“H” Week Hoopla

Ever since starting LoWs, our weeks go by in a whirlwind. We don’t even do THAT many activities that take longer than five minutes, but seriously, where does our time go? How did I not get any laundry folded or dishes washed today? Any way, here our “H” LoW wrap up!

Hula Hoops

We found this awesome hula hoop that is a perfect toddler size at Dollar Tree. Em loves to try to roll it around the yard, hop in and out of it, and try to get Tori to stay in the hoop. I figured this would probably keep Em entertained for maybe five minutes, but she ended up wanting to play with it almost every evening during our outdoor time in the back yard. She even passed up time in the toddler pool to play with the hula hoop. Definitely, going to add it to the outdoor activities rotation.Hulahoop.jpg

Hoods & Hats

Em fully embraces anything that is included in the dress up category. We played with a lot of different types of hats and after an especially exciting swim session in the pool, we had an extra long play session with a hooded towel. We found a cute foam visor at Michael’s for a dollar that Em needed to wear as a hat, I kept that packed away for her to decorate with stickers for her next restaurant melt down.hoods

Hopping & Hopscotch

This girl loves to  hop. We couldn’t get her to stop all week. She didn’t really understand the concept of hopscotch, but she sure loved to hop all over the patio. A few minutes after these photos, she ended up laying down on the concrete and trying to convince us that she wasn’t tired. Bedtime went quicker than usual on this night.

hopscotch.jpg

Hands, Hugs, & High Fives

We took a little time each day to talk about our hands, hugs, and high fives. Because I worked with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors in college, I really aim to give Em information about her body and let her make choices about what she feels is alright when it comes to various touches. At 18 months old, she doesn’t have a high understanding of what is considered “O.K.” touches, but she does have a strong opinion about if she wants to be touched or not. We make a big point of saying things like “Do you want to give Memaw a hug?” or “Can Mama have a kiss?” This week, we made an effort to find times when Em wasn’t feeling like she wanted to do hugs or be touched with family members or friends and told her that she didn’t have to do hugs, but presented high fives as another option. Real talk, she is more into “knucks” aka fist bumps, but hey we found a way to tie in “H” with life skills, so whateves. We also tried to make sure that she knew she could say “no thank you” to hugs and high fives if she didn’t feel like it.

To help with this discussion, we also watched the movie Trolls ( for the one millionth time) and paused it during specific scenes where characters either embraced the idea of “hug time” or didn’t feel like it. One of our awesome friends made some of the kids in our play group “hug time” watches out of felt and paper. The kids loved them and Em now will bring hers to me and ask for a hug. *insert Mama’s heart melting*

As a very active and curious toddler, Em often has trouble keeping her hands to herself. She wants to touch someone else’s hair, clothes or toys, but doesn’t really understand why they get upset. Throughout the week we tried to remind her that hands are for gentle touches, but only if the other person agrees. This was a little advanced for her to understand, but we will keep working on it.

H Coloring Pages

This week our coloring pages were fairly basic. I found a hippo paper bag puppet printable here, that I plan on having Em work on tonight.  I had found this coloring page a couple weeks ago and made sure to save it for “H” week. Em thought it was so silly that after we colored the paper, it turned into a little book. She had so much fun with it, that I may print out a few more of the little books for future LoWs. Em really enjoyed this horse coloring page, especially since we have a rocking horse in the living room. She made sure to show the rocking horse her completed master piece and we had to hang it on the wall before bed time.

Helicopters!

I found this adorable wooden helicopter at our local Walmart for under $1!! They had little rocket ships and cars that I had to talk myself out of getting, but they may make an appearance in future posts. Any time that we can get paint out, Em has a blast. This week her papa was able to be here to help her and she couldn’t have been happier. We were able to see a couple helicopters flying during the week, but of course it was usually while we were driving, so no pictures of the real ones.helpicopter.jpg

Hammocks!

A normal event in our house is pulling out one of our babywearing wraps and stringing it up under our kitchen table. (Make sure to do a double knot  for safety!)  Sometimes Em will walk over to our shelves, pull a carrier out and walk over the table to try to put it up herself. “H” week was a perfect time to pull out this family favorite. Like always, it was a hit. Even Tori wanted to join in on the hammock action, but Em wasn’t having it.Hammock.jpg

House/ Home

We finished out the week with some exciting painting of a cute little birdhouse I found at Michael’s for a dollar. It has a heart shaped door, so it said “H” week all over it. We talked about how this would be a home for a (pretend) bird just like our house is our home. This was a great end of the day project because we had already danced our hearts out to this song with some friends and Em was extra mellow.house.jpg

Well, that was an extra long recap, but hopefully everyone enjoyed it!
Do you have any ideas for us to do for “I” week? Events you think we should check out? Fantastic youtube videos you want to share? Have you tried out any of our fun projects? Let us know!

Wine Down Wednesday

18528047_1869778283270721_1730205121264770513_nThis Wine Down Wednesday post bares quite a bit more than I had planned, but this topic is one that is very close to my heart.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a month that is meant to help educate and fight the stigma of living with mental illness. Even while sitting behind a keyboard, it is hard to admit that mental illness is something that I have struggled with for many years. While in high school, I fought depression with the help of a few close friends. While in college, I was able to start medication for my depression and anxiety. I found a passion for working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, but discovered that without self care, and our amazing pug as an emotional support animal, I would quickly get sucked back into my own depression. My husband has always been supportive and helped in anyway that he could, even if he didn’t fully understand what exactly was going on.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started doing a ton of research. I discovered that if you already have a history of depression, you were far more likely to have postpartum depression (or PPD). I started talking to my doctors right away about my fears and we agreed I should start medication after giving birth to help ease into my new role as a mother. During pregnancy, my anxiety increased and I would find myself compulsively checking to make sure all doors and windows were locked. I couldn’t drive myself over bridges or through tunnels. My doctors said that these were just normal fears and that I was alright.

After our daughter was born, I started taking a low dose of anti-depressants. To everyone else, it looked like I was doing alright. I posted cute baby pictures on Facebook, chatted with friends online, and even tried to go to a few new mom playgroups. I didn’t post about how I had to call my husband and have him come home after only being gone a couple hours because the baby wouldn’t stop crying and neither could I. There weren’t conversations about how sometimes I would have to wake my husband up in the middle of the night to help me nurse the baby because I would have such high nursing aversions that I couldn’t even hold her against myself. I couldn’t leave the house or be in large groups because I was terrified that something would happen. I had to check her carseat straps at least three times to make sure they were tightened and on correctly.  One of my biggest regrets from the first six months of our daughter’s life is that I didn’t reach out to more people. I didn’t ask for more help because I didn’t want to be a burden and I thought that I could do it on my own. I didn’t ask the doctors to change my medications to a high dose or different option when I felt them stop working. I should have asked for a mental wellness plan of some sort. Instead, I just figured my struggles were normal. I was scared they would take our daughter away because I would be seen as an unfit mother. I was depressed with an infant and there was so much shame tied up in that.

The reason I am sharing all of this is because awareness is so important. I have said to close friends that the first six months of our daughter’s life was a black hole in my memory. I look back on photographs and wish that I would have reached out to someone.  Even when you don’t feel like it. Finding things that I was able to do just for myself has helped so much. Self-care and self-awareness isn’t selfish. It is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself, and for your children. Remember that they see how you treat yourself.

If you feel like you need someone to talk to, I am always here. Below will also be a list of resources. If you feel like you may be showing signs of postpartum depression, please let someone know. Get in contact with a doctor and see what they can do to help. Join a support group on Facebook. Please know that you aren’t alone, as cheesy as that may be to read, and there are others who can help.

Resources

Crisis Text Line-  http://www.crisistextline.org

Information on PPD- http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/

 

All Things “G” Related

Guitars & Giggles

This week was very busy. We started off by having some friends over to play with a few toddler friendly guitars that I found at the local Dollar Tree. Em had fun showing her friend Melody how to strum on the guitar. The girls explored a small giraffe petting zoo in the living room while the mamas had fun with some adult conversations. We had planned on going to see real giraffes, but it was far too rainy and cold to venture out too long. We did enjoy dressing up in green and dancing to this song that one of our readers sent us. There is a song for each letter of the alphabet and it is officially written into our weekly lesson plans.

guitargiraffe

Giant Muffins & Galaxies

The next day we met up with some friends at our favorite local coffee shop. They have some amazing Usborne books and we just happened to find an outer space book that Em showed interest in. She probably looked through every page in less than thirty seconds, but hey we read a few sentences here and there, so that counts. Right? Of course we couldn’t leave before we enjoyed a giant muffin, although Em decided that only the top was actually worth eating.

Geocaching

We have a friend who’s family loves to go GEOCACHING! Geocaching is when you use your gps on your phone (or other device) to find objects that were hidden by other people. A cache can be anything from a virtual log that you sign or an actual container that has small toys or other “swag” items.  I had never heard of this before moving, but there had been a couple play dates in one of our play groups that looked awesome. We were able to set up a quick lesson, and we loved learning about something new! Below is a picture of one of the cache containers. Inside was a tiny log that people who had found the cache before had signed. Luckily, since we were with some expert geocachers, we were able to find three different caches and even left some of our own swag for people to find in the future. If you are interested in learning more about geocaching, click here.

geocaching

Glowing Everything

The last few days have been extra gloomy. We were stuck inside and not very happy about it. Since it was so dark outside, I decided it was the perfect time to break out some glow sticks. Earlier in the week, Em and a few friends had taken a glowing bath. They had fun chasing glow sticks in the bathtub, while supervised, and it made hair washing just a little bit easier. Since the glow sticks had been such a big hit, I picked up some glow in the dark Finding Dory stickers and stuck them to the bottom of the kitchen table. I hung some glow stick bracelets with some painters tape and string, and since I had also found some glow in the dark geckos, I pulled those out and let them charge from what little sunshine we had. Em had a lot of fun trying to get the geckos to stay in the rings. If you look at the pictures closely, you can see some of the geckos hanging in the bracelets. I hadn’t planned on this activity being such a big hit, but we spent about half an hour under the table one night and then Em asked to do it again the next day when my husband got home. We spent about fifteen minutes chasing Tori around and trying to put the bracelets on Tori’s tail before she finally hid in her kennel and Em got distracted with something else.

glowinggeckos

Green, Gatorade, Geodes, & Goldilocks

For one of our last nights, I decided to try something new that I had seen mentioned at some point on a random Facebook DIY page. Since it was bath night already, I pulled out my trusty food coloring and put about 10 drops of green food coloring in Em’s bath water. I made sure she didn’t see it until it was time to get in and she was so surprised when I put her into the water. She loved her “geen” bath and made sure to tell everyone about it the next day. I had been worried that the water would dye the bathtub (or Em) green, but it was so diluted that there weren’t any issues at all.  We had found some really neat new sail boats for the bathtub at Hobby Lobby, and Em enjoyed pouring the green water on the boats to try to sink them. IMG_2193.JPG

Throughout the week I really like to have coloring pages on hand. This week’s pages included geodes and Golidlocks and the three bears. She enjoyed making the bears talk and hearing the story over and over again. We tried to grow geodes with a small kit from the dollar store, but they didn’t actually work. At some point in the week, we did a quick picnic in the van because we were out and about while shopping, and Em noticed our large Gatorade bottle. From that point on, she needed to carry it around the house for the rest of the evening. We also enjoyed video chatting with my grandparents and Em’s memaw (or grandmother as some people would call her).

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As you can see, we had a very busy week and I am very ready for a relaxing evening with a glass of wine and some Gilmore Girls. Have any questions about the activities we did this week? Suggestions of what we should do for “H” week? Leave a comment below!

-M

Wine Down Wednesday: 10 Fun Facts Edition

It has been a long week. I was convinced that it was Thursday and tomorrow was the long awaited Friday. What a disappointment when someone mentioned that today was in fact, only Wednesday. I’m sure everyone has had weeks like that.

This weeks Wine Down Wednesday is 10 fun facts all about me to help you get to know me a little better.

  1. My name is Marneé (pronounced Mar-Nay) but if you ask Em it is Maaaahhhhaaaamma.
  2. If I didn’t have to sleep, I would spend my extra time learning to do every single crafting hobby on the planet. I love creating new things and making fun stuff for friends to enjoy.
  3. My favorite things to drink are water, real southern sweet tea, wine, and coffee.
  4. My favorite movie genre is thriller or mystery, but my favorite movie is “Gone With the Wind” (even though it problematic).
  5. In my friend group, it is pretty well known that I will be at least 15 minutes late, no matter what.
  6. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I have a habit of making references on a daily basis and I have no shame about that.
  7. I love learning new words and trying to sneak them into day to day conversations or *cough cough* blog posts.
  8. My biggest pet peeves are when someone picks at their nails or chews on a straw.
  9. I had always wanted a pug and it took me almost a year of showing pug puppy videos on Youtube to my husband to convince him we needed one. I am currently trying to convince him that we need at least two more.
  10. Speaking of Youtube videos, my ultimate favorite video is this one. I discovered when I was working overnights in college and it can literally send me into deep belly laughs with tears rolling down my face faster than almost anything else.

Have any questions or things you would like to know about me? Feel free to ask! I’m sure I will do another edition sometime soon.

 

Fancy Fairy Fiesta & Fantastic Frivolities

This week we celebrated the letter “F!” It was one of the easiest weeks to plan out because there are so many toddler friendly words that start with “F.”

Fancy Fairy Fiesta

A couple of weeks ago I had posted in a local playgroup that I wanted to do a Fancy Fairy Fiesta with a small group of friends.  I had a few responses and we started planning. I love a good deal, and we were able to find pre-made fairy wings, a pack of party favor flower rings, disposable flute glasses and a pack of flower shaped paper plates  at the local “Dollar Tree.” The bottoms of the disposable glasses came off, so I slid the flower rings on the bottoms to make them extra fancy. An awesome mama spent a lot of time cutting out fancy fairies and flowers for each of our little party goers. They loved seeing the fairies hanging in the kitchen and watching them sway in the breeze.

Fairyparty Details

The kids especially loved running around with their fairy wings and trying to make them flutter. For lunch, we cooked fancy fish fingers and French fries. I had made some mini muffins earlier in the morning, so we added those to the mix by calling them finger foods and they were a big hit. The littles are still talking about how much fun they had and requesting to have more fairy fiestas.

fancyfairypartypeople

F is for Fish!

On Thursday, we had planned on going to a strawberry field, but the night before Em broke out with a terrible heat rash. Instead of spending a full day in the sun, we decided air conditioning and funny films would be the perfect fit. After awhile, even Em was bored with watching Trolls for the third time in a row, so I turned to my trusty teaching tool… Pinterest! I found inspiration here . I hadn’t thought about using a hand print to create fish, but I loved the idea. After naptime,  I set Em up in a paint smock and had her paint a paper plate with blue and green finger paint. I then showed her how to paint her hand by painting my own hand and making a hand print. (I can tell I’m going to regret that already.) She had a blast making as many hand prints as possible but was very ready to wash her hands after about two minutes. When the hand prints were dry, Em helped me put googly eyes on them. I then glued one hand print to the paper plate Em had painted, hole punched the top and hung it with our other LoW projects in her room. The rest of the fish were glued to construction paper, hole punched, and strung up to make a school of fish mobile. Apparently, this week was all about hanging things from the ceiling.fishfingerpainting2

Other “F”un Throughout the Week

We also read a book called “Where is Mama?” ( it can be purchased here on Amazon), which is an amazing pop up book about tadpoles looking for their frog mama. This book introduced our quick discussion about the frog life cycle and I found a printable here that we used to fill time before lunch. What up science! After lunch, we enjoyed hopping like frogs in the backyard to burn some energy before naptime. We did a few other coloring pages throughout the week, but Em especially enjoyed this one because her papa colored it with her.

fweekcoloringandreading

The next day while we were in the backyard, Tori and Em discovered some FLOWERS, although some readers may call them weeds. Em had a lot of fun picking the flowers and chasing Tori around the yard trying to put them behind her ears. We are going to count that as a sensory activity.

flowerchase

These were the highlights of what we did this week. Have you celebrated a LoW? What are some activities your littles enjoyed? Next week will be filled with all things “G” related! Have an idea we should try? Let us know below!

6 Tricks for Melt Down Free LoW Activities with Young Toddlers

Backstory of Letter of the Week (LoW)

I am privileged enough to be a stay at home mom (SAHM) but a few weeks ago, I realized that we were constantly doing the same activities, with very little variety. I felt like Em wasn’t being introduced to many new skills or activities and I was failing as a care provider for her. This got me thinking about what she would be doing if she were in a daycare setting and how to start getting her ready for eventually going to preschool. After spending hours looking on tons of websites (just kidding, it was one site… Pinterest), I decided that we were going to start learning the alphabet. To keep myself from getting bored, I came up with a plan to do one letter per week and work on lesson plans for each week. I have focused on short attention span crafts, sensory activities, and finding things in our community that will fit into our weekly letter. We are currently on the letter “F,” so I plan to share our fantastic adventures from previous weeks sprinkled in with the current letter of the week (LoW) posts.  Listed below are just a few of the things that I am learning as we work through our own LoWs and I will try to pass on any other suggestions I may discover along the way.

6 Tricks for Melt Down Free LoW with Young Toddlers

  1. KEEP THE ACTIVITY SIMPLE : I have an 18 month old, so any high tech or ultra intricate projects just aren’t going to happen. It is easy to get overly excited about a project and adding fun details to it. Unfortunately, a realistic attention span is about 5-10 minutes. Too many directions can lead to melt downs from both the care giver and the over stimulated toddlers. I try to stick to one or two steps.
  2. PREP WORK IS KEY: When I do plan something that is a little more intricate, such as a party with other care givers or craft projects with multiple steps, I try to do as much work beforehand as possible. Em will not sit still while I try to find all of the glue/ feathers/ pom poms, so I try to get everything together before introducing the activity to her.
  3. BUILD ON WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE: I try to introduce the letter itself on the first day of the week. We start with just seeing the letter and then when running errands, I point out what items start with the letter. If in a previous week we worked with a sensory bin, I may pull out the same bin but add new items to it that would apply to the current LoW. If we have worked on learning certain colors, I may try to do a basic color sorting game with her to keep her busy while I’m making dinner.
  4. LOOK FOR LOCAL EVENTS OR FIELD TRIPS: It can be easy to only focus on doing crafts or finding things around the house to fill time, but my toddler is very active. She loves to explore and absorbs information quickly. If we don’t get out of the house at least two times a week, she starts getting cabin fever. An example of a trip could be as simple as going to a fast food restaurant and playing in a ball pit for “B” week  or finding a local rose garden for “R” week.
  5. GET OTHER CARE GIVERS INVOLVED: We have a few friends in the area that have children around the same age as Em. She really enjoys interacting with other kids and when she sees them get excited for an activity, she seems to focus and get excited for it too. We do things as simple as let the kids blow bubbles in the backyard or meet at the local events to help keep an eye on each others kids if there are larger crowds.
  6. BE FLEXIBLE: Sometimes activities don’t turn out the way you wanted them to. This week we had planned on going to a strawberry field for “F” week but Em had a really bad heat rash from the day before, so instead we stayed home and played with flower rings and finger painted. If you don’t get to an activity you had planned, save it for a rainy day or use it on a random weekend when you have nothing else going on. A toddler really isn’t going to notice that you missed something and you can always count it as a review.

 

Do you have any tips you would like to share? Want me to give more information on a certain topic? Leave a comment and I will see what I can do.

Welcome & Toddler Tip Tuesday!

I am so glad to have everyone here and I can’t wait to share all of our adventures with you! This is definitely a work in progress and I would love to have feedback anyone may have, so feel free to interact in the comments below.

From now on, I will be sharing our weekly activities here. I have recently started going through the alphabet with Emarie and focusing on one letter per week. Since she is only 18 months old, I try to find things that will keep her focused for short periods of time. Believe me, that is harder than I thought it would be when we first started. I don’t think I have ever been as exhausted as I have been since having a toddler. We are currently in the middle of “F” week, so the next post will go over all of the fun we have been having.

On Tuesdays, I am going to embrace the idea of “Tip Tuesday” by passing on any and all toddler tips that I have found actually useful, on this exciting parenting journey. So, for our first “Toddler Tip Tuesday,” I would like to introduce you to an idea that may be silly but has changed our mornings. Emarie LOVES yogurt and HATES all green vegetables and ketchup. This girl will throw everything from brussel sprouts to lettuce, without even tasting it. Enter the amazing idea of “fancy dip.” I kid you not, if I put yogurt on her plate at the same time as a green vegetable and let her use it as dip, I am about 85% more likely to achieve some sort of vegetable to mouth occurrences. So if you have a toddler that likes to dip and hates veggies, give it a shot and let me know if it helps.

-M