Mud Season

Snow last week; almost 70 degrees one day this week! So, of course, my kids spent that whole day in the yard. Daddy started doing some spring cleaning (please excuse the piles of recycling). My 2.5 year old went through 3 pairs of pants in as many hours. He later moved on to the surprisingly less wet activity of ice throwing/smashing. And my almost 5 year old came inside with “my friend beetle” in her hair (who later flew away). Goooooood times. :) Here’s my video to commemorate. Welcome to Mud Season in Vermont!!!

Thinker Contest: Interpret That Masterpiece!!

I’ve been endlessly amused lately by my 3 year old’s long and detailed explanations of her drawings. Her art became an after hours guessing game with Daddy for a while – the ultimate how well do you know your child showdown – but he knows her too well, it was way too easy for him. I was expecting a lot more creativity, a lot more comedy. Then I realized I just needed different players for this game. (Plus I have a wonderful prize from Starbucks that I need a reason to give away!).

O drawing 2

So here’s the rules: 1. Follow me on Twitter @ThinkerMommy, 2. Follow me on Pinterest and 3. Leave a comment below with your best guess at what the drawing above depicts. The person whose comment most closely matches the description my daughter gave for this original piece of art will win. And if this guessing game turns out to be far easier than I expected and more than one person gets it “right,” I will give extra points for creativity (and/or use a random number generator) to select the winner. P.S. #1 and #2 aren’t totally required (like if you don’t have a Twitter account or you don’t use Pinterest, don’t let that stop you from entering) but please follow me on those sites otherwise, I’d really appreciate it!

The winner gets a 10 oz bag of ground Holiday Blend coffee from Starbucks and 2 stacking peppermint-striped Starbucks mugs (12oz).

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize - I had to sample the other one.

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize – I had to sample the other one.

The First Christmas Eve You’ll Remember

xmas countdown frameChristmas Eve, AKA crunch time. Now that one of my babies is old enough to believe in Santa and all other sorts of wonderful magical things, this is our first Christmas where every little detail matters. I do not want a heartbroken child because Mommy forgot to remind her to sprinkle her bag of reindeer food outside (um, Santa sometimes comes back the next night to feed his reindeer….?). And 3 year olds are savvy; I was just asked why the Santa who was waving on the side of the road wasn’t there again the next day (He went back to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas… but sometimes he comes back to the malls for photo opps? Crap.). There are so many questions I’ve never even thought of – I can’t adequately prepare for this!!

Another reason I’m probably so concerned about everything being perfect is that I didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was a child. So besides the fact that I’m reliving my own childhood (I really really really love this holiday), there’s a ton of activities I’ve never EVER done before, even after starting to celebrate myself as an adult: leaving out cookies for Santa, reading a Christmas book the night before, packing our Santa Sack full of old toys for other little girls and boys (Santa takes it as a kind of exchange), scattering reindeer food, making and leaving out a Santa Key since we don’t have a chimney – these are all new to me too. And as if the plate wasn’t already full, we couldn’t forget the Xmas traditions my husband and I have had for years before kids: driving around to see our neighbor’s light displays, leaving cookies for our mail carrier (Mr. Mailman gets a bag decorated with LOTS of stickers this year), and playing my collection of Christmas CDs on repeat. Phew. Fingers crossed I didn’t forget anything.

xmas wrapping 2013

But really, nothing says tradition for me like procrastination. Normally I love watching presents start piling up under the tree as the advent calendar gets emptier. But this year, my youngest is teething and nothing has been safe from his jaws of doom – so we thought it better to leave all the gifts hidden as long as possible. Unfortunately, I learned it’s also pretty easy to wait/forget to wrap gifts when you know Santa is bringing them all on Christmas. Soooo… I have a lot of wrapping to do. Time to pull out the coffee!!

This year I’m going with Starbucks’ Holiday Blend. During our first taste test, my husband said (insert Jersey accent): “It tastes like coffee. It wakes me up. I like it.” Clearly it’s up to me to be more specific. If you’ve never tried the Holiday Blend, it is much more mellow and less spicy than Starbucks’ Christmas blend. The package says “Soft and Layered” and that it’s a medium roast, but to my not-so-refined taste buds, I’d say it’s similar to a breakfast blend. As I got to work, I spiked my Starbucks with hot cocoa and peppermint marshmallows – instant Christmas café au chocolat! Thank you, coffee, for keeping me going until, wow, midnight. Just a few more packages to go, but I had to take a break and write this. Don’t want to risk repetitive action injuries… (I swear this isn’t more procrastination). Now where are Santa’s cookies?

Merry Christmas!

I was lucky enough to be sent product to sample from Starbucks. However, the comments and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I was not paid for this blog post.

Halloween Photo Contest from PicMonkey

picmonkey_halloween_contest1
I absolutely love PicMonkey and use it constantly (as you’ve probably seen), so when they contacted me to help promote their Halloween photo contest, I said Yes! Yes! In exchange I got to play with the full features of their Royale premium membership.

Here’s the contest nitty gritty: PicMonkey is going to choose the most creative Halloween pictures in each of 3 categories: scary, cute, and funny. The 3 winners get a free year of Royale premium membership! To enter, just use PicMonkey’s FREE photo editing tools to monster-fy one of your photos, then share it on one or more of the social sites below, tagged with #PicMonkeyBOO (the hashtag let’s them find your entry, so don’t forget it!).

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • Muzy
  • WeHeartIt
  • Flickr
  • Google Plus

The contest ends at 11:59pm PST on Tuesday, October 22th, 2013 so you definitely need to jump on this, but with PicMonkey’s simple tools, you can make your photos Halloween-tastic in about an hour or 2 (depending on your perfectionistic tendencies). Read the complete contest details here.

I’ve used PicMonkey’s free tools in the past to brighten up my iPhone pictures, add text and watermarks, make collages, change the style of a photo with lots of contrast, add helpful arrows, block out unwanted faces/bellies, etc. But with a paid Royale premium membership, you really get to kick your photos up a notch. In the Halloween themes, access to Royale features means you can use gashes and slashes, veins, extra scary eyes, the tooth decay tool, monster morph (which I used to create arched eyebrows), more realistic images of bats, lots of extra backgrounds, and more!

Royale membership opens up non-Halloween-themed tools too though. I especially liked playing with the wrinkle remover, eye brightener, mascara (so cool!), the better text fonts, sunglasses (hilarious), and the clone tool that I haven’t totally mastered yet but basically helps you remove or add things from your photos without it looking like you did so (so you don’t have to cover them up with stickers).

So now it’s time for the proof, my little vampire and zombie baby courtesy of PicMonkey’s awesome photo editing tools. Their zombie-loving Daddy is so proud …

O and O Monster Faces 3

But to prove my children really aren’t devil spawn (probably), here’s the before picture.  ;)

Give PicMonkey a try, it’s easier than you think, you’ll have a ton of fun and I swear you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Good luck!!

together happy faces

Potty Training on the Road

beach 2013 043

This is as close to the water as O would go

beach 2013 072

Adorable baby in a wetsuit. And super pale mommy in the SPF 50 protected beach tent

There always comes a time in every parent’s journey where something unplanned happens. As a super worrier, hyper planner and research lover, it doesn’t happen to me often. But, of course, it happened this weekend.

We decided (thunderstorm forecasts be damned!) to go to the beach and since we got there at about 9 am, we had plenty of time to play before the weather and waves turned nasty. O has been potty training at home but we’ve never done anything out of the house where a bathroom wasn’t very easily accessible (the mall or a restaurant, for example). Being the prepared mom I am though, I found these awesome portable, disposable lifesavers called Potty Flip. I think I actually bought a big set of them on sale when O was around 12 months old knowing I’d need them eventually. So, after having our beach fun, we got the car packed up and asked O if she needed to go. She used the Potty Flip for “number 2” (awesome!!) and it worked out great. I gave her a handful of trail mix that included 2 m&ms as a treat because I forgot to bring stickers and yes, we’re using the classic bribery method of training. I do a little I’m-an-awesome-and-totally-prepared-mom dance as I get in the car.

Well, everything is great until about 15 minutes later when O asks for “some more treat.” I tell her that we were done with treats for now but offer a cheese stick if she was feeling hungry. She passes on the nutritious food option. Guess what happens next. Never underestimate a preschooler’s brain. O puts 2 and 2 together and says, “I have to go potty!”

Clearly she’s asking to get another treat. But maybe she really has to go also. Obviously giving in and tossing her some candy in the hope that satisfies her for a while is not going to work (unfortunately). There is nothing around us but traffic. My husband and I look at one another. Neither one of us says a thing but I can tell his brain is churning out every scenario on the planet just like mine is. Do we stop on the shoulder and have her squat in nature? (ew). Do we just keep driving and pray for no mess? (at least we have towels).

O cannot hear our brains and repeats herself. Mimi (Grandma) senses it may take longer for us to compose words than a 3 year old’s patience (or she sees the terrified look in our eyes) and says, “Ok, I hear you have to go potty. Let’s try and hold it for a few minutes and Mommy and Daddy will find a place to stop for you.” Oh thank god! … Wait, oh no…  we might as well have just told our daughter to go surf an eggplant because “holding it” is a totally foreign concept. As I’m cursing myself for not having thought about explaining this ahead of time and trying to find a way to phrase it in an understandable way now, we see a sight I never thought I’d be so grateful for: golden arches.

In case you’re wondering, yes she was able to hold it. Yes, she really did have to go (a little). And yes she got another little treat.

I was not endorsed, sponsored or compensated in any way for the product mention in this blog.

FREE DIY Summer Reading Camp

PBS Kids Summer Reading

My daughter and I read before bed every night but I am always inspired by contests and pledges – and any motivation to read more and seek out new books is always a good thing. So when I found out about a free 10 week DIY Summer Reading Camp sponsored by Education.com and PBS kids, I was excited to learn more. And when I discovered there are activities appropriate for kids as young as preschool age (and up to fifth grade), it sounded even better.

All you have to do is sign up for an account at Education.com and then take the pledge to read at least 10 books this summer. Mom and dad will also be entered to win one of 5 a Kindle prize packs valued at more than $350 – Bonus! Education.com asks you to select your child’s grade and then gives you a great list of summer “Must-Reads” at your child’s reading level to start you out.

But wait, it gets better. Each of the 10 weeks of Reading Camp has a theme (“Bugs”, “Heroes”, “Get Wet”, “Dragons and Dinos”, etc) and at least a dozen activities per week to do with your kids using materials you likely already have around the house. There are free worksheets to download in the weekly activity sets too. They even give you weekly print outs with all the activities and supplies on a checklist so you can collect everything in advance and pick and neatly choose which activities you want to try. All 10 weekly activity sheets and all the activity instructions are already posted online (no waiting!) so you can do them in any order you want. And did I mention it’s all FREE??!!

Here are the books O and I picked (some based on the cover pictures, but that’s okay):

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Caps for Sale
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Flat Stanley
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • I Stink
  • Harry, the Dirty Dog

We will probably add in extra books that work with each week’s theme also. And for older kids it would be cool to make a chart to tape to the wall so that they can mark off each book and see their progress. Maybe get some star stickers involved – what kid doesn’t love stickers on a chart?

Poking around the Education.com site I also found that you can download 10 additional free printable worksheets every month (more if you want to get a paid subscription to Education.com). Why haven’t I been using this site more often?!

How to Bake With A 3-Year-Old

My daughter O loves this Fisher-Price app called the Little People Learning Market. One really cute part asks you what type of treat you would like to bake: an apple pie, cookies or cupcakes, and then has you 1. add items from your shopping list (matching) 2. prepare the treat (drag, tap, tip to pour, etc) and finally 3. put it in the oven to bake. Ever since she started playing this game, she regularly runs into our kitchen, announces it’s “time to bake!”, and grabs the flour and a mixing bowl. It’s adorable and it got me thinking – she’s already doing it in a game, why not in real life?

I decided to turn a simple recipe of ours for banana bread from my hand-written index card into an image-loaded, kid-friendly version. Here’s how:

I went to Google Docs and opened a new Drawing. Google Docs has this handy tool where you can search Google images right from the drawing document page and easily add them. So I just went through my recipe and found a picture of each ingredient. I added large text in a text box for the exact amounts needed of each and put the steps in order. Then, I used the shape option to group the wet and dry ingredients together visually in their own boxes. Last, I just printed it and O was ready to help me bake “all by herself” in less than 5 minutes. Here it is (a downloadable PDF is also at the bottom of this post):

banana bread for kids image

O was so happy to have her own recipe. She took her job of reading me the ingredients very seriously and was pretty good at filling up the cups (using a second cup to fill the first is easiest). Just make sure you’re ready to intercept when your preschooler runs to the fridge and tries to carry out the eggs to you (lesson learned!!).  O can identify numbers but is not getting fractions yet so I’m still trying to think up a way to help her be able to identify and use the correct measuring cup or spoon all on her own. I could just add a picture of the correct measuring device on there next time so then it’ll be more matching. Or maybe color code the measuring cups with a piece of colored tape on the bottom (while still putting the measurement on there so she can see both and still learn it). Let me know if you have any ideas and enjoy!

Banana Bread recipe for kids PDF download

banana bread

So good we couldn’t even wait for the picture to be taken before eating it. We made ours with cinnamon chips.

Free Baby & Pregnancy Magazine Subscriptions

By the time you’ve gotten to one of the baby or pregnancy magazines in your OBGYN’s office, the little subscription inserts have probably fallen out long ago. And you may or may not feel comfortable taking one of them home, even if there is a huge stack of magazines sitting out (like I do). But, worry not, you can actually get a free subscription to some of these magazines as long as you live in the US! American Baby and Baby Talk are 2 really fun (and useful) magazines and both are completely free.

Use these links to subscribe (and get personalized email newsletters and offers too, if you want). Note: when clicking on the Baby Talk link, scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find the sign up form.

American Baby and Baby Talk

And you’re welcome!!

Baby Registry Freebies

Buybuy Baby - Cute Paper Gift Bag

Buybuy Baby Gift Bag contents

There are a ton of stores where you can buy baby stuff and most of those stores want you to create a baby registry with them so that all your friends will have to visit that store to buy you baby shower gifts, etc. Some stores, like Giggle, will even give you cute little cards to include with your baby shower invitations and/or birth announcements that tell everyone which store to visit to find your registry (helps prevent “Oh, you didn’t have a registry at the store I visited so I just bought you these bottles from a brand you don’t like and baby booties that you already have enough of.”). And, of course, every store will give you a checklist of the baby “essentials” you need to buy.

But even if you think nobody is actually going use your registry (and you might be surprised – we were), you should absolutely still make at least one (or as many as possible in case you have non-internet savvy family members who can only shop at actual stores nearby them). Here’s the first good reason: registry completion discounts. Most stores will give you a coupon for 10% off any of the items remaining on your registry that weren’t bought for you. So, if you’re going to end up buying stuff for yourself, put it on your registry and then wait for your coupon!! (Note: the coupon is mailed after your due date, so up your due date by a few weeks when registering to make sure you get the coupon in time to use it before you bring baby home).

Second reason to create a registry: free gift bags!!! Now, I am a bit of a gift bag addict, but I think everyone likes free stuff, especially when they’re things you actually need. I’ve only found 3 stores that give actual gift bags just for creating a registry with them:  Target, Buybuy Baby and Babies”R”Us so of course, I did the “hard” work of trying them all out for you. :)  Probably based on the season and availability, I know that what you see here is probably not exactly the same as what you’ll get, but it’ll give you a good estimate (2 years ago, with my first baby, I got a car sunshade and a bib, for example, which were not in the gift bags this year). These gift bags benefit stores because after you try the products and like them, you’ll use the enclosed coupons to go back to that store and make a full-sized purchase. And I loved that there were very few duplicate gift items between stores. Here’s the breakdown:

Babies"R"Us - Reusable Gift Bag

Babies"R"Us Gift Bag contents

 

* Buybuy baby gift bag: Fit Pregnancy magazine, Baby Talk magazine, a NUK orthodontic silicone pacifier 0-6m, an Avent 4oz baby bottle with nipple and lid, sample of grape scented saline Boogie Wipes, sample of Belli elasticity belly oil, sample of Johnson’s Natural baby lotion, sample of Mustela baby body lotion, Medela breastfeeding information guide, and coupons from BabyGanics, Gerber and most of the companies mentioned previously.

*Babies”R”Us gift bag: American Baby magazine, Disney baby growth chart, 2 samples of grape scented saline Boogie Wipes, sample of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (perfect for diaper bags), 1 newborn Pampers Swaddlers diaper and sample of Pampers Sensitive wipes, the Babies”R”Us new baby buying guide (but contains no prices!), $25 voucher and additional coupons for Kiddie Kandids portrait studio, assorted coupons from Huggies and most companies mentioned previously.

*Target gift bag: 1 Newborn Huggies diaper, 1 set of Lansinoh nursing pads, 2 Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags, $20 Shutterfly gift card, baby guide with Target coupons, and other assorted coupons.

Target - Reusable Baby Clutch

Target Gift Bag contents

%d bloggers like this: