Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: MAM Holiday Pacifiers

Disclosure: I received a sample of these products in exchange for this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% my own and honest. 

Do you have a little one on your Christmas list? If your baby takes a pacifier, check out these adorable Holiday Pacifiers from MAM. 

These festive pacifiers are BPA free and feature a Symmetrical nipple ideal for baby’s jaw development. Made for babies over 6 months, the shield is curved with a textured surface and multiple small openings allowing the pacifier to sit comfortably on baby's face and ensuring that your baby's skin is able to breath. The nipple is ultra soft and features an anti-slip texture to help it stay comfortably in the mouth. Grace never took a pacifier, but they were a total lifesaver with Connor and I think these are about the cutest I have seen! 
The case can be used to store them and can be put in the microwave to sterilize them. How convenient is that? MAM Holiday Pacifiers can be purchased at www.shopmambaby.com and will be available to purchase at Target soon. 

MAM combines technological innovation, medical function and contemporary design to develop superior baby care products that support a baby’s development from day one. Since MAM developed its first soother in Vienna in 1976, it has evolved to become a global authority on baby care product design and quality. Today MAM products are used by families in over 50 countries and on five continents. 

To learn more about MAM's great products, visit their website or check out their FacebookTwitterPinterestYouTube, and Instagram pages. 


MAM is giving one of my readers a 2 pack of their holiday pacifiers. Winner will not have a choice of colors/pattern. 

How to Enter:
This is a Rafflecopter giveaway.  Follow the instructions on the widget to enter. All current likes/follows count! Please contact me if you run into any technical difficulties with Rafflecopter. The giveaway runs through Tuesday, November 4th at 11:59 PM CST! The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is open to residents of the US.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 27, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: Educational Insights

Disclosure: I received these toys from Educational Insights to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own and honest. This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from any of the links I make a small amount.

Can you believe Christmas in in less than two months?? It's time to start thinking about your holiday shopping and I've partnered with some amazing companies to help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your shopping list!

I'm excited to start my holiday gift guide off with one of my very favorite companies, Educational Insights. We previously got the chance to review some of their fun toys and the Dino Construction Company™ –T-Top the Triceratops Bulldozer is still one of Connor's favorite toys. We received the GeoSafari® Jr. My First Microscope and the Dinosaur Puppet-On-A-Stick™, Set of 3 recently and Grace had so much fun trying them out.

She is a very inquisitive child so I thought the My First Microscope would be a fun way to expose her science.

It is the perfect size for her and I appreciate that there are two eye holes instead of the normal one. I put 3 AAA batteries in and let her play.
We had been doing crafts with pine cones earlier in the day so I had a few sitting on the counter that she decided to examine. She turned the knob without me having to explain it to her and excitedly showed me all the details of the pine cone. The microscope magnifies things 8x and shows some pretty good detail.
Next she picked a crab apple. She ran around outside looking for various things to examine and had fun using the knob to get closer to the items.

The microscope is such a fun way to encourage her love of nature and exploration.

We also had the chance to try out a set of 3 Dinosaur Puppets on a Stick. She loves make believe so I was excited to use these in her imaginative play.

These little guys are so cute. They are bigger than I expected and are the perfect size for stocking stuffers!
There is a small lever on the back to make the mouth open.
Grace had a little bit of a difficult time using the levers on the back but she loved making them talk to each other.

She quickly discovered that she could pull the chunky knob on the bottom to open their mouths. This made it much easier on her and she happily made them talk to each other about going to the circus (she's obsessed with going to the circus.) The dinosaurs are easy to wipe clean and are extremely sturdy. They will definitely stand up to years of hard play.

I just noticed that Educational Insights offers unicorn versions of these puppets on a stick and I know Grace would go crazy over them! How cute are they??
Check out the Educational Insights WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter to find out more about all of their great products!

Thank you to Educational Insights for these great toys! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

So Much To Do, So Little Time

This little guy seems to think he's going to be two this week. I am still in denial. It feels like he was just born! Of course, nothing is done for his party and my house is a wreck. However, I have a large pile of stuff ready my holiday gift guide that will be starting this week. So keep visiting for some awesome product reviews and amazing giveaways and forgive me if I don't much other content posted for the next couple of weeks. I have so much fun stuff to share with you, but no time to write it! I will try to get a post done for Connor's birthday and Halloween of course!

What are your kids going to be for Halloween? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Leaf Placemat Craft for Kids

I love fall. The weather is gorgeous, the trees are beautiful, and I love getting ready for all of the holidays. Mike isn't a huge fan of how our yard looks at the moment though!

We have a ton of trees in both our front and back yards so he has to spend a lot of time bagging them. Grace and I decided to help him out yesterday by doing some leaf crafts. Our favorite was the Turkey Thanksgiving Placemat.

She glued leaves to a piece of construction paper. I helped her arrange them to look like feathers. She added lots of leafy layers. While she glued leaves, I cut out a turkey body, eyes, a beak, and feet. She helped me glue them all together and I wrote Happy Thanksgiving at the bottom. We used contact paper to "laminate" her placemat. Leave your construction paper with the turkey on the table and place a sheet of contact paper over it. That way you can smooth air bubbles out and try to get the leaves as flat as possible. The contact paper made it hard to get a great picture but it is so cute. We put it under a very heavy book for a while to help flatten the leaves out to make it easier to use at the table. She now wants to make personalized ones so I might invest in some laminating packets to make the job easier.

She begged me to take a picture with it the next morning after she had smushed it in her backpack. She told me she wanted to take it to preschool. I guess that means she loves it!

For more fun fall crafts for kids, check out our Pumpkin Suncatchers and Thankful Pumpkins!

I'm slowly getting our house decorated for fall. What are your favorite fall decorations? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Photography by Beth Session Giveaway!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

Connor will be 2 in 8 days and I honestly can't believe it! I'm fairly certain that I'm in denial because I am no where near ready for his party. The next couple weeks are going to be extremely busy in our house.

Luckily, I have checked one thing off of my list, his 2 year pictures. This past weekend, we spent over an hour with my favorite local photographer, Beth from Photography by Beth, chasing Connor around Unity Village. If you've had a 2 year old, you know that is almost impossible to get them to sit still and Connor was in rare form that morning. He would stop for 2 seconds and run the moment she tried to snap a photo. He collected every rock and stick he could find and refused to drop them. He screamed the moment we tried to pick him up for a family shot. Luckily, Beth has the patience of a saint and chased him, played with him, and even drove to a different area of Unity Village to try to get the best shots. In the end, I think she managed to get a shot of us all looking at the fountains together and I know she got a few good ones of both of the kids. I am not so patiently waiting to see the final results! She's gotten amazing pictures of both of the kids in the past. Here are some of my favorites:

She took Grace's 9 month pictures in 2011 and got some adorable ones for our Christmas cards despite Grace's extremely grumpy mood.

In January, we got lucky and were able to take Grace's 3 year photos outside.

Connor was more cooperative at Grace's session than he was at his own.

I love looking back at these pictures and I know that we will be using Beth again in the future. She offers extremely reasonable rates for her sessions and she is scheduling Trick or Treat mini sessions for this Saturday, October 25th starting at 10:30 AM. For $50, you get 30 minutes of family, kids, and/or costume portraits. You will get a CD with up to 30 images and the release. There are only a few spots available, so message her now for more info. Also, check her Facebook page soon for dates for the Give Thanks and Happy Holiday mini sessions! I told Mike I was done with photos for the year but I might just have to book a mini session spot for pictures of the kids in their Christmas outfits.


Kansas City readers, if you are wanting to get family pictures for your Christmas cards or just want some updated photos of your kids, I have an amazing giveaway for you! Beth is offering one of my readers a free session! The winner will get a full session which includes the CD with edited images and a print release (I love that I can print my photos anywhere I want!) You must be in the KC area or willing to travel here for your session.

How to Enter:
This is a Rafflecopter giveaway.  Follow the instructions on the widget to enter. All current likes/follows count! Please contact me if you run into any technical difficulties with Rafflecopter. The giveaway runs through Tuesday, November 4th at 11:59 PM CST! The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is open to residents of the US.

Good luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dress Like a Veggie at Family Christian Stores!

Disclosure: I received an appreciation certificate from Family Christian in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.  

"If you like to talk to tomatoes, if a squash can make you smile..."

If you are now singing the VeggieTales song, this post is for you! My kids love Bob, Larry and all of the Veggies. I appreciate the cute characters and fun songs, but I really love the focus on Biblical teachings and Christian values. Grace tells us all the time that she needs to share "like Larry and Bob." I guess all that time watching Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontieris paying off!

On October 31st, Family Christian Stores will be hosting a Dress Like a Veggie event in their stores nationwide! Dress your kiddo(s) up like a Veggie (doesn't have to be a VeggieTales veggie) and visit the store to receive some small goodies. The goodies will be non-edible so there's no need to worry if your child has food allergies.

Don't forget to take your little Veggie's picture in your local Family Christian store and share it on Twitter and Instagram. Tag @FamilyChristian and use the hastag #FCVeggies to enter to win some great prizes! The grand prize winner will receive a $250 gift card for Family Christian and five runner ups will each receive a $50 appreciation certificate to spend at the store. You could get so many amazing VeggieTales toys and DVDs with $250!

Thank you Family Christian Stores for allowing us to participate in this fun contest and share our love of VeggieTales! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Netflix #StreamTeam: Halloween Shows for Toddlers

Disclosure: As part of the Netflix Stream Team, I received a welcome gift and a free monthly subscription. However, all opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

When we had Grace back in 2011, we knew that we needed to find ways to save money so that I could stay at home with her. Looking back, the smartest decision we made was dropping cable and joining Netflix. We have been members for close to 4 years now and absolutely love their streaming service. So I'm excited to announce that I am now a member of the Netflix Stream Team!

I will be sharing some of our streaming favorites each month and I hope you share your favorites with me. I would love to find some new shows to add to my watch list.

This month, the kids and I have been enjoying some of the Halloween themed kids shows. This is the first year that Grace has any idea what is going on with Trick-or-Treating so I've been trying to find ways to show her what she will get to do. Luckily, some of her favorite series offer Halloween episodes. Here are some of my top Halloween shows for toddlers.

Curious George: A Halloween Boo FestHang on to your hats and get ready for a spook-tacular good time, with Curious George. Autumn is here, bringing colorful leaves, hay rides, pumpkin patches, and the annual Boo Festival. My kids have been begging to watch this one non-stop. Curious George is always a favorite in our house and this movie is an adorable introduction to Halloween. The "spooky" story isn't too scary for my little ones (3 and 1) and the costume contest scenes are tons of fun. Even I smile when I see George's costume. This is a must watch with your toddlers!

Super Why! Season 1 Episode 18: Twas the Night Before Christmas & Other Stories: The Ghost Who Was Afraid Of HalloweenIt's Halloween in Storybrook Village, and Pig is so frightened that he won't go trick-or-treating with his friends! Grace loves Super Why! and as a former librarian, I can't resist this show's focus on reading and classic stories.

DreamWorks Shrek's Swamp Stories- Shrek celebrates Halloween, Puss in Boots is captured by soldiers, and the gang participates in a kingdom-wide singing competition. My kids both adore Shrek so this is a hit in our house. I recommend that you preview this before your kids watch it as some of the scenes are a little spooky. 

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Season 2 Episode 15: Tricks, Treats and Treasure!- Captain Hook joins Jake and his crew as they "trick or treasure" across Never Land. Jake is one of Grace's favorite Disney Jr. characters. This is a fun one for your pirate fans!

What are you streaming this month on Netflix? Any new favorites? 

Thank you Netflix for inviting me to be part of the Stream Team! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Little Things Thursday: October 16th

Another Little Things Thursday post. Two weeks in a row! Hopefully I'll keep it up.

1. Like Mother, Like Daughter
We got the American Girl catalog in the mail the other day. I might just have a slight obsession with the American Girl Samantha doll. I've even written a post about it. Mike looked at me like I was crazy when I squealed loudly because I read that they were re-releasing the Samantha doll. Grace seems to be taking after me in that regard as the moment we got the catalog, she settled on the couch lovingly looking at all of the "babies" as she calls them. She would not move from that spot and was so enthralled that she didn't hear me call her for dinner for about 10 minutes. Since then she asks to read her "beautiful babies" book every day. It's probably a good thing she doesn't know that there's a whole store of them close to us...

2. Like Father, Like Son
Connor loves acting like daddy. From walking around in his shoes to "playing" on the computer (ie hitting the keyboard as hard he can,) he loves to say gesture to himself and say "daddy." I caught him like this yesterday while I was going through donation stuff in our basement.

3. Master of Destruction
So you know how I mentioned that Connor likes to play with the computer? Well, I stepped out of the room for 1 minute yesterday to help Grace with something and I heard a snap. He had turned on the computer, pushed the CD/DVD drive button and pushed it down so hard that it snapped in half. He knew he was in trouble. It's a good thing those drives are cheap and Mike knows how to replace it!

4. For my birthday present from my parents, I decided to take a photography class that is offered at a local photo studio. Now that I have my new camera, I wanted to learn how to use it. For four hours, I learned about almost every setting on my camera. I now know how to use my manual mode and we got a chance to practice by walking around downtown. Here are a few of the shots that I took:
This is my favorite. I used a low shutter speed to show the motion.

It was pretty gray outside so I learned a lot about modifying my exposure!

Grace was my test model at home. 
I definitely need to practice but I'm excited to start working on improving my photography skills!

What's going on in your house this week?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall Crafts For Toddlers: Thankful Pumpkin and Pumpkin Suncatchers

It's feeling like fall in Kansas City and Halloween is just a short two and a half weeks away. Let's just ignore the fact that I am nowhere near ready for Halloween or Connor's birthday party that will follow and get on to the fun stuff, fall crafts! We don't go too crazy for Halloween but I thought it would be fun to do some pumpkin themed crafts that both kids could enjoy.

We started with our Thankful Pumpkins. These would be perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving and are such cute table decorations!
Thankful Pumpkin Craft for Toddlers
We started off by talking about what being thankful meant. Grace got it, Connor not so much. So here was Grace's list of what she was thankful for, and I quote "Molly, Grandma and Papa (she said this twice, once for each set of grandparents,) Daddy, Connor, Pumpkins, and Mommy." Molly is a good friend of hers who she loves to play with, so I guess it's no surprise that she was listed first but I was a little insulted to be last! She then helped me come up with words for Connor including "Mommy, Daddy, Puppies, God, all of the Grandparents, and Trains." I figured that was pretty accurate for him.

This craft only requires a few supplies and is quick and easy to make.

1. Cut strips out of orange card stock.
2. Write thankful words on the strips. Punch a hole in both ends of each strip.
3. Make a knot or bend in one end of the pipecleaner. Slip the cardstock pieces onto the unknotted end and push them to the bottom. Make sure all of your words are facing down so that they can be seen when you create your pumpkin.
4. One at a time, bring each piece up and over the pipe cleaner to create a sphere. Work the cardstock around the pipe cleaner to even out your pumpkin.
5. Once all of the card stock pieces are in place, tie a knot in the pipe cleaner right about your pumpkin to hold it in place. Wrap the excess pipe cleaner around a pen or pencil to get the curly shape on top.

While I was putting together the pumpkins, I let the kids work on the next craft.
Pumpkin Suncatcher Craft for Toddlers

I love making suncatchers with contact paper. We did them at Valentine's Day and I thought it would be fun to make pumpkin decorations for our window.

1. Cut out a piece of contact paper and tape it sticky side out to a window.
2. Tear or cut small squares of tissue paper and let the kids go crazy sticking them to the contact paper.

This is the first time I've seen Connor excited about doing a craft. He was fascinated by the sticky contact paper and happily participated for about 20 minutes. Towards the end I helped them make sure their entire paper was covered but they didn't need too much help. You could add glitter or stickers at this point if you wanted as well.

3. Cut another piece of contact paper the same size and seal the tissue paper in by putting the sticky sides together.
4. Cut whatever shape you want. Use card stock to create a border and hang the masterpiece in your window.

When it dries out a little I think we are going to do leaf collages with the contact paper.

For more great toddler activities and crafts, visit my Activities for Toddlers page.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#ShareAwesome: Positive and Safe Decision Making Online

As a blogger, I share a lot of our lives online. I love recording our memories here and I enjoy going through previous posts to remember the daily moments that I would otherwise forget. Our lives are constantly surrounded by technology and our kids will not know a world without instant access to almost everything. Even at 1, Connor can work the iPad with ease. Grace plays her games on the iPad as often as we let her and knows how to find her shows to stream.

We are constantly working to make sure that we promote digital safety in our home. I have guidelines for myself regarding what I will share here and what kinds of photos I will post. While I am glad to share photos of my kids, I do refrain from sharing our last name. I try all of the apps my kids use before letting them explore and they have a special profile on Netflix that will only allow them to access children's shows. As our kids get older, I know that we will be monitoring their activity online. Just as we will teach them safety in the real world (what to do when you get lost, how to safely cross the street, etc,) we will focus on how to be safe in the digital world. Mike frequently plays online games and will teach them not to share personal information such as address and school information in a chat setting. We will talk about the fact that photos you share on social media are never totally private. I hope to teach them to use social media and their digital presence in a smart manner.

The National PTA and LifeLock have partnered together to help families learn about making safe, positive decisions online. The #ShareAwesome campaign celebrates making good decisions in all forms of digital media. Not only is this campaign an awesome way for your family to talk about digital safety, it's an amazing contest too!

To enter, post a photo of a smart and safe decision, uplifting accomplishment, or positive action for the good of others to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #ShareAwesome. All students who post a photo will be entered to win prizes such as tablets and a $2,500 scholarship!!

I am excited that my kids will have access to so much amazing technology in their lives, but it is important as parents for us to teach them how to #ShareAwesome. To learn more about this amazing campaign and to start the digital safety discussion with your kids, visit ShareAwesomeNow.org now.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"I Will Never..." What I Thought I Knew Before Having Kids

This post is dedicated to my pre-mom self. The one who had a very idealistic view of what my life would be as a mom and who thought she knew what to expect. I thought I knew what was coming,

Here are some of my more memorable "I will never..." statements and thoughts:

I will never...

  • Pull crusts off of my kids' sandwiches
    • Pre mom self: They can eat the crust, it won't hurt them
    • Now: I do this almost every day for Connor. He won't eat the crusts, instead he tries to eat around them and ends up covered in PB&J. If I pull them off, there's no mess. Crustless bread for the win. I refuse to buy the overpriced crustless version though. 
  • Let my kids cry it out
    • Pre mom self: It's so cruel
    • Now: You know what's cruel? Not getting any sleep for years. My kids go to bed now with no complaints and sleep 12+ hours a night. Bliss. 
  • Give my kids my phone in a restaurant
    • Pre Mom Self: They can color or entertain themselves until their food comes. Young kids shouldn't need technology to be content. 
    • Now: Phone vs a meltdown? I choose phone. It doesn't happen too often but in dire cases, the phone wins. 
  • Let my little ones watch TV
    • Pre Mom Self: It's not good for their development
    • Now: I need two minutes to myself to save my sanity. Or I need to make a very important phone call. 30 minutes of The Octonauts to the rescue!
  • Be the mom with the kids running away from me in story time or out in public
    • Pre Mom Self: How hard is it to just keep them with you? Put them in the stroller or hold them!
    • Now: During most events in public you can generally find me chasing Connor around. He screams if he's in the stroller and flips out if I try to carry him. This kid will not stay with me for anything!

I think I'm going to be adding to this list as I think of more. What were your "I will never" things before you became a mom? Did you stick to them?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Will The Void Disappear?

A blog post was shared in my mom's group today about the void. If you haven't had the chance to read it, check out Scary Mommy's post about The Void When You're Done Having Children. It's fabulous. She articulates the feeling that I've been trying to explain for months and I know I'm not the only one struggling with it. While I'm happy with our family and the two children we were blessed with, there is a part of me that will always want more children. I am not sure when, or if, I will ever be content with being done with that part of my life. I hear other moms talk about knowing their family is complete and I've never felt that. It's strange to know that despite my body continuing like nothing's changed, I will never be able to be pregnant, hold my newborn for the first time, or breastfed again. Every first of Connor's is also the last time we will experience that first in our house. 

I know how lucky I am to have two perfectly healthy children and it's hard to talk about this topic without sounding ungrateful. I am so grateful for them and I love them more than words can say. But every time I hear someone ask if I'm having a third, it feels like I've been punched in the gut and after every pregnancy announcement, there is an ache in my belly that I can't seem to control. Note to my friends: this does not mean you should feel guilty about being pregnant. PLEASE don't! Just make sure I get to hold your newborn. I will gladly hold them as long as you will let me! 

I don't know if or when the void goes away. Something tells me it's around when you have grandchildren (which better be decades away in my case!)

Are you happy with how many children you have or do you get "void" that we're talking about? 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Toddler Fun Tuesday: Choo Choo! Train Craft For Toddlers

Check out more fun activities for your toddler here!

Both of my kids are train obsessed right now. They run around the house yelling choo choo daily. So I decided to create a craft for them to make their own small trains. I threw some supplies together yesterday morning and we had a great time. I am not a creative person so I was proud of my little train idea. 

If you want to make these trains, you will need: 

  • A train printed on card stock. You can find my free template here. I only used the train body, but for older children, you could add the other pieces to make it more complex. You could make it any color but I used white so that my kids could color it.
  • Finger paint for the "wheels"
  • One toilet paper roll for each train.
  • Popsicle sticks
  • We also used crayons, scissors, and Elmer's glue. 
1. Cut the toilet paper roll in half. Each half will be one wheel. Cut a small slit in each half for the train body to slip into.

2. Let the kids paint their wheels. We used Crayola finger paint because it is washable. Connor decided he didn't want to wear a smock and ended up with paint all over him. It all washed out! 
Put the wheels somewhere safe to dry.

3. While the wheels dry, color or decorate your train body.

4. Use Elmer's glue to glue Popsicle sticks together to make your tracks. You could make a lot of track if you want, because of time, we made one for each train. 

5. After your wheels are completely dry, slip your train body into the slits on the wheels. Your trains are done and ready to play with! 

Connor quickly ripped his up (he's a total boy) but Grace has loved playing with hers. It might not be the fanciest, prettiest train ever but she is so proud of it. This was a great quick craft for both of my kids and it was super easy for me to set up. 

Check out more fun activities for your toddler here!


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