Monday, March 13, 2017

Let Them Be Little | The Importance of Play

This post is sponsored by Kohl’s. I was paid for this post and received the included Carter’s clothing as compensation.

"You can't shoot my army man! He's got a pair-of-chutes!"
- "Pew-Pew-Pew! I got him, Mac! He's down!"
"Oh no he's not! He drank magic juice! He's even stronger now!"
- (in runs the 2-year-old) "HERE COMES THE MONSTER!"
"Ahhhhh! Everybody scramble!"

I could listen to them for hours. Whether they're playing army guys, "family house" or building a fort from couch cushions after I told them for the hundredth time not to, the truth is that it's moments like these, moments when the halls of my house ring with laughter and three brothers can be found deeply invested in their imaginary games, that I dreamed of from the minute I knew each of their tiny souls existed. 

It wasn't too long ago that I myself could run faster than the wind, faster than the fastest cheetah and further than the ends of the world. Don't you, too, remember those days? I know it isn't easy and the memories a bit fuzzy but try hard enough and remember your earliest days. They weren't fancy, they were hardly busy and most of all, they were filled with dress-ups, carefree conversation and the freedom to play.

As for me and the rest of my family, there's no denying our lives are busy. Each day I'm caught in a current of  school schedules and work, sports practices and extra-curricular activities, insurmountable piles of laundry and household chore lists more than a mile long, all of these things begging simultaneously for my time and in doing so, affording me even less time to devote to my children and the importance of play. My children are nothing more than a product of this hurried environment and while lacking the control to do anything about it, they're often swept up in this "glorification of busy," forced to grow up and grow serious well before it's necessary. 

It wasn't until I was two kids deep into motherhood that I realized play was more than just fun and games. It was more than just something to take up time between other activities. Play is crucial to the development of healthy, well-rounded child and Carter's understands this. This Spring Carter's wants to celebrate play our children's magnificent imagination. With their bold, fun patterns, bright inspiring colors and comfortable, breathable fabrics that facilitate easy movement, Carter's is a brand that's made for wild imaginations and creative, carefree kids. 

Between 3/17 and 4/2, you can use promo code "KIDSALE10" 
for $10 off of a $40 purchase. 

As each of my boys grows nearer to full-day schooling, more and more I think about how their days of free play are numbered. While my oldest's kindergarten teacher truly understands and stresses the importance of play during early childhood, there's only so far she can stray from the mandatory curriculum she is to teach. These days Kindergarten looks nothing like it did when I was there- mornings filled with play-doh, sensory stimulation and simple letter recognition have been replaced with full-day hours, level II readers and true arithmetic

"Let them be little" is something I have to remind myself of daily. Not only is it a great reminder for me to let them play more, it's also a great reminder for me personally, to slow down and take more time each day to get down on their level, to engage with them and really listen to the stories they have to tell, no matter how long and silly they may be. To see the magic in the moment and appreciate the joy it brings them to act their ages, to not be so rushed to move onto the next thing, to grow up too soon. To let them make up the words on the pages and read me the story instead of the other way around.

In a world full of constant distractions and technology at our fingertips, it's easy to forget how important tried and true, get-outside-and-just-run play is. The sheer joy that I see spread across my boys' faces when they're running out back in our yard, excising not only their little bodies but also their giant imaginations- well, it's just priceless. To see them barefoot, wild and in their element, creating intricate scenarios of exploration and adventure, of superhero kings and cowboy brothers, unfettered, uninhibited and free- is truly a sight to behold.

2-piece Pajama Set / Similar Carter's Pajama Sets

If you're like me and could use the occasional reminder, please let our children be little. Let them choose the pants with dinosaurs on them or the shirt plastered with planes and let them act their age. Encourage them to laugh loudly, to run wildly and to play freely with abandon. It won't be long before they're grown, added responsibilities weighing down the immeasurable joy they once oozed so freely.

Let them be little and above all else, let them play.    

Dinosaur Button-Front Shirt and Pants / Helicopter Printed Button Down / Flat Front Shorts

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Sick Happens - What to Do When Kids Bring Home the "Ew."

This post has been sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. All thoughts and reviews are my own.

I will never forget the shock I felt when my oldest began pre-school and almost immediately we were inundated with what I like to call "The Pre-School Plague.

For the first six months of the school year we were in and out of the pediatrician's office almost weekly. I often felt like I was making it rain co-pays as we walked away with diagnoses for strep throat, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, GI bugs and more. Sending him to school each week became a game of Russian Roulette- a sort of "what would he come home with next?" mystery puzzle. Eventually it got so bad that my husband questioned pulling him out of pre-school altogether to avoid the constant barrage of illnesses. 

Nearly 3 years and two more little boys later, the start of the school year and particularly flu season in general is always an extra stressful time in our home. While we continuously impress upon our kids the importance of hand washing, coughing and sneezing into our elbows and taking extra precautions to ensure we don't spread germs to our friends, the truth is sick happens. From play dates to parties, classrooms to carpet squares, "ew" is everywhere. 

Did you know that classroom desks often carry more bacteria on them than toilet seats and if eating happens to take place in the classroom, these germs only multiply? Up to 2.7 million bacterial cells per square inch live on common school surfaces such as water fountains, desks, computer keyboards, bus seats and cafeteria trays. Now imagine what your child touches while he or she is in school all day. It kind of makes you want to wrap them in a bubble, am I right?

Research has shown that most kids touch up to 20 objects per minute and touch their face 50 times per hour. Math has never been my strong suit but I can guarantee that those odds aren't in any parent's favor. No matter how careful and conscientious we are when it comes to preventing illnesses, kids will get sick and the least we as parents can do is be prepared for those kinds of moments. 

Remember those kids who won awards for perfect attendance in school growing up? That kind of attendance is nearly a thing of the past considering more than 38 million school days are missed by U.S. children each year due to the flu. Similarly, parents miss about 126 million workdays annually while caring for a sick child. This equates to nearly 40 billion lost dollars. Missing work to stay home with their kids and worrying about sickness outbreaks going around the classroom are top concerns parents have when their child encounters germs at school.

The Sick isn't just found inside schools either. The supermarket is a festival of "ew" with more surfaces containing germs than we can count on. From shopping carts to shelves, reusable grocery bags to credit card machines, these surfaces are the leading carriers for germs outside of home and school.

What To Do When Kid's Bring Home The "Ew."

1. Be Prepared.

There's nothing worse than having to run out at the last minute for sick day essentials. I learned this lesson during that very first year of my oldest son's Pre-School career which is why I always try to keep our medicine cabinet stocked with Pfizer products for those #SickJustGotReal moments. Not only do I keep these medicines stocked safely away in our house but I also keep a second set in a special go-bag that I rarely leave home without. You just never know when The Sick is going to hit and it's better to be safe than sorry! I also make sure to keep a case of Gatorade handy as well as everyone's favorite sick day essential: Saltines. 

One last tip? Order a movie from your local cable provider or download a video or two that your army of sick little soldiers hasn't seen recently to a Kindle or other device. I recently dropped off a couple of DVD's that I rented from a local library to my girlfriend's house when her twins were down with the stomach bug- and it's true- any distraction from The Sick is worth it's weight in gold.

2. Be There for Them.

Even as an adult, the minute I begin feeling under the weather I can't help but want my mom at my side- rubbing my head, feeding me ice pops and bringing me Pastina in bed. So Moms (and Dads, too!): Even if it means you have to hold your breath the moment you enter their room, stay with your kids. Make them feel comfortable, safe and taken care of. Make sure they have a quite place to rest, far away from the normal chaos and in our case, far away from their wild, rambunctious brothers.

3. Treat the Symptoms.

The pediatric brands of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare have three solutions to tackle the "ew-iest" of illnesses. Children’s Advil®, Children’s Robitussin® and Children’s Dimetapp® are on constant rotation in our household, depending on whose sick and with what.
For aches, pains and fever reduction, Children’s Advil® is a great solution for kids as young as 2 and up to 11. Children’s Advil® comes in several great-tasting flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit and Dye-Free White Grape flavors. There’s also Infants’ Advil® White Grape, which provides unsurpassed fever relief (among OTC pain relievers) with a syringe for easy dosing for children 6-23 months.

For the cough that just won't quit, I trust Children's Robitussin® Extended-Release 12 Hour Cough Relief to control and relieve symptoms all-day or all-night. Available in grape or orange flavor, for children ages 4 and up, this is one of my favorite medicines in my "Beat The Sick" arsenal. (While most Children’s Robitussin® products can be used starting at age 4, some are only for children age 6 and up.) Lastly, Children’s Dimetapp® Multi-Symptom Cold Relief Dye-Free eases the stuffiest of little noses, while quieting  that bothersome cough that rarely seems to relent. All this packed into a great-tasting grape flavor that’s dye-free, for children 6 and up.

While my career background is in medicine, I know there's more available to treat symptoms and little sickly bodies than just drugs. That said, I am a firm believer in the power of pharmaceuticals used in combination with essential oils, snot suckers, vitamins and humidifiers, to safely treat the appropriate sick symptoms and get my boys feeling back to their wild and crazy selves in no time. 

4. Stop the Spread.

Having a stocked medicine cabinet is only half the battle. It's always important to focus on stopping the spread of illness so that your family and friends remain healthy as well! Especially during cold and flu season, I make it a habit to stock up on Cavi wipes, a disinfectant wipe designed to kill broad spectrum microorganisms such as H1N1, E.coli, MRSA and Salmonella. Constant hand washing with antibacterial soap is a MUST and I always make sure to have numerous bottles of hand sanitizer and boxes of tissues within reach no matter what room of the house we may be hanging out in. 

Hang in there Parents. Cold and Flu Season is almost over. While as caregivers we often feel helpless during these #SickJustGotReal moments, our presence and preparedness to fight those nasty germs is just what the doctor ordered. 

What do you do when your kids bring home the "ew?" I'd love to know! Tell me in the comments section below or share your thoughts over on this post's corresponding amplification on Instagram or Facebook.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Welcome To Our New Home - Entryway, Foyer and Great Room Tour

Months ago, when we first began the home buying process, I never once imagined that this was what our new home would look like. As if putting our house on the market wasn't stressful enough, I feel like my husband and I changed plans for our new home on the daily. One minute we would be looking at older homes nearer to the boys' school and my husband's office and the next minute we were out in the "country" looking at new construction and meeting with builders to get an idea of delivery deadlines and custom options. Just when I thought I'd found a house I could see our family growing old(er) in, the sale would become complicated with issues beyond our control and I would walk away feeling defeated once again. 

As life would have it, the house we ended up buying was never on our radar. In fact, it was in a new construction neighborhood where we found ourselves seriously considering a spec home. The minute we drove by it on our way to the spec house, however, I said something to my husband along the lines of, "well, we can finish the search now. I think we found our house!" 

And yes, this was without having even seen the inside of it. Those who know me wouldn't be surprised at all..

Never could I ever have imagined that this would be what our home would look like. After all, I had spent countless hours pinning white kitchens, two-story great rooms and lavish entryways. Everything I imagined our new house would be looked like every other house I'd seen in the after's on Fixer Upper or in the design feeds on my social media accounts. In reality, our house looks nothing like those images and I couldn't love it more. 

We've been in the house for just under three months now and I hesitated to write this post, to share pictures even, because as with most things in my life, it's still quite a work in progress. Every room is about 75% finished and while I'm impatient and dying to finish them all, I find (some) solace knowing that I have years (and years) to get it all right.

Welcome to our new home...

Here is the view if you were to walk inside from our front doors.
We never use this as our primary entry into the house- it's much easier to contain that kind of chaos to our mudroom off of the garage. However, there were two aspects of this house that I immediately fell in love with when we walked inside. The first was these stunning arches that welcomed you into the foyer- the second was the lack of staircase immediately upon entering the home. I really love that our staircase is tucked back towards the right side of our home beyond a guest bedroom and full bathroom. It really opens up this space and allows your eye to travel beyond just the foyer of the house.

Here's a close up of the family room. I wanted to maximize seating in this space without using a sectional sofa. My goal is to one day have two of those navy couches in this space but it's just not quite high enough on the priority list. I've already fallen out of love with that coffee table and would love to add a round one to the space.
Home decor is just so fickle- or is it just me? Source Links: Table Pouf Rug 
That nail head trim is what initially drew me to this couch. While I originally envisioned a set of white slip-covered sofas for this space, I really like the unique/coastal navy vibe. Source Links: Sofa Rug

I really struggled with how to decorate our entryway. Without walls, I wasn't able to really make this a space of it's own. I had pinned so many images of console tables, hanging mirrors and framed art that it really threw me for a loop when our home boasted no available space for such decor. In the mean time, I'll let the focus remain on the beautiful natural light that pours into this space, the arched doorways and one of my favorite jute rugs.

This rug combines two of my favorite features- jute and tassels. While we rarely use our front door as the primary entrance into our home, I knew I needed a hefty, hearty rug for all of the heavy foot traffic we'd be seeing in the first few months of living in the house. Between welcoming friends and family into our home, it's also seen its fair share of visits from servicemen such as electricians, the cable company, heating and cooling as well as plumbing. RugsUSA has always been my number one shopping destination for rugs and this time was no  different!

Cross-over to the right side of the house beyond the sitting room, (pictured later) and you'll find the main staircase that leads to both the basement and second floor of the house. Tucked back in this corner is a full bathroom with walk in shower (the only bathroom on the main level) as well as a large closet (where I store my vacuum, mops, etc) and guest bedroom. While we initially thought we would utilize this space as a home office, we ended up finishing it off as a guest bedroom for my parents when they come to stay. I love giving guests the option of having their own space away from the rest of us upstairs. It's a nice little retreat from the loud, wild calamity that is our normal.
Source Links: Silhouettes

This is one of my favorite vignette-type spaces of the house. It came together seamlessly and I ended up utilizing decor pieces that I had in various places in our old house. While I struggled with making some of our previous furniture pieces work in the new (and very different) space, I was so happy to see this come together the way that it did.
(The console table is no longer available at Target. The basket, throws, mirror and candlesticks were all purchased from HomeGoods. The floral decor is from T.J.Maxx and the wood accent piece is also an older Target purchase).

Here's a view of the sitting room off to the right of the entryway. This also happens to be one of Sullivan's favorite places to park himself. Naturally I didn't have the heart to make the ol'  boy move!
Source Links: Accent Credenza, Ottoman, Rug

If there is one thing that I'm not a huge fan of in this house, it's the TV placement above the fireplace. While I swore up and down that I wouldn't make the TV the visual focal point of the space, the way the room is designed left us with no other option. While I tried to convince my husband to hang the TV in the morning room off of the kitchen, I knew that wasn't realistic. The TV in this space has grown on me and while I still can't quite get the hang of staging the built-ins on either side of the fireplace, their placement helps to somewhat offset the visual distraction of the enormous flat screen. 😐 Why I didn't pull back far enough to grab a shot of the room in it's entirety is beyond me- the truth is I was rushing to get it photographed before the boys returned home from church! (Real life, right?)

Source Links: Console Table

This whole process has been a huge exercise in patience, something I've always lacked. While I'm so eager to get it all done, I have to stop and remind myself how hard we worked to get here and how incredibly happy I am to have this beautiful home to share with my family. It will all get done eventually and what's missing is really just stuff. I've already got everything I could ever need in the form of family and friends to fill these walls with laughter, love and memories and I've got a lifetime ahead of me to do so. That's pretty freaking great, if you ask me (and better than any chaise lounge or credenza that I've been pining over).

Sharing our new space with you is a great motivator to not only clean and keep it clean-ish (the struggle is real!) but also to focus on finishing the rooms that we spend the most of our time in. My goal is to open up our new home and share even more of it with you in the coming weeks/months. I'm currently working on finding the perfect kitchen table and chairs for our morning room (yes, that's a hint!), as well as the right art work to hang in the dining room which is the other room opposite the front sitting room.

I'd love to hear from you, however! What would you like to see next? While most of the rooms aren't 100% finished, there's our master bedroom, the homework nook, the big boys shared bunk room, Collins' bold and bright bedroom, as well as the mudroom, upstairs laundry room, playroom, guest bedroom(s), and bar area. I'd love to hear what YOU want to see- it will help give me some guidance as to where to focus my energy on and to really focus on finishing one room as opposed to continually being swept up in trying to get it all done! 

Thanks for stopping by our new home tour!

I received the jute entryway rug from RugsUSA for free in exchange for sharing it in this post. No additional compensation was given and all opinions expressed above are honest and my own. 

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