Friday, May 31, 2013

This Moment - 5.31.13

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Homeschoolin' My Preschooler

My little Weston will soon be three. Urgh....where did the  time go?! And, now that he's no baby, we have been discussing our options for preschool.

I've looked at several preschools for our little chitlin. I have not fallen in love with any of them. I think part of it is that I want more alone time with Wes like I had with Brady. I know that he is our last child, so I selfishly feel like I need more time before he goes off on his own! So, part of my heart keeps finding things not to like in any given school's curriculum.

Another part of me wants to provide Wes more challenging activities than one could expect from a traditional preschool. And, I want him to have more personal attention to foster and encourage his growing curiosity.

I know, some of you may think, "But, children need socialization!". Yes, I get that. I know he needs socialization, but I'm not keeping him in a bubble. He gets ample time to socialize with peers his age. And, he shows no problems with age appropriate play or engagement. I have met this concern with the response that I can always provide opportunities to socialize within the context of learning, even if I homeschool.

What I have started to embrace is that I SHOULD NOT discount any of my selfish desires to spend more time with Wes. I'll never get this time back. And, this precious time where EVERYTHING is so new and exciting for him is something that I so desperately want to be a part of. So, my husband and I decided that we will homeschool Wes for this upcoming preschool year.

Now, the one thing I do when I have my mind set on something is research it to death. TO DEATH. I've looked at so many educational approaches that it's made my head spin. I love the philosophy that Montessori schools are built upon. I really love sensory rich activities (if you haven't quite figured that out!). I love following Wes interests and building upon them with activities he enjoys and probably wouldn't get to do anywhere else. But, I haven't fully aligned with any particular philosophy. What I DO KNOW is that I like structure for myself. I like things spelled out and I like to have a plan. But, man oh man! Where does one start! That led me to look at preschool curriculums that were available to buy, which had a monthly theme and lesson plan. That's when I found Mother Goose Time.

For more than 22 years, Mother Goose Time has written a comprehensive Preschool Curriculum System to support teachers and parents with children ages 2 1/2 to 5 years old. What's really cool is that there is a monthly theme, which everything is focused around and tie into. The boxes contain almost everything you will need for an entire month to homeschool your preschooler. You only need a few additional supplies like simple art and craft supplies and tools!

Mother Goose Time was very generous to allow me to review their Cowboys, Dunes and Deserts curriculum for a month. I am so excited to share with you our experience with this month's theme. We will begin on June 1st. But, what I wanted to share with you now is what we received for this month's box!

First of all, Wes loved the box it arrived in! It comes in a super cute school bus box. He knew right when it arrived on our doorstep that it was something fun and about learning!

Upon opening the box, I was so impressed with how things were packaged. Everything is neatly bagged by daily activity so you didn't have a jumble of things to organize! This really encouraged me that this was going to be something doable!

The Teacher's Resource Bag was packaged separately and contained my monthly lesson plan book and everything else I needed for the month, including a CD to go with the month's theme. Some of the things included were a calendar, letters/number of the month and mystery shape to name a few. The lesson plan book was really fool proof and spelled out each day thoroughly.

Each day is a 2-page spread

Each activity is explained very well

The information is really easy to understand

The Teacher Resource Bag also included a monthly calendar and numbers to match the theme. I am extremely impressed with the print quality of all the materials! There is also a "gathering list" which outlines all of the items you will need to have available, like glue, food items, yarn, etc.

The monthly calendar, "Gathering List" and Letter/Number of the month

The one thing that I really found informative was the Skills Sheet. This sheet outlined what each activity works on. For example, Day 1 we will be working on Self Concept, Self Direction, Social Relationships, Gross Motor, Listening Comprehension, Phonological Awareness, Shapes, Logic, Dance and Movement. There are several other areas which are included in the remaining days. It's nice to know how each activity contributes to their overall learning experience.

Since this is our first month, we also received a Starter Kit which included things like a world map, kids chef placemat, and a weather tracker to name a few. Since I knew these items would need to last through the year, I took them to my local Lakeshore to be laminated.

This is how I set up some of the things I received in my Starter Kit. By the work table I set up the Alphabet, Sign Language reference chart, number chart and world map. I've caught Wes looking at them several times already!

Here's a closer look at the alphabet chart

Closer look at the world map

The other fun print outs that came with the Starter Kit included Month Headers, Activity Center labels, and a Weather Tracking Chart. The really cool thing is that the months and weather charts are printed in English and Spanish (on the opposite side). The one thing that I didn't photograph is the Circle Time CD which contains Circle Time songs to begin and end your lesson day.

Misc. printouts 
Overall, I am very impressed with the quality of the boxed curriculum. The materials are very enticing for my young Wes! He watched eagerly over my shoulder as I went through the contents. I think he said, "Ooh, mama! What's THAT?!?" about 500 times. 

They have workbooks that contain more math and reading/writing worksheets for older kids ages 5-7. The additional costs is $3.99, which includes both books. That is really reasonable! They also have curriculums for younger toddlers, younger than 2 1/2. And, if you have multiple children, you do not have to buy separate curriculums. It's less than $10 more to add an additional child.

I'm really excited about homeschooling for the upcoming year! I plan to share about our Mother Goose Time experience with you so you can see IT IS doable! And, even if your kiddo is in daycare, mention it to your provider. They sell curriculums for more than one child and can accommodate a number of children in that type of setting!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent for Under $40!

With two young and rambunctious boys, one can only imagine that we wash A WHOLE LOT of clothes! It seems like we are always doing laundry! And, doing that much laundry requires a lot of detergent. 

When I saw this "recipe" for a years worth of homemade detergent for under $40 I figured I had nothing to lose. All of the ingredients were easily accessible at my local Walmart, and at under $40, if it didn't work, I wasn't breaking the bank. But, surprisingly, this detergent DOES work pretty well. And, last July, when I made our first batch, I was also a little skeptical that it would last a year. A YEAR? Well, almost 11 months later, we are reaching the bottom of our detergent box. So, YES, it does last nearly a year! And, that's with a load or two a day!

Unlike a lot of the homemade detergent recipes floating around Pinterest, this detergent is POWDER. Now, I used to use liquid but decided to try this since it's easier to store. And, you only use 2, yes TWO  heaping tablespoons per load.

To make this detergent you will need (and I priced out the current prices at my local Walmart):
  • 3 bar of Fels Naptha (.97 each)
  • 1 76-ounce box of Borax (3.38)
  • 1 4-lb box of Baking Soda (3.24)
  • 1 3-lb 7-ounce box of Washing Soda (3.24)
  • 2 containers of Oxyclean (7.52 each) (I used 1 5-lb box of Oxyclean, plus about 2 cups I had left over from another container - 9.47)
  • 1-2 bottles of Gain Fireworks Crystals (9.97) (or any "scent" laundry crystals)

Last year, when I made this detergent for the first time, I grated all three bars of Fels-Naptha by hand. Urgh, don't do that. It's no fun! This time I cut the bars up into cubs, put it in my food processor with a little bit of Washing Soda. I simply washed the food processor bowl out with SUPER HOT water to make sure to get out all of the Fels-Naptha, which melts really fast! Now, THAT's the way to do it. Not only does it do it faster than hand grating, but it grates it really fine! And, if you've never heard of Fels-Naptha, it is an awesome stain remover. I love that this "recipe" has it in it!

This is how I cut the Fel-Naptha and pulsed it with Washing Soda

I really like the smell of Gain, but you can use any of the scent crystals or none at all! I know Purex makes some lovely scented laundry scent boosters also!

To assemble the detergent, you simply pour all of the ingredients into a big container and mix. I have a big Rubbermaid box that I store the bulk of the detergent in my garage (my garage smells so wonderful, just like clean clothes, too!). I keep a wooden spoon in the box to mix and scoop it into an empty Gain Fireworks Crystals bottle, which I store and dispense from. I simply give the entire storage box a shake before filling my bottle. When using, I eyeball 2 tablespoons into the cap of the Gain Fireworks Crystals bottle and pour right into the washing machine as it is filling with water.

THAT'S IT!!! I swear, that is all there is to making this detergent. It really is no harder than buying the products to assemble it! So, why not give it a twirl! Use the money you save to buy some more clothes to wash!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Moment - 5.24.13

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Giveaway Time! Ju Ju Be and Fobs by Andrea!!!

When I had my first son, Brady, I think that I spent more time deciding which diaper bag I would carry than I did picking his crib set. There were so many cute bags to choose! I ultimately decided on a Ju Ju Be Between! Boy, that was an awesome bag and wish I would have kept it!

Over time, I would sell and buy another bag to suit my needs. I went through plenty, but never strayed from the brand. Why? Because Ju Ju Be bags are truly top notch. They come in fun prints and are the ultimate functional baby bag. As my sons grew older and my needs for diaper bags changed, I grew into more versatile MOM bags, but I am still a faithful Ju Ju Be fan. As of now, I'm packin' a Toki Doki Perky BFF! It's the perfect bag for two not-so baby boys. It's the super hero of bags. When you need a back pack, it's a back pack. When you need a cross-body bag, it's a cross-body bag. One of their most versatile bags, in my opinion (not that anyone asked, but oh, well!) Oh, and don't you get me started on the Toki Doki partnership with JJB and how awesome it is...

The best thing about the brand is that ALL of the bags are washable. Not spot cleaning, but throw that sucker in the machine washable. I simply put the WHOLE ENTIRE bag in a pillow case and toss it in the wash. Better yet, the bags are made with Teflon and Agion! Easy to clean AND anti-microbial? Sa-WEET! And, with all of the gunk that comes into contact with my diaper bags those are the ultimate perks. I am a little embarrassed about the number of bags I still have, but seriously, like purses, you need one for every situation.

One of the other things I love is that there are little compartments for EVERYTHING. Sunglasses? Yup, a pocket for that! iPod? Yup, a pocket for that! Chapstick? Yup, a little pocket for that! Pantyliner or a tampon or a fun sized Snickers!?! Yup, even a damn pocket for that and discreet to boot! Shoot, they even put a little plastic insert so you could put a photo of you kiddos or Adam Levine. Well, maybe they put it there for a photo of your kids, but whatevs.

The other super useful JJB items I have are the BeQuick and Fuel Cells. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that I can clip them to my strollers, which is what often happens. It's especially helpful on long walks, Disneyland and the zoo. All of my necessities are within hand's reach and not stuffed in my stroller's basket. I also use the BeQuicks to pack each boy a set of clothes, diapers and wipes so they are "quick" to grab out of a bag (or switch to another bag if I need to). Even the hubster has a BeQuick in his car.

Toki Doki Perky Be Quick
Toki Doki Perky Fuel Cell
And, what is the perfect companion for your JJB? Well, a Fob by Andrea! I picked out a super cute-licious Donutella! My sons and I always get a sprinkled donut as a special treat, so it was just a fitting addition for us! I cannot tell you how many people have asked where I got it and well, now you know my secret! You can find Andrea on Facebook HERE. Each fob is hand made by Andrea! I adore mine!

My Donutella Fob

How cute are some of Andrea's other creations??? 

And, I don't know if you've picked up on this with my other posts, but customer service is key for me. Lack of GOOD customer service is a deal breaker. I don't care how great your products are, if you don't appreciate my business, then I won't buy from you. Simple as that. But, Ju Ju Be provides far more than customer service. They LISTEN to the customers and change their products to accommodate the needs of their awesome Ju Ju Be Pink Lady moms! I'm serious...on the Pink Room forum they solicit and use the advice that their customers give. I've met some of the most amazing moms through Ju Ju Be's forum and we've watched our kids grow together. That is something you cannot and will not find with many other companies.

And, to show how AWESOME Ju Ju Be and Fobs by Andrea are, they graciously sponsored today's giveaway! How ya' like them apples? There will be five, yes FIVE winners!

I'm so excited to announce that it's giveaway time! GIVE-Ah-WAY TIME!

3 lucky winners will receive one Ju Ju Be Coin Purse and a matching fob! The winners will receive (drawn and given in this order) - Toki Doki Farfalle, Pink Pinwheels and Royal Envy!

Left - Pink Pinwheels, Middle - Toki Doki Farfale, Right - Royal Envy

2 runner ups will also receive one Ju Ju Be Coin purse (drawn and given in this order) in Perfect Paisley and Early Sunrise.

Middle Left - Early Sunrise, Middle Right - Perfect Paisley
Good luck EVERYONE! If you are new to Ju Ju Be or Fobs by Andrea, please check them out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sensory Overboard! Review of N-Met

One of the most difficult things that we help Brady manage is sensory overload. It's really the source of a lot of his most difficult behaviors. I truly believe that unlike most of us, Brady is unable to filter out a lot of the "white noise" that occurs in our environment. The hum of a fridge, the flickering of fluorescent lights, the kid giggling outside - they are all much more of a disturbance rather than background noise to Brady. I feel like all of those little things are blaring at the same volume for Brady and he has quite a time trying to filter it all out. I really do believe that it must sound like sitting in the middle of a loud stadium and being asked to concentrate on threading a needle, all while a marching band goes by within inches of you.

As you can probably imagine, these sensory experiences and his inability to tune them out, make some of the most simple tasks difficult for Brady. This in turn creates a short fuse and, bam! Meltdown. Going through this cycle ONCE would be tiring. But, several times a day became quite debilitating for him and us.

Over time, Brady became increasingly anxious and could not sleep through the night. As his neurologist put it simply, "His brain just DOESN'T turn off. He's THINKING and trying to decipher things ALL THE TIME". Man, that really does sounds unbearable, right?

So, being a mama bear, I set out to try and help him any way we could. We of course employed our ABA team to teach him coping strategies. And, those skills really helped him but did not alleviate all of the sensory overload. We tried Melatonin and that helped him get to sleep but not STAY ASLEEP. We felt like we were dying a slow death just because of pure exhaustion. If we didn't have access to coffee, I really don't know what we would have become.

So, off to the troops of ASD mommies I went. The one thing that kept coming up over and over again was the suggestion to try N-Met. I figured we had nothing to lose. We were running on fumes waking up EVERY night for hours on end. Something had to give. Lack of sleep and the anxiety are no fun.

First, I guess I should tell you a little bit about N-Met. Like most inventions, N-Met was born out of its inventor's necessity. Dr. Pardee and Dr. Birk are no schmucks. As described on their site:

   To help his autistic son, Dr. Pardee together with Dr. Birk invented N-MET formula. The overwhelmingly successful results experienced with his son, other children and many adults affected by Sensory Overload encouraged them to share their discovery.

     Dr. Pardee served on the faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University from 1982-2009, where he was  Associate Dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences from 1997-2007, and Associate Dean of Research from 2007-2009.

So, what EXACTLY is in N-Met? Nothing that you wouldn't find in other supplements. And, quite honestly, it is all things your kiddo SHOULD be getting but probably isn't. N-Met contains a proprietary blend of:

Trimethylglycine, L-Glycine, L-Serine, L-Glutamine, L-Tryptophan, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine hydrochloride), Folate (as folinic acid from calcium folinate), Vitamin B12 (as cyanocobalamin), Biotin, Thiamin (as thiamin hydrochloride)

We ordered a bottle and received it a week later. We started with the low dose of 1/2 teaspoon and administered it in the morning in a cup of apple juice. I have to admit that I was really hesitant and afraid Brady would taste it. Brady seems to have a hyper-sensitivity to things out of his normal foods. But, surprisingly, he drank it and didn't skip a beat. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would help.

Days 1-3, I have to admit, I didn't really notice a difference. But, day 4 rolled around and Brady was noticeably calmer. We kept administering a daily dose of 1/2 teaspoon and it really DOES seem to help him. The little things that seemed to bother him before don't really bother him. Like the hum of the machines at the post office. The sounds used to really bother him to the point where he would cover his ears. But, now, he seems to tolerate it well.

And, the sleep? We still do give him 1mg of Melatonin paired with a supplement GABA Calm and he not only goes to sleep fast, but STAYS asleep and awakes in a fabulous mood. We noticed that sound sleep was consistent once we began N-Met.

What made us real believers is during a time when Brady fell ill. He wouldn't drink juice and he was so lethargic from a high fever (which is very rare for him). He didn't receive N-Met for about 4 days. And, boy, you could tell he didn't get his N-Met. He was agitated and noticeably moody for the time he didn't have the N-Met. It took about 4 days back on it to see our happy-go-lucky Brady again.

What N-Met DOES NOT do is make Brady a zombie. He has the same energy level as before which is high, well, let's be real, he's HYPER. He does not slow down. What is has done for him is give him a CALM MOOD, which has made him less reactive. Boy, I tell you what...having a kiddo that hyper is a lot easier to deal with when you've had some sleep. And, being less reactive is a blessing. Don't get me wrong, Brady still gets upset but it doesn't spiral out of control anymore. AND THAT, has made our jobs as his parents much easier to deal with! I honestly cannot recall when he last had a meltdown. It's been that long. That's impressive because they used to occur on a DAILY basis.

So, would I recommend N-Met? Heck Y-E-S, I would! I tell everyone about it. It's not ONLY for those on the spectrum, either. It has really helped Brady break out of that sensory coffin. He seems to really enjoy things that used to be so daunting for him. And, as his momma, I have been able to relax a little bit myself. Nothing is more stressful than seeing your child stress. No 5 year old should have that amount of anxiety and stress.

YES, it is $45 a bottle, but a bottle for Brady has lasted quite some time. The bottle is 16.91 oz, but we give him 1/2 teaspoon a day. And, really, for my sanity, it's cheaper than the bottle of wine we were going through each night (for ourselves, not Brady!).

So, if you want to learn more about N-Met, please visit their site by clicking HERE. And, I will tell you this...not only is this a fantastic product, but they have equally impressive customer service. If you have questions and decide to e-mail Dr. Pardee, he, himself responds. So, if you are hesitant and want some reassurance about concerns you have, ask him! You'll be just as surprised as I was when he, himself e-mails you back!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Farro Salad - Yum!

I saw this recipe on Little Miss Momma's site and knew I had to try it! We eat a lot of rice in our house, so I was excited to try something a little different.

I had never had Farro before, but it looked delish! Anything with sun dried tomatoes and feta has to be pretty darn good, right?! I got most of my ingredients at my go-to Trader Joe's. I found the Farro with the rice and quinoa. This salad paired really well with Mediterranean marinated fish that we had that night!

This side dish was super fast and easy to whip up. Farro is pretty filling and yummy! Surprisingly, lemon seeds look a lot like cooked Farro, so MY TIP - juice in separate container before tossing with salad! Nothing like biting down on a damn lemon seed! Oh, and keep an eye on it when boiling because just like pasta, it foams up when at a full boil!

Farro Salad
adapted from Little Miss Momma

1 package of Trader Joe's 10-minute Farro (boiled and drained)
1 jar Julienne Sun Dried Tomatoes (rough chop and don't drain)
1 can Sliced Olives (drained)
1 container of Mediterranean Feta 
1/2 cup chopped Green Onion 
Juice of 1 Lemon
Season with Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder

Boil and drain Farro as directed on package and chill in the fridge. Rough chop the tomatoes, reserving the oil to toss with the Farro. Combine remaining ingredients and season accordingly.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Inspirational Quote Silent Sunday - 5.19.13

Today marks the sixth year since my wonderful husband and I said our vows, committing our lives to one another. So, in honor of my loving and fantastic hubby, today's quotes are all about taking the plunge!

Friday, May 17, 2013

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DIY Eye Shadow Primer

As you guys might be figuring out, I love me some make up. The problem is, I am also pretty cheap. So, that's why Pinterest has been a savior for me and my quest to save cash on my makeup products. And, goodness, the do-it-yourself dupes? Sign this filly up.

If you are blessed with natural, flawless beauty, please STOP READING and go about your business being pretty. The rest of us have some work to do!

Today I'm going to share with you a DIY eye shadow primer. It really couldn't be any easier!

For those of you who don't use eyeshadow primer, you seriously don't know what you are missing. I, too, used to be a non-believer. Until my wedding rolled around and I saw how long my shadow lasted with a little dab o' primer. It not only made my shadow last longer, but made it go on more vibrant! So, for the last 6 or so years I've been a primer user. Below is a picture of an eye shadow with and without primer. The left swatch is a swipe of eyeshadow WITHOUT primer. The right swatch is a swipe of eyeshadow WITH primer. See?! It definitely DOES make a difference! BY THE WAY, the primer I used is my DIY primer!

Primer is not a cheap addition to the makeup arsenal. I was using MAC Prep + Prime Eye at a whopping $18.50 a pop. I always justified the expense because one container lasted a pretty long time. But, when I came across a simple DIY primer that was so extremely cheap (well, pretty cheap because I had all of the ingredients on hand), I HAD to try it out for myself. And, like most DIY products, it is just as good as my go-to MAC version.

All you need is:
1/2 tsp of lip balm (I used homemade peppermint lip balm)
1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp liquid foundation (I used a winter shade I had on hand)

Here's the How-To:
Get small container (My cheap bum stole a salsa container from the burrito shop and used that). Mix all of this stuff up until the clumps are gone. Voila! Eye Primer!

Give it a whirl!

Adapted from

Sunday, May 12, 2013

CJ's Unique Boutique Giveaway

Sponsored By: CJ's Unique Boutique Hosted By: Life With My Two Kids Co-Hosted By: Bargain Bandit, Southern Belle, Tales from my so called Life, The Nurse Mommy, Miss Momvocate, Krazy Kat Freebies First I'd like to that the Sponsor and Co-hosts for taking time to be a part of this giveaway You can read the review on CJ's Unique Boutique here. CJ's products are absolutely wonderful. Just want to add that there is a scar reducer that my mother has fallen in love with. It works perfectly.


What you are entering to win: CJ's Butter Blueberry Crumble (pictured). Enter on the rafflecopter below. a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Inspirational Quotes Silent Sunday - 5.12.13 & Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day! Hope you enjoy the day that you most definitely earned!

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