...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving this year was no different than the rest - good food and good company. Having both of our families so close, we juggled the timing and energy between having our own celebration and those with our families. It felt rushed and stuffed {as this is the only day of the year when I eat turkey - let alone twice for that matter!} And on top of that, my brother-in-law Sean baked me a pecan pie {my favorite!} Since the day was jam packed, I waddled a lot, forgetting to take photos... but here are some quick highlights -


{Ava took this one...}




Nana and cousin Adriah show Noah some of the Black Friday deals...Right before getting a bit delirious...



Then off to my parents' house, where another turkey fest was being prepared. I quickly made a batch of stuffing - using this foolproof recipe for the last 4 years.



Family-in-town joined us, including little Stella - who celebrated her first Thanksgiving with a turkey leg bone...



This year, we slept in on Black Friday {a good sign that there's nothing we "gotta have"} - and instead headed North to McKinney square, where the town hosted its 30th Dickens of a Christmas... each weekend this month, Main Street will host activities - plus this is where I absolutely love - to shop and eat - like at the swanky pizzeria called Sauce... where the cool dine...


McKinney, TX

McKinney, TX

Carousels never get old - and waiting in line for the "train" was a must - even though our noses got a bit frosty...

McKinney, TX

McKinney, TX

A real treat for the kids was the falling fake snow from the "sky"... Ava really wants it to snow again this year... so while we're waiting, we'll be dreaming and tasting the holidays...

thank you

gold leaves

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~ Robert Frost

Thankful for all that was, is right now, and all that could be ~ always. May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with much love, family, and play!
Zarlacht, Aaron, Ava & Noah


The dining room is, in my opinion, one of the spaces of a home that is truly divine... where we linger, soak in the day, and eat {the latter meant in the most sincere way. Not like survival eating - but more like... the atmosphere in which it brings us all together}. Like the kitchen - where we prepare food and praise what it does for our senses - the dining room is where the thoughtfulness behind nourishing our families takes place - and is appreciated.

Whether Ava's standing up in her chair reciting made-up lyrics, or Noah washing his cars in his apple juice... it's still a place that is beautiful, bountiful, and a blessing to have each night - together.

Now... we spend most of this kind of evening jubilee in the breakfast room, A - because we don't cry over spilled milk and I can take a wet sponge to it in a heart beat, and B, because our formal dining room is well... formal.

Dinner Table

Where we occasionally celebrate and have sit down dinners like this. I didn't mean for it to turn out that way - it just sort of fell into place like this since moving in over 8 years ago.

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow - this has been on my mind a lot lately - and how I really, really want to freshen up this space... and informally dine here with tiaras and trucks...

So here is where we are:

Formal Dining

Really formal isn't it? And so square. The "dining" room is actually in the back of this photo, by the mirrored wall - and just this past year, I moved it into the formal "living" room to have more space. We re-upholstered the chairs {they were white before} - and the more we got into decorating this space {wall color, side tables, pictures}, the more I realized I was diving right into the "formal" trap.

My inspiration board looks more like this:

Although mahogany, it still looks like it can withstand a few dozen spills doesn't it? The chandelier and rug really sing here...and I love, love this wallpaper! {Or technically - fabric - did you catch this SH's episode?}

Sarah Richardson

Dark rooms like this one - are just cozy. This dark gray is just yummy. Why can't I find cabinets like that? The rug - not so crazy about... Oh, and what do you think about a round table? Hmmm....

House Beautiful

Fireplaces in dining rooms - oh I wish! What a perfect setting - large sunny window to pat your back while crunching on toast, or a fireside bench to sit on while finishing up that last bite of creme brulee...

House Beautiful

What do I not love about this room? The flooring? The white walls? This amazing table?! Oh... and that green lush landscape outside the window isn't too bad to look at either.

Architectural Digest
Architectural Digest

Chocolate walls? This gorgeous table - a sofa?? Talk about piecing together everything you love...

Country Living
Country Living

And yes - I have had many dreamy nights of turning our formal area into something more like this...

Coastal Living
Coastal Living

But right now, all I can handle are puzzles {not paint}. Ah.... I love inspiration boards. Although - sometimes they confuse the matter even more. Hard to decide isn't it? I can see us in every room here...

I'm off to stretch for my frolicking days ahead - not eating in my FORMAL dining room of course - but enjoying a roundtable of meals with our families. Perhaps over the course of all this eating elsewhere... I can pin down exactly what our dining room should be more like...
and be eating more like this...

Urban Grace Interiors

Happy eating!

On Savvy Today...

You can find me here today, on SavvySource, where I've been asked to write about being thankful for... you guessed it! The playground! Jump over and you'll also see my two little monkeys..

thankful wreaths

Thankful Wreaths

After a walk in the neighborhood collecting leaves and acorns, A & N made thankful wreaths in the art room. We are thankful every day - and attempt to share these at the dinner table - but this is one way to capture them into an activity, and for the scrapbooks.

What Ava is Thankful For

Ava is practicing her writing, so she wrote this herself: What Ava is Thankful for: Mom, Family, Dad, The World, Disney Princess, Noah, Friends, Hana & Niko.
{Drats - the "Disney Princesses" made it onto this list!}

What Noah is Thankful For

What Noah is Thankful for: My whole Family, ice cream, Dad, Trains & Trucks, Zoe, Bike, Ava, Mom, Cars.

Such a sweet snapshot of what the kids are thinking about isn't it? It made me realize that the wreath was too small for this type of project. Next fall... we're going to work on making a tree to fill with "thankful" leaves, so the kids could add to it through out the season. Or better yet, now that I'm thinking about it out loud - we should start on the first day of Spring - when life returns back into nature. We could keep adding to it throughout the year, and come next Thanksgiving, reflect on everything the kids are thankful for... Oh yes - I'm liking this idea much better. Now hold me to it!

For this quick activity - all you need is colorful construction paper, a paper plate, some glue, and markers. This is perfect for the kids to do while you're preparing your Thanksgiving spreads, or afterwards as a family. Enjoy!

getting ready for the holidays

Finding a tree
This weekend, we got ready for the holidays. It's becoming a growing anticipated time of year for the kids {see 2009}, especially when it means we're getting close to snow season. We could have caught up on chores left from the week - but Saturday morning was too perfect not to spend searching for a tree to take home!

Finding a tree

Finding a tree

Oh look - a Brad Pitt sighting!

Finding a tree

Just kidding - that's just Aaron... {smile}


For some reason, the net is a fascinating place to start. Once Aaron got our tree stand on, the kids practiced their motor skills snipping away at the netting...


For the past few years, Ava has helped me decorate the tree. Each year, she helps me unravel the tissue paper {glass ornaments} and hang them on the tree. As we hand them off to each other, I am given the opportunity to share stories about where they originated from. This process alone is a tradition of ours - and makes collecting these ornaments that much more enjoyable.


Decorating the tree

The weather warmed up outside {70's???} and Aaron and the kids strung the lights outdoors. {pics coming soon}. Boxes upon boxes have come down from the attic, and the house looks a little like we just moved in. It's a gradual transition - but a wonderful tradition - and we are enjoying it slowly...

Taking a break

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see - Soulemama


Have a warm weekend!

taking time to pause... and dance

Thursday?? Hello there. This has been an exceptional week - between the weather cooling down, work to tie up - and sleep to make up from an all-nighter.... I have been doing a lot of this and that...

At home, when I stop and look around, how did everything get so misplaced? Where did all this laundry come from? And why is the sink full of pots and pans? From Sunday?? Really?? Sunday, when I spent more than 5 hours cleaning. Every day - the inside scape of our home takes on a new look. And to me, it means we've created new things. Played with different toys. And jumped on the beds a few too many times. When Ava rummaged through her closet, I took a deep breath and started to put things away. In the midst of hanging up clothes, putting back her toys and books on her shelf, she found her Afghan dress and asked to put it on. You're suppose to help me Ava, I'd say. But her jittery twirls won me over, and I pulled the dress over her, thinking I bought myself some time to organize the rest of her closet.

But then she wanted her CD that we play in the car. That's in the garage. On the other side of the house. With her clothes still in my hands, I sighed trekking to the garage, grabbed the CD, and tuned it to her favorite song so that she could dance. Once the music started playing, and the kids threw themselves a party - in the space I was trying to re-organize, I knew the invitation included me...

And that's how so much of our time is spent isn't it? Riddled with so much to do - like a balloon that's ready to pop - the air inside it should be accounted for. Our days have to be accounted for. The kids are growing up soo fast. And although it may take me a few days to get the laundry put away, or a client's project finished - I'm content knowing that the reason why is because of time spent together. Sometimes we prompt these kind of moments - but most of the time, Ava & Noah remind us, tug at us, and invite us... to dance...

and for that - my balloon will always float.

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see - Soulemama


Happy weekending!

taking math to the board


Math. Not my greatest {nor favorite} subject - but I know I can't let my bias become Ava's - especially if she's welcomed it herself... spatting off math problems in the car. Mom - can you count to 100? Because I can! Mom, did you know that 12 plus 12 is 24! and so on...

The abacus - once a decorative wooden toy that went so well with the "playroom" is now being used as it should be - to solve math problems. Move 6 here... and 4 here... and you get?...
But Ava doesn't like to stop and do this prep work. Until she gets the answer wrong - she'll unwillingly drag herself to the table to take the slower approach. What is it about math and speed?


They inherently go hand in hand. Processing math equations is a way for our minds to speak for itself - placing the facts together in an order that will give us the answer faster. And it is in this final answer that gives us confidence. And this is such a great way to build more of - with our children. It takes time, and a lot of patience - but when you start out with an attitude that it's actually "fun" - like solving a mystery! Ava is all for it - taking her time to connect her curvy 8's and draw 4's that shines big {like herself}.

So when I think of pre-math skills, and its importance to develop with care - I think of how I can make this fun for her, knowing who she is, and how best she learns.

For Ava, that means spending time together. There's achievement cheers at the end, and there's scrunchy noises in the process. And there is almost always - a laugh at the end - so that we can both look forward to doing it again, tomorrow...

More Math Fun:
There's some great counting activities listed here, as well as a smart article written by moi. {smiling}... and even more counting, plus download-able math worksheets to practice.

And I have to applaud the many parents out there who take the time to share their lessons and fun activity ideas on their blogs. Here are some great ones:

ABC and 123 Learning, The Adventures of Bear, and Let's Play Math.

In the meantime, here's a great song from one of our favorite books to get your math energy going:

potty training - there really is a light at the end

We're potty training Noah - and before considering my offer to try, he politely asks, "do I get a prize?"

Now I'm a firm believer that children shouldn't be rewarded for things that are expected of them, like cleaning their room, getting dressed, or brushing their teeth. But for some reason, the transition from pull-ups to potty chair is a wee bit more challenging to make a case out of.

The incentive that they will be a "big kid" or that they must learn how to use the potty before they can go to school didn't even make him blink an eye. Instead, it was more like he was telling me - Is that all you've got Mom? I'm in no hurry for this place you call school. And quite frankly, I'm happy just doing my business when I feel like it, at my own convenience. Why change a good thing Mom? Besides, these pull-ups soak up real fast - so I'm good. But thanks for checking in.

His argument is a good one.
From day 1, we control our children - we tell them what to do, how to do it, when to do it.... From their clothes, to what they eat - it's a process that they quickly realize, wait a second, why do I have to? Give me a valid reason... {and it better be a good one.}

I really appreciate this way of thinking. So where appropriate - I let them decide "how" - like getting dressed. Granted, Ava looks like a gypsy sometimes, but it's the process of their independence and thinking that I'm embracing much more. And brushing their teeth - was the easiest case for me to make - I just showed them a picture from the dentist's office of a child with eroded black teeth, and explained the workmanship of food and sugar on our teeth if abandoned. Yuck. Will my teeth turn black? Well, first really yellow. So if you eat that brownie...

Potty training is a whole other case in point. From cleanliness - to growing up. It's what we all do Noah...
So I had to get dirty about the situation, and explain to the jury the hard facts:

Me: Noah, your pull-ups are not biodegradable. In fact, this little convenience is going to sit in a landfill for years and years.

Noah: but why?

Do you remember Wall-E? And then everyone had to leave the earth because of all the garbage? That's what your diapers are doing Noah if you keep wearing these. It's making our earth stinky. I'd sure hate for people to have to leave the earth...

Noah: But why?

And then I'm thinking - ok, this isn't winning me the argument either. I could buy biodegradable ones. But that's a minor detail he doesn't need to know. Hmmm.... Ok Noah, do you want to win a prize? If you pee-pee in the potty all by yourself, you'll get a prize, isn't that exciting?


And it appears unanimously so - because now, Noah's in control. He knows that if he stops what he is doing and makes a b-line for the bathroom, he'll get something. Not because Mommy sometimes faints when I open his diaper...{he actually would plug my nose for me with his toes} or that the earth's landfills will be spared his business...

So here we are - our first reward system - and its working.


Especially since I simply gathered what we already had at home - small toys from party favors, pinatas, and happy meals - dumped into an empty gumball container - for them to pick one prize. Since Ava has already been potty trained {through much hardship and even 2 trips to the gastroenterologist} - she still gets to pick from the jar if she does #2 all on her own.

If you want to give this a try - I would recommend a prize jar or small shelf that's out of sight. We keep ours in the hallway where the linens go, and I also tuck away small gifts the children have received from here and there. When the kids get loot bags from a party - I sort and set aside here because often, the kids forget about these by the time we get home. What was once before labeled as "junk" is now re-purposed and meaningful.

Finally desired and played with - these little toys now shine in their own light...


teaching with a new friend

When it comes to teaching and strengthening our children's educational skills - we've turned to many of the essential teaching tools - flash cards, preschooler workbooks, even computer games - but the most fun and creative - are in just the day-to-day experiences - like when we collect leaves, or analyze how many noodles need to be eaten before getting 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream {smile}.

To extend that natural learning, where they themselves initiate questions, answers, and activity ideas, I bought a Melissa & Doug princess puppet - a princess for the simple fact that Ava seems to be very tuned into crown wearing gals these days - and a puppet, because I wanted to introduce a new way of teaching and practicing the concepts we're learning. Little did I know how quickly both Ava and Noah would receive this golden-haired royalty- where she has taken on the role as their teacher, classmate, and even a new friend...


She's also a great storyteller - even if she needs help pronouncing the words - "What's that word..p...pp...?" - and the kids shout, "pocket!" like in the book, A Pocket for Corduroy. The princess also helps them explore what's happening on the pages by asking questions - What are laundromats? How do dryers work?

Not only do they listen intently to the story being read by a new friend, but they are also engaged by teaching her in return - pointing out interesting facts or sharing what they themselves think happened or want her to know.


I am thrilled to welcome this little "princess" in our home - over any Disney figurine any day {where
we are talking about things that the kids are interested in - not reenacting scenes of a damsel in distress looking for her prince to rescue her}.

This kind of learning reminds me of my own learning, and how in Kindergarten, literacy came alive when I befriended the Letter People - remember those? I think its time I broke out the Letter People records {I scored a complete set at Half Price books!}

There is no doubt a very strong association children have at this age with characters that talk directly to them, and exchange ideas and lessons in a language and attitude that resonates with them the best - playfully...

and we are all absolutely loving it.

co-sleeping... a royal pain

This is how a princess sleeps... until 10am. Tucked in all white and protected by goose down comforters and pillows... MY goose down feathers. Yep, this is our bed, and there's a "princess" in it...


And this is where the queen sleeps - On a tempurpedic $100+ pillow that gets thrown on the floor in the middle of the night and Zoe, our vicious dog, takes over... and owns. Because if I dare try to pull it out from under her in the mornings, a bloody finger is certain.


This is how Noah sleeps... still very classy isn't it? He wakes up at the crack of dawn so that he can watch cartoons on the couch before Ava wakes up. Ah.... boys....


I don't condone co-sleeping with your children - but as of late, it's been a natural occurrence I'm afraid, and I'm too tired at night to try to remind everyone the rules. There's something about them growing up so fast that makes me carry them into our bedroom after they brush their teeth. It was easy before - books, bed, night light goes on... and good night! But now that they are a bit older, it's as if I can't get enough of them. We talk before sleeping, we say our prayers together... and the kids tuck their cold feet in between even warmer areas (usually my thighs). I've been loving going to bed like this for a few weeks now... except when I wake up.

Sandwiched between two snuggle bunnies - Aaron has to sometimes pull me out of bed by my ankles - which sounds easy and fun - but when you have a 10lb blanket to sludge out under from - it qualifies us for Cirque du Soleil performers. And once my butt hits the floor - hallelujah, I'm fully awake and ready to sip a latte and answer emails.
Thank you Aaron for helping to make mornings so welcoming for me. I could never do this without you.

So I know this is wrong, and co-sleeping - princess or not... my babies are growing! - shouldn't become the new norm and so habitually comforting (like brownies after midnight). But it is - and it feels good, to know that before I close my eyes, my other halves are nestled close by - and that they feel safe before they go into la-la land. That's what we want isn't it - as parents? For our kids to feel safe?

My mission - to get back on track, and reclaim my bedroom... to clear their heads from fear of the dark (darn all you Halloween cartoons), and longing for their own big beds to sprawl out in. That shouldn't be too difficult... right?


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