Friday, August 28, 2015

Toddler Toy Mantra: Less Is Better + Batteries Not Included.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by our play partnership 
with Playskool and Socialstars. #PlayskoolCrew

When I became a mom I never once imagined how quickly toys and baby gear would overwhelm my home. In fact when first handed the laser gun and sent on my merry registering way, I went crazy. Crazier than a kid in a candy shop. 

Needless to say it wasn't very long before the inside of my house began looking an awful lot like the brightly colored aisles of a baby store.

With my second and third babies I chose much more wisely when it came to baby products, purposefully seeking out those with a smaller footprint, less pieces and perhaps not so many bright colors. I've never been one to fancy modern or streamlined decor but it's funny how having babies and small children at home will alter your tastes. 

They weren't kidding when they said, "having a baby changes everything."

Nearly six years later and three kids deep into Motherhood, I'm singing a way different tune. The less pieces the better. Batteries? No, thank you and if a toy can somehow fold in on itself and contain all of its piece in one compact movement? We'll take two (one for us and one for the gift pile) and I will sing its praises from the rooftops.

One of the latest toys we've stumbled upon that fits all three of the criteria listed above is the Pop-Up Shape Sorter from Playskool. I cannot say enough how much I love this toy. Not only is it fun and engaging but it folds up neatly and is great for on-the-go adventures.

It features a large plastic kitty face with rubber collapsible compartment that expands for all kinds of shape-sorting fun. Not only is this toy great for enhancing both fine motor skills and practicing both color and shape matching, but it also collapses flat with room to store all of its pieces and fits easily into a diaper bag for easy portability.

Now that I have two boys in school some days, I'm finding myself with lots of extra quality time just me and the baby. While I'm loving all of the extra hands-on snuggle time with him, I also love getting down on the floor with him, focusing all of my undivided attention on him and really taking note of just how much and how quickly he's learning things. 

It didn't take long for him to learn how to piece together the shapes and sort them in their proper places. My favorite moments, however, are those of frustration as he would try to endlessly cram the heart block in the circle hole. Seeing his brows knit together in frustration, his tiny kissable lips pursed tightly- I was overwhelmed with the amount of cute. 

Even my 3 year old joins in on the fun and this toy has been a great aide in teaching him his shapes and colors. Our final verdict? Another six thumbs up from me, Mom, the 3 year old and the 16 month old. 

Tell me, what are some of your favorite ways to keep the toddler toys from consuming your home? 

Play, stow and go for fun on the run with the Playskool Pop-Up Shape Sorter!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Parenting Tiny Humans Is Hard, Especially In Summer.

Parenting tiny humans is hard. It’s always nice to hear you’re #doingood
and this sponsored post with Minute Maid and Social Stars is all about that.

We’ve all seen the commercials and magazine advertisements- school is out for summer and suddenly there are images of happy families frolicking up and down beaches and campgrounds all across America. Everyone looks healthy, well-rested and there’s nary an “I’m bored!” to be heard. Siblings gaze happily into each other’s eyes and it’s clearly evident there hasn’t been a single fight over video games or Lego pieces all day long.

I don’t know about you but the majority of our summer days look nothing like that. To be honest, I’m pretty certain the last several weeks of July found us still in our pajamas at noon. I’d like to think that I started out strong, having scoured Pinterest and family magazines early on for ideas and activities to get us through the routine-lacking, school-less summer months but the truth is, that idyllic summer vision fizzled mighty quickly after the third week.

Most days I find myself reaching for a third cup of coffee around noon, wondering how we’re going to make it through another sweltering hot day. We’re on our fourth (fourth!!) blow up baby pool of the season and yet, with another several weeks to go before school starts up again, I have a feeling it won’t be our last.

With two of our three boys entering the school system this coming year, I wanted this summer to be filled with a handful of extra special moments that we’d be able to look back on and laugh at when the busyness of the school year overwhelms us. I say “handful” because let’s face it, with three kids under five, a handful is all I’m realistically capable of.

Many of those moments just happened to take place at the beach, the one place where we were able to gather as a whole family uninhibited by work projects and conference calls to spend globs of undivided time together. While our days at the beach looked nothing at all like the moments in those commercials and magazine advertisements (I bet their days didn’t start at 6am with fights over who got to sleep on the bottom bunk and who got more syrup on their waffles), they were just what we needed to recharge our parental batteries so to speak and remind ourselves as parents that we’re doing an A-O-K job at this parenting gig, after all.
We were even able to spend some quality one on one time with each of the boys, something that I always say I want to do more of but have difficulty making come to fruition. It’s almost impossible to put into words what it’s like spending one on one time with your child whom you’re so accustomed to seeing grouped with his brothers most of the time.

It’s like seeing a completely different version of someone. Layers become stripped away and in a sense, they start to quite literally shine. During my time at the beach with the boys, I noticed tiny idiosyncrasies about them that I may not have otherwise taken note of during the chaos of a typical day. I heard nuances in the sweetness of their tiny voices and fell in love with the way their eyebrows rose and fell with the telling of an exciting story, the way their tiny bottoms wiggled when they ran and the way they looked up to each other in even the most ordinary of moments.

Listening to our boys squeal with laughter while they tried to outrun the waves, watching them build veritable sand cities together and sitting together as a whole family unit on the deck every morning talking about our favorite parts of each day will be special moments that I’ll always remember and I hope they will too.

Naturally I’ll also remember the sand fights and what a toddler meltdown looks like after several hours in the sun, one ice cream cone and sand in places even I never knew existed but even those moments are all part of our summer story.

It has to be said that not all special moments require getaways with picturesque beaches and deliciously tanned baby legs although those luxuries are ones I’ll never turn down. So many additional special summer moments happen right in our home, most days right in the kitchen. Whether I’ve gathered the boys around the table for an exciting Pinterest-inspired science experiment or we’re sitting down as a family to oven S’mores, we don’t always need to travel far and wide to take a minute and do a little good with our kids.

The video below is a great example of how Kayli, mom, video-blogger and host of The Mom’sView, takes a minute to whip up some special frosty treats right in the heart of her home with the help of Minute Maid and her two children. You can share with a friend as an easy idea to create some extra fun moments this summer and tell them they’re #doingood.

They say “the days are long but the years are short” and I find that sentiment to be achingly true especially during the summer months. As temperatures rise and the days become quite literally longer, it’s hard work keeping kids entertained while maintaining a healthy balance between fun and learning.

As a parent, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated, particularly when the “b-word” (bored) creeps in. Minute Maid wants you to know you’re #doingood regardless of how you might feel and that even the smallest special moment makes a difference. We all need a little parenting affirmation now and then, maybe a little more so during the summer months. I encourage you to take a minute and let a fellow parent know that they’re #doingood too.

After all, we’re all in this together. But, seriously, how many more days until school starts?  

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our Business (or Busyness) of Breastfeeding

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and we're celebrating with a 
pretty awesome sponsored post + giveaway from mom and baby brand, Itzy Ritzy.

 Thirty-nine months. Thirty-nine months without a single break. 

Each day I run the gamut of feelings. Proud and triumphant that I've exclusively nursed two of my children this long but also selfishly looking forward to the end, although nowhere in sight, for a time when I may regain a bit more of my self for myself. 

I never intended to nurse my second child for as long as I did. In fact, "extended nursing" was never a part of my vocabulary and certainly not something I saw myself doing with my own children but if I've learned one thing as a mother, one solitary truth, it's "never say never." 

Not only did I nurse my second child well into toddler-hood but I simultaneously and unexpectedly nursed him throughout my entire third pregnancy. I kept waiting for my milk to dry up or at the very least to change "flavor" as all of the books said it would. Needless to say, that day never came and my second child nursed happily through my first trimester, my second and quickly through my third. 

The final day we nursed was the day I brought his baby brother home from the hospital.

People always ask if breastfeeding came more easily the third time around, especially since I nursed through my entire pregnancy and the truth is there was still quite a learning curve associated with nursing the newest member of our family. Each baby is different and there was still plenty of time where we both need to learn each other and together how to do this thing.

Regardless of how a mother feeds her baby, I support her.

I've done both- formula fed a baby and exclusively nursed a baby and any mother who has done either can empathize with the flood of emotions and sacrifice that comes with them. I've struggled and I've celebrated. I've been the encourager and the supporter and I've been encouraged and supported. I've even given up nursing when it was the best decision for both me and my baby at the time. 

It's okay to give up. Not many women will say this but the truth is, it's okay to try and try again and give up if you can't go on any longer. I did that exact thing with my first born and we're both better because of it. 

In the months after my first son was born, I looked at breastfeeding him like it was a chore. Something that I had to do for the sake of my baby because all of the books and the lactation consultants told me I had to. I didn't enjoy it and truth be told neither did he. I pumped in between feedings, he preferred one side over the other and I forced him to eat from both as I was instructed time and time again. I pumped and fed through sore, cracked nipples, uncomfortable positions and an uninterested baby. Even writing this, my toes curl when I think back to this time. It was awful. 

When we switched over to formula it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, a black cloud whisked away from over our heads. We were both much happier because I decided to stop nursing him and it was one of the best decisions I made at that time.  

As I said earlier, every baby is different and deciding to breastfeed again (and again) and continuing to do so required the support and understanding of friends and family. It required time, patience, dedication and the ability to let go of what everyone else thought I should be doing and how I should be doing it. 

I don't know what made nursing my second and my third baby so different and such an incredible experience from the first. I was different, the baby was different. We were both more laid back. I let go of things that stressed me out and didn't press on when I felt like it wasn't good or healthy for us both. 

I also let go of the shame and stigma I felt was associated with nursing in public. As is the case with successive children, I didn't have the luxury of holing myself up all day long in the house nursing my newborn. My oldest had a schedule that we had to maintain and that meant feeding his brother(s) wherever and whenever possible. 

While I didn't always use a dedicated nursing scarf or cover during our public feeding escapades, I always made sure I had a swaddle on hand to drape over the baby's head so as not to expose myself. In many instances, without even so much as a swaddle on hand I had to be creative and grab whatever was within reach! Sometimes that meant I used a cloth napkin, bib or even one of the older boys' jackets. 

As it was (and still is) my personal decision to be a discreet nurser, it's nice to know that there are products on the market, like this infinity nursing scarf by Itzy Ritzy, designed to support a mother should she choose to use one while feeding her baby in public. While not as bulky and discombobulating as some of the dedicated nursing covers on the market, this lightweight scarf is designed to be multi-functional as it could be used as a stylish accessory, blanket for your baby as well as a nursing cover.

Personally, I love that I'm able to lightly drape it over his head while I'm able to maintain coverage from both my front and backside. This comes in handy especially when Mr. Grabby Hands gets a little excited and pulls the neckline of my shirt down to my navel. I've also used the scarf in the car as an excellent way to block light from pouring in and disturbing the hard to come by peaceful car nap during a particularly arduous road trip.

Thirty nine months and I'm grateful for every single minute, every single hand on chest, every single side smile as those eyes gazed up at mine. Thirty-nine months. Here's to at least a few more!   

Itzy Ritzy is celebrating their new chain-wide release at Target by offering one reader one of their ultra stylish and functional breastfeeding scarves as well as a $50 Target gift card. Enter below using the Rafflecopter widget and be sure to read all terms and conditions before entering. Good luck and Happy National Breastfeeding Awareness Month! 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Grab and Go Toys for Tots: Taking Fun on the Fly!

We played and learned and had lots of fun with this sponsored post 
from Playskool and Socialstars! #PlayskoolCrew

You have somewhere to be. Somewhere that requires you to lose the yoga pants in favor of something with an actual button fly. Something a bit less Controller of Chaos and a bit more Professional Mom. 

You're in the midst of refereeing World War III over who gets the only Lego propeller piece in the house (mental note: order another propeller from Amazon) while simultaneously making sure you've packed all of your own essentials for the day (wallet, cell phone, keys, water bottle, iced coffee, chap-stick, extra hair ties, naturally) and that's when it hits you. 

You realize you never called the sitter and you have to take one (or all, *gulp*) of the kids with you. 

You freak out. 

How will you ever keep the baby entertained for longer than three and a half minutes? Sure, snacks are great but sometimes there just aren't enough snacks on the Eastern seaboard to keep him busy and there's no way you're sacrificing yet another chap-stick for the sake of several quiet minutes (mental note #2: order another EOS  balm). 

For a brief minute, you wistfully long for the days when you only had one child and could hole yourself up in the house for weeks on end; no schedules to adhere to, no meetings to attend, no play dates to hustle your way through but then you quickly remember you've got Playskool on your side and you suddenly breathe a sigh of relief. 

With a new line of toys designed to be played with on the go, you wipe the sweat from your brow and quickly seek out the Stack N' Stow Cups and Fold N' Go Busy Elephant and hope for the best.

Your meeting runs smoothly and you're certain it's because of the awesome toys you brought along. You're calling today a win before 3pm and that's a miracle in and of itself. You tell all of your Mom Friends With Littles about these toys... because who are you to keep something this good a secret from them? 

The Stack N' Stow Cups have become something we rarely leave the house without. In fact, they've found a permanent home in the diaper bag because they're just that convenient to pack up and toss in there. They don't take up much space but trust me when I say they're worth their weight in mimosas. 

At 15 months old, we are all about stacking and nesting and the bright colors and fun shapes are an added bonus. I love how these cups nest together and lock safely inside the lion case for easy travel. 

We've taken them with us on play dates, meetings over coffee as well as to the pool and beach! With so much fun into a convenient little case, it's hard to leave them behind!

Although designed for babies 3 months and older, the Fold N' Go Busy Elephant is packed with fun for our littlest one. With lots of fun colors, textures and sounds to explore, this toy comes complete with 7 activities rolled into one fun play mat.

The best part? It's machine washable. All you need to do is toss it inside a pillow case and run it through the washing machine for safe and easy cleaning. Too many of our "softie floor toys" have met a dismal fate after turning a lovely shade of grey. Let's face it, we as mothers don't have time to "spot clean" anything let alone a child's toy and the fact that I can throw this play mat right into the wash with a typical load of laundry makes it a veritable win in my book. 

Stack, nest, squeak and tug- these toys are fun when we're on the run! Thanks, Playskool, for packing a ton of fun into a conveniently compact toy!
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