Saturday, June 28, 2014

Favorite "big kid" Disney Apps for travel and summer lounging

Say what you will about kids and excess technology, but we love our iPad. It is a miracle worker on family vacations where we must wait in airports or those where we log many highway miles in the car. We let Amelia play or watch movies on her iPad for long travel distances and in the afternoons at home if she has already had some exercise, kept a good attitude, and used her brain on something creative. She likes to go inside her huge DIY playroom tent and spend quality quiet time with herself. She has numerous app games, puzzles, books, and movies.

When Amelia was younger, she preferred watching movies and TV shows. But now that she is six (going on twelve), she spends most of her technology time with pretend and puzzle apps. Did you know that Disney has many apps to offer? Go to the App Store, search Disney, and you will find numerous fun selections - some are free while others range up to $4.99.

In the past year, Amelia's app favorites have changed a bit. Here are some of her current favorite Disney selections:

Frozen Free Fall
Features the latest very popular Disney princesses and a funny snowman named Olaf. This is a grouping shape-matching game. Easy on the first levels, but then it gets more difficult. Amelia definitely cannot master it yet. But she plays it often, and really enjoys the characters - and the challenge. 
 Jake's Never Land Pirate School
We have had this app for a while now. It holds her attention due to the various mini games within. She can steer a boat, search for treasure, and more with the Jake and The Neverland Pirates crew.
 Disney Princess Palace Pets
Sadly, we have nearly reached the end of her princess obsession. But Amelia still loves animals and dress-up pretend games are some of her very favorites. This one pairs adorable fancy pets with the royal pampering and dressing treatment.
 Squish: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
New! We received a free download code to review this app. In Squish, children can select a clay Mickey or Minnie or a clay shape and manipulate it with various tools to create a one-of-a-kind silly masterpiece. And when they are done making virtual sculptures, kids can squish their creations with funny squishing tools! 
(Photos captured from the App Store)

Friday, June 27, 2014

5 months... did I blink?

This big man turned five months old on the 26th. He joined our lives just before an Atlanta snow and ice storm. Spring has already come and gone, and now we are officially into summer! Every parent says it: time goes by too quickly.

Looking at the world with wonder

He has mastered basic grasping, "plays" with toys, and chews on everything. He is beginning to enjoy the exersaucer. He eats stage 1 baby food, and he is as sweet as can be. I have heard that boys love their mamas and so far, he is definitely a mama's boy. Sometimes, he will only accept me (and I love it).

Sharing his contagious smile

Generous with his cuddles

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Family Travel "Up North": Lovely Michigan Coast

As promised, here are more Michigan travel photos! I wish I could share all 502 of them, but I think my computer might explode if I tried to upload even half of them here.

When planning this family vacation, we focused on areas that showcased Michigan's natural coastal beauty, combined with family-friendly activities and upscale lodging. Family trips are not exactly a relaxing break for mamas, so I require comfy beds and nice hotels.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mommy & Me: Family Travel in Michigan

We just returned from an 8-day trip to Michigan! None of us had ever been in Michigan before, and it seemed like a beautiful and family-friendly location for our big kid plus a baby. We flew from Atlanta to Flint, then had a long drive to the coastal areas of the Great Lakes.

Our destinations were quite lovely: Bay Harbor, Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Mackinac Island, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. More pics to come on Wordless Wednesday!

Travel is difficult when kids are in tow, but the memories made are ones that we hold on to forever. One of the best things about family travel is the tremendous opportunity for new family photos. We always have the camera at the ready, and with so much togetherness, we just can't help but capture some adorable "mommy & me" moments.

Have you been in front of the camera with your little ones recently? Link up with us at Really, Are You Serious for Mommy & Me Monday!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Banana Boat: keeping us safe and providing fun ideas!

I participated in an Ambassador Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Banana Boat® Sun Care. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

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Everyone knows that Banana Boat is dedicated to sun safety, right? They have us covered with numerous product lines of sunscreen. High SPF, lower SPF, sprays, lotions, kid-safe, and now even special varieties for the men in our lives.

As a Banana Boat Ambassador, I recently received a few Banana Boat varieties to test including one SPF 50 made for sensitive child skin, some general protection varieties, and a lotion and Ultra Mist made especially for my husband: Triple Defense For Men. My husband played in a business golf tournament last week. It is June and we are in Atlanta, so that means the sun is bright and really hot. As he was preparing to leave for the day, he grabbed the Triple Defense For Men lotion. There's something about the manly black bottle, the nice scent, and the fact that it's "for men" -- that is the bottle he wanted to keep in his golf bag. And after using it, he keeps telling me how non-greasy it feels, as compared to other lotions. I am just happy he isn't going to burn up out there!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#WW: When she was two...

I look at Andrew, who is actually somewhat slim for an infant, and I see some chubby cheeks and a few little squeezable leg rolls. I adore the baby chunk. Amelia, age 6, is a tall and incredibly slender little girl. But believe it or not, she used to be a little hefty one!

Looking at Andrew's baby softness made me go back to old photos of Amelia.

Oh my gosh, the huggable chunk!

Happy Wednesday (and early Throwback Thursday!)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What is a Dad? #FathersDay

What Is A Dad?

A dad is someone who
wants to catch you before you fall
but instead picks you up,
brushes you off,
and lets you try again.

A dad is someone who
wants to keep you from making mistakes
but instead lets you find your own way,
even though his heart breaks in silence
when you get hurt.

A dad is someone who
holds you when you cry,
scolds you when you break the rules,
shines with pride when you succeed,
and has faith in you even when you fail...
Father's Day love and wishes to the Daddy in my house - and my own dad in Tennessee!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gotta love that voice! Ursula at The Art of Animation Resort @DisneyParks

Everyone knows that the folks at Disney do everything top-notch. Every attraction, restaurant, and resort is themed to the utmost detail. I truly love how you can be immersed in the Disney experience when visiting. That's why this blog post from the Disney Parks Blog caught my eye this week:

Actress Pat Carroll Adds Her Autograph to the Feature Chandelier at Disney's Art of Animation Resort - via Disney Parks Blog (click to visit the original post and learn more about the chandelier and signing)

My family has visited The Art of Animation resort twice. Once in a Lion King Family Suite and again this past December in a Little Mermaid room. We know that giant Ursula statue very well - she was right by the elevator we took each morning and night to get to our room.
The Disney Parks blog post also featured this video. I cannot get enough of that voice! What an amazing talent. Such a powerful character from a truly classic film!


Thanks for sharing, Gary & the Disney Parks Blog!

If you aren't following them and you love all things Disney, check out:

(This post is not sponsored. What can I say, I'm a fan! Ursula!!!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three must-haves for getting this mama back in shape

So, the sweet baby boy was born at the end of January before a snow storm.
The amazing kindergartener finished her year with an astounding knowledge and thirst for reading.

Four months have gone by so quickly! Summer is officially in full swing, and I am still struggling to find clothes that I like on my body and swimsuits that do not make me want to hide in the bathroom instead of lounging by the pool.

I am slowly but surely improving my body - and my perception of myself. Mostly though basic science: consuming fewer calories in order to burn fat.  I'm no expert, but from past experience, these are my current three "must haves" for trimming some numbers off the scale:

(1) My Fitness Pal -- the best app for logging caloric intake and understanding how certain foods and drinks can affect a weigh loss plan. I log in everything I eat or drink. If I have a sip of regular Coke? I log it in. If I eat four chocolate chips? I log it in. It keeps me accountable and aware of what I am putting in my mouth, so I avoid mindless boredom eating. I was doing a lot of that since we came home with baby! My free pass to eat whatever I want has probably expired. My Fitness Pal calculates the daily calories I am allowed to have in order to meet my weekly weight loss goal, taking into account my own size, activity level, and starting weight.

(2) Fit Bit -- I use it for tracking steps. When I have an extra-active day (like a long walk around the park, am hour at the mall, a theme park visit), I can log that into My Fitness Pal and eat more calories! Nothing motivates me to take a walk more than that Fun Size candy bar on the counter.

(3) Digital scale with half pounds -- I don't like scales that round to the nearest pound. Mine shows half pounds as well. Motivation happens when I see results, and weight to the half-pound allows me to see progress twice as often as just to the pound.I can celebrate when I have lost half a pound - it is an accomplishment!

I am not pushing myself too hard, I know it takes time. Especially "at my age" and with a second child. But when I find myself not liking my own shape or the fit of my clothes, I want to do something about it. If it takes 4 months, so be it. I just want to know that I am at least trying. No more stuffing my face with chocolate. Unless it's a special occasion. Or vacation. Or.... :) 

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Linked up to Mama Kat's writer's workshop!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For the "just in case" - trying to make an official will

Making a will. It is a depressing thought, isn't it? This is what my husband and I need to face sometime soon. We do not have anything official/legal made up. We have life insurance with beneficiaries listed, but no actual will. More importantly than assets, we need to officially plan what were to happen to our children if (God forbid) we were both gone.

How on earth do you do this?

We have amazing family members on both sides, all of whom would take in our kids and love them forever. But how do you choose something like that? It is simply too painful to imagine. My husband and I are struggling with the idea, but we know it is important. If our children (again, I say God forbid!) are faced with the devastation of losing us, we would never want them to endure uncertainly or unnecessary court battles. We also want to ensure that our assets go to them, but that they are managed in an appropriate manner.

I have no wisdom to share in this post - do you have any for me? How do you imagine the unimaginable? How to you make a smart plan when the idea is just awful?

Or... how do I make myself invincible?

I would choose protecting my children for eternity if I could.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"I dare you!" Parenting challenges for a summer to remember

I recently shared the best advice that shaped my parenting style, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that came from that post. I especially enjoyed "meeting" (well, virtually) several other parents. Commonly, these parents spoke of their struggles with letting go. In many cases, letting go comes easily to me. I guess because I believe in that quote with all of my heart. The years of childhood go by so quickly, and I want my kids to be well-rounded, brave, and happy adults.

Do you know what else passes too quickly? Summer vacation. Perhaps some of you are already pulling your hair out, willing for school to return. But take a second; reflect on the fun parts of summer. The pool splashes, sunshine after 8pm, later bedtimes, family movies on rainy/stormy afternoons... all of those things seem to pass too quickly before the hectic mornings and homework struggles begin again.

Do you want to take on a summer parenting dare?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

So, you want to be a big-time blogger? My take on it, and what NOT to do.

Nearly every day, I see bloggers asking other bloggers "how do I get invited to that?" or "how do I make money?" or "why not meeeeeee?". The world has A LOT of blogs, over 200 million to be exact. Some were started and quickly died, some are semi-private and solely personal, others are purely commercial, while others are a little bit of everything.

I began blogging many years ago, simply as a vehicle for expression. I like to write. I was stressed, muddling my way through motherhood with a feisty little girl. Eventually, I met other bloggers. I joined an amazing group of local blogging parents who provided insight, support, and connections. So many of those bloggers are now my friends. Never did I obsess too much about my blog numbers - I stated many times, "my blog is just a hobby". But lately, I've put more effort into it. Over the years, I have made some incredible contacts with brands I love and respect, and especially with family-friendly Atlanta area attractions. Now, I am truly humbled and honored to have an invite to #BeachesMoms, a social media experience at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos. It's not a free ride by any means; airfare is pricey! But I get to learn from and enjoy the company of other savvy bloggers while in paradise.

My blog numbers are on the smallish end. But I don't inflate with never-ending reviews and giveaways. I am a media buyer by profession; I am smart enough to know those numbers have a large chunk of visit-once-and-never-return (unless you have more free stuff) "readers". While a handful of blogs can be successful this way, it is not my niche. I blog because I like to write.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The clutter and my mental health

Clutter. It follows my child as a trail of crayons, stuffed animals, papers, and play foods. It seems to know no boundaries. We have a new home with a huge playroom, but the clutter seems to ooze out of every space. It is on my kitchen table, in my office, on the floor, on the stairs. I think, perhaps, it is plotting some kind of evil revenge on me.

I cannot stand clutter. I have an almost abnormal aversion to it. I want to see the floor and the countertops. I want everything in bins or on the shelves. Obviously, this isn't always a reality with children in the home. But how much is too much?

Amelia is extremely precocious and creative. Usually, she plays with toys and games in a completely unique way. All the board games and puzzles? Were used to build walls for her "museum" last week. This museum, of course, needed exhibits. So out came every item in the playroom. She was so proud of her creation, but one step into that room nearly gave me a panic attack. Because, come clean up time?  She gets a deer-in-the-headlights look and has no clue where to begin. It really is overwhelming when every little thing you own is out of place and on the floor!

I am trying to decide what the balance should be here. I admit that I am a clutter-phobe to the extreme, and sometimes I need to just look the other way and let her be a kid. But we chose a home with a playroom space - and closeable double doors - for a reason. When I look around and see almost every other room cluttered with her stuff, I get angry. Did I do this as a kid? Do all kids do this? Should I be nurturing her creativity and out-of-the box (literally!) playtime ideas? Or is she old enough to put stuff away as she goes, and not cry for help when the mess grows too big?

I am trying to decide if I will survive the summer.

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