For Zoey’s 3rd birthday party, I chose a drive in movie theater theme.  I was trying to come up with an unique, cost-friendly idea that didn’t require us hiring any entertainment for the kids. In the past, we have hired balloon artists and caricature artists, but those fees add up after all the room rental, food, favors and decorations.  This year, I promised Jeff that I’d try to keep costs under a reasonable budget!  I don’t think Zoey had any idea what a drive in movie theater was, even Jeff was a little confused when I told him what I was planning. Zoey had never even watched a movie before, but she got really into it once the party started.  All the kids loved it and the adults did, too!  The beauty of this drive in movie idea was that the kids sat quietly in their little cardboard cars watching the movie and eating lunch while the adults got a little break to chat and eat as well!  It was fairly quiet and the kids weren’t all running around like crazy!

The most labor intensive part of preparing for the party was the making of all the little cardboard cars for the kids to sit in. Eighteen cars total!  I’ll share in detail in my next post how those were made.  In this post, I’ll share the other big components that made up the birthday party.

I made this huge marquee sign out of extra large poster board for her party that said “Zoey’s Drive in Movie Theatre”.  It doesn’t really show up in the photo but I punched holes and poked Christmas lights so that the sign lit up:


Here is our birthday girl, ready for her VIP friends to stroll down the red carpet!


Here are all the cardboard box cars all lined up and ready for the movie screening:


We let Zoey pick the movie and she picked Frozen (of course!):


The birthday girl’s car had a bunch of pink balloons taped to the back. As the kids waited for all the guests to arrive and the movie to start, they decorated their own cars with stickers and markers.

The “concession stand” included pizza, fruit, apple sauce pouches, cookies, bottled drinks and of course, lots of popcorn!


I found the cutest popcorn boxes at Michaels that were perfect:drivin10

Instead of paper plates, we used these brown kraft paper food trays lined with red/white striped wax paper to go with the movie theme.  The kids ate their food right in their cars while they watched the movie and the trays kept food from sliding around:


For dessert, I made Zoey’s favorite chocolate with chocolate chip cupcakes with buttercream frosting:


Party favors were Little Golden Books of Frozen or Cars with a packet of popcorn:
I made this banner out of scrapbook paper to hang over the food.  For all the signage, I bought movie clipart from this Etsy store that was perfect for the movie theme. The font is called “Budmo“:

We also hung up the birthday banner that we hang up every year with “3rd” written with chalk marker:

Happy 3rd birthday to my little pumpkin!

Check out my post on how I made the cardboard cars in part 2 of Zoey’s 3rd birthday party.

Read the letter I wrote Zoey on her 3rd birthday here.  See Zoey’s 1st “xoxo zozo” birthday party details here. Her 2nd “Zozo’s Zoo” Birthday Party here.

Poor Skylar’s 1st birthday is in a month and I haven’t done ANY planning at all for it!  Poor second child!

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Merry Christmas!!

by ilene on December 25, 2015

in christmas, decor, holidays


Merry Christmas from my family to yours!!christmas2015_1

We are especially grateful this year for this new stocking that we get to hang up.  (I  blogged about how I embroidered these with our names last year here)

Our Christmas card that we sent out this year:Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 2.40.06 PMHope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, that you have a wonderful Christmas!

Thanks for reading!!


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Since this is Skylar’s very first Christmas, she made a special ornament to commemorate her first year.  I took a clear glass ornament and stamped her little handprint on it with acrylic paint.  After the paint dried, I took off the top and stuffed in the hospital ankle bands that she wore at hospital when she was born:


This is a really simple and quick ornament that I think we will enjoy hanging up on our Christmas tree every year:

Her hand is so little!

This idea is really similar to the wedding capsule ornament that I blogged about 4 years ago. I smile every year when I hang up our ornament filled with flower petals that were thrown at us on our wedding day:




We are all about handmade ornaments at our home.  I’ve written up tutorials on a bunch of them that I’ve made over the years. Here is a round up of a few other fun homemade ornament ideas:










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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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