Thank You to the Helpers

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Thank you to the helpers – the helpers, the front line workers, the essential workers…

There are so many names that we could call you, but there are two important words that must be said. Thank you.

Thank you for risking your life for us. That sounds absolutely surreal. Thank you for walking towards danger to keep us fed, safe, taught, cared for, and protected. 

As we start to slowly pull off the band aid, we are looking around and some of us are unsure how to emerge out of this strange cocoon that we’ve created. We could use a little hope. We could use a little joy, and some stories of the brave.

We would love to hear your stories.

We would love to know your neighbors’ stories. Please send them in! We would be honored to hear them! Over the next few days, we will be sharing community businesses who will be joining us in honoring the helpers! Keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook pages! 

Five submissions will be nominated and their stories will be shared publicly. One submission, chosen by popular vote, will receive a basket full of incredible gifts!

Maybe it was the nurse that flew to New York to volunteer. Maybe it was the teacher that rallied and kept her 32 students feeling safe and connected, while managing her own home and children with grace. Maybe it was the principal that filled cars with necessities when they learned that a family was unemployed. Maybe it was the grocery store employee that woke up before the sun to make sure everything had been stocked and cleaned. 

We need these stories. We need to know about the helpers. Will you share them with us? Help us say thank you to the helpers! Please send them to [email protected] with the subject line “2020 Hero” by June 7th, 2020. Our team cannot wait to read them! 

The Door Guardian – Securing Doors for Kids of All Ages

Thank you The Door Guardian for sponsoring this post

My littlest one likes to play out in the front yard.  I always feel that in order for him to play out front, I need to put on a bra and it’s probably a good idea to at least change out of my pajamas.  I prefer the containment of playing in the backyard.  There are no fast cars out there, or passersby with dogs that we will have to stop so we can pet their pups, and I can avoid the overly chatty neighbor from the safety of the backyard.  Unfortunately, my reasons to play in the backyard fall on little dude’s stubborn ears and the protests begin.  On more than one occasion, if that little rascal is unattended for two minutes, he will open up the door to the garage, hit the button to open the big garage door, and is running down the driveway for his freedom. 

For all the stern talking-to, time-outs, loss of privileges and beloved belongings, he just cannot be trusted. I tried those extra large fixtures that go over the door knob.  What a joke those things are!  He figured out very quickly to just “hang” from the knob and it would pop off.  I needed a better solution!  Enter the Door Guardian door lock.  It took all of 5 minutes to install and it was easy peasy to do.  So easy peasy, in fact, that even I could do it!  I am definitely not power tool literate.  But I do know the very basics of how to use a drill.  Just a couple of screws to drill into the door frame and voila!  No more escaping preschooler.  I just placed the Door Guardian up high enough on the door so that my children cannot access it. 

The Door Guardian comes in 6 different color options to compliment any door finish and can be installed on wood or metallic frames.  There’s an option for in-swinging doors and out-swinging doors.  It also gives me peace of mind that the spring-loaded action will prevent the Door Guardian from accidentally locking itself.  I like that it not only prevents my little guy from accessing the garage, but it also provides an added layer of security against an intruder.  While our family is trying to accept the fact that we will have a Wild Cat amongst us Sun Devils, when my niece heads off to the University of Arizona in the fall for her Freshman year of college, I plan on helping her install Door Guardian in her student residence.   

The Door Guardian believes in making home safety accessible to all, which is why they’ve worked so hard over the years to make their products safe, easy to use and also affordable.  


 

Eat2Explore – A Fun Way to Learn and Cook Together

I am loving cooking with my 6 year old during quarantine. It helps me give her some special one on one time while also getting stuff done! Recently eat2explore offered our team the opportunity to sample their boxes and I jumped on it. 

These food boxes are cool in the sense that your kiddo gets to explore a country while helping you cook. I have found that sometimes kids will be more open to trying new foods when they help to prepare the foods with you. The other cool thing about eat2explore versus other meal prep kits is that because you buy the fresh ingredients and they supply the spices, you can make several nights dinner from one box. This is helpful to our family because it’s the box that keeps giving.

We chose Greece for our family, because I am a vegetarian and everyone else eats meat. There are select boxes on their sites that offer both options for meals, which is great for our family. 

In the box you get a passport, a pin of the country flag, a shopping list, spices, a gadget and recipes! There is also a country fact sheet. So for Greece we learned about the capitol, language spoken, unique animals and more. My sister lives in Greece and so it was fun to tell my kids about where their aunt and cousins live.

Our first dinner was the Chicken/Vegetarian Souvlaki. This was fun, because what kid doesn’t like skewers?! The shopping list was pretty easy and straight forward and the total time was 30 minutes. The steps to cooking are also great because it shows a rating of who can do each step. Youngest chefs, older chefs and adults. This visual helps my kids to understand that although this is their project, mom (or dad) plays a role in some steps. 

Their tzatziki mix for Greek yogurt is my absolute favorite. Such a creamy dip/spread and the kids loved it too. The vegetarian option was adding zucchini, bell pepper and onion to the pita and I snuck some in on the kids’ chicken ones too and it was a hit!

This was such a fun night! I am so excited to try the other dishes. We also got a Morrocan box to explore. The other cool thing is that you can buy a box when you want and choose countries rather than just have a random country shipped to you that you may not prefer!

So as we learned in our box, Kali oreksi! That’s Greek for “Enjoy your meal!”  

Thanks Eat2Explore for providing a meal box for review.

Customizable Wedding Invitation Templates for your Big Day

If you are planning a wedding, have you seen Basic Invite’s unique and completely customizable wedding invitation templates? Wedding planning is stressful enough, but Basic Invite makes selecting your invitation, customizing it for your big day and sending it to each of your guests all easy-peasy.

Browse the website and you will find every wedding invitation style and color imaginable. They have super sophisticated, formal invitations to complement the fancy weddings. They have the perfect casual and fun invitations for the country classic themed weddings. You will even find clear invitations that are truly one of a kind. We also love that each themed wedding invite is customizable, so you can make your invitation reflect your unique style.   

invitesSee for yourself how easy and painless Basic Invite makes the wedding invitation process! You will have more time to focus on the seating arrangement for all those guests, and Basic Invite can help you with selecting and printing the wedding place cards too!

place cards weddingHere is some information about all the services Basic Invite offers:

Free Wedding Websites – The wedding websites are completely customizable! They’re mobile friendly and super easy to use. You can instantly upload all of your wedding details, along with images, and a convenient map with directions for your guests. Choose from 180 custom colors, and a design suite to match your wedding invitations!

invites

Almost Unlimited Colors – Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. You can change the color of each element on a card, with over 180 different color options. The card can be exactly how you want it, down to the littlest detail. This is what sets them apart from any other online stationery company and is their biggest draw.

Custom Samples – Basic Invite allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their invitation so they can see the card’s paper quality and how it will print before they have to place their final order.

Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes – They’re just as colorful with the envelopes as they are with the invitations. Customers can choose from over 40 different envelope colors so that they can make their invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of the envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be closed quickly and easily. 

Over 900 Wedding Invitation Sets – Each of the wedding invitations is part of a set. They have all the wedding stationery you need, like save the dates, wedding invitations, enclosure cards, wedding menus, wedding programs, and even matching thank you cards!

Free Address Collection Service – Use the free address collection service to request your addresses with just three simple steps. Share a link via social media or email, collect addresses, and get free envelope printing.

Seal & Send Wedding Invitations – Seal and send wedding invitations are an all-in-one wedding invitation with a tear-off RSVP postcard included! The Seal & Send is the newest collection and brides are LOVING them. Currently, they offer them in over 30 designs including the ever-popular foil options, and, like the other products, they are customizable. What’s special about the Seal & Sends is that the guest’s addresses are printed on the front of each invitation so no envelope is necessary! All you have to do is share a link, collect guest addresses, and upload them onto your design. Once you receive your order all you have to do is add postage, fold your invites, and secure them with a sticker! Simple and easy.

Thank you to Basic Invite for being a sponsor of Scottsdale Moms.

3 ‘Must Haves’ A Mom Needs to Curb Chaos

Before kids, I apparently took my life for granted. And working as an executive for a multi-million dollar business, traveling, juggling schedules and deadlines, prepared me little for what was to come. All without the help of these mom must haves.

Who knew my negotiation skills with whiny sales guys would have prepared me to deal with a toddler in Target or a teenage crisis?

Nowadays, it’s become a chicken nugget eating, carpool driving, homework helping, teenage counseling kind of life – and my parenting style has evolved into: But, Did You Die!? I can barely remember all my kid’s names, mainly because I’m making room for passwords for iGadets and how to solve a geometry problem I learned 100 years ago. And, remembering to buy cleats for tonight’s soccer game while signing papers for an Orchestra trip to Disney is another story. Also, don’t forget Teacher Appreciation Week – you’re decorating the door on Friday – and you can only use the school resources from the room on the left with a code that I forgot to bring home, but you can call Janie’s mom, who said she’ll be home after 5 pm on Tuesday. What the What? How can people work under these conditions and stay sane? That’s why unions were formed. Regulations were created. They saw this messy family life and thought: Dear God, we don’t want this to spill over into the workforce.

      

No wonder I can’t remember what that thing is – with the four wheels filled with Cheerios and sports equipment that’s sitting in my driveway.

But there’s hope, and businesses are finding solutions for the very problems moms are facing. Companies specializing in helping moms curb the chaos. It’s called: M.E.W.

1. Meal Prep Delivery Service  

2. Educational Apps to make you the smartest mom on the block

3. Wardrobe Styling at your Doorstep   

These companies are filling in the gap, with the ‘must haves’ you’ve always needed. There are styling companies like the Red Dress Boutique, who send you a box filled with a complete outfit, including accessories, created by a couple of University of GA students from Athens, GA. There’s also Stitch Fix, “Your Partner in Personal Style and Wantable, We Take the Legwork out of Shopping.” Fill out a questionnaire for stylists to better understand your look or just choose your outfit without leaving the house. 

Need a quick healthy meal, but can’t bear to make another grocery store run? There are several prep delivery services: Tom Brady’s Purple Carrot, a vegetarian based program, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and for locals in AZ, there’s Fran’s Kitchen.

mom must havesNeed a quick answer for a difficult math question? Download Photo math, a free math camera app that not only gives you the answer to a math problem but, explains the process as well.  Just take a picture of the math problem, via the app and wa la. Mom’s a genius.

Wearing a superwoman cape can be exhausting, but with services provided for the millennium mom, it’s like having your own personal assistant. Reach out. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little help. You’re only one person, given a “to do” list that could rival Santa Claus. 

Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post, just a mom sharing some of her favorite finds!

 Do you ever feel chaotic and overwhelmed? What apps and services do you utilize, to create a more efficient lifestyle? Let us hear your ideas.

Save Big on Energy Bills!

Summer is here and we all know that means larger energy bills. I am always looking for ways to save big on energy bills and to teach my daughter to be more environmentally conscious.

Energy bills are so expensive and most families spend over $2,000.00 every year. Here are some easy ways for you to save money at home!

Save on Electricity

  • Run your dishwasher off-peak hours to save 50% on energy bills. Peak hours are usually between 3pm-6pm here in Arizona but check with your electric company for your exact hours. I like to run mine at night because then you get to wake up in the morning to a clean sink and clean dishes. Even for the 5 minutes that it lasts for.
  • Find the red and blue lights, make it a game with your kiddos! Go around the house and find every device with a blue or red light. Even if that device is turned off it is still using energy. Unplug them or better yet invest in a power strip so it is easy to turn on and off as needed. Making this simple change could save you about $200 a year.
  • If you haven’t already, switch your light bulbs over to the LEDs. They last ten times longer and save up to 70%. That means for the average household that’s about $230 a year. You can get them inexpensively on Amazon or even from your electric company.

Save on Water and Gas

  • The biggest way to save is having energy efficient machines, and your biggest money saving appliance is your washing machine. Energy star appliances may be eligible for a rebate through your energy provider to save a ton!
  • If you aren’t due for an upgrade, a very simple way to reduce water usage is to replace your showerhead with a low flow option and reduce the time of your showers. As moms, I think we all have that one covered!
  • When brushing your teeth with kids make it a game and see how fast they can turn off the water in-between rinsing. These little things add up over time, trust me!

Save on Heating and Cooling

  • Make sure you have good airflow in your house, furniture isn’t blocking your vents, and you periodically clean the vents in your house. Making sure your air filters are cleaned out ensures your heating and cooling is at your max potential.
  • Use ceiling fans to your advantage. We all know fans help with cooling but by reversing the direction of the blades when its winter time the hot air that has risen to the ceiling will be pushed down to keep the room nice and toasty.
  • Get a programmable thermostat that you can program to use less energy while you are away from the house or sleeping.
  • Use your blinds and curtains to help heat and cool your house. Keep them closed during the day in order to keep the heat out during the summer or keep them open to help with warmth especially if you have a home that gets a lot of sunlight.

I hope these tips help you with saving money during the expensive summer season here in Arizona.

Easy DIY Home Projects Delivered Locally

Thanks to Craft and Vinyl Studio for providing this kit for review.

I found easy DIY home projects delivered locally curbside.  This is so helpful for us now that we are staying home more. DIY crafts give us something to do too during this difficult time. But they do not come easy for me. I love making crafts and DIY home projects, however,  I need a lot of guidance and help finding all the pieces for the craft to come together. This is where getting easy craft kits delivered locally curbside makes this happen with the crafts kit already put together and delivered at your door.

Because of the virus, I would rather stay home and stay safe and take advantage of anything with curbside delivery. Getting DIY home projects delivered locally right to my door takes away a lot of the stress for me too. I do not want to wander around in an arts and crafts store right now looking for pieces to put together a craft.

I received this awesome vintage wood truck design kit from craft & vinyl studio. It comes personalized with everything you need including 9″ x 12″ wood blank, background paint, vinyl stencil, stencil paint (1 color), 8 wood flowers from chosen color assortment, 1″ Foam brush, a video tutorial on how to faux stain a sign and tips for stencil signs.

staining wood boardI love seeing the end result of a beautiful DIY home project. Crafts kits seem to be the best way to go when putting together a craft project, at least for me.  All I had to do to stain was grab the baby wipes in the kit and dip and stain the wood.

candles with a wood craftCraft & Vinyl Studio has everything you need to put together fun crafts and more. They also offer modern craft workshops in a relaxed studio environment that are for the all types of crafter, beginner to experienced. They also offer studio time and private events like Birthday parties, baby showers or corporate events.

But you can also have contact free, curbside pickup of all merchandise in the store, from vinyl to glitter.

They offer free delivery of any craft kit order above $35.00 to the following zip codes: 85050, 85331, 85085, 85254, 85024, 85022, 85023, 85032, 85054, 85255, 85208, 85260 and 85027.

What’s your next craft going to be?

Never Let a Good Crisis go to Waste

Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Winston Churchill is credited with first saying this in the mid-1940s as we were approaching the end of World War ll. As the world around us seems to be slowly reopening, we have the opportunity to use a little hindsight and see how we have handled this crisis as a family unit.

About a year ago, I wrote about saying goodbye to something I loved to make more room for my family. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt a tug on my heart to clear space and dive in deeper to family time. I waded through the uncomfortable truth that I was spending too many nights avoiding bedtimes. 

I realize now that this past year was a training ground for the current social isolation. I’m so incredibly thankful that I was eased into this. Here are the lessons I’m learning during social isolation, making sure I don’t let one second of this crisis go to waste.

You are never fully dressed without a smile

You might find me in my pajamas at 5:30pm, after we have gone swimming as a family, but you probably won’t find me without a smile. I can personally attest to many arguments that have been stopped in their tracks with a smile. My husband has the sweetest demeanor whenever I get cranky. One wonderful smile from him and I’m usually back on track and ready to hit pause on whatever it was I thought was oh-so-important to criticize at the moment. 

As I use this same tactic on my children, I can tell you that many of these times, they melt into tired little puddles of snuggles when I slow down, get on their level, and smile. 

All you need is love

Our children have watched us under a microscope these past few weeks. We are right there in front of them 100% of the time. They see us tired, happy, anxious, excited, emotional, confused, afraid, strong, creative, and in love. I have this precious chance to show them how to act in kindness and friendship towards their dad. I can show them how to say “I’m sorry” or “can I help?” When I consider the ways I want them to treat their future spouse, I can show them how beautiful that can look.

If you don’t know me by now

Let your children see you, really see you. Last night, we were sitting around the dinner table after dinner, talking about what the rest of the week looked like. My oldest son shared that he had an art project due. I offered to let him borrow my ‘fancy watercolors’. My oldest daughter commented that she had forgotten that I liked to paint. All four other children couldn’t believe that they didn’t know that I liked to paint. I had put everything away years ago and had just never found the time to get it out again. 

Let them see you read, bake, pray, paint, sew, give gifts, sing, or dance. Whatever it is that makes you the beautiful person you are today, let them see it. What a wonderful time that they can get to know the beautiful you! 

So, dear mamas, don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Pour yourself and your love into your family. This heroic act may not end up in any newspaper, but it will be written on your child’s heart. And someday, when their children ask them if they remember the pandemic in 2020, they will grin and remember their family and the special way they grew in love through the crisis. 

A fun way to hangout with friends while staying home

Being a mom during these times is so exhausting. We are suddenly full time cooks, teachers, house cleaners, activity coordinators, and expert online shoppers. Managing our household has now been taken to a level I don’t think any of us thought was possible. But the hardest part is the isolation from family and friends. Even though we are SURROUNDED by little people all of the time, not being able to really connect and commiserate with our friends makes this time even harder.   

In our house, we have downloaded a newly discovered app, Houseparty, to help all of us connect with those people we are missing. Your children, like my kids, might already be using Houseparty to virtually hangout with their friends. They like it better than other apps because it lets many of them hangout together, plus they can play games with each other. They really like the game Chips and Guac! It is a great way for them to get a little bit of social time during these quarantine days.  

 

But the app is not just for your children, we can use and connect with our friends too. We need that social time just as much as our children do. You can connect with your friends to start a virtual book club (or movie club), have a wine night, or just chat about what stores are re-stocking the toilet paper and where the best take-out is these days.

Houseparty is also a great way for the kids to connect with their grandparents and other relatives who might be feeling especially isolated.

Download the app and see what fun connections can be made! 

This post is sponsored by Houseparty. Thank you to Houseparty for being a supporter of Scottsdale Moms.

No Pool? No Problem. 14 Summer Ideas When You Don’t Have a Pool!

The temperature consistently hit the 100s before the end of April this year. Usually, that would be met with lots of trips to the splash pad or neighborhood pool. But with most of the state still shut down due to the pandemic, what is there to do to amp up the summer spirit and tolerate the heat when you don’t have a pool at home?

Here are some super fun summer ideas when you don’t have a pool at home (or even if you do!):

  1. Little Tikes Fish ‘n Splash Water Table – Little Tikes never disappoints with the durability of their products. My daughter loved her LT water table until she outgrew it. This particular water table has endless opportunities for creative play, scooping, dumping, splashing, and so much more!
  2. Little Tikes Fountain Factory Water Table – This water table takes fun to the next level with hands on exploration and STEM discovery. Your child will love the interchangeable parts for open-ended play.
  3. Sand and Water Fine Motor Tool Set – Whether you’re looking for something to add on to your water table, pool, or even the bathtub, this set of fine motor tools is fun for toddlers and older kids alike! 
  4. Melissa & Doug Splash Sprinkler – When I think back on my midwestern childhood, I remember humid summer nights, lightening bugs, and running through the sprinkler to cool off. This is a cute take on that classic childhood tradition.
  5. Unicorn Sprinkler – If you’re looking to surprise a unicorn-fan, there’s nothing more joyful than this four foot tall unicorn sprinkler. 
  6. 3-in-1 Splash Pad Sprinkler – It can be difficult to come up with summer ideas when you don’t have a pool in Arizona. Here’s a great option if your little one is missing out on their splash pad time.
  7. Aqua Maze Water Marble Run – Marble runs are one of the most creative and engaging engineering toys on the market. This version comes with almost 100 building pieces – including water wheels, spraying spinners, and spouts! It even has floating marbles.
  8. Snapset Swimming Pool – If you’ve been thinking about buying a kiddie pool, but dread inflating it, this Snapset option may be just what you’re looking for.
  9. Inflatable Pool – Arizona summers are usually filled with long days at the pool. This inflatable pool is a great option when you don’t want to leave your backyard.
  10. Pool Bean Bag Toss – Depending on the size of your temporary backyard pool, this bean bag toss may be just the change in routine your family needs.
  11. Buckets of Fun Backyard Waterpark – Your children can have endless fun with this 6-in-1 DIY water play area. 
  12. Trampoline Sprinkler Hose – If your kids love bouncing on the trampoline, this could be the perfect warm weather addition.
  13. Misting Fan – If you don’t already own one of these, you’re missing out. Portable misting fans are a lifesaver all year in Arizona!
  14. Fruitsicle Frozen Pop Trays – These one ounce popsicles are perfect for toddlers, and not too messy either! The options are endless when you use your creativity and create your own flavored popsicles. Check out google for some inspiration if you aren’t sure where to begin.

Coming up with fun summer ideas when you don’t have a pool can be difficult in Arizona. Once it gets over 110, it can be difficult to leave the house, even when a pool is involved. Here are some great indoor energy buster ideas, too.

What’s your family’s favorite way to beat the heat?

Note: Once you click on a product, it’ll redirect you to Amazon using an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking our link, it doesn’t charge you any extra money, but it does send a little commission to SMB as a thank you for referring traffic. This helps us bring you more great content for FREE!

Nothing is Something and That’s Everything: the Point of Quarantine

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A long time ago, when the pandemic started spreading here in the US and the shutdowns started happening and the quarantines started going into effect, there was a speech from Dr. Emily Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Chicago School of Medicine, that went viral across the Facebook land. I shared it, many of you shared it, many more liked it. She made really good sense about the point of quarentine.  

Essentially, what she said was that when this is all over and we look back on our time in quarantine and we think, hmmm, what was that all about? Was that really worth it? Nothing seemed to happen where I live.  

Yes! Exactly. That is the point. Where I live, nothing really seemed to happen. The numbers for the virus seem low. I’m not an expert in things like statistics or public health but in Maricopa County, we didn’t seem to have a lot of sickness. Granted, according to Governor Doug Ducey in his press conference held earlier on the day I write this, we lost 304 people in our state to Covid-19.  The numbers are up since then, but still relatively low. Information is updated daily and can be found here. My heart goes out to each and every family member of these souls lost to this virus.  Again, not being an expert in statistics, this is a low number compared to the overall state’s population.  Not that the death of these people brings good news, but the low number is.  We are doing it, Arizona!  We are doing what is being asked of us so that we don’t have big numbers of deaths or even contraction.   

The point is that we stayed home and practiced social distancing.  We have all these hospital beds available, but do we want to fill them up just because we have the space?  I don’t think so.  Nothing happening is something to be proud of.  Had we not quarantined and stayed at home, who knows how many of those hospital beds would be filled.  Who knows how many ventilators would have been put to use.  I’m just relieved that we didn’t have to find out.   

It seems like so many of my social media friends who reposted Dr. Landon’s speech seem to have forgotten what she said.  We stayed in quarantine and shut down for over 6 weeks, some of us longer.  It’s hard, I won’t pretend that it’s not. I’ve suffered loss of income and am quarantining extra hard with my 93-year-old mother-in-law staying with us during this time.  But let’s not forget the point of it all.  The point of quarentine is nothing.   

If you’re sitting back and thinking that all of this was for nothing, then you are right.  It is all for nothing.  That is something!   

Surviving Arizona Summer As A New Mom

This post was orignially published in 2016, but as our stay at home order is lifted and businesses start to reopen, here a some local places to help you ease the long and hot summer.

surviving summer

I thought I hit the due-date jackpot. An April due date meant I didn’t have to be pregnant in the summer. I thought about the poor women who had to go through the hot summer months carrying around the weight of a bowling ball while the heat added misery to their swollen ankles. Not me! Nope. I’d be sipping a margarita by the pool while new baby slept in her bassinet under a tree. Wait a second. Did pregnancy brain make me completely delusional or did I think for a minute that we lived in California filled with summer months of 75 and sunny? Did I forget the fact that April showers don’t bring May flowers in our desert? Instead they bring May misery known as the next three (sometimes four) months of triple digits. Newborns can’t handle extreme heat, so I quickly realized that my dreams were a sad illusion and that I better get creative for surviving Arizona summer or this season was going to involve three long months of going stir crazy in the house. In my sleep deprived state, I decided that I wasn’t going to let Arizona summer win and you shouldn’t either!

Simply get out of the house.

Let’s start with first things first. It doesn’t matter where you go, but it’s vital for your sanity to force yourself to leave your house with your new fragile sidekick in tow. It’s scary to think about all the steps it takes to leave: packing a baby bag, putting them in the car seat, figuring out how to assemble the stroller and then hoping they don’t get a dirty diaper the second you step foot into a store. However, while the first trip is the scariest, it will only get easier after you rip off the first trip band-aid. Start with a trip to the closest grocery store or Target and you’ll feel like a new woman.

Get a manicure or pedicure. A benefit to having a newborn is that (fingers crossed), they are sleeping the majority of the time. If you like to live on the edge, try a mani or pedi! Visit your local nail salon, warn them ahead of time that you may need to rush out (should that dreaded dirty diaper come), then hope for the best!

Introduce your little one to the pool. As soon as you get the clearance from the pediatrician, introduce your little one to the pool and your world will become a lot cooler. Swim schools like Hubbard offer free swim classes for babies until they are six months old.

Explore the indoors.

These suggestions might make you think, “but my baby is a newborn and sleeps most of the time. Why would I go here?” Well, most of it is for your own sanity and I also believe that while they are young and sleeping most of the time, exposing babies to different environments at a young age must help them in some way!

Butterfly Wonderland. It’s air conditioned, easy to access from the parking lot and filled with pretty colors should your little one decide to open their eyes during the visit. Be warned that they don’t let strollers inside the exhibit so bring a baby wearing carrier if you visit. Bonus: the aquarium is right next door.

Musical Instrument Museum. Another air conditioned option for Mommy and baby, this allows Mommy to roam the rooms filled with instruments and music, all in silence so baby can (hopefully) sleep in the stroller. It’s silent for baby because MIM provides headphones for guests that play music as you approach each exhibit. They also host baby music classes each week (you pay per class, so you can stop by on a whim).

Shed the baby weight with your baby in tow.

You can start shedding that baby weight without leaving your little one at home thanks to organizations around town that offer Mommy and me workout classes. Mommies get their sweat on while baby sleeps in the stroller. Some of my favorite organizations are FIT4MOM Stroller Strides (they also offer Stroller Barre, Body Back and Fit4Baby for Mommies to be), Barre3 (they have in-house child care for $5) and Modern Milk (they offer Mommy and me baby yoga and barre).

Bond with other Moms.

The more you do, the more moms you’ll meet and I’ve found that fellow new moms are some of the friendliest people in town. We bond over sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and talk of wine. Lots of wine. Some groups to look into include MOPS, Mothers of McDowell Mountain Ranch, and Moms on the Move. These are just a few examples, but you can find more in your area!

It’s never too early to start Mommy and me fun

There are several opportunities for moms to bond with their babies at a very young age. During the summer, I took advantage of the free library music classes (babies from birth on can attend). While my little one didn’t do much more than sit and stare, it allowed her to see other babies and listen to musical instruments. We also started Kindermusik at a young age and they offer a free three week mini session for babies that are between the age of birth and four months.

Good luck to all my fellow Mommies with the approach of the hot summer months. I’d love to hear your ideas on surviving Arizona summer with your little ones!

The Mother of All Time: the Areas we Grow as Mothers

Dear Mama,

I see you and feel you in this very unexpected and uncharted territory called The Great Quarantine of 2020. You have been called to a level of motherhood maybe you felt not ready for or even unqualified. Yet, you are doing it. Maybe it’s messy and not so graceful, but celebrate you and what you are doing because guess what? Your kiddos like messy and ungraceful and the only thing that matters to them right now is the TIME you are investing in them. Your presence is their most valued possession and TIME is your greatest commodity. Doesn’t the old cliche say, “The days are long, but the years are short?”

I reached out to the mamas I know asking what they are learning about themselves as mothers, TIME seemed to be a common thread. Time is a valuable gem with many facets. And I was quite intrigued by what I learned from all of you. I found three areas to be prominent: scheduling, self-care, and reflection.

For some mothers, many have discovered how over scheduled their kids have been. Let’s face it, sports and hobbies are no longer seasonal, but have become year round. Clubs and other organizations involve so much more than the actual event. The drive time alone can swallow your calendar. There are absolutely so many benefits to our kids in being part of any team or social activity, but it seems as if we have discovered that these activities have now become our identity rather than just that…an activity. Time for these mamas has meant rest and connecting and learning about each other in different ways. This revelation will become a great new vision for balance as we create this new normal.

Additionally, many mothers shared they felt selfish for not wanting to be with their kids all day. Let’s face it, homeschooling alone can wipe a mother out! Honestly, I am over first grade. Every single human needs an outlet. We are allowed and we do have permission to find time to rejuvenate. For me, recharging makes me a nicer human and a better mother. So take the bath, close the door and breathe for ten minutes and if you are daring, lock the bathroom door while you are peeing.

A mama of older children bravely shared her heart with me about having time redeemed between herself and her older children. She had reflected so much on the things she never felt brave enough to do or say and took advantage of the time given back to her. When her children were younger she never felt she could play or color or ride bikes with them because she was taught that mothers didn’t do that. She felt so inspired that she and her kids have done exactly that…all of the coloring and riding bikes and playing all the games.  

Time is something not one of us can purchase or try and retrieve. We can either spend it and get nothing out of it, or we can invest it and receive a bigger return. In all of its uncertainty, the Great Quarantine of 2020 has been an awakening to us all of what we value. It is obvious that time with the ones we love is of greater wealth. As mothers we can get caught up in the comparison, over scheduling, old paradigms of mothering and quite frankly it has sucked the life and time out of us. Whatever you have discovered about yourself and parenting during this unprecedented life event, I encourage you in YOUR new normal and how you will value the gift of TIME.

Family Friendly Ways to Celebrate Armed Forces Day

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Among the many things that living through a global pandemic has taught me, one significant realization has been that it is important to celebrate – pretty much anything. Big occasions, little events, half-birthdays, you name it, why not celebrate it?

So, this year let us add Armed Forces Day to our list of things that we can celebrate, because it’s a day to pay tribute to the men and women who currently serve in all of the United States armed forces. Held every year on the third Saturday of May, this national holiday was created when President Harry S. Truman decided it was a good idea for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service. 

Armed Forces Day lands right in the heart of Military Appreciation Month, which begins May 1 with Loyalty Day and includes Public Service Recognition Week (a week to celebrate government employees), VE (Victory in Europe) Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and Armed Forces Week (the third week in May), leading up to Armed Forces Day. The month of military appreciation concludes with Memorial Day, a day to honor our fallen.

And while this Armed Forces Day on Saturday, May 16th, 2020, will not include large public gatherings like parades or air shows, there are numerous ways you and your family can celebrate it. Here are some suggestions to get kids of all ages involved.

  1. Decorate your porch or driveway. Put out a flag if you have one, have your kids draw images and messages of thanks on a homemade banner, or decorate your driveway or sidewalk with chalk. If you personally know a service member who is on active duty, decorate the front of their house, set up a FaceTime call, mail them a card, or send them some baked goods.
  2. Put on your own parade. Get out your red, white, and blue clothes, add some ribbons to your bikes or scooters, tape a “Thank You Service Members” sign on your back or wagon and lead the family on a ride or walk around your neighborhood.
  3. Write and send letters to deployed troops. There are many organizations that will make sure your messages of gratitude or care packages reach our service members who are serving overseas. Some good sites to check out are Operation Gratitude , Soldiers’ Angels, and the USO. For less than $20 your family can send a service member a comfort food package or a board game.
  4. Participate in a virtual fitness challenge. Set a family goal to work out for at least 16 minutes on 16 days straight starting on May 16th. Choose some activities that service members do during their physical training like sit-ups, push-ups and jogging or running. Make medals or certificates of completion for every family member who sticks with it.
  5. Create a red, white, and blue meal. Allow every family member to pick a dish and prepare it, with help from older siblings or parents if needed. From blueberry pancakes at breakfast to red apples for a snack, and white wine with dinner for Mom and Dad, there’s easily something for everyone to enjoy throughout the day, as you talk about your gratitude for the brave women and men who risk their lives for our freedoms every day.

How to Make a DIY Reward Jar + a Chore Jar for Kids

best reward jar with the word reward on it and sticks inside

I was looking online for suggestions for encouraging the kids to use good behavior. In the past I’ve used a reward system like reward jars which have worked for my kids and have worked for me. Since the quarantine took into effect, my parenting skills have gone down the drain. My priority at first was finding homeschooling hacks, but now it’s turned into parenting hacks, back yard activities, and a DIY reward jar for kids.  Kids like incentive and reward systems, and I’ve found that reward jars motivate them. This is my experience.

It’s been rough.  I’m not going to lie.  Two very active boys under the age of 8 are keeping me on my toes, to say the least.  I’m always looking for things to keep them busy and to keep a normal routine, like having a reward system.  I’ve used reward jars for incentive and they have worked for me.  A DIY reward jar with chores included was the way to go for us.

So, I got back to basics.  We went back to rewarding for the kids positive behavior.  I mean, I’m losing my mind here! I’ve always known that encouragement and rewards have helped for me.  It may not work for everyone, but I find that when I fight with them about chores, say no, or get mad at the kids, it just makes everyone (including me) feel worse. 

My idea is to have a reward jar and chore jar in one.  It’s not that chores have to be used as discipline, but I would rather have them pick up the yard than go to their room. The kids already have chores that are not seen as discipline, but requirements. And why not include reward sticks also in the same jar? I enjoy making DIY reward jars but I don’t want a separate chore jar, and a good behavior jar, a consequence jar, kindness jar, and a coupon jar.  I want one jar and an excuse to use washi tape.

I am not a parenting expert. In fact, I know virtually nothing and am actually surprised my kids are still alive! Joking. But I find that a big part of parenting failures and successes are done by trial and error. There has been quiet a bit or error on my part during this crazy quarantine. 

DIY items such as rocks, washi tape, popsicle sticks, a container and markers

Materials

So, for this 2 in one jar you will need just 5 things; a jar (I used a recycled truvia jar because it’s plastic but some people use mason jars), markers, large popsicle sticks and washi tape and rocks or marbles.

wraping washi tape on reward jar

Instructions

  • use washi tape to wrap around the jar twice.  You don’t want the kids to see the writing on the sticks. sticks with colored washi tape in front of a reward jar that says chores
  • Wrap the tips of the “chores” side with colors and use marker to write “C.” chore sticks, washi tape and markers in front of a chore jar
  • Add your chores at the bottom of the stick. reward sticks in front of reward jar
  • Flip the sticks over and repeat with “rewards.”
  • Fill jar with rocks or marbles.
  • Insert popsicle sticks.

This was a fun activity because I got to talk to the kids about chores and rewards. It’s interesting to me that they look at arts and crafts as a reward. 

Pin for DIY Reward Jar and Chore jar

How do you reward your children? I’d love some more tips!

Product Review: MEandMine Fish Out Germs Playset

There is nothing more my kids like then getting their own mail.  This time around, my five year old son, Michael, got his own package, a MEandMine Fish Out Germs playset. By following the directions, we were able to experience great hands-on learning about the human body.

As our family is now under stay at home orders, finding educational opportunities outside of a traditional classroom is important. While I can print off my own pre-K science worksheets online, I know (as a teacher myself) that hands-on learning is really important.

That is why I was so happy with Fish Out Germs kit. The box came with clear directions and easy-to-do crafting elements.  My son and I were able to assemble the kit quickly and follow along on a science journey as we did. 

The directions read like a little storybook.  It explained how a common occurrence like falling off of a bike can result in germs infecting wounds.  It created a superhero defender out of a white blood cell who fought the evil invaders in the ouchie by “fishing” them out. The bandages had cute faces on them, but also were able to attach to the velvet wound to show how they help heal wounds.

MEandMine Fish Out Germs PlaysetThe product’s lessons are not just about germs. Through the construction of a fishing pole, my son also was able to explore how gears work and magnets work. This kit also did a great job teaching Michael about his immune systems and how healthy choices like diet, sleep and hand washing can help him defend himself.

Overall, my son was eager to have something special come in the mail and was engaged while we learned about the human body.  The MEandMine Fish Out Germs playset gave us great conversation starters – five year olds are full of questions and the website provided extra printables to reinforce our learning.

MEandMine offers a variety of Body and Emotion kits for kids.  All of the pieces are included and it allows children ages 4-8 great learning opportunities from their own homes. It is also so reassuring to know that these products are designed by educators, pediatricians, and psychologists.

Thank you to MEandMine for sponsoring this post.

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