6 Ways to Use Picasso Tiles with Toddlers

Thursday, December 14, 2017
This post was written in exchange for a 3-D Designer Artistry Kit from Picasso Tiles; however, all opinions are my own. 

We love toys at our house that keep our little man engaged and learning time and time again. While there are certainly a variety of flashy and fun toys on the market, what I have often found is that the toys that keep him most engaged are often some of the simplest - ie. no lights, sounds, bells or whistles. We love the classics like books, blocks, and bubbles. That's why when I was presented with the opportunity to partner with Picasso Tiles  to try out their magnetic building tiles, I couldn't have been more excited to share them with my favorite toddler.

How to Foster a Love for Reading in the Toddler Years

Thursday, November 9, 2017
This post was written in exchange for books from Kate's Growing Readers & Usborne Books; however, all opinions are my own. 

As a teacher, a question I hear time and time again from parents is, "How can I help my child to enjoy reading"? While I do not claim to have all of the answers (not even close), I do know that engaging with texts from a young age is certainly a good starting place for setting your child up for a future relationship with them. That being said, I thought I would take a moment to share with you all today some things that I am working hard to do with my little (as a mama and teacher) to set the stage for what I hope is a lifelong love for reading. 

DIY School Bus Costume

Monday, October 30, 2017

My in-laws came to visit a few weeks back and brought us a variety of goodies from their kids' childhood. One of the things they brought over was one of those retro wooden Radioflyer wagons that they thought Asher would be able to use. Flash forward a week or two as I was trying to ponder what in the world we were going to do for a costume this year for our little man, and I remembered that we had this red treasure on wheels hanging out in our garage. If you have ever met our son, you know his love for buses. "Boos" as he calls them was one of his first words, and every time he sees them pass our house or on the streets he shouts out their name with glee. Seriously, just last week, a bus pulled up behind us at an intersection and this kid was a broken record of pointing and chanting it's name. That being said, I thought our new Radionflyer, combined with our child's obsession with school transportation just might work together to create this year's perfect costume.

Pumpkin Nights - Twin Cities

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
This post was written in exchange for preview tickets to Pumpkin Nights; however, all opinions are more own. 

We never keep Asher up past his bedtime. We are generally very firm with his 6:30pm deadline as there is usually some significant eye rubbing, arms flailing and next day repercussions if not. But when the opportunity arose for us to attend Pumpkin Nights - Twin Cities, we felt like that it was an opportunity that called upon us to be "rebels" for the evening so that he could attend. I'll admit, while the next day was a little rough, the awe on our little man's face and the continuous "wows" that came out of his mouth made it more than worth it.

Raising a Boy in this World

Friday, October 20, 2017
This post was written in exchange for a tee from Simple Little Apparel; however, all opinions are more own. 

I gotta admit that when we found out we were having a boy, I was bound and determined that I would ensure that he had equal part truck to doll ratio in his toy box and that he would have other colors besides blue in his closet. I wanted to be sure that he had books to read on a variety of topics, that he was able to explore his own interests (and not what I or the world dictated they would be) and that most importantly, he would learn to love the Lord and love on others the way God calls us to.

Flash forward, I now have an incredible and spirited, 17 month old (say what?) who is coming into his own and showing us all what he is made of. He is demonstrating his own unique interests and "free" will and along with that it is encouraging and challenging us as his parents at the same time to truly think long and hard about what it means to raise a little boy in this world.

You see, despite all of my option giving, Asher still seems drawn to many stereotypical "boy" things. I'll admit, it actually surprised me how many of these things he was drawn to automatically without (known) influence from us or the outside world. Our little man loves seeing how things work. He loves building creations out of legos. He loves "vrooming" around with his toy cars and watching the garbage trucks pass our house each week. He loves pointing out daddy's tools in the garage, and loves reading the same book about construction machines each night when given the choice. From a worldly perspective, he is "all boy".


Twistshake Giveaway

Monday, October 9, 2017
For those of you that follow along with my Instagram, you know our love for our Twistshake sippy cups in our house. Why are they any different from every other other cup on the market you may ask?  

They are unique in that the way they are designed allows for infusing delicious fruit flavors into your child's water. There is a special additional "fruit mixer" cap that goes into between the mouthpiece and actual cup that enables you to add and shake whatever fruit you desire for your babe to make a flavorful thirst quencher without all of the sugar of juice! We've mixed everything from strawberries in the summer to apples in the fall to ensure this little guy gets a taste of all of the delicious flavors of the season. 

JORD Wood Watch Giveaway

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
This post was written in exchange for a wood watch from JORD; however, all opinions are my own.

My husband works hard. He is our provider. He is an incredible father and shoulder to lean on. He is hands down Asher and my best friend and our number one cheerleader.

Thus, when JORD reached out to me about a potential collaboration opportunity with their unique men's wood watch line, I could not have been more thrilled as I knew just the man who would love this well deserved gift.

When "Dada's" cool new watch arrived (in the most beautiful packaging may I add), little man and I set to work putting together a little "thank you" dinner to share with our favorite guy.

I typed up a short and sweet gift-themed note from Asher and I to set alongside the new wood wrist bling that read "We are so grateful for the TIME you invest in our family". Then I went about ordering Ryan's favorite take out and set it out with a bottle of red wine to finish it off.  Then it was time for the little guy and I to eagerly await his arrival home from work.

Needless to say, I think our main squeeze was pleasantly surprised. And it felt so good to give back to a man who gives so much to our family day-in and day-out. "Dada" even let Asher try the watch on (and I must admit we are grateful for the microfiber cloth that came with it to wipe off all of those tiny fingerprints). Who knows, maybe someday it is a piece that Ryan can even pass on to our little guy who is so blessed to learn about love and life from this incredible man of ours.

Interested in hosting a little "thank you" dinner of your own for your favorite guy?

I've teamed up with JORD for a giveaway in which one lucky follower can earn a $100 E Gift Code toward the watch of your choice. Not only that, but all entrants will automatically receive a $25 E Gift Code as well. So really - everyone's a winner!

I absolutely love the way the Conway Walnut & Jet Black watch looks on my man's arm. That being said, there is such a wide variety of wooden watch options to choose from to suit any man's style.

So are you ready to put an extra wide smile on that special guy's face? Enter the giveaway by clicking on the link below. The giveaway will close on October 15th at 11:59pm.  All gift codes must be redeemed by December 31st, 2017. Good luck!

Enter here: Giveaway

Watch Gift Ideas


Our Toothbrushing Routine & Sing Along

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Now that Asher finally has some teeth, we are trying to be more on the ball about ensuring those little food crushers get brushed each morning and evening. While he certainly enjoys licking off all of the toothpaste, the actual brushing part is kind of hit or miss, and actually brushing his "teeth" and not just whatever the toothbrush seems to come in contact with while in there is another feat all on its own.

Alas, while we have certainly not perfected the art yet, we are working toward ensuring it becomes a more solid routine for our little guy in his day. To help him become a toothbrushing whiz, there are a few things we have been implementing.

1. We do it each morning and night. Practice makes perfect better right? Night time is an easy one for us as its just incorporated into his bedtime routine. Mornings are still a little trickier depending on what we have going, on and because he is still nursing when he wakes up, but we usually try and do it right before or after breakfast.

2. We model toothbrushing for him. He loves to watch mommy and daddy brush their teeth. Often in the morning, one of us will brush our teeth while the other helps him do it so that we can do it together. He thinks this is just the bees knees.

3. We let him try it on his own. While this often consists of him just inhaling the toothpaste, he is able to move it back and forth a bit on his own now. And he loves to hold the brush under the running water afterwards and help to put it away. Slowly but surely in practicing these seemingly little things, it is helping him to build independence.

4. We read stories about it. I'm all about using books to reinforce concepts whenever possible. When we first introduced toothbrushing we read Asher the one pictured below (it comes in English as well and is called  "Brush!, Brush!, Brush!). We continue to read it here and there at night to point out all the important steps in the process.

5. We sing about it. When we first started setting up our toothbrushing routine with him, I knew wanted a song that we could sing each time he brushed to engage him. I wanted one that was easy to remember and that would help remind him of the basic steps.What's more, I wanted a song that could be sung in English or Spanish. All of those prereqs were hard to come by, so in all honesty, I gave up the hunt after a few days and just created my own on the fly - and it stuck.

And now for our toothbrushing sing along debut... (disregard our terribly tacky bathroom that has yet to receive some reno love.)

I typed up the lyrics in both English and Spanish as well here, if anyone wants to use it. And yes, if you do, you are obligated to send me your sing along debut as well ;) (but really..I'd love it!).

Happy brushing!


Our Dining Room Renovation

Thursday, August 31, 2017
We are slowly but surely working our way through renovating our 1940's charmer, and so I thought I'd share some updates with you all that we've accomplished over the course of the past few months or so. Up today - the dining room!

Here's the before photo (my apologies for the quality - it was a quick pic done during our final walk through as the carpet was torn up the next day): 

And the after photo (in it's true authentic form with my child's high chair and garbage bag cushion cover front and center):

Quite the difference, eh? The best part is it really didn't cost us all that much to do it. Nearly everything we DIYed, repurposed or thrifted. So here are the deets on our new dining digs.

First things first, as soon as we closed on our house (but seriously, immediately following), the hubs and father-in-law went in and ripped up all that carpet. We knew we had original hardwood under their and were just hoping it was in decent condition. With a few imperfections here and there (which I think just add to its charm), we lucked out with floors throughout our house that just needed some staples removed and a good cleaning and they were pretty much good to go.

The next thing we did was tackled that brass chandelier. I came across this idea from Simply Salvage as my inspiration. A few coats of white chalk spray paint, some twine and hot glue and new light bulbs completely transformed our lighting into one of my favorite pieces in the room. (And did I mention it cost us less than $10 to do!)

For the windows we pulled down the curtain, the blinds and that awkward looking white window box lining the top and went with a super simple DIY burlap curtain. Tutorial can be found at 11MagnoliaLane. The wreath was one I was able to find for 50% off at JoAnne Fabric, and I have another one that I put up for winter as well to add a little seasonal pizzazz to the space.

The built ins were one of my favorite parts of the house when we saw it for the first time, and I didn't feel like they needed much as they were already so charming. We just gave them a fresh coat of paint and then spray painted the original hardware which was more of a white/gold color to the gray you see here. Our built ins are full of mostly items I have collected from various thrift stores over the course of the last year or two. One of my favorite aisles to peruse is always the dinnerware section. 

For the walls, we decided to ditch that beautiful green wallpaper and go with more of a creamy color on top, and then while my husband couldn't believe I actually had the nerve to ask him to put up new wallpaper, I convinced him with the one you see pictured on the bottom half of our wall. Yes, that's wallpaper! Crazy right! It is made to look like beadboard, which I love the look of, but more affordable. Plus the wallpaper we purchased came pre-pasted and ready to go so all that was needed was water (and some husband patience & skill). You can find the beadboard wallpaper here

Our dining room table was another labor of love. We were lucky enough to inherit our table from my in-laws, and size-wise it fit perfectly in our space. But I just wasn't digging the original finish. It had black legs and a darker finished wood top. I had seen a variety of blog posts on how similar tables had been redone with a little paint and effort, so I figured we'd give it a go. We had already redone our living room coffee table utilizing this tutorial from Nifty Thrifty Momma, so to have consistency running through our space, we followed the same steps to redo our dining room table just selected 1 x 6" pieces of pine instead of 1 X 4" since the space to cover was significantly larger.

The chalkboard and plates you see pictured on our wall, I adore. I have been able to purposefully use and change the text on the chalkboard (from Hobby Lobby) to fit a variety of events and occasions, and the plates were a cheap Goodwill purchase that I think add dimension to the space. (Now my husband would tell you they add a flare of Grandma Ethel, so to each their own - I love them!)

Finally, our wine rack I have had for years. Instead of spending money on new, we just decided to repurpose it and give it a once over with chalk paint so that it matched the space a bit better. The cute sign above is from Hobby Lobby as well, in case you were wondering. 

So there you have it. It's a cozy little space, that's for sure, but I feel like we have made the most of it, and it just feels so much homier and brighter to me now than it did when we first moved in. I love our little mealtime nook, and it is definitely a place where many a memory is made!


10 Ways to Prepare your Child for School from the Start

Sunday, August 13, 2017

While it feels like my little guy is far from that first day of Kindergarten, I know it will be here in the blink of an eye <insert mega mom tears here>. I also know that while it may still be a ways off, there are things that we can do to be proactive as his parents in ensuring that he is as prepared as possible for the day when it comes. Being a teacher, myself, I have come to learn that there are certain skills and experiences that, if they come in having knowledge of them, fosters students' success right from the get go. And it may come as a surprise to you, that many of them have little to do with all the facts and figures they know.

That being said, please note that I am by no means an expert on this subject. Just a fellow teacher mama, navigating life with a toddler day-by-day and hoping that maybe, just maybe, by the time he reaches his first day of school he will make it through with two shoes on and his papers actually in the folder in his backpack.

So how can you prepare your child for school from the start?

1) Read to your child. I know this one is like, "duh", to most of you, but I can't express enough the value of daily reading. Reading to your child gives them the opportunity to hear a fluent reader, to experience what good expression sounds like as you make all those crazy character voices and to see basic skills like page turning and reading the pictures modeled. Not to mention, children's language and vocabulary skills develop ten-fold by listening to texts read aloud. Seriously, read. And read a lot.

2) Take them on "field trips". My favorite thing to do with my little guy throughout the week is to experience new places with him. Museums, farms, pools, parks, you name it. But not even just that, we also love the grocery store, the mall, the library, and Target (or as my child has grown to know it "the most magical place on earth"). Honestly, just about anything is a "field trip" to your little one as there is so much they can soak up from the world around them as this age. We talk about the animals we see or the foods we are buying, and we name them all. We talk about what we will see and do before we go and his favorite part after (even if I make it up for him at this age), because previewing and summarizing are skills that even the littlest friends can begin to understand. These experiences we provide our kids are so valuable in building up their background knowledge and laying the foundation for understanding so many concepts that will come their way when they hit school age.

3) Provide time to socialize with other kids. While being a full time working mama was certainly tough this past year, I will admit that in some ways it was great for my little guy to be in daycare because he learned so much from being around the other kids. Kids pick up so much from each other. Case in point, we just had a group of friends over a few weeks back with littles around the same age as Asher. This kid seriously has had little to no interest in walking or even standing by himself until he saw his "peers" doing it, and wouldn't you know it he just stood up right there in the middle of the toddler chaos like it was no big deal. Say what! I about peed my pants - but at the same time, thought, what a beautiful reminder of the power of littles in community. Whether your child is in daycare, preschool or you stay home, find a way to provide time for your child to socialize with kids his/her age.

4) Teach them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Our kids are going to make mistakes. My child has already made more than I can count. From losing his balance and bumping his head, to knocking over cups of water, to purposely tossing his food; mistakes happen in our household on a daily basis, as I am sure they do yours too. As adults, we made mistakes as kids, and we continue to make them today. Ensuring that you utilize each of your child's mistakes as an opportunity for learning for him/her and modeling the same of yourself, sets them up to understand that a)none of us are perfect and b)making mistakes and even failing at something sometimes is not the end of the world, but rather an opportunity to grow and move forward.

5) Help them to develop a growth mindset. (This one goes hand-in-hand with #4.) There are said to be two predominant mindsets a person may possess - a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which one believes their intelligence is just that- fixed. Kids with a fixed mindset may tend to avoid challenges and give up easily, and thus, not ultimately reach their full potential. However, kids with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be fostered and, thus, tend to embrace challenges and even setbacks which ultimately leads them to reach higher levels of achievement. Obviously, we want our children to lean toward the latter. One simple way to begin to help your child develop a growth mindset attitude is by helping them to shift their thinking in certain situations. For instance, if you hear your child saying "I can't do this.", help them to reframe the thought into "I'm going to have to practice this." Or reframe "I give up." to "I'll try it a different way." or "I'll take a break and come back to it". Belief in one's own ability to grow and achieve is often the biggest piece of the puzzle in actually succeeding at it.

6) Teach them to speak up for themselves and others. Sometimes kids can be mean, even in Kindergarten. But if we can teach our children from a young age how to speak up for themselves and even for others when these situations arise, it has the potential of shifting a negative experience into a learning (or even positive) experience for all. One thing I worked a great deal on with my students was using something called their "big voice". The "big voice" empowers children. It is a voice they can use in order to communicate to someone how a certain action or statement makes them feel and what they would like to happen next. A "big voice" statement may sound something like this "I don't like it when you (insert whatever it may be that is bothering you here), please stop". Or if a child is able to make it a bit more complex, it could be "I don't like it when you _______. It make's me feel ________. Please stop".  Either way, it's simple, and to the point (which is key for the little guys). And can really be tweaked for any situation.

7) Encourage kids to ask questions. Don't be a question stifler. While we haven't gotten to the "why?" phase yet with our little guy, I know it's a comin'. But I think it is important to note, that when a child is asking "why?", more often than not, it's not because they want to drive you bonkers (while that may be the case), but because they are actually interested in "why?". Questioning is how kids learn about the world around them, and there is unfortunately a ton of research out there that shows as kids grow, the amount of questions they ask fades. It disheartens me to say this, but I think it may be our fault grownups. Questioning is part of that growth mindset I talked about above, and curiosity is key to engagement in new learning. So instead of giving your child that quick "just because" response, take than extra moment to explain why. Encourage inquiry. And if you don't know the answer, then heck, take it as an opportunity to learn why together!

8) Provide opportunities to experience and talk about diversity. This one is a little bit of a combo pack of #3 (socialize) and #7 (question), and one that in being a bilingual teacher is near and dear to my heart. I am not going to sugar coat it - we live in a world where unfortunately, racism, sexism, and hate toward specific groups of people is real and evident throughout our society. Now trust me, it is my first instinct to shelter my child from all of this, especially at such a young age, but there are many families and kids that don't have that luxury because they are living this as their reality and preparing their children for this reality day-in-day-out. That's why I think it is important to work to ensure that my child begins to develop an age appropriate understanding of his privilege as a white male from a middle class family, and at the same time develop an understanding that this doesn't make him better or more worthy than any other. It is my goal to provide him with experiences during these formative years to interact with families and children that may come from a different culture than his own, who have different family structures where two dads are parenting or who's skin color or religion may be different so that he not only sees this as part of his world, but also so that he can ask questions and we can talk about these differences amongst people together in a positive, productive and open way. If we desire a more peaceful, accepting world for our kids friends, we've got to sow the seeds to create one.

9) Create a predictable environment at home. In setting up expectations and structure at home, you are not only creating an environment that feels safe and stable for your child, but preparing them for the routines and rules that come along with a school setting. Know that these expectations may shift and change over time as your little one grows to understand more and develops more skillsets, but anything you can do to set the stage from the get go is helpful. For example, currently, I sing the "clean up" song as we pick up our toys and I model for Asher how to put toys back in their container. As time goes on, however, I hope that we will sing the "clean up" song together, and I will expect him to be able to clean up his things more and more independently. This is just one example and other ways this can be done may be through bedtime routines, mealtime routines, getting ready routines, etc., as well as ensuring your child knows what his/her boundaries are under your care. And while it can be hard sometimes, make sure that if you put something in place, you follow through with it consistently. This is key.

10) Love on them with all you've got. Honestly, one of the biggest predictors of a child's success in school is a loving support system and a champion routing for them behind the scenes. So above all, love on your child and support them day-in-day-out. Spend time investing in them. And most importantly, seek to get to know them. Take the time to learn their talents, passions, strengths and struggles and assist them in molding them into all that God intended for them to be.

And with that, happy school year 2017, folks!

And, Kindergarten teachers, watch out, ready or not we'll be coming for ya in four short years!


Lessons from my Breastfeeding Journey

Sunday, August 6, 2017
Nearly 15 months. That's how long it has been since starting this breastfeeding and life journey together with this little man of mine. It has been a journey that has had me in awe and in tears and from a place of nearly giving up to never wanting it to end. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would take a moment to share my breastfeeding journey with you all. Maybe you will relate to it, maybe you won't. Maybe you will learn something from it, maybe you won't. Maybe you can even teach me a thing or two or three. In all honesty, my reasons for writing it down is as much to share with the world as it is for me to document our little journey for myself while it is still fresh in my mind.

I think with your first child, you never really know what to expect. I knew it was my goal to breastfeed as long as I could/he wanted, but you don't really know how your body will handle it and even what it will all be like, feel like, etc. until you are in the middle of it. That being said, seeing that our little guy decided to arrive 6 weeks early, via c-section nonetheless, it certainly started our journey off on an even more unexpected path. I will admit, it completely and utterly broke my heart when I didn't have that "picture perfect" moment of cuddling him on my chest for those first few moments of his life and letting him immediately make that connection I so badly wanted for him. Instead he was whisked away to NICU, and I was left to pump as a post surgery parting gift - and so began our "breastfeeding" journey.

Now I will admit, I was incredibly lucky in that I was actually able to pump quite a significant amount right from the start. I would pump every 2-3 hours for those first few days in the hospital and the nurses would then bring my milk to Asher where he would have it "delivered" via a feeding tube. Finally on his 4th day of life, I got to try to breastfeed him. It was all sorts of awkward and unsuccessful on both our parts, but it was a start. And slowly but surely we both started to get the hang of it.

In order for us to go home from the NICU, Asher had to be able to drink 50 ml on his own. I remember for awhile putting so much pressure on every breastfeeding session and almost getting mad at this beautiful little soul of ours when he wouldn't get close or seem to regress at times with this goal. Before and after every feeding we would have to do a weigh in and when results were lackluster, I felt such discouragement. With each passing day, he was able to gradually take more and more, but in order to get him home more quickly the nurses suggested we also introduce a bottle as  many preemies are better able to drink a more adequate amount this way. I struggled with this for awhile as I wanted to "exclusively" breastfeed. But wanting to bring our little boy home, coupled with the knowledge that eventually I would be going back to work and he would need to learn to drink from one anyway, led me to the decision to give it a go. I know some will say that this can interfere with babies wanting to actually breastfeed, and it very well could have. Luckily though, for us at least, Asher was more than happy and willing to go for either - the kid just wanted to drink.

Once we finally made it home from the NICU, we seemed to get into more of a rhythm (and I will admit there were many times I was glad he learned how to use a bottle right away, as daddy could come in for the assist at times when I needed some serious zzzz...). I figured out what positions worked the best for us and Ash seemed to be growing like a weed. Then, enter, the dreaded reflux. Somehow, we avoided it all together in NICU. But a few weeks after heading home, this kid was gassy and spitting up like it was his job. As I said previously, I was blessed with a pretty good supply from the start, and I think quite often it was too good - especially for such a tiny babe. So we had a double whammy on our hands and frankly, I think my oversupply contributed to the problem. So we quickly learned the art of sitting him upright to feed, sitting him upright after feeding and bringing 10 burp cloths with us wherever we went. After many a chat with our doctor as well - we eventually ended up resounding ourselves to the fact that he was a "happy spitter" (as he was continuing to gain weight  - although many days I wondered how with the amount that seemed to end up on my floor, hair and everywhere in between), and we got him on a good probiotic and seeing a wonderful chiropractor (yes, they can help with infant reflux!). Honestly, he still has the occasional spit up here and there, and I am still hopeful it's something he will grow completely out of eventually.

I returned to work, when Asher was a little over three months old, it was another huge transition for us. This meant that I would no longer be able to feed him every time he wanted/needed, but rather he would need to be on more of a schedule. I'll admit after finally being able to quit pumping and just feed my child, I had no desire to go back to it (like AT ALL), but I also knew that with working full time it was the only way that we could continue on this journey together. My little pumping closet filled with cabinets and school science kits was not even close to glorious or motivating, but I made it my home for the duration of the school year. And I will admit that while I would much rather just nurse my little, I oddly came to find my pumping time each day to be a bit of an escape and time where I could take a deep breath and refresh a bit from all the busy of the day. I won't lie and say it was all rainbow and unicorns, as being a nursing and working mama is a tough job. You do have to advocate for your time and, in doing so, advocate for your babe. There were many a day when I had to leave meetings early, skip out on lunches with colleagues, etc. All that aside, I look back though and am so stinking' proud of myself for making it through the entire school year, and give mad props to all mamas who work and do the pump thing as well. It's not for the faint of heart.

Once we got the hang of this new normal, we cruised along with very few bumps in the road until Asher was about 8 months old. The more he began to sleep through the night, the more I began to develop some serious clogged ducts. I guess me and the zzzz train were just not meant to be an item. Not to mention it was around this time that he also discovered his gums (we were toothless thank goodness until age 1).  However, he used those puppies to chomp down like it was the last meal he'd ever have. Enter milk blisters, which only perpetuated my clogged duct issue. Quickly my pumping sessions at work became a stressful nightmare as I ruthlessly tried to unclog myself all the while praying for no trace of mastitis. I would come home at night and take hot showers and try and use every position under the sun with little man and the pump to try and get the clogs out. This went on for nearly two months where basically the moment I would get one unclogged, within a day it would reappear. Pure torture. I went to see a lactation consultant. I had one come to our house and work with us both. I was desperate and so wanted to continue our journey, but knew if this continued I just wasn't sure how long I could hang on. I got to a point where I felt like I was trying to be the best mom I could be in nursing him as long as he desired, but in spending so much time fixated on trying to fix my nursing problem, I wasn't sure I was actually being the best mom I could be. As a last resort, my lactation consultant suggested I check with a chiropractor she knew that could do cold laser therapy. I guess it is a new alternative to ultrasound therapy which they have sometimes used for moms with similar issues in the past. I was blown away. After one session of therapy combined with a serious kinesiology tape job on my boobs, my clogs were gone. And not just for a day, but for a few, and then a week and here I am 5 months later, clog free ever since. I guess the combo of breaking things up from the laser combined with lifting the skin just a little with the tape, gave my body just the relief it needed to heal and do it's thing effectively again. Morale of the story - seek help. Lots of it.

And now here we are. Nearly 15 months later and we are still on this crazy, boob grabbing, pinching, pulling, staring, and sucking train. I am learning to navigate the throes of nursing a toddler now which brings with it, its own slew of challenges and frankly, quite comical moments (you've seen these pictures right?). But despite the crazy, I am still loving this little journey of ours. I love that my body can still nourish my babe. I love that my milk is made just for him. I love that we have this special time to connect. But what I love most of all is that it is something that in the end, makes us both happy. And happy babies and happy mamas are what really matters. In all honesty, whether you breastfeed or not, keeping a human a live is no small feat - and every mama deserves mad props for that! Gives yourself a round of applause ladies - you are doing it...and doing it well.


Healthy Summer Snack Ideas for Toddlers

Thursday, July 27, 2017
This post was written in exchange for free product at Tropical Smoothie Cafe; however, all opinions are my own.

Now that little man is old enough to be able to eat just about anything, I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing him to new foods, flavors and textures. When we first began introducing solids, it was my goal to ensure that he was eating nutrient rich, healthy foods from the get go. As we've moved into the days of summer heat and all the ice cream and popsicle goodness that comes along with it, I've sought out ways for us to indulge in all the refreshing and delicious snacks, without all the sugar.

Below are some of little man's favorites:

1) Smoothies. We have these at least a few times each week. The nice part about smoothies is that they are refreshing and hydrating and you can fill them with pretty much whatever goodness you'd like. Sometimes we share smoothies at home, or if we are up for an outing, we will head to our local Tropical Smoothie Cafe for a tasty treat. They have so many delicious flavors full of a variety of superfood options. Our favorite is the Island Green made with Spinach, Kale, Pineapple and Banana. This kid just can't get enough of it.

2) DIY Popsicles. Another treat little man loves, especially when he is teething, are popsicles. We love making our own with frozen ice cubes of whatever fruit or veggie we have on hand. Simply puree whatever it is you'd like to use and freeze. We put ours into a mesh feeder for him to devour, but there are several different types of popsicle molds out there as well if you prefer to use those.

3) Fruit. Take your pick with this savory, summer delight. Asher's favorite are blueberries, strawberries, kiwi and pineapple. Always a great and easy choice.

4) Steamed Veggies (Chilled). I try my best to always have steamed veggies on hand in our refrigerator. I make them once or twice a week in a big batch and then am able to readily grab them for snacks or lunches quickly and easily when needed. I often just throw a bit of sea salt on them and they are ready to go. No need to even warm them up!

5) DIY Go Gurt. The real deal has added sugar amongst other ingredients that aren't really all that "real of a deal". I found this idea for creating your own "Go Gurt" that I just adore. You can truly combine whatever fruits and veggies you'd like, and if you have a little one that doesn't do dairy - you could certainly swap out coconut milk yogurt for the original as well.

6) _______sauce in a reusable pouch. Insert whatever word your like to start of this one - apple, pear, sweet potato, a combo pack; you name it. If you've read some of my previous posts on feeding the little guy, you know my love for reusable pouches. A) They are planet friendly, and B) they make on-the-go snacking a breeze. Have some ready to go in your fridge with your child's favorite _____sauce for an easy, cool treat on the way out the door.

Whether it be a fresh-chilled smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe or just a good ole' fashioned blend of cut up straw- and blue- berries, there are a multitude of ways to beat the heat with a healthier treat for both you and your little one this summer.

What are some of your toddler's favorite summertime snacks?


5 Things Every Stay-at-Home Mama Needs + A Giveaway!

Monday, July 24, 2017

So I have been officially "retired" (as the hubs likes to call it) from my full time job for nearly two months and working for the "babe boss" now on full time mama duty. I gotta say friends-  the pay, the breaks and the collegial conversation are definitely lacking, but there is no place in the world I'd rather be. While the days can be long, particularly when naps are short, I have never regretted the decision for a moment. That being said, I have learned a lot along the way already about what I need in order to give my "boss" my all. He deserves my best, and frankly, so do I. In order to fill up both of our "cups", I've found the following to be key:

1. Moments to recharge. Soak them up whenever you can get them. Take advantage of pauses in the day whenever they come (which sometimes isn't all too often). I'll be honest, these moments are such a critical part of "filling up my cup" as they represent my precious time to be still, connect with God, pray and refuel in whatever way, shape or form I need that day. If you are a napper, give yourself permission to nap. If you prefer to sit and bask in a cup of coffee or tea, do it. If you want curl up with a bowl of secret ice cream that you don't want to share to watch the latest episode of "The Bachelorette", I say go for it. Whatever helps you to reload.

2. Self-lovin'. As moms we are constantly taking care of everyone else in our family. But in order to take care of them effectively, we need to take care of ourselves too. And we should not feel guilty in doing so. Our families need us to be healthy. They need us to be around, and not only that but be pleasant to be around. I'll be the first to admit, my child hangs out in kid care at the YMCA a few hours each week while this mama gets in a workout, gets work done or even just takes a breather some days. And while I struggled with the idea at first as I didn't feel like it was "fair" to him, I quickly realized that it's actually good for him too. He has a chance to play with other kids and socialize, while I do ma' thing, and we both leave satisfied customers. If your thing is working out, find the time to work it in. If it is a beauty routine or going to get a massage, feel free to pamper yourself. If it's indulging in a hobby or a DIY project, get it girl. Give yourself permission to do something for yourself. 

3. Time outside of the house. I have heard so many moms say this, and it couldn't be more true in our house. We need to get out of it. I notice that both of us tend to get a little stir crazy if we are in the house for too long. Thus, I plan daily outings to get us out and about in the community. Sidenote: If you haven't already do so, I would highly recommend following along with local blogs that share family friendly events going on around your city - they are a Godsend.  But in all honesty, even on days when we are not up for a big "to do", just going out for a walk, to the park or even to the grocery store (really, though) seems to rejuvenate us both. The fresh air is divine, it encourages me to shower (most of the time) and people watching seriously entertains this kid better than I ever could. Wins all around. 

4. Lists. Because mom brain is fo' real, and lists keep me sane. Disclaimer: I am that person who finds absolute and udder joy in adding items to a list just to check them off. But even if you aren't that passionate about them, lists can still be beneficial. For instance, grocery lists keep us on a budget (which is key now that we aren't bringing in two full incomes, especially when I am a total sucker for the newest flavor of Kombucha and a pint of fro-yo). To-do lists help me to set goals for the day and use my time wisely. Appointment lists help me ensure that we end up where we are supposed to be. You get the drift. One caveat I will add here, is that while lists are definitely the bee's knees - be realistic and forgiving with yourself. I have created many a "overly ambitious" to do list in my day. I have learned over time that it pays to stick with what's manageable to assist you in feeling more accomplished. Not only that, but don't be a slave to your list - your job first and foremost is being a mom - and your boss isn't always predictable. Give yourself (and your boss) some grace. 

5. Community. Whether this be a group of fellow moms that you meet with on the regular. A parent or two that you know you can call for a last minute playdate. Your best friend who is just a phone call away. Or an online community of fellow mamas and other inspiring individuals that you can connect with - finding a tribe is essential. We weren't meant to do it alone. It takes a village peeps. 

That being said, I have recently partnered with some talented ladies in my "digital community" to celebrate the "blogiversary" of Hannah (Just Bee Blog), a beautiful mama-to-be, and bring you all an incredible giveaway chalked with all the essentials any stay-at-home mama (or gal in general) needs to recharge, love on herself, get out of the house and create some seriously adorable lists. Check out the deets below.

It's Giveaway Time!

One lucky winner will receive everything listed below in this amazing prize bundle (over $180 value!)!
  • $50 gift card to Target
  • "Elsa" Succulent Planter from the Oak + Oats Shop

  • Mads + Grace Co. Teething Necklace

  • family devotional cards + a family journal from Gather & Grow's shop

  • infinity scarf
  • Pioneer Woman floral mug
  • weekly to-do list notepad
  • gorgeous journal from 1 Canoe 2
  • "Market List" notepad from 1 Canoe 2
  • decorative ampersand made from a vintage book
  • Rodan + Fields microdermabrasion paste sample
  • Rodan + Fields multi-function eye cream sample
  • "Write The Word" journal from Cultivate What Matters
  • cactus mini erasers
  • gray & white tea towel with teacup print

Go ahead and enter the giveaway below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway ** The giveaway is for U.S. residents only. Winner of the giveaway will be contacted via email. Although the majority of the prizes will be sent in one shipment, the succulent planter, teething necklace, and family devotion cards/journal will be shipped to the winner separately. Best of luck!!