How To Find The Balance Between Holiday Madness And The Simple Moments That Mean So Much

Even though the next few weeks promise to be full of parties, holiday kid-events, challenges, a wild-child jacked up on sugar cookies, and a stupid amount of cooking and baking, I do enjoy it. But I learned last year, it's so easy to get lost in it all. Or more to the point, spend the majority of the holiday season stressed out trying to keep everything on track.

I'm determined to make this year different. Better. Most of all, I don't want to be a stressed out cranky scrooge! I want to find a happy balance between Holiday Madness and the simple sweet moments that mean so much to my family.

As a kid, I LOVED the holidays and now that I have one, the traditions are fun all over again. Seeing my son's face light up at the magic of the holidays is AMAZING. Which, is why I have a tendency to over do it for my child. I accept every party invite, sign-on to every kid-friendly event, over buy, over give, and overextend myself.

It's times like these, I'm reminded why the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask over your face before your child. If you are not calm, healthy and focused, what good are you to a child?  I know I'm absolute shit!  (Also, this is a reminder that if you are sick, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Parents are so bad at this!)

As I sit here, the boys at school, Professor the cat is keeping my feet warm, I'm taking this quiet peaceful time to remind myself that the next few weeks are a magical time that I will never get back. I don't want to miss it running around with my head cut off!

I've decided this year to make a list, and use a written calendar to make sure I stay on track, plan ahead and DO NOT overextend myself or family.

Some of the happiest family holiday moments can be had at home, making cookies, decorations, playing games and making new traditions and memories. I know mine are. I loved spending solo time with my parents as a child. (Teenage years are a total different story!)

Life can get so crazy and stressful around the holidays. That's a given. Being that I'm already stressing and know how bad that is, especially this time of year, I'm determined to slow down, enjoy the simple things, and not try to pack in a lifetime of holidays memories in one year. When my son is older, there will be a time for all that. This year, I want to cherish the simple sweet moments. Something tells me, they will be the best.

What about you? Do you overextend or have you learned to slow down? What's the secret to a perfectly balanced holiday season?

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Morning Madness: How to Prepare your Child for a Great Day

The most challenging time for any parent of a young child is the mornings, and this is the time when your patience gets stretched to the limits, as getting the youngster ready to leave the house is no small task. The objective is for all the family to be ready to go, on time, and all in a happy frame of mind, and if that sounds like mission impossible, here are a few tips to help you negotiate weekday mornings.

Early to Bed – Early to Rise
An age old saying, yet still very true, and insufficient sleep is the major cause of morning problems, even with adults. Set a time for bed and stick to it, and that may include 30 minutes listening to a story in bed, or perhaps some soothing music. Dim the lights, as this encourages sleep, and try to eliminate noise that might affect your child’s sleeping pattern. If you are in Western Australia, and are looking for a south Perth child care centre, you couldn’t do better than http://www.littlepeoplesplace.com.au/, where your child can learn and develop with other children their age, and in the expert hands of professional day care workers, your child will really want to leave the house on time in the mornings.
Attitude Adjustment
We are not talking about changing your child’s attitude, this is strictly for the parents. It might be that you are not a morning person, and this could cause tension which then sparks off disharmony in the child. If you are happy. Relaxed and quiet, your child will respond in a positive way, but if you are running around like a headless chicken, looking at your watch and hurrying everyone along, then this will have a negative impact on the event. Try to wake early, have that morning coffee in peace, and prepare yourself for the start of the day. Stress is a major cause of family tension and even small children are affected.
This is the key to a smooth morning, and it can be achieved in a number of ways. It might be watching cartoons in the afternoon, or perhaps a treat at the weekend, and whatever works best depends on what motivates your child the most, so don’t be afraid to experiment. If there are older children, they can really help by ensuring their younger sibling remains focused while the bathing and dressing take place. The breakfast routine should be free from distractions. Absolutely no TV, as this will distract your child and that 5 minute breakfast will take 15.
Communicate Clearly and Effectively
When talking to your child, especially about the tasks at hand and how time is slipping by, try to remain calm and free of emotion when you talk to them, and a friendly smile won’t go amiss. This is an important part of stress free family living, as the general mood will determine a child’s response to something, so try to make things jovial, even if you really don’t feel like it.

The routine should work, once it is established, and keep the rewards back for the times when things just seem to break down.

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If You Shop Online, READ THIS! It's Game Changing.

There's no denying, online shopping is a lifesaver around the holidays. In fact, I have absolutely no plans to endure the shopping malls anytime soon. Between the traffic, parking and lines, I'd rather stay home and shop from the comfort of Pajamas.  

If you agree, keep reading, because I have a few tips that will save you time and money, and wait for it... 

Get a crap load of cash back on your purchases!

1. GOOGLE ALL PURCHASES! If you shop online without checking for a coupon first, SHAME ON YOU! Seriously. It's as easy as Googling "Home Depot Coupon" or "Walmart Coupon Code." There are millions of online promo codes for percentages off your purchase or for add-ons like free trial packs. DO THIS EVERYTIME YOU SHOP ONLINE!!!

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE AMAZON PRIME FREE 30-DAY TRIAL! If you don't have Amazon Prime, get it! New members can take advantage of a 30-Day FREE trial. Yes, you do have to give your credit card number, but once you sign up, "cancel" the Prime Membership and the clock will still run for 30 days. So no worries about remembering to cancel. 

Here is a screen shot of me canceling my 30-day free trial early, but still have the benefits through the full 30 days. 

TIP: Haven't used Amazon in a long time or not even sure what email you used? Your account may be eligible for a new free trial! Or, just start over. Sign up with a new email address, take advantage of the free 30-day prime membership and shop away in your PJs!  You also get all thePrime Extras like Free TV, Movies, Books, Music. Click the banner below to sign up now.


3. GET CASH BACK ON EVERY PURCHASE! Did you know, you should be getting cash back for every online purchase you make? And I'm not talking about 1% of your purchase. Try up to 25% of your purchase! Seriously. No. Shit.

Last year, I reviewed a website that offered cash back. It worked. I REALLY got a check for the purchases I made when I shopped through the website. The problem was remembering to use the website before shopping.

Which is why EBATES has taken the online shopping world by storm with its browser button feature. Ebates created a button that installs on your web browser to easily find coupons offered on every site you shop at. INSTANTLY!

I made $10 cash back shopping last night between Macy's and Clinique. INSANE! I'm mad I didn't sign up for Ebates sooner. A friend who recently showed me a $300 check from Ebates said she has been using the website for two years, and has gotten over two-thousand dollars cash back. There's NO gimmick. Shop and get Cashback!  If you plan to buy a refrigerator or something big on Black Friday, definitely consider a site like Ebates to get a huge chunk of change back on your purchase. It's my plan for sure! 

To check out or Sign up for Ebates, click Here.

Do you have a super Shopping tip? Please share, us Parents need all the help we can get over the next two months!
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Picture Perfect Thanksgiving Dishes, With a Twist! (Recipes Included!)

When it comes to Turkey I am a traditional girl, I love my turkey brined overnight then roasted all day, however, when it comes to sides, I like the traditional dishes too… but with a twist! Think horseradish and double cheddar mashed potatoes, or cranberries with orange-zest and jalapeños…

 I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes I have come across this year, and a couple of faves from years past… (to get the recipe for any of the following dishes click the Dish's title link and a new window will open up!)

Without further ado… Picture Perfect Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes, With a Twist! 


Leave it to me to find a way to get Goat Cheese on the table.
Lawd I love that creamy goodness!

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries!
Why they always gotta be sweet and cinnamon-y?
Kick those suckers up a notch!

(This is Sunny Anderson's recipe.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE her!!)

Just like with Goat Cheese, if I can get Bacon on the table… It's happening.
The only other traditional dish on my table is the Traditional Green Bean Casserole.  I am a Sucker for this one.


Two Words,
(This link is to another of my personal faves, Rachel Ray!)

I LOVE this idea!
You can use any stuffing recipe you want, just bake into muffin tins.
Every one will get crispy stuffing,
and its a total over loaded Thanksgiving plate space saver!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe!
My Brother-in-Law made it a few years ago and I have begged for it at every holiday since.
The dish is a perfect balance of each flavor; Cranberry, Jalapeño & Orange.
 OH. SO. GOOD!!!

For the grown-ups, Caramel Apple Cheesecake

For the littles...

What about you? Are you a traditional turkey and sides kind of person, or do you like things to have a wild twist too?  Do you have any awesome ideas you want to share?  

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6 Things All New Mothers Should Know To Survive The First 6-Months

 If only I knew all of this, and followed it, when I was a new mom...

I have no doubt that every mother will agree with me when I say, during pregnancy the only thing you get more of than stretch marks and bad gas, is parenting advice.  Between the always ready to share been-there-done-that mothers, parenting books and online resources, the information available today for new mothers is overwhelming. What's more, you never know what to believe since one book will contradict the next, and what one mother swears by, another mother will insist did not work for her baby. Weeding through all of the advice can be daunting, to say the least.

Looking back, I wish I was given more advice on how to deal with becoming a mother, and less on the three million different ways to rock a baby to sleep. I needed to know about the self-doubt and failures that came along with motherhood, or that having a baby would take a huge toll on my marriage and personal life if I let it. After talking with numerous other mothers, I realized we all struggled with the same issues; things it seemed no one bothered to warn us about in between lessons on feeding, changing and rocking our newborn to sleep.  I've put a list together of the top six things all new mothers to know.  Things we wish we didn't have to learn the hard way.

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Are All Parents Weather Bugs?

**Today, I'm partnering with the Weather Bug App
to find out if all parents are weather bugs, or if it's just me.

Ok, I admit, I can't remember much before becoming a parent. What with delivering my brain with my baby and all. Still, I can't remember being so obsessed with the weather forecast prior to parenthood. I would wake up, look outside, and dress accordingly. Now that I'm a parent, I can tell you the temps for the next week, what days there will be rain/snow/sleet/thunderstorms, the UV index, pollen count...

Is this a parent thing? Or is it just me?

It wasn't until recently when I was introduced to a new weather App, Weather Bug, did I realize just how deep my obsession with the weather went. In fact, it might be safe to say, I am a Weather Bug. But's there's a good reason for it; If I don't know what the weather will be like for the next week, how can I plan playdates, picnics at the park or rainy day activities?

I'm here to tell you, it only takes one time getting rained on at the zoo or stuck inside on a rainy day without anything to do, that will teach a parent a valuable lesson in weather-preparedness. At least, it did for me.

How's that for being prepared for anything.

I have THREE weather apps on my phone. Four if you count the one that came with my iPhone. Each specializes in its own thing. Local weather, hurricane reporting, radars, allergy and UV levels... I obsess with it all!

It all goes back to being prepared for my child's needs, which weather plays a big part in. From clothes to playdates, to food and outdoor activities, the weather plays a huge factor in planning. The more I know, the better prepared I can be. You know, like when the rain and wind move in on clear skies in less than an hour, without my weather apps, I would never know!  I even zoom in on the radar to get an idea just how far I can push our park-playdate before the first drops of rain will fall.

Seriously. I can't be the only parent this obsessed with the weather? This has to be a parenting thing!

 Ok. Maybe, I'm a little too obsessed. And for the record, he put the sunglasses on.

I knew my obsession with the weather ran super deep when I was introduced to the Weather Bug App, and flipped out. The App is a perfect combination of all three of my weather apps, but what's more, you can customize the home screen to give only the information you need. When it's hurricane season, I can move that information to my home screen.

I seriously find comfort in knowing what the weather is going to be like for the next five days.

Photo: Screenshots my Weather Bug app.

I freaking love this app!  Definitely worth checking out if, like me, you are a Weather Bug too.

Weather Bug is Available for iOS (It works with my Apple Watch!) and Android. For more info, check out the Weather Bug website, here.

Please tell me I'm not the only parent obsessing?  Please tell me you consult a weather app daily, too.
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The Toddler Code Of Conduct: 20 MORE Things Hardwired Into Their DNA

As the man-child gets older and adds speaking freely, thinking freely and acting freely to his repertoire of toddler conduct, life has gotten much more interesting. It's become clear that more codes of conduct have been hard wired into his DNA than previously thought...

Without further ado, I present the latest installment in The Toddler Code Of Conduct--Part II: The Age Of Independence... 20 More Rules Toddlers Live By.

1. When your parent(s) appear to be having a deep conversation with another adult, announce that you have to poop. If you are still in diapers, extra credit awarded for grunting and straining to make it appear like you are trying to pass a brick. 
2. When being served a banana, if it breaks during the peeling process, REFUSE to eat it. Actually, make that the rule for anything that breaks before being served. Yes, even cookies. 
3. When out to eat, stand up in the booth, then turn around and stare at the person eating behind you for so long it becomes creepy.
4. If someone tries to take something from you, make them sorry.  Hold tight while flailing and screaming. If they manage to pry it out of your hands, channel the Incredible Hulk and explode on them.
5. Potty Training... (a.k.a The Great Chocolate Caper) Should NOT be easy for anyone involved. Well, unless chocolate and sweet treats are not your thing. The harder you make it, the longer you will get rewarded for crapping in the potty.

6. MAKE A MESS! That is your mantra. Make the most of every opportunity to wreck the joint. Get creative. Go nuts. Think: Filthy Wild Mess. Make sure it's clear where you have been...Store your toys in the hall, in shoes, in the cat's/dog's bed, in the refrigerator, in the toilet, bathtub, front yard... anywhere but where your parents want them.  
7. When you pass gas, laugh hysterically and then in your loudest voice announce, "HA HA I JUST FARTED." Legend status achieved if four or more people are present.
8. Before you touch anything on your plate, demand the food off everyone else's first. 
9. Shoes, clothes and vegetables are stupid. Avoid them. 
10. DO NOT sleep-in on the weekends. If the sun rises before you, then you have failed. If you do not see the tears in your parent's eyes when waking them up before dawn, then you have failed. 
11. Life is one big game of Tag. Everyone is 'It.' RUN FROM THEM! Use tables to play epic games of, You Can't Catch Me, by crawling under them and running around them. 
12. When no one is looking, try something really naughty. Something like climbing on furniture, jump on the bed, pull a chair over to the counter to grab a knife, chase the cat or dog. Something you are sure you will get yelled at if caught. Live a little. 
13. While out for walks, stop every six inches to poke, pick-up, drop or kick something.  Every dog in the neighborhood should be lapping you on walks.  Even the German Shepherd that stops every foot to mark it's territory.

14. Repeat EVERY word you hear. Every. Single. One. 
15. This is the only time of your life you can say bad words in public and not get in trouble. Remember, they think you are trying to say, truck, duck, chip, bridge, and ship. GO WITH IT! Drop Truck bombs all over the place!  
16. Phones and tablets were put on this earth for you. Seek them out. Always.
17. Act like a perfect little angel while in the care of others. Think, all smiles through Pleases and Thank Yous and well timed trips to the potty. It will keep your parents guessing and slightly annoyed. 
18. The backseat of the car is your domain.  Mark it by creating a sea of goldfish crackers. Feed the goldfish juice and crumbs whenever possible. 
19. Before you play with your toys, play with everything else first. Including but not limited to, everything in the house that is repeatedly referred to as, "not for you."
20. Last, and most important, to keep toddler legend perfect little angel status... at least once a week, WOW your parents with your undeniable wit and charm. One week bust out the ABC's or Itsy Bitsy Spider. Then the next week, count to ten.  In between, announce observations of your surroundings using words they have never heard you say before. Also, give kisses, hugs, cheeky grins and/or say I WUV You, the second you think they are on to you.

For the original Toddler Code of Conduct-Twenty Rules Toddlers Live By... CLICK HERE

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