Happy New Year | My one resolution for 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year friends! I hope the holidays were happy for you and your families.

We spent most of Christmas break hanging out at home, snowed in. At first we weren't sure we'd have a white Christmas but then we had a little snow storm and it brought a few inches of the white stuff right before Santa's arrival. The holidays with little kids is always made extra special when we have snow here in the Pacific Northwest. This was Josiahs'a first year playing in the snow and Harper just can't get enough of it. She's obsessed with making snowmen and snowmen families and Josiah loves to be pulled around on the sled (and mommy gets some good exercise!)

Christmas was just perfect this year. We spent our first holiday in our new home together, just the six of us and it was exactly how I wanted it to be. The kids got up around 7 and were surprised by all of the presents. Because we've had babies and toddlers the last few years, I've started waiting to put all of the presents out on Christmas Eve, when Santa comes. So the kids get their very first glimpse of any presents on Christmas morning when they wake up. It's so fun!

I had some seriously happy kids this year. 

I think watching them open their presents is one of the funnest parts of being a parent. We chose the gifts very carefully this year. I've been really trying to cut down on the amount of "stuff" and I didn't want any junky toys or things that would be totally forgotten about, broken, or tossed aside the next day. Quality, not quantity! 

Santa was also very good to me this year. I got a handheld Dyson vacuum (I've wanted a Dyson for like 10 years!) And I got a new FitBit. Not that I'm really a fitness person, but I had bought this little cheap fitness tracker thingy on Amazon a few months ago just to track my steps and see how much sleep I was getting. That kind of stuff interests me especially right now when I've been really focusing on my mental health and things I can do to improve my mental health naturally. So the FitBit was an upgrade since I fell in love with the cheapo one I got. The new one is rose gold and it's so pretty and I just love it! 

My kids go back to school January 2nd, so our winter break is just about wrapping up. I cannot wait to pack up this Christmas stuff and start the new year fresh! Do you keep your decor up until New Years? Later? Or are you the type that takes it down right after Christmas? I put mine up early this year so I think I'm done looking at it for another year. Now I suppose I should do something about the walls that are about to be bare again (I still haven't decorated much since moving in). I suppose that calls for some DIY projects in the new year. 

Along with fixing up the house I also have a New Years resolution. I don't normally do them because I never seem to stick by them and I don't think you have to wait until New Years to start fresh. Every day is a fresh start. My resolution this year is to stop the negative thoughts about myself to stop comparing myself to everyone else. And to give myself more credit.

Ok maybe that's more than 1 thing...

But really, I had a rude awakening earlier this year when I realized I was super depressed and was making it worse by comparing myself to my friends and people I saw online living better lives than me. Why were they so happy and I wasn't? How come that mom with 4 kids was killing it and I was over here feeling like a failure every second of the day? Why can that person do it all and look good and I can barely manage to change into clean clothes and keep the kids from burning the house down? 

Comparison is the thief of joy. What you see online is a highlight reel. You don't know what their journey actually looks like and you can't compare what you see behind the scenes in your life to what you see on someone else's perfectly curated Instagram page or Facebook profile. 

These last few years have been rough and I'm not sad to say goodbye to 2018. 2019 is going to be a year of personal growth for me (I hope!) and I'm hoping to use my voice to help other women out there. I learned a lot this year and hope my story and my experience helps someone who needs to hear it.

So Happy New Year friends! I wish you well in 2019 and I hope you have a happy and safe end to 2018!!! 

My plan for less stress this holiday season

Thursday, November 22, 2018

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

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Well, mostly. The holidays are upon us! (how does it always sneak up like that? Wasn't it just summer like 2 seconds ago?) I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and pretty much everything there is to love about this time of the year. 

Sometimes the role of "mom" around the holidays can make me feel all kinds of stressed out. It can get pretty hectic and chaotic, from cleaning and decorating the house and finding the perfect gifts, to cooking all of the yummy traditional dinners and making memories for my family to to enjoy. There's a lot of little things that "need" to be done and I always end up feeling a bit Scrooge-like by the time I'm done trying to create those perfect holiday memories. 

This year is going to be different though, because I've got a few little tricks of the trade that I've picked up over the years. I'm hoping to have a more peaceful and present moments with my loved ones this year and 

Keep the decorations simple

Clutter and messes are known to cause me extra stress, so keeping the holiday decor to a minimum is a must in my house. I love twinkling lights and tinsel and garland as much as the next person, but it can quickly get to be too much and soon I'm feeling like every surface has something dangling from it. This year I've really streamlined what I put up and I only use things that I really love or that have sentimental value or fond memories. I've actually thrown out a lot of old decoration because they just don't hold up or tastes change after so many years. Don't be afraid to toss things you don't love or are holding onto out of obligation. 

Give yourself a break in the kitchen 

Like I said- between all of the holiday dinners, cookies, and other yummy goodies it can get a little crazy in the kitchen. When I'm not cooking up a storm I like to keep some pizza stocked in the freezer for quick and easy dinner nights where I can just chill, unwind, and catch up with my family. Red Baron pizza is something everyone agrees on- it always bakes up crispy and perfect. 

I pulled these out of the freezer on Friday night because it had just been a crazy busy day. We had doctors appointments and speech therapy to get to (because real life still goes on this time of year) and I still needed to clean the house for company and finish my Thanksgiving shopping. Before I knew it, it was 5pm and I had no plan for dinner. Red Baron pizza was the perfect solution! I threw in a cheese pizza for the kids and a supreme for my husband and I and everyone was happy! 

Remember what the holidays are truly about

Try to remember what's really important this holiday season- time with family and the spirit of giving. At least, that's what it is to me. So I'm going to try my best not to stress this holiday season and count my blessings instead. Time spent with the ones you love most is what truly matters. 

How are you minimizing your stress this holiday season? 

Amazon favorites | toddler sensory play gift guide

Friday, November 16, 2018

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I'm sharing some gift ideas for toddler sensory play. Do you have a kiddo in your life who has some sensory processing "issues"? I know that's kind of a vague term, but sensory "issues" can fall under a huge umbrella of all kinds of disorders like Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), general anxiety, over-excitability, and the list goes on and on. 

Whatever the cause, some kids just have different sensory needs, and that's OK. Because of that though, shopping for kids with sensory needs can be a little tricky because they might not play or engage like their peers. They may seek certain sensory input and avoid others. As a mom of a child with sensory issues I can tell you it can be challenging figuring out exactly what they need sensory-wise. Every child is unique, and often times kids with sensory issues also lack the ability to tell you what they like or dislike, which can lead to more frustration.

I started documenting my son Josiah's sensory stuff earlier this year on my social media and now I get tons of questions about some of the toys and activities I share online. Because of that I decided to put together this handy dandy toddler sensory play gift guide for my sensory-seeking mama friends.(all from Amazon too, because hello, free 2 day shipping)! This list is comprised of toys we have and  that we love or that we've played with in therapy and that are great for encouraging sensory play. By sharing these I hope to help other people with sensory-seeking kids in their lives. So whether you're mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, teacher, etc. - HAPPY SHOPPING!

If you plan on shopping from this gift guide, please consider using a web browser to check out & not in a Facebook or Instagram window or via an app. I do receive a small commission on purchases made via my affiliate links, but unfortunately do not get credit for any sales made in an app (including the Amazon app on mobile) or via Instagram/Facebook browser window. If a link here from Lulu & Sweet Pea is the last link you click before checking out, I will receive credit for your purchase. Thank you so much for your continued support of me & my little blog!

We were first introduced to these fun, tactile board books by Josiah's speech therapist and they quickly became the only books that he would tolerate being read to. Each book has these raised buttons to "pop" on every page, making it interactive and educational. Josiah is obsessed with popping and repopping every dot on every page, and it's a really fun and satisfying way for kids to pay attention to the story and learn to count at the same time. The books are sturdy and well made, and have thick, easy to turn pages and come in tons of different themes. We have Old MacDonald's Farm, Who's in the Ocean, Dinosaurs A to Z, & we just got 10 Little Monkeys- our current favorite! (Just a note- not all of them have Prime shipping all the time. I noticed the selection changes sometimes so check back if one you want is out of stock or doesn't currently have free shipping. It's updated pretty often! I've also seen them at Costco before too). 

This stackable peg and peg board set is at the top of Josiah's Christmas list! He played with one at the eye doctor recently and I had to pry it out of his hands when it was time to leave. I loved the concentration on his face when he poked the colorful pegs into the little holes, and I chose this particular set because you can stack the pegs together (not all are stackable). Stack, sort, count, and work on dexterity, balance, creativity, and so much more. This is going to keep my little guy quite busy!

I always underestimate the power of Play Doh, but it always ends up a win with my toddlers when I do decide to break it out. It's great sensory play for all kids and it helps build up hand and finger strength when they squish, smash, stretch, and pull it. You can get all kinds of fancy kits and play sets to go with Play Doh, but my kids love to just use their little rollers and plastic "knives" with some cookie cutters and little fake animals and other toys to squish around in the dough. This 10 pack of colors and this Play Doh Fun Tub is a great place to start. Need to just stock up on more colors? There's a 36 pack for that.

One thing we've learned about Josiah in all of this is that he needs to move...a lot! His little body is constantly seeking movement and he needs what occupational therapists call heavy work activities, or activities that pull or push against the body. All kids need to run and jump and be wild and active of course, but sensory kiddos like Josiah need it even more. I highly recommend parents get a climber and/or slide combo to provide a fun and safe place for the kids to climb, slide, crawl up, jump off, go under, etc. (unless you're OK with turning the couch or stairs into a slide/jungle gym- haha). But seriously- this little Step 2 Climber and Slide combo is small enough to fit in our basement playroom and lets Josiah play safely. If you don't have room for something like this then maybe try the Little Tikes First Slide- it's more compact and folds up for easy storage. (We have both of these and we bring the slide outside in the summer to make a "water slide" in the kiddie pool). 

5. Squigz
These little suckers are another occupational therapy find! Squigz are solid and flexible and have a little suction base on each end, allowing you to stick them to things like windows, doors, mirror, the fridge,  etc. Push them together and pull them apart and they make a satisfying pop sound that Josiah loves. Push, pull, pop! It's addicting! See if they'll stick to your forehead (a fun game we play over and over again, and they do in fact stick to MY forehead, much to Josiah's delight). Squigz come in a 24 piece starter set or a 50 piece deluxe set

Balls can be a great sensory tool for kids of all ages, and these spiky sensory balls became a quick favorite of Josiah's right away. They're small- only 2.5 inches, and bounce when thrown. Josiah loves to just hold and squeeze them, or pull on the little spiky tips. It makes for a great fidget toy too, so I'll often times hand him one when I put him in his car seat. I think it has a calming affect and helps with anxiety and stress too.

Josiah doesn't usually like toys that make noise, but this must be an exception because he loves to play with this piggy bank in OT. The oversized coins really make him focus and he loves trying to get them into the slot while the pig plays music, says phrases, and makes sounds.

We have a couple of shape sorters in our home and this one is probably my favorite overall. It's soft and has a handle on it so it's easy for even young kids to pick up and carry around (some of the wooden ones can be pretty heavy and clunky). It come with 9 colorful shapes with fun textures on them, and the back side of the shape sorter has another fun matching activity on it too. 

Santa is definitely bringing Josiah a ball pit for Christmas this year and he's going to love it! He plays in one at his occupational therapy appointments and I decided he needs his own at home. He loves the bright colors and it actually seems to be soothing for him when he gets in and "swims around" in it. I've seen in-home ball pits/tents done so many different ways, depending on the size and space. This hexagon shaped ball pit looks to be about the perfect size, but you could also just use a kiddie pool if you wanted something with a lower edge to step over. Just set it up any kiddie pool and add some plastic balls and you'll have one happy toddler!

Remember the movement I talked about? Swinging has so many benefits for kids- even ones without sensory needs. Swinging engages your vestibular sensory system, which is basically your ability to know how to use your muscles in correlation to gravity. I've come to realize that swinging is something that really calms Josiah down and allows him to a little sensory swing in the playroom (along with the slide I mentioned earlier) is a MUST. I shopped around and read reviews and decided that this 24 inch spinner swing would be just the perfect size for him and our space. It would be so fun for outdoors too- they make some bigger ones that seat multiple kids. You can install them to just swing front to back or spin and have full range of motion. I wanted Josiah to be able to swing every which way- side to side, front to back, around in circles, and spin, so I ordered this cool little swivel accessory for the installation. The swing has been an awesome addition to our expanding sensory play area we've been working on in the basement. I want to add a hammock style swing soon! Please make sure to follow all of the manufacturer's instructions, know the weight limit, and take the appropriate safety precautions. 

My little guy just loves miniature figurines and little toy animals, people, cars, etc. He was gifted this adorable Finding Nemo busy book and quickly fell in love with all of the little animated characters from his current favorite movie. Harper got the Disney Princess busy book set that came with all of the princesses and there's also a Mickey version, among others. I've also seen these at Costco! 

This 6 foot tunnel takes zero time to set up- just open and it pops right up. Quickly fold it away for easy storage when you're not using it. It's got a little see through window in the middle and is great for hide & seek, peekaboo, and promotes all kinds of fun sensory play and movement. There are so many different styles when it comes to pop up tunnels and tents, like this one that comes with a tent and ball pit you can add on to it. 

13. Fubbles
Bubbles are something that always get Josiah's attention and calm him down, so these no-spill Fubbles are a must. We do a lot of playing with bubbles in speech therapy because it's great for hand/eye coordination, visual tracking, oral motor skills, and so much more. Josiah loves to turn bubbles into a game where he has to sign more or please, then we work on counting to 3 and anticipate the bubbles (which is so hard & fun for him- waiting!) Then he gets to pop them! They're wet and slimy and just loads of fun. Seriously, if you have a toddler who loves bubbles then you NEED Fubbles because they won't spill or drip all over the place. I love this little 3 pack of minis too! Bubbles are great for playing in the bathtub too if you're worried about the mess ;) 

Another great addition to any play room or toddler bedroom, this little trampoline has been a life saver for me when Josiah gets really wild or amped up and it's too cold or wet to go outside and play. We actually own this 3 foot folding trampoline too and I think both work just as well but this one is without the little safety handle, and for a few dollars cheaper. The choice is yours! 

This busy board will keep curious toddlers busy and is great for building hand and finger dexterity. It's made of solid wood and features 6 different latches, locks, and snaps while learning colors, numbers and animals at the same time. The Melissa & Doug basic skills board is another great one that we have and love too. You can't go wrong with all of the little latches and buttons for busy hands.

OK, these are just the top 15 in my house right now! There are a lot of other great sensory toys out there and every kid is going to like different things, but I hope this gives you a good idea of where to start when looking for toys for sensory seeking toddlers. If you or someone you know has a child with sensory needs in their life please share this gift guide with them or keep it in mind when you need it. I hope it's helpful! 

What are some of your favorite toys or activities for sensory play? I'd love to hear some more ideas!

#ShareYourEars and Make-A-Wish

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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 130,000 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 18th 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!

Tips for dealing with picky eaters (especially toddlers!)

Friday, October 5, 2018

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, 

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!

Back to school

Friday, September 7, 2018

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! 

Amazon Prime members- you can grab Sparkling ICE up to 15% off and get free shipping here

Change of plans

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

You know how sometimes you think you've got everything all figured out and everyone is on the same page, and then all of a sudden you realize everyone isn't happy and plans need to change? I'm sure every parent can relate. That's been my family this last week and the mom guilt is strong with this one. Remember my post back in May when I talked about pulling the kids out of school with the intent to homeschool them? About that...

Everything was fine until last week when we decided to drive around town looking for a park to play at. We only knew of one right by us, and when we'd tried to go the week before it was barricaded off with caution tape and they were re-laying some bark chips around it. Instead of the park, I had the bright idea of driving by one of the elementary schools to see if they had a decent looking play area, and that's when saw it: the back to school extravaganza. 

The parking lot was packed and the surrounding streets were lined with cars and people walking toward the school. There were folding tables set up with big balloons and lines of families at each table. The playground was crawling with little kids and parents clustered around it, some filling out paperwork. We drove slowly, gawking at the festivities, and I said into the rear view mirror "Well, I guess we're not playing here tonight. Aren't you glad you guys aren't in one of those lines right now?" I thought for sure I'd get a resounding "Yeah!" from both of them, but instead they were silent and were giving each other sideways glances while avoiding my eyes in the mirror. I couldn't believe it. "You wish you were going back to school next week?! I yelled into the mirror. "But we're homeschooling!" I couldn't believe they were acting as though they suddenly wanted to go back to school and were missing out on something. I was actually really annoyed. I told them the park was canceled, and instead we hit up the McDonalds drive-thru and went home to eat and figure out what the heck we were going to do about school. 

Long story short- my kids liked the idea of homeschooling but were missing the daily kid-to-kid interaction. What I was doing for them socially wasn't enough- something I was painfully aware of. I knew this part of homeschooling was going to be especially difficult for me. I'm a homebody. I'm not super social and I'm OK with staying home a lot of days. I like the occasional outing and I do get out to run errands and meet up with friends with kids for fun stuff. But not enough for my two older ones, apparently. And being in a totally new town (in an oddly kid-less neighborhood) they want the opportunity to be around kids their age on a daily basis, and I get it. I really do.

I told them if they wanted to enroll in public school here in our new little town I would be OK with it. As soon as I contested to enrolling them they both cheered up and started excitedly talking about back to school, which further reaffirmed the decision for me.

I thought we were all on the same page with homeschooling, but somewhere along the way these last few months they changed their minds. And you know what? That's OK. I tried fighting it at first, but why? It's not what they want now that we are here, and honestly, it's not what I want right now either.  There's no need for mom guilt here. We still have a lot going on, even with the dust finally settling from our move. I'm still really stressed out. I just started seeing a therapist myself. Maybe me being home with all four kids all day and being solely in charge of their education isn't the right fit for me us at the moment. Under normal circumstances? Maybe. But right now? These aren't normal circumstances. I kind of knew this months ago, but I fought it hard because homeschooling was the plan we'd made and I felt like I couldn't back out of it. I'm letting it go though, for now at least. Plans change. Goals are reevaluated. I think school here in our new town will be good for them. We know we aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so it's a great opportunity for them to make some good friends I hope!

In other exciting news, I also decided enrolling Harper in preschool was a must! I think it will be really good for her to be around other four year olds and learn to take direction from other adults (because who wants to listen to mom?) It's just 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, and she's going to love it. We went to her first open house night to check it out and of course she loved the playground the most, haha.

I'm looking forward to the one on one time I'll be getting with Josiah during those few hours she's gone. He just started back up doing occupational therapy (OT) at his new pediatric center closer to home and he has a new speech evaluation next week to see what our next steps are. The time at home with me will be great for him and the goals we've set for his development. It can be overwhelming having so many people at home all day and it gets really loud and chaotic which frustrates him. Some quiet time with mommy will be so good for him (and me).

I'm really looking forward to this new routine. I think it's exactly what everyone needs right now in this moment!

Save big with Amazon Subscribe and Save | 35+ items to save on

Friday, August 10, 2018

This post is sponsored by Kleenex, Scott, Cottonelle and Viva but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Do you look forward to going to the store during the busy back to school shopping season with a bunch of rambunctious kids in tow? Me neither. And I won't have to because I have Amazon Prime.

But seriously, you know about Amazon Prime, right? Surely you have! As a busy mom of four, I pretty much order everything for my house on there. I'm actually on a first name basis with my new mail guy and I've only lived here for a month. That should tell you how much I use my Prime membership! I'm a huge advocate for it because with this many kids and so much going on I just don't have the time to run to the store for every little thing we need. Trips to the store are stressful for me. With Prime, I can order what I need from my phone in my pajamas with a kid climbing on me and Amazon delivers it right to my door. I totally skip the drive, the lines, the screaming toddlers climbing out of carts, the frazzled feeling, and the inevitable impulse buys that end up in my cart. 

Lately, I've fallen in love with Subscribe and Save feature for Prime members. Amazon's Subscribe and Save can help you save up to 15% more on thousands of products and it's the way to go when it comes to household items and things you buy regularly. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of particular when it comes to items like toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, diapers, wipes, and all of that. Not just any old brand or style will do.

With Subscribe and Save I can order all of my favorite household items and have them delivered (free!) as often as I need them, whether it be monthly, bi-monthly, or even up to 6 months apart. It's so convenient- I don't even have to remember to reorder. Amazon does it all for me and I get a discounted price on top of the free shipping. I can also skip deliveries or specific items if I don't need them right away, or cancel an item or shipment anytime.

Right now is a great time to skip the back to school shopping madness and stock up on products for your family like Kleenex, Cottonelle, Scott, and Viva. Do you need paper towels, tissues, or wipes for your little ones' classroom? Grab them on Amazon and save up to an additional $3 o these back to school essentials. Whether for school or home, everyone needs this stuff and you can't beat these deals! 

I'm obsessed with these Kleenex antibacterial wipes. They go everywhere with us- in my purse, diaper back, glove box, to the beach, restaurants, etc. They're a must-have for moms with messy kids on the go. I finally realized that I need to just add them to my Subscribe and Save list and now they come by the case every couple of month and we never run out. 

Are you ready to use Subscribe and Save yet?! It's seriously the best! Make sure to snag these back to school deals on Kleenex, Cottonelle, Scott, and Viva while you're at it. 

Need more ideas for things to subscribe to? Here's a list of household items to consider:

toilet paper
paper towels
dish soap
hand/body wipes
laundry detergent
fabric softener
dryer sheets
body wash
shaving cream
over the counter medication 
face wash
toothbrushes/replacement heads
makeup remover wipes
hand soap
hand sanitizer
pull ups/training pants
baby food 
pet food
cat litter 
garbage bags
light bulbs

Saving money with Subscribe and Save is easy and addictive. You're going to have to get this stuff anyway, so why not save the money and not have to think about it?! 

Life Lately

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

What a crazy month it's been. My last post from the beginning of July (!!!) talked about our exciting journey to homeownership. Well, it's been a whirlwind, that's for sure. We packed, moved, cleaned the old rental house, started unpacking the new place, and even got a little painting started in the living room and kitchen area. I feel like we are in survival mode all over again, and it's no wonder why. There's just been so much going on and a lot of annoying little things that add up to big stressors for me as someone with major anxiety.

The first week in the house was crazy. We had the microwave crap out on us the very first day we were there. We had just moved the day before and I had the worst night of sleep ever, thanks to the sprinkler system going off every hour all night (and with no central air conditioning I was sweltering in my bedroom and had the window open, so I could hear the water spraying all night). I woke up super early, made my coffee, and ultimately had to reheat it, only to have the above the range microwave trip the breaker and refuse to power on. Not the best way to start your first morning in your new house. After grabbing an extension cord and trying multiple outlets in the kitchen and living room we realized it was probably the microwave and not an electrical issue. Yay. To make matters worse, I had just sold our old microwave for $5 at our garage sale, so we didn't even have a backup. 

Then last week the fridge stopped getting cold. We spent a week living out of a cooler and had to get bags of fresh ice daily. All of the food spoiled, including all of the condiments and stuff I'd just restocked from moving. Not really what I was expecting when I fantasized about home ownership. I knew there would be things that would break and repairs that would need to be done...but it was really disheartening for it to first happen to the microwave and then to the fridge too, all within the first couple of weeks of living here. We had just spent so much money and we're also trying to buy a second car ASAP (because my husband has a bit of a commute for work now, and me dropping him off is really inconvenient and leaves me carless a lot). Then there's the bedroom in the basement that needs to be finished as well, and the garage needs finished too. It's just a lot of money going out and it's really stressful trying to prioritize projects when things keep randomly breaking and needing replaced all at the same time too. Surprise! And not the good kind either. We have a working fridge again now though, thankfully. I don't want to use a cooler again anytime soon...and I'll never take an ice maker for granted again! 

On top of the unpacking and trying to get everyone settled and comfortable in the house, I've been feeling totally trapped inside. We we've been in the middle of a major heatwave here in Washington and the new backyard needs a lot of work. Remember I mentioned the house had been a rental for years? Well the yard was pretty neglected during that time, unfortunately. The flowerbeds along the fence line didn't look like they'd been weeded in years. The weeds are taller than me in some spots! And they're filled with bees, so I don't know what to do about tackling them just yet. The yard has no trees and no shade whatsoever either, so playing out back is pretty much out of the question when it's really hot outside unless you want to melt. It's not so bad when it's only 80 degrees or so. But in the 90's and triple digits? Nope! It's one of the drawbacks of this house for us- the yard. I loved our old backyard, and this one is pretty lackluster in comparison. So that's been a big adjustment for us so far because we are so used to being able to head out back whenever we want, and now we feel like we can't. I've got big plans for the yard, but it's going to be a few years in the making and it's not anything I want to take on just yet. Hopefully by next summer we will have made a few improvements so we can hang out back there more and enjoy it as a family. We'll just have to deal for now. 

We have had a few chances to get out and explore a little though. We've been walking to the local grocery store a couple of times a week just to get moving and pick up whatever we're running low on-  usually milk, fruit, fun snacks, etc. The little kids ride in the double jogging stroller and I let them grab a free banana from the produce section to munch on while I shop. Sometimes we grab a fun little drink or treat for the walk home and explore the neighborhood a little. We've also stopped by the library a few times and got our new library cards. The kids loaded up on some art and LEGO books. I browsed the local events calendar to see what's going on in our little town, making mental notes of events I want to remember to check out (but inevitably forget). And we made it to the lake once so far. It's only about 15 minutes away and it's absolutely beautiful. We are definitely going back at least once more before the summer slips away. It was the most fun I'd had in a while and we got in some much-needed family time, all six of us. 

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw that we added a member to our family. Meet Hank! 

He's our teeny tiny kitten we adopted from a friend who had found him abandoned in her barn with no mama cat to take care of him. He was about 3 weeks old when we picked him up, which makes him about 6 weeks old now. I felt so bad for him because he was so little and should have probably still been nursing. But he was already eating kitten food and he was litter box trained. The best part was that the big kids were away at summer camp when we got him so we were able to totally surprise them. They've been dying for a cat, but being in a rental made that not a possibility for a while. We'd promised them a pet once bought a house and it was just perfect. The kids love him so much, and I don't mind him either. In all honesty though, he's a sweet little kitten and the kids have been great about taking care of him.
The view...waiting for the big kids at summer camp.

I decided that now that the stress of actually buying a house and moving is over with that it's time to focus more on taking care of myself. It's no secret that I've been struggling mentally these last couple of years. I've had postpartum depression and a few personal circumstances that have left me totally stressed out, depressed, and unable to function in many ways. It's taking a toll on my physical health now- I'm unable to sleep or eat much at all. I'm waking up at 4am daily with stomach pain, and for the last week straight I woke up nauseous and dry heaving into the toilet before the sun comes up (and before anyone suggests it- NO, I'm 100% not pregnant!) I'm exhausted and anxious all the time and I'm so done feeling like this. I started focusing on my diet more these last few weeks and have been making a conscious effort to eat better and eat more. Food aversions or not, I need the calories for energy and I've been keeping myself in check most days by sharing some of my healthy lunches on my Instagram stories. It helps me feel like I'm being held accountable and I've gotten some sweet messages of encouragement as well, which I totally appreciate. I also started exercising again! It's been years. I hate exercising, I'm not going to lie. But I need to do it. 

I know everything that's going on with me is beyond fixing it with just eating better and exercising. I've tried and failed over and over again to just "pull myself out of it" and I always end up in a downward spiral again in a week or two no matter how hard I try. My husband has been gently urging me to see a therapist for some time and I finally agreed. The idea of talking to someone about my problems scares the shit out of me. I'm not good at vocalizing my feelings. I don't talk things out. I never have. Growing up, we didn't talk about our problems...we swept things under the rug and kept everything surface level, and I'm so tired of living that way. As much as it makes me feel uncomfortable to pour my heart out to a stranger, I just know it needs to happen. I can't bottle this up anymore. It keeps bubbling over and it's getting worse and worse because I just have no clue how to deal. And along with therapy I'm also in the process of finding a new primary care doctor and have some bloodwork done to check my hormones and thyroid. I think there may be some underlying issues going on too and I need to know what I'm dealing with health-wise in order to fully heal myself, so to speak. 

Summer is winding down and I feel like it's just getting started for us. Moving took up a lot of our time and we still have so much we want to do. Hopefully we'll have time for some more fun before the weather starts to transition to fall, then quickly to winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Our seasons change so quickly and I'm not ready for the sunshine to go away just yet!

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Melissa Swenson and Lulu & Sweet Pea