Lunch Box Love Notes (Part II)

I had the intention of creating piles of little lunch box love notes to tuck into school lunches (as I did for Lucia last year).  But after having Bob join me in the love note making process, it was decided that he would be the one holding the Crayola markers at night.

Can you guess which side of the pile I made?

Lunch Box Love Notes

Although I think Bob’s Ninjas are a little strange for a preschooler’s lunch box – Adrian definitely LOVES them.  It’s impressive to see what Bob can whip up in a matter of minutes.  I wish that I had that sort of talent.  I’m enjoying tucking a bit of homemade love into coolers and listening to after-school chatter about what picture they found.  It’s often the small gestures that make my kids most happy.


Halloween Costumes & Imaginative Play {a Chasing Fireflies Review}

Adrian and Lucia love all aspects of playing dress up; taking on a specific character; concocting elaborate stories, and entering make-believe worlds.  I adore watching the creativity that comes along with putting on a costume.  It is truly childhood at its best.  Although we have a lot of costumes and props in our house (mostly Lucia’s), the majority have partially-disintegrated after only a few wearings.

Naturally, Halloween is a big deal for the kids.  And Lucia and Adrian study the Chasing Fireflies Wishcraft catalog as soon as it arrives each year (as mentioned in last year’s Halloween post).  We were in the midst of making costume decisions when a request to test out Chasing Fireflies Halloween costumes serendipitously appeared.   Although part of me really wanted to dress the kids as matching little gnomes (how cute would that be?!).  I absolutely LOVE Adrian and Lucia’s ultimate costume choices.

I was incredibly excited for Adrian, whose costume collection pales in comparison to his sister’s exploding tulle drawer.  He is so proud of his Ninja Warrior costume and has worn a portion of it nearly ever single day (including the gold lame belt over his regular clothes).  Since Chasing Fireflies craftsmanship is exceptional, I don’t have to worry about the costume deteriorating before October 31st.  I’m so glad that my boy can Ninja on until his little heart desires.  The costume came with a gold headband/lower facial scarf, however, this Ninja doesn’t get down with wearing things on his head.  It also came with a super blunt toy sword.  I imagine that Adrian would be ALL OVER this, but his mama doesn’t get down with that sort of stuff right now.  But who knows, that stance may change soon as my parenting philosophies often do.

Without further ado, behold the stealthy Ninja:

ninja costume

He appears, covertly, to protect endangered corners of New York City.

ninja costume boys

He is well known for his slick moves and insistence on particular footwear.

ninja costume 5 pointz

He may use his superhuman smile to leverage others.

ninja costume for boys

It is believed that forces of evil plummet in his mere presence.

ninja costume boys chasing fireflies

The Ninja’s big sister fell in love with so many of the Chasing Fireflies costume options.  Their collection for girls is truly whimsical.  Many of the Fairyesque costumes could even be worn again for a birthday or special event.  Lucia’s magnificent costume choice reflects one of her current obsessions…

Meet the Magical Unicorn who lives in the enchanted forest:

unicorn costume chasing fireflies girls

It is here that she summons her mystical powers.

unicorn girls costume

And spends much of her time searching for magical gems (a.k.a acorns) to tuck deep into her special collection (a drawer under her bed).

unicorn costume chasing fireflies

She catches the power and energy of the sun through her spiral horn, as her dazzling white coat and magnificent flowing pink tail shimmer in the light.

unicorn halloween costume

She is known throughout the woodlands for her joy-spreading spirit and ability to find magic in the every day.

unicorn costume girls

For standout quality Halloween costumes that inspire hours of imaginative play, visit the Chasing Fireflies website.

The above costumes were provided by Chasing Fireflies for review purposes.  All opinions and content in this post are my own.


The 2013 Barbie Dreamhouse {Sponsored}

Casa Marino recently had a significant toy-overhaul in preparation for something big (really big!).  Upon learning that Barbie’s new 2013 Dreamhouse would be taking residence in our home, we encouraged Lucia to gather some of her toys to donate.  As she packed up her old dollhouses with chubby figurines – they suddenly seemed appropriate for toddlers and not a girl soon entering the first grade.  And while she waited for the day that the delivery man would ring, I felt as if I understood her childhood excitement.  As a little girl, Barbie’s Dreamhouse was the sort of thing that I circled in toy catalogs – to say Lucia (and her little brother) were enamored when the gigantic package arrived is an understatement.

Since assembly (which requires time and patience!), the modern three story, 3-1/2 foot luxury Dreamhouse has not gone untouched while little people are home.  Among other amenities, Barbie’s newly renovated Dreamhouse boasts six rooms, “stainless steel” appliances, two functional pull-string elevators, lights and sound effects galore, and over 50 pieces of included accessories.

Photographer DennisStylist Cheryl JoLucia’s play is shifting and becoming more sophisticated.  She gravitates towards toys with movable parts and accessories. Lucia loves playing with the interchangeable pieces, and the design incorporates a mechanism for keeping all of the tiny elements secure.  A swirling decorative lattice is woven through every room (and shelving unit), functioning as a surface to secure interchangeable parts.  The tabletop has tiny spots to mount dining essentials and little loops for Barbie to hold accessories on her own.

Barbie Dreamhouse 2013

The included puppy and many kitchen accessories are regularly played with.  With the touch of a button, the blender has sound effects and the oven lights up.  These little details are the sort of things that my children adore.

playing with barbie Dream House 2013

To Lucia’s delight the toilet makes a flushing sound – which is perhaps her favorite element!  The bathroom is also loaded with surprises.  Barbie serenades her little guests when she enters the shower and steps on her bathmat.  Even her bathroom vanity has sound effects.

Barbie Dream House Bathroom

When I was first invited to work with Barbie, I realized how much my parenting philosophies have changed as Lucia has grown. Although I played with Barbie dolls and even saved my hand-me-down Barbie collection to pass on to my own daughter – I had very different ideals when I first gave birth to a girl.  I once imagined shielding Lucia from Barbie, and many other toys marketed to young girls. Living through each moment, and watching my baby become an incredibly imaginative girl, shifted my seemingly narrow perspective.  Barbie and her new Dreamhouse have been vehicles for cultivating highly creative play and elaborate storylines.  I have observed Lucia working out her emotions as her Barbie dolls take on characters and explore different roles within the 6-room house.  Sometimes they sound exactly like me (gasp!) and sometimes they help Lucia work out her fears in a safe context.  Barbie often looks in her vanity mirror, as her friends assure her that it’s OK to feel scared about loosing at tooth.  And while Lucia loves to dress and admire her Barbies and accessories, the dolls also spend time in the dressing room cultivating dreams.  The Barbies are currently co-authoring a novel (about magical unicorns) on their folding laptop.  I can’t wait to hear it.  Barbie’s wardrobe elevator transports garments for quick costume changes between the dressing room and bathroom, but it is also utilized by the pet dog who dispenses home cooked meals for everyone to share.

2013 Barbie Dreamhouse_edited-1

Under Lucia’s care, Barbie’s central elevator often transforms into a magical rocket ship that propels (vintage) Barbie into neighboring planets.

Barbie Dreamhouse 2013 #barbieismoving

astronaut barbie

I imagine many years of childhood dreams brewed inside this big pink house.

The Barbie Dreamhouse can be purchased at Walmart and retail stores nationwide for $184.99 (MSRP).



I was selected to participate in this sponsored campaign for One2One Network.  I received monetary compensation and the above product to facilitate this post, however all opinions stated are my own. 


The Morning Hustle

I have loved our fluid summer mornings.  The wake up brigade prances in with snuggles.  Our days begin and end with books.  Costumes are changed, smoothies are made, and open schedules allow for serious sibling play.

Mama is calm. Calm!!!


While we are welcoming changes in the next few weeks, I’m a bit sad about letting my baby birds go.  With characters to help build and values to instill, I truly cherish our full days together.  Children are sponges and little mirrors.  They are constantly reminding me to watch my own behavior – as mama bird still has a pretty powerful influence on the sorts of  things that take permanent residence in their hearts and minds.  For me, motherhood is a perpetual cycle of self-evaluation.  I’m imperfect, but I want to be their best example.

I want to avoid being the school-morning chaos cultivator and somehow build upon the momentum of our peaceful summer starts.  I’m honestly pretty terrified.  With little ones to send off to two different schools (on our feet!) and an earlier start time, I know I need to figure out a system that works.

I have a few things in mind..earlier bedtimes, nighttime preparation, detailed kiddo charts, and time for morning silliness.  I want to listen to Adrian’s descriptions of  his food morphing into animal shapes as he eats.  And I want my children to walk out the door holding my hand with smiles on their faces.  I don’t want to loose my cool, and pray that the morning manic stays far far away.

I’m open to suggestions!!  And it you ever need a dose of  gratitude, as I often do, please read this article.


Back To School Guide – Favorite Products

It is almost time for us to begin a new school year and some of our friends have already have already gone back!  While we are savoring the last bits of summer – preparation mode is in full swing.  The kids have been wearing the life out of their costumes and dress up clothes, and we’ve been cherishing our last few non-rushed mornings.  I’ve been replenishing the homemade lunch-box love notes and organizing as much as possible.  Here are some of our favorite products for back to school:

Back to School Guide

1. Cole Haan Air Paul Chukka Boots –  These brown boots with fun orange accents will give my little man a polished look at his new school.  The suede outer shoe stays put with a well made traction outsole that will keep his busy little feet grounded during serious play.

2.  Learn With Homer – With busy schedules and very limited screen time, I need to ensure that device time is educational.  This new iPad app provides customized learning aligned with Common Core standards.  The illustrations are beautiful, and the content is presented in a fun and engaging way.  We were invited to test a variety of iPad apps this summer, and Homer is by far the best.

3.  Mabel’s Labels –  With lots of gear to keep track of, labels are a must!  We have been happy with Mabel’s Labels because they are dishwasher safe and waterproof.  They also come in a variety of sizes and colors.

4.  FAB Starpoint Piggy Banks –  It is important to teach fiscal responsibility from a young age and we like incorporating banks that the kids are excited about.  Lucia and Adrian love their superwoman and superman piggy banks – available at Walmart stores (but not online) for only $9.88.

5.  Dermalogica Skin Resurfacing Cleanser – I’m trying to take better care of my aging (gasp!) skin, but need a streamlined quick and effective regime.  This convenient two-in-one product cleanses and exfoliates with highly-active lactic acid. Specially formulated to rejuvenate, hydrate and brighten the skin – I’ve noticed a difference over the course of one week.

6.  KIND  Bars – These healthy bars are comprised of delicious ingredients (that are visible!).  Best of all they are packed with protein and substantially less sugar than most bars that are marketed to children (some of our favorite KIND flavors have only 4 grams of sugar).  My children love them, and they are the perfect after school treat. Now through September, KIND is calling all snack savvy moms to take a snapshot (via Instagram or Twitter) of their kids’ healthy school lunch boxes (and tag it #kindawesome lunch box) for a chance to win a case of KIND!

7.  Vineyard Vines Girls Carousel Cardigan – With unpredictable indoor temperatures, it helps to layer clothing.  This versatile cardigan with pretty grosgrain covered buttons is a great addition to any wardrobe.

What are some of your back-to-school favorites?

Wishing you all the best with new school year ahead!

Items 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 were given to me for review purposes.  All images are via brands.  As always, all opinions are my own. 


To Be Five – Vindie Baby {Giveaway}

At five, Lucia is a little tornado of energy and excitement, capable of spinning, and singing all day long.  I envy her seemingly endless energy reserves.  At five, Lucia’s clean up skills still leave something to be desired.  In lieu of putting everything away, she arranges her special possessions in artistic ways.  As I work through my own frustrations of messes not fully cleaned, I am always happy to find her elaborately adorned My Little Pony shrines in unknown corners of our home.  With five-and-a half came her fist loose tooth and childhood dreams to enter the first grade with a visit from the Tooth Fairy under her belt.  She recently told her father that he is not the boss of her mind.  No one is, and I hope that she lives by those words forever.  Lately, she seems so big, yet still so little in so many ways.  I’m grateful that she still needs the comfort of her mama’s arms.  Although she has been asking much deeper questions, at five she still lives in childhood innocence.  I wish that I could protect her heart forever, yet I am proud of her courage and budding resilience – qualities that can only be earned from working things out on her own.  She is a huge personality endowed to me, and I often remind myself that my moments with her today help to form the shape of her tomorrows.

One of my favorite places to watch her is at the beach, where she is free and full of  joy.  Her arms flail wide open as she runs to the water.  I understand the freedom she feels with her feet in the sand.

vindie baby dress

vindie baby dress on the beach

vindie baby dress giveaway


Lucia is still very much into wearing dresses and costumes.  Magnificent twirl power is always a plus.  This sweet dress was sent to us from Vindie Baby, an online affordable boutique with lovely and unique garments for little girls.  Lucia has decided that this will be her first-day-of-first-grade dress.  The cotton floral bodice makes the dress comfortable and casual enough to wear to school.  And the tulle excitement makes it quite the special occasion dress.

WIN IT:  Vindie baby is kindly giving away this dress (available in sizes 2 – 5) to one lucky winner.

TO ENTER: Simply leave a comment below.

ADDITIONAL EASY ENTRY: for Vindie Baby followers on Facebook.

ADDITIONAL EASY ENTRY: for MarinoBambinos followers on Facebook.

Three entries total and please leave a separate comment for each.  A winner will be selected in one week (US only).  Best of Luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations Christine!

Vindie Baby provided me with the above dress for review purposes.  As always, all opinions and content are my own.