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


this moment

{inspired by Soulemama} "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."


week of changes

Last week, this is what our family room looked like:

  living room

And our kitchen: its quite a bit outdated, but still... homey.

 our kitchen

We crossed our fingers, took a deep breath, and moved forward with dreams I've been having about our living and kitchen spaces for more than 9 years now... so we started to pack our things away.... and asked ourselves, "is this really happening?"

packing up

Putting things in boxes was an extremely exhausting process. With Ava just starting school, we felt like there was a lot being juggled. We woke up at 2am and started packing on a Sunday night. I knew the place would be changing dramatically - and some of our things... may not make a come back. It's interesting to see our lives temporarily stored away....

So this is what our living room looked like after the first few days of demo:

  living room in demo

In the middle of the week, we have also visited with family, celebrated Eid {will have to do a separate post}, and have started to adjust to the new school routine... well, sort of. We also received a package in the mail from our best friends, David and Corbin. I can't remember the last time I received a package in the mail - just for me.

A copy of The Knowledge Book and The Help, the story that David, Corbin and I had been talking about via Facebook... They had read the book first while I watched the movie and was so moved by it. They convinced me, the book would be better {I knew it!} So I promised myself to get a copy. But they beat me to it!


It really warmed our hearts - because in the middle of all this chaos we are now calling "home" - and the change of events and routines... having these books sent to us made us think -  that yes - even in all of this - we need some "me time," and do one of the things we enjoy so much - reading {thank you soo much David and Corbin}!

Then came this past weekend, when we literally "labored" on Labor Day and focused on the kitchen. The kids spent the weekend with their grandparents, and by Monday, Aaron and my Dad and I, removed all the tile flooring. I also managed to remove all the ceiling popcorn from the living area. By evening's end - I looked like I had showered with acoustic - and oh was I aching...

 kitchen in demo

When the kids got home that night, we all cuddled in our bed and read from The Knowledge Book - the first chapter covering fun facts about our universe. The kids were even quizzing me - which is the hottest planet? The furthest? What's our galaxy called? "The Milky Way" Noah shouts!

Enthralled by the pictures - reminding me so much the first time I got ahold of my sister's science book and imagined myself floating in its pages. Oh how magical the moon seemed to me... the ethereal cloudy dots on the page made me wonder - is this really possible? I cut them out and pasted them into my journal and wrote about myself becoming an astronaut. I was certain I'd become one one day.

In the middle of the night - in between the ruffle of the sheets and the warm night, we all woke up and Aaron moved Noah back into his bed. Ava turned to me and in the dark said:

"Mommy. I'm so happy for you. I'm so happy that you are having the house that you want. I'm so happy and proud of you Mommy. You've worked so hard."

We nuzzled noses and she fell back asleep. I laid there thinking about my dreams. What I felt at that moment about what Ava said - was much bigger than any dream I've ever had.

And with that, I happily cried myself to sleep.

this moment

{inspired by Soulemama}  "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."

my class

butterflies... and ballet

Aaron is an incredibly dedicated father. And knowing him for as long as I have, I wouldn't expect anything less. Still, there are times when he's surprisingly so... that he gives my stomach butterflies.


And he didn't... nor did his mini-version.

beginner ballet

I'm embarrassed to say, that Ava has asked to take dance classes for several years now. I just never thought it would take me that long to get her started. Maybe part of it was my personal lack of interest - because to be honest, ballet? I see its beauty {Nutcracker}, understand its passion {Billy Elliot}, and even a bit of cuteness {puffy tutus}... but I just didn't see it as a fit in our lives, nor how the benefits would offset the costs... like say for example, a science camp would...

beginner ballet

beginner ballet

After acknowledging that she really is starting school this year - it just seemed to me she needed to be doing something more fun {not to say that school isn't fun}, but fun more along the lines of being apart of something...

a part of something that gives her butterflies...

beginner ballet

laundry game - count, sort, fold!

After Noah and I got home from morning drop off, I felt somewhat misplaced - in my own home. Glancing over my to-do list, nothing seemed appealing... maybe its because I'm still not use to this "early" schedule. Letting out a big sigh, I look around the house to see which pile would explode first. Noah is out of underwear... bingo. We have to do laundry.

Wanting him to be in the same room as me {instead of playing on the computer}, I recruit his help.

Me: Noah, can you find your underwear and count how many pairs you have?
Noah: You said underwear. {He laughs}. Ok. But first.... You like my new hat Mommy? Do I look cool? {He laughs uncontrollably. Winks his eye, snaps a finger, and bobs his head back and forth}.
Me: You are soo funny Noah! Let me get my camera. {I snap this just before he pulls it off}.


So how many pairs did you find? Let's sort them. First tell me how many you have, and then how many Ava has. And then tell me, who has more? {I fold the remainder of the laundry while watching him}.
Noah: 6. I have 6. And Ava has {he counts} 6 too! Wow. How did that happen? They are the same!
Me: That's pretty cool. {Um... let's see what else we can do.} Oh Noah, can you please help me find all the yellow napkins? I think they are buried under here.
Noah: Yeah. One... two... three...four, five... This is like a treasure hunt. I can't believe it. Five! Is there any more? {he keeps digging}

folding laundry

Me: Well there should be 6 yellow napkins. {He pulls out the last one}. Let me show you how to fold them. First you make a big square like this.  {I demonstrate}. Then take two of these corners and fold over.... like this - wait a sec. What shape is the napkin now?
Noah: A rectangle!
Me: That's right. Now watch. I fold take these two corners here - and fold over to the other side. Look what happens. Now what shape is it?
Noah: A square!
Me: And if I fold it again, its a {I'm interrupted}.
Noah: No. No. Let me do it. I know, I know. First you make it flat. Oh. There's not enough room. {He picks up the napkin, sits up and starts over again}. Okay, okay. I got it.

folding laundry

Noah: Then you make a rectangle. {He makes a serious face. Holds the corners with his fingers...} Then you make a square. Like this? No, wait. I can do it. {He repeats this over again to himself}. Then you make another rectangle. Like this Mommy?

folding laundry

Me: That's right Buddy. You got it. Now do the same thing to the other... five!
Noah: {He takes his time, and repeats, "rectangle. square" to himself until he finishes}. I did it! I did it! This is my luckiest day ever! {literally squealing}. Watch how I do it.... {he unfolds one and shows me}. I can't believe I can really do this! {squeal}.

folding laundry

Who knew you could folding laundry could be this much fun to a 4 year old? And learn at the same time... We practiced counting, sorting, which was "more or less", matching, and making shapes. This "laundry game" turned out to be a hands-on experience {which to me, is much more fun than any workbook exercise we've been doing thus far}.

I may not have dinner napkins that are perfectly matched on all corners - but what I do have is a very proud little boy.

I'm sure there are many more learning opportunities that stem from the "every day" - what are some of yours?

first day of kindergarten

Thanks so much for all the thoughts and prayers everyone. The big day arrived, and as expected, I couldn't compose myself entirely... I knew I was going to cry, and I did. Aaron did much better- His face just turned red... had watery eyes.... we just couldn't believe her first day of school was here!

The outfit I wanted to dress her in got moved to tomorrow since today is gym class... so we went for comfort and all of her hair pulled back. Aaron and I were so nervous, bumping into each other, getting ready ourselves, remembering to breathe... that we didn't prepare a special fun breakfast like we had imagined. Or say a special family prayer.... the time, even though we woke up at 5am, didn't help. There was just so much going on....

Ava started her morning with excitement, saying over and over again, "I can't believe I'm going to school!" She made a card for her teacher...

teacher's card

Then we headed out the door -

going to school

Going to school!

Noah was such a terrific sport. Feeling the excitement for his sister, and so happy for her. He didn't ask when and if he was going to go to school. He just observed everything as we approached the school, where the yard was filled with parents, grandparents and kids of all ages...

walking to school

Outside of her classroom - the most unbelievably - unexpected thing happened to us. As Ava handed her teacher an apple, her card and hugged her, Aaron leaned over to me and whispered, "the camera isn't working"....  Of all the days!?! My little trusty camera that's captured Ava and Noah's childhoods, weathered sand and rain on countless trips, and even sustained photography lessons with Ava - went kaput. Reloading the battery, helped take these last shots, before it quit again... My time was running out. The bell rang. Aaron and I were the only parents in the room. I just had to look into Ava's eyes - one more time. And let her know how happy and excited and proud I am for her to get to this day.

Saying goodbye

And maybe cry a little before letting go...

kiss goodbye

Looking back as I was standing in the doorway - I snapped this picture with my iphone. She was off... ready to get started, and be a kindergartner. She didn't look up. It was time. I headed straight for the exit for air.

Getting started

Aaron and I held Noah's hands while walking back to the car. Noah said, "I think Ava's going to have a lot of fun." Aaron and I looked at each other, and knew how right Noah was... At home, we surprised Noah with a gift - a snap circuit board and doodle book for us to do today.

alone at home w noah

When I troubleshooted my camera it dawned on me that today's occasion is the best reason to upgrade for the camera on my wish list. Aaron had tried to purchase the Canon 5d Mark II for anniversaries, birthdays, and Eid gifts in the past, but for the sheer reason of cost, I would graciously decline.

Today is Ava's first day of school - to me, that's a good enough reason to make the investment now {and the fact that my SLR gave up}.  I emailed a few friends for camera store suggestions - and both agreed Arlington Camera was the place to go. After making sure they had one in stock, we drove 40 minutes to pick it up. 3 hours later, we were driving back home with a new camera {and a rented battery since it takes 24hrs to charge the new battery} and then headed straight to the school to pick her up and snap the first moment she walked out the door...

Missed You!

Perhaps the distraction of the camera situation was part of the Big plan because it made the day fly like colors. I didn't have the time, nor the energy to dwell on Ava not being with us today {although when I left the camera store and looked into the backseat of the car and saw her empty car seat, I let out a small sigh}. Oh.. life is so funny like this, isn't it?

Pick up

Pick up

And so are the kids - who wave through life's changes - in their own way...

After school

Blue Sky Organizer Giveaway Winner!

Thanks for participating in the Blue Sky Home Series Giveaway! Our winner is...

The number of eligible commenter's were entered into Random.org's site, and commenter HudHud is our winner! I'll be in touch about the delivery details! Thanks so much for everyone else who played along!

Happy Kindergarten!

This year - there's only been one thing on my mind - K.I.N.D.E.R.G.A.R.T.E.N. And there's no escaping it. Well... I guess there is. And up until last Thursday, I had convinced myself {and was working on Aaron} to consider homeschooling Ava. I am not ready to let her go. I'm not ready to miss her so much. I'm not ready to separate her from Noah. I'm not ready to disrupt the non-existent routine we have. I'm not ready for this.

Last Thursday we met her teacher for the first time - {happy sigh} and she made me feel so much more at ease. The truth is {clearing my throat}, she's actually too great. She is so warm, sincerely empathetic, and has such a loving, nurturing presence about her. Her smile is a mile wide, and she emphasized how our communication and comfort is equally important. That night I shared with my Mom and sisters - my secret... {whispering I say, "Ava's teacher... is so awesome!"}.

Knowing this - put a huge smile on my face all day Friday - while getting ready for Ava's Happy Kindergarten dinner party with our families. My stomach still squirmed... now and then... I can just feel the clock ticking inside my heart...

But here's a snapshot of the party:

Happy Kindergarten Party

Using a lot of what we already had at home- decorating was easy... globes, easels, letter blocks spelling out words....

For the dessert table, I knew there would be little room after dinner, so I picked treats guests could take home with them in to-go boxes...


Since this was going to be family-style dining, the kids had their own table -

Children's Table

We set out crayons for them to draw on the table and filled containers I found in the school aisle at the dollar store with rainbow goldfish to snack on while they waited for dinner to be served...


Aaron made paper airplanes - which we hung off the chandelier {smiling}. The flower arrangement came from Whole Foods.

Paper Planes

The serving table -

Serving Table

The cake table: school desk {flea market find}, homemade cake and microscope from the 1960s that belonged to Aaron's Dad....


Cake Table

Ava picked out her own cake flavors - she wanted buttercream cake with pink vanilla icing... And since purple is another favorite color, this miniature composition book from Party City and star candle were perfect!


We had dinner catered from Whole Foods {salmon, empanadas, artichoke-lemon fritters, pecan crusted salad} and Macaroni & Grill {Pasta Milano - Ava's favorite}.

Dinner Table

Enjoyed great family/dinner conversation... the typical topics of what's in the news, corrupt politicians, the economic crisis... Oprah...

Happy Kindergarten Party

The kids did a craft activity too. They each had a pencil case they could personalize with stickers and then fill with pencils...

Pencil Case Activity

We sang "Happy Kinder-garten" to the tune of "Happy Birthday" - I didn't cry at all, which was surprising. I think I was caught in the moment of celebrating on this night and eating yummy cake, rather than really thinking about her starting school...

Happy Kindergarten Party

Lots of pictures... Proud Grandpa...

Happy Kindergarten Party

Proud Grandmas....


It was getting late - and although there was still so much to talk about, and comfort each other about- we all acknowledged... that Ava is ready. She handed out her party favors to everyone - these were made to order - candy red apples from Rocky Mountain - along with mini composition books.

Happy Kindergarten Party

For the kids, we had "paper lunch sacks" filled with school treats - erasers shaped like scissors, glue and stapler, mini paint set, a globe pencil sharpener, box of colored chalk, pencil tin case, large pencils, chocolates shaped like soccer/basket balls, and chocolate milk!

Favor bag

Ava was showered with gifts - her new backpack! {No. 5 from this post} along with other "school treats" from the family. 

Ava and me

We were so honored to throw this celebration for her. So humbled by her thankfulness and of the time we've been blessed to have with each other and help her grow. Tomorrow - a whole new journey begins. Aaron has taken the day off from work - and the both of us will be crying. We will be smiling. We will be screaming with excitement and yet so bone-breaking confused - "are we doing the right thing?"  We will hold her and walk her to class. We will kiss her a million times. And most definitely - we will make sure she knows, that we are ever so proud of our Ava...

Oh... the hyperventilating begins...

getting organized and giveaway!

We are just 5 days away from Ava starting Kindergarten... {sighing}, and I can't express enough what a whirlwind of emotions, events, excitement, and oh yes, organization has been happening around here. I'm a huge fan of to-do lists. I love to see my pink highlighter cross over the tasks I've been procrastinating. The problem I have been still struggling with though, is that my process of organization - sometimes needs organizing itself.

Lo and behold - last month, 2 Moms Media, LLC shared the release of some Blue Sky Home Series products that could help me wager my priorities, get me back on track and plan a week, month and year in advance - just in time for our new school year.

Blue Sky Planners

Judging by the amount of activities we have done {and didn't miss} as a family this past critical month, shopping and getting everything on the list {instead of several trips}, and event planning for... well events I didn't think I'd even have the time for... I'd say my new Weekly/Monthly planner has won me over. The main reason being its got ample space to jot down the small details - before the bigger stuff can be accomplished - efficiently.

I also love how this gives me an overview of what's been done - kind of like a family journal of our days. For those unexpected plans, I'll go back and add it, like date nights, or trips to the sno cone stand {smiling}. I also love its big size. I can tote it around by itself {and it won't get lost}.

The other product I'm loving is my new mouse pad - which is how it should have always been - a mouse AND a pad. Instead of cluttering the inbox, or getting sidetracked, I make a quick note on this pad to "do" later... or notes to self to go back online and shop for.  which ahem... I've been doing a lot lately with school supplies. This product is genius!

If you don't have a magnetic pad on the fridge already to capture your grocery list - you really should. Alongside the children's artwork, I've added this to the fridge to help me keep track of exactly what it is that we're out of.... facial moisturizer... ketchup... you get the idea.

It's also helped us avoid wandering the grocery store aisles and overbuying stuff we don't really need. Aaron can grab this sheet and know exactly what to get {its organized by category} on his way home, and even minimize the trips to the grocery store to once a week! The Grocery Checklist magnetic notepad is a win-win!

We also got a Don't Forget To door pad - which I haven't had a chance to use yet. But I can see this being useful for Aaron - on his way out the door... like pick up dry cleaning... call the pool guy... bring home fresh flowers for your wife...

And what makes this entire line genius? There are lots of formats to choose from - whether you like small wallet-size planners, or large calendar sizes... its all designed by Susy Jack* Contemporary Paper - so everything coordinates... are available at Target {now through September}... and range in price from $4 - $10!

And now for the giveaway! 
Blue Sky Home Series has graciously offered to send an Art of Family reader a sampler set of their products to try out for themselves - just in time for the new school year! Maximum 3 entries per household. Here's how:

Leave a comment below sharing your favorite organizational tip AND do one of the following:

1} Subscribe to The Art of Family. {See left-hand column}
If you are already a subscriber, try 2 & 3.

2} Follow me on Google Connect. {See left-hand column}
If you are already connected, try 1 & 3.

3} Share this post's link to your Facebook, spread the word!
If you don't have a FB account, have a friend join through Google Connect. and also leave a comment, and then leave a comment yourself letting me know.

If you do all 3 - that's 3 separate entries and more chances to win! If you have any questions - just let me know! Good luck!

Rules: The giveaway ends at 11:59 PST on August 21 and is open to US & Canadian residents only. I will draw a winner at random on August 22 - and post the winner's name. Please be sure you leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Disclosure: I received assorted product samples from 2 Moms Media, LLC for this review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are all of my own.


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