Giving Thanks

Friday, November 28, 2014

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!  We had a low key but really great afternoon/evening with my cousins.  They have four year old twins and a toy room full of "new" toys, so Cohen was in heaven.  Jacey was a sweet little mini Mom to Lola while Jenna and Cohen let their imaginations run wild and decided to end the night by flushing black sponges down the toilet.  Don't ask.  It was delicious food, great company and a really nice time.  

So what am I thankful for this year?

My top three things:

1.  A healthy and loving family

2.  The ability to provide for my family 

3.  Good friends who make me laugh

I should also add that I'm still thankful for my beautiful new camera that takes these amazing pictures.  I'm horrible about taking pictures of myself or my ones with the family.  Maybe I'll make that my resolution this year...

What are you thankful for this year?

Wordless Wednesday: I Am Thankful for a Teacher Bonus

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

So I got a bonus last week.  Gotta be honest, 'bout damn time.  But I won't go on my Teacher Soap Box because  I'm sure you are all familiar with this song and dance.


I got my new fancy camera with this bonus.  
BOOM Baby!
I had fun yesterday taking random pics of my chicklets.  It is so nice to be able to see nice, quality pictures rather than pixelated (that's a word, right?) Iphone snapshots.  Plus I need to to get some better kid pictures to fill up the Christmas calendar for Nana and Papa.

This post really isn't a wordless post since I just rambled on about my camera and fabulous teacher bonus.  But here are my two favorite pictures from yesterday anyways.

See?  She does smile.

Happy Wednesday Friends!

Match Your Little One's Milestones with VTech + Giveaway

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Disclosure:  The VTech product, information, and giveaway have been provided by VTech

Every year the holidays sneak up on me and every year I'm scrambling to find thoughtful and quality gifts for my family.  This year there are five tots under the age of four so I really need to get a solid game plan about what to buy these stinkers.  Maybe it's the teacher in me but especially for kids at this age I like to find appropriate gifts based on their age and milestones. Right now Lola is a moving machine!  She is all about standing and cruising along furniture and has taken few steps.  She also loves to stand and clap for herself since she knows she's big stuff.  Recently Lola has started communicating with me through some baby signing for things like "more" or "all done."  She is also showing a huge interest in everyday tasks like passing me clothes that need folded, holding her shoes when they need to be put on and even drawing on paper with crayons.  Since I'm aware of where Lola is at physically and socially with her milestones, being able to purchase her gifts to foster these developments is a key element with my gift buying.

So where do I start?

I start with the brand that I can trust and that would be VTech of course!

VTech has worked closely with a panel of children's learning experts on the developments of its infant and preschool learning products.  Insight from these experts are featured in an online Milestones resource that offers parents guidelines and recommendations to help them select toys based on the individual needs of children from birth to nine years old.  The categories explain characteristics and occurrences that your child is faced with at each specific age and developmental stage.  Then they are followed by recommended products that are appropriate and most beneficial for each age group.  
 Dr. Lise Eliot, an Early Childhood Mental Development Expert,  is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science.  As part of this panel she has great insight and explanation of the Milestones, so be sure to check out her video!

A great question about milestones was recently asked and here is Dr. Eliot's response:

Q. How do doctors come up with specific milestones for each age group? What are some milestones for older age groups (up to age 9)?
A. Infant developmental milestones have been cataloged by studying thousands of babies from all walks of life.  In healthy children, the various milestones emerge in a predictable sequence and time, give or take a few weeks or months.  This predictable pattern is due to the maturation sequence of the developing brain, along with the typical sequence of practice most babies engage in, given their gradually growing strength and coordination.  Some milestones you can look for as your child gets older include: able to draw a circle at age 3, asking lots of "Why" questions at age 4, knowing his or her letters at age 5, tying shoes at age 6, reading aloud fluently at age 7, and a big spurt of social independence beginning at 8-9 

The milestones are broken down by age and three categories:
--Language and Cognitive

--Social and Emotional Development

--Physical and Motor

Based on Lola's most recent milestones, these three VTech toys are perfect for her:

Roll & Surprise Animal Train™
(Ages 6-36 months; MSRP: $15.99)
·         Your little one will enjoy peek-a-boo fun and develop fine motor skills through turn, slide and press activities.
·         Animal friends introduce animal names, animal sounds and colors.
·         This educational toy also rewards curiosity and teaches cause and effect with pop-up surprises and 55 songs, melodies, sounds, and phrases.

We gave this to Lola for her birthday and it quickly became one of her favorites!  She seems to really show interest in the animals and the animal sounds.  I love the fine motor skills practice that she gets by pressing buttons and turning little knobs.  The element of surprise still gets her every time one of the little flaps pops up, which cracks me up of course.

Chomp & Count Dino™
(Ages 12-36 months; MSRP: $19.99)
·         Simply place one of the eight brightly-colored play pieces in the dino’s mouth and watch as he eats and recognizes each piece.
·         Play in either food or counting mode and the dino responds with rewarding sounds and phrases all while introducing colors, numbers, shapes and more.
·         Press the question button and kids can answer the dino’s questions to show what they’ve learned.
·         Five shape buttons help kids learn shapes and numbers, while spinning the disc on the dino’s back will play sing-along songs.
·         The dino can also be pushed or pulled by a string for even more fun melodies.

This is by far one of my favorite VTech toys for Lola!  She loves the music and is intrigued by the play pieces you feed the dino.  Lola will find the pieces and hand one to me to put in the dinosaur's mouth.  Then she pushes the little piece into the mouth and grabs them out of the tummy to start all over again.  Cohen even likes to play with this toy with Lola.  He will pull the dino around on the string as Lola crawls after him to catch up.  The Chomp & Count Dino is a definitely a toy that your kids can grow with throughout the years.

Lil’ Critters Play & Dream Musical Piano™
(Ages 0-12 months; MSRP $24.99)
·         Learn and play music with animal friends! The Lil’ Critters Play & Dream Musical Piano by VTech has a variety of fun musical activities that engage your child on the floor or attached to the crib.
·         This soft piano features five animal piano keys that introduce music, instruments and animals.
·         The piano also includes a light-up sun that shines and flashes to the music to attract your baby’s attention.
·         Choose from two modes of play for fun learning and music activities.

I truly love the variety that this piano has to offer.  This would be a perfect toy to put on the ground to encourage tummy time.  Lola enjoys pressing the buttons and watching them light up and play music.  Currently we have this piano attached to the side of her crib, which has worked out great.  In the morning I can see her playing away and keeping herself busy before it's time to get out of her crib for the day.  This is another toy that I would say can definitely grow with your child through several developmental stages.

I'm really excited to start purchasing gifts for my nieces and nephews using the Milestones resource from VTech.  I know that my gifts will be meaningful but also encouraging their development throughout their different milestones.

What milestones have your little ones reached recently?

Win It!
One lucky winner can win all three of the VTech products I listed above!
Enter the Rafflecoptor below for your chance to win.

Good luck!

<a Rafflecopter giveaway

Getting Back My Momjo with Conair and My Easy New Looks

Monday, November 24, 2014

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone.
#HeartMyHair #CollectiveBias

This past weekend was a big one -- Miss Lola celebrated her first birthday!  I am still in disbelief about a few things:  1.  How is my baby girl already one?  2.  How did I survive an entire year as a working mom with two little ones?  It's been tough, I'm not going to lie.  But I've decided that I'm going to start taking time for me.  It's time to get my Momjo back.  Yes, I said Momjo.  I'm referring to my ability to get out of the yoga pants and create some easy new looks for myself.  Maybe it's for day errands or a night out with the girls - either way, I need to stop dreaming about those stretchy pants (let's be honest, they are pretty nice) and take time to for myself to feel fancy again!

If it's one thing I lack, it would for sure be time.  Oh time, how I used to have so much of you.  There are days I wish I had just a few more hours to get everything done.  But I can't magically add those extra hours to my day so I need to adjust my life to make sure I can fit in the things that I need to get done.  For example, the other morning I had my usual mental debate with myself as my alarm went off at 5:20:  Do I get up and workout or do I roll over, hit snooze and sleep for another forty minutes?  On this specific day my snooze button won, but somehow my alarm switched from A.M. to P.M.  I woke up almost thirty minutes later than I should have in a huge panic -- I'm a teacher!  These kids can't wait to start school!  As I rushed at lightning speed to get ready I went to turn on my ancient aged hair dryer only to find out it wanted to work on low and blow cold air.  Once again as I cried tears of panic I was reminded that it's okay to buy the essential beauty things for myself.  I probably should have bought a new hair dryer in May when it decided to suck up my hair in the back which caused it to never work the same since.  Desperate times call for desperate measures -- a braid for the day it was and I promised myself to get a new hair dryer after work.  A subtle yet timely reminder to get back to working on my Momjo promise.

I headed to Walmart to grab a new hair dryer.  Considering this is something that I use more often than not, I decided to invest in a nice one.  Hello, Conair.  Thank you for your amazing products.  In order to feel fancy, I decided to get the Infiniti Pro by Conair® 3Q™ Brushless Motor Dryer.  This beaut not only reduces drying time (which would have helped my snooze button disaster earlier that morning) but it dries with lower temperatures and faster airflow to help minimize damage.  I also threw in a new Conair Velvet Paddle Brush and a 90 pack of Conair Bobby Pins - can never have enough of those!  Finally, I decided it was also time to add to my Momjo investment plan and purchase a Infiniti Pro by Conair® Curl Secret.  Healthy dried hair totally needs some shiny curls.  Mama was back my friends!

As I mentioned earlier, my time is quite precious these days.  But I also needed to think of some fun new looks to amp up my Momjo factor yet ones that didn't take hours of my time.  During nap time, I planned on creating three different looks that were simple yet fashionable and quick to do.  The Infiniti Pro by Conair® 3Q™ Brushless Motor Dryer dried my hair in under 8 minutes and it was smooth and silky to the touch -- can I say I am obsessed with this hair dryer?  I used my paddle brush to get brush to the ends of my hair as I dried to add to the silky feeling and help blow it out straight.

Momjo Look #1
After my hair was dry I warmed up the Infiniti Pro by Conair® Curl Secret.  I quickly got the hang of it and was able to create some amazing curls really fast.  I grabbed one inch sections of my hair and the Infiniti Pro by Conair® Curl Secret gently drew my hair into the chamber, holding it there for up to twelve seconds and then beeped to let me know it was time to release my soft curl.  I was able to curl my entire head under ten minutes, which to me is pretty duable, especially with the way my curls turned out.  After curling my entire head, I gently ran my fingers through my curls to get a looser look.  I love how natural my curls look!

Momjo Look #2
My next look was a simple addition to my loose curls.  I took about a two inch section of my hair and twisted it backwards.  Then, using a few of my Conair Bobby Pins I pinned it against the side of my head.  This is definitely a look I would wear when running errands or grabbing lunch with friends to keep those smaller pieces out of my face yet adding just a simple twist of fun to the curls.

Momjo Look #3
Finally, I took my Conair Velvet Paddle Brush and gently brushed my curls to make them more waves than curls.  Then, I braided a small section of my hair and pinned it back and to the side with my bobby pins.  It was more of a Bohemian Chic look but one that I'd wear when I was going out on the town with my girls.  After a day at work this would be a simple solution to change up my look by going from day curls to evening waves.  Simple yet chic.  

It's funny how a few new purchases can change your whole outlook of your daily beauty routine.  Now I think I need to add a few more essentials to the wardrobe to compliment these Momjo looks, wouldn't you agree?

How do you keep your Momjo going strong?

Pink, Gold and Glitter - A Glimpse Into Lola's First Birthday Party

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Today was a big day for Miss Lola.  We celebrated her first birthday full of pink, gold and all things glitter.  While everything didn't go as originally planned (the candy bar, the last minute change in venue) she was still able to celebrate her special day with the friends and family that mean the most.  Our sweet girl had a fabulous day dolled in her pink tutu, gold moccs and glittery headed.  I'm also quite certain she enjoyed her smash cake from the best local bakery in Indianapolis, The Flying Cupcake. In the end I'm so thankful that the day went off without a hitch and I have these amazing birthday memories I can share with her when she gets older. 

So serious.  All the time.  I refer to it as her model face.

Apparently when you're four you are too good to take for real pictures.

Lola and I are both thankful for our crafty Martha Stewart, Aunt Meme.  She gets creds for the shirt and paper garland.  Bam baby.

By the end of the night we were all feeling this this:

Happy first birthday, Sweet Girl.  We love you oh so very much!

Lola Colleen is One

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Lola Girl is 1 year old!
I remember with Cohen I wished the months away.  Not that I wanted him to get older but because I was excited to see the next milestone.  Lola was completely different.  I knew what was coming and I haven't been wishing away these months rather I have been dreading the fact that she is getting older!  It feels like I was just leaving school with a leaking water in the midst of a fire drill.  (You so don't want to miss this birth story.)  I think like any mom going from one child to two children I was nervous.  How would life change with two kids?  But even more importantly, how was I going to love another child as much as I did Cohen?  The moment I saw Lola I was in love.  My heart swelled to double the size -- part for Cohen and part for my new bundle of joy.  These two munchkins are my life and I know that Kurtis and I can't imagine our lives without either of them. 

It's bittersweet to know that this is her final monthly update of her first year.  I have been way too weepy today.  I need a drink.  Or three.

Here is what Lola has been up to in her final month of her first year:

Size: Lola is 20 lbs 5 oz and 29 and 1/4 inches long -- 25% in both weight and height.  However her noggin continues to be in the 90%.  We refer to her as big brained.  She is still in size 3 diapers and 12 month clothing.  I have a few 18 month outfits but they are a little big still.  I finally have put away all of her rompers.  Sigh.  It was sad but I guess I need to start working on her collection for this summer...

Eating:  My little piggy gets 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.  She still takes a bottle in the morning and before bed but does sippy cups during the day.  We ran out of formula a few weeks ago so I just switched her to organic whole milk and she has been doing fine.  Lola loves bananas, clementines, pancakes, cheese and avocados.  I find that if I offer her foods in different ways she seems to eat them better.  For example I gave her a fork yesterday and put her broccoli on it.  The kid ate it up!  All about presentation moms, all 
about presentation.

Sleeping: Lola is a creature of habit and craves a good, solid schedule.  She goes down at 7:30 and wakes up around 7.  Naps are at 10 and 2 and she will nap for anywhere from 1 to 2 hours at each nap.  Her brother was completely opposite and never napped so we switched him to one nap right at a year.  I think we will wait to switch her to one nap when she shows signs of wanting to drop one herself.

Milestones:  Oh this child makes me tired.  I was quickly reminded how much I love this age yet how tired it totally makes me.  The second I turn my back she is into something - the drawers, the cabinet, Brady's pet bowls.  I mentioned last time how we have gates up everywhere.  I'm quite certain I could be an Olympic hurdler at this point in my life - I never realized how flexible I actually could be.  These gates don't play.  Lola loves to stand up at the gate, shaking it and letting out this fake cry like she is in jail if you don't let her in with you.  She is also a pro at spotting an open gate and is the fastest stair climber I've ever seen in my life!  I thought Cohen was busy but damn, this girl is too.

Lola loves to stand up on her own and then start clapping for herself.  It cracks me up.  She still cruises around on the furniture and has taken one or two steps on her own.  Lately she will stand up from the ground all by herself so it's only a matter of time until she takes off.  I'm not encouraging it but my husband is anxious for her to start walking.  He will take that back about .32483 seconds after the deja vu sets in.

We have eight chompers in our mouth now and I think she's cutting bottom molars by the way she has been chomping back there lately.  I don't dare put my finger in there too often in fear of getting it bit off.  For real.  She also loves to talk and says hi, Mama, Dada, Uh-oh and NO!  I probably shouldn't laugh but when she doesn't get her way she will yell, "No!" and make this pouty face -- dying.  We were at our sweet little Harper's birthday party (who is just 11 days older than Lola) and there were all these cute little babies playing.  One of them tried to take away her toy and Lola put a stop to that yelling, "No!" so loud.  Apparently she is just practicing her voice.  Girl has an agenda.

Likes:  Lola loves being able to climb on to little chairs and then stand up, giving her mom a heart attack.  She seriously thinks she is big stuff when she gets up on these chairs.  I know I have mentioned this before but Lola LOVES everything Cohen.  Whatever Cohen is doing, she has to do it too.  But lately he has been all about her too giving her kissies and huggies.  Melts my heart.

We are also a huge fan of the pacifier still.  Cohen weaned himself off it early on but Lola loves hers like none other.  Cohen's lovey is his Monkey blanket so I think Lola's soother is her paci.  I'm not going to fight this battle yet but plan on limiting when she can have it.

Dislikes:  Oh Lord this child has started the tantrums.  If you take something away from her or tell her no she flat out lies on the floor, crying and kicking her legs.  Seriously.  Kurtis and I look at each other in disbelief and just laugh because it's like she is one going on 15.  The whole thing is kind of comical, I'm not going to lie.

Lola absolutely HATES her car seat.  She is such a peanut that she spent the first year in her infant seat.  I'm ordering her big girl seat this weekend (which makes me cry) but hopefully she will like the car a little bit better.  When Cohen is next to her she seems to like the ride more because he will talk to her and make her laugh.  He is such a sweet big brother.  Well, sometimes.  :)

The big birthday party is this weekend.  We originally had planned to have it at Kurtis' work however we aren't expecting as many people as we thought were going to be there.  Sadly it's the people I think Lola and Cohen would have loved to see the most, but it is what it is.  I'm okay with a smaller group of friends and family.  Plus now I can have a couple of cocktails to ease my party stress.  

Did I mention I get my big girl camera this weekend?

Happy first birthday my sweet Lola!  You are the sweetest thing and have filled all of our hearts with so much love for you.  I'm excited to see what this next year has to hold for you, just promise to me you will continue to be the gem that you have been for us this past year.

Love you Sweetie Pea, 

Weekend Shenanigans - I Needed This

Monday, November 17, 2014

This weekend was awesome.

It wasn't anything spectacular, but it was definitely one that I needed.  It was the something to help turn my Negative Nancy Pants attitude back onto the right path.  This weekend helped me make take a step towards that change.

Saturday was a day with the girls.  We spent the morning shopping at the Holiday Mart and then an afternoon of lunch and locally brewed beer.  And lots of girl talk.  Damn it was a good afternoon.  While my husband was a little bitter about the outcome of the Notre Dame game, I truly loved being able to let the stress that has been building up go and enjoy time with myself, friends and family.

Sunday was another day of family time.  We started our day out with donuts, an early fire in the fire place and dancing in the kitchen.  I was even able to get in a 3 mile run while enjoying a fabulous surprise - a Sex and the City marathon.  Both of the kids stayed in their jammies all day and my husband and I attempted to tackle our to-do lists.  I'm starting to feel a bit more prepared for Lola's party next weekend.  It's a bit of a relief when I remember I'm not hosting it at my house and rather at my husband's work.  Seriously, the cleaning aspect would have put me over the edge.  But the cakes have been ordered, the outfit assembled and the birthday garlands sewed.  Now it's just a matter of tying up the final loose ends like the food and things for the candy bar.


Yes.  I said candy bar.  Don't judge.

It's the little things that count the most.  Sometimes when you feel like you are pushed to your limit, the things you truly need will come out of nowhere to bring you back away from the ledge.
This weekend was my stabilizer.

Five more school days until a week off -- can I get an AMEN??

How was your weekend?