Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in sunny Florida

The Christmas chaos has come and gone. Our day was not quite as expected since the kiddos were sick. Amelia was recovering well by Christmas day and enjoyed the time with extended family, but baby Andrew was not well at all. He is still not himself, almost one week later; we are currently trying a breathing treatment (wheezing) and a new antibiotic (ear infection that won't clear). Poor baby!

Happy New Year to all!

My Christmas sweetheart

And a boy who just did not feel like it

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Pinterest success! One-pan zesty chicken dinner

Do you want your family to ooh and mmm and ask for seconds? That actually happened in my home the other week, thanks to an idea from Pinterest that I kicked up a notch. I'm not much of a chef, so I was thrilled. The pan was literally scraped clean, even from my light and picky eater!

This delicious recipe is easy, uses one pan, and can be prepped ahead of time (in my case, during baby's nap time). The original Pin is here: Dinner all in one pan - chicken

It sounded a little bit bland to me, so I searched the fridge to kick it up a notch. I added sliced onion to the potatoes section, Hormel real bacon bits to the green beans section, and I spread whipped cream cheese over the chicken. I did each of those steps before the Italian seasoning and melted butter.


Use 3-4 chicken breasts for a family of four; more if you have more mouths to feed. If using canned cut green beans, I suggest 2 cans for every 4 people. They all went for seconds! 

Needed: chicken breasts, green beans (fresh or canned), red potatoes, real bacon bits, onion, whipped (or softened) cream cheese, packet of Italian dressing mix, 1/2 stick of melted butter

  • Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray 
  • Cut chicken breasts in half and place in the middle of the pan
  • Cut red potatoes into chunks, place on one side of the pan
  • Place fresh or canned green beans in the other section of the pan
  • Slice onion, sprinkle pieces over the potatoes
  • Sprinkle real bacon bits over the green beans
  • Heavily spread softened cream cheese over the chicken
  • Sprinkle all liberally with one packet of Italian dressing mix
  • Melt the butter and pour evenly over the entire pan
  • Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes 

The cream cheese lightly browns to perfection and the onion and bacon bits add flavor to the vegetables. Melted butter adds goodness to anything, right? This is absolutely an A+ recipe for my family, and I especially love it because I can prepare during baby's nap and cooking only involves placing in the oven. And one big pan to wash? Yet another plus! 

Happy kids at dinner make for an enjoyable family evening. Enjoy, and please Pin it if you like it! Hover over the image above to add to your favorite Pinterest board.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wishes for a very merry Christmas

For my husband,
I wish you a release from thoughts and worries of work, fun adventures with your children, and easy success and joys in the new year.

For my darling first grader,
I wish for you excitement and surprises, never-ending learning and wonder, and a healthy dose of confidence so we may always see that glowing and adorable smile.

For my sweet baby boy,
I wish you continued growth, discoveries, and squeals of laughter.

For family and friends,
I wish you peace, happiness, and love with safety, health, and prosperity in the new year.

May all of you find your happy place this season, and may that happy place reside in your soul each and every day.

*** Merry Christmas to all! ***

Monday, December 22, 2014

First grader's tips for calming your fears

I discovered at the start of this school year that my six-year-old daughter has an actual phobia. Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting. When she has nightmares, they do not often feature monsters or bad guys. Her nightmares are often about someone throwing up at school. This happened once last year and twice so far this year. Not exactly a frequent occurrence, but she is afraid nonetheless.

She and I discuss this fear frequently, and especially last week after several very difficult mornings.  She understands that her reaction to vomit is physical and involuntary. She likes the big word, Emetophobia. We are working together so she may learn simple ways to cope and calm the physical reaction.

The other day? A child vomited in her class. She said her body became jittery and her teacher said she was pale. But this time, she did not end up in the school clinic. She actually made it through the day. The following morning however, she was inconsolable and quite afraid to attend class. But she was brave, and she got herself out of the car and ventured into the school building, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Needless to say, I thought of her all day long.

She greeted me with a smile as she clambered back into the car after the final school bell had rung. She immediately presented me with a journal entry she wrote at school. She tore it from the journal, because it was a note especially for me:

"Dear Mommy,

I was fine today at school but in the morning I was a little sad. In the end it got better.

I talked to my teachers.
I talked to my friends.
I thought happy thoughts.
And it all got much better.

So I want you to know that I love you. You're the best mom ever." 

I think these coping skills are phenomenal for a first grader and applicable to anyone. When we have worries or anxiety, it helps to talk to supportive people. It helps to focus on the positive.

I could not be more proud of her accomplishment that day at school. She tackled a frightening situation in a very grown-up way and gave us some pretty smart advice.

Friday, December 19, 2014

You still have time for these glowing Christmas light displays: Georgia and Tennessee

You still have time! Grab the extended family and venture out for some twinkling festivity.

It is a favorite December activity of ours: driving around to view shimmering displays of holiday lights. With our penchant for road trips and US travel, we have managed to experience a several of the below favorites in Tennessee and Georgia. Are you near any of these displays? Here are a few select Christmas light experiences southern folks might be able to view this week and the next:

 Note: most of these require a fee; check the websites for pricing and operating hours.


Garden Lights - at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (extended until 1/10!)

Magical Nights of Lights - Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford, GA (ends 12/31)

The Lights of Life - Life University in Marietta, GA (ends 12/31)

Petit Creek Christmas - Petit Creek Farms in Cartersville, GA (ends 12/30)

Stone Mountain Christmas - Stone Mountain Park (ends 1/4)

Fantasy in Lights - Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA (ends 12/30)

Ludy’s Christmas Light Spectacular - Columbus, GA (private home)

Meckley Family Christmas - Kennesaw, GA (private home)

Enchanted Garden of Lights - Rock City, Lookout Mountain, GA 


Speedway in Lights - Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, TN (ends 1/3)

Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard - Memphis Botanic Garden in Memphis, TN (ends 12/30)

Starry Nights - Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, TN (ends 12/28)

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland - TN Smokies Stadium in Kodak, TN (ends 1/4)

Christmas on the Cumberland - Clarksville, TN (ends 1/3)

Chad's Winter Wonderland - 8-acre farm in Lebanon, TN (ends 12/31)

Lights on Old Charlotte - Franklin, TN (ends private home)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baby boy's current favorite toys - 11 months old

Do you need a last-minute gift idea for a 10-18 month old? We celebrated "Thanksmas" with my family after Thanksgiving dinner, so my kids received a few of their gifts several weeks ago. Andrew, currently just shy of 11 months old, has some very clear favorites.

This post is not sponsored, but these toys for 10-18 month olds are life savers right now! So I thought I would share, as some of you may still be finishing up your gift shopping. I have the Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Poppity Pop Musical Dino in my master bathroom so baby boy can entertain himself while I get ready in the morning. And the Bright Starts Having a Ball Cluck and Learn Barn is downstairs so he can play most of the day.

If you need a gift idea for Christmas, Hanukkah, an upcoming birthday, or any other occasion for a 10-18 month old, I recommend these. My nephew also loved both of these toys around his one-year birthday.

The Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Poppity Pop Musical Dino is a popper toy dinosaur that bounces six colored balls (and any other lightweight objects) inside a cute blue dinosaur. The balls also drop into a hole and roll out the dino's mouth, so baby can continue to put the balls back in. I think Andrew could probably do this for at least 30 minutes, consecutively. That's an eternity in baby concentration! The dino plays music while it pops and the moment I turn the "on" switch, Andrew begins to clap and bounce. He truly loves this toy.

The Bright Starts Having a Ball Cluck and Learn Barn was a bit more difficult for baby boy to master, because it takes coordination to get the little chicken head balls into the top of the chicken head. He still misses quite often, but that makes it all the more exciting when he gets one in and it rolls out toward his feet! The balls randomly roll out one side or the other, so he never knows where to look next. The toy barn also has three large easy-to-press buttons on the side that play tunes and make animal sounds. We like it a lot!

Any affordable toy that can entertain my on-the-go little guy for over 10 minutes is my favorite too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite decor highlighting the "reason for the season" #Christmas

When I was in the holiday shopping traffic the other day with Amelia, I mentioned to her that shopping and buying are not the meaning of Christmas. Her reply? "I know, it's presents!"

Alas, it has been too long since private church preschool. I realized that, other than her art projects from her former preschool, our Chirstmas decor in the home was all exceedingly commercial. Therefore, I launched 'Operation Bring Baby Jesus Back' in the house.

A friend recently posted a photo on Instagram of a perfect Advent calendar - a nativity scene that you build upon each day, with cute little stuffed figures that reside in pockets until their given day. I searched online and found that it is made by Vermont Christmas Company and I could order the nativity Advent calendar via Amazon.com. Yes to free shipping!

The calendar now hangs on the door to our deck, in the hustle bustle area of the kitchen so we can remember it each day. Amelia is having fun adding a character each morning, and we talk about the shepherds, kings, angels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The calendar is really big and I love that. It is now a perfect eye-catching and fun keepsake to hang up year after year.

Speaking of preschool Christmas art, I still hang this one by the front door - an adorable hanging angel banner. Amelia made it with the help of teachers during her final year of pre-K. The banner was made with blue felt, white and brown paint, puffy glitter paint, and thick white and silver wired ribbon. Plus some hot glue to adhere the ribbon for wings and a black Sharpie pen for the eyes and mouth. After the banner is created and dried, fold down the top of the felt so a wooden dowel can slide through. Finally, tie on shiny cord for hanging. It is a cute and pretty hanging for a lovely family Christmas keepsake. Don't you just love kid art?

Christmas is on its way! 2014 was pretty much a blur.

- - -
Follow BalancingMama on Pinterest for more kid crafts, kid science, travel, Disney, holiday décor, cute food, easy entrees, kid style, and more.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Inspector Gadget would enjoy the Ford Flex

Atlanta area - don't forget to bring your holiday donations to John Bleakley Ford in Lithia Springs! They are accepting donations of toys (through 12/18), canned dog food (through 12/31), and coats (cold weather months) for area families and the Douglas County Animal Shelter.
- - -

Da da da da dah, Inspector Gadget! 

Children of the 1980s know who I'm referencing... remember Inspector Gadget? The animated TV show series with a sometimes bumbling bionic police inspector was one of my favorites. He had all kinds of great gadgets! I have been driving a new 2015 Ford Flex this week, courtesy of Ford Southeast, and it has some auto gadgets I have never seen before.

Like the chiller compartment: the available second-row refrigerated console can chill up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20-ounce bottles in refrigeration or freezer mode! We are often rolling down the highways on family road trips, and I always bring a small cooler with a few drinks and snacks. This would save us from needing that extra piece to lug around and no more melting ice cubes or plastic freezer blocks that do not stay cold long enough. Family travel approved.

And the BLIS system: the Blind Spot Information System warns drivers of objects in the blind spot when backing up, helping to avoid aggravating parking lot mishaps. It uses radar to  detect the relative position of other vehicles and warn drivers before a potential impact.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What goes on in their heads? Inside Out trailer now available from Disney/Pixar

This newly-released trailer for Disney/Pixar's summer release made me chuckle. Just take a look; moms, you will know exactly why! INSIDE OUT seems to be about a typical family with an angst-ridden child and pretty normal parents. But we get to see what's going on inside their heads which are apparently, run by colorful happy creatures.

This looks to be a great movie for grown-ups and big kids! I'm sure younger children will love the creatures and basic storyline as well. I am always amused by the masterful way Disney/Pixar weaves in grown-up jabs and "old school" references to keep Mom and Dad entertained through films as well.

INSIDE OUT opens in theaters on June 19th.

Follow Disney/Pixar on Twitter
Follow Disney/Pixar on Instagram 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

That time I really surprised him...

I was sweating the schedule, big time. We were supposed to be on the road but he wanted to meander the sidewalk a bit more slowly, take a few additional photos, drive to peek at the golf course. I tried my hardest to push him along, all while bursting with a big secret. He did not know why I wanted to rush off from this lovely location so soon.

When my husband turned thirty years old, I set up a big surprise. He knew we were going on a trip and I told him what type of clothes to select for the suitcase. Other than that, he was kept in the dark. I drove the car and with his knack for maps, he continually guessed destinations.

On Friday night that week, we stopped in Savannah at a lovely hotel with a comfortable room and a sparkling view of the lights along the river. He thought we were done, but I informed him that we had another trek in the morning. We were staying just one night. He thought the surprises were over, but I had a big trick up my sleeve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Unique and thoughtful gifts come from shopping local #WhiteRabbitMarietta

As a working parent, I frequent the "big box" stores and chain drug stores when I need everyday items quickly. I also purchase online when I know what I want, because the convenience is fantastic. But sometimes, I just want to shop.

Sometimes, I want to see beautiful items in person and experience a lovely store with my own senses. I want to take in gorgeous arrangements of products that I have not seen in the box stores. I want personal service and kind hellos. For special people who have touched my life, I want to select truly unique and heartfelt gifts. Something I can place gently in a basket while perusing the tables and shelves, instead of a quick grab-and-toss into a squeaky cart before trudging to a further aisle for some toothpaste.

If you are near Atlanta or visiting soon, take a little trip over to Marietta, GA and look up the White Rabbit Cottage. This store is loaded with sparkle and shine, cute and sweet, and tasty and fragrant. The original building of the White Rabbit Cottage is set in a 1920s farmhouse with charming rooms and original rustic pine floors and has been a popular décor and gift destination with Marietta locals for over ten years. The store expanded into a second building about seven years ago to house more décor and gifts, plus larger pieces like paintings, furniture, and a clearance area (right now, Fall décor is 40% off!).

I recently browsed the holiday cheer within the White Rabbit Cottage with some fellow area bloggers. The look of the store changes with the seasons, but here is a glimpse of the offerings right now at the White Rabbit Cottage:

Holiday reds

Monday, December 8, 2014

Favorite holiday gift lists

Are you on Pinterest? BalancingMama is on Pinterest! Check out my various boards on travel, kid style, cute food, easy family entrees, and Christmas gift ideas.

If you are still searching for some fantastic holiday gift ideas, click over to these from some blogging buddies of mine:

STEM gift ideas for girls - from Really, Are You Serious. I love that she encourages science and engineering for her girls. And she was a science teacher, so she knows what she's talking about!

Kitchen Must-Haves - from Redhead Baby Mama. This working mom of a little boy, a bulldog, and a cat shares her experience with some of the most useful kitchen gadgets for her busy life.

Ideas for Techie Parents - from The Mommy Insider. Parents love gadgets too! I definitely want some of the goodies on this list.

If you still need some assistance with your shopping endeavors in the form of deals and coupons? Check out the new Personal Shopper partnership with my friend, Mamalicious Maria:
Get Reward Points + Coupons for @LandsEnd and more

Happy gift hunting!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Experience is our gift to each other #FamilyTravel

My husband and I do not buy each other Christmas or birthday gifts. We barely buy gifts for our kids, either. They have plenty of packaged surprises from family and they are definitely not in need of "stuff". Years ago, the husband and I decided not to do the gifting thing because, really, we would just tell each other what to buy and spend time sneaking around to buy that thing that would not be a surprise when unwrapped.

I have seen a few articles about the increase in parents gifting experiences this year and while we never had a catchy phrase or a national news story on it, this is exactly what we have done in our household for years. Often, we are able to stop by Disney World to break up our long trek to visit family. When we don't spend hundreds on toys from a lengthy wish list, we can buy a couple park tickets instead. Or even if we don't go to a Walt Disney World park, we can enjoy Disney fun without the park via a perfectly themed resort and character-inspired dinner.

Experiences last longer than toys because they live on in precious family memories and favorite candid photographs of glowing, happy faces. Experiences teach our children about the world and the people in it. Experiences show our children that it feels good to be together, away from the house and the "stuff", simply enjoying together.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sometimes you've gotta have "Thanksmas"

We traveled for Thanksgiving this year, up the interstate to Tennessee. It was a chance for my entire family to be together since my sister and her family were able to travel at the same time. The baby boys have been antsy and bored with the colder weather, and since we were all together with no work or appointment distractions... we decided on "Thanksmas"!

At first, my littles played with the old toys that Grandma has saved for all these years. Tell me you remember this Holly Hobbie play kitchen! It's 30 years old but still a hit!

And, of course, this one can almost always be found in her natural state. Reading 3rd grade level books at age six. She can't get enough!

Thursday morning dawned and shortly afterward, cousin Logan arrived! The boys are exactly six months apart in age and they are already working on becoming buddies. No tears! Progress.

So, Thursday was our Thanksmas. Thanksgiving plus Christmas! A dream come true for both adult bellies and child excitement.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Glossary of health insurance terms and student health plan options from United Healthcare

This is a sponsored post via United Healthcare. All opinions are 100% my own.
- - -

So, you are down to the wire on those health insurance open enrollment selections. If you have already browsed the informative videos on how to select a health insurance plan and save money but you are still stuck, maybe you need to take a step back to understand the basics.

Let's learn more with this "people on the street" series from United Healthcare:

What is a premium?
Interviewers asked folks on the street to define it.

What is a deductible?
Not everyone is fully up to speed on the meaning of this word.

What is a copay?
Testing the knowledge of passersby on health insurance terms.

What is co-insurance?
Some, um, interesting responses here! Learn what it really is.

What does PPO stand for?
Knowing the answer could help you lower the cost of your healthcare.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Planning our Christmas toy donations #GivingBack

My family is blessed with so much. We are able to enjoy love, friendship, amazing family, opportunities to see the world, and material things. We are happy in our lovely warm home and with the various "things" that we use in life. We are comfortable and I am quite thankful.

My children are inundated with Christmas gifts because we have a large family when you count both sides. Each and every year, I have found joy in watching Amelia's face as she unwraps her surprises but I also cringe a little at the sheer quantity of it all.

That's why I insist we give back - and her participation is required. If you have the means to do for others this season, I urge you to do so. The holidays aren't about getting and we should remind our kids of that as often as we can.

Before she is allowed to receive holiday gifts, we do a purge of the playroom. Toys that are in good shape that she no longer uses go Goodwill, to help other families who need holiday gifts but may not be able to afford brand-new. We make space for Amelia's incoming items and we hopefully give someone out there a little bit of a break on their gift list completion.

For the past seven years, I also allot a chunk of money to purchase new toys for donation. Some years it has been Toys For Tots, other years the children's hospital. I think we will do Children's Healthcare of Atlanta again this year. It is a good outing for Amelia because she can wheel the gifts into the building in one of their little red wagons and physically hand them over at the front desk (she has helped me to unload toys into the Toys For Tots bin in the past as well).

It is sometimes a challenge for a child to pick out toy after toy after toy at the store and to hear repeatedly, "now remember, none of this is for you." But it is a lesson that I feel is important. She needs to understand that we have a lot and we are not in need, but many children are much less fortunate. They may be hurting, sick, alone, or homeless. They may never see a Christmas present. Therefore, because we can, it is our responsibility to give back. It is our thankful family tradition.

We purchased our donation toys today, and I look forward to our entire family stopping by CHOA very soon. Hopefully this little bit can bring a lot of holiday cheer!

- - -
Note: If you choose to donate to a children's hospital, be sure to check their rules for in-kind donations. There are likely restrictions on what may be donated.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I will listen

I didn't hashtag #Ferguson in my title because I'm not seeking to gain traffic from a terrible and divisive national event. I am not one to jump into the spotlight to yell for my cause and I always run away quickly if politics are involved. I don't change my Facebook profile photo to support a cause, I don't pour ice water over my head, I don't write about the "big stuff".

But if I don't speak up, I'm told I don't care.

And when I do speak up, I'm told I don't understand.

Guess what? I am not black. I do not know how it feels to be black. So if that is what I "can't understand"? I guess there is obvious truth there.  I am a white person from Tennessee. Am I a racist? Nope. I was brought up with faith and caring and lessons to be nice. To quote Dr. Seuss, "A person's a person, no matter how small" - or how dark, or light, or tall, or short, or rich, or poor, or smart, or not-so-smart, for that matter.

Do you want to know why I don't say much? I blame my way of thinking. I have a highly analytical mind and I can't commit myself 100% to one side of most any situation, ever. If I wasn't there, I don't know the real truth. I will never take what's on social media or the news as the full truth because news is for ratings/pageviews and social is often fueled by narcissism and a groupthink mentality.

So when I am conflicted and I know I can't stand by every piece of info on any one side, I stay quiet. NOT because I do not care, but because I am observing and listening. I am searching for the truth. Did a mother lose her son to a violent weapon way too soon? Yes. Is it a good idea to approach an officer when being told to stop and get on the ground? Nope. Is burglary a crime? Yes. Is it a crime worthy of being shot dead on the street? Of course not. Do racists exist? Unfortunately, yes, far too many. Will my white son have more privileges in life? Maybe. In this particular situation, poor choices were made - on all sides - and something extremely heartbreaking occurred. That's what I do know. A trial would have brought more facts to light and I, too, was shocked to hear that instead, it is just over. Everyone is supposed to walk away now...? I am so sad about the entire situation. I wish none of it had ever happened. I wonder about the other incidents that we don't hear about on the news. I hope that no one else gets hurt. I support mankind, and I want us to do better. Just... do better. 

Social media allows us to hide behind our screens and shout out extreme statements that we may not otherwise say to anyone's face. We hide behind things in cowardice so that we may shout and rage and be extreme. So perhaps we all need to step out with genuine hearts, in person, with understanding and listening in mind. Maybe, before we shout our opinions to the masses in an effort to change minds and chastise, we should listen first. The path to change is not paved with loud voices and domination. We need to start listening. Now.

For anyone who wants to talk, I will listen.

Baby gear ideas for Elf on The Shelf

Do you have a baby at home this holiday season? We do! And our Elf on The Shelf, Sparkles, is bound to get into some extra-silly mischief with the baby gear. We are eagerly anticipating his arrival to our home sometime after Thanksgiving. I wonder what he will get into?

Need a few new Elf on The Shelf ideas?
Check out these silly baby-related ideas for your Elf on The Shelf!

Elf on The Shelf: Midnight Snack
The baby bottles and Gerber Puffs were apparently irresistible last night.

Elf on The Shelf: Cuddly Night Sleep
This Elf cuddled up with a clip-on pacifier, blanket, and a fuzzy bear. 

Elf on The Shelf: Oops, Dirty Diaper
I think he's playing a joke with a diaper and some jumbo chocolate chips...
Enjoy your Christmas countdown with silliness! Items around the house, especially baby gear, can be quite tempting for our mischievous elves. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Today, it rained. So, you know... #Christmas!

Today, it rained. Misting at times and absolutely pouring at other times. From morning to night, it was gray on the other side of the window panes. We dared not leave our warm and dry home for fear we would wash away. It seemed like the longest Sunday in the history of Sundays.

To my generally stir-crazy-when-trapped-indoors self, it was surprisingly nice. We had a lot of family togetherness and we dressed in sloppy, comfy clothing. My feet were content in their silky, fuzzy socks. My belly was warmed with soup and other no-fuss treats. We accomplished a few tasks, like finally installing a baby gate on the bottom of the steep stairs and knocking out several baskets of laundry. And we did something else...

We put up the indoor Christmas decorations. Including the tree!

This is the earliest we have ever hauled out those green plastic bins. I blame our weather which skipped over the Fall season after a mere week of that Autumn "feel" we love so much. I admit, we may be a bit nuts for replacing my cute turkeys and leaves with reindeer, ornaments, and greenery before we have stuffed our faces at Grandma's house, but there is a magic in the twinkle of Christmas decor. We pushed away the gray outdoors to make room for sparkling lights and shiny memories.

Didn't you know? Christmas lights make even the dullest of days more joyful. There is nothing wrong with grasping onto that a few days early.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Know when it's time for #baby to CRY IT OUT (+ tips for surviving the painful experience)

Babies. They melt a mama's heart with goo-goos and sweet smiles, but they have a powerful ability to produce confusion and self-doubt in us too. Babies cannot tell us what they need with words, so we are in a constant guessing game. And once we have it figured out, thrilled with our new-found ability to decipher the tone of each little cry, a baby will totally switch it up. Growth spurt. Teething. An sudden decision to push away a spoon if it comes too near the lips. Waking in the night, even if once a solid sleeper.

For me, the night thing triggered more self-doubt than any other. What was I doing wrong? Why do my friends' babies sleep? Why is my 9-month old baby not sleeping through the night? Should I know when it's time to "cry it out"?

It came to a point where I was exhausted and depressed and totally beating myself up because my baby was not sleeping through the night. I was doing something very wrong. Or so I thought.

It turns out, it wasn't so much my own failure after all. I was simply being a good student; my baby had me expertly trained. He was waking in the night as all people do, but he was calling for me instead of soothing himself. He was standing up and shaking the crib rails. And I magically appeared, every time. I talked to him and fed him and held him. When I put him down after he'd been asleep in my arms, he woke and cried. So I held him some more until he finally stayed asleep from pure exhaustion. Two hours, sometimes even three hours had passed.

Eventually, he began to greet me with a huge smile and silly babbles when I entered the room sometime between 11:00pm and 1:30am. He was happy to see me.

So now I think I understand the tricks he was playing on me. Is yours training you too?

How to know when it is time for baby to "cry it out"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving for the picky eater

One of my most favorite Thanksgiving memories was from my daughter, then four-years old. We were at my sister's house with extended family and we had just begun to devour our over-filled plates of Thanksgiving staples. We mmm'd and ahhh'd over the moist turkey, the sweet and crunchy sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping, and the only stuffing that I have ever known, a homemade family recipe passed down for a few generations.

As we were chewing and complimenting the various chefs, Amelia stopped eating. She put her hands in her lap and declared loudly, "this is yucky!".

We stopped chewing and looked her way, then giggled. Who could ever think Thanksgiving goodness is yucky? A classic picky eater, that's who.

My child is still a picky eater at age 6 1/2. In fact, she has already reminded me that she does not like Thanksgiving food which means we already have a negative association to address. I think we need to launch our mission to change her mind. She will not be having her own personal plate of chicken nuggets! She will eat from the bountiful holiday table with the rest of us. I hold out hope that she will change her mind on a few tastes independently, but I am also willing to allow minor adjustments as well.

My rule is usually that she eats what we eat (unless we are having something extraordinarily grown-up or spicy), but I will modify a recipe in the process of cooking if it takes little effort. Thanksgiving foods can be easily modified, or have a little scoop of this and that set aside, so I think we can find a win this year.

Getting a picky eater through a Thanksgiving meal

  •  Limit snacks - A child who has been allowed to graze on snacks all day "because it is a holiday" is a child who will not be hungry come mealtime. If you know when the meal will be served, cut off any snacks at least 1 1/2 hours prior. Your picky eater will be more likely to consume what is on their plate if his/her belly is hungry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holiday shopping gift cards #giveaway!

Merry almost-Thanksgiving!
Each year around Christmas and Mother's Day, I try to find a great blogger giveaway to share with you. For the next couple weeks, you have a chance to win this one - with three fantastic Amazon gift cards and The Pocket Sous Chef prizes!
- - - 
It's the most wonderful time of the year! For so many reasons... and a time where we can all go shopping without guilt in the name of "holiday spirit"!  The number one thing about the holidays in most people's mind is their family (even those family members that drive you crazy; you enjoy them that much more).
If you are anything like me, you wait until there are awesome  coupons, discounts and deals... so many holiday savings. We know that there are many last minute shoppers so hurry over and check out all the savings and get all those gifts for the family that you love! No need to wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, just check out the coupons and deals on Your Life After 25's coupons & discounts page. Not only are we spreading the word about all of those amazing deals we are also giving you the chance to Win: Your Life After 25 Holiday Savings and Coupon Giveaway!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smart selections during open enrollment

This is a sponsored post via United Healthcare. All opinions are 100% my own.
- - -

Before you click away from what may seem a zzzzzz of a post, hang on a second. Health insurance may not be the most glamorous of topics, but making the right choices for your family can be a hefty task - and one that shouldn't be breezed over too quickly come open enrollment time. It is too important!

Also, did you know that you could be leaving money on the table? Almost 87% of health insurance applicants were eligible for discounts last year, and many are not aware of the money they could save. United Healthcare has very in-depth information and short easy-to-understand videos to get us all informed and help us to make the best decisions when it is time to enroll.

My family is quite healthy, but we spent a couple years trying to figure out Amelia's strabismus issue (via three eye muscle surgeries), which forced us to look closer at the health insurance selections each year. We had to choose wisely in the event she needed another surgery. And more recently, I had a pregnancy in one calendar year and baby's birth in January the following calendar year, so we had to look at various plans with that in mind. Currently, we have no imminent surgeries or major procedures planned, so we need to look at our health plan from a maintenance perspective and protection from any catastrophic events. We can't just check the same box on a form year after year if we want to ensure a smart and economical selection.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When Snowjam strikes #BePrepared

Most of the country laughed at Atlanta when Snowjam 2014 struck and stranded us all over highways and side roads for 9, 10, even 12 hours. It was no laughing matter; it was frightening for thousands of families.

The wrong combination of things simply hit at the same time that year - warnings not being taken seriously, school not being cancelled, parents commuting to work all over the city, the weather intensifying very quickly, and millions of people commuting home at the exact same time as roads grew whiter and more treacherous by the minute. Semi trucks blocked every lane of interstates and car tires spun and spun with no movement on the smallest of inclines.

Despite being separated, my family was safe and warm that evening, thanks to my parents picking Amelia up from school a mere 10 minutes early and two-day old baby Andrew having Steve and I at the hospital. When winter halted metro Atlanta, I had a brand new baby boy.

Atlantans were stranded all over various streets and highways for hours. Many managed to pick up their children from schools but could not get home. Imagine this: A two-year-old in a car for ten hours, NO snacks, no water, no toilet, and a very stressed-out mom who cannot get in touch with her husband and whose own cell phone battery is minutes from dying. Or a young family with a 9-month old infant and NO bottles, or food, or even heavy coats because they were going right home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crowdsourcing: Design ideas for our boring basement?

How many times have you wished you could be on an HGTV show? So many for me, especially when I venture into our basement.

I have actually met David Bromstad (that smile is contagious!) but, alas, I was not allowed to bring him home.

My husband and I bought a new home about a year and a half ago and were quite pleased that a large portion of the basement was already finished with walls, carpet, cable hook-ups, and lighting. The prior owners used it as a movie theater space. We don't really watch TV down there, so it has become a catch-all space for any old furniture (the striped couches that don't match anything are from my single apartment days), plus the Wii game system area, plus a huge indoor "field" for raucous play when the weather is bad.

The space is a very long rectangle with no definition. You go down the stairs, turn right, and almost the entire length of the house is one brown and beige "bowling alley" space. The TV/Wii area is at the end and the empty space for beach ball soccer, Baggo-style games, and spreading MegaBloks is at the end closest to the stairs. The bathroom is finished well and is to the left of the stairs - it's the nicest space down there!

Part of me loves the big empty space for active play when we cannot go outdoors. The other part of me can't stand the complete lack of definition.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Observations from U5 and U6 rec #soccer

Our daughter just completed her fourth rec soccer season. It has been a lesson in patience many times, but also an enjoyable learning experience.

Now at the U8 level for her second season, we are finally seeing a real understanding of the game. Why and when to pass, how to protect your goal as a defender, how to play goalie, and the most critical concepts of offense and defense, for example. She attended a 5-day British Soccer Camp this summer which really honed her skills that she took to the field this fall. It has been fun to cheer her team on during Saturday games because they are finally real games!

But I do admit, the early seasons were quite entertaining.  

Are you thinking of soccer for your little kids? 
Here is a recap of the fun (and giggles) you will likely experience  at the early levels...

Amelia began when she was just about to turn five. 
U5 = Under age 5 & U6 = Under age 6. 

(1) Understanding body parts -- "No hands!" will be an overused phrase. I don't know how many times a U5 kid saw a ball coming near, and just bent down to pick it up. This, of course, was often followed by a proud glance to the sidelines. "Mom! I got the ball!"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

One vaccuum to literally do it ALL - @SharkCleaning

I received a Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away vacuum for the purposes of this review. However, all opinions (as always) are 100% mine.

I have a crawling and inquisitive baby at home. He has lightning fast reflexes when it comes to finding anything, picking it up, and shoving it in his little mouth. He tastes everything and he spends most of his day on the floor, so... I have become obsessed with clean floors.

This is one amazing Transformer of a vacuum. It has every function you could ever need! The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away is an upright canister vacuum, a hand held vacuum, stick vacuum, and functional hardwood floor cleaner all in one - with four additional attachments to clean pet hair from furniture or crumbs out of cracks and crevices.

Our home is almost entirely hardwood on the main with carpet upstairs and in the finished space of the basement. So I had perfect spaces in which to test out the various Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away functions.

It had an easy glide on the carpets and powerful suction. Even when I thought there was nothing on the floor, this Shark picked up more.

The Hard Floor Genie is one of my favorite functions - you attach a different cleaning head, which comes with an attachable cleaning pad for the "white sock" clean you want on hardwoods. The pad cleans and catches dust while the vacuum gap allows for suction of larger dirt and debris. No need to sweep and use a dustpan and then vacuum again! One mega tool can do it all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christie Rampone: Elite athlete, wife, and a pretty awesome "balancing" mama!

This mama's story is powerful and impressive. Talk about a "balancing" mama! Christie Rampone is captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the only mom on the team. She is captain of her family as Mom to Rylie, 9 and Reece, 4.

Christie Rampone continues to defy the odds. At age 39, this wife and mother of two young daughters is also the captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and a 3-time Olympic gold medalist —and between home life and work life, Christie may be one of the busiest, most active women in America.
As an elite athlete, wife and mother, Christie lives a busy, unique and challenging life.

“Between caring for my family, training and traveling, there are really no days off,” she says. Several years ago, she came down with Lyme disease and realized she needed to take better charge of her health and approach it with the same passion she has for being a wife, mother and world-class soccer star.

“At my age and with all that I have on my plate, I need to work harder at staying healthy inside and out,” Christie admits. “I’ve always taken care to eat healthy and to exercise regularly, so, now I learned to focus on my internal health like going to yoga to reduce stress and keeping my immune system strong.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wiper of noses and cleaner of clothes #parenting

I just read a post titled The Default Parent via Huffington Post (and lots of viral shares). This is my response.
- - -

I am, without a doubt, the default parent.

I am the wiper of noses, the cleaner of clothes, the maker of meals... and snacks... and more meals and snacks.

A family vacation isn't really a vacation but just a trip where all of my work tags along and I have few of the comforts from gadgets and gizmos that help out at home.

I work from home; my to-dos are the ones constantly interrupted or tossed aside completely when a need arises from a small person - or sometimes a husband.

Make this call, fill out this form, pack that lunch, make that appointment, take them for a flu shot and a booster flu shot, buy shoes that fit, find a hotel for the family vacation, er, trip. The one who sits on the sidelines with the baby while everyone else has fun = mom.

But this is okay because mothers are built to multi-task, to get it all done for everyone despite the ever-growing list of what needs to be done, what should have been done, and what might not get done in the next six months.

Not whining here; at least I have  a backup parent.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sleep, baby. Please?

This mama went to bed at 8:30pm Sunday night. Halloween on Friday night, the busy weekend, and the time change - added to a baby who still wakes once per night - and I just could not take it anymore.

It has been a long few weeks.

Amelia was my overachiever baby when it came to night sleep. She was a horrible napper, but slept through the night - until at least 7:00am - by about 10 weeks old. Andrew is nine months and eight days old, and he continues to wake. He had a week or so of uninterrupted 11-hour sleep. Every now and then he will make it all the way through. But not so much lately. He is back to being up once per night, usually about three hours after he goes to bed. Often, he is wide awake and wants to play OR he is angry that he's awake and screaming his head off.

Not fun at all. He wakes his sister who needs to be rested for school. He frustrates me because I just do not understand why the waking occurs. I feel like I am following all the "rules"!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Incredibles family takes on Halloween #DisneySide

Halloween was a lot of fun! A very busy day with school, final t-shirt touches, digging out the pumpkin lights and getting the candy bowl set out, but we had fun that evening.

Amelia selected the Violet costume from The Incredibles this year. She opted not to have a scratchy wig or an attempt at black hair spray, so I simply straightened her hair with the straightening iron. It worked. Her eye mask lasted a few minutes before she wanted it off. But luckily, the costume was comfortable and she didn't complain one bit, even after wearing it all day at school. With thermal shirt and pants underneath, she even survived the first hour of trick-or-treating until she needed her jacket (thanks to the out-of-nowhere rain!).

I have a thing for family costumes on Halloween, as I shared in our most epic costumes on Friday. With Amelia in a costume from a family of superheroes, I just could not let it go without a matching set! I found inexpensive red t-shirts for Steve, myself, and Andrew. Then I simply printed the Incredibles logo and pinned it on each shirt with some double-sided sticky tape for reinforcement.

I think it totally worked!

- - -
Linked up to Really, Are You Serious for Mommy and Me Monday!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Our most epic family Halloween costumes

We used to live in a neighborhood that was all about Halloween. Adults dressed up with the kids, we all met in a huge group in the end cul-de-sac, and we had a walking, talking, laughing party as we went door to door. Most doors just had candy bowls on the porch, because we were all out together having fun.

Some of my favorite family costumes from Halloween's past:

Happy Halloween! And TGIF!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...