Tuesday, November 13, 2018

#ShareYourEars and Make-A-Wish

This post is sponsored by Make-A-Wish Foundation but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

It's no secret that the kids in my house love all things Disney. You can probably tell by my four year old's pretty pink Disney Princess bedroom, or maybe by the play room downstairs filled with various toys from the likes of Monsters Inc, Toy Story, and Cars strewn about. If it's Disney, we love everything about it!

This holiday season Disney is looking celebrate 90 years of Mickey Mouse by helping Make-A-Wish. make life-changing wishes come true for children with critical illnesses. Together, Disney and Make-A-Wish have granted over 100,000 wishes globally! 

How can you help this holiday season? 
Disney is inviting all of their fans to celebrate with their Share Your Ears campaign. From November 4th to November 27th 2018, simply take a photo showing off your "Mickey Mouse ears"- or any creative "ears" and upload it to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. For every public photo posted with the hashtag #ShareYourEars, Disney will donate US $5 to Make-A-Wish®, up to US $1 million to grant even more life-changing wishes. Disney's Team of Heroes is committed to deliver comfort and inspiration to families around the world. 
Harper and I had to get creative with her "ears" when she recently sported some Mickey-esque ears for dress up day at school. She loves all things Minnie Mouse, so some "Minnie" ear buns were a must, along with her favorite pink Minnie Mouse shirt. 

To get these buns, simply section your child's hair in two equal parts, parting it straight down the middle. Make a high ponytail on each side and secure it with an elastic band. 

Depending on your child's length of hair, you can make your buns a few different ways. One easy way is to only half pull the ponytail through. Carefully fluff and pull the hair until it's just perfect.

Another method would be to twist the ponytail until it forms a little "bun", then twist an elastic band around it to secure it. Depending on how thick the hair is you might need a couple of bobby pins or clips to hold all of the little strands in place. 

How do you think we did?!

She was so excited! 

Don't have any ears? Get creative like we did! You can make ears out of just about anything. (you could even use a fun filter for some "ears", right?) Put them on and join your favorite heroes, celebrities and athletes in helping make wishes come true! I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Remember to use the hashtag ShareYourEars and make your post public so that Disney can see it and make their $5 US donation and make more wishes come true for kids in need this holiday season!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Tips for dealing with picky eaters (especially toddlers!)

This post is sponsored by Happy Family Brands but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Do you feel like, despite your best efforts, feeding them healthy foods is a daily struggle? Fear not, mamas! I found an new and amazingly helpful resource to answer all of your tough nutrition questions, as well as some really helpful tips for dealing with picky eaters (especially toddlers!)

My first three kids were the best little eaters ever, I swear. Introducing solid foods was a breeze and they gobbled up pretty much everything I put in front of them, no questions asked. They loved all fruits and veggies, from bananas and berries to broccoli and carrots. I have videos of Harper at 18 months old devouring salmon, quinoa, and asparagus. Seriously, they'd eat anything and everything. Now at 14, 10, and 4 years old, they're still good eaters. 

And because life is funny like that, of course my fourth baby came along and he was a struggle to feed from the start. Nursing him was frustrating because he had latch problems. Then my milk dried up prematurely. Finding a formula that worked for him was a challenge and he didn't seem to care for a majority of the solid foods when the time came. It seemed like for a while there, most days he was content with living off of milk and fishy crackers. He won't eat broccoli, but he'll eat crayons too. 

Thankfully, in this modern age of motherhood, we have countless resources at our fingertips. Obviously milk and fishy crackers will not suffice for a well-balanced toddler diet. So what's a mama to do when their child won't eat? Read on for my best tips! 

Ask a professional

I was thrilled to discover the Happy Mama Mentors from Happy Family Organics. Happy Family is a brand I already know, use, and trust (they make organic formula, snacks, and meals for babies and toddlers) so it was exciting to hear of this awesome, fast, and FREE live chat service on their website, HappyFamilyOrganics.com. 

Have a questions about feeding? Or just need some quick advice? The Happy Mama Mentors are available 8am to 8pm (EST) Mon- Fri and 8am to 4pm (EST) on the weekends. 

All Happy Mama Mentors are registered dietitians, lactation specialists, or are certified in infant and maternal nutrition. Plus, they're all moms too. Happy Family Organics believes children deserve the best possible nutrition and you deserve to feel confident in how you feed your family. If you have questions, hop on their website and fire away! 

I hopped on myself and asked about trying to get my son to try more vegetables. The Happy Mama Mentor who answered my chat message read my question and connected me with the type of specialist I needed (which in this case, was Rachel, a dietitian). She was really sweet and I felt like she actually wanted to help me. She didn't just give me basic, generic answers either. She asked questions about his eating habits and really tried to understand the situation. 

Rachel took the time to chat with me for about 10 minutes and I felt so much better and prepared to tackle lunch with some fresh ideas and a new approach. It was a great confidence boost and I really needed the support. I highly encourage parents and caregivers to use this if you have feeding questions. It's such an amazing resource to have and it's so quick and easy! 

Appeal to the senses and let them explore 

A lot of times a child will reject a certain food because of it's texture or how it feels. Or maybe they don't like really cold food. Or anything with spice in it. Or food that is green. Eating is very sensory-oriented and new foods can be weird, gross, or even down right scary to kids. Offer a variety of colors, tastes and textures. Let them investigate the food. 
Josiah loves crunchy, sour pickles.

Sometimes they'll just mouth it once and refuse. Sometimes they need to try it for a while. Sometimes they need to touch it, hold it, poke it, lick it, smash it, and play with it before they want to eat it. Let them investigate this new food. They might not eat it the first time you offer it to them, but they might eventually. Which brings me to....

Don't give up too early

Just because you served your child broccoli once and they dumped it on the floor, threw it, spit it out, or otherwise refused it, doesn't mean your child doesn't like broccoli and therefor your should stop offering it to them. Instead, keep putting that broccoli on their plate. Like I mentioned above, it might take a bit of investigating before they try it or like it. 

Actually, it can take around 20 to even 50 times for a child to try a new food sometimes! (Something the dietitian I chatted with online echoed as well. It's true!) 

Don't give up. Offer it again and give them a chance to try it multiple times. Eventually they might just come around. Or sometimes their taste buds mature and something they think they used to not like ends up tasting good later when they try it again! This happened to Harper with the above mentioned asparagus. It took her a good 3-4 tries before she decided she liked it. 

Sneak in healthy stuff when you can

Don't beat yourself up if not every single thing your child eats is nutritious. Supplement here and there by sneaking in extra goodness where you can. Does your child like yogurt? Why not add some chia seeds or granola on top for a boost of protein and fiber (and crunch! Remember the texture thing I mentioned?) Use whole grain pastas and breads and sneak extra veggies in foods like meatloaf or muffins. Try spaghetti squash instead of noodles the next time you make spaghetti (my kids all love it!) There are so many creative ways to sneak veggies and healthier options into their diet. Pinterest has a ton of ideas for new recipes. 

I hope these tips come in handy for anyone dealing with a picky eater. I really do know how  frustrating it is when meals and snack time are a daily struggle. Hang in there. Hopefully your mind and heart is at ease after reading this and please know that the Happy Mama Mentors are there to offer support. Seriously, if you have even the smallest question (or if you've got a doozy) hop over there and ask away. I'm so thankful to have them as a resource and I'm telling all of my mom friends to check them out! 

If you've got a good tip on dealing with picky eaters, feel free to drop it below!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Back to school

This post is sponsored by Sparkling ICE but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Happy back to school season, mamas! If you read my last post you know I'm a little bit surprised to find myself celebrating the kids' return to school again this fall, what with our previous plans being that we were going to homeschool this year. But as I said, plans change. I'm thrilled for them and the friends I know they will make this year in their new schools. And honestly, after these last couple of quiet days home with just a two year old and with three out of four kids being away during the day, I'm also thrilled for me too! I think we all needed this, and back to school season is definitely a happy occasion this year for sure! 

So what now? Now we adjust and get back into the swing of things. That is, finding balance and falling into our new normal- the after school routine. We've got three kids in three different schools, all with different start and end times. One child walks, one rides the bus, and another has to be dropped off and picked up. It's a lot to keep straight! Routine is key for us.

Snacks and homework
First things first, rehydrate and refuel. After putting away backpacks, taking off shoes, and stopping at the sink to wash hands, the next stop is always the fridge and the pantry. Snacks need to be healthy ones so they're not constantly popping into the kitchen to rummage every 10 minutes. Fresh fruit, protein, and complex carbs are always plentiful in my kitchen. Things like cookies and chips find their way into the house too, but I try to limit them. My kids know if they reach for the junk that it has to be paired with something healthy. Grabbing some cookies? You better take a banana too. 

Each child has a water bottle that I'm constantly nagging reminding them to keep filled during the day to ward off dehydration which can make them feel like they want to snack (when really all they need is to hydrate). I usually keep some Sparkling ICE in the fridge for when they want something besides water after school. I don't usually buy fruit juice or soda, which is just loaded with sugar and all kinds of things they don't need to fill up on. Sparkling ICE is a great alternative- it's got zero sugar and zero calories, comes in 16 flavors, and is made with vitamins, antioxidants, and naturally occurring colors. They're surprisingly flavorful and my kids love them! (Plus, you can even Amazon them!) 

Playtime with younger siblings
After they've snacked and homework is done it's time to play. I try to send the older kids outside (weather permitting) or downstairs with the toddlers so I can get dinner taken care of in relative peace. The little ones get a chance to bond with their big siblings (they miss them so much during the day) and the big ones keep an eye on them for me while I'm in the kitchen. Bonus points if I can get them to do some physical activity all together. We just got a trampoline for the backyard, so that's been a family favorite as of lately. Bounce all of that energy out! 

Dinner as a family
Dinner together is a big one for me. I'm a firm believer in the whole family gathering around the table sharing a meal together and talking about their day. It doesn't always end up being as picture perfect as it sounds (cue the grumpy toddler climbing out of the highchair and milk spilling all over the table), but we're all there at the end of the day and that's what matters. 

Pre-morning prep
I like to make mornings as easy as possible by planning ahead and doing as much as we can the night before. The kids shower at night and lay out their clothes and shoes for the next day. They clean out their backpacks and make sure they can just grab them and go in the morning. If they want to bring a lunch it also gets packed the night before so there's less thinking involved in the morning. Just grab and go! That's the key. I don't want to do any serious thinking that early. (Pssst- Sparkling ICE makes a great lunchbox drink!) 

Read each night
Before bedtime we always read for at least 20 minutes. I don't really care what they read as long as they are doing it and are flexing those brain muscles. Learning to read for enjoyment is such a great skill for kids to develop, and my kids know that at bedtime it's no screens and time to read- every night! 

The days seem to just whiz right by once school starts, which is why a good after school routine is so important for us. What am I leaving out? Is there anything else you can think of to make it easier? I'm always looking for tips to simplify! 

I hope the back to school season has been good to you! Cheers, mamas! 

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