Sunday, August 28, 2016

To My Big Boys On Their First Day Of School

This is going to be a hard one for Mommy, so bear with me- okay? It feels like all of our years at home together have been practice for this very moment and yet, it feels like just yesterday that we met each other for the very first time. Each of us completely overwhelmed by our surroundings, neither of us with any idea what to do in that very first moment but cry and hold onto each other for dear life.

That's kind of how I feel about tomorrow. While I want to hold onto each of you for dear life, I know that I need to step back and let go- to give each of you the space you need to spread your little wings and do all of the great things that deep down I  know you are destined for. But it's not easy. In fact, it makes me wonder how parents let their kids do even bigger things at all- like drive cars and head off to college. Here I sit, barely able to send you off to elementary school but thanking my lucky stars that we're not there yet. 

Earlier this morning in church, Father asked that all students and teachers heading back to school this week, to please stand. I nudged each of you to stand up and placed my shaky hands on your shoulders to receive our community's blessing. As I swallowed back tears, we prayed over you and the teachers who will love you as their own in the coming months. We prayed for guidance, for safekeeping, for wisdom and for grace. 

So much grace. 

I found myself praying extra hard that everyone you meet this year will see you both as your Daddy and I do. As kind, smart, funny and loving gentlemen. As companions and as teammates and yet as individuals who would go above and beyond for their neighbor. Most of all, as a friend.

You both felt so small beneath my hands as you fidgeted and swayed and poked at each others' ribs, each of you trying to make the other laugh under held breath. I couldn't help but let out a small laugh- anything to keep from bursting into the tears and being That Mom in the church pew. 

Tomorrow you will begin the next new adventure- it will be another chapter in the book of the progression of your little lives but a huge chapter nonetheless. One of you will head off to Kindergarten and the other, Pre-Kindergarten. There's so many things I want to tell you. Things that I want to make sure you know and although I know I've said them hundreds of times before, I can't help but repeat myself in these final few moments before I set you free. 

After all, that's what moms do. Speak when no one is listening and repeat themselves forty-seven thousand times a day. But it's all for good reason, I promise you.

Carter, my oldest baby, keep an eye out for your little brother. When he looks scared or overwhelmed, it's because he is. Remember, you are home to him. Be there for him and remind him that school is fun and amazing and that he'll make so many new friends.  You are such a great big brother and while I know this often means we put so much extra pressure on you, know that we couldn't be more proud of you and the awesome gentleman you've become. Be yourself, shine your light brightly and you will rock Kindergarten. Believe in yourself- because we do. 

Maclane, my sweet middle little, you've got this little buddy! I know it seems as if a life outside of your big brother Carter doesn't exist quite yet, but I promise you- you are your own little person and you will make your own friends and build your own arts and crafts and you will come home with your own stories about your time away at school and I cannot wait to hear every single one of them. Be strong and believe in yourself- because we do.

To the both of you- above all else, be kind. Be kind to one another and to your new classmates and teachers. Put on those big smiles I love so much and make new friends. You are both so loved, so lovable and so loving that I know this will come easy for you. It's hard to be the new kid in a new place. If you see a new friend with tears in their eyes, be there for them. Tell them your name and invite them to play a game with you. 

Unfortunately, not everyone will want to be your friend and that's okay, too. Be kind to them anyway. Be brave and have patience as you navigate your new surroundings. Great things take time, after all, neither of you popped out being the delightful, creative, incredible human beings you are today. 

When you are happy, when you feel excited and especially when you feel nervous and overwhelmed, remember how much you are loved. No one in this whole world loves you more than your Daddy, Collins and I do- 

Stand up for yourselves and dare to be different. After all, different is what makes each of you, well, you! Be proud of your differences and know that we're so proud of you, too.

What might feel new and unfamiliar today will feel like right where you belong in just a few weeks. Give yourself grace. Give me some, too. This is all a little new for everyone and if you're patient with me, I promise we'll have this new routine figured out in no time. 

In the mean time, I promise I'll be here waiting with extra hugs, warm chocolate chip cookies and all the time in the world to listen to your stories, take in your worries and help you through them as we work out the kinks that will no doubt come our way.

Even though you're heading off to school without me, we're in this together.  

You lunches are packed, your book bags are waiting by the door. I've laid your uniforms out and I'm about to head upstairs and read you both two very special books on this very special night. 

Chances are neither of you will remember this First Day like I will. I will remember it just as clearly as I remember sniffing your fresh newborn skin for the very first time. I will tuck our hugs and our "see you later's" away in the same corner of my heart as I did your first steps, your first words and your first boo-boos. While this day may mean no more to you than any other Monday, this will be a day that I replay in my head for as long as I live.

Happy First Day to my first and second babies. We love you more than carrots and we cannot wait to squeeze your guts at pick-up.

Love, Mom (and Dad and Collins, too).
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Friday, August 26, 2016

Play Panda Pop With Me And We Can Both Ignore Our Kids + Pop Pandas!

Oh my God, I'm almost too ashamed to be writing this post but I recently stumbled on a brand new mobile game that has me deleting all other games from my mobile device. Okay, the truth is I only had that candy game and the dot game on there but it's been days since I've played either because I've been spending all of my wasted time and generous brain cells on Panda Pop

If you know me at all you know that I have a tendency toward an addictive personality. This often translates into staying up all night to read an engaging book cover to cover, binge watching a new TV series in a matter of days as well as ignoring my kids from time to time just to make it to the next level of a video game. 

I'd like to think I inherited this trait from my mother who would literally sit and play Dr. Mario on Nintendo until she'd beat the entire game in one sitting. Clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and if I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can still hear the Dr. Mario theme music play inside my head. 

Panda Pop is a free app whose end goal is to save adorable little panda babies from a crazy baboon by popping bubbles and reuniting the babies with their panda mommy. You can shoot bubbles by improving your aim and therefore your accuracy. The goal is to match 3 bubbles of the same color to pop them. 

Doesn't the angry baboon look like The Lion King's Rafiki (but on LSD?) I can't stop laughing!

By tapping the basket next to the mother panda, you can switch the color of the bubble she's about to throw. You can even use the walls of the game to "bounce" the bubbles toward your target, ensuring greater bubble-popping performance. Color-changing bubbles become obstacles in later levels, however, if you pay careful attention, they change colors in a repeating sequence. Once you master that sequence, moving ahead to the next level is much easier. 

The levels start out incredibly easy and it wasn't long before I found myself on level 20. As the levels become increasingly more difficult, you're presented with special boosters to help you along your way. Once I started playing, I also connected the app to my Facebook account so that I could help my friends and they could me, too! (Funny how many of my friends were already playing by the time that I started!) 

Now when I'm laying in bed at night and can't sleep, or waiting in car line next week once school resumes, I'll be popping bubbles and saving panda babies with the best of them! 

Download the Panda Pop game today and let me know when you do so we can help each other out! 

This is a sponsored post brought to you by my working relationship with SGN to raise awareness surrounding new mobile gaming apps. The thoughts expressed above are honest and my own. 
Thank you for continuing to support ILYMYC the Blog.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shop Back To School Shoes + Give Back, Too // Stride Rite Joins Soles4Souls

As moms and dads all across the country prepare their little ones to head back to school for an exciting year ahead, millions of children all across the world are not only unable to attend school but also more susceptible to illnesses because they don't have access to adequate shoes.

Once again, Stride Rite has teamed up with their longtime non-profile partner, Soles4Souls, just in time for the back to school retail rush. They pledge to get families in need the shoes required for their children to attend school by donating up to $100,000 to the Soles4Souls cause. 


You the consumer can help Stride Rite reach their goal by shopping their amazing, cant-miss BOGO sale one new shoes for the year ahead. Stride Rite will donate 1% of its net profit on the sale of shoes to consumers now through September 5th, 2016. In store and online through September 5th, buy one pair of shoes and get one 40% off, on select styles. 

"At Stride Rite, we're parents first 
and foremost and we believe that every 
child deserves a pair of good shoes,"
said Gillian Meek, senior vice president of product
 and marketing for Stride Rite. "We're committed to 
the mission of Soles4Souls and our extended
partnership will alow us to help give kids
the proper footwear they need to take advantage
of all the opportunities an education
can provide."

In addition, families can give back by bringing a new or used pair of shoes to a Stride Rite store and drop them in the Soles4Souls donation bin. As a thanks, they will receive 5% off a new pair of shoes on the same visit. You can find your local store here.

We recently visited our local Stride Store in the Columbia Mall in Maryland to donate several pairs of our old shoes that were in excellent hand me down condition. It was a great teachable moment for the boys and a reminder to them how fortunate they really are. 

While we were there we checked out the many back to school styles that Stride Rite is currently offering and left with three new pairs of shoes to add to the boys' back to school shoe rotation. 

When it comes to shopping for the big boys, I really try to aim for a style that is versatile enough to be worn with their school uniform as well as their casual play clothes. Thankfully we have one more year left when they aren't relegated to a specific style uniform shoe and can get away with wearing any appropriate gym sneaker that doesn't light up or make sounds. 

The Caleb sneaker in both brown and gray more than foot the bill for the style we were seeking.

For Collins, my youngest child, who seems to wear through sneakers faster than he can sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider," I couldn't resist choosing a neon sport sneaker for him in the Breccen style.

Each of the styles from Stride Rite's Made2Play line are designed with busy little kids in mind. Not only are they machine washable but they boast a memory foam footbed and anti-stink soles for increased comfort for growing feet. The easy "do-it-myself" strap also allows kids to express their independence by making it easy to pull on and take off their shoes themselves. 

I've been shopping Stride Rite for my kids since their early walker days and it's the quality and function of their footwear that keeps me coming back for more. Stylish and functional, Stride Rite brand shoes grow with my kids keeping their feet healthy and happy. 

You can find more about Stride Rite here:
Website / Facebook /Twitter / Instagram
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Monday, August 22, 2016

This Is What Extended Nursing Looks Like.

It wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I realized just how much (or how little, depending on how you look at it) I've written about my adventures in breastfeeding my three boys. 

From the very first post where I wrote about how formula saved us as an overwhelmed, exhausted and unhappy first-time nursing mother, to sharing my thoughts on nursing in public after a particular video went viral, I've shared a myriad of feelings on the subject. I continued to write about how I didn't hate breastfeeding the second time around and finally, after thirty-nine consecutive months of nursing, I recapped it all and shared my feelings on what it felt like to be an extended nursing mother, although even today, I still can't quite accept that title.

And here's why: 

"Extended nursing" sounds silly to me. It sounds like when you would tack on several minutes to a typical nursing session between you and your child rather than denote someone who chooses to extend their decision to nurse beyond the first year of life. 

No mother should need to defend her choices when it comes to the manner in which she feeds her child. I feel like I need that statement to be said right out of the gate, before I show you what extended nursing really looks like. Before I show you what it really looks like to have been nursing for fifty months.

Fifty-months. I can't even believe it. 

Mind you, those fifty consecutive months that I speak of were not for one child as you will soon find out. Those months are a combination of nursing my middle child to 22 months, stopping the day before his brother was born and nursing his brother to where he is today, nearly 2.5 years old. 

I never for a single minute expected to be nursing this long. After setting an initial goal of six weeks that quickly turned into three months and then nine months and then a year (and so the story goes), I never imagined, yet, to be nursing my twenty-eight month old. Admitting how long I've been nursing has made me fear being called "radical," "strange" or "one of those kinds of mothers." 

I'm not even sure what "that kind of mother" looks like, because honestly? She looks just like me. Looking at me, I'm certain you wouldn't guess that I've nurse my child beyond the age of two, well beyond the "normal" standard for breastfeeding but I wan't to take a stab at decreasing the stigma associated with nursing beyond the norm.

"Look at us! We're extended nursers and we're pretty normal," I want to exclaim! We do all of the same things you do! We put our pants on the same way, we take vacations at the beach, we fight, we play, we laugh, we even fail on the regular! In other words, we are no more or less perfect than "regular" nursing mothers or even non-nursing mothers. We all love our kids well and hard and are trying our best to do right by them.

Extended nursing is not glamorous. Nor is it is not something I feel I need to share with everyone (although that seems to be what I'm doing right now). As a matter of fact, it rarely, if ever, comes up in conversation with girlfriends or acquaintances and I'll usually only divulge my experience if asked, or if it's appropriate to the topic at hand.  

Extended nursing looks just like we do. 

It looks like comfort after sticking a pair of plastic sunglasses into an electrical socket and zapping yourself hard (true story). It looks like curling up in your mother's lap after a long, lazy, hot summer day, seeking comfort in those final few waking moments before sleep takes over. It's appearing at your mother's bedside in the early hours of the morning, being woken suddenly from sleep by a nightmare, tear-stained cheeks and sweaty baby head, asking sweetly, "Mama? Milkies?" 

It's seeking respite, finding "home" and settling into something warm and familiar when your senses are completely assaulted in a new, confusing and overwhelming place. Extended nursing feels like home to someone who spent nine months growing just on the other side of that space. 

And it happens in the most comfortable, least-posed places. There is no makeup team on hand as seen in many celebrity breastfeeding photos. There is no pomp, no circumstance. It just happens. 
At this stage in the game, we nurse in private (and certainly not on magazine covers) although if a situation were to arise in a public setting where that comfort was desired, chances are I wouldn't think twice. 

I will say, however, that the results of extended nursing not only benefited my son, but I found solace in this extended relationship as well. In the early mornings when no one else in our house was awake, in the moments when it was just him and I and could breathe him in selfishly without having to worry or tend to his brothers. At the end of an overwhelmingly busy day (or sometimes even in the middle) this relationship gave me reason to stop, pause and take a much-needed time out. It grounded me. 

Secretly I loved the moments when my son would pause mid-day, breaking free from being a blurry toddler tornado and come to me, even just for a minute- when he'd crawl into my lap and I'd get a glimpse of that tiny, snuggly-soft baby he was in those early days. 

I wouldn't trade those brief glimpses into our past for anything. 

I get it. Extended nursing isn't for everyone and trust me, at this juncture, I wouldn't feel comfortable nursing my three year old but I certainly don't judge those who do. Chances are, if you're nursing your three year old maybe you didn't expect to be there either, just as I didn't expect to be nursing my near two and a half year old. 

But as most things in Motherhood pan out, you can't plan for everything. 

For those of you who will vilify, assume that I'm lacking affection elsewhere or that I'm raising an Oedipus, I will just laugh. I will laugh at your ignorance and ignore the judgement you cast because at the end of the day, this isn't about nutrients (as we know that breastfeeding beyond the age of two is purely for comfort reasons) or research findings. Nursing my child this long will not cause him any long term "damage." He will not be "weird" because of it or "homosexual." He will not be a "philanderer" or "sexual sadist," because I nursed him beyond the age of two. 

Sure and I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there's a chance he could be any of those things later on in life but I can guarantee that it will not be caused by my decision to extend breastfeeding.

And I'm certainly not lacking in anything.

I imagine one day soon (or not soon) it will be the last day my son comes to me to nurse. It might be tomorrow, next week or several months from now and chances are I won't even realize it was the last time until a week or two passes by. There will be no agonizing over how to wean him, how to take away the one thing that gives me the utmost comfort. It will just be over, a relationship ending much more smoothly than it's rocky beginnings. 

I know one day I will mourn the ending of this relationship but I know, too, that I will also be happy. Happy because we both excelled and are now ready to move on to our next great adventure. While I'd like to think this will be the last post I ever write on extended breastfeeding, maybe I'll come back one day when the journey is long over and write my thoughts on it then. Talk about what it feels like to have myself back, wholly and completely. 

This is what extended breastfeeding looks like.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Head Back To School In Style- With A $750 Boden Clothing Shopping Spree!

August often means back to school here in Maryland and as we cross items off the school supply lists and pin lunch ideas to get us through at least the first two week of school, we can't help but stock up on some cute, new items to send the kids back to school in. As early as I can remember, my most favorite part of heading back to school was doing so in brand new clothes that I could show off to all of my friends. As I got older, picking out the First Day of School Outfit was ceremonious in and of itself.  

While my boys do wear uniforms while in school, we have plenty of library playdates, zoo trips and science center adventures to look forward to not to mention several pre-first day of school events to attend that are worthy of shopping the unique styles of mini Boden. With more sizes and styles than ever before, it's one of my favorite places to shop to find coordinating items for all three of my boys at ages 2, 4 and 6. Most recently they've expanded their sizing to include more sizes available in 0-16 years!    

In addition to the bold colors, bright patterns and kid-friendly prints, I love that all of their items are tag-less eliminating that annoying "itch" that so often accompanies kid's clothing. I can't recall exactly how many times I've been asked to "please cut this taaaaaaaaag out, mooooom" but trust me, it's a lot. 

Machine washable and of the highest quality, Boden's childrenswear holds up to the wear and tear of all three of my wild and crazy boys. So much so, that often times I'm able to pass down both shirts and pants from my first son, to my second and even all the way down to my third. That's clothing that spans a four year age gap! If that doesn't speak volumes about durability, I don't know what does.

Best of all they offer free shipping and free returns on all orders $49+ and that's even while shopping all the way across the pond! (You did know they're a British company, right? That probably explains why the styles are so darn cute and classic!) 

I'd have to say that one of my most favorite items of clothing Boden offers is the track pants as seen on Maclane. We have gone through so many of these pairs of pants and it pains me every time we have to pass them on to friends and family when we're through with them. They're comfortable, easy to pull on and off (great for newly potty trained friends) and best of all, they're thick enough that we've never worn through a pair of knees. 

I mean, how handsome are they? I know I am biased, but they totally worked the camera when we headed outside in the 95 degree heat a couple of weeks ago to take photos in our Fall casual wear. Naturally they were rewarded with sno-balls immediately upon finishing! 

Whenever we shop mini Boden, I never wince when it comes to giving the boys free reign over choosing their own clothes. The sayings don't make me cringe and really, none of the graphics are inappropriate for their age- something that I run into often when shopping for boys. 

Just another reason why mini Boden tops the list of my favorite places to shop for my boys.

You can find the rest of the boys' stylin' items here: 

Dessert Boots - Suede Lace Ups

T-Shirt - Superhero T-Shirt (Glow in the Dark!)
Pants - Track Pants
High-Top Sneakers - Leather High-Tops

As the first day of school draws nearer and nearer, be sure to browse the awesome Back to School collection from Boden. For our readers, we are excited to share a coupon code: 7P6R that will give you 15% off.  

We're also super excited to kick off a HUGE giveaway from Boden where one lucky winner will receive a $750 Boden gift credit!  All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post.  

Lastly, we're hosting this giveaway with 7 other awesome blogs! Be sure to visit their sites to see the great Mini Boden Back to School outfits they put together for their children. By visiting all of the blogs, you'll have a chance to see over 20 ways to style the adorable clothes Boden has this season.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

K.I.S.S: My Mantra When It Comes To School Lunches + A Gift From Igloo For You!

I'm sure you've all heard of the acronym "K.I.S.S." In case you haven't, it stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid" and I couldn't think of a better mantra than that when it comes to packing school lunches for my boys. 

If you're the kind of person who can bang out those artsy-fartsy, cutesy-tootsie Pinterest-perfect lunches for your kids day in and day out, believe me, my mom-hat is off to you. For a while I wanted to be you. I even went so far as to order all of the supplies off Amazon and within days of the silicone cupcake liners and cartoon toothpicks arriving on my doorstep, the dog ate a liner, my kids took off to the bathtub with the rest and I somehow managed to lose 36 brightly colored animal-shaped toothpicks in a matter of hours. 

It was never meant to be. 

Instead, keeping it simple has been the answer to calming the morning chaos and preparing lunches for my kids that they'll actually eat. After all, I think all of us moms begin the school year with a passion and zest for packing school lunches that can't be beat, however, it's a zeal that quickly tapers off around the end of the week of school- Am I right?

Without all of the lunchbox accouterments, I also don't have to worry about them not returning home with all of the odds and ends used to, do what, exactly? Make they're lunch more edible? Hardly.

By keeping it simple and packing lunches for my kids filled with common favorites from home, I'm also also giving them a sense of comfort while in a new surrounding. This will be huge for helping my middle little assimilate to the school environment for the very first time. After all, they don't call it "comfort food" for nothing!

A few favorites in constant rotation around these parts can be seen below. They include hot dogs and mac n' cheese, English muffins with raspberry jam, vanilla yogurt with chocolate chips and everyone's favorite tried and true lunchbox staple, the peanut butter sandwich (hold the jelly!). 

Some other great (read: simple) favorites around here include turkey and cheese roll ups, french toast or waffle sticks (with syrup, yogurt or jam for dipping) as well as English muffin or mini bagel pizzas. 

Now that I've given you permission to relax and keep it simple when it comes to school lunch ideas, let me let you in on another secret: how to pack them. 

These kid-friendly bento boxes can be found on Amazon and if you have prime shipping, they'll be on your doorstep before you can spell FDA-approved and BPA-free backwards. Not to mention, they're easy to open for little hands and they're so cheap comparatively ($14 for 9!). Most importantly, however, they're microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe! 

Can I get an "Amen?!"

If I haven't sold you on the bentos yet, they're also the perfect size to stack not one but TWO inside of my favorite soft-sided lunch bags by Igloo. If you're like me and your kids are often bottomless pits of energy and hunger, I love that I can always include a second bento full of they're favorite snack-type foods (pretzels, popcorn, fruit snacks, baby carrots, string cheese, etc.) 

All lunch bags by Igloo are PVC, BPA and phthalates-free and lined with antimicrobial, puncture resistant and heat-sealed liners. The uniquely thick insulation is also designed to keep lunches cooler longer.

Isn't that gingham print lunch bag the cutest you've ever seen? If that's not your sort of thing, then check out my other favorite print featured: the convertible brushstrokes bag. Backed by a brand name known for its quality and durability, any print you choose will certainly stand up to the rough and tumble nature of little hands, backpacks and the school cafeteria. 

As we gear up to send our little ones back to school, my friends at Igloo want to give one of you a soft-pack cooler of your choice! This giveaway is open to US residents only, 18+ years or older.  Easy entry via the Rafflecopter widget listed below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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