5 Tips for When You Spill a Drink on Your Computer

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5 Tips for when you spill a drink on your computer
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Please enjoy this guest post from Zack Davis, longtime friend and fellow geek.  He posted the other day about having to rescue his new computer from the attack of an errant pop can.  And fortunately, he knew exactly what steps to take.

But are you prepared?  Do you know what to do when a drink spills on your computer, or any technology, for that matter?

If not, read on to hear more of Zack’s story, plus learn what to do if this ever happens to you.

What to do when a drink spills on your computer

Sunday afternoon I left my computer vulnerable to my own stupidity and it bit me! I had a can of soda on my desk, just sitting there.. and the cat tipped it off!  What’s worse, she tipped it off onto the side where my computer sits. Luckily a large part of it hit the floor (Thanks Rug Doctor!) but an easy 1/4 of the can went inside my system.

By some kind of karma, miracle, or sheer improbability, my computer didn’t fry immediately!  It’s also fortunate that I was walking back in the room when it happened; I was able to dive for the power button as I saw the can tip.  My computer managed to shut down safely before I could even pull the power cord.

It’s been off and air drying for the last two full days; half of that time under rice (since I couldn’t find silica packets around the house).

Luckily, I came out safe.

Especially since I JUST spent $1700 upgrading my computer system this summer.  So, I thought I would share a word from the wise.

First and foremost, always consider the placement of your computer, even your laptop, in relation to any liquids that could spill.

I knew my computer was at risk and I kept blowing it off and saying I’d move it under my desk instead of keeping it beside the desk — “I’ll do it later.”  If you haven’t taken precautions, don’t put it off like I did.  You may not be as lucky.

The second thing to remember is whenever ANY electronic device gets liquid in it, there’s some things you DO and DON’T want to do.

DO remove power from the device as fast as you can, if possible. Even if it’s off, if it’s connected to power it’s vulnerable.

DO dab the device with a towel; DAB, NOT WIPE!

DO try to keep the device at the same angle/position as it was when it was hit with the liquid. Moving the device allows the fluid to travel to places it may not otherwise have infiltrated.

DON’T Vacuum, Blow, Shake, or try to use any kind of pressure on the device. Doing so risks forcing the liquid deeper into the device than you would have not touching it at all.

DON’T be impatient. Yes you’re worried, your device that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars has been hit, it had an arterial bleed and now it’s in the ICU and you’re not sure it’s going to wake up. But trying to power it on too soon is a great way to kill it when it might have otherwise revived.

So, if you can see inside it and it looks dry after 24 hours, give it an extra 24 hours to be safe (I tore my the inside of my system down for the second 24 hour period because I’m insane!). If it’s a device you can’t open or see inside, then be as patient as possible. Keep it in a warm room, with some kind of absorbent material, such as silica or rice, and consider letting it sit for up to a week (since you can’t open it).

I’m just happy to be so lucky; I’m still cautious because liquids (especially soda) are not pure, so for the next few days at least I’m going to be cautious but very optimistic!

Has your computer been attacked by a rogue drink?

Well, I don’t know about you, but like Zack, I’ve toyed with disaster on this front a time or two. An open water bottle on my desk? Nah, no problems there… At least, no problems yet. Come to think of it, we’ve had a few spills occur with my laptop. With the little ones around, I’m pretty sure that my old laptop keyboard met an untimely end from the crumbs, milk, or whatever kid hazards have been around my kitchen table. Particularly at lunchtime. I think I’m going to be a little more careful from now on.

Have you ever spilled on your computer? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Making Memories – 20 Takes on Favorite Family Christmas Traditions

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Making Memories: 20 Takes on Favorite Family Christmas TraditionsMerry Christmas!  Today I wanted to share with you some thoughts on Christmas traditions — from 20 women, including myself.  …wait, what are you doing online? Get unplugged and make some memories with your family!

If you must read on…. 🙂

I’ve listed some of my favorite Christmas traditions below, and further on you’ll find 19 other takes on favorite family Christmas traditions

  • Visit Santa – while we usually work in one visit to Santa during Christmastime, this year we had two.  Our “usual” venue was at the country club — see the snapshots of my two boys with their first visits with Santa. Such cutie pies!  But the highlight, for my train-loving toddler, was our train ride to see Santa (we also made hot cocoa and cocoa salt dough train ornaments that same week).
  • The Christmas Pickle – an ornament we hang on the tree, it’s shaped like a pickle. Whoever finds it is said to have good fortune for the year ahead.  In my childhood, it usually accompanied a game of “I Spy” on the tree, with the room lit by the lights on the tree or by the fire.
  • Orange in the Christmas stocking – we grew up with this tradition.  I wasn’t sure of the origins, but according to the St. Nicholas Center’s Christmas Customs page, it’s representative of gold dowry.  Oranges also used to be a scarce treat (read more about why we put oranges in stockings at Christmas.
  • Set out milk, cookies, carrots, AND gifts on Christmas Eve – we grew up with the tradition of putting out snacks for Santa and his reindeer, but only since having kids did we add the “gifts” part.  The boys select one toy for each year they are old, and Santa will take them to give to kids who don’t have any toys.  I absolutely love this.  Toby was so excited to give kids one of his fire engines, a fireman’s hat, a book, a well-loved stuffed animal, and a few wooden train accessories.  It has been great to see him so focused on giving during Christmastime.  Last year I wrote about the power of giving, and the toys that Toby decided to part with.  That year, the tough one (for me) to let go was the Hello Kitty house.  This year, it was tough for Steven — Toby decided to give some of his train table accessories (a building and a train engine).  Isn’t it amazing how this exercise in giving helps everyone?
  • Getting sick – this is one of those traditions that we wanted to put an end to.  Last year, I learned about Christmas tree allergies and how they are usually due to allergens that are on the surface of the tree.  So we took some measures to minimize our Christmas tree allergies this year.  I think it’s working!

Ok, well that’s all for now about our traditions — I want to share with you the 19 other takes on making memories at Christmastime.  Read on for some fun insight on different family Christmas traditions!  Click on an image below to enter gallery view mode.

I have so many favorites! I think the kids’ favorite is that every Christmas Eve Morning we go bowling. Then we eat out for lunch and head home to get ready for a big ham Christmas Eve dinner followed by a musical program where we sing and the kids play christmas songs on their instruments. I love it because we are focused on family time and having fun together and there are no distractions from other sources. On Christmas Eve we [also] let the children open presents from their siblings. I like this because in the craziness of Christmas morning sometimes the presents from their siblings would be overlooked and not seem as special. When they open them on Christmas Eve, both the giver and receiver are more excited about it and they have time to give each other hugs and say thank you. It’s worked really well for us.

Erin, Chicken Babies

My favorite tradition is our tree tradition. We go to a tree lot and pick out our perfect tree and then we come home and decorate it as a family while listening to Christmas music. We then bake cookies, and watch a Christmas movie while sitting next to the lit tree.

Brittany, Love Play and Learn

We do christmas PJs, order pizza and watch rudolf on Christmas eve It’s the one thing we do with our family of four, since we spend Christmas day with extended family (which is also super fun!)

Paula, Beauty Through Imperfection

TIS THE SEASON! We have two holiday traditions that I love. The first is simple- cutting down a Christmas Tree and our Tree decorating party the Saturday after Thanksgiving. First, we go cut down a tree. Then, we come home, and have left over thanksgiving dinner, fire in the fire place, and Christmas music while we decorate. The second is more spiritual, and it is our Jesus Stocking. Each year, our kids place money inside a stocking to help raise money for a charitable cause. It is our way of being the hands and feet of Jesus on His Birthday!

Mandy Kelly, Worshipful Living

My family has always had a very strange Christmas Eve dinner. We would have Greek potatoes, a turkey, stuffing, and the works. Plus, Chinese food and a birthday cake for Jesus every year

Stefanie, Called His

For the last 18 years, we have had the tradition of inviting fellow military (single or families away from extended family), into our home for the holidays. Nobody should be alone. For Christmas, I put together little stockings with goodies, for each person to take home.

Tina, The Rockin’ Housewife

For Christmas we wrap up 25 books and then the kids each get a fuzzy blanket. Starting on December 1st we unwrap one book a night to snuggle up and read for our bed time story.

Stephanie, Parenting Chaos

For Christmas we hang some of those HUGE stockings (you can get at the dollar store) with each person’s name on them. For the entire month we put little love notes, thank you’s, or treats in them for each other then we all open/go through them on Christmas eve. We also started doing only 3 gifts a few years ago and the kids loved it so we’ve done it since. They get 1 need (clothing type items) 1 spiritual gift, and 1 want (this is from Santa).  The kids also have 1 of their siblings they get a gift for.  Christmas eve we have 1 family gift that we open when we do our stockings, it has everyone’s jammies, hot cocoa, a movie, treats, book and those type of things to use that night.  It’s been great limiting the number of gifts under the tree and making the focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We also make homemade tree decorations each year and try to do as much homemade type of gifts as possible. (Pinterest is GREAT for ideas) You can see my post on the ornaments we made last year!

JoDee, A to Z for Moms Like Me

We LOVE celebrating Christmas!! Let’s see: we start Christmas Eve with opening one of our presents for one another, sing carols & usually bake plus a fun family movie. Each year we also forgo the big presents, stick to stocking stuffers (sometimes a few books & misc.) & go on a trip! We’ve been doing this for years. Last year we went up North (Ontario) & had a great time: snowshoeing, tobogganing down hills, caroling with a local church door to door and eating tasty food together! Last, but certainly not least, we already read/talk about the Christmas story (Luke 2) together during the holidays.

Rachael, Parenting and Homeschooling in Faith

Since I was a little girl, we had a box with all the pieces of our Nativity scene wrapped in newsprint. My dad would read the Bible story and we had to dig through the pieces to find the character he mentioned and place them in the nativity. It was a great tradition. We are doing something similar with our kids nows.

Jen, Heaven Not Harvard

When I was a child, my grandmother prepared a special Christmas brunch for my whole family. Each year she planned the menu for months! I started taking on the tradition by helping her each year. When she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago I started to do more until I was making the whole meal. This will be our second year without her, but we carry on her tradition.

Katie, The Wise Wife

Every year we purchase a new Swarovski crystal star ornament. Then when put them on the tree one by one and mention something about that particular year. The boys think it’s awesome to hear a snippet of our past years. We now have 13 stars and counting!

Jennifer, The Jenny Evolution

We created a Christmas Advent activity to teach our children who God is and stll enjoy seasonal fun in December. It’s an ebook now: 30 Bible lessons and fun family activiities for the whole family teaching kids the character of God during advent.

Katie, Paradise Praises

Every year I go out with my church ministry Actz to give food and cloth to the homeless in the DFW area, not to a shelter, but street homeless on cardboard box. Its a humbling expirence, instead of recieving you should be giving. This year i hope i can make a impact on a homeless person face

Avery, AK Reviews

We have loads! I’ve got a whole post: Family Christmas Traditions (some crafty, some not).

Hodge Podge

Our favorite tradition is the Christmas Pizza. We buy a take-n-bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s on Christmas Eve and then cook it Christmas day. The Christmas Pizza allows us to spend time together as a family without being stressed about cooking a big meal and cleaning on Christmas, plus it’s a real treat since we don’t buy pizza very often The year I had our daughter on Christmas Eve the only tradition I really cared about maintaining was the Christmas Pizza, so I forced my husband out the door to buy it while I labored at home by myself for a few minutes

Crystal, The Science Kiddo

We love singing. Last year my 3 year old daughter really connected with her Great Grandma while singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Christy, Thriving STEM

Each year we read some of the Christmas Classics and then do something related to the book afterwards. In the past, we’ve read The Nutcracker and then watched the ballet (at home on video or go to the ballet depending on the kiddos’ age). We’ve read A Christmas Carol, and then visited Dicken’s Christmas Village near us. Our kiddos are 7, 6, 5, and 3. Depending on their age, depends on what version of the book we read. We don’t celebrate Santa in our home, so we try to find things that are Non Santa related. To aid in our understanding of each of the books, I usually create homeschool unit studies (Nutcracker and Christmas Carol Christmas units).  We also have our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Tradition that is included on our countdown tree. The kiddos love it.   I also set up dates with each of my kiddos to go Christmas shopping. I take them to dinner. They choose the place. Then I give them $10 for each person on their list-their siblings and parents. From there we go shopping together until they find a gift for everyone. Before we go they’re great at asking their siblings for ideas and making sure they know what their siblings like. They do this with Mommy and Daddy too. We have such a fun time. And while we’re out, I get great ideas for them for their stockings etc. Even though we don’t celebrate Santa, they still each get a stocking.

Renae, Every Star is Different

Every Christmas we make homemade raviolis (around the 20th of December) and eat them on Christmas Day (and sometimes on New Years Day). We also bake cookies. On Christmas Eve was have the feast of the 7 fishes and try and have 7 different kinds of seafood for dinner (we don’t always get to 7 but we try and have a few different dishes).

Beth Anne, Beth Anne’s Best

Because we have lots of extended family to visit we seem to spend much of Christmas travelling or not at home and it was getting a little overwhelming. So a few years ago we started a new tradition of Christmas breakfast with just our family. The kids love planning the menu, and we go all out with fancy breakfast treats we never usually eat and we spend time together eating, opening presents and spending time as a family. It’s lovely!

Kate, Pickle Bums

What about you? Do you have any special Christmas traditions? Any you’re thinking of starting up? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Hand-Crafted Photo Gift Tags

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Hand-Crafted Photo Gift Tags - an easy 5 minute project!I love easy projects!  And this hand-crafted photo gift tag idea is one that takes mere minutes.  All you need are some photos, a pair of scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon (or yarn, as I used).  Oh, and you’ll need gifts too.

We ended up with a number of extra greeting cards this year, so rather than wastefully recycling them, I thought we might incorporate the greeting cards into some craft activities.

But inspiration hit as I was doing some late night Christmas gift wrapping.  For pre-literate children, photo gift tags would be perfect!  They can identify who the gift should go to very easily… and thus can help deliver presents when it comes time to open all the gorgeously wrapped gifts.

Oh, and these would be so cute with kid-crafted wrapping paper!

Anyways, here’s what I did.

  1. Using the scissors, cut out freehand ovals around each family member’s face.
  2. Punch a hole out of the shape with a handheld hold punch… try to avoid the faces!
  3. Wrap your gift.
  4. Tie the photo gift tag onto the present with ribbon or yarn!

I guess you could skip steps 2-4, and just use tape to stick the photo faces onto the presents.  Your call.

This would also be cute with all those leftover school pictures that never seem to come in handy.

If you have a present for more than one person, you could string multiple tags onto the present.  Or, since we had a photo of the two kids together, I cut them out onto one tag.

And done!!

I told you this project was easy.  Now you have no excuse as to why your gift wrapping can’t be personalized.  Easily.  That’s the key.

You just need some photos, scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon or yarn!
You just need some photos, scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon or yarn!
String multiple photo gift tags onto one present for a shared gift!
String multiple photo gift tags onto one present for a shared gift!

Do you have any easy gift wrapping tips? I’d love to hear them… please share in the comments below!

Make a Photo Frame Ornament with Crayons!

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Make a Photo Frame Ornament With Crayons!

For my son’s preschool holiday party, I offered to make ornaments for the kids.  I’d been planning on making some sort of photo ornament, but when I saw a crayon ornament on Pinterest, I was inspired.  My variation might not work as well for a school photo due to the triangular shape, but I really like how it turned out.

The crayons perfectly frame the picture, and I even found a creative way to include a slot for threading ribbon.

Materials Needed (#afflinks):

The first thing you’ll want to do is print out your photo.  Or find a photo that you are willing to cut up.  We had this one on the computer, and I was (unfortunately) out of color ink the day we made this craft.  That’s why I did a black and white photo… but I actually like how it turned out!  If your crayons are “standard” sized, then you should be able to use a 3.5×5 photo to make your ornament.

Next, you’ll need to select three crayons for the project.  I made a number of these (one for each child in Toby’s class), and can attest that they look best with 3 different colors… or with three of the same color.

Lay out your three crayons in a triangle shape on your cardboard.  You’ll probably want to use a pen (or crayon, whatever’s easiest) to sketch out the equilateral triangle.

Then cut out the triangle.  Check and see how the crayons will fit (note that I made my triangle sides go from the butt end of the crayon to the edge of the paper near the tip.  The last part of this step is to cut off the end of one corner — this is where you’ll thread the ribbon later.

Now it’s time to assemble your ornament.  Using your hot glue gun, run a bead of glue along one of the triangle’s edges, then put the crayon in place.  Repeat this for the remaining sides, making sure that two of the crayons’ pointy ends will meet where you cut off the corner of the triangle.  Although, they don’t have to meet perfectly.

Now, flip over the ornament, and add a blob of glue anywhere that needs reinforcing (I did the “bottom” two corners).  Then, take a little strip of cardboard and cut it to a little less than an inch.  This will go at the top of the ornament, ensuring your ribbon has someplace secure to hang.  After a dry fit, put two dabs of glue on the cardboard and then put into place.

On the back (non-photo) side, I used metallic markers to write my son’s name and the year.

Cut a piece of ribbon, thread it through, and tie a knot… then you’re done!

Honestly, the longest part of this project was designing it.  Once I knew how to do it, these crayon ornaments were easy to make!

Kid-Crafted Wrapping Paper

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Child Artwork repurposed as wrapping paperIt’s probably fitting that my son is a prolific artist. Toby loves to draw, color, and create. And while I do save a representative sampling of his artwork for “years down the road” …it would be insane to hold onto everything. So, rather than throw away the “lovely drawings” (Toby’s words), I’ve found a way to give them a new purpose. We’ve been repurposing his old artwork as wrapping paper. Sometimes the sheets of paper are large enough to cover an individual gift on their own, but if not, I will just tape two (or three) sheets of drawings together. Presto chango …we have a one-of-a-kind gift that is meaningful both inside and out.

I’d go into more detail on “how to” make kid-crafted wrapping paper, but it’s pretty simple. I have a bin where I save the completed artwork, and as it comes time to wrap gifts throughout the year, I will use this supply of artwork for wrapping presents.

An alternate option, if you love this concept, but don’t want to part with your child’s many drawings, is to wrap the gift in plain paper. Then, hand it over to your child with an assortment of pens, pencils, or whatever your heart desires. Let your kid go to town with “decorating” the present. I did this recently — Toby decorated the plain brown cardboard shipping box with a metallic permanent marker. It actually looked pretty spectacular when he was finished.

In case you were curious, here’s the “before” shot of the drawing. I think it’s a combination of crayon, marker, and dry erase marker. Plus the errant sticker. But “mixed media” sounds better, so let’s go with that!

Do you have any great ideas for repurposing your child’s plethora of drawings or other artwork? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!


Minimizing Christmas Tree Allergies

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10+ Tips for Minimizing Christmas Tree AllergiesThe past few years around Christmastime, I’ve been researching Christmas tree allergies.  I have not-so-fond memories of, as a youth, getting sick around exams right before Christmas.  The timing was always impeccable.  And retrospectively, I wonder if it was due to the arrival of our Christmas tree.  My dad would spend a week decorating it (read about how we decorated our tree this year)… and I would spend at least a week being sick.

Apparently, there’s even a term for this. Christmas Tree Syndrome.  Here are a few articles I found on the matter of Christmas tree allergies:

To summarize, when you bring a live tree inside, it typically harbors tons of mold spores.  Along with the tree’s own pollen, there is usually dust and other organic matter on the tree as well.

So, allergy sufferers, be forewarned.

But it’s not like artificial trees are all that much better… they still harbor dust and whatever else is hanging out in your storage area.  And artificial Christmas trees lack the charisma of real Christmas trees.

We had an artificial tree for a year or two, when we were first married.  It wasn’t our cup of tea.  We got rid of it, and have cut down real trees for Christmas ever since.  So, what can be done to minimize Christmas tree allergies?

Well, in my research, I discovered a number of suggestions in forums.  These ideas went the full range:

  • Get a Leyland Cypress (they’re sterile, so produce no pollen)
  • Test exposure to different tree species to see if any are less problematic
  • Wash the tree down with a garden hose (problematic here in Michigan)
  • Wash the tree with a diluted bleach solution
  • Remove loose debris from the tree with a leaf blower
  • Use bursts of air from an air compressor to remove debris
  • Have the tree farm run your tree through a tree shaker
  • Shake the tree yourself by hand
  • Run an air purifier
  • Leave the tree up for only a short time (under a week)

Our Plan to Minimize Christmas Tree Allergies

So, with all that advice, what did we ultimately do to (hopefully) minimize Christmas tree allergies in our house this year?

We did the following:

  • Bought a freshly cut tree (we did the cutting ourselves)
  • Had the tree farm shake the tree to remove loose debris, dust and spores.
  • Rinsed tree off in garage, drenched it with two batches of my tree allergy prevention recipe (1 gal. water, 1 c. vinegar, 4 drops eucalyptus oil essential oil #afflink).
  • Left tree in garage to dry with fan blowing on it overnight.
  • Brought out our air purifier, which will be on continually (we have an older model of this Oreck Professional Air Purifier #afflink).
  • Decided to diffuse essential oils once daily (4 drops Thieves essential oil, 3 drops Eucalyptus essential oil #afflinks)

We also selected a different type of tree than our usual.  After talking with the nice folks at Westman’s Tree Farm (just north of Dexter), we decided to forgo the usual blue spruce and get something different (I think it was a Douglass spruce?).

UPDATE: Christmas came and went… we had the tree up for about two weeks, with nary a sign of Christmas tree syndrome!  One thing we did do, in addition to my action plan items listed above, was to air out the house a couple times (including after we removed the tree from the house).  Yes, it was cold to open all the windows, but letting the fresh air in was worth it.

 What about you? Do you have any tips to add to the list?  Share in the comments section!

Making a Popcorn Garland – 5 eco-friendly tree trimming ideas

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Making a Popcorn Garland: 5 eco-friendly tree trimming ideasWhen it comes to decorating our Christmas tree, I’m all for making it simple and easy these days. I grew up with a show-stopping, light laden tree, trimmed to all get out. Sometimes it would take my dad a week to put all the lights on — when finished, every single branch would be individually wrapped in strands of Christmas tree lights. And the ornaments would follow suit. Sometimes the tree was almost blinding! Very pretty, but a lot of work.

So for our own tree, we’ve gravitated towards simplicity. Each year, we’ve done fewer and fewer strands of lights, until this year we found the perfect number – two. Two strands of lights… no double digits. No hours spent working with lights. Just a simple spiral around the interior of the tree’s branches. Add a home-strung popcorn garland, and then it was time for the ornaments. We went simple on the ornaments, putting up less than one of our two boxes. Toby was so excited to help hang ornaments this year; I had a box of non-breakable ornaments for him to work from while we hung the breakable ones higher up. He was thrilled. Our tree may be a little unevenly laden with decorations, but that’s part of its charm.

I’ll talk about my five eco-friendly tree trimming tips in a minute, but first let me share our popcorn garland experience. As we did when making popcorn bars, we used the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper #afflink — but didn’t add any butter, of course. No one wants a greasy popcorn garland.  The popcorn was made, then spread on cookie sheets to cool.  We then got out some lengths of thread and needles… and started stringing popcorn.

Initially, I’d planned to do the traditional cranberry popcorn garland for outdoors, but then I thought, why not string the popcorn only, and put it on the Christmas tree?  We’ll still put the garland outdoors, after Christmas day has come and gone… when the tree goes outside.  So the birds will still be getting a feast.  But this way we can enjoy the results of our hard work too.

Toby was very diligent about doing this project, even though it was probably a little “old” for him.  He poked his finger with the needle a few times, but not enough to draw blood.  He threaded most of a 3 foot strand himself, while I made a 15 foot strand with Steven’s help.  Note to the wise — you can make a few shorter strands, line them up on the tree, and it will look like one continuous popcorn garland.  No need to make extra work by dealing with an extra-long tangled thread.

Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

Now that you’ve seen our project… I’ll share the finished tree pictures with you.  But first, those 5 eco-friendly tree trimming tips.

  1. Make a popcorn garland to trim the tree.
  2. Reuse old ornaments.
  3. Cut down on the number of light strands.
  4. Get an on/off switch for your tree lights so you can save energy more easily. They even have switches that look like ornaments #afflink
  5. Let your tree do double duty by putting it out in the backyard for the wildlife after Christmas

I know these aren’t mind blowing tips, but they are pretty simple — and easy to do.  And the easier something is, the more likely you can incorporate it into your routine.

And now for a sampling of our Christmas decorations. Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.


What about you?  How do you trim your tree?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

365 Days of Light Play Challenge for 2015

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365 Day Light Play Challenge - BPhotoArt.comWhen I was invited to co-host the 2015 365 Day Light Play Challenge, I was really excited. As you know, photography is the capture of light. Without light, there would be no photographs. My manipulation of light is what makes an image unique.

And this 365 Day challenge is just that. Manipulation and experimentation with light through play. While I know 2015 is a ways off still, I’m excited about being able to start documenting light play through photographs (probably on Instagram).  And if you’re reading this and thinking, “wow, a photo a day, that is intense!” Don’t worry.  This challenge isn’t a by the book kind of thing.  It’s more about committing to a year of light play — if you do it several times a week instead of daily, no big deal.  Or, if you just want to follow along and see what everyone is doing for the light play challenge, you can do that too.

To participate, just share your photos with these hashtags: #LightPlayChallenge or #ULTG (Ultimate Light Table Guide).

But, what exactly counts as light play?  Well, if you can relate it to light, I bet it counts.  Light play can be:

  • Light table / Light box play
  • Overhead Projector play
  • Glow in the dark play
  • Black Light Play
  • Natural Light Play
  • Light and Mirror Play

As I mentioned before, feel free to participate as you are able, or just observe from the sidelines – there is no wrong way to do this light play challenge.You can start early, or join in the fun after January 1st.

What about the photos?  There are no requirements.. They do not have to be complex or difficult. Just a snapshot of anything you and your kids are doing that pertains to light play somehow; the photo can be new or old…. you get the idea?  Anything goes!  Plus, in December 2015 there will be a contest to end the challenge and bring in 2016.  How exciting is that?

Be sure to visit my fabulous co-hosts:

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365 Day Light Play Challenge


Join the board to post your light play photos. Email lighttableguide@gmail.com to be added to the board. No blog necessary, just a Pinterest account and your daily light play challenge photos!  Old or new light play photos welcome in this challenge!

There are hundreds of examples on the board linked below.

Follow Kristen (Caution! Twins at Play)’s board Light Tables, Light Boxes, Light Panels & Light Play on Pinterest.

Custom Picture Puzzle

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Custom Picture Puzzle - BPhotoArt.comaMy son is a puzzle fiend.  He delights in putting together puzzles, and has gotten pretty good at it.  We’ve long since moved on from the basic wooden puzzles… and regularly tackle puzzles with 20+ pieces.

But this custom picture puzzle has become one of his new favorites.  And that’s because the subjects of the puzzle are near and dear to us.  Let’s just say, when I got the opportunity to review a custom picture puzzle, I was pretty sure it would go over well.

After ordering the puzzle, we had to wait for it to arrive by mail.  The day it came, I handed it to Toby, who had an afternoon playdate with one of his grandmas.  He was so excited when he saw the picture of him with his daddy and brother on the box lid.  I opened the box and explained it was a puzzle of them — and Toby was rearing to go.

Toby delightedly chattered about finding “Daddy’s eye” …”Zack’s face”… and the like.  As the puzzle pieces were put into place, he was visibly beaming from ear to ear.

I will say, after ordering this, I was slightly concerned that some of the pieces might be difficult, given the restricted color scheme of the picture I chose to turn into the puzzle.  But, my toddler was not to be underestimated, and there were no problems whatsoever.

Quality-wise, the custom picture puzzle was nice.  We received the cardboard version, but there was an option to upgrade to a wooden puzzle too.  When ordering, you can alter the puzzle difficulty level by determining how many pieces it should be.  I should note that the photo on the front was not as true to color, photographically speaking, as the image on the puzzle pieces themselves.

To learn more, visit Piczzle Picture Puzzle (Piczzle on Facebook or Piczzle on YouTube).

Making Hot Cocoa – The Polar Express

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Making Hot Cocoa: A Book-Based Activity (The Polar Express)As I got out our box of Christmas books, seeing The Polar Express #afflink reminded me of the fun times I had as a child making hot cocoa.  And then, I realized that Toby has never made hot cocoa.  Sure, we’ve made warm milk on the stove, and stirred in cinnamon, but that’s not quite the same.  So, for this Christmas Read and Play activity, I decided that our book-based activity would be making hot cocoa.  And reading The Polar Express while drinking it, of course!

So, I gathered our supplies… we filled up the electric tea kettle #afflink (I love this thing!) with water and turned it on.  As the water heated, we got out tea cups, spoons, and hot cocoa powder.  Then finally, I got our our milk (if you store things in mason jars, these pour spout lids #afflink are awesome).

As he always does in the kitchen, Toby had fun scooping, dumping, and stirring the hot cocoa.  I even let him assist with pouring the piping hot water from the kettle into the tea cups (very closely supervised, of course).  Once the hot water and the cocoa were in the cup, Toby stirred vigorously and gleefully.  Once all the powder had been incorporated, I then had him help me pour in some milk to cool it down.  As a side note, next time we do this I may heat the milk on the stove… hot cocoa always tastes richer when made with milk as a base.

Still warm, but now not too hot, Toby’s hot cocoa was ready for tasting.  He had a few sips, and decided it would taste better with raisins in it.  Go figure.  My son loves to experiment in the kitchen, just like his Daddy.

Once the raisins were added, we curled up by the fire with our hot cocoa and our stack of Christmas books.  What fun!



More than 20 bloggers have teamed up to participate in a Christmas read and play blog hop, with holiday-themed activities and crafts based on our favorite Christmas picture books. (#afflinks below)

12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving Leftovers

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12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving LeftoversNow that Thanksgiving has come and gone, we’re always left with the inevitable question of what to do with all those leftovers.  Assuming your have leftovers, that is.  Our family always errs on the side of having too much food.  This year, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws’ house.  And it included a fantastic spread: two turkeys (1 in the oven, 1 smoked), corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy (with and without giblets), rolls, raw vegetables (leftover from earlier in the day), and more.  Despite having just shy of 20 people to share in the feasting, we did indeed have leftovers.

So, what to do with the leftovers?  I’ll share with you my plans, and then make sure to keep reading for more ideas on repurposing those leftovers.

My plan of action for our leftovers for this year?  First of all, don’t throw away those bones!  I always like to keep the bones for making broth or stock.  These actually went in my freezer, as I already had enough broth in my refrigerator.  We also were sent home with leftover turkey — I think we’ll be making stew, maybe some turkey quesadillas  or nachos with turkey.  Here’s my stew recipe.

Thanksgiving Leftover Soup Recipe:

  • 2 c. turkey meat, shredded or cubed
  • 2 c. cooked vegetables (corn, green beans)
  • 1 c. uncooked rice
  • 2 qt. broth (approx.)
  • salt, pepper, to taste

Combine all in a crockpot, adding enough broth to cover all ingredients.  Cook on low for 6 hr or on high for 3 hr, until rice is cooked through.

More ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers:

And here are some more great ideas for all those Thanksgiving leftovers — you definitely don’t want them to go to waste!

Noodle Entree

We mix about 2 cups of leftover turkey with cream of mushroom soup and soy sauce for a nice main dish to eat over egg noodles. It takes about 10 minutes to put together.

– Ticia, Adventures in Mommydom

Open-Faced Sandwich

We eat open-faced sandwiches for the week. Such a wonderfully indulgent way to enjoy and you can mix ALL of the thanksgiving ingredients together.

– Jenny, The Jenny Evolution


I always have a ton of leftover turkey …I came up with this yummy (and super easy) way to make them into little “pockets” that everyone enjoyed! [turkey pocket recipe]

– Justine, Temecula Qponer


I’m originally from Minnesota and we always make ham and wild rice soup the next day with the leftover ham.

– Amanda, The Educators’ Spin on It

Shepherd’s Pie

I make a few turkey casseroles, maybe a turkey shepherds pie and sandwiches.

– Amy, Umbrella Tree Cafe

Freeze for Later

Leftovers are one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving! If we have an abundance (I’ve been known to overcook), then I will freeze the turkey in quart freezer bags to use in recipes after we’ve gotten over being “over” turkey. If we just have a “normal” amount, they will be lunch or dinner for the next few nights, just as they are.

– Vicki, Simply Vicki


I love this white turkey chili. It is simple (can be adjusted to be made in a crockpot) and is quite delicious.

– Jenni, The Good Long Road


Once we’ve eaten all the turkey I put the bones in the crockpot and cook all day with water and spices to make turkey stock! I freeze it and we can have homemade turkey soup all winter long.

– Laura, Sunny Day Family

Alphabet Soup

Rich turkey stock turned into turkey alphabet soup!

– Jennifer, A glimpse of our life


We like to find ways to use the leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner… add leftover ham to a breakfast omelet, make turkey cranberry sandwiches for lunch… for dinner [make] Leftover Turkey Casserole.

– Courtney, The Chirping Moms

We make cheesy bruschetta turkey casserole & crispy ranch potatoes.

– Krystal, My Life of Travels and Adventures

Pot Pie

We use leftovers to make soup and turkey pot pie!

– Beth, 123 Homeschool 4 Me

What about you? do you have any favorite ways to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Making a Photo Thankfulness Tree

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Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving - BPhotoArt.comTo help us get in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I came up with the idea to make a Thanksgiving tree decoration with photos. We are calling it our Photo Thankfulness Tree.

Making a thankfulness tree can be as simple as elaborate as you like. We went the simpler route… I pulled out some craft supplies (orange paper, a brown paper bag, tape, scissors, and a glue stick). After cutting the brown paper bag into strips, we taped it onto the window, bending and folding the straight strips to create knotty branches. While we were doing this, my printer was putting family snapshots and photos onto paper for us to cut out. Once printed, we cut out the faces in free form circular shapee. I then traced a few leaves onto a piece of paper for Toby to practice his scissor skills while I cut out the rest of the leaves free handed.

Toby picked out the photo faces one at a time, gluing each to its own leaf. We talked about that family member while their leaf was being made. As we worked, I also asked Toby what he was thankful for. His responses were recorded on the leaves that were leftover. Have kids collage a Thanksgiving tree by cutting out faces of family and friends they are thankful for. Include pets, toys, and other “favorites” that are cause for thanks. Just a simple: “what are you thankful for?” prompted all sorts of interesting conversation for us while making this photo thankfulness tree.

When it came time to tape the leaves onto the tree, Toby intially was reluctant. In his words, “the leaves fall off the trees onto the ground.” So we compromised with several fallen leaves on the ground, and then he proceeded to post the rest on the branches as I requested.

We finished our tree just as my husband was walking in the door; Toby was really excited to show Daddy everyone and everything he said he was thankful for.

Next time we do this, I’ll incorporate it into our month of gratitude for November. How, exactly? I think I would make and set aside an additional set of 27 leaves (or however many days until Thanksgiving), and each day, I would have the kids add another thing they are thankful for. Note to self – remember to plan ahead for that next year.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Dip

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Peanut Butter + Jelly Dip Recipe - BPhotoArt.comThe other day, Toby was really interested in having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for snack.  Yes, for snack.  A quick look in our breadbox nixed that plan — we had no bread.  So, I offered peanut butter and apple slices instead.  Well, as you know, toddlers can be quite persistent, so we ended up compromising with peanut butter and jelly on apple slices.

To make it easier to eat, I put the peanut butter in a little bowl, followed by some homemade apple butter.  Toby proceeded to stir the two until well combined.  He then happily dipped his apple slices into the peanut butter jelly dip, thoroughly pleased with our concoction.

Here’s the recipe we ended up with.  Feel free to swap out the peanut butter for another nut butter, or even sunflower seed butter, if you have allergy concerns.


  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. homemade apple butter (or jelly)


  • Combine peanut butter and apple butter in bowl; mix until well combined.
  • Enjoy with apple slices, crackers, or whatever your toddler wants to experiment with so far as pairings go.

Initially, I wasn’t really sure that that peanut butter and jelly dip would be a hit, but it was well received.  Here’s a picture of my happy food tester with an apple wedge and his peanut butter jelly dip:

Peanut Butter + Jelly Dip Recipe - BPhotoArt.com

Has your child invented any recipes?  I’d love to hear what wild and crazy concoctions are appealing to other kids.  I know mine has been putting mustard on everything from rice to veggies lately.

Why You Should Vote Today

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Why You Should Vote Today - BPhotoArt.comVoting is a privilege.  If you remember your history lessons at all, you’ll know the right to vote was a big deal.  At one time, only white males holding property were allowed to vote.  Over the years, this has changed, thanks to pressure from our citizens.  To name a few:

  • Fifteenth Amendment – racial minorities
  • Nineteenth Amendment – women
  • Twenty-Sixth Amendment – adults 18-21

So many people throughout the world, throughout history, have been DENIED the opportunity to have their voice heard.  You may think that your vote doesn’t count, or your vote doesn’t make a difference.  But it does.  You have the right to vote, to be a part of selecting the officials to preside over you.

I have a friend who has always said something to the effect of: “Don’t complain about the way the country is being run if you don’t bother to vote.”  And it’s true.  If you care about what’s being done right or wrong by our government, you should care enough to go to the polls and vote.

To that I asked some bloggers: “Why do you vote? Why you take the time out of your busy lives as parents to go to the polls and vote?” Here is what they said:


Women before me suffered to pave the way for my right to vote. Imagine if we left those kinds of decisions entirely up to men!”

– Menucha at Moms and Crafters


I vote because I want my opinion to count. I also believe that it is my civic duty and want to show my children how important it is to live in a democratic society.”

– Amanda Boyarshinov at The Educators’ Spin On It


I think that it’s an incredible privilege to live in a democratic country like Canada. I took my son with me when the last federal election was held and talked to him about how important it is to vote for who we think will represent us best. Although sometimes the results can be disheartening, it’s our duty to keep trying to make a positive change and we have no right to complain about our governments if we’re not participating at the most basic level.”

– Sue at One Time Through


I love my country.  I love the land of the free and the home of the brave.  I believe in the tradition and honor of having the vote.  We are blessed to live in a democratic society.  Women before me could not vote.  I can and I will.”

– Amy at Wildflower Ramblings


“I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, when voting was a meaningless circus, I appreciate the idea that my vote actually counts, especially while voting on local issues.”

– Natalie at Planet Smarty Pants

And I found two other quotes on the web to share with you:

People didn’t simply die for the right to vote. They died for the right to choose who they thought would be best to support their views, aims and interests, both locally and nationally. – Emily Wilson

Voting is a tremendous gift. Young people just like you in other countries actually fight and even die for this right; a right that so many youth in democratic nations take for granted. You should vote because you can, if you don’t you may one day wake up in a country where you can’t.” – Mike Hardcastle, Top 5 Reasons Youth Should Vote

So please, do your civic duty and go to the polls today.  Take your kids with you, teach them about the importance of being able to vote, and how you take that responsibility seriously.  Let’s raise up a generation of conscientious voters!

Voting at Dutch elections 1918
“Voting at Dutch elections 1918” By Cornelis Johan Hofker (1886-1936) [2] ([1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fall Portraits in the Leaves

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Fall is such a gorgeous time of year. The colors are ever changing, the beauty temporal and fleeting. It’s one of my favorite times to plan an outdoor portrait session.

It’s fun to do something more contemporary and unposed — like this lifestyle photo of two brothers playing with leaves. They are about to toss leaves in the air, the moment is full of anticipation.

The brothers wore authentic Norwegian sweaters, one of which was a family heirloom. I love incorporating meaningful items like these sweaters into portraits.

Every image from this session was fantastic — there is nothing better than capturing moments of sheer joy on a child’s face.

Plan Ahead: Family Photos for Holiday Greeting Cards

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Growing up, my mother always sent out a Christmas letter — complete with family photo.  We would contribute to this family tradition by telling my mom what we wanted to share in the letter.  Not all of our input made the cut, but it was definitely a personalized yearly greeting that our family and friends enjoyed receiving.

Plan Ahead for the Holidays... Tips to Get a Jump Start on Your Family Photo Greeting Cards - Betsy's PhotographyWhen Steven and I got married, I knew this was something I wanted to turn into a tradition for us as well.  So, every year since we’ve been married, I’ve created a holiday greeting card or letter.  The year, I stuck with the format from my childhood: a letter on 8.5″x11″ paper, detailing all the new events of the year, and a separate photograph greeting. Do you remember those long envelope-sized photos?  They had the greeting printed on the right quarter of the photograph. And then I discovered the thrill of designing a custom holiday greeting card.  A greeting card can incorporate photos and text, which streamlined the assembly process.

So, that’s what we do to this day.  And I offer custom greeting card design services to the families I photograph too.  There’s something nice about having someone else do the grunt work for you — just saying “these are the photos I like, and here is what I want it to say.”  A far cry from the days of my childhood, when we would all spend hours composing the text, proofreading, and re-wording to fit it onto a single page… then having to assemble all the components to fit in the envelope.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m writing about this so early, right?  I like to let the various seasons be celebrated in their time, and I’m not one to jump the gun on decorating.

But, with family photos being included in the holiday greeting cards, you have to plan ahead.  In fact, sometimes families will take their holiday picture in the summer, during a family vacation.  This year, my goal is to capture the fall colors in our family picture. I’ve been watching the weather, the leaves, making sure I don’t miss that narrow window of opportunity, when the leaves are golden but still mostly on the trees.

Now, since I promised you some tips for getting a jump start on your family photo greeting cards, here they are:

Tiny Prints Holiday Cards1 . Plan your family photo in the summer or fall.

There is no reason to be stressed out and trying to get a last minute snapshot of the family for your greeting card.  If you have kids, your stress may be reflected in their willingness to cooperate for the photos.  And you probably don’t want a family portrait with unhappy faces, right?

2. Hire a pro; outsource your picture-taking.

Let’s face it, sometimes it is tough to get your own kids to smile for the camera.  A non-parent can often elicit better smiles and expect better behavior.  I know my mom gave up trying to teach me flute; I just wouldn’t listen to my teacher because she was also my mom (sorry mom!).

3. Ask everyone about their highlights of the year.

In our greeting card, everyone gets a little blurb, one or two lines about what’s going on in their life.  As my kids get older, I’ll begin asking them what they want to share — and an “I don’t care” answer means mom gets free reign (kind of)!

4. Have a second set of eyes check your work.

I can’t tell you how many last minute typos we’ve caught over the years, just by having another person look through the text of a card.  One year, a relative discovered their card had a typo too late — and ended up gluing a strip of paper with the correctly spelled word to every card.  Not a fun task!

5. Order your cards early – before the holiday rush.

While there’s no set date you need to get your cards, I like to finish mine by the end of November, so I can get it ordered at the beginning of December.  That way, I can focus on holiday parties, planning, and the like instead of rushing to get our greeting cards out.  There has been a time or two where we got caught with too many holiday “to-do” items — and the greeting card went out as a “New Year” card instead of a Christmas one.

6. Keep in touch with contact information.

It can be hard to keep peoples’ contact information straight, with families frequently relocating or changing email addresses.  I like to include our mailing address, email addresses, and phone numbers in the card — that way our friends and family can update their contact book with any changes.  Plus, you can share your blog or facebook profil if there’s more you want to share than will fit in a letter or card.

7. Use an online service.

Sometimes it’s tough to get a jump start on things like this — it’s just easier to deal with the immediate needs, particularly if you have a lot on your plate.  Maybe your plans for a family portrait (professionally done) fall through, or you need to pull together a quick last-minute card on the fly.  Either way, you can use a service like Tiny Prints #afflink.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful for you, and perhaps inspiring, even?  I’d love to hear about any family traditions you have for the holidays… particularly if you grew up helping with some sort of annual greeting card or letter.


Memories of Montana – Camping With Family

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I have many fond memories of Montana.  Growing up, we would take trips almost every summer to visit my aunt and cousin.  My mom, brother, and I were the frequent travelers; my dad would often stay behind due to work obligations.  We would spend several days at my aunt’s house, enjoying the outdoor hot tub and getting the RV ready.

Then, we would load up. Pack everything into the RV: food, clothes, toys, games… you name it.  We were ready for our adventure.  Buckled into the bench seats at the table, we would play cards, color, or often people watch out the rear window.  We would stop when we needed, or if stopping wasn’t an option, there was always the choice to use the facilities enroute. Food was always a few steps away, in the kitchen; although opening the refrigerator door while rattling down the road was a little hairy.

Campgrounds were our destination, sometimes KOAs, sometimes pristine wilderness areas.  Once, we parked in a campground during the pitch black of night.  We’d been on the road all night, and didn’t even hook up when we pulled in for the night. That morning, when we woke, we found ourselves in the charred remains of a forest.  My mother has vivid memories of driving the RV around hairpin curves, steep drop-offs.

55 mph was our speed limit (if that).  But didn’t matter. We loved every minute of our travels.  We visited the “must-see” places, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the like.  We stopped at indiscriminate sites too.  Colored pencils let us document our trip in drawing pads, or stones from one of the rivers that we gathered to paint.

We rafted down rivers, once being dropped off by the adults, to meet at the pick-up point a mile or two down the river.  We had campfires, watched wildlife, and enjoyed late nights whispering under the covers in the “loft” bed above the cab.  Self-sufficiency was ours, we could go wherever, whenever.  As long as we monitored the gray and black water tanks.

We stayed in bear country. We saw bears. Black bear cubs climbing over fences, many yards away.  Grizzly bears, brown bears.  Bears that came up to our RV while we were on the road — my cousin’s bicycle handle had the teeth marks to prove it.

We always came back from Montana with many fond memories, eager to return again.  We would always bemoan the fact our families lived so far apart.

But even today, we still have the memories.

Family Trip to Montana

Finding Our New Normal

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There’s something about life.  It is ever changing.  Just when you think you’ve got things under control, and are finally getting into a routine…

…things change.

The only certainty is change, right?  No matter how much we try to plan our days, to create a routine and maintain order… the inevitable happens.  Someone gets sick, sleeping schedules change, someone has a rough day.

Life is anything but routine.

Yet we try to create patterns, make routines, practice habits that will make life easier.

And sometimes those things work.

Since my younger son was born, we have been working on creating a new normal.  Helping my older son to deal with his emotions on those days when he “needs mommy time” …but baby’s basic needs have to be met.

I assisted at Toby’s preschool the other day.  While comforting a boy who didn’t want his  mom to leave, I noticed my son’s demeanor change from cheerful to concerned, and perhaps jealous.  I averted disaster by asking him to help find a toy to cheer the sad boy up.  But several other times that morning, I saw an angry frown on my normally happy son’s face.

Later I asked him about it.

He didn’t want to share his mommy.  He needed me.  He didn’t want others to need me.

And I get that.  In a world where you’ve gone from being only child to older brother, it’s important to know you can still have mom’s attention, that you still are deserving of mommy hugs.

Since my younger son was awake and needing mommy when we got home, the older had to settle for shared mommy time.  The three of us settled into our comfy reclining chair, and I read book after book to my boys.  Ultimately the three of us all fell asleep together.

The new normal isn’t bad, by any means.  Most days, Toby loves being a big brother.  He is a phenomenal helper, bringing diapers, wipes, pacifier for Zack, and snacks, drinks, or even a blanket to me when I need.  He has a giving spirit, he excels at helping others.

Our new normal isn’t perfect, but we are getting into a routine.  A routine that will be ever-changing as both boys continue to grow and develop.

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