Family · Household · Preschool · Toddlerhood

The Reasons Why We Love Celebrating

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Have you appreciated a dragon yet?

It’s the end of January now, and many people are still feeling that holiday letdown. The excitement of the end of the year holidays gets us into overdrive. Then January second hits and the breaks are on. My kids felt it too.

Tempest would ask me “what day is today?”

When I answered “Tuesday” I could tell she was disappointed.

That is because what she meant was “what are we celebrating?”

This is when we decided to make celebrating part of our everyday lives, all year long. We have done so, by embracing the craziness, the silliness, and the all-out lavish holidays the internet has to offer.

There is a holiday out there for every day of the year. Some aren’t so suited for kids. My kids don’t get excited about Clean out your computer Day (Feb 12th). and every day for them is Work Naked Day (Feb 1st). But they do find joy in Eat Ice Cream For Breakfast Day (Feb 3rd).

Here are some of the Holidays we have celebrated lately:

Appreciate A Dragon Day

 

Bubble Bath Day

 

National Popcorn Day

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How We Make it Special:

Most of these holidays we don’t go over the top with. I might make something special for a meal. National popcorn day we had Popcorn chicken from KFC and White chocolate covered popcorn with sprinkles (Known as Party popcorn in this house).

Here are some of the things I think about when looking at holidays

  • Menu
    • What do I need from the store?
    • What can I make into something fun? (Such as dragon eggs for Dragon Day)
  • Coloring Pages
  • Is there an activity involved? (Like taking a bath for Bubblebath Day)
  • Are we going to go somewhere?
  • Should I buy toys or things from the store?
    • My favorite things for an inexpensive celebration
      • Silly String
      • Glow Sticks
      • Party Hats
      • Hit up the party section, there are a ton of little additions. You’ll spend a dollar, your kids will think you are the coolest

Ready for Your Own Fun?

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Toddlerhood

When Can You Say They Are Potty Trained?

So, I would like to take a second to talk about something only moms find themselves obsessed with, poop. It’s at this point that some of you might want to stop reading, but I suspect you might be like me. From the moment your newborn is born you start frantically worrying about their poop. Do they do it enough? too much? are they having too hard of a time doing it? What exactly does this color mean? With every new milestone also comes changes in babies potty habits.

And then of course you hit potty training. Tempest is extremely stubborn and attempts to potty train her (starting at about 15 months old when she showed interest in the potty seat) mostly ended in screaming and crying and her begging to put on a diaper. So it never seemed right for us to force it. I wasn’t in a hurry.

Honestly, diapers don’t bother me that much. Without diapers she would do ok, until she had to pee, then she would hold it and cry until she couldn’t anymore then she would pee all over the floor. I didn’t want to traumatize her by forcing her to sit on the potty, so we backed off and left her be. At around 3 she still wasn’t potty trained, but she was doing much better. When we were home we would let her run around naked and as long as she didn’t have clothes on, she would go in the potty. But when we went somewhere she had to have a diaper on all the time.

Until last week. A week ago on thursday (the 21st), after 3 days of being home naked and no accidents, we put a diaper on her for gymnastics because she wouldn’t go without one. As soon as we got home the diaper came off and she continued to run naked. This is the last time a diaper has been on her.

The next few days we let her be, then went for the test. We went out to lunch, no diaper. We brought a little travel potty seat and a change of clothes and a towel in case of any messes and went off. She did great; she tried the potty there twice, and got annoyed with mom asking if she had to pee 20 million times.  Later we went over to my in-law’s house for dinner and she continued her streak on no diapers.

Yesterday, it was time for gymnastics again. Until this point, she had been doing good in dresses with no underwear, but for gymnastics she had to wear pants. I, of course, was a nervous wreck the entire time. She was fine.

It’s now been over a week since my baby has had on a diaper, and she has only had 2 accidents that entire time, but I just don’t feel confident to say she is potty trained yet.

But the truth is, I don’t think there is a line. I don’t think we can say with certainty that potty training is done, and potty trained began. It’s slow, sometimes painful, fairly exhausting, but she is also so proud. She is so excited to be a “big kid” and go in the potty chair.

I hope to have this same excitement with Alice (Hopefully soon and not wait until she is 3 1/2) and soon enough we will be done with diapers. And maybe I won’t have to ask tiny humans “Do you have to pee?” every ten minutes.

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Snack time while trying out potty chairs
Family · Household · Toddlerhood

Preparing to Prepare to Move

You may have noticed a little extra silence around here. We’ve been busy around here. As some of you might know, we have been working to sell our house. The thing about selling is that as soon as your house hits the market you think about moving, but you have no idea when that will happen. For us our house has been on the market for almost a year now. With any luck we will be moving very soon. The worst part of this whole experience has been living from month to month. You think that at any time you need to be prepared to move within the month. Throughout this last year we have learned a lot about our family and how we live

1. How much stuff we actually have.

Even after a year of pairing down junk, we still have a house full of stuff. It’s amazing how much that we actually have. Every day I find another thing we don’t need. yet still our basement is half full (which is an improvement from all the way full). We don’t buy hardly anything, yet still our life is run by stuff.

2.
How little stuff we need

When I really started thinking about things we absolutely needed to live, the list is very small.

We of course also have the list of stuff that we could manage to live without short-term, but not if its going to be another year. This sort of categorizing has driven me a little insane. I have been tempted to stick post it notes on everything we own to tell me when and where it is going. So far my house has avoided post-it note collages, but I make no guarantee about in the future.

3.
How much my family lives for schedules

Besides the instant decision to clean house, another side effect of listing your house is that you have to start planning your life around showings. I hate showings. I hate life with showings. The house must be clean and show ready at all times, this leaves little time to do anything else.

But the benefit to this has been my family has found a love of schedules. Because I know I have little time a week we have begun to plan everything. This is also another reason for the silence on this part. With our new schedule, we leave little down time. It means a lot of family time and fun activities, but not so much time to write.

Hopefully this is over soon

We continue to plan for our big move, without a completely clear idea of when that will happen (although we hope it will be soon). In the meantime, I’m enjoying clearing out the clutter, having extra special family time, and getting life simplified and in order.

And if any one has tips on how to move with two little ones, please, please, please share. That will be a whole other ball game.

Mom Life · Toddlerhood

Lazy Mom’s Survival Tool Box

Mom Confession: I don’t want to spend all my time making my kid’s lives magical. Most of the time I love creating fun things for them to do and planning trips and outings. But sometimes I just want to stay at home and not do anything. Or at the very least catch up on housework and the latest American Ninja Warrior (that’s right I’m obsessed).

Today is one of these days. It’s hot outside. Way too hot to want to do anything. And even with the air conditioner on, our house will be hot. The girls love outside time and need it to burn off extra energy. Without it the energy converts to whines and complaints. But outside is just too hot for two little girls who overheat at 60 degrees. And I’m tired. I’m running on less than 6 hours of sleep a night. I’m sore and whiny too. We will be staying inside today.

While on some days like today I will create fun art projects or science experiments to do. Some days I just don’t have it in me. When this happens is when I feel the most guilty. I’m tired. I want to try to do something around the house for me or for the house. And planning, setting up, playing, and cleaning up after children the entire day isn’t it.

So, I want to take a second to go through the survival tool box of stuff. This stuff is the things that help me keep my sanity. They also ease the guilt a little because the girls have fun.

 Outside

While outside stuff does require me to be outside and watching the girls. It is nice because they can keep themselves occupied which means I can take a kindle and read or catch up on shows or just spend some mom time facebooking.

The Pools

I love this blow-up pool because the kids think it is amazing and a big deal. I love it because I can watch them and put my feet in the water to stay cool. And maybe occasionally throw a ring or ball.


Inflatable Play Center

We also have a small cheap plastic pool for our deck. That is much easier to clean and take care of.  This was just one of the ones from the dollar store that we bought for like $5. If you just want something quick to cool the kids off, this is the best thing. Don’t spend the extra money for a big one unless you know they will love it. Our $5 pool is filled with buckets, cups, and little toys. The girls mostly spend their time pouring water from the pool on their (or mom’s) feet. I frequently have to refill but in between I get about 15-20 minutes to myself.

Water Table

Speaking of things on our Deck. Before we trusted the girls to play in the pool we bought this water table. Tempest has loved this from day one. We don’t use sand with it because I am sure that would make just a big sand/mud mess. But even with just water Tempest loves this. I will say that the paddle wheel is designed for sand so with water it spits all over. Tempest thinks this is even more fun.

American Plastic Toy Water Wheel Play Table

I bought this one because it was on sale for $15 but I really recommend looking at all of the other ones. I wouldn’t typically pay more than $20 for this one. There are a ton of super cool ones out there. I totally would love to buy like 10. I think the girls would love them, but even I want to play with them. This one actually ends up like a large bucket for water pouring more than a play table. I probably could have spent the $15 on plastic totes and gotten the same effect. Although this is much cuter on my deck and since I really want to better homes and garden house (even though I know it isn’t realistic) I’m glad we got it. We have our’s set up right next to the pool So the girls can bounce back and forth. this allows mom to sit for longer. Mint Julep, anyone?

Inside: Sit Down Please

Play Dough

This is one of the very few activities that my children will sit still for. When they are playing I can even come downstairs and get on the computer or do laundry. I hear so many parents who say they have a hatred for play dough, but I really just don’t understand it.

Play dough is super cheap. Tempest gets to pick out a new color every time we go to the store, it’s less than a dollar and makes her so super happy. I’m sure one day the girls and I will be super crafty and make our own, but for now I’m happy to keep buying it.

The best thing about play dough is that when it dries it turns hard which means I can just sweep it away. I already have to sweep daily because the children are crumb machines.

It’s one of the easiest art projects that I can possible have. The girls have a ton of stamps that help them with numbers and letters, so it is even educational

Coloring

This is a classic staple to parent sanity. We have color books for restaurants. We have big ones, little ones, ones with stickers. We even have a big easel for the girls to color. I love coloring. And as you can tell anything that gets them to sit down for more than three seconds is ok with me.

A warning though in case you are just getting into toddlerhood. Toddlers are crayon smugglers. I don’t know how it happens, but Alice will find a crayon and hide it for later. She brings them out when alone so she can decorate things like, her bed, the walls, random books, Mom’s work notes. Pretty much anything and everything in this house has crayon on it.

So while this does provide a moment of peace, it can potentially have longer consequences that are detrimental to your magazine cover house.

Vtech’s Go!Go! Sets

The Vtech sets are awesome. Tempest has just gotten into putting the tracks together. Alice just really likes the cars right now. I can see them playing with these for at least a few years, and really anything that gets more than a year’s worth of use with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, is amazing. These sets do keep the girls occupied. We have both animals and cars and they mix together.

Forewarning for Parents: These cars are alive and have a mind of their own. Turn them off after they are done playing with them, otherwise you will be sitting there watching TV and hear “I’m Frank, and This is my fire truck” (This is Alice’s favorites and always the one that seems to go off).


Fire Command Rescue Center Playset

Inside: Get Moving

My girls still need to be active during the day (see note above about whines and complaints). So, I have stuff for that too.

Slide

If you have room in your house for a little slide like this. Buy it! Buy it right now! This is the number one thing I could have bought my active children. We bought it for Tempest for her first birthday and it is used every day. Not only can the girls run and slide on it, they can also slide balls down it and then go and chase the balls. I cannot say enough about the slide. We can take it outside or leave it in. I like it inside because they can run around and I can write.

Little Tikes First Slide, Red/Blue

Trampoline

We bought Tempest a little trampoline for Christmas after her first birthday. She loves bouncing.


Galt Toys Nursery Trampoline

This is the trampoline we bought. I will say about this particular model the turtles head ripped after about 6 months and now just lies on the floor, and the skirting bunches up a little after a year of use. But we have gotten our use out of this thing. It is really sturdy so even when both girls are on it and are screwing around it won’t tip. I love that it isn’t super bouncy so it was perfect for Tempest when she was one and two. Now that Tempest is a little older (and Alice is the size of a 5-year-old) we could use a more standard gym trampoline. But I didn’t want anything with too much bounce when they were little.

Balls

We only have about a million. Seriously, for a child a ball is endless fun. Blow up beach balls, balls with handles to bounce on, kick balls, bouncy balls. It doesn’t matter.

The girls even have a ball pit because they are spoiled. My thinking would be it would keep the balls all in one spot. This of course is not actually the case, but at least the girls can use it as a tent.


Hexagon Pop Up Ball Pit Tent

The Key

If you’ve made it this far in this post congratulations, you now know how I keep my little bit of sanity I have left when we are home all day. There is a key to all of this though. And it is to not have all of the toys out all at once. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. When everything is reachable all the time they will play with nothing. But when I have things  put away and bring them out, it’s now a new fun thing, even if they have played it a million times.

*This post contains affiliate links. They are only for the products I use. If I recommend them, I love them wholeheartedly. I have included amazon links because I’m obsessed with ordering from them. I don’t have to leave and with Amazon Prime stuff gets to my house in 2 days (which is way before I could make it to the store). It’s a great way for me to show you what I use. And if you want them too, it’s easy for you to find. You should feel under no obligation to buy these products or buy them from my link.

 
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Family · Mom Life · Toddlerhood

The Helicopter Mom

I would be classified as a helicopter mom. My kids are still very young so maybe this is justified, but I do understand that sometimes I go a little overboard when we are out in the real world. I hear tragic stories that happen to children and think “That could never be my kids” This isn’t because I think I am a better parent than those parents (I’m not), or because I think my children are more well-behaved (they aren’t), It is simple because when we are out in public I have a hand on my children always. And this is everywhere, the grocery store, the park, a secluded field with nothing around, it doesn’t matter. I realize this is ridiculous and that at 3 1/2 and 2 They probably don’t need to hold my hand at the grocery store if they are right next to me.

Yesterday we went to an amazing park with a farm animal barn, playground, and nature center. My children love places like this, but they get easily overwhelmed. I knew this would be the case when we pulled up to the Barn and there was a bus full of kids on a field trip. But we went anyway. We started off the same as always, hand in hand. By the time we got to the goats, Tim and Alice were already ahead of us looking at the ducks. The ducks are one of Tempest’s favorite animals so she was beyond excited when she saw them.

This is when I did the unthinkable. I let go. I told her to go ahead and catch up to Daddy and watched her run to her sister. It may have been less than 50 ft, with my eye on her the whole time, but there was other people around and this was a big step for me.  The rest of the day I remembered to check in with myself. Was I being too overprotective? Could the girls walk on the path without holding my hands? could I trust Alice to walk over the bridge without falling over the edge? I know I can’t protect them from everything. I can’t save them from getting hurt always. They are going to have to experience pain, sadness, and mistakes. For now, I will celebrate one tiny step in allowing them more freedom.

Family · Mom Life · Toddlerhood

3 Ways To Include More Play

I had a few people reach out to me about my last post about playing with my kids at the beach. See the original post here

A few of you shared sentiments that you would love to have more time to play with your kids in your everyday life, but there is never enough time. I agree. I don’t have enough time. I never get all my chores done around the house. I most certainly don’t have time to finish everything I want to do. I don’t even have the energy to clean up the messes they made that day, let alone add one more thing into my schedule. But for me, my look changed one day. Tempest asked me to sit with her and said “just sit, don’t get up” It was then I realized between work, school, and housework I hadn’t sat and played with her in over a week. I knew this wasn’t the parent I wanted to be. I didn’t want to sit by while my children kept themselves occupied and out of my way. I wanted to be in their with them.

So, I decided to make a very big effort to live the life that was important to me. I didn’t want to be so preoccupied with if the dishes were done that I missed playing with my children. Here is my top 3 things that I have been working on to incorporate play into my everyday life more.

1. Make chores into games  

My daughters love helping. They aren’t very good at it, but that is ok. Let them help with what they want. But also demand they help. If my research tells me anything, it is that kids as young as one can help around the house and believe me, I’ve done a lot of research. I’m a bit of a research junkie (and I use “a bit” here as in the Dead Sea is “a bit” salty). So, get them involved. This not only means you are spending time with them, but it also means less to be done around the house.

But this isn’t just about getting them to help, it is about making chores into games. My children love to play basketball with their blocks as they pick them up. Or see who can pick up the cars the fastest. Anything that makes household work feel like fun and not chores.

The girls favorite of this is called “AH! It’s a monster!” This happens every time I vacuum. They run in and out of the room I am vacuuming screaming “AH! It’s going to get me!” and then proceed to either run out of the room or jump on the bed for protection from the vacuum monster. Sure it takes me an extra minute to chase them down with the vacuum, but it’s worth it for my kids to have fun. Plus, my floor probably needs that extra second of vacuum time

2. Schedule

This is one of these things that I always know, but I never really “know,” Things work better when I schedule them. The more things I have to do, the more need I have for a schedule. But parenting always seems to be the one area that goes out the window first. When I get busy I don’t take time to stop and think about what needs to be done, I just keep going. This is how I end up doing little meaningless tasks and nothing I actually want to get done.

Instead, I have stopped and written out an entire schedule. Anyone with small children knows my schedule will never work. It will constantly be off and interrupted. But the point of it isn’t to follow it to the letter, its to prioritize what needs to be done, and what is the most valued thing for me to do.

Our scheduling now includes time to play with the kids. Ten minutes each day I spend with each child in our mother/daughter alone time. Scheduling it means it is on the top of my list and not something that can wait until tomorrow. It’s only ten minutes, I can find it. My kids get attention, I get to see how smart and loving they are.

3. Stop Competing 

This is the area I am still really working on. As I mentioned in my last post, I want to be seen as the cool mom. The mom who has it all together. The mom who can do everything. For me, this included having a house that is spotless, being put together and physically fit, having kids that are beautifully dressed, and always well-behaved. I am not all those things, at least not always. I have good days where I think “I finally have this figured out” but most days my house is a disaster, my children are running around naked, and I haven’t showered in a week.  I had to let go of the idea that my house had to be Better Homes and Garden cover quality. I don’t have to have the fancy wonderful, everything looks pristine life. I have to do what works for me. And guess what? Other’s don’t have that life either. If you know someone whose house always looks like a magazine cover, they have a secret they aren’t telling you. Or at the very least they don’t live with two toddlers.  When I stop competing, I realize I don’t have to have everything perfect to be happy. I let my floor have crumbs and I frequently have laundry piled up in front of my washer. My children have dirt on their faces and clothes (if they are wearing any). I am still working on getting over the embarrassment and shame of not having the legos color coded into their own individual baskets.

When we let go of these ideas that we have to be perfect, we have more time in our life. And we aren’t afraid to say “The dishes can wait for tomorrow.”

So here it is; the three best tips I can give you about making your life about playing. I haven’t perfected these. I will keep trying. This is my promise to myself and my children.

 

Do you have something that helps you remember to play more? Please add it in the comments. I would love to hear it.

Family · Mom Life · Toddlerhood

Playing: The Lost Art of Parenting

One of the most amazing things about beach days is seeing how excited my children are. Until this week, our beach days have been relatively been relatively secluded. We normally pick beaches that are out of the way and go on cooler days (and on days like Wednesday) so there is never that many other people. Until this week. This week we decided to go to the beach on a Saturday when it was 90 degrees out. Needless to say, It was packed. We found our little spot on the sand and staked it out.  We set up our beach tent, got out our sand castle buckets, and I dug a hole in the sand and filled it with water. Soon enough The girls had a sand castle village, that was being terrorized by Alice-o-saurous as fast as it was being built. And I was covered in sand from head to toe (legitimately, Alice threw a bucket of sand down my dress).

This is when I began to look around. The family in front of us had lawn chairs, and coolers, and a radio. They were gabbing away, occasionally yelling for their kids to come back. The group next to us were 3 teenagers who were chain-smoking cigarets while trying to look cool. And soon enough our kids were joined by a gang of 4 more kids all around their age, with parents parked off of the beach at picnic tables. I realized I was the only adult that was covered in sand. The only one to be sitting on the sand without a chair or a towel. Certainly, the only one encouraging their children to make and jump in puddles and not caring if they splashed me.

I felt very self-conscious. As much as I would like to be (and pretend to be) I’m not a self-confident person. Me and those teens had something in common, I want to be perceived as the “cool kid”. But I had to stop and ask myself, who exactly were the “cool kids”? Are there such things as cool moms? And are they the group I was really trying to impress? I didn’t know the answer to any of these questions. Truth is, I’ve felt a little out of touch with who I want to impress. My husband and I are both more of the loner type. I don’t, and have never, made friends easily. I don’t have a tribe, or clan, or even neighbors to Keep up with the Joneses. Really the only person I have that I am trying to keep up with is the fictitious “They” that lives in my head. “They” are the parents who have it all together, the ones who make dinner every night, and whose kids are well-behaved and polite. “They” would never think about letting their children have a bag of chips for breakfast because they are too tired to get up. Or let their kids wear PJs all day to avoid making extra laundry. “They” have this whole work/life balance figured out and still manage to be put together and in impeccable shape.

“They” do not exist.

What does exist is me. Covered in sand. Swimming in clothes because I don’t own a bathing suit that fits me. Soaking wet. Playing with my children.

There isn’t enough play. I don’t want to be the parent that watches their kids play. I want to be down there, playing with them.  I want to cover them in sand and have them cover me. I want to help my kids build sand castles and dig holes. I had more fun with my kids than I could ever imagine. I hope that I set a good model for them to enjoy mud and enjoy play. Once I stopped worrying about trying to impress, I was able to let go, and actually impress those who matter, my two wonderful children.

This is just my story, but my hope is that it will encourage you to get down and play. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Don’t be afraid of a little sand in your eye.

 

If you want more Advice on ways to incorporate Playing, please see: The How to Guide: 3 Ways to Incorporate Play