Just What You Wish For – Winvian

I know. Love Them What?

I’ve been on an extended blogging vacation, the highlight of which was the birth of my beautiful niece, Violet, who you can meet here.

There’s plenty more to share from my hiatus – the circus party we warmed up for on July 4th, our new treehouse and lots of tomato recipes sparked by our garden bounty.  I’ll get to posting these very soon.

Now, before the seasons change again, I must interrupt this blogging vacation with a real vacation just perfect for leaf-peeping.  For years, I’ve wanted to stay at the exclusive Winvian resort.  Winvian boasts eighteen luxury cottages set on a stunning estate in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut   In August, my wish came true and Scott and I checked into the Library Cottage.

library

bedroom

Our very own stacks.stacks

And cruisers, branded sweetly with our cottage name.

bikes

It happened nearly by accident, as I was actually helping a real wish come true.  As a wish granting volunteer with Make A Wish Connecticut, I was asked to escort a wish child to meet her favorite author, Mary Pope Osborne, creator of The Magic Treehouse children’s book series, who lives in Litchfield County.  Winvian graciously donated two cottages to Make A Wish for the family to stay in during their visit.  Quite perfectly, Shannon, the wish child, was able to stay in the Camping Cottage, in a very magical treehouse-like setting.  Osborne was lovely; a very animated reader just as she is on the audio tapes Shannon has treasured for over a decade.  Osborne read from one of Shannon’s favorites, Pirates Past Noon, and even shared advance illustrated covers from her not yet released books.

shannon

Winvian stole my heart with their generosity towards Make A Wish, and particularly towards this family — then blew me away with unbelievable meals, gorgeous grounds and facilities and the most accommodating concierge I’ve ever encountered.  Winvian is the perfect refuge  from whatever keeps you running 24/7 – a fast-paced city life, a stressful workplace or a hectic family schedule.  Each cottage in uniquely designed and themed, ranging from the Library and Camping cottages above to Artist, the Greenhouse and Maritime cottages.  On the more wild side, the Helicopter cottage resembles a hangar complete with a restored 1968 chopper (now outfitted with a lounge and bar area).  You can explore the Cottages of Winvian here.

stone

The Stone Cottage

Come with a good partner (or a good book) for total seclusion and R&R in your cottage or at the Winvian spa. There are also lots of trails nearby for hiking or biking and a few cute sleepy towns to explore (Litchfield and Washington Depot).  There’s a bit of sticker shock involved in a booking here — but be sure to sign up for Winvian’s newsletter (click on RECEIVE UPDATES on the lower right corner of the website) for some excellent promotions.  Winvian welcomes families during most holiday weeks and weekends.

Love Them Madly on Better Connecticut

Best Products for Traveling (and Living) with Kids

If you are joining me from Better Connecticut, welcome and thanks for visiting!

I was thrilled to make my first appearance on Better Connecticut this morning to share some baby gear that makes our lives a lot easier. Me, on TV! As some kind of parenting expert! Scary but totally exciting. So many wise parents have come before me — and thankfully, some have the ingenuity, persistence and energy to find solutions to everyday parenting problems.  I like gear and gadgets that make life easier, rather than just add clutter to the already cluttered-world of parenting, and these products all fit the bill.  Check out the products below and please enter the product giveaway while you are here.

BetterCT

 

 

In the Friendly Skies

Baby B’Air

Ninety percent of all injuries occur during flight, mainly due to turbulence.  The Baby B’Air is the only FAA-approved baby/toddler in-flight safety solution for lap-held children while traveling in an airplane.  The soft 100% cotton vest fits over baby and connects to the seat belt of the adult, safely securing the child in the parent’s lap.  $34.95, babybair.com

Baby B'Air 1

For keeping kids occupied on-board, check out Love Them Madly’s Guide to Air Travel.

Keeping it Clean

Banda Bib

Most babies go through a drooling stage, soaking adorable outfits and irritating necks and chins.  The Banda Bib is a unique bandana shaped bib that fits closer and more comfortably to the chin than any other bib.  They are supersoft and less cumbersome than other bibs making it easy for baby to wear all day.  The stylish prints make them look more like a fashion accessory than a drool catcher.

$8.99, bazzlebaby.com

The product’s tagline is “We Make Drool Cool.”

For my favorite cleaning tip, check out Love Them Madly’s Best Junk Management Solution.

Snacking on the Go

Snack Trap

This one has quickly become a classic in many homes.  The Snack Trap is a tip-resistant, handled toddler snack cup with a unique lid with slits that allows toddlers to see and retrieve food with ease themselves but automatically closes when the toddlers remove their hand.  BPA-free plastic and now in stainless steel too.

$4.99, snacktrap.com

Snack-Trap 11

No-Spill Bottle Caps

Replace the original bottle cap of any leading water and juice drink with the No-Spill Bottle Cap and the bottle is ready for no-spill drinking.  Each pack of No-Spill Bottle Caps includes adapters for all the leading drink bottles.  A small but very useful item for your diaper bag.

$6.99/pack, snacktrap.com

No-Spill 1

Try one of Love Them Madly’s favorite toddler snacks, Energy Bites.

For car-travel activities for kids, check out Love Them Madly’s Road Trip Tips.

Pit Stop

Flexi-Fit Toilet Trainer

Flexi-Fit is a fully size adjustable toilet training seat that can easily be attached and detached to and from any standard toilet seat.   Unlike other potty seats that wiggle, the Flexi-Fit fits toilets snugly, ensuring children feel secure and comfortable.

$19.95. http://www.pourty.com/products/flexi-fit-toilet-trainer/

Flexi-Fit 1

For potty training tips, please check out Nana Bonnie’s (My Mom’s) Guide to Potty Training.

Sidekick

The Sidekick is the world’s first and only full function diaper bag and baby carrier combo, perfect for running errands with a baby.  The bag comes with a changing pad and insulated snack bag, but the carrier is really what sets this bag apart.  No more juggling baby, along with your wallet, keys, phone and a paci.  Everything tucks neatly in the bag, with baby comfortably seated on your hip (up to 35 pounds).

$120, gogobabyz.com

Sidekick 15

Thanks for checking out all these great products and for visiting Love Them Madly.   I will be giving away a Toddler On-The-Go Package, including 1 Banda Bib, 2 Snack Traps, 2 No-Spill Water Bottle Caps and a Pourty Toilet Trainer (a $50 value).

giveaway

How To Enter:

1. Comment on this post by naming the parenting gear that really helps you save time or eliminate hassle.  Be sure to leave your email address in the form (will not show up on the site) so that I can contact you if you win.

2.  Next, do one of the following: subscribe to Love Them Madly (fill in your email, top right corner of this page) or LIKE LOVE THEM MADLY on Facebook.

3. The contest will close at midnight on August 4th. All entries will be entered onto www.random.org on August 5th and a winner will be randomly selected.
Baby B’Air, Bazzle Baby, Snack Trap, Pourty and GoGoBabyz provided me with free samples of their products to review.  I was under no obligation to review them, nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the products I received.

I Loved My Birthday Madly

A few weeks ago, I bid on and won a yoga and picnic package at a charity auction for our local children’s museum.  On Friday, I hosted a dozen friends for yoga in my backyard and a lovely lunch (catered by someone other than me) while the kids were at school.  It was my 36th birthday — and one of my happiest mornings.

At 10:30 a.m., the yoga instructor arrived, as gentle and soothing as her expertise implies.  We picked a flat shaded spot of my yard for class, then chatted about kids and friends and birthdays.

By 11 a.m., my kitchen was filled with the hugs and smiling faces of some wonderful friends, along with lots of lovely birthday cards, plants, flowers and some unauthorized gifts (no presents means NO presents, people).  Strong sun (on a ninety degree day) had enveloped the recently shaded area of my yard, but my guests willingly set their mats out anyway.

I’ve been in my yard hundreds of times and most of these friends have spent considerable time there as well.  Never have we paused to listen to the rustling of the leaves and make out the sounds of our kids at recess just down the hill.  We definitely never lay in the wood chips beside the playscape, focusing on our breath.

yoga reverse prayer

See that teeny-weeny bit of shade over there??

Yoga forward

I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by such flexible friends. I also felt that I should do yoga a little more often.

yoga - me

Me: Letting it all hang out. Thanks RA for taking the photos!

My preparations for this party included making some energy bites and mini yogurt parfaits, brushing the pollen off my deck furniture and getting dressed in exercise clothes. Oh, and I also bought two six-packs of fancy bottled water at Marshall’s.  Thankfully, the donor of the yoga/picnic package went to some extraordinary effort.  While we were enjoying our backyard yoga, she slipped into my kitchen and set up a small feast, complete with a personalized menu.

bday lunch

I promise to pay this forward someday, and make a lovely lunch just appear just like magic.

Never much of a barfly, I was grateful when the twenty-something days of meet-me-at-the-bar birthday celebrations gave way to going out for thirty-something birthday dinners with the girls.  Now, I’m simply over the moon to be back on the party circuit.  Last month, I attended a friend’s 40th, where local caterers taught a cooking class as they prepared a four course meal for us.  AWESOME!  Next week, I have another 40th birthday party to attend; this time, at a local farm and vineyard.  HURRAH!

My kids have all sorts of parties to go to: bounce houses, video game trucks, science museums, nature centers, art studios, karate dojos, you name it.

I think it is our turn, ladies. Manicures, movies, photography lessons, paddle-boarding, ropes course, cheese-making. Whatever Groupon offers, let’s just book it and call it a birthday party.

“Oh, there are so many possibilities. I can’t wait to get started!!”

- Eric Carle,  A House for Hermit Crab

Green and Clean Moms’ Night Out

I know that a “night out” should not generally have anything to do with green cleaning products — but it did this week for 20 mom in my town.  My friend Stacey and I coordinate the moms’ night out activities for Moms & More, a West Hartford, CT based group of some 200 mothers. We’ve done movies and manicures, drinks and dinner, book club and cooking class. This week, we tried something new: a hands-on class to learn to make your own green cleaning products. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with a skewed sense of the words “night out”  as this event drew a bigger attendance than last month’s night out at our upscale taco/margarita bar.  We were glad to see so many mamas (many of whom were pregnant) eager to green up their cleaning routines.

In keeping with our theme, I made a big batch of green fries and a healthy caesar salad, and Stacey made some energy bites that she either took home or were devoured before I had a chance to eat one.  The two bottles of wine I left out went unopened; we had other concoctions in mind.

Our Natural Green Cleaning Guru

Armed with a million pinterest links, we nearly tried to teach the class ourselves. Gratefully, a local organic cleaning pro agreed to share her expertise and philosophy with our group.

Shal Sprays, Making Green products

Sheila (“Shal”) Gagne, owner of Maid Organic LLC in Bristol, Connecticut credits her mom for “instilling the importance of eating organic and all-natural foods as well as using all-natural products to promote a healthy body and a healthy home.” Raised with a brother with severe allergies, she eventually started an all natural cleaning business using only natural products.  Shal tested nearly every “natural” cleaner on the market, and like many of us have found, discovered they either worked great and contained not-so-natural products or smelled great and didn’t work at all.  Ultimately, Shal set up a cleaning products lab in her basement and created her own line of natural green home cleaners, available for purchase here (along with her signature green microfiber cloth).

Shals line up of green natural cleaners

Shal believes in very simple ingredients – the base of her cleaning sprays are distilled water, distilled vinegar and essential oils like lavender, peppermint and tea tree oil.  As a mom to a one year old and as a professional house cleaner, Shal knows the importance of having safe and environmental friendly products that clean effectively, without tremendous scrubbing effort.

What We Made: Cleaning Products

We settled on four products to make with the group – an All Purpose Spray, an Disinfecting/Anti-Bacterial Cleaning Spray, a Facial Scrub and Lotion Bars. I set up stations for each with recipes, ingredients, supplies and of course, some cute stickers for our products.

First, the sprays:

sprays, green labels, green microfiber

The spray recipes are very simple. No heating, just measure and mix.

All Purpose Spray, green

Disinfecting Spray, green

Shal provided us with the adorable two ounce spray bottles. It would be green to recycle other cleaning product spray bottles, but you really don’t want to taint your products with any chemical residue. Distilled water and vinegar are inexpensive ($1-$3 per gallon) and available at most markets. Distilled water (and vinegar) is key because the distillation process removes impurities.  The essentials oils (available at health food stores and online) run between $12 and $25 for 2 ounces, but a small bottle will go a long way (our group of 20 DIYers hardly made a dent in these bottles) and will not spoil.

The Early Results

I’ve been using the products we made along with some of Shal’s cleaners she generously left behind for me (sooooo glad I hosted this event at my home) since our class.  When my six year old came home from school Wednesday, before he even took off his jacket, he said “What have you been cooking? It smells SO good in here.”  The house does smell awesome – clean and fresh, not at all over-fragranced or perfumed.  Ryan immediately hijacked my new products, insisted on washing all the windows downstairs and cleaning a cabinet in the bathroom.  He used about half a bottle of window cleaner (spraying is so irresistible) and somehow spilled half the fruit and vegetable wash on the floor.  I could still scream about it but I’m trying to focus on all the green cleaning enthusiasm here.

What We Made: The Beauty Products

Next, the facial scrub (also Shal’s recipe and the one she keeps in her shower for daily use). This one is a bit messier – honey, cornstarch, lemon, brown sugar, honey, heated up and then mixed with apple cider vinegar.  I’ve been using it the last few days and I’m loving it. My skin feels good, clean and exfoliated and the scrub tastes pretty delicious too.

Facial Scrup, green

Do I look happy? I was deliriously happy with how the evening and our products turned out.

jodie mixing, happy in my green dress

It was a good decision to hold this “party” when Scott was out of town. This doesn’t look much like a cleaning class, does it?

my counter

Last, the lotion bars I had read so much about here and here and here. This time of year, I’m always looking to soothe my own dry skin and my kids’ excema patches. Shall hadn’t tried this one, but approved the ingredients – organic beeswax, cocoa or shea butter and coconut oil.

Lotion Bars, green label

With the right supplies, these bars are incredibly easy to make. I ordered beeswax pellets (“pastilles”) and chunks of cocoa butter instead of solid bars. This made measuring easy. We cooked ours on the stovetop in a covered glass container set in a pot of hot water set on medium heat. The oils melted within minutes (the beeswax took the longest) and were easy to transfer into muffin pans.

lotion bars green label

To use the lotion bars, just rub between your hands to warm and apply wherever needed.  I worried it might be a bit greasy but it soaks right in and my skin feels healthy and soft.  I even used a little on my face today and didn’t feel greasy or shiny at all.  Crunchy, wholesome and thrifty, yes. A bit like Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, you betcha. But greasy, no.

Have a favorite green product or DIY tip — please share it below!

What Happens (When Dad Is) In Vegas…

Well, the truth is we don’t know what happens when Dad is in Vegas at a beer convention (yes, he calls that work).

I do know that we miss him and we’re grateful that he manages to fly cross-country, attend a bunch of (beer) meetings and make it back home in 50 hours.

MAP STACKED

I do know that it’s both easier (french toast for dinner) and harder (Mommy! Mommy!! Mommy!!!) without him around.

I do know that I enjoy a certain independence and freedom being the only grown-up around. I might act like I call the shots all the time, but I do defer often to my husband’s good sense. Without him, I do things like painting in a 30 degree garage while also cooking breakfast for dinner in the kitchen.

painting

And this was AFTER I took my kids to Sunday’s opening of our new local Home Goods store. This may deem me an unfit parent, but at least I know I’m not alone in my excitement as there was a theme park-like “thirty minutes from this point” sign in the check-out line. We WI-WA-WO-d it (walk in, walk around, walk out), wistfully leaving behind a lovely 8 by 8 nonstick brownie pan to move on to Michael’s and the grocery store.

The kids were kindly enthusiastic about my choice of errands. On the way of out Home Goods, I did promise that our next stop had an excellent selection of C-A-N-D-Y. Noah looked at me with the biggest, most sparkly grin and whispered “Mickey Mouse????” (You know, like M-I-C-K-E-Y…)

Though we are on our own plenty, something about Dad being across the country always prompts me to make a few special memories with the kids. I mean the kind you can’t make at a very crowded Home Goods.

At bathtime (usually dad’s domain), I had the kids close their eyes as I got the tub ready.

They held hands and opened their eyes – one, two, three.

bath

I’m not sure who had more fun. We took the glow stick lanterns apart (50 cents at Michaels) and put them back together, then made one giant lantern. The boys swam with glow worms and electric eels.

Image 3

We played basketball in the tub, and eventually in the bathroom sink.

bath-ket-ball2

The boys went to sleep with the lanterns glowing by their beds.

I’m counting on the glow lasting just about until Dad comes home tonight.

Sweet Start Your V-Day

We know Valentine’s Day is not really about the kids.

It’s fun to make decorations and eat candy while grumbling about how the holiday is so over-commercialized by greeting card companies, chocolatiers and jewelers.

But why not just give in and take a day or night to spoil your relationship a bit? It’s not a terrible idea.

Bedtime last night was interrupted by the arrival of a dozen of the World’s Tallest Roses in a giant vase . They are beautiful and amazingly hilariously taller than my kids (pics to come) and I do feel deliciously spoiled (and okay, kind of excited to see what we can make with the four foot long box they came in).

So, for Valentine’s Day, here’s my advice: start the day with a sweet treat for everyone, then consider the kids DONE and move on to taking care of your true Valentine.

cin rolls

These cinnamon rolls are not exactly healthy, but they are a lightened up version of the usual and they are miniature enough that you can’t do too much damage as long as you stop after a few.

vday rolls

My three year old loves making these – it’s a totally kid-proof recipe.
Noah Making Cina-bunsPretty instantly delicious, though the wait for something so yummy is never easy.

noah waiting

finn roll sq

Mini Cinnamon Buns

Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients (16 minis)

  • 1 8-ounce Tube Refrigerated Crescent Roll Dough
  • Butter (1-2 TBSP)
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown Sugar
  • 1 TBSP Skim Milk
  • 3/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup

Instructions

Preheat oven according to dough package directions. Spread out half the dough (4 triangles) on a cutting board and pinch all the seams together. Flip over and pinch the seams on the other side.

Smooth the seams and roll the dough with a rolling pin. Brush the dough with half the butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

Place mini cinnamon rolls into a mini muffin tin coated with butter or cooking spray. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other half of the crescent roll dough. Bake according to package directions.

Mix maple syrup and milk in a bowl. Add in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. You can also add a bit of strawberry jelly to tint the frosting pink.

For an alternate cream cheese icing, mix 2 ounces cream cheese (softened) and 1/4 stick unsalted butter (softened)  and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar or more to taste.

Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.

Powered by Recipage

The Peacemaker

It was a weekend of working my way through our kitchen, toy room and dining room.

I’ve got plenty of clutter to tackle this fresh new year.

And so do my kids.

Exhibit A: Ryan’s junk drawer in our kitchen.

Ryan's junk drawer

It looks like one of those I Spy pages.

Can you find mardi gras beads and ten deli ticket numbers?

A chapstick, a toothbrush and two fishing bobbers?

After watching me tackle two messy corners of our kitchen, Ryan was pumped and ready to organize his problem area.

action junk

I armed him with a few tools: a garbage can, a box to re-route things that belong elsewhere (play dough to the toy room, toothbrush to the bathroom drawer) and most crucial of all: our peacemaker, a long hanging jewelry organizer. Ours are bright and decorative; if Marshall’s wasn’t around the corner, I might have ordered the white ones from The Container Store.

Each of my boys have one in their closets, and they are free to fill it to the brim with loot bag trinkets, little toys and figures.

This is Ryan’s treasure keeper, post-junk drawer clean out.

jewelry organizer

Often the entire contents will be on the floor after a friend visits, which I know means Ryan has explained every shark tooth, gymnastics medal, duct tape creation and most importantly, his Avengers Superhero membership card (which is a really rare item belonging to only lucky children who happened to have been at the Disney store for Avengers training class). Its an easy clean up though, and one Ryan really doesn’t mind.

I call it the peacemaker, because it lets the kids keep all that, well, junk they collect, and have some control over it. Being a kid is hard sometimes: you have no money to buy the things you covet, your parents more or less dress you (by buying your clothes), tell you what to eat, limit wonderful things like candy and television and video games. Its challenging but respectful to allow them to be in charge of the plastic bits they pick up from birthday parties and fairs. They may look meaningless, but Ryan associates each with a sweet little memory.

For sure, I don’t need to weigh in on something that takes up this much room in the closet.

hanging

At some point, the treasure keepers will fill up and the kids will have to make hard choices. Until then, I say let them enjoy every charity rubber bracelet, bubble wand necklace and fake piece of money that comes their way. Even one particular clutter-free friend, who typically tosses her kids’ junk before it even gets in her house, found this idea so irresistible, that she included a treasure keeper in her kids’ Christmas stockings this year.

Ryan shooed me away from his junk drawer clean-up a few times, wanting to be the sole decision maker on what stays and goes. He did throw a few broken toys away and even donated some trinkets to his brother, who worked beside him, continually asking for “a few more things” to fill his keeper.

noahs organizer

I was pretty impressed with my three year old’s organization.

Little figures went together. Bracelets, nearby, but separate from a ring and some necklaces.

noah's guys

A few coins in this pocket. And some personalized “Noah” things together, way at that bottom.

noah's organizing method

Ryan is terribly proud of his cleaned-up drawer. I am terribly proud that I taught my six year old the very essential skill of cleaning out a junk drawer. By the way, that is not a real finger in the velvet lined box. That clever piece of plastic actually is a bubble wand from his best buddy’s Halloween party.

Junk drawer after

The Girl From Ipanema

Re-entry is delicious. And challenging.

I love the endless cuddles and hearing stories of the kids’ week with their grandparents and cousins – the fish they caught, the parade at the circus, going to sleep at 10 PM.

And then there’s the rest of the first days at home – lots of laundry, a messy house, and all of us, very tired.  As desperate as I was to see the boys after 8 days in Brazil, there are moments when I really wonder where my hotel concierge went. Like when I am cleaning up a pee-pee accident at the diner.  Digging crumbs and raisins out of carseats.  Begging my almost three year old to take a nap.

It’s a good thing my vacation pictures can still whisk me away. For a few days, I am the girl from Ipanema.

Well, first, I’m the girl from Búzios, a laid back beach town two hours north of Rio De Janeiro.  We spent a few days in a relaxed boutique hotel, Casas Brancas.  This was our view from our front door.

And from our room.

Buzios is known as the Saint Tropez of Brazil, made famous by visits from Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s.  We toured the bits of paradise tucked into the coastline with friends from college, including the groom whose wedding we came to Brazil for and his family.

There was plenty of seaside color:

Next, onto Rio.  A bit more bustling, but the vistas continued to impress.

This is the famous landmark statue of Christ, visible from almost anywhere in Rio, day or night.

It’s a lot of Cristo for a Jewish girl. But it started to feel like home.

A major highlight was exploring and dining at Aprazivel, a rustic chic restaurant in the hills of Santa Theresa, overlooking the city.

This is our stretch of Praia Ipanema, viewed from our hotel balcony and rooftop. The black and white sidewalk stretches for miles.

Early morning soccer.

And a bit later in the day.

Sunset at the rock that separates Ipanema Beach and Copacabana.

I’ll take you inside the Rio wedding tomorrow.  You can expect a major cameo from Missoni. And I do not mean goods from the Target collection.

We’re Baaaaack!

If you didn’t know I left the country last week, then I effectively honored my husband’s internet security and privacy concerns. Sensibly, he prefers that I don’t announce that we are away from our house (or our kids).

So now I can tell you: we spent a week’s vacation in Brazil, kid-free and just returned yesterday. The trip included QT with my husband’s college friends (our friends, really, since we’ve been together since high school), a gorgeously-styled wedding in Rio and lots of beaches, along with unusual sightings – both natural and unnatural – on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

I’ll share our trip with you later this week. Today, I’m still savoring the reunion with my kids.  Nine days away was a bit too long – I simply could not wait to get my hands on them.

While we were gone, the boys were entertained (an understatement, really!!!) by a host of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The kids didn’t miss a beat (or us, it seems) amid swimming, boating, fishing, fireworks, BBQs, s’mores, golf lessons and more.  Both boys look older, bigger and tanner to me, more independent, more brilliant and even funnier than I remember.

The boys don’t have favorite blankets or loveys (except my arm!), so I left them little notes for each of the days we were away, to add a little fun to our separation and help them track our trip and homecoming.

I picked up these library card type envelopes at our local teacher-supply store, The Chalkboard, and slipped index cards in each with a note and some little drugstore gifts I picked up for the kids.  For Noah, I stenciled the number of each day; for Ryan, I spelled out each number. The days happened to coordinate with the dates of our trip; otherwise, I might have done a countdown.

If this sounds scary-organized and uber-prepared, think again: I wrote the notes the day before my flight while waiting at the doctor’s office for a check-up and then picked up the drugstore gifts while waiting for the prescription for my sore throat.  I had a vision for what I wanted to leave, so actually putting it together didn’t take long at all:

Day 1: A note, plus some stickers.

Day 2: A Brazilian Putomayo CD for kids, instructions to dance like crazy and this great Brazil for Kids booklet I found on Brazil’s tourism website. Ryan told me they didn’t read the booklet, though he reported a pretty fun dance party with his cousins.

 

Day 3: Go Fish card game for Noah, Crazy 8s for Ryan.

Day 4 & July 4th: Inspired by an adorable decoder I saw on the blog All for The Boys by Ambrosia Creative, I “coded” the day’s notes by writing a message in blue crayon and then scribbling all over it with red crayon.  I rigged a decoder by coloring the clear plastic top of a see-through gift box with red permanent marker (you can do the same with a tupperware lid or even a return envelope with a window).  Placing the coded note in the decoder revealed the secret message: Make Trail Mix.  For the 4th, I left white chocolate chips, dried blueberries and cranberries.

Day 5: Milk Straws and a little rhyme I knew would make them smile: Willoughby, Wallaby, Wilk, the elephant sat in my ____ (milk).

Day 6: A bag of Lifesaver gummies to share (which miraculously went unopened until yesterday when they shared it with me).

Day 7: A note and a toy (Blue Power Ranger, and Thomas the Train Bubble Blower).

Day 8: Puzzles by Dad (actually an illustration of one of the boys’ favorite bedtime stories – Ryan, Noah & Eddie the Eagle Go to The Candy Store.

 Day 9: Another secret message to be decoded. When we spoke to the boys after touching down at JFK, Ryan asked me where the prize was for #9. He sounded a tad disappointed to hear it was us, which I think means the notes – and the week apart – were wildly successful.

I Am A Wish Granter

If you were in Times Square yesterday, you might have seen this video on the Thomson Reuter’s electronic billboard.

If you’ve already watched this video, you might already know what I have in common with Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Buddy Valastro, Jon Stewart, Nigel Barker and Tiffani Thiessen.

If you don’t know who those celebrities are or what I possibly have in common with them, you better watch this video.

Yesterday, April 29, was World Wish Day®, a global celebration of wish granting, honoring Chris, the seven year old boy who inspired the founding of Make-A-Wish® when his wish to become a police office was granted on April 29, 1980.

In the 32 years since, Make-A-Wish® has granted more than 280,000 wishes around the world, with a wish granted nearly every 23 minutes. Make-A-Wish® seeks to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy

I became a wish granter in college after hearing a wish child speak about her 1988 wish to meet and dance with Michael Jackson.  Tiffany founded Student Wishmakers at Cornell in 1993 and in 2000, was the first wish child elected to the Make-A-Wish® National Board of Directors.  I remember hearing Tiffany say that she knew if she could spark an interest in Make A Wish® in a college student, she might “pique a lifelong commitment to the organization.” I’ve now been a wish granter for over 15 years in 3 states, and I can’t possibly imagine the cumulative commitment wish “kids” like Tiffany have sparked in donors and volunteers over the years.

In what I have long-considered the best volunteer opportunity in America, I feel lucky to have witnessed the power of a wish and the joy wishes brings to wish kids and their families – for Jessica who met Katy Perry this fall, for David who went to Superbowl XLVI, for Brianna who went to Disney — twice, actually, since her sister Alanna was eligible for a wish too.  To hear the impact firsthand from a wish recipient, click here to meet Jamie and hear about her wish trip to Atlantis.

Jamie spoke with tremendous poise at Make-A-Wish® Connecticut’s Evening of Wishes Gala last weekend, sharing with us her desire to “pay” her wish “forward,” which she did LIVE as she introduced Chandler, a four-year old cancer patient she met while in the hospital for her own treatment.

Photo by Kat Loughery Photography

The lights dimmed and Tinker Bell flitted through the ballroom and introduced herself.

“I am Tinker Bell, the fairiest of all the fairies. And you are Chandler, the fairiest of all the Chandlers.”

Tink then guided the hundreds of Gala attendees to wave their wands (Make A Wish® Connecticut had left them at our seats) to grant Chandler’s wish to go to the happiest place on earth (Disney World).  The room filled with blinking, waving wands, and blinking, crying eyes, as the evening’s guest Chef Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible escorted Chandler to the limo that would whisk her to the airport.

As if that wasn’t sweet enough, I then got to enjoy Chef Irvine’s dessert trio: spiced cotton candy, chocolate covered caramel and a caramel drizzled apple.

Make A Wish® changes lives. It certainly has inspired mine.

To learn how you can make wishes come true by donating (airline miles always needed) or volunteering,         contact Make A Wish Connecticut  or your local chapter.

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