Things to Do - Moms Demand Action's Be SMART campaign

Lobby day picture

We haven't heard from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in awhile now, so I asked them to update us on their campaign for common sense gun laws. As a gun-owning family (Dan hunts), Moms Demand Actions's new BE SMART campaign is near and dear to my heart (all of our firearms are kept in locked gun safes).

No matter how strongly you feel about gun rights issues, I think we can all agree that, as a society, we need to keep children away from loaded firearms in the home.

So please read below as Moms Demand Action member Kristin Jones updates us on how best to do this.

How often do we hear about children unintentionally shooting and injuring — or even killing — themselves or others after accessing an unsecured gun? Many of these shootings have a common thread: they may have been prevented if adults safely stored their guns. Tragically, as happened recently in Lunenburg, Virginia, a two-year-old boy unintentionally shot and killed himself after accessing a handgun in the dresser drawer of a family friend’s home.

Gun safety starts with everyone – gun owners and non gun owners alike – to ensure that a gun never gets into a child’s hands in the first place — and that means practicing safe storage, like keeping guns locked in a safe.

These types of shootings are preventable and why Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America recently launched a campaign called Be SMART. Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of American mothers fighting for public safety measures that respect the Second Amendment and protect people from gun violence.

Be SMART aims to prevent unintentional child shootings by promoting the safe storage of guns. This new public education campaign asks gun owners and non-gun owners alike to come together to reduce the number of unintentional shootings, suicides and homicides that occur when firearms are not stored responsibly and children or teens get ahold of a gun. Every year, about 100 children 17-years-old and younger die in unintentional shootings, and more than 400 die by suicide with a gun. Many of these deaths are entirely preventable with responsible gun storage. These are five steps that can help keep kids safer:

S – Secure guns in homes and vehicles.

M – Model responsible behavior.

A – Ask about unsecured guns in other homes.

R – Recognize the risk of teen suicide.

T – Tell your peers to be SMART.

I know it’s difficult to talk about guns with other parents but as a mom of two elementary school kids, I now make sure to ask other parents about guns in their households and how they’re stored prior to my children’s playdates.

It may seem like an awkward conversation to have the first time, but parents already ask about allergies and backyard pools. Access to guns is a safety risk too.

I recently posed the question to the mother of my son’s new friend when I took him to the house for their first playdate. She said they do have guns, followed by an emphatic, “we keep them secured in the basement.”

Yet, with all the playdates my kids have been on, no one has ever asked me about a gun in my home. I think it’s because they do not think about it or they feel too awkward about bringing it up. If we are to increase child safety by lowering child access to firearms however, not only should we ask the question we should also be transparent. When kids come to our house for instance, I now ask about allergies and self-disclose that we do no have guns in our house.

Having conversations about gun safety and safe storage with children and their playmates’ parents are conversations that no parent can afford to skip. Maybe if we all start these awkward conversations, our communities will endure fewer tragedies like the one in Lunenburg. But talking isn’t enough. It is important gun owners take the necessary steps to properly secure their guns when children are in their homes.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.besmartforkids.org. Click here to download a useful handout to help you learn how to talk about responsible gun storage.

- Kristin Jones


Things to Do - Grateful List (May 2015)


* Watching Footlose (the original) with P
* Watching Empire
* Reading Station Eleven
* Reading The Wallcreeper
* Wyatt Cernac live at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse
* The Tallest Man on Earth live at the Lincoln Theater
* Watching Jasmine Star's The Complete Wedding Photographer Experience on CreativeLive

* T and his whoopie cushion (so much happiness)
* Fitbit challenges (even when I lose)
* Soccer practice at dusk
* F's straight A report card (neither P nor T receive grades yet)
* A perfect Mother's Day - Monkey Kingdom at the drafthouse with cheese fries, the library, a fantastic photoshoot with a new client at night, and steak salad for dinner (thank you Dan!)
* Moms and wine on our porch
* Cava, Legally Blond, and facials for mom/daughter night with P and F
* P as Sacagawea for wax museum night
* Family dog walks at dusk
* Fris-bat (frisbee baseball with a stick) - the children's newest front yard obsession
* F's spring concert
* Dinner under the stars for dinner club
* 2 new family photoshoots with fantastic new clients
* P - "Mom, we used to be so little and have such great imaginations and now all we want is an iphone."

VACATION (Savannah, GA Moms' Weekend)
* Peach sangria at City Market
* Billy's Place for dinner ("In My Life" on the piano)
* "Big Ugly Fat Fuckers Eating Together" - The Lady Chablis on buffets
* J Crew and Gap sale racks
* Slow ride pub crawl
* How skinny I look next to drag queens
* Watermelon ice tea
* Fried green tomato BLTs

VACATION (Memorial Day Beach House)
* Everyone's signature "thing" - The Dori, hairstyle; The Hector, howl; The Melissa, mango-rita, tonic, vodka, and a splash of lime
* Sunday night dance party
* Pool, hot tub, beach, repeat
* 39 people working together
* 75 degree weather
* F kayaking with dolphins
* Smores on the beach and glowsticks in the dark
* F helping with the little kids


F - Minions, peace, love, my family, a nice house to live in and food to eat, that everything is so great, my teacher, reading, the beach

P - Freya's amazing concert, my family, Minions, my teacher, dog walks, our beach house, the swimming pool

T - Freya's concert, my long playdate with Ian and Mateo, my teachers, the beach house, playing, my family, the hot tub


Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (Kids' Reading, June 2015)

Painted in Waterlogue

1. Minions: The Junior Novel
- All three of my kids are somewhat Minion obsessed. I don't quite understand, I mean they're funny enough as co-stars, but I can't imagine a whole movie of just Minions. But F read the book and loved it. So who am I to judge?

2. Meet the Dullards - After I read about the Dullards on Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes, I immediately reserved a copy from our library. And it did not disappoint. Especially when the Dullards LITERALLY watch paint dry. My kids could not stop laughing.

3. History Safari - My mom mailed History Safari to the kids after discovering it in a thrift store. And since then it has become T's favorite book. I'm not sure why (he's too young for the text), but the pictures are very detailed, so he enjoys looking at them and asking us questions about ancient times.

4. WALT DISNEY'S STORYLAND : 55 Favorite Stories Adapted from Walt Disney Films - I loved this book as a child. And even with a battered covered and destroyed spine, my kids seem to enjoy the old stories as much as I did. Davy Crockett. Pinocchio. Paul Bunyan. So much fun to discover them all again.


Things to Do - Interview the Kids (June 2015)

Every six months or so . . . (click here to see past interviews).

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interview (5 of 6)

F (AGE 9.5)

FAVORITE BOOK - Out of My Mind, Holes, Almost Home, Silver in the Blood, Garfield comics
FAVORITE SUBJECT AT SCHOOL (3rd grade) - Reading, science
FAVORITE SONG - Taylor Swift and Katie Perry songs; Uptown Funk
FAVORITE FOOD - Steak, mashed potatoes, turkey, and chocolate cake
FAVORITE MOVIE - Singing in the Rain, Legally Blond
FAVORITE TOY - Sophia (My American Girl doll)
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - Scientist/author/poet
BEST FRIEND - Mika, Alessandra, Natalia
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS SUMMER? - Go to Menchies, go to Europe, go to the pool
FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THIS WINTER/SPRING - When P dumped an icebucket on her head for the ASL challenge; Mt. Everest at Disney World

interview (1 of 6)
interview (4 of 6)

P (AGE 8.5)

FAVORITE BOOK - A Long Walk to Water, The Big Nate series, Babysitters Club comic books
FAVORITE SUBJECT AT SCHOOL (2nd grade) - Gym class, math, music, economics
FAVORITE SONG - This Is How We Do; Titanium; The One that Got Away; Uptown Funk
FAVORITE FOOD - Tacos and daddy's blueberry cobbler
FAVORITE MOVIE - The Hunger Games; Divergent
FAVORITE TV SHOW - Liv and Maddie; Jessie; Casey Undercover
FAVORITE TOY - Can it be a sport? I love soccer.
WHAT I'M SAVING UP ALLOWANCE FOR (OR ALREADY SPENT IT ON) - A giant talking Minion; I'm saving up for vacation this summer
FAVORITE FAMOUS PERSON - Katie Perry, Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama, and our first future girl president
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - Interior designer or video game designer
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A FAMILY - Family boardgames and family TV shows (Parks and Rec; How the States Got Their Shapes)
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - Go on vacations, the beach, fishing with dad
FAVORITE THING TO DO AFTER SCHOOL - Playdates and soccer practice
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH T - The bunk bed game, the dog walking business, making videos, and wrestling for fun (I always win)
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH F - baseball, the dog walking business, and making videos
DREAM VACATION - London, the Amazon rain forest, and Hawaii
FAVORITE MUSEUM - The Spy museum
FAVORITE SEASON - fall, it's fun to play in the leaves and the weather is perfect, plus there aren't a lot of bugs
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS SUMMER? - Go to Europe, Camp Troutman, and speech lessons
FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THIS WINTER/SPRING - Snow days, visiting Grandma T, NYE party at Dori's house, sledding, hot cocoa

interview (2 of 6)
interview (3 of 6)

T (AGE 6)

FAVORITE BOOK - The Civil War book
FAVORITE SUBJECT AT SCHOOL (Kindergarten) - PE and music
FAVORITE SONG - The Eye of the Tiger
FAVORITE FOOD - Waffles, yogurt, tomatoes, and apples
FAVORITE TV SHOW - Kickin It, Max Steel
FAVORITE TOY - Cocoa; guns and swords
WHAT I'M SAVING UP ALLOWANCE FOR (OR ALREADY SPENT IT ON) - A bow and arrow; I really want a cross-bow toy
BEST FRIEND - Ian and Graham
FAVORITE THING TO DO AFTER SCHOOL - Playdates with Ian and Graham
FAVORITE MUSEUM - The Crime and Punishment museum
FAVORITE SEASON - Summer, because of my birthday
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS SUMMER? - Go to the Museum of Crime and Punishment; baseball games


Things to Make - Shea Butter Lavender Bath Bombs

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In the past, the kids and I attempted bath bombs a few times, all of which, until now, have been drastic failures (i.e. huge bubbly messes that overtake our counter tops). But we finally figured out a recipe that works for us, just in time for last week's teacher gifts (T had three teachers in his classroom this year, as did F. P only had one, but that's still seven teachers overall, which equals A LOT of gifting).

SHEA BUTTER LAVENDER BATH BOMBS (adapted from this recipe):

* 5 drops lavender essential oil (feel free to use more or less depending on how strong you want the smell)(available here)
* 1.5 cups baking soda
* 2 tablespoons epson salt (available here)
* 3/4 cup citric acid (available here)
* 2 tablespoons melted shea butter (available here)
* 1/4 cup water (though you won't use all of it)
* A few drops of food coloring if desired
* Minced lavender (optional)

1. Mix the baking soda and salt. Then add the fragrance. Mix well.
2. Add the shea butter and mix again.
3. Add the citric acid last (because it will react with the liquids if the liquids aren't well mixed). Mix.
4. Add the water about 1 teaspoon at a time. Mix well after you add each teaspoon, as to avoid a reaction.
5. Once the mixture feels like wet sand (clumpy enough that you can mold it into balls), stop adding water. DO NOT OVER ADD THE WATER OR YOU'LL END UP WITH A BUBBLY MESS, TRUST ME; if you think you're almost there then start adding drops of water instead of teaspoons).
6. Either use molds to make the bath bombs (like an ice cube tray) or form the mixture into small balls using your hands (we found that making balls worked best, as everything tended to stick to the molds).
7. Let dry overnight.


Things to Do - Take One Sh**** Photo a Day (May 2015)

In 2010, I undertook a 365 day project (one photo a day for a year, you can see some of the photos here). The whole experience made me grow as a photographer, but by the end I was ready for the project to end (my camera became a burden).

For the past five years I've tried to take on a similar project, but I couldn't make it work. I hated when the photos were bad or wrong and I constantly felt overwhelmed by the daily pressure to create something wonderful. Then, a few months ago, I stumbled upon this article, which made me realize that I needed to look at things in a new light.

Instead of pressuring myself to make something amazing, I'd allow myself the freedom to make something shitty. Lots of shitty images. Because, often, if you take enough shitty images, you'll stumble onto something non-shitty right around the corner.

And, crazily, without the pressure of perfection, I managed to capture some really "true" moments of our family life. So here they are, at least one photo a day (some days I added a few extra), from every day except May 12 and May 15th (for reasons I no longer remember, I felt incredibly lazy on the 12th and 15th). I tried to only include "outakes", but for the beach days I went with a few of my better shots.

If you need a creativity boost, I highly suggest taking shitty photos. Because sometimes shitty = awesome.

HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!! Today's the last day of school and tomorrow is the solstice, so summer has finally arrived!


Things to Watch - 7 Great TV Comedies on Netflix Streaming

1. Freaks and Geeks - Sadly, this show only lasted one perfect season. While not a comedy per se, I often laughed (and sometimes cried). High school is hard.

2. Parks and Recreation - Leslie Knope is my hero. Seriously.

3. The League - I keep telling everyone that this is, without a doubt, the absolute funniest show on TV. Probably ever. If you're not watching it, you are missing out.

4. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Watching It's Always Sunny feels similar to eating high-calorie cheesecake, in that the experience seems wonderful in the moment, but afterwards I feel bad about myself.** Oh well, there are nine seasons and we've watched every one.

5. Arrested Development - We almost named F May Be after our favorite character on Arrested Development (which, in retrospect, would have been a disaster once Carly Ray Jepsen dominated the pop charts). We're currently rewatching all the original episodes and laughing A LOT.

6. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The theme song alone is awesome. As are the show titles, "Kimmy rides a bike!", "Kimmy goes on a date!", "Kimmy kisses a boy!". Truly a show worthy of the exclamation marks in every episode.

7. How the States Got Their Shapes
- History made amusing.

So what did I miss? What are you watching?

** The show's Wikipedia page describes this ickiness in more detail, "Each member of the gang shows varying degrees of dishonesty, egotism, selfishness, greed, pettiness, ignorance, laziness and unethical behavior, and they are often engaged in controversial activities. Episodes usually find them hatching elaborate schemes, conspiring against one another and others for personal gain, vengeance, or simply for the entertainment of watching one another's downfall. They habitually inflict mental, emotional and physical pain. They regularly use blackmail to manipulate one another and others outside of the group.

Their unity is never solid - any of them would quickly dump any one of the others for quick profit or personal gain regardless of the consequences. Everything they do results in contention among themselves and much of the show's dialogue involves the characters arguing or yelling at one another. Despite their lack of success or achievement, The Gang maintain high opinions of themselves and display an obsessive interest in their own reputations and public images. Despite this high sense of self-worth, The Gang has no sense of shame when attempting to get what they want and often engages in activities which others would find humiliating, disgusting, or even preposterous, such as smoking crack cocaine in order to qualify for welfare, seducing a priest, driving while eating cereal, hiding naked inside a leather couch in order to spy on someone, and even foraging in the sewers for rings and coins."



Things to Eat - Tomato Lentil Mustard Salad & Our Four Week Meal Plan

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TOMATO LENTIL MUSTARD SALAD (slightly adapted from IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great)

* 1 cup lentils (I buy the bag of cooked lentils at Trader Joe's)
* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoon course seeded mustard
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* Sea salt
* 1 small red onion, diced (optional)
* 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
* 1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley

1. If you are starting with dry lentils, bring a pot of salted water to boil, add lentils, turn heat to medium, and cook about 20 minutes (check to make sure the lentils are cooked through). Then drain the lentils and add them to a large bowl.

2. If you are starting with pre-cooked lentils, add them to a bowl.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustards, lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar with a pinch (or more) of salt.

4. Add the vinaigrette to the lentils along with the onion, tomato, and parsley.


MONDAY - Goop's black bean cakes. These were a disaster, the beans and rice caused the vitamix to smoke and stop working (though by the next day, the blender started functioning again). The taste was blah. I burned them. The kids felt so bad for me they tried to be nice, "wow, these are great mom". Then they buried the cake under the salsa and ate about 10 apples each for dessert.

TUESDAY - Nachos - Crazy night, we needed something fast and easy. I added black beans in an effort to make them sort of healthy.

WEDNESDAY - Chicken and zucchini noodle pho (via Goop). Fantastic recipe. Everyone loved it.

THURSDAY - Spaghetti with red sauce, ground turkey, and zucchini noodles (that were leftover from Wednesday's pho); regular pasta for the kids.


MONDAY - Oven baked romaine with (via Mom Filter) Italian sausage, tomato, cannellini bean ragout and polenta (via Cooking Light). The romaine ended up soggy; I think you really need to grill it to make this work, though the taste was fantastic, just not the texture. The polenta recipe has become a favorite with the kids.

TUESDAY - Bricklayer tacos (via Splendid Table). I messed up the recipe a little bit, but all in all these were fantastic. Beef and bacon - you can't really go wrong.

WEDNESDAY - Blackened tilapia baja fish tacos (via Cooking Light). This is a family classic. We have it whenever we need a sure thing.

THURSDAY - Dinner out

WEEK 3 ("Clean" week, sort of)

MONDAY - Broccoli/arugula soup for me (via Goop) ; hot dogs and edamame for the kids and Dan. After a week at the beach, I need healthy simple food for a few days.

TUESDAY - Chicken breasts and rice marinated with Trader Joe's Soyaki Sauce. Easiest meal ever and T said the chicken was "amazing", which in itself is pretty amazing.

WEDNESDAY - Night out with friends at Mazagan; pasta for the kids

THURSDAY - Cucumber avocado soup for me (via Goop); mac and cheese for the kids. I could live on this soup, it is so easy and tastes surprisingly good.

WEEK 4 (Vegetarian week (almost), not so coincidentally, Dan had to "work late" a lot this week)

MONDAY - Black bean tacos (via Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table). The kids love this meal, plus it's super easy.

TUESDAY - Middle eastern chickpeas with spinach (via Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals). This is one of my favorite recipes, so I was hoping the kids would like it too. But they asked for hot dogs instead. Oh well, I tried.

WEDNESDAY - Medival Times for T's birthday dinner

THURSDAY - Tomato lentil mustard salad (via IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great); the kids have spaghetti and kale chips.

FRIDAY - Maggie's pasta (recipe here). Every summer I come back to this recipe. Easy and fresh. The kids ate the sausage and orzo, but wouldn't touch the spinach and sundried tomatoes.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Our (No Longer) Crazy Crowded Beach House, Days 5-6 (Jennette's Pier & Roanoke Island Festival Park)


I finally finished editing the last of our vacation photos . . .

All but one of the other families left the beach on Tuesday, but we can never say no to a vacation, so we chose to stay in the house for a few more days. On Wednesday, we went for ice cream and invited some friends over, who were also in the Outer Banks for vacation that week.


By Wednesday night, we were the last family left in the house. As the kids explored all the empty bedrooms, T asked, "is this what it feels like to live in a mansion?" (well, yes, I suppose it is). Where P said, "I feel so alone I want to cry." (Um, let's not forget that your whole family is here, okay P?). I tried to get the cable to work (with a house full of kids and devices, nobody had bothered to turn on the TV).


On our last day in Nags Head, we drove to Roanoke Island Festival Park ("RIFP") for an Outer Banks living history lesson. I was a little nervous about this adventure, as RIFP has a special place in my memory. In August 2010, we rented a house in the Outer Banks with my parents. My dad, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer years before, was experiencing what can only be called a miraculous recovery due to his participation in a trial drug study.

After a wonderful week with my parents at the beach, including a daytrip to RIFP (you can see the photos here, don't the kids look so little?), the drug's effectiveness began to decline. My father passed away in early 2011. Given his love of learning and history, it is quite fitting that we spent our last quality time together with my kids at a museum devoted to learning about the past.

Anyways, I was nervous about returning, for both sentimental and practical reasons (would the kids even like enjoy this adventure? Or were they too old for such things?). Luckily, everyone had a fantastic time - sailing the ship, bartering in the Native American Longhouse, exploring the settlement site, and becoming pirates in the museum.


On our last night the girls and I walked to Jennette's Pier, while T and Dan went fishing.


When your kids fall asleep like this, you know it's been a good day. The perfect end to a wonderful week.


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links


Happy Friday! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, don't forget to check out this week's awesomeness at Cherish This Day.


* This looks like the perfect summer cocktail.

* Democratic vs. Republican Occupations.

* "It's called The Ocean Cleanup, and it's a 1.2-mile-long system designed to collect and remove plastic from the ocean."

* DIY stained glass soap. This actually looks easier than I assumed.

* This looks like a wonderful DC adventure, esp. the graffiti church. I can't wait to check it all out this summer.


Things to Read - Displacement, A Travelogue

displacement (1 of 4)

I'm not usually a fan of graphic novels (though my kids all love them), for me it seems somewhat odd to try to immerse yourself in a plot while looking at pictures, too much multi-tasking. But after A Cup of Jo gave Lucy Knisley's Displacement a wonderful write-up, I decided to check it out.

And now I'm a little enamored with this book/novel/short story, in which the 20-something narrator/author goes on a cruise with her elderly grandparents. The book confronts a lot of subjects that society chooses to shy away from (i.e. Grandpa peeing his pants), yet it does so in a way that seems raw and personal. Never flippant. Never overly dramatic.

Modern media spends so much time and energy chronicling the complexities of life with kids (okay, so maybe not THAT much time and energy, but still, based on my facebook feed, it seems like this is all Huffpost Parents ever writes about). Displacement brings out that dealing with the aging is also full of moments of frustration and unconditional love. Moments that are harder to talk about because of the possibility of offense.

Anyways, this was a sad novel, but not in a traditional way. My grandparents all died way before I reached my twenties, so we never had the chance to cruise together. Yet I still wish I would have spent more time with them in their later years. Even though, much like Displacement's narrator, I never knew quite what to talk with them about.

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