Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Leaf Day!!

Despite the near freezing temperatures, Chris decided today would be the day to clean up the yard.  The kids and I stayed inside while he used the blower and rake to make a huge pile of leaves.  Once he was done we all came outside and let the kids have at it.  They both loved it!  Zach was "swimming" in the leaves since they were so deep and it was pretty funny to watch him attempt to crawl through them.  Samantha just loved jumping around and throwing the leaves all over the place.  We only stayed outside of a little bit since it was so cold and then came in and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows!!

Bad B*tch Polish Giveaway

As I've hinted at before, I am a huge nail polish fan.  The other day my good friend Heather reviewed Bad B*tch Polish on her blog My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream. Now, she is giving you the chance to win a HUGE collection! You'll win everything in the photo below:
This is Dress Aflame, Live from the Capitol, Master of Ceremonies, Hunting Partner, Baker's Boy, Holly Jolly, Yule, Sugarplum Dreams, Salud, Night Lights, Roar, Pacific Beach, Meadow, Artemis, and Snowy Field. 
This is Dress Aflame, Live from the Capitol, Master of Ceremonies, Hunting Partner, Baker's Boy, Holly Jolly, Yule, Sugarplum Dreams, Salud, Night Lights, Roar, Pacific Beach, Meadow, Artemis, and Snowy Field.

These are awesome polishes because "All of her polishes are handcrafted in small batches.  They are vegan (so you know they are cruelty free) and they are also 3-Free which means that they don't contain Formaldehyde, Toluene, or DBP (which also makes them safe for pets!). Also, all of the pigments she uses are batch certified by the FDA."

If you don't want to wait to enter, or want to buy some of the new polishes she's come out with, you can do it for a good cause! Bad Bitch Polish is donating $1 per bottle sold to Operation #HelpConnieJo when you use code ICECREAM at checkout (which also gets you 10% off)! Also, until 12/2/2013 you can get a bottle free when you buy 4! Entering is easy! All you have to do is fill out the giveaway form below! The giveaway closes 12/10/2013 at midnight. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email letting them know they won, or a new winner will be picked. This blog is not responsible for prize shipment.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sensory Bin Take 4: The Magnet Bin

Last week we received our fourth sensory bin, The Magnet Bin.

This bin has a bean base and includes 4 magnetic wands, a magnetic horseshoe and a bunch of little bits and pieces that may or may not be magnetic.  Samantha started off this evening by moving a bunch of pieces by hand into the foil bowl.  Up until now, this has pretty much been the only way she would play with the bin. However here and there, she would use one of the wands to pick things up.

Also included was a book on magnets, "What Makes a Magnet?" by Franklyn M. Branley.  Tonight was the first time we attempted to read it.  Unfortunately, Samantha was tired so we didn't get through much.  I read the whole thing after Sam went to bed and it's a great book.  It teaches kids how to make their own compass and gives suggestions for things you can do with magnets.  I have a feeling we will try making a compass soon!

After reading I let her do some free playing in the bin while using the wand.  She thought it was so neat to wave the wand over the top of the items and watch them "jump" up and attach themselves to the magnet.

We then went on a little scavenger hunt around the main level of our house.  We chose different items to touch our magnets to and see what stuck.  We found that our bar stools, door knobs, hinges, and of course the fridge stuck.  Our kitchen island and cabinet doors were not magnetic.

We rounded out the evening by doing a magnetic vs. non-magnetic worksheet.  Samantha liked letting me hold the wand and then she would choose different items from her bowl to put on the magnet.  She would then tell me if they "did stick" or "didn't stick" and attempt to put them in the right column.  This was still a little difficult for her but we will keep working on it because she really did enjoy it.

While Samantha was putting the two yellow magnets on the sheet, she discovered that they can repel!  She LOVED this and got a huge kick out of making the magnets chase each other.

This has been such a fun bin and I'm sad we only have a few more days with it.  I definitely think I'll need to go and get some magnetic wands of our own so we can continue enjoying magnets after our turn is up!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Water WOW!

I feel like every time we are out shopping I am on the hunt for something budget friendly that can entertain the kids.  This afternoon, Samantha and I went to Target in search of a birthday present and came across something fantastic.  Nestled in the arts and crafts section were little Water WOW! books by Melissa and Doug for only $4.99!  Melissa and Doug is one of my very favorite companies when it comes to childrens products and I am a HUGE fan of their puzzles, stickers, and kitchen toys.  All of the Melissa and Doug products we own are such high quality so I knew this wouldn't disappoint.

They had four different packs: animals, vehicles, letters, and numbers.  Samantha chose the animals which didn't surprise me!  She was very eager to try it out so I opened it for her the second we got home from the store and she set to work.  (This picture was later on after bath!)

The book includes 4 blank pages to paint with the top of each page including a list of "seek and find" items. It comes with a brush which you fill with water and then you can go to town painting.  Samantha LOVED it. She seriously only stopped to eat dinner and take a bath.  Other than that, she was painting all night.

Even Zachary got in on the fun!

Once the water dries the pages become blank again so your kids can paint over and over.  I have a feeling that Samantha will get A TON of use out of this and I definitely plan on going back to pick up more packs for Christmas!  Thanks M&D for another stellar product!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Let's All #PayItForward and #HelpConnieJo!!!

I was recently contacted by a friend of mine about a friend of her father's who is in a great need of help this holiday season.  A bunch of bloggers are coming together to get Connie's story out there and help her save her home.  If you are financially unable to help out, that's okay!  Simply spreading the word and making more people aware of her situation is fantastic!!  Every little bit helps!

Here's her story, as told by a close friend: Connie is a disabled senior suffering from Lupus, related severe arthritis, circulatory issues, and is also diagnosed 70% deaf. Additionally, she suffers from permanent damage as a result of injuries that occurred during her former abusive marriage. She lives independently with her two 'therapy dogs', Dakota and Cochise, whom she loves dearly and considers her family. Her dogs provide her with emotional companionship, security, and are her 'ears', hearing such things as the doorbell, since she is unable to hear it herself. Prior to becoming disabled a few years ago, Connie was known to be a dedicated hard worker her entire life. She is a very compassionate, kind, caring and giving person. Throughout life she has often sacrificed her own needs for sake of helping family, many friends, and even strangers in need. She was the sole caregiver for her father when he was terminally ill, and cared for her younger brother when he was ill with kidney disease. Prior to his death in 2008, Connie offered to donate one of her kidney's to help her brother, but doctors determined he was not medically eligible for a transplant. She is also an animal lover, and has adopted countless neglected homeless dogs over the years, including 10 year old Dakota and 2 year old Cochise. In early 2009, a traumatic life transition began for Connie. Pshychologically broken, battered, and sick, Connie divorced her spouse after suffering a lengthy history of physical, pychological and financial abuse. The abuses by her former spouse continued after her divorce. She was advised by trauma doctors and legal professionals, to relocate to protect her physical and emotional well being. In late 2010, Connie courageously left behind the place she had known as home for almost 40 years. Along with her two beloved dogs, Connie relocated to Kansas City and began rebuilding a new life free of abuse, torment, and fear. Her former husband destroyed all financial security, so Connie sold a majority of her personal belongings and property to raise enough money so that she could afford to buy an inexpensive, modest, 2 bedroom home in Kansas City that is handicap and wheelchair accessible in a safe senior community. Despite disabling and painful physical challenges, for the past 3 years Connie has been slowly cleaning up the once run down house. She has proudly accomplished transforming a house in to a safe, peaceful, and comfortable 'home sweet home' for herself, Dakota, and Cochise. Connie's only personal source of income is her retirement/disability, which is a fixed income of less than $800.00 monthly. She is unable to supplement her income due to multiple disabilities and healthcare restrictions. Her former husband was court ordered to pay $600.00 monthly into a trust fund for Connie but he has not done so in violation of court orders. Her property taxes and insurance were to be paid from this special needs trust fund. Despite her financial limitations, Connie has frugally managed to pay her home's insurance premiums and for necessary basic home maintenance repairs, but she has not been able to pay her property taxes the past 3 years. She and her two beloved dogs, Dakota and Cochise, face the uncertainty of being homeless as of January 1st, 2014 if the past due property taxes on her home are not paid in full. The state of Missouri appears to have no resources or feasible programs available to help. Jackson County, Missouri has added almost $2,000.00 in penalties and interest on her past due taxes. The county has stated they will continue to charge interest on the unpaid taxes. Due to her fixed income and disabilities, she is unable to obtain a loan to pay her property taxes. She has no family financially able to help her, and all other efforts made to pay the past due taxes have been unsuccessful. Hoping for a Christmas miracle, we're now turning to her friends and fellow human beings asking for your help to prevent Connie, Dakota, and Cochise from losing their home. If we can raise $10,000.00, we can pay the past due property taxes, penalty, interest, and pay an additional 2 years home taxes in advance. This plan will allow Connie to live securely in her handicap accessible home another 5 years, at which time her monthly fixed income should increase. At 62 she'll be eligible for additional income through her Social Security, and should then be able to pay her home's property taxes herself. The money raised will be securely deposited in to Connie's trust fund, and the trust will directly pay her property taxes to Jackson County, Missouri. Any additional money raised over our goal of $10,000.00, will also be deposited in to Connie's trust fund to help pay future property taxes, insurances, necessary home repairs, such as if her hot water heater would need replaced, or to provide necessary veterinary care for her beloved dogs. Connie is a very proud humble person, and not the type of person who would ask others for help. Rather, she is the one always helping others, but this time she desperately needs our help, to save her safe and secure handicap accessible home from property tax foreclosure.

You guys... it will NOT be that hard to save Connie's life as she knows it if we work together. We can give this woman everything she deserves, and more. And what a better way to pay it forward this holiday season than giving to someone who would give to any of you in a heartbeat!

There are a few ways you can help: 1. Share this post EVERYWHERE. Facebook, Twitter, wherever you can think of. If you are a blogger I give you full permission to copy parts of this post to put on your own blog. Getting the word out will help more than anything.

2. You can donate via Paypal:
(Note: If this button isn't working, you can send funds via Paypal to You don't have to have a Paypal account to do this. You can do this with a debit or credit card, just like any other online purchase.

3. If you'd prefer to send cash, checks, or money orders via snail mail rather than online, you can send them to: Help for Connie 2816 NW Kingsridge Dr. Blue Springs, MO 64015 Wal-Mart gift cards are also helpful, as her income is limited and this will help her to be able to buy the essentials so that she can save more money to put aside to save her house.

4. Check out the event on facebook!!  Click on Operation#HelpConnieJo and check out ways you can do holiday shopping and help Connie at the same time.  There are tons of vendors that are donating a portion of each purchase to the #HelpConnieJo fund.

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read, donate, and spread the word.  Connie and her friends appreciate it more than you will ever know!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rockabye Baby! Review and Giveaway!!!

Back in August of 2011, I was introduced to Hushabye Baby when I won a contest on my friend Lindsay's blog.  After receiving my lullaby renditions of Dolly Parton I was left wanting more so I set to google to see what was available.  I found out that Hushabye Baby was the country cousin to Rockabye Baby! and when I checked out their website I was instantly in love.  With nearly over 50 CD's to choose from there is something for everyone.

I slowly started a little collection for us which now includes The Beatles, Bon JoviElvis, and Queen.  I was obsessed!  As a matter of fact while I was in the hospital having Zachary he went to the nursery one day and upon bringing him back the nurse told us a funny little story.  There were a few babies in the room and they were all screaming.  The nurses decided to switch off the classical music they were playing and put on the Beach Boys.  Once the music changed every single one of the babies stopped crying.  I knew I had to have a Beach Boys CD.  Luckily for me, Rockabye Baby does have a Beach Boys CD!!  When Zachary was 4 days old I hurriedly ordered it and it has been a favorite ever since.

This past week, I have had the awesome opportunity to review Rockabye Baby!'s Lullaby Renditions of Elton John.  The CD features 12 full length songs that have been turned into lullabies. This CD did not disappoint and I must admit, I found myself listening to it even when the kids weren't around!  Some of the songs include: Tiny Dancer, Crocodile Rock, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I even enjoyed the rendition of Benny and the Jets, which is a song I typically hate to listen to.  There honestly wasn't a song on here that I didn't like.

One cute aspect of these CD's are the little pamphlets that are included.  The main pamphlet is full of activities for the kids to do.  Samantha isn't quite old enough to do them yet, but I will definitely keep it for when she get solder.  There is also a sheet that contains a recipe to make a baby food creatively named after something to do with the artist.  The recipe we got is called "Carrot Man", so cute!!

I seriously cannot say enough good things about Rockabye Baby!  These CD's have been there for us through thick and thin and we listen to them all the time!  They are especially helpful when going to visit my family in Chicago and Chris's family in Connecticut.  The CD's provide soothing music that helps the kids sleep and I am still able to hum along.  I love that they are fun upbeat songs turned into lullaby's and not the boring Twinkle Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb on endless repeat.  It's actually pretty refreshing.  Ever since the time change a few weeks ago Zach has decided that between 4-5:00 is the best time to wake up.  I must say I don't agree but he is up and ready to go like clockwork.  Our routine is to come downstairs and I relax while Zach plays.  Now we've added our Rockabye Baby! into the mix and rather than having the tv going (I thrive on background noise) we can enjoy the calming sounds of Elton John.  Even if it doesn't put Zach back to sleep, I definitely think it helps us get our day off to a good start and the soothing sounds always help me feel more calm and refreshed.

I can't wait to add more music to our collection!  On October 29th, Rockabye Baby!'s newest CD came out featuring lullaby renditions of Nickelback.  This CD, plus many others, can be purchased directly from Rockabye Baby! for $16.98 or as an MP3 album on iTunes for $11.99.  I have done both in the past and I definitely prefer having the actual CD.  My husbands car doesn't have an aux port so it's always frustrating when I can't plug in my iPod to listen to my music.  I am so excited to share that Rockabye Baby! has graciously offered to let one of my lucky readers win a CD of their choice.

This giveaway will be open until 12:00 am on 11/25 and is open to US residents only.  All entries will be verified so please make sure you've done what the entry asks or your entry will not count!  Have fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Handprints (and footprints!) are the Way to my Heart!

For as long as I can remember, handprint and footprint crafts have been one of my favorite things.  I did this a ton when I nannied and knew I would do it with my own kids as well.  I have always wanted to do clay impressions of the kids as I think they are so beautiful and a great keepsake to have.  Chris has gone out of his way to help make this happen, but it's never turned out how I wanted.  If at all!  We bought baby books when Samantha was born but the hospital only had "special ink" that was clear so it wouldn't work in our book.  Did we ever get those prints once we got home?  Of course not!  We got a picture frame that came with the ink.  Did we do that?  Again, no!  When Samantha was a few months old I went with my sister-in-law to a local pottery painting place and made a gorgeous plate with Samantha's perfect footprint on it.  On my last trip to Chicago, Chris knocked it off the wall and shattered it into a million pieces.  (And didn't tell me about it, but left it sitting on the shelf for me to find once I returned!!)  For Christmas, he bought me canvases and those sit untouched in the basement.  I was starting to feel like I would never get my prized prints.

A few months ago I learned that a mom in our playgroup has her own business Tiny Prints and Paws that she co-runs with her friend. Then, I knew it was time to call in the big guns!  They were doing an open house and I jumped at the opportunity to finally get the plates I had so long been wanting.  We went to their house and did the impressions and had SO much fun.  Samantha talked about doing handprints for weeks after.  I think she would have done them all day if we'd let her.  I had tons of colors to choose from which for me was super difficult but we finally got our plates back this week and I couldn't be any happier with my choices. Simply put, they are stunning!!

When I ordered they had a special deal going where you got 2 free ornaments for each plate ordered.  I decided to get each child their own plate so that they could hang them in their rooms.  I chose a bright turquoise blue for Zach which I absolutely love.

For Samantha, I chose a light speckled pink.  I wasn't sure about this one at first, but on the completed plate, it's awesome!

I chose a few different colors for the ornaments and I completely happy with all of them!

I am so happy I purchased these keepsakes and I definitely plan on coming back for more.  Once we are finished having kids, I would LOVE to have a sibling plate made with all of their prints.  With many different styles and colors to choose from, there is something for everyone.  I think for my sibling plate, I will chose their two tone design.  The background is white and each child can pick their favorite color for their handprint and name!

For the month of November, Tiny Prints and Paws is offering 1 free ornament with the purchase of any other item (classic & sibling plates, ornaments).  Order now and they will be here in time for Christmas!

In addition, this Sunday Tiny Prints and Paws is pairing with Cedar Box Photography for an awesome event. Cedar Box is offering 15 minute mini sessions for $20!!  Within two weeks you will receive 2-5 images on a disk with complete rights to the files!  Tiny Prints and Paws will be on site to do impressions that will be here for Christmas!  What a great deal.  You can find Tiny Prints and Paws on facebook and message them for all the details including available times and location.

If you are a parent in the Northern Virginia area, Tiny Prints and Paws is a must do!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sensory Bin Take 3: The Yellow Bin

These past two weeks we've been the proud "owners" of the yellow sensory bin!  (In case you noticed there was no Take 2, we were on vacation for the first week of that round and Samantha was super sick for the majority of the second week.  Thankfully, the owner of that awesome bin said we can play with it again after the rotation is over!)

Here is the yellow bin!  It has a base of beans and is filled with all sorts of yellow goodies.  There is a strainer, cups, a monster truck, spoon, measuring cup, brush, and a few other little odds and ends.

My favorite part of this bin is that it is so simple!  I find with busy bins, Samantha will easily get distracted and try to play with all the components at once, which makes it hard to stick to a certain goal.  Tonight we did transferring with the spoon both into the small bowl and into the measuring cup.

She was very focused on moving the beans without spilling any.

My goal was to move 10 beans into the measuring cup but that didn't happen.  I showed her how to move the beans one by one but she wanted to take giant handfuls!!  She did count to 10 and stopped after she added the 10 scoops.  She also enjoyed dumping all the beans back into the bin.

Tonight we also played with the monster truck on the floor.  Thankfully Zach was already asleep when we brought this out because he would have loved it!

This has been such a fun bin!  Oh and another plus, the beans are nice and big so it makes for easy clean up when some (or all) of the beans inevitably end up on the floor!!  Thanks T for this great yellow bin!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Had a Visitor!

Yesterday my car was almost out of gas and I didn't have time to stop and get more so we ended up taking Chris's car to "Jesus class".  Chris didn't have any car seats installed so he put one in for me before we left, but unfortunately Samantha's pacifier didn't make it in with her seat.  The cued a meltdown of epic proportions on our way to class.  Seriously...she screamed the entire 15 minutes drive there.  About 3/4 of the way there I decided that that was enough and it was time to take away the paci.  Samantha is 2.5 now and in my opinion, is old enough to not need to rely so heavily on the paci.

Samantha was a very colicy baby and as a consequence, we used the paci a lot.  It was one of the only things that calmed her down.  To start, it was just when she was sleeping.  Then stupid me said "look how cute she is sucking her paci" and encouraged her to use it all the time.  What a mistake!!  A while back though we broke that habit, and now she only takes the paci for naps/bedtime and while we are driving in the car.  She can typically do okay without it in the car, however if she is tired it's a completely different story!!

I talked to her in the car about the Schnuller Fairy (we call the paci a schnuller) and said that the Schnuller Fairy was going to come over night and take all her pacis to babies who needed them.  She seemed pretty on board and was good about saying "no more schnullers" and "no crying".  I didn't have high hopes but I figured we'd try it out.

Before bed we collected all her pacis from her bed, 7 of them!!!, and put them on the landing for the Schnuller Fairy.  She happily waved goodbye to them and then we headed in to her room.

Of course, the first thing she did was run to her bed and frantically look around saying, "Where's my schnuller?"  I told her again that we put them outside for the Schnuller Fairy and she seemed okay.  I read her two books and then put her to bed.  Then the fun began!  She was NOT a happy camper.  She kept sitting up and slamming her head into her pillow and I could tell she was very restless.  Thankfully only a little crying but nothing awful.  I went up once and laid with her and she was fine while I was in there, but as soon as I left, she got upset again.  Finally after 30 minutes my husband had had enough and he went up and gave her two of the pacis back.  Can you guess what happened next?  She instantly fell asleep.

Our plan for now is to keep her at 2 pacis and see how she does.  We originally had more so that if she lost one in the night there was always another close by.  We won't keep her at 2 for long though and will either remove one or both of them next.  Hopefully it goes a little smoother.  Maybe if I lay with her longer.

When she woke up this morning there was a note waiting for her!

She found it right away and was very excited to see what it said!

Samantha was all smiles as we read the note and seemed excited at the idea of a little surprise once all her pacis are gone.  Hopefully it won't be much longer!

Did you have a paci addicted kid?  How did you get them to break the habit?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hump Daaaaay!

Today is Wednesday which means it is "Jesus class" day!!  A friend of ours from playgroup goes to a local church that has an amazing class for 2-3 year olds each week called "Toddling Time With Jesus".  Each week we begin with a song about the Bible that Samantha loves.  I wish I could give credit but I have no idea where the teacher got it and I can't find it online.  It goes like this (to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat):

This is God's special book,
yes it's God's book you see.
I learn about all God has done
and his love for me.

This is repeated twice and at the end we all raise our hands and yell BIBLE!  After our song we move to a storyboard which goes over the story of the month.  There are 3 different sides and the kids get to take turns coming up to point out various pieces of the pictures.  Samantha loves this part!  After the story we all stand in a circle and sing a few songs that have lots of actions and motions to go along with them.  It's so cute to watch all the kids moving around.  We sang a really cute song today, but I can't remember it at all. Hopefully we will sing it again next week and I can remember it!  After singing, they all move to the reading corner where the teacher reads a few books.  Then, Samantha's favorite part, craft and snacks.

Today, we made scarecrows and our snack was pretzels pretending to be bails of hay.  So cute!

I love "Jesus Class" and Samantha looks forward to going to it every week.  One of the huge perks of this class is that it is free!!  How awesome.  We are so grateful to have this wonderful opportunity.

After class we headed home for a quick lunch and then it was off to the movies.  We had a new movie theater open up on Monday in the town over from us.  To celebrate, they were having a $2 special.  $2 tickets, $2 popcorn, and $2 pop.  Can't beat that!  We let Samantha choose the movie and she, of course, chose Planes.  She was super excited to see it again.

The theater was very nice and clean.  The screens were HUGE and the seats were also very comfortable.  I definitely give this theater an A.  Much nicer than the one in our town and I have a feeling we will be driving the extra little bit to return to this theater in the future.  It was so nice to get out and do something together as a family.  Even if it meant missing nap time and meltdowns of epic proportions from both kids once we got home!

We left and I ran into Kohls quick to look for pants and came outside to a gorgeous sunset!!  We have been getting these a lot lately and I just love it.  There is something about a beautiful sunset that is just so cathartic, I see one and my worries just melt away.  How can you not be awestruck by their beauty?   Life is so good!

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns,
where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8