End of Summer Quick Takes


Wow, I really lost my blogging mojo for, oh, about a month there. Oops! In my defense, that month contained:

  • Tom’s last week of the grad school semester
  • Our 4th anniversary
  • A big road trip up to Vermont with my parents and the girls, for a week-long Smith fam reunion
  • Recovery from said trip
  • A crazy hot heat wave
  • Potty training Lucy
  • Somewhat-sleep training Maeve
  • Selling our Pilot, buying an Odyssey
  • Staycation adventures with Tom during his time before school starts
  • Home projects, trying to keep the house clean, actual cooking now that my sous-chef/child-wrangler is home in the evenings again!

So not much time left for tapping out updates or thoughts or book reviews or anything of that sort. But a good, full, stretching-ourselves-in-a-good-way type of busy!



Fuzzy, cheese-y mornings #allthejammies #allthechins


I’m starting to plan out what I hope our fall “routines” and daily “schedule” will look like (fully realizing that both terms are used very loosely!). But Lucy definitely needs a little more structure to her day to avoid boredom and serious acting out/torturing sisters/destroying property. I realize now why people send off 3-5 year olds to preschools. So we’re just going to improvise here at home.

She loves all kinds of fine-motor and crafty type activities, so I just got  this book for us, and will eventually stock up on the very basics: glue, safety scissors, good quality watercolors, finger paints, homemade play dough, etc, to make it happen. I am woefully un-crafty, but I think I can handle this level, where the kids don’t really care what it is, so much that it is. Art/fine-motor– check!

This adorable book will be fun to go through with the girls, and Tom takes them to local nature centers several times a month. Nature study/science– check!

Lucy also really likes alphabet-related activities so I may start doing some of these with her. Pre-reading/religion– check!

We dug up some old-school Wee Sing books from my parents’ (i.e. from my childhood) and Lena and Lucy both LOVE going through and singing the songs and doing the finger plays. We’re compiling a classical faves playlist and Lucy likes to listen to it for the approx 3 minutes she lays on the couch for quiet time, if she isn’t listening to audio books.  Music– check!

Any ideas for good quality children’s lives of the saints and Bible stories? I’m looking for something with good prose and beautiful illustrations to read aloud to the girls every day (no dumbed down text and no ugly cartoons!). Help!

We’ll continue, as always, to read a plethora of books, and Lucy will probably be happy to take on some more memory work from Children’s Garden of Verses (we have this one, and it’s beautiful), Mother Goose (we have this one which I loved as a kid), and The Harp and Laurel Wreath.


Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but starting Sunday we’re going through 30 Days Grain Free.  I did a zero-grain protocol for about 3 months 5 years ago, and it did wonders for my health, so I’m hoping for similar results, as well as building better snacking habits. Tom’s also going to be starting this, kind of in tandem, so…yeah…pray for us!


I just signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Conference. I loved it last year, and can’t wait to get out to beautiful Front Royal for this year’s! Definitely check it out if you’re a local blogger.



The Weeds and Wheat in Children’s Literature

Yes, yes, yes! I always hated hearing, “But at least they’re reading!” as a teacher when the content was absolute drivel!!

I instantly knew which school the author here was referring to– my dear husband’s alma mater! He always lamented about the phenomenon she’s talking about, and it happened with fair regularity at my alma mater as well.

I’m curious about whether or not the upcoming Netflix original about the current royal family, The Crown, will be any good. I like Clare Foy from Little Dorrit and several other BBC things, so we shall see!





Lena's baptism day celebration

Lena’s baptism day celebration

A series of selfies and shots that the girls are constantly taking on my pilfered phone…

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And this cutie just turned SIX MONTHS … and is CRAWLING all over!


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Have a fun weekend and stay cool!

Linking up with Kelly!

Cute and Not-So-Cute Toddler Antics {p,h,f,r}

My mom pretty much supplies any of the matching clothing the girls wear and it’s always fun to dress them in those outfits. But it’s pretty difficult to actually get a decent shot of them together with Lucy not screaming, “CHEESE!!!” and causing Lena to look in her direction…so here’s what we got:



Lucy loves saying, “We need to take a picher of this!” whenever she is doing something she thinks is cute. Holding her baby dolls was one such occasion.


Well, I’m stealing this from Instagram, but I mean, it’s too good. This is what happens when you’re nursing the baby and the toddlers are on the other side of the car, where they know you can’t see them, and where the ever-tempting garden beds lie. “We’re pouring dirt on each other’s heads!!!” they called with glee. Let’s just say the showers we had to give them afterward were not well-received.


Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter! 

Lucy is 3!

Somehow, it is already Lucy’s third birthday. Her crazy birth and her rather difficult first couple months of life seem way more recent than that. Yet here we are, with this talkative, imaginative little pixie, with bouncing red curls. Plus two more children.


THREE (going on four, I guess-).jpg

Likes: books (especially obsessed, and I mean OBSESSED, with the Frog and Toad series), playing with her Playmobils and baby dolls, coloring and drawing (especially pictures of the family), play dough, going on “trips” and “adventures” (i.e. the grocery store, Target, library, Nana’s house…keepin’ those expectations low around here!), ANYTHING outdoors but especially her new sandbox, watching Daniel Tiger or Winnie the Pooh while Mommy attempts to shower, and last but very much not least, her paci (still. I know).

Dislikes: napping, cleaning up, trying to use the potty or even think about using the potty, attempting to dress herself, and being asked to leave her paci in her bed during the day.

Milestones: recites grace before meals and the prayer for the faithful departed, and would probably be able to recite large chunks of the prayers of the rosary in both English and Latin if pressed; sleeps in her big girl bed; can open all the doors (blegh); can put on boots and strap shoes (but somehow never when we’re in an actual rush to go somewhere…); washes her hands in the sink independently; can pour water from a pitcher into a glass cup and drink it (this is something I only let her do when I am not holding or distraced by the baby because it can quickly devolve into water play0; brushes her teeth quite well independently; puts the paci back in Maeve’s mouth (and only rarely takes it out of there!); draws faces with eyes and mouths and babies with little bodies …. there is probably more but since we’re missing the really awesome milestones of potty trained and independently dressing oneself, I will stop there.

Lucy had a great birthdway weekend with a little celebration at my parents, lots of gifts, balloons,  and a cake that she could hardly wait to have. On Sunday we went out to District Taco for a birthday dinner, and on her actual birthday she got to blow out candles again on cupcakes, and open some more gifts.


I should’ve gotten 5 of these silly balloons!


Opening the most perfect gift of stuffed Frog and Toad



Lots of cousins and a sister to help with the gifts!


Almost a family snap


Lena appropriates the gifts


…and loves the doll that’s almost as big as she is


Leo loved the balloon!


Lucy is three!


Happy Birthday, Lucy! We love you and can’t wait to see what THREE brings!

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!

Summer Days

It’s summer again!!

Gardens are bursting...

Gardens are making a come-back…

So is the herb bed!

And the herb bed is thriving, too.

Lucy’s been obsessed lately with “bentures” and said adventures can range anywhere from a trip to Target or the library to a walk around our cul-de-sac. She sometimes declares when we’re just hanging out inside that she is “havin’ a benture over here, and Lena’s havin’ a benture over dere,” (all fun and games till Lena wants to join Lucy’s side…).


Her hair is getting sooo long in the front, but I don’t really want to start cutting it!

Thank goodness toddlers are so easily amused. We can literally plant the “adventure” idea in her mind to make whatever we have to do that day seem cool and exotic to her. I’ll be a sorry mom when these days are over!


Lessons in baby-wearing

Carrying her baby

Lena is pretty hilarious at the cusp of 11 months. Her favorite (and only) word is a very enthusiastic and resounding, “YAH!” which is her stock response to everyone. Sanguine optimist, anyone? If she hears anyone say anything with a question inflection, or any phrase starting with, “Do you…” she immediately responds, “Yah! YAH!” She is practically running now, and I can’t begin to count the number of people who are dumb-founded by her walking abilities. I guess she does look pretty cute, trudging around on her chubby legs, arms often held out in front, Frankenstein-style. She’s suicidally attracted to all stairs, whether up or down, and is in the constant-supervision stage.


We discovered a hydrangea bush on the hill on your side yard. It’s gorgeous and makes us want to plant about five more bushes around the yard…


Ignore the weeds…the side yard needs work, but will have to wait till fall!


Currently, Vol. 3

Praying For:

We are storming heaven for my dear cousin’s little baby. He is a few weeks older than Magdalena and was just diagnosed last week with a large brain tumor. My heart hurts incredibly when I think of my cousin and her husband, watching their tiny boy go into surgery (twice now) and all the uncertainty and fear in this situation. I just cannot imagine. Please, please, please join us in praying for little Liam.


My sister graduated from college! We journeyed out to my alma mater two weekends ago to witness the event (over a tv screen in the adjoining student center). I can’t believe she’s already done.


Nappers gonna nap when graduation is during nap time.


Magdalena entertains herself as we wait to watch Anna get her diploma on the screen



The lovely grad and silly niece

Was it five years ago that I was in her (smaller sized) shoes? Anyway, she’s about to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes with our cousin, Angela. If you can, please consider making a donation to facilitate their trip with the medical pilgrimage team. She’s also leaving next week to begin a two year missionary teaching/grad program in Memphis in an inner-city Catholic school. We will miss her but are so proud! She will be an amazing middle school teacher.

We also celebrated Tom’s birthday last Friday with dinner at our favorite pizza place down the road and had their home-made lemon doughnuts with Nutella whipped cream, instead of cake. And then none of his presents had arrived yet (they finally did yesterday. Let it be known that he ordered them himself and took a looong time deciding…) BUT my first Stitch Fix had, so we had fun opening the box and seeing what clothes worked. I highly recommend trying it out if you need new clothes but hate going out shopping. It was painless to fill out the style profile and the stylist did a fantastic job catering to my tastes and needs. Price and sizing were the only issues. We kept 2 out of the 5 items and have another one scheduled to come next month. (The link above is my referral link which gives me a $25 credit if anyone orders through it, fyi).



It’s HOT here. Humid, upper 80s/90s, how-can-this-be-May, hot. But we still try to get outside as much as we (I) can stand it. A baby pool will be making its way to our front yard ASAP.

The girls are both also really enjoying some new-to-us outside play stuff, donated by a family moving away. It does kind of make our front patio/yard look a bit like an ongoing yard sale, but we’re not in the running for Best Lawn anyway, so who cares. (Oh, probably our elderly neighbors with the all-seeing eyes who have noted every move of our existence in this house since the day we moved in and are currently calculating the dip in their property value due to our plastic kid toys and non-uniform grass). But the kids are having fun!


See?! Lucy ecstatically rides in the see-saw “hairplane” on my parents’ deck before we transported it to our yard


This is just the coolest video. The makeup artistry is unbelievable. And how crazy/fun would it be to see what your spouse or future spouse will look like wayyyy down the road?!

How to Drink Like a Saint— great thoughts!


I’ve been using Pinterest a lot for recipe ideas. Here are a few of my recent favorites, in case you’re anything like me and your brain turns to mush the minute you sit down to meal plan:

One Pot Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice (subbed in ground beef from our freezer stock)

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

Baked Honey Garlic Chicken

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

(Anything that is one-pot or slow cooker is highly preferable to me these days).


A “No Soliciting” sign for the door, since I was just rudely interrupted by a knock on the door. We get sooo many people knocking on the door offering free estimates for every possible type of home repair, financial planning, yard work, etc. They are exceedingly pushy.

This sign spells it out a bit and is basically how we feel, especially during a) nap time (there are the aforementioned toys/trikes/balls in the yard. It’s the early afternoon. Are you daft?) or b) dinnertime. We need all hands on deck to feed our small pack of hungry wolf cubs, let alone ourselves. Ain’t nobody got time to answer the front door and listen to your spiel.

So go away.

Hope you are having a lovely and less-humid week.

pretty, happy, funny, real: Vol. 2


We got a piano! It was free + cost of getting it moved here (which is to say, it was only $300, which is still a steal). We have been moving things around to accommodate it, but it’s fun to plunk around on and pull out our old music from college and pre-college days.


Hooray! And the pretty botanical prints above it are an early Mother’s Day gift from Tom!


Last Saturday, I spent the day (with my trusty side-kick, Lena) at the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Mid-Atlantic Conference. It was so much fun. I loved getting to meet so many other Catholic bloggers, a few of whom live close enough that we can actually hang out. I absolutely loved my small group conversation, and you can read Abbey’s recap of it, because she perfectly articulated what I thought about it all, too. It was an awesome day, and I’m so happy to have met so many lovely new online/real life friends. Lena enjoyed all the babies and the freedom to roam in Julie’s beautiful home!

Lots o' babies!

Lots o’ babies! Photo cred to Rosie!  

Lucy and Tom spent the day at his fellow teacher’s country place just down the road from the Conference. Lucy got to play with kids, ducks, chickens, dogs, and a handmade rocking horse:

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Lena is adorable, in my humble opinion, but she looks hilariously nothing like me…blue eyes, blond, curly hair…love her. One day, she may prove to share my DNA but for now, she’s 100% Cox.



Tomorrow, we’re driving up to Steubenville, Ohio– Anna’s graduating!! We’re excited to see her and our best friends up there, buuuut can’t say we’re looking forward to the 5+ hour road trip. It’s only the second major road trip with both girls. I’m mentally preparing myself as well as going to the library later to rent a bunch of Curious George DVDs for Lucy. She’ll be enjoying her on-board entertainment courtesy of a mini portable DVD player, circa 2005. Magdalena will be bribed with finger foods for as long as possible. And that’s all I got. Hit me with all your road trip advice for 2 year olds and 10 month olds. And obviously, no picture for this… yet!

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Spring!


This photo is a few weeks old, but I had forgotten about it. Our once-a-year fancy date, to Tom’s school’s Gala. Hooray for dresses that DON’T need to be nursing-accessible (thanks to parents who babysat both girls successfully!)!!



 Using our new-to-us gas grill to make dinner outside, blowing bubbles…IMG_0703


She loves being in the car (or “wagon” as Lucy has dubbed it). But when I walked away to take the photo, she wasn’t so thrilled!


Things often get real when babies are cutting the top front teeth. Empty beer bottles help.

IMG_1678.2015-03-27_173015Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter! 


Permit me to utter a cliche, because … where has the time gone?

This little, ALL EYES thing…




is now TWO?!


I’d also like to give major props to her massive hair-growing in the last 12 months.

Current obsessions include: jumping on Mom and Dad’s bed, identifying whether a clothing article or diaper is “Lena-sized” or “Lucy-sized,” taking eons to fall asleep for naps/bedtime (while talking incessantly the whole time), riding her new trike outside/being outside in general/running down “her hill” on the side of our yard, taking toys from Lena, running around the house naked before her bath, and more…

She had a very fun Winnie-the-Pooh birthday party with my family, and I got zero pictures, as I was too occupied with hostessing and whatnot.

We did get to take her to the National Zoo for the first time the day before her birthday. It was a bit cloudy and chilly, but I’d say we all enjoyed it!

We got Corner Bakery on our way into the city

We got Corner Bakery on our way into the city and some selfies were attempted.

We watched the elephant train and perform tricks! It was so fun!

We watched the elephant train and perform tricks! It was so fun! 



Wanting to stand, always

Wanting to stand, always

Happy, happy, 2nd birthday to our little lady! We love you!

 Birth Story

First Birthday









Hello from Vacation-Land! AKA, Staying at My Parents’ for a Week. Tom has jetted off in a “hair-plane” to beautiful, sunny Greece on a week-long trip with his high-schoolers. We have taken refuge with my parents and find it easier to be holed up with 2 extra adults plus an uncle!




I know, looks like he’s having a horribly awful time, huh.

The first couple weeks of Lent were quite trying, as Magdalena caught Lucy’s cold and one (or two or three) upped it. She and I shared many sleepless/snot-filled nights together, until I began to wonder when I would sleep a continuous hour again. But finally, she has turned the corner, and we’re all sleeping much better. It’s always good though, when God sort of chooses the Lenten sacrifice He thinks will be best for you: no milk in my coffee now sounds like child’s play. Parenting two sick kiddos on hardly any sleep is actually much more sacrificial, especially since it required finding hidden reserves of patience, surrendering to the fact that the house was going to be a wreck for a week and we would eat mostly leftovers, and not feeling guilty for letting Lucy watch several-many episodes of Winnie-the-Pooh and Curious George. It was a good reminder that I’m not in control, and the most important aspect of my life right now is simply loving and taking care of the girls. Even/especially at 3, 4, 5 in the AM!

Still, I know how exceedingly lucky I am that I have them, they’re healthy, and I get to stay home with them. Lucy’s first two years of life have already seemed to whizz by, and she’s talking in complex sentences and forming pre-alphabetic doodles. It’s a little crazy.   I can’t wait to see how Magdalena’s personality develops, but for now she’s a little fat, smiley bloop who wants to skip crawling and go straight to walking.

Literally, her favorite activity of all time (right now)

Literally, her favorite activity of all time (right now)

She prefers to stand... always

She prefers to stand… always

And speaking of the little goober, I hear her awaking, so I must away. Ciao!