Thursday, April 30, 2015

Baby-proof your iPhone with Guided Access: locks home button and screen for videos and apps!

Sometimes, parents need to resort to technology to keep babies, toddlers, and even big kids happy in certain situations (long dinners, road trips, or lengthy waits at a doctor's office, to name a few).

Am I the only one who had no idea you could lock the home button on an iPhone and iPad for uninterrupted videos for baby/toddler? About six months ago, I found an app called Baby Lock, which allows me to pull up various YouTube videos and lock the screen so Andrew couldn't pause the video. It worked for a while... until he found the home button. Since the home button is the only button on the face of an iPhone or iPad, it captivates the attention of small inquisitive children and, apparently, they cannot stop pushing it! This rendered my Baby Lock app somewhat useless.

I recently discovered Guided Access, a setting in iOS6 or greater. This is the best iPhone (or iPad) find for a mom so far! I can open any app on my device and set what I'd like to lock. For apps where he needs to touch the screen (like my favorite Fisher Price Laugh & Learn app), I can allow touch but lock the home button. For a video, I can lock everything so he cannot manipulate the screen, the home button, or even the volume. Best iOS discovery yet!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A clean smooth face with Neutrogena #WipeForWater

Do you know that every day you can waste up to 5 gallons of water just by washing your face? 

This Earth Month, Neutrogena Naturals is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to save water. You can make a pledge to conserve water at For each pledge, Neutrogena Naturals contributes $1 to The Nature Conservancy (the largest freshwater conservation organization in the world) to support water conservation, up to $50,000. 

I was introduced to the Neutrogena Naturals facial wipes and the #WipeForWater campaign through Influenster, a free program where I receive great samples and share my thoughts via social media. 

I do not usually write a blog post for an Influenster product, but I happen to like this product a lot and the water conservation campaign is important. I received a full-size pack of Neutrogena Naturals facial cleansing wipes and used them to cleanse my face for one full week. The scent of the wipes is fresh and soothing and the cloth used is smooth and non-irritating. My skin actually showed some improvement after the first few days. I took the wipes on vacation and enjoyed the no-spill convenience and not having to use hotel soap on my face. 

If you want to try a new way to wash your face that leaves a lovely scent and smooth, clean skin without any chemical sulfates or dyes, I would recommend these. I have tried other facial wipes in the past, and these are my favorite. 

Visit Twitter to follow @Neutrogena and @Influenster

By posting this review, I am entered to win an awesome Neutrogena Naturals prize pack - I was not required to review and all opinions are 100% mine. #contest #WipeForWater  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Folk art "castle" garden in Calhoun, GA #roadtrip

We are a family of road trippers and travelers, so I am always on the lookout for child-friendly adventures near (and slightly away from) the Atlanta, GA area. In November, I was intrigued by a post on 365 Atlanta Family about a Folk Art Garden in Calhoun, GA. Calhoun is a fairly easy under-60-minute ride up the interstate for us, so we decided to investigate on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. What a neat little place!

For big kids: Meander along the paths, traverse the tiny bridges, listen to the water in the nearby creek, and peek into the cracks, crevices, and windows of these amazing pebble churches.

For the littles: Carefully stroll the paths holding a hand and watch out for stumbles, as some of the rocks may be sharp. Our little guy enjoyed touching some of the colored glass pieces and feeling some of the stones on one of the taller towers. He also wanted to dive into the creek... so be careful about that as well.

The garden is small but captivating. There is a gazebo and a picnic table if you want to bring a snack and enjoy the whimsy for a little while longer. If you need something additional to do in the area, Barnsley Gardens is not too far away (they have some old ruins to explore and beautiful, safe paths).

Thanks, 365 Atlanta Family for the suggestion! The folk art garden was worthy of a sunny Sunday afternoon for sure.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kale, and other trends I just don't understand

Disclaimer: I am not a trend-setter, trend-follower, or trend-y.

My top spring must-haves?
  • Propane in the grill - because, thank goodness, it is finally the time of year to make the husband cook. Not that I can't grill (girl power!), I just let him do it. Letting someone cook for me? Yeah, I am never going to complain about that. 
  • Capri pants - no certain brand, just comfortable capris to keep me cooler than in jeans without subjecting innocent bystanders too much of my white, white legs before summertime.
  • Prescription sunglasses - I'm a glasses wearer (ditched the contacts a few years ago to support my little girl in glasses) and I cannot survive the sunny days without my Rx shades. Spring means a lot of time outdoors!

I understand that many 30-something ladies may have a much more elaborate brand-name-filled list, possibly with a toolbox full of favorite beauty tools and some fabulous looking attire that costs more than most of my entire wardrobe. This working mama of two follows few trends on purpose. As an active social media user and consultant, however, I am online a lot. I see all the hashtags and pins and Instagrams of the latest and greatest whatevers out there.

Some of them, I understand. Like coffee, for instance. Moms like to talk about coffee on social media because (1) it is the fuel of life: we need it to survive our children and/or coworkers and whomever, whatever else is vying for attention, and (2) we want you to know just how tired we are. We drink the coffee to survive, and we talk about it to bond. Coffee is trendy. Wine too. Those, I understand. Pass the mugs and glasses, please. I'm all in.

But what about Kale?

Seriously, the barrage of "OMG, can't wait to have my kale salad" and "kale chips are the best snack ever!" posts on social media had me fooled. I began to think that, perhaps, someone finally found a green vegetable that tastes like a potato chip! I was ready to throw myself on that bandwagon.

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

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!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Southeast summer vacation destination ideas for family travel

Looking for summer vacation ideas? Researching southeast USA road trip destinations?

Are you trying to decide where to go for your summer vacation with kids? We have so many family travel experiences, and I can point you to some of our favorite destinations. Browse through some of these past family travel posts for some destination tips and photos:
Tips for a great Gatlinburg, TN weekend

Grab flashlights and trek into caves at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky

Our favorite road trip pit stop near Bowling Green, KY 

Best outdoor activities in Chattanooga

Beaches, mini golf, and great food on Hilton Head Island, SC

Whimsical folk art castles in Calhoun, GA

Also, don't forget your sunscreen!
  • I keep a sample size sunscreen in the car.
  • A sunscreen stick in the diaper bag (or purse).
  • A lotion or mist sunscreen in the garage and the house.
  • And one in our swimming bag as well.
Wherever we go, we can almost guarantee that some sunscreen has tagged along with us. I really have no excuse to forget it!     

If you aren't an avid family traveler yet, take a peek at this short post about how to keep travel with kids happy: Four steps to happy family travel

Get out there and see the sights!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Prevent unwanted house guests w/ spring pest control tips from the Orkin experts #giveaway

Factual information in this post was provided by Mom It Forward and Orkin. 
This is a compensated post on behalf of Orkin, however, all opinions are 100% mine.

Yes, spring is in the air in most of the USA these days. While the humans are happy to get outdoors, it seems many creepy crawly critters are thinking the opposite; they are headed indoors where they are most unwelcome (especially when the spring rains come).

In many areas, including the southeast, we live alongside several insect pest varieties including mosquitoes, ants, stink bugs, bed bugs, cockroaches, and fleas (and I do not like any of them!). The pest control experts at Orkin are well-trained and know how to keep pests where they belong; outdoors and away from our homes. Orkin provides residential and commercial pest control services and they can customize their treatment plan to your own unique situation.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Elegant flower arrangements to bring spring color indoors #DIY #flowers

Spring flowers, shrubs, and trees are blooming in the southeast! The Atlanta area is alive with pink and white fluffy blooms on trees and daffodils and tulips beginning to show their sweet little faces. The forsythia bushes seem to have popped overnight, absolutely bursting with golden color.

Sometimes, I like to cut a few stems off of our outdoor flowers to bring the burst of color indoors. Pinterest has some really elegant flower arrangement ideas for displaying your own yard beauties.  Bring your outdoor flowers indoors!

Forsythia will provide a long stem without much green foliage when the golden flowers are blooming. It has a simple look and feel and is gorgeously displayed in a flower arrangement using understated clear glass, like in this example:


This forsythia arrangement (and a little DIY) gave a plain glass vase a totally different feel with wine corks:

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