It's a Wrap

When my firstborn was a baby, his favorite soothing spot was in someone's arms. By the end of Jack's third month, I was a professional at one-handed tasks. Loading the dishwasher. Feeding the dogs. Emptying the trash. Making the bed. I had a Jeep baby carrier, but it didn't fit his standards. He preferred to be tightly squeezed. And mostly rocking. All. Day. Long.

Now toting around my second baby, I've learned a few tricks-of-the-trade. The little niche details that make wrangling kids a little easier. Like the importance of a bottle warmer. Benefits of only rocking until their eyelids flutter. Just before sleep. And, the most valuable item I wish I had with Jack - the Moby Wrap.

Ella is very chill. Lounges on the floor. Talks to the lights. Smiles even when you're not looking. Ah, second babies. Despite her laid-back demeanor, she occasionally wants to be apart of the action. Quietly watch her brother crash trucks. Let the wind breeze through her diminishing baby hair. Or grunt in delight at the ability to flex her muscles through the air as if she's superwoman. 

I do love the Baby Bjorn carrier, but nothing suctions Ell close quite like the Moby. She's connected. Wrapped so tightly, I can do mostly everything. Vacuum the carpet. Wash Jack's hands. Reach towels on the top shelf. Everything short of cleaning the toilets.  

And when I'm not wearing Ella, I can leave it on without looking totally awkward. Makes grocery shopping with two kids a cinch. Well, easier anyway.

Thanks to my bro- and sis- in-laws for being hipster parents and letting us borrow the Moby and Bjorn. Although I don't think either have saved our lives quite like it saved theirs. But, it sure simplifies things. And makes Ella extremely happy.

Do you have a favorite baby carrier? How has it helped you?


Adding Flare to His Backpack

Jack is a collector. Well, more like a hoarder. The 2.5-year-old has a special fancy for accumulating things. Things that match. Then, he separates them. By object, texture, animal, color or whatever way best eases his mind.

Most days he spends completing such tasks. Collecting. Sorting. Collecting. Sorting.

Recently I discovered Gutzy Gear, which offers tiny patches that allow Jack to take his collecting fascination to preschool with him. A few of his personal passions in life. Frogs, dogs and dragons. His personalized flare to display on his backpack.

Gutzy Gear literally allows kids to wear their heart on their sleeves and express their unique personalities and passions. Kids can collect and stick patches on their backpacks. With a collection of hundreds of patches, aka “Gutzies,” to choose from, Gutzy Gear offers kids the opportunity to collect, trade and show off Gutzies. 

His mouth dropped when they arrived. A big gasp. Now if only he’d keep them on his backpack, they may actually make it to preschool. Regardless, he’s got something new to stack and tote around. Gutzies. And we can plug his obsession with more patches in the future or, possibly, a Gutzy party for his friends. “Oh yeaaaahhh,” as Jack would say.

Add a little flare to your kids' backpack, and visit www.gutzygear.com for more information. And check them out on Facebook! Let them know you heard it here first. And be sure to keep me posted on your Gutzy experience. What do you think about hosting a Gutzy party? Nifty alternative to a typical party?


Snapshot Series: Splashes and Walls

The post below is part of my Snapshot Series, an e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I'll share the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have this to remember. Read the series intro here.

Jack: 2.5 years
Ella: 3 months, 3 weeks

Last week Ella discovered she can splash. Lounging in the bold blue whale bath, arms flapping as a penguin’s flippers. Her petite foot, toes curled in, jabbed at the water. She looked down. Focus in her eyes. Unsure of what just happened. Then she sent her legs out in tangents. Little feet sending droplets everywhere. Covering her face. The mirror and towels surrounding the tub. Her face beaming with delight. Eyes smiling. Lips shaped in an O.

Since then her legs have become her most favorite tool. Straightening them constantly. Pointing toes like a ballerina. Within seven days, her skinny little legs have become so strong she’s able to lift her tiny bottom off the ground. Almost pushed herself out of the bouncer once.  A new favorite activity is standing. Supported under the arms, she locks her knees and elbows. Shooting her body into a back-and-forth sway of bobbles. A tiny dancer.

Two days ago, Jack mastered the playset climbing wall. He’s been attempting the task since the set was built 1.5 years ago. My determined little boy. His feet and hands gripping each “rock” tightly until he’s inches from the top. Then, he eagerly pulls himself up past the last few. Too gritty to take his time.

I position my hand behind his back, anticipating a fall.
“No Mommy, me do it myself,” he says with fortitude.

I start to wonder if this is how it will be forever. Jack wanting to do more. Me not wanting to let him go. Missing my baby with each forward step. But so proud of the person he’s growing into.

And within two tries, Jack succeeded the rock wall. Luckily, this warmer-than-normal March weather in Michigan has allowed him to fine-tune the skill. By the day’s end, he’s climbing like an seasoned professional

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Baby Girl Nursery: The Purple in Peacock

When I started planning Ella's nursery, I was determined to create a room without any pink. Not that I don't like pink. I just figured purple could offset all the pink she wears. And I desired a different nursery. Something unique. Beautiful. And soft.

Ella's nursery is detailed with peacock purples, feathers and patterns. It's delicate and distinctive with just enough girl. The peacock theme started with the nursery blanket I purchased on Etsy and unraveled into paisley-themed patterns and tiny peacocks peeking around.

The glass shelf was left behind from the office that was once was. As soon as Ella sits, the shelf will have to go. But for now, it's a little spot for all things small. The peacock was a gift from her Godmother before she was born. It's the first thing she smiled at. And continues to laugh at it  today.

I stuffed a few peacock feathers from Michael's Arts &Crafts into a vase. Collected her tiny bows and ribbons in a plastic jar. And complete the space with an "E," a gift from her Nonna S.
The changing table necessities. I've had the wooden basket since high school. Never thought I'd be using it to hold baby lotion, powders and supplies.
My favorite piece of the room. The one-of-a-kind wood painted peacock by an amazingly talented artist friend, Kris Caster. Props to my brother-in-law for friending such an awesome person. Ella says thanks.

Caster founded Artcasters, which offers a unique experience for events - live painters. Not the kind that draw big heads on small bodies. But the kind that creates masterpieces of elegant color and creativity. His upscale live painting performances have been featured at top notch local places and events across metro-Detroit. And obviously he also offers personalized gift ideas, paintings and pieces to capture the special moments in life. Check it out at www.artcasters.com.

Another favorite of mine. The lamp shade cover, also a gift from her Godmother. The peacock-inspired design was custom-made by the Etsy shop, Dress a Shade.
As a second-time Mom, I knew the high need of burp clothes. For spitting. Wiping faces. Tummy time. And lots of other baby happenings. I found this basket at Home Goods. Fit perfectly on the bedside table.
Tiny peacocks in every little detail. The light switch cover was a gift from a best friend.

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A Gift of Smiling Toys

My 11-month-old feisty nephew Milo was baptized this past weekend. In true color, I wanted to get a creative gift. Something he would use. Personalized to his uniqueness. And, a symbol of his tinyness that his parents could enjoy for a lifetime. 

Clicking through Etsy, I discovered Smiling Tree Toys, featuring organic wood toys and personalized wooden blocks. The ideal solution for Milo’s perfect baptism gift.

I settled on the personalized wooden blocks for Milo. And, added with a few others to my “favorites” for Jack and Ella. Easter basket finds maybe? I quickly emailed the owners, Justin and Kathleen, to see if they could ship my order within a day. It was Tuesday. I needed the blocks by Sunday. Kathleen responded immediately, the blocks would arrive by Friday. Smiles all the way.

Thankful for their politeness in meeting my needs. A heavy admiration for the trendy and eco-friedly toys they sell. Double bonus. Because the shop owner carries the same name as my husband. I picture him just as handy. And because I’ve desperately fallen in love with their products. I thought I’d share a little more about the adorable Minnesota-based shop.

Justin and Kathleen started Smiling Tree Toys to support their family by bringing joy to others in the form of Mother Nature. The family donates a portion of each sale to Peace Corps youth projects. Insert warm fuzzies here.

The shop features grain patterns, colors and silky smooth organically finished hardwood toys.

“We do everything in our power to keep our environmental footprint very small,” says Kathleen. “We like to think that all of the earth-friendly things we do brings a smile to the trees we use.”

They purchase locally sourced and FSC-certified wood. All package materials are eco-friendly as well. Recycled cardboard boxes, wood chip fillers and biodegradable bubble wrap. They use certified organic camelina oil and beeswax grown on their family’s land to complete the organic finish. Seriously. It can’t get better.

Justin does the woodworking, but both “hold a deep admiration for trees and natural life.” Inspiration comes mainly from their daughter, Amana, but mostly in every day things.

For more about Smiling Tree Toys visit their blog, and obviously, their Etsy shop. Smiles!

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Cookie Monster's Mini Meatloaves

Jack is out little chef. So, I'm always looking for recipes that he can sink his hands into. Creations he'll actually eat. And, meals with real nutritional value. 

My Mom gave me Sesame Street's C is for Cooking, Recipes from the Street book when Jack was first starting solids. Now 2 1/2 years into his life, I actually tried it out. 

Justin was very hesitant when I mentioned I was cooking the meat loaves. First, he's the house head cook. Second, meat loaf is not the first recipe I should attempt. And third, something about a kid's recipe book just didn't sound tasteful.

To our surprise, Cookie Monster knows more than cookies. He's got a mean meat loaf. 

Cookie Monster's me-love-mini-meat-loaves

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes 4 - 6 servings (8 mini-meat loaves)

- 1 egg
- 1 lb. ground meat
- 1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 onion, grated
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Additional ketchup for topping (optional)
- Cooking spray/Vegetable oil

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat eight muffin cups with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray.

Step 2
Crack the egg into a small bowl. Remove any small egg shell pieces. In a large bowl, combine meat, oatmeal, onion, carrot, egg, ketchup, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. With clean hands or a wooden spoon, mix until well blended.

Step 3
Divide the mixture up into eight equal-sized balls.

Step 4 - Here's where the kids come in!
Place a ball of meat into each muffin cup and press down lightly. If you like, brush the top of each mini loaf with ketchup. Or make smiley faces.

Step 5
Bake until meat loaves are no longer pink in the center (about 20-25 minutes).

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From the Desk of Mom

I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to baby belongings. Only toting around the bare essentials. Our house uncluttered of objects that only see a week of play. No grocery shopping cart cover. No double stroller. No wipe warmer. Just the things we need to survive. Literally.

Little miss Ella joined me at the office today. She’s my easy-going baby that makes working while caring for her simple. I type. She coos at her toy. I answer the phone. She snoozes in the car seat.

So, I thought I’d share what I packed up to make the day a breeze. The Ella necessities to get by. The pink and tiny things occupying my personal workspace right now:

- Soft blanket (for napping)
- Boppie (for feeding so I can be hands free)
- Bouncer (for awake time, so I can still work)
- Diapers & Wipes
- Small changing pad
- Change of clothes
- Couple burp clothes
- Soft bird and rattle bunny toys (her two favorites)
- Little Giraffe blanket (another fav for play. And sleep)

Needless to say, I still felt like my entire house joined me at work today. The changing station on my round table. Poppy on the extra chair. Diaper bag on my desk. And Ella snoozing at my feet. Making today a not-so-bad workday. Smiles!

Ella propped on my desk


Snapshot Series: Tuning In

When Jack was a baby, I recorded all his milestones and silliness in a journal. I'd write daily on the things he was doing. So, today I'm starting the Snapshot Series, an e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I'll share the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have this to remember. 

Jack: 2.5 years
Ella: 3 months

I’m inhaling my kids lately. I noticed Jack’s laugh change. Sounds more devilish. Ella's obsessed with grabbing toys. Would spend hours on the play mat, talking to little birds. Slowly closing her tiny fingers around them. I think I've finally gripped onto life again or my husband is finally pitching in. Maybe it’s a combination.

A few nights ago, Jack struggled to go to bed. In typical toddler form, he tricked us into an hour routine of turning on lights, turning off lights, changing shirts, using the potty, reading another book, laying down, switching pillows, getting toys to sleep with and so on. Finally he requested to lay in our bed. Fine. We'd just move him when we actually made it to bed

Justin checked him later, found him in bed. TV on. 
Justin asked, "you okay buddy?" 
Jack faked sleeping. 

Shortly after, I went in to find the TV blaring. 
"That's really loud buddy, Ella's trying to sleep." I'm astonished that he actually turned on the TV. And the sound??!! I turned it down.
"Can't hear it," Jack whines.
I tell him to go to bed and leave the room. Baffled. 

After discussing with Justin, we realized our little two-year-old isn't so little anymore. He turned on the TV. Flipped to a cartoon. Then turned up the volume! And when Justin checked on him, Jack thought he'd gotten away with it. Justin thought I'd turned it on and let him be. Apparently our little toddler can sometimes outsmart us.

I always said I couldn't wait for the day when he could accomplish such tasks. But now that it's here, I'd like to turn around. He's growing into a boy way to fast.

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