Happy 2013!

After some very fun (though too short) jaunts to NYC and NH this vacation week (we saw 45 of 50 US  license plates on the road, if you count seeing Hawaii in the movie Ponyo),  I loved coming home to these cheery faces and well wishes covering our message board (yes, I strategically displaced a lot of crap from the kitchen and mudroom for this shot).

holiday card wall

This year, I’ve heard and read more debate than ever questioning whether today’s holiday cards simply serve as annual branding and bragging opportunities for families. Technology has allowed us to design our own cards with photos and fonts, colors and rounded corners — even glitter. Cards today are more personal, and at the same time, less personal, one photo after another of a smiling-pretty-for the camera family captured in 5 by 7, with modern greetings jazzed by trendy design on luxe paper.

Close Up

The bragging doesn’t bother me. As an Ivy-league educated communication major turned real estate lawyer turned mom of two gorgeous and brilliant boys and happy wife of one adorable Harvard businessman, I can tell you that people have misused written communications by bragging since the beginning of time.

Holiday cards, though, have a purpose beyond the bragging. It’s a chance to think of your friends and family for a moment (actually two moments – when you send and when you receive a card) and wish them a happy, healthy and safe year ahead. Christmas or Hanukah, New Years or Everything, handwritten or letterpress, glossy or matte, the intention of good wishes is there (except in the few cases it isn’t, in which case, you already know the true colors of your narcissistic cousin/boss/neighbor).

Perhaps this season, more than most, with the families of Sandy Hook forever on my mind, I am glad we take the time, expense and environmental burden to share some sweetness with each other.

Holiday Card Front

Last year, I took thousands of photos between my digital SLR and my cell phone.  The few images I choose for our card are going to be among the shiniest moments of the year – the biggest smile, the sweetest embrace, the silliest laugh or the goofiest outfit.  I’ve done them all. Do I want recipients to believe that every one of our moments is as shiny and sweet? No way.  You must know how we arrive at kindergarten just as the second bell rings, that my kids often have yogurt or chocolate on their faces, that there are tears and tantrums now and then.  I don’t need reminders of runny noses and pee pee accidents.  I’ve got visions aplenty of those.

For our holiday cards, we put our best foot forward. Our temple clothes, our Sunday best.  Fresh haircuts, new button down shirts from the Gap and clear crisp photos, thanks to Amy Trahant at Take Aim Photography.

Holiday Card Back

This year, we started a new tradition.  My mother in law gave me this giant scrapbook.

scrapbook

We sorted through our shoebox of holiday cards from the past few years and designated a page for each of our friends and families.

The kids helped tape the cards in and voila — watched families multiply – from two kids to three, bigger, then four!  Especially fun with neighbors we see all the time and hardly remember this little.

scrapbook sacks

It’s nice for kids to see how families like ours come together, from bride and groom, to baby to toddler.

scrapbook titlows

Signing off for 2012. I’ve got plenty of new goals for 2013, but a big thank you to my readers for helping me reach my writing and creating goals this year.   Your comments, shares, likes and pins are tremendous support for my endeavors here.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe 2013.

glasses

The Holidays So Far

December reminds me of my Grandpa Andy.

How he loved a lit up night.  New York. Atlantic City. Vegas.  And Fort Lauderdale at Christmas-time.

We’d cruise the streets after dinner in his old beige Cadillac, finding one bulbed spectacle after another.  “Faaaaantastic,” he’d yell, or “Holy Crick Crack.”  It was not lost on me as a kid how we’d all left the slush and snow behind in New England to spend a balmy evening seeking the North Pole sleigh team atop terra cotta tiled Florida roofs.

Grandpa Andy’s delight made our Jewish family part of Christmas.  I still like the lights and I take extra long routes home to share the best displays with my kids.  I love Starbucks’ Christmas Blend.  We stopped in not once, but twice, to admire the entries in our town’s Gingerbread House Contest. We even decorated this Home Depot version alongside baking a Shabbat challah last Friday.

Still, it can be hard to be Chanukah during Christmas.  Just like when you are trying to conceive and pregnant women seem to be everywhere, Christmas seems to envelop us.  We’ve made a few recent purchases that entitled us to free Christmas toys and ornaments.  My supermarket even has butter shaped like Christmas trees. There are a lot of candy canes and wreathes and elves on shelves.  Even my Jewish mother got confused and bought this for my son for Hanukah:

There’s plenty to make a Jewish child wonder why Santa doesn’t come to our house and his parent wonder how to manage the relatively small holiday of Hanukah against the wondrous giant of Christmas.  Gratefully, I live in a place where Chanukah is widely known and publicly celebrated, making it considerably easier to create a meaningful holiday for my children that goes beyond wish lists and presents.

Last week, we attended a Chanukah event at a local temple.  We helped pick and press olives to make olive oil, the oil that in the story of Chanukah miraculously burned for eight nights when it should have only lasted one.

A centrifuge split the pressed olives into three parts (what I understood to be the juice, the pulp and the oil).  We watched as that small bit of oil lit the menorah – a lovely chance to witness my children believing in the story of Hanukah and a moment hard to replicate, even among presents and parties.

That same evening, we met my parents for our town’s holiday stroll, an event that would have thrilled my Grandpa Andy – with lights and music and crowds and popcorn. We love it too, from the fire trucks lit up with extended ladder to the a cappella carolers, festive store windows and rich Mexican hot chocolate and churros. We didn’t wait in line for Santa, but enjoyed a night all about community (in a very Gilmore Girls sort of way) and believing.

On Sunday night, we returned to the same crowded square – this time for the lighting of a five-foot ice sculpted menorah for the second night of Hanukah.  After the blessing, the orthodox Rabbis erupted into traditional song.  Our holiday couldn’t have shone brighter or more beautifully.

Holiday Cards Gone By

We survived. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Charity Tuesday. I believe tomorrow, December 1st, is officially Holiday Card Hysteria Day.

Much as I would like us all to go digital with our holiday greetings, I do so enjoy sending holiday cards and wallpapering our house with the ones we receive. Speaking of receiving holiday cards, I must interrupt this post with a bit of brilliance, courtesy of Pinterest and Under the Sycamore:

It has taken me years to master getting a good photograph in my hands by Thanksgiving. Now its time to find the card or design my own. More than ever, there are so many lovely paper and design options (read: way too many freakin’ options for an indecisive paper/font/design lover). I find myself swooning over holiday card samples in places not too well known for their pretty paper (Walgreens and Staples). Rounded corners, patterned backs, personalized messages – its intoxicating and exhausting.

The boys and I had fun looking at a shoebox full of holiday cards gone by. They matched baby faces to big kids and newlyweds turned into parents. I filled in the blanks on playmates and relatives they didn’t recognize.

While I’m working on this year’s card, you can check out our last five…

Have a great holiday card source – please share it!

Thanksgiving Creations Without Ruffling A Feather

Why is it the more I have to do, the more often I fall asleep with my three-year old at his bedtime?

I’m thankful no one’s holiday experience this week will be lessened by the state of my laundry and mudroom.

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving last night with my husband’s family.  A delicious dinner — sweet with four happy little cousins, birthday cake for our 92 year old grandmother. We managed a few minutes for my boys to witness their grandparent’s philanthropy at a local hospital.

My contribution was limited to fruits and vegetables (plus the necessary marshmallows).  This is as complicated as it got – I did score little x marks in the pear for the chocolate chip eyes and carved legs out of a cheese stick.

In my part vegetarian household (note: the tofurkey was not a hit), the turkey as a symbol of Thanksgiving elicits a lot of questions. I was glad Ryan’s kindergarten dealt with the turkey reality head on.  Say what you will about the overuse of worksheets in American classrooms…this one is adorable and allows for out of the box (or off the page) creativity.

Students in grade schools across the country are given an illustration of a turkey and asked to add a disguise so that the turkey can avoid its Thanksgiving fate.  Our kindergarteners’ disguises slowed my walks down the hallway these last few weeks.  I loved the nods to their worlds of Halloween costumes, election day, football and snowfall.

You can download a printable turkey sheet here to occupy your family and/or house guests while you are making last minute preparations.

As I count our many blessings, we were able to update an old standby DIY to make sweet teacher and hostess thank you gifts for the season using this pumpkin granola recipe and $2.95 feather cabinet knobs from Anthropologie.

Feeding Your Big Blue Bins

It’s America Recycles Day.

It doesn’t matter who you voted for last week. We’ve got just one planet to live on. The least we can do is do a better job taking care of it.

I’m a pretty good recycler. I could be so much better.

I just took a pledge to recycle more next month.

Here’s my plan:

  • Add a recycling bin upstairs for TP rolls, magazines, paper and shampoo containers and give the boys the job of emptying it.
  • Clean MORE plastic containers (yogurt, cream cheese, even peanut butter jars), instead of trashing them in haste.
  • Designate an area to collect plastic bags (grocery, dry cleaning, produce, newspaper, bread & ziploc) and case wrap (plastic wrap on paper towels, TP, beverages, etc.) and bring them to the grocery store periodically for recycling.

Compared to the challenge of reaching other goals like losing weight or say, organizing your photo cache, committing to recycling more is pretty simple — even easier than using less products.

I’m frighteningly curious to see how we’d fare at home with this lesson from my son’s preschool class. They visually charted materials used for table washing after lunch to see how many paper towels they used: without rags, 27 paper towels; with rags, none!

In the spirit of this holy day o’ recycling, here is the first (and likely the greenest) installation of my holiday gift selections:

Start by skipping a toy purchase, and instead pick up a Makedo set. These reusable plastic tools (safe-saw, clip connectors and lock hinges) let kids (5 years and up, and their younger and older assistants) make new creations and toys out of boxes, containers and other materials.

We’ve used the free play kit pictured above, but Makedo also offers a few “guided” kits:

Amazon also sells a set of reusable plastic wheels that can be attached to boxes for play. Just make sure you buy the Rolobox wheels INSTEAD of another gift, not in addition. The kids will have plenty of materials (gift wrap, cereal boxes, cardboard) to use for their creations.

 

A set of Makedo and/or Rolobox and an hour of your time playing and creating would be a perfect gift for almost any kid.

Hoping to make some gifts this year?

Check out LTM’s Clementine Box Doll Bed and Cabinet Knob Jars.

Happ(ier) Days of October

You might have noticed I have a penchant for big backyard birthday parties (see here and here) so I tried not to be insulted by by my six year old requesting a party at the bounce house place this year. I decided to welcome a just show-up and jump party instead of the usual three-ring circuses I invent each year.

Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. I picked a date and time carefully, one that accommodated seven cousins, two sets of grandparents, a great-grandma and other family. One day before that very scheduled party, Ryan came down with strep. Between Ryan’s actual birthday feeling like ancient history, Halloween and limited spots at Bounce U., I grabbed the next available date – go figure, one that NONE of the seven cousins could attend.

We managed to squeeze in the make-up party hours before Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast.

I was grateful for the timing then. Now, after a week of hearing and seeing images of the devastation and shortages throughout New York and New Jersey, these birthday photographs are my happy thoughts amid gathering warm clothes and canned goods to donate and feeling uselessly far away from those who need help. Thank you to those who have volunteered selflessly and for those who have communicated how great the need is to those of is in our bright, warm homes.

I bounced and took pictures (even in the black light “cosmic bounce”) and crossed my fingers that none of our guests would get hurt while their parents stocked up on batteries and groceries nearby. Ten minutes before the bouncing time ended, the party staffers asked me if I wanted to set up the party room.

Did I? Me? Nooooo!!! I wanted to climb this thing with the birthday boy.

Thanks to my mom for setting up the “party room” while I enjoyed the party (I did insist on bringing my own desserts and goody bag):

The push-up pops made by a family friend/baker magically stayed delicious for a week in the freezer when the party was postponed because Ryan had strep.

A surprise-hit…some finger mustache tattoos I picked up in the Target dollar bins (you can get a similar set here). Most of the kids skipped their fingers and wanted the ‘stache tattoos applied right to their faces.

Wishing much relief and perhaps even some joyful, carefree moments ahead for those affected by the storm.

Halloween Lessons – Learned & Relearned

In an ordinary season, these lessons wouldn’t come in handy again until next year — but since so many affected by the storm have had to postpone Halloween (as we did last year), maybe its just in time for some…

#1: For the younger set, costumes should be easy, lightweight and feel like normal clothes.

I’m pretty sure I would have loved those prairie days because hand stitching (cannot figure out my new/old sewing machine) Noah’s Frosty the Snowman costume out of a $7.00 white fleece blanket made me crazy proud.

My kids are now requesting my “pants dance” because I ran around the house last week dancing and singing “I made pants. I made pants.”

I have no business writing a sewing tutorial — basically I made a pattern from a pair of PJ pants that fit Noah well, following these brilliant instructions from Simply Modern Mom (ok, prairie mom meets internet), but cheated  a little by using the blanket’s pretty edging as the pants bottom.  As for the snowman belly, I improv sewed some fleece to a white H&M kids tank top and added some stuffing in between and three big buttons.

So Noah was essentially wearing a fleece blanket as a costume. Who could complain?

Well, the hat was pretty annoying.

By the time actual Halloween arrived, he said he would only wear the pants (I made pants!! I made pants!!), not the belly or the hat. Thanks to pinterest, I could handle it and quickly hot glued some felt to make a new Frosty shirt – this time, hold the stuffing.

#2: Too much Halloween is simply too much Halloween.

Our Moms & More club hosts an unbelievable Halloween stroll through our town each year, with a parade and trick and treating on Main Street and beyond on the Saturday before the big day.

The kids love spotting their friends and so many cool and adorable costumes.  We love enjoying our adorable town, the nice shopkeepers and going out for lunch and margaritas with our friends (something we should do every Saturday but just don’t).

At this stage, the stroll is Halloween for our family.  After that, its pretty much just pumpkin carving and tooth decay.

Four days later – on Halloween itself – Ryan actually asked “Do I have to wear a costume?” for his kindergarten parade (he did and had a blast).  Then, we had a Halloween-themed birthday party after school, followed by actual trick-or-treating.

All individually wonderful and totally enjoyed, but complete overkill.  Halloween should come but once a year.  Once! My kids happily trick or treated around our block, but were home and sorting candy by 6:40 p.m.  After showers and watching “It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” in our bed, the kids requested and gobbled up carrots, snap peas, peppers and dip before bed.  Veggies at bedtime? Too much Halloween.

#3: Target’s Dollar Bin rocks.

This you must already know, but very fun stuff this year — stamps, doormats, Halloweeen Bingo and Go Batty (Go Fish with mummies and vampires) cards and some signs that struck just the right note for Halloween fun (no blood, guts, bones or other ghastliness for me).

#4: This book should be sold with every pumpkin purchase in America.

We read this book all year in our house, but this year was the first time we counted our seeds along with the book.  Lots of counting (by twos, fives and tens) and so many good lessons for kids (sometimes a small pumpkin has tons of seeds).  You can buy it here for $5.99. or download the e-book  and check out some cool pumpkin facts here:

Apparently, each ridge on the outside of a pumpkin is a line of seeds on the inside. Ryan says there are 20 seed on each.       Our pumpkin had 27 ridges, 531 seeds. Pretty good math.

Haven’t had enough Halloween yet? Check out our fall play dough and Spa-lloween and Love U Madly’s Baked Pumpkin Donut Holes.
Check out Love Them Madly’s visit to The Connecticut Historical Museum & Library today on Out and About Mom.

Practically Perfect

We started family date outings in February, with intentions of carving out alone time each month for each parent/child pair in our family (not to mention more regular mom/dad dates which have been far too infrequent). Ryan also adorably requested “brother dates” but I haven’t figured out how to practically implement those yet. Our date book is a bit sparse, so I was glad I had booked show tickets over the summer to spur this weekend’s “dates.”

After a super garden birthday party (details to come) on Saturday for a kiddo with (1) a mom who used to be a kindergarten teacher, and (2) a dad who owns one of the best restaurants in town (you should find friends like this – it ROCKS!!!), we were all happy, full and exhausted. It might have been a better night for PJs and a movie but we had to rally for “date night.” N.B. Are we treating our kids to quality family time or training them to get mono in college by running themselves completely ragged??

It didn’t look promising. Parental requests to pick up the toy room were met with whining and painfully reluctant compliance. When I asked Ryan to change into “nice ” clothes for the play, he lay on the floor yelling and screaming and asking why he couldn’t wear his Avengers sweatpants to the theatre. So at 5:00 p.m., I changed into my running clothes. Thank goodness Ryan noticed.

“I can’t take you to the play if you are whiny and miserable. Sometimes date nights have to be cancelled.”

He yelled and cried, then (with some gentle prompting) apologized, calmed down and changed his clothes. I did too.

We parted from Couple # 2, who headed off to the local burger joint with friends and a deck of Go Fish! cards.

Ryan sweetly brought his camera along (thank you Playful Learning photo e-course), so I’ll let his pics tell the story of our dinner:

Ryan explained his framing: “I zoomed in on the sign but I wanted some brick wall too.”

Exciting to see Mary Poppins Poster at the restaurant

Fried “fresh” mozz & caesar salad for appetizers, followed by spaghetti squash for me & plain pasta with butter for him.

He totally let me pick up the check, though he insisted on buying his own candy (not mine) at the play.

Dinner was sweet and fun, and included some silly conversation and midway through our meal, a deliciously impromptu hug from Ryan.

Off to the show, where we met up with our friends. The production of Mary Poppins was fantastic. I imagine it would ordinarily captivate my musical loving kid but, exhausted after a few weeks of kindergarten, Jewish holidays and trying to share a bed with his little brother the night before, Ryan hardly had a chance. He mostly stayed awake through the first act; the promise of intermission snacks and his wallet full of allowance keeping him going. A brief sugar high got him through the first few songs of the second act. Then he slept and slept. And slept, through a huge Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious finale, thunderous applause and the clearing out of the theatre.

The next day, Ryan reported to his dad that he loved the show and saw what we came for – Mary Poppins flying with her umbrella and the chimney sweep walking on the walls and ceiling. The pictures don’t lie though – this was deep REM sleep.

Mary Poppins is an admirable mother-figure. She knows what children need – love, discipline and a lot of whimsy. She’s orderly and stern, but utterly engaging. She loves to play games, but only if she chooses them. She never promises to be fair, just that she’ll be “practically perfect.” And in one of the play’s most poignant scenes, Miss Poppins tells the Banks children that they are also “practically perfect, in every way.”

What a lovely way to think of our naturally, appropriately imperfect children. And ourselves.

Toyroom clean-up before the play? Practically perfect.

Wardrobe selections for the play? Practically perfect.

Mom’s decision to get tickets for a two hour forty minute play at 7:30 p.m. after a tiring first few weeks of school? Practically perfect.

Falling asleep for most of a big stage production. Practically perfect.

Family Date Night? Practically perfect too.

Here is a blank Family Date Time template for you to print. I’ve left the name boxes blank for you to write or type in. I used the font Quicksand (size 37) in Picmonkey.

Mary Poppins is on national tour in these cities through June, 2013. I recommend a MATINEE for ages 5 and up.

DIY: Kids’ Food Shopping List

As you can see here, my son loves grocery shopping – both real and pretend.  When we decided to go so far as to open a pretend market in our backyard for his third birthday party, I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to make a list of things they would be shopping for in our play market.  I thought they’d like modeling this very adult activity (list making), not to mention it would avoid the crazy overflowing cart free-for-all that has occurred at nearly every children’s museum grocery store exhibit I’ve ever visited.

I happened to have just cleaned out our media cabinet and finally decided to toss the empty DVD cases that take up so much room in our storage drawers (most of our DVDs are in DVD wallets).  Just before I tossed the cases, I had a brainstorm: you could replace the movie banners with any insert, so my cases had to be useful for something.  We played around with the cases by inserting family photos beneath the clear plastic and doodling (eyeglasses, beards, crazy hair) with a dry-erase marker.  The plastic cleaned up easily.

Here’s what I worked out for the party:

FRONT OF CASE:  Looseleaf List-Like Paper for writing on with a dry-erase or washable marker (contained inside the case), which I printed on 5 by 7 white card stock on my home printer.

DOWNLOAD: Shopping List Template

FONT: American Typewriter or any basic typewriter font

BACK: Chalkboard-Style Magnet Board for attaching magnetic images of list items.

I used adhesive-backed magnetic sheets, trimmed to size (about 5 by 7), to attach a magnet to the DVD back, just below the clear plastic casing.

I printed the food items on regular printer paper, then attached it to sticky side of the adhesive-backed magnetic sheets, then trimmed with a scissor.

DOWNLOAD: Shopping List Magnets Download

INSIDE:

Our party-branded (Noah’s Fresh Market) CD with Noah’s current playlist and a slim non-toxic dry erase marker).

I ran out of magnet sheets, but you certainly could line the inside of the case opposite the DVD insert with magnet for easy storage.

The lists worked great for our party, but would work equally well for pretend or practical play at home or school.  For one time use, you could simply print out the list pictures and have the kids tape or glue them on a shopping list.

My rule-following birthday boy adhered stringently to the items on his list, going so far as to ask me to “put back” the twirlers and lollipops he initially put in his cart.

Noah’s Grocery Store Birthday Party

One morning in July, after dropping Ryan off at day camp, Noah and I sat at our kitchen counter having breakfast.

“Noah,” I said,”You’re going to be three soon.  What kind of birthday party should we have?”

Ryan would have rattled off a dozen ideas in a minute, but with limited birthday parties in his little world, Noah was quiet.

“Well, what kinds of things do you like to play?” I prompted.

Grocery store,” he answered instantly.  Sometimes, three year olds give offbeat answers but this one was no surprise. Noah has loved playing market, going to the market, even talking about the market, since he was 18 months old.  He’s always analyzing our store options as we do tend to frequent about 8 groceries within a 10 mile radius of our home and we make quick stops a few times a week (in the name of quality, variety and freshness, not, of course, for any lack of planning or efficiency):

Noah, about Whole Foods: “They have all my favorite foods at this store.” (Yes AND my entire paycheck!)

About Stew Leonard’s: “They still have the cow there. And those funny singing chickens.” (Thank goodness, the death grip has loosened and Noah and his brother finally find those chickens funny).

About Big Y: “That is Grandma’s market.” (I agree – even though one opened in our town a few years ago, Big Y will always be “Grandma’s market.”)

About The Crown, our kosher market: “I like to push those little carts. And the lady by the challah always gives me a green leaf cookie.”

That day in July, we made a guest list and a bulleted list of ideas for Noah’s “Market Party” (donuts, shopping lists, shopping bags, pretend money, play food, carts and wagons, candy and pizza).  Noah started telling everyone we were having a “grocery store party.” I searched the ‘net for ideas, only to find that it seems there has only been one documented grocery store party in the history of the internet. And actually, I’m not sure the party ever actually happened or was just stunningly designed and photographed for a party blog.

Armed with one stunning inspiration, my list and my vast experience actually playing grocery with Noah, I struck out on my own. Noah’s favorite color changes by the hour, but he remained steadfast about our party theme. The lunch menu did change (at his request) from pizza to cereal with marshmallows (popular with 12/13 kids and pretty popular with me now that we have some leftovers).

Our invite, designed on Picmonkey and printed at Staples.

We had a fabulous party – and I’m so glad I heard my little guy and designed a party that was just right for him.  His guests enjoyed our shopping, and we all had fun getting ready for the party. My family pooled their recyclables for play food, the kids (and their babysitter) loved stuffing empty juice and produce containers with colored tissue paper to make it look real, and Ryan went to town pricing everything.

On a sunny and warm fall morning, we welcomed 13 kids on our front stoop, all excited and curious about our shopping party.

I asked the kids what you need to go grocery shopping, gently guiding them to: (1) a shopping list, (2) shopping bags and (3) money.

The kids made their own shopping lists, using old DVD cases I had turned into dry erase and magnet boards. This was super-simple and you can check out how I made them here.

The kids went to work right away, drawing/writing items on their list or adding them with picture magnets I had made (download here).

Once lists were made, the kids each picked a shopping bag and tagged it with their names.

List, check.  Bags, check.  For our “spending money,” we had a backyard hunt for plastic eggs filled with plastic gold coins and a few chocolate ones.  (Who doesn’t love an egg hunt in September?)  Once each had a full carton of a dozen eggs (a nice way to limit the big kids), I rewarded them with a pencil case “wallet” already filled with paper money bearing their faces (more on that later this week). They dumped their coins in the wallet, and suddenly we had a yard full of “big spenders” ready for our market.

We lined our shoppers up beside the market for a quick stop at our photo booth.

Now, here comes the shopping.  

We set up our lower back deck as our little market, with areas for produce – real and pretend,

carb-loading

and more.

The kids took their shopping lists seriously.  Most enjoyed the treats I planted in the aisles, though Noah insisted I put back the Twizzlers and lollipop he’d picked up when he realized they weren’t on his list.

The check-out ended up a bit crowded (the clerk might have needed a bit more training).

Noah was so eager to hand out our adorable mini-markets filled with gummy bears, that I found my shy guy wandering the yard asking his guests if they were leaving yet.

Our shoppers had a blast.

And I did too. Happily, the party continued most of the day with cousins, neighbors, friends and two borrowed bounce houses.

Possibly the sweetest moment of the day: watching this crew (my niece, my son and some friends) giggle and chat as they found shapes in the afternoon clouds.

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