Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Carrots Family Beach Recap (Mostly Pictures Because That's All You Want To See Anyway).

It's been a really long time since I've treated this space like a fluffy little diary. 

Lately I've been so focused on Boring Life and Grown Up Things and running 50 miles in the month of June that I've neglected sitting down here to share some of the hilarious, messy and fun day to day happenings of our bunch. And yes, I said 50 miles in June. Having woken up one morning last month and decided "I'm going to be a runner!" deserves a whole post in and of itself. What was once my Writing Time turned very quickly into my Running Time and while I exceeded my goal for the month, I'm still shocked as shit that I did it. I'll get to that post another day

If you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you're well aware of the unexpected week-long beach vacation that we took. What was supposed to be only a few days away turned into my husband being able to stay for the entire week and eventually inviting our friends down to stay with us and join the fun. 

When a complete stranger wanders up to you and offers to take a family photo for you as she watches you precariously balance your camera on a lifeguard chair, you never, ever say no. You then proceed to thank her profusely for taking time from her family and relaxing seat on the beach to capture an elusive, much loved and much appreciated family photo.  

It's so rare that we get to enjoy that much uninterrupted time together as a family that I still can't quite find the words to explain how great that time away was for us all. There's just something about the beach that makes escaping there a tiny bit of magic. 

Did our kids drive us up the wall? Did they bicker and tease and fight with each other? Did we have to dedicate a spot in the house for time-outs? Yes, yes and yes. Just because we were on "vacation" didn't mean that our kids behaved like angels and it rained fairy dust and unicorn tears all week long. 

However, being able to head to the beach in the evenings with a cocktail in hand and let the boys run out their last bits of energy sure as hell beat letting them run around our living room like crazed maniacs any day.

(I love this picture because the baby wanted nothing to do with being held and Maclane's face accurately portrays how he felt about posing for a picture. Real life gets me every time!)

We spent most of our days at the pool because, sand, and because having someone serve you handcrafted cocktails while you parent from a lounge chair is pretty much my idea of heaven on earth. I'm working on convincing my husband of the necessity of a splash pad in the next house. It has quickly moved up the priority list right between "Soaking Tub With Feet" and "Panic Room for Mom."

We said "yes!" more than we said "no," we ate ice cream before dinner, we stayed up late with little disregard to our usual routine and neither my husband nor myself did any work for more than five whole minutes the entire week long. I'm pretty sure I didn't even open up my computer except to check a local restaurant's carry-out menu as well as the events for one of the days spent at the pool club. 

It. was. amazing.

Not only did Maclane turn three earlier this month but it seems as if being at the beach made each one of the boys grow older. If nothing else, they definitely grew a little taller. All of a sudden Collins looks huge to me and I find myself sentimentally wondering where that last bit of tiny last little baby went.   

We're only home for a few days before we take off to spend the 4th of July up North so you can bet your dog Fido that I'm not unpacking a single bag from my truck before we leave (an added bonus of having washer/dryer access while on vacation). I will, however, at the very least, vacuum out all of the sand and crunched up Cheez-Its before we completely trash the truck again. Mama didn't raise no fool. Although I'm not quite sure what we'll be eating these next few days. There isn't a single vegetable to be found in the house and I've already had Ramen noodles for breakfast (and maybe lunch). I just can't bring myself to go grocery shopping! 

Coming back from the beach is the pits- thankfully it won't be too long before we head back there. If you want to see more pictures from our beach trip, notably the ones above as well as others I've taken on my phone that I'm too lazy to re-post here, head on over to Instagram

My dress came from JCrew Factory, the boys' shirts, from Hanna and 
what my husband is wearing and as well as the boys' shorts 
are from here(Use code SUMMERFUN for 25% off ladies' and kids' styles 
at Castaway Clothing through the end of today)  

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Fostering Creative Play Through Dressing Up (A Giveaway!)

It's not every day that you get to sit down and have breakfast with a fireman and a member of the elite police protection S.W.A.T team... Unless, of course, you happen to live at our house in which case it is a totally normal, expected and oft-looked forward to dining experience.

Sitting across from them I am regaled with tales of brave rescues, top secret missions and the time they "did teamwork" to rescue the neighbor's cat from a tree. Their eyes grow wide as they feed off of each others' stories, while I wait with baited breath to hear how it all turns out in the end, ever hopeful for the happy ending. 

My kitchen has been a castle, the playroom a wide open abyss. I've been warned not to step into the fiery mote that snakes around the couch in the living room and don't tell anyone, but I'm pretty sure there's a Brontosaurus living in the downstairs powder room... 

It's one of my most favorite parts of being their mother- witnessing their imaginations grow and stretch as they do. They could play like this for hours (and often do!) as evidenced by the constant state of disarray that our dress-up corner lies in. 

And don't for one second try calling either of them by their real names or else you'll be met with the side-iest side eye of them all. In fact, I am continually amazed by their ability to maintain character, often changing their voices to suit the persona they've taken on. Break character? Not these brothers!

From astronauts to zookeepers, mommies to cowboys, clowns and construction workers, my boys have embraced many a role. On the surface you might think they're just having good old fashioned fun but the truth is, playing dress-up teaches them valuable lessons about the world and life around them.

There are countless studies linking role play in children to empathy, stating that those children who engage in role play were often more skilled in judging how others might feel than those who did not. 

Not only is it cute to watch but playing dress-up also fosters cognitive skills, decision making and is an exercise in both fine and gross motor skills. Not to mention that it's a nice break from the screen time that sneaks into our long summer days.

Plus, it forces me to think outside of the Serious Grown Up box that comes with old(er) age and having kids. Playing dress-up with my boys allows me to connect with them on an altogether different level. Some days we act out our favorite memories while other days we dream up new adventures. In a way, I'd like to think it helps keep me young while I also get to see different facets of each of my boys' personalities. 

Costume Express is a great destination for all of our dress-up needs. Not only can we shop there for all of my kids' favorite characters and heroes, but I love hopping on their ideas page for year-round tips on creating and fostering imaginative play.

Now, for the best part! One lucky winner will receive a $100 gift card to shop Costume Express. You can enter using the Rafflecopter below. We're excited to host this giveaway with 8 other awesome blogs! Be sure to visit their sites to see the fun ways their children dress up.  By visiting all of the blogs, you'll have a chance to see over 25 of the costumes currently available from Costume Express.

Good luck to all those who enter and don't forget to PLAY EVERY DAY!

This post is brought to you by Costume Express. 
I received product for free in exchange for this post.
All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Gear Guide: Knowing Your Baby Is Safe with the Levana Baby Monitor (+ Giveaway)

I can remember fondly those times during the first few months of my first son's life when I would sit down alongside his bassinet and watch him sleep. I did nothing else during those moments but sit alongside him counting his breaths, watching his tiny eyelids flutter with whatever it is that tiny babies dream of. Laundry? What laundry? Dishes? Those dishes can wait.

And then I had my second baby and had less time to creepily watch my babies as they slept. The minute the baby's eyelids closed, it was as if a switch went off and my toddler would turn into the sneakiest child alive- getting into all of the things he shouldn't be getting into and climbing any and all surfaces of the house shy of the walls. 

And just like that, our third baby arrived and with two older kids in the mix to keep happy, well-adjusted and alive, long gone were those moments that I could spend keeping watch over my baby. 

It was after my second son was born that I invested in our first video monitor. I did some research, not a whole lot, and chose one that was relatively inexpensive but rated well. I liked it, sure, but didn't love it. The picture was grainy, poor reception seemed the norm and after seeing a friend's color monitor in action, I was bummed when mine was simply black and white. 

Now that I have three boys running amok in my house, ages 5, 3 and 1, I wish I could put a camera in every room. While I would love to be in three places at once, patting the baby's  back in his crib, playing trucks with my oldest and coloring in the kitchen with my middle baby, that's just not reality. It's during these moments that I'm thankful for the Levana Keera 2 Camera digital video monitoring system that allows me to virtually be in at least two places at once. 

With a camera placed in our downstairs playroom and the second camera placed in the baby's nursery, I feel at ease knowing I can watch the boys play trains as well as the baby while he sleeps, all the while tidying up the kitchen or cooking dinner. Knowing that my children are safe allows me to worry less and do more whether for myself or for our family. 

This monitor has some incredible features that makes it one of the top monitors that I would recommend to those registering for baby, adding to their family or looking to replace their existing monitor.

At first glance I was impressed with the touch and feel quality of both the monitor and camera. With a 3.5" screen, the monitor is sleek and discreet enough to blend into a room but substantial enough to give off a crisp, clear picture. 

Inside the box was a quick start guide to get the monitor up and running. I will admit, I was thrown off a bit by the lack of an included manual but didn't have any difficulty setting up the monitor or accessing the manual online. For those without easy access to the internet, however, it would be very difficult to truly learn all the in's and out's of the monitoring system. 

Below is a quick video which demonstrates the ease of use when it comes to the operating the touch panel screen as well as the video toggle switch, pan, tilt, zoom options and bonus lullaby tunes.  

Perhaps my favorite feature of this monitor system, second to the safe and secure wireless network it runs on, is its "PEEP" feature which basically puts the monitor and camera to sleep when no sound is detected in monitored rooms, thus saving battery life. When a noise or "peep" is detected, the camera and monitor activate allowing you to observe what's going on. Too many times to count have I been interrupted by beeping monitors and dying batteries during a child's nap time when I should have been writing. There's nothing like losing your train of thought worrying about a dying monitor, the safety of a sleeping baby and getting up to plug the monitor in! 

Being a mom keeps us busy in more ways than one! What is one thing you wish you could do more of? Enter to win your own Levana Keera 2 Camera Video Monitor using the Rafflecopter widget below!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Levana. The opinions and text are all mine.
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