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Unique Gift Ideas for Kids of All Ages

This post is sponsored by Hahaland.

I am always on the lookout for unique, fun, and educational gift ideas for my own children and for birthday celebrations. I was so happy when Hahaland let me try out some of their products and “best-ever” toys. Their products are of great quality and are functional and fun! I love that I can find toys for all ages in one place.

Let’s be honest, we use screen time in our home and I don’t regret that, but I do love when I come across a toy that allows for screen-free play. We can all use a little bit of balance in our lives.

Here are some of our favorites, sorted by age level. I hope you find them as awesome as we do!

Bonus, save $10 on Orders $65+ with code Lauren10 at Hahaland.

Baby/ Six Months Plus

sippy cup with soft spout and straw cup

This sippy cup with spout and weighted straw is great for smoothly transitioning baby from the bottle to a cup. We have found that a soft sippy spout more resembles the bottle which can help baby more easily get used to the feel of a cup. At 8 months plus, the straw cup (which is also included) can be used as well. The straw is weighted, which means that baby can be in any position to drink. Little ones are used to holding a bottle upright to drink, but a typical straw cup does not allow for this option. The weighted straw allows them to get used to the feeling of the straw more easily by drinking from any position. I love that this cup comes with attachments for both options, as a straw cups can support speech development and help little ones build muscles in the mouth. Measurements are also still included on the side of the cup to help manage feeding as well. Win!

Toddler/ Preschool Ideas

paint with water flash cards

Paint with Water Flash Cards Toddler Puzzles are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I love educational toys as who doesn’t love having fun while learning? These cards have so many neat features. First, realistic images of fruits and vegetables are featured to use as flash cards to help with language development. The cards also function as small puzzles which help with motor coordination. For added fun, the front of the card features a magic water drawing activity. Fill the included pen with water, and little ones can paint to magically show what each fruit or vegetable can become. I love how this encourages children to think about cause and effect relationships. This is a great Montessori activity.

car screen free toy

The Race Tracks Car Adventure Toy Playset has been a huge hit in our home for all of our children (ages 3, 6, and 8). They have spent hours playing with this toy. Little ones use their hands to activate different buttons along the bottom of the toy to make the cars move through obstacles along the path. At first it was fun just figuring out how the buttons worked and in what order. Now, the kids are working on keeping all three cars moving around the track at the same time. The playset helps build hand-eye coordination as well as motor skills. This is a great screen-free, electronic-free toy which provides endless entertainment.

Whole Family Fun

Titanic 3D puzzle

The LED Titanic Ship 3D Puzzle is hours of fun for the entire family. If you are looking for a scree-free activity for the whole family, this is it! We worked on this 3D puzzle together. We worked a couple of hours a day, and it took us about eight hours to complete (even with little hands helping). My six and eight year olds really enjoyed this challenge. With adult help, they were easily able to participate. I am amazed at how seamless this 3D puzzle was to put together. It looks like it would be very difficult, but it wasn’t. We just followed the directions exactly and were careful when punching out the pieces and it came together perfectly.

putting together titanic puzzle

I cannot believe the details in this ship. They are intricate and beautiful. The pieces came together so perfectly that it seemed like magic. The finished product is 34.6 inches long and includes working LED lights. It looks beautiful on display. We will display it in our home, which will remind us of all of the fun we had together. This would make a perfect gift for a child, teen, family, grandparent, really for anyone. If you have a child who loves puzzles, this is a unique activity they will surely enjoy.

3D puzzle of the titanic

Remember, you can save $10 on Orders $65+ with code Lauren10 at Hahaland.

Do you have a favorite? Which product do you like best? Share it in the comments.

To learn more about. me and my blog, check out: About Lauren

You may also enjoy: 30 Plus Fun Craft and Activity Ideas for Kids with Household Items or What Makes a “Good” Parent

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Don’t Let Your Marriage Take a Backseat After Kids

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about enjoying life where I am. It’s so easy to get into the “I can’t wait fors” and the “one days” and it becomes so hard to be present in the now. But I know I need to be present because one day it will all be different. 

We all know that one day the kids will be grown and there will be no more hands to hold or children to rock back to sleep. One day the kids will grow up and become adults and will move out. “They” say, “Time is fleeting!” or “Time is a thief!” We are reminded of this with each little milestone, with each new word learned, with each inch our children grow. Sometimes, something as simple as a look they give us can snap us back to reality as we are reminded that they are growing up into their own little people. We know we will one day miss these days so much, but there is also something else to consider. 

When this happens, when the kids grow, when they move out and move on… then it will be me and my husband. It will just be the two of us! Thus, it’s important we don’t forget to nurture this relationship too. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the current fire we are putting out or in just getting through the days, that we put our relationship with our significant other on the back burner. 

My Realization

The other day, I was feeling exhausted and burnt out. I was feeling like I was just going through the motions to get through the day. I noticed that my husband and I’s relationship had taken a backseat. I was taking care of the kids all day and my husband went to work. By the time he got home, I was tired. He was tired. We struggled to get the kids to sleep… seriously, nighttime is a beast y’all… and threw on a show and fell asleep on the couch. There was very little interaction. This was a daily occurrence. Life was starting to feel lonely. As I thought about this, I suddenly realized, One day the kids will be gone and we will be able focus on us again… but what if there is no more us to focus on? What if we have gotten so used to surviving and getting through the day that the old “us” is missing—gone? 

Photo Credit: Lindsey Martin Photography

At this point, we decided to plan a vacation for just the two of us. It’s hard to describe just how much we needed it. There were a few things I loved about this trip. 

I was served food the entire time, and I didn’t have to serve anyone… not one kid! 

I saw true beauty. It’s so easy to see when you can sit there and stare at it without a single interruption. And bonus, I was reminded of the beauty of us!

I learned that I am still myself—even after all three kids—I was still under there.

And, best of all, I saw how much I missed my kids even in a time where I could totally have time to myself. I felt recharged and couldn’t wait to get back to them.

marriage after kids

Ideas to Keep Your Marriage Off of the Back Burner

A vacation alone is not always possible, so one of the best ways I can think to solve this issue is to be present in the now—not just with the kids—but with your significant other too. Try to find joy in the current moment, right smack dab in the middle of the craziness. Play with the kids, watch a movie as a family, or go for a walk outside. You like gardening? Garden together. You like working out? Work out together. You like ice cream—who doesn’t?? Go get ice cream together. We can still focus on the present in our daily lives. We can still find the true beauty in the mundane. We can teach our kids to slow down and look for the beauty—to take a moment to smell the coffee, if you will—WITH us. 

For each other, I found I needed to make an effort to ask, “how was your day,” even if it’s after the kids go to sleep… and then truly listen to the response. Other ideas to keep your relationship at the forefront are:

Spend an evening after the kids are asleep just talking, with no TV or phones. Get a sitter. Go on a date or a short vacation. We went for only three nights and it was glorious. If you hesitate to leave the kids overnight and you are working parents, take a day off from work and have a whole day date while the kids are at school or in childcare. Have a date night after the kids are asleep in the comfort of your own home… a movie with popcorn and boxes of candy, cook a meal together and sit down and eat it with no interruptions, play cards! Anything!

We hear a lot about how we need to find “me-time” these days, and how we need to take time away as a couple, and this is so important! But remember, we can’t just do these things and then live miserably in the present otherwise. So, find ways to enjoy the now as much as possible, no matter the crazy, so that there are no regrets!

Marriage after kids
Photo Credit: Lindsey Martin Photography

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You may also enjoy – Motherhood: What We Don’t Talk About or My Author Journey: Writing My First Book

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20 Easter Crafts for Kids

Looking for something fun to do with the kids this Easter? We have compiled 20 fun and easy activities to try with your kids from some amazing bloggers! Check out 20 Easter crafts for kids of all ages! You’ll find something here for everyone.

Simply click the link below each picture for directions.

Peeps Edible Puffy Paint

Brought to you by Messy Little Monster, this edible puffy-paint craft is a fun activity all kids are sure to love!

Homemade Easter Egg Bath Bombs

Make these Easter egg bath bombs using plastic Easter eggs as molds. Check out this post from Mom Foodie for ingredients and directions.

Clothing Peg Easter Bunnies

Brought to you by Emma Owl, here is a fun clothes-pin Easter bunny craft! And what a cute addition to a flower arrangement!

Spring Butterfly Craft for Kids

Here is a fun butterfly activity from The Savvy Mama Lifestyle.

Easter Bunny Pom Pom Craft

Check out this adorable little pom pom Easter bunny from Moms Who Save. Included in the link is a free printable!

Paper Plate Easter Sewing Craft

What an easy and fun sewing craft for children from Red Ted Art! This craft can even help build fine motor skills! Mom win!

Easy Paper Bunny Bookmark Corner

Also from Red Ted Art, here is the cutest little bunny bookmark that I ever did see!

Easy Peeps Play Dough Recipe

Who doesn’t love play dough? And play dough made of peeps? Even better. Check out this fun recipe from Conserva Mom!

Yarn Crafts for Kids

From Natural Beach Living, here is a fun and easy Easter craft made with yarn.

Easter Egg Potato Stamp Activity

Also from Natural Beach Living, this Easter egg potato stamp activity is fun and unique.

How To Make Skittles Paints

Make water color paint with Skittles by checking out this activity from Crayons and Cravings. You will also find a free Easter egg printable!

Cardboard Tube Bunny Rabbit Family

Here is an adorable bunny rabbit craft using toilet paper rolls, brought to you from Crafts By Amanda.

Easter Egg Sun Catcher

Also from Crafts By Amanda, you can make a sun catcher with tissue paper and contact paper.

Easter Chick Handprint Craft

Here is a cute activity from Mom vs The Boys which is fun for the kiddos and an easy way to remember just how tiny those little hands once were.

Upcycled Easter Crayon Shapes

Make new and colorful crayons with your old, used crayons with this activity from Simplify Create Inspire! This link includes a free Easter card printable as well.

Paper Plate Easter Bunny Craft

This Easter bunny craft from The Best Ideas for Kids is super easy and super cute!

Fluffy Chick Craft For Kids

Check out this cute pom-pom chick craft from Simple Everyday Mom. Click the link above for directions and to access a free printable template.

Easy Bunny Craft

Here is a fun Easter bunny craft made by rolling marbles through paint!

Footprint Easter Bunny Card

How adorable is this Easter card idea from Messy Little Monster? Document your cutie’s foot print and send a card at the same time.

Handprint Easter Bunny

This is another cute card idea for the little ones from Emma Owl.

We hope these activities will make your Easter even more fun and special! Enjoy!

To learn more about me and my blog, check out: About Lauren

You may also enjoy 10 Reasons Why Parents and Zookeepers Are Alike or 10 Rainy Day Activities for Kids

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The Best and Worst Parenting Advice from the Real Experts: Parents

As parents, we receive a lot of advice. With three kids, I’ve heard it all.

Breastfeed. Supplement. Don’t breastfeed. Rock your baby to sleep. Don’t rock your baby to sleep—it’s a sleep association. Potty-train early. Wait to potty train. Offer baby food at 4 months. Wait until at least 6 months to offer baby food. Don’t yell at your child. 

The list could go on.

Some advice is requested, but we get plenty of unwarranted advice too. I am sure the person giving the advice has good intentions, but sometimes this advice leaves me feeling like I am doing everything wrong.

What is the right answer? What is the right way?

I went to the true experts, parents, to find out what is the best advice they have ever received and what is the worst. Here are their answers and links to their awesome blogs.

The best parenting advice I was told was that society, family, and even friends will give you all kinds of advice on how to raise your children but to take it all with a grain of salt and do what I think is best—since mothers know best. I was a young mom and didn’t have a clue so hearing everyone’s advice was so overwhelming.

-Bryana, Web With Dunn

The worst parenting advice I received involved colic—recommendations for a chiropractor/baby massage, dairy free/soy free diet and colic drops—none of which are medically proven to be beneficial. FINALLY, a friend told me to just accept that it’s colic, stop killing myself with dietary changes and just trust that it will pass with time. Wish I had accepted it sooner. 

-Katie, Katie Plus Coffee

The best advice I ever received and now give to new moms is – it’s okay if you don’t enjoy EVERY moment of Motherhood.

-Amanda, Hustle and Mom

Best Advice: When the baby is napping, keep living your normal life. Vacuum, watch TV, talk in a normal voice. Your baby will learn to sleep in a room that is not totally silent AND that allows you to live your normal life! You won’t have to tell your friend you can’t have coffee because the baby is sleeping!

-Stacy, Protecting Your Pennies

The worst is probably anytime some one assumes what worked for their kids who are YEARS apart will work for me with 3 kids in 3 years. A five-year span between two kids makes a huge difference. 

The best was probably when a family friend reminded me to ignore his own wife’s advice and do what was best for my family.

-Erin, Rocking MomLife in the Chaos of Three in 3

The best advice I’ve ever been given is to always trust your gut, no matter what, because as their mother no one on the planet knows your child better than you.

-Sarah, Sweet Miles

Worst: Never listen to parenting books because they’re useless and they take things too far. 

Best: Do what is best for you and baby. What works for one mom won’t work for the other. Parenting is an art not a science.

-Breanna, Mommies To Be

Take lots of videos while your kids are small. In a couple of years, you’ll be amazed because you forgot how small and cute they were.

-Val, Thoughtful Neighbor

The worst was all the breastfeeding comments from people who believed it was just simple and to supplement with cereal or formula if he was always that hungry. They didn’t breastfeed so they didn’t realize the work that it can be! 

The best was trust your gut!

-Kim, This Love Filled Life

The best advice was not to compare yourself or your baby to others. It’s SO easy to fall into that trap of feeling inadequate because so and so is always perfectly made up with immaculate hair and goes to parent baby yoga class or whatever—or worrying because your baby isn’t crawling/talking/eating yet and others are. You are doing a great job and your baby will develop in his/her own time.

-Haley, Mama in Progress

Worst – You can’t breastfeed if you have flat or inverted nipples. I finally tried with my 3rd and used a breast shell that helped fix the problem.
Best – was in the beginning, to nap when the baby naps as often as you can. Or to put stained clothes outside to sun bleach them! Pretty amazing!

-Jenn, One Hoppy Momma

The best advice I got as a new mom was that my baby was a new person. No one else had this little person and no one else was his mom. I was made for him and I had to trust my innate ability to make good decisions. That I would make bad ones too but to forgive myself and learn from them.

-Tricia, Habibi House

Crying is how baby communicates. Baby cries are like adult conversations. As moms we tend to over stress and interpret all cries as adult cries, when in fact we should understand that they are two very different things.

-Carol, Grow with me, Mommy

I agree with others, best is to trust yourself – but I mean really trust yourself…if your gut tells you not to worry, really – don’t! 

‪One of my kids was a late blooming reader and I thought, “It’s OK, he’s just more of a hands-on kid,” but omg people kept making me feel like I just wasn’t doing enough. It was really defeating, and every so often I would torture us both trying to force it. Then one day he found out there are books about Minecraft & Captain Underpants and suddenly he was reading chapter books. I wasted over a year second guessing myself. 

‪When I look back on it now I really wonder if the people beating me over the head with it even had kids. 

-Megan, Happy Healthy Messy

Best Advice – Give up trying to be the perfect parent! When you allow yourself to make mistakes and just do what you can, so much of the pressure is taken off and you can focus on really enjoying your kids!! 

Worst Advice – any time someone mentions the importance of kids reaching milestones on time!! Children develop and grow at different paces and having expectations for when they walk, talk, potty train, etc. puts unnecessary pressure on both parents and children. The large majority of kids will get there…let them be themselves!!

-Talya, The Mother Fix

Worst Advice: “Let him cry. He needs to cry. He’s a boy, it will help him man up.” (I am NOT kidding… and he was only 6 weeks old, and this advice came from our PASTOR at the time).

-Rachelle, Mama Writes Reviews

Worst Advice: anytime a stranger assumes they know what is better for your baby than you do. “I don’t think the comments were malicious in intent, but they stung. The first woman was making me feel bad for something I couldn’t control. Of course I would rather be home, curled in bed, recovering. But I have other children and ANNA had a doctor’s appointment that I couldn’t keep from my bed. And the second woman? I guess she was looking out for Anna, but in doing so she was questioning me and my judgement. I do that all day, I don’t need a stranger confirming my own doubts.”

Best Advice: being reminded that I am blessed, “[The cashier] finished the transaction, handed me my bags, and before I walked away she said, ‘You are so blessed.’ …Buoyed by that kind, simple interaction, I walked to my van with tears in my eyes.”

-Amanda, Living on Grace, Excerpts from: How to Talk to Moms: A Beginner’s Guide

Worst parenting advice: You need to put your baby down. Don’t hold her so much, you’re going to spoil her. You have to let her cry, don’t respond to her so quickly. You’re teaching her that when she cries someone will show up instantly.

-Keyona, Professional Momma

The worst advice I got was that my daughter needed to be potty trained before she was 3. We tried and cried and forced. It was the worst thing ever. A few other people told me to just wait. She’ll be ready when she’s ready. She finally trained at 3 and a half and it was infinitely easier when she was ready. I really wish I hadn’t tried so hard to get her potty trained in 3 days at two years old.

-Niki, Toot’s Mom is Tired

The worst advice was to withhold things to get mine to speak. He’s speech delayed and in therapy, and positive reinforcement has worked way better than refusing him a sippy cup until he says “cup” which just causes frustration.

-Jasmine, Love, Life, Laugh, Motherhood

The best advice I received was to know you are doing your best and that’s good enough for your children. You can’t make everyone happy 24/7, but at the end of the day, only you know the best decisions for your family. 

-Samantha, Journey to SAHM

Worst parenting advice I ever received was – you should just let the child cry out sometime and ignore his / her howling. It makes their lungs stronger and they understand ‘No’. My twins were just 5 months old at that time. Thankfully I ignored the advice and was attentive to the kid’s howls. 

-Charu, KetchupMoms

The worst parenting advice was from a trusted family member after having my firstborn. I was clueless about breastfeeding and my milk supply seemed low at the time.

She herself had only breastfed one of her two children as the first one she bottle-fed and the second she decided to give it a go. Her milk supply was so high she could’ve donated it she had so much.

She made me second guess myself and feel that there was something wrong with my milk supply if it was taking 30- 40 minutes for my daughter to nurse. She told me I was starving my baby and I needed to supplement. I should’ve listened to actual experts instead. My daughter was still gaining weight so she clearly wasn’t starving. What I didn’t know was that not all women have TONS of breastmilk when nursing. There were measures I could’ve taken to increase my milk supply which I learned with my next two children. I never had enormous amounts of milk but I was able to breastfeed my next two babies without having to supplement with no issues or weight loss.

-Tonia, Why Not Mom

The absolute worst advice I EVER got was that you don’t need to worry about brushing your babies teeth until several come in at about a year or later. This advice came from my own mother and I can’t believe that I didn’t think about this more. I did brush my little guy’s teeth but I didn’t heavily stress on consistency. He ended having a ton of cavities! He had to be taken to the hospital and put under anesthesia to have several of his teeth fixed. I was a new mama and I just assumed she was right. Worst. Advice. Ever. He has great teeth now and we’ve had 2 other babes since. We make sure everyone is getting excellent dental hygiene.

-Toni, This Little Nest

The best parenting advice I ever received is that it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you. Have you been told not to feed your baby to sleep or that you hold them too much? If it is a problem then perhaps reconsider. If it doesn’t bother you or interfere with what you need to do, then it isn’t a problem. Some things might be a problem for you but not for other people, and that’s ok.

-Kathleen, Life By Kathleen

The worst advice I ever received was to start food so my baby would sleep through the night. We started with rice cereal when my son was four months old (with the pediatrician’s blessing too) and it ended up making his sleep worse. We ended up stopping and starting solids again at the 6 month mark, avoiding cereal for a while! 

-Ashley, Spit Up and Sit Ups

The best potty training advice I have is to put the paper liner or potty protector under your travel toilet seat when out, otherwise it’s so gross!

-Rachel, The Analytical Mommy

Some of the best advice I ever received was to hold my baby looking forward as soon as I felt comfortable doing it. I started her very young compared to some others. My little loved to look around and interact with others at a very young age. It encouraged her curiosity in a healthy way and others knew that it was ok to come up and interact with her because it was obvious that she was awake and not trying to catch a few zzzzz.

-Emily, So Sunny Day

The worst parenting advice I’ve ever received is that holding your baby will spoil them. Your only job as a parent at that stage is to hold and comfort them! 

-Kristi, Keeping Motherhood Real

The best advice I remember getting was to just follow your instincts and don’t doubt them. You know what is best for your child. I don’t honestly remember who even said that to me, but it has always worked well. 

-Sheila, Midlife Mom Blog

The worst advice I was given was that baby-wearing my baby would make them spoiled and would make it to where no one else could ever hold them unless they were in a carrier. 

-Breanna, Breanna Milburn Lifestyle and Mommy Blog

The best advice I was given: prioritize your own sleep above all things. Whatever gets the most of the family the most sleep in the first year is what you should do.

-L.F. Wade, Fort Birthday

Best Advice: to trust my instincts. And I still think that’ll be the best advice for the rest of my life. 

Worst Advice: to put my kiddo in situations that scare him so he’ll get over it.

-Jessie, Her Arms Are Strong

The best advice I ever received is there is no such thing as loving your baby or child too much and you cannot over hold your baby. Bread spoils but a baby does not. These moments go by quickly. Take advantage of them when you are there.

-Tricia, The Healthy(ish) Home

The best advice I ever received was to follow my instincts and be true to myself as a mother because I know my daughter better than anyone. 

-Amber, Graceful Little Moments

So, what is the right answer? What is the right way?

In summary, the best advice seems to come in the form of support rather than direction. It seems to involve letting it be, trusting our intuition, not falling into the comparison trap, being ourselves, and doing what makes our lives easier as parents—or what helps us get through the day and remain sane! 

Hearing from these parents shows me that in the end, we truly have to take the advice we receive with a grain of salt. It is up to us to decide whether to listen to or use that information. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all advice as every child and family is unique. Just because we are doing something differently than someone else, it doesn’t make us wrong.

So take the advice in, but know that you don’t have to use it all. Decide what works for your family and go with that. When in doubt, listen to these lovely mamas: go with your gut, cut yourself some slack, and feel confident in yourself as a parent. Do what works.

As I like to say, we don’t always have to listen to what “they say.” Trusting our intuition may just be the right answer.

To learn more about me and my blog, check out: About Lauren, or follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest!

You may also enjoy: My Mom Life in Pop Song Lyrics or 17 Time-Saving Parenting Tips

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Alternative Valentine’s Day Ideas for Parents

Anyone feeling a little down because they don’t think they did enough this Valentine’s Day? 

Don’t feel bad!

With Valentine’s Day can come a pressure to do something special for our significant other or for our kids. Where does this pressure come from? Well, even the Encyclopedia Britannica defines Valentine’s Day as “when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts.” Not only this, but the Encyclopedia states that “formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used.” Wow! Just based on the extensive history, we have a lot of pressure coming at us.

Then we also have to listen to what “they say!” On social media, or even in just talking with friends, we see all of the different things others are doing and it can leave us feeling pretty lousy, especially if we feel we can’t compete.  

Well, why don’t we go ahead and take this pressure off of ourselves? After all, there are so many alternatives to flowers, cards, candy, and gifts which can be even more meaningful and fulfilling! 

Here are some alternative Valentine’s Day ideas for parents which will save you money and still leave those around you feeling appreciated. 

Instead of buying a gift or jewelry, save money.

Yes, you read that right. We personally don’t buy many gifts on Valentine’s Day. We typically buy what we need or we save.

One idea is to put that money into savings. You could use it for a future trip. Maybe there is place you and your significant other, or even your entire family, has been dying to visit. Maybe it’s too expensive to book now. Put that money you would have spent on overpriced flowers and gifts into an account, or a storage box, and actually take that trip one day.

Another idea is to put that money into a savings account for the kids. We try to save now for what our children will need in the future. We want to buy them cars. They also may decide to go to college. Helping them buy a car one day or helping them pay for college will likely mean way more than chocolates or stuffed animals now.

Last, it can be hard to find a sitter on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants may have limited menus or require reservations many days in advance. So, it might be easier to enjoy a night out when things are less busy. Besides, why only celebrate love or give affection on one day? We should celebrate the entire year!

Instead of buying a card, write in a journal.

We have a journal, and my husband and I write a note to each other in this journal on every Valentine’s Day, anniversary, and birthday. We do this in lieu of buying a card. I love this idea, because we can involve the kids. Even in the early notes to each other, we have traced the children’s hands in the book. We have had them do a little drawing (even just scribbles) that we can look back on one day and enjoy.

Another journaling idea came from my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. This group of mamas is so inspirational and I loved this idea. Last year, I gave my husband a journal titled, “365 things I love about you.” Starting on Valentine’s day the year prior, I wrote one unique thing I loved about him each day. The following Valentine’s day, this was his gift. He could then read 365 different reasons I loved him. This is such a meaningful gift and it costs little to nothing.

Instead of buying flowers, plant something together.

Flowers can be quite expensive on Valentine’s Day and they honestly don’t last very long. Instead of buying flowers, plant a flower or tree together as a family. You can involve the kids and you will always remember the time you planted it. Too cold? Plant an inside herb garden or an indoor plant to enjoy all year round.

Instead of buying a gift for the kids, find an activity to do together as a family.

Check out our last post, 10 Valentine’s Day Activities for Kids That Won’t Break the Bank, for lots of fun ideas!

Instead of going out on a date, have a date night at home.

If you can’t go out, have a date night at home after the kids go to bed. Watch a movie you have been waiting to watch. Have a wine and cheese tasting together. Cook together and have a late-night dinner. Spend time doing anything that makes you happy. Instead of going out to dinner, still treat yourselves to not having to cook by ordering your favorite take out.

Or, include the kids in your plan. It might even make the night more special. You can have a movie night with popcorn and treats, exchange hand-made Valentine’s, cook a nice meal together, the options are endless.

Instead of buying chocolate, make something sweet.

You can make chocolate fondue and dip fruits and marshmallows, or bake something fun with the kids. These strawberry rice krispies treats are delicious and super easy to make! You can have extra fun by cutting them into hearts and decorating them. 

Simply grab a box of Strawberry Krispies and make Rice Krispies Treats using this recipe. All you need is 3 tbsp. butter, 4 cups mini marshmallows, and 6 cups cereal.

The bottom line is, it’s not a requirement to surprise each other now. Instead, make an effort to surprise each other or show love multiple times throughout the year—on any  day. It doesn’t have to be the 14th and it doesn’t have to be once a year. I don’t think it will hurt if we miss one day, in fact, maybe the extra love throughout the year could make a relationship or marriage stronger.

To learn more about me and by blog, check out: About Lauren

You may also enjoy: 17 Time-Saving Parenting Tips

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3 Steps to Raise a Resilient Child Who Bounces Back

I am thrilled to be featured in a podcast from Dinner Table MBA. The podcast focuses on how to raise a resilient child who can bounce back.

Resilience is not something we are simply born with. It is something that is learned. On the podcast, I talk about three ways we can help build resilience in our children. I will summarize these three ideas here. 

You can listen to the full podcast, including commentary from Dinner Table MBA, at any of these links: 

For Apple Users

General Podcast Link

Link to Dinner Table MBA’s Full Blog Post 

Positive Thinking

First, we can open up our children’s minds to positive thinking and we can provide opportunities for them to practice. 

When we feel like we are failing at something it is so easy to give up, to be sad, or to believe that we can’t do it. Instead, we can encourage our children to be positive, to let the situation motivate us to choose a different route, and to keep trying.

Through Failure We Grow

We must realize that our children will fail in their lifetimes— plenty of times— even if we try so hard to protect them. When this happens, we can remind them that failure is not all bad. Through failure, we learn. Together with our children, we can talk through a failure and try to find what they may have gained from the situation. There is always something to gain, even if it is simply learning what to do differently the next time.

It is always okay for them to feel sad or to feel emotion when they fail. It is important to process that emotion with them, to allow them to feel it, but then, we can learn.

Coping Skills

Lastly, we want to teach our kids the skills to cope. Tough experiences in life, like loss or grief—a friend moving away, or a death, for example—can also teach resilience when we find ways to cope and move forward. In order to cope or find peace in a difficult situation, we must have coping skills. 

Here are some examples of coping skills we can teach:

  • Using their words to describe feelings
  • Using art to describe their feelings: They can draw a picture which describes how they feel. For older children, you can draw a big circle. Your child can make a pie chart by color-coding their current emotions inside. You can then talk about the emotions they include.
  • Talking to someone they trust when they feel bad
  • Deep breathing—they can close their eyes and focus on their breaths
  • Counting to ten, even backwards if they are a bit older
  • Squeezing a stress ball 
  • Turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts, so instead of saying to themselves, “I will never get through this” they can practice saying, “I will feel better. It will just take time.” 
  • Participating in something they enjoy 

Even adults are still learning about resilience. Sometimes as parents, we can feel we are making mistakes. We can see our mistakes as failures. We can see failure as something bad. Building resilience can be a life-long process, so it’s never to early to start.

Remember, coping does not mean pushing something aside and ignoring it. It means dealing with our feelings in healthy ways and then finding peace or a way to move forward.

Dinner Table MBA is a wonderful resource for parents and children. They inspire parents to have meaningful conversations with their children about important life lessons around the dinner table. These lessons can impact the future of our children in a positive way. Be sure to check them out on their blog, or over on Instagram and Facebook.

To learn more about me and my blog check out: About Lauren

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy: Sometimes Strength Requires a Break or What Does It Mean to Be a Parent

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6 Keepsake Ornament Ideas

Baby’s Hospital Hat and Bracelet Ornament

These are our favorite ornaments. What a great way to save the hospital baby hat and hospital bracelets. Every year I decorate the tree I am reminded of the most special days of my life, the births of my three babies. To make this ornament, simply place the baby hospital hat and mom and baby’s hospital bracelets into a clear ornament. We chose plastic, so we didn’t have to worry about it breaking. Here is a clear plastic ornament which is four inches across. In this ornament, the opening is in the top, so we had to roll the items up tight to stuff them in. You may prefer an ornament which opens at the center such as this one. This option is a little smaller at about three inches across. To finish it off, we added our favorite ribbon to the top.

Snowmen Ornament

keepsake ornament ideas    keepsake ornament ideas For this craft, we bought a plain red ornament. I painted my daughter’s hand with non-toxic white paint (we used Crayola Washable Paint) and had her grab the bottom of the ornament like she was grabbing a ball. Each of the snowmen are her little fingers. We could not get her thumb to look like a snowman, so we kind of blotted it into the bottom a little to make it look like snow. I just used her hand to blot, but you could use a sponge. We used sharpie markers to make the snowmen features and also to write the date and child’s name on the bottom. Then, we printed the following saying to tie onto the top: “These aren’t just 4 fingers as anyone can see. They’re 4 little snowmen that I made with part of me. Now each year when you trim the tree, you’ll look back and recall, Christmas 2018 when my hand was just this small.” Here is a link to the article we used for instructions:

Wedding Invitation Ornament

wedding keepsake ornament This ornament was inspired by a gift from a friend on the Christmas following our wedding. We cherish this ornament and have since started making them for friends and family. I prefer using a plastic ornament which does not open at the center, such as these. This way, it won’t break open.
  1. Cut the invitation up into long strips. I usually throw out the solid parts and keep any sections which include words or decorations.
  2. Wrap the long pieces around a pencil tightly, so they form a spiral. I try to wrap it moving down the pencil a bit rather than overlapping it in one single spot. When you let go, they should keep the spiral shape you see in the photo above.
  3. Slide each spiral into the ornament and shake it around.
  4. Add your favorite bow to the top.
Here is a link with more detailed instructions:

Salt Dough Ornaments

salt dough ornaments Salt dough ornaments are so fun to make. The kids love it, because they can play with the dough just like play dough. First, make your salt dough. Mix: 2 cups flour 1 cup salt 1 cup water Once you make your creations, poke a hole at the top with a straw for hanging on the tree. Then, bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours. You want to be sure the ornaments are dried all the way through. If they are still soft on the back, you may want to flip them over for a bit longer (once the top is set). Next, you will paint your objects. I like to use acrylic paint. Last, spray your ornaments with an acrylic sealer to help them last. Here are instructions for a few of my favorite designs: To Make Santa: You will use an upside down handprint. Have your child push their hand onto the dough. Trim the dough around the hand shape leaving enough room to poke a hole with a straw. The hole will go at the base of the handprint. The thumb becomes the Santa hat. The fingers become the beard. To Make a Reindeer: Have your child push their foot into the dough. Tim the excess and poke a hole about the toe area. Paint the whole foot brown, except for the eyes in the center and the red nose at the bottom. To Make a Fingerprint Christmas Tree: Cut out a Christmas tree shape, or use a cookie cutter. Poke a hole in the top. Have your child make fingerprints throughout the tree. The finger prints will become the ornaments. Paint the “ornaments” so they stand out. My inspiration for these designs:

Baby’s First Christmas Handprint Ornament

baby keepsake ornament

For this ornament, we bought a kit which made it super easy. We like the no-bake Pearhead kit. We made one of these for each of our children. It was so funny to see how big my newest daughter’s hand is compared to my other kids at the same age. There is nothing better than seeing your baby’s real handprint each and every Christmas.

Memory Time-Capsule Ornament

To make a yearly time capsule, you can place all of your special items you want to save into a large ornament throughout the year. You could include small photos, ticket stubs, little drawings, anything which means something to the family. You can even type or write out memories and place them inside. Then, each Christmas, a new time capsule can be hung on the tree. Here is a very large plastic ornament which can be opened at the center to fill all year long. You may prefer a smaller ornament depending on the size of your memories. For more detailed instructions check out: A variation of this ornament was shared with me by a fellow mother and member of my MOPS group. She shared the idea of adding one milestone that each of your children met into the same ornament each year. You simply write out something important each of your children accomplished that year, date it, and add it into the ornament. For babies, it may be crawling, but for an older child it may be making a sports team. One day, you can open up the ornament and look back at all of the amazing accomplishments through the years. I hope you will enjoy making some ornament keepsakes this year!   To learn more about me and my blog check out: About Lauren You may also enjoy: Top Christmas Gifts for Kids 5 and Under or Moments   As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  You can count on me only recommending products which I know and love!    

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Times I Am Thankful for My Toddler

In this season, we are reminded to think of all the things we are thankful for. Even though parenting can be a tough job, I know there are so many reasons to be thankful each and every day. Today, I am going to share with you the times when I am thankful for my toddlers… believe it or not, there are times! Here goes! I am thankful for my toddler when: We are literally walking out of the house and he reminds me he doesn’t have shoes on. Yes, this has happened… more than once. When I’ve had a day when I’ve lost it yet again and she says, “Mommy I know you’re frustrated. I know you’re sad. I will be good for the rest of my life for you.” Clearly, this is not a true statement, but I’ll take the sweetness all day. When I can’t find my phone and he reminds me it’s on my ear. When she reminds me to brush my teeth [let’s be honest with three kids to care for, I forget a lot]… by telling me my breath stinks. When I just get comfy on the couch—maybe even have the baby asleep on my chest—and I realize I forgot to grab my phone or the remote. When I can’t find something. Their sharp eyes—they can find anything. For the purposes of this article, we will forget the fact that they were probably the one who lost the item… or hid it… in the first place. When I am pretending to “eat my son up” and he reminds me, “I’m not your breakfast!” Then, I realize, Ohh, I truly haven’t eaten yet today! Okay, there are some sweet things I’m thankful for too: The look of wonder on a toddler’s face when they see something they love—even as simple as a paper airplane. It makes my heart smile. When they say something which both surprises you and makes you laugh. Like my daughter, when she said, “Mommy, can we go to the water exhibit?” She was referring to the water park at the local theme park. Where did you learn that word? When they snuggle you tight even though they aren’t a baby anymore. The way they see magic—even in the simple things, like a tent made of blankets. When they say “I love you Mommy,” and it happens to be the time you really need it. I swear, there is nothing better than hearing these words come out of nowhere. My toddlers surprise me every day. I’m surprised just how far they can push me—straight to my wit’s end—but I am also so surprised by how strongly they can love and how much love they can give. In the end, “thankful” doesn’t even begin to describe how lucky I am to have them.   You may also enjoy: You Know You’re the Parent of a Toddler When… or Top 10 Products for Toddlers on the Go To learn more about me and my blog check out: About Lauren

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How Becoming a Mom of Three Has Changed Me


I have become a daily coffee drinker. I know… I am sure you are wondering, What took you so long? But, it took having three kids. Now, I MUST have a cup of coffee to get through the day.


I have learned that being “stress paralyzed” is in fact a real thing. When you have three children with a need at the same time, but you don’t have three arms—I freeze and wonder, How will I get this done? It is impossible. But—this is key—I have also learned, it ALWAYS comes together in the end.


I hate the acne! I can’t believe how much your skin and body changes—even my foot size changed. My wardrobe, even if it’s the right size, doesn’t look or fit right anymore. At least this one gives me an excuse to do some shopping!


I can do some really cool things: I can paint my toe nails in the car… after looking down and realizing these toes cannot go out in public…


I have learned how to multi-task—and I mean really multi-task. I can make dinner, make a grocery list, change a diaper, sing a song to my toddler, clean the kitchen, make a bottle, sanitize said bottles, and entertain the baby all at the same time. This is true talent!


I have had to accept that nothing will ever be done on time, and that this is OK! I bought supplies to make “Big Bro” and “Big Sis” shirts for the hospital. Yup, they are still sitting in the bag. I’ll blame it on the baby coming three weeks early…


I’ve learned third child problems aren’t really big problems. My third child stays in her onsies and sleepers most days. I was excited when I had a girl and I could get more use out of my first child’s dresses…nope. I think she has maybe worn three. We are already moving into twelve months size! I’m pretty sure my first daughter lived in dresses. And, tummy time— What’s that? Our third child has reflux. When she goes on her tummy, she spits up like crazy, but also, finding time for tummy time when constantly running after two other children is hard! So far, she has had no issues with her development even so. I have learned doing the best I can IS enough.


I’m becoming more and more like MacGyver, learning to improvise to make my kids happy in any given situation. And, a great problem solver too! One time when going out with the baby in tow I ended up in the bathroom covered in spit up. They had the air-blades hand dryer which you push your hands in. I stuck my dress in there to dry. Someone walking in at that moment may have questioned my sanity, but I was proud of myself!


I have learned the importance of having a chore chart, because I cannot do it all and every little bit helps.


I have learned I have to remind myself to lock—or even to close—the bathroom door when I am using it with guests over… because I am so used to no privacy.


I now accept that I can, AND WILL, make mistakes. It is impossible not to make mistakes when you have so much going on at once, but this doesn’t make me a bad parent… not even on my worst days.


But the most important one… They say the heart doesn’t divide as you have more children, that it just grows with each one. I think this is quite true. My heart didn’t divvy up its love between my three children. It grew so that each child has an equal HUGE amount of love. When I had three, I found the amount of love you can feel in your heart at one time is life changing. It’s a feeling one can never forget. And I will take all these changes again and again to feel it. To learn more about me and my blog, check out: About Lauren You may also enjoy: Baby Elizabeth’s Birth Story Photo credit: Lindsey Martin Photography

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Baby Elizabeth’s Birth Story

Everything is Going Wrong… or is everything going right?! It is all in the way you look at life. In honor of nine months in and, as of today, Elizabeth’s nine months out, I thought I would share her birth story, or really the story of the first couple of months of her life. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. And this wasn’t just because we now had three children to take care of at once. That was a challenge in and of itself, but on top of this transition, we seemed to face issue after issue. I will tell you about our struggles, but I also learned a very importance lesson through them all. Life is all about perspective. Struggles can either tear a person down or build a person up. I chose to look for the good, and in the end, it only made me stronger. In the afternoon, my blood pressure was up in the 100’s over 170’s. This was nothing new as the same thing had happened with each of my pregnancies. I was about three weeks early, but I just knew she would be coming in the next day. I called the doctor to tell her about my blood pressure. She told me to come in. Sure enough, soon I was headed over to labor and delivery. I had pre-clampsia again and they would need to induce. It was a long and grueling, 29-hour labor. It was 29 hours of small snacks, water, and little sleep. It got to a point where I thought I was too tired to actually go on, but somehow as always, we get a big moment of strength and Elizabeth entered this world. Then, all the pain and tiredness went away and was replaced by a moment of pure joy and love. Our amazing doctor allowed my husband to pull Elizabeth out himself. She asked him, “Do you want to deliver her? Take off your watch and glove up!” He did and this made the moment even more special. She was born perfect. No issues to be seen at all. A beautiful baby girl! The next morning, the hospital pediatrician entered our room. I was in the bathroom, but overheard my husband say, “What is wrong?” I ran out of the bathroom and asked the same question. She said, I am not liking what I see. She has swelling on both sides of her head. I am going to call the pediatric neurologist to take a look. Let me tell you, this is NOT what you want to hear when you have a newborn baby. We had to wait hours for the pediatric neurologist to come. It was hours of worry and tears. Hours of trying to nurse, but every time I touched her head she would cry because it was swollen and it hurt. Finally, the neurologist checked her out and told us the swelling did not seem to be coming from a brain bleed. It seemed to be two huge hematomas (basically big bruises), one on each side of her head. He said we would have to watch it to be sure. At one point, there were five doctors and nurses in the room including the OB all wondering how this happened. It wasn’t a forceps birth, and usually these things present right away, not the following morning. They determined that it must be because, although it was a long labor, the baby came out of the birth canal extremely fast. The pelvic bones must have caused the bruises on her way out. I continued to worry over these huge bumps for weeks. Five days later, the hematomas caused jaundice, so Elizabeth and I went back to the hospital for two nights. Five days after that, another two nights in the hospital for me due to severely high blood pressure. Turns out I had post-clampsia and was in danger of having a stroke or seizure. I had to be put on a magnesium drip and have a CT scan and MRI to rule out a stroke. I missed my baby so much. It felt so wrong to be without her. Immediately upon my return home, my son was jumping on the couch. My husband told him to stop and not two seconds later, he fell. He hit his head on the bottom of the coffee table and busted his head open. He needed three staples. Likely from the children’s urgent care, my son then caught RSV. Five days later, baby Elizabeth caught RSV from her brother. We went back to the hospital for three nights. Here, they did an MRI (her hematoma was still prominent on one side) to ensure there was skull underneath. After this, I had to go to the hospital two more times due to severely high blood pressure and a possible TIA. Next, my oldest daughter had her first asthma attack in the middle of the night and had to go to the hospital herself. These weeks were hard. I cried so many tears. I was scared. I felt guilt being away from my baby. We were exhausted trying to transition to having three children. But somehow, I kept it together. In the midst of the craziness and even in what felt like disaster after disaster, I chose joy. I chose to look for the positive in every situation. I had been through low lows before. I talk about my lowest low in my book coming soon. I think these lows can destroy us, but they can also teach us resilience. They can teach us that even in a difficult situation, there is good. There is hope. There are two ways of looking at every situation. I could look at it as we had seven hospital visits in less than two months. I could look at it as: Why did my baby have to have jaundice?Why did she have to catch RSV? Why did my son have to split his head open? Why did I have to have post-clampsia? Why did my oldest have an asthma attack? Or, I can look at it like this: My baby did NOT have a brain bleed. She was a perfectly healthy baby girl. She had hematomas, but they healed and caused no issues. My baby had jaundice, but her levels went down immediately with treatment and we knew the cause. She was healthy. Because of post-clampsia, I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. But, I was safe. The doctor caught it. The MRI showed no signs of stroke. I was alive. My baby caught RSV, but we were told she may need oxygen, she may need to be put on a ventilator. If she got a fever, she would need to have a spinal tap. My son had a fever of over 102 with his RSV, so I was terrified. But, she didn’t need any of these things. Yes, we dealt with congestion for a few weeks, but she did not need a ventilator. She did not need a spinal tap. She did not even need oxygen. She was safe. The doctor did an MRI and her skull was completely normal. A few days later, miraculously her hematoma was completely gone. My oldest had an asthma attack, but we caught it. She was okay. She was safe. We found humor even in these times of challenge. My daughter told me the day she had her asthma attack that a friend at school told her to eat a flower. She said, “I didn’t eat it, but I did lick it Mama. It was a dandelion.” I replied, “Lili, you should never eat flowers and you should not always do what your friends tell you to do.” “But mom, flour is in cake!” “You are about half right there…” You see, I saw the blessing in each and every situation. We were not the most unlucky family on Earth. We were in fact the luckiest, because in every situation, we had the best outcome. Our family was healthy. Our family was safe. We had a beautiful new baby girl and my husband actually got to deliver her. I will NEVER forget the look of joy on his face in this moment. It brings me to tears… happy ones. Times like these help make me stronger because through it all I was okay. I was able to find the good and what to be thankful for. I’ve noticed from every difficult situation I experience I build resilience. This only makes me better able to handle what comes next. I know there will be many difficult times to come, but I will continue to always choose joy!   To learn more about me and my blog check out: About Lauren. If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy: Or What?  

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