Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Oh, Morning Rush...

Finding the perfect school and/or daycare is only half the battle for families these days. Figuring out a routine that works for you and your littles is the biggest obstacle most Mama's & Dada's face. The morning rush never gets easier in our household, but I've found ways to cope and make it...dare I say...enjoyable?

Picking a daycare was an easy decision for us. Since I work for a very flexible company in the Valley, it made the most sense for Tot to be closer to Mama during the day. While my hours are long, they can be completed from almost anywhere and that makes my commute much much easier. But, living so far away from school/work can be daunting for a parent having to make that drive in and out every single day. I have Mama's here at work ask me all the time...no, really how DO you do it? Organization and a positive attitude about it - that's how we get through! Yes, an hour + in traffic each way can be a death-sentence for a Mama with a little one in the backseat, but staying disciplined in your routine and bringing along the proper resources is key.

When you're driving, it's hard to calm a screaming baby. Trust me, I've been there...like every other Monday. But, having things you can quickly pass back to them is essential. I always have our basket of soothers, treats, and bottles on the middle console. Here are a few of the necessities I have:


This grey canvas organizer from Pottery Barn Kids is what we use - easy to wash when the milk spills everywhere and compact enough to sit right next to you on the drive.

Teething Toys

All Mama's are familiar with Sophie the Giraffe, but did you know there was a smaller teething version? Perfect to fit in our basket of goodies and to pass back when little one gets fussy!
Found via Pottery Barn Kids

Munchkin has a ton of great toys at a low price that are compact and easy to bring along on your commute. The Twisty Teether is one of our favorites. 
Found via Munchkin 

Sippy Cups

While our spill-proof straw cup is great for at home use, trying to pass it over to Tot during the drive is nearly impossible. After spilling a couple cups of apple juice all over me, we finally found a sippy cup that works perfect to pass over to Tot and won't spill all over our Uppababy car seat. Tervis is a favorite in our house-hold, I mean we have one in all our SEC favorites. But, we recently discovered that they also do sippy cups so I picked one up right away (and yes, I'm a huge Hogs fan..WPS!)

Tot loves her music so curating the perfect playlist for our sing-a-longs to and from school was essential. As part of the Apple Music Family plan, you're able to design playlists that fit your needs. With only a few simple searches - Apple helped us develop a list of tunes from Disney to Sesame Street that are both educational and exciting for Tot to babble away to. 

Before Tot started school, I searched high & low for the right storage bags for her to bring to school. Her cubicle in her class is pretty small so her diaper bag just wasn't an option for us (though it always comes along for the trip just in case...Mama's know those days). I needed something to keep her filled bottle cool and her snacks from spilling everywhere. One of my favorite organization stores is Toss Designs - accessible to everyone via their online store. 

Since I typically pack a book & stuffy for Tot at school, we picked up a larger tote to carry everything including our bottle bag from Toss. The fun thing about Toss Designs is that you can customize all your bags with a quick monogram and they're waterproof! Probably the easiest bags to clean, we also use these for our beachside adventures in St. Thomas USVI but, that's for another post. 

Found via www.tossdesigns.com

While most of Tot's formula is at school, we still bring a full bottle for the car ride and stick that in the bottle bag for emergencies. I needed something insulated to help keep it cool and compact so that I could fill her bag with all her bottles for school and stick in her cubby. Toss Designs came to the rescue with this great insulated lunch box that fits the bill, and it can also be personalized in a variety of colors and patterns. I fill this bag the night before so our mornings run much smoother! 
Found via www.tossdesigns.com

While none of these tools really make commuting with your little one easier, being organized and upbeat are key to any daily routine! Arming yourself with the best toys and snacks make any adventure with your Tots simplified. What does your morning routine look like? Do you have a long commute in? Share with us on Instagram and in the comments below! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Halloween, Valentines, Easter...OH MY!

As a new Mama and with Tot in full-time daycare, I feel like our world is already spinning without the added pressure of holidays. The Mr. will be the first to tell you how much I love holidays - I really  do. I'll take any excuse to decorate our teeny tiny apartment with decorations galore. From garland to confetti, I just love to celebrate holidays.

But, I find the added pressure of having a little one in school makes holidays an even bigger deal. Am I right? I don't get to spend all day with Tot so I want to make sure when I can contribute to her life at school, I truly delve all in. I want to be the Extraordinary Bake Sale Mama and somehow stay sane at work - it's a difficult balance that I'm still struggling with, but taking one day at a time (that's for another post altogether...)

I went a bit overboard on the first few holidays this year at daycare and realized I just couldn't keep up with the pace. This Mama is on a budget (we're house-hunting....dun dun dun) so I needed an easier way to help spread the holiday cheer with Tot without breaking the bank and then some.
Every day, I pass that $1 bin at Target and typically keep walking. Not because I don't love a deal, but because I might get sucked in and purchase everything! Buying the contents of the entire aisle won't help my iron-clad budget...yikes. But, for Easter I decided to take a new approach and jump into the $1 chaos at Target, and boy am I glad I did. I found the mecca of Easter treats for Tot at both school and home, plus a few things to throw into her diaper bag (i.e. bubbles). Take a sneak peek into the financially friendly Easter items I picked up and you can too at your local Target! 

Easter Baskets
A $1 find - these baskets will be perfect for Tot to collect her sparkly eggs in. After Easter, I can either throw these in storage or decorate them to add as storage in her room. This Mama cannot have enough storage! For a few extra dollars, you can splurge with these adorable felt baskets ($3.00)
Add some Easter Crinkle Grass and you're set for your hunt ($1.00)...


Part of the fun of every holiday is adding a few decorations to our home. Growing up Catholic, Easter was an extra special time for us and my Mom always went out of her way to remind of us the reason for this specific holiday, but to also join in on the cultural fun. I am always striving to do the same for Tot. While we may not have a big place for her to call home, it is home and I'm constantly searching for new ideas to fill our kitchen island with. Target had the perfect solution for Easter with these handy dandy decorations!

Garland (by Spritz - $3.00)

Lanterns (by Spritz $5.00)
These are definitely going up in Tot's room post-Easter. The pink & gold ones match perfectly!

Wreath (by Spritz $3.00)
Gel Clings - Easter Style (by Spritz $2.00)
Gold Decorative Egg Bowl ($7.00)
Until Sunday, I've filled this decorative bowl with the sparkly pink & gold Easter eggs and Easter treats & signs. 

Easter Photo Props

If you're throwing an Easter party or attending one yourself, bring along these photo props for a fun kid activity! 

Light Pink Tassel ($3.00) + Party Supplies Collection ($10.00-15.00)

Shhhhhh don't tell Tot, but I will definitely be re-using some of these supplies for her 1st birthday coming up in less than a month (AH)! 

Easter Eggs

Tot's school asked each family to fill a dozen decorative eggs with peanut-free treats for their school Easter Egg hunt. Most Mama's know this, but searching for peanut-free snacks is like trekking Mount Everest. It's an unfathomable challenge and my heart breaks for the little ones with nut allergies (you Mama's struggling with this are one of a kind). Luckily, there were lots of wonderful sites available and I was able to gather some things to include in her school Easter eggs. 

Easter Eggs (by Spritz $5)

Everyone needs a little sparkle in their life, especially during an Easter egg hunt!

Peeps (3/$2)

Surf Sweets Jelly Beans ($2.39)
Yumearth Organic Gummy Bears ($2.50)
Bubbles ($0.94)

And, stickers because we don't need to fill their tummy with too much candy!

From these pictures I was sent from her school, it's needless to say that as a Mama - seeing those adorable little bunny ears bounce around the classroom make all the planning & egg-filling worth it. I can't wait to surprise her little self with an Easter egg hunt at the local park after a morning filled with homemade banana pancakes this weekend. Is it Friday yet?

I hope you and yours have a delightful Easter weekend and your little ones giggle their way through Monday with bellies filled with treats! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Can you please just EAT?

I don't know about you, but I have a very picky eater at home (besides myself). She seriously gives me this face every time I ask her to try something new before typically pushing it aside. Did I mention her first word was "NO." She gets it from her Mama, that's for sure.
Since birth, we've had a tough time keeping weight on our little one. I mean, she's long & lanky like her Daddy so we expected a bit of difficulty in keeping her within her weight range for her age, but it's still been a process that we've always had to keep an eye on. When time came for Tot to switch from formula full-time (yes - the dreaded formula word, but more on that in another post) to solids - I really wanted to do my research to find the best way to chunk up our little one in the healthiest way possible.

I'm certainly not one of those organic moms, but I am diabetic and do try to eat as healthy as humanely possible (it helps when your next door neighbor is Whole Foods). When I was pregnant, I focused 100% on what I was feeding my body so that Tot received only the strongest of nutrients and I pledged to do the same throughout her life. For the Mama's that make home-made baby food - bless you, you're wonder women. I started this food adventure hoping I would be able to do the same, but with schedules and toddling babies causing havoc in the kitchen - it has been a pie in the sky dream of mine. But, that doesn't mean that I haven't done my research! Picky eaters are tough, but over the past few months - I've relied on a few tips & tricks to get us through this solid transition.


The first piece of advice I received was having your little one suddenly put down the bottle and eat 2-3 meals a day is nearly impossible. Instead, work on transitioning them to solids through small snacks you can offer once or twice a day. The majority of getting your Tot to love food is to demonstrate the independence they have in not needing a bottle or Mama to quench their hunger. In reading lots of Mama boards on easy to grab snacks, puffs came out as the clear winner. If you have a toddler, I'm sure you've had your fair share of puffs to snack on. While not filled with tons of nutrients, some of the puffs I've found are whole-grain and incorporate a variety of veggies including beets & kale.

Note: For the money-saving Mama's (like myself) Diapers.com typically has a sale once or twice a month where you can stock up on puffs for days. Literally, we have a closet filled with boxes of Happy Baby products to throw into the diaper bag at a moments notice!

These are a few of our favorites...

Instead of forcing her into her high chair to eat her snacks, I want to encourage Tot's independence by allowing her to eat her snacks on her own. Little Miss Sass won't eat anything unless she can feed herself. But, giving Tot a bag of her own yogis or puffs is not a wise choice for your carpet. Enter the Munchkin Snack Catcher. I simply fill the container with the desired snack, hand it to Tot and voila. She feels pride in feeding herself and I finally fill her tummy with some probiotic treats a couple times a day. 
Sprout Packs

I'm not going to lie, Tot eats her fair share of Gerber's pouches and that's A-OK in my mind. I've done my research on nutritious packets, and Gerber lines up with a variety of their competitors. But, did you know that you could purchase an organic line of baby pouches in a similar price point to Gerber? Until recently, I didn't realize that was a possibility, but after searching my handy Diapers.com app, I realized I had a few other options without breaking the bank. That's when I discovered Sprout pouches and boy, does Tot love them. With a variety of fun, protein-filled flavors - Sprout offers Mama's a quick fix for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that go beyond the simple chicken noodle soup of normal baby packs. Apple oatmeal raisin is a family favorite (I even love it - seriously, try it yourself, you won't regret it). 
For more details visit: http://www.sproutorganicfoods.com
And while a yummy packet definitely makes things easier for a picky eater - it still doesn't solve Tot's love of eating on her own. As a family that travels a ton, we needed an easy solution to meals that we can pick up on the go. Bringing a bowl and spoon with you everywhere gets a bit cumbersome. After a few blogs, I witnessed a Mama handing her daughter a pack to sip on herself. "Wait, where did you get that?" blurted out of me faster than you could imagine. This wonderful Mom introduced me to the ChooMee Sipn Food Pouch. This washable, flexible top fits all pouches and has a simple catch so your little one can't suck up too much too fast. When Tot is hungry, I slip one on the top of her pouch and she's able to eat in peace without a trail of food throughout the house! It's mess-free - what more could you ask for? Check it out on Amazon for yourself...


One thing that eases the transition from bottle to solids is introducing your little one to liquids other than formula/milk. It also helps keep their tummy happy and regulated while all these new foods swarm around. Tot was not a fan of sippy cups and after talking to several Mama's, it seems this is a common denominator amongst babies. While she loved being able to hold her own cup, sucking out of something that wasn't a bottle wasn't an easy transition for us and really delayed her in enjoying water & juice (watered down, of course). After a pile of failed sippy cups, I was desperate for anything. One of my favorite local stores, Sprout San Francisco, had the perfect solution sitting on their counter. I gave one last Hail Mary play and picked up the cup. With it's silicone base and embedded ring, it prevents spills but moves with the little ones any way they decide to drink. Easily washable, it's been heaven-sent and one of Tot's favorite cups. I throw it in my purse daily (did I mention it's spill-proof?) and fill it with any type of liquid for Tot. For more information, visit: http://www.sproutsanfrancisco.com/shop/feeding-teething/bottles/silicone-straw-cup


The last tip I received from our friends and physicians was let the girl eat what she wants! To encourage positive eating habits, I had to let Tot be Tot and explore foods at her own pace. But, whenever possible - find ways to  assist her in trying new things. The biggest concern about the transition from formula (or milk) to solids is the risk of your little one choking. I know it's a huge fear of mine I still grapple with every time Tot shoves 6 yogis in her mouth and smirks at me. The first thing Tot really enjoyed was fruit and to this day, it is still her favorite. But, a lot of fruit, beyond the typical banana, has seeds in it, which are a huge choking red flag. I started googling and realized there was a simple solution right in front of me - Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder. 
Tot adores her watermelon so every morning I put together a container to go to school with her and her little mesh pouch. When she's hungry, you simply open the packet and place in the fruit or any food you want your little one to taste, close it and pass it over! They can hold onto the handle themselves and snack away without you having to worry about them eating something a little too big to handle for their age. Most of the time, Tot chews on it until it's empty - I simply wash it by hand and start again. It's the perfect solution for even the pickiest, sassiest eater in your life! 

While these work for us at home, we'd love to hear about any tricks you use to get your little one to eat solids! Any special routines you use to introduce new foods? Share in the comments below! 

Happy feeding!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Travel: Magnolia Market Girls Trip

Raise your hand if you've watched at least a few episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV. Now, keep it raised if you've watched more than a 100 or spent an entire Saturday watching a marathon of the Gaines family remodels. Let's be real - Joanna Gaines is our soul sister. She embodies everything pure & joyful we strive to be in our lives, especially for me as a mama to a little girl. And the kitchens she designs? Enchanting.
My best girlfriends wanted to get together for a quick getaway, and as we were searching for fun destinations - I realized Magnolia Market was at the top of my to do list. Obviously, the men in our life weren't as enthralled with frolicking around an antique market for a day so we packed our bags and hit the road!

If you're not located in Texas - no sweat. Magnolia is incredibly easy to get to from both Dallas and Austin airports. Located only 90 minutes from DFW, we smooshed into an SUV (no really, look below) and cruised the open highways to Waco.
While there are plenty of cute boutique hotels in Waco to choose from, we decided to really delve into the HGTV experience and rented an Airbnb house that was actually featured on an episode of the show. I mean, sitting in a room designed by THE Joanna Gaines? It fulfilled all our Fixer Upper dreams and then some. The hosts couldn't have been any cuter and delivered fresh Magnolia Bakery cupcakes for us to enjoy once we arrived. 
While Waco itself isn't incredibly large, there are lots of greats sights and the downtown core is filled with quaint restaurants and southern dining. The girls decided to conquer a list of Joanna's favorite Waco destinations, including the Hippodrome Theater for brunch. Located on historic Austin Avenue, this delicious brunch was the perfect spot to quench our coffee & mimosa thirst before hitting the Market. And, how cute was their menu? Check them out (http://wacohippodrometheatre.com/dining).

Downtown Waco is also filled with plenty of interior design stores to prepare you for Magnolia. We had a blast perusing through various Texan designers highlighting their artistic flair. As the day began to race by, we realized it was time to brave the line and head into the Market. Yes, you read that correct - line. Boy oh boy was it a popular Saturday destination. Closed on Sundays, Magnolia Market tends to be most popular on the weekends - especially because it often is when the Gaines family stops by to work the Market themselves. Even though the long winding lanes of people seem daunting, the staff do a fantastic job of moving you through incredibly quickly. 
The majestic qualities of the Silos fills the Texas air and I have to say, it was one of the most peaceful days I've experienced as a new mom. From the cheerful music to the giggles from the kids playing corn hole on the turf, Magnolia is one of the sweetest places to take your family. I was slightly panicked that a full day at the Market with a nine-month old would be slightly difficult, but she enjoyed it more than I did. Her smiles said it all. 
We filled our bellies with Blue Bell ice cream and danced to the music in the open field. Keeping our patio bench and swing reserved, we took turns perusing the main highlight - the store! While most items are available online, the allure of seeing it in picture perfect settings makes the HGTV designer in you explode. I had to have my hands on everything and kept going back over and over again to memorize every last detail. Joanna has truly done an amazing job capturing the essence of her interior style within this store. 

Once our wallets were empty and our hearts filled with so much excitement and love, we spent the remaining hour of daylight swinging around the field at the Market until the Bakery line quieted. 
As our last stop of the day, we wanted to taste each new scrumptious concoction within the Bakery and as a serious taste-tester...everything was simply delicious! 

And after a day full of laughs and sweets at the Market - we completed our weekend with some true southern cuisine on Sunday morning. Jake's Texas Tea House is a must have for all locals, and especially for our new out-of-state friends. We filled ourselves with fried chicken and collard greens before hitting the road back to Dallas. Mmmmmm take me back!
What started as a chance to reconnect with my best girlfriends turned into a trip to truly refresh my soul. There was something about the peacefulness of Magnolia Markets, and Waco in general, that made you lay out on the grass and just enjoy quality time with the people you love. If you and your best girls are looking for a fun, relaxing destination with quaint wine bars, southern cooking, and fantastic shopping - Waco is for you. 

Happy travels, lovelies! 

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