May 24, 2015

I'm SO Excited About My Plan To Combat Summer Brain Mush #AnimalTrackersClub

*I've partnered with Animal Trackers Club to start a conversation about combating summer brain mush! All opinions are my own.

Even as a child, I thought summer break was way too long. Three months? Really?

Of course, I was excited for school to end and summer break to begin, but by July, both my mom and I were running out of fun things to do. By August, I was just plain bored and missed my friends. And I dare say, routine.  Looking back, I think I was just as excited for the first day of school as I was for the last.

Now that I'm an adult, and parent, I think a three month summer break from school is even more ridiculous. Three months is just too long for a child to spend in and out of summer camps, watching TV and being begged and pleaded with by a parent to,"Put down the video game controller and go play outside!"

Being that summer break is widely accepted as being much too long, a few school districts around the country have transitioned from a long summer break to year-round schools, with short breaks spaced throughout the year. Honestly, I'm not sure why all schools don't make that year-round school year transition. I know I would vote for that.

In an effort to combat summer brain mush, we are going on a Summer Safari through Africa... In our backyard! Thanks to Animal Trackers Club, a super cute weekly Summer 2015 learning program, each week, we are going to learn about a different animal in Africa. Wait 'til you see...

I LOVE THIS SO SO SO MUCH!

Full Disclosure: When I learned about the Animal Trackers Club,  I asked the founder to PLEASE send me a pack for review. I decided that if they really were super awesome, I'd want to share the program with you before the program actually started, and you missed the sign-up deadline. FYI: I love Animal Trackers Club so much, I've signed on to be a brand ambassador for the year! 



I'm SO EXCITED!!!

May 22, 2015

Hands Down, This is My Favorite Milestone... So Far... SO FUNNY!

I remember when my son was just a littler over 18-months old and I would practically do handstands to coax words out of him. I LOVED hearing his sweet little angelic voice utter Mommy, More or Hi. 

I also remember my been-there-done-that-parent friends telling me to, "Just wait, soon, you won't be able to get him to shut up."  

Now that my son is three, I guess in a way, my friends were right; it is near impossible to get him to shut up. But truth be told, 95% of the time, I don't want him to--I reserve the 5% for the times he says No! or Mommy, Mom and/or Momma four hundred times in thirty seconds. I don't really love that.

Now that Ollie can talk and fully articulate his day or thoughts, nine times out of ten, it's freaking hysterical!  Ok, sometimes it takes a while to find the humor...

This was last week when he decided to pee in that cup:
Look, Mommy, I peed in the cup and then poured it in the toilet.
I'm still not quite sure where he got the cup or the idea...
Or the sticker stuck to his forehead?


My favorite part is not knowing what he will say next...

Earlier this, Ollie and I were driving home from his Child's Day Out program when he announced that he, had to go home and smash all of his toys.  

WHAT?

Me: Huh? You have to go home and smash all of your toys? Why would you do that?

Ollie: Because, Mrs. Rosie said I can smash my toys at home. I'm not allowed to smash her toys though.

Holy crap. I laughed SO hard.

He sees and hears things so literally. He takes everything for face value, and believes pretty much anything he hears. (Which is super dangerous since FTD and I are his parents!)

A couple of weeks ago, he pointed to a photo of an anchor in a book and said, it's a hook.  I corrected him and then explained how boats drop an anchor in the water to keep them still. 

You all, I have no idea where it came from, but the next time he took a crap he yelled out, "MOM! Come see, I just dropped the anchor!" 

Oh. My... Funny-ass-kid. 

I laughed for DAYS over that one.

The real trouble starts when he tries to interpret things. Like the toy smashing incident. I thought I would never get him to understand that Mrs. Rosie didn't mean he should go home and smash his toys, but rather he can't just go around smashing toys in general. 

The little talking wonder is constantly telling me stories, or pointing out things or singing songs. Sometimes he will lay on the floor and read a book to himself using the pictures. It's absolutely brilliant and could listen to him all day.  



I love this book. I picked it up at Office Depot for $10 and it has been wonderful. He loves it. He reads through it on his own and counts things, points out the objects and answers the questions... #awesome


Another of his favorites is accosting strangers with his observations or questions:

One day a girl was running by our house, and Ollie yelled out, Hey! Girl! What are you running from?

Or when a new neighbor stopped by to introduce herself, she asked Ollie how old he was and he replied with, "I'm three! How old are you?"

Sometimes, he'll bring me a toy and tell me all about it-- like how the guy's arm moves, or how the plane flys and makes noise when he pushes a particular button.  

I love love love hearing my son talk. 

In fact, I'm not sure who is more excited about him being able to verbally articulate what he's thinking and feeling. 

While, yes, my been-there-done-that-parenting friends are right 99.9% of the time, so far, they are not right about me wanting the kid to shut it. My kid is hysterical, no-freaking-way do I want to mute him. 

Talking is the best milestone EVER!

What's the best thing your toddler has said?


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May 20, 2015

It's HERE! EWG'S BEST and WORST Sunscreens Of 2015 LIST... Where Does Your's Rank?

The Environmental Working Group's 2015 List of the Best Sunscreens of 2015 has been released! 

This year, more than 1,700 U.S. sun protection products were analyzed to highlight the best and worst in the 2015 Guide to Sunscreens. What's really scary is 80 percent of products EWG reviewed contained harmful ingredients, or offer inadequate protection against dangerous ultraviolet radiation. 


When it comes to protecting our Little's delicate skin, providing the safest "broad spectrum" sunscreen is essential. What you may not know, most of the safest sunscreen are inexpensive, you just have to know what you are looking for!



                         Why yes, that is Ollie and Professor "The Bloody Cat" playing at the beach!

The first thing that stood out to me in the EWG's 2015 Sunscreen Report was a finding on one of my most trusted brands, Nuetrogena:




"Neutrogena’s advertising hype is further from reality than any other major brand we studied. It claims to be the “#1 dermatologist recommended suncare brand.” Yet all four products highlighted on Neutrogena’s suncare web page rate 7, in the red – worst – zone in our database. Neutrogena’s “Pure & Free Baby” sunscreen claims “special protection from the sun and irritating chemicals” and “hypoallergenic,” but it contains a preservative called methylisothiazolinone, or MI, that some researchers call a potent allergen and that is deemed unsafe in Europe. 

Neutrogena boasts shamelessly sky-high SPF values. A dozen or so are labeled SPF 70; two claim SPF 100+ and one, SPF 110. The federal Food and Drug Administration says that SPF benefits max out at 50+ and wants to bar higher numbers, as the European Commission, Japan and Australia have done, but its proposed regulation, under fire from sunscreen manufacturers, has been stuck in bureaucratic limbo since 2007."

SCARY!


What's worse, the EWG's Hall of Shame findings are shocking. For starters, a few facts everyone should know:



  • Spray sunscreens can be inhaled, and they don’t cover skin completely.
  • SPF values above 50+ try to trick you into believing they’ll prevent sun damage. Don’t trust them. SPF protection tops out at 30 to 50.
  • Oxybenzone can disrupt the hormone system.
  • Retinyl palmitate may trigger damage, possibly cancer.
The Hall of shame outlines the absolute worst sunscreens you can use in 2015.  There is even a list for kids products:


11 Worst Sunscreens for Kids

These terrible kid and baby sunscreens have at least three strikes against them: 1) oxybenzone, 2) retinyl palmitate and 3) SPFs above 50+. Two have a fourth strike: they’re aerosol sprays that can harm sensitive young lungs. Convenient? Yes. Good for kids? Absolutely not.
Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Coppertone Kids Wacky Foam Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Kroger Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+
Up & Up Kid’s Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Now, for the Best...

Of the 1770 products tested, under 300 met EWG's criteria.  To see the best, mineral, non-mineral, SPF moisturizers and lip balms, click here.

Or: 

For quick reference, here are a few links to interesting findings from this year’s report:
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May 19, 2015

10 TRUTHS You Need To Know About Potty Training

When I began my research on potty training tips, tricks and how-tos, I found a wealth of information. But what I didn't find was the parent support I needed. I never read warnings about how daunting, messy and LONG potty training can be.

So, my friends, for today's top 10 Tuesday, I am going to share 10 of parenting's dirty little secrets about potty training a toddler... 





1. Potty training is not an event, it's a process. Potty training can literally take years! It's not over when your kid becomes a daytime potty pro, nighttime is a much different story. 
Sure, some parents will tell you their kid was "easy" to potty train, but chances are, they have blacked out just how long and messy it really was.


2. Expect regular golden showers. You WILL get peed on, and so will every hard to reach crack and crevasse in your home. Especially if you try the 'free ballin' for a weekend' method with your little. Kids are really good about hitting those spots, especially boys. Parents of girls, just because your little isn't equipped with a firehose, don't think you are exempt from golden rainbows of pee, accidents happen to the best of us, especially the little streakers.

3. Daytime potty training is a completely different process from nighttime training. Some parents report an extra year (or two!) of nighttime potty training. Ollie is three, has been potty trained for about four months now, and still wears a pull-up to sleep.  I read until he wakes up for two weeks with a dry diaper, or begins to wake up and go at night, don't even bother skipping the nighttime nappy. 

I mean, how do you teach a sleeping kid to wake up and pee? Especially when you are asleep too! (See my post on the Chummie of you are out of your mind with nighttime training.)

4. It's Messy. Messy. Messy. Messy.  Do yourself a favor, stock up on antibacterial disinfecting wipes (For EVERY room in the house!) and LOTS of hand soap for you both.


5. Your days of wiping ass are FAR from over. Just because your kid can crap on his own, doesn't mean he can wipe his bottom on his own. I know my sister was still wiping my nephew's butt until he was nearly five.


TIP:  Buy stock in a flushable wipes company. The amount of money you will spend on the things will make you sick. Owning stock in a wipes company will replace your child's college tuition you had to spend on the damn things.


6. Not all toilets are created equal. Just because your kid is a potty pro at home or daycare, doesn't mean he'll crap in any ol' can. Kids are fickle about their potty place at first. Some will happily pee in their pants over an unknown potty.


TIP: Remember those nasty seedy public potties you had to use when you were pregnant, and SWORE you would never use again? Well... It's time for an Encore. With your child. Don't pass a potty without offering it up. Or, at the very least, decide which is worse, using that vomit vortex, or having pee pants? Plan for it by keeping a makeup bag in your handbag with travel size flushable wipes, antibacterial wipes and gel, and a folded paper towel or two for those bathrooms that are out of towels or only have a "super scary dryer". Also, investing in seat covers is not a bad idea...


GAME CHANGER.
 They come in a pack of 6 ($5.99 on Amazon) Buy it here

7. Teach the fundamentals first. The potty training game changer came for us when Ollie learned to take off his diaper on his own. (Pull-ups helped!) When he was able to take off his diaper and climb up his little stool to the potty, he really turned the potty training corner. It was like he was so proud that he could do it ALL on his own.


8. This Is Not A Boy Girl Thing! When we started potty training, EVERYONE told me to be patient, because, "Boys take longer to potty train than girls." Not. So. Much. Ollie potty trained before three Girls the same age as him. It's not a boy-girl thing, it's a one-child-to-the-next thing.  


9. Forward mail to your bathroom, because that's where you'll live for the next year. After talking with a few parents (read: trading war stories) about how our children are CONSTANTLY in the bathroom now that they can go alone, we came to the conclusion that our children never had a reason to go into the bathroom alone. Since most children find bath time a waste of time, the bathroom was never a fun place to be... until they controlled what went on in that tiled playground. My child is OBSESSED with the toilet. He loves being in the bathroom. If he's not climbing on the bathtub, he's playing in the toilet. You may remember the post on Be Very Afraid If Your Child Says This To You...



That one time Ollie mopped the floors with toilet water...

10. Age is not a virtue when it comes to potty training. Some kids get it immediately after turning one. Some get it, but don't want to bother with it until they are three. Other tots are just not ready, and won't be for some time; possibly not until they turn four. Your frustration will spill over to your child, so try to keep it together. The last thing you want is potty training regression. 

Your best bet is to wait for the cues before forcing the poos. And what ever you do, don't get discouraged, or your child will too.



What were you surprised to learn about potty training?





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May 18, 2015

One Of My Biggest Parenting Lessons Learned To Date...

My friends, I have spent the entire weekend feeling like a crappy parent...

Ollie goes to a four hour Child's Day out Program Monday-Thursday. On Monday and Wednesdays he goes to one church and then to a different church on Tuesday and Thursdays; the same teachers travel between the schools. So even though he is in a different place, the teachers are the same.



Everything has been going great for the past year with him at the schools. He loves his teachers, his friends and the curriculum; from coloring, arts and crafts and even now learning to read and write!  However, over the last month, red flags have been going up all over the place at one of the schools.

When I pick him up from one school, he is happy, excited to show me his artwork, and always comes home with an empty lunchbox. Lately, at the other school, however, it's the complete opposite. He's not nearly as happy, barely gets excited about showing me his art and his lunch is barely touched.

In my heart, I just knew something was not right.

Then, last week, after a not so great Tuesday, my mother's instinct was RAGING!  I talked with him, about the school and he mentioned that a teacher was not very nice to him. This teacher, is also not very nice to me. She tells me to be harder on him, and not to let him get away with being a terror.

The thing is, part of why I like him going to school is so someone else can be the asshole!  Ollie is a handful. He's a toddler. A wild three year old toddler, and some days I feel like I am constantly having to scold him or put him in time-out. It's nice to have someone else on him to behave.

So... I let it go...

Then, on Thursday night, I look up his nose and see blood. Lots of it. Clearly, he's had a bloody nose... that no one told me about!  I asked him what happened, and he said he fell on the playground.

That was it for me. My mother's instinct was so wild inside, my heart was breaking.  I should have listened to it sooner. I should have trusted myself and my son, before the school.

After a weekend of agonizing about being a horrible mother for not addressing my concerns sooner, I called the director of Ollie's program first thing Monday morning.

I told her about my concerns and that I knew in my heart something was going on over there, and I could not send my son back.

She told me that she too noticed an issue with Ollie and one of the teachers, and had spoken to the teacher about it. She apologized that clearly she wasn't getting through to the teacher, and would remove her from Ollie's class immediately... and then some. (Each class has two teachers and one helper.)

The school really is amazing, and this is the first issue we have had, so, I am going to trust the director to fix the issue. I'm giving it to the end of this week to see things back to normal.

The moral of the story: This Mother's instinct stuff is VERY REAL!

I've learned my lesson. When my Mother's Instinct flag goes up, I will listen to it IMMEDIATELY!

I feel awful for letting the issue go on so long. My child deserves better.

We have a long road of school ahead of us, so in a way, I'm glad I learned this lesson now.  Never again will I let flags go up over school or anything else without addressing them immediately.

My friends, if you learn anything from this blog, I hope it's to trust your parent instinct, because it is very real.





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May 16, 2015

The Toddler Code of Conduct-Twenty Rules Toddlers Live By...

After observing my toddler, and talking with other parents of toddlers, I am convinced that the little buggers have the following Code of Conduct hard wired into their DNA...

1.  You are the alarm clock for the entire family,  it is your job to wake everyone up at the ass crack of dawn every day. Every. Single. Day.  
2. ALWAYS crap your pants AFTER leaving the house.  Your best bet is to clench those cheeks together until you have left your street, and then EXPLODE!!! To achieve Legend status, do this when your parent is in a huge hurry to get somewhere very important.   
3. Do not be content doing anything for more than two minutes.  You have to constantly keep moving.  NEVER SLOW DOWN!
4. If you are not interested in being picked up, get as low to the ground as possible. Think dead weight. Feel free to flail and cry for added difficulty.
5. If someone tries to take something from you, teach them a lesson by first throwing it, then jump up and down while making your best "oh you are going to be REALLY sorry," face, then fall to the floor and start flopping about in protest; scream and cry extra loud if you are in public.

6.  If you do not like the food that is served to you, throw it on the ground in disgust, then at your parent, then at the cat/dog. For extra credit smash the remaining food into your hair and clothes. When you are given something to drink immediately dump it in your lap.
7.  Whenever possible terrorize the family pets so they know who is in-charge. 
8.  NEVER EVER let your parent get the house clean. EVER!  Once something is picked up off the floor, put something in its place. A good rule of thumb is dumping out the cat/dog food daily. Feel free to snack on it as well. 
9.   You are in control of your sleep schedule. If you do not want to go to sleep, then don’t, and if someone really wants you to go to sleep, then definitely do not do it. Do your best to get so tired that you become an evil miserable crying mess.  That will show them! 
10. Always do your best to be in the way, including but not limited to; playing at your parent’s feet while they are cooking, cleaning, fixing something, talking on the phone, getting ready for work, or doing anything that looks remotely important. 
11. Take ALL of your toys out of the toy box before playing with any of them. This goes for books too, rip all of them off the shelf before reading one. Your job is to make a huge mess. Hint: To keep things interesting, never ever play with the same toy or book for more than one minute. 
12. Under no circumstance will you make diaper changes or potty training an easy venture.  If poop does not get everywhere than you have failed.13.  Every time you leave the park throw a fit big enough to make it look like you are being kidnapped. If you are lucky this will buy you five more minutes on the slide. 
14. The minute you learn to walk, refuse to be held. Insist on walking EVERYWHERE! 
15. The minute you learn to talk, DO NOT STOP! Do not be discouraged if you are not understood - talk away anyway. It is not your fault if people are too stupid to understand you. 
16. EVERYTHING in this word belongs to you. Feel free to touch it, take it, hide it, throw it, smash it, break it and completely ruin it. HINT: ALL of the telephones in the house belong to you - store them in the toilet. 
17.  Your Mantra is, “Catch me if you can you silly fool.” 
18.   “No!” means, Good Job!  Keep doing that! 
19.  NEVER EVER do anything the first time you are asked. 
20. And last… The most important code of toddler conduct… For every five minutes you spend terrorizing your parent(s), sibling(s) and/or pet(s), provide one minute of pure sweet lovin' to ensure complete forgiveness.


                                    


BONUS!  The Property Laws of a Toddler.  (I didn't make this up, another genius did.)

                                              

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May 15, 2015

The Clueless Gardener's Guide To Gardening... With Crazy Kids

If you follow me on social media, then you know I am OBSESSED with my garden. I lived in a third-floor walk-up for ten years, so just being outside in my own space is bliss, but to have a huge garden I can do ANYTHING with, is freaking outstanding. Now, that being said, I have absolutely NO CLUE what I'm doing.  And wouldn't you know, I have a corner lot that was lovingly cared for by a proper gardener for years. So, in addition to not having a freaking clue how to garden, I have a hundred different plants I know nothing about, which need tending.

And to top it off, I have a toddler who follows me around, banging on the plants and/or plucking their leaves and blooms.

With a little trial and whole lot of error, I've figured out a few super tricks to not only figure out my garden, but to get my toddler focused and interested. I thought I would share them, so not only can you too figure out how to transform your space, whether it's a balcony, patio or full yard into a paradise, but get your toddler to help!

This was when we started out fruit and veggie Garden. When I sit still in the garden for long periods, I put up out table umbrella to help keep us cool and shaded!  

My best tip for the clueless gardener is to take pictures of the plants they have no clue about. and then go to the local nursery or garden center, and match up the leaves, or just ask someone. Finding out what you have, and how to care for it properly, is essential.  Or, if you have a hole you need to fill, watch the area for a day to see how much sun/shade it gets, then go to the local nursery or garden center, and look around for something that catches your eye, then check out it's tag to see what kind of care it needs to thrive in your yard. OR! just ask someone...

My Instagram followers may remember this from last year when we bought the house, and I was just learning about my garden, and tell the great stuff in it...





Make the most of your space. Even at my third-floor walk-up, I grew herbs and had lovely hanging baskets. Whether you have a ton of space, or are limited to a pot next to a sunny window, you can grow something fabulous!

First, decide if you want to eat it, or just stare at it. Herbs are great for windows, but so are African violets, you decide. I was FLOORED when I found out I could grow strawberries in a pot. And here's the even crazier thing, growing strawberries in a pot on my patio has turned out to be the easiest thing! They grow with JUST water and sun.

All I did was plant the bulbs in a pot, place the pot in a sunny spot, and then water them daily, and just like the directions said, strawberries grew!!!!
This is at 4 weeks growth.


Let your child pick out a plant or two to call their own. In an effort to help Ollie understand where food comes from, I took him to the local nursery and let him pick out two plants that are, "his special plants". He picked out blueberries and cherry tomatoes and was over the moon when I told him if he took very good care of the plant, he could eat the yummy fruit from the plant!




Throughout the entire picking to planting process, I have been over the top about HIS PLANTS and how he is so great for caring for them. To my delight, he has really taken to HIS PLANTS   We water them daily and check their fruit ONE THOUSAND TIMES A DAY, but the bottom line is that my evil plan worked. He is so focused on his plants; he leaves mine alone!

When it comes to toddlers, busy work is best. When I need to get work done in the garden, and the wild one is not interested, I find him fun jobs to keep him busy. My four go-tos are:

  • Dig a hole a to China. It worked for me as a kid, and now, thankfully, it works for him. I take the wild one to the back corner of the yard and tell him to dig for treasure. This usually amounts to him flicking dirt everywhere, but that's cool with me if it keeps him busy for 5 minutes.
  • Build a HUGE pile of sticks. I get Ollie all excited about building a HUGE pile of sticks, then send him out into the yard to collect sticks and pile them HIGH. This is actually really awesome because it's helpful for me too!
  • Wash his tools: I grab a small bucket of water and tell him to clean his gardening tools, which usually amounts to cleaning a few cars and sticks too. 
  • Chalk it up. When all else fails, I throw sidewalk chalk down and let him color the footpath in the garden. 

Gardening is such wonderful therapy for both adults and children.  The fine and gross motor, and cognitive skills, my son both uses and acquires while gardening, make the mess and mind blowing amount of needed patience worth it. Watching him love and care for his blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes is amazing. And the life lessons he is gaining from learning not only where good wholesome food comes from, but how to grow food for himself, is epic.


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Disclaimer

My husband and I are clueless first time parents. We are far from childhood development professionals. We cannot and will not be held responsible if you take us seriously, especially because we don't even take ourselves seriously.



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