Joy + Energy: A Joynergy Review

If you know me, you know I have a deep love for subscription services. The idea of being continuously surprised on a monthly (or seasonal basis depending on the service) is the most delightful experience. While my husband is not a fan of the occasional surprise (instantaneous gratification lol), my boys have inherited my love for the magical unknown. With the holiday season upon us, a subscription service for the kiddos is a wonderful gift. 

 

Joynergy is the toy subscription service tailored for your child. You (the parent) let the beautiful folks at Joynergy know your child’s gender and age and they do the rest. Your kiddos will receive a great box filled with toys designed for your child’s growth and development. Not to mention, the box shows up within 3 to 6 days from your purchase! This is a subscription service that grows with you and your child. 

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I was delighted to watch the boys open their Joynergy box. Christmas came early for these kiddos. Their box came for 4 specifically curated toys and one mystery toy. This box they received:

  • Blind Box Mini Alloy Cars Series: With the mini alloy cars, the boys were able to find out, can a VW van go faster than a taxi (surprisingly yes!).

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  • Click & See Projector Toy: My two-year-old has been running around with his handheld projector, so I haven’t been able to capture a picture of him, but he favors the ocean life slides. When he finds the shark, he screams “DO-DO!”

  • Bear-Shape LCD Writing Tablet: My four-year-old is preparing for Kindergarten, so the LCD writing tablet is perfect for practicing his letters. He LOVES writing his name over and over again.

  • Mini Dinosaur Egg 6-Pack: When you’re a toddler, and you’re one of my kids, you obviously have a deep love for dinosaurs. I love listening to my oldest son name each individual dinosaur.

  • 10 PC Cartoon Finger Puppets (mystery toy): Our finger puppets a HALLOWEEN themed. Did they know we have a deep love for October 31st? Either way, we are obsessed with these spooktacular puppets. 

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While the kids are all about the toys, I am all about the quality and the impact it has on their developmental growth. When they are playing with Joynergy toys, I trust they are having a thrilling and thoughtful time. So, this holiday or any time during the year, gift your kids the joy of Joynergy. Head on over to www.joynergy.com and enter the code JOY10 to receive $10 off your first box

 

Do you love a subscription service? Let me know in the comments. 

 

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Nutrition Explorers – Kids Night In Box Review

“Our bodies are our gardens our wills are our gardeners.” – William Shakespeare 

If we left our kids (most of them) to their own culinary wills, they would eat so many white cheddar cheese puffs, chocolate chip cookies, and fruit snacks, that they would turn into a giant ball of junk food. Even with picky eaters who prefer the unhealthier options, we can teach our kids the importance of well rounded meals. 

Even if he doesn’t want to eat it, we encourage our oldest (four-year-old), to take at least one bite of everything we eat as a family. Sometimes there are wins, but most of the time there are a lot of losses. No matter what, we always champion him for trying. He’s proud of just eating one (yes, that’s right), just one black bean, because he hates them, but at least he tries. 

In this month’s Kids Night In Box – Nutrition Explorers, my oldest has dived into a food expedition. With every Kids Night In Box, there is a special theme. The Nutrition Explorers box was timely, as we have been working on his eating habits. Jam packed with so many wonderful activities, healthy eating was provided a fun platform my son could easily support. 

Eat A Rainbow

The first activity we completed together, as a unit, was the Rainbow Activity sheet. Armed with pastels, we colored in our rainbow and discussed fruits and vegetables that are the same colors. My four-year-old profoundly stated as he colored brown all over the rainbow illustration that the fruits and veggies “turn brown anyway.” I mean…he’s not wrong. The best part of this activity was watching his face light-up as he called our various fruits and veggies. He paced back and forth until the moment he would pause and say, “wait! I know! How about a…a…a…PINEAPPLE?!” It is proudly displayed on our fridge and serves as a reminder to healthy options he can consider when trying to “eat the rainbow.”

Making Mill Mama - Nutrition Explorers 1

Explore Nutrition

One of my favorite classes during my undergrad career was Nutrition. I just found it so interesting and enlightening. I vividly remember sitting down with the My Plate chart to create a meal that satisfied the good fats and cholesterols, dietary needs, etc. With this activity, my son and I filled out our My Plate diagram together. With his crafted binoculars in hand, we examined each provided sticker and placed it appropriately on the plate. He quickly identified was grain, protein, dairy, vegetable, and/or fruit. There were a few items like sushi that teetered between a few areas of the chart – protein, grain, and vegetables. He thought that was hysterical. Once committed to the activity, he quickly took full ownership, telling me what was what. Like our Rainbow Activity sheet, the Explore Nutrition My Plate sheet is proudly displayed on our fridge for the world to see. 

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Food Journal

Included in this month’s Kids Night In Box is a My Plate Food Journal. It was the first item my son was drawn towards. He immediately flipped through the pages and demanded my husband sit down with him to fill it out. What I love about this journal is that he can track not only his food intake and exercise, but he can rate his dietary choices and experiences. The other night we had fish tacos with black beans, and I’m not going to lie to you, they received a very poor rating from my four-year old. There were a lot of circled unhappy faces; however, with this said, he tried it and determined on his own (not by assumption) that he does not like fish tacos and black beans. Now, every night after dinner, my husband and son sit down together to fill out his journal. It’s pretty funny to see things through the eyes of a preschooler. 

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I say this every month, but the Kids Night In Box, is the box that keeps on giving. Along with the countless games and activities, each box comes with a hand selected children’s book, applicable to the box, and a snack sample for the kiddos to try. If you are looking for a way to bring the family together or to drive thoughtful thinking between you and your child, this is the perfect subscription service. We LOVE Kids Night In! To get your box CLICK HERE

Here’s a quick question for you – what is your favorite family meal? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Teeth Whitening for Busy Parents – Smile Brilliant

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A TEETH WHITENING KIT HERE
>> www.smilebrilliant.com/g/makingsofamillennialmama << 

Use the code MAKINGSOFAMILLENNIALMAMA15 for 15% off your whitening kit.

My love for coffee started at the ripe age of seven-years-old. My Nana would end every meal with a cup of black coffee. One day we were sitting side-by-side at an eight-seater table at the local Fireside Restaurant (RIP – gone but not forgotten) and I turned to my Nana and asked for a sip. She pivoted, looked at me and said, “sure, but I don’t think you are going to like it.” Spoiler alert – I LOVED it! It was that very moment that opened my life to the power of the coffee bean. 

 

Why am I telling you this story? Well, I’ve been building coffee stains on my pearly whites (not so pearly) since 2nd grade. Twenty one years of black coffee has graced my smile and it has increased ever since I became a mom. A lot of people will joke that “coffee is LIFE” when you’re a mom, but it’s no joke. Between kids, graduate school, and a full-time job, coffee IS life (I’m drinking coffee while I type out this blog post). While I’m concerned about functioning on the day-to-day, I am also worried about my smile and the impression it leaves when I’m navigating through everyday life. 

 

BEFORE:

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Time is limited, so finding an effective and easy-to-use teeth whitening system at home was a must! I’ve used whitening strips and toothpaste, but they weren’t cutting it. When I was introduced to Smile Brilliant, my teeth whitening game was elevated. From the very beginning, the journey to a brighter smile was seamless. 

 

Smile Brilliant is a tray system with teeth whitening gel. After completing my consent card, Smile Brilliant immediately sent over an impression kit to ensure the best trays. Now if you’re like me, you may be paranoid as to whether or not you completed the impressions correctly, but no need to worry! If you need more material due to an error if you would like the kind folks over at Smile Brilliant to review your impressions before sending them in, you can call or email; they are happy to help. 

 

Once I received my trays, I was able to whiten my teeth while on-the-go, in the evening before bed, or while meal prepping for the week ahead. With four easy steps – 1) remove cap from whitening syringe, 2) apply a thin ribbon of whitening gel around the outer surface of the trays, 3) fit the whitening trays to your upper and lower teeth, and 4) whiten for 45 minutes to 3-hours (depending on sensitivity). 

 

I am known for having sensitive teeth and gums, so the lovely folks at Smile Brilliant provided me with desensitizing gel. Immediately following a whitening session, I place, with the trays, the desensitizing gel on my teeth for 15 to 20 minutes following the whitening session. This did wonders for my teeth as a progressed on my whitening adventure. 

 

AFTER:

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Twenty-one years of coffee stains have been lifted and I am happily smiling all over town with my shiny, white teeth. I was able to do all of this without sacrificing time with my kids and family. It’s the perfect product for the mom on-the-go – easy-to-use, effective, and excellent customer service. Smile Brilliant helps me smile brilliantly. 

Enter for your chance to win your own teeth whitening kit from Smile Brilliant by going to >> www.smilebrilliant.com/g/makingsofamillennialmama <<

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Use the code MAKINGSOFAMILLENNIALMAMA15 for 15% off your teeth whitening kit

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN YOUR WHITENING KIT HERE

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6 Fall Must-Haves for Moms On-the-Go

Sweater weather will be here before we know it (does a happy dance- jazz hands and all). As the south is currently experiencing a heat wave, I am eagerly looking forward to my season. The crisp autumn air, bonfires, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and of course my favorite holiday, HALLOWEEN! Do you know the song Where are you Christmas that Cindy Lou Who sings while looking out the window in the Grinch, that’s me, but I’m singing “Where are you faaa-all! Why can’t I find you?” 

Fall is also the busiest time of the year (in my opinion) for moms. We are constantly on the go between kids, family outings, work, sports, school, etc., you name it, and we are probably artfully trying to balance all of life’s happenings. As a working mom with two kids and in grad school, I am always perfecting my juggling act. Flexibility and versatility are key! With this said, here are my 6 fall must-haves for the moms on-the-go. 

1) A transformational sweater: When there is a chill in the air, a chic, quality sweater is a necessity. I don’t know about you, but I need something I can dress up and dress down with ease. I want to go from a work function to a sports function with just a quick change of my pants/skirt. Wooden Ships has beautifully and ethically constructed sweaters that are perfect for the fall season. They are so soft and stylish – I want to wear my sweater 24/7. Each sweater is made to order, which means zero waste. This eco-conscious mama could not be more delighted with their commitment to the environment, their employees, as well as the customer.  They give back to many wonderful causes and consider their carbon footprint. I mean…it’s the obvious choice for your sweaters this fall season. 

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This camo knit, can pair nicely with jeans, as seen here, with a nice pair of dress pants, over a long dress, or a skirt with tights. Is it OK to wear the same sweater every single day? Make sure you head over to Wooden Ships to stock up and support this wonderful family-owned/family-run business. 

Visit https://www.wooden-ships.com/

2) Keeping it warm: I am consistently fueled by the likes of black coffee and black tea. I have a cup on the way to work, midday at the office, and once I get home. I have to stay perky. While on the go from swim lessons to soccer practice, a good thermos is my best friend. 1) I don’t want to drop a pretty penny at a franchised coffee shop 2) I often don’t have time to make a pit stop and 3) there is always a little extra coffee left in case of an emergency. There are so many wonderful options out there. 

3) Pucker up: I LOVE a dark lip. The fall season is the perfect time for a berry or wine lipstick. I have found a vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-conscious lipstick that lasts all day. ALL DAY! Scouts honor, this lipstick is amazing and is perfect for any occasion, it also pairs lovely with the camo sweater from Wooden Ships. Folly Fire lipstick in Full House is a must-have for your fall cosmetic collection. 

4) Back it up: You never know when you are going to make an abrupt stop at a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. What happens if your phone battery or camera battery dies? The horror!!! Take a backup battery or portable charger just in case. You don’t want to miss the magical fall moment. You can grab a few portable charger for $3 to $5 in the Bulleye’s section of Target (a.k.a. The Mothership). 

5) Bundle up: It’s as simple as keeping blankets and jackets in the trunk. On the east coast, fall is often accompanied by cooler temps (we like to go from heat wave to arctic blizzard). We have a hard time finding a happy medium. It’s handy to have a blanket/jacket or two in the car, just in case there is a serious chill in the air. 

6) Crock it and pot it: A good crockpot recipe is an on-the-go mom’s favorite thing! I love to make a hearty stew or chili during the fall and winter months. Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe? Let me know in the comments below. I am looking to expand my recipe repertoire.  

What do you include in your fall must-haves? Drop me a comment below! 

 

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Summer Reading with Kids

“Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King

When I open a book, I am instantaneously thrown into a world of wonder. I am delighted with every turn of the page. I long for others to feel the excitement that I feel every time I pick up a book. It’s magical! I am fortunate enough to have two kids who love the power of a good book.

Reading has become a daily occurrence in our household. Books are read while at school and at home on the weekends, but every night is closed with two books. This is OUR time. While my kids are still young and in school during the work week, we are creating an environment which thrives on the written word. These tactics can transform the summer reader as well.

The Books of Summer

While reading should be the reward, developing incentives for reading can be beneficial to the young reader. We are participating in the 1,000 books before kindergarten challenge with our local library, but this can be transformed into a monthly challenge for kids. A book a day, 10 books a month, 50 books for the summer, etc., these are great options for kids. For each book they read, they will receive a sticker. For every 10 stickers, they will be rewarded for a small toy, experience, etc. A grand adventure ahead!

Create Your Own Story

Tapping into their creative side can be beneficial. Challenging kids to write and illustrate their own children’s book can be a summer-long project. Each day, they can spend 20-30 minutes on their book. By the end of their summer, they can host their own author reading for friends and family. Taking pride in their own creation is but one aspect of the project, by reading from their favorite authors, they can gain inspiration for their own developments.

Invest in Your Own Library 

The summer is the perfect time to build your family library. We have four bookshelves filled with books across our house. We love investing and growing our collection of beautiful and inspiring children’s books. Penguin Random House has released three beautiful books that have been the ideal additions to our storybook collection.

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PAPER SON  – The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung & Chris Sasaki 

From China to America with only a few papers in his hands, Tyrus Wong became an illustrator for Disney, using his gorgeous watercolor technique to create the iconic backgrounds of Bambi. Through the enchanting writing of Julie Leung and the illustrations of former character designer for Pixar Animation Studio, Chris Sasaki, Wong’s journey from immigrant to celebrated artist is wonderfully captured. My four-year-old is drawn (no pun intended) to the detailed illustrations of this children’s book. He will sit in his reading corner, flipping from page to page, carefully examining the beauty that is this book.

Available for purchase on September 24, 2019. 

Take Your Pet to School Day by Linda Ashman & Suzanne Kaufman

One word can be used to describe this book – FUN! When pets show up at Maple View Elementary School unannounced, chaos ensues and my kids bust into instantaneous laughter. Through Ashman’s skillful rhyming and Kaufman’s captivating illustrations (BIG fans over here), kids can learn the power of classroom etiquette with new friends. This children’s book is perfect for kids and pet lovers alike.

Now available for purchase.

When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

Dealing with your emotions can be hard. Understanding your feelings as a kids can be even harder. Through her debut piece, writer and illustrator Eva Eland introduces sadness as a welcomed guest; exploring its intention, giving it a name and form, and discovering ways and activities to approach moments of melancholy through mindfulness. It is important to respect the feeling(s). This is truly a beautiful piece which provides thoughtful conversation with the kids.

Now available for purchase.

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

These are just a few ways to encourage summer reading. What are your ideas? Let me know in the comments. I am always looking for new and exciting ways to encourage reading with my kiddos.

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5 Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

Today marks the first day of Spring (even though the temperature outside says otherwise), and this means one thing – SPRING CLEANING! Is anyone else as excited to clean the deep and dark corners of their house like me? No…just me? OK!

It’s the time of year where everyone sets up their yard sale at the edge of their driveway and prays to make a little extra cash by hocking off their stuff they no longer want. In the day and age of Marie Kondo, I have a feeling you will be seeing more of your neighbors setting up for the community yard sale.

* As an aside, don’t ask your toddler if an item “brings them joy.” They will say yes to EVERYTHING! You still have the right to make an executive decision regarding the 5,000 Hot Wheels, 52,000 dinosaurs, and 1 million building blocks they possess.

Not only do I love the chance to purge, but I LOVE a thrifting moment. [To the tune of Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana] “you get the best of both worlds!” My favorite yard sale/thrift find is this 1908 map of Union County, North Carolina. It’s amazing!

1908 Map of Union County, NC

A yard sale brings out all types of people – the observer, the peruser, and the hardcore thrifter (I’m somewhere in between the latter two). It’s important to provide a desirable experience for all involved parties on the day of your sale. Here are my five tips to setting up a successful yard sale for the buyer and the seller.

5 Tips for a Successful Yard Sale:

  1. Take advantage of the Community Yard Sale. When you team up with neighbors, your reach will grow even more. Think about how you want to grow your following on social media and apply it to your yard sale. Like, comment, save, and tag your neighbors.
  2. Timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to a fluid and positive yard sale experience. Consider hosting your yard sale at the start of the month, in particular the first weekend of a month. When we think about the “average” person’s pay period, the beginning and end of the month are often when they have the most cash on hand. “Show me the money!” (Jerry Maguire anyone?).
  3. Once you’ve cleaned out your items, sort and organize. The worst thing is to show up to a yard sale and it’s in a state of chaos. I have no desire to dig through your stash of items unless you are set up at an antique roadshow in the middle of a field (it’s all about the ambiance).
  4. We all LOVE a deal, and if you say otherwise, I think you may be fibbing. Look for opportunities to provide a deal to the public. For example, 5 books for $1.00 or 4 onesies for $2.50. It is also important to advertise and make those deals as visible as possible. It will save the “customer” from asking you and save your time from answering question after question.
  5. I would need more than my fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve been to a yard sale where an individual is trying to sell something that just SHOULD NOT be sold. Hundreds of pre-loved teddy bears, Microsoft 97’ owners manuals, shoes missing their soles, and outdated children’s safety items (i.e. car seats) are advertised for sale at countless yard sales across the nation. Please DO NOT be this person – know thy customer!

What other tips and tricks would recommend for a yard sale? What do you look for when you’re thrifting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Finding Balance in a Life of Chaos

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.”
– Thomas Merton

The word balance ironically makes my body wobble back and forth from anxiety. I am at a phase in my life where I have more than enough going on (we all feel like this at some point). On top of being a wife, mom to two little boys, full-time employee, I am also pursuing my master’s degree, which means my evenings are consumed with class and schoolwork. If this schedule gives you a case of the sympathetic anxieties, I certainly understand and appreciate your concern.

Before I graduated high school, back in the day, I was pretty chill and let everything (for the most part) roll off my shoulders. When I started college, I assumed unexplained anxiety and started wearing the weight of the world on my shoulders. No one asked me to; I just felt like I needed to take on the task. Now that I have a family, work, and a continued pursuit of higher education, I am now the mom running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I often look insane and probably scare away any of the other parents who have their lives together (at least externally). Let’s get real though, social media does not help the overworked and exhausted mama, because only the best is captured by my fellow parents. I am guilty of this as well, but I will take a moment to share a snapshot of finding my one-and-a-half-year-old eating a crayon because I trusted he would be fine in the playroom by himself. Why was he in the playroom by himself? I had to answer a work email on a Saturday. I say all of this because I want, no, I NEED balance.

On this journey of balance, I’ve had a few realizations. Here are the five things you need to do to get started re-balancing your life –

  1. Call on the village: You don’t have to do this on your own. Call on your village to help when needed. Lucky for me, I have a great life partner who steps up all the time. I sure do appreciate him and all that he does, but sometimes he can’t be there because of work or coaching, so I have my family right around the corner to offer additional support. My family drops everything to help pick up the kids, watch the boys when I have a company call later in the evenings, take the boys on adventures when I have school work that has piled up, etc. We are lucky to have them. Don’t feel less than if you need help. We all need help at some point in our lives.
  2. Don’t compare: For many of us, we digest content through social media. For me, I am a lover of Instagram. I love snapshot content. As I mentioned earlier, we cannot put ourselves down if we are not like the Insta moms who have 50K followers, crisp white backdrops, and their cherub babies in perfect poses with rosy red cheeks. I’m lucky to capture a picture of my kids without having to tell them to stop hitting each other, not to pick their noses, to go clean their face, etc. In the same realm, we can’t compare memories made. The memories made of arts and crafts, playing on the playground, visiting the pet store, etc. should not be looked down upon compared to those of parents taking their kids to Disney World, Hawaii, or Time Square in NYC. You are still a great parent, so don’t compare yourself to others. Your kids are going to cherish the time together, no matter what you’re doing.
  3. Maximize your time: Who else loves a planner and calendar? This mama is obsessed. I love to have everything laid out in an easily consumed format. My husband has even tapped into this obsession and created a digital family calendar. We know at the start of everyday what to anticipate. When there are moments of down time, fill them with productive activities, like one-on-one time with the kiddos. I try to make an effort to spend down-time with my kids. If it’s down time during the work day, use the time to look at your to-do lists, consume a podcast, or read for grad school. If you’re like me, I am always concerned that I am using my time effectively, so using your time to care for yourself, spend quality time with the babes, or prep for the future is a great way to not feel guilty about having free time.
  4. Self-care: Take care of yourself! You can’t be a great partner, mom, employee, student, etc. if you’re not taking care of yourself. I make a point to have at least 30 minutes of me time daily. If it’s watching a YouTube video, taking a therapeutic bath, or watching re-runs of the Great British Bake Off (my guilty pleasure), you are becoming the best version of yourself. You are not shellfish; you’re thinking about everyone around you. It’s OK. Go take a bubble bath.
  5. Keeping working: Balance is a hard thing to achieve, so think of this as an effort of achieving fulfillment. Are you living a fulfilled life? Once you feel fulfilled, balance will follow. This is a process, just buckle up for the ride and take everything in stride. You can do this!

Do I currently balanced? No, but I’m getting there and I’m not doing it alone. I have the best group of folks supporting me through this journey. If you don’t think you have the support system you need, I’m here for you! We’ll find balance together.

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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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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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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.