Samuel | Four and a Half

150807-FourAndAHalf-47And just like that, I have a 4.5 year old.

Samuel is fun, funny, observant, smart, talkative, and thoughtful. He loves wearing jeans – even on hot days. Loves flip flops, tees with fun designs, and cowboy shirts. He’s not a fan of cakes but he’ll take a chocolate chip cookie in a heartbeat. He still loves horses and rides them regularly.  He wants to own a horse by age 10 (yeah, good luck on that). He can recite most of the words in Tacky the Penguin and loves The Black Stallion. He loves a good story and will quickly give you a storyline when you agree to tell him a story.

I’m not big on celebrating half birthdays, but he was, so we rolled with it.

When he turned four, I wanted to ask him a bunch of questions and create a layout with all of his current favorites, etc. Well, life got busy so I never got around to “interviewing” him. I was determined to do it at 4.5 and it came together the evening of his half birthday. (He was pretty excited about answering the questions because he was pumped about being 1/2 a year older.)

The layout took a bit longer than I intended — it always does though, doesn’t it? Part of it is because I wanted to write a letter to remember him at this fun age.

Here’s a look at the layout …
The layout includes two full size pocket pages and a smaller insert.

2015-08-09-17.24aI printed the Birthday Questionnaire on a sheet of 6×12 paper. I thought about typing up his responses for a neater look but decided I that I like the look of the handwriting against the type.

The pocket page is from Doodlebug Designs and I pretty much love it.  I find myself using it in a lot of his books — I use it for questionnaires and larger pieces of artwork. They are used throughout his baby book for hand prints and footprints.

2015-08-09-15.22.14He brought home a cool piece of watercolor artwork a few days before so I cut it up to use on the layout.

I trimmed down a Project Life Design E pocket page to use as an insert between the two larger pocket pages. I love the 6×6 squares but rarely find myself using them.

2015-08-09-17.25He loved giving me his hand print so this required no bribes from me.

I wrote him a lengthy letter and included it in the insert.

I had a lot to say so it turned out to be a little book inside the 6×6 pocket.

2015-08-09-17.27bI included the footprint on the back of the insert. I brought in some repetition with the orange circles and stars.

2015-08-09-17.27aA detail shot of the footprint with orange circle and star. I kept it pretty simple but I sure do love the results. The “every little thing you do is magic” is from Ali Edward’s Story Kit (Magic).

2015-08-09-17.27This fun pattern paper came from Amy Tangerine’s Rise & Shine paper pad. 

Samuel is getting pretty good at writing his name so I wanted to include a writing sample at age 4.5. All of the photos are from his half birthday — and yes, we got a little carried away and gave him a gift. He is still obsessed with Thomas the Train and with the recent release of a new engine named Sam, I couldn’t resist.

He’s a great kid. And I love that he lets me take photos of him. I hope it never gets old.

February Blog Hop | Star Wars Birthday Party

I’m participating in a Blog Hop with the gals from the 2014 Becky Higgins’ Project Life Team. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been busy planning a party for my little guy.  As you can tell from the title, this post is about the big celebration.

My sweet boy turned four this weekend and we celebrated with a Star Wars birthday party. He’s been talking about having a Star Wars party off and on since November. I did not do any planning until after Christmas when Santa brought him a Darth Vader costume — that pretty much sealed the deal.

We were on a tight budget so planning ahead was super important. I did many google searches for game ideas and the thrift stores were a great source for cheap party decor and supplies.

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I hung balloons upside down with black yarn to give the house a pop of color. Honestly, I was trying to save some money by not buying helium-filled balloons. My observant boy said to me (on the morning of the party), “Mom, how come my balloons hang this way and not this way?” My answer, “Because these are filled with carbon dioxide and not helium. Carbon dioxide is a heavy gas and makes the balloon sink.” Ha! My husband actually went out to get half a dozen helium-filled balloons for the birthday boy.

150207 SamuelisFour-11He got up at seven for a birthday breakfast of blue eyes and cheese bagel. He helped me with last minute prep for the party and asked me a gazillion times about when his friends would be arriving.

We started the party by giving each attendee a Jedi Training badge with a list of “missions” for the training.  My son does not like party games (like me) and said he would be happy to be an observer at his own party.  He was also super tired when he said that but I quickly changed the word games to “missions” and it grabbed his attention.  From that point on, he was 100% engaged in discussing all the party “missions” or activities.
150207 SamuelisFour-53We started the party with an asteroid hunt.  Samuel helped me make asteroids from pieces of aluminum foil and helped me hide them all over the house.  I instructed each Jedi to find one asteroid and report to me once they found an asteroid. Once they returned with an asteroid, I gave them a sticker for completing the task.  I gave the job of giving stickers to a parent at the party — this helped tremendously.

Then we played pin the Lightsaber on Yoda. I did not know how four year olds would feel about being completely blindfolded so I made blindfolds that did not make them feel like they were totally in the dark.  I folded a piece of brown fabric in half (leftover from Samuel’s Jedi robe which he did not wear because he said that he wanted to be a Sith) which distracted their vision but did not make them feel uncomfortable.
150207 SamuelisFour-24The kids moved onto making Shrinky Dink art.  My husband printed out a bunch of Star Wars pictures for them to trace and color.  They loved it — and their parents did too.

150207 SamuelisFour-20Some got a little creative and made their own original art pieces. I printed the shrinking directions and stuck them in the goodie bags.

Then we played Save Princess Leia.  I printed 6 storm troopers and 2 Princess Leias and placed them on a low table.  The kids loved the using Nerf guns to blast the storm troopers. I gave every kid two tries so that everyone would get a turn fairly quickly.  My boy came back several times and fired until he got a storm trooper.  (Tip: Buy Nerf guns at Goodwill and buy new darts.)
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150207 SamuelisFour-35At this point, I had the kids take a mandatory break from Jedi training to eat. We had fried rice and egg rolls (thanks, mom!), fruit, veggies, and crackers.  I also put out cheese and salami to provide some protein. We kept it simple — and it worked out well.

150207 SamuelisFour-57After the rest period, we went out to the garage to Defeat the Dark Side with Silly String. We got the idea here, but changed the name. My husband printed two Darth Vader posters in Paint and I pieced them together.  We were originally going to do this outside but because heavy rain was predicted for the day, we decided to set it up in the garage.  150207 SamuelisFour-73I taped the two Darth Vader posters on large sheets of butcher paper and hung them up on our garage door.  We also taped butcher paper to the ground for easy clean up.

The kids loved this.  I wish I had listened to my husband and bought a can of Silly String for each kid.
150207 SamuelisFour-95150207 SamuelisFour-131150207 SamuelisFour-125Since the weather was nice, we took the kids outside for Lightsaber Training. I was going to make pool noodle lightsabers for the kids but my husband said, “If we’re going to have a Star Wars party, then we need real lightsabers.”  He is so right.

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I hunted for used lightsabers for about a month. I found some on Craigslist, at the Goodwill, and through my neighborhood Mom Resale sites.  I paid somewhere between $0.50 – $2 a lightsaber.  I found enough lightsabers for each kid — plus a few extra cool ones for us to keep. We let the kids take theirs home if they promised to use it — and boy were they (and their parents) excited.

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Obi-wan (Jim) was a good sport.  He watched a couple Jedi Training Academy videos on YouTube and led this mission.

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The kids paired up for duals.

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Then they all ganged up on Obi-wan.

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They loved getting Obi-wan.

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We headed back inside to complete the last two missions. I split the kids into two groups — one group decorated Star Wars cookies while the other made R2D2 paper models. Then they switched.

The Star Wars cookie cutters are from Williams Sonoma — but I got them used from a mom in my neighborhood (so I did not spend a fortune on the cutters).

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Samuel’s strategy — decorate a cookie and then gobble it up immediately. Um … he also went a little nuts with the sprinkles.

TipJunkie has an awesome R2D2 craft printable and I followed her instructions to make each kid a kit.

It took me about half an hour to cut up the blue tape and punch out the circles for 13 kits. I put each kit in a ziploc bag and labeled with the Jedi’s name.

150207 SamuelisFour-206The kids enjoyed following the model I created.  They were pretty proud of themselves for completing this mission with very little help.

We concluded the party with a special appearance from Darth Vader himself.  Yep.  My friend Becky helped me set this up.  The costume worn by her husband is from the 501st Legion and is an exact replica of the one Darth Vader wore in the movie. We were blown away — and so was the birthday boy and all of his friends.150207 SamuelisFour-252 150207 SamuelisFour-274

150207 SamuelisFour-280We held a little ceremony for the kids and they each got a photo op with Darth Vader. The kids were all given a certificate and a Jedi medallion (yep, I made shrinky dink medallions!)


150207 SamuelisFour-221My sister has been making Samuel’s birthday cakes for the last four years. She gets better every year.
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In addition to the lightsaber, each Jedi left with a Star Wars coloring book and Darth Vader and Storm Trooper crayons. I bought the mold on Amazon and it took me about two evenings to make 96 crayons.

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It was a good party. He loved it — and thanks me often.
150207 SamuelisFour-375The backdrop seen here (and in many of the photos above) is made from a sheet I found at the Goodwill.  I painted silver stars on it and hung it up with the words, “May the force be with you.”  Super easy and affordable.

My Princess Leia costume cost roughly $18.  I made the dress using this tutorial — I used four yards of 58″ wide polyester fabric (about $12) and two snap buttons for the neck closure ($3). I found a silver belt ($1) at the thrift store and made the yarn wig ($3). I will definitely be wearing this again.150207 SamuelisFour-453-2I made his Jedi Shirt using silver glitter paint and freezer paper.  I love the way it turned out.150207 SamuelisFour-635 150207 SamuelisFour-552He had a terrific birthday. He is very excited about being 4.

For more Creative Team Inspiration, click on the links below:


Please note that these are fun and optional blog hops. If you don’t see your favorite former team member, please visit their individual blogs to see what they are up too!

Mother’s Day Weekend

Tulips from my loves.140509 Mother'sDayTea-3 Mother’s Day performance and tea party at his school.140509 Mother'sDayTea-26 He was pretty stoked about giving me the gifts he made at school.140509 Mother'sDayTea-58 New tradition | Friday Family Game Night — all of us at the table, playing games with no technological interruptions.140509 Mother'sDayTea-61 Met some friends at Starbucks on Saturday morning.140510 MeettheMachines-3 Took him to the Meet the Machines event in Rancho Cordova.  He is in love with fire trucks, garbage trucks + monster trucks.140510 MeettheMachines-24 He is really into playing doctor.140510 MeettheMachines-99 On Saturday evening, we went to the Dixon May Fair.  He was pretty thrilled about driving the monster-sized tractors.2014-05-10-17.38 The Dixon May Fair turned out to be a total dud.  No horses.  The most exciting thing there was our shadows.  Ha!2014-05-10-17.44 We waited at the train stop to ride the extremely slow moving train.  Waited.  And waited. We eventually gave up and left.  140510 DixonMayFair-38 Mother’s Day breakfast at Lumberjacks.  My guys love this place.2014-05-11-08.55 He is amusing.2014-05-11-09.32 Made a trip to the store for jam supplies to make mulberry jam.2014-05-11-10.05 Afternoon run – 3 miles of solitude. 2014-05-11-14.53 He is a joy.140511 Mother'sDay-9 Beside him is his pal, Snaky Snake.  Snaky Snake is 3 years old and loves to be petted and enjoys swimming in the water.  He concocted an entire story about this imaginary snake using Jim’s bathrobe tie and had me pet him. 140511 Mother'sDay-31 I am in love with this boy.140511 Mother'sDay-103 And I think he loves me too. Happy Mother’s Day.

Project Life 2014 | Samuel is THREE!

I remember lying in the hospital bed after giving birth (via C-section after 40 hours of labor — yeah, crazy right?) and the nurse asked me, “Would you like to hold your baby?”  Really, all that and she wanted me to hold my baby?!?

I vividly recall my quick snarky response, “How am I supposed to do that?”

She looked at me and said three words. “With. Your. Arms.”

I was in a fog and was numb all over.  My response at that point was slow and methodical — “Oh, yessssss.  I doooooo have arms.  Ok, I’ll hold my baby.”  Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with him at that point.  He’s here.  So now what?

I struggled as a new mother.  I questioned myself and everything that I did to care for him. I worried all the time.  But he thrived. We thrived.  And just like that, he turned three.

At three, Samuel is an inquisitive, detailed-oriented, happy, energetic cowboy who has a passion for horses, garbage trucks and stories.  He is a problem solver and loves piecing together puzzles.
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We celebrated THREE with a hoe-down at our house.  Here’s a look at what went down …
140301 PLFeb-15I sent out personalized invites.  I spent hours making stick horses and painting cardboard boxes to create an old western town.  My sister made the awesome carrot cake.

140301 PLFeb-25Because of rain, we had the party indoors. Seven toddlers. Seven stick horses. Nobody tripped. Nobody fell. Nobody cried. It was joyful. Jim and I enjoyed watching him interact with everybody.

140301 PLFeb-32I left a basket of blank 3×4 cards out for birthday wishes.

140301 PLFeb-33The stick horses and buildings were a hit.  They didn’t care about the color station or games I had planned.

140301 PLFeb-53He was especially happy because his best friend came for the celebration.

We also had a birthday shindig at my mom’s house the following day for the family.
140302 PLCut&Paste-9Great day for all of us.  

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Products used | Project Life Themed Cards, Celebrate & Coral Edition.  Project Life Cut & Paste kit by Amy Tangerine. Studio Calico wood veneer. Word Stickers from Cosmo Cricket.

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All.

Hey Samuel,

You’ve grown up to be such a big 2-year old boy!  I’m so proud of you.  I am excited to share one of my favorite books with you.  It’s so special to me because when I was a little boy, I would always remind myself “Life doesn’t frighten me at all,” and seeing you enjoy all the little moments in life makes me know, life don’t frighten Sam either!  Keep having fun Sammie.

Love you,
Uncle Hung

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All from Hung on Vimeo.

Project Life 2012 :: Weeks 8 & 11-14

Project Life is awesome.

Even with holes here and there, it is still so dang awesome.

I love using it to document our daily life with Samuel.  Each entry is written to him — so that when he has his own kids (or when he’s old and gray), he can look back and see and read about all the wonderful adventures he had with us.  I include it all — the good, the funny, the ugly (thank goodness there isn’t much of that) and the embarrassing moments.

He was a good helper for a moment — a very short moment — this afternoon.

He was really interested in looking at photos of his Uncle Hung.

Here’s a look at our week 8 (Feb 19-25).

Fun week around here.  I hit my head on a ceramic bird feeder while trying to photograph an active toddler at a birthday party.  Ha! — I had to laugh because the only person who got hurt at a one-year old party was me — the grown, yet clumsy photographer.

Samuel loved riding his roller coaster car — yes, the boy has a roller coaster.

And the best part of work was me shrink wrapping a student — see the evidence above.

Visited my mother for her birthday.  Samuel had the best time with his Uncle.  There were a lot of photos that I wanted to include from our visit with my mom so I inserted a page protector with 2.5×3.5 pockets for smaller photos.

Samuel received a new hand-knit sweater from my sister.  I included 2.5×3.5 photos from the photo shoot to the back side of the page protector.  I love flipping through the book and seeing all of her hand-knits for him over the course of the year.

This was a huge week for me in running.  I ran 12 miles — haven’t ran that much in two years!

I made the decision to print my photos from home this year.  It is a bit more costly but I love having the immediate access to the hardcopy of the photo.

There are days when I want to add more than just one photo for the day.  I have started resizing the photos so I can get 3-6 photos on a 4×6 piece of photo paper.

It is kinda cool to see what my workday is like compared to my evenings with Samuel.

Week 11 :: March 11 – 17, 2012

The week after two major events — organizing a successful Math and Science Night and running my first half marathon after having Samuel.  I spent most of the week in bed.  Exhaustion took over and I was not the best mom that week.

Ran my personal best half marathon.

I love adding bits of his artwork.  This is his first attempt at using a crayon.  Gotta love the firsts.

Week 12 :: March 18 – 24, 3012

This was one of those weeks where I just wanted to get the photos in and the journaling cards done.  I find myself writing a lot of little stories about the little man.  Lots of words and photos here.

Week 12 :: March 25 – 31, 2012 (Spirit Week)

Spirit Week = FUN week for me at school.  I usually have way more fun with it than the kids — but this time, many of my students got into it too.  It was a competition among the “homeroom” classes so the kids got a little competitive.  Above, you can see us decked out in black for “Black Out Day” and sporting our socks for Crazy Socks Day.

Ummm … that’s me in the polk-a-dot dress and yellow shoes as Minnie Mouse.  I found the dress at a local thrift store, spray painted black pumps (also picked up at a thrift store) and borrowed ears from a friend.

And that’s me in the yellow bumble-bee looking outfit — it was “yellow/gold” day for teachers.  I was referred to as Ms. Bumblebee by my students.

At the end of the week, I received the award for “Most Spirited 8th Grade Teacher” and “Best Dressed 8th Grade Teacher.”  Pretty damn proud of my trophies — which are both displayed on my desk.

Week 14 :: April 1 – 7, 2012 (Spring Break)

Spent the first part of our break in San Francisco with my brother and mother.  Samuel loved SF — especially the beach and the busy streets (he loves cars), and his uncle.

I inserted an additional sheet protector (Becky Higgins, Design D) here to include more photos of Samuel’s first trip to San Francisco.  I cut 1/3 of it off because I like my inserts to be smaller than my weekly pages.

During this week, somebody also turned 14 months.  I decided to add another insert to include my favorite photos of him and a bit of journaling about his growth.

We had one of the best Spring Breaks ever.

I have started printing more 3×4 photos for the 4×6 slots to give me more room for journaling (see above).  Plus, it gives me some room for creative mini-layouts.  You’ll see more of this in Week 15 (which I hope to get up on the blog sometime on Sunday).

Thanks again for visiting.


My boy, my boy, my boy. You are one year old today. Oh, how you’ve grown.

You are learning things so quickly.  Crawling.  Cruising.  Bouncing.  Banging on walls, doors, windows, cabinets to explore a variety of sounds.  Playing “Where is Samuel?”  Pulling yourself up and down so easily.  You are so cautious — being careful to let yourself down so you don’t fall too far from the ground.

You are strong, determined, watchful, inquisitive, and oh so happy.

Happy birthday, my boy.

I love you so very much.

Thank you for turning my world upside down.  The view is better from here.

We celebrated Samuel’s first birthday with a rocket-themed party this afternoon.  Pictures to come soon. A month ago, I asked my uber-talented brother to put together a slide show or video for Samuel’s first birthday.  This is what he came up with …

Happy First Birthday, Samuel! from Autumn Nguyen on Vimeo.

We shared it with our guests this afternoon. And we needed a mop to clean up all of the tears afterwards. What a treasure. Thank you, Hung. This is the best gift a mama could ever ask for. You are amazing and I love you so very much. Samuel is super lucky to have an uncle like you.

This Kid

is always on the move.  And he moves fast.

is almost 11 months old.

wants to open every single cabinet in the house.

loves to take things out.  And then put them back in — well, just what he wants to put back in.

is trying to figure out how to open the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink.  He is determined to break through the child safety locks.

loves hanging out at home with us.

refuses to nap.  Wants to play and be part of all the action.

is getting his appetite back.  He’s been sick for a few days.

loves to play his version of peek-a-boo called Where is Samuel?

is seriously teething.  Number 4 is coming in!

shrieks and squeals all the time.

claps at everything.

is a drool and snot machine.

pulls himself up to standing position readily – with no effort at all.

is cruising along the furniture.

stand by himself for two-alligator seconds.

periodically crawls to his daddy’s office looking for him.

is the sweetest thing on the planet.  Speaking of the sweetest thing, my photographer friend, Kira (of Kira Lauren Photography) came over in November for a play date and photo session.  She has a eye for capturing life — unscripted, raw images of people in their element, doing their thang.  She’s good.  She’s really good.  She is a major source of inspiration for me.  Check out the photos of me and Samuel doing our thang here.  Thanks, Kira.

Hello 2012.

On February 7, 2011 we welcomed our son, Samuel, and have been captivated by his huge brown eyes and gorgeous smile ever since.  We celebrated many firsts – first successful diaper change (where we didn’t end up getting sprayed), first bath, first smile, first laugh, first roll, first time eating solids, and first clap.  We clap at everything – who knew that even the littlest things deserve a clap!  Samuel is almost eleven months old and is pulling himself up, cruising along the furniture, and loves to get into Autumn’s scrapbooking stuff. Samuel is an energetic, spunky, cute, adorable, strong, happy, funny little man – we love seeing his personality emerging.  He is also very observant – studies everything with intense curiosity before taking any action.  We think we may have a scientist or mathematician in the making!

We are excited for 2012!  We are excited to celebrate more firsts — first steps, first birthday, first ice cream sundae at Leatherby’s, first taste of whole milk — and have more family adventures.

Hello Project Life 2012.  I am excited to continue documenting our daily lives and celebrate the small (normal, and mundane) moments that will be awesome to look back on years from now.

Project Life 2011 continues to be a work in progress for me — I have three volumes.  Yes, that’s correct.  THREE We R Memory Keepers binder albums worth of photos, notes, and tidbits of our everyday lives.  I have some holes to fill in but am so glad I took a year worth of photos of our little family.

Project Life has been a great place to store bits of papers that would otherwise go into a file folder and drawer.

Project Life has been a great place to store gas receipts (for the entire year — so cool to see it fluctuate over the course of the year), student artwork, and party invites.

Project Life has been a great way to document Samuel’s first year of life.

I am thrilled to be doing Project Life again this year.

Hello 2012 resolutions.

I am keeping the list short this year.  Sticking with five main goals.

  1. Simplify.  Reduce the clutter.  Seriously.
  2. Read more.  (Started Hunger Games last night.)
  3. Move more.  Eat less.  (This includes signing up for Sac Fit, running a marathon and completing a triathlon).
  4. Learn the ins and outs of my camera.  Play with light.
  5. Be the best mom and partner that I can be (and still do the things I love).