Music - First Instrument Exposures

You don't need to sign up for music classes to expose your child to the wonderful world of instruments, rhythms and melodies!

Pretend Play - Snack Stand

Pretend play is essential for young children! Props like this snack stand are easy to make and can fit a variety of play themes.

Early Language and Literacy Development - Listening and Speaking

Think beyond the alphabet to develop early language and literacy skills; sharing books are having family conversations are powerful tools!

Recipe - Mama Bear's Chili

Let's get cooking! A warm bowl of chili will make everyone's bellies happy this fall!

DIY Toys - Pizza Playset

We love making our own toys like this pizza playset. It saves a lot of money and we can make exactly what we want and nothing more!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

52 Weeks of Great: Week 1 - Marbled Banana Bread


This Great Idea comes courtesy of Lil C once again. She was watching a show where someone made banana bread and brought it to a friend and immediately after, she came to me and said she wanted to make some banana bread for a few of her friends. How do you say no to a sweet request like that? We whipped up a batch of our tried and true marbled banana bread and while it was baking, Lil C decorated some brown paper bags to pack the bread in when it was finished!

Everyone loves feeling special and I have yet to find someone who doesn't like a homemade treat. Lil C's friends were so happy to get a surprise and one Mom relayed me a message from her daughter saying thank you so much and she couldn't believe Lil C made banana bread just for her! It just melted my heart.

You can share any kind of treat you want with someone but if you want to bake your own marbled banana bread, here's the recipe we used:
Healthy Whole Wheat Marbled Banana Bread

Friday, February 17, 2017

Random Acts of Kindness Day - 52 Weeks of Great Kickoff

Did you know February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day? Well, it is! And now you know! I meant to really kick off the #onesteptowardgreat campaign earlier but it's been a sick household for 2 weeks plus I was parenting solo this week so A LOT of things I meant to do simply have not been done. But it worked out well because I'll start my 52 Weeks of Great mission on Random Acts of Kindness Day and then end it on the same day next year!

Here's the gist: For the next 52 weeks, I'm going to be posting weekly with one or two ideas for spreading smiles, kindness, generosity, gratitude, respect - all of those good things! We'll call these Great Ideas. I will also be sharing the acts of others on facebook and twitter (although I'm new to twitter, it may take a little while till I'm updating that frequently!) with #onesteptowardgreat. On top of that, I'll be working on compiling a giant list of Great Ideas for reference with as much information and as many links to groups/charities as possible to make it really easy for all of you out there to help in any way you can.

So let's kick this thing off! Our random act of kindness today was inspired by Lil C who colored a special valentine for her aunt yesterday after hearing she was sick (quite possibly infected by us...). Since we were all feeling a little better today, I figured we were up for a brief road trip. After stopping by the store for some flowers, we headed over to my sister-in-law's house where we surprised her with our gift...and then had a brief play session because there are few things Lil C loves more than playing with her aunt!

Here's Lil C in the car with her primrose plant, on the way to spread some smiles! I'm so excited about spreading smiles wherever we can over the next year, I truly hope you'll join me!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

One Step Toward Great

Make America great again. This phrase has been stuck in my head for months and though it seems to appeal to many I can't help thinking its implications are severely flawed.

First, it implies that there was some level of greatness our country had previously achieved and then lost to which we'd like to return. I'm unaware of such greatness. Our country grows and evolves every day, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes not. Change and evolution is not easy and we often make mistakes along the way. But our country is, and always will be, great for a multitude of reasons.

Second, that it is the platform on which a man ran for the presidency implies that were he in office, he could fix our problems and “make us great again.” No one man, or woman, could accomplish that. Especially not a hate-spreading, fear-building, narcissistic, entitled, prejudiced, dishonest one. It will take around 320 million people working together, spreading kindness, tolerance, generosity, gratitude and respect to make this country a greater place than it's ever been. It will take ceasing the blame game and accepting that we are in control of our own fates, responsible for ourselves. It will take seeing past labels of man or woman, black or white, Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, Giants or Cowboys fan and treating everyone as human beings, with the respect we all deserve. Our differences don't have to separate us; a rainbow is only beautiful when all the colors come together.
Let's take this moment and learn from it. Let it wake us up from our complacency and indifference, from our blindness and naivety, from our anger and hate. Let it urge us to take a stand, to make a difference, however big or small.

I'm calling every one of you to join me now, in taking one step. Let go of the anger and the hatred and take a positive step. Help a neighbor. Thank a firefighter or police officer. Leave a cheerful note to brighten someone's day. Visit a nursing home. Donate to the food bank. One simple step can be the start of something great. One simple step toward making America greater than it's ever been.

Whatever you do, big or small, share it with us! Nothing motivates others to take a step than seeing everyone around them taking steps! When you take a step, be sure to tag your post or photo #onesteptowardgreat

Follow my steps on facebook and twitter and help share the love.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A New Mission

The anger, hostility and division I had seen leading up to the election in November exploded when the results came in. The urge to spread kindness, compassion and respect immediately grew. I had a plan, a message that I wanted to share. Unfortunately, my world completely fell apart a few days later when my mother passed away unexpectedly.

My mother. This was not only the woman who had loved me and raised me and given me and my brother everything she’d had to give, but also the woman who had kept me sane and grounded after I began the most chaotic, challenging, physically and emotionally demanding stage of my life, motherhood. She had stayed with us in the delivery room all day and all night while I struggled through contraction after contraction, hour after hour, with little progress. She was there in the morning, watching as her granddaughter finally made it into the world and cutting the umbilical cord. Afterward, she was always there with advice, words of encouragement, support, babysitting help, food and, of course, hugs. As luck would have it, she was at the doctor’s with me when I found out my second baby didn’t have a heartbeat. She was there with sympathy, understanding and more hugs. She was there to share our excitement over my being pregnant a third time, with prayers and positive thoughts. She babysat Little C when I had all those doctor’s appointments and barely slept the night Squidgy was born because Little C was too excited about meeting baby brother to sleep! She drove up to help watch the kids when I got mastitis and felt so sick and awful. That flow of advice, encouragement, support, babysitting, food and hugs was constant - she was constant. And then, all of a sudden, she wasn't.

We were very fortunate to be flooded with love, support, flowers, and food immediately after my mother’s passing. Our family and friends stepped in and did what they could to fill the void as best as they could. It has been a very difficult couple of months for all of us but we are moving forward as best we can, keeping my mother forever in our hearts and minds. My mother so embraced the qualities I had initially wanted to share - generosity, kindness, selflessness. There is no better way for me to carry on her legacy, and perhaps start creating my own, than to do whatever I can to help others.

The rallies around the world this past weekend were amazing and awe inspiring. To see so many come together to peacefully stand up for their rights, and the rights of every human being, brought such hope to my heart and reignited the fire which had been sparked after the election. I plan to do my part to nurture this sense of unity and community, in the hopes that it will not only continue, but grow.

I started this blog with the intention of filling it with ideas, tips, activities and recipes to help you achieve a happy healthy enriched home and family. And, well, it seems life got in the way of those best laid plans. This family has been through a lot the past couple of years, joys, sorrows, challenges and adventures. We have made it through somehow and hopefully now I can bring some life back to this blog - with a new mission.

Stay tuned, for there will definitely be more to come!




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Ask “So When Are You Guys Having Children?”

I’m sure most of us are guilty of asking somebody some form of this question at least once in our lives, I know I am. The thing is, I never will again because of what I’ve learned and experienced since becoming a mother myself.

Phrasing the baby question so matter of factly, whether you’re saying it in jest or not, is insensitive. It can imply that having a baby is expected, simple and uncomplicated. And neither of those is true at all.

Being a parent changes your life entirely - and for mothers specifically, changes your body in ways you usually can’t completely undo. Some people don’t want to make that sacrifice and I applaud them for realizing that before they have children they neglect or resent. Having children is NOT something you should just do because you get older or get married or your parents want grandchildren; it’s something you do because you genuinely want to. People who choose to not have children shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or selfish.

Having a baby is not always as simple as everyone makes it sound. I’ve met many other moms since having Little C and come across many who have had some sort of problem along the way. And honestly, the ones who didn’t seem to have any problems probably just haven’t talked about it. Sometimes, no matter what you try, it just doesn’t happen. And then begin the ovulation tests, fertility tests, frustration, stress and disappointment. But even when you do conceive quickly and easily, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from all complications.

I want to share my story mainly to let other women know that if they face similar problems, they are DEFINITELY not alone. When Little C was about 2 ½, we decided we wanted to have another baby. Getting pregnant wasn’t the hard part, your parents weren’t kidding when they said it only takes one time. I ended up not going to the doctor until I was about 10 ½ weeks along but when I did, I was hit with the news that there was a baby, but there was no heartbeat and the baby only measured at 6 ½ weeks. I was devastated and heartbroken and unsure of what to do. As it happened, I didn’t have to decide how to proceed because I miscarried naturally several days later. Afterward, it was difficult and frustrating because I just wanted to heal and move on but unfortunately the body doesn’t heal overnight. We had to wait a few months before we were able to try again to make sure my cycles had returned to normal. And then I was anxious that it would be really difficult to conceive again or that I would conceive and have another miscarriage.

Thankfully, 4 months later, I became pregnant again and 2 weeks ago, we were blessed with an amazing, perfect and healthy addition to our family. In all honesty though, I think it took until I was about 20 weeks to stop worrying that something would be wrong every time I headed to a prenatal checkup. What helped me through the ordeal was discovering that I was nowhere near alone; I quickly learned that between just 4 women I knew, they’d had 6 miscarriages. I’m sure there are many more that I don’t know about because women don’t tend to talk about it. And who can blame them? Talking about it brings up feelings we’d rather not relive and many people don’t know how to respond so they end up saying something inappropriate or insensitive; it’s easier to avoid the situation altogether. If telling my story can help one other women feel a little less alone in her struggles, it’s well worth any tears and awkwardness I may face. To cast a positive light on everything, I will mention that between us 5 women who’d had miscarriages, we now have 10 healthy children and 1 more on the way soon!

So in the end, if you’re ever curious about anyone’s baby situation, please consider phrasing your question a little differently. Perhaps, “have you thought about having any [more] children?”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Spiced Apple Cake

Fall is my favorite time of year and fall food is also some of the best around. Fall brings chili, soups and everything involving apples and pumpkins. I've been wanting to make an apple dessert for a couple weeks now but couldn't decide on a recipe. And then I came across this one on Two Peas and Their Pod. It was full of fresh chopped apples and sounded simply amazing! The only downside to this recipe is the prep time, it takes a while to peel and chop all those apples but it is so worth it! My husband wanted to bring some cake to work so I decided to increase the recipe by 50% to make 2 cakes, a 9x13 and 8x8. He ended up taking the larger one into the office and it was pretty much devoured!

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups chopped apples (we used 5 total apples, 2 1/2 red delicious and 2 1/2 granny smith)
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 and an 8x8 baking dish. (Note: after baking, there was still room to grow in both baking pans so you could try to make one big cake in the 9x13 pan and increase baking time by 15 minutes)
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl; add in flour mixture and stir until combined. Batter will be very thick.
  4. Stir in chopped apples, mixing until apples have been incorporated and batter is moistened.
  5. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the 9x13 pan and 1/3 into the 8x8. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on wire rack.
  6. Frosting: Using an electric mixer (or a wire whisk and some strong muscles!), beat together the cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and powdered sugar. Spread onto cake after it has cooled and try not to eat it all at once! :-)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Letter to my Husband

I’ve seen many articles touching on the underappreciation of stay-at-home-moms and while I do appreciate the recognition we are getting, I feel that full-time-working-dads may also be slightly underappreciated. So now it’s my turn to say thank you. 

Thank you for getting up extra early (while we sleep!) 5 days a week to go to the office. This sacrifice lets you come home earlier so you have some time to spend with us before Little C goes to bed. And your going to work allows me to stay home and focus on Little C and live comfortably while doing so!
Thank you for finding the best work/life balance you could. Even though she doesn’t really know it yet, Little C and I are both so grateful that you’re not on call anymore and have severely reduced the frequency of business trips. 
Thank you for accepting and understanding Little C’s preference for me over you. It’s not fair, but she just doesn’t understand why you have to leave and go to work so many days when I stay with her. One day she will understand and appreciate what you did for our family. 
Thank you for being a parent. It’s sad that in this “modern” age, so many men still feel that parenting is not a two-person job. I’m lucky enough to have a partner in this life, every step of the way, who doesn’t hesitate to step in and do whatever needs doing. 
Thank you for believing in me, supporting me, trusting my judgment and appreciating what I do for Little C and our family. 
Thank you for accepting me and loving me, flaws and all, bad days and good.

In return… 
I promise to not jump on you and ask for help the moment you walk in the door (unless we’re in the middle of some sort of cataclysmic disaster!) 
I promise to remember that your day in the office isn’t necessarily a breeze. It may be crazy and nonstop, stressful and exhausting. 
I promise to treat you as an equal parent. I may make many parenting decisions myself simply because I’m the only one here, but you still have as much say as I do. I will try my best to remember that suggestions and concerns are just those and not reprimands and judgments. 
I promise to show my appreciation for what you do and never let you forget that I can only do what I do because of you. 
I promise to love and support you, every step of the way, bad days and good, for the rest of my life.