April 17, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 16

101/365: First grilling night of the year!

102/365: Love.

103/365: Doughnuts and pajamas.

104/365: Mind blown by this little outdoor train.

105/365: Gloomy day brightened by these colorful paddle boats.

106/365: Ice on the slides at the playground...we are not having the springiest of spring breaks. 

107/365: Striking a pose!

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

Little kid, big style: Ba Ba Bling Tees

In our house, personal sense of style emerges at age two. That's the age that A let me know she didn't like jeans and wouldn't ever be wearing them again, and not long after he turned two D started making his own sartorial wishes known. As long as it's weather-appropriate and not a special occasion (or picture day), we try to give them pretty free range to choose their own outfits. I recognize that what I like isn't always what they like, and I try to shop with their preferences in mind.

Last summer, I got to know a fantastic clothing company with styles that appeal to kids and adults alike - Ba Ba Bling Baby. I did a review of their soft, stylish tees for The DC Moms, and the shirts quickly became favorites for both A and D.

Ba Ba Bling Baby's owner and designer Sarah Warner brings hip, vintage-inspired design to her line of 100 percent cotton tees available in baby sizes 0-18 months and toddler sizes 2-6. All of her designs are hand-drawn and ready to make a statement - headphones for the little music lover in your life, or friendship necklace tees for the littlest set of best friends.

Sarah was kind enough to send us a little preview of Ba Ba Bling's fall line. Because A and D are so vocal in their opinions about clothes, I'm always a little worried when I show them something new. If A likes an outfit, she wants to put it on immediately - and this shirt went right on out of the package.

She loves what she calls the "flower pattern" on the pocket (it's really leopard, but she doesn't want to hear it).

D has taken to rejecting any shirt he deems to be not a "big boy shirt," and the definition of big boy shirt seems to vary depending on his mood. Fortunately, this shirt regularly makes it onto the list of approved clothing.

He calls it his coloring shirt, and it's perfect for a boy who is ready to color from the moment he wakes up in the morning until it's time for bed.

Looking for a new twist on sibling shirts? Ba Ba Bling has some fun choices, including big and little sis necklace tees. If you're ready to add some style to your little one's wardrobe, check them out!

Disclosure: I received the shirts pictured above in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

April 15, 2014

Just doodle it

A is full of questions that don't always have easy answers.

What would happen if we didn't have any blood in us?

What makes things in a forest catch on fire? 

Why do some people do littering?

Tonight at dinner I mentioned that we need to make a visit to the National Museum of Natural History before the dinosaur hall closes for five long years. A nodded in agreement, and then her face turned thoughtful.

Which dinosaur turned into an elephant? she wondered aloud.

Well. That's a good question, and it's what we get for trying to explain evolution  on previous museum trips. I replied that I didn't know, but perhaps we could find a scientist to ask at the museum. 

A smiled at me. No, mommy. You can just doodle it!

It's always nice to realize they're paying attention, even when it's to something as simple as using Google to answer the four hundredth question of the day.

April 13, 2014

There's a book for that: helping kids voice their feelings

It's been a long time since I've mentioned the struggle A had adjusting to her new school. I underestimated the depth of her feelings about making a change, and it was so hard to see her hurting and lashing out and know that we'd put her in that situation - but we were also pretty certain that we'd made the right change for her and hoped there might be a way to help her settle in.

In what is a very typically me fashion, I turned to the internet and searched for books to help my girl. If there's a problem, my brain insists there must be a book out there that can fix it. I am someone who as a high school freshman learning to play tennis bought books about tennis in the hopes of becoming a star athlete (it's probably completely unnecessary to mention that this didn't work).

Unlike tennis, this time there was a book that made a difference: Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed. It does a beautiful job putting big feelings into kid-friendly words and pictures. We read it daily before school for weeks, and I think it gave A words for some of the things she was feeling - and validation that it was okay to be furious at times (but definitely not okay to punch your way out of a horrible day.)

Two months later it's rare for me to hear from A's teacher - and more importantly, she's coming home proud to tell us what a great day she had. When she's upset, she's having an easier time putting it into words. Last month, I sat down with her teacher for parent-teacher conferences and I almost teared up hearing how much progress our girl has made in this school since mid-December. The only regret I have now is that we didn't make the move sooner.

If you have a child in your life who's struggling with big feelings, I can't recommend this book enough.

April 10, 2014

Cooking up an oxymoron: chicken pot pie casserole

A few weeks ago, we welcomed a beautiful and teeny tiny niece to our family. When it was time to bring the kids over to meet their new cousin, I asked my brother-in-law what we could bring them for dinner. His reply? Oh, a healthy casserole would be great. 

And while I said, "great!" on the phone, in my head I thought: healthy casserole is really an oxymoron. Casseroles are many things...creamy, cheesy, comforting, but not so much healthy. But what if there was a way to make a (moderately) healthier casserole?

Enter the chicken pot pie casserole. Take out the butter, the cream, and the pastry from the pot pie you know and love and swap in olive oil, milk, and a little pasta. Still creamy and comforting, but not quite so heavy...and still delicious.


Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

4 carrots
4 celery stalks
1 medium yellow onion (or half a large one)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 pound pasta of your choice, cooked according to directions on package
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the carrots, celery, and onion into small dice. Slice your mushrooms

Put a large pan on the stove over medium heat, then add in the oil. Add the vegetables and saute until the vegetables soften, about three or four minutes.

Add the chicken (I used about half a rotisserie chicken) and stir to combine with the vegetables. Add in the flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring gently to combine.

Pour in the chicken broth and milk. Stir constantly for three or four minutes to combine and thoroughly mix in with the flour. Watch as magic gravy begins to appear! Turn the heat to low and let this cook for about five minutes as the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you're using a rotisserie chicken like I did, be sure to taste BEFORE you add in additional seasonings!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package - and err on the side of al dente! I used radiatore, but any cut pasta will do.

Pour your cooked and drained pasta into a casserole dish. Add the vegetable/chicken/sauce mixture and stir to combine. Pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes and marvel at what a clever cook you are.

Catch the Moment 365: Week 15

94/365: First visit with baby cousin...love A checking out D's reaction. 

95/365: The queen of dress up at a very fun birthday party.

96/365: A beautiful spring morning in Old Town Alexandria.

97/365: I caught them making faces just before it was time to leave for preschool...little brother loves to mimic what big sister is doing, even when it's this. 
98/365: Running laps and calling out the letters on the rug at the library.

99/365: So big when she's awake and yet still a baby when she's asleep. 

100/365: To celebrate the 100th day of the year and this project, our challenge for today was a self portrait. Make mine a selfie plus cherry blossoms to celebrate the glorious return of spring!

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

April 7, 2014

The gleaming antlers of freedom

Yesterday, I did a rare and selfish thing: I emptied all the kid-related items from my purse, filled it back up with knitting patterns, and I marched out of the house alone.

I climbed in the car and chose the music I wanted to listen to (spoiler: not the Frozen soundtrack), and I drove not to preschool or the library or the grocery store but to Old Town Alexandria to meet a friend for brunch and some yarn shopping.We ate in a quiet pub and I cut no one's food but my own.

I marveled at the gorgeous yarns and browsed without worrying that little hands might unravel something expensive.

A year ago, I had just signed up for my first knitting class when the Metro Yarn Crawl was in mid-swing. What a fantastic idea, I remember thinking...but since I had yet to cast on a single stitch, I passed on venturing out to any shop other than the one closest to my house.

And now? I still have much to learn, but I've made blankets and hats and scarves that are functional and, if I do say so myself, attractive enough to leave the house with. A has tasked me with learning to knit toys by Christmas, which means there are more classes in my future. I brought home three soft, vibrant skeins and have plans to visit two more shops before the crawl ends.

I'm going to go ahead and guess that none of the rest of them will have a cable-sweatered deer with gold antlers on the wall.