November 28, 2014

Untraditional Toddler Gifts

The toys pile up. They sing, they dance, they spin in circles and flash lights and frankly at the end of a long work day they can drive me bonkers. Which is why this year I'm trying to take a nontraditional approach to some of my gift giving, at least for my toddler. My little guy has a budding imagination so it takes next-to-nothing to entertain him and most of the time he's only interested in doing things that are off limits or doing things with my husband or I. 

I thought about it and I can't be the only mother out there on the prowl for great gift ideas and with Black Friday upon us this is my gift to you. A list of some of my favorite untraditional toddler gifts.

Untraditional Toddler Gifts

Bring Nature Closer. 
It doesn't matter what season it is, the outdoors offer an amazing beauty that just isn't overlooked by a young eye. Adding a bird feeder to your outdoor space, even if it's limited, only enhances that beauty and it ensures that your toddler will look forward to spending time outside or at least they will enjoy their view from the window.

A Way to Relax. 
If you have a toddler I can almost guarantee that you could use an extra 15 minutes of quiet time or a minute to actually sit down. I can't ensure that a comfy kids chair, like this one from the Land of Nod, will give you that time but coupled with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Cars, your odds are much better. The reason I like this particular chair over others is because it's less expensive, comes from a great brand and personalization is FREE!

Plus Land of Nod is offering 15% off and free shipping until Dec. 1st, just use promo code: SAVE15.

Discover the Inner Artist.
Toddlers learn more and more about their coordination everyday and art projects and other creative outlets allow them to hone those developing skills while also providing an outlet to improve their imagination. I really like the Step2 Flip and Doodle Desk with Stool Easel because it has plenty of space to hold art supplies and it should withstand the torment of a toddler.

Think Summer Time. 
We may be in the grip of winter but that doesn't mean you can't think ahead to sweet sweet summer time. Why not prepare your little ones with water toys and accessories like this amazing Swimline Galleon Raider Inflatable from Not only will this impressive float be a showstopper under the tree, it's sure to be a toddler favorite AND is providing free shipping on all orders over $49. I've bought some items from swimoutlet.com and in the past and I'm always blown away by their great selection and amazing customer service.

What's on your toddlers wish list this year? Do you have any other great nontraditional gift ideas?

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November 12, 2014

Working it Out

It's hard to believe that the time has come for our very last Mamas Tell All Linkup post. Over the past several months I have sincerely enjoyed getting to know many of you through posts, comments and pins. You have inspired me, motivated me and taught me so much about being a mother. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. 

And with that, there's still time for you to join the fun. If you're a blogger link up with us. If you're not, leave some comment love and join the conversation. Make sure to follow the hosts and display the button! 

Let's get started...
The Hosts

Everyday Thoughts The So-Called Homemaker That Southern Mama 
Brittany from Everyday Thoughts // Christine from The So-Called Homemaker // Ashley from That Southern Mama

The Button
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The Topic
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle when you have children

Some of you moms are simply super women. You can balance it all: work, kids, a husband, a household and somehow you still find time to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

I strive to be like you. Once upon a time, I was the epitome of health, a young college athlete conditioned to push my body fast and further. Every ounce of food was meant to provide long-term energy. I was a trained machine. But life moves on and things change. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still important to me but it's more difficult than ever to actually realize

I try to stay active - running and yoga are my preferred methods. For the most part I like to think I eat healthy. Since I cannot commit as much time to my workouts as I once did, it's more important than ever that I make healthy meal choices regularly. I recently started making smoothies each day and I'm trying to increase my water intake, both of these things are easy to execute on a consistent bases without sacrificing valuable time with my family. In fact my son, LOVES the smoothies too so it's a win/win. 

So to help make your lives a little easier and to help you reach your health goals, I'm sharing my favorite smoothie recipe. 

One Banana 
10-12 Frozen Strawberries
1/2 Cup Frozen Blueberries
1/2 Cup Orange Juice 
1 Cup Baby Spinach 

Preparation Instructions:
  Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Serve cold and enjoy. 

Tip: I use a Vitamix (and I highly recommend it). The entire process takes less than 2 minutes. Investing in a great blender it a time saver that also helps you reach your goals. 

When it comes to healthy living my number one tip is to take steps forward. Even if they are small. Tackle small things that will help you make a lifestyle change and stick to it. Right now my focus is my family and my career - I can't commit to working out five times a week but I can make an honest effort to eat breakfast each morning, cut my caffeine intake, take a 15-minute walk during lunch. The goal isn't to do it all at one time it's to make small, manageable changes so that improve your health and quality of life without giving you that overwhelming feeling that you are trying to paddle across the Atlantic with just a canoe. 

How are you maintaining a healthy lifestyle after having children?

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November 7, 2014

The Size of Your Heart

In the last couple months, I have a renewed faith in the human spirit and its capacity for kindness and generosity. It's amazing the capacity of some people's hearts when they have a cause to champion. 

I recently shared that my friends have begun down a life-long heart transplant journey with their two-year-old daughter. They've taken full-time residency at the hospital, CHOA Egleston, here in Atlanta waiting for the phone call that will give little Mallory a chance for a normal life. They're waiting for a heart to become available. Now as you can probably imagine, there is a lot of pain and courage and prayer needed not only for Mallory but for the donor's family. Mallory's new chance at life does not come without a struggle for another family. A family that will lose a precious child and in do so will provide life for Mallory. 

To come to terms with this reality is almost impossible for me to comprehend as a mother. So instead I have set my sights on God's plan for my friends and their daughter. Her life is precious and she is fighting for it now like never before. We patiently wait and we trust in God's plan. 

But the reality is that Mallory's heart is too big for her tiny body She will likely need three heart transplants over the span of her life and with each transplant comes a series of obstacles from health-related concerns to financial obligations. 

The length of Mallory’s hospital stay will be determined by a complicated algorithm prioritizing other children in need, blood types, health issues and most importantly organ availability. Mallory's condition is so severe that she is at the top of that list, but still the average wait time for a heart ranges anywhere from three months to a year. That is a year of hospital living, a year of parents dividing their time between their heartbroken angel and their energetic, older daughter. That is a year of deductibles and copays and some uninsurable expenses. That is a year that both parents need to somehow maintain their full-time jobs in order to make ends meet at home while also staying day and night with Mallory. 

Here is a glimpse of Mallory's story.

Our goal for Mallory is garner 100,000 prayers, 100,000 shares and 100,000 dollars. We need prayers for health, courage and strength, shares to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and $100,000 to help cover transplant-related expenses. When you donate to COTA in honor of Mallory Kate, 100% of the funds contributed will assist with Mallory's transplant-related expenses now and throughout her lifetime. 

The blogging community is a powerful and tight-knit group that has raised money and awareness for a variety of needing charities and individuals. I'm asking you to find it in your heart to share Mallory's story with your reader and your community. 

See more at: #FollowHerHeart 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Be Blessed,
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November 5, 2014

Looking Ahead

I started blogging for many reasons. I continue to blog because of the wonderful community and that couldn't be more evident than through this linkup. The participation and encouragement have been overwhelming. It's hard to believe we only have two topics left! But that means there's still time for you to join the fun. If you're a blogger link up with us. If you're not, leave some comment love and join the conversation. Make sure to follow the hosts and if you're a blogger put the button in your post and on your sidebar! 

The Hosts

Everyday Thoughts The So-Called Homemaker That Southern Mama 
Brittany from Everyday Thoughts // Christine from The So-Called Homemaker // Ashley from That Southern Mama

The Button
Grab button for Mamas Tell All
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The Topic
Planning for the Future - Do you have a living will, guardianship and college saving funds in place. What's necessary and how do you make sure your child is prepared for the future?  

The test was positive. 

Joy. Fear. Completely overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe the flood of emotions that ensued after the pregnancy test read positive. I was going to be a mom!  

Fast forward about 15 days (+/- 14.5) and the planning is already in full swing. 

What color should we decorate the nursery? When and how should we announce our precious gift? Who would we tell first? What's a good name for a girl? What if it's a boy? Should we move beforehand? How will I know if I'm a good mom? When was the last time I even changed a diaper? How much weight will I gain? 

All day. Everyday. The questions came flooding in creating this cyclone of anxiety and excitement. I thought it would all stop a couple weeks after bringing our baby home. I thought I would fall into a routine where the questions ceased and answers rolled in, but that never happened. The questions just changed. 

When do I start putting him in timeout? Is he too young to send him to grandma's for a week? How can I tell if he's eating enough fruits and veggies? Is it okay to let him watch two episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in one afternoon? Will I ever feel rested? Is he on target with his development? Do people think I'm a bad mom? 

When you're bombarded with questions that effect your everyday it's easy to miss some of the really important planning questions, you should ask yourself. Those questions that prepare you for the things that will allow your child to prosper in the future. The things that help you as a parent protect your child, your legacy: college funds, and living wills and guardianship. These involve tough questions. Ones you can't consult google for when you need an answer. The ones that require planning and discussions and probably a lot of soul searching. 

And when the questions aren't overwhelming the execution is. Getting my little guy to eat can be a chore each day, how am I supposed to also find time to go to an attorney's office and complete a living will? 

Well the problem is I haven't. And that MUST change. It's my job as a parent to prepare my child for the future and I haven't adequately done that. My husband and i have discussed the immediate need for a will and guardianship papers and our goal to to have them complete by the end of the year. No more stalling and no more excuses because in the end answering some tough questions could be just as beneficial in the long run as preparing a well-balanced meal or ensuring that my son gets 8 hours of sleep. 

How are you planning for a brighter future for you little ones?

Make sure to join us next week for our last linkup (so sad). We'll be discussing: Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle when you have children. 
Be Blessed,
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November 4, 2014

10 Life Hacks

I so thrilled to teaming up with Ash from The Grits Blog today to give you our ten east life hacks. I mean, life is hard and we can all use some tips to make it a little bit easier right?

Here are some of my tips:

(1) Protect your hair. 

When time is of the essence the last thing I want to do is spend my time blowdrying and straightening my hair, so I just don't wash it every day. It's much better for the health of my hair and it saves tons of time during the week. Purchase a shower cap, a $3 investment so don't have to worry about frizziness from the moisture and you're style stays fresh a day longer. 

(2) Make the most of your commute. 

Multitasking during long commutes can be key to saving time and energy. Whether it's a trip to and from the grocery store or a trek to the office five times a week, by finding efficient use of your time you can selectively knock out important tasks without sacrificing extra hours of your day. For example, audio books are a great way to catch up on your book club selection. Please note, I'm not suggesting texting while driving or putting yourself in a dangerous position because of multitasking. 

(3) Find time to relax. 

You are so much more productive when your body and mind are rested. Take time for yourself and let your body and mind unwind occasionally. Five minutes of yoga, a 30-minute power nap or a seat at the nail salon - however you choose to decompress make sure you aren't pushing yourself to the limits without restoring energy, 

(4) Cook on Sunday. 

Use your time off wisely and don't just plan your meals ahead of time - prepare extra meals for the week and store them in your fridge or freezer. This will help cut down on prep time during the week, it ensures you're eating healthy, home-cooked meals and planning ahead helps cut out unnecessary food expenses. I also love throwing in a Crockpot recipe at least once a week. I walk in from a long day at work and the glorious scent from a homemade dinner has enveloped the house! It's magical. This is one of my favorite crockpot recipes

(5) Buy out of season. 

Time is money and money is also money, so when it comes to life hacks I'm trying to make the most of both, which is why I buy out of season. I buy decorations, clothes and  accessories out of season because they're almost always 40-50% off the original retail price. The riding boots I love this year for $350 are only $150 in March when everyone is itching to wear open-toe shoes. The Christmas ornaments  that are $25/each at Pottery Barn are given away like Halloween candy the second Santa returns to the North Pole. Buying wrapping paper and scarfs out of season also is twice as exciting because you get the thrill of the initial buy and then you experience it all over again when the season rolls around. 

Pretty straight forward and simple right?! Sometimes it's the easiest things that make the biggest difference. 

Here are Ash's tips:

6. Pack your meals the night before.

This one has been a major game changer for me. Every morning, no matter how early I get up I am always running around like a chicken with my head cut off and the one thing that keeps me from being late is having my lunch and snacks packed and ready to go. Those five minutes count!

7. Layout your outfits for the week on Sunday.

This one is HARD. Most of the time I am good to go through Wednesday but Thursday ALLLWAYYS gets me. Friday is easy because it's jean day or from now until March, legging day.

ooooorr you can just go shopping on your lunch and buy a new outfit for work for the next day....

Yeahhhhh I am so guilty of this like at least once a month....this wasn't a work outfit by the way, I bought this for the beach earlier this summer. Looking at this picture is making me miss my long hair, oh well it will be back by this summer I hope.

8. Always pack your gym clothes the night before.

If I don't do this then I won't work out the next day, period. End of story. So I pack the night before and hang it on the door knob.

9. Fill up the gas tank on the way home or on your lunch - not on the way to work.

Other than packing my lunch and snacks the morning of, this is the other big thing that always makes me late.

Ugh, I hate purchasing gas. Literally, dollar signs just go out of the tail pipe. Am I right am I right?

10. Set your alarm 30 minutes in advance so you can snooze.

I know that a lot of people say that hitting that snooze button is "bad" but I can't really wake up properly without it. So, I set my alarm early and then hit snooze every five minutes.

What are some of your life hacks that make your life easier??

Be Blessed,
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