Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Product Review: Baby Items

Hey everyone, I'm back with my second installment of "product reviews".  I haven't done this since January, can you believe it was that long ago?  I sure can't.  Today I'm talking about all things baby!  Most of these are items that made my life SO much easier when I had kids and now that I've had two, I know these are products I would either try again or ones I could live without.  So, let's get started.

First off this swing:  

I admit, both of my boys are great sleepers.  Liam was sleeping through the night at five weeks.  I'm not sure exactly how old Dallas was when he slept through the night, but I'm sure it was somewhere around that same time.  From day one I had a bedtime routine, (which my sister has asked me to blog about and one day I will) but this swing was a game changer for us.  I let them sleep in the swing and then once they were too big, I moved them into their crib.  When Dallas was born we had a swing that only used batteries.  That is the worst idea ever in my opinion.  We ended up going through so many size D batteries in the first week of his life because it just burned through them like nothing I've ever seen.  So we bought rechargeable batteries and a charger.  We still had to change batteries in the middle of the night!  We were already awake enough with a newborn, who wanted to get up to tend to a swing too?  Not me.  So we returned that swing and bought this one.  Both boys have logged so many hours in this thing, I will be sad when the day comes to get rid of it.

Pros: swings baby in two directions, folds up fairly small for storage, seat comes off to also use as a "bouncy seat", plays music and sounds, plugs in

Cons: it's a little bulky when you have the swing out so you have to make sure you have the room for it

Recommend?: Highly
Alyssa's Star Rating: 5 out of 5 (go get you one!!)

Next are these blankets

The first two are swaddling blankets, first a heavier weight cotton flannel blend and then a lighter weight.  I'm a firm believer in swaddling.  I think it helps baby to sleep MUCH better and it makes them feel warm and cozy.  The third blanket is a "lovie".  Again, from day one, I placed a lovie next to each of the boys heads. And I'm not exaggerating here.  These lovies were purchased while I was pregnant and were placed in the hospital bag.  I know "they" say that babies shouldn't have blankets near them when sleeping, but it was never in a place where they would have an issue.  (I'm not a doctor and don't take responsibility for others and how they use blankets, so please use your best judgement here.) I would simply place it next to the boys so they could feel the soft satin edges or I wold lay it flat and then lay their heads on the blanket.  All of these blankets hold up amazing well in the washer.  Liam has one of each of the swaddling blankets and two lovies he is almost two and they look great.  (Except for one lovie that we lost, sad day.) Dallas has two of the flannel type blankets and two lovies.  He is almost four.  They still look brand new. "Nuff said! 

Pros: long lasting, machine washable, soft, large so they will last years while your child grows, great price for the length of use

Cons: if you are super picky with patterns and colors you may have to wait and check the site often for new ones

Recommended: Highly
Alyssa's Star Rating: 5 out of 5

Ok, so now I have something that I didn't necessarily love, but I want to share the good, the bad and the ugly here.  It's a sound machine, specifically this one: 

While I was searching for a picture I noticed a few changes, so maybe the company has updated the machine since I bought mine and it works better.  Where this one is green, ours was blue.  Where this one says "my baby" on the top, ours was plain. We started using this and at first I thought it was great.  You could position the reflection above the baby's bed and give him something to look at.  This eliminated the need for a mobile on the crib.  It has plenty of sound choices too, which is great.  However, after a few months of using this it would make a grinding sound while the "disks" were spinning.  So I exchanged it because I thought Dallas would start sleeping terribly without his beloved sound machine.  Then it happened again, so I exchanged it again. It happened about three more times before I decided we needed a different plan of action.  We had an old iPod so we loaded it up with sweet lullaby tunes and played it on shuffle all night via a docking station.  Once Liam was born, Dallas was happy to give his sound machine to his little brother and now Liam is going on two years of using it.  

Pros: it works, sometimes!  There are different sounds and different light displays to choose from, it's small so it's easy to travel with

Cons: it doesn't work, sometimes!  The sounds are just continuous, no variety 

Recommend?: No
Alyssa's Star Rating: 1 out of 5

Last but not least...

Now, this is also not the exact system we have, but the fact that Babies R Us still sells the same type of system after four years speaks volumes!  We have used this (again) for both boys and it's great.  A life saver, if you will.  We can push this stroller easily on any terrain.  To the park, grass, mulch, gravel, dirt, concrete, etc. You name it, it goes! And it's not that pricey either.  

Pros: where do I begin...sturdy, easy to fold, gender neutral, long lasting, easy to push, all-terrain, now includes mp3 speakers! 

Cons: it is a little heavy when you first try it, but you get the hang of it quickly

Recommend?: Highly
Alyssa's Star Rating: 5 out of 5

Do you have a favorite product you would like me to review?  Do you have a "category" you would like me to cover?  Share below in the comments! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Boys

This may not be the type of post you'd expect from me, but it's something that is important to me to document, so I am.  After all, this blog isn't just for my readers (how few of them I have anyway) it's also a chance for me to document some great moments in our family.

Dallas and Liam have done a little bit of "modeling".  They have profiles with a free agency out of Green Bay, WI and they have booked several jobs with Shopko.  In fact, Liam is currently on the front page for the baby items.  Between the two of them, they have been in about 10 ads.  I'm proud of them!  They love hamming it up for the camera and although sometimes it takes awhile for the photographers to get "the shot", it happens and they look super cute each time.  Dallas loves to get the ad and look through it to find himself or his brother and Liam, well he just thinks it's some other fun thing that we do and I'm okay with that.  If at any time they seem like they aren't that into it, we will stop.  I will never pressure my kids to do anything they don't want to do, even if it's something I want to live vicariously through them while they do it.  

So, the other day I got an email from the company mentioning that we should update their profiles pictures.  I took the boys outside and snapped a few photos of them and here are the results.  I am posting these here because I don't want to forget this age.  They are almost 4 and almost 2 and they are boys from head to toe. These are straight out of my camera, not edited.  But they show their personalities and I love that.  

First, Liam (because in life his oldest bro gets to do everything first, so today it's Liam's turn!) Liam has little red spots on his face from drooling due to teething and chewing on everything.  He has a silly smile and he is so busy all the time.  He wants to do everything his brother does, so Dallas is the one making him laugh in these pictures or making him look at the camera.  Liam is super strong and something I don't think he knows his own strength!  We say he will be the one in sports and will be the first one in the emergency room with a broken bone, that better not happen for another 18 years though!  I have a feeling he will push the limits in life, whether or not they are meant to be pushed.  He is going to be successful at so much, I just know it.  He is stubborn and wants what he wants right. now.  He likes to climb and jump and run.  He loves to be outside and his absolute favorite thing is to swing.

Now, on to Dallas.  He is smart and kind.  He has a big heart and always cares about other people.  He helps me out around the house whenever I ask.  He is organized and he likes things to be just so.  He gets a little to rough with his brother at times, but he notices quickly when that happens and is even quicker to apologize.  He is a gentle soul with a lot of love to give and I think he's going to do some big things in this world.  I think he will make an impact on people's lives.  He remind me to slow down and enjoy life's little treasures.  That we don't always have to rush through this life at  lightning fast speed.  We are pretty sure he's going to excel in school and learning will come easy to him.  

I love these two boys and I'm so thankful to be their mom.  I'm lucky to have them, impatient at times, learning each day, and find myself loving them more and more even when I thought that wasn't possible. Being a mom is the. greatest. gift. ever.  Okay, enough with the sappy-talk! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Monthly Meal Plan #2

I completely let it slip my mind to post my meal plan for this month!  I actually can't even believe that it's April 9th already.  I used the calendar I found in February over at 505design since it worked great and was easy to edit.  I also like the "notes" section on the bottom in case I need to jot something down that I have to grab from the store.  So, without further ado, here it is:

A few things to note:

1.  Most of these recipes are either from Pinterest (more specifically from this board) or meals I have tried before and liked, so they became my go-to meals.

2.  Yes, we eat a lot of chicken, but I usually make it differently so we aren't tired of it.  It's healthy and we almost always have some on hand, so it's easy for me.

3.  Just like other meal plans I have done, I don't hold myself to this menu.  If we skip a day or I don't feel like cooking, I circle that day and move on to a different one.  Also, weather in Wisconsin is hit or miss these days, so if I have a grilling recipe and the weather doesn't cooperate that day, I have no choice but to go to something else.  I'll usually pick a fast meal that day like breakfast for dinner or spaghetti.

4.  Which brings me to my next point.  Breakfast for dinner has become a fast favorite for my boys.  I don't put exactly what I'll make for that day because we always have an abundance of breakfast choices on hand. So, it could be eggs, bacon and toast, french toast, omelets, waffles, pancakes, etc.  I will make a quick choice that day and cook it up.

5.  If you choose to make any of these recipes, please share in the comments what you thought and what changes you may make!  Also, share your favorite meals below, I'm always looking for new ideas.

Happy Planning!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Swoon worthy #2

So waaaay back in March :) I started a series called Swoon worthy.  Don't remember it?  Click here.

Today I'm back with the second installment of this series, so I guess that means this is officially a series!


So, let's get this party stated, shall we?

1.  Last time I mentioned the Nike Fuel Band, well I found something a bit more affordable and I actually got to see this one in action, in person.  A teacher at the YMCA was wearing it one day and it caught my eye, I asked her about it, she let me see it and told me how to use it in literally 2 minutes.  So easy!  So I started hunting and found one online I'm planning to purchase next week!  I know last time I said I don't usually pull the trigger on such expensive items but I have good reason this time.  The last few times I ran, my phone died.  I have the Runtastic app on my phone and I use that in conjunction with music.  Well, about 15-20 minutes into the run, my phone died.  And not just once, every time (ok, so it was about 3 times, but still!) Talk about frustrating!  I know I have a short battery life, but I'm holding out until my upgrade to get a new phone.  So, here's what I'm swooning over and excited to purchase.  Oh, and I'm sure if you know me, you'll assume that I'll be getting the awesome teal colored band, and you would be correct. I'm also thinking that bright pink band will be fun in the future, if I use this a lot and want to switch it up sometimes.! So, I guess this awesome product will be doubling as a fashion accessory?  Fine by me!

2. This shirt had me at "you're"!  I love it, it's funny and it's from my new favorite tee shirt company.  I need some fun new comfy tees since that pretty much what I live in year round.  Skreened has super soft shirts that make you feel like you are in your pajamas all day. This link is not for the exact shirt I found the first time I did a search, but it's close.  You can actually create your one shirt on their site, which I think is great.  They have amazing customer service, which is ALWAYS a plus in my book.

3. Okay, so the next item isn't for me.  It's for my kids.  They always wear my glasses and Dallas has asked (more than 10 times) if he can have his own pair of glasses.  Wouldn't these look SO cute on him?  If you said no, you are not right!  Liam also tries to wear my glasses and he has bent them the wrong way on numerous occasions, so at this price I think a pair for each kid is in order.  I also think a little photo shoot with books books and more books, a cute button up sweater and these glasses would be perfection.

4. This is nerdy.  But this is true life people.  I have been looking for a cursive font cartridge for my Cricut machine for a while now.  I think this is as close as I will get....

5.  Finally I am loving this.  My closet will be getting a makeover in a few months and I am hoping I can recreate something like this for it.  I don't wear a lot of jewelry these days, since my kids think it's fun to pull on it when I do.  So, I have paired down on a lot of what I have and this organization system would work great for me.  I like that it looks rustic too, so maybe I'll try my hand at distressing something!  I'll share all the details (if it turns out!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

World Autism Awareness Day

I had plans to post my monthly meal plan here today, but there is something bigger than food on my mind today.

Today is a day to raise awareness for autism. I don't know a lot about this neurological disorder and I don't personally know a lot of people with it, but I still want to take part in raising awareness. My sister on the other hand, received her degree in Elementary and Special Education. She worked as an in-home autism therapist while in college. I have heard many stories from her about what she has learned and I have asked her question just out of curiosity. My sister has participated in the "Walk 4 Autism" the last couple years and I had the pleasure of joining her two years ago and will be doing so again this year. Throughout the walk, there are signs with facts about autism and I'd like to share some of those overwhelming facts with you. I feel like it's important to take part in activities that benefit others even if you don't know someone directly who was affected by the cause.  I also feel like opening up your mind and learning about those "issues" is important as well.

Disclaimer: I found some of these facts just by googling "what is autism" and I remembered some of them from the walk.  So I hope they are current and correct. If not please feel free to correct me by commenting below with a source to your information.

1. Autism affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.
2. Autism is the fastest growing development disability in the US
3. Boys are almost five times more likely to have autism than girls
4. The disorder can range from mild to highly disabling
5. Autism is just a different type of personality, it's not always a problem

So, if you find yourself asking the question "how can I raise awareness?" Here's how!

You can wear blue today! That's so simple, everyone has to have some blue in their closet! Put it on:)

You can "light it up blue".  Simply buy a blue light bulb from many participating retailers and put it in a lamp or in your porch light. The retailers *should be* donating a portion of the sales to Autism Speaks! I got mine at Walmart, but I'm pretty sure the home improvement stores are selling them as well.

You can also change your profile picture on Twitter or Facebook to blue. Just follow this link to complete this easy step to show your support.

You can click here to find a walk near you.

I wish I would have been on top of my game and posted this yesterday so you all had a chance to buy a light bulb or wear blue this morning when you were getting ready for work, but I wasn't. However, the entire month of April is Autism Awareness month, so go ahead and participate tomorrow, or the next day or the next!! Let's make difference, let's raise awareness, let's teach each other something and most importantly let's support those fighting their battle against autism.

I would also like to take the time to thank those, like my sister, who spend time working with children affected by autism. And to the parents who have a child with autism, I commend you. Being a parent is tough! The hardest job on the planet if you ask me.  Being a parent to a child with any disorder is something only the strongest of people are given the chance to do.