Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kayla is on a new adventure in her second book, "Kayla The Great Goes to Washington"

Kayla the Great is back in a new adventure!

Kayle the Great is a beautiful and inquisitive multicultural child, the star of Atlanta author Stephanie Davis' children's book series. In the first book, Kayla The Great And The Magic Red Dress, Kayla cannot find her very special dress and embarks on a mission to locate it. The new book, Kayla The Great Goes To Washington, was just released and it is available now!

Kayla The Great Goes To Washington begins with an unhappy Kayla, when she learns that her family is not going to Fun World for vacation as she expected. They are traveling to Washington D.C. instead. Kayla is very disappointed, but on her trip and during a visit to the White House, Kayla meets some important people - can you guess who? Let's just say, her family vacation turns out to be pretty cool after all.

The timing could not have been more perfect for us, because we just returned from our family spring break trip to Washington DC! Just a few days after arriving home, the book was in the mail, much to the delight of my own great, book-loving daughter.

Author Stephanie Davis created Kayla the Great to help ensure diversity in children's books. The first two books are available now, with a third book coming soon! Stephanie is also available locally for book readings and signings. Schools love her!

Follow @SmartSweetKayla on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with her adventures.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why I let my toddler watch TV... #parenting

Judgmental moms, get out your pitchforks! I am about to tell you something shocking...

I let my one-year-old watch TV. Every day.

Sometimes, he watches TV while wearing a big hot pink hat.

I acknowledge that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television up to age two.  I have the utmost respect for the parents who are able to live up to this standard, but how on earth do you do it?

Andrew watches an episode of Sesame Street each morning.
  • It is educational and entertaining 
  • It has totally safe content for his little eyes
  • He enjoys the variety within one episode
  • It makes him happy
  • It allows me to get my older child off to school with shoes tied, a packed lunch, and any important papers signed

And, honestly, one of the biggest reasons of them all
  • I need a few moments each day of peace.
Otherwise, he literally clings to my leg.

He is content watching his educational programming and I can begin my day with a little bit of sanity. Because, honestly, I will have little sanity remaining by bedtime.

Yes, the television is also on when Big Sister gets home from school. She usually wants to relax for a bit with a PBS or Disney Junior show while having a quick after-school snack. She is totally adored by her little brother, so keeping him in a separate room isn't going to happen. He smiles and giggles and climbs on her, watching whatever she happened to turn on.

  • I love their sibling camaraderie

In this household, we try to limit television and other screen time. The television is not turned on unless we are actually watching something. It is never background noise, unless it's on a music-only channel. I give both children my attention as often as I can; the television is not a substitute for human, family interaction. It's just a tool to take a break sometimes. Or a couple times a day.

We spend a lot of time during the day doing other things too. We do chores. He plays in the kitchen cabinets. We get fresh air outside in the yard or on the deck. We go to playgrounds. It is a busy and fun life... and a little TV never hurt anyone. That's my humble opinion, anyway.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Get outside! Favorite nature activities for children

Take a simple stroll - find a nice sidewalk among some trees or in a park and just walk together. Talk. Enjoy the sunshine and the family time.

Smell the flowers - let the child gently touch and smell various flowers and plants. Which ones smell good? Which ones smell strange?

Pick berries - this is an annual tradition with my nieces and nephew when they visit North Carolina in the summer. Grab some bags or small pails and see who can pick the most, or the biggest, or the prettiest berry from the patch. 

Visit a botanical garden - the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a fantastic option if you are in the area. Beautiful gardens, an orchid house, and a children's garden can entertain families for hours.

Catch lightning bugs/fireflies - this combines the excitement of staying out late with hunting and catching action to make it fun for everyone.

Dip your toes in the water - kids love water. Find a small creek or a park with a stream, or the ocean if it is nearby. Have some fun splashing and cooling those toes.

Water the plants - even now, at age seven, my daughter enjoys watering the plants outside. Watering the plants helps teach kids about what things need to grow and watering cans (and water hoses) are fun!

- -  -
Linked up to Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop again this week! Prompt: Choose a photo from a previous April and write a poem or blog post. (These photos are from April and July from various years and they reminded me of all the outdoor fun we love to have!) 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

These moms are braver than I am: Listen To Your Mother show, April 25th #Atlanta

What are you doing next Saturday night?

No plans? Then I have a suggestion!

Come out to Marietta to support amazing, inspiring, funny, story-telling mamas at the Listen To Your Mother Atlanta show, taking place one night only (April 25, 2015) at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre. Listen To Your Mother features real-life writers and mothers who come together to share "the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested" of motherhood. I still hold a love of acting somewhere inside of me, and I would have loved to be part of this show. But alas, Listen To Your Mother is real, not acting, and I chickened out of the auditions. I am so excited to see a few fellow local blogging friends in the cast, though!

Listen To Your Mother  began with one show in 2010 and has grown quickly; the 2015 Listen To Your Mother shows are scheduled in over 30 cities this year! The Atlanta show is April 25th and tickets are on sale now! It is going to be a wonderful evening of inspiration, laughter, and probably a few tears.

Learn more, read cast bios, and BUY TICKETS via the website:

2014 LTYM Atlanta cast - photo via ListenToYourMother.com/Atlanta

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Washington D.C. with young kids #familytravel

Is Washington D.C. a good vacation choice for younger children?

It can be! 

As with any family vacation with kids, it is important to manage expectations, understand the children's needs, and focus on the sights that can delight everyone. We just returned from our Spring Break family trip to Washington D.C. with a one-year-old and a birthday girl who turned seven during the vacation.

Washington D.C. can be overwhelming to anyone, especially if you have limited days. I have visited our nation's capital several times as a child, a teen, and an adult so I felt prepared when it came to touring the sights with kids. I knew what to see, what to skip, and what to expect along the way.

Washington D.C. with young kids -- tips for making it great:

  • Understand before you go: you won't see everythingThere are literally hundreds of sights you could see in Washington D.C. and many, many miles of walking so it is important to stick to a plan and avoid wearing everyone too thin. Especially with younger children who do not yet understand a lot of the history behind the sights. Make a tentative plan before you go, or at least a list of the "must-see" attractions and the "if we have time" attractions so you can focus on what matters most to the group. (Remember, most D.C. attractions are free of charge, so even if you pop into a Smithsonian museum to see just two highlights, it's okay! No money wasted.)
  • Focus on what the kids know and build upon their excitement - Sure, Washington D.C. history is fascinating to adults, but younger children may have no idea what a lot of it means. Our one-year-old was simply along for the ride, so we were able to concentrate our efforts on finding the artifacts, monuments, and museums that were of the most interest to our daughter. She learned about early presidents in school and she got very excited about Abraham Lincoln, which led us on a 2-day mission to find Lincoln artifacts like his top hat and coat (currently at a special exhibit with Ford's Theatre to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his killing - April/May 2015). Because we followed her interest, we ended up with a special adventure that created a lot of great family vacation memories. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When God made you.... #happybirthday

When God made you, daughter, He smiled.

When He made your eyes,
God said, "a little more blue",
and they sparkled like the sea.  

When He made your hair,
God said, "a little more shine",
and the golden glinted in the sun.

When He made your mind,
God said, "a little more imagination",
and the stories swirled inside you.

When He made your legs,
God said, "just a bit faster",
and now you can run like the wind.

When He made your heart,
I think God added some sugar,
because your sweetness exceeds all the rest.

Stay kind, my dear. Use that mind, strengthen those legs, and be humble despite your beauty. Know that you are special and always, deeply, loved.

Happy 7th birthday to my favorite girl!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rainbow Treat Cups: a happy classroom birthday treat that takes only minutes to make

I do not hide behind a veil of Pinterest-perfect. So when the adorable Room Mom suggests a "cute little take-home treat" to accompany the cupcakes for your daughters' shared birthday? I have a moment of panic. But then I kick it into my BalancingMama gear. I have a huge to-do list, questioning clients, and a young toddler clinging to my leg and grabbing the computer, but I will get it done. My misson: cute, sweet, and no baking involved.

If you need a really quick, classroom-friendly, colorful treat for a birthday, try these adorable Rainbow Treat Cups.
  • Plastic disposable rainbow-colored shot glasses
  • Skittles candy
  • Gummy bears
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Ribbon

I made 24 happy little rainbow treat cups for Amelia's birthday celebration, and it took about 20 minutes. Amelia is thrilled with the cute size and colors (and gummy bears are her favorite!) The treats are peanut-free and school-approved. You could make all kinds of kid-friendly treats and desserts with disposable shot glasses. I will be using them again!

Semi-homemade treats? Check! It is another mission accomplished for this BalancingMama.

Happy 7th birthday to my sweet and creative little lady!

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