Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo.

The wrinkles acquired from Saturday's costume party have been ironed out of Lainey's Little Bo Peep apron, and a plastic jack-o-lantern with a handle sits ready by the door. I have answered the "how much longer until we trick-or-treat?" question all of seven times so far today, and the sugar buzz from the four Smarties I doled out after lunch is finally fading--which is more than I can say for the skeleton tattoos adhered on the back of Lainey's hand. They'll most likely last until Christmas.

But, here we are--the first of the end-of-year holidays, and I am drinking it up.

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I ran out yesterday to get a few ingredients for appetizers tonight, and I'm sorry to say they included cocktail weiners. I couldn't find them anywhere in the store, and when a friendly gentleman employee saw my back-and-forth wandering, he kindly approached me with a "Can I help you find something, 'mam?" And, without thinking, I answered, "Yes, I can't find the cocktail--" except half-way into it, I froze and didn't want to say the word weiners because I am shamelessly immature about these things, and I knew I would laugh. So I stood there, trying to think of another word for "weiners" and saying "cocktail hot dogs" was way too much of an obvious cop-out. And before I could even think of how to finish, I found myself saying, "I can't find the cocktail sauce. For shrimp," It just came out. He directed me to Aisle 5, and I, of course, detoured back toward Aisle 10 in search again for the infamous weiners. I finally found them and realized they can alternately be referred to as 'Lil Smokies. Good to know.

*****

The truth is...I like Halloween. And thankfully, for us, it began early this weekend with a neighborhood parade and party.

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I was stoked about the girls' costumes that I actually finished (with the help of Dot who sewed Lainey's apron) before our trip. What I didn't know was that Nella would hate hers.

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Her poor little body was trapped in a cotton marshmallow, and Sister threw a fit. So, I stood in a line of a hundred billion people at Party City Saturday afternoon for a back-up and altered it back home with with some scissors and a patch of black velour from an old pair of sweat pants.

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Much more comfortable.

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Lainey and her friend both opted for Little Bo Peep this year, despite the mamas' attempts to sway them toward individuality.

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Lainey chose a policeman for Brett, but he looks like Mario.

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And I am forever enthralled by the enchanting Audrey.

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We joined the throng of costumes in the march along our streets, and I smiled as I watched the line of littles grow.

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*****

We had another costume birthday party yesterday...

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...and the mailman brought us a gift just in time--flamenco dresses from my friend Janita's trip to Spain.

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Thanks to Lainey's boa and a few feathers, a black dress turned into a flapper for me.

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And we'll do it all over again tonight.

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*****

If I've relentlessly reiterated one theme, it is that of balance--ebb and flow, yin and yang, home and away. I've thought about it a lot this weekend, especially after coming home from a jam-packed trip. I'm not a good traveler. I'm not particularly fond of our family being separated, and I get all sorts of knots in my stomach as I'm packing my suitcase. But once the plane is in the air, I get excited, and when I'm meeting new people and learning new things, I feel that rush--that surge of adrenaline that whispers to every cell in my body "you are living...you are doing something good...you are reaching your potential." I like that feeling. I like the motivation and inspiration that comes with challenging myself. I come home telling stories, reflecting on what I learned, remembering details that I want my kids to know someday. I am always glad I made room for travel and opportunities and stretching my boundaries, and often, on the way home, I'm wondering what our next adventure will be.

But home. Oh, home.

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Travel and busy schedules contrast it deservingly, and this time of year, I appreciate everything we strive to create in our home. And while, yes, every day of the year is important, the last months of the year are the grand finale. Tonight, as we welcome friends and pour hot wassail and light every candle in the house, we initiate the rituals of togetherness that will follow.

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I love this time of year because of it.

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*****

Sponsor, Scentsy Independent Consultant, Jessica Clough, is back again and I love what she has to offer this month. Jessica is donating all of her commission from Nella's Fundraiser Party to Nella's Rockstars fund (100% of proceeds benefit the National Down Syndrome Society).

As I type, I have my Clove & Cinnamon burning, and there isn't a day this time of year that our house doesn't smell like Autumn Sunset, Weathered Leather, or my current favorite, Autumn Stroll. Buy from Nella's Fundraiser Party, and your purchase will do more than just make your kitchen smell good.

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*****

Tomorrow is November. Can you beleive it? Bring it.

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*****

Have fun tonight. We'll be back tomorrow with a Hallmark sponsored post.

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Any hot Halloween plans tonight? Any fabulous costumes? Do tell! (And link up your blog if you have a great costume to share!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Moving Forward

We are home. And I just want to sit and let that statement simmer for a bit because the ever so comforting idea of home is worth simmering.

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This little welcome? Oh, you should have seen it. I don't know whose face was more fun to watch--the girls or Brett's.

I've been "under water" for the last four days and only now coming up for air. I can honestly say I don't think I sat one time but to eat or make it through an airplane ride since Monday.

And while we're on the subject, can we talk about this picture in the airplane safety handbook?

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This man is having entirely too much fun. He's, like, air born. And his hands are all "Wheeeeee!" in the air which, I'm sure, is not how it goes when there's really an emergency.

Moving on.

We were a hot mess of travel today. A strollers collapsing, kids crying, bag schlepping kind of mess. And, at 7:15 in the morning, I literally chased the Budget rental car shuttle bus, waving my arms and screaming, as it drove away with one of my suitcases. You should have seen me. I was fast. And loud. And I caught him.

Before I begin to unravel any sort of description for this week, I must start out with some important news.

Early Wednesday morning, just minutes before I left our hotel for the first day of shooting, a little something happened. I was nervous. This kind of photography experience is completely new to me, and I felt a little out of my element. Nella perhaps sensed my anxiety. Because Sister smiled and took her very first steps for me, wobbly but sure. (She's walked for our P.T., but it doesn't count until Mama sees it)

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Houston, we have a walker. Video to come.

This experience is pertinent to everything this week meant. Seriously, as I was triple checking battery back-up and lenses and chanting to myself convincingly, "You're going to rock this out," my girl looks up, smiles and moves forward.

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It is about moving forward.

I became involved in this project back in August when I met Colette in San Diego at Blog Her. Colette is the Senior Brand Manager for Infantino. She welcomed her second child, sweet Dexter, eight months ago and, like me, was surprised to find out her little man came with something extra.

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When Colette welcomed her beautiful son, she also welcomed the opportunity to affect positive change. She started Down Right Awesome and invited her company and its sister company, Step 2 Toys, to join forces in an amazing campaign that recognizes the beauty and abilities of all children. I am so proud to be part of it.

We began the week with a trip to UCSD where Colette and I had the opportunity to tour the lab of Dr. Mobley, one of the top researchers for the neurobiology of Down syndrome. (he was part of a week long series on KPBS last week. You can hear it HERE)

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It was fascinating. Dr. Mobley's team passionately explained some of the research that is currently in progress that could potentially increase the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome. And though I didn't understand all of what was explained (these people are very smart), I did understand the powerful underlying message of...progress.

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We are moving forward.

This theme continued as the week progressed.

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Twitter party at Farm (thank you to everyone who participated and apologies for not being very Twitter savvy).


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Lunch at Infantino which may just have the most connected, kind and passionate family of staff ever.

Photobucket Lainey's shirt from my talented friend, Dig.

And finally, the photo shoot.

For two days, nine hours straight, the camera furiously snapped. Technically, it was fascinating--a well-oiled machine. Product photography has a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts that go into creating images for packaging and websites, and I will never pick up a rattle in Target again without appreciating that little picture of the baby smiling on the back. However, this shoot was different. While it was indeed a product shoot, it was so much more than that. It was an experience that combined a whole lot of passionate people, beautiful children, and the hope of moving forward.

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It was beautiful, and it was clearly evident that everyone involved knew this was more than just a toy campaign.

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One of my favorite moments? I was shooting three kids in one shady corner-- sweating, smiling, framing these perfect moments and oblivious to everything else around me--and someone came up, tapped me and said, "Um, we have a little magic going on behind you." I turned my head and there, on a huge play blanket spread out a few yards behind me, was a slew of babies. All quietly playing. There was a huddle of parents standing by and no one said a word. Babies--red hair, curly hair, fair skin, chocolate skin, almond eyes, round eyes--all smiling. Shaking rattles, touching each others' cheeks, exploring the world around them.

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And my finger went wild on that shutter button while I quietly choked back tears behind the shield of my camera.

I am so proud of Infantino and Step 2 for taking advertising where it should go.

Everybody plays.


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And this week, I saw it. Chidren of all abilities came together and they happily played. It had nothing to do with differences and everything to do with the magic of childhood. I feel so lucky to have been right there, in the middle of it.

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There are so many more pictures--ones I am aching to show you, and I wish I could post more, but most of them highlight new toys that haven't hit the shelves yet, so I can't let you peek. They'll come soon enough though. And lucky for all of you, you'll be seeing these beautiful children in Infantino and Step 2 marketing to come. A lot of love and thought went into these toys and campaign, and I met so many of the people behind them this week. Amazing people.

Parents, what a pleasure it was to meet you--to get to spend a few moments with the children you are so lucky to love every day.

We are moving forward.

Thank you to this awesome chick who assisted me this week.

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Tasha is a photographer in San Diego and moving soon to Washington state. She's fantastic--fun, easy, helpful--and her work is beautiful. If you're in that area and looking for a photographer, check out Tasha Reifschneider.

It was a long week. But good.

Photobucket Wednesday night dinner with a slew of awesome peeps at The Station.

Thank you to everyone who so kindly welcomed us--to everyone who radiated excitement for what this all means. Thank you to my dad who watched the girls all week and managed the GPS through confusing San Diego freeways.

And my girls...so glad I got to be with them this week. They were troopers.

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Nella's cute duds: Tea Collection.

And tomorrow? The whipped cream and cherry on the very delightful sundae we enjoyed this week. It's our neighborhood costume parade. And we are home. Delicious.

You didn't think I'd sign off without a Friday photo dump, did you?

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Happy Weekend. Happy to be home. Happy to be moving forward.

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A greeting card from our hotel gift shop.

Let the party continue.

Monday, October 24, 2011

San Diego Part One

On a few hours of sleep and some time zone confusion here, so I'm keeping it quick.

San Diego welcomed us late this morning, and if we would have planned this trip just two weeks later, we could have hit up the National Tattoo Expo while we were here--there are signs for it everywhere. You can't win 'em all, I guess.

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*****

It seems this entire last week has been full of celebrating and honoring and being aware. Friday night, I joined some friends in my first Stilette Sprint for Breast Cancer. The sun spilled its glory onto Fifth Avenue, perfectly timed to set right as the stampede of pink-wearing, stiletto-strutting participants trotted (carefully) in celebration.

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It felt good to be there, surrounded by such passion. I loved seing "Survivor" painted across so many t-shirts. And I have to admit, I loved the shoes--even if they were accompanied by hairy legs.

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I ran (walked/hobbled/tripped) for my friend Elizabeth who is battling breast cancer right now. She is a strong, fierce mama.

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*****

The rest of this week, we will continue to celebrate, and there will be much more to share as the events of our busy week unfold.

Today, we settled in though.

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Thank you, Infantino, for my shirt!

With a trip to the San Diego Zoo where we held our breath on our scenic tram car ride...

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Yes, that's a sticker on my glasses and no, it's not the first time.

...beheld the wonder of the polar bear...

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...and enjoyed a front row seat, just an inch of glass apart from a very entertaining baby gorilla.

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This gorilla rubbed his butt against the glass right in front of Lainey, and she was a hysterical heap of laughter.

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The girls have found opportunities to make up for our early morning and shifted schedule.

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I, on the other hand, have not.

But before I'm off to bed, I'm dusting off my Twitter handle to join a great Twitter party tomorrow, and we'd love to have you be a part of it.

Join @momcentral tomorrow from 3-4PM ET for the #EverybodyPlays Twitter
Party to celebrate the differences that make every baby unique!

Tomorrow from 3-4PM ET @MomCentral, @Infantino, and @KelleHampton (that's me--ha)will be hosting the #EverybodyPlays Twitter Party! There will be some great Infantino & Step2 Product Bundle giveaways too!

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Finally, Tea Collection is returning as a sponsor this month, and it's timed appropriately as their site is full of some lovely fall eye candy right now. Tea continually offers unique and colorful clothing inspired by different regions and cultures.

I am in love with their new Puebla graphic jacket.

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And these wear-with-anything funky tennis shoes.

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I'm so happy to have Tea Collection on board again--and their value statement makes me smile. Check them out!

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It will be an inspiring week, and I'm excited to be a part of Infantino's campaign to recognize the beauty of all children. And thank you for your support on Nella's Rockstars Buddy Walk Fund. I smiled when I checked it today. Your kindness is making a difference. The Buddy Walk Fund will stay up until the end of the month because it doesn't want the party to end quite yet.


More to come. I'll try and share some of the shoot on Facebook throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday.

Until then, you stay classy, San Diego. (I've been waiting forever to appropriately use that).

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