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The Kids' Log: December 23-29, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy (Almost) New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. My babies woke up Christmas morning decked in their Christmas pajamas and we had homemade biscuits for breakfast (made by Marlie and her daddy) followed by the opening of gifts. Marlie got a guitar and a harmonica and the umbrella she asked for, plus she bought a jumbo puzzle and fire engine with the money her great-granny and uncle sent her. Desmond got a bead maze and a playmobile car set. We lolly-gagged around the house watching Christmas movies and then went to the neighbors for dinner. It was a great day.

Toddler Log: 3 Years and 19 Weeks Old
I realized that I haven't provided much details about Marlie's growth lately. First off, she's grown so tall that she's already more than half my height. She's been wearing size 4T for about two months now.

Her sense of logic has also expanded which she uses to argue a lot. She has the surly teenager routine down cold, including crossing arms, sucking teeth, storming off in a huff, and slamming bedroom doors. She can grasp many concepts like real and fake. She enjoys telling you what's not real. Her conversational skills will leave you impressed (and exhausted). She loves to regale me with tales from school during the car ride home and engage you in impromptu discussion about a wide range of topics from her choice of profession (fire fighter) to her favorite foods (pizza). Her stories have a beginning, middle and end, too!

I think it's time to enroll her in some extracurricular activities. I looked into a little ninjas martial arts class, but I think we're going to give gymnastics another try in January and probably swimming this spring.

Baby Log: 37 Weeks Old

 I can't believe Little Man is 9 months old. He has been taking steps for the past week up to three at a time! He'll be walking like a big kid really soon. This week I made him chicken, broccoli and brown rice cereal. He was not into it at first, but by day three he was eating some of it. I think it's the texture. His next two teeth are about to come in and he's gumming on everything, he is a pro at eating O-shaped cereal. His eczema is all but cleared up thanks to me getting rid of every piece of clothing with metal zippers or snaps. He hasn't reacted to anything else in two weeks so I think we're good. I just need to keep his skin moisturized because wintertime is so drying!

ModernGreetings Second Honeymoon Contest #3

Thursday, December 27, 2012

second honeymoon contest

ModernGreetings.com wants to help four married couples re-celebrate their union with a second honeymoon in a series of individually-themed contests! Participants will be asked to complete various tasks via social media, such as submitting a funny photo, creating a video response or pinning pictures on Pinterest.

Contest Theme #3 is Tweet Your Proposal! The contest runs Dec. 28th – Jan. 3rd so start thinking of 140 characters that best capture the magic of your engagement and ask everyone you know to retweet it to increase your odds.This infographic explains how to enter:

second honeymoon contest

The winning couple for each contest will win a trip to the destination of their choice up to $3,000, that can be used towards airfare, hotel, rental car, dining out, and additional expenses. Winners will also receive a professionally designed photo book for them to showcase their trip, so make sure you take lots of pictures! Participation in all contests is not required. Even if you don’t win the Grand Prize, all participants will receive a $5 ModernGreetings.com voucher, good towards any purchase on ModernGreetings.com, so everybody wins!


[Guest Post] Happy Holidays Include Diabetes Prevention

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recently, my family was struck by the news that my young cousin suffers from Type 2 Diabetes. I was shocked, angry and sad; but what I had to do became clear. Type 2 Diabetes affects a rising number of children under the age of 20, in fact, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital Cardiac Center, 1 in 3 of today’s kids is diagnosed with diabetes! That’s a scary statistic, and it’s supposedly growing…

After some further research, I found some good news: it can be prevented with careful attention to diet and exercise right from one’s home. My cousin could be treated with these same techniques, and my entire family could benefit from greater awareness. We navigated through November, which was American Diabetes Month, gathering information and raising awareness about Type 2 Diabetes in children. Now the holidays are upon us. What will we do to maintain the ground we have gained?

Modern holiday celebrations don’t seem particularly conducive to preventing a disease caused by inactivity and weight gain. Consuming eggnog and Christmas cookies while sitting on the couch playing computer games certainly won’t help, but with kids already on winter break from school, some healthy activities are easy to incorporate into holiday celebrations.

Easy Activities Right at Home
kids playing in snow
photo credit
Every kid and (most) adults know that the best part about winter break is no homework. This means kids have more time to run off excess energy. Some lucky kids live in chilly climates where seasonal snowfalls will provide unique exercise opportunities such as sledding, snowball fights or building snow forts. Kids in warmer climates can still participate in outdoor exercise using bikes, skates, scooters and more to spin around the neighborhood. With everyone home from school for a couple of weeks, this might be a great time to organize a neighborhood game of kick the can, kickball or capture the flag (we have done this a lot this fall, and the kids looove it!)

Eating Healthy at Home, Too 
Parents need to provide extra careful guidance in helping their children make healthy eating choices over the holidays. Don’t eliminate sweets altogether unless you have a doctor’s order to do so, but help kids have fun with festive fruits and snacks lower in sugar and saturated fat. Kids are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they’re involved in preparing the healthy dishes. Add some fun to fruit salads by making animal creations from seasonal fruits, or adding it to some yummy frozen yogurt or smoothies!

With the kids home from school over the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to help them make healthy choices. Preventing Type 2 Diabetes is much easier than fighting it once you have a diagnosis, and doing it together, as a family will help ensure that everyone is benefitting from a healthier overall lifestyle! 

Carolyn is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being. She is an avid cycler, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor. Check out Carolyn’s blog at http://fullonfit.blogspot.com!

The Kids' Log: December 16-22

Sunday, December 23, 2012

This week was mostly a foggy blur. I took a break from blogging out of respect for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. My heart is still aching for them, my mind is still trying to process it. I am still a jumble of nerves, but my kids deserve to have me present and not locked in an emotional limbo. So yesterday we started taking steps to revive the Christmas spirit. Damon played Christmas music and we took Marlie to a toy store to pick out gifts for herself with the Christmas money her great-granny and uncle sent her. She chose a fire truck (of course) and a jumbo puzzle. There was a face paint artist in the toy shop and she gave Marlie a nice Santa on her cheek and peppermint swirls above her brow. There was a man singing Christmas carols on the sidewalk and we stopped to listen then Marlie gave him a tip. By the time we reached the holiday party we were invited to, I was in a better mood (especially after two glasses of coquito egg nog!)

Toddler Log: 3 Years and 18 Weeks Old
The Christmas spirit is certainly alive in Marlie. All she talks about is Santa though, which bugs me so I pulled out our Nativity set and tried to explain to her the real reason we celebrate Christmas. I got to the the part where the three kings bought gifts to the baby Jesus and she demanded that I give her the presents they are holding. #momfail. I have never been a fan of Santa, but I know better than to squash my child's delicate imagination. Still, I would like for her to have some sense of what Christmas is really about. If the cartoons and commercials are going to tell her that it's all about Santa and getting presents then it's my job to teach her about Christ and the miracle of his birth, right?

Marlie had an accident on the monkey bars at school earlier this week that left her with a scraped chin and a small chip on her upper incisor. I didn't rush her to the dentist but have been monitoring it for discoloration, looseness and signs of infection. So far it doesn't seem to be be bothering her so I think we're in the clear.

Lately she has been showing an interest in playing games together. She loves hide-n-seek and puzzles. I recently got a board game that consists of picture tiles that players use to tell a story. To my amazement she understood it and was telling tales that began with "once upon a time." She and her daddy started doing kiddie yoga and it's cute to watch them enjoy that activity together.

Baby Log: 36 Weeks Old
Mr. Busybody continues to be the Happiest Baby on Earth. He gets the title because everyone comments on what a happy baby he is, LOL! He should be with all the attention he gets! He is developing a mischievous side that is going to give his Big Sister a run for her money. He is already preparing for his role as Annoying Little Brother by pulling her hair, getting into her things, and knocking down the block castles she builds. But he's such a charmer, that she can't stay mad at him.

Get a Clue (Gift Ideas) at the New Scooby-Doo Mystery Workshop Website

Friday, December 21, 2012

Do you need some last minute help with your child's gifts this year? I know I do!

If your children love Scooby-Doo as much as my 3-year-old does, try going straight to the source and have your children visit the new Warner Bros. "Scooby Mystery Workshop" site where they can customize their own holiday gift list!

The site offers Scooby-Doo games, toys, costumes, and fun bedding kids can check off into their wish list to help Mom and Dad solve the holiday shopping mystery. Once their favorite Scooby-Doo items are selected, kids can print or email the list to a parent.

The site also provides additional fun for your child, such as helping The Gang pick out gifts for each other through an interactive poll, competing to win fun prizes, or playing games with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. Check out the site here: http://bit.ly/WmFUk2

I participated in this campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Scooby-Doo. Photobucket

The Kids' Log: December 9-15, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So here I sit, ready to share what my kids have been up to this past week knowing that 20 families ended their week in unspeakable tragedy. I write this weekly update on my kids with a heavy heart knowing that there are parents in Newtown, CT who will never get the chance to create new memories with the child they lost on Friday.

I know every parent across the country is feeling for those families. Families who are grieving and must now plan funerals to bury their children instead of how to spend Christmas morning. My heart breaks at the thought.My prayers are with them. May they find comfort and peace in the memories of their little angels.

Toddler Log: 3 Years and 17 Weeks Old
Marlie has always been a compassionate child. This week at preschool she showed her caring during a game of chase that left a classmate in tears. She told the little girl, "it's okay, it's just pretend, he's not a real monster." I beamed with pride when I read this on her daily report.
On Tuesday, I picked her up early because she had a fever. It might have been a 24-hour stomach bug, but I was required to keep her home on Wednesday. She spent the day propped up on pillows watching cartoons. Saturday, I took her to see The San Francisco Youth Ballet's Nutcracker, so it was like nutcracker junior and perfect for kids. She made it through Act 1 but by Act 2 I was bribing her with peanut m&ms. We left midway to the end, but she did better than I anticipated.

Baby Log: 35 Weeks Old
Little Man stood up on his own last Sunday! He just hoisted himself up off the floor without any support. He's been practicing this move all week, staying upright a little longer each time, just long enough to reach the garland on the tree and pull it down.

SHE Needs You: Support LaunchPad Pilot Project With One Click

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You may have already finished your charitable giving for the year, but thanks to the power of social media you can still make a significant contribution to a cause. 

I had not heard of SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises) until a fellow blogger shared information with me about the SHE28 holiday campaign. I am so glad she did because SHE is the kind of innovative non-profit organization that I believe is going to change the world.

SHE recognizes that donations are temporary fixes so they've developed market-based strategies to solve social and economic problems. SHE invests in people and ideas that are often overlooked because the are socially taboo like their current initiative to bring sanitary products to menstruating women in developing countries worldwide.
SHE eco maxi-pad
A girl's life does not have to stop every 28 days if she has access to affordable maxi-pads, PERIOD.
Right now SHE is raising funds and awareness of their ongoing campaign for SHE LaunchPads - an innovative, chemical-free, low-cost menstrual product that utilizes banana-fiber as the absorbent core.

Did you know that every 28 days, million of girls and women miss school or work - up to 50 days per year - because they lack access to affordable, eco-friendly menstrual pads?

SHE will be producing 300,000 SHE LaunchPads for 3,000 Rwandan school girls attending 10 schools in the Kayonza district with the mass manufacturing of their SHE LaunchPads during their industrial-scale pilot in 2013. The project is also creating economic opportunities and jobs by parterning with a sustainable and scalable business model operated and owned by women in the community.

Banana farmer extracting fiber
SHE is training banana farmers to mechanically extract banana fiber, 
which creates new income & sustains the supply.

SHE needs you to:
This is not a sponsored post. No compensation or gifts were exchanged.

Walgreens Launches Green Household and Personal Care Products Line

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I just love it when a brand gets on the green bandwagon! 

I was already a Walgreens loyalist because they carry some of my favorite natural healthy and beauty products. I like being able to walk down the street and grab some teething tablets when I need them. Plus, their W brand save me a lot of money. Now I am going gaga over their newest line of household cleaners and baby and personal care products labeled simply, Ology. 

Free of harmful ingredients and affordable, Ology is a green mom's dream come true! I picked up two bottles of all-purpose cleaner (regularly priced at $3.99, on sale for $2.99) and laundry detergent (regularly priced at $6.99, on sale for $4.99) for less than $15!

walgreens ology products

The Ology detergent comes in a 50 fl oz bottle made from 100% post-consumer materials and does 33 loads. I only use natural laundry detergent because my baby is eczema prone. Ology laundry detergent is plant based, free of dyes, artificial fragrances, and phosphates. It contains no chlorine bleach or formaldehyde and is not tested on animals. I have been using the Ology detergent for two weeks and it did not negatively affect his skin. Stain-fighting power is important too, so I put that to the test with a spaghetti stain on my favorite shirt. As you can see in the comparison photos below a faint mark remains, so next time I'll try pre-treating. I really like the way our clothes smell after the wash thanks to the natural lavender and vanilla scent. Ology detergent can be used in both HE and conventional washing machines which is a plus!

ology detergent review

Next up is the Ology All-Purpose Cleaner, also packaged in a bottle made from 100% post-consumer materials. This stuff is tough! As you can see below in the comparison photos, it tackled the grease and grime in my kitchen sink and left it sparking clean. My favorite use is wiping down the baby's high chair and my daughter's table because I never want to use harmful chemicals where they eat. Ology All-Purpose Cleaner is citrus based and free of dyes, artificial fragrances, and ammonia. It contains no harsh solvents and is not tested on animals. The natural Meyer lemon and lavender scent will make you want to hang out wherever you spray it!

ology all purpose cleaner review

Ology is exclusive to the Walgreens family of companies, but with almost 8,500 locations nationwide it's easy to get your hands on them! Ology also offers light bulbs and 100% tree-free paper products. They are endorsed by Healthy Child Healthy World, which is a major seal of good, green housekeeping!


Natural Remedies for Healing Baby Eczema

Monday, December 10, 2012

My little man had an eczema flare up recently that was severe enough that I relented to a prescription for hydro-cortisone. Hydro-cortisone only suppresses the eczema, it doesn't cure it. For me, it is only short-term measure to get the eczema under control immediately because the itching was disrupting my baby's sleep, but thankfully his pediatrician believes in the body's ability to heal itself and we are working together toward a long-term natural treatment. I'd like to share what I've learned with all of you.

First of all it is important to understand eczema, which is an inflammatory skin condition that presents as a red, scaly, itchy rash. It is typically an allergic reaction (immune response) to an environmental trigger. These can be irritants that come in contact with skin such as soaps/detergents or a food allergy that triggers the eczema reaction.

Babies have sensitive skin that hasn't fully developed and therefore are more susceptible to dermatitis like eczema. The ideal method of managing eczema in young children would to be to avoid the triggers. It takes some investigative work to identify the root cause of the eczema. If the patches are in the diaper area, that could be a clue that a food allergy is causing the irritation because the remnants of the offending food is in the urine/stool. An elimination diet could pinpoint the food culprit.

William Warby [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
An eczema outbreak makes life very uncomfortable for baby so treating it right away is very important. If you address it at early onset, you can avoid OTC and prescription medications:
  • Adding oatmeal the bathwater helps calm and soften the skin. I put 1/2 cup of oatmeal in a coffee grinder and add the powder to a lukewarm water in the sink. I let baby soak for 5 minutes. Pat dry, do not rub the skin. Immediately apply moisturizers to hydrate the skin.
  • Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize! When the skin dries out it creates little fissures and makes it is prone to eczema. Maintaining moisture in the skin will help it heal faster. Different skin types respond better to certain moisturizers. Try aloe, pure shea butter, coconut oil (with a few drops of neem oil), and calendula cream until you find the right one.
  •  Give baby supplements that support the immune system. Mix baby probiotics into food or drink. Omega 3 in the form of EPA is also important to skin health. Cod Liver Oil is great for babies who can't chew a gummy or swallow a capsule.
Once baby's skin is healed, here are some steps to take to prevent further eczema flare ups:
  • Give baby a bath daily. This is the new recommendation to help the skin regenerate by removing the dry, dead skin cells. Avoid soap, but if you must use one I suggest Dr. Bronner's Mild Baby Castille Soap or Olive Oil Soap. Remember to pat dry, never rub the skin, and apply a moisturizer right away.
  • Create a moisture barrier for baby's delicate skin. I triple moisturize twice a day. First with a layer of a rich emollient (California Baby Calendula Cream), then a layer of restorative oils (I like Seaweed Bath Co. Body Butter because it  is a blend of many healing oils, plus it comes in a roll-on for easy application), then a layer of Alba Un-Petroleum Jelly to seal it all in.
  • De-tox. Eczema can be a signal of toxic build-up in baby's system. Make sure baby is getting enough water to flush out toxins, especially in the winter when heaters dry out the air. A hazelwood necklace can also help by absorbing the extra acidity when PH levels get out of balance. 
Do you have expercience with childhood eczema? What natural remedies did you try? Also, I am hosting a GIVEAWAY for a child's hazelwood necklace from The Eczema Company, open worldwide!

Giveaway: Hazelwood Necklace from The Eczema Company (Open WW!)

Founded by eczema mom, Jennifer Roberge, The Eczema Company was created for families dealing with the daily emotional and physical strains of eczema. The online store provides ”products to help soothe your itchy little world” that include scratch protective clothing, healing jewelry, and natural, non-toxic skincare. Also, visit her blog where she shares her family’s battles in dealing with eczema, allergies, and asthma. It features guest posts from natural treatment professionals that specialize in these conditions.
hazelwood necklace jewelry
Prize: Your choice of hazelwood necklace in child's size

The hazel tree is an alkaline wood, so when placed next to the skin, hazelwood will naturally oxidize, thus reducing the overall acidity in the body over time. Hazelwood has also been used by native Canadian Indians for centuries as a natural pain reliever. For best results, wear the hazelwood necklace near the source of the symptoms. 
  • Great for soothing pain related with eczema, teething, indigestion and diaper rash. 
  • Wear continuously for best results. It may take up to several weeks for symptoms to lessen. Water resistant, but not waterpoof. Best to avoid chlorine which will shorten the jewelry's lifespan. 
  • Safe for ages four months and up. 
  • Lead Free. 
  • Made in Canada.
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Kids' Log: December 2-8, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I think the Christmas tree and the ornaments are going to make it! I am happy to report there have been no further attempts on their lives.

I won a boatload of giveaways this week: a $50 Levenger gift card, a $50 Uncommon Goods gift card, a box of S'muffins and a Sherpa Sleeper from Snug Organics. That covers a lot of holiday gifting!

Toddler Log: 3 Years and 16 Weeks Old
Marlie has become a total fan of the old school cartoons on Boomerang like Smurfs and Flintstones, but her favorite is Scooby-Doo. She memorized the theme song which she bugged me to download on my phone so she could listen to it on the way to preschool. Now I can't get it out of my head. Like a true fool, I set the DVR to record the show so she could watch it before bed. I am a complete sucker for making her happy.

Baby Log: 34 Weeks Old
After a brief respite, Desmond is teething again. Did I mention he is a meany when he is teething? The eczema cleared up beautifully by Wednesday and then stupid me had to go put a onesie on him that had nickel snaps on the bottom so now I have to treat those patches. ugh. The good news is that I ordered a hazelwood and amber necklace so he is going to get some natural relief from the teething pain and the eczema.

He has taken to balling his fists and banging them on the furniture or on people. So Damon now refers to him as The Hulk. It's kind of fitting since he is freakishly strong (he pulled a doorstop out the wall), plus his pants only reach mid-calf now since he had a growth spurt recently.

Sante' Bakery Granola: Yummy and Healthy Stocking Stuffer!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sante Bakery logoI cannot stop munching on this Christmas Granola from Sante' Bakery! In between bites, I had to share this yummy discovery with you all.

I did a post about Sante' Bakery and their black currant oatmeal cookies, but in case you missed it here is the back story: Sante' in French literally means "health." The Sante' Bakery goal is to fill your life with all of the health benefits Mother Earth has to offer while preserving the environment by:
  • Using local and organic ingredients only.
  • Using labels made of post-consumer recycled materials. 
  • Using inner wrappers that are biodegradable.
  • Using vegetable-derived inks.
Christmas granola

This granola is packed with nutritious good stuff like rolled oats, walnuts, cranberries, coconut flakes, and ginger, plus it's naturally sweetened with raisins, maple syrup and turbinado. Like all of Sante's baked goods it's all natural, vegetarian and vegan! Sante' Bakery Christmas Granola would make great stocking stuffers!

Connect: Facebook | Twitter

Buy It: 7.5 oz bags of granola range from $7.50-$8.50


Pin It to Win a Second Honeymoon from MondernGreetings.com!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

second honeymoon contest

ModernGreetings.com wants to help four married couples re-celebrate their union with a second honeymoon in a series of individually-themed contests! Participants will be asked to complete various tasks via social media, such as submitting a funny photo, creating a video response or pinning pictures on Pinterest.

Contest Theme #2 is PIN IT TO WINT IT! How to enter:
  • Contestants create a Pinterest board titled "ModernGreetings.com Honeymoon Contest" and repin the contest pin to the board and then fill it with pins that represent their ideal honeymoon.
  • Copy the url of your board and paste it within the submission form in the contest app on Facebook.
  • IMPORTANT: If you haven’t participated in the previous contest you will need to start by entering your email address HERE. If you've already entered your email on that page then you can go straight to the Facebook page.
The best board will win the second honeymoon trip. The winning board will be chosen by an independent Modern Greetings judging panel. This contest starts today December 6. THE DEADLINE TO ENTER HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 27 at MIDNIGHT CST. Ready, Set, Pin!

The winning couple for each contest will win a trip to the destination of their choice up to $3,000, that can be used towards airfare, hotel, rental car, dining out, and additional expenses. Winners will also receive a professionally designed photo book for them to showcase their trip, so make sure you take lots of pictures! Participation in all contests is not required. Even if you don’t win the Grand Prize, all participants will receive a $5 ModernGreetings.com voucher, good towards any purchase on ModernGreetings.com, so everybody wins!


Rise of the Guardians: The Christmas Movie to Go See!

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about Christmas traditions to do with my family. One activity I'd like to start is going to a movie on Christmas Day.

My choice for this year is the animated film Rise of the Guardians starring Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, and Chris Pine and directed by Peter Ramsey, the first African-American to direct an animated film.&

Rise of the Guardians is an eye-popping visual story of how a band of chilhood mythical characters like including Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy join forces to stop an evildoer from taking over the world. Judging from the trailer, it is a thrilling adventure for moviegoers. It is also rated PG so, its the kind of holiday film the entire family can enjoy.

Marlie and me watched the trailer together and she is definitely excited about the movie. After opening the box of goodies we received, she was even more amped!

Rise of the Guardians poster


Wordful Wednesday: Our Christmas Card Photo...AKA "Hold That Pose!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BLOOD (hubby cut himself shaving), SWEAT (I was running around for an hour getting everyone dressed in coordinating outfits and setting up the shot), and TEARS (baby was cranky) were literally shed for this photo. I am so amazed and proud that it turned out so well that just I just had to share! I'd like to thank the 3-shot timer on my Lumix camera for helping me capture this one perfect picture.

Mary Mary Inspired Me to Improve My Work and Family Balance

Monday, December 3, 2012

In my LB4K (life before kids) I was a hard-charging professional and very active in my community. At one point I was working full-time, taking night classes toward a graduate degree, and running a volunteer charity. You could say I had too much on my plate. Then I became a mother and I could not continue to burn the candle at both ends. I took a temporary leave from the workforce to focus on raising my babies, a decision I have never regretted.

Still, it was a confusing time for me. I was so proud to be a mommy, but at the same time I felt distressed that my degrees and work experience were going to waste. It wasn't long though before I was plotting a comeback...guess you can't keep a career girl down! I started slowly with work-at-home opportunities that provided some income and helped me keep up my skills.

Working at home has its advantages, but it's not easy street. I have to work around nap time and housework. It's also easy to get distracted by television! Reality TV is one of my weaknesses. While watching a sneak preview of the season 2 premiere of Mary Mary* I discovered that these two highly successful, high-profile women struggled with work/life balance just like other mothers.

The dynamic signing duo is back on tour promoting their latest record, but Tina is pregnant and pushing herself too hard while Erica is still recovering from recently giving birth. I could really relate with Erica's situation. I suffered a real identity crisis when I became a first-time mom and also faced some health concerns.

You have to tune in for the Mary Mary Season 2 premiere on Thursday, December 6th at 10|9c To find out how the sisters of Mary Mary are managing their professional and personal relationships (set your DVR if you are an early bird like me!).

The episode got me thinking about whether I am doing everything possible to maintain healthy work/family balance in my life. The lines sometime get blurred because I work at home and I feel like I am pulled in two different directions. The show gave me some ideas on how women effectively juggle career and family that I think are universal whether you work at home or outside the home:
  1. Get organized: keeping a schedule prevents you from overbooking your time, missing important appointments, and losing your mind.
  2. Ask for help: don't be ashamed to enlist family, friends or hired help to keep all the balls in the air.
  3. Be flexible: being open to an alternative work schedule can free up hours to spend with family.
  4. Know your limits: take a timeout once in awhile to regroup and then get back in the game! Also, learn to say no so that you don't get burned out
  5. Get centered: De-stress with prayer, yoga, or meditation. A mom with inner balance has a better grasp on work and family balance.

*Mary Mary is a reality television show that follows the three-time Grammy® award-winning gospel duo Mary Mary (Erica andTina Campbell). Season two will find the sisters experiencing the busiest time of their career. They are promoting their new single "Go Get It," touring across the U.S. (Joyfest, Gospelfest, Celebrate Brooklyn Concert, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, etc.) and capping their summer by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Essence Festival alongside Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, and others. Tina is due with her fifth child and Erica recently gave birth to Zaya, complicating the pressure that the sisters already feel when they are performing and away from home.

Mary Mary Singing Spotlight contest

Starting December 3, WE tv is giving you another chance to belt it like Mary Mary! Enter the second annual singing contest for a chance to win a getaway for 2 to LA, including a professional studio session and much more! More details and official rules available closer to the start of the contest.

It's situations like these that the three-time Grammy® award-winning gospel duo Erica and Tina Campbell face in Season 2 of WE tv’s hit series Mary Mary as they balance being recording artists, mothers, and wives. MARY MARY premieres Thursday, December 6 at 10|9c and moves to its regular timeslot on Thursdays at 9|8c, beginning December 13. Watch a sneak peek here!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of WE tv. The opinions and text are all mine.
Does your life feel like a reality TV show sometimes? Tell us about it!

[Guest Post] Sensory Toys for Children: Top Products for Kids to Include in Your Toolbox

by Jacky G. 

Image source: Dfdsseaways.co.uk

There are countless at-home speech therapy techniques that you can do with your child to encourage his progress. You may have already invested in educational toys and games to serve as tools for speech therapy lessons, such as flashcards for target sounds or Speech Buddies for articulation practice. As well, consider the use of sensory toys for children. 

As your baby grows, he learns about the world around him with various senses. Using a multisensory approach to speech therapy can not only improve knowledge retention, but it may also boost your child’s motivation, according to Tatyana Elleseff, M.A. CCC-SLP. Sensory toys for children may also be used as prompts to encourage vocalization. The child may be asked to describe the feel of a fuzzy tennis ball, for example, or the scent of a cookie. Consult your child’s speech-language pathologist (SLP) for advice on using a multisensory approach to at-home speech therapy techniques. This is particularly critical if your child has sensory processing disorder (SPD). This is a neurological disorder that disrupts the way in which a person processes information. Over-stimulating a child with SPD can result in an adverse reaction. 

Auditory stimulation is essential for speech and language development. In your sensory toy toolbox, include a device that will allow your child to record his own voice and play it back (i.e. recorder, toy microphone, karaoke toy). CDs that have sound effects and nature sounds can also be fun for a child. You could ask your child to speculate what kind of animal made a particular sound, for example. Sing-along CDs are also helpful for encouraging vocalization. Sensory toys for children can also include cymbals, whistles, and other noisemakers.

If your child has an articulation disorder, engaging his tactile sense is an effective method of helping him to conquer those issues. Try placing a Speech Buddy in his mouth (use the appropriate Speech Buddy for the target sound that your child needs help with). The device provides a target so that he knows where to place his tongue for a particular sound. As well, look around your house for objects that might offer an interesting texture. I mentioned a fuzzy tennis ball already, but you can also introduce modeling clay, sand, textured fabric, Velcro, crushed cornflakes, or whatever you happen to have on hand that offers various tactile experiences. Additionally, remember that various temperatures also engage the tactile sense. As you introduce an object to your child, ask him to describe the texture, the shape, the color, etc. He could speculate on what it might be used for or even create a story about the object. 

Engaging the sense of taste can be a fun way to keep your youngster engaged in his speech therapy lesson. Just remember that if he has SPD, consult his speech therapist or other medical professional before introducing a food or liquid that might produce an adverse reaction. Set up a mini tasting party. Dip a sterile cotton swab or a Toothette into lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, other extracts, and any other tastes that you wish to introduce to your child. If your child responds well to a particular taste, try introducing him to a food with that taste. You might squeeze a slice of lemon into a small glass of water, for example, if he responds well to the lemon juice. Gustatory stimulation can lend itself to speech therapy when you turn it into a skill-building exercise. For example, for your tasting party, encourage your daughter or son to invite dolls, stuffed animals, G.I. Joe figures, etc. to the party. Your child can practice conversation skills by offering tastes to the stuffed animals and then discussing whether the tastes are pleasant or not.

Sensory toys for children should include objects that stimulate the sense of smell. Present scents with your child’s mouth closed. Begin with familiar scents, such as the brand of soap your family always uses, your perfume, etc. Have your child close his eyes and ask him to identify the scent. Prompt him to vocalize by asking which room in the house he might smell the scent, whether he associates the scent with a particular person, etc. Progress to other scents such as essential oils or food scents and ask your youngster to speculate about them. Avoid presenting too many new scents at once; you don’t want to overwhelm your child. 

Combine speech therapy techniques with visual cues. A study from Purdue University found that children with speech delays were able to improve intelligibility and build their vocabularies when stimulated with visual cues in combination with other speech therapy techniques. Use gestures or sign language to prompt vocalizations. If your child struggles with the word “milk,” for example, enunciate the word clearly several times while raising your hand to mimic drinking. As well, point to your mouth while you pronounce a target sound or word so that your child can see how your lips move. When you do flashcard drills with your child, use cards that have relevant pictures to help prompt vocalizations. 

*Speech Buddies offers tools for parents and speech therapists to help children overcome speech disorders. Consider using Speech Buddies to make articulation practice fun and engaging for your child.

The Kids' Log November 25-December 1, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

We went Christmas tree shopping last weekend and bought a lovely Noble Fir. Took it home and decorated it with the help of a very enthusiastic three-year-old. The tree is only 5 feet, but it takes up a ton of space in our smaller house. The kids wouldn't leave it alone. Desmond pulled off all the bottom ornaments and Marlie kept messing with it. The solution was to move it to the foyer but it just looked wrong. So we moved it back to the living room but moved all the ornaments out of reach. The tree is now naked from the waist down. If they keep troubling it, we might have to put it on front porch. Speaking of the porch, there is enough sand out there that Marlie has tracked home from school to turn this house into beachfront property.

I had a dental checkup this week and lo and behold I have my first cavity (two actually). They are small, but I am still disgusted. My 36 year, cavity-free streak is over. I have to go back in January for fillings. Yay me.

Toddler Log: 3 Years and 15 Weeks Old
Watching her get excited about Christmas got me thinking about establishing some traditions. I thought an annual mother-daughter activity would be nice so I bought us tickets to the Nutcracker by the San Francisco Youth Ballet. Then I took her to World Market to pick out a Nutcracker doll. She chose one dressed in a fireman suit (of course). The plan is to buy her a nutcracker doll each year and hopefully build a collection.

We have been slowly getting back into homeschooling as I put her classroom together. This week we focused on patterns and fine motor skills by stringing beads: light, medium, dark and repeat the sequence. She is loving painting so we did that too. I got her a subscription to Highlight Magazine and she is a wiz at finding the objects hidden in the picture. Smart girl!

Baby Log: 33 Weeks Old
Little man has been struggling with the eczema which got worse while we were away. I gave him a bath of oatmeal and powdered milk and he broke out in hives. Probably not a good idea to give a kid with a dairy sensitive a bath in milk. Anyway, I took him to the pediatrician because the itching was interrupting his sleep. I relented to a prescription for hydro-cortisone while we try to pinpoint the cause of the eczema. In other news, he bit me a few times this week and for a minute I was about to put him on formula. Instead I remembered to not to overreact to the bite and de-latch once nursing was complete. We are back on good terms. :-)

Win a Necklace and Photo Puzzle in the #WinterWonderlandHop

Saturday, December 1, 2012

snowmanLooking for gift ideas for the holidays? You've come to the right place!

Welcome to the Winter Wonderland Event hosted by Andersons Angels and Joy of Momma Joyner. This Event features a little bit of everything! Each blog has gathered up a unique Prize Package of $25 or more so be sure to visit each blog from the linky below and enter for your chance to win some really amazing prizes! This event will end on December 15 at 11:59pm EST.

My Prizes (US Only):
Artisan Bead Necklace from the World Vision Gift Catalog. $13 Value. Read my Review.

Small Photo Puzzle from Picczle. $14.95 Value. Read my Review.

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Give a Personalized Gift with Pizzazz with Picczles!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Photo PuzzleWe all have at least one person on our holiday gift list who is hard to shop for. Each year you rack your brain until it pounds trying to think of something meaningful and unique. Look no further because Picczle photo puzzles are the answer to your shopping prayers.

Picczle is an online store that manufacturers customized jigsaw puzzles from your favorite photo. It makes the best present, especially if you have buy a group gift. Here is a sample of gift ideas using Piczzle:
  • a keepsake for your bridesmaids
  • a teacher appreciation gift
  • a thank you gift for the babysitter/nanny
  • Christmas/Hanukkah gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles
I uploaded a picture of my kids from their first Halloween as siblings to the Picczle website. You can make a personalized jigsaw puzzles with as little as 6 pieces or as many as 2,000 pieces in Cardboard or Wood. They come in Rectangular, Heart-Shaped or Round Puzzles as small as 4.5 x 6.25 inches to a giant-sized 26.5 x 35.5 inches! They have so many design options to choose from including adding borders and text. The ordering process was super easy and shipping was super fast. I am so pleased with my cardboard picture puzzle. I had it cut in six pieces so that my preschooler could do it by herself. She was so proud that she put together the picture puzzle of her and her brother!

See what others are saying about Picczle:

Connect: Facebook

Buy It: Visit Picczle.com to place your order! Puzzles prices range from $14.95 to $289.95. Medium Cardboard Picture Puzzles are $21.95, plus $6.95 for shipping.

Win It: Come back December 1-15 for your chance to win a Small Cardboard Photo Puzzle with free shipping in the Winter Wonderland Hop! Hint: leave a comment for extra entries!

I received this review opportunity through Tomoson.com.

Convos from the Backseat #4

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm toying with a new meme inspired by my conversations in the car with my chatterbox in the backseat. I would like to make it a link-up too. Let me know what you think!

Monday's conversation while driving home from preschool...

Marlie: Are we going to see the fireman station?
Me: Yes, I always drive past the fire station on the way home.
Marlie: One time daddy and me went inside!
Me: Did you like it?
Marlie: Yep, but I was shy.
Me: What does shy mean?
Marlie: It means I was not happy.
Me: But I thought you liked going inside the fire station. I think shy means you didn't talk to the fireman.
Marlie: Oh.
Marlie: Do firemen like Popsicle?
Me: I'm sure they do.
Marlie: Can we make some Popsicle for the firemen right now?
Me: It's too cold for Popsicle.
Marlie: Why?
Me: It's winter and the firemen probably want stuff that keeps them warm like soup and hot cocoa.
Marlie: And spicy chicken?
Me: um, sure.
Marlie: I don't like spicy chicken cause it make my tongue hot and I tell daddy. But I like chicken without the spicy.
Me: Oh.

Enter to Win $74 Worth of Prizes in the #GreenChristmas Gift Giveaway!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Green Christmas GiveawayI have a couple of great green gifts for the eco-warrior on your holiday list! A ReUsies two-pack and a trio of Mira Mariu mineral makeup products!

Welcome to the Green Christmas Giveaway Hop, hosted by Happy Mothering, Going Green with Grizls and The Reynolds Mom. 50+ members of the Green Moms Network have come together to offer you tons of chances to win green-themed Christmas gifts! There’s sure to be something for everyone on your list. We hope you’ll discover some great new brands to add to your Christmas list too! Below my entry form, you'll see the other giveaways to enter as well as information about entering to win the Grand Prize!

My Prize Pack (US Only):

  • ReUsies reusable snack and sandwich bags in your choice of design. $16 value! Read My Review.
  • Mia Mariu Perfect Finishing Mineral Primer, Mineral Concealer and Mineral Cream Foundation in your shade. $58 value! Read My Review.
Our hosts are featuring 5 fabulous grand prize packages from these green and natural brands: For Your Bug-a-Boo, Blue Manatee Boxes, Bulk Herb Store, Snug Bug Diapers, Nosefrida, My Pretty Playhouse, Wonder Forge, Kelly Kits, Kerrific Online, LibreTea, Grounds for Change, Zulka Sugar, Justin's Nut Butters, Better Life, ReuseIt, Strawesome, generationMe, Soybu, Purely Gorgeous, A Mothers Design, Dr. Bronner's and Xmittens! Click here to enter the grand prize.
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This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to Happy Mothering, Going Green with the Grizls and The Reynolds Mom, and not to Facebook. Please note that Happy Mothering, Going Green with the Grizls, The Reynolds Moms and the Green Christmas Gift Giveaway bloggers are not responsible for sponsors that do not fulfill their prizes. We have represented each sponsor with the expectation they will fulfill their prize and in a timely manner. We will contact the sponsor regarding your prize(s). The sponsors, in most cases, are shipping their items to you directly. We will make every effort to assist you obtaining your prize. If there is an issue with a sponsor, please notify the blog you won a prize from within 4-6 weeks for assistance, after that we may be unable to assist you.
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