Toys That Will Develop Your Toddler’s Motor Skills

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Bubby has really exploded with his gross motor skill development and his ability to manipulate items with the dexterity in hands. He’s progressing so quickly that I can hardly keep up! He is 18 months old now and I am finding he is walking that line of toys that are either too advanced or toys not advanced enough.

I am always looking for toys that can be used for a long time as he discovers new ways to use them and I like toys that are a sound quality that will last a long time. So when I came across a sale at Melissa and Doug’s and discovered I could peruse toys based on age, category, or skill development, I immediately whipped out the credit card to make some purchases. I even bought a small round to keep for Christmas morning and for his 2nd birthday next summer! Bonus points to me!

What I love about Melissa and Doug

  • Many of their toys are made of a nice solid wood that hold up really well with a rambunctious boy who may or may not throw things a lot.
  • I love how they have toy descriptions and learning opportunities detailed on the back of many of their toys so parents can easily see the multiple ways to teach skills to their children.
  • Several of their gross motor and dexterity toys are basic colors so you can reinforce color recognition with your child.
  • They have an amazing customer service for any questions you may have about a product.
  • They have awesome resources directly on their site to give you ideas on how to incorporate their toys with your kids.

What I don’t love about Melissa and Doug

  • Most of the time I’m OK with their pricing because I know the toys will last forever, but sometimes it gets a little high for my pocket.
  • I wish they had more of a variety of toys for children before the 12 month old range.
  • They don’t offer rain checks during sales. So if you really want a particular item during one of their sales and it’s out of stock, then you’re out of luck until it’s available again.

Here are some of our favorite toys that have gotten reused in different ways since Bubby turned one and still uses today at 18 months and I know will still get used until he’s at least two years old, if not until later!

(This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are always my own. See full disclosure here.)


Stack & Sort Board
I purchased this for Bubby back when he was around 12 months old. I noticed he really started getting into stacking and I thought this would be a good place to start. You can click on pics to enlarge them. 🙂

This stacking toy is great because now he uses it to focus sliding the small blocks on the rings and as he grows, we can continue to work on his color recognition AND work on his numbers by counting the correct number of blocks on each specific ring. I like how they have the numbers color coded on the front of each stacking pillar. This is a toy that will certainly last until his close to three years old. You can see it here!

Pound & Roll Tower
This has been a fun toy that has required me to be patient and just let Bubby explore his dexterity development a little bit. I gave this to him when he was about 14 months old and he really wasn’t quite ready for it. He just wanted to walk around banging stuff. BUT I gave it another go a month later and modeled for him how to use the toy and he started to catch on. You can look up the tower here.

Chunky Puzzle
I seriously love M & D’s chunky puzzles. They have a great variety that works for the varying stages of toddlerhood. We have animals ones, a body part one and one I bought and saved back that is the left and right hand with parts for each finger that are numbered for counting! The one below is a current fav with my pre-toddler as he likes to try and get the shapes to fit in the correct spots. I love the colors and how each shape is labeled to0! Check out the puzzles here.

Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy
This was a fun toy to introduce as Bubby started developing his gross motor skills. He was really into turning knobs and rotating objects so I was excited to pull this one out. He loves it. It’s another one that will be great for when we are really working on color recognition. The gears easily come on and off so he can start to practice matching the colors as he places them on the gears. Check out the gears here.

Toys I’m saving for Christmas and his birthday
* I’m excited to give him this specific Shape Sorting Cube Classic Toy . It’s a little different than a traditional shape sorter with more of a 3D effect and I love the basic colors to reinforce his color recognition.

*Deluxe Pounding Bench Toddler Toy This pounding toy is a little different than the tower. I like that he has more to pound and can work on his pencil holding skills to fit the pegs back into the hole before he can start pounding again.

*We got him these nesting and stacking blocks that we plan to give him for his 2nd birthday. I think he’ll enjoy the race cars that come with it! Check them out here.

*My favorite item I’m most excited about are these toddler stainless steel pots and pans! We have a little play kitchen for him and plan to throw this in with the 2nd birthday party! Woohoo!

So that’s my fav list for toddler toys from Melissa and Doug that I think are perfect to use with your 18 month to 24 month old! What about you mamas? Have any Melissa and Doug favorites or Toddler Favs for this age range?

Toys for Two Year Old. Toys for 18 to 24 month old. Toddler toys to develop motor skills.



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What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me

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Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.

When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”

Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.


Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.

In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.


 

Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.

My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.

I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.

Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.

As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.

All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.

I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.

This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.

My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.

Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child.  As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.

As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.

What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me. Growing in the loss of your Mother to be a better mother.

I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.

I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.

I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.

The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.

I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.

I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.

Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.

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Can I Just Take a Minute and Talk about Some Awesome Mom Bloggers?

First, I personally am not a fan of the term “mom bloggers.” Mainly because when I tell people I write for my blog and they say something like “Oh, a mom blogger” with air quotes, I tend to roll my eyes at their ignorance and their shrug of shoulders. I think some folks have an opinion that a “mom blogger” is someone who dallies around on the Internet and “tries” to be some kind of writer.

Not everyone thinks like this, I know, and some people I tell get it and are interested in what it means. But for the most part, I think there is a reality that lots of folks just don’t understand about what all goes into creating, writing, and sharing content for a blog. Just like I don’t fully get everything my husband does at work, he doesn’t get everything I do on my work at home. There. Enough on that.

Secondly, I have had so many mixed emotions on my journey as a writer who has a blog, that if I started taking shots every time I changed my mind about something, or started something on my blog and let it go, I’d be a walking drunken mess.

When you get into this “blogging” world, you are inundated with so much advice and tips and “do this” or “do that,” that you are kind of prone to take up drinking. OK, maybe not drinking alcohol, but I bet the caffeine intake goes up a notch or two for most of us.

With that being said, there are some amazing women I have crossed paths with along the way. What I love about these ladies is that I have a different relationship with each of them but we all have so many similarities that we can gather around each other  (virtually that is!) and encourage one another all the same. I would not categorize these women as the air quoted “mom bloggers.” These ladies can write and are well worth the read.

I have had an interesting week working on my blog and collaborating with other writers and free lancing on the side side side side (insert eye roll) and have sought each of these ladies in one way or another for advice or encouragement. Sometimes I just head over to their site to see what they’ve been up to and find good-for-my-soul encouragement that is exactly what I needed to hear at that exact moment.

Friends, that is something special to have in the online world of writers. While not a one of us have met each other in person, I feel as though I could catch up with them easily at a cozy coffee shop. We have grown in our friendships over the last year and I think we have some more years ahead of us in store.

I would encourage you to not just find your mom tribe, but cultivate it too.

 

I have learned too many times that friendships must be cultivated and lifted up in order keep them.

When I say that I am inspired by these women, I don’t just mean they give me warm fuzzy feelings. I’m not just trying to make someone feel better here. I mean these women make me think about the different facets of my life and in the end, make me a better a person. That’s the kind of friendship I want to keep alive.


Meet Abbie. She writes over at www.grumblinggrace.com and has one of the funnest Instagram feeds and genuine hearts. I love her sense of humor yet sensitivity that she brings to motherhood with her faith. She has the ability to make me laugh and cry all in one sitting. If you ever need that extra mom umph in your life, you need to have her in your social feed. Abbie is a woman of integrity who takes what she does seriously, but is sure not to take herself too seriously.


Say hello to Aimee. She is a writer with so much depth and grit and fierceness that sometimes I think her words were literally meant just for me. Aimee has an amazing ability to connect with her readers no matter where they are at in motherhood. She is incredibly honest in her words and strives to lift you up. She is someone you always want on your side. Be sure to check out her writing over at www.mamacentric.com.


And then there’s the fabulous Emily. She writes at www.emilyfisk.com. Emily has such a sweet spirit and I find that when she writes about her journey as a mom, she has a way of softly prodding my conscience to stay focused on my own path as a mom and be sure to cheer on and wave at the other moms across the way. Emily’s ability to remind me to forget about the others and do my own best me is one of the things I love about her.


Harmony is one of the strongest, most confident women I have met online. She has an amazing faith and unwavering belief that I am always drawn to her writing. Even though Harmony is a straight shooter, she has never made me feel less than in my beliefs. She has a way with her writing that doesn’t tear me down, but provokes me to be more. She writes over at www.mywanderingheartsong.wordpress.com.


There’s something about Christina that makes you feel empowered as a mom. I don’t know if it’s because she gives me recipes like macaroni and cheese and makes me feel healthy about it or if it’s her never ending encouragement she gives to all her readers, but she is a writer to follow. She is so patient with others and only wants to cheer you on as you walk your path in motherhood (and she might serve you up a smoothie while she’s at it!). Definitely peruse her writing over at www.thewholecook.com.


Marisa is a writer who is so humble and so rawly honest, that you can’t help but read what God presses on her heart. She has an elegant flow to her words and a quiet boldness about her that I am always left with my heart feeling full. Sometimes she makes me feel full of wonder or full of rightly pointed questions, but either way, she is a writer to keep your eye on. She writes at www.brokencookiessite.wordpress.com.


And I could not, will not, ever forget about Lisa Leshaw. If there was ever a genuine lover of people, it’s Lisa Leshaw. I don’t think I have ever met someone online who cheers on other writers as much as she does. She is an ambassador of hope for writers. Lisa would not ever call herself a prolific encourager, but that makes her all the more genuine. I met her as a fellow writer at Her View From Home and it wasn’t long before she sent me a friend request on Facebook. What’s funny about Lisa, is that she is friends with so many of us writers and she genuinely is always interested in how you are doing and that yesterday was your sister’s birthday party. She’d love to hear all about it. There’s no way I could list all the places she’s probably been published but I know one of her places she likes to call home is Her View From Home. Check out some of her writing here.


Like any other mama, we’re all flawed and have our strengths and weaknesses.

What’s beautiful about the relationships we form with one other is our ability to grow someone in their strengths and help them along the way when they are weak with our own strengths, making our bond that much stronger.

I hope you’ll take a minute to say hello to these ladies by visiting their sites and their writing.
Peace to you mamas,
Glo

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When I Can’t See His Truth

Coffee is gurgling from the corner of my kitchen. I need this cup this morning. Time has slipped through my grasp and I need to stop and breathe today. An overwhelming sigh escapes me. Coffee, Bible and journal in hand, I sit at my kitchen table that has seen many of my tears and fears on numerous ragged, dark early mornings.

As I open my journal, I am guilted by the gap in the dates marked on the top of the pages. Almost two months since the last time I made an effort to seek out God for his guidance. Guidance on my journey as a new mother, a new friend, a loving wife and writer.

I found something I was drawn to, led by the Spirit and began a spiraled crawl down my own path. Why is it when God gives me an opportunity to serve him, I find the need to take the opportunity and make it my own? I grab it, dress it up in an outfit I picked out, show it off on the runway of my life and call it my own work? My own doing. By the time I’ve come to the end of myself, I am enveloped by a sickness. God shows me the way to a bountiful path and I stuff my face.

It’s the sickness that usually brings us back.

I fumble with an overwhelming sense of insecurity. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I’m not supposed to be doing this with my life? As I search down the wrong turn I’ve taken, I see others in the distance who appear to be on the same journey as me. They look like they’ve made some similar decisions as me. All I see are their successes.

I start falling. Falling into jealousy. Anger. Fear. A dark pit I can’t see out of. I feel like I’ve reached the bottom and I can’t find my way out. I get kicked around by my emotions. They slither around me, rearing their fangs, ready to bite at my weakest moments.

These are the moments when we’ve come to the end of ourselves that we feel God’s hand holding us. We realize we aren’t in the bottom of a self-destructive pit. We are being held. Held by the One who never let go. God’s love is unconditional and will always be cupping us when we fall. It’s our pride that masks the floor from us.

We put ourselves in our own dark places only to find God re-lighting the path for us every time we take a detour. His Word says in Isaiah 41:13 that He is the the Lord our God who takes hold of our hand and says “Do not fear; I will help you.”

I think of the verses we’re taught as children. Verses that become cliches. They get tossed around as platitudes, losing their power in our lives. Until we need His power to rejuvenate us. Until we hear Him whisper the truth to open our eyes and see that He is with us.

I hear him whisper His truth in my dark kitchen that morning.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord our God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

I don’t sit at my kitchen table to feel like I’ve earned points with the man upstairs. I don’t journal about my journey to feel good about myself. I sit down for coffee with the Creator of the universe. I write to clear away the weeds I’ve sown so I can see the beauty He has always had for me. The beauty of His Word. The beauty of seeing others with His eyes. The beauty of seeing myself with His eyes.

This post was originally published on Her View From Home.

Struggling in your faith? Comparing yourself to others? Read more to find encouragement in your walk with Christ.

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Homemade Toddler Fish Sticks with an Extra Healthy Twist

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I hate all things seafood. I am one of those that wishes I liked seafood, but I just can’t bring myself to eat it. I have tried to eat salmon here, trout there, even shrimp. With that confession, I have realized that I want my kids to hopefully have a different experience. So, I decided to start with fish sticks.

Bubby has tried some different types of fish here and there but I wanted to have something easy and accessible to make at home for him. I came across this homemade fish stick recipe and decided to add some of my own favorite extra nutrients to it.

I like to add an extra healthy dose of sweet potatoes for flavor with added quinoa and flax seed!

Check out these sneaky, extra healthy homemade fish sticks! What’s great about these is that you can totally and easily make them in bulk and freeze them. Then, when you need a quick lunch for your toddler, you can grab them from the freezer and zap in the microwave for only a minute!

I like this recipe too because we use a hand masher and that lets Bubby get involved in the cooking!

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are always my own. See full disclosure here.

Homemade Fish Sticks Your Toddler will LOVE with an extra healthy Twist! Homemade Toddler Fish sticks!

 

INGREDIENTS
3 to 5 Large Sweet Potatoes, boiled and peeled
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa
1 can of Tuna (I prefer canned tuna in water)
2 Tablespoons of flax seed
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
4 Tablespoons of melted butter
breadcrumbs (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

STEP ONE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Personally, I like to utilize my time when I make this, especially since I typically make them during nap time. While you’re prepping the potatoes, go ahead and get your quinoa cookin and stewin. I peel the sweet potatoes with a knife. It’s just easier that way since they are such a tough potato. Once I peel and dice my sweet potatoes, I get them boiling just like I am making mashed potatoes.


STEP TWO: Go ahead get a large bowl, add the tuna, melted butter, flax seed, and cheddar cheese. Once the sweet potatoes and quinoa are done cooking, add them to the tuna mixture. You can use beaters or a hand masher to bring it all to a smooth consistency.

STEP THREE: Get your breadcrumbs out.
Quick digression on breadcrumbs! (I use homemade ones from my homemade bread. Also, it’s super easy to make homemade breadcrumbs from simple ingredient store bought bread. If you look at the ingredients on actual store bought breadcrumbs, it’s crazy! You’re better off making it from a loaf of bread and then freezing them! They freeze great and will last you a long time!) 
*Spread your breadcrumbs on a plate. Roll the tuna stick mixture into “sticks” and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.

Of course I use my ever trusty silicone baking mats. Seriously, I blab about these ALL THE TIME. Nothing ever sticks and they are soooo easy to clean!

STEP FOUR: once you’ve got them on your cookie sheets, bake them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until they are crispy and golden on the outside.

STEP FIVE: Once they cool completely, I just leave them on the pan for a while and then stick them in the freezer on the pan. If this doesn’t work for you, you could layer them on wax paper in Freezer Ziploc bags and lay them flat in your freezer.

TO EAT: Just pull out a few, cover them with a napkin and zap them for about one minute. Always check the center for hot spots as potatoes seem to have those easily. Trust me. I know from experience!

I love how the sweet potato adds a subtle sweet flavor that masks the quinoa (which can be slightly bitter).

What about you ladies? Any tips to add to our fish sticks?
Peace,
Glo

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Sprinkles and Burnt Antlers: The Joy of Cooking with Kids

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I went back to her website to find that article. I remember it well because she had talked about her child seeing beauty in something that she, as the mother, saw as a mess. I remember this one well because it struck me to the heart. As a type A personality, I worry that I might rob the beauty my children will see in the daily mundane because I’m too worried about cleaning things up.

I’ve been following Sarah and her blogging since about February. I’m sure I stumbled along her writing in a mutual writer’s group. I do remember that I was immediately drawn to her writing. That’s what I love about growing as a writer. You find so many other great writers and you feel like you could be friends if you met in a coffee shop.

I wont keep you any longer. Sarah is our guest today and I can’t wait for you to meet her!


sarahheadshot

Meet Sarah! She is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English (ahh my kindred spirit! 🙂 ), she is now enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes.

She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible.  Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites:  Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home.

Check out her Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to! After reading her post today, I think you’ll want to!


Spinkles & Burnt Antlers: Joy of Cooking with Kids. A Guest Post.

As a child, one of my favorite Christmas activities was baking sugar cookies with my mom. Every year, my siblings and I would clamor into the kitchen to help her, mainly for the opportunity to make a huge mess with the sprinkles.

Flour filled the air as my mom rolled out the cold dough on the counter and hummed along to Christmas carols. She used a family recipe for the kind of sugar cookies that are thin and have a bit of a crunch when you bite into them. These cookies take time and patience.

When I was young, I was mainly delegated to the task of sprinkling the colored sugar onto the cookies before they went into the oven. I would complete this task with utmost care. I sprinkled crooked red stripes on the candy canes and only allowed green sprinkles on the Christmas trees. Of course, more sprinkles ended up on the table and floor than anywhere else, but my mother never said a word.

As I got older, my mother taught me how to cut out the shapes. Her preferred shapes were the star and the bell because they were the most dough-efficient; very little dough was wasted between each cookie. These shapes also didn’t have small parts that made it difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.

Of course, I preferred the most impractical of shapes, like the long and narrow candy cane or the angel with delicate wings. The reindeer was also a favorite; however, the antlers posed a problem, as they were narrow and cooked much faster than the rest of the cookie. Usually, they ended up slightly burnt.

One year, I distinctly remember slowly transferring prancing reindeer after reindeer onto the cookie sheet under my mother’s watchful eye. The dough was so thin you could almost see through it, and because of this, some reindeers lost limbs. I tried to smoosh them back onto the bodies, but they remained crooked.

My mother continued to roll dough as I set the timer and kept an eye on the cookies.  Although I was careful with the timing, all of the reindeer came out of the oven with the tips of their antlers and hooves singed brown.

I nervously waited for my mom to say something, maybe a comment about the impracticality of  the reindeer cookie cutter, or how I should have been more careful watching the oven.

Instead, as she slid them off of the cookie sheet to cool, she set aside a few on a small plate. “I’ll have these with my tea,” she decided.  I beamed with pride. Despite singed antlers, my reindeer were a success.  

Many years later, as I made my own tray of cookies to take to a holiday party, arranging them in a perfect spiral on the plate, I thought of those reindeer and finally understood my mother’s actions.

She didn’t want to break her daughter’s heart by throwing the ruined cookies in the trashcan, but she also didn’t want those burnt, crooked-limbed reindeer to end up on her tray of cookies she planned to take to my aunt’s Christmas party.

So, she just did what moms do. She ate the burnt cookies.

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After my mother passed away, the cookie cutters eventually made their way into my own kitchen. I now unpack them with the rest of the Christmas decorations stored in the attic. Some years, I simply set them aside because homemade sugar cookies involve so much time and patience.

This year, however, as I peeked into the bag and sorted through the various shapes, I thought of the reindeer and couldn’t wait to show the cookie cutters to my kids. At 4 and 6, this will be their first real introduction to sugar cookies that do not come in a slice-and-bake roll from the grocery store.

Although I love cooking with my kids, I find it a true test of patience. I struggle to bite my tongue when they drop an entire bottle of sprinkles on the floor. My initial reaction is to scold when I find them leaning over the bowl eating large chunks of raw dough. And that time when a bag of flour somehow ended up all over the floor? It nearly brought me to tears.

I know baking with my kids this holiday season will be a messy affair. They will want to use the impractical brachiosaurus cookie cutter I bought on a whim. I’m sure I will end up with plenty of broken dinosaur necks and scorched dinosaur tails. I’m sure there will be more green sprinkles on my floor than on the cookies.

But, I’m also sure that my children’s laughter will be louder than the Christmas carols playing in the background. Their smiles will be more delightful than a perfectly shaped cookie. And, the memories we create together will last much longer than the tray of cookies we offer to our guests on Christmas day.  It seems that these messy, less than perfect moments are usually the most memorable.

So, as I create these sprinkle-filled memories with my children, I will remember my mom. I will ignore the crunch of sprinkles on the floor, and I will look the other way when they sneak globs of dough from the mixing bowl.

And, the singed, broken-necked dinosaur cookies? I will simply put them aside on a special plate to enjoy with my cup of tea later.

Visit her site, One Mile Smile, or check out her Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for stopping by mamas to meet this special lady!

If you’re interested in guest posting, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at onlyaseasonblog@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts here.

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Our Gender Reveal Party for Baby #2!

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Bubby’s little sister is to arrive in March 2017. We have been super excited over the fact that we’ll have a boy and a girl and the fun (and challenges!) that come with raising both genders. I have so many cute pictures and activities that I’ve already recorded and written down about my son, that I want my daughter to have some of those same experiences.

BUT, if you know anything about having subsequent children, you know that the pictures and crafts get fewer and fewer the more kids you have. Trust me. I know. I’m the youngest of six!

To start off on a proactive note for our little girl, I decided to have a gender reveal party. I knew she wouldn’t get all the showers and games and fun that Bubs got as our first born, so gender reveal party we threw!

Since I have such a large number in my family, I wanted to do something that was relatively simple, but still festive and fun. I decided to keep decorations low key but have some fun activities for my family to do to celebrate the surprise gender of our baby.

Gender Party Ideas for Party. Party ideas for a Gender Reveal Party.

 

MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION FOR YOUR GENDER REVEAL PARTY:
Deciding how to reveal the gender is always the big question. Husband and I knew the gender ahead of time and we decided we did not want to use food in any way to reveal the answer. My family has a few who would cheat (haha!), and I wanted it to be a complete surprise to everyone!

We decided to use balloons in a box and then have our toddler son help us open the box as the balloons floated out with the gender color!
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FOOD

In terms of food, we have a party favorite in our family and that is funfetti cake. It is my favorite by far! Since food wasn’t an integral part of the surprise, I kept it very simple and cheap. Funfetti was on sale for 99 cents a box at the store, so I bought two boxes and made over two dozen cupcakes. I simply used some food decorating icing and put “G” on half the cakes and “B” on the other half.
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I decided to make our table half of a girl side and half of a boy side. I went with simple decorations from Party America. I love anything that’s chevron print, so I kind of based it off the napkins I picked up. 🙂

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DECORATIONS and PARTY GAMES

I decided to go with simple and “traditional” blue and pink colors to decorate as you can see above. I wanted the decorations to be part of the activities so I decided to use the wall space in our kitchen as part of the activities for our guests.

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PHOTO BOOTH
This was our photo booth for the day. The tissue pom poms hanging from the ceiling were super inexpensive. The blue ones were already in my son’s room from one of his showers and I picked up the pink plush ones from Party America. (Bonus, I can keep the pink ones for her room above her changing table!)

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I had a small table set up to the side with the boards for the guests to use. If they thought we were having a girl, they posed with the “It’s a girl sign.” Vice versa for a boy.

As I mentioned, this was pretty simple but our guests ended up having a lot of fun with it! I had my niece be in charge of taking pictures and getting folks to participate so I didn’t have to worry about it either! 🙂

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NAME GUESSING
We thought it would be fun to put up a list with five girl names and five boy names and then have our guests pick one of each that they thought we would use. I read the answers while we were eating lunch outside. It made for great conversation and then we told them our top name when we revealed the gender! You could award the correct answers right when you read all the answers, but it’s up to you!
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I just used the same table that had our photo booth accessories on it and threw some burlap on there that I had in my craft box. Simple and fun!
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BOY or GIRL Onesies: You pick!
This probably wasn’t necessary but these little paper onesies were so cute I had to figure out a way to use them! We had our guests write their name on the color of onesie they thought we were having. So if Bill thought we were having a girl, he wrote his name on the pink onesie. It was another cute decorative corner to add to our kitchen and everyone had fun with it.
img_3086My sister even wrote the name she thought we would use with the gender she picked and wore it on her clothes! Extra bonus!
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BEST WISHES FOR BABY
Have you ever gone to a shower and they had those cute little sheets that the guests write their best wishes on for the baby? They something like “I hope you ___________” and then the guest fills in the blank. Well, I had something like this for Bubby and I wanted Sissy to have a similar experience because I absolutely love the sweet things people write. So we had a small spot set up (below the onesie banner) and family members filled them out throughout the day.
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GUEST BOOK FRAME SIGNING
Lastly, I took a picture of her gender sonogram and bought one of those frames where folks can sign the outer part. We have since hung this up in her bedroom and she can easily see who was at her party and the warm wishes they had for her (regardless of her gender!). I had blue and pink pens and let the guest choose what they wanted to use!
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We ended up having a great time with our families and the party was a real hit! If you end up having a gender reveal party I would encourage you to think about your priorities for the party and focus on those instead of trying to do everything. ESPECIALLY if have more than one kid running in circles around you! For me, food was a lower priority and activities was a higher one.

What would you mamas add? Anyone else do something similar? Would love to hear from you in the comment section below!
Peace and happy Bumps to you expecting moms out there!
Glo

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My Favorite Must Haves for Toddlers to Help in the Kitchen

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Something happened when Bubby started walking when he was about 12 months. He had to be EVERYWHERE I was. And if you know anything about being home with a toddler, a lot of time can be spent in the kitchen fetching snacks, figuring out lunch, surviving meltdown hour until dinner time…

In order to avoid having my clothes tugged on until they were two sizes two big and milk spilled on my shoes, I decided I needed to change my game plan. I needed to help Bubby develop as my kitchen helper. So I did what any good mama does and started googling, looking for tips.

I came away realizing that having kitchen utensils that actually allow my toddling son to feel like he is part of what I’m doing would definitely outweigh the costs. I want him to feel comfortable and confident in the kitchen when we’re cooking. Here are a few of my favorite items!

(This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are always my own and unbiased. See full disclosure here.)

Items and Ideas for Toddlers in the Kitchen. Items for your Toddler to help in the kitchen.

Learning Tower
I absolutely love having a learning tower and I wish I would have bought one sooner. It is by far my favorite toddler kitchen item. If you start looking up learning towers, you’ll find lots of different options out there. I wasn’t too concerned about having one that he could climb in and out of by himself, but I did want one that was smaller and wouldn’t take up a lot of room in our kitchen. I found this one on Etsy and enjoyed that I could customize the colors.
img_0020 img_0041 img_0039The biggest thing I would complain about this learning tower is that at first, I thought I would like how narrow it was so I felt like he was safer while standing with me. After having it for a while, I wish I would have purchased one like this. Yes, it’s bigger, but it’s foldable and I think I would have liked that feature better.

As you can tell, the width doesn’t hinder him from being able to enjoy what he helps me cook with! 🙂

Toddler Weaning Table
This toddler table or as many call it, “weaning table” is definitely my second favorite item. We keep it stashed in corner of our kitchen, and I love how I can just slide it over by the cabinets so he can work on whatever he is “cooking” while I’m cooking. This is especially helpful to have if I’m doing something that is hot over the stove and need him to be occupied with his own task. I can just set him with something easy (like sorting pasta or rice, he LOVES doing that!) and get supper going!
img_0043I also love this table because as he is getting older, he can carry his snacks over to the table by himself and eat on his own. We practice some Montessori in our house and this table helps with that a lot too. I love the versatility it brings and the independent training it offers too! Plus, once you start looking at toddler tables, I felt the price point was decent.

Toddler Approved Kitchen Utensils
I keep a draw like this just for Bubby’s stuff. I can easily grab what I need if we’re cooking a certain item so he can start helping me right away. Here is a list of regular go-to items that you’ll find in his drawer. I bought most of these from Wal-Mart and Amazon too!

  • Silcon spatulas–Wal-Mart has a great selection of these mini sized cooking utensils. As you can see I stalked up on spatulas, whisks and tongs!
  • Baking Utensils are kept with all my other baking supplies. I absolutely love this set and Bubby particularly likes the rolling pin. Right now he sort of whacks the counter with it, but you know, he’ll get there. 😉
  • Strawberry Slicer–Some folks might think this is silly or unsafe, but as he has gotten older and more in control with his motor skills, this slicer has been the bomb. He LOVES pushing down on it and watching the strawberries squish through! And bonus, he can eat what he slices!
  • This hand held fruit and veggie chopper made me nervous at first. But as he has grown, he loves cutting bananas with it. Again, this is one of those skills they develop and if you know anything about Montessori, you know this isn’t unusual to see toddlers use these kinds of utensils.
  • One of my other top favorite items is this tater masher. I used to use beaters to make our mashed potatoes, but now Bubby gets a big kick out of smashing them for us with his own masher.

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As you can see, I keep a jar with a lid and a small bowl of pasta so he can do his little “sorting” game he does. This is one of those of quick items I grab when I’m cooking something hot and I need him to be independent from what I’m doing.

Toddler Apron
If you’re going to be doing all that cooking, then you can’t go wrong with this laminated Toddler apron. It didn’t even occur to me to get one until a friend of mine kind said one time, “uh you know they make kid aprons, right?”. This one works just right for us and I like that I can wipe it clean.

Alrighty, mamas, let’s hear it. What would you add? What are some of your favorite items to have in the kitchen with your littles? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Peace,
Glo

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