Favorite Kids’ Stuff for Summer

We try to keep a minimalistic approach to most things in life, including our kids’ toys and other accoutrements. That’s not to say that they are living in a Dickens novel, though, and of course there are some products that we have found particularly fun for the kids or life-saving for the parents (or is that one in the same??). Here’s our summer round-up of favorite things!

Favorite Kids' Stufffor Summer! (3)

1. Outshine Popsicles

These are all-natural and made with fruit juice, so there are no nasty dyes or HFCS to worry about. Everyone in our family loves these, and we are looking forward to trying the many flavors throughout the summer!

2. Badger Sun Screen/Bug Spray products

I really love Badger for their zinc oxide sunscreens. I feel totally safe using them even on the littlest of babies (Lucy used it all during Rome at 2-3 months) and they are very effective. You do have to rub a lot to get the white to blend in, but I feel like that’s a good thing, as it gives me an obvious visual as to what areas haven’t been covered yet. The bonus is that all the sunscreens actually smell nice, not chemical-y. The bug spray is ok too, though it seems not to be a match for the Great Swampy Mosquito Land that our yard becomes here in the summers. We’re looking into some natural yard spray options because we can’t go out for more than a minute or two without getting devoured. But this spray does help a bit (maybe 2-3 bites as opposed to 10 without) and doesn’t have DEET so I feel safe spraying it on Lena.

3. Manito Sun Shade

Don’t know where we’d be without this thing, seriously. This is an ALL THE TIME favorite, but obviously even more so in the summer. If your car happens not to have tinted windows, you find out very quickly that a toddler carseat + sun streaming in windows + toddler= terrible combination. This shade has helped a lot and is pretty flexible so you can adjust it as you need to. We highly recommend this if you have scream-fests in your car anytime the sun so rudely shines through the windows.

4.  $0.50 Paint Brush

I’m serious. Best $.50 you ever spent on a toddler. Give this to them with a bucket or basin of water, and set them to work on your brick patio or wood deck slats. They will paint the tiles/slats for a loooooong period of time. It’s wonderful.

5.  iPlay Reusable Swim Diapers

Disposable swim diapers are absurdly expensive. The invention of these washable/reusable swim diapers is genius. They are basically the cloth diaper equivalent to a swim diaper, and are officially approved for use in public pools/any place where there’s a sign saying, “Swim diapers required.” I use these whenever the girls are going to be swimming or playing at a public pool or splash pad, but when it’s just at home with family they go commando! 🙂 You can find them at Target for about $10, which is well worth it with the number of uses! My only complaint is that they can’t be put in the dryer and take a LONG time to air dry, so if you use the pool daily, you may want to have two in rotation.

What are your favorite summer kid (or adult!) essentials??

Linking up with Five Favorites!

The Sacred and Profane

The true, the good, and the beautiful. Here we go!

(A Five Favorites post).


I have been reading all the buzz around the internet about Leila Lawler’s new book, The Little Oratory. The drawings were done by her daughter and our friend Deirdre, whose husband worked at Tom’s school. We finally ordered the book a few weeks ago, and it’s lovely. It also came at the perfect time, since we are starting fresh with planning out the layout of our new home, and now we’re really excited to include our own little oratory in the family room. The authors give a good overview of the liturgical life of the Church and then break it down into practical and do-able tips for incorporating that into family life. Highly recommend!


Tom got me this book for Mother’s Day, which has been perfect for the mornings (uh..every one) when I only have a minute or two to reflect. I love the format: a quote or small meditation from a saint, a short prayer, and an idea for a concrete action for the day.


Ok, here comes the frivolity. This sea salt spray looks awesome! I’m not in love with the price tag, but still. We’ve come to the conclusion that the only possible time for me to shower this coming year is at night, so this stuff will probably help if I can spray it in at night and throw my hair up.


And for some dorky home organization: I found that by using the Preview program on the Mac, I can take the pictures of our future kitchen and pre-organize where every single thing will go. Slightly neurotic, slightly amazing. I just click a text box over the area I want to label, and voila! I now have every drawer, cabinet, and shelf space labeled so that when we move in, we (and our pack of amazing helpers, whoever they may be), will know exactly where everything goes. And then we won’t have to guess for the first 4 weeks we live there.

kitchen front

Just a peek at my craziness


I also got much of my inspiration for good kitchen flow/organization from iHeart Organizing blog, which also has tons of other home inspiration and DIY ideas.


And this one isn’t really a favorite so much as a request: what are the best (free, of course) contraction timer apps out there?? There are so many to choose from, so suggestions would be welcomed! I just want to be prepared (unlike last time, which was before I had any sort of portable smart device, and instead tried to time contractions on a website while lugging my MacBook. Guess how that went). We hit the 37 week mark yesterday, AKA: full-term, sapping energy, and tons o’ muscle aches. BUT, we’re trying to make sure baby doesn’t even think about coming until June 27, which is when Tom has two weeks off between summer camps. Timing is everything, tiny bebe, so get it right. 🙂



What Lucy’s Reading

First, I should say that I was given two baby showers that were themed around children’s books. One was thrown by my family (and close friends) and I helped plan it. My mom asked guests to bring a little children’s book in lieu of a card to build Lucy’s library. Then, without any idea what my family had done, my school threw me a very sweet book-themed party. Thus, we had amassed somewhere around 50 children’s books before Lucy even arrived. I have a love affair with children’s books and so I was in heaven. Tom somehow skated through toddler and childhood without the classics, so he’s learning. 🙂

She got really into her board books in the last three months. Here are here current tried and true faves from the book basket, the ones she brings to us over and over to read to her.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg


1. Eating the Rainbow

This book was perched next to a pretty tray of fruit kebabs at my school shower. (Every snack had a book to go with it…so, so adorable). Lucy loves this because it’s filled pictures of real babies and real food. It gets boring for us, but this is definitely her number one.

2. Baby Beluga

You know the song... it’s catchy, huh? This little book has sweet pictures set to the lyrics. Lucy grabs it and starts dancing to indicate that we should begin singing the song while flipping through. Raffi would be proud.

3. Baby Baa Baa

I really like the DK board books, because they usually use photos and very realistic and concrete ideas for baby. This one is lift the flap (made of indestructible cardboard, not just a paper flap) to see farm animals. She loves to find the animals and make their sounds.

4. Touch and Feel Animal Books

We have four of these, also by DK, and she has a great time pulling fur, scratching bumpy or rough skin, and especially touching the sticky tree frog’s feet.

5. My Catholic Treasury Prayer Books

This is an adorable set of tiny, perfect-for-baby-hands prayer books that my Mom found at Catholic book store. They’re foam, so Lucy has effectively chewed through most of them, but she really, really loves carrying them around, flipping through the pages, and kissing every picture of Jesus (“Csch”) therein.

+1 Honorable Mention: Goodnight, Moon

I wouldn’t say this is one of her absolute favorites, but here’s why I’m including it (besides that it is a true children’s classic)– this animated video, narrated by Susan Sarandon, is insanely adorable. Lucy will actually watch all 2.5 minutes of it, which is a feat. It brings the pictures to life and has a soothing lullaby in the background. It’s a great way to calm Lucy down before bed.

Joining Hallie for Five Favorites!


Five Favorites: Italian Travel Edition

Linking up with Hallie at moxiewife.com!

I know it’s been about a month since we returned from Rome, buuuut I wanted to share my top five for living/traveling in Rome. I figured I’d know what to pack, having previously lived in Europe for four months of my life. However, that stint happened to be in the mountains of Austria. In the dead of winter. So, I had to rethink my suitcase contents for this trip. Oh, and pack for a 2 going on 3 month old baby. Here are a few things I thought were essential to making the trip as comfortable as we could, without a Target in sight.

1. Good Shoes.

This is a no-brainer for anyone who has done any amount of traveling in Europe! The streets are old, cobbled, and NOT kind on the feet. And, when you enter a world where walking is the main mode of transportation, it’s worthwhile to invest in quality footwear. It’s always such a chore to find those for me, since I have midget feet. We struck it lucky at the Clarks outlet in Leesburg a few days before we left, and I wore these almost daily, everywhere. They were light as a feather, fit well, supportive, and none of the straps rubbed. Also, I seriously despise comfort shoes that look like comfort shoes, so these were great in that they actually looked pretty cute.

2. Sunhat.

The Roman sun is no joke. I have always thought that somehow, the sky in Rome looks bigger. It’s also bluer and just seems to stretch on in infinite, cloudless glory, which means that you get pretty hammered with the UV rays during the day. A cute hat, which also covers the face is such a relief. I also used mine to shade Lucy sometimes when she was in the sling and her own little sunhat didn’t do the trick. This one is from Tarjhay.

IMG_0552Tom had one too and will kill me for putting this up, but it saved his face from the burn:

2013-07-03 11.11.54 In a tragic turn of events, we discovered upon our return that both precious hats were missing. Just gone. We knew we hadn’t left a single scrap of our personal belongings in the apartment, so we can only surmise that we dropped them out of the stroller after our last outing. 😦

3. Badger products!

I’d known for a while that commercial sunscreens are pretty icky, chemical-laden products, but this article helped me understand why and gave suggestions on alternatives, especially for the baby. We bought the Badger Baby Daily sunscreen as well as the bug spray, and both were wonderful. As a bonus, they both actually smelled nice, not chemical-ly.

4. Baby Carrier

While my super-generous parents gifted us with a sweet, brand-new travel stroller, we still found ourselves wearing Lucy quite a bit. She really prefers being held/smothered against a human, regardless of the heat and humidity, and in some cases it was easier (e.g. tons of stairs all over the city, bus, metro, etc). She bummed around in her sling a lot, and my oh my, did that give the Italians something to stare at. Babies are a rare sight in Italy, but babies worn by their young fathers are even rarer. We got hilarious looks from passersby and plenty of unsolicited child-rearing advice in rapid, unintelligible Italian, sometimes roughly translated into gems like, “Head! Up!” (upon seeing sleeping Lucy’s head slanting to one side in the sling). 2013-07-09 12.47.53

5. Peanut Butter

…or whatever form your comfort/necessary-to-survival food takes. I learned this the hard way, and ended up paying the equivalent of $6 for a mini jar of Skippy’s at Castroni’s. Dumb. Tom also had to eat some interesting and equally expensive breakfast cereals. Basically, if you can’t live without it and it’s thoroughly American, you better bring it with you.