When Babies Find Freedom: Tools For Pre-Walkers

This post featuring tools for pre-walkers is sponsored by Huggies Little Movers Diapers.

When Babies Find Freedom Tools For Pre-Walkers

When I had my first child the only thing I could think about was what he would learn to do next. When would he sit up? When would he crawl? Was he going to walk soon? Once he was standing and walking along the furniture I’d try and get him to take steps to me by standing him up away from the object he was holding onto and letting go. He’d normally just sit back down on his diaper-cushioned butt. I didn’t really get that we had to do this on his terms. He needed to find the balance and confidence on his own. Sure our encouragement could have been helpful, but finding that he could do it himself was more important.

With each additional child, I’ve found myself struggling with taking over or pushing a little too much when it comes to encouraging them to try new things. I want them to grow and explore in new ways so I can keep checking things off my list. But as I watch my 11-month-old (how did that happen??) start to pull up on furniture and move around the house or transfer from the couch to the coffee table right in front of me and wonder when she’ll take her first steps, I remind myself that they’re doing it on their terms, and I shouldn’t push or expect more than what they’re willing to give.

Tools For Pre Walkers - Huggies and Cruising

When babies find freedom – the freedom to move on their own, the freedom to take their first steps, the freedom to start making their own decisions – a whole new world opens up. They gain confidence, strength, and knowledge about the world that they didn’t already have. And it’s amazing to watch. Along with this newfound freedom is the need for tools that help along the way. Now that Norah is at that pre-walking stage, I am trying to make sure she has those tools to ensure success.

Tools For Pre-Walkers - soft soled shoes

Tools For Pre-Walkers

1. Huggies Little Movers Diapers –

Any active baby needs a great diaper to ensure that they will have the freedom of movement as they explore their environment. We’ve come to know Huggies Little Movers Diapers very well over the past few months and love that we can rely on them to keep our little one dry and happy throughout the day even when she’s moving around the house like crazy. They have a Moving Baby System that is made up of three key features including a DryTouch® liner that absorbs on contact, double grip strips for a fit that lasts, and a contoured diaper shape that allows baby to move freely.

I’ve found that the double grip strips are probably my favorite feature. I don’t have to worry about the tab coming undone like I’ve had happen in the past with other diapers. And the contoured diaper shape stays in place and fits securely around her. Plus the fact that we haven’t had any leaks is an added bonus!

2. Push Toys Instead Of Baby Walkers –

While some may think of walkers for their babies to help them, I’ve found that push toys can do the exact same thing but limit the number of injuries possible. The best part about push toys is that you have options. You can go through the various products out there and choose one that fits your house, your life, your baby. There are standard push toys, ride-on push toys, and I’ve even found  walking tables like these that are intuitively designed to provide stability for children while transitioning from sitting to kneeling, standing and walking!

I was at an event a few weeks ago and found a walking table that would have been perfect to get for the kids when they were a little younger. It is the perfect thing to pull up on, help stand and help walk around. I didn’t pull the trigger because we have other push toys available right now and Norah is so close to walking. But had she been younger, that would be the product I’d purchase for her. I just wasn’t sure what we’d do with it when she actually started to walk since it’s really not a seat, it’s a table.

3. Soft Soled Shoes –

While I believe that barefoot is best for beginning or pre-walkers, when out and about where there may be some rough or rocky terrain, I love soft soled shoes. When we go on walks to the park as a family and the ground may be too cold for her little feet, or too wet for socks, soft soled shoes allow her to move around or crawl without hurting her toes. Plus when she does start walking, she can continue to use the soft soled shoes as she gets more comfortable with shoes on her feet. After she becomes more confident in taking steps, we head to the local shoe store to get properly fitted for walking shoes.

When Babies Find Freedom Tools For Pre-Walkers - huggies little movers diapers

What tools do you provide your pre-walker?

Try Huggies Little Movers Diapers today, and share a photo of your active baby using #SetBabyFree for the chance to be featured on Huggies social channels.

Visit the Huggies website for more information.

5 Reasons Why Date Night Helped Our Marriage

5 Reasons Why Date Night Helped Our Marriage

Photo Courtesy of Grin & Share It Photo

I don’t talk much about my marriage here on the blog. It’s something I like to keep just between my husband and myself. But one thing I have shared on here are our date nights. I’ve even offered tips on making date night a priority. Ever since having my son (almost) 7 years ago, it’s been an important part of our marriage and something that allows us to connect with each other a monthly basis.

It’s important to schedule date night in advance if you can. Put it on both of your calendars and set a reminder! We’ve even purchased season tickets to the local theater so we have a built in date night already paid for a few times a year. But date nights don’t have to be elaborate or expensive if you don’t want them. They can be as simple as take out and a bottle of wine at home in front of the TV. As long as the kids are either sleeping over at Grandma’s or fast asleep in their beds. And the tablets, laptops, and phones are put away.

And when the kids are little, consider date afternoons. Since I prefer to put our kids to bed when they’re babies, we move our schedule around and enjoy afternoons together instead of evenings. It still gives us the time together but then we’re home in the evenings with the kids. However when they get older, it’s also nice to schedule 1-2 nights away from the kids as well if you can!

5 Reasons Why Date Night Helped Our Marriage

1. Communication Without Interruption

If you have kids you know why this is so important. Whenever my husband and I have conversations at home and the kids are around it’s in short bursts here and there because we’re constantly getting interrupted to tie a shoelace, get a snack, or stop one kid from beating on the other. Being able to have alone time with one another without interruption is something that’s allowed the both of us to talk about anything and everything that’s been going on lately. Whether it’s the job, finances, our upcoming plans for the next month, or the next birthday, we can start and finish a conversation during date night all in one sitting.

2. No Talking About The Kids (Mostly)

While date night is great for communication without interruption, we try to leave talking about the kids to a minimum. We can do that at home after bedtime. Or via text message throughout the day. Leaving the kid talk to a minimum gives us the opportunity to chat about ourselves. Our relationship cannot just be based on our children, because that wouldn’t be marriage, that’d just be co-parenting. So we take this time to talk about our relationship and the topics we want to discuss but might not have had the chance during our busy days.

3. Finding New Interests

Through date night we’ve both been able to plan events that the other might not necessarily love. I give in to an action movie he wants to see, and he sits through a play I want to see. Or we try a new restaurant out together. It’s fun to explore and create new memories with him that we can share. It keeps the time we spend together interesting.

4. Alone Time

With the craziness of our lives, work, the kids, meetings, after school commitments, sports, etc, sometimes it’s hard to find alone time. There are some days where I see my husband only in passing. And the only conversations we have are about who’s picking up the kids or what bills need to be paid. We’ve realized that with the crazy, we need the calm. We need alone time together so we don’t forget how to talk to one another.

5. Reconnecting

Every date is an opportunity to reconnect with my husband. I get to know him more, we get to talk about what’s important to us (or just chat about nothing at all), and we spend quality time together. And when you’ve been together for 15 years (married for 8.5) that reconnection is what keeps the relationship strong. Sure, there are difficult times. But that doesn’t mean we stop date night. It means we continue to get together even when we’re mad in an effort to continue to keep that conversation going. Because marriage is fluid. Marriage is constantly changing just as we as individuals are. And we need that reconnection, that continuation of growth, to keep our marriage strong.

Do you have regular date nights with your significant other?

Fight Hanger In Kids: After School Snack Hacks

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We’re chatting about my favorite after school snack hacks so I don’t have to deal with hangry kids thanks to our sponsor, Tree Top.

Fight Hanger After School Snack Hacks

Life is crazy right now. Work, volunteering, kids, life. It’s all just overwhelming sometimes. But this year I’m focusing on being more organized. I update my Google calendar with everything going on, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute meeting before or after school. And I try to plan ahead and stick with a routine.

We’ve gotten mornings down to a science. Wake up, brew coffee, make lunches and breakfast while stealing sips, get kids dressed and fed, and nurse the baby while checking email before heading out the door to drop off. I even call out a 5 minute warning so the kids know they need to get their shoes on.

Fight Hanger After School Snack Hacks homework time

But we’re still struggling with afternoons. Between meetings and soccer practice and everything else in between, I try to keep everything written out so that as we’re driving to school I can give the kids a heads up on what to expect after they get out of school. Most days they come straight home but others are spent at after school care or they’re picked up by a relative.

With all of the craziness that our afternoons bring us, I have to remember to pack snacks for the kids and hide them everywhere. Because if I don’t? This is what I have to deal with:

Fight Hanger After School Snack Hacks to fight hanger

Yup. She’s hangry.

Luckily I’ve experienced enough meltdowns that I can sense when they are going to come on and I can whip out a snack so quickly that all of a sudden that frown turns upside down. Want in on how I do it? Check out my after school snack hacks!

Fight Hanger After School Snack Hacks - Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches

After School Snack Hacks

1. Bowl Of Fruit –

Now I know this sounds like a duh kind of idea but I’ve found that putting a bowl of fruit out on the table or counter puts the responsibility of eating in my kids hands. They know when they feel hungry that all they have to do is go grab something from the fruit bowl. Plus fruit is portable so I can grab a few pieces before heading over to pick up the kids so they can snack on the drive home.

I keep a variety of fruits on hand to satisfy both of the kids tastes. And if they don’t eat it fast enough,  I turn the fruit into muffins! Another awesome snack choice that doubles as a breakfast food.

2. Snack Drawer or Shelf

In the pantry I have a snack shelf filled with great snacks that the kids can grab on their own as soon as they come home from school. This shelf is also used for my go-to lunch items too so I can quickly go in and grab what I need after I finish making sandwiches and grabbing fruit.

One thing I always have on my snack shelf is Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches. They’re mess-free, taste great and are made with pure USA-grown fruit and local ingredients. No spoon? No problem! Pouches are squeezable and fun, making them perfect for on-the-go snacking.

We also have a snack drawer in our fridge. We purchased the fridge we have because it had a secondary refridgerated door that would be easily accesible for our kids. I keep yogurts, cheese, and other snacks that I don’t mind the kids eating in there along with some bottled water and juices.

3. Roll Ups

When I know the kids are going to sports practice or I have a meeting after school, I make super quick roll ups out of whatever ingredients I have on hand. Depending on the size, I’ll sometimes cut them into wheels or leave them whole.

Here’s a few great ideas for flavors to get you started:

  • PB&J Roll Up – tortilla, peanut butter, jelly | Add some bananas or apples
  • Ham & Swiss Roll Up – pita, sliced ham, sliced swiss cheese | Add some spinach leaves and a spread of ranch dressing or hummus
  • Tuna Roll Up – bread, tuna, mayo | Add some diced celery and dill pickles

4. Cheese Platter

Now don’t laugh but sometimes I just cut up some cheese and open up a package of crackers and call it a day. We even turn to that as a dinner option on crazy busy nights with the addition of some salame or pepperonis. Cheese platters are very versatile. From delicious brie and gouda with fancy crackers to string cheese and gold fish, the possibilities are endless. And when you’re having a bad day, both pair nicely with a glass of wine. For the parents… not the kids.

After School Snack Hacks - Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches

All of these options can easily be put into a bag and taken with us wherever we go. I have an easy way to keep snacks on hand and the kids don’t get hangry. Win win!

Tree Top knows that avoiding those hangry moments require a quick and reliable solution. We want to see how you help your kids overcome those stressful times! Share a photo of your child’s “hangry2happy” moment on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Make sure to use the #Hangry2Happy hashtag and tag @TreeTopInc in your post, so we can check it out.

You’ll be entered to win one of eight survival kit backpacks full of Tree Top apple sauce Pouches, so you’ll be ready when your kids reach their limit and desperately need a snack. We’ve all been there, and Tree Top wants to help you take your kids from hangry to happy! Official sweepstakes rules can be found here:on.fb.me/1kTw5b5

Fight Hanger After School Snack Hacks on the go

What are your go-to snack hacks to avoid hangry children?

I will be giving away one kids backpack and filled with Tree Top applesauce pouches. Approximate Retail Value of $50.

View Rafflecopter to see the ways in which to enter and show Tree Top your child’s Hangry2Happy Moments!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tree Top.

A Colorful Affair: Adult Coloring Party

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Sometimes you just need to sit down with your girlfriends, mimosa in hand, and color! And that’s just what I did last week at the adult coloring party I hosted with the help of our sponsor, Prismacolor Premier®. Read on to see how easy it is to host an adult coloring party with your friends!

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party

Over the past few months, the only thing I’ve heard a handful of my friends talk about is adult coloring. No, not adults coloring. But adult coloring books with beautiful intricate designs and themes for grown-ups to sit down and color with. With this craze comes a little bit of sanity for those who hop on board. It’s been confirmed that those who sit down to enjoy a few minutes of coloring each day have actually found that they’re less stressed!

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party coloring books and pensA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party coloring pens and pencils

Since so many of my girlfriends have expressed an interest in adult coloring books, I was pleased to host this adult coloring party for a few local blogger friends with the help of Prismacolor Premier® products last week. It was a wonderful morning filled with great conversation, good food, and relaxing coloring for all. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to color but I’ll be doing it a lot more frequently now that I’m hooked!

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party food spreadA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party with brunch foodA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party fruit and cheese tree

Tips for Hosting An Adult Coloring Party

1. Fun and Easy Food

Egg Bake + Cinnamon Pecan Pullapart Bread + Fruit and Cheese Tree

When I host get-togethers for the girls I always have one homemade item, and then the rest store bought. Not only does it make things easier on me as I get ready for things but it also allows me to focus more on the guests the day of because I’m not running around trying to finish up making this or that.

For this event, I chose to make a delicious egg bake with bacon, cheddar, and broccoli. I picked up a cinnamon pecan pull apart bread from the store and made a festive fruit and cheese tree with cubed cheese and grapes. The tree was very easy to make. I added two mandarin oranges to the top as a tree topper and the bottom as a tree stump and then added pretzel crisps to the last layer to use with the cheese for snacking.

The egg bake and pull apart bread were served on the main buffet spread and the fruit and cheese tree was set out on the dining room table so we could munch as we colored. Who doesn’t love to munch along as they color and visit?

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party mimosa barA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party with mimosasA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party mimosa bar name tagsA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party mimosas

2. Drink Options

Mimosa Bar

Mimosa bars are perfect for morning get-togethers! They pair perfectly with the breakfast foods I was serving and guests can choose to either pour a mimosa or just drink the juice. For this simple mimosa bar, I grabbed a few glass juice carafes and some champagne glasses.

I paired together orange juice and cranberry juice to bring more color to the spread. As for the champagne, I grabbed my favorite local almond champagne. And some non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice for the non-drinkers.

Grab a few gift tags and Prismacolor Premier markers to make name tags for the drinks!

Hot Cocoa Bar

Another great addition to any brunch or evening event during the winter months is a hot cocoa bar. It adds a little sweetness and some warmth to the event. Plus there are so many fun additions and toppings one can add to their hot cocoa to make it personalized to their taste. Grab a pot of coffee to add to the mix so guests can make mochas too!

I chose to use my single serve coffee machine and some hot cocoa cups I had, however, I’ve also made a delicious batch of slow cooker hot chocolate in the past with this recipe for a little adult fun.  I’ve also passed out these cute hot cocoa snowmen as gifts and favors at parties before.

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party hot cocoa barA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party hot cocoa bar toppingsA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party hot cocoa bar and coffee station

3. Adult Coloring Books + Colored Pencils

And, of course, for the star of the event, adult coloring books are a must! Each guest should have either a few adult coloring print-outs or a coloring book of their own to enjoy during the event. Pair with Prismacolor Premier coloring pencils and you have the perfect outlet for moms to relax, de-stress and re-energize during the often-stressful holiday season.

In the living room and the dining room table I put a few coloring books out with packs of Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. I also used a roll of butcher paper as table runners for both the coffee table and dining room table so guests could doodle and find out what colors they wanted to use.

Coloring together allows friends, families and co-workers an opportunity to take a moment together to reflect and reenergize, sparking creativity and inducing productivity. It’s a relaxing way to reconnect with each other. We enjoyed chatting around the table about work, life, and everything else in between.

A Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party coloring with prismacolor pencilsA Colorful Affair Adult Coloring Party coloring in the lines

What do you love to do when you get together with your girlfriends?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Prismacolor Premier®.

Building Your Child’s Holiday Wishlist With Ease: A Tutorial On Using The Amazon App In Store

Building Your Child's Holiday Wishlist With Ease

When I was little I would get excited around this time of year. Because this time of year was when we would start to receive the big catalogues in the mail from various stores and toy companies. My dad would save them up and hand over the big books and the catalogues that came in the mail during the week so that we could go through and circle what we wanted for the holidays and upcoming birthdays.

It was an easy way for him to figure out exactly what we were asking from Santa as well as get some tips on what he should surprise us with as well. He was always good at figuring out exactly what we wanted under the tree each year. That may or may not be a result of him waiting till the night before Christmas to do all of his holiday shopping with those catalogues. So he was limited in what to get us and had to go off of our scribbled down lists and circled items.

Nowadays with my own kids we build a wishlist throughout the year. Constantly changing and removing things. Not just for gifts, but as ways to remind ourselves of what we want to do or get as rewards for other things too. My kids love to save their pennies and cash in to purchase the latest toy they have their eye on. And now making those lists has gotten even easier.

A Tutorial On Using The Amazon App In Store

When I was at Target yesterday perusing the Halloween aisles, my son asked to head up to the toy aisle to take a look. I obliged and the whole family headed over. As I was walking over I realized that I needed a batman mask for my costume (I had just put a batman shirt complete with cape in our basket). Since Target didn’t seem to have any, I hopped onto Amazon and quickly purchased one using my Prime account. Shortly after my son was running up to me asking me to put a Minecraft lego on his list.

Since I already had the Amazon app out, I figured I’d take a look and see if I could just search and add his item quickly while we were in-store. And that’s when I saw it… the option to scan a barcode right from the app to find an item. That way I could not only scan the items the kids wanted to add to their list in-store, I could also note which items were cheaper to purchase on Amazon or in the store! Talk about a win-win. And it’s so simple!

Here’s how:

Using The Amazon App In Store

Building Your Child’s Holiday Wishlist With Ease 

Scan Barcode in-store with Amazon app
As you peruse every single toy aisle with your kids as you do every time you visit the department store – wait, is that just my husband? – let your kids start to choose what they’d like to ask for on their holiday wish lists. As they choose items, grab the item, and using the barcode in the Amazon app, scan the item.

Add Item Found to Amazon Wishlist

Once the correct item is found via the barcode, simply click on the item title and then scroll down to Add to Wish List. Click on the Add to Wish List button.

A list of your current wish lists will appear and then you can select which child’s wishlist you want to add the item to.

Amazon Wishlist Dropdown

As soon as I selected Molly’s Wish List, the baby doll she chose was added. Easy peasy and onto the next item! I don’t know what I’ll do if she asks for a pony but at least I’m covered for most in-store items.

How do you make wish lists easier during the holidays?

Tips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser

Today we’re sharing tips on securing volunteers at your next fundraiser with help from our sponsor, VolunteerSpot. You can read on to find out our success at our most recent Fall Festival fundraiser. 

Tips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser

As I’ve mentioned, over the past few months I’ve worked on the committee to plan and run the Fall Festival at my children’s school. Over the span of 6 months we worked hard at finalizing all of the details about the festival, including how to secure volunteers for the various game booths, food booths, and more. From the beginning we knew that our volunteers would make the event a success.

And they did! From the parent volunteers who manned the booths, to the church volunteers helping to sell raffle tickets, to the teacher volunteers who helped sell tickets and everyone else in between. Our event was a success because of those supporting and helping run it. Along the way we learned a lot about what we did right, what we did wrong, and how to make next year amazing.

Tips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser - make it easyTips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser - checking in

Tips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser

1. Make It Easy –

It all starts with signing up volunteers. And that needs to be easy. Early on into our planning our Volunteer Coordinator set up a VolunteerSpot account and was able to set up shifts for all volunteers for each day of our festival. We were able to share the link via email, posters, social media and our website to allow volunteers to choose a shift and sign up. It also allowed us to keep track of each volunteer and send them reminders before the event. Plus? It’s easily accessible on mobile and desktop!

2. Have A Point Of Contact – 

At the event we printed off our volunteer list from VolunteerSpot and as volunteers came to the event they checked in with our Volunteer Coordinator 10 minutes prior to their shift start. By having the Volunteer Coordinator share her contact information (email) with the volunteers, she was able to field questions, pass along information, and create a smooth and easy experience for all. She was also a friendly face to check in with at the event. For those who were new to volunteering at the event, they didn’t have to search for yet another person they might not know when they arrived.

3. Give Clear Instructions – 

Communication really is key so we would also give the volunteers a run down on how each booth was running and if we ran into anything in the previous shift. Along with checking in, each volunteer was given written instructions on what was expected and how the area they were in was being run. We not only had clear signage at each booth sharing how to play each game but also instructions for the volunteers on how to take care of game tickets coming in as well as what prize tickets to give out.

4. Provide Childcare – 

One bit of feedback we had received in years past was that our parents could not volunteer their time because they lacked the proper childcare for their shift. So this year we reached out to the preschool staff to ask if they were willing to provide childcare at the event. Not only would we be able to help our parent volunteers, but we were also able to market our preschool to potential families looking to send their little ones to our school.

5. Thank Your Volunteers – 

After any fundraiser, there’s nothing more powerful than a heartfelt, handwritten note. Now while it may sound like a lot of work, thanking your volunteers personally will let them know just how important they are to your cause and how much you appreciate them.

Tips On Securing Volunteers At Your Next Fundraiser - offer childcare

Have you had success when recruiting volunteers? What are your tips?

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom

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Life is busy. But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little me-time. These ways to find me-time as a busy mom are sponsored by Texture. Use Texture to enjoy your me-time when you find it and catch up on all of your favorite magazines.

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom

I don’t know about you but my life is busy. This week marks the end of a very long few months for me as I help my son’s school plan their Fall Festival.And it’s about to get even busier as we head into the holidays. Not only are the holidays busy because of friends, family, and events, but it’s also my busiest time of the year as a digital influencer.

For me, I know what my limits are and how much I can handle. But without a little me-time, I woiuldn’t be able to handle much. As a mom of three, all in different stages, I’ve come to realize that I need to take advantage of any me-time I can get. Even when that means asking someone for help watching the kids while I take care of myself. If I don’t take care of myself, how will I take care of the kids, right?

Finding breaks when I can may get a little tricky, but by taking advantage of even the little bouts of quiet I have in my life, I’ve been able to reduce my stress and relax a bit. And I just found an app to make breaks a lot more enjoyable. Now with Texture, I have all of my favorite magazines right at my fingertips. So when a break presents itself, I take full advantage! Including those few minutes I have in the bathroom alone to myself with the door closed (and locked). I may or may not go in there just to get a break sometimes. Hey! It works…

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom - find hobbies

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom

1. Find Time For A Hobby You Love

I have many hobbies that I love. Sewing, crocheting, DIY projects, cooking, etc. But one thing I don’t have much of is time. So I incorporate my hobbies into my lifestyle. As part of the planning committee for our Fall Festival, I took over a few crafty things on the list so I could get my creative juices flowing and create things.

Whether it was building an easel sign, creating a cardboard cut out for the photo booth, or painting a banner, by volunteering and committing to a group of people, I “made” myself find time for my favorite hobbies. By either scheduling time for your hobby, or volunteering your skills for a local school, church, or organization, it’s easier to make the time available for yourself.

Need ideas? You’ll find plenty when you subscribe to Texture through the Next Door app. Not only do you get all of your favorite magazines right at your fingertips, there’s also ones in there that may inspire a new hobby!

2. Challenge Yourself

Similar to finding a hobby, consider creating a challenge for yourself. When I first got married I knew nothing about cooking and baking. I mean I could scramble an egg and make some toast but I was nowhere near comfortable in the kitchen. So I brought it upon myself to learn how to cook. I would take recipes from my favorite magazines like Cooking Light or Bon Appétit and choose 3 new recipes a week to try out. I’d make a list of groceries I needed to buy and slowly began not only learning how to cook, but also stocking my shelves, spice rack, and fridge with the staples our house needed for meal time.

Recently I also started to challenge myself to eat clean. Not only for me but my kids as well. By trying to prepare whole foods and reduce the amount of pre-packaged items I bring in the house, I’m starting to change my kids way of thinking. This is a HUGE challenge for me. With the help of Clean Eating magazine, I’ve been able to get a few tips on incorporating this new lifestyle easily. Now this may not sound like me-time to you, but if I can get 10 minutes to read a magazine I’m interested in, and get tips on recipes to try or snacks to eat, it eases my mind and reduces the stress that may surround change.

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom - challenge yourself

3. Take Advantage Of Naptime

It’s hard for me right now because my 8 month old usually naps on me, but I take full advantage of naptime when it comes. As I type she’s happily nodded off in dream land and I can watch her eyes flutter and hear her little sounds. Naptime equals me-time. And each time one my kids stopped taking naps, I shed a little tear. During naptime I not only work, but I also take advantage of the down-time and grab my Surface Pro 3 to catch up on the fun magazines I have in my library on Texture. I have an article on Wired open up right now that I’m dying to finish about Marvel.

The one thing I don’t do during naptime unless absolutely necessary? Clean. It’s just not worth my me-time. It’s all about balance, right? And cleaning can happen either when the kids are playing outside or another time I find during the day. My sanity is a little more important than a clean house so I choose taking a moment to relax a bit or work.

4. Hire A Sitter

I’m pretty lucky. I have family around that I can call and ask to help watch my kids if I just need to get out of the house. Whether it’s getting a pedicure or massage, taking a walk to the park, or sitting outside catching up on the latest issue of National Geographic, having that time available and knowing that my kids are somewhere safe in loving arms is important.

I’ve even done a little exchange with friends where I’ll go to their house or they’ll come to mine. My girlfriend would bring all of her mail over and sort it as I watched the little ones playing in the playroom. Or I’d get an article written while she played with them outside. There are a lot of ways that one can find a few minutes to decompress before jumping back into life.

Ways To Find Me-Time As A Busy Mom - take advantage of naptime

How do you find me-time?

Running October 1-29, anyone who uses the Texture app will be entered to win their choice of either a GoPro HERO4 Session, a Tory Burch Quilted Clutch, or an Xbox One. Every other day, we’ll be randomly selecting a Texture user to win.

To enter, users just need to visit http://bit.ly/1RiAnnj, start a free 30-day trial, and use the app.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Texture.

The Importance Of Bedtime Stories

This post is sponsored by First 5 California but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.


The Importance Of Bedtime Stories

Ever since my kids were babies there’s one thing we always do. And that’s bedtime stories. From the time they could crawl into our lap for some last minute snuggles before bedtime, they’ve soaked in the time we spend right before shut eye exploring a new book or story. From simple baby board books pointing out different animals or places to go, to us reading them classic Dr. Seuss or Robert Munsch books, to them reading us their first books, this time with our children is cherished.

Books are important. And reading to our kids are just as important. Did you know that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, simply reading to your child every day will give them a higher success rate in school? And by simply having books in the home that are easily accessible, you can encourage your child to read more. We believe in this so much that we have a bookcase in just about every room in the house… including the kitchen!

The Importance Of Bedtime Stories - promoting early reading

The Importance Of Bedtime Stories

By not only having books in the house but reading every day to your child (even just 10-20 minutes a day!) you can encourage literacy in your child and set them up for success. Even if they aren’t reading yet, having the love of hearing a good story from you, and bonding with them in the process, will help them in the long run. Here are a few great stats to prove the importance of bedtime stories:

1. Practice! 

According to the National Education Association, having kids read a lot is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader. Young readers need to become practiced at recognizing letters and sounds. The only way to get good at it is to practice. Twenty-six percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently. By practicing at home with those who love them, they can have a safe area to practice reading without feeling like they’ll be judged for not knowing a word or a letter.

2. A Partner In Education

As a parent, I want to play an active role in tehir education. By starting to read to them young and creating a a time for us to read as a family during our bedtime routine, we’re sharing our love of reading and learning with our kids. The substantial relationship between parent involvement for the school and reading comprehension levels of fourth-grade classrooms is obvious, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Where parental involvement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average!

3. Finding A Love For Reading

I remember when I first started to love books. The feeling of starting to read a good book that whisks you away into another world, another time, another universe. It’s an amazing feeling. And I cannot wait for my kids to jump in as well and experience that love. The U.S. Department of Education found that, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores. Finding that love of reading can impact their future education.

The Importance Of Bedtime Stories - preparing for new situations

Great Bedtime Story Books (4-8 Years Old)

Adventures

Freddy & Frito And The Clubhouse Rules – Introducing the adorable pair – Freddy, a fox, and Frito, a rart – in a story about the joys and struggles of friendship. In her exuberant debut as author/illustrator, Alison Friend illuminates a truth about friendship: showing that best friends stay together both in fun times and in frustrating ones, too.

The Big Ideas Of Buster Bickles – No one appreciates Buster Bickles’ big ideas until his uncle invents a machine that turns his imagination into reality! Robot dinosaurs and ice cream mountains are only the beginning in Emmy-award winning animator Dave Wasson’s debut picture book – with a “What-If” machine, anything is possible!

School Time

Just a Teacher’s Pet – Join Mercer Mayer’s classic and loveable character, Little Critter, as he learns a special lesson about being a teacher’s pet in this I Can Read story!

Goose Goes To School – Goose is back in an all new school adventure! In this heart-warming follow up to GOOSE, readers will delight in Sophie and Goose’s next fun-filled adventure.

Eva and Sadie And The Best Classroom Ever – Sadie teaches Eva all about school in this adorable follow up to EVA AND SADIE AND THE WORST HAIRCUT EVER! Sadie learns that even though she’s a great teacher, it’s okay for Eva not to know everything before she starts school. After all, that’s what Kindergarten is for.

All About Pets 

Itty Bitty Kitty – Ava wants a pet, but Mom and Dad say she’s too little. So when she finds a kitty, Ava decides to name him Itty Bitty and keep him a secret. There’s just one tiny problem: Itty Bitty starts growing and growing and growing… until he’s neither itty nor bitty!

Who Wants Broccoli? – Meet Broccoli, a lovable but rambunctious dog who wants to find a home. Broccoli lives at Beezley’s Animal Shelter and dreams of playing in a yard with a boy. Will Broccoli find his perfect home? A story inspired by Val Jones’ own adopted labradoodle, Fergus!

Two Girls Want A Puppy – Cadence and Emi desperately want a puppy, but their dad isn’t quite sure they’re ready for all that responsibility. With a little determination and a brilliant plan, the girls show their dad that they are ready to adopt one. Based on a true story abou two sisters and their creative plan to adopt a puppy!

The Berenstain Bears

The Berenstain Bears: When I Grow Up – It’s Career Day at the Bear Country School, but Sister isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up. A friend of the Berenstains, Professor Actual Factual takes Sister and Brother Bear on a special Bear Country job tour. Whether it’s firefighter or artist, farmer or astronaut – there is sure to be a career to capture Sister’s imagination.

The Berenstain Bears Are Superbears! – When Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear pretend to be their favorite superhero characters, they use their imaginations to find adventure all around the house. But when a neighbor falls off his bike, the SuperBears discover the true power of lending a helping paw in this brand new I Can Read story!

The Berenstain Bears Get Ready For School – It’s a busy morning in the Bear family house. Brother and Sister are getting ready for school, and they need lots of help finding their backpack, books and pencils in time to catch the bus. Share in the hustle and bustle with this exciting new lift-the-flap storybook.

The Importance Of Bedtime Stories - finding new interests

Start Reading Early

Need more ideas on how to interest your child in reading OR to find great resources on the importance of reading to your little ones early? First 5 California is on a statewide mission to inform, educate and inspire parents and caregivers to talk, read and sing to their little ones starting from the day they are born.

Science tells us that 90% of the brain is formed by the age of 5, and recent research also reveals that more than 80% of a child’s brain is formed by age 3. As you know from being a parent, these early years are the most formative and life-impacting. You want your child to have a larger vocabulary not only do better in school, but are significantly less likely to make poor choices in the future.

The experts at First 5 California refer to the brain as a muscle that needs exercise – and that means “working out” through talking, reading and singing regularly. Talking can be as simple as narrating the day; reading doesn’t always need to be via books; recipes, newspapers and road signs are great (aim for 30 min/day total – can be broken up into 5-10 min increments throughout the day) and singing doesn’t require carrying a tune (First 5 California has a great children’s radio station on Pandora that can help!).

You can rely on First 5 California as a free trusted resource and partner to help give their children the best possible start to life. First5California.com/parents is full of informative tips and activities – everything from brain development facts/myths and brain-stimulating activities for ages 0-5 to healthy, easy-to-make recipes and general wellness information.

Need a comfy spot for your little ones to read in? Check out my Kids Reading Nook Ideas (and other great ways to encourage reading) by clicking on the photo below!

Kids Reading Nook Ideas

What’s your child’s favorite book? What’s yours?

Mom’s Night In: Halloween Inspired Book Club Party

Mom's Night In Halloween Style

Sitting back with friends enjoying delicious glass of wine and some yummy goodies is one of the best ways, I find, to unwind and relax after a long week. There’s something about the conversation with friends and laughter that follows that warms my heart and leaves me feeling relaxed. As I mentioned previously, I hosted a girls night in recently. We hadn’t done a book club get together and it was about time we started up again!

By the way… you don’t actually HAVE to finish (or even start) the book to attend book club. It’s more of an excuse to get out and do something with friends instead of staying at home. But I have found that it’s very motivating to at least try and finish a book before the next meeting. Even when that means reading during nap time, or right before bed while my husband reads my kids stories.

This time of year is perfect for Halloween-inspired books, so if you’re looking for a great book club suggestion, check out the various lists of Halloween books perfect for adults to indulge in and scare the crap out of you.

Mom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club with Woodbridge wine

I may have alluded to the fact that wine is a staple at every book club meet up. While it’s not necessary, it does make the night a bit more fun! Especially as we chat about the happenings around us as well as discuss the books we’ve (tried to) read. I love having both a red and a white on hand to satisfy everyone. I personally love this cabernet sauvignon!

And paired with the wine is the delicious food. I opted to make some “Bloody Fingers” in the form of steak and brie sandwiches with a drizzle of Sriracha sauce on a puff pastry. Literally that simple. 4 ingredients and they pair so well with the cabernet sauvignon. Also served was an artichoke spinach dip (recipe coming soon!) and for a little dessert, the chocolate peanut butter ball monsters I made. It was the perfect amount of food for our little group!

Mom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club bloody fingers steak & brie sandwiches

“Bloody Fingers” Steak and Brie Bites

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 steak, cooked and sliced thinly
  • 1 wheel of brie cheese
  • Sriracha sauce

Defrost puff pastry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper. Grab one sheet of puff pastry and unroll/unfold. Using a knife, cut into half length-wise and thirds on the fold lines. Then cut each third into half. You should have 12 rectangles. put rectangles on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Once finished, carefully pull baked puff pastry apart into two pieces. Top each piece with steak, a slice of brie, and drizzle with Sriracha sauce. Enjoy with a glass of wine!

Mom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club chocolate peanut butter ballsMom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club dip

I also got a little festive with my chalk markers and the plastic wine glasses I picked up at the dollar store around the corner from our house. Non breakable and easy to decorate! The best part? The designs wiped right off with a baby wipe.

My girlfriends told me that next time they want to decorate their glasses so I plan on making it a thing now to put out the chalk markers and let the guests doodle on their glasses to mark which one is which.

The food spread was simple, wine yummy, and friends amazing. Definitely a night I needed!

Mom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club wine glasses

Mom's Night In Halloween Inspired Book Club food spread

What’s the last book you’ve read while enjoying a glass of wine?

Keeping Baby Entertained On The Go

After having our third kid, we realized that keeping baby entertained on the go isn’t as hard as it was with the first and second child. It’s even easier with Playskool’s new on-the-go line! I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Playskool. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Keeping Baby Entertained On The Go

I don’t know if this is how it is for all third babies but our little Norah has turned out to be very adaptable. She just goes with the flow and takes to change easily. As long as her mama or dada are with her, and she has something to entertain her, she’s pretty cool with just about any new situation. So when I had to have my gallbladder out last week, I wasn’t too concerned about her being without me. Except  for the fact that she hadn’t successfully taken a bottle in quite a while.

Well she did absolutely awesome with her dad when I spent the night at the hospital the night after my surgery. She surprised us in not only taking one bottle, but taking two for her dad. And she was in high spirits when she came to visit me around 9:30am the next morning. Better yet, she just wanted to play! And luckily we saved some new toys for her to enjoy as I recovered.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I have a little confession… Norah really hasn’t had any new toys purchased for her. She plays with a few hand-me-downs from her cousins and friends. And she loves playing with her siblings’ toys. So when my husband busted out a few fun toys from Playskool’s new on-the-go line out of his backpack to keep her entertained at the hospital, she just about tackled her new Dressy Bessy to play with her zipper and button. It was absolutely adorable to see Norah play with Dressy Bessy’s button, then go and find her buttons on her dress as she played in the hospital room.

And? Dressy Bessy comes with a secure clip that we can use to attach to the stroller or my diaper bag. That way we can take her wherever we go and she takes up little to no room. Clipping her onto the stroller also means that Norah can play and have fun and I won’t have to worry about Bessy being thrown overboard. And her Fold N Go Elepant? It folds up into a cute little package for easy storage. Talk about convinience. Great for staycations or travelling around.

Keeping Baby Entertained On The Go - Fold N Go Elephant

Keeping Baby Entertained On The Go

  1. Distractions… er… Toys – Toys are an important part of keeping baby occupied on the go. Whether on a road trip and stopped at a rest stop (toys should not be played with in a moving car), or during a day trip to the park or beach, having a fun toy like Playskool’s Dressy Bessy clipped onto the stroller or the Fold N Go Elephant stashed away in the diaper bag can turn into a great distraction for baby to keep them happy and occupied.
  2. Snacks and Drinks – One of the best ways to keep Norah entertained while we’re out and about is to offer her a sippy cup. It doesn’t even have ot have water in it. At this age she just loves playing and chewing on it. Water makes it more fun. And little snacks like puffs or yogurt melts keeps her distracted and working on her pincer grip for quite some time.
  3. A Change Of Scenery – I’ve found that keeping babies in the same position with little to no change drives them crazy. It’s probably the one reason why my kids always hated the carseat at that age. They couldn’t see the changes taking place outside the window! So whether it’s moving them from the stroller to the carrier (change in view) or simply walking around a bit with them to show them some new cool things to explore, a change of scenery is very inportant when keeping baby entertained on the go.
  4. Music – If you’re trapped in the car for a few hours and can’t resort to toys or snacks, playing a little music and singing along may get baby to focus on the sounds vs. complaining about being trapped in their carseat. We put on a little Hulabaloo and start singing along to get Norah distracted enough to start enjoying herself.
  5. Games – Even though babies might not understand the games, the repetition of some games like patty cake, peek-a-boo, etc can help baby learn how to interact with you and react to what you say. Plus, when you start playing a game that’s familiar to them, they are immediately interested and distracted from what they were doing before. Which is super helpful when you’re on the go.

Keeping Baby Entertained On The Go - Dressy Bessy

How do you keep baby busy on-the-go?

Now your baby can enjoy Playskool’s new on-the-go line too! Influence Central (I-C) is hosting a contest for the new Playskool on-the-go line through which you can enter to win one of five Playskool Prize Packs. Contest opens on September 9, 2015 and closes September 30, 2015

Enter by choosing a social media sharing option from the social media amplification tool below!

Playskool Audience Engagement Tool

*I-C will randomly select five winners from all program entries and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes.



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