and weird-looking, prickly hedgehogs made out of sticks. Which, by the way, was totally worth it because Theo’s woodland-inspired birthday party was awesome! We had a lovely day with all our friends and both kids had the best time ever.

Since a lot of our friends have kids Isla’s age I wanted to have a toddler-friendly activity that would entertain them for at least five minutes. We already had a bunch of cool animal masks (which you’ve seen a dozen times if you read this blog or follow me on Instagram) so I decided to make a photo booth. I cut triangles and made tree garland to hang on the wall for the forest backdrop and my friends at Opposite of Far sent me some really amazing masks the kids could color themselves. There were four animals (a deer, fox, owl and raccoon) and I printed them on cardstock and cut them out ahead of time. After the kids were done coloring we taped the masks to dowels so they could hold them up and get their picture taken or just run around like tiny crazy people (which they did for hours!). The masks turned out so cute and the kids loved them! And so did I! Our niece, in particular, was in heaven. She’s older than most of the kids (she’s 5) so it was the perfect activity for her and her masks were beautiful. She colored all four animals and shared them with the other kids. It was super cute.

The coloring masks are a new idea Opposite of Far’s owner, Jessica, has for her shop and we’d like to give her a special thank you for letting us test them out! They were a hit!

I also bought some woodland animal party ear headbands on Etsy. Oh, and I had a hashtag (#TheosPartyAnimals) because I obviously have an addiction to Instagram.

I asked our local baker (Vanilya Bakery) if she could make me a cake with a bunch of trees in various heights and shades of green. Kind of like a forest. The result was unbelievable. I contemplated not even cutting into it because it was so gorgeous! But of course that would have been a crime because that beauty was delicious! If you live in Philadelphia and need someone to bake you a cake, call Bonnie. Seriously. You will not be disappointed. I might have eaten cake for lunch the day after the party. And maybe dinner, too. I’m not sorry.

For Isla’s first birthday party we went a little overboard with the food, specifically sweets, and we had a lot of leftovers. This time we went a bit simpler with the snacks and ordered our favorite pizza in the city (Santuccis). We had forest berries (strawberries and blueberries), twigs (pretzels), popped acorns (popcorn), hedgehog hummus, trees (broccoli), porcupine peppers, chipmunk cheese rolls, bunny treats (carrots), caribou cookies, bear pee (beer), dew drops (water), pond punch (wine) and poisoned apple potion (apple cider).

I’m just kidding you guys. I didn’t name the food until I was writing this. I could not be bothered to make up little food signs. I was too busy cutting out tiny, ridiculous hedgehogs. My hands still hurt. But how funny would that be to offer our friends bear pee? I’m totally going to find another reason to do that.

Anyway, below are a few party details and picture overload because kid birthday parties are way more fun than I ever imagined they’d be.

Party Details:
~ felt animal masks + printable coloring animal masks by Opposite of Far
~ woodland trees cake + cupcakes by Vanilya Bakery
~ ‘Woodland Friends’ print from Occasionette
~ DIY tree garland + hedgehog garland + woodland animal cupcake toppers
~ invitations by INVITEDbyAudriana
~ animal ear headbands by PartyEars
~ light box by A Little Lovely Company via Rich Hippies
~ acorn chalkboard + wooden hedgehog + tree stump food stands + tabletop trees from AC Moore (all on sale!)

#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party tree cake by Vanilya Bakery, East Passyunk#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party Etsy invitations: InvitedbyAudriana#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party tree cake by Vanilya Bakery, East Passyunk#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party tree cake by Vanilya Bakery, East Passyunk#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo boothwoodland_birthday_party_decor#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth#TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booththeos_woodland_first_birthday_cake_8 #TheosPartyAnimals | A woodland-themed first birthday party with Opposite of Far animal masks and photo booth

Baby

THEO IS ONE!

Theo is one!The other night at bedtime I was sitting on the sofa in the kids room nursing Theo. Isla was nuzzled under my free arm twirling her hair and sucking her thumb. The only light was from the moon shining through a crack in the curtains. It was a sweet, quiet, rare moment. Suddenly Theo pulled away, looked up at me with that huge trademark grin of his and said, “Mama!” When he realized Isla was there he instantly flung himself on top of her and nuzzled his head in her neck. She yelled, “THEEEE-OOOO!” and they both giggled. He did this about 10 more times. He’d look at me and smile then throw himself headfirst on top of his sister to cuddle with her before popping back up to nurse a little more.

These tiny, short, unexpected moments are the ones I never want to forget when our kids are grown. Between all the toy stealing, biting, pushing and craziness that is life with two kids, it’s these sweet moments that make me feel like we’re doing something right.

Theo adores his big sister. She refuses to share with him, grabs everything he touches the second he touches it and scolds him all day long. But she’s the first to say, “Great job, buddy!” when he climbs the stairs by himself, or “You can do it!” as he takes his first uneasy steps. He wants to hug her and kiss her and slobber all over her all day long, and she’s constantly teaching him new things and supporting him in her own toddler-ish way.

They spend much of the day playing side-by-side, her building things and him knocking them over to her great frustration. “NO BABY MONSTER!” she yells when he tears apart her train tracks, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And he screeches, “ISLA!” and then bites her (hard) when she steals from him or just when he misses her. If he wakes up before her he yells her name, pronouncing it almost perfectly, until I hear them both giggle and realize reluctantly, exhaustedly, joyfully that our day has begun.

Theo is one today.

It feels like just yesterday Isla came to the hospital to meet her new baby brother for the first time, yet the whole year feels like a blur. It’s hard to remember a time when Theo wasn’t smiling at us, yelling Mama and Dada and Isla, barking at his meowing sister, climbing on the furniture or turning the pages of his books all by himself. Before he was crawling or talking or feeding himself. When was that? So long ago. Just yesterday.

I dare say bringing home a second baby was scarier than the first. One baby, two parents. We got this. Or so we thought. Adjusting to life as a parent can be challenging. But when Theo came home I was suddenly outnumbered when Chris was at work or away. Two hands are not enough! At the same time, Theo was easier than Isla, calmer than Isla, chiller than any human I’ve ever met. Eventually we found our groove. I found time to shower and make sure both kids were fed. We figured out how to get to the park, take morning walks to get coffee and even managed to visit fun places like the aquarium or zoo. Somehow, outnumbered, we made it.

Though each new stage brings its own challenges for each child, we survived. No, we more than survived. These kids are thriving and we get better every day as parents. There are those days when Theo is covered in his sister’s pee because he found her potty before I had a chance to clean it out. The days when I yell at Isla too many times because she just will not listen. Or those days when they both watch too much TV because I just cannot get through one more minute and keep my sanity. Days when we feel like we’ve failed as parents. But at the end of those days these two nuzzle each other, giggle together, exchange goodnight kisses and remind us that it’s all going to be okay. Our kids love each other. They’re best friends and eternal companions. And they know how much we love them. All is right with the world.

If you can’t tell, I’m on a roller coaster of emotions right now and just typing when comes out of my fingertips because this is my last monthly update for Theo and I can’t deal. But thanks for listening and let’s get to it.

Last month Theo dressed up as Bat Boy for his first Halloween and celebrated his birthday early with my side of the family by throwing his piece of cake on the floor without so much as a lick. We went to the pumpkin patch and bowling, had daily dance parties and spent a lot of time with family. Theo TOOK HIS FIRST STEPS the day before Halloween, is learning new words every single day and is hell-bent on asserting his independence every chance he gets. He adores his book about dogs and loves to howl (at the moon) and cook naked in the kiddie kitchen. He insists on standing while dancing at music class (and gets very frustrated when all that booty shaking makes him fall over), loves climbing into his sister’s bed to snuggle with her and will no longer be carried up the steps because he must climb them by himself. He throws things onto the floor so he can say “uh oh,” says “oooooooh” every time he’s excited about something and points to animals and pictures when he wants us to tell him what they are and what sounds they make. He head butts us (hard!) and bites us when he doesn’t get his way and is like a bull in a china shop. He finally loves bananas, steals and drinks his sister’s milk and is showing no signs of wanting to wean. He only sleeps through the night when he feels like it, smiles constantly and leans in to give sweet hugs to all his friends.

Our Theo is sweet, loving, stubborn, hilarious and fiercely independent (he gets that last one from his sister). We’re looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and watching him learn to walk, talk and develop into his own little self.

Sweet Theo, you bring us more joy than we could ever explain to you in words. Your kisses and smiles brighten our darkest days. You are a gift and I hope you always know how much we love you. We hope you grow to be kind, loving, loyal, open-minded and accepting of everyone you meet. We hope the name we’ve given you makes you proud and reminds you that life is too short to take for granted. We hope you and your sister protect each other and remain friends and loyal companions for eternity. We hope you fiercely support each other and stand side-by-side through all of life’s challenges and greatest joys.

We love you to the moon, Theo Jon.

HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY!

(Theo at eleven monthsten monthsnine monthseight monthsseven monthssix monthsfive monthsfour monthsthree monthstwo monthsone month andhis birth story)

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Kids

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Bat Boy and Cat Girl Halloween Costumes 2016Super Girl Kitty and Bat Boy had a super fun weekend celebrating Halloween in the city. They walked the catwalk with their Super Dad (who wears his costume year round) for the annual Spooky Saturday Halloween fashion show and contest, went trick-or-treating at all the shops in our neighborhood, danced in the street to live music and ate way too much candy. Well Isla did anyway. And maybe me, too.

All of Isla’s fantasies came true with her costume this year. She regularly hisses at her brother (and strangers!) and she’s constantly carrying around her legion of cats, so it was only fitting that she asked to be “Super Girl Kitty” for Halloween. The original plan was for Theo to be a mouse. Seemed kind of fitting, no? But his costume was lame and I felt bad for him so I panicked and at the last minute made him some wings out of foam board and used the bat mask we already had. I’d call that a success.

We’re looking forward to walking the neighborhood with these two tonight and passing out candy while watching “Room on the Broom” for the 100th time. I have to say, I used to loathe Halloween, but kids make every holiday truly delightful.

Happy Halloween!

(The kids’ masks are from Opposite of Far, our favorite place for make believe!)
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