Mar 232015
 

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!Recently, things got rather basic around here. And by basic, I mean that remembering to brush teeth was a solid victory.

Chaos left us scrambling to make sense of necessities while sleep was relegated to a fanciful indulgence.

One sweet result of the fun was some precious family time. Another gift was a brilliant revelation that came to me while shoving underwear in the washing machine and praying that I could find something edible to serve for dinner: this is enough.

You see, for days, dishes went unwashed, toppling against each other in a threat to crash to the floor. Kids were permitted excess hours with the iPad and Mommy decidedly set up shop in a pair of unflattering leggings. It was not Martha Stewart-esque, Pinterest would have cringed, and the Mom of the Year award was never more honestly earned.

I looked at my neglected to-do list and sobbed a little in my heart. It cursed me by only getting longer and infinitely more demanding.

And then I looked at my family. I looked at the kids laughing and happy. And at the fact that somehow we managed to get everyone fed and safely in bed for the night.

And I knew that, despite all, God was still good, and we would get up in the morning and it would happen again.

In the midst of the frenzy, I went dark on my blog and social media. In my foolhearty arrogance regarding the importance of my craft thus far, I’ve never done this before. But days without posting simply was the only option that made sense because we were too busy living life.

Stats were suddenly of the least importance, as things like miraculously getting everyone in the bath at night became of the utmost importance.

And so we went on. And so I realized that the things in this life that continue us, that make this life real, aren’t the things like pretty countertops, checkmarks on lists, or even coolly managing the events raging around us. No, it’s the things like wiping potty-training bums and filling juice cups.

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!

I did not live in the era of the pioneers; I just read all of the Little House on the Prairie books and watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman ad nauseam. So I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But I imagine that in those days, the day’s goal was more about survival and provision than having the cutest Facebook status update.

Than having a perfectly formulated daily calendar. Than making sure your child read the optimal number of popcorn words each day. Than DIY-ing the most gorgeously rustic bathroom storage shelves.

No, I think it was about the basics. About keeping people safe and feeding them. About making sure they were clothed and generally cared for.

I think what was real, was very real. So real that focus was clear and true.

And you know what? I think they nailed it. Nailed it beyond all shadow of a doubt. I think those pioneers had their crap together.

With this awareness, I surrender my piles of unwashed laundry and stale leftovers. I surrender my sad abandoned blog posts and I surrender them in the interest of what is most real: that which is necessary to carry us from day to day.

Life just went and got real. And in the interest of our fab pioneer ancestors, I’m totally cool with that.

First image credit: photography ID:55254163, copyright:alexsvirid

Second image ID:2602245, copyright:EyeMark

 

Mar 182015
 

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!One month ago, my husband and I had a coffeehouse date. To be more accurate, 16 years and one month ago, we had a coffeehouse date.

On February 18, 1999, my husband called me on my college dorm room landline (because those things existed) and asked if I’d like to go hang out at the coffeehouse with him. Channeling all my quintessential nerdy-ness, I was confused by this random dude I’d seen in the computer lab (because those things also existed) making such a ludicrous request on a Thursday night, “But…I’m studying,” I sputtered.

I know, I had such a way with the men, it was stymieing.

Not to be deterred, he suggested I bring my books along. I did. And I never opened them the entire night.

Fast-forward a year into the future, same coffeehouse, same day, and once again, no studying happened. But a marriage proposal did, followed a bit later by a wedding.

And ever since all those initial visits to our coffeehouse, we’ve made a commitment to go back. Every February 18.

Except…kids happened. Admire our ambition, because at first, we weren’t slowed down; we took them with us. But then, they got older. And things like getting to bed on time for school the next morning on a Wednesday night made the 1.5 hr. trek for a cup of tea, however beautifully sentimental, increasingly impractical.

We debated all the sides of the coin–hire a sitter, dump on a friend, go on the weekend, find a closer coffeehouse…we went round and round and round the options. Logistics and circumstances continued to lead us solidly back to the conclusion: going this year was going to be really, really tough.

I was feeling rather grouchy and pouty about the whole thing, to be honest. And then, inspiration struck. If I couldn’t get us to the coffeehouse, maybe I could get it to us?

I am not a crafty person. I am not a creative DIY-er by any stretch. But, the coffeehouse matters, you see. So I told my husband, “I’ll take care of it” and refused to answer any more questions.

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!

How do you create a coffeehouse in your own home?

1) I found some very cool copper wire LED lights. I ventured into our mess of a garage to secure a hammer and a few nails. I strung them around our dining room and dimmed the lights. Of course I waited to the last minute to do this and then panickedly tried to untwist the last wire as my husband pulled in the driveway.

2) I got the kids on board and braved the glitter. The coffeehouse always features a series by a local artist. I figured my most talented local artists were right in my own home, so together made “A Life in Glitter” and I hung their work around the dining room.

3) I made my husband teach me how to use Pandora radio on my phone a week prior. Yes, I’m this dumb. I queued up some sweet jazz tunes and let the vibes roll.

4) I stocked up on my favorite chocolate mint tea ahead of time, and I got over my life-long fear of making scones. And you know what? They were pretty darn amazing.

5) I laid out our Scrabble game. We always play Scrabble when we visit the coffeehouse; remember, I said I was a nerd…

6) I bathed and fed the kids early. Way early so I would have time to prep. Who says chicken nuggets at 4pm doesn’t count as a solid dinner? They still came and ate with us, for the record.

7) I swung by Redbox for a “new” movie that would captivate them to minimize interruptions while my husband and I were dating it up. Our daughter still peed all over the bathroom floor 5 minutes into our date. It added to the mood.

8) I dug our chalkboard sign out of the basement and wrote “Welcome to MJs” (name of our beloved coffeehouse) on it and propped it in the corner. Not quite the same thing, but helped me pretend.

9) I got out the pretty plates and set the table with a cute sugar bowl.

10) I enlisted the support of a sweet friend–mostly just to cheer me on and to talk me down at the last-minute when I couldn’t get the lights untangled. It helped tremendously.

And then, when my husband walked in the door, I had the kids greet him, yelling, “Welcome to the coffeehouse, Daddy!”. This part isn’t exactly like what would happen at a real coffeehouse, but it is what happens at our coffeehouse. Because this 16 yr. old coffeehouse may not be many things, but it is full of a lot of love and some very cute kids who make staying home worth it.

Someday we’ll go back to the real deal; for now, we’re busy cleaning up the pee.

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:24048985, copyright:eugenesergeev

Mar 162015
 

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend--AND a reason to smile!A couple weeks ago, I shared about a rather low spot I found myself in, one which included vehemently slamming my minivan into the garage door. I won’t lie, it was a neat time. And delightfully, for my husband and kids the fun hasn’t quit.  It’s been two straight weeks of “Mommy’s in a mood” around these parts.

Somehow that timely crunch of metal while I was actively mourning my mom broke something in me. It’s as if all the tempered grouchiness within suddenly gave way. It gave way to a torrent of snappy frustration with my daughter’s endless very-three, three year-oldness, irritation with parents in the drop-off line who take too long for my impatient bent, curses on too-tight budgets, and disproportionate tears over broken trash cans. Like I said, it’s been fun around here.

As I sit, wondering if March of 2015 is simply beyond repair for my hopelessness, I am reminded of a flipside that I am carefully ignoring. You see, if I acknowledge it, it might just do wonders for re-setting my mood, and I have so cozily settled into being a grumpy defeatist…

The flipside was last Tuesday morning. One week and one day after I attacked our garage.

On this Tuesday, I was up, out of bed, and at work on my computer by 5:30am. As I breezed through e-mails, I thought, “Awesome! I’ll be done by 7, so I can exercise and grab a shower before the school run!”. Tired, fussy and very needy kids woke up early and had other plans.

I modified my brilliant game plan, “No worries! I’ll drop my son at school and we’ll run to the grocery store quickly before it gets crowded. Then I can get home and exercise.”

Good news! The nearby retirement home decided to shift their weekly visit to the grocery store to Tuesday morning…at the same time my daughter and I arrived.  I’ll just let you imagine what a wonderful match this was for that impatient bent I mentioned above.

Also, my daughter needed to pee–right in the middle of the soup aisle. As I tore across the store to the lone bathroom and got this sorted, I still clung to hope of an ordered morning. We somehow found our way to the check out, where I unloaded a very full cart. While I was bagging and preparing to pay, my daughter had another bathroom emergency that could not wait. The clerk was thrilled. I love potty-training. 

Take #2 on the mad dash to the bathroom; I regrouped further. “Well, no time to exercise this morning, but I’ll still have time for a nice shower after unloading the groceries.”

Now very completely toileted, we got ourselves and the groceries home. Just as I put one foot on the stairs to run up for my shower, the phone rang. It was the school nurse. My son was ill and would need picked up.

“Okay, I will grab him, settle them on the couch with a show and shower before the garage guy shows up.” We had another garage repair estimate scheduled, praying against hope to beat the original $1500 quote we were given.

Right as I returned from getting my son, the service truck pulled in the driveway behind me. The repairman showed up–45 minutes early.

Friends, it was time to call it–there would be no shower.

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend!

As he tinkered around outside, I managed to sneak in for a quick change into some fresh jeans and an overdue date with my toothbrush. It wasn’t brilliant, but allowed me to feel slightly more human, slightly less like a sweatpanted poster ad for halitosis awareness.

It also allowed me to be slightly more centered when a few minutes later the garage guy knocked on the door, and simply said, “I fixed it.”

What?! We were told it couldn’t be fixed!”

“No, it wasn’t that bad; I just had to use the lag…(words that I don’t understand but made me further think this man was both an angel and a genius)…and it is only $106.”

$106. $106! For those of you still following this long, detailed tale, you get that this is quite a bit cheaper than $1500. Quite a bit cheaper.

The kind of cheaper that challenges your commitment to doom and gloom. The kind of cheaper shakes you awake to hope even when things have been feeling very grim. Even when you’ve had the most frustrating morning in the world and will never again shower in your life.

The kind of cheaper that reminds you that after every Monday there is a Tuesday.

The Tuesday may not come right after Monday, but it is there. It is coming. There is always another side to the Monday.

 

First image credit: image ID:1323317, copyright:cookelma

Second image credit: image ID:1831863, copyright:ponytail1414

 

Mar 132015
 

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!I acutely remember being painful shy as a child; it wasn’t fun. Any other shy gals out there? If so, you know what mean. 

If I could to help my own kids have a smoother time making friends and navigating the social scene, that would be such a blessing. So when Patricia Evans of the Huffington Post UK Blog asked if she could share her excellent article about easing friendship-making with shy kids, I was delighted! Please welcome her below and read on for some wonderful information and tips about helping your kids break out of their shells.

And make sure to follow along with Patricia on Twitter too for more of her savvy insight!

 

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Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by Jill Encarnacion via Flickr

Why do some kids get shy and others are extremely outgoing? Before we get into this, let’s figure out what being shy really means. Children who are considered shy are usually those who are highly sensitive and strongly affected by their environment. Some kids are introverted, it’s not that they don’t want to get along with others; they just need to take the time away from people to restore their energy. Others are much more interested with their own project and ideas that they would rather play alone than interact with other kids. All of these types of shyness have a common factor – they very much wanted to connect socially but feel awkward and anxious in doing so.

When a kid is not participating and is having a hard time in making friends, parents immediately think that their kid needs to get help in overcoming his shyness. Being shy is not a problem; it’s a personality trait that many people don’t understand. They believe that when a child is shy, he is probably suffering from poor self-image. While this is not often true, we still want our children to go out there and make friends. So what’s the best way in supporting your child to respond socially?

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by Aka Hige via Flickr

Observe How He Reacts In Every Environment

Before making any move, observe your child first and see if he acts this way in every situation, at all times. Does he get excited in joining the soccer team but gets quiet and hesitant when he arrived at the first practice? Does he want to join a group of kids playing at the school playground but quietly walks away because he doesn’t know how to approach them? He may be active and expressive at home and with his close friends but doesn’t feel good in approaching new kids.

Let Him Express His Thoughts

Talking is a recommended stance of collaboration. Asking him his concerns and seeking solutions together could be a great start. Don’t just ask how his day went. Usually, some kids feel that telling their parents about their day felt more like an obligation than a sincere question. He can differentiate if you’re just hearing the words that come out of his mouth or if you’re really listening to him. Let him build his trust on you. Let him feel that you will listen to him no matter what he says.

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by BK via Flickr

Be Clear With The Don’ts and Can’ts

Maybe the reason why he’s not getting out there is because he’s hearing too much negative words from you.

“You can’t go.” “Don’t do that.”

Hearing these negative words can limit your child because he fears of rejection and disapproval. Even if you are pertaining to his older brother or sister in that matter, he might think that you won’t allow him when he asks for your permission. Make it clear to every member of the family what is allowed and what is not in the household. Set rules and boundaries to avoid conflict and confusion.

Play Early

School Family’s Patti Ghezzi mentioned common characteristics in a child’s social growth at each grade level. At kindergarten a child might consider everyone as friend but when he reaches 3rd grade, he’s becoming more selective in choosing friends and shares less about his social life.

As early as possible, structure your child’s schedule. Make sure to allot ample amount of time in play and social activities. Get him involved in school activities and play dates. Psychotherapist Tammy Gold advises parents that helping kids bond can be done without making them feel that a friendship is being forced. By letting your kids get outdoors in a local playground or inviting other kids from school in a sleepover or picnic will do.

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by Marcus Kwan via Flickr

Technology Limits Participation

One common reason why kids get shy is due to the overuse of technology. TV and computer plays a big factor why kids become socially awkward. PlaygroundEquipment.com revealed that 40% of kids prefer TV and computer over outdoor play. Failing to engage in physical activities can lead to weight gain, speech impediment, and lack of social interaction. As a parent, you have to ensure that your kid gets generous amount of outdoor play over TV and computer games.

Motivate Him By Starting Small

If you feel that he is not yet ready in making friends with a bunch of kids at once, let him start with one friend that he can rely on. If he’s in a situation where he feels shy, help him overcome his fears by reminding him that it’s okay to take a while in warming up in a new situation or by citing previous events where he has overcome his shyness. For instance, telling him about that last birthday party where he held your hand all throughout the games but ended up having lots of fun with other kids can be a great motivation.

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by Anna Levinzon via Flickr

Team Up With Fellow Parents

Parents often drive the connection in introducing kids to another child. Making friends with a fellow parent in the community can be of big help to you and your child. The other parent might be struggling with the same hurdle and you can help each other out by exchanging solutions or by making your kids get together on a play date. Building a positive relationship with another parent can set an example to your kid in doing the same.

Role Play

More often than not, kids tend to get shy because he or she doesn’t know what to say or what to do when confronted by the situation. Sometimes, it is okay to feed him with words that can help him open up in situations. “I like ___ because ___. Can I help you ____?” is a great opening sentence to rehearse with your kids, says Julia Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child.

Being shy as a kid is no fun. Use these tips and tricks to help your child skillfully navigate the social scene--you'll be glad you checked here!

Photo by Phil Dragash via Flickr

Exercise this sentence with your kid using different situations. Your child could say, “I like your truck because it can turn into a robot. Can I help you assemble the rest?” He will be less likely to be turned down by other kids when he is positive and specific.

Shake It Off

Remember, being shy is okay. Every child is unique in his own way and being shy might also be a part of his unique trait. Most people see shyness as a disadvantage especially in social situations where an outgoing child excels more. The shy child on the other hand feels anxious and isolated due to the treatment that he might be receiving.

Social contact is one of the most important human needs that can impact our emotional and physical health in every stage of our lives. Though kids can learn to manage social anxiety, speak up for themselves, and connect happily with others at some point, they still need a little extra support from their parents in helping them become more socially comfortable.

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:17214739, copyright:ababaka

 

 

Mar 112015
 

Yes! Could we not just always have this be a thing? May the magical relief of pain medication be yours with this, friends!I won’t lie. I had no idea what FOMO meant. I am that un-hip. After checking in with Urban Dictionary (yes, yes  I really do refer to this on a frequent basis. Mostly because my younger friends got sick of me asking what stuff meant), I totally fell for this acronym: Fear of Missing Out.

This is me!

Like, basically my entire experience on this earth. Because when I am not busy doing and being all that I can be, I am fussing over whether I can and should be doing more. Forget that this is a self-punishing vantage point, and recognize the truth that we all want to be all that we can–especially when it comes to our kids.

The worst part of being sick for me? Hands-down is still trying to be there for my kids despite feeling like crap. The thing is, the preschool parties, Kindergarten book fairs and pee-wee soccer games don’t quit. Ever. But sometimes my health does.

This is a recent picture of how awesome I felt in these winter months. Clearly, winter was winning.

I felt HORRIBLE in this pic and was so sick of being down and out of it! Happy to take anything I can not to get back to this yucky place!

This is where the remedies roll in. Recently, hellbent on not letting a sinus infection slow me down, I tried it all. Neti-pot, essential oilshumidifiers–and it helped, but didn’t totally resolve. So I gave in and decided to trust modern medicine: I went to the doctor. And do you know what she prescribed? An antibiotic and taking SUDAFED®! She strongly supported it’s capacity to dry out my sinuses and keep them clean, thus preventing exacerbation of infection.

Huh. My mother was a strong proponent of SUDAFED® for years; maybe she knew what she was talking about?? Go figure. Who knew my mom knew anything.

Yes! Could we not just always have this be a thing? May the magical relief of pain medication be yours with this, friends!

But the thing is, we moms are human. So we get sick. But we don’t want to miss the stuff in our kids’ lives (=FOMO), so we need help. Enter SUDAFED®. It helps us put those nasty sinus symptoms at bay so we can keep up our most important gig as Mom. Sinus congestion, pain and pressure can take a back seat as relief takes over.

In the past year, this is one of the most gorgeous Mom moments I had. I can’t imagine missing this because I was too under-the-weather. Truth told, I don’t want to miss a single one of these moments.

Such a gorgeous moment of childhood! And so thankful that, because of this solution, I don't have to miss a single one of these childhood memories!

With SUDAFED®, we don’t have to have FOMO because we can continue to be there for our kids.

And that is a sweet, sweet thing. Bring on the SUDAFED®, friends, this Mom of the Year is going in & keeping those sinuses clear so she doesn’t have to miss a single thing.

FOMO? No such thing around these parts.

Yes! Could we not just always have this be a thing? May the magical relief of pain medication be yours with this, friends!

 For more smart tips to staying free from FOMO, tune in to SUDAFED® on Facebook for all the latest!

*****Thanks to SUDAFED® for sponsoring today’s discussion!*****

Feb 272015
 

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!My favorite day of the week! The hope, the promise, (albeit the very unlikely) dream that there will be a minute of relaxation or a snoozle of extra sleep hiding somewhere in the corners of your weekend…it could happen. Keep the fantasy alive, fellow warriors.

A few months ago, I started having a teensy celebration on my social media every Friday to recognize the day. I’m not sure anyone else is that into it, but it makes me giggle, so I’m keeping the weekly fun rolling.

Follow along with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to check out the latest Friday laughs. And please share any of your own ideas for how you revel-it-up come the end of the week!

For now, smile the it’s the week is over, and go bold with a true wild mom-style move. Inspiration below!

 

 

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

FRIDAY! The big day full of dreams of relaxation and maybe, just maybe a few extra minutes of sleep! Treat yourself to some laughs with ideas of how you can kick off the weekend Mommy-style--some of these wild ideas you would never have thought of, but I promise they will make your day!

 Happy Friday, friends! Go enjoy!

Feb 252015
 

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!Every once in a while, I decide to be That Mom. You know, the mom who does something really cool with her kids.

It all started with an episode of our beloved Daniel Tiger. When the crew took a trek to “the crayon factory”, my children began a vivid love affair with the notion of making a visit to The Crayola Experience and have never looked back. That was two years ago.

We first visited over a year ago, and my kids were so enamored they’ve been begging to go back since. It wasn’t a hard sell, as I have very fond memories of going myself as a child with my grandparents. And while the design of the crayon box may have changed, the fact that it is an awesome thing to do with kids has not.

Throw in the fact that I might totally lose my crap if I hear the tinny tune of an electronic toy one more time while hibernating down in these arctic temps, and a chance to get out and let my kids loose on some creative play sounded beyond sweet. My husband was in for taking off so we could make a day of it, and The Crayola Experience was on!

There are crayons and markers to make, Model Magic to shape, molds to melt crayons in, colorful wax to draw with, and an entire floor dedicated to craft-making. With the live factory demonstration (we saw it twice and my kids would have happily sat through the interactive show a zillion times more) and the two-story high gynasium for kids to run wild in (a separate smaller structure for toddlers is available too), we had found the perfect cure for winter blehs.

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

They had so much fun. The Art Alive! section left their mouths gaping; kids create digital works to be displayed on an interactive big screen–their work was being broadcast! And Doodle in the Dark lead to endless giggles. As they interacted with animated crayons and played with an interactive floor screen, I did the unthinkable: I sat down on a bench in contented relaxation and said to my husband “They will sleep so well tonight.” Bliss.

And since I’m sucker and we only do adventurous things as a family once in forever, the kids were each allowed to pick one special treat from the gift shop. Truth told, I love the gift shop: it is chock full of nifty gift ideas for creative play with lots of products you can’t find in stores. Also true? I am thrilled with my kids’ picks. The umbrella my daughter chose was perfect (I’ve wanted one for her for forever for rainy preschool drop-offs and pick-ups), and I can’t tell you how many fascinated minutes my son’s marker-maker has filled. And we’ve only made half of the markers in the kit, so lots more fun to come!

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

Our visit to The Crayola Experience was fantastic. We made, we created, we got tons of artwork to bring home, and a boatload of fun memories were made. And then we got in the car, and my son’s first words were, “Mommy, can we go back to the crayon factory?” I think they had a good time?

Good news for you, friends? The Crayola Experience is offering an exclusive discount to my readers. To get this sweet discount, go HERE and enter code “Mom of the Year”.

Trust me, a trip to Easton is worth it. The kids will have a blast, creative genius will be sparked, and really, they will sleep like angels all night after you get home. Perfect fun for kids and parents ;)

Go get your Crayola on!

****Thank you to The Crayola Experience for providing my family with tickets to their attraction; our delight in our visit is 100% genuine!****

Feb 182015
 

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring! Score a free one here!Every now and again, I look out the window at the endless, tedious landscape of frozen tundra and fantasize about things like flowers. And grass. And anything green versus endless sluggish grayish-white.  Surely in some world, this must exist??

But it’s coming, really. I know Spring is on it’s way. I see prompts of it’s arrival on my calendar and in the pile of sweet pretty dresses hanging in my daughter’s closet. We will get there.

In the meantime, as we await daffodils and warm rain showers, we’re hanging out with another fun reminder of warmer days with our shiny new Strider Bike.

When Strider first contacted me, I asked my husband what he thought of these bikes. He said, “If we don’t get a Strider bike this year, I’m cutting the pedals off one of our bikes so the kids can learn properly.”

Okay then…

He knew that Strider is onto an important concept: their 12 Sport’s simple, no-pedal design builds confidence and eliminates fear by allowing kids to have their feet on the ground and progress at their own pace. This unique design teaches young children balance on two wheels right from the start, avoiding developmental delays typical with tricycles and training-wheel bikes.

The age range? Perfect for toddler up to age 5.

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring!

Huh. Apparently Strider’s no-pedal design was a super idea for my 3 and 5 year old, who are still learning to ride, especially as my son’s leg break issues have made this trickier for us. Strider’s 12 Sport model offers a bunch of features that make getting the hang of bike-riding easy and fun: there are custom grips, a padded saddle, handlebar pads, and quick release clamps (no-tool adjustment). A perfect balance of performance, options, and value.

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring!

So we snatched up the green model (it comes in a choice of seven colors) and gave it lots of test runs in our basement--we’ll tackle the driveway when it’s a tad less snow-covered.

The thing is, my kids love it. They love the challenge it presents, but more they love that they feel capable in navigating this bike. I love that is growing their skills and improving their balance.

We’re all delighted with this bike. Also, we’re insanely ready for Spring. The good news for you? YOU can get hyped up for the warmer temps with us as I’m giving away one Strider Bike here, in the color of your choice! As long as you are 18 or above and live in the Continental United States, you are eligible to enter. Giveaway will close on 2/26/15 at 5am ET.

This is only open to my readers, so hop in on this giveaway and get ready to win! I can’t wait to share this genius, Spring-ready bike with one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring! Score a free one here!****Strider provided bikes for review and giveaway purposes for this post, but my family’s delight in our new bike is 100% genuine!*****

2/27/15 UPDATE: Congrats to winner Diane B.!

Feb 172015
 

Dude, no one loved that Jimmy Fallon Saved by the Bell throw-back more than me–go Zack Morris! But this trip down Memory Lane sparked a few reflections–most notably, how dramatically technology has changed and become such a significant part of our kids’ lives.

How is a parent to responsibly handle this shift? Check the savvy new OurPact app–helpful, smart, and a teensy more modern than what Zack was rocking. I’ll let OurPact introduce themselves below; I’m thrilled to have a company committed to helping us parenting navigate the challenge of this modern, sadly Zack Morris-lest world…

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Zack Morris and the gang recently made an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon Show, a throwback meant to transport us to the early 1990’s, when Saved by the Bell was a favorite for all of us Gen Y’ers. You know what else made an appearance in that all-too-brief 8-minute clip? Zack’s old school cell phone; the one that included no screen and was bigger (and probably ten times heavier) than the Kindles most people read their books off of today.

It was a stark reminder of how much technology has changed in just the last 20 years. While most of us grew up with an ancient computer shared by the family in the living room, kids today are equipped with iPads and devices of their own from a young age. And often, they take full advantage of the unlimited freedom they are afforded with those devices.

In so many ways, that technology has been extremely beneficial to the way we manage our lives. Staying connected is no longer a burden or chore anymore; it is a simple part of day-to-day life. Your kids can Skype with Grandma and Grandpa from thousands of miles away, and you can work from home whenever one of your little ones gets sick with the flu. Plus, our phones are now good for so much more than just making calls.

But there are drawbacks to that technology as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time a day for kids. But most American kids are extending far beyond that limit, averaging 50 hours a week, which doesn’t count the screen time they are getting in school. You might be wondering what the problem with that is. After all, we want our kids to be proficient with technology so that they can grow to be successful in this ever-changing landscape, right? Well, of course we do. But we also know that moderation is key with screen time, and that too much exposure has actually been linked to a slew of negative consequences; including increases in obesity, as well as behavioral and sleep problems.

Which means that as parents, our job duties have extended to now also helping our children navigate the use of this technology responsibly. The problem is that up to this point, there haven’t been a lot of great tools for helping you to do that. Most parents have been flying blind in the management of their children’s tech time.

Not anymore, though.

Recently released by ParentsWare, OurPact is a new app that provides the tools you need to safely and effectively manage your child’s tech use. It provides you the tools you need to regain control over the technology in your home.

Download the app, and you will be able to schedule internet and app use for your kids directly from your own iPhone. Want them to focus on schoolwork between the hours of 5 and 7? You make their screens completely inaccessible – which is great, because while previous apps have only allowed you to control internet usage, this gives you control over everything.

You can set a daily time limit on the screen time they do have, block internet and apps with just at a touch, and start a dialogue with your kids about the importance of managing their own screen time responsibly.

Everything about this new app is intuitive and built with the average parent in mind. Best of all? It’s free.

So why not take control back in your own home? OurPact is here to help!

****Thanks to OurPact for sponsoring this post about their helpful app!

My opinion of it’s benefit is 100% my own.****

Feb 162015
 

Taking young kids out for dinner always felt so very daunting to me. But...I did! Here was the trick I used and why it ended up being not only survivable, but FUN! You can do it too!Last Wednesday night should have been an average weekday night in February.  You know, the kind of night where you feel like a rockstar for schooling Kindergarten homework and braving the 19 degree windchill for a venture out to the mailbox.

Nothing notable was planned or expected. My husband was working late. My only hope was to land the kids and me in bed by 8:30pm without totally losing my crap. Except the night ended up being a bit different. It ended up being a night I grew up a little.

You see, I had never taken my children out for dinner by myself. After a traumatic early experience taking our colicky baby boy to a restaurant, my husband and I were scarred. I could probably count the number of times we’ve eaten out with them together, and I’ve certainly never chanced it solo.

But I had heard rumors, reports of fun restaurant experiences from my far-more-normal-than-me friends. And for some reason, I just wasn’t into the vision of slugging out another night of chicken nuggets around our kitchen table. So when the spark of inspiration to pop in on a local diner hit, I didn’t quash it. Perhaps delusion from the endless house-arrest of winter chill and illnesses had finally set in??

In any case, I allowed the teensy “I can do this” thought to take root and grow strength. I even told a friend about my plans for accountability’s sake. And when dinner time rolled around, I did it–I threw the kids in the van and we went to a diner.

And it was so, so fun. Really. Now, don’t get me wrong–there were many panicked screams to not squeeze ketchup all over the table, a flurry of reminders to use our “pleases and thank-yous”, and an intense family trip to the bathroom I’d love to forget, but…it went well. The waitress was super-cute, the kids had so much fun ordering their own food, and they thought the ice cream treats at the end for meals well-eaten were the coolest thing since sliced bread.

I was floored. We had not only survived a trip to a public eating establishment, it ended up being kind of, very, cool. My daughter said, “This was the best night ever, Mommy!”, and my son is already asking to go back for his birthday–in June.

Fed by the confidence of an outing-gone-well, another crazy idea took shape. Maybe, just maybe, I could tackle the mess of my daughter’s hair too? Three and a half years old without ever having her hair cut, a trip to a hairdresser had been past-due for ages. But my mother’s heart ached at the though of chopping off her sweet curls, however horridly uneven they were. So I put it off…and off, and then off some more.

But not this Wednesday night. No, this Wednesday night I was powerful. I was a mom who did bold things–like feeding her children outside the home. I was mom who was on it. I was a mom who could do this.

I was so, so nervous for my daughter's first haircut! It was an emotional growing-up rite of passage for me, but here is the trick to how I managed--and so can you! And my daughter? She was fine!

So I did. Asking my new waitress friend for a recommendation, I slickly drove us over to a salon and asked if they accepted walk-ins. They did.

We ended up waiting forever. There were no toys. I was terrified. I thought surely my kids would get whiny and fussy and we would all burst out into outrageous tears in some point? In an effort to distract and amuse them, I desperately began making up games and tried to turn leafing through the hair style books into a fun adventure. They got cagey and ragey anyway.

But you know what? We survived. And then they called my daughter’s name. And the hairdresser was amazing. She was kind and patient and did not act like I was the worst mother of all time for allowing my daughter’s hair to become such a nightmare.

The real kicker? My daughter sat still and behaved herself. I know, I’m still not sure this night was totally real.

Yet real or not, I was on a roll. I got us home and patiently delighted with the kids as we looked through their class Valentines. I calmly did night-night snacks, bathed them, read to them and didn’t lose my crap even once.

It was miraculous. It was empowering. For one night, I truly was Mom of the Year.

In one single night, I had grown up as a parent in spades. I had done things that scared me, and I not only managed them, I enjoyed them. It was okay. We had been okay. I could do them again.

The secret trick for me? The same that has proven true for me time and again with so many scary things in this life–simply do it. My fear wasn’t going anywhere; I just had to pack it up and take it along as I forced myself to take the leap. I had to refuse to let it be the biggest thing in the room–especially if I wanted to make space for ice cream sundaes and cute new hairdos.

This growing up business is pretty crazy stuff. I’m not counting on a repeat any time soon, but last week I made some big strides.

Also, perhaps most importantly, I kept my original 8:30 bed goal, sliding under the covers at 8:29. God knows what would have happened if Mommy was forced to stay up past her bedtime…

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