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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

tidbits from Parents - August and September

Here's the belated round up of the last few months worth of Parents magazine... oops I got behind in my reading! Sound familiar, busy mamas?!


  • Make busy bags- These are bags filled with little games and trinkets to keep kids busy. One example is to get Easter eggs, write the uppercase letter on the top half of the egg, the lower case letter on the bottom half. Take them apart, have kids match them up. LOVE this idea. Picture @themommystories on Instagram. 
  • Boys who play sports eat more veggies and fruits. They eat almost twice as many as those not on teams, according to a Texas study. (page 59)
  • Kids don't usually like mouth guards. These ones are BPA free and taste like things like fruit punch and bubble gum. $12 Awesome! 
  • Two parenting behaviors lead to higher IQs in kids: "responding to kids' emotional cues and beginning to read to them as early as 9 months old." (page 64)
  • Teaching kids creativity, telling stories, self-control and waiting things out aka patience are keys to success for your children's life.
  • Recipe: Banana Nut Sandwich:
    • 4 lg bananas
    • 1 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • pinch of salt
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
    • Freeze bananas in a plastic bag overnight. 
    • In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and sugar, mix well. Add eggs, honey, vanilla and salt. Beat until combined. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
    • Preheat oven to 350. Form dough into walnut size balls and place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet; press flat. Make crisscross marks on each with a fork. 
    • Bake until edges begin to turn slightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.
    • Spread coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every minute so that it browns evenly.
    • Place half of frozen bananas in food processor; allow to thaw for 5 to 7 minutes, then puree until smooth and creamy. Repeat with bananas. Turn 12 cookies upside down and spoon on about 3 tbs. banana puree. Top each with a second cookie and roll exposed banana filling in toasted coconut. 
    • Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours. 
    • (page 166)


  • A girl almost choked on her pacifier at night. Mom was told that heat from cleaning them, aka dishwasher, sink, etc. can damage the latex material. They should be thrown out every 2 months. (page 82)
  • Check out for the Hickman Hider, elastic top pocket for those kids who get frequent blood draws, to make it easier and less painful. Cool idea!
  • Kids can sleep with a stuffed animal past a year old because risk of suffocation decreases at that point (page 112). 
  • Ideally a third of a child's day should be free play for preschooler's (page 122). 
  • Recipe: Peanut butter and cherry sandwich - put dried cherries on top of peanut butter, voila sandwich! 
  • Awesome article about throwing a second baby shower or "sprinkle" - cool ideas! Loooove second baby parties. (page 174). One idea was a swap, meet and greet... bringing clothes to swap with one another. 
  • MOM TIP: For lunch meat sandwiches for your kids' lunches, freeze the bread at night... by the time it's lunch time the bread has de-thawed and it's ready to eat, but the meat is still cold! 
  • Tips for keeping some of your child's artwork: (page 202)
    • Laminate them to use as placemats at the table.
    • Keep favorites, then donate the rest to a local nursing home to make elderly folks smile. 
    • Use as wrapping paper.
    • Take a digital photo of each artwork and then use it as your computer's slideshow screensaver, and or make a book of the artwork on a site like 
    • Try Keepy: The Art-Chive app. Upload picture of the artwork, tell a story, share, free
  • Recipe: Chicken and Tomato Pasta
    • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, 4 roma tomatoes, 2 tbs olive oil, pepper and salt, 8 oz fettucine, 1 cup frozen peas, 4 tsp grated parmesan cheese
    • Bake the tomatoes and chicken, on separate sides, in the oven 400 degrees for 20 minutes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper first. 
    • Boil water and cook pasta.
    • Toss everything together in a big bowl. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

how to help a friend through a tough time

As you know, my good friend's house burned down in a fire about a month ago. It was devastating, not only with material and physical things, but of course emotionally. It's something I know most of us cannot comprehend or imagine happening to us. It's so sad to think about.

When a friend goes through something tough, especially when you have a friend who is also a mother to young children, you find yourself wanting to do all you can to support her, to help her through that tough time.

Here is me and my friend when we were in high school! These survived her house fire. It made me tear up seeing that some things survive tough moments.

The day I found out about my friend's house fire, I wanted to stop everything I was doing and rush to New York to be by her side. I wanted to DO something, hug her, just be there. But I have two kids and a full-time job and I knew honestly I'd be in the way if I rushed down right that moment. If I were going to go for a 5-hour trip to another state, I wanted it to be worth it for her, not for me, but for her. I wanted to give her all of my help, in a time when she could really use it. I figured there would be so many people there in the moments right after it happened that she could wait for me to come.

So I knew I'd go in the next few weeks. I wasn't exactly sure when, I figured I'd take her lead and wait it out to see when I could be used most.

Exactly a week after her fire, I was folding laundry and talking to my friend on the phone. She was having the worst two days she'd had since the fire the weekend before. She was crying, so sad, missing her animals. She didn't want to work on cleaning things up in the aftermath. She didn't want to deal, she wasn't sure how to move forward yet. I could hear it in her voice. She needed me.

I went back and forth in my head, should I go today? Should I go next weekend? I went downstairs and moved laundry from the washer to the dryer. The dryer. It made me think of my friend and all she'd lost... the dryer caused the fire.

So I went upstairs to my husband, told him that I knew it was last minute, but I HAD to go to NY today, right now, to see my friend. He totally understood. I whipped around the house and packed clothes and items for myself and one of our kids, while my husband and son stayed home. I left 45 minutes later and surprised my friend 5 hours later. She was SO happy seeing me.

My Instagram caption to this photo said "Sometimes you have to drive 5 hours to give your friend a hug." It's true. I had also helped to raise $7,000+ that week to go toward supporting their rebuilding of their home. I said my friend's face when seeing me there surprising her was priceless compared to the money we'd raised. Sometimes it's the little things - or in this case it was a bigger thing, it meant putting her as a priority over my own household chores, etc. - mean the most.

While there, my sister and I did lots of things including listening, getting her to laugh, eating chocolate, making dinner, taking her shopping to get clothes, helping her sort through things that were filled with smoke and needing to be washed, making piles of clothes that were donated that fit and things that didn't fit and could be donated elsewhere, playing with her daughter, talking about thank you notes, processing, hugging, and even walked to the scene of their property... to really take it all in and let her know I'm here for you, I see it, I see what you're going through, I can't fix it, but I'm here. I know it helped her a lot.

It's easy to feel helpless, unsure of where to begin to support your friend.

Here are some ideas that may be useful if you find your friend on bed rest from a tough pregnancy, after a miscarriage, going through a separation from a partner, a loss of a family member, etc. Not all suggestions below will apply to each situation, but hopefully this list of ideas resonates with you when trying to come up with even one small thing you can do to help a friend through a challenging time.

How to help a friend in need:

  • Provide food. This doesn't have to be something homemade, even take out or gift cards to Subway or restaurants you know they enjoy is a good idea. Sometimes people need a night off to stay in and not cook, other times they need a night out but probably won't spend the money or take themselves out without a gift card. If you make something, don't send your dish, get  disposable one so they don't have to think of one more thing to return to someone. 
  • Do laundry or other chores. Stop by and while there just work your way into folding laundry, putting dishes in the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, etc. You can't do this for just acquaintances probably, but for good friends and family, make them know you get it, it's fine, you're here to help.
  • Provide the little things. My sister went to the grocery store after our friend's fire and purchased the little food that she knew our friend enjoys, like cottage cheese or toothbrushes that they needed. Another one of her friends gave her running shoes and attire, because she knew that was so important to her lately especially for stress-relief. Think about the things nobody else will consider - like running shoes or a gift card to buy favorite perfume. Or if you know she lost a bracelet that's so important to her, and you know she won't be putting money into replacing those things right away... get that as a gift to say "I love you, I am here." 
  • Get something to make her feel better about herself. This could be a bracelet like I said or a pretty scarf to make her feel better, or even just a gift card to pick out nice jeans instead of only wearing what was donated. 
  • Consider the adults. With my friend's fire, so many people came out immediately to support their young child. That was so wonderful. I just noticed that the adults needed more. It's easier to buy for the kids, so that's usually what happens and it's awesome! But then consider something for the adults - movie tickets to get out and relax a bit; doing some chores or accompanying them to do the chores they have to do; food or gift cards to go out; clothing for them, etc. 
  • Make them laugh. Remind them it's OK to be funny sometimes even in the face of a tragedy. Get them out for coffee or ice cream or something.
  • Just be with them. What I think helped our friend the most was my sister and I just going with her to several stops she needed to make after the tragedy. She needed to go to the store to buy clothes for work, so we just went with her and helped her pick things out. She needed some food, so we went to pick it up. Just being there through the things your friend already has to do is helpful. 
  • Reassure them that what they feel is normal. I think moms who go through things struggle to be OK with being upset, being mad, or just feeling down. They may see things that are positive and think those make up for the negative... but really it's OK to feel bad. I know that especially moms will do their best to keep moving, be OK for their kids... but really it's OK to not feel OK, go through the emotions. Tell them that's normal and you're there to listen.
  • Keep in touch. It's so hard to do this one, as busy moms ourselves, we usually cannot take on one more thing in our busy days and lives. However, when a friend goes through a tough tragedy, it's important to be there. Maybe you're the only person who can or will be there that much, so you have to take that responsibility seriously. I called my friend 1-2 times a day the first two weeks after the fire, then was texting and keeping in touch every few days after that. Sometimes we'd talk for 2 minutes, other times for an hour. Just be there. It's important. 
  • Help however you can. For me, being 5 hours away and in another state, it was tough to help my friend with the little things at first. So I did what I could. I set up a Go Fund Me Web site for people to donate to them. I was states away but raising money, it felt so good to help in that way. I also offered to help make a list of things they need to add to the insurance list of what they lost. I could sit in my house 5 hours away and make that list, I didn't need to be right near her. There are some things you can do to support your friend from far away, just ask and offer. 
Just a few things that may help in times of need. Just being there honestly is the best thing. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Halloween treats for the littles

I always like to think outside the box and try something new.

I also have a son who goes haywire on too much sugar, so I'm always trying to think, "what could I give besides something sweet?" Believe me, I love the candy, but sometimes it's fun to get different things, too.

This year for Halloween I made up some cute treat bags for my children, nieces and nephews. My sister helped me decorate the bags, as I'm so not creative in that department.

I'm a school counselor and reading-fantatic, so of course I included books for the kids!

I love paper bags. They are the cutest. I've had the same pack of paper bags for the last two years for a few parties and gifts. They are simple yet unique.

Inside I included a pudding treat (sugar free!) that my husband got as a kid from his grandmother and insisted I get for the nieces and nephews, too cute. Then stickers, pencils, stencils, etc. along with their books.

I found this cute outfit at a consignment store for my niece and mailed it to her. She's 6 months old so this was a good idea for her.

Yesterday I went to the Dollar Tree and picked up a few things for trick-or-treaters at our house, again thinking outside the box not wanting to just do candy. I have friends who have kids with food allergies, so this year that really struck me, wanting to be more inclusive, not just have a pile of treats they could not enjoy in case we get trick-or-treaters with allergies. So I did stickers, toys, and some candy that I heard were less likely to cause allergies.

I picked up erasers, pencils, stickers, Dum-Dums and Smarties, as well as some little whistles and bubbles. Nothing fancy, but a little different I'm hoping.

What do you put in the bucket for trick-or-treaters?


Monday, October 20, 2014

love for the Orange Rhino - learn to Yell Less, Love More

Ever sit down to read a book and by the end of the first page you think, "OMG, it's like she's read my mind of questions and written an answer to me here!"? That's exactly how it was while I was reading Sheila McCraith's new book, Yell Less, Love More - How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids - and How You Can Too!

Images from the Orange Rhino Facebook page, shared with permission by the author 

I was fortunately chosen as one of many bloggers to review Sheila's new book. In exchange for an honest review of this book, I received an advanced copy and some giveaways for my readers. (THIS is pretty much THE coolest thing to ever happen to me since starting this blog a few years ago, I have to admit! I've been bragging for weeks.) It was meant to be that I connected with this amazing author and mom, since Sheila is from New England like I am.

It's also shown me several other awesome bloggers, like this one at She Just Glows,  a mom who was also part of the Orange Rhino Blog Tour - she gives you great tips for stopping the yelling.

***Read on: If you comment on this post or on the Mommy Stories Facebook group sharing 2 things that help you to keep your cool with the kiddos, you could be one of two lucky readers to win free giveaways from the Orange Rhino! You have until Friday 10/24/14 at 7 p.m. to enter the contest with your comments.*** 

Before I share my review and interview with the author, I'll just stop all the suspense and get to the point since I know you moms have zero time to sit around and read something in its entirety while busy chasing kids, washing laundry, or making dinner : This book is AMAZING. You have to get this one.

Even if you don't yell or if you think you have it all under control, this is a must-read for all parents, moms and dads.  I feel like I know the author from reading this book, which is just how I think parents want to feel when exposing themselves to something they have hidden, their fear of anyone judging them about their yelling tendencies. 

Yell Less, Love More is not just about preventing yourself from yelling, it's more about achieving a goal, putting yourself first or at least as one of your priorities, and being the best type of mom you can be for your sweet children. It's about a mom being utterly, sometimes painfully, real with other parents, complete strangers, as well as with herself. She does this in hopes of helping others to be honest about their own experiences and ultimately start loving more.

If you read my blog, you know that my No. 1 goal with the Mommy Stories is to portray honesty, promote others opening up and sharing ideas and experiences, with the idea that too often we moms hold inside what we're going through. Sheila is not just an author, she's a mom to four boys. She gets it, and writes about every detail of her experience. That is the best part about this book - how open and honest she is with readers.

While reading this book, I legit felt like I was sitting down to coffee (or Iced Chai in my case!) with an old friend who totally gets what it's like to be a busy mother, with demands from all angles. She doesn't sugarcoat it. She's REAL, and that's something I admire more than anything in an author, but especially in a how-to, self-help, parenting advice author. 


HIGHLIGHTS from the book that I just love:
  • Orange Rhinos - Seriously, adorable. They are naturally calm animals, unless provoked... kinda like parents who mean well, but end up snapping sometimes after kids aren't listening or it's been a tiring day. I adore the idea of orange rhinoceroses out there. I think we will find someday that they are REAL animals. In the meantime, I'll keep staring at the one I have on top of my microwave in my kitchen. (My son got a Tier Toys Stackers Noah's Ark Set of animals and stacking boat pieces. The orange rhino came in the same time that I had started the first round of the Orange Rhino 30-Day Challenge. It was a sign! I stole the orange critter from my son's toy and put him in the place where I was struggling to keep cool... the kitchen! He's now my buddy.) 
    • Also, orange is a happy color, you can't help but smile and think good things seeing it. It just so happens to also be my school colors that I have to wear every Friday for school spirit day and Tiger Pride (I'm a school counselor) so I'm kinda hooked on this orange thing. I even have bright orange high-top Converse. Yes, you're allowed to be jealous. You will start seeing orange everywhere once you do this Challenge and read the book, I swear. It's a good thing!
  • Easy, mom-friendly reading. This is a book really written for moms. Seriously it's written as though a real life mom knew what it was like to attempt to read something and never have time to finish it. What do you know, the author Sheila IS a mom who gets it. Colors, bold words, quotes to keep you interested, and specific ideas on how to improve your non-yelling streak, not just theories but specific things you can start doing NOW. For example, yell into the refrigerator or dress your kids in orange. Love it, simple. You read this book and instantly think, "I can do that!" 
  • Real with a Capital R. She's as honest as they come. I thought I knew the best honest mom writing when I read Kelle Hampton's book Bloom and her amazing blog. Now after reading Sheila's book, it's clear to me that if I were granted a wish to be able to choose two amazing mom authors to sit down to lunch with (Panera, anyone?!) I'd be extending a second invite to the Orange Rhino Sheila McCraith. She holds nothing back in this book. It's scary to think about putting yourself out there like that. I'm sure a part of her has held her breath through this process of exposing her "dirty little secrets" that involve yelling, making the kids cry, and feeling like crap. And yet, I know that's the reason she's written this book - to help other parents to stop feeling that way, to let them know they are not alone and that they CAN improve and live a yelling-free life. Can't help but admire that.

  • Triggers. I love the idea that there are triggers, things that stress us out as parents, things that make us lose our cool. We aren't just naturally bad parents or prone to yelling. If there are triggers, we can change some of those in order to make them not set us down the path of yelling. We can work hard to improve. We can change this yelling thing. I love that idea. For example, she wrote about the mornings being really tough for her to get the kids out the door by herself. I struggle with this daily... it's a marathon I feel some days, OK most days. She has specific ideas on how to mange that routine, like reminding yourself it's only about 20 minutes or whatnot that you must get through without yelling, then they are off to school and it's all good. I like how tangible this change is, that it's not some great idea stuffed into a book that looks fancy. It's real and any parent can follow these tips.
  • Make yourself a priority. Say what?! Moms making themselves important? Putting themselves first? What is she crazy?! Nope, she's right on! On page 105 she shares her "take care of me list" of things she knows she needs in order to be able to work hard at not yelling. Things include getting enough sleep, eating well, connecting with other friends, keeping organized, etc. It's refreshing reading something so realistic about taking care of ourselves. I think we're told we should take care of ourselves "sleep when the baby sleeps," for example. But we aren't really told how in ways that make sense to our busy Mom Brains. Sheila offers us great ideas on how to do just that, and ultimately reach our goal of loving our kids more. 
  • Hope. Sheila makes you feel like you can do this no yelling thing. It's definitely possible with the right tools, ideas and hard work - oh yeah, and with a whole lot of ORANGE. Every page in this book seems to YELL this out loud (the good type of shouting, no worries!). I love how encouraging the author is throughout the book. She writes notes to you, and you honestly feel they ARE written to YOU. Totally inspiring. It makes you not want to quit reading. It inspires you to make this process of transformation a priority above cleaning up the toy room or other mom chores you have on the list. On page 110, Sheila shared in a note directly to you, the reader, 

"I can say with all my heart and soul that teaching myself to stop yelling has changed my life. It has changed who I am as a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a neighbor. It has changed how I experience life, for the better. It has changed how I handle frustrations and fears; I now do so with much more confidence, maturity, insight and strength. I would not have achieved this life-changing experience had I not dared to dream that I could change, had I not believed that I could change, had I not made a plan to change, and had I not finally focused to make it happen." 

Sheila graciously answered a few questions for us.

1. What would a child's world without yelling look like, feel like, and overall BE like? 
At a minimum, I believe it would feel calmer and more comforting. Without yelling, I take the time to realllllly listen to my kids so that I can understand where they are coming from so that I can respond from an empathetic place. As such, I believe my kids feel more understood which is such a comforting feeling that we all crave, kids especially. And calmness is contagious! When I am calm I put out more chill vibes; when I am all agitated and worked up, my kids feel those vibes and it only makes them more agitated and worked up! 

2. What do you hope your children benefit from you personally choosing not to yell?
Oh there is so much! 
- People aren't perfect; mistakes happen and what matters is that you learn from them so that they are not repeated and that if you hurt someone in the process of making a mistake, you apologize. 

- Yelling is not a good form of communication; it shuts people down instead of opening them up to listen, learn, and connect

- Anger happens. Frustration happens. There are peaceful ways to handle that stress that don't involve yelling. "Anger management" is a life skill that everyone benefits from. 
- "Taking me-time" is crucial. 
- Change is possible - doing what seems impossible is possible! With determination, support, and strong desire, change can happen! 

I could go on and on and on but I'll stop here :) 

3. When does choosing not to yell become easier, how far into the process for you, or is it a daily struggle that is worth the fight?
I'd say choosing not to yell became easier after about 2 weeks of not doing it. The more moments I experienced without yelling, the more my mind got "re-trained" if you will to find non-yelling alternatives. Plus, the more I saw that (1) yelling didn't work (2) I could discipline without yelling (3) our home was much more peaceful without yelling and (4) I felt much better without yelling, my desire to yell plummeted. All this said, some days are tough, tough, tough because life happens! But the energy I need to put into not yelling is well worth it!

4. What is the best thing you have learned since becoming an Orange Rhino?
Only one?! That taking care of me isn't selfish, it's necessary. 

5. What do you hope your readers gain from reading your book? What was your purpose in writing it for other parents?

I hope readers discover that they are not alone in the struggle to yell less and that there is hope for them! I wrote this book so that other parents could experience the positives I have experienced from not yelling. I know how cruddy it feels to go to sleep having yelled too much; I don't want anyone to feel that if I can help it!! 

6. What are the top 3 coolest ORANGE things you own and where did you get it or who gave it to you?
(1) My orange kitchen spatula that has the phrase "Cooked with love" LOVE it! I bought it at a stationery store of all places!
(2) My bright orange shoes from J.Crew. I never, ever, wear anything but brown or black shoes (or sneakers.) Every time I wear them I feel happy and confident.

(3) My orange Rhino key chain. The car is a tough place for me. I love having my little friend ;) swinging right by my hands as I drive, smiling at me and reminding me to stay calm.  

Love, love, love this book! 
It's well-written, straight-forward, truthful, unique and helpful. Check it out!


I've not only read Sheila's book, but I follow her on Facebook and on her blog - and you should, too!

Because I'm so in awe of this author-mom's truthfulness, and because the point of my own blog is to promote honesty ... I intend to write a few more posts in the near future about my own experiences with trying to stay calm in the midst of the chaos that is parenting. I'll share with you how I first came to find the Orange Rhino in early 2013, and my experience doing the Orange Rhino's 30 Day Challenge in February 2013. 

I hope that some of you will come forward and want to share your own experience with trying not to yell. I know that by talking, sharing ideas, and reading this book, we can all better support one another through the ups and downs of parenting. 

Thank you to Sheila McCraith, the original Orange Rhino, 
for leading the way toward loving our children more! 

follow me @themommystories on Instagram

Sunday, October 19, 2014

off to the fair!

We skipped school to go to the fair two weeks ago... how much fun! It was my husband's idea. The kids thought we were crazy awesome.

The things we love about the fair include...

Um, shall we start with FOOD?! The smells, even at 9 a.m. are incredible. Not all healthy for you, sure, but amazing all the same. I'll fully admit that corn dogs are at the top of my fair-going list of foods I must purchase. Corn dogs? Who eats these things except me only at fairs? I don't eat them elsewhere. Delicious. That and caramel apples. Those are a must for me.

I hate ferris wheels. I won't ride on them. When my 4 year old asked to go on it I pretended not to hear him, not wanting him to be afraid of them also like I am but also not wanting to give permission for him to ride on those large things.

Taking pictures of them, that's my thing. Riding, no thanks.

I love seeing my kids' look of enjoyment when I ask them to stand still for a second so Mom can snap a picture or 15. Awesome.

Love fair attire. I always dress the kids kinda cute in some plaid thing that looks like they belong in a fair. I don't know why I think plaid goes there, but it reminds me of farms so there we go. Me? I love comfortable clothes and sneakers, as well as the warm weather. Love fall days!

It's fun watching how intrigued the kids are by things at the fair like big trucks and logging machines.

The hands-on fun is the best part! Seeing animals, riding on big trucks and snowmobiles - very cool to this preschooler.

Animals are the best part about fairs. Except I did get sad this year seeing them all lined up and not roaming a pasture.

We loooove how tiring fairs are for the kiddos, how they sleep the entire ride home!

A great fair day 2014! Can't wait for next year.

childhood is

Lately my kids have just been adorable.
You know that feeling where you're standing back, observing, taking a breath, stopping to really take in how cute they are? I've had a few of those lately. I think it's why I love fall... because we spend time outside and the colors and lighting make it all so nostalgic and sweet.

It's got me thinking about the childhood my babies are into right now.

Childhood is supposed to be fun and carefree. It's finding out new things every day. It's learning each day, and being excited about the learning process.

It's being next to something really big when you are really small, and feeling SO cool.

It's RUNNING everywhere you go, because you cannot do anything but race there to find out what's around the corner, down the road, or up ahead.

You are so intrigued, totally psyched about every little thing.

Childhood is about seeing how strong you are, how much you can handle and carry.

It's being proud of all the little things you can do. It's having no fear.

Childhood is exciting. Fun. Adventurous.

It's seeing something for the first time and thinking it's so great, easygoing and nothing to be afraid of.

It's seeing something for the 10th time and still being excited about it as if it were the first time.

It's standing tall, as if you are king of the world, knowing that you are bigger than your body shows, that you have big dreams and ideas, because well, you're a child. And children do everything in a big way. 

It's never accepting defeat. It's always trying harder and one more time giving it your all. 

Childhood is full of ups and downs, bruises and tears. It's full of people saying no and lots of YES, go for it! you can do its! 

It's the best gift we can give to our kids. 

It's patience, time, sitting around eating apples in a field just because there is nothing else planned today. 

It's hugging when they fall, and reassuring them that it'll be fine when the doctor comes in to give them that shot. 

Childhood is raising littles into big ones. It's helping them develop and feel like big people. It's raising future adults, change-makers, leaders, doctors, nurses, teachers, and workers. 

Childhood is FUN. It's so awesome. 

We are lucky to have this second chance at childhood with our babies. 
Enjoy it while it lasts. It's over in a blink of an eye. 

trick-or-treat for kids with food allergies

I have a very good friend whose children have severe food allergies. Because of this I've been interested in promoting awareness about how we can be more inclusive of these children with allergies during the fun trick-or-treating festivities.

I have a son who is sensitive to sugar, within minutes of consuming it he's more hyper, bouncing off the walls, so to speak, so we've tried cutting out food dyes and limiting sugar. He doesn't have an allergy that is life threatening, but even I could appreciate seeing some stickers or something else in a trick-or-treat bucket. I imagine parents with children who really cannot consume certain items would be forever grateful if we moms would support them.

There is a Teal Pumpkin Project flying around Facebook lately. I love the idea! The idea is for you to paint a pumpkin teal and put it outside your door so kids and parents with allergies know that you have items there that they could have. Great solidarity movement I think!

Ideas for items you can include for trick-or-treaters who may have allergies:

  • glow sticks
  • play-doh
  • stickers
  • crayons
  • coloring pages
  • bouncy balls
  • smarties, dum-dums, jolly ranchers and starbursts 
  • erasers
  • pencils
  • fruit snacks
  • Halloween items like fang teeth or witch fingers
  • whistles
  • bubbles
  • plastic rings
The Switch Witch
If you end up with treats that aren't so sweet for your little goblin, try out the Switch Witch idea. The child leaves the candy they are allergic to in their bucket Halloween night, and the Switch Witch comes and replaces it with things that the child can eat or use. Love this idea! 

More resources:

Let's unite together and support fellow moms and children.
I hope this helped some of you who want to support those with food allergies, as well as parents of children who have these serious allergies. We're all in this together. Showing support is one way to make these moms and children's lives a little easier during the fun holidays. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dear 2 1/2 year old Addisyn,

Dear Addisyn,
Today is your Half Birthday. This is a fun thing in our family. We always do ice cream for half birthdays. Any excuse to celebrate is good in our book, right?

You are SO awesome right now. Seriously. Loving the stage you're in. Yes, sure, we have moments where you are a Diva with a capital D, totally a 2-year-old, all saying "NO" in a big loud voice, wanting to do it all yourself most of the time, and even testing me with a smirk on your face as you reach for something I've told you not to touch, as if testing me, "What are you gonna do it about it, Mom?"

You're so independent these days. It's not making me sad. I'm not having that old "where'd my baby go?" weepy feeling right now. I'm just thoroughly enjoying this phase of your life. You are developing at the speed of light it feels like. You learn something new all the time. You have full conversations with us now, that's the most amazing part about you. You talk so much and know so many things it's incredible. We are so proud of you every day.

You are still a Mama's Girl... but you and Dad are super close lately. I love that. You run to him every single day when he comes home from work, like wherever you are in the house you somehow hear he's coming inside and drop whatever you are doing to rush over to him.

I love your excitement and enthusiasm.

You dance EVERYWHERE you go. Literally everywhere. Just this morning you told me you were heading out for dance lessons. I cannot wait to start you dancing in a class, because your passion for enjoying every bit of life is going to shine on a dance floor, I just know it.

You are SILLY.
Sassy, full of attitude and Diva-ness. Not quite sure exactly what that means? Well, it's everything you are. We've called you a Diva since you were born, which basically means you know what you want and demand it when you want it, and you're all full of this funny, sweet, awesome attitude. You are totally sure of yourself, unique, and filled with a huge personality of happiness and sheer joy. Your laugh is contagious. We tickle you all the time just to hear it.

You stick your tongue out at us all the time. It's annoying and adorable all in one. You make silly faces, love dressing up in jewelry, hats and sunglasses. You wear my shoes every day. Heck, you wear dad's shoes and your brother's also. You love dressing up. I swear you may become an actress.

There is so much we love about you, Addi Girl. We are learning new things daily right along with you. It's the most fun to see you run toward something you enjoy, or to see you take a bear or doll with you EVERYWHERE you go. You are such a caretaker and I adore that.

You get bored easily, wanting to find something else exciting to move on to next. You LOVE fiercely. You take such good care of your dolls and yet you're covered in dirt every single day when we play outside. Dad and I love that most about you.

Your brother is your entire world. You two fight like crazy the last month or so. You're sensitive and whiney, which gets your brother to laugh, so he picks on you and you pick on him and then it just drives me nuts. But you have fun along the way, and that's what siblings are all about I suppose. You follow everything he does. In the car, you narrate to him, "Look, Owen, see that truck? Owen, you go to school today? Owen, I went to school today. You see that train, Owen?" Everything is about your brother. You hug him every night and refuse to go to your own bed until you've kissed him goodnight in his room.

It's the sweetest thing ever. I hope it stays this way forever.

You're in this awesome place, little girl. The whole world is stretched out before you and you're running right for it, eyes wide open, head up, and full of confidence and all adventure-seeking. I want to remember you this way when you are a teenager arguing with me and when you leave for college someday. I want to remember how you started as a two-year-old, ready for anything, not afraid, a risk taker, SO incredibly happy all the time.

Not many parents want to remember the two-year-old stage. Sure, we have moments that I'd love to move right past and rush toward three. But mostly, Addisyn, you are just amazing right now and we are lucky to be your parents.

I read an article recently that made me think of you. It included this quote:

"She will know that she does not have to be delicate or lovely if she does not want to be. I want her to know she does not have to water herself down to spare the intimidating of others. I hope she is unapologetic with her confidence. I hope she is a force to be reckoned with. 
A hurricane."
Keep enjoying life, sweet girl. Keep having fun and being my sweet girl who begs me to "Sing Twinkle Twinkle, Mommy," at night, who can't sleep if I'm home and Dad puts you in your crib, you need me to rock you first. 
Love you, little girl. Happy 2 1/2 birthday. Next up: THREE! 

fire safety - Scott Nemet

Thank you to Scott Nemet for sharing some very helpful tips for fire prevention and safety. I am personally so grateful for the suggestions and real ideas these firefighters have offered to we parents. I know I've learned a lot and intend to make some changes in my home ASAP. I hope this has helped you, mommas!

1.     How long have you been working in the fire prevention support field? Where do you work?
I have been a member of the Lee Fire & Rescue Department for over 15 years. In 2004 I was hired as a Full Time Firefighter at which time I became involved in fire prevention classes with the elementary school and many daycares in town. I am currently the Fire Chief and my duties include Fire Inspections as well.  

2.     What are some of the most important things you think all home-owners need to consider when it comes to fire prevention?
The first defense is having working smoke detectors. Many times the smoke detectors are overlooked and sometimes even removed. You should have at least one detector on every floor and new constructed homes require one on every floor, in every sleeping room, and outside of each sleeping room in the immediate vicinity of the sleeping rooms. 

3.     What is something you think all parents of young children need to talk to their kids about when it comes to fire safety?

I think all parents should speak to their kids about fire drills in the home, having a meeting place, calling 911, and about not playing with fire. You can never start too young. 

4.     How should parents talk to their children about fire safety or what to do in case of an emergency (where to meet up, what to do when fire alarms go off, etc.)? At what age do you think kids should be talked to about this?
A good tool that can be used with children is through the National Fire Protection Association, This is an interactive website that children can learn about many of these items. I think the earlier you expose and talk to your children about fire safety the better.  

Parents can also go to to learn more about important safety topics. 

5.     Any suggestions for those kids who sleep through anything, including loud fire alarms? 
There have been studies on this. The best thing to do is have an escape plan and go to your children’s room to make sure they are awake. 

6.     Any suggestions on helping kids realize that smoke alarms are not scary, that they are there to help us and to get out of the house?
The best thing to do is to talk to the children from a early age and practice fire drills. The children practice fire drills multiple times throughout the year at their school and this will assist with the children understanding they are not scary. Although the sound can be loud it is necessary to get everyone out of the house. 

7.     What type of maintenance can families do in their homes to prevent fires? 
Utilize to learn what you can do. Another item is your home heating source. Furnaces and wood stoves should be inspected and cleaned every year. Be sure to hire a professional that is trained for your heating source. Most fire departments conduct courtesy limited visual woodstove and chimney inspections. 

8.     What are your recommendations about using washing machines and dryers (on during the night while you're sleeping? clean the vent how often? leave it running while you leave the house or not? why?)
My recommendations would be to use them while you are home. I currently do this at my house. Remember to clean the lint filter before every use. Periodically inspect the venting system to make sure it is not damaged or crushed. The interior of the dryer and the venting system should be cleaned and inspected by a qualified person. 

9.     Any recommendations about other appliances in the house - unplug toasters? only run dishwasher when someone is home? What about crockpots? etc.
Personally I unplug my toaster and only run my dishwasher when we are home. I make sure these items including crockpots are manufactured by a reputable company. Most of these items are UL tested. The company certifies, validates, tests, and inspects appliances and many other items. 

10.  What do you find is one of the more common causes to house fires? 

Cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires.

11.  What do you recommend for fire safety boxes, safes, etc. for families to keep important items? Any special brands or ideas on this?
I cannot recommend a brand but I would start by thinking about what you would like to store so you purchase the right size safe. Also place it in a part of the house that you can remember. A couple years ago we had a house fire where sadly they lost most items. The safe was placed in the basement in a certain corner of the house. With the homeowners knowledge of this we found it through the all the debris. 

12.  For those who go through a fire situation, what do you think are some of the best things others can do to support them during that difficult time?
Being there for them. Assisting them with anything that can get them back to normalcy. 

13.  What are some things you teach young children about fire safety? Are there certain things you say, books parents could read, etc. that help them learn about preventing fires or what to do during fires? 
I would tell every parent to visit their local fire department. The firefighters love to talk with the children and show both the parents and children our equipment and trucks. 

Fires can be a scary situation and having a person in full fire gear in your house can be scary. In our fire prevention classes we have a firefighter dress in our gear to show the kids we are not scary and are there to help them. Many children hide from the firefighters. We want them to know we are there to help. Every day can be a learning experience for the children and parents. 

If the smoke detector goes off while cooking dinner practice your drills and explain to the kids why the smoke detector went off. I think the NFPA website provides great tools for the children to learn about fire prevention. 

14.  Anything else you want to add? 
Make sure your home is labeled with 4 inch reflective numbers so the fire department can find your home. Remember we respond to incidents in all types of weather at all hours of the day and night. Have a fire extinguisher that is visible in the home. Inspect it once a month. Replace every 10 years. 

Have smoke detectors on every floor of your home including the basement. Replace the batteries every 6 months. Replace the detector every 10 years.