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Monday, June 15, 2020

Father's Day Gift Guide

Father's Day Gift Guide


Well hello, its me again. So soon ya'll may come to expect me to be a consistent blogger, haha. I was inspired last night as I was ordering Anthony's father day presents. I found out about this Chimney Charcoal Starter thing a few months ago from Preston Perry so I knew it was something I wanted to get for Anthony. I just never bit the bullet and as father's day is approaching and seeing influencers share their gift guides it reminded me to order his present and I knew immediately I would be ordering a Chimney Charcoal Starter. There I am ordering this cool contraption thing and I had the thought to share on my IG stories with you all in case you never heard of it either and that's how my thought process came to putting together a quick gift guide with presents Anthony has truly enjoyed. I will still share each of the items in my stories so be sure to head there to see them "in person," I will be sure to have a highlight saved in case you run across this post after the 24 hours.


Mini Kreg Jig Kit
With social distancing happening across the country, those honey to do lists are able to finally get completed. This jig helps hide screws to give woodworking a more "professional" look so to speak and with getting the mini you aren't having to fork out an investment. Obviously it doesn't work as fast as the K5 would BUT if you never used a Kreg jig to begin with, you wouldn't know the difference. It's a great stepping stone to taking your woodworking up a notch without the major pricetag. 

If anything was a must have item, it is definitely this speaker. I bought this during Christmas for Anthony and it is the most used item I have ever bought him. He uses it in the shower, while out in the garage, when we had friends over, at the beach, etc. It's a pricer item compared to the others I am sharing but it is worth it. 

I tried buying Anthony one of those sunrise clocks after our old school one broke but he was not impressed so when I saw the Echo Dot had a version with a digital clock on it I knew we had to have it. I love how we can easily see the clock without having to ask Alexa what time it is but we can also ask her to set his alarm without getting up and fiddling with it (we are so spoiled, I know). And I enjoy that she can play my podcasts for me as I am fixing my bed in the mornings or can play music for us at night while playing video games and hanging out.

This is the gift I am getting him this year, I told him about it when I first heard of it and he thought it was neat as well so it won't be a total surprise but I know he will enjoy having a faster way to light the charcoal and also using less chemicals. I don't know about ya'll but I have always been skeptical about lighter fluid and glad there is a device that allows you to bypass that. Along with this I also got him a cover for his barbeque pit as we recently bought him a new one since we gave away his old one when we sold our last house. I wanted to be sure we took better care of this pit compared to the other so this is the one I ordered in case you are in need of one as well.

We swear by Yeti after we purchased our first one almost two years ago. I have only had one other brand of tumblers so I don't have much comparison however it was that big of a difference I don't want to try others. My ice stays as ice overnight so my water in the morning is still cold. We even took our Yeti tumbler to the beach and left it in the car so we would have fresh cold water once we were heading home and the ice was still in there. We have been sharing the one Yeti but I am not great at sharing so we got Anthony his own and he loves it. It's great for keeping his water cold overnight as well but also his mix drinks cold without completely watering it down allowing him to sip on it over time.

And in case you are more DIY savy or just prefer more personal gift giving, I created this frame for Anthony for his first Father's Day and he loved it. We now have it apart of Sophia's gallery wall in her room but it was made with him in mind. This would look great on daddy's nightstand or at his office. You can find my tutorial here.



Now personally I love blogs when bloggers share their life before handing me links to buy stuff or getting to their tutorial for whatever. It helps build a "relationship" so to speak but I have heard that others do not enjoy the story time before content and just prefer getting to the point. I'm curious to know which are you?

Also, if you found this post helpful or know someone who would, please share it! I have made this pinnable image below to make it easier to pin and share!!
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Top 5 Books for Your Baby/Toddler (0-3)

Top 5 Books for Your Baby/Toddler (0-3)


Well hello whoever is still hanging around. I thought I would start posting more often after my last post but alas I have been preoccupied with house projects and adjusting to a new routine here at the house. We have been in such a good rhythm the last few weeks even amidst the current circumstances.

I have arrived to the thought that my blogging will remain inconsistent as I only want to blog when I am inspired (this thought has actually been simmering for over a year). This will allow me to post quality material and in hopes that it will be more helpful to you all. If you do enjoy day to day tips/tricks and in the life, I post pretty regularly on Instagram stories.

The past few days, even weeks, I have given much thought about our bookshelves and the types of books we own and the books we borrow from the library. When my eldest was first born, I wanted her to have every book there was but also wanted to be sure those books were of great quality. I happened upon Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and soon it became my quest to acquire every book listed in her "A Child's First Books: Ages 0-3" chapter. She has somewhere around 60-65 books listed, we own around 20. Hunt was in no way suggesting you need to own all the books in her list, that was the overachiever in me wanting to check the list completely off. However after 4.5 years and two children later, my eldest being 4.5 and my youngest about 2.5, I have come to the conclusion that we do not need to own that many books. Children love repetition and sometimes they get so stuck on one book that they want to read it over and over and over again. Therefore, we would be just as well borrowing other books from the library to still introduce them to new stories and only buying the ones that truly stuck with our family that we are constantly wanting to read over and over and over again. Among owning about 20 books from this particular list, I would say we also own quite a few more picture books. Many of them Dr. Seuss which we did read quite a bit with my eldest her earlier years but not so much with my son but that is another list entirely, haha.

With all the books we own and have borrowed, all the reading we have done between two children, only a handful of books have made a mark for us as a family thus far. We have sweet memories of these stories with one or both of my children and the joy they gave us and we gave them during read-alouds. I hope this short and sweet list of ours will provide special memories and bonding time with your own littles during these early years and that one of these, if not all, will wind up as part of your child's first library.

This was Sophia's favorite one as a baby. She would get so excited when I would use an over dramatic voice "Wheeeeeeeere's SPOT?" and as we progressed through the book, she loved lifting the flaps and discovering what animal was hiding. The thing I loved about this book was the positional words that was used, "Is he behind the door?" "Is he in the closet?" "He's under the rug." It created an easy, natural and fun way to introduce elements in the English language that she will need later on. Reading in general exposes children to so much more than literacy though but that is a post for another day. Just trust me it is never too early OR too late to start reading aloud with your children.

Sophia loved the dramatics of the alphabet falling out the tree and the full moon. She also enjoyed all the alphabet at the back of the book and asking what each one is, we would often start singing the ABC song as we pointed to each one. Bubba has now also started flipping to the back and pointing at specific letters or matching the letter from his alphabet puzzle to the back of the book. Such a great rhyming book for early alphabet introduction.

For this book, there is a very specific one you need to get for it to be great in my opinion and that is the Slide and Find version. Interactive books like this and the flip to look and touch and feel engage babies and toddlers to explore these books on their own. Sophia loved being able to control the slides and Bubba is completely obsessed with this book. He went from knowing one color to knowing around 9 maybe more in two days. TWO days. I did not have to do any extra activities with him, he has flashcards but he mainly used those to sort by color but being able to name each color I give all the credit to this book. Truly shows in the early years we don't need fancy lesson plans or themed activities, just let them play and read them quality books! He also memorized the book and I have a sweet video of him "reading" it to me. I plan to also record him to create a "audiobook" and what a treasure it will be to hear his sweet baby voice once he is a grown man and possibly having his own babies.

I read an article once by a speech therapist saying the beginning stages of learning to speak is learning animal sounds. Those sounds are the building blocks and Sophia was not much of a talker at this time. She grunted and pointed. I knew she could talk if she really wanted to because her ability to understand everything we said was amazing and we would get snippets when she was in the mood (which was very rare). Although Sophia still waited to talk on her own timeline, as she has done with everything else so far, we still highly recommend this book because it is so full of giggles and laughter making sounds with your children and you still get to set up those building blocks for speaking later on.

A very classic book. Sophia enjoys the metamorphosis part when the butterfly comes out at the end of the book. I enjoy the early exposure to counting and the days of the week. Bubba enjoys the "holes" in the books for each food item the caterpillar ate (told ya'll interactive books for young toddlers and babies is where it is at, they love exploring with their hands)

Bonus: A Touch-and-Feel book
Again with young toddlers and babies exploring with their hands. I do not have a specific book recommendation other then having one touch-and-feel book on hand is great for them to explore different textures. Sophia had this one and loved touching the scarecrow (burlap) whereas Bubba had this one and the scratchy (sandpaper) pig was a favorite.

And that my friends is our family's top 5 book recommendations for your baby's own library. I still highly recommend reading as many books as possible so take advantage of your local library! If you need new book ideas, I love referencing the Read-Aloud Revival's A Year of Picture Books list as well as Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt (mentioned above).

I'm curious to know, how many of these books do you already own? What age did you start reading to your child?

If you found this post helpful or know someone who would, please share it! I have made this pinnable image below to make it easier to pin and share!!



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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Diaper Pail Comparison | Ubbi vs Dekor Plus

Diaper Pail Comparison | Ubbi vs Dekor Plus


About two years ago, I shared all about our diapering station for a newborn and the difference of how I disposed of diapers between Sophia and baby Anthony. Since then, our diapering needs have changed dramatically. In that time, we started cloth diapering both kiddos, the eldest is now potty trained (besides nighttime) and the toddler has very stinky poop. We currently have two diaper pails for our disposable diapers: the Ubbi and the Dekor Plus. We have owned the Ubbi for about two years and the Dekor Plus for about a year or so and it dawned on me that I should share the pros and cons of both pails regarding both disposable diapering and cloth diapering (we have a third separate pail for cloth now, more on that later).

Ubbi Diaper Pail

Pros

  • Does not require special bags, you can use regular kitchen bags, cloth pail liners or their Ubbi bags. We started off using regular trash bags but once we started cloth diapering, I started using this liner but now we use the Ubbi bags.
  • Made with steel which keeps the smell contained inside the pail.
  • There is a little turn lock so you can prevent your toddler playing with dirty diapers (if you know, you know).

Cons

  • While the Ubbi could work for cloth diapering, it isn't the most efficient considering the size of cloth diapers vs disposal diapers. I was cloth diapering two at one time and could maybe fit half a day to a days worth before needing to switch out the liner (I washed my diapers every 2-3 days) which left a bag of dirty diapers sitting on the floor in my laundry room.
  • The steel construction does prevent smells from seeping through until you have to open it to put a diaper in, then you get a huge whiff of stank but I found this to be the case no matter what pail you use. I was just happy the smell wasn't constant by seeping out and I hold my breath whenever putting a dirty diaper in the pail.
  • Is not hands free, have to touch the lock to unlock and have to pull back the top to open to place a diaper in and pull back to close.

Dekor Plus Pail

Pros

  • Hands-free (as long as it's unlocked).
  • Also has a little turn lock to prevent a curious toddler from exploring dirty diapers.
  • Their specific bagging system makes it to where you only use the amount of bag you need which reduces waste and most economically efficient for disposal diapers.
  • Fits a cloth pail liner, we used this one. Before our current cloth diaper pail, we preferred this one over the Ubbi for cloth since it could fit more diapers.

Cons

  • The smell of dirty poop diapers seeps out even when its closed.

Our Current Dirty Diaper Setup

To start off, you do not need more then one diaper pail and honestly a diaper pail is NOT necessary at all for disposable diapers. For about the first 19 months of changing diapers, we did not have any pails in our house. Poop diapers went into a plastic grocery bag and straight to the dumpster in the garage while pee diapers went in a little bathroom trash can we had next to the changing table. I did not want to commit to a pail that had to have specific bags purchased. By the time Bubba was born, I heard about Ubbi and it's ability to fit standard kitchen bags so I used our monetary gifts we received for Bubba and bit the bullet. The Dekor Plus was bought shortly after starting to cloth diaper. The plan was to use Ubbi for disposables since it didn't fit many cloth diapers and to use Dekor Plus for cloth diapering. This worked great for a few months but the smell of the cloth diapers was really gross and made our room smell. After some digging and research, I found that cloth diapers need airflow in order to not start smelling. Which leads to our setup now:

Dekor Plus is in Bubbas room and is used only for pee diapers (disposable) and we use their specialty bags because it is easier to change out and more economical. This pail is only kept around because we already had it but also doesn't hurt that we have more pee diapers throughout the day so having it contained here instead of using our kitchen trash for pee diapers keeps the smell at bay.

Ubbi is in the garage and is used for poop diapers (disposable), we use their bags as well as we found it was more economical than a kitchen trash bag due to the size of the pail versus size of bag (lots of wasted bag space). This pail is great for retaining the smell besides when you open it, which is why it became our designated poop pail. We have it in the garage because when you do open it, the smell lingers for a bit.

For cloth diapers, we use a standard kitchen trash can that has a swing lid (similar) which provides sufficient airflow and there is never a smell from our cloth diapers anymore (we rinse off all poop in the toilet before placing in the pail). We now use this cloth liner as the other one has a ripped seam and I am not a seamstress. I love that this liner has a snap closure so if you go longer between washes and need to use another liner, you can close this one off to prevent littles from playing with dirty diapers. I wash every 2-3 days and this liner fits all my diapers for one load.

Final thoughts, unless you live in an apartment I wouldn't classify a diaper pail as a necessity to add to your registry if your planning to use disposable diapers. Walking them to the garbage bin in your garage or wherever you store your large bin doesn't take any extra effort especially if you are like I was in not wanting to worry about buying specialty bags. Just use those plastic grocery bags (I always doubled up bags for poop to try to contain the smell a bit more). If you plan to cloth diaper, don't waste money on these name brand pails - buy a standard kitchen trash can that allows airflow such as one with a swing lid or no lid at all. I know it seems like the smell will linger in the air but it won't with cloth. Trying to keep the smell in, creates a smell. Trust me. If you are having a smell regardless on your cloth that may be a washing routine issue in which case I would refer you to Fluff Love University.

Do you have a diaper pail? If so, which one did you use? Do you use cloth diapers or disposables or somewhere in between like us?

If you found this post helpful or know someone who would, please share it! I have made this pinnable image below to make it easier to pin and share!!


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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Let’s Chat! | Growth During Struggles

Let’s Chat! | Growth During Struggles


If your new around here, you probably don’t know this but I’m not the typical blogger. I randomly take breaks from blogging because, well life happens. Real life. Don’t get me wrong I love blogging. I love writing. I love forming the connections I have made through this digital life but I have priorities. Or at least I try to because let’s me honest we all get sucked into the scrolling mindlessly through social media while life happens around you. However, I’m breaking that cycle. I won’t allow it to hold power over me anymore of having to see every single post ever posted by this person or that person or needing to know who is doing what at this moment in time.

Now hear me out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with checking in on your favorite blogger or social media influencer but when that profile or person gets the best of you instead of the people in your real life, in your home. There’s a problem. And that’s me. Hi, my name is Stormie and I am a social mediaholic. I love catching up with people on Instagram but I hate having phone conversations. I love posting and watching instastories but I’m actually an introvert and don’t like talking in person unless we are already close friends.

So this social media break has happened for quite a few reasons. The main reason was the Lord was speaking to me. I have always wondered when people would say “The Lord spoke to me” or I’m following the Lord’s command and I always wondered like how? Did you hear a big booming voice “Stormie get off social media” with an echo? Well no. It was subtle and over time. The Lord spoke to me through books I was reading, through people I was following on social media, conversations I was having in my bible study group, etc. There was a common theme being brought to my attention across all areas of my life and it felt so strong that I knew it was coming from the Lord.

Short back story, my husband was laid off (I spoke about it some here and here) and we were dealing with unemployment for 6+ months and now underemployment. Around the same time I’m hearing the Lord speak to me, Anthony and I both also feel the Lord telling us it was finally time to say goodbye to our house. In hindsight, we were wrestling with the Lord for months and months before this without realizing it (or wanting to realize) so when we did make the decision to list our house for sell, we were at such peace because we knew it was the Lord’s will.

So the time-frame for us to be out of the house lined up with the holidays which I thought taking the whole month of December off would be the best because one it would give us time to get all moved in and settled and secondly what perfect time to create a new rhythm and routine with my children. I was also planning to use this time to intentionally plan what my life would look like on social media and how I needed to create boundaries and balance my priorities on my spiritual life and my family life first.


But alas, the Lord had other plans and other familial obligations popped up that took majority of my attention in December and half of January. Now that things have slowed down on that front, I have been trying to find my way back to my initial mission. Getting the fire back in me of being intentional with my spiritual life and my kids. Creating a new rhythm and routine with a purpose. And eventually get back to blogging with a game plan.

As of right now, I have been checking in on Facebook and Instagram every so often but not being active much other then selling stuff on marketplace. I have felt I wanted to wait until I was in a good place in my spiritual life and my family life. It’s not to say my faith has been wavering, in fact it’s quiet the opposite.

During this last year and a half, this is the most dependent and closest I have felt to the Lord. I feel like when everything was going great, it was so easy to put God on the back burner and say a prayer here and there. Head to church on Sunday’s, attend bible study and go through the motions all while neglecting to ever open up my Bible. My God has shown me so much and has taught me so much in trusting in Him, leaning not on my own understanding when things aren’t going the way I planned. I try so hard to control so much out of fear and I have learned that’s not okay.

I’m not saying you should never make plans or goals, it’s great to plan but it’s also very important to remain flexible because we don’t have the whole picture. God does. And guess what. His plans are so far better for our lives then we could have ever imagined. The good and the bad.

Side story about the “bad”: I do not know the reason I had to grow up without my biological parents (in case your unaware, my parents died when I was really young and my aunt who I call mom raised me) but what I do know is I would not be the mother I am today to my children if it wasn’t for that significant lost in my life as a child. For that I am thankful that I am more in tune to the needs of my children. I am far from the perfect mother but I am proud of the mother I am. No one could ever take that confidence away from me. That confidence comes from the “bad hand” I was dealt and honestly, looking my children in their faces the way I do, there is not one thing I would change in my life that lead me to this point and that is thanks to God.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28 ESV

What is something you have felt the Lord speak to you lately? Do you try to plan or control your life out of fear? How has your childhood shaped you into the parent you are (or plan to be)?
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stormieariel
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Monday, September 3, 2018

DockATot Deluxe vs. DockATot Grand

DockATot Deluxe vs. DockATot Grand


This post was created in partnership with DockATot but all thoughts and opinions are of my own.

If you don’t know my love for DockATot yet, where have you been? Haha, since we discovered it and started using the DockATot Grand with Sophia at 9 months we saw a night and day difference in her sleeping habits (read more here). We were determined to start our next baby with the DockATot right after birth and were so impressed with the multiple uses we were able to use our DockATot Deluxe for besides co-sleeping (read more here).
Obviously we are now DockATot pros and we are constantly getting questions from those considering if they should invest in one (yes you should and you’ll thank me later).

The question I wanted to dedicate a blog post to is:

Can I just buy the Grand from the start?

I mean you can do whatever you want to do at the end of the day BUT I would not recommend it. When babies come out into the world, they came from this snugly secure environment (your womb) to this big opened world. The sensory overload is typically why it’s a hard adjustment for the baby the first few days or weeks. The DockATot Deluxe is created smaller to recreate a womb like environment by being cozy and snugly.

Side note: the things we had to do to get Sophia to sleep those first few months was insane. No one was getting any sleep. Using the DockATot Deluxe with Baby Anthony as soon as we got home from the hospital was amazing. We actually slept. All of us. Yes there were middle of the night feedings because that comes with the territory of having a newborn but we didn’t have to do anything extravagant to get him to sleep at night. He just did and that is because of the DockATot Deluxe.
The design of the DockATot Deluxe is for babies from 0-8 months old. Before you ask, yes that includes big babies as well. Baby Anthony was born at 10 pounds 8 ounces and has consistently been at the top of the charts measuring ahead and the DockATot Deluxe still worked perfectly for him. At 9.5 months, we finally decided to upgrade to the DockATot Grand. We have had our DockATot Grand for about two weeks now and the transition from the DockATot Deluxe to the DockATot Grand has been a very smooth transition, in fact I think baby Anthony has enjoyed the extra room to wiggle. We always start any sleep transitions with nap times first for a month before implementing those changes to bedtime as well. This has been a fool-proof method for our family and has made all transitions easier (this is also how we transitioned Sophia off the bottle).

Side note: see my other sleep tips here.
Therefore, I highly recommend starting with the DockATot Deluxe from the beginning as it was created to mimic the womb’s coziness. Your little one will feel snug and secure and sleep better and in turn you will sleep better.

Do you already use the DockATot? Have you been considering the DockATot for your family?

If you found this post helpful or know someone who would, please share it! I have made this pinnable image below to make it easier to pin and share!!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Mood Board

Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Mood Board



It has certainly been awhile since I shared my last home decor blog post and the only reveal I have ever done in this house was Sophia's Nursery. We have lived here for 4 years already and if you have been around the blog for awhile you will remember how unexpected and last minute buying this house was and while I would have loved to already have the house exactly the way I envisioned all those years ago, more unexpected and wonderful and hard things happened. 

Most aspects of our lives are looking better and relief has been lifted for the most part. We (by we, I mean me haha) have even started dreaming about finally making this house into a home now that Anthony is working again and some major repairs have been done on our house - there are still a few more major (and minor) repairs we need but we are praying about our options before forking out a good chunk of change for the remaining major repairs. With that, we are not sure how long we will stay in this home but decided no matter the length of time, we want to enjoy our surroundings so the first project up is our hall bathroom.

If you caught my stories on Instagram then you know we have been dealing with mold issues in our master bathroom because of improper caulking by previous owners and mold issues in the hall bathroom because of leaking faucets (told you there are a lot of repairs that need to happen in this house). Due to the lengthy process of removing caulk, we wouldn't be able to use the master shower therefore we need to fix the leaking issue in the hall bathroom so we can use the hall shower/tub while we work on cleaning out the master shower. We have accumulated some gift cards to various stores that will actually help us be able to not only replace the necessities but also make the hall bathroom pretty instead of boring builder grade which has lead me to create a mood board. 

As ya'll may remember, I have struggled finding inspiration or a direction for this bathroom forever but inspiration finally hit after Cassie from Hi Sugarplum revealed their Powder Bathroom last summer:

Isn't it breathtaking? Now you are probably wondering where the heck I got farmhouse from as Cassie's bathroom is just full on glam. I have mix taste but most of my taste is farmhouse, cottage, vintage, antiques, etc however I also love pops of color (most farmhouse decor is neutral) and some modern elements which is how I tied in my personal taste of all things farmhouse with modernish touches.

Here is our to-do list to make this restroom fully functional and pretty:
Replace tub faucet
Clean/bleach, do something to the tub, haha
Replace toilet seat
Replace sink faucet
Add a shower rod
Purchase shower curtain/liner/hooks 
(I am planning to buy this washable shower liner and these shower curtain hooks)
Paint walls & ceiling - white 
(I am not using any special color just a regular ol white that I happen to have in my garage)
Paint cabinet - white or black?
Paint door to match trim
Scrub floors
Paint floors or install tile?
Replace light fixture?
Add decor elements

Figuring out the floor situation and light fixture will ultimately depend on how long we decide to stay in this home. I would love to paint the cabinet black but this bathroom doesn’t get any natural light and the current lighting sucks plus my shower curtain of choice is dark so I think painting the cabinet white would help brighten it up so right now I am leaning more towards white, what do y’all think?

And because I love seeing a good before and after, I took a few “before” photos to share before we get started (although these were taken after I did a much needed deep clean, haha).




As you can see there are some decor elements I already have on hand that I shared in my mood board. I do want to make note that the pitcher that I have is not the one I linked, I found mine at goodwill years ago so if you are on a budget I would suggest shopping around thrift stores and goodwill before buying new but if not, the one I linked is fairly similar to the one I have. I couldn't find a similar copper tub that was the same or similar sizing as mine which is why I didn't link anything (the one in the mood board is actually ginormous) and if I remember correctly, I bought mine at Target years ago so maybe try there first.

So now that you see were we are starting and were we would like to go with our hall bathroom, white or black cabinets?
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cloth Diapering 101 | All in One (AIO)

Cloth Diapering 101 | All in One (AIO)


Last month, I started a new mini series on the blog Cloth Diapering 101 sharing the All in Two diaper system. After taking a poll on Instastory, I went with the majority vote and am back to share all about All in One diapers. We currently only own one All in One in our entire stash and I do love the convenience and trimness of it.
An All in One diaper comes in, you guessed it, one piece and is most similar to a disposable diaper so you do not have to stuff or fold anything. We have a bumGenius All in One diaper  that we received from a friend and from what I can tell it is the bumGenius Elemental 2.0 as ours has two organic cotton inserts that are sewn together at the top and the bottom but separated in the middle and has no interior lining besides PUL (bumGenius Elemental 3.0 has one organic cotton insert and organic cotton lining sewn into the interior shell).

In theory, the inserts could be folded over to adjust absorbency where it is needed most but baby Anthony is a very curvy chunk butt baby so instead I tuck a hemp insert under the sewn in inserts for a custom absorbency whenever I feel it might be needed.

AIO Pros

  • Very easy to use, similar to a disposable as there is no stuffing or folding.
  • Great option for someone who may not be comfortable with the ins and outs of cloth diapering or for daycare providers.
  • Depending on the brand, it can be trimmer compared to other diapering systems which also makes it a great traveling out and about running errands diaper. 
  • Depending on the style, you may be able to customize absorbency (read above to see how we customize our bumGenius Elemental 2.0).

AIO Cons

  • Depending on style, some take longer to dry (I normally air dry our diaper shells and use the dryer for inserts, flats and prefolds however I will put the AIO in the dryer). 
  • Not the best overnight option especially for a heavy wetter (baby Anthony has a sumo nighttime diaper so I won't even try to test how an AIO would hold up).
  • Some styles are hard to customize absorbency (again, we only have one AIO and the style we have allows me to customize absorbency).
  • This can be an expensive diapering system (but you can honestly make anything as cheap or as expensive as you want in the cloth diapering world).
Do you cloth diaper your children? Have you tried an All in One system? Which cloth diapering system is your favorite?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Baby-Led Weaning + 6 Month Update

Baby-Led Weaning + 6 Month Update


This post has been a very long time coming for both topics, haha. I have been promising a Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) update since we started the method with Sophia two years ago and baby Anthony is about to be eight months. EIGHT. I figure I need to start this with a disclaimer as all parenting decisions seem to be controversial. This is our personal experience doing BLW with our children and we love it and plan to do it with all our children however this is in no way of judgment for parents who decide to go the puree route or use a combination of both. Take my experience and knowledge along with your own personal research to find what method is best for YOU and YOUR family, this method just happens to be best for OURS.

Every time we mention how we skipped over purees with Sophia and now baby Anthony, people seem to be in awe and have so many questions but two of the most frequently asked questions are what is BLW and won't they choke? I'll address the second question first and then go into more detail about BLW with the first question next.

Won't they choke?
As long as you follow certain measures, your baby isn't anymore likely to choke then when being spoon fed purees therefore always ensure your child is sitting upright in a highchair and never put food in your child's mouth for them when following the BLW method and avoid foods that are an obvious choking hazard.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
For the first year of their life, babies get ALL their nutrition from either breastmilk or formula therefore food before one is just for fun (remember this cute saying no matter what route you take). There is no pressure to make sure the baby eats food in a certain order and a certain amount of times per a day. BLW is allowing your baby to explore food on their terms and decide how to manipulate it.

When following BLW, our children are offered whatever we are eating therefore there is no additional prep which was a major incentive for me. The only difference is the food is properly cut up for them to handle safely (typically this is the width and length of your pinky finger). Having it cut into finger foods allows our children to be able to have a "handle" to hold on to and still plenty of the food item sticking out to gnaw on. In the beginning, it isn't likely they will actually eat anything as they are just learning how to hold it and bring it to their mouth (hand-eye coordination) and working on the chewing motion (helps develop facial muscles that will be needed as they learn to talk). Eventually the baby learns the ability to swallow and then they even begin to realize, food helps them feel full. However breastmilk or formula is still where babies get all their nutrition from for the first year of their life so always be sure your baby has had a full milk feeding before each "mealtime" with the family. 

One of the biggest reasons we loved doing BLW was because momma got to eat while the food was still warm (although there is some sitting on the edge of your seat in the beginning of the BLW as parents are learning the difference between gagging and choking which gagging is okay, it is teaching your child how to chew food into smaller pieces to allow for easier swallowing and again as long as your child is sitting upright in a highchair and they alone are in control of the food going into their mouth, choking isn't anymore likely to happen then when they are being fed purees).

There are numerous benefits and I won't get into every one but I will highlight the ones that were important for us:

  • everyone is able to enjoy family mealtimes together, sitting together at the table for dinner is an important part of our family that we started when we first got married so being able to all sit together and eat at the same time with babies at the table is just beautiful.
  • no mealtime battles, our babies eat or refuse whatever is offered to them. We still offer the same food they may have refused at one mealtime at another mealtime in the future as refusing is not always an indicator that they don't like something. We typically find our children just aren't in the mood for it at that time therefore we do not force them to eat it once refused at that sitting as this develops a trust for food.
  • a positive attitude toward food, as mentioned above we allow our children to accept or reject food and because they are in control, food phobias and food refusals are less likely (Sophia will at least take a bite of something majority of the time we ask her to before refusing and that is all we ask for her is to at least try something before saying no).
  • appetite control, since babies are in control of the food that enters their mouth they develop the ability to stop eating when they are satisfied and are less likely to overeat.

Overall, I highly recommend BLW to all families and suggest you read the Baby-Led Weaning book before starting your journey to ensure this method is right for you and your family.


Six Month Update

Shortly after turning five months, our big guy finally decided to test the waters and army crawl. He even started to roll over and scooch out of his DockATot in the middle of naptime, so we started naptime in his pack n play so we didn't have to worry about him falling off the bed. Disclaimer: it is recommended to NOT put the DockATot in an enclosed environment such as a crib, bassinet, pack n play, etc. He also kept rolling onto his belly during naps and that made this momma panic so I was hovering like crazy the first week or so but luckily the DockATot is created out of breathable material (read more about our DockATot experiences here, here and here). Baby Anthony also discovered his toes and sat in a grocery cart for the first time (but we decided to wait a little longer before trying again because homeboy was just gangster leaning the whole time). And if he didn't learn enough this month, he also started to lunge forward by lifting up and trying to get on his knees and would throw himself. He even decided to treat himself to a curly fry that was left in a bag on the floor so I guess he was too impatient to wait three more days to get this BLW thing going right on his six month mark (Sophia's first solid was also a fry if I remember correctly). Baby Anthony is growing way to fast and constantly has me on my toes but I wouldn't change it.

Six Month Stats
Weight: 21 pounds
Height: 27.5 inches long
Head Circumference: 44.5 inches diameter

Firsts
army crawl
cloth diaper
found his toes
nap in pack n play

Loves
army crawling
following sister

Hates
being on his back
being left out

What I Want to Remember
his huge grin from ear to ear
the way he throws himself forward when he is overly excited to get to something
his sweet giggles

Have you done (or considering) Baby-Led Weaning for any of your children? Or do you prefer starting with purees?

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Learning Through Play

Learning Through Play


This post was created in partnership with PicassoTiles but all thoughts and opinions are of my own.

I absolutely love learning and am a huge advocate for early childhood education except I don't think learning has to mean sitting down doing worksheets or flash cards at the early age of two (and this is what they do in most day cares even before two, trust me I have worked in quite a few of them). Children learn by their environment and their surroundings and by playing. There is honestly nothing extravagant you have to do besides spend quality time playing with your young children.
 As you pick up toys to play with, you naturally discuss the object in hand which could be the color and shape of it. You can ask yourself questions that you of course already know the answer to but your child may not: "does it bounce?" "does it have wheels to push back and forth?" "does it make noise?" All these questions and discussions help build their vocabulary and overtime they catch on to colors and how to identify them. Children will catch on to the different basic shapes. There isn't a need to drill or give them a pop quiz on colors, numbers, shapes, alphabet, etc. During these early years, it isn't about mastering all the concepts as soon as possible or being the smartest two year old because trust me they will have plenty of time to master them. As parents, we want to foster a love of learning and how can that be done if we are constantly doing drills or pulling out the flash cards (not that there is anything wrong with flash cards as some kids really enjoy it). The point is to find your child's favorite activity, be involved and just make conversation with them as you play, even if you think it's over their heads. You don't have to "dumb" stuff down or talk in "baby language" use real words to help expand their vocabulary and their thought process.
This is where toys like PicassoTiles come in handy as their brand truly fosters learning by playing. Sophia loves building and while she is playing with her Alphabet Set Magnet Tiles, our conversations can go so many ways. We can discuss the letter that is on each individual tile, we can discuss the color of the tiles, we can go around the house and see what we can stick the magnets to. We can create 2D or 3D shapes. Our options are really endless as we are fostering early foundations in reading (alphabet), math (shapes, 2D and 3D objects), science (magnetic polars), creativity and imagination (open-ended play possibilities) all while playing.
Tip: You can easily add on to the magnetic tiles just like the bristle blocks I talked about last month as PicassoTiles sells different sets.

We also love playing with PicassoTiles Engineering Construction Set, to push Sophia's creativty even further as she can build whatever her mind can dream of (I have always joked that she is my future engineer since she loves building so much) and if you are stumped like me because my imagination is limited they do have an idea book to get your wheels turning. While you are creating and building, you can discuss the color and the amount of pieces you need: "I need one more yellow piece with three holes" as you grab the piece or "can you pass me that red screw" while pointing at the one you need are all great ways to continually build your child's vocabulary and helping them discover colors, shapes and numbers.
Again, you don't need to create a curriculum to last you through the year and you don't need worksheets galore, just get on the floor and play with your kid with good quality toys that have open-ended creative play like PicassoTiles.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

6 Ways to Help a Family in Need

6 Ways to Help a Family in Need


As y'all know Anthony and I have been on this yo-yo unemployed/underemployed life for 10 months now and we have had so many people in our life help us along the way to make this time a tad easier although the only thing that would make this easier would be a stable income (just being honest). Often times people do ask how can they help and maybe it's pride or maybe it's not wanting to be a burden or maybe a mix of both but it is hard just saying what you need so I decided to put a list together of the ways you can come alongside a family you may know that is struggling with unemployment or underemployment and help them during this difficult time.

1. Monetary donation 

We were blessed at the beginning of this journey by a family that gave us a monetary donation and we held on to it until we absolutely needed to use it on bills. This is honestly the biggest way you can help someone although you know the family best and know if they would be wise with this donation or not. If you feel they would spend this unwisely, maybe pay a bill for them yourself as in you call the company and give the account number and payment.

2. Food

There are so many subscription boxes out for everything including meals so gifting a one time (or reoccurring) meal box to a family in need would be an amazing blessing. You could even consider preparing a meal yourself and dropping it off to the family to avoid high cost on yourself (this is also a great idea for families welcoming new children either by birth or adoption, I also plan to share ways to help a family with a new baby/child in the future so stay tuned for that as well). 

3. Gift cards

Provide gift cards from a local grocery store (possibly one that also has a gas station). This will allow the family to get food as needed, household items like toilet paper, laundry soap, etc., or even gas for their vehicle.

4. Diapers/Wipes

If there are young children in the family consider donating diapers and wipes to them (if they cloth diaper ask what type of detergent they use and donate that to them). Also consider donating menstrual items for the young girls and women in the family or teaching them about menstrual cups and cloth pads that can be reused each cycle (I also plan to discuss this in the future further).

5. Clothing

Again if they have young children, they grow out of things extremely fast so consider offering them your children's hand me downs or even buying clothes from a second hand store (see my tips for thrift shopping children's clothes here). Helping a family in need doesn't have to be expensive.

6. Pray

And I mean really pray for them. In our society, we easily say "I'll pray for you" or "We are praying" and never do or my favorite and unrealistic phrase "claim it in the name of Jesus and it is yours" as if Jesus is a genie and we rubbed his lamp for three wishes. But really truly pray for them as you pray for your own family and your own needs, pray that God will build their trust and faith in Him, that God will be glorified in their struggles and that they will cast their worries onto Jesus and God will lead and guide them on their real life scary decisions that need to be made.


Often times, it is better to just do these things without asking the family in need because sometimes it is hard to swallow the pride and admit you need help so just ask the type of laundry soap they use or for their account number to a billing company (I wonder if you could just provide the name and address to the billing company and surprise the family with an anonymous bill payment). There are so many other ways that you could do to help a family in need, these were just the ones that have been incredibly helpful for us personally thus far so if you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments below and as always I created a pinnable image to share with friends and family as you see fit.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Cloth Diapering 101 | All in Twos (AI2)

Cloth Diapering 101 | All in Twos (AI2)


This post was created in partnership with Lil Helper but all thoughts and opinions are of my own.

We have been cloth diapering for a full month now and I have learned so much so I decided to start a new mini series on my blog, Cloth Diapering 101 (see my New Moms Survival series here and my Nursing Bras series here). Every few weeks or so, I will go into detail about the different types of cloth diapering systems that there are available because cloth diapers have come a long way from flats, safety pins and covers (although that is still an option!).
As I have mentioned on my Instastories (if you are not following me on Instagram yet, you should as I always update there first) we were fortunate to get a cloth diaper loan from a foundation while we build up our own personal stash of cloth diapers. I was researching different brands and came across Lil Helper and the first thing that stood out to me was their Trial Diaper Deal and the more I looked around their website I found their Baby Do Good program. For every three diapers they sell, Lil Helper donates a NEW cloth diaper to a family in need. Being on the receiving end of having diapers donated to me during this unemployed (and now underemployed) season has been an incredible blessing for our family so naturally this sealed the deal for me. 
In case you are curious like I was, I asked how does Lil Helper determine eligibility for families in need and was told they work with disaster relief organizations as well as local programs to donate their diapers to families. The organizations then vet the families for eligibility. A friend even told me that Lil Helper donated a ton of diapers for victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston and surrounding area which touched my heart even more that this company has helped many people in my city and beyond (they also provided cloth diapers to Hurricane Katrina victims). Another program that touched my heart and had me in tears was their God Forbid Guarantee. If something unexpected happens during your pregnancy or birth, Lil Helper will refund your entire purchase. I have never personally experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss but people that are near and dear to me have and knowing the love and understanding that a company puts into their policies is beyond amazing. There really are no words to describe how much care Lil Helper has for their customers.
Now that you know about this amazing company,  I will finally get into the details about the type of cloth diapering system they sell. Lil Helper offers All in Two diapering system options. An All in Two diaper comes in two pieces, the cover and the insert(s). Lil Helper's All in Two systems snap in but other brands could either snap in, lay in or have disposable inserts. The covers can be reused throughout the day while the inserts you change out as they are soiled on (if poop overflows off the inserts and onto the cover then you will need to change the cover as well). Lil Helper offers two inserts with every cover, a large insert and a small insert. You can buy additional inserts as Lil Helper sells Charcoal inserts (these are the ones we have), Bamboo inserts and Overnight inserts.
Lil Helper also offers a range of accessories such as bibs, wet bags, burp cloths, liners, changing mats and cloth wipes. We were able to test out their cloth wipes and I got to say they are extremely soft! We use them as wash cloths but I can imagine how great they would be on your baby's bum. I have researched a bit about cloth wipes and it seems terry cloth is used a lot of the time but terry cloth can be a bit rough in my opinion so I would highly recommend these cloth wipes from Lil Helper to be used as either cloth wipes, bath wash cloths or even baby doll cloth diapers. 

AI2 Pros

  • If the inserts are snapped in ahead of time, they are as easy to use as All in Ones (AIOs).
  • Covers come in many cute prints and colors (we have Lil Helper's Aurora and Lil Helper's Retro Bikes).
  • Often pretty quick to dry.
  • Since the covers can be reused, they can be a cheaper system (but you can honestly make anything as cheap or as expensive as you want in the cloth diapering world).

AI2 Cons

  • Snap-in systems make it difficult to customize absorbency (especially if you have a heavy wetter however we have only had one leak using Lil Helper Diapers and it was a user error as I lost track of time and didn't change baby Anthony soon enough).
  • The inserts may not be good at containing infant poop (although toddler poop it is and we actually designated our Lil Helper diaper as Sophia's poop diaper since she poops at the same time everyday, easiest cleanup for her type of poop).
Edited to add:  Concerning infant poop, I didn't mean the possibility of having poop explosions outside of the diaper, I meant that the inserts wouldn't be enough to contain infant poop on the inserts alone like it can sometimes do with toddler poop meaning you will still need to change the insert as well as the cover if poop gets on both and you honestly have to do that with every diaper system anyways. Also note baby Anthony is pass the constant poop stage so this is merely my speculation however I have been informed that there has been no complaints of Lil Helper diapers not being able to keep infant poop inside the diaper unless there is a fit issue which they will gladly work one on one with you to solve a fit issue (and they did assist me with a fit issue and it worked!).

Do you cloth diaper your children? Have you tried an All in Two system? Which cloth diapering system is your favorite?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tot School with PicassoTiles

Tot School with PicassoTiles


This post was created in partnership with PicassoTiles but all thoughts and opinions are of my own.

If you have been following my Instagram (I update that more frequently and it is "real time" whereas my blog posts are general lagged), you may know that I have intentionally started focused play with Sophia as a form of tot school. If you are unfamiliar with the term tot school, you can read more about it here.
I originally decided to carve out a focused play to help Sophia expand herself vocabulary as I noticed she wasn't using many words (her doctor wasn't worried as she said some children speak later than their peers especially if there was a new baby introduced which in our case there was). Even though I plan a certain activity and a book reading during this carved out time, I still allowed Sophia to take the lead. She is free to play with what I put in front of her however she wants and for however long (or short) she wants. I am a big believer in allowing a child determine how they want to play with items as this helps grow the imagination. If we are constantly showing them how to "properly" play with a toy then we close down that imagination and I want all of our toys to be open ended that way she never grows bored of her toys and can always use that imagination to find new ways to play with things. I have the worst imagination possible and am very much a rule follower so I personally like to play with stuff as instructed, haha, so this is a learning curve for me but I'm learning so much from Sophia and here I am thinking I'm teaching her yet she is teaching me!
Another factor that makes focused play and imagination play easier is using toys that were created with STEM in mind which is why I love PicassoTiles toys (if your an Instagram follower, you will remember how much we love our floor piano and how it makes us feel like we are reenacting the movie Big with Tom Hanks).
For the month of April, I am focusing in on the color blue (Autism awareness, totally unplanned that way but cool nevertheless) and naturally I chose to utilize the book Little Blue Truck. Therefore I planned for one of the weeks in April to be dedicated to a farm theme. We played with PicassoTiles Bristle Building Blocks Farm Set and a blue truck for our focused activity. Again as I read the story, I allowed Sophia to lead how she wanted to play and at the end of the story I joined alongside her to play. I love how this set from PicassoTiles incorporates farm animals because this is the perfect toy not only for building but also speech as I have read that speech therapists loving using farm animal sounds as the building blocks for language development.
I also try to incorporate a focused activity that involves her motor skills so this week we also focused on her gross motor skill using the PicassoTiles Soccer Hoverball Air Hockey. This one I did demonstrate the kicking motion as I wanted her to specifically practice kicking but I didn't explain soccer or proper kick techniques or anything like that. We just freely kicked it around the house which is why this thing is amazing. It has bumpers so it won't ruin any furniture or walls because it hovers slightly off the ground. It is the perfect indoor "ball" which we will definitely be needing more indoor play ideas once summer rolls around.

Side Note: it does NOT work on carpets or rugs. The main areas of our house is hardwood floors so this is not a problem for us.

Other activists we did this month include

Color focused bins (blue)
Shape focused bins (square)
Blue coloring
Square painting
Square play doh fun

Other books we read this week was

Do you have a set focused playtime with you toddler? Do you or are you planning to homeschool? Do your kids own any PicassoTiles toys?
ps. The larger pieces are perfect teething toys for younger ones who like to play with their older sibilings. Just be extra careful with the small pieces as they could be a choking hazard.

If you like these type of posts, I can try to rotate more Tot School into my editorial calendar as I am able to. Also if you know someone who would benefit from this post, please feel free to share. I also created a pinnable image so you can bookmark this post to come back to view later on.

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