Friday, December 16, 2011

Personal Video From Santa

The holidays are the time that most children are working on being extra good, anticipating Santa's arrival on Christmas Eve. Our family "adopted" an Elf On the Shelf which we named Bernard. Since November we have had wonderful "visits" from Bernard as he traveled back and forth from our house and the North Pole, where he reports to Santa each evening. His job is to inform Santa if Shaylee has been naughty or nice. She has awaken each morning with excitement as she looks to find where that mischievous little scout elf has hidden upon his return from the North Pole. She totally believes he is real and I am loving getting to share this bit of childhood innocence with children of my own now.

Maybe its the excitement of the holidays, or perhaps just a stage she is going through, but Sassy Britches (aka Shaylee) has been more difficult than normal these past few months. Even the presence of Bernard hasn't helped remind Shaylee that Santa is watching. We don't call her SASSY Britches for nothing, LOL! The Hubs has sworn to email Santa and tell him about her naughtiness. I have threatened that she won't be getting any presents. But nothing seemed to be working- she still talks back, throws mini fits when she doesn't get her way, and whines about everything ...something more drastic had to be done.

That's when a friend of mine on Facebook shared a link with me to get a personal video from Santa himself. Surely there had to be a cost associated with something like this. Curious but skeptical, I looked into it and I was so glad I did! This site is AWESOME!!! It asks for all the required information about the child such as their name, gender, age, etc. You get to decide if your child has been naughty or nice. It even has a drop down menu to select what your needs help in, whether its picking up their toys, being nice to a sibling, doing well in school, or in our case- temper tantrums. Best of all, its FREE! You can link it, email it to yourself, or even purchase it as a video.

I presented this personalized video to Sassy Britches after school this afternoon, explaining to her that Santa got Daddy's email and has sent her a special message. He even went so far as to show himself to her in this video so that she will understand how important it is for her to start behaving properly. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she witness Santa Claus himself deliver a message about her and telling her that she is on his naughty list. I was a little worried she'd get upset, but he kindly reminded her that she still has time to start being good.

I used to think that NORAD Santa was an awesome tool for parents to help keep the magic of Santa alive in our children's lives. Then we introduced Bernard and now we have Portable North Pole with personalized Santa videos! I highly suggest all parents try this out- its just too cool! To see for yourself, check out Shaylee's personalized video here....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy Photo Wall Arrangement Trick

So we have a walker. Little Big Stuff is now completely mobile and is into everything. In order to accommodate her new "baby prison" AKA 'playyard', I had to move around our living room furniture which also meant rearranging the photographs that are framed on our wall, since they had been placed to balance the furniture. I had been meaning to take them all down and make them current since the majority of them are still of Shaylee. We have two children now but glancing at our shrine of photos of Sassy Britches that adorn our walls, you would never know it. I also requested 36 little 4x6 frames to make this adorable wall arrangement I saw on Pinterest for Christmas. To make applying this arrangement to the wall easier and to avoid putting a gazillion hole in my wall trying to get the nails to line up right with the backs of these frames, I came up with a wonderful idea to make photo wall arrangements easier.

I started by tracing all the frames onto recycled newspapers (finally a use for all those Sunday papers I bought just for the coupons!). I put a mark on the paper as to where the hanger on the frame was located as well. I cut them out and arranged them on the wall as I found pleasing to the eye and as symmetrical as possible. I just used some tape to hold them up and was able to rearrange them as needed. Now all I have to do is nail where the hanger mark is on the paper then tear the paper away and replace it with the frames.

Once I get all the frames and once I can decide which 36 pictures I want to display, I will post an update with the final results. In the meantime, I think you get the picture, no pun intended! LOL!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is Your Car Seat Expired? How to Tell and What To Do Next

Did you know that infant/ child car seats EXPIRE? I didn't until I attended a free car seat inspection at my local fire station. I had always wondered about Little Big Stuff's infant seat even back when it used to be Sassy Britches'. I receive it brand new at my baby shower when I was carrying her. It was one of the newer marketed models.

Anyhow, the volunteers from the Florida Highway Patrol looked over both of the girls' seats. Sassy Britches' booster seat passed with flying colors and I received praise for having her in booster since they see far too many children her age without any type of booster, just sitting in the backseat regularly. But Little Big Stuff's seat failed on a couple levels. One being that the shoulder restraint straps started behind her shoulders and then went up and over them. The seat did not offer any additional holes to move the straps up so she was already too tall for the seat. Seconds, the warning stickers on the seat were being to peel and fade. They prefer all stickers remain visible and attached to the seat. And lastly, the seat was nearing its expiration date.

If you check the underneath side of your car seat, you will be able
to see when your car seat expires. Mine only had about 14 months left,
as it's expiration date clearly shows December of 2012 but mine was considered unsafe
for Little Big Stuff because of her height and that the shoulder straps did not fit her properly.
There was no way this car seat could hold her for the next year, since it is now recommended that
children be rear facing until the age of 2- she barely fit in it now! And also since the life span of
this car seat was coming up so soon (car seats usually have a "lifespan" of 5-6 years max), I was
not comfortable risking someone else receiving this car seat and then not replacing it before the seat expired. 
Expiration date? Car seats have expiration dates??? This was new to me. The wonderful woman went on to explain that car seats have expiration dates because materials over time break down. A car seat that is old or has been involved in a crash can weaken, making it more likely it will be faulty in a future car accident. This is also why it is always best to buy a car seat new, never used (same for cribs) as you wan to be able to  be able to know of any recalls and have all the model information available, and know its accident history (which if new is never, unless you are the one involved). She also explained that technology improves and standards change. In fact, just the standard of having kids remain rear facing until 2 years of age was a new standard that was never the case before. 
Another view of where you can look for the expiration date.
Mine was found underneath the car seat, below the crotch latch
adjuster. I had no idea car seats expired let alone where to find when mine did!
So it was highly recommended that I get Little Big Stuff into a new car seat ASAP. She even told me that a neighboring county gives these car seats out for free (my county only offers discounts on them). So we arranged to meet up in her county, about 45 minutes away, to get the new seat. She explained there is also a proper way to dispose of them which includes cutting all straps and removing the seat cover- making the car seat useless to anyone who might attempt to pick it up and salvage it. We don't want anyone, unacknowledged about the dangers of used car seat making these life threatening mistakes. The pics below show how I disposed of my car seat. Photographing it also gave me a bit of closure, saying goodbye to the very car seat that brought both of my beautiful babies home safely from the hospital and survived the leaky diapers, spit up, spills, crumbs, mysterious stains, and such that comes with babies. It was a good ol' car seat and still one of the prettiest ones I have seen (it was from the Laura Ashley Baby Collection). 

When you dispose of your seat, be sure to cut the straps,
clearly making your car seat unusable. 
Also, when you dispose of your car seat, it is a good idea to
remove the seat cover. People are less likely to stop to pick up
the seat if there is no seat cover. You might be able to salvage the car seat cover, maybe
give it/sell it to someone who has the exact same model and perhaps would like a replacement seat cover,
but if their seat was purchased new in 2006 like mine was, their expiration date will be coming up just as
quickly and they too should be looking to properly dispose of their car seats as well. 
When I put my car seat to the curb, I made it very clear that
the car seat was not salvageable. On trash day, people drive around
looking for discarded items that they either can use or try to sell. I didn't want
anyone to even be bothered trying to retrieve this car seat from my garbage. 

Now Little Big Stuff is riding in pure luxury! Her new car seat is AMAZING! Its bigger of course since it is able to hold her for the next couple years- up to I believe 65 pounds! But its adjustment features are what makes it truly amazing- its sooo easy to adjust! I always has such a hell of a time when the girls needed adjustments made to the old car seat but this one is a breeze. LOVE IT!

Little Big Stuff loving her new ride!
 And I am truly, deeply, incredibly thankful for Ms Barbara Brown, the woman that helped me, for giving me the tip on going out of the county to get one of these bad boys for free. I was really nervous on where I was going to get the money for a new car seat on such short notice. The new one, if I had to purchase it, would be around $300. And it was brand new- still had the owners manual attached to it and everything. I suggest everyone checking with your local highway patrol, NHTSA, Safe Kids organization, or Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association in their area for more information on how they can get inspected and possibly get a brand new car seat that meets all the standards for free or at a discount.

To learn more about car seat expiration visit these links:

I'm Still Alive

Just wanted to check in with everyone and let you know I am still alive as is this blog! Its been a while since I posted anything, I didn't want y'all thinking this blog had been deserted! I have just been busy with a sick household. First it was The Hubs, then Sassy Britches, then Little Big Stuff, then myself. Then back to Sassy and Little Big Stuff. And now I think The Hubs is getting a cough again. So playing mom and nurse to the family has taken a bit of time and after the kids go to bed, I am usually so wiped out, I just retire to my bed with my remote and catch up on my TV programs saved onto my DVR. Fun and exciting, I know, LOL! So anyways, I have a really great blog post I am working on about car seat safety that you won't want to miss so PLEASE check back soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Solution to Toys Under the Couch

Little Big Stuff has an amazing ability to make 8 Avent Soothie pacifiers magically disappear in a matter of two days time. Her favorite hiding spot? Under our couches in the living room where they then get a lovely coating of dust, dirt, and pet hair. Yes, I am guilty of not cleaning under my couches regularly, LOL.

Our solution? Pool noodles. Yes, that's right. Pool noodles.

 Stuffed expertly under the ends of my couches, they prevent the toys, pacifiers, stray socks, dirt, dust, and pet hair from ending up under there. And whats nice is that they can be found at the dollar store and grocery store! We purchased four red ones at our local Publix for $1.99 each. Now I am sure you could probably color them somehow- paint or something, maybe even cover them in coordinating fabrics, but I left mine as is. I don't mind the colors so much- or I am just too lazy to worry about them blending in I guess. But here is a solution all you momma's can grab.

Moms- what was the weirdest thing you found hiding under your couches?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baby Daychart Android App

So not too long ago my precious Droid X took a tumble resulting in areas of the touch screen that did not work (i.e the "r" and "4" on my keyboard, and the "0" and "9" on the dialer) so I had to have my phone carrier send me a replacement. This also meant having to reload all the apps I had put on my previous phone (thank goodness they were all free, and nothing happened to my photos or contact!). While hunting down the apps I could actually remember, I came across Baby Daychart.

Just a sneak peek into Little Big Stuff's
morning after adding this app to my phone.
Baby Daychart is an app that can help parents log baby's activities and analyze to simple and clear charts. You can view and know at a glance the time of your child's last meal or diaper change, which breast you last nursed off, and more. With this info, you can better predict what your baby's needs are and when as many babies had very distinctive daily patterns. It also is a place you can record medical or health information such as vaccines, medicines, appointments, height, weight, and head circumference. You can also track your baby's mood (who wouldn't love to know baby's crankiest time of day and just avoid EVERYTHING during that time, LOL!) But the main reason I just had to have this app was to track Little Big Stuff's sleep patterns. This app is perfect for that...and is super duper cute to boot! With Baby Daychart you can share with friends on Facebook (or other social networks) and post pics. You can also sync data between multiple devices via Dropbox's free web storage service.

"If you're a new parent, this is a must-have app. It's a great way to not only record everything in one place, but give you a way to track it and see how it all effects each other, meaning you're more likely to have a happy and healthy baby (and well-rested parents!"-

I am so excited to start using this app, even if I use it for nothing more than recording Little Big Stuff's sleeping schedule, I can see it is going to be very useful! I recommend it!

Moms- do you use any phone apps to help track your baby's activities? Which ones would you recommend?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Busy Bags

With an upcoming trip to California in November, I am actively hunting out busy bag ideas to keep the girls entertained on the flight and during quiet evenings in our time share. I need ideas!!!

Example of the Pre K swap contents from unsolicited Advice's site
Busy bags are basically little plastic baggies (although some people use those zippered pencil cases) with self-guided activities in them that the kids can work on themselves or with very little help. They help with skills, learning or may just be for fun. Activities include such things such as lacing cards, matching games, drawing and coloring, paper dolls, etc.

 So while Googling "Busy Bags for Kids" I found this wonderful momma blogger who is giving away a box of 10 toddler busy bags! How cool is that?! To enter into this giveaway you must become a follower of her blog, check out her buddy's blog, share this giveaway on your own blog or social networking site, then leave a comment on her post with a little info. Easy smeezy!
A few of the busy bag activities include Brown, Bear, Brown Bear activities,
a button snake, pompom stuff &  MANY more!

The giveaway ends September 23rd at 6 am so hurry and enter! I know I am!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Don't Be A Bucket Dipper!

"Don't be a Bucket Dipper, be a Bucket Filler!"

I can't even begin to tell you how many times a day I hear this phrase from Sassy Britches. The metaphor of the bucket and dipper and the idea of a Bucket Fillers program is based off the educational programs of Merrill Lundgren, the "Bucket Man". The children's book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?( A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids)" by Carol McCloud is based on his programs and pioneering work in schools all over the country.

My daughter's school, of course, has adopted this program as part of their school-wide positive behavioral support program. It is designed to establish a culture of positive interaction. The expectation for all staff and students is to be a "Bucket filler" and not a "Bucket dipper". The bucket filler metaphor is used throughout their classrooms and campus to help remind them that as they continue to fill the buckets of others, they also fill their own.
We all carry an invisible bucket. This bucket contains our feelings. When our bucket is full, we feel great; when it’s empty, we feel empty. A bucketfiller is someone who says or does nice things for other people. By doing this, they are filling other people’s buckets and filling their own bucket at the same time. On the other hand, a bucketdipper says or does things to cause other people to feel bad. This simple but profound philosophy applies to every aspect of life.

Different classrooms have various cutesy ways of incorporating this such as cups or buckets which the children fill with pom-pom balls (AKA little warm fuzzies, like the warm fuzzy feelings being a Bucket Filler brings), marbles, gems, etc. Usually there is some type of reward. Students can add pom-poms to others who have shown them acts of kindness and it adds to their buckets as well. If a student said someone "dipped" from their bucket, a pom-pom was taken out of both the dipper's bucket as well as the dipp-ees bucket. This discourages tattling because a pom-pom would be taken out of their bucket as well.

Since Sassy Britches kept bringing it up, and it obviously was working in the classroom, I figured we might as well use the concept in our home as well and I thought it would be very helpful in reinforcing the concept with interactions outside of school.

 Since the  buckets would be set out for all to see, I decided to make them simple but attractive. As cute as the little neon sand pails were, they did appear a bit tacky in a home setting and were much better suited for a colorful classroom. I used glass containers I found in the small floral section of my local dollar store. To fill the buckets, I used those little glass gems also found in the floral section. To assign each person in the house a bucket, I used little scrapbook stickers- "S" for Shaylee (aka Sassy Britches), "K" for Kaylyn (aka Little Big Stuff), a "D" for Daddy, and a "M" for myself, Mommy. The whole project for all four individual buckets, the gems, and the big glass vase to keep all the gems in cost me $10. I am thinking I might add a little ribbon at the top to not only dress them up a bit more but also serve as a "filled line".

Even Little Big Stuff, only being 10 months old, can earn gems for her bucket by touching the dog gentle, giving kisses, not pulling Sassy Britches hair, etc. While she has no concept of what is going on, Sassy Britches does. It's just as important to be sure she understands that everyone must treat people kindly...and besides, the program will grow with them both and we want the program to be fair for all right from the start.

Our filling and dipping concept is the same as it is in school. If she plays quietly while Little Big Stuff naps or helps entertain her while I use the restroom, she earns a gem. While my husband and I could care less about earning a reward in the end, Sassy Britches is very concerned! If Sassy Britches gets mouthy or an attitude when we ask her to do something, a gem is removed from her bucket as well as ours. She is quick to tell us we are being bucket dippers when she is being scolded for something or when she doesn't get her way, as if that somehow gives her the upper hand, but quickly changes her tune when we tell her that is she feels that way she needs to take a gem out of our buckets as well as hers. If she wants to add a gem to someone's bucket, which will also add one to her own, she must state out loud why that person filled her bucket, just to keep her honest and not just adding gems to others buckets just to assist in filling her own. I am not sure if these details are incorporated in her classroom but I find they work at home.

So far we have been using the program only for a few days but it seems to be working! Sassy Britches is eager to help out and offer compliments. The Hubs and I are still working out what rewards we might offer but we do have things like 'go get ice cream', 'stay up 30 minutes later than bedtime', 'pick a treasure from the treasure box', and stuff like that. We just need to decide when it comes time to cash in her gems, what monetary amount the gems have. Obviously bigger rewards like '$10 spending limit at Build-a-Bear' would be worth more gems than, say, 'pick out movie for family movie night'. I can see this being a very good way to teach my girls how to treat others.

Moms- what type of positive reward incentives have you used or are using? Do they work?

Recycling Crystal Light Containers

My youngest daughter, Little Big Stuff, loves these rice rusk baby treats called Mum-Mums. I love them because they are made especially for teething babies and dissolve easily in their mouth, with no mess. I like that I can give them to her with little fear of her choking on them. Anyhow, since they are so awesome, I find myself always reaching for them to put in her diaper bag.

However, by snack time, when I go to open them, its all broken small pieces and crumbs. SO ANNOYING!

The Crystal Light container holds 3 packs of Mum-Mums, with each pack
containing two rice rusk treats.
That's when I got the idea to use the Crystal Light container I had been saving (I was intending it to be an eyeglass/sunglass case, but I can always make one of those later-another blog post, I am sure!). It was the perfect size! And since the container is hard plastic, it protects the Mum-Mums (and other similar sized snacks, such as granola bars) from being crushed under toys, wipe containers, bottles, and the other necessities I tote around in my diaper bag. How neat is that?! I might get around to decorating it all cutesy, but until then, I know my daughter's favorite snack will continue to be readily available during all of our outings.

Oh and here is a little video review I made of Baby Mum-Mums (pardon the no makeup, un-did hair, LOL):

Moms- what other uses have you found for Crystal Light containers?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back To School- An Organizing MOMent

Can you believe kindergarteners have homework? I don't remember ever having it when I was in school. But then again, that about 25 years ago! I am kinda glad Sassy Britches has homework though. It gives me a chance to see what she is learning daily and to help her in areas that she needs improvement (currently that area is knowing her left from her right, but other than that, she's doing great!). The Hubs and I both believed in being an active part in our children's education- from helping and being hands on with their homework to volunteering at their school, to being attendees to their PTO meetings.
To make homework time a bit more organized, I made this cute little homework station, AKA our dining room table. I purchased one of those shower caddies you see everywhere during Back to School shopping, intended for dorm residing college students I assume, but I found they are perfect for housing crayons, markers, glue sticks, pencils and other school supplies that may be required for various homework assignments. It cost me a whopping $2, LOL! It sits smack dab in the middle of our dining room table which has taken on as many roles in our house as I have!

I also purchased a large desk calendar, which I hot glued magnets to the back of to hang on my refrigerator, in my assigned "family command center". Its the go-to place for everyone to know whats going on and when. While colored Sharpie markers were on sale, I assigned a color for each family member, one for school events, one for birthdays, one for cheerleading, one for my Jafra parties (I am a beauty consultant), etc. It makes knowing what is going on so much easier for everyone.

Moms- what are some things you have done to make going back to school more organized in your household? Do you have a family command center designated in your home?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Perpetual Learning Workbooks

Annoyed with the cost of learning workbooks for children, I decided to turn Sassy Britches' Kindergarten workbook into a perpetual learning workbook- one that she could practice the subject objectives repetitively
and still have it available to pass on to Little Big Stuff (even though we have years to go!).

 This idea would be perfect for moms who have children with less of an age difference for sure!

To do this I tore all the pages out along the perforations then carefully slid each page into one of those plastic page protectors (get the smooth surface ones!) which I bought conveniently during the back to school sales. Then just put all the pages in a large  three ring binder. You'll want to buy a 3 inch width binder or greater.

To use the perpetual learning workbook, provide your children with dry eraser markers. Purchase a variety of colors as many of the activities in these types of workbooks require the kids to color various parts. Staples had a pretty good selection of these Quartet Enduraglide dry erase markers that you can purchase individually (so you only have to purchase the ones you actually need). Office Max has a pretty good deal on a pack of 16 different color Expo brand markers that I am thinking of getting soon, for even more variety. Keep all the markers in one of those three ring binder pencil pouches in the front of your perpetual learning workbook. For an eraser, just purchase a sheet of felt from your local craft store (these are usually under $1 per sheet). It too can be folded and stored in the pencil pouch.

Now your kids can get definitely your monies worth out of their learning workbooks, using them over and over!

Moms- do you use learning workbooks for your kids?

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Baby Starts Kindergarten!

I just realized how incredibly big her lunch box was and have
since replaced it with a much more manageable sized one! LOL!
Oh, and that headband, I made that! :)
I can't believe my baby is in kindergarten! She's getting so big so fast! I thought for certain I would be one of those mommas that teared up but actually surprised myself! No tears from either of us! I think Sassy Britches being in Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten helped (I cried in the parking lot on her first day of VPK) so her first day of Kindergarten just felt like another school day. But deep down I did have that pain in my heart knowing that my baby was growing up before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it or even slow it down! I keep thinking back to her little baby voice and how I never thought she would grow any hair and here was a beautiful, articulate child with the heart of gold. My heart beamed with pride, I just knew right then she would do great. I didn't want to make too much of a fuss over her so I typed up a very special love note which she keeps folded in the little zippered ID tag pouch on her backpack which reads:
"Dearest Shaylee, I wonder what you're doing right now, and if everyone is treating you kind. I hope there is a special person, a nice friend you can find. I wonder if the teacher knows just how special you are to me and if the brightness of your heart is something she can see. I wonder if you are thinking about me, and if you need a hug. I already miss the sound of your voice and how you give my leg a tug. I wonder if you could possibly understand how hard it is for me to let you grow. On this day know my heart breaks, for this is the first step in letting my baby go. Have fun on your 1st day of Kindergarten! Mommy and Daddy, and sister Kaylyn too, are proud and love you!"
I wish I could take credit for this poem but I did find it online somewhere and hung onto it in anticipation for this huge milestone in my little girl's life. So whoever out there that wrote this- thank you!

Moms- did you cry when your child started kindergarten? How did you make the first day special?