i guess we'll go play with worms!

Ethan has been increasingly interested in worms. Yesterday he asked if he could meet a worm and, well, I couldn't say no. I spent a few hours after Ethan had gone to sleep for the night planning a little lesson on worms and, specifically, why they're so good for our soil and environment. Since my husband was working late, I asked him to stop at Wal-Mart on his way home from work and pick up a container of worms for us from the fishing department. These worms would be spared and then released into the backyard free-range worm garden that Ethan and I were going to create for them.

We learned that worms enjoy dirt -- especially wet, muddy dirt -- and coffee grounds. Coffee grounds help to feed the worms and make their habitat thrive. Ethan thought it was especially funny that the worms like coffee just like mommy does. (What can I say? They have good taste.) I wanted Ethan to be able to study the worms close up and hands on before we released them, but kindly and gently. We found an old shoe box and filled it with dirt, coffee grounds and water to make mud.

Next it was time to meet the worms. Ethan was so excited for this that I thought he was going to jump out of his skin.

One by one, we gently plucked the worms from the container and watched as they plumped up, lengthened out and started thriving when we added them to our little shoebox worm garden. Ethan got a kick out of the way they'd bury themselves and how in just seconds, the long worms were completely hidden underneath the dirt. Every once in a while, once would wriggle back up to the top and this was his favorite part of the activity, I think.

Ethan loved the way the worms would crawl on his hands -- and on his feet. It was fun to look at the worms up close and see their lines, segments and tiny little "faces." Ethan kept saying "worm so nice, worm so cute" -- and it was extremely clear that he's my kid. I was totally thinking the same thing.

This was an awesome activity and Ethan had a blast. He learned that worms were like vitamins for the dirt and they helped the grass grow tall and plants and vegetables grow healthy and big. I'm a big nature person, so it was also important to me that Ethan learned there is nothing "gross" or "yucky" about worms -- they're actually some pretty fascinating super-creatures! For $3 (how much a tub of 30 worms cost at Wal-Mart), you can't beat the lessons that this activity taught. Once we were finished with the worms, we dug a hole in the yard, added more soil and coffee grounds and water, and let the worms go free in the backyard. Within minutes, they had all buried themselves deep into the yard and Ethan learned that anytime he plays outside, the worms will be right there under his feet playing along!

the other one

When I got my first tattoo for Ethan, I made a post about it. Getting the tattoo that I had wanted since I first knew that Ethan would be arriving was a big thing for me, as someone who tends to just push things to the back of my mind out of fear or nervousness. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that in May I got a second tattoo and then never blogged about it.

Today, I want to blog about it.

I love talking about the love story that my husband and I share. I love digging up old pictures from when we were fifteen and sixteen years old and falling in love over our mutual love for punk rock, silly socks, overzealous eyeliner and weird plaid clothing. I love confirming what strangers are always inquiring about: that we stayed together, always together, since that day in January of 2002 when he asked me to be his girlfriend over the internet because he was too scared to do in person or over the phone. With my "yes" and immediate AOL Profile marital status update, well, our forever was sealed. And that seal, really, has never been broken. Some people think it's sweet. Others turn up their noses and retort how awful it must be to have been with the same person since you were fifteen years old. But what it is for me, what it will always be, what it has always been, is a beautiful chunk of my life that I have spent with the person who created this world for me. And so in May, in honor of our wedding anniversary, I bit my lip and all-but-cried my way through another tattoo appointment to have this tattoo done in honor of my husband.

People ask "why the sailboat?" It was inspired from lyrics of a Glen Hansard song -- perhaps you know it from the film Once -- that says, "take this sinking boat and point it home, we've still got time." These lyrics encompass so much of how I feel about my relationship with my husband. When he met me, I was trying to swim my way out of a dark, destructive place that I had put myself into through careless, stupid actions. My life was nothing but a notebook full of Matt Skiba lyrics and willing this life to end, to stop; wondering what my purpose was, if I had one at all. It was your typical teenage melodrama served with a side of I really should make better friends and choices and I hated much about life and, really, myself. When my husband came into my life in the form of a sixteen year old boy, we fell in love and he saved me from the darkness I found myself swimming in. I never thought it possible, not at fifteen and not now at 28, to be loved so unconditionally like the way he has always loved me. No matter if I'm an acne-laden teenager with frizzy hair and a poor sense of fashion or 36 weeks pregnant and sobbing between vomit fits on my hemorrhoid pillow, he always made me feel like I was beautiful. He was always that fresh air I had to follow to find myself home.

Life isn't always easy. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes college can be painful when you're teenagers trying to live a grown up life amongst people who make it their business to not understand. Sometimes graduating college can be tough because you're buying a house while all of your friends are refusing to say goodbye to the parties and single life. Sometimes parenting can be tough when your spouse is working crazy schedules and you never see one another or get to spend valuable family time. But through it all, whenever life seems like it's at it's darkest, my husband has been the one person there to point things back in the right direction and reminding me that life? It has the capability to be beautiful. There's always time to bring things back to beautiful.

I had wanted a line drawing sailboat but as the days got closer to my appointment, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted text as well. At nearly midnight the evening before my appointment, my sweet friend Ashley (who lives in another state! And has three children! How grateful I am for her!) penned me the lyrics I'd been dreaming of in a handwriting I likely poorly described -- but she nailed it. I saw what she came up with and I knew that was it, that was what I wanted. The lyrics come from a Get Up Kids song that I've been putting on mix CD's and playlists for and about my husband since we were teenagers. "I wouldn't change anything, you're still my everything." Having grown up alongside the man that you love, well, it's always been fitting. He's always going to be my everything. He's always going to be the man who drops what he's doing to make Ethan his first priority; the man who I will be endlessly in love with always. The man who is the daddy I always dreamed of him being, the husband I always dreamed about marrying. And this amazing life we have together, the struggles and stress and hard times included in all of it? There's no one else I'd want to navigate through it with. He'll always be my everything.


i'm so resistant to this type of thinking, now it's shining through

Ethan has always been timid but with age two came a new level of fear towards interacting amongst strangers. He is content placing his fingers over his eyelids or bowing his head in an "if I can't see you, you can't see me" stance until threat of conversation with an unfamiliar face is gone, and then he returns to smiling. He has his grumpy moments like I'd imagine every toddler does, but this kid? He's always smiling. I've tried to sit back and decide how I would deal with his irrational fear of, oh, everything and in the end, I decide that like with most parenting endeavors, I'm going to wing it with whatever feels right at the time. Usually this is explaining to the elderly woman in the grocery store just trying to get a peek at Ethan's sweet baby blues that he's two, and feeling a little shy right now, and then excusing ourselves to race the grocery cart down the next aisle. At one point, his stranger and new place anxiety was so severe that I questioned why I bothered to leave the house but it's started to weaken. The more I ignore it and stop drawing attention to it or making him feel silly, the better it gets. Holding his hands down so he can't cover his face and demanding he say hello to the woman making silly faces in an attempt to make him smile was never on my to-do list, but I'm still glad that our method of whatever feels right is working. It usually does, in most instances, I've realized in the short time I've become a parent. As long as I can make him feel safe, his smile always bounces back. At two, I am still his safe place and, at almost thirty, he is still mine as well.

Lately my sweet, timid little boy has been growing bolder. He began his swim lessons clutching onto my swimsuit and refusing to participate in whatever his instructor was suggesting the children do. This past class, I couldn't keep him above the water. He'd loosen his grip from the side of the pool and let his body plunge down into the water, popping up with a smile on his face as his tiny hands reached for me. He'd stand up on the side of the pool and jump in, all the way in, without caring my arms weren't there to catch him. He popped up with that same, proud smirk and it took me aback, a little, to recognize this brave diver as my once painfully shy little boy.

"I can't believe how big he's getting" is my catch phrase. I find myself saying it multiple times a day, both out loud and in written word. It wasn't until we babysat for a friend with a daughter who is a year and a half old that I realized just how old he truly was. "Emma need more water," he'd say, reaching for my friend's daughter's cup and noting that it was no longer full. "Emma need help off stool," he'd say, helping her off of the stool at his tiny table. At swim, he told his instructor that she needs to meet Emma and when the instructor asked who that was, he replied sweetly, "my friend." His heart is beautiful. His presence in my life has become my safe place, the backbone that I have always lacked, the confidence that I need to speak my mind when something is weighing on my heart. He is the purpose behind every move that I make, everything that I do, everything I never knew that I could want or accomplish. For so long I was scared of so much, and then there he came. And now I am so much stronger. I need to be, to be his safe place, his comfort zone, the arms strong enough to hold his struggles as he grows older; the hands that catch his when he pops up out of the blue pool water.

Recently, Ethan overheard a child refer to another child as "the black boy." Ethan giggled and walked up to a blonde little boy in a black shirt. "Black boy," he said, pointing to the child's t-shirt. "Ethan, blue boy," he said, pulling on his own blue shirt. He continued to classify the children by their t-shirt color -- "orange boy," "yellow boy" -- and it was one of those moments where I could not focus on anything but how proud I was of this beautiful, sweet little boy. How proud I always am of him. How, at only two, his heart is as pure and beautiful as every adult's heart should be. I realize that our adventures together are limited. In two, three more years, he will be beginning school and that time doesn't seem long enough. It doesn't seem far enough away. I refuse to take a moment of this all for granted, this beautiful life, these learning experiences, the way he teaches me so much about the world that I seem to have overlooked before he came into my life.

bugband deet-free insect repellent review

It's summer and it's Florida, so it's a safe bet that anytime we step outside, we're going to be eaten alive by mosquitos. We recently learned Ethan had an allergy to mosquito bites so, well, cue my higher than normal neurosis. Keeping a two year old indoors during peak water park season didn't seem like an option, either, so I was pretty stoked to try out these products from BugBand. There's a reason I've never touched bug repellent products in the past: chemicals. There was nothing reassuring about wiping chemicals all over Ethan's skin (or ours!) to keep him safe from bug bites -- if anything, it seemed almost counter productive, or like a definite lose-lose situation. The first thing that attracted me to BugBand was their chemical free ingredient list, with it's main ingredient being geraniol -- a powerful ingredient extracted from geranium oil. Not only does geraniol give off a fresh citrus smell, but it also manages to naturally fight off all sorts of insects from the mosquitos that plague us down here in Florida to flies, gnats and those pesky no-see-ums. They also repel fleas and are natural and safe enough to be tied onto your pet's collar to keep them safe -- naturally. Awesome, right?

The BugBand wristband itself also comes in a slew of colors to choose from. Ethan was able to try out the yellow, which is one of his favorite colors. Because I didn't want him sucking on the wristband, I attached it to his belt loop or his ankle each time we used it. The BugBand wristband can also be applied to strollers, pet collars or backpacks.

I had wanted to give this BugBand wristband a fair and thorough review, so the first time we used it was at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Specifically, I fastened the BugBand wristband to Ethan's belt loop and off we went on a nature walk through the bug-infested wilderness.

By the time we made it back to our car, I noted that I had two mosquito bites on my ankle and one on my right arm. Ethan, however, walked away with none. I wanted to be sure it wasn't coincidental, so I made sure to apply the BugBand wristband anytime Ethan and I ventured outside. Two days later, we took it to another local nature center located right on the cusp of the Florida Everglades. I was eaten alive by mosquitos and other pesky little bugs, but Ethan again made it to the car without a single bite on him.

Whenever I would return home with bug bites, Ethan was completely off the hook. It didn't take me much time to confirm that strapping a wristband onto his belt loop was a whole lot better than having to administer Benadryl to my child who had hives swelling on his arms and legs after being bitten by a mosquito!

Most recently, we took a trip up to the middle of nowhere in Central Florida. We were surrounded by a whole lot of wilderness and, in turn, a whole lot of bugs.

On this trip, Ethan wore his BugBand wristband but still came home from one of our walks with mosquito bites on his legs. I was a little disheartened because I was sure the BugBand wristband worked great, until I realized that the lifespan of one wristband is 120 hours. We had totally exceeded that. (Totally my fault!) I will say that I thought the BugBand definitely worked wonders well over 120 hours, likely because I was adamant about storing it safely in it's original packaging and then tucked inside a ziplock bag for extra protection. At only $4.95 a wristband, these are an asset to every household with children who spend a lot of time outdoors and need some safe protection from unsafe bugs! Something else I liked about the design of this wristband -- which is also beneficial to those who apply these to pet collars -- is that it's designed with a break-away strap to free the wearer in the event of a tangle or snag. That makes it perfect for hikes or nature walks, too!

BugBand also offers a slew of other products in addition to their trusty wristband. Ethan and I were also lucky enough to try out their pump spray and towelettes. I was hesitant to try out both out of those horrible memories from childhood when my mom would slather us in that greasy, gross mosquito repellent lotion. However, I tried the towelettes first on myself and noted immediately that the lotion rubs in and dissolves quite quickly. There was no lingering greasy film left on your skin and the geraniol smell really is quite pleasant! Since they're so natural, you can also apply them to your face or neck for extra protection. Each little packet contains two towelettes and is able to be resealed. One towelette itself goes a long way and is good for several applications! I used the same towelette to apply BugBand on myself well over five times.

The spray lotion is for heavy-duty outdoor use -- probably a great thing to bring with us whenever we're back vacationing at my parents lake house and exploring all of the heavily wooded areas.

It's a very fine mist that you're able to apply on your clothing or your skin. The spray lotion also repels ticks and headlice in addition to fleas, mosquitos, gnats and no-see-ums! This would be perfect for outdoorsy people who camp or hike, as one application lasts for hours with heavy duty protection.

All in all, I'm an especially big fan of the BugBand wristband and would definitely purchase more to have on hand for our outdoor adventures. I also really loved the towelettes, especially for us grown ups (mostly because I always use sunscreen on Ethan while we're outside so I'd rather clip on a wristband than apply something else on his skin, too). Ethan was a huge fan of wearing his BugBand wristband and it certainly seemed to work wonderfully!

WHERE TO BUY: BugBand wristbands and products are available on their online store as well as several large retail stores, including Whole Foods or Target. You can find a store near you using BugBand's store locator!

Ethan and I received these BugBand products to facilitate a product review. No compensation was provided and all opinions expressed are completely my own.


tot school gets a makeover, again

It all started with this $5 chair from Goodwill and a can of white spray paint.

...And then our tot school space was subjected to another makeover.

The truth is, I've been dying to redo our tot school classroom. It was getting pretty cluttered and half of the room was taken up by our huge Ikea bookcases that were sort of obsolete at a time in my life where I no longer have the luxury of reading and rereading hundreds of books over and over at my leisure. I found the bookcase a nice new home and started on my quest for decluttering the room and finding a space for everything. Prior to the redo, we'd been having to store a lot of our centers and tot trays on the floor which was never a good mix when coexisting with a toddler and four cats. I wanted to showcase the room's actual beauty and being -- removing the foam tiles to show off the wood floors, for example -- and keep everything simple and functional. It's amazing how time consuming 'simple and functional' can be.

In addition to my sweet Goodwill chair find, I also scored this little table. I painted the top in chalkboard paint and set it up to be Ethan's new music nook. Music is a huge part of our lives and something Ethan absolutely loves. During our music time, Ethan chooses some records and we play along with the instruments in his little basket. Everything fits beautifully on our new little table!

Above our music nook is our art shelf which houses all of Ethan's art supplies. It felt therapeutic to do an inventory check of what needed to be refilled, replaced or tossed out and keep everything fresh and ready to go!

The "clean" and "dirty" paintbrush holders are also new. I got each glass for $0.49 at Goodwill and am hoping they'll help Ethan become more interested in washing his paintbrushes when they're dirty. (This is something we have a hard time with.)

These storage shelves are the same, only a little bit more organized. They're filled with little odds and ends we use frequently in tot school, like scoops and spoons and tongs and construction paper and paint dishes and magnet tape and dyed pasta...et cetera. It's always nice to have everything in one place.

When we first purchased our home, we bought these tiny tables from Ikea and I ended up moving them out into the garage to create a playroom for Ethan. I'm glad we never got rid of them because I turned them into a place to house Ethan's tot trays at his level (rather than on the floor or up on a shelf where they had been) and I love this new addition!

Next to our tot tray tables is our sensory station, which is new. I try (try being the keyword) to create a relevant sensory or discovery bin for each theme we're learning. This gives me a great place to keep one when one exists.

I also created a "felt wall" (because this is apparently Ethan's preference, rather than a felt board) on the new empty wall that used to house Ethan's bassinet. Since my kid is two and all, I decided it's an appropriate time to move the bassinet elsewhere (you know, to Grandma's house because I'm fresh out of space). Between the lack of bassinet and bookcase, tot school got a whole lot bigger. I also grabbed this plastic filing cabinet from my mom's house which is the perfect place to store Ethan's artwork! I'd been looking for an ideal place to store it and this was the perfect solution! (I know, I don't have to save everything but can I just point out while arranging the room I stumbled upon the first pictures he ever painted and I'm so glad I did?!)

I also found this beauty at Goodwill and for four bucks, couldn't pass it up. It was actually brown and peeling and really ugly before I spray painted it white and then used cookie cutters to chalkboard paint on some hearts. This gives me a perfect place to store Ethan's coloring sheets to match each week's theme and a place for him to keep mail. He's really into sending mail these days and we typically mail out his letters once a week. This gives us a great place to keep it all!

The last thing I added were a few baking racks to serve as art drying racks.

I'm pretty excited for our new tot school classroom. It feels more classroom and less playroom -- and also a lot more grown up than before -- which is what I was going for. I cannot wait to kick off K week in our new space!

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