Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide ~ For Moms!

The holidays are fast approaching. I wanted to put together a few gift ideas for the 'moms' in your life. All of these items are very practical, and would make any mom feel very appreciated. I know these items are all on my list!

1. Travel Coffee Mug. Because for most moms out there, coffee = life. Even if they aren't into coffee, this beautiful mug works for tea too! And it also gives you a confidence boost in the early morning, or the afternoon, or whenever you need it. It cuts back on the disposable coffee trash that we are all guilty of, so it's environmentally responsible. This travel mug is from Anthropologie and they also have several other non-travel mugs that are just as gorgeous, and less pricey.   

2. Kate Spade Polka Dot Reusable Tote. For the lunchtime grocery store run, the after-work Target run, the mad dash to soccer practice, or the daily dash to grab 'one more thing' from any store- reusable totes are a great way to carry your items in style, and are great for the environment. I saw this at Nordstrom, and there were a variety of other totes - "Treat Yourself" in hot pink is another option! So cute. 

3. Personalized Ring. I have a ring with my three boys' names on it, with hearts in between. I LOVE IT! My sister designed it for me, and worked with the jewelry genius Christie Martin. You can purchase her items on Etsy, her shop is called christienano. The ring that I have is called the "Say Anything Ring" because you can customize it however you would like, birth dates, anniversary date, etc. Very personal, and I wear mine every day!

4. Flavor Infusing Water Bottle. This is a great way to naturally flavor your water. You can try all kinds of different combinations- berries, citrus, mint, cucumbers, etc. This bottle is made of glass, so it reduces our dependence on plastic water bottles. It fits perfectly in cup holders, and even looks nice on your desk at the office. This bottle helps encourage a higher consumption of water during the day, and that is great for busy moms. We need to hydrate with all the coffee (and wine) that we drink! The water bottle below can be found at uncommon goods, which is a great shop to look for unique gifts.

5. A Cozy Throw. Pottery Barn has a variety of cozy throws to choose from, including several faux fur blankets to snuggle up with on the couch on a cold winter night. The options pictured below are machine washable, so they are still practical. These make me want to build a fire, and

Pottery Barn Garett Printed Throw
Those are a few of my ideas for 'mom gifts', and there's always gift cards! It's all about presentation, so put a gift card in a cute package. You could put a Sephora gift card in a cute cosmetic bag, for example! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kids Academy Apps Updated | Free Educational Apps + Printable Worksheets!

This blog has partnered with Mom Buzz Media to announce this exciting information!

Kids Academy Image 2

Kids Academy Releases Preschool Education Center for iOS and Android!

My 4 year old son is required to wear an eye patch for one hour per day, to strengthen his eye. I am always looking for something to keep his attention. He will do a puzzle, draw or color, and use Play dough for a few minutes at a time. But I have found an app that he can practice tracing letters, doing puzzles, and shapes and colors. The Preschool Education Center is an all-in-one educational app created for children and toddlers by the team at Kids Academy! With already over 10 million downloads worldwide, they have just released a long-awaited update to this amazing app! The app is designed to cover all aspects of early childhood education. Children learn about the alphabet, reading, writing, building vocabulary and even developing math skills. Based on the proven Montessori method, the Preschool Education Center app offers a number of fun games that help master essential learning skills through play, making learning fun!

This app has a variety of options for young children- tracing letters, puzzles, games, videos and more. My four year old is hooked. It does have in app purchases, so be sure you're aware of that. Overall, it's a great app that keeps the attention of little ones.

Until now, Preschool Education Center has only been available on iTunes but now it is finally available for Android devices on Google Play! This fun and free app is currently being featured in the Family section of the Android store in the USA, Australia and Canada.

iTunes Kids AcademyFor iOS devices:

Kids Academy have also updated the iOS version of the app: Preschool & Kindergarten Early Learning Games adding new games, books and educational cartoons and shows as well as printable worksheets.  

2000px-Download_on_iTunes.svg - Copy - Copy

Kids Academy Free Worksheets

BONUS! Free Preschool & Kindergarten Worksheets for Kids

spelling-words-worksheet-2Kids Academy is also finding a way to expand beyond the screen and help master pen and pencil with free printable worksheets. You can get free preschool worksheets on a variety of subjects from alphabet to math and the library is updated often! Download, print out and get start practicing with good old fashioned pencil and paper in seconds!

Head over to Kids Academy and get your FREE PRINTABLE WORKSHEETS

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Birthday Weekend Extravaganza ~ Part 2

We spent Sunday night at the Legoland Hotel, which was WAY cooler than I imagined it would be! I was worried that we would only be spending a short time there, and that the boys wouldn't get the full experience. But the hotel did a great job having activities for the kids. There was a dance party ~ to wear the kids out, no doubt! Another highlight was an outdoor movie on a big screen by the pool when it was dark. 

They were trying to spell Legos with their hands, which caused some confusion... 
 We had a great group of friends, and the boys all had a great time with the birthday boy. No arguing, no competition, just fun!

Team huddle to decide their next move!
The boys were all fascinated with the Star Wars area, where they stayed together and admired the thousands upon thousands of Legos used to recreate each of the Star Wars scenes.

The Star Wars exhibit was a favorite. Where else could you get 5 young boys to sit still for a this long!
It was a day he will remember. We all had a great time, thanks to his wonderful friends and grandparents!  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Birthday Weekend Extravaganza! Part 1

This weekend was...chaotic. We had our youngest turn 1, our oldest turn 7, and my sister turned 30! Friday was spent cleaning the house and preparing for the party. This included icing 72 cupcakes, thanks for your help Sis! 

Pinterest-inspired alligator cupcakes
His birthday was alligator themed (obviously). We had a bounce house for the older kids, and alligator ring toss. It was a casual backyard event. The birthday boy was pretty worn out, and ended up going down for a nap before his guests left. 

Birthday boy, while he was clean (left) and after cake (right). He enjoyed his cupcake!

I was determined to give him a birthday party all his own, for his first birthday. Mission accomplished. I can't believe he's already one! Birthday weekend extravaganza Part 2- Little J, coming soon! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Best Ways to Stay Cool with Kids this Summer!

This weekend was hot and humid here in Southern California, which is NOT what we're used to! We spent a lot of time outside, celebrating birthdays with friends and family. I wanted to share a few tips on how to stay cool with the little ones this summer. 

1. Go to the pool! This is our favorite option for staying cool in the summer. We spent Saturday morning at the pool, and everyone not only cooled down but also got VERY TIRED :) And the icing on the cookie made Mayhem's tongue a lovely shade...

Little J and Mayhem at the Pool
2. Dress for the Humidity. Loose, lightweight clothing is best. Cotton clothing in light colors will help reflect the heat and allow your skin to breathe. The baby is modeling a romper for you below. 

Wear a romper to stay cool! :)
 3. Make it Fun. While we were at the OC Fair on Sunday afternoon, the boys enjoyed spraying each other (and us) with these mister fans! It really does help you feel cooler.
Image Source: Amazon.com
 4. Stay in the shade, and avoid being outdoors at the hottest time of the day. The later afternoon (around 4 pm) is the best time to be in the sun. So, wait until AFTER nap time to head outside to play with the water table! And be sure to put an umbrella over the play area if possible.

and last, but definitely not least...

Image source: http://www.cmfe.org/
5. Stay hydrated. Be sure to have the kids drink lots of water, so that no one gets dehydrated! Drink before you're thirsty and eat fruit which also helps your body replenish the water it needs.

What do you do to keep cool?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015 - Time flies...

Where has June gone?! We celebrated our 9 year wedding anniversary, at a restaurant with our three young boys. We laughed, and convinced each other that we would TRULY celebrate at a later point this summer. We also celebrated graduations, birthdays, Father's Day, and the end of the school year. Mayhem survived his first year of preschool, and J finished 1st grade! He's reading now and tying his shoes- so we've checked those milestones off the list. Mayhem grew about 6 inches this year, from the before and after pictures- I just can't get over it! And of course, the glasses make him look quite different from the beginning of the year.
On the left: First day of preschool. On the right: Last day!

On the left, first day of 1st grade. On the right, last day!
The baby got more teeth... and he's 11 months old today! He's crawling everywhere, and quickly! He also pulls himself up on the coffee table, so I imagine he'll be walking before we know it. 

Teething is hard...
I took these pictures, as he sat on my stomach on the couch at the end of a very long day. It's very, very hard to make everyone happy with three boys going in three different directions. Liam has found that it works best to crawl on top of me, pin me down, and yell in my face. Can you see his giant new tooth in the middle photo?! It's absolutely crazy how many teeth this child has at his young age! 

Now I'm planning his 1st birthday party, and I can't believe how fast time flies...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Giveaway: Heroes of the City

I discovered Heroes of the City last year, when I had the opportunity to review the new DVD "Ready to Rescue." This show is perfect for preschool and kindergarten aged children. It features police cars, firetrucks, trains and many other great characters. The message in the shows are very positive, and include cooperation and friendship. Mayhem loves this series! They also have a great app, that comes with 9 different games. And now, Heroes of the City has a new YouTube Channel, where you can watch new episodes of the show FOR FREE!

I have a Heroes of the City prize pack to giveaway to one lucky winner! The prize pack includes: a Heroes of the City T-shirt, a DVD and a die cast car.

Enter below! The giveaway starts at midnight tonight (Monday, May 11) and ends at midnight (Monday, May 19). Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cetaphil Baby Skincare Products

I have been using Cetaphil moisturizer on my face for YEARS. I started using it in high school, when my sensitive skin was reacting to several other moisturizers that I had tried. It works great, doesn't cause my sensitive skin to react. As a bonus, it is also cost effective! 
Recently, my son, who also has my sensitive skin... developed a red rash on his face. I was hesitant to put ANYTHING on his face, since he is only 8 months old. But I did some research, and found out that Cetaphil has a baby line now! It is new, and it includes products such as: diaper rash cream, baby wash and shampoo, daily moisturizing lotion, and my new favorite baby product- baby moisturizing oil! It is paraben free, hypoallergenic, contains calming organic calendula extract, and is safe to use on infants. I used the oil on his little red cheeks, and it went away so quickly! I think his rash was from rubbing his teethers against his face. 

I didn't think to snap a picture of his red cheeks, so I guess you'll just have to trust me! I can't wait to try out the entire Cetaphil Baby Skincare line. I had previously been using the Aveeno baby skincare products, but they don't have an oil like this! I highly recommend this, and I imagine you could use it for all over moisture after baby's bath. Have you tried this? Let me know!

Disclaimer: I received a bottle of the Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil for no cost, through my sister at www.ihaveadegreeinthis.com 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Easter Basket Ideas for Babies and Toddlers ~ No Candy!

Easter is coming, a holiday where we celebrate new life in all its forms. Even if you aren't religious, this time of year is the beginning of spring! 

This week I have been racking my brain, trying to come up with age-appropriate Easter basket ideas. I will also be doing coins, because they get excited about adding up the money after the egg hunt. But after that, I didn't want to fill up the eggs with ALL candy. 

After we open our Easter baskets, we usually head over to Grandma’s house. We all know what happens there!

Here are a few ideas, in case you are searching for ideas for babies or toddlers. 

1. Bath toys- Munchkin letters and numbers have been a hit at our house. Check your local Target or Babies R Us. 

Boon Bath Appliques

 2. Sand/beach toys- pails, shovels, sandcastle molds… what’s more exciting than looking forward to summer time at the beach! 

 3. Books- Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit is a natural choice, and I like to get the matching stuffed animal. This may be why my older son has about 300 stuffed animals in his bed right now… 

Books available at www.amazon.com
 4. DVDs- you can’t eat those! Baby L will try, though… I’m sure. 

5. Plum Organics Fiddlesticks Snack Sticks- Apple Carrot flavor, of course. 

6. Annie’s Bunny Snacks- if you throw in the Chocolate Chip bunny graham snacks, you aren’t completely passing on chocolate… 

7. Chalk- Crayola washable chalk is great, if you haven’t tried it – you should! In past years, I have found cute bunny-shaped chalk. Let me know if you see that somewhere, I can't find it!

Crayola Washable Sidewalk Chalk

I have found almost all of these items at Target, and Babies R Us. I have also found that CVS has a good selection of odds and ends for holidays. Happy Easter! 

Please share, and let me know what you are putting in your Easter baskets- or better yet, share pictures!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Top 5 NATURAL Ways to Relieve Stress

Being a parent is wonderful and amazing...ly hard. Our youngest is 7 months old, and does not sleep through the night. He has struggled with acid reflux, and as soon as that started getting better... he starting getting teeth! He has 8 teeth already. So, that means 7 months of mommy not sleeping through the night. So I'm tired, which causes stress. 

Everyone has their own sources of stress. Whether it's work, family, or balancing the two~ sometimes you just need to take a step back, and focus on yourself. When you are at your best, you can be the best mom/employee/wife/etc.!

1. Take a hot bath! My mother always told us, whatever was wrong, to have a cup of tea and a hot bath. I still take her advice to this day. Add the bubble bath, and you're on your way to relaxation!

2. Dance- When nothing seems to make sense, put on a silly CD (I recommend "Silly Songs with Larry" from Veggie Tales) and just sing with your kid(s). They love it, and soon you'll forget what you were so stressed about in the first place.

3. Put the kids to bed just a little earlier than usual- Mine can't tell time YET, so this may get harder as they get older! Sometimes, Mommy needs more 'me time'... and some wine!

4. RESCUE Pastilles- I have these in my purse, so when I start to feel overwhelmed... I just grab one of these. They taste like candy! I like the black currant flavor. RESCUE products were developed by doctors, are homeopathic, and naturally relieve stress. Click here for a coupon for RESCUE products.

RESCUE products are available at CVS, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and wherever you find natural products!

5. Don't look at your phone- I can't bear to turn off the cell phone, since we do not have a 'land line'. But I do put it on vibrate, and leave it in the kitchen. It's important to focus on your family when you are at home, everyone else can wait.

I also like to walk the dogs, but if you don't have dogs- that obviously wouldn't work for you.  

What do you do to de-stress?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Yoda Best Valentines ~ Free Printable!

I made these adorable "Yoda Best" Valentines for my padawan to bring to his class. I found these glow sticks in the Target Dollar Bin, and I found the free printable here! He is thrilled, and so am I! Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons, 10 Fresh Uses!

We have a lemon tree in our yard, and I have been trying to figure out how to use all of these lemons. I was looking for some new and different ideas, besides 'make lemonade' or 'make lemon chicken'. I have already done those, and I still had so many lemons! Here are a few of my ideas, hope you like them!

1. Make your own lemon essential oil. Lemon essential oil is useful for a variety of things, including making natural cleaning products and relieving heartburn. I think I might need to do a separate post, just on the uses of this essential oil.

2. Clean a cutting board. You can use fresh lemons to clean your stained cutting board. And bonus, it smells great too!

Photo source: www.allkindsofyumm.com 

3. Remove hard water stains. You know those spots on your shower and tub hardware, that you can't get off? Lemons can get those off! You just cut a lemon in half, and rub it on the hard water stains! Here are full instructions. This falls into the category of a 'life hack.'

4. Dye your hair. Don't live in sunny Southern California? Or don't have time to lounge in the sun? Or don't want to spend money to lighten your hair? Try lemon juice!
Photo source: www.wikihow.com 

5. Make lemon bars. These are delicious! For a variety of other ways to use lemons in cooking, check out this recent article

Photo source: www.allrecipes.com 
6. Get rid of acne. Sounds weird, right? Lemon juice contains L-asorbic acide, a natural astringent which dries out the acne, as well as antibacterial compounds that fight acne-producing bacteria. There are some guidelines, so see this site for details!

7. Clean your garbage disposal or sink. You will need a few other items, like baking soda and vinegar. This is a great use for the lemons, since you need to clean the sink regularly to keep the germs and bacteria out of your kitchen sink!

8. Make sore throat tea. This mixture of fresh lemons, and honey with boiling water make a wonderfully natural and soothing sore throat tea!

Photo source: www.herbs-info.com
9. Freeze them. When you pick so many lemons that you can't possibly use them all, but don't want them to go bad. This is a great option.

Photo source: www.gardenbetty.com 
10. Make limoncello.  For an adults-only treat, here is a recipe for an Italian favorite. If you can get your hands on Everclear! 
Photo source: Good Cocktails

What have I missed, have you done anything else with lemons?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Wrong Ava

When my son came home with a Frozen birthday party invitation, I was unfazed. It was not the first Frozen party he would be attending!! It was for Ava, from his class. I knew Ava, I thought. Her mom was at the Thanksgiving feast, and I talked with her. I emailed our response, that we would be attending and 'Thank you for the invite.' I never heard back, but I figured that was OK. We picked out a gift, that she would 'definitely like' and J made her a handmade card with stickers. 

The party was on Saturday at 3 pm. I knew the location well, because we take swim classes there. J and I walked in at 3 pm. We walked past a sign that said, "Ava's 7th Birthday, in the Big Gym!" So into the gym we went, and he said, "I don't see her." I told him that I was sure she was there, go play and look for her. I looked around at the other moms, trying to find a friendly face. No one looked even vaguely familiar. When I realized who the party host was, I figured that my son (who is horrible with names, like his mother) probably had the wrong Ava. 

Ten minutes later, a familiar face walks in the door and heads UPSTAIRS. At this point, J is fully immersed in the other party. Lined up with the girls, walked upstairs to have cake, sat down at the pink table... and I realize WRONG PARTY! I stood at the door, and called him to come to me. "We were at the wrong party, silly!" and he laughs it off, and joins his friends in the other party. 

Photo courtesy of Zoloft

Part of me is mortified. Because I work, and I am never at school- maybe I was just really out of it. Maybe no one would look familiar. Maybe, just maybe, I am THAT out of J's day-to-day life that I do not know a single person that he hangs out with. I felt really alone, sitting on that bench watching him smile and make new friends. He fit in just fine, at the wrong party. What a great kid! 

At the 'right' party, I tell the other moms how I screwed up. Silly me. I was not that out-of-sync with my son, I knew several of the moms from his 1st grade class. It was just the wrong Ava.

Then, we went home and put on our Halloween costumes for the rest of the day...

P.S. J was one of only two 'special' boys who were invited, and the hug shared between J and Ava was the cutest thing I have ever seen. It made me think that I must be doing SOMETHING right!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Use Essential Oils for Baby's First Cold

When our bouncing baby boy got his first cold, I was concerned when it didn't go away on its own in  a few days. We used the vaporizer in his room at night, and he was sleeping and eating but still very congested. I searched far and wide, read many articles about natural remedies and decided to give essential oils a try. 

When using essential oils for a baby (Liam was 5 months when I tried this), it is important to dilute with a 'carrier oil'. Olive oil or sweet almond oil are both great carrier oils. What we used was about a quarter-size amount of almond oil, with 2-4 drops of eucalyptus oil rubbed on the bottom of his feet (and the remainder on my neck, so he could inhale it at a distance). This gave the effect of a natural Vicks VapoRub. I could hear the difference it made in his breathing. Obviously, if baby has a fever or doesn't get better quickly- call your doctor!

I also used the oils on myself over the Christmas/New Year's holidays. Everyone around me got sick, and usually I get a sinus infection (every year!). This year, I didn't! It was so nice to be home, with the baby and HEALTHY! I am hooked, and eucalyptus also has disinfectant properties. There are so many uses for it! You can also use lavender essential oil in a diffuser to calm baby and help them get to sleep. 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I am simply sharing what worked for us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Right Now

'Some people' say that routines are good for kids. 'Others' feel you should follow your child's lead, especially when they are babies. Should I sleep train? Should I listen to the baby's cues? At some point in a family, you fall into certain routines. Even if you don't mean to. We do not sit down for a family dinner every night. More often, I am in the kitchen either cleaning or cooking, and the boys are at the kitchen table eating. I talk to them while they eat, and I used to say things like, "How was your day?" "How was school?" Then  I read somewhere that you can get more out of your child by asking the right questions. 

So every night, for a while now, I have been saying, "What was your favorite part of today?" and "Was there anything bad that you remember from today?" These questions usually get a canned response from the 6 year old, "Being with my family" and "Missing you while you were at work." Cue the horrendous mom guilt. I know he doesn't mean it negatively, but rather- he really does enjoy his family, and that is great! The 3 (almost 4) year old runs down every detail that he remembers. "We went to tumbling, then we had chicken tacos, then we walked to the park, then this, then that." I usually know EXACTLY what happened during HIS day. 

Last night, the two older boys and I sat down together for dinner. I had thrown together a box of Annie's Shells and Cheese- their favorite. I hadn't even thought about what to make for myself, and the hubs was going to be late. I smiled at the two boys, and found my mind wandering to what I needed to get done that night before I went to bed. Then Mayhem (the 3 year old) says, "Mama, what was YOUR favorite part of today?" He looks at me with his cherubic cheeks, and a very serious look on his face. He is really listening. It completely catches me off guard, in a good way. Is that the face that I make at him? Do I patiently wait for him to respond? I think I do, but today I am not doing a very good job with that. 

I stopped worrying about what to cook, what to clean, and what to pack up for tomorrow. I told him, "Right now. This is my favorite part of today." The moment was lost on him, and it passed quickly. He chattered on about his first day back to preschool. "My friends missed me SO MUCH! Ms. Pat told me that I am doing GREAT writing my name..." and I just smiled, and listened. I write about these moments here, so that I can look back and remember these little details. These little, treasured moments in time. In this New Year, I hope I can take the time to enjoy these far too brief pauses in the chaos of my life.
Jacob, Baby Liam, and Mayhem

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 Christmas Recap

Christmas break is over and 2015 is here. Looking back on the past couple of weeks, it was pretty eventful! I hope you enjoyed some time with your family and friends, and are having a wonderful new year! Here is what happened at our house...

Christmas Eve crew, in Grandma and Grandpa's motorhome
Christmas Eve, my husband had to work. So I took the kids over to my parents' house to hang out with my siblings. The boys wanted to take a ride in Grandma and Grandpa's 'big bus' - so that's what we did! The kids love riding around in it, and the baby enjoyed the couch (only while parked, of course!). Then we celebrated in the evening with my husband's family. 

Irvine Regional Park
On Monday, December 29, Uncle John was hanging out with Mayhem, the baby, and I. Little J had a birthday party, and he was gone ALL DAY! My husband was working, so we had some time to go enjoy the sunny California weather.

Christmas Day was spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house, with Auntie Kim (Pictured above with the baby) and Uncle John (Pictured above with the Ergobaby) and my cousin Mike and his girlfriend Kristin. Great food, great company, and happy memories of the baby's first Christmas!

How did you celebrate?