Living with Intention – Parenting

One of the biggest takeaways I have gathered thus far through my journey of motherhood is the resilience of children. It amazes me how they will continuously try something (even if they can’t get it quite right) or re-adjust to whatever is happening in the world around them. They do all of this with a smile on their face(s). Kids are AMAZING!

I’ve recently put my kids to the test. I started a new job, which I love, but it has tilted our world’s axis. We are waking up earlier, getting picked up later or picked up by someone other than mom, and spending less time together on the weekdays. While this has been a tough transition for me, because my husband and kids are my world, they have adapted beautifully. They don’t appear phased (which I won’t take too personally), but I have realized my personal shift. I am far more intentional with my life.

Now you may or may not know this about me, but I am Type A to the point that I have everything organized to the “T” 24/7. No matter what it is, i.e. food, clothing, schedules, etc., I am aligned in every way; however I often I get caught up in the idea of catching up that I fail to enjoy the present. With this new job, I have found myself putting down the phone and other distractions to be deeply entrenched in my family’s lives. Now this is not something I randomly started pursuing, but something I have and will continue to work on.

Here are the techniques I use to be more intentional:

  1. Communication – We do it every day. We talk in person, over the phone, through social media, etc., yet we often fail when it comes to intentional communication. I really try to be cognizant of everyone’s feelings. Listening and taking note of what’s going on in their lives. Asking questions and creating opportunities to build together from those experiences. This will support the growth of your family in a positive direction.
  2. Laugh – There is no need to stress about the tiny details. In the grand scheme of things, life will go on. Instead of stressing yourself out to get everything done and still be Super Mom/Dad, push it to the side and laugh. Spreading laughter to your kids will not only improve their lives, but bring more joy to yours.
  3. Be Present – It’s easy to hide behind the screen (phone, TV, computer, etc.) and lose sight of what’s important. Bring present and focusing your time and energy into your tribe is the best thing you can do. The Instagram post can wait, trust me.
  4. Routine – Now, I mentioned I am the Queen of Routines. While things have changed, we are still operating with focus. Keeping the routine is important. Even after a long day and your kids want to stay up a little longer or eat candy at 8 PM, keep the routine in mind. This consistency is not only good for them, but also helpful for you as a parent and partner.
  5. Say No! – I’m not talking about shutting down your kids and/or spouse/partner, I am talking about saying no things that impede upon your family life. If you work from 9 AM to 5 PM that is when you work (sometimes you have to stay late or travel), but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Your kids are only little once, make them a priority. Instead of saying yes to projects or proposals that can wait until the next morning, politely say no and go home to your family. At the end of the day, it will all get done.

As Steve Maraboli stated, “the universe doesn’t give you what you ask for with your thoughts – it gives you what you demand with your actions.” Living with intention is hard. I am in no way as master at intentional living, but I am working on it. How do you promote an intentional lifestyle? Let me know in the comments.

Good luck on your journey!

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How To Limit Screen Time

How to Limit Screen Time for Kids

I’m guilty! Put me in handcuffs and throw me in the slammer. I have relied on the power of screen time to get me through those rough episodes in public, whiny times at home, and the occasional “will you stop if I give this to you?” moments of parenthood.

I’ve read the research and I know excessive screen time is no beuno when it comes to the little ones. I have worked to be more intentional in limiting screen time, but not necessarily eliminating it all together. I believe there are benefits to watching educational shows or playing learning apps. My oldest can name at least ten types of whales and tell you the difference between an octagon and hexagon – he’s only three. With this said, I don’t want him to turn into a tech zombie before he’s in Kindergarten.

How to Limit Screen Time

Here are five ways to effectively limit screen time for kids:

  1. Break the habit – Make it clear, screen time WILL NOT be a constant. Listen, this may not be the most conventional tactic for all parents, but we’ve never been able to gradually phase out anything in our kid’s lives. My youngest never used a pacifier, but our oldest was an addict. After months of negotiating, we cut him off cold turkey. By day two, there were no complaints or pleas for the paci. Just like the trusty wubbanub, we cut him off from the iPad and life moved on. Instead of grabbing the iPad when he came home from school, he was inspired to play with his toys, build a puzzle, or color a picture.
  2.  Screen time is a treat – If our kids want to watch a movie or their favorite episode of Octonauts, we encourage them to make their beds, clean up the play room, eat all of their dinner (my oldest is a picky eater), or help take care of the dogs. We don’t get what we want just because we want it. It’s a tough lesson, but our preschooler has already established a routine of organization and appreciation. When he gets to sit down with iPad, it’s a treat for hard work.
  3. Incentivize in other ways – Our  three-year-old is strongly driven by incentives. If it’s a sticker or a high five, he wants to be recognized for a job well done. We created a help chart, where he receives a sticker for completing a series of chores, helping his little brother, listening at school, etc. Once he fills up his chart be can exchange his points for a small prize. Lately he has been into Tsum Tsums, so we have been awarding him with a blind bag. He is driven to fill his collection, which in return fills his time and he forgets about wanting to watch Frozen for the hundredth time.
  4. Circulate Toys – OK, so incentives aren’t your thing. One simple way to redirect your child’s attention from the screen is to circulate their toys. This method works for our toddler. By changing out their toys every couple of weeks re-inspires play time. They forget they had those action figures, books, cars, etc. We switch things around about every two weeks and it seems to work.
  5. Set the example – Now, this is the hardest method – eliminating our own use of technology in front of the kids. It’s bad when your three-year-old tells you to put down your phone or step away from the computer (insert parental cringe). Our kids watch our every move and look to us for inspiration. Let’s set the example, and reduce our time on the digital devices. We might even feel better afterwards.

I am making a public vow to reduce my screen time and be more present with my kids, because they are only little for so long. Will you join me and make the pledge today? Let me know in the comments what strategies you will use to limit screen time for your family.

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Why? – Strange Things Toddlers Do

I was introduced to the world of professional wrestling, WWF (World Wrestling Federation – later) at a very young age by my uncle (shout out to Uncle P!). I was the first grader walking around demonstrating the signature moves of D-Generation X, in particular, Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley). If you have no clue, YouTube it and you’ll see the amazingness that is this mid-90s to early 2000s group. My adoration for the athleticism and performance of these individuals often left my teachers and parents saying – “Why?”

“Hannah why are you pretending to jackknife [XYZ person]?” My answer would always be, “Why not?”

Now that I have two kids and one has discovered his true toddler sass, I hear the phrase “why not?” on loop. Also, as a boy mom, I hear this more often than most – at least I’m assuming mothers and fathers of boys are always walking around looking puzzled because their son(s) has decided to do something crazy.

Along with questioning my children’s (keep in mind they are three and one) need to have an impromptu wrestling match like that of the classic Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from Wrestlemania III in the middle of the living room (YouTube it), my list of “why” based moments is extensive.

Here are the top ten most recent reasons I’ve had to say “why?” and slowly shake my head in confusion.

  1. Mom – Why did you aim your penis at your face when you went to the potty?
    Three-year-old – Because the pee wanted to go up!
  2. Mom – Why are you chewing on the baby teether?
    Three-year-old – Because the baby teether is for people not babies!
  3. Mom – Why are you licking the wall?
    Three-year-old – Because I needed to mom!
  4. Mom – *Gives son a new toy* Where are you going?
    Three-year-old – To hide it!
    Mom – Why?
    Three-year-old – Because the worms will get it!!
  5. Mom – Why did you flip over the play kitchen?
    Three-year-old – Because the whale shark was coming, and he wanted popcorn!
  6. Mom – Why are you rubbing petroleum jelly all over your face?
    Three-year-old – Because I can’t breathe! *He thought it was vapor rub*
  7. Mom – Why is your play grill in your bed?
    Three-year-old – My blanket was cold!
  8. Mom – Why are you standing on the coffee table?
    Three-year-old – Because I need to dance!
  9. Mom – Why are you screaming at the drain?
    Three-year-old – The orca won’t stop yelling!
  10. Mom – Why are you not wearing underwear?
    Three-year-old – He needs to breathe!

So, here’s what I know, he watches too much Octonauts (which I secretly love), he’s extremely tactile, and he has a strong understanding of his body. With this said, all I can say is “WHY????”

What is something your kids have done or said that left you at a loss? Let me know in the comments below.

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4 Ways to Teach Your Kids Patience

What is it they always say – patience is a virtue?

I am the first to admit, my patience level is nearly nonexistent. While it has improved over the years, especially with the addition of children (God bless my kids for bringing me down a notch), I am always keeping myself in check. I’m like the Energizer Bunny always on the move and in a hurry, so don’t get in my way.

I am slowly starting to see my lack of patience in my children. Could it be my unfavorable characteristic is now reflected on them or general toddlerdom? We may never know, but what I do know is that I am constantly working towards self-improvement and providing my kids with the tools they need to be patient individuals.

Here are four ways to promote patience –

  1. Parents Practicing Patience – I’ve already admitted my faults, but we should lead by example as parents. My kids are my driving force to actively show what it means to be a mindful and patient person. If mommy can do it, they can do it too!
  2. Slow and Steady – I don’t know if this can be said for all toddlers, but my boys are always on the go. A moment of Zen is very rare and achieved when they are asleep at the end of the day. A great way to establish mindfulness and patience is to introduce activities like coloring, building with Legos, or baking cookies. We want to slow down the soul and enjoy the outcome of taking our time to complete the task at hand.
  3. Celebrate – What kid doesn’t love praise? When our kids practice patience let’s acknowledge them with a job well done. While we should tackle moments of impatience, complimenting them is of the upmost importance. A reward doesn’t hurt either. We have a mindfulness chart at home where my son fills the chart (with stickers) every time he shows patience. When all 12 slots are filled, he can then select a prize from the treasure chest.
  4. Start the Clock – A trick my parents used when I was a youngster – the egg timer. I have found my oldest responds well to the clock. He will sit there and wait for it to ding before he moves to the next activity. “We are going to park in five minutes,” “You can watch your iPad for two more minutes,” or “we will be home in 10 minutes,” are all examples of establishing expectations through time. It eases anxiety and helps when the anticipation of what’s to come.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy

Do you or your kids struggle with mindfulness? How do you address patience? Let me know in the comments below.

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Bye Bye Bad Dreams

My three-year-old started waking up in the middle of the night claiming pink monsters were going to attack, his dinosaur bopped him on the head, and some other creature under his bed was determined to take him down. It’s normal for the imagination to kick in and warp the blissful reality of dreamland, but when it started to impact everyone’s sleep, something needed to be done.

The other night, our son was inconsolable. He abruptly busted into our room sobbing crocodile sized tears. He was so upset and unable to formulate his thoughts and tell us what was wrong. My husband took him back to his room and eventually fell asleep on the floor holding his hand. Yes, it was a sweet moment between father and son, but we didn’t want to establish this as the norm.

As parents we have the power to embellish – transform any household object into a magical token or make bold claims like vegetables give us super powers. Just like our children, so much is possible when it comes to the imagination. When the nightmares started to plague his dreams, my imagination took over. Here is the story about a little boy – the bad dream buster.

Before he lays his head to sleep, the little boy grabs his green magic stone (i.e. flattened marble his mom found when cleaning out her jewelry box). He gives it a kiss and whispers the word “lucky” into the stone. He gently places the stone in a mystical container (also known as a pill box) and carefully places it under his pillow. The fluffy bunny that occupies his bed, watches over the magic stone as the little boy goes to sleep.

He then grabs his magic elixir (one cup of warm water mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle) known to many toddlers as “monster spray.” He lightly sprays his bed, royal subjects (i.e. stuffed animals), and royal throws (blankets) with the magic potion. If a monster catches one whiff of the elixir he is banished from the kingdom FOREVER! The little boy was very generous in his distribution of the “monster spray.” He likes to cover his bases.

Finally, the little boy seeks out the keeper of light (also known as his Miffy night light). She turns even the darkest corners of the kingdom bright with his warm glow. With the flick of a switch, she casts a beam of light around his room, ridding it of any monsters who may be lurking.

Once the little boy feels that he has successfully demolished all the baddies, he softly closes his eyes and enters dreamland. Legend states, he starts to dream of adventures on board the Octopod with Captain Barnacle and the rest of the Octonauts (*cue dramatic music).

What a story, would you believe me if I said it was true, minus some of the colorful additions? This may seem like an entire production, but it works, for right now. He has full ownership of his nighttime routine, which I believe helps eliminate some of those pre-bedtime anxieties.

What are some tricks you use to help your kids go to sleep? Let me know in the comments below.

Sweet dreams!

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Celebrate Diversity – All Are Welcome – Book Review

As parents we have a very important job – to raise the world’s future. The way we decide to raise our kids now will leave a lasting impression for years to come. With the current political climate, the need to create a loving, accepting, and kind environment is more important than ever.

I was raised by two parents who provided me with tools to learn, love, and grow. I’ve kept a lot of my parent’s techniques within my own parenting artillery, but I’ve also tapped into my natural childrearing abilities. I know they are just in the beginning of their lives, but I feel my kids are on the right path to being decent human beings, and it has a lot to do with my how I’ve embraced my role as mom.

My three-year-old has been an empathetic soul from day one. He is always tapping into other’s feelings and providing comfort to those in need. It melts my heart when I hear from his teacher’s that he embraces others with ease. However, like many children, he has started to recognize differences between himself and his friends. As he starts to tap into varying cultural, racial, sexual, etc. aspects of other’s, I want him to keep his heart and mind open as well as erase the idea of judgement, because none of us have the right to pass judgement on others.

Sometimes finding a starting point for those conversations can be difficult, but the dynamic duo of Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman have created a beautiful children’s book, All Are Welcome, to help navigate dialogues in a fun way. With lovely words and captivating illustrations, All Are Welcome has built of world of curiosity and understanding for my son.

All Are Welcome is a enlightening book that follows a group of young children through their school day “where everyone is welcomed with open arms.” Not only does it show that school is a safe and caring space for everyone, but it highlights kids from various backgrounds. The book shows how they come together to learn from one another. They embrace aspects of life different from their own, such as the celebration of the Lunar New Year, with understanding and appreciation.

When we first sat down to read this book, my son was immediately captivated. Eager to flip through every page, he enjoyed sitting down together as a family with a good book in hand. It was after the initial read that we then read it three more times. During our second, third, and fourth takes of the book, we talked about the dynamics of families (i.e. some kids have two mommies, two daddies, a mommy and a daddy, etc.), what is a hijab, what does it mean if one of our friends is blind or visually impaired, and so much more. The questions flooded in, which is exciting for this mom! I LOVE that he wants to understand and learn more.

Through its continuous displays of encouragement, All Are Welcome highlights the beauty of diversity and lends a helping hand to parents, like me, when it comes to talking to our kids about embracing the wonderful things that make each of us different. I have a feeling we will be reading this book for weeks to come, and that’s alright with me!

To get your copy of All Are Welcome, go to >> www.rhcbooks.com <<

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Mom Review: Now Say This – The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma

Parenting [par·ent·ing]: the raising of a child by its parents (Merriam Webster). A simple enough definition, but a loaded word on its own. I don’t know about you, but I am an active consumer of the “parenting book.” What is the best way to raise my child? How should I discipline my child? Should I even discipline my child? These are all questions I ask myself daily.

I have been fortunate enough to have two kids who are innately good, but I can honestly say that my cherub babes have their “moments.” Like many parents understand, those occasional “toddler moments” often leave us wondering if we communicated appropriately and whether we could have diffused the situation in a healthier way.

When I got my hands on a copy of Now Say This – The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma, I had no idea the world of difference it would make in my life. As a mom who is continuously growing as a parent while trying to raise two functioning (hopefully) human beings, this book serves as an excellent tool in my parenting artillery.

Co-authors, Heather Turgeon, MFT and Julie Wright, MFT, clearly understand the brain capacity of a parent with small children. Many parenting tip and technique books set an expectation that mom and dad can and should retain 50 + (give or take) steps on how mold the perfect child. Yeah, right! There is no way I can remember a laundry list of steps, let alone what I did five-minutes ago, but Turgeon and Wright make it easy with their three-step approach.

The ALP or the Attune, Limit Set, and Problem Solve approach, creates a space of kindness and accountability for both the parent and the child.

  1. Attune: watch, listen, and understand
  2. Limit set: state and hold reasonable limits or state a reality
  3. Problem solve: engage your child in creating solutions

I found this method to be immensely impactful with both my three-year-old and my one-year-old. Even though they are close in age, their ability to communicate is vastly different; however, this approach makes easy to connect with them, in their own way, at their level.

This book not only covers the ALP approach, it also provides proactive tools and application examples to ensure family balance. With a wide-range of presented real-life scenarios, I can tackle many a toddler mishap in a healthy and effective manner. Together my kids and I can find a way to resolve the situation.

If you’re a parent, parent-to-be, teacher, or anyone who works with kids, I strongly encourage you to absorb this insightful information. Within a week, the way my kids and I communicated completely transformed. Rather than feeling frustrated, we were able to walk through the situation(s) together. No more tears from either kid or parent. Just a mom, dad, and two toddlers laughing, smiling, and in complete harmony. Thank you, Turgeon and Wright; you are the true rock stars in my new scope of successful communication.

To learn more about this book and to get your copy of Now Say This – The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma, go to Penguin Random House.

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To My Husband on Father’s Day

With Father’s Day this weekend, I wanted to take a few moments and gush over my husband. I am beyond fortunate to have found my person when I was 14-years-old. Not many people can say they found their soulmate in high school, but I can!

Douglas and Hannah High School

Wow! Throwback!

When we started dating, I knew in the depths of my soul we were going to be together forever (dun dun dun!). The idea of getting married and having kids with him was more than a dream, I knew it was going to be my reality.

This man is not only a phenomenal husband and best friend, but he is also a stellar father to my boys. When we found out we were having our first son, we were overjoyed. I remember looking over to my husband when the ultrasound tech gave us the news, and the look on his face was priceless. His eyes filled with tears of joys and he grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly.

Rorie and Douglas

Photo courtesy of Hillary Carpio Photography

I looked at the monitor where the first image of my baby boy was proudly displayed and thought of how fortunate this baby was to have him as not only a father, but as a role model. My husband is hardworking, committed to his family, loving, and a true gentleman.

He does everything in his power to make sure my kids know how much they are loved. The words “I love you” are said nonstop in our household. He also expresses his love for me in a way that sets the perfect example for how they should love others.

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Even during the rage of a toddler tantrum, my husband is beyond encouraging. He helps my son work through all of those baby hulk emotions. When my son can’t decide what snack he wants and bounces from crackers to goldfish to yogurt, he shows an immense amount of patience (honestly it can be a 30-minute decision-making process).

In a world full of corruption, I know my sons will make a difference. They will be loving, kind, nonjudgmental, supportive, and advocates in their community. The positive impact they make will be because they have two parents who do their best in raising them, but more importantly they have an outstanding dad!

When I see the love of my life with my baby boys, my heart just melts and I see all of my dreams coming true! Thank you sweetheart for loving me and blessing me with the two best kids around. We love you!

Parenting the Best of Each Decade

It seems we are always asking ourselves, what is the best way to parent? Now, I certainly do not have the answer (could you imagine if I did? I would be a millionaire), but what I do know is how I parent my children.

I look at the generations before me, in particular those closest to me, and think to myself, “well they turned out pretty good” (mom and dad you’re perfect J). So, what did my great grandparents, grandparents, and parents do when raising their kids?

The Girls

Four Generations

I’ve realized I am raising my children with bits and pieces of tactics from the amazing parents that came before me. Here are what I believe are the best parts of parenting styles through the decades.

1950/60 – During the 50s and 60s there was the method of trustful parenting; the idea of letting kids explore without rules and restrictions. Now don’t go to thinking I’m letting my two-year-old gallivant around the neighborhood without supervision. I don’t even want to envision what that would look like. When it comes to exploration, I encourage my little ones to discover new things (with safety boundaries of course). There is nothing like seeing your kid’s face when they discover something new and exciting!

1970 – Before I dig into the parenting style of instinctive parenting, I must preface that I do ask for help and guidance when I need it; sometimes I just don’t know what to do.  Parents of the 70s trusted that they knew what they were doing when it came to raising and caring for their kids. I try my best to be confident in the decisions I make when it comes to my children. Are they always the best methods? No, but I learn from them and move forward on what’s best for my kiddos.

1980/90 – As a child of the 90s, there is absolutely nothing (in my opinion) that can touch the decade that brought us the Blues Traveler, jellie sandals, and Fruitopia. I should also add, that I think my parents did a good job raising us to be independent, self sufficient, and hardworking individuals. The 80s and the 90s really focused on independence. We understood and appreciated self play; we let our imaginations take over. My toddler is great at playing with his little friends at school, but he is also a wonderful self player. I will often catch him playing with his toys, acting out a scene, and laughing. His imagination takes over!

Baby Hannah

Baby Hannah via 1991

2000/Now – I am a child of the 90s, but I am a parent of the here and now. Like most millennial parents (is that a bold statement to make?), we focus on the emotions – our emotions, their emotions, and the emotions of others. When my son is having a “toddler moment.” I’m right on it, talking him through all of his feelings. To be honest, my hope is that the atmosphere of openness I am developing within my family, will create a true and positive line of communication between all of us. I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me and expressing their feelings no matter what.

My Boys

My Boys – Photo by Hillary Carpio Photography

So, what does it mean to be a good parent? I’m not sure, but I am being the best parent I can be for my kids. I’ll have my victories and my losses, but in the end, I know my kids are well loved and I would do anything for them.

What’s in My Toddler’s Easter Basket – Hoppy Easter 2017

There are two things you should know about me; 1. I love most holidays and 2. I love to shower my loved ones with gifts. So, when the Easter Bunny asked me to step in this year and put together my son’s Easter basket, I hopped right on board!

My son is at a great age where he gets excited over gifts and celebrations, which means Easter 2017 is going to be a whole lot of FUN! I had a blast carefully picking out each stuffer for my son’s Easter basket.

Here’s a look at what goodies he will be receiving this year:

As I mentioned in my blog post, Toddler Favorites: Top 5 Netflix Movies and Shows, my son LOVES Disney’s Zootopia, so I wanted to make sure I included a few pieces from his favorite movie in his basket. I found this great action figure set of Nick, the Fox, and the characters from the ice cream parlor scene. In addition to this playset, I found a Zootopia Play Pack which includes crayons, coloring sheet, and stickers. The Play Pack is perfect to throw in the diaper bag and have on hand at restaurants or on-the-go.

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Zootopia Play Pack Grab & Go via         Dollar Tree

Spring is here and the sun is shining, quite brightly I might add, so I grabbed my son an adorable pair of mirrored sunglasses from Target. He’s always trying to steal my sunglasses, so now he can have a pair of his own.

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Toddler mirrored sunglasses via Target

Along with the sunglasses, the Target dollar section has adorable Easter items, perfect for any bunny. Of those items, I grabbed a blue bunny bubble wand and light up bunny baton. We are going to have countless hours of fun blowing bubbles outside and playing Troll Hunter with his light up wand.

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Bubble Wand via Target

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Bunny Baton via Target

My son has been mastering drinking from a cup without a lid, so I found the most adorable tribal cup from Target to add to his basket. It matches the plates and bowls we already have in stock. We will be practicing with water until we are spill-free for up to 10 days straight.

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Tribal Drinking Cup via Target

Finally, no Easter basket is complete without candy. My kid could care less about chocolate, it’s the only way we truly differ personality wise, so I grabbed him some gummy treats. Along with Zootopia, he’s a fan of both Mickey Mouse and Dory from Finding Dory. The gummy treats are accompanied by stickers. My son is obsessed with stickers and sticking them on everyone else except for himself.

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Disney Junior Gummies and Stickers via Dollar Tree

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Finding Dory Fish Gummies via   Dollar Tree

Easter 2017 is going to be exciting with a new baby and new home to celebrate in, but I want my son’s Easter basket to be an added piece of bliss on April 16th.  He deserves all of the hoppy-ness in the world.

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What are you putting in your kid’s Easter basket this year?