Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Weekend Getaway // Birthday Surprise

PHEW! YOU GUYS. I cannot believe I just came off from keeping one of the biggest/longest secrets I’ve ever kept from someone who knows ALL my secrets. I am NOT a good secret keeper so this is a huge breakthrough for me ;)

One of my closest friends, Sarah, turned 30 over the weekend and her friends had planned a huge Masquerade Ball for the big event. Well, Sarah lives in San Francisco and I was starting a new job and tickets aren’t exactly cheap… oh, and I have two kids. So the probability of me going to Sarah’s birthday (even though she’s been not-so-subtly dropping hints that I hadn’t been out to visit her in 5+ years…. hehehe, love you, Sae!) was slim to none. 

But then, one day a couple months ago, the stars aligned. My project got pushed back (AGAIN), my husband and parents were able to watch the kids Fri - Sunday and I miraculously found a round trip ticket from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco for the cheapest cost of pretty much any flight I've ever booked. Done and done. 

And… the best part? I didn’t tell Sarah. I wanted my arrival to be her biggest birthday surprise.

You should know that I talk to Sarah almost every day. It’s rare that we go 2+ days without so much as text and we have lengthy phone conversations at least 3x a week. (Don’t ask me about what, I couldn’t even tell you). Not to mention, she’s one of my oldest friends so I knew keeping this secret wouldn’t be easy. I apologized profusely that I wouldn’t be able to make it, didn’t tell her my project got pushed back, and she of course understood. 

AND, in an even more amazing turn of events - Sarah’s other close girlfriend Lisa was able to get out of a commitment she had last minute and booked a ticket to come to San Fran, too! We decided to surprise her together since our flights arrived 15 minutes apart from each other… talk about fate. 

The days leading up to the big surprise were some of the longest of my LIFE! I couldn’t WAIT to see Sarah’s face when Lisa and I showed up on her doorstep together. I had rented a dress for the occasion, packed my cutest travel outfits, bought the most adorable Masquerade Mask, and was just waiting with baited breath for the day to arrive. There were countless times I talked to Sarah and had to literally cover my mouth from blurting out, “I’M COMING TO YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!!!!” But I didn’t!

Finally the day came. The plane ride was excruciating! Could NOT wait to get there. 

Lisa and I ended up going to her apartment to change while she was at a bar with friends. Then we very oh so casually walked up to the table and I said, "Hey, mind if we join you?" She totally did one of those leap out of her chair/cover her mouth/scream at the same time things. It was great! Here we are right after surprising her.

The next morning was her actual birthday and we spent it getting pampered at the spa - manis, pedis and massages while chatting and catching up and sipping champagne. So much fun.

Then Sarah went to get the most amazing blow out at Dry Bar while Lisa and I napped/started getting ready for the evening!

 Rent the Runway - "Last Call Dress" by BCBGMaxazaria

 Sarah's Dress is also Rent the Runway - "Aileen Dress" by Slate & Willow

Sunday was spent being completely touristy. I hadn't been to San Fran in years, and not since Sarah moved there so she pulled out all the stops and we spent all day touring around the city and hitting all the major landmarks.

You can see Alcatraz in the distance!


 Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge

 The Painted Ladies

And of course, Clam Chowder in a Sour Dough bread bowl from Boudin's!

The weekend was so much fun - a great break and getaway for me and I know Sarah had a memorable 30th. And a huge shout out to my main squeeze for holding down the fort while I was gone and being way too cool about me having a girls weekend at the other end of the country. ;)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Managing My Toddler's Emotions // Behavior Chart

The last few weeks have been a trying and testing time in our household. I've never been shy about the fact that Kyran has a bit of a stubborn side.  For almost as long as I can remember, his temper and emotions have been difficult to manage. If I'm being completely honest here - it started shortly after Ariana was born. Now, I don't know that there is a DIRECT correlation, because not many babies tend to have full-on temper tantrums under the age of 1. But, up until he turned 1 // until his sister was born, Ky was a very good baby. Like textbook baby. Ate well, slept amazing, hardly fussed or cried unless he was over tired/sick. Constantly happy and bubbly and laughing.

And then he turned one AND became a big brother. And for the last two years, I've found myself tip-toeing around his emotions as if he's a ticking time bomb. Because, he is.

Truthfully, this is a hard post for me to write. I've always been sensitive about Ky's tantrums because I feel like it's the one facet of parenting I was simply never prepared for. Oh, I knew my kids would have good days and bad, I knew things would get tough, I knew they would cry for no reason and occasionally be difficult to manage. What I didn't know was that I would have a child who would fly off the handle at the slightest event and become completely inconsolable and occasionally aggressive. There is no gray area or middle ground for Ky when he gets upset. He goes from 0 to RAGE in 60 seconds and then it's like dealing with a honey badger who just escaped an insane asylum. And what I mean by that is, he just becomes a squirmy, hysterical mess who needs a 30-min cool down period before he can even form a sentence. Sometimes he gets aggressive or begins to throw things which, in this house, is completely unacceptable. We do not spank our children and therefore I am baffled as to where he even picked up this behavior but that's neither here nor there.

At home, I simply put him in his room until he is cooled off an we can talk. However, since starting school, Ky has had a difficult transition and had a few episodes where he was unable to control his emotions and acted out in school. This is what it took for me to finally realize we had a big problem that wasn't being resolved by my attempts at home. After me crying in the preschool principal's office on more than one occasion (ha, I wonder where he gets his emotional side from...). I spent a good two days doing mounds of research on toddler behaviors and how to control them. Despite the fact that Ky is a bright kid, he is emotionally immature. When something doesn't go his way, he just bursts into tears and fits instead of talking about it or asking for what he wants. He gets fired up pretty quickly and takes it out on me, Ariana, or his teachers. And Ariana is the total opposite which led me to believe that 1) I was at least doing something right, and 2) his emotions were a part of his personality and while its ok to become emotional (angry, upset, sad, etc...), it is NOT ok for him to act out on those emotions and have epic meltdowns. And this is what I set out to teach him.

We started with several books for toddlers about emotions, frustration and how to deal with them. So far, these are our (his) favorites:


1. Calm Down Time
2. Sharing Time
3. When I Feel Angry
4. Hands Are Not For Hitting

Sharing around here is a huge issue so Sharing Time is something we reference often. Calm Down Time has a nice little jingle that goes with it and Ky has already begun "taking a deeeeeep breath out" and counting to three when he gets agitated. It's already helped him more than I could have predicted. And he even says to me: "Mommy, take a deeeeep breath." when I start to get frustrated, which means he understands what it means and that its a helpful tactic. 

Another thing I did is create a behavior chart. I wanted something that was like a weekly calendar with expectations on the right and had a reward system. Since I wanted to re-use it weekly, I hoped to avoid stickers because that would mean I'd have to print a new chart every week. 

I scoured Pinterest and gained inspiration from this blogger who made similar reward charts for her daughters.

Since I don't trust myself to draw... like, at all. I designed the chart in Illustrator and had it printed at my local Kinko's. I chose a few things that he does every day (change, go potty, bedtime, etc...) so that they would be done quickly and effortlessly (at least, that's the dream) and without much of a fight. I then chose a couple things he sometimes has a harder time with.... Sharing, talking about feelings, etc..

I then designed stars in my Silhouette Cameo and cut them out in different colored card stock.  I made the yellow or gold stars bigger because I decided I wanted a "Good Day Star" which would be taken away if he had one of his monstrous, epic tantrums that day. This seemed like good motivation... not only does he get to earn stars but he can also get them taken away.

I picked up some mini Velcro dots at my local craft store and stuck them on the chart and on the back of each star.

And lo and behold; project complete.

We have only been using it for a couple days (I just stuck the stars on for the pic, haha) - so the verdict is still out on whether or not it was a total waste of time. I'll try to do an update in a few weeks!

While I don't hope that any of you have an overly emotional/uncontrollable toddler, I do hope that if you DO, this post might give you some assurance that you aren't alone. It's something we struggle with daily and it's definitely not easy. It's hard for everyone involved and somedays it just gets me down and makes me feel like I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. Hopefully its a phase... hopefully it will pass. Hopefully these tools will help! And in the meantime, any and all suggestions for things that worked for similar situations much appreciated.

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Day of "School"

Our kiddies started school last week which is why we've been a little MIA around here. With adjusting to a new routine, figuring out drop off/pick up with two in tow, making lunches, packing backpacks, filing artwork, back to school nights, teacher orientation days, etc... it's been a busy couple of weeks! And thats just for Preschool/Mother's Day Out! I shudder to think how topsy turvy our lives are going to get once they start real school five days a week!

I was worried about this transition for both kids for different reasons. Ky is a smart kid who thrives on routine and once that routine is established/set he gets very thrown off at change. I had been prepping him for weeks that he would be going to a new classroom with new teachers because I had this inkling that the might have a major freakout when he realizes that Ariana is now in the same class with the same teachers he had last year. Not to mention, the class he was in got split into two classes and the majority of the kids he was with were now in the other class. Well, the prepping definitely worked because a few days before school started he was telling Hubs about his teachers and said their "new" names. And when I told him which of his friends WERE in his new class and that he would be seeing all his friends on the playground, he got super excited. I was so relieved!

Ariana on the other hand had a bit of a rough start when she started MDO last year. I pulled her out after a month because simply put, she wasn't ready. She was SO young (15 months) and at the time I thought it would be good for socialization but she was very attached to me and with it only being one day a week, there wasn't a good adjustment period for her to get used to it. So, I pulled her out and we attended a semester of "Mommy and Me" Montessori which really helped her adapt to a school-type environment. She LOVED it, thrived, and really looked forward to it each week. So, I thought she would be ready to attend the "2's MDO" which is the same classroom and teachers Ky was in last year. 

She also was semi-familiar with the room and teachers since she went with me to drop Ky every time. I was concerned we might have the same issues, but she proved me SO wrong! Her teachers knew what had happened last year so they went out of their way to make her feel comfortable and acclimated and each day came to me with the highest praise. Even other teachers and the school secretary told me how great she was doing... I think they knew I was extra nervous ;)

So we packed all their bags the night before and told them how much fun they were going to have. Fed them a big breakfast and of course, took lots of pics.

I dropped them off and they both did SO well. Ky had a harder time on Day 3, but I think he was just generally cranky that day since he didn't sleep too well the night before. He was great the first two days and Ariana was, too. Huge relief for this Mama!

Meanwhile... I was able to go to a doctor's appointment solo, get my nails and eyebrows done and meet a friend for breakfast. Ky goes Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday and Ariana goes on Tuesday | Thursday which means I have two free mornings a week allllll to myself! Well, only for a short while since I start my work project at the end of the month (it got pushed back a month) but you better believe I'll savor every kid-free moment while I can! Next week's agenda? THE GROCERY STORE! Hip, Hip, Hooray... we all love school ;)

Friday, August 29, 2014

This Year's Fall Fashion Favorites... For Toddlers!

YAY! Now that it's Labor Day weekend, we can start talking all things FALL right?! :) :) 

It's no secret that fall is my absolute favorite and one of the main reasons for that (besides everything pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin) is the fashion. Fall fashion is just THE BEST - no other season has as cute pieces or accessories or accents and I myself would live in jeans and leggings all year 'round if I could so it gets me especially excited when I get to pull out my boots and my skinnies and dress for fall. 

With the kids going back to "school" in a couple weeks, I've also been outfitting their closets with some of my favorite fall looks. I know, I know - why am I getting my 2 and 3 year old a fall wardrobe for preschool which is only a few hours a week. Because dressing them up is just one of my favorite things to do. Ever since Ky was born, one of my favorite activities every morning was picking out his outfit for the day and putting him up in it. I love baby and toddler clothes like it's nobody's business. And today I'm going to share some of my favorite fall fashion favorites for little ones and a few tricks I use to save a lot of money when buying clothes for my kiddos. 

My favorite places to shop for the kids (as I may have mentioned before...about twelve thousand times) are Gap, Old Navy and Target. Baby Gap can definitely be pricey, but I have never, ever paid full price for anything from there. They have sales constantly (40% off everything happening this weekend!) which is a steal. Plus, I'm a card member so I always rack up rewards, and get GapCash, etc. If you plan properly and shop smartly, you can walk away from the Gap with hundreds of dollars worth of clothes for a fraction of the cost. Same with Old Navy. I also think it's important which pieces you invest in. I love Gap for staples (long-sleeved waffle shirts, well-made jeans and thick, cozy sweaters), but I buy leggings for Ariana or layering tees for Ky elsewhere since the quality is generally the same. 

Two other stores I love are H&M Kids and Ruum. A lot of the stuff isn't my taste but if you comb through enough you can find some adorable pieces and Ruum also has killer sales. I cleaned up there a couple weeks ago and got a ton of stuff for the kids for like $30. Some of their tops and tanks were just a few dollars each including this adorable tank on Ariana  which is totally versatile and will go with several different combo outfits all season long.

I would say I do about 80% of my shopping online. Gap and Old Navy offer free shipping when you spend $50 so I just keep stuff in my cart until it reaches that limit and coincides with a sale. Another thing I do CONSTANTLY is add items to "Sale Alert." There is an iPhone app I have called ShopStyle. You can search for almost any item from any store there (by keyword or description or category) and set it on a Sale Alert so that when the item goes on sale, it automatically sends you a notification on your phone. I know, criminal, right? This can go either two ways: 1. The item goes on sale, you rejoice, and buy it immediately or 2. The item goes on sale, you forgot about it or the price still isn't low enough and you ignore the alert and never look back. 

Truth be told, the latter happens to me more often than option 1. I couldn't even tell you how many items I have on on sale alert but I only actually purchase them maybe 20% of the time.  I usually forget about them or by the time the sale happens I'm over it. It's really great when you get a temporary shopping urge but don't want to spend any actual money... kind of like window shopping ;) But it really is great if there is one specific item you are DYING to have but don't want to pay top dollar for. Sale Alert to the rescue!

With that said, here are some of my favorite fall looks for little girls:

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A lot of this can be mixed and matched! Like that stripey V-neck with the mustard sweater or the white tank under the cargo vest. That fur vest from H&M is a total splurge but I loved it SO much I actually bought it. I know she will wear it into Winter and it'll be well worth the investment!

Little boys fashion is definitely harder to come by than little girls but that doesn't mean its not as fun. I LOVE dressing Ky up just as much and in fact, I am pretty sure his fall wardrobe is more intense than Ariana's since I always over compensate for him. I love buying him well-made basics like these waffle stitch tees and layering them under everything from sweaters to collared shirts to hoodies or even by themselves on a cooler day.

Here are some of my favorite fall-inspired trends for my little guy.

 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  |  12  |  13

That puffer vest was a MUST have. And now is the time to buy it when it's 40% off! I have a rule that I don't spend more than $10 on a piece of clothing for the kids unless it's outerwear or jeans. That vest certainly counts as outerwear and I can't wait to watch my little guy rocking it all season.

So there you have a few of my favorite stores, items and tips and tricks I use when shopping for my kids. You can totally outfit your kid to be the most stylish tot in preschool without breaking the bank. I usually invest in a few quality pieces that will last (jeans, the puffer vest, sweaters, etc...) and mix them with everyday basics so you can create several outfits with just a handful of items.

So now we just need the winds to change so my kids can actually wear their fall clothes without sweating in 90* heat ;)

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Swiffer Effect!

When I first had my kids, one of the first things "to go" (so to speak) was regular house cleaning. I'm not even ashamed to admit it. I was no longer on my hands and knees weekly scrubbing toilets, mopping floors and vacuuming. Well, lets be honest - I never vacuumed to begin with.

Whenever people ask me what is a good gift to give brand new parents, I don't say toys or clothes... I say, either a hot meal or a gift certificate to a maid service. How much do you wish that the gift of cleaning your house was something you could get as soon as you got home from the hospital with baby?! I mean, they should really include it along with your discharge papers... 

Now, almost three and a half years later, I still can't say that cleaning my house is a priority. I'd much rather play with the kids, walk outside, make dinner or hang out with my husband... and the few hours a day I do get to myself? Well, the last thing I want to be doing is spend all of naptime cleaning! Thank goodness for Swiffer and their ability to make maintaining a home almost effortless. With two tiny toddlers who love nothing more than to drip smoothies or spill milk or leave cracker crumbs on the floor as if they were Hansel and Gretel, Swiffer's many tools have kept me from loosing my sanity on more than one occasion.

Thats why I was BEYOND excited to receive the Big Green Box from Swiffer full of pretty cleaning supplies and other things that will keep my home smelling and looking fresh. I'm not even kidding when I say that upon opening the box, I was immediately hit with the fresh, fragrant scent of all of Swiffer's cleaning products. Even Ariana was standing over the box sniffing it!

The Swiffer Sweeper is something I've never used before now and it's nothing short of incredible. Something that sweeps AND mops?! Sign me up.

I am also convinced that the Swiffer duster is especially magical. How it gets in and traps and collects every last bit of dust, I'll never know. Their  slogan should be, "it's so easy, even my HUSBAND can do it!" Because let's be honest, my husband has never scrubbed a toilet a day in his life... but dusting with the Swiffer duster? That's something he can manage. Swiffer actually makes it fun and easy for others to help out with cleaning and that is always a win-win in this mama's handbook!

I was also fortunate enough to surprise a friend with a fabulous Swiffer box of their own! And I couldn't think of anyone more deserving of it that the newest Mama in my life - my friend Melissa!

She had her first baby boy in the winter and I just know that little bug is going to be crawling around any day now. I was so excited to be able to give her something that will help keep her floors shiny clean once he takes off running.

Now, I know - you're thinking "You seriously gave your friend a box of cleaning products?!" And YES, yes I did. And I know she was just as excited about them as I would have been. As I mentioned above, being a new mom - there are hundreds of other things that should take precedence over dusting and sweeping - why not make your life easier and invest in great, QUALITY products that will help keep your house clean and fresh so you can spend more time with your family?

If you need more convincing as to how Swiffer can help keep your home spick and span, check out this adorable video of Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family and how him and his mom love Swiffer just as much as we do!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Favorites and a Giveaway You Won't Want to Miss!

I can't believe that some little kiddies I've seen via social media are ALREADY headed back to school! Seems so, so early this year for some reason. And then we got our preschool calendar and activities list in the mail and it hit me that their open house is in less than a month! As much as I want to think this summer flew by, I actually think it's been a pretty good, steady pace. Their birthday seems like it was years ago and I pretty much thought it was August already half-way through July so I think we've been really soaking up and enjoying our summer as best as we could.

With that said, SINCE everyone has Back to School on the brain, I thought I'd share some of our favorite Back to School favorites. I know its early, but you and I both know us Mamas like to plan ahead (hey.. I'm already boot shopping).. not to mention, last year I didn't plan ahead because I didn't realize Ky needed to pack a lunch for school and ended up spending more than I care to admit to rush ship a lunchbox and all the essentials to our doorstep in four days. But that is neither here nor there.

But don't worry, that isn't happening ever again. With two kiddies off to preschool this year (GAH!), I am well-prepared and armed for anything that could come our way.. and here are a few things that help with that! Also - I was not compensated in the least to review or mention ANY of these products, I just really truly love them!

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You probably knew this was going to be on here when you read the title of this blog post. They changed the design of the "Preschool Backpack" from when Ky got his for Christmas a few years ago. Now it has a double-zip and seems a tad bigger which I think is great. It's durable, made well, great fabric, and currently on sale! There are several designs or patterns to choose from, the adjustable straps are perfect for tiny kiddos and the personalization aspect is always a win. Sidenote: I actually got his initials personalized on there because I read a scary story once about how strangers see kid's names on their backpacks and then call their names out and the kid thinks they know them and gets in a car with them or something. I'm sure it would never happen, but still... creepy!

These are the only cups I will send to school with the kids because they are 100% LEAK PROOF. I mean, you have to screw the top on right (made that mistake before), but once its on, that drink is staying put. Which is perfect when it's being sloshed around in a lunchbox! 

3. Oliver's Labels
As someone who designs and prints labels on the reg, I was determined to create cute little labels for all the kid's things since labeling their possessions is required by the school. Well that lasted all of three minutes when I realized the quality of my labels were for paper products... NOT lunch box containers that go in the dishwasher. Enter Oliver's Labels. I finally sucked it up and ordered personalized labels for both kids, plus an additional set with just our last name on it for shared things and I am SO glad I did. They are a little pricier than what I would normally spend on something like this but the quality and durability makes it so worth it. I put them on everything - their sippies, utensils, tupperware containers, etc. since they are waterproof!! They make all sorts of sizes and styles and have so many cute designs to choose from! I highly recommend. AND - As an extra treat, the lovely people at Oliver's Labels are going to give away a whole Preschool Package of labels (a $34 value!) to one lucky reader! Simply enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
4. The Night Before Preschool
Not knowing how Ky would adjust to preschool last year, I got this book and a couple others to read to him in the coming weeks before. I can't wait to pull it out soon and read it to Ariana! I think it's great to prepare kids for what new endeavors they are about to take on so that they can understand what is going on and don't feel lost or confused by a new routine/schedule.

5. My First Lunchbox
Another PBK favorite is their preschool lunchbox. With personalization options, zippers, pockets, etc. it's the perfect size and shape for my little ones to carry around. It's also wipeable on the inside to clean up sticky toddler messes.

6. Lunch Containers with Ice Packs
These little containers are fantastic for kiddo lunches, especially since they come with built-in ice packs! I also love these and we also use these steels ones in the warmer months since the stainless steel keeps cut up fruit and stuff cooler.

7. Reusable Ice Packs
Not going to lie... I totally bought the Batman freezer packs from PBKids last year. Ridiculous, but I couldn't resist. These are a much more affordable (and sensible) option! I always throw an extra ice pack in their lunch box, especially when I have cheese or some other snack that I'm worried about getting warm.

Is your kiddo heading off to school this year? What are some of your favorite essentials?