Our Family Thankful Tree

by ilene on November 23, 2015 · 1 comment

in decor, holidays


My latest project, is what I call Operation Dethrone The Toddler.  I’ve been trying to teach Zoey to think outside of herself.    I want my child to be kind and compassionate and lets just say, she has never been one to be described as “sweet”.  My kid, as delightful as she can be, can also be one little self-centered firecracker.  She wakes up barking orders and doesn’t stop until she goes to bed.  And even then, she still yells all sorts of demands at us from inside her crib.   Since I would not like to be raising a little tyrant, I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to teach Zoey to be nice, thoughtful and generous.  I’d love to hear any ideas that parents may have on this as I’m really struggling!  My Zoey is more spicy than sweet!  Luckily, I think the holiday season is the perfect time of the year to start these conversations and initiatives with Zoey.  With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I made this “Thankful Tree” in our living room out of kraft paper and leftover card stock.  Everyday over dinner, I’ve been asking Zoey what she is thankful for and we have been adding her thoughts to the leaves on our tree.  We’ve been having some great conversations about how blessed we are!  She is starting to realize that she is one lucky little girl.  Listing out all the things we are grateful for is also a great reminder to me of how God is so good to our family.

Our Thankful Tree bare:


Some of things that Zoey is thankful for:thankfultree3

She loves to pick out the leaves and put them on the branches herself. The tree has gotten a lot more full since I took this picture.

I’m curious to hear from readers what you are doing this season to help others.  Are there holiday service projects that you guys love to do with your family?   The holidays are all about love and I think its the perfect time for us to start some holiday traditions.  We just dropped off a shoebox of toys that Zoey prepared for Operation Christmas Child and plan to try Kindness Elves instead of the typical Elf on the Shelf in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I’m planning on starting an Advent Calendar where everyday we do one random act of kindness, too.  We’ll be baking a birthday cake for Jesus and I can’t wait to introduce the meaning of Christmas to Zoey now that she is three and old enough to understand.  The holidays are going to be a lot more fun this year now that I can share them with her!  I’m looking forward to starting family traditions!  And her experiencing the magic of Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends!!


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My Zozobean turns 3 today! Here is my letter to my firstborn daughter:


Dear Zoey,

The “terrific twos” was a great year for you.  In my books, the past 12 months will be known as the year of Surprise Eggs, Disney princesses, unparalleled tantrums, Jana Alayra songs, potty training and meatballs.


I know you don’t appreciate it yet, but this was the year your father and I gave you the biggest gift we could ever give you: a sister.   Your baby sister Skylar greeted you at the hospital with kinder surprise eggs and you have loved her from that moment on.  I wasn’t sure how you were going to handle being a big sister, but you as usual, exceeded my expectations.  You love to give her toys, hand me her hat, cover her with a blanket and help bathe her. You often say “awww, Skye-Skye is so cute!” and cheer her on with “Go Skye Skye, go! I’m so proud of you!” when she hits new milestones.    My absolute favorite moments are those of you making Skye laugh.  No one can send her into fits of giggles the way you can.  Skylar loyally follows you around the room trying her hardest to keep up with those chubby thighs of hers and all you have to do is look at her and her face breaks into a huge grin.  She absolutely adores you.  This is, no doubt, the beginning of a beautiful lifelong friendship between the two of you.


You started school in January and although mommy was really nervous for you, you stepped through the school doors with a backpack almost your size, turned to me and with a quivering lip and bravely said “bye bye mommy, I have so much fun, see you later!”  Your courage both breaks my heart and makes it swell with pride.   Though its hard for the control freak in me to let you out of my sphere of influence, you come home learning  new things and saying all sorts of funny sayings that never cease to amaze me. You are only away from me a few hours a week but I miss you like crazy when you are gone.  I can hardly wait to pick you up because you run squealing into my arms, shrieking “mommy, mommy, MOMMY!” like we hadn’t seen each other in days.  There is no better feeling in the world.


You are our beanpole at 37″ tall and a scant 26 lbs but you make up for it in personality.  You are still my spunky little girl, my little spitfire, my pint-sized firecracker. We clash at times, I think because we are so similar. We are fiery. Strong willed. Passionate. Because of this, we often are mired in a heated deadlock, neither of us willing to budge. Though frustrating to parent, I’m thankful God created you this way because you are also so enthusiastic, confident, fearless and have the ability to find joy in even the smallest things.  You literally bounce, run, dance or skip wherever you go, often singing  at the same time.  You can light up the room the moment you prance in.    You are bright, funny, sharp and outspoken.  You shock us all the time with your amazing memory and perception.  This year, you have really started making real friends.  You adore ALL of them.  You shriek and jump up and down whenever your friends come over, giving them the warmest, loudest welcomes.  You talk to Rylie on the phone every day. You say that your best friends are Chloe or Margot.  You often go on play dates in our neighborhood with Emi/Ethan and Christopher/Danny. You make friends wherever you go.  You are well loved by many.  I suspect this is why you had the honor of being asked to be a  flower girl a whopping THREE times in the last 2 months and, girl, you owned that role.  Getting all dressed up in a pretty new dress and reveling in all the attention was a dream come true… for both of us!11816312_10101155313169954_8219709755106812959_o


Some of my favorite memories with you are our private dance parties after Skylar goes to bed and its just me and you. You and me, we can dance and sing our hearts out. We look so silly as we “move it move it” but we don’t care. Your “go to” moves are the robot, twirling, shaking your booty and “the dip”. In the rare moments when Skylar is asleep and its just you and me, we’ve also started reading the children’s Bible together. Your favorite story is Noah’s Ark because of all the animals.  You ask lots of insightful questions about God and ask to pray for all your family and friends.   In these quiet times, reading God’s Word together, I am struck and sobered by the importance of my job as your mother to raise you to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior in a deep, personal way.  Sometimes I am scared that I am not doing an adequate job teaching and modeling God’s love to you.  I know that I will often fail you but know that I am trying my hardest.  In the times that I fall short, I am grateful that you are gracious and quick to forgive.  I am simultaneously humbled by the way you extend grace to me and reassured that God is already at work in that young tender heart of yours.
This year hasn’t been easy for your mommy but you continue to be my light. You make me laugh at all the right moments and you inspire me to press forward every day, giving my best for you and your sister.  You are my joy. My world. I love you so much! To the moon and back!


Happy 3rd Birthday, my little pumpkin!


All my love,



Read my letter to Zoey on her first birthday.

Read my letter to Zoey on her second birthday.


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Skye at 6, 7 & 8 Months Old

by ilene on October 27, 2015 · 1 comment

in baby, party, Skylar's First Year

(Updates a couple months late and all lumped together, sorry 2nd child!)Skye_6months1

Skylar at 6 months:

Height: 27″ (75%), Weight: 15lb, 14.5oz (40%)

Cut her first tooth!! Bottom left came first and now has both bottom teeth

Had her first taste of solid food – bananas!

Can pull herself to sit up on her own. Loves to sit and look around.  Outgrew her bumbo already

Was so brave at her 6 month checkup, took the shots like a champ. She didn’t even cry!


At 7 Months:

Flew to Big Island, Hawaii to celebrate uncle Yen and aunt Ivy’s wedding!

Learned to crawl in Hawaii

Started to really like solid foods. Eats anything I put in her mouth! Finally, I have a good eater!

Down to just 2 naps a day. Goes to bed around 7pm and wakes up around 7am. Still not sleeping through the night, but we are working on it!

At 8 Months:

Learned her first party trick- clapping!  And is so pleased with herself

Can drink from a straw cup, impressed us by learning on her first attempt

Can pull herself to standing position holding onto the couch

Crawls everywhere! Especially gunning at  power cords and whatever big sister Zoey is playing with at the moment

Self feeds herself puffs

Can sit in a regular stroller without the carseat

Continues to be a smiley, happy baby


Cousin Averie was really unhappy in this photoshoot:


I made their birthday hats using this free template.


Happy half birthday to my little twinnies!

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Serving Tray Makeover

by ilene on August 11, 2015 · 1 comment

in decor, tutorial, upcycle, wood



Hi! I just got back from a two week trip with my kids.  Notice I said “trip” and not “vacation”.  A vacation would mean that it was relaxing and fun.  A trip means that I was lugging two weeks worth of luggage and baby gear in 105 degree heat with kids in tow, which is exactly what I did.  Relaxing? No.  Fun? Somewhat.  Again? Never.

I hope to be blogging a little more regularly now that we don’t have any travel plans for the next 6 weeks.  I know that I haven’t been very regular with my posts and my writing is all over the place.  Thanks for sticking with me!    This serving tray makeover project was one that I finished back when Skylar was a few weeks old and I’m just now sitting down to write about it.

I’m in the process of changing a lot of our decor and furniture from dark wood to white.   When Jeff and I got married 5 years ago, dark expresso wood finishes were in so a lot of our furniture was dark colored. Now the trends have been moving towards white, gray or light colored wood, which is actually more my style.  I like the bright, light and airy feel.  I’m all about the modern farmhouse look!   I haven’t yet met a piece of white distressed furniture that I didn’t like!

One of the weddings presents off our wedding registry was this dark wood serving tray from Crate and Barrel:

I loved it at the time and used it often. It survived a cross country move and after awhile, all the wear and tear was beginning to show:


Its looking pretty beat up!! This was the perfect piece to paint over white and give it some new life.  Like the last serving tray that I made over, I used the popular Annie Sloan paint chalk and wax:


I gave it 4 coats of pure white chalk paint:


Then I lightly distressed the edges a little with sandpaper:


I sealed the whole thing with a couple coats of wax after the paint dried.



Jeff used it to serve me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day:
Just a little bit of white paint completely transformed this old tray. The white color is so much more happy, too.

Now I want to paint  our dark dining table white, too!


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Skye at 4 Months Old

by ilene on July 24, 2015 · 3 comments

in baby, Skylar's First Year

238A5360 copy

This is a little late. Skylar is already 5 months old. I need to be better at documenting my second child!   If I don’t write this all down though, I’m afraid I won’t remember any of these details. All of Zoey’s milestones her first year are already hazy in my memory, so this is mostly for my own documentation.  And for her grandparents who are probably the only other people who love this info. (Hi, mom!)


Stats:  Weight – 14lbs 4.5 oz and length- 25 inches.  Both are 75% percentile

Rolls!  Started rolling from her back to her belly at 4.5 months old but only to her right side

Other rolls:  Lots of them! Starting to chunk up and get lots of attention for her thunder thighs

Sleep: Takes about 3 naps a day, sometimes just 2. Poor second child sleeps in our tiny closet.

Personality: Super smiley and happy. Loves to laugh, especially at her big sister. Our beacon of joy.

Toys: Introduced to play things and grabbing onto baby toys.  Outgrew our baby swing and bouncer and transitioned to the jumperoo and exersaucer.

Travel:  Went on her first beach trip to Baker Beach!  Also spent the night in Monterey over 4th of July weekend.  Went on her 4th and 5th flight (to visit Ahma and Ahgong in Southern CA). Our little jet setter is flying back down to LA next week and then to Vegas, baby!

Feeding:  Took the bottle!! VICTORY!!  Likes the bottle really warm and only takes it from her Ahma. I can finally leave her for more than 2 hours at a time!

And just for kicks, here are side by side photos of both my girls Zoey and Skye at 17 weeks old. That is Zozo on the left and Skye on the right:

I love being their mom. My heart bursts with happiness!  


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