A Timeless Treasure – Eric Carle

If you were to ask my parents what author I loved the most as a child, they would say Eric Carle without a second’s delay. I owned about every one of his books, in particular those that were readily available in the early 90s. There was something so magical about the interactive text and captivating illustrations. I vividly remember reading Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? over and over again (mom and dad I apologize; I get it now).

Now in 2018, Eric Carle is still prevalent in the realm of childhood literature. He has expanded from books to animated pictures and toys. My sons are able to experience the beauty of his educational pieces in a way I did not have access to in the 90s (#jealous).

We have found Eric Carle to be a hit for both our three-year-old and our one-year-old. Through his books, toys, and animations, our children are receptive of his teachings. Here are our favorite Eric Carle pieces –

Books:

An essential part of our nighttime routine is the bedtime story (or three) and often all of the stories come from our favorite, Eric Carle. We are currently reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar (a classic), Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? (a new favorite), Have you Seen my Cat? (my original copy), and The Mixed-Up Chameleon (my toddler’s FAVORITE). With either impactful messages, educational components, or both, my kids are sent to bed with thoughtful and colorful images in their heads.

Toys:

The World of Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Discovery Cube, 8” is one of my youngest’s most loved toys. With textured rings and fabric, peek a boo flaps, rattle, and crinkle sounds, it’s a sensory dream for a newly turned one-year-old. This discovery cube is plush, so he loves to cuddle it at night while he drifts off to sleep. With artwork from Eric Carle’s stories, the vibrancy of the illustrations, in my opinion, must ignite blissful dreams.

Eric Carle My First Smart Pad – PI Kids is a delightfully exciting educational toy that my three-year-old plays with often. “The electronic activity pad and 8-book library teaches alphabet, spelling, opposites, animal habitats, sounds, and sizes.” He calls it his “computer” and carries it around to conduct “business.” The beautiful illustrations and the familiarity of his favorite characters inspire him to sit down and absorb. As a parent, I LOVE it!

Animation:  

I don’t know about you, but we intake all our “TV” through Netflix. We love how there is an option to create a kids account. My son can access his favorite shows and we don’t have to worry about him watching something wildly inappropriate. Under the “Watch Again” tab is his Netflix account is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories. Voiced by Brian Cummings and Linda Gray, some of his favorites like, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Mixed-Up Chameleon, to name a few, are brought to life through animation. He likes to snuggle up on the couch in his “cocoon” made of blankets for 30 minutes (or more depending the repetition of his viewing) and relax. It’s fantastic!

With books dating all the way back to 1967 (i.e. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), Eric Carle has been a staple in the lives of so many individuals including myself and now my kids. If you don’t have Eric Carle in your personal library I suggest you run to your nearest bookstore or public library and introduce yourselves to these beautiful classics of children’s literature.

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4 Reasons to Raise Your Kids in the South

For my entire life I’ve been told I don’t sound like I hail from the south. I used to take this sentiment as a compliment. If we are being honest, the media does not highlight the south in the best of lights. The south is often depicted as the land of severely conservative, backwoods folks, who all live on farms and raise 42 cows. I personally have never self-identified as this dramatized version of a southern, so when folks assumed I was from New England, I didn’t necessarily correct them.

As I’ve gotten older, I have realized the beauty of living in the south and have embraced my sweet tea roots, especially as the mother of two young boys. That’s right; this liberal mama loves raising her ginger babes in the Tar Heel state.

Here are four reasons why raising your kids in the south is a beautiful thing:

  1. Manners make the man – We can all agree manners are a must. I was raised to say, “yes ma’am/sir,” “no ma’am/sir,” please and thank you, etc. Having manners is not only polite, but they leave a positive and lasting impression. You’ll stand out in the crowd in the best way. To be in the south without manners is a sin (we are on the bible belt of course). If one forgets the proper greeting or response, there is a southern mama always there to glare the most intense evil eye in your direction. We learn very quickly to keep our manners in check.
  2. Wild child – Being in nature is something a southerner is born to do (well, most of us). I remember playing in the neighborhood creek, climbing trees, and venturing into the woods for an “adventure.” My boys LOVE to play outside. My oldest is a master bug hunter and collector of dirt. While I’m not a huge fan of the creepy crawlers, he has zero fear when it comes to facing a spider or earth worm; he wants to be their friend. He feels comfortable outside and that makes my tree-hugger heart happy.
  3. We’ve got spirit, yes, we do – College basketball…what more can I say? When you live in the south you are born on a side, the side of an ACC team. In North Carolina the trinity of college basketball falls within three points – UNC Tarheels, Duke Blue Devils, and NC State Wolfpack. We clearly bleed Carolina blue and cheer on our beloved Tar Heels to victory. This inherent need to be tethered to a team builds a sense of pride and commitment in an individual.
  4. Family values (the good ones) – This can be said for anybody, anywhere, but family values are so important in the south. Now, I don’t think all “family values” are, well, valuable, but I do think finding those naturally good qualities are important. We can learn a lot from of our family. My family has always projected strong social values like respect/courtesy, giving back, kindness, standing up for others, etc. I want and will carry these values into the lives of my children.

As someone who was born and raised in the south, I’ve worked my entire life to eliminate that stereotypical view of a southerner from my own mind. There is so much beauty to be found down south when raising children to be fully functioning and well-adjusted individuals. We are a wonderfully complex breed.

“Southerners know all too well that a basket of fried chicken can mean ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I love you’ or ‘Welcome Home.’” (Johnathan Scott Barrett)

4 Ways to Create and Maintain a Successful Family Routine

When routine changes it can throw everyone off, especially a toddler who LOVES consistency. I recently started a new job that’s extremely fulfilling but requires more office time than my previous job. When I worked remotely I could drop my kids off later and pick them earlier than most parents, but now I must drop them off earlier and pick them up a little later than normal. My three-year-old picked up on this change immediately, and let’s just say, he’s not a fan.

My son quickly became hyper sensitive and started not listening/following directions as well as he used to. One could say this is happening because he’s at “that” age, but it seems suspect for this to have started around the same time I began my new job.  I’m not a detective, but I can clearly breakdown the evidence.

My husband and I sprang into action to make a new “norm” for our household. It’s important to us to have a space where our kids feel and actively participate in a healthy routine. Now, I’ve only birthed two little ones, so I can only speak from my experience with them, but thoughtful consistency is key.

Here are the four ways we successfully found our new routine:

  1. Communicate – Seems simple enough, right? You can never over communicate with your kids, at least in my opinion. We talk about and talk through our routine constantly with our kids, more specifically our toddler. He seems to respond to well to repeated verbal communication.
  2. Cool and Calm – As parents it’s easy to lose our cool when our kids react in a not-so-attractive manner when they get frustrated about the change in routine (I know from experience and I’m not proud of it). When we act in a level-headed manner, our kids will have a positive response. We set the emotional example.
  3. Sleep – When our kids are well rested, the world seems to be a safe place, but when they don’t, you might as well duck and cover. When my kids get a great night’s sleep, they are prepared to take on the day with a positive attitude. My one-year-old sleeps a solid 13 hours a night and my three-year-old clocks in between 10-11 hours a night. I truly believe sleep makes a big difference in achieving a new “norm.”
  4. Fun – It’s important to add a new and exciting component to the routine. Make it worthwhile for all involved parties. My husband and I “let” our toddler guide the bedtime routine. He picks the books, he turns off the lights, he arranges his bed, etc. We are known for putting on a performance. If it’s a song, a monologue, an interpretive dance of the book we are reading, we make it fun. This is part of the routine that is specifically tailored for him and something he looks forward to every single day. It’s HIS mom and dad time.

I’ll say it again, change is hard, but if you work to make it a positive experience, your kids will adjust. Fingers crossed we can maintain our son’s positive perspective and make the one-on-one time we have with him memorable in the best way. What are some tips that have worked for you? Let me know if the comments.

A Healthy Snack Picky Eaters Will Love (Miffy and Friends US)

My three-year-old is a master when it comes to working around his picky eating habits. I could have a member of the Paw Patrol team parade his food in front of him, in a bowl made of sprinkles, with a firework display in the background, but he would see right through my creative efforts.

Finding a way to get him to eat his veggies is, dare I say, impossible. When I ask him to try something he takes the tiniest, microscopic bite. Immediately following his “attempt” of trying something new, he produces an intense feeling of repulsion. What is a mom to do?

Our friends over at Miffy have unlocked the answer to my prayers. Their Healthy Tulips snack-tivity has inspired my son to eat more than just processed carbs. I have never, I mean never, seen my child eat carrots, cheese, and cucumbers in one sitting, let alone at all.

Make eating healthy fun with Miffy and her friends. Here is what you’ll need for your Healthy Tulips:

  • One large carrot
  • One cucumber
  • One block of cheese
  • Toothpicks
  • Knife
  • Spoon
  • A toddler with an open mind (I added that one in for myself)

  1. Slice carrots into a flower by cutting two triangles out of the top to create a tulip shape.
  2. Cut cucumber slices into halves and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds of the cucumber.
  3. Cut the cheese into blocks.
  4. Layer the difference pieces onto the toothpick
    1. Place the toothpick into the cheese creating the base of the flower.
    2. Next place the cucumber to create the leaves of the tulip.
    3. Finally, place the carrot at the top creating the flower.

Voila! Now you have an adorable, healthy, and delicious snack for your kiddos. So, if you have a picky eater, give this snack-tivity a try.

Check out more fun activities and recipes by visiting www.miffyfun.com

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Miffy Night Lamp – Toddler Review

The only word to describe my three-year-old’s nighttime routine would be UNWAVERING. To infiltrate his “process” is a task you DO NOT want to take on. The fury his little toddler body can evoke is startling; however, he made an exception for the cutest night lamp in all of the land – the Miffy Night Lamp.

I truly believe my son is in love with his lamp. Do you know the scene in a romantic comedy where the two main characters run towards each other in slow motion across a field of flowers to then fall into each other’s embrace with true love? This is what happened when he made eye contact with his new Miffy Night Lamp.

Miffy Lamp 3

My husband and I have been on the hunt for perfect nightlight for my son for quite some time. Since turning three (back in February) our son’s imagination has reached an all new level. To quote my son, “the tooth fairy put a wolf under my bed and he ate my frog.” With a “wolf” under his bed, he needs a light to keep him safe in the dark, and the Miffy Night Lamp is the perfect companion.

Now available on Amazon and at Walmart, the Miffy Night Lamp is the adorable and safe night light your kids need to keep them safe from the “wolves” under their beds (in my son’s case). With an easy on/off switch, your kids can take an active role in illuminating their Miffy Night Lamp. The lamp has a padded bottom, which will prevent any scratching on furniture. At a whopping 5.9 x 4.5 x 12.2 x inches, Miffy is adorned in her classic dress, available in blue, yellow, or orange. My son’s Miffy Night Lamp is rocking the bright orange dress, which is his favorite color.

Miffy Lamp

You may be wondering if this lamp is going to be too bright or overwhelming since it’s a larger night light, but it is far from it. With 3-WATT LED, the Miffy Night Lamp glows with a warm yellow light. The warmth of the light creates a soothing and relaxing atmosphere for your little one. This Miffy Night Lamp is perfect for any nursery or toddler bedroom.

When I asked my son if he liked his lamp he said, “My lamp mommy. My lamp. Not your lamp. My lamp. I love Miffy!” So, there you have it; the Miffy Night Lamp is a hit!

Miffy Lamp 2

You can decorate your kid’s living space, while making them feel safe and calm at night with the Miffy Night Lamp. To get your lamp, check out Amazon or Walmart TODAY! Let your kids fall in love with a lamp like my son LOL.

Check out more Miffy and Friends US at:

Facebook – @MiffyAndFriendsUS

Twitter – @MiffyOfficialUS

Instagram – @miffy_official_us

Website – www.miffyfun.com

Miffy Fun – Rain Stick

Have you ever felt like you’ve done a day full of activities within the span of three hours? The weekends start early at my house and our most productive hours are first thing in the morning. We’ve gone on daring adventures, finished our errands, taken morning naps, etc. by 10 AM. When you have two kids who are lively little fellas, having an arsenal of fun activities to fill the rest of the day are essential.

Miffy and her friends have a wide variety of activities (i.e. arts and crafts, songs and dances, recipes, and more) for you and your kiddos to enjoy. My oldest has been talking about the weather at school, in particular rain. With Miffy’s April Shower activities, we spent part of our Sunday making a fun Miffy inspired rain stick.

Here’s how to make a rain stick at home:

What you’ll need:

  • Paper towel roll
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Rubber Bands
  • Dried rice
  • Items for decorating – i.e. construction paper, stickers, wasabi tape, crayons, markers, etc.

Let’s make it rain:

  1. Decorate the paper towel tube, like you’ve never decorated before! We made our rain stick look like Miffy, because she’s our favorite little bunny.
  2. Once decorated, seal one end of the paper towel roll by wrapping the end and securing it with plastic wrap and rubber bands.
  3. To make the rain sound, you will need to fold a segment of aluminum foil into a spring-shape and place it inside the paper towel roll.
  4. Carefully pour ¼ cup of dried rice or beans into the paper towel roll.
  5. Seal the opposite end of the paper towel roll with the plastic wrap and rubber band.
  6. Listen to the sounds of rain.

My kid is obsessed and wants to take his rain stick to bed, but that request is still up for negotiation. If you are looking for a fun activity that includes learning about the weather, music, and arts and crafts, this is the one for you! Make sure you check out Miffy and all her friends over at www.miffyfun.com.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MiffyandFriendsUS/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/miffy_official_usa/?hl=en

Twitter – https://twitter.com/MiffyOfficialUS

Website – https://miffyfun.com/2018/04/06/april-showers/

Kids, Work, and Graduate School – Oh My!

You may be wondering where I’ve been, or you may not care, but either way let me tell you where I have been the last few months. I decided after having my first son that I would start graduate school. Pursuing higher education has always been in the back of my mind since the day I grabbed my undergraduate diploma from my department head.

I was burned out by the end of my undergraduate career. I went from being the care-free teen in high school to a tightly wound, slightly OCD college student. To say I needed a break was an understatement. So naturally, I ended my break from school after having a child and being a fulltime employee. It makes perfect sense right (she said sarcastically)?

Now with two kids, an awesome husband, and a career, I’m trying to make it all work. When it comes to pursuing higher education as a mom, here are few things I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Honestly, it’s not worth it. Have I fully taken my own advice? No, but I’m working on it.
  2. Have a calendar…or two. I can’t document my day enough! Without a calendar we would all be lost in my household.
  3. Make a list. There is nothing quite as satisfying as marking off assignments from your list. When you’re staying up late at night, writing lengthy papers, completely exhausted from the day, there is nothing like aggressively crossing the assignment off your list. Oh, the sweet gratification!
  4. Join a flexible graduate or undergraduate school program. When you decide to take on graduate school as a parent, make sure you find a program that is going to work with your lifestyle. You should never sacrifice your family life to meet the needs of a program.
  5. Keep the lines of communication open. I learned quickly to keep my husband and support system aware of where I was mentally and emotionally regarding school. When it came to finals, I put out my mommy call – it sounds something like, HELP! – and brought in the troops for support. Communicating my needs has been key throughout this process.
  6. Take a break. There is nothing quite like stopping everything and grabbing a hug from the little ones. I will always pause (except during a live class) to play dress-up and assume the role of Captain Mommy Hook with my kiddos. I mean, I am the greatest swashbuckling pirate around.
  7. You’ve got this! If you’re far behind on homework and finals or just entirely overwhelmed, remember you are a Rockstar!

As I get closer to completing my degree, I feel more empowered. I feel empowered not only as a professional, but as a mom. I want my kids to know they can do anything (within limits – you know what I’m saying) and be successful in their dreams at any age.

Now, I am going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the added free time (as parents do we really have free time?) I have during summer break. If you need me, I will be fighting off evil pirates with my lightsaber, alongside my crew that consists of a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Argh!

Brush-Baby: The Teething Game Changer

Alright parents, let’s talk about teething. We can all agree there is nothing worse than watching your poor, sweet, little baby writhing in pain from the continuous eruption of teeth from their tender little gums. My oldest (now three) would spout out three to five teeth at once, and his little brother (11 months) is following suit.

Continuously drooling, sticking everything in his mouth, and whining (you know the teething whine), my baby was pretty much screaming at me to get him the “goods” to fix his frustration. What are the “goods” you ask?  Brush-Baby!

When I tell you Brush-Baby is the gum soothing and mom sanity saving teething grace I always needed in my life, I am not telling a lie. This UK based company is dedicated to the healthy development of gums from teething to the loss of baby teeth as well as the formation of adult teeth. Their products are designed for babies, toddlers, and young children. Healthy tooth development and oral hygiene is important to instill at a young age, and Brush-Baby is there to offer all the support you need.

There are three products I know, trust, and we absolutely LOVE for our teething youngster: My FirstBrush and Teether Set, Chewable Toothbrush and Teether, and Applemint Teething Toothpaste.

My FirstBrush and Teether Set (£6.75 or $8.38 approx): This must-have starter set is perfect the little ones, ages 0-18 months. The First Teether is my son’s FAVORITE. The soft silicon bristles help massage and ease the discomfort of teething within seconds (no joke). The teether is dishwasher safe, which I know all my fellow parents out there can appreciate, and it has an easy grip with flower guard perfect at keeping that teething game safe. Brush-Baby recommends cooling the teether in the fridge or placing teething gel on the silicone brush, and folks, it’s a game-changer. Additionally, the FirstBrush is the perfect size for brushing those tiny baby teeth. With a small head, gentle bristles, and long handle for easier brushing, this toothbrush steps up the oral hygiene game.

Chewable Toothbrush and Teether (£4.99 or $6.20 approx): Similar to the First Teether, the Chewable Toothbrush and Teether offers much needed comfort for the teething aches and pains. This award winning, yes I said award winning, silicone brush can clean teeth and gums, while soothing gums simultaneously. This toothbrush/teether is designed to reach those pesky back molars that cause a lot of aches and pains. Perfect for babies and toddlers ages 10-36 months, you can feel safe giving your child this silicone teether (highest grade medical silicone).  You need to put this in your teething arsenal ASAP!

Applemint Teething Toothpaste (£2.35 or $2.92 approx): Now I am one of those parents that will often taste everything before I give it to my kids, so naturally I gave the Applemint Teething Toothpaste a try, and it was DELICIOUS! No wonder my baby is pawing at me for more. Brush-Baby has created a special toothpaste formula that has dental protection with the natural anti-inflammatory impacts of chamomile to help soothe gums. I know there is always a concern about fluoride with small children, but this teething toothpaste has low fluoride safer if swallowed and still healthy for the tooth’s enamel. The Applemint Teething Toothpaste is also gluten free, dairy free, paraben-free, cruelty free, suitable for vegans, and SLS free non foaming. This toothpaste is great for kids 0-2 years of age.

I have seen a complete transformation in my son’s teething process since we’ve introduced Brush-Baby into our teething tool belt. I wish I had these products when my older son was going through all of his discomfort. I will be ordering more of these products as my kids continue to grow. Again, with products are for babies, toddlers, and children, Brush-Baby will grow with our family. Will you introduce them into your family as well?

Thank you Brush-Baby!!

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Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (with Pancake mix?!)

I’ve spoken about it before, but we have a house of picky eaters (really just my toddler), and we are often left with an excess of various food. For example, one day my son LOVES bananas and the next day he hates them. It hurts me deeply to throw away perfectly good food, so I’ve become an inventive chef in my kitchen.

So, what can you make with limited time and overripe bananas (because your son decided the day you brought home the bananas he was no longer going to eat them)? Chocolate chip banana bread!

With four simple ingredients and less than an hour (because as parents we don’t have a lot of time), you can make a delicious treat guaranteed to fill your stomachs and make your home smell like a local bakery.

What you’ll need:

– 4 ripe bananas
– 2 eggs
– 2 cups of pancake mix (YES! Pancake mix)
– 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350

Step 1: Gather your four ripe bananas and mash them up.

* Here’s a trick I like to use when I’m baking at night and want to stay quiet – place all four peeled bananas in a gallon bag, zip up the bag tightly (remove all excess air), and start to smash. Once the bananas are fully mashed up, you can cut the tip of the bag and pipe out the contents like you are icing a cake.

Step 2: Crack and beat your two eggs.

Step 3: Combine the pancake mix (will work with gluten-free pancake mix as well) and chocolate chips, mixing it all together.

Step 4: Mix the eggs into your dry mixture.

Step 5: Fold in the mashed banana.

Step 6: Once all four ingredients are mixed together, evenly dispense the contents into a greased loaf pan.

Step 7: Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 35 minutes on 350 degrees.

Step 8: Cool and enjoy!

I’ve made many types of banana bread over the year, but this is by far my favorite combination EVER! Give it a try and let me know your thoughts. Trust me, it’s delicious!

When Dad Is In Charge

When you’re a mom, it’s assumed you are the one to always power through and take care of everyone at any given moment, but what happens when you get sick? I know, I know, what a horrible thing to say, but it happened! I have been struck by the flu. THE FLU! A three-letter word we as parents, especially moms, never want to hear. It’s like “he who shall not be named.” Don’t say it! Get it out of my house NOW!

The origins of my illness are unknown. Could it have been something my kids brought home from daycare? Was it someone I shook hands with from work? The list of culprits is extensive, but none of that matters, I have been out of commission and the three men in my life – husband, toddler, and baby – have been left to fight for their own.

Now, I will give it to my husband, he does a great job, but a screaming toddler and teething baby can take a toll on anyone. As I laid in bed with a headache like no other headache I’ve experienced before (the fluorescent lighting was trying to take me down), I just let go of my mom control issues and just assumed the following would take place:

(When dad takes the daily photo)

  1. Lotion? What lotion? My husband hates the feeling of lotion, so I assumed my kids will not be moisturized and fall victim of the winter chap.
  2. My toddler would be exposed to some Netflix series, well over his head. Today they watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which I can’t complain too much. At least it wasn’t something ridden with gore and death. I’ll just have a nearly three-year-old question his existence on this planet. Swell!
  3. My children will bully their father. When you have two kids yelling at the top of their lungs, you give in. If my toddler will want puffs, pretzels, cheez-its, goldfish, fruit chews, pediasure, yogurt, and an orange and he’ll get it, because one screaming child is better than two.
  4. When they bump their heads, or face it with my child, fall off the couch, they get a rub on the head and a “you’re OK Bud” instead of some serious mom cuddles.
  5. Finally, my toddler may or may not wash his hands following the use of the potty. Who needs basic hygiene? Not my son!

I could highlight the things I would have done differently, but when it all comes down to it, my husband rocked it. He confirmed everything we speculated, he’s an AWESOME dad! While I was quarantined, my kids:

  1. Got quality one-on-one time with their dad.
  2. They were able to play lightsabers or ninja with their dad without mom chiming in on safety issues.
  3. My toddler was able to follow his dad around and help with his baby brother (who absolutely adores him).
  4. They learned about the infinite expanse of the universe with Neil deGresse Tyson
  5. Finally, they were showed how much they are loved by their dad – more than anything.

To say we are lucky to have my husband is a complete understatement. Hun, if I haven’t said it enough, I love you, the boys love you, and we appreciate everything you do for us!

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